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

Idaho's Ag-Gag undone Permalink to this item

Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho has given the 1st Amendment supression efforts of the Idaho Dairymen's Association and the friends in our state legislature the heave-ho: Ag-Gag is ruled unconstitutional. The Spokesman-Review provides a copy of the Memorandum Decision and Order invalidating Idaho Code 18-7042, just past its first birthday. (H/t to Betsy Russell's Eye on Boise blog post.)

The Judge provided some highlights from Sen. Jim Patrick in the 2014 session of the legislature, who compared animal rights investigators to “marauding invaders centuries ago who swarmed into foreign territory and destroyed crops to starve foes into submission” and undercover investigations to “terrorism, [which] has been used by enemies for centuries to destroy the ability to produce food and the confidence in the food’s safety.” Patrick called the legislation “the way you combat your enemies.”

Winmill also had cause to cite George Orwell, and Upton Sinclair, who the more literary members of the legislature might have remembered misrepresented his identity to get a job at a meat-packing plant in Chicago once upon a time, to further his early-20th century "terrorism" novel, The Jungle.

No one should be confused about it Permalink to this item

Among last night's forum statements, I was struck by John Kasich's opening round "answer" to the immigration "question," and his weird insertion of "God-fearing":

"With the 12 million, we need to find out who they are, if they're law-abiding, God-fearing folks, they're going to have to pay a penalty toward legalization, they're going to have to wait, and uh, you know it's border, it's a reasonable guest worker program, and it's the ones who are the 12 million, they violate the law, they're going to have to be deported or put in prison, um, and I think at the same time, we just, we clearly need to make sure that we can protect who gets in and out of this country and once we put something into effect like that, anybody who comes in has gotta be sent home, no one should be confused about it."

It was of course a non sequitur embedded in a stream of non sequitur, and if one were to attempt logical deconstruction, it would be seen as a null and void dangling modifier in the murk. We can presume Gov. Kasich would apply the same penalties, waits, deportation and/or prison sentences whether or not said folks feared God (or even believed in the same one as he did, or any at all).

First forum fatigues Permalink to this item

Sept. 2010 photo

We learned that 14 people are too many to squeeze on to a stage all at once (although they could've done it with risers), even if you put three of them in a video link from Washington so that they can pretend to vote against Planned Parenthood in the Senate. We learned that there are quite a few more softball questions that can be asked of Republican presidential candidates than we imagined, and that giving the editors of the Manchester Union Leader the power to write the questions was kind of a stupid idea. But mostly, I learned that I don't have the stomach to sit through that sustained a barrage of campaign rhetoric without shouting at my TV like a drunken sailor.

If you can stomach more, the "forum" is captured in's web version, with transcript (compiled from uncorrected Closed Captioning) and video on demand for sampling and specificity. Rick Perry came across as quite a bit more intelligent than last time around, I'll give him that. Keep it simple, no lists of three items. He was a job-makin' machine down there in Texas, and also a Chuck Norris, border-enforcing, 24-7 long arm of the law keeping out the illegals.

Should we do something (different) about legal immigration? was asked of several of the candidates, and pretty much no one (I heard—less than half of 'em) was prepared for that kind of nuance. "We need to be smart" about it, for sure, but really job number one is the full-on military push to enforce the border, irrespective of actual facts such as the stability of the population of unauthorized immigrants in recent years, or the fact that flow from Mexico peaked in 2007, or that apprehensions last year fell to historic lows, down to a level not seen since the 1970s (and more non-Mexicans than Mexicans, which is also historic change).

"Should the federal government fund Planned Parenthood?" was the fattest lob to most of the candidates. Absolutely not. Not asked: "Where would you suggest the millions of Americans who rely on Planned Parenthood clinics for affordable, quality health care services including cancer prevention, STI and HIV testing and general primary health care services, many of them low-income women, go instead for their medical care?"

Ben Carson came across remarkably weak to me. We get that he doesn't like "Obamacare." Saying we should replace it before we repeal it is something new, but with the question of what we should replace it with unanswered, call it a distinction without a difference. Unless you think "something that really puts the power back in the hands of consumers and healthcare providers" is close enough for government work, contradiction and all. The "shoving it down our throats" part about why he doesn't like it sort of misses the part about how a Bill was made in Congress (and how Bills are not unmade these days), but it did get his delivery a notch above wistful-breathy. Health savings accounts given to every child who's born sound jolly, as does being allowed to have your wife give you $500 if you don't have the money yourself, for enormous flexibility to cover just about anything. It seems so simple when he talks about it. Also, vaguely incomprehensible. The "indigent" could buy a "concierge practice" and have a couple thousand bucks left over. Not that he's advocating any such thing, he's just showing he knows some numbers and stuff. "Washington says you can't give health savings accounts to the indigent because they're too stupid, and they wouldn't be able to manage them." (Uh, George Washington said that, are you sure?)

JEB! said he would take the advice of the military very seriously. And we need a strategy. For Syria, and stuff. Good luck with that. We need Special Forces, but he's not sure whether we need "boots on the ground." Floating Special Forces, then. That's the new strategy is it? "There needs to be a political element of this as well." Speaking of political elements, how 'bout that tailored setup for a Bush: "Big country. Hard job running for President. ... What compels you to run?"

I was committed to watching at least through Carly Fiorina's bit, with her truncated introduction as "the first woman to lead a Fortune 50 business" [into the ground], followed by the decidedly not-friendly question (from "one of our people"), "What's the least popular action you've taken as a leader and what did you learn from it?"

Give her props for not dropping her jaw and saying "that's a clown question, bro," but rather ducking and weaving like the professional marketing executive she is. "First of all let me thank" people, and then put this in generic, third-person terms about "one of the most difficult questions you have as a leader," "to challenge the status quo." Well. That's actually the least difficult thing for a Republican contender for President to do, isn't it? Wandering off into the secure territory of big, bad, Washington and "30 years ago" (things went south when we elected Ronald Reagan, whaaa?) and our insecure border deflected attention from the question, about her.

To the reiterated question, "least popular action you took as a leader?" another delicate feint. "I think the least popular actions are when you say to people 'we can't afford to do this any more.'" Like... when the HP board said that about her continued employment as CEO, and even though it was painful to kiss $20-some million goodbye to get rid of her, we couldn't afford it anymore. "Our government has gotten Bigger and Bigger Every Year for Almost Fifty Years," during which the population has grown by more than half, go figure. "Invest in those things that are a priority, securing the border, helping those people who are truly in need of help and you need to quit spending money where you're wasting money." Fiorina did at least get a tee-ball for her line of attack on Hillary Clinton, "to the core of her character," oh my.

For Bobby Jindal, and what about this "very divided America," he sounded like he was channeling Barack Obama's speech to the 2004 Democratic Party. "How can you unify this country?"

"Jack, I'm so tired of this president and the left trying to divide us..." Damn those dividers! "We're not hyphenated Americans, we're not African Americans or Asian Americans or rich Americans or poor Americans, we're all Americans." (Including, ahem, those central and south Americans, amirite?) Boiling it down to simple terms, this whole thing about division is the Left's fault. When Bobby Jindal is president, "no more hyphenated Americans, no more divisions." 'Nuff said!

It was the next question, about "making Washington work for... us again, I think 'cause it's feeling that almost that everyone, regardless of their political affiliation would agree that Washington is not working for America. In fact [wry "huh"] it may be working against us" that was a bridge too far for me. THAT IS A CLOWN QUESTION, BRO, in this room full of governors and ex-governors.

But that's not what Jindal said. He said "that's a great question" and blathered ahead, as if Louisiana's budgetary experience was informative about the federal government's.

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

Monday round up Permalink to this item

Big Republican debate tonight in New Hampshire with 14 of the top 10 candidates on stage, celebs Trump and Huckabee declining the invitation. Thanks to the “Voters First Forum” and St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, and the states of New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina for stepping up and sponsoring a free-for-all. Media celebs and gaffe-masters Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee couldn't clear their schedules to join the fun. Also Jim Gilmore won't be there. (Ah, who? Jimmy Dale Gilmore is running for President, or is that someone else?)

Granted, it's a little bizarre to have Fox News filtering the field of dreams to a "top 10 list," but with that many people in the wanting, some sort of preliminary round seems in order. There should be feats of strength or something. Rick Perry proposed pull-ups, that seems as good a means as any.

Sadly, without the Huckster there, we won't be able to hear more about how he plans to use the Federal Bureau of Investigation to stop abortion because the 5th and 14th amendment and he believes "every human being" includes, you know, even if not the actual human beings we encounter day to day. Answering a follow-up to his absurdity, he said "We'll see if I get to be president" so I guess we're not going to see. CBS' Face the Nation host John Dickerson could have dug in one-on-one, but chose instead to ask questions about Huck's clown comments on the Iran deal.

Since JEB! will be on-stage and the center of some attention, perhaps we'll hear about his figuring out "a way to phase out" Medicare, which I'm sure Florida voters would be very interested in hearing all about. "We need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something – because they’re not going to have anything," he said, which gives me an idea for his campaign theme song, fo de folk wid plenty o' plenty.

30.July.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Life is abbrev. Permalink to this item

Part of my job these days is designing user interfaces, which is an endlessly fascinating exercise, even as it is (and not just seems) mundane. The things that other people do in this realm often distract me. Case in point just now, a full-page print ad in the front section of last Sunday's New York Times, featuring life-sized, color images of an iPhone and an iPad mini 2, in a gray surround with red-letter large text offering "The Ultimate Mobile Experience." Never mind the slightly deranged concept of "ultimate mobile" including both the do-all, fits-in-your-pocket industry-leading handy and the also-does-all but does not fit in any pocket iPad mini 2, or what for all I know is a reasonable price of $199.99 for that mini 2. There is, of course, the inevitable asterisk and bottom-of-the-page finer print, but the asterisk does not point to the bottom of the page. (That bottom-finer print is just there.)

The asterisk at the end of the third line points to the fourth line of text, as if you wouldn't know to mentally carriage return and line feed if they didn't help you. From 36 pt. red, to 18 pt. black and then 24 pt. black, we step down to 9 pt. finery that says, and I quote:

*iPad req's 2-year agmt. Svc. activation req'd on both devices.

14 characters elided. In a line of text that left 32% margins, room for another 120 characters, give or take, with ample gray space above and below. (The first 3" at the top of page was nought but gray.) Is a requirement less heinous if it's only req'd? An agreement less burdensome if an agmt.? The abbreviation of service might well be truth in advertising.

The lines of concluding fine print demonstrate that they can run things out to the margin if they feel like it, which of course makes that fine print harder to read. Even though this is AT&T's deal, only leveraging Apple's vaunted design, that anti-usability is surely not reflective of incompetence. If they wanted to make it easier to read, they certainly know how to do that, and they bought plenty of space to do it in. The actual verbiage is more or less readable, and it spells out plenty of "terms, fees, restr's & options" as well as noting that they "may be modified, discontinued, or terminated at any time without notice." But they just can't help themselves from abbreviating some words. w/qual. Req's req'd no. acct w/in w/o Svc. Reg. Admin. gov't and of course those restr's.

Coverage & svc. not avail. everywhere.

Look and feel Permalink to this item

Word is, Win10 is out, and happily, I didn't experience the global internet slowdown resulting from its distribution that one friend said he expected; could still happen, I suppose. I wasn't keen to fetch it myself, even at the loss-leader pricing of $0, preferring to let some early adopters sort out the inevitable rough spots. I uninstalled the Windows Update that slyly put a widget in the systray. The NYT report says it "will have a familiar look and feel to the more than one billion people who have touched a Windows computer in the last two decades," which sounds good to me.

If you were swept up in early adoption and discovered that you don't have Windows Media Center and can't play that DVD you wanted to (SRSLY?!), you might like this TechHive article, How to play DVDs in Windows 10 for free.

29.July.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Unfiltered Permalink to this item

Basketball is a simple game of (last I saw, which was not recent, but recent enough) barely controlled violence and strange bending of rules with a round ball, so the owner of a professional team would not be someone you look to for nuance. The Dallas Mavericks' owner, Mark Cuban, is said to be a "fan" of none other than Donald Trump's bid to be POTUS, and in supposed possession of explanatory power.

"I don't care what his actual positions are. I don't care if he says the wrong thing. He says what's on his mind. He gives honest answers rather than prepared answers. This is more important than anything any candidate has done in years."

Hooray for mindless blurting! Honest and unprepared idiocy. The reality show approach to a political campaign. It's not necessarily a good idea, but it is an idea, and it's going swimmingly for this summer's dog day entertainment.

In contrapposto news, not so much talk of the town, GOP back bencher Mark Meadows from North Carolina made a weirdly subdued splash with his bill of particulars outlining John Boehner's failures as Speaker of the House in a non-motion resolution "to vacate the Chair," just before all the members plan to vacate the House for the six-week (!) summer recess. Meadows "indicated Tuesday that he will not seek a vote before the recess—and he may not seek a vote after the recess." Still, we can consider the meat of his stack of whereasses:

endeavored to consolidate power and centralize decision-making, bypassing the majority of the 435 Members of Congress and the people they represent;

through inaction, caused the power of Congress to atrophy, thereby making Congress subservient to the Executive and Judicial branches, diminishing the voice of the American People;

uses the power of the office to punish Members who vote according to their conscience instead of the will of the Speaker;

intentionally provided for voice votes on consequential and controversial legislation to be taken without notice and with few Members present;

uses the legislative calendar to create crises for the American People, in order to compel Members to vote for legislation;

does not comply with the spirit of the rules of the House of Representatives, which provide that Members shall have three days to review legislation before voting;

continues to direct the Rules Committee to limit meaningful amendments, to limit debate on the House floor, and to subvert a straightforward legislative process.

So, therefore! Whereas our House "requires the service of a Speaker who will endeavor to follow an orderly and inclusive process without imposing his or her will upon any Member thereof," "be it Resolved, That the office of Speaker of the House of Representatives is hereby declared to be vacant."

That sounds like the sort of bandwagon Idaho's Rep. Raúl Labrador would be keen to hop upon, although the story says the resolution "was filed without co-sponsors," and I couldn't track down the actual filing on

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

Subalpine Permalink to this item

Went off the grid there a bit
Up into the sky with boots on the ground
Somewhere remote enough the parking was free
(but bring your own water)

Trimmed the news, weather and sports down to
just weather, what's that coming over
the ridge behind me, blue, white, gray,
benign or threatening, one evening rain shower
had a full-sky rainbow riding on it, once over
the color drained into the clouds and
night came, silent on an owl's wings.

I searched for vitamins in currant events,
thimbleberries in the implausible state
between unyielding and artifact, and
very many grouse whortleberries, delight
of obsessive myopes too far up the hill
for huckleberries.

"Do you know the riddle of the sphinx?"
I asked my friends. One said yes, one said no,
but forgotten memory or apparent in the moment
the answer was there on the tip of his tongue.
"I skipped right back to four," I appended,
clattering trekking poles on their maiden voyage
somewhere between curiosity, comfort and essential
on a trail "engineered" to be the quickest way
up (and down) a mountainside, in that moment
suspended between orogeny and destiny,
coalesced, molten, frozen, remelted, lifted up
polished by ice and peers and then cast down
standing while trees blink tall and
tiny red berries mark season after season
turned to sun, rain, snow, mist in the morning
stillness at night.

Above Rock Island Lake, 2015


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007