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31.Oct.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Hughes is Done (but what did she do? Permalink to this item

The NYT report says she's "credited with injecting new energy into the administration’s efforts to improve America’s image around the world, more actively spreading good news about the United States while more aggressively addressing bad news." Lord amercy that is the "work of generations" after the damage done by the administration she worked for, and her BFF, President George W. Bush.

She was good for the State Department's public diplomacy budget, boosting it to almost a $billion a year. But it wasn't just the Arab and Muslim worlds which are not quite won over after her tenure:

"Just in the past week, many Canadians were annoyed that a new welcome-to-America video, proudly posted on Ms. Hughes’s blog on the State Department web site, used images of the Horseshoe portion of Niagara Falls, which is entirely within Canada."

We do have one astounding insight to carry forward as a result of her labors, however: "She said she advised President Bush and Secretary Rice that resolving (the Israeli-Palestinian) conflict would do more than anything to improve American standing among Muslims." Who knew? Who could have guessed?!

Thank God for the Service of the Jury Permalink to this item

Turns out his attorney brood isn't so scary after all; not a Hallowe'en story, just coincidental timing, for news of the jury verdict against Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist "Church." $2.9 million for invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress with its despicable demonstration at a Marine's funeral, and $8 million more for punitive damages. Seems about right to me, but some wonder whether the First Amendment, which "protects a lot that's reprehensible," should permit the Phelps klan to do their thing. Is it enough to observe that Phelps is "highly offensive to a reasonable person"?

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

Puts the FA in FA-NOMENAL Permalink to this item

The sign with that punchline got featured in the post-game runout tonight... whoops, am I disseminating an account of the NFL's game and violating their copyright? Come and get me, guys, I don't care 'cause I'm over the moon about that EIGHTY-THREE YARD TOUCHDOWN PASS To beat the Denver Bongoes like a drum in the first play from scrimmage in their 19-13 OT win on Monday Night Football.

That's FA as in BRETT FAVRE, of course. So glad he didn't retire after last season! Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do; Go Packers!

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

The Other T-word Permalink to this item

As with "evil," everybody says he's against "torture" (excepting of course the producers of 24; they know how well it sells to a fearful audience). Even George Bush's nominee for his 3rd Attorney General knows he's supposed to say "it's absolutely right out" if Congress asks him about it.

But behind the scenes... the government's own documents tell a different story, which the ACLU has assembled into a book, Administration of Torture.

"The documents show that abuse of prisoners was not limited to Abu Ghraib but was pervasive in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay. Even more disturbing, the documents reveal that senior officials endorsed the abuse of prisoners as a matter of policy-sometimes by tolerating it, sometimes by encouraging it, and sometimes by expressly authorizing it."

Life Imitates Art, Episode III Permalink to this item

Ok, so I'm late getting around to finishing the "final" of the 6 episodes, but that means I don't have to worry about putting up a spoiler alert, right? Rather amazing to carry a story around for 30 years before connecting the last stitches...

"This is how liberty dies: with thunderous applause."
–Padmé Amidala

"I have brought peace, justice, freedom, and security to my new Empire!" "If you're not with me, you're my enemy."
–Darth Vader

"You were the Chosen One! ...You were to bring balance to the force, not leave it in darkness."
–Obi-Wan Kenobi

But life imitates life as well, as this episode from a country not so far, far away might remind us:

To defend the nation from its enemies, Jacobins expanded the government’s police powers at the expense of civil liberties, endowing the state with the power to detain, interrogate and imprison suspects without due process. Policies like the mass warrantless searches undertaken in 1792—"domicilary visits," they were called—were justified, according to Georges Danton, the Jacobin leader, "when the homeland is in danger."

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

Straitjacket Bush Permalink to this item

Rosa Brooks:

"We're in the middle of a disastrous war in Iraq, the military and political situation in Afghanistan is steadily worsening, and the administration's interrogation and detention tactics have inflamed anti-Americanism and fueled extremist movements around the globe. Sane people, confronting such a situation, do their best to tamp down tensions, rebuild shattered alliances, find common ground with hostile parties and give our military a little breathing space. But crazy people? They look around and decide it's a great time to start another war."

If not a straitjacket, at least a time out.

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

You Can Make This Stuff Up Permalink to this item

But you might get caught: "No actual reporter attended the news conference in person, FEMA spokesman Aaron Walker said," according to the news-about-the-non-news. The Reuters story didn't mention whether Walker used "air quotes" around "news" when talking about the staged event, apparently designed to reassure and communicate such important information to the general public as whether or not the deputy administrator was "happy with FEMA's response so far?" (Yes, he was. Very.)

Blame it on ""good leadership."

Doom and Gloom and Gossamer Wings Permalink to this item

Paul MacCready has done some amazing stuff in human-powered and solar-powered flight, by his own account for rather mundane reasons: there was money in it, for a while. A really difficult engineering challenge is incentive for some people, too. The Helios flew to 96,863 feet, "above 98% of the earth's atmosphere," pulled by solar-powered propellors.

MacCready's graph of 'Nature vs. Humans' His talk at this year's TED turns decidedly less light and airy when he adds up the world's weight in vertebrates and notices that humans, their pets, and their livestock are now running 98% of the total.

That's up from "not even one-tenth of 1%" 10,000 years ago.

He asks the high school students he works with from time to time to come up with an estimate of the equilibrium, sustainable human population of the earth, and says that they usually arrive at a consensus figure of about two billion. With no idea how to get there from here. (MacCready says he has no idea, either.)

"Over billions of years, on a unique sphere, chance has painted a thin covering of life—complex, improbably, wonderful and fragile.

"Suddenly we humans (a recently arrived species no longer subject to the checks and balances inherent in nature), have grown in population, technology, and intelligence to a position of terrible power: we now wield the paintbrush.

"We're in charge. It's... uh... frightening."

Of his black-edged painting of the earth and the history of life, he says "I have no idea what comes next, so I just used robotic and natural cockroaches as the future, as sort of a warning."

[Detail of the graph: it runs from 1850 to 2000, with lines projected another half century. The weight of all land and air vertebrates in "wild nature" has gone from 250 million tons to less than 50? in the past century and a half, on a line declining to zero in a few decades. After "Dominating Nature," "Your choices" include Devasting Nature; Bio-engineered Humans win?; Computers win?; Cockroaches Win? and of course Other.]

Please Vote For Me Permalink to this item

That's the title of a remarkable film that was shown on Independent Lens this week, about the election for Class Monitor in a third-grade class in China: "Eight-year-old children compete for the position of class monitor in the first school election of its kind held in China. Aided and abetted by parents and teachers, the young candidates reveal the nature of democracy in a rapidly changing country."

I'm usually not positively impressed by artists talking about their work (I guess because I think art should speak for itself), but the statement from filmmaker Weijun Chen is well worth reading. And the film is well worth seeing, if you have the chance!

One provocative "reminder" from an anonymous poster in the Talkback section: "The original children's dialogues are way funnier than the often rigid, vague, and sometimes inaccurate subtitle translation."

Another poster suggests that "Class Monitor" isn't the best translation, and "Class Leader or Manager" or "Classroom President" woudl be more accurate. That made me reflect on the informal position I held in my early grade school classes as "Teacher's Pet." The film didn't provide that much insight to the teacher, but she didn't seem like the type to have a favorite, really. The film showed her as a fascinated facilitator of the interactions, not as protective of her students as I would have expected, as I wanted to keep one from hurting another. She came across to me more like "let's see what happens next!"

'bots at the Book Sale Permalink to this item

The speculative fiction genre is replete with tales of robot-run dystopias which cause some of us to worry, a little. Of course that future's not here yet. Or is it? You've already run into a Captcha, whether you knew who Alan Turing was or not, and had to prove (to a computer, no less) that you were human, before proceeding with a comment post, or perhaps a commercial transaction.

Union Pacific 2295, rusting in Julia Davis Park in Boise Earlier this month, that was my last step in the process for attempting to buy a ticket to the Davis Cup final in Portland. I passed the test, but was then informed that there were no tickets left—seventeen minutes after they'd gone on sale for a venue with more 12,000 seats. Purchasers were limited to 12 at a time, so you can do the math; there were a lot of machines ahead of me in the queue.

Jeanette and I are Friends of the Boise Public Library, and in addition to a very modest annual contribution to the cause, she works regularly sorting donated books, preparing for their semiannual book sales to the public. Yesterday was the "Friends" preview, and as usual, the place was swamped with dealers willing to make a "donation" to get the first cut.

They almost all carry little computers these days, with barcode scanners. Who needs a head full of knowledge about what's valuable when you have a database connection to look up the latest bid and asked prices? These people swarm the volunteers like a cloud of Idaho mosquitoes, pouncing on each load of books that's brought out and spread onto the tables, pushing the hapless retail Friends out to the margin as they try to suck out the residual value of the used books.

Jeanette did her best to mix it up with them, bringing out armloads rather than a box at a time, and then distributing them unpredictably among the tables. And she engaged them in conversation, using the same tactic that works so well with teaching children: the element of surprise. I know what you're up to, she said. They caught on to know that she knew what they were up to, probably. And when she knew they knew she knew what they were up to, she would up the ante with a new strategy they weren't anticipating.

It's a best a partial victory, and the retail customers will have to content themselves to having more vendors to buy from (such as a bargain bookstore that never closes) as the machines and their support staff push them out of the way.

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

Still Looking for an Attorney General of the United States Permalink to this item

Jed Rubenfeld renders an opinion on Michael Mukasey's performance at his confirmation hearing, concerning that statement about the Lawbreaker in Chief. Asked whether the President is required to obey federal statutes, he Mukasey replied

"That would have to depend on whether what goes outside the statute nonetheless lies within the authority of the president to defend the country."

This is some kind of crazy notion leaking out of Number One Observatory Circle. "It is a dangerous confusion and distortion of the single most fundamental principle of the Constitution—that everyone, including the president, is subject to the rule of law," Rubenfeld writes.

We do not live under a system where our leaders are the sun of the nation and mankind (and neither do the North Koreans). The threat of terrorism, real or imagined, does not somehow trump the political system and allow our Fearless Leader to become a dictator.

"Under the American Constitution, federal statutes, not executive decisions in the name of national security, are "the supreme law of the land." It's that simple. So long as a statute is constitutional, it is binding on everyone, including the president....

"As a minimum prerequisite for confirmation as attorney general, a nominee should be required to state plainly whether the executive branch or a federal statute is supreme when the president and the Congress, both acting within their constitutional powers, clash. This is especially imperative today, when the executive branch has been making unprecedented claims about the scope of presidential authority. A Senate that did not demand a clear statement on this point would not be doing its job."

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

Southern California Burning Permalink to this item

Witch Fire, headed into Solana Beach, Oct. 23, 2007 Trouble in paradise, a half million people forced from their homes by wildfire in the dry hills. The Witch Cr. Fire (1% contained at last report) evacuation zone comes right up next door to some of my family in San Diego County, so the Google Map being maintained by KPBS, showing fires, evacuation zones, and refuges is much appreciated.

8pm update: The wind has shifted to on-shore; blessed relief from over the ocean.

Hello, Big Brother! Permalink to this item

Imagine this: a story about GPS-enabled cellphones and the comm channel for you and your buddies to track where everyone is, and no mention of the N.S.A.!

...Consumers can turn off their service, making them invisible to people in their social-mapping network. Still, the G.P.S. service embedded in the phone means that your whereabouts are not a complete mystery.

"There is a Big Brother component," said Charles S. Golvin, a wireless analyst at Forrester Research. "The thinking goes that if my friends can find me, the telephone company knows my location all the time, too."

And if the telephone company knows your location, so does the National Security Agency. No joke.

Ethnic Cleansing Permalink to this item

Canada Geese at Julia Davis park, fall 2007 Bill Scher didn't use that term in his description of the political aftermath of Katrina in Louisiana, but he might as well have. The same number of votes that lost Piyush "Bobby" Jindal the governor's election last time has gone from a 48% second-place to a 53% outright win, catapulting him from dominating a Republican suburb of New Orleans to a Republican victory for Louisiana governer.

(Among Jindal's bona fides is his apparent "willingness to consider the teaching of intelligent design." I guess you don't graduate magna cum laude from Brown and get selected as a Rhodes Scholar without knowing how to calculate carefully.)

Is That All You Got? Permalink to this item

The RNC "not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee" is running a "Scariest Democrat" contest for Hallowe'en, and as you might guess, Hillary Clinton is leading the voting. (91% last I checked, leaving only single digits for 5 other contenders.) I followed the link to see what they have for a big bad boo on the candidates for President. Hillary's frightening attribute? She consistently votes liberal, with a "Party Unity Score" (their caps) of 95.2%.

So, party unity and thinking alike is bad. Hmmm.

But wait. Where's the rest of the attack on Clinton? Nothing? Nada?!

Man, those Republicans scare easily. Maybe that's why we rushed in to Iraq against some imagined threat to our domestic tranquility, and started shooting ourselves in the feet in a orgy of collateral damage. Gosh, that worked so well, let's do Iran, too.

Good god, get these people out of office.

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

Especially If You Have Dim-bulb Leaders Permalink to this item

Tom Friedman: Save the Planet: Vote Smart. "It is so much more important to change your leaders than change your light bulbs."

I've been (relatively) green since it had a certain fashionability the first time around (as in, the 70s), but as he notes, such personal rivulets in the middle of the mighty stream of consumption don't make a whole lot of difference in the big picture. If we'd had a President who thought this issue was important in the year 2000 instead of one who thought "government" as a whole could be derided, taken advantage of, and used to enrich one's pals, it would have made a world of difference.

So, time to redirect, better late than never.

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

A New, (even) Dryer Chapter in the West Permalink to this item

Chasing the rain away, Julia Davis Park, Oct. 20 Joe Gertner, in today's NYT Magazine: "Lake Mead, the enormous reservoir in Arizona and Nevada that supplies nearly all the water for Las Vegas, is half-empty, and statistical models indicate that it will never be full again."

Another illustration of how the future of the West is drying up is that it would take 20 years of average flow in the Colorado River to fill Lake Powell again, now at half its capacity. What isn't clear is how soon any of the boomers west of the 100th meridian will be changing their plans on the basis of a weather forecast. Colorado expects to be home to 3 million more people by midcentury, California, 24 million more.

Record outbreaks of pine beetles and the dead trees in their wake are just one signal of the crisis; whether or not we have a catastrophe such as the one that forced the Anasazi out of the region a millennium earlier remains to be seen. Shortly.

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

Another Bush-league Attorney General Permalink to this item

" his two days of testimony this week, it became clear that Mr. Mukasey believes presidential power to be robust, expansive and sometimes beyond the power of Congress to control...."

This is not a Senate confirmation hearing question, it's a High School Civics class question. Does the President have to follow laws passed by Congress? Why yes, yes he does.

What if the President says the law is unconstitutional? It's up to the Supreme Court to make that determination, not the President.

If the President breaks the law, what's the remedy?

Impeachment. (But please; do Cheney first.)

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

Outsourcing Security to Mercenaries Permalink to this item

Bill Moyers' interview of Jeremy Scahill, investigative journalist and author of BLACKWATER: the rise of the world's most powerful mercenary army was chilling enough when they were talking about the contractors and mercenaries on our payroll that outnumber our military in Iraq, but where it really gets creepy is the story of Blackwater showing up in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina, ahead of FEMA, and ahead of the contract that would get signed and delivered soon enough. (They'd eventually bill $950 per man-day to Blackwater; $350 and per diem went to the men themselves.)

Think of it as a rehearsal for the next time the President needs to declare martial law somewhere in the U.S.

Coral Eyes the Moon Permalink to this item

Not such eyes as we have, but good enough to see when the moon is full, and providing a half-a-billion-year-old answer to the question that perplexed the Unintelligent Design crowd only recently: "what good is part of an eye?" It's good to synchronize sex.

Another Blot in the Bush Legacy Permalink to this item

Our President was willing to commit hundreds of billions of dollars of yours and my money for a war of adventure, but $30 billion over 5 years to enhance and extend health insurance for those not fortunate enough to have been born on 3rd base? No, that was a bridge too far.

Our junior Representative helped sustain Bush's rejection of the bill using specious or at least ignorant arguments, in spite of more than 40 Republican members, including our other Congressman, Mike Simpson, voting in favor.

The President wants a little high-visibility negotiation with Congress, driving his party further into the ditch, with an issue that the American public supports by a 3 or 4-to-1 margin; fixing healthcare, starting with uninsured children who need it the most.

17.Oct.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

This is Why They Think He's Dangerous Permalink to this item

His compassion makes them look so shrill:

(T)he Dalai Lama said that he felt "a sense of regret" over the sharp tensions with China unleashed by his visit and the honors conferred upon him. In gentle language and conciliatory tones, he congratulated China on its dynamic economic growth, recognized its rising role on the world stage, but he also gently urged it to embrace "transparency, the rule of law and freedom of information."

This from the man who was driven into exile 48 years ago by the Chinese Army.

The Chinese government's director general of its "State Administration for Religious Affairs" called our Congress' honoring Tenzin Gyatso "a farce," but the report doesn't go into particulars.

Is it the idea that any government (let alone the Chinese government) could be "transparent" that made it a farce? Or that the Chinese could stand up for the rule of law, and freedom of information?

Ye Xiaowen might do well to consider the English-language version of Confucian wisdom: "better to keep quiet and let people think you're an idiot than to speak up and remove all doubt."

(And yes, I could learn a lot about compassion and being gracious from the Dalai Lama.)

Overexposure Permalink to this item

Larry Craig's media team need to take another look at that study of the persistence of myths. Our brains are wired to discount anti-tautologies such as "I did nothing wrong" and to cling to the more sensational facts the way those escaped squares of toilet paper like to cling to one's heels.

Two hours of Larry and Suzanne on their loveseat are not going to wash away the scene of wide-stance toe-tapping and hand-waving that is being engraved ever-deeper on the American psyche. There are still the 5% of right-wingnuts who will babble about this whole circus being "orchestrated bi-coastally to take down one of the most powerful senators in the nation" [sic] and are glad Craig is staying in office to bring home Idaho's pork barrel for the resource extraction industries. And then there is the vast majority who think he should quit out of the shame and embarrassment for one or more of the behaviors that got him arrested, his response to being arrested, his guilty plea, and his cynical manipulation of public opinion while he dithered between quitting and staying.

The GOP did their best to get rid of him, threatening the very same Ethics Committee that brought Larry Craig to tears for his friend Bob Packwood, and he called their bluff. Don't expect that Ethics Committee to move this up on their calendar. They'll find whatever reason they need to let it slide until his Idaho replacement can be slid into place. His party will just have to hope and pray that Craig can catch a clue and stop blathering in public (as his BFF in the Senate finally suggested he do after that OMG moment, reading snippets of the interview). Larry Craig's attorneys have informed him that he can sit tight for the rest of his term, and that's what he plans to do, come hell or high water.

The one other thing we know for sure, is that everybody has an opinion (and at least three jokes) about Larry Craig now. They want to share it with you, and the progressive, socialist, left-wing idealogues of the mainstream media and blogosphere want to help them do it.

16.Oct.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A Matter of National Security Permalink to this item

With Scooter Libby gone from commuter to Commuted, and Karl Rove retired to some dank burrow in lower Texas, the treasonous outing of Valerie Plame is old news, right? Maybe it is just a topic for history, now augmented with her new book, Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House, but it's worth noting, as one of the people who started the disclosure of the affair, David Corn, does, that the focus of her job was to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. You know, those so-called Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Corn writes: "Ironic? Ask Dick Cheney."

But our Vice President is not an interactive medium, he's broadcast-only, and only appears when it's time for him to check to see if his shadow is still there, and then only before carefully selected audiences.

The bottom line: this episode demonstrated that the Bush White House was not honest (the vice president's chief of staff was even convicted of lying to law enforcement officials), that top Bush officials had risked national security for partisan gain, and that White House champions outside the government would eagerly hurl false accusations to defend the administration.

So—where's the apology?

We're Number One Permalink to this item

From Adam Liptak's first in "an occasional series of articles" that will unique aspects of the American justice system:

"(T)he United States stands alone in the world in convicting young adolescents as adults and sentencing them to live out their lives in prison. According to a new report, there are 73 Americans serving such sentences for crimes they committed at 13 or 14."

No Justice or Good People in the World Permalink to this item

I've seen the Dalai Lama, and I've seen some Chinese bureaucrats (ok, both on TV, but Jeanette saw H.H.D.L. in person when he came to Idaho), and I'd choose the former for pretty much any occasion, whether social or political.

Reading about Tibet's Communist Party boss, Zhang Qingli, complaining to reporters about the forthcoming Congressional accolade for the Dalai Lama from the U.S. Congress seems a bit laughable:

"We are furious. If the Dalai Lama can receive such an award, there must be no justice or good people in the world."

Our White House spokesman wants everyone to know that we don't want to make China feel we're "poking a stick in their eye," even though they so richly deserve being so poked for their history in Tibet.

To preserve the dignity of our huge trading partner and creditor, they omitted the photo op of Bush and the Dalai Lama.

That'll... not show them.

I can't wait to hear what Dana Perino has to say about Chinese police using electric prods on 15-year-old boys and holding them for ransom for the crime of scribbling slogans on walls calling for the Dalai Lama’s return. Perhaps the Chinese ambassador could assure us that they don't torture.

RIAA Sues Usenet Permalink to this item

I thought the headline was a spoof, suitable for The Onion, but the news on Wired appears to be the real deal. Most web denizens have no idea what "Usenet" is, I imagine, much less how it could be a "brazen outlaw that actively shirks its legal obligations."

Usenet used to be "the" place for online interactivity for geeks, with "newsgroups" of threaded conversations, covering every imaginable topic, and some unimaginable ones to boot. Threads were typically rambling, unfocused, useless, and so on. It's where some of us first experienced flamage, blather, and spew, before there were blogs and email lists to collect pointless (and ever so occasionally pointful) commentary.

The story describes it as "a global, distributed message-board network that was created in the pre-internet days, when it relied on dialup modems for distribution. Now it's carried over the internet." (That's "now" as in, for more than 2 decades).

The Larry Craig Shows Permalink to this item

It's the horrific car crash on a crowded freeway that you can't look away from, and neither can anyone else, as everyone's rubbernecking slows traffic to a crawl. Here comes two hours of more Larry Craig than you ever thought you wanted to see, on our local NBC affiliate,

"I'm not an attorney, I'm a farmer and a rancher," Craig says. Never been arrested, so this was a new experience for him. Maybe he was a farmer and a rancher 27 years ago, but he's been in Washington for almost three decades. He's a professional legislator, who almost miraculously remains naïve about the law.

Larry Craig's Minnesota mug shot "I did nothing wrong," he keeps saying. Pleading guilty just seemed like the best way to make it quietly go away. "I didn't seek counsel," as if it was just an attorney he lacked? He needs counseling more than he needs an attorney. Stick a fork in that Minnesota case, it's done. His attorneys keep saying that, too, but they're happy to keep taking Larry's campaign contributors' money until it runs out.

"I've read all of the emails," he says. "I've got to understand what Idahoans are thinking." Funny, he never showed a lick of interest in what I was thinking before this happened.

It really is all about Larry Craig in his mind. You think maybe you were "set up"? You mean to tell me Senator that you're still trying to claim that you weren't trolling for anonymous sex in that restroom? That you just accidentally stumbled upon exactly those signals that the anonymous gay sex in restroom community knows so well?

Good lord.

All you had to do was keep your tappin' toes in your own stall, Senator, just like everyone who goes in there to use the facilities. "Wide stance," my ass.

And then he trots out his self-serving rationalization that he's fulfilling a "responsibility to Idaho." It's not his seniority he's protecting, it's Idaho's. We're just fortunate that all those folks who contributed to his campaign can fund his legal team.

"Idaho's taken a heck of a beating," Larry says. "Gladiator politics," a blood sport at the expense of those poor, honest, dilligent politicians (working at a job that pays most of $200,000 a year, plus benefits).

Have we learned our lesson? He doesn't think so: "Idaho is going to elect a Republican to United States Senate," Craig says without a hint of doubt in his mind.

Dave Frazier handicaps the media magic at his Boise Guardian blog: "Craig dictated the terms of the interview if not the questions. No intimidating New York or Washington TV studio. Nope. He did it in the secure comfort of his Idaho home—put the eastern newsy off balance. Then he piggy backed the local interview into the same session—sort of a dress rehearsal for whichever went second."

"By controlling the interviewer, the venue, access, and time, Craig was about as close to being in command as he will ever be."

They did select a good question from their emails, though; from "Mark in Boise" (if not the Mark in Boise that's doing the soft-porn interview for KTVB): would you actually work to protect the police from entrapping people for soliciting sex in public places in restroom? Craig is "going to take a look at it," for sure.

And the big, fat softball: do you really think this is in Idaho's best interests? Oh yes, yes I do, says Craig. Hard decision, but yeah. And what a happy coincidence that it serves my self-interest!

Was it also a coincidence that the ad stuffed between the local and national interviewer was for The Singing Bee with a group imitating The Village People singing "YMCA"? Or somebody at the network slipping in a sly commentary on the Larry Craig song and dance?

"I almost quit listening," Larry told Matt Lauer, after he'd told Mark Johnson that he listens to and reads it all. I guess he had to say something to keep the second interview from just being a rerun...

And there's Larry Craig "standing on the wall" for us, protecting us from the evils of Government. Hmm, or is it bringing home the millions and billions of pork barrel appropriations that are so important for our state? He's bringing home the bacon, but he hates himself for doing it.

At least the national interview sampled some less Craig-controlled counter opinion, like Craig's calling out Bill Clinton as a "Nasty bad, naughty boy" in between the replays of Larry's rehearsed position statements. Jiminy.

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

What is it about Mr. Gore that drives right-wingers insane? Permalink to this item

That's Paul Krugman's question, but I wonder, too. "The desire to expunge the stain of illegitimacy from the Bush administration"? Or perhaps to expunge the stink of failure?

The anti-terror initiative turns out to be promote the recruitment of terrorists. Lowering taxes for the highest payers turns out to be running our economy and balance of trade so far in arrears, it may never recover. And the denial of the environmental consequences of our high-energy lifestyle may push us over the brink.

Last Century Was Good; Do We Have to Leave? Permalink to this item

Virginia creeper (wild grape), turning, with fruit We early adopter bloggers used to have to explain to others just what the heck a "blog" is. A sampling shows that too specific an answer would be wrong. What's a "magazine," after all? It's a publishing medium, which doesn't tell you what it's a medium for. Blogs are a compound category as well. They can be a personal publishing medium, such as this one, a sort of celebrity gaggle as TomPaine's Common Sense and The Huffington Post are, or an interactive, group medium such as DailyKos.

They're online, we know that much for sure.

They're new, evolving faster than descriptions of them, interesting, powerful in some ways, noisy, fascinating to watch.

At least for those of us who've taken a look inside, and started participating they are.

To those left behind (such as our Lieutenant Governor and now annointed Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Idaho, Jim Risch), contemplating that fear of confronting something complicated that we don't understand, they are an irrelevant distraction that can be dismissed out of hand.

"I understand there's a lot of chatter about them among politicos like us. But the guy walking down the street who's gonna vote, who's neither a Republican or a Democrat, how many political blogs does that guy visit between now and the day he punches that ballot?"

Risch supposes "it's a generational thing," with his three year headstart on his 61-year-old Democratic challenger. The good old boy network has never needed blogs, why should he?

Jim Hansen, who ran for Congress in 2006, provides a keen insight to Risch's disdain in the comments under the story from the woman who raised the question:

"Risch's mindset is to see voters as consumers, not as participants in making their community better. With enough money, he just hires the consultants and pollsters to tell him what to put in his ads and speeches that will push the buttons to get people to act. His comment about the guy walking down the street reveals that he does not see him as a full participant in power, but merely as a consumer that he needs push with the right messages."

How Long Can We Plead Innocent? Permalink to this item

Senescent walnut leaves Frank Rich thinks the free pass for the public's implicit acceptance of the crimes of the Bush administration may be running out. Not to put too fine a point on it.

"It was always the White House's plan to coax us into a blissful ignorance about the war. Part of this was achieved with the usual Bush-Cheney secretiveness, from the torture memos to the prohibition of photos of military coffins. But the administration also invited our passive complicity by requiring no shared sacrifice. A country that knows there's no such thing as a free lunch was all too easily persuaded there could be a free war....

"Our humanity has been compromised by those who use Gestapo tactics in our war. The longer we stand idly by while they do so, the more we resemble those "good Germans" who professed ignorance of their own Gestapo. It’s up to us to wake up our somnambulant Congress to challenge administration policy every day. Let the war's last supporters filibuster all night if they want to. There is nothing left to lose except whatever remains of our country's good name."

Might Makes Right Permalink to this item

Yet another international lesson in nuclear technology, provided by Israel this time. Signing the Nuclear Nonproliferaton Treaty, and following the letter of its terms is not protection from a pre-emptive first strike by the world's enforcer countries. Just about every country is mum about the Israeli sortie that dropped bombs on some sort of military facility in Syria.

"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates were particularly concerned about the ramifications of a pre-emptive strike in the absence of an urgent threat," David Sanger and Mark Mazzetti tell us. Presumably their concern admits more irony than Dick Cheney will ever recognize, still annoyed as he is about the idea that we'll actually engage North Korea instead of starving them back to the stone age.

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

God is Flying Again Permalink to this item

The Architect of the Capitol says that it's been policy since 1970, but not so much in writing all that time. "Religious and/or political expressions" were disallowed on the flag certificates for flags flown over the (side of the) U.S. Capitol. One wouldn't want a political expression on one's flag certificate, eh?

Apparently some constituents were unhappy that God was not allowed in the restricted airspace, and Members of Congress raised a beef with the help of the right wing echo chamber. The Architect found that "in fact, these rules have been inconsistently applied and that it is inappropriate and beyond the scope of this Agency’s responsibilities to censor messages from Members. The Architect's role is to certify that flags are appropriately flown over the U.S. Capitol, and any messages on the flag certificates are personal and between a Member of Congress and his or her constituents."

Are you itching to get one of those flags ("flown briefly on auxiliary flagpoles erected near the base of the dome, on the west side of the Capitol's roof," currently going for $17.05 from Idaho's Members, shipping included!) and your very own certificate? Join the 100,000+ others who are making requests of their Congresscritters annually.

The Larry Craig flag should be a hot item here in Idaho. Limited Edition! And now you don't have to worry about avoiding mention of God or Mammon, just the 300 character limit. And the filter of your Member, through whom your request to the Architect must be relayed.

Just one more question: are these flags made in China?

Corporate Gravy Train Toots in Boise Permalink to this item

Steve Appleton, cropped from Chris Butler's photo It's just "local" news, and the amounts are not nearly as obscene as some corporate fathers are getting, but still. After reporting losses of $225 million for its 3rd quarter, and $158 million for the 4th, Micron's sweet $7 million gift to its CEO gets on the front page.

$15 million worth of dilution to the rest of the shareholders is business as usual, and a job well done for the top ten best situated and least laid-off of Micron's workforce. They're generous in trickling some down to the community, of course, which we're all happy to see.

We're assured that the awards were based on the individual and company performance, but basic arithmetic tells us this is an inverse relationship, or maybe a perverse relationship, from the point of view of the more than 1,000 workers recently laid off.

This summer, a member of Micron's Board of Directors, Gordon Smith, made news by being–horrors!–critical of the CEO's performance. Appleton and the rest of his supine Board quickly closed ranks, silenced him, and then pushed Smith off the train. That's what we call "corporate accountability."

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

Fact Checking Myself Permalink to this item

In my quick quip after the Republicans' debate, I complained that Fred Thompson seemed underinformed about Social Security benefits' indexing, but here comes those folks again to tell me he did just fine. (Better than Guiliani, even.) Changing the index from wages to inflation would reduce benefits, thereby helping our government make the ends of the baby boom generation meet its means.

A low-key, avuncular, late-arriving candidate who gets his facts straight, huh. If he'll abjure wars of adventure, maybe I could learn to like him.

More Bush Lies Permalink to this item

We're not supposed to say it that directly, and FactCheck.Org uses the conventional euphemisms for the President's prevarication about the SCHIP bill he vetoed. "False claims" isn't too subtle, but "mischaracterizes" sounds rather like an accident.

"Gave a false description," "repeated a false charge," "misstated the intent of the SCHIP program" (the intent being Congress' prerogative after all, not the Executive's), those are all lying. Unless it was an accident again. Bush seems to have a lot of those.

Just Say No Permalink to this item

WaPo's story about Oklahoma's Tom Coburn holding up a new firearms law includes this interesting tidbit: "Coburn has holds on about 100 pieces of legislation he opposes," as in one Senator just saying no to any bill s/he doesn't like. Never mind the merits of this particular bill, which we're told is the first new firearms law in more than a decade, and which the NRA actually supports.

One Senator, just saying no to a hundred bills?!

Economics of Mayhem, part 2 Permalink to this item

The Iraqis are upping the ante from the previous report. A couple thousand bucks is no longer going to be considered sufficient justification for a wrongfully taken life. Blackwater's now long-ago initial notion of a quarter million dollars seems low too. The current bid is $9 million.

10.10.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Maybe Mitt Romney is Presidential Permalink to this item

We know he's practical at figuring out what people want to hear, and also at figuring out what works. Military action needed to deal with a (possibly imagined) threat? "You sit down with your attorneys and tell you what you have to do," the transcript from yesterday's debate reads. Good on Ron Paul for expressing indignation at a candidate's stunning ignorance of the Constitution, but with the performance of George W. Bush and the 107th through 110th Congresses fresh in mind, it's no wonder Romney needs a brush-up.

George W. Bush has sat down with his attorneys and "tell you what you have to do" on many occasions. Mirabile dictu, they always seems to say what he wants to hear. "Looks legal to me, sir!"

All Merged Into One, Bland Pilsner Permalink to this item

Morning light through a maple, turning, yesterday But with dozens of different labels, I'm sure. New MolsonCoorsMillerLite! Tastes like nothing at all! I used to be a sucker for "imported" beer, whether it was from Canada, or from the glorious Rocky Mountains. Now it really does have to taste great, or I'm not interested. That makes for more domestic tastes, with the happy resurgence of micro-breweries to augment the mass-produced swill that provides steady doses of anesthesia for the mob.

I don't see the point in Anheuser and Busch being standoffish; why not merge them into the big vat, too? Less filling!

U.S. Currency Gone Sub-Loony Permalink to this item

I can't remember the last time the U.S. Dollar was worth less than the Canadian Dollar.... November, 1976, according to; malaise days are here again? But even stranger is the news that those Chinese Communists are propping up our currency, even as they're riding down with us, as compared to the Euro, et al.

We're pouring our cheap money into China's foreign reserves even faster than we're pouring it into Iraq: $40 billion a month lately, now at $1.2 TRILLION, and climbing. (But hey, that's only about $4,000 for every man, woman and child in this country.)

Choosing a New Senator for Idaho Permalink to this item

Letters are still flooding in to the Statesman on the Larry Craig affair, and if today's selection was representative, they're running 14:0 "against." Catch of the day for name calling is "Liar Craig" (which would have been funnier if coupled with "pants on fire" somewhere, instead of just repeated seven times), and "Stall of Shame." (As opposed to the Idaho Hall of Fame, which has found itself a new domain name; "today's announcement," dated Sept. 21, says "Beta test is going well"; slogan: "Idahoans on loan to the world.")

Lt. Governor Jim Risch is delicately avoiding any public statements having to do with our sitting Senator, as his party rallies to annoint him the next Senator from Idaho. No word—needed, thanks to Craig's decision to tough out his last term—on whether or not the Governor was prepared to have appointed Risch.

Let's let bygones by bygones; Otter's possible choice is moot, and now he and every other statewide office-holder can rally behind the chosen Republican. Except oops, Larry Wasden was out of town for the announcement... guess he won't be running, will he?

Popkey lauds Risch's expression of bi-partisanship, something that yes, we could use some of to help "extricate" ourselves from Iraq. If only D.C. were as well-oiled as the Idaho Legislature, where Republicans have their way without the messy problems of a two-party system.

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

Leading from Behind Permalink to this item

"Supporters consider the former senator's slow metabolism to be part of his appeal," writes Peter Canellos of The Boston Globe, and also, he isn't Rudy Guiliani. Or Mitt Romney. Or McCain, Huckabee, or Paul. Maybe the strategy really is what it looks like: start slow, stay low, and wait for everyone else to self-destruct.

George W. Bush's lack of command of relevant facts has never seemed to hurt him very much, so maybe it doesn't matter that Thompson isn't aware that Social Security benefits are indexed to inflation. (Canellos doesn't seem to be aware of it either, so go figure.)

The low expectations never hurt Bush either. Maybe Fred Thompson is the front runner!

"State Secrets," so Torture Is OK Permalink to this item

Our Republican-stacked Supreme Court is not interested in hearing the appeal of a man who was kidnapped by the C.I.A. and tortured in Afghanistan.

The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district judge's ruling that the risk of exposing "state secrets" was more important than justice in the case, and our Supremes implicitly concur. Without comment.

Of course, the C.I.A. isn't talking about the case either. Kidnapping? Rendition? Torture? No comment.

Really?!? Permalink to this item

I don't get around to Saturday Night Live very often, and as you all know, the comedy has been pretty well squeezed out of our senior Senator's adventures in an airport bathroom... but Seth and Amy's segment could offer the last question (if not the last word) on Larry Craig's stance that he'll stay in office through the rest of his term. (Get it quick before NBC decides it's not OK with that? Hmm, or get it from them and don't you skip that ad, you hear?)

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

Double Dip of Irony Permalink to this item

It's just a short news item, but imagine this: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad getting student protesters on his home turf, Tehran University. And just like our President, "only the most ardent supporters of the president were allowed to be present for the speech."

Fly Me to the Moons... Permalink to this item

The other side of Saturn's moon Iapetus of Saturn. The TED talk from Carolyn Porco, my favorite planetary scientist, is now available to us non-illuminati, thanks to Tim Copeland's Blue Washington TV. We saw her in person at the UUA's General Assembly this year, giving a similar presentation, and were inspired by her enthusiasm, her energy, and of course, the stunning pictures from our solar system, and beyond.

I got on the mailing list for updates from her CICLOPS, the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Opererations, where news from, and images of Iapetus have just been posted.

If He Keeps Talking So Much, The Magic Will Be Gone Permalink to this item

The other Daily Show interview worth checking out is with Alan Greenpsan, which is what I went looking for, after starting the John Schwartz NYT piece, Suddenly, It's All Greenspan, All the Time, with his parenthetical recommendation that Stewart's interview was "the most interesting of the bunch.")

(Watch the video first; the column is funnier, and better for "dessert.")

I'm a lot more likely to read Goldsmith's book than The Age of Turbulence, though. Greenspan's book tour, "working through the local weeklies and auto traders and penny papers" by this point, has satisfied my curiosity about him.

"On the Other Hand, There's the Law..." Permalink to this item

I'm not the first person to observe that Jon Stewart's "fake news" show is often more real than the network infotainment. His interviews can be utterly forgettable, but they can also be succinct gems, such as his recent talk with Jack Goldsmith, who's promoting a new book, The Terror Presidency: Law and Judgment Inside the Bush Administration, is one of the keepers.

"...You worked with Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, and John Yoo, and these lawyers we've all heard about, and demonized for so long, to see them as people though, it's somewhat illuminating, and I think changes your mind a little bit."

"Thank you, I tried to paint as fair a picture as I could of the pressures everyone was under, and, they're not evil people, they're people who were trying to do their best, we all made mistakes of judgement, and, um, they were trying their best, even though they made mistakes."

Same As It Ever Was Permalink to this item's graph of national debt as a % of GDP Krugman dismisses the idea that our Unitary Executive has fallen off the agenda of "true conservatism" in this country. Cutting taxes and waging war? Using debt, outsourcing, and secret ops to monkey-wrench government competency? Holding the line against voting rights by "attacking fraud"? Intimidating the press with accusations of treason?

This is not a new program.

Meanwhile, Back East Permalink to this item

The Caucus blog's account of Romney at the Grass Drags is a hoot, exposing the more treacherous world of campaigning across the full spectrum of Americana. But he's a gamer, for sure.

"Mr. Romney, who was more casually dressed than usual today in khakis and a blue-checkered button-down shirt, pushed gamely ahead, making his way inside what was essentially a cross between a state fair and a motorcycle rally, with lots of beer, for snowmobilers...."

Get the Wool Out Permalink to this item

Larry LaRocco's working for the Senate, taking jobs around the state as he campaigns and reconnects with the people he'd be representing. His day on John and Diane Peavey's sheep ranch is captured in a very nicely produced video, available on YouTube:

7.Oct.7 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Why Should We Have to Pay for the War? Permalink to this item

The Bush team has done a hell of a job associating "patriotism" with supporting the war and occupation in Iraq, and they've done a hell of a job manipulating Congress into continuing the funding, with both branches of the government working to keep the appropriations miraculously off-budget. "Emergency" appropriations for 4 years and counting now.

Now comes Sen. David Obey (D-Wis.) and Sen. Jack Murtha (D-Pa.), proposing to actually pay for some of those appropriations, as opposed to just running up the national debt as we've done so far.

The response from the perky White House Press Secretary? Derision. "We've always known that Democrats seem to revert to type and they are willing to raise taxes on just about anything."

Yes, just about anything. Even a $trillion war of choice.

Tom Friedman tries his hand at derision.

Madame Speaker, Put It Back On the Table Permalink to this item

The intermittent outrage by a Congressman or Senator here and there would be more convincing if Congress did not keep rolling over and passing laws to further enable this administration's attack on our fundamental values. A program for prisons and torture modeled on the techniques from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Soviet Union?!

To hell with outrage, these are high crimes and misdemeanors, and the Constitution has a well-defined process for responding to them.

Oh, One More Thing Larry Craig Could Do Permalink to this item

Thanks to Mason Jones' letter to the editor today to remind me of the starting point to undo the assault on civil liberties that the Bush administration has made in their "war on terror." The restoration of habeas corpus tops the to-do list to correct the egregious actions of the neo-con "unitary executive" team.

The bad news is that Craig went out of his way to get his tail back to D.C. to cast a vote against restoring this basic right last month.

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

The Main Stream Goes Mainstream Permalink to this item

As a reader of this blog, you've heard of blogs, right? And maybe talked about them? And maybe had to answer the question, "what's a blog?" The answers to that question could be used to generate a new "blind men describing an elephant" fable; the blogosphere is too vast to actually experience in its entirety, and each person's experience is only a variegated sampling.

As the power (and money) of the netroots becomes too significant for even the latest adopters to ignore, Bara Vaida adds another contribution to the meta-blog genre, "Blogging On", about politicians applying blogs to their jobs. (Their cover story doesn't show a permalink; but K. Daniel "Danny" Glover got permission to "reprint" it on his Beltway Blogroll... on the same site?!)

Nine paragraphs in, Vaida defines "blogs" as "a handle describing Web sites that feature entries from individuals or groups of writers, and the back-and-forth discussion among folks responding to one another’s musings." (Apparently the N.J. audience is coming from the world of Citizen's Band radio, where names are "handles.") Well, Betsy Russell's Eye on Boise now has back-and-forth, and the S-R's Huckleberries Online seems to be nothing but back-and-forth (with "Wild Cards" providing the means to comment on anything, as opposed to commenting on something), but my fortboise still does not.

Alas, my blog is not built on mass-produced software that has it built in, or configurable with a mouse click or three. It would take me some trouble to enable any yahoo to walk in and post a generous graffito or rippin' riposte... so it's not getting done. Send me an email if you've got a comment, and if it's good, I'll post it, just like the letters to the editor you all love.

Or, join the tens of millions of people with something to say who are saying it on their own blogs, and get the buzz yourself.

In the meantime, enjoy the spice of life in the variety of what's online, from Dick Durbin crafting legislation with citizens rather than lobbyists, to the scrolling entries of Technorati's Top Topics, from the amplifiers, the blatherers, the provocateurs, the shills, to the confidence men of the Internet Age.

As Long As You're Staying... Permalink to this item

Sun and rain in our backyard The bathroom humor has pretty much run its course, and for good or ill, Larry Craig is going to try to tough it out for the rest of his term. Chances are pretty good he's hit bottom with nowhere to go but up. With that in mind, let's consider some priorities for the coming year that will do him and the people of Idaho proud, erase the stain of his personal indiscretion, and create a legacy beyond the best friend resource exploitation ever had in Idaho. Just a few suggestions:

Does He Have First Thoughts? Permalink to this item

Or is it all just going with his gut? Cited by Maureen Dowd's Nepotism Tango and then John Brown's Public Diplomacy and Blog Review, from Dana Perino's press briefing on Sept. 28: "The President does not have second thoughts."

I watched the video to see if she was being funny, and no, she wasn't, but in the context, it was clear she meant that he doesn't have second thoughts about his veto of the SCHIP bill.)

Was that Helen Thomas, trying to bully the photogenic, young Secretary from the front row? "What did God tell him, from prayers?" (Ms. Perino did not take the bait on that one.)

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

Fame is Fleeting Permalink to this item

The Idaho Hall of Fame has, from my point of view at least, kept a low profile, right up until it splashed into the news today with the report that none other than our former singing and toe-tappin' Senator, Larry Craig, is slated for induction in a little over a week. He was picked back in March, when the rumors were only rumored, and the company of Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter, Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, and—of course!—BSU football coach Chris Peterson seemed like a great class of 2007.

Needless to say, some of the Hall Monitors are wishing they hadn't made that choice, and are checking the fine print of their by-laws to see if the nomination might be as revocable as Craig's "intent to resign" proved to be.

But what of this little-heralded Hall of Fame? To my astonishment, I find that its advisory board, at least, is statutory. Maybe I'll have to show up for the ceremony here in Boise on October 13 and see what's what.

As if Craig's nomination wasn't embarassing enough, I see that the Hall's web domain,, expired last month and is now parked, selling unrelated ad views for

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

The Shame of Alberto Gonzales Permalink to this item

Was early retirement for Alberto Gonzales really enough? It's not as if the assault on civil liberties by the Bush administration is all his doing, but for his part in it, criminal prosecution would seem more appropriate than a pension. I agree with Barack Obama:

"It's time to tell the world that America rejects torture without exception or equivocation. It's time to stop telling the American people one thing in public while doing something else in the shadows. No more secret authorization of methods like simulated drowning."

WITHOUT EXCEPTION OR EQUIVOCATION. What in the HELL is so hard to understand about this? The end does not justify the means. (Let alone the fact that the means that Cheney, Addington, Yoo, Rumsfeld, Gonzales and their ilk have been willing to authorize others to employ are beyond ineffective.)

"Torture is how you create enemies, not how you defeat them. Torture is how you get bad information, not good intelligence. Torture is how you set back America's standing in the world, not how you strengthen it."

Guilty As Pled Permalink to this item

You don't have to read my account, there are 9,000 others all over the internet about the rejection of Sen. Larry Craig's failed attempt to withdraw his guilty plea. After 25 pages of preambulatory memorandum, here comes the Judge:

Because the Defendant's plea was accurate, voluntary, and intelligent, and because the conviction is supported by the evidence, the Defendant's conviction for disorderly conduct... is valid. Accordingly, the Defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea is DENIED.

The ACLU's Amicus Curiae brief was "appreciated," but dismissed as "inapplicable and potentially misleading." Their citation related to "fighting words," not the conduct of "Defendant's entry into an occupied stall with his eyes, hand, and foot." Never mind that one might have a reasonable expectation of privacy for sex in a restroom stall.

So. Now. Will the Nauti Haven set sail?

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

I Still Believe Anita Hill Permalink to this item

Ask yourself, "why would she lie?" And then ask yourself why would he lie. Which is more likely? More in character? Sixteen years after the Senate gave Clarence Thomas the ultimate affirmative action, with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, he's still trying to win the argument, now as he flogs his newly-published memoir.

Anita Hill's reply is in The New York Times this time, rather than Congressional testimony, but she still comes across as a more credible witness than he does.

Thomas still has a huge chip on his shoulder, as his 60 Minutes interview with Steve Kroft shows, ready to assume that people are thinking the worst about him. When his grandfather rejected him, he had good reason to be "angry at everyone," and maybe he's had good reason to be angry at everyone since then. That doesn't provide an excuse for lying about someone else, though. In that last Senate confirmation hearing, he found a winning strategy: "uncategorical" denial, and attacking his accusers, and he's still working that angle.

That Seldom-Used Veto Stamp Permalink to this item

George Bush's administration has managed to manipulate (or ignore) the Congress pretty well, but when it comes to actually vetoing legislation (as opposed to tacking on "just kidding" signing statements), he's been right next to silent. His 4th one in 6 years has just been delivered, rejecting the reauthorization of the SCHIP children's health insurance that had strong bipartisan support in Congress. The two-thirds support needed to override is a tall obstacle though, and in the House, at least, the bill may not have it.

The lastest polling said 86% of the American people supported reauthorizing SCHIP, with 7 in 10 saying they supported the plan to scpand SCHIP by $35 billion over five years.

Bush has forced us to find hundreds of billions of dollars to pursue his war and occupation in Iraq, but $30 or $35 billion for children's health care? That's too much for him to contemplate.

"He's Our Kind of Guy" Permalink to this item

The Larry Craig story is getting kind of long in the tooth, with most of the humor pretty well tapped out by the late night crowd. After the Sept. 30 date, when he "intended" to resign, but then didn't, the Boise Weekly went looking for his supporters willing to say something on record. They found Chuck Cushman at the American Land Rights Association happy to speak up.

"My job is to protect land owners, private property rights, access to federal land," he said, "people who are the foundation of this country–ranchers, miners, forestry interests. Larry Craig has been a real stand-up guy when it comes to the U.S. Senate as far as continuing to fight for those kinds of things and gun rights."

"And gun rights," I like that. The juxtaposition of "private property rights" and "access to federal land" always gets me. The nut of it is, there are a lot of people near our federal lands who feel that they have a private property interest in that land and what's on (or under) it, and they pursue that agenda without apology (or any sense of irony). Advancing the cause of resource exploitation was the primary cause that Larry Craig fought for in the Congress.

The ALRA says it's boycotting the Minneapolis-St.Paul airport and Northwest Airlines to get back at the nasty police sting that caught Craig in the stall. And they're trying to decide whether to go after The Idaho Statesman for good measure, responding to Craig's "the newspaper frightened me into pleading guilty" complaint.

Living in the (Corporate) Past Permalink to this item

Once upon a time when the web was new, I set up a web server on HP's intranet. In early 1995, our hp-ux workstations had been well-connected for many years, although getting beyond the corporate firewall was still a bit of a challenge in some respects. I'd been "browsing" what was available from other sites for a while, but it had a read-only feel to it.

My immediate motivation to have my own server, was for distributing a lengthy research paper I was writing, having to do with finite element analysis of the vibration performance of two hard disk drives that we were manufacturing. This new-fangled World Wide Web seemed like a better way than Microsoft Word and a photocopy machine to distribute it. I wouldn't have to worry about the distribution list quite as much, for one thing; and I could include lovely color pictures to my heart's content, which interested readers could enjoy on their high-resolution CRTs.

So I learned the rudiments of HTML, and, lacking a competent whizzy editor, proceeded to work from within the vi text editor, customizing it with convenient macros as I went along. That January, 1995 report marked a turning point in my document production: I resolved to do everything in email and/or HTML from there on out, and my networked workstation was the publishing means for almost all of the the professional work I did at HP. It also became a modest little soapbox for semi-work-related essays, more on the realm of "g-jobs"; technically interesting, but not really relevant to what I was being paid to do. Some of them were technical, some coporate commentary, some wandered further afield.

One of the managers got a charge out of Eliyahu Goldratt's "business novels" and was passing out copies of them to his peers and engineers. I thought he had some good ideas, but that they could be communicated more directly, so I wrote a review of one of the books, and publicized it as a quicker read. That engendered some wider discussion, and networking between sites, as these things sometimes did. Bill Harris, who wrote more extensively on the subject than I did, and who is still going at it, encouraged me to revive what I'd done in 1998, and so I have: now posted in my "useful" section, Critical Chain - book review. The "further reading" section includes the link back to Bill's re-published paper on the same topic.

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

The Juggernaut Permalink to this item

Everybody's talking about how unstoppable Hillary is. Bush, Guiliani, the RNC. Hmmm. The chairman of the RNC, Mike Duncan's latest fundraising letter has it in the subject: Stop the Hillary Juggernaut! Send money, eh? We already knew that Republicans never feel they have enough money, but the more interesting part of the letter is the recitation of the talking points, outlining how the RNC will attack.

She's raising too much money! (They say that like it's a bad thing, ironically.) Big Labor, Hollywood elites, trial lawyers and liberal groups like are coming to get us! Hillary-Care 2.0! Refusing to denounce despicable free speech! Proposing more than $615 billion in new goverment spending to pay for her liberal schemes! (As opposed to the how many hundreds of billions we've dumped in Iraq? And all the new government debt to pay for conservative anti-tax schemes?)

Here's the really scary tactic:

"If Republicans don't close the fundraising gap with the Democrats by the end of this year, we will not be able to defend our candidates from their vicious attacks and outright distortions."

And fund our own vicious attacks and outright distortions!

(Maybe the GOP money funk demonstrates that Republicans are careful with their money, not wanting to throw away their sometimes hard-won (and othertimes pretty easily won) dollars at a losing cause?)

Guiliani's camp tells its supporters that he's the man to beat Hillary: "there is no candidate that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats fear more in the general election than Rudy Giuliani." And apparently, there is no candidate that the Republicans fear more in the general election than Hillary Clinton.

Except that the base Christians that Karl Rove used to get his man into office seem to be rather fearful of a Guiliani candidacy, too. Third party candidate?! Bring him on! Let's see just how marginalized you people really can be.

Pat Robertson! Gary Bauer! Alan Keyes! Doctor Dobson! Take your pick.

Whew, I've got exclamation fatigue.

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

Alma Pater Permalink to this item

It seems a small eon ago that Doug Wilson and I sat through Nick Gier's college course in Existentialism together. I went on to bicycle mechanics, and engineering, while he went on to create an unexpected revival in part of Moscow, Idaho's downtown. His 15 minutes of fame has ripened with an article in yesterday's New York Times Magazine, Onward Christian Scholars. Molly Worthen describes Wilson's New St. Andrews College in mostly friendly terms, with most of what criticism she does cite coming from one of Wilson's younger brothers. Another brother teaches at the college. He didn't get a speaking part in the article, and neither did Wilson's son or son-in-law who are also "fellows." Nepotism? Wilson waves it away: "Part of modernity’s negative legacy is the pretense of objectivity. All institutions thrive on interconnectedness, affection and loyalty." The affection runs strong: "the school is a capable matchmaker, and during May and June student weddings occupy nearly every weekend."

Unlike Liberty University and Patrick Henry College, N.S.A. is not taking a political approach to changing the world. Its goal is "classical Christian education," producing a more "medieval" Protestantism, with "a much longer view." (Not just backwards?) Taxonomy and creationist science are to be favored over Darwin's idea, merely "a curious event in the history of modern secularism."

Worthen didn't explore Wilson's take on slavery other than to quote him glibly suggesting he was more of a Jefferson Davis conservative than a George Bush conservative. Nor did she mine Nick Gier's considerable compendium of Wilsoniana, more's the pity.

But the part I liked in the Magazine piece was learning about Cornelius Van Til's theology called presuppositionalism.

"He argued that no assumptions are neutral and that the human mind can comprehend reality only if proceeding from the truth of biblical revelation. In other words, it is impossible for Christians to reason with non-Christians. presuppositionalism is a strangely postmodern theory that denies the possibility of objectivity—though it does not deny the existence of truth, which belongs to Christians alone."

That explains quite a lot.

The Economics of Mayhem Permalink to this item

Probably just a coincidence that so many Friends-of-George and Friends-of-Dick are running companies profiting from the war in Iraq. But we do have to wonder if anyone looking out for the public interest could suppose that it's better to be paying about half a million bucks a year per mercenary, versus the salary, benefits and support costs of a soldier, well under $100,000. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is going to be talking about all this tomorrow, looking for the answers to three questions:

  1. Is Blackwater's presence advancing or undermining U.S. efforts in Iraq?
  2. Has the State Department responded appropriately to shooting incidents involving Blackwater forces? and
  3. What are the costs for U.S. taxpayers of the reliance on Blackwater and other private military contractors?

The majority staff report includes some background reading with salient facts. In spite of Blackwater's "protective" job description, they fired the first shots (from a moving vehicle "in the vast majority of instances") in 80% of the almost 200 "escalation of force" incidents since 2005.

The report includes some interesting calculation of the cost of an Iraqi life, from a reparation standpoint. $250,000 was way too high, and might cause Iraqis to "try to get killed." $15,000 was more like it, but even that price has been sliding. Later, $5,000 was deemed enough to square things up.

This comes off the Blackwater top line (or were those no-bid contracts all "cost plus"?), but they've probably got some slack in the $593,601,952 they collected from the U.S. last year, part of their $1 billion in contracts in the last 5 years. Things really took off in August, 2003, when Jerry Bremer awarded the company a no-bid contract to provide "security."


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Monday, 05-Nov-2007 17:18:38 MST