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23.May.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Well, nobody said governing would be easy Permalink to this item

Scott Walker made news by saying he was "probably the most scrutinized politician in America," what with surviving a recall election, the triumphal union-busting and everything. The implication is, I guess, "so yay," but there have been a lot of wriggling creatures under the rocks that have been turned up, including the sketchy record of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, which Walker helped create, and for which the state's legislature just removed Walker as chairman. Oh, and "an audit this month that found the jobs agency had failed to follow state law and its own policies."

Meanwhile, back in the US Senate, Rand Paul is throwing a wrench in the works of the NSA's bulk phone metadata vacuuming (just metadata? maybe) as recently as 1 am this morning, the Saturday of a holiday weekend, the Majority Leader finds himself "vexed by Democratic delaying tactics he honed in the minority, five presidential aspirants with their own agendas and a new crop of conservative firebrands demanding their say." Sen. Lindsey Graham was "visibly rolling his eyes."

22.May.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Complete with dueling hashtags Permalink to this item

The EPA tends to be about as welcome as the United Nations black helicopters around these parts. That doesn't greatly distinguish it from any other federal agency not handing out wads of cash, but still. If there is any enthusiasm among our ruling elite for an expanded and more specific Clean Water Rule, let's just say they're keeping it well-contained.

On the verge of a big announcement, the powers that scree have a see-what-they-did-there hashtag for preemption, #DitchTheRule, and the EPA is hitting back with #DitchTheMyth. Public relations campaigns are now reduced to however much of 140 characters is left after the hashtag and a shortened URL. So much for science, public policy and protection of one of the most basic components of life as we know it, clean water.

Canada goose

On the one side, there were more than 400 meetings with outside groups, more than a million public comments to sift through, and a review and synthesis of more than 1,200 pieces of scientific literature. On the other, members of Congress measuring apoplexy, such as Wyoming's Senator John Barrasso, on "this outrageously broad new rule," "designed to expand the power of Washington bureaucrats." Last June, when the draft of the new rule came out, Idaho's two senators united in a call to Stop EPA Water Grab, said "grab" not so much about bureaucrats' insatiable lust for power but more about 2001 and 2005 Supreme Court decisions that "created legal confusion about whether the federal government had the authority to regulate the smaller streams and headwaters, and about other water sources such as wetlands."

EPA director Gina McCarthy's blog post ("intended to explain EPA policy" but not "chang[ing] anyone's rights or obligations") walks through issue calmly enough, from motivation to the broad areas they're trying to address. That sort of thing flies under the radar though; only 14 comments below it, but enough to provide a flavor of the range of what the agency must be sorting through. "Intent" is fine, but "doesn’t trump words in print where litigation is concerned." "Please clean up the whole thing." And then this gem from sinnadurai sripadmanaban:

"If gas,water,electricity,fuel,liquor etc are rationed as per age and medical condition of each person we can save a lot of waste."

Liquor rationing, say WHAAA? Might as well put "ammo" in that list, too. More seriously, if your interest extends beyond a tweet and a few blog posts, there is much, much more information available from the EPA, about what the rule would do, what it would not do, why we're even talking about this, the benefits for agriculture, how the ag community helped shape the proposal, and all documents.

18.May.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Idaho's extraordinary day Permalink to this item

A mere 11 hours, and a lot of crazy (and some not so crazy) bloviating later, the Idaho Legislator has passed AN ACT RELATING TO THE UNIFORM INTERSTATE FAMILY SUPPORT ACT, which it certainly might have done last month, and tens of thousands of dollars earlier, were it not for Tea Party Patriots concerned about us burning in a socialistic lake of fire, stripped of our sovereignty and held hostage by extorting gangsters holding guns to our heads.

No, I am not exaggerating. Well, nobody said "lake of fire," but Catherine Fraser read to us from the Book of Job in her 1599 Geneva Bible, "Those who take bribes will have their homes destroyed by fire," so there was fire for effect. All that and more packed into a full day of an extraordinary legislative session, and like a rubbernecking geek driving by a horrific accident on the highway, I could hardly look away. I followed almost the whole thing via Idaho Public TV's Legislature Live feed.

Nuts

The nexus of nuttery is unquestionably north Idaho, leaking down toward the 45th parallel to pick up Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll of Cottonwood, wearing a leather biker's jacket and reading from George Washington's Farewell Address. Twice. She, and blowhard Brent Regan, acting Senator for a day substituting for Steve Vick of Dalton Gardens, changed the Senate's tally from unanimous, to only 33-2, but close enough. Regan actually behaved himself better on the Senate floor than when he showed up to testify before the House Judiciary and Rules committee, wearing more of his Idaho Freedom Foundation hat.

It's a treaty that goes AGAINST the CONSTITUTION, they're making an end run around the Constitution. When the 50 states ratify, the treaty comes into effect and BOOM. Armageddon. Mark his words. He said he was also worried about his soon-to-be Marine son getting some gal in a foreign land soon-to-be-in-a-family-way, or at least accused thereof. Never mind having our children held hostage, using one to make that argument against a child support enforcement law seemed a tad abusive.

Most popular metaphor for the day by far was that the federal government was "holding a gun to our head." (Second place was lost trains of thought.) The House committee's steadfast 8-9 opposition had been whittled by amendments and the weight of public opinion and peer pressure to just five nay-sayers, but they didn't go down without a fight. Rep. Heather Scott had a time-limit extending question for most every one of the "cons," alternated with the "pros" through the morning and into the afternoon. "I read a bunch of papers and stuff," she said introducing one of her questions.

After one hobbyist Constitutional scholar brought up the "demonic agenda" and "our duty is clear our duty is simple we need to render it null and void," Scott asked him—seriously—"what parts of the Constitution you think we'll be in violation of" if we pass this bill. Somebody else counted how many times "foreign" appears in the bill. Another raised the use of the word "tribunal" as somehow alien. Senator Bart Davis said "I know that we chase ghosts in legislation, that's what we do." He's going to whomp down some learnin' on you about the word "TRIBUNALS" It's in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution (yes including that pocket edition you've got). That is all.

Melissa Davlin noted a possible factor in the distrust of the members of the House Judiciary and Rules committee who killed the bill: inexperience in the realm. Heather Scott, Ron Nate, Don Cheatham, and Ryan Kerby are all freshman legislators. The inexperience of the first three was amply apparent in today's proceedings. Kerby was not as vocal, but when he did speak up, he made a point of expressing his pique, but to no particular purpose.

Nate was all-in over the top after the bill got to the House floor, a little speech he'd been polishing for a while, about extortion! Pacification! A gun to our head! Gangster-like threats. And the committee rejected his sensible sunset clause. It was a one-trick pony that he flogged rather mercilessly. Nice little legislative seat you got there Nate, it would be a shame if anything happened to it.

Curmudgeonly old Rep. Pete Nielsen had his pocket Constitution handy, too, and he reprised the same ineffectual point he made in testifying to the committee when it was his turn in the House. Same old dictionary, same old argument one could hardly discern, but it was some good exercise waving his two hundred year old book in the air at least.

Rep. Vito Barbieri complained that "this treaty was written by bureaucrats, for bureaucrats." As if... the Idaho legislature could do better? He invites us to "imagine if you will" a Trojan Horse made of hundred dollar bills turned into papier-mâché. It's a $46 million stick, damn it. "Saying no to federal money will inevitably involve pain and that's why we don't do it." Vito is willing to have lots and lots of Idahoans feel pain in defense of his personal ideology. How come we only have one option, he complains, "yes" or "no." (Ok, that's two options actually, and having tried "no" for a while, we're now going to try "yes.")

"The crux of the treaty is... bureaucracy will be one and it will control all of the nations." (This is a man with deep ignorance of bureaucracy. And his own blustering paranoia.) Idaho's sovereignty is for sale, he concludes. Let's stand up. Just once.

Rep. Scott stood to say "her thoughts aren't together," offered an answer to a question no one asked her. She works the gun to her head metaphor. Her train of thought derailed again.

The Majority Leader stood up with a Hamlet imitation, "sometimes I wonder if I should do this." (I would say no, you should not.) "I don't have a comfort level with this." And finally, "I've talked too much." Amen.

The gentleman from district 16, my Rep. John McCrostie gets the last words in. "This bill is not about gangsters, papier-mâché horses or tainted milk." And Chairman Wills closed the debate rather masterfully, I thought, pointing out that the people who testified in favor of the bill in the committee this morning represented thousands of Idahoans as well as themselves. And that the Department of Health and Welfare couldn't have imagined how much hand-holding they needed to do to counter the ignorance inside the Legislature.

The vote in the House was 49-21 and there were no more hurdles to speak of, beyond surviving Sen. Bart Davis' pontificating before the Senate's foregone conclusion. (He and Lt. Governor/President of the Senate Brad Little can whip through procedural foo like greased lightning when they want to, but once Davis gets wound up, oh my.) Sen. Jim Patrick later asked him if he would yield to a question, and Davis kindly warned him "I don't know if you want me to, I've got 8 more pages of notes."

Sen. Brent Hill goes on about how he doesn't like being told what to do. To make his point by contrast. Let's get 'er done. The Hague Convention is shorter than our bill. It's 20 pages. "This is not an evil document. I could read it in church and feel good when I sat down."

Senator Grant Burgoyne was recognized to close the debate, finally, mercifully at nearly 7 pm. The US has been one of the leaders in comprehensive child support enforcement, and it looks like we negotiated a treaty that gave us everything we wanted. He shot down the objections that have been raised one by one, and they voted, and that was that.

Kicking off the proceedings Permalink to this item

Rep. Mike Moyle, House Majority Leader and tip of the right-wing spear, got his attitude on record in the House Ways and Means committee this morning, complaining about the process he's apparently not leading, offering kudos to the gang of nine for "doing the right thing when they held that bill up" in the regular session, and casting the sole NO vote for the motion to introduce the bill that is the only purpose of today's special session.

The hell with it, in other words. Let's just call it a day at 8:30 in the morning.

The committee adjourned, but one last comment was picked up on the audio feed before it was cut: "He didn't have to say anything ..."

I came in late, but Betsy has more of the fireworks on her blog. No doubt we'll hear more about how angry Mr. Moyle is today.

Our leading conservatives Permalink to this item

They're leading because they're riding in the front of the plane home to north Idaho every weekend of the legislative session, helping themselves to "Business Select" fare on Southwest, complete with priority boarding, a priority security lane, a complimentary premium drink and double mileage rewards. Betsy Russell reports that Bob Nonini went 11 for 11, spending just under $6,000 on airfare. Kathy Sims, also of Coeur d'Alene, hit the same high average ($460), but for only 5 flights. Vito Barbieri came in second on total spend, averaging $441 for 13 round trips.

Nonini, ever the first class act, said he was clueless, and said his wife handled his reservations.

17.May.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The black helicopters are coming Permalink to this item

Rep. Heather Scott from the extreme north District 1 will not be changing her vote when it comes time in the special session starting tomorrow. It's live free or die time for her, as you can see from her legislative update, dated Friday but sent out today.

"I remind you that Legislators do not work for the Governor, Legislative leadership, the media, the Federal Government, the United Nations, The Hague or any political party. They work for you the citizen! I encourage you to call your two representatives and one senator and get involved in this issue!

Dial it up to 20px and bold-faced for full effect of her punchline:

"This special session is the product of the federal government telling Idaho what to do, how to do it, and when it needs to be done by. When congress demands obedience from Idaho, and we submit, Idaho sovereignty is once again weakened and the tactic will likely be used again."

Maybe for highway funding. Or healthcare insurance. Or education funding. A broadband network. Standardized identification in our driver's licenses. Railroad tank car standards. Mine safety. Financial regulation. Dam maintenance. Wildland firefighting. Food and drug safety. Student loan guarantees. Whatever.

But by all means, do carry on, Ms. Scott, with your vigilant fellow extremists and their spotting sly attempts to insert international rule into the Idaho law and create a global system of child support enforcement under international law. Just how many millions of dollars of other people's money are you willing to spend on this campaign?

But in all seriousness, the nominal story of this dust-up, and its planned resolution might not go as smoothly as our ruling faction has been saying it will. Under Bill Dentzer's report for the Idaho Statesman, this comment from James Kent, worth quoting in full:

"Dentzer makes it look like there will be nothing to see during the special session. Because there's a bigger story here, I strongly disagree. While I agree 'moderate' Republicans are confident they have the votes to accomplish the Governor's objective, the special session is yet another episode in the ongoing saga of the schism in the Republican Party with a high potential for drama. Recall the ugly 2014 GOP party convention in Moscow left leadership unresolved and national media referring to it as a fiasco. The convention came on the heels of a divisive closed Republican primary where gubernatorial candidate and Idaho Freedom Foundation board member, Russ Fulcher, made a surprisingly strong showing, winning nearly every urban county in the state. While moderates made a couple gains in the south, the ideological right wing swept many of the districts in North Idaho, especially where turnout was light. The right wing doesn't much like Butch and can almost taste control of the caucus.

"When Otter announced the special session, he expressed confidence that he and Bedke, through a negotiations process, assuaged several members of the nine on the committee who initially killed the child support enforcement amendments. Four of the nine were north Idaho legislators who subsequently made public statements indicating they hadn't been part of any negotiations and that they hadn't changed their minds about anything. The remainder of the nine indicated that they have to see the adoption of amendments before they'll agree to anything. The umbrella organization for the right wing, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, continues to rail against the legislation stoking the fire of opposition. The GOP central committees of Kootenai and Bonner Counties joined the various tea parties, the militias, and the John Birch Society have urged citizens to testify tomorrow against the call of the session. Moreover, Senator Vick has appointed Idaho Freedom Foundation Board member and infamous blowhard, Brent Regan, to act on his behalf during his absence due to personal matters. That's reason enough to watch the drama unfold on Monday.

"If the Speaker and the Governor counted properly, this should go down like a house of cards. But like the fiasco GOP convention, this could just as easily degenerate into a turbid pool of dogmatic rule interpretation and procedural monkey business that could make Soviet Russia look like a high school government class. Indeed, rumor has it that the parliamentarian and rule guru, Senator Bart Davis, showed up in Boise on Friday just to prepare for a replay of the fiasco. He'll have to be better prepared than he was for the convention that failed so abysmally. The Idaho Freedom Foundation and their minions know what is at stake. They relish the publicity in obstructing Washington which comes with the bigger prize of negating a difficultly negotiated UN Treaty. If nothing else the hearing will be well attended by every paranoid xenophobe within a hundred mile radius. The Idaho House Republican Caucus is almost evenly split between the factions. It's highly likely moderates will need Democrats to get this done in the House. And that just gives the right wing more fodder for the next primary."

Update: We do have some educated people in this state. But will the RWNJs pay attention to the likes of Professor David Adler? Shirley, you jest. Perhaps they just long for the good old days, as recounted by Marty Peterson:

"During the 1866 legislative session, following the Confederate defeat, Gov. David Ballard initiated an effort to require that all individuals on the territorial payroll, including legislators, be required to take an oath of loyalty to the Union. Many legislators not only rebelled, but erupted into a full-fledged riot in the legislative chambers. Furniture was broken up and thrown through windows. There was even a threat of burning down the building. In the end, Gov. Ballard was forced to call out troops from nearby Fort Boise to quell the riot."

16.May.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Bad company Permalink to this item

Venn diagram of Jeb's advisors, from the Washington Post

Months ago, when Jeb Bush wasn't yet a candidate for president, Philip Bump graphed up the eerily familiar Venn diagram of Jeb's, W.'s and George's overlapping foreign policy experts, but it was a bit too soon (or too wonky) to grab a lot of attention. It started to gain a little traction when Jeb said his brother was high on the list. As Gail Collins put it, he had begun his all-but-announced campaign for the presidency with an “I’m my own man” sales pitch. Now he was saying, in effect, “Well, I can always ask my brother.”

Then this week's Bildungsroman, starting with the fateful question posed by Megyn Kelly on Fox News (exclusive!), and he's got media attention in spades.

Knowing what you know now, Saturday, would you have answered Kelly's question the same way on Monday? Not to get all hypothetical or anything. "I'm the undecider," he could've said, wandering from "she did too!" to the ever-useful "mistakes were made," to the equally indisputable "I would have made different mistakes," and finally settling down to "ok, ok, that right there, that was definitely a mistake."

Hypothetically, if I were casting a vote for president, would it be, could it be, for Jeb Bush? He seems sort of likeable, a bit confused, hanging around with a somewhat dodgy crowd. Turning himself into a media piñata might be attractive to Hispanic voters, though. Dana Milbank:

"Now comes his kid brother, firm as Jell-O. First, Jeb told Fox News that, even knowing what we know now, he would have invaded Iraq. Then he said he misunderstood the question, “I guess,” and wasn’t quite sure what he would have done. Then he refused to say what he would have done because it would do a “disservice” to those who died[, “mostly men” by the way]. Then he allowed that “anybody would have made different decisions” but said he would “draw the line” at dwelling in the past. Finally, on Thursday, Bush found clarity at a brewery in Arizona. “Knowing what we now know,” he said, “I would not have gone into Iraq.”

"Jeb Bush: Is that your final answer?"

Take your time. In spite of it being hindsight and hypothetical, this might end up being important. Do you need to phone a friend? Check to see if Paul Wolfowitz is ready to adjust the "welcomed as liberators" and "oil revenue will cover the miniscule cost" estimates?

With the "clown car" metaphor already worn out and in the breakdown lane, it looks like it's going to be a long and entertaining campaign.

15.May.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A modest proposal Permalink to this item

They should have named that 140-character blurt service "Twidder"; the brevity and lack of filtering makes it ideally suited for the id's "uncoordinated instinctual trends." The Idaho Freedom Foundation's "policy analyst," Parrish Miller, answered the question of whether courts should enforce against breach of familial obligations by tweeting that "philosophically, I remain unconvinced that such obligations exist." and offering a link to Murray Rothbard on the subject, in the middle of his book, The Ethics of Liberty, and having "established each man's property right in his own person and in the virgin land that he finds and transforms by his labor," "there remains, however, the difficult case of children."

Yes, children can be difficult. But a "free baby market" could solve our problems, don't you think?

"Applying our theory to parents and children, this means that a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also that the parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights. The parent therefore may not murder or mutilate his child, and the law properly outlaws a parent from doing so. But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die. The law, therefore, may not properly compel the parent to feed a child or to keep it alive. (Again, whether or not a parent has a moral rather than a legally enforceable obligation to keep his child alive is a completely separate question.) This rule allows us to solve such vexing questions as: should a parent have the right to allow a deformed baby to die (e.g., by not feeding it)? The answer is of course yes, following a fortiori from the larger right to allow any baby, whether deformed or not, to die. (Though, as we shall see below, in a libertarian society the existence of a free baby market will bring such "neglect" down to a minimum.)"

(All that emphasis in the original, which had footnotes I've elided. Knock yourself out.)

The Idaho Freedom Foundation's news director insists Miller was free-lance opining, and the org's Hefe said he hadn't seen the tweet, and their come-lately interest in our state's bizarre kerfuffle over uniform child support laws was about "maintain[ing] proper legislative oversight," that's all. No connection with Gang of Nine member Rep. Ron Nate from Rexburg being on the IFF Board, either. Just some birds of a feather. Nate's opinion was that the state is flush with taxpayer's money, so "we can afford noncompliance."

In spite of the colorful fringes, it's safe to say that society as a whole is not prepared to experiment generally with the idea that "familial obligations" to children do not exist, but that's not to say we won't experiment at all. We experiment with the idea of compelling mothers-to-be pretty much every time the legislature comes to town for a regular session. We're also experimenting with allowing religious objections to providing medical care to children who need it, in favor of "faith-healing." Idaho is one of 6 states that has a religious exemption for negligent homicide.

"In Idaho, authorities do not investigate or prosecute faith-healing deaths, which occur largely without scrutiny from the public or media. Of the dozen documented cases in the last three years—and there are likely many more that have gone unreported—all were members of the Followers of Christ...

"Autopsy records show that all 11 Followers children buried in Peaceful Valley since 2011 succumbed to medically preventable conditions. There were infants who slowly perished from sepsis, respiratory failure and diabetes, and teens who battled pneumonia for weeks."

On Monday, the Idaho Legislature will convene in an extraordinary session to revisit a question that should have been easily answered this spring, but ran afoul of right-wing extremists babbling about "sovereignty," "using children as collateral," database security, and yes they did, Sharia law.

What next?

13.May.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The last 15 years Permalink to this item

Today winds up a decade and a half of my blogging here on fortboise.org, and it's interesting to consider how much has changed. Seems like I was a lot younger back then, and in another world, temporarily relocated to the heart of the dot.com bubble and bicycling to work in Palo Alto. In mid-May, 2000, "search [was] hot" and online advertising was occasional, quaint and mostly not annoying (even though the attack was well-started). Clippy was a thing. Browser standards and HTML were messed up. Irises were blooming, just like today. There was agold rush in domain names. There were Office 97 Annoyances. Pictures were really, really tiny, because data storage cost money. There was a contest to build a website in 5kB or less. (This currently less-than-half a month html file is 6 times more than that, and the iris photo 10x.) yyyymm filenaming made it look like your [0] key was stuck, 200005.html.

One of our beauties, up close

Joel Spolsky was blogging and hadn't yet come up with the essential resource for programmers, stackoverflow.com. Idaho mandated having the US flag in school classrooms, and the "offering" of either the Pledge of Allegiance or singing of The Star Spangled Banner to open the school day. Whatever happened to the Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act ("you cheeta")? I downloaded an mp3. Could've been (but wasn't) with Napster. Netscape 4.7. Blue screens of death.

There was liquid water at the North Pole. Business "methods" and apparatus such as one "for selling an aging food product as a substitute for an ordered product" were being patented, and people were giving kickbacks for positive product reviews to your friends and family. Something new called "weblogs" started showing up, but nobody was quite sure what, exactly, that was. (There was that one day, behind the curtain.) Competitors at the summer Olympics were instructed that they were to have no "web diaries." Hyperlinks were subverting hierarchy but fragmenting attention. George W. Bush accepted the GOP's nomination, and William Safire opined that the "most moving and evocative passage" had to do with some sort of pithy response to a 15-year-old inmate in a jail for juveniles (before no child was left behind).

And so on, for 180 months.

12.May.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Just Walker, his team, and Mr. Adelson's people Permalink to this item

This from the NYT First Draft blog, Scott Walker Helps Journalists in Wisconsin Cover His Trip to Israel, where "helps in" means "excludes from," but provides "photographs and updates from his Twitter account." Isn't that special?

“We wanted to make it an educational focus, not just a media trip,” [Walker] told reporters before he left. That meant no reporters, no video cameras, no photographers, nada. Just Mr. Walker, his team and members of the Republican Jewish Coalition, a pro-Israeli group heavily financed by the casino billionaire Sheldon G. Adelson.

Kind of a preview of what Walker could do for the country, serving special interests out of public view.

Boil it down for us, Judge Permalink to this item

Judge Denise L. Cote's summary of her ruling against the two banks with the temerity to go to trial for their role in the 2008 real estate finance bust, Nomura Holdings and Royal Bank of Scotland (with my emphasis):

"This case is complex from almost any angle, but at its core there is a single, simple question. Did defendants accurately describe the home mortgages in the Offering Documents for the securities they sold that were backed by those mortgages? Following trial, the answer to that question is clear. The Offering Documents did not correctly describe the mortgage loans. The magnitude of falsity, conservatively measured, is enormous.

"Given the magnitude of the falsity, it is perhaps not surprising that in defending this lawsuit defendants did not opt to prove that the statements in the Offering Documents were truthful. Instead, defendants relied, as they are entitled to do, on a multifaceted attack on plaintiff’s evidence. That attack failed, as did defendants’ sole surviving affirmative defense of loss causation. Accordingly, judgment will be entered in favor of plaintiff."

As Peter Eavis reports for the NYT, the other 16 banks implicated in the crash avoided such candid opinions by settling for the low, low combined amount of something less than $17,999,999,999.99.

The government saved itself a lot of trouble and uncertainty by dropping "a claim that would have entitled the banks to a jury," leaving it to the judge to decide for herself. Nomura says they're as pure as angels, "consistently candid, transparent and professional" and will appeal. Also, everybody was doing it, and when the music stopped, why it was hardly their fault! No, seriously.

"Today, defendants do not defend the underwriting practices of their originators. They did not seek at trial to show that the loans within the SLGs were actually underwritten in compliance with their originators’ guidelines. At summation, defense counsel essentially argued that everyone understood back in 2005 to 2007 that the loans were lousy and had not been properly underwritten."

And they were small fry. $2.5 bil in funky loans was less than 1 part in a thousand of the $3 trillion in private label residential mortgage-backed securities issued in 2005-2007. And loans were “originated generally in accordance” with the relevant guidelines, which is to say "sort of," which is to say maybe slightly more than half could clear the "relaxed standards" of the real estate finance bubble.

But thanks to our Federal Housing Finance Agency and Judge Cote, a small victory for full disclosure. There may be a few $hundred million in it for us, too.

11.May.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Those little bastards Permalink to this item

Congressman Mike Kelly (R-Pennsylvania) went off the hook on a radio show, about "those people," having children born out of wedlock and stuff, and how "we" learned how to behave and who to answer to. He was taught by "the greatest people the world could possibly imagine," "they were survivors, and they were the winners."

The show's host, Sam Malone, has a wonderful voice for radio, deep and rich as molasses. When he goes "ayup," you know you've been ayupped. And by what he says, this is a show for an exclusive, white, male audience. He's got a problem with the "black community," where "no body is telling you about respect, and authority and manners and courtesy and the love of American and your neighbors, what do you expect?"

Kelly and Malone reassure themselves that "this isn't racist, it's just rational."

"You're running out of excuses. America is the greatest place on the globe to make it happen for yourself."

Also among the things I did not know is that "the liberal mentality" is "let everyone loot."

A group named Keystone Progress has a petition for Rep. Kelly going (which I agree with, but gosh I don't feel like giving my email address to yet another organization today), with the clip of the show (forwarded by Right Wing Watch. RWW has a rather amazing collection from RWNJ-world on its home page. Rick Wiles is a thing. Warns of "Fireball from Space" if SCOTUS strikes down gay marriag bans. Also, Kentucky Derby Proves Obama Is Demonic Precursor To The Antichrist.

Wiles agreed that Obama is bringing America down and is a forerunner of the Antichrist. As proof, he cited the results of the Kentucky Derby: “He has a spirit of Antichrist operating in him, he is America’s pharaoh. Interestingly, the horse American Pharaoh won the horse race Saturday, another little sign to America, there’s been many of them over the years since Obama’s been in.”

Just another little sign, people. That and the impending invasion of Texas.

8.May.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Reason in the rain Permalink to this item

Second day running of gray skies and rain, we can use the water. Yesterday, it made the gala Day of Reason on the Capitol steps a little damper, but most of the four dozen folks who showed up stuck it out to hear all of the speeches, sized for a sunnier day. The Boise contingent of the National Day of Prayer might have had the better end of the deal this year, their flags dry and waving in time to "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah" and "Give Us Clean Hands" under the rotunda. (Not quite the room Matthew had in mind, but at least it was indoors.) One of the participants was heard to wonder on the way in if the weather was "God crying for our country," leading me to wonder if they weren't from around here. (Southern Idahoans don't look a gift rain in the eye, not in early May.)

But who knew, "cry for our country" is a thing, at least as far as a sparsely updated "Crying-Girls" Facebook page, "Set Up to Gather Women and Girls as well as Men and Boys to gather on May7 2015 to Cry all day for our great country," and linked from KTVB.com's events calendar.

Inside, Idaho State Treasurer Ron Crane was slated to be the emcee; outside, the one politician speaking was Mountain Home city councilman Geoff Schroeder (who polled the crowd to find out he was the only Republican in attendance), urged us to do more than just vote. "Get your name on the ballot."

Day of Reason

Outside, the native sandstone and granite was shiny with beautiful rain, the flags at half-staff in mourning for Coeur d’Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore, the columns festooned for a decade now with yellow ribbons, "to show support for Idahoans and all troops serving overseas." They could perhaps more sensibly be carved in stone at this point, to reflect our permanent war economy.

Rabbi Dan Fink joined us out on the steps, affirmed reason, and the appropriate separation between church and state. He also suggested a practical sense of "prayer" we might agree on, thoughtful introspection, without need for supplication to a deity. (That's the way I think of it, and after he spoke, I thanked him for being there, and complimented him on cleverly suggesting his listeners might pray after all.)

The keynote speaker, author and historian Richard Carrier, made a good point about the absurd religious diversions some of our politicians have been taking lately. Some wouldn't even listen to an opening prayer in the Idaho Legislature from a Hindu, which is to say they want to insist on their faith's prayers, exactly an establishment of religion that our Constitution wisely precluded for its toxicity. In abhorrence of capital-S Shari'a they want to enforce a lower case-S shari'a law of their own, moral and religious law derived from their particular religious, as opposed to human legislation.

Signs of the times Permalink to this item

The NYT's quote of the day caught my eye, from Hamid Hamraz, 58, a taxi driver in Tehran. It seems the mayor there has ordered 1,500 billboards to be covered with copies of famous works of art.

"My usual morning route has become a big adventure for me. Now, in my taxi we discuss paintings and artworks." (Not featured, but at the end of the story, 19-year-old physics student Majed Hobi: “This really inspires me to for the first time in my life to go to a museum, instead of again going out and smoke water pipe.”)

Garden photo

Also, a federal appeals court in New York ruled that NSA vacuuming up everyone's phone call metadata is illegal. Somewhere in a 97 page ruling I didn't read, it says that Section 215 of the so-called USA Patriot Act "cannot be legitimately interpreted to allow the bulk collection of domestic calling records." The provision being used for cover is set to expire at the end of this month, so maybe Congress will "fix" it?

Meanwhile, the French Parliament voted "overwhelmingly" to have "their most intrusive domestic spying abilities ever, with almost no judicial oversight." (And Germany's not going to be so cooperative with us, go figure.)

Maybe if we talked about art more, our conversations wouldn't be so terribly interesting to spy agencies?

7.May.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Stories from someone other than politicians Permalink to this item

Sam Cook, on Poetry, Mental Health and Identity in new media, and taking your story out there. "Until you do, you're never going to know who needs to hear your story." A powerful performance, and message.

Talking with Congressman Raúl Labrador Permalink to this item

If Idaho's Tea-partiest congresscritter sits down with the Kuna Melba News, will anyone hear the sound? He did a month ago, and until Dustin Hurst picked up part of it for the uniquely watchdog Idaho Reporter, it was as quiet as a tree in the forest. The report seemed a little garbled, but then so did the original. The first question from the KMN was about "taking back more control of federal land," for which the Congressman was keen to say "aye."

"I think those lands were not necessarily supposed to be there for the coffers of the federal government. They were state lands that given to the federal government at the time. [sic] I think we can manage them for the state coffers but we can have the access. People from all over the United States can come to our state lands right now and enjoy them. And if we’re managing them under state management practices we can do this thing."

Let's just start calling them "state lands," in other words, and pretending like it's a done deal? He talks about "coffers" quite a bit, which is kind of the nut of why some of us don't trust the people who say they don't trust the federal government. As for extolling the virtues of state management, the Otter administration has been generating some persuasive counterexamples.

For what should have been the Congressman's signature issue (as an immigration lawyer and all), he complains (in part 2 of the 3-part story) that Democrats won't work with him, which, "you have this ironic thing happening," because he hasn't exactly been all about working across any aisles, never mind within his own caucus. After saying his bill with one piece of the puzzle (that he hasn't introduced, but has "shopped" to Democrats) "could pass tomorrow in the House of Representatives," he "clarified" that

"I would have a supermajority of my conference vote for that bill. I don’t have enough votes because not a single Democrat will vote for that bill, not because it’s not a good idea. But because it’s not the full amnesty bill."

So this bill that hasn't been introduced isn't going to pass. But it makes a good talking point!

In response to the question about "how involved" he is with Americans for Prosperity and the Koch brothers, Labrador wanted to talk about George Soros and "the liberal media." "It's ironic," you might say, same as he did. He did mention he has "a very high rating from the ACLU for being a Republican" (we're supposed to grade on the curve, apparently) and "all these educational groups give really good information."

What about the "rift, some say fiasco, at the Idaho Republican Convention last year," which Labrador chaired?

Hey, he gave it a shot, what with two parliamentarians (for a while), and desire to follow the rules, which didn't turn out to be shared. The party is "vibrant and growing," that's the good news, the bad news is that "you had these factions just unwilling to work with each other." And no leadership to speak of, eh.

Update: Our neighbor Niels Nokkentved goes over the history of land grab attempts, which fits comfortably in the length of a Guest Opinion in the Idaho Statesman. Makes you wonder why we needed a two-year legislative task force to come to the same result.

6.May.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Business is picking up Permalink to this item

Here's a new spin on ambulance chasing: ambulance chases you, and then sends a whop whop whopping bill, which your insurance company is not so keen on paying as it used to be. The data graphic shows the "number of medical helicopters" reaching for the sky while the average hours per medical helicopter is slipping downward. Gee, can we get some government help here?

"Concern about future revenue recently prompted the air ambulance companies to seek help from Washington. The Association of Air Medical Services, an industry trade group, is promoting legislation that was introduced in the House of Representatives in February. Among other things, the bill would increase Medicare payments to air ambulance companies."

“That initial bill nearly gave me a heart attack. I thought they’d have to come and get me again.”
Clarence Kendall, Pearce, Ariz.

Because... "it's about access to health care," for maybe some 400,000 people a year, "largely rural," because otherwise they'd just call a wheels-on-the-ground ambulance, wouldn't they?

Air Methods, with almost 30% of the industry revenue, has profits up sevenfold in the last decade, with an average bill of $40,000 and change. Five years ago, the average price was more like $17,000. And speaking of government, "A law that deregulated the airline industry in the 1970s has prevented states from capping the amount air ambulances can charge." The story cites a range for the average cost of a flight, from $7,000 to $10,000, so go figure.

Excerpt of St. Luke's coverage area map, 150 mi. circles around Boise and Twin Falls

Our local service, Air St. Luke's (flown by Idaho Helicopters, Inc.), covers a lot of rugged and remote territory, 150 miles as the whirlybird flies out of Boise/Meridian and Twin Falls. They offer membership which "is not an insurance or investment program and has no guaranteed benefit," but they say that "your annual membership fee waives any portion of the bill not covered by your insurance. You will not pay any deductibles or out-of-pocket expenses for the transport beyond your membership fee." That is, it "cover(s) air ambulance and ground ambulance charges for medically necessary services provided by Air St. Luke’s or AAMMP affiliates only," "secondary to all other insurance payments."

Still, for a $1,000 lifetime membership, you'll definitely support "Air St. Luke’s and area EMS and hospital education," and if you need a ride in the next 10 or 20 years, it may pay off. Think of it like buying a thousand lottery tickets.

Cinco de Mayo, 2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Fact check

Mike Huckabee seems to have gone past his sell-by date and moved into "hey you kids, get off my lawn" territory. His sound bite to kick off his next campaign for POTUS was the arresting statistic that 93 million people in the country don't have jobs.

That's a lot! Let's assume that folks of all ages, from 0 to 100 are in the job market, and do a little long division. To a first approximation, there are 300 million people in the U.S. Census.gov's popclock says we're approaching 321 million. So... unemployment is running something more than 29%, really?

Not really. The Bureau of Labor Satistics does have a row with 93 million in it; it's the number of people "not in labor force," as compared to the number in it (157 million) and the "persons who currently want a job," just over 6 million. Huckabee's number is more tha 10x removed for reality. Gets the crowd's attention.

The "free to find truth" blog ("dedicated to exposing those who govern from the shadows, the invisible empire") was paying attention, and found it "most interesting" that "it corresponds with Thelema, which is connected to 'love', which is connected to yesterday's date, 5/4. Love = 12+15+22+5 = 54."

Which makes about as much sense as Huckabee does.

We may be warming, we may be cooling Permalink to this item

Or we may be doing both at the same time! Among the five things Ben Carson doesn't get, from the Campaign for America's Future point of view, there's what he doesn't get about climate change:

For a man of science, Ben Carson doesn’t get what the big deal is about climate change. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s irrelevant. What is relevant is that we have an obligation and a responsibility to protect our environment,” he said in an interview in Des Moines, Iowa. “You can ask it several different ways, but my answer is going to be the same. We may be warming. We may be cooling.”

Imagine if your neurosurgeon were "agnostic" about the scientific consensus about human biology. "Some people say the problem is black bile and others think it's phlegm. I say, that's irrelevant. What is relevant is to use the right billing code." Or imagine that he said

"You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control."

You wouldn't be surprised to have him say it was the worst thing since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, too, since... what, logic? It's the worst thing since the Panic of 1873. And 1893. And 1907. World War 1. The Great Depression. World War 2. The Korean War, the Viet Nam war, and so on. Really bad.

May Day, 2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Gameness, or gamey? Permalink to this item

By their quotes ye shall know them. Richard Viguerie handicaps the GOP field (and then some) in a sidebar rundown. "Enter Scott Walker, Stage Right," citing Thomas B. Edsall's NYT opinion about how Walker has "transformed himself." Cruz on Romney, that's just a weird non sequitur. "Jeb Bush All Money No Mojo," no love lost there. "Rand Paul Grills DHS Secretary." Gleefully quoting Bernie Sanders' criticism of Clinton. The excerpt from "Carly Fiorina Ready To Run For President" by Melinda Henneberger on Bloomberg made me laugh:

"It would be hard to find anyone not connected to her campaign who likes her odds of actually reaching the Oval Office. But there’s no mistaking her seriousness, and the campaign itself has been its own kind of success. She’s impressed audiences at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the Iowa Freedom Summit, and Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition with her unapologetic conservatism and gone after Hillary Clinton on everything from conflicts of interest to wearing her sunglasses inside that Chipotle. She’s also shown an appealing gameness on the campaign trail."

Henneberger's big headline is that What Brought Carly Fiorina Down at HP Is Her Greatest 2016 Asset. That and the subhead, "As she famously said about John McCain and Sarah Palin, running for president requires a different skill set than running a major corporation" leaves me wondering... well, everything. What does she really know about running a corporation, first of all? She has run a political campaign, for the US Senate in California, and that went about as well as her time running a corporation. The background feature continues, I did not peruse, but I did come across the opinion from the first husband I didn't know Carly had, and that she didn't mention in her thrilling stump speech, involving an entry-level job in a real estate office.

"[She didn't] mention that she worked only briefly in that real estate office before heading off to Italy for a year with her first husband, Todd Bartlem, a Stanford classmate who’s told other reporters that in the years they were together, she had no political opinions and considered Dress for Success her bible. When reached by phone recently, Bartlem said only, 'You’re wasting your time, and I don’t want you to waste mine. In the clown car that is the Republican Party, she’s the ultimate clown.' (Click.)"

Ouch.

raveling

Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007