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29.June.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Up or Down, Open and Shut Permalink to this item

There's democracy, and then there's Democracy. Sometimes the majority rules, and sometimes the minority gets to call the shots. By now, even the less dilligent followers of the news have figured out that the Senate's procedures make doing nothing significantly easier than doing something.

When the question was about providing the Constitutional "advice and consent" on George W. Bush's nominees for judgeships, the frustrated Republican majority were in the news cycle complaining about "fairness," and how, more than anything else in the whole, wide world they just wanted an "up or down vote" for the person in question.

Those damned Democrats, standing in the way of fairness, and democracy.

Now that the Democrats have the narrowest of majorities in the Senate and would like to get something done, well, there is some quiet backpedalling from the "principle" that things should be voted up, or down. Yet another immigration bill got voted sideways yesterday, as fewer than 60 Senators were in favor of "cloture," cutting off debate and getting on with voting yay or nay. (In fact, there was not even a simple majority in favor of cloture this time; so... why not close debate and vote it up or down?!)

This does not mean they all wanted to talk about it some more before they voted. It meant most of them didn't want to have to vote on it at all, and, by pretending that they were willing to keep talking, they were able to stop talking. And not vote.

Did we go through this in Civics class? I can't remember. (Did I even have Civics class?!)

Bush had signalled he really, really wanted the Congress to get something done, and so the 3/4ths of the Republican Senators who said no, thank you, delivered a "stinging rebuke" to the President, as more than one commentator described it yesterday, and a "bipartisan defeat" from the point of view of the Senate minority leader.

And a big, wet kiss to the denizens of hate-talk radio, who recently hit a resonant chord on the xenophobic and racist response to immigration, whether legal or illegal (but especially the illegal sort).

Apoplexy seems the best description of the train of letters to the editor on the subject in our local paper (save the first one there, making a sardonic point about the Statue of Liberty's limitations), and, I imagine, every other local paper in the country.

And ironically, given his undisguised glee at the travails of a weak majority, Larry Craig is on the front line for attacks of the rabid right. This could be the one time we're on the same side of an issue, Craig and I. We agree that something needs to change, even if we don't agree on all the particulars. I haven't studied what's been debated in detail, but it seems to have come down to the labeling of any action other than building more or higher fences as "amnesty" and therefore anathema.

Maybe someone who's tuned into Lou or Rush could enlighten me?

Subpoena Power Permalink to this item

Sen. Charles Schumer: "The bottom line is, when it comes to the careful balance between security and liberty, this administration has no internal gyroscope. It is our mission, our job, to keep that gyroscope on track, and these subpoenas are vital to making sure that occurs. The Vice-president doesn't know what branch of the government he's in, the President doesn't know what the Constitution is, and the people don't know what the heck is going on. We're going to find out. One way or another, we are going to find out."

The Vice-Presidency Permalink to this item

Just finished working my way through the 4-part Washington Post series on Dick Cheney. Remarkable in-depth reporting about the most powerful Vice-President in history, driving what I imagine will prove to be the worst administration in history. Funny how that works. The numerous sidebars, a cast of characters, two narrated slide-shows and links to primary documents make for an impressive body of work.

Cheney comes across as nothing if not effective, with his most Machiavellian aspects played down by the detailed analysis. Cheney's counsel, David Addington, emerges as the most despicable player in the U.S. becoming the leader in kidnapping, secret prisons and torture as our moral leadership was traded-in for "stronger" "defense" and the federal government was reshaped to meet Cheney's vision of "executive supremacy."

Two of the salmon killed by 'sound science' in the Klamath river The Founding Fathers had a King fresh in their mind to anticipate the evils of a single person with ultimate power, and the unique system of government they created worked exceptionally well for most of two centuries to balance power between competing interests and to preserve some semblance of responsibility to We the People. (As I write this, a long list of qualifiers occurs to me, given my relatively shallow grasp of our history, but so be it.)

Two centuries on, we now have a more immediate example to remind us of the problems inherent in executive supremacy, not the least of which is a Supreme Court that may be stacked in its favor for a decade or more.

Having left the White House the first time at what he later called "the low point" of presidential authority, Cheney has managed to utterly redefine that concept.

A partial Cheney hit-list

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

Funny Guys Permalink to this item

I'm a sucker for Gilbert & Sullivan, so when the Lobster Chorus in the Krulwich on Science piece started into the patter, I was moved to investigate composer Josh Kurz further, via his and Adam's Go ahead. Pyramid yourself.

Unloved Fences Permalink to this item

Rick Perlstein is not agreeing with Eric Alterman on what a good idea a Big Fence would be on one or more of our borders. I think it was Charles Krauthammer who used the Great Wall as a prop for his argument about what a good idea a fence was and how well it could work. Ah, Charlie? Have checked history lately?

Fences do matter, and Perlstein cites the data that show tighter border control reduces the number of illegal entrants who leave. D'OH! as Homer Simpson would say.

The first commenter on the story cited a Molly Ivins column on the subject from last year. Thanks for that! She called it Immigration 101 for beginners and non-Texans.

Patriotism, and Reality Permalink to this item

I didn't hear it on NPR, and it doesn't rise to the level of indexable "story," but Jeanette tells me today's radio report on yesterday's protest changed the adjective for our singing from "anti-war" to "patriotic." No reason a good song can't be both of course. But experiencing a modest event and then reading differing accounts of it gives one pause about what it means to report on what happens.

Don't believe everything you read, eh?

Rock Scissors Paper Cheney Permalink to this item

"We have to work the dark side, if you will."
–Dick Cheney

You have to keep laughing if you're going to keep from crying. Stephen Colbert helps with The Word (helpfully archived by, explaining the new Fourth Branch of government our Shadow Leader has created.

Maureen Dowd helps, too, but you need a Times Select subscription for her columns online.

Trouble Right Here in River City Permalink to this item

Our local story got out in the MSM as far as Seattle. John Miller's statement that "some demonstrators sang anti-war songs" is literally true, but not good reporting. The assembled crowd joined in The Star Spangled Banner, This Land is Your Land, and America the Beautiful before some demonstrators struggled to recall verses from 1960s and 1970s protest songs.

And we did not "interrupt" the news conference; the AG and/or his handlers decided not to hold it in front of us, preferring the "secure confines of the U.S. attorney's office."

Stay on message, sir. Keep out of the public's view, unless we can control who's there, and what questions will be asked. Playing billiards with some young children would look good... until it gets on YouTube with a sound track from The Music Man anyway.

Here's News and video from local CBS affiliate KTVB, and The Idaho Statesman's coverage. Jeanette's peeking out from behind her sign in the photo they ran, too small to decipher in their thumbnaily online version. Greg Hahn got the report on the singing closer to right, at least.

Boisean Diane Roberts, a member of the Idaho Peace Coalition who led the protesters in the songs and chants, had a more colorful response. What she called Gonzales can't be printed in the newspaper.

"Just put 'chicken' and the four little dots," she said. "Everybody in Idaho will know what I meant, believe me."

26.June.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Cut and Run AG Permalink to this item

More chatter on today's non-event, on the original NewWest post yesterday, a new one today, on Red State Rebels, on United Action for Idaho, the Idaho Democratic Party's site, and The Daily Kos.

Some of the more amusing accounts have us singing "war protest songs," after we opened with the official national anthem, the unofficial anthems of This Land is Your Land, and America the Beautiful. I will admit that a few of us sang some of the Fixin' to Die Rag, which can definitely be deemed a war protest song. Randy Newman's Political Science is a Cold War protest song, not quite the same. As for the disappointment we "erupted" in, and the chants of "Coward," those were true enough, but there wasn't any "screaming" that I heard. Some clucking, though.

Today's post from Jill Kuraitis on NewWest gives a nice look inside the reporter's mind as the useless questions are asked and answered, and the big cheese pulls the Get Out of Dodge ripcord before the hard questions are asked, let alone answered. Imagine that, an Attorney General who can't handle hard questions.

He's A Back Door Man Permalink to this item

Alberto Gonzales told the press he'd meet them outside the Fort Boise Community Center, after his meeting with an anti-gang task force, but about the time the press and the assembled citizens of the country he serves were singing The Star Spangled Banner to welcome him to Idaho, the suits were covering the front door and our beleagured Attorney General was slipping out to his next appointment through the back way. After United Vision for Idaho director Jim Hansen got up and said a few words at the decoy podium, inviting the AG to do the right thing and announce his resignation today, and after we'd sung a few more songs, the member of Gonzales' entorage that drew the short straw came out to announce that the press conference—"for credentialed press only"—had been moved to 4pm, and the U.S. Attorney's office.

At the Fort Boise Community Center

As if there were "credentials" for press.

As if our Constitutional employee isn't man enough to stand in front of a modest gathering of Idahoans and face the consequences of his lying, incompetence and subversion of the rule of law in our country.

Did they really think he'd get a warm welcome at 2:30? Or that gee, wouldn't it be fun to tweak a bunch of protesters? And get a few pictures for our files?

Why would you stay in a job you're not competent to do when the people who pay your salary have so obviously lost confidence in you?

The General Assembly Run-down Permalink to this item

I'd like to think I'll find the time to thoughtfully catalog the experiences of GA in Portland last week, but realistically, it isn't going to happen. That's an argument in favor of hand-outs, I guess, or at least a good web archive. In no particular order...

"Jesus did not call people to church, he called people to life."
–Dietrich Bonhöffer

The charming, delightful, witty, and profound talk by "stealth missionary" Robert Fulghum is available by streaming media from the Live Video from Portland page, even though it's not "live" in the usual sense. (It includes the Powerpoint presentation to end all Powerpoint presentations.)

The panel of Daniel Ellsberg, Mike Gravel and Bob West with Amy Goodman that I wrote about yesterday. (No video from Saturday yet, but soon, we hope.)

Rashid Khalidi pulled no punches in his Ware Lecture, describing the recent history of war in the Middle East and Asia, and our country's role in it.

Singing in the choir led by Leon Burke, a.k.a. Dr. Leon Burke III, even though the 7 (!) rehearsals (6 of which I made it to) made an overstuffed schedule even more overstuffed.

zoomed in on the Foucault pendulum bob in the Oregon Convention Center The skill and grace with which Gini Courter ran the 8 Plenary sessions, handling the business of the Association, and teaching the democratic process by wonderful example. (Imagine if our leaders could do so well at honoring those who dissent from the expressions of the majority.)

Darrell Grant, in his One O'clock Jump trio, for Wednesday's "late night entertainment," right up until the moment we realized it was too late night for us, given the early morning entertainment ahead of us.

James Loewen and his talk about Sundown Towns, a symptom of racism in the northern U.S. that's not yet history. He's found (and cataloged) hundreds of towns in which being black after dark was–and possibly is–deemed an offense.

Dr. Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS (CICLOPS, get it?), gave us a tiny tour of the unfathomable cosmos we inhabit, ending with the image of the not-so-dark side of Saturn that recently came in the email... confirming its provenance as actual image and not artist's conception. (You can of course find lots of CICLOPS images on the web, and submit your own rating on a 1..10 scale; even though there are numerous 11s and 12s.)

Singing Blue Boat Home to ease the most contentious moment of the plenaries.

Faith Based Permalink to this item

Toni Scalia and his caddy want a market solution to faith-based programs, with the government providing a helping hand to those religions it finds worthy. To hell with the idea that the government can't support religion! Alito Jr., Roberts Jr. and Kennedy say it's just Congress that can't establish, but it's OK for the Executive. (They didn't say whether or not it was OK for the Dark Lord who hops between those branches behind his cloak of invisibility.) Well, not exactly OK, but taxpayers can't sue about it.

"If the executive could accomplish through the exercise of discretion exactly what Congress cannot do through legislation, Establishment Clause protection would melt away," Souter wrote for the dissent, as if the majority would think that's a bad thing.

Everyone supported immunity for Principals Against Bong Hits 4 Jesus, however.

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

Alberto in Idaho – tomorrow Permalink to this item

Jim Hansen calls our attention to the visit to Boise of our nation's leaders tomorrow. Alberto Gonzales is coming to what he must assume is friendly territory, for a meeting of an anti-gang task force. We presume the irony of his continued role as White House gang member will not occur to him, unless perhaps his handlers can't keep the sight of protestors shielded from an accidental glance?

Holders of press conferences want an audience, of course, so come help our Attorney General out, tomorrow, at the Fort Boise Community Center (not affiliated with this site).

Leaking, and Publishing the Pentagon Papers Permalink to this item

With so many ways to spend one's time at the 2007 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, some tradeoffs and hard decisions have to be made, and some great opportunities must be forgone. For Jeanette and me, there was no question of what we would attend at 2:45pm on Saturday, however, with Democracy Now's Amy Goodman moderating a panel, "The Pentagon Papers Then and Now: UUs Confronting Government Secrecy." It featured the men who brought the Papers out of secrecy: Daniel Ellsberg; former Senator and now Presidential candidate Mike Gravel; and the Reverend Robert West, who was President of the Association when Beacon Press agreed to publish the document.

On the UUSC's human rights weblog, hotwire, Kevin Murray reports on his where is everybody? moment, at one of the workshops that competed with the featured attraction. Not being there didn't hurt Murray's ability to report on the excitement of the event, or on how moving it was to hear from three men willing to put their careers and freedom on the line to speak truth to power.

As Ellsberg has done previously, he called for those who have the knowledge of current administration plans for war on Iran to do what he was not courageous enough to do, reveal the secrets before the needless violence, and thereby work to prevent it, rather than simply try to limit it.

Call it preventative civil disobedience. Or, call it truer patriotism, to defend and uphold the Constitution when those we have elected to power and the people they have appointed do not make good on their oaths.

19.June.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Follow the E-mails Permalink to this item

The national story made the usually-more-local front page of the Idaho Statesman (if not its website), but the headline is circumspect: the White House e-mails "may have" broken the law. The essential phrase in Ron Hutcheson's report for the McClatchy newspapers is a few paragraphs down:

"(T)he line between official communications and partisan political messages seems to have been blurred."

Gee, you think?

Henry Waxman suspects "extensive" violations of the law requiring preservation of records, so perhaps the contest will be in the realm of digital forensics, with some 140,216 of Karl Roves messages to consider.

Karl Rove's experience in direct mail seems to have served him well in a related endeavor, "vote caging," as reported by Greg Palast. Two senators have sent a letter to Alberto "no confidence" Gonzales, demanding a probe. Do not start holding your breath for that probe just yet.

"This is all made up of whole cloth," Griffin told the assembled crowd during a Q&A session after a speech punctuated by tears. "I didnít cage votes," he claimed. That, despite the emails he sent in 2004 with spreadsheets listing voters attached along with the subject line "Re: caging."

The BRAD BLOG exclusive has some refresher material for Griffin:

At the risk of making you cry again, Tim, may I point you to an email dated August 26, 2004. It says, "Subject: Re: Caging." And it says, "From: Tim Griffin - Research/Communications" with the email RNCHQ is the Republican National Committee Headquarters, is it not, Mr. Griffin? Now do you remember caging mail?

If that doesn't ring a bell, please note that at the bottom is this: "ATTACHMENT: Caging-1.xls". And that attachment was a list of voters.

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

Fell Down and Borked Himself Permalink to this item

What's this? Robert Bork buying himself one of those million dollar lottery tickets?! It must be time for him to make another guest appearance on The Simpsons or something. The grudge with the Yale Club for not backing his failed Supreme Court bid is understandable, and it sounds like that trip and fall hurt like all get-out... But bad enough to abandon the storied principles that led him and Ted Olson to rail against the "Barbary pirates" of tort claims?

Well, yes.

Marriage Equality! Permalink to this item

Demonstrating for equal rights in Idaho may not get anything done, but Massachusetts maybe? Our junior high kids are there in Boston for the biennial adventure, and had a chance to rally outside the statehouse. What a great looking crew!

At the Massachusetts statehouse

Update: Same-sex marriage will remain legal in Massachusetts; proponents defeated a proposed constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. They need only 50 favorable votes in the Legislature and couldn't get 'em: 151-45.

17 years and just getting started Permalink to this item

After the glorious victory wherein the Supreme Court of the State of Idaho ruled in favor of the plaintiffs... they closed the book on the lawsuit of the state's school districts against the Legislature and went home. They agreed that Idaho's system for funding school construction is unconstitutional because it leaves poor school districts unable to provide safe facilities, invited the Legislature to do something about it, and left it at that.

Bob Huntley has re-opened the book, filing suit in U.S. District Court against the 5 Justices for their "incomplete."

Our L'il Legislature Permalink to this item

Featured in a 3½ hour cinéma vérité creation of Frederick Wiseman's, some of the high- and low-lights of the 2004 Legislative Session were brought back to life on Idaho PTV last night. Betsy Russell reviewed it last week, including the truly remarkable dissection of anti-tax gadfly Laird Maxwell (who has since left for browner pastures in Arizona), with Sen. Bart Davis running down the list of what professions Maxwell thought the state ought to regulate. (Lawyers, yes. Doctors? Architects? Engineers? No. He likes the "Underwriters Laboratories" model instead.)

Another telling scene she didn't mention had Henry Kulczyk rehearsing his indignant presentation for Maxwell's benefit, railing against "the government" having the audacity to license contractors. Just imagine! It made it clear to me that just reading about what happened in the paper or hearing about it on the news is not the same as actually seeing these guys and gals in action. A year's worth of Idaho Reports appearances didn't reveal as much about Kulczyk as that candid 2 minutes in the corridor.

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

Colin Powell: Close Gitmo Now Permalink to this item

The rule of law, what a concept. Seems mighty late for him to be speaking up, but better late than never I guess.

Unrebuked Permalink to this item

Tony Snow and the President ridiculed the Senate's attempt to give a formal statement of no confidence for Alberto "I can't recall" Gonzales as inconsequential. Some of the Republican Senators did likewise, and 60 votes to terminate debate could not be found. By the rules as currently practiced, that doesn't mean they'll keep debating, but rather that the not-super-enough majority gives up and moves on to something else.

Back when the 60 vote hurdle for cloture was being used to block confirmation votes on Bush's worst choices for judicial appointments, the then-majority Republicans were wailing about "an up or down vote" as an essential component of democracy.

No doubt. I'm sorry no Democrat made the evening news with a call to the Republicans to "just let us have our up-or-down vote and we'll move on." Political stunt? Point made? Pointless expression, given Bush's continued affirmation of support for his buddy?

Yup, all that and more. It's the "principled" stand that loyalty matters more than competence in the Bush administration.

Like Dana Milbank did, I heard Bush say "my government" in his response from Bulgaria, and did a little double-take.

"Only in America would the president turn himself into a king on the very same day that the Senate decides to become a parliament."

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

2nd Amendment Option Permalink to this item

Some of the Sunnis say they hate Al Qaeda... just like us! So we'll arm them, get everything even-steven and we can get the hell out of there.

The only fly in the ointment is that they hate the "Persians" even more, lumping Iranian and Iraqi Shiites together in that handy ethnic catch-all. It'll be good for arms sales, but maybe not-so-good for peace, stability, or democracy in Iraq.

Unless of course the NRA is right.

Evolution and Dissent Permalink to this item

Speaking of political litmus tests... David K. DeWolf has a different take on the piety parade in The Boston Globe, looking for a more nuanced debate on the topic of evolution. That would be the one where his skills as a professor of law might have a chance of winning the day.

If DeWolf knew which end of a litmus test was operational, he'd also know that the "evidence for and against the theory" of evolution has been and continues to be well-debated, and presented objectively in better institutions (such as Gonzaga University where he teaches, I'm sure). The "Darwinian evolution theory" strawman that he wants to do battle with is an ossified artifact of the 19th century, just like the Discovery Institute, where DeWolf is a senior fellow.

I trust DeWolf's skill in rhetoric and pettifogging make up for his lack of scientific awareness; otherwise, I'm not sure why the Jesuits would keep him on.

Heart Inspection Permalink to this item

Sedum in the rain The local letters to the editor usually provide comic relief, but there is also a steady flow plumbing the depths of racism and jingoism which can be sickening. Today's offering, from one Anita Ward in Weiser (who didn't provide her middle name for some reason) shares some information that "the entire population of the United States needs to know."

First and foremost, she wants us all to know that Barack Obama's middle name is Hussein, and that he's "conceal(ing) the fact that he is still a Muslim."

Most of the terrorists who profess their faith do it openly, but apparently crypto-Muslims join atheists as a group which is simply ineligible for the Presidency, as piety examination becomes standard fare in the mob debate scenes. (I'm not sure why Timothy McVeigh or the Church of Jesus Christ-Christian hasn't made professed or crypto-Christianity a disqualifier.) Scot Lehigh:

These days, it's becoming the norm for candidates not simply to declare their faith, but to let questioners probe its depths and dimensions. Call me a freethinker, but I think I see a guiding hand at play—and it's the hand of politics, not of the Lord.

But Ms. Ward needs no such probing to get to the bottom of Obama's heart: she tells us that he "joined the United Church of Christ because he knows it is politically expedient to do all he can to purge any notion that he is still a Muslim."

And oh by the way, he and John McCain "voted to give illegal aliens Social Security benefits." (The only thing I can't figure out is how she said that without three exclamation points at the end of the sentence, or finished her letter without using the word "amnesty.")

10.June.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Don't Ask, Don't Tell (Much) Permalink to this item

The local paper had a lightweight preview bit about the 18th annual Pride Parade in Boise, but apparently couldn't be bothered to actually cover the event. Their judgement that their readers don't want to hear about such things?

Learning Experience Permalink to this item

Pete Husmann is still recovering from being shot up after he joined the Latah County Courthouse fracas, picturing himself in a heroic vein. It's one of those anti-gun control arguments that gee if only we were all better armed, somebody could just take down the deranged shooter and all would be well. Husmann would be the poster-boy for countering that argument. As the Spokesman-Review reports,

The engineering student was nearing the end of a three-movie marathon of "Die Hard" flicks when he (said he) heard a hail of gunfire about 11 p.m....

Husmann stuffed a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol in the pocket of a loose-fitting jacket. He hid it, knowing police officers would be on edge and on the lookout, the Post Falls High School graduate said.

He pedaled his mountain bike about a mile to where Hamilton, armed with two high-powered rifles, was carrying out his rampage.

"I knew someone would be hurt," said Husmann, and sure enough, he was among the casualties. But in spite of doing no good whatsoever, and considerable harm to himself... he'd do it all again. Better luck next time?!

9.June.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Bathos Permalink to this item

You've heard of pathos, but maybe not the super-sized version? That's bathos, the "unintended humor caused by an incongruous combination of high and low." Pathetic, bathetic. You be the judge when it comes to Scooter Libby's character references pleading to Judge Walton for leniency on Libby's behalf.

Mary Matalin (speaking for herself and her husband, James Carville) is praying for wisdom and mercy, lamenting that her girls "just don't understand." Mr. Scooter was judged wonderful by her children, what more could you ask of him?

Perhaps honesty? Integrity? That kind of stuff.

Henry Kissinger remembers how hard it was to recall the truth; just check how well his memoir matches up with reality!

But not all the letters were glowing. More than one Angry Citizen wrote to request revocation of bail, or "the longest possible prison term" for Mr. Libby.

(Thanks to for Rick Perlstein's Washington X-Ray.)

Axis of Evil Permalink to this item

The leaders who brought us a war against weapons of mass destruction to depose an evil dictator to bring democracy to Iraq on terrorism authored a system that led to the enormity of Abu Ghraib. Then they made sure that the buck stopped at the lowest possible levels.

Philip Zimbardo ran the experiment more than 30 years ago that showed how a "bad barrel" creates bad apples, but didn't want to talk about it much, for decades afterwards. Now he's got a book on the subject, and an interview with Marina Krakovsky of Stanford Magazine about what experience can teach us.

Throughout the world, evil occurs almost always in the name of religion or of national security. In the beginning of Mein Kampf, Hitler says, "In dealing with the Jewish question, Iím doing the Lord's work." No evildoer ever believes he or she is doing evil.

We Need the Talent Permalink to this item

Stephen Benjamin: Don't Ask, Don't Translate. "'Donít ask, donít tell' does nothing but deprive the military of talent it needs and invade the privacy of gay service members just trying to do their jobs and live their lives."

You Know Your Republican Presidency Has Gone Lame When... Permalink to this item

This is of a piece with the traditional Republican campaign slogan: "Vote Republican, we're not as bad as you think." –Wesley Pruden

The editor in chief of The Washington Times pulls out the stops to ridicule your efforts at influencing legislating. It had something to do with the particular bill, one that "stinks like a dead dog left at the side of the highway."

Bush's incomparable salesmanship came up short with his own attempt to ridicule anyone who didn't support the immigration bill: "If you want to kill the bill, if you don't want to do what's right for America, you can pick one little aspect out of it, you can use it to frighten people. Or you can show leadership and solve this problem once and for all."

You have to admire the chutzpah from Dudley "do right for America," though.

(Note to Pruden: I don't know about chicken-plucking, but we have farm machinery for "potato-digging" these days; there isn't any "low-pay stoop labor" used to harvest potatoes around here.)

Repudiate Bushism
–Pat Buchanan

But I like Pat Buchanan's explanation for Bush and his supporters who are attacking conservative opponents on this issue: "down deep where they live, they don't like the right, never did and have always sought to be seen by the Big Media as the progressive children of a dysfunctional and retarded family."

In other words, it's all about the self-loathing?

"The damage Bush has done to his party is beginning to rival that of Herbert Hoover. If the Clintons were doing this, would conservatives be mute? Time to lock and load."

8.June.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Just Say No, No, No Permalink to this item

Abstinence-only sex "education" is demonstrably ineffective at best, and likely harmful (it could be because 80% of the programs include false or misleading information). But Appropriations Chairman David R. Obey (D-Wis) is offering up $140 million more of the useless disinformation... to make nice with House Republicans?!

This is bizarre.

It's a Dry Heat Permalink to this item

Excerpt of the drought monitor image on We'd be happy if we just regularly got our 11" a year (with lots more in the mountains, of course). The southeast is saying they need 4 or 5 times Boise's annual rainfall to get out of their drought.

"California and Nevada just recorded their driest June-to-May period since 1924..." "Southern California's Antelope Valley, rainfall at just 15%..." Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada 27% of normal. 12,000 acres of a Florida lakebed caught fire last month. No water flowing in the the Kissimmee River for hundreds of days. Spring wildfire in NE Minnesota. Lake Powell and Lake Mead half full.

Commenter Wolfgang Von Katt thinks the End may be Near: "A lot of you folks would do well to stop trying to disprove God's Holy Word, and embrace it while you still can. God bless you."

7.6.7 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Prepare to Believe Permalink to this item

It's not so much the Infoworld blog post with free advertising for the Creation Museum, as the 159 (and counting) comments attached to it, that show the evolution of thought in action.

The argument for God in a nutshell from the first one, from Joseph Wang: "In the physical realm, we know that a pile of bricks can never assemble itself into a wall or a building." This demonstrates that "creationists believe in science" in the same way they believe in God; something wonderful and inexplicable.

Mac and the PC Guy Permalink to this item

The highlight reel is the short way to the most entertaining moments, but I liked the run of the interview with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher on D5. Context matters. And nuance. Somebody needs to have the two actors from the commercial read the best parts of the transcript and take it to the next level. Or maybe not; the interview is too much of a lovefest for the necessary dramatic tension.

Steve: Gil was a nice guy, but he had a saying. He said, "Apple is like a ship with a hole in the bottom leaking water and my job is to get the ship pointed in the right direction."

Bill: Well, home, youíll have your living room, which is your 10-foot experience...

Pluripotency in mouse skin cells Permalink to this item

This is huge: Biologists Make Skin Cells Work Like Stem Cells. It's just mouse skin cells, but an astounding piece of the puzzle of how the expression of genes is controlled to make tissues. Still some work to be done:

"One problem is that the mice have to be interbred, which cannot be done with people. Another is that the cells must be infected with the gene-carrying virus, which is not ideal for cells to be used in therapy. A third issue is that two of the genes in the recipe can cause cancer. Indeed 20 percent of Dr. Yamanakaís mice died of the disease...."

It figures that pluripotency and cancer are next-door neighbors. But it's reasonable to hope that "quantity control" and "quality control" have different triggers and that they can be teased apart.

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

A National Disgrace Permalink to this item

Another call to close Gitmo:

The Guantánamo camp was created on a myth – that the American judicial system could not handle prisoners of "the war against terror." It was built on a lie – that the hundreds of detainees at Gitmo are all dangerous terrorists. And it was organized around a fiction – that Mr. Bush had the power to create this rogue system in the first place.

It is time to get rid of it.

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

Rain Permalink to this item

A strawberry, ripening in the rain Seems like it took this cold front forever to get here, but it was worth the wait. Lovely, green, rain.

Fall Guy Permalink to this item

Two and a half years for Scooter, for his proven obstruction of justice and perjury. I'm guessing Bush pardons him sooner or later. And why not? He was just doing what the boss wanted him to. Our system of justice presumes innocence (unless we decide you're a terrorist), so a lot of guilty people—like Scooter's boss, or Bush's Brain—never come close to being punished for their crimes.

See No Evil Permalink to this item

There must be some Pentagon programs that stay on time and on budget, but that wouldn't be news. It is news when a progam for which they partner with NOAA and NASA is so far over budget that it's scaled back, and the program is, oh, probably one of the most important "homeland security" missions of the century: monitoring global climate.

Downsizing from 6 satellites in 3 orbits to 4 in 2 doesn't sound that bad, but having the scaled-back system "focus on weather forecasting," with "most of the climate instruments needed to collect more precise data over long periods being eliminated" does not sound like a particularly intelligent plan for the world #1 source of industrial CO2. We'll rely on European satellites for climate data?

Let's say that the $6.5 billion original budget were doubled, no&—tripled! That would be as bad as... two months of the war in Iraq.

For this other "long war" we're embarked upon, we're going to outsource the data gathering and intelligence. Go with our gut on this. Brilliant.

4.June.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Training Terrorists Permalink to this item

One of the unintended consequences of us embarking on war with Iraq, and the resulting occupation, is that "fighting them over there" has resulted in significant learning by both pre-existing and new enemies.

"Improvised explosive devices" are taking an increasing toll as the "makeshift" technology shifts to match the attempts to find a technological solution to the arms race with insurgent and terrorist groups.

If General Meigs is right that the threat can not be truly defeated, but only "mitigated, minimized, made into a nuisance," it seems as if it might be a metaphor for the larger War on Terror. If someone values a Cause more than life itself, and others are willing to exploit that value, what can ultimately stop the attack?

Fighting them over there makes a catchy quip, but it has also multiplied our enemies (even as they killed thousands of us, and we and they killed tens or hundreds of thousands of them) and made them significantly more capable.

Presidential candidates defending their equivocal records may say we are "safer" now. I see no credible facts to account for that claim.

Teeming with Life Permalink to this item

Is that pollen? No, a mob of aphids If you live near a Russian Olive tree, you probably know how "productive" they are. They're distinctive in gray-green leaves and rusty brown, peeling bark, and the sweet scent of their flowers is a lovely gift of May. The birds love the fruit... and during that and all meantimes, they always seem to be dropping something or other. At the moment, it's the spent flowers, nearly forming a carpet on our patio.

While sweeping them up yesterday, I noticed a couple piles of what looked like pollen, without giving it much thought (or finishing the full sweep job). If I'd thought about it a moment, I would have realized it couldn't be that; #1, pollen wouldn't have collected in two piles like that, and #2, pollen from what, now?

insect brooding on the back of a fallen Russian Olive leaf Jeanette hollered when she took a closer look this morning. The olive detritus had writhing piles of... aphids. Which means the tree does as well, and they're raining down upon our patio.

While looking for the golden buggers, I noticed something less numerous, but no less remarkable: a fallen leaf, with a cluster of insect coccoons, miniature wasps, perhaps? If they feed on aphids, they're in for a couple of happy generations.

The aphid picture is linked to a larger detail. The set of cells shown on the back of the leaf is about ¼ inch, top to bottom.

How Many Tweaks to a Kludge? Permalink to this item

Far be it from me to criticize Google's results, or their ranking algorithm; the success of the latter is obvious from at least one of its competitors introducing the A-word in their advertising, trying to convince us they have a better one.

Show us the results, eh?

But success begets competition, in many forms, and for search engines, not the least of those is the competition from undeserving targets who want to become more deserving (or at least more wealthy) by moving up the ranking.

Google let Saul Hansell of the NYT have a peek under the hood where the brainiacs fuss over the "thousand little tunings" involved in keeping the best search engine on the planet the best. It made me wonder just how long the technical advantage can be sustained, and when its very complexity will be too much for the enterprise to support. (I doubt anytime soon, but still.)

2.June.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

And Another Commencement Permalink to this item

I wouldn't have guessed that Universities have Departments of Rhetoric these days, but UC Berkeley, at least, does, and Mark Danner delivered an address to the Class of 2007 and their guests last month: Words in a Time of War; Taking the Measure of the First Rhetoric-Major President.

If this Age of Rhetoric has a tragic symbol, then surely this is it: the frozen scandal, doomed to be revealed, and revealed, and revealed, in a never-ending torture familiar to the rock-bound Prometheus and his poor half-eaten liver.

Property Tax Bites Permalink to this item

If it were more of an investment and less of our domicile, we'd be over the moon about the Ada County Assessor's estimate of the value of our real estate. Let's just say the bubble hasn't burst for the tax collector. He says our lot is worth 33% more this year than last, our "residential improvement" appreciated 16% (in spite of that remodelling still just a notion), and his cut is going to be up 22%.

Nice work if you can get it.

The New Silent Majority Permalink to this item

Mark Buchanan has wrapped up his guest stint on Times Select and got the bug of interactive media, launching his "private" blog, The Social Atom. (I guess if you give your blog the same title as the book you're promoting, it's really a flog.)

Commercial intent aside, I'm happy to see it, as his ideas are provocative. Last month, he raised the issue of pluralistic ignorance, that form of mass delusion that causes us to imagine "most" people think (or understand) something that we don't. Raise your hand, ask a question, test the water.

Nancy Pelosi unpopular? Scooter should be pardoned? Impeachment out of the question? Don't believe any of that stuff.

Two for Commencement Permalink to this item

Congratulations on your accomplishment. Now listen up, we all have some advice for you. Damon Darlin's is on (the) money. Start saving early, not because of the miracle of compound interest, but because the habit of delayed gratification is the surest road to financial security.

Some other things your mother (should have) told you: "Never pay a real estate agent a 6 percent commission. Buy used things, except maybe used tires...."

And Bill Cope has some bad news for you: you're not quite as special as we've been telling you all these years.

1.June.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I Know You Are, But What Am I? Permalink to this item

Glenn Greenwald, on the defense of torture, and rank revisionism:

...virtually every Yoo-ian torture defense offered today is identical to the ones advanced by those German war crime defendants in an unsuccessful attempt to defend their use of "enhanced interrogation" techniques....

Brownback: My God can beat up your Science Permalink to this item

Sam Brownback clarified his hand-raising for disbelief, in a NYT Op-Ed piece yesterday, What I Think About Evolution. (And the Times published 8 letters in response today.)

As he says, the issue is worth discussing in "more detail and seriousness" than a simple show of hands, for as revealing as that show might be. His further thoughts are still drawn in black and white, however. He wants to make sure we understand that he doesn't believe in a God who "created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days." The nexus of "science, faith and reason" is more complicated than that, but not much.

He believes "wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between (faith and reason)," a rather remarkable notion given the last, oh, two millennia of human history.

Tom Tommorow's This Modern World take on religio-political beliefs He further believes that what we do and don't "assent" to among scientific inferences is a question of values. He's OK with assenting to "microevolution" ("small changes that take place within a species"), but an "exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence" is a bridge too far, and he rejects it. Fine. Does he really think those two concepts are adjacent?! He's "wary of any theory that seeks to undermine manís essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos."

"Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science."

I suspect that Brownback's profound confusion about faith and science is shared by many. Science is not an "atheistic theology" seeking to duke it out with the world religions in a fair fight. The answers that science provides are subject to revision; those which are demonstrably wrong will be rejected, sooner or later. Many of religions' wrong ideas have likewise been rejected over time, but with much greater resistance. Their ultimate redoubt is non-demonstrability; what can't be disproved need never be rejected.

But neither can one non-demonstrable "truth" be superior to another; we're free to choose whatever such "truths" that appeal to us, whether the choice is based on aesthetics, practicality, or childhood inculcation. This is the "religion" that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of.

From my point of view, Brownback's point of view fails the minimum requirement for scientific understanding that we should expect of high school graduates, let along college graduates, Senators, or a President.

You raise your hand on that question in the debate, it's game over. You're disqualified from further consideration. Thank you for playing.

Seen on the Street Permalink to this item

The crazy cat lady (just kidding) let the New York Times take her picture, inside her apartment, no less, but she wasn't as keen about the picture from the street that Google's got up in its new Street View, showing her cat looking out the window.

Just pictures taken from public property, like anyone else could take, Google says. And post on the internet where a few billion people can enjoy them in the privacy of their own computers around the world.

What happens out on the street is there for public apprehension, but we're used to fleeting moments being fleeting, rather than immortalized on web pages. Things are different now.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Monday, 02-Jul-2007 12:38:25 MDT