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unraveling

31.Oct.05

It's not complicated Permalink to this item

Scott McClellan said he personally spoke to Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams and Lewis Libby, and "those individuals assured me they were not involved in this." Rove and Libby lied to McClellan, or else McClellan lied in front of the press corps.

Before one or more of 'em fessed up to their boss and the standard was lowered from "involved in any way" to "convicted of a crime," they must have lied to the President as well, or else Bush lied to the American people. (And we know that could never happen.) Marshall Grossman sums it up: "Nobody lies to my President and gets away with it."

"Please donít debate the role of special counsel and the arcanery of law..."

James K. Galbraith sees the same simple calculation: "(For Bush) to keep (Rove) is to admit complicity in the public lie, at the least. Isn't that clear enough, even for the Washington press corps? Scott McClellan is in a similar position as Bush. Either Rove lied to McClellan, or McClellan lied to the press. Simple as that; which is it, Scottie?"

Sc'Alito next up Permalink to this item

After the rabid Right put the kibosh on Ms. Miers, Bush's second guess turns out to be... an experienced judge. And a guy. And white. (Hey, white guys are just best-suited to run things, what can we say?) And in the mold of the so-far-right-he's-almost-off-the-edge Antonin Scalia. The most important thing of course is to change the subject from everything that went down last week. And feed the Beast on the Right, apparently. Forget about the idea that Bush would be a uniter and not a divider, or aim for the center in an increasingly polarized political climate.

Popkey apologizes Permalink to this item

In a sidebar to his column yesterday, local columnist Dan Popkey acknowledges that he "overdid it" in attacking Brandi Swindell's inexperience and good looks. His "larger question" of "why the Idaho Republican Party was taking the unprecedented step of letting her run a non-partisan campaign for City Council out of the state party office" has apparently been addressed as well, by Chairman Kirk Sullivan "sever(ing) the ties between the state party and the Swindell campaign."

30.Oct.05

Oil companies' record profits Permalink to this item

Supporters of Bush's war on Iraq belittled the idea that we would undertake such action for oil, or for profit. It certainly has not been a profitable undertaking overall, with way more money spent than we'll ever get back in the value of oil. Not to mention the lives sacrificed. The lack of profitability does not mean there were no profits, however. Here come ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell and British Petroleum reporting record earnings. Chevron missed the bus because of hurricane Katrina, but they matched last year's results anyway.

The oilco CEOs may have to answer to Congress: Bill Frist says "If there are those who abuse the free enterprise system to advantage themselves and their businesses at the expense of all Americans, they ought to be exposed, and they ought to be ashamed." Yes, that's the same Bill Frist who's under investigation for that fortunately-timed "divestiture" out of his "blind" trust a little while ago.

What time do you have? Permalink to this item

My WinXP system thinks daylight savings time ended this morning, as it should have. But didn't the idiot Congress decided to extend it for... energy savings or something? Oh, that's scheduled for 2007, not this year. The Navy knows what time it is, for sure. Mountain Standard Time here!

Just laugh at it. Permalink to this item

My favorite reaction to the Republican "charge" that this is just the criminalization of politics was in David Brancaccio's NOW interview with Christine Todd Whitman. She gave a spontaneous and cheerful laugh at the quote from DeLay in the dock.

Take Ten Permalink to this item

Boise's local Commandments team points to the city of Fargo's court victory that lets them keep their rock. We might have withstood whatever court challenge Phelps brought, but won't know for sure. I assumed that the city could easily say "no" to some out-of-town ditz (or even a local ditz) who wanted to put up a new monument, but that's a story yet to be tested as well. Of course, or local "controversy" is all about publicity. The Commandments' new home, on the grounds of a church happy to have it, and right across from the state Capitol for heaven's sake, should make everyone happy and peaceful. But no. There's still some flogging to be done on this horse, dead as it may be.

At least one atheist thinks US District Court Judge Ralph Erickson missed the boat, and proposes that the Red River Freethinkers come up with their own monument. We'll see if that flies...

Slashdot is ok, but watch out for dot dot slash Permalink to this item

Computer consultant Daniel James Cuthbert assessed a hefty fine, loss of his job and maybe more for violating the UK's Computer Misuse Act by the dreaded Triple Traversal Threat, hacking a site's URL with three consecutive "../" sequences. (This is so dastardly, I dare not actually render the code directly, but only describe it in vague terms that even the most practiced computer professionals would have difficulty following.) Kids, Do Not Try This At Home.

The Latest in Second-Term Scandals Permalink to this item

David Rosenbaum states the obvious: "This Congress is unlikely to investigate this president." While second-term scandals are now de rigeur, that puts the Cheney-Libby-Official A affair in a harsher light: big man booted with a home-town crowd in power.

Bush's approval poll numbers are setting new lows (42 to 55%) and Libby "is the first high-ranking White House official in many decades to be indicted while still in office." Normal procedure for top White House staff members is to resign "long before" you're indicted, as Adams, Agnew, Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Poindexter all did.

Frank Rich provides a "representative sampling" of as-yet unanswered questions, including: "Why have the official reports on detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo spared all but a single officer in the chain of command? Why does Halliburton continue to receive lucrative government contracts even after it's been the focus of multiple federal inquiries into accusations of bid-rigging, overcharging and fraud?"

"It won't be easy to get honest answers because this administration, like Nixon's, practices obsessive secrecy even as it erects an alternative reality built on spin and outright lies."

"They will offer more lectures, and legalisms, and carefully worded denials. We offer another way, a better way, and a stiff dose of truth."
–Dick Cheney, August 2000

"(T)his administration has upped the ante by playing dirty tricks with war. Back on July 6, 2003, when the American casualty toll in Iraq stood at 169 and Mr. Wilson had just published his fateful Op-Ed, Robert Novak, yet to write his column outing Mr. Wilson's wife, declared that 'weapons of mass destruction or uranium from Niger' were 'little elitist issues that don't bother most of the people.' That's what Nixon administration defenders first said about the 'third-rate burglary' at Watergate, too."

Nicholas Kristof is more direct, if less realistic about what should happen next, now that it's Time for the Vice President to Explain Himself: "If Mr. Cheney can't address the questions about his conduct, if he can't be forthcoming about the activities in his office that gave rise to the investigation, then he should resign. And if he won't resign, Mr. Bush should demand his resignation."

29.Oct.05

Gave Bob Kustra's interview with Karen Armstrong (aired Oct. 21) another listen, with better attention the second time. All too easy to let multitasking distract one.... It's a fine way to spend half an hour, more than once. The 20+ year-old aromatic cedar I cut down yesterday

"Religion is not about thinking things or believing things, but about doing things that change you at a profound level, and compassion—the ability to feel with the other—is crucial to that religous quest."

"(The Greek Orthodox) were always rather suspicious of the West which they said was developing a too rationalistic idea of God. They evolved a principle in the 14th century, largely in reaction to the Western "cut-and-dried" theology, of saying that every statement about God should have two characteristics: one, it must be paradoxical; that is, it must be a clash of opposites to remind you that when you're talking about God you're beyond neat definitions. Second, it must lead you to silence; a silent apprehension and awe, not more theological chit-chat."

"God transcend(s) all human categories... Maimondes, Thomas Aquinas, Meister Eckhart, Ibn-Sina... all insisted that it was more accurate to say that God did not 'exist,' because our word 'existence' is far too limited to be applied to God. God is a different reality altogether. The best theology should take us beyond concepts, into a state of silent awe."

"The trouble is that most people hear about God for the first time at the same time as they're learning about Santa Claus. Their ideas about God should change, just as their ideas about Santa Claus have changed. You have to work at a notion of the Divine. in the same way that you have to work aesthetically to appreciate great painting and music and literature."

Among all his other accomplishments, Patrick Fitzgerald showed himself a master of timing. Friday morning gave time for the daytime and evening news to blast the headline, and then a whole weekend for the pundits to flog the analysis.

John Tierney says the big losers are journalists: "We've spent our careers assuring sources that we'll protect them, but now they can see how our testimony led to one source's indictment." Let this be a warning for those "whistle-blowers" who "leak" information to the press in order to manipulate "journalists" in regard to "facts." And then try to dodge responsibility by testifying that it was the reporters who told them the classified information.

Dear John: Libby's lies are what compelled testimony from the journalists, and what put him in jeopardy.

Tierney liked the carefuly proscribed bounds of Fitzgerald's indictment: "The leak was imagined to be a deliberate crime..." and because Fitz limited the charge to a slam-dunk case there was no crime? "...but from the start there was always a much simpler explanation: that it was an accident by administration officials replying in kind to leaks from a critic."

An accident. Yeah, that's it.

Scooter just "couldn't remember" that it was his boss, Vice President of the United States (and three other colleagues) who told him who Joe Wilson's wife was and who she worked for instead of all those reporters he was blabbing to. Thank goodness he took good notes so we could sort it out later.

Maureen Dowd's glass, on the other hand, is half-empty: "There is something grotesque about Scooter's hiding behind the press with his little conspiracy, given that he's part of an administration that despises the press and tried to make its work almost impossible."

The more interesting question is whether Scooter will take it like a man, plead out on one or a couple of the charges for a nominal fine and maybe some easy jail time, or whether he'll come to Jesus and decide honesty really is the best policy after all. Wouldn't that be a kick? I'm not going to hold my breath. The book deal could be interesting, though.

He says he expects to be "completely and totally exonerated," but it's hard to imagine Fitzgerald missing his mark so utterly as that. "I was just following orders" wouldn't seem to be a ticket out. "The end justified the means"? "I was so busy, I just couldn't recollect the sequence of events." Sorry Scooter, I can't see it.

If he's still the Veep's man and following orders, he has to plead it out. No way Dick Cheney wants to be answering a subpoena for a star turn on Law & Order. And if he's not willing to take one for Darth Vader... well, that's when it could get interesting. But he's not going to skate by on the "those weren't lies, they were just inconsistencies" defense.

28.Oct.05

34543 Music of the spheres
sort of; after last night's Community Concerts performance of Quattrocelli we returned to our car to find the odometer on the triangular palindrome. Check their dates for this fall's US tour if you live out west: their arrangements, selections and virtuosity on four cellos make for great entertainment. They have a generous selection of samples on their website.

Fall strawberries This explains everything: Karl was preoccupied with "other matters" and the actual Chief of Staff had to shepherd the SCOTUS nom. "(T)he White House's main ambassador to social and religious conservatives, did not know that she was the choice until a few days before the announcement." Leaving... der Krauthammer to call the shots. Imagine that, the little pipsqueak chucking a few rocks at the "closet liberal" and "rudderless" Justices still on the court, from the safety of his soapbox.

It seems Harriet even lacked imagination on her letter of resignation, following his lead for "irreconcilable differences over documents" as the face-saving way out.

27.Oct.05

Today's top story is the confirmation of Bush priorities. Secrecy tops loyalty, and Miers pulls out of the SCOTUS race. Will Harriet be in charge of finding a new nominee, one wonders? Whether or not, I don't expect the next choice to be any better than this one. Since it was the rabid conservatives who torpedoed this nomination, the next choice will likely be further right. Another test for the Dems' backbone...

Haven't checked in with Dan Gillmor's blogging in quite a while, found him again via a MSM linkback to the blogosphere. Now on Bayosphere, he makes a good point about "Miers Goes, Bush Flails": "I was always more worried about the above-the-law question—the insistence by this administration that it can make up new laws when it comes to people it claims to be terrorism suspects. What did Miers do in Bush's government, which basically claims that the president or his agent can lock any of us up indefinitely and without access to a lawyer? She was part of the government that has asserted dictatorial authority. That is more scary than her right-wing views on abortion, by far."

Meanwhile, Patrick Fitzgerald opts to avoid getting upstaged and holds off his indictments (if any) and/or request for an extension (if any) one more day. Suspense! It's almost (almost) as good as the weekly episode of The West Wing. Reading about the (sort of) chief of staff of the (sort of) chief of staff made it look like WW got another scoop, with (whatsername?) listening in on C.J.'s phone calls and then having to testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence... (The Hot Topics section provides links to actual organizations that figure in each episode).

"(I)t was Ms. Ralston who patched through a phone call from Matt Cooper, the reporter for Time magazine, to Mr. Rove on the day in July 2003 that they discussed Mrs. Wilson..."

Mr. Fitzgerald: You did have the ability to lisent to phone calls from that phone call relay station, did you not?

Ms. Ralston: Yes.

Mr. Fitzgerald: Did you listen to the call between Mr. Cooper and Mr. Rove on that call?

(Cut to Ms. Ralston's face, thinking carefully, and wide-eyed, before she answers. Fade to black. Roll credits.)

All that and a Jack Abramoff connection, too!

2,000 US Military dead, and counting. Refresher course from Gary Hart on the beneath-contempt "where's the crime?" angle being worked by right-wing pundits:

"The political irony of all this is that conservative elements in America have always proclaimed themselves more concerned than anyone else with national security, the sanctity of classified information, protection of sources, support for our intelligence and military services, and so on. At radical times in our past, irresponsible leftist groups thought it was their duty to try to reveal the names of CIA agents. Now, under a conservative administration, it is these conservative national security champions who are saying, with regard to the 'outing' of a CIA undercover officer, 'Where's the crime?'"

Others are assessing not the crimes, but who's going to pay. The Magic 8-ball says... Scooter.

"Look at how the press talks about Rove. He's the nervous system of the White House staff, the chief architect of Republican dominance, the 7200 rpm hard drive of the Bush machine, the jolly pirate who guides the ship of state; without Rove, Bush will be reduced to wandering around the White House bumping into walls like a robot on the blink.

"Rove is considered indispensable, irreplaceable. But you, Scooter? You're being treated as not just dispensable but disposable. Rove is Bush's evil genius. Dick Cheney doesn't need an evil genius. He's his own evil genius. Once your nameplate has been removed from your desk, Burns will simply find himself another Smithers to pledge groveling obedience."

Catching up on the recent history of comparative journalism, I see that our local rag, The Idaho Statesman, may have got a significant upgrade by leaving Gannett and joining Knight-Ridder. If they get a new webmaster and redesign their execrable site we'll really be cookin'.

26.Oct.05

How stingy is Wal-Mart with its employee health benefits? This statistic hits you in the gut: "46 percent of the children of Wal-Mart's 1.33 million United States employees were uninsured or on Medicaid." The children are doing better than the employees themselves: less than 45 percent of Wal-Mart's workers—not even half—receive company health insurance. (That stat was in the NYT story, but not in the company memo; the worse news is that this performance looks to be a little better than retail employers overall.)

The executive v.p. for benefits, Susan Chambers, has figured out that employee retention is a bad thing: "The cost of an associate with seven years of tenure is almost 55 percent more than the cost of an associate with one year of tenure, yet there is no difference in his or her productivity.* Moreover, because we pay an associate more in salary and benefits as his or her tenure increases, we are pricing that associate out of the labor market, increasing the likelihood that he or she will stay with Wal-Mart."Wal-Mart's graph of its store sales per labor hour vs. worker tenure

*The supporting exhibit shows a weak correlation with an increasing negative slope on a nonlinear regression for "sales per labor hour by store" against "average store tenure." It's an erroneous inference about the relationship between individual productivity and tenure.

"Pricing an associate out of the labor market." What a great description of paying employees enough so that they don't want to go get a job somewhere else. That's just inefficiency in Wal-Mart World! Their "aging workforce" and "increasing average tenure" are a "persistent root cause" of their rising health care costs, and they mean to fix those things.

"Wal-Martís healthcare benefit is one of the most pressing reputation issues we face because well-funded, well-organized critics, as well as state government officials, are carefully scrutinizing Wal-Martís offering. Moreover, our offering is vulnerable to at least some of their criticisms, especially with regard to the affordability of coverage and Associatesí reliance on Medicaid."

Having their memo leaked doesn't help. The task of "reframing public perception" and "building credibility" apparently starts by digging a big hole. Here's her statement of the "public reputation risk":

"Healthcare enrollment will fall several percentage points due primarily to a shift to more part-time Associates, which could draw additional attacks from Wal-Martís critics. Also, despite the proposed efforts, the Medicaid problem will not be 'solved.' A significant number of Associates and their children will still qualify for Medicaid. Because many of these programs will offer more generous health insurance than Wal-Mart provides, many Associates will still choose to enroll in Medicaid, leaving the door open for continued attacks."

In other words, their cost-containment will still leave their employees eligible for Medicaid, and their health care benefits will remain less attractive than it. Yeah, there might be a little public relations risk there.

25.Oct.05

Without putting too fine a point on it, Dick Cheney wants to retain the torture option rather than give in to 91% of the US Senate. Tough sell to John McCain, I'd imagine.

I went to the forum at the Mennonite Church last night. The small house was fairly full, and the hour and a half was well-spent. The candidates appeared in pairs, had a minute and a half to introduce themselves, and then the rest of half an hour to answer questions the audience submitted via 3x5 cards.

The short answer from my point of view is that I'll vote for the incumbents: Vernon Bisterfeldt, Maryanne Jordan, Jerome Mapp.

Bisterfeldt's opponent, Mark Seeleyis a self-professed single-issue candidate: he's unhappy about what the city did with regard to Community House, and he wants to bring representation for the homeless to the Council. (He used to be homeless.) On a couple of the hot-button issues, he declined to take a stand, saying that either way he stood, he'd lose the chance for some votes on the issue that mattered to him. He acknowledged that there isn't much chance he'll get elected; he said he signed up at the last minute, so Bisterfeldt wouldn't run unopposed.

I asked the question of Seeley what he would do to redress what he saw as the wrong that had been done; nothing specific ended up in my notes from what he said. He's not a strong single-issue cadidate. He did make a nice point: if we can build luxury skyboxes at Bongo Stadium, we ought to be able to do better with regards to housing the homeless. During the evening two things were brought up in this realm: Bisterfeldt pointed out that if you provide too easy easy and comfortable housing, word will get around and homeless people will come to Boise for the good life. (Then Harry Shearer will have to relinquish the title "Home of the Homeless" for Santa Monica, eh?)

Maryanne Jordan pointed out that Community House was still a home for the homeless, now under new management (and with a different subset of the clientele) and being run MUCH better than it was, by her personal assessment from visiting.

Vern floated his idea of property tax fairness: EVERYONE (including churches, hospitals and the state) should have to pay for police, fire and EMS; everyone uses it.

Jim Tibbs seems to be a nice guy, sincere, willing to accept the support of the Ten Commandments cadre, but not to (publicly) go out of his way (or risk losing other voters!) for them or other interest groups. As far as being on the council, I felt he was out of his league. Mapp has a wealth of pertinent experience, serves on CCDC and Valley Ride. There are plenty of people who dislike one or more of those organization and what they have or haven't done, but without glaring errors in judgement or decision-making, I'd rather have experience over a fresh face. Tibbs didn't give me any reason to consider him; he'd made different expressions of the same answer (or non-answer) to questions. He fought to get the last word in, embarrassingly, and Mapp got sucked into the pointless contest.

This KBCI-TV piece on Mapp v. Tibbs gives a good flavor of the mushy and indistinct flavor of the contest between them.

The main event, of course, was Brandi vs. Maryanne. Both had vocal supporters, but a few more (and louder) turned out for Jordan. Brandi is an attractive candidate for office. In a job interview you'd be impressed with her enthusiasm, outspokenness and ability to express herself. She has the Christian Right ideology deeply embedded, and will be a darling to Idaho Republicans I suspect. "Nonprofits do a *phenomenal* job," and anything they'll do they'll do better than government. Let's have a volunteer fire department then? (Just an idea I had this morning.) She hadn't heard about the plans for a gold mine upstream. Jordan pointed out that the City Council couldn't do much about it anyway.

Everyone had to weigh in in some fashion on the Great Ten Commandments Advertising Monument controversy, of course. Jordan pointed out that "in the face of evil" the city was able to find "a beautiful new home" for the monument, getting warm applause for her statement. Brandi got wound up on the same question, as you might imagine, said she hated the fact of the city "caving" to the hate group, especially when we had the promise of pro bono legal representation. Her group applauded for that.

It seems to me that Brandi is used to preaching to the choir, giving her ebullient message to people who support and believe in her. She's a little too close to righteous, indignation and righteous indignation, getting more worked up than seemed appropriate on a couple issues and was underprepared on several. More than just a pretty face, less than a qualified candidate for Council at this point. If she were running for an open seat against other untried candidates, Boise might well elect her. I hope the voters of Boise are not so clueless as to replace Jordan's experience at this point.

Someone raised a question that enumerated the Big Issues from the Keep the Commandments Coalition's website, including the "resurgence of bestiality." Who knew? (I looked for it, found one mention deep in a co-director Bryan Fischer essay.) The Jordan supporter who raised it had a printed copy to wave and bring up to the front of the room, really made an ass of herself IMHO. Brandi was caught by surprise by that; although she's co-director, she hadn't reviewed the website material lately. She's apparently more focused on her other coalition these days, Generation Life. That's "a youth movement of students, activists, teachers, professionals, and artists committed to ending the horror of abortion, proclaiming the message of sexual purity to their peers, and ushering in Biblical revolution to the next generation. Its source, fuel and fire is the same as that of all creation - the one and only Triune God." My guess is bestiality's out for them too, but probably not an active concern.

Challenged on how she would deal with "all" of the citizens in Boise, including the ones who weren't Trinitarian or heterosexual (or even chaste), she glided way above it by emphasizing how she thought for herself and would listen to "all" (yes, all) the citizens.

24.Oct.05

Charles Pierce sends his Greetings from Idiot America in Esquire, but "Rev. Ryuei" is happy to repost it all in his blog, at least until the lawyers come calling. Read it while you can. And weep.

...It is impolite to wonder why our parents sent us all to college, and why generations of immigrants sweated and bled so their children could be educated, if it wasn't so that we would all one day feel confident enough to look at a museum filled with dinosaurs rigged to run six furlongs at Belmont and make the not unreasonable point that it is all batshit crazy and that anyone who believes this righteous hooey should be kept away from sharp objects and his own money.

Dinosaurs with saddles?

Dinosaurs on Noah's Ark?

Welcome to your new Eden.

Welcome to Idiot America.

Not the first curious parallel between the Chinese government and corporate America, but it struck me all the same when reading the Wired News story, No Longer Safe for Work: Blogs. "Some companies have higher security, privacy and regulatory needs that require greater diligence over what companies can and cannot do." And some countries, too.

Next time you're shopping for some gold jewelry, think about this: "for that one ounce of gold, miners dig up and haul away 30 tons of rock..." Or maybe 100 tons, 200,000 pounds of rock, as in some sites in Nevada. 80% of the gold being mined these days is going to into the $38 billion jewelry industry.

The NY Times starts a series from their "months-long examination," "providing a rare look inside an insular industry with a troubled environmental legacy and an uncertain future."

This is definitely "local color" for Idaho, with both a legacy of and future plans for mining and what comes after mining. The world's largest consumer is India, with sales up 47% last year, and adding a new twist: in addition to sending jobs to India, we could be providing raw materials, just like we were a colony again.

"Some metal mines, including gold mines, have become the near-equivalent of nuclear waste dumps that must be tended in perpetuity. Hard-rock mining generates more toxic waste than any other industry in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency estimated last year that the cost of cleaning up metal mines could reach $54 billion."

23.Oct.05

Tropic of Capricorn across Australia, from Google Earth I was wondering who would follow Wilma, the canonical Xerxes? Or perhaps Xavier? But no, W is the end of the list. Whatever other storms this record-breaking season produces will have to settle for the Greek alphabet. ("The list," by the way, is one of eleven lists for tropical cyclones around the world. Australia has three of the eleven by itself. And yes, Australia is "tropical": the Tropic of Capricorn is like the continent's waistband.)

Oddly enough, the Eastern North Pacific does use X, Y and Z, although still not Q and U. Xina, Xavier, York, Yolanda, Zelda and Zeke go in a biennial cycle rather than the full 6 years; I suppose the assumption is that we won't get that far down the list most years. The Western North Pacific went with the committee approach, names contributed by 14 countries; if the sequence is alphabetical (or intelligible), it must be in some other language than English.

Google Earth view of the Pacific Ocean Trivia question: what are the 10 names contributed by the U.S.A. to the Western North Pacific Tropical Cyclone Name list?

Ok, since you're not going to get that, just name any 4 of the 10.

Give up? Here's the list: Maria, Utor, Francisco, Chataan, Higos, Etau, Omais, Kodo, Roke and Vicete.

Wouldn't you love to name your child Utor? He could grow up to be governor of California someday.

Back in the first Bush administration, Judy Miller thought she should be in the Times' seat in the White House press room, and whispered as much to its current occupant, Maureen Dowd. "It was such an outrageous move, I could only laugh. I got up and stood in the back of the room, while Judy claimed what she felt was her rightful power perch."

That anecdote has ripened to perfection, and drops off the tree this fall in Woman of Mass Destruction, wherein Dowd retakes her seat, thankyouverymuch.

"Sorely in need of a tight editorial leash, she was kept on no leash at all, and that has hurt this paper and its trust with readers. She more than earned her sobriquet 'Miss Run Amok.'"

22.Oct.05

The O'Franken Factor (for the 20th) called B.S. on W's "consistently ranked in the top 50 women lawyers" marketing pitch for Harriet Miers. She was ranked in the top 50 of "most influential women lawyers." Once. In 1998. Because she was George Bush's buddy. Q.E.D., huh? But once is not "consistently" for most of us. Ha ha, just another one of those charming gaffes from our good ol' boy.

I mentioned that to Jeanette and she connected the dots with that staged video conference with the troops in Iraq: here Bush was prepped and following an easy script, and he was stumbling to put three words together in intelligible sequence. He was acting as if he were spontaneously coming up with "unscripted" questions for the soldiers. (Don't you wonder what they were thinking at that point? Have you ever been in a play with someone who couldn't remember his lines? Talk about painful anxiety...) And he was acting really, really badly.

You remember Ronald Reagan, don't you? Now that guy could read a script. And make you believe him and love him (apparently, I never fell in love) at the same time, even when he was lying. I mean, he was sincere.

My default operating principle is to give people the benefit of the doubt, until they demonstrate they no longer deserve it. I've now had 6 years of pretty steady demonstrations from George W. Bush, so here's the W. default: when he's stumbling through an easy interaction with an obvious outcome, acting unsure of himself... he's just acting, badly, and trying to distract the audience from the little lies of the subject at hand and the big lie that he's simple, honest and straightforward.

21.Oct.05

Wilma is tearing up the Yucatan, expected to "recurve" and get after Florida. She went from zero to way past 60 in nothin' flat, tropical storm to category 5 in less than a day, "with torrential rains and shrieking winds, filling streets with water, shattered glass and debris as thousands of tourists hunkered down in hotel ballrooms and emergency shelters." AP report) Some vacation. SciFri guy says "the pressure on this storm dropped a hundred millibars—about 10% of the weight of the atmosphere if you will—so it created this giant hole in the lower atmosphere..."

Science Friday's update on the Dover Monkey trial included the nut of the issue: Intelligent Design proponents want to tell everyone that the theory of evolution is "just" a theory, and they've got a theory which might be true, too. Trouble is, they don't. ID is a hare-brained notion, not a Theory. That its proponents don't know the difference is another symptom of the problem.

Pumpkin, 2001 There isn't frost on the pumpkin yet, but there is a pumpkin. We made our selection from the big $.09-a-pound boxes lined up in front of Winco. Nothing says "harvest bounty" quite like it...

Lawrence Wilkerson, retired Army colonel, former director of the Marine Corps War College, and most recently the chief of staff for Colin Powell when he was Secretary of State tells us the obvious: the Cheney-Rumsfeld "cabal" has taken over the show. Bush's first term "was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberration, bastardizations" and "perturbations."

Mr. Wilkerson suggested that the dysfunction within the administration was so grave that "if something comes along that is truly serious, truly serious, something like a nuclear weapon going off in a major American city, or something like a major pandemic, you are going to see the ineptitude of this government in a way that will take you back to the Declaration of Independence."

Wilkerson recommends George Packer's book, The Assassins' Gate : America in Iraq for having "got it right."

"And I wish, I wish I had been able to help George Packer write that book. In some places I could have given him a hell of a lot more specifics than heís got. But if you want to read how the Cheney Rumsfeld cabal flummoxed the process, read that book. And, of course, there are other names in there, Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith whom most of you probably know Tommy Frank said was stupidest blankety blank man in the world. He was. Let me testify to that. He was. Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man."

Stopped by the blog of an economist in India and got into a lengthy discussion sparked by Bhutan's Gross National Happiness metric. Dey thinks that's just silly. I think it's less silly than a lot of what economists come up with. The jury's still out.

The NY Times' home page lists a few headlines under each of their prime subject categories. Today's selection in Business had a signpost of the passing of the torch from old economy to new in this country:

Ford Reports a Loss and Expects 'Significant Plant Closings'

Profit Rises Sevenfold at Google

"The results even exceeded the expectations of the company. 'We were surprised, pleasantly, I might say,' Google's chief executive, Eric E. Schmidt, said yesterday in a telephone interview.... Google's revenue in the quarter was $1.6 billion, up 96 percent from $805.9 million a year ago.... Google ended the quarter with $7.6 billion in cash.... Google continued to spend money rapidly. It made $293 million in capital expenditures...

"The company also spent $152 million on research and development, up 167 percent from a year ago. Most of that was the salaries of engineers, whom the company has been hiring in droves. Google added 806 employees, giving it a total of 4,989 full-time workers at the end of September."

Versus the Ford report: they lost $1.49 billion, and "There will be sacrifices asked of people throughout our company, from top to bottom, in these very difficult circumstances, and we will reduce structure as well as jobs," according to Mr. Ford.

Our larch, turned gold in fall 2005 We used to have a little cluster of aspens in our yard, but the climate here in Boise is too dry, and too hot for them to thrive. Just like Scooter's and Judy's, they turned in a cluster in the fall. Then they withered and died in a cluster.

Robert Parry's book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq sounds like it would make good fall reading. As teased by his Oct. 20 entry at Consortiumnews.

Speaking of dinosaurs, a not-so-funny good ol' boy joke led Neil French to resign his position as worldwide creative director at WPP Group. "Mr. French said he did not regret his remarks, but thought the reaction to them was 'lunacy.' 'I'm extremely sad about it,' said Mr. French, who has been widely pilloried on the Internet. 'Death by blog is not really the way to go.'"

He didn't regret his remarks? He used to be the creative director for a company whose "principal activity is the provision of communications services worldwide" with brands like J Walter Thompson Company, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, MindShare, and Mediaedge, he stuffed his foot, ankle and leg so far down his throat the corporation puked him out and he didn't regret his remarks?

How many equally or better qualified women do you suppose French edged out on his way to the top by virtue of nothing more than his gender?

When the Chinese get to the moon, will they be mining oxygen?

A crucial map of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge "vanishes" and gee, all of a sudden tens of thousands of acres are easier to open for energy development. Do you think someone took this intentionally?

Yes, I do, and I don't need to put on a tinfoil hat to think that way.

20.Oct.05

The Sentate Judiciary committee gives Harriet Miers a failing grade on her first try at the questionnaire. Give it another go, wouldja Harry?

Here's transformation: rationing benefits from Medicaid. W's brother Jeb is leading the way in the "groundbreaking" conversion from defined benefits to defined contribution, wherein "the state will set aside a specific amount of money for each person enrolled in Medicaid," based on the person's medical condition and historic use of health care.

I wonder if Robert Trosten heard that AM radio ad for trading currencies? He collected $45 mil on his way out of the currency trading business before the company he worked for collapsed. His millions were a small part of what was cleaned out of the cash drawer at Refco, "a decades-old firm that conducted billions of dollars in trades in foreign currencies, United States Treasury securities and commodities for more than 200,000 clients last year.... (I)nvestors and customers who are facing losses in Refco's bankruptcy will certainly want to understand how insiders could drain $1.124 billion from the firm's coffers in the year or so leading up to its demise."

A few hundred million here, another couple hundred million there, it can add up.

19.Oct.05

The road around Spring Shores, below Lucky Peak dam This puts those perfunctory registration cards that come with new hardware in a different light: Secret Code in Color Printers Lets Government Track You. The Electronic Frontier Foundation reports on a long list of manufacturers and products, most of which appear to spew identification markers. They have manufacturer's confirmation and decoding only for the Xerox machines so far; the others are at the "yellow dots that appeared anomalous to us" stage.

Jeanette was wondering why her computer had failed in something basic (loading my blog into Firefox, actually), and then wouldn't restart cleanly, giving her a partially degraded "task won't cooperate" dialog. It's been doing that a bit more often lately. It's running win95 for goodness sake, and the O/S was installed when the machine was new, now more than 7 years ago. No reinstallation in >7 years. Don't try this at home, kids. Definitely past time to get a new machine for her, but all those other daily distractions get in the way...

Speaking of democracy, Tom Friedman "reports" that a delegation of Iraqi judges and journalists decided to clear out of the U.S. to limit their exposure to a bad example.

"The lead Iraqi delegate, Muhammad Mithaqi, a noted secular Sunni judge who had recently survived an assassination attempt by Islamist radicals, said that he was stunned when he heard President Bush telling Republicans that one reason they should support Harriet Miers for the U.S. Supreme Court was because of 'her religion.' She is described as a devout evangelical Christian."

"Now let me get this straight," Judge Mithaqi said. "You are lecturing us about keeping religion out of politics, and then your own president and conservative legal scholars go and tell your public to endorse Miers as a Supreme Court justice because she is an evangelical Christian.

"How would you feel if you picked up your newspapers next week and read that the president of Iraq justified the appointment of an Iraqi Supreme Court justice by telling Iraqis: 'Don't pay attention to his lack of legal expertise. Pay attention to the fact that he is a Muslim fundamentalist and prays at a Saudi-funded Wahhabi mosque.' Is that the Iraq you sent your sons to build and to die for? I don't think so. We can't have our people exposed to such talk."

Buying off journalists, staging press conferences with soliders as props, Iraqis have seen all that stuff before.

Oh and torture; as graphically documented on the Frontline that aired last night, The Torture Question. You can watch it online if you have the stomach for graphic scenes such as the unrepentant John Yoo defending his legal cover for ignoring morality.

There is one ray of light, John McCain's amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill. The dark lining is that 9 Senators [Allard (R-CO), Bond (R-MO), Coburn (R-OK), Cochran (R-MS), Cornyn (R-TX), Inhofe (R-OK), Roberts (R-KS), Sessions (R-AL), Stevens (R-AK)] voted against it. Supporting our President and troops? Our President who threatened to use his veto power for the first time in 5 years on this bill because of the admendment?

I was relieved to see that Idaho's 2 senators were in the majority; and would be mortified if I lived in Oklahoma.

As Robert Crawford puts it in The Seattle Times: "Astonishingly, the White House has threatened a veto, claiming that the anti-torture provision would unduly 'tie the hands' of the president in fighting the war on terrorism. Tie his hands? Isn't that what the rule of law is supposed to do? Is the administration actually suggesting it should be exempt from law? Perhaps. This is the same administration that launched an illegal war in Iraq and lied about why it was necessary."

Let's review:
(1) Torture does not produce reliable intelligence;
(2) Torture of detainees held by the U.S. endangers American military personnel who are captured by enemies;
(3) Torture undermines the larger war against terrorism.

This is trouble: "watching video on the tiny, 2.5-inch screen (320 by 240 pixels) is completely immersive."

In addition to your full attention, you need to dedicate a hand to hold it. "(I)n urban settings, where iPods are muggers' favorite delicacies, you have to hold the thing out in full view. You feel like youíre wearing a bumper sticker that says: 'Iím an idiot. Rob me.'"

The one bane of portable devices is still in the way, though: "video for just over two hours on a charge" in the $300/30GB model, and three hours for $400/60GB.

Knight-Ridder has figured out how to syndicate Carnal Knowledge, cute trick. The first topic is how did sex get started, anyway? It's once over lightly, but that's not likely to hurt their circulation.

18.Oct.05

Here's an idea for furthering democracy: let the Iraqi people vote on whether or not they want the US military to stay.

My buddy tells me that Adam Curry is known as the "Podfather," and I've just tuned into his 261th episode of his Daily Source Code. The production values are impressive, just like a real radio show. The content... still waiting for that. It's like... well, it's like an AM radio show, where some guy sitting in front of a microphone is blathering to fill air and keep the ads from running into each other. Except here there's no ads? And there's music, just like the radio. I've got my own "podsafe" copy of "Right in the Middle" now? Woo hoo.

Other than that, what do I need to know what the sunrise looks like from his condo, or what it smelled like after he'd been away for a while? I see that it's easier to spill mindless trivia into a podcast than into a blog. I mean, you get a little of the weather report here, but it's not the main event and I try to keep it cute and pithy. Except for sailing of course.

I guess if you like the guy, it helps, and it's like an audio letter from a friend? Once a month would be plenty for that, I can't imagine multiple hours each day. Or maybe more than once. Or even once?

That's the beauty of radio: there's always another channel. Let's try The Majority Report instead. "I don't hate the sinner George Bush; I just hate all the sins."

Interesting angle on the fact that George Bush hasn't asked the country to sacrifice anything in order to further his agenda. I mean, after 9/11, we were exhorted to go shopping, remember? We don't need a call to sacrifice, because the sacrifices are built-in: the national debt and trade imbalance will ensure that (not too distant) future generations make plenty of sacrifice. The flood of corporate bankruptcies (and new constraint on personal bankruptcy) will ensure that workers sacrifice: their high-paying jobs and economic security, their health care benefits, their pensions.

17.Oct.05

Not quite a year after the science phase was up (way up) and running, Gravity Probe B has run out of juice, all its 650 gallons of liquid helium gone to gas. The data were faster to collect than they will be to analyze; some time in 2007 we'll find out just how right (or not) the theory of General Relativity is. That's almost no time at all compared to the start of the GP-B project: 1960.

I'll have to get after my model GP-B one of these days...

I've used a lot of image editors and utilities over the years, both different brands and different versions. "Crop" is one of the most basic tools anything in that category must offer, Most have a similar sort of user interface, albeit with various subtle (and therefore annoying, for those who switch between them) differences. I recall one that was standout bad, finishing the crop onmouseup, without ever offering adjustment handles.

Today, I found one that seems exactly right, in a demo version of Hyperionic's "Hypersnap" utility and editor. It presents full-width cross-hairs and allows you to set one corner by clicking anywhere, including off-image. It then presents a rubber-band box, still with the full-width cross-hairs, and awaits a click for the opposite corner. Simple, obvious, and facilitating getting it exactly right on the first try.

(Too bad about their website's frame design that hides direct URLs to their product pages, though; here's one to Hypersnap itself.)

Ok then, it is a smashing success, with Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng back on the ground after China's 2nd manned space flight. Congratulations to all involved.

Dry banks Sheep Cr. after Lucky Peak drawdown "Non-partisan" is a relative thing, and the state GOP has decided that they want to support Brandi Swindell's campaign against Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan. Dan Popkey (the link points to his temporarily-available Oct. 16th column's "printer friendly" version, since the Flash ad on the original was too obnoxious for me; their web formatting pushes the byline into the title where you might not notice) surmises that Brandi's being groomed as "a star with prospects for higher office." The next Helen Chenoweth, perhaps? It's hard to overestimate the strength of Republican party loyalty in this state, but I'd still be surprised if Brandi gets more than the Ten Commandments vote. Popkey's rundown of the two candidates' qualifications makes it clear that the electorate would have to be asleep to vote against the incumbent:

"Councilwoman Jordan is a businesswoman who sells police supplies. She's toiled in the vineyard of local issues as president of the West Valley Neighborhood Association and a Planning & Zoning commissioner. She's worked on Foothills preservation and transportation planning. She's been on the council since 2003 and has a degree in political science.

"Swindell graduated from Meridian High School but has no college degree. Image is everything. Good looks got her TV time on O'Reilly; she made headlines protesting condom handouts at the Salt Lake Olympics; her rap sheet includes protests over abortion, the Ten Commandments and stem-cell research."

Viewed from the far Right, this is a "scathing attack," and "betrays the elitism that often characterizes those on the left end of the political spectrum." Only elites expect formal education and experience in their political candidates? "Do not be confused,my friends: this was not just an attack on Brandi, but on the deepest convictions you and I cherish," writes Bryan Fischer, co-director of his own bully pulpit, the "Idaho Examiner." Sounds sorta like a newspaper, doesn't it? But no, just a good name for a Keep the Commandments blog.

I had occasion to dig out one of our ancient portable cassette players (once known as "Walkmen") so that I could tune in the baseball game while cleaning out the gutters yesterday. That made a not-always-pleasant task more enjoyable, and I got to listen to some AM radio advertising. The one that stuck in my mind was for trading currency: make more money than stocks or bonds, and no experience necessary! It's another world, to be sure.

16.Oct.05

Spring Shores and Lucky Peak dam, in fall color at sunrise As regular readers know, I'm not so big on motorized recreation, or Dumvees, but my mechanical engineering side appreciates the challenge of combining vehicle navigation and artificial intelligence. John Markoff's report and the interactive features about the DARPA Grand Challenge are wonderfully entertaining. Call it NASCAR for geeks, I guess. The Cardinal team brought home $2 million for their first-place finish.

If it's too much time, trouble and intimidation to go out to the playa, maybe the Decompression event can get you that Burning Man feeling the easy way. Wired News reports that one participant "likens the relation between the two to Cliff's Notes versus a novel, or Chinatown versus China."

The true believers are offended by the ersatz version, though: too easy for non-participant spectators to wander by, yet another incident of cultural misappropriation.

Whatsisname Coors' latest pitch for his watered-down product: If you haven't had one in a while, "you may have forgotten how cold and refreshing a Rocky Mountain beer can taste." You cannot be serious. This is right up there with the Coldest Beer in Boise contest for idiocy. Can this really convince anyone to buy Coors?! (And in October?)

Another crop of my photo of Chris Lee windsurfing, July 2005 I got my picture in the paper last week, thanks to the subject submitting his summer vacation blurb. Cute feature, actually, but what's up with the "Photo Credit: N/A" after the caption said whose it was? And what's up with them saying "Copyright 2005" as if they have any rights to it?

Idaho's senior senator, Larry Craig says "I'm not humorous when I suggest we should turn it back to what it was, a wetland." You're not smart or useful when you suggest that either, Larry. Did you draw the short straw in the redneck caucus this week or something? Senator Landrieu said she hoped he'd been misinterpreted, but maybe she should have just suggested that Craig's stomping grounds should be turned back into desert.

15.10.5

I was a bit annoyed to have to download another new version of Quicktime and iTunes to see Steve Jobs on stage, but then I read David Pogue's article about the new portable video thing and decided, hey, I've got this new PDA I'm learning what to do with, it ought to be able to play something for me, eh?

Sure enough, checking off the EULA, puzzling through the sparse (or "clean," if you like) user interface and finding the subscribe interface under "Advanced," and a little bit of instruction from NPR's podcast directory ("copy this URL"), a bit of ActiveSync and I've finally got something to put in the "My Music" folder, making an asynchronous portable radio... with the quality of a transistor radio from my distant youth. (I'm not ready to bother with portable video just yet.)

excerpted from Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP-Getty Images It's voting day in Iraq once again, the polls closed by the time you read this. Chapter 1 of the proposed Constitution starts by proclaiming Islam as the official religion of the state and what would seem to be contradictory requirements: (a) No law can be passed that contradicts the fixed fules of Islam. (b) No law can be passed that contradicts the principles of democracy.

"Democracy" and "state religion" aren't compatible in my mind. Maybe it makes sense in the original? Otherwise, we can only sit in wonder at the right-wing Christians in the U.S. having mounted a crusade to create a new Islamic state.

Whether or not it passes, the business of creating the new Iraq will be mostly still to-do. Edward Wong's and Dexter Filkins' report in the NYT notes that "by one count, at least 55 issues in the constitution are put off for future debate with the phrase, And a law shall organize this."

Chart of Bankruptcy filings over the last year, ch. 7 peaking this week Last century had its bread lines in the Great Depression, this century is kicking off with bankruptcy lines: "(T)housands of people standing patiently in line for hours outside federal courthouses were waiting to file for bankruptcy. It was the final workday before a tough new federal law takes effect."

"We have never seen anything like this," said Barbara J. May, a consumer bankruptcy lawyer in St. Paul. "We knew it would be an upswing, but this is pandemonium."

Get 'em while their hot If you've gone car shopping lately, you've probably thought about fuel efficiency, and if you were thinking SUV, rethought. Domestic-brand SUV sales have tanked, to use the inevitable verb. Hell, even car ads on TV are starting to mention gas mileage. And resale values... a friend told us that several dealers told him the '98 Jeep Cherokee he'd just bought 2 months ago was no longer worth the $13,000 Blue Book price he paid, but only $5,500. He's off to California, facing the $1,000+ excess emission ding to boot.

14.Oct.05

It's like a heat wave: mid-70s in the afternoon. When we're burning natural gas, we settle for mid-60s, so this is a definite open-the-windows upgrade in mid-October. I missed one of the best mornings at the lake of the year, though. Maybe it'll go again tomorrow.

Scott McLellan's hot about how "you all want to focus on side issues like religion," while they want to focus on Ms. Miers' qualifications and record. Is that the record that's all so confidential they can't share it with us? And the qualifications... well, suffice it to say that the enormity of the situation came home when Harry Shearer's introduction to the topic reminded me that Miers has been nominated to take the place of Sandra Day O'Connor, a truly remarkable woman and Justice of the Supreme Court.

David Brooks put it this way, after reviewing "the largest body of public writing we have from her," her early 90s "President's Opinion" columns for the Texas bar association: "(S)ad to say, the quality of thought and writing doesn't even rise to the level of pedestrian."

"I don't know if by mere quotation I can fully convey the relentless march of vapid abstractions that mark Miers's prose. Nearly every idea is vague and depersonalized. Nearly every debatable point is elided."

We could—should—do so much better.

For the L.A. Times' part, they've sniffed a hint of liberalism in her past, and this lawyer joke from Harriet: "Lawyers are about seeking the truth, preserving a system to achieve fairness and justice and protecting the freedom of individuals against the tyranny of the majority view."

This came after the embarrassing attempt to cover for the live feed of the script read-through of the videoconference between the President and the troops in Iraq. "Are you suggesting that what our troops said was not sincere?" In other words, are you not supporting our troops? Are you some kind of traitor?!

Ah, no, but don't you think we would be better served if interactions with our President were not so staged?

John Snow tells China how to be financially sophisticated: spend more, borrow more and save less. But John, as their savings rate drops from 50 (!) percent to match ours at less than zero (!!), who's going to keep buying our bonds to finance our trade deficit?

Richard Stevenson imagines the formerly-embattled Democrats might have some sympathy for the now-embattled Bush administration as they struggle to "manage the facts," as he put it. For those of us some distance from the minutiae of the on-going investigation, the facts are straightforward:

1. Joe Wilson went to Niger, came back with a report that there was no evidence that Iraq was buying Uranium from there.

2. The Administration continued to use the "intelligence" trickling behind the forged document about such dealing to promote its case for going to war against Iraq.

3. When Joe called B.S., his wife was outed as a covert CIA agent.

We don't know how the word got around, but Karl Rove and Scooter Libby were blabbing about it, and from our "presumption of guilt culture" (and the fact that step #3 fits Rove's M.O. to a tee) we presume one or both are guilty. Like most criminals, they probably got away with a lot of stuff before they got caught, let alone convicted, so how about our upstanding Veep and Peep just do the Right, Republican, Conservative, Moral, Christian thing and send both of them packing? The grand jury and special prosecutor and courts can sort out the rest in due course.

13.Oct.05

Boise now has an "up-and-coming leader on the national pro-life scene" running for City Council. You may remember Melissa "Brandi" Swindell from such famous scenes as "Battle for the Commandments," "Jailbreak," and "Can't Find Time to Do My Community Service." She decided to run against the incumbent and City Council President because (Maryanne) "Jordan voted to remove the monument from Julia Davis Park. But Swindell also said she is interested in a variety of city issues beyond the Ten Commandments."

This is not just another pretty face and two hairdos, we can see that! She's a pretty face, two hairdos and a blogger, for one thing.

"Just the other day, I had the great opportunity to talk to ladies who commute through Boise. They came up to me and said...is there any way that you can fix the roads?...and I got to hear their story. Stories like that from my friends in every corner of the community have been repeated to me time and time again in the past few days."

"In fact, it is fairly simple, Boise is great because the people that live here -- Boise's soul -- are great!!"

AMAZING!!

You said it, Brandi. Keep it up and you may get to the Supreme Court some day.

I suppose it's not in the nature of kings to hold other kings in high regard. Witness King Aragorn (aka Viggo) on King George: "Iím not anti-Bush; Iím anti-Bush behavior. In other words, Iím against cheating, greed, cruelty, racism, imperialism, religious fundamentalism, treason, and the seemingly limitless capacity for hypocrisy shown by Bush and his Administration."

Steve Jobs' latest dog and pony show is on-line, and you can watch it if you have Quicktime 7. You can download that for free, of course. Trust them, you need more than you already have.

"Like every great classic story, I've divided it into three acts." With plenty of special effects: multi-way teleconferencing with iChat-AV, a photo booth with sepia, thermal, X-ray, Andy Warhol, fun-house mirrors.

It too is "amazing," "far more beautiful and far thinner," and "funnest," "fantastic," "really great," "really terrific," "really thin, really nice." "It would be hard to top that. But I think we did."

"Front Row" is a remote control that turns your regular old iMac into a Media Center iMac. "Right out of the box."

Just count the buttons on the remote to see what Apple's about: 40 versus 6.

12.Oct.05

When Michael Lewis writes about something, it seems like the real world has been turned into a thrilling movie, all the details more clear and crisp than you thought possible, described more carefully and thoughtfully than you'd ever considered. From misfortune, good fortune: he's from New Orleans, he went back to the city after Katrina, and he wrote about it.

"The first surprise was that a city supposedly blockaded wasn't actually all that hard to get into. The TV reports insisted that the National Guard had arrived - there were pictures of soldiers showing up, so how could it not be true? - but from the Friday morning of my arrival through the weekend after Katrina hit, there was no trace of the Guard, or any other authority, on high ground. New Orleans at that moment was experiencing the fantasy of the neutron bomb: people obliterated, buildings intact. No city was ever more silent. No barks, shouts, honks or wails: there weren't even cockroaches scurrying between cracks in the sidewalks.... It was as if New Orleans had a 'pause' button, and the finger that reached in to press it also inadvertently uprooted giant magnolias and snapped telephone poles in two."

It may be just his writer's prerogative, but the story has a happy, and hopeful ending. "The waters did their worst but still left the old city intact. They did to the public schools and the public-housing projects what the government should have done long ago. They called forth tens of billions of dollars in aid, and the attention of energetic people, to a city long starved of capital and energy. For the first time in my life, outsiders are pouring into the city to do something other than drink. For the first time in my life, the city is alive with possibilities."

Just in time for Columbus Day (but still behind the paywall, sorry): Maureen Dowd's been leaked the best of Harriet's mash notes to W. To Sir, With Love. I laughed so hard I think I hurt myself.

April 2004 "There is no other president who would have had the courage to allow torture, dude! (It's only too bad that Abu Ghraib rules out Alberto's chances of getting on the Supreme Court.) You are the best torturer ever!! xo, H."

Corporate software makers are happy to provide the tools for censorship if the price is right. If need be, they'll use intermediaries so that they can work around laws forbidding direct commerce with repressive regimes. Would you expect anything less? It's all about the money.

Is it lost in translation, or a different standard? "Forty minutes after the launching, in introducing China's top leaders, a speaker in military uniform announced, 'Ladies and gentlemen, we now declare that China's second manned space mission is a complete success.'" In our country, success hasn't been considered "complete" until we get the astronauts back to earth, alive. (NYT report)

11.Oct.05

Worldnet Daily comports itself rather bizarrely, are they dancing with glee that U of I President Tim White had a heart attack after coming out with a statement of the University's position with respect to evolution? Who knows, when their highlights of "news" include "Pat Robertson: Disasters point to 2nd Coming" and "Was Terri Schiavo's autopsy really the final word?"

Here's what White wrote, in a nutshell: evolution "is the only curriculum that is appropriate to be taught in our bio-physical sciences." Full stop. And no, you vindicitive morons, God did not smite him as a result of stating what should be obvious.

Larry Johnson, on the chilling effect of valuing ideology over truth, "A Case of Treason":

"Shortly after the invasion of Iraq, Ambassador Wilson publicly exposed an important lie, and the president as liar, when he debunked the report that Iraq was seeking uranium in the African country of Niger. Still, as Wilson himself has suggested, the primary objective of leaking his wifeís employment at CIA was not to retaliate against him personally, but rather to issue a stark warning to others privy to administration lies on the war not to speak out. Administration officials felt they needed to provide an object lesson of what truth tellers can expect in the way of swift retaliation."

Morning in the Payette canyon, Oct. 2005 It's hard to know how much is posturing, but given the strident chorus from the secular right, it would seem that faith-based judicial nomination is not turning out to be a big hit. They're afraid to peep about affirmative action, covering that with "many more well-qualified nominees" (which I don't recall hearing from them when Clarence Thomas was in play). But somehow in this instance, "best friends with George W. Bush" isn't qualification enough. Odd that it should start here.

The one thing in Ms. Miers' record that's clear is the "best friends" part, as she excels in sycophancy if nothing else. "You are the best governor ever - deserving of great respect" she wrote to GW in 1997. Happy Birthday, dude! And she found him the smartest man she knows at some point. How nice for him, but one would think she needs to cast a wider net.

The West Wing is covering reality from the perspective of a parallel universe, with the luxury of a campaign prolonged as long as they need. Jimmy Smits vs. Alan Alda is way more interesting than our choice from the Skull and Bones roster (as Kurt Vonnegut so ably pointed out on last week's NOW). In this universe, Karl Rove is the guy dealing in the backroom with the evangelicals.

The (probably) bad news is global warming and rising sea levels, stronger storms, devestated coastal areas and so on. The (possibly) good news is hey, maybe there will be a Northwest Passage, finally, and a new exploration and extraction boom.

Trivia question: name the eight Arctic nations, and the 5 of 8 that have Arctic Ocean coasts.

Jeanette holding Cooper at Dane's birthday party The bloggap this month reflects a long weekend road trip, up to Spokane to visit the newest grandson and celebrate the 8th birthday of the first. Everything from walking the kids to school, soccer, miniature golf to holding 7-week-old Cooper as he attends "alimentary school," a pun I taught the almost-10-year-old. We had incomparable fall weather for the drive, took the shorter/slower Idaho route to enjoy the winding Payette and Salmon River canyons, White Bird, the Camas Prairie, the Clearwater. Our Prius gave us 50mpg on the way north, not quite that on the return, with stops for some wild fruit here and there; apples going wild, rose hips, elderberries. The tamarack are lighting up the dark green mountains, Idaho's taller version of the "burning bush."

John Bolton seems determined to do worse than anyone thought possible at the U.N. Joining those bastions of human rights protection, Russia, China and Algiers, he blocked a U.N. envoy on Monday from briefing the Security Council on atrocities in Sudan's Darfur region. He says we need to do something, not just talk. And doesn't propose anything that we might do. Following his boss's lead on the whole secrecy thing, apparently.

5.10.5

We went to hear Karen Armstrong give a presentation at the BSU Distinguished Lecture Series last night, before a packed house in the student union's big ballroom (with the crowd overflowing to a remote screen in the smaller ballroom). She's every bit as interesting live as she is in print, spoke for most of an hour and if she referred to any notes, I didn't notice it.

Her title was the same as one of her books, "The Battle for God," and she talked about the fundamentalist movements in the world's religions (mostly the big three of Islam, Christianity and Judaism). Fundamentalism is an inherently modern phenomenon, not the expression of an atavistic impulse to go back to the way things used to be, according to Armstrong. It's rooted in fear, primarily the fear of annhilation. As such, it shouldn't be a tremendous surprise that attacks on the movement lead to greater polarization, and even more extreme behavior by its proponents: the attacks confirm their fears.

Modernity has not come easily to any culture. Bloody religious warfare, exploitation of subjugated people, dictatorships, reigns of terror... check out the 16th through 19th centuries in Europe. And of course the 20th century, when the fundamentalist movements arose, and now our start on the 21st.

She emphasized the importance of listening, of learning to decode the language and symbols that others use. If we cannot communicate across the abyss of polarization, we face grave danger. "Cultures are always contested," she notes. We must find a way to embrace tolerance, and a willingness to understand each other. "The problem with confrontation is the awful things that get done in the process of it. We are led to atrocity."

"We've seen that when we go to war for peace, it often doesn't work," she said in answer to a question about don't we need to stand up to the more objectionable elements, with ironic understatement

There'll be another chance to hear Armstrong, in an interview with BSU's president, Bob Kustra, on his radio show. I think it's going to air Friday, Oct. 14, at 5:30pm, with a replay Sunday the 16th at 8:30am and available some time after that, on the web.

More silly phishing from somebody using Amazon's name, graphics, and so on. They must not be from around here, because the very first line is so absurdly misworded, they might as well have used a <blink> tag. "At the last reviewing at your amazon account..."

At the last reviewing at my account? You cannot be serious.

"...we discovered that your information is inaccurate. We apologize for this but because most frauds are possible because we don't have enough information about our clients, we require this verification...."

Ok Chief, I'll get on it right away.

Feeling spry enough for the triple jump? Maureen Dowd, on Times Select (gotta pay, sorry): "W. is asking for a triple leap of faith. He has faith in Ms. Miers as his lawyer and as a woman who shares his faith. And we're expected to have faith in his faith and her faith, and her opinions that derive from her faith that could change the balance of the court and affect women's rights for the next generation."

2.Oct.05

Fred Kaplan's assessment of Karen Hughes' first go is not very glowing: "Let us stipulate for a moment that Hughes is ideally suited for the job—that she can figure out how to spin sheiks, imams, and 'the Arab street' as agilely as she spun the White House press corps in her days as Bush's communications director.

"Even if that were so, why would anybody assume that she is the one to do the face-to-face spinning? Wouldn't it be better to find someone who—oh, I don't know—speaks the language, knows the culture, lived there for a while, was maybe born there?"

"Put the shoe on the other foot. Let's say some Muslim leader wanted to improve Americans' image of Islam. It's doubtful that he would send as his emissary a woman in a black chador who had spent no time in the United States, possessed no knowledge of our history or movies or pop music, and spoke no English beyond a heavily accented 'Good morning.'"

1.Oct.05

Oh, and add "covert propaganda" to that Republican word list. "Buying favorable news coverage" just sounds so pitiful, but I imagine it was effective, and its effectiveness may outlast the damage from the scandal surrounding it. Just like Karl Rove.

Bush sounded ever so slightly contrite back in January, saying "our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet," but the agenda is looking a little punch-drunk as the new winter approaches.

defconamerica.org's map of the top 10 spots DEFCON's Top 10: Top 10 Places Where Science Education Is Under Threat.

Grantsberg, Wisconsin's school board decided last year "...to direct (their) science department to teach all theories of origins," no mean feat! Their constituents forced some editing, until they ended with the laudable hope that "students are expected to analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information." To be specific (which seems to mean critical thinking is only important in this one regard?), "students shall be able to explain the scientific strengths and weaknesses of evolutionary theory. This policy does not call for the teaching of creationism or intelligent design." Or the rest of those theories of origins, apparently.

David Corn wonders if politics-by-demonstration is a last-century approach. He says if you can get a million people together, that would be something, but if it's only a couple hundred thousand, don't bother. But, if the latter is a waste of energy in a polarized debate, isn't the former a waste of 5 times as much energy?! Cindy Sheehan's one-woman demonstration had an arguably more powerful impact—after media amplification, and our response to her—than a demonstration the size of (just) the whole population of Boise.

raveling

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Thursday, 15-Dec-2005 12:02:55 MST
http://www.fortboise.org/blog/200510.html