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Cynthia Sewell has a nice feature in today's Idaho Statesman with a curious inside look into the state employment of the wives of two candidates for Idaho's Secretary of State. It seems Mrs. Toryanski and Mrs. Denney crossed paths at the Idaho Commission on Aging, and when Denney left in a reorganization at the end of 2010, she left behind evidence that she'd been moonlighting in her office. The computer forensics expert Toryanski hired to investigate didn't pan out because the ICOA had wiped the computer's HD in the process of updating the o/s, whoops, in spite of the Department of Administration and other governments being advised by the ISP "over the course of many years to hold out the hard drives of employees that had left state employ for at least one year," just in case.
But "non-forensic analysis" apparently sufficed to turn up invoices accounting for Denney's "time worked for MyStateUSA from October 2003 through April 2006" and "timesheet accounts for daily hours worked" during January 2008, all while she had a job with the state. Sewell says the investigator
concluded that Denney was working for My State USA while working for the aging commission: “Donna Denney’s Internet history, emails, and document attachments show she conducted My State USA business during work hours for the Commission on Aging.”
He said Denney had accessed her My State USA email account from her state–owned computer, and he found more than 200 emails sent from Denney’s state account to My State USA founder Claudia Bitner, as well as 150 emails Bitner sent to Denney’s state account.
Not that there's, um, anything criminally wrong with that, since there was no policy against moonlighting, and we don't have a law against "theft of time" just yet. (The legislature is still in session though!) And ok, the invoice from “Denney Consulting and Contracting” in Midvale is not criminal, even if that sole proprietorship doesn't have to register with the state.
It sure is some sloppy desk cleaning, though.
Sewell gave the Denneys' attorney (and former Lt. Governor) David Leroy the last word, just a little innuendo to say goodbye, rebutting Mitch Toryanski's speculation that the discussion of conflicts of interest “will likely increase public interest in the secretary of state’s duty to oversee and enforce document recording laws and campaign finance disclosure laws.”
Leroy suggested rephrasing the question: “Will the Idaho Statesman allow itself to be drawn into a series of articles two months before a primary wherein it makes or repeats disproved claims about a prominent candidate’s family member instead of headlining the timing, source and objectives of those who advance ‘unfounded’ attacks?”
It doesn't seem that "disproved" means what Leroy pretends to think it means. Mrs. Denney left the factual evidence of her work for another company, using state computer equipment there in the state's office and on the state's computer when she left.
While the doings of Mrs. Denney don't necessarily have to do with Mr. Denney, the fellow who's running for Secretary of State, it's one more sketchy page in Lawerence's dossier. The Republicans in the House gave him a go and then decided he was not what they wanted for Speaker. It's not clear why the people of Idaho should see him qualified to be their next Secretary of State, especially given that "Idaho has a tradition of electing secretaries of state with reputations of integrity, evenhandedness and nonpartisanship," as Sewell put it.
Claudia Bitner's business in what, it's not made exactly clear, was founded in 1999 as Idaho Internet Associates, Inc., then MyState USA, Inc. in 2007 (with 50,000,000 shares of common voting stock authorized, dressed for success), then whoops, a month later make it MyStateUSA, Inc. and just last month make it "AlertSense, Inc." with offices in D.C., New York, Alabama, New Jersey, Idaho and Washington, and its "CEO and COB" with a D.C. address. Business seems to be picking up nicely.
Rachel Held Evans, on the recent attempts to legislate in favor of some who imagine themselves persecuted: Walking the second mile: Jesus, Discrimination and "Religious Freedom." The title and the small image of Carl Heinrich Bloch's painting of the Sermon on the Mount took me back to the most remarkable experience of a painting I've ever had, in the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. We had of course been to the Hermitage and been overwhelmed by the collection of European art there, but our afternoon in the Russian Museum was more memorable for the chance to discover the richness in less well-known art from east of Europe, and for one painting, in particular.
Time may stand still for its portrait to be painted, a moment as if in amber, dust slowly layering atop it for subsequent eternity. But sitting across the crowded gallery from Vasily Polenov's masterpiece, "Christ and the Adulteress," my spirit flew across time and space and I sat there in the shade of the stone wall and cypress, avoiding the heat of the day, experiencing the mob rushing toward us, the demand for punishment, the young woman facing death, and I was part of the strangely unmoved circle around the young man with the small stick, on that day, the still afternoon shattered by blood-thirstiness, these two stories meeting as a crashing wave against unmoving rock, transfixed by this man who was turning away the evil of men's hearts—if only for a moment, but here as I witnessed that moment—with a clever word, this impossible threshold for judging another.
The painting was auctioned "for a fortune" I'm sad to see, 12 years after that afternoon I was in it. Wikipaintings has as good a version as can be rendered in pixels perhaps, 2.7Mpx, but even at that a dim fascsimile of 50+ square feet of meticulous painting.
A further parallel to be drawn from it changing hands for £4M, in these years following the many successful efforts to turn evangelical believers into a political force by creating a sense of "perpetual victimhood," part of a group that has "become known for crying “persecution!” upon being wished “Happy Holidays” by a store clerk." The deep irony is that this sense of "persecution" is being fostered by the basest commercial interests. Evans' rebuttal, with her emphasis:
"As Christians, our most “deeply held religious belief” is that Jesus Christ died on the cross for sinful people, and that in imitation of that, we are called to love God, to love our neighbors, and to love even our enemies to the point of death.
"So I think we can handle making pastries for gay people."
Growing up steeped in model railroading, I never had much time for Lionel "toys" because they seemed too big, too clunky, and that ridiculous third rail that didn't exist in the real world of trains I could see for myself, just down at the end of the street. Or maybe it was that we didn't have all the pieces to put something together that would run. But either kind is a fantasy, and perhaps a strong enough dash of verisimilitude is enough to provide a springboard for the imagination.
I'd read about Neil Young and Lionel Trains somewhere along the line, but without the real-live (or fake-live, I guess) benefit of this bit of creative filmmaking from 2006: It's a Fake. That would be "Clyde Coil" with the memorable "Dang!" The script's as corny as Kansas in August, but never mind that. The miniature camera technology and audio editing are a world of fun. It's a delightful train ride of fantasy and the fakeness doesn't hurt it a bit.
That was "off camera" and Elijah had had his microphone cut off, but glory hallelujah, it's not so easy as that to stop someone from having his say in the internet age. Media Matters picks it up where the grandstanding chairman of the House Oversight Committee tried to leave it off, when his attempt to make more than the facts supported of the IRS "scandal" found itself up a blind alley and down a dry well.
CUMMINGS: "He continued this theme on Sunday, when he appeared on Fox News to discuss a Republican staff report, claiming that Miss Lerner was quote, at the center of this effort to, quote, target conservative groups. Although he provided a copy of his report to Fox. He refused my request to provide it to the members of the committee. The facts are, he cannot support these claims. We have now interviewed 38 employees, who have all told us the same thing. That the White House did not direct this [inaudible] or even know about it at the time it was occurring. And none of the witnesses have provided any political motivation. The Inspector General, Russell George, told us the same thing. He found no evidence of any White House involvement, or political motivation."
It's not about oversight, or news, or investigation. Obviously.
“It is the gamification of content,” said Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard. “Take the same dynamics that lead games and social sharing to be addictive and use them in a way to connect to content.”
Or learning, I suppose. Or (and most importantly for the latest business models) advertising. It could be sometime silly but strangely compelling, such as an epic name-botch in the middle of a celebrity fest (that also broke Twitter and raised the hopes of pizza deliverers throughout the land), or it could be something useful.
ProPublica’s Dollars for Docs app allows users to find out if their doctor has taken money from pharmaceutical companies. It has generated seven million views since it was first posted in 2010.
Far be it from me to sort out the way forward on the other side of the world, but there are some interesting reads in the Washington Post just now. A gaggle of US ambassadors to Ukraine advise restraint:
"The Ukrainians should leave an opening for Putin to back down.
"First, they should continue to exercise restraint in the face of Russian aggression: Don’t shoot first. ..."
And a bunch more good ideas, none of which involve military hardware or pounding a shoe on a podium.
Dana Milibank opines on Operation Oxymoron, the Republican twist and spin from their assessment of Obama as "dictator" to namby-pamby appeaser.
"In theory, it is possible for Obama to rule domestic politics with an iron fist and yet play the 98-pound weakling in foreign affairs. But it doesn’t make a lot of sense that one person would vacillate between those two extremes. A better explanation is Obama’s critics are so convinced that he is wrong about everything that they haven’t paused to consider the consistency of their accusations."
George Will, Charles Krauthammer, John McCain, William Kristol and Lindsay Graham should have a parade. I think I strained something rolling my eyes at Will's opinion, such that I didn't even notice he blamed Obamacare for the invitation to Vlad to impale the Crimea. Thank goodness for the comment section, 1,364 and counting.
I say let's start by taking Robert Gates' advice, relayed by David Ignatius, to "cool it," starting with every Republican Senator with failed past or future presidential ambitions. You lost. Obama and Kerry "won," and it's in our best interests that they succeed. Which god almighty, ought to go without saying, but apparently does not. Ignatius gives Gates the last word:
“It seems to me that trying to speak with one voice — one American voice — seems to have become a quaint thing of the past. I regret that enormously.”
Cleaning up last year's Sent Items for archiving, I came across the photo I'd offered up for the "Share your story" part of the Boise 150 Sesquicentennial project, to go with the story Jeanette submitted, for possible inclusion in their book. She didn't make that cut, but I looked to see that yes, her story was in the collection, sans the photograph we'd offered to go with. Also sans any paragraph breaks, which are you kidding me? That was certainly not the way she composed it, and leaves it rather unreadable. I see there are other stories that are well-formatted, and have photos included, so huh.
History should be nicely formatted if nothing else, I say, so I made it so: Waiting to be Seduced by the Don by Jeanette Ross, from February 1999.
The NYT juxtaposed a "Quotation of the Day" from John Kerry and Vladimir Putin in "Today's Headlines" email, and I can't help but think of the line from the Grateful Dead's "Truckin'": what a long strange trip's it been.
"It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve."
JOHN KERRY, secretary of state, on Russia's actions in Crimea, a region in Ukraine.
It is, on the other hand, kind of historical.
The Wikipedia entry for Arizona's SB 1062 this year has a useful background synopsis of the evolution of so-called "religious freedom" legislation on the federal and state level. The apparent motivation of keeping teh gay away, and the ensuing political fallout have made a lot of news as the state legislature debated it, passed it, had three members declare they'd made a mistake, and then the governor vetoed it.
What else was in there that had some, but probably not enough coverage was the attempted, remarkable (at least), and outrageous (I would say) expansion of personhood. The text of the bill that would have been Arizona law had the Governor not rejected it, where "Person" is currently declared to include "a religious assembly or institition," that legal fiction would have been expanded to include
ANY INDIVIDUAL, ASSOCIATION, PARTNERSHIP, CORPORATION, CHURCH, RELIGIOUS ASSEMBLY OR INSTITUTION, ESTATE, TRUST, FOUNDATION OR OTHER LEGAL ENTITY.
The existing law is about the "exercise of religion," defined as "the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief."
We can only infer others' motivations and beliefs, or perhaps take their word for what those might be. Thus we would set our system of jurisprudence on a foundation of quicksand. And who shall speak for the motivation and beliefs of institutions, corporations and the like, these creatures who inhabit our brave new world?
For the corporation known as Hobby Lobby, its founder David Green appears to be the motivating force wishing to dictate to its employees what sort of health care he'll deign to support, a question that is now before the Supreme Court of the United States, in a contest between the Affordable Care Act and the so-called Religious Freedom "Restoration" Act. The Freedom from Religion Foundation, et al. have provided an amicus brief in the case, noting that Green "essentially maintains his corporation has a soul and rights of conscience that trump the rights of conscience of his employees."
“RFRA is being invoked in this case as a license for employers to influence their female employees’ contraception choices. ...
“If Hobby Lobby can deploy RFRA to block coverage of women’s reproductive health, the next believer will argue against vaccinations, and the next against screenings for children or domestic violence screening and counseling. There is no limit to the variety of religious believers in the United States, and good reason to know that the vulnerable will pay the price. ...
“RFRA lets religious citizens rewrite any federal law they don’t like, to their benefit.”
Proponents of religion trumping law had considerable success in states after the federal RFRA was ruled inapplicable to state laws in 1997, but I have yet to see a report about what organizations might be behind the appearance of this legislation in 16 different states this year. ALEC is the most usual suspect for coordinated, bad state legislation, but they don't often fail as spectacularly at changing state laws as is happening in these cases. The misguided legislation was quashed by one or the other house of even the reddest of state legislatures, apart from Arizona's.
Timothy Egan supposes that "These new religious liberty laws grow out of the sulfurous talk radio wing that dominates the Republican Party. They get fevered over 'wars on Christianity' and then propose legislative remedies to nonexistent problems." He celebrates the "favor" Arizona did us all, by "showing who’s left on the antigay side of a culture war that is over."
Can the men and women in the black robes finish the job and establish the principle that religious and non-religious people should have the same rights and responsibilities under the law? (Thanks again to Paul Rolig for his succinct and compelling statement before the Idaho House State Affairs Committee last month.)
Library-borrowed books have a feature owned books don't: a deadline. Sometimes that works for me, sometimes not so much. After a generous 4-week loan, augmented with an equally generous 4-week renewal, here it is the last day and I'm trying to get through Eli Pariser's The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, and bubbling over with its interesting insights. One of them struck a chord with how strange I found Russ Fulcher's parochial takeaway from his decades of traveling the world on business (in yesterday's post):
"As it turns out, being around people and ideas unlike oneself is one of the better ways to cultivate this sense of open-mindedness and wide categories. Psychologists Charlan Nemeth and Julianne Kwan discovered that bilinguists are more creative than monolinguists—perhaps because they have to get used to the proposition that things can be viewed in several different ways. Even forty-five minutes of exposure to a different culture can boost creativity: When a group of American students was shown a slideshow about China as opposed to one about the United States, their scores on several creativity tests went up. ..."
It makes me wonder still more about Fulcher's world tour. The news in November when he announced his candidacy (leading with "shouts of 'Amen!'" no less) says he was a marketing executive for Micron and Preco.
Electronic components and "electronic industrial-safety products" don't require a great depth of cross-cultural understanding, and the laborious part of travel makes one glad to be home, and celebrating our "divinely inspired" system, "where the people are supposed to be the pinnacle of governance."
After a month's travel around Idaho to weigh a run against two-term GOP Gov. Butch Otter, Fulcher said: "We are in danger of losing that uniqueness, that specialness. Most of the people of Idaho aren't feeling like they're the pinnacle of governance right now."
Interesting pitch. "Elect me" and I will lead you all to the pinnacle. Where no government will help you afford healthcare, and our educational standards will be all our own. His inspiring Tea Party success stories are Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Idaho's own Raúl Labrador, his fellow travelers members of such upstanding groups as Glenn Beck's 9/12 Project, Ada County Militia, Oath Keepers, Idaho Open Carry, the John Birch Society.
Russ Fulcher, on his run for Governor (and not letting his job in the state Senate get too much in his way), talking to a fringe group that he seems to think is most closely aligned with his own way of thinking was captured in a video posted on Daniel Howard Johnson's Facebook page, shared with the public.
Fulcher starts by celebrating "friends like this," seeming to say that he can't really be himself in most situations. He's "a farm kid" who spent 24 years traveling around the world from which he learned... "just how special we have it here." (I didn't travel the world for anywhere near 24 hours, and I like where I live, but what I learned is that we're not the only ones with good ideas.)
"This health care system that's been invited into this state is the wrong path," Fulcher said. "That's right," from the crowd, and applause. Idahoans need to control their education, too. It's a conspiracy theory!
"Another annoyance that's hanging out there," Fulcher said, to talk about his non-negotiables: our freedom of religion, our economic freedom, and our right to bear arms. Mainly it's D.C., but "there's some of that goin on right here in this state."
Guns and Ammo magazine says Idaho is the "32nd most friendly state in the nation towards gun ownership," Fulcher said. "Folks, we need to drive that number up." [applause]
He's looking for "wise counsel," especially from people who think most exactly the way he does, but he was on a schedule, and was going to have one of his staff collect Q&A after he ducked out.
"If this effort is not blessed, I don't even want the title."
The TITLE, you say? As if we were electing the Pope of Conservatism? We're talking about a JOB in PUBLIC SERVICE.
As he wound up to his conclusion, somebody in the crowd interrupted, which was strange, to declare that "The man you see before you is the same man everywhere he goes," which is even stranger, given the way this little presentation started. Pastor somebody?
"This isn't just a speech, this is the man that he is."
Fulcher wrapped it up by telling the group:
"Don't . You . Back . Down. You're standing on righteous ground."
"Sovereignty is not something you ask for, it's something you have a right to, and you take."
[Voice in the crowd: "You got that right."]
"Sovereignty means we claim the blessings we were rightfully granted, by God."
Unfortunately, I had enough command of the English language to dodge whatever requirements my alma mater imposed upon its children, and never enjoyed (or endured) the likes of John Rember's Comp as Philosophy class. The challenge was to demonstrate proficiency by writing an essay, I forget how long it was, and show that really, I didn't need to take English 103 and 104 now, did I? I don't remember what it was about, and I hope I didn't save it, but I vaguely recall a certain peevishness at the task. I took English in high school, after all. There were more interesting things to study, I was sure.
With some determination, I might find 8,000 words I'd emitted in columns for The Argonaut and consider my unguided search for authenticity as a 20-something, along with the cavernous space between how much I thought I knew and, well, what I think I know now, I guess. I'm the measure of all things, not because I'm an authority, but just because that's the way it works for all of us. There were a few letters pro and con, but no one staying up late or working over the weekend to put red ink on my work, let alone discuss the next assignment.
In the more mundane realm of engineering, I learned the truth of what Rember quotes from Joan Didion, "that she never knows what she thinks about anything until she starts putting it down on paper." I could think I had something understood from cause to effect, defect to fix to acceptable quality, but the more interesting and complicated problems didn't work that way. It wasn't until I had to write a detailed memo or report and marshall facts and an argument that the lacunae and flaws in my comprehension would become apparent. On occasion you can get lucky and stumble onto an answer that is close enough to right that it works, and move on. Most of the time you have to ask the right question and plod through the hard work of discernment before finding what matters.
Rember's capsule trajectory of modern life is a bit harsh, fired for effect, and leaving his readers to recognize that between the "enviable two-week vacations for 40 years" and "end[ing] up demented and dying in a good nursing home" there is the possibility freedom from the oppression of work may leave time for some lucid moments to bubble to the surface. (Or even in spite of a too-busy schedule? Some people do their best work under pressure, I've heard.)
Anyway. New month, a new season a-budding, and another fine essay to recommend in the Boise Weekly, especially those last four paragraphs ...
Tom von Alten