Battle of the Wilderness by Kurz and Allison

For a Progressive, Signs of Hope


When Alaska was admitted as a state to these United States, back in 1959, the entire Congressional delegation was Democratic: Senator E.L. “Bob” Bartlett, Senator Ernest Gruening1 and Representative Ralph J. Rivers. It’s true that Senators Bartlett and Gruening loathed each other – Senator Bartlett’s staff referred to the Judas Tree outside the Senate Office…

Gene Wilder (Photo credit Dave Pickoff/Associated Press)

R.I.P. Gene Wilder, 1933-2016


“What seems to be the trouble?” the therapist asks. “I want to give all my money away,” he says. “How much do you have?” “I owe three hundred dollars.” Gene Wilder, Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art (2005) WC first saw Gene Wilder as the kidnapped undertaker, Eugene Grizzard, in Bonnie and…

Road Trip


WC is presently in southeastern Idaho, for the inurnment of Mrs. WC’s mother. It’s a long drive. But before feeling too sorry for ourselves, consider bouncing across the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin in these rigs. WC will get back to regular posts when he returns from the current road trip.

The Donald Acting Out (David Becker/Getty Images)

Your Weekly Donald: Conspiracy Wonk


One of the more disturbing characteristics of the Trumpster’s political career has been his obsession with conspiracies. Consider these examples: President Obama’s nationality, and the whole “birtherism” thing. President Obama’s religion, that he is a Muslim. Climate change as a Chinese economic conspiracy. The dangers of asbestos are a conspiracy. There is no drought in…

Cliff Face, Summit of Snowbank Mountain, West Mountains, Idaho

Geology Is Cool: West Mountain


This is an eastward-facing cliff face, near the summit of Snowbank Mountain, a part of West Mountain.1 It’s about 100 vertical feet of rock. The whitish rock chunks across the top quarter were limestone, which would have been laid down in a horizontal bed on a sea floor. The dark gray rock was serpentine, a component…

Tracking the Bundy Boys: An Update


Here’s a handy guide to the 26 various Bundy defendants in the Malheur occupation, tracking the status of their cases. The focus here is the Malheur charges; there are some references to the Cliven Bundy Nevada cases as well. There’s a passel of Bundys and their camp followers; if you find an error drop WC…

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

A Conversation with Justice Sonia Sotomayor


There may have never been a better public spokesperson for the United States Supreme Court. Justice Sotomayor, vacationing in Alaska, was kind enough to spend a little over an hour with a packed house at the Dena’ina Convention Center in Anchorage. WC attended by webcast. Over the course of more than an hour, the Justice…

Dee Vazquez, from left, helped Georgette Centelo and her grandfather Lawrence Roberts in Central, north of Baton Rouge, La., on Monday. Credit David Grunfeld/The Times-Picayune, via Associated Press

Water, Water, Everywhere…


There’s a myth that warmer air holds more water. That’s just not true, although you see the claim all the time. But climate change is putting more water into the air, whatever the air’s temperature, because at higher temperatures there is more evaporation. It’s evaporation, not the water-bearing capacity of the atmosphere, that is wreaking havoc…

Biko


Stephen Bantu Biko was an African leader under apartheid in South Africa. He founded the Black Consciousness Movement which helped empower and mobilize much of the urban black population against apartheid. After his murder while in police custody, he became a martyr of the anti-apartheid movement September ’77 Port Elizabeth weather fine It was business as usual In police room 619 Oh Biko,…

Syrian Civil War, Getty Images

Notes on Fractured Lands


The New York Times recently published what amounts to a history of the Middle East, from the Invasion of Iraq, forward, focusing on the stories of individuals from Libya, Egypt, Iraq and Syria. The article is quite long, but to WC is Pultizer Prize-level journalism that helps a reader understand the nearly unbelievable complexity of the Muslim world.…

Hoodoos, West Slope, Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona

Geology Is Cool: The Chiricahuas


WC went to the Chiricahuas almost two decades ago, chasing birds. The Chiricahua Mountains, located in the southeast corner of Arizona, are a famous North American birding destination, offering a fine selection of habitats – it’s more than 6,000 feet from the valley floor to the top of Chiricahua Mountain – and all of those nearby Mexican bird…

Parasitic Jaeger on a Nest, Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge

Bird of the Week – Parasitic Jaeger


Back in June, we looked at a Long-tailed Jaeger. This is one of that species’ relatives, the Parasitic Jaeger. Even among gulls and jaegers, Parasitic Jaegers are unsavory characters. A major part of their diet is obtained through kleptoparasitism. They steal food from other birds, either by harassing the other birds till they drop if or, if…

Wallace's Line, as drawn by Alfred Wallace in 1863

Wallace’s Line


Alfred Russel Wallace, 1823-1913, deserves better than history has given him. Wallace was a naturalist, explorer, geographer, anthropologist and biologist. He is best known today for independently conceiving the theory of evolution through natural selection; after all, his paper on the natural selection was jointly published with some of Charles Darwin’s writings in 1858. That paper,…

Code Fragment from ProjectSauton

Getting Geeky: ProjectSauron


WC is going to get geeky here: be warned. It seems that for at least five years, there has been a very sophisticated malware tool out in the digital universe that is a kind of swiss army knife of hacking tools. It is so sophisticated that it was almost certainly developed by a government somewhere.…

President Lyndon John Signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into Law

SCOTUS Error: North Carolina Was Deterred


The Voting Rights Act, originally enacted in 1965, required that certain states with a history of racial discrimination obtain prior approval – “preclearance,” in the terms of the law – before those states would be permitted to change their voting laws. The U.S. Supreme Court, in 2013, in a case called Shelby County v. Holder, decided that…

Software Patent Troll (Not to Scale)

Another Patent Troll Gets Slapped


WC has been railing against software patent trolls pretty much since this blog began, back in 2008.1 Especially software patent trolls. It’s a self-inflicted wound; noting in U.S. patent law requires computer software to receive a patent. It’s a result of case law, culminating in Diamond v. Diehr, where a software algorithm implementing the Arrhenius Equation…

Jackson and His Frisbee

Tales from Wasilla: Justice for Flash


WC wonders how it is that the death of a golden retriever seems to inspire more more notoriety and outrage than the death of three young men. Flash was a 12-year old golden retriever. He was dognapped when the van he was riding in was stolen. Flash died a miserable death; he is believed to…

Yellow Wagtail, Chevak, Alaska

Bird of the Week – Yellow Wagtail


In the Western Hemisphere, the Yellow Wagtail’s range is restricted to Western Alaska and the North Slope east to the MacKenzie River in Canada. Science – specifically, the American Ornithological Union – has recently determined that the North American population is a separate species from the more widespread Asian population. The decision to create two…

R.I.P. Jack Davis, 1924-2016


Jack Davis was a founding member of the “Usual gang of idiots” who created, illustrated and wrote Mad Magazine for the first few decades of the magazine’s life. His cartoon work was a part of the special magic that captivated kids of a certain age and inclination. When you were 15 years old or so, in…

Use of Weapons, by Iain M. Banks


The late Iain M. Banks was one of WC’s favorite authors. And while WC would be hard pressed to pick his favorite Banks’ novel, certainly Use of Weapons would be on the short list. The Culture is Bank’s universe-spanning, technologically advanced civilization, an interstellar anarchist utopian society. It is a post-scarcity society; there is no money, within the limits of…

When Your U.S. Senator Is an Idiot


What do you do when your U.S. Senator is, apparently, an idiot? An acquaintance of WC’s here in Idaho, concerned about the Bundys’ armed occupation of the headquarters at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, wrote to U.S. Senator James Risch (R, Idaho). Here is his reply to her letter, with her name blocked out. WC has very,…

Albert Lee, Sapphire Room, Boise, Idaho July 29, 2016

An Evening with the Master


You’ve probably never heard of him, but He helped orchestrate the reunion of the Everly Brothers and played in their band for almost 20 years. He played lead guitar on Roseanne Cash’s platinum album, Seven Year Ache. He played lead guitar in Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band for years. He backed John Prine on The Missing Years.…