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unraveling

31.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Gonna put The Hammer down Permalink to this item

"WASHINGTON (AP) -- A former top aide to Rep. Tom DeLay pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and promised to cooperate with a federal investigation of bribery and lobbying fraud that has so far netted three convictions and prompted calls for ethics reform in Congress...." (USA Today's copy)

Let's all sing like the birdies sing.

Blogosphere, defined Permalink to this item

Her story was about something only "related" to the larger sphere, but some of Susan Saulny's key phrases jumped out at me as definitional:

addictive joys of chronicling their experiences

excruciating and often embarrassing detail

alternately empathize, ridicule, console and misinform

the amount of misinformation about [every] topic online is staggering

anybody can say anything

fanning the flames of fear in an already overly stressed process

not entirely reliable

the best advice may be this: Say nothing.

Idaho's Opening (almost) at the Top Permalink to this item

Now that Dirk's off to D.C. and Jim's our shortest Governor ever, Can Pat be Lt.? That would be cute.

Big coal: NIOBY Permalink to this item

Sempra Energy could see which way the wind was blowing on its plans for a big coal generating station near Jerome, and decided to give up! When the Republicans won't support your plan, stick a fork in it.

(Nice to see regular updates on Randy Stapilus' site again.)

Be nice to our poor little rich kid, wouldja? Permalink to this item

You remember when the government pretty much won the antitrust case against Microsoft? Or was it that they were winning? Hard to remember, it just went on and on, year after year. Oh, here -- 3 days before Sept. 11, no wonder the memory's cloudy.

But over in the EU, Microsoft doesn't have as many friends in high places, and litigation kept going, and going. Will their friends in high US places be able to persuade their non-friends in high EU places to back off? Ha! What a world.

Local development should be fun! Permalink to this item

The Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce's annual Leadership Conference for 2006 will bring together regional leaders under the theme "The Power of Choice; charting our economic, education and environment futures."

They choose to spend their conference dollars in... Sun Valley. Nice spot.

My favorite variety comes after fresh rain Permalink to this item

How did these guys (and gals?) stay under my radar all this time? The Sagebrush Variety Show, with my buddy Roger Sherman doing the UV-Eye-Opener while the legislature is in session. Get it from webcasting on Boise Community Radio or podcasting. Nice. But so much technology (and political machinations), so little time.

I found the Variety Show via this post about my new informant, Sharon Ullman, the once (and future?) County Commissioner. (Thanks to her for the next item, below.) It has a nice collection of links to local political agendas (the published ones, anyway) and minutes from Councils and Commissions in the Treasure Valley.

US Working Over ISPs Permalink to this item

Just in case the Global War on Terror wasn't excuse enough, the axis of evil child pornography should be reason enough to give up civil liberties, eh? The nice thing about Internet Service Providers is that the investigation (or shall we say "massive fishing expedition"?) can proceed wholesale, rather than one potentially miscreant citizen at a time.

InformationWeek's Freedom of Information Act request turned up notice of subpoenas last summer to "at least 34 Internet service providers, search companies, and security software firms." One attorney representing an ISP thought the request was "overly broad, vague, ambitious, and unduly burdensome," a question of fact that might be adjudicable under the Paperwork Reduction Act.

"No comment" from DOJ spokesman Charles Miller on which of the many firms objected to the subpoenas, or how useful the information gathered by the government might be. "Ongoing litigation" don't you know.

30.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Think Different Permalink to this item

Nicholas Wade's reports on a 17-year study of the brain structure of children: "The researchers found that average children reached a peak of cortical thickness at age 7 or 8. Highly intelligent children reached a peak thickness much later, at 13, followed by a more dynamic pruning process."

Defending the Constitution Permalink to this item

Santa's little train at Quail Botanical Gardens Russ Feingold: "When the President breaks the law, he must be held accountable, and that is why I have introduced a resolution to censure the President for his actions. Yet, as we face a President who thinks he is above the law, most Republicans are willing to cede enormous power to the executive branch. Their actions are not just short-sighted, they are a departure from one of the Republican Party’s defining goals: limiting government power."

Tax time Permalink to this item

March seems to be going out like a bear rather than a lamb or lion. I decided my crufty manual approach to doing taxes, with an old Quattro Pro spreadsheet that I've tweaked and chipped at for years and years had run its course. The big two in commercial software upsell you toward "premium" if you have a schedule C (we now have two), and on the basis of an online review (in the NYT, IIRC), I went with TaxCut. The "affiliated" choice would have been TurboTax, as I've used Quicken forever, but the reviewer gave H&R Block/MS Money's affiliate a slight edge.

Of course, either program can import from the other accounting software, right? Can't tell by me. TaxCut went through the motions, but I couldn't get the very first section/item to make any sense. The 1099-INT form had one imported item, and all it was showing me was an amount. An amount with no payor information, and that didn't match any single entry or obvious aggregation of entries in Quicken.

On the second try at importing, after entering data from the only two 1099-INTs I'd received, even the mystery dollar amount was gone. Now it was asking me everything about this imported item. What kind of interest? Who paid it? How much did they pay? Not exactly a productivity tool. (What do they think "import" means?)

I tried customer support, got a gal who made a game try at going through the process with me over the phone, but who was of course at a total loss when my process didn't match up with hers. The 3rd try at importing revealed seven items in the 1099-INT section. The 4th try, twenty-two. All listed in a selection dialog as "3rd, 4th, 5th," and so on, with minimal, no, or cross-wired information that I was supposed to supply, confirm, deny.

I've done the whole process on my own enough times that I recognized it was time to cut my losses and toss this thing in the trash. I invited her to see about some sort of refund... I'll have to talk to Staples about that, she tells me, since I bought it there. Not expecting satisfaction.

So, back to the same old way... which went swimmingly until I found out what participating in the global economy means to the IRS. One of two foreign stocks we owned produced enough income to push us over the modest limit for simplified foreign tax credit reporting. Below the limit, it's easy: you don't have to pay to the US what you paid other countries in taxes on investment income there. Over the limit... it can get ugly, especially if you have a couple international mutual funds whose tax letters detail a couple dozen countries that produced some fraction of the income and/or tax paid. Form 1116 hasn't seen "simplification" since the day it was born.

Sign here.  And here.  And here.  Aaaand here.... After you copy the percentages column by column out of the PDF tax letters, and aggregate by country, just fill out one column for each country, please. Oh, and for variety, fill out one row for each country in Part II, would you?

Did all that, got 17 pages of tax forms (including Idaho's lame attempt to do what Zog do, and have fillable PDF forms... which don't allow you to save the data you fill in?!), and all those countries for Form 1116 formatted into two pages of supporting detail, printed, collated, stapled, signed...

and on my way out the door for some fresh air and a bicycle ride in the rain, check the mail. Fidelity Investments sent me a corrected 1099 bundle. :-(

The good news was that "only" 13 of the 19 pages had to be re-done.

27.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Now will they come after us in the court of public opinion? Permalink to this item

The Afghani AG calls for Rahman's release—investigators couldn't complete their investigation within the allotted month—but the crowds (claque? paid rabble?) outside still want him put to death, the old-fashioned way.

Democracy making some fits and starts over there in the Middle East, and here. We seem to have selectively forgotten about that right to a public and speedy trial an' stuff. One of our Supremes can't seem to keep from shooting his mouth off, being so enamored with his own opinion that he can't wait for the decision to share it with us. (But it wasn't "the finger" Nino was giving the press, just the wise-guy "up yours, under the chin.")

26.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

What does he know? Permalink to this item

Scott Ritter's assessment of the Ba'athist insurgency illustrates that it's easier to destroy domestic tranquility than it is to build it up. It's the problem that George and Dick and Don complain about: explosions make more news (more often) than the slow work of reconstruction.

He sees the Ba'athist strategy that "emphasizes chaos," as "horribly brilliant" in pushing the locus of blame to "a non-Iraqi proxy, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." In other words, we've created a laboratory (and breeding ground) for terrorists. And just as the xenophobic frenzy the Bush administration produced came back to quash the Dubai Ports World deal, the patriotic frenzy could blind us from the only way out of deepening chaos:

Disengagement is the only policy option available to American politicians to avoid a new war in the Middle East. But there is no mainstream politician, Democrat or Republican, with the courage and vision to articulate such a policy. The main reason for this is that the majority of the American people seem more inclined to support the troops by having them march off to war, than by bringing them home.

I don't suppose the administration is interested in reading that long an analysis, especially by someone who worked for the U.N. What is Ritter's claim to expertise, anyway? Let's see, "chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 until his resignation in 1998"... Wasn't that the period that Iraq apparently destroyed all those WMDs?

You've been out-nicknamed Permalink to this item

I haven't heard what George is calling Hugo, but Hugo's nickname for our headman is going to be tough to beat: Mr. Danger.

25.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Making a Market in Ideas Permalink to this item

Rite Solutions created a make-believe market for their employees, but they're getting some real, money-making ideas out of it. Turns out humility is a virtue, after all.

"This system removes the terrible burden of us always having to be right."

What's in a comma? Permalink to this item

"First, I've heard of that, by the way..."

or,

"First I've heard of that, by the way."

Did George Bush acknowledge he's heard of his war-making as an element in bringing about the Apocalypse, and the White House editors cleaned it up? Or did Bush really mean to say that he had never heard of the fundamentalist belief that the End Times are at hand?

American Theocracy, as book title and actuality, on the rise.

Don't ask, don't tell Permalink to this item

No, not about being gay in the military, this is about evolutionary biology science education in Arkansas. Or rather, that science education missing in action in Arkansas. Thank Governor Mike Huckabee in part: he's keen on schools being "fair to all views," by which he seems to mean substituting his pet notion for the best scientific explanation that's been assembled to date.

Jason Wiles' report of educators being intimidated into talking about something else does not bode well for students coming out of that state. As his report shoes, some of the students know what they're missing, and raised the question with the governor.

Make fun, not war Permalink to this item

J. Michael Waller proposes ridicule as an instrument in the war on terrorism. Hey yeah, the pen is mightier than the sword! Demonization is out: "incessant, morbid portrayals" "have a shelf-life that gets tired over time." (I didn't know a shelf-life could get tired. Oh wait, wrong target of ridicule.)

Put a stop to defeatism and eroding morale with a little sarcasm and insult!

"Ridicule is an under-appreciated weapon not only against terrorists, but against weapons proliferators, despots, and international undesirables in general," raising morale, stripping the enemy of "mystique and prestige," and his "image of invincibility."

Be careful where you point that thing, though. "Like a gun, it is a dangerous weapon. Even in trained hands, it can misfire. Used carelessly or indiscriminately, ridicule can create enemies where there were none, and deepen hostilities among the very peoples whom the user seeks to win over."

The Buck Stops Way Down Somewhere Else Permalink to this item

I wasn't the only one who noticed that the Seargeant with the dog got convicted for actions at Abu Ghraib on the same day our President gave an unqualified endorsement for SecDef: "fine job," Mr. Rumsfeld. The NYT editorial board, on The Joy of Being Blameless.

Your check may be payable... indefinitely Permalink to this item

I learned a nuance of the Uniform Commercial Code yesterday, and other people I talk to about the incident, including the Branch Manager of my bank, and a local policeman, are learning it too. You probably knew that a check dated more than 6 months ago is deemed "stale," and that a bank is not obligated to honor it?

Good for the bank, and maybe good for you. But the next clause of § 4-404, "BANK NOT OBLIGED TO PAY CHECK MORE THAN SIX MONTHS OLD" bears some attention:

"A bank is under no obligation to a customer having a checking account to pay a check, other than a certified check, which is presented more than six months after its date, but it may charge its customer's account for a payment made thereafter in good faith."

Good for the bank.

Back in June of 2002, after the payee told me "I never received your check," I issues a Stop Payment order, for which the bank charged me $25. It was good for 6 months, after which... I'm sure I could've paid another $25 and renewed it, but did not.

I sent the guy a new check, he cashed it, life went on nicely.

I figured if someone presented that more-than-6-months-old check any good bank would say "sorry, bucko, this is stale." But that's not what happened when my payee "found" the original check, endorsed it, and deposited in his Wells Fargo account. Key Bank paid it, a large enough amount that I definitely noticed, coincidentally on the day after it cleared.

That was a bit more than 45 months after the date on the check. I've got all the documentation to prove fraud, which may not have been willful, but still. Key Bank's Branch Manager was helpful, understanding and apparently willing to act on my behalf. But they don't have to act, making the situation rather unpleasant for me.

Is it "good faith" to assume any old check coming from another bank is valid without the most cursory inspection?

More on the 3rd Anniversary of War Permalink to this item

From the Baghdad Burning blog: "Three years later and the nightmares of bombings and of shock and awe have evolved into another sort of nightmare. The difference between now and then was that three years ago, we were still worrying about material things- possessions, houses, cars, electricity, water, fuel... It's difficult to define what worries us most now. Even the most cynical war critics couldn't imagine the country being this bad three years after the war... Allah yistur min il rab3a (God protect us from the fourth year)."

And Bill Moyers' call to drive out the money-changers.

24.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Election 2006 is the key Permalink to this item

John Dean elucidates what the motion for censure accomplished: it put Bush's lying on the record.

Feingold's preamble points out that Bush openly lied to Americans about his secret wiretapping, on repeated occasions: On April 20, 2004, Bush said, "When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."; on July 14, 2004, he claimed that "the government can't move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order"; and on June 9, 2005, he said, "Law enforcement officers need a federal judge's permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist's phone, a federal judge's permission to track his calls, or a federal judge's permission to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of these tools."

All this was untrue. Bush had authorized these very law enforcement officials to bypass federal judges, and proceed without warrants. Why he engaged in such bald-faced lies, in circumstances where it was not necessary, is unclear.

Death for Apostasy! Permalink to this item

That was the call from so-called "clerics" in Afghanistan at Friday "prayers." Holy books and holy men tell us God told them...

Let's acknowledge the fundamental absurdity of that construction, yes?

...that anyone who turns away from their beliefs should be killed.

(Really?! It seems so, from accounts on Dhimmi Watch, Religoustolerance.org, and Answering-islam.org.

The last of these says "the Quran does not come out and explicitly state that apostates should be murdered," but makes it clear enough that "Muslims living in the Mideast have no problem with the concept of putting apostates to death," even as "it is an embarrassing Islamic edict" for Muslims living in more pluralistic societies of the West.)

So much for letting clerics tell us what God thinks, feels, or demands of us, or for running any sort of goverment. This is criminal insanity, not religion.

23.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Is this a religion, or a gang? Permalink to this item

Not always easy to tell. Abdul Rahman's facing the exit penalty: death, for converting from Islam to Christianity. At least our radical Christians haven't come up with that concept. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the prosecution was "contrary to universal democratic values," which include freedom of religion. Ms. Rice said that the United States fought for those values in Afghanistan. And we helped them write a constitution that guarantees the freedom of religion, right? The judges may not be inclined toward such a liberal point of view.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said that the Koran supported religious freedom and that Islam wasn't compulsory. But the Afghan judge doesn't sound inclined to that liberal point of view, either.

Imperial strategy: all your base are belong to us Permalink to this item

A genuine Cold Warrior, Chalmers Johnson, author of Blowback, The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, talks about our military empire on TomDispatch.

The military budget is starting to bankrupt the country. It's got so much in it that's well beyond any rational military purpose. It equals just less than half of total global military spending. And yet here we are, stymied by two of the smallest, poorest countries on Earth. Iraq before we invaded had a GDP the size of the state of Louisiana and Afghanistan was certainly one of the poorest places on the planet. And yet these two places have stopped us....

This is not, of course, free enterprise. Four huge manufacturers with only one major customer. This is state socialism...

And then there are the parallels with National Socialism.

Campaign strategy: Dems crazy, weak (traitorous?) Permalink to this item

Ken Mehlman's job is drumming up contributions, and today's letter has some powerful motivation to send cash now. If the Democrats were to get control of Congress, you know what would be next, right? Impeachment! The Wall Street Journal told him so.

"With our nation at war, is this the kind of Congress you want? If your answer is a resounding 'NO', I need you to make an urgent contribution to help us win this fight."

It's not about whether or not the President is above the law, mind you, but whether you want "America to fight the War on Terror with every tool in our arsenal."

"The world is watching. Using every tool at our disposal to fight terrorists should not be a partisan issue. Democrats should to be focused on winning the War on Terror, not undermining it with political axe-grinding of the ugliest kind."

Can't you just see the Democrats lining up to join Ken's army in response to this high-minded approach?

22.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

But no, seriously. Permalink to this item

In an article about the continuing dissatisfaction of the EU Commissioners over Microsoft's response to losing the antitrust suit over there:

In its statement Wednesday, Microsoft said it will offer "free, unlimited tech support and access" to its Windows source code to "ensure that our competitors have all the assistance they need to make this program effective."

21.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Treatment for the head injury Permalink to this item

One of my tracks, after hiking up Bob's, above Lower Nugget, March 8th With a little misdirected enthusiasm, I managed to yank a forehand stroke a bit too tight on Sunday and hit myself in the head with my tennis racquet. I hate it when that happens, and more so when there's blood involved. While lying on the exam table waiting for the seamster, I was reminded of my times under a sheet at Columbia Hospital back when I was in single digits, wailing my fool head off in pain and fear at what was coming next. I guess the split lip was considerably worse than the rocks in my head from falling out the back seat of the car onto chipseal, but the events are a bit confounded in memory by now, hard to be certain.

Anyway, after the three stitches, I'll be good to go in a few days. The home treatment regimen for muscle and joint injuries seemed to work, too. You know, "RICE"?

REST – I rested more than half the time, while riding up on the chair lift;

ICE – especially effective with SIX INCHES OF FRESH POWDER on top of it;

COMPRESSION – my goggles were sitting on top of the cut, so I had good compression on it the whole time;

ELEVATION – seemed to really help to stay between 6,000 and 7,500 ft.

Muchos gracias to my buddy Chris for emailing the POWDER ALERT this morning. I might have been distracted and just spent the day working or something.

Spring! Permanent URL to this day's entry

Woo hoo! Permalink to this item

Two more years of The Simpsons! In a related story (can't you just hear Kent Brockman saying that?), while 22% of those polled could name all 5 members of the Simpsons family, only one in a thousand could name all 5 freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

This has to be what I was thinking about when I sent myself an email with the subject mnemonic! a couple weeks ago. The content of the message was just a URL, and by the time I got around to following up, whatever article I was pointing myself to had gone 404. I couldn't remember what I had tried to tell myself. :-/

So here goes: Homer won't shut up, giving a speech again, while Marge is trying to help Reverend Lovejoy keep religion in the family. Bart's got a printing press and is putting up annoying posters around town. Lisa is featured at the school assembly again, and she's helping Maggie write a petition for redress of as-yet unspoken grievances.

'zat help?

Targeted advertising Permalink to this item

I've been using my gmail account a bit more regularly, after getting motivated by a cableone.net outage that had some messages queued for hours and then days. (The outage was fixed, and the backlog eventually got caught up, thank you.) I set fortboise.org to send to both my "regular" account at cableone, and Gmail, and I haven't got around to unsetting it since. On the one hand, it makes for two copies of everything, so I have to disposition (or dispose) of twice as much stuff, and if you saw how many messages are stacked in my inbox (hey but only 240 are still marked "unread"), you'd know this isn't necessarily a Good Thing.

I like the little popup telling me new mail has come in, usually with enough sender and content information to know if it needs more attention. Sometimes distracting, often useful. I like having it available to my laptop, when I'm working away from the office. I might like the Search someday. The spam filter is pretty good, but it seems to be a bit on the aggressive side, especially of late. I had 50+ messages out of 300 at one point that were false positives. I trust it learned something by my corrections.

And the little ads... mostly I ignore them. But one caught my eye after cleaning out the spam bucket today: it was for "Ginger Spam Salad - Serves 1, refrigerate overnight."

Spat at the Statehouse Permalink to this item

Near Snoqualmie pass, on a clear and windy winter day I heard two different accounts of the dust-up between local activist Brandi Swindell and Speaker of the Idaho House Bruce Newcomb (starting with hers) before reading the Statesman's version. Let's see, who to believe... the Speaker, who's been doing the real work of Idaho politics for two decades, or Ms. Swindell, who's been handling publicity stunts for two years or so? Seniority doesn't imply trustworthiness, but my guess is the Speaker is the aggrieved party here and whatever twisted Brandi's knickers was well-deserved.

"In all of the 20 years I've been here, I've never had a more unprofessional visit than I just had with Brandi Swindell," said Newcomb, R-Burley. "If she was really interested in this, why wouldn't she just come and talk to me?" As opposed to... issuing a press release that she was going to have a news conference and then storm the Speaker's office with her cadre "to schedule a meeting," you mean?

Brandi's blog has three entries in rapid succession on March 17th, one pointing to the March 6th bill signing in South Dakota, the 2nd announcing the news conference she planned on the Capitol steps (after which "myself and a group of women will go directly to Speaker Newcomb's office to schedule a meeting") and the third, after she'd been "verbally abused." She said she's "contacting her attorneys and considering the possibility of litigation" now. How many attorneys do you suppose she has?

Too bad Newcomb doesn't have a blog.

Just to show you how well-connected I am, I can also point you to images of the protest Brandi mounted over the Vagina Monologues in Boise. (Connected via snow kiting, go figure.)

Boise's March 19th rally Permalink to this item

In retrospect, my time and day would have been much better spent had I gone to the Last Anniversary rally downtown yesterday afternoon. Julie's account, and pictures include a nice one of the Peace Potatoes. I'm proud to have former Idaho State Supreme Court Justice Bob Huntley as a friend, and I'm sorry I wasn't there to hear him speak.

It Hath Sprung Permalink to this item

While reading about the celebration of Nowruz in Iran, and thinking how eminently practical was the Zoroastrian calendar comprising 12 months of 30 days each, and 5 (make it 6 in a Leap Year!) days left over for celebration (we do have the same sort of thing with that no-work-gets-done week between Christmas and New Year's but it's always ragged and moving around the week. (30 day months would be moving around 7-day weeks too, but what are you going to do? We just made up the week and month, but 7½-day weeks aren't going to fly. The year is Real and imposes its cycle upon our abstractions whether we like it or not))...

Where was I? Oh yeah, while reading and thinking about all that, I got to "The holiday begins at the exact moment of spring..." and asked the Navy, when exactly is this Equinox?

Right now! Woo hoo!

19.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Third anniversary Permalink to this item

Three years after the might of the US military was unleashed on Iraq, we wonder what mission has been accomplished.

The NYT editorial board: "Given where we are now, the question of whether a botched invasion created a lost opportunity might be moot, except for one thing. The man who did the botching, Donald Rumsfeld, is still the secretary of defense."

Why is that, exactly?

Bush just can't think of anyone better? Retired Army Major General Paul Eaton gives this assessment of Rummy's job performance: "He has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq." Eaton has some direct experience, having been in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004. He describes a spreading cancer of groupthink, the demand for "fealty," and reprisal for anyone who dares to give informed opinions that conflict with the answers from the top.

Given the troika of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, another reason Don is still on the job is because everyone knows a three-legged stool will fall over if you remove one of the legs.

The latest Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Peter Pace, might be trying to stand up, but what's coming out is mixed messages. Are things going "very, very well," or is it "a place that is having some real difficulties right now" with "everything in place if they want to have a civil war"? Or all of the above?!

Former interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi: "If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is," with 50 or 60 people killed a day, on average. Dick Cheney thought the insurgency was in its last throes (how long ago was that?), and now presents the White House view that it—the insurgency—has reached "a stage of desperation."

Donald Rumsfeld blithely dismisses "daily headlines, blogs on Web sites or the latest sensational attack," and claims history will report the terrorists are losing. "Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis." (Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski thought he missed the mark on that historical comparison.)

Postwar Iraq. The war's over?

50% Raise Permalink to this item

That's how much the debt ceiling has gone up on GWB's watch. The Senate raised the roof and busted out of town. Spring Break! I'm a little curious about "approving a budget" this time of year, though. Is this for the fiscal year starting last October 1st, or next? If it's next, well, it's a long way from done, eh? I mean they never finish on time, so whatever they "finished" last week is more than half a year from really done.

18.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Idaho races set Permalink to this item

The smoke is still clearing after yesterday's filing deadline. A couple more of my friends are running for statewide office in Idaho. Being a Democrat, I'm still waiting for one of them to win, but there's always a first time, eh? Jackie Groves Twilegar is well qualified for her bid to be State Controller, and Bob Wallace is ready to challenge Lawrence Wasden for Attorney General.

It's going to be an interesting season... Jim Risch is over the moon about (almost certainly) becoming Governor with Kempthorne off to D.C., but says he won't actually run for Guv; he wants to be re-elected Lieutenant Governor instead. Former Congressman and now lobbyist Larry LaRocco wants to run against Risch, which might make for a lively race for the #2 spot.

Popkey's column about Risch makes him seem much more likeable; maybe I was wrong about the guy? Might as well keep an open mind for now.

16.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The rumors finally came true Permalink to this item

Our soon to be temporary governor, Jim Risch Ex-Boise mayor, ex-Senator, and soon to be ex-Governor Dirk Kempthorne named to be Secretary of Interior. I'm not wild about that, but I'm OK with it, I guess. Should be good for Idaho's parochial interests at least, right?

Tip of the hat to an unnamed correspondent breaking the news to me. He added: "Talk about climbing ON to a sinking ship!"

If Kempthorne leaves before he's done with his current job, it would mean... Jim Risch ascends to our governorship. I'm not OK with that. The people of this state won't be able to get Butch Otter elected quickly enough to move Risch back down the hall.

Here's an idea for lobbying reform Permalink to this item

Given the lead the Republicans have in every other category, the best avenue for correcting what led to the incessant parade of scandals is of course cracking down on those damn 527s that are helping more Democrats than Republicans. Dress it up with a ton of obfuscation, amendments and what-not, and run it through a conference committee if you need to.

Where's the surveillance when you need it? Permalink to this item

Now it's a cow in Alabama, and the response is... to scale back the monitoring plan? We have been testing about 5% of the animals going into the food supply, and the USDA figures about a tenth as many is sufficient. Steve Mitchell considers what that mad cow means on Monsters and Critics.

$9 trillion, no big deal Permalink to this item

Capitol Hill, or Kickback Mountain? Everyone knew it would happen, but they did their best to keep it quiet. The debt ceiling will go to $8,981,000,000,000 if the President signs it (of course he will). The House found the fight over that ceiling (led by the Republican Revolution, no less) so traumatic that they made their consent to increased debt automagic. (That works, as long as the Senate doesn't throw in any amendments.)

Of course that number is higher than ever. But measured as a percent of GDP, it's also the highest it has been in 50 years.

Ides.March.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Boise voters say yes to school bond Permalink to this item

By more than 2-to-1. Which is what was required, after all: a 2/3rds majority. 19,233 for, 8,063 opposed, and what, 30 or 50,000 who couldn't be bothered to express a preference?

Oh fine Permalink to this item

The father of the cubicle died thinking he'd made a terrible mistake, enabling "monolithic insanity." Same thing happened with International Style, but not everyone has read the memo yet.

The Real You Permalink to this item

The 19- and 20-somethings who think their online presence is "just for fun," and shouldn't be a factor in employment decisions are charming in this article by Kris Thoma in The Pensacola News Journal.

"It's not a true reflection of yourself," said Briana Polar, 19. "MySpace and Facebook aren't places where you're trying to be professional. For (employers) to judge me from what I have on there isn't right. It has nothing to do with my work ability."

You say, Briana, but hey, what do you know about your work ability?

"You're not thinking about being professional," says one 22-year-old. Exactly.

14.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

No sense of humor? Permalink to this item

Isaac Hayes was OK with making fun of every one else's religion, but a bolt out of the blue hit him when it was time for his pet Scientology to take a punch.

"There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry toward religious beliefs... begins," the Times Online attributes to him.

Holy cow, the problem is too many people taking themselves too seriously. Get a grip.

"We will not lose our nerve" Permalink to this item

Yesterday's light snow in the morning One of the many taglines coming to you in the new push to market the war in Iraq as an essential component of the War on Terror®, the "we are at war" defense for authoritarianism that's running so popular in D.C. That bold vision thing, so much more exciting to rally behind than the quiet observation that discretion is the better part of valor.

We are being led by boldness, and nerve, and very little discretion, and almost no introspection or reflection on error.

"There will be more tough fighting and more days of struggle, and we will see more images of chaos and carnage in the days and months to come," Mr. Bush tells us, more truthfully than so many of his statements about Iraq have been. He needn't belabor the obvious, with every day's headlines beggaring the imagination for how much worse the war can become. 87 bodies found today, scattered through Baghdad, reprisal killings for Sunday's attack on Shiite civilians.

The very idea of a "government of national unity" seems anathema to the proponents of God's veangance, carried out by local means, such as "aggressive teenagers with shiny soccer jerseys and machine guns" ruling the streets.

Quantum Mysticism Permalink to this item

There's a new film out in the "universe is woo-woo-woo" genre, and you can join Walter Cronkite and Desmond Tutu in the audience if you make your way to the Quest for Global Healing Conference in May. Registration with air and hotel starting at $3190.

Dennis Overbye says (spoiler alert!) it's all a load of feel-good hooie. He just doesn't believe hard enough, eh? And so he's missing out on feeling good.

Voting day, again Permalink to this item

Time to see if two-thirds of Boiseans will support a school bond that will continue their taxation at the current rate. It's "only" $94 million, an annual cost of less than most people around here spend on fast food in a week. Given how strong the "just say no to everything having to do with government (unless it's a handout)" crowd is in these parts, it's far from assured of passing.

It's not quite all "Boiseans," though—Boise School Districtians. Polls are open 8am to 8pm, at most schools in the area. You can register today if you need to.

12.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

From the "Mixed Messages" file Permalink to this item

Excerpt of Sprint's ad, for my review and commentary I thought of this collection the first time I saw a "Budweiser Select" commercial. Budweiser's beer seems thin and uninteresting to me, so hearing that they now have a quality product, made me think of how they might market all the non-select gallons they turn out. Budweiser Cull?

Maybe that's too subtle. But in a full page, back cover magazine ad, Sprint set a new standard: "Get ready to have more choice," they say, with a picture looking down on an old-fashioned lavatory, with old-fashioned individual faucets. Instead of just plain old HOT and COLD, you can now also choose TEPID and CHILLY. Perhaps your reception from customer service will be chilly, and the network performance tepid?

I've seen some new-fangled fixtures where the hot and cold faucets direct water to a single-spigot, giving infinite choice; maybe Sprint needs to move their marketing folks out of that old building...

The revolution will not be televised Permalink to this item

because it was only make-believe. All that bold talk about standing up to the President on the ports deal drowned out that fact that the Senate Intelligence Committee decided that investigating—just investigating, mind you—the "we don't need to obey the law because we're above it" spying program was a bridge too far. We're to have a seven member subcommittee instead, a majority of Republicans no doubt poised to prevent anything untoward from happening. Pat Roberts' leadership role was to get the committee to "reject confrontation in favor of accommodation," and Mission Accomplished on that.

Majority leader Frist sees it as "leading us with a bold vision." (Indeed, Bush had the old vision to usurp power that the Congress did not intend to give up; faced with the fait accompli, Congress would like to... pass a law making it legal?!) Minority firebrand Russ Feingold has a slightly different assessment. Bush is "consciously and intentionally violating the Constitution and laws of this country" and should be censured.

Who's Making the Rules? Permalink to this item

Some people's objection to atheism is that if God doesn't exist, then everything is permitted. But given what's been done in the name of God, who needs atheism to start a fight?

Slavoj Zizek considers the Defenders of the Faith and reminds us of David Hume's moral improvement on the parlor trick of Pascal's wager: "the only way to show true respect for God is to act morally while ignoring God's existence." To Zizek, atheism is "modern Europe's most precious legacy."

Honest critical analysis is more respectful, he says, than simply placing respect for other's beliefs as our highest value.

11.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Only 4,000 or so scores were wrong Permalink to this item

The test report from Pearson Educational Measurement is that "excessive moisture caused the answer sheets to expand before they were scanned." They did not say whether or not the moisture was from their dog peeing on them.

The most dangerous weapon Permalink to this item

is an idea, inspired by truth. Wafa Sultan shared hers on Al Jazeera last month and now there are the condemnations and death threats.

"The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions or a clash of civilizations.... It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality."

"I believe our people are hostages to our own beliefs and teachings."

"Knowledge has released me from this backward thinking. Somebody has to help free the Muslim people from these wrong beliefs."

The epiphany that got Sultan started on this path was not subtle. At the Syrian university where she was a medical student, gunmen of the Muslim Brotherhood killed her professor as she watched.

"They shot hundreds of bullets into him, shouting, 'God is great!' At that point, I lost my trust in their god and began to question all our teachings. It was the turning point of my life, and it has led me to this present point. I had to leave. I had to look for another god."

It's business as usual Permalink to this item

The European Commission is complaining that Microsoft isn't sufficiently contrite in responding to the 2004 antitrust ruling it lost, the Commission's monitor calling the company's responses "incomplete, inaccurate and unusable." You have to wonder if the members actually use Microsoft software. What did they expect?!

The monitor's statement that "nothing substantial was added to the technical documentation" seems like pretty old news too, doesn't it?

Taeus Europe, a unit of an intellectual property analysis firm based in Colorado Springs, was hired to help Mr. Barrett and was equally harsh in its assessment. Taeus described Microsoft's attempt to comply as "entirely inadequate," "devoted to obsolete functionality" and "self-contradictory."

Uh huh.

For its part, Microsoft insists that its documentation "meets and surpasses the requirements of the commission's 2004 decision." Just press [F1] if you guys need help, wouldja? I'm sure it'll all be explained there.

10.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Falling into dictatorship Permalink to this item

Nina Totenberg, quoting from Sandra Day O'Connor's speech at Georgetown University:

"We must be ever vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings."

The Idaho Legislature did its small part toward intimidating the judicial branch (a.k.a. "reining in activist judges®") with Senate Joint Memorial No. 119, introduced last week by no less than our Rabid Right Bryan Fischer. They pray that the US Congress adopt S520 and HR1070, "relating to limiting the jurisdiction of the federal courts relating to matters involving the acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty or government." Specifically, they want endorsement to

(1) Display the Ten Commandments in public buildings and places in our states;

(2) Express their faith in public;

(3) Retain God in the Pledge of Allegiance;

(4) Retain "In God We Trust" as our national motto; and

(5) Utilize Article 3, 2.2 of the U.S. Constitution to except these areas from the jurisdiction of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sounds jolly enough, but the punch line (unreferred to by your "Memorialists") is in Title III of both bills, Enforcement: "To the extent that a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States or any judge of any Federal court engages in any activity that exceeds the jurisdiction of the court of that justice or judge, as the case may be, by reason of section 1260 or 1370 of title 28, United States Code, as added by this Act, engaging in that activity shall be deemed to constitute the commission of-- an offense for which the judge may be removed upon impeachment and conviction...

You pick a fight with our God, we're going to impeach your ass.

Run, don't walk away from these people Permalink to this item

I have a client whose domain was registered through MelbourneIT. Renewal time came, and because the Australian company likes $35 (US!) for what plenty of fine providers deliver for a third the price, I recommended changing registrars. Long story short, it didn't get done in time, the domain expired and we had to pay their exorbitant rate to get it back online, and then make a note to re-initiate the transfer.

It wasn't MelbourneIT's fault it expired before transfer (or renewal), of course. But then what happened? After their customer chipped in the $35, nothing. For hours. Then a whole day. C'mon, this isn't rocket science, what's going on? Can't ask very easily, they have a mailing address stateside, with only their email for "contact us." Unless you want to place a call to Australia.

I wrote at t +26 hours to complain, and to ask "What is your standard for minimum customer service?"

The domain did come back live by 2 or 3 days after payment, and I forgot about my inquiry. Their reply arrived just now, a WEEK after the renewal order. They say the domain

was renewed at which point it was automatically re-delegated. Full world wide propagation of the delegation details will now take 24-48 hours.

Your domain name should be active after that 24-48 hour period and should you contine to have difficulty accessing your email/web services after that time, please contact your web host / internet service provider directly.

Written in present tense mind you, with "kind regards" over a sig line "Trusted for Online Success."

9.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

We had this coming Permalink to this item

Looking out from Mary's woods on the Pine Cr. side of Bogus The Chinese response to criticism from the US State Department on their human rights record:

"As in previous years, the State Department pointed the finger at human rights situations in more than 190 countries and regions, including China, but kept silent on the serious violations of human rights in the United States."

We never did have a firm claim on the moral high ground for as much as we liked to think so, but recent events have amounted to mountaintop removal in that realm.

Leadership matters. The failure of our leadership is going to have grave human rights consequences for a long time to come.

7.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A different sort of Unitarian Universalism Permalink to this item

It's 3/4ths of the way down Susan Dominus' article in the NYT Magazine Real Estate Issue, Club Med for the Multimillionaire Set that we get to the mastermind's religion.

"There's one member in my religion," self-made billionaire Tim Blixseth says.

"Based on what I went through as a kid, I don't belong to an organized religion. I'm spiritual, but I don't belong to a group." Blixseth was reared by his parents as part of what he now considers a cult, a small local group in Oregon called the Jesus Name Oneness. According to the church's tenets, he couldn't play sports, go to movies or listen to music, and the family attended church three times a week. "I thought it was absolutely a farce," Blixseth told me. "They believed they were the only 67 people on the whole planet Earth that were going to be able to go to heaven. It wasn't right. It didn't make sense. To think that 67 people out of how many at the time—three billion?—were the only ones who'd get to go to heaven: it was ridiculous."

There's way more than 67 people in the world who might be interested in joining Blixseth's Yellowstone Club World for the $3.5 million to $10 million membership fee. But somehow, even with an ante low enough for some hundreds or a few thousands to enjoy the lifestyle he's selling, it sounds a lot like what Jesus Name Oneness had on offer, without the bleakness of the cult trappings.

Standing up against torture Permalink to this item

Ray McGovern put in 27 years at the CIA, and collected the Intelligence Commendation Award medallion along the way. Now he's turned it back in, saying "I do not wish to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture."

When my grandchildren ask, "What did you do, Grandpa, to stop the torture," I want to be able to tell them that I tried to honor my oath, taken both as an Army officer and an intelligence officer, to defend the Constitution of the United States - and that I not only spoke out strongly against the torture, but also sought a symbolic way to dissociate myself from it.

Fred Branfman looks at the issue from a more philosophical than personal point of view, and ends up with a stark description:

Every generation or so an evil arises which is so monstrous, so degrading to the human spirit, so morally bankrupt that even to debate it is a sign of moral corruption. Native American genocide, slavery, totalitarianism, and Jim Crow laws are evils so unspeakable that we cannot understand today how anyone with a shred of decency could have once supported them. Today, torture, a practice far more degrading to us than to our victims, represents such an evil.

At a minimum, it's hard to imagine a way to reconcile the professed philosophy of "compassionate conservatism" (to say nothing of Christianity) with the things that have been done in our name under the Bush Administration. The driving forces behind the actions—Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales and others— are not even men enough to own up to what they have done, and what they are doing. Good gracious, stuff happens, we're told, and we're doing it all for your security. Trust us.

How can we trust us when you are hiding, lying, torturing? And why should we?

The Big Buy Permalink to this item

Here's something for the house party/DVD movie list: The Big Buy: How Tom DeLay Stole Congress. A documentary of DeLay's successful redistricting of Texas and manufacture of a 10-seat shift in the US Congress, providing the means to enact the corporate-friendly agenda the Bush administration has so dilligently promoted.

Coming to a blog near you: Wal-Mart tools Permalink to this item

This is choice: Wal-Mart P.R. guy feeding sympathetic bloggers "the occasional update with some newsworthy info about the company and an occasional nugget that you won't hear about in the MSM." I'm ambivalent about the retailing behemoth, not sure how to weigh the benefit of cheap goods at retail with the apparent exploitation of employees that enables it. Is it good to have a job at Wal-Mart? I wouldn't want one, but more than a million and a half people are employed by them worldwide. Is it good to shop at Wal-Mart? I don't care to, but millions of people swear by it.

Is it good to be a tool for Wal-Mart on your blog? No, I wouldn't think so. The only things that make putting a blog up for others to see are that it's interesting and that it's an expression of some sort of integrity or at least entertainment. Corporate shill is a flop on every count, and it's another blot on the company for trying to use people like that for the marketing.

6.3.6 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It couldn't be more clear Permalink to this item

Zogby poll: 58% of those serving in Iraq "say the U.S. mission in Iraq is clear in their minds, while 42% said it is either somewhat or very unclear to them, that they have no understanding of it at all, or are unsure." 85% of those polled believe the U.S. mission is mainly "to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9-11 attacks."

Oh

my

God.

Bedrock for Brains Permalink to this item

Bryan Fischer's latest enthusiasms include a moribund bill attacking the judiciary that Idaho's Legislature may soon pass a Memorial supporting (and that our Congressman Otter and Senator Craig have signed on to as co-sponsors), and of course the exciting campaign against gay marriage. He's all gushy about Emmett attorney H. Ronald Bjorkman's Reader's Opinion in today's Idaho Sportsman, "Healthy, stable marriages rely on gender differences, roles."

"More thought should be given as to why traditional marriages and families have been the bedrock of our society and whether it is wise to break up this foundation," Bjorkman writes. I know, it sounds like he'd be in favor of expanding our foundation bedrock rather than limiting it. If we allow gay marriage, some of those heterosexual couples will decide not to go for the mixed kind? Bjorkman "believe(s) the evidence will show that children in traditional families are at less risk for the ill effects of poverty, lack of education and criminal behavior."

He doesn't have any evidence, understand, he just believes it will support him, some day.

I don't suppose Bjorkman and Fischer care much that their narrow-minded view is deeply insulting to those of us who happen to be in relationships for which "procreation and rearing of (our own biological) children" is not on the to-do list. I've helped raise three step-children, my three "no relation" grand-children love me just as if I were "real," and Jeanette and I have thrown in finishing a niece for good measure.

But what does that have to do with our relationship, and our marriage? It's none of Ron Bjorkman's or Bryan Fischer's goddamned business, that's what. Shall we have the Legislature specify just what "gender roles" are traditional enough for Idaho, and which are unacceptable?

With so much need for more love in this world, how can we be spending our time and energy on such a mean-spirited issue? It's not about the "perpetuation of the human race" for god's sake, we won that part of the race against death some centuries ago.

Dilbert Does Philosophy Permalink to this item

Scott Adams weighs in on whether or not he's a Libertarian. (Pay no attention to the humorless follow-ons that flogged motorcycle helmets for a week.)

"(W)hen it comes to social questions, those are usually simple. I take sides with whatever viewpoint is good for me personally. For example, I favor legalizing anything this is relatively victimless, especially if the alternative involves paying to keep strangers in jail while they learn how to better steal my identity when they get out...."

4.Mar.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

What does Idaho have to do with the V.I.? Permalink to this item

Answer: our Senator Mike Crapo (he likes it CRAY-poe, in case you were wondering) sits on the Senate Finance Committee and he's being asked to lighten up the residency requirements for tax dodgers who like the sound of a 3.5% federal income tax rate. It used to be you just had to "commit $100,000 of capital, employ 10 local residents, buy goods and services from local suppliers and promise to make charitable donations" to tap the deal, but that whacky IRS went ahead and changed the mushy "facts and circumstances" test to a bright line 183 days in the Virgin Islands if you want the tax break.

That is, you actually have to live there half the year.

The Islands' delegate to Congress, Donna Christensen, has in mind, oh, say 122 days over three years. 6 weeks a year is really nice, but after that, I guess life gets boring in paradise.

Our no-doubt well-coached Senator noted the program rules "had been changed without legislative hearings and without consulting the Virgin Islands government," and "may have gone too far."

"These changes are also disrupting legitimate businesses and causing fiscal hardship," he wrote in a letter to the head of the energy committee (huh?), Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM).

Lions and lambs March Permalink to this item

First flush of yellow crocus, 2006 Back in Wisconsin, the old saying was that if March comes in like a lamb, it'll go out like a lion. The general idea was that if the weather is nice, don't get used to it: there's still some winter left. And indeed, I remember a good April blizzard, dropping 6 or 10 inches most every year. Eventually, the "rule" got to be treated bidirectionally: in like a lion? Out like a lamb. And vice versa.

The vagaries of month-old memory and informal classification always provided some sort of contrasting nasty/nice weather between the end of winter and the beginning of spring, of course, so the rule was never disproved.

Is it generally applicable? As long as it stays loose enough. So every March 1st, wherever I am, I ask myself, is the weather leonine today? Or lambykins? This Wednesday had a little of both. It didn't storm and was above freezing with some sunshine... but then it got windy and not so pleasant. And then some rain (and snow in the mountains, woo-hoo!) in this first half-week of the month. Maybe it was lionish.

But the crocuses are up...

Break-even Permalink to this item

The storm went north of us Thursday night and Brundage's Powder Alert slipped into the spam bucket. It was mid-day Friday before I stumbled upon it and found out they got 12 inches overnight. I wasn't there. It was painful to see the snippet on the news last night, but it was raining pretty good down here, 39°F promising some local snow. Sure enough, low 20s and 3 to 4", enough to give Bogus another try.

For the first runs, just after 9am, the fog was doing a freezing mist sort of thing, adding a goggle ice layer to the visibility challenge. But the snow was cold enough, and dry enough, and (just) deep enough to keep us away from that icy underlayer. Not very crowded in spite of being a weekend, either. (I suppose the serious powder pigs went north to whiter pastures?) By the time I'd tired myself out, I made one last run down the front side, and like the rest of the day, it exceeded my expectations. I dropped off the foggy ridge cat track a bit before the plan as I lost speed, but a new-to-me route through the trees was nearly untracked, fluffy enough for a couple of over-the-head powder showers on the way down, and somehow I managed to avoid any bushwhacking whatsoever. Nice. No need to tempt fate and try another run after that.

That's outing #7 on my $199 Bogus pass, we'll call it close enough to break even, and probably incentive enough to buy another. I didn't do the President's Day weekend sale, so I have until the end of March to go for $229.

Back at the ranch... late arriving email in the inbox, "Powder Alert - The Sequel." Brundage got ANOTHER 11" Friday night. Wow. "Another big storm is churning off the coast so we may see even more fresh snow this week!" Sweet.

raveling

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Thursday, 06-Apr-2006 16:36:18 MDT
http://www.fortboise.org/blog/200603.html