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

Naomi Klein blames it on Kerry's complicity. "Impunity—the perception of being outside the law—has long been the hallmark of the Bush regime. What is alarming is that it appears to have deepened since the election, ushering in what can best be described as an orgy of impunity. In Iraq, US forces and their Iraqi surrogates are assaulting civilian targets and openly attacking doctors, clerics and journalists who have dared to count the bodies. At home, impunity has been made official policy with Bush's nomination of Alberto Gonzales—the man who personally advised the President in his infamous 'torture memo' that the Geneva Conventions are 'obsolete'—as Attorney General."

The absurd Adobe error monologue Those guys and gals at Adobe come up with some really smart stuff, but they have some clunkers, too. One that mystifies (and annoys) me is why their file save dialog can't handle a ..\path\file the way every other Windows application can. It understands paths, it lets you navigate to your heart's content. But it can't figure out that those '\' characters are not part of a filename.

Imagine waiting in line at the US embassy in Nigeria for a visa renewal and then thank your lucky stars you don't have to do that.

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

Nice (young) life from this week's Magazine Lives: "When I first came there I made the assumption -- just to set myself straight -- that everyone at M.I.T. was smarter than I was. What I realized later is that everyone makes that assumption, and it allows everyone to learn from one another, which is really cool. The Media Lab is the most collaborative place on earth."

Disclaimer disclaimer, from Swarthmore If you're finding your kid's textbook disclaimer stickers a bit confusing, here are some alternatives you can use to replace them.

Mel Giles, on the Politics of Victimization:

"As victims we can't stop asking ourselves what we did wrong. We can't seem to grasp that they will keep hitting us and beating us as long as we keep sticking around and asking ourselves what we are doing to deserve the beating.

"Listen to George Bush say that the will of God excuses his behavior. Listen, as he refuses to take responsibility, or express remorse, or even once, admit a mistake. Watch him strut, and tell us that he will only work with those who agree with him, and that each of us is only allowed one question (soon, it will be none at all; abusers hit hard when questioned; the press corps can tell you that)."

Some of the comments on the blog entry suggest an immediate task of defining core values:

War is an abomination

Financial integrity



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

Speaking of the military-industrial complex, there is no complex as industrially militaristic as Lockheed, as this piece in the Sunday NY Times describes. The observations from friend and foe alike tend toward the superlative, and the astounding:

"Does the Department of Homeland Security have the best tools to protect the nation? Lockheed has a host of military and intelligence technologies to offer. 'What they do for the military in downtown Falluja, they can do for the police in downtown Reno,' said Jondavid Black of the company's Horizontal Integration Vision division."

Here's Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight: "It's impossible to tell where the government ends and Lockheed begins. The fox isn't guarding the henhouse. He lives there."

The article's author, Tim Weiner, notes the cohabitation: "Men who have worked, lobbied and lawyered for Lockheed hold the posts of secretary of the Navy, secretary of transportation, director of the national nuclear weapons complex and director of the national spy satellite agency. The list also includes Stephen J. Hadley, who has been named the next national security adviser to the president, succeeding Condoleezza Rice. Former Lockheed executives serve on the Defense Policy Board, the Defense Science Board and the Homeland Security Advisory Council, which help make military and intelligence policy and pick weapons for future battles."

Social Security is big, big bucks, and it's a confusing mess to most people. I can't tell if the people about to legislate significant changes are confused too, or if they're muddying the water on purpose to hide the biggest scam of all time. Here's all you need to know to understand what's going on:

Payroll taxes pay recipient benefits.

There is no "trust fund," or "lockbox" and when you read things like "the government will have to begin drawing on general tax revenue to pay benefits to retirees in 2018," you can understand that to mean that payroll taxes more than pay for recipient benefits right now, and will continue to do that for the next 10 or 14 years.

Surplus, friends. Buckets of money. It's drawing eager congressional and administration hacks faster than shit draws flies. "Some borrowing" may be needed to implement this truly wonderful concept of personal accounts. It may cost money for 10 or 15 years, but in the long-run, it'll turn out to be a Good Thing. Trust us on that. Oh, and did you need a bridge to go with that?

"Supporters of the accounts say borrowing even a few trillion dollars now would be worthwhile..." A "few" trillion dollars. The national debt stands at a few trillion dollars at the moment, just for reference. Yeah, those would be real worthwhile.

James Fallows, on Electronic Voting 1.0: "The more you know about the operations of today's widely trusted commercial computer networks, the more concerned you become about most electronic-voting systems. The phenomenal reliability of the systems we trust for banking, communication, and everything else rests on two bedrock principles. One is the universal understanding in the technology world that nothing works right the first time, and maybe not the first 50 times....

"The second crucial element in making reliable systems is accountability. Users can trust today's systems precisely because they don't have to take them on trust. Some important computer systems run on open-source software, like Linux, in which the code itself can be examined by outsiders. Virtually all systems provide some sort of confirmation of transactions."

Until our governments fully lean into this most essential of government tasks, there are organizations devoted to improvement, including:, Consumer protection for elections and The Verified Voting Foundation "champion transparent, reliable, and publicly verifiable elections in the United States."

The California Voter Foundation is promoting and applying the responsible use of technology to improve the democratic process."

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

Kevin Stites, the journalist in Iraq who filmed the marine shooting a wounded Iraqi in a Fallujah mosque, tells the whole story on his blog.

Write-in first snow Our city has a composting program, discount coupons for big paper bags that are picked up with the trash and taken to a municipal pile. Only problem is, the collection is limited to the month of November, and our oak and sycamore haven't got the memo. I raked what I could yesterday, filled three bags with the early drop, acorns, larch and ponderosa needles, but many bags more are hanging on for December, at least. First snow on the blue spruce

I was hoping for a bit more fall on the weekend; Monday is the Last Chance. Instead, we got our first taste of winter, light snow, still falling mid-morning. More for our domestic compost then, whenever they're ready.

There's an old saw about business decision-making that the wrong decision is better than no decision. The idea is that if you at least make a decision, progress is possible, even if it's finding out that you need to take a different direction. If you don't make a decision, you lose time, opportunity, money while your competition moves ahead.

In my experience, it's not a bad rule of thumb. It is possible to make a really wrong decision and be worse off, of course. But as support for the idea, consider the results from business training simulations, and from early childhood learning: "...children who adopt multiple problem-solving strategies on math tasks, including wrong strategies, usually learn more than do peers who start out with only one or two strategies, even if they're correct ones." [my emphasis]

Another bad week for the dollar, another all-time low against the Euro Gathering momentum is not a good thing when you're taking a dive. People are beginning to talk. A lot.

Taser International's stock was down yesterday on the news... what news? Oh this: "(T)he laboratory that conducted the research disagrees," but "Taser said last month that the government study, whose full results have not yet been released, found that its guns were safe. Since that statement, the company's stock has soared and its executives and directors have sold $68 million in shares, about 5 percent of Taser's stock and nearly half their holdings."

Sounds like the executives understood the lab results well enough, eh?

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

The Seattle Times sums up the Idaho terrorism case that went awry: Sami al-Hussayen got 18 months in jail and then sent home to Saudi Arabia for being suspiciously Muslim. His lawyer, David Nevin, put it this way: "This case really stood the normal order of business on its head. The typical situation would be a crime gets committed and you go and find the people you think committed it. In this situation they instead focused on people they were suspicious of and set about trying to prove they had indeed committed a crime."

On the charges for which they managed to render a verdict, the jury found him not guilty.

Where my dot came out on the 'Political Compass' quiz It's by no means as quick and easy as the "shortest political quiz ever," but this assessment of your political compass was more satisfying. I wanted to pick "neither" between "agree" and "disagree," but it doesn't offer that choice and it doesn't let you skip questions. I ended up down in the left/libertarian square, no big surprise, but I did appreciate finding out whose company I was in; my dot just about matched (their estimate of) the Dalai Lama's.

Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak, Air Force chief of staff, 1990-94, quoted by Paul Alexander: "The parallels between Iraq and Vietnam have been overblown, because we were in Vietnam for a decade and it cost us 58,000 troops. We've been in Iraq for nineteen months and we're still under 1,200 killed. But there is one sense in which the parallel with Vietnam is valid. The American people were told that to win the Cold War we had to win Vietnam. But we now know that Vietnam was not only a diversion from winning the Cold War but probably delayed our winning it and made it cost more to win. Iraq is a diversion to the war on terror in exactly the same way Vietnam was a diversion to the Cold War."

On a lighter note, Joe Blundo's column for the Columbia (Ohio) Dispatch has gone behind their paywall, but a thousands copies are blooming through email and elsewhere.

"The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration.

"The re-election of President Bush is prompting the exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray and agree with Bill O'Reilly.

"Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night...."

Our neighbors in Washington (state) are wondering whether they'll have a governor for Christmas with the apparent winner's lead now down to 15 millionths of the 2¾ million votes cast. Yakima, Stevens and Skamania county leaders must be feeling pretty smug: they were the only ones to have 0 votes gained or lost for both candidates in the first recount. (Honorable mentions to Columbia, Klickitat, Pacific, San Juan, Wahkiukum Counties for being off by only one. 19 others were in single digits gained/lost for each of the two candidates.)

If the result is 99.998% accurate, it could still go either way.

Here's my favorite bit of humor as the "winner's" allies call on the "loser" to concede: "J. Vander Stoep, chief of staff for Rossi's transition team, said if Rossi were down by 42 votes, he likely would have conceded." No doubt!

Our Congressman called it the "Central Idaho Economic Development and Recreation Act" (CIEDRA) but some of us would like to see more of a Wilderness Bill. The 1,000 or so acres of prime real estate proposed to be handed over to Custer County is a particular sticking point.

Simpson's Chief of Staff's comment makes it clear that the bill title was no accident: "This is an economic development bill. It provides sustainability and development for the future. Weíre protecting motorized recreation, ranching and other users to make sure theyíre there in the future. We want certainty."

Here's another casualty of the last-minute legislative sausage making: Ohio Republican Sen. Ralph Regula, "the father of public land fees," pushed through a tax increase on recreational users of federal lands, ensuring at least 10 more years of "pay to play." Supposedly powerful senators from New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana (Republicans all) opposed the fees and stopped one attempt to slip the fee-demo provision in with the spending bill, but not the one that counted.

You know the dollar's in the dumps when you start hearing about gold again: "With the dollar hitting a third straight day of record lows against the euro on Thursday, gold rose above $450 an ounce for the first time in more than 16 years, driven by investors looking for an alternative to the American currency."

Almost $1.33 to the € in today's trading.

Following up on Dawkins' talk heard yesterday, I looked to see what this mnemonic was for: "Can Oscar See Down My Pants Pocket?" Memorable enough, but I found an even better one (and more) for the geologic periods of the Paleozoic, this one incorporating the first three letters of each of the referents: "Campus ordered silicon devices, missed pencil permits," That's for Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Mississippian, Pennsylvanian, Permian. Clever.

Thanksgiving Permanent URL to this day's entry

Some things to be thankful for (from the American Progress Action Fund) include presidential term limits.

Brett Favre, larger than life for some time now, will be making start #200 on Monday night. (Now is that his 199th consecutive start or his 200th? Al and John will help us sort it out, presumably.)

Last week's Science Friday had a great collection of segments on evolutionary topics, concluding with Richard Dawkins, discussing his latest book, The Ancestor's Tale : A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution.

"Why do you think other countries don't have as big a problem with (teaching evolution as the U.S. does)?"

"I think the difference is, that although we have Creationists in Britain, we don't have any in political power. Something's gone wrong with democracy in (the U.S.), such that—how can I describe it?—religious ignoramuses somehow managed to hijack local school boards and maybe even higher political offices. That doesn't seem to happen in Britain, I'm not quite sure why not. Perhaps we're just less obsessed with religion, generally."

A bunch of years ago, I went to a seminar at work about office ergonomics. They showed a picture of someone holding his phone between shoulder and ear with head tilted to the side, and said "this is a bad idea. Don't do it even once." I decided to get a headset phone, back when only operators and odd technicians used such things. It was a bit more trouble to answer the phone, but I was hooked (so to speak) on the first use.

NYT graphic hinting at 'actual size' of this really cordless phone Now most everybody gets it, or will soon, stymied only by the incredible shrinking cell phone thing. (Hmm, an ergonomic benefit that it's too small to hold to ear with shoulder?) I no longer have an office phone, but our home phone that gets the most use is a wireless headset model, with the cord that always tangles (and several electrical tape treatments holding overworked plastic body and soul together). The NY Times' Circuits section has a story on its replacement, from XACT Communications... just as soon as they actually start selling it (which I assume they're not, because there's no price or hint at where I can buy it on their own site).'s graph of spending for Presidential campaigns is following the money, with a great presentation of political contributions, charted and tabulated, organized by industry and sector. Big Pharma, for example. Or Mining. Or Lawyers and Lobbyists, and so on. Impressive work, giving a clear picture of who's paying whom, "for what" left to your imagination.

The cross comparisons are interesting, but not so clearly presented. (There are too many possible comparisons, for one thing!) Under the Ideology/Single-issue category, compare gun control ($1.7 million total, from 1990 to date) vs. gun rights ($17.4 million). Similar red/blue disparity for pro-choice/pro-life, but the former has outpulled the latter $14 to $5 million.

"The Democrats have problems, but lacking values isnít the issue." Nor is a corner on elitism according to David Corn. Recent exhibits include the demise of the intelligence bill (a majority of Congress and the President supported it, Republican leaders in Congress sided with the Pentagon protecting its turf); the spending bill bonanza ("we can look at your tax returns" and who knows how many other exciting features); the persecution of Arlen Specter for expressing the moderate opinion of the majority of the country; and the rally round Tom DeLay.

If you busted your butt on a Get Out The Vote effort this year, you might like the idea of compulsory voting. I sure do. Hey, you don't like any of the damn candidates, feel free to show up and cast a blank ballot, but you have to show up. Seems like the least we can ask of our citizens, doesn't it?

"On the day before national Election Day in Australia, there is an eerie quiet as leaders of the political parties begin to put their feet up at the end of a grueling four-week campaign. They know there is little they can do to persuade voters which way to vote by this time."

The Australian Parliamentary Library (APL) notes that early Australian governments saw compulsory voting "as much a part of democracy as compulsory education," and Australians appreciate its effect in "reducing the social bias in turnout. In voluntary systems it is the poor and the marginalized who are the non-voters."

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

First on the list of eight things a credit card user should know is the magic of "universal default," one of those provisions buried in the fine print of your cardholder agreement. Your interest rate can be raised automagically if you're late on payments to any creditor: your mortgage, your phone bill, car payments... "or simply because the bank feels you have taken on too much debt."

We're "deadbeats," members of the large minority who pay their credit card balances in full, on time, and thereby avoid usurious interest rates (no longer Usurious, thanks to the many states that have repealed Usury laws and that are happy to host banks' credit card business). Even better, we have a rebate card that kicks back 1% of our purchases; call it a reverse annual fee. I didn't find a universal default provision in the 5 pages of fine print for our card, but it would be oh so easy to overlook such a thing; a single phrase in a single sentence (look for "any creditor," I'd guess) in a lot of itty bitty type.

I'd seen an epinion before, I'm sure, but that review of the REI Visa card was so good that it was worth it to me to sign up to chip in my $.02 and make it a little better.

The folks at Webb City HS were so concerned that Brad's t-shirt would be a disruption... that they turned it into a clusterf*k all by themselves. D'OH!

At first they were trying to filter out the "ok" expressions (anti-gay marriage OK) from the "not ok" ones (gay-straight alliance not OK), but now I suspect they'd rather have all expressions of teenaged opinion not seen and not heard. Good luck with that project.

23.Nov.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Robert Scheer, in The LA Times, about what's doing in Afghanistan, the former first front in the War on Terror®: "(F)reedom in Afghanistan continues to be on more of a stoned-out stumble than a brisk march. The Taliban has been driven from Kabul, but it still exists in the countryside, and the bulk of the country is still run, de facto, by competing warlords dependent on the opium trade—which now accounts for 60% of the Afghan economy."

One in 10 Afghans works in the industry, which supplies 87% of the world's opium, according to the United Nations' Office on Drugs and Crime.

But hey, lookit this: two weeks' worth of good news from Iraq. Looking up from Australia, the glass is half full.

Spoilsport Richard Clarke's glass is still half-empty, however. "International jihadist groups have conducted twice as many attacks since Sept. 11, 2001 as they did in the three years prior to that date. Jihadist membership has increased over the past three years, and leaders who have been killed or captured have been replaced. Anti-Americanism throughout the Muslim world has been exacerbated by the war in Iraq, which also created a sanctuary for jihadists."

His outline for a "new course" sounds sensible enough, but do you suppose anyone in the Bush administration is listening? This seems like the more pressing business on their mind: Gossification of the bureaucracy. Now that the CIA is cleaned up, let's do State and the SEC. The author of that recipe is James Glassman, fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He doesn't explain why the SEC is no good; they've been too tough on corporations? That's rich.

That decision about which foreign language to study is fraught with difficulty: which one is easiest? Which one is likely to be the most useful, remunerative, fun? This is one I didn't even know was in the running, "and it may soon claim more native speakers worldwide than English": "You may be understood, but not vibed with. That's why all the multinational corporations now speak Hinglish in their ads."

22.Nov.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

(reduced version of) my submission to The new, deluxe, velour-appointed, vegetarian-friendly limited edition of where you can let the rest of the world know how sorry you are. Some of the rest of the world is accepting our apologies, too (and also at; it's poignant, and funny, and heartening. (Thanks for the link, Jim.) 6,000+ entries (accepted, out of more than 22,000 attempts), and counting.

Good news for Iraq:
the "Paris Club" of 19 wealthy nations has agreed to write off 80% of the debt it owes them; more than $30 billion.

Not-so-good news:
two-thirds of Iraq's debt is owed to countries not in that club, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq's other neighbors. Kuwait has as much or more coming to it in reparations as the announced forgiveness.

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

The non-conspiracy theory answer to why Bush took Ohio, and thereby the election: "(T)his time there were more of them." Matt Bai deconstructs how Ohio was won, and lost, in The NY Times Magazine.

Feeling like the holidays are crowding in on you already? Thanksgiving this week, and local light leaders have some Christmas decorations up already. The Congress raced to get ready for the holidays, working on a Saturday... so they could clear out of town until January. Now that's a holiday parade, huh? The grand finale was a foot-high omnibus bill that no one voting for (or against) could have possibly read, nine appropriations bills that were due 7 weeks ago, before the start of the October 1st fiscal year. Rest assured that every single provision was known and loved by somebody, somewhere.

It's not entirely devoid of general good news, though: they rejecting Bush's request for money to develop new nuclear weapons.

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

A few of the principals involved in the Google business would like to liquidate some of their holdings, just a little sensible diversification. How about, mmm, a $bil for Larry and a $bil for Sergey, a $bil for Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a few $hundred mil for Eric? Just some walkin' around money.

Arafat, the manipulation of symbols and the problem of marketing our culture to suspicious foreigners, as seen by a regular guy (now a city councilman, formerly a Middle East correspondent for NBC News): "..there is no way to market a pointless war and a bankrupt strategy to the Arab world. Does anyone seriously believe democracy is about to burst forth in Iraq? It is a quagmire. We cannot spin or explain or otherwise justify a war that has no evident end or happy outcome."

I'm no particular TV news hound, but it just so happens that I saw video of both the recent nominations of women cabinet members by our President, with their concluding kisses. After Margaret Spellings got hers, I was thinking about how awkward both parties must have been feeling about that almost-on-the-lips smack... Here's Robin Givhan deconstructing them all in The Washington Post.

"Rice accepted her nomination in a butter yellow suit with her distinctive halo of hair and its perfect, immovable, taunting flip. Spellings made her remarks dressed in a pale pink blazer and a pair of dark-rimmed glasses that made her look like the cool English teacher who would assign her students Moby Dick but confess that she knew it was boring."

That "taunting flip" always makes me think of something from the funny pages of my youth...

When is a deadline not a deadline? When it has anything to do with Congress. Our new Federal fiscal year started on October 1st, almost two months ago, but that annual task of budgeting and appropriations didn't get done on time. As usual. All the better to jam through a huge omnibus package with vast opportunities to insert mischief such as an anti-abortion measure that could never pass on its own, with full public scrutiny. And this is just the lame duck session; you ain't seen nothin' yet.

There was time yesterday for a farewell, a speech by minority leader Tom Daschle, on his way out. With characteristic panache, most of the Republicans snubbed him and stayed in their offices, or somewhere, until he was done.

The dollar's slide againt the Yen and Euro Meanwhile, Alan Greenspan was in Frankfurt, smiling and waiving at the decline of the dollar as countries with more expensive currencies wondered what to do about being priced out of exporting to the US. This statistic kind of grabs you: The US's accumulated debt to foreign investors is $2.6 trillion, equivalent to 23% of the annual output of the economy.

Gee, will more tax cuts fix this?

Maybe not, with the Federal debt limit scootched up to $8,180,000,000,000, conveniently put off until after the election. Your per capita share (or "birth tax") is just shy of $30,000.

The elections are long over for most of us, but a few champions of democracy soldier on. Some of what they're turning up stinks. Literally, as well as figuratively.

"Bev showed up bright and early the morning of Wednesday the 17th - well before the scheduled meeting - and discovered three of the elections officials in the Elections Warehouse standing over a table covered with what looked like poll tapes. When they saw Bev and her friends, Bev told me in a telephone interview less than an hour later, 'They immediately shoved us out and slammed the door.'

"In a way, that was a blessing, because it led to the stinking evidence.

"'On the porch was a garbage bag,' Bev said, 'and so I looked in it and, and lo and behold, there were public record tapes.'"

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

I haven't come across this guy before, but Charles Pierce is something of a hoot. I also hadn't heard that Bush was planning to visit north of the border...

"Now, you may find it odd that a president who could fly halfway around the world to pose for a photo op with a fake turkey has managed to be in office for four years without ever making the short trip to Ottawa, but you should never underestimate what finally winning an election -- if only by a little bit more than a field goal -- can do to a fella. Imbues him with all sorts of courage that he -- and the officials of the Texas Air National Guard -- never thought he had. Talk about your bold new ventures. Let's rejigger the social contract, and go off elsewhere to war, and inconvenience the caribou, and improve the pay grades of our most manifestly incompetent 'yes' people, and turn the federal judiciary into the Clan Of The Cave Bear."

I see Bush has discovered the southern part of our hemisphere, too, with a trip to Chile, marked by four straight days of confrontations between the police and protestors, complete with rock-throwing, tear gas and water cannons.

Good old-fashioned curmudgeonliness, with a side ad for Ayn Rand: Carey Roberts, on the Rise of the Feminist Propaganda State.

Oh oh, it's not just that they think we're arrogant and overbearing, trust in our brands is waning. And "attitudinal change ultimately drives behavioral shifts."

Well, the proceeds went to charity, so that's nice, but what role did Linda Lay play in moving those Enron shares at $2.38 on a day that saw the stock clobbered to close at $.60? The case (and so the leverage) doesn't sound all that strong, but the publicity's not good.

Hey, there's Jeanette in the list of U of I authors. Nice. (No "more info" link for purchasing from their bookstore though, alas.)

If you watched The Apprentice last night, you had a chance to reflect on the importance of the buttocks in the world of fashion. Here's an evolutionary explanation for why we might be interested in them: our long-distance running ability sets us apart from other primates, as well as other species, and the gluteus maximus is one of the anatomical enablers for that. Other elements of the runner's toolkit are legs with wide, sturdy knees and a network of springy tendons, hairlessness for good sweating, big semicircular canals in the inner ear, and shoulders decoupled from our heads.

"Out on the savannah, in a hunter-gatherer clan, simply being able to 'get to the leftovers soon enough' might have made the difference in survival, Bramble said. 'High speed is not always important. What is important is combining reasonable speed with exceptional endurance.'"

There are over 8,000 cataloged human-made objects in space. The same team that brought us "preventive" war (disguised as must-prevent-mushroom-cloud-smoking-gun "pre-emptive" war) has plans for the final frontier, too. Star Wars is an idea that will not go away.

Our military's "foundational doctrines" includes the goal of achieving and maintaining "space superiority," and the diplomatic end of "offensive counterspace operations" includes quashing the EU's civilian competitor to GPS, in order to "preclude an adversary from exploiting space to their advantage."

"The first principle that should guide air and space professionals is the imperative to control the high ground."

"Consistent with treaty obligations, the United States will develop, operate, and maintain space control capabilities to ensure freedom of action in space and, if directed, deny such freedom of action to adversaries." And if we're not content with treaty obligations, we may just throw out those so-last-millennium cold-war treaties. Watch also for an upgrade to the limitation of "voluntary participation" from the "gray space order of battle," at least for the US commercial component thereof.

18.Nov.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Robert Reich, on Raiders of the Lock Box: "Quite apart from it breaking the intergenerational compact and being unaffordable to boot, privatizing Social Security would expose retirees to huge risks. Anyone who wants to put away some extra savings—over and above your Social Security payments—into a private investment account can do so right now. The whole point of Social Security is to spread the risk, so you donít end up with no retirement savings if youíve made bad investments, or if youíve been caught in the down-draft of a bad economy. Anyone ever hear of a bear market? Thatís why itís called Social 'Security.' Duh."

11am, a hint of sunshine penetrating the inversion fog as it lifts, and the sound of jet engines overhead. This weather's been hell on people trying to fly in and out of town, and I'm guessing they just opened up the airport this morning after another 4 hours of delays.

Yet another indispensable-the-moment-it's-released feature from the company that made search work for the rest of us: Google Scholar.

Jerome Schneider had slightly different standards for his personal behavior and what he'd do for his clients. In his "pre-jail chat" with the NYT, we read that he "always reported his full income to the I.R.S. and never personally used an offshore bank to hide income," while "he had helped hundreds of rich Americans evade taxes." And he expects "every single one" of his clients to be prosecuted or sued for the taxes they evaded, through the sham banks he set up over the last 28 years, "in the Cayman Islands, Grenada, Montserratt, Vanuatu, the Cook Islands and, recently, in Nauru, a Pacific island."

He says the millions he made on the deals is "gone, all gone" now, but it's hard to know for sure... "Since he has held himself up as the world's leading expert on hiding money offshore, how could one know for sure if Mr. Schneider really is broke? The I.R.S. agents listening to the question put their hands to their mouths to repress grins. ''If you can find it,'' Mr. Schneider said, ''I would say take it.''"

I'm sure that's what the IRS is planning to do, for him and his clients.

Maureen Dowd: A Plague of Toadies. "W. and Vice want to extend their personal control over bureaucracies they thought had impeded their foreign policy. It's alarming to learn that they regard their first-term foreign policy - a trumped-up war and bungled occupation, an estrangement from our old allies and proliferating nuclear ambitions in North Korea, Iran and Russia - as impeded. What will an untrammeled one look like?"

Tom DeLay, as seen in The Seattle Times He will still have to step down if he's convicted, but not just when the indictment comes down. Mr. DeLay was pleased to short-circuit other "political hacks" from interfering with his own hacking. He said his Republicans "fixed the rules so that Democrats cannot use our rules against us."

The Democrats are of course free to have a field day with the blatant hypocrisy of the move. Their whip put it this way: "They unabashedly abandoned any pretense of holding themselves to a high ethical standard, by deciding to ignore criminal indictments of their leaders as reason for removal from leadership posts in the Republican Party."

And the minority leader: "It is absolutely mind-boggling that as their first order of business following the elections, House Republicans have lowered the ethical standards for their leaders."

After being admonished twice, the political hack Mr. DeLay has most on his mind is Ronnie Earle, the Travis County (Texas) D.A. who has already indicted three of Tom's best buddies on charges of using corporate money to help Republicans take over the state legislature in 2002, which allowed them to redistrict the state as they saw fit and give Republicans 5 more seats in Congress this year.

Frank Rich deconstructs Peggy Noonan, et al.: "In this diet of 'news' championed by the right, there's no need for actual reporters who gather facts firsthand by leaving their laptops and broadcast booths behind and risking their lives to bear witness to what is actually happening on the ground in places like Falluja and Baghdad. The facts of current events can become as ideologically fungible as the scientific evidence supporting evolution. Whatever comforting version of events supports your politics is the 'news.'"

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

House Republicans move to enact part of that "moral values" agenda, seeking to delete a rule requiring leaders to step down temporarily when facing a felony indictment from a state. The rule was politically inspired when the 1993 Republican minority got it put in place to speed Dan Rostenkowski's exit, but now they complain that the investigation into Tom DeLay's is similarly inspired. So were the two "admonishments" from the House Ethics committee? DeLay's possibly illegal maneuvering in Texas helped boot out 5 Democrats from that state, and apparently bought some useful protection. (The Republicans unanimously re-elected him as majority leader.) To the victor go the spoils.

This date looked familiar, but I wasn't quite sure why. Google led me to the Wikipedia, which seems to own the calendar these days. It's the one year anniversary of Ahnold's inauguration, the 9th anniversary of the premier of This American Life, the 31st anniversary of Nixon's Big Lie ("I am not a crook"), the 165th anniversary of Verdi's first opera, the 446th anniversary of Elizabeth's succession of Mary, back before either one had 'I' in their name....

It wasn't any of those that I was thinking of.

This is sure to make the Apologies of the Week: the NFL critiqueing this week's intro sketch for MNF (a naked Nicollette Sheridan jumping into Terrell Owens' arms to conclude a locker-room flirtation) as "inappropriate and unsuitable for our 'Monday Night Football' audience," followed by the ABC Sports apology that yes, "the placement was inappropriate." Ya think? Can I see a show of hands of all those in the audience who thought it unsuitable? (Not counting you "dozens" who called and "hundreds" who emailed to complain.)

Just as I thought. (Oh and by the way, no nips were shown, so no need for any fines.)

Act I of the Oct. 29th program, "Swing Set" was interesting: the failed reformation of a Republican voter. There must be something reptilian going on there, because it sure wasn't getting through to the cortex.

"After that phone call, Gig decided on Kerry for a few days. And then, after a few weeks of—dare I say—flip-flopping, came back to President Bush. I asked him over and over, if in the end, he's a Republican, he just feels more comfortable with then he said no, it's all about the issues."

(Gig) "In my mind, there is no question that Bush would be better... I mean, Bush went into Afghanistan, which was exactly the right thing to do and sent an exactly right message to terrorists and terrorist-supporting nations. And I think, maybe I'm wrong, but I truly believe that were Kerry President at that time, that would not have happened. There would have been really strict sanctions, there would have been punitive air strikes, and that would have been it."

"And so he's voting for the President. Despite what he sees as a debacle in Iraq, despite what he calls 'ruinous economic policies,' despite the fact that he disagrees with the President on almost every other issue."

Then Act II on dirty tricks... some of which we found out about before the election this time, instead of after, thanks in large measure to communication in the blogosphere. "It's sort of like how historians say that serial murder was only discovered after the invention of the telegraph, which allowed cops to quickly share evidence." The segment addresses the question, "yeah, but, aren't both sides doing this?"

We're all supposed to get over it, of course. The election's over, and "winning" and "stealing" are not necessarily distinguishable—or different.

Since we dropped our addresses (in favor of ones, free with the domain), we had a blissfully spam-free spell. Cableone had been doing a pretty good job of filtering out the garbage, but there was still a regular trickle that came through to our inboxes. With the new addresses, they were capturing only about one a day, and almost none were leaking through. It all has been working so well, in fact that having spam show up was notable. Someone out there thinks we might want a new "m or t gage" and we'd be willing to visit their website to get the process going. They also think a half dozen words pulled at random (?) out of the dictionary will help their email get through Bayesian filters, and they're right about that.

They seem to be paying attention to my (non)response, too. This 3rd try is my "Final Notice!" (hooray!) "We have tried to contact you 2 times, with no success." If only they paid as much attention to finding the right audience as to getting through to any audience...

I wouldn't hold out hope for clemency from Bush if I were this guy, sentenced to 55 years for selling small bags of marijuana to a police informant (i.e. another drug user who got caught and squealed for favor), with a gun on him. Maybe kept for self-defense in a dangerous business? The gun told the assistant US attorney the man was prepared "to kill other human beings." Meanwhile, the guy who did kill another human being (beating an old woman to death with a more user-friendly log, rather than a gun) was sentenced to 22 years. Aggravated second-degree murder, versus carrying (just carrying, no brandishing or using) a concealed weapon while selling marijuana.

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

It might get a little hiccuppy here for a bit; rolling over to the Westhost 2.0 deal, with a DNS change to point to a new server. Should all be smooth by the morning, I hope. Westhost logo I'm into the 5th year with these folks, and still a pretty happy customer. If you're looking for a web host, I still recommend them, and invite you to tell 'em I sent you. They say word of mouth is the best advertising... a referral credit's not a lot of income, but it's about all this site earns.

The end of a (30-year) era: Safire is quitting as NYT columnist.

"After more than three decades of opinionated reporting on the world's first and foremost political battle page, it's time to hang up my hatchet. The Times said at the start of this run that it wanted 'another point of view,' which was what it surely got, and its editors did not wince nor cry aloud. In my more scholarly persona, I couldn't resist continuing as Sunday language maven, so although Mr. Hyde will close up shop, Dr. Jekyll will carry on."

When David Boies gets on the case, you know it's a biggie. The latest Clash of the Titans is Amex v. Visa/MC. It's either time for the courts to put an end to restraint of trade, or "time for American Express to stop looking to the courts to solve its problems and compete in the marketplace instead," depending on which side you're on.

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

USA cartogram of Red/Blue states' election results, morphed by population size The Washington Post coverage of the airing of Saving Private Ryan two days ago has a puzzler for starters: Ms. de Moraes says "an average of 7.7 million people watched" the show. An average? Maybe I only count for a fraction, since I didn't watch the whole thing. (Commercial interruptions distract me and I tend to wander off, for one thing.)

This is cute, though: "Some other station-owning companies said they were afraid to run the movie because the expletive uttered by Vice President Cheney on the floor of the Senate back in June is heard many times in the movie." I either missed those 20 (!) utterances or was paying attention to other aspects when they were to be heard. Somehow, in a movie about World War 2, f-bombs don't seem all that morally objectionable to me. (Thank goodness the American Family Association was keeping count for us all. I wonder if they look after pornography, too?)

I am feeling a little out of it to learn that this is the third time the movie has been broadcast. Seems like it was new just yesterday, but it was actually in 1998 when war seemed much farther away than it does these days.

Camille Paglia does some nice storytelling about Frank Zappa, without having much to say about the book she's supposedly reviewing. The one review of Barry Miles' Zappa on Amazon is a brutal one-star: "If you've got a wobbly coffee table that needs a leg supported, perhaps, this is definitely the book for you." Ah well, it was nice to be reminded of Dynamo Hum, at least.

The name looks vaguely incorrect, and the concept lies in the imaginary plane somewhere north of the real axis of the world of advertising we all inhabit: Esopus. (It's named after a creek, apparently, which the town wants you to know doesn't run through it.)

David Carr reviews the periodical in The NY Times: "Sitting in the Howard Johnson's in Times Square, Mr. Lippy said that after receiving estimates that would have made the feature unthinkable, he asked advice from his Canadian printer, who suggested that a group of Hutterites, a religious sect similar to the Amish, might be willing to do the handwork necessary at an affordable rate. So he found the church that made the steeple that he could put in the magazine to sell to the people."

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

If you're not prepared to read 6 books about religion but are still interested in the central topic of the day, Daniel Lazare's article in The Nation looks to be the next best thing. He writes of the crisis in "US political theology" and of liberal ideology in general:

"Formerly, it was an article of faith among liberal ecumenicists that all religions were equal and that all were essentially benign. Whether or not certain holy texts called for the wholesale massacre of nonbelievers was irrelevant. They were all written a long, long time ago and, anyway, such texts had to be understood metaphorically rather than literally. But given all that has happened since 9/11, the old faith has been shaken. How can we be sure that Islam is an ideology of peace--because George W. Bush tells us so? Are Muslim liberals correct in arguing that the Koran can be interpreted so that it accords with the needs of modern society? Or is the rise of militant Islam a sign that there are limits to interpretation and that the text is now reasserting itself in increasingly dangerous ways?"

And from another publication dated Nov. 15th, How Iraq Came Undone:

"When the Americans moved into (Baghdad) but didnít intervene to stop the looting that followed, a few things happened. The population, which had been tentatively awaiting and expecting to coöperate with the Americans—and it included many Baath Party members—were aghast at the way Baghdad in particular was looted as the Americans stood by; I think this queered peopleís perceptions of the Americans and their intentions in the country very early on. This was palpable in Baghdad, as the first tentative applause at the Americansí arrival turned to exclamations of resentment and disgust. People fell back on conspiracy theories: that the Americans had arrived for nefarious reasons, and that it was all part of a plan to destroy Iraq, which is, of course, what Saddam had told them for years."

It's must be getting harder and harder to convince the Iraqi people that we didn't come there to destroy the country.

"More people get killed in New York every night than get killed in Baghdad."
-- Jerry Bremer, "way back when"

Before the assault on Fallujah, Jon Lee Anderson (who wrote the longer Letter from Iraq in the same issue) said this:

"The security situation now in Iraq is absolutely appalling. Iíve never seen—and this is after having been to numerous conflicts—a society deteriorate so rapidly, so dramatically, to the degree that Iraqís has. And I speak not only for the Westerners who go there, who now are virtually hostages to their security men, the armed men who must protect them from kidnapping or car bombers, but for the Iraqis themselves. I had a message today from an Iraqi friend who has just found himself on an assassination list. Most of the middle class that had the wherewithal to leave has fled—these include Baathists and non-Baathists—to neighboring countries."

I had more of an observance of Veteran's Day yesterday than I expected to. Scenes: the Senior Sages presentation was about this country's history of wars, both Big Ones and small ones that none of us new much about. It was a non-veteran who pointed out that other countries had casualties too, such as the tens of millions of Russians who died in WW2. We heard a collection of personal war stories as well.

The Newshour's nightly honor roll had 20 young men memorialized. A few in their mid- to late-thirties, mostly just barely 20. Is there an end in sight to what we're doing in Iraq?

ABC broadcast Saving Private Ryan, complete with its bullet-piercing, blood-spilling, blood-spurting, shell-shocking, burning, knife-in-the-heart portrayal of violence. I watched much of it, gritted my teeth through the battles, was suitably tear-jerked at the end.

During a commercial, I saw the end of the now hour-long nightly news on our local Fox station; they had video clips and stills fresh from Iraq, with a promotional feel about them.

A final glance at an email from a friend, contemplating our crusade for freedom in the Middle East "sparking the end of the world as we know it," with a link to a thousand Fallujahs: " Massive US military might is useless against a mosque network in full gear. In a major development not reported by US corporate media, for the first time different factions of the resistance have released a joint statement, signed among others by Ansar as-Sunnah, al-Jaysh al-Islami, al-Jaysh as-Siri (known as the Secret Army), ar-Rayat as-Sawda (known as the Black Banners), the Lions of the Two Rivers, the Abu Baqr as-Siddiq Brigades, and crucially al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (Unity and Holy War) - the movement allegedly controlled by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The statement is being relayed all over the Sunni triangle through a network of mosques. The message is clear: the resistance is united."

All that stuff you've been hearing about a stolen election? Just a "snowball of hearsay" in "the blog-to-email-to-blog continuum." So much for support from that lefty NY Times. "I'd give my right arm for Internet rumors of a stolen election to be true," said David Wade, a spokesman for the Kerry campaign, "but blogging it doesn't make it so. We can change the future; we can't rewrite the past."

(Better check with the current administration about that rewriting the past thing. Step 1 is to make sure present documents are classified...)

With the Republicans running the White House, Senate, House of Reps and soon the SCOTUS, Dr. Frist is not interested in the preservation of the last bastion of minority power: "One way or another, the filibuster of judicial nominees must end. The Senate must do what is good, what is right, what is reasonable and what is honorable."

Trouble is, they don't have the 60 votes to stop a filibuster, and it takes 67 votes to change the rules. Theoretically. They can ask the chairman of the Rules Committee (hey, it's Trent Lott!) for a ruling that filibusters against executive nominations are unconstitutional and then uphold that with a simple majority. That's the "nuclear option," with serious blowback if you later find yourself in the minority.

"This filibuster is nothing less than a formula for tyranny by the minority," Frist told the Federalist Society. His preference at the moment is definitely for tyranny by the majority.

So anyway, we hear a lot about the judges who didn't get confirmed, but not nearly as much about the ones who did—101 of them by the current Congress. Exactly half of the 16 so-called judicial emergencies date from the Clinton administration. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeal's vacancy turned 10 years old in July.

The Circuit Court confirmations have been the most contested in this 108th Congress: 18 confirmed to 16 not confirmed, according to the DOJ. One of those 16 nominations (Miguel Estrada's) was withdrawn, leaving 15 nominations pending. Most of those who were approved were approved fairly quickly. Two of the worst nominees (in terms of their ability to get confirmed, if nothing else) were given recess appointments by Bush; perhaps more will get the end around soon.

From a big picture POV, it looks like the confirmation process is working pretty well; reasonable choices get approved, unreasonable choices get delayed or stymied.

(One amusing bit of history I found while reading up on this: Frist's earlier plan to quash the filibuster, with "bipartisan support" from none other than Zell Miller.)

11.11.4 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A big flag out for Veteran's Day.  And every other day, at J.R. Simplot's house Thank you, veterans.

Let's play Monopoly! With one computer on, and the other (with the printer) off, I'd like to see a print preview of a page. Let's just pretend that the printer is still there, shall we? Go find a suitable driver if need be, we've got a nice connection...

But no, Homey don't play dat. This is fun, the Help button sends me off to the Product Support Services Printing Page. Lessee, there's a Frequently Asked Questions link, I'll try that. Whoops, "The system cannot find the file specified." Maybe I should tell somebody there? Follow the Contact Us trail, to send feedback about this website. Oh, sorry, This Service is Currently Not Available.

Hey, just like my Print Preview!

This worked: a whizzy Wizard to add a printer ("manually," after it tried the P&P search), make believe it's on LPT1: and it's an HP LaserJet6P just like the real one, and yeah, go ahead and use the same driver you already know about.

Firefox logo Reading the news that Firefox has been released... with Firefox, of course, is a bit strange. I guess I only have the 1.0 "Preview" release, which I think is the best looking 1.0 software I've ever had.

Ok, now you can gas up with H2 in DC, which is one heck of an expensive novelty trick. It's Canadian hydrogen, no less, produced from natural gas and high-temperature steam, trucked down in a big old thermos bottle, and selling for $1.99 a kilogram, in either -180°C liquid form or 500 psi gas. Which you pump into your $100,000 car. Which GM has loaned you (because you're not quite crazy enough to buy one, even if you could).

The Mayor had this brilliant insight to share at the grand opening: "This is a good thing, unless I'm missing something." A sense of economic reality?

In Popeye's day, spinach apparently came in cans, and I can't imagine anything attractive about canned spinach. But bags of fresh, washed baby spinach leaves... I'm loving that "new" product, as it makes me feel big and strong like the Man. And here's something else you can do with that spinach: make electricity!

Here's the recipe:

  1. Liquefy.
  2. Extract the protein and place it, heads up and with spaces between each protein molecule, on a silicon chip.
  3. Insert peptide detergent in the spaces, and allow self-assembly to occur between the protein and detergent.
  4. Wedge between layers of plastic, gold and indium tin oxide.
  5. Expose to light, as needed.

"It is not unusual for government officials to earn large amounts of money for books and speeches after leaving office," writes Douglas Jehl in The NY Times. But the beauty of being Mr. George "Off the record" Tenent is that the same old speech never gets old, at the same time the auction for the book rights is warming on the back burner. Half a $mil on the circuit and a lot more on the way. It helps that he's "an electrifying speaker," I'm sure.

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

Batten the hatches for a four-year wave of triumphalism, undergirt with nonsense like this: "American voters massively rejected the candidate who promised to put an end to battles like Fallujah—and massively voted in the candidate who pledged to do whatever was necessary to win these battles."

First off, I thought they were both talking about staying the course in Iraq, but more importantly, 51/48 with narrow (and perhaps fraudulent, although David Corn calmly dismisses any such notion) victories in key swing states is not "massive rejection." To the extent we know the true will of the electorate, Bush won narrow approval, now being spun into a landslide.

It's an absolutely calculated, illegitimate, and effective (mis)use of language.

Here's one look at how the voters feel after "the most negative and dishonest campaign that we have witnessed by an incumbent president, at least since Richard Nixon."

9.Nov.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Michael Kinsley does what all of us liberals really want to do, deep down inside: apologize for everything.

"So, yes, okay, fine. I'm a terrible person -- barely a person at all, really, and certainly not a real American -- because I voted for the losing candidate on Tuesday. If you insist -- and you do -- I will rethink my fundamental beliefs from scratch because they are shared by only 47 percent of the electorate."

As the war in Iraq continues—now 18 months after "Mission Accomplished"—the official assessments are sounding a bit more realistic: A US official said a government analysis completed in advance of the attack "did not predict any scenario where American forces will be welcomed with open arms, and we expect Sunni Muslims to continue to resent the American occupation as long as it exists." (as told by The NYT) The keys to success are keeping it short and minimizing collateral damage.... the same as in March 2003.

We all look forward to the peaceful remodeling afterwards, the sun shining on quiet streets while smiling residents sweep and paint and rebuild. This isn't just a fairy tale, is it? How do you prepare for elections in a couple months when you're a refugee faced with rebuilding a place to live, and a struggle to find food and clean water?

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

The NYT's 2004 vote by population map The Canada immigration authorities are enjoying their 15 minutes of fame as a move north looks more interesting now than it used to. Some of the folks who would be left behind in Jesusland are demonstrating their Christian charity by saying "good riddance" in various ways. They probably didn't read the news that it's those coastal blue voters who fund government services for the reds.

Yet another round of aurorae I didn't see. Lost in the fog. (Would it have helped to sign up for the Space weatherphone? Maybe not.)

A book on persuasive technology ought to sell really well, huh? At least if the author knows what he's talking about....

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

When the temperature hits the dewpoint, you get fog. There's a deep fog enveloping Boise and southwest Idaho valleys. No, I'm not talking about election results; this is actual moisture in the air. It gave great ambience for Opera Idaho's production of Nosferatu last night. (The Statesman's preview piece will be behind the paywall quickly, I suppose.)

We have a connection to the composer of this new opera, premiered in Billings, Montana by Rimrock Opera and here in Boise by Opera Idaho: we were in a Palo Alto choir led by him, Alva Henderson, back in 2000-1. The librettist, Dana Gioia, is the head of the National Endowment for the Arts, so the whole thing was a pretty Big Deal out here in the sticks.

6.Nov.04 Permanent URL to this day's entry has an interesting analysis of Bush's debate performance (and a lot of interesting material on how to go about changing minds). He seems more relaxed now, anyway.

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

Speaking of Air National Guard training, how do you like this headline: Warplane Strafes a School in New Jersey. Oopsadaisy.

I'm guessing this will make the year's top ten list of important stories that went underreported, but questions about voting technology continue, even as answers are going to be hard to come by. An electronic voting machine with no audit trail can only tell you the same number over and over again; it's the perfect implementation of proof by repeated assertion.

Everyone loves to believe that "statistics" is a synonym for "lies," but for many things, statistics are the closest thing we'll ever have to Truth. Statistics don't lie, even though they can be manipulated, and liars can use statistics (and media, and voting machines) very effectively. Democracy relies on fair voting, and fair voting relies on honest officials. There are an unimaginable number of ways the system can be subverted, and electronic technology is racking up an impressive collection of suspicious results.

When Richard Nixon won by a landslide in 1972, I don't suppose anyone could imagine what his denouement would be. The story could get interesting... (but I expect it to be sanitized as effectively as George W. Bush's record of service to the Air National Guard.)

Maybe Ohio's Electors will take it upon themselves to correct the tally when they cast the votes that really count in December? New Mexico and Iowa still haven't reported their results, apparently, but Ohio is the difference between winning and losing. Kerry/Edwards' tallied states plus Ohio equals 272. Can you say "Electoral College Reform"? The Congress sure could if the College decides they want the northeast liberal and the pretty boy over the pseudo-bumpkin and Darth Vader.

Not that the winning side gives a rap for what the world thinks, but there's a lot of incredulity and disappointment out there. From a British Labor M.P.: "America has missed a great chance to reunite with the world. I fear the tragedy for all of us is that if America doesn't reach out to its friends, then its enemies will reach out to America." Rupert Murdoch thinks were safer, though.

From the director of London's Center for European Reform: "It will confirm those who feel there's a difference in basic values between the U.S. and Europe. Although we have many common interests and values, when you get to things like religion, gun control and the death penalty, we just live on a different planet."

George's buddy Vladimir is happy enough: "I'm convinced international terrorism set the goal of preventing Bush from being reelected." The result of the ballot, he said, showed "the American people haven't let themselves be intimidated by terrorists and have made a decision that was appropriate." Our best friend is Russia's dictator, go figure.

4.11.4 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Alright, it's not completely cheerless. Illinois has a fine, new senator, the up-and-coming Barack Obama. And for comedic relief, what could beat the spectacle of Alan Keyes blaming everyone but himself for losing by more votes than he received. Somehow, I don't imagine he'll stay a resident of the state, to the extent that he ever was one. "Don't let the door hit you on your way out" seems like the friendliest thing to say.

Talk about your class act, he's so convinced of Obama's support for "a culture evil enough to destroy the very soul and heart of my country" that he refuses to make the "false gesture" of congratulations to his opponent. Don't you hope he runs for President again?

Excerpt of NYT graphic of vote by population The celebrations, recriminations and analysis roll on, the sun has come out today, and I'm not feeling quite so hung over. As they did during the campaign, The NY Times continues to impress me with their use of multimedia to tell us what's happening and what's happened. They have maps by county, maps by population, the map by electoral votes (still waiting for Iowa and New Mexico to declare), maps by margins, increases, decreases. There's the faintest hint of blue marbling in the liberal heart of Idaho, Sun Valley, where the western White House would have been, but underscored by the solid red arc of the Snake River plain.

The blue urbanity of the West and the Northeast could not match the religiously red heartland and South, and the money will continue to flow in the same direction as the votes did: from city to country, from north to south, from the teeming masses of liberality to the rugged outposts of conservatism. Funny how that works.

Of course, there is still room for differing interpretations of what happened. Greg Palast thinks that Kerry actually won—Ohio, and therefore the electoral contest—with the result once again lost in pregnant chads. If so, one of the tasks for the Democratic Party is clear: educate their voters on how to register, how to get to the polls, how to insist on your right to suffrage, and for God's sake, how to punch a chad.

Katrina vanden Heuvel has some questions (along with her call to continued action, "Stand and Fight"), including this one that puzzles me: "The most mendacious Administration in American history won the honesty vote?" I guess people don't mind mendacity if it's working for what they see as their own interests.

Friedman's not happy, either, but he's not as venemous about it as Maureen Dowd:

"Despite an utterly incompetent war performance in Iraq and a stagnant economy, Mr. Bush held onto the same basic core of states that he won four years ago - as if nothing had happened. It seemed as if people were not voting on his performance. It seemed as if they were voting for what team they were on.

"This was not an election. This was station identification. I'd bet anything that if the election ballots hadn't had the names Bush and Kerry on them but simply asked instead, "Do you watch Fox TV or read The New York Times?" the Electoral College would have broken the exact same way...."

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

It looks like the Bush/Cheney team is going to carry the day and finally get elected to the office. We can look forward to four more wars and tax cuts as the solution to every economic problem, with Senate rules the only refuge left for Democrats in the wilderness. The Supreme Court will likely be remade in a Godly image and the country can either enjoy a bright new future, some measure of safety in their bunkers, a lesson in being careful what you wish for, or a combination of the above.

It's hard to imagine any legal maneuvering panning out at this point, in spite of some media hesitation to call Ohio or other close states; a Kerry/Edwards victory against Bush winning the popular vote, and the Republicans controlling Congress? Even with the Supremes playing one short, that's not going to fly this time.

"Why shouldn't we have a war for oil? We need oil." Anne Coulter

There are always early returns that look good for your side, and early returns not-so-good, and last night was no exception. One optimist pointed out that "the sun is still going to rise tomorrow." I suppose it did, but the day came under a wet and leaden sky over fortboise, a little hung over after yesterday's bright sunshine illuminated the pageant of electoral democracy.

My embossed pollwatcher badge As a poll-watcher, I had a second-row seat for one local slice of the election, even as I was insulated from news of any sort. It was too busy where I was, Precinct 81's polling place set up in the small lobby of McKinley Elementary on the West Bench, to even collect word-of-mouth updates. The dilligent team of white-haired ladies running the show where I was worked more than 10 hours with at most a single, short break to use the restroom, during a rare quiet moment of a busy day.

There were no police or security forces involved, the only uniforms seen were a handful of troops who came to cast their own ballots. No metal detectors, no voters challenged for not being duly registered or who they said they were. (I guess it would have been me to make such a challenge?) More than 150 people were registered where I was, and from 5pm on, the registration line was the longest of any. I can only trust that what happened after I left and after the polls closed was honest and proper, but everything I saw was carried out as diligently as possible, given the technology at hand (punch card ballots, those villians of the 2000 Florida story). We had a pregnant chad that a voter caught herself, went back to fix it. Two people slipped their ballots into the box themselves, rather than handing it to the receiver, during the one moment when she got up to move around a bit. The first person knew enough to tear off the blank tab used for a comparison count, the second did not, and had spun on his heel and just about got to the door when I called out to him and got him to come back and get his name checked off, at least. The ladies knitted their brows about that counting stub in the box, made a note of it somewhere.

(...the rest of my account of the day...)

Election Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

At least we hope it's Election Day, and not just the warm-up act for Selection Day, like last time. Jeanette and I put in the full shift of poll-watching, more than 10 hours confined in a small space. The folks doing that actual work to run the election put in even more; we bailed at about 6:30 to bring our lists to the central office for last minute GOTV efforts, and the election must run on to 8:00 plus whoever is in line at closing time.

There was a big turnout where I was, more than 1,000 ballots cast by the time I left, with more than 150 day-of registrations (and a line for more). Sitting in a chair for that long may sound boring, but it never was for me. I found the whole event and process fascinating, and took 6 pages of notes for later expansion... tomorrow, after the victory (or whatever) party tonight.

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

Gee, do you suppose 60,000 missing ballots in Florida will matter this time?

Add missile defense to that pile of stuff that's too Top Secret for the people paying for it to hear about directly. No doubt it'll soon be treasonous to question its sanity.

Everyone's heard the "news" by now that the Packers beat the Redskins yesterday. We may not have NASCAR on our side, but this is a portent with legs. Go PACK!

NYT's election calculator, states sized by electoral votes You're going to need this in the coming days: the 270 to win electoral vote calculator. Put it on "my view" and click the swing states as needed to see how your candidate ends up. It also has history going back to 1789, but a little short of annotation. (In the '89 election, states were green or gray...? 1792 we were the United States, once and for all; 1796, green, cyan and black?; 1820 was a sweep, 1824 went 4-way; 1864 the South was out; 1904 was north-red/south-blue; 1976 was east/blue, west/red, sort of; and so on.) What would have really been cool is if they sized the growing US map based on electoral votes, the way the NYT has done....

Go to 1789, and then use the "up" arrow to page through the elections one by one and watch history unfold. VERY cool (even though several of its features—the pre-red/blue key w/candidate totals, facts for the elections and the state history linked to 2004—are broken in Firefox, unfortunately).

The way I read the last CBS/NYT poll though (which is nationwide, rather than tailored to electoral math), I'd have to guess Bush will be elected. The un/favorable ratio is 47-41% on Kerry, 42-48% on Bush. 49% (to 34%) expect Bush to win. Bush got a 5-point pop on his "approve the way he's handling the job" score, from 44-48 to 49-44. In the last two weeks he started handling his job better?

The "buts" in the numbers are amazing. 55% think "wrong track" vs. 43% "right direction" for the country. Even with the 2-week pop, more still disapprove of Bush's handling of foreign policy, and a majority still disapprove of the way he's handling the economy and Iraq. A strong majority approve of the way Bush is handling "the campaign against terrorism" though, and 54% think we're safer (than what?), vs. 29% less safe. People are uneasy about Kerry's ability to deal with an international crisis (57% vs. 40% "confident") while they're split about 50-50 on Bush's ability. They think Kerry says what people want to hear (60% vs. 37% "what he believes"). Bush is 60/36 the other way.

I'm sure it was "what he believes" that prompted George Bush to attend Mass (?!) at a Roman Catholic church yesterday.

The "epic cacophony" of advertising in the swing states must have passed saturation long before the money—more than half a $billion—ran out. Turns out we do have campaign finance limitations after all. The overage will provide some boost from the economic multiplier effect, anyway.

I doubt it will be the last, but a sort-of-last email from the President, exhorting me to vote on Tuesday, sent 12:00am today. "You know where I stand. And sometimes, you even know where my opponent stands. We both have records. I am proudly running on my record. Senator Kerry is running from his. And there is a reason why. There is a mainstream in American politics, and my opponent sits on the far left bank."

It's too bad he doesn't have more than this smirky ad hominem crap at this point, isn't it? This is nothing more than an applause line for one of his hand-picked audiences. I snuck in and haven't lifted up my shirt to show the FOUR MORE WARS! t-shirt underneath, so they haven't surrounded me and thrown me out yet.

E.L. Doctorow's perspective on our unfeeling President is chilling. " study him, you look into his eyes and know he dissembles an emotion which he does not feel in the depths of his being because he has no capacity for it. He does not feel a personal responsibility for the 1,000 dead young men and women who wanted to be what they could be."

"How then can he mourn? To mourn is to express regret and he regrets nothing. He does not regret that his reason for going to war was, as he knew, unsubstantiated by the facts. He does not regret that his bungled plan for the war's aftermath has made of his mission-accomplished a disaster. He does not regret that, rather than controlling terrorism, his war in Iraq has licensed it."

Rocks, hard places, devils and deep, blue sea: Iraqis used to have the Hussein regime running their country. Everyone seems to agree that he was despotic with interpretations varying only in how much they demonize him. I'm reasonably certain their have been worse dictators in the history of the world, but there seems to be ample evidence that he was worthy of ousting. Bush has made the case (mostly through repeated assertion) that the world is better off now that Hussein is out of power, but who knows, really? The current situation is the "militants' campaign of intimidation to silence thousands of Iraqis and undermine the government through assassinations, kidnappings, beheadings and car bombings. New gangs specializing in hostage-taking are entering Iraq, intelligence reports indicate."

Ultimately, it comes down to economics: "We need to take Iraqis off the streets and give them meaningful jobs so they're holding shovels and hammers, not AK-47s."

Frank Rich continues to deconstruct the political scene as theater. It seems irreverent, at least, but on the other hand, it also tends to get at the truth more than the straight news does. He's spinning possible explanations for a Kerry victory, should they be needed.

"The president hoped to give the tragedy of 9/11 a speedy happy ending by laying out a simple war pitting God's anointed against the evildoers, then by portraying Iraq as the 'central front' in that war, then by staging a stirring victory celebration weeks after that central battle began. But when our major combat operations turned out not to be 'over,' this purported final reel was seen as the one thing the American public hates even more than an unhappy ending - a false one."

And there is plenty of sauce for both ganders: "On the same day that the president took to attacking Mr. Kerry for seeing the war on terror as 'a metaphor,' his own campaign released with great fanfare a new TV ad portraying terrorism as... a metaphor. The metaphor in this case was a pack of wolves that looked as if they could easily be taken out by the rifle-bearing Kerry depicted in his equally ludicrous L.L.Bean photo op."

And this bit of magical realism: "Mr. Kerry may seem like the closest thing this country has ever had to an Audio-Animatronic chief executive, but Mr. Bush's action-hero theatrics may have defined 'presidential' down to the point where Audio-Animatronics can pass for gravitas."

Brought back to our attention by, this charming tale of manly cigar afficianado Tom "I am the Federal Government" DeLay.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Friday, 03-Dec-2004 09:43:03 MST