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

Did I say that out loud? Permalink to this item

We all agree we know what he meant to say, but how much nicer if he really did say what he meant to say, at the moment he took humanity's first step on another world?

History (what a concept!) Permalink to this item

This week's winning side in the battle between power and judicious forbearance will work to sell how much safer we are as a result. They will dismiss the losers as... well, losers. Defeatocrats, the party of cut-and-run, the second-guessers and whiners, the misimpressionists. To the victors belong the spoils, as it's said.

We re-enact the past, blithely ignorant of the larger sweep of consequences that are not subject to the private persuasive power of a Saturday radio address.

Tammy Duckworth doesn't have as big an audience, but she does have more credibility from personal sacrifice: the legs she lost in Iraq. "Anyone who challenges our failed policies, or suggests the need for a new strategy, is accused of 'cutting and running.' Well, I didn't cut and run, Mr. President. Like so many others, I proudly fought and sacrificed.... And I believe the brave men and women who are serving in Iraq today, their families and the American people deserve more than the same empty slogans and political name-calling."

Unfortunately, the Bush administration and Republican-controlled Congress is delivering quite a bit more than empty slogans and name-calling, and we will be paying the price for decades to come.

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

No surprises yet in the budget Permalink to this item

The new fiscal year for the United States of America starts in two days, on October 1st. One of eleven spending bills has made it through the process ahead of Congress taking the month of October off to campaign for the re-election. (They might get one more done.) All 100 Senators got themselves on record as supporting $448 billion worth of Defense. Not an ounce of fat, I'm sure. And not enough for the whole year's worth of spending in Iraq and Afghanistan. There'll be another "special" appropriation later.

Something tells me the Congressmen, women and Senators' paychecks will keep arriving on schedule, even though they missed their performance deadline by a mile. As usual.

What's really insulting Permalink to this item

Tom Friedman's op-ed and questions are on the pay-to-play Times Select, but deserve wider attention. He calls for honest dialogue; "not the dialogue the pope mentioned—one between Islam and Christianity. Thatís necessary, but it's not sufficient. What is needed first is an honest dialogue between Muslims and Muslims."

After the 2nd year running of the first day of Ramadan being "celebrated" by Sunni on Shia violence (with inevitable reprisals), he asks:

If Muslims butchering Muslims—in Sudan, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan—produces little communal reaction, while cartoons and papal remarks produce mass protests, what does Islam stand for today? It is not an insult to ask that question.

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

Only a casual acquaintance with corruption Permalink to this item

They hardly knew the guy, but not for want of his trying: the NYT reports that the House Government Reform Committee found "485 contacts between Mr. Abramoffís lobbying team and White House officials from 2001 to 2004, including 82 with Mr. Roveís office."

How soon they forget, eh? "He's a great guy," Karl Rove wrote, even before he got the concierge service for seats in the skybox for the NCAA tournament, and the whispers in his ear.

Half a million bucks Permalink to this item

That's how much the Club for Growth sent Bill Sali's way in the primary for the ID-01 seat in Congress. No doubt they'll be providing still more of a boost for the local economy for the November election. Some of their support may be legal, too.

Only a few days left ahead of the 3rd quarter closing date: visit the campaign website's contribution page or ActBlue to chip in your $.02. (So to speak.)

Leakiness Permalink to this item

"Somebody has taken it upon themselves to leak classified information for political purposes," George W. Bush said. He must be shocked, shocked.

Rushing Off a Cliff Permalink to this item

That's the headline of today's New York Times editorial, concerning the Congress' pending action to retroactively approve the Bush Administration's transgressions in the name of our security. "Some of the bill's biggest flaws"—some of them—include what it would do to the Geneva Conventions, judicial review, the use of coerced and secret evidence in trials, and Habeus corpus.

Habeus corpus.

This goes back to before the Magna Carta in 1215.

Detainees in U.S. military prisons would lose the basic right to challenge their imprisonment. These cases do not clog the courts, nor coddle terrorists. They simply give wrongly imprisoned people a chance to prove their innocence.

So, what happened to that principled resistance from Senators Graham, McCain, Warner? Did they decide that keeping their party in power come November was more essential?

Just in case it wasn't sufficiently blindingly obvious, Tony Snow brings the point home to the Press Corps: the President will be flogging this issue mercilessly on the campaign trail. (That is, if any Republican candidates actually invite him to support their campaigns.)

Politics, Influence, Dirt Permalink to this item

All that and more in the race for Idaho's incumbent-free 1st Congressional seat. Jill Kuraitis is following the money that wants to do away with Social Security, and public education, and elect Bill Sali to Congress. I imagine that the legality and/or ethics of the Club for Growth's support of Sali will be decided long after November 7th, and the issue is moot. Campaign Finance Reform is such a lovely phrase, but legislators never seem to get around to putting it on the agenda.

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

Richard Daley must be smiling Permalink to this item

The estimate is that 40% of November's voters will be pushing their choices into an electronic voting machine. Then what happens? Your odds are probably better than the state lottery, but it's going to be hard to know for sure.

Diebold has the lion's share of the legislators, and of the market, and once they're in the house, they're happy to dismiss all complaints. Like the one about the memory card access using a mini-bar key. Or the ease of inserting a program to provide a particular result, and leave no trace.

As far as I know, I'll be punching chads out of an index card again, double-checking to make sure none are left hanging or pregnant, and then hoping everyone who handles them is honest. Those odds feel better than anything using a touchscreen.

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

Do You Have That in a Jingle? Permalink to this item

The Walk Through Time portal at BUUF The TSA has decided that millions of travellers can be slightly less inconvenienced without undue risk of the bomb-from-mixed-liquids terror attack, and gives us the multimedia advice to Bag and Zip for the Short Trip. (Do you suppose they were smart enough to sell product placement to the companies whose toiletries are shown?) "Travel-size toiletries, 3 ounces or less," in "ONE quart-size or less, clear plastic, zip-top bag."

"Items must fit comfortably in the bag."

What if your items like to snuggle?

News ain't what it used to be Permalink to this item

Amy Goodman's going to be in town on Tuesday (the 26th). $10 if you have it, free if you don't. Should be a nice respite from the same old media.

The Republican Party is split wide open now over the issue of torture. Here you have President Bush trying to change the 1996 War Crimes Act. Not international law, you know, where people say, "We don't have to abide by international law." This is U.S. law. Because the Bush administration is deeply concerned right now that they could be held accountable. This is war crimes. It's pretty astounding.

Stating the Obvious Permalink to this item

And here we thought the agencies had got out of the business of making National Intelligence Estimates. But no. "(T)he American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks."

Or so we hear. That was the assessment released in April, and things have been going worse, not better, since then. The estimate is "that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe."

This doesn't come as a big surprise. A January 2003 (two months before we started the Iraq war) National Intelligence Council report identified the potential of a war to increase support for terrorism.

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

26 Years of Contradictions Permalink to this item

The view from Turkey is that today's battles are all part of an Iran-Iraq war that started in 1980. The rundown of facts looks like a collection of strange non-sequiturs. Remember when the U.S. backed Iraq? And Iran?! Somehow, it made sense to someone, as a way to fund an insurgency in Central America.

No one would green-light this story as fiction. Forget about the implausibility, too much of it just doesn't make any sense.

The quiet money behind those ballot initiatives Permalink to this item

NOW asks, "Is someone manipulating your state's laws, your vote, and you?" Duh! Idaho is one of the many states hosting a parasitic Howard Rich-esque ballot initiative this year.

If it's really a good idea, and the only way to make it happen is this complicated and legalistic prose, the least we would want is that those supporting it be candid and have the strength of conviction to support it openly. If it's as bad an idea as it sounds... well, just say No.

Autumn! Permalink to this item

After a few days of wild, windy and showery weather, the first day of the new season dawned as sweet and crisp as a blushing yellow apple still on the tree. Cold overnight, some high, icy clouds keeping the sky from the purest azure, but as bright a day as we'll see for half a year, and introducing a week of the finest days Idaho has to offer.

Snow and hard freezes in the mountains damped or put out the fires, so the smoke is gone, and hallelujah for that. Take a deep, deep breath.

Equinox Permanent URL to this day's entry

Thinking outside the box Permalink to this item

If you don't have a pulse, you're dead, right? Unless you have a Heartmate II artificial heart, that is. Circulating the fluid is the design requirement; your pulse is an artifact of a particular implementation. Without the mechanics to lub-dub, the pump can shrink to the size of "an adult thumb," and fit in smaller chests. Nice thinking.

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

Money Machines Permalink to this item

If you had a machine that could give away $20 bills and record it as a $5 transaction... well, let's just you should change the password so that it's not the same as what's printed in the manual any schmoe can download from the web.

A De-activist Judge Permalink to this item

That would be Elizabeth LaPorte of Federal District Court in San Francisco, who deactivated the Bush administration's override of the 2001 "roadless rule," protecting national forest land against logging and mining, by stopping road-building.

The Bush plan was to give it up to the states' ideas for management, "local control" and all that. Idaho has the largest amount of roadless land of any state outside Alaska, and just this week submitted its plan: protect less than 1/5th of its 9.3 million acres.

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

An explanation is better than an apology Permalink to this item

Better still would be clear expression to begin with, but perhaps too much to ask of someone in the top job, under intense scrutiny, and bearing the burden of a professorial history.

The National Catholic Reporter's Vatican correspondent makes sense of the Pope's recent remarks for us, in English. For those who took offense, it probably won't change anything. The fundamental issue of reciprocity is not high on the priorities of radicals. Islam did once provide for tolerance of other religions, albeit in the context of its own rule. Tolerance of peers is harder to come by than tolerance of vassals, and the dream of world domination (religious, or otherwise) is not yet dead.

Let's Hope This is the Nadir Permalink to this item

HP Said to Have Studied Infiltrating Newsrooms. "It is not clear" the story says, whether or not the plans were put into action, but they went as far as "feasibility studies... for undercover operations (clerical) in CNET and WSJ offices in SF bureaus."

Where was the "chief ethics officer" during all this? Well, he checked to see if it was all "above board," but apparently his ethical radar was under water. Given the need for workforce reduction, he seems to be a leading candidate for early retirement.

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

Soft in the head Permalink to this item

Listening to Talk of the Nation today, the discussion of the history of the Geneva Convention, one caller's preamble to his question struck me:

"For those who want us to be soft on the terrorists..."

The guests responded to the question, ignoring the outrageous frame it was put in. Do the people who say things like that deliberately abuse the language, or does it reflect a confused state of mind, I wondered? There is plenty of evidence—some of it mentioned moments earlier—that torture does not produce useful information, so even if supporting the rule of law, the Constitution, and the international treaties we've signed were not reason enough, simple practicality should be.

That's assuming the argument for morality has no sway.

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

Kalling All Keystone Kops Permalink to this item

The HP plot thickens.

Representing themselves as an anonymous tipster, the detectives e-mailed a document to a CNET reporter, according to those briefed on the review. The e-mail was embedded with software that was supposed to trace who the document was forwarded to. The software did not work, however, and the reporter never wrote any story based on the bogus document.


It is not clear why Mr. Moeller, whose job it is to speak with reporters, was included in the operation. Robert Sherbin, Hewlett-Packard's vice president for external communications and Mr. Moeller's boss, said yesterday, "Investigators' suspicions were misdirected and were unfounded." He would not elaborate.

D'OH! officials turned the effort over to Security Outsourcing Solutions, a two-person agency that hires specialists for investigations.

And then, the company outsourced getting a legal opinion to Security Outsourcing Solutions, too. "Everything's A-OK," we imagine the word coming back.


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

Idaho Republicans Cut and Run Permalink to this item

Is it the League of Women Voters that's so frightening? The Idaho Press Club? Oh I know, it's public TV, that bastian of liberality, Terra Icognita to the leaders of the #1 party in our state. Butch Otter doesn't need to be seen on a level playing field with Jerry Brady. Jim Risch got all the publicity he could ever use for his one-day Special Session stunt last month. And Donna Jones? She said since Risch and Otter backed out, it wouldn't make much sense for her to debate her opponent. She's not important enough? The position is not important enough? She has higher priorities...

Nothing to see her folks, just move along. Punch all the little "R" holes in your ballot and forget about it.

At least in Jones' case, we have her 2002 performance to help us imagine what we're missing. Let's just say it might be entertainment, but it wouldn't help her chances of getting the Controller job any more than it did 4 years ago.

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

Everybody but him Permalink to this item

Now it's not just the Democrats but the Republicans, too, waving the wave flag and putting our nation at risk.

The argument being that we won't be able to protect our country without black ops CIA detention facilities around the world, staffed by "professionals" who are free to use whatever interrogation techniques he sees fit, and without fear of legal repurcussion.

"Outrages upon personal dignity" is too confusing and ambiguous a standard for our President, so he wants to put a retroactive signing statement on the Geneva Conventions. Perhaps John Yoo is available to draft it.

All I can say is... God bless John Warner, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Colin Powell.

Ron Cohen's letter (to the NYT editor) puts the case succinctly:

We support due process for terrorists not out of any love for them. We do it because we understand that the bedrock principles of justice on which Western society is based, evolved over centuries, are indivisible. Further, it is this adherence to universal principles of law that gives us the moral high ground.

Heat fleeting Permalink to this item

BOI temperature record, dropping into fall What a difference a week makes. 41°F this morning, under an overcast and slightly wet sky. The weather got a jump on the equinox. Snow in the mountains damping down the fires and clearing out the smoke, we take another turn on the big solar system wheel.

Responding to the attack Permalink to this item

For those whose lives it touched directly, the haunting memories will not be erased. For those of us at a distance, we can still be concerned and sympathetic, and call up the brief moments of shock and horror, that we experienced remotely. It's not the same as having experienced it directly though; concern and sympathy sit lighter upon the mind than direct experience that lasted hours, days, then weeks.

That's the way it is to be human.

As it was from the beginning, the real challenge facing America remains how we respond to what was done to us. My father's still fresh observations spoke about our imminent retaliation on Afghanistan, before we could imagine the country's attention being hijacked to wage war on Iraq.

"America must not emulate the terrorists by killing innocent people and risk alienating the entire Arab world with an ever-increasing hatred and an escalating level of retaliation."

Our leaders insist that our motives are righteous and we want the best for the people of the world. And other leaders insist as well... But ultimately, it is actions that speak louder than words.

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

Hello? Hello? Hello?

The echo chamber has been dialed up to a new level: George Bush isn't content with hand-picked audiences anymore, he wants his reporters hand-picked too. And he's found the strangest thing: everybody around him seems to have the same beliefs as he does! It's an Awakening!

"The American people have got to know the facts..." –George W. Bush

Onward Christian Soliders must be the theme song, except not into that tricky area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The operative plan for smoking out Osama bin Laden is to... wait for a snitch.

Yes, an awakening sounds like a Good Thing. I believe the alarm clock is set for November 7th.

Why Aren't You Outraged Enough? Permalink to this item

Karen Hughes wants to know why terorism isn't generating more outrage. She wants some "concerted moral outrage of everyday citizens of every faith and country," "a much louder chorus of voices," mothers organizing (c'mon you MAGTs), and a petition drive.

Could it be outrage fatigue? There is no shortage of targets for our outrage these days.

Helen Thomas finds Dick Cheney's statement outrageous (as do I), for example: "If we had it to do all over again, weíd do exactly the same thing." All that cocked-up justification that turned out to be "in error" (at best) never really mattered. The plan was to invade Iraq, period.

Presumably Cheney's no-change do-over program extends to torturing detainees as well. Ron Suskind explains the importance of having military tribunals "dispose" of the al-Qaeda 14 so as to insulate the West Wing from inevitable questions about who authorized which particular acts of not-quite-torture-by-OUR-definition, on whom, and when.

I get the feeling that the 14 really, really bad men whose photographs were paraded before the very-afraid public are being used as the ultimate sales pitch for the CIA's black-ops. No big attacks on the US in the last 5 years, see? High value prisoners that have to go to Guantánamo Bay, see? 14 guilty verdicts from our special tribunals, see? (Ok, those aren't in yet, but let's just say that the other outcome is not attracting strong money in Vegas.)

Now that we've stipulated these 14 were not-quite-tortured—justifiably, no doubt!—shouldn't we also be asking how many people in those secret and not-so-secret prisons were unjustifiably tortured? That's the part the caricaturization of the "Defeatocrats" and wacky civil libertarians as "defending the terrorists" purposely obscures. The abuse of one high-value-target when we're really nervous we might get attacked again real soon is OK, even if a couple hundred other non-value-targets have to suffer somewhat along the way.

I want to hear Karen (or George, or Dick... Condi's not good enough) explain why Colin Powell's simple statement of principle shouldn't be the last word on the matter of the Geneva Conventions.

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

Next best thing to being there Permalink to this item

The nice part of campaign events is getting to rub elbows with political stars, past and present. Oh, and the candidates. The bad part is that while they're often "free," your arm is going to get twisted fairly hard to pony up. If you couldn't fit it in your calendar, here's the best of both worlds: a breezy report from someone who was there.

As of tonight, Iíve shaken 14,062 hands while listening to people. And hereís what I hear: "Iíve been voting Republican, but Iím a Democrat this time."

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

Launching Monday: Iran and U.S. together Permalink to this item

Anousheh Ansari, with Iran's and the USA's flags Nations are abstractions, just as the flags that represent them (and to which we pledge allegiance from time to time). But here (or here) is a real, live human being, just 40 years old, joining together these symbols that seem so far apart just now.

In the realization of her dream, this adventure, may the rest of us be brought closer together.

As Heard on the Street Permalink to this item

In this most Republican of red states, the doubts are piling up, and finding expression, in ways similar to what Carl Hulse (et al.) found in Colorado:

"The whole thing about W.M.D. and that Iraq is somehow tied to 9/11, I just donít believe it." (Facts reaching the mainstream?!)

"I have been a Republican all my life, but we have just gotten to the point where we may need a change."

"I think (terrorism) is the only card they have got."

"The war on terror is clearly an important subject, but they have made a mess of it."

Don't take my word (or my selection of selected quotes) for it. Talk to your neighbors, and find out what they're thinking.

As Seen on TV Permalink to this item

While flipping channels last night and avoiding the cocked-up docudramas about 9/11, I came across the Presidential Seal and notice that a Presidential Address was imminent. Katie Couric came on and told me that it was from the Oval Office, reserved for those Really Important Addresses.

Then the President, from behind his desk, for the capper of his day of commemorative visits by redelivering his message about the battle between Good and Evil, the "struggle for civilization" that was heralded in no uncertain terms five years ago, before it veered wildly off course back into Mesopotamia. The "terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nucular weapons," the threat to those who harbor, the promise to find Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice, it's all still there before us.

I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt; I acknowledge that it was right and proper for him to commemorate the event, even as I'm wary about his apparent use of terror as an election tactic. Again.

Then a funny thing happened. The NY Times reports that "all of the networks carried the address live," but in the middle of his speech, somewhere between 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Grandee Street, the feed was switched to... a commercial, then back to Two and A Half Men. What th'?

I flipped through the other commercial networks, PBS, the two C-SPAN channels, nothing. No President, no more Presidential Address from the most important of venues. Weird.

Later, Jeanette and I watched the remarkable Frontline episode, Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero for our remembrance activity. It was just as discretion-required as the phony stuff on the commercial networks, and instead of making up answers for a fictional thriller, it directed its energy at posing the questions that lie before us.

Where was God on Sept. 11? What is the nature of evil? Is religion itself to blame, or is it our last refuge? What faith can be salvaged from Ground Zero?

"From the first moment I looked into that horror on Sept. 11, into that fireball, into that explosion of horror, I knew it," says Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete. "I recognized an old companion. I recognized religion."

||.Sept.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Today's Songtrack Permalink to this item

Cover art for Peter Mayer's CD, Midwinter Jumping the gun a bit when it's not yet the equinox, but having heard Peter Mayer at last month's UUMN conference, I was prompted to spin up his CD Midwinter this morning. Delicious music for a quiet morning, whatever the season.

I particularly liked his new setting of the traditional French carol, Besançon, titled "Green"... and I see that the 3rd verse rings on this anniversary:

Death may raise its voice today
O, but life will have its say
Speaking in lovers and in children
In poets' pens and philosophers' visions
Life is a planet's daring dream
Earth's devotion, spoken in green

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

Defending Wars Permalink to this item

Brian Knowlton reports that the Bush administration is offering up a "combative defense" of the wars it started post-9/11. The quote from Cheney in paragraph two makes me think about the point a friend liked to make about "verbal quirks." If someone says "to be perfectly honest..." is he telling you that he hasn't been honest before that?

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but Dick Cheney telling us that he'll "be the first to admit that" the Iraq insurgency has gone on longer and been more difficult than he'd anticipated... strains credulity. Only he can know what he anticipated, so we'll never know if he's lying this time. But we can point out that many people who were paying attention recognized the he was almost certainly wrong when he said the insurgency had reached its "last throes" in May 2005.

"Cheney said he remained convinced that invading Iraq was 'absolutely' the right thing to do," so we continue to question his judgement. Remember when he had "no doubt" about Iraq having WMD? Now his "no doubt" extends to the decision to attack, whether or not there were WMD.

If you can't even recognize a mistake, you have no hope of avoiding making it again.

And up in the other corner Permalink to this item

The off-the-right-edge Club for Growth is backing another one of their right wing nuts for the Senate, in Rhode Island. This one is opposing the moderate Republican incumbent, Lincoln Chafee, in the primary. The party's said they'll abandon the race if Laffey beats Chafee, conceding the seat to the Democrats after holding it for 30 years.

The political climate is the flip-side of Idaho's, with 1 in 6 voters registered Republican, along with reports of similar problems getting an accurate poll of the voters.

Not so fast on those tribunals, George Permalink to this item

Karl Rove doubtlessly envisioned this latest scheme putting the Democrats in a box just in time for yet another election, having to choose between endorsing the Republican plan, or admitting to weakness (at least) in the War on Terror. It's heartening to see some remaining support for our Constitution and international law on the right side of the aisle, as Lindsay Graham, John McCain and John Warner joined the judge advocates general of the military in declaring convictions based on secret evidence to be a bridge too far.

And you're quitting now because...? Permalink to this item

Martina Navratilova and Bob Bryan, Jonathan Fickies photo If you play the "final" match of your career and win, how do you call it quits? Ok, she's been winning there since 1983, but still.

This lady makes us feel good about being 50.

Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind? Permalink to this item

Greg Smith and his Associates are out with an interesting single for the election season, the "striking finding" that 61% of those polled about the 1st Congressional District are "undecided," with the Democrat, Larry Grant, leading the far-right Republican, Bill Sali, by 22 to 14%. Go figure! Roughly half the Idaho voters mindlessly pulls the big R lever, so the message would be that something like 2/3rds of the avowed Republicans aren't so sure about the narrow winner in a 6-way primary. (Two arguably better candidates split the mainstream vote.)

It's an unusual set of numbers, to be sure, but Smith has been collecting them, without any controversy I can recall, for many years. Sali's people think he's full of beans: "Our polling, using credible methodology and done by one of the most experienced and respected polling firms in the nation, bears no resemblance to Greg Smith's conclusions."

Greg Smith's inference is that Grant's support hasn't changed much from July (25%) to late-August (22%), but Sali's has plummeted, from 41% to 14% (and we assume it's not just a transposition error). It seems too much to hope for, but perhaps the voters are actually becoming informed about the two candidates?! Smith credited "media reporting and a variety of accusations by the Democratic Party," since "GOP conservatism" has been a reliable winner in ID-01 for 30 years or more.

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

Another run-of-the-mill lie Permalink to this item

Bush said his party told him to stay out of Connecticut, since the loser they put up for the Senate doesn't have a chance in the Lamont-Lieberman race. "There's a better place to spend our money, time and resources," he said.

Except now we read that the RNC actually is spending quite a bit of money in Connecticut, hoping to re-elect Republican-friendly Joe.

Just Like on TV Permalink to this item

They had to up the ante, lives were at stake in an imminent attack. Except... there was no scriptwriter to actually come up with that plot. So, the CIA tortured Abu Zubaydah for no good reason. It's easy to handicap all that after the fact, of course. But the part about the President telling us "he had not and never would approve the use of torture"? Now that's theater.

Clinton danced around the definition of sexual relations to avoid embarrassment. Bush dances around the definition of torture to avoid... well, nobody's big enough to put him in a war crimes trial, and as long as the Republicans can keep the Congress, his impeachment won't move along.

Running Scared? Permalink to this item

You wouldn't think C.L. "Butch" "Wild on the Road" Otter would be afraid of his Democrat opponent for Idaho Governor, but Pete Cenarrusa's fundraising letter makes you wonder.

Brady has some wealth from the newspaper business, making him "Idaho's own Ted Turner" to Cenarrusa, running a "cynical money machine." The Republicans might know something about cynicism. Have a look at Brady's bio and see how well he fits the strawman caricature of a Liberal that the Republicans so like to ridicule.

This is from the team calling for a "clean campaign," too. And trying to duck out of actual debates.

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

Loose lips and big ships Permalink to this item

Having been a part of BigCorp for a couple decades, I've been following this story about the leakers on HP's board, and the chairman's reponse to them with interest. The basics are simple, as spelled out in the principle underlying the company's Standards of Business Conduct: "We conduct our business with uncompromising integrity." So simple that the statement is fresh in my mind long after Carly compromised it, and 3 years after I left.

Membership on the Board of Directors always seemed like more of a gravy train than any sort of real job to me; especially since it pays better than many of the company's real jobs, for ridiculously part-time work, with none of the basic inconveniences of being an actual employee.

Witness George Keyworth, boosting his ego by chatting with reporters from time to time, and playing dumb when the issue of the leaking was raised in Board meetings. Investigating his phone records is the least the company could do. Employees are told to have "no expectation of privacy" when they're on the clock, and while it sounds harsh, the flip side is that if your behavior is above reproach, it's no big deal. We're not talking about civil liberties, this is business.

His buddy and fellow director Tom Perkins stomped his feet and resigned in protest, went off to play on his 287 foot yacht. Keyworth... refused to resign?! The result is that "he won't be nominated" for re-appointment, whereas anyone else in the company doing what he did would justifiably be fired.

If the investigation went past the bounds of integrity, the chairman could go, too. So far, the market seems reasonably confident the business will carry on just fine in any event and indeed, the shenanigans in and out of the boardroom don't seem to matter for the company's well-being. So... why waste money supporting the lavish lifestyle of Board members?

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

Ending the Lawlessness Permalink to this item

That's the title of the Washington Post editorial calling for Congressional action on the detainees, alright, but only "as long as [Bush] doesn't get the bill he wants."

On the same day that U.S. generals were describing abusive techniques as ineffective and counterproductive, Mr. Bush insisted that the CIA's program of secret detentions and coercive interrogations needs to continue.

With 14 scary faces to use as bargaining power: are you going to give me what I want, or put these mass murderers back on the street? Are you with us, or against us?

Andrew Sullivan's take: "The timing is deliberate; the exploitation of 9/11 gob-smacking; the cynicism fathomless."

Be Very Afraid Permalink to this item

Yes, there are real dangers in the world, and some of our own making. (For example, all those years when we could have led by example in nuclear non-proliferation, but chose to accelerate the arms race... listen to Iran claiming as much right to nuclear power and nuclear weapons as France, or Pakistan.) They grab our attention, and we can't look away so easily. Consider the closest and most serious danger for daily life, the automobile accident. The mere sight of a car on the shoulder of a freeway creates traffic jams of rubbernecking drivers.

"Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

Fast cuts grab our attention, too. As we roll up to the 5th anniversary of 9/11, we expect many replays of fast cuts to disaster, and the lingering views of horror. In many parts of the world—Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon come to mind—there is no need for 5-year-old video to occupy one's attention. 3,000 people are being slaughtered each month in Iraq.

The authoritarian dystopia takes shape in the minds of the Bush Administration. What is it in the latest news of the fight against terror that catches your eye? The prospect of "masterminds" being brought to "justice" in another year or so? (That would be "after years in which the C.I.A. held them without charges in undisclosed sites abroad.")

Or perhaps this caption: "Mr. Bushís speech on the war on terrorism drew applause from the invited audience at the White House."

Doom and Gloom Permalink to this item

Smoky sunrise over the neighbors' roof Southwestern Idaho has some lovely weather at times of the year.

This is not one of those times. The air has been filled with smoke for a week now, and yesterday was particularly bad (hmm, no pun intended), with cumulonimbus stacking over Boise and the day getting smokier and gloomier into the afternoon and evening.

We were in the basement watching TV about 10pm when the wind kicked up, and knocked the power out. As we started to stumble through the darkness to go upstairs, the lights and TV came back on. For about 15 seconds, then dark again. Then on! Then off! It was about the 4th cycle before we came to our senses and started turning things off as quickly as we could, lest the power cycling burn up our appliances. Ugly, ugly transients out there.

Half an hour or so later, it came back and stayed up, but we went to bed with the house shut up. Outside, it smelled like our next-door, upwind neighbors were having a smoky campfire, and the waxing moon was a fuzzy orange blob struggling to chase the storm away.

This morning, the sun came up deep red, briefly, then slipped out of sight into the already heavy sky.

Of course, it could be worse...

6.9.6 Permanent URL to this day's entry

53,100 of us Permalink to this item

The Murky News got the starting date wrong, as the "first round of involuntary job cuts" came in August 2001, not 2000. Just before the announced merger with Compaq. Just before 9/11. Wham, bam, boom.

In the 5 years since, HP has managed to shed more than 50,000 employees by Nicole Wong's report, even as it slurped up still more bodies through mergers and acquisitions. One of the ex-HPers interviewed for their story is a long-time correspondent of mine, starting from when we were both inside, and participating in techy newsgroups together. We've since collaborated on his compendium of WFR knowledge, carrying on the tradition I first experienced in the mass relocation (not "layoffs" in those halcyon days) triggered by HP exiting the disk drive manufacturing business in 1996. A lot of HP employees and alumni have helped a lot of their colleagues to find new work after jobs went away.

The other error in the story is more significant. Wong claims that:

hardly any of (ex-HPville's) "inhabitants" chose to move there. Even the ones who accepted severance-laced early retirement offers, which were part of the corporate downsizing plans, adamantly say they would have kept working at HP if they could.

What percentage, exactly, is "hardly any"? Hardly any of the... um, dozen? 20? hundred employees she tracked down and talked to? 53,000 is a big number, Ms. Wong. You didn't talk to me, and I did choose to leave HP at my convenience, and with the generous exit package. And unlike "the laid-off IT worker," when it came time to buy a new computer this year, I shopped around and chose a Compaq. It was a business decision, not a reflection of my non-existent support for that merger.

10% of them Permalink to this item

While the Statesman wasn't reporting on the coming School Board election this weekend, they were covering the tight turns in BoDo's parking garage. That's probably of greater interest to the citizens of Boise, judging by Tuesday's voter turnout. It just makes me want to weep to hear that local monster truck drivers have to use their reverse gears to negotiate the tricky bits. But this part changed them into tears of laughter:

The first corner has caused the most problems, (parking and facilities director for CCDC Max Clark) said. That's where drivers have to turn a sharp left—almost a U-turn—to get on the ramp that leads to the second floor....

"Ninety percent of the cars that enter the facility, if they are paying attention, will make it," he said.

And the other 10%? Do they just stack up in a twisted heap, or what?

"The garage owners and BoDo developer Mark Rivers said the garage design isn't flawed," we're told. And as the last resort, "Clark said CCDC could make other changes, such as hiring a person to direct traffic in and out of the garage on busy nights or increasing the size of the parking spaces."

Yeah, someone to direct traffic in the garage, that would be good. Or maybe a big orange sign that says  SUVs GO AWAY .

4% of us Permalink to this item

Bar graph of the school board election results That was how many of the Boise School District's 98,037 voters bothered to show up at the polls yesterday, to re-elect A.J. Balukoff, and to elect Virginia Pellegrini and Phil Kelly. The numbers and dry rundown are in the Statesman, but the story of the last minute blog posts and emails is not. What percentage of the 4,027 active voters saw the messages in time and responded to them? Probably fewer than the 1,000 votes Doug Park fell short of coming in 3rd place, and undoubtedly fewer than read the Statesman's earlier endorsement of the three candidates who eventually won.

One of my friends who had been persuaded to pass along recommendations for Park (and others) noted that "all five of them waffled" when asked direct questions on creationism/evolution and sex ed. So we made the decision on word of mouth recommendations, a newspaper's endorsements, and discard the meaningless platitudes that they all voiced. It takes a special effort to ferret out meaningful information about a candidate. In this case, "won't say yes or no" to the question "Would you ever endorse or promote the teaching of evolution in the public schools?" speaks adequate volumes. Won't endorse science? Hello?

If the voters won't (or can't) press the candidates for straight answers, and what passes for media don't do their job, it's all too easy to see how stealth campaigns can be mounted in a political climate such as this.

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

The Splogosphere Permalink to this item

That doesn't sound good, and it isn't. The same pencil-necked geeks that try to fill your inbox with real estate deals and appendage pumpers are now generating spam blogs—splogs—faster than real people are generating blogs.

"The brute-force approach is effective. Not that the Google guys aren't smart, but the sheer relentlessness on the side of spammers is formidable, and they eventually get what they want."

Gaming Google is nothing new, of course, but this get-rich-quick crowd is doing worse than not adding value; they're outright polluters, trashing the commons and threatening to reduce the utility of our wonderful world-wide web for everyone. Charles Mann explored this new "business," being promoted by some nice Utah Mormon boys (among many others), who like to call it "search engine marketing" rather than splogging.

(T)hey don't simply throw a mass of blogs online. Instead they build complex networks of Web sites, entire online ecosystems of sleaze, twaddle, and gobbledygook. The main goal is to lure unsuspecting blog readers and other Internet users to spam portals. Sportals, as they are known, are Web pages consisting almost entirely of pay-per-click links, all of which shunt netsurfers to legitimate commercial Web sites, collecting money along the way for the spammers.

I recently discovered some of this garbage in the comment feature on some blog software (Grey Matter) that I tried out a long time ago and had left up as demo pages. What had been a kB or two of "just testing" had turned into 200kB of pseudo-jabberwocky (I mean, it's not that entertaining!), larded with links to poker sites (mostly), and undoubtedly some pump hardware, real estate and pr*n. It was like finding the wrong kind of bacteria in your gut, not pleasant, and smells bad to boot.

They slaughter horses, don't they? Permalink to this item

Now that summer vacation is over, and we've had our Labor Day weekend, it's time for Congress to get back to work for a few weeks, before it's time to hit the campaign trail full-time.

Nice work if you can get it.

The agenda seems focused on avoiding anything that could get them tagged in a bad way for the November vote. So forget about finishing work on the budget for the fiscal year that starts October 1st, for starters. More important things must come to the fore.

Shall we eat horses? It all depends on how hungry we are, I expect. Same goes for dogs and cats, but that possibility is a bit more distant and does not yet require legislation.

Election Day (already?!) Permalink to this item

We'd looked up the candidates in today's Boise School District election for three trustee positions, and it all seemed pretty uninteresting. No one advocating Intelligent Design or anything... but then at the last minute, we find out there is a stealth candidate: Doug Park seems to have more money than he knows what to do with, giving it away to the likes of Alan Keyes and George W. Bush. Lot more zeroes on that page than you'd ever find for our political contributions.

It's a non-partisan election, so no reason for Doug to mention how staunch a Republican he is. Normally, being an R gets you a bunch of free votes around here, but maybe it's different for the School Board? Hard to say, but if you do get off your butt and go vote, you can count on your influence being greather than in most other elections. Holding it on the day after Labor Day... are they trying to minimize the turnout?

Polls are at most schools (and the First Baptist Church?!), you can vote at any location, and they're open until 8pm.

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

Image isn't everything Permalink to this item

With the U.S. Open finally on one of the cheap channels, and an early date for this year's Eagle Tennis Tournament, this weekend brought a satisfying overload for local enthusiasts. The one I was playing in was supposed to take today off, but since my singles opponent ran late in a mixed doubles match and threatened to push my doubles match into twilight, we agreed to play this morning instead. (So I only had to play three matches yesterday, instead of four.)

That gave me time to get to the 7 hours of CBS coverage, and watch the Agassi / Becker match. Do I need to include a spoiler alert or be careful what I say? I don't suppose too many readers are both tennis fans, recording for later viewing, and keeping up with the blog...

Anyway, the "old" man lost, but went out with as much panache as the flood of emotions would allow. Funny stuff, to be watching someone crying from the mix of pain and exhaustion and joy and fulfillment, and to have it make you cry in empathy. An eight minute standing ovation before he got to deliver his final words to the crowd, the emotion so contagious that the crowd in the next-door grandstand stood and cheered too; even though the man they were cheering for was only present as a name and numbers.

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

The Central Affront to the War on Terror Permalink to this item

The Mission is so accomplished that there's no way we'll be leaving until we get a new President (and Vice-President, and Secretary of State). Do we have to wait until 2009 for that?

It's the damn media, the liberal pessimists, the "moral confusion" of appeasers that has us in such a bad way, we're told. I don't think so. As Fred Kaplan writes in Slate, explaining the growing negativity of America's image in the eyes of the world, "A country's global image is usually formed not by what its leaders say but rather by what they do."

The Bush team response to divergent views of reality is to deny and ridicule those they don't like. Reconciliation is not part of the plan, any more than admitting mistakes is.

The mistakes are legion of course, and the criticism of appeasement may be better aimed at pre-GW I than WW II.

13 of America's Worst Places to Vote Permalink to this item

Mother Jones' headline only counted 11, but there was a 3-way tie for 2nd place. Among the cities and counties, three whole states made the list: New Hampshire, Florida and Ohio.

Thanks to this week's NOW feature, Block the Vote, for that lead. More ways to discourage organizations that promote voter registration, to block voters from registering, scare voters away from the polls, keep registered voters out of polling places.

That's all before they get to the voting machines...

Also on this week's NOW: Eric Boehlert's introduction to his new book, Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush.

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

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes Permalink to this item

You thought it was smoky yesterday, you should see it today. I was thinking one of my "clear day after fresh snow" pictures of Shafer Butte, juxtaposed with a shot of smoke nearly obscuring the Boise Front, but then today came up even worse. You can't see anything past the first line of foothills. News said there were 15 fires in the area, and more than enough of them are sending their smoke into the Treasure Valley.

It's bad all over (as I hear yet another DC-3 drone overhead). In Montana, the Governor declared an emergency and called out the National Guard a month ago. It's so bad in Montana in fact that Senator Conrad Burns noticed something was up, and called for... the National Guard to be called for!

Maybe it's time for him to move out of D.C. and get back to the land.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Sunday, 01-Oct-2006 22:05:46 MDT