September 2004

Wed Sep 01 21:51:39 PDT 2004

A Sign of the Coming Season

Morning fog
Morning fog bank looming over downtown.

One of the sure signs of Indian Summer here is that the nights start getting long enough that they cool down to the point where the air reaches the dew point. Fog formation is helped on such nights by bodies of water being at or near their maximum yearly temperatures from all the heating they got during summer.

This picture was taken yesterday morning, so one might be tempted to say that Indian Summer started on the last day of August this year.

Thu Sep 02 22:18:57 PDT 2004

Why I Call Them Neo-Fascists

You only have to go as far as right-wing radio blowhard Lars Larson's remark tonight that the protesters released today in NYC by court order ought to have been held longer. You see, they were released because they had been held at least thirty-six hours without charges being filed, and New York state law requires detainees to either be charged or released within twenty-four hours. They hadn't been charged, NYC's time to do so had long expired, so the judge ordered them set free now.

Real conservatives would be for honoring something called "the rule of law". The traditional conservative view would be that tampering with a body of laws that had arisen over the centuries just because it appears expedient to do so is a dangerous idea, because the laws that evolved over time represent a form of wisdom more profound than any logic of the moment.

Fascism, by contrast, regards the traditionalist conservative's reluctance to change things quickly with contempt. Change can be as rapid as needed, all that's needed is for it to properly serve the aims of the fascist corporate state. And using state force to suppress non-fascist expressions of political opinion is part of the very essence of fascism.

Mon Sep 06 11:51:25 PDT 2004

A Stereotypical Republican

Go here, read, and understand immediately why many folks (myself included) compare the diehard right-wing's adoration of Monkey Boy with the paeans to the Dear Leader that come out of the so-called "Democratic People's Republic" of Korea.

And I'll bet you dollars to donuts that the diehard right's response to the criticisms visitors have posted on that page will be to attack them as nothing more than the abuse of a bunch of meanies beating up on poor little Laura. No they're not — she just parrots meaningless platitudes that have no relation to any actual truth. Given that, there's not much response that can be made save to point this out. And given the shocking level of support for Monkey Boy, and the ample evidence that Laura has plenty of company (just listen to talk radio), it's completely logical to make the further conclusion that such deluded and unthinking voters constitute the basis of that support.

Whatever the faults in their claims, the two other GOP-leaning voters interviewed for the same story at least are making claims with respect to some sort of external reality. So their critics have some actual claims to criticize. Which they do.

In short, it's not an ad hominem cheapshot to call it as it is.

Thu Sep 09 12:59:22 PDT 2004


Saw it a couple nights ago. In an actual movie theater nonetheless. (Apparently the film has been mainly distributed via DVD and was, in fact released that way.)

From my limited first-hand observations, it was clear that FOX News is to the American neo-fascist movement as Pravda was to the Communist Party of the ex-USSR. The movie makes clear just how much this is so, from talking points and edicts in lockstep with the GOP's agenda to disciplinary actions against journalists that fail to walk in line with them to the wildly imbalanced selection of people they interview.

Getting to see the segment where Bill "Shut Up" O'Reilly interviewed Jeremy Glick (a leftist whose dad was killed on 9/11 and who isn't about to take shit from O'Reilly) was priceless.

Even if Glick did manage to botch the chronology of events in Afghanistan, it's not as if that's much of a defense of O'Reilly. It just makes it crystal clear (a) how little his show is a format for reasoned debate, and (b) how much of a bully and intellectual lightweight O'Reilly really is. I mean, why tell a guest to "shut up" and cut off his mike when you can point out how he's factually incorrect on something?

And it's abundantly clear that Glick's accuracy irks the neo-fascists more than his errors, as is evidenced by the fawning apologia for O'Reilly's response (i.e. cutting his mike and evicting him) because Glick managed to get words in edgewise that the people who fed the flames of Islamic extremism in Afghanistan were "[the] government ... not the people of America ... the people of the ruling class, the small majority".

Not to mention how O'Reilly's totally sleazy attempts to drag Glick's deceased father into the whole thing illustrates how little O'Reilly really cares for the families of the 9/11 victims, and how much O'Reilly, in Glick's words, "... evoke[s] 9/11 to rationalize everything from domestic plunder to imperialistic aggression worldwide."

Thu Sep 09 22:46:36 PDT 2004

If There's Any Doubt

That the Democratic Party engages in dishonorable tactics to win power, this should clear the matter up:

The Court found that the Secretary of State made up "novel" rules for the purpose of applying them to the Nader Campaign. These "unwritten rules" which were "inconsistent" with the law and "not supported by the written administrative rules," and that such rules were "not applied either uniformly or consistently." The Courts specifically noted that the practice of directing the counties to withdraw signature sheets from consideration based on new criteria was unlawful, as was the Secretary's review of signatures which had already been verified as valid by the counties.


"If one needed a closer link between the Bradbury decisions and the Democratic Party, only needed to be in Court yesterday when the Democratic Party's attorney spent considerable time in the middle of open court whispering into the ear of the lawyer for the Secretary of State," said McDougal. "The odd thing is that I felt some surprise, when, of course, I should not have. It was just so brazen."

Full story here.

And no, this doesn't mean that the two major parties are equally vile. Or that the Republicans have sponsored the Nader campaign for no reason at all. Only that anyone who thinks that all that needs to be done is to elect more Democrats is seriously deluded.

Fri Sep 10 10:28:08 PDT 2004

Malkin in Berkeley

So let me get this straight: this neo-fascist bitch who thinks it's OK to deprive others of all their rights for years on end based on nothing more than their race whines because a minor amount of disruption from opponents forced her to repeat a few phrases in her argument that concentration camps are a good idea?

Well, Michelle. Until you start paying attention to the log in your own eye, it's kind of hard to take seriously your pompous ranting about the mote in somebody eles's. Why should anyone take seriously the demands for civil rights of someone who doesn't believe in those rights for others?

Sat Sep 11 12:18:57 PDT 2004

Clash of Civilizations

So, let's look at it from the standpoint of the world's non-white and non-wealthy for a moment.

The first little bit of background we need to understand is what's alluded to by this cartoon of Donald Rooum's. Contrary to widespread popular myth, the obscene expense and hideous environmental nightmares of the nuclear weapons industry did not create peace and deterrence between the US and the USSR.

What it did was to stop direct military conflict between the two, replacing it by proxy wars in which no more than one superpower participated directly. Instead of keeping their lust for blood to themselves, the superpowers sacrificed others — almost always the non-rich and the non-white — on the altar of global imperialism and hegemony. Then they proceeded to lie to their citizens about how nuclear weapons were keeping the peace.

Consider Afghanistan. The imperialist USSR proclaimed it part of its self-declared sphere if influence, and then used dirty tricks to manipulate its government. Then the imperialist USA started shoveling massive amounts of aid to any viable opposition group without much thought how awful their politics might be. So the USSR sent more aid (including military advisors) to their side, then the USA to the rebels. It ended up with actual soldiers of the USSR and massive amounts of aid to rebels viciously fighting them from the USA.

The USSR disappears, the motive behind the proxy war is no longer there, and suddenly for the Afghans it's "Thanks for dying for the sake of our spat, suckers. Now kindly go fuck yourselves. You're a bunch of brown-skinned nobodies and we frankly don't give a rip that our proxy war ruined your country."

Well, golly gee whillikers, just what kind of regime do you expect will arise in such a place anyhow? Especially when the big "winners" in it all were the Islamic extremist groups with US-funded weapons watching the Soviet army and its puppets depart with their tails between their legs?

Is it really that surprising that a people for whom the main "gift" of Western culture was unprecedented, death, misery, impoverishment, and destruction will decide that a return to medieval darkness, whatever its drawbacks, is at least (a) something they understand and are familiar with, and (b) a heck of a lot nicer than the horrors the West visited upon them?

Yes, Western culture is responsible for a lot of good things, like the concepts of democracy, liberty, and human rights. But it's also responsible for creating a pair of genocidal superpowers that murdered millions of the world's poor in their competition for global domination.

Until we understand that, and try to address it, the time will soon come when September 11, 2001 will be looked back on not as a major atrocity, but as a sign of an innocent time when such a minor attack was considered to be a major atrocity.

Remember, one thing terrorists always want to do is to upstage their previous attacks. And Al Qaeda apparently considered attacking a nuclear power station on September 11, then dropped it from consideration "for humanitarian reasons".

Wed Sep 15 23:43:44 PDT 2004

Kryptonite vs. Bic

Rumors have exploded that it's possible to easily pick most Kryptonite bicycle locks with nothing more than a Bic pen. See here and here for two movies of people allegedly doing just that.

Despite my initial skepticism, I'm inclined to believe it, simply because (a) there's already been two movies made of folks doing, and (b) the discussion threads in the two links listed above, plus this one have other folks chiming in and claiming to do it. If it was an urban legend, you'd be more likely to see the same movie being referenced over and over, and nobody claiming to actually having done it themselves. Plus Kryptonite's response falls far short of the sort of categorical denial I think they'd post if the charge was without merit.

Maybe I'm a klutz, maybe I'm the lucky owner of a Kryptonite lock that's immune to such attacks, or maybe I've been hoodwinked by an exceptionally well-coordinated rumor conspiracy, but I've been unable to open my Kryptonite lock after 15 minutes of fiddling around with a Bic pen. Only thing to show for my efforts is a badly mangled plastic tube from a ballpoint pen.

It all begs the question of what to do. More than likely, I'll do nothing for now. The bike stores are probably going to find their shelves stripped of any and all decent non-Kryptonite locks tomorrow. I'll most likely either stick with my existing lock after I learn it's not vulnerable, replace it with a thick piece of chain and heavy-duty padlock from the hardware store if I can't wait for the bike shops to get restocked, or replace it with another bike lock if I can.

Update: And here's yet another movie. Still can't open mine that way. I'm beginning to feel left out.

Thu Sep 16 12:12:34 PDT 2004

"Five Cents?!?" Please!

Take a look at this new design for the nickel. Pay close attention to how the denomination of the coin is stated.

That's right: "FIVE CENTS." Which is really nice if you speak English and know what the phrase "five cents" means. Which is why pretty much everyone else in the world uses numerals somewhere on their coins. Just take a look here at a comparison between the US nickel, the Canadian nickel, and the UK 5 pence coin. Two of the three have a numeral "5" somewhere on them.

Would it have been that hard to put one on the US nickel, given that they're designing a bunch of new dies for it anyhow? Of course not. But in order to be able to do such things, you actually have to be able to think about the other peoples of the world as opposed to just US! US! US! for a while.

Which, of course, is something that most Americans are unwilling to do. We wouldn't have Monkey Boy in the Oval Office declaring unilateral wars of aggression against the wishes of even our long-time allies if we were. So I guess the new design all makes sense in a perverse sort of way.

Thu Sep 16 12:51:21 PDT 2004

The Other Dumb Thing

About the new nickels is that the "ocean in view" design was obviously created by someone who has no familiarity with the part of the coast that Lewis and Clark first saw (and which prompted Lewis to make the entry in his journal from which the quote is taken). So the design got created based on what that person associated with the phrase "Oregon Coast" (or more precisely "Washington Coast" since Lewis and Clark were on the north bank of the Columbia when they spotted the ocean): a rocky, cliffy, coastline.

Much of the coast in this part of the world is indeed like what's pictured on the design. Unfortunately, the coast near the mouth of the Columbia, including the coast along the Long Beach Peninsula first seen by Lewis and Clark, is not. It's along land built up from the the prodigious amounts of sediment the Columbia deposits at its mouth. The coastline is a wide sandy beach ending in low dunes dotted with wind-stunted pine and spruce trees. It's a perfectly pretty coastline, but there's no dramatic sea cliffs in sight.

Thu Sep 16 18:35:59 PDT 2004

Why I Call Them Fascists

Yet another piece of evidence.

Thu Sep 16 21:22:47 PDT 2004

Kryptonite, Again

The mainstream media is picking up on the story.

And I'll disagree with the sentiment expressed towards the end of the article that the Kryptonite brand will survive. Maybe it will, but this story has the smell of the stuff that sinks brand lines to me.

Sat Sep 18 13:19:24 PDT 2004

Sorry, Not Good Enough

That's my impression of Kryptonite's offer to their customers with insecure locks. (Look on their home page for details.)

They've apparently known since the early 1990's about this vulnerability to their locks, yet willingly chose the "security by obscurity" route. Having spent a decade or more digging a hole for themselves, they're gonna have to pay dearly to extricate themselves from it.

My opinion is that anything less than a no-questions-asked recall (where you go into a dealer and give them an insecure Kryptonite-branded lock and they give you a new secure one, no showing of old paper work required, no limitations or strings) is going to leave that brand name permanently tainted. Unless they make a more effective response, in ten years "Kryptonite lock" will be as much of a has-been as "Schlitz beer" is today.

On the personal front, I've switched to using a heavy chain and high-end padlock to secure my bicycles.

Sat Sep 18 13:45:19 PDT 2004

The Gray Flight

... From the suburbs to the city.

And mark my words, it's part of a big trend in the coming years. Suburbs are designed for cars; cities are built for people. Suburbs work fine as long as you can safely operate a motor vehicle. They're even better if you want a backyard you can watch the kids playing in.

But neither condition applies to many of the elderly, who constitute the fastest-growing segment of our population. The days of the old inner-city neighborhoods being "obsolete" are over; now it's increasingly going to be the suburbs that are obsolete.

The extent that the elderly are trapped in suburban neighborhoods that leave them no alternative save to drive a car is, in fact, a major emerging safety issue. Right now, there's lots of elderly people whom in a sane society would not be allowed to drive, but whose friends and health-care providers refuse to turn in to the DMV for a retest because the loss of personal mobility would devastate them. If we had a balanced transportation policy, losing that privilege would be no big deal: they'd just use mass transit.

And don't tell me how paratransit or dial-a-ride is an acceptable alternative for such individuals. It's not. Most such services require clients to make reservations a day or more in advance. Having to plan one's life in advance like that falls far short of the convenience of being able to just walk a few blocks and catch the next train or bus.

Sat Sep 18 15:32:43 PDT 2004

No on 38!

Yes, I've slammed SAIF in the past. Yes, SAIF desperately needs to be reformed in a way that increases its accountability to the public.

Reformed, not abolished. For one thing, I was incorrect calling it a monopoly: it's not, private insurers can and do offer policies that compete with SAIF's. Trouble is, their mandate to turn a profit means they usually can't.

Surprise of surprises, Measure 38 is being bankrolled by none other than Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, who of course stands to benefit big if its more efficient public-sector competitor vanishes.

Not only that, Measure 38 stands to do for workmen's compensation policies what the private insurance industry has done for health insurance: make it unaffordable to small or high-risk businesses. Since such insurance is mandatory by law, Measure 38 is likely to push some small businesses over the edge. That's a bad enough prospect that even the normally anti-public-sector-anything National Federation of Independent Business is engaging in a direct mail campaign against the measure.

Sat Sep 18 19:38:54 PDT 2004

First Day of Autumn

Or maybe not. It's sort of hard to tell, actually. Autumn sort of snuck up this year; the process began with some atypically strong rain storms in late August. Those, however, were accompanied by temperatures more in keeping with a summertime rainy spell than an autumn one. It's definitely come early this year, regardless. Which makes sense as it's cancelling out the past two years when summer weather lasted well into October.

Today the temperature is noticeably cooler. It never really got warm at all; a chill remained in the air all day. Leaving the courtyard on a trip to the store I noticed a single small branch of golden leaves in a linden tree. Just a single branch, and a small one at that, lost amongst the greenery. But it's there nonetheless. Then I noticed the odd scarlet patch in a maple, some walnut leaves turning light yellow, then some turning ash leaves.

So while fall may have been underway prior to today, it definitely is underway now. So today's the day it starts here, for me. It's close enough to the "official" day this year that I may (I said may) even go to the Mabon ritual some friends are holding tomorrow night.

Sat Sep 18 22:55:12 PDT 2004

The Best Government Money Can Buy

As someone who loves having a head of long hair, I find this following discovery to be most annoying.

Five or more years ago, researchers in the UK (you know, home of the National Health Service, that "failed" experiment in "socialized medicine" that never comes up with innovations to match the privatized US system) came up with an ingenious way to stop chemotherapy from making people bald. Have them wear a cold cap that chills the scalp down to 15 or 20 degrees Celsius while receiving their chemo drugs. At that temperature, the hair follicles go semi-dormant and blood circulation to the scalp is greatly reduced. Delivery of the medication to that area of the body is likewise greatly reduced, the follicles survive, and hair loss is prevented. Well, sometimes: it's not a perfect solution. But it works well enough often enough that it's apparently an option that's offered to NHS patients receiving chemotherapy.

Despite widespread success and acceptance in the UK, it's never caught on in the USA. In fact, in my searching tonight I haven't run across any cancer-information site in the USA that mentions the technology at all! Quite surprising, given how hair loss is a dreaded side-effect of the therapy for many people.

Turns out the FDA refuses to allow the technology to be used here. They worry that there might be a few rogue cancer cells hiding in the scalp area that escape destruction if the caps are used. Or so they say. Glaxo Wellcome, you see, is researching a drug to do the same thing as the caps do. It works by blocking the chemo drugs from getting into the scalp, too. But nobody's wringing their hands about that letting some rogue cancer cells survive.

Meanwhile, patients in the USA suffer needlessly while their doctors unwittingly misinform them that there's nothing that can be done. Some even refuse chemotherapy entirely, which puts a whole new twist on all the worrying about letting a few cells in the scalp survive. And anyhow, it's their own damn body. If they want to run the slight risk of cancer coming back because some cancer cells hid out in their scalp, well now isn't that their business?

Oh, nevermind. Everyone knows you can't patent an ice cap. What's the suffering of a countless cancer patients when there's a dollar to be made by the medical-industrial complex?

Sat Sep 18 23:50:25 PDT 2004

In A Possibly Related Story

Glaxo Wellcome is a major contributor to the Republican Party.

Sat Sep 18 23:54:13 PDT 2004

In Another Possibly Related Story

Glaxo has been criticized by an FDA whistleblower for exercising undue influence over the agency.

Sun Sep 19 23:04:49 PDT 2004

On Astrology

First, the general premise that everyone born around the same time of year shares the same essential characteristics should be so totally bogus as to discredit this belief system immediately without the need for further examination. I can think of any number of folks born under my sun sign whom I have very little in common with.

Second, the fact that I've never had anyone successfully determine what my sun sign is when they ask me and I answer with my standard response ("If you believe astrology works so well to describe people, you tell me.") I even tried to help the last person who launched himself into a such a guessing game by saying (truthfully) that nobody had ever successfully guessed.

He guessed wrong, too, of course. Then claimed that my hint actually threw him off because in his opinion resentment at being categorized and pride in not easily being categorized were (according to him) some of the key defining characteristics of my sun sign.

This evening I did a little bit of googling to find out what astrologers consider those characteristics to be. I read at least half a dozen different such descriptions. There were distinct common themes amongst them, but not a single one included the characteristic this friend claimed was the one of the essentials.

Sure, you can tease it out of some of the other listed characteristics, but so what? As with the listed characteristics for all the signs, they're so broad that a little bit of teasing out can tease out practically any characteristic. If it really was such an essential characteristic, you'd think that at least one of the lists of such characteristics would have mentioned it explicitly.

And if you're expecting me to tell you what my sign is here, you're wrong. You have a collection of plenty of my thoughts and beliefs to work with here: if you believe astrology works so well to describe people, you tell me.

Fri Sep 24 09:44:08 PDT 2004

Brown-Nosing Kerry

Air America Radio if full of talk shows attempting to talk their way around Kerry's support of the resolution authoring force in Iraq, and to square it with his newfound criticism of the war there.

My advice: stop wasting your breath; stop wasting electricity at the transmitter.

First, the dangerous lust for power and general untrustworthiness of the Bush Regime to exploit people's fears to that end should have been obvious to all within a week of the attacks on September 11. I managed to figure out that much myself and I don't have a team of high-falutin' political analysts at my disposal.

Second, the resolution Bush wanted (and got), and which Kerry voted for, was overly broad. Many folks figured that out and thus opposed it. Senator Byrd, the only senator who was around to get snowed by the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, saw the similarities and spoke out long and loud against it. Five of the seven congresscritters from my state managed to figure that out and oppose it.

Third, claims of the danger Iraq posed were overblown. The French intelligence service figured that out; the French president — a conservative and a longtime friend of the US — thought it was worth pulling out all the stops to try and warn against the war. Lifetime Republican Scott Ritter, veteran of UN inspection teams in Iraq, figured it out and wrote books and went on a speaking tour to oppose the moves to war.

So, to sum it all up: at the time of the resolution, it was clear that a exceptionally dishonest and power-hungry administration was attempting to stir up unjustified fears about the threat posed by Iraq in order to get an exceptionally broad resolution authorizing the use of military force there passed.

Sorry, Mr. Kerry, your whines of "Oh, poor, poor, me. I was lied to and mislead." just aren't particularly convincing. There's basically two possibilities to explain Kerry's behavior: either he's spineless, or he's unbelievably naive.

I leave it up to the reader to decide which is the case.

Fri Sep 24 09:48:56 PDT 2004

The absurdity of Kerry's arguments is exceeded only by the absurdity of the Bush Campaign's that Kerry's behavior is a reason to support Bush.

I mean, get real now! You're honestly trying to claim that because he was spineless in opposing your creepy agenda that I'm supposed to support that creepy agenda? What kind of Alice in Wonderland logic is that?

Tue Sep 28 08:38:12 PDT 2004

Will It Blow?

That's the question everyone's worrying about the past few days. "It", of course, being Mt. St. Helens, which has been experiencing the level of earthquake activity last seen in 1986 (and the '86 earthquake swarm was followed by an eruption). And the latest NOAA ash cloud trajectories put Portland right in the middle of the fallout should the eruption happen in the next 24 hours.

I wouldn't mind the chance to go up to one of the higher hills and witness an eruption plume, but I'd just as soon miss out on the several weeks of dust and grit that being on the business end of an ash plume involves. I hate lots of dust; it's one of the reasons I left the desert. Unlike snow, ash never melts; it just sits there waiting to be lofted into clouds of dust until all of it is cleaned up and dumped somewhere.

Tue Sep 28 08:45:34 PDT 2004

A More Practical Park Blocks Plan

Neil Goldschmidt's grandiose plan to get rid of buildings he thinks were built by "mistake" is dead. Weep not for it. In its place is a much more practical plan to reunite the park blocks. It involves creating a public park where a surface parking lot now stands (something I always thought was a good idea; surface parking lots have no place in dense urban cores), and some comparatively minor streetscape changes in the blocks between the North and South Park Blocks. No building demolitions are involved.

The automobiles-uber-alles crowd might whine about the streetscape changes slowing car traffic, but anyone familiar with the streets in question knows that's mostly a non-issue. The north/south "avenues" in the "missing park blocks" area are so narrow that it's silly to call them "avenues". Right now they only allow a single lane of traffic between parked cars and are some of the slowest streets downtown to drive on.

Thu Sep 30 13:41:59 PDT 2004

Debates Irrelevant?

Considering the way the media gets played by the ruling elite (heck, considering how it's part and parcel of the ruling elite) how likely is it that Monkey Boy's crashing and burning tonight will be allowed to hurt his chances?

If he clearly loses, don't say he lost. Instead, attack Kerry for beating up on him and being an evil heartless elitist liberal intellectual out to personally destroy anyone who doesn't conform to proper liberal standards of political correctness.

That's assuming the debate (whose terms have been engineered by Monkey Boy to minimize his chances of making a fool of himself) is capable of that as structured. Then again, it may still be, given how Monkey Boy has difficulty constructing coherent sentences longer than three words.

Reasonable? Far-fetched? We'll see tonight and in the next few days.

Thu Sep 30 15:56:53 PDT 2004

Why the Debates Are Bogus

An expert weighs in.

Thu Sep 30 16:37:26 PDT 2004

For Every Expert Opinion, There Can be Found an Equal but Opposing Expert Opinion

That's my take on the whole Mt. St. Helens business.

Some scientists think magma is involved. Others think it's just steam and superheated water. Some think the existing lava dome is deforming upward, others think the instrument recording that movement was knocked by an earthquake and there's no dome movement. Some think it's a dying gasp from the 80's, others speculate that the volcano is entering another active phase and there will be semi-regular eruptions for the next five or ten years.

The general consensus, however, is that some sort of eruption probably is in the works (the latest odds are 70% some time in the next few months). It could happen tomorrow, but there's also about a 30% chance that nothing will happen.

Murphy says it will either happen on the day my flight is scheduled to leave for New Mexico, or when it's due to come back. And since volcanic ash can stall jet engines, if and when something happens lots of flights are going to be canceled.

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