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unraveling

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

Alito questionnaire survives first review Permalink to this item

Just imagine if the President had to go through a confirmation hearing. We'd have quotable quotes along the lines of Samual Alito's questionnaire response, such as this:

"Presidents must be appropriately modest in their estimation of their own abilities; they must respect the judgments reached by predecessors; and they must be sensibly cautious about the scope of their decisions. And presidents should do all these things without shirking their duty to say what the law is and to carry out their proper role with energy and independence."

Victory assured; date uncertain Permalink to this item

"No war has ever been won on a timetable and neither will this one," we're told. It was 2½ years ago that Bush first declared victory; the rest is just formality. It's a test of imagination to see whether we can accomplish an orderly withdrawal sooner rather than later.

Dear Mr. Bush, may I suggest a different ending for your speeches? Instead of "may God continue to bless the United States of America," I believe a more Christian thing to say would be "may God bless all the people of this world." Just give it a try.

Put another way, maybe it's time to take a different approach at replanting the American dream.

Do those plastic outlet covers help? Permalink to this item

Wired News offers A Tinfoil Hat on Every Head: "Most people don't realize they're sleeping on a system that attracts EMF," said Rick Cabados, founder of the retailer HealthStores.com and its subsidiary, BlockEMF, which sells EMF Bed Shields, among other protective gear. Cabados says springs inside mattresses attract stray ions emitted from electrical outlets.

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

Medicare maze Permalink to this item

(unreadable snapshot of) 44 standalone plans for Idaho Time to puzzle out this quagmire of Medicare prescription drug coverage. "Basic information" is the top link on that list, but Page Temporarily Unavailable We're currently experiencing high traffic. Please try again later. Sorry for any inconvenience.

For those with original Medicare only, what do I need to do? "To get this drug coverage..." (Yeahbut, what coverage is that?) you can "join" one of a number of plans. "If you do not opt for prescription drug coverage by May 15, 2006, you will have to pay a late enrollment penalty to get drug coverage later."

Penalty's bad, eh, but then buying insurance you don't really need is a penalty too.

Things to consider include Cost, Coverage, Convenience and "Peace of mind now and in the future." Ok, that's a useless page. How about the Landscape of Local Plans that comes in two flavors: standalone, and "Medicare Advantage" or "other health plan, like and HMO or PPO." Just in case signing up for the drug benefit wasn't complicated enough.

Digging into the table for the 44 standalone plans provided by 18 organizations in Idaho, I see premiums that range from $6.33 to $68.88, with no correlation to the deductible (zero, reduced or standard = $250), the number of "top 100" drugs on formulary (74 to 99), or the organization offering them. (Humana has the two cheapest plans, and a "Complete" plan for $52/mo.) The first 3 columns for "Coverage" apparently don't describe the gamut in any way, since 1 in 10 of the plans have no bullets. You can get 97 of the Top 100 (so to speak) with the cheapest plan, or pay $45/mo to PacifiCare Life and Health Insurance Company for only 77 of them.

Are there basic parameters of the coverage, like the first one-size-for-all version?

The Medicare Advantage plans are going to be more complicated, of course, and there are 6 pages in that PDF... but it's by county, and Ada Co. only has 14 listed, with 7 providers. Five of those have $0 premium, that sounds good. 2 of the providers are in both landscapes, so that leaves only 23 different companies' plans to investigate. On individual websites no doubt, if the overview table from medicare.gov doesn't tell me enough (and no, it doesn't).

I went through the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder form, filled in my zipcode and some other information, submitted the form and got... Page Temporarily Unavailable

Then a bunch of navigation links that are 404... back, back, back, and try "Basic Information" again. Hey, it works now. But it's really "Basic":

What is Medicare prescription drug coverage?
Medicare prescription drug coverage is insurance that covers both brand-name and generic prescription drugs at participating pharmacies in your area. Medicare prescription drug coverage provides protection for people who have very high drug costs.

And the FAQ is brilliant:
Question Is there someone to help me choose a Medicare prescription drug plan?
Answer Talk to a family member, friend, or other caregiver to help you decide what drug coverage meets your needs....

I did find out more about the late-enrollment penalty. Congress was happy to legislate this, even though they didn't want to let Medicare negotiate lower prices from the drug companies: "If you donít join a plan by May 15, 2006, and you donít currently have a drug plan that, on average, covers at least as much as standard Medicare prescription drug coverage, you will have to wait until November 15, 2006 to join. When you do join, your premium cost will go up at least 1% per month for every month that you wait to join. Like other insurance, you will have to pay this penalty as long as you have Medicare prescription drug coverage." (Their emphasis)

So I don't know exactly what I might get, but if I don't get it, the price is going to go up.

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

Travel blogging Permalink to this item

Of course! You still have to manage a way to get connected from place to place, but the NYT rounds up 4 specialty blog services to facilitate your trip journal, from free to not-so-free. I think I'd still like to take the time to go through and edit pictures, edit notes and so on... but doing it "live" would probably make it more lively, and make up for the lack of thoughtful editing? With the right little converged phone / PDA / camera—the ultimate travel appliance, that somebody will get figured out, I'm sure—it could be just the thing.

We like the big payday even if the merger tanks Permalink to this item

Fog over Paradise Ridge, Kenny Dimmick photo Dealbook asks if shareholders might not be better served by the bankers setting up those megamergers getting paid on the basis of success, with "a combination of cash and restricted stock and/or stock options" rather than the 8-figure payouts that disappear in the "rounding error."

Amazingly, the bankers had a long list of "all relatively thoughtful and somewhat reasonable" reasons why they should get paid even their "strategic advice" was a pig in a poke. Their only risk is that the deal may not go through, which means "if there is an opportunity to do a deal, there is a banker who wants to do it." $11,000,000,000 worth of dealing in the 1st three quarters of the year.

Taking care of business Permalink to this item

Our little Christmas gifts to Ada Co., State Farm, balancing the books and so on. I got all excited about seeing that I could pay my property tax by credit card, which would get me a 1% kickback, but the chain of handlers toting up a 3% "convenience fee" cooled me off.

Selling mortgages is all the rage these days: KeyBank's statement came with an advert, 40pt headline "Man stops caring about interest rates." That must be why they're still paying us 0.05% (as in 1/20th of 1 percent) on our Money Market Checking account. It's the lock-in of all those handy electronic payments we've set up, not to mention the branch and ATM a 2 minute walk from the house. "Why pay more?"

But banks aren't the only game in town: re/finance offers are now outweighing the rest of our junk mail. One "Ace Mortgage Funding" ("Mortgage Broker, not a Lender") wants to help us into a "Pick a Pay" deal for "0.950%/7.003% APR2" if you can follow that new math. In the sub-6pt footnote we're told "unpaid interest may occur when the minimum payment rate of 0.950% is exercised and the interest only option of 7.00% is larger. Unpaid interest will be added to the principal. This will increase the amount owed and decrease the equity in your home. Interest is accruing at a rate of 7.00%, this rate can adjust monthly." I love that their office is on "Pyramid Court."

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

And while we're talking about ejucashun... Permalink to this item

Farmer's Union canal, in Veteran's Park Consider this leg up, reported in the NYT: "Florida's public schools require an exit examination for graduation, but private schools have no such requirement, and operate under a law that prohibits any state regulation."

The story's about "University High School" helping college football players qualify for the NCAA. One happy customer who boosted his GPA explains how: "You take each course you failed in ninth or 10th grade. If it was applied math, you do them on the packets they give you. It didn't take that long. The answers were basically in the book." And another testimonial: "If it was history, they had the story with the questions right next to it," Simpson said. "They were one-page stories. It wasn't really hard."

The private sector can produce educational outcomes at levels of efficiency unheard of at public schools. UHS does it all with 3 employees, working out of two rooms in an office building.

No fudging on the international assessment, either Permalink to this item

Our great republican experiment continues, with states mandated to have their students achieve... their standards. Sort of the ISO 9000 of education. (Since you can't possibly understand what the hell ISO 9000 is from their endless maze of web pages, here's my executive summary: document what you say you do, and demonstrate that you're doing it.)

The express lane to success in such a system is to set low expectations, such as tens of states seem to have done, measured against a higher, Federal standard. Tennessee said 87% of their 8th-graders passed math! (Or was that just 21%?) Mississippi said 89% of their 4th graders were good for reading proficiency (er, 18%?).

Not everybody's low-balling, though: "South Carolina, Missouri, Wyoming and Maine state results tracked closely with the federal exam." And set to get penalized for having high standards. Administrators from the states with the big discrepancies have a long list of excuses. "Kids know the federal test doesn't really count" is a good one. Right up there with "a dog peed on my homework."

Just getting the hang of being adverserial Permalink to this item

You heard about that benzene spill into the Songhua river from Jilin PetroChemical? Now the news that two residents have filed suit. "Ding Ning is claiming damages of 15 yuan ($1.86) for purchases of bottled water and demanding a published apology..." You might want to at least include attorney's costs.

That's more like it! Permalink to this item

Bogus Basin's snow stake snapshot this morning Some rain, some snow, some clouds, BLUE SKY and sunshine. Below freezing up where it should be, and the (re-)start of our snowpack.

"Free" CD from Sir Paul Permalink to this item

and what you have to do to get it is good for you: run through one of Fidelity's retirement planner tools (or talk through it with one of their reps). The fun starts with a McCartney song as background for their splash page. I was just in it for the CD, but the process and the report was worth the effort.

Black Friday Permanent URL to this day's entry

I suppose retailers would've called this "Good Friday" if that hadn't been taken; the names would be better switched in terms of emotional match. We try to throttle the advertising that reaches us, with only moderate success. (Not getting the daily newspaper helps a lot.) But I think about how there are a few things I might like to go buy... then about the frothing hordes out there trying to buy, buy, buy, and come to my senses and decide it's a good day to stay home. Or maybe a good day to go into the mountains to escape the damnable gloom and chill of this week-long inversion. If only there were snow to draw us there...

Which do you prefer, valid, or durable? Permalink to this item

I'm big on durability, but I like validity too. I just finished getting rid of the remnant <table> layout on the home page in favor of simple CSS, tracked down the things that kept the page from being valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional. Now it is. While I was at it, I figured I'd fix the blog, too. Along the way I found out that I wasn't supposed to start element id parameters with numbers, so all my "perma"links just changed. D'OH! They'll be "permanent" starting right... now. The other bugaboos were bare ampersands in URLs and non-SGML character 146s that I picked up in quoted text.

It doesn't look a damn bit different, really, but I feel so much better now. Yeah, right.

Now for something completely different Permalink to this item

One of the benefits of being in an opera is the chance to examine it carefully, piece by piece. Six years ago, Jeanette and I were part of the Opera Idaho chorus for a production of The Magic Flute, and, as usual, she took good notes. In the process of cleaning house, she found them, and found new relevance to current events.

She's mostly been content to let me do my own thing out there in fortboise, but this time she asked me to put her work up. So, we give you... Magic and Freedom: Dancing to a New Tune in The Magic Flute. Pace yourself.

Staying the course Permalink to this item

Michael Kinsley, on the Phony War Against the Critics:

"One might also argue," Vice President Cheney said in a speech on Monday, "that untruthful charges against the commander in chief have an insidious effect on the war effort." That would certainly be an ugly and demagogic argument, were one to make it. After all, if untruthful charges against the president hurt the war effort (by undermining public support and soldiers' morale), then those charges will hurt the war effort even more if they happen to be true. So one would be saying in effect that any criticism of the president is essentially treason.

No, seriously Permalink to this item

We all know that it's possible to learn from mistakes, and that he made some whoppers, but Michael Brown running a "disaster preparedness consulting firm"?

"I'm doing a lot of good work with some great clients," Brown said. "My wife, children and my grandchild still love me. My parents are still proud of me."

I'm guessing his dog and horses still like him too. But if you're planning on giving him a call, remember that the "LL" in Michael D. Brown LLC stands for "limited liability." His, not yours.

Battle of the sexes, continued Permalink to this item

I'm not able to personally tap into the deep ethical dilemmas of stem cell research, human cloning and the like. I don't quite get it. Today's news about Dr. Hwang Woo Suk's resignation after lying about where he got his eggs is a case in point. We know lying is wrong (most of the time? when you're on the losing side?) and buying is now illegal in South Korea (although it wasn't in 2003), but I'm wondering if the topic had been sperm donations instead of eggs whether I'd be reading about it in the newspaper. The boys' side of things is more in the wink-nudge-and-chuckle category, eh? We stipulate that eggs are harder to come by, and in shorter supply. (Ok, a lot harder: "an unpleasant procedure that involves a week of daily hormone shots, culminating with the extraction of eggs through a hollow needle.") But are eggs ethically different than sperm? They pay for sperm don't they?

Cheap gas again Permalink to this item

GasBuddy.com's chart of recent Boise and national prices As predictably as the sun rises, howls of protest will follow a jump in gasoline prices. Suspend the gas tax! Tap the strategic reserve! Investigate the thieving oil companies!

Ok, that last one might still be a good idea; at least get their execs to testify substantively, and under oath. "Aren't you actually robbing us blind, sir, making money hand over fist?" (Consults with counsel, lengthy whispered exchange, turns back to microphone.) "Yes, I believe so. That's my understanding."

But now that gas prices are dropping just about as precipitously as they chased Katrina northward, what do we hear? Nought but the sound of happy shoppers jamming the roads and retail cash registers cha-chinging. (Will SUV sales bounce back, too? Their ads stop mentioning the 14mpg city gas mileage?) Over the last couple weeks, I've watched in astonishment as the price seems to slide downward daily, or more often. $2.64, 2.47, 2.32, 2.24, 2.22, yesterday it was $2.17 at our neighborhood cost leader, Maverick.

Thanksgiving Permanent URL to this day's entry

The IRS Goes to Church Permalink to this item

All Saints Church in Pasadena is the lightning rod for the IRS' recent mission to enforce the law against electioneering by churches. They've collected a number of documents in the case, but the indexing is buried in the flow of untagged and framed "News, Views and Actions," unfortunately. With persistence, you can dig out the Nov. 13 sermon, The IRS Goes to Church, copies of recent newspaper editorials, the IRS' letter to the church and its response via counsel, along with a transcript and an mp3 file of the Oct. 31, 2004 sermon by the Rev. Dr. George Regas, that got the IRS' attention, "If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush." Regas retired as rector of All Saints 10 years ago, and was speaking as a guest.

We'll just have to wait for the other 30 or so churches the IRS is reportedly pursuing to find out if they're fair and balanced in their approach; if so, we would expect far more Bush supporters to be on their hit list.

"When you go into the voting booth on Tuesday, take with you all that you know about Jesus, the peacemaker. Take all that Jesus means to you. Then vote your deepest values." (Dr. Regas)

The second of the IRS' questions illustrates a profound ignorance of the case at hand, and how churches work: "Does the governing body of the church have any input into the drafting of the ministers' sermon?" But then they were tipped off about the sermon by reading about it in the L.A. Times, where it was described to include "a searing indictment of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq," and so on.

Are the brief accounts of Sunday services across the country in an LA Times story really all the IRS had to undertake challenging the tax-exempt status of the churches named?

A humanist prayer for the day Permalink to this item

Even under a gray blanket of inversion, there's plenty to be thankful for today. Good family, friends, neighbors. A warm and dry place to sleep, hot and cold running water and enough (or perhaps slightly more than enough, according to recent tradition to eat. There are thousands of thousands of thousands—billions—of people on this earth who aren't so well off. As we enjoy time together and sharing a meal, it's a good time to renew our commitment to sharing, and to helping one another, compassionately.

This is Your Brain Under Hypnosis Permalink to this item

That's the title of Sandra Blakeslee's piece in the NYT, discussing recent work by neuroscientists that expands our understanding of the extent to which we do, indeed, create our own reality.

"There are 10 times as many nerve fibers carrying information down [figuratively, from the top-level cognitive functions] as there are carrying it up [from sensory nerve endings].

"These extensive feedback circuits mean that consciousness, what people see, hear, feel and believe, is based on what neuroscientists call 'top down processing.' What you see is not always what you get, because what you see depends on a framework built by experience that stands ready to interpret the raw information..."

All the fascinating implications for religious experience and thought (among other things) are left as an exercise for the reader.

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

Freezing fog Permalink to this item

The inversion has deepened, and the day never got up to bright, let alone cheery. Most unpleasant. Savvy traveler tip: best not to plan on a morning departure from or arrival to BOI in late fall or winter. That notice is much too late for the bollox of holiday travelers that were the today, of course. Rain or snow coming for Friday, we hope.

A little hoarfrost would make it nicer, but not by all that much.

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

Don't do this, you'll be sued Permalink to this item

Under the Texas Consumer Protection Against Computer Spyware Act, perhaps, or by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

"...changing the name, location, or other designation of computer software to prevent the owner from locating and removing the software; or creating randomized or intentionally deceptive file names or random or intentionally deceptive directory folders, formats, or registry entries to avoid detection and prevent the owner from removing computer software."

Speaking of the dreaded 'dirty bomb' Permalink to this item

Three years on, we've finally indicted Jose Padilla. "The 'evidence' the government has offered against Padilla over the past three years consists of double and triple hearsay from secret witnesses, along with information allegedly obtained from Padilla himself during his two years of incommunicado interrogation," his lawyers said in their earlier appeal.

The trial's slated for September 2006, just in time to fill headlines during the thrilling conclusion of the off-year elections

Is it duplicity or just insanse delusion? Permalink to this item

My email inbox, like some other collections of documents in my life, is a little out of control. A little! From almost a year ago: Hyping Terror For Fun, Profit - And Power, by Thom Hartmann. It describes a BBC documentary, "The Power of Nightmares," that ran October 2004, and the sensation it caused in Britain. The ripples don't seem to have reached our shores.

This is the chilling part: soon after Nixon and Kissinger's efforts to establish "détente" with the Soviet Union in 1972 (apparently the better part of that campaign year), "Nixon left amid scandal and Ford came in, and Ford's Secretary of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld) and Chief of Staff (Dick Cheney) believed it was intolerable that Americans might no longer be bound by fear. Without fear, how could Americans be manipulated?

"Rumsfeld and Cheney began a concerted effort - first secretly and then openly - to undermine Nixon's treaty for peace and to rebuild the state of fear and, thus, reinstate the Cold War.

"States and their rulers expect to monopolise violence, and that is why they react so virulently to terrorism."
–historian Linda Colley

"And these two men - 1974 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Ford Chief of Staff Dick Cheney - did this by claiming that the Soviets had secret weapons of mass destruction that the president didn't know about, that the CIA didn't know about, that nobody but them knew about. And, they said, because of those weapons, the US must redirect billions of dollars away from domestic programs and instead give the money to defense contractors for whom these two men would one day work."

Now those two bit-players behind the scenes of a forgettable and brief presidential administration are among the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world. Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt and imagine good intentions behind what they've done, they may have a place as dark as Edward Teller's in the history of this world.

"The CIA strongly disagreed, calling Rumsfeld's position a 'complete fiction'...

"Wolfowitz's group, known as 'Team B,' came to the conclusion that the Soviets had developed several terrifying new weapons of mass destruction...

"But, trillions of dollars and years later, it was proven that they had been wrong all along, and the CIA had been right. Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Wolfowitz lied to America in the 1970s about Soviet WMDs....

Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein, Dec. 20, 1983 "The neocons... organized a group - The Committee on the Present Danger - to promote their worldview...."

But we won the Cold War, right? Are they "heroes in error," achieving noble ends in spite of the exaggeration, deception and lies? Think back to that image of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein, when the US was among the countries supporting his regime. Or about the Soviets' war in Afghanistan when we helped build Osama bin Laden's organization.

Consider a network of secret prisons, "enemy combatants" being held incommunicado, too frightening to us to allow the rule of law, evidence, trials. Consider Dick Cheney insisting that we must be retain the legal right to torture.

This film was made before the London subway bombings, by the way. The neocons and those they've convinced can point at the bombings for affirmation of the threat of terror. ("In light of the recent events in London, are you now not the least bit embarrassed to have conceived such lunacy? Did the Neo-Cons do this too? You are but a shell of what once was a brilliant and informative organization. Dear God how shameful!" "Thank God there are enough neocons to guarantee your right to watch meaningless tripe like [this film].") Except that there hasn't been any evidence that the London bombers were part of an international terrorist network. Our specialty appears to be creating terrorists, at communicating self-fulfilling prophecy, at manufacturing a Global War on Terror.

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

Cynical and Pernicious Falsehoods Permalink to this item

After warm-up act Ahmed Chalabi, Dick Cheney preaches to his choir, mining the same rhetorical vein as "nothing could be further from the truth":

"The flaws in the intelligence are plain enough in hindsight, but any suggestion that prewar information was distorted, hyped, or fabricated by the leader of the nation is utterly false." I guess that settles that! And you don't have to take Dick Cheney's word for it, he quotes John McCain: "Senator John McCain put it best: 'It is a lie to say that the President lied to the American people.'"

That gem is no doubt enshrined in Veep's briefing book as an all-purpose anodyne. Is it another pernicious falsehood to say he lied when he said "we do not torture," Mr. Vice-President? (That wasn't up for discussion, however, as Cheney is clearly on the same page as The WSJ on that subject.)

Any suggestion that Beirut, Mogadishu, the World Trade Center (in 1993 or 2001), Riyadh, US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, or, "of course" the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 had anything to do with Iraq would likewise be utterly false. I'm sure the juxtaposition was not intended to distort, hype or fabricate anything.

Cheney did at least refrain from pecking at John Murtha directly, acknowledging that he's a decent fellow while utterly ignoring the actual substance of Murtha's exit strategy.

But the whirlwind we've sown is bigger than petty politics, and wishing won't make it go away. The solution to shooting yourself in the foot is not more shooting. Nor is it more cynical and pernicious falsehoods.

Class act Permalink to this item

A fall Flicker working our oak tree As a mobile phone neophyte, I want to know all about this strange new world. Of course I set up a web account; my primary motivation was to see my minutes usage, but I found lots of helpful information and some well-designed application software embedded. They want to know what kind of phone I got, and when I tell them, they tailor their hardware help to it. I found the magic incantation for querying my minutes via the phone (#MIN#) and also that I could download the usage details to a spreadsheet. They log call dates, times, numbers... I'll be all set if I ever get subpoenaed, eh?

I noticed one item beyond what's included in the plan: a $.05 text message. I didn't send one; I haven't figured out how (nor do I particularly care to). And they only thing I've received in that category was... the "welcome" message from T-Mobile?

Brilliant! "Let's just establish the parameters of our relationship, shall we? We are going to nickel and dime you from the get-go." Deep in the twisty passages of infobits we also find this cashflow item: the Directory Assistance "included" in our plan is twenty-five nickels: $1.25 a pop.

But keep it in context Permalink to this item

My miserly concern over nickels seems pretty silly compared to this: GM to close 12 operations and cut 30,000 jobs. 30,000.

The reach of downsizing: Lansing, Pontiac, Drayton Plains, and Ypsilanti Michigan; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Spring Hill, Tennessee; Doraville, Georgia; Ontario, Canada (I guess they don't know what city it's in?); Moraine, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Portland, Oregon; St. Louis, Missouri.

20.Nov.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Punctuated equilibrium Permalink to this item

I didn't know—couldn't imagine—there's a best-selling book on the subject of punctuation. But there it is, Deborah Solomon tells me, sold 3 million copies in hard-cover. Now that I've read Solomon's entertaining account, and learned the joke in the title, my curiosity is fully satisfied. Likewise, my curiosity for the author's subsequent book on manners, and the lack thereof, is spent.

"As the afternoon wore on, it was hard not to wonder how a woman who, by her own admission, eschews engagements of both the social and the emotional sort could claim to be an expert on human behavior, could find fault, as she writes in her book, with 'a generation of people who seem, more than ever, not to know how to interact.'"

On the other hand, Truss' writing is kind of amusing... keep it in mind if you run short of a sarcastic streak.

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

Web 2.0 == Google Permalink to this item

Cringely's theory, not mine. "Oh they won't steal it or strong-arm us. They'll seduce us into giving it to them. And I am not at all sure that's a bad thing."

I'm way behind his column, and when skimming his archive list, this one jumped out: Retiring Baby Boomers Are Going to Invigorate Open Source. Among other things, I'll bet. Among other interesting tidbits, I see his dates for the Boom put me dead-center: 1946-1964.

Isn't that kind of blatant? Permalink to this item

Sort of like when Dick and George had a little "chat" with the 9/11 Commission, when the oilco execs showed up to talk to Congress last week, the Republicans—Ted Stevens in particular—arranged for them to do it without being under oath. Will they get a re-do like Harriet Miers?

Dana Milbank and Justin Blum reported in The Washington Post on Wednesday that there's documentation of what was obvious all along: Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force involved these same executives. (It turns out that they keep track of who comes and goes from the White House. Who knew? Super-Secret SCOTUS-certified Supervisor Soiree Sniffed by Secret Service!) No perjury prosecutions coming up but there could still be trouble: "(A) person can be fined or imprisoned for up to five years for making 'any materially false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or representation' to Congress."

Phone better now Permalink to this item

Qwest and T-Mobile handled the number porting task without a hatch, and on the 4-day timeline I found out about after the first couple "Customer Care" calls. All that angst for nothing, just be patient. I went to the store today and filled out the form to transfer it back to the business where it should have been from the get-go, and that went smoothly enough. That's supposed to take a week, but I don't have to care, really.

My in-person agent pulled the battery and was shocked at the ancient SIM card that CompUSA had sold me... what, it was 3 or 6 months old or something? She assured me the reception would be way better with a newer one, which she put in her little cloner and then plugged into the phone.

Anyway, if I had to to it again, I would do two things differently: (1) go to the T-Mobile store! and (2) take my business ID# along to set up the business account directly. I'm not recommending T-Mobile, because what the heck do I know at this point? But whatever carrier you choose, I'm thinking you're much better off at "their" store, and a direct agent.

Strawman resolution pulverized Permalink to this item

Sagebrush and butterfly in our yard, June 2004 Our House of Representatives put on one hell of a show yesterday as the Republicans turned the legitimate and considered proposal on Iraq from retired Marine Colonel and current Representative John Murtha into a caricature, and then clubbed it to death.

Juan Cole notes that "Murtha is not giving up on Iraq, just urging diplomacy rather than white phosphorus and prison torture as the way forward." His analysis from outside yesterday's political theater is well worth reading.

If the chemical reference is unfamiliar, you haven't heard the latest: "The Pentagon acknowledged yesterday that it used white phosphorus munitions in a 2004 offensive in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, but said the weapon is legal and denied that the US military had targeted civilians with the highly flammable substance."

Not just a pretty face Permalink to this item

Butterfly wings make magic the same way high-emission LEDs do: a two-dimensional photonic crystal lattice and reflectors. But no batteries needed, just add ambient light.

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

Answer the question, please Permalink to this item

It was addressed to David Brooks, on the subject of the war of words this week, but it's something we might ask Dick and George, too:
RAY SUAREZ: So in the months before the invasion, when the president said it was still possible to stop the war and that war was a last resort, do you think that was true?

Brooks dodged it, totally. Cheney/Bush aren't content to leave it at dodging, they're counter-punching. Our critics are rewriting history! Reprehensible!

But seriously, we know it wasn't true, and so we know it can never be answered directly. We know the key members of the Bush administration made up their minds to go to war long before the fall of 2002, and we know that they spun the intelligence to suit their decision. That's why the political capital of their credibility is spent.

Not interesting, but maybe meta-interesting Permalink to this item

Looked spammish, from someone I don't know but a topical subject that got me to open it up: a self-proclaimed "Guerilla Marketer," having set up a rantsite about a failed local construction project downtown, The Boise Hole. He's got some (paying?!) sponsors, and a "store" with t-shirts and coffee cups, and a forum where registered geeks can demonstrate how clever and sarcastic they can be about "this huge gaping hole in the ground, now surrounded by cheesy looking painted plywood, and a large annoying sign that constantly reminds us of whats NOT going up downtown."

You go boy, but my subscription card doesn't have a spot for "grassroots marketing stooge."

Dick Cheney, Master of Righteous Indignation Permalink to this item

"In Washington you can ordinarily rely on some basic measure of truthfulness and good faith in the conduct of political debate. But in the last several weeks we have seen a wild departure from that tradition and the suggestion that's been made by some U.S. Senators that the President of the United States or any member of this administration purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."

He's such a serious, believable guy, with that warm, fatherly voice that lulls you into submission. Remember when there was "no doubt" that Saddam had reconstituted his program for nuclear weapons?

John Kerry: "It is hard to name a government official with less credibility on Iraq than Vice-President Cheney. The Vice-President continues to mislead on America about how we got into Iraq and what must be done to complete the still-unaccomplished mission."

It's for real this time? Permalink to this item

He's got a built-in bias, selling his "Web 2.0" conference, but an interesting argument all the same: it's not a bubble because things actually work this time, thanks to Google and usefully targeted advertising. John Battelle says we're Building a Better Boom.

This may be a first Permalink to this item

Something Charles Krauthammer and I agree on: "Intelligent design may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud." He even waxes poetic in his succinct conclusion:

"How ridiculous to make evolution the enemy of God. What could be more elegant, more simple, more brilliant, more economical, more creative, indeed more divine than a planet with millions of life forms, distinct and yet interactive, all ultimately derived from accumulated variations in a single double-stranded molecule, pliable and fecund enough to give us mollusks and mice, Newton and Einstein? Even if it did give us the Kansas State Board of Education, too."

Speaking of evolution... Permalink to this item

This headline's a knock-out: Timid Mice Made Daring by Removing One Gene. From the summary of the article in Cell: (the genetically altered mice) "exhibit decreased memory in amygdala-dependent fear conditioning and fail to recognize danger in innately aversive environments."

How to tell you really screwed up Permalink to this item

When you set up a website to take your product and its embedded malware back and exchange it for something else, then you know for sure. The initial copy-protection scheme was moronic, the initial response to its exposure was wrong-headed, but I will give it to Sony BMG for reasonably timely admission of, and correction for their mistake.

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

Plot sickens Permalink to this item

After being told by various T-Mobile agents that it would take 24 hours, and they couldn't do anything, really, until it's ported, and that it would be Nov. 19th by one guy Tuesday night, and then by others that it would take 24 hours... "it's been 36 hours now."

The "authentication" process is back to using my "social." That PIN I supposedly gave them is just recorded in some notes field because he couldn't make changes while it was in porting. Second T-Mobile guy of the morning, Jonathan:

"Whoa, you don't even have a user name. Did you request a port-in?" Yes. "Some of the data wasn't filled in either."

He sees somewhere that "Subscriber REQUESTED activation on the 19th? No no no no no, I say. I wanted activation toot sweet.

It's the "port in" thing: "Port in request won't be in effect until the 19th."

"Let me see if I can get more detail on it for you..."

It's due for the 19th, he can't tell me anything else.

He'll have to transfer me to Business Care to deal with changing the account from personal to a business ID>

Nick, at Business Care: Also asks for the number, my social, "when did you activate it?" I told him about the forgoing, and "Nov. 19th."

Have to go to a T-Mobile retail store to convert the account to a business account, present documentation for the tax ID number, etc.

Can I do that before it's activated? Yes, and it would take effect "instantaneously."

It's clear that I REALLY, REALLY SHOULD HAVE DRIVEN RIGHT BY CompUSA and down the street to the T-Mobile store.

Let's try calling Qwest again.
"Customer Service Agent"
"I'm calling about something else"

Sylvia: "The information has to match." Ok, so when you get this request, what will happen? "I'm not actually in the porting department."

Ah! Can I talk to someone in the porting department?

"Actually there's no one in the porting department."

"That explains a lot actually," I said, as I started to go ballistic. She punched the HOLD button, then sent me off the wrong department because she didn't like my attitude.

Drew, in PCS Wireless. I explained the issue, said I figured I needed to talk to the Porting Dept., but I'd been sent here instead. "We're going to go to porting right now."

Rich in the wireless porting dept. "Not finding that number in my system."

Because... our Market Expansion Line is a land-line. I need Wire-line port-out: that's direct at 888 796-9087, but he was happy to transfer me.

Mirm-something, Spanish accent and bad volume. Internal department, we don't speak with customers. She listed a couple of ways I could file a complaint, one was with the FCC. She sent me off somewhere else...

Selena. "I can't talk to customers." I did get her to redirect me to yet another top-level menu.

800 244-1111 (Recorded message with no options that fit.) "Customer service agent" (Ok, I hear that you want to speak to a customer representative. But first... another menu.) "I'm calling about something else."

Jennifer. "I'm actually in residential." She's going to get me someone in business.

Matt. "I would recommend re-doing the order." Which occurred to me while I was on hold: I should go back to CompUSA, say sorry, my bad, but I'm going to rescind the deal and go down the street.

He has a disconnect order... so it's in process? But "disconnect" doesn't sound good, eh? Maybe just an internal order as part of the porting process? He calls "wholesale" and checks down there. Yeah, that's it.

"So it's going to go through in spite of the fact that the names don't match?"

"Yeah, it looks like it's going to be just fine."

Funniest thing I heard all day, but delivered in a warm, avuncular and convincing fashion. How could I be convinced so easily at this point? Well, I want to believe, in spite of how utterly unlikely it is. I think maybe heading down to a T-Mobile store TODAY would be a good idea.

I finally go to the nice T-Mobile store, after checking on the web and calling to hear a recording tell me just where it is in the "mall area"; turns out it was one traffic light past CompUSA...

Gal tells me "there's nothing I can do right now, until it gets ported." When that lit me up, she said what they do is fill out a form and fax it to "Business Care," but she's afraid that if she does that right now, it might mess up the proceedings.

Not to worry, Qwest is good (if slow; "could take a week or up to two weeks") and the number won't go into Limbo: it'll always be on Qwest's system, or T-Mobile's.

We shall see.

Parsing Idaho's Medicaid "Reform" Permalink to this item

The press release starts with "Governor Dirk Kempthorne today unveiled his common sense plan to modernize Idaho's Medicaid program..." "Common sense" seems like a red flag to me. "Modernize" is so 1950s, but vapid enough on its own. The plan will "simplify the system, reduce costs, and focus on prevention, wellness and personal responsibility."

All his common sense "is absolutely contrary to the federal regulations that have built the current Medicaid system over the past 40 years. So I propose that we untangle Idaho from the bureaucratic red tape that chokes out innovation." This speech just about writes itself, eh? Unfortunately, no substance is included, or referenced, other than that he wants to break the program into three separate programs, for

The Department of Health and Welfare has a set of PDFs indexed on their site with a breezy and not-too-informative FAQ started. Somewhere in all the turgid bureaucratese, there is information about just what they plan to do beyond just "concepts," but apparently making a concise summary was not on anyone's to-do list.

The biggest two items mentioned to save money (since that is what this is all about, duh) is to avoid having elderly "prematurely" moved to "expensive nursing facilities," and encouraging prevention and wellness among the healthy.

"Our plan to reform Medicaid will break new ground; we will try things no other state has attempted. We will look to our participants, providers, taxpayers, and legislators for input." So... does that mean we've just begun to plan, or do we have a plan?

Another Woodward Bombshell Permalink to this item

Apparently Bob Woodward got the first tip, "an offhand reference that did not appear to indicate her identity was classified or secret." Not that we're really going to believe any specific denials at this point, but it's interesting to see who has and hasn't raised his hand on this one:

"A senior administration official" (good god, do any of you idiots have the balls to speak for attribution?) "said that neither President Bush himself, nor his chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., nor his counselor, Dan Bartlett, was Mr. Woodward's source. So did spokesmen for former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell; the former director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet; and his deputy, John E. McLaughlin.

"A lawyer for Karl Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff who has acknowledged conversations with reporters about the case and remains under investigation, said Mr. Rove was not Mr. Woodward's source.

"Mr. Cheney did not join the parade of denials...."

"Even though I'm a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors."
–George H.W. Bush

Let's review: protecting sources is important when they're revealing wrongdoing. Protecting sources whose act of disclosure is itself malfeasance (if not a specific crime) is becoming part of the problem. Woodward's excuses are lame.

"The terms of engagement change when a reporter and reporters are being subpoenaed, agreeing to testify, being forced to testify, being jailed," Woodward said. "That's the new element in this. And what it did, it caused me to become even more secretive about sources, and to protect them. I couldn't do my job if I couldn't protect them. And to really make sure that I don't become part of this process, but not to be less aggressive in reporting the news."

Well gee Bob, it looks like you are the news now. As if you'd been so dilligently avoiding that for all these years?

What are his peers saying about him? "It looks like what people have been saying about Bob Woodward for the past five years, that he's become a stenographer for the Bush White House." "Bob Woodward has gone wholly into access journalism." "...our next Judith Miller."

"If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration."
&ndash;Scott McClellan

How about this new angle for Libby's defense, then: "...while the issues raised by Woodward's new account did not go to the heart of the perjury and obstruction charges against Libby, they could cast doubt on an underlying prosecution theme: that Libby was untruthful when he told the grand jury Ms. Wilson's C.I.A. identity was common knowledge among reporters."

As in, my boss had already told Woodward? Hey, common knowledge! It certainly became common knowledge as Bush administration insiders made their "senior official" rounds to their favorite journalists. When will the firings begin, Mr. President? It's been more than 2 years we've been talking about this.

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

I had no idea how lame mobile phones were Permalink to this item

until I got one today. I should have gone to the T-Mobile store instead of one of the resellers I guess; my young salesman at CompUSA had a hard time with revised procedures, logging on to their website, getting the form filled out. I had to settle for getting a personal account in spite of it being for a business, mostly because they want my credit, but also because they don't want a PO Box for monthly billing.

They wanted my Social Security number too. And my driver's license number. But hey, my credit is good, so no deposit required. Back home after wading through some of the silly baggage packed into the "free" phone ("Funbox"? Gimme a break), and finding how to set the time and date under the "Organizer" menu, I tried calling the number I'd said to port from Qwest. Not going yet. Ok, how about calling out? That's not going yet either. Let's try "Customer Care."

After another meander through a voice-recognition menu with oh-so-cheerful prompting and inisting "customer service representative," I got sorted to a need for "activation." Then to someone who could activate me. Maybe on the 19th, after Qwest let go. (Gee, they didn't mention they'd drag their feet that hard when I called to be told I didn't need to do anything to get away.) He could route me to someone who could "explain."

He was prepared to put a security code on my account too, so someone couldn't just call up with my SSN and tweak the service around, even though my concern was for the growing gaggle of T-Mobile staff who have access to a growing database of raw material for identity theft.

Then our (land line) connection glitched and I could hear him but he couldn't hear me. No point in staying on the line anymore, I guess.

Cold snap Permalink to this item

Brundage's snow stake webcam image excerpt Winter moving in, with rain in the valleys and snow in the mountains over the weekend, Brundage's earliest opening ever.Yesterday got windy, real windy, and then eerily calm at the end of the day. I was out at 10pm, when Mars rode high with the moon and the stars told me it was going to freeze—hard.

Finally, showing some responsibility Permalink to this item

Tom Bartlett looks to have a famous quotation (and the best claim on a new oxymoron) with Responsible Spam.

Get me rewrite! Permalink to this item

First, you have to get their attention. When we were all gung ho, behind our man, and thought gee, he wouldn't lie to us, it didn't much matter what he said. But now that we've been told it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how the Iraq war began, we should all examine the record, should we not? Thanks to Representative Henry Waxman for "a searchable collection of 237 specific misleading statements made by Bush Administration officials about the threat posed by Iraq," along with illuminations of how the statements misled.

I suppose we should admire Bush's chutzpah with this accusation about what some disagreeable are trying to do with history. He and his party are swimming against the tide however; do you think "I'm rubber and your glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks on you!" will work? GOP.com's put together a video of embarrassing sound bites from prominent Democrats, "reaching the same conclusion the President reached about Iraq," and now changing their tune, "trying to rewrite history."

I watched the video, and here's what I saw: the Repugnicans want it both ways: they were happy to get the support of the opposition when their deceptions (or "whoops, we just screwed up!" if you want to be charitable) were effective, and everyone was rallying behind the Commander in Chief. (If you disagreed back then, your patriotism was questioned, naturally. With us or with the terrorists.) And if you change your mind based on new evidence (or, "evidence" as opposed to what we had the first time around)... then you're rewriting history.

Nice try, but no sale.

In case you didn't recognize it, their choice of tune was "The Low Spark of High-heeled Boys," by Traffic. Curious choice for the party of the Christian Right, but I guess the instrumental part was deemed innocuous enough? (I trust they paid suitable royalties to the copyright holder?)

It really should have been The Who, of course, "Won't Get Fooled Again," but I guess that's too busy selling cars or something.

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

No more fire and flowers Permalink to this item

The page I found most amusing on istockphoto.com was the second half of needfiles, where the list the stuff they don't need, and why not. I'm a little sorry to see "flowers" branded cliché as a category, but at least they're looking out for me: "Close-ups of fire: It's for your own safety."

He's baaaack Permalink to this item

"The convicted embezzler, the suave fabricator of intelligence, and the secularist-turned-Shiite fundamentalist-turned-Iranian agent, the elusive subject of a slow-moving FBI spy investigation, and the self-described 'hero in error' approached the podium at the American Enterprise Institute yesterday after a glowing introduction from Chris DeMuth, AEI's president. After grumbling that the cherubic man he was about to introduce has been 'defamed, undermined and attacked by agencies of the U.S. government,' DeMuth concluded: 'Please give a warm welcome to this very great and very brave Iraqi patriot, liberal and liberator, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi.'" Robert Dreyfuss, on yet another Chalabi sequel, and his 8th appearance before the AEI.

Arianna Huffington saw him work his magic at the Council on Foreign Relations. "'We have achieved democracy,' he announced at one point. Good to know. It was all very congratulatory, clubby and collegial. Dissident voices were not allowed. When I stood up to ask a question, I had the microphone offered and then quickly taken away at the moderator's prompting as soon as I introduced myself."

Arab News runs down the list of the government hosts for his latest US Tour: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Treasury Secretary John Snow.

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

Beware the cornered elephant Permalink to this item

There'd be nothing quite as effective as a new terror attack to boost the GOP for the 2006 elections, maybe? That's the alleged outside the box thinking at the moment. 9/11 worked magic for George W. Bush, in spite of his deer-in-the-headlights initial response, and the mistaken quagmire that it eventually sucked us into, behind the neocons' direction.

"As Republican political strategists scramble to find a message—any message—that will ring true with voters, GOP leaders in Congress admit privately that control of their party by right-wing extremists makes their recovery all but impossible."

Missing In Action Permalink to this item

Eric Alterman asked back in July, where is the conservative outrage?

I was checking around after hearing Alterman on The Al Franken Show say that he'd been writing about Judy Miller for decades. Maybe he mentions it in his latest book, When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences. No 1-star reviews yet, the worst is grudging 3-stars for his "slanted and superficial treatment" that has at least "evenhandedness in selecting the case studies." Perhaps that reviewer cracks the nut of the issue for conservatives, lamenting the lack of discussion of Plato's "noble lie."

This question must weigh on the minds of so many: "At the personal level, is it always good to tell a spouse if you had an affair?" Or the larger question, "Without revealing the truth about wars do politicians run the risk of the war being considered illegitimate by the public?"

How terrible would that be, to have war be considered illegitmate? What if they gave a war and nobody came?

I don't think that's accurate Permalink to this item

I've pointed to White House transcripts from time to time, figuring that hey, this is the definitive source, right? No subscription required, no paywall (we already gave at home), well-maintained... but what's this?

Not only has the White House changed their transcript, they want news services to match their history rewrite.

Ok, we're not so naïve as to be shocked or surprised by this sort of thing, but so blatant and obvious? So artless?

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

Leadership, and the War on Terror Permalink to this item

Mr. Bush, speaking to Veterans on Veterans Day says "We stand for peace." How many Iraqis get to hear that message, and what do you suppose they make of it? He also said "We must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war against the terrorists." That's been his story all along, from way back when it didn't make a lick of sense to now, when we may well have made it so.

I know from people I've talked to who support Bush that this is likely the core of his support: military strength, never backing down from the enemy (ignoring that our actions are creating enemies).

"The fifth element of our strategy in the war on terror is to deny the militants future recruits by replacing hatred and resentment with democracy and hope across the broader Middle East."

...I'm in absolute agreement with my President that "replacing hatred and resentment with democracy and hope across the broader Middle East" is a difficult and long-term undertaking with no alternative. We must do this. Where we are (much) further apart is on the means we'll use to achieve it and the measures of our progress....

...more of my opinion.

I'm not the only one to find the President's speech lacking candor. Dana Milbank and Walter Pincus of The Washington Post noted that asterisks Dot White House's Iraq Argument.

"President Bush and his national security adviser have answered critics of the Iraq war in recent days with a two-pronged argument: that Congress saw the same intelligence the administration did before the war, and that independent commissions have determined that the administration did not misrepresent the intelligence.

"Neither assertion is wholly accurate."

The obvious inference was the Bush referred to his administration's critics when he said "it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began," but hey, maybe he was finally admitting a mistake!

Frank Rich puts it this way: "To get the country to redirect its finite resources to wage war against Saddam Hussein rather than keep its focus on the war against radical Islamic terrorists, the White House had to cook up not only the fiction that Iraq was about to attack us, but also the fiction that Iraq had already attacked us, on 9/11. Thanks to the Michigan Democrat Carl Levin, who last weekend released a previously classified intelligence document, we now have conclusive evidence that the administration's disinformation campaign implying a link connecting Saddam to Al Qaeda and 9/11 was even more duplicitous and manipulative than its relentless flogging of nuclear Armageddon."

Levin's press release (which includes links to the DIA letter and various Administration statements) tells us that the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) did not believe Ibn al-Shaykh's story about cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaida, saying "it is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers. Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest."

Rich's column's headline is 'We Do Not Torture' and Other Funny Stories; neither he nor Levin connects those two particular dots in this particular "funny" story. But the fabulations are having a cumulative effect, as now only a third of the American public is buying the Bush "honest and straightforward" schtick.

"When people in power get away with telling bigger and bigger lies, they naturally think they can keep getting away with it. And for a long time, Mr. Bush and his cronies did. Not anymore."

11.11.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Supernatural Science Permalink to this item

Fall wintergreen SciFri takes on the controversy about teaching evolution. Interesting tidbit: No Child Left Behind forced state standards, and created the venue for evolution opponents to get their feet in the door.

After a self-avowed creationist called in, and explained that "Intelligent Design is not often taught intelligently," and that he wasn't one of those "ultra-, ultra-literalists" on the Biblical description of the history of the universe, and that there are a lot of scientific things in the Bible, Ira asked carefully, "what's the point you'd like to make?"

"I love science. I haven't yet seen science... create life. It's supposed to be an 'accident', that hasn't been created... I don't think the theory has been explained adequately, because it hasn't been proven yet."

"As long as you present both sides in a reasonable, educated manner, I don't see where that's a real problem. The problem is the "educated manner...

There's clearly an issue with science education in this country. Let's just present both sides: the natural explanations we can figure out, and the supernatural ones we can make up.

This religious medium Permalink to this item

Perhaps I'd heard this before, but wasn't paying attention. The father of the WWW, Tim Berners-Lee is a Unitarian Universalist. Of course! His 1998 essay, The World Wide Web and the "Web of Life" is an interesting description of his own spiritual journey (and a near match for my own, up until it was his children that got him back to religion), and the organizing principles of our electronic connectedness.

If you get bogged down when he waxes poetic about the technical details, do at least skip to the end to "Truth" and "Hope".

"The One True Churches worships the One True Gods and in many cases convince others of their Oneness and Trueness with swords and fire and destruction. The philosophies fail the test of Independent Invention. The result of this interoperability failure is not an error code or an unreadable Web page but hatred and jealousy, war and persecution."

Can't find road to Damascus Permalink to this item

Bill Cope sorts out liberalism and conservatism after his second grand theft auto.

"I left, drove home, didn't smash into any innocent bystanders, and remained firmly whatever I am in regards to the Bush Doctrine. She ended the evening just as perplexed about what liberals are as when she started. As I maneuvered the uncomfortable car home, I had one liberal thought concerning the sack of crap who stole my pickup: 'Well ... at least what he did isn't getting people killed.'"

Honoring Veterans? Permalink to this item

The United States of America has a fiscal year that starts on October 1st. Every year. Very predictable deadline. If the Congress has ever met that deadline to produce their annual budget, I can't remember when they did. Tomorrow will be six weeks past the deadline, and the news is stuffed full of reports of the low-down manuevering to slip amendments for all the creepy bills that would never survive in the light of day into "must pass" budget bills. Top of the news today is the Senate's amendment to a military budget bill, endorsing the power of the Executive to hold so-called "enemy combatants" without them having the right to challenge their detention.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina defends his amendment: "It is not fair to our troops fighting in the war on terror to be sued in every court in the land by our enemies based on every possible complaint. We have done nothing today but return to the basics of the law of armed conflict where we are dealing with enemy combatants, not common criminals."

It's "back to the basics," eh?

The Habeas Corpus Act was passed in England in 1679. Our Constitution provides that "the Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." Abraham Lincoln suspended it (and Congress upheld his decision) the beginning of The Civil War in 1861.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, apparently; led by megalomaniacs and religious fanatics onto the world stage. May God have mercy on our souls.

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

Chutzpah blossoming Permalink to this item

Channel surfing has its hazards. I stumbled onto Karl Rove giving a speech to the Federalist Society, on C-Span tonight. It was like watching a car wreck in slow motion, absolutely horrifying, but you can't look away. Imagine Turd Blossom himself, pudgy Cheshire leaker and holder of Bush's cognitive function, railing against "Judicial imperialism," which he said has "split this country." His preference is for "Constitutionalism," which of course means throw out all the laws we think shouldn't have been passed, ignore the court decisions we never liked and then stay out of our way.

One of the prime motive forces behind 4 years of imperialism, complaining about those dastardly guys in robes. This guy is too, too much.

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

Let's check that roster, shall we? Permalink to this item

Thousands of White House staffers are being coerced into ethics refreshers but the burning question is whether or not George and Dick have to take the class. Especially Dick.

Ouch! Permalink to this item

Schwarzenegger's Entire Agenda Is Rejected by California Voters There's only one Terminator, and a whole lot of teachers, nurses, police officers and firefighters he's up against.

"Supporters and opponents both said they anticipate a more conciliatory tone from Schwarzenegger," but I'll believe that when I see it.

Our local contribution to the nationwide wins of moderates and liberals came in the form of Maryanne Jordan handily trouncing Ten Commandments booster Brandi Swindell by well over 2 to 1. Long-time and underspoken city operative Jerome Mapp lost to didn't-make-police-chief-so-he's-trying-the-Council Jim Tibbs.

The race I like is the one for Virginia's governor, where the President of the Yewnited States came to stump the Republican candidate on the day before the election, and the Democrat still won handily. Ken Mehlman's comfort was that Virginia's new governer is a moderate, not one of those radical Democratic-wing Democrats. Do you suppose he'll put up some more moderate candidates for '06 then?

More time with the family Permalink to this item

I missed the home bureau announcement, but Wonkette tells me Judy's done reporting (or whatever it was she was doing) for The NY Times.

Tell us how you really feel Permalink to this item

The NYT editorial board fires for effect with "President Bush's Walkabout."

"An administration with no agenda and no competence would be hard enough to live with on the domestic front. But the rest of the world simply can't afford an American government this bad for that long."

Noting that while George doesn't have Dick's resignation letter handy, he could keep him busy with "attending funerals and acting as the chairman of studies." "Right now, the vice president is devoting himself to beating back Congressional legislation that would prohibit the torture of prisoners. This is truly a remarkable set of priorities: his former chief aide was indicted, Mr. Cheney's back is against the wall, and he's declared war on the Geneva Conventions."

Science rules (outside Kansas) Permalink to this item

The whole kit and kaboodle of the Dover School Board got sent packing in Tuesday's election. In spite of a strained acronym and narrow margins (and a fairly hideous website), the Citizens Actively Reviewing Educational Strategies swept the 8 races and left all but one of the Intelligent Design proponents looking for a new venue for their activism.

In the home of the Wizard of Oz, however, the State School Board voted 6-4 to redefine science—it's not just naturalistic phenomenons anymore kids!—and legislate their majority's personal incredulity.

Election Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

And a speedy trial, too Permalink to this item

The pixels are barely dry on W's vague recollection of our Constitution on the occasion of Scooter's indictment when it's time to consider Salim Ahmed Hamdan's case. Detention of nearly four years now, with "conspiring" the only accusation so far. If he were to have been tried before the commission of military officers Bush's adminstration sees fit, they would have had the benefit of secret proceedings, relaxed standards for the admission of evidence, and no provision for appeal to an independent decision-maker.

One of those stand-up former White House counsel guys puts it this way, nicely combining the Fear of Evil with bureaucratese:

"This is just a different justice system based on a fundamental humanitarian principle: You want to discriminate against unlawful combatants because they're bad people by definition. They're the scourge of humanity. And you want to incentivize people to comply with the laws of war."

Heck, if they're bad people by definition, why don't we just put them to death and save on room and board?

Do it now Permalink to this item

We humans like to share inspiration when we can, even in odd places. The thought for the day today comes from the editor of a car dealer's "newsletter," and is attributed to Marie Beynon Ray:

Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand—and melting like a snowflake.

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

The crime's a crime, too Permalink to this item

Wired News says The Cover-Up is the Crime, after Sony BMG and a company called First 4 Internet were found out to be hacking customer computers in order to shove digital rights management down their throats.

"The harm of the Sony DRM scheme is not that it enables evildoers, but that Sony itself did evil.... By deliberately corrupting the most basic functionality of their customers' computers, Sony broke the rules of fair play and crossed a bright line separating legitimate software from computer trespass. Their actions may be civilly actionable."

Do you suppose you would have caught the click-wrap license agreement catch that said "this CD will automatically install a small proprietary software program ... intended to protect the audio files embodied on the CD"? I know I wouldn't have.

The gory details started coming out on Hallowe'en...

The buttheads who came up with and distributed this attack on your computer's security objected to the use of "spyware" and "malware," but they were ok with distributing same.

(Thanks to Dan Gillmor's blog for the entry into this story.)

Taste of the bubbly Permalink to this item

The house we almost bought, tucked in the bottom of the foothills Eight days ago, we found out from a friend that the house across the street from him was going up for sale. He lives on the edge of the old Fort Boise Military Reserve, a unique piece of foothills open space. The property in question was adjacent as well, with two parcels at the end of a short road. Let's just say it has location, location and location.

The 51-year-old house turned out to be in surprisingly good shape, well cared-for by its original owners. But it's on the small side, nearly identical to the one we already own. It has a lovely view to the southwest, over downtown and off to the Owyhees. It's up the hill enough for that, but not so far that it wouldn't be reasonable and pleasant to walk.

The real estate agent had a signed listing agreement in hand, but the property wasn't listed yet. For all we knew, we were the only prospects who were aware it was coming on the market, and she told us she was proceeding "gently" in deference to the folks who were going to be packing up their lives and moving down to "one level." Five years ago, the Ada Co. Assessor figured the house and lot were just shy of 6 figures, and the bare lot was worth $15,000. Since 2000, the market has pepped up (as if you didn't know), and assessments have gone up apace (if not quite as quickly). The house has doubled in assessed value, the adjacent bare lot quadrupled. But still, under $250,000 for both of them.

They hadn't set a price when we first talked to the agent, but she was thinking $325,000 for the house and its parcel. She was going to go through the house on Tuesday maybe with a team of agents to come up with an asking price. And the bare lot for... maybe $200,000. Less than a quarter acre. With a sidehill slope that constrains building, at least, limits the yard, crushes the view of the "parent" parcel. Of course a buyer would want both parcels, so they weren't even bothering "marketing" the bare lot. They'd let a buyer for the house make an offer on that, too.

The soonest we could've got inside was Thursday, but put it off until Friday to coordinate with a friend who's a builder and designer, so we could talk about what it would take to add a garage (no garage for 51 years?!), and maybe extend some of the living space. We checked it all out, compared properties in the neighborhood, consulted with family and friends, started looking at mortgage rates and prepared to re-enter what has become foreign territory after 21 years in our own little house... strategized about our opening offer, while figuring we had a few days before it went MLS on Thursday. (As in, three days from now.)

When we got home from a morning of rehearsal, singing and a committee meeting at church yesterday, there was a message on the machine: someone else had made an offer "although they haven't worked out the price yet." What the hell? Of course their offer had a price worked out on the front page, but it had been rejected and a counteroffer made. She'd already lined up someone prepared to cough up half a million bucks for a property worth 30 to 40% less than that on a spring day? Tiny kitchen, no garage, bath and a half and three little bedrooms?

Of course, we don't know what the amounts gone back and forth were, but our still-only-contemplated opening bid was neatly pre-empted, and the agent couldn't be bothered to return the message I left for her Sunday afternoon. If the deal falls through, maybe we'll hear something, but until then we're going to be thinking more seriously about how far the loose change in the deal we didn't make will go in home improvement where we are.

Easy come, easy go.

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

Evolution is in the Air Permalink to this item

Snow in the mountains, seen from the Fort Boise reserve Speaking of science, Olivia Judson has a few observations about H5N1, that "tiny parcel" of just 8 genes that has birds and people feeling some anxiety this fall. The 1918 Spanish flu had 8 genes, too.

"(T)he most important point is this: viruses and other pathogens evolve in ways that we can understand and, to some extent, predict. Whether it's preventing a flu pandemic or tackling malaria, we can use our knowledge of evolutionary processes in powerful and practical ways, potentially saving the lives of tens of millions of people. So let's not strip evolution from the textbooks, or banish it from the class, or replace it with ideologies born of wishful thinking. If we do, we might find ourselves facing the consequences of natural selection."

California, we have a problem Permalink to this item

What is with this loose cannon from California, Richard Pombo? The guy is an incredible disaster for this country's environment, in his position of power as chairman of the House Resources Committee. He's working to allow foreign and US mining corporations to get back to "patenting" claims and taking full title to millions of acres of public lands out west. It used to cost them only $2.50 or $5 an acre, but President Clinton called for a moratorium on such sales in 1995 and it's been renewed every year since. Pombo wants to turn that back on, raising the rate to $1,000 an acre, but still far below the value in many cases, and leaving the extraction of minerals royalty-free.

If the companies decide they don't want to mine... why, they can sell "their" real estate, even if it used to be part of a public park, wilderness area, whatever. It's the potential for the largest public land grab in U.S. history.

The good news is that some of the people in his district have started to work to fix the problem: Vote Pombo Out. The list of stupid, corrupt and rapacious ideas from this guy is too much for me to hammer out here. Check out his problems with cronyism, junkets, scandals and more.

Not another dope-fiend! Permalink to this item

Deep in The SF Chronicle's story of the Dover monkey trial, we read that the chairman of the Dover district curriculum committee who spearheaded the adoption of the intelligent design statement (paraphrased: Darwin's theory of evolution isn't perfect, so we have a ridiculous notion we'd like to advance instead) "acknowledged there were times his testimony contradicted statements he had made earlier in sworn depositions, but said his memory was faulty because he was 'addicted to OxyContin,' a prescription opiate, and had twice been in rehabilitation.

Oh and he believes that the book of Genesis is literally true, too. So what would be the purpose of science class anyway?

Here comes too cheap to meter again Permalink to this item

Ok, so cold fusion bombed, but maybe this latest source of near-limitless power that costs virtually nothing will pan out. And just in time for Xmas (2009), "the first product built with Blacklight's technology... will be a household heater."

And all we have to do is skootch the electron in some hydrogen atoms a little closer to the proton....

5.11.5 Permanent URL to this day's entry

This is refreshing Permalink to this item

Bush now expects all White House staff to adhere to the "spirit as well as the letter" of all ethics laws and rules. Hey, a lot of us would have settled for just the letter! "The White House counsel's office will conduct a series of presentations next week that will provide refresher lectures on general ethics rules, including the rules of governing the protection of classified information."

A "refresher."

It's unanimous Permalink to this item

It would have been nice if the Senate's reaffirmation of its rejection of torture had happened with the Veep presiding, but I don't suppose he gets over there to do that very much.

Ok House, it's your turn now.

Feeling a little sick about it Permalink to this item

Figuring orders of magnitude is a useful arithmetic skill, but you still need an explanation sometimes. When I heard the news item about $2.2 billion for 20 million doses of Tamiflu, the quick calculation surprised me. More than $100 per dose? (After the quantity discount?) Then somebody handed me this tinfoil hat: Fortune notes that stock of Gilead, the company that developed Tamiflu is up more than a third since April. Former CEO and board member Donald Rumsfeld has somewhere between 5 and 25 $million worth, so his financial stake is up more than a million (and maybe as much as $8 million) as a result. Good old George Schultz is up more than $2 million. Never fear, however, as Rummy has recused himself from any decision-making and has nothing at all to do with his boss using it to scare the bejeezus out of us and/or change the subject in Washington. So damn, hear we are back on the cronies and corruption subject anyway!

Here come da judge Permalink to this item

It's turning out to be a bit difficult to find a Texas judge everyone likes to hear Tom DeLay's case. The latest decision fell to their Chief Justice, Wallace Jefferson, who came up with a Democrat, and said that's that. He probably had to pick a Dem to hear the case about Republican money laundering because of this: "Among other things, Jefferson's 2002 campaign treasurer, Bill Ceverha, was treasurer of DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee. Jefferson also received a $25,000 donation from the Republican National State Elections Committee, a group at the heart of the money laundering charge against DeLay." (AP)

I didn't find Molly Ivins' commentary on the judge shopping, but she does have a nice piece on the character matchup between DeLay and Ronnie Earle: Old Vanilla vs. The Hammer.

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

Stormy weather Permalink to this item

Rain overnight, snow in the foothills above 5500'. Utah mountains had their first foot and a half as of 2 days ago I hear, no doubt more by now. Think snow!

Heckuva job Permalink to this item

Some men are born to greatness, while others have greatness thrust upon them. Still others become mired in greatness. Michael Brown's emails released to date seem to place him squarely in the third category. If there are emails (as he claimed) that he exchanged with Joe Hagin, Andy Card and the President, the Administration hasn't released them. The thousand pages they have released leave FEMA's ex-director twisting in the wind. As for Chertoff, Rumsfeld, Lt. Gen. Carl Strock and Michael Leavitt, we have no idea, but Brownie seems to have set the bar pretty low for them.

"Please roll up the sleeves of your shirt ... all shirts. Even the President rolled his sleeves to just below the elbow. In this cris[is] and on TV you just need to look more hard-working ... ROLL UP THE SLEEVES." (from Brown's press secretary)

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

RFID Risks Permalink to this item

Bruce Schneier identifies some of the risks associated with radio frequency identification (RFID), while focused specifically on the State Department's proposal for passports; RFID-equipped US Passports are due in less than a year. The most serious issues for passports may well be addressed, but the general privacy issues for RFID tags, with an "eavesdropping range" now well north of 50 feet and "the maximum range the chip could be read with specialized equipment" farther still are disturbing.

"And remember, technology always gets better -- it never gets worse. It's simply folly to believe that these ranges won't get longer over time."

"Better" is not always put to better use.

(Schneier provided a link to "Brian Krebs on Computer Security" in The Washington Post, mentioning the new world's record for eavesdropping distance on an RFID tag. Krebs' newsblog entry had an entertaining report of this summer's Black Hat and DefCon. "Everyone at DefCon was required to wear a badge at all times while on the conference grounds; this year's badges were made of thick, colored plexiglass—designed to confound badge counterfeiters. Alas, at one party Saturday night, each attendee were given perfectly forged badges in a variety of new colors.")

"Secret prison system"—spooky Permalink to this item

“In our system, each individual is presumed innocent and entitled to due process and a fair trial.”
–George W. Bush

Sept. 11 apparently changed our sense of morality. Dana Priest reported in yesterday's Washington Post that there's "a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantánamo Bay prison in Cuba."

And Dick Cheney's campaigning to make sure that "enhanced interrogation techniques" remain OK for the CIA. He'll be assisted by his new chief of staff, David Addington, "a principal author of the White House memo justifying torture of terrorism suspects" and "a prime advocate of arguments supporting the holding of terrorism suspects without access to courts." (Washington Post)

Jimmy Carter speaks well enough for me: "I never even considered the fact that our country would be debating whether or not we could continue to torture prisoners around the world in secret prisons. This is something that's inconceivable."

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

Frist mad as hell but has to take it anyway Permalink to this item

Quite the spectacle in the Senate yesterday. I happened to flip by C-Span when they were replaying minority leader Harry Reid complaining about the Senate Intelligence Committee's lack of urgency on phase 2 of the Misled to War investigation; you remember, that part about the misuse of intelligence? That was put off until "after the election"? The election we had a year ago?

Anyway, Reid moved to close the doors with Rule 21, and given a second, it threw the Senate into a private tizzy. Bill Frist, Trent Lott and Rick Santorum had time to go out in the hallway and posture outraged indignation at this "stunt." Frist took as "an affront to me personally, an affront to our leadership, and an affront to the United States of America," and was nearly apoplectic at being outmaneuered in "his" august body. If he were a woman, we'd be talking about his hissy fit.

As CBS commentators put it, "Republicans ran out of adjectives, they were so mad about this." Frist "looked as if he was about to burst a blood vessel." His tirade about this "slap in the face" included this collegial observation about the other party: "They have no conviction, they have no principles, they have no ideas." Except for today's effective idea on how to get the moribund intelligence investigation restarted, eh?

Frist didn't have the facts right at hand, but he (or a gaggle of hapless staffers) was sure going to comb the history books to see if this rule had ever been used without pro forma bipartisan agreement. Better check the other rules too, Bill, because their are a ton of ways to stop the Senate, and if "our leadership" doesn't start doing its job, the only consolation will be the opportunity for more whining accusations about how the minority party which controls none of the branches of government is "just" the party of obstruction.

Intelligence Committee Chairman, Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas is responsible for the stalled investigation, and dismissed the effectiveness of the Democrats' move: "we have agreed to do what we have already agreed to do," and says his committee was going to wrap things up next week anyway and told the Democrats that on Monday. Well, maybe, but I have to think there might have been higher priorities for the Republican leadership next week. Something. Anything. Now we have November 14th as a deadline not including the word "next."

Meanwhile, back at the ranch... Permalink to this item

The Executive Branch is hopelessly mired in an "incestuous, secretive, vindictive, hallucinatory dark hole," as Maureen Dowd puts it. "Vice thumbed his nose yesterday at the notion that he should clean up his creepy laboratory," replacing Libby with two sub-operatives. David Addington, his new chief of staff, is "an ideologue who is so fanatically secretive, so in love with the shadows, so belligerent and unyielding that he's known around town as the Keyser Soze of the usual suspects," and who has "worked his way up the G.O.P. scandal ladder from Iran-contra to Abu Ghraib." The other, John Hannah, has "contact for Ahmad Chalabi" as the highlight of his résumé.

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

Every vote counts... Permalink to this item

until the lawyers show up. The story of a Big Election Theft in a Little Town is an ugly one.

on Communicating Permalink to this item

Thanks to The NY Times for the tip about Forbes' special on this subject. Lots of interesting tidbits, from Arthur C. Clarke, Jane Goodall, Vint Cerf, Kurt Vonnegut ("All of the arts, with the exception of architecture, are practical jokes, making people respond emotionally and at no risk to themselves, because things aren't really happening"), Studs Terkel, Daniel Libeskind, Stan Lee, Steven Pinker, among others.

"When I find a time when I disagree with Dick Cheney, I say to myself, 'Why am I wrong?'"
Scooter Libby, 2001

This must've been an important lesson for George W. Bush: Lying is Good for You. The author of Why We Lie says we lie best when we don't know we're lying: "We don't have the nervousness or broadcast the tell-tale signs of unease that the intentional liar can barely help. Self-deception is the handmaiden of deceit—in hiding the truth from ourselves, we're able to hide it more fully from others."

Or as David Copperfield puts it: "A magician must find out what people are drawn to—what colors, what numbers, what shapes—so that you can kind of get a general idea of what people want to see. We're kind of in the same business as advertisers, because we give people what they want to see, but on our terms."

Collecting a dozen or so of the interesting pages and leafing through them, I see that it's done with an absurdly light touch, however. As if you were hearing elevator pitches one after another. The video bites are oddly longer than the written snippets.

Too much time on your hands? Permalink to this item

Make Firefox look like Internet Explorer. He says he still thinks "Internet Explorer should be removed, placed in the corner and set on fire" though. The CodeProject served it up as an "eerie link of the week."

raveling

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Thursday, 01-Dec-2005 16:47:39 MST
http://www.fortboise.org/blog/200511.html