April 2005

Thu Apr 07 10:46:40 PDT 2005

I'm back at last. Some quick observations on the trip, in no particular order:

Thu Apr 07 12:06:13 PDT 2005

Good Riddance to Bad Texans

It took a while for the corpse to stop convulsing, but one month after the Oregon Public Utilities Commission drove a wooden stake through its heart, the PGE/Texas Pacific deal is finally dead.

One of the things that happened while I was away was that the Willamette Week reporter that broke the Neil Goldschmidt sex scandal story won a Pulitzer prize. That story, and how it finally disgraced the self-serving, unelected, corrupt godfather of Oregon politics played a key role in sabotaging the deal (which had been backed by Goldschmidt).

It's been interesting to read the papers over the past few months. After Tom Potter, Portland's newly-elected progressive mayor, spoke in favor of municipalizing PGE, the mainstream press has no longer completely written off the idea of public ownership. This trend only accelerated once the OPUC surprised me and actually did the right thing by nixing the deal.

Suddenly, the conventional wisdom being parroted went from “this is an era of privatization and deregulation, and any concept of a public takeover is far-fetched because it runs counter to the trend” to “while it's unusual to contemplate a public takeover in this era of privatization and deregulation, public ownership appears to offer the best hope for rate stability, and it's actually worked successfully in many other parts of the USA.”

And, far from demonstrating the value of working within the system, the whole story actually demonstrates the opposite. Another key part of making the deal collapse was when an anonymous staffer somewhere decided to violate a contractual vow of secrecy and leaked the secret documents to the Willamette Week, which then proceeded to publish a summary (also written by Nigel Jaquiss) of all the dirt they contained.

Had that not happened (and there was no way for it to happen save for someone ignoring the law and taking direct action to tear the veil of secrecy), there wouldn't have been half the public pressure on the OPUC to stop the deal. It would have probably gone through.

Thu Apr 07 13:47:00 PDT 2005

Why Is This Not a Surprise?

Last weekend, I learned that so-called Daylight Saving Time (how silly; daylight can't be saved) was first explicitly proposed not by Benjamin Franklin but William Willett, a bossy capitalist morning person who decided that just because he, personally, loved to get up at the crack of dawn and ride his horse around, everybody should be forced to get up earlier. For their own good, of course.

I had always suspected the scheme had a bossy morning person behind it. Really now, “bossy morning person” is a redundancy; all morning people tend to be bossy, assume everyone else has their preferences, and want to force others to do as they do.

And now Congress wants to extend the damn thing yet again. Fuck you very much. I find it hard enough to get awake in October at this latitude; making me suffer through another month of morning darkness is the last thing I need.

As far as I'm concerned, standard time is the real daylight saving time, as it makes for bright mornings that are easier to awaken to.

Fri Apr 08 22:00:12 PDT 2005

Well, so Much for That

Flight went horribly, interview went horribly.

I think I'll focus on more positive and pleasant things. Have I mentioned that I'm due for a dental appointment?

Sat Apr 09 08:41:44 PDT 2005

And in the Meantime

Nobody seems to be paying attention to the struggles for freedom in Haiti. Could it be that the “liberal media” isn't that interested in reporting on the dirt done by a government that the Bush regime installed? Say it ain't so!

Sun Apr 10 08:59:25 PDT 2005

Pinch Me: KXL Doesn't Completely Suck

This morning I discover (after finally recovering from the sleep deficit caused by the hellish trip to San Francisco) that the nominally right-wing hot-talk station hosts Oregon Crossfire, which has to be one of the better commercial talk-radio shows I've heard recently.

And yes, that includes the shows on Air America Radio, which all too often end up being mental masturbation for establishment liberals (in the same way that the right-wing talk networks mostly end up being mental masturbation for conservatives). I find the former only infinitesimally less boring than the latter.

The hosts on Oregon Crossfire actually argue with each other (and pretty much every caller). Unlike the PBS television show by the same name, Oregon Crossfire actually pairs a liberal with teeth against a conservative with teeth; none of this milquetoast liberal versus rabid attack dog conservative bullshit one sees on PBS.

Of course, it still ends up portraying liberalism as the only respectable left-of-center viewpoint possible. This is the establishment media we're talking about, after all.

Tue Apr 12 12:52:25 PDT 2005

USFS: Cutting Recreation to Subsidize Logging

This article doesn't exactly come right out and say it, but it's not hard to read between the lines and see what's going on (emphasis added):

The squeeze is driven in part because President Bush's Healthy Forest Initiative, a push to thin flammable Western forests, is diverting money away from the upkeep of forest facilities.
In other words, cutting recreational funding so that logging can be subsidized under the pretext of reducing fire threat.

Wed Apr 13 17:47:47 PDT 2005

Hidden Motives, Anyone?

I suspect that exacting revenge on Canada and Mexico for not jumping on the Iraq War bandwagon has at least something to do with the stupid proposal to require passports for travel to these countries.

I mean, consider the basic fact: 9/11 happened nearly four years ago. If it really was a needed security measure, it should have been done long ago.

And as for inane comments like:

And essentially what we're asking U.S. citizens and Canadian citizens … is to consider travel in and out of the U.S. into those particular areas as equivalent to traveling to Europe or Asia.
Look at the fucking map, you idiot. Travel to Canada or Mexico is not anything like travel to Europe or Asia.

Traveling to Europe or Asia means shelling out big bucks for an ocean-crossing plane flight, and because the flight is so unpleasant and tiring, setting aside a big block of time and planning well in advance for the trip. If you live in San Diego or Detroit (to pick two examples), traveling to Mexico or Canada is not even remotely comparable. You can drive there in your car (or even take a mass-transit bus or train!) on the spur of the moment for an afternoon's excursion.

Requiring government red tape and a nearly $100 fee for week's long trip involving a $1000 plane ticket is one thing. Requiring it for an afternoon's trip involving a few bucks of gas money or transit fare is unquestionably onerous. Even for cases like a Seattleite spending a weekend in Vancouver, it ends up being ridiculous.

I can't help but see the whole thing as a giant step backwards. Europe has been busy over the past few decades dismantling internal borders and making travel easier. And here we are going the other way.

Wed Apr 13 20:47:30 PDT 2005

The Centrifuge

I've been searching for something more honest to call Oh Really's so-called “no-spin zone” for several weeks, and I just came up with the perfect word. Hard to think of a machine that spins faster.

Wed Apr 13 21:43:13 PDT 2005

Totalitarian Capitalism

Totalitarian not in the sense that no criticism is tolerated and the secret police will disappear anyone guilty of making any, but in the sense that it's an ideology that seeks reshape all aspects of life into its mold, no exceptions.

That's what comes to mind upon reading stories like this.

We seem to be coming closer and closer to era of “I Dreamt I was Ice-Fishing in My Maidenform Bra.” The latter being the title of the most famous painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Kornbluth and Pohl's science fiction classic (and story of capitalist dystopia) The Space Merchants.

Wed Apr 13 22:09:10 PDT 2005

Rogue Nations that Harbor Terrorists


Sat Apr 16 11:04:20 PDT 2005

Right-Wing Blowhards

Why I call them such and why my doing so cannot be explained simply in terms of my disagreeing with there politics can be easily explained by looking at this exchange between Sean Hannity and one of his guests on Hannity & Colmes.

When they start showing some evidence of being able to follow and address an argument, I'll consider not calling them blowhards.

Wed Apr 20 10:31:14 PDT 2005

Rats! What a Zinger!

As if the new pope will pay any attention to Mark Morford.

We already know he's a hardline conservative, to the point where he has nothing to offer the majority of Westerners, especially Europeans. The question is whether he has any of John Paul II's concept of economic justice. I haven't seen any evidence pro or con this way; everything just seems to focus on his doctrinal conservatism.

If he doesn't, then he basically has nothing much to offer Catholics anywhere, because while believers in the Third World tend not to be as interested in doctrinal modernization, they are typically very preoccupied with simply surviving the poverty they live in. Someone who's main interest is carping on ideological battles important to First Worlders isn't going to be very relevant to them.

Wed Apr 20 11:25:27 PDT 2005

Google Maps

Been having some fun with the satellite imagery at Google Maps.

What's interesting is what is and is not in there at high resolution. If you look carefully, it seems as if the roof (only the roof) of the White House has been grayed out. Some of courtyard areas of a nearby building have been pixelated to destroy resolution. But curiously, it's possible to zoom in on the Pentagon in full detail. There's no detailed information available for a big chunk of land around and including Los Alamos National Laboratory, but it's been done crudely. Some of the outlying “technical areas” — including a radioactive waste dump and the site where high explosive atomic weapons triggers are (or were, when I lived there) tested — appear in glorious full detail. The main residential area (completely non-classified and open to all comers just like any other town) is caught up in the degraded region, but the outlying bedroom community of White Rock (where I lived as a teen) is in full detail.

This entry would be incomplete without a passing comment on what kind of data the government must have, if stuff like this is available for free to all comers, and what that means for privacy. And how technological advancement in general poses real threats to privacy and freedom.

Fri Apr 22 08:27:41 PDT 2005

“Friends” Who Try to Live Your Life for You

That's what I have to call the sorry excuses for human beings who, when told I don't have time to spend on their pet cause or interest, ask what I'm doing that makes me so busy. What they're really asking is: justify your bizarre interests that aren't the same as mine, and thus prove you should be allowed to not spend time on my pet interest.

Fuck them. They have their interests and priorities, I have mine.

Moreover, my mind doesn't work in such a way that I can rattle off a list of my current projects extemporaneously. I have long-term lists of things to do, short-term lists, lists of things that can be dropped from the long-term list when (not if) I fall too behind, lists of dependencies of one to-do item on another, etc. If I had the kind of mind that could satisfy their selfish and disrespectful little question, I wouldn't need all those damn lists in the first place.

Mon Apr 25 10:01:57 PDT 2005


Ran into a racing scull on my bike last Friday. Got knocked out. Ambulance was called. Woke up in the hospital with a bunch of cuts and scrapes and a chipped tooth but no broken bones.

Tue Apr 26 21:27:22 PDT 2005

Never a Dull Moment

It appears that one of my wounds from Friday's mishap is getting infected. Or maybe it's just an allergic reaction to the dissolving sutures (very likely, as I get reactions to nearly everything). I'm normally very reluctant to take antibiotics (I think they're way overused), but for something that might create a visible and deforming scar, I make exceptions.

And, not surprisingly, I have a cold thanks to the air-conditioning system circulating germs through the sealed hospital building.

Wed Apr 27 22:01:56 PDT 2005

The Problem With Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)

At first it seems like a slam dunk. Gas is being flared off in huge quantities in the Middle East because in the course of producing oil, the wells produce far more gas than the Mideast nations can consume, and there's not sufficient pipelines to convey the gas to where there's demand for it (Europe).

Assuming the oil is going to be extracted, if the associated gas could be liquefied and shipped in tankers to where it's in demand, one would get an increase in available energy with no increase in greenhouse gases (since the CO2 emitted is the same whether it comes from a few big flares or millions of space heaters, water heaters, and stovetop burners).

But LNG is dangerous stuff. It has to be kept very cold to be kept liquid. Water at any temperature is so vastly warmer than it as to make it flash-boil. Water has a goodly heat capacity. And water is exactly what the LNG tankers will be floating in seas of. Any LNG spill on the seas is thus a very short prelude to an immense cloud of flammable gas and a fuel-air explosion that could rival a nuclear detonation in its violence.

So don't expect any LNG terminals to go in existing port cities and industrial areas. Fear of massive explosions will drive them to locate in what are currently pristine or mostly pristine natural areas.

It gets better. Or, should I say, worse. In general, the big port cities are big port cities because they were endowed by geography with the best and safest harbors. The areas that have been overlooked for big port construction are the second-rate areas, the ones that don't make harbors that are as good or as safe. Thus making the feared catastrophes more likely.

Thu Apr 28 23:15:33 PDT 2005


At the hospital, they warned me that concussion patients often suffer through a period of depression. It's happening, and it's not being helped by the fact that wound that's healing the worst is in a very visible part of my face.

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Last updated: Tue Sep 13 16:14:09 PDT 2011