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30.Mar.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Ye shall be as gods (or maybe ants) Permalink to this item

I had a different picture in my mind than the portrait atop this Wired Magazine piece about Ray Kurzweil, but so it goes. The editors probably intended it to be a little weird, just like his attitude about the non-inevitability of his death, or his daily pill regimen (also pictured).

Looking back, I see it was in my blog's first year that Kurzweil's name first came up, this crazy idea of man-machine merger having bubbled up to me, years behind his chain of epiphany. My reaction then was as it is now, a "huh" that isn't going to change my lifestyle or encourage me to start popping more than the occasional vitamin or mineral supplement, let alone 180 to 210 a day.

"Will the Singularity run on fossil fuels? And why are the Immortals usually so grouchy? Is eternity just a bunch of grumpy old men?"
posted by: heaven

My takeaway is that something big will happen, pretty soon, but who knows exactly when (much less what)? Measure it in decades, at most, rather than years, and stir in the unknown possibilities with the better known trends in overpopulation, resource wars, global warming, and a species playing "chicken" with an assortment of doomsday weapons... and figure that predicting the future is not getting any easier.

If the Boy Scout motto proves prescient, our delegation to the brave new world may be such as this brilliant, successful, and particularly self-obsessed technologist, and others like him willing to spend whatever it takes to keep their meat puppets going long enough to cross the bridges off the Homo sapiens island.

29.Mar.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Viral Politics Permalink to this item

I heard Clinton claiming to "misspeak" (and George Lakoff's take that mmm, that's not "misspeaking") and I also heard her weird girlish giggle punctuating that claim and the suggestion that maybe sleep deprivation could explain it all away. Maybe it could have if the same misspeech hadn't been going on quite so long, or in her prepared remarks. Frank Rich suggests this may be Hillary's Macaca Moment, the St. Patrick's Day Massacre.

Here's what I see as the good part about the news cycle gone viral: "Both the CBS News piece on Mrs. Clinton in Bosnia and the full video of Mr. Obama's speech on race have drawn more views than the most popular clips of a raging Mr. Wright." People are paying attention, and not just to the gotcha scenes, but to the bigger ideas that are being discussed. If the message is well-crafted, it can break through the quick cuts of advertising, and the protective response of the remote control twitch.

Tortured Nomination Permalink to this item

Let me get this straight. "The election commission, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Mine Safety and Health Review Commission, the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board and the National Labor Relations Board do not have enough members to do their jobs. Scores of federal judgeships are vacant. The Council of Economic Advisers is down to one adviser."

Mr. Bush insists on his instrument of torture memoranda, Steven Bradbury, to be the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, and the Senate refuses to consider the nomination, and all the other nominations are stuck in queue. Bush won't withdraw, and the Senate won't go out on recess, thereby blocking the President's ability to make a "temporary" appointment without the advice and consent of the Congress (you know, like the Constitution says he needs).

This is the folksy My Way or the Highway style that has now driven the country into the bushes of a Texas backwater.

Good on Harry Reid for keeping Bradbury out of the job. Less than 10 months to go.

27.Mar.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Busy Penultimate (?) Week at the Statehouse Permalink to this item

Betsy Russell's fingers are busy keeping her Eye on Boise this week, as the Legislature works to get enough done so they can quit for the year. The Senate found something to be unanimous about, an amended reduction of the so-called "personal property tax" that has to do with business property. Small businesses are the new motherhood and apple pie (as if you hadn't noticed), so exempting $75,000 (the Democrats tried to set a $50,000 exemption in the House, but got voted down) was just the compromise needed, apparently.

There's still the unsolved transportation funding problem; and a temper tantrum by the Governor?! So much for those shiny new laptops the Legislators imagined they'd have next year.

Unfortunately, the Senate's override of the Governor's partial veto of a bill providing funding for drug rehabilitation was only partial itself: almost $17 million got vetoed, and only $2.4 million was restored by the override. There's another $14.4 million that was allocated by HB 608 that's still on the cutting room floor as time runs out on this session.

The Dems Engage on 43rd State Blues Permalink to this item

The startup was a little rough as a self-described newcomer to politics said he was interested in moderating a one-on-one interaction on a just-started blog, but now it looks as though he's got a dialog going, sort of, between the Democratic candidates (and their supporters) for the Idaho 1st Congressional District House seat.

Easter Monday Permanent URL to this day's entry

Now Little Governor Risch is Beside Himself, Too Permalink to this item

"Governor Risch [sic] has no input on this matter," he said. Yes, that's what he said.

Calculated Malice Permalink to this item

My first response to the latest salvo from Bryan Fischer was all spluttering expletives and insulting derision, but Jeanette, who has been reading his regular pontification longer than I have pointed out that he's not stupid, but rather malicious. In terms that the "Reverend" might understand, she observed that Sin is separation from God, and Evil separates us from one another.

That puts Fischer squarely in the category of evil, in his never-ending search for ways and means to divide the "righteous" from the unworthy.

"When the press corps refuses to declare its allegiance to the same Republic we all are part of," Fischer writes, "it's no wonder the public at large begins to question the quality and objectivity of its reporting."

Yes, and with "religious" leaders such as Fischer and his alliance of one, it's no wonder this country is going to hell in a handbasket.

Rising up in Joe McCarthy-style dudgeon, Fischer goes on, "The essential question here is, 'Do these members of the media have any kind of loyalty to the United States?' If they do, then why won't they say so? And if they don't, why should we trust anything they write?"

There is no question about trusting anything Fischer writes; he is a small-minded, malicious troll with no interest in betterment of the community, but only in advancing his personal agenda of being holier than thou.

Fischer provides a poor man's "action alert" mailto link for telling the Speaker of the Idaho House what you think, cc'ing Kevin Richert of the Statesman and Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review, getting her email address wrong for good measure. Oh, and a Bcc to hisself. You need an action alert? Here you go: tell the Speaker what you think.

Other responses to the right-wing litmus test: The MountainGoat Report, IdahoRocks.

Easter Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Components of Moral Hazard Permalink to this item

There's so much I don't know about investment banking, I hardly know where to start. I hear there's some trouble, and one dimension of the trouble we started reading about in the news this week was "moral hazard." As I understand it, that's the deal where heads I win, tails you lose; deals with unlimited upside and a downside covered by parties who unwittingly share the risk, but not the reward.

Those speaking so readily in favor of "market solutions" and so adamantly against "regulation" know more about this than I do, and they're well-paid for that knowledge.

Today's NYT piece by Nelson Schwartz and Julie Creswell, What Created This Monster? didn't answer its own question, but it did provide some of the vocabulary and dimensions to start understanding what's going on.

"...put taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars in questionable trades..." That's clear enough.

"The shadow banking system" creating "a dizzying array of innovative products that experts now acknowledge are hard to understand and even harder to value."

"Off-balance-sheet risks"

NYT graph of booming Credit Default Swaps market A "credit default swaps market" with outstanding value three times the GDP of the U.S. (Maybe this is the realm in which last week's Fed bailout of Bear Stearns averted a "doomsday scenario." If it was averted.)

Deregulation, in the form of a 262-page "Commodity Futures Modernization Act" passed by the lame duck 2000 Congress, "supported" by then-Senator Phil Gramm, chairman of the Senate Banking committee (and now vice-chairman of UBS). The article says "UBS has recently seen its fortunes hammered by ill-considered derivative investments," but don't tell me, let me guess, Phil Gramm's fortunes have never been better.

A "stealth market" in "derivatives" that "relies on trades conducted by phone between Wall Street dealer desks, away from open securities exchanges. How much changes hands or who holds what is ultimately unknown to analysts, investors and regulators."

I do at least have the tools to understand some of the smoke Alan Greenspan was so good at blowing:

"Although Mr. Greenspan acknowledged that the 'possibility of increased systemic risk does appear to be an issue that requires fuller understanding,' he argued that new regulations 'would be a major mistake.

"'Regulatory risk measurement schemes,' he added, 'are simpler and much less accurate than banks' risk measurement models.'"

Banks are smarter than you all, he was telling us; do not meddle in the affairs of wizards. At least not until they write home for money.

21.Mar.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Why Manufacturing Left Our Shores Permalink to this item

I vascillated over "why" and "how" in that headline; could've been either one, if this theory of Robert X. Cringely's is correct:

"I've written about this for years and nobody ever paid attention, but ISO certification is what destroyed the U.S. manufacturing economy. With ISO 9000 there was suddenly a way to claim with some justification that a factory in Malaysia was precisely comparable to an IBM plant on the Hudson. Prior to then it was all based on reputation, not statistics. And now that IBM plant is gone."

I must have been one of the pople who wasn't paying attention, because I don't remember him bringing it up. At any rate, this theory was embedded in his essay about what will happen to our education system when the current generation, defining the Age of Search, finally supplants we Information Age codgers.

My career in manufacturing engineering spanned the transition into the world of ISO 9000, and out of U.S. domestic manufacturing. For those readers who don't know it by its quirky alphanumeric, the International Organization for Standardization's (go figure) "9000" family of standards is about quality management. The short description is that they require you to document what you're going to do, and then verify that you're doing what you said you would.

Once you write good instructions, just about anyone can follow them. (Just think about all the bad instructions you've managed to follow, putting together toys, or deciphering absurd menu systems, and following bad translations from the countries we shipped manufacturing to.)

Look Who's Blinking Permalink to this item

Homeland Security is sending out unasked-for extensions for implementation of Real ID. Idaho already asked for and received its extension, to the end of 2009, and has hedged its bet by moving in the general direction of compliance with HB 366, while Governor Butch bashes the idea.

Maybe I'm Not as Left as I Thought Permalink to this item

In Idaho, the political Zeitgeist puts most of "moderate" on the "far left," so it's hard to know how I sort out on Bill O'Reilly's political spectrum. The Media Matters for America response to O'Reilly's suggestion they be "deported" was the first I heard of how "the left is obsessed with race," as gal-pal Laura Ingraham put it. "They want to hurt Laura Ingraham and Bill O'Reilly," O'Reilly said, apparently beside himself.

But as a representative of the left (why not?) I have to say, I do not want to hurt Ingraham or O'Reilly any more than I want to hear or read anything they have to say. Some people, you know, first impression and all that, you just don't care to spend time in their company. Maybe O'Reilly's nadir was that interview with Terry Gross, when he couldn't end the conversation with "just shut up," he walked out.

But MMfA, they stick with it, gave the man (and woman) a generous reprint to provide the context for his bigotry and let their audience decide for themselves.

(H/t to d2 for the story.)

The Speech Started a Discussion Permalink to this item

Yet another remarkable Op-Ed touched off by Obama's speech this week, this one from Roger Cohen, Beyond America's Original Sin.

"Honesty feels heady right now. For seven years, we have lived with the arid, us-against-them formulas of Bush's menial mind, with the result that the nuanced exploration of America's hardest subject is almost giddying. Can it be that a human being, like Wright, or like Obama’s grandmother, is actually inhabited by ambiguities? Can an inquiring mind actually explore the half-shades of truth?

"Yes. It. Can."

Others include the NYT editorial board, Nicholas Kristof,

Of course, not everyone was enthusiastic. Closed minds and cognitive dissonance are ample protection against opportunity of all kinds. Dave Astor runs down reaction both pro and con, including this gem from Thomas Sowell: "Like the Soviet show trials during the 1930s purges, Obama's speech was not supposed to convince critics but to reassure supporters and fellow-travelers, in order to keep the 'useful idiots' useful."

Time has a catalog of reactions, they're all good at the Huffington Post, Bonnie Urbe says he missed "the opportunity to lure" (no fan of authenticity, she), Jonah Goldberg gets the faint praise out of the way with his lede before preemptively deriding "the mainstream press and the Democratic faithful" for applauding, and Investors Business Daily says he was just "passing the buck," Charles Krauthammer is obsessed with what he knew, when.

One more: Watching Obama with Strangers at a car dealership in suburban Atlanta.

Connecting Dots Permalink to this item

Eliot Spitzer may well be thinking that just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you. We've become more accustomed to the Justice Department issuing redacted memoranda explaining why obviously criminal acts are Constitutional if we're frightened enough, rather than explaining a sudden enthusiasm for prosecution of affairs they have traditionally tended to let lay.

As BearStearns stockholders continue to mull over a $2 buyout (as the market says six), the rest of us watching the proceedings from outside the perimeter can consider the possibly not-so-coincidental timing of Mr. Spitzer's demise and a $200 billion dollar bailout.

With the markets closed for Good Friday, we also have time to consider how shocked, shocked the populace is to be reminded that we still have some unfinished business about racism, juxtaposed with this salient fact from Greg Palast: "73% of HIGH INCOME Black and Hispanic borrowers were given sub-prime loans versus 17% of similar-income Whites."

"Instead of regulating the banks that had run amok, Bush's regulators went on the warpath against Spitzer and states attempting to stop predatory practices. Making an unprecedented use of the legal power of 'federal pre-emption,' Bush-bots ordered the states to NOT enforce their consumer protection laws.

"Indeed, the feds actually filed a lawsuit to block Spitzer's investigation of ugly racial mortgage steering. Bush’s banking buddies were especially steamed that Spitzer hammered bank practices across the nation using New York State laws."

Spring! Permanent URL to this day's entry

Must be global warming that made spring come earlier this year: 11:48am MDT on March 20th. And Easter's early, too. Harmonic Convergence?

Otter's First Veto Permalink to this item

Illustrating, perhaps, the risk inherent in providing an executive with a line-item veto, Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter has nixed $17 million for substance-abuse treatment funding, something some lawmakers have been working to get for years.

One might think Otter's prior substance abuse problem would generate some sympathy for the problem, even if he couldn't pencil out the arithmetic between building more prisons and working to address one of the key causes underlying criminal behavior.

"He said he didn't want it to be personal." Permalink to this item

So Bryan Fischer actually has a vague hint of humanity behind the fire and brimstone that bubbles in front of him. What do you know. Clueless. But vaguely human.

Praying for Better Government Permalink to this item

"Any time the government is promoting a religion it's undermining the freedom of religion in my view," Jack Van Valkenburg, the head of ACLU of Idaho said. "And to encourage a particular religion or a particular set of religions is particularly offensive."

Quoted by Nathaniel Hoffman, on the subject of public displays of Jesus affection in our Legislature.

Particularly offensive.

But plenty of our legislators probably share Senator Bart Davis' opinion that "it is a wonderful idea to make eternal supplication on behalf of the people of the state of Idaho and the Legislature every single day."

Patriotism No Longer Optional Permalink to this item

Our right-wing Speaker of the House, Lawrence Denney, saw fit to send a pointed letter to the President of Capitol Correspondents, after "several members of the Body and myself that they did not verbally participate in the Pledge." (Reported in Jill Kuraitis' roundup of the weeks wacky events, scroll down. A facsimile of the very letter is available from Paleomedia, along with some attitude.)

"Pledge allegiance to the truth."
Nathaniel Hoffman

The whole Pledge, nothing but the Pledge, or just the McCarthy-era addition of theistic affirmation? Wouldn't that be a religious test Mr. Denney? Oh wait, the Press Corps isn't running for office now, is it?

Nice collection of comments on Huckleberries Online, including this one, from scootermom:

Next, he'll be demanding that everyone join the morning prayer. I always walked out of the gallery when the pledge and prayer were offered. That didn't go unnoticed by some. Supreme Court says you can't compel people to pledge alliegance. But, then, our legislature knows very little about the Constitution.

19.Mar.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The biggest foreign policy disaster in the history of the country Permalink to this item

Little lies are too easily disproved; the big ones—like "Mission Accomplished"—have staying power. Reading from his script today, George W. Bush tried his hand at another round of whoppers:

"The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around. It has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader War on Terror."

Leslie Gelb, on Charlie Rose, sees things a little differently:

"One of the striking things about the debate now, is how everyone agrees that Iraq was a strategic mistake, and yet many people continue to call it a 'vital interest'. How can a mistake become a vital interest? A mistake is a mistake, and you compound it by adding to the commitment in lives and treasure."

John McCain's campaign depends on the same nonsensical argument for "success" that Bush is offering, steadily moving the goal posts to suit whatever positive news can be mustered, or made up. John Hulsman, writing in Stern pulls back the curtain on McCain's Potemkin village, reminding us of the original goals for the surge: agreement on sharing oil revenues; disarming the militias; bringing the Sunnis into the government. No, no, and no.

That McCain isn't clear on Sunnis and Shi'ites speaks volumes about his limited understanding of what's going on in Iraq, let alone why we are even there. But it's not just his fault: the Bush administration has conflated terrorism and Iraq for half a dozen years.

Five Years Permalink to this item

Five years of misbegotten war

Pro-Pro-Life Voters Have Their Man Permalink to this item

And he's running for the U.S. Senate, hoping to strike the fancy of 5% of the electorate now, and "for the highest state office on the ballot every two years for the rest of his life."

David Ripley, executive director of Idaho Chooses Life, says he knows and respects Pro-Life but fears some voters may think Pro-Life is a position rather than a candidate and mistakenly mark their ballots both for him and for another anti-abortion candidate for the Senate, thus nullifying their choices.

We can hope.

18.Mar.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A Responsible Plan Permalink to this item

The first one was commissioned by the current administration. The Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group seems almost quaint, in spite of it having been started just two years ago, and releasing its report only 15 months ago.

The Bush/Cheney administration proceeded to ignore its recommendations, defying the will of the majority of the American people, who'd expressed their opinion in just the month before, by putting the other party in charge of both houses of Congress.

"The American public has been presented with a [false choice]: a semi-permanent military occupation of Iraq versus a precipitous and destabilizing withdrawal. There is a deepening public desire for a new path forward and a cohesive military, diplomatic, and economic strategy that will end the war in Iraq while protecting American interests."

Ten candidates for the U.S. House have prepared A Reponsible Plan to End the War in Iraq, using the wisdom of the ISG's recommendations, and adding to it correction to the excesses of the current administration:

Looks like a good outline to me. Check it out.

Session Speedup Suggestion Permalink to this item

Yet another way Idaho's legislators could shut up about how much they want to adjourn and actually get their work done so they can go home: stop wasting time on memorials from the John Birch Society. (Whereas, getting a dozen liquor licenses issued to Tamarack was a necessary act to alleviate the sting of its first bankruptcy.)

One in a Billion Permalink to this item

Outside of China's media-controlled propaganda bubble, the Dalai Lama retains a stronger position of moral authority than the most populous country in the world can currently muster, especially as its leaders work to light up ethnic hatred to support the cause of dominating the country they've taken over.

You won't find any of the Chinese officials, for example, inviting international observers to look through their offices to see what role they're playing in the violence in Tibet.

My Country, Right and Wrong Permalink to this item

Ok, I just heard a snippet of Jeremiah Wright's firy rhetoric, featuring the risable curse (all the more powerful for being delivered in a so-called House of God), "God damn America!"

"The government give them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strikes law, and then wants us to sing 'God Bless America'..."

And you've probably heard the rest by now. As an atheist, I'm not calling on any supreme beings for blessings, or damnation, but I'm not immune to feelings of patriotism, nor to outrage at the mixture of good and evil that are embraced by nationalism. I'll salute, support, sing (if not that particular song, thank you) and wave at the parade when my turn comes around.

But it was some perverse sense of nationalistic hubris (at least in part) that led us to invade a country half the world away from us, depose its leader, precipitate the death of at least a hundred thousand of its people, and making 4 million of them refugees, and then have the principal architect go visit and declare it all to be a "successful endeavour," "well worth the effort."

I can only imagine the U.S. reaction if there were other countries who unilaterally declared that their security needs required a network of secret prisons, the use of torture, and started kidnapping our citizens who looked too much like their bogeymen, or had funny-sounding names, and holding them with no hint of due process, Constitutional safeguards, or the rule of law. Let alone sought to invade another country with Shock and Awe.

If there were a God, we would have a damn lot to answer for, not the least of which is putting millions of people in jail for drug offenses, Our current leadership shows no hint of the religiosity they all trot out for ceremonial occasions when it comes to making decisions about sacrificing others' lives. We shouldn't need a preacher to tell us we're already treading on thin ice. If there were Divine retribution in the offing, some of us had best be keeping a lower profile.

But enough about my opinion. Have a look at what Barack Obama had to say on this subject today, in a powerful speech, as yet unequalled by another candidate in this election.

"I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation—the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election."

Palm Permanent URL to this day's entry

He's a Lover, Not a Fighter Permalink to this item

His most recent brush with danger being the make-believe carrier landing, and then that pretzel. Or was is the other way around? He's envying... the romance, of combat.

"It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks."

Just a little soft shoe, from our War President, somewhere between madness and destruction.

Spin Control Permalink to this item

Notes From The Floor:

"We are holding local governments up to a bar we do not hold ourselves to. Do we have to be elected by a 2/3 vote to vote on tax issues? Not as I recall. And let's be a little more clear, House Republican leaders Mike Moyle and Ken Roberts who are quoted as caring about keeping Idahoans taxes low are the same two who are behind shifting almost $100 million in business taxes onto families and individuals by repealing the $120 million personal property tax. It should be hard to raise taxes they say? How about shifting taxes from one group of payers to another? Is that some how OK?"

Powering the Idaho Desert Permalink to this item

The Statesman's Sunday Insight section featured two opinion pieces from nuclear power proponents above the fold today, with a shared headline, Can a nuclear power plant work in Idaho? The subhead-shorthand for Don Gillespie's contribution labelled him "a project backer," which is perhaps a bit too cute to describe the president and CEO of Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc., the company that's seeking to build the plant. The 2nd piece, from Adrian Heymer of the Nuclear Energy Institute (its website now featuring a happy, nuclear family gamboling in a green field) is a bit more generic, affirming that it is possible to bring projects in on time and on budget, especially on sites that already have a power plant in place.

No doubt some of the "extreme environmentalists" will be foaming with "rabid opposition" about not getting some equal-time ink to balance the all-booster presentation. Gillespie needs most of all to hire a public relations person or firm and take himself out of that end of the business, keeping his complaints about "duplicitous" opponents, "a few of whom hold official positions" in-house, rather than in-paper, lest he find himself on the wrong end of an unproductive legal proceeding.

His public relations department will also need a dilligent fact-checker who can remind him that the cost of capital must be factored into estimates of how much his electricity will cost per kilowatt-hour, and that the question of waste management cannot be waved away by a magical pronouncement that the "very little waste" is "all of it low-level and recyclable."

Perhaps he and his fact-checker could refer to the study that MIT published in 2003, The Future of Nuclear Power, which gives an estimate of the cost per kWh more than twice what he does. That factor of two apparent misapprehension might well explain the continuing lukewarm response from investors for shares of AEHI trading at 1/6th their peak, and 1/4th the January, 2007 offering.

Ides Permanent URL to this day's entry

So Easy to Smash, So Hard to Repair Permalink to this item

For the 5th anniversary of the latest Iraq War, the New York Times "asked nine experts on military and foreign affairs to reflect on their attitudes in the spring of 2003 and to comment on the one aspect of the war that most surprised them or that they wished they had considered in the prewar debate."

Jerry Bremer "should have pushed sooner for a more effective military strategy." Richard Perle "badly underestimated the administration's capacity to mess things up." (If only we'd made him more than just head cheerleader!)

Kenneth Pollack: "What I most wish I had understood before the invasion was the reckless arrogance of the Bush administration."

Ready to Kick Back and Start the Weekend Permalink to this item

No, not me, Gail Collins is speaking about George, speaking.

O.K., so he’s not good at first-day response. Or second. Third can be a problem, too. But this economic crisis has been going on for months, and all the president could come up with sounded as if it had been composed for a Rotary Club and then delivered by a guy who had never read it before.

As the country contemplates whether to feel anxiety about something known as a "liquidity crisis," or to proceed on to outright panic about what at least one informed commentator just called "the most significant financial crisis we've had since the 1930s," will the Treasury Secretary making the Sunday Talk Show rounds be able to shore up confidence, or will this be another case of Brownian motion making our heads swim?

Planning for Idaho's Future Permalink to this item

There's short-term thinking, long-term thinking, and very long-term thinking, and dealing with waste products we know will be toxic for millennia is a longer term than we have yet shown ourselves capable of. Jim Banholzer warns us to beware of putrid plutonium propheteers as we contemplate a legacy that will "endure an epoch tenfold longer than the most ancient Egyptian pyramid."

Perhaps Idaho newspaper editors should convene to develop a writing contest, for us to draft letters of apology to our grandchildren’s grandchildren, for how we have wrongly ‘warshiped’ Mother Earth, to insert in a time capsule, next to the Yucky Mountain radioactive warning cryptograms. Winners could receive protection suits, fitted with alarming Geiger counters.

Said pyramids, by the way, were not actually intended to be awe-inspiring landmarks visible from space as much as they were intended to be physical protection for certain soul-precious artifacts. We see how well that worked.

Banholzer is responding to our state Legislature's effort to make us attractive to the French company Areva, Inc. as it plays states off one another to find a site for a uranium enrichment plant. In that regard, we have the leading candidate for non-sequiter of the season from Jeff Siddoway, representing a town that appears to be a hotbed of center-pivot irrigation:

"I see this is a cut-and-dried business deal," he said. "I can't imagine walking down the road and seeing a pile of $400 million and not wanting to pick it up."

I think he means that Areva will surely see us as the winning bidder, given that we've (almost - the whole Senate still needs to pass it) rolled over and offered to limit their prospective $2 billion property's tax assessment at $400 million, thus giving them a large (if not anything quite like $400 million) tax break, just like they asked for. Yeah but, what are Washington, New Mexico and Texas offering?

π Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Wait A Minute Weather Day Permalink to this item

From Bogus Basin Road, winter showers For our pre-Ides, "π" day, we had one of those days where every variety of weather is on tap. It helped that I improved my personal elevation to 6,000+ feet, taking advantage of recent local events for some winter recreation. We had just a bit of sun, rain, fog, snow, thunder, and a healthy dose of graupel.

Oh, and a nice half-foot of fresh snow up there, with not all that many mid-March skiers and riders to put tracks in it ahead of me. Very nice.

Live Free (and Don't Get on the Plane?) Permalink to this item

Sharon Fisher reports that the Idaho House passed a bill "to direct the Idaho Transportation Board and the Idaho Transportation Department not to implement the provisions of the REAL ID Act of 2005; and to require reporting to the Governor and the Constitutional Defense Council of attempts by federal agencies to secure the implementation of the federal act" yesterday. 67 members and not a NAY present in Idaho's little rebuke to the Feds. We'll see how well that works, but maybe not until a couple extensions run out.

13.Mar.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Actually John, There Is An Appearance of Conflict Permalink to this item

Which is why we're all reading the story about your hearing in the Washington Post. Whether or not there is an illegal conflict of interest in one of your former employees in the Justice Department giving Ashcroft Group LLC what "appears to be a backroom, sweetheart deal" is a question of fact to be resolved in due course, but the basic, no-bid contract deal is always suspect, capiche?

Steal Your Own Dogfood Permalink to this item

The software industry has an operating principle that those who design the stuff should also have to use it. "Eating your own dogfood" is the term of art, perhaps encapsulating both the low self-esteem and capacity for objective technical assessment of those in the field.

For the Republican National Campaign Committee, the problem is slightly different, as Howie Klein reports on The Huffington Post. They've got a lot of money, they can raise a lot of money, but they can't necessarily keep track of where it all goes; "a significant amount" has gone missing,

Former NRCC chair Rep. Thomas M Davis III says "the House Republican brand is so bad right now that if it were a dog food, they'd take it off the shelf."

Mercury in Them Thar Hills Permalink to this item

Rocky Barker reports in today's Statesman that the Queenstake Resources' Jerritt Canyon Mine, just south of the Idaho border, north of Elko, has been shut down for excess mercury emissions.

"The mine owners had claimed to have voluntarily cut 97 percent of mercury emissions between 1998 and 2005," but then measurements were made, "as part of Nevada's mandatory mercury control program." Sounds like a good thing to have, as they were putting out "9,300 pounds per year," "more than 90 times the annual emissions of a coal-fired power plant like the one rejected by Idaho officials near Jerome in 2006."

"Everyone should limit the amount of fish they eat from Lake Coeur d'Alene," among others.
Idaho Dept. of Health & Welfare

I got a response to the inquiry I sent the state DEQ after looking into reports from Brownlee Reservoir, downwind of the Ash Grove kiln. Craig Shepard provided a link to the Idaho Fish Consumption Advisory Project's Dec. 2007 update of how you should regulate your fish intake from various bodies of water, and an invitation to contact the Oregon DEQ instead of Idaho's. In terms of emissions, it appears that a badly-managed gold mine can be several times worse than a badly managed cement kiln.

Larry Craig's Next Job? Permalink to this item

The timing of the reporting might be coincidental, given that his letter to the Secretary of the Air Force (image provided by the Twin Falls Times-News) was dated last August, just before the Big Scandal broke, and maybe he's just looking out for the best interests of his country and home state, as ever, but it sure looks like our formerly singing Senator is waving his hand under the divider between public service and a future in lobbying, promoting a little nuclear reaction in Idaho. Or somewhere.

Something about the numbers don't add up, though. The military is one of the single largest users of domestic electricity? I guess that would be because it's one of the single largest domestic entities. A 5 to 10 MW reactor will definitely fend off the winter chill on the Air Force base, but that's orders magnitude smaller than a typical power plant that's built these days.

It also shows the typical booster's emphasis on the positive; "reliable," ok, "cost effective," sometimes, "environmentally responsible"? That remains to be seen after all these years, especially given the persistent reluctance to fund the considerable expense of cleanup. Kudos to my Representative in CD-02, Mike Simpson, for staying on the job in that regard, swimming against the Norquist tide that says government can't do anything right. Mistakes have been made, to be sure, but choking off funding is not going to solve the problems of nuclear waste.

Funny, but not Ha Ha Funny Permalink to this item

I'm not nearly as interested in whether SNL intentionally or unintentionally gave Clinton a boost with its "media is soft on Obama" sketch as I am in this observation from a more fateful contest: after watching the Gore-Bush debate, Lorne Michaels and Jim Downey disagreed with the conventional wisdom that Gore had won the debate on substance. "Our take was that Gore seemed so tightly wound. He reminded you of some kid you didn’t like in school," Michaels said.

Exactly. Who likes the awkward know-it-all? We much prefer the merry prankster who doesn't give a rip about his grades, and who entertains us as class clown. And how nice for the clown if his patrimony ends up easing him into "success," in avoiding unpleasant duties, in business, and in politics, in spite of his persistent and demonstrated lack of qualifications.

We'd be much more comfortable going out and getting drunk and being stupid with George W. Bush, which is pretty much what this country has done for the last 7+ years. What a gasser.

11.Mar.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Power of Song Permalink to this item

One of the things I most value about public television is that even with all the ersatz advertising, and the periodic pledge breaks, and the questionable programming choices such as Lawrence Welk (I assume someone who's paying likes it), and all those hundreds of other cable channels that have stuff on, it is the only place that you can find gems such as Peter Seeger: The Power of Song. Maybe it's not a true mirror of our culture, but it's what we should be. What we could be.

And gosh, those anti-war songs are somehow still relevant. Like the one CBS got skittish about when the Smothers Brothers brought Seeger on their show, Big Muddy:

"We're – waist deep in the big muddy,
the big fool says to push on."

Shades of the new millennium, from 40 years ago.

Ten Years and Four Lawsuits Later Permalink to this item

There's a lovely hymn tune called "Ash Grove" that I've sung a nice lyric to from time to time. And then there's a cement company, all too aptly named Ash Grove, over in eastern Oregon, between Ontario and Baker City. That's not so lovely, and for some unexplained reason, it is far and away the biggest mercury emitter on the EPA's list, sending out more than a ton of mercury in 2006, and almost 4 times the 2nd place worst mercury polluter.

Let's just say if you've been eating fish out of Brownlee Reservoir on the Snake River, you might want to start thinking about catch and release. (I'm not sure if Idaho's DEQ knows more than they're saying, which is that "The mercury TMDL has been postponed to 2006 [sic] due to a lack of water column data." Other reports on their site do mention the hazard, and an existing advisory about eating fish, and the Ash Grove kiln; but the June 2004 report says Ash Grove's emissions are just over 100 pounds, more than 20 times lower than the latest report.)

Dan Shapley reports, at the Daily Green, as the EPA is coerced to finally doing something to regulate cement kilns.

No Joy in Nampa Permalink to this item

Now that the Nampa Library Board has finally taken the joy out of sex for local patrons, let's talk about how the media mostly aren't squeaking about the main noisemaker being the director of a fundamentalist group. (Mike Butts, at the Idaho Press-Tribune seems to be the exception.)

Update: oh, hello – Sharon Fisher had the story on NewWest a week and a half ago, but as her editor notes, it didn't get on the local radar screen.

Advice and Descent Permalink to this item

Morialekafa has advice for Obama, regarding his opponent for the nomination.

It seems to me that if Mrs. Clinton has been in the close race with George W. Bush in 2000, and all that stood between her (and him) and the Presidency was a gaggle of whitebread Republican staffers pretending to be a mob, demanding the votes not be recounted... we'd already have our first woman President.

"Put in its simplest form, she is trying to drive you crazy. She is going to repeat her illogical sayings over and over, and the more you try to argue with her, or employ any form of logic or reason, the more she will continue to do the same. She will use her illogic as a cudgel to beat you into submission."

As good as the advice to attack with facts may be, it's far from clear that this will overcome a win-at-any-cost strategy. Listen to Clinton arguing how she wants to help voters in Florida and Michigan feel good by having their delegates be seated. To vote for her.

In spite of the fact that she was the only candidate on Michigan's ballot, and there were doubtless plenty of Florida voters who stayed home because they knew the state had been DQ'd. And then there's Florida's Republican governor, Charlie "Monkey Wrench" Crist who thinks his state's primary was "flawless" and there's no need to pay for a do-over.

In other words, let's let the Republican Governor of Florida decide an election for the Democratic nominee?! No, I don't think so. Until he gets cute enough to employ reverse psychology, we want the exact opposite of whatever he says he wants.

Unless Clinton gets to sweep those two states, Hillary's inconvenient truth is that the math of apportioning delegates still doesn't get her into the lead. The same math also doesn't get Obama into a guaranteed winning position, which is the nut of the problem: whichever candidate wins is going to win by a narrow margin, and the narrower the margin, the uglier the fight is going to be. From a Republican POV, the strategy is simple and obvious: let's keep them fighting each other as long as we can. Crist's suggestion that the Dems go ahead and break their own rules to get the contest closer to a dead head is a perfect tactic in that regard.

10.Mar.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

This is Big Brother Permalink to this item

With all due respect to Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, the resurrection and amalgamation of Total Information Awareness doesn't have to be "mythical" to be the embodiment of the idea the George Orwell foresaw. It takes a lot fewer than six degrees of connection to sweep up whole cities at a time.

The detailed reporting from the WSJ is a must-read, and thanks to them for putting this out on their subscription-free site.

H/t to d2 on 43rd State Blues.

Who is this guy Margin who keeps calling? Permalink to this item

Krugman: "...Last month another market you’ve never heard of, the $300 billion market for auction-rate securities (don’t ask), suffered the equivalent of a bank run...."

How many runs does it take to make a Panic?

Hairdo Equilibrium Stabilized Permalink to this item

Since John Brown's Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review went out of business after a four year run, I don't get the email reminders to check Princess Sparkle Pony any more. But I went on my own (she's in the blogroll here) and found out the good news that "things have totally leveled off on top of Condi's head. It's time to lower the Condoleezza Hairdo Alert System level back down to guarded."

Also, Geologists once again fooled by Satan and The Youth of Lebanon Salute Condi!

Friends in Faraway Places Permalink to this item

Crescent moon and earthshine, end of winter 2008 One of my friends has gone to work in the Middle East, riding the contractoring boom fueled by fuel, and our war for it. And another went to visit her, and India. She's been sending dispatches from cybercafés here and there, remarkable glimpses to cultures that are only stories to me. I hope she'll decided to publish them, but maybe not, because they're quirky and personal. Here are a couple small excerpts I can't help myself from sharing:

"The flight was filled with young men coming back to Abu Dhabi to work. This building mania couldn't be done without them. The Indians are to UAE as the Mexicans are to us. Since 84% of the population is foreign, I wonder what the 16% will do when they go home. There is a big baby drive for the citizens. Six children are strongly encouraged. Children are subsidized and given extra perks. I wonder what will happen to these pampered locals if the bubble breaks. They will be helpless....

"From my bus window, without turning my head, I counted 27 cranes. They're building the biggest everything, and I saw the tallest tower in the world. They won't say how many stories because they don't want anyone to beat them....

"I'm going to the beach today when it cools off a little. I couldn't be here without floating in the Persian Gulf. I had planned to stay at Wendy's and rest, but I can't figure out her television system and I can't watch Al Jazeera which is wonderful! I thought it was going to be one long anti-US harangue, but it's not. I know about the controversy over paving a road in the jungle of Brazil and about the gang problems in El Salvador (thanks, in part, to our sending gang bangers back from LA). But, damn, I don't know anything about Brittany and the kids or whether Tom and Katie are speaking or if Angelina is pregnant."

9.Mar.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

All in the Family Permalink to this item

Our soon-to-be-senior Senator was spotted in the middle of the top 5 nepotism payout list compiled by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, and got the attention of the Idaho Statesman. The $80,000-ish paid to his wife pales in comparison to more than $300,000 paid to family businesses by Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Michael Enzy (R-WY), and CREW isn't saying he broke any laws.. but his last run for the Senate was unopposed, so it's a little difficult to understand what the "enormous value" she provided to the campaign might be. She makes the Hook and Bullet summer fishing-and-hunting event and the Sun Valley Crapo Ski Fest go really well?

Apparently the contributors are OK with this?

Not The Distinction the Metropolitan University was Looking For Permalink to this item

"School rivalries" are a strange beast, born of the belief that competition is a boon, or fun, or perhaps inevitable. For some reason, beating the next-door school is more satisfying than one further away. It must have to do with territoriality: one's boundaries are defined by what's adjacent, after all. In the mountains of central Idaho, territorial boundaries don't have much population to apply to; the frontiers that matters are in the hearts and minds of prospective Idaho college students (and alumni, and legislators), and those can be invaded from long distance.

a University of Idaho logo For an alumnus of the University of Idaho living in the territory of the institution formerly known as Boise Junior College, I stay alert to the relative fortunes of our state's two biggest institutions of higher learning. BSU's raw enrollment numbers surpassed the U of I's a while ago, but the counting has always a bit suspect. Are those full-time students, or anyone who takes a class or two? (The reported data are in FTEs -- and BSU is well into 5 digits, while the UI is not.)

Today's paper provides another metric to consider: the four-year graduation rate. The national average, Anne Wallace Allen reports, has about 1 in 4 students finishing a degree in 4 years. (My first degree took 4½, so whom am I to talk?) BSU has 1 in 14 students getting done "on time." Allen doesn't mention the U of I's 4-year number, but in six years, the U of I is slightly over the national average, 57 to 55%. BSU scratches and claws their way past the 1 in 4 number—27%—with time-and-a-half, and they've started a Finish in Four program to improve their numbers.

The F in F agreement sounds nice, but doesn't have much in the way of specific commitments or incentives. Do students not have academic advisors as a matter of course? The university agrees to "assure the availability of courses" or identify alternatives. Again, this is a change? For the benefit of all concerned, I hope the emphasis works; 93% of enrolled students failing to get the job done in 4 years signals a significant problem.

The Education Trust offers a detailed collection of data for many institutions, and looking up the U of I gives a group that includes BSU (but not vice versa, go figure). UI is 2nd from the top; BSU 2nd from the bottom.

Educational & general expenditures per full-time equivalent student is twice as high at UI; 87% of the UI faculty is full-time, compared to 55% at BSU. And there are 50% more full-time undergraduates per full-time faculty member at BSU. On the other hand, the percentage of full-time students at BSU (36%) is three-times UI's (12%)?!

8.3.8 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Can't Stop Torture Now Permalink to this item

And here we thought job one was to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States; George W. Bush puts "stopping terrorist attacks" ahead of that. So much for the Congressional attempt to put the Bush (and Inquisition) era "specialized interrogation program" beyond the pale.

CD-01 Race Livening Up Permalink to this item

Running scared, the RNC had the Veep stump for Sali in '06 Bill Sali Fan is back, and leaning into his genre. He's still got some people wondering if this is satire, isn't it?

"The people at the Idaho Socialist Statesman are once again trying to make it seem like it's somehow bad that Congressman Bill Sali is ranked as ineffective by some socialist organization. As all True Patriots know, it's good to be ineffective in Congress! All Congress wants to do is spend our money, and if you're not effective, it means your not getting more money spent. Idaho needs more representatives like Congressman Bill Sali!"

Larry Grant has an ambitious 9-point plan for '09: end the war in Iraq, balance the budget, repeal the USA Patriot Act, and end subsidies for big oil. Get all that done, and you could probably take 2010 off.

Meanwhile, the real Bill Sali stands up a website, as Bubblehead reports.

Legislative Music Chairs Permalink to this item

Mike Burkett announces he's done with the Senate, again, and Nicole LeFavour is ready to step up from the House.

Christian Fascists Permalink to this item

Hagee endorses McCain I happened to come across the January 2007 article Christianists on the March by Chris Hedges, author of the book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America the morning after watching the Bill Moyers Journal, "Jerusalem Countdown," showing the transformation of John McCain from someone willing to take a stand against Christian Right extremists to someone happy to rub cheeks with the likes of John Hagee, hoping to collect the votes of the Base.

"(Dr. James Luther) Adams [Hedges' ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School] understood that totalitarian movements are built out of deep personal and economic despair. He warned that the flight of manufacturing jobs, the impoverishment of the American working class, the physical obliteration of communities in the vast, soulless exurbs and decaying Rust Belt, were swiftly deforming our society....

"Christian utopians promise to replace this internal and external emptiness with a mythical world where time stops and all problems are solved. The mounting despair rippling across the United States, one I witnessed repeatedly as I traveled the country, remains unaddressed by the Democratic Party, which has abandoned the working class, like its Republican counterpart, for massive corporate funding. The Christian right has lured tens of millions of Americans, who rightly feel abandoned and betrayed by the political system, from the reality-based world to one of magic—to fantastic visions of angels and miracles, to a childlike belief that God has a plan for them and Jesus will guide and protect them.

Once you raise your hand and accept magic into your life as your personal savior, "it creates a world where facts become interchangeable with opinions, where lies become true—the very essence of the totalitarian state." The deadliness of this threat depends on the capabilities of its proponents, as well as their commitment to the cause. They might hijack the tools of modern society and turn them into weapons upon itself, or they might project military destruction and occupation on a nation on the opposite side of the globe.

Hedges point is that the only remedy for this "most dangerous mass movement in American history" is to address the increasing damage done by economic injustice. He apparently shares the derision for liberals he describes Adams having, as they "mouth silly platitudes about dialogue and inclusiveness."

Yesterday's anticlimactic pilloring of a few robber barons seems a case in point, as the number of people on the losing end of the real estate bubble multiplies. We made our tens and hundreds of $millions under honest-to-God "pay for performance" programs they all swore. Sure mistakes were made, but you can't really blame us.

Where Does the Time Go? Permalink to this item

Spring forward, 2am tomorrow Now whose crazy idea was it to start Daylight Savings Time on the second Sunday of March? It's not like it actually saves energy or anything. (Yes, I know the government says it does, but saying it don't make it so. Let's see, if "staying away from home" reduces energy use... maybe providing poisonous homes could reduce energy too?)

Good old Indiana provided us with a "natural experiment" by having its counties decide for themselves whether to play along. That's right; cross the county line and set your watch forward. Or backwards. I bet that works really, really well for them. But hey, that's their problem, not ours, and it provided a "free" opportunity to study the question in a sort-of controlled way.

And the answer is... some help in the spring (so forget about going back to the first Sunday in April?), but it hurts in the fall, and the net effect is negative.

Will we stop? Don't count on it. Most of us like sunshine in the evening, even if we don't like the transitions. Especially this spring forward deal, where the DST pixies come in the middle of the night and steal an hour of our slumber.

7.Mar.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Yes In Your Backyard Permalink to this item

Dennis Mansfield calls on the Governor to correct the latest blunder of our state Legislature:

"The Staffed, Safe and Sober Housing Industry is experiencing success throughout the nation with relapse rates far below traditional incarceration. This bill was passed by either an arrogance of power or an ignorance of prison; prison overcrowding is beyond expensive and will become more so.

"Either way,The Legislature, in their desire to appear as though they are helping the 'neighborhoods,' have just given a new twist to allowing the chance of discriminatory red-lining practices thus rejecting federally protected individuals who are in recovery."

He's got the Idaho Statesman on his side already, noting that H.B. 465 would be "a step backward in (the) fight against drug addiction and reducing recidivism," something which some lawmakers in our state apparently don't mind taking.

Given how many inmates we like to have in this country, unless they all serve life without parole, we're going to have record numbers of ex-inmates as well. If Otter doesn't get the job done, the next stop may be in Federal Court.

Scare Tactics Permalink to this item

With McCain getting the GOP nod for the nomination, and him having previously shown something less than total, rabid anti-immigration sentiment, the campaign might push that currently hot, hot issue to back to simmer on a back burner. (Or, as with so many other issues, the Straight Talk Express may find itself on a detour set up by the good old boy network.)

But terrorism–that's got staying power for all parties! Damned if Hillary Clinton didn't bring it up already with that "red phone" ad, hearkening back to the Cold War she remembers so well, even if her opponent (or his waves of youthful supporters) don't have that as stock footage for their nightmares.

It's March, last I checked, 8 months from Election Day, but we already have stories queued up. Chief of the Northern Command warning of more urgent plots to attack the U.S., even as Chertoff brags about what a heckuva job we're doing, and that's why the attacks and plots are in other places these days, like Madrid, London, Glasgow, Denmark, Germany, Italy, France, Portugal, and of course Baghdad. (We don't count little bombs if no one gets hurt, apparently.)

The message always has a purpose, and this latest one from Chertoff and Bush was to sell the "extend the spying and protect the companies that help us do it" act. "(B)oth (Bush) and Chertoff warned against complacency about terrorism," of course. Do Not Be Complacent.

Excerpt of the map from P, C, and H Here in Boise, everyone below the first bench or a good view from the foothills should be reminded that there's a dam upstream, omigod. And we have big fires every summer. Extry, extry, read all about it! Piegorsch, Cutter and Hardisty publish Benchmark Analysis for Quantifying Urban Vulnerability to Terrorist Incidents, and We're Number 10!

"It is seen that the benchmark approach translates quite flexibly from its biological roots to this social scientific archetype," they write in their abstract. Their data tell us that Boise has the highest "natural hazards vulnerability index," by a substantial margin, of the 132 urban areas on their list. Higher than New Orleans, and San Francisco.

Their study is more about natural hazards than terrorism, it appears, but which do you suppose will sell more newspapers? Duh. The database they assembled is for incidents from 1970-1998, and they filter it through binary "incidence" and "casualty" (death or injury) factors. Boise had at least one incident. And no casualties. Their variance-weighted sum gives more than half the emphasis in the "place-based vulnerability index" to natural hazards, and the mathematical juggling act they come up with does a good job of "describing" the data they put in.

So... based on questionable data for our vulnerability to natural hazards, and a fairly mindless binary filter of historical data from a period which is arguably irrelevant, Boise is glowing red on their map of the United States! (And Boise is bigger than Delaware, too!)

6.Mar.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A Despicable Little Man Permalink to this item

Bryan Fischer is plumbing new depths with his one-man begging operation known as the Idaho Values Alliance. Repeating libel he's picked up from the right-wing echo chamber, using "according to" to cover his sorry butt, he's got the whole schtick, right down to the Hitler reference. Well, Heil Bryan!

I hope the public school students who were treated to his attempt to sell them on "intelligent design" were suitably amused. See kids, this is what happened when you let magical thinking take the place of science.

Out With the Old, In With the New Permalink to this item

I'm not sure how many more I'll read in detail, but the first one caught my eye -- the equivalent of the slick, direct-mail piece, in my inbox, under the subject "Tom, Your HP Technology at Work: March Edition."

It's a mix of advertising, possibly useful tidbits, and entertainment. "Prices plummet on popular Color LaserJets," for example. $200 markdowns on products with "old price" from $699 (33% off!) to $2499 (8% off?).

"Break those bad e-mail habits" (oh dear, I'm not getting that done, am I?), "Back up data quickly; restore effortlessly" sounds good to have. Sadly, not a how-to, but rather an ad for their flagship tape storage products (the one thing left at hp that I can point to and say "I helped"), and much, much more.

Finally, "HP on YouTube... a must-see!" "Watch and laugh at this YouTube video and discover to what lengths companies will go to finance their technology. See what life would be like with out HP."

It even has that "diversity" feel of the old HP, striving for racial and gender balance... but with a new edginess. This time, it's an older white guy in a suit who's running things and slyly making a fool out of all the employees (including, and most especially, the *older* white guy who's lost his suit). Oh wait a second...

5.Mar.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Yeah, It's a Funding Problem Permalink to this item

We don't need no stinkin' renewable energy. That global warming is just a big hoax, don't you know. From Betsy's blog:

"Some facts ... are accepted by many people but I don’t think they’re proven," Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, said, "As we look nationally, we know that only one side of the debate has been funded. I don’t want to see industry squoze down."

We've got the The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but do we have The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Staying the Same? Noooo.

Monty Pearce is also on record with the Idaho Values Alliance in favor of "teaching in public schools that man is a created being, not an evolved being" among many other Fischerisms. A real Idaho Gem.

Cellar Dwellers Permalink to this item

The weak position of our Congressional delegation is all over the blogs today, as the Knowlegis 2008 Power Rankings hit the press. Idaho's ranking among the states is #53; no mean feat, given that there are only 50 states. We edged American Samoa, cleaned Puerto Rico's clock, but Guam's single, non-voting member of the House edged our delegation's 11.10 average. Our CD-2 representative, Mike Simpson, is in the middle of the pack, and one of our Senators is out of the bottom quintile, but the other half, well. You've heard of Larry Craig of course. His influence was dropping with the rest of the GOP after they lost both halves of Congress in 2006, and then he waved his magic wand to find some negative "fizzle" in an airport toilet stall.

Our lesser light, Representative Bill Sali from CD-1, doesn't have a sex scandal against him yet, but he does have a his "principled" stand that government is either useless, or the source of all our problems, and he's doing his damndest to make the prophecy come true.

More from Betsy Russell, Mountain Goat, Kevin Richert.

Undecided Permalink to this item

Our two leading Democrats will battle on for the party's nomination, with a couple of small contests and then a six-week wait for the next big primary. What a crazy schedule, huh? It'll be good for the advertising business, but I'm not holding my breath for "good for democracy." The rich stew of ideas that we enjoyed with 20 candidates vying for attention is ancient history by now, and all that seems to be left is personality testing and games of gotcha.

Will the disaffected working class in the Rust Belt decide yet another election for the country, voting against their long-term self-interest? Or will the cross-over Republicans in Texas be ultimately responsible for keeping the Democratic contest going long enough to have the opponents self-destruct? Or will the contest make them mightier, and more present in the public eye (in a good way?!) as John McCain's shortage of funds and legal problems over a re-do of his public funding squelch his marketing effort?

I heard that Huckabee had a nice concession speech, but none of the media I've seen featured it above the fold, and I haven't troubled myself to track it down. Maybe Saturday Night Live can invite him back?

One of the All-Time Greats Permalink to this item

One of a zillion photos I didn't take of Brett Favre The good news is that the Statesman's Sports page had enough green and gold ink to satisfy me today; the bad news is that it was all about the surprising/not suprising retirement of Brett Favre. Every sports section in the country led with the story, so take your pick of which one to enjoy. The Green Bay Press-Gazette has the home-town advantage. The San Diego Union-Tribune has one of the best headlines, over Tim Sullivan's commentary: "It's doubtful anyone had more fun playing game."

And along the way... let's just say things will be different in Green Bay come the fall. Since he subbed in at the end of Game 3 in the 1992 season, Favre has started every Packers game since; an astounding, incomprehensible, unrepeatable achievement for anyone in the NFL, let alone a quarterback. Having set the record for both touchdown passes and interceptions, Favre's games ran fans the length of the field in emotional responses and we all have our individual collections of unforgettable moments.

4.Mar.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Stanford University's Journal of Design Permalink to this item

They had 8 issues done and out to circulation before I stumbled upon Ambidextrous. It's not easy to translate a finished hard-copy publication to the web, and their trending toward PDFs says they didn't want to, really, but the availability is nice, and the content is interesting.

I'd consider subscribing if we weren't already swimming in hard-copy media around the house.

Four More Years of This?! Permalink to this item

Of all the Bushisms to dredge up and make part of a new campaign, McCain had to pick privatizing Social Security, and idea upon which George W. Bush poured the dregs of his reelection "political capital," while his party still controlled Congress.

As the second Bush in the White House is trimmed with a whimpering recession to punctuate his last year in office, McCain apparently hasn't been given the news that It's The Economy, Stupid. (At least whenever it isn't the War and Occupation of Iraq, that other Bush II policy McCain imagines is just the thing to get him victory in November.)

At this rate, no one will have to keep repeating the Senator's observation that "the issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should," as it will be blindingly obvious to residents of the entire political spectrum.

Still More Fun from the FCB Permalink to this item

Julie's Frank Church Notebook includes a link to video of the Dread Plaid Coat auction, and a ton of links about the weekend's activities.

Like many others, I was charmed by the well-spoken representative of the Couer d'Alene Tribe, Quanah Spencer, even before he came up with the show-stopping check for $10,000. It's nice to have friends up north!

My Favorite FCB Photo Permalink to this item

Jeanette Ross and Cecil Andrus at the 2008 Frank Church Banquet More than four decades ago, Jeanette first worked on a Cecil Andrus campaign, when he was a State Senator, and shortly before he ran for and won his first of four terms as Idaho Governor. Probably the second most famous Idaho politician behind the man with his name on last Saturday's Frank Church Banquet, Andrus is the lodestar for Democrats in the state, and the life of whatever party he can get to.

Successful politicians all have one trait in common: they remember their friends. Thanks to Jill Kuraitis for capturing the moment for us.

Gee, Was That Wrong? Permalink to this item

Almost as charming as the Canyon County Commissioner showing up at the airport with a—whoops! Forgot to check that— handgun in his backpack is the gaggle of state GOP potentates going for a ride to their Lincoln Day banquet on Frank VanderSloot's jet, and turboprop. (Oo, oo, I want to go on the jet!)

"Just hours after they returned to Boise, Richardson, Bair and Siddoway voted Friday in favor of a bill that would help strengthen an employer's ability to enforce noncompete agreements with key employees. The bill passed 25-10 and is now before the House. VanderSloot hired a lobbyist to push for the bill, after a similar measure failed a year ago."

Just a coincidence, I'm sure. "No hint of impropriety," especially if the legislators all pay the cost of the flight, or report it as an in-kind contribution to their cause.

"I wouldn't have gone if I'd known it would cost anything."
Rep. Lenore Barrett, Challis

The value of flight is of interest, as there's a $1,000 limit on contributions for legislative races (which every Idaho Legislator interested in re-election is in right now).

VanderSloot's spokesman thinks the rides were worth about $150. AP reporter John Miller notes that "according to OneSkyJets, a jet charter service, a flight from Boise to Idaho Falls and back on a jet similar to the Learjet 45 would cost between $4,000 and $6,200."

Divide by 5 and carry the 2... I think we might have a problem here.

(Note: Betsy's Eye on Boise has the full text of John Miller's two AP stories.)

3.3.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Don't Employees Have Responsibilities? Permalink to this item

It's no surprise that Woz would still be a shareholder, but an "employee"? Maybe that's so he can still get health insurance or something. Here he is down under, providing negative reviews of Apple products for an eager press happy to jot down controversy. The iPhone's not 3G, humph. And the fashion-forward, super-slim Mac Air?

"I don't feel it's a benefit if you have to carry the Air plus a DVD player plus a couple of extra dongles to connect to Ethernet things and also maybe an extra hard disk to carry your music - but still there's a pureness about it and really I like it."

That would be the "pureness" that keeps the DVD player, extra dongles and the rest of the kit off-camera.

2.Mar.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Owyhee Nuke Project Needs Money, Credibility Permalink to this item

KTVB's Viewpoint today had Don Gillespie of Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. (AEHI), and Andrea Shipley, the new Executive Director of the Snake River Alliance, discussing AEHI's plan for a merchant nuclear power plant in Owhyee county.

Gillespie is "still seeking investors" for his project to build a copy of a French-designed nuclear power plant. They'll need folks ready for the long haul: 3 year's work to get the licensing, 4 years to build it.

Mark Johnson wondered if he'd be giving Idaho consumers a discount, since it's here and everything. Ha ha. Gillespie hinted that the plant will be "very, very competitive" for Idaho customers, and he'll sell at "market rates" outside the state.

Potential investors might be as suspicious as I am about his estimate of the operating costs being only 2 to 3 cents/kWh. But Johnson's minimal preparation for the interview and scant half hour was not enough to dig into the numbers Gillespie is offering. For her part, Shipley said the Alliance's cost estimate is about triple what Gillespie is estimating. Johnson's antipathy to the SRA came out with this bizarre preamble to a question about how they would "get their message out" to people:

Given the fact that, uh, you know, this isn't 1974 and there's no James Taylor or Doobie Brothers doin' a no nukes, uh, reunion at Madison Square Garden, um...

Shipley took it in stride. I think I would have dropped my jaw, paused a beat or two and asked him, Are you high?!

In the "confrontation" segment with both guests at the table at the same time, we heard about Gillespie's assurance that the public doesn't need to care about the economics, because this will be a "merchant" plant, and only the investors will be stuck if they can't cover their costs.

Unless there's a default, in which case the taxpayers could be stuck with the bill. Gillespie acted as if the possibility of default was remote, but we have no reason to be so sure, given his company's tenuous financial existence.

In correspondence to me, Dan Yurman estimated that "the cost of nuclear energy delivered to the customer, at the household level would be, at a minimum, $0.06 to $0.10/kWh," that is, triple what Gillespie estimates.

"AEHI is correct that taxpayers are not at risk, if and only if, his plant does not sign up for and agree to using federal loan guarantees which would cover 80% of the plant cost and 100% of the loans. That assumes he qualifies and the government lets him into the loan program. It is unlikely AEHI will attract investors without the guarantees. The government loan guarantees have two objectives. First, to lower the risk for investors the 80% rule means for a $5B plant the investors are only on the hook for $1B. That's still a lot of money but it is less than the whole enchilada. Second, the guarantees do indeed cover against the contingency for default. That said few investors will sign up for a new nuclear power plant without deep and thorough due diligence on the project."

Religion Before Lunch Permalink to this item

Before and after the political banquet, we had two sessions with Robert Fulghum, a Unitarian Universalist minister who's (much) better known as an author who's distilled things everyone already knows into essay collections that have sold millions of copies. (One measure of his success is how many languages his books have been translated into: 26.) We saw Fulghum speak for a full hour at last year's General Assembly, and probably ended up with the same length, but split between a fund-raising party, and then this morning's service at our Fellowship.

At its best, religion satisfies our longing by bringing us together into community. Few of us hold out that expectation for politics these days, as it trends more toward the unpleasantness of a game of Musical Chairs, which pretty much describes the recent process for thinning the field of presidential candidates from 20 to 3.

Fulghum described a way to transform that game by a single rule change. Political games are more complicated (especially since so much of the game is about creating rules), and more resistant to simplification. But still, there might be a way...

Politics Over Dinner Permalink to this item

Two seats over, Tara Rowe has a nice rundown of last night's Frank Church banquet. Unlike the gal next to me, I didn't bring my laptop, nor was I popping pix, like Alan. RSR has Julie's detailed account, and her follow-on exhortation.

It was a lively evening, leading to the keynote by Markos Moulitsas, who the IDP Executive Director introduced as "an extraordinarily accomplished political operative," in a context where we all thought that sounded like a good thing. In addition to speaking gratis, he made the winning bid on an "ugly" plaid jacket donated by former governor Cecil Andrus, chipping in $1,250 for something you could find at most any thrift store for $1.25, and winning over the crowd during the warm-up acts. He was charming, smart, had done his research to work in the subtle local references, honest in reminding us of certain limitations Democrats have in the state, and enthusiastic about our chances to continue turning things around.

Lots of work to do in that regard.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Thursday, 17-Apr-2008 10:26:08 MDT