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31.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Why do you think they call it 'dope'? Permalink to this item

First cyclists and baseball players, then swimsuits, now a judge (a judge?!) says they can use engines to trim sails and move ballast in the America's Cup.

Sheesh. Why not just connect them to a propeller and see whose motor can go fastest?

30.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Thank you, we have enough Clunkers Permalink to this item

"Obviously an incredibly popular program," it's used up its billion dollars already.

Thought for the day: Leadership Permalink to this item

Leadership happens in both BIG SHOWY things that everyone sees, and in small, quiet things that just one person hears. It starts with a connection made. A choir member who asks someone new, would you like to join us? A pop star whose meteoric rise and early fall moves millions.

Music is both play and performance, head and heart, Bach and Beatles, science and salsa.

"You gotta be in the sun to feel the sun; and that's the way it is with music, too."

(Looks like that's from Sidney Bechet; thanks, JQT!)

29.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Thought for the day: openness to change Permalink to this item

Seen on an organizational survey response, a simple but profound insight:

"Small groups need to learn how to be open to change, because every added person IS a change."

Much of what I write about here has to do with "big groups" one way or another (local, state, national politics, events, etc.), but most of the actual "work" happens on a smaller scale. Boards, committees, subcommittees, task forces, one-on-one collaboration, me.

Adding a person to a small group multiplies the interactions. All of the group norms have to be revisited in some way, whether they're explicit, understood, unspoken, implicit, invisible ("huh, well, we've always done it that way"). How shall we meet? How often? Where? When? How can we pay for this? Who's keeping track of progress? How can we measure what we're doing? What should we do next?

Even doing the "same old" work of an organization changes from day to day in subtle ways as people come and go, disengage, re-engage, deal with the rest of their lives.

25.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Gates roll Permalink to this item

Stanley Fish: Déjà vu all over again. "Gates and Obama are not only friends; they are in the same position, suspected of occupying a majestic residence under false pretenses."

Charles Blow: Welcome to the 'Club.' "Then he said something I will never forget: that if he wanted to, he could make us lie down in the middle of the road and shoot us in the back of the head and no one would say anything about it."

Digby: Gatesgate. "We shouldn't have to make the same calculations about how to behave with police as we would with armed criminals. The police are supposed to be the good guys who follow the rules and the law and don't expect innocent citizens to bow to their brute power the same way that a street gang would do."

Smarter than your average bear Permalink to this item

Part of a sign in Yosemite N.P. Yellow-Yellow is giving the bear canister designers a run for their money in the Adirondacks. The once in my life I was in that neck of the woods, I didn't come across any bears, but some wolves (or maybe coyotes? but wolves make a more exciting story) howling woke me up in the middle of the night, all alone in my tent, off somewhere by myself. I located my Swiss Army knife and held it as a talisman, eventually settled the hairs on my neck and went back to sleep.

Not quite clunky enough Permalink to this item

Our 14-year-old Windstar is still trooping along, as it bumps up to just 60,000 miles. After reading about the rollout of the Cash for Clunkers program, I wondered if its gas mileage might be bad enough to qualify. The program is more about Gold for Guzzlers: vehicles more than 25 years old need not apply, and qualification depends on low gas mileage, 18mpg or less. (The official name is the Car Allowance Rebate System.)

We've got 20-ish actual over its life, but the EPA's mileage may vary. The lookup on shows 19 in fact (16 city/23 highway), not qualifying. (One "individual estimate" has been contributed, showing 12.8 mpg; that's some kind of personal problem, not meaningful information about the design.)

We're not really looking to buy a new car, and given how much service life seems to be left in our minivan, I wouldn't want to have it "shredded or crushed within six months," with the engine "destroyed by introducing a solution that causes the moving parts to seize."

All the same, looking up the Blue Book on this, even a $3,500 rebate would be a sizeable bump up from what (they say) it's worth.

On witch hunts Permalink to this item

I haven't seen enough of Colbert's "The Words" to rank the greatest, but I do agree with Jeremy Scahill that this one is fine political commentary. The braying jackass thing does get a little tiresome at times whether in the original or parody, but in discreet doses, the "comedy" version can be effective.

The money qote, from Glenn Greenwald:

"Isn't the best thing to do to... say to a prosecutor... 'Were crimes committed?'... have this be treated like every other accusation of crime...?"

Meanwhile, back in Buffalo: Greenwald considers whether the Obama administration, by merely "adjusting" Bush era detention, surveillance and secrecy policies will thereby institutionalize the "truly limitless presidency, one literally unconstrained even by the Bill of Rights, even as applied to American citizens on U.S. soil" that Dick Cheney and David Addington were after.

24.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Featured white elephant Permalink to this item

Not the sort of list you want to be "featured" on, but there it is: Tamarack made the list of dream houses and white elephants in the NYT real estate section. When a lot of people are struggling to stay in one home, the market for "second" homes is understandably a little squishy.

"When it comes to massive undertakings it is hard to get much bigger than Tamarack Resort in Idaho, which was billed as the country’s first ski resort to be created from scratch in decades. The resort opened in late 2004 and seemed to pick up steam in 2006, when Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf announced plans to help create a resort and residential development there with the Fairmont brand.

"The project was to include nearly 350 condo-hotel units and private residences on two sites, and $140 million worth of residences were purchased in less than seven hours when sales began in early 2007... Tamarack was closed indefinitely last March."

Mistakes were made Permalink to this item

We pretty much all know that things went awry at the Gates household the other day, and with things roughly sorted out, mistakes all around, we now have "a teachable moment." Today's phone call from Obama was probably a bit more important than yesterday's.

For his part, Dennis O'Connor, president of the Cambridge Police Superior Officers Association went a bit over the top as well:

"The supervisors and the patrol officers of the Cambridge Police Department deeply resent the implication and reject any suggestion that in this case, or any other case, they have allowed a person's race to direct their activities."

Race does matter, and it has been and will be a factor. Denying it does not make the problem go away. I would hope O'Connor's statement reflects the aspiration of the Cambridge Police Department, but simply cannot believe it's a thoughtful statement of fact.

Along with Steve Killion, president of the Cambridge patrol officers association, I'm glad to see President Obama was quick to acknowledge his own error Wednesday night, when he responded to a question at his press conference.

The first step to improvement is to recognize and respond to error, something the previous administration never seemed to figure out. Denying there's a problem means it can never be resolved.

Worst year? Please. Permalink to this item

Ashlee Vance got a little carried away reporting Microsoft's dip in revenue and profit, as "its worst fiscal year since it initially sold stock to the public in 1986." He seems to be distracted by some year-over-year or quarter-over-quarter negative percentages, or perhaps analysts' expectations and disappointments.

The company had almost SIXTY BILLION DOLLARS in revenue, of which ONE QUARTER was profit. It's down some from last year, so what? Analysts expected more, so what? The whole economy is in the crapper, Microsoft's Vista is a dog that no one wants ("86 percent of corporate PCs continue to rely on the eight-year-old Windows XP"), and yet they continue to print money.

The story is about the durability of Microsoft's monopoly, not the fact that they "stumbled" on the way to the bank to deposit their 11-digit profits. This year's revenue, net income, and net income per share were all the second highest ever. That's a long way from "worst." They may not like the trend, but they do like the money.

Pay as you throw (sort of) makes sense Permalink to this item

The Idaho Press-Tribune opines that usage-based trash fees make sense for Nampa. Boise just got with that program at the end of last month, complete with a catchy name and web property, Curb It.

The Mayor sells the new CurbIt, at the depot We all got "free" trash and recycling bins with integrated lids and wheels, and automated handling features. The major lifestyle upgrade in this from my point of view is the no-sort recycling: aluminum, steel, cardboard, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, junk mail, white or pastel paper, food and beverage boxes, paper bags, envelopes, brochures, greeting cards and wrapping paper without foil, construction paper, phone books, household plastic containers with a number of 1–7 on the bottom (but not glass) all chucked into one big, blue bin. No more semi-trash bins around the house to separate 4 or 5 kinds of paper and so on. Pickup has gone to biweekly, but with a 65 gallon bin (versus the old 10-gallon-ish one), that's just fine. We had our choice of gray trash bins: 48, 65, (and one, two or three of) 95 gallons, with the fees going up by volume.

But not going up very much, and only if you exceed your can's capacity (and use up your 5 "overflow" stickers per year) do you pay a too-much-trash penalty beyond your capacity rate. Check this out:

Bin vol.Per monthPer gal-mo
48 gal.$16.30$0.34

The incentive for simply accepting a blue recycling bin is significant: $4/month discount from the rates shown, regardless of whether you actually use the thing. (But I'm guessing people will; they've made it nearly painless, except for that mental effort of remembering whether it's your "on" week.) If you do that, your rates will be:

Bin vol.Per monthPer gal-mo
48 gal.$12.30$0.26

In other words, the widow's mite will be "metered" at a rate more than 4 times higher than Megatrash Family of Five. And if you, like us, don't get around to filling your bin but once every couple or three weeks... well good on ya, mate, but it's still $12.30 a month.

Here's my suggestion: add some simple data acquisition to the system and create a direct, strong feedback system for virtue. Put a barcode ID on the bin and record each time it gets picked up, and charge $2, $3, or $4 per stop and lift, depending on the size. Emptying a 48 gallon bin should cost half of what it costs to empty 95 gallons, obviously. If somebody wants to send a thousand gallons of rubbish to the landfill every month, they should be paying ten times as much as (not just 30% more than) someone who can get by with one small bin every other week.

For extra credit (and not all that much cost), include a force sensor, and adjust the rates as needed for weight, and not just volume. (There are stated weight limits, roughly 3.5 lbs/gal for the biggest and smallest bins, just over 3 lbs/gal for the midsized. Do they already have a force sensor?)

23.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

HE GONE! Permalink to this item

MLB's serving up 5 minutes and 31 seconds of awesome highlight reel from Chicago (especially that 25th out), and the President gave Buehrle a call to congratulate him as well.

Nice day at the office. Perfect.

Bad air Permalink to this item

A cool Idaho scene to relieve the hot weather And it's staying hot, too. The overnight air conditioning wasn't working as well as we'd like, only into the 70s at the airport, maybe a little cooler around all our plants. Might try out the old Freon pumper today.

Unlike some Orange alerts, this one from the Idaho DEQ is meaningful. The air is "unhealthy for sensitive groups like children, the elderly, and people with lung and heart conditions." They recommend everyone just mellow out. No open outdoor burning, can you leave your car parked? and don't be mowing your lawn with that stinky gas-powered mower.

The least favorite portion of summer, unless maybe morning wind kicks in, which it hasn't, much for the last couple days. As a public service, I include this pleasant scene from U.S. Highway 95 along the Winchester grade. Be cool.

Update: some high clouds and virga moved in noontime, then a pretty solid overcast by evening, kept us in the low 80s. Not such a bad air day after all.

22.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

More for fines, benches, sewage Permalink to this item

Billie, watching the Palouse morning The cash-strapped City (mine, but could be anyone's) is looking to raise money, and they have a laundry list of where they'd like to get it from. Let's whack those parking cheaters, that'll brighten our urban landscape. We think we can squeeze $328,000 more out of them. Adopting a bench is one of the hardest-hit items, going from a mere $275 to $650, a stunning 137% increase. I'd like to adopt the West Bench, please.

Softball teams, monuments at Morris Hill Cemetery, and sewer rates: "The typical residential user, charged $19.28 for 658 cubic feet of sewage, would pay $21.60 under the increase." (Since when did they start metering sewage, I wonder? And are we sending our typical 164 gallons per day downstream?)

The detailed list for the fee hearing includes quite a number of things I didn't know you could get from the city, like a trip to the Bruneau Dunes, Disc Golf & Dinner, Snowmobiling and a 12" X 18" Magnetic Zamboni.

Cemeteries come under "Parks and Recreation," oddly enough, and the cost of going under is going up in many ways: lots from 20% (niche single economy/brass) to 163% (Pioneer 'Heritage' Ash) higher.

21.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Illegal defense fund? Permalink to this item

Could be a bit of a pickle for soon-to-be-ex Alaska Governor Sarah Palin if her $quarter million "Legal Defense Fund" turns out to be not legal. Palin twittered that "matter is still pending; new info was just requested even; no final report."

Her legal bills have piled up twice that high, but maybe the state can help out for the ethics complaints that have been dismissed. And her book deal should help cover the rest.

The monkey wrench gang Permalink to this item

They killed health care reform last decade, and the Republicans are out to do it again, with fear, uncertainty, doubt and every manner of obstruction they can think of.

"The Republican Party knows we have the best health care system in the world," their strategy memo declares.

This comes as a stunning news flash to the people on the pointed end of its delivery. Medical bankruptcies, insurance denied, loopholes that always favor "the industry," costs escalating out of sight, and people avoiding all interaction (including preventive care) out of fear. Never mind objective measures, just make up things that sound patriotic?

Will Rogers said it best: "Tain't what a man don't know that hurts him; it's what he knows for certain that just ain't so!"

But what does he do? Permalink to this item

Michael Steele says he doesn't do policy, and it's not really stand-up (or is it?)...

Speaking of comedy, I'm thinking of the Red Greene show, where he says "remember, we're all in this together." But that's the Canadian point of view, eh? Down here, it seems to be every man for himself, and devil take the hindmost.

The forces of darkness in this case are the commercial interests banding together as the health care "industry," protecting their ability to maximize profits. When it comes to "restrict[ing] the cures and treatments your doctor can prescribe for you," nothing works quite as well as not covering them.

As Sparkle Pony says, don't miss Dana Milbank's account of health care for dummies.

20.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Health care meets used car sales Permalink to this item

I went shopping for glasses today. It's been a long time, and the delay is for a simple reason: I hate getting ripped off. I went to the eye doctor 11 months ago and had verified what I was noticing through the existing lenses: my distance vision has actually improved for the first time ever. Growing up myopic meant periodic increases in diopters, momentary clarity (and/or headaches) followed by gradual decline in acuity and then restart the cycle.

By the time I was on my own, I was (almost) ripe for the crazy ideas of proponents of the Bates method, but settled on avoidance. If I didn't go to an optometrist, I couldn't get a stronger prescription and get more near-sighted, right? Lucky coincidence that the increase in myopia tends to level off once you're fully grown.

A couple soccer balls upside the head later and some stitches, and contact lenses seemed like a good idea. Time passes. Presbyopia sets in. If it's not one thing, it's another. But anyway, I'd filled the adjusted contacts prescription and it worked great, but months and months later, it's time for new glasses for everyday when I don't have my contacts in, and a long overdue pair of "sport" glasses for windsurfing in big wind, and who knows what else.

I'd been watching the ads and had decided that I'd try J.C.Penny optical, based on apparent durability and slightly better credibility of their low-cost come-on. Then, my health insurance sent me an "eyeware discount" card out of the blue, promoting 6 particular vendors (including JCP). Since deep down I knew the "2 pair glasses for only $X" was bait that I'd never be able to actually taste, I figured this was backup protection.

Off to the mall today, only to find that JCP's selection was slim, and didn't include any rugged sport choices. Sears was plan B, also on the Regence discount list, and in the same mall. I found a couple frames that would serve, and noticed the ad for 2 pair glasses for $99! and asked about that. Well, just down that one column there, not much left. And no sports type of course.

I ended up with 2 pair for $400 (and change), with out being too shocked at the total. That's with the 35% discount on the sports pair (single vision, "adaptive tint"), and the "add antiglare coating, get 60% package discount" (but not an additional 35% off) on the bifocals. 60% discount, how does that work, you wonder.

No, you don't wonder, you know that the "retail" price is ridiculously inflated, and it's a shell game to make you think the final number is A Really Good Deal Just Look How Much You Saved!

Walking through the mall on a Monday morning (no hordes of shoppers, to say the least) was a slightly surreal experience. I tried to see it from the point of view of someone coming from a pre-industrial culture, a strange maze of undergarments, clothes and appliances being thrust at me and concealing the path to what I was after (as well as all exits). I cheerfully inquired of the natives and found the two optical departments with only 3 or 4 tries.

Afterwards, with a lighter wallet and in a post-prandial stupor I wondered how in the hell I'd get back to where I'd parked my bike? Going through two department stores is a lot like being blindfolded and spun around (without the benefit of stick or piñata). I followed the nearest EXIT sign to daylight, went out a door and reckoned South by the sun, went back inside and retraced my path through the purposeful disorientation.

Now waiting for delivery!

Sears is not actually going to grind any optics for me, of course, and so the ordering and queuing and manufacture and delivery will take some time. How much time? Did she say 7 to 10 days? (Or worse, business days? What are those now, anyway?) I urged speed, since I want them by this weekend. She cheerfully said she'd do what she could. I think I'll be calling her on Wednesday.

Did I have better options? Well, Regence is also promoting LensCrafters, Target Optical, PearleVision (which touts "No Surprise Pricing"), and "various private practitioners" (none of whom seem to be in my area). Nobody in that group touts speed that I can see.

What's wrong with this picture? Permalink to this item

Let me fix your credit problem. You pay $3,495 up front, I get 30% commission (also up front), and... don't call us, we'll call you. I'm sorry, who did you say was calling?

"We just changed the script and changed the product we were selling."
–Jack Soussana

Peter Goodman in the NYT, describing "a second act in the mortgage disaster," as subprime brokers resurface as dubious loan fixers.

There don't seem to be many reputable (let alone believable) claims to go around, but the best of them is that maybe 70% of the clients do get something for the money. So, 1 out of 3 desperate people lose another $3½ grand (or maybe $1,000 and "a payment schedule for the rest") and their homes.

Aye carumba. What part of caveat emptor isn't clear?

19.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Rich Senate Smackdown Permalink to this item

That would be Frank Rich, with his Sunday theater review, They Got Some 'Splainin' to Do:

"It's the American way that we judge people as individuals, not as groups. And by that standard we can say unequivocally that this particular wise Latina, with the richness of her experiences, would far more often than not reach a better conclusion than the individual white males she faced in that Senate hearing room."

18.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Justice roll Permalink to this item

Arbitrary and Capricious: Methland = USA.

Justice Gambit: Giving life, wearing shackles and chains

ScotusBlog: Products of torture disallowed. Might want to say something about capturing a 14 (or 12?!) year-old, and holding him in Gitmo for 6 years too.

Catch of the day Permalink to this item

Thanks to Rant Against the Machine for a blogroll link to the FAIL Blog.

Orwell's chuckling Permalink to this item

Kindle users learned about a new "feature" of the e-book readers: remote delete. Amazon had a good reason (they didn't have legal rights to sell the books), but their customers probably were not amused (even with refunds).

Still what better title than 1984 to use for the technology rollout? But wait, there's more!

"Amazon appears to have deleted other purchased e-books from Kindles recently. Customers commenting on Web forums reported the disappearance of digital editions of the Harry Potter books and the novels of Ayn Rand over similar issues.

"Amazon's published terms of service agreement for the Kindle does not appear to give the company the right to delete purchases after they have been made. It says Amazon grants customers the right to keep a 'permanent copy of the applicable digital content.'

Two things: if your device dogpile is anything like mine, do you really believe any of your digital content is "permanent"? (If so, I have a selection of bridges that may interest you.)

And the disappearance of Rand's novels seems like a service rather than a transgression, doesn't it?

For my part, I have yet to finish the one-and-only e-book I purchased for my Kindle (v1). It's competing with a stack of real books that are "always on," as opposed to needing a charge-up before I can turn any pages. It fell further behind today, as Walter Cronkite's obit prompted me to run to the library for a copy of his Around America, and a bonus browse in New Books for two others.

Ullman: Adam inspired the run Permalink to this item

With visions of sugarplums dancing in her head, Sharon Ullman announced she has a notion to leap from County Commissioner to Governor. Adam Graham was happy to remind us that he'd seen it coming, but wait there's more! It wasn't just "a great deal of thought," but also self-fulfilling prophecy. All bets are off, then.

Prediction: Ullman's may add zest (my own attempt at self-fulfilling prophecy), but she will not prove to be a viable candidate according to Idaho Republicans (a.k.a. GOBs).

17.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Friday's random blog walk Permalink to this item

Since TreasuredValley took the day off, I guess I'm on my own.

Two from Ridenbaugh Press: Tweetup goes over the top for Dave Chapelle in Portland's Pioneer Square. Crazy fun, sort of. And the Washington Supreme Court plants a few obstacles in the way of cities who aren't keen on hosting tent cities. They can still block them, if they do it juuuust right.

A new look at the parable of the good Samaritan.

Steve Benen: Pat Buchanan at his most Buchanan-esque. New strategy for the Republicans should be to be the party of white people. GOPOWP. Buchanan's voice seems to have tightened up to high whine, don't you think?

Bubblehead:, really? My mom didn't like that much bass. (Nice to be reminded of her voice... "Turn that down!") But hey, doesn't Boot Camp look like fun for your boy or girl?

Seen on the sign at the used office furniture place:
25% OFF

Lennon: No more WBCN and Smith & Hawken.

Mansfield: Put us out of our suspense, Butch.

peterme: 3 question for the author of Say Everything. "...the tech world—and the rest of our culture, when it views the tech world—has the equivalent of historical amnesia. We’re always starting over at year one. We don’t have much of a collective memory."

Rob's Idaho Perspective: Anniversary date

Mark Drapeau: Bantamweight publishing in an easily plagiarised world

Sparkle Pony: Sarah Palin Promises to Get Crazier, and For Once, I Believe Her

Tom Tomorrow: Talk to Dr. Hand

David Weinberger: Senator, would you be ok with an all-white Court? Really?

Want your wallet back? Keep a baby picture in it.

Rebecca's pocket: Summer reading

Jay Smooth: Dance you into the sunlight. Something interesting about the phenomenon that was the passing of Michael Jackson. No, really.

From Apollo 11's third man Permalink to this item

Q&A with Michael Collins:

Q. You are starting to sound a little grumpy. Are you grumpy?

A. At age 78, yes, in many ways. Some things about current society irritate me, such as the adulation of celebrities and the inflation of heroism.

(That's on the way to discounting his own heroism: he was just doing his job strapping his butt to a Saturn V rocket pointed at the moon.)

"I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of 100,000 miles their outlook could be fundamentally changed. That all-important border would be invisible, that noisy argument silenced. The tiny globe would continue to turn, serenely ignoring its subdivisions, presenting a unified façade that would cry out for unified understanding, for homogeneous treatment. The earth must become as it appears: blue and white, not capitalist or Communist; blue and white, not rich or poor; blue and white, not envious or envied."

To sum him up? "Put LUCKY on my tombstone." 1930 was a good year to be born.

16.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Expensive, and useless, retribution Permalink to this item

Eye on Boise: ITD fires its director, for no good reason. It's just what we do to ITD directors.

Sounds like a slam dunk wrongful termination lawsuit to me. We'll all pay for the stupidity.

"Bicycle issues" forum report Permalink to this item

Just got back from the downtown tête à tête, where I'm guessing at least half of the crowd (of 50 or 60) was motivated by the proposal of a $50 bonus fine for bicyclists. In his introduction, I was happy to hear Elliot Werk distance himself from it as an "idea I've heard" rather than one he was necessarily promoting for his own account.

In response to "the question" that had been posed in various ways on half of the yellow question cards turned in however, Werk made it sound like he might well be in favor of the idea. All this year's Sturm und Drang about roads funding don't you know, and bicyclists aren't pulling their weight, funding has to come from somewhere.

Except... exactly one person in the audience raised their hand to indicate that they never drive a motor vehicle. The rest of us pay vehicle taxes, gas taxes, license and registration fees, and we want a suitable portion of that investment to go toward appropriate infrastructure for bicyclists: because we use it, because it makes our cities and towns (and yes, rural areas) more accessible, more pleasant, and better places to live.

I did appreciate hearing from a couple Boise Police officers, Sgt. Clair Walker who supervises the department's bike patrol, and one of the officers who's on the patrol, Anthony Dotson. The recitation of laws (from Attorney Tom Lloyd, who said he was the organizer of tonight's event) and cycling tips (from Kirsten Armstrong) were not so interesting: pretty much everyone there is well past that stage of the game.

Two useful ideas: encourage the mayor and City Council to increase the size of the bike patrol. Walker says he could use 8 officers, rather than the 5 he has now. And, the City of Boise has an online bicycle registration setup. There was a bit of confusion about "if" and "when" in the discussion of that, but let's put it this way: if your bike gets stolen, and if the police recover it (or you find it for sale on Craigslist), registration will help establish your ownership and get your property back.

40 years from that first step Permalink to this item

"Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed."

Watched it on black and white TV back then, heard Neil Armstrong botch his line, snuggled in the avuncular timbre of Walter Cronkite's news anchoring.

Seems like a suitable moment to review NASA's restored Apollo 11 video collection.

Pretty much sums it up Permalink to this item

Gail Collins: 3 Days of the Sotomayor

Revenge of the Motorheads Permalink to this item

Two items in today's fishwrap lit me up: the first had a front-page teaser, and then the story about Senator Elliot Werk (D-17) planning to introduce new laws in the next Legislature. Now what? Elliot's a good guy and a regular bicycle commuter, he wouldn't screw things up, would he?

He's holding a forum tonight, 7pm at Falcon Tavern (705 W Bannock St, Boise) for "Bicycle issues" with Olympic gold medalist Kirsten Armstrong, an attorney, and a member of the Boise Police Department's bike patrol joining him on the panel. He's got three laws in mind:

  1. A 3-feet-to-pass law. The bill would allow motorists to cross the center line, when it's safe, to allow 3 feet of passing distance near cyclists.
  2. A law making it illegal to throw things at or harass cyclists.
  3. An extra fine for bicyclists who break traffic laws. When a cyclist gets a ticket, an added $50 fee would assessed. The money would go into a fund to promote bicycling safety and infrastructure improvements.

I guess I didn't know anyone would question crossing the center line when it's safe for the purpose of giving a cyclist (or pedestrian, or motorist in distress) more room. The mission of 3ft 2 pass is stated as "to establish a minimum 3 foot safe passing distance between cars and cyclists" which is a bit stronger than "it's OK if you want to give us a little more room."

Throwing things and harassment isn't against the law already? But I don't have a problem with making it more emphatic, having been on the receiving end enough times.

Now, the "extra fine." This smacks of appeasment for the road-rage ready, testosterone-poisoned bunch you will find in every discussion of cyclists and motorists, ready to recite a litany of grievances, every bicyclist they've seen do something stupid, or that they didn't like. How about an extra $100 for moving violations committed with a deadly weapon, and maybe $250 if you actually kill someone? We could apply the funds toward "promote motoring safety and infrastructure improvements."

The second item was a short blurb with the headline Cyclist cited after being hit by a car in a Boise crosswalk, and more information in the online version than the paper:

"A 31-year-old Boise bicyclist hit by a SUV on Orchard Street was cited for failing to obey a 'don't walk' sign. The fine is $46.50, according to Boise police...."

10:25 a.m., Emerald and Orchard, an intersection with full-on signals, cyclist riding S on the sidewalk along Orchard.

"Witnesses told police that the bicyclist entered the crosswalk just as the 'don't walk' sign was flashing and was struck by a car going west on Emerald Street that was turning onto Orchard."

So in another words, the driver turning right on the red light failed to yield to a bicyclist coming into the crosswalk and HIT HER. If it had been a pedestrian, would the pedestrian have been cited? Once that DON'T WALK flashes, it's open season?!

15.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

23 quadrillion ain't what it used to be Permalink to this item

A Monopoly "Chance" card may not be big enough to hold this bank error: $23,148,855,308,184,500. And a $15 overdraft fee for your prepaid Visa card.

Slashdotter Hmmm2000 figures somebody put a hex on some spaces and an innocent $12.50 turned into a gob smacker.

These sorts of mistakes happen from time to time. Once? Twice? Half a dozen? In a statement, Visa said the rogue charges affected "fewer than 13,000 prepaid transactions."

And all we got was this stoopid freeway interchange Permalink to this item

The Times-News editorial board asks the question a lot of people have had over the years: why did Idaho squander all that money on Micron?

I'm not quite as certain as they seem to be that small businesses are better than big ones (can't we all just get along?), but the tax breaks that have flowed to Micron over the years have seemed like they came from a combination of "wheedling" (as the editorial put it) and extortion. As in, give us what we want or we'll go somewhere else.

For-profit corporations aren't in business for philanthropy, of course. They will go somewhere else, sooner or later, if the moola is green enough across the border.

Circle the wagons Permalink to this item

Maureen Dowd: White Man's Last Stand.

"Senator Graham said Sotomayor would be confirmed unless she had "a meltdown" – a word applied mostly to women and toddlers until Mark Sanford proudly took ownership of it when he was judged about the wisdom of his Latina woman."

Good for Goldman, good for us? Permalink to this item

$billions for bankers, Intel's anticipating stronger demand, there's better than expected industrial output, and the market went off on a tear today. Happy days here again? Robert Reich says not so fast:

"Goldman's resurgence should send shivers down the backs of every hardworking American who has lost a large chunk of retirement savings in this economic debacle, as well as the millions who have lost their jobs. Why? Because Goldman's high-risk business model hasn't changed one bit from what it was before the implosion of Wall Street."

Gubernatorial kaleidoscope Permalink to this item

Randy Stapilus on Ullman's announcement she'll run for Governor (as a Republican):

"She has run for office as a Republican, a Democrat, and as an independent. She has often been in the middle of local government firestorms, though, seemingly, less so in her current run on the [Ada County] commission.... It’s an unusual mix, and where it might take a gubernatorial candidacy is hard to say."

Being of "that school" Permalink to this item

Just in case you were confused about what "activist judge" means (beyond a blank check for criticism of any Judge who doesn't just put her head down and sleep on the bench), here's the Wall Street Journal to explain it to you, with a lament that the

"Felix Frankfurter-Whizzer White school of liberal judicial restraint no longer exists in the polite echelons of the judicial left. The new school is now remarkably uniform in wanting to dictate racial outcomes, limit political speech, invoke foreign rulings as a legal guide, and do whatever else the activist cause of the moment demands."

Liberals! They just blow in the wind, one activist cause after another. (Wait, you're saying that Sotomayor is a liberal? Based on what evidence, exactly?)

Price of astroturf goes up Permalink to this item

By $300,000, for Lifestyle Lift, in a settlement with the state of New York, for having employee sock puppets post bogus testimonials on the web.

"We want to be acknowledged as a model of integrity and accuracy," company President Gordon Quick said in a statement.

Starting right... now.

John Cornyn wants his shot at the "wise Latina" thing Permalink to this item

He says she said it 5 times between 1994 and 2003. What was the point? Are you saying you think you're smarter than men? Because great balls of fire, there is no way we can stand for that sort of idea!

Here's a crazy idea: let's look at the totality of the Judge's record in deciding cases and see if there's some untoward bias.

I certainly haven't taken the time to do that, but I'm sure all the Republican Senators' staffers have sufficient motivation, and if there were evidence, we'd be talking about that rather than this nonsense.

Insufficient repudiation Permalink to this item

For Senator Jon Kyl, anyway. As seen on the Caucus, live blogging the Sotomayor Hearings, day 3.

Aren't you prejudiced against white people?

Well, maybe white people like you, Senator. No, I don't think Lady Justice and her minions are so blind that it's sufficient to have 9 white men serve on the Supreme Court of the United States, or 8 white men and Clarence Thomas. Diversity matters. Gender matters. Upbringing matters. Temperament matters.

That's why Alito and Roberts had to demonstrate that yes, they are human beings with empathy and some slight hint of ethnicity. (I forget how Roberts did that. Did he?)

But... isn't that how you do business? Permalink to this item

China's accusing the mining giant Rio Tinto of bribing "virtually every one" of their big steel makers, which makes me think that Rio Tinto must have done something to seriously annoy someone in the government. It is possible to be too hard-nosed in those negotiations, people. You have to give to get.

One possibility: retaliation for "scuttling a deal last month that would have given a Chinese state-owned company a large stake in the mining giant." Another is that they just didn't like Rio Tinto's spot market prices.

Bastille Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Two rewrites for Sonia Permalink to this item

GRAHAM: But a lot of us feel that the best way to change society is to go to the ballot box, elect someone, and if they are not doing it right, get rid of them through the electoral process. And a lot of us are concerned from the left and the right that unelected judges are very quick to change society in a way that's disturbing. Can you understand how people may feel that way?

What Sotomayor said: "Certainly, sir."

What Sotomayor should have said: "I can certainly empathize with that point of view, sir."

After selecting the very worst (I have to assume) of the anonymous comments from losing (I have to assume) lawyers about Sotomayor's temperament, recorded in the almanac of the federal judiciary,
GRAHAM: When you look at the evaluation of the judges on the Second Circuit, you stand out like a sore thumb in terms of your temperament. What is your answer to these criticisms?

What Sotomayor said: "I do ask tough questions at oral arguments."

What Sotomayor might have said: "F__ you, Senator."

If she could have delivered that with just the right sort of grin, I can see it bringing the house down, can't you?

(H/t to the LA Times for the complete transcript.)

Make that 3 and a half $billion Permalink to this item

The teaser story for Goldman Sachs earnings announcement underestimated the net profit they reported today: $3.44 billion for the second quarter, almost $5 a share. Looks like at least some of the rich are getting richer.

Goldman shares still have some ground to cover to return to their 2007 highs: today's surprisingly tepid reaction leaves them still off 40% from their peak.

We're #39! Permalink to this item

Up from 44 last year, so whoopee. (TdV passes along) Idaho Business Review passes along Idaho's millionaire rankings as studied by Phoenix Marketing International. I wondered "how'd they count that?" but the "study" link is to a simple tabulation with too many numbers on two pages. (Case in point: IBR Staff bumbled the excerpting of the all-important "fraction of households statistic": only 3.72% of our households have a $million in investable or liquid assets, excluding sponsored retirement plans and real estate.)

PMI sells "Marketing Intelligence," I guess, like a report about how the affluent feel about the economy and investing. You may be heartened to hear they concluded there are "glimmers of increasing optimism" (even though not enough to change their behavior). Significant changes include more running for cover ("pulled assets out of the stock market and put into a safer type of investment vehicle"), and "had your credit card limit reduced by your bank." The running for cover is a good contrarian sign: when everyone thinks it's going to get worse, it may start to get better. (But then when people think it's starting to get better... Stop thinking, people!)

Meanwhile, back at the daily fishwrap, the cheery front-page headline that No end in sight for Canyon County's unemployed, where unemployment has edged over 12%.

13.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Toobin on Roberts' performance as umpire Permalink to this item

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, quoting Jeffrey Toobin's article in The New Yorker, No More Mr. Nice Guy:

"In every major case since he became the nation's seventeenth Chief Justice, [John] Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff."

Lindsey Graham's keen insight Permalink to this item

After he'd generously observed that only a "complete meltdown" was going to keep Sotomayor from being confirmed:

"This 'wise Latino' [sic] comment has been talked about a lot, but I can say just one thing, if I'd said anything remotely like that, my career would've been over. And that's true of most people [waving his hand]... here."

He's referring to the 18 other non-Latino/Latina Senators on his committee, presumably, making it a little hard to imagine what "like that" would have been.

What's up with Spooner? Permalink to this item

Why did Senator Russ Feingold keep mentioning Spooner, Wisconsin in his warm praise for Sonia Sotomayor, I wonder? I don't remember anything about this tiny burb from my time growing up in Wisconsin. Population not quite 3,000, and about 15 miles north of hell and gone.

Eighteen questions that won't be answered Permalink to this item

I'm pretty sure the NYT did this the last (two?) time(s) as well, asked some people who wouldn't be asking questions at the confirmation hearings what they would ask if they could. The questions range from those that could usefully be asked, and that would interesting to hear her answer to (such as the two from Stanford law professor Kathleen Sullivan), to Ann Althouse's "gotcha" pair, going after Sotomayor being Roman Catholic. (And yes 2/3rds Roman Catholic seems rather high to me. I propose that Scalia resign to help balance things.)

What we will see in Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing is the usual grandstanding by Senators given some time to speak on camera, posing puffballs in the form of questions, or laying bait that might bring her closer to a trap that will yield a risable enough sound bite. My money is that she's much too smart to fall for something so obvious.

Jeff Sessions took his opportunity as ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee to unroll his long list of complaints about judicial decisions he doesn't like, take a free shot at President Obama, and at the very idea! of a judge with any human emotions.

"I will not vote for, and no Senator should vote for, an individual nominated by any President, who believes it is acceptable for a judge to allow their personal background, gender, prejudices or sympathies to sway their decision in favor of, or against parties before the court."

"Empathy," "prejudice," and "sympathy" have no place in the courtroom, Session says, as he gets a self-satisfied and puckish grin at being the first person on the panel to quote from the record at Duke University. "Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another," Session declares, in fine Humpty Dumptyian form.

For the Democratic side, Herb Kohl found a quote from Clarence Thomas extolling empathy, so who knows, anything is possible.

The first test for the nominee appears to be sit still while nineteen (!) gasbags unwind opening statements, while maintaining a pleasant, neutral demeanor, and resisting the temptation to interrupt and say "excuse me, could I respond to that, Senator?"

So far, so good.

12.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Heads they win, tails we lose Permalink to this item

Just in case there was some question about who's running the show: while most of the economy is on life support, unemployment sets records and so on, looks like Goldman Sachs racked up a couple $billions in profit. In just three months.

Ok, so Peggy Noonan's not a fan of Sarah Permalink to this item

The WSJ doyenne bids adieu to yieu: "In another age it might not have been terrible, but here and now it was actually rather horrifying."

That's the nice part. Noonan dismissed the idea that Palin "makes the Republican Party look inclusive" curtly: "She makes the party look stupid, a party of the easily manipulated."

Blame it on the self-esteem movement: "It's yielding something new in history: an entire generation with no proper sense of inadequacy."

Noonan has the same conservative gift for forecasting a liberal and media-driven apocalypse as Palin's base does, she just doesn't think Palin can "make the cut" for a choice of leaders in trying times.

H/t to Frank Rich and his column this week, She Broke the G.O.P. and Now She Owns It.

11.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Looking for love in all the wrong places Permalink to this item

David Brooks' inner thigh? This would funny on the Onion News Network, but out in the wild MSM it is "like eww, get me out of here." I'm thinking after 5 seconds of shocked incredulity, one would discreetly grasp said appendage and firmly remove it, wouldn't one? Unless it was a welcome advance anyway.

H/t Sisyphus at 43SB

The "scary memos" Permalink to this item

We sold out our civil liberties for this?

"The initial authorization of the wiretapping program came after a senior CIA official took a threat evaluation, prepared by analysts who knew nothing of the program, and inserted a paragraph provided by a senior White House official that spoke of the prospect of future attacks against the United States."

The doctored threat assessment was one of what became known as the "scary memos" according to the report from the inspectors general of five federal agencies, and provided for the regular reauthorization of the wiretapping program. Then there's this Inspector Clouseau moment:

"...the secrecy surrounding the program may have limited its effectiveness. At the C.I.A., [the report] said, so few working-level officers were allowed to know about the program that the agency often did not make full use of the leads the wiretapping generated, and intelligence leads that came from the wiretapping operation were often “vague or without context,”..."

But wait, there's more!

Bush also signed off on "other surveillance programs that the government has never publicly acknowledged. While the report does not identify them, current and former officials say that those programs included data mining of e-mail messages of Americans."

Don't worry, it's all legal... because the President said so! Any contradictions from the Department of Justice were discarded as "thoughts" that "the President [remained] interested in," but "the President has addressed definitively for the Executive Branch in the Presidential Authorization the interpretation of the law."

Now: let's hear how the Obama administration is fixing this.

10.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Republican Sock Puppets Permalink to this item

That would be John Boehner (R-OH), Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Tom Price (R-GA), to name a few, as seen on TV, as part of the Bill Moyers Journal interview with Wendell Potter, who has two decades' experience in the health insurance industry, and a front-row seat for the hijacking of health care reform.

Delayed care, denied care, rationing, bureaucrats, and especially the "government takeover" of healthcare would be the talking points from the Frank Luntz strategy memo for "stopping the 'Washington takeover' of healthcare." Watch for them in the parroted arguments in a mainstream medium near you.

One interesting thing to watch here in Idaho will be whether and how our junior Senator Jim Risch talks about the issue of recission (the industry's implementation of delay and deny), given that a healthy chunk of his net worth came from a lawsuit settlement against an insurance company that cheated an insured (as they like to call their customers) out of a liver transplant.

Health care: TMI Permalink to this item

I don't know much about health care, other than we have a system the excludes too many, costs too much, and is influenced and controlled by too many organizations that seem to put profit ahead of care.

Jonathan Walker: "The public plan is more important than just offering a government insurance option. It is the first battle between policy experts promoting reform and industry lobbyist protecting profits."

Nick Baumann: Rick Scott is "Public Option Enemy No. 1," moving from the epic fraud at Columbia/HCA to an anti-public plan media blitz, implemented by CRC Public Relations, which brought you the campaign of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Bob Cesca: "If you don't want the public option, get the hell out of the way." (Seems to be talking to Walt Minnick, among others.)

Under the Influence Permalink to this item

Alvin Snyder figures that all publicity for the Voice of America's Persian News Network is good publicity.

"The case can be credibly made that the VOA is a healthy return on investment for U.S. taxpayers when Iran's Foreign Ministry rails that such Western TV channels as the BBC and VOA “are the mouthpiece of their government's public diplomacy.” And it's helpful too that the VOA is mentioned in the same breath as the prestigious BBC, which, like the VOA, broadcasts in a language local to Iran. (Also, of course, there is the U.S. government-funded Radio Farda, which broadcasts programs into Iran in Farsi.)"

The ruling party's response, as reported by Agence France-Presse (in the addendum) is to find people to "confess" to being under the influence of foreign media.

Brad Little speaks! Permalink to this item

The last time the Lt. Governor's office was in the news was when Jim Risch pulled an Al Haig on the state while Dirk Kempthorne was hiking the Appalachian Trail or something. Now Brad Little weighs in on the God, Country and Flyovers controversy.

"Three days later on the 4th of July from our ranch I watched as military planes prepared to fly-by other events and I wondered if any would soon be excluded for the singing of God Bless America. This was a lapse in judgment and the Pentagon ought to own up to it and make sure it doesn't happen again."

(It's hard to stop people singing once they get started, but I have to say I greatly prefer Take Me Out to the Ballgame to GBA for the 7th inning stretch, but I digress.)

The Mission of the God and Country Festival is plain enough: "spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ." Do you suppose Jesus (whether as human prophet, or as the divine Christ) would be encouraging a petition to the Pentagon to bring back the flyover, or might He suggest there are bigger fish to fry in today's world?

The Air Force and Department of Defense are following policy, "which prohibits support for events which appear to endorse, selectively benefit, or favor any special interest or religious organization."

Web designer's stimulus Permalink to this item

Custom software always seems to cost more than you expect it to (while off-the-shelf software tends to make you pay through pain and suffering after the initial outlay), and I've seen my share of thousands become tens-of-thousands... but $9.5 million in 7 months?! That's one hell of a burn rate. (The bigger number that the Freepers are flogging, a possible extension to $18 mil, is through 2014.)

I guess we're a step up from the Bush administration's practice of deciding there's really only one company that can do the job, and they just happen to be friends of Dick Cheney: there were actually 3 bids for this job, a redesign of OMB Watch is excited because the current site "is not very useful in tracking Recovery Act funds."

You can see the progress as a graph of funds "available" and "paid out" and notice that it's apparently not easy to disburse $100 billion and up quickly. The push for a redesigned website absorbing $45,000 a day won't make a ripple in that graph, even though Smartronix's payroll will be smiling for a while.

Idaho has a total of $1.6 billion allocated, with $202 million for education, $182 million for highways, $116 million for medical assistance, $62 million for "economic stimulus payments" a sprinkling of $57 million for "N/A" on down to $34,600 for Aging Nutrition Services for native Americans... and then another $half a billion+ that's "allocated" to "N/A".

Paid out? If the not-N/A allocations follow the national progress, it would be $345 million, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear we're lagging. Takes a long time to ship those pallets of cash through the mountains.

7.8.9 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Needs a spanking? Permalink to this item

The NCA arch of Destiny Nathaniel Hoffman reports his chat with the founder and operations director at the Nampa Classical Academy, the supposedly not-quite Christian public charter school with a bold destiny gearing up to start later this summer.

You don't hear a lot about the anti-fans of John Dewey and Jean Piaget these days, but apparently they're still to be found.

Among the fascinating tidbits in the latest Boise Weekly is that "liberal may be too strong of a word" for what they aren't, "certain sex ed" is out, Native Americans are OK "in [their] proper context," and spanking? Moffett's "not opposed to [it] one iota."

Which is not to say they'll be spanking the kids at NCA; Moffett knows that NCA will be under a microscope as a public school working off an edited Christian curriculum. The good Logos School where you can still get a spanking is "Christ-centered. We take a little different approach to that. Our version and their version is almost incompatible because of the God issue."

Report from inside a brain Permalink to this item

Cover image, 'My Stroke of Insight,' by Jill Bolte Taylor Jeanette mentioned she was interested in placing an order for a couple of books, including the one that's been floating over there in the left-hand column "next to read" spot for a while, Jill Bolte Taylor's My Stroke of Insight. I checked the card catalog and saw that there was one on the shelf at our new library, popped right over and checked it out.

Having seen her February 2008 presentation at TED, I already knew she had a remarkable story. The book comes from the truly unique point of view of a brain scientist who lost much of the capacity for language seated in the left hemisphere from a stroke, and who managed to recover to a new life, and tell the story of the transformations. It's quite the page-turner, and essential reading for the millions of victims of stroke, their families, friends, and caregivers.

She provides a brief snapshot of the person she was before the morning of December 10, 1996, a couple of very readable chapters of scientific background to enrich our understanding, the riveting description of the experience, and then the process of rebuilding a new person from the shards of who she was before the stroke.

It includes two helpful references as appendices: "Ten Assessment Questions," and "Forty Things I Needed Most."

Rise and demise (and rise again?) Permalink to this item

When I got a job with HP in Boise in 1983, the local divisions were on their way to becoming the largest corporate presence in the valley. I took over the job of getting some new printed circuit board assembly processing equipment on-line, and once that was done, and it was time to dispose of the old stuff, we somehow made the connection with the fledgling Micron Technology, interested in diversifying their chip making to what would become a computer manufacturing business.

In those flush times, the salvage value of our old wave solder machine didn't mean that much to us, and we were happy to unload it for a bargain price, both to get it off our hands, and to help out a local business that we didn't see as a competitor, really.

Fast-forward 25 years, and Micron's fireworks have arced far beyond HP's in Idaho, but are now falling back to earth. Just as HP did, it has found cheaper places for its manufacturing lines, leaving R&D and administrative functions behind. In terms of employment, the leading "technology" company is now St. Luke's Health System, tied with Wal-Mart at 7,500 employees.

Cynthia Sewell in the Idaho Statesman: Micron's ending an era in the Treasure Valley, even as we hope they'll start a new one, in LEDs, or maybe solar cells.

7.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Palin not a quitter Permalink to this item

So sayeth John Fund in the WSJ. It was "death by a thousand FOIAs" that drove her out of office to escape "attacks inside Alaska and largely invisible to the national media [that] had paralyzed her administration."

Norm Sequitur Permalink to this item

The business of claiming native sons and daughters has always seemed a little quaint to me, since I emigrated from my native state and all. Those who have stuck it out want credit for staying home I suppose, but it's not clear why they would expand the notion to those who didn't stay. Just tagging along for the publicity?

The chairman of Idaho's Republican Party, Norm Semanko got his today with the local CBS affiliate picking up his kudos for Sarah Palin.

"Having been born in Idaho, and graduating from the University of Idaho, you have to be proud of the way she's conducted herself and handled things," Semanko said.

He means Palin having been born in Idaho, a few months before her parents took her out of state. And Palin's peripatetic college career happened to wind up at the U of I, where pretty much no one remembered her being there. (As compared to Semanko, who was head of the College Republicans in Moscow.)

Having graduated from the University of Idaho (twice), I find no reason to be "proud" about anything in the Palin story, actually. It's been more at turns entertainment, horror and embarrassment.

6.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Arms control, revisited Permalink to this item

The numbers in the new arms control agreement between the U.S. and Russia are interesting to compare to those in Robert S. McNamara's obituary:

"Negotiators are to be instructed to craft a treaty that would cut strategic warheads for each side to between 1,500 and 1,675, down from the limit of 2,200 slated to take effect in 2012 under the Treaty of Moscow signed by President George W. Bush."

When spy satellite intelligence resolved the question raised in JFK's 1960 campaign of whether the U.S. had fallen behind under Ike's watch, and now faced a "missile gap," the answer was "not exactly":

"(T)he Soviets had as few as 10 launchers from which missiles could be fired at the United States, while the United States could strike with more than 3,200 nuclear weapons."

Just in case you forget how "overkill" entered the vernacular.

The counting has a certain amount of "new math" to it, for both sides: we have 1,198 land-based ICBMs, SLBM and bombers, "which together are capable of delivering 5,576 warheads, according to its most recent Start report in January," and more that are not "operationally deployed," whatever that might mean. Russia claims that it has "816 delivery vehicles capable of delivering 3,909 warheads." "Both sides also have more warheads that are in storage or awaiting dismantlement and the treaty discussions do not cover thousands more tactical nuclear weapons."

Palin insight of the day Permalink to this item

"With some Alaskan help," from "banjomike" in a comment thread below the 43SB post:

"One blogger calls her Our Lady of Perpetual Anger.

"In all her other speeches, she strung together catch phrases that hit all the resentment and anger buttons of her audiences. As long as those phrases were in there, it didn't matter if the overall speech made any sense to her fan base. They heard exactly what they came to hear. Everything she said was meant to cause anger, and came from her own anger."

A more religious opinion from the right Permalink to this item

Dennis Mansfield said he preferred the term "faith-based conservative" to "Religious Right." Judging by his "Reader's View" in today's Statesman, he could have given the latter a better reputation than the political actors who made it famous. He suggests turning over a new leaf, turning out the lights on the Religious Right.

I think Mansfield is too generous to imagine that Bryan Fischer was "in charge," but Fischer's departure does reduce the noise, engendered by his attempt at imitating the politics of a personal following that Jerry Fallwell and others succeeded at for a while. I think Mansfield is on the mark for a better way forward:

"...a clear-headed, well-articulated outreach by interested parties who refuse to demonize their opponents—on both sides. We need to re-establish a loving culture of civility, realizing that the public opinion of this more-caring-culture will mold a fairer public policy for Idaho and the nation."

I've had Mansfield's blog in my blogroll for quite some time, and recommend it. (Yet another surprise about the man from a recent entry: he went to West Point.)

One down, four to go Permalink to this item

When I saw Wired's headline about 5 great interactive museums to visit this summer I figured I must've been to a couple of them, but no, just the Exploratorium. Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry holds an iconic place in my childhood memory, but maybe that's not considered interactive enough to be on their list?

Still, given the price (and inconveniences) of travel, you may find the best interactive museum is right in your own neighborhood, which for Boiseans would be The Discovery Center tucked into the lovely Julia Davis Park.

Better bulbs Permalink to this item

This might be a success story for government regulations: better incadescent bulb technology, prompted by new efficiency standards set to take effect in 2012. It's a slightly mixed bag at this point, with no mercury, faster start, works with dimmers and better color, but not quite so cheap, not quite the life.

As a technogeek, I'm attracted to the idea of laser pitted tungsten filaments ("twice as bright with the same power..." or same brightness, with half the power, presumably), and iridium-coated filaments that recycle waste heat. (Can you iridium coat the laser pitted tungsten?)

Reading that "incandescent bulbs still occupy an estimated 90% of household sockets in the United States," I took a walk around the house to check ours. I counted 34 "sockets" with lights in them, one on a dimmer: 15 incandescent bulbs (44%), 8 four-foot fluorescent tubes, 10 "conventional" compact fluorescents, and one custom CF (in a Verilux floor lamp). In terms of our usage, we probably get 90% of our bulb-hours from fluorescents.

The epiphany bulb I was raised on fluorescent light: my dad was big on efficiency, and the curved-bulb kitchen ceiling fixture is burned into my memory. The study desk he built in the space saved by replacing a bedroom's swinging door with an accordion fold had a recessed 2' fluorescent that provided perfectly intense, uniform task lighting. He even used fluorescents for accent lighting, atop living room bookshelves and decorated with homemade nativity scene shadow boxes around Christmas time. Still, most of the bulbs of my early life were the cheap, hot, ubiquitous and short-lived incandescents.

And when I get a bright idea, it has a glowing filament rather than an excited plasma.

3.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Palin: I'm a quitter Permalink to this item

She's not running for re-election, and she doesn't want to be a lame duck, so she's going to punt the last year and a half of her job. Huh.

The 7 minute excerpt of her "candid, and truthful" speech (available next to the New York Times story is an amazing experience, suggesting to me that she not only was not qualified to be Vice President, but also was not qualified to be Governor of Alaska.

That woman is wound up pretty damn tight; there's more candor to be revealed would be my guess.

God, country, and no flyover Permalink to this item

Somebody in the Pentagon took the trouble to check the God and Country Festival website and found a little problem with OK'ing the flyover this year. It seems that there's just a wee tad of sectarian angle on G&C, and we have this little thing called the Constitution and its 1st Amendment.

Needless to say, the God and Country folk are mad as hell, they've had flyovers for 4 decades. They want you to contact the Pentagon and vent your outrage (or pass along your kudos, as the case may be). "Bloggers, Facebookers, and Twitterers, please help spread the word." (Shouldn't that be Tweeters?)

"Yes, it's about as Christian as you can get—we believe in promoting Christianity," director Patti Syme said. "And we have no plans to change that."

Don't miss the text message bite from Brandi Swindell: she sounds right next to apoplectic, thumbing her phone to say that "this type of religious bigotry is unconstitutional."

Or something.

Bid to suck eastern Washington dry(er) Permalink to this item

From the "what was he thinking?" department comes this report, via Ridenbaugh Press of Easterday Ranches' bid to double the size of its industrial meat operation in eastern Washington, and to drill out most of a million gallons a day to do it. The potential enabler was the state Attorney General in 2005, with a grammatical analysis that ignores the larger context, and the laws of physics. A statute that was intended to allow "small withdrawals" (the statute mentions 5,000 gal/day, and half-acre lawns and gardens) for specific purposes was magically expanded to allow what could be a 600,000 gallons / day extraction.

A group of local farmers, the Sierra Club and EarthJustice want a Court to decide the question.

"After over 100 years of conservative farming on some of the driest land in Washington, our lives and livelihoods are in jeopardy from this huge industrial feedlot," said Scott Collin, a dryland wheat farmer living and farming within sight of the planned cattle operation. "The state of Washington is inclined to twist the law to allow the project to proceed, so we have no choice but to act in order to protect our families, our livelihood and our way of life."

2.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It came from Wasilla Permalink to this item

Todd Purdum's piece in Vanity Fair is a fascinating post-mortem of last year's fireworks that were Sarah Palin. Purdum puts together sentences like this one, encapsulating the central mystery of last year's campaign:

"Perhaps most painful, how could John McCain, one of the cagiest survivors in contemporary politics—with a fine appreciation of life’s injustices and absurdities, a love for the sweep of history, and an overdeveloped sense of his own integrity and honor—ever have picked a person whose utter shortage of qualification for her proposed job all but disqualified him for his?"

And how nice that there's a world wide web so that Fox News can respond to Vanity Fair and a conservative newspaper blogger can pick it up and point us to the original.

"(S)he has the good fortune to have traction within a political party that is bereft of strong leadership, and whose rank and file often demands qualities other than knowledge, experience, and an understanding that facts are, as John Adams said, stubborn things. It is, at the moment, a party in which the loudest and most singular voices, not burdened by responsibility, wield disproportionate power. She may decide that she does not need office in order to have great influence—any more than Rush Limbaugh does."

Happy Fourth! Permalink to this item

I've seen stuff on Flikr from time to time (and even set up an account once upon a time? Not sure), but hadn't seen a presentation that was as simple and featuring big, beautiful photos such as this one: Happy 4th of July from the Idaho Democratic Party, pictures from Julie Fanselow's recent vacation to New York City, Washington and Philadelphia.

I was happily reminded of our own trip to the Capital, five years ago, and with Lady Liberty, the trip to New York in the pre-blogging era.

at The National Gallery of Art, in D.C.

Regressives rally for the 4th Permalink to this item

Organizers say they want to gather to oppose the "progressive movement sweeping our country."

Things that go boom in the night Permalink to this item

and then start fires, coming your way. Our lovely foothills were especially green this year with a wet June. Snap your fingers and they are brown friends, and ready to burn.

Mike Butts says Bah, humbug and I'm with him. You need one or two good professional shows per year, and let's have individual finger-shortening attempts to follow on the same night, if they must. We'll sleep it out in the bunker.

Let's wipe out goathead Permalink to this item

It's one of the weeds designated noxious in Idaho (and no doubt other states), and a special enemy of bicyclists: Tribulus terrestris, also known as puncturevine.

This spring a group of cyclists are fighting back, armed with hoes, weeders, and leather gloves. The Goathead Avengers are meeting every Thursday to wet their whistles at 6 and then go out at 7 to fight the vine. Join them today at Table Rock Brewery, on Capitol Boulevard, across from Julia Davis Park. The more the merrier!

1.July 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Formerly known as Dominion Day Permalink to this item

It's Canada Day now, they tell me, and 11 of their funny ex-pats tell us what they miss about their native land, from Coffee Crisps to thousands of fugitive logs.

Quote of the day: supernatural trees Permalink to this item

Frederick Hazeem, owner/operator of Fredi The Tree Guy, "explaining" how that big sycamore he was cutting down ended up on top of the house:

"Trees aren't like bridges. They don't follow the rules of science."

What a world Permalink to this item

Olivia Judson is back from sabbatical and writing for The Wild Side again, to the delight of her regular readers. Yesterday's column is about vibro-acoustic communication in ants, and oddly enough was the second time in my life, and today, that I'd read about stridulatory organs. The first was in a scientific paper that was cited in the comments of the bark beetle hysteria piece I mentioned yesterday: Insects, Trees, and Climate: The Bioacoustic Ecology of Deforestation and Entomogenic Climate Change. It's more exciting than the tabloids in its own way, with tales of "group living, coordination of mass attack, the necessity for mass infestation to effectively counter host defenses, signaling to reduce intraspecific competition, and the collective occupation of nuptial chambers by polygamous species," along with "mysteries and micro-ecological dynamics" of many species of beetles, mites, fungi and trees.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Monday, 03-Aug-2009 18:16:41 MDT