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30.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"Life is not an exact science. It is an art." --Samuel Butler

Haven't seen the whole thing yet, but the last ten minutes of the "debate" seemed to be advantage Kerry to me. Bush was tired -- tired? after 90 minutes? -- and unconvincing to me. But then he's always been unconvincing to me. Flipped from the fair and balanced treatment on PBS (which will be our tape archive) to Fox News and I was amazed at how unbalanced the latter is. It should be embarassing.

Debate forecast: Bush will put Kerry in the same trap that he put the Congress and the American people in. You're either with us, or you're against us. Iraq is an essential component of the War on Terror. If you're against the war, you're not supporting our troops, and if you don't support the troops, you are scum. Both men will avoid using the term "flip flop," even as they portray their opponent's positions as mutable (horrors!).

Required preparation: take 8 minutes to listen to Tavis Smiley's interview with James Fallows, examining the candidates' debating abilities and style. One of Fallow's interesting observations is that Bush used to be able speak articulately, big words, complex sentences, the whole shebang. Fallows says Kerry has been speaking like a Senator since he was in high school. Fallows also spoke to Dave Davies on Fresh Air about Bush in debate and his lost year.

Al Lorentz, an Army reservist serving in Iraq and former chairman of the Texas Constitution Party explains why we cannot win the war over there. (Aren't they supposed to keep their mouths shut and follow orders while they're serving?!) "It is tragic, indeed criminal that our elected public servants would so willingly sacrifice our nation's prestige and honor as well as the blood and treasure to pursue an agenda that is ahistoric and un-Constitutional."

Speaking of "I'm a divider, not a uniter," yesterday's feature on Tom DeLay is an interesting review of House history at what may turn out to be the moment of DeLay's denouement. Texas journalist Lou Dubose is co-author of The Hammer: Tom DeLay: God, Money, and the Rise of the Republican Congress (with Jan Reid), Bushwhacked : Life in George W. Bush's America and Shrub : The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush (with Molly Ivins).

"All the major episodes of DeLay's career are vividly covered: his rise through the House ranks, the coup against Speaker Newt Gingrich, how DeLay built his formidable fund-raising operation and (allegedly) bullied the lobbyists of K Street into towing the GOP party line, his alliance with right-wing Zionists (Christian and Jewish), and his disdain for Bill Clinton. The book is written from a progressive perspective, and the authors do not engage in substantive policy discussions about the merits of DeLay's ideas." (Publishers Weekly)

"Disdain" for Clinton is not quite strong enough; according to Dubose, DeLay personally orchestrated Clinton's impeachment when the sense of the House was to simply censure his low crimes and misdemeanors. "He prevailed by using the really crudest methods of, you know, he broke the last 20 arms and made sure the Republican party, the Republicans in the House, enough of them voted to impeach."

A Sept. 21st event hints at what may be the first shot fired in the battle of DeLay: "Three aides who helped run a political action committee created by the House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, were indicted by a grand jury in Texas on Tuesday on charges that included raising illegal corporate contributions and funneling them to state candidates during the 2002 elections. Eight companies were also charged, including Sears Roebuck & Company and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc.," in 32 separate indictments.

"DeLay himself is under investigation by the House ethics committee over accusations of improper fund-raising. News of the indictments led to fresh calls for the committee to move forward with its inquiry." Here's Tom's angle on the action: "DeLay has called the ethics allegations and the Texas indictment politically motivated." You think?!

Do you remember how suddenly Newt Gingrich fell from power? I'd guess it has a lot to do with the number of enemies made and colleagues stepped on as you climb the ladder. Watch your back.

29.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Some pushback from "the media" on the idea that the candidates and their representatives should be able to set all the rules for the debate. Telling them where they could and could not point their cameras seems to have been the last straw. For their part, both candidates were willing to forgo using charts, diagrams or "other tangible things," making references to members of the audience, asking each other direct questions or addressing each other with proposed pledges on policy or campaign tactics, and leaving their "predesignated" area onstage.

Here's another idea: how about a Jeopardy format for the "debates"?

Add the publishers of The Lone Star ICONOCLAST to the list of people who voted for Bush in 2000 and won't get fooled again. "Four items trouble us the most about the Bush administration: his initiatives to disable the Social Security system, the deteriorating state of the American economy, a dangerous shift away from the basic freedoms established by our founding fathers, and his continuous mistakes regarding terrorism and Iraq."

Oh, and Dwight Eisenhower's boy, too. "I urge everyone, Republicans and Democrats alike, to avoid voting for a ticket merely because it carries the label of the party of one’s parents or of our own ingrained habits."

28.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Things that make you go "hmm" dept.: if you manage to get past the application process (they ask for your Social Security number, among other things), and the screening, and falsify your affidavit stating your support of our fearless leader, and then holler "MO MORE LIES!" at a Bush campaign rally, the real supporters will drown you out with a chant of "FOUR MORE YEARS."

Virga over Boise at sunrise, on the way to Lucky Peak It's been a banner year for virga in our neighborhood, precipitation evaporating before it hits the ground. I'm not sure if it's always been around and I'm just noticing it more now, but I don't think so. Our summer's been cooler and wetter than recent years as well, probably all related. This batch is over northwest Boise, at sunrise on Sunday.

Yusuf Islam, a.k.a. Cat Stevens, gets to speak his piece, in The L.A. Times. Under a title playing on the lyric from his song "Peace Train," he writes: "...only two months earlier, I had been having meetings in Washington with top officials from the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to talk about my charity work. Even further back, one month after the attack on the World Trade Center, I was in New York meeting Peter Gabriel and Hillary Rodham Clinton at the World Economic Forum!

"...I am a victim of an unjust and arbitrary system, hastily imposed, that serves only to belittle America's image as a defender of the civil liberties that so many dearly struggled and died for over the centuries."

Jimmy Carter: "It is unconscionable to perpetuate fraudulent or biased electoral practices in any nation. It is especially objectionable among us Americans, who have prided ourselves on setting a global example for pure democracy." He's not talking about elections in the third world this time, but rather in Florida.

"This is no longer an interesting coincidence. It is an unmistakable message from God. I hope everyone is listening."

Daniel Ellsberg, who knows something about telling secrets, thinks there are some Truths Worth Telling in the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq. It's classified, of course, and may or may not be made officially public after the election, but just about certainly not before.

Naomi Klein's piece in the September Harper's Magazine is an interesting retrospective of the latest adventure in Iraq: Baghdad Year Zero. She provides new insight into the contest between the State and Defense departments, "pragmatists" vs. the "Year Zero" camp, Jay Garner vs. Jerry Bremer. Given the swirl of news at the time, it's a bit surprising to be reminded that Garner was yanked in favor of Bremer after only three weeks on the job.

"The teams of KPMG accountants, investment bankers, think-tank lifers, and Young Republicans that populate the Green Zone have much in common with the IMF missions that rearrange the economies of developing countries from the presidential suites of Sheraton hotels the world over. Except for one rather significant difference: in Iraq they were not negotiating with the government to accept their 'structural adjustments' in exchange for a loan; they were the government."

Klein also provides an explanation for what must seem to many over here as the inexplicable insurgency; sure "occupation" is not pleasant, but can't they see what's in their best interests? Maybe they can, and maybe that's the heart of the problem:

"(T)he astronomical rise of the brand of religious fundamentalism that al Sadr represents is another kind of blowback from Bremer’s shock therapy: if the reconstruction had provided jobs, security, and services to Iraqis, al Sadr would have been deprived of both his mission and many of his newfound followers."

The billions of dollars in reconstruction money, it seems, had been flowing freely to foreign companies, and not at all to the state-owned Iraqi enterprises. The insurgent solution: encourage the foreign contractors to leave. "These forces have transformed Year Zero in Iraq into the mirror opposite of what the neocons envisioned: not a corporate utopia but a ghoulish dystopia, where going to a simple business meeting can get you lynched, burned alive, or beheaded."

27.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Lucky Peak reservoir, 110 ft. below full, at sunrise Do you really suppose that anyone ready to queue up for a ticket to the stars at Virgin Galactic needs to read an answer to the question Why fly into space? Probably not; must be to convince potential investors.

I'm not sure mentioning that it's fueled by nitrous oxide rubber adds to the credibility, but who's going to bet against the combo of Richard Branson and Burt Rutan? Not me, I want a window seat!

Powell's downbeat on the situation in Iraq; is he getting ready to retire? I assume he'll stay on through our election, but if Bush wins, I rather expect his resignation will be announced soon after.

Iraq's election promises to be more exciting than ours. Over here, a lot of the eligible can't be bothered to register, much less turn out to cast a ballot (or touch a screen). Over there... "You know, there will be polling stations that are shot at, there will be insurgents who will still be out there who will try to keep people from voting," Powell says. I'm not so sure I'd turn out under those conditions.

We're relatively frugal when it comes to spending money on travel. Coupla big trips a year, occasional splurges for family events. Now that I'm out of the corporate jet set, a jaunt like last year's trip to China is likely the trip of a lifetime. (If I'd stayed with HP, I'd probably have a half dozen Chinese visa stamps in my passport by now.)

I'm prompted to think about travel budgeting by reading that George W. Bush is visiting Ohio for the 26th time of his term. Granted, it's not like flying overseas, but his entourage is quite a bit bigger than mine, and even D.C. to Springfield is going to cost. Not like it's coming out of his budget, of course... it's an item in ours. And yours.

Even with a hand-picked audience whose members were "unerringly polite and deferential," Dark Cheney had some trouble relating to issues on their minds. His message is simple: be afraid. Be very afraid. And vote for Bush and Cheney, the team who know how to send fear offshore.

If Krispy Kreme is getting toasted, Twinkies can't be far behind, eh? Indeed, the venerable baker of Wonder Bread and the tasty filled confection, Interstate Bakeries, has filed for Chapter 11 protection. I used to love them out of the freezer, but I haven't loved one for many a year.

26.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

No Bush Seems sort of like high school, unless maybe you're an adult and on the receiving end: ordered to cover up that nasty t-shirt (and on the 4th of July?!), arrested, led off in handcuffs, jailed for 2 hours and charged with tresspassing. Oh, and temporarily suspended from your job. Fortunately, we have the ACLU to remind the Secret Service (et al.) about the Constitution.

Everyone wants a free and open debate between the presidential candidates, right? Ok, maybe there's some dispute about letting in the 3rd party candidates... and about free and open? There have to be rules, after all, and the Commission on Presidential Debates is making them these days. Last Friday's NOW shed some light on who's being served by the rules, and mirable dictu, it's not We the People.

"...the debates' rules of order have been hijacked by the two main political parties. The result? Moderators can't ask follow-up questions, important issues are never raised, and credible third-party candidates are excluded from the proceedings altogether."

Jack Shafer's tips for How to Beat Bill O'Reilly are amusing. He just needs a hug -- who knew?

O'Reilly had Terry Gross over to his show for a "rematch" this week. Bill said "that's the only interview in my whole life I've ever terminated." I guess he's not counting all the people on his show that he "shut up" or cut their mike. Since there's no danger of me being on his show, I don't have to give him a hug. I can just point out that when he said to Terry Gross, "a lot of people would not have come in, in your position. You came in, and you're a lot smaller than I am," he made a major blunder. Bill O'Reilly is a much smaller person than Terry Gross.

He has much smaller interviews, too; the only thing he could talk to Gross about was how badly she'd wronged him a year ago. How lame. Where does this guy find an audience?

We're all wearing the blue dress now

The freeway blogger is doing some heavy-duty guerilla art; sort of like bumper stickers, except bigger. And where a lot of people will see them.

24.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

After Ivan ran up the Appalachians, and exited the east coast back to the Atlantic, he ran back down and around Florida, through the Gulf of Mexico and into Louisiana and Texas. That bad boy gets around! Jeanne is still hanging around, too, looking like she might vacation in Florida pretty soon, giving them a record 4 hurricanes on the season.

Meanwhile back at fortboise, we flirted with an early frost but have now reset to morning wind conditions. Hopefully windier tomorrow than today...

Maryscott has the answer to the question she wants a reporter to ask John Kerry: "If you had been President, would you have declared war and invaded Iraq?"

If America were Iraq, what would that be like? "What if all the reporters for all the major television and print media were trapped in five-star hotels in Washington, DC and New York, unable to move more than a few blocks safely, and dependent on stringers to know what was happening in Oklahoma City and St. Louis? What if the only time they ventured into the Midwest was if they could be embedded in Army or National Guard units?"

23.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry logo Here's something useful for a state to provide its citizens via the web: official, non-partisan voting information:

Most days, Maureen Dowd simply comments on political actors and events, much like political cartoonists who need do no more than depict what's going on to get a laugh. Today, she writes Kerry's lines for him, describing the "central moral issue" with the central political issue of the moment:

"It was wrong for the president to take on Saddam as a response to 9/11, to pretend the dictator was a threat to our national security, to drum up a fake case on weapons and a faux link to Al Qaeda, and to divert our energy, emotions and matériel from the real enemy to an old enemy whose address we knew.

"It was wrong to take Americans to war without telling them the truth about why we were doing it and what it would cost.

"It wasn't the way W. did it. It was what he did."

He said, he said:
Bush: "...(my opponent said) that, uh [lower lip protruded, shaking head] the world was better off with Saddam in power."

What Kerry actually said:
"Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who deserves his own special place in Hell. But that was not... that was not, in and of itself a reason to go to war. The satisfaction that we take in his downfall does not hide this fact: we have traded a dictator for a chaos that has left America less secure."

Peter Jennings and ABC provide the comparison on video. Perhaps Kerry has once again provided too nuanced a position?

It's not an argument, though, it's more of that campaign marketing. If the world (or at least the US of A) isn't a better place without Hussein in power, the whole adventure in Iraq is nothing short of a "catastrophic success." One letter to the NY Times spells it out:

"Against the reality of the mess in Iraq - now a magnet for terrorists, a beacon for anti-American rage, a killing field for Americans, Iraqis and others because of Mr. Bush's invasion - one can reasonably conclude that we are much less safe since Saddam Hussein was toppled. Mr. Bush's repetition of his assertion to the contrary is not only wrong but also nonsense. He is either utterly incompetent in his inability to understand the fundamental reasoning flaw in his standard defense of the war, or he assumes that much of the electorate is."

What do Bush-Cheney, the ACLU, Bush and Kerry, Kerry and Bush, Moveon and Kerry have in common? They're all have statements or ads targeted by for... fact checking, of course.

Turns out Hamdi wasn't so bad after all. We're just going to send him home to Saudi Arabia with no supp—er, citizenship and have him report in if anybody tries to recruit him to be a terrorist. He's going to promise not to sue us for holding him in solitary confinement for over two years without bringing charges, and denying him access to an attorney, or anything else that happened during that time. Pretty sweet deal for this administration after the 8-1 SCOTUS ruling that why yes, citizens still do have a few rights.

21.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Ein lesendes Maedchen, Johan Georg Meyer, 1848 Lisa Martinovic (a.k.a. the slaminatrix) wonders if guilt is obsolete now that there's a little pill for it, and, more importantly, that our end-justifies-the-means morality apparently makes such medication superfluous.

If I went somewhere to provide engineering to restore water treatment plants and fix municipal infrastructure for schools, police stations and bridges and people were shooting at me and sending RPGs and mortar rounds my way, I'd be unwilling to hang around, too. Fix your own damn infrastructure.

Krugman: "In June, when the United States formally transferred sovereignty to Mr. Allawi's government, the media acted as if this empty gesture marked the end of the war. Even though American casualties continued to rise, stories about Iraq dropped off the evening news and the front pages. This gave the public the impression that things were improving and helped Mr. Bush recover in the polls. Now Mr. Bush hopes that by pretending that Mr. Allawi is a real leader of a real government, he can conceal the fact that he has led America into a major strategic defeat."

Here's Bush's pitch to the U.N.: "The government of Prime Minister Allawi has earned the support of every nation that believes in self-determination and desires peace." For his part, Allawi is "really dismayed" that the media aren't looking "on the bright side."

When religious zealots hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings, we might imagine that God is visiting veangance upon us for our misdeeds, or we might attribute it to Evil at work in the world. When hurricanes and a seemingly endless string of funnel clouds and tornadoes come after our nation's capitol, who do we blame that on? More Divine payback? It's so hard to know just what we did wrong and should straighten out... perhaps it was putting too much CO2 in the atmosphere as we burn off the world's supply of fossil fuels in a couple centuries. I do believe the penalty for that is hurricanes, tornadoes and floods. Of course, it's too early to tell for sure.

Speaking of Evil, it's a good thing South Korea (and Japan, and Taiwan) aren't on the Axis, given their interest and activities in developing nuclear weapons. Otherwise we'd have to open a can of whup-ass on them, too.

20.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

An acorn and a half (well, maybe a tenth) from our oak After threats of a rainy weekend, we got plenty of cool but only a wee bit of showers. The Eagle Tennis Tournament had to deal with some Saturday morning wetness at some venues (it was wet in Eagle, but not over on this side of the river), but managed to sneak through under the cloud cover, through some Sunday afternoon sunshine and into the post-front breezes. My doubles team went 0 for 2, but I brought home the 2nd place trophy in the men's 3.5 singles, with 2 match wins and a 6-4, 6-3 loss in the final. I played about as well as I ever have, and I made my opponent think he might lose, but failed to convince him.

This afternoon, there's a steady bombardment of acorns hitting the roof, dislodged by a wind whispering "equinox." Every so often the percussion is augmented with the big thump of a squirrel's leap, then badup badup badup badup, across the roof.

19.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

What do you suppose the senior senator from Idaho cares about guns in Washington D.C.? He's reportedly thinking about attaching a bill that couldn't pass on its own to an upcoming budget bill to get it passed. It's not as if the people of this state or his party are going to elect someone else anytime soon; maybe he just thinks if more people in the District were armed, everyone would be better off.

There oughta be a law about this pot pourri approach to legislation, if you ask me. And we all know that the fiscal year starts October 1st, they ought to have to get their required subjects taken care of before they start into the electives and extracurricular activities.

Now Hu really is on first, as Jiang Zemin handed in his "voluntary" resignation as chief of the military, 2 years after Hu Jintao wanted all the marbles. It's being called "the first orderly transfer of power in the history of China's Communist Party," which I guess is in everyone's best interests.

17.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

What's left after a sunflower banquet We had a clutch of volunteer sunflowers this year, and after a couple of the heads disappeared completely (we suspect miscreant youths, walking home after school), we harvested the rest. Jeanette left them sitting on the porch in a plastic tub for a few days, and the squirrels rather thought we'd put them out especially for their benefit. All that was left was one head which happened to be upside down in the tub.

It doesn't mention anything about voting machine technology or reliability (or security!), but the latest email from President George W. Bush has the subject "Vote Now" and this: "By casting your vote early, you can avoid lines at the polls on Election Day and still be sure your voice is heard in this important election." has a Vote Early web form to help you request an absentee ballot.

Bill Moyers is right close to 70, and he says he's going to be retiring from active journalism in three months. He'll be sorely missed.

"One of the biggest changes in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. How do we fathom and explain the mindset of violent exhibitionists and extremists who blow to smithereens hundreds of children and teachers of Middle School Number One in Beslan, Russia? Or the radical utopianism of martyrs who crash hijacked planes into the World Trade Center? How do we explain the possibility that a close election in November could turn on several million good and decent citizens who believe in the Rapture Index? That’s what I said—the Rapture Index; Google it and you will understand why the best-selling books in America today are the 12 volumes of the "Left Behind" series that have earned multi-millions of dollars for their co-authors, who, earlier this year, completed a triumphant tour of the Bible Belt whose buckle holds in place George W. Bush’s armor of the Lord. These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the l9th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative millions of people believe to be literally true." (My link in there, to George Monbiot's April 2004 Guardian piece.)

When someone who has been around government, paying close attention, and sharing the benefit of his attention for 40 years uses superlatives, we ignore him at our peril. "(N)ever has there been an administration like the one in power today—so disciplined in secrecy, so precisely in lockstep in keeping information from the people at large and, in defiance of the Constitution, from their representatives in Congress. The litany is long: The president’s chief of staff orders a review that leads to at least 6000 documents being pulled from government websites. The Defense Department bans photos of military caskets being returned to the U.S. To hide the influence of Kenneth Lay, Enron, and other energy moguls, the vice president stonewalls his energy task force records with the help of his duck-hunting pal on the Supreme Court. The CIA adds a new question to its standard employee polygraph exam, asking, 'Do you have friends in the media?' There have been more than 1200 presumably terrorist-related arrests and 750 people deported, and no one outside the government knows their names, or how many court docket entries have been erased or never entered. Secret federal court hearings have been held with no public record of when or where or who is being tried."

"...Now we are buying into the very paradigm of a "war on terror" that our government—with staggering banality, soaring hubris, and stunning bravado—employs to elicit public acquiescence while offering no criterion of success or failure, no knowledge of the cost, and no measure of democratic accountability."

I see that the Rapture Index has passed the final threshold - we're 6 points above the point at which we should "fasten our seatbelts." (Uh, shouldn't that be unfasten your seatbelts?!) "You could say the Rapture index is a Dow Jones Industrial Average of end time activity, but I think it would be better if you viewed it as prophetic speedometer."

The West Nile virus is a plague spreading, and of course you know about the Floods from this year's hurricane season. 43 other categories are tracked, from Gog (standing 4) to the Antichrist (only 3). Apostasy is pegged at 5, Satan, Supernatural, The Peace Process and Date Settings are quiet at the bottom of the component scale.

The all-time high of 182 was hit on Sept. 24, 2001, with Eucumenism, Globalism and Tribulation Temple running hot as can be, Interest Rates and The Peace Process still cool. Of course you want to know about the all-time low, don't you? That was on Dec. 12, 1993 when "just about every indicator either went dormant or had positive news," and before the Republicans took over the House, the Senate, and then the White House. Bring it on, as George says.

16.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's hard to believe The Financial Times really has this numbers in this story correct: "San Francisco and San Jose, at opposite ends of Silicon Valley, were among the hardest hit cities, losing 49 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively, of their jobs." They must be talking about some sort of subset, perhaps just the "high technology sector," the subject of the story?

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that "approximately 180,000 jobs have disappeared from the regional economy in the past two years," while the cost of living there remains "in the stratosphere." Tens of thousands of people have left, although I'd imagine it still feels crowded.

15.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Milwauke Road Hiawatha beavertail observation car, on
 exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2003 Terrible events make for terrific political opportunities, and Vladimir Putin, for one, is not afraid to take advantage. Following the tragedy at the school in Beslan, Putin has made what some of the locals have termed the September Revolution, sweeping away the tiny buds of democracy in mother Russia. Hardly anyone has raised a squeak of protest; dissent is not welcome in Putin country.

It's all about strengthening and streamlining the executive branch, don't you know. Perhaps our own executive rather likes the idea. The Washington Post pointed out that the tepid response to this from our leadership was disappointing: "Like a number of dictators around the world, Mr. Putin is learning that Mr. Bush's passion for delivering speeches about freedom doesn't mean he is willing to defend it in practice."

Look for the climbing number of people without health insurance to climb higher (long) before the government figures out a solution. The NY Times reports on how unhappy the big three US automakers are with having to bear an increasing burden of the cost of medical care, with a nice story angle of a 109-year-old retiree who's still going strong. (He retired in 1958, so forget whatever you heard about retirement being a death sentence.) Medical spending overall is now 15% of GDP, and General Motors spent more than $8 billion last year on health care spending and a retiree health care trust fund.

14.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It can look like a vase, but you need to reverse that -- it's
 looking up to a skylight Doing some overdue filesystem maintenance and backup, I stumbled on a bunch of photos with license plate names that I hadn't reviewed and renamed. About a hundred pictures from our family reunion in Milwaukee a year ago! That's kind of fun. One of the places we visited was the Calatrava addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum, now the leading entry for the city's "must see" architecture list.

Shopping for a new PC to do some software development, I walked in to the local franchise of Computer Renaissance A couple of the salesman were busy with customers, one was shooting the breeze (it seemed) with a fellow reminiscing about his old 8088 while I looked at the stuff on display -- systems, cases, motherboards... I waited for someone to get the hint, but no. On their placeholder website (they seem to be more interested in selling franchises than products), their slogan is "THE STUFF YOU WANT, THE SERVICE YOU DESERVE." I guess since I got crummy service, I must've deserved that?

13.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

How would you like to have to choose between the modest expression of having a bumper sticker for your candidate of choice on your car, and keeping your job? Lynne Gobbell of Moulton, Alabama had to, thanks to business owner Phil Gaddis, who apparently believes that everyone who works for him should think and vote the way he says.

Kayla and I went to see Maria Full of Grace at The Flicks yesterday -- her treat to me for a birthday present. The day and the theater were set, so it was just the one of four that caught our eye. It turned out to be a remarkable choice, given that Kayla is the same age as the character in the title role. Recommended.

I didn't understand the tagline "Based on 1,000 true stories" beforehand, but it's chilling to contemplate afterwards.

Sheesh, I was so busy yesterday with church, and that movie and then watching Roger Federer give Layton Hewitt a clinic at the US Open that I forgot to raise a glass in celebration of my emancipation! It was one year ago yesterday that I checked out of the cube farm. (I can put any old bumper sticker I want on my car!)

12.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sometimes what it takes to change the world is a good example. Jeanette reports from today's Religious Education class for 5th and 6th graders that one of the students volunteered this for a ground rule: "don't be evil." When asked to elaborate by one of the teachers (who obviously didn't keep up on the Google IPO), she said "don't try to take over the world."

11.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's that anniversary, but I don't have much to say about it. I can observe without guilt and with substantial gratitude that I live far away from New York, Washington, Iraq and Afghanistan. Like much of life's sorrows, the tragedies of others have a pull on my emotions, but that does not make them my life. Hurricane Ivan's devestation of Grenada is sad and poignant, and the succession of Charley, Frances and this new storm create a terrible human drama, but not my drama. This morning dawned quiet and clear where I am, the sun has rolled around to rise directly east. That and the cool bite in the morning air shows me we are on the verge of fall once again. My sister called last night, let me know my mother's sister died on Sunday, a month shy of 98 years old. More than a million people die in traffic accidents every year. (My sister escaped being party to that statistic earlier this year.) Happy birthday to my nephew Jason.

I did take the occasion to re-read what I'd written here on September 11th and September 17th and the essay from my Dad, about America's real challenge: it's still out there for all of us on this planet: accepting God's will and learning to live with each other in peace.

Nicholas Kristof provides further perspective: "almost as many people are still dying in Darfur every week as died in the World Trade Center attack."

10.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Curse of Dick Cheney: "Should George W. Bush win this election, it will give him the distinction of being the first occupant of the White House to have survived naming Dick Cheney to a post in his administration...." Thanks to 43rdstateblues for the link.

(Two days later: just finished reading it, and I see that it's a must read. It all fits, and it explains the feeling I've had whenever I've seen the guy speak. "Those who have known him over the years remain astounded by what they describe as his almost autistic indifference to the thoughts and feelings of others.")

That site led me to this video, too: Words Speak Louder than Actions, from the Daily Show.

The Texans for Truth seems a little more truthful than those Swift Boat Veterans. Simpler question, too. Where the heck were ya, George?

9.9.4 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Maureen Dowd is in rare form today, with her latest column, Cheney Spits Toads: "It's like that fairy tale where vipers and toads jump out of the mouth of the accursed mean little girl when she tries to speak. Every time Mr. Cheney opens his mouth, vermin leap out."

The NYT editorial board took a slightly less colorful tack writing about Cheney's Disgraceful Campaign Speech: "There is a danger that we'll be hit again no matter who is elected president this November, as President Bush himself has said on many occasions. The danger might be a bit less if the current administration had chosen to spend less on tax cuts for the wealthy and more on protecting our ports, securing nuclear materials in Russia and establishing an enforceable immigration policy that would keep better track of people who enter the country from abroad."

While I'm pointing you to for-sale-in-seven-days articles, I'd be remiss if I didn't include Frank Rich's analysis on How Kerry Became a Girlie-Man; he's reviewing the contest for what it is: theater.

"And so both parties built their weeklong infotainments on militarism and masculinity, from Mr. Kerry's toy-soldier 'reporting for duty' salute in Boston to the special Madison Square Garden runway for Mr. Bush's acceptance speech, a giant phallus thrusting him into the nation's lap, or whatever. ('To me that says strength' is how his media adviser, Mark McKinnon, forecast the set's metaphorical impact to The Times.)"

Speaking of bully pulpits, given that two-thirds of the American public support the current federal ban on assault weapons, and the President says he'd sign legislation to renew it, how come the Congress is going to let it expire on Monday? It has to do with the N.R.A.'s power to get people elected, and unelected, I imagine. George W. Bush isn't going to give it the same publicity and support that he did for the amending the Constitution to define marriage, much less what he's devoting to his own election.

Did you know violets are edible? Chef Doughty's program reported the factoid that most people in the world use only 30 different species of plants for food. I'm not sure who collected that estimate, but it certainly seemed low to me, and so I started making a list. This is apparently a highly-valued portion of memory, as I had no trouble zipping off twice that many without breaking a sweat. When Jeanette chipped in, and we continued into new categories (herbs! spices!), we had 75 in no time. I'm sure I could top 100. (Some of what's on my list that might not be on yours: dandelion, Jerusalem artichoke, serviceberry, grouse whortleberry, thimbleberry.)

Searching a bit, I quickly got that "world as 100 people" feeling, into the realm of facts converted to folklore to support a philosophical point of view. Planet Earth Home looks a likely factoid generator:

"Of the approximately 500,000 species in the plant kingdom, prehistoric people ate 1,500 species of wild plants and about 500 species of domestically grown plants. Now about 200 species are commonly grown in backyards for family consumption. (80% of homeowners currently garden.) Of these, 80 species are grown to sell by small gardeners, and only 20 species are extensively used for field cultivation.

"Ninety-five percent of all human nutrition is derived from no more than 30 plants. Of these, 8 plants comprise [sic] over 75% of the total plant contribution to human energy. Only three crops—wheat, rice, and maize (corn)—account for three-quarters of our cereal consumption."

Ok, call it the "95/30 rule" and I'll buy it. I admit, grouse whortleberries have been a (very!) small part of my nutrition over the years. In fact, while grazing on them in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness in 1978, I had to wonder if they could repay the energy required to find and harvest them.

Now underlined, bold-faced and italic, "the vast majority of the foods that human beings consume comes from 11 plant sources and 7 animal sources" and I'm starting to feel preached upon. Back up to the site's home page, I see that the topic is a book, claimed to be "a compilation of the entire world's knowledge and technology for new self-sufficient home designs." I'm guessing the book does indeed have a lot of useful information in it, and if you found the author's tendency toward megalomania amusing, you'd probably like it a lot.

8.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I was interested in Google's IPO, and if I'd been paying closer attention, and hadn't been traveling at the key moment, I might have bid my way into some of those $85 shares. As it was, I bought retail on the 2nd? day, and then got cold feet when it bounded up close to $110, ran back out and took a small profit. Now I'm sitting back and waiting to see what happens as the other 95% of the shares come on the market over the next 6 months. I think it's a great company, and it may be a great investment, but it feels a bit overpriced at the moment, doesn't it? (OTOH, it wouldn't be the first stock I thought was overpriced that went up and up and up.)

That purchase brought a copy of their prospectus to my mailbox. In spite of its thin, thin, thin paper, it feels like a collectors' item, an historical document of the moment when all the information in the world was becoming accessible to all the people of the world. You can still read it online of course, complete with the Appendix B copy of the Playboy interview with Page and Brin.

BRIN: "Your mind is tremendously efficient at weighing an enormous amount of information. We want to make smarter search engines that do a lot of the work for us. The smarter we can make the search engine, the better. Where will it lead? Who knows? But it’s credible to imagine a leap as great as that from hunting through library stacks to a Google session, when we leap from today’s search engines to having the entirety of the world’s information as just one of our thoughts."

This business of Bush and the National Guard is old, old news (we all know that G.W.B. was a callow youth, after all, and now that he's born again, none of that is supposed to matter), but the broad outline recounted by Nicholas Kristof in his column (" Missing in Action") is still pretty amazing. An ANG pilot represented a $1 million investment back then, and Bush never flew a military plane after less than a third of what was supposed to be a 6-year stint.

If you're really a glutton for punishment, try the 34-page PDF document, President George W. Bush’s Military Service: A Critical Analysis.

Michael Moore's ready to forgo another Oscar if getting a wider audience for his film can get the country back in the hands of the majority. What a concept, eh?

The latest estimate of next year's Federal deficit (which starts ticking the 1st of October, by the way) is less than the initial one, but at the better part of half a $trillion ("now only $422 billion"), it's still some pretty serious red ink. Bush's plan is for us all to get used to that kind of deficit spending, and add $4.4 trillion to the national debt in the next decade.

A glimmer of hope: School Siege in Russia Sparks Self-Criticism in Arab World. Was it the shooting of children in the back as they tried to flee that finally prompted Muslim commentators to speak up?

A Palestinian columnist, Hassan al-Batal, wrote in the official Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Ayyam that the "day of horror in the school" should be designated an international day for the condemnation of terrorism. "There are no mitigating circumstances for the inhuman horror and the height of barbarism" at the school, he wrote.

7.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mission accomplished?
How many mistakes can you find in this picture?

Mark Willis of the New Media Workshop reflects on Bush showcase events, prompting us to think about the self-dramatizations that didn't make the cut.

If I were doing to be down on the peninsula on October 9th, I'd go to the 5th annual EDAY, The Power of Play.

Dom Stasi, assessing the situation:
"Since, to the juvenile mind of the sycophant, these men represent omnipotence, they are assumed capable of accomplishing miracles. Today’s Republicans need never prove or have accomplished what they claim. They just need to claim it with certitude and the faithful and frightened will believe. Perhaps the most obnoxious display of disrespect for the ability of their faithful to think critically came with the appearance of Democratic Congressman Zel Miller. That the Republicans would choose a Democrat to assail John Kerry as a 'flip-flopper,' and do so secure in the knowledge that their flock would not have adequate clarity of thought to recognize so profound a dichotomy, speaks volumes."

(Some of) Bush by the numbers:

0 Number of times Bush mentioned Osama bin Laden in his three State of the Union addresses.

83 Number of times Bush mentioned Saddam, Iraq, or regime (as in change) in his three State of the Union addresses.

$1,000,000 Estimated value of a painting the Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas, received from Prince Bandar, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States and Bush family friend.

0 Number of times Bush mentioned Saudi Arabia in his three State of the Union addresses.

Surpressing the black vote may be key to Bush's election: hence, black attack dogs.

6.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Patricia Williams, Republican donor and chief executive, is adamant that she "will not allow the public to invade the privacy of the employees of Omega"... as they process the NON-secret ballots faxed and emailed by servicemen and women. The New York Times' editorial board thinks that "Omega Technologies is not an acceptable choice to run the program," and wonders if it's even legal to have non-secret balloting.

Turns out that Sun Valley isn't the only southern Idaho locale that got an extra dose of radiation back in the 50s and 60s. Three other Idaho counties are on the list, including Gem County with the city of Emmett, featured in The NY Times report about Orin Hatch's 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act and who didn't compensated that should have been.

We don't get the local paper, but I see it's been a hot issue (so to speak) since the Aug. 18th piece sited by the NYT, right up to Dan Popkey's Sept. 4th column, "Why Idaho politicians failed to help downwinders." (I also see that is making a business out of putting newspaper archives behind a paywall, and the Statesman has signed up. So much for information wanting to be free.)

Some of the answers Popkey turned up: fear of offending Idaho's nuke job source at INEL (aka INEEL); doubting the science linking fallout to cancer; poor staff work (they didn't know about Hatch's 1990 bill?!).

Some links that may be helpful, from the Statesman website's ephemeral news stories:

NCI Individual Dose and Risk Calculator for Nevada Test Site fallout. (I was thinking it was pretty clever while calculating Jeanette's dose from Montana and Idaho, until I got 1. Error: Date #6 must come after previous date. when I tried to amend it out of order. What, you can't find a sort routine? Anyway, the best estimate of her dose was 9 rad with a 90% certainty of 3.1-44 rad. That's 90 years of "average" background radiation -- although the background is higher living at high altitude out west. She likely got 4.4 rad in 1952 alone, drinking milk from a backyard cow in Great Falls, Montana, and most of that from the June 5th HOW shot in the TUMBLER-SNAPPER series.)

The Radiation Exposure Compensation Program

Downwinders with links to lots of newspaper articles, including those from The Emmett Messenger that got things rolling.

5.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

You heard that the party conventions were going to have bloggers, didn't you? I did, but didn't see much beyond bare notice, until coming across Tomgram: Return to Ground Zero (part 2) tonight. Interesting samping of "voices from the convention floor."

"...when you spoke to individual delegates, you entered a world of genuine emotion; you entered, in short, a belief system."

While you're at it, don't miss Molly Ivins' Convention rundown, moments of unreality, platform irony, and the "rhetoric about Bush’s stalwart firmness as he steers the ship of state in the wrong direction."

Thomas Barnett is a very smart guy, with fascinating insight into the way the world works and what the future holds. He's written a book, The Pentagon's New Map with what he knows. I stumbled onto C-Span's broadcast of the speech he gave back in June at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., and found it a riveting two+ hours.

It's all about the Realpolitik behind the dog and pony shows we're all seeing in the mainstream, and the practical considerations for the future. We need to allow immigration to bring those (potentially) productive young people out of terror breeding grounds and over here so they can support our ageing population, and so we can continue exporting "security" to the "gap" areas of the globe; the middle east, Africa, South America other than the ABC of Argetina, Chile and Brazil.

4.9.4 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Still catching up on the choice speeches of the Republican Convention, thanks to C-Span's archive. Arnold Schwarzeneggar was a hit, embodying the immigrant dream as no one else can. He not only made George Bush sound good, he made Nixon sound inspiring, and the crowd lapped it up. Somewhere in the middle of it, I got confused about Americans and Republicans, and I started thinking that good Americans, True Americans, are obviously all Republicans, and there is something not-quite-right, something girlie about the critics of this administration.

"Safer" is a key word in the pitch. We're supposed to be safer now that we've overextended our military on a fool's errand and fostered a breeding ground for terrorism throughout the middle east? This is a party of strong faith, if nothing else. He made it all sound good.

And then Dick Cheney. Not so electrifying, more in the spooky avuncular vein. I assume he followed the turncoat, with his opening line: "I'm sure glad Zell Miller's on our side," in between the mob's chants of "four more years!"

"Our nation has the best health care in the world...." and gee, if we just get those "personal injury lawyers" off its back maybe the people of this country can all afford it.

One interesting phrase, talking about terrorists -- "this enemy, whose hatred of us is limitless..." Think of that: infinite evil. That must be why they named the first expedition "Infinite Justice."

Whatever else you say about the guy, when he's speaking, you do not think "loose cannon," but rather "this guy is in charge." Having him toss in the obligatory attributions to George W. Bush was the only time you felt like the script was imposed by circumstances

"The biggest threat we face today is having nuclear weapons fall into the hands of terrorists." But of course they don't "fall" into hands, they are bartered and sold. This would have been a good moment to talk about Pakistan and North Korea and the pivotal role those two countries have played and are playing in nuclear proliferation, or about our stalled efforts to sequester the Soviet Union's nuclear material "The president is working with many countries," we're told, and that "the black market... has been shut down." You think? You really think so? "The world's worst source of nuclear weapons proliferation is out of business, and we are safer as a result," he said, dead serious, and then calmly took a drink of water as if that feel-good claim was true, let alone sufficient. He was talking about Libya, I guess, a country which was rather far down in the distribution network. Qaddafi's concession, coming so conveniently 5 days after the capture of Saddam Hussein, is spun as another triumph of American, and Republican strength, that tight encapsulation covering the years of multilateral negotiation that led to the positive result.

Then the litany of lies and ridicule about Kerry's record and positions, reducing the complexity of Congressional action to a simple "for" or "against," and finding John Kerry on the wrong side of every issue. One wonders: does America's need for security justify any military action this man can imagine? As ever, the equation
Global War on Terror = Afghanistan + Iraq
is woven through the rhetoric. Saying so doesn't make it true, but saying it so relentlessly does make it start to sound true to a lot of people.

"George W. Bush will never seek a permission slip to defend th American people!" Nor to wage pre-emptive war based on equivocal evidence and marginal threats, he might have added, but did not. We are all about standing tall, standing on top, being the Unilateral States of America. The United Nations is so-last century; now peace, freedom and democracy are all up to us. Fortunately God is on our side.

A brilliant speech line: "A Senator can be wrong for 20 years without consequence to the nation (12 second pause for a smattering of "oo"s and applause as the audience appreciates the knife slipping in), but a president, a president always casts the deciding vote."

And another good one for this crowd: "...Senator Kerry's liveliest disagreement is with himself." The satisfied smirk at delivering that line, and the convention's appreciation of it made Cheney look almost cherubic. Now the beauty of black-and-white thinking really comes home: having a nuanced position means you're both for and against things, indecisive, two-faced.

And from his clear-eyed position at the right hand of God, Dick identifies one of Bush's finest qualities: "a moral seriousness that calls Evil by its name."

3.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Datura blossom, first thing on a July morning I can't predict the election with any certainty, but I will give you long odds that this campaign is going to get uglier than you can imagine. After that "we're not hateful at all" convention complete with purple heart band-aids, Kerry came back with something that sounds a lot closer to what he really thinks than we've mostly been getting: "I'm not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and by those who misled America into Iraq."

"Let me tell you what I think makes someone unfit for duty. Misleading our nation into war in Iraq makes you unfit to lead this country. Doing nothing while this nation loses millions of jobs makes you unfit to lead this nation. Letting 45 million Americans go without healthcare for four years makes you unfit to lead this nation. Letting the Saudi royal family control the price of oil for Americans makes you unfit to lead this country. Handing out billions of dollars in contracts without a bid to Halliburton while you're still on their payroll makes you unfit to lead this country."

Zell Miller's speech at the Convention was a piece of work, starting with mention of his "most prized possessions," his great-grandchildren. Oh my god, possessions? Here's the brilliant paradox that Miller (and the Republicans) have laid out: how can you question our leader on the issue of national security when we're at war? Oh right, so Kerry should just concede and say he'll try again in 2008?

I thought it was the farmer who feeds us all, but Miller made a big deal of telling us that it's the solider that we owe everything to, on the way to an amazing angry-man screed against the opposition. That man is one ugly S.O.B., I tell you what. What's up with him saying he's in the Democratic party? Don't they have some means of excommunication?

As if it were about facts, here's one that Zell buddy didn't get around to mentioning: "...Dick Cheney, as defense secretary, proposed eliminating both (the F-14 and F-15 fighters and the Apache helicopter) too. Miller criticized Kerry for voting against the B-2 bomber, but he didn't say that President George H.W. Bush also proposed an end to the B-2 bomber program."

This is cool: "one of the key accusers in the smear ads was a lobbyist for a company that recently received a massive federal contract from the Bush administration." (Is $40 million really massive though? They've been dispensing billions, after all.)

2.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

We've had some unsettled weather in the past couple weeks, going from fall and rainy kind of stuff, back to the 90-100°F summer high pressure we're used to, some microbursts Tuesday evening, thunderstorms riding a cold front yesterday evening, and now cool and breezy in the 70s. That's nothing compared to what's coming to the east coast, though: "Hurricane Frances is more than twice the size of one that battered Florida less than a month ago." Ouch.

Thank goodness Maureen Dowd is analyzing the Convention, so I don't have to: "Despite the fact that the economy is cratering, Iraq is teetering, Afghanistan is reverting to warlords, Dick Cheney is glowering at the world, the war on terror has created more acts of terror, Ahmad Chalabi is an accused spy for Iran and the Pentagon has an accused spy for Israel, Republicans felt so good about themselves that when Arnold Schwarzenegger said he was inspired to become a Republican by Richard Nixon, they exploded. When Tricky Dick is a hot applause line, they're feeling cocky."

1.Sept.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

How many moons does Saturn have? That's the sort of question that would be simple trivia for your average geeky grade-school kid, but now it's a work in progress. This page about one of them, Mimas, lists 33. And counting. I know about Mimas because Mike told me how much it looks like the Death Star.

I'm not sure what's stranger: taking a 5-day class in ASP.NET at this point in my life, or finding out that Microsoft's Integrated Development Environment for developing web applications actually seems like pretty good stuff. It's powerful, complicated, expensive, still weak in its use of CSS, does a pretty good job of a lot of things, and looks useful. They haven't served Kool-Aid yet, but I'm expecting some before the end of the week.

Given the political cost of any expression of impotence, the leading candidates are now in agreement that we can win the War on Terror®. Thank goodness, eh? We can get some suggestions from Israel, Great Britain and Russia on what all may be involved, that is if we can get over our myopia for anything "not invented here."

The way we "won" the War on (some) Drugs® was by changing the subject. That might not be so easy with the WoT.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Tuesday, 05-Oct-2004 18:31:45 MDT