Monday, April 30, 2012

For A Laugh

For the last few nights I've been telling Stephanie to park weird. We have a laugh and hope the neighbors are wondering, "What the hell...."

Ethical Dilemma Of The Unethical

Here's a brief exchange between George Stephanopolous and White House Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan on ABC's This Week program yesterday.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Most of the attacks against Al Qaida over the last couple of years have been by unmanned drones. And they have decimated the top leadership. Are you concerned, though, that this is a technology that is now going to be exploited by our enemies? And do you stand by the statement you have made in the past that, as effective as they have been, they have not killed a single civilian? That seems hard to believe.

BRENNAN: Well, what I said was that over a period of time before my public remarks that we had no information about a single civilian, a noncombatant being killed. Unfortunately, in war, there are casualties, including among the civilian population. We've done everything possible in Afghanistan and other areas to reduce any risk to that civilian population. Unfortunately, Al Qaida burrows within these areas, you know, safe havens as well as areas where there are civilians, but we've been very, very judicious in working with our partners to try to be surgical in terms of addressing those terrorist threats. And the president has told us, we want to make sure that we protect the American people. And unfortunately, sometimes you have to take life to save lives, and that's what we've been able to do to prevent these individual terrorists from carrying out their murderous attacks. (bolding mine)

In other words, despite our precautions, it can't be helped that we kill innocent people to make sure we protect the American people. It's unfortunate that innocent people die when we kill people we believe are a threat. Drones are a murderous convenience for us.

Now read this exchange between Leslie Stahl and retired CIA agent Jose Rodriguez interviewed on 60 minutes. Rodriguez oversaw the use of torture enhanced interrogation techniques in extracting information from suspects. He's written a book about it.

Jose Rodriguez retired from the CIA in January 2008. He has spent the last year writing his book, published by the CBS company Simon and Schuster. In the book he says that by canceling the interrogation program, President Obama has tied the government's hands in the war on terror.

Jose Rodriguez: We don't capture anybody any more.

Lesley. You know their default option of this Administration has been to kill all prisoners. Take no prisoners.

Lesley Stahl: The drones.

Jose Rodriguez: The drones. How could it be more ethical to kill people rather than capture them. I never understood that one.

Imagine that. A CIA agent who admits to being extremely creative in torturing people (read the entire transcript) questions the ethics of killing people outright instead of capturing and torturing them instead. Not adopting a cynical attitude about America being the land of the free is a struggle when "Land of the Free" includes violating international law as well as simple moral code with impunity. We used to hold ourselves to a higher standard. Now we are so fearful and hold ourselves to be so precious that we are willing to justify inhumanity. We are under the delusion that we're saving ourselves.

In the actions of men, and especially of Princes, from which there is no appeal, the end justifies the means. - Niccol├│ Machiavelli, The Prince. 1537.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Truth Depends On The Framing

In today's Spokesman Review, Shawn Vestal takes Michael Baumgartner to task for his representation of the truth in response to a Seattle Times article about statements he made about the health care reform legislation. Taking the "debate" to his followers, Baumgartner created a survey which almost can't help but support him.
Notice the focus is on "Obamacare"--intended as a pejorative--as a whole. Here is what he's not asking when he asks, "Do you support repealing Obamacare?" Do you support allowing insurance companies to refuse coverage for your child with a pre-existing condition? Do you support allowing insurance companies to cut off your coverage when you have reached your cap? Do you support insurance companies requiring pre-approval or charging higher co-payments when you seek emergency treatment at a facility outside of your plan's coverage? I could go on.

Here's the point I'm trying to make. The key is in how you frame the subject. Instead of asking about the specifics, you label and frame. Baumgartner did the same thing during the sparsely attended town hall meeting where he stated that Social Security is currently unsustainable. In a sense that is true. But instead of talking about how to make it sustainable, he left it like it was road kill and said the answer was to give people more choices. He's doing the same here with health care, treating it like it's an all or nothing choice.

I love the last question. He could just as well ask, "Is the Seattle Times picking on me?"

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Bread Making

Steph and I attended a bread making class taught by Mary Lee Gaston. (Disclosure: She's an old family friend.) For many years Mary Lee lived near Mount St Michael. When the facility was no longer a seminary, she managed to get the last fire brick oven before it was sold for scrap. The oven was cheap. Moving it wasn't. She's since moved into Spokane and had the oven installed in her back yard.
 Steph with the loaves we made. Hers on the left and mine are on the right.
Checking the bread.
We loaded up our smoking hot bread for the best smelling drive home ever.

P2P Bike Tune-Up

Pedals2People bike tune up at the Neighbor Day Festival held at Cannon Park this morning.


The British Love Of Planes

While I was stationed at RAF Mildenhall, England back in the 80's I learned just how insanely dedicated some of the British were about aircraft. Plane spotters sat outside the fence watching the runway, duly noting the time, date, tail number and type of aircraft of every take off and landing. This scene repeated itself at every base in England as well as throughout Europe. The resulting data were compiled and correlated and even published in books. You could look up a C-141 tail number and see it's history of flight in Europe. Plane spotting at Mildenhall was a treat because the SR-71 flew out of there, but I digress.

As a member of the base's speakers bureau I volunteered to go out to different groups and give talks on a variety of subjects. It was fun and I got to meet a lot of interesting people. One evening I was tasked with speaking at a ceremony being held at the Fenland Aircraft Preservation Society. My memory is fuzzy but from their history I'm quite sure I was there for the June '87 dedication of their museum. (True to maintaining proper form, they renamed the museum about six months later once they realized it was technically in Norfolk and not in Fenland. I love it.) My talk was about George Holmes, the last enlisted pilot in the US Air Force.

These guys were nuts, but in a good way. They were nuts about airplanes and they were nuts about digging up airplanes. Digging up airplanes? Note the name, Fenland. A fen is wet, marshy land. A bog. Back during WWII an occasional aircraft crashed in the fens. If the records showed that a body was likely in the plane then it was considered a grave site and could not be disturbed. But if it was unoccupied, you could apply for a permit to dig it up. That's what these guys did. They researched aircraft crashes in the fens and poked around in the marshes looking for clues. After locating a site they would--sometimes at great peril to themselves--try to dig up the plane or whatever parts they could find. Thirty and forty years after WWII any wreckage would have sunk deep into the wet ground. Bracing the sides of their excavation with sheets of plywood and lumber they cheerfully risked being buried alive just to retrieve an engine or piece of fuselage. Members kept these pieces and parts in sheds and barns until they decided to create a museum. That evening I certainly learned a lot more from them than they did from me.

So why do I bring this up? It turns out a British enthusiast has discovered the location of up to 20 Spitfires buried in Burma. When I read that I immediately thought of those passionate fellows in Fenland. For them it would have been like finding the Holy Grail.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Musical Reminiscing

I recently noticed something about myself. Often times when I hear a song from the past I tend to remember the media form that I originally listened to it on. Brewer and Shipley's One Toke Over The Line was on a 45rpm record. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Dr Hook and the Medicine Show, Rod Stewart, Supertramp, Led Zeppelin, Funkadelic, and Alice Cooper were among the majority I remember were on vinyl albums. Nazareth, Bad Company, and Peter Frampton were on 8-track. Harry Chapin, the music from Annie, and Tom T. Hall were on cassette. REM, Primus, Gin Blossoms, and Nirvana were on CD.

Now it's all efficiently downloaded straight to my computer which I then sync up with my iPad and iPod.

Somehow I can't see myself looking back fondly at my iTunes library. Not like my memory of dad surprising me by coming home for lunch in time to hear Steppenwolf's The Pusher playing on his console stereo; me and my friends half buzzed and feeling the emotion of Alice Cooper's Ballad of Dwight Fry spinning at thirty-three and a third rpms; me and my friends totally hammered and surrounded by The Who in Quadraphonic sound; the diamond needle clearly playing those quietly whispered words in Pink Floyd's Careful With That Axe, Eugene just before the blood-curdling screams; driving across Montana in my MGB, the 8-track making that distinct ka-chunk sound indicating it has moved on to the next track and playing Love Hurts; or going to work in England and popping Lionel Richie out of the cassette deck, flipping it over, pushing it back in, and hitting the play button. Hello. Is it me you're looking for?

5,673 songs in my iTunes library and most of them take me elsewhere.

We Can't Take Chances These Days

What is it with kids these days? Why are they so out of control that a six-year-old has to be handcuffed by the police because none of the available adults were able to control her? Some people are upset about this. Obviously they have no idea what a six-year-old is capable of? And this one was chewing on a door knob so there's definitely no stopping her.

And now our young people are apparently studying up on Islamofascism and looking for ways to defeat the many protections put in place to ensure our safety when we travel by plane. No doubt, the four-year-old girl was the ringleader of this operation attempting to use the elderly and the very young to test weapon smuggling and exchanging scenarios. But TSA wasn't about to fall for it. They saw right through her ploy. Looks like TSA proved she wasn't as clever as she thought she was.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Patching The Patchy Bloomsday Route

It's that time of year again where the Bloomsday route gets a makeover. Potholes and their younger brethren are patched to make ready for the thousands of feet about to pass over them. Be sure to wear shoes. Fresh tar feels good but it's tough to remove from bare feet. And those lose bits of asphalt are sticky. There's nothing like having to stop every few steps to pick them off your sole.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Social Security Gloom

In today's Spokesman Review we learn that Social Security is projected to become insolvent earlier than expected. This is actually old news and it's not nearly as bad as it's been portrayed in the media. We've been hearing gloom and despair about Social Security for quite some time now. Something as simple as raising the limit on the amount of income taxed for Social Security would be an easy fix. But we won't hear this option from most of Congress and we won't see much action from Congress except to allow the problem to get worse.

What we often hear is that the program is unsustainable. That entitlements need to be reformed. That privatization is the answer. All of these themes serve to benefit the financiers who would love to get their hands on that money and make a profit on it. Well, that's my theory anyway. Regardless, there's less concern for fulfilling a social contract and the purpose of Social Security which is to keep older Americans out of poverty. 

Nobody gets rich off of Social Security--yet. But once they start, they'll be singing its praises.

I Know You Are But What Am I?

From an area that's undergoing some renovation in the building I work in.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Extremely Helpful - Not!

While trying to solve a server issue at work I got this response from the vendor's web site.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spokane River Run

This morning I fixed my favorite pre-run breakfast of oatmeal and apples with a cup of tea. Then I headed over to Riverside State Park where I was running the 25k at the Spokane River Run. What a beautiful day for a run. I wore my Vibrams like last year, but this year I carried my Nikon DSLR to take photos with along the way. As usual, I did not wear a watch to check my time because I'm out to enjoy the run and have fun.
A shot of the 25k runners from the start line. This would pretty much be the only time I would see most of these people. 
See what I mean? There they go. 
This was some time after the first mile. I walked most of the climbs to conserve energy. And a plus of stopping to take photos is that I get a mini-rest every so often. Since the weather was really nice, but warm for running, I stopped at every food/water station and had a bite and a drink.
Close to the seven mile marker and it looks like we're miles away from the nearest sign of civilization. After reaching the food/water station at the eight mile mark, I removed my Vibrams to see how far I could make it barefoot. I had vague memories of the course from last year and I thought much of the second half was dirt and/or pine needle covered. My memory was painfully wrong. I barely lasted a mile. There was way too much gravel and rock for my comfort.
A happy runner celebrates reaching the ten mile mark. Around the eleven mile mark I tripped and in trying to catch myself, strained a hamstring. That slowed me down as I tried to nurse it. And it dropped the reading on the fun meter a touch.
Eleven miles and smiling. (Do they use mile markers for a 25k run because they only need 15 instead of 25?)
We merged with the 10k runners and I found myself getting swept up with the fast moving group. On a crowded single track trail you either get out of the way or you run faster. There's something about being passed by little kids that shames me into picking up the pace even though I have twelves miles behind me and a sore hamstring. But it seemed to go pretty well since I was running in a crowd instead of by myself. I kept it up until the signs told us it was time to go our separate ways again. The 10k'ers got to take a shortcut and the few of us left doing the 25k straggled alone through the woods to the finish line.

All in all it was a great day for a run. After showering at home I topped it off with a beer and a nap--a much enjoyed perk of being a 55-year-old noncompetitive runner.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Mooberry Track Meet

I hung out at the track meet with Steph for some of the day. It's uplifting to watch these high school kids compete. 

The young man heading for the ground was in second place until he hit the last hurdle just before the finish. The young man from Mount Spokane crossing the finish first also hit the last hurdle but he fared much better.
I got to watch Andrew Gardner from Mead and Nathan Weitz of Shadle battle it out in the Lindgren Mile. Gardner ghosted Weitz for 3-1/2 laps before powering out front. He finished in 4:10.1. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tax Sense

On her Facebook page yesterday, Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers asked:

Today is "Tax Day." Do you think your taxes are too high, too low, or about right?

I think better questions would be along these lines.

1. Should we restore the income tax rate to the 2001 levels to pay for the wars we've been involved in for over ten years?

2. Are you willing to give up the decreased income tax you've enjoyed for the last nine years to help pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

3. Throughout America's history she always raised taxes to pay for wars. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan we actually lowered taxes and massively increased our debt. Should we raise taxes to pay that down?

Sometimes we as a nation have to be team players and sacrifice to pay for our nation's actions. Selectively placing the sacrifice on those who are less able to afford it does not engender or promote a team environment.

After her Goldilocks question, she followed up with a graphic from the Republican Study Committee and this:

Do you know how ridiculously confusing and complex our tax code is? Take a look at this.

Do you know how ridiculously illogical it is to compare the number of words in the tax code with the number in Shakespeare's writings, the King James Bible, and the US Constitution? You could just as well complain about the excessive number of parts in a Boeing 747 while comparing it to the number of parts in a can opener.

I think the overall concern about taxes is fairness and that is a subject our congresswoman and the rest of her party avoid. Thanks to her pledge to not raise taxes, she has locked herself into a position where nothing else can be discussed. We always hear that everything is on the table, but in truth it's everything except raising taxes.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Let He Who Is Without Sin...

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is slated to be the keynote speaker at Gonzaga University's Senior Commencement on May 13. That has upset some pious Catholic Gonzaga alumni who have started a petition to have the Nobel Laureate banned. The Cardinal Newman Society has its vestments in a twist as well and complains that "Gonzaga University is celebrating 125 years as a Catholic college by honoring a pro-abortion rights pro-contraception Anglican archbishop."

I checked out some of the remarks on the petition and I was impressed with this one.

This is unconscionable! We are to accept that his work on apartheid trumps all the other stances against the Church. Is he only going to speak on apartheid? Look at how outspoken he is on other faith matters!

Throw them stones! No doubt this person lead one of the many uprisings suffered by Catholic Churches all around the globe as predator priests and the Catholic leaders who protected them were unmasked one by one. Oh...wait...that never happened. Regardless, we wouldn't want to let the actions of pedophile priests trump all other stances of the Church, would we?

There's also a petition for those who support the archbishop and the university. Out of the comments posted there I found this gem.

I have been teaching nonviolence in a Catholic high school for 40 years. Please remind the Cardinal Newman Society that Jesus taught "Love your enemy", not "Ban your enemy".

And it looks like a lot of other people agree with him. The number of petition signers as of this writing stands at 8533 who love their neighbor and 707 stone throwers.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tennessee Teachers Can't Say What You Shouldn't Do

That's some interesting legislation in Tennessee. You may have heard some people say that holding hands or kissing may now be considered gateway sexual activity.

Some definitions:

"Abstinence-based" or “abstinence-centered” means an approach that promotes sexual risk avoidance, or primary prevention, and teaches vital life skills that empower youth to identify healthy and unhealthy relationships, accurately understand sexually transmitted diseases and contraception, set goals, make healthy life decisions, and build character;

Abstinence-centered education is a holistic approach that addresses the physical, social, emotional, psychological, economic and educational consequences of non-marital sexual activity;

“Gateway sexual activity” means sexual contact encouraging an individual to engage in a non-abstinent behavior. A person promotes a gateway sexual activity by encouraging, advocating, urging or condoning gateway sexual activities;

Part of the legislation:

An LEA shall not utilize the services of any individual or organization to assist in teaching family life if that individual or organization endorses student non-abstinence as an appropriate or acceptable behavior, or if that individual or organization promotes gateway sexual activity. Instruction of the family life curriculum shall not:
(1) Promote, implicitly or explicitly, any gateway sexual activity or health message that encourages students to experiment with non-coital sexual activity;
(2) Provide or distribute materials on school grounds that condone, encourage or promote student sexual activity among unmarried students;
(3) Display or conduct demonstrations with devices specifically manufactured for sexual stimulation; or
(4) Distribute contraception on school property; provided, however, medically-accurate information about contraception and condoms may be provided so long it is presented in a manner consistent with the preceding provisions of this part and clearly informs students that while such methods may reduce the risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases or becoming pregnant, only abstinence removes all risk.

Another great leap backwards.

Friday, April 13, 2012

300m Hurdles

I got to see Steph set a PR in the 300m hurdles at the track meet
held at Shadle this afternoon. I enjoy watching my kids compete of how they do. These kids work hard.

Restoring The Public Trust

In today's Spokesman Review (and on line yesterday) we have an article in which a high ranking member of the police department acknowledges the department made mistakes in the Otto Zehm case.

Interim Chief Scott Stephens has this to say:

“I definitely think there were mistakes made that certainly caused a lack of confidence in the way the Spokane Police Department managed the entire incident. I think we have to own the mistakes we’ve made, acknowledge that and take measures that they don’t repeat.”

And then this:

“I think it’s important … so the public has confidence in what we are doing. I’m more than happy to share what those lessons were and what changes were made when it is appropriate. My desired outcome is that we restore the public trust and confidence in their department.”

I'm puzzled as to why there has to be an appropriate time to share what changes have been made. Plus, the changes I would expect would not only include how investigations of police conduct are done. I think there's a strong need for evaluating the police department's Use of Force policy. Reducing the public's fear of unwarranted use of force would also help with restoring the public trust.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bike Lane Blocker

Fortunately, North Addison isn't all that busy even during rush hour. But still.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Shameless Audacity

Aside from representing Washinton State's 5th District, Cathy McMorris Rodgers is also the Washington State chair of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Our fair congresswoman has been expressing hollow claims that there is no Republican war on women.

Today, she released this statement blaming President Obama.

“For more than three years, President Obama’s disastrous economic policies have wreaked havoc on women in the workplace with record levels of unemployment and the highest poverty rate in nearly two decades. Now the President has doubled down on his record of failure by proposing even more regulations and more taxes that will make it more difficult for women to find jobs. Mitt Romney supports pay equity for women and, as president, will do what President Obama has not – implement pro-growth economic policies that will allow women and all Americans to finally get back to work.”

I enjoy the disconnect between her saying that Romney supports pay equality for women and while her track record shows she doesn't, at least when it came to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, legislation addressing a U.S. Supreme Court decision that determined the statute of limitations for presenting an equal-pay lawsuit begins on the date that the employer makes the initial discriminatory wage decision, not at the date of the most recent paycheck, as a lower court had ruled. If the woman didn't realize she was being discriminated against within 180 days then she couldn't sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This legislation corrected that.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers voted against it. This post wouldn't be complete without a chart from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics totally debunking the assertion that Obama's economic policies are specifically hurting women.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spokane Falls

I believe the Spokane River is slated to crest on Wednesday. I stopped by the new lookout above the now-reclaimed area where the "Y" used to be and took some photos. This river is wild.