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28.Feb.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"What is he, some kind of defeatist?" Permalink to this item

One of Paul Pillar's cohort writes on about the peril of selective reality, what used to be (still is?) referred to as "Groupthink." If you da man, and all you want to hear is upbeat good news, than that's all you'll hear. Even when it's dead wrong.

The military's not the only governmental body that's having problems enticing new recruits to join the fun: Linda Robinson and Kevin Whitelaw, writing in US News & World Report note the "triple hex of plummeting morale, a hemorrhage of field-tested veterans, and the drain of trying to counter a seemingly intractable insurgency in Iraq" is putting the hurt on the CIA's National Clandestine Service.

Admitting mistakes Permalink to this item

Speaking of defeatists, William F. Buckley writes about our Next Step in prose so turgid, one has to wonder why he's trying to disguise what he has to say. It's not a happy message, certainly, nor a happy admission for him? Even though our side is doomed in this war of misadventure, "President Bush will be seen commanding his troops to march on. He will speak of victory. One's guess is that there will be attenuation in the definition of victory."

Yes, one's guess is.

How sad that "his political reputation" is of more interest to bloviating gasbags such as Buckley than the thousands of dead left in the wake of Bush and his team's miscalculation.

27.Feb.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

But have you had sex with that woman? Permalink to this item

High water under the Glenwood Bridge, Feb.'06 Oh wait, wrong impeachment. This case for a new one comes out of rather more serious charges, as described at length by the minority report on The Constitution in Crisis. Harper's editor Lewis Lapham sums it up thusly:

We have before us in the White House a thief who steals the country's good name and reputation for his private interest and personal use; a liar who seeks to instill in the American people a state of fear; a televangelist who engages the United States in a never-ending crusade against all the world's evil, a wastrel who squanders a vast sum of the nation's wealth on what turns out to be a recruiting drive certain to multiply the host of our enemies. In a word, a criminal—known to be armed and shown to be dangerous. Under the three-strike rule available to the courts in California, judges sentence people to life in jail for having stolen from Wal-Mart a set of golf clubs or a child's tricycle. Who then calls strikes on President Bush, and how many more does he get before being sent down on waivers to one of the Texas Prison Leagues?

For $10, you can go to the Town Hall meeting this Thursday and join the discussion.

26.Feb.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Unitary Vice-executive Permalink to this item

Did Dick Cheney slip up in advertising the Executive Order that expanded the power of the Vice Presidency in his post-shooting debrief with Faux News? Or was he bragging? Sidney Blumenthal figures the "coup" was constructed with the help of then-counsel David Addington. (He's Scooter successor as Veep Chief of Staff now.) Section 1.3.a.1 puts the VPOTUS right behind POTUS in classifying power, while he's "in the performance of executive duties." 1.3.c.2 and 1.3.c.3 let VPOTUS delegate his power under the same circumstances.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf Permalink to this item

David Brooks' observation that the port flap is hysteria brings a fable of Aesop's to William Greider's mind: "A conservative blaming hysteria is hysterical, when you think about it, and a bit late. Hysteria launched Bush's invasion of Iraq. It created that monstrosity called Homeland Security and pumped up defense spending by more than 40 percent. Hysteria has been used to realign US foreign policy for permanent imperial war-making, whenever and wherever we find something frightening afoot in the world. Hysteria will justify the "long war" now fondly embraced by Field Marshal Rumsfeld. It has also slaughtered a number of Democrats who were not sufficiently hysterical. It saved George Bush's butt in 2004."

Jonathan Zimmerman argues that American newspapers should publish the cartoons because "Muslims may not enjoy the scrutiny, but they can handle it." On the other hand... they're only cartoons, and from what we have seen, they really don't have that much merit. Just because they annoy some people, and have been risable enough to incite riots is not a reason to give them more attention.

This is your life on Meth Permalink to this item

I remember the anti-drug ads as being slightly less ludicrous than Reefer Madness, but not any more persuasive or compelling. That was then. The "drug problem" is considerably more serious at this point, and the Montana Meth Project ads are gripping. No laughing matter.

Is there a human available? Permalink to this item

gethuman looks to be implementing the ClueTrain Manifesto, rather than just fashioning some high-minded text about the concept of de-corporatizing interactions. I got there courtesy of William Taylor's piece in the NYT Business section, Your Call Should Be Important to Us, but It's Not.

Countless chief executives pledge to improve their company's products and services by listening to the "voice of the customer." Memo to the corner office: Answer the phone!

That First Amendment Thingie Permalink to this item

You know how people start to look like their pets after a while? Or how some cars reflect the personality of the owner? Dwight Scarbrough has one of the latter, and his pickup's decoration is as patriotic as you can imagine. It rather defines "free expression." No parade flags, but he's got ribbons and bumper stickers and signs, and the proud declaration of his membership in Veterans for Peace Chapter 117, Idaho.


But it seems that some forms of expression are more protected than others, at least in the eyes of the Department of Homeland Security. The local pseudo-constabulatory showed up at Dwight's place of work earlier this month, set to enforce their interpretation of "The CFR. 41, CFR, 102, 74, 415," which apparently provides for no anti-war or anti-Bush bumper stickers (or "signs") on government property.

Happily, Dwight had the presence of mind to tape record the conversation that ensued, and share it with The Boise Weekly. (It's since been picked up nationally, by The Progressive, and muchos gracias to Lee Killough for that link.)

"Bottom line: My rights are very dear to me. I served my country to defend them," he says. "And one of the things I was defending was free speech. It's the First Amendment for a reason--not the last, not the middle. The first."

24.Feb.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Who needs a "Democrat" like this? Permalink to this item

In honor of Abraham Lincoln's birthday, good ol' Zell Miller came to Boise and sucked $25,000 from the local Republicans who must have reveled in the Schadenfreude of a "Democrat" who likes their party better than "his." Feh.

He's a spent gasbag as far as I'm concerned, without the courage of his conviction to admit he's changed parties. The Statesman's interview with him is perfectly forgettable, a bland selection of uninteresting opinions and this non sequitur in his "thoughts on Iraq":

I supported the president when he went into Iraq, and I still support the president. I think we've got to see this through and I think history is going to judge that we did the right thing and I think history is going to judge that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction.

History judges stature, probable causes and the like. Facts may come to light over time, but the Bush administration has worked much harder at keeping that from happening that helping make it happen. I have no doubt that if there were even slightly plausible evidence in favor of there having been WMD, it would have been thumped to beat the band long ago.

Our misadventure in Iraq is more likely to be judged the blunder of the century.

23.Feb.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Abandon ship? Permalink to this item

Was it success or failure that had so many fathers, I forget? Francis Fukuyama is bailing out, and using both barrels for his fussilade, to the undisguised glee of those who thought the necon agenda was looney from the get-go. F. was a charter member of PNAC, however, close buddies with Wolfowitz and others of the first rank. Now... he's drawing parallels between their approach to world domination and Lenin's, only not so generously. "It seems very unlikely that history will judge either the intervention itself or the ideas animating it kindly," Fukuyama wrote in the NYT Mag last week, speaking of the Iraq war.

Telling those who thought his last big book was the neocon Bible that they were sadly mistaken, we now read:

The End of History is in the end an argument about modernization. What is initially universal is not the desire for liberal democracy but rather the desire to live in a modern—that is, technologically advanced and prosperous—society, which, if satisfied, tends to drive demands for political participation. Liberal democracy is one of the byproducts of this modernization process, something that becomes a universal aspiration only in the course of historical time.

"The End of History," in other words, presented a kind of Marxist argument for the existence of a long-term process of social evolution, but one that terminates in liberal democracy rather than communism. In the formulation of the scholar Ken Jowitt, the neoconservative position articulated by people like Kristol and Kagan was, by contrast, Leninist; they believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States. Neoconservatism, as both a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.

So what comes After Neoconservatism?

We need to clean up the mess, first. "The legacy of the Bush first-term foreign policy and its neoconservative supporters has been so polarizing that it is going to be hard to have a reasoned debate about how to appropriately balance American ideals and interests in the coming years." Gee, you think?

Overreaction to fatal blunders is "an indulgence we cannot afford," however, and we must now chart a course between neoconservatism (now "indelibly associated with concepts like coercive regime change, unilateralism and American hegemony") and "realism"

We need "new ideas," and perhaps his book due this month will have some beyond describing how badly the ones he used to subscribe to have turned out.

"(W)e have to shift our focus to the reform, reorganization and proper financing of those institutions of the United States government that actually promote democracy, development and the rule of law around the world, organizations like the State Department, U.S.A.I.D., the National Endowment for Democracy and the like."

21.Feb.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Road trip Permalink to this item

Multnomah Falls, in February We had better weather than we had any right to expect for traveling from Boise to Port Townsend this weekend. A little bit of blowing snow and slush in the Blues on the way up, some ice over Umtanum Ridge, but sunny and clear over Snoqualmie and then dry from end to end for the way home, via Portland and The Gorge.

Our friend Charlie said we should stop by Multnomah Falls, because it would be decorated in ice. Good call.

Enjoy your meal Permalink to this item

It turns out that's not just waiterly phatic, but rather spot-on medical and nutrition advice. You get more from food that you savor.

Reclassified Permalink to this item

The implementation of the Memory Hole in the age of Google and the Internet Archive is not going to be easy, but that won't stop some from trying. (To say nothing of the ironically named Memory Hole itself: intended to combat the bureaucratic urge to bury mistakes.)

12 days before the Chinese crossed into North Korea, the CIA provided an "intelligence estimate" (talk about ironic naming) saying that "a consideration of all known factors leads to the conclusion" that intervention by the Chinese "is not probable in 1950." Is discussion of this now-laughable blunder affected by reclassification? Am I breaking a law here, and thus available for rounding up on an as-needed basis? Or is someone in the halls of spookery just trying to reinstantiate SNAFU in our working lexicon?

It's said one should never infer malice where stupidity provides an adequate explanation, but you have to wonder.

16.Feb.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Your devotion is frightening Permalink to this item

Idaho's Senate did its part to help the state join the anti-gay marriage chorus. Just having gay unions be illegal wasn't enough for a lot of people in this state, and they feel the need to make it anti-Constitutional to boot. (Anybody seen an activist Judge around here lately?) The voters will get to decide the question with this November's ballots. A simple majority (no pun intended, but there it is) is all that's needed for the amendment to pass.

"Shall Article III, of the Constitution of the State of Idaho be amended by the addition of a new Section 28, to provide that a marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state?"

The sponsor of the bill, Senator Bob Geddes, tells us "The measure will preserve all rights afforded Idahoans. There will be nothing taken away." That was easy, wasn't it Bob?

Marty Trillhaase of the Idaho Falls Post Register pointed out that our original Constitution kept Mormons from voting, serving on a jury or holding any civil office. Chinese, people of Mongolian descent and Indians who "had not severed their tribal relations" were thrown in for good measure. The prohibitions were never enforced (thanks to the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution), but they were on the books for 92 years.

Now we're fixing to put a new blot on our record for this new century.

Let's hope this gives Gay-fearing married couples the strength they apparently need to maintain their nuclear families against the radioactive onslaught of loving commitment by same-sex couples..

Whirl and shoot Permalink to this item

Cheney breaks silence and admits the stunningly obvious: it was his fault. And he was sober. (Just a beer at lunch.) Still trying to figure out how he got that tight pattern and great penetration with a 28 ga. at 30 yards on a cool day, but we hardly expect anyone in the party (or the owner-spectator) to start talking about it.

Dick spoke from the "Vice President's Ceremonial Office," if you can believe that, to Fox News, if you can believe that. The decision to have his friend, hostess and supporter tell the Corpus Christi Times? Well, who's going to believe the Vice President's account, Cheney said. Hard to argue with him there. And the local newspaper? It struck him "that the Corpus Christi Caller-Times is just as valid a news outlet as The New York Times is, especially for covering a major story in south Texas."

At least he owned up to responsibility for what happened. "(I)t was not Harry's fault. You can't blame anybody else. I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend. And I say that is something I'll never forget." Worst day of his life.

♥.Feb.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Dark times in the Long War Permalink to this item

Seymour Hersh spoke at BSU last night, part of this year's Distinguished Lecture Series. Hersh is the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was instrumental in breaking the My Lai story from the Vietnam war, and the Abu Ghraib scandal in 2004, and is the author of Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib.

Of George Bush, Hersh said "I don't think he's cynical; he's absolutely committed to a cause." "A revolutionary." He sees himself as the man who's going to change the world. He's not going to stop. He's got no information, he's isolated himself and/or been isolated.

The two most stupid things we did in the latest Iraq war: we rebuilt the Abu Ghraib prison, and we moved into the Green Zone, replacing Saddam Hussein's autocratic and brutal regime with our own.

He said the Army's estimate is that more than 70% of the prisoners we're holding have no business being detained. Local informants were happy to identify "culprits" for purposes of extortion, or revenge. Less generous independent estimates are that 90% of the prisoners are wrongfully detained.

The practice of sexual humiliation that led to the scandal when revealed started in September of 2003, when we were trying to "get more out of the prisoners," to undertand Iran's participation, and the "chatter" that would expand into the full-blown insurgency we continue to fight. October, November, December... no one stopped what was going on at Abu Ghraib. It was January before the oddball who didn't fit in with the gang turned in a CD full of photos.

What didn't happen between January 22d, the date Rumsfeld testified (in May) he told Bush what was going on, and late April when the story broke was... anything to stop it. BUSH DID NOTHING. That's the story of the scandal, but it's easy to miss what doesn't happen. Reporters are biased to report what does happen.

And as if Abu Ghraib weren't enough to poison the water between us and the Middle East for a generation, we have Extraordinary Rendition, 100 teams of commandos around the world, ready to violate sovereignty and kidnap anyone we deem necessary. With impunity. We keep statistics. One of the "rights" our current administration claims for itself, "to protect the American people."

This administration is not so good at managing, but it's A-number-one at the spin machine.

Time to try an alternative? Permalink to this item

Nice piece by our county party chairman, Brian Cronin: Maybe Democrats' values are more in line with your own. "(A)fter a decade of Republican domination in Idaho, it's safe to say that the very same culture of corruption has taken root in the Gem State." Examples are unfortunately easy to come by.

Yet another war we shouldn't start Permalink to this item

Patrick Buchanan was strident against going to war against Iraq, and his objections to the adventure (as well as my own) have been borne out. Not surprisingly, he's not keen on attacking Iran, either.

Responsibility, and Harry Whittington Permalink to this item

Molly Ivins looks at the not so funny part of this story, and provides a tribute to Whittington, more appreciated with him back in the ICU with heart problems from some of the shot from Cheney's gun. Ivins

was offended by the never-our-fault White House spin team. Cheney adviser Mary Matalin said of her boss, "He was not careless or incautious [and did not] violate of any of the [rules]. He didnít do anything he wasnít supposed to do." Of course he did, Ms. Matalin, he shot Harry Whittington.

Which brings us to one of the many paradoxes of the Bush administration, which claims to be creating "the responsibility society." Itís hard to think of a crowd less likely to take responsibility for anything they have done or not done than this bunch. Theyíre certainly good at preaching responsibility to others—and blaming other people for everything that goes wrong on their watch.

13.Feb.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Veep who couldn't shoot straight Permalink to this item

What, like I'm going to be the only blogger who doesn't weigh in on Dead-eye Dick? I don't think so. I was prepared to let the late night boys have their way with him and just keep quiet, but then I was reminded that this was the guy who made fun of John Kerry shooting a goose during the campaign.

I don't suppose the real story is going to be leaked on this one. Just use your imagination as best you can: Hunting buddy wanders off and then sneaks up on the Veep—and his Secret Service detail?—flushes up some little gray birds, and Cheney whirls around and yanks the trigger. Oopsadaisy! And then gosh, since this all happened on private property, we won't bother mentioning it to anyone unless somebody happens to ask. Maybe our hostess will tell us what she saw while sitting in the car.

Start your own headline collection:
"Questions Raised about Cheney Hunting Accident"
"Cheney Hunting Accident Spotlights Safety Issues"
"Hit me with your best (buck) shot"
"Cheney hunts quail and everyone else ducks"

And the winner is... Dan Froomkin, in The Washington Post, for "Shoots, Hides and Leaves"

11.Feb.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Some work to do on his way out the door? Permalink to this item

This should fix the problem with cronyism and corruption: the GOP will put a new man on the Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department. SoCal Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham made a seat available by pleading guilty to charges relating to $2.4 million in bribes for favors. Make way for DeLay!

Evil is Relative, Apparently Permalink to this item

Google implements the Memory Hole for China. What is the image of the Dalai Lama if makes it go away for a fifth of the world's population?

Making an Apple a Day More Likely Permalink to this item

Someday, sliced apples will replace sliced bread as the benchmark for neatest things, I suppose. I'll mark myself as old school by still preferring the whole fruit. (I'm not shy about the bags of Popeye spinach though; perhaps from the early childhood appearance on the Popeye show?)

I'm hardly immune to the snackability factor, and all those reprehensible feeding behaviors Mooallem describes apply to me along with the rest of the local mob. It's the living, respiring, whole being part that I like, the natural packaging, the durability, the shape, color, smell, sound. And that problematic left over, the future generation laced with cyanide. I like the challenge of minimizing the waste, delicately incising around the endocarp, the occasional sepal and stamen hanging on for the ride, holding on by the stem until it's ready for... delivery to a friendly composting spot.

I can admire the engineering and science going into a fruit factory, but for apples? Seems like gilding the lily to me.

The problem of pattern matching Permalink to this item

Surfing the Boise River, downstream from Fairview Ave that we're so darned good at it. We can find patterns anywhere, whether or not they're really there. Intelligent Design, for example. That's not this particular topic, though. It's another Cringely column, or rather a postscript in one.

He quotes "an old friend of mine who is conservative in the very best sense and knows what he is talking about," summarizing the most troubling aspect of NSA's electronic surveillance:

It's easy to see whatever pattern you're looking for. It's like curve fitting in the stock market -- looks beautiful historically and maybe even in the short run, but it's a disaster in the making. So we have these guys running the country who saw a non-existent pattern in Iraq that justified a war ... and now we're going to give them software that will make it easy to create the illusion of patterns of conspiracy.

Your friend from the NSA was right, but it's worse than he suggests. It's not just that social network analysis casts a wide net. It's that without oversight by people who really grasp the mathematics and have some distance from the whole thing, they're going to see patterns where there aren't any.

They have a history of that.

Death of the 'net. Film at 11 Permalink to this item

Perhaps you've been getting the latest wave of email advocacy promotions for protecting the internet? I've been skipping over them, figuring it was another urban legend getting started, but there might actually be something underfoot this time. Robert X. Cringely provides a useful analysis, describing the wildly successful system we have as a "Best Effort" network with premium quality (but not necessarily timeliness). The proposal from some big industry players is new "diamond lanes" that they can get people to pay (extra!) for.

The scenarios that have been presented so far are a) either overbuild at huge expense or b) grant network providers the right to sell premium packet space. That's it. But what we ought to be doing is leaning on our real advantages and simply writing smarter applications that deal with the problems.

There are some technical details, but the Big Picture he summarizes sounds familiar enough:

These companies want protection yet offer little or no reason why they ought to be protected—especially since the very protection they seek hurts the network they ostensibly see as the source of their future success.

10.Feb.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Warning: sticky meme Permalink to this item

Perhaps worse than the sticky tune, which can be driven out with another. How are you going to get rid of this? 'W' is the only polysyllabic letter. Check it out. A, B, C, D, EFG... Read it (aloud) and weep: w w w dot... (I've tried "three dub" from time to time, and always got quizzical looks. I'm doing my part to free double-yous by having not require the webbly prefix for its hostname.)

Strange idea
f/k/a's fine haiku
might help

Cliché killer snowclones Permalink to this item

Surfing the Language Log turns up lots of interesting stuff, but caveat lector: now that I know about snowclones, how can I write anything cute without being clichéd anymore?

Cadillac King Welfare Cheats Permalink to this item

It's not corruption that led to $493 million in royalty payments being withheld, just business as usual: collect as soon as you can, pay as slowly as you can. 38 of 41 righted their accounts when notified by the government that the "royalty relief" they'd assumed was off, due to prices being above thresholds in 2004. (Hey, just because you're making record $billions in profit doesn't mean you stop looking for relief!)

Three did not, according to The New York Times' report:

"We pride ourselves on operating legally," said John Christiansen, a spokesman for Kerr-McGee, which is based in Oklahoma City. "Now the Interior Department is claiming it has the power to cancel royalty relief granted by Congress."

Mr. Christiansen said Kerr-McGee would fight the case if the government did not back down. "We'll take this issue to the federal court system if necessary," he said.

River run Permalink to this item

Boise river at night, 4,000 cfs over the weir above Americana They've turned up the tap past 4,000 cfs, and things along the river are getting their feet wet. I'd been meaning to get down there during the day, but kept forgetting, so on our way home from listening to The Coats last night, we took a Greenbelt stroll to the weir just above the Americana bridge, and I tried some night photography. Next time, bring a tripod for more flexibility, I suppose, but I liked one of the three shots I tried. I set the camera on the concrete sidewall, looking through the chainlink fence (since no opening presented itself), and took about a 12 second exposure.

You can see the shadow of the fence, and us, cast by the lights of the building behind us. The moon's coming full, and I'd imagined it was going to be a moonlit shot, but realized the city is more about city lights.

(Speaking of The Coats, they were wonderful, and I see they keep a sort of blog of their tour going on their home page. This morning, last night's performance is recapped. Turns out we were a few rows behind Doug's family holding down the third row.)

8.Feb.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

11 dead for cartoons Permalink to this item

The NY Times timeline of events, starting with Sept. 17th last year ("Politiken, a Danish newspaper, reports that a writer cannot find an illustrator for a book about the Prophet Muhammed, because artists fear reprisals from extremists") has this entry for Feb. 3rd: "The International Association of Muslim Scholars calls for a "day of anger." In Gaza, 50,000 people demonstrate. Protestors in London call for execution of those who insult Islam."

In other news, "Iran's top-selling newspaper launched a competition this week to find the best cartoon about the Holocaust."

These are supposed to be some sort of religious responses?

The French weekly, Charlie Hebdo, says it'll be happy to increase its circulation with the Holocaust stuff, too. (It's up 4X for the latest issue.)

7.Feb.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Dialing for (and against) Dollars Permalink to this item

The automated dialers did a lot of work before Tuesday's library bond election in Boise. Our household ended up collecting at least half a dozen, split between pro and con. When the first poll results were put up, it was 40-60 against; somebody convinced a lot of absentee voters to vote no. By the time 10 precincts were counted (totalling 2500 votes with the absentees) it was approaching 50-50, still far from the 2/3rds majority needed to pass.

The percentage crept up and briefly surpassed 57, but then fell back. With 74 of 80 precincts counted at about 10pm, 8,852 in favor, but the 6,697 "no" votes are going to rule the day.

Killer Cartoon Questions Permalink to this item

How to explain the murderous outrage over caricatures? How to respond to a religion that takes itself so seriously that its need for "dignity" must trump the rights to free expression around the world? Is it possible to blaspheme against a faith you don't have? Do we owe allegiance to a mob? From the NY Times report:

An official at a religious affairs ministry in the United Arab Emirates, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "You have no choice but to join the chorus. Anyone who doesn't speak up will look as if they tacitly accept the prophet to be insulted."

Do you really believe the prophet can be insulted by cartoons when governments are supporting rioting that kills people, busing in "protestors"?

Everything's just fine, we're looking out for you Permalink to this item

Jim Lehrer had a "newsmaker interview" with Vice President Dick Cheney today, and Dick wore his flag pin on his lapel, just so we knew where his loyalties lie.

Dick Cheney believes that he and his administration has "all the legal authority we need" for the spying program. (Just ask his Attorney General, he'll tell ya.) He "believes" that the sacrifices his administration have made to civil liberties are justified, because "thousands of lives have been saved." But he can't give any factual basis to support such a belief. That's all confidential. Questions we have that weren't asked include "isn't that impossibly too convenient for you, Mr. Vice President? I mean, you tell us you're going a great job, but the facts supporting your claim are all secret?"

It's a "tragedy" that we're now discussing the spying program; it may not be as effective as it used to be. "We haven't been attacked in over 4 years," the Veep notes, and he's prepared to (a) infer that it was because of actions we've taken, and (b) take the credit for it. He's also prepared to blame those who have lifted the rock and shined the light under it, just as soon as the next attack occurs. He also believes "the vast majority of the American people support this program." But he can't give any factual basis to support such a belief, of course.

They can't tell all of the members of Congress who are in responsible positions, because we can't trust all the members of the Intelligence Committees to keep our secrets. Hummm. They just brief eight: the Speaker, the majority and minority leaders, the chairmen and ranking members of the Intelligence committees.

Don't you want to attack Iran, Mr. Vice President? Aren't they more dangerous than Iraq actually was when we invaded that country? Do you regret your ludicrous estimate that the insurgency was in its "last throes"? Nope, confident history will support our notion that 2005 was the turning point.

Bush's Attorney General Permalink to this item

The LA Times editorial board pans Alberto Gonzales' performance before Congress:

It's hard to say what's more disturbing: the attorney general's unsound legal reasoning or his transparent efforts to avoid a legal conversation altogether in favor of emotional appeals aimed squarely at the court of public opinion. Practically the first words of his opening statement were: "Al Qaeda and its affiliates remain deadly dangerous."

As several senators reminded him, the hearings are not a contest to see who hates Al Qaeda more. They're to find out about the NSA's secret program and to see whether the White House accepts any restraints on its power. If the attorney general can't be independent, the least he can do is explain the law.

The NYT editorial board described Gonzales' act as "a daylong display of cynical hair-splitting, obfuscation, disinformation and stonewalling," given without the formality of his taking an oath to tell the truth. Not that that would have mattered: he wasn't telling anything.

Church? State? Separation? Permalink to this item

Competing expressions of piety to open the the Boise City Council session, as seen on local access TV. A prayer? To "Father God"? Man, that's offensive. And the Cub Scouts troop in (tuck in your shirts, boys) to lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance. "Under God," thankyouverymuch.

Local boy makes it big with cabal and conspiracy Permalink to this item

Our representative to the House of Representatives, Mike Simpson, is close buds with new Majority Leader John Boehner, and hoping to parlay that friendship to greater power. Dan Popkey describes the secret he's been holding for 2 years: "(Simpson) was part of a cabal conspiring against DeLay."

"It's not that I don't like Tom," Simpson's quoted by Popkey, "and I'm not speaking ill of the dead, but he's not the face we needed for the party."

I can just hear Tom DeLay in a Monty Pythonesque voice, "I'm not dead yet!" Maybe not, but Boehner and Simpson are looking like a much stronger play than The Hammer at this point.

'Lection Day Permalink to this item

If you live in Boise, and you haven't voted yet, and you're in favor of a bond to finance building branch libraries GET OUT AND VOTE. You have until 8pm. Call the city clerk's office (384-3710) if you're not sure where to vote. (Some precinct locations have been changed for this election.)

Of course, if you oppose the bond issue, sit on your hands and stay home.

6.Feb.6 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The War on Science is still on Permalink to this item

Showy -- really showy -- Aloe at Quail Botanical Gardens Our new House Majority Leader is apparently a proponent of Intelligent Design, with his writing skills scoring high on the subterfuge scale. "Students are entitled to learn that there are differing scientific views on issues such as biological evolution," he infers.

Such as... such as? No, that one stands alone, I'm afraid. And by "differing scientific views," we of course mean "differing religious views." "Censoring" means the limiting of science class to discussion of science, and so on. Chris Mooney invites someone to ask Boehner The Question.

We don't negotiate with terrorists Permalink to this item

But William Lind suggests we missed a chance to "seize the moral high ground" by accepting Osama bin Laden's truce offering. Lind suspects the offer fulfilled the Koran's obligation "to offer such a truce before (Muslims) attack," but that no one seems to have taken it as alarm bells for another major terrorist act. No new color for the Terror Alert, for example. Maybe closer to the November election?

Did they use Diebold machines? Permalink to this item

It wasn't until I saw the Comedy Central treatment that I heard about the "voting irregularities" in the first ballot of the House majority leader election last week. But there it is: "Unfortunately, they found out that more ballots were cast than actual lawmakers in the room. They were afraid about voting irregularities, so they ended up having to do a revote." That "revote" was the second ballot, and it was the third that gave Boehner the nod. Blunt thought he had it in the bag on the first go.

Sublime and absurd support for Idaho marriages Permalink to this item

Last week's Idaho Reports reported on the controversy over the renewed attempt to amend Idaho's Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, now out of a House committee and ripe for another wave of public testimony.

Julianne Russell gave a beautiful statement as a teacher, wife and mother, with her family of seven (!) on display. She held one of the boys, and he was fidgeting with her hair and necklace, and she never missed a beat while speaking without notes. As a teacher, she asked if the legislators had really assessed any of the "thousands of studies," that proponents say are out there.

"As a wife, I can assure you that no one is capable of eroding the sanctity of my marriage, save for my spouse, and myself. To suggest that anyone else is responsible for the strength and sanctity of our union is to relieve us, and in my opinion rob us of our responsibility to our commitment. It has nothing to do with gender. It has everything to do with love, and fidelity, and a strength of commitment to the promises we made. We keep our union sacred. No one else."

Elise Barrett, of America's Renewal, gave the counterpoint reading from a script that she was "concerned about the society that my younger siblings are growing up in." She staked a big chunk of turf as "a representative of my generation," not in the least self-conscious about speaking for others, or using her self-proclaimed Representative status as a "reason to listen to my testimony."

"But the most most compelling reason to listen is because I speak the Truth. The interesting thing about Truth is that it can be discussed and debated. For our mental stimulation, we can discuss these issues... but Truth never changes; Truth remains the same, timeless and unchanging. Marriage is a God-given, divine institution..."

(If you can't get the web page's link to video to work, try this direct mms: URL, which is what I had to use to get it to go in either IE or Fx. This issue starts at about 16:00 in the half-hour show.)

One never-changing Truth Permalink to this item

Betty Richardson followed up on the Truth theme in the panel discussion of this latest attempt to amend Idaho's Constitution to make gay marriage even more illegal than it is now, with former legislator Henry Kulczyk giving the coded religious counterpoint:

Betty Richardson: ...We're talking about truth. The question is, "whose truth?" We live in a complex and diverse society, and Henry's truth and my truth are the same on a couple issues, but they're also different. But, should one of us have the right to tell the other that our truth is somehow to be imposed on the people as a whole? So I think this is a very divisive issue, and I also think that the sponsors of the bill knew, and I really do think this is all about politics, Republican party politics. I think the sponsors of the bill knew at the outset that they did not have the votes in the Senate, but "damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead." But I don't think the votes in the Senate are there, and I applaud the Republicans in the Senate who are standing up to the move by the far right and who are voting with the Democrats to defeat this legislation.

Henry Kulczyk: Well I want to take issue with Betty's comment a little bit about her truth being her truth, and my truth being my truth. Truth is truth. Now, she can have her view on an issue, and it may be true. And I could have the opposite view and it may or may not be true. But we cannot have opposite views and both be... have the truth. There's only one Truth. Though I'm sure Betty thinks she's right most of the time, and I, surely think I'm right most of the time—ask my wife—but...

BR: I'm open to the possibility that I might be wrong....

I was still thinking about this while listening to yesterday's sermon on the not-exactly related topic of "Art and Soul," and made some notes.

Can humans know "God" as they conceptualize "Him" (or Whatever)? Can humans conceptualize some thing they cannot fully know? It would seem to be the case.

We have no use for a God no larger and greater than we ourselves, and hence our understanding of that larger being is proscribed by our own limitations. In other human endeavors, we advance by shared learning, experience understanding: working together, we can know more, do more, learn more than we can alone.

And so we consider Truth. Is Truth relative, or absolute? Is there one Truth that we all come to know as best we can, or are there many Truths, as many as there are seekers after the Truth?

How would we know the difference? Who is to say what the One Truth is, if One Truth there be? We have books that some say contain--nay, embody--such a One Truth. But we cannot all read them as written; some recite from deeply embedded memory, giving their life and breath to Truth. Some settle for what partial translations they find.

There is more than one Book, more than one claim to One Truth, and no way to settle the question. Surely the first step on a path to wisdom is to recognize this fact and agree to consider the ramifications peacefully.

God is testing us, you might say. No "social promotion" in this school; we will be held back as long as we keep failing.

5.Feb.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Captain Smartypants Permalink to this item

The passing of a friend's father brought us tickets to a local fundraiser for BGLAD, featuring Captain Smartypants. They're fun, funny, and good. If you get a chance, check 'em out.

Stupor Bowl XL Permalink to this item

Here are the parts I remember from our little neighborhood get-together: the ejaculating Diet Pepsi cans, the send-up of the Carl's Jr. ad that managed to be even more obscene than the original (you know, the Lust and Gluttony one?) and for... a local mortgage company?! Mick Jagger actually sang rather than lip-synched, and his wrinkly buddies really played that old-time rock and roll, for all of two tired songs. I was hoping he'd bear one of his breasts for comedic effect, but that didn't happen. Just wholesome family entertainment between the commercials.

(Stuart Elliott was more impressed than I was with this year's crop and slathers kudos more generously than I. His list does remind me that I enjoyed the Busby Berkeley endup for BK, though.)

Oh, the game? That was alright, I guess. The M.V.P. was the guy with the stripy shirt and the R on his back. Bad calls racked up at least -7 points for the Seahawks, and probably 14 or more. Worst officiating I can remember seeing, ever. The red challenge flag could only turn one of the ridiculously bad calls around.

4.Feb.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Seymour Hersh comes to Boise Permalink to this item

Here's something for the local calendar: Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh will be in town and speaking at BSU's Distinguished Lecture Series, 7pm, Feb. 13th. "Chain of Command: From 9/11 to Abu Ghraib to Now" should be interesting. Get there early if you want a chance at one of the free seats!

IT out the door at GM Permalink to this item

$700 million here, $500 million there, after a while it adds up. To maybe $15B of information technology spending that General Motors is outsourcing. I was thinking "China and India," and it may well go there, but much of it transits through big multinationals on the way: EDS, IBM, HP (and Capgemini and Wipro and more).

Turn it up Permalink to this item

Hydrograph at the Glenwood Bridge, from the USGS Time to make way for the runoff from a larger-than-average mountain snowpack. The Boise River has been cranked up from 1,000 to over 3,000 cfs in the last couple of days, headed for 4,000 on Tuesday. (Still well below flood stage, though.) Our western groundhogs might have had a different take on the weather if they'd popped up on this week, with temperatures over 50°F on Wednesday and Friday. Chance of a thunderstorm today. I'm hoping that Wednesday's ride on new (and a bit heavy!) snow wasn't the last for the Bogus season.

Groundhog Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

And what of Punxsutawney Phil? Word is, he saw his shadow, so we're in for 6 more weeks. We like that out west, since essentially all our water comes in winter. An early spring means drought. We still have room for more than has come so far, although it's been a good winter to date.

Repubs Repudiate Scandal Permalink to this item

By a narrow margin: DeLay pal and protégé (and current majority whip) Roy Blunt didn't make it to Majority Leader. On Wednesday night, Blunt let out a list showing he had 100 of the 117 needed to win, and indeed he got 110 votes on the first ballot. That was confused by third-pace support for John Shadegg of Arizona, and the 110-to-79-to-40-to-2 (for Jim Ryun of Kansas, last know for running sub-4 minute miles in the 60s) result meant there needed to be a runoff.

Blunt lost one vote in that, and everyone else piled on the Boehner Bandwagon, for a 122 to 109 win.

Yesterday, 85 Republicans had voted in favor of opening all 7 leadership slots below Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, but 107 (gee, the same ones who voted for Blunt?) didn't want to clean House quite that much. ( NYT report)

1.Feb.06 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It finally sunk in... Permalink to this item

far enough for Mr. Bush to spell it out: "America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world."

So what should we do? "The best way to break this addiction is through technology." You think? What other addictions succumb to technological fixes? I think a change in attitude is the required first step, and I'm not convinced this administration has taken it.

I don't think "wood chips, stalks, and switch grass," or ethanol derived from them are going to get us out of the woods.

Tom Friedman called on Bush to proclaim an initiative on this subject beforehand. Afterwards, he had more to say on the subject than the 3 paragraphs and 2¼ minutes Mr. Bush could devote.

So far the democracy wave the Bush team has helped to unleash in the Arab-Muslim world since 9/11 has brought to power hard-line Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq, Palestine and Iran, and paved the way for a record showing by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. If we keep this up, in a few years Muslim clerics will be in power from Morocco to the border of India. God bless America....

(O)nce you sweep away the dictator or king at the top of any Middle East state, you go into free fall until you hit the mosque — as the U.S. discovered in Iraq. There is nothing between the ruling palace and the mosque.

The NYT editorial board put it directly: "This is not a matter to be lumped in a laundry list of other initiatives during a once-a-year speech to Congress. It is the key to everything else." (My emphasis.)

The health care initiative foundered Permalink to this item

Bush calls for more tweaks on the system, promoting health savings accounts that will help the well-to-do and leave a gaping hole in Americans' ability to find affordable insurance coverage. The only thing a piecemeal approach will do is enrich some well-positioned businesspeople. By the time this comes out of Congress it will be another convoluted ball of red tape and insufficiency.

We need universal, single-payer health care insurance.

The State of our Union Permalink to this item

2245 DEAD
How many more?
The current cultural norm is that "strong" must be at the end of the sentence (and there must be made-for-TV heroes in the gallery), but after reading Cindy Sheehan's account of getting the bum's rush last night, I have to infer that the Union is in a perilous state. The President sees his address to the Congress as all about him, no doubt, and his Secret Service agents are never in the mood for shenanigans.

I was prepared to make a positive interpretation of his speech, but perhaps it was because my attention drifted, surfing among the opinions concerning the tradition's irrelevance and the need for a wary audience.

But this. The alarm call, "Protestor!" We can't have that, now can we? Mr. Bush said "we have a duty to speak with candor," last night. I'm sure he'd love to have us speak with one voice, as in the rousing cheer both sides gave to his call for us to stand behind our military. What of sacrificing our military preparedness, our wealth, two thousand two hundred and forty five soliders on a misbegotten mission?

We are a house divided, and Mr. Bush has a lot to answer for in our division. Let us speak with candor.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Saturday, 04-Mar-2006 15:21:41 MST