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

Something stinks in CA-11 Permalink to this item

The defeated challenger to the Republican incumbent of the California 11th District: "Mr. Pombo in my view represents all that is wrong with the national government in Washington today."

But beyond the lying, cheating and stealing, McCloskey says "the clear abdication by the House over the past five years of the Congress' constitutional power and duty to exercise oversight over abuses of power, cronyism, incompetence and excessive secrecy on the part of the Executive Branch" is reason for Republicans to work against "DeLay-type Republicans."

The nickel-and-dime-you business model Permalink to this item

The no-checked-luggage check-in kiosk at the airport is familiar by now, and more attractive than waiting in line. But here's something new: would you like to change out of the crappy middle seats we gave you a month ago in the back of plane? For $15 they would.

The flight was full too, so it meant was that they left some seats unassigned until the last minute (at "all aboard," some were still waiting for assignments) seeing if they could squeeze a little more revenue out of us. We demurred, sat quietly in 20E and 24E, and did not pay $3 for the afternoon snack, either.

"Every French person wants to run the country." Permalink to this item

It figures that the French would take to blogging.

French blogs... are noticeably longer, more critical, more negative, more egocentric and more provocative than their United States counterparts, said Laurent Flores, the French-born, New York-based chief executive of CRM Metrix, a company that monitors blogs and other online conversations on behalf of companies seeking feedback on their brands. "Bloggers in the United States listen to each other and incorporate rival ideas in the discussion," he said. "French bloggers never compromise their opinions."

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

Hallelujah Permalink to this item

"...the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a 'Christian nation' and stop glorifying American military campaigns." (NYT)

"You could no more have a 'Christian Nation' than you could have a Christian flower plant, or bicycle, or, or, Tostido, or something. You're confusing categories there."
Greg Boyd
If you've read much of what I've written here, you're not surprised to find me agreeing with that sentiment. But the pastor—the founder—of the evangelical Woodland Hills Church? That might be a bit more surprising, but God bless him for that (and for an impressive archive of his sermons).

Not everyone agreed: he lost a good 20% of the congregation on the Two Kingdoms series (but then he brought in 99% of the 5,000 members). He may make up the difference in book sales for his latest title, "The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church." Or not: he talked several million bucks out of the $7M fundraising campaign.

And not as if Greg Boyd is at the forefront of a mass movement. Consider the story of Georgetown, Delaware for the counterveiling tyranny of democracy version. "If you want people to stop calling him ‘Jew boy,’ you tell him to give his heart to Jesus."

Edge off, finally Permalink to this item

11 day graph of highs, lows and dewpt at BOI After 9 days running with highs in triple digits, we finally got the start of relief from our heat: "only" in the high 90s, and the overnight lows getting down below 70°F. The air conditioner was able to take a break, finally; maybe it can take the rest of the summer off?

It ain't Democratic, so it must be Republican Permalink to this item

The command and control version of democracy got a boost from the self-imposed "summer break" deadline: time to get something done, is time for the rank and file to shut up and vote yay or nay.

The Leadership apparently intends to use a process known as "martial law" to allow these bills to be brought to the floor very shortly after negotiations are completed, with the result that Members of the House are likely to have virtually no time to examine and consider the details of the legislation before they will be required to vote on it.

Ok, martial law in the headline got my attention. Something like hearing yet another air raid siren and wondering "is this really the end this time?" The process of working out hundreds of pages in the backroom and the springing it on the House is the same wonderful means that brought us the U.S.A. Patriot Act. Now it's pressed in service for further tax reductions for the rich, pushing corporate pension and war costs out to some unspecified future generations.

What you might be looking for? Permalink to this item

Welcome to Statesman readers coming in from Greg Hahn's story about the virtual buzz on the Grant-Sali race. The item he referred to is down a couple days, but if you're interested in political issues, don't miss my correspondence from Thursday along the way.

It's hardly surprising that early poll results show Republicans leading, given the party-line voting that characterizes Idaho politics. Too bad we couldn't have kept that 6-way race in the Republican primary going a bit longer to find out more about what the citizens really care about in the race. Now that we're down to one R and one D, the contest seems to revert to the proxy fight of "how much money can you raise?"

On the other hand, given how firmly money is in the driver's seat for elected politicians, what else would decide who gets to play? If it were more about the issues, we would have to give the other three candidates more than a footnote.

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

EULA Deception Permalink to this item

"EULA" being "End User License Agreement. I used to read all the fine print of most every agreement imaginable before I signed on the dotted line, but since then the volume (and density) of fine print has multiplied beyond my willingness to spend portions of my life reading it in most cases. And signing on the dotted line has morphed into clicking an "I agree" button, lowering the threshold of caution another notch.

There are some really despicable decisions being made and shoved under customers noses in the EULA fine print these days, and the worst that come to light give pause. Here is Robert X. Cringely with the question "who owns your vide?" YouTube do: submitting the User Submissions to YouTube, you hereby grant YouTube a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the User Submissions in connection with the YouTube Website and YouTube's (and its successor's) any media formats and through any media channels.

But wait, there's more.

You also hereby grant each user of the YouTube Website a non-exclusive license to access your User Submissions through the Website, and to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display and perform such User Submissions as permitted through the functionality of the Website and under these Terms of Service.

(One item in YouTube's favor that Cringely doesn't mention, as he implies the opposite, that you can never retrieve what you give them: "The foregoing license granted by you terminates once you remove or delete a User Submission from the YouTube Website.")

Of course, you can still shop around. Links of the Week for the story include DVguru's review of 10 competitors for video sharing (but the due dilligence on their EULAs is up to you: the once over lightly reviews covers only the "Appeal," "Interface," "Editing," and "Sharing," before rendering its "Verdict").

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

Dear Senator Craig Permalink to this item

I hope you still support the 4th Amendment to the Constitution and will oppose S.2453 and S.2453. Congress needs to learn the facts of what powers the Bush administration has taken upon itself in the NSA spying program before it legislates permission to proceed.

The Attorney General has admitted that President Bush personally blocked an investigation into the domestic spying programs by the unprecedented action of denying security clearances to attorneys from the Justice Department's ethics office, the Congress needs more facts before it takes action in this matter.

Dear Governor Risch Permalink to this item

As a homeowner and a concerned citizen, I've followed the property tax issue for some time, from the public hearings last year through the most recent legislative session. I supported adjusting the homeowner's exemption to preserve its original intent, and indexing it to avoid the imbalance that we have seen in recent years.

The compromise the Legislature produced was not perfect, but it was a definite improvement.

I am alarmed at what I now hear about your plan, apparently to be executed without public participation, in a one-day special session of the Legislature next month. As you are well aware, because of the different assessment and effect of property tax on commercial and investment property (and the current real estate environment), shifting the M&O levy out of property tax and to an increased sales tax will NOT provide tax relief to those who need it the most.

Business interests and real estate speculators may well applaud your plan, but homeowners and low-income residents of the state will see little or no relief. Our Idaho 4th graders can understand the mathematics on your Property Tax Relief Act of 2006 overview: $167 million less in residential property tax, $210 million more in sales tax. That does not spell R-E-L-I-E-F, Mr. Governor.

I hope you or the Idaho Legislature will reconsider this ill-advised plan.

While I appreciate the idea of your provision of an "advisory" vote, AFTER THE FACT, I can't help but think this is window dressing. The Legislature is free to ignore the result of such a vote; they've done it before.

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

Yes, ID-01 is really in play Permalink to this item

And the Republicans care more about their majority (impeachment insurance, don't you know) than what kind of fellow-travelling wingnuts they're pulling along. The final ROMP pulled in just shy of a $million, and candidate Bill Sali for Idaho's first Congressional District is one of five lucky recipients of the proceeds.

Out of state campaign funds suspect in Idaho? Not when they're flowing to the Republicans, I suppose. But forget about "rumors" of Republicans defecting to Democratic candidate Larry Grant, you can bank on it.

One more Pope is all we need Permalink to this item

Catchy title, but John Dvorak's latest column exhorting Microsoft to annoit a "Windows Pope" (who he assumes will be male for some reason) is the idle and unproductive musing of someone with too comfortable a chair in front of his keyboard, and too distant an apprehension of reality.

Dvorak thinks the problem is that there is no one person who "knows everything there is to know about Windows." As if that were possible. Since knowing doesn't do much, what he really implies is that Microsoft needs someone to control everything there is to control about Windows, and of course not make any mistakes about design, implementation and maintenance. Good luck with that. The guy in the Vatican has an easier job controlling the world's Catholics, and he's not getting that done, either.

People can be just so willful when you turn them loose.

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

Honor Killing Permalink to this item

John Tierney, opining off James Bowman’s new book, Honor: A History:

In the West we've redefined "honorable" as being virtuous, fair, truthful and sincere, but that’s not the traditional meaning. Honor meant simply the respect of the local "honor group"—the family, the extended clan, the tribe, the religious sect. It meant maintaining a reputation for courage and loyalty, not being charitable to enemy civilians. Telling the truth was secondary to saving face.

Bowman: "We need a better system that makes it honorable to be protective of those who are weaker instead of lording it over them." Sounds almost religious.

Squirrel Feeder Permalink to this item

Boy squirrel, having an early acorn in July My grandfather loved the gray squirrels in his Whitefish Bay (Wis.) back yard. He had a feeder by the kitchen window, where the breakfast table was, and I remember his delight at watching them watch him through the glass.

Our mighty oak in the front yard substitutes for store-bought feed, it's the office window instead of the kitchen, and Boise's squirrels are mostly the red variety rather than gray, but the same story is playing out these decades later.

Hotter Permalink to this item

Is it time for rolling blackouts in California again? The record high in San Francisco of 80-something seems humorous, but 115 in Stockton, and 119°F in LA's Woodland Hills is no joke.

The good news: "Relief appeared on the way, with temperatures expected to fall to the usual 70’s and 80’s beginning Tuesday."

For our part, with the nights staying in the 70s and the days topping 100 (and forecast to keep doing that), we've actually run our AC for part of the 3 or 4 hours (total) it puts in during 2 or 3 days a year. Don't know if it was an old fuse, too much cycling, or what, but one of the two 30A cartridge fuses burned up sometime Sunday. Other than that, I continue to be surprised when the thing works, given its age (40-something?!), and how infrequently it gets used.

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

Reaping the Whirlwind Permalink to this item

Clover fruit in mid-July Apparently the latest solution for intelligence agencies delivering unpleasant information is to stop delivery. That can certainly prevent an NIE containing the estimate that Iraq is now in a full-fledged civil war, but it can't quite stop the facts on the ground.

The violence is on an upward trend, with more than 14,000 civilians killed so far this year.

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

What's in a Mission Statement? Permalink to this item

"To understand and protect our home planet" is no longer in NASA's, after its remodeling. Just a coincidence that NASA scientist James Hansen's nettlesome criticism of the administration over their ignoring the threats from global warming are "fixed" by the change.

Maybe if we just ignore it, it'll go away.

HOT Permalink to this item

Temperature graph from NOAA's BOI airport weather station I noticed in the weather report last night that our 104°F high yesterday was shy of the record: 107°F, last year. We all are going to have to get used to it, looks like. I'm not complaining, by any means; I know of too many other places that have it worse. There's no humidity to speak of here, it usually cools off at night, and just in case it doesn't, we have electricity all of most every day and could switch on the AC. Oh, and the cool basement.

Is the sanctimony and piety an act, too? Permalink to this item

In the Times Select pundit "debate" (which was more like friendly banter, in which David Brooks, Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich were unable to find any significant points of disagreement), David Brooks offered up a basic observation to help us understand our war president: "He's about 20 points more intelligent in private than he is in public; that's because he spent his whole life as a rich Connecticut kid pretending to be a Texan, uh, idiot. He talks down in a way to be a 'regular guy' because he hated the people he grew up with."

How strange that the actor who has been sold to the American people on the basis of "at least you know where he stands" honesty is using this play-dumb thing to keep it going. And how tragic that the leader of the free world (as we so like to call our president) is hopelessly unsuited to the job's demands.

Pat Buchanan wonders where are the Christians?

Who is whispering in his ear? The same people who told him Iraq was maybe months away from an atom bomb, that an invasion would be a "cakewalk," that he would be Churchill, that U.S. troops would be greeted with candy and flowers, that democracy would break out across the region, that Palestinians and Israelis would then sit down and make peace? How much must America pay for the education of this man?

20.July.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Leading to Low Ground Permalink to this item

That's the title of Bob Herbert's latest Op-Ed piece, available from the source to Times Select subscribers. I suppose you could buy today's NYT, too. I'm sure it'll be reprinted elsewhere, in deference to its simple moral clarity. Regarding where we have gone from the moral high ground we held as injured party in September, 2001, Herbert writes:

(T)he Bush administration deliberately abandoned those heights to pursue policies that were not just morally questionable, but reprehensible. Administration officials have fought like tigers to retain the right to torture. They have imprisoned people willy-nilly, without regard to whether they had actually committed offenses against the United States. They set up a system of kangaroo courts at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, that was such an affront to the idea of justice that it should have sent shudders of shame down the spines of decent Americans.

Some of what's at stake, described in the testimony of Elisa Massimino of Human Rights First:

"We cannot have rules permitting one person or branch of government to be the judge, jury and prosecutor. Defendants must have the right to be present at trial.A defendant must have the right to know the evidence being used against him, to respond to it, and to challenge its credibility or authenticity.

"Testimony cannot be compelled.... This means not only that a person cannot be forced to testify, but also that information or witness statements obtained through torture, cruelty or other coercion cannot be used as evidence."

The Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld pointed the way out of the morass the inner circle of the Bush Administration has taken us into. Will the Congress step up to the challenge?

Keynote Permalink to this item

I went to a technology seminar yesterday, put on by a company that had a vested interest, with related products and services to sell. They could've made their pecuniary interest more obvious up front, but it was OK. Everyone there expected a certain amount of sales, and wrote it off against the treats and the free lunch and the schwag.

Most everyone there was either on salary or in sales, just a consultant and/or small business owner or two in the audience. I went "on spec," hoping there was something I could use for a paying customer. Some day.

I'd been to such events as a salaryman myself, and I understood the required signal-to-noise was not particularly high. This is a field trip, a movie day, a chance to escape the cube farm for a while. One lucky state employee won a Palm Treo 700w in the business card drawing, you know she had a productive day.

The guy from Verizon sitting in front of me wore his Bluetooth earpiece the whole time, had his PDA-phone glued to his right hand... playing Tetris most of the time. Went really well with his pressed shirt and professional appearance. He spoke up once during the morning, with a surprisingly pertinent observation about something or other. Almost like he was paying attention and engaged. For a brief moment. He didn't stay after lunch.

Not exactly the main event, but more to keep us from running off during or after lunch, they had a "Keynote" speaker, who delivered a classic, bullet-list driven Powerpoint presentation. I give you my nearly verbatim notes taken after I'd finished eating:

How many upper-level managers are working at this guy's level, good memory for buzzwords and TLAs, able to stitch them together in seemingly meaningful ways?

"HTML, that's a browser-type thing."

The audience is flat, bored, done with lunch now, close to stupefied.

"Design and Implementation. It's really important."


There's a 1..5 rating scale; he's "below category." He had nothing new to add, and he didn't present it well.

In summary, "Do not be too ambitious."

Questions? Nope. Strong vote of "no interest."

"He's got his own consulting company these days." Wouldn't you know.

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

Murther Most Foul Permalink to this item

Or is it just some overheated rhetoric in service to the Base? Either way, our President's Fox Newsboy has invoked the 'M' word in the stem cell debate, as Bush pulled out the VETO stamp for for the first time in his more than 5 years in office. The majority of Americans disagree with him, as did the majority of the House of Representatives. But not a two-thirds majority, so the veto stands.

Will we be prosecuting those blastocyst murderers now? Ah, not exactly. The vetoed bill was about federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, not when a potentially viable human life acquires the full force and protection of what laws Bush has decided his administration will follow.

57 days to go... Permalink to this item

ACHD putting down more tar and gravel on our street for Symantec's Norton Internet Security to annoy me enough for it to lose the pole position HP gave it as the essential anti-virus software on our new computer. Today's stupid software trick is to have three checkmarks for alerts on each of two accounts, that when unchecked still do not stop the CRITICAL ISSUE! popups telling me that I have turned off automatic Windows Update.

Many of those updates are unnecessary, and some—WGA, in particular— are themselves unwanted spyware. I want to be the judge of WHAT and WHEN changes are made to my installed operating system. There's some risk in that, of course, just as there is risk in letting Microsoft decide for me. I say it's a toss-up. Symantec says it's much, much, much better to do whatever Microsoft says.

That's annoying. The decision might not take two whole months.

Odd juxtaposition Permalink to this item

Yahoo! reports weak sales of text ads and its shares dip, while The Wall Street Journal reports it's going to put ads on its front page. Text and graphics, no doubt. It'll be "the most valuable opportunity anywhere in any medium for advertisers who want to reach a large, affluent and influential audience," the publisher says. One's tempted to say... Wahoo!

The Yahoo! story notes that the (online) industry leader, Google, "produces 40 percent more revenue from each search than Yahoo does," according to industry experts, "thanks to software that is better at selecting relevant text advertisements to place on a page of search results." Which prompts the question: what is the "relevance" of an expensive colored jewel box of an ad on the front of the WSJ? The message would be... "we have money to burn, remember us."

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

Surprisingly ugly Permalink to this item

5? 6? hours into this new PC startup, and currently occupying the old one and new one with animated files flying between folders. After transfering something surely a percent or two short of 100% of the wanted files, it occurred to me to try the File and Settings Transfer wizard to get one important bit done--connecting the new email program with the old machine's folders full of email.

A couple of false starts later, I seemed to go into an endless mire, this time with no meaningful status messages estimating the time remaining. After half an hour with no sign of progress, I cancelled, and figured out that Outlook Express would happily import the folders and messages I'd already copied.

The old machine had 6GB of HD space, no more than a third of that useful data I needed to save and transfer. Should have been under an hour to get that across the LAN cables, eh? Not so fast, bucko...

The guys and/or gals who designed that idiotic file transfer animation had better be on their best behavior in this life. If they have the misfortune to go to Hell, they will be staring at their miserable little invention for eternity, I'm sure.

Then when I went to turn it off to move it into the prime desk position, I discover that there have been 34 updates pending, just waiting for me to shut it down.

Still gold in them thar hills Permalink to this item

Worldwide market jitters have joined forces with growing disposable income among gold-loving Indians, and pushed the price back into the stratosphere. $650+/oz. makes it well worth ripping up a couple mountain tops and creating 27 million tons of "waste" rock to get at half a million ounces of gold. That works out to be about 1.4 ppm gold; I assume it's denser below the "overburden" they'll dump into the nearby valleys.

On Saturday, Jeanette and I visited some of what will be put at risk by the Atlanta Gold project, for the benefit of some corporate investors and Canadian miners: the beautiful Boise River, below the confluence of the North and Middle forks, above the Arrowrock reservoir. It was a trip arranged by the Idaho Conservation League and Idaho Rivers United that came with informative lectures at beaches along the way.

The cyanide will probably be managed well enough (given that it leaches the gold the company's after), but the diesel fuel, the arsenic and possibly mercury exposed by tearing into tens of millions of tons of rock, and the heavy equipment traffic on roads through our forests and along our rivers will have significant impact, at least, with a good chance of the occasional catastrophe. All this upstream of our Treasure Valley, and the hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland the river irrigates, the tens of thousands who rely on the river for drinking water, and recreation.

Doesn't sound like a great idea for keeping Indian brides adorned with golden jewelry, does it? But according to our 1872 Mining Law, extracting wealth from the earth is the highest and best use possible, and we're glad to have someone try.

Since we likely can't stop it, job #2 is to make sure we hold the company's feet to the fire and make sure they mitigate the risks and the damage, as much as economically possible. (The higher the price of gold, the more that's possible.)

The best part of the trip was that we had a conservative Republican state legislator with us, for some interesting conversation on the long and bumpy road in, and while floating. I appreciated Rep. Pete Nielsen and coming out to do some first-person research, and to have a look at the territory at risk.

Tracking the User Experience Permalink to this item

Finally bought a new 'doze machine to replace our 8-year-old win95 box. Some good and some bad in the initial startup. As usual when I'm working with other people's software, I want to have a conversation with the people in charge, and of course I can't do that.

Who makes the decisions about what to include in the "package," for example? I had no idea we were going to get a huge wallop of games, and had I been asked to pay whatever it costs to select, install, maintain, troubleshoot, etc. the big package, I would've politely declined.

I'm impressed with the hp/Compaq hardware, and appreciate it being very quiet. It's nice not to have to shuffle any floppy disks, CDs or DVDs to get up and going. Threw away all the AOL crap, and couldn't change the browser's homepage away from AOL quickly enough. Skipped the "easy connect" wizard to get me onto the internet with one of HP's preferred providers, given that I was already plugged in.

Went to Windows Update, and that was installing software for Microsoft before I realized I wasn't going to be asked for specific permissions; thereby sucking me into the "Windows Genuine Advantage" POS, now brought to you in an unretractable format. Damnit. I was suprised that there was NOT a pile of patches to get me up to snuff; another plus for hp, that the system install package was up to date.

Norton A/V gets the incumbent slot, courtesy of the hardware vendor. And wanted to do a full system scan straight away. Seemed like overkill, but I let it go, and accumulated some annoyance as it took most of an hour to finish.

Then the problem with Firefox site, after I'd previously downloaded (and saved) the .exe installer... and found it wouldn't run due to an "unspecified error." hp gave me the choice of browsers, IE or Netscape. Gosh, Netscape is still around? I wonder why.

Firefox site hacked? Permalink to this item

Or are we having some sort of outage? I get 403 Forbidden (and a 404 on the ErrorDocument) from at the moment. (Same thing for the domain's home page, When it first came up, on a new machine I was just setting up, I wondered if maybe Norton A/V had done something weird while doing its first scan of the 135,000 or so files that came with... but no, my known good machine talks to other sites, but not

That was 10:03AM MDT. 20 minutes later, it's back.

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

Bad news for time travelers Permalink to this item

Allosaurus skull at the Dinosaur Nat'l Monument Quarry The visitors' center at the quarry of the Dinosaur National Monument is closed until further notice, while "significant life, health and safety issues are addressed." Dang! Right in the middle of the peak tourist season, too. The quarry was one of the highlights of our road trip last summer, and we were able to escape safely.

Cleaning out the riff-raff Permalink to this item

The Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry has long had its way with the state, and the state Legislature, serving the interests of the well-placed in commerce and industry. Which of course is good for everyone, right? But to correct an overdose of populism in the group, they're upping the ante: $5,000 and up, annually, if you want a vote on the policy committee.

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

How to end the war Permalink to this item

As the waves of violence build, is it time to study the mistakes? Or at least to consider the destination? The prescription from someone with a bit more experience in the country than our fearless leader is to put an end to the failed experiment. The End of Iraq : How American Incompetence Created a War Without End, from Peter W. Galbraith.

Iraq still exists on a map, but it no longer functions as a single country. We're trying to build national institutions right now—like the army and the police—when there is no nation. A nation is a collection of people who share a common identity. You would expect that Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis would have their religious or ethnic identity. What they do not share is an Iraqi identity.

(From his answers to Deborah Solomon's Questions.)

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

Looters and Beggars Permalink to this item

Small business advertising, Garden City, Idaho Ben Stein is a lawyer, writer, actor and economist, and a Republican, I hear. He's noticed something wrong and has some questions. One is: "Is this America, where we will end up so far behind the financial eight ball we won't be able to see because of mismanagement by both parties, the America that our men and women are losing limbs for, coming home in boxes for?"

We are mortgaging ourselves to foreigners on a scale that would make George Washington cry. Every day—every single day—we borrow a billion dollars from foreigners to buy petroleum from abroad, often from countries that hate us. We are the beggars of the world, financing our lavish lifestyle by selling our family heirlooms and by enslaving our progeny with the need to service the debt.

Life-size Portrait of a Pit Bull Permalink to this item

I would typically cross the street (or further, moving upwind) to avoid "a big-bellied curmudgeon with a taste for old Caddies, pontoon boats and enormous cigars." It isn't as easy to avoid the effects of James Sensenbrenner however, as he cuts a swath through the legacy of Progressive politics from my home state, "a feared and vital character in some defining political dramas, like the Clinton impeachment, the passage of the USA Patriot Act and the current legislative donnybrook over immigration."

Beyond the can't-look-away attraction of a car wreck however, Mark Leibovich gives us a remarkable portrait of a career politician.

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

Dives, butts and PKs Permalink to this item

That's the capsule version of my World Cup 2006 wrap-up.

Dynamite P.R. Permalink to this item

You know you want to go to Preston for the Napoleon Dynamite festival.

"I thought it was funny, but I was concerned people would think it was a hick town," said Monte Henderson, a cattle farmer who was in the Happiness Is Scrapbooking store on Friday with his wife, Linda. "I have to admit I related to it, though. I mean, I was part of the F.F.A."

Ms. Henderson added: "I drive a school bus and I can't tell you how many times we've had to tell the kids to reel their little rubber men in from out the window."

Win-win-win with price signals Permalink to this item

From a Jim Pinto reader: "...Why don't we use the price signal to test the country's appetite for waging foreign police actions?" $200M/day for the Iraq war, 10M barrels/day of crude oil... that's $20/barrel to let the market see the bigger picture, encourage more efficient use of scarce resources, and maybe reduce politicians' taste for foreign adventure.

If you like that idea, how about a salary penalty for Congress and the Executive branch, tied to deficit spending? Subtract whatever percentage of the budget that's not being paid for by tax revenue. You want your whole salary? Balance the budget. And of course, during times of deficit, those automatic pay raises would all be disabled.

Are there adults we can call on for this? Permalink to this item

The Center for American Progress offers an adult approach to defusing the North Korean tempest; it's not a missile "crisis" in the absence of a credible threat, unless we make it one (which so many hard-liners seem wont to do).

And oh by the way, "claims by the Bush administration that it has an anti-missile system that can shoot down an incoming threat are as useless as North Korea's latest rocket technology. The hugely expensive anti-missile system built in Alaska is plagued by technical problems, schedule delays and cost overruns."

The Bush administration says it can't reward North Korea with talks in the face of threats, but that's the wrong tack. North Korea's decrepit political economy is destined to fail, perhaps not as soon as we'd like, but soon enough. Rather than allow Kim to escalate his nuclear threats to ever more dangerous levels, it's better to open up direct economic and diplomatic links between North Korea and the rest of the world—in turn undermining the very foundations of Kim's regime.

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

We're in the money Permalink to this item

Frederic W. Cook, founding director of a compensation consulting firm and producer of a "study" on executive pay for The Business Roundtable found everything to be perfectly in order, with CEO's "total pay" right in line with (actually lagging slightly!) shareholder returns from 1995 to 2005 at hundreds of the nation's largest companies.

"The media has been flooded with a multitude of distorted, misleading and oftentimes erroneous statistics to portray U.S. C.E.O.'s and board governance in a negative light," he said in testimony before a House Financial Services Committee hearing.

His business is of course producing multitudes of distorted, misleading and oftentimes erroneous statistics to portray his pals in a positive light. Gretchen Morgenson's Times Select piece asks whether "Total Pay" is really that difficult to grasp.

Actually it is. Tens and tens or hundreds of millions of dollars annually, 7-figure annual pensions to keep the wolves from the door. 54% pay raises. Hard to get your hands around. Maybe easier to swim in, the way Scrooge McDuke liked to.

8.7.6 Permanent URL to this day's entry

No Moore! Permalink to this item

Not Michael, but deposed Judge Roy, as seen on the sign (and in the audience) of a mock activist being pilloried by the First Baptist Church of Pleasant Grove. The right-wing prescription: take two tablets and call me in the morning.

Coming from a state that carries some infamy as the (former!) home of neo-Nazi "Christians," this business of the toxic mix of politics and religion in the service of an all-powerful God who has taken sides, the question of how close right-wing fundamentalism comes to fascism seems more than an academic question.

Idols in the statehouse, or in the park, are only the warm-up act in the unfolding passion play of dominion theology, teaching that "godly men have the responsibility to take over every aspect of society" in preparation for the Second Coming.

Stupid church reader board of the day Permalink to this item

Experts designed the Titanic
Amateurs designed the Ark

But hey, it got me to thinking, so can they chalk it up as a win? I was thinking, do they hire an amateur when they need plumbing done? Was their new church building designed by an amateur architect? Do they have an amateur preacher?

Nothing wrong with loving what you do, and even the best of us make mistakes, but expertise comes from honest hard work, and its track record is way ahead of ignorance. Divine inspiration makes a jolly story, but realistically, it's not in the running.

Got his internet in a twist Permalink to this item

Ted Stevens is miffed 'cause his big truck got tubed and "just the other day, an Internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I got it yesterday. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the Internet commercially."

Scroll down for that, after you read the slightly more interesting bit about "the long tail" and millions of niches that the web has created for information, and us.

Backing another dictator for oil? Permalink to this item

Cheney's cozy with Kazakhstan's leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, so popular that he collected 91% of the "vote" in their last election. Simpler choice with no opposition party. Allowed.

Some basics on human decency Permalink to this item

As codified in the Geneva Convention, and reaffirmed in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld. It remains to be seen how the Congress will deal with that decision.

Geneva tells states to take the common-sense measures of holding swift hearings on the battlefield to distinguish combatants from those swept in accidentally. But the administration decided to forego these essential procedures "to make a point—that the president can designate them all enemy combatants if he wants to." Congress and the American public are still slowly learning that Guantánamo detainees are in fact innocent of all conduct, that we have been frittering away our money, manpower and reputation not on the "worst of the worst," but on shepherds and farmers because the administration declined to sort the innocent from the guilty.

6.7.6 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Next Economic Boom for the West? Permalink to this item

The first time around, "reclamation" meant taking the land "back" from the god-forsaken wilderness condition we found it in. This time around, re-making the landscape is being billed as "restoration." There's more gold in them thar hills, "cleaning up the old economic engines of mining, timber and agriculture." And fixing up run-down urban landscapes, to boot.

No Exit Permalink to this item

Texas judge Sam Sparks rules that Tom DeLay has to stay on the ballot, even though he's quit the House without finishing his 12th term, and says he has no intention of going back. He did win the primary, in a crowded field. He tried to steal away to Virginia and give up his Texas residency...

Does that mean if he gets elected, he'll have broken yet another law? Stay tuned for the appeal process first. And the outcome of his state indictment on charges of breaking campaign financing laws, in connection with the 2003 Texas gerrymandering recently endorsed (for the most part) by the Supremes.

"This would be a serious abuse of the election system and a fraud on the voters, which the court will not condone," the Sparks said, about DeLay's name on the ballot, not the gerrymandering.

I say, make him clear out of that Sugar Land homestead, at least.

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

Boys just want to have fun Permalink to this item

NASA's best shot of the Discovery launch, cropped by me How else to explain the 4th of July fussilade around the world? Everything lit off in our neighborhood was just for fun, but the biggest firework of all was for pushing the envelope of exploration one more small step. Home-made rockets and missiles with murderous intent flew around the Middle East, "as usual" we would have to say.

And last but barking not to be least, North Korea sent up seven, the biggest and baddest aborted (or failed?) 42 seconds out. Kim Jong Il is doing his best to live up to the Axis of Evil billing we gave him, not happy with being upstaged by Iraq and Iran.

What a great multiplier he'll get for the effort, with millions of Americans up and down the left coast now thinking that shouldn't we ought to have some sort of missile defense? Never mind that it's an invitation to yet another idiotic arms race, and we'll continue spending about a hundred times as much Kimmie's team.

We're just not comfortable going back to the days of duck and cover.

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

The Hidden Power Permalink to this item

Regular readers may recall seeing David Addington's name in this blog, as a member of the Bush administration's cabal of legal deputies fighting the memorandum war. I didn't know enough of the particulars about him, until I read Jane Mayer's piece in the New Yorker detailing his "central role in shaping the Administration's legal strategy for the war on terror." It's long, but worthwhile reading on the anniversary of independence from the monarchy.

Known as the New Paradigm, this strategy rests on a reading of the Constitution that few legal scholars share—namely, that the President, as Commander-in-Chief, has the authority to disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries, if national security demands it. Under this framework, statutes prohibiting torture, secret detention, and warrantless surveillance have been set aside.

Which war are we winning? Permalink to this item

Patrick Buchanan's presumably dispassionate assessment of the current situation is not optimistic: he says it's Time for an "Agonizing Reappraisal." No mention of the progress we're making—because he can't think of any positives?

The MSM seem to be doing what they can: our ambassador to Iraq's dismal assessment disappeared from view almost immediately.

Bomb the Press! Permalink to this item

Frank Rich describes better than I can how just how clumsy the recent attempts by the Bush administration to make the press the scapegoat of its disaster was:

The real news conveyed by The Times and its competitors was not the huge program to track terrorist finances, but that per usual from the administration that gave us Gitmo, the program was conducted with little oversight from the other two branches of government. Even so, the reporting on the pros and cons of that approach was, as Mr. Snow said, balanced.

Or so he said Friday morning, June 23. By Monday, the president had entered the fray and Mr. Snow was accusing The Times of putting the "public's right to know" over "somebody's right to live." What had happened over the weekend to prompt this escalation of hysteria?

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

Oh that sort of desecration Permalink to this item

Your flag decal won't get you into heaven if it's faded Interestingly enough, the history of laws against flag desecration starts with a desire to protect the value of the symbol from people abusing it for advertising.

Where are the true patriots who could express themselves as intelligently as Justice William J. Brennan? "We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents."

The once-upon-a-time Boy Scout in me sees a lot more careless disrespect than genuine desecration for protest. The former seems worse to me than the latter, which acknowledges the meaning: to the Republic, for which it stands.

Which would you like for your kids, jail, or humiliation? Permalink to this item

Given the highest incarceration rate in the world, I suppose you could argue that our system of detention and punishment is the secret to our success. Not that there's any evidence for it beyond the correlation. In terms of raising children however, the latest innovations seem like a symptom of a serious cultural illness.

I wouldn't try to train a dog this way, would you? Handcuffing a 7-year-old and locking him up, for days?!

Our locally developed Harbor Method, designed to create a "safe harbor" for children to learn, attempts to do so by rewarding robotic obedience and punishing transgressions with public belittling, berating and other forms of humiliation.

We could do better by getting a lesson from animal trainers.

What do you stand for? Permalink to this item

NewWest has a review of the state party conventions' and the platforms that came out of them. Sort of. Kuraitis liked the succinct one the Democrats came up with (for a change), but was stonewalled by the other party: "Idaho Republicans have not yet posted theirs and regrettably, wouldn't release a copy to me when I called...." One (Republican?) who responded in the comments offered a comparison between party platforms and "toiletpaper," so I guess that's enough said.

There's no argument that the message needs to be simple. The Republican approach is to boil it down to one- or two-word nicknames that provide the kiss of death. Literally: "death tax." "Hate America." "Disgraceful" media. Their complexity is in the machinery behind the scenes that keeps those words popping up into the electorate's consciousness.

The DNC is working to simply the message, but even an elevator-speech length postcard might be too much. Think bullet points.

  1. End the culture of corruption.
  2. Tell the truth.
  3. Don't start wars. Finish them.
  4. Cure our addiction to oil.
  5. Universal healthcare.

Your call may be recorded for training purposes Permalink to this item

I had this long story of last week's experience with one of the worst things that can happen with email (yes, worse than spam, but maybe not worse than what can happen if you arrange a meeting, or wire money to Nigeria) all typed up, when this came in: top-of-the-charts recording of an AOL customer service call. (Don't bother trying the guy's blog, but the youtube bit off of NBC is good.)

Mine's not as entertaining, with no video or audio. And probably too long, but then that's the way these things happen, eh?

A recent discussion about how to choose an ISP got summarized about like this: get the cheapest deal that meets your needs, from the company that annoys you the least. Are they really all equally incompetent? Let's hope not, if my experience with is a measure of the state of technoloy...

A client had the misfortune to send a bulk email invitation to an event last week, with a big distribution list that included one of adelphia's customers. The person who did the mailing made the mistake of not using Bcc to hide the long list of recipients from each other, and someone had a brain-damaged autoresponder that didn't recognize its own work.

Worse than that, actually; it re-sent the original message and made it look as if the original sender was doing it. There were a few bad addresses in the distribution, so my client got a bundle of bounce messages every time this happened. It started Sunday night, and was on about a 15-minute schedule. Eventually a recipient got annoyed enough to "reply to all" to ask everyone—anyone—to make it stop. Unfortunately, neither the recipients nor the original sender knew how to do that. Even more unfortunately, his message—and an even more useless "yeah, me too" reply-to-all—got entrained into the mail loop. Now there were three messages going out to everyone every 15 minutes (and bounces going three ways).

I got the distress call on Monday, but with other delays, it was almost 24 hours after the loop had started before I got into the office and started working to figure out how to make it stop, and pushing past normal business hours. The bounce messages were coming from a misconfigured postmaster account, which was at least detectable by inspecting the headers. Adelphia. The replies-to-all were even more interesting, starting from an address on a hosted domain, going first to an adelphia server.

"On any interaction, you should assume that it could be posted on the Web."
–Scott Falconer, an AOL executive vice president
I looked 'em up, gave 'em a call. It wasn't easy getting through the phone menu, set up for their customers, but I eventually got an agent. She had no idea how to respond to me, forwarded me up the chain, and up again to a technician prepared to talk email esoterica with me. By this time, I'd assembled an excerpt of headers from a bounce, and the two replies-to-all, and sent them to the tech. Hmm, yeah, it looks like a problem. He'd send it on up the chain, he told me, without committing to doing anything, giving me a ticket number or so on. We tracked down the office and phone number associated with the domain of the actual originator, called and left messages for them.

Nothing to do but let the messages continue to pile up, wait for Tuesday, and hope someone would do something to stop the bleeding. It didn't happen, but there were more phone calls, a sidebar message I sent to the list (using Bcc!) telling them we were working on it, and finally an attempt to get through to Adelphia again, through the address the tech gave me, as well as postmaster, and abuse. started with an autoreply, saying it didn't accept attachments. So I put all the information in line and tried again. That garnered a reply... from the postmaster, saying that the address the message eventually got routed to was misconfigured.

It was Wednesday before I was finally on the phone with someone competent in the matter at adelphia. The magic words were "Internet Policy Enforcement," and I was able to get him to understand that it was their customer, a serious matter, and required their action. He said he'd send it on to management, to see if they wanted to escalate the issue. I suggested that if he wanted to provide some motivation, he could tell them that the people on the distribution list were all lawyers in Idaho, and some of them had already had their mail systems shut down by the overload.

It was Thursday before they actually got it done, and the good news from my client that the deluge had stopped came in mid-day. A few hours after that, I got one last message on the subject, from... It was an autoreply, to a day-old message?! And it looked like one of those "how many mistakes can you find in this picture?" puzzles. The first one was that it said it was sent 4:09pm, but it was not yet 4:09pm in Boise, by most of 2 hours. Wrong time zone, obviously, and no indication of what the right TZ was in the Date: header. It had two "From: " lines. Oh and an X-Loop header; too bad they didn't do that on their customer emails, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

"Every effort is made to follow up on all reports in a timely manner. All complaints are taken seriously and investigated fully." You bet.

1.July.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Secrets and Prisons Permalink to this item

It's astounding, really. The Supreme Court opened a tiny ray of legal light into the prison we maintain in Cuba, and Republicans are trying to figure out how to turn it into political gain. The starting point seems to be that the Democrats are celebrating a bit too much for their taste.

The WSJ reported that House Majority Leader John Boehner accused Democrats of supporting "special privileges for terrorists." What on earth is patriotic about stipulating that everyone picked up and detained by this adminstration must be a terrorist? Oversight makes us less safe? It's hard to believe that partisans would give up the rule of law so easily, for so small and so temporary an advantage. It's a testament to how successful the program of selling fear has been. We're at war. No end in sight. No questions to ask. Trust us. We know what's best.

Plan B is to shoot the messenger on the spying programs that lack oversight. Never mind that the terrorists already knew we were watching them; this is all about the "formulaic, knee-jerk, disingenuous and purely partisan." (Richard Clarke and Roger Cressey do find the monitoring of funds movement to be "worthwhile"—even if "not highly productive"—"legal and unobjectionable.")

While (the monitoring of international financial transactions) was not news to terrorists, it may, it appears, have been news to some Americans, including some in Congress. But should the press really be called unpatriotic by the administration, and even threatened with prosecution by politicians, for disclosing things the terrorists already assumed?

"There is, of course, another possible explanation for all the outraged bloviating...."

Dean Baquet (editor of the LA Times), and Bill Keller (executive editor of the NYT) have a joint editorial, When Do We Publish a Secret? that describes the full depth of the administration's hypocrisy:

A few days ago, Treasury Secretary John Snow said he was scandalized by our decision to report on the bank-monitoring program. But in September 2003 the same Secretary Snow invited a group of reporters from our papers, The Wall Street Journal and others to travel with him and his aides on a military aircraft for a six-day tour to show off the department's efforts to track terrorist financing. The secretary's team discussed many sensitive details of their monitoring efforts, hoping they would appear in print and demonstrate the administration's relentlessness against the terrorist threat.

I'm sure there's a job for him in Cheney's office Permalink to this item

Right after he finishes his year and a day sentence for falsifying scientific research. Eric Poehlman "changed and made up research in applications and papers on the effect of menopause on women's metabolism, the impact of aging on older men and women, the impact of hormone replacement therapy on obesity in post-menopausal women, the study of metabolism in Alzheimer's patients and the effect of endurance training on metabolism," posing as a specialist in exercise physiology.

He was good at getting grants with his "work," and the feds say he won $2.9 million worth with his fraud.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Wednesday, 02-Aug-2006 20:38:18 MDT