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unraveling

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

I-84 W of Boise on a typical afternoon Is photography too risky any more? Should we allow any old schmuck to stand on a freeway overpass and take a picture of traffic, or is the capturing of images of infrastructure something we should no longer allow?

Heh heh heh, it's time for another "full-blown" press conference from our President. It doesn't seem right to have this on a workday when softballs such as this are being lobbed about:

Bush (looking at the podium): "Let's see here -- David Greene." (Looks up, the sheepish grin) "Did you have your hand up?"

DG: "I did, sir. Thank you very much, Mr. President. At the Naval Academy last week you spoke of a midshipman named Edward Slavis, who graduated and has served in Iraq. And you quoted him as saying that the mission will be a success, and 20 or 30 years from now historians will look back on it and consider it America's golden moment."

Bush: Yes.

DG: I'm wondering, sir, if you agree with that assessment, and, if so, why?

Skipping ahead, "we're just beginning the process" on Social Security, which means that the 60-day road show didn't really sell, did it? "This is a process here." "It's like water cutting through a rock."

We don't have to worry about the actual and alleged abuse in our military prisons because those claims are "absurd." How reassuring that must be to the rese of the world.

His abrupt closing and retreat to the Big House reminded me of that Seinfeld episode when George learned to go out on a high note: "Listen, thank you all for coming out, enjoyed it."

Next time he comes back out to the Rose Garden, I have just a couple questions I'm hoping someone will ask:

1. Mr. President, why do you keep saying Social Security will go "bankrupt" when you must know that there is no definition of that term by which that can be a truthful statement? It sounds like you're deliberately misleading the American people to alarm them.

And didn't you misspeak when you said this issue "hasn't been debated in the halls of Congress since 1983"? Surely you know that there was a bipartisan effort that shored up the system's finances in the mid-1990s, and which accounts for the continuing large surpluses the system is running? Unlike the rest of your budget?

2. Mr. President you keep speaking about "an up or down vote" (six times in the space of a minute at your last press conference, in fact) as if that were the only issue for having your nominees confirmed, but isn't it true that legitimate questions have been raised about the qualifications of many of the people you've nominated, and don't you think better qualified candidates who were closer to the center of political opinion rather then out on one extreme could be confirmed quickly and easily? All that political capital sir!

There you are, pen in hand, seconds ticking off the clock controlling your ticket to college and you have to come up with an answer—as long as possible, btw, since length seems to matter most—to this question: "Is it more important to follow the rules exactly or to base your actions on how other people may be affected?"

You probably didn't think hey, this is a false dichotomy, did you? And pointing that out won't get you the top score, either. They want to see what you can write. I think a fictional excursion on a seemingly unrelated subject that finally comes around to a Zen koan illustrating the ultimate paradox and absurdity of rules for life and death would be in order.

He probably thinks this opinion, from Ralph Nader and Kevin Zeese, is absurd, too: "The impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, under Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, should be part of mainstream political discourse."

Maybe the SAT essay test could include Ralph's and Kevin's question as a challenge for prospective college students:"Did the administration mislead us into war by manipulating and misstating intelligence concerning weapons of mass destruction and alleged ties to Al Qaeda, suppressing contrary intelligence, and deliberately exaggerating the danger a contained, weakened Iraq posed to the United States and its neighbors?" (And no, "DUH!" will not get you a passing grade.)

While we're reading stories reposted on AlterNet, consider whether we have a Lieutenant General and an Attorney General who have both committed perjury. Spokespeople say "ridiculous," just the way the President said "absurd" when asked about the military prison abuses.

No longer an upstaging event, but more of a "huh" thing: Deep Throat confesses his identity to Vanity Fair. Waiting those extra decades because... why, exactly? He thought his secret disclosures were dishonorable. He's 91 now, so he can do pretty much whatever he wants. Bob and Carl still say they're not talking until whoever it is dies.

We get a local angle, as he turns out to be a Twin Falls native and an alumnus of my alma mater, The University of Idaho.

Real money for game chits: ok, I don't understand that world. How much would you charge to get me a life?

The NY Times Magazine's Lives essay provides dramatic vignettes from people you've probably never heard of and likely will never hear from again. This week's Comfort of Strangers provides a strange insight into the world of sexist Islam, where women's lives are controlled but they are given—and are grateful for—small measures of protection (if they behave themselves, of course). How nice to have your private car on the subway where you can escape the harassment you get in all the other cars. How nicer it would seem to end the harassment in all the cars.

Memorial Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Kristof: "There are plenty of legitimate reasons to be angry with China's leaders, but its trade success and exchange rate policy are not among them. The country that is distorting global capital flows and destabilizing the world economy is not China but the US. American fiscal recklessness is a genuine international problem, while blaming Chinese for making shoes efficiently amounts to a protectionist assault on the global trade system."

Some months after cleaning out his desk at Homeland Security, Tom Ridge would like to set the record straight about all the jerking around of the terrorist threat color codes while he was supposedly in charge. That wasn't him!

"Sometimes we disagreed with the intelligence assessment. Sometimes we thought even if the intelligence was good, you don't necessarily put the country on (alert). ... There were times when some people were really aggressive about raising it, and we said, 'For that?'"

That story ran in USA Today 2½ weeks ago and created not much more than a brief blogosphere hubbub. Frank Rich's Sunday column brought it to my attention, and I looked up NPR's broader report of the Washington forum examining the future of Homeland Security where Ridge spoke.

Interesting how what seemed obvious at the time—the blatant manipulation of the color-coded alerts for political marketing purposes—and what ought to generate some sort of scandal passes with so little notice. Corrollary of the Big Lie theory? Nobody really believed it at the time, so when it's debunked, so what? That's what's happened with the Iraq-al Qaeda connection and the WMD, isn't it? Except a lot of people did believe that, perhaps even some of those spreading the misinformation.

I haven't followed the Pat Tillman story, other than being aware that he made a considerably more patriotic response to recent events than doing a little extra shopping, that his death briefly created a heroic vignette and that Ted Rall wrote a really nasty column about it that gave him a bold-font and italics at the end of the right-wing love-to-hate list. It seems now that the heroic vignette really was made-for-TV, with the fanfare disguising the ugliness of a "friendly fire" incident.

Josh White reported in The Washington Post last week about Tillman's parent's unhappiness at the piecemeal delivery of the truth they're getting from the Army.

Deep in the multi-meta-referential life of media, the worldwide Organization of News Ombudsmen vote to keep out faux, corporate-shill ombudsmen like the two that Corporation for Public Broadcasting chairman and saboteur Ken Tomlinson set up.

The new, less flashy, but hopefully more profitable CEO of HP was reportedly interested in having his office out in the middle of the cube farm, but the legal staff didn't like the prospect of top-secret CEO conversations being overheard by passers-by. Perhaps technology can solve that problem, with the product of Applied Minds called Babble. (The headline teases with the more familiar "Cone of Silence," but of course the geeky principals are more nostalgic for Star Trek than Get Smart.

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

Exoskeleton found under a catnip leaf I've been an "early adopter" from time to time, and as a once and present technologist of sorts, have no particular problems with gadgets old or new. Everyone has limits though, and better things to do from time to time. As a child of the vinyl LP and cassette tape, I made the transition to the Walkman, and of course we have a pile of CDs, but no iPod, no mp3 player, no hard drive full of music stolen via P2P software. (I downloaded the Napster install package at some pre-litigation rev, but never got around to installing it.)

No cell phone yet, how weird is that? (Seeing them in use as homing devices at Thursday night's graduation ceremony, I had occasion to recall my unsatisfied childhood desire for walkie-talkies.) Somehow I get by, and just shake my head at the thought of signing up for $50, $60 or more per month, for ever.

But anyway, this article gave me a reason to think positive about the idea of podcasting. Can I borrow one sometime? (In case you're still among those wondering "what's podcasting?" this should explain it well enough.)

"The creators of this [museum] guide, David Gilbert, a professor of communication at Marymount Manhattan College, and a group of his students, describe it on their Web site as a way to 'hack the gallery experience' or 'remix MoMa,' which they do with a distinctly collegiate blend of irony, pop music and heavy breathing."

It also makes me think of questions someone on an email list asked after a flurry of recommendations about well-designed websites. How do we know your recommendations are any good? Are they consistent? Are they correlated with what matters? Same as ever: you can't believe everything you read (or hear) and you have to make your own assessment. (We call it "learning.") How do you know when something's funny? You find yourself laughing...

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

Wild rose buds in our wild rose patch, 2004 The bipartisan agreement in the Senate forestalled the immediate crisis, but the ends of the spectrum are far from reconciled. After reading through Senator Larry Craig's letter from May 11, and the speech he included (from April 20), we sent off another letter to him, concerning William Myers' nomination for the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, selection of the facts, protecting minority rights and a general request for better performance. No, we're not holding our breath.

"...We simply do not buy the grand rhetoric about the Constitution from either side. We have seen both parties do whatever they can to employ procedural maneuvers to get their way. We applaud the bipartisan effort to reach a compromise on this issue, and we're sorry that neither of our Senators from Idaho were able to participate...."

Krugman's worried we may be running out of bubbles, and the astounding statistics for interest-only mortgages reported by Business Week support the concern: Overall, 31% of new mortgages are interest only, with 6 states and Washington D.C. exceeding 40% of new mortgages last year.

Tom Friedman on why we should shut down Guantánamo:

"Why care? It's not because I am queasy about the war on terrorism. It is because I want to win the war on terrorism. And it is now obvious from reports in my own paper and others that the abuse at Guantánamo and within the whole U.S. military prison system dealing with terrorism is out of control. Tell me, how is it that over 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody so far? Heart attacks? This is not just deeply immoral, it is strategically dangerous....

"Husain Haqqani, a thoughtful Pakistani scholar now teaching at Boston University, remarked to me: 'When people like myself say American values must be emulated and America is a bastion of freedom, we get Guantánamo Bay thrown in our faces. When we talk about the America of Jefferson and Hamilton, people back home say to us: That is not the America we are dealing with. We are dealing with the America of imprisonment without trial.'"

Matt Miller thinks we should listen to his wife, one of those pushy women who wants it all: meaningful work and the time it takes for loving relationships. Sheesh, some people.

"If the most interesting and powerful jobs are too consuming, Jody says, then why don't we re-engineer these jobs - and the firms and the culture that sustain them - to make possible the blend of love and work that everyone knows is the true gauge of 'success'? As scholars have asked, why should we be the only elites in human history that don't set things up to get what we want?"

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

Speaking of activist Judges overstepping their authority, Judge Cale Bradford of Marion County (Indiana) seems to think he knows which religions are OK for parents to teach their children. Gimme that mainstream religion, gimme that mainstream religion...

I was willing to overlook the embarrassment of the Governor of the State of Idaho writing a couple bad checks to his hairdresser as the honest mistake of a busy guy. But Keith Hull, in a letter published in yesterday's Statesman reminds us of this:

"(I)n 1992, (Kempthorne) rode the House banking scandal to the U.S. Senate. His opponent, Richard Stallings, had written two bad checks on his House banking account, both paid by the way, and Kempthorne repeatedly attacked him for it, stating that if Stallings couldn't balance his own checkbook, why should we trust him with the country's checkbook."

Like the man said, "being a Republican in Idaho covers a multitude of sins."

Here's a nice illustration of the high-esteem that marketers hold for consumer intelligence: "Research has shown us that consumers prefer blue LEDs over other colors because it's a relatively new color and hence makes the product more unique," said Pamela McCracken, a spokeswoman for Logitech, which uses blue LEDs in several products, including speakers and webcams. "Consumers also feel blue LEDs provide a more high-tech look, and associate the blue LED with high-end products." From Wired News.

But blue may be over: another marketeer says "I think the color blue has really run its course. We're not seeing as much demand from our clients. Its cool factor has kind of worn off."

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

Net net, that's a no on Bolton from Voinovich.

Nicholas Kristof: is Death By A Thousand Blogs the fate of the Chinese Communist government? "...there just aren't enough police to control the Internet..."

Notice of new and insane legislation came to my inbox under the subject "You've been drafted for the War on Drugs." How does this sound? "A mandatory 2-year prison term for anyone who knows someone is selling marijuana on a college campus and fails to report it to the police within 24 hours."

Brought to you by Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security chairman James Sensenbrenner. Here's the bill on thomas.loc.gov, in which we find such gems as:

"...As used in this section, the term 'in or near the presence of a person' means within visual sight of such person, within any dwelling, automobile or other vehicle, or boat, in which such person is present, or within 500 feet of such person." Within 500 feet.

"SEC. 425. (a) It shall be unlawful for any person who witnesses or learns of a violation of sections 416(b)(2), 417, 418, 419, 420, 424, or 426 to fail to report the offense to law enforcement officials within 24 hours of witnessing or learning of the violation and thereafter provide full assistance in the investigation, apprehension, and prosecution of the person violating paragraph (a)." (my emphasis)

thumbnail of Pete Guither's neighborhood mapping "(b) Any person who violates subsection (a) of this section shall be sentenced to not less than two years or more than 10 years. If the person who witnesses or learns of the violation is the parent or guardian, or otherwise responsible for the care or supervision of the person under the age of 18 or the incompetent person, such person shall be sentenced to not less than three years or more than 20 years...."

Remember, ignorance of the law would be no excuse, so if you haven't brushed up on sections 416(b)(2), 417, 418, 419, 420, 424 and 426 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C.) you might want to get a copy. Don't forget to check Google maps and pin down all the day care centers, schools, video arcades, pools, libraries and drug treatment facilities in your neighborhood so you know where the new, improved 1000' radius "enhanced penalty zones" are.

Or express your opinion to your congresscritter about how much you'd like to work for Big Brother.

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

Let's see if I've got this right: a 20% higher cost up front, 10-15% higher efficiency over a 50-year life, 40% less water needed, half the pollution from sulfur and nitrogen oxides, 95% less mercury removed at a tent the cost of current means, and the opportunity to capture the output CO2... and the downside?

"The Senate considered some of those ideas in a big energy policy bill last week, but it is doubtful whether Congress will approve the funds to enact them because they are tied to regulating carbon emissions for the first time, something that many industry leaders and sympathetic lawmakers oppose." (Kenneth J. Stier's report in The NY Times, "Dirty Secret: Coal Plants Could Be Much Cleaner")

The National Commission on Energy Policy has some high-powered talent on board, but do they have the Veep's ear? (Sorry, that's privileged information.) And do they outweigh the legion of energy industry lobbyists?

The outgoing Public Editor torches a few of the edifices behind him: "Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults." Dowd and Safire get theirs, too.

"In the (travel sections and features), why are the restaurants almost always delightful, the hotels hospitable, the views glorious, the experiences rewarding? This is a weird form of crypto-journalism; if the theater critics were so chronically uncritical, they'd be hooted off the stage."

But we all love the "man and woman on the street" snippet that's obligatory these days, even if "it isn't clear why the individual was picked; it isn't possible to determine whether she's representative; and there's no way of knowing whether she knows what she's talking about" and "calling on the individual man or woman on the street to make conclusive judgments is beneath journalistic dignity."

Frank Rich (who escaped mention in Okrent's swan song, btw): It's All Newsweek's Fault. "The administration has been so successful at bullying the news media in order to cover up its own fictions and failings in Iraq that it now believes it can get away with pinning some 17 deaths on an errant single sentence in a 10-sentence Periscope item that few noticed until days after its publication. Coming just as the latest CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll finds that only 41 percent of Americans think the war in Iraq is "worth fighting" and only 42 percent think it's going well, this smells like desperation. In its war on the press, this hubristic administration may finally have crossed a bridge too far."

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

Living in the semi-desert, it can be easy to take sunshine and pleasant weather for granted, but this month has been a bit of a trial. Enough rain already! Even the farmers have enough for a while. Every one of our team's tennis matches have been rained out so far, we're 2 or 3 behind. The weatherman promised FridaySaturdaySunday would be dry, but Friday afternoon had "the usual" showers. It looked bleak at 5:30, but after some dilligent rolling and some timely evening sun, the show went on for the start of our "Senior Doubles" tournament last night. Then today was sunny, dry and just wonderful. Thanks for that!

The yard is a jungle, with 4 foot tall irises...

20.05.2005 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sort of like Walla Walla Day: the date so nice they named it twice.

Everyone goes to Google for everything these days, don't they? So the news from the "factory tour" (yet another "beta test" of theirs) that they're going to make themselves into a portal too, seems a yawner to me. Maybe just because I've been portaled out, but I'm more often after something in particular than interested in seeing someone's selection of what they think will interest me (which inevitably seems to devolve into advertisers vying for what they think will interest me).

On the other hand, a "personalized home page" might be something I'm interested in, as long as anyone else's intrusions are either minimized or controllable by me. Not that I need easier access to Google search: it's built into all the browsers I use by now. And your little blog, too.

"People really care about their information, more so than their hair gel or toothpaste."

"It's just equivalent to computing the eigenvectors of an 8 billion by 8 billion matrix."

"Google's mission is to provide access to all the world's information and make it universally useful and accessible."

"When we talk about organizing all the world's information, we mean all."

They've re-written the 80/20 rule, too: now it's 70/20/10, with 70% of the resources and effort on their core business, 20% on adjacent undertakings, and 10% on "other." Doesn't that sound like the right balance for all business undertakings? If you want to beat the competition, just crank the total effort up to 150%, so that your "70" is 105% of everyone else. (Don't forget to distinguish between mere activity and actual progress.)

I didn't see mention of Google Earth in the news, but that's a knock-your-socks-off enhancement of their satellite imagery. Scroll up to 04:28:00 or so in the 5½(!) webcast.

"It's very clean and crisp and Googley."

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

US Forest Service Photo of Mt. St. Helens erupting 25 years ago this morning, Mt. St. Helens erupted, big time. I was out in the middle of eastern Washington, hitchhiking my way into what would become utter blackness and end with an unplanned overnight stay with a churchfull of refugees in the ashfall, in Ellensburg.

Looks like the party's soon to be over at The NY Times. Interesting business model: $50 a year for the Op-Ed and columnists (and the rest still free?), unless you subscribe to the paper version. That might push us over the edge to try getting the Sunday paper again—if that's enough of a subscription! The last time we tried, it was an abysmal failure and left us doubting they actually knew where Boise was.

Matt Miller has a notion how—and with whose leadership—the health care mess in this country can be sorted out: "A dozen marquee CEOs would convene a 'Manhattan Project'-style effort on the future of health care. They'd propose a new goal: instead of health costs rising from today's 15 percent of GDP to 20 percent by around 2020, as is now projected, the nation should shave two to three percentage points of GDP (or more) off projected growth in ways that improve quality, even as we extend coverage to the 45 million uninsured."

The furor over Newsweek's now retracted story has the smell of the story about Bush's time in the Air National Guard about it: blown out of proportion and into the mob consciousness to obliterate the underlying reality. Molly Ivins points out that whatever errors of particular fact that have been most recently retracted, the story has been amply reported for more than a year. "Get your minds around it. Our country is guilty of torture."

There are significantly worse abuses than disrespecting someone's holy book going on, on all sides of the conflict.

Calling Karen Hughes, can't you please start your new job?

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

More trouble in a country most of us couldn't find on an unlabeled map: Uzbekistan. Craig Murray, British ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004, observes that "Karimov is very much George Bush's man in central Asia. There is not a senior member of the US administration who is not on record saying warm words about Karimov. There is not a single word recorded by any of them calling for free elections in Uzbekistan."

Scott McClellan says Uzbeks should seek democratic government "through peaceful means, not through violence," doubtless without irony. Why does the U.S. care about Uzbekistan? Airbase. Oil. Gas.

Very big news: "Kuwait's Parliament granted full political rights to women on Monday, making way for them to vote and run for office in parliamentary and local elections for the first time in the country's history. The surprise amendment to Kuwait's election law ends a decades-long struggle by women's rights campaigners for full suffrage, and promises to redefine the city-state's political landscape." (Quoted from The NY Times story by Hassan M. Fattah.)

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

The NY Times provides a convenient class calculator as part of their series on Class in America.

What happened at the cat's food bowl when the coffee grinder came on Our 20-year-old coffee grinder had turned into more of a coffee abuser, and after deciding that I wasn't going to be able to take it apart (or put it back together), I bought a new one yesterday. Made in China, of course, but with a nice American name on the box. It seems a little quieter, but it has a higher pitch, and a new sound. The cat was—how shall we say—not amused. It didn't go well with breakfast.

It seems reasonable to assume that the Bush appointees who want to "redirect the relatively modest number of grants available for radio programs away from national news" are doing so because NPR is one of the few outlets that aren't following the party line. The board wants more music, The New York Times reports.

Oh, and they really, really want Bill Moyers to shut up and go away, but he doesn't seem to be doing that.

Post office image from Missile Mail postcard There's all this nifty ICBM technology still around, and 9,000 Air Force folks looking for new applications. As Fred Kaplan explains, Missile Mail was (successfully!) tried in 1959, but no longer seems, uh, commercially viable. Still, every General needs a mission.

If ExxonMobil has anything to say about it, "Cooler Heads" may prevail in the quasi-scientific arena they've created to cloud the scientific consensus about global warming with man-made uncertainty. Good old-fashioned corporate-funded PR can kick peer-reviewed science most any day of the week, I expect. "You will be amazed at how much they do with so little."

Chris Mooney reports in Mother Jones on 40 "public policy" groups that ExxonMobil is funding to have it their way. The most important public policy group might be the office of the VPOTUS, eh.

How many layers of reality coverlets does it take to make a horse masturbation joke steal the show? Tom Engelhardt addresses this and other post-modern questions raised by The Bush in the bubble.

It is interesting to consider what it's like to be a made man (or woman), as opposed to just a DIYer like most of us have to be. Fiction is less strange than the truth, which I suppose makes it easier for us all to accept the fictions as if they were truth.

"At this point, for all we know, the Bushes may not themselves know who they are. In private, they may be dopes or canny operators, superficial or thoughtful, but what they certainly are is actors in a drama too large for any individual to really take in, one being imperfectly scripted and stage-managed by teams of others - and, of course, by history, by the press of reality and of the past. Atop an oversized imperial bureaucracy, a vast military machine, a sprawling party structure, global corporate interests galore, and who knows what else (including all of us), even the president turns out to be a midget."

15.May.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Numbers per Philip Greenspan in http://www.swans.com/library/art11/pgreen64.html Un-American questions from Richard Macintosh include this one: "Why is acceptable for General Electric and other large corporations such as Microsoft and Motorola to move production to Mexico, China, and India, while an American citizen is considered "un-American" if he or she purchases prescription drugs in Canada?"

From my point of view, purchasing prescription drugs in Canada is OK if you can get away with it. I might worry about those poor pharmaceutical companies getting ripped off if they didn't have such a Vice-Grip® on the political system in this country. (Imagine, a prescription drug bill that forbids the Government from using its negotiating power to get volume discounts... Oh wait, you don't have to imagine that, do you?) And moving production to Mexico, China, India or wherever is certainly un-American, just as those large corporations are. They're citizens (as it were) of the world, their country of origin is nothing but a historical footnote.

"How many ribbon magnets can you fit on the back of your SUV?"

SARS seems to have gone away but it's left a lot of questions behind. Did efforts to contain it succeed spectacularly? Did wising up about not eating civet cats solve the problem? Some questions may never be answered, and the tale of how our trip to China got delayed from April to November one year may just be another quirky story that the grandkids won't quite understand.

Oh my, Arianna's put together a blog of the stars. Harry Shearer signed on with another of his copyrighted features, a cute name for his column, or page, or whatever it is: Eat the Press. Not sure if the operational concept is that misery loves company, or birds of a feather flock together or there's strength in numbers. There's numbers in numbers, I know that.

Anyway, I'm ok with a little moonlighting, as long as it doesn't mess with Le Show, ya know?

W. David Hager's appointment to the Food and Drug Administration's Advisory Committee for Reproductive Health Drugs has been a done deal for some time, as Snopes pointed out while the emails urging you to email or call the White House were still multiplying. That's not the end of the story on Dr. Hager, however, now that his ex-wife has spoken up. Turns out he was an even worse choice for the committee than the email suggested.

"Some may argue that this is just a personal matter between a man and his former wife—a simple case of 'he said, she said' with no public implications. That might be so—if there were no allegations of criminal conduct, if the alleged conduct did not bear any relevance to the public responsibilities of the person in question, and if the allegations themselves were not credible and independently corroborated."

He's up for reappointment (if not advancement) since his term expires June 30th. Maybe that chain email is not so out of date after all.

Also seen on Huffington Post: The Fall of Arnold.

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

When I first read this quote attributed to Dwight D. Eisenhower in an e-mail, I thought "urban folklore"; the combination of bluntness and prescience was a little too perfect. It appears that I was wrong however, as this definitive-appearing source has it in context (with my emphasis there at the end):

"The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything--even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon 'moderation' in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

Looks like Ike misunderestimated what stupid can do.

No intelligence failure here (remember, George Tenet got the Medal of Freedom for Best Supporting Actor), let's call it pre-meditated intelligence fabrication. Not quite three years later, you can read all about it, in The Washington Post even.

Five candles in our fireplace It's the 5th anniversary of my blog. Half a decade! It gets to be a habit after a while. It all started one May afternoon in Palo Alto with diary entries of bicycling, singing, sailing, spring flowers on a visit back home.

Now we spend more time remarking on political misspeaking, such as Scott McClellan's Bolton-boosting: "We believe there is a majority of the Senate that agrees with the president that John Bolton is exactly the person we need at the United Nations during this critical time of reform." Is it a lie, or just wishful thinking? Exactly the person? I don't doubt that a majority of the Senate will follow party discipline and back the President, but that's a long way from exactitude. Barbara Boxer has exercised her personal prerogative and put an indefinite hold on the guy for the moment. Something about that incident in a Russian hotel: "Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls... throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman."

Is he a good bully, just what we need, or is he just a bully? The key Republican on the Foreign Relations committee thinks he's "the poster child for what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be."

This just in, from Yuri Krakov, representing a top company executive in Russia, who has "a very sensitive and private brief from this top executive to ask for your partnership to re-profile funds over 15,000,000.00 euros. I will give the details, but in summary, the funds are coming via a bank in Western Europe, and this is a legitimate transaction. You will be paid 10% for your 'management fees,' if I am able to reach terms with you. If you are interested, please write back by email $€$€$@mail15.com and provide me with your confidential telephone number, and email address and I will provide further details. Please keep this close to your chest as much as possible; we cannot afford any political problems."

Such a deal, €1.5M for a little help with "re-profiling"! I'm so excited about this prospect I can't contain myself.

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

Larch cone on broken branch, TvA 2005 Nobody takes the offensive quite like Tom DeLay. "No ideas, no leadership, no agenda. And in just the last week we can add to that list: no class." That's his criticism of the Democrats, not a self-indictment.

There were some no-shows and empty tables at the $2,000-a-table "fundraiser" to help keep him in power. "Perhaps two dozen" members of Congress stood up to be counted for the Majority Leader.

Trouble sorting your trash for recycling? It could be—will be—worse, but it's hard to imagine the U.S. ever becoming like Japan in this regard.

"Enter the garbage guardians, the army of hawk-eyed volunteers across Japan who comb offending bags for, say, a telltale gas bill, then nudge the owner onto the right path. One of the most tenacious... drives around his ward every morning and evening, looking for missorted trash. He leaves notices at collection sites: 'Mr. So-and-so, your practice of sorting out garbage is wrong. Please correct it.'"

Rehabilitating Genghis Khan: whether or not he wasn't so bad after all, his legacy lives on. "In February 2003, the study The Genetic Legacy of the Mongols, published by the American Journal of Human Genetics, estimated that Genghis Khan has more than 17 million direct descendants living today: One in every 200 people is related to him."

Stripping down to the essentials: non-performance art in front of D.C.'s Corcoran Gallery of Art.

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

While that little plane made everyone in Washington flee, briefly, the real assault slipped through the Senate as an amendment to the must-pass $80+ billion supplement spending bill for the war in Iraq, and a few other things. One of those other things was the so-called Real ID provision that could not pass on its own, but shared in the Senate's unanimous approval for more money for the war. The bill's title says its purpose is "to establish and rapidly implement regulations for State driver's license and identification document security standards, to prevent terrorists from abusing the asylum laws of the United States, to unify terrorism-related grounds for inadmissibility and removal, and to ensure expeditious construction of the San Diego border fence."

This waiver that's amended into Section 102(c) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1103 note) is fairly outrageous:

(1) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive, and shall waive, all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary's sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section.
(2) NO JUDICIAL REVIEW- Notwithstanding any other provision of law (statutory or nonstatutory), no court, administrative agency, or other entity shall have jurisdiction--
(A) to hear any cause or claim arising from any action undertaken, or any decision made, by the Secretary of Homeland Security pursuant to paragraph (1); or
(B) to order compensatory, declaratory, injunctive, equitable, or any other relief for damage alleged to arise from any such action or decision.'.

Ok, is that just for building Homeland Security roads and barriers, or is the Legislative branch really undertaking writing the Judiciary out of the picture?!

Or how about the amended definition of "terrorist activity" [in Section 212(a)(3)(B)(iv) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3)(B)(iv))] which includes in its list of 6 acts joined with an "or," "to gather information on potential targets for terrorist activity." Taking pictures in Manhattan? You're coming with me little alien.

The good news is that "Nothing in subparagraph (B) or (C), or in any other provision of this Act which limits or eliminates judicial review, shall be construed as precluding review of constitutional claims or pure questions of law raised upon a petition for review filed with an appropriate court of appeals in accordance with this section."

The bad news remains the risk that the same people who wrote and voted for this legislation are doing their damndest to stack the courts.

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

more bridge rivets James Carroll thinks that "as a matter of personal principle, Rumsfeld should have resigned a year ago, accepting responsibility for the grotesque betrayal of trust that has defined his tenure as secretary of defense." The latest news reports say Rumsfeld expects to serve out Bush's term. Whatever.

Since prisons work so well here, and there, we'll be building more. So much for that plan to demolish Abu Ghraib and erase bad memories.

Arnaud de Borchgrave sees Putin as following in de Gaulle's footsteps, thankyouverymuch, "and squawking isn't helpful."

10.May.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I don't know for certain, but I'm guessing that George Mitchell, former majority leader of the U.S. Senate, researched this short article for the NY Times thoroughly and that the things he states as fact are indeed fact.

That would make the Republican marketing campaign for nuking the filibuster more of the outright, bald-faced lies that seem to work so well these days. I like to start with the fact that the Senate has confirmed 95 percent of Mr. Bush's judicial nominees.

Then this: "In 2000, the last year of Bill Clinton's presidency, Republican senators filibustered two of his nominees to be circuit judges. They also prevented Senate votes on more than 60 of Mr. Clinton's judicial nominees by other means."

And this: "Since 1789, the Senate has rejected nearly 20 percent of all nominees to the Supreme Court, many without an up-or-down vote."

Compare that to the language Ken Mehlman, RNC chairman, has been using. He's big on "fair" as in the "could not have been a fairer compromise" Frist offered up, and the "fair up-or-down vote" the worst of Bush's nominees aren't getting. In his April 29th missive, he refers to "the Democrats' unprecedented use of the filibuster against President Bush's nominees," which is oh-so-clever: no one else has used (or threatened to use) the filibuster against President Bush's nominees, so yes, that's unprecedented. There is precedent for the use of the filibuster against judicial nominees, however. I infer that Mehlman's statements can not be taken at face value, as he is apparently happy to form literally true sentences that purposely mislead.

Meanwhile, GOP.com is practically drooling all over itself talking about what hyp-o-crites those blasted Democrats are, carefully slicing and dicing the truth into straw man "myths" and outraged cries for fairness.

Puh-LEASE.

Yet another exciting news story to put north Idaho on the map: a four-generation knot of polygamists coming back "home" from Canada. "Yes, Canadian girls have married U.S. boys and vice versa, but only on rare occasions. According to my knowledge, in no situation have any girls younger than 15 been married," said fundamentalist Mormon Leah Barlow in a public meeting in Creston, B.C.

In other words, girls get married at 15. To men in their 40s and 50s. And then have a passle more kids.

Joe Conason in the New York Observer, concerning "Must-Flee TV":

"Now, despite all their phony complaining about liberal bias and federal waste, the Republicans appear eager to spread still more of their own subsidized propaganda. Thanks to Mr. Tomlinson, PBS viewers will now be treated to The Wall Street Journal Editorial Report, a program devoted to scintillating discussion among the ideologues responsible for that newspaper’s ultra-right editorial page. The taxpayers will pay to distribute their program, which was a resounding failure on commercial cable, in an arrangement The Journal’s editorialists would surely denounce as scandalous if only it didn’t benefit them."

No English word is adequate to describe this kind of hypocrisy.

News for which you can only say "wow": Judge Allows United to Terminate Its 4 Union Pension Plans. "United Airlines won its bid to terminate its four employee pension plans, clearing the way for the largest pension default in corporate history."

The portion of the $10 billion underfunding that the employees will bear in reduced benefits is more than $26,000 per employee.

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

Save Social Security -- Moveon.org's winning entry Bruce Schneier: "If you haven't heard much about REAL ID in the newspapers, that's not an accident. The politics of REAL ID is almost surreal. It was voted down last fall, but has been reintroduced and attached to legislation that funds military actions in Iraq. This is a "must-pass" piece of legislation, which means that there has been no debate on REAL ID. No hearings, no debates in committees, no debates on the floor. Nothing.

"Near as I can tell, this whole thing is being pushed by Wisconsin Rep. Sensenbrenner primarily as an anti-immigration measure. The huge insecurities this will cause to everyone else in the United States seem to be collateral damage."

I went to the Federal courthouse today, for the 3rd time in the last week, to assist the plaintiff's attorneys at a trial. There's a little guard house at the entrance to the parking lot, with a guard in it. The first time I arrived, I was asked where I was going, and I told him courtroom #1 on the 6th floor. The next day, the (different) guard asked me if I knew where I was going, and I said yes. Today, the guard asked to see my driver's license. No particular reason, or justification, purpose or added security about it... just time for him to see how I reacted? Time to see if my umbrella was a 007 special of some sort? I reacted with undisguised annoyance, but given that I was right on time (as usual), I wasn't about to challenge the functionary's authority and find out how miserable he could make my morning.

We're all going to be "showing our papers" more and more often, count on it.

What drought? What desert? I took my umbrella to a morning appointment and was most glad of it on leaving the building at 10:30, in a midwestern-caliber rain. Back at the ranch, one of our window wells was brimming up to the basement window and the water was leaking in over the sill. There are better and worse times to clean out gutters, but when necessity arrives, you do what's needed. I put on the foul weather gear and my neoprene windsurfing gloves and slogged 'em out, only a couple of months overdue.

With all this precip. flowing up from the south, talk lately has been of flood warnings. This is the sort of weather that makes draws into gullies, that makes hillsides move, that makes river valleys a little bit wider than they used to be, and Boise's centerpiece, if not it's original raison d'êetre is a river, flowing from mountains to the sea.

If it were flowing naturally, we're told it would be just under 5000 cfs at the moment, but instead, it's 748 cfs in the channel (versus the 3,000 cfs average), 1021 cfs down the New York canal, the rest of the 2578 cfs coming out of Lucky Peak going into other irrigation ditches even though lord knows nobody wants more water on their fields at the moment. The rest of the natural flow is going toward filling up the three big reservoirs, with 400,000 acre-feet of volume available.

The weekend thankfully brought just enough dry weather, from about noon Saturday to late afternoon Sunday to finish the Icebreaker tennis tournament, in which yours truly was a finalist, this time at 3.5 singles. One of my teammates asked me what being a "finalist" meant, and I told him the truth: it's a nice way to say you came in second. There's more to learn from losing than winning, though, and I took plenty of notes, for next time.

Bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses of profits yearning to breathe free, and we'll give you 80% off on the taxes! Big Pharma gave that a big thumbs up and looks to save north of $20 billion in "foreign" profits that they'll "repatriate." They also plan to "cut costs" in the U.S. and eliminate or export thousands of jobs.

From Alex Berenson's NY Times report: "After the break expires, companies will probably go back to stockpiling profits overseas as they wait for another tax holiday in a few years, tax lawyers say."

"Pfizer, the world's largest drug company, said that in 2004 it had only $4.4 billion in pretax profits in the United States, compared with $9.6 billion internationally, though most of its sales came in the United States. The company says that its profit margins on international sales were almost three times as high as on American sales."

Starts to sound like the music business, with a twist: instead of a shell game to hide the profit from the original authors, the profit is being shuffled around out of the IRS' grasp. They sell drugs relatively cheaper in other countries, but make more than twice as much profit (or ten times as much, for Eli Lilly) out there, go figure.

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

Sorry to see that the nytimes.blogspace.com bookmarklet I've been using to make durable NYT links has gone down, or out? Do the best you can, I can't let 'em all go by unremarked.

Frank Rich, on getting sucked in by Laura Bush's Mission Accomplished: "...Watching the Washington press not only swoon en masse for Mrs. Bush's show but also sponsor and promote it inevitably recalls its unwitting collaboration in other, far more consequential Bush pageants. From the White House's faux 'town hall meetings' to the hiring of Armstrong Williams to shill for its policies in journalistic forums, this administration has been a master of erecting propagandistic virtual realities that the news media have often been either tardy or ineffectual at unmasking. It was only too fitting that Mrs. Bush's performance occurred on the eve of the second anniversary of the most elaborate production of them all: the 'Top Gun' landing by the president on the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln...."

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

I guess this resolves the uncertainty over whether the leader of the Antioch Bible Church actually got Microsoft to back down on their support of the State of Washington's House Bill 1515, promoting gay rights. Bully for Ballmer and the rest of the Redmond team!

The activist judges on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia told the FCC that it was a little too activist. They said "waive that flag!" That middle C stands for "Communication" and not "Recording." Broadcasters are doing their part in response with threats to take away "the very best programming offered on local television."

6.May.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Speakers at the Day of Reason rally, photo courtesy of Jim S. Bolen As it turned out, I went to neither the south steps of the Capitol for an hour of a Day of Reason, nor the west steps for moments of Prayer. The local rag's coverage did their best in photos and text to make the atheists look sparse: about 70 people attended. Deep into the closeups of people packed together under umbrellas, and long after the organizer was quoted as saying the prayer turnout was the "biggest ever," I see their estimate of about 300 people at the prayer meeting. (One would think basic photojournalism would prompt at least one picture showing the extent of each crowd, but the Statesman doesn't or their two photographers didn't see it that way.)

Just under 20% of the total turnout for the rational side and to honor the Constitution, a rather larger showing than is reflected in opinion polls or government sideshows these days. For his part, our governor took maximum advantage of the events to display his piety publicly. Former governor Phil Batt was the master of ceremonies and current mayor Dave Bieter stood on the side of prayer, too. Don't it feel good? Can I get an 'amen'? Hallelujia!

From my first-hand source, I hear that there were quasi-religious types who saw fit to protest and/or heckle on the south side, but in an apparent demonstration of the power of prayer, no one from the Reasonable group went over to mess with the praying. And just to make sure that they don't get scooped again, I hear that the Prayerful have reserved the south steps for the next 10 years worth of first Thursdays in May.

And from the always-Right KTVB report, we saw Governor Dirk Kempthorne put on his best condescending sneer to the "childish" minority trying to have their point of view respected.

David Brooks is standing on the side of Prayer too, using the "land of Lincoln" for a catchy tag, and making sure we all know we've got another war on our hands: secularists are militant when they argue that "faith should be kept out of politics." He acknowledges that most of us live in between the extremes, but in opposition to the militant secularists, he gives us "orthodox believers" and "evangelical politics" which sometimes "overflows the banks defined by our founding documents."

"Lincoln's core lesson is that while the faithful and the faithless go at each other in their symbiotic culture war, those of us trapped wrestling with faith are not without the means to get up and lead."

His battle metaphor is sadly left on the field, a casualty of his personal involvement with the "good" side (you know, the one that's not "faithless"): "We reject the bland relativism of the militant secularists." Let us also reject the smug ignorance of, say, Pat Robertson, and be something more useful than just "a little nervous" about "the rush to crash through procedural checks and balances in order to reach the point of maximum moral correctness."

Sounds like the new SAT essay test is preparing students for roles in the Executive branch: students are not penalized for incorrect facts, and the longer they write, the higher their score.

Here's advice from Les Perelman, who compared the word count and scores of the tests the College Board has made public and found a 90% correlation: "I would advise writing as long as possible and include lots of facts, even if they're made up." In that confused world of academia beyond high school, however, he doesn't teach that to his MIT students. "It's exactly what we don't want to teach our kids," he said.

From Michael Winerip's report in the NYT: "SAT graders are told to read an essay just once and spend two to three minutes per essay, and Dr. Perelman is now adept at rapid-fire SAT grading. This reporter held up a sample essay far enough away so it could not be read, and he was still able to guess the correct grade by its bulk and shape. 'That's a 4,' he said. 'It looks like a 4.'"

The good? news is that 75% of your grade on the "writing" section of the SAT is based on multiple choice questions, and only 25% on the essay.

5.5.5 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Three of a kind day, the somebody-proclaimed-it National Day of Prayer, and here's a novel idea, the National Day of Reason. Heck, we could even promote a Global Day of Reason (or a week, a month, a year!) to go with the World Day of Prayer, the Global Day of Prayer and the Annual Day of Prayer for Peace in Jerusalem.

It reminds me of the story of the guy climbing onto the roof of his house as the flood waters rose, and turning down the boat ride and the helicopter because he was confident God would save him...

And reading the latest proclamation from our President makes me wonder if this isn't all a simple misunderstanding: we used to "pray" as a way of adding a dash of politeness to a request: "I pray you, good sir, move your oleaginous noggin a bit to the left, wouldst thou?" And here we are confusing etiquette with access to "God's continued guidance and protection."

But thanks to our radical left-wing judiciary, the State of Idaho will actually have to honor its reasonable "first come, first served" policy without recourse to a "we just thought of this" loophole that "they do this every year" to pick and choose who they want on their steps. US District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said that Reason gets the front steps and Prayer has to go around the corner. He also said "the real winner may be the loser if it rains tomorrow," but it makes me wonder if he's from around here. From where I sit every day it rains is beautiful weather in these parts. (Yes, even if it rains out the tennis tournament this weekend.)

Pat Robertson seems to be a radical extremist who has lost all sense of proportion. Apparently his people respond to this sort of thing? He says our "out-of-control judiciary" "is the most serious threat America has faced in nearly 400 years of history, more serious than Al Qaeda, more serious than Nazi Germany and Japan, more serious than the Civil War."

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

There has been much lament in recent times of the decline of manufacturing in this country, but now we have hard evidence that at least one sector is going strong: manufacturing deception.

Richard Dearlove, then head of Britain's CIA equivalent, MI-6 briefed UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top security officials in July, 2002, on the Bush administration's plans to make war on Iraq: Dearlove tells Blair and the others that President Bush has decided to remove Saddam Hussein by launching a war that is to be "justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction." "The intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy."

The Texas House serves up a helping of morality, or maybe just a straight line: no more "suggestive" cheerleading, girls. (Or boys, I suppose?) Sponsor Al Edwards knows what he's talking about, and he says you do, too: "I cannot say what's a sexy move for you or anyone else. Any adult that's been involved with sex in their lives, they know it when they see it."

3.May.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Why do you think they call it dope? Oh wait, they don't. But they should.

"The constant barrage of emails, text messages, and phone calls decreases IQ test scores in office workers more than twice as much as smoking marijuana, British researchers reported Friday."

General Motors maintained that people weren't swayed by gas prices, they'd just keep buying those humongous SUVs no matter what. Not so as it turns out.

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

Raindrop on a cabbage leaf You could make this up, but if you did, no one would believe you: Ahmed Chalabi is Iraq's new oil minister. "Mr. Bush wanted Iraq to have a democracy like ours. It's on its way, nearing an ethics-free zone where a corrupt official can hold sway and a theocracy can curb women's rights."

"I've been shocked at how I've been portrayed in the media. The Jack Abramoff who has been made into a caricature and a punching bag in the national media is not the Jack Abramoff who I think exists. If I read the articles about me, and I didn't know me, I would think I was Satan."

Jack, meet Jack. And be prepared to spend some of those $$ you swindled from the troglodytes on your own $750/hr lawyers.

Grover Norquist plays a charming supporting role in the storytelling: "I don't know what it is that he is supposed to have done that is supposed to have been illegal or wrong. I understand that there's a lot of money here, and more than people are used to. But that's different from some broken law."

May Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

One of Ronald Reagan's chiefs of staff supposes "last night George Bush became more likable because of his wife," but having seen the impressive comedic performance of Laura Bush for myself (courtesy of C-Span), I can only verify that Laura Bush became more likable. She was a hoot.

"George's answer to any problem at the ranch is to cut it down with a chain saw, which I think is why he and Cheney and Rumsfeld get along so well."

raveling

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Wednesday, 08-Jun-2005 09:25:39 MDT
http://www.fortboise.org/blog/200505.html