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

Putting Boise on the Map Permalink to this item

Scoop on NewWest sez Al Gore to Keynote the next Frank Church Conference, to be on the subject of global warming.

A Plan for Republican Success in November Permalink to this item

Liberals are such funny people. Here's one dyed-in-the-wool, but he's willing to reach out to conservatives for some crazy notion of fairness, and provide a sure-fire recipe for a 2006 win.

The way I see it, the Republican Party is teetering like a drunken frat boy on the lip of a mighty precipice. You could call that precipice "Iraq." You could call it "towering deficits" or "religious hysteria." In fact, there are actually several dozen things you might call this precipice, and all of them lead in the general direction of straight down.

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

It's a No-Brainer Permalink to this item

They had $14 million, they said they needed $19 million, they're going to get 7. "There were just so many priorities," the spokesperson for the Senate Appropriations Committee lamented. Congress couldn't figure out how to fully fund the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, serving active duty military, their dependents and veterans with traumatic brain injury.

The Good, the Bad, and the Clueless Permalink to this item

We expect the carefully crafted backdrops and the hand-picked audience, but not so much the unexpected humor of product placement. In Carl Pope's retrospective of the Katrina disaster and the freak show surrounding the anniversary, the above-the-fold ad rotater brought me an offer of a free sample of "Tide to Go," Instant Stain Remover.

You can't make stuff like this up.

They're not talking about the Canadian immigration problem Permalink to this item

We're happy to see Randy Stapilus' blog lively again, bringing broader political analysis of the Pacific Northwest than you'll find in the MSM.

We're not so happy to read about the continuing presence of right wing nuts such as would be the representative of a "civil rights organization founded by David Duke" (if you can imagine that) in northern Idaho.

Eminent Domain Rears its Ugly Head Permalink to this item

Either the cottonwoods have to go, or the power of the state will come down... to put small, solar-powered red LED lights atop them, on the approach to the Friedman Memorial Airport. The swells headed for Sun Valley carry a lot more public good than Spencer Eccles' ranch, at least the way the Hailey City Council figures it.

Ten weeks to go Permalink to this item

Rusty cables in St. Paul, Minnesota and Julie says we're in for a wild ride.

More people have contributed to Larry Grant in the last day than attended our opponent's big shindig with Vice President Dick Cheney two weeks ago! Of course, none of these people are shelling out $1000 apiece. Many of the donations are just $5 or $10. But they're coming from people all over the country who want to help send Larry Grant to Congress, and are doing whatever they can to make it happen.

Money can't love, but it can buy a lot of publicity. Those fewer but fatter checks go a long way to making up for a lack of genuine popular support. Idaho still needs your help to elect the better candidate in November.

Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban Permalink to this item

Sarah Chayes went from reporting on Afghanistan to living there, and now has a better informed perspective (and a book, The Punishment of Virtue) about the course of events there, real and imagined. It sounds like "after" in her subtitle is premature.

Turns out there was no battle! There was no ground battle at all. They (the "armed Afghan militias" that were said to have battled the Taliban and won Kandahar) had had one skirmish the day they crossed the border and after that their American handlers, which we were all very aware were with them, their American handlers instructed them not to get into any more fights. And so in fact, there was a whole kind of... cinema of ground battle that never really existed....

For American public relations, it was important that this, you know, that this not look like just an American operation, but rather a primarily Afghan operation that American forces were supporting.

She finds it "stunning" that Bush's rhetoric about going after countries that harbor terrorists turned out to be empty bluster in what may still be the most important case:

It seems to me to be really self-evident that Pakistan is a country that harbors terrorists. And Pakistan has not only harbored terrorists, but it is fomenting the current growing insurgency in southern Afghanistan...

It's really confusing to understand why the U.S. government has been supporting Pakistan, and has been providing enormous amounts of money to the Pakistani government... matter of fact, it's so confusing to Afghans, that, I would say, 95% or more of Kandaharis believe that the United States is in alliance with the Taliban, because it's so clear to Kandaharis that the Taliban are being sent across the border from Pakistan, and then Kandaharis are watching the American government provide grants and loans and support to the Pakistani government...

The Forest is Burning Permalink to this item

Late August smoke in the air gives motivation to consider the Dance of the pine bark beetle and Lodgepole pine's long-standing affair with fire.

Its interplay with lodgepole pine has been going on, well, just about as long as lodgepoleís interplay with fire. This mountain love triangle certainly predates our own feeble interventions. We might just as well say that the hills are infested with logdgepole pine.

Motorheads Permalink to this item

I always thought that was a pejorative term (or at least used it that way myself), but the true-blue wear the label with pride. As you'll see if you scroll far enough into BW Jones' luscious photojournal of Speed Week 2006.

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

Meet You at the Takeout Permalink to this item

Let me see, it was the Corps that had the photograph of an exploding dam in their Powerpoint presentation, but it's Jim Bensman that gets the call from the FBI? Go figure on that one.

Oh I see: it was the Corps who "tipped off" the FBI.

Is it Too Early to Start Repenting? Permalink to this item

Thomas Sowell is worried as all get out that the end is near. The worst of it is how the evil-doers are likely to go about it: "They would first want to force us to humiliate ourselves in whatever ways their sadistic imaginations could conceive, out of fear of their nuclear weapons."

Putting an autocratic regime in charge that will have us start a war of an adventure against the wrong enemy, can you get more sadistic than that?

One Party Rules Permalink to this item

Kuraitis: The fix was in. Of course. But how will it play to the voters in November? Whether they say aye, nay or abstain, it won't make a lot of difference, but it'll be interesting to watch, and even more interesting to see how the Rs try to spin it if the citizens say they didn't like Jim Risch's day at the fair.

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

Now We Start Paying For It Permalink to this item

Short governor Jim Risch, with his one-day lieutenant Mark Ricks, got the job done and passed their property tax cut and sales tax increase, providing some relief to homeowners and lots more relief to Idaho special interests. Dan Popkey effuses over Risch's tactical brilliance, noting in passing that his abuse of the Constitution was "overreaching," and "was an erosion of legislative power future lawmakers will regret."

Democrats caused trouble, and pushed the session late into the night, but there just aren't enough of them to get the job done, until they get more than lip service from allies across the aisle.

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

How Special will this Session Be? Permalink to this item

Not sure when Betsy slipped out for Idaho Reports but she was blogging the special session all the way to 8:30pm, when the Senate finally started their debate. The House had cleared out long before, with the northern contingent maybe making their 9pm home. No such luck for the Senators.

Still going, past 11pm...

Another Bush Spinmeister Permalink to this item

Bush's new cheif Domestic Policy Adviser Karl Zinsmeister has impressive rhetorical leavings even if the fact-based offerings reveal "the looming exhaustion of the conservative intellectual system" as Thomas Frank put it in his Times Select Op-Ed (paid subscription required).

Has blunt-as-I-want-to-be Zinsmeister "shifted gears" to become suitably "mealy-mouthed" now that he's an insider (sort of, commuting from Baltimore)? Perhaps; other than the splash around his getting the job, the news has been pretty quiet about the guy.

I'm guessing there won't be riots Permalink to this item

over the pathetic Holocust International Cartoon Contest in Iran. Doesn't sound like there's much of an audience there, either.

The City That Means Beer Permalink to this item

It doesn't mean it the way it used to, what with the conglomeration of mass-production eliminating 3 of the big 4 breweries that once called it home. (Haven't explored the old neighborhood lately, but I trust the microbrewing resurgence has improved the average quality there, as elsewhere?). But Milwaukee is still at the top of at least one chart, "America's Drunkest City."

Never mind the methodology (what does "one drink of alcohol within the past 30 days" have to do with drunkenness, for example?), it was only about a catchy headline, and hey, it worked!

What if the Democrats ran to Oklahoma? Permalink to this item

It worked for the Texas Democrats, for a while anyway. I suppose the Idaho Republicans' supermajority is such that they'd just hold today's special session on their own and toady up to our short governor.

Even so much as rewording the proposed ballot measure may be too high a goal. I'd have the first word change from "Should" to "Shall," as in

Shall the State of Idaho keep the property tax relief adopted in August 2006, reducing property taxes by approximately $260 million and protecting funding for public schools by keeping the sales tax at 6%?

first, and then we can talk about the rest of it. Let the voters decide as opposed to cast a meaningless advisory vote. My second expression of indignation directed at Risch generated a fat envelope that arrived yesterday, a 3-page letter explaining again why this is a really, really, really good idea, with charts about how much people around the state will save in property tax (and nothing about how much more they'll spend in sales tax, or how their property tax will continue to rise out of sight in coming years).

Lots more on Betsy's blog, including here, here, and here.

The S-R also has a property tax calculator that confirms what I'd guessed about our prospects under the new bill: we'll probably save a bit more in property taxes than we'll spend in the higher sales tax, but not enough either way to really matter.

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

Then there were eight Permalink to this item

Pluto's lovely little run is over, leaving our solar system with 8 planets, and 4 dwarves. Sure enough, it was the orbital dominance (or lack thereof) that did it in.

If there's good news, I guess it's that we all know about a big asteroid named Ceres now.

More specifically, it would be abhorrent Permalink to this item

if the removal of Evolutionary Biology from the list of college majors eligible for the National Smart Grant program that Congress established this year was intentional.

An empty space "just appeared" between 26.1302 (marine biology and biological oceanography) and line 26.1304 (aquatic biology/limnology). The explanation for this "clerical error" should be a doozy.

Plan B? Permalink to this item

From Engelhardt's introduction to Michael Schwartz' 7 Facts You Might Not Know about the Iraq War, on TomDispatch:

The single most basic fallacy underlying the present American catastrophe in Iraq is the belief that the U.S. can somehow solve that country's problems, however extreme and intractable they may seem; that, in short, we are part of the solution in Iraq, not part of the problem.

If that isn't so, the sooner we get the hell out of there, the better, eh? Fact 7: There Are Three Distinct Types of Terrorism in Iraq, All Directly or Indirectly Connected to the Occupation.

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

Whose Takings? Permalink to this item

A fantastic windfall for developers, more and bigger billboards, subdivisions, sprawl, resort hotels, mines... a "free pass to violate laws" that will leave you with "no clue what's going to happen next door." Welcome to the disaster brought on by Oregon Proposition 37, now being promoted for export, to Montana, Idaho, Washington, Arizona, Nevada and California, by carpetbaggers under "libertarian" cover.

It's not about being paid for "takings" or correcting the mythological abuse of eminent domain; it's all about blackmailing bureaucrats into abandoning planning, and zoning.

The initiatives on state ballots this year vary in their specifics, but like Measure 37, they have no language explaining where governments would get money to pay property owners for the impacts of regulations. They are intended not to make regulations workable, but to prevent them entirely.

Coming to a ballot near you, in November.

Listen to the experience of four Oregonians from the GOAT blog.

(And thanks to The Boise Weekly for reprinting Ray Ring's HCN article.)

Crow Route Permalink to this item

Some of the crows gathering in our Russian Olive yesterday evening We have enough crows in the neighborhood for several juries; I figured there were a couple hundred in sight when I came home around sunset yesterday. One mob splashing in the gutter and on the street, another in our oak, another in the Russian Olive, and still more in 3 or 4 other large trees nearby.

Shades of Alfred Hitchcock.

snippet of the County's map, linked to their page But other than their raucous conversation and a certain amount of feces left on our patio, they didn't show any particular hostility. After taking some pictures, I got out the hose and tried to run them out of the olive, but my range wasn't enough to bother the treetop, and I succeeded in getting myself wet more than anything else.

Meanwhile, the aerial spraying continues, 300 gallons of pesticide spread over 51,200 acres last night. The county's press release promises to show "the application areas and the actual flight pattern of each aircraft" on their map but their Tetris-shaped polygons are not exactly satisfying. (In fact, they're nothing more than the areas previously identified where they planned to spray.)

For whatever combination of reasons, they're not covering our neighborhood, in spite of the gang of crows, and the infected one recently found dead.

Sorting out the Solar System Permalink to this item

Tim Kreider ♥s Pluto, on the eve of its big vote. If not the last words on the subject, his op-ed piece may have the funniest ones.

For the record, I would accept a separate (but equal!) class of dwarves or planetoids, including Sedna and Xena. After all, the childhood mnemonic is easily amended: My Very Energetic Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas, Sans Xenophobia.

The real discussion is not nearly as funny, but it's got the arcane nod all the way. It has eccentricity too, one of the proposed definitional parameters. Atmosphere?, and find 8 planets that include Titan, drop Mercury (and of course oddball #9, Pluto).

The most sensible ideas all seem to point to Pluto's demotion, for lack of orbital dominance, among other things.

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

Don't Worry, Be Happy Permalink to this item

The only thing you have to fear in getting through the security line at the airport is fear itself, lest your anxiety be detected by Screening Passengers by Observation Technique (SPOT). A "few casual questions" that are not so casual to follow, then "screening," and "if found to be involved in criminality" (what, judge and jury right there in the airport?), you'll be barred from flying.

For a candy bar and a gallon of gas Permalink to this item

Carpenter ant in a sunflower Butch Otter never did like the idea of more Wilderness designation for the Owyhees, or perhaps anywhere in Idaho. What's the objection? He's supposedly looking for something more "productive" for state interests, "something where somebody will come into the state, buy a candy bar and a gallon of gas and go ATVing." What a great vision he has for our state.

Another letter to Jim Risch Permalink to this item Our short governor is far beyond listening to the likes of me, but as the Legislature prepares to answer his call for a special session this Friday, I had to at least get on record as disgusted with his machinations. It's up to the Legislature to do the right thing, and I still do hold out some hope of that.

Everyone other than Risch able to calculate that his plan is designed to benefit business interests. Risch has a hefty surplus to use for cover, and dangles some relief for homeowners as the carrot. The state's Tax Commission has two different calculations, one showing homeowners getting ½% of the relief, the other, 18%. Whether it turns out to be the 80-20 deal, or the 200-to-1 arrangement, "owners of other residential property" and businesses are poised to collect the lion's share of the windfall.

Once again, I write to object to your plan to modify Idaho's tax structure in favor of business at the expense of homeowners. Your selective reading of the Idaho Constitution is self-serving and obviously incorrect. Your offer to let the voters have an "advisory" say, long after the fact, is insulting.

Article VII, Section 5 of our state Constitution doesn't seem too long to read in its entirety, but apparently Risch got sleepy before getting all the way to the end of the sentence. (Granted, it's a long sentence, but he is a lawyer.)

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

Bear Whiz Beer Permalink to this item

I'll be the first to admit that watching golf on TV is a little bizarre, even more so than playing the sport. (Better than sport with tea breaks, though?) I'm in the vast mob who's interested when Tiger Woods is playing, or in contention (seems to be mostly the same thing), but utterly indifferent the rest of the time. I also have other things I can do at the same time, so the glacial pace is not a problem.

Neither is the mind-numbing repetition of advertising messages, most of which I simply mute and ignore. The most creative earn a bit of attention, as do the most execrable. Count Michelob's in the latter category, with their mini-drama of Sergio Garcia hitting much too big a club for a mere 125 yard shot. (You have to be a little bit savvy to know how wrong a 7-iron would be for that, for him.) For the Nth time this week, Sergio has purposely hit long so that his ball lands in the swimming pool, where a buxom and bikini-clad young woman floats, ripe for a professional golfer's ogling, protected from sanction by his nominal purpose of retrieving his ball.

"If you're this kind of golfer," the voice-over warmly informs, "this is your kind of beer."

Yeah, how savvy can you be, understanding the oh-so-clever, post-modern irony of acting like a crude boor while you're a professional athlete making millions of dollars for occasional brilliance, and vending portions of your integrity to the highest bidder? (Or were you just waiting to drool at the babe in the final scene?) That is some classy beer...

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

What Next? Permalink to this item

Eric Alterman provides a bit of dream—or nightmare—interpretation about the Neocon's desires for still further expansion of warfare in the Middle East, looking for more of those "healthy" repurcussions.

Anyone for Syria and Iran? We've done such a smashing job in Afghanistan and Iraq, who could say no?

Well, 21 former generals, diplomats and national security officials for starters.

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

Sausage sounds considerably more attractive Permalink to this item

This makes for better entertainment than democracy, to be sure: Four Amendments and a Funeral from last year's Rolling Stone magazine, and republished on the campaign site of its protagonist, independent Bernie Sanders.

"Congress isn't the steady assembly line of consensus policy ideas it's sold as, but a kind of permanent emergency in which a majority of members work day and night to burgle the national treasure and burn the Constitution.... an ingenious system for inhibiting progress and the popular will."

The Rule of Law sounds so awfully distant from backroom sycophants and the execrable "Conference Committee," at least we can savor the moment when one strong voice is raised in defense of the proud tradition our country was founded on.

President Bush vows to overturn that. Ken Mehlman checks his records to point out that Judge Taylor was Democrat-appointed, flogging his canard that protecting civil liberty only weakens us.

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

Triumph of Will Permalink to this item

George Will, that is, spinning the dandy phrase of the week in his WaPo Op-Ed, Triumph of Unrealism: "This farrago of caricature and non sequitur makes the administration seem eager to repel all but the delusional."

Foreign policy "realists" considered Middle East stability the goal. The realists' critics, who regard realism as reprehensibly unambitious, considered stability the problem. That problem has been solved.

Here Come Da Judge Permalink to this item

And Judge Taylor says: "It was never the intent of the Framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights." The President's supporters insist he does need unfettered control, for our protection. His detractors say he should follow the law, and the Constitution. Appeal pending.

Counting Coups Permalink to this item

Jill Kuraitis and a helper actually counted the crowds instead of just waving in their general direction and saying "about 150." Turns out there were almost 300 demonstrators, so "about twice as many as the MSM reported."

The Sali supporter count of "150 to 200" was accurate (although we don't know how many were paying customers, and how many were security, super-secret undercover dudes, reporters and what-not), and I suppose Betsy's observation that more people showed up for Alive After 5 than either of the political factions is correct, too. (I'm holding back on affirming "vastly" though -- you need a really big number to go vast, and half-vast doesn't count.)

Having Air Force Two in the neighborhood gets you a lot of attention, for sure, and it can swing a bad count into your favor, but the rollout of Republicans for Grant is what really put the hurt on Sali's moment in the sun yesterday. It was getting equal coverage on every report I saw.

Monkey Helpers Permalink to this item

Things we didn't know dept. includes what the TSA will and won't do with your monkey helper: "The inspection process may require that the handler take off the monkeyís diaper as part of the visual inspection."

Tip to Jonathan Abourbih via boingboing.

Real Men Don't Dodge Protesters Permalink to this item

We didn't make the newspaper, but we did get an entry in Eye on Boise for our low-key effort on Larry Grant's behalf yesterday. The Statesman had bigger fish to fry, with their photo gallery of the Big Visit giving a statistical measure of perceived importance:

  1. Air Force Two landing
  2. Security guys on a roof
  3. A Republican delegation walking across the tarmac
  4. Dick Cheney walking down the steps
  5. Dick Cheney greeted at his limo
  6. "More than 150 protesters" (and note the "Impeach the Bastards" sign the photographer caught most of)
  7. Two specific protesters (who we'd talked to on their way in; a really lovely couple. Loyd Bliss is a WWII veteran and a retired Methodist pastor, made one of the stories, too)
  8. Shining Dick, smiling at Shadowy Bill
  9. Snidely Dick, gripping the podium
  10. Rep bigwigs applauding
  11. Dick waving goodbye from the doorway
  12. Oops, Dick before he climbed the stairs to leave. "He's very personable," said Butch Otter's Chief of Staff.
  13. Air Force Two pushed back
  14. Air Force Two flying away

Protesters for Cheney's Sali campaign visit The story of the protest didn't mention that Dick was whisked in and out of The Grove without having to be confronted or troubled by them; the impressive line-up of fire engines and police vehicles along Front Street was no doubt designed to draw attention away from the back-door route. (Faux News' report suggested the protesters were somehow responsible for jammed traffic, not mentioning that it was the police who decided to take over two of the 5 lanes of Front Street.)

It was peaceful, other than one teenager stomping on an American flag for no good reason, and starting a fight with a protester who tried to stop him. The brat got arrested.

The level of confrontation in Boise, Idaho is low enough in fact that the undercover team needs some coaching. One guy took a seat near us for a while, watched what we were doing "non-chalantly," until I asked him "so, are you part of the Team, or what?" He made some sort of b.s. excuse and moved on, struggling to melt into a crowd that had not yet materialized. Another, wearing her best impression of a Mama Cass dress, loudly wondered "Are the pigs here yet?" when she showed up, and was utterly ignored by the Idaho Peace Coalition and its friends.

The lead story about the event reported the embarrassing fact that only 3 of the 104 members of the Idaho Legislature bothered to show up, although our acting governor and 3/4ths of our Congressional delegation did come. It has something to do with the "long and consistent track record in the state Legislature," that Cheney mentioned without further elaboration.

So, for all that and a 19 minute spiel in one of The Grove's smaller conference rooms, they had about as many supporters show up as protesters, and collected not quite as much as it cost to fly the Veep and his security detail in and cart them around town, $20,000 plus 2 large times however many people wanted their picture with Cheney. (Bill Sali was comped, presumably, so what, 3 or 4 others?)

The color commentary is not sunny, either. "He treated Sali like a stranger, without a personal word or anecdote. And he hurried from the stage as if he were late for one of his cherished fishing trips on the South Fork of the Snake in eastern Idaho." Is "Vote for Bill Sali to show that you're serious about fighting the War on Terror" all you got?

Cheney's terse attack on "these Democrats" was as distant, impersonal and canned as the whole affair. Reject resignation and defeatism (and bring back Bill Safire, so our nattering nabobs can be more interesting, would you?). Stay the course. With us or against us.

Popkey effuses about how much nicer a job Larry Craig does at carrying the exact same message "from the heart," easily clearing the low bar of Dick Cheney's "appeal." It's still the elephant in the living room, no matter how nice the tutu.

When Fearless Leader is driving off a cliff, discretion really is the better part of valor, and one should use the most convenient door to exit, leaving carry-on baggage behind. Having trashed the military and the federal budget for a decade, at least, Dick's team has not made a strong case for continued mindless party loyalty.

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

The Man Comes A-stumpin' Permalink to this item

A protester for Dick Cheney's visit to Idaho and the locals, they're a-duckin'. We handed out "Bird Identification" from the Fish & Game, with a note on them that "Larry Grant supports Idahoans' right to bear arms and hunt... safely," enjoyed the covered, plain-clothes, and super-secret undercover guys patrolling The Grove in preparation for the Veep's pitch for Bill Sali.

"We need to ensure Politics Over Principle," he might be saying inside the hall, but how would I know? They weren't about to let me anywhere near the place, even without overt messages beyond a Grant sticker. (For one thing, I wouldn't pay $125 to go see, or $2,100 to be seen.) They put the show of force on Front Street, I'm pretty certain they went ahead and snuck him in the back door on 9th. Clear the way, big man coming through! And God forbid he should see an honest to God protester somewhere in his busy day. The Secret Service is protecting him from stray ideas.

Republicans for Grant! Permalink to this item

If you're going to get elected—or get anything done—in this state, you pretty much need some Republican allies. The Democratic candidate for the first Congressional seat has some who had been relatively quiet, but have now stood up a public presence as Republicans for Grant. An "about us" page will make it more persuasive, but according to Jill, their number includes organizing leader Jim Nelson; the co-founder of Boise's largest corporate presence (Micron), Ward Parkinson; Boise attorney Fred Shoemaker; Realtor Cathy Smith to coordinate volunteers; and several more prominent citizens.

Parkinson's support is not a huge surprise, given that Grant was a Micron executive for 10 years. But Sali's own list of endorsements from current Idaho Senators and Congressmen is short enough that the effect of his "belligerent and sometimes aggressive hostility" in his 16 years in the Idaho House is made plain enough.

Dan Popkey reports that while retired Albertsons CEO Warren McCain isn't officially in the number, he was willing to write a check for $1,000. Former Idaho Governor Phil Batt is in the next group over:

Batt won't vote for Grant but may withhold his vote for Sali because of Sali's vociferous right-wing record. "When I was thinking about running for a second term, he told the Wall Street Journal how worthless I was and how they were trying to get somebody to run against me," Batt told me.

I guess you don't get to be governor without a very strong sense of party loyalty. The guy calls you "worthless" and the worst Batt will do is (maybe!) withhold his vote, huh.

mcjoan on the Daily Kos has a more complete rundown of famous Republican quotes about Sali, and the coming contest between party loyalty and principle. For Republicans to stick with "their" candidate, noses are going to have to be held. "Dishonest and deceitful," "an embarrassment to Idaho," "an obstinate opportunist," a disruptive bully who wasn't very competent in his state job... and he wants a promotion?!

How'd you sleep? Permalink to this item

Another power outage sent us to bed, happened during a lull between wind blasts. The subsequent one included some lightning, thunder and a bit of rain, after the power had come back on. The wind was fierce enough at the peak that I was preparing myself for the sound of a sizeable limb crashing onto the roof, or something, but it didn't come. The crickets held up their end of the deal, but hours later, the raccoon climbing the fence with some difficulty and then rustling through the grapes was a significant distraction. (I went out with a flashlight to find out what was going on, faced off with it at two paces, finally sent it scurrying with a few good hisses.) The cat, as usual. Then the crow chorus at dawn. The cat again. Smoke and dust in the sinuses, the residue of an air quality "red alert"...

Not that well.

Clean glass and a new outlook on life Permalink to this item

We had the experience of mobile windshield replacement yesterday after thermal cycling produced a serpentine, two foot crack in our Windstar's front glass. I was on a field trip when the guy showed up, but Jeanette tells me he was chatty, with an agenda.

The opening was Jeanette mentioning that we'd been to a church-related conference, and he wanted to know what denomination. He'd never heard of Unitarian Universalists, and the idea of a religion without a creed was a puzzler to him.

"Do you believe in God?"

"Perhaps not as you understand. I see some organizing principle in the universe, but I don't see an old guy with a long beard sitting on a white cloud, I just don't see the place where that happens."

He immediately jumped to discrediting evolution, with a long introduction; he had been an agnostic, went to a program put on by "scientists" who had written to (not for, mind you) the National Geographic, concluding that there was no good evidence for evolution. He was convinced apparently, became a fundamentalist Christian.

The ensuing pastiche of position statements (on his part) and considered argument (on her part) wandered past Jesus' purportedly unique claim to Divinity, the public schools' denigration of the Good Book, and the importance of public display of the Ten Commandments.

I showed up just as he was setting the new windshield into place; a fairly impressive thing to do single-handedly, I thought. All he and I talked about was mechanics, my final inspection of his work, and the instructions for the next 24 hours. I had no idea what I'd missed...

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

Clash of the Concepts Permalink to this item

Look for more—a lot more—Fear and Smear between now and November 7th.

Political confusion starts with the ill-conceived definition of a "war" that's best fought by police work, not heavy brigades on a battlefield. Forget the hype, call for common sense and stout hearts.

This battle is being foughts in less stout hearts and less sensible minds.

$5k Still Don't Fly Permalink to this item

My ever-so-brief trial of an original Segway informed me that it was indeed a cool ride, and a lot of fun. Maybe worth $40 for an hour out of an expensive vacation, but to actually drop 5 Large for my Very Own Copy? That's just not going to happen. I (and they) can imagine a variety of industrial settings that might make it worthwhile (including the mail carrier's daily rounds; ours are inexplicably still driving gas-powered vehicles), but for personal transport, the price/performance is a non-starter, even with New, Improved LeanSteer™ and InfoKey™ stuff on the i2.

Then there's the all-terrain possibilities of the x2, "coming soon." X2 Adventures are going to need recharging stations no more than 12 miles apart. Sort of an Adventure, Limited.

(Their cute little logo reminds me something my brother would've drawn.)

West Nile Virus in the 'Hood Permalink to this item

Ada County has declared an emergency, but NOT (they capitalize) "a current human health emergency." It's a "state of emergency as it relates to the current West Nile outbreak." My interpretation is that the situation has the bureaucrats' attention, but not so totally that they can speak clearly. What we do know is that "Idaho currently has the most reported human cases of West Nile in the nation and Ada County currently sits at... the highest risk level outlined by the State of Idahoís West Nile action plan."

Excerpt of the USGS mapping of human cases of West Nile virus (The USGS mapping is not keeping up with the statistics coming in, but it shows the spike in SW Idaho and northern Nevada. The Midwest has plenty of bird cases, but few in humans. So far.)

When we arrived home yesterday evening, the neighborhood crow party was at our house, more than a dozen of them in the top of our oak tree, picking off acorns between intermittent cawing, the overflow crowd fluttering over to the top of the Russian Olive until their turn at the oak came back up. I talked with them a little while, as I thought about the confirmed case of West Nile virus found in a dead crow, on Grandee Street.

That's the not-quite-3-blocks-long street we live on, up on the West Bench.

As of last Thursday's press release, the tally was 33 positive mosquito trap locations in the county, 21 cases reported in humans (almost a sixth of the 132 cases reported in the state), 22 in horses and 16 in birds. While the county mulls aerial warfare, they advice that everyone "avoid being outdoors at dawn and at dusk."

Next-door to the west Canyon County has it worse: 39 cases in humans so far this summer.

I'm hoping we're in the 4-out-of-5 group who get no symptoms after what seems like an inevitable bite. They say not to worry about the fever, headache, fatigue, skin rash and swollen lymph nodes (!), but persistent vomiting, severe stiff neck or headache, or a "change in mental status—confusion, persistent lethargy, difficulty waking up or difficulty speaking" is cause for concern. If you're the one-in-a-hundred who reacts badly, so is this:

"Doctors won't be able to treat the virus itself, but they can help treat the symptoms."

Of Pigs and Petroleum Permalink to this item

Yes, I've noticed the sunny BP sponsorship spots on public TV of late, and they seem so wonderfully environmental, they don't even mention that oily "P" word in their name any more. But we want that stuff in our tanks, full speed ahead. And as the price heads north of $3 (with any future southward trends bound to be temporary respites), it's worth considering how conveniently-timed the problems in Alaska were. They wouldn't do that, would they?

BPís suddenly discovered corrosion necessitating an emergency shut-down of the line is the same corrosion Dan Lawn has been screaming about for 15 years. Lawn is a steel-eyed government inspector who has kept his job only because his unionís lawyers have kept BP from having his head.

Ok, well maybe he's the inspector who cried "wolf," he'd have to be right eventually, wouldn't he? But running pigs down a pipe is pretty much SOP in the transport business though, did they really not do it for 14 years? Something fishy in a business where your "problems" multiply your profits.

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

A stand-up guy, vs. bad habit soup Permalink to this item

The obvious thing to do with celebrity is to make a lot of money from it, and I imagine (how would I know after all?) that there's some enjoyment to be had from soaking up the adulation of fans, at least for a time. But how about using your fame for a good cause?

Yao Ming is doing just that, and the news of it gladdens my heart. I've enjoyed a lot of wonderful Chinese food over the years, and while I was an important person (or at least a person working for an important company), I was treated to the full panoply of cultural delicacies. I'm sad to say that shark fin soup was on the menu more than once, until I got savvy enough about circumstances and timing to politely request far enough in advance that it please NOT be part of dinner, or any other meal.

It was always a strange honor, anyway. Texture is an important part of culinary variety, I was told, and I can only assume that's the role this unpleasant offering is supposed to fill. It's bland, and it's mucilaginous. It's variety alright, by not my cup of tea. Like mucous?! I mean I was brought up not to eat any such thing.

Going from a "very basic dish for business dinners in Hong Kong" that will cause a loss of face if not ordered (or provided, by a host), to an embarassing faux pas, the proverbial cigar in the punch bowl, would be a wonderful thing for the sharks. The people making their livelihoods from cruel and wasteful slaughter can find something better to do, I'm sure.

If there was ever a symbol of the stupidity of food for status' sake, shark fin soup has to be it:

"If one day I could eat sharkís fin, of course Iíd eat it," said Chen Yanran, 18, a Shanghai music student, who may not know that the actual shark fin part of the soup has no taste at all, itís just like rubber. "Itís a delicacy, and expensive, something the average Chinese canít eat."

Take it from me Chen, there are much better things in life. Yes, it's expensive, but that doesn't make it a "delicacy."

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

Heading upwind Permalink to this item

I bicycled the "wrong" way down the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon one time. That sounds like a walk in the park compared to paddling down the river, which is mostly a string of huge lakes by the time the Snake runs into it. (For that matter, the Snake is a largely string of lakes after the Salmon runs into it, too.) And 900 miles!

That stretch of the Columbia is a world-class windsurfing destination for a reason, and the reason is that the wind blows against the flow of the river most of the time, and it blows hard.

A Wall of Smoke and Dust Permalink to this item

I was watching a tennis match yesterday evening, my back to the lowering sun as the temperature eased off of 100°F. A breeze kicking up, or something prompted me to look over my shoulder, and see... a wall of dust-brown air rising up over the trees, set to arrive very soon. I'd ridden my bike, a mile from home, and ran for it. I didn't have enough lead time to beat it, and kept as much difference downwind from big trees as possible, noting branches and at least one whole tree blown over on my way for cover. It had the smell of fresh fire in it, and knocked out the power in the neighborhood. After the blotted sun returned to an orange glow, we read by the failing light and then went to bed a bit earlier than normal, serenaded as usual by our cricket friends.

It sounds like Jill Kuraitis' power came back before ours did (which was 3 hours after the big WHOOSH), and as if she had a view of more calamity than my short bike ride provided me. I did see two guys waiting for the walk light at Cole and Fairview, carrying a mattress. The memory of that gives the evening a certain Wizard of Oz feeling.

Beware Thrift Permalink to this item

What was old is new again: the slogan promulgated by American business during World War I, "Business as Usual. Beware of Thrift and Unwise Economy," seems to be the operating assumption of the Bush administration economic team. I'm trying to imagine what a message encouraging thrift would look like in today's media. Coming up blank. Obsolescence has become a structural reality of our economy, our technology, and our ways of life.

Cellphones are now leading the charge: "By 2002, more than 130 million still-working cell phones had been 'retired' in the U.S. Today, about 250,000 tons of discarded but still usable cell phones sit in stockpiles in America, awaiting disposal."

Weakness is Strength Permalink to this item

That's the only way to make sense out of Dick Cheney's further confounding Iraq with the terrorist menace. The report from Patrick Healy and Jennifer Medina tells us that

Mr. Cheney, in an interview with reporters on Wednesday, said that Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups were counting on Americans to adopt a weaker military posture, and that Mr. Lamontís victory indicated that "the dominant view of the Democratic Party" favored that weaker approach.

Much better that we keep our military occupied with Iraq, delaying the escalation of the civil war leading toward tribal partition? This is worth than failing to remember the past and being doomed to repeat it: by total and uncompromising denial of mistakes—even the possibility of error, it seems—we are doomed to suffer greater death and destruction.

And Joe Leiberman... continues to channel the administration's darkest thoughts. Strange days have tracked us down. 24 native Britain Islamo-terrorists arrested and see how right he was about Iraq?

The NYT editorial board assessed the Lieberman-Cheney performance:

It comes like a punch to the gut, at times like these, when our leaders blatantly use the nationís trauma for political gain. We never get used to this. It never feels like business as usual.

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

No liquids or gels... or carry-ons?! Permalink to this item

My stars, we got home from our foray just in time to avoid the next level of disconvenience in air travel. "No carry-ons" is simple enough, and think how fast we would all plane and de-plane. But how slow we would all be hanging out at baggage claim. Jeanette left an (absolutely non-threatening) item on our outbound plane, and made a couple unsuccessful attempts to recover it from Lost and Found, and I have to say baggage claim is a bleak and lonely corner after the carousel stops. I have this memory of 50 forlorn bags leaning against the wall, longing for their owners...

When I heard the news about "no liquid or gels," I started to think about all the things in that category I'd carried on, Sunday. A bottle of water. Saline solution for my contact lenses. Toothpaste. First aid salve. Tiger balm. Hand lotion. Sunblock. (What's the line between "gel" and "paste"?) All contraband now.

Going to "red alert" is a rather odd response to what has apparently transpired. They broke up the plot, supposedly, which was not planned for today, and the bombs (or their component liquids?) hadn't been manufactured yet.

"One passenger was told to peel her banana."

In Europe, the new rule is no electronics carried on, so... put it in your checked bag and maybe have it stolen? Or just leave home without it. Without your cell phone? Unthinkable.

Repugnicans Permalink to this item

Normally I skip the name-calling, but it seems appropriate enough to respond to Ken Mehlman's latest RNC mailing, under the subject "Weak and Wrong: Today's Defeat-ocrats." He's beside himself figuring out how to capitalize on the defeat of Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut primary.

For a political party to reject a respected Senator who just six years ago was its candidate for Vice President is virtually without precedent. It speaks volumes about the new Democrat Party: if you stand for a strong defense and victory in the War on Terror, you have no place in the party and you must be purged.

Yeah, that's it, Ken. We're all against a strong defense and we want to lose the War on Terror, we hate our country, and all we can think of doing is cutting and running.

I hear you're going after John Murtha next. Another class act.

You want to know where I stand? I stand behind honest dialogue, acknowledgement of mistakes made, and working together to solve the serious problems that have been created by your party's leadership.

Thanks for asking.

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

Sore Loser Permalink to this item

Now that Joe Lieberman and his support for the Iraq war have been repudiated by Connecticut voters—narrowly, mind you—Lieberman isn't ready to go quietly into the night.

18 years in the Senate was a good run, and you even got to be the vice-presidential nominee for your party. Give it up, Joe. We love your integrity and all, but you rode the wrong horse and it's time to admit it. If you don't, you may find yourself coming in last in a three-way race, and giving the Republicans a new seat in the Senate.

That's how Ken Mehlman sees it, certainly, any failure to rally behind the disastrously failed policies of this administration making a candidate "weak on defense" (and of course a "cut and runner"). Keep the message simple, for an audience of simpletons? It's been working for him so far.

Is it too subtle for the electorate to notice that the Bush era has made our defense weaker than ever through its war of adventure in the middle east? Miscarriages come with "birth pangs" too, after all.

8.8.6 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Musical Peak Permalink to this item

Alan replied, inferring a sporting metaphor, and prompting me to try a bit harder at capturing something from last week's UUMN conference...

In the Walker's Sculpture Garden Singing in a 100+ voice choir of trained voices, for the world premier of a commissioned work, under the direction of the composer, into a congregation that filled the pews and choir loft and every other nook and cranny, after days jammed with rehearsals and workshops and not enough sleep to take it all in... the crescendo to fortissimo! on an eighth note, the perfect cutoff for an eighth rest, and the full-voiced return ringing like the pipe organ at full blast... THAT was a summit. Decrescendo and resolution, the final, 6-part chord dying to pianissimo over 9 beats and a fermata, ending with a hundred wet fingers touching a hot iron simultaneously, "ds."

The text was from Edward Carpenter (1844-1929), So Thin A Veil:

So thin a veil divides
Us from such joy, past words,
Walking in daily life—the business of the hour, each detail seen to;
Yet carried, rapt away, on what sweet floods of other Being:
Swift streams of music flowing, light far back through all Creation shining,
Loved faces looking—
Ah! from the true, the mortal self
So thin a veil divides!

A Look Back Permalink to this item

To Broad Peak and K2. Alan's account, ending with the question "everyone always asks" made me think about the sorts of adventures I engage in. Most have no summit to provide a marker for a peak experience or prompt "the" question. "Did you get what you went for?" Hmm, now what was it I was going for, again?

Did you help someone in need? Make a friend? Feel a thrill? Share a moment? Touch the Divine? See more deeply within yourself? Learn a lesson you won't forget?

Would you go back and do it again?

Will you?

Death to Taxes Permalink to this item

Might as well furlough all those IRS examiners looking after the estate tax, since we're doing away with it (aren't we?). Having the 10 year sunset followed by a sudden sunrise in 2011 was a brilliant move for drama. Halfway there, we can't stop ourselves from talking about it. And imagine the rush to die before midnight on Dec. 31, 2010... will the heirs lend a hand?

I'm sure it's just sour grapes and tinfoil hats on the part of "six I.R.S. estate tax lawyers whose jobs are likely to be eliminated" to say "that the cuts were just the latest moves behind the scenes at the I.R.S. to shield people with political connections and complex tax-avoidance devices from thorough audits."

Politics doesn't work that way, does it? Say it ain't so!

At least one business is booming... Permalink to this item

in Iraq: cellphones. (That's the good/non-literal sense of "boom," even though some of the business is detonating road-side bombs.)

Some Iraqis report spending as much as $800 on phones like the Humvee, and from the rooftops of Sadr City, the poor Shiite district where trash lines the streets, visible cellphone towers outnumber minarets 15 to 2.

7.8.6 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Summer Vacation Permalink to this item

St. Paul Cathedral, under mid-summer clouds We seem to have jumped from heat to heat to heat; left a week ago Sunday just after a cold front had lowered Boise's temperature to pleasant, landing in Minneapolis/St. Paul, where they were having their own heat wave: high 90s with humidity, and decidedly unpleasant. The midwest cold front had a lot more energy than the one that crossed over Idaho: crash-bang-boom and big rain in the middle of Monday night, when it woke me up I wondered if some barges were colliding on the Mississippi River, 6 floors below us. The next day, we hiked up the hill to the cathedral under a cool sky threatening rain, but opened the big door to an amazing radiance; the heat wave was still there, in tons of stone, untouched by air-conditioning.

In the rest of the city, it proceeded to be about as pleasant as central Minnesota can be in the summer the rest of the week, but for our return yesterday evening, Boise was still in the 90s past 7pm, and smoky to boot.

The travelling was the least fun of it; being there was wonderful (mostly because of the company we kept).

As our full plane made a surprisingly smooth landing at BOI, the head flight attendant read from his script, mechanically. "We hope our service will encourage you to come fly with us again," or something like that. It made me laugh. Would that be the $3-a-box for something to eat service? The planes-jammed-full a month in advance and we can't find you two seats together (unless maybe you have some more spare change) service? "There has been (another!) gate change" service? Or the superfluous presence of a ticket agent showing us where to touch the touch screen for electronic check-in service?

Rumsfeld Unhinged Permalink to this item

Denial of reality is one thing, utter detachment from it another. I missed Rumsfeld's latest visit to the Senate Armed Services Committee while we were on the road last week, but the NYT Editorial Board provides an excerpt in The Sound of One Domino Falling:

If we left Iraq prematurely, the enemy would tell us to leave Afghanistan and then withdraw from the Middle East. And if we left the Middle East, theyíd order us and all those who donít share their militant ideology to leave what they call the occupied Muslim lands from Spain to the Philippines.

It's déjà vu all over again, as Judith Coburn recalls in too-vivid detail.

War Without End Amen Permalink to this item

Maybe he's just a "a student at Columbia University and an intern at The American Enterprise magazine," but David Feith's last name piqued my interest in his contemplation of World War III. Is this the son of one of the Big Heads who brought us the collossally failed response to 9/11? It could be...

WWI was called "the war to end all wars," before it made sense to number it, I suppose. Perhaps III will fulfill that promise, constructed in such a way that it can never end. It is of course the authoritarian dystopia of George Orwell's book, 1984. Perhaps this race between the technology of annihilation and evolution was inevitable.

Cal Thomas says all that End Times stuff is just crazy talk: having consulted "Someone who claims to be the Supreme Authority on such matters," he should know.

Let's start remembering ASAP Permalink to this item

Mr. Bush's memoirs can't come soon enough for some: "I mean, how cool would it be if he quit right now, so we could read his memoir in time for Christmas?" Currently underemployed BFF Karen Hughes is hereby nominated to ghostwrite it.

Workaround Permalink to this item

For most of us the idea of "logjam" is wholly metaphorical, but for several hundred boaters on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River last month, the metaphor came to life. Pete Zimowsky tells the story second-hand (and thanks to RSR for the tip).

This is the only rafting story I've ever heard that contains the sentence: "Luckily, there was no beer."

For those of you who haven't actually had the experience, wilderness rafting is generally a way to cruise through wild country without working particularly hard. Unlike backpacking, there is almost no limit to what you can take with you to buffer the hardship of being outdoors: ice chests, propane tanks, Dutch ovens and so on. (Usually there is PLENTY of beer.) And of course the boat itself, with rowing frames and oars, built for durability, not portability. Lugging all your gear up from the beach when you stop and back down to the boats in the morning is typically the extent of the work involved.

So, it's news when one party out of a hundred actually schlepps their stuff around an unexpected obstacle. And maybe a moment of embarrassment for the outfitters or their clients who took the easy ways out?

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

Walking Tour Permalink to this item

1940s Turquoise pieces from Red Wing We'd been to the Walker on Tuesday, and Jeanette had a once-was-enough sample of the Mall of America on Monday, so neither of the organized excursions from our week-long music conference was attractive. We decided to see what we could see by walking in our neighborhood, and found two wonderful diversions to absorb the afternoon.

The show of George Morrison's work opened Thursday night at the Minnesota Museum of American Art. It's a small museum, but well worth the stop. Then up the hill to The Minnesota History Center where we enjoyed the candor and blunt assessment of Tales of the Territory and the wonderful design work shown in the Red Wing Retro pottery exhibit.

We had to rush a bit at the 5:00 closing, but found Open House ("1 Ordinary House, 50 Families, 118 Years") particularly engaging and well-produced.

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

Civil War Permalink to this item

You don't get to be General by freely speaking your mind, so the "it might turn into a civil war" thing is a bit of diplomatic language stating the obvious that Must Not Be Spoken by anyone in the current administration.

Wonder when they'll start talking about how it might turn into a collossal failure someday. No matter; there are plenty of nay-sayer who can be blamed for that.

More Idaho Wilderness Permalink to this item

That's capital-W Wilderness, as opposed to the real thing, of which we have as much as we ever will.

The Owyhee Initiative process is close to fruition with Senator Mike Crapo's introduction of the Owyhee Initiative Implementation Act. It might be rolled into the other big Wilderness bill out of Idaho, Congressman Mike Simpson's Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreaction Act (CIEDRA), recently passed by the House. ( The Statesman story says it passed with a voice vote, implying the vote—in the 435 member House of Representatives, mind you— was FOUR to zero.)

Simpson and Craig's mutual cooperation takes care of back-scratching for half of Idaho's delegation. Singin' Senator Larry Craig hasn't got around to reading the particulars, for bills that have been years in the gestation. You'd think he'd be a bit more interested...

And the 4th member, "Butch" Otter? He sounds ready to torpedo the works if he can, schmoozing his way to the big chair in the statehouse. There doesn't seem to be a lobbyist around who won't say something nice about the guy, going by Shawna Gamache's reporting, at least.

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

Half-baked Permalink to this item

Rhetoric is not science. Peter Doran would like to set the record straight about the misuse of his study about Antarctica, supposedly putting him in the camp of "skeptics" about global warming. No reason to expect that "The Anti-Global Warming Petition Project" has anything to do with science, either. Nor the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, as described by Todd Wilkinson.

Sharing an undisclosed location Permalink to this item

Along the Mississippi R., at sunset, in St. Paul With Ken Mehlman and the RNC, "Site Selection Committee." St. Paul (or maybe its fraternal twin?) is hoping to be selected, I guess. Meanwhile, back at the Fort, we're all a-twitter about Dick Cheney's visit to Boise, stumping for Bill Sali, his kind of way-right fellow traveller. (Kudos to Jill Kuraitis for breaking the story, subtitled "GOP Sends Heaviest of Heavies to Help Sali").

Give a Bicyclist a Break Permalink to this item

Saw one of these Share the Road signs here in St. Paul. Nice. Seeing the article reminded me of the two brothers I fell in with during my solo bicycle trip across the country 30 years ago. We shared most of Minnesota, climbed a couple water towers together, and they told me about Sunrise Farm in Maine, hospitable to the touring cyclist. We thought we might meet there later that summer, but somebody in a big rig with too wide a mirror didn't share enough of the road, and their trip was cut short with a serious brain injury.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Friday, 01-Sep-2006 17:09:08 MST