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4.March.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Does anybody really know what time it is? Permalink to this item

Seems like everybody grumbles about daylight savings time, at least when it starts (2 o'clock antemeridian, this coming second Sunday in March). Losing an hour of sleep is no fun. In the fall, when we get the hour back, sure, that's nice, but it's another disruption, and an unwelcome harbinger of winter to have darkness come an extra hour earlier in the evening.

Idaho's esteemed House Majority Leader, Mike Moyle, was prepared to put a stop to it with a new law that would "exempt" all areas of our fair state "from the daylight savings time provisions of U.S.C. section 260a, starting July 1, 2015 (because that's the start of our state's fiscal year, I guess). We would be on daylight savings time there in the summertime, and so would be snapping back to standard time?

2001 photo of US 95 bridge over the time zone boundary

That's apparently not what Moyle had in mind: his statement of purpose said exemption from DST changes, so we could just stay on DST forever. Except no, "exemption" is a one-way ticket in U.S.C., to Standard Time, or Times, in Idaho's case. The MT/PT boundary follows the Salmon River across Idaho, as per our own bit of U.S.C. for that divide. (It's a curiosity that the Salmon River does not run all the way to the Montana border. It flows up from the south through the town of Salmon, along US 93 before turning west to cut the state in sort-of two and make a well-defined time zone. Thanks to Time Zone Report for pointing to e-CFR 71.9 and the answer, it proceeds along the Idaho/Lemhi county line.)

TZR is also responsible for instructing the Majority Leader of the error of his ways, and cheerfully offers advice for how to proceed with 2016 legislation should Moyle still thinks it's timely.

But I digress. This year's bill is dead, Jim. And see there, last year, Moyle proposed putting us on standard time year-round; you might have imagined he would have figured this out by now. But no.

3.March.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Couldn't happen to a nicer slumlord Permalink to this item

Back when I lived in Arny's Trailer Court (35 years ago now), the septic system was on its last legs, and the well water wasn't that great, but I seem to recall I drank it without getting sick. Then there was the problem of the space next door being vacated, and sewerage trying to take a shortcut across my space, to the drainfield on the other side.

The landlord had the memorable name of "Magar E. Magar," which I remembered from my own correspondence in disputes with him. If I ever met him face to face, it was only one or two times. He wasn't in the habit of personally visiting the property. Imagine my surprise to see his name pop up in Boise's newspaper this past Sunday, in a blurb-sized "story to catch up on" about, what else, drinking water and sewage. It seems the residents of Syringa Mobile Home Park were sufficiently fed up after 90 days (three months!) without drinking water that they filed a class action lawsuit, and the news is, they've prevailed.

If I'd been keeping up with Radio Free Moscow, I would have found Magar has been a popular tag for quite a while, what with the complaints, the U of I Law School helping file a lawsuit, his attempt to buy off tenants with a month's rent and $75, then threatening to close the park, the feds coming after him for discharging sewage in the South Fork of the Palouse River near Syringa, and him falling behind in his contempt of court payments, which at one point were running $350 per day.

That contempt was north of $10,000 a month for who knows how many months, and now the The winners in the lawsuit each look to get $1,000 in direct payments and $1,000 in "free rent," while the feds are due a civil penalty of $100,000. After a while, that starts to add up.

May, 2013 photo

The sticking points Permalink to this item

Uber managed to round up 1,906 e-signees for its petition to the Boise Mayor and City Council, but those weren't enough. Just found the (print) story from the day before Uber called it quits here, listing the things the city wanted that Uber's G.M. found "onerous":

All that is certainly more inconvenient than NOT having licenses, background checks, etc., the way taxis do. Regardless of Uber's snit, the City Council is going ahead with drafting some law, and good for them, and us.

In the meantime, maybe we all need to expand our circles of friends if we want to "share" rides instead of buying them from strangers?

2.March.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Driving south Permalink to this item

We had some trepidation about traveling south of the border, but had various reassurances about our specific destination (flying to Cancún, and staying down the coast, at Tulum), and strength in family numbers, as we headed for our nephew's beach wedding. All that stuff you read about in the news is elsewhere, and somebody during the course of the trip assured us that if we didn't have anything to do with drugs, we didn't have anything to worry about. Alright then.

There were adventures, mostly all in the first day, having traversed the crazy tout scene at the airport, the Budget car rental office running the basic insurance fleecing operation and then handing us off to a timeshare salesman before producing our car, and then whatever they call the pièce de résistance in spanish, the guard at our hotel refusing to let us through the driveway, telling us the place was "closed." Did he say "ocupado" or "no ocupado"? I didn't know that word meant "busy" at any rate. And was it really about me greasing his palm a little? We hadn't retrieve and pesos, and besides, it wouldn't have occurred to me to bribe my way into the hotel we'd already 20% paid for.

Late afternoon, after the daily beach-goers had gone and before the lights came on (or maybe the generator was taking a break?), the place we'd never seen before had a sandy look of something that might well have been abandoned, and the guard and we did not have enough language in common to sort things out. As day faded into night, we wandered the coast road asking directions (the nice, young policeman, was helpful, but clueless, in retrospect), and finally getting someone to make a local call for us and get a better answer. It was well past dark when we got back to the right place, right where I expected it to be, and were let in and to our room (after we paid for the rest of the 5-night stay, up front, gracias).

rental checkout photo

Driving was ok, even though there are some unfamilar signs, a general lack of adherence to the speed limit, and the substitute control of various forms of "topes," a.k.a. Giant Mexican Speedbumps. We were at least advised about those and only hit one or two over the maximum preferable speed, which for the nastiest is about 0-2 kmh. Once a country gives over its speed limit enforcement to these very effective sleeping policeman, the posted number is pretty much arbitrary. Fast as you like (within reason) until the next topes, when you'd better slow down, Or Else. They've got one brand of gas station, the nationalized Pemex, so that was easy, and early: the local rental outlets like to send off their cars with a quarter tank of gas, the more space for you to bring back "extra" when you return. But in retrospect, no big deal, and all reasonably priced (if not as crazy-cheap as it seemed from shopping Kayak and seeing $2/day choices, before going with the name brand and the not quite too good to be true $7/day. (After insurance and all the tax add-ons, it came to a bit over $30/day, plus gas.)

Anyhow, our minor driving travails came to mind when reading Edwin Lyngar's interesting piece on Salon about something more adventurous, just a bit further south: My libertarian vacation nightmare: How Ayn Rand, Ron Paul & their groupies were all debunked. This, in particular:

"The greatest examples of libertarianism in action are the hundreds of men, women and children standing alongside the roads all over Honduras. The government won’t fix the roads, so these desperate entrepreneurs fill in potholes with shovels of dirt or debris. They then stand next to the filled-in pothole soliciting tips from grateful motorists."

The quintessential topes are the inverse of potholes, and I had a thought that an enterprising civil servant might combine the two ideas to automate speed control. If you're observing the 40 (or 70, or 100) km/hr speed limit, the bumps would be retracted flush with the pavement. If you're speeding, they could project out of the pavement a suitable amount. (Maybe not quite this much though.)

As for Honduras, if Lyngar had any really bad stories to tell, he didn't tell them. Just lots of guards with guns, and some high walls with concertina wire giving a sense of foreboding (which, ok, if you stuck around long enough, might turn out to be more than that). In the end, he turns it to a rather bizarre pitch, something you would not sign up for from an airport tout or timeshare salesman:

"Honduras has problems but people should go visit anyway and soon. The dangers are fleeting, and there are coffee plantations to tour, ruins to see, cigars to smoke and fish to catch. The people need your tourism dollars. As a bonus, it’s important for Americans to see the outcome when the bad ideas of teenage boys and a bad Russian writer are put into practice."

1.March.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Thank you, Governor Permalink to this item

The new Sunday paper on the driveway provided a nagging reminder that last Sunday's was still in the "vacation pack" pile on the table, part of the "catching up process" that will doubtless wane to a not-quite-completed task. Part of the pleasure of catch-up was finding former Idaho Governor Phil Batt's remarks to the Canyon County Lincoln Day Banquet in Nampa a week ago Wednesday. I imagine the crowd leaping to their feet and giving him a standing ovation, but of course I wasn't there, and Betsy didn't say, beyond that he "made waves." More likely some butts remained glued to chairs and some of the applause was obligatory, awkward, and tepid, with a decided lack of shouted "hear, hear!"

Would that his party could produce some leaders of his caliber and clear vision for our state.

"When I took my good friend and business partner, Kay Inouye and his wife Mary, to my Caldwell Elks Club, they were refused admission because they were not white. I dropped my membership. Their policy changed. I applied for readmission and was greeted by 14 black balls. Now that’s all changed, a relic of the past. There used to be signs in the windows of Wilder bars: 'No Mexicans.' They’re gone, a relic of the past. There used to be Nazis in North Idaho. I helped chase those scumbags out.

"Most overt discrimination is gone, but some remains. Gays are still regarded as weird freaks of nature by some, and it is certainly the critic’s right to do so, but to party-line vote against equal protection is not in the history or tradition of our wonderful organization.

"Call me a RINO if you want, I’m still proud to be a Republican and a good one. But for those of you who still favor discrimination for no good reason—think about it. Could you be the RINOs?"

The current legislature has no plans to honor his 88th birthday this month through action in keeping with his principles, but who knows, maybe they'll find their way by his 89th. Or 90th.

28.Feb.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Inside the Black Box Permalink to this item

The nice thing about a book borrowed from the library is that you've got a deadline to motivate progress. New books have shorter schedules, and I just finished an excellent "14 day" checkout (with a partial renewal), a day ahead of its due date. Jeanette asked me to write a review for March Secular Idaho newsletter; that expanded my comments to more than a blog post, and reason for an increasingly infrequent update of this site's home page, with a short review of Frank Pasquale's new book, The Black Box Society.

What's inside?

His subject is "the secret algorithms that control money and information," as his subtitle puts it, the inner workings of the opaque systems that increasingly manage, monetize and occasionaly mangle our reputations, our search for everything we search for, and our personal and collective finances.

It's a book well worthy of recommendation, and dense enough to defy easy excerpting or characterization. I was struck by one phrase in his concluding chapter, setting the scene for his recommendations for how we might move toward more intelligible, open, fair and controllable systems, in the last bit I quoted from the book.

"A peurile fixation on the obsolete polarity between 'state' and 'market' solutions" captures so much about where we are right now, and I couldn't help but think of local Koch camp follower (or wherever he gets his tax-advantaged "charity" salary and overhead from; he's steadfastly keeping that secret) Wayne Hoffman and his "Idaho Freedom Foundation," which seems to have never met a government regulation it could abide, from speed limits to child welfare.

Talking heads and op-eds have limited utility, however, and as difficult as the wading may be, Pasquale's depth of analysis and attention to detail is what's needed to change the risk-laden trajectory we're on. Do read at least my review and some of the related links, even if you don't tackle the book.


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007