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unraveling

31.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

April Fools Permalink to this item

Matthew Dowd jumped parties to ride the Bush train to the top, and then realized it was on the wrong track. While he was chief campaign strategist, getting Bush re-elected. He waited until after that was done to admit it publicly.

His faith in Mr. Bush was misplaced.

"He said, his disappointment in Mr. Bushís presidency is so great that he feels a sense of duty to go public given his role in helping Mr. Bush gain and keep power."

We feel your pain, to be sure.

He says he has an op-ed in the drawer, all ready to go, "Kerry Was Right" to call for a withdrawal from Iraq last year.

Will Bush Sneak Troops Out In The Night? Permalink to this item

It's not a great essay, but this Opinion piece in the Chattanoogan.com poses an interesting question, and has some essential components. Most of us have no direct experience of war (thank goodness), and no doubt there are many who might say something like "the only war I was alive for prior to March 2003 was the Gulf War, so in my mind, I imagined a similar experience for the Iraq War. Swift victory, quick results."

Let's just say he wasn't paying very close attention, given how many wars were started or continued in the 1990s. Remember the war in Bosnia, for example? Kosovo?

But the question about withdrawal equaling defeat is well-taken. "Does Bush plan on leaving the troops over in Iraq forever?" He has told us he does plan on keeping troops there through the end of his term, on numerous occasions, and unlike many of the things he tells us, this one seems to be true.

Jenkins writes: "The real enemy here is a mindset, the mindset of radical Islamic extremists who hate the West and Israel." Whatever we said we were fighting for, or whoever we said was the enemy, we're doing an incomparable job of ensuring that a mindset of hatred will be with us for generations to come.

It isn't just radical Islamic extremists who have a problem. Bush's mind is set, too. In spite of having no clear mission now that his vendetta has been satisfied and Hussein is dead, he's decided we can't leave until "the job" is done. That means we can't leave until we decided what the hell the job is, as well.

Last October, Bush said "our goals are unchanging," and that "our mission is to help the elected government in Iraq defeat common enemies, to bring peace and stability to Iraq, and make our nation more secure."

There's ample evidence that our continued presence in Iraq is working directly against the last two of those three, and the first goal can't help but be confused, given how many enemies we've made in the region, and how many mutual enemies are crowded together there.

This, by the way, was the press conference where he announced the Iraq Study Group, whose recommendations he has since studiously refused to consider.

The Doors of Perception Permalink to this item

Or at least a portal into Web 2.0, in case you're wondering what (all) that is: 23 things to do in 9 weeks (or whatever), and call it Learning 2.0. Thanks to the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County (the "plcmc" in the proliferating domain names) for the idea, execution, and invitation. And Wired for bringing it to our attention.

30.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Living Your Own Life, Finding Your Own Voice Permalink to this item

Oddly enough, this speech by Steve Jobs is the worst performance of his I've seen, but it's the best and most heartfelt message I've seen him deliver. Funny to suppose it, but I'm guessing the venue was a little intimidating for him.

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drownd out your own inner voice."

End-of-March is a bit early for the Commencement form, but some reminders are always timely.

29.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Outsourcing Democracy Permalink to this item

Tulips are out! The mass protests are no longer to be found on the streets; Tom Engelhardt observes that they're still in the opinion polls, whether you look in this country or in Iraq. And strangely enough, a majority of us in both places are pretty well agreed on the situation.

"If a single conclusion can be drawn about the U.S. presence in Iraq, it's this: The longer we have been there, the worse it's gotten. We've now reached the point where, with Americans "protecting" Iraqis from themselves, nearly one in five of them have nonetheless either fled their country, been forced into internal exile, or died in the mayhem."

What was the mission again?

Lies, Damn Lies, and Coordinates Permalink to this item

John Pike, regular talking head from GlobalSecurity.org ("Reliable Security Information"), on the Newshour, explaining the problem with producing incontrovertible evidence of position in the matter of the British sailors and marines taken prisoner by Iran:

"And the problem with all of this, of course, is that they weren't recording all of this in real time. And even if they had been recording it in real time, it can all be faked. You're not going to have something that's going to be foolproof like, say, a voting machine."

Ironic humor would not have been appropriate in the discussion, had Pike been feeling puckish, but there was no evidence he was trying to be funny. GPS devices are quite capable of "recording all this in real time," and it's reasonable to assume that it was. His point that "it can all be faked" is true enough, but Iran's pathetic attempt at that ("ah no, we meant over here") shows the deception might well not hold up to scrutiny.

Apart from the non sequitur humor, I have to say anything coming out of Pike (at least) and GlobalSecurity.org gets a little less benefit of the doubt than it used to.

Is it Malfeasance, or Just Incompetence? Permalink to this item

Alberto Gonzales can't fully recall his involvement in firing those U.S. Attorneys, but his former chief of staff has good notes. For his part, Kyle Sampson can't distinguish political maneuvers and "performance reasons." It's all the same, eh?

Gonzales says if anything was impropoer, people would be fired. Yeah, we've heard that sort of thing before; is he going to fire himself? Karl Rove?

He wasn't under oath when talking to Pete Williams of NBC, but the facts in evidence make him seem a little confused, at least. He wasn't involved in specific deliberations. Ok, ah, why the hell not? He was more focused on keeping the White House "appropriately advised of the progress of our review." That is, the role of the Attorney General in this matter was to keep the White House informed?!

He just gave his blessing to the final list after the decision(s) were made. By someone else, not him.

He may be a little slow, but he is learning the ropes. "I know that—with respect to this particular topic, people parse carefully the words that I use. (LAUGHTER) And—and I wanna be careful about what I say."

Ha ha. Good thinking. Do be advised that after we "parse carefully," we assess the truth, too. You want to be real careful about that the next time you raise your right hand for Congress.

The bad news is that the guy who seems to have taken this most seriously and who has the most integrity in this affair—Kyle Sampson—has jumped ship. Those left behind seem considerably less deserving. Just going by the public communication.

28.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Karl Rove, in the White House, with a Blackberry Permalink to this item

It's obviously been a political hatchet job, but the Bush team has a license for that sort of thing, after all. Why all the excitement? On the eve of Congressional testimony from the Attorney General's deposed Chief of Staff (and prospect for one of those US Attorney spots; just a coincidence, I'm sure), and one AG staffer already announcing she'd take the Fifth, the plot is still thickening.

Dan Froomkin's column, The Rovian Theory, has this juicy tidbit about halfway down, quoted from Alexis Simendinger in the National Journal:

"Do you want Karl Rove on TV, or do you want the truth?"
Tony Snow

"White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove may have forfeited potential claims of executive privilege over the dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys—if he communicated about the latter outside the White House e-mail system, using his Republican National Committee e-mail account or RNC equipment," which he probably did, since "one former White House official familiar with Rove's work habits" says he does "about 95%" of his email on his RNC-provided BlackBerry.

Then Froomkin quotes Joe Conason from Salon, not putting too fine a point on the "no oath or transcript" chat concept: "Rove is a proven liar who cannot be trusted to tell the truth even when he is under oath, unless and until he is directly threatened with the prospect of prison time."

SawStop Permalink to this item

This is unsolicited (and unremunerated), but I have to say, this is a brilliant idea: a sensor on a table saw that detects the electrical properties of the human body (a finger, say), and trips a fast actuator to—KA CHANG!—stop the blade.

A Point of Personal Privilege Permalink to this item

Morning in Palm Springs, March 2007 Former Governor Phil Batt served up a sizeable smackdown for our Speaker of the House in the Statesman's Reader View column today. He had some experience with the state House of Representatives before his term as Governor, and lauded Pete Cenarrusa in particular (who he'd voted against for Speaker), and three other previous office holders who played fair in serving the people of Idaho.

As compared to the current right-wing Lawrence Denney, who is keen on using the considerable power of his office to implement payback time. You didn't support me? Forget about having your legislation go anywhere.

As Batt put it, "This is outrageous. The people of Idaho are entitled to have their representatives base their votes on the merits of a bill, not on who backed the loser in a speaker's contest."

He's the Dictator Permalink to this item

"It makes no sense for politicians in Washington DC to be dictating arbitrary timelines for our military commanders in a war zone 6,000 miles away," says George Bush. By that dirty word "politicians," he means "Congress" of course, not his Commander-in-Chiefness.

The narrow, nearly party-line votes in the House and Senate to start thinking about an end to our military adventure has sparked a new round of wailing about "support the troops," and talk of the second-ever veto by this President. Let's see, if the Congress sends him a funding bill and he vetoes it, knowing they don't have the votes to override... why, the President would have failed to support the troops!

That's without raising the matter of the bogus intelligence and machinations that went into sending the troops on this misbegotten mission, draining our military capacity, getting 3,000 and then some killed, many more thousands wounded, and so on.

Stop loss orders, calling up the "National" Guard for international missions, bringing Reserves into service... such is the Bush/Cheney "support" for our troops.

27.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Blog Whores Permalink to this item

Oh here's a tidy business: slide in a little solicted testimonial about random products in your blog and collect a little under-the-table payoff for it. I guess the more difficult question is what took it so long to get started?

At least PayForPost has an honest name, even if the business isn't. Gotta love the CEO's defense: he's "helped bloggers become more successful." Another slimey "stakeholder" thinks it's just like product placement in the movies: "You put an ad inside the text and it's more of a subtle way of advertising. It doesn't take away from the blogger."

Doesn't take away?!

Compensation from marketers "may influence" what one writes and integrity "may no longer be available."

26.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Clean and Articulate Permalink to this item

John Yoo's explanation for why we set up Gitmo is a frightening glimpse inside his mind: "You're never going to have a war that's so clean that you're not going to capture members of the enemy."

A "clean" war would be one where you simply kill all the enemy, presumably.

The counterpoint to Yoo on tonight's Newshour segment with Judy Woodruff was Georgetown University professor Neal Katyal, who successfully argued the 2006 Supreme Court case Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Katyal pointed out that it was a bit more nuanced than "we need a military detention facility," but rather, "let's put them somewhere that the Constitution doesn't apply." Yoo casually dismissed that complaint, said the law does too apply, and indeed the Supreme Court has taken some steps to ensure that, against the work of Yoo to rewrite executive prerogative by memorandum.

25.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

More Storytelling, Anyone? Permalink to this item

It's all the rage these days, and George W. Bush wants to do his part for its promotion: "private interviews" (please turn off cellphones and alarm watches, and no recording devices of any kind) will be fine, but testifying under oath is right out. "Executive prerogative," don't you know.

When the hell did we vote for that?

Frank Rich details all the other stuff we got, but didn't vote for in his column this week (on Times Select): "Mr. Gonzales may be a nonentity, but heís a nonentity like Zelig. Heís been present at every dubious legal crossroads in Mr. Bushís career."

Or try Maria Cocco's point of view: "(L)oyalty to George W. Bush was really the only credential Gonzales' public record offered," and good ol' George is doing his best to return the favor. And keep a lot of their shared history on the Q.T.

23.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Congress Reining Bush Permalink to this item

It sounded like the President said "Damnocrats" in the video bit on Washington Week as he accused them of "political theater." Who was that guy with the red hat in the background, I wondered, as his own theatrical staging made me laugh so hard I didn't hear what else he said.

The topic is no laughing matter, however. Four years on, will the Congress agree to continue funding the Bush/Cheney war of adventure in Iraq? It's starting to get iffy.

Downtown Marshmallow Roast Permalink to this item

Rebecca Boone AP photo of bus on fire The good news is that that's the way the bus is designed to burn, and nobody got hurt. The bad news is another totaled bus, and flames shooting three stories in the air might—just might—discourage ridership.

A spokesperson for the local transit authority says "ValleyRide intends to keep that model in service for several more years," but I'm thinking we'll wait to see if it keeps up the 5 month fire cycle before that decision is final.

Take as Much Time as You Need Permalink to this item

Now here's a vacation policy you could learn to love, brought to you by Netflix: as long as you get your work done, you can take as much as you want.

Heather McIlhany, "online marketing manager" with all of a year's service (and a three-week vacation to South Africa last fall) comes up with a cute contrarian sentiment: "There's an inverse relationship between how often a company talks about its values and how much those values are actually reflected in the workplace."

Like so much of marketing, it may or may not be true, it's not easily testable, it catches your attention and makes you think it's information.

But still. We like the policy.

The worst thing is for a manager to come in and tell me: "Let's give Susie a huge raise because she's always in the office." What do I care? I want managers to come to me and say: "Let's give a really big raise to Sally because she's getting a lot done" - not because she's chained to her desk.

In the olden days, that was known as "management by objective" and "flextime," but marketing is all about rotating terminology, too.

Equinox Permanent URL to this day's entry

Star Wars Reprise Permalink to this item

Ok, probably just a coincidence that HBO was showing Star Wars Episode VI at the same time that I was reading the story of Al Gore's return to Capitol Hill. That would put James Inhofe in the role of Darth Vader, as near as I can tell. (But who's the Emperor?) How bad does it have to get before Inhofe comes around?

Stomping on Something Permalink to this item

Junior College Republicans President Jonathan Sawmiller is whining that the (University) administration is "stomping all over the First Amendment and the freedom of speech" of his lovely little group, after they put up signs for their anti-immigration event, advertising a jolly contest in which you can "climb through the hole in the fence and enter your false ID documents into the food stamp drawing!"

BSU President Bob Kustra's appeal to the decency didn't get anywhere. Go figure.

The Microsoft guy's keynote Permalink to this item

He looks kind of like Ballmer, can he do the monkey dance? And the suit and no tie, what's up with that look? The Gartner Group guy this morning had a dress shirt and tie, still more than pretty much any of the 1,200 gurus here at the ESRI Developers Summit, but a logical step up for being on stage, videotaped and all that. The suit and no tie is just wrong.

"I'm excited about where this space is going," he said at the start, and it quickly became clear that he was talking a little bit faster than he was thinking. Understandable, because he was talking really fast. And not connecting with his slides, which were action (and icon) packed, buzzword bingo kind of thing. Is he saying anything? I couldn't tell. I got to wondering how many other people in the crowd were repulsed by the vocal barrage. These are mostly coding geeks, people who prefer the company of a couple big monitors to large groups of people. I'm thinking I would not want to work with, for, or near this person. I don't want whatever he's selling.

"I'm going to say up front, I'm a marketing moron." He says he's a developer? He's gotta be kidding.

Stop! Shut up! What do your slides mean? What are you talking about? Do you know anything about this audience? Like the fact that a third of them had something other than English as their first language? He asks (rhetorically, natch) how many of us work with people "offshore," and he should have been asking how many of us came from offshore.

"We're going to focus maniacally on the user experience at Microsoft going forward."

It's just like the company, they can talk your ears off, BUT THEY DON'T LISTEN WELL. (He did give us his email address at the end; I can't wait to give it a try...) He was trying to remember the name of ESRI's dev blog (Geography Matters), couldn't, got help from the front row, rolled on without mentioning to everyone else in the room what that name was. Classic.

The last 5 minutes, after the ESRI-developed demo (using Microsoft tools, and amusingly starting with an "application error" screen in a browser window. Whoopsie!), he had to just blast through the buzzwords he hadn't hit in the first 55 min. If we hadn't been so tired at the end of a day of tech sessions, I'm sure there would have been shouts of BINGO! from all over the big hall.

First Light Permalink to this item

Morning break chat with a gal who came here (I'm in Palm Springs, California, did I mention? Of course I didn't) from Florida, early, so she could stay over the weekend. It was hot before I got here, well into the 90s in the afternoon. But she was looking forward to the nighttime, a new moon, and... "I saw the Milky Way for the first time."

I savored her statement, and the goosebumps it gave me. It reminded me of Isaac Asimov's short story, Nightfall, which I highly, highly recommend.

"That was worth the whole trip right there."

Vulnerable to Incompetence Permalink to this item

Nicholas Kristof's latest column, Iran's Operative in the White House lays out the "humorous" theory that Dick Cheney is working for Iran, before admitting that "O.K., O.K. Of course, all this is absurd."

His take-away lesson is: "Our national interests are as vulnerable to incompetence as to malicious damage."

Last weekend, we were in the theater, and a captive audience for the conversation of a guy about my age and a college-age woman, his niece, maybe? She asked him if he'd followed any of the Scooter Libby trial, and he said no, he hadn't. He knew enough to be dismayed at "the way the whole Bush administration seems to be unravelling," but there was one person at least who he thought was sincere and capable.

You guessed it, Dick "No Doubt" Cheney. That's what happens when you don't follow the news too closely. You walk around with a head full of crazy ideas.

We'll Be Happy to Keep Lying to You Permalink to this item

How else can we interpret the "unprecedented" cooperation of the Bush administration, offering to send Karl Rove and other aides up for "private interviews," but none of that oath taking stuff.

"I hope they don't choose confrontation," W. says. Yet another tactic he wants to reserve to himself?

I can understand that they wouldn't want to provide ammunition for another special prosecutor and a perjury conviction. Rove barely finished dodging the last one of those.

.May.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sucking Blood from the Earth Permalink to this item

The average American uses about three gallons of gasoline a day.

Our food comes from the grocery store, and our gas comes from the pump. (And of course, the ubiquitous Gas n Groc combines the marketing of these essentials.) Lisa Margonelli's book, Oil on the Brain digs deeper into the worldwide intrigue.

Ted Conover's review lists some problems, but mostly makes it sound interesting, "kaleidoscopic, accessible and focused on our present quandary."

Stories of riches, corruption, environmental disaster, political instability, strongmen, extremism, trading in national sovereignty, and of course, war; what's not to like?

16.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Of Madmen and Empowerment Permalink to this item

Luisa Valenzuela offers an explanation for what those people down south see in Hugo Chávez. For one thing, "the dream of a single-currency Latin American Union, modeled on the European Union, to create, insofar as possible, a buffer against the hegemony of the United States no longer seems so impossible."

Ides.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Bleeding Republicans Permalink to this item

News coverage of Mitt Romney's visit to Boise this week put the guy on my radar, and while resetting the VCR after some house electrical work, I happened to find Hugh Hewitt stumping his book, A Mormon in the White House? on C-Span's Washington Journal today.

I've heard from various sources that Romney is "very clean," and "articulate," which I guess is OK to say about a white guy. Hewitt says he's not ready to endorse one of the three front-runners Romney, Guiliani, McCain, even as he's very happy to flog his book. Hewitt sees McCain as tarnished goods, and that pro-choice stance of Guiliani really seems to make him a non-starter for the Angry Right, so the non-endorsement isn't terribly convincing.

Hewitt styles himself a "journalist," as well as a staunch conservative, and because he's so happy to state his own biases, that seems to give him license to paint the mainstream media as obviously liberal. Bit of logical problem there, since neutral journalism would by definition be left of him. "More liberal than me" isn't the same as "liberal," eh?

But the interesting part of his schtick is that the MSM "bleeds Republicans" as a matter of course (and promotes Democrats). That perception explains a lot about the reaction Jill Kuraitis got for her opinion of the way Romney and his team presented themselves here in town.

14.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Support the Troops; Bring them Home Permalink to this item

How much longer can Dick Cheney use our troops as his stooges for failed and dishonest policies? Well, in an official capacity, 677 days and a few hours. In the meantime, I guess he'll make his speeches and work the clichés as shamelessly as he ever has.

Democracy Stops at the Wellhead Permalink to this item

As Iraq's "government" prepares to hand over control of its oil for the next 20 to 35 years, Antonia Juhasz offers a bit of history regarding Whose Oil Is It, Anyway?

Iraqís five trade union federations, representing hundreds of thousands of workers, released a statement opposing the law and rejecting "the handing of control over oil to foreign companies, which would undermine the sovereignty of the state and the dignity of the Iraqi people." They ask for more time, less pressure and a chance at the democracy they have been promised.

Something tells me the Bush administration isn't backing that sort of democratic action on the part of the Iraqis. Juhasz has been following the issue for a while...

Voluntary Noncompliance Permalink to this item

Christopher (not his real name, we'd guess) from Gainesville, Fla. (maybe), calling in to Talk of the Nation to confess how much he cheats.

Hey, how ya doin'? Uh yeah, uh, I was just, uh, curious if I'm among the small minority of citizens of the United States that's aware that the income tax isn't even legal?

David Cay Johnston, reporter for the NYT on the subject of taxes, notes that "not a single tax denier has been successful, ever, in the courts" at challenging the law. (Some have been acquitted by juries, however.) "The batting average after almost a hundred years is .000."

Makes for amusing radio, though!

Non-negotiable Popistry Permalink to this item

Back when JFK ran for President, the issue of his Catholicism was a big enough deal to make an impression on my 5-year-old awareness. He was on our team, so a stroke in his favor. He was better looking than Nixon, too, and seemed more normal; TV probably made more of an impression than religious affiliation. For non-Catholics, the big question was whether the Pope would be secretly running the country through his minion. Enough people found that implausible that we could, in fact, (just barely) elect a Catholic.

But Benedict XVI is no John XXIII, and the current Pope wants to make it clear that Catholic politicians are expected to follow orders.

Introducing "laws inspired by values grounded in human nature" is a curious turn of phrase however, something lost in translation? Stood next to the renewed affirmation of priestly celibacy being "obligatory," we wonder if we're all talking about the same humans, and the same nature.

Ok, another question: given how seldom legislators actually read the text of legislation, are Catholics also required to actually read the Sacramentum Caritatis, as opposed to taking it on faith from the reworked press releases that make it to the MSM?

A look at some insider detail has disappointments as well, such as further emphasis on the centrality of the Eucharist, even as the class distinctions about who can and can't receive it are underscored. The divorced need not apply, for example.

Warts and All Permalink to this item

Roger Cohen sees the warts, but cheers for capitalism all the same. He likes the invisible, but predictable, hand as described by a novelist, for which "our system works because it's based on the truth about people's selfishness."

So we tsk, tsk over (and may get around to prosecuting) executives printing money by backdating stock options to the depth of catastrophe, but carry on because it's better than the alternative. When Cohen jumps ahead to inferring the mind of world leaders, however, he gets all make-believe on us. He supposes it was Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's judgement of character that would lead him to choose George W. Bush over Hugo Chávez, "because life has led this self-taught man to know a coup plotter, an absolutist with militarist instincts and a facile deliverer of dangerous slogans when he sees one in the false-egalitarian."

That's how Cohen imagines da Silva imagines Chávez, in case it was confusing. Bush certainly is no "coup plotter," preferring to use the greatest military the world has ever known in more direct fashion, but the precision of "facile deliverer of dangerous slogans" and "false-egalitarian" couldn't possibly be more apt to describe George W. Bush.

13.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Time to Start Packing Permalink to this item

Alberto Gonzales stepped up to the mic and said "I acknowledge that mistakes were made here; I accept that responsibility," even though he imagines that responsibility doesn't come with consequences for mistakes.

His "pledge" to "find out what went wrong" is ludicrous. The clear and obvious improvement to be made so that these same mistakes "do not occur again in the future" is for him to resign, or be fired. His chief of staff has already done the honorable thing; now it's Gonzales' turn.

Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy: "I want those answers, not in an informal briefing; I want those answers in public, in sworn testimony, under oath before my committee. As chairman, that's what I insist."

Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of the House Judiciary Committee looks to be taking a harder line than the Democrats!

"The House and the Senate were lied to, not by the people that were sent to the Hill, but by the people who sent them there. And every one of those people owes us a resignation. And that's the difference, perhaps, between what the Democrats are walking around. If someone led us astray, they should resign. And I don't care how high it is: Anyone involved with this cover-up of giving us the truth needs to step down."

Dishonorable Mention Permalink to this item

The Pottersville collection of snapshots showing Fox "News" at its finest.

It Takes A Village Permalink to this item

Nicholas Wade's lede is as artful a description of the symbiosis we're steeped in as any sentence I've come across:

"A human body is not the individual organism its proud owner may suppose but rather a walking zoo of microbes and parasites, each exploiting a special ecological niche in its comfortable, temperature-controlled conveyance."

Be kind to your pseudopod-footed friends.

Pace: Don't Even Think About It Permalink to this item

The comments following The Lede's blog entry about General Peter Pace's opposition to gays in the military are a fascinating cross-section of opinion on the subject. None that I saw addressed the fundamental moral issue of condemning someone for their thoughts: Pace feels homosexual acts are immoral, so this means the military shouldn't tolerate openly gay members.

The General's expression is more nuanced than the officer trainee who comments that "homosexuality is a sin and an immorality," but it amounts to the same thing.

The costs of the policy are considerable: in "human dignity, self-respect, and in the image of the military held by the American public, the world community and itself," as retired Rear Adm. John D. Hutson put it, and also a cost to our security. The GAO reports that among those discharged were more than 322 linguists, including 54 Arabic specialists.

Comment #50 provides greater moral clarity than the good General's: "Isnít it interesting that the Central Intellilgence Agency has gay and lesbian staff. NATO forces have gay soldiers? If they engage in inappropriate and illegal sexual behavior they are prosecuted for the behavior and not their sexual orientation."

Oh yeah. Our allies. And our Vice-president's daughter. Bully, General.

A Call for Leadership Permalink to this item

Boise had a suitable commemoration for the 4th anniversary of the US starting the latest war in Iraq: Hans Blix, here for the BSU Distinguished Lecture Series. I was struck by the calm, straightforward presentation from a civil servant, and lawyer, describing the obvious truths of the situation we've put ourselves in. Diplomacy is difficult, unreliable, tiring, frustrating, slow... but far preferable to war, which is all those things, and deadly besides.

Blix spoke for about an hour to 1500 people at the Morrison Center, and spent 15 minutes answering just three questions. His punchline was provided by George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn, in their Wall Street Journal opinion piece from January, A World Free of Nuclear Weapons, with detailed, specific recommendations for action to make our world safer.

Blix called for leadership from the United States of America, and God knows we could use some of that. He said the world needs us to go back to being lead wolf, rather than lone wolf. (His metaphor made me think of Robert Hunter's Dire Wolf lyric, that chorus of "Please don't murder me.")

12.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Newt for President Permalink to this item

Right after he turns around the 64% of the voters who wouldn't vote for him under any circumstance. I forget what I was looking for, but this transcript from a month-ago Fox News Sunday has a real collection of gems in it. The Gingrich plan is to let the other candidates duke it out, and then when we're all tired and disgusted with them, he'll come in, fresh as a daisy. I can hardly wait.

But in mid-February, Congress' signs of showing some backbone on the war was the hotter topic, and one bon mot from Billy Kristol got me chuckling. Contradicting John Murtha's point of view, Kristol says he thinks Democrats "just think we can't win," and are "exhausted by the war, and they just want us to acknowledge defeat and get out."

Exhausted.

Does he really believe in the caricatures he paints of the opposition, one wonders? The universe he inhabits, where we aren't already in the middle of a brutal civil war, Iran's influence isn't yet playing out in Iraq, Al Qaida isn't emboldened "et cetera, et cetera," is fairly hallucinatory all on its own.

Maybe it's the same universe where Newt Gingrich makes a stunning comeback in the summer of '07 and sheds his cap and gown for another try at the power suit.

Ok You Guys, Get in Line Permalink to this item

Paul Krugman offers up a new name among candidates for impeachment: Alberto Gonzales, compliments of that overblown personnel matter involving U.S. Attorneys and their "performance."

Chalk it up to unintended irony that it was reportedly the now less supportive Arlen Specter who "slipped a clause" into the USA Patriot Act that enabled Gonzo to appoint replacements without Senate confirmation, presumably lowering the bar to firing the insufficiently compliant of current employees.

I guess the legislative theory was that making miscreant Republicans safer makes us all safer.

One Big Easter Basket Permalink to this item

No Trespassing Registered Guests Only Looks like IACI and the Idaho Legislature are going to deliver yet again to Idaho businesses, with the biggest tax shift in state history: $100 million out of the "personal property tax" assessed on businesses. In 1990, residences accounted for 47% of property tax paid; now the tally is 64% and will be set to top 70% if H.245 goes through as passed by the House. In the last 10 years, total residential property taxes are up 79%, while total commercial property taxes are up 23%.

Our Next Conservative Leader? Permalink to this item

Bruce Reed runs our freshman class president up the flagpole as The Great Right Hope to restore what the conservative movement "used to do best: losing." We see that with another five week's experience under his belt, Sali's thoughts on Legislative Issues are still blank. Coming Soon!!

In the meantime, we appreciate that Newt has cleared the air and put a finer point on an important moral question of the day: it's not the adultery, stupid, it's the lying about adultery. Under oath, anyway. Which I guess means that Gingrich will not be in favor of the Scooter pardon? Question for our favorite history prof: does George Bush's studious avoidance of taking oaths (other than that "protect and defend the Constitution" thing anyway) make him unimpeachable, do you think?

10.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Look Who's Talking Permalink to this item

Bacteria can communicate. Who knew? According to the story, there's been gossip about them for 4 decades, but it hadn't been taken seriously until the last one. New kinds of anti- (and pro-) biotics may result.

Why Libby's Pardon is a Slam Dunk Permalink to this item

Frank Rich (Times Select), on the pointlessness of speculation: "Of course he will."

A president who tries to void laws he doesn't like by encumbering them with "signing statements" and who regards the Geneva Conventions as a nonbinding technicality isn't going to start playing by the rules now. His assertion last week that he is "pretty much going to stay out of" the Libby case is as credible as his pre-election vote of confidence in Donald Rumsfeld. The only real question about the pardon is whether Mr. Bush cares enough about his fellow Republicans' political fortunes to delay it until after Election Day 2008.

9.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Where Have I Heard This Before? Permalink to this item

I thought the latest email from RNC Chairman Mike Duncan's subject of "Master and Commander" was possibly megalomania run wild(er), but then I saw that it was sarcasm directed at John Murtha and Nancy Pelosi, who Duncan supposes "waited until the President was out of the country before announcing their next attempt to take over the duties of the commander in chief."

"Micromanaging" is the epithet of the current cycle. Blast those unpatriotic Democrats, anyway! How dare they?

Used to be, the Republicans complained that the Democrats didn't have a specific plan. Now they're complaining that the plan usurps Beloved Leader's rightful powers. Whatever; someone needs to be steering the ship of state as we negotiate a sea full of icebergs.

Duncan's letter ends with a call to action: write a letter to your editor, and call in to talk radio. Might want to disguise your letter just an itty bit though, lest the editor be paying attention, since essentially the same "clear plan for victory" text has been available for half a year, or is it since June 2005 when Condi Rice was talking about the clear plan?

Clint Beacom of Victorville, CA got the letter to run in the Victorville Daily Press. Marylou Chapman of Huntsville, AL got it in The Decatur Daily. Technical Sgt. Joseph Sweet of Burke, NY got it in The Press Republican. And on and on.

Back in October, Jack Sammon sent an early version of the "clear plan," with his re-write for ease of comparison, to The Times-Tribune of Scranton, PA.

Hooked on Phonics Permalink to this item

Perhaps because I'm not a reading teacher (although I am married to a former one), and how I learned to read is lost in the mists of Things I Cannot Know, this business about the Federal dictation of reading instruction methods strikes me as flat-out bizarre. Bravo to Madison, Wisconsin, for choosing the welfare of their students over federal money tied to ideology.

The disqualifiers were that their program "lacked uniformity," and "relied too much on teacher judgement," pretty much guaranteed for education "based on tailoring strategies individually."

This idea of responding to individual needs and using one's own judgement is anathema to some. Three Rs! Drill it in! Must use phonics! (And must buy these corporate packaged goods?)

8.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A Tale of Two Phone Companies Permalink to this item

Last month, I fat fingered (or maybe fumbled) a phone number, and found myself trying to talk to someone in the Dominican Republic. I don't think she could hear me, and if even if she could have, I don't think we shared enough common language to communicate much. I didn't realize I'd gone international at the time, but the next day, something prompted me to check the area code and discover where I'd been. I called Qwest to find out how much that (less than) one minute call would be. $1.77? Aye carumba! I asked for a credit, but was told I'd have to wait until the bill was printed.

Today, the printed bill arrived, and I gave 'em a jingle to recover my spare change. After the credit was arranged, the agent asked if I'd like to save some money on long distance? I encouraged her to tell me more, and eventually switched to a plan that's going to cost us $10 or 15 less per month, for as much service as we need (and have been using).

Nice!

I went to check the plan on the web, and was a little concerned to not see the plan she described ($9 flat fee, for up to 300 min., then $.07/min over that), but then I couldn't see the current plan we're on ($5 fee, .05/min up to a total of $20 max; not counting international calls!) either.

Moments later, reading a page from the NYT Technology section that mentioned Verizon's fiber optic service, my curiosity was piqued to see if they would run a line to our house in Boise. After running around their whizzy and uninformative Flash splash, and trying to vet my street address (since we don't have a "Verizon home phone number"), I got frustrated by their failure to provide a definitive answer. They couldn't find my address in their database. (Duh, I'm not a Verizon customer.) Did I need tips on how to enter my address?

Ah, no, do you need tips on how to build a web interface?

They do, in fact. After filling out their contact us form and hitting the Submit button, I get a Javascript alert:

javascript alert from Verizon's web form

Just one l'il problem: there is no place on the form for an Area Code, correct, or otherwise. Nor is there any reason for me to give them my phone number to ask a question.

Message received: we don't really want to talk to you. Please go away.

7.Mar.7 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Jump on Spring Permalink to this item

First crocuses of our season Up to and past 60°F yesterday and today, and winter seems a distant memory. The not-even-a-week-ago snow days, rolling around in cold powder seem a distant memory. DST hits on Sunday, and we'll forget all about that old season.

It's the Abuse of Power, not the Perjury Permalink to this item

Former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega reminds us that "(t)he criminal justice system was never intended by the framers of the Constitution to be the sole, or even primary, means of investigating and redressing" the misconduct of the administration. Congress is "obligated to oversee the conduct of the Executive Branch."

She recommends starting with "a full-scale congressional hearing" by the House Oversight Committee on Government Reform to seek out the answers that the President and Vice-President are unwilling to provide. We need to hear from Karl Rove, Richard Armitage, Colin Powell, Stephen Hadley and many others.

Then when we finish with the CIA leak case, we can move on to the more general charges of conspiracy to deceive.

In the meantime, the chorus of right-wing voices who feel the conviction is a miscarriage are cataloged by David Corn, one of the early actors drawin into the swirl of the Plamegate scandal.

6.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Time to Admit the Mistake Permalink to this item

Khaled El-Masri is not the only one who doesn't "understand why the strongest nation on Earth believes that acknowledging a mistake will threaten its security. Isn't it more likely that showing the world that America cannot give justice to an innocent victim of its anti-terror policies will cause harm to America's image and security around the world?"

Indeed, this uncorrected injustice, and the many others untold which it represents have already harmed our image and security.

Guilty As Charged! Permalink to this item

Ok, color me surprised: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr. convicted on 4 of 5 counts, obstruction of justice, giving false statements to the F.B.I. and perjury. Will Bush's signing statement on the pardon say "he was just doing what Dick Cheney and I asked of him"?

Rather than "craziness," as the defense argued, the jury accepted Patrick Fitzgerald's theory of the crime: deliberate obfuscation to cover up the public relations push to discredit someone speaking truth to power. No doubt Libby had some trouble keeping his recollections straight; that's what happens when you're making things up instead of telling the truth.

Coverage from BBC News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

5.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Must-Do List Permalink to this item

The NYT Editorial Board offers a non-exhaustive list "of things that need to be done to reverse the unwise and lawless policies of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney":

This Is Taking Too Long Permalink to this item

Now the judge wants the jury to clarify its note before the weekend:

We would like clarification of the term "reasonable doubt". Specifically, is it necessary for the government to present evidence that it is not humanly possible for someone not to recall an event in order to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

What's up with passing notes, as if the judge and jury were back in grammar school? Get 'em out of the closet and into the courtroom and have the judge and jury communicate directly so they can render the obvious verdict: Libby lied.

Eternity in an Hour Permalink to this item

My vague recollection of William Blake's poem, "Auguries of Innocence" led to the discovery of some of the other things you can arrange in an hour: make complex CSS simple, or lasagna, get a website up and running, or white teeth, or glasses, write your résumé, earn $10,000 (ha!) or $13,000, burn some calories and on and on.

But today's hour in question affords none of these opportunities. It's Congress' premature April Fool's joke on the tech world, pulling the start of Daylight Savings Time up by three weeks. If they'd been on the ball, they would have pulled it up ONE week, from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in March, and thereby synch up with most the world that plays this game with their time of day. (We'll never line up with most of Asia, Africa, South America and Arizona, so no point in trying to please everyone.)

The billing of this event as a "mini Y2K" makes it a near-guaranteed yawner, given how anti-climactic the first Y2K was. I challenged the software gods by leaving the hp-ux workstation I used back then running, in opposition to the corporate edict we'd been given to shut everything down as a "precaution." And... nothing happened.

The risk this time is "subtler," like missing your automated wake-up call in a hotel, or having your hourly electricity usage misrecorded, or having someone who didn't really want to go to that meeting anyway not show up.

4.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Fighting for the Net's Future Permalink to this item

I assumed Scott Cleland's scare story about "net neutrality" was a bucket of hooey, since it's in The Washington Times, but gosh, don't those corporate shills make "regulation" sound terrible?

For this particular issue, the "good guys" seem to have won the naming rights; who could be against something with "neutrality" in the name, after all? Ok, the chairman of a "forum of broadband companies" maybe. He translates S.215 into a threat "to force one equal tier of Internet service," which sort of sounds bad, but you'd have to explain it a little further.

This scary future where net neutrality is enforced is the one "where average Americans would pay more to subsidize a free ride for online giants like Google." Like Google? Who would that be? Nevertheless, while we reserve caution about relying on an online giant, Google has done a lot more for me than NetCompetition.org has lately.

3.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Idaho Oversight: Last and Proud To Stay That Way Permalink to this item

Rock face above Lower Nugget, Bogus Basin, 2006 Idaho comes in last in the nation for state standards and oversight of child care centers. Our legislature is doing its best to keep the state in that ideal state that lives in the mind of eastern Idaho lawmakers.

Tom Loertscher (pronounced "lurcher"), who "cannot imagine" ever taking a child to a daycare center, spends his time wondering "What can we do to keep mom at home?" One thing he did this week was to play a key role in killing stronger daycare licensing in the state, according to Betsy Russell of The Spokesman-Review.

The original bill in this session would have set minimal health and safety standards, training requirements and staffing levels and required criminal history checks for daycares caring for as few as two unrelated children, but offered amendments would have raised that to six or more children. (Current law provides minimal licensing for 7-12 children, and more restrictions for 13 or more.)

While he acknowledges that we don't all live in the world of his imagination, where Dad goes to work and Mom stays at home to raise the family's six or eight children, Loertscher says "we need to work on it being an ideal world, and not trying to replace home with government programs, no matter what it might be. We need to work on those things that strengthen the family, so that they can take care of that responsibility in the traditional setting."

"All of the psychological studies and everything you see say 'home is the best place for kids when they're little' and uh and you can't, it's irrefutable, you just can't replace what parents can do for kids at home."

Here's his big fear: "The deterioration of the family will ultimately cause our demise as a society." So, it's irrefutable that we shouldn't improve licensing standards for daycare or require basic first-aid training for caregivers. Go figure.

Thanks to J. Robb Brady and Marty Trillhaase of the Idaho Falls Post Register, we have another indication of Tom Loertscher's family values: in the last 10 years, he has received more than $900,000 in farm subsidies, 85% of it for idling his land in the conservation reserve program.

2.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Lessons Learned Permalink to this item

Maybe your take-away from Iran-Contra wasn't the same as the "veterans" of the scandal, as recounted by Seymour Hersh, in The New Yorker? Describing a discussion led by Elliot Abrams (yes, the same one who's in his comeback-tour as deputy national-security adviser), Hersh writes:

...in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: "One, you canít trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you canít trust the uniformed military, and four, itís got to be run out of the Vice-Presidentís office."

Go With the Flow Permalink to this item

If you're at the edge of the ocean already, and thinking about sea level rising, here's an alternative to heading for higher ground: float your home. Of course that would occur to someone in the Netherlands, but "we have many deltas in the world which have problems with competing land claims for economic activity." My mind jumps to Bangladesh, and one very occasional, but very insurmountable problem: tsunami. Could get tricky.

1.Mar.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Break-even Day Permalink to this item

Let's just say the weather is making up for a dry January. I put in my 4 hours at Bogus today, and have broken even on my season pass. (Sort of; I only got up twice before the "rest of this year AND next year" passes went on sale over President's Day weekend, so I could have done an almost half-price twofer.) I'm sitting here recuperating and email arrives, subject "ANOTHER Powder Alert from Brundage!" They got 8 inches of champagne powder today, on top of 3 feet in the past week.

Woo-hoo, that's a lot of light snow. I could've used a snorkel at times today, and definitely could've used a longer board. There was swimming, tunneling, floating, carving, rolling and tumbling, and time to eat snow, with a big grin. I can't make it north of McCall tomorrow, but if you can, lucky you! (And dress warm: 10°F and still snowing.)

raveling

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Wednesday, 04-Apr-2007 22:33:36 MDT
http://www.fortboise.org/blog/200703.html