In Praise of a Union

Over the past year we’ve seen credit for bringing down the Soviet Union given first to President Ronald Reagan then extended to Pope John Paul II, on the occasions of their passing. Much ink was shed on how they’d provided the mighty rocks of Western civilization upon which the USSR was wrecked.

I have my own theories about how corruption, mismanagement, and overextension of power had weakened the Soviet structure before either of those men came on the scene, but since everyone’s been giving the big guys a salute for standing up to power from Washington and the Vatican City, respectively, I’d like to nominate another entity that did more to show the weakness of the regime than either of them did, and at greater personal risk: the Solidarity union.


Established in on August 31, 1980, a year-and-a-half after the Pope’s victory lap through his home country (a true sign that the Soviets were losing their grip in Poland), eight months after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and two months before Ronald Reagan was elected President, Solidarity began chipping away at Soviet control of Poland.

The members of Solidarity, including its original leader Lech Walesa, were on the forefront of the struggle against a totalitarian system. They were the people with their jobs, homes, families, and lives on the line. They and the people of other Eastern Bloc countries who risked — and in some cases lost — it all are the people who deserve the real credit for ending the Soviet system.

I’ll be over here holding my breath until I hear everyone who praised Reagan and John Paul II give credit to a union.

We’ll All Be Reading Michelle Malkin in Three Years

Poking around on Blogads, I saw something that didn’t quite click with me, mathematically. On the part of the site where you can select ad venues, the site’s description (not gonna link) mentions that its traffic (listed as more than 50,000 visits a day) “is growing ~30% per month.”

Blogads screen shot

Think about that for a second. Thirty percent growth per month. At that rate, 50,000 visits compounds to 375,000,000 (roughly the population of the US) in only 34 months. Everyone in the US is going to be reading Malkin by the next election.

That is, they would be if the claim were true. Of couse, there’s no possible way Malkin’s site could have a sustained rate of 30% growth per month. If you take it the other direction, numbers start dropping off pretty quickly. One month before it hit 50,000, the number would have been about 38,500; then 28,600; 22,750, etc. Two years ago, 100 readers.

If you’re going to fudge the truth to anybody, you might as well do it to people willing to advertise on

DeFazio on Bush on Social Security

Via Atrios, House Progressive Caucus member Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) yesterday (PDF), on the subject of President George W. Bush’s War on Social Security Trust Fund bonds:

This is a Social Security Trust Fund bond, considered the best investments in the world, U.S. Treasury Bond. This is the most privileged of Treasury bonds issued to Social Security, redeemable at any time at full face value, unlike any other bond that they issue. These are the most privileged of their bonds. The President says it is nothing but an IOU. Well, here is what it says: This bond is incontestable in the hands of the Federal Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund. The bond is supported by the full faith and credit of the United States. And the United States is pledged to the payment of the bond with respect to both principal and interest.

The President questions that? He is questioning whether we are going to repay our most privileged debt to Social Security. We have $7.9 trillion of debt. He is adding to it at a record rate, borrowing $1.3 million a minute. Who is he saying we are going to repay and not repay?

Are we going to repay the Chinese but not the Social Security Trust Fund? Are we going to repay President Bush, he happens to have some U.S. Treasury Bonds in his personal portfolio, but not the Social Security Trust Fund? Are we going to repay other wealthy investors around the world and in the U.S., but not the Social Security Trust Fund? We are going to selectively default on our debt.

What are we going to pay them back with? SPITBALLS?

It Has Joined the Choir Invisibule! A Dead Flash Sound Sprite!

Irv Kalb writes with an update to a vexing problem he’d had with a Flash sprite not playing its sound (so what else is new?)

If you remember, for reasons of supporting Windows 98, I have a Flash Audio Player which is a very small Flash swf to play mp3 sounds. Under undefined strange circumstances, it would not initialize correctly.

I won’t get into the gory details, but Markie (Castle) and I tracked it down late one night. The problem turned out to be that I had the Flash Audio player on stage (it was just a blank 16 by 16 pixel square), in channel 1, and I had a large graphic covering the entire stage in channel 2. The real culprit is that the Flash sprite must be visible for it to allow itself to be initialized correctly!

First, we just moved it to channel 3 so it was on top of the graphic. It worked perfectly – but I had this white square over my graphic. So, Markie suggested that I make it “Direct To Stage” (apparently that had defaulted to off) AND move it off stage. After doing that everything works perfectly. I wound up putting it back into channel 1 but still off screen, but since it’s Direct To Stage, Flash thinks that it is visible and initializes correctly. Bogus, bogus, bogus.

I haven’t double-checked this myself, but Irv writes that he’s shipping version 1 of his product.

WMD Was Just the Beginning

The fly in the smear that the Bush administration is painting on the CIA for bad Iraqi WMD intelligence (apart from Bush’s honoring of George Tenet with a Presidential Medal of Freedom) is that the WMDs were only the raison d’guerre.

Even if the CIA had screwed up the WMD estimates without meddling from the White House (which I do not believe), even if every other Security Council nation believed Iraq was an imminent threat (apparently they didn’t, because they mostly stayed in the Uncoalition of the Unwilling), the rest of the intelligence on Iraq was (and remains) a failure as well.

The dozens of “decapitation” strikes meant to take out Saddam before the invasion didn’t work. The planning of the occupation didn’t work (three administrators and counting). Two years after Germany and Japan fell in WWII, American troops were not fighting insurgents and getting bombed outside of prisons. This is sheer incompetence.

Lundholm Cracks Portland

Peter Lundholm, one of the programmers for the classic Director-based CD-ROM game “Safecracker”, came through Portland this weekend for the CHIF2005 conference with a bunch of his students from Sweden. I missed him Monday, when the gang went up to Redmond, but managed to hook up this morning by promising him a ride to the airport so that he could get down to San Francisco for FlashForward2005! Here he is, with one of the towers of the Oregon Convention Center in the background and a little of the downtown skyline in the distance.

Investigative Pulitzer Goes to Portland Weekly

It’s nice to see the little people win big and it happened today when the Pulitzers were announced and Nigel Jaquiss of Portland, Oregon’s alternative weekly newspaper Willamette Week won the Investigative Reporting prize for 2005, despite being up against reporters from dailies The New York Times and The Des Moines Register.

Some of you may remember the story of how former Oregon governor and Carter-administration Transportation Secretary Neil Goldschmidt — the biggest name in Oregon politics for the past 30 years — fell from grace when his sexual abuse of a teenage girl during the time he served as Portland’s mayor in the 1970s was finally exposed. You may remember how the Northwest’s biggest daily, the Oregonian tip-toed around it and referred in a headline to a married, 35-year-old man having sex with a 14-year-old as an “affair” in their attempt to simultaneously scoop Willamette Week and play nice with Goldschmidt.

You may know that the fallout of the story led to Goldschmidt’s resignation from the board of a shell corporation set up to buy Portland General Electric, a major Enron asset; a deal that was virtually assured while he was involved but which received far more skepticism without his involvement, was exposed as a bad deal for ratepayers, and has since collapsed. This is going to have to twist the knife for the Oregonian, given that they knew about the story months before it broke.

Congrats to Mr. Jacquiss and all his co-workers (full disclosure: my wife was the theater reviewer for WW in the early ’90s). Apparently this is only the fifth time an alternative weekly has won a Pulitzer. Maybe one of these days the big papers can get back to doing some investigative journalism.