Friday, February 27, 2009

Drill, Baby, Drill!

I received another email newsletter from Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (now with a fresh new look on her web site) entitled "Easy Job and Energy Creation".

Earlier this month, I signed a very important letter with my colleagues urging President Obama not to lock up oil and gas resources in the OCS for environmentally safe energy exploration.


This week, the House Natural Resources Committee is conducting oversight hearings related to the OCS. During these hearings, I will be questioning individuals who have encountered challenges with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) from energy development.

I have long believed that we must do everything we can to end our dependence on foreign sources of energy. In order to do so we must explore for American energy. The Federal Government has issued oil and gas leases all throughout the country. Unfortunately, every lease properly issued has been tied up in our judicial system with frivolous lawsuits. We will not be able to effectively explore for American energy until these issues are resolved by the courts. For this reason, I have co-sponsored legislation limiting how and where energy related claims (Primarily using NEPA) can be adjudicated by our judicial system which will expedite the process.

What our good Congresswoman--and the AEA report--doesn't tell us is that the companies that extract the oil from our shores and our public lands are under no obligation to sell that oil in America.

The American Energy Alliance is essentially a front group. And they're known to treat some politicians very poorly.

The lawsuits against various oil and gas leases are hardly frivolous, unless you care more for making money than you do about nature, the environment, toxins in your water and pollutants in your air. There was very little in the news about the vast oil slicks created when hurricanes slammed the oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

I read through the AEA report--again, I'm not an expert so please read for yourself--and I found it interesting that the report uses an "average inflation-adjusted price of oil" of $110.64 per barrel. Right now oil is running about $45 per barrel which is a 60% decrease in price. The report is difficult to follow since it spits out numbers on pages 8 and 9 that don't match up to the numbers in the tables being referenced. One oddity I found was the map showing where mortgages are 90+ days delinquent and how that corresponds to the areas where the off-shore drilling could take place as a means of showing who would benefit from the jobs created.

And the best part is at the very end:

In closing, a caveat. The present analysis is only meant to be a starting point for discussing the economic effects of unavailable OCS resources rather than an exact estimate of the economic effects of OCS Planning Area development and operation.

An exact estimate? Are these people for real?

The gentlewoman from Washington is correct in her newsletter's subject line. It is easy--easy to work from behind a facade of looking out for the people while disregarding their best interests. And signing very important letters.

Cognition Switch Is On

Some years ago I saw a nature program where they showed how some natives would capture monkeys. They'd put seeds in deep holes they had made in the side of some sandstone formations. The holes were narrow enough for a monkey to get a hand down to grab the seeds. But once they grabbed the seeds and made a fist, they could not extract their hand. Consequently, as their captors approached they'd flail about unable to escape because they wouldn't let go of the food. So why do I bring this up?

When you're approaching the closing doors of an elevator you can normally get them to open back up by quickly waving an arm in between them. This has always worked in the building where I've been employed for over 11 years. Today was different. Holding my freshly purchased bottle of strawberry-kiwi juice I inserted my right arm between the closing elevator doors only to have the doors clamp down firmly. And I mean firmly. Then the alarm buzzer sounded telling the empty elevator that the doors were not completely closed. Now under these circumstances some people would probably worry that their arm would be ripped away or something. But for some reason my first thought was of the nature program where the monkey wouldn't let go of the food only to meet his or her doom. And I resolved to use my superior reasoning and logic abilities to keep both my arm and my juice. After all, I paid a buck-fifty for it. By the way, two people are standing behind me, watching silently.

The doors wouldn't open and they had a pretty good grip on my right arm. I slid my arm out a little and the doors squeezed shut a little more. So I did what any logical person would do. I inserted my left arm into the gap. Tilting the top of the bottle back in my right hand, I grabbed the top with my fingertips and pulled the bottle out. It was a tight squeeze and the audible scraping sound as the bottle came out caused one of the people to ask, "Uh...are you really stuck?" Since I had my juice out I could now pull my right arm which came out with less noise than the bottle and some very minor scrapes. The doors closed and the elevator went on its way.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Klan In Spokane?

The United Realms of America Knights of the Ku Klux Klan must not have much of an outreach program here. Have a look at the hate map at the Southern Poverty Law Center and check out Washington.

I find it interesting that the SPLC considers St. Michael's Parish a hate group. I knew that were strict about certain things. Apparently they're anti-Semitic, too. I had no idea.

Just Something To Think About

From Gourmet Magazine of all places.

But when asked if it is reasonable to assume that an American who has eaten a fresh tomato from a grocery store or food-service company during the winter has eaten fruit picked by the hand of a slave, Molloy said, “It is not an assumption. It is a fact.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

They Say They're Looking Out For You, But...

I received a flyer from The Pacific Technology Alliance inside today's Spokesman-Review. (From what little I could find on the subject, newspaper inserts are a cheaper method of distribution than mailing.)

In it they claim:

King County is asking the state legislature to allow Washington Counties to create hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes on utilities including sewer, gas, water and wireless services. Ratepayers across Washington State could see new taxes on their utility bills as a result.

The flyer says the source of this is the Summary Report of King County's 2009 Executive Proposed Budget. So I read that report which, by the way, portrays King County's budget woes in clear, straightforward language. On page 6, the Summary Report shows the sources of income for the state, counties, and cities. The state and cities can collect utility and B&O taxes. Counties cannot. Counties only collect sales and property taxes which the state and cities also get to add to the utility and B&O taxes. The primary source of income for King County is the property tax which was throttled by the passage of Initiative 747 back in 2001. Beginning in 2002, property tax increases were limited to one percent a year. Back in 2003 the King County Budget Advisory Task Force recommended that King County approach the state legislature about providing counties with, among other things, the ability to raise a utility tax in unincorporated areas.

On page 7 the report states:

King County provides city-level services to approximately 200,000 people living in urban unincorporated areas, making it the equivalent of the second-largest city in the county and the fourth-largest city in the state. These areas fall within the urban growth boundary, but have never been incorporated or annexed to an adjacent city as is intended under the State’s Growth Management Act.

I'd like to know how the annexations are supposed to happen and why they don't. And then on page 23:

If annexations do not occur, counties need the same revenue tools as cities to provide urban level service to residents in unincorporated King County. A local option utility tax for only unincorporated King County would provide equity with cities and give King County a tool to pay for local services.

That's sound logical and reasonable to me and hardly seems to warrant the shrill "A New Tax On Working Families" warning from The Pacific Technology Alliance.

According to The Pacific Technology Alliance web site:

The mission of the Pacific Technology Alliance (PacTech) is to educate citizens and policy makers about emerging technology issues and to promote policies that foster competition, innovation, increased choice and access to technology.

When I read through their site I get a pretty strong feeling they're a front for business interests. Formed just last year they claim to be a grassroots, technology organization. But with organizations like PhRMA and US Chamber of Commerce as members, I think I can safely assume that working families are not PacTech's priority.

Seeing Green With Photo Red

KXLY published a story about the photo-red program where cameras set up at four intersections monitor and photograph vehicles that enter the intersection after the light has turned red.

According to the Spokane Police web site Photo Red " a safety program. Automated safety systems have been shown to reduce red-light violations and intersection crashes."

The KXLY report had nothing to say about the number of accidents at the intersection. You'd think that would be the first thing asked about, especially since we're taking pictures of the red light runners. But the system also has constant video coverage of the intersections so the police department would be able to capture every accident on tape. That's not to say they're not doing that, but you'd think the city would be touting the primary reason for having this system. Here's what KXLY did report:

The red light tickets have brought in over $50,000 dollars to the City of Spokane.


The city expects to add four new cameras to intersections around Spokane, but the locations have not been determined. Installation should take place in March.

Say it with me now. Cha-ching!!!

The Great And Glorious Oz Has Spokane

Last last night I received an email from Cathy McMorris Rodgers with the subject line "Trusting Main Street to Do What's Right" and she's channeling Frank Morgan's character using levers and valves to distract us with bursts of flame and steam.

Trusting Main Street? What about Wall Street? The news is not replete with stories of greed and gluttony by local bike shops, restaurants, and book stores. Here we go:

Tonight, President Obama outlined his priorities as we address the challenges facing America. No matter the issue, it is important to remember the best solutions come from Main Street, not from Pennsylvania Avenue.

I look forward to working with President Obama to help turn our economy around and tackle the important issues facing our country.

You can read more of my thoughts by clicking here or watch a “behind the scenes” video on President’s address to Congress by clicking here.

Not much content in the email. So I checked out her "thoughts":

“The biggest challenge our nation faces is the economy. Growing and expanding our economy starts with true tax relief that allows middle class families and small businesses to keep more of their hard-earned money, instead of sending it to Washington D.C. It also involves investing in infrastructure and our workforce.

(Steam puffs and a long flame) Perhaps she didn't get the memo that there are tax cuts for the middle class and the poor in the stimulus bill she voted against.

“I applaud President Obama’s commitment to reducing our national debt. Just like families and small businesses must balance their budgets and prioritize spending, the federal government must do the same. Now is the time for both parties to back up their promises for fiscal discipline.

(I can't see through all the steam) The Republican party of Barry Goldwater promised fiscal discipline. Today's Republican party bears no resemblance to that.

“In order for America to remain strong and safe and if we are going to attract and train and put in harm’s way America’s finest, our military men and women need the best training and proper equipment to accomplish the mission and build new weapons systems to stay ahead of the threat.

(Extra flame throwing on this one) We have the largest standing military force in the world. And what threat is she referring to?

“A health care solution to ensure access to quality and affordable health care for every American is necessary. I look forward to working with President Obama to expand health information technology, especially in the rural areas, which will improve health care delivery and save costs. Ultimately, it is also very important that any health care solution protect the treasured doctor patient relationship.

(She's working those levers hard fogging things up with the steam) Nice segue from "solution" to "doctor-patient relationship". But I think the health care solution most of the country is talking about concerns people who never, rarely or can't afford to see a doctor and establish such a relationship, finally get to.

“I look forward to championing Eastern Washington energy solutions as part of meeting our national energy needs. Eastern Washington has led in renewable hydro, wind, biomass, and biofuel projects. We also have companies like Itron developing new smart meter technology for increased conservation and Schweitzer Engineering expanding critical smart grid innovation.

(I think she has a stuck valve) The requisite lip service to renewable energy.

“I believe the best solutions are developed when Republicans and Democrats work together. I stand ready to work with President Obama and the rest of his party to unleash American ingenuity and the entrepreneurial spirit.”

(Pay no attention to that woman behind the curtain!) Which is why she voted "No" on the stimulus bill? You should pay every attention to Congresswoman Cathy Rodgers McMorris's actions.


I also checked out her "behind the scenes" video on YouTube. Fortunately, it's less than two minutes in length but it's crammed with maybe one second of information. Okay, I'm being generous.

BTW, our fair congresswoman is all a-twitter.

Oh, and I look forward to be unsubscribed from her newsletter again.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Washington's Death With Dignity Act

The Bellinghamd Herald has an excellent article about this law which takes effect on March 5. I like that they include links to the FAQ and the rules created by the state. I wish more news organizations (and bloggers) did the same.

As with many topics, this is a difficult issue to discuss with lots of people. I long for the day when I can speak with someone about issues like this without them getting upset and emotional. And when I can, too.

It'll be interesting to see the use of this as compared to Oregon's law.

And We're The Most Advanced Country In The World

The North Dakota House passed House Measure 1572 which says in part:

The state shall naturalize all preborn persons and shall afford to them all the privileges and immunities of state citizenship guaranteed in section 21 of article I of the Constitution of North Dakota, except that the state is not required to include preborn children in state and local censuses.

The state shall afford the equality and inherent rights guaranteed to individuals in section 1 of article I of the Constitution of North Dakota and the right to due process guaranteed to persons in section 12 of article I of the Constitution of North Dakota to all human beings, including the preborn, partially born, born alive, and born alive who reenter the womb.

Personhood may not be denied:
a. If all the body parts are pulled out of the uterus except the legs or arms or portions of legs or arms are still inside the uterus;
b. When the child is about to be born;
c. When the child's head is taken out and placed back inside the uterus;
d. If a child's head is pushed back inside the uterus;
e. To partially born or born alive babies; or
f. Once a uterus is placed back inside the mother.

Rep. Dan Ruby, the bill's sponsor, says the bill would not necessarily ban abortion. But over at Personhood North Dakota we have:

The Personhood of Children Act is the only legislation this year that will stop abortion dead in its tracks.

That sounds like a reasonable interpretation when you read the text of the bill. The legislative findings are quite bizarre. We have findings like:

The right to life is the paramount right of a person. The right to life is a more fundamental right of a preborn child than the mother's right to liberty or pursuit of happiness, which does not include the right to kill other people. In no way does a child's right to life interfere with a mother's right to life.

Because scientists have discovered a way of creating pluripotent cells using umbilical stem cells, there is no need to kill children to obtain their embryonic stem cells.

It is not yet possible to conclusively determine whether all chemical contraception is abortifacient or not.

Because all preborn children are persons, no abortion performed with specific intent is legal. A direct abortion is always performed with the specific intent to bring death to a preborn child; it is a deprivation of the right to life and the right to the equal protection of the law and is the ultimate manifestation of the involuntary servitude of one human being to another.

It gets even better in Section 3 of the bill:

A person is guilty of an offense if that person intentionally dismembers the body of another human being, as defined in section 1 of this Act, without causing the death of the other human being.

So presumably the medical provider is not guilty under this law as long as the fetus is dismembered and the mother dies as a result of the procedure. The provider would also not be guilty under this law if the fetus is not dismembered. But that's not all.

A person is guilty of an offense if that person intentionally inflicts excruciating pain on another human being, as defined in section 1 of this Act, without causing the death of the other human being.

I'm all for reducing abortions to nil, but not by making it illegal which essentially has no effect on reduction. Education and contraception can do so much more.

I think it appropriate for North Dakota to have a corresponding bill called the Sperm Transmission and Unborn Protection In Discharge Act. The STUPID Act would make it a criminal offense for any male to discharge sperm for any purpose other than impregnating a female thus saving millions of potential children that would otherwise die a lingering and painful death.

"Yes," they could proclaim, "We hold the power in our hands."

Should We Criminalize Stupidity?

Last Friday the Washington State Senate Judiciary Committee discussed SB 5615, which reclassifies possession of forty grams or less of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a class 2 civil infraction. Click on the video to start it, then click the pause (left most) button. Click the timeline (third) button and go to 1:36:00 or just before. Then listen to 20 minutes of Senators Jim Hargrove, Mike Carrell and Pam Roach (Note: her son was arrested for selling Oxycontin) throw logic and science to the wind. Video courtesy of TVW.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I took an Intro to Video Production class at Community Minded TV. There were only two of us in the class and we had to take what we learned about storyboards, shot lists, camera angles, etc., to make a short video. It'll be shown on channel 14 in two or three weeks with other class-made videos in a program called Spokane By The Shorts. I've been working on an idea for a bicycling program called GASUP - Get Around Spokane Using Pedals so I thought this would be a good opportunity to test it out. The intent of GASUP is to show the versatility of the bike and how you don't have to be an athlete to ride. I want to highlight bike clubs, cycling events, give commuting tips, safety, maintenance, etc., in order to encourage people to ride.

So here's the video we made. The sound is atrocious since we used the mikes on the cameras, but that's what you get when you're new at something. But I think you'll get a pretty good taste of the concept. In spite of all the planning I was surprised how difficult it was to get this done. The guy that taught the course said video projects are never completed, just abandoned. I can see why. Even though it seemed we did a pretty good job, I keep seeing new things to fix every time I watch this.

A GASUP Short from h greer on Vimeo.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Growing Concern

Last Wednesday I listened to Lori Kinnear, Legislative Assistant to Councilmember Richard Rush, give a presentation to the Human Services Board on the feasibility of creating a community garden network. As is the norm for Spokane, we are in the shadows of Seattle and Portland who both have programs that started in the early 1970's and continue to, blossom...I mean, uh--they have a lot of participation. One interesting stat Lori brought up was that during World War II victory gardens provided 40% of the produce in America.

The idea is to create community gardens on unused or idle city property. A volunteer master gardener would oversee each garden. Water would ideally be supplied by the city which would be more efficient since they'd be watering gardens instead of grass.

The City of Spokane has made a start and other initiatives such as one in the West Central neighborhood (KSPS video) exist. Other programs have been around for quite some time.

There's a lot of potential in Spokane for this. Fresh Abundance just hosted a seed exchange last Sunday. In a newsletter from last December, Bright Spirit Hendrix said,

My challenge to you is to grow a victory garden this coming season. It could be anything from a few pots on a terrace to a full section of your yard. Growing food is one of the best ways you can contribute to the sustainability movement. If you take on this challenge I personally commit to making sure you have access to information, classes, and tools over the 2009 growing season. Even if you don't have a green thumb and have never grown anything before please consider taking up this challenge.

Years ago when Stephanie was four our neighbor had green beans growing on the fence between our yards. When I told her what they were, Steph replied, "No, Dad. Green beans come in a can." I decided right then we would have a garden which we did for quite some time. It was something when Josh and Steph would ask, "Can I have a carrot our of the garden?" They thought it was great to yank one out of the ground, wash it off, and crunch away. We stopped gardening about four years ago and I miss it. So I'm taking up Bright Spirit's challenge. It's on!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What Happens In Vegas...

Some very good friends of ours in Maine called last month and said they were going to Vegas. Would we go too? Absolutely!

The Blue Man Group was great. We were in the poncho zone, but fortunately we did not get hit. One poor woman got squirted with a load of mashed bananas. The ponchos do not completely cover your legs.

We also went to Cirque du Soleil Mystere. We've seen Cirque du Soleil shows on the television and we've always been impressed by them. They are absolutely awesome in person.

A bull bidet?

The flying inanities and security theatre continue. You have to buckle your seat belt before the plane can push away from the gate. After pushing away they show you how to buckle your seat belt. Going into the airport my CPAP machine gets a wipe down and test from TSA every time. I had no idea they could be explosive.

Funniest Home Video Moment: A young man had his carry-on bag with the handle extended lying on the floor. He stepped on the end of the bag to bring the handle up and instead of catching it, drove said handle into his groin. I wanted to say, "Dude! You just racked yourself," but I could tell he already knew. So could everyone else waiting at Gate C-2.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More Than One Person Had A Bad Day Today

I got back to work after lunch today and this accident was providing everyone with something to look at.

Crossin' The Line

Word up. The video links are not safe for work, children you are not responsible for, devout Southern Baptists, and women who clutch their pearls and get a touch of the vapors at the slightest hint of profanity.

Last Sunday Josh and Steph told me I needed to watch the Saturday Night Live short "I'm on a boat." (safe to read wikipedia entry) They said it was really funny. And it is. It's a nonsensical song where a guy wins a free boat ride, takes two friends with him on this world-class luxury yacht and disses everyone else who can't be on the boat. It's also replete with profanity. (I've written about the F-word before so I'm not going to rehash all that.) It must have been difficult to listen to on TV since they had to bleep it out more often than ohhhh...say...about five Hell's Kitchen programs with the caustic Chef Ramsay. Believe me, that's a lot of fuckin' bleepin'.

Now for the last year or so, SNL has shown some pretty wild and funny stuff that's not safe to watch at work or around other people's children. In other words, some people would be offended to hear or see it and some would be upset if their kids saw or heard it. Truth be told you can only discuss the Emmy Award (safe to read wikipedia entry) winning "Dick in a box" or "Jizz in my pants" (safe to wikipedia entry) in certain company. Most of us recognize when it is and is not appropriate.

Forty years ago--and I realize we're dealing with different times, social mores, etc.,--a friend of mine brought Steppenwolf's first album over. I put it on my parent's console stereo (anyone remember those?) and two trying-to-be-cool 12-year-olds kicked back. Then my dad unexpectedly came home from work. Remember, it was a different time. My dad was a strict disciplinarian. Panic stricken, Eddie and I ran into my bedroom. In the meantime, The Pusher started playing. Terrified, we waited for my dad's wrath to explode as "I say God damn. God damn, the pusher man." echoed down the hallway to us. After two minutes of eternity we came out because Eddie was afraid my dad would break the record he paid hard-earned money for. Standing there in his uniform, my dad hovered over the open console looking down at the record spinning away at thirty-three and a third. Crumbs from his sandwich fell onto the record and orbited the spindle as he silently ate and stared.

I timidly asked, "Dad, you want me to take Eddie's record off of there?" I knew he was less likely to destroy it if he knew it belonged to someone else.

"Yeah." And he stepped aside. I lifted the arm, flipped the switch to "Off", blew the crumbs off and handed Eddie his record. He quickly inserted it into its protective sleeve and slid that into the album cover. "See ya, Hank." And he was gone.

And then my dad did the most surprising thing. He didn't say a damned thing. I was more relieved that my life was not ended than anything else. It wasn't until later I realized that his silence was a change in his reaction towards certain boundaries being crossed. A sort of "pick your battles" thing. A couple years later I was in the Catholic Youth Organization, a high school-age group. One of the kids brought the Woodstock album and with a "Watch this" they played Country Joe McDonald's "I-feel-like-I'm-fixin'-to-die rag" which began with a cheer. "Give me an 'F' -- F!" "Give me a 'U' -- U!" "Give me a 'C' -- C!" I'm sure you get it by now. Some of the parents were horrified, mortified, and pissed off as they heard the answer to Country Joe's question, "What's that spell?" I think he asked five times. I found out my dad was one of the few who stuck up for us. He told the other parents that this was the reaction the kids were trying to get. They were waving a red cape and daring them to charge. And for what? It's just a song. Some of the parents were having any of that so they charged. The priest listened and put a stop to all the music. So we stopped going. It's hard to be around rigidly-minded people.

I think it's great my kids and I can share and talk. I know they know all the "bad words" and they probably use one or more on occasion. So do I. But there are times and places when it's appropriate and when it's not. And I hope I'm contributing to a healthy process where they learn to recognize that and set good boundaries for themselves. So far so good.

But I Feel Good About Myself

Since I'm retired Air Force I get news bulletins every once in a while keeping me abreast of changes in my military life if my prior military life were current instead of past. So I got this bit of news yesterday.

The Air Force has reinstated its Good Conduct Medal for exemplary service by enlisted airmen...

I must have missed the notice that said the Air Force did away with the Good Conduct Medal. This was a worthless medal as are most of the decorations and ribbons the military loves to encrust chests with.

The Air Force Uniform Board announced Feb. 6, 2006, that the Good Conduct Medal would no longer be awarded. It was thought at the time that the award was not needed because nearly all Airmen are exemplary performers.

They should have done that a couple of decades ago. This medal became more and more meaningless after the 1960's and 70's as tolerance levels decreased in the Air Force. Back then, as a cop, if I was busted for smoking pot I would've lost my security clearance and been retrained into another career field. A driving while intoxicated offense was not a career breaker. I don't mean to imply that these offenses aren't noteworthy or punishable, just that the response to them gradually ratcheted up. So in the 70's you were allowed to stay in the Air Force but you didn't get a Good Conduct Medal since you screwed up. Nobody noticed when you had one, but they sure did notice if it was missing. It broadcasted "I screwed up" to everyone. By the 1990's, as a minimum you were either kicked out with lost benefits or denied reenlistment. So essentially, everyone who stayed was exemplary and got the medal every three years. As standards tightened up fewer people did not get the medal and those that didn't were marked. But if everybody gets one, does it mean anything? Not really. In response to the question, "What'd you do to get that?" most people answered, "I didn't screw up."

Meanwhile, the other armed services continued to award Good Conduct Medals to their enlisted members, said Lt. Gen. Richard Y. Newton III, chief of the Air Force's manpower, personnel and services directorate.

Airmen -- who often serve in war zones alongside their Army, Navy, and Marine Corps counterparts as part of the joint-force team -- also deserve recognition for their good service, General Newton said.

No fair! How come they get one and we don't? I reckon it's tough to come up with a better reason for having a medal whose presence is only notable when it's absent.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hope You Like To Read

From an International Herald Tribune article we can get some background on a civil case filed back in 2007. Feel free to read the complaint and get all the details.

The American Civil Liberties Union plans to file a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that a subsidiary of Boeing aided the Central Intelligence Agency in the forced transportation of three plaintiffs who say they were captured and flown to overseas prisons and in some cases tortured.

The civil suit is to be filed in San Jose, California, under the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789. This law specifies that U.S. government agencies and U.S. corporations can be held responsible for human rights abuses against foreigners resulting from activities in a foreign country.

The Bush administration was trying to get the case dismissed through the use of its states secrets privilege which you can read more about here.

Last Monday, a Justice Department lawyer dispatched by the new attorney general, Eric Holder, appeared before a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco and advanced the same expansive state-secrets argument that was pressed by Mr. Bush’s lawyers to get a trial court to dismiss the case without any evidence being presented. Marc Ambinder published an article in the Atlantic supporting the Obama administration's decision. He states:

"The State Secret Privilege is perhaps the most powerful executive tool available for any president to use, and thus the Obama administration's decision to preserve its invocation, in Mohamed v. Jeppesen, was immediately interpreted by the vocal civil libertarian community as a betrayal of its basic principles."

Glenn Greenwald rips Ambinder's arguments to shreds and takes him to task for his so-called journalism. It's not as biting as Steven Colbert's classic skewering of the press at the White House Correspondent's Association Dinner, but just as telling.

What a shame the current administration is continuing this abuse of the state secrets privilege.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

You Can Run But You Can't Hide From Evolution

Preceding the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin, Gallup did a poll showing that 39% of Americans believe in the theory of evolution and 25% say they do not.

While I understand the intent of this poll and I realize they are professionals, I have a problem with the way the question is phrased. "Do you believe in the theory of evolution?" is like asking "Do you believe in the theory of gravity?" I think it misrepresents the context of the word theory. This form of the question makes theory sound like it's a "contemplation or speculation" as opposed to "a coherent group of general propositions used as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena." (Definitions shamelessly stolen from The poll found:

Americans who have lower levels of formal education are significantly less likely than others to be able to identity Darwin with his theory, and to have an opinion on it either way. Still, the evidence is clear that even to this day, Americans' religious beliefs are a significant predictor of their attitudes toward Darwin's theory. Those who attend church most often are the least likely to believe in evolution, and most likely to say they do not believe in it.

That's not to say all church goers are ignorant of science, but that the level of religiosity is a factor in accepting whether the scientific explanations behind evolution are valid or true. In science, a current theory is a theory that has no equally acceptable or more acceptable alternative theory, and has survived attempts at falsification. That means there have been no observations made which contradict it to this point and every observation ever made either supports the current theory or at least does not falsify it by contradicting it completely.

Last year the National Academy of Sciences published a book entitled Science, Evolution, and Creationism (you can read it online, create a free account and download the entire text in PDF or order a copy) in which they found:

Religious denominations that do not accept the occurrence of evolution tend to be those that believe in strictly literal interpretations of religious texts.

Sort of reminds me of the guy in Jurassic Park the priest was talking about last Sunday who denied reality by hiding in a bathroom and got eaten by the T-Rex.

Love Connection

I got a Blackberry at work back in August. I've mentioned before that I'm not into all the extra features, one of which is texting. Late last December I received a text message from a number I'm not familiar with.

Where are you Sexy Bisket?

Sexy Bisket is not a moniker I've ever gone by nor it is one I would choose. I ignored the message. It was either a prank being played by my wife (like that I Saw You ad she placed in the Inlander for me once) or someone was entering familiar numbers in the wrong order. Of course, Kathy denied any knowledge which, true or false, is the answer to be expected.

A month later I receive another text from the same number.

Sexy Bisket

Well, whoever they are, they must be adept at texting. Every letter in that message except for "t" requires multiple button pushes. (Yeah, I'm geeky enough to think of that.) So they're either dyslexic when it comes to numbers or it's a prank. Kathy still says she doesn't know anything about it and I ignore the message.

Last Saturday I get another text.

Hey, Sexy Bisket

They're still on that single track. I ignore it. Yesterday, another one. Since the frequency picked up I decided to call their number from a land line. I get a recording stating the phone is either turned off or it's out of range. What the heck? They just sent me a text and then turned their phone off?

So I'm riding the bus home and my Blackberry rings. It's the Sexy Bisket texter. Here's how the conversation went:

Me: (When I answer I hear a loud TV and lots of people talking in the background.) "Hello"

SBT: (Shouting in a raspy voice. Sounds like a woman in her 50's who has smoked all her life) "Hell-ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh?"

Me: "Hello."

SBT: "Hell-ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh?"

Me: "Hello." (Yeah, it's like we were born to connect with each other.)

SBT: "Who is this?"

Me: (I don't answer. I'm thinking this is going to be a fruitless and frustrating effort on my part to convince this person they're calling the wrong number.)

SBT: "I don't know who this is." (Hangs up)

Well, that went better than I thought it would. No repeating the same explanation to someone suffering through incoherence and loud noise. I don't have to have this conversation on the bus. I don't have to have this conversation at all. Goodbye, Sexy Bisket texter.

Kathy still insists on her innocence. She's either getting really good at keeping a straight face or she's actually telling the truth.

I hope that lady made it home from the bar okay.

Know A Good Song?

I have neighbors who went to California for the winter and they're due back in a month. Their son has been keeping an eye on the house but their driveway was never cleared of snow. The way the weather has been going I wonder if they'll pull up to their ice-blocked driveway and drive back in disgust.

I imagine I'll have to break out the pickaxe and, to rhythmic music made especially for chain gangs, clear a path.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pander Alert

Norm Coleman and Al Franken are still locked in a court battle to determine who won the election and will serve as a senator for Minnesota. Coleman is taking advantage of opportunities to broadcast his message to the public.

When asked about the recount and how it is affecting him personally, Coleman said he starts every day with a prayer and that he knows “God wants me to serve.”

Hmm, if so one has to wonder why God didn't make the outcome of the election just a little easier to decide.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


A very fervent young priest at St Thomas More did the Mass and gave the sermon today. Kindly put, his sermon would be considered strange. I thought it was illogical fear mongering. First he completely misrepresented the story of Job as a true story and used it as an example of how the devil causes all fear and anxiety when, in this story, God is the one who brings up Job and gives the Satan permission to test him by killing his children and taking away all his possessions. The priest emphasized that belief in and love of God removes all fear and anxiety. He didn't mention anything specific, but I wonder if he was trying to address the fear and anxiety brought on by our failing economy. For some reason he brought up the guy in Jurassic Park that tried to hide in a bathroom and was eaten anyway by the T-Rex as an example of someone who denies reality. Okay...I guess. He also mentioned how Jesus cast out demons and how that is still an important part of the church today. I can't think of any instances where demons have been cast out in this age and he did not offer any evidence to back this statement up. Then he went on to decry the use of tarot cards, astrology, yoga (the meditation, not the stretching) and ouija boards as a means for allowing spirits to come into our lives. And they're probably not good spirits. We don't know. So we shouldn't do that. Because we can't know for sure that they're good spirits. A puzzling and bizarre sermon. Quite the contrast with others where the priest tries to apply the readings to today's world.

I Made This For You

We have three boxes in the basement—one for each child—saving art and school work for an as-yet-undetermined future. Mother's Day and Father's Day gifts, red-bearded Thanksgiving turkeys, crayoned Halloween pumpkins, and a wide variety of art and science projects patiently wait to be rediscovered. Hidden and forgotten prized work showcasing incredible talents far beyond the capabilities of other children. The picture-of-an-angelic-child Christmas ornaments come out every year to show the annual progression of each child going through the elementary school years and remind us how fast they grow up and when they get “to old” for certain things. Smiles with teeth missing and reappearing express that youthful exuberant innocence that fades just a bit each year as they become more aware of the world outside their school and neighborhood.

When I was in my forties my mom gave me some pictures I drew when I was in elementary school. Even though I don't remember doing a single one, when I look at them that feeling of innocence returns. A time when my whole world consisted of a two-block area where I never ran out of room, I always had something to do, and I was never troubled by the outside world. The Vietnam war, glue sniffing, the drug counterculture, and assassinations did not happen on Bryant Street and so were not part of my world.

This is the latest work of art for which I am to perform my curator duties. It's a science project Stephanie did for school. Maybe thirty or forty years from now I'll return it to her—if it survives. And maybe she'll look back and fondly remember how great life was before she had to concern herself with the outside world. The time when an innocent and carefree life was the greatest gift parents could give their children.

The Big Show

I can't look!

Jung Kim's Taekwondo demonstration team performed during intermission at the Gonzaga/Memphis game in the Arena last night. (An unfortunate game for the Bulldogs where ESPN came all the way to Spokane to watch GU get schooled. Also a shining example of how college sports is such a big business, but that's another topic.) It was the largest crowd the demo team has ever performed for. Master Kim was very nervous but the team came through and put on a good show. I heard ESPN even carried some of it. Whipping the nunchucks around and some of the more exotic kicks get a good rise out of the crowd, especially when a chunk of a board shoots off like a clay pigeon.

Steph has been in Taekwondo for almost 3-1/2 years and on the demo team for over a year. She should earn her black belt in the spring. It's been a great experience for her. Breaking the boards at the first try during her tests is a matter of pride now even though they get thicker as she progresses. Although the boards are designed to break you still have to hit/kick them properly. Parents often get to hold the boards for their child during the test. At one of her earlier tests Steph missed the board and did a side kick into my hand jamming my straightened arm into my shoulder. Holy cow did that hurt! But there's no crying in Taekwondo. So I sucked it up because that's how we roll.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


The Passion For Christ Movement in Los Angeles has some interesting T-shirts for sale. There's an Ex-Slave. People choose to be slaves? And they have Ex-Diva, Ex-Fornicator, Ex-Rebel, Ex-Masturbator, Ex-Athiest, Ex-Hypocrite, Ex-Homosexual and Ex-Hustler.

Please forgive me if I skip wearing my shirt every few days.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Don't Bother Us With The Details

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers sent out a newsletter concerning the stimulus plan. (Don't bother clicking on the "Read the latest e-newsletter" link on her web site. It hasn't been updated since last September.) But KHQ was kind enough to post it on their site.

My top priority as your representative in Congress is turning our economy around and helping hard working middle class families. Unfortunately, the stimulus bill is just another example of a big government, big bureaucracy, big political and big spending solution. During these very difficult times, we cannot afford another wasteful Washington spending spree that will do very little to create jobs and grow the economy.

Another wasteful Washington spending spree? One wonders where the good gentlewoman from the 5th District of the Great State of Washington has been during the past four years.

During this debate, I have offered common sense alternatives that would stimulate and grow the economy. Alternatives like stabilizing home values, more assistance for the unemployed and providing immediate tax relief for hard working families and small businesses.

More or the same tax cuts that helped get us where we are today. I imagine the 598,000 people who lost their jobs last month would love a tax cut on the salary they no longer receive.

Her newsletter includes a Link of the Week.

"President Obamas economic recovery package will actually hurt the economy more in the long run than if he were to do nothing, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday."

Said link taking you to a news article. The letter being referenced in the article is here and a summary is here. When you read it, please look for the part where the CBO says the economic recovery package will actually hurt the the economy more in the long run than doing nothing. Couldn't find it? Me neither.

...CBO analyzed the macroeconomic effects of an initial Senate version of the stimulus legislation (the Inouye-Baucus amendment in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 1, which is the House stimulus bill). CBO estimates that the Senate legislation would raise output by between 1.4 percent and 4.1 percent by the fourth quarter of 2009; by between 1.2 percent and 3.6 percent by the fourth quarter of 2010; and by between 0.4 percent and 1.2 percent by the fourth quarter of 2011. CBO estimates that the legislation would raise employment by 0.9 million to 2.5 million at the end of 2009; 1.3 million to 3.9 million at the end of 2010; and 0.6 million to 1.9 million at the end of 2011. Those estimated effects are slightly greater than those of H.R. 1 (as introduced) in 2009 and 2010 (particularly in 2009), but lower in 2011, because more of the overall rise in spending and fall in revenues occurs in the first two years under the Senate legislation.

Most of the budgetary effects of the Senate legislation would occur over the next few years. Even if the fiscal stimulus persisted, however, the short-run effects on output that operate by increasing demand for goods and services would eventually fade away. In the long run, the economy produces close to its potential output on average, and that potential level is determined by the stock of productive capital, the supply of labor, and productivity. Short-run stimulative policies can affect long-run output by influencing those three factors, although such effects would generally be smaller than the short-run impact of those policies on demand.

In contrast to its positive near-term macroeconomic effects, the Senate legislation would reduce output slightly in the long run, CBO estimates, as would other similar proposals. The principal channel for this effect is that the legislation would result in an increase in government debt. To the extent that people hold their wealth in the form of government bonds rather than in a form that can be used to finance private investment, the increased government debt would tend to “crowd out” private investment—thus reducing the stock of private capital and the long-term potential output of the economy.

The negative effect of crowding out could be offset somewhat by a positive long-term effect on the economy of some provsions—such as funding for infrastructure spending, education programs, and investment incentives, which might increase economic output in the long run. CBO estimated that such provisions account for roughly one-quarter of the legislation’s budgetary cost. Including the effects of both crowding out of private investment (which would reduce output in the long run) and possibly productive government investment (which could increase output), CBO estimates that by 2019 the Senate legislation would reduce GDP by 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent on net.

So besides avoiding another depression there is a downside to increasing government debt.

Thank you, Congresswoman, for your grasp of the facts, respect for the truth, and clarity of vision. If only you had read the letter yourself.

It's Just Like A Video Game

The Air Force wants retired rated officers to come back.

The rapid expansion of unmanned aircraft systems and other emerging missions and rated officer requirements has created an Air Force demand for experienced, rated officers. To meet these critical shortages, the secretary of the Air Force has initiated a Voluntary Retired Rated Recall Program.

Pilots, navigators, and air battle managers who retired as a lieutenant colonel or below, and who are younger than 60, may apply for the program. Officers recalled under this program will be used in myriad positions including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, rated staff, and other rated requirements. Officers will be recalled for between 24 and 48 months depending upon the requirement.

Officers recalled will not be eligible to receive aviator continuation pay. Also, by volunteering for recall, officers become eligible for deployment.

So if you don't have any qualms about getting your groove on, there may be a joystick and a battery of monitors in your future if you're a retired rated officer.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Set Your Sights High

Josh started a class in pottery this semester. He always tries to get good grades, but he has a special goal for this class.

Never to have the teacher say, "This looks like it was made by Helen Keller."

Dipping A Toe In The Water

Two federal employees of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals each married a person of the same sex during the time it was legally permitted in California. Each applied for health benefits coverage for their respective spouses and were denied because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) (Wikipedia entry for more info). DOMA does not allow the federal government to treat same-sex relationships as marriage for any purpose.

In both cases the judges, one actually stating that DOMA was unconstitutional, ordered the Administrative Office of the United States Courts to submit the spouses' health benefits form to the appropriate insurance carrier.

Please read the orders concerning Karen Golinski and Brad Levenson for yourself.

It's important to remember that these were administrative hearings and not court cases. But they could very well go to court depending on the Administrative Office's responses.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

There Ought To Be A Law

Nick brought this up and I thought I'd have a look.

Chapter 74.34 of the Revised Code of Washington is entitled "Abuse of vulnerable adults" and concerns itself with protecting people who, as a result of some sort of infirmity, rely on others to make decisions about their care, finances, etc.

Representatives Cody, Ericksen, and Conway have submitted House Bill 1925 which would allow an exemption.

Creating an exemption for Christian Science treatment of vulnerable adults.

1 AN ACT Relating to creating an exemption for Christian Science
2 treatment of vulnerable adults; and adding a new section to chapter
3 74.34 RCW.
5 NEW SECTION. Sec. 1. A new section is added to chapter 74.34 RCW
6 to read as follows:
7 A vulnerable adult who is being furnished Christian Science
8 treatment by a duly accredited Christian Science practitioner shall not
9 be considered, for that reason alone, a neglected or abused vulnerable
10 adult for the purposes of this chapter.

My first question was, "Why?" I'll get back to that.

I was also curious as to what constitutes a "duly accredited" Christian Science practitioner. About all I could find was this information on the Christian Science web site.

Basically, training for the public practice of Christian Science involves deep, private study of the Bible and of the textbook of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, as well as her other writings. Mrs. Eddy discovered Christian Science in 1866, and thereafter was its first practitioner. Her outstanding success in the healing work was the result of years of prayerful study of the Bible and a deep desire to follow Jesus' example and his command, "Heal the sick" (Matt. 10:8). Her books throw light on his teaching and method of healing, and a thorough knowledge of these books, as well as a good record of practice of the Christian ethic in daily life, is indispensable to the success of present-day practitioners of scientific mental healing.

Next is the only part that references any form of accreditation.

Before they can be recognized and advertised in The Christian Science Journal as available to respond to calls for help from the public, practitioners must also complete a course of intensive instruction on healing and improving mankind, from an authorized teacher. There are over two hundred Christian Science teachers throughout the world.

There are some examples of Christian Science practitioning in Marci Hamilton's God vs. The Gavel. I highly recommend it if you're interested in the influence religion has had on the law concerning medical care, vaccinations, land use, prisoners and more.

I also found Children's Healthcare Is a Legal Duty (CHILD), an nonprofit organization concerned with protecting children from abusive religious and cultural practices. It was started by Dr. Rita Swan, a former Christian Scientist, whose son died of meningitis after being attended to by a Christian Scientist practitioner.

But back to my original question. Why? So I wrote all three representatives and asked them. Here's what I wrote.

Good day. I'm writing about House Bill 1925 which will grant an exemption to accredited Christian Science practitioners.

Why do you feel this exemption is necessary that it needs to be codified?

Is there a reason why other religions are not included, for example, a priest administering last rites? Or perhaps prayer by anyone?

I will appreciate any information you can provide to help me understand this issue.

I'm waiting to hear back. Here are their addresses if you'd like to ask them yourself.


Yesterday Stephanie mentioned that one teacher in the classes she started this new semester says "okay" a lot. She decided to count the okays today. When I got home she showed me her homework planner. It looked like the cell wall of a man who was doing 10 to 15 with time off for good behavior.

One hundred and eighty-nine marks in a 45-minute class.

"What was she talking about today?" I asked.

Hmm, Steph had to think about that for a bit.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Methods Of Think Control

The emergency contraceptive known as Plan B is back in the news again. Back in 2006, the state Board of Pharmacy took up rules under which a pharmacist could cite "conscientious, moral or religious reasons" in refusing to fill prescriptions for Plan B. Many people opposed the rule and in 2007 the board issued rules saying that pharmacists had to fill all lawfully prescribed drugs and devices. Later that year a US District Judge granted an injunction staying the rule for pharmacists who claimed it forced them to violate their religious beliefs. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to lift the injunction and is scheduled to hear the case this coming April. We're sure to hear about that once they make their decision.

I was curious as to how Plan B works and found this excellent explanation. (Be warned that Paul Myers, associate professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris, does not hold back while expressing what he thinks.) You could boil it down to one sentence. Plan B doesn't help if one is already pregnant, and it doesn't affect any implanted zygotes.

The FDA confirms this...

Plan B works like other birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. Plan B acts primarily by stopping the release of an egg from the ovary (ovulation).

... but then adds the "mays".

It may prevent the union of sperm and egg (fertilization). If fertilization does occur, Plan B may prevent a fertilized egg from attaching to the womb (implantation). If a fertilized egg is implanted prior to taking Plan B, Plan B will not work. (emphasis added)

And the "mays" is what people with "conscientious, moral or religious reasons" are keying on, especially the second "may". It doesn't matter that many fertilized eggs do not attach to the womb anyway. Or that something like 20 per cent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage and most of those during the first two weeks. It'll be interesting to see if the FDA under the new administration changes that language.

Given all that the question for me is not, should pharmacists be allowed the option of not dispensing Plan B out of conscience or personal belief? The question is, should a pharmacist be allowed to practice if her beliefs about a particular medication defy or deny the science of that medication?

When you think about it, that's their argument. Unlike RU486 which does end a pregnancy, Plan B does not. But they believe differently.

What Moral Dilemma?

We've probably all heard about the program "24" with Jack Bauer doing everything he can, including using torture, to protect the country. There's another program called "Chuck" in which a hapless computer geek becomes a national asset through some unbelievable circumstances. He's protected by two secret agents, John Casey and Sarah Walker. Sarah, aside from being deadly, is blonde and beautiful and the show teases the audience with hints of a love interest between her and Chuck. Since Chuck is such a highly valued target he is sought by the bad guys. One is caught by Sarah and Chuck, without Sarah's knowledge, witnesses her killing the bad guy in cold blood. He struggles with this for some time before he finally confronts her with it. She admits what she did and explains that she had to. Chuck is so important that she has to do whatever is necessary to protect him.

And then Chuck is okay with it.

That's the bill of goods we're sold every day. Indefinite detention, denial of habeas corpus, water boarding, Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition, illegal surveillance, air strikes from unmanned Predator aircraft, and more because we have to do whatever is necessary. We are Chuck.

I'm not okay with it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Faster Than I Think

I had originally planned to go on the breakfast ride this morning, but I decided to wait until later in the day. (Yes, when it was warmer.) My road bike has been collecting dust for a couple months now and I figured the roads were clear enough to take it out. I headed out onto Rutter Parkway mistakenly thinking that between church attendance and the Superbowl pre-game pre-shows traffic would be light. Man, it was busy. I was hoping I'd catch some wildlife, but no luck. An uncooperative blue heron stayed on the other side of the trees and there were no moose or deer to be seen.

It was a good workout but by the end of the ride my toes were in the cold feet zone. There was no wind today but when you're doing 20mph in 25 degree weather you feel the windchill. Okay, it was more like 16mph except for the downhill parts. (The numbers sound better when you use the octal number system. Octal 20 is equal to decimal 16.)

Red, Green, Green, Red, Yellow

Otherwise known as Sweet Child of Mine. Do the songs, especially the classic rock songs, lose their luster when you hear them on the radio after you hear (see) them played on Guitar Hero or Rock Band?

Or is it just me?

Move Along, Folks. Nothing To See Here

It looks like Skynet was kept at bay. Google suffered a human-induced error yesterday morning which is why my searches for "ural motorcycle" and "kittens" came up with dangerous web sites.

Internet Introspection

A combination of recent online experiences made me pause and think for a bit. One was where I was suspiciously unsubscribed from Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers newsletter for a third time after writing about her for the third time. Another was an out-of-the-blue email I received from someone I worked with fifteen years ago. Don't get me wrong, it was great to hear from him. But he found me by searching for the moniker my wife created for me many years ago--gigowiz. At Christmas time an old friend of mine asked me to create a FaceBook account and use it as another means of keeping in touch. I did, but I refrained from adding all the personal info about me. It could probably be found elsewhere but I just didn't see a need to add that information especially since my FaceBook friends are quite likely people who know me already. And then there was Twitter. I created an account back in December and said, "What do I do now?" I didn't know so I just let it sit there. After a month or so of tweeting dormancy I got an email from another Twitter user who decided to follow me and provided a link so I could follow them. And I wondered, do I need or should I have that much of an online presence? For now the tweeting concept still eludes me and I'm not so sure I want to catch it.

Top that off with this recent article entitled The Unforeseen Consequences of the Social Web. The author provides a variety of methods--and plenty of links to examples--of how our online presence can affect us.

Maybe egosurfing is the wrong term to use--unless you're really searching for yourself out of vanity--but it might be something we should do just to see what we could find. How much privacy do you have? Well--the answer we all love to hate--it depends. It's tough to erase your tracks. In some cases there are records that go way back.

So you really need to talk to your kids about this before they get too into it.