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

Lightning in a Bottle Permalink to this item

Add Curb Cup to the list of exciting events that I missed going to, but I sure had fun reading about it in the Statesman just now. I give "JuxtaPercussion" the prize for best name (of the ones mentioned, at least).

"If we have lightning in a bottle, we'll plan for it next year. Maybe this is Boise's new River Festival," said BoDo developer and "man behind the Curb Cup" Mark Rivers said. (The grand and glorious River Festival was of course the "defunct blow-out that was once a Boise summer standard" folding up its tents in bankruptcy 6 years ago, after it stole the Fourth of July for a while in the late 90s and early oughts.)

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

Defending the indefensible Permalink to this item

I'm sure Saddam Hussein felt his use of torture was justified, too; there were plenty of threats to him and the people of his country. The House of Representatives didn't have the cojones to impeach the last administration's Dark Lord when it was called for, but the more he promotes his view of "necessity," the more it seems to me that prosecution is in order. As painful as it may be, it seems we haven't had enough Truth yet.

As far as responding to Cheney's latest vigorous (and self-serving) defense of torture (which he's now freely admitting was "general policy that we had approved"), John McCain says it clearly enough:

"Mr. McCain challenged Mr. Cheney's argument that the C.I.A.'s use of extreme interrogation methods had provided critical, life-saving intelligence. He said such techniques violated the Geneva Convention on torture, damaged United States relations with allies, substantially aided Al Qaeda with its recruitment and produced unreliable intelligence."

McCain doesn't think we should "go back," though. Just call it all "bygones" and we're good?

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

Foggy bottom Permalink to this item

Which will produce more truth about tubes, tea and crumpets, or torture? Dick Cheney's been arguing for the Inquisition all along, and certain credulous media outlets have been amplifying the "unnamed sources" that keep feeding juicy details, if not actual supporting evidence. Glenn Greenwald lambastes the Washington Post "reporters" who teed up the latest, for this weekend's Sunday morning TV folderol.

Not that there's any new information to justify the criminal acts (or to justify the legal memoranda that supposedly uncriminalized them).

Cheney and his daughter can propound his theory that he Kept America Safe all he wants; that neither makes it true, nor makes what he did morally defensible.

27.Aug.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Going with the flow Permalink to this item

Trying without trying
the task is done with no hands
water relaxes to ocean
then back to sky

26.Aug.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Spelling flames considered harmful Permalink to this item

But still, considering the topic, it's hard to resist a chortle. Adam's back, he says, and afflicting the comfortable with more than just that slightly-too-large self-portrait. Idaho CD-02 Representative Mike Simpson's larding on the pork and why oh why isn't anyone upset about it? (And why isn't Adam more enthusiastic about Democrat Walt Minnick's voting against pork?)

But there's "a bad headline for Democrats in the last couple of weeks":

"Idaho Schools showed big academic improrvementwith 2 out of 3 schools meeting their goals in Math, Reading, and English, up from 56% in 2006-2007 school year and way up from 27% under Democrat Marilyn Howard in the 2004-05 school year."

Because Democrats so hate the idea of academic improrvement (let alone improvement) if the Republicans can take credit for it, don't you know.

Hey, I guess you CAN make this stuff up Permalink to this item

Gotta love Chris Wallace's intro: "today we're going to tell you about something you may never have heard about." That would be because they just made it up.

Is there any kind of nonsense, misinformation or duplicity that Fox "News" won't stoop to? At least tabloid journalism appreciaties that its mission is to be funny; FN can't even get that right.

Can we handle the truth? Permalink to this item

The Obama administration has more than enough to do without dealing with the sins of its predecessors, but even as we look forward to find our way, we do need to check our rear view mirrors to make sure there are not hazards coming at us from behind.

Our system of justice is seldom able to work "looking forward"; we give the benefit of the doubt (at least on paper) and presume innocence, but evidence of wrongdoing forces us to look backward and prosecute those who are responsible.

When "lawless and morally repugnant" behavior (as the NYT editorial board put it) originates at the top, it makes the job of prosecution all the more monumental, and all the more essential.

The horrific details of government-sanctioned torture suggests (only suggests, since so much is still secret) that the operatives carefully followed the orders they were given, and did what they could to stay within the law, if not morality.

But the orders.

And their perpetrator, still complaining that the end justified the means and why don't we all just thank him and everyone else involved.

It's a matter of honor as well as justice to address these wrongs.

Clunker roundup done Permalink to this item

I hadn't heard the part about doping the gas tank and running the engine until it seizes up until reading Dale Dixon's Consumer Alert column; I agree with him that Bronco Motors came up with a good way to avoid irreparable damage in case the government program went bad. The White House Media Affairs sends news of the CARS program success after its close last night,

"...with nearly 700,000 clunkers taken off the roads, replaced by far more fuel efficient vehicles. Rebate applications worth $2.877 billion were submitted by the 8pm deadline, under the $3 billion provided by Congress to run the program.

"Cars made in America topped the most-purchased list, from the Ford Focus to the Toyota Corolla to the Honda Civic...."

Brand names aren't what they used to be, eh? Nice touch with "made in America." The top 10 to be crushed in America are half Fords, two Chevys, two Jeeps and a Dodge. I was suprised to see the Ford Windstar bringing up the ten spot, since I'd looked ours up, and it didn't qualify. I guess there were plenty with the bigger engine out there. Ford was the only American brand name on the top 10 new vehicles purchased list:

  1. Toyota Corolla
  2. Honda Civic
  3. Toyota Camry
  4. Ford Focus
  5. Hyundai Elantra
  6. Nissan Versa
  7. Toyota Prius
  8. Honda Accord
  9. Honda Fit
  10. Ford Escape

In terms of the manufacturers of new vehicles bought, GM and Ford were #2 and 3, behind Toyota, and ahead of Honda and Nissan, those top 5 accounting for almost 3/4ths of the total.

"84% of trade-ins under the program are trucks, and 59% of new vehicles purchased are cars. The program worked far better than anyone anticipated at moving consumers out of old, dirty trucks and SUVs and into new more fuel-efficient cars."

The average fuel economy of the 685 thousand trade-ins was just under 16mpg, and the new vehicles' mileage almost 25mpg; if the average usage is 7 or 8,000 miles a year, that works out to a savings of more than 100,000,000 gallons of gasoline per year. If gas is $3/gal, that'll pay back in... 10 years. Not that those old beasts would have stayed on the road for that long anyway, of course, and there's the stimulus factor and the reduction of greenhouse gases... What the heck, let's call it a smashing (ouch!) success.

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

Ok, that's an interesting theory Permalink to this item

Michael Lynch says "Peak Oil" is just a myth based on "poor analyses of data and misinterpretations of technical material." We're not there now, we won't be in 10 years, or for a long, long time.

Rather than a mere 2 trillion barrels of "recoverable" oil, "the consensus among geologists is that there are some 10 trillion barrels out there," and that we should expect to recover 35% of it economically. (Through the magic of a conveniently ancient reference estimate, that 3.5 is "another 2.5 trillion barrels.") Expect oil to be abundant and cheap, "closer to the historical level of $30 a barrel as new supplies come forward in the deep waters off West Africa and Latin America, in East Africa, and perhaps in the Bakken oil shale fields of Montana and North Dakota."

Don't crush those clunkers, hand me that pliers!

Minnick on the Newshour Permalink to this item

On a page titled Rx for Reform, they have last night's segment highlighting Idaho's CD-01 "blue dog Democrat facing skeptical voters" during the August recess, as well as a link to the extended interview with Betty Ann Bowser.

Minnick says he's all in favor of universal, comprehensive health care insurance (with affordability through government assistance as needed), but only as provided by private enterprise. Government should establish the "rules of the road" (different ones than we have now, since he, like even those sampled from his "western, independent, conservative district" generally agree we need reform), and that's it.

I guess to be consistent with that position, you should advocate doing away with Medicare, or at least accelerating its privatization through so-called Medicare Advantage plans.

Everybody loves to toot the horn Permalink to this item

But it would have been better for all concerned if they'd laid off the brakes.

You cannot be serious Permalink to this item

Our neighboring county, Canyon, which sends thousands of vehicles across the border every day so dislikes the idea of mandatory vehicle emissions testing that they've come up with an idea to have voluntary testing with a lottery of some sort. Charge everyone more than the testing costs, and then hand out $5,000 prizes to a few lucky winners (and provide for a "hardship repair fund" as well).

It's not April 1st, and the article is too long to be funny, so I guess this is an actual idea the 2C Commissioners came up with.

Another idea that came and quietly went (for what reasons, I'm not sure) in recent years is to set up detectors along roads and measure passing vehicles' emissions "on the fly," using cameras to capture identifying information. It sounded like the technology was available, and worked well enough to catch the bad actors.

That's what we're after, isn't it?

Having us get our 1995 Windstar tested a dozen or more times over the course of its life (for example) hasn't done a blasted thing for Treasure Valley air quality, beyond the slight increase in pollutants during the testing itself, idling and revving the engine for measurement purposes.

If your taillight is out, you can get stopped and get a ticket for an equipment violation. Should be the same deal if your engine is badly tuned or your exhaust system is defective.

Apart from the sheer quantity of vehicles dumping exhaust into our airshed, there are the small percentage of bad actors. We need to find them, fix them, or get them off the road. A voluntary program with a lame lottery incentive is not going to get the job done.

(H/t to Treasured Valley for the link.)

Economies of scale Permalink to this item

In reading Keith Brasher's report in the NYT, China Outdoes U.S. in Making Solar Products (which was also printed in today's Boise fishwrap), I was wondering if it's a good thing, or a bad thing that "China's biggest solar panel manufacturer, Suntech Power Holdings, [in order] to build market share, is selling solar panels on the American market for less than the cost of the materials, assembly and shipping."

Cut-rate infrastructure, assuming it's of appropriate quality and durability (no small matter when it comes to solar technology; the materials challenges are not trivial) should be good for buyers, but not so good for American (or other) suppliers trying to compete with them. Unfair trade and all that.

But what caught my eye was the paragraph putting the scale of China's enterprise in context (with my emphasis):

"China's commitment to solar energy is unlikely to make a difference soon to global warming. Chinaís energy consumption is growing faster than any other country's, though the United States consumes more today. Beijing's aim is to generate 20,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2020—or less than half the capacity of coal-fired power plants that are built in China each year."

Having just this month read about the ubiquity of mercury pollution in the U.S., and seen China's coal-fired pollution for myself six years ago, I'm thinking that whatever can be done to increase the speed of adoption of solar power generation will be a plus.

Update (in the 8/27 NYT): The head of Suntech Power Holdings said "he had misunderstood the question when he said twice in a recent interview that his company was selling panels in the United States below the marginal cost of producing each additional unit." They note that Dr. Shi "speaks fluent English," and attributed his company's losses "to operating expenses at the 54-employee American subsidiary." Maybe they're losing money on each unit but making it up in the accounting.

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

Tea party townhall Permalink to this item

Looks like there was plenty of space available, and more reasonable exchange than circus, but I didn't have the heart to attend the Tea Party gathering in downtown Boise yesterday evening and see how Blue Dog Democrat Walt Minnick would respond to the revolting group. Fortunately, some local bloggers did go, and we have their accounts to augment the abbreviated bit in the Statesman and a longer account at KTVB.

Alan's crowd count is more credible than KTVB's, and Bubblehead's description seems like better news than "the news."

With the gratuitous snark in the direction of Boise's North End, I guess the message from Walt is that he's going forward without plans for mainstream Democratic support? The MountainGoat Report has the previous and current donation numbers, and ZIPcode 83702 is right there on top. "More likely to produce a Fox News moment" (whatever the hell that is) and contribute to his campaign. To date.

Update: Jill Kuraitis of NewWest provides the most detailed report I've yet seen, with particulars of the crowd's reactions, including the "just-this-side-of-exploding" guy from California who was upset about "people who don't belong here." Irony is alive and kicking in Boise.

Two views of roads Permalink to this item

I'm a child of the suburbs, and the city, who first learned to measure his stride by 5 foot squares of concrete sidewalks. Except for a brief stint in Happy Valley (and maybe my college days in Arny's Trailer Court), and the very occasional wilderness adventure, I've lived on a street and known the sounds of motorized traffic as part of my environment. My "walkabout" was done by hitchhiking, then driving, then hitchhiking again, and one more go on a bicycle.

I lived for years just outside Moscow, Idaho, with no car, but I was on the road on two wheels most every day. In Boise, every path away from home is paved. It's easy to take roads for granted (although the Ada County Highway District's obsession with "chip seal" does revive unhappy awareness every summer).

But I would never have thought of "good roads" at the top of a list of factors influencing "quality of life" before Hal Bunderson brought it up in today's paper. Maybe I've taken all this infrastructure for granted. Maybe the annoying vibration of bicycling on willfully degraded surfaces all these years has shaken a screw loose.

Mostly I don't understand the obsession our state government has with roads as the most important component of economic infrastructure, dating back to Dirk Kempthorne's 2005 gubernatorial vision of mortgaging the state's future for "Connecting Idaho" and continuing through this year's legislative debacle. Maybe the task force our current governor initiated will break the log jam and make sense of it all.

While we wait to see, you can take a short detour to Jao Flats, Botswana, with Tom Friedman, for something completely different in a road: the morning news.

Bunderson's concern is how we'll collect enough money for roads now that more efficient cars aren't burning as much gas. Friedman's concern is how we'll deal with integrated problems ("climate change, energy, biodiversity loss, poverty alleviation and the need to grow enough food to feed the planet") with a narrow, one-at-a-time problem solving approach.

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

Licensed for mayhem Permalink to this item

A federal court is about to decide whether Blackwater's corporate "personhood" extends to the protection that federal employees gained from the Westfall Act against personal liability. If so, the adventures of Erik Prince in Afghanistan and Iraq will remain secret a while longer.

Assistant Attorney General Tony West helped get Rumsfeld and other State and Defense department actors off, citing case law that "genocide, torture, forced relocation, and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by individual defendants employed by Department of Defense and State Department were within scope of employment."

But extending that sort of carte noire to the CIA's hired guns may be a bridge too far for West, who's already advanced the argument that "only natural persons can be considered 'employee[s] of the government.'" Could get interesting.

Argument from authority ain't what it used to be Permalink to this item

On a recent long drive, I listened to the abridged version (8 CDs, instead of 30-some!) of Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals describing the time of Lincoln, and the diverse Cabinet that he assembled. This was back at the start of the Republican Party, and the turning point in the fortune of the Whigs.

It sounds trite, but it gave me a new perspective on history.

We can't help see things in our own context, but times are different now. The diverse collection of tribal stories that was filtered and edited and turned into a Canon by a group of men who ruled a significant part of the world was an instrument of power, it did not have power by itself. Most of its subjects couldn't read, for one thing, and there weren't copies that they COULD read had they wanted to.

"The Bible says don't do that, or we'll throw you in a dungeon and torture you" focused one's attention on the truth of the Bible, I'm sure.

The professional bloviators who like to channel the Founding Fathers are somewhat of a parody of the Good Old Days, aren't they? You take Toni Scalia, I'll go with Torquemada.

It was before my time, but my understanding is that those who truly care about the Constitution feel we jumped the shark with FDR and Social Security. Medicare kind of slipped in as a me-too, and then it went ahead and ate Manhattan.

One of the letters to the Boise Weekly that I just read asked rhetorically where the Republican plan was? Where was it for the last 8 years?

Well, it was rather remarkable subversion of the Constitution on one hand, launching a "preventative" war, expanding Executive powers to spy on citizens, to discard Habeus corpus, the Geneva Convention, and moral decency, and "signing" it with concoctions that supposedly made it all perfectly legal.

On the other hand, they did have a strong economic plan: reduce taxes on the wealthiest, give in on steadily increased spending (and of course financing that war) to push the bill to future generations, build a back door in what we had of a public health program (based on the very real justification that it was headed for a demographic cliff, "we have to do something"), and let's see if we can privatize Social Security, that hated underpinning of Socialism.

The culture "war" was a marketing sideshow designed to enlist those most comfortable with argument from authority into this great cause. Each element was codified and re-framed to make the "correct" position obvious: death taxes, global war on terror, Commander in Chief, activist judges, out-of-control trial lawyers, you name it, there's another name for it.

The Constitution was not divinely inspired Truth handed down on stone tablets to a gaggle of soon to be ex-patriot British colonists. It certainly was inspired, and it has been a model to others. But as Professor Yoo and others instructed us so clearly, it does not provide sufficient guidance by itself. Its practitioners need to have a moral foundation to recognize Right and Wrong, to amend it to reflect new understandings, such as "slavery is inherently evil."

That leaves us with the questions of the appropriate role of government. There are quite a few details to be worked out. Been to a Library Board meeting lately? City Council? County Commission? State Legislature? "Townhall meeting"?

Out in the wilds of Idaho (never far from one's back door, even in what passes for metropolis here), you can barely take a leak behind a tree without splashing a Patriot with a full gun rack and pickup full of ammo who's ready to defend the Constitution against the horde of brown invaders, so you can at least rest assured that Respect for Authority has not yet gone extinct.

Case in point: Idaho GOP honcho who helped spur coup arrested (Might have been a perfectly appropriate instance of brandishing a deadly weapon to defuse a hostile situation, who knows?)

(Inspired by someone else's observation on an email list that "The Constitution has transitioned, as has the Bible, from a culturally, politically, and legally binding and unifying codification of a system of thought to an object of literary history.")

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

Tour de Fat Boise tomorrow Permalink to this item

New Belgium Brewing is taking the Tour to 11 cities this year, kicking off in Boise's Ann Morrison Park tomorrow morning at 9am. Somehow, I've never been to one, even though it sounds like my kind of fun: bicycle parade, bike-for-car swapping, benefit for the Southwest Idaho Mountain Bike Association and the Treasure Valley Cycling Alliance, with performances by the March Fourth Marching Band, Sean Hayes, Squirm Burpee Circus, and The Sprockettes.

Not so fast, wolf killers Permalink to this item

EarthJustice asked a federal district court to block wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana on behalf of a dozen conservation groups. Idaho had authorized wiping out 30% of Idaho's wolf population starting September 1, and Montana authorized a 15% kill of theirs, starting September 15.

Lowe's not going out quietly Permalink to this item

Deposed Idaho Transportation Department head Pam Lowe has some complaints about the way she was fired, exposing the seamy underbelly of Idaho's good old boy network. Apparently she didn't pay attention to the memo telling her who's in charge.

Speaking from experience Permalink to this item

BSU President Bob Kustra speaks out on health insurance reform after the state's administration saw to the increase in employee benefits' expense, but not so much those salary increases. Powerful stuff coming from one of the most respected leaders in the state.

"I just think it's so ironic... that these folks who make these decisions dress up in blue and orange and come to 7 football games a year and spend 2 and 3 months asking me as I travel down the street, 'H-how's things goin' with the team, are we going to beat Oregon?'

"I wish just once somebody would say 'How's the lab technician going to handle the 40% increase? How's the custodian going to handle the 40% increase? Will he drop his coverage? Will he simply fail to pay?' Believe me, those are the important questions we ought to be asking around this place."

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

Brain as co-conspirator Permalink to this item

The interesting things about brains is that they do so much of their work in secret. A friend sent a link to Natalie Angier's article in the NYT, Brain Is a Co-Conspirator in a Vicious Stress Loop, and it reminded me of the HeartMath class I took back when a corporation was sending me to classes every so often.

And I first saw the book by Sapolsky mentioned in the article, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers when I followed a recommendation from a regular in a usenet group within the corporate firewall.

The brain habituates, and anger can become a way of life. The nasty part is that the suite of negative emotions blocks our ability to learn too, so it's not easy climbing out of the pit.

Too bad somebody had to torture rats to figure out what should be obvious...

(You might also notice that Angier decided "nanosecond" isn't fast enough to describe post-industrial society any more: she figures we're up to an "attosecond pace," rather jumping the shark. She skipped over picoseconds and femtoseconds, to the time it takes for light to travel the length of three hydrogen atoms. Really, really quick.)

LTEs aren't what they used to be Permalink to this item

And neither is publishing; sometimes it all happens in bits and pixels, without any ink and paper. My "letter" for today was in response to Olivia Judson's latest blog post, The Long and Short of It.

It's "awaiting moderation," which I assume will come along eventually. When it does, here's what it will say:

Your column reminds me of one of my favorite books that connects engineering and biology: Steven Vogel's Life in Moving Fluids: The Physical Biology of Flow.

Shrews running on water are but one example of how the mainstream media we take for granted (those being air and water, of course) are not the same for organisms of different sizes. Air is not so airy for small flying insects, it's more soupy (or even syrupy). And gravity—ha! Fish don't fear falling any more than ants do.

Update: it ended up as comment #88.

Farm team Permalink to this item

While practicing Tarzan (and Jane) moves on the rope swings around Boise Cascade Lake with the grandkids last week, we happened to cross paths with a young woman from their eastern Washington neck of the woods. She was happy to have left the Spokane area by her account, and when asked why, she said "too many nationalities."

So much for the friendly benefit of the doubt for a stranger.

It did make me wonder how she's more comfortable here than there, though. In addition to its sprawling population growth, the Boise area has been getting a colorful taste of globalization in recent years. Grocery shopping at Winco has all the colors of the rainbow these days, and unlike that freckle-faced 20-something, it warms my heart to see the diversity.

Last night I went back to the Village Bicycle Project's temporary digs at the old Rescue Mission, where the work had been joined by ten or so African immigrants; men, women, and children only one of whom had reasonably full command of English. Our leader's got pretty good bike-French, it turns out, and I added an occasional Voilà and c'est bon! to my illustrative gestures as we worked to strip salvageable parts from old bikes to include in September's shipment out of Seattle.

And today, I found a story from Saturday in the Wall Street Journal about the Boise Hawks minor league baseball team, and how they're among the leaders at importing talent from around the world, including paying one of their prospects a $725,000 bonus (!). Here I thought those guys were all working for peanuts unless and until they proved themselves good enough to get to The Show. (Don't miss the video, with its snippet of the intermission race between Fry, Tot, and Spud.)

There's been some bandying of the word "metropolitan" in SW Idaho of late, who knows, we might even be edging toward cosmopolitan.

Second thoughts Permalink to this item

Barrett Rainey: Not all clunkers have four wheels. There's us versus them, and then there's me. When it comes to the latter, actions speak louder than words, and we all work to maximize our self-interests. That's why home-of-the-patriots red states like Idaho and Alaska suck harder at the public teat, even as they whine louder about how much they hate government.

If it were a child, you'd just say "what a brat!" But as a mob, it's worse than that: in the confusion of the moment, we're all too easily swept up in someone else's self-interest, and not so much in an altruistic way.

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

We don't like your kind of people Permalink to this item

Lizard on basalt 'melon gravel', Celebration Park, Idaho The Missoula City Council has enacted an "emergency" ban on "aggressive" panhandling, No more touching without asking, following someone around, or using violence. (I think there might have already been a law about that?) It bans soliciting near ATMs and within six feet of an entrance to a building. And it prohibits telling lies to get money which is going to put a serious kink in political campaigning over there in Montana.

"The emergency ordinance allows for 30 days of education and no penalties - normally a misdemeanor and fine not to exceed $100 for a conviction. Walzer voted in favor of the emergency law because of the education component.

"On the streets starting Tuesday, Missoula Police Department Chief Mark Muir said officers would be looking for people who don't understand that they can't ask for money in certain places. They also would have to explain to people who file complaints that panhandling isn't altogether banned because it's constitutionally protected speech."

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

Vote early, and often Permalink to this item

The NRSC isn't waiting for 2010 (let alone 2012) to start measuring opinion: you can fill in your 2009 Proxy eBallot today! (I suppose they just hired somebody to collect their web ballots, but still...!)

After a couple of softball push polling questions ("Do you think voters in your area are waking up to the fact that Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi actually eat their young?") we get to the meat of the matter: your FIRST and SECOND choices for the GOP presidential nomination. Just imagine...

You can mix and match to make your own ticket! Relive the thrills of McCain/Palin, or, flip it for a new thrill: Palin/McCain. Me, I rather like the sound of Palin/Jindal. Or eye of Newt and hand in Mitt. Another Bush? Be still my heart!

Generation gap Permalink to this item

The over/under 30 boundary that defined the Age of Aquarius has moved south, and the battle over health care will be joined between those over 65 enjoying "socialized medicine," and everyone else. As Richard Dooling writes in Health Care's Generation Gap, "generational spending wars loom on the horizon. Rationing of health care is imminent."

His closing quote from Sir William Osler reminded me of what I told my granddaughter after the emergency room doctor had prescribed what seemed to me to be seriously excessive dosages of ibuprofen and acetaminophen (in alternation) for what was already looking to be a relatively minor and transitory problem. Osler said: "one of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicine."

My famous quote came right off the bottle of ibuprofen: "the smallest effective dose should be used." I prefaced it with my opinion that this instruction would serve her well for the rest of her life.

Compromise, or sausage (or both) Permalink to this item

Apparently the administration is preparing to cut loose some or all of its tepid support for "the public option," whatever that might be beyond the public health care systems we already have for veterans, and for the elderly. Howard Dean still thinks public coverage is at the core of meaningful reform. And Paul Krugman's assessment of the Swiss menace points out that "every wealthy country other than the United States guarantees essential care to all its citizens."

As far as the "Swissification" course we seem to be on, one of three general approaches in practice, it sounds like it could work... even if we can't hire the Swiss to run it for us.

Yes, there is coercion involved, for both insurance companies, and for individuals: "everyone is required to buy insurance, insurers canít discriminate based on medical history or pre-existing conditions, and lower-income citizens get government help in paying for their policies." Getting everyone into the pool, and prohibiting insurers from gaming who they accept is of the essence.

"So we can do this. At this point, all that stands in the way of universal health care in America are the greed of the medical-industrial complex, the lies of the right-wing propaganda machine, and the gullibility of voters who believe those lies."

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

Risch on how reform will be killed Permalink to this item

In his interview with the Idaho Press-Tribune, our junior Senator weighs in with three possible outcomes: "the thing dies of its own weight, as it did in '94" (you don't say!); "the president might be able to hard-arm enough people that he can pass this"; or Obama "back(s) up and start(s) over again." (Just imagine how great the bipartisan cooperation will be next time around, eh.)

Risch protrays himself as a verbose version of Chauncey Gardiner, witness and non-participant.

On Republican losses in recent national elections, he's willing to blame the party somewhat (they "did not govern as well as they should've governed"), but then that darn "fluctuation in the economy that happened," as if the 2001-7 Republican agenda had nothing do with that.

You can still teach the Bible in private school though Permalink to this item

The Idaho Charter School Commission denied Nampa Classical Academy's proposal to use the Bible as a text... or "primary source document" or whatever it was they had in mind. Looks like we won't find out what that was. The Commission cited the Idaho Constitution which prohibits "books, papers, tracts or documents of a political, sectarian or denominational character."

Instruction in Literature, Civics, and a few other subjects might be rather bland. But then my scant 3 years of public school education were too busy with adolescence to worry about what tracts were or weren't included in my instruction. I do recall that Mr. Felhaber piqued my interest in Shakespeare.

So, now that the Bible is out, will NCA keep on with their plan to "explore several versions of creationism" with their students this fall? How to see where that would fit in a public school curriculum, Classical or otherwise.

Tomorrow's news is all about yesterday Permalink to this item

Rick Perlstein: In America, Crazy Is a Preexisting Condition

"The tree of crazy is an ever-present aspect of America's flora. Only now, it's being watered by misguided he-said-she-said reporting and taking over the forest. Latest word is that the enlightened and mild provision in the draft legislation to help elderly people who want living wills—the one hysterics turned into the 'death panel' canard—is losing favor, according to the Wall Street Journal, because of 'complaints over the provision.'"

H/t to Sisyphus

I'll have mine pre-masticated Permalink to this item

In the good old days, the well-to-do employed food tasters to screen out the (fast-acting) unhealthy, and poisonous. Something to be said for that, and I'll be looking into Richard B. "Dick" Cheney's memoir from a safe distance, secondhand.

Within Tobin Harshaw's rundown of opinion on both sides is this gem, from Anne Laurie at Balloon Juice:

"(A)llowance must be made for an agent tasked to sell a hard-Right neoconservative apologia in a down market, and Cheney has no reputation for honesty. But the urge to settle scores burns in many a heart pacemaker long after all other human emotions have expired, and much of the worst we know about Cheney's first and foremost mentor was inadvertently revealed over Nixon's twenty-year crusade to rehabilitate his own reputation as a statesman and great leader. I look forward to further revelations with interest, and popcorn."

14.Aug.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

OK, two more on the subject Permalink to this item

Krugman: Republican death trip

"So much, then, for Mr. Obama's dream of moving beyond divisive politics. The truth is that the factors that made politics so ugly in the Clinton years—the paranoia of a significant minority of Americans and the cynical willingness of leading Republicans to cater to that paranoia—are as strong as ever. In fact, the situation may be even worse than it was in the 1990s because the collapse of the Bush administration has left the G.O.P. with no real leaders other than Rush Limbaugh."

Chris Kelly, regarding she who should not be mentioned:

"Are we really stripping counseling from health care because of what doctors might say? (We all know, given the chance, a doctor will always talk you into suicide. That's where the money is.) Why not forbid doctors from talking to patients at all, just to be safe? Call it the Palin-Grassley Freedom from Information Act."

Strange classroom bedfellows Permalink to this item

When a religious advocacy group steps up to defend the supposed secular use of the Bible in a public school, we're left to wonder if this is a wolf in sheep's clothing, or what. The Idaho Press-Tribune's editorial board spells out the public interest position in their open letter to the charter school commission: given how much is fishy about this,

"If you are going to approve the school's use of the Bible, it must come with the caveat that there will be very strict oversight and monitoring to ensure it is for historical and literary purposes only."

And in another corner of the public/private debate, is one man who's up in arms over a private school going out of business, feeling that charter schools have usurped what should be "free market" territory.

Misplaced rage Permalink to this item

Bruce Bartlett: Among other economic shortcomings of the last administration, there's this: "People would have been better off putting all their investments into cash under a mattress the day Bush took office."

Loco parentis Permalink to this item

The atlatl range at Celebration Park The first quiet afternoon in a while, after weeks of travel and excitement. There was the trip to Portland, windsurfing on the way home, a couple of days' rest and then the Wallowas washout, which provided two extra days with the two older grandkids here, well spent on swimming, rope swinging, blackberry picking, museum going, a couple of shopping excursions (led by our niece, since we're not shoppers), more swimming, rock-climbing, an evening working on bikes for the Village Bicycle Project, a trip to Celebration Park to try out atlatls and hunt lizards in the melon gravel, and oh, even a trip to the Emergency Room to add a little closing night spice.

Now, whew.

Toward safer cycling in Boise Permalink to this item

Nice to see that the draft recommendations from the task force for changing Boise's bike laws came up with some good ideas, not including "let's double fines for bicyclists."

The Statesman news story includes the time and place for two public hearings later this month, and an email address for comments.

Whole cloth Permalink to this item

Sadly, No! says it's time to go Galt on Whole Foods. I confess, I've never been in a Whole Foods store (unless I got lost once in Palo Alto). Now it looks like I won't ever be.

We prefer market-driven death panels Permalink to this item

But hey, the rumors about government-run death panels are good enough for the Washington Times and Cal Thomas.

It makes me wonder what is wrong with people who can think this stuff up.

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

Waukesha boy makes good Permalink to this item

(That's "walk a shaw," in case you're not from around there, and) The boy in question is Lester William Polsfuss, otherwise known as Les Paul. We remember his name and the guitars he invented, but we do not remember the name of his childhood piano teacher who wrote to his mother that "Your boy, Lester, will never learn music."

"His interest in gadgets came early. At the age of 10 he devised a harmonica holder from a coat hanger. Soon afterward he made his first amplified guitar by opening the back of a Sears acoustic model and inserting, behind the strings, the pickup from a dismantled Victrola. With the record player on, the acoustic guitar became an electric one. Later, he built his own pickup from ham radio earphone parts and assembled a recording machine using a Cadillac flywheel and the belt from a dentistís drill."

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

Not so mob scene as reported Permalink to this item

Randy Stapilus has an interesting account of a McMinnville (Oregon) townhall meeting hosted by a member of Congress, and a little more constructive than you might gather from the account in the newspaper. The good news was that there were no automatic weapons.

Stapilus also points to the City Club of Boise and its recent forum with speaker Dr. Joseph Jarvis presenting "Too Much Market, Not Enough Care." I've got it queued, haven't listened just yet.

And he has his own story of an adventure with "the medical system," that illustrates the utter nonsense of "market-based solutions": Your money or your life.

War is hell Permalink to this item

Something we like to forget when we're not personally in it, but just "supporting the troops" and getting our patriotism on. Joan Baez' response to protesters at her concert in Idaho Falls provides a poignant reminder of the power of non-violence, and the wounds that won't heal.

Equinox arrives! Permalink to this item

That's Saturn's equinox, a once-every-15-earth-years event. For the first time ever, we've got Cassini imaging the place up close and personal, and even the first raw preview images are awesome. (The collection from near equinox had some amazing stuff too.)

"The illumination geometry that accompanies equinox lowers the sun's angle to the ringplane and causes out-of-plane structures and some moons to cast long shadows across the rings. The rings themselves have become a rapidly narrowing band cast onto the planet...."

More legacy of Dick Permalink to this item

The notions of an imperial Presidency that Richard B. "Dick" Cheney brought back to the White House in his 2001 carpetbag will be haunting the place for a long time. Among the other half-measures Obama has taken to solidify the dubious legacy of Cheney's thirst for Executive power, add the use of signing statements.

You don't suppose the Bush2-stacked Supreme Court would do anything with a challenge to those, do you? First there has to be one though, just "riling" Congress won't be enough.

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

Two (c)lunkers Permalink to this item

In our outing to Veterans' Memorial Park yesterday, while circumnavigating the big pond (aka "Boise Cascade Lake"), our scout found a couple of bikes parked in shallow water, and since it seemed unlikely that the owners had parked them there, we fished them out, drained them and called the police to pick 'em up.

Chatting with the Community Service patrol officer who came by reminded me of my run-in with bicycle thievery, many years ago in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My second bike was a Schwinn Sting-Ray, leopard-striped banana seat, butterfly handlebars, chrome fenders with the little d.a. flip in the back, and I think a slick for the rear tire. Talk about your sweet ride.

But the cheap cable lock that my buddy had to lock it and his bike at the Lincoln Park swimming pool was not up to the task, and when we came out from the day's swim, it was a horrible scene. Our bikes were gone.

We gave the police every possible detail about the bikes, which we must've known to an eyelash. Some days later, my buddy's much less attractive bike (24", pseudo-gas tank, off-brand thing) turned up in the Milwaukee River. Mine never came home.

So here's hoping the kids who lost theirs recently know enough to check in at the cop shop, and provide a positive ID. (No licenses on the bikes, more's the pity. The police could just look it up, eh.)

9.8.9 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The moneyed interests Permalink to this item

It takes money to make money, and those who have what it takes are making the most of it. Frank Rich: Is Obama Punking Us?

"The final result [in the health care bill] will be a CAT scan of those powerful Washington interests [Obama] campaigned against, revealing which have been removed from the body politic (or at least reduced) and which continue to metastasize."

8.8.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

What our Congresscritters are saying Permalink to this item

Nathaniel Hoffman provides a succinct roundup of Idaho politicos' hedging on health care reform, in The Boise Weekly.

Descent into madness Permalink to this item

Protestors chanting "Hear our voice!" with nothing to say sounds a lot like idiots in a traffic jam honking their horns.

It's a lot easier to break things than it is to build them.

Still working the bogeyman Permalink to this item

Our state Republican chairman's latest missive lit into Obama's "first six-plus months in office" with a (surprise!) critical opinion about how terrible it was. The punchline, such as it was, was for the people of Idaho to "call on the people of Idaho to take action and tell President Obama and Congressional Democrats to end their costly experiments on America."

Maybe by disrupting town hall meetings, I don't know. There's no call to send money, so I guess I won't do that.

Anyway, the economy is still pretty much in the tank, but starting to look up. No particular thanks to Idaho's GOP so nothing to talk about there. The "two" of Semanko's one-two punch was this:

"And President Obama's irresponsible order to close GITMO without planning where to house more than 200 terrorists has done nothing to make our nation safer."

Are you sure the remaining "detainees" are terrorists, Norm? Do you have some evidence beyond Dick Cheney told you so?

Me, I'm just hoping for eventual change.

Wallowa washout Permalink to this item

Brownlee Reservoir, dam, and weather coming With the inertia of months of planning, and the delicately balanced schedules of four adults from separate households, there were psychological reasons to forge ahead in spite of the weather forecast. "The updated weather is looking a little more likely than not of rain," Cary wrote. "Any concerns?" The first response was from the most seasoned in the group:

"Looks pretty cool and wet. Weíll need to pay attention to the lightning, i.e. pick the right campsite, plan to hole up during storms, be flexible with our plans, etc."

Thunderstorms and showers can be exciting, and usually don't last too long. After Portland's record heat wave and Boise's regular summer heat, I'd been more worried about having too much sleeping bag for camping, and lows in the 40s sounded rather pleasant.

"Doesn't sound bad enough to run away, just something to justify all this expensive gear we carry around," I said.

I was reading the probabilities of nice weather in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, and they seemed well higher than 0%.

"It is going to be wet," Cary wrote. "Prepare accordingly."

"We are going to want to stay down below the tree line so we stay out of the path of lightning as much as possible."

Google Maps excerpt of the scenic route So off I went on Wednesday to meet the Spokane Valley crew in the middle, taking a scenic route I didn't know about until Google Maps pointed out that there was more than one way to go from Boise to Enterprise: about the same distance cutting through the Wallowas as going around them to the west, 50% more time, a lot less I-84. Along the way, Payette NF, Brownlee Reservoir on the Snake River, along the river past Brownlee and Oxbow dams, picking blackberries in the hot, still day, then up Pine Creek and to the Imnaha River, and out Little Sheep Creek to the plateau north of the mountains.

The foreboding storms to the northwest actually seemed to break up during the afternoon, spreading out to cheery cumulus, and about the time I came east of Joseph, the views were spectacular, backlit clouds, but mostly sunny to see up McCully Creek to one ridge in the distance, then another, then Mt. Nebo, and the snowfields under it.

Oh and here's one of those showers now, no big deal, it's over before I'm through town. Then another short one between Enterprise and Lostine. See there: 100% chance of showers, but plenty of nice weather.

As the advance party, I found a campsite up the Lostine River Road, put up my tent, and headed back for our rendezvous and carpool point, the Wallow Mountains Visitor Center. Coming back out the Lostine River Road, it started to shower again, then rain, then rain, then thunderstorm, then massive and intense downpour, branches breaking off, microbursts, the whole nine yards. Driving through Enterprise, searching for a cell phone signal (no luck: T-Mobile doesn't believe in this area), it got so intense that even driving 25 mph didn't feel safe: I pulled over for 10 minutes, and used the time to reflect on what it would have been like to be out in the woods for that event.

But hey, it was over, right? And something that intense, probably blew out its potential, right? It's been real hot, this is August, these things happen, but then they're over.

Or not so much. We had a nice Wednesday night campout, a little rain overnight, but dry enough in the morning for a jolly breakfast, organize our packs and drive the last couple miles to the end of the road, Two Pan Trailhead. We were a mile and a half up the trail when the clouds crept over the ridgeline and became sprinkles... then a bit of rain, and let's stop for something to eat in this fir grove, then enough to pull out the rain gear and pack covers... then that distant thunder was RIGHT here, and hail a while, and more rain but maybe easing up a little?

Or not, as we contemplated the more open stretch of trail ahead of us, and more lightning coming our way.

Long story short, we bailed out from three miles in, and not quite 7,000', stayed at the Best Western, and observed the mountains completely socked in the next morning from the comfort of the continental breakfast in the conference room, unanimous in congratulation for our having made the right decision, if somewhat belatedly. We could debate just how long it would have taken for everything we were carrying to get completely soaked, but there was no question that it would be... and sooner, rather than later.

The way home yesterday was wet all the way, rock on the road all through Oregon, one lovely stop along the world's largest and most convenient thimbleberry patch, and then back to "the desert" where, it's raining here too. Most of an inch on Thursday in a huge storm, and more drizzle this morning with the temperature right at 50.

50?! Rain? August in Boise? It's like we went through some black hole of weather and haven't yet poked out into this new universe.

Today in the mountains, it's just "isolated showers" and actually warmer at 7,000 feet than here at 2,600. Calling for "mostly sunny" on Sunday... which would have been our soggy hike out.

4.Aug.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Deep, pan-fried Permalink to this item

I've got a Kindle 1. I bought one book. It's been months since I've read a sentence on it, and there's nothing pulling me back to it. Jane Mayers' The Dark Side has gone nearly moot in the interim, and all that's left to wonder is whether Dick Cheney's moment of reckoning will be in a domestic court, an international court, or at the Pearly Gates.

No need to go into details of the review, it's enough to say that it has no pull. I've got a ton (literally) of books at hand, here at home, and a hop, skip and jump to the nearby Library!

Two generations of improvements, maybe it's enough better that it's worth considering again. Maybe not. Nicholson Baker says what needs to be said about it, I think. More power to the how many thousands who love the thing, but I'm not in the multitude.

"The problem was that the screen was gray. And it wasnít just gray; it was a greenish, sickly gray. A postmortem gray. The resizable typeface, Monotype Caecilia, appeared as a darker gray. Dark gray on paler greenish gray was the palette of the Amazon Kindle.

"This was what they were calling e-paper? This four-by-five window onto an overcast afternoon? Where was paper white, or paper cream? Forget RGB or CMYK. Where were sharp black letters laid out like lacquered chopsticks on a clean tablecloth?"

Happy birthday, Barack! Permalink to this item

A fine day to celebrate being 48, and the President of the United States of America. Whatever those whacked birthers say. (For extra credit, see if you can parse Clayton Cramer's second sentence in his post about the "utterly devastating" hokum that's most recently surfaced.)

Update: Happy birthday to Helen Thomas, too.

Taking astroturf to a new level Permalink to this item

(No offense to makers of legitimate artificial turf.) Seems that Dick Armey is still monkey-wrenching for plutocrats, now as chairman of "FreedomWorks," whose slogan tells us they're all about lower taxes, less government, and more freedom, for corporate interests. Its "unrivalled ability to reach opinion leaders and elected officials with innovative policy ideas and effective strategies for change," includes organized, scripted disruption of meetings with Congresspeople.

Use your freedom to "rock-the-boat early," but "don't carry on and make a scene - just short intermittent shout outs." The bullet points under "Organize for Success" include this gem for working your prepared questions:

"Use the Alinsky playbook of which the Left is so fond: freeze it, attack it, personalize it, and polarize it."

You be the judge: is that more or less attractive than having a lobbying group that fought against workplace smoking restrictions working to kill healthcare reform?

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

Another swan song Permalink to this item

David Carr's report makes it look like magazines peaked about the same time as the music industry did. It's all about the game-changing incremental distribution at zero marginal cost.

100 beers, 4 bands Permalink to this item

Sounds like a good time coming up this weekend in Ann Morrison Park, Boise Beerfest. When they say "Lot's of other great fun to be had for the entire family," I assume they mean it's not all about the beer (or the punctuation). After a couple dozen beers and bour fands, you're libel to have a stray aposterphe or too.

Making music (and money, not so much) Permalink to this item

We're back home, after a week away to Portland just in time for their record heat wave, and a week of making meetings and music at the annual conference of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network. Like a lot of businesses, church business is suffering in the downturn, and everyone has or knows (or will soon know) a story of budget tightening, and "doing more with less."

Part of the 'Swan Songs?' sidebar graphic Church music is connected to things like 35,000 year old bird bone flutes more so than things like "the music business," but there are hard times to go around wherever. There's a remarkable sidebar graph to go with Charles Blow's column from Friday, showing the rise and demise of the "value of [musical] units shipped" in various media, expressing the 1999 peak in no uncertain terms. (I was apparently an early disadopter.)

My own "consumption" of recorded music dwindled with LPs. From Meet the Beatles to the late 1970s, I'd acquired an extensive and eclectic collection of vinyl, much of which is still in the house. In the years since, we've probably collected about as many CDs, but from many more sources than just "big labels."


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Monday, 31-Aug-2009 12:08:06 MDT