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30.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Get out of parking tickets free Permalink to this item

Put it on your calendar, 10am, Saturday, Dec. 12 at Boise City Hall. A reprise of the 2004 Grace Gift Parable is setting a charitable example and teaching a lesson: "Grace is unearned. It's an unmerited favor. At this time of the season, we want to show God's grace. In the process, we help families."

"Anonymous business men and women and churches belonging to the Christian Churches of the Treasure Valley" are playing the part of God in this civic street theater.

First-come, first-served until 1pm or until $10,000 has been spent, free refreshments and Christmas music to boot.

(I wonder how much the city has on the books in unpaid tickets? None by me, happily; careful parking obviates this portion of grace.)

Now THIS is how to defend marriage Permalink to this item

A lot of people have been talking about defending the institution, but what have they accomplished, really? They managed to keep some undesirables (from their point of view) out, but what about that 50% divorce rate? The 2010 California Marriage Protection Act has the answer: no more divorce. Simple.

29.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Please, not more ethanol Permalink to this item

It's like they're disposing of waste by slipping a little into my gas tank every time I fill up... I don't want ethanol! But this explains why you can't get away from 10% of it gumming up your "regular." The corn patch sold it as "the only viable, competitive alternative to foreign oil," but it ain't hardly. It's only viable because of the legal mandate. And "only alternative" is just nonsense.

"One possibility is to raise the maximum proportion of ethanol in gasoline to 15 or 20 percent."

Start burning through catalytic converters two or there times as fast... and what else will go wrong with gasoline engines when they're fed this garbage?

Fiorina watch Permalink to this item

The Wall Street Journal interview says she wants to "reboot" California, and they must love that business spin that rolls up the column inches.

"...Fiorina pauses to acknowledge that she's fully aware her six-year tenure as the head of HP will be used against her. "Liberals will say I was let go by my board in 2005 and outsourced some jobs overseas," she says bluntly. "But I took the company through the worst technology recession in a generation and created jobs on a net basis. As for the outsourcing, the tax and regulatory climate made it almost impossible not to do that—which is why we have to change it."

I suspect liberals would say she was fired by her board. "Let go" sounds so quaint. "Created jobs on a net basis," hmm. Another way to look at that is that she did all she could to reduce headcount, but failed in the end. Not for lack of trying! The HP-Compaq merger was all about "synergies," which were all about who they could get rid of.

Elsewhere, we find out that "share[s] Sarah Palins values, oh my.

The right-wing web Permalink to this item

Feel the power. 2006 photo Rupert Murdoch's latest initiative makes me think of Ted Stevens for some reason. Does he know how the intertubes work?

“In a recent interview with Sky News Australia, Mr. Murdoch said that Google and other online entities "steal our stories." As for the argument that blocking Google would effectively diminish the online audience for his newspapers, he said, "We'd rather have fewer people coming to our Web sites, but paying."”

We can definitely arrange to have fewer people coming to your websites, and keep Google from "stealing" your stories. There is a faint possibility that news could be found from other non-"News" Corp. sources, however. And a stronger possibility that the loyal audience of Faux News is not actually prepared to make direct payments for their entertainment.

Anyway, if Microsoft wants to ride to the rescue of "battered media companies," maybe they should have named their search engine Cha-ching instead of Bing eh. Would those media companies mind "sharing" most of the revenue with Microsoft? I'm sure they wouldn't.

Black Friday Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sesquicentennial Permalink to this item

It was such busy week with the holiday coming and all, the 150th anniversary of the publication of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species just flew right by.

Maybe creationists are gnashing their teeth as well as their Thanksgiving tableware, I don't know. E.O. Wilson's eloquent observation would seem to call for some sort of response from them:

"[N]othing in science as a whole has been more firmly established by interwoven factual information, or more illuminating[,] than the universal occurrence of biological evolution. Further, few natural processes have been more convincingly explained than evolution by the theory of natural selection, or as it has been popularly called, Darwinism."

Olivia Judson offers another thoughtful morsel for after dinner reflection: how many species are at the verge of an "evolve-by date" with environmental change rushing at them?

Who did you think was paying for it? Permalink to this item

It didn't take a General Accountability Office study to figure out that consumers not using credit cards "may be made worse off by paying higher prices for goods and services, as merchants pass on their increasing card acceptance costs to their customers," did it? The credit card customers are paying the higher prices, too, but at least they're paying for their convenience.

Emphasis on the "sometimes more" than two cents on the dollar reported here; one non-profit I'm involved with paid north of $2 grand on $54,000 worth of charges when they started accepting credit card payments. The convenience was a big hit; most of the income is now coming by credit card, with the bank now enjoying a 4% share of members' generosity. When charges are a fixed percent, plus a per transaction fee, that latter part can bite a business that has a lot of small transactions.

If I were in the check printing business, I might try to woo some of the back from oblivion by encouraging merchants to offer a discount for more direct payment. I bet 1% would be enough to change a lot of behavior.

24.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Better we don't try to read minds Permalink to this item

Somebody sent me over to Clayton Cramer's blog, about the assault on "gingers." You wouldn't know it to look at me any more, but I was a little that way in my younger days. Still freckley, not much of what little actual red I once had. Anyhow, I trust the petty maliciousness prompted by bad TV comedy will subside in short order.

The next item down was This Is Worrisome, about "the current economic mess," and the observation that unrepaired government sponsored enterprises may have us set up for more trouble.

"Of course, this may be the goal," Cramer writes, "another disaster upon which the Democrats can ride [to] the rescue."

Imagine that: supposing that it's the intention of a political party to break things—and in a big way—so that they can be deemed heroic by "riding to the rescue." (Never mind that it's actually a pretty good capsule history of the latest war in Iraq.)

It takes a certain kind of twisted mind to think this sort of thing up.

23.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sewer by the numbers Permalink to this item

Water-wise landscaping, the Library! at Cole and Ustick Gleaned from the latest installment in the New York Times series, Toxic Waters, about the worsening pollution in American waters and regulators' response.

Alexander Hamilton goes viral Permalink to this item

Thanks to Politics, Guns & Beer for this morning's history lesson, poetry jam, visit to the White House, and reason to like this new watchamacallit musical genre (and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who's he?) more than ever, all rolled into one YouTube moment with some tight editing.

Update: Laurel sent me this, too, a delightful short interview with Miranda, ending with "what was it like?"

"The whole day was a day that will exist outside any other day in my life. Any day that starts with you sharing a van to the White House with James Earl Jones is going to be a crazy day!..."

21.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The red-hot center of age-old American resentments Permalink to this item

It's tomorrow in New York already, so that means it's time for Frank Rich's latest drama review: The Pit Bull in the China Shop.

He actually says he read the book, if you can believe that craziness.

"The book's most frequently dropped names, predictably enough, are the Lord and Ronald Reagan (though not necessarily in that order). Easily the most startling passage in Going Rogue, running more than two pages, collates extended excerpts from a prayerful letter Palin wrote to mark the birth of Trig, her child with Down syndrome. This missive's understandable goal was to reassert Palin's faith and trust in God. But Palin did not write her letter to God; she wrote the letter from God, assuming His role and voice herself and signing it “Trig's Creator, Your Heavenly Father.” If I may say so — Oy!"

Symbolic opposition Permalink to this item

Such remarkable solidarity in that Republican Party: all 39 Senators in the super-minority voted NO, we don't even want to discuss health care reform legislation. To hell with the President, to hell with the Democrats (and independents), to hell with the majority of the American people, we want things to stay just the way they are.

Not content with their own opposition, they did also actively attempt to persuade those closest to the fence to join their Party of No.

Presumably the rest of the way, the Democrats will be bumping up against the 60 vote filibuster threshold time and again. And the handful of the Senators in the middle (maybe a Republican or two) get to dictate the form of the most contentious elements?

When it's all done and voted in (and the adventure of the Conference Committee proceeds), or killed, we can sort out how culpable Republicans are for the shortcomings (or utter lack) of the legislation. At a minimum, they're doing quite a bit to poison the well.

A fine American value Permalink to this item

Ray Madoff notes that one of "the values on which the country was founded" was "that hard work should be rewarded and power should not be conferred by birth." Anybody want to argue that point?

Plenty of Republicans do when they light up about the estate tax (or as they like to call it, the "death tax"). In the 2001 tax revision they drove, they provided incremental increases to the exclusion, with a bizarre twist at the end: it goes away completely in 2010, then resets to the old limit and the old tax rates in 2011, unless Congress acts again.

The thinking, I'm sure, was that everyone would so like the higher exemption (or the full elimination) that people would rise up and demand Congress finish the job. Madoff's suggestion is in that vein, but he has a different "finish" in mind: protect farms and small businesses, tax "the manor."

"[W]e could have a meaningful debate about the appropriate tax for inherited wealth. There is a big difference between wealth acquired through hard work and creativity and wealth bestowed as an accident of birth, and Congress should not be afraid to make this distinction."

Starting from despair Permalink to this item

Judy Gorsuch Collins art glass, in the Library! at Cole and Ustick One of my cousins forwarded a copy of Joe and Janice Hagan's call for a day of fasting and praying for America, with someone else's "go and be viral" instruction: "please send this to all who may be interested." Joe Hagan speaks for the family ("we, my wife and I"), saying they're

"firmly convinced that our elected politicians are incapable of representing the will of the American people—and incapable of adhering to the Constitution of the United States of America which they took a solemn oath to uphold and defend."

That would put us in a really, really bad way.

I do have a lot of empathy for a cry from the political wilderness, being a Democrat in Idaho. But it seems all too easy to corral "them" at a distance and blame all our problems on someone else, immune to our e-mails, faxes, telephone calls, "meetings, demonstrating, rallying and hoping...." We did elect them, after all. Was there no one capable who was willing to stand for election? Or did a blind majority override the better choices? (I ask myself these questions regularly.)

The message goes on, rising to a call to action, marking Sunday, December 6 as a day of fasting and (Christian) prayer for the country.

I'm not personally moved by this kind of sentiment, but I do find it a fascinating cultural artifact, noticing the odd bits of editing between the emailed version and the original (if I can assume southern Utah's #1 source for news and information published "the original"). More em-dashes, one word in CAPS, paragraph breaks moved around. I'm also struck by this terse version of the source of our patriotism:

"The United States is a choice land, a nation that was founded by our forefathers who were divinely inspired by God the Father Almighty.

"This choice nation has been the defender of freedom throughout its relatively short history. We have led in the fight for freedom against many tyrants and dictators who have plundered and pillared their citizens and have subjected them to great sufferings through blood and horror."

There's truth in that, but it's not the Whole Truth, from the nation's founding on a land that was quite choice before "we" arrived, right up to the present day. We do have much to be proud of, but there are some incidents that are less than exemplary. If you're fasting and praying, do remember that what Gods may be have ceded considerable responsibility to we, the people, not just the politicians we elect. Let us resolve to be truthful about our history, and just in the ends we seek.

20.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Ah, brings back fond memories Permalink to this item

At Leland Stanford Junior University, Sept. 18, 2000 Verlyn Klinkenborg observes individualism, identity and bicycles on the Stanford campus, a location which the headline writer quixotically equated to "northern California." Not exactly.

"There is a deeply pleasing randomness about the campus cyclists, as though one morning university officials had assigned a bicycle to every member of the Stanford community, come as you are, without considering for a moment matters of fit—or fitness."

More Canyon County savings plan Permalink to this item

You had to connect the dots yourself with two stories in today's paper: one about Canyon County paying the ACLU $190,000, and the other about the the County shipping some of its inmates off to other jails, now including Gem, Payette, Elmore, and Washington Counties and the state penitentiary. (If they were to add Boise and Owyhee Counties, they'd have collected the whole SW corner of the state.)

In addition to the money they paid the ACLU to resolve the class-action suit, the County's burning through a quarter $million a year (or maybe more) to have their inmates housed elsewhere. Two-thirds of the voters haven't found a bond proposal they like yet, this year's try getting not quite 58% support.

"The county agreed to keep the jail population within state standards—no more than 296 people in the main jail—in order to resolve a class-action lawsuit alleging inhumane conditions. Before the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit, population in the chronically overcrowded jail had soared as high as 630 inmates."

The County says that "studies show that based on population, Canyon County should have 954 jail beds available," versus what they have, a jail built in 1993, for 255 inmates.

A considerably more interesting memoir Permalink to this item

He may not sell as many copies as she-who-must-not-be-named, but having now seen Andre Agassi talk about his book in three interviews (with very little overlap, on 60 Minutes, the Tennis Channel, and for the New York Times Sunday Book Review), it sounds like a fascinating read (even if Janet Maslin was unimpressed).

The latest video includes him talking about his "collaborator," J.R. Moehringer, who adamantly refused a cover or title page credit. (Agassi found his "teammate" through reading Moehringer's own memoir.)

"Their collaboration was so intense that Mr. Moehringer wound up moving to Las Vegas, and their taping sessions together, some 250 hours in all, sometimes resembled psychoanalysis..."

The party of useless obstruction Permalink to this item

Cole School, vandalized, waiting for demolition I don't blame the Republicans for not coming up with alternate legislation. It's a lot of work to draft a bill, and there's no secret it would be dead on arrival. But I do wish they could come up with more of a strategy than "just say no," which seems to be the best they can do.

Action alerts are out this morning from the RNC and the Idaho Republican Party for non-supporters to call the two Senators that have been deemed closest to the fence, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. No need for detailed talking points, they just want everyone to call and "and tell them to vote against Harry Reid's liberal bill when it comes up for a vote on Saturday."

What will be coming up on Saturday, is a cloture vote to quash the possibility of killing any progress on legislation whatsoever, with a filibuster. It's not just "vote against the bill," it's "vote against any and all legislation."

The NYT's Room for Debate blog notes that Mary Landrieu of Louisiana has also "been cagey" about her support, not sure why the RNC didn't include her in the "call today" list. But for what it's worth, I sent emails to Nelson and Lincoln, to express my support for moving forward.

In their weaker moments, a few Republicans will admit the obvious: that we do need to reform the way we pay for health care in this country. Then they go back to closing ranks, fingers in their ears and screaming no, no, no, no, no, la, la, la, la, I can't hear you.

Fine, whatever. If there are 60 grown-ups in the room, we can have you all just take a time out while we get some work done.

Update: Not that I expect it to make a whit of difference, but I called Crapo's office (202 224-6142) and Risch's (202 224-2752) and voiced my support for Saturday's cloture vote, and moving the process forward. The Risch staffer dutifully took my name and address. The Crapo staffer asked if I wanted a response. I told her that Crapo's vote for cloture is all the response I need.

18.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Bullwinkle steaks? Permalink to this item

KTRV-TV picked up the AP story from the Lewiston Tribune (with a footer applied, saying "Copyright 2009," "All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed," go figure; you can also get the story attribution-free from KXLY) that the Idaho Transportation Department is going to install a "laser and light system" to flash a warning to drivers when elk, moose or whatever breaks laser beams along the highway shoulders on U.S. 95 on Moscow Mountain.

"It's called Steakhouse Hill for a reason," the story says, although when I lived there for 7+ years (and pedaled up the hill many times), I don't remember hearing that name. It's not exactly "Moscow Mountain," because that's over to the east, but it's the same granite ridge poking up through the loessy Palouse hills.

I never came across a moose in the neighborhood, either, but they've been getting more plentiful, I understand. Our daughter had a cow and a calf come by her place on the south side of Paradise Ridge, a couple winters back.

16.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

How bipartisanship dies (and is reincarnated? Permalink to this item

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.): My Near Death Panel Experience.

"When the most extreme elements peddling false information can cow senior members of Congress into embracing their claims, it does not bode well for either policymaking or for the Republican Party."

But there is some good news from this sordid episode of manufactured political theater: Blumenauer notes that the end-of-life provisions—"language directing Medicare to cover a voluntary discussion with a doctor once every five years about living wills, power of attorney and end-of-life treatment preferences"—are in the bill that the House approved.

The Canyon County environment Permalink to this item

Oak leaf turning, 2007 We don't know whether 2C drivers are really less capable than those who buy their license plates elsewhere, but we do know that meme is sticky, and can produce entertaining lore as it reinforces the stereotype.

It is not open to dispute, however, that the air over Canyon County (and Ada County) is often grossly polluted and brown. I'm reminded of that fact every time I come down the Boise River from Lucky Peak Reservoir (unless it's during fire season when the air's bad up there too).

Northern Ada County has lived with mandatory emissions testing for 25 years. The Air Quality Board's FAQ says that "the testing program has been able to reduce vehicular pollution by about 18%," but it doesn't offer specific statistics to support that. They do say "over half of all vehicular pollution comes from only 10% of the vehicles." We've never had one that failed a test, so I guess we're in the less-bad 90% that is effectively taxed to catch the bad 10%.

It seems as if empowering law enforcement to pull stinky vehicles over and give equipment violations (then requiring a test, and repair as needed) would make more sense. Or else passive remote sensing technology that assesses vehicle performance "on the fly," if that can be made sufficiently reliable. (It was discussed a while back, but I haven't heard anything about using that lately.) There are also important air quality improvements other than direct vehicle emissions that could make a difference as well, such as vapor recovery at filling stations.

Canyon County, meanwhile has resisted all forms of coercion, and continues to resist the idea that they should be mandated to do any sort of testing with the goal of reducing emissions. It's not that they have a more effective proposal, mind you: they just don't want to be told what to do.

15.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Don't be evil Permalink to this item

NYT's Digital Domain poses the question "Apple wouldn’t risk its cool over a gimmick, would it?"

In the best of all possible worlds, the patent application would be successful, Apple would use its exclusive right to make sure that no one else comes up with an operating system that presents one or more advertisements to a user and disables one or more functions while the advertisement is being presented, and A Clockwork Orange would remain a work of fiction.

In this other world that my readers and I inhabit... "enforcement routines" to compel paying attention to advertising seem more likely than not.

Just reading about the possibility brings to mind an older technology that would win every round of "rock-paper-annoying electronic device that tries to make me watch ads."

14.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Shorter Malcolm Gladwell Permalink to this item

Last of the raspberries, in November I think I read The Tipping Point once upon a time. Yes, I even said nice things about it, there, down the page. I don't think I'll be reading Outliers or What the Dog Saw after Steven Pinker's romp on the hapless author.

"The reasoning in Outliers, which consists of cherry-picked anecdotes, post-hoc sophistry and false dichotomies, had me gnawing on my Kindle."

This happens all the time Permalink to this item

Those remarkably similar expressions in the Congressional Record have a straightforward explanation: they're all working off the same script.

"Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies."

Gee, was that wrong?

If you're a lobbyist, it's apparently "job well done."

Asked about the Congressional statements, a lobbyist close to Genentech said: "This happens all the time. There was nothing nefarious about it."

It's embarrassing and venal when the statements are merely sock-puppet support for this bill or that; what shall we call it when the lobbyists are actually writing the legislation? That happens all the time, too.

So, where's the outrage? Permalink to this item

A million bucks in hush money for Iraqi officials after Blackwater killed 17 and wounded 20 more in Nisour Square in 2007.

"Blackwater continued to operate in Iraq for a full two years after the Iraqis announced the company would be banned--a fact that has baffled and angered Iraqis. While the company eventually lost its large State Department security contract to a competitor in May 2009, Blackwater remains in Iraq on a $200 million aviation contract, which authorizes its men to be armed. That contract was recently extended by the Obama administration."

(And yes, bribery is against the law.)

13.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Let the midterm elections start Permalink to this item

In Bizarro World, Karl Rove is a pundit offering commentary on elections as if he had never been in politics, saying things about his President's "record of bipartisanship," and "sound leadership in the wake of 9/11" (as we raced to war in Iraq).

"Voters have a tendency to quickly grow tired of pugnacious governance," Rove tells us. He ought to know.

Closing Gitmo Permalink to this item

The Statesman ran Steven Thomma's meta-news piece yesterday, under the headline "Did White House bungle Gitmo plan?" It remains to be seen whether "initially having too few people on board to handle the workload" or "misreading Congress" will push the closure of the Bush/Cheney prison beyond the January deadline that Obama announced when he took office, but it seems quite possible.

Nevertheless, there is ample bipartisan support for getting it done. Colin Powell weighed in years ago (not long after the New York Times editorial board declared the camp a national disgrace), well before Congress got all week-kneed.

An organization called human rights first has been pressing for an agenda to promote national security while preserving our values. Specifically, to close Guantànamo on schedule; to use federal courts (rather than military commissions) to prosecute accused terrorists; and to prohibit the practice of indefinite detention without charges.

The signatures under their declaration show they've had some success at gathering bipartisan support.

A night at the opera (and theater) Permalink to this item

This just in, from the Friday Letter out of Moscow: Music and Drama à la Carte: Opera and Musical Theatre Scenes, this coming Thursday, Nov. 19. For $5 (or less!), you can pile in the Admin Auditorium for scenes from opera and Broadway. Sounds like fun to me.

Going Rouge Permalink to this item

Going Rouge, available exclusively from OR Books Richard Kim and Betsy Reed are looking to ride Sarah Palin's bestseller coattails with their "companion book" of collected punditry to go with the semi-autobiography: Going Rouge: Sarah Palin – An American Nightmare.

Maya Schenwar interviews the editors on truthout.

RK: "Even Arlen Specter and Joe Lieberman and Michele Bachmann have to come home and face their constituency. Sarah Palin doesn't need to do that anymore, and that's one of the things that makes her a great danger in the next few years."

The OR Books site has an excerpt from Going Rouge: The Movie that provides some light comedic fare. Life is like a basketball game...

"A good point guard, here's what she does: she drives through a full-court press, protecting the ball, keeping her head up, because she needs to keep her eye on the basket, and, she knows exactly when to pass the ball, so that the team can win."

(Sarah Palin, "passing the ball" by quitting her job as Alaska's Governor.)

12.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Half a million bucks for what? Permalink to this item

Apparently the McCain campaign stuck Sarah Palin with the bill for their vetting her. The $500,000 doesn't seem to have been particularly well-spent.

The details leaking out of her (and Lynn Vincent's) forthcoming book show that she still has plenty to whine about beyond getting stuck with the check. Katie Couric was condescending and "badgering," and damn that Charles Gibson, "peering skeptically" at her over his reading glasses.

I think we can use it as a bellwhether of the state of the Republican Party: as long as her moment in the spotlight remains extended beyond the 15 minutes she had coming, the GOP's still in trouble.

Update: Michiko Kakutani's review in the Sunday NYT says she claimed it was "nearly $50,000" for the vetting, which sounds more likely... although maybe Vinnie's Discount Vetting was the best outfit to use.

This would really add to the Idaho Bar's aura Permalink to this item

Our former Attorney General, David Leroy, is Blake Hall's defense attorney, so take his opinion with a grain of salt, but as Amy and Seth would say, really?! Leroy doubts the Idaho State Bar will discipline Blake Hall after his conviction for stalking. He's guessing the Bar won't find that Hall's criminal acts "reflect adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects."

Good god, do we need to go over the details again? The Judge in the case said he had "never seen (a stalking case) this extensive where it lasted so long and (was) such an invasion of privacy of someone" and Leroy doesn't think the Idaho State Bar will have a problem with that?

As Marty Trillhaase asked, rhetorically, in a Lewiston Tribune editorial (sorry about that paywall), would you trust this man with $27 million?

"So why hasn't the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program, which paid Hall's law office $341,400 last year, cut him loose? Why is Hall still earning $205,000 to administer an estimated $27 million in claims through Idaho's tax-supported Catastrophic Health Care Program?

"...Hall could do for CAT what he was willing to do for the GOP—though not, apparently, for (Bonneville County) Prosecutor Watkins—by voluntarily stepping aside. Then he could assign his office staff to provide technical support and continuity to the state program, thereby protecting the taxpayer and the public.

"Hall assured the judge 'my conduct will be more than exemplary.' Here's his first opportunity to make good."

BSU sells crock of Broncos Permalink to this item

Except the KTVB "News" headline says they're selling "stock" in the athletic program. Without the quotes. (Except for some "air quotes" in Justin Corr's standup.)

"We need to appeal to the passion of Bronco Nation," said Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier. Bleymaier says "this will depict ownership in the Broncos," as opposed to actually being ownership. (Wait, isn't BSU a public institution, and don't we, the people, already own it?!)

"I suppose when you call something a stock it is misleading because it implies ownership. There is no ownership," said Certified Financial Planner Dave Petso. "This is not a stock in anyway shape or form. It won't trade, it can't trade."

In other words, they're not looking for investment, so much as gifts. Your gift will be "deployed," and "as it is deployed it is gone as far as you're concerned," said Boise State Broncos CEO Jon Miller.

Which is a lot like plain old gone. Like the track is going to be gone for the first project to "improve" Bronco Stadium, because that silly running around in circles is so not football, you know?

And "Boise State Broncos CEO"?! What kind of nonsense is going on at our metropolitan research university of distinction?

Veteran's Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Remembrance Permalink to this item

The BBC's piece on today's events leads with President Obama's pledge to our veterans, but includes a report of the first German chancellor to join Armistice Day commemorations in Paris. Angela Merkel joined French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at the foot of the Arc de Triomphe.

More than 16 million people were killed in the first World War.

Megatons to Megawatts Permalink to this item

Megatons to Megawatts logo What provides more of the U.S.'s electricity than hydropower, solar, biomass, wind and geothermal combined? Russia's old nuclear weapons!

"[F]ormer bomb material from Russia accounts for 45 percent of the fuel in American nuclear reactors, while another 5 percent comes from American bombs, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute."

The 20-year supply deal sparked by the end of the Cold War is set to expire in 2013, so utilities are shopping for "new" fuel sources. We have some more surplus nukes, do we not? Let's keep those megawatts flowing, albeit with due consideration for the flaws in the current agreement from the non-proliferation point of view. (For its part, the NEI's "Key Facts" don't include any issues with the Mt to MW program.)

10.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"Any real or perceived foible" Permalink to this item

Blake Hall is substantially more than "well-known" in SE Idaho, and throughout the state. He had a long list of important jobs, at least one of which was "full time," Deputy Prosecutor for Bonneville County, since 1983. He used to be on the State Board of Education, and general counsel for the Republican National Committee, as well as Idaho's national committeeman.

Fremont County hired him in January to be civil attorney there, and he was squeezing in a private law firm (bringing in $600,000 worth of government work annually), administrator for the state's Catastrophic Health Care Program (since 1985) and an attorney for the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program.

We can understand why he wanted work release while serving the unsuspended 15 days of his 6 month jail sentence; he sounds like a very, very busy man.

"The bottom line is he just couldn't work for the county, representing the county's interests, when he was being supervised on a criminal conviction. He was a member of the prosecutor's office, and every day we make decisions that relate to this very thing. I just didn't think it was appropriate to preserve that relationship."
–Bonneville County Prosecutor Dane Watkins Jr.

But contrary to Fremont County Prosecutor Joette Lookabaugh's notion, this is not simply "political glee in striking down the well-known for any real or perceived foible."

First of all, there is no need for qualification: the court proceedings make it clear this was not a problem of "perception."

Secondly, it is not a "foible" to abuse one's (considerable) power to harrass and intimidate someone.

And thirdly, while I can understand that you don't want to admit your recent hiring of the guy was a mistake, you really ought to consider what your neighboring County's Prosecutor had to say on this subject. Hall has plenty of siphon tubes dipped in the public trough in both public and private capacities, but his conviction should disqualify him from the former, at least.

9.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A classic rivalry Permalink to this item

Go Vandals! The big intrastate football game is coming up this week, woot. Two "related" emails rolled in to my inbox right next to each other just now: The U of I wanted me to know about the Beat BSU Canned Food Drive (if we can't beat 'em on the blue turf, at least let's beat 'em with canned food) and the Idaho Republican Party is fomenting a competition to see who can raise more money for the Idaho Republican Party? Please Join us for a Victory Cocktail Reception...

Singularity U. Permalink to this item

One of the smartest people I know said these people make her nervous, with motivations "more apocalyptic than scientific." While "DIYbio" may well do an end run around some of the "glacial development timelines, One of the Mauerfalle dominoes, text translated: We are one people stultifying regulatory oversight and pitiful productivity" of the biotech industry, we might also wonder whether any of that stultification was useful protection. If we're still around to wonder.

Wired offers "full coverage" of Singularity University, a weeklong futurist geekfest.

"You're not seeing the failures," Ralph Merkle notes, and runs on to describe the successes one could imagine:

"Respirocytes (carry oxygen in the bloodstream so you can hold your breath for an hour), microbivores (eliminate diseases more rapidly than they body’s own system), chromallocytes (removes chromosomes in a cell and replaces them with a new set)...."

Gee, do you think anything could go wrong with any of those nifty concepts?

Highest in 26 years Permalink to this item

Unemployment up into double digits for October (or maybe way higher, or maybe it didn't either, depending on how you count), getting close to the peak for the 60 years the government's been compiling such data (or maybe twice that long), 27 years ago, the end of 1982, when it hit 10.8%

That was the season when I prepared to camp outside the Faculty Office Complex in Moscow, to get in line for job interviews at the University of Idaho. The powers-that-were decided to let us come inside for the night, and we had a sort of jolly slumber party that one time. Before the next month's signup, they'd worked out a different system, I forget what.

I ended up signing up for no more than a small handful of interviews, and only one that mattered to me, with the representative for Hewlett-Packard.

They say that a recession is when your neighbor loses his job, and a depression is when you lose yours. It all depends on your point of view.

It was a weird wall Permalink to this item

Remembering the Berlin Wall, 20 years after it fell. Part of Vera Pavlova's poem, translated from Russian:

It was a weird wall.
Like the Möbius strip,
It had only one side,
the other one was unseen:
the far side of the Moon.

Christoph Niemann's Abstract City from last May is worth a re-visit as well, and lots more in the NYT's "complete coverage."

Nice touch to commemorate the event with dominoes (a.k.a. Goethe stones), and of course a big party.

7.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Two votes to spare Permalink to this item

With one Republican joining the winning side, the House passed a health care reform bill with a 220-215 vote, adjourning just a half hour before midnight.

Stupak got his anti-abortion amendment in, 240-194. Boehner didn't get his, 176-258. Cantor's attempt to recommit failed by a similar margin, 187-247.

Welcome to H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, still only 1990 pages.

6.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Carly 2.0 Permalink to this item

Commentary from Dean Takahashi and a generous length interview by John Battelle, from the Web 2.0 Summit brings us up to date on Carly Fiorina at the start of her campaign for the U.S. Senate. Takahashi says she's a changed person since she was at HP, and that her views are "more nuanced than you would expect from a straight Republican platform candidate." We can hope.

At about 16 minutes in, the interviewer asks an amusing (and exceptionally relevant) question off the top of his head:

"We had 8 years of 'the CEO President.' Was he just not a particularly good CEO?"

"I just don't know where to go with that," she replied.

I'm sorry he let her laugh off the question with that flip reply, and shifted to talking about her "spectacular" tenure at HP, without any sense of the irony there.

Unlike our last President, she can at least admit having made mistakes. (Would you mind being more specific?) She can also shift blame with the best of 'em. "It was a dysfunctional Board," she says of HP's governing body that fired her.

So... speaking of her qualifications for the office she wants, how's she going to do as one member of "a 'board' of 100 unruly people," where she most certainly would not be in charge? (Why didn't she run for Governor? Besides the fact that her friend::enemy ratio is way lower than Meg Whitman's?)

She air quotes "in charge," and describes influence as a vital component of leadership. You can't just tell people what to do. Good point.

After dismissing Barbara Boxer's record in the Senate as featuring only three accomplishments in 18 years, there was a weak smatter of audience response, a few people clapping. "Who's hissing out there?" she demanded. "Those are just facts. ha ha."

Yeah, it'll be an entertaining campaign.

The self-proclaimed "last Republican in San Francisco" asks another good question: if you're elected, what are you going to do to make the Republican Party "more Californian and less the party of the old Confederacy?"

"Maybe I should first explain why I'm a Republican," she says. She's a "Lincoln Republican," she thinks "most people make better choices for themselves than others can make for them." (How does that connect to Abraham Lincoln, exactly?) We can agree on one platitude at least: "The highest calling of leadership is to help unlock potential."

Toward the end, and back to the "Web 2.0" theme, she offers an affirmation, masquerading as fact:

"Technology gives us the opportunity to hold everyone more accountable, because technology creates transparency."

You don't say? Why then don't we have a boatload more transparency? She has an actor's skill at presenting a line in a convincing way, even when substance behind the notion is lacking.

That creates opportunity for disaster from someone "in charge." For a member of the world's greatest deliberative body, there is a layer of protection though: we can just print it in the Congressional Record and move on.

Red-faced anger Permalink to this item

It's just her side of the story (the Defendants and their spokespeople won't comment about a case now in litigation), but we appreciate the richness in the description from Pam Lowe about why she's moved from a tort claim to a wrongful termination suit, alleging sexual discrimination and saying she was "forced out after refusing to send unnecessary state work and money to politically connected companies." One snippet:

"Lowe says the governor's then-chief of staff, Jeff Malmen, called her and ITD Board Chairman Darrell Manning into a meeting in February 2007 after she told lawmakers she planned to trim back the [Connecting Idaho Partners] contract.

"Malmen was quite upset during this meeting," Lowe said. "We're talking shaking, red-faced, upset, angry about this CIP contract."

Why is Outlook so lame? Permalink to this item

Useless Outlook2003 'dialog' box I know, it's a rhetorical question (especially since I still don't have a comment facility here, sigh). Using Outlook2003, I want to send an email message to Firstname Lastname who I'm pretty sure is in my Contacts. I type

Firstname Lastname

in the To field and... no 'autocomplete' help. (Not his real name, but you get the idea.) Ctrl-K says "no suggestions." I go find a message from the guy, and look at the "properties" of his address.

'Firstname Lastname' <flastname@etc.>

so I go back and type


in the To field and now it finds it just fine. Apparently the whiz kids in Redmond really liked that koan about how can you look something up in the dictionary if you don't know how to spell?

In this case, could you please copy off your neighbor's paper and we'll overlook the cheating, OK?

"everything that we feared about the secret negotiations" Permalink to this item

Michael Geist: "[T]here is no bigger [intellectual property] issue today than the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement being negotiated behind closed doors this week in Korea."

Cory Doctorow at boingboing distills it to talking points of the very worst of it, including:

“That the whole world must adopt US-style "notice-and-takedown" rules that require ISPs to remove any material that is accused -- again, without evidence or trial -- of infringing copyright. This has proved a disaster in the US and other countries, where it provides an easy means of censoring material, just by accusing it of infringing copyright.”

Social medium Permalink to this item

Ok, is Facebook really this funny? Maybe I should be signing up after all. (H/t PG&B)

Question: does the NSA use Facebook? Discuss.

5.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Onward financial reform Permalink to this item

Idaho CD-01 Representative Walt Minnick defends his position on financial reform in a Statesman Reader's View that ran in yesterday's paper, after being lambasted for voting against a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency. He makes a good argument.

"To create two regulators for every bank and other financial institution - one trying to keep it sound financially and another to protect its customers from abusive loan practices - will lead to conflict and paralysis. It also will increase the burdens on the small banks that are the primary sources of credit for homeowners and small businesses in my district desperately trying to create new jobs and get us out of this recession....

"We will not reform Wall Street by adding new, overlapping federal agencies, creating new turf wars and continuing to run the risk that gaps will form."

The existing regulatory structure failed for identifiable reasons, purposeful sabotage by previous acts of Congress and the obscene amounts of money to be made in so-called "financial innovation" and complexity among them. (The latter is currently listed as item 7 of 12 in the Wikipedia entry on the financial crisis of 2007-9.

My short notion of how to fix things this morning is that we need to ensure that our system properly punishes failure, whether through imprisonment, ejection, or confiscation of ill-gotten gains. Giving players government jobs so that they can bail out their friends and firms in the next round is a recipe for disaster, isn't it? Let's start with the "too big to fail" b.s. and get back to the basics of anti-trust. A firm that is too big to fail is too big, period. The titans of capitalism that head giant money-making machines can not be trusted to look after our general welfare, any more than we can trust their financial and legal toadies to tell the truth (let alone meet standards of disclosure) when they're paid for concocting ever-more complicated deals, regardless of whether those deals ultimately succeed or fail.

Having a game of musical chairs to cut loose an invesment bank or two and then prop up the failed insurer of bad bets so that Goldman Sachs could light its year-end cigars with thousand-dollar bills is a plot for a bad movie, not the history we should be reading of how our government handled a crisis of failed oversight.

Some are bad regardless Permalink to this item

The unmodified billboard message, link to AHA site Well, what can you expect up there in the home of the Vandals? Disturbed theists (or perhaps just kids with too much time on their hands) defaced the Humanists' billboard again. We don't know how God might feel about destruction of property, but we do know that there are human laws against it.

At least the perp(s) moved beyond illiteracy for their second try.

"The irony here is worth noting," said David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association. "Some individuals are committing criminal acts while apparently claiming that their religious view of the world leads to good behavior. It's not a very convincing argument on their part."

4.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Right wing gaggle whacked in NY-23 Permalink to this item

The considerable marketing power of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, The Club for Growth, The Weekly Standard, and entertainers Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Steve Forbes, Dick Armey, Tim Pawlenty, Michelle Bachmann and Fred Thompson were able to (almost) chase away the Republican candidate... and hand a House seat that's been held by Republicans for more than a hundred years to a Democrat. Well done, "Conservative Party"!

(The "almost" is because Scozzafava's last minute abandonment of the three-way race left her name on the ballot, and she picked up just enough friends, family and Reflex votes to give Bill Owens the win.)

And the great news for NY-23 is that they can do it all again in just one year.

Rich political newbie runs for Senate Permalink to this item

It's official: Carly Fiorina announces her bid for the US Senate, hoping to unseat Barbara Boxer. Her campaign slogan will presumably not be "Let me do to the country what I did to HP," but I have no doubt she will put a positive spin on every aspect of her career to date.

"[T]hough Fiorina’s tenure at H-P was anything but successful, she still left with the customary fortune that departing CEOs mysteriously acquire."
Harold Meyerson

Just by coincidence, her "reign at the helm of Hewlett-Packard," as Mike Zapler puts it, was the same 6 years of a Senate term. It included "the controversial merger with Compaq, thousands of layoffs, and a severance package reportedly worth $21 million [and so could] remind voters of what they dislike about the business community."

Fiorina's wildest successes have always been at marketing herself. She's turned that (and a nice marriage) into boatloads of cash, which she may like to spend on the campaign. Can she buy herself a seat in the big house?

The part about not actually getting around to voting much is a bit tough to spin, but she gets right to it: "Admittedly, I have not always been engaged in the electoral process, and I should have been.... I realize that thinking was wrong." Now that she's figured out that the U.S. Senate actually matters, "in a very real way," she's found her motivation.

3.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Seven million years of who's who Permalink to this item

NOVA's Becoming Human series started tonight, with a fascinating look at our family history. We're all in the big book of Who's Who, making for a more compelling story than anything the evolution-deniers (now available in multiple flavors!) have come up with. Apparently hitching their wagons to a single work of fiction has them painted into a corner.

"Imagine the entire span of recorded human history, taking us back to the Egyptian pyramids, about 5,000 years. Double it: 10,000 years ago, when plants were domesticated and agriculture begins. Double it again, to the time when Ice Age hunters paint stunning images on cave walls.

"And keep doubling, six more times, taking us back 1.3 million years, when the first creature who really looked like us hunted on the plains of Africa. And then keep traveling back another two million years, and only then do we arrive in the time when Selam lived in Ethiopia nearly three and a half million years ago."

Atlas of Risk Permalink to this item

The UK's National Health Service has a fascinating presentation of the causes of, and risk factors for death in their population, with controls to examine subsets of the data, by gender, age, region.

Go vote Permalink to this item

Our destination; link is to Boise's map app I wasn't sure if the city was using its "regular" polling places, so I followed the Statesman link (which they didn't put into ink... what, so they can suck some ad views on one page load?), to the state's list of links to cities, and thence to Boise's precinct and poll locator, a Google Maps app that gives you directions from your house to your voting location. Well done, city!

(Turns out we're at Leisure Villa, "as usual.")

2.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Slow race Permalink to this item

There's not enough political excitement to keep everyone busy in the off year, so we're flogging what we can. (As Jon Stewart put it: "because we're bored.")

Saw the snippet of "Conservative Party" candidate Doug Hoffman on the Newshour, telling us what we're seeing here today, "the rebirth of getting the Republicans back to where we were." Ah, OK. Or maybe we're seeing every last Republican presidential hopeful clawing his (or her) way to a seat on the bandwagon before it leaves the station.

The guy seemed a little less entertaining than Sarah Palin, at least until I saw him talking to Glenn Beck (skip the first half of the video unless you need some Beck soliloquy) and realized that Hoffman is actually someone's abandoned ventriloquist dummy.

Should the team of carpet-baggers pull off their stunt, we can test what the NRCC's Paul Lindsay said a month ago, that "Hoffman lacked the integrity and qualities needed to be elected to anything—let alone Congress."

Lock and load Permalink to this item

Linked and stumbled to one of them anti-government types ("small l libertarian") up north, the Politics, Guns & Beer blog, with such as a jolly account of a local GOP event featuring Republican CD-01 primary contender Ken Roberts and a spokesman for his competition, Vaughan Ward. She sounds like a younger and less employed Sarah Palin, let's try shooting from a hip helicopter and sort out the bodies if time permits. Among the evenings "highlights," this:

"Ken Roberts said we could quote him on swearing if he’d been governor when grey wolves were introduced into Idaho back in ‘95, he would have called up the National Guard to shoot them all as they came out of the cages.

"So. Anyone who advocates using the National Guard in defiance of the FedGov is generally gonna get a big +10 in my book."

Izzat the big book of stupid political grandstanding? (You want to kill some wolves Ken, line up and pay for your wolf tag like everyone else.)

More flavor of Idaho's CD-01, and the state of things:

"Frankly, I’m not even sure the GOP deserves the seat—Minnick has served us well thus far. My only concern is that he might move left if the Dems lose their wide majority, so he doesn’t have the luxury of casting Idaho-friendly votes anymore. I’m not 100% convinced of his loyalties or convictions."

Update: Laurel responded in her comments that "Ken Roberts did indeed purchase a wolf tag."

That's fine, but one to a customer.

Election Day tomorrow Permalink to this item

All over the Treasure Valley, with a pot pourri of things and people to vote for or against. The Statesman list includes "two seats on the Boise City Council," which is a little odd, given that three seats are being contested (and at least someone on the staff knows about it).

The most contentious issue in the air is the mayor's push for a downtown trolley, mostly funded with tens of $millions of "other people's money" (because lord knows we wouldn't do this if we had to pay for it ourselves, would we?!). A nonpartisan research poll showed 37% in favor, 50% opposed, ±5%. (That's without getting into the questions of how much would you pay to build this trolley? Or go for a ride on it? More on the trolley, from Stapilus, and Boise Guardian.)

None of the candidates have been foolish enough to come out for big spending right now, but David Litster is trying to paint T.J. Thomson as a booster, in spite of Thomson's measured responses on the subject. Thomson has been endorsed by the Mayor (as just reinforced by a robo-call to the house this morning). The Litster/Thomson race is the only one without the power of an incumbent, given Jim Tibbs' decision to quit his Council job.

Citizens for a better Boise have a couple questions about what Litster might be hiding. He's at least downplaying his role in his brother's law firm, and only at the last minute became more forthcoming about his personal bankruptcy.

Are you getting enough licorice lately? Permalink to this item

One piece of our left-over Hallowe'en candy brings this question to mind. (Apparently I haven't been.) We had a bumper crop of Trick or Treaters in our neighborhood, 29 in total, pretty much all as cute as can be. I made it an exercise program by watching something on TV downstairs and dashing up to get the door each time the bell rang.

1.Nov.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Local color Permalink to this item

Thanks to the Balloon Juice blog for a link to the Watertown Daily News in upstate New York and its hostage notes from the 23rd Congressional District, taken by managing editor Bob Gorman.

For its part, the paper's editorial board has responded to Scozzafava's abandoning the race by shifting their support to the Democratic challenger, the next best-qualified candidate in the race, and now "the superior and only choice."


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Friday, 17-Feb-2012 15:15:12 MST