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unraveling

31.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Still lying after all these years Permalink to this item

The McClatchy boys fact-check Cheney's come-back speech, and what do you know: omissions, exaggerations and misstatements. Which is a too-charitable lede, making it sound like he accidentally stumbled through something complicated. We stipulate that Cheney is a very smart person, perhaps trying to burnish his own image, perhaps interested in selling books, perhaps trying to stay out of jail, but for whatever combination of reasons, he's "misstating" things with calculated purpose.

How'd you like to be an Admiral and Director of National Intelligence and state that enhanced interrogation techniques "hurt our image around the world [and] the damage they have done to our interests far outweighed whatever benefit they gave us and they are not essential to our national security," and have that be selectively distilled to Cheney's claim that you said the tortured results gave us a "deeper understanding."

That's just the first of the misfacts diagrammed by Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel, to provide an antidote to the rattling chorus of "wasn't he persuasive" after the recent head to head with Obama.

He wasn't persuasive during W's second term, and he's even less persuasive now.

(Frank Rich's column today provided the link.)

30.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mob scene at Deer Flat Permalink to this item

I wasn't there, but the first-person account of the meeting with U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-Id) and Fish & Wildlife Service folk at the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge around Lake Lowell south of Nampa today sure made it sound like an interesting event.

It seems the bureaucrats who run the place have been murmuring about shutting out motorboating and maybe some other non-wildlife-refute-related activities, and une petite tête à tête was planned to coincide with a the Senator's visit to Boise.

In fact, the management had already banned a recreational activity—kitesurfing—by fiat, and with no prior notice or hearing with the public. They just published it in their brochure, and justified the action with the blanket statement that "it's all about the wildlife, and anything we don't say is OK, is not OK."

Oddly enough, the motorboating crowd who never considered flying themselves around the lake with a big kite got up in arms (figuratively speaking) when they found out about this. It's a slippery slope, fellow recreationalists!

When a representative of our Boise Sailors Association "pointed out that despite FWS assurances of open collaborative processes to re-evalute uses, this year's visitor's pamphlet suddenly added kiteboarding as a newly prohibited activity (the only 'on water' activity to ever be prohibited" and "explained that ban was enacted without any engagement or communication with any practitioners of that sport..." Well, shortly after that, "adversarial feedback started erupting from throughout the non-kiter, non-windsurfer crowd. People feared bans and came to our support. One local farmer went over the edge shouting several times at Senator Crapo: "tell the truth Senator" (about what the Feds want to do here). The mob frenzy about the kiteboarding ban was unleashed and was the biggest signal out of the entire meeting to Crapo, his staff, and FWS people. Senator Crapo then called for convening some collaborative sessions right there w/ FWS to see what solutions could be developed to resolve the immediate problem faced by kiteboarders."

Suddenly the FWS folk saw the wisdom of being open to dialogue and "flexibility" as to enforcement. Whatever it takes.

Onward Christian soldiers Permalink to this item

I don't know about you, but this scares the hell out of me. Especially since "the generals whom Mikey thought would face a reckoning under a Democratic administration remain in place or in line for promotion." (That's Mikey Weinstein, president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. And h/t to another Mikey, who sent me the link to the piece in Harper's Magazine.)

That "crusade" that George W. Bush lit up was not just a poor choice of wording, unfortunately.

One last ride Permalink to this item

We took part in the bicycle funeral procession for Jim Chu yesterday. I brought my camera, but I didn't end up taking any pictures, because it seemed more important to be in the moment than capture it (and besides, there were a bunch of people with cameras: I just don't know where all their pictures ended up; the Statesman ran one in its print edition, but not with the tiny blurb they put online).

Being near the end of the line and seeing 120 or so cyclists massed in front of us, waiting to start, choked me up. I hope it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I did have a moment to reflect on the fact that any number of careless or miscreant motorists might have taken me out over the years (as at least one was willing to deliberately try to do).

And it gave us reason to go out and buy a couple of helmets, something that hasn't seemed a priority. (Not that a cycling helmet is much defense in a contest with a car or van; it wasn't enough to save Jim's life.)

Funeral processions are something out of the ordinary to begin with; in decades in Boise, I think I've only been delayed by one or two. On Friday, some pedestrians, and some drivers, and at least one startled cyclist on a cross street were delayed by our passing, the explanation deferred to the white hearse bringing up the rear. Sometimes when I'm trying to get from point A to point B, I take the less pleasant, more visible route just to be visible. Hey people, there are bicyclists here, watch out!

29.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Still biting the hand that feeds them Permalink to this item

No problem for Idaho's Republicans to complain about how unstimulating they find the Stimulus (or "other lies" from the Obama administration, for good measure), even though it turns out that the stimulus is flowing to Idaho at the highest per capita rate in the nation.

The central irony of "rational" decision-making Permalink to this item

David Brooks weighs in on the empathy issue, with the observation that "people without emotions cannot make sensible decisions because they don’t know how much anything is worth."

"People without social emotions like empathy are not objective decision-makers. They are sociopaths who sometimes end up on death row."

Or as Vice-President.

"People elevate and savor facts that conform to their pre-existing sensitivities."

Follow the leader Permalink to this item

Graphic from Jonathan Haidt's 2008 TED presentation Survey says that conservatives value in-group loyalty and respect for authority more than liberals, so it must be confusing to get a robo-call decrying loyalty to the Speaker of the House. What's wrong with that, again? The Speaker was disloyal by saying the CIA misled her?

Can we see a show of hands of those in the audience who don't understand that the CIA misleads most everyone, most all of the time? I thought so. Hell, the CIA was misleading itself in the period in question, under the authority of George "Slam Dunk" Tenet.

But the conservative marketing mind needs an enemy, someone to burn in effigy to keep the blood roiling. They've been trying to use Nancy Pelosi since before she became Speaker, and don't seem to have noticed that it isn't working, actually.

The quote from NRCC communication director Ken Spain is a classic: "For Pelosi to insinuate that the CIA lied to her..." You hardly need my emphasis to feel his, on that snake-like word running ahead of the big L-word.

Somehow I don't think re-fighting the run-up to the Iraq war is going to be a winning strategy for the right, even out here in Idaho, but if that's all they've got, I guess they have to go with it.

28.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Empathy Permalink to this item

Somewhere around age 4, normally developing humans begin to understand that other humans have mental states that are different than their own. That's when the fun begins. Jokes get funnier, games are more entertaining, and other people are a lot more interesting. With more varied experience, we can appreciate a wider variety of mental states, and learn to empathize with others.

This is the rabid right "code word" that was supposed to have damned Obama's selection process for a new Supreme Court Justice... because the preferred choice of the right wing was someone without empathy? That wasn't the case when Samuel Alito was under consideration.

Truth is, none of the complaints offered against Sotomayor so far make a lick of sense; the complaints about her background, and her acknowledging that her background matters are just the most senseless.

27.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Now for something completely different Permalink to this item

I haven't read everything that's poured out about Obama's pick for the Supreme Court, but the gist is clear enough: the rabid runt of the raving right is shouting "racist!" based on a single quote. Rush Limbaugh complaining about discrimination makes for quite the spectacle. Might as well throw "sexist!" into the grabbag of complaints. Halfway down the New York Times background on Sotomayor, about her arrival at university as a teenager:

"When Ms. Sotomayor arrived at Princeton in the fall of 1972, she was one of the only Latinos there: there were no professors, no administrators, and only a double-digit number of students. Princeton women were sharply outnumbered as well; the first ones had been admitted only a few years earlier, and some alumni had protested their increasing ranks. (Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who graduated just a few months before Ms. Sotomayor arrived, belonged to one of the groups that protested.) "

I'd like her a little better if she were a Mets fan rather than a Yankees fan, but hey, you can't have everything.

24.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Atlantis home Permalink to this item

After a successful mission servicing the Hubble Space Telescope, about the only thing of significance that wrong is that they decided to land at Edwards AFB in California instead of coming all the way home to Cape Kennedy and Florida.

Safety, and Liberty, continued Permalink to this item

Excellent analysis from former insider Jack Goldsmith, published in The New Republic: The Cheney Fallacy. (H/t to David Brooks, and his column, Cheney lost to Bush.)

It's disturbing to see the broad similarity between Obama and Bush 2 policies on the one hand, but should be reassuring to anyone who thinks Cheney has a good point.

He doesn't, really, and the question was decided some time ago, in the last administration. So why is he still running about braying to his ultra-hawkish friends? One possibility is that he's a sore loser. Another is that he really believes the country needs to hear his point of view.

(Since he's willing to be talkative now, this might be a good time to bring that top-secret, can't-even-show-you-the-guest-list cabal of energy executives he convened back in the early days to no useful effect for the citizenry. Tell us more, Dick!)

23.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"Zen and the Art" for the new millennium Permalink to this item

Matthew Crawford makes the case for working with your hands in his forthcoming book, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, excerpted into a piece for tomorrow's NYT Magazine.

It brought back a lot of memories: my first adventure in motorcycle mechanics, fixing my sister's funky Bridgestone 175 to condition suitable for sale to my best friend down the block; my first job out of college, learning to be a bicycle mechanic and then running the business; the excitement of getting that offer for a job in "knowledge work" (happily not quite as mind-numbing as the one he had).

I had almost no idea what I was doing with the 2-stroke engine, but I was able to take it apart, clean it up and put it back together, replacing what needed replacing along the way, and thrilling to find that it actually worked when I was all done. (It helped that there was really nothing wrong with it to be begin with: it had just been sitting in the garage, "outgrown," for a couple of years.)

I did have some experience with bicycle mechanics before I started that job, maintaining my main mode of transportation in service from age 15 through college. There was a lot more to learn though, the differences between this bicycle, and these bicycles of various makes and states of disrepair, the vast intersection between the ideal notion of "bicycle" that various engineers amalgamated, and this real world their products now inhabit.

22.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Or to put it another way... Permalink to this item

Keith Olbermann does high dudgeon (let alone outrage and indignation) as well as anybody. His special comment on Dick Cheney's speech on torture says all that needs to be said. It's over the top, and it's more than 8 minutes long, but this is, after all, an important subject, and Cheney went on well longer than that.

"The circular logic and self-righteous sophistry falls from a copy of Mr. Cheney's speech like bugs from a book on a moldy shelf. He still believes in '...dictators like Saddam Hussein with known ties to mideast terrorists.' He still assumes everyone we capture is guilty without charge or trial but that to prosecute lawbreaking by government officials is, quote, 'to have an incoming administration criminalize the policy decisions of its predecessors.'"

(H/t to Wordsmith at Left Side of the Moon.)

Tough lesson for high schoolers Permalink to this item

The next time they plan a trip to Europe, I'm guessing they won't be trusting their money to a travel agent. Voyageur Educational Tours took their money, and now it's gone. No real hints where it's gone in today's paper, but "there is no money left," the company's lawyer says.

Brings that "bad economy" thing right close to home. Voyageur managed well enough for most of two decades, but its demise (we assume they're not bouncing back from this) is not pretty. Especially not for ten Boiseans who lost $40,000, "all down the drain."

Morning light Permalink to this item

Morning in the peregrine niche Nice view from Peregrine Cam this morning, mama getting a little sun, while the three chicks remain huddled around the remaining egg. Doesn't seem likely that 4th sibling is coming out, and I think she's cut her losses as far as sitting on the last egg. The chicks are providing some warmth for it though.

(Watching the bird channel instead of the Atlantis landing, because the latter was put off by bad weather, try again tomorrow morning.)

Another plot thwarted Permalink to this item

Soon after it was instigated, I suspect. Fill in the blanks in the news stories you read for "elaborate sting" and "obtained with the help of an informant." What was the informant's motivation? And how much encouragement did he provide to further the conspiracy?

"It's hard to envision a more chilling plot," the Assistant U.S. Attorney tells us.

Get ready for more envisioning then, because the four accused sound like run of the mill members of our homegrown underclass, in and out of prison thanks to less elaborate stings for their drug dealing, trained (and then set up) by a command-and-control "justice" system that values warehousing over rehabilitation.

This isn't just liberal hand-wringing. Some of us have lived through this story before, back in the time of our own student uprisings. The FBI reached even to the remoteness of Lewiston, Idaho with a provocateur working for a little old-fashioned boom and bust.

Back then, we didn't have the same theatrical production values, though: the denouement "inolv[ing] material provided by the FBI," after it "played out on a veritable soundstage of hidden cameras and secret microphones." (More about the informant in that last story, but still, "the full nature and extent of the informant’s role in facilitating the plot is unknown.")

Long live the revolution Permalink to this item

No problems with uppity democracy in China, as the 20th anniversary of the student uprising in Tiananmen Square approaches on June 4th, with a scant murmur. Our national guide for our 2003 tourist trip made it clear enough why there was little interest in celebrating free-thinking: even a year after the incident its history was being erased from almost all available sources within the country, and smart citizens were erasing it from their memories, lest it bring unwanted trouble.

The magazine published by People's Daily observes that "Many university students are clearly very utilitarian in their thinking. Everything is based on 'whether or not it is useful to me.'"

True for university professors as well ("teaching rubbish" in mandatory political thought classes), government functionaries, national tour guides. The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.

21.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

That's quite enough, Dick Permalink to this item

I don't care to dissect our ex-Vice President's stump speech today, other to note that if Al Gore had come after W. the way Cheney is coming after Obama, the howls of "treason!" from the Freepers and Fox"News" pundits would hurt your ears. It's a free country, and everyone's entitled to his or her opinion. So let's go to the heart of the matter. Cheney said:

"I was and remain a strong proponent of our enhanced interrogation program. The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do."

Legal? Sorry, the legal opinions of John Yoo, David Addington and the rest of the gang aren't worth a bucket of warm spit.

Essential? No, since they did not produce useful, actionable intelligence. (Sorry, we have no reason to believe your insistence to the contrary.)

Justified? What would be the justification for doing something immoral and useless?

Successful? You say. No one else does.

The right thing to do? That's not even stirring rhetoric. It's nonsense.

So, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and nonsense. O for 5.

Update: watching an excerpt of Cheney's speech, there's something else than needs to be said. As omniscient as the ex-Veep may think he is, his derisive dismissal of the "feigned outrage," "contrived indignation and phony moralizing" of others is a self-serving, sweeping ad hominem attack that is utterly illegitimate. Speaking just for myself, my outrage and indignation are not feigned.

And anything you have to add about the position of "people who consistently distort the truth" is completely ludicrous, unless you're talking about material for your autobiography.

I thought we were the home of the brave Permalink to this item

So simple an 18 year old could explain it: Hardin, Montana has a Detention Center with 464 empty beds. Sex offenders, or terrorists? Don't make no never mind, they'll take 'em.

"What patriot wouldn’t want to contribute to this cause of peace? Not to mention it’s been crushing for my whole town to see such a nice facility stand empty for so many months."

But along with almost all the other Senators, Montana's insisted they didn't want Gitmo's inmates transferred to their state, and besides, the Department of Corrections says, Two Rivers isn't a suitable facility.

Top of the news is that 1 out of 7 of the inmates released from the U.S. prison in Cuba "return" to their terroristic ways (assuming that they were terrorists to begin with, which we can't know and certainly can't prove in an actual Court, given the way they were treated). Dick Cheney's glass is not 6/7ths full, it's 1/7th empty, and he has zero tolerance. If we have to punish 6 out of every 7 people rounded up as "enemy combatants" (some of whom were fingered by neighbors with a grudge, and/or notion to collect a bounty) to protect ourselves from the miscreants, hey eternal vigilance, baby. Lock 'em up forever.

The party being led by Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Steele, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner is certainly setting some new standards.

Meanwhile, back at Big Blue Permalink to this item

Software from IBM to "suck up huge volumes of data from many sources and quickly identify correlations within it."

"For us, there is no chance in the world that you can think about storing data and analyzing it tomorrow," Bo Thidé [a scientist at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics] said. "There is no tomorrow. We need a smart system that can give you hints about what is happening out there right now."

A Smarter Planet sounds like a good idea. Can it help us all just get along?

19.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Even if torture worked, it would still be wrong Permalink to this item

There are a lot of good reasons not to torture people, which ThinkProgress has helpfully organized into talking points (h/t to Sisyphus at 43SB), but the fact that it's immoral somehow didn't make the list.

Ruining the moral authority of the U.S. is certainly bad, but utterly losing one's moral compass is arguably worse.

One would expect the Republicans and their supposedly religious fellow travellers would be in the forefront of those decrying what just happened, but it seems oddly quiet from the Right.

Junior G-men Permalink to this item

Or perhaps G-boys and G-girls, in the new and improved Explorers, being trained to attack and repel terrorists and illegal immigrants. The exersizes are "not intended to be applied outside the simulated Explorer setting."

"One participant, Felix Arce, 16, said he liked “the discipline of the program,” which was something he said his life was lacking. “I want to be a lawyer, and this teaches you about how crimes are committed,” he said."

Not talking about the Explorer program, I'm sure.

"Cathy Noriega, also 16, said she was attracted by the guns. The group uses compressed-air guns—known as airsoft guns, which fire tiny plastic pellets—in the training exercises, and sometimes they shoot real guns on a closed range.

"“I like shooting them,” Cathy said. “I like the sound they make. It gets me excited.”"

Chicks are out! Permalink to this item

feeding time News is, the first one hatched on Sunday afternoon, today there are three, and one egg pending. Mom is feeding them again as I type... I haven't been lucky enough to see the food delivery vehicle arriving.

Peregrine cam!

Isn't that special? Permalink to this item

Wolfram|Alpha's terms of use create in me a desire to not bother with their "service." I'll let someone else tickle the machine and have it spit out profundity, and work on the idea after it's passed muster in the court of public opinion, and its expression is freed from egomaniacal claims of authorship.

Credit bites back Permalink to this item

Tulip time, 2009 90 to 5 in the Senate, and 357 to 70 in the House that banks issuing credit cards must be coerced into using fewer words, plainer English, and treat users more fairly. The response from the banks? We're coming after you "deadbeats" who pay your bills on time.

Right.

From the get-go, the banks made sure that credit cards were "easy," and the costs concealed from the decision-makers. Merchants have to chip in a percentage of each sale, and are prohibited from applying a surcharge. (Unless you're a government, apparently: your friendly DMV, County Assessor, State Tax Commission and IRS will charge you more to use your credit card. Are you paying 2 or 3% more for your registration, property tax, or income taxes for that "convenience"? I didn't think so.)

The business theory must be that credit cards have been made indispensibly useful, so customers won't be able to live without them, and all banks need do to make up for lost profit is to add fees and subtract perks.

Good luck with that. I'm guessing they'll find out just how elastic the demand for "convenience" is.

17.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Going Biblical Permalink to this item

We didn't have the impression of any particular piety from Donald "stuff happens" Rumsfeld, but thanks to today's heads-up from Frank Rich and GQ's slide show, we see that back in his Shock and Awe days, he took to spicing up his Worldwide Intelligence Updates for W. with a Biblical Quote of the Day, chosen to match the theme: wings of dawn, arrows and chariots, putting on your armor, that sort of thing.

The one for April 9, 2003 had a regime change flavor (looking like a fait accompli at that point), and Rumsfeld took some literary license in distilling 23 verses to get the quote he was after.

Six years on, and after our homeland regime change, the doctored quote takes an ironic turn. (But read in context, since the allusion was to Daniel's interpretation of a portent to King Belshazzar, the parallel of Donald's intepretation to King George was laced with irony from the get-go.)

Daniel warns the king against pride, the sin that led to the downfall of his father, Nebuchadnezzar. "And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this" reads verse 22. The Biblical writing on the wall was not as Donald edited, but rather:

"And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.

"This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.

"TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

"PERES; Thy kingdom is divided..."

Cut off verse 28 right in the middle? Finish the thought! Thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

Whoops.

There was more bad news coming, two verses later. After Daniel was handsomely rewarded for his work of interpretation,

"In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain."

15.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Walk on the wild side Permalink to this item

Crop from NASA photo of McCandless untethered spacewalk For me, the most amazing of Wired's selection of 10 Amazing Spacewalk Photos (from NASA archives) is the one at the top of the 2nd page, of Bruce McCandless II, taking the first untethered space walk in February 1984. Very 2001.

It reminded me of the sailing trip I took to Maui once upon a time, and being in the swim half a mile offshore, looking back at the beautiful island with a picture postcard rainbow over one side of Haleakala, engulfed and embraced by a warm ocean.

Which is pretty much nothing at all like being above the atmosphere in an untethered spacesuit, floating above our giant blue homeworld and looking back at a space shuttle lifeboat. Both have the "little me, big earth" thing going, but that swim in the ocean was all-at-home, while McCandless' spacewalk must have brought incomprehensible excitement at the death-defying position and a view of our planet that beggars the imagination.

14.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Rammell rampages, snubs Semanko Permalink to this item

Norm Semanko's response to rogue rancher Rex Rammell running for Governor almost makes you feel sorry for the guy, and his perplexity.

"The government of the State of Idaho will no longer be overlords of the people," Rammell proclaims. "We will sweep clean the tyrants and the power mongers."

Since our State government is run by Republicans we must assume that the reason Rammell failed to meet Semanko's expectations ("Serious Republican candidates for higher office typically contact the Chairman of the Party to discuss their plans prior to making this kind of announcement.") is that he sees Semanko as one of the tyrants, or powermongers.

If the Chairman of the state Party isn't monging some serious power, he's not doing his job of course.

But the funny thing is, Rammell's bullet points sound like they're right out of the local Party playbook, don't they? Maybe Semanko's just mad that Rammell is stealing his thunder.

Vice Permalink to this item

Dowd: Richard B. "Artful Dodger" Cheney is a Rogue Diva of Doom:

"The man who never talked is now the man who won’t shut up. The man who wouldn’t list his office in the federal jobs directory, who had the vice president’s residence blocked on Google Earth, who went to the Supreme Court to keep from revealing which energy executives helped him write the nation’s energy policy, is now endlessly yelping about how President Obama is holding back documents that should be made public."

Begala: Mr. Cheney, You Did Not Keep Us Safe.

Torturing people to obtain false confessions to use as "evidence" to take us into an unnecessary war of aggression was beyond criminal and treasonous, it was monstrously stupid. It sets a new benchmark for stupidity, in fact.

13.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Governor Ventura, surfer Permalink to this item

Well, half-time surfer anyway, down at his home-away-from-home in Baja California, where he's living half the year, an hour from "pavement, and an hour from electricity. I live off the grid down there, and that changes your whole perspective of the world when you do that."

He's also an astute political commentator who's prepared to be U.S. Ambassador to Cuba, even though I'm sure that would cut into his surfing. I had no idea how smart, and how entertaining this guy is. He joins Arnold Schwarzenegger in our pantheon of political super-heroes. Check it out on YouTube.

KING: What do you think about gay marriage?

VENTURA: I don't think marriage should even be in government, I think it should only be decided in the private sector. That way if the church doesn't want to recognize it, they're the private sector, they can so choose. The government should only recognize civil unions. And that way you don't have to put down what sex you are....

KING: Would you go on the Supreme Court? You don't have to be a lawyer.

VENTURA: Would I go on it? No, it would take me too much from surfing....

Caller from California: ...why don't you get involved with the Congress [as an expert for the discussion of torture]...?

VENTURA: Well first of all, they didn't ask me, and second of all, anybody that's ever been waterboarded will tell you it's torture. Dick Cheney has never even been in the service, and in fact had Dick Cheney gone in the service, he would've never shot that guy, because there's not an "accident" with a weapon, you don't have an "accident," it's, it's... you don't know what you're doing....

KING: Is it true that extreme torture works in reverse and they lie?

VENTURA: Oh absolutely. That's why torture's no good in a Court of Law, because if you're torturing someone, they are going to tell you what they think you want to hear, to stop the torture. Let me say this: they say it's prevented things by us torturing? If that's the case then why haven't we caught bin Laden? Because we got his people, and if they tortured them, they ought to be able to tell us where he's at. See, it don't work. We haven't captured bin Laden, we haven't done anything. Torture does not work.

There's more. It's golden, just like that fine mullet he's sporting. Thanks to friends and Sparkle Pony for bringing the interview to our attention.

12.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Splains a lot Permalink to this item

Heard about the Tea Party Boise, LLC, which is a local branch of the anti-government "New American Tea Party," in connection with the flap about Chris Pentico's obstinacy, and trespass. It's not easy herding together people who define themselves only by what they're against is the way I read it. But in the Basic Bloggers Corner (currently comprising one blank post with 230 comments), there was an invitation from "LeeJoe the excavator" to

"let's stop blogging about it and go to the 912 meetup group meeting on thursday at 7 at the boise public library. Protesting just get's attention. Organizing to become the enlightened statesman that Jefferson hoped their would be more of in federalist 10 will require an oil tanker worth of elbow grease, maybe more, I'm in."

Matthew said "sounds good," and

"Were is the library at LeeJoe? Would like to go."

Maybe it's like a secret handshake? Used to be, spelling flames considered harmful, now we can identify the tru patroits by the weeping and typos.

11.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Good timing Permalink to this item

Screenshot thumbnail from Atlantis launch When I heard on the radio yesterday that Atlantis was looking to launch on schedule today, I entertained the notion of buying a plane ticket to Florida and trying to get to see it live... but the fancy passed and life went on.

Just before noon, a headline reminded me of the launch... 2:01pm EDT, that's in 3 minutes! I clicked frantically, looking for the live video I knew was somewhere on the NASA site... here it is, NASA TV, T minus 2 minutes and counting.

It wasn't "live," but the next best thing, full screen on my desktop, synchronized audio (and a beautiful job, whoever engineered that sound!), multiple cameras, including the one on the external fuel tank. (Too bad the comm link for that one went away just before separation.)

Another awesome launch.

Where sheep are nervous Permalink to this item

The Statesman's Best and Worst of the 2009 Legislature. "Idahoans didn't get their money's worth."

I see Otter's veto of SB 1175 was apparently one of his "symbolic" actions; Bighorn Bill came back as SB 1232a and was signed into law. Our new Code informs bighorn sheep that they invade at their own risk:

"It is the policy of the state of Idaho that existing sheep or livestock operations in the area of any bighorn sheep transplant or relocation are recognized and that the potential risk, if any, of disease transmission and loss of bighorn sheep when the same invade domestic livestock or sheep operations is accepted."

(I think the problem is that they're federal bighorn sheep.)

More Idaho big time Permalink to this item

Another NYT story datelined Boise was in today's Statesman, this one by William Yardley, from late last week: Bids to Push States' Rights Falter in Face of Stimulus. That's good for Monty Pearce, I'm not sure he or any of his friends would have found out about the story if it only ran in the national liberal media.

The mini-tempest in our tea leaves is that Idaho's Legislature did indeed pass House Joint Memorial 4, by a voice vote in the Senate, two weeks after the House approved it. (Sadly, I thought our Senate had a little more class.)

I'm sure President Obama and his staff will jump right on the cease and desist order and change their ways, since the force of Idaho's Memorial was amplified by Alaska and the Dakotas getting their sovereignty statements endorsed as well. The wingnuts states' rights advocates in the 30-some other state Legislatures that tried but failed to assert their sovereignty will have to try again next session.

10.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Idaho anarchists Permalink to this item

Sen. Bart Davis, Lt. Gov. Brad Little Dr. Jim Weatherby, regular political commentator on our public TV's Idaho Reports made a keen observation about the division in the Republican Party, after Keith Allred of the Common Interest pointed out that a judge's decision about our open primary may leave us without a governing statue for a 2010 primary, and only one legislative session to get that fixed.

"It helps purify the Republican primary, that is the objective of those who believe in very small government, or no government at all, let's face it, there are people who are active in the Republican Party who are basically anarchists. And there is a wide range of attitudes and beliefs in the Party, and the question will be as we move to 2010, whether or not Governor Otter will decide to run for re-election, and if he runs for re-election, whether or not he'll be challenged by an anti-tax, very, very limited [government] candidate..." who could win in a closed primary.

The camera cut away from Weatherby when he said "anarchists" and showed Lt. Gov. Brad Little laughing at the label, which for my money was exactly on the mark. Tea Party II was the core of the Idaho Anarchists. Lock and load, people.

Bad times in Boise make national press Permalink to this item

Free fall's over, Peter Goodman's article headline says, but where are we landing? The Paul Hosefros photo to go with the story is a classic: "THIS STREET IS TO BE EXTENDED IN THE FUTURE" We have a lot of that around the Treasure Valley these days. There were supposed to be thousands and thousands of houses sprouting in our dry foothills, and they may yet sprout, but plans have been decidely on hold for most of the last year.

The "pain isn't over" graphic sidebar is a bit odd. I'm used to looking at maps (and aerial views) of our neighborhood, but "Boise vicinity ZIP codes" doesn't look familiar, especially without the polygons labeled. Comparing another map source shows that the dark (+73% increase in foreclosure filings from 4Q '08 to 1Q '09) area labeled "Meridian" is actually the northern third of 83642, slicing the nominal urban area in half.

I was curious how "central Boise" could be wholly south of Meridian, since that's not how those map out in my mind. That +45% area is ZIP codes 83705 and 83709, which span the long-developed central Bench, but sprawl on down to the desert outside of town. The fact is, you can't describe "central Boise" with ZIP codes. A rough approximation of the middle of the city includes parts of at least 83705, 83706, 83702 and 83712 if you draw it closely, add in parts of 83703, 83704 and maybe that 83709 if you draw it more broadly.

Really, that patchwork map is a bizarre digestion of whatever the underlying data were, slicing it by the post office's often arbitrary boundaries, and covering an area that includes city, foothills, forested mountains, "suburban" developments and what we charitably refer to around here as god-forsaken desert. You might as well show a New Yorker grandma's quilt as this map.

Nevertheless, Goodman's writing provides a nice slice of our SW Idaho potpourri, from "beefy men in chamois shirts debat(ing) fishing tackle" to "others with goatees and pierced lips sip(ping) chai lattes." The Paramount subdivision they describe reminds me of another I've visited recently, out "where pavement gives way to empty, scrub-covered earth" (which in a lot of cases was highly productive, prime irrigated farmland before it was scraped and let go to weeds). The Statesman's story from last June touted the design idea of big, cheap homes, with a little breathless enthusiasm for a project with "no competition":

"A tour of Legacy last week revealed miles of wide walking paths among well landscaped streets, ponds and irrigation canals. The three-hole golf course is almost in and will be ready for play about the time homeowners move in to new homes in the fall. An Olympic-sized soccer field and high school-sized practice field are raring to go. By the end of June, visitors will explore 12 furnished models among lush plantings and a community swimming pool."

That was June 2008. Today, the 3-hole golf course is in (and being watered), three lovely tennis courts built, a dozen model homes, and pretty much no sign of the other 1,288 homes that are supposed to be going in, or any human residents.

Whether the enterprise will have the "staying power" that's needed remainst to be seen. The website the Statesman story pointed to has a page titled "Sorry for the inconvenience," content "Sorry, if you feel you have reached this page in error," and a phone number to call.

Update: I see the Statesman ran the NYT piece, and photos, big on Monday's front page, but without the ZIP code map.

8.May.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Think globally, bike locally Permalink to this item

Just in time for Mother's Day, and on the eve of Boise Bike Week, two films take you bicycling on four continents at the Flicks: Return of the Scorcher and Ayamye

5pm Sunday May 10th, with a show of utility bikes, door prizes, a raffle, and (of course!) valet parking for your bicycle.

The funds raised are going to a great cause, championed by a friend who definitely thinks globally and bikes locally: The Village Bicycle Project. Sponsored by the Week, and Madsen Cycles.

Can you hear me now? Permalink to this item

Casey O'Connell's tip for job seekers: if you're phoning it in, don't phone it in on a cell phone. Or else get close to a good tower and stand still.

What's in a baby name? Permalink to this item

Names that start with 'T' over the decades The headline in the feed for Wired caught my eye, and the article didn't disappoint: Why your baby's name will sound like everyone else's. Actually the article wasn't nearly as interesting as the website and project that prompted it: just the name Baby Name Wizard Voyager piques your interest, doesn't it? The Java applet on the other end of the hyperlink does not disappoint.

You will of course start by looking up your own name, or you spouse's, or child's... to see how it's fared over the years, and over the states, more.

Wired's angle is the fashion trend that has initial vowels come, go, and come back in popularity, giving way to initial consonants for a time. Go figure. Fashion has to keep moving, or it wouldn't be fashionable.

Seis de Mayo Permanent URL to this day's entry

Legislative haiku Permalink to this item

Betsy started it
Now others join the party
Why not add yours, too?

4.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Tea Two Permalink to this item

Labrador, Fischer, Beck, Hoffman and something like 66 others; quite the GOP confab, and I missed all the excitement.

Quite the day in Idaho politics with the Republicans numerous enough to split into two or three different factions and ensure not much gets done. But the session keeps going... and gets nicely rounded up by Eye on Boise.

Flavors of freedom Permalink to this item

Russell Shorto reports on Going Dutch from the Netherlands, "How I learned to lve the European welfare state." There are a whole lot of good ideas that can't get through the filters of "not invented here" and rugged individualism in this country. Shorto names a few.

"The Dutch are free-marketers, but they also have a keen sense of fairness. As [Hans] Hoogervorst[, the former ministoer of public health who developed and implemented their new system 3 years ago] noted, “The average Dutch person finds it completely unacceptable that people with more money would get better health care.” The solution to balancing these opposing tendencies was to have one guaranteed base level of coverage in the new health scheme, to which people can add supplemental coverage that they pay extra for...."

I think you could probably find more people in this country who find it "completely unacceptable" that someone with more money wouldn't be able to get better health care than the converse.

2.May 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's so simple Permalink to this item

Unless you were there, you have no idea. And anything the President said was legal is OK. Got it? That's a nice little college student.

Condescenion Rice's return to Stanford was slightly less than triumphal.

Our story so far Permalink to this item

Our domesticated animals have this unpleasant capability of providing an evolutionary incubator for diseases which they occasionally send our way. Raising many of them in vary close quarters, and feeding them an antibiotic stew (for both prophylaxis and enhanced economic gain) may not be the brightest idea in the long run. That we'll have a pandemic is utterly predictable, even if this go 'round may or may not turn out to be one.

Hog farming folk are happy to accept the difficulty of proof with certainty for exactly where the latest influenza strain came from, and have us call it "H1N1" rather than the s-word.

I suspect they'd just as soon avoid as much scrutiny as possible when the story of pigs in CAFOs is enough to make you swear off the other white meat forever.

"Unsurprisingly, prolonged exposure to hog-factory stench makes the smell extremely hard to get off. Hog factory workers stink up every store they walk into. I run into a few local guys who had made the mistake of accepting jobs in hog houses, and they tell me that you just have to wait the smell out: You'll eventually grow new hair and skin...."

May Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

New TV star: a class act Permalink to this item

Precious irony in the networks wanting an "unpolluted" venue for rebroadcasting their wares, but from what I've seen, I do agree with Disney-ABC that the "experience" of watching a show on Hulu is generally better than YouTube. Not that having cats on skateboards is a bad thing, if that's what you're looking for.

In an interesting take on the reality of modern technology and content distribution, the president of News Corportation deems it outright "silliness" to consider not making things available on the web: "Then the pirates will just make it available for you."

At least the TV pirates don't take you hostage and demand ransom.

Here's the interesting thing: as part of this great user experience, the unskippable ads make for a new advertising medium. It's not exactly A Clockwork Orange (you can still mute, look away, whatever), but if the ads are good... they might just work better than ever before.

Yeah I know, crazy talk.

You can take away our lives, you'll never take away our FREEDOM Permalink to this item

Blast those forces of socialism that give us crazy ideas like mandatory sick leave. We want our free market!

There is a tiny little problem of suboptimality however, in the resulting situation for the lowest-paid, least-skilled among us who end up with jobs in "food service," for example. In her blog, Judith Warner notes that "according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, only 14 percent of the people serving and handling food in restaurants can stay home from work when they’re coughing and sneezing, without fear of losing their jobs."

The restaurant business has never been an easy proposition, and more government burden won't make it easier, but you do have to wonder whether there might be some middle ground that acknowledges a public health interest in a reasonable policy that supports workers and their families. The IWPR spells it out in a half-dozen position papers.

It's a black and white world Permalink to this item

It must be a great feeling to have God on your side and to be right all the time. Bryan Fischer oozes derision over judicial activism on parade for the very notion that "lawyers on the public dole" should be made available "for criminal defendants who claim they ar too poor to hire one themselves."

Fischer makes no distinction between "defendant" and "offender," you see. Perhaps there is an occasional innocent defendant, who knows? Best to kill them all and let God sort them out, I guess, rather than to have "the public be victimized twice by the same offender: once when the original crime is committed, and a second time when the victimized are forced to pay the legal costs of the one who committed the crime against them."

Inside Fischer's mind, "surely a part of the equation for common criminals is the thought in the back of their minds that if they get caught they can count on 'free' legal help."

Don't miss the "bonus bytes," describing how we'd better return to being fruitful and multiplying, lest the Muslims eliminate the "last, best hope of mankind" by outbreeding us. So much for the superiority of our culture; turns out it's just how many boots you can put on the ground that matters!

(One might want to check Fischer's numbers though; I don't think math was ever his strong suit.)

raveling

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Monday, 01-Jun-2009 21:49:10 MDT
http://www.fortboise.org/blog/200905.html