Boise Idaho windsurfing Photography Politics Religion Economics
Cover image of Fiona Hill's book
Next read; link to the publisher's site. Listen to Terry Gross' Fresh Air interview, from Oct. 6.
Other fortboise logs
China 2003
Reading list
Le Guin
Monkey Cage
Monkey Cage
O'Reilly Ideas
World News from:
The Conversation
arab net
The Sydney Morning Herald
Axis of Logic
Baltic Times
Boise Guardian
Community Radio
Boise Weekly
Idaho Statesman
The Telegraph
The Guardian
Information Clearing House
People's Daily
China Daily
Al-Ahram Weekly
Der Spiegel
Hong Kong:
Asia Times online
The Times of India,
The Hindustan Times
The Jerusalem Post
The Daily Star
New Zealand:
New Zealand Herald
The Rocky Mountains:
HCN Goat
New West
Tunisia Live
Saudi Arabia:
Arab News
Sun Valley:
Idaho Mtn Express
The Moscow Times
RSS feed for this blog


30.Nov.07 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Marriage is a Civil Rights Issue Permalink to this item

Another fine Op-Ed from Stephanie Coontz, mined from the work on what has to be an interesting book, Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage.

The study of the past may not seem as exciting as what's happening right now, but it would be good to have a sense of context to inform today's decisions. The "defense of marriage" which worked so well for the Republicans in the 2004 elections didn't stem from anything near as ancient as the Biblical inspiration for morality in our culture. Round about 50 years seems to be the limit of recent memory, and even that much is fuzzy.

The state's not in a position to protect "sanctity," after all, but the legal benefits of insurance, survivor benefits, hospital visitation, and so on do come under its supervision. The "legal protections and obligations of a committed relationship" should not be circumscribed by arbitrary religious notions, whether those are about "miscegenation" or discrimination against those who don't match the Ozzie and Harriet model that looked so good in black and white.

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

Faith-Based Imagination Permalink to this item

Paul Davies lights up a new opportunity for this millennium's Luddites to point and scratch, and accuse scientists of practicing religion, with "its own faith-based belief system," just like everyone else.

"All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way," Davies wrote in his NYT Op-Ed, Taking Science on Faith.

Interesting writer that he is, Davies goes on from there at some length about the variety and depth of scientific assumption, but it isn't clear what his point is. The dividing line between science and religion is that science tests its assumptions, continuously. When they are proven wrong, or insufficient, they have to be changed. That some assumptions become so reliable that we call them "laws" doesn't mean that there must be a Law-Giver, or that the very existence of laws is an article of faith.

What is "manifestly bogus" is Davies' argument attempting to pin "faith" on science, by redefining the term. Seven letter writers let him have it, finishing with Tom Flood's amusing observation that Davies "sets up a flimsy straw man and proceeds to flog it mercilessly."

Pledge For American Renewal Permalink to this item

Ted Rall: "As de Gaulle said about Petain's partnership with the Nazis, the Bush administration so disgraced itself and our nation that we have to renounce it in order to restore our moral authority..." His proposed Pledge would "declare all laws, regulations, executive orders, treaties and actions undertaken by the federal government during the illegitimate and unlawful administration of George W. Bush to be null, void and without effect."

Just Because You're Paranoid Doesn't Mean They're Not Going To Merge Your Country Away

I first heard about the unified currency for North America (the "Amero," to compete with the Euro), as the most grim realization of the plan to merge the U.S. with Canada and Mexico from one of my tennis buddies, and since he was the only one talking about it (much less worried about it), I didn't give it anymore creedence than the occasional ravings about the U.N. and black helicopters around here.

As just seen in the Boston Globe this week, the fact that the prospective North American Union is under most everyone's radar could be because "its plotters have succeeded in keeping it secret," though.

And here we find our normally backward state remarkably ahead of this curve. Not only is it not under the Republican legislators' radar, they have already passed a House Joint Memorial "urging Congress to use all efforts, energies and diligence to withdraw the United States from any further participation in the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America or any other bilateral or multilateral activity that seeks to advance, authorize, fund or in any way promote the creation of any structure to create any form of North American Union."

This is pleasing to John Birch Society President John McManus, who believes the conspiracy is real, and who is happy to list the "mounting" evidence proving the NAU is in the works. It also feeds into the hottest topic of the day, immigration. "Suffice it to say that the border hasn't been secured... because there's no intention to secure it," McManus writes.

Idaho doesn't have much of a border with Canada, but by golly, we're doing what we can to keep those Canucks out. (Since the Loonie has paddled ahead of the Dollar, however, we will accept their currency for the time being.)

Idle Rumblings or Something Deeper? Permalink to this item

The Chinese bureaucracy has grown annoyed at all the nit-picking about its mighty dam on the Yangtze, and launched a P.R. push to sing its praises, spearheaded by Wang Xiaofeng, deputy director of the Three Gorges Project Construction Committee, who has apparently just returned from re-education camp.

Bridge construction over the Yangtze, Nov. 2003 We anticipated all the problems, he's telling reporters. Never mind those minor earthquakes and fissures along the reservoir, or those 31 people crushed in a bus buried in a landslide. "The geological disaster in this area has been effectively controlled," Wang said. "Of course, effective control doesn't mean that in the future there won't be any landslides or threats that arise."

And those 4 million more relocatees being moved out of the countryside and into ChongQing are not because of the dam, just a little urban/rural rebalancing effort.

But the part that worries me is the ripe-for-smiting hubris of a government official who could stand up and say "We are going to be able to weather the worst flooding in 1,000 years." We stipulate that China has had a functioning bureacracy for some millennia, but we also suspect that they ain't seen nothin' yet.

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

"Whiskey's for drinkin', and water's for fightin'" Permalink to this item

Norm Semanko is on the Board of the Idaho Water Users Association, and a Director of the National Water Resources Association, and seemed familiar. I was later reminded that he ran for Congress in Idaho's 1st Congressional District last year, one of the 5 also-rans in the Republican primary against Bill Sali. He's a smart guy, and evidently a very capable lawyer with lots of experience defending the water rights of Idaho non-profits and government entities.

Farmers Union Canal drying up, Nov. 26, 2005 The occasion of his speaking was the Idaho Environmental Forum, and today's panel on winter flows of the Boise River. He joined Jerry Gregg from the Bureau of Reclamation, Virgil More of the Idaho Fish and Game Department, and Ada Co. Commissioner Paul Woods, to discuss the State's action to grant water rights to the Bureau to provide "maintenance flows" in the river.

Fourteen irrigation districts have challenged the action, saying that Lucky Peak Dam was authorized only for irrigation and flood control. Motions for summary judgement have been filed with the Snake River Basin Adjudication court, and a settlement conference is scheduled for early next month.

I showed up a bit late, in time to hear the end of More's description of the Fish and Game perspective of what's at risk: Boise's prized wild trout fishery, its home for winter wildfowl, and probably the heron rookery. Semanko's point of view evinced no sympathy for wild creatures of any sort. It's "not just Boise" that matters, but six different Idaho Counties, and one in eastern Oregon with economic claims on the river for irrigated agriculture, and keeping subdivisions (and parks, and school playgrounds) green.

The Snake River Basin Adjudication is the one chance to show up in court and have one's claims validated; hence claimants must show up and state their strongest case. He's not happy that the State has run around the existing process of petitioning the Idaho Water Resources Board for a use of "unappropriated" water.

The fish, and fowl, and heron have no legal claim on the water it seems, any more than the river bottom does. Gregg explained what that would mean at the moment: 242 cfs is currently being let out of Lucky Peak, and 251 cfs is passing under the Glenwood Bridge. The difference—9 cubic feet per second of recharge flows, over 15 or so miles—is all that would be left in the river if irrigators had their way with it. Compared with more than 2600 cfs of natural flow, according to the latest data.

We have reservoirs to fill; our million acre-feet, 3-reservoir system is more than two-thirds empty. (Don't forget to leave some room for flood control, though.)

At 250 cfs flow, an acre-foot goes by every 3 minutes or so. About 500 acre-feet per day, 14,000 per month, or 86,000 for half a year. That's about 9% of the capacity of the system, of which Semanko said 52% is dedicated to stream flow maintenance, per Lucky Peak's licensing.

Seems like a no-brainer, doesn't it?

In the panel's individual assessment of impacts, Semanko offered the best laugh of the day: "If the Federal government wins, the world as we know it will end." Or maybe not.

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

Well, We're Tired of You, Too Permalink to this item

Thirty-five years in Congress should be enough for anyone, and as someone who has never liked the politics of any of the Singing Senators, I'm happy to see the quartet out of the Senate (and Justice Department).

But still. You run for office, the people elect you to a six year term, and two years later, you decide to call it quits... for no particular reason?!

Still setting a new standard for patriotism and duty, apparently. Maybe he's got a backlog of shopping to catch up on? Or is it more about cashing in:

By resigning before the end of the year, Mr. Lott would beat the effective date for new ethics rules that double to two years the amount of time former Senators must wait before they can join a firm to lobby former colleagues. The new rule applies to those who leave office "on or after" Dec. 31.

Here's Looking at You Permalink to this item

Along the Winchester grade, Nov. 25, 2007 We lucked out with good weather for our over-the-hills and through-the-woods trip to Spokane Valley for Thanksgiving. Clear roads the whole way, and the worst of late November was inversion fog on the Camas Prairie on the way home. For the next winter outing, I'll be checking the Idaho Transportation Department's collection of cameras on their site to see what's what. The home page has a nice state-at-a-glance view of driving conditions, too. It's almost all "green" right now, but more seasonable weather's coming today and tonight, sounds like for everything from here to Canada.

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

Not Holding My Breath Permalink to this item

Here's a novel idea: release those secret opinions about what is and isn't lawful, what is and isn't torture, and what means are and aren't justified by the ends of protecting Administration officials from prosecution. Maybe our Supreme Court might like to have a go at evaluating the work product of the Bush Justice Department?

If that's the sort of Attorney General Michael Mukasey turns out to be, it will be a hell of a surprise to the man who nominated him, and the rest of us.

Just Four Liars at the Top? Permalink to this item

After the premature bombshell launched to ramp up advance orders for the ex-Press Secretary's full disclosure next spring, we now have backpedaling about the nature and extent of actual lies from the President himself (at least). "The President didn't know it wasn't true," so he was just out of the loop, eh? Same as Scotty. And that silly nonsense about "anybody responsible will be fired"?

Of course, George wasn't actually in a position to fire Dick. Karl and Scooter are out, but the President was loyal past the bitter end, commuting Libby's sentence after his conviction. Andrew Card is still on the job.

If McClellan's still more interested in loyalty than truth, his book sales are going to be limited to the rabid right, still doing their best to villify Joe Wison, Valerie Plame and anyone else willing to "deflate the President's war plans" as one Fox News pundit put it, as if that were somehow treasonous. See there, they can all sing together: Bush didn't lie, because he didn't even know other people were lying to him. For such a good cause.

Maybe we can dig the truth out of the Bush II Presidential Library some decades from now. The Administration has been steadfast in its "no comment" after the initial bald-faced (but inadvertent!) deception. After the initial shock, shock, there was the silence of the "ongoing investigation," now followed by the "case closed, let's move on" silence.

Thanksgiving Permanent URL to this day's entry

So much to be thankful for... so much work left to do. Well, it's good to take a day off from the latter and lean into the former.

We're thankful for time with family, snow in the mountains but not on the roads, every minute of daylight this time of year, indoor plumbing, natural gas for heating, and the Packers on TV. And anticipation of having enough to eat.

Hey You – Studley Permalink to this item

Somebody speaking up for the highways, currently being torn up by those steel studs in everyone's tires for as much as half the year. The Idaho Transportation Dept. says yes, they're legal, but not a good idea, really, most of the time.

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

Catch of the Day Permalink to this item

While talking on the phone, I was up and pacing, and there outside the window... a Flicker? Nope, it was a Peregrine Falcon (the very same bird depicted on the back of Idaho's Quarter), kneading lunch with its talons. I couldn't quite make out what it had caught, perhaps a chickadee? It was a fluff of gray feathers by the time the falcon landed with it and flopped around under the oak tree. I couldn't quite get a picture off while it was close, and after it had moved out into the street, my rushing outside to get a photo scared it off. With lunch still "in hand," however.

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

Missoula's Chicken Permalink to this item

One of the last farms on N. Cole Rd., Aug. 2004 Brilliant multimedia project on NewWest from photographer/reporter Anne Medley and Jonathan Stumpf, on the subject of the squabble over urban chickens in Missoula. Once upon a time, our location on the West Bench was on the edge of "rural," and hearing roosters was a (very) regular thing. When I read this, I realized that I couldn't remember the last time I heard one. I guess Boise's already "solved" the urban chicken problem?

Not that any of our neighbors is interested, but I was trying to think how I'd feel if they were... and then saw the comment from "telecom": "Godalmighty, get rid of all of the dogs first and don't even start with chickens."

The Senator and his Staff Just Barged In Permalink to this item

The phone rang night before last, and Caller ID showed no identity information. I answered it, prepared to cut off an unwanted solicitation. It turned out to be an electronic "town hall meeting" organized by our other Senator, Mike Crapo, and it was interesting enough to keep me on the line for most of an hour. I wasn't motivated to hit [*][3] and get in the question queue, but plenty of others around the state were.

The most remarkable thing was Crapo's ability to affirm each and every question in some way, talk seriously and thoughtfully about the issues and leave me wondering how it was he could agree with everyone. The first question was on the war in Iraq, for which Crapo supports the President, first and foremost. He doesn't think the U.S. should be "in a permanent, occupying situation in Iraq," and he doesn't think that will be necessary. ("Permanent" being the key word there, since the President he's following insists it's necessary for the forseeable future.)

Stan in Salmon called in with what sounded like a scripted question about the Newspeak "Healthy Forests Initiative." HFI works, Crapo says, but it's not used enough, needs "broader based authority" for which there is not enough support in Congress.

Sign in Sleepy Hollow cemetery, Concord, Mass. Keith in Idaho Falls wants to spout off on immigration. He hears reports of Mexican soldiers crossing our border?! Crapo's heard those reports too (?! on Fox News and talk radio?), hopes they're "limited" and "not extensive."

Crapo says we just about all agree that "we need to control illegal entry across our border," he thinks we do need a guest worker program... but "not given a pathway to citizenship or permanent legal residence." No "rewarding" of any illegals seems to be the most important thing he wants to get across.

Crapo supports Washington helping lower income folks with their "high, rising heating costs," and a National Energy Policy. We should "demand of our political leaders that we become less dependent on oil, and on foreign oil." (Ah, OK. Mike, I DEMAND that you see that we become less dependent on oil, and on foreign oil. :-/ He supports federal spending for the Special Olympics in Idaho. He supports increases in Medicare payments to physicians.

Oh, but "entitlements," those are out of control. Somehow the problem of Social Security is going to be solved by "letting people have their own accounts." (And that soon-to-be biggest entitlement of all, Medicare... should be made bigger still.)

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

Buddy Can You Spare a Dime? Permalink to this item

His gig as a preacher ran out, and now the political gadfly thing is getting threadbare, too. I'm not sure why people don't find that daily email newsletter worth $20 or $50 a year, but readers don't seem to be ponying up enough to keep Bryan Fischer's "roughly $47,000" salary going.

At least the exigency has brought out a tiny bit of disclosure about the Idaho Values Alliance. We can see from the pleading that it's not just Mr. Fischer, but comprises at least three other people (on a "Compensation Board"), even though none of the "About" information on their website is forthcoming about the governance of this 501(c)(3) "non-partisan educational organization," beyond the ubiquitous voice of its well-paid Executive Director.

Minnick for Congress Permalink to this item

The Minnicks and Cecil Andrus with WRISTSTRONG bracelets Yesterday was a fine day for an outdoor press conference, and Walt Minnick's announcement of his new run for Congress was bright and sunny at the Idaho Historical Museum.

Walt's experience and integrity could start a new chapter in Idaho politics, equal to that of the man who introduced him, our former Governor Cecil Andrus. From serving in the Army during the Vietnam war, to the Nixon White House, to a successful career in the forest products industry, to providing leadership in civic, charitable and business organizations, his biography is a record of a remarkable life.

He doesn't need the job, I'm sure, and doesn't have an ideology (or an ideological PAC funding his effort) to drive him to want to do this. In our reddest of red states, he's a moderate Democrat who could just as easily be a moderate Republican in a saner context.

"Our current incumbent in that office is ineffective and an embarrassment—not as big an embarrassment as Larry Craig, but close."
Cecil Andrus

Imagine this: Idaho represented by a moderate Congressman, prepared to work for meaningful political change with both parties (as opposed to part of one) in Washington as he defends what's best about the quality of life in this state.

More coverage, from The Idaho Statesman, The Spokesman-Review and NewWest.

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

A Contest to See Who'll Replace Sali Permalink to this item

Walt Minnick's announcement for a run at the House from Idaho's First Congressional District is imminent, and means we'll have a serious primary race on the Democratic side for a change. Former Micron exec Larry Grant ran against the guy who squeaked out of the 6-way Republican primary in '06, and lost narrowly.

The chattering's underway at the Statesman, and after Wednesday's whirlwind tour of the state for the official kickoff, it should be getting interesting all the way from Canada to Nevada.

10:30am Wednesday, at the Idaho Historical Musem in Julia Davis Park; See you there!

Fire for Effect Permalink to this item

Army Sergeant First Class Patrick Cabanilla (ret.) provides a protocol lesson to Boise State University on the subject of firing guns to "honor" our Veterans. All sorts of things I don't know about U.S. protocol, although the Boy Scouts gave me enough knowledge to recognize the lack of flag etiquette when I see it. (Which is worse, burning a flag in protest, or carelessly disrespecting it?)

Given the origin he cites for rifle volleys (the signal that the dead had been picked up from the battlefield, and the killing could resume), it seems a bizarre way to honor Veterans, much less the Armistice that was the original object of the Nov. 11 commemoration.

But in a culture that uses fighter airplanes to provide entertainment to crowds at football games, and that likes to set their own neighborhoods on fire to commemorate Independence Day, I suppose a few misplaced rifle shots are the least of our worries.

Mm mm good Permalink to this item

One of the bumper stickers on a local pickup truck (apparently) owned by a Thompson booster:


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

Dictatorships of a Feather Permalink to this item

Pervez Musharraf joins Vladimir Putin in George Bush's "I looked 'em in the eye" club, and all three seem amply comfortable taking charge as unitary executives. Along with the rejection of the Geneva Conventions, the deconstruction of the Magna Carta, the secret prisons and the shifting justification for "pre-emptive war," there is the torture.

The confirmation of Michael "not as bad as the last guy" Mukasey is but the latest in a long series of capitulations from Congresses of both parties, demonstrating the truth of what F.D.R. said in his first inaugural address: "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." It's difficult to argue that the terrorists have not, in fact, already won, with native accomplices witting or unwitting.

Frank Rich's description of the Coup at Home is more than a little depressing, the particulars of why only 1 in 4 of us currently thinks our country is on "the right track."

"In the six years of compromising our principles since 9/11, our democracy has so steadily been defined down that it now can resemble the supposedly aspiring democracies we've propped up in places like Islamabad. Time has taken its toll. We've become inured to democracy-lite. That's why a Mukasey can be elevated to power with bipartisan support and we barely shrug."

Veterans Day Permalink to this item

After reading a few war stories in the paper today, and then listening to a sermon honoring our veterans' service while acknowledging that we'd not rather have the conflicts that called for their sacrifice and heroism, a thought occurred to me. If men were better at making friends and developing close relationships, would be able to have peace? Maybe not; there's still the problem of greed to solve.

State Killing Saves Lives? Permalink to this item

One wonders if the editors for The Wall Street Journal imagine that anyone takes their opinion pages seriously. Or were they just looking for the entertainment value of the responses hitting the softball op-ed out of the park? The deterrent effect of capital punishment "proven"? Professors Adler and Summers crunch FBI data, and conclude that each death row inmate we snuff saves 74 lives, with 34,000 to 1 certainty.

This notion might look OK on the C.V. of a marketing professor, but quantitative methods? You might not want to go to Pepperdine to study that.

Thanks to The Justice Gambit for the tip to the story.

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

Mental Exercise Permalink to this item

The proper name for gym class—"physical education"—was never taken very seriously, but it turns out that it is education for body and brain: physical exercise "has been shown to maintain and improve brain health." Stands to reason; the brain as separate from body is more about weird science fiction plots than our real world.

The authors' forthcoming book sounds interesting (even without the cute subtitle): Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life. But you have to wait until next spring for it.

Let's Not Try That Again Permalink to this item

Gail Collins, on worthy political virtues:

"Whenever you read that a candidate 'values loyalty above all else' – run for the hills. Loyalty is a terribly important consideration if you’re choosing a pet, but not a cabinet member."

Tax Relief Inches Forward Permalink to this item

So, the House passed their H.R. 3996 by a comfortable margin (without the help of either of Idaho's Congressmen), but we're told its fate in the Senate is uncertain, but more pertinently, "President Bush has already threatened to veto the bill... if it includes higher taxes that would shift more of the tax burden to the wealthy."

The Bush economic plan has not been about cutting taxes, but rather about cutting taxes for the wealthy. Payroll taxes tick along, inflation ticks along, and all that "off budget" spending for our wars of adventure are a bill to be paid by future generations. The Bush "solution" to the Alternative Minimum Tax inequity is to freeze the tax without making up the $50 billion difference, and just toss that into the piles of bills for our grandchildren to pay.

The 38-year-old AMT was designed to snare a "handful of millionaires" who were taking advantage of loopholes. It's now poised to become an unpleasant surprise for some 20 million taxpayers no later than April 15 of next year. Next election year.

The IRS' November 16 deadline for printing its 2007 forms is going to beat Harry Reid's action on the AMT by a considerable margin. "Maybe after Thanksgiving," is the word from the Senate. Meanwhile, the spendy-suit lobbyists for the handful of multi-millionaires enjoying the existing loopholes are making sure nothing spoils their party. Your savings account gets interest taxed as ordinary income. Their "carried interest" is taxed as capital gains, no more than 15%.

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

Legislative Sausage-making Permalink to this item

I responded to the MoveOn call to action for a bill in the House of Representatives, H.R. 3996: Temporary Tax Relief Act of 2007, signing their rather succinct petition, and then following up with a call to my Representative (prompted with a follow-up email, providing his office phone number in Washington, very clever).

"The richest tycoons on Wall Street shouldn't pay a lower tax rate than the rest of us. Congress should close the mother of all tax loopholes."

The idea I responded to was that it was not reasonable to have the Alternative Minimum Tax continue as long-ago legislated, without indexing for inflation, and to have it surprise! now apply to you, me, and twenty million more of our fellow taxpayers who didn't used to have to calculate their taxes twice and pay the higher amount.

The staffer I talked to in Mike Simpson's office listened to my introduction and reason for calling, and asked with hesitation, "so, that would be a... 'No' on the bill?"

I didn't think so, but wasn't sure. "What bill are we talking about?" I asked. She gave me the number, I Googled up a summary and quickly determined I wanted a 'Yes' from my Congressman. I think. Did he have a position on the bill, I wondered? She didn't know.

A miller's grave, I imagine. Sleepy Hollow cemetery, Concord, Mass. Looking at the summary in more detail, I see the thing is a massive pig in a poke, like most every bill that goes through the U.S. Congress. Continued "authority for issuing qualified zone academy bonds, making disclosures of tax information to facilitate student loan repayments and for combating terrorist activities" (everything must fight terrorism, eh?), and "amends the Tariff Act of 1930 to provide that wine of the same color shall be deemed to be commercially interchangeable for purposes of the duty drawback for unused merchandise."

I'll drink to that.

For those of you who thought that President Bush never met a tax cut he didn't love, here's the demonstration that it's not true. The reason being, that it's not actually a cut, but rather a shift, since we're already spending so far beyond our means. (This is all according to plan, of course; the Bush tax cuts set this in motion years ago, and now he's ready to veto any correction of the inequity built into the Republican program.)

The shiftees would be "financial managers and certain foreign hedge fund managers" who currently enjoy this "mother of all loopholes" on their earnings. Sounds like Bush's people, doesn't it? Them and the multinational corporations eager to increase their foreign tax credits.

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

Waterboarding is Torture Permalink to this item

In the Sleepy Hollow cemetery, Concord, Mass. Joseph Galloway:

"Waterboarding was torture when it was used during the Spanish Inquisition; it was torture when it was used on Filipino rebels during the 1890s; it was torture when the Japanese Army used it on prisoners in World War II; it was torture when it was used by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia; and it's torture when CIA officers or others use it on terrorists.

"When George W. Bush was the governor of Texas, the state investigated, indicted, convicted and sentenced to prison for 10 years a county sheriff who, with his deputies, had waterboarded a criminal suspect...."

A Strange Feeling Came Over Me Permalink to this item

Ok, it was a small, off-year election, and there were only four items on our ballot: the mayor, and three city council members. The incumbents all won here in Boise, which isn't all that unusual, but what was strange is that I was at least mildly in favor of all them, and these people I voted for in Idaho all won.

That was strange.

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

Confusion and Embarrasment Permalink to this item

Imagine this scene, House Republicans deciding that "they had a chance to politically shame Democrats into a full debate on the sensitive issue" of whether or not Richard B. Cheney should be impeached, and upon conviction for his high crimes and misdemeanors, removed from office.

The clear majority of U.S. citizens oppose the war the Iraq, think it's been mishandled, and maybe even have figured out how we were misled into it. Was it criminal deception, or "good faith" blundering? These are not questions of interest only to "a fringe element of anti-war activists," but in fact should be the subject of a full debate, should they not? How would it be embarrasing?

If it's to the Democratic leadership who tried to reassure voters that impeachment was "off the table" before the last election, I guess I'm prepared to let them suffer that, for the greater good.

When Does He Become The Evil Dictator? Permalink to this item

Strange soundbite from our President, giving advice to Pakistan's President, expanding on his suggestion for Musharraf to change out of his General uniform into a regular suit: "You can't be the leader of the country, and the leader of the military." This from the man so fond of celebrating his Commander in Chief role?

I didn't hear whether Bush had any comment about Musharraf quoting Abraham Lincoln's record of violating the Constitution when it seemed necessary to him. Harsh times call for harsh measures, eh George?

Benazir Bhutto's not happy with the shift to military dictatorship, nor I suppose are the Supreme Court judges who find themselves suddenly out of work.

Regular Space Travel Permalink to this item

That didn't take long: even for someone as enthusiastic about manned space exploration as I am, the latest shuttle launch, mission, and now landing passed (almost) without comment. The good news is that the quality of the engineering can make something so complex and awe-inspiring seem so mundane.

The next launch could be as soon as a month from yesterday.

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

It's Official: You are Food Permalink to this item

And not just worm food, but wolf food. Could we get used to that the way we've gotten (sort of) used to being Grizzly bear food, and mountain lion and tiger food, oh my? Or do we have to kill all the wolves before we feel safe on our planet?

Or maybe we could just learn to produce less garbage and to dispose of what we do produce more carefully.

Not everyone was convinced by the jury, with a "large-carnivore biologist" (how big is he?) quoted by the Alaska Newsreader in the Anchorage Daily News defending the pack. No witnesses. Overnight snow.

Still a bit of wild mystery in our world.

A Magnanimous Gesture Permalink to this item

Morning at First Parish in Concord, Mass., Nov. 2007 Since I complained about Micron Technologies' tone-deaf compensation committee last month, doling out huge bonuses for a company bleeding red ink, it seems only fair to tip my hat to CEO Steve Appleton for acknowledging that he's ridiculously overpaid by foregoing a small part of his compensation this year.

1,100 workers gone from the Treasure Valley this year, and hundreds more pending, if the recent headline proves correct, and so $8.6 million is "enough."

Feng Shui Suck Up Permalink to this item

Trained as I was to pay attention to social niceties, to be polite, take turns and all that jazz, when I travel by air, I can't help myself from paying attention to the design elements of "the experience" that airlines are trying to use to make people happy, build customer loyalty, and make more money.

The basic who-gets-to-sit-where (and for how much) contest that everyone plays, whether its Southwest with the "first come, first served" (and "starting bell") model, or the spacing between the seats in Economy and how flat the multimillion dollar seats go in the premium classes.

United has long had its "red carpet" schtick, with a so-named Club for people who need a little luxury at the airport and are willing to pay for it. Having made a few privileged visits myself, I can tell you it's "nice," but the concept from the outside is really better than the reality, inside. Ooo, Red Carpet Club! That must be really special.

In many airports, the Club is hidden away, almost as if you need insider knowledge even to know that it exists. But if its greatest power is in exclusion and aspiration, hiding it is a self-defeating strategy. There's only so much marginal benefit they can dispense from the coffee urns and hot chocolate machines, especially for overfed, international business travelers. So, how to get it out in the open so that more people can see what they're not getting?

United has come up with the "red carpet" treatment right at the entrance to the jetway, the very Gate through which all travelers must pass. Since airport space is at a premium, they had to do it in compact fashion, however. The carpet is not that long runner you might imagine for a grand entrance, but rather a doormat. (Sorry that doesn't sound too glamorous, United, but it really is a doormat.) They don't want to be picking it up, putting it down or moving it around, and they can't put it right in front of the doorway, so it's off to the side a little. And if it were square to the walls of the space around it, I suspect its doormatness would be all too obvious, so they've placed it a little angle, just... so.

And surrounded it with the pillars and retractable boundaries they we've all been trained to treat as impassable barriers, so that when they pull the strap across the front, we all see that the best people have gone before us, and we are Left Behind.

Instead of pretending that (a) special people go first, and then (b) the rest of you keep in your assigned groups to speed the boarding process, wouldn't it be more effective if they really spelled it out for us? Something like, "we're going to be boarding in order of who has spent the most money with United this year"? That way the passengers could see the truth of the matter, rather than the lie of "speeding the boarding process" by filling the seats in the front of the plane, and those with the most space between them, first.

But then they'd have to sell "Economy Minus" seats more honestly, too: they're really close together (but not quite so close that you will go starkly mad during your four hour flight), and we'll usually fill all the middle seats, but you're going to save a few bucks. OK?

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

Scare Tactics and Improving Healthcare Permalink to this item

My father had prostate cancer, and he was "cured," by the metric of remaining alive five years after his diagnosis. He also died from it, and other maladies, at that doesn't-seem-so-old age of 87. Since I have a prostate, I'm in line for some version of all that, as most now seem to be. The good news is, we're living longer...

Hearing that we have a Presidential candidate who has his own motivation to understand the epidemiology, but who is instead apparently willing to trade on his experience for ideological reasons is yet another disappointment in this latest spectacle of partisan politics.

Instead of prompting a call for improving our health care system—is anyone disputing it needs improvement?—he's using bogus statistics to rail against "socialized medicine" and therefore his opponents... who aren't actually arguing in favor of that, either.

This is not a good sign that progress in this important realm is anywhere near at hand.

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

Sunrise Out of Boise Permalink to this item

Red-orange stripe of sunrise for our on-time, 8am (MDT) departure, trimming a mostly overcast sky. Condensation from a cold night and the jet exhaust blurred my portal as we took off to the southeast, the former evaporating before we climbed along Lucky Peak reservoir (lake's coming back up!), Arrowrock, the So. Fork of the Boise. Into the fuzzy cloud deck as it went from gray to dusty rose (the color we painted our house, once) to an enveloping pink glow, holding, lingering... were those waves breaking on a sandy beach below me? No, it was October snow along the backcountry ridges. And here comes sunrise to the Sawtooths, the day's first sun on the tips of the Boulder-White Clouds, the pink haze now slipping toward orange and yellow, another snow-edged range of the Rocking Mountains being lit up, now we're edging up top this hazy deck, now another range in sunrise, and the cloud layer is a cyclorama being tripped, and tripped, and tripped, scrolling between us and those sunrise mountains, and I'm sure this is the most incredible sunrise I've ever seen, and I try to write some of it down.

Now where are we, Wyoming, Montana? Yellowstone? A break in the clouds and we're up where winter is genuinely underway, for a golden yellow sunrise over snow-covered mountains. 8:30 and we're at cruising altitude, the wisp layer comes back, scrolling slower now, over mountains, red scarps, shadowed gorges, fractured synclines and anticlines and I'm muttering, talking to myself, my heart aching and skin tingling with the thrill of this window seat.

Ok, sometimes business travel is glamorous. At least the first hour.

[Later, a well-timed look found our Missouri crossing, now we're ticking across the wall-to-wall square grid of the Farm Belt. Fields are dirt-brown and straw-yellow, lakes opaque green. Feels like Central Time. Then the upper Mississippi; Madison, Wisconsin, its blue lakes and busy isthmus, Mendota, Menona, Wingra, Kegonsa; and then the Big Blue Lake, Michigan....


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Saturday, 01-Dec-2007 11:16:16 MST