Thursday, April 30, 2009

What Week?

Are you registered?

Are you ready?

Have you found the right group?

Do you have some time to help out?

Sorry, Runner's Soul

A week and a-half ago I came across an article about the benefits of running barefoot as compared to wearing running shoes. I thought, "Hmm, why not?" I'm an excellent test case. I have practically no arches to speak of. I'm over 50 and just a few pounds overweight. Most of all I'm willing to give it a try. Besides, I prefer being barefoot.

Now my callouses aren't that thick so I've been building them up by gradually increasing the distance I can tolerate running barefoot. I carry my shoes and when the soles of my feet start to sting I put my shoes back on. I'm sure it looks odd to see some old man running barefoot carrying a shoe in each hand. Hey, you know you can put those on your feet. Today I ran 4 miles during lunch and 1.4 of that was barefoot. On asphalt. And it felt great. Well, except for my still-not-thick-enough soles but that will come with time.

One observation I have is that my running form changes when I'm unshod. At first I was slamming my heels down on the pavement just like I do when I'm wearing shoes. That hurt since I didn't have a shoe's cushioned heel absorbing the impact. My form changed (Naturally? Maybe, it wasn't a conscious process.) to a more comfortable one that I can't really describe just yet but after doing some online research--I had no idea there was so much about barefoot running--I think this is a pretty close description. I notice I have more spring pushing off and I land lighter. Plus, I'm maintaining my 9-minute mile pace. (Yeah, I know. I'm settin' land speed records here.)

So I think this is worth pursuing. When I told Kathy what I was doing, she remarked, "You sure are a quirky guy."

I hope she meant that in a good way.

But Enquiring Minds Are Dying To Know

In spite of the relatively few cases of H1N1 flu in the country, I get the feeling from the eternal breaking news swine flu coverage that we're all about to die a grisly death.

We might want to pause and reflect on the roughly 36,000 people who die every year in the United States--from common influenza.

Why aren't you always wearing a mask?

Too Much Time On My Hands?

Hey, Mom, look at what I shot.

It does not bode well for monument makers that cremation is a hot business.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

We Need To Be Ready

Because people like Glenn Beck tell us so.

Before I'm Too Old, Which I'll Never Be

Kathy and I plan to take the tandem and pull a trailer across the country some time after Steph is done with high school. In the meantime I have to read about other people's trips. To start at the beginning of their blog go here.

The Real Reason

Arlen Spector's defection to the Democratic Party doesn't surprise me at all. Setting aside how liberal, moderate or conservative everyone is, there's an implicit message in Senator Spector's statement. (Curious. There's no mention of it on his web site.)

Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.

Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.

As many of Senator Spector's constituents probably know, now is not a good time to lose your job.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I Know What George Carlin Would Say

The English language is very tricky, especially when words have more than one meaning and use. And even more so when they're "bad" words--bad words said on television. Yesterday the Supreme Court released its 5-4 decision (PDF file) in FCC v. Fox TV upholding the FCC's 2004 decision declaring that a nonliteral (expletive) use of the F- and S-words could be actionably indecent, even when the word is used once. From the opinion written by Justice Scalia:

The Commission first declared that Bono’s use of the F-Word [at the Golden Globes Awards ceremony] fell within its indecency definition, even though the word was used as an intensifier rather than a literal descriptor. “[G]iven the core meaning of the ‘F-Word,’” it said, “any use of that word . . . inherently has a sexual connotation.” The Commission determined, moreover, that the broadcast was “patently offensive” because the F-Word “is one of the most vulgar, graphic and explicit descriptions of sexual activity in the English language,” because “[i]ts use invariably invokes a coarse sexual image,” and because Bono’s use of the word was entirely “shocking and gratuitous.”
This case concerns utterances in two live broadcasts aired by Fox Television Stations, Inc., and its affiliates prior to the Commission’s Golden Globes Order. The first occurred during the 2002 Billboard Music Awards, when the singer Cher exclaimed, “I’ve also had critics for the last 40 years saying that I was on my way out every year. Right. So f*** ‘em.” The second involved a segment of the 2003 Billboard Music Awards, during the presentation of an award by Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton, principals in a Fox television series called“The Simple Life.” Ms. Hilton began their interchange by reminding Ms. Richie to “watch the bad language,” but Ms. Richie proceeded to ask the audience, “Why do they even call it ‘The Simple Life?’ Have you ever tried to get cow s*** out of a Prada purse? It’s not so f***ing simple.”

My favorite part of Justice Stevens' dissent:

The FCC minimizes the strength of this limitation by now claiming that any use of the words at issue in this case, in any context and in any form, necessarily describes sex or excrement. See In re Complaints Regarding Various Television Broadcasts Between February 2, 2002 and March 8, 2005, (Remand Order) (“[A]ny strict dichotomy between expletives and descriptions or depictions of sexual or excretory functions is artificial and does not make sense in light of the fact that an expletive’s power to offend derives from its sexual or excretory meaning” (internal quotation marks omitted)). The customs of speech refute this claim: There is a critical distinction between the use of an expletive to describe a sexual or excretory function and the use of such a word for an entirely different purpose, such as to express an emotion. One rests at the core of indecency; the other stands miles apart. As any golfer who has watched his partner shank a short approach knows, it would be absurd to accept the suggestion that the resultant four-letter word uttered on the golf course describes sex or excrement and is therefore indecent. But that is the absurdity the FCC has embraced in its new approach to indecency. See In re Complaints Against Various Broadcast Licensees Regarding Their Airing of the “Golden Globe Awards” Program,(declaring that even the use of an expletive to emphasize happiness “invariably invokes a coarse sexual image”).

Note that during arguments and in the opinion, it was always "F-word" and "S-word". Any quotes in the opinion were altered with asterisks, e.g., "f***".

Regardless, the last thing this fucking United States Supreme Court opinion brought to mind was a coarse sexual image.

Bloomsday Press Conference

Stephanie attended a Bloomsday press conference today where Don Kardong had her show off her volunteer shirt design.

I Flew Today

The wind was blowing hard enough that the trip to work this morning was an effortless 23mph ride. It felt great to scream down Addison and Standard.

I don't want to talk about the ride home.

The Easy High Road

In yesterday's Boston Globe there was an article in which Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon has declined the University of Notre Dame's prestigious Laetare Medal. Glendon was a Bush administration ambassador to the Vatican. The medal was to be awarded at the same commencement ceremony President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak at. Why did she turn down the medal? Because of the university's decision to grant an honorary degree to Obama. Why should that matter?

First, as a longtime Consultant to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I could not help but be dismayed by the news that Notre Dame also planned to award the President an honorary degree. This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. Bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions "should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles" and that such persons "should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions." That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution's freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it.

How does Barack Obama act in defiance of the fundamental Catholic moral principles? Well, in a black and white world if you don't want to make abortion illegal then you are for killing babies. If you want a woman to be given authority over her own body then you are for killing babies. If you want to decrease abortions as much as possible through education and contraception then you are for killing babies. If you don't want to stop abortion at all cost then you are for killing babies.

If we could only return to the good old days of the Inquisitions, we could purge ourselves of all those heretics.

They would be easy to find because they think there are gray areas.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Penny Farthing Bikers

How cool would it be to see some of these at a bike ride or two in Spokane?

Funny Flashback

I was telling the kids about my first taste of beer. I was about eight years old and this was in the mid-sixties. My dad and his buddies would smoke Marlboros and drink Coors while they worked on car engines. I never was interested in torque wrenches, timing lights or setting the dwell, but I sure did wonder what was so great about beer. One evening I got my chance. My dad handed me an empty can and told me to throw it away. Ever the dutiful son, I walked up the driveway and around the corner to the back of the house where the trash can was. The can felt like it still had a little bit in it. The second I was out of sight I tipped that can up and poured cigarette and ash laden beer into my mouth.

I didn't drink beer for a long time after that.

See? I Voted For You

Imagine voting procedures like this in the U.S.

Actually, we're probably not that far off.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Will You Be My Friend? Please, I'm Begging You.

Last Friday at 6:07 pm, I received this email from Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

Check out my photos on Facebook

Hi Gigowiz@(domain name removed),

I set up a Facebook profile where I can post my pictures, videos and events and I want to add you as a friend so you can see it. First, you need to join Facebook! Once you join, you can also create your own profile.

As a subscriber to my e-newsletter list, I would also like to connect with you on Facebook.


And then at 6:53 pm I received a follow-up email.

Check out my photos on Facebook

Hi Gigowiz@(domain name removed),

I invited you to join Facebook a while back and wanted to remind you that once you join, we'll be able to connect online, share photos, organize groups and events, and more.

As a subscriber to my e-newsletter list, I would also like to connect with you on Facebook.


It's official. "A while back" is exactly 46 minutes.

Pedals2People Free Bike Tuneup

The good folks at Pedals2People set up shop in West Central Community Center parking lot yesterday during the West Central Neighbor Day celebration in Cannon Park. Several kids showed up immediately and many more during the day. I didn't take any pictures but I did get some video of the event.

See if you can pick out the volunteer interjecting some humor.

Pedals2People Free Bike Tune Up from h greer on Vimeo.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I Vote For Equal Rights

Articles in the Bangor Daily News present contrasting views of same-sex marriage. The Maine legislature is considering a bill that would define marriage as being between two people.

On one hand we have the primarily religious arguments.

His wife said she is concerned that if same-sex marriage is legalized, their children would be taught at school that homosexuality and gay marriage are acceptable while learning at home and in church that traditional marriage is part of God’s plan for humanity.

On the other we have equal rights.

Estler, 64, said that although she and Johnson are registered as domestic partners, have wills and legal power of attorney for each other, they still don’t have all the benefits married men and women do. As they’ve aged and faced some health problems, Estler said, they’ve become more conscious of the legal benefits that come with marriage.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Can Anyone Contribute?

All the sidestepping and euphemisms in the world still doesn't convince me that waterboarding is not torture. Christopher Hitchens decided to find out for himself and wrote about his experience. Heck, you can even watch it for yourself. Sean Hannity, along with other TV pundits, claims waterboarding is not torture.

Charles Grodin was apparently able to goad Hannity to agree to undergo waterboarding. Hannity said he would for charity. Keith Olberman took him up on it and offers to pay $1000 per second.

I don't want anyone to be waterboarded, but if Sean Hannity agrees to the "enhanced interrogation" and not the torture, all for charity, then who do I make the check out to?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What A Funny World We Live In

Where we have to make it a civil right that a mother can breastfeed a child in public and codify that it is not indecent exposure.

We are so uptight.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chronic Bike Lane Blocker

Duly reported. If what John says pans out, maybe the owner will receive a strongly worded letter.

I Don't Think She Was Laughing

In New Jersey v. T.L.O., a 1985 case involving high-schoolers with pot in their purses, the Supreme Court determined that for a student search to be permissible under the Fourth Amendment there must be "reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will turn up evidence that the student has violated or is violating either the law or the rules of the school" and that the search cannot be "excessively intrusive in light of the age and sex of the student and the nature of the infraction."

When a school strip searches 13-year-old Savana Redding looking for prescription strength ibuprofen we're talking serious business, especially when the Supreme Court decides to hear the case.

This leads Justice Stephen Breyer to query whether this is all that different from asking Redding to "change into a swimming suit or your gym clothes," because, "why is this a major thing to say strip down to your underclothes, which children do when they change for gym?"

This leads Ginsburg to sputter—in what I have come to think of as her Lilly Ledbetter voice—"what was done in the case … it wasn't just that they were stripped to their underwear! They were asked to shake their bra out, to stretch the top of their pants and shake that out!" Nobody but Ginsburg seems to comprehend that the only locker rooms in which teenage girls strut around, bored but fabulous in their underwear, are to be found in porno movies. For the rest of us, the middle-school locker room was a place for hastily removing our bras without taking off our T-shirts.

But Breyer just isn't letting go. "In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, OK? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear."

Shocked silence, followed by explosive laughter. In fact, I have never seen Justice Clarence Thomas laugh harder. Breyer tries to recover: "Or not my underwear. Whatever. Whatever. I was the one who did it? I don't know. I mean, I don't think it's beyond human experience."

Serious business, indeed.

On the courthouse steps after argument today, Redding is asked what she'd have wanted the school to do differently. "Call my mom first," she says. You see, we now have school districts all around the country finding naked photos of teens and immediately calling in the police for possession of kiddie porn. Yet schools see nothing wrong with stripping these same kids naked to search for drugs. Evidently teenage nakedness is only a problem when the children choose to be naked. And the parents? They are always the last to know.


Here is what Oklahoma's Senator Inhofe said about the use of filibuster against a judicial nominee. And not just on one occasion. It's unconstitutional.

And this is what he had to say yesterday:

Mr. President, it was my understanding earlier that I had about 15 more minutes than the 30 minutes that I understand are allotted me now. So if there is time at the end of my main message, I wish to address the problem of the David Hamilton nomination. In fact, I will announce that I will filibuster that nomination.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An Observation About...

...torture, talk radio, TV pundits, immigration, abortion, gay marriage, et al.

Once you cross the line it's easy to do again and become so comfortable with it that you don't bother coming back.


There is plenty of print coverage of the 2009 Pulitzer Prizes. But something in the media coverage is lacking.

Glenn Greenwald discusses the lack of television coverage of the 2009 Pulitzer Prizes, in particular for David Barstow's win for investigative reporting.

Awarded to David Barstow of The New York Times for his tenacious reporting that revealed how some retired generals, working as radio and television analysts, had been co-opted by the Pentagon to make its case for the war in Iraq, and how many of them also had undisclosed ties to companies that benefited from policies they defended.

Working as radio and television analysts. Co-opted by the Pentagon. Undisclosed ties to companies. Do we really find it strange that the television companies who employed these co-opted analysts are silent on the matter?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stephanie's Winning Design

Being the unthinking parent that I am, I did not have a copy of the design Stephanie submitted last fall. The design chosen for the volunteer shirt. A friend of mine got her hands on a few and allowed me to see one. I took pictures.

Here's what the 2009 Bloomsday volunteer shirt looks like.

And her name is memorialized forever--as long as she doesn't wear it out.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Who We Are

As more information about the justification for and application of "enhanced interrogation techniques", most commonly known as forms of torture, is released, we are being told that the agents who applied said techniques will not be prosecuted. And now Rahm Emmanuel, President Obama's Chief of Staff, is saying that those who devised policy should not be prosecuted either.

This is profoundly disturbing for a nation of laws. We are bound by our own law and international law to prosecute persons who inflicted, legally justified or authorized torture. This is not something we have a choice about, at least not justifiably.

Imagine the outrage at photos of naked Americans stacked in pyramids, or crawling on the floor led by a leash, or being water boarded. The cries of retribution, revenge and justice would be deafening. Our political leaders would cry havoc and release the dogs of war. And we would patriotically justify it by pointing at the severity of these provocative, humiliating, despicable and abhorrent acts against humanity. How dare they!

Indeed. How dare we.

Nearly four years ago Senator John McCain, a torture victim himself, said: (I added the bolding)

"We are Americans, and we hold ourselves to humane standards of treatment of people no matter how evil or terrible they may be. To do otherwise undermines our security, but it also undermines our greatness as a nation. We are not simply any other country. We stand for something more in the world — a moral mission, one of freedom and democracy and human rights at home and abroad. We are better than these terrorists, and we will we win. The enemy we fight has no respect for human life or human rights. They don’t deserve our sympathy. But this isn’t about who they are. This is about who we are. These are the values that distinguish us from our enemies."

I guess we'll see about that.

Say What?

Purported made by a Bible believing church in Illinois this video has some of the most bizarre messages I've ever heard.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Final Word On Teabagging

Different teabags require different steeping times. If there are no instructions, steep for a minute or two, then taste frequently until it's flavorful but not bitter.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Teabagging Protests

Matt Taibbi has an interesting (and funny) article about the TEA party protesters.

So yeah, government waste sucks, it’s rampant at every level, and taxes are a vicious racket, and everyone should be pissed off . What’s hilarious about the teabaggers, though, is how they never squawk about waste until the spending actually has a chance of benefiting them. You will never hear of a teabagger crying about OPIC giving $50 million in free insurance to some mining company so that they can dig for silver in rural Bolivia. You won’t hear of a teabagger protesting the $2.5 billion in Ex-Im loans we gave to GE through the early part of this decade, even as GE was moving nearly a hundred thousand jobs overseas over the course of ten years. And Michelle Malkin’s readers didn’t seem to mind giving IBM millions in Ex-IM and ATP loans at the same time it was giving its former CEO, Lou Gerstner, $260 million in stock options.

In other words teabaggers don’t mind paying taxes to fund the salaries of Bolivian miners, Lou Gerstner’s stock options, deliveries of “sailboat fuel,” the Hermes scarves on Sandy Weill’s jet pillows, or even the export of their own goddamn jobs. But they do hate it when someone tries to re-asphalt their roads, or help bail their slob neighbor out of foreclosure. And God forbid someone propose a health care program, or increased financial aid for college. Hell, that’s like offering to share your turkey with the other Pilgrims! That’s not what America is all about! America is every Pilgrim for himself, dammit! Raise your own motherfucking turkey!

As to what the teabaggers were supposedly protesting--after all this was a Taxed Enough Already (TEA) protest--the Citizens for Tax Justice had this (PDF file) to say.

A recent Gallup poll found that 61 percent of respondents felt that the federal income tax they will have to pay this year is “fair.” When asked about the specific amount of federal income taxes they pay, just over half felt they pay the right amount or too little. Forty-eight percent of respondents thought that the amount of federal income tax they pay is “about right.” That’s the highest percentage of people who responded that way since 1956. (Another three percent thought they the paid too little.)

Fewer than half of those polled, 46 percent, said they thought their federal income taxes are “too high.” It appears, however, that some of these respondents are basing their answers on the right-wing, anti-tax propaganda they’ve heard rather than their own income tax liability. In particular, 39 percent of respondents with incomes below $30,000 said that they thought the federal income taxes they pay are “too high.” This is remarkable, because only 32 percent of taxpayers in this income group will pay any federal income tax at all on their 2008 income.

Taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes below $30,000 represent almost half (46 percent) of the total number of taxpayers for tax year 2008. With a small amount of public education about the (admittedly complicated) tax system, displeasure with the federal income tax among this part of the population could drop significantly.

It appears some people steep the teabag too long until the taste is bitter.

Lost Jobs

There's an interactive map on Slate that shows where all the job losses have occurred. The expanding red circles on the map bring to mind the blasts in that old video game called Missile Command, each one consuming everything it encompasses.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Yer Not From 'Round Here, Are Ya?

Over the weekend Kathy called a florist in Issaquah to have flowers delivered to my sister. (Kathy prefers to call florists directly instead of calling a national chain.) The person who answer had a rather strong accent, possibly from the New England area. While Kathy was giving the man her information, he asked how to spell Spokane. She thought that was a bit odd but did so and he says, "Oh, that's in Washington!" Well, maybe someone in Issaquah has never heard of Spokane before. So she continues and gives my sister's address. Then came the question, "How do you spell Issaquah?" he asked. So Kathy has to ask, "Where are you exactly?" Turns out the guy just moved there and all these Washington names were strange to him. Kathy was relieved she wasn't speaking to someone in a different country because she wants the money to go to the florist and not to a middleman.

Tweet, Tweet

Some time ago I created a Twitter account, primarily for the purpose of preventing someone else from using my moniker. Um...yeah...I everybody wants to be gigowiz. Anyway, in all of Spokane I now rank #396!

I rock!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Misguided Manufactured Outrage

Speaking of being stuck within the confines of a belief system, I thought I'd swing by the Spokane Tea Party to see how the turnout was. I'm saddened to report that there was a large number of people in attendance. I walked through the crowd looking at a wide variety of protest signs, some quite puzzling: "Yobama", "Legalize the Constitution", "I Am Not Your ATM","Zero Death Tax","Respect, Learn and Honor" and "I'll Keep God, My Friends and My Guns and You Can Keep The Check".

State senator Bob McCaslin says we should change the name of the country to "The United Socialist States of America". Rush Limbaugh wants President Obama to fail. For a year Glenn Beck said we were moving towards socialism. Now he says we're becoming a fascist state. Sean Hannity says socialism is taking over. Since Obama's election gun sales have skyrocketed.

I don't own any guns, but I almost feel I should so I can protect myself against the nuts who are stocking up. It would be like joining a death spiral.

Our Policies Bear A Bitter Fruit

Last night we watched a very disturbing Frontline report called Children of the Taliban. Watching a child identify a distant explosion as a mortar blast or describe a beheaded policeman was beyond belief. Stephanie was incredulous at the frame of mind possessed by many of the young people. How can anyone be so willing to die and kill others in the process? And for what? Well, when your education is restricted within the confines of a belief system, you can be convinced to do and be comfortable with doing just about anything.

Most mind boggling of all were the two friends, one of whom plans to join the Taliban and the other the Pakistan army. When they were individually asked if one could kill the other, both gave interesting answers. The one who plans to join the army said that if he is attacked he would retaliate forcefully. The Taliban-bound young man said that if he thought his friend was doing wrong he would kill him. The distinction between the replies was lost on Steph who was amazed that either of the two friends would answer the way they did.

Bailout, Fall Out, Strike Out

For an interesting look at the bank bailout, check out this post by Robert X. Cringley.

This bailout is broken, it is unfair, and it is incredibly inefficient as a result. The bank bailout is based entirely on providing INCENTIVES to the banks – bribing them to THINK ABOUT doing the right thing. The government won’t MAKE the banks do anything. They just ENCOURAGE the banks by giving money.

Where are the incentives in the much smaller housing bailout? There are incentives. THEY ARE ALL BEING GIVEN TO THE BANKS. It is very difficult to find in the new Federal mortgage modification rules much of anything that truly helps homeowners. Banks aren’t REQUIRED to do anything; they can reject any mortgage holder for any financial reason. The banks are PAID to restructure the mortgages and the way those mortgages are being restructured (primarily through increasing term and adding balloon payments) not only costs the banks nothing, it tends to make them MORE money over the life of the loan.

And for a another point of view, check out the comments on the bailout on page three of this article about the International Monetary Fund by Professor Simon Johnson, a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management and formerly the Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund.

Instead, the money was used to recapitalize banks, buying shares in them on terms that were grossly favorable to the banks themselves. As the crisis has deepened and financial institutions have needed more help, the government has gotten more and more creative in figuring out ways to provide banks with subsidies that are too complex for the general public to understand. The first AIG bailout, which was on relatively good terms for the taxpayer, was supplemented by three further bailouts whose terms were more AIG-friendly. The second Citigroup bailout and the Bank of America bailout included complex asset guarantees that provided the banks with insurance at below-market rates. The third Citigroup bailout, in late February, converted government-owned preferred stock to common stock at a price significantly higher than the market price—a subsidy that probably even most Wall Street Journal readers would miss on first reading. And the convertible preferred shares that the Treasury will buy under the new Financial Stability Plan give the conversion option (and thus the upside) to the banks, not the government.

I'm not smart enough to know.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Tea Bag In Every Pot

Fox News has been unashamed in it's reporting promotion of the so-called grassroots Taxed Enough Already (TEA) party movement.

Check out the first three in list of items on the main site under the "Are you fed up with a Congress and a president who:" heading. It almost makes you think you've gone back in time six or seven years, doesn't it? Down the list there's one that says "want to force doctors and other medical workers to perform abortions against their will?" I'll need some clarification on that one. Will we use guns or torture to force them?

The very first TEA party web site,, was registered in August of 2008. While President Bush was in office. Three months before Barack Obama was elected. You can check the domain registry information if you like. Apparently the site had nothing on it until last February after CNBC commentator Rick Santelli raised the possibility of a Chicago Tea Party. So did somebody start a few months too soon or has everyone else started years too late?

In case you're interested in attending, Spokane has it's own tea party. It's an outdoor event being held by the convention center near Riverfront Park. Our own Cathy McMorris Rodgers--a member of the abortion-forcing Congress held in disdain by the main tea party site--is scheduled to speak. Maybe she can clear up exactly which members of Congress refuse to stop the flow of millions of illegal immigrants into our country? Or admit to using the financial hurt of millions as an opportunity to push their political agenda? Or punish those who practice responsible financial behavior and reward those who do not? I'd like some names so I can write some strongly worded letters. And while we're at it, maybe we could ask her if she's thankful that so many people across the country support the cause she is speaking at. (Hopefully, Congresswoman McMorris is just as concerned as other people are.)

From the Spokane tea party site:

"This is not a protest about the 2nd amendment, it is not a protest against abortion all more than worthy causes. It is a protest against the socialist left trying to destroy our constitution and place our children is so much debt they will never be able to absorb."

Okay...I think I know what you're trying to a former president write that?

If you want to participate even more then check out the Spokane Tea Party Blog with its exhaustive coverage of unfair taxation, lengthy discussion of actions we can take to fix the problem, and the multitude of comments from the inflamed masses. I tell ya, people in the Spokane area are up in arms. (Timesaver tip: Don't bother checking out the blogroll sites. They haven't been posted to for three years.)

Let me close with the other quote from the Spokane Tea Party site:

'A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step... or a small
protest in SPOKANE!!!'
anonymous tea party supporter

That's deep.

I have a notion to start the Actionable Town Hall Legally Exempting Teabagging Imposition Culture (ATHLETIC) party. I hope I can count on you, anonymous or not, to be an ATHLETIC supporter.

Change Of Plans

I was planning to ride my bike to work today.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Senior Moment

I left my cubicle to put something in the "to be shredded" bin and stopped after taking a few steps because of a mystery that demanded to be solved immediately. Why am I carrying my stapler instead of my Blackberry?

It's a good thing I didn't try to answer it or make a call. Now that would require some explanation.

Four Million Dollars

I happened across this NY Times article about a customs officer whose house was raided by customs officers looking for an illegal immigrant. The story alone doesn't convey enough information as to why a lawsuit would be in order. The officers were allowed in, there's no mention of any searching going on but the plaintiffs were effectually seized. The officers left once they realized they had the wrong house.

Note that this is a Bivens Action which allows individuals to sue federal agents for violating the Fourth Amendment. In this case the Slaughters want $500,000 from each defendant. There are one named and seven unnamed defendants. Mr & Mrs Slaughter claim "Plaintiff Jimmy Slaughter suffered great humiliation, embarrassment and mental suffering as a result of Defendants', and each of them, unlawful conduct." and "Plaintiff Sheila Slaughter has suffered from high blood pressure and fibromyalga [sic], and a result of Defendants, and each of them, unlawful conduct, was placed into the Intensive Care Unit into an area hospital for several days as her health condition spiraled out of control."

So I looked at the filing and here is Mr Slaughter's statement.

To Whom It May Concern, My name is Jimmy R. Slaughter. I am a K-9
handler for CBP at San Luis, AZ. POE. This is my story.

On July 24th 2008 at approximately 1730 hrs. I was at home with my wife when the door bell rang. I opened the door and noticed approximately 7 uniformed Ice agents with vest and guns standing at my door. I could only see 3 unmarked cars in front of my house. I said what's up fellas? Not having a clue as to what was happening. The lead agent stated "We have received information that "GUADALUPE UOLLA" is residing at this residence. I opened the screen door to look at the paperwork and five agents entered my house. My wife asked me what was happening, thinking this was a joke. The agents then told my wife to stand in the center of "OUR" living room; we were in the middle of folding laundry during my day off. Not once did anyone say they had a WARRANT. One of the agents stated that they needed to search my house and my wife told him that we were in the middle of doing laundry and he stated that they weren't going to open any drawers. This was when I stated that I was a K-9 Handler at the Port of Entry. All of the agents stopped in their tracks looking at each other and the lead agent said YOU ARE? I could tell they were confused and I asked to look at their file on the subject they were after. I then told them that we were the only people that have owned our property. We purchased the house brand new in 1998 after retiring from the U.S. Marine Corps. I also told them that we have reported to the post office that we have been receiving this ladies mail for about 5 years, but nothing had ever been done. We continued to bundle it up and return it to the post office. The lead agent gave me the A file showing the address as 7476 East 26th street which is my address. I instructed them to go to 7476 EAST 26th place. They left. At 0730 the next day I informed my Port Director what had taken place and that I was really pissed off about what had occurred the day before. We just had an officer arrested for smuggling so I figured he should know ASAP. Around 1300 hrs I returned from training and the Port Director informed me that he had spoken to the Supervisor in charge of this lEA group. His Name is Neil Baker (928) 344-0088 ext 372. I called and spoke to Mr. Baker about the "Keystone Cops" giving me a visit. He him- hawed around stating that they tracked this woman to my address through the mail. I asked him how they tracked her to me if all her mail was returned and he said "I'M NOT SURE, DON'T HAVE THE REPORT" Is this the agency which protects our country? It was clearly obvious to me he really didn't care that my reputation had been tarnished. This occurred at 5:30 PM while everyone is home from work and children are playing in the street. Perception is everything. Now my neighbors are wondering or believe I am just another "DIRTY COP"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thank god my kids were at football practice. I have served my country proudly for 23 years in the Marine Corps and 6 years as a Customs K-9 handler. I bleed Red White and Blue. Now you may say it was just a foul up on the address, which is true. But it didn't embarrass our scare your family. It did mine. I'll end with this. Mr. Baker stated that he would send a form letter to my house so I could show all my neighbors that it was a mistake. I don't really think he gives a shit. Maybe he would understand if I had CNN Contact him for an interview on his incompetent unit at his home.

(Note: I removed his home and work phone numbers.)

From the tenor of his statement I can't help but wonder if there would be a lawsuit for $4,000,000 had the agents said, "Dude, you've just been pranked!"

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Vengeance Is Mine

In yesterday's Spokesman there was an article about an interview with Joe Frazier. Normally, I wouldn't have anything to say about it but this one part caught my attention.

When it comes to his longtime foil, Frazier is sympathetic to the suffering Parkinson’s disease has caused [Muhammid] Ali. But as a Christian, Frazier said, he isn’t surprised by it, either.

“I’m sorry that he is the way he is, but I didn’t have too much to do with it. It was the good man above,” Frazier said. “Maybe I did have a little to do with it, but God judges, you know what I’m saying? We don’t have the power to judge that the man has above.”

So if you or anyone you know is suffering from Parkinson's disease, or quite possibly any affliction, Smokin' Joe didn't have too much to do with it. But according to his way of thinking, it's you're own fault.

Catching A Greased Pig

Yesterday I attended a Get Lit event held at Auntie's entitled The Changing Media Landscape in the Inland Northwest. It was moderated by Ryan Pitts of the Spokesman Review. In addition to Luke Baumgarten, Jim McPherson, and Cheryl-Anne Millsap on the panel, John Orr of KYRS radio was included.

After mulling everything over I have these observations.

Discussing "the media" proved difficult because many people had a different idea of what "the media" is. Much of the focus was on the forms that present or purport to present the news, television and newspapers as obvious members. (Kudos to the audience member making the comment about how a house fire in a far away place is not news in Spokane.) Alternative publications--I learned about a new online one--were in the group. But the discussion also took a short tour of blogging and what one audience member called citizen journalism. Jim McPherson made an interesting point that a trained journalist tells you a fraction of what he/she knows about a story and I took that to mean that because of all the developed contacts, additional resources at hand, and thorough following of leads, the story ends up containing the most important elements. I'd say it's like contrasting a lengthy, in-depth article with a book. The book contains everything. Bloggers, according to McPherson, tell you half of what they know. That sounds about right because, as he explained, many of them don't have the resources and contacts to get all the facts. For me, that depends on who you're including. A well-written, enjoyable personal journal is a blog, but is it part of "the media"? Consequently, I think you must also consider the intent and purpose of the blog. While Spokane has nothing like Talking Points Memo, there are some excellent blogs that provide accurate and useful information.

The trick, as was mentioned by the panel concerning any media, is that so many people can't tell the difference between worthwhile and worthless. One contributor, briefly mentioned in the discussion, is the lack of discourse in our country. Rather than get into the cause and effect of that, which essentially tries to lay blame, I think it's more meaningful to talk about the symptoms brought up during the discussion.

There is a marked lack meaningful news, i.e., that which is important for the community. A plethora of pundits tell us how to think. Too many people read or pay attention to only that which agrees with their views. Most media is profit driven and more concerned with titillation in order to sell advertising. Consolidation of the media--and here we're talking television, radio, newspapers, and magazines--so that much of it is now owned by five corporations stifles information sharing. (I'd like to interject here that this is where Internet technologies can have a positive impact on society. Blogging permits a quiet voice to be heard in the media din so pay attention to network neutrality issues.)

Several ideas for the Spokane area came up. One was partnering. If a niche publication covers an area quite well then how about other publications not compete and/or share stories? The pros (lack of corporate interest) and cons (difficulty in making a living) of making it a nonprofit organization were discussed. Including what is not known in the story was something an audience participant brought up. Sometimes I do think it would be useful for a reporter to include the asked questions that were not answered.

I enjoyed the session very much. There were a lot of ideas presented and it was good to see that many of those in attendance participated. But as the discussion went from tangent to tangent it was evident that this is a difficult issue to get a hold of.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

It Would Be A Heavy Metal Sandwich Here

If anyone tells you to go jump in a lake, I know just the place.

Mooberry Relays

Josh ran the Lindgren Mile (named after famed Spokane runner Gerry Lindgren) at the Mooberry Relays held at Whitworth University today. The expression on his face tells you the effort he made to squeak by a North Central runner and finish with a new PR. He finished seventh overall.


At today's black belt preparation class Stephanie received her WTF form. Yes, it's a World Taekwondo Federation application form for the black belt test. What did you think it was?

Friday, April 10, 2009

You're Out Of Order

There's a very interesting article about public access to federal court records (PACER - public access to court electronic records) on Ars Technica. BTW, let preface that my comments refer to District courts and not Bankruptcy courts.

[Steve] Schultze and [James] Grimmelmann agree that the solution to PACER's problems is for the courts to make court records available for free download. Schultze points to a recent paper from Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy arguing that governments should stick to releasing raw information and allow private parties to build organization and search tools. Schultze predicts that if private parties were given free access to the raw PACER documents, they would quickly build websites that surpass PACER in functionality and ease-of-use.

While this is possible, it's not as easy as it seems. Some court records are ex parte, which is essentially a communication between an attorney and the court from which the opposing attorney(s), along with the public, are excluded. Anyone viewing the docket report will see there was a communication but its contents will not be revealed by the court. Sealed documents are filed to protect information. It could be a company's trade secret, a juvenile's privacy, or even a defendant's cooperation with the prosecution in a criminal trial. In criminal cases the fact that there are missing document numbers on a case's docket report could lead someone to believe "something" is going on. And like a puzzle, sometimes what isn't there can help you determine what can go there. So there are some tricky issues involved.

The federal courts deal with a variety of sensitive issues, including bankruptcy, drug charges, and a variety of civil litigation, and it is relatively common for these proceedings to reveal sensitive personal information such as Social Security numbers and dates of birth. Current law requires that such information be redacted from documents before making them available to the public, but the courts, shielded by the practical obscurity afforded by PACER's paywall, have not done a good job of enforcing this requirement. So before making PACER significantly more open, Congress may need to provide the courts with more funding to hire enough clerks to thoroughly redact documents.

Have a look at the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Federal Rules for Criminal Procedure and you'll find that redaction is the responsibility of the person making the filing. In most cases that person is the attorney. Redaction is the court's responsibility if the court files the document as in the case of an order or opinion. The Clerk's Office is responsible for keeping an accurate record so it's not like case administrators can alter filings in the interest of redaction. The actual process may differ from court to court, but generally if a case administrator finds that a document contains information that should be redacted, they will bring it to the attorney's attention. Again, it's up to that attorney to properly redact the document. The redaction requirement in the Federal Rules took effect Dec 1, 2007, and is not retroactive so it's easy to find documents containing information that should be redacted by today's standard.

Aside from that, I think it would be great for the federal courts to provide easier, user-friendly, and free access to filings.

Addicted To Addison Bike Lane Blockers

That almost sounds like some sort of steroid or something. I had two on the way home today.

I was trying to hold the camera still while I was riding.

I slowed down so I did better this time.

Music To My Ears

For years now, all of the bike maintenance has been left to yours truly. Today, Kathy told me she wants to learn how to change a flat tire.

And then afterwards maybe we could work on a different tire, eh?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Two Days In A Row

This person is starting to habituate.

Those Darned Activist Judges

Joanna Grossman and Linda McClain provide an analysis of the Iowa State Supreme Court's ruling striking a 1998 state law banning same-sex marriage.

The state proffered three interests that it said were served by the law: preserving "traditional" marriage; promoting "optimal procreation," and serving financial considerations.

The court rightly rejected the first argument, noting that the classification itself cannot be the governmental interest. In other words, the state cannot justify excluding same-sex couples from marriage by merely expressing its desire to restrict marriage only to those traditionally allowed to celebrate it. The court also rejected the third reason – to conserve state resources – as insufficient to justify a classification that receives heightened scrutiny. Saving money is simply not a good enough reason, the court concluded, to justify discrimination.

The court gave deeper consideration to the second reason – the state's desire to promote optimal environments for procreation and childrearing. But, ultimately, it was unconvinced that a ban on same-sex marriage is closely related to such an objective. Though the state offered evidence that dual-gender parenting is "optimal," the court dismissed the experts' opinions as "largely unsupported by reliable scientific studies." By contrast, it stated that plaintiffs "presented an abundance of evidence and research," confirmed by the court's "independent research," for the proposition that "the interests of children are served equally by same-sex parents and opposite-sex parents." The court also found the state's attempt to further "optimal" procreation through marriage laws to be both under- and over-inclusive: Demonstrably bad would-be heterosexual parents are permitted to marry, while some same-sex couples with proven parenting skills are excluded. The court concluded that this sloppy means-end fit raises the specter of prejudice against the excluded group and is, under intermediate scrutiny, fatal.

The court thus concluded, in the final analysis, that the law's exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage was unconstitutional discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

If you're interested have a look at the summary or the full opinion (PDF files).

You'd think those judges would actually apply the law instead of legislating from the bench. Um...yes, I'm being facetious.

Quit Looking At Me

What's remarkable about the uproar in Britain over Google Street View and the concern about privacy and crime is that the United Kingdom is practically the most monitored country in the world.

But we split hairs. What matters here is what the law requires for those gathering the data and for those accessing it, with at least on surprising use.

Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

From an short note in today's Spokesman Review

Spokane-area hospitals decided last month to discontinue the practice of sending birth announcements to media outlets, saying they feared such information could be used to abduct babies.

Um, so people are going to forget that most babies are born in hospitals? How many babies were born in Spokane area hospitals in, say, the last five years? And of those, how many were abducted? I don't recall any and I couldn't find any using the Google.

But it only takes one to make the headlines. Or create a lawsuit.

I think a better reason would be to let the family choose to make the announcement, which is essentially what they're doing now, rather than heighten our fears. Well, at least there's no waiver of liability on the Review's birth announcement form that says they can't be held responsible for any abductions that result from the announcement.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Firsts For This Commuting Year

My first bike lane blocker.

I've also had my first yell by. You know, where someone leans out the window of a passing vehicle and yells, "Get the f&#k off the road!" Sometimes a cyclist can hold up a car for 10 seconds. That's an eternity when your driving.

My first near-bike collision. Some guy riding around the water fountain at Riverfront Park turned right at me while he was looking behind. At what? Who knows.

But these things are to be expected since it's not a perfect world. The weather has been awesome. Cool and crisp in the mornings and toasty on the way home. But I'm ready for the rain in the forecast. I'm also seeing other commuters I met last year as well as meeting new ones. Cool!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Speaking Of Tinkerers

Before I forget--again--Geoff was home for a weekend last month and he brought along a helmet on which he mounted a night vision scope. He rides his bike on the paved trails in the San Jose area at night. He has one eye looking through the scope and the other with normal vision. Pretty cool.

Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated.


This morning I put the video camera on the rack and recorded my commute. I aimed the camera so it recorded the scene behind me. The purpose was to test how well it would work. How much will it shake? Will the camera stay pointed in the right direction? Will the camera stay on? The camera did stay in place, but the shaking was awful. I was hoping I wouldn't have to go to the trouble of making a steady cam because my tool skills are closer to that of an apprentice tinkerer. Maybe I'll try a helmet mount next.

When I got home I recharged the battery while I fixed dinner. The battery was charged when it was time to eat so I hooked the camera up to my computer thinking I could use that time to import the video. I kicked off the import and the sound played on the camera while the playing tape was imported. So the family and I are sitting at the table with road noise in the background while we're chatting. The importing video is on my computer's monitor.

Suddenly Stephanie pointed at it and asked/accused, "Did you just fart?"

So, yeah, I need to be mindful of that.

Great Geek History

This is a bit of a lengthy read, but if you're interested in seeing how a genius worked--and a good-hearted one at that--resulting in the creation of a computer company called Apple then check out this interview with Steve Wozniak.

How About I Just Pick Out The Good Parts

In an opinion published in today's Spokesman Review, Cal Thomas makes some interesting posits but I'm going to pick on just one. He states we're a morally exhausted nation. I guess that depends which morals you're referring to and how you apply your interpretation of the bible to them. He references Genesis 2:24 as the God-defined reason marriage is only between a man and a woman. Picking and choosing from the bible can easily lead you astray. Couldn't Genesis 2:25 be used to justify nudism? Couldn't Genesis 19:32 be used to justify incest under certain conditions? And let's not forget how seemingly moral Christians justified slavery. How do you think the Southern Baptist Convention originated?

So let's be careful when we use the bible as justification for anything. Which is entirely possible.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Check Out My Tan Lines

I'm not going to dwell on it, but let me say that Hawaii was warm and relaxing. It was great to run in balmy weather. I didn't run as much as I should have, but I did manage to include one 7-1/2 miler. I'll finish Bloomsday without a problem, but maybe not as fast as last year. I also picked the guitar again and started rebuilding the calluses on my fingertips. Not that I play the instrument very well, but it's something I enjoyed for many years. With so many interests it's difficult to keep up at everything.

Kathy and I, along with Tim and Mary Beth (Kathy's sister), let the kids fend for themselves while we spent a weekend on Maui. That Sunday morning we skipped the free continental breakfast that came with the one hour time-share seminar at the hotel and went looking for breakfast. The restaurant we ended up at was quite the experience. The food seemed pretty good, but it might be because they're skilled at disguising it. This was the sort of place where in order to make sure everyone experienced the same service and ambiance the manager would've have visited each patron and asked questions like:

Was your table sticky enough?
Were at least half of your napkins clean?
Did everyone have something floating in their water?

We entertained ourselves by placing napkins and paper coasters on the table, setting a plate or cup on them and then trying to remove the napkin/coaster intact. We were 0 for 12. After Tim almost flung his coffee in the air while trying to pick up his mug I got the idea to press our plates and cups firmly onto the table to see how the hired help fared when it came time to clear them. Our evil plot was thwarted as they deftly broke the seal before lifting each item. Well, at least they have experienced staff on hand. On the way out we stopped at the front door to look at the T-shirts for sale in a display case. One of the girls that served us came up and asked, "How many?" Tim reminded her that we just ate and were on the way out. "Oh, I thought you guys looked familiar." Maybe so, but you'll never see us again. You're probably wondering what the name of the restaurant is. Well, life should be full of surprises. If you end up there you'll know as soon as you're seated.

After breakfast we saw a sign for an arts and crafts fair at the Lahaina Community Center. I really enjoy off-the-beaten-path things so we went for it. As luck would have it I got to meet an interesting musician in an out of the way place just like last summer.

This guy was playing an instrument I've never seen before. It sounded great but I was puzzled. All he was doing was pressing his fingers onto the strings like he was using both hands on the frets of a guitar. But the sound was phenomenal. So I struck up a conversation with Michael Kollwitz and learned he was playing The Stick. The Stick was invented by Emmett Chapman back in the 1970's. Kollwitz was one of Chapman's early students and he's been playing for over 30 years. The right hand plays the treble strings on the left side and the left hand plays the bass strings on the right side. All you have to do is press on the strings--well, in the right places of course. We bought all three CDs he had for sale. You can see a couple examples of him playing on YouTube.

Rather than show you my fish-belly white torso looking like a big tasty morsel bobbing up and down in a shark cage, here are the tan lines I worked so hard on.

This morning before I rode to work bearing gifts of Kona coffee and chocolate covered Macadamia nuts, Kathy asked if I remembered to bring a towel. Hah! Why would she ask such a silly question?