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30.June.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Pete Seeger, at the UUA's General Assembly in Ft. Worth, Texas We've only been to one or two General Assemblies of the UUA, and we didn't make it down to Texas this year, but the miracle of technology is bringing it to our desktop with streaming video. Music is the best part of the experience, imho, and this year's assembly was a gala. Pete Seeger and friends (Hope Johnson, Pat Humphries and Sandy O., Kim and Reggie Harris, and Geoff Kaufman among them) put on a great show, including the Pat Humphries' fine song "We're all swimming to the other side" (30:40 from the start). Elaine Pagels' Ware Lecture on the contest between the gospel writers John and Thomas is another hit.

The most recent inexplicable bloggap (you're seeing the word meaning "space in the usual temporal sequence of weblog postings" here, for the very first time) is now explained: we were in Portland, to meet with family and share a memorial for Jeanette's mom, Elmie Ross. We also got to share a lovely breakfast with J's old friend (and my new friend) Charlie Needles, followed by a misty forest peregrination in The Grotto, where we talked about mysteries, sorrows, joy, gardens, and shared our best stories of lives together and apart.

Tuesday eased back to not-so-wet and we walked around the Pearl District and enjoyed the urban ambience. My sister-in-law's place has a rooftop garden and a view of the Williamette, train tracks, big ships. (Non-Pearl) restaurant tip: Laurelwood's root beer.

29.June.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Redtail hawk hovering, over the Palouse Camp Quest: "the first summer sleep-away camp in the country for atheist, agnostic and secular humanist children." Imagine this: "the camp's volunteer staff aims to promote a healthy respect for science and rational inquiry, while assuring campers that there is nothing wrong with not believing in the Bible and not putting stock in a supreme creator."

Searching for his place in history, Bush's speechwriters wrote, and/or he said: "When the history of this period is written the liberation of Afghanistan and the liberation of Iraq will be remembered as great turning points in the story of freedom."

That doesn't tell us whether he'll be a hero or an anti-hero, however. There's a significant chance the tide has turned in the wrong direction, even if we won't know for sure for five, six, eight, 10, 12 years.

26.June.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Another amazing column by Frank Rich, on the "insidious and ingenious" assault on public broadcasting in this country. The Trojan Horse has already vomited administration tools as chairman and president into the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, but Rich thinks there's a chance that $14,170 could be the loose thread that unravels it all. We might hope so, but the drums of war have been drowning out some rather spectacular revelations for years now.

"That the administration's foremost propagandist would also be chairman of the board of CPB, the very organization meant to shield public broadcasting from government interference, is astonishing. But perhaps no more so than a White House press secretary month after month turning for softball questions to 'Jeff Gannon,' a fake reporter for a fake news organization ultimately unmasked as a G.O.P. activist's propaganda site."

Some folks are talking about the coming fiscal crisis as an event that's certain, just unscheduled. Five years?

And the boring and respectable people who were supposed to take care of all that are on a bender. "(T)hese days, the Bush administration is managing America's finances like a team of drunken sailors, and most Republicans keep quiet in a way that betrays their conservative principles." I guess if Krugman can write about politics, Nicholas Kristof can write about economics.

"President Bush has excoriated the 'death tax,' as he calls the estate tax. But his profligacy will leave every American child facing a 'birth tax' of about $150,000."

And yes, Krugman can write about politics: "Leading the nation wrongfully into war strikes at the heart of democracy."

25.June.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

You knew the Japanese were way ahead of us in mobile telephony, but how about broadband? Here's a shocker: "Japan is now well ahead of us in the percentage of homes with broadband. And their broadband on average is about half the price and 16 times the speed of ours." Dan Mitchell says the Bush team sold us out. Too busy playing Adventure and selling out to energy companies, apparently.

Mitchell also heaps praise on Frontline (after a non-sequitur link to Frontline Ltd.'s financials), in particular for their latest effort, Private Warriors (not "Private War," Dan.

Now you'll be able to see how the world was created, at the Tulsa zoo. The Creation mob got their way after "more than two hours of public comment from a standing-room-only crowd."

The NCSE reports that "supporters of the proposed exhibit, including the Southern Plains Creation Society, claim that the zoo 'already presents many religious views throughout the zoo property {Hindu gods, pantheism, new age philosophy, naturalistic evolution, and many others...' and hey, lookit that, "naturalistic evolution" just turned into a religion! Aren't those creationists clever?

Oddly, the zoo's exhibit curator estimated six months (rather than six days, as you'd expect) to research and organize the exhibit.

"Zoo officials had argued that the zoo does not advocate religion and that displays like the elephant statue (of Ganesh) are meant to show the animal's image among cultures. The same exhibit includes the Republican Party's elephant symbol."


William Jefferys' review of the "Intelligent Design" film, "The Privileged Planet" encapsulates the argument against the claim that ID has anything to do with science, handily:

"There is no conceivable evidence that could, even in principle, refute the notion that everything happens as a result of an unconstrained, very powerful 'designer'. This is because such an entity can be invoked to explain any evidence whatsoever. Real scientific hypotheses have to be vulnerable to evidence."

24.June.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

My close-cropped do, fresh today Usually when I go to get a haircut, I'm overdue, and I'd like to get a lot taken off. There's a negotiation: you really want that much off? In spite of my assurances, there must be a caution that while s/he can always cut more off, it's not good to go too far and discover there's an unhappy customer under there. By the time the "first pass" is done, I settle for whatever I got.

Today, I had a nice woman from Germany cut my hair, and we didn't negotiate. After I said I wanted it pretty short and she asked just once if I really meant it, she went at it with the electric clippers to give me her best interpretation of what I'd asked for. I don't believe I've had my hair this short for, oh, 28 years or so. It kind of makes me feel young again, other than the whitewalls.

Bill Clinton danced around "is." Bush&Co. is dancing around "fixed." Molly Ivins dispatches the editorial apologists who "knew it all along" (like hell they did) and the "you liberals just hate freedom" crowd.

How about... "a database of all US college students as well as high school students between ages 16 and 18, to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches."

In case the "No Child Left Behind" concept is still a bit fuzzy for you, consider that "some data on high school students already are given to military recruiters in a separate program under provisions of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act."

Some have argued that 9/11 is the canonical example of blowback, the intelligence term describing the unintended consequences of spooky action. However that argument turns out, there is no doubt that Iraq is becoming an urban warfare training ground for terrorists. The "improvement" in IEDs is just one of many component examples.

The current administration's groupthink and inability to admit (much less correct) its mistakes guarantees that the training camp will continue for quite some time. We keep "turning the corner" in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.

As Jay Livingston put it in a letter to the editor, the reality of the jihadist training opportunity "undermines the last justification for the war - the geopolitical fantasy, still popular among neoconservatives inside and outside the administration, that regime change in Iraq would foster moderation and democracy (in other words, friendliness to our country) in other nations in the Middle East."

(Thanks to John Brown for these and many other interesting links.)

Bob Herbert, on that other Bush: "The unwarranted harassment of an ordinary citizen by the most powerful political figure in his state is an affront to the very idea of freedom that Mr. Bush and his brother in the White House are so fond of preaching."

He doesn't really think "the very idea" was top of the Bush clan's list, does he? Whatever; he sums up the case succinctly: "The political exploitation of this tragic case has been uniquely grotesque." Assuming someone will bring Herbert's column to Jeb's attention, we can now check to see if the man is capable of being shamed, or if Bernie McCabe is going to be looking for a new job. (I'd guess the latter.)

A ray of hope for those "no law requires the payment of taxes" protestors: Joe Banister acquitted by a federal jury in Sacramento. And gee, he ought to know, he used to work at the IRS. Unfortunately for the twits in the audience cheering the verdict, it's no help for the people actually trying to avoid paying their taxes, just the "promoters" who advise them to try and get away with it.

Congratulations to my old employer, The Argonaut, for being named first in the nation among non-daily college newspapers by the Society of Professional Journalists. Long ago and far away, I had a (biweekly?) Op-Ed column in the thing. I've got a collection of newsprint somewhere... the originals were typed on two-part carbonless blanks they gave me, and I'd guess those copies have faded into faint impressions.

23.June.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Lucky Peak dam aerial view Lucky Peak dam celebrates its 50th birthday today, with festivities at Discovery Park today from 10 to noon. I'm sorry I have another commitment and can't be there. Word is they're going to turn on the "rooster tail," the outlet flume that arcs into the open air to aerate the outflow from the reservoir into the Boise river. I remember the first time I saw that, coming through as a tourist in the late 70s, wondering if something had gone horribly wrong, or what.

Dedicated on June 23, 1955, the dam is just a couple months older than me. More interesting photos from the Corps of Engineers here.

The relentless misinformation from the Republican Party might have something to do with reporters botching simple statements of fact. In Ken Mehlman's RNC-copyrighted missive to the faithful on June 23d, subject "It's Time to Fix Social Security," he calls upon us to contact our Senators, noting that "simply put, personal accounts will help secure Social Security for future generations and allow younger Americans to grow a nest egg they own and can pass on to whomever they want."

When questioned directly, President Bush acknowledged that personal accounts do NOT address the financial security of the program. So... what do they do? Short-term, they would create even more government debt. And from all accounts I've seen, they'd create a much more complicated system that people would have to make commitments too with some risk.

Simply put, it doesn't make a lick of sense.

Richard Clarke is decoding the signals of war and weakness coming out of D.C.: "In addition to the thousands of American and Iraqi casualties, one victim of this slow bleeding in Iraq is the American military as an institution. Across America, the National Guard, designed to assist civil authorities in domestic crises (like the pandemic of a lethal avian flu that some public-health planners fear), is in tatters. Re-enlistments are down, training for domestic support missions is spotty at best, equipment is battered and many units are either in Iraq or on their way to or from it. Now the rot is beginning to spread into the regular Army. Recruiters are coming up dry, and some, under pressure to produce new troops, have reportedly been complicit in suspect applications."

"Is it unpatriotic to ask if the major reason for the fighting in Iraq is that we are still there?"

A quarter of its oil and three-quarters of its natural gas is in Asia, the money's coming from Asia... shouldn't the ownership be in Asia, too? That's apparently what the China National Offshore Oil Corporation thinks as it lights up a bidding war for Unocal (once the "Union Oil Company of California"), with Chevron. I hear $18.5 billion, will anybody give me 20? Iiii'vegoteighteenpointfive, willyagivemetwenty?

This follows IBM's personal computers, Maytag's washers, with much, much more to come.

The auto industry, at least, is a different story, with brands such as Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, and Hyundai made in America (somewhat). "The employment at the American companies still dwarfs that of the newcomers," but "Detroit's" trend is down, while the newcomers are growing.

So if the Senate goes along with the House, and 38 states say "yay," will prosecutions for flag desecration cover the inappropriate use of decals, parade flags, embroidered patches (on "professional" sports team uniforms, right next to the Nike swoosh) and so on? Just wondering.

"Supporters said there was more public support than ever because of emotions after the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and on the Pentagon. They said detractors are out of touch with public sentiment." (Seattle P-I)

Funny how those supporters weren't necessarily that close to ground zero... "If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents," said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., whose district includes the site of the former World Trade Center.

Summer! Permanent URL to this day's entry

Late spring snow in central Idaho And just like that we're over the hump. We spent our midsummer's weekend up north, visiting the kids and grandkids in Moscow and Spokane Valley, driving through the river canyons and prairies left lush by a wet ending to our spring. Nice to get away from the keyboard for a bit. Read Tobias Wolff's In Pharoah's Army and thought about the difference between a hack writer (me) and a great one (him). There's more of his stuff in our library that I have yet to read, just need some time away from "current events." It won't come in this next week as I catch up from 5 days away, though...

We got our news mostly from NPR, where the signal could find its way to us on the road. Marika Partridge's Lesson on Living Well from the Maasai accompanied me through the Payette river canyon yesterday afternoon, encouraged me to stop out of one and then another "convoy" led by people who couldn't comprehend "slow moving vehicle turnout." What's the hurry in a beautiful place like that? A few minutes later, the highway was calm and deserted again.

More radio reportage, this a local "news" story including the phrase "(T)he Democrats are resolved to block President Bush's plan to save Social Security with private accounts..." Excuse me? You say your reporter has drunk the Kool-Aide® and doesn't know the difference between marketing and legislation imagined or proposed? Even the Bush team had to face facts and admit that the glory of private accounts had nothing to do with "saving" Social Security.

The propaganda has been well-catapulted when the folks writing the news can't tell the difference between fact and fiction and just glibly write the latter into the supporting phrases.

On the plus side, news of the Napolean Dynamite festival in Preston, Idaho this coming weekend was a crowd pleaser. Sweet!

17.June.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

snippet of the NYT graphic of their poll results It looks like GWB's political capital account is lower than an Idaho reservoir, and the majority is coming around to my point of view. "Looking back," 51 to 45% think the US should have stayed out of Iraq. 66% are "uneasy" about George W. Bush's ability to make the right decisions about Social Security. Moreover, for an "open-ended question about the most important problems facing the nation," Social Security didn't make the top 6.

Approval of Bush's handling of Iraq and the "going badly" estimate of our attempt to bring stability and order there are both in the tank: 37% and 60% respectively, off from 45/47 in February.

Almost 2:1 see the country "off in the wrong direction" versus "on the right track."

Finding fault with a big group is easier than with a lone figurehead, I expect, and Congress fares even worse in the latest NYT/CBS News poll. Only 42% approve of the way Bush is handling his job, but Congress is almost 10 points lower than that (33%). Yet we keep re-electing incumbents as regularly as the Soviets did, go figure.

God bless former Senator (and still an Episcopal minister) John Danforth for saying what needs to be said about religion and politics in this country, so eloquently:

"...Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers.

"But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators...."

16.June.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Just found out about this big collection of PNW progressive blogs. Nice to see (and nice to be among them).

I was following the trail to see what came of yet another outing of the Fred Phelps clan in our neighborhood. No angels this time, as the police and fire department were happy to sequester the vermin.

"I got to thinking about what kind of country allows people like this to flaunt their unpopular opinions while being protected by the police. The answer, I decided, is only a country that is strong in our democratic beliefs and sense of our own destiny would continue to allow this. Here, at a funeral honoring a hero who had given her life so that people halfway around the world could be free, we saw those charged with protecting the weakest of us, the police, firefighters, and Soldiers, protecting people dedicated to tearing down everything they hold dear."

Lychnis spp. (Crown pink? Mullein pink?) close-up They don't just smell good, they're good for you, too. "(T)he pleasing aromas of lemon, wintergreen mint, oregano, cinnamon and other common substances can, all by themselves, inhibit the growth of various harmful bacteria, including E. coli, salmonella and staphylococcus."

If you'd fought and won the case of a lifetime and some political hack came in and told you no, we're going to roll over and not accept the win... you'd be mad enough to talk to The New York Times about it, wouldn't you?

"The newly disclosed documents make clear that the decision was made after weeks of tumult in the department and accusations from lawyers on the tobacco team that Mr. McCallum and other political appointees had effectively undermined their case. Mr. McCallum, No. 3 at the department, is a close friend of President Bush from their days as Skull & Bones members at Yale, and he was also a partner at an Atlanta law firm, Alston & Bird, that has done legal work for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, part of Reynolds American, a defendant in the case."

We're assured that "this was a decision that was made on the merits of the case and that strictly followed the law," but we're still looking for evidence of that.

"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."
George W. Bush
Elizabeth Dyson has some questions for the NYT ombudsman (scroll to bottom) about the recent lame coverage of the Downing Street memos.

"Did Mr. Purdum read the entire memorandum? Professor Juan Cole published on his June 12 website an eye-opening account of some of the many concerns British cabinet members expressed in this memorandum -- concerns about the possibility of facing war crimes charges in the absence of a UN resolution authorizing an invasion ('Bush and Blair Committed to War in April, 2002 -- Leaked Cabinet Briefing Shows British Knew War Was Illegal'). The issues and concerns Cole quoted and discussed at length weren't even hinted at in the New York Times."

The Washington Post's little retrospective says it's all old news: "The memos add not a single fact to what was previously known about the administration's prewar deliberations. Not only that: They add nothing to what was publicly known in July 2002." I went back and checked to see what I had to say that month... that was about the time the Shock and Awe concept was being rolled out, IIRC. It was two months before Congressman Ron Paul's 35 questions that won't be asked about Iraq (which were of course questions that wouldn't be answered about Iraq).

Ok, the idea of interactive editorials was pretty far over the top, but I'm sure they'll have a suitable disclaimer. Guest columnist Stacy Schiff launches off The L.A. Times to examine "the longest unprotected border in the world," no longer between us and the frozen north, but now "the one between fact and fiction"

If Tom Friedman is right about what it will take to salvage victory from the current quagmire in Iraq, the cause may already be lost. Doubling the "boots on the ground" would require Rumsfeld to admit the enormity of his error "from not having gone into Iraq with the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force," and if we've learned anything from Rummy, it's that he doesn't admit mistakes.

15.June.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

My buddy Dave Peckham continues to do amazing work in putting people on bicycles, and getting discarded bikes moved to another part of the world where people want them. He doesn't do so well at keeping up with the web/log stuff, but listen to this:

"Iím in Ghana now, since May 30, catching up with the project on the ground. We just got back from Songornya, a small community where we did three maintenance workshops and 60 people got discounted bikes. Another twenty people came for the Advanced class and picked up more than 100 half-priced tools.

"Along with the 60 bikes, Songornya has 15 new pumps, 17 bottles of oil, 8 wrench sets etc. The implications for the sustainable maintenance of their bikes is profound!

"Weíve done 11 of our one-day maintenance workshops so far this year, and pending serious requests add up to 40 more before December, (weíve never done more than 12 in one year.) George and the team are happy with the workshops; when I asked if he would be willing to do 16 more in the next six weeks, he replied modestly, 'that wonít be a problem.' The only obstacle appears to be funding. It will cost about $3000 we donít yet have....

"On my way home from Africa Iíll be presenting at World Carfree Network's Carfree Cities V conference, July 18-21, talking mostly about the project and rural African mobility, (with implications for African cities too.) The conference is in Budapest, Hungary, where Iím told that car use has tripled in a decade...."

Orcinus reports on the other end of the political spectrum: acting pious while doing nothing useful AND getting a good dig in at the opposition to boot.

An apology for past failure to act... and just by coincidence, it was southern conservatives (most of them Democrats, I suppose—DINOs?—but the MSNBC story didn't specify) using the dreaded filibuster to prevent action. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, and here the Democrats in the Senate are using the filibuster to prevent confirmation of our pals. Get it? Or are you still a little woozy from the bludgeon?

Here's another outfit lining up to pay Enron investors $2.2 billion, and you know after all that, they still won't be whole.

14.June.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Flag day lights, you might say You can call 'em what you like, but you can't call 'em ignerent: those foreign terrorists are more likely college-educated (in engineering, no less) than schooled in a madrassa.

Déjà vu: Nightmare on Phelps Street. What a sorry pimple that guy is on this country's butt.

I just spent a while—a good long while—cleaning out old messages from my out-of-control inbox. I left it with 771 messages and now "only" 51 unread. (It isn't that I haven't got to those 51, it's that they weren't urgent, but I still think they're worthwhile (apparently), just not for "right now.) It occurs to me that one of the innovations just waiting to take the world by storm is something that quietly, painlessly, and of course accurately cleans out all those emails that really aren't worth saving.

Sorting incoming newsletters and list traffic into folders helps. 319 of those messages are sorted around and unread, but when it comes time to clean 'em up, it goes a lot faster. Haven't read this newsletter in... how many months? Ok, delete the lot of 'em.

13.June.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Opinions differ on the shades of meaning in "Downing Street II." The NY Times' David Sanger leans toward "see, they hadn't decided!" when it looks more like "no political decisions" only meant "we haven't set the exact date yet."

"Military action was now seen as inevitable." July, 2002.

Krugman: "The great advantage of universal, government-provided health insurance is lower costs," "probably exceed(ing) $200 billion a year, far more than the cost of covering all of those now uninsured."

He suggests the key to getting it done this time will be to forget about appeasing the insurance lobby: "(G)ood economics is also good politics: reformers will do best with a straightforward single-payer plan, which offers maximum savings and, unlike the Clinton plan, can easily be explained."

Ted Koppel: Take My Privacy, Please! "TiVo does have a privacy policy. 'Your privacy,' it says in part, 'is very important to us. Due to factors beyond our control, however, we cannot fully ensure that your user information will not be disclosed to third parties.'"

11.June.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

10.July 1913 § Elmie Aurora (Erickson) Ross †10.June 2005

Wisconsin's Representative James Sensenbrenner is captain of his own ship, taking his gavel and going home if the opposition doesn't make arguments he feels are good enough. The argument "for" is that the USA Patriot Act—that prepared amalgam of everything authoritarian bureaucrats wanted that was passed with minimal inspection in the heat of 9/11—is exactly correct in every respect and must not be altered.

The Chair recognized himself to make the argument against, that the complaints were general, and not on the topic at hand.

Dembloggers' post-walkout snippet is worth viewing; it gets at the kind of exchange Sensenbrenner apparently sought to quash.

Yet another mad cow, but SecAg Johanns says "nothing to worry about," keep eating beef. Having the downer pass "three initial tests" and only show up in a special test half a year later is a bit disturbing, isn't it?

Something prompted me to look for a video snippet of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, and I see that it really is the best news (and immediate commentary) that's going these days. Wish we got that channel, we'd set the recorder. In the meantime, we'll make do with the selection of media player bits, and wish they'd choose a more robust format. (Our video goes blank if we adjust the volume [?] with the player control, or try to seek, etc. The only way I've seen to get it back is to start over.)

10.June.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Do you suppose some attorney from Gonzales' office will step up and tell Citigroup that they should only pay 2 or 5 cents on the dollar instead of the $2 billion settlement they agreed to for the class action suit brought by Enron investors? I suppose not, since unlike the tobacco settlement, this one wasn't a federal case. (But, "the settlement still must be approved by a federal judge in Texas.")

$2 bil, that's some real money. Not as much as they paid Worldcom investors last year, though. And nowhere near the $40B of losses the collapse of Enron caused... $40B worth of frothy bubble-mania that investors couldn't get enough of, right up until the collapse.

I forget what it was that made Billy Carter hit the news so big in the late 70s, but I'm pretty sure it had to do with wheeling and dealing and taking advantage of the family name for some financial gain.

I don't remember Jimmy being directly involved, the way that Georgie was for Jebbie in this Florida land deal. Something about the government offering to pay 3 to 20 times the value of some mineral rights it may have already owned, nicely timed to boost Jebbie's re-election campaign. (Thanks to for the news link.)

Just another passing scandal of the Bush Adminstration(s); don't pay it any mind.

Krugman, on Losing Our Country: "Since 1980 in particular, U.S. government policies have consistently favored the wealthy at the expense of working families - and under the current administration, that favoritism has become extreme and relentless. From tax cuts that favor the rich to bankruptcy "reform" that punishes the unlucky, almost every domestic policy seems intended to accelerate our march back to the robber baron era."

The "politics of envy," "class warfare" and the "death tax" are the milestones of a successful linguistic attack on the way things used to be.

Speaking of class warfare, it's always a good day to listen again to Terry Gross' interview of Grover Norquist to understand one of the truly facile brains behind the subtle and not-so-subtle use of language to alter government. It's the old reverse hook, accusing others of cheating to distract them from what you're doing. How about... comparing the morality of a progressive tax structure to the morality of the Holocaust?

Or for those who would complain about the reduced flow of Federal funds to states, "It is true that some incompetent politicians at the state and local level have argued that they're not getting as much money from the Federal government as they would like. It is probably true they're not getting as much money from the Federal government as they would like. I am looking at a chart that shows the growth of federal grants to the states, uh, in 2000, up 5%, up 10% in 2001, up 10% in 2002 and up 15% in 2003. Um, I know that the politicians at the state and local level that do not do their jobs well like to blame other people. So do 4-year-olds. We don't put up with it in 4-year-olds, and we shouldn't put up with it in incompetent mayors and incompetent governors."

9.Jun.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Cringely's column, "Going for Broke" sent me over to the Worldwide Developer's Conference and Steve Jobs' keynote speech rolling out their transition to Intel. Some very impressive stuff there, particularly the part about how they've been running their operating systems on both PowerPC and Intel chips for the last 5 years.

Jobs provides quite a dog and pony show, too: reps from Wolfram Research, Microsoft, Adobe came up and sang whatever praises Steve wanted them to, with a hug for Intel's CEO as the final punch line.

Cringely lists a lot of pointed unanswered questions, such as "Why announce this chip swap a year before it will even begin for customers" and risk clobbering hardware sales for the interim? As usual, he ends up with predictions that no one else is making. Yet.

8.Jun.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

our Russian olive tree hitting its spring stride I started smelling something sweet and wonderful on the air this weekend, thinking I was downwind from a rose patch. But it's bigger than that, and when itchy eyes and sniffles made me think about it some more, I realized the Russian olives were blooming. I don't mind the tradeoff, the allergy thing doesn't last all day.

What do you do when a government lawyer who's won his case against you hands you a $120 billion gift with no explanation? After you say "thankyouverymuch," you have to wonder what the hell is going on.

"We were very surprised," said Dan Webb, lawyer for Altria Group's Philip Morris USA and the coordinating attorney in the case. "They've gone down from $130 billion to $10 billion with absolutely no explanation. It's clear the government hasn't thought through what it's doing."

Here comes the other wiki: wikiHow, billing itself as "the world's largest how-to manual," and propelled by this month's Wired feature by Joanna Glasner.

The founder, Josh Hannah: "Everybody knows how to do at least a handful of things really well, and there really hasn't been a great channel for people to create lasting, useful documents." It's no so much the creation as the distribution that was lacking. Paper and ink are plenty durable but not so easy to share with millions of friends and neighbors. We're not quite home free, though: Hannah hasn't found a business model for this any more than he did with eHow; he says the site is a "big money loser."

In the meantime, will it take the magic out of the world? The Warnings section for How to Perform the Balducci Levitation notes "Try not to give away your secret."

You may need some magic to find something in particular on the wiki side of the house: the eHow tab has a topical index à la Yahoo! but the community section seems to favor the random and aimless browse-for-entertainment.

"The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."
The Downing Street memo
Ken Mehlman ducking and weaving on the Downing Street memo. The Big Lie is reasonably likely to work, too: everything against us has been totally discredited, haven't we told you that over and over? What, are you slow?

A friend who pays too much attention (perhaps) to verbal idiosyncrasies once told me that he is always suspicious when someone says "to be frank," or "to be perfectly honest," or the like. The implication is that previous statements haven't been frank, or haven't been perfectly honest. When George Bush responds to questions about "fixed" intelligence on Iraq/WMD by saying "there's nothing farther from the truth," it would seem to be a perfect example.

It's all of a piece, you know. This just in, the chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality ("a lawyer with a bachelor's degree in economics, he has no scientific training"), formerly the "climate team leader" and a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute, "repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming."

What does he have to say for himself? The White House doesn't want us to know: "We don't put Phil Cooney on the record. He's not a cleared spokesman." Just an editor.

If you're jaded by the thousands of images of Mars, or the fact that the rovers have outlasted their expected lives by 5 times, try this: a dust devil, seen on another planet.

5.6.7 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Raich and Monson fought the law, and the law won. Ugly. The Supremes made a mess of themselves in the process, defeating Liberty and clobbering the Constitution by overturning the Ninth Circuitís decision that the Controlled Substances Act "could not... be applied to the noncommercial possession or use of marijuana for medical purposes in California," as it would "exceed Congressís power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause of the United States Constitution." (Solum)

Killough: "It was as though they were saying: 'We don't like the federal government intruding into states, and we cannot really find a legal reason to support it, but we sincerely support the federal drug war, and will do everything we can to preserve it. As long as you can make it a medical exception, we're fine with leaving it up to the states, no matter how much it undermines the rule of law.'"

And from the Volokh Conspiracy, "It seems we do to some extent live under a system where the personal preferences of the Justices, having nothing to do with the history, text, or logic of the Constitution, dictate when the Supreme Court will or will not intervene to overturn particular regulations."

In terms of morality, Christianity and Intelligent Design, I want to know what the heck marijuana is doing on our planet anyway. Just teasing? The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that we were never supposed to touch?

We already know that it makes Barbara Walters uncomfortable, and we suppose that John Ashcroft must likewise be discomfited by the sight of breasts being bandied about. But hey, it's for their intended purpose, so get used to it.

And what could be more American than an economic incentive? "The American Academy of Pediatrics urges women to feed their babies only breast milk for the first six months, and continue breast-feeding for at least an additional six months. If its recommendations were followed, the group estimates that Americans would save $3.6 billion in annual health care costs because breast-fed babies tend to require less medical care."

The NYT editorial board, on The Bush Economy: "(I)t is hard to imagine anyone supporting the notion of taking money from programs like Medicaid and college-tuition assistance, increasing the tax burden of the vast majority of working Americans, sending the country into crushing debt - and giving the proceeds to people who are so fantastically rich that they don't know what to do with the money they already have." Of course, you don't have to imagine all that....

05.6.6 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The G5 is hot. Too hot in fact, and the cool version is so far overdue that Apple is going to dump IBM/Moto and shift to Intel, according to the mainstream rumors. So "Wintel" becomes... "Macwintel"? Or maybe just a footnote to "Wintel" as Apple becomes an entertainment company the way HP became a printer company.

5.6.5 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The NYT story on Craigslist prompted me to go look at it, and discover that there's one for Boise. Just about free classified advertising. Nice.

Given that I'm not looking for anything at the moment, the wanted section is vaguely amusing. A church pew for indoor use. Used picket fence (does not need to be white:-). 25" or 27" PC monitor wanted. (Don't believe I've seen such a beast myself!) And the usual scum/scams: "wanted: people looking for work"

There are a variety of rants and raves too...

4.6.5 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Paul Krugman and Dan Okrent duke it out in the NYT Public Editor's Web Journal. You'd like to think the (now former) Public Editor could do a better job of holding his own against the offensive (to some) columnist, but I guess Krugman has his position because he writes well.

Okrent has the self-righteous dudgeon thing going, but isn't doing well at supporting his claims with facts (sorry, "only a fool or a supply-sider would eagerly engage in a debate on economics with Prof. Krugman" isn't an excuse, even though you make the point well), or defending the cheap shot in his farewell column.

3.June.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Bumblebee and spiderwort You probably thought it was mano a mano with bare knuckles, maybe knives at most. But no, the "American way of fighting" is now space weapons, according to chief of the Air Force Space Command Gen. Lance Lord.

Frances Fitzgerald writes in The New York Times, "For some time now the Air Force has been pressing the White House for a new national-security directive that would permit the deployment of space weaponry. A decision could come within weeks." If any administration can make the wrong decision, I'm sure the Bush administration can.

57-year old grandmother and middle school principal Cecilia Beaman: "I said what about my constitutional rights? And they said 'not at this point... you don't have any'."

It's one thing to have arbitrary rules mindlessly enforced by bureaucrats, but giving hired hands a badge and carte blanche to ignore the Constitution is incorporating terrorism into our system of government rather than protecting us from it.

2.June.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's not quite the same on the web as on the front page of today's Idaho Statesman, but you can see versions of Joe Jaszewski's color pictures of her in 4 of the "more than 50 outfits" she uses to teach different subjects to first-grade students at Jefferson Elementary school here in Boise. Her students aren't the only ones over the moon about Wanda Jennings, either: she's one of 45 (out of 50,000!) teachers who won a national "DisneyHand" Teacher Award this year.

H. Allen Orr provides a nice rundown of "our story so far" on the Intelligent Design controversy. I'd been provided a number of the puzzle pieces by a friend who's a big ID proponent, but Orr pulls the bigger picture together. This was the first I'd heard of the explicit Wedge Strategy and it helpfully explains the driving force behind an indefatigable rejection of conclusions from the corpus of biological understanding accumulated in the last two centuries:

"The mission of the Discovery Instituteís scientific wing is then spelled out: 'nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies.' It seems fair to conclude that the Discovery Institute has set its sights a bit higher than, say, reconstructing the origins of the bacterial flagellum."

Scientists should take note: I'm guessing not so many of them have a "five year strategic plan," let alone "20 year goals." "Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions."

Maybe some of this nasal spray would help:

"University students who inhaled the hormone in a nasal spray were discovered to be far more trusting of one another -- eager, in fact, to hand over money to strangers in investment deals.

"The results suggest trust can be bottled and used to forge commercial relationships. Oxytocin levels have long been known to spike with sexual climax or influence the production of mothers' milk, but the new study suggests they are also 'the biological basis of trust among humans.'"

Look for it in a Realtor® air freshener very soon.

More of the local angle on the Deep Throat story, from the Twin Falls Times-News, as everyone wants to find out all they can about Mark Felt.

"You can do anything you want to do, even if you're from Twin Falls, Idaho."

1.June.05 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I can just see the new Public Service Announcements: This is your brain. This is your brain on email. Any questions?

I got my first look at PBS' right turn with The Journal Editorial Report segment on evolution vs. ID, via the web. Interesting (but not very surprising) that WSJ editorial page editors stand in quite nicely for opponents to the evolutionary biology worldview, so two of them and one science commentator provided the familiar point/counterpoint format.

It would all be just a good comedy if it weren't for the fact that the idiots confusing critical thinking with "we can be critical too!" are wasting precious energy that should be spent on legitimate education. The point will not be lost on the rest of the world, and God will no longer be on our side when we are too addled with religious nonsense suffusing science class to compete with them. Richard Thompson's satisfied assurance that "Darwin's going down the tubes" will not seem so smug when our economy is flushed along with our ability to distinguish reality from myth and fantasy.

Case in point, from the transcript: "A recent CBS News poll found nearly 65% of Americans are in favor of teaching creationism along with evolution in schools. 37% favor banning evolution entirely." You do the math: 102% of Americans favor teaching creationism along with evolution or banning evolution entirely. What the heck are we doing with science-only education in science class then?

Google sightseeing. "Nuff said.

And you were just certain that the worst drivers were in your state (or, for those of us in Boise, your neighboring county). If you live in the northeast, that may be true, but out here in the northwest, we picked up the #1, 2 and 4 smartest spots out of 48 states and D.C. in the GMAC Insurance National Driver's Test.

"One out of five drivers doesn't know that a pedestrian in a crosswalk has the right of way." I grew up in the a big midwestern city, and the basic rule of survival was that you had to dodge all cars, and assume they would not slow down for you. (We did generally assume they wouldn't swerve toward us, though.)


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

Monday, 08-Jun-2009 09:31:42 MDT