Friday, October 31, 2008

Shuckin' Fit!

Over the past few years there have been some fleeting uses of profanity on television during live programs. The FCC decided to outlaw such occurrences and fine broadcasters for allowing them. To protect themselves broadcasters use a few seconds delay so a censor can ensure Bono doesn't let go with another "really fucking brilliant" at another awards ceremony. However the courts reversed the FCC who then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is going to hear the case.

The case to be heard first on Tuesday is, in fact, about profanity — what two widely used, vulgar words mean, at least in legal terms, and what the government can do about punishing their use, at least on radio and television in daytime and prime time.

For an entertaining read that's related to the topic, please check this out.

But I Can Dance with Two Left Feet

Today I brought my shoes, shorts, and t-shirt so I could go for a run at lunch. Halfway through changing clothes I discovered the pair of shoes I brought consisted of two different shoes made for the right foot.

Well, I suppose it could be done. But not comfortably.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

At Least Jesse James Was Up Front About It

From an article in The Nation:

The swindle of American taxpayers is proceeding more or less in broad daylight, as the unwitting voters are preoccupied with the national election. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson agreed to invest $125 billion in the nine largest banks, including $10 billion for Goldman Sachs, his old firm. But, if you look more closely at Paulson's transaction, the taxpayers were taken for a ride--a very expensive ride. They paid $125 billion for bank stock that a private investor could purchase for $62.5 billion. That means half of the public's money was a straight-out gift to Wall Street, for which taxpayers got nothing in return.

The president of the United Steel Workers is paying attention.

"This is no different than if you paid me $10,000 for a car for which no one else would pay more than $5,000," writes Leo Gerard. "You bought it for $5,000 and gifted me the other $5,000."

A final looting of the public treasury before a change of administration? Of course not! What kind of people do you think they are? Or do you live in a not-so-pro-America part of the country?

Say, where's your flag pin?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Four-Seater Tandem

A fellow in Texas shows some creativity in making room for the kids on a tandem. I wonder if he uses bungee cords on the water pipes in his basement.

Clear As Mud And Plain As Day

What does this mean exactly?

"[w]hoever, during and in relation to any felony violation enumerated in [§ 1028A(c)] knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person shall, in addition to the punishment provided for such felony, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 2 years.”

Ignacio Carlos Flores-Figueroa, a Mexican national, was convicted of aggravated identity theft. You can read a synopsis here. He appealed his conviction, arguing that the law says that he had to know the identification he was using actually belonged to another person. The Eight Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his conviction (PDF) stating:

On appeal, Flores renews his argument that 18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1) requires the Government to prove that a defendant knew that the means of identification belonged to another person. Section 1028A(a)(1) states that “[w]hoever, during and in relation to any felony violation enumerated in [§ 1028A(c)] knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person shall, in addition to the punishment provided for such felony, be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 2 years.” The Government argues that “knowingly” modifies only “transfers, possesses, or uses,” whereas Flores argues that “knowingly” modifies not only “transfers, possesses, or uses,” but also the phrase “of another person,” which would require the Government to prove that a defendant knew the means of identification belonged to another person.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case and decide just exactly what the law means. How will they do that? Justice Scalia wrote in A Matter of Interpretation (start at page 31) that what matters is what the law says, not what Congress intended. So the history of how the law came about and what Congress intended to do with the law has no weight whatsoever. It will be interesting to see what the court comes up with next June.

I imagine some law clerks will be consulting some English professors.

Look At The Bright Side

With the season's oncoming darkness and coldness--no, he was elected eight years ago--I return to riding the STA bus to work. I take the 124 Express from Hastings Park 'n' Ride. When that route started early this year a multitude of parking spaces in the lot were at my disposal and I would luxuriously sprawl across two seats, if luxury exists on a STA bus, quietly sing along with my iPod and disturb not a soul. All that has changed. If I catch the 7:00 am bus, I have to arrive almost 15 minutes beforehand--when the 6:45 bus leaves--in order to park in the lot. Otherwise, I am relegated to the street with the other unlucky patrons. The bus is packed with riders and I must pile my gym bag and backpack on my lap and I sing along with Death Cab For Cutie in my head.

It's great this many people are not driving those extra 9 miles to work.

Faith In Fellow Man Or Fear Of Him?

Do you think people are generally good? Does a person's religion or race make you suspicious? Are you concerned about "them"? Mark Klempner presents a thoughtful essay on the American psyche.

Perhaps the hardest truth for progressives to face is how the profound political and moral disappointments of the last eight years have eroded our own sense of hope and our own belief that the electorate can become more informed and less divided. We, too, hate "the Other," but it is the guy in the grocery store with a hunting jacket and six-pack, or the woman behind us at the gas pump with a "Rush is Right" sticker on her Suburban. We, too, have swallowed the banefully binary worldview of the present administration that reduces everything to "us" and "them."

Ruminate. Cogitate. Mull it over.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Why Are You Looking At Last Month?

Hmmm, there's something strangely appealing about a woman on skis with a rifle strapped to her back. Especially these Canadian biathletes.

Hang on...just a second...I want to see what day my birthday is! I'm sorry...what? Um...objectifying who?'s your birthday?

Going Down The Tubes

Senator it's-a-series-of-tubes Ted Stevens was found guilty on all seven counts of making false statements on his disclosure forms. No doubt he is thankful that the Federal Sentencing Guidelines are, as decided by the Supreme Court three years ago, advisory instead of mandatory. So the judge can give him less prison time than the guidelines call for.

Hmmm, or more.

Monday, October 27, 2008

But She's Trying Really Hard

I received another email from Cathy McMorris Rodgers. It must be election time or something.

I recently introduced the Kids with Healthy Hearts Act, H.R. 7052, that would create a demonstration project to provide up to five competitive grants to school districts to take the blood pressure readings of children in kindergarten through sixth grade to help identify children with hypertension or early signs of hypertension. Students found with high blood pressure would be referred to a health care provider by the school nurse and information would be provided to the family on the risks and health problems associated with hypertension.

There is a dramatic increase in the number of American children who are becoming markedly overweight. The relationship between hypertension, diabetes and obesity is a very significant health concern. More and more children are exercising less, and eating increasing amounts of widely available, inexpensive foods high in fat, sugar and salt.

Lack of exercise probably has nothing to do with the highly valued car-centric lifestyle we need in order to go to school, church, buy groceries, or do just about anything. People don't eat inexpensive foods high in fat, sugar and salt just because it's what they can afford. And that high fructose corn syrup you find on just about any ingredient label doesn't contribute to the high rates of obesity and diabetes in America. Our Congresswoman is correct to be concerned about the health of our children, and what does she want to do about it? Check their blood pressure. How comprehensive and meaningful is that?

The problem here is that I'm missing what's really important. Kids With Healthy Hearts Act sounds very, very nice.

Lights Out

I was riding to work this morning and my homemade bike light faithfully showed me the way. About five miles into the ride I smelled something burning. I figured it must've been from some car exhaust. But the smell stuck with me for another mile or so even after I'd made a couple of turns. What could it be? I didn't see smoke coming from anywhere. It was puzzling. Then I hit that stretch of road next to the state Department of Transportation building. How fitting that the roughest part of the north-south bike route is there. I'm bumping along at a good clip when suddenly, plink! The light, as if dodging some oncoming danger, extracted itself from the PVC fixture and dove off to the right in a suicidal smash on the asphalt.

The light had gotten hot enough to heat the caulk seal around the bulb and the vibration from the bumpy road shook it loose. Bummer.

Sometimes we have faith in something and I, like Kip below (last 16 seconds), learned that sometimes it lets us down.

Fortunately, by this time there was enough daylight so I didn't need the headlight for the last couple of miles. But still. Dang it!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"From that day on, if I was ever going somewhere, I was running!"

Josh finished up another season running for Mead High School. The Greater Spokane League JV Championships were held at Mead yesterday. We showed up early for the race and saw it was already in progress--Hey, Josh just ran by! The race officials moved the race up. We had to scramble so we could see him finish--14th overall. Josh suffered through a lot of growing pains, literally, in his legs and they've just started to taper off. He hopes to be much better for track in the spring. Regardless, I'm impressed with his toughness and discipline.

Pumpkins Are Carved

I'n not exactly sure which holiday Josh and Steph are thinking about.

I played around with the image and Josh's looks like coal-fired pumpkin.

Steph's star belly pumpkin.

"until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew
whether this one was that one or that one was this one
or which one was what one... or what one was who."

No Religious Test Shall Ever Be Required...

Larry Beinhart has an article on Alternet about keeping religion away from the ballot box. Short and to the point comparisons of political leaders of past and present.

You can see how this affects us today. Early last year Fox News fabricated a story about Barack Obama being educated in a madrassa as a child. As a result of that the emails that so many people rely upon for their news helped spread the rumor that he's a Muslim. Instead of answering, "What difference does it make?" in today's society we have to insist that he's a Christian and has been going to the same church for over 20 years.

Religion, values, or whatever you want to call it serves no purpose in this regard other than to appeal to base emotions. How difficult it is today to think about and discuss issues.

Even for me.

Your Gonna Get Your Mind Right. And I Mean Right!

Today's Spokesman-Review has an article (bummer: registration required) about some ultra, or depending on your perspective they could be extreme or insane, cyclists and runners who reside in our area. I find the psychology of this interesting and I wish I could explore it more. Rachel Toor touches on it a little in the article. Essentially, and I present this as light humor, it's crazy people who do this with other crazy people who in turn don't think their crazy.

These people are unbelievably tough. I followed David Blaine's Great Divide Project and the incredible conditions he and the other competitors suffered through during the race. A local triathlete recently finished the Portland Marathon and was disappointed in his performance. Not long after he went to his doctor because he wasn't feeling well. Turned out he had a strep infection so severe they had to cut open his chest cavity to clean it out. I read with disbelief the torture of the Furnace Creek 508. (BTW the SR got one part wrong. It's not 3,000 feet of climb. It's more like 36,000.)

The mind that can endure that kind of punishment is certainly different from my own.

And I'm okay with that.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Yes, What Is A Reasonable Conclusion?

During my evening journey through the series of tubes I happened upon this Christian Broadcasting Network article asking the question, Should Christians celebrate Halloween?

Halloween is a real, sacred day for those who follow Wicca. In fact, it is one of two high and holy days for them. The Celtic belief of spirits being released is current, along with the worship of Samhain (the lord of death) – both are promoted as something to embrace on that day. There is no question in my mind that to those who believe and follow the practices of witchcraft, Halloween represents an opportunity to embrace the evil, devilish, dark side of the spiritual world.

So after discovering this, what is a reasonable conclusion? As Christians you and I are placed in this world to be a light in a world of darkness. There is no lasting benefit to ignore a holiday that exists around us, but it also does harm to celebrate Halloween as it has originated and grown over the centuries.

My suggestion? Christians should be teaching their children (age appropriately) that:

* there is a spiritual world filled with goodness from God and evil from Satan (Eph. 2:1-10);
* life with Christ has power over darkness (I John 4:4); and
* those who celebrate Halloween either are unaware of its roots, or are intentionally promoting a world where evil is lauded and viewed as an ultimate power.

My concern here is that the author is missing the entire point of Halloween which is to make money. Stores sell costumes, decorations and candy. Kids running from house to house are only thinking about how much candy they're going to get. Nobody is "celebrating" anything but it is an excuse to have a fun time. In a black and white world you are either a light in a world of darkness or you are a part of that darkness and must be overcome.

Me, I choose to live in a world of vibrant colors and the inherent goodness of people. Lighten up, CBN, and try the kitty litter cake.

Ding, Ding. Smile!

Turn your bicycle bell into a camera mount. I don't recommend it for a video camera. The shaking and vibration will make it shut down.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

TSA Security Theater Redux

Last Friday I mentioned an article in The Atlantic in which the author used a variety of means to defeat airport security. Kip Hawley, TSA Administrator, provided this response on the TSA blog. There are quite of few insightful comments that follow.

Turnout de Tour

I imagine in a city of millions, getting 5,000 cyclists to turn out for a ride is pretty good. In comparison, Spokane County's population is about 500,000 so getting 1255 people to come out for Spokefest is saying something. Can't wait for the next one.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Hoax Tree Needs More Sunshine

The one thing that bothers me about the manufactured outrage about ACORN is that so few are telling it like it is. The reason we know about questionable registration forms is because they are identified as such by ACORN when they turn them in.

I Watch My Food More Closely Than My News

Recently I wrote about a student in Kentucky arrested for writing a story about zombies taking over the high school. While I was using the Google to find out more information this morning I discovered the article I referenced had no date on it and that this incident happened back in March of 2005. I apologize for being so sloppy. There's more info about the kid here if you're interested, but I have yet to find out what the final outcome to this was.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Poignant Moment

During lunch today I went for a run on the Centennial Trail. As I neared Mission Park I saw an elderly couple, a woman riding an electric scooter chair and a man carrying a walker. It looked like he was going to help her out of the chair so she could use the walker. They had their backs to me as I passed them by.

I turned around at the park and headed back. Approaching the couple I recognized the woman. As a child I lived a few houses away from her. Since returning to Spokane 13 years ago I had seen her a few times, once when I attended her 80th birthday party. Man, she loved to dance the polka and did so unlike anyone I'd seen at that age. I hadn't seen her for about four years so I stopped to say hi.

I addressed her by her name and as she looked at me with a fierce intensity that told me she was trying to figure out who I was. I told her my name and my mom's name and a big smile of recognition broke out. We chatted for a while and in between familiar subjects she asked questions like, Do you go to school here? Are you walking home? I politely told her what I was doing. She was now 89 and she'd had a stroke recently. Not only did it affect her mobility but she also had a hard time remembering things. Both she and her husband filled me in on what it was like to live in the nearby assisted living home. It's all old people. She didn't like socializing with people there because she never remembered what they told her. It is very frustrating for her.

Then she started asking me some of the same questions about my family she had asked before. I answered as if I was doing so for the first time and she expressed the same emotions as before. Both I and her husband smiled back at her, letting her enjoy the moment. But his eyes were unable to conceal the sadness at this reminder that the woman he loved was ever so slowly slipping away.

Kathy Runs Like A Girl

The girl of my dreams ran the Nike Women's Marathon last Sunday. She was hoping to finish in 4:30, but as you can see from the race profile below, the hills had other ideas.

When you're running a long distance any incline slows you down and sucks the life out of you and San Francisco is not know for its level terrain.

She did not let the hills defeat her. I knew they wouldn't.

Not as fast as she planned, but she finished nonetheless. This was her last marathon since she just learned that a hip injury she sustained in a skiing accident 10-1/2 years ago has put the kibosh on any more long distance running. So she'll be switching to cycling.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fortune Smiles

Last Friday afternoon I was lucky enough to sit in on a writer's workshop by Lee Gutkind. He started the first creative nonfiction program at the University of Pittsburgh about 15 years ago. The circumstances that led to this are interesting. My sister is in the Master of Fine Arts program at Boise State University. She happened to stumble across a notice that the Inland Northwest Center for Writers, an extension of Eastern Washington University, was bringing Lee Gutkind in to do a workshop at the center followed by a reading at Auntie's. She called and received permission to attend and told me I should do the same. To make a long story short, last Friday this humble computer geek blogger sat in a room with about 15 graduate students and listened to Mr Gutkind for almost two hours. Then the group--I sat back and soaked it all up--workshopped two essays written by two of the students in the group. It was an amazing experience for me and it gave me a whole new perspective on writing as well as analyzing what I'm reading.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

North Addison near Rich

I took this on the way home from work on Thursday. You can see the driver just at the right of the picture. He came out while I was taking the picture and glared at me. I had to wait for traffic before I could get up next to his truck and get his license. He didn't wait for traffic, scurried around to the driver's door, got in and drove off. I didn't get the whole plate on the trailer. I think he got the hint though.

It's Okay, They Have a Note From Their Parents

It turns out that the Bush administration did explicitly authorize the use of torture against suspected terrorists.

The Bush administration issued a pair of secret memos to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 that explicitly endorsed the agency's use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding against al-Qaeda suspects -- documents prompted by worries among intelligence officials about a possible backlash if details of the program became public.

Since 2001, the administration has been very creative in providing CYA (cover your ass) for all parties involved. The Justice Department redefines torture as enhanced interrogation techniques. The CIA gets permission to use enhanced interrogation techniques. The President says we don't torture. Any maltreatment or torture exposed to the public eye is the work of a few bad apples at the bottom of the ladder. How much longer can they make that work for them?

Not that we'll ever get to the bottom of all this and do something to correct it. It's not politically possible or expedient. And it really bothers me to be so pessimistic.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Will It Play In Peoria?

Have you ever wondered if the airport security screening really accomplishes anything? Check out this article and remove all doubt. It appears to be security theater after all.

During one secondary inspection, at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, I was wearing under my shirt a spectacular, only-in-America device called a “Beerbelly,” a neoprene sling that holds a polyurethane bladder and drinking tube. The Beerbelly, designed originally to sneak alcohol—up to 80 ounces—into football games, can quite obviously be used to sneak up to 80 ounces of liquid through airport security. (The company that manufactures the Beerbelly also makes something called a “Winerack,” a bra that holds up to 25 ounces of booze and is recommended, according to the company’s Web site, for PTA meetings.) My Beerbelly, which fit comfortably over my beer belly, contained two cans’ worth of Bud Light at the time of the inspection. It went undetected. The eight-ounce bottle of water in my carry-on bag, however, was seized by the federal government.

We Have Them In Our Sights, Sir

Last night I picked up my sister at the airport. One aspect of the Arrivals sign gets to me every time. For about five minutes before a plane lands its status is listed as "In Range".

A Felony Based On Fiction?

A high school junior in Kentucky was arrested for a story he wrote about zombies that overran a high school. He was turned in by his grandparents.

"My story is based on fiction," said Poole, who faces a second-degree felony terrorist threatening charge. "It's a fake story. I made it up. I've been working on one of my short stories, (and) the short story they found was about zombies. Yes, it did say a high school. It was about a high school over ran by zombies."

Even so, police say the nature of the story makes it a felony. "Anytime you make any threat or possess matter involving a school or function it's a felony in the state of Kentucky," said Winchester Police detective Steven Caudill.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of detail in the article so I have several unanswered questions. But I find it disturbing that the nature of the story makes it a felony. It's a story. If it's not a story then how could he possibly carry out the threat of creating these zombies that overrun a high school? Do these people think Chopper Chicks in Zombietown was a documentary?

We have gone from taking every threat seriously to taking everything as a threat. I remember not long after the September 11 attacks, Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, told us that Americans need to be careful what they say from now on. He wasn't kidding, huh?

What's the best way to respond to this? Every high school English teacher in Kentucky should assign each student to write a story about zombies overrunning a high school.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

An Exception To Every Rule

Over the years I've collected words that show how difficult the English language is. Here's a sample.

through, cough, dough, plough, rough
cove, move, love
nose, dose, lose
flour, tour, your
brood, flood, good
beat, threat, great
batch, watch
bomb, comb, womb
ponder, wonder
now, low
stork, work
sand, wand
cone, done
drought, fought
brown, grown
few, sew
fraught, draught
bead, dead
number, dumber
tower, mower
con, ton
book, spook
fury, bury

I would love for someone to explain the rules of pronunciation to me. While it's great that immigrants learn our language, we certainly don't make it easy for them. Hence, the reason the children pick it up faster than the adults. They're immersed in it. They grow up with it. Yet whenever immigration is an issue--a manufactured hot button topic--the language difference is always brought up. Immigrants should be required to speak our lawless English which should also be our official language.

Well, hey, like the man says...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How Did I Get In Their Address Book?

I received an email today from the Illinois Republican Party.

Illinois Early and Absentee Voting Now Underway!

Now more than ever, your vote is critical. And there's no better way to vote than by voting early, or with an absentee ballot.

Voting early, or with an absentee ballot, is the best way to avoid long lines on Election Day and get your vote counted.

I guess I'll have to vote absentee.


Someone asked me what it was like to be a macroverbumsciolist. I admitted that it wasn't bad and that sometimes it has its good points. But overall, I couldn't complain. He smiled and thanked me and went on his way. After he left I looked it up.

Hey, wait a minute....

Maybe We'll Be Surprised

The last of the presidential "debates" is on. And here's the reason why you should watch-NOT!

Fiasco Four-Squared

Fiasco #16 surprisingly had about 50 people brave the cold and the ride "up the hill".

We started out at The Swamp and ended up at Hangar 57. Lots of huffing and puffing could be heard as a few of the lifetime members for life had to work extra hard for the best spoke card yet.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Deafening Silence

Remember back during the "debate" between the vice presidential candidates, Joe Biden said:

Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history. The idea he doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that. [..] The idea he's part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.

I bet you've been amazed at how the media has been chasing, exploring, and investigating that.

Yeah. Me, too.

This Almost Slipped By Me

President Bush is a two-digit midget.

No, I'm not referring to his IQ.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Wonderland Trail

I almost forgot I put this together. I'm still working on the story (and hoping it turns out halfway decent) but here's some photos of me and my brother John from our backpacking trip on the Wonderland Trail. Music is by Rusted Root.

Backpacking the Wonderland Trail from h greer on Vimeo.

There's No Time Like The Future

If you're like me and a lot of other people I've read about recently, your investments have lost a lot of their value. Mine are down 32 per cent and that was even after moving a sizable chunk to safer ground a couple months ago. While I always knew I'd be working until I retire, I didn't think it was going to be that long.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Grandma Blogging Zone

Helen Philpot posted very little on her blog until this month when she got all fired up about John McCain and Sarah Palin. How many of us can go from single digit to over 1400 comments on a single entry? An excerpt from her "Sarah Palin is a Bitch… there I said it." entry for your reading pleasure.

Fact: Sarah Palin is stupid. Maybe not stupid by Alabama standards but stupid enough that she managed to get herself elected Governor while never bothering to educate herself on little things like the Constitution, foriegn affairs or appropriate debating practices. She is stupid enough to have accepted a VP nomination for which she is completely unqualified and stupid enough not to admit it - even though the future of our great nation could be irreversibly damaged by the decision.

By Alabama standards? What a hoot! And that's hardly the tip of the iceberg. I can picture her typing away at the keyboard and then clicking Publish Post with an exclamatory "There!" You go, girl.

Taking It The Wrong Way

John McCain is trying to deal with the backlash caused by the innuendos against Barack Obama that he, Sarah Palin, and his campaign have been using lately. At the end of this clip a woman says she's read about Barack Obama and that he's an Arab. McCain takes the microphone back and says, no, Obama is a decent, family man, citizen that I just happen to disagree with...

So what does that make an Arab?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Something To Think About Beforehand

Dan Savage wrote a touching article about his personal experience watching his mother die and the issues surrounding Washington's Initiative Measure 1000 - The Washington Death With Dignity Act. An excerpt.

"You don't know how you're going to feel at the end of your life," the widow planning to vote for I-1000 says. "I want to have the choices available to me."


Exactly. If I-1000 is approved by Washington State voters, the widow opposed to the initiative will not be compelled to end her life with the assistance of a physician. She can choose pain meds and the love of caregivers and die a "natural" death. (What's so "natural" about pain management anyway?) But if I-1000 is rejected, the widow who plans to vote in favor of it will not have the same choice. She will not be able to choose to end her life, and end her suffering, if the pain becomes too much for her to bear.

That's what the debate about I-1000 is really all about: your body, your death, your choice. The passage of I-1000 doesn't impose anything on terminally ill people who reject physician-assisted suicide for religious reasons. But the rejection of I-1000 imposes the values of others on terminally ill people who would like to make that choice for themselves, who should have a right to make that choice for themselves.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

North-South Corridor Bike Trail

The Washington State Department of Transportation wants us to name the path it is constructing as part of the North Spokane Corridor. BTW that page has an incorrect link the PDF format map. The correct location is here.

I think it's great that a pedestrian/bike path is being constructed. I'd love to have more of them networking in Spokane. But look at the route and ask yourself, what does it connect me to? Does it have another use besides recreational? Do any of the children who go to Northwood Middle and Farwell Elementary schools live along the path? Are there any stores along the path I could shop at or pick up a few groceries? In short, does this simply allow the use of bikes as opposed to promote their use?

This is tough because we want bike paths. But we're better served when we create routes that promote bike use and not simply permit it. So how do we do that? Maybe I'm splitting hairs, but that's my two cents. Hope you come up with a good name 'cause my mind is blank. But you already knew that, eh?

Fer Shame! Fer Shame! Fer Shame!

5:25pm, Oct 9
Addison and Rockwell.

Munchie Mania

Our government's policy towards marijuana, the great bug-a-boo of Reefer Madness fame, continues on the road to no solution. Even though we're arresting and imprisoning more people we're not making any change in marijuana use. Regardless of what any studies say: our own, Canadian, or otherwise, we continue to take the easy way of demonizing the drug and its users. But that is also the most expensive and counterproductive policy. Some day we will have to face reality and come up with a policy that makes sense.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

One! Two! Two! Two! Two votes, ah, ah, ah.

I see there's more concern now about voter purging in several states and there may be some violations of federal law. If so, that would take time to flesh out. Well after the election and the inauguration. It's almost as if the Help America Vote Act of 2002 was designed to help you vote but not necessarily make sure your vote is counted.

I love to count!

Sunday Streets

An interesting article on creating public space by banning vehicle traffic for a short time. Hot stuff in South America. I imagine for Spokane it could be a combined Spokefest, Farmer's Market, River Cleanup, Fun Run, and Skateboard affair.

Hoos Stoopid Now, Huh?

A note from the Spokesman-Review editorial board in the paper today decries the "Idiocracy" of America when it comes to voters being swayed by misleading political claims and advertisements. The board says that political action committees, the candidates, and even the voters are to blame. They were kind enough to provide three web sites so voters can look up facts for themselves. It's great to have someplace to look these things up. But where did voters used to go when they wanted the truth? Who's job was it to call the perpetrators on their prevarications and the quibbling? Funny, though, there was no mention of the press's involvement or, should I say, lack thereof.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

But They'll Tell You What You Want To Hear

Things you'll never hear our presidential candidates say:

* Our financial crisis is much more serious than we're being told.
* The invasion of Iraq was illegal.
* Terrorism is not nearly as serious of a threat as we're told.
* President Bush violated the law when he authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on American citizens without a search warrant.
* The Bush doctrine of preventive war violates international law.

I see the Spokesman-Review editorial board has thrown their recently decreased weight behind Senator McCain. With all the emphasis on the individual candidates, I think we tend to forget that the parties also have an agenda in the form of their respective platforms. Check out the platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties. Remember, the party in control of Congress drives the agenda. Well, at least they used to before they neutered themselves over the last eight years.

Excellent Primer on the Financial Crisis

I found this article over on O'Reilly. It's lengthy, but it's a great explanation of how things came to be and where they're headed. It won't make you an expert, but it will make you think, "Oh, shit." It ain't lookin' good.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I Wish She Was In Touch With Reality

It's great that Cathy McMorris Rodgers has been sending emails and communicating with her constituents so often in the past month. I wish she did that all the time. Normally I get an email about once a month, but sometimes they stretch out over longer time periods. From her latest:

"The $700 billion package that will buy bad debt from Wall Street is now law. In the end, the bill also contained a lot of positive benefits for Eastern Washington families, small businesses, and schools including several I support such as the Alternative Minimum Tax patch, extending the state sales tax deduction and extending the Secure Rural Schools program that provides federal payments to school districts and counties that lost money due to federal lands under their jurisdiction.

But I did not support the overall bill. I am unconvinced the $700 billion Wall Street rescue proposal is the right approach for the market and the best value for taxpayers. When faced with such great economic challenges, we owe it to the taxpayers to actually solve the problem for the long term. I am not convinced this bill addresses the root causes of the problem, one of those being the subprime lending situation."

I'm glad she voted against the bill, but I'm bothered by her thinking on the root causes of the problem. The subprime lending situation, whatever that means, is not a root cause. As President Bush first stated, this was caused by greed. The regulations put in place to prevent this from happening were gradually removed over the years under the so-called "free market" canard that says the market will correct itself and government should take a back seat and not interfere. Well, what is the government doing right now? Had the government had stepped in before the house of cards was built would we still be witnessing its collapse?

What's done is done. We'll be dealing with this for many years.

Law Abiding We Are

Today President Bush spoke before the Federalist Society during their conference on The Presidency and the Courts. Familiar with his public speaking skills and the courts I had to listen in.

He led off with some remarks about the economy. It's strong and resilient. The American workers are working hard to pull it through.

Then he read gave his speech. He reminded the staunch conservatives in attendance of his success in nominating over 1/3 of the current active federal judges including two to the Supreme Court. He brought up unpopular court decisions such as Boumediene v. Bush where the Supreme Court said terrorists had the same rights as U.S. citizens. (Note: If you check the U.S. Constitution, there is no restriction as to whom the writ of habeas corpus applies.) And he brought up popular decisions to applause and cheers: the ban of the "grisly practice" of partial birth abortion and the affirmation of Second Amendment right to own a firearm. He pointed out that the US Constitution is not a living document but an enduring one and "good" judges know the difference. Then he went on to complain about how Miquel Estrada, nominated to an appeals court, was treated by the Senate--they didn't hold a vote. Bush is disheartened by the uncertainty, delay, and ruthlessness (yes, he said that) of the confirmation process and how it's unacceptable and bad for the country. And he said the Senate needs to act on the nominees currently awaiting. The Senate has a problem with the consent part of advice and consent.

Of his many notable accomplishments, appointing so many judges will probably have the longest lasting effect. After all, we are a nation of laws--when it suits us.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Can We Get Any More Bizarre?

Recently, there was a press release about a study that showed twelve Catholics, as compared to twelve atheists, felt less pain as they received electric shocks while looking at a religious picture. I wonder why they switched from their original plan to electric shock.

They spent half an hour inside an MRI scanner, receiving a series of 20 electric shocks in four separate sessions while looking at either the religious or non-religious picture.

The Catholics said that looking at the painting of the Virgin Mary made them feel 'safe', 'taken care of' and 'calmed down and peaceful'.

More significantly, they reported feeling 12 per cent less pain after viewing the religious image than after looking at the Leonardo.

The front right-hand side of their brains lit up on the scanner, indicating that the neural mechanisms of pain modulation had been engaged.

There was no such brain activity among the atheists, whose pain and anxiety levels stayed roughly the same throughout the experiment.

Make sure you know who the Catholics are so you know who to get behind when you hear the cop yell, "Taser! Taser! Taser!" No doubt they will be 'taken care of'.

Single Issue Voters

I've met or known many people who state they would or would not vote for a certain candidate or political party simply because of a single reason. Usually it's a very emotional issue and I'm sure you can think of a few on your own. But people feel so strongly about something--or are made to feel strongly about something--that they won't consider the whole package. They don't think about everything that comes with the candidate or party. Weighing the pros and cons is not something they're interested in. In reflecting on this I think this is an effective way to carve up the electorate into manageable chunks. I see two benefits, not for the people but for those who seek office. One is that chunks of voters can be relied on to vote a certain way simply by reminding them of that single issue, reducing the number of voters to target using other topics. The second effect is that it eliminates discussion and discourse. There's nothing to talk about because a candidate or party stands a certain way on that single issue.

It's not that this practice is something new. I'm just curious what it would take to get a single issue voter to recognize they are being manipulated in this fashion. And if they saw that, would it make a difference?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

It Takes A While, But It Eventually Comes Out

But does anyone pay attention? Rolling Stone has some interesting history about a presidential candidate.

I Wonder...

Curiosity from Si on Vimeo.

River Cleanup

The Friends of the Falls held their sixth annual river cleanup today. I signed up as a cyclist and brought my trailer in case there was something sizable to haul to the pickup point. I ended up hauling the rusted remains of a couple of barrels.

Josh, our team leader, gives us our safety briefing.

Jon hit the mother lode. You can't see them very well but he also has a full bag of garbage (white) and a full bag of recycleables (blue) hanging off the back of his bike.

There was a contest for the oddest items. Someone found a sex toy that, from the size of it, would have been appropriate for an elephant. It was huge! How does something like that end up in the Spokane River? I'm sure there's a story there.

The "toy" was left in the blue bag to maintain some propriety. I entertained myself for a while by watching people check out the contest entries. "What's in the bag--Oh my gosh!"

Good work for a good cause. Doing it again next year.

We're Saved!

Well, the financial bailout is signed into law. What did it take to get legislators to commit $700 billion for Wall St? Here's part of what I found.

* Creation of a seven-year cost recovery period for construction of a motorsports racetrack: Track owners currently follow a seven-year depreciation schedule and write each year's depreciation off their taxes. The IRS wanted to increase the depreciation timetable to 15 years, which would mean the track owner's depreciation would be cut in half. The measure in the keeps the seven-year depreciation schedule for two years and would cost taxpayers $100 million.

* Income averaging for amounts received in connection with the Exxon Valdez litigation: The measure would allow the plaintiffs who won damages from Exxon Mobile for the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez to average the award over three years rather than treating it as income in a single year. The measure was backed by Alaska Rep. Don Young and would cost taxpayers $49 million.

* Secure rural schools and community self-determination program: The program replaces revenue rural communities used to enjoy from the sale of federal forest land. The measure is sponsored by lawmakers from Oregon and Idaho. The program would cost taxpayers $3.3 billion.

* Deduction of state and local sales taxes: The measure allows citizens who do not pay state income taxes to deduct the amount of sales tax they pay over a year from their federal income tax for two additional years. States that benefit include Texas, Nevada, Florida, Washington and Wyoming. The measure would cost taxpayers $3.3 billion.

* Transportation fringe benefit to bicycle commuters: The measure would allow employers to provide benefits to employees who commute to work via bicycle, such as help purchasing and maintaining a bicycle. The measure would cost taxpayers $10 million.

That's the way they made it work. To get something like this passed you find out what the "no's" want and add that to the bill. Make it more palatable for each legislator. But while it may be easier to stomach what they're doing is ignoring the cancer within.

How much longer do I have, doc?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Revisiting the Police State Commentary

I posted a note not long ago. Amy Goodman has just a little more about that topic. Some of it from personal experience.

Nobody Stepped Up To The Plate

Marci Hamilton has an excellent article on FindLaw about our country's financial crisis. The key point she makes is the lack of leadership on everyone's part in working towards a resolution. After reading her article I look back at the last week and see it in a different light. All that posturing and finger pointing must have distracted me.

A Word From The American Duct Tape Council

There was an article in the Spokesman-Review this morning that originated with the Washington Post. Volunteer postal carriers will be recruited to deliver antibiotics in case of a large scale anthrax attack. Let's think this through for a minute. The only anthrax attack took place just after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The source of that anthrax was our own government lab. A lengthy, multi-million dollar FBI investigation claims to pinpoint the perpetrator but they refuse to release all the information they have. Developing the amount and type anthrax to carry out an attack on the population is not an easy task. So given the threat level, why are we spending resources on this? Will we ever stop being fearful of every "What if?" scenario. It's makes me pine for the good old days--with apologies to A Prairie Home Companion.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Legend In My Own Mind

The peloton trails far behind, unable to catch me and the six points for the intermediate sprint are mine. Flying downhill at breakneck speed the rushing wind muffles the cheers of, "Allez! Allez!" My jersey changes from green as I begin a seemingly effortless climb. Spectators see blurred red polka dots in a field of white go by, driven by never-before-seen strength and stamina. I reach the apex and leave the last challenger in my dust. Racing to the finish, my legs burn and my breath is raspy. Drenched in sweat I arrive at work and the maillot jaune is mine. I am a bike commuter and every day I am living the dream.

Bike Lane Blockade

It's my guess that constructioneers get a free pass on this sort of thing.

Order Today and Get a Ripped Up Bill of Rights Free!

The Denver police union has a great sense of humor. So how come nobody's laughing?

Well That Was Quick

Godwin's Law as applied to a discussion about single occupancy vehicles.