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unraveling

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

The next best thing to being there Permalink to this item

FOAF referral to this site turned up A Few of My Favorite Pictures of Idaho summits. The author's keeping track of the peaks he's been up, with an impressive list of 234.

Killing the Estate Tax Permalink to this item

How brilliant has this marketing been, to combine the two bleak certainties of modern life into a single bogeyman that we can all hate: the "Death Tax." The broad base that's indifferent or persuadable to be in favor of eliminating the estate tax is not just ill-informed, but working directly against its own self-interest. What government funding doesn't come from large estates must come from everything else, whether through direct taxation or the long-term effects of deficit spending.

If the familiesí repeal bid succeeds, it will cost the U.S. Treasury a trillion dollars in the first decade—roughly what it would cost to provide health insurance for every uninsured person in the United States.

It isn't a surprise that those who stand to gain the most—heirs apparent to large fortunes—would be most actively involved in the campaign, but Public Citizen's study showing that 18 families in particular have made a 10-year effort to collect a windfall of $71.6 billion is stark.

Public Citizen countered the families' desire to stay behind the curtain while manipulating "a massive public relations campaign" (a.k.a. "one of the biggest con jobs in recent history"):

These families have sought to keep their activities anonymous by using associations to represent them and by forming a massive coalition of business and trade associations dedicated to pushing for estate tax repeal. The report details the groups they have hidden behind—the trade associations they have used, the lobbyists they have hired, and the anti-estate tax political action committees, 527s and organizations to which they have donated heavily.

Apart from the voyeuristic profiles of the über-rich in Appendix A, and the dispensation of the myths in Appendix B, the table of contents entries for Appendix C, "Reasons to Preserve the Estate Tax," make what should be an obvious case in favor of retaining it:

Apple's Windows Strategy Permalink to this item

Robert X. has been running an interesting argument on I, Cringely in the past weeks, about a coming war between Apple and Microsoft. His quotable quotes include: "Without Office, Microsoft is just a company with an archaic and insecure OS."

The most recent quarterly statement I heard had the revenue about 50-50 split between Office and Windows, so the claim that "Office is how Microsoft makes most of its revenue" (and "the bludgeon" they use "to keep other software vendors in line") is possibly suspect, but it makes an interesting read all the same.

29.Apr.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Ma ma ma myyyy gee oh pee Permalink to this item

Special Republican edition iPod Video.  I am not making this up. What's this? The Grand Old Party drawing a bead for a gut shot on our President?! No, no, that's the "special Republican edition iPod Video" you stand to win if you host one of the five most productive MyGOP house parties in the nation on May 22nd.

After you do that, you can set up your personalized MyGOP website, "built around you - with your personal message, your photos, links to your friends online, and the ability to set your personalized grassroots goals," which don't tell me, are all about raising money, right?

The less-wired GOP generation might be feeling closer to the person Jeanette talked to today. She said she'd been a Republican "for a long time," and clearly had more to say about how she felt. "I don't know what's happened to my party. I don't know who the Republicans are any more.... and I'd like to kick George Bush's butt out." Nice, little, old, Republican lady.

28.Apr.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

With God on Our Side Permalink to this item

We design weapons tests with names like Divine Strake (14.5MB PDF) and light them off in our "waste" lands. They're using conventional explosives, they tell us. This time. Given the site just north of Las Vegas, "ideal conditions" are winds blowing northeast, or northwest... toward northern Nevada, Utah, Idaho. They looked at the soil, and also tell us not to worry about leftover radionuclides from previous nuclear tests. The dirt's all clean.

Even though the objective assessments seek to assure us that all will be well with the test, there is a deeper issue, as described in the "Purpose and Need" section of the Environmental Assessment: our defense planning is shifting from a "threat-based" to a "capability-based" model. In other words, never mind who or what threatens us, what do we need to be able to do?

...the capability to be able to hold all potential adversarial targets at risk...

"(T)he President of the United States directed the Secretary of Defense in May 2002 to develop the capbility to be able to hold all potential adversarial targets at risk, as an integral part of the nation's policy of deterrence."

There is some concern that our nuclear arsenal—sufficient in total to annhilate human life (at least) on earth may not suffice for particular targets, those "hardened and deeply buried targets (HDBTs)" such as the one that Osama bin Laden is imagined to be bunkered into. "The U.S. military must have the ability to defeat HDBTs."

I didn't see "Are you all insane?" on the list of frequently asked questions. We'll just have to wait and see.

Is this a prelude to the use of nuclear bunker-busters? Is this a necessary test to avoid having to use nuclear weapons in such a "tactical" manner? (It's "only" 700 tons of ammonium nitrate and No. 2 fuel oil.)

It's pointless to debate details if we don't debate the underlying assumptions and goals.

Open Throttle Permalink to this item

Throttle-up coming out of Lucky Peak Reservoir, at Discovery Park

In the olden days, the drain out of Lucky Peak Reservoir was entirely through two big pipes that were above the lower river level, and shot the flow in a big arc to aerate the cold water out of the bottom of the lake. Then they built a power plant, and didn't want to waste the power. Not sure how they kept the de-aerated water from killing the fish downstream... maybe the aeration wasn't so important after all? It made a striking display though, and with close to 9,000 cfs coming out at the moment, the flume spigot is part-way open once again.

I was up that way to visit Barclay Bay, and attend the organizing meeting of the Boise Sailors Association, intended to keep the Corps from ignoring us early-morning, unmotorized recreators. We're not asking for much, just non-interference with the launch we've used for 20+ years.

Living With War Permalink to this item

"There's no Mission Accomplished here, it's just death to thousands..."

New Neil Young, online, free. The bad news is, it was inspired by another stinkin' war.

Won't need no Purple Haze
Won't need no Sunshine
After the garden is gone
After the garden is gone....

From Jon Pareles' Critics Notebook in the NYT:

Mr. Young insists the album is nonpartisan. "If you impeach Bush, you're doing a huge favor for the Republicans," he argued, speaking by telephone from California. "They can run again with some pride."

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

Looking for sympathy Permalink to this item

The axiliary buds in a stalk of catnip, up close and personal Maybe the jury in Houston will warm up to his wailing, but I'm finding it hard to imagine the average person in one of those box seats crying over Ken Lay's desperate attempts to keep up payments on his $4 million condo to avoid being "left without a place to live." This was after he'd liquidated the "three homes in Aspen, Colo., and three others in Galveston, Tex."

He thought he and his wife had "achieved the American dream," but then it turned out to be an hallucination. I remember the two cars and chicken in the pot, but 6 homes and a condo? God help us if that's the American dream.

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

The Magical Mystery Tour we're on now Permalink to this item

The title—I'm the Decider— doesn't grab you, but the new lyric for I Am the Walrus is right on the money.

I am the egg head
I'm the Commander
I'm the Decider
Koo-Koo-Kachoo

"I hear the voices, and I read the front page [AT LEAST THE PART IN THE REALLY BIG PRINT], and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."

Just like Brownie, Rummie is doing a heckuva job.

Unglaze those eyes for this EULA Permalink to this item

That's "End User License Agreement" if you don't recognize the abbreviation. Microsoft's anti-piracy ("pro-profit") efforts have produced this charming burst of creativity: and Automatic Update that will helpfully let you know if your copy of WinXP is not genuine®. If you decided you didn't really want to hear about that... tough. The update can't be uninstalled, they say.

You can turn down the initial installation; it's "opt-in." But if you don't read all that mind-numbing fine print in the license agreement and "Decline" at the right moment, you've opted in for good.

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

A professional assessment Permalink to this item

CIA veteran Ray McGovern makes his own guesses about Mary McCarthy's choice: "...it seems clear to me she realized that she was confronted by an unwelcome choice between her oath to defend the Constitution of the United States and the secrecy agreement."

Clean up your act Permalink to this item

Briggs & Stratton has the home-turf advantage, coming from my native state of Wisconsin, and the nostalgia factor: 4 h.p. of B&S iron provided the gateway to my short-lived motorcycling adventure, thanks to the scooter my older brother built (and briefly brought to street-legal condition) and handed down to me.

Times have changed. We're spitting distance from Peak Oil (and not sure which way to spit), there are too many poeple driving too many cars, and lawnmowers, charming as they may be, are stinking contributors to smog. (Full disclosure: ours is in the bottom quartile, I'm sure; but hey–it was used when we got it, 23 years ago.)

Catalytic convertors for lawn mowers sounds like a good idea. It's time for the "dominant engine maker" to stop obstructing progress, or lose their dominance if they won't.

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

It's not just a job, it's an adventure Permalink to this item

U.S.M.C.
Sniper

The car ahead of me had a statement of the owner's occupation, in the form of a red and yellow bumper sticker. It seemed like an odd thing to advertise, but perhaps the recent TV ad was inspiration for being more forthright about a job that demands the ultimate in homocidal patience. As I pulled alongside at a stoplight, I snuck a sidelong glance at the driver. He looked the part, with a floppy brimmed camo hat, emotionless and patient straight-ahead stare. Chilly.

Permission to speak freely Permalink to this item

Thanks to our Free Press, we can get a glimpse into the thinking of the non-retired and junior officers in the military. They're not happy with Condeleeza Rice's lame attempt to admit that mistakes were made, but somehow dismissing those mistakes as "tactical." One officer's response: "We have not lost a single tactical engagement on the ground in Iraq. The mistakes have all been at the strategic and political levels."

Another Faith-based Policy Permalink to this item

Based on the best-available facts, the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine found marijuana to be "moderately well suited for particular conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting."

Based on the most-favored political attitudes, the Food and Drug Administration continues to reject the idea that people might benefit from any use of this natural substance, rejecting the scientists' 1999 conclusions.

Still waiting for the shakeup Permalink to this item

Andy Card had the Chief of Staff job longer than one would think humanly possible. Scott McLellan's Labor of Lies was truly Herculean, and we wish him well enjoying more time with his family. And Harriet Miers might be on the way out. Bush needs a stronger Counsel in the months to come, I can understand that.

But what we so sorely need—a replacement Secretary of Defense—and have needed since the Abu Ghraib scandal made it obvious almost two years ago, is apparently not forthcoming.

There are too many mistakes that would have to be admitted to dismiss Rumsfeld. It remains to be seen how many of the Generals who won't speak out because they want to keep their jobs are willing to find other ways to act on principle.

This is illegal too, but just a little White law Permalink to this item

Daniel Schorr made a good point in the Week in Review with Scott Simon this morning: if Karl Rove is going to focus on political hackery to win 2006 Congressional elections ("Deputy Chief of Staff for Impeachment Protection"), why exactly should we be paying his White House salary?

We never got an answer to why he should remain on staff after his Best Supporting Actor role in the exposing of an undercover CIA agent though, so just as with the 2000 and 2004 elections, assume it'll be winner take all.

Leak scorecard confusion Permalink to this item

It didn't take nearly as long for action to be taken in this CIA leak case as for the wait-until-after-the-election Scooter trial, or the wait-until-hell-freezes-over Rove roast: Mary McCarthy dismissed for helping the American public learn about its network of secret prisons around the world.

Keeping secrets is a condition of employment in the Agency, I understand, so this can't be a shock. But still... I think a nomination for the Medal of Freedom for Ms. McCarthy would be in order. Certainly more in order than it was for George "Slam Dunk" Tenent, who was lauded for keeping the truth so well-concealed.

And what of our own Gulag Archipelago? Sorry, can't talk about that. Classified. War on Terror. Commander-in-Chief.

Porter "Tight Ship" Goss' hope is that "we will witness a grand jury investigation with reporters present being asked to reveal who is leaking this information." The royal "we" perhaps? Since grand juries normally work out of public view....

Cool reception from leader of the Free World Permalink to this item

Ahnold can't be too cozy with the head of a repressive regime come to visit; he's thinking about his bid for re-election. They did appear together at Cisco Systems though, the corporation so important for the technology that provides gateways for spying and throttles for censorship.

What would it take? Permalink to this item

Idaho (and Nebraska, Utah, and Wyoming) is a long way from anywhere, so it's not a huge surprise that we still have a higher percentage that approves of the job George W. Bush is doing as President than disapproves in SurveyUSA's poll numbers this month. But what would it take for Idahoans to lose faith in the man who has made America the most hated nation in the world?

Among those who attent church regularly, Idahoans are 68 to 29% gung ho on Bush's job performance. Faith is stronger than facts..

Oklahoma is on the verge: 48-all.

The other 26 of the 31 states that went "red" in the '04 election are now under the weather, with higher percentages on the "disapprove" side.

On the flip side, Ohio, Nevada and Iowa lead the "buyer's remorse" group, all with close to 2:1 disapproval.

Fascinating site. Thanks, Lee.

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

Hu's On First? Permalink to this item

"Your time is over. Evil people will die early. President Bush, stop him persecuting Falun Gong." – Wenyi Wang In the video bite I saw, I was so distracted by George Bush's inability to speak a simple English sentence without garbling it that the irony of a protestor being hustled off the scene by security guards, juxtaposed with Bush wagging his rhetorical finger at the Chinese leader, about "respecting human rights and freedoms of the Chinese people" escaped me.

Yes, let's do respect human rights and freedoms, but not just in China.

Of course, hardly anyone in China will know about the incident. So much tidier that way.

New TLD proposed Permalink to this item

Well, imagined, anyway. I mistyped an email and got a bounce from yadayadayada.urg; I meant to type ".org"... but don't you think that's just what we need for the Top Level Domain we need for gambling and pornography sites? Pronounced "urge," of course.

Viral marketing Permalink to this item

The best disease doesn't kill the host, lest it work its way out of house and home. This thought came to me as I turned off NPR yet again, not interested in populating my drive-time with interminable Pledge Week pleadings. Commercial advertising gives us the unpleasantness in small, non-fatal doses, slowly building up a tolerance in the host for more and more messages. It stops well short of 50% outright, but they're working at "product placement" to go along with the ever-present floating logos for more complete "coverage" as they say. (Like what you do with manure for fertilizer.)

I think public TV and radio need to figure out a more clever strategy for wresting out the subscriber pittance. Holding quality product ransom until the rubes pay up does not seem like it could be the most effective approach.

How's My Stinky Bread Truck? Permalink to this item

I drove to work today, something I hardly ever do these days, mostly working at home. And while visiting the red lights that pop up like springtime tulips in Boise, I had my windows and vents closed tight to keep the clouds of diesel from a Wonder / Hostess truck from getting near me. Oregon plates, and no 1-800-STINKY EH? bumper sticker to facilitate my registering a complaint.

Just visiting, bringing you some black soot and white bread. I think they were headed for the County Jail to drop their load. Figures.

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

Make bikes, not bombs Permalink to this item

Cool project, and cool video of what it's doing: bringing cast-off bikes to the people of Ghana. (The means to embed their snippet on this site is nice, too.)

Village Bicycle Project came about in response to a critical lack of basic reliable, affordable transport for millions of Africans. VBP partners with Bikes Not Bombs to ship bicycles to Ghana, Africa. A majority of these bikes will be sold to pay for shipping costs while a percentage of the best bikes will go to rural villages where transportation is lacking or non-existent. When mobility is improved so is the standard of living....

The project started in Ghana in 1999, when David Peckham (Director and this writer) went there to study ways to make bicycles more accessible. He found several ways to make a real difference and the Village Bicycle Project was born.

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

WHAT Idaho Telemarketing firm?! Permalink to this item

Inquiring minds want to know, after another mention in the NYT of the company that did $15,600 worth of Republican phone jamming to get John Sununu elected as Senator from New Hampshire.

Adam Cohen's Editorial Observer column notes the "parallels drawn with Watergate" in the affair, and provides a link to the Senate Majority Project, taking careful notes.

Searching... ah, here it is: Mylo Enterprises in Exhibit B. "Now defunct," according to its former head, Shaun Hansen, "because the company wasn't profitable."

Hansen, 34, has been indicted for conspiracy to commit telephone harassment and aiding and abetting telephone harassment.

Don't argue with this man, just ignore him Permalink to this item

Yes, I recognize the irony in writing that, but this piece in the Charlotte Observer about Fred Phelps is the most in-depth I've yet seen, describing his clan of lawyers, his fall from grace, and his descent into a deranged state where he measures his success by how many people hate him.

His "church" is full of his family members, and it sounds like almost all of them are lawyers. If you have to pay retail for what they're generating the old-fashioned way, you're going to go broke first, I'd guess. Just say "la la la la la la la."

Speaking of lawyer stories... Permalink to this item

Wade Goodwyn's account of the April 17th portion of the cross-examination of Jeffrey Skilling was entertaining.

And Berkowitz said "well let's just take a look at her website, shall we? Can we put that up on the screen?" and whoosh, just like that, the jury is leaning forward, looking at Skilling's jury expert's website on the big white screen and as you can imagine, it's all about her expertise in jury persuasion..."

17.Apr.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Protecting Our Interests Permalink to this item

Michael Kinsley provides a useful rundown of 50+ years of meddling, but can't quite imagine what we'll do next.

"Half a century ago, Iran was very close to a real democracy. It had an elected legislature, called the majlis, and it had a repressive monarch, called the shah, and power veered uncertainly between them." That didn't suit our needs at the time...

God works in mysterious ways Permalink to this item

if Fred Phelps is his agent here on Earth. In an effort to set new standards of repugnance, Phelps now has his clan protesting American soldiers' funerals, with rainbow-colored signs bearing such messages as "Thank God for IEDs."

In Boise, we had angels to protect us. The Patriot Guard Riders now have 22,000 members prepared to interpose themselves between honor and disgrace.

One of Phelps' daughters thinks the legislative response to their going beyond any possible regard for decency, preparing to "dismantle the First Amendment," as she put it, "is exactly what you deserve."

And you, my dear? What do you deserve for being a pimple on the bottom of the body politic?

Easter Permanent URL to this day's entry

Butch and (one) God, standing together Permalink to this item

snag and rocks, above Dry Creek, in the Boise front With seasonal timing, our presumptive next Governor, now US Representative C.L. "Butch" Otter franked Jeanette a letter expressing his views on the subject she raised with him: religous freedom.

Butch's concern is not on the same side as Jeanette's, and leans into the "judicial attacks on our religious freedoms." He was "outraged at the decision that the Pledge of Allegiance in schools is an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion." Maybe if he'd read what the case was actually about, he'd feel better. No, of course not. He likewise saw fit to complain about the removal of Judge Roy Moore's Ten Commandments from the Alabama Supreme Court, as "a violation of the fundamental freedom of religion." I guess if you make your way that far up the government hierarchy, you should have the freedom to decorate? Curious he didn't mention the much more local 10-C flap, the movie promotion tablets now resting just across the street from Idaho's statehouse here in Boise (on church grounds; where they belong, eh?).

Butch cosponsored legislation "which ensures states have sole authority to determine whether the Ten Commandments may be displayed on or in public buildings, protects the Pledge of Allegiance" (presumably meaning the recent "under God" amendment to it) "and the national motto of 'In God We Trust,' and defends freedom of expression in our nation's houses of worship."

Easter Stories Permalink to this item

I watched the old Ten Commandments last night, Charlton and Yul brought back to life one more time, and acting through the Bible story. I was struck by the contrast between the huge scenes we may never see produced again (such as Pharoah's army with horses and chariots), and the laughably flat special effects. God as "pillar of fire," was so obviously drawn on the film with a blunt instrument that I found myself wondering what audiences who first saw it must have thought. Did it approach some sort of magical realism for them, and were they somehow able to suspend disbelief and stay in the flow?

The drawn-in presence struck me as a metaphor for man-made religion: our Sunday School sketches of God are clumsily two-dimensional against the 3-D universe we inhabit, and it's only by supressing our ability to perceive the world as it really is that we can bring a cartoon to life.

During the gaily colored hubbub of this morning's services, I also found myself wondering how we can lean into celebrating unbridled joy for the season when there is so much work yet to be done. We have passion plays surrounding us, still in the dark acts of terror, torture, depravation and death.

We teach ourselves, as best we can, to partake in the never-ending resurrection of life, perhaps learning that our own hands hold the sword that can bring Death without end. This is no supernatural mythology; this is Life on Earth, and it is Life with many ends, but no End, unless we bring that about.

Time to pull back the shroud, roll away the stone, and Wake Up.

15.Apr.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Making the Grade Permalink to this item

Red star tulips in the morning sun Sharon Hanson has been teaching in Idaho for 19 years. Her essay, Measure This, that ran on NPR News 91 this week, describes what teaching to the test—the legacy of No Child Left Behind—means for education.

The most important questions have more than one answer, some better than others. But the test is absolute. There is no room for discussion. Employers and members of the larger community want students to graduate with the ability to think, to analyze possibilities and come up with the best solution. Testing does not accomplish this. And teaching to the test eliminates debate, dicussion, depth, what Graves calls 'long thinking.'

Students deserve to be empowered with more than just rote answers.

Good Friday Permanent URL to this day's entry

Statewide disaster, as usual Permalink to this item

My buddy Jim thought the linebreak in the Statesman headline was inadvertent humor: Gov. Dirk Kempthorne declared a statewide disaster... emergency due today to heavy flooding.

But I thought the apparent unexpectedness of it was odd. Perhaps brought to us by the same people think the state lottery is a good bet? "Above average snow pack in Idaho's mountains" (should happen half the time, eh?), "above average spring precipitation" (ditto, so both should happen one year out of 4, right?) "and a rise in temperatures" (we hope to get that pretty much every April) "has created an imminent threat of flooding along rivers and streams in Idaho."

The Boise river is reportedly running at 6,570 cfs, 70 cfs over flood stage, which is kind of interesting given that the flow is managed. Are the valve operators testing the limits, or did they overshoot a little? Seems too early for an unplanned flood, so it must an indication of the management margin of error.

The three-reservoir system is just over half-full, and the "natural flow" is estimated at 11,500 CFS, way more than our nicest, newest Boise riverfront properties could handle at the moment.

Easter Stories Permalink to this item

Jane Rzepka's essay from 2 years ago is reprinted on uuworld.org in time for another Easter. I liked her quote from Penn Gillette: "The story is as important as the trick. The story helps you make sense of something you wouldnít ordinarily believe." Rzepka writes:

When I was a child, my school didnít have much of a grip on the separation between church and state, and so at this time of year we heard a lot about Jesus dying on the cross. I was a Unitarian, and this was the first Iíd heard of the gory aspects of the crucifixion story—the nails in the palms and feet, the hours up there on the cross, the works. That he somehow rose straight up afterward didnít matter much to me. What I got out of the story told at school was a sick feeling in my stomach.

Whereas when I was a child, I was doing my best to believe that story and all the other dogma that went with it, memorizing the Catechism. I wanted to please my parents, and God, to earn my way to a cloud-perched eternal life in Heaven.

As I told Jeanette, my memory of Good Friday was that we had the day off school, and were generally expected to stay indoors, and keep quiet from noon to 3pm, reflecting on that dark day two millennia past.

It is a bit gloomy today, at 20 minutes before noon, but I'm pretty sure the cause is occasional rain showers, generated in the usual fashion without supernatural interference. I might mow the lawn shortly.

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

What Idaho firm would that be? Permalink to this item

Dry Creek, above Bogus Basin Road, on an overcast spring day Bush campaign operative James Tobin has been convicted in a New Hampshire criminal case, for jamming calls to a Democratic call center on Election Day, 2002. The AP reports that the national Republican Party "paid millions in legal bills" to defend their "longtime supporter," and that the prosecutors didn't need to use the records of Tobin's calls to the White House, including two dozen from the night before the election to the wee hours after.

Virtually all the calls to the White House went to the same number, which currently rings inside the political affairs office. In 2002, White House political affairs was led by now-RNC chairman Ken Mehlman. The White House declined to say which staffer was assigned that phone number in 2002.

Here's the teaser for the N.H.-to-Idaho connection:

By Nov. 4, 2002, the Monday before the election, an Idaho firm was hired to make the hang-up calls. The Republican state chairman at the time, John Dowd, said in an interview he learned of the scheme that day and tried to stop it.

Tell us more!

The New Efficiency Expert Permalink to this item

As a process engineer, I did my share of trying to save the company the time of other people's work, by removing unnecessary steps, changing sequences, combining things, and so on. In the electronics industry, things never stayed the same long enough to reduce the problem to "saving millions by saving seconds," however. A more salient adage was: "you may be doing the thing right, but are you doing the right thing?"

At the fast food drive-up window, there are opportunities for process improvement ("do you want a 1,000 calorie desert to go with your super-sized burger, deep-fat fries and jumbo carbonated sugarwater?"), but the basic task is fixed: get the order, send it to the assembly line. They've already squeezed out the health benefits and every penny beyond minimum wage, now they can get rid of the uniforms as well, and that horribly wasted 10 seconds between the time one order is placed and the next car pulls up to the microphone.

For the long-distance call to your order-taker. I can just see the flyers stapled to telephone poles in North Dakota: MAKE MONEY FA$T! WORK FROM HOME.

The call-center system allows employees to be monitored and tracked much more closely than would be possible if they were in restaurants. Mr. King's computer screen gives him constant updates as to which workers are not meeting standards. "You've got to measure everything," he said. "When fractions of seconds count, the environment needs to be controlled."

The "control" includes this:

(E)very so often a red box pops up on her screen to test whether she is paying attention. She is expected to click on it within 1.75 seconds. In the break room, a computer screen lets employees know just how many minutes have elapsed since they left their workstations.

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

Another preventative war? Permalink to this item

We'd like to believe Fearless Leader's abrupt dismissal of the "wild speculation" that war plans for Iran are in the making, and we're not really considering using nuclear weapons to keep another country from getting nuclear weapons.

But we've been fooled before.

Morton Halperin said "Sy Hersh's reporting over the last few years and all the way back has been extraordinarily accurate, and I think it would be a mistake to discount those stories."

"A year from now, I'll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush."–Richard Perle, Sept. 2003

Richard Perle—Richard Perle!—sneered that "far from having been accurate in the recent past, he's been wildly inaccurate on any number of occasions." Oh if only there had been more time in Margaret Warner's interview with them on the Iran issue, and the Prince of Darkness could have run down all the mistakes Hersh has made.

Or perhaps vice versa.

Big rally Permalink to this item

The images of half a million people in downtown Dallas are pretty amazing. We didn't have anything nearly that remarkable here, but 4,000 is a lot for our town, and enough to get us a non-snarky mention in the 2nd paragraph of the NYT coverage.

Congress may be a little slow (and vacation-riddled), but I suspect they'll get the "do something" message sooner or later. They might even do something to improve the situation, who knows? You'd think after a couple hundred years' experience of building a country with immigrants, we'd have this down, but it doesn't seem to be getting easier.

People are talking Permalink to this item

Doesn't have the sound of an editorial, but there's no byline on this essay from Talequah, Oklahoma, following the question Can Bush get much lower?

Someone in this equation is destined to turn out stupid: The administration, for expecting the public to swallow this fish tale, or the public, for doing just that.

Arlen Specter would like an explanation, too. "I think that it is necessary for the president and vice president to tell the American people exactly what happened," Specter told Fox News Sunday.

"The President has set high standards, the highest of standards, for people in his administration. If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration." –Scott McClellan, Sept. 29, 2003

"I do say that there's been enough of a showing here with what's been filed of record in court that the president of the United States owes a specific explanation to the American people ... about exactly what he did."

Scott McClellan's description is an astounding fairy tale: "You're talking about information that was declassified and provided to the American people because it was in the public interest that they have that information, so they could see what the facts were."

This is the "official" version of George told Dick to tell Scooter to leak some information from a National Intelligence Estimate to Judy Miller to discredit Joe Wilson. Maybe it would be more persuasive if the "facts" weren't a collection of suppositions which were already disputed by the people most likely to know.

Weather report Permalink to this item

Forecast is for lots of April showers this week, and temperatures in the high 60s. Can't tell rain is on the way by a clear sky Monday morning, with tulips greeting the sun.

Bye bye snowpack! Hello flooding rivers.

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

No fine Kool-Aide before its time Permalink to this item

After the mayonnaise metaphor went bad, soon to be Frenchified COO Frank D'Amelio went oenophiley in his attempt to explain why Alcatel and Lucent merging didn't used to make sense. That part we sort of understand, but tell us again why it makes sense now? Colin Barr filed the proposal as #1 of The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week.

"The strategic logic driving this transaction is compelling," adds Lucent chief Pat Russo. To say nothing of the golden parachutes and investment bank percentages! Absolutely riveting.

How to graph when the numbers beggar description Permalink to this item

pay graph (top slice) pay graph (btm slice) The NYT special report on executive pay has a variety of graphics in its "multimedia" sidebar links, including one that graphs executive pay as a multiple of the average worker's pay over time. As you've heard more than once by now, that number shoots off the top of the charts lately. The "Wide Divide" kicking off in the late '80s was actually an echo of a pre-WWII plateau. But even the top 10% could fit under 150 until the last decade.

Irrational exuberance in the stock market translated to unfettered exuberance in what executives could suck out of high-flying corporations, and the Times painted the picture in a 1388x2154 graphic that ran way off my big screen, to cover the top 10 north of 700 at the peak of the bubble in 2000. As in... average worker gets 20? 30? $40,000 a year, and CEO gets tens of million$. (That's a cloud of money the spike is rocketing through.)

The black line is the median. "In 2004, half of executives earned more than 104 times the average worker's pay." The top 10% are now below that cloud, "only" 350X.

The most interesting graphic with the story is the one comparing pay and performance, in spite of its design flaws. (The layout emphasizes change in pay, over the absolute amount, which is the color-coding. The "gold standard" of color-coding follows neither a uniform value or intensity sequence. The size of bubble is market cap, which makes some sense, but I think I would have made it total compensation, and relegated company size to the color sequence.)

Who're you gonna believe, JAMA or Ben Franklin? Permalink to this item

Eat your vegetables, get outside and get some exercise in the fresh air (hmm, may have trouble finding that, eh?), all things in moderation and "he lives long who lives well." Works for "she," too. I stopped paying close attention to the shifting tides of medical studies a long time ago, although I will admit that a report endorsing something I'm already doing increases my happiness quotient a bit.

Search Engines Make Good Headlines Boring Permalink to this item

"Good" being a relative measure, of course. For years, this blog didn't even have headlines (or individual permalinks) on its blurbs. My goodness, that must have been boring and hard to follow. The NYT story describes and laments the technological deprecation of "wit, irony, humor and stylish writing," in favor of the "logical, sequential," and "literal-minded" search engine algorithm.

Well, information's not much use unless you can find it, and I hear there's still a good trade in stylish writing over on the fiction side of the house. Truth is, the paper-in-hand attractions of a good headline could be quickly verified or disproven by scanning the start of the article, and on the web... it's the blurb that rules. The AP mashes its headlines into 40 characters (coincidentally? the same size as the limit for an HTML element's title "tooltip" displayed by Firefox). Newspaper websites offer a sentence or two below a headline to tease you to the full article.

The right teaser can be as few as two words, though. Consider this moment's "OPINION" box at the upper RH corner of the nytimes.com front page:
Kristof: Guest Workers
Brooks: Duke Scandal
Wills: Christ and Politics
Editorial: Immigration
Public Editor: Times Blogs

Maybe some symbols, too; the first two links have the "Times Select" pay-to-view flag on them, attracting paying customers, warning the free-riders away.

Christ Among the Partisans Permalink to this item

That's the longer and even more enticing headline of Gary Wills' opinion piece teased by "Christ and Politics" above.

Some people want to display and honor the Ten Commandments as a political commitment enjoined by the religion of Jesus. That very act is a violation of the First and Second Commandments. By erecting a false religion—imposing a reign of Jesus in this order—they are worshiping a false god. They commit idolatry. They also take the Lord's name in vain.

As Lao-Tsu would have put it, the Jesus who can be tamed and put on a campaign committee is not the True Jesus.

Makes me interested to have a look at Wills' latest book, What Jesus Meant.

8.Apr.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Emergency supplemental Permalink to this item

The Long War's Pricetag, by Frida Berrigan:

According to a report from the Congressional Research Service, military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan will increase more than 40 percent between 2005 and 2006. CRS estimates that in 2006 the Pentagon is spending $9.8 billion a month on military operations, compared to $6.8 billion a month last year. Democrats in the House Budget Committee estimate that once the most recent $68 billion in supplemental funding is approved, the United States will have spent more than $445 billion on military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.

Look forward to 20 years of Long War... will we build it all with "emergency" supplemental appropriations?

Investing in infrastructure Permalink to this item

Such as... secret rooms where all AT&T telephone and internet traffic are routed, so that the Narus STA 6400 can sniff out all those enemies of the state. Foreign and domestic, don't you suppose?

Warrants? We don't need no steenking warrants! Let's just ask the Attorney General of the United States of America, shall we? Mr. Gonzales, do you think you and your all-powerful Commander-in-Chief can go ahead and spy on Americans all you want without bothering to get a warrant or anything?

"I'm not going to rule it out."

Maybe it's not that difficult Permalink to this item

Martin Johnson's got an idea for universal health care in 3 easy steps. There may be some substeps involved in step 2, however: "Start a single-payer system, similar to Medicare, for everyone under the age of 35."

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

All-powerful executive? "I'm not going to rule it out." Permalink to this item

Since we're at war and all, shouldn't Fearless Leader be full steam ahead to tap domestic communication as well as overseas, regardless of whether or not he gets a warrant? That's what Alberto Gonzales says.

War without end, power without limit. Beautiful symmetry.

Forget about checks and balances: Congress is being kept so completely in the dark, oversight is out of the question.

Making Zacarias Moussaoui's dream come true Permalink to this item

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the harmonic convergence of Moussaoui's ambition to be a heroic martyr, and our desire to punish (preferably to death) someone for 9/11. (The Taliban and Saddam Hussein not being near enough. Anybody seen Osama?)

When it looked like little Moussaoui was too small to play the outsized role the prosecutors had scripted for him, he simply grew himself to fit into it. Moussaoui's lies don't appear to have actually advanced the conspiracy of 9/11, but they have certainly forwarded the conspiracy to put him to death as a perpetrator of 9/11.

Sounds like at least two job openings Permalink to this item

Now that the picture has come into slightly sharper focus (and the obvious inferences that many made from the beginning are being substantiated), I took a quick look through my clipfile for ' leak '.

The NYT story from Sept. 30, 2003, by Eric Lichtblau and Richard W. Stevenson provided the moral clarity I was looking for. The lede:

The White House today dismissed as "ridiculous" the suggestion that Karl Rove, senior adviser to President Bush, had illegally disclosed the identity of an undercover C.I.A. officer, as the F.B.I. opened an investigation into the case....

And, further down:

Faced with a torrent of questions from reporters, Mr. McClellan engaged in a balancing act all day. He said the issue of disclosing classified information about a C.I.A. officer was "a very serious matter" that should be "pursued to the fullest extent" by the Justice Department. But he also repeatedly said there was no evidence that Mr. Rove or any other White House officials, including those in Vice President Dick Cheney's office, had disclosed such information.

"There's been nothing, absolutely nothing, brought to our attention to suggest any White House involvement, and that includes the vice president's office as well," he said.

Should any White House officials be found to have disclosed the information, he said, they would lose their jobs, "at a minimum."

"...while I listen to you talk about freedom, I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges, to try to preclude me from breathing clean air and drinking clean water and eating safe food." –Harry Taylor

It seems like Mr. Bush needs another 12 step program. I'm not sure what all the steps are, but admitting what he did could be a start. (Admitting it after the whistle-blowers, special prosecutors and the media have exposed it, even.) Admitting it was wrong needs to be in there. That's a particularly difficult step for our President, who mostly "can't remember" any mistakes he's made.

Grace and humility... if those are on the list, they're further down, and I'm not holding my breath. That didn't stop Harry Taylor from asking for them, however. God bless him for that.

6.4.6 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Censure not enough Permalink to this item

George told Dick to tell Scooter to leak classified information. (But only the "relevant portions." Which were automagically declassified.) And then they all acted shocked, shocked about all the leaking. It would be better for Scooter if the declassified-by-fiat National Intelligence Estimate had included something about Valerie Plame, though.

It was Joe Wilson's Op-Ed that started all this, seen "as a direct attack on credibility of the Vice President (and the President) on a matter of signal importance." So, to address this credibility problem, they declassified some "relevant portions" and directed an underlying to go talk to Judy Miller, to discredit Joe. Brilliant.

Oh, the crawl Permalink to this item

Was this there yesterday? Coulda been, but I'm so used to ignoring the flashy bits on TV and websites, I "screened" it out. Putting the disclaimer in a crawl is another nice touch on well-done satire from www.guerillafunk.com.

...Yes, it's satire, but why did so many of you find it so easy to believe? Maybe because the whole thing feels real - especially when you consider the negative images and message that corporations continue to endorse and promote as entertainment. If Fox really reported the truth the news would look more like this because record labels and video channels influence millions...

Embarrassing, but honest? Permalink to this item

Cropped, but otherwise unedited screenshot from today Shopping for campaign website design ideas, I thought I'd try the state Republican Party. Let's see... "G.O.P. Leaders," and the submenu "Candidates." Seems to be a bit of a leadership crisis there.

Yeahbut, what about this other missing link? Permalink to this item

The man's a quirky footnote, but he's not willing to give up.

Duane Gish, a retired official of the Institute for Creation Research in San Diego, said he still found evolution "questionable because paleontologists have yet to discover any transitional fossils between complex invertebrates and fish, and this destroys the whole evolutionary story."

(I tracked this down from the Houston Chronicle version of The NY Times' account, after the NYT had trimmed Gish out of their own article.)

For the open-minded, the banner headline running in papers around the world applies: yet another stunning example of a link between evolved forms of life. Tiktaalik roseae seems to have had "limbs in the making" with "the beginnings of digits, proto-wrists, elbows and shoulders."

5.Apr.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

If we want to torture you, we will? Permalink to this item

Bill Frist quoted on Fox News, regarding "Friday's revelation that the Bush Administration issued direct guidelines for programming to media outlets," with memos between senior Bush Administration officials and management at Viacom:

Of course it raises some concerns, but we can't let this issue be blown out of proportion. Of course there have to be media guidelines. Hell, if we want to plant I.D. chips in people and torture their loved ones until they break, we will. I know the idea of governmental control over what the media can or cannot say during wartime may be an uncomfortable topic for some to digest, but it is a necessary fact of life when our enemies are trying to kill us.

(My emphasis.) There must be some missing context, or a screw loose, or something. Please. Is it a late April Fool's joke? "Email this story," gives me a www.guerrillafunk.com URL, and I can't find a similar or related item anywhere on Google News.

Somebody spoofing Fox News with fox-news.us? Maybe the administrative contact for that domain, gat_turner@hotmail.com at Guerrilla Funk Music has an explanation.

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

Shoot! Where's Mr. Sweet? Permalink to this item

Gerry Sweet's a busy guy, and the legislative session extending into April conflicts with his need to cover spring gun shows for his business, Shooter's Wholesale. First things first, leaving 15 meetings and 63 (of 200) votes on budget bills by the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee unattended by Mr. Sweet.

It's ok to have priorities, but if this guy was representing me, I'd be looking for a new hire to replace him in the part-time job that he seems to regard as second in importance to selling guns.

You're not the boss of me Permalink to this item

Also from Betsy's blog, the bad news that the "school club bill," requiring students to get permission from parents before joining school clubs passed the House. The good news is that the Senate can't be bothered in the last-minute crush to pay attention to this secret attack on the likes of the Gay-Straight Alliance club at Lake City High School in Coeur díAlene.

Big odometer moment less than a day away Permalink to this item

Tonight, 2 minutes and 3 seconds after 1am:
01:02:03 04/05/06
If you miss it, I suppose you could use a 12 hour clock and get the second coming.

Update, from my brother:
this moment will be celebrated 01 x 02 x 03 x 04 times (once per time zone). When the month in which this momentous event has occurred is finished, the year will be 01 x 02 x 03 x 04 x 05 days old, and the grand month itself will last 01 x 02 x 03 x 04 x 05 x 06 hours.

You can replace everything but the photos Permalink to this item

But wait—maybe the photos can be salvaged! Nice story (link via a buddy of mine still at HP who worked on the volunteer project) about an effort to help Katrina's victims recover some of those precious family photos.

3.Apr.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Ok, we have enough cooperation now Permalink to this item

DeLay Is Quitting Race and House, Officials Report.

Highway vs. Canal Permalink to this item

The corner by the bridge... or not. Here's an interesting Clash of the Local Titans: the Ada Co. Highway District and one of the local irrigation districts. Not much information in the Statesman blurb, but plenty to infer. ACHD needs permission from the District to build a long-planned, major public thoroughfare?! A $7M project on hold while we let some acre-feet get downhill to the farmers.

Ada Co. preparing to have population explosion Permalink to this item

The little burb of Eagle has tripled in population in the last 10 years. Arizona-based companies M3 and SunCor apparently don't have enough down south to keep them busy and have been buying up land in northern Ada County. Between them, they own nearly 40% of the 31,000 acres (as in 48 square miles) of rangeland in the foothills north of Eagle that the county thought it was going to be planning for. The Statesman's report says this development would double the size of Eagle.

God's Own Party Permalink to this item

Kevin Phillips is getting more newspaper ink (and pixels), this time in The Washington Post:

Now that the GOP has been transformed by the rise of the South, the trauma of terrorism and George W. Bush's conviction that God wanted him to be president, a deeper conclusion can be drawn: The Republican Party has become the first religious party in U.S. history.

Getcher Red Hot Tahoe Ads Permalink to this item

Put together a brilliant marketing strategy to involve the customers, a Flash editor in your browser, and the Chevy Subdivision, and waddauget? Something to put you in serious stitches that might not be what was intended. Get it while it's hot, 'cause it ain't going to be up for long. Not work safe. Just like the product.

Update: Several readers reported they got there too late, and a few hours after my initial post, all I could get was the "Loading" graphic as well. Later in the day, the story was on NPR... but all the links still seem to go back to the GM site, so the best may no longer be available. Sorry you missed 'em.

Quiver me Timbers, Matey! Permalink to this item

You've heard that quaint word "quiver" at least once in your life, and know that it's a container for arrows, right? Other sports have picked it up as a picturesque collective noun; windsurfers talked about a quiver of sails, then boards. Just last Saturday my buddy Charlie mentioned his quiver of snowboards.

It's not a girly quiver, either:
Lo, sons are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons of one's youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them!

And you know southern Utah's canyonlands are a mecca for recreation, so it wouldn't be surprised to find the word showing up there. A quiver of mountain bikes, maybe? Well, recreation takes many forms in Utah, and none other than the Kanab City Council is on record referring to a quiver of children. It's Biblical don't you know! (I didn't.)

I guess they go shooting off every which way? Something like that; the Biblical reference is for the old man's protection, basically. It's the same sense as George Bush's quiver full of children (not counting his very own, who will not be going anywhere near the front lines). It's the sense that Abu Jandal (as in, "father of Jandal") uses when he says, smiling with pride, "Frankly, I hope that my son gets killed and becomes a martyr for the sake of God Almighty."

I don't know how these kids flew under my radar, but we got the heads-up from a friend who just returned from her honeymoon down Kanab way. The January flap is all over the blogosphere (and not just lately, either), of course.

See how "natural" your family is!

fundamental unit of society
locus of the true common good
healthier, happier, more productive, and more civically-engaged adults
healthier, happier, safer, and better educated children
marriage of a woman to a man, and a man to a woman, as ordained of God (Is that one marriage or two??)
primary economic unit
rich activity, material abundance, and broad self-reliance
private property in family hands, rampart of independence and liberty
celebrates the marital sexual union as the unique source of new human life
open to a full quiver of children
young women growing into wives, homemakers, and mothers
young men growing into husbands, home-builders, and fathers.
enmeshed in vital bonds with spouses, children, parents, and extended family
landscape of family homes, lawns, and gardens
ringing with the laughter of many children
parents as the first educators of their children

Once you qualify (or should I say ), you can be first in line for the protection of local government. Congratulations. Keep your lawns free of dandelions and crabgrass.

2.Apr.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The D Spot Permalink to this item

Someday, the "hands on" medical techniques described in David Dobbs' NYT Magazine article, "A Depression Switch?" will be seen as horribly barbaric, a page from the Dark Ages of medicine the way we think of 19th century sawbones. They sound barbaric enough today, but the results would seem to be worth some pain.

Instead of treating the brain as a "bowl of soup" into which we might pour some pharmaceuticals to see if we can improve the taste, this is treating it like... a desktop PC, maybe. Lift the lid and play around with the wiring to see if we can fix what's out of whack. Here's the area "heavily wired to brain areas modulating fear, learning, memory, sleep, libido, motivation, reward. and other functions that went fritzy in the depressed." What happens when we stick some electrodes in there and turn up the voltage? The descriptions of preparation for Deep Brain Stimulation—driving screws and using a half-inch drill bit—are not for the squeamish. But this:

"It was literally like a switch being turned on that had been held down for years," she said. "All of a sudden they hit the spot, and I feel so calm and so peaceful. It was overwhelming to be able to process emotion on somebody's face. I'd been numb to that for so long."

is amazing.

Jim Hansen for Congress Permalink to this item

Jim Hansen for Congress logo We went to a "house party" for Jim Hansen yesterday, your basic political fundraiser, with a difference. Instead of pitching us to give 'till it hurts, the financial part of the presentation was telling us the most they'd accept. Against the current trends in Congressional campaigns, Jim's taken a stand on how much money ought to be in politics, and where it should come from. Rather than 100 people donating thousands of a dollars, he's after thousands of people, each giving no more than $100.

Jim's been in the Idaho Legislature, and was the prime mover behind United Vision for Idaho, a coalition of progressive groups (think of it as "United Way for the rest of us"), where he's the Executive Director.

He's honest, principled, smart, and he'll be a great Representative for the people of Idaho in Washington D.C. Have a look at his "World View" on the right side of the issues page. Formulaic expressions of piety are all too easy to come by these days, but Jim speaks from the heart, without artifice.

Along with democratizing campaign financing, Jim's got another crazy notion: a discussion forum, where people can work on the important issues, perhaps find consensus, but at least find out who's interested in what, and who's willing to do the work to find better solutions.

raveling

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Thursday, 04-May-2006 16:53:30 MDT
http://www.fortboise.org/blog/200604.html