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28.Feb.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Legislating Mischief Permalink to this item

One of the more laughably disingenuous arguments for closed primaries came from Marv Hagedorn, arguing that Democrats should want it so they get a say in the presidential nomination process, and that only closed primaries provide for our Consitutional freedom of association.

Hagedorn wasn't prepared to provide a legal opinion, nor did he have any actual facts to support the claim of the dreaded cross-over vote skewing party results. Do we need such niceties if the state's Republican Party is in favor of something?

But not even putting a catchy title on HB185 (the "Voter Empowerment Act") could make this pig fly. Jill Kuraitis' account of our Secretary of State reading The House State Affairs Committee the riot act over the most disappointing piece of legislation he's seen in 30 years is entertaining. Mike Butts' report that the committee apparently put a stake through it is a bit dry (Ysursa "pointed out" that "the bill needed tweaking"?!), but satisfying to hear the thing is out of action.

Speaking of freedom of association, wouldn't requiring exclusivity of party affiliation be unconstitutional, too? I mean, just because most of my friends are Democrats, why shouldn't I be able to be a member of both parties (or all parties, for that matter)? Can Democrats tell me I can't association with Republicans? Can the Republicans tell me I can't associate with the Greens? Or using Hagedorn's brilliant example, can't I be a member of both the Lion's and Kiwanis Clubs?

27.Feb.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Installing More Partisan Hacks Permalink to this item

Hearing Alberto Gonzales affirm so sincerely that he would never, ever fire anyone for political reasons provides an arresting insight to the man's loyalty, and sincerity. Given the obvious political motivations behind the purging of U.S. Attorneys, and their no-confirmation-needed replacements from partisan ranks, his indignation is incredible, at best. At worst, it demonstrates Gonzales' acting ability, and how comfortable he is expressing bald-faced lies to Congress.

Killer Kites Permalink to this item

Falling string, falling bullets, falling from rooftops... what a great way to celebrate spring, coming to Pakistan.

Just Need More Engineering Now Permalink to this item

The Whole Earth Catalog provided important underpinnings to my own coming of age, so John Tierney's "Findings" column on Stewart Brand's latest perambulations was a refreshing read. I always felt as if I straddled the realms of the scientific and the romantic, even after my two decade residence in the corporate world pushed me some distance from the latter.

"Any time that people are forced to acknowledge publicly that theyíre wrong, itís really good for the commonweal. I love to be busted for apocalyptic proclamations that turned out to be 180 degrees wrong. In 1973 I thought the energy crisis was so intolerable that weíd have police on the streets by Christmas. The times Iíve been wrong is when I assume thereís a brittleness in a complex system that turns out to be way more resilient than I thought."

Compare that to the utter fear the Bush administration has of admitting error, or the absolute certainty that comes from fervid belief in fantastical religious dogma. Take cover when the two of those are combined. I'm not one for apocalyptic forecasts, but if you play in a dynamite factory without understanding electrostatic discharge, Bad Things can happen. As resilient as our environment and our cultures have shown themselves to be, there does remain a pretty good chance that we'll blow things up. (On a grand scale that is, as opposed to the daily violence our current systems are producing.) Call me romantic on that score, I guess.

25.Feb.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Blind Justice's Worst Nightmares Permalink to this item

Out of the netherworld and into a courtroom, finally: José Padilla. How dangerous do you have to be to warrant 4 years of torture? Or to be driven insane? (Before you're convicted of anything; think of it as preventative punishment.)

The judge has ordered several prison employees to testify at the hearings on Padilla's mental state, which begin February 22. They will be asked how a man alleged to have engaged in elaborate antigovernment plots now acts, in the words of brig staff, "like a piece of furniture."

I Smell a Rat Permalink to this item

Seems like two-and-a-half days of deliberation should have been plenty to return a guilty verdict for Scooter Libby's perjury, but instead, the jury recessed for the weekend. Did the defense manage to get a mole in there? Or convince someone on the team that Libby's job was just so big and important and busy that he couldn't be expected to keep all those facts and stuff straight?

I'm guessing we find out earlier rather than later in the coming week.

Lost Focus Permalink to this item

Frank Rich's analysis of the current status of the War on Terror sounds a lot more astute than anything we've heard from Dick "questionable judgment" Cheney and his pals in the last 5 years. While the what attention remains is focused on whether to send more troops and resources to Iraq, or clear out, the real terrorists and the organization behind them, the Taliban, is resurgent in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 5 years after we lost the hunt and went to attacking a more familiar enemy, on a (temporarily, anyway) more easily managed battleground.

Supporting the troops? The surge? National security has become a forgotten priority in the political battle to save face and avoid admitting the enormity of mistakes that have been made.

Instead of showing resolve, as Mr. Bush supposes, his botch of the Iraq war has revealed American weakness. Our catastrophic occupation spawned terrorists in a country where they didnít used to be, and to pretend that Iraq is now their central front only adds to the disaster. As Mr. Scheuer, the former C.I.A. official, reiterated last week: "Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you want to address the threat to America, thatís where it is."

(A longer excerpt of Rich's column available from Editor & Publisher.)

Even without more pressing needs elsewhere, the specious claim that withdrawal equals defeat, and the bizarre notion that retreat is never a valid tactic, the assumption that "chaos will follow" our departure from Iraq might be as misguided (or misleading) as the assumptions that drove our arrival. Robert Dreyfuss examines it step by step in Washington Monthly: "(I)f it was foolish to accept the best-case assumptions that led us to invade Iraq, itís also foolish not to question the worst-case assumptions that undergird arguments for staying."

Indeed, there is ample evidence of the opposite of what the administration continues to assert: our continued occupation in Iraq inflames the sectarian violence even as it keeps our troops in harm's way and provides training opportunities for terrorists from the region.

24.Feb.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

What a Concept Permalink to this item

Ian Austen reports in the NYT: "Canadaís highest court on Friday unanimously struck down a law that allows the Canadian government to detain foreign-born terrorism suspects indefinitely using secret evidence and without charges while their deportations are being reviewed."

"The overarching principle of fundamental justice that applies here is this: before the state can detain people for significant periods of time, it must accord them a fair judicial process," Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote in the ruling.

23.Feb.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A World Free of Nuclear Weapons Permalink to this item

One of those wild-eyed, bleeding-heart liberal ideas... from George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn. And of course Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. Having won the Cold War, and toasted the success of Mutual Assured Destruction as a deterrent, we now face a world where non-state actors aspire to obtaining a nuclear weapon, and would presumably be willing to ride it out, à la Slim Pickens.

(I missed the original in the WSJ last month; Sunday's NYT Magazine will have a feature on one of the authors, Sam Nunn, and his Nuclear Threat Initiative, a private attempt to kick-start a process that governments can't seem to prioritize.)

Something We Can All Agree On Permalink to this item

The Idaho House expressed a unanimous, 69-0 opinion that the RealID plan was really a bad idea, and that they were opposed to sacrificing essential civil rights and liberties on the way to "securing our country."

Do read the whole memorial, but I'll highlight one of the clauses, that makes for an interesting message from one (little) Legislature to another (big one):

WHEREAS, the REAL ID Act passed without sufficient deliberation by Congress and did not receive a hearing by any congressional committee or a vote solely on its own merits, despite opposition from more than six hundred organizations...

Our Butch governor didn't think it was a big deal when he had a chance to vote on it in Congress, but with more information is fully opposed as well.

Punching Out Permalink to this item

Palm petioles in Solana Beach, January 2007 One of the local slogans is that "Idaho is what America was," implying that it's also what some might still like, as in "the good ol' days." It's true enough for voting systems: today's daily says that Idaho is the last state to use punch-card ballots, and now they're being phased out. It seems the Help America Vote Act has something to do with us getting rid of an inexpensive, simple, and reliable (for us, if not Florida) system. The replacement system, optically scanned paper ballots, doesn't have the security problems that systems like the "we will deliver Ohio" electronic Diebold model offers, but it is slower, costlier, and consumes more space (and paper) than what we have now.

Tell me again why changing a system's that's working is a good idea? Oh right, "only one man in the nation repairs the machines, and the ballot supply is dwindling."

Bonneville County is bucking to be the last county to stick with what they have, I guess until the ballots run out.

Ambitions of Empire Permalink to this item

That's what Dick Cheney says those evil terrorists have, outlining the latest version of the Domino Theory: if Iraq goes, we're looking at the first step toward "a [new] caliphate" that would cover Spain, North Africa, the Middle East, "South Asia all the way to Indonesia—and it wouldn't stop there."

There's a fair stretch between one's visions and reality however, as one need look no further than down the page of Cheney's remarks to see.

"If our coalition withdrew before Iraqis could defend themselves, radical factions would battle for dominance of the country," he said.

Unlike the situation now, replete with enormous successes, and our "much safer" world.

22.Feb.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Miss Recollected Permalink to this item

Yeah, I think she used to work in the Vice-President's office too, right next to Scooter. I'm sorry I couldn't be there for the sob-soaked conclusion of Ted Wells' closing argument in Libby's perjury trial.

"If it turned out that what he said was wrong that doesnít mean he is a liar. It means he may have misrecollected what happened."

Indeed, the prosecution outlined his claims of misrecollection as "he forgot nine conversations with eight people over a four-week period." That's a really bad memory, eh?

No New Mushroom Cloud Over Nevada, for now Permalink to this item

It wasn't for technical reasons, and the draft Environmental Impact Statement assured us that there was nothing to worry about, but the DOD decided to scrub the Divine Strake experiment, a huge, non-nuclear dust-up over Nevada, to gain some knowledge about "bunker busting." Are we less secure in the resulting ignorance of what a really, really big bomb would do? Ah, probably not.

I'd like to think the "flood of public opposition" (as the SLC Tribune put it) was what made the difference, but it's not as if this administration and the Department of Defense under it has really been responsive to that, so it's hard to know.

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? Permalink to this item

We can forgive them their confusion if they're depending on a Microsoft operating system.

I suppose in the ancient past, there were System Administrators who would always set the clock ahead or back as and whenever called for. Later, there were Un*x systems, that used a lookup table and applied offsets from the steady heartbeat of GMT, depending on a setting that stated what timezone the system was in.

Was it 1995 when Microsoft figured out that computer systems could automagically reset the clock when a daylight savings time boundary was crossed? Not entirely: many years since, the clock management in various Windows versions and MS applications leaves something to be desired. Appointments changing time because daylight savings time started?! File modification times changing because two different time systems could not be managed?

And now that wacky Federal Government of ours has decreed an early start to DST this year, throwing the boys and girls in Redmond for a loop. They sent me email, reminding me about the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and what will happen on March 11. Sort of; they didn't actually come out and say "March 11." They said "these changes may impact the way applications run," and told me there'll be an update.

For further assistance, they sent me links to still more things I could read, none of which appear to be simple, direct, or to the point. The nut of it is this: "Prior to Windows Vista, Windows offered support for only a single set of adjustment rules."

Since "adjustment rules" have changed several times in recent decades, one implication is in the next sentence: "This meant that daylight saving time rules can be applied to any date to generate a historical DST value (regardless if it was accurate)."

How convenient! We can always produce an answer, even thought it may not be correct. This is apparently from the business school that says being decisive is better than being right. "Better the wrong decision than no decision at all."

The "Knowledge Base" article on the subject is on revision 10.2, the 16th change since the November original. If I were betting, I'd bet there'll be more changes before (or maybe after) March 11.

21.Feb.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Time for a Bit of History Permalink to this item

Robert Newman provides a recent history of oil in a crunchy, comedic shell, explaining a bit more about how we found our way to Iraq. Again.

What Will They Think of Next? Permalink to this item

Car and truck bombs combined with chlorine gas is today's surprise, or perhaps it's finding out that this particular innovation has been in circulation for almost a month. Helicopters being shot down are regular news, too. Innovation in guerilla war, with the occupying army the target du jour, and our war for regime change and increased security is spiraling further into arrears.

20.Feb.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Whose Tax Gets Gored? Permalink to this item

As lobbyists work to get and hold the attention of Idaho's lawmakers, said attention seems to stray from the people's business. Every time the state tax structure gets re-jiggered, it seems to be re-jiggered in favor of business interests. Last year, it was co-opting the outrage over rapidly escalating property taxes. This year, it's making sure that the grocery tax relief is circumscribed, to make sure there's enough slack to do away with the the "personal" property tax levied on business.

The argument for reducing tax on business is that people, not businesses, always end up paying taxes. The argument against reducing this particular tax on this particular state's businesses could be that the cash flow in and out of the state and in and out of the pockets of this state's citizens don't necessarily balance out.

I don't know how it all balances out; I do know that the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry has better connections and gets better results from its lobbyists than any of the people's people.

Slow Boil Permalink to this item

Part II of Frontline's News War, watching the recap of the pillorying of the press... for what was it, again? Oh yeah, exposing illegal spying, secret prisons, torture, that sort of stuff. Mr. Bush, telling us it was a "shameful act." No, not any particular shameful act itself, but the press revealing the shameful acts of this administration. A cocked-up program to start an undeclared war creates a "time of war" that justifies any manner of shameful acts. It's "vital intelligence" and treasonous to reveal it.

15.Feb.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Just Goes To Show How Wrong You Can Be Permalink to this item

Arty double pane reflection of the office bulb The National Security Archive at The George Washington University has retrieved declassified planning documents for the Iraq war via the Freedom of Information Act. "Post-Hostilities" ("Phase IV") Duration - Months... That's still operational, since any length of time can me measured in those units, but we didn't quite make the milestone of having U.S. forces almost completely redepolyed out of the country by the end of 2006.

I supposed Phase IV was deemed to have started about the time the P.R. team arranged for the President to don a flight suit and be plopped on an aircraft carrier for the grand "Mission Accomplished" moment, but things still seem pretty hostile over there, closing in the 4th anniversary of D-Day.

"Key Planning Assumptions" include "Opposition groups will work with us," and "Co-opted Iraqi units will occupy garrisons and not fight either US forces or other Iraqi units."

One of the deepest mysteries of the affair is Jerry Bremer's disbanding of the Iraqi Army. There hasn't been any indication that his action was directed by anyone else, which makes me wonder: did he really make that move on his own initiative, and somehow convince the President and everyone else to go along with it? It's not the only gigantic mistake that was made, but it certainly was in the top tier.

14.Feb.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Simplest Explanations Are the Best Permalink to this item

Bush and Cheney both guilty, spelled out in Dick Cheney's own hand. It's subtle enough that there won't be a prosecution, beyond this Scooter Libby scapegoat affair, but still. There it is. Plain as day.

Beyond Blame and Toward a New Strategy Permalink to this item

In November, the voters gave the Congress a clear and binding resolution regarding its performance. The House's non-binding posturing this week suggests they haven't fully grasped the message. Lt. Gen. (ret.) William Odom, West Point graduate, former head of Army intelligence and NSA director under Ronald Reagan and fellow of the Hudson Institute, weighs in more directly: Victory Is Not an Option.

"The new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq starkly delineates the gulf that separates President Bush's illusions from the realities of the war. Victory, as the president sees it, requires a stable liberal democracy in Iraq that is pro-American. The NIE describes a war that has no chance of producing that result. In this critical respect, the NIE, the consensus judgment of all the U.S. intelligence agencies, is a declaration of defeat...."

13.Feb.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Talking About War with Iran Permalink to this item

Bush dismisses critics who say he wants to go to war with Iran "The Iranian people are good, decent, honorable people. And they got a government that is belligerent, loud, noisy, uh, threatening, uh, a government which is in defiance of the rest of the world and says 'we want a nuclear weapon.'"

As compared to, say, our government, which already has all the nuclear weapons it will ever need, but still likes to build more. Bush dismissed his critics who say he wants to go to war. How could they possibly think such a thing, after all?

At the end of C-SPAN's interview with George W. Bush, the anonymous interviewer asked, "And finally, what books are you reading?"

"I just finished a book called "Abraham" by a guy named Feiler [ Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths ]

"...It studies the prophet Abraham from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim perspective. And the lesson is, is that, uh, you know, if you, if you, if you, if you can look at Abraham as a unifying factor, in other words, all three of our, all three of those religions started from the same source, which means it's possible to reconcile differences."

Logic being yet another one of those suits which are not strong in Bush.

Innocently Misspoke or Inaccurately Remembered Permalink to this item

That seems to be the net presentation from the Scooter Libby defense team. We know that his former boss, Vice-President Dick Cheney would not make a particularly sympathetic figure, but it doesn't look good for the defendant himself to be dodging the witness stand. In addition to his generally awful memory, he must by now have particular awful memories of giving testimony, I guess.

It's just so hard to keep everything straight.

Just Ignore It, That's What I Do Permalink to this item

George W.'s advice to ease George H.W.'s mind from all that unpleasantness in the news.

Another Liberal Plot to Brainwash Our Young Permalink to this item

Every once in a while the news pops up a story that perfectly captures the local atmosphere, and today was such a time. The Statesman ran the story under the headline Lawmakers to ask Kustra about liberal speakers. Kustra is Boise State University President Dr. Bob Kustra, who has an outstanding show on local public radio, New Horizons in Education as well as the job of running BSU.

It seems a conservative student group at the University managed to cause a stir last week, by holding "a small demonstration to protest a speaker lineup they said was skewed toward liberals." And with our citizen legislators in town, they found one willing to run with the ball, Senator Monty Pearce, from New Plymouth, "concerned that BSU was spending state money on liberal speakers."

We had Al Gore here, damn it, and Jesse Jackson!

Anne Wallace Allen sprinkles the facts through her story, from various sources. BSU spokesman says no state-appropriated money is used to pay for the speakers, and the speakers are "selected by the students for the students." Kustra points out that speakers are chosen by different groups, mostly student organizations. Speaker fees and other expenses are covered by student fees paid at the beginning of the year. The Frank Church Institute invited Al Gore, and might have paid his "customary $125,000 speaking fee," had he not waived it because he's a friend of Church's widow, Bethine.

Indeed, the protestors' protest was that their student fees, not state money were being misdirected leftwards.

The Arbiter's story features a nice picture of one Brandon Stoker, although he's not mentioned in the text. You have to mine the story's comments to find out that Stoker was recently Opinion Editor for the student newspaper, and an ASBSU "policy wonk, and outspoken member of the College Republicans and 2nd Amendment Gun Club," according to one of his detractors, but we're still left to wonder (so to speak) what this guy had to do with the flap. A Rovian genius in the making, pulling media strings while staying (mostly) hidden? It'll be hard to keep his profile low with such a perfect name for a conservative firebrand, eh? Brandon Stoker.

So, maybe with a suitable stink raised, we can get a conservative speaker or two here? Hopefully a more thoughtful selection than offered by the "protestors ideas for conservative speakers." Coulter, Limbaugh, Savage and Hannity are not exactly Distinguished Lecturers, for example, or have anything it takes to be on that program's speaker list.

12.Feb.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Get Me To The Church On Time Permalink to this item

Flying from Boise to Milwaukee last week proved to be more of an adventure than expected. I thought my schedule had plenty of buffer, but dense fog over Denver's airport ate it all up. The earlybird 7am flight out of Boise was right on time, and landed after a slow approach, coming down to the runway with only a couple hundred feet visibility. Looking out a side window, it was just a mild surprise; oh, there's the runway! Looking out the front window, it has to be pretty nerve-wracking. Gee, I hope no one's taxiing out there...

United's cheery non sequitur After strolling to the posted gate for my connection, they were already announcing a delay, of undetermined length. There was a plane on the way, they said, and 11:50 was the soonest it could be leaving. Forget about that 10:18 departure.

My planned arrival had a couple hours leeway to the visitation before dad's funeral, so I figured I had a chance of getting there in spite of all that. A gate change was announced, just across the concourse. Then another, back to this side. I had my lunch, kept reading an interesting book, watched the people milling around, mostly waiting... about noon, I decided it was time for a walk, got two moving walkways toward the center of the long Denver concourse and noticed a clock. 12:08. Hey, if that flight's leaving at 12:40, they might be about ready to board! I made a quick U-turn, and stepped up the pace.

To no avail; back at the gate, the departure time had slipped to 1:00, and all of that spare time was gone. The best I could do at this point was just barely make the 4:00 start in Milwaukee. There were not many planes coming in, and just about none going out.

Delayed delayed delayed delayed all Time to get in the long and slow-moving line for United's Customer Service counter next to B56, and see if there were any alternatives. I got a little nervous after inching forward a long while, eased out to check the Departures screen. Now it was showing 1:50, so I definitely had time—and reason—to keep waiting in that line. When I finally got to the front of it, I asked "is the plane for this flight on its way?" Yes... scheduled to land at 2:20, even though its "subsequent" departure was still showing as 1:50. Maybe that wasn't going to happen. Ok, now it's showing a 2:50 departure.

The trend was not good, and I pulled the F-card. "I'm just trying to get to my father's funeral in Milwaukee by 7pm," I said, but of course even the deepest sympathy of the agent couldn't conjure a flight going to Milwaukee any sooner than the one that was forever slipping away. He kept typing, and slowing shaking his head.

Time to take charge of the situation. "Is there a plane on the ground here that's going to Chicago?" Mmm, yeah, here's one leaving at 2:20pm, I can get you on that one. He printed a ticket and told me that he'd still keep me on the Milwaukee flight, in case anything went wrong with the Chicago flight, I could still get on the original one. Just as he was handing it to me, there was a "final boarding" announcement for a United flight going to Chicago.

"What about that one?" I asked, pointing to the ceiling, and the loudspeakers.

"Well, I looked at that one, and it was full, do you want me to put you on standby? Oh, a seat just opened up."


He tore up the last boarding pass, printed a new one and handed it to me, as I started to think about what would happen when I got to Chicago. Hope for a tight connection to Milwaukee, and try to convince them to squeeze me on? I started to ask about all that, and he said "it's boarding right now!" At gate B29, no less, more than half the long concourse away from where I was standing. I shouldered my backpack, and started walking fast, then jogging, then running from one moving walkway to the next.

One of those airport scenes you see from time to time. Guy in a suit with a North Face backpack, running for all he's worth down the concourse.

One walker had a sudden urge for the Men's room and took a sharp right turn, I just about crushed him, but managed a last-minute dodge and resumed running. I had to ease up a bit, I couldn't maintain my initial sprint the whole way. Another walkway, down to a jog, up to a run, back to a jog.

At gate B29, finally, the boarding area was cleared out, but the door was still open, and there was still an agent there to guide my boarding pass into the reader. I slowed to a fast walk down the jetway, strolled on to the plane with a tentative smile, made my way into 18E, and rang up my brother in Milwaukee.

"I just got on a plane to Chicago," I said, still a little out of breath. "Oh. Ok. Well, are you going to drive up from O'Hare then?" "I guess so..." as we both calculated how and whether I could make it. "I'll make you a car reservation."

I still had a notion to talk my way on to a flight to Milwaukee, though. We landed at O'Hare about 4:45pm, and my first stop was the monitors. There's one; boarding right now. 4:55 departure, gate F2. I was on the B concourse, so yet another airport dash. At F2, the jetway was open, but no one standing by it, a long line of unhappy people in line to the podium where all the agents were. I tried not to be too rude, but couldn't be waiting in a line at this point.

I checked to see that what they were all waiting for wasn't what I wanted before jumping the queue. "Is the Milwaukee flight gone?" "Yup. It's done." So, it would be a rental car after all. I headed on down for the shuttle, the counter, "pick anything in midsize," and it looked like only one or two cars were left. How about a nice baby blue VW Beetle? In a... convertible?! Ok, that part was crazy, with the temperature not quite into the teens, but it did have a good heater.

It was something after 5:30 when I got on the tollway, no clock in sight and too dark in the car by now to check my watch. I'd get there when I got there, work my way through rush hour as best I could, pay toll and so on. If I made it on time, that would be great, if not, well, what could I do?

Long story short (ok, not really, but still): I parked the car across from Holy Family, buttoned my top button, straightened my tie, and walked into the church... at exactly 7pm, just as the funeral was starting.

The next day, we checked the United site to see when that Milwaukee flight finally got around to leaving. 3:50pm, and it arrived at 7:11. Rent a car there? Take a taxi? I would've got up to the church about the moment the funeral ended.

11.Feb.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

You Go Girls! Permalink to this item

I'm not that big on award shows, but we flipped on to the Grammies and hung around long enough to see... The Dixie Chicks win the award for record of the year... and then Album of the Year! Not Ready to Make Nice, and Taking The Long Way.

And Al Gore with Queen Latifah, what a hoot! It doesn't have to make sense.

The Chicks acknowledged that they might not have had the best music on offer, but that the voters had a desire to make a certain political expression.

Do you think the U.S. Senate might get the message and show a little gumption of their own?

Sounds Like Sabers Rattling Permalink to this item

We stipulate that Vladimir Putin has a belligerent approach to leadership, but that doesn't make his criticism false. If it did, we'd have to question our own belligerent leaders, now, wouldn't we?

Will abrograting treaties we signed and developing ballistic missile defenses start a new nuclear arms race? Have we undermined international institutions? Have we destabilized the Middle East by the clumsy handling of the war in Iraq?

It's not exactly a big mystery why most people people outside the U.S. would think there is more truth than belligerence to what Putin had to say. I appreciate our current Secretary of Defense responding tactfully, as a start. We have indeed made mistakes, for all the world to see. "Presenting our case" more effectively might be helpful, but a plan to correct the mistakes and to build a positive case would go even further than a new public diplomacy initiative. Condi Rice? Karen Hughes? Michelle Kwan? Maybe Laura Bush could get something done.

Time Out of Time Permalink to this item

Sunday morning, just two weeks and some hours after the middle-of-the-night phone call from my sister, with news of my father's death, all the things that were set aside, deferred, pushed until "later" now tumbling in front of me for this coming week, and a few moments to reflect on all that's happened, two jet-set, three day/two night trips to funerals and family gatherings, with their waves of grief, and joy, and hugs, and tears.

So many thoughts, emotions, questions, endings, beginnings. The last hours with family included time with my grand-nephew Jack, and grand-niece Cate, who are too young to have any lasting memory of the event so monumental for the rest of us, the end of their great-grandfather's life.

Cate had her first non-liquid food Saturday morning, a bit of banana mash (with absolutely predictable results, the body's expression of "wow, this is really interesting, what were you thinking?!"), and Jack, at 2½, is deciphering our number system, hearing on Saturday morning of the strange exception of "fifteen" instead of what it obviously should be, fiveteen....

Listening to my brother talk to his kids, saying things about "mom" and having to pause and parse; that would be my sister-in-law, not our mom, who passed away 16 years ago this spring.

My dad and me, on the back porch of Diversey Blvd. At exactly 10:00 Friday morning, we left the office at Forest Home to drive across the cemetery in a mini-procession to shorten our walk in Milwaukee's bitter cold to the grave, the slow peal of the hour echoing over the snow and granite. The Navy detail was waiting for us, God bless them, with not nearly enough extra protection against the cold to spoil their formal uniforms. Hearing Taps from the distance didn't overwhelm me the second time the way it had the first, but my notion of taking some pictures during the ceremony didn't come to fruition. Some things will just have to be carried in memory.

One question I can't answer is, what's the hurry? The months, weeks, days, and finally hours before his death seemed to slow down and stretch out, and then upon the conclusion, this wild flurry of activity, arrangements, phone calls, planes, trains, automobiles. Once upon a time, such a schedule was driven by decomposition, but my father's wish for the more practical disposition of cremation rendered that moot.

We apply our latest transportation technology to a problem that other technology has already solved, satisfying traditions from a different time and place. (On the other hand, for all us too-busy modern people, the imperative of now might be necessary to force us all to fit it into our schedules!)

Dad was willing to reconsider those traditions, certainly, and he started 40 years ago, when his own father died, writing his first letter of instruction and planning for when his own time would come. One example: he didn't want a funeral at 10am on a weekday, because that would be inconvenient for attendees. Make it in the evening, at 7:30pm, for example. I suspect that if he and I had taken more time to discuss the logistics, he might also have agreed that the funeral should be delayed by at least 2 weeks, so that those who had to travel a long distance could make more economical travel arrangements.

He was used to frequent travel, occasionally (but not often) on short notice, and he was practiced at planning, reservations, and so on, but he knew well enough that not everyone in the family would be, and that the additional need for coordination would create problems at an already stressful time.

There are the emotional matters, however. Part of our tradition seems intended to deal with unpleasantness as quickly as possible, in the hope that we can speed healing, or reduce time spent on unhappiness.

I don't think it works that way. We will all grieve in our own time, and to the depth demanded by our love for the man we've lost. We can't know when a moment will touch us, triggered by a phone call, an email, a familiar object, a memory.

In a letter to me some months after my mother died, my dad wrote: "I do think about her constantly, but I am careful to think about the fun times and the things we accomplished, not about regrets and missed opportunities."

May we all do as well, honoring his memory in his own fashion.

7.2.7 Permanent URL to this day's entry

For Idaho, a Wish for Gay Rights Permalink to this item

This lady says it better than I possibly could. You go girl!

"Just a quick reminder: the law guarantees my right not to have to believe in any religion at all. Arguing Biblical reasons for opposing gay rights is arguing from an immaterial platform. Argue United States law, and Iíll listen."


Cheap to Kill Permalink to this item

No, that salivation is not from rabid wild animals, but from the Idaho hunters who apparently can't wait to follow our governor's lead and start shooting wolves in the state once they're de-listed as an endangered species. A front page teaser in today's Statesman led to the Sports section (natch!) article, about the proposed charge for a wolf tag being the same as what residents pay to shoot at bear, or mountain lions: $9.75. The Fish and Game department wanted it to be $26.50, but "higher taxes" are not as popular around here as shooting predators.

Non-residents will have to pay $150 for the privilege of attempting a wolf kill. The story estimated Idaho's wolf population at 650, about half the number in the U.S. northern Rockies, and it also estimated the lost federal support for management as $720,000. Per year? Do the math on that one, and it rather looks like the delisting push has better aim on Idaho feet than anything else. (We sell about half that amount in total bear and mountain lion tags now; it seems as if most hunters must not be bagging their prey.)

6.Feb.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

You may not work around technical limitations Permalink to this item

Most Windows users aren't able to work around technical limitations in the software, but for those of us who can, Microsoft's End User License Agreement tells us we may not. Of course, everyone needs to, sooner or later; you'll just have to wait for the official patches and Service Packs.

Michael Calore's Monkey Bites blog deconstructs the latest EULA for the latest O/S out of Redmond, finding it may be not as heinous as you expected. On the other hand, one or two zinger provisions are all it takes to spoil the party.

"A crossroads of time and desire" Permalink to this item

Running on the beach, Del Mar, California Sandra Blakeslee uses that memorable phrase to conclude her NYT article about the insula, "a long-neglected brain region that has emerged as crucial to understanding what it feels like to be human."

We so love to think about and talk about ourselves, what could be better than a brain structure adapted to the very thing? We share it with all mammals, but it appears to be uniquely adapted in humans ("and to a lesser degree [in] the great apes"). Von Economo neurons (VENs) found in the insula are likewise unique to humans, great apes, whales "and possibly elephants."

Some of Utah's House is in Order Permalink to this item

In the "neighbor news" box from Statesman wire services, under the headline "House backs off ban on gay clubs," and with the dateline Salt Lake City, we read:

"The House rejected legislation Monday to heavily regulate school clubs that had been designed to prohibit gay-straight alliance clubs in Utah high schools. Instead the House voted 72-3 to require students to get parental approval to join any extracurricular club.

"The measure rejected by the House would have banned student clubs from discussing human sexuality or contraceptives. However, the bill would also have required students to draw up a charter and bylaws for activities such as pingpong or chess."

5.Feb.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Big Brother Wants You(r DNA) Permalink to this item

Of course, if you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have anything to fear (and if God were smiling upon you, you wouldn't be poor or hungry either), but news of a "vast expansion of DNA sampling" gives some pause. For victim advocates, such as the spokeswoman for the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, the vaster the database, the better.

The Justice Department's plan for now is to routinely add anyone arrested or detained by federal authorities, including the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who get caught. Perhaps we can add everyone who applies for a Driver's License later on, or use it for check cashing and voter ID, too.

96,000 samples a year, ramping up to a million... with the backlog currently over a year, we'll need to scale the infrastructure up a bit for timely data collection for 300 million of us, but give it time, I'm sure we can figure that out.

One Last Obit Permalink to this item

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ran their own obituary for my dad, working the business angle. What goes around comes around: at least half the family delivered Journals or Sentinels (once separate afternoon and morning papers) as children. Long ago and far away, now. Boy, it was tough getting up that early in the morning.

3.Feb.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Congress Has the Duty to Stand Up Permalink to this item

Russ Feingold reminds us of essential Constitutional components that the current administration has been trying to erase, or at least ignore. It is Congress, not the President (or Vice-President) that has the duty to declare war, and to continue appropriating money to finance it. The governmental body most responsive to the will of the People, still sovereign in these United States can act upon the will of the American people, as expressed in the 2006 election.

"If and when Congress acts on the will of the American people by ending our involvement in the Iraq war, Congress will be performing the role assigned it by the founding fathers—defining the nature of our military commitments and acting as a check on a president whose policies are weakening our nation."

The Other "Terrorism" Permalink to this item

Orion Mag's article on Green Rage gives an interesting look at the anti-property radical fringe who got overshadowed by the anti-human, "real" terrorists. The government can use all the scary headlines it can manufacture, given the paucity of identifiable (to say nothing of prosecutable) enemies. The comments are interesting, too.

A Period of Mourning Permalink to this item

Pelicans, off Del Mar, Feb.2007 I have a picture of myself as a boy, sitting at a table in the garage attic where I used to gather with my buddies, or just hide out by myself. Three of those buddies and I were playing cards, and we all turned to look at whoever it was snapping the picture.

As life—and death—would have it, none of the other three would make it out of their teens. One got run over by a bus, riding a bike with bad brakes. One found adolescence too much to bear. And one got carried away with the power of a fast car. Those three deaths made—still make—that picture haunting, but I've never been superstitious about it.

16 years ago, I remember the shock of realization while going through the motions of my daily life at work: much of what I was doing was fairly meaningless compared to the arresting fact that kept coming back to my awareness: my mother was dying. And now my Dad is gone, and the intensity of the emotion makes me wonder if I'm experiencing this for the first time, or if memory has done me the kindness of erasing what happened before.

It comes and goes; some moments are just like they used to be, the mix of interests, responsibilities, entertainments, concerns. Other moments are other-worldly, as if past and future have fallen away from the usual sequence before and after "now," leaving only this present. Maybe that's what can't be remembered: being only in the "now." Each such experience is fully unique, even as each is identical, no ego-describer tracking thoughts and perceptions, questions and answers, explanations and causes.

I see the wisdom of a period set apart. One week? One month? One year? I don't suppose it was set in advance, most of the time, but those in the non-mourning world may have set a convention to insist when enough was enough. I don't expect the luxury of stepping outside daily life, myself. I have permission (from myself, maybe an "excuse" as far as others are concerned) to be less dilligent, punctual, reliable than usual, at least for a little while. Then we'll have to see.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Monday, 05-Mar-2007 10:41:27 MST