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

Cooking up a new recipe Permalink to this item

Online recordkeeping, easy credit and methamphetamines combine to make identity theft today's special.

In Phoenix, the county recorder's office posts 8,000 to 10,000 documents a day. Most are innocuous, but some, including divorce decrees and tax lien records, have sensitive information. "I'm not insensitive to people's fear," said Helen Purcell, the county recorder. "I have the same fear. My information is out there, too." But it is far too late to start editing Social Security numbers or other data from the county Web site, she said. "We have 100 million documents out there now."

How nice for you and all the meth users with web access. I suspect it isn't "far too late" if the people on the short end of the highest identity theft rate in the country start talking to the legislators about the problem. It's very easy to take a website offline. 100 million documents can disappear in the blink of a power switch.

One in six Arizona adults had their identities stolen in the last five years according to a survey reported by the story. One in 30 Americans nationwide had theirs stolen in 2002 alone. 10 million.

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

Sounds like a good deal to me Permalink to this item

The attorney general and the F.B.I. director were prepared to quit if asked to relinquish evidence from a House member's office, officials said. (NYT story)

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

The Microsoft Case Permalink to this item

Part of the windfall from that big storm - larch branch w/cones Margaret is on yesterday's incident, case #SRZ060524002152. She understands "that a problem was encountered when trying to install Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Tool (KB892130) through Express or Custom option," and further understands "the inconvenience [I] have experienced." Graciously (and usefully, since the case log or her reading of it did not make my concern understood), she adds "if I have misunderstood your concern, please feel free to let me know."

She "also" noticed that I "have a concern on Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Tool." Do not be afraid. "Once we install this update and pass the validation, we can use Windows Update normally."

And here I thought this was My Computer. (It still says so under Desktop in Windows Explorer: right under My Documents.) The good folks at Microsoft have a little different perspective on things. It's their operating system after all, for which I have a conditional License to Use. And they want to make sure I have a Genuine Validated copy before going any further. Hence, the "more powerful function for system validation," deriving a considerable measure of its power from forcing itself on Windows Update users.

One tax past its time Permalink to this item

The 108-year-old federal excise tax on long distance phone calls is being laid to rest. Not that the nickel and dime attack on your phone bill(s) is going away completely: the "array of state and local taxes as well as fees that pay for emergency response groups and public services provided by the Universal Service Fund and others" will still be there.

But here's something I didn't know about that 3% ding: it was enacted to help pay for the Spanish-American War.

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

Microsoft's Genuine Advantage over you Permalink to this item

Their Monopoly. I went to check Windows Update today, and found that either the "Express" or "Custom" choice requires me to update Update. Ok fine. They list all sorts of wonderful things this Update update will bring me: "Express and custom installation, Smarter downloads, Smaller downloads, One version, Less clutter, Update news."

And there's a "Details" link. Clicking that exposes the REAL purpose of this communications. If I'm ever going to use Windows Update again, I need to download the

"Windows Genuine Advantage Validation Tool" which "enables you [sic] to verify that your copy of Microsoft Windows is genuine. The tool validates your Windows installation by checking Windows Product Identification and Product Activation status."

It apparently wasn't enough to have done that when I bought their product and initially setup the computer. They want me to check in regularly.

Talk about integrity: HIDING the information about what they're going to install... unless you look a little further. Not as if it really matters. You will be assimilated.

I'm betting your tax dollars will come to their aid Permalink to this item

26.5 million veterans who had their social security numbers and birthdates burgled out of a VA data analyst's homework are getting big time lip service from the people supposedly in charge. The outrage and promised shakeup aren't worth much for those at risk, however. What will be worth something is making the VA provide free credit monitoring and reports to the affected veterans.

It'll be worth a lot to one of Experian, Trans-Union or Equifax, the credit reporting agencies who will no doubt be called on to provide those "free" services. It didn't take legislation for Fidelity to do that for its customers after one of its laptops was stolen. The almost 200,000 customers put at risk seemed like a big number at the time. The VA's 100-times bigger foul-up must've been a relief to Fidelity, who were quickly pushed off the pile of current events.

Another Yayhoo from Idyho Permalink to this item

Idaho Congressional District map In this state's hoary tradition of "sending a message to Washington," the Republicans have designated Bill Sali as their candidate for Congress from our 1st Congressional District, running up the west side of our long state. (We're in the 2nd C.D., gerrymandered to within spittin' distance of the boundary.)

Maybe the 5 losing competitors in the overcrowded primary will try to get run-off voting in place for next time. There were two candidates (Keith Johnson, Sheila Sorenson) who would arguably make much better Representatives for the state than Sali, and another (Robert Vasquez) who rode the wave of anti-immigrant sentiment in SW Idaho to split 55% of the vote more or less equally between them. With barely more than a quarter of the people voting on the Republican side—18,000 or so—our own Kuna Caveman may get a ticket to the Big House, helped along by more than $150,000 from the Club for Growth.

But hold on—there will be a race for this seat, and we're going to test the voters of the state to see whether having an "R" on your ballot entry is more important than being a a quality candidate for the job.

Climb on Permalink to this item

Alan Arnette is getting ready to head for the top of the world again. This time it's Broad Peak and K2, and improved technology will likely enhance the experience for those of us watching through heavy lenses. He expects to be able to "post text, pictures, audio and video immediately and directly from the mountain." If the sat phone works, anyway. We'll see!

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

Schools v. Idaho Permalink to this item

In Charles Dickens' Bleak House (which I know from the Beeb's fine series), a central element of the plot is an endless and seemingly hopeless irresolution of an estate, a legal case known as Jarndyce v. Jarndyce.

Idaho is now vying for its own version of that, with its failure to provide for equitable and adequate funding for all the school districts in our economically diverse state. The case has gone on for years, and last solstice, our Supreme Court finally ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, now known as the Idaho Schools for Equal Educational Opportunity, et al..

Just in time for the 2006 Legislative session to do something about it.

They didn't though, and the Plaintiffs are asking the Court to take action to make the State comply with its ruling. Not only did the Legislature fail to provide remedial measures, its actions "have actually diminished the ability of Idaho Schools to provide a 'thorough' education and 'safe environment conducive to learning' due to further degredation of the tax base available to school districts," according to a new complaint.

Said "degredation of the tax base" is the increase of the Homeowner's Property Tax Exemption from $50,000 to $75,000, without actually shifting any tax burden back to the non-homeowner tax base that has been enjoying an increasingly free ride off the homeowners from a non-indexed exemption and rapidly inflating real estate prices. Had the Legislature not acted for property tax relief, they would have had a serious unemployment problem to face: their own.

If there's a simple and obvious solution to the state's problems in funding its schools, no one has slipped that to me in the mail, but I'm ready to enterain suggestions.

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

A bit overzealous with that spam protection Permalink to this item

Got a note from someone I don't know, asking me about some particular directions to a local sailing spot. I replied out of courtesy, and got an automatic reply for my trouble. "I apologize for this automatic reply to your email," it begins.

It might have continued, "I am rather clueless about this and will be wondering why you didn't extend the courtesy of a reply to my inquiry," but didn't. It gave me a link I could follow to get special permission to send him an email.

You know what? I don't think I'm going to do that, William.

It seemed like a big storm... Permalink to this item

but by comparison to the real deal, a Gulf Coast hurricane, I guess it wasn't that much. The end of a wave of unseasonably hot weather came with a crash bang last Friday night, a little while after I'd strolled around the yard for a scent tour, appreciated a gentle evening with the neighbor's cat rolling on its back in the middle of the street, and looked at the big, dark cloud to the SW and wondered who was going to get the theunderstorm that evening.

Do not ask for whom the bell tolls.

I was typing away when the power went out, then flashed back on, then went out for a two count, then back ON! then out. And a flicker. We'd been cycled at least three times before I could dive for switches and get the power strips turned off.

Some ugly transients in that one, and not just a neighborhood transformer. A whole substation? One of our neighbors got it worse than us, and fried a number of consumer appliances. We lit candles, put on shoes, watched trees bending farther than we'd seen them do before, wondered if they'd break.

None of ours did, fortunately, as I was contemplating whether or when it was time to head for the basement. There was a whole lot of pruning done, though, especially on the Tamarack. It sprayed small to medium branches along with mature and immature cones all around the yard, front and back, with some impressive distance.

We went to bed before the power came back on; which it did, once, then went off again. But on steady not long after that. So, just a reminder to get those emergency kits updated before the next crisis hits. The winds got as high as 60-some mph, I hear. Can't imagine what 100mph would be like. Duck and cover, for sure.

It's gone back to seasonable, which for late May is pleasant but not hot, breezy but not windy, rain showers. Things are green! And roses and Russian olive scents are in the air. And the tree trimming business are getting a little extra work, still cleaning up.

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

Dang it, missed my blogiversary Permalink to this item

An iris from more than 6 years ago I was thinking it was today or tomorrow, but I see it was in fact 6 years ago last Sunday that I started this blog. It was iris time then, same as now, as the seasons they go 'round and 'round.

Ersatz Idaho Rafting Permalink to this item

Brianna Randall learns the language of the Lochsa, the wet way. The title caught my eye because it was 30 years ago this month that I learned the language of the Lochsa the drier (but sweatier) way, by bicycling up US 12 and over Lolo Pass.

If you've rafted our very wild and very scenic Idaho rivers, you'll enjoy the fresh flavor of a newbie's experience. If you have yet to make the journey, you'll get a nice taste of what it's like. With this winter's big snowpack, this spring has been especially chundering and thumpy.

(And just so you know: the N. Idaho river that joins the Selway to form the Clearwater is pronounced "LOCK saw" by the locals.)

In horsey terms we understand Permalink to this item

New West's Boise editor Jill Kuraitis recaps last night's verbal rodeo in entertaining detail.

Sali... snorted like a headhunting bull while he looked for every possible way to say, "smaller government and lower taxes."

Which, as I noted in the heat of last night's typefest, we've been trying, so far with disastrous results. Well, we've been half trying it, just the lower taxes part. That's Sali's campaign theme though—me and my one hundred and five pals will bring fiscal discipline back to government.

How many times have we heard that before?

What we need is a candidate who advocates competent government. Sorenson's promoting herself as the "effective" candidate, which may be as close as we can get. Sali has presence, and knows how to make trouble, but competence? Effectiveness? We think not.

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

A Six-pack, to go Permalink to this item

Red State Rebels opened up a thread for running commentary of the 6-way debate between the Republican candidates for the 1st District race for Congress. Julie thought we were all going to watch quietly and then post commentary, but it didn't turn out quite that way. After the pros and cons, give and take, here's the summary I got from their closing statements:

Brandt: Put America First. And the 1st CD 1st.

Johnson: I'm a great controller, and live my conservative Republican values. Values, values, values. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Sali: Well... the pundits are unanimous. Simple, it's Liberal vs. Conservative, me against Sorenson. Rally around Sali. (He's motivated ME to vote Republican.) And may God Bless you.

Sorenson: I'm the un-Republican Republican, who can't quite remember her script.

(Unfortunately, the state that elected Steve Symms could quite conceivably elect Bill Sali.)

Semanko: I am irrelevant. But I have some nice stock phrases. And I'm targeting you rural people (because I can't count so well).

Vasquez: I was twice-wounded.

We'll be set until the Super-Duper Bugs come Permalink to this item

The headline in Scientific American is New Antibiotic Eliminates Superbugs; it goes by the rather hum-drum name of "platensimycin," since it was isolated from a strain of Streptomyces platensis. With "Vancomycin," you could really feel like you were dominating the field of microbial battle, but with this new one, you can't even figure out which syllable to accent. That's OK: if you catch a dose of methicillin-resistant staph or vancomycin-resistant enterococci, you won't care what they call it, other than "approved for use in humans" (which it isn't, yet).

The bacteria won't be sitting still during the approval process, of course....

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

Guarded surrealism Permalink to this item

Tonight's Newshour had a segment on the proposed? imminent? deployment of the National Guard to the Mexican border. The setup mentioned that there's no National Guard General on the Chiefs of Staff, which is interesting. Then Retired Brigadier General David McGinnis slipped this in, right after his answer in the affirmative that the Guard was ready for this new mission: "The Guard has a lot of capability left now that Iraq is over."

That's my emphasis, because he gave it none, and neither Judy Woodruff, Lawrence Kolb nor Stephen Biddle saw fit to respond to his surreal assumption.

I tuned in a bit late so maybe this was the lead story, the war in Iraq has ended? Wow.

As to the capability for the mission, no one really knows what that mission is yet, but Korb figured 6,000 Guardsman were about one tenth the force to "do it right."

It's easy to see how McGinnis made his way up the chain of command in the National Guard with this can-do rebuttal: "Anything you ask the Guard to do, I'm sure they're capable of doing."

Spring to summer Permalink to this item

Popped into the 90s this week, just like that. 9:40 and I can smell morning wind on the breeze coming in the window. We were wondering if there would be another frost within the last two weeks, running the furnace a little, and now it's time to reject heat already.

Blue Maps Galore Permalink to this item

was the subject over the pointer I was just sent to Chris Bowers' Blue Nation graphics. State-by-state, it puts fortboise on the western fringe of the ebbing Red Sea. County-by-county, it tells us that low population density leads to support for Bush. (Low rainfall may be a factor, too.)

It makes interesting pictures, but there are some questions about Bowers' data... such as "where did this supposed county-by-county data come from?" and "If all but a few counties in the SE corner of Idaho are blue, how is the state red?"

Cartograms allow us to modify geography to human purposes, as shown by Gastner, Shalizi, and Newman of the University of Michigan. You wouldn't think rectangles would be as satisfying, but I thought the maps the NYT ran last election (hey, still available!) were quite effective. ("States by electoral votes" are easy enough to do that with, but it won't help us for county data, if we had it.)

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

Moscow High ain't what it used to be Permalink to this item

Moscow HS building, on the skids. Photo courtesy of Gino White At least not the old building. Something sad and funny about the mis-stenciled "N" in "KEEP OUT UNSAFE," but you have to zoom in on the little red sign at the bottom of the stairs for the better joke. I suspect the button may be broken too.

Such a kidder Permalink to this item

One of few remaining allies was in town, and GWB tried his best schoolboy humor on him. You just never can tell how things are going to sound in print. To one (sub)headline writer, it sounded like Howard mocked by Bush, which doesn't have any jolly connotations to me.

"Somebody said, 'You and John Howard appear to be so close, don't you have any differences?'" Bush said. "I said, 'Yeah he doesn't have any hair.'" While Howard chuckled, Bush kept teasing. "He may not be the prettiest person on the block, but when he tells you something you can take it to the bank," Bush said.

My word's pretty important to me, and I like to think people trust me and have faith in my promises. But for someone to "take it to the bank"? Is it my imagination, or is W's value system showing in this choice of words?

IDAHO is... Permalink to this item

the International Day Against Homophobia, May 17th.

Wag the Blog Permalink to this item

Monday's come and gone and Karl Rove hasn't been indicted, so it's starting to look like Jason Leopold and truthout got played (even though Rove might yet be indicted, of course).

I was going to stay quiet about this, but I sent an email to a friend, so the NSA already has the idea. I might as well share it with the rest of the world. Plus, I just thought of that great headline, so I have to put something under it.

This looks like one of Bush's Brain's brilliant dirty tricks to me: he started the hoax about his own indictment, as a means to ferret out whose lips are loose. If he's as smart as everyone says, he arranged 5 or 6 distinguishable components to the irresistable "Rove indicted" story and then disseminated them such that 32 or 64 different people could be tested with one good bait, flavored with different seasonings. Factorial design of experiments applied to political hackery.

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

Otter's drinking with the good old boys Permalink to this item

You can just hear the warm chatter of the "business casual" crowd and the clink of the cocktail glasses as they spear their hors d'oeuvres, can't you? Butch Otter is just warming up to the event that was so much more important than the chance to debate his primary opponent on Idaho Public TV: a lovely soirée at the Top of the Hoff.

"For this event, contributions of $1,000 or greater are appreciated - $5,000 is the maximum contribution allowed by state law."

Otter's yellow-bellied web site lists those business interests and "plain folks" who are most interested in sucking up to the Republican front-runner:

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

Alternative media Permalink to this item

The Dixie Chicks' hot new single is getting the cold shoulder from country music radio, but it's #1 for downloads. Is the narrow-mindedness in "country" just a product of corporate management? There have to be some millions of good ol' boys in the 70+% of the country that's no longer pleased with the good ol' boy in the White House's performance. Some millions are starting to feel like they got took.

The 60 Minutes feature on the Chicks was a breath of fresh air.

Return Mail Permalink to this item

Tom Porteus: "The White House has spent millions of dollars on public diplomacy and is forever wringing its hands over its poor performance in the battle for hearts and minds in the Middle East. Here is a golden opportunity to put that right without spending a dime. It should answer the Iranian letter seriously, point by point."

So far, no hint of the courtesy of a reply.

Is that because the "exhausting" of diplomatic efforts is an act designed to provide the excuse for another war?

If so, there is little reason to expect something better than any of the previous disasters.

In slightly more than a century, the United States has overthrown the governments of at least 14 countries, beginning with the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, and forcibly intervened in dozens more. Long before Afghanistan and Iraq, there were the Philippines, Panama, South Vietnam and Chile, among others. Most of these interventions not only have brought great pain to the target countries but also, in the long run, weakened American security.

Strategist, save thyself Permalink to this item

Has Karl Rove been indicted, or are those just rumors we're hearing? Imminent? Imaginative? Wait a couple days and we'll all know for sure.

Privacy? Get Over It. Permalink to this item

Greg Palast says it's not the NSA data mining we need to worry about, but the commercial undertaking spearheaded by ChoicePoint, Inc., "which has sucked up over a billion dollars in national security contracts." Outsourcing strikes again. It's not just who all you're calling, but the "linking [of] this info to your medical records, your bill purchases and your entire personal profile including, not incidentally, your voting registration" that's at issue.

I first ran across these guys in 2000 in Florida when our Guardian/BBC team discovered the list of 94,000 "felons" that Katherine Harris had ordered removed from Florida's voter rolls before the election. Virtually every voter purged was innocent of any crime except, in most cases, Voting While Black. Who came up with this electoral hit list that gave Bush the White House? ChoicePoint, Inc.

And worse, they KNEW the racially-tainted list of felons was bogus. And when we caught them, they lied about it. While they've since apologized to the NAACP, ChoicePoint's ethnic cleansing of voter rolls has been amply rewarded by the man the company elected.

13.May.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Deadline pressure worked Permalink to this item

Jeanette got into Part D via the Medicare Advantage route, just two days ahead of the dreaded "we'll start raising the price for a service you don't need now but someday probably will" deadline. Here in SW Idaho, we had two Fee-for-service (i.e. not PPO) plans to choose from if we didn't want to pay a premium in addition to the $88.50 for Part B. Medicare (and paying for a separate Part D plan), United Healthcare, or Humana... which gigantic and unfeeling bureaucracies do you prefer?

The comparison information available is better organized and presented than what you can find from private companies, for private plans (more evidence that Medicare is a government program that really works), but it's still ridiculously complicated. Signing up, by comparison, is simple. Name, address, "Medicare claim number" and a few "I agree" buttons and you're into the paperwork queue. Expect some weeks' delay before delivery.

One question she had was whether she could get out of an M-A plan and go back to "regular" Medicare. Yes, you can, "next" month. That's not true for Part D plans however, which constrain you to annual enrollment/change windows. Further evidence that the Medicare drug benefit program has deeper flaws than the original Medicare.

Hooray for Qwest? Permalink to this item

All of a sudden, the stature of our local, everybody-loves-to-hate-em telco—and its former CEO—has jumped up a notch. Responding to the federal spooks who showed "a disinclination on the part of the authorities to use any legal process," Qwest showed a disinclination to participate in the NSA's undertaking to create a vast database of calling records.

It also puts a new light on 42 federal charges of insider trading against former Joseph Nacchio, the man at the top who refused to go along with the extra-legal fishing expedition. (The Association of US West Retirees is a long way from convinced: "Our retirees won't be happy until he goes to jail. We can't wait until he's cooked." Perhaps they'll settle for medium rare instead of well-done now?)

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

What's the 4-1-1 on that? Permalink to this item

The latest bill from Qwest had the usual bits and, what's this? Two calls to Directory Assistance? We don't use that, certainly not for $1.25 a pop. Calling customer service didn't bring satisfaction, as the agent in the unpleasant position simply insisted that we must have used it, otherwise it wouldn't be on our bill. Could she tell me what day and time the calls were made, so we could try to figure out who might have been here and using the phone without our permission? "No, we don't give that information out, to protect our customers' privacy."

Interesting theory: they can't tell me when my phone was used, to protect my privacy.

Well, what about my long distance calls, those all have time and day on them? "Is the time and day for the information calls on your bill?" No. "Well then we don't have that information."

Perhaps we could just ask the NSA about those calls? I imagine they have the records of who called whom and when, eh? I didn't see the NSA customer service number in the newspaper story though.

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

US Dept of Aggie-Prop? Permalink to this item

We're after a consistent message here people, so work those transistions however you need to, but bring the presentation around to our progress in Iraq.

These are desperate times, calling for the undersecretaries, assistant secretaries and other political appointees at the Department of Agriculture to sell the good news on the GWOT, and to send in their reports:

Please use these message points as often as possible and send Harry Phillips , USDA's director of speechwriting, a weekly email summarizing the event, date and location of each speech incorporating the attached language.

In case you're stumped for how to bring the farmers around to the topic, helpful transition examples are provided: "Several topics I'd like to talk about today—Farm Bill, trade with Japan, WTO, avian flu, animal ID—but before I do, let me touch on a subject people always ask about... progress in Iraq."

Here's why phishing works Permalink to this item

My work has brought me to the first forays with using Paypal to obtain payment (for legitimate stuff, honest), and yesterday I got a call from a customer who needed help: Paypal wouldn't accept her credit card. From the web design point of view, we "hired" Paypal to deal with all that, and what could we do? I did my best to make sure she wasn't making an obvious mistake on their form, and looked around until I found a support phone number she could try. She didn't bother, and figured she'd just pay by check.

This morning, a new call from her: she got an email from Paypal, she told me, saying that her account had been violated! Could she get that phone number from me again?!

I walked her through the message, and got her to see that the hyperlink it wanted her to follow was not Paypal's. But the—absolutely coincidental—timing was perfect, leading her to assume that a legitimate-looking message was legitimate.

It wasn't that hard to get past the gross blunder and grammatical error stage, and now they can reap the rewards of these 1 in 1,000 coincidences as Paypal handles more and more transactions.

Health insurance Permalink to this item

After 2½ years of flying without a net, I rejoin the select group of Americans who have health insurance today. The path is amazingly convoluted, and the "negotiation" and information flow one-sided. Several of us talked with an agent, and she did most of the paperwork, duplicating the tedious application data to (try to) obtain more than one quote. As it turns out, one company came in with a deadline before the other was heard from, and today's the last day for me to sign up for their offer.

Not that June 1st wouldn't be just as good, but they warned that I'd have to start over if I didn't accept by their deadline. (The agent was keenest to meet the deadline, since she'd be doing the "start over" paperwork, for the most part.) Coverage is retroactive to May 1st, a mild absurdity that mostly means I'm paying their premium as of that date.

The other absurdity is that we're closing this deal with them telling me little more than the premium and a table or two of general information about what they cover, with what deductibles, coinsurance, limits. The real policy is doubtless a thin-sheeted book full of fine print that will serve to insure more money coming into them than going out to me and any health providers who provide me some health.

Should catastrophe come along, the deal will be modified to their favor, I'm sure. But I get some prophylaxis and at least one crisis at the current rate (as adjusted for inflation &tc. from time to time).

Why was it we put them in charge again? Permalink to this item

The only thing lower than the public's opinion of the way President Bush is handling his job is its opinion of the way Congress is handling its job. The Republicans are in the driver's seat, and we're racing down the wrong road. As we run out of gas. The metaphor's as fractured as our prospects.

The summary numbers for "which party do you think is more likely to...?" show the Rs leading in just two categories: providing for a strong military defense, and make the right decisions to deal with terrorism. Is that the trump card to keep them in power? If it is, we're willing to forgo some pretty important issues:

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

Merci! Permalink to this item

for Le Monde publishing La lettre de Mahmoud Ahmadinejad à George W. Bush, in English. It runs on a bit, and no doubt loses something in the translation, but it goes something like this:

Can one be a follower of Jesus Christ and have countries attacked, villages and cities destroyed, thousands of people killed?

Divine Strake put off Permalink to this item

DOD/DOE still has plans to light up the 1.4 million pounds of conventional explosives, but now for June 23rd instead of the 2nd. Probably not to get it closer to the Solstice, news is the extra time is to get the legal papers in order.

The little cluckers are taking over Permalink to this item

Dan Adamson and Jerry Brady and the chicken coop The first version of the press release said that the two candidates for Idaho Governor met in front of a chicken coup, which is perhaps even more apt than the coop they chose for a backdrop. Their point was that C.L. "Butch" Otter was chicken to show up for a debate with his primary opponent Dan Adamson, and so Democrat Jerry Brady would be glad to stand in for Butch.

Given Otter's certain primary victory (and likely victory in November), we understand he can't be bothered to debate publicly; the chicken coup may be on, with good ol' boy Idaho voters prepared to vote themselves another good ol' boy gov.

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

Something doesn't add up Permalink to this item

We'd been having Goldilocks spring weather to start the month, not too hot, and not too cold, bringing the estimated 1.44 million acre-feet of snowpack we have left down at a more or less comfortable rate. (Always more comfortable up on the west bench than down in the flood plain, of course, where 25 thousand people are anxiously waiting to see how high the river will get.) The Boise River is running fast and high, 7,000 cfs. That was just below what would flood my greenbelt route down to the BSU campus on Friday and Saturday. I rode down and back in the evenings to watch the tennis tournament I got an early exit pass from, and reveled in the rich scents of the season. The cottonwood is about enough to knock you over, and then layer in lilacs, plums, apples and it's a delight at every turn.

The Lucky Peak flume at 7k+ CFS Sunday, it cooled down and rained a bit, and it's struggling to get back above 60°F today. More good news for controlling flooding. I visited the BuRec's teacup diagram for the Boise and Payette river systems, and found this interesting tidbit way down at the bottom of the Boise project description:

A formal flood control operating agreement for the Boise River system has been signed by the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. Sufficient space is maintained in Anderson Ranch, Arrowrock, and Lucky Peak Reservoirs to regulate the forecast riverflow through Boise to no more 6,500 cubic feet per second.

My emphasis; there must be allowance for amendment on the fly, as the system has been running at 7,000 cfs for a couple weeks, and they say they'll turn it up to 7,500 by Wednesday.

That's high enough to bring out the newspaper features, at least.

Fünf de Mai Permanent URL to this day's entry

The script may be funnier than the performance was Permalink to this item

That's the Colbert Report from the Correspondent's Dinner, the transcript served by Daily Kos, I found it on

Sir, pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half empty, because 32% means it's 2/3 empty. There's still some liquid in that glass is my point, but I wouldn't drink it. The last third is usually backwash.

On Winning Hearts and Minds Permalink to this item

In the red, white and blue "Battle Against Terror," public diplomacy is said to be key. Even if that's being said by the person whose job it is to promote public diplomacy, we accept the assertion. "Public diplomacy" and "terror" pin down ends of the spectrum that might also include "rule of law," "rendition," "preventative war," "torture," and so on. The argument in favor of the "right" end of that spectrum is that we have to use all tools at our disposal in this-is-war.

"This is war" biases us to that end of the spectrum however, and public diplomacy devolves to its caricature, propaganda. That's the problem with Karen Hughes' position: it feels more like Minister of Propaganda than the means to actually offer a positive, hopeful vision "rooted in America's belief in freedom, justice, opportunity, and respect for all."

We are not offering a positive, hopeful vision to Iran, for example, but rather threatening to bomb the hell out of them if they don't repudiate any claim to nuclear weapons. Catch-22: nuclear deterrence is working (so far!) for us, for Israel, for Iran's Pakistani and Indian neighbors, for China, for North Korea. The object lesson of Iraq is that a bluff that you have WMDs does not provide a functional deterrent. Teddy Roosevelt comes to mind, as he apparently did to the Israelis: "Speak softly and carry a big stick."

(Our Usonian sense of fractured geography fails to inform us at how close, and how strong this lesson is for Iran. Imagine you're in southern California and China has started a war in Mexico, or you're in Seattle and the Russians (or North Korea!) invaded B.C.)

The face we have lately presented to the rest of the world is not Rooseveltian, however, but Biblical, in the Old Testament flavor. "Might Makes Right," and our God is mightiest of all. Yes, exchange programs tend to be wonderful things for those involved, and "people who come here see America, make up their own minds about us and almost always go home with a different and much more positive view of our country," as Hughes says. (We discount those who are here "on exchange" only to conspire in terrorist plots against us.) But most of the world can't come here and see for themselves, they have to judge us by our public face, and our actions.

Those actions are speaking much more loudly than our under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

A less-vetted audience Permalink to this item

Ray McGovern took his criticism to a level beyond his opinion pieces on to direct confrontation of the SecDef. "Why did you lie?" was met with a simple denial—what else would he say?—but "why don't you resign?" might have led to a more interesting exchange.

Check out the video footage, and think about Rumsfeld's spin of the "lie" question off to Colin Powell. He didn't lie. "He spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence Agency people, and prepared a presentation that I know he believed was accurate."

That's his emphasis: "I know." We can not know for certain what mental processes others experience. We can infer them, sometimes with great accuracy. But the skill of such inference is balanced by the skill we humans have to deceive others, to conceal what we think, know, believe.

Tain't what a man don't know that hurts him; it's what he knows that just ain't so!
–Frank McKinney Hubbard (and Will Rogers)

"He believed." But we now know he believed in error, whether it was through honest errors of estimation, deliberate deception, or cognitive dissonance enforced by repeated actions of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Tenet. Rumsfeld says he's "not in the intelligence business," conveniently glossing the Defense Intelligence Agency into non-existence.

"You said you knew where they were," McGovern responded.

"I did not. I said I knew where 'suspect sites' were."

Mr. Rumsfeld didn't recall what it was he said way back when, understandable for an extemporaneous Q&A session, but the transcript from March 30, 2003 is readily available. That was when the war was new, more than a month before George Bush so memorably declared the Mission Accomplished. The question of "where are the WMDs?" was still an open one. We didn't yet control the whole country (but imagined that we soon would). Here's what Rumsfeld said to George Stephanopoulos on ABC:

"...the area in the south and the west and the north that coalition forces control is substantial. It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat."

That's my emphasis this time.

6-5-4 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Deus ex Machina Permalink to this item

Bruce Schneier: Everyone Wants to 'Own' Your PC. Between automagic updates and protections of many stripes, you don't really know what's going on inside this box, do you? He suggests you fight the power without really acknowledging how hard that will be to do. "Use open-source software," he says, but I don't imagine all those copies of generations of Win O/S are going anywhere anytime soon.

Nor does he mention that while you may have paid good money for your software, the license that came with it made it clear you do NOT own it; just a license to use it, which can be easily yanked.

"Just because computers were a liberating force in the past doesn't mean they will be in the future. There is enormous political and economic power behind the idea that you shouldn't truly own your computer or your software, despite having paid for it."

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

Shall we follow the Constitution this time? Permalink to this item

Since I don't read much of the right-wing press, the drumbeats for war in Iran are just distant echoes, but none the less disturbing for that. Patrick J. Buchanan spells what should happen next, in his op-ed piece, Of Imperial Presidents and Congressional Cowards:

It is time for Congress to tell President Bush directly that he has no authority to go to war on Iran and to launch such a war would be an impeachable offense. Or, if they so conclude, Congress should share full responsibility by granting him that authority after it has held hearings and told the people why we have no other choice than another Mideast war, with a nation three times as large as Iraq.

The rules are one thing, ordnance is another. As James Moore points out, we—Israel—have the ordnance to rule. Over the beginning of WWIII, anyway. What do you say, Congress? Are you going to let our Supreme Leader light that off?

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

Speaking Truthiness to Power Permalink to this item

Sign on the aircraft carrier Midway Not enough give'n'take in the Colbert Report at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, to amuse the butt of the jabs. George and Laura left in a snit, sounds like.

Authenticity Permalink to this item

Wired News (which they want you to know is a "distinct business entity with an independent editorial team"... how could you be so confused) says don't blame them for Gore losing the election and all that's happened since. They were just playing the same stupid game as the rest of the MSM, eh?

If you're going to include Wired News in a list of scapegoats, it would have to come well behind Ralph Nader, Florida election officials, the U.S. Supreme Court, democratic strategists and, yes, the performance of the candidate himself.

Bold stand, Evan.

Beacon of Torture Permalink to this item

It appears we have not just a Vice President, but also a President of Torture. Senator John McCain's attempt to legislate some measure of morality—which his fellow Senators endorsed with a 10-to-1 majority—has instead been manipulated into the means to do away with habeus corpus.

Alfred McCoy describes how "CIA torture techniques" "have metastasized like an undetected cancer inside the U.S. intelligence community over the past half-century."

And no, it wasn't just a few bad apples, it was orders right down the chain of command. Bush, Rumsfeld, and on down to Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, taking it to "the outer limits." Oh for the good old days, when that was just scary fiction on our black and white TV.

May Day Boxing Permalink to this item

(What do you call the day after May Day, after all? Groundhog May?) Seems a shame to have missed saying something on the first of May, 26 years after I stuck a flower behind my ear and danced around the Maypole in Friendship Square.

And three years after the publicity stunt under the "Mission Accomplished" banner. The times they are a-changin'.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Tuesday, 06-Jun-2006 23:29:14 MDT