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In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Lt. Col. John McCrae
3 May, 1915
Falcon cam above downtown Boise is back in business, with a new crop of four baby birds, just hatched in the last week. First time I tuned in happened to be feeding time, followed by a little snuggle.
Bill Gates was famously nervous about Microsoft losing its lead in technology, even as it raked in tens of billions of dollars profit in the ridiculously high margin business of copying software. The start of his company's success was about exceedingly good luck, acceptably functional code, and a willingness to absorb any and every good idea it could to build its near-monopoly of business infrastructure software.
It rode the dot com bubble to the Everest of business, a market capitalization of more than half a trillion dollars. Coincidentally, that was when the "other half of the same person," Steve Ballmer, took over as CEO. The company's stock dropped back to earth along with the rest of the technology sector, but maintained its dominance on a plateau that was orders of magnitude higher than Apple's paltry position ("given up for dead"), when the iPod was born.
And here's that succession Gates was worried about. Late this month, the market decreed that Apple has supplanted Microsoft as No. 1 in tech, now that "the most important technology product no longer sits on your desk but rather fits in your hand."
Seems like an appropriate moment to add a snapshot of the top 100 market capitalizations to my collection.
The cross-section diagram has been a long favorite, and Bill Marsh's Tour of the World's Depths is a great sample of the genre. It shows in persuasive graphic detail how slender our awareness of the world's oceans is. The first six feet is the most present to us: is it water over our heads, or not? Beyond that, a hundred feet or so for recreational diving, then the "twilight zone," then the deep sea, where pressures are measured in thousands of pounds per square inch.
Life itself goes remarkably deep: both at large scale, with sperm whales that know the surface as well as mile-deep water, and "billions of gelatinous animals—mostly water, with no cavities that would collapse under high pressures—dwelling in black depths of up to several miles."
I was happy to see half of Idaho's House delegation support Rep. Patrick Murphy's amendment that would enable repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy once the Pentagon certifies the action would not harm national security or military readiness. Walt Minnick voted in favor. I called Simpson's office asking him to support the amendment. He didn't, and I suppose in 2 or 3 weeks I might get the boilerplate letter thanking me for contacting him about this important matter.
The Republican candidate running against Minnick took the opportunity to voice not only his own opposition, but to speak for "most Idahoans," based on his unsupported notion of what most Idahoans think.
With a bizarre twist, he found a way to work the holiday into his message, calling Minnick's vote "especially inappropriate on Memorial Day Weekend." Aside from the fact that the effectiveness of DADT at "guard[ing] the military's integrity" is arguable, the idea that someone would vote differently because it's Memorial Day weekend is bizarre. The bit about Nancy Pelosi "want[ing] to appease her base" is more nonsense, but de rigeur for any and every political statement from the Republicans in Idaho.
Kate Sheppard: the curse of Bush.
At some point (which we've probably already gone past), the blame game gets old, and it's rarely productive. Still, you have to identify the problems before you can fix them. After two terms of deliberate monkey-wrenching, unbalanced defunding (controlling tax rates, but not spending), and those two wars, we're going to be fixing problems for many years to come.
Rain again today, I was feeling like I was back up north in Moscow (Idaho) a couple days ago, but a little more of this and we'll start feeling like Portland or something. The technical forecast says
THE GFSLR SUGGESTS THE AREA WILL COME UNDER SOUTHWEST FLOW ALOFT WITH ANOTHER CLOSED LOW MOVING DOWN THE WEST COAST...WHILE THE ECMWF DEPICTS AN EXPANSIVE UPPER RIDGE ENCOMPASSING MUCH OF THE CENTRAL U.S. AND WESTERN STATES WITH SHARPLY RISING HEIGHTS. THIS LATER SCENARIO WOULD BRING SUMMER WEATHER INTO THE AREA.
so we're hoping our ECMWF comes true. Just 4 days ago, there was snow all the way down to Boise, and sixteen inches up at Bogus Basin. Too bad that didn't dump up there in late March or early April while the lifts were still running.
Losing an election hurts, but there are lessons to learn from it, at least. If you're the famous personality brought in for a last minute boost? The failure is a blot on your brand. Timothy Egan provides a post-mortem on Palin's "mad dash into Boise" last week to pump up the failing campaign of Vaughn Ward.
"Between surreal appearances from Wasilla as the caged pundit of Fox News and quick, splashy landings in the lower 48 states, Palin has shown she still has the attention span of a hummingbird on a nectar jag. She does not do basic homework. Never has. The result is a string of endorsements for people whose lives are living contradictions of their stated philosophies."
Part of our family lore came from the fateful day when Jeanette's younger brother Bill went to his mother, and reluctantly informed her that he was sorry, but he was going to vote Republican in the coming election.
"You don't need to do that Bill," came her reply. "There's plenty of sons of bitches in the Democratic Party you can vote for."
So yesterday, I made my secret choice of secret ballots while the nice non-partisan Republican ladies who mind the poll at Leisure Villa talked quietly to each other.
"...what changed my mind was yesterday, it just made me think of that good looking guy..."
"The pretty boy, John Edwards."
"Yeah, that's who I thought of."
(In Idaho's pretty boy's defense, his fusillade gaffe finale did not include any sexual indiscretions.)
GOP boss Norm Semanko lamented the low voter turnout (see there, we can agree on something), but I didn't see where he'd complained about "crossover voting" this time. Yet. There's still the lawsuit burbling to close Idaho's primaries, but it didn't get done for 2010. Since Semanko's part of the Right-of-Right wing of the Party, we suppose he's OK with Labrador winning the primary and will have less to complain about?
Until the case is decided, it's each voter's responsibility to choose the party and candidates as he or she sees can best serve the interests of the city, county and state.
Yes friends, it's the INTERTUBES AGAIN, the latest innovation allowing Republicans to give the people a megaphone.
CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? Just one of many great ideas:
"Sara Palin should come up with a solution on how to stop the destruction in the gulf waters."
But then whoops! Their .NET application that helped map the lunar surface went all Yellow Screen of Death on me, Server Error in '/' Application. I hate it when that happens. It's intermittent, so keep trying. Enjoy.
Labrador pulls off the likely upset of Ward, imagines that "the secret to his win was his consistent conservative message." As his opponent rose to national laughingstock prominence, it would be best to be more humble about the accomplishment of winning the Republican primary for Idaho's 1st congressional district, however.
The good news for the GOP is that at today's sure-to-be-sodden "unity rally" on the south steps of the Capitol, Vaughn Ward will have no trouble reading his party-approved script saying how he's going to throw all his money and support over to his victorious opponent. Maybe Sarah Palin can get in touch with rewrite too, and come back to garble some lame stream of consciousness for Labrador? Be still my heart.
For the main campaign, I guess the contest will be about who can be more against the hated federal government and status quo. Labrador has the benefit of the big (R) next to his name, which is all most voters in Idaho seem to need to know. (Perhaps one reason why the primary turnout was so embarrassingly low? That ticket with multiple Republicans to choose from is confusing.)
Op-Ed from Tenzin Gyatso (a.k.a. the 14th Dalai Lama) today: Many Faiths, One Truth. Would that we all could hear what he has to say, and act on it.
"Finding common ground among faiths can help us bridge needless divides at a time when unified action is more crucial than ever. As a species, we must embrace the oneness of humanity as we face global issues like pandemics, economic crises and ecological disaster. At that scale, our response must be as one.
"Harmony among the major faiths has become an essential ingredient of peaceful coexistence in our world. From this perspective, mutual understanding among these traditions is not merely the business of religious believers—it matters for the welfare of humanity as a whole."
that if past experience is any guide, many (if not most) Idahoans will fail: get out and VOTE today.
Way back in 2004, a young Illinois State Senator electrified, and I mean electrified the Democratic National Convention with a speech that seemed to come out of nowhere. Who was this guy? Well, he won a seat in the U.S. Senate that year, and now he's President.
Here in Idaho, we've got a candidate for Congress who re-used some of that speech (the side-by-side going viral on YouTube in the last couple days), turned it into warmed-over tapioca (as one commenter generously put it), and when called to task for still more plagiarism in his year-long campaign?
"It's almost cliché speech," Vaughn Ward said yesterday (on the Austin Hill radio show, mp3 link), and besides, he wrote the speech and the guy who edited in that other stuff is gone now, and he takes full responsibility and let's move on.
Ward says he "turns it into a joke" when he uses the words "hope" and "change" now. Yup. That's not all he's turned into a joke.
Less than 24 hours before the polls open, Vaughn Ward's campaign managed yet another gross gaffe, using sitting Senator Mike Crapo's 2007 commendation for Ward's military service in an email that would lead the reader to infer Crapo was endorsing Ward. Which he is not.
My goodness, if this guy stumbles to victory in the primary, what a candidate he'll make for the general election!
Not exactly a last minute gaffe, but some of Ward's previously undiscovered plagiarism came to light, courtesy of tea partyish state legislature candidate Lucas Baumbach: it seems Ward's speech announcing his candidacy re-used some of the enthusiasm and passion of Obama's 2004 speech to the national Democratic convention.
I remember being moved by that speech, made by someone I'd never heard of, and who I was seeing for the first time.
Ward's re-delivery, not so exciting.
Sarah Palin doesn't fit the "following orders" model as well as the candidate she stumped for on Friday. "Going Rogue" is nice for a book title, but loose cannon is equally descriptive. Nathaniel Hoffman's take on last week's to-do spoke to the question of authentic folksiness:
"Even the guy who introduced the guy who introduced the guy who introduced Palin agreed that Palin is as Palin does."
Which makes her twinkle turn for Ward slightly inexplicable, beyond the generic friend-of-a-friend payback for the work Ward did for the McCain-Palin ticket in Nevada, and ignoring that inconvenient fact that he didn't actually get around to casting a vote in Idaho. Like it mattered? It would take an act of God (with God standing up and personally taking credit for it) to have anyone other than Candidate for President (R) take Idaho's Electors.
Abandon hope all ye who look for internal consistency, however. While Palin pumps "the media" for self-promotion, the details from inside the free press zone are two steps right of creepy:
"Reporters were escorted to a cordoned off area and asked to stay put during the show. I was even escorted to the little boy's room to take a leak at one point ('freedom' only goes so far, after all)."
This one from the less than left-leaning Idaho Press-Tribune, who don't have so much trouble with his right-of-right positions (and that right-around-the-corner one about the 17th amendment), and laud him for sticking to his principle.
The knock on Ward is the basic one many have identified: "The recent 1st District arrival may not be what he appears." Or, for those who have been paying attention to his appearances, the problem is that he may be exactly what he appears to be: a party operative prepared to do whatever the bosses tell him to.
In the Idaho Statesman's endorsement for Idaho's 1st congressional district, about the man they didn't endorse, Vaughn Ward:
"He seems either evasive or unstudied. Neither breeds confidence.
"Especially when compounded by Ward's credibility problems."
Thanks to faithful follower of my blog, Mike Reineck, I was able to see a bit of Sarah Palin's performance in Boise from the comfort of my home office. The next best thing to being there. "Although the Qwest arena reported only just over 1,000 showed at the 5,000 seat venue, those adorers were treated to a hoksie-folksie chat which amongst other things attacked the local media for uncovering flaws in Ward's mismanaged campaign and life story," Mike wrote.
The ensuing "failure of neural consecutiveness" (as he put it) is best captured with a verbatim transcript from Palin's remarks.
"He fought for our freedom of the press. He in uniform, this is what galls me about the media you guys, and why I canít ever just shut up about talking about, how, how ta, University of Idaho graduate with my degree there in communication study, the who what when where and why of journalism, it was to be the facts and then the people they're smart enough to make up their own mind and have their own opinion on things. The perversion over these last years of what the media has done to conservatives? I think it's appalling and it violates our freedom of the press when there isn't honesty involved. And again for people like Vaughn to have, in uniform, laid their lives on the line to protect that, how dare they to take him for granted and his efforts for granted."
Count me as one University of Idaho graduate who is embarrassed to share that distinction with this woman. Without going into Idaho's record on perversion, we can agree that having honesty involved is important, and indeed, the biggest problem Congressional candidate Vaughn Ward is having with "the media." Honesty about home economics, where he's getting his talking points, basic details of his military record, what his commanding officers are and aren't telling him he can and can't do, and so on.
I'd wonder how much Palin actually knows about Ward, but that hardly seems necessary. It would be like wondering how much McCain knew about Palin when he went along with the idea of having her be his running mate.
Not quite enough to speak intelligently on the subject.
Greg Gandin explains how yes it is all about race: Glenn Beck, America's Historian Laureate, on TomDispatch.
"At Tea Party rallies and on right-wing blogs, it's common to hear that, since the time of President Woodrow Wilson, progressives have been waging a 'hundred-year-long war' on America's unique values. This bit of wisdom comes directly from Beck, who has become something like the historian laureate of American exceptionalism, devoting many on-air hours to why progressivism is a threat equal to Nazism and Stalinism."
On the one hand, the snow is going, going, almost gone from Shafer Butte which is the Boise area bat signal for planting your tomatoes. On the other hand... are you kidding me with this forecast for the weekend?!
Sunday Night: A chance of rain showers before midnight, then a chance of snow showers. Snow level 5300 feet lowering to 2700 feet [that's our elevation] after midnight. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 38. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
Vaughn Ward's new press guy "said all the $10 tickets to the event were sold" according to the Statesman. Really? Did they mess up on the size of the print run or something? The Qwest arena holds 5,000 or so for hockey, 6,500 with seats on the floor, but for Sarah Palin's stump run, even after giving away tickets, they couldn't fill a third of the house.
This for a headliner who just commanded a $100,000 fee for the Tea Party "convention" in Tennessee? Ward's campaign was at least spared the embarrassment of losing money on a fundraiser, but it sounds like after they pay for the house, the only "take" is going to be the good ol' boys who were willing to pony up $1,000 to get their picture taken with the once Governor of Alaska, now making a living out of bashing people on the righteous end of the industry she's in. (Being a personality and offering up punditry is relatively light work, reporting not so much.)
Speaking of reporting, it now appears that one of the congressional candidates that Ward's campaign had cribbed talking points from had likewise copied from someone else. D'OH! When the guy's political director was asked whether he'd call what happened plagiarism, he replied, "I would call it inspired."
In other plague-upon-your-houses news, looks like a huge grasshopper and Mormon cricket infestation is headed our way this summer. It could get biblical.
A lively description of the doings in Spokane Valley, from Shawn Vestal of the Spokesman-Review, with one of the Council members contributing to the discussion following, in the comments.
The chairman of the planning commission wonders "If you have no plan, how do you know where you're going to go?" The Council sounds like they're ready to go wherever. Dean Grafos, speaking at the council retreat earlier this year:
"What I'm saying is, let's stop what we're doing and let the free market take over. Let's suspend the rules and see what happens with private enterprise."
The current catastrophe is hardly unprecedented. In the notes at the bottom of the NYT interactive graphic tracking the oil spill, there's mention of "the largest accidental spill of all time," also in the Gulf of Mexico.
(The intentional acts of the 1991 Gulf War hopefully provide a "for all time" benchmark we won't exceed, with the low end of estimates that 6 to 8 million barrels of oil were released into the Gulf between Arabia and Persia, and hundreds of millions of barrels—more than a billion gallons—of oil emitted or burned.)
"Ixtoc I, a two-mile deep exploratory well, leaked at an estimated rate of 10,000 to 30,000 barrels per day for almost ten months until it was capped in March 1980."
NOAA's terse summary of the behavior of the oil adds "mousse" to our lexicon of oil in the environment, as tarballs and "mousse patches" landed on miles of beaches. Three months after the blowout, "most of North Padre Island was covered with moderate amounts of oil," and "all of the south Texas coast had been impacted by oil." Then, as if by magic? "A storm lasting from September 13-15 removed the majority of the oil."
Time to update the 10 famous spills page as even the most conservative (so to speak) estimates have this disaster on the same scale as the Exxon Valdez. My prediction is that the final accounting will be double-digit Valdez-equivalents.
In last night's debate at the Panhandle Pachyderm Club, the question of statehood for Puerto Rico came up, and Vaughn Ward said he didn't favor "bringing in a foreign country."
You don't say. His opponent pointed out that Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, actually. (We won it fair and square from Spain don't you know, along with Cuba, the Philippines, and Guam.)
"I don't care WHAT it is. I really don't care. I'm against it coming in," Ward says.
The Economist's "Lexington columnist" sings in praise of Boise with a variety of sort-of true snippets that make me wonder how long he or she might have visited before writing. The lovely blue-sky watercolor that tops the column is the bucolic Boise many of us might have once had in mind, but that no one, sorry, is actually experiencing at the moment. (The mountains aren't that big, neither the foothills nor grass are that green, we do actually have roads, and they're mostly pretty full of cars these days.)
I've never sought out a "colossal steak" (although one did find me in Ketchum once), and if someone lost their 25-mile green belt, there are going to be some rather large trousers on the ground in the middle of the city. The writer apparently has never actually been to Palo Alto either, imagining that one could find a $150,000 "poky flat" in "the nice parts."
I trust the notion attributed to our mayor that Boise "could easily double in size again" is similarly disconnected with an actual context. Certainly it could. Should it? We've got home values plunging (but taxes will still go up) and an astounding 35% of homes with "negative equity" at the moment.
Brian Murphy asks Rammell: "Is there a place for atheists, agnostics, and non-believers in the America you describe [on your website]?"
"Not in elected leadership. Those sort of people, uh, do not have the background to lead us. Uh, I respect their, uh, right to not believe in anything, but this country was founded on faith. That's what made us great. Our faith in God gave us the strength to overcome our battles. And, and defeat our foes. That's what America is. We need a Governor like that. Somebody who has faith, and courage, and morals to lead the people."
I believe in something. I believe Rex Rammell is a flaming idiot. Murphy had a follow-up: "Would that eliminate anyone who was not a Christian believer, someone of the Jewish faith, or a Muslim?"
"I'd have to see what they were like. I specifically aimed my comment at atheists. Even Muslims and Jews, they have faith-based principles, so I think that would be fine. As long as they're founded in the traditions of America..."
Our current Governor had something else he wanted to do tonight, but the next two Republicans running had a debate tonight.
An Arizona-style immigration law in Idaho? Rex Rammell is all for it. Sure there might be some racial profiling, but since "it would come to the attention of the governor," somehow that wouldn't be a problem. We don't want to turn into California, he says.
Sharon Ullman said "the government itself is in the racial profiling business." She doesn't approve of it (and doesn't fill out that part of those government forms). Arizona can't have a problem with racial profiling because 42% of its population is non-white. There are too many to stop! And Idaho won't have a problem because we're 85% white.
Thank goodness we live in a post-racial country, where profiling is not possible!
But given that Rammell has the guts to secede from the Union, and "take back [sic] the public lands," there doesn't seem to be a good reason to discuss piddling details, does there? Ullman had that "oh my God what am I doing standing at a podium next to this guy" look on her face when she declined to respond to all that, saying first that "I think Mr. Rammell speaks for himself" and then noting that "we can take back our state without our state being destroyed."
Gingrich is nothing if not durable, and maybe it's crazy to read too much into his odd given name, but between that and his twisted notions of history, the idea that he's going to run for President (let alone be it) just seems drug-induced.
"Because he's so radical" is a classic Gingrichian trope, deeply ludicrous, well-tuned to the nonsense banging about the Fox News echo chamber and completely detached from what we know as reality in the universe where matter predominates over antimatter. And pronounced with the utmost in seriousness.
In the dark night envisioned by Newt, John Boehner becomes Speaker of the House, and Mitch McConnell, why maybe he could be the Senate majority leader! And perhaps Rush Limbaugh will move back to the U.S. from Costa Rica, where he went after the health care insurance reform bill passed.
H/t to Tom Paine in the comments under more serious evidence the GOP is in systemic decline & demise.
Haven't read the book, and haven't seen the movie, but I've definitely got the idea, and as RJ Eskow figures, billionaire Pete Peterson has a new entertainment that combines the best of both worlds. So to speak.
"You'll hear a lot out of Peterson about cutting Social Security, slashing Medicare, and finding other ways to break the social contract with American workers and the general public. Here's what you won't hear about: Raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans to pre-Reagan levels. Withdrawing from unnecessary military adventures. Breaking up the big banks so we no longer have to rescue them, or forcing large banks to pay for any future bailouts.
"For anyone who's really concerned about government deficits—a legitimate concern, if not our most urgent one—Peterson's exclusion of these possibilities is incomprehensible. Unless, of course, he's acting in pure Randian self-interest on behalf of himself and his peers among the most powerful and wealthy."
60 Minutes had an amazing first person account from Michael Williams, one of the survivors of the BP/Transocean drilling platform, now at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, below the burgeoning plumes of oil contaminating the water.
I guess they didn't anticipate that destination when they named the thing, but it could not have been any more suitable.
After a warm weekend here in southern Idaho, and today leaning toward "humidity" more than usual, a thunderstorm just blasted through town. It reminds me of our anniversary season, Jeanette and I celebrating 30 years of being an item about now. The exact moment and phase of the moon has has gone a little fuzzy on us, but our convenient mnemonic is the eruption of Mount St. Helens, 30 years ago tomorrow morning.
After seeing the towering of clouds of ash off to the west, driving toward them, under them, and then into them, as they billowed down to the ground and blotted out the sun to blacker than night at midday, a surreal afternoon and evening left me a refugee for the night, at a church in Ellensburg, Washington.
On the related subject of years passing, I thought I had a few more days before noting my blogiversary, but I see it has already rolled by: I started this blog 10 years ago last Friday, back before headlines, the blogroll, and (obvious) permalinks.
Time to stick a fork in the Ward campaign yet? Turns out that debate blather about how his commanding officer wouldn't let Ward release the text of their letter telling him to follow the rules for use of Marine Corps paraphernalia in his advertising is simply not true. Maybe not an outright lie, but unacceptable confusion on is part, at least.
And as I guessed would be the case after seeing the front page of the Idaho Statesman today, Ryan O'Barto is now out of his job as campaign manager or spokesman or whatever. But hey, better late than never!
Catching up on the news, Betsy Russell's feature from yesterday describing Vaughn Ward's plagiarism. Ward sums it up well enough:
"You're looking at something that is completely raw. Youíre looking at clippings of ideas that were spliced into there, it was being edited. But the people that were editing it put in the wrong stuff."
He's talking about "wrong stuff" that's been up on his campaign website for 5 months. For his campaign that's been going for a year. At least he manned up a bit more than his soon-to-be-fired (we can only assume) campaign spokesman Ryan O'Barto, who orginally said the "web vendor just posted the wrong stuff."
Yeah that's it. The Wrong Stuff.
"Interestingly," Betsy writes in a follow-up Eye on Boise blog entry, some of these same statements "also crop up in a Sept. 5, 2009 Q-&-A interview with the Idaho Conservative Blogger site."
Then there's the one about how Ward didn't vote in the 2008 election. The opposition's campaign doesn't have a lot of dough, but they do know how to shoot ducks in a barrel.
"Mr. Ward's use of a house that was not his residence as a registered place to vote is so clearly a part of a pattern of parachuting into a land that's not his," said Labrador spokesman Dennis Mansfield. "He's a homeowner in Virginia who slept on a couch in Idaho and didnít even bother to vote."
Fantastic visuals collected by Wired: weird clouds look even better from space. Vortex streets, gravity waves, cyclones, popcorn clouds, the wakes of volcanic peaks.
Shut up already.
The two Republican candidates for the Idaho 1st congressional district dropped the gloves in tonight's debate broadcast on public TV and more than anything else, I was left wondering are these really the best two candidates the party could come up with? I guess that would explain why Greg Smith's poll shows 50% support for Democrat Walt Minnick's re-election, and only 20% for "the Republican candidate," in a state where most voters don't need to see anything other than the "R".
"Rhetoric's getting kind of thick in here!" Ward says. Why is this man so angry? "Illegal is illegal" and he wants to fight to keep these people out of this country. But the question was whether someone should have legal representation when before an immigration court. Rule of law? "Let's fix (punch) the (punch) problem (punch)," he emphasizes, punching the podium. "I think that's what's going on with the upsetedness in this state."
We went over the 17th amendment to the Constitution again. Labrador still thinks repealing the 17th amendment is a good idea, even though he doesn't think it's a big deal. Vaughn Ward says, Congress is out of touch... so let's have the state legislatures select their Senators? No, Ward says we should "amend the 17th amendment," add term limits for Senators. The voters would still elect them... until his amended amendment says sorry, you can't do that any more.
I'm not a Constitutional scholar, but as far as I know we've never had an amendment amended. Not to say it couldn't be done, but since term limits would be new work, wouldn't it be a new amendment.
Raul Labrador showed he's willing to be nasty as can be, and he was sending waves of zingers at the guy standing next to him. Ward refused comment a couple of times, said "let's move on" after he'd made the point that his wife's job was not something he wanted to discuss. Labrador tossed in "she's the only one with a job" as the debate went on to the next question.
"I am against what Mike Simpson is doing," in regard to the Boulder White Cloud Wilderness, Labrador said. "We have enough Wilderness. We have enough lands that are owned by the federal government. We need more lands owned by the state. We need to take care of our land, and we need to stop giving them to the federal government."
Ward's against "any more Wilderness" too, wants Idahoans to run things. What about the collaborative process that our current Congressmen have used? "What aspect of the Boulder White Cloud Initiative do you object to?" John Miller of the AP asked.
"I don't think we need the federal government involved in our land here in Idaho, Labrador said, happy to casually dismiss quite a bit of work as just something done in committees, "with a foregone conclusion." "I don't think we need to have any more federal lands."
Not that anyone's talking about more federal land, of course, is he saying that he just wants the federal government to turn over all the land within Idaho's borders to the state? Uh, as if our state agencies (let alone our legislature) is actually prepared to manage 33.4 million acres, more than 10 times what they do now?
"We have people, the ATV owners, the different organizations that are in Idaho that love their wilderness and they can take care of it on their own," Labrador said.
He lined up the good old boys, and the national money, can produce ads with a feel-good feel (and no substance, at best, utter nonsense at worse), but when it came time to fill out a simple questionnaire, and make an appearance on teevee... utter failure.
It's one thing to change your mind (hell, even Ronald Reagan changed parties), but to contradict yourself, complain that gee, it's just "not a conversation you have in 30 seconds," and by way of "clarification," you were really talking about something else entirely... seriously?
Take all the time you need to explain this, Mr. Ward, it just gets more and more interesting. The amendment to the Constitution in 1913, taking the appointment of U.S. Senators out of the hands of state legislators and letting the people elect them directly is responsible for "eroding away states' rights" in what way, exactly?
And term limits for Senators will make them more accountable to states, how, exactly?
But before we get too mired in the Senate, let's talk about the House, the job Ward is seeking for Idaho's 1st congressional district. What little we've seen to date demonstrates an incapacity for the job. Perhaps he could try a smaller political office to get his feet wet. A city council, or maybe precinct captain? His organization skills and understanding of chain of command could be real assets there.
Update: The TV link above is to the April 30 episode of Idaho Reports in which Ward and Labrador appeared for part of the half-hour show. Labrador and Ward face off in an hour-long debate tonight, televised live on Idaho Public TV at 8pm MDT
I haven't seen Into Eternity and after reading Denis Overbye's musing on the film, and Finland's 100,000 year plan to banish its nuclear waste, I'm not sure I will. I'm curious (aren't we all?), but not that big on horror films. Engineering, geology, science fiction, those all sound interesting, but waiting even ten thousand years for a punch line tries our patience.
"It might seem crazy, if not criminal, to obligate 3,000 future generations of humans to take care of our poisonous waste just so that we can continue running our electric toothbrushes. But it's already too late to wave off the nuclear age, and Mr. Madsen's film comes at a perfect time to join a worldwide conversation about what to do with its ashes. On June 3, administrative law judges from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will begin hearing arguments about whether the Department of Energy can proceed with shutting down development of the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada, where the United States had been planning since 1987 to store its own nuclear waste.
"If the Obama administration prevails, the United States will be back to square one in figuring out how to get rid of its own 77,000 radioactive tons, including 53 million gallons left over from the dawn of the nuclear age sitting in leaky tanks in the Washington desert near the Columbia River. There are somewhere between 250,000 and 300,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste already in the world, much of it in pools on the sites of nuclear power plants where the rods have to cool for years before they can be put into containers."
Steven Strogatz wraps up his mathematical series in the Opinionator with a visit to the Hilbert Hotel, where there is always a vacancy, even though it's booked solid.
Last line in the story about the tell-all generation learning to live slightly less out-loud:
"I donít think they would look out for me," she said. "I have to look out for me."
I guess for $20 or so, you can sign up to "investigate" someone in particular, find out as much as there is to find through legitimate and slightly less than legitimate means. Name, rank, serial number, residence and tax history, youthful indiscretions catalogued on social media, throw in a credit report for good measure.
They passed a law that requires the credit reporting agencies to give you a free report once a year, maybe we'll want the equivalent report as well?
The funny thing about this is how totally divergent the purposes of the parties involved are. Humans just want to have a good time with friends. "Companies like Facebook" (as the story puts it, imagining a category out of a singular success) "have a financial incentive to get friends to share as much as possible," the better for companies "who can mine it to serve up more targeted ads."
I wonder: who follows those ads? I've never been attracted to one. I was repulsed by some at first, took the trouble to click them away for whatever reason, but since that process was clearly never-ending, I just turned off attention to that part of the page. Completely. It's a graphic skill that I suspect is becoming quite natural to the digital generations coming along.
Perhaps it's another spam phenomenon. Only some tiny percentage get sucked in, but with billions of page views, that's plenty. State-run lotteries depend on a much higher rate of foolishness, and they seem to work well enough.
The remarkably graphic expression of what a UC Berkeley engineering professor learned when he worked on drilling rigs was on my mind yesterday morning at church, during which a Mother's Day theme included music from Rennaissance latin to a chant for mother earth. It was that latter piece that made me think about what can happen when you drill into the crust, a mile below the surface of the ocean.
"What we had learned when I worked as a drill rig laborer was swoosh, boom, run," Robert Bea said. "The swoosh is the gas, boom is the explosion and run is what you better be doing."
It seems you can hit a pocket of slushy methane which will form a bubble, rise up the drill column, expanding as it escapes the pressure of the deep, and, well, like the man said.
It remains to be seen how this story will turn out; the first go at lowering a containment vessel didn't go swimmingly, but we can hope the people working to staunch the flow of oil toward the Gulf coast will succeed, and quickly.
That three step "plan" seems to have been the operations manual for any manner of human enterprises of late. It describes the Dick Cheney energy task force pretty well, doesn't it? The Reagan era foxes guarding the chicken house had nothing on the Bush years, "run by and for the extractive industries," as Paul Krugman puts it today.
"What really needs to change is our whole attitude toward government. For the troubles at Interior werenít unique: they were part of a broader pattern that includes the failure of banking regulation and the transformation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a much-admired organization during the Clinton years, into a cruel joke. And the common theme in all these stories is the degradation of effective government by antigovernment ideology."
We'll see how that goes. The Tea Party and their Republican fellow travelers are all excited about running on anti this fall, assuming that it's just what this country needs (and happy to blame government, or, uh, any handy "whackos" for each new catastrophe).
Success breeds imitation, and sometimes the child exceeds the parent. Thus it is with Demon Sheep II, the fleecing of California.
"... and now, just when you thought it was safe, Carly Fiorina stars in her most terrifying role ever..."
But wait, there's more! Good things come in threes, so there's a trilogy.
Herd animals can be flighty, and the closer they are together, the more attuned they are to the emotions in their vicinity. It sounds a little too simplistic an explanation (since the Eurozone financial troubles are real enough), but the NPR News blog has a FOAF sort of report about the roller coaster in the stock market today:
" CNBC just reported sources are telling it that a trading error, a human error, at a major firm, (the trader typed in "b" instead of "m") caused the Dow Jones to fall through the 10,000 floor. A CNBC reporter said that it appears it was a financial derivatives trade."
That's "b" as in BILLION instead of "m" as in million. Seriously? You can miss the mark by three orders of magnitude and there's nobody to ask Are you sure? (Or "do you really have enough money to cover that trade?")
The newsbite I saw last night had Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) complaining about the timing of suspect Faisal Shahzad being given the Miranda warning, but that and other Constitutional matters weren't discussed as much as the useful information the guy was apparently giving up.
And nothing about the twilight zone aspect that Gail Collins brings up, Graham's opposition to a bill that would keep people on the FBI's terrorist watch list from buying guns and explosives.
"Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, dutifully trekked down to Washington to plead for the bill on behalf of the nationís cities. The only thing they got for their trouble was praise for getting the city through the Times Square incident in one piece. And almost everyone had a good word for the T-shirt vendor who first noticed the suspicious car and raised an alert. Really, if someone had introduced a bill calling for additional T-shirt vendors, it would have sailed through in a heartbeat."
Bloomberg Businessweek invites you to meet public enemy No. 1 in today's workplace: Your Office Chair Is Killing You.
"Older people who move around have half the mortality rate of their peers. Frequent TV and Web surfers (sitters) have higher rates of hypertension, obesity, high blood triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, and high blood sugar, regardless of weight. Lean people, on average, stand for two hours longer than their counterparts."
If you've seen the movie Food, Inc. you've heard of "Roundup Ready®" seeds, Monsanto's genetically engineered (and patent protected) cash cow for selling both their seeds and the glyphosate herbicide they're resistant to. If you were trying to breed glyphosate resistance in weeds, the genetic engineering approach would be more efficient, but it turns out that "near-ubiquitous use" of the chemical on agricultural land is working well enough to produce fast-forward evolution of tenacious new superweeds.
One of the big selling points of "buy our special seeds (every year) and spray this juice on everything (every year)" is that it enables farming with minimum tillage, reducing the energy needed, soil erosion, and water pollution. The market reached near saturation, with 90% of U.S. soybeans and 70% of U.S. corn and cotton being grown from Monsanto's seeds. But the superweeds queer that deal, forcing growers back to not-so-good old cultivation and plowing methods.
"It is the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen," said Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts.
A recent discussion of amounts paid in and received out of Social Security reminded me of going through the numbers of my own account, and I see it was 10 years ago this month that I posted my calculations for the interest in Social Security.
The notions in the discussion varied from as low as less than a quarter of what you put in to far more (including interest) than you paid in, both of which seem wildly wrong for the average projection. There are enough parameters to tweak that I'm sure you can "show" a variety of different results to support one opinion or another.
The numbers and assumptions I made at the time led to the conclusion that "if I keep working at my current pay rate until I'm 62, and then collect SS for 18 years, they'll pay out just what I and my employers paid in, over about twice that long. With no interest."
Things don't always turn out the way you expect, of course. From those heady times just past the peak of the dot com bubble, we've already been through the bust, another boom, and a bigger bust. "My current pay rate" is no longer an operative concept, and "my employer" is now me.
I think it was in the summer of 1999 that I had a converstion with a fellow who thought the rate of return for a group pension plan for ministers was absurdly low, only something in the double digits. He thought it was reasonable to expect 100% annual return. Seriously?! (He was, as far as I could tell at the time, serious.)
We were living in Palo Alto, in an apartment complex where the rents were going up almost as rapidly as the stock market had been in the previous year, and the smart money seeing the dot com bust ahead was talking about real estate as the Next Big Thing.
(Something more recent: while looking through other writings on this
subject, I was reminded of the "I" in
Didn't see that coming, but the contested race for a seat on the Supreme Court (to be decided in the May 25 primary) is heating up. The debate broadcast on Idaho PublicTV tonight was way more interesting than you'd expect, with challenger John Bradbury accusing the Supreme Court of having a secret, off-the-record meeting in the basement, telling litigants that "the case was over." Incumbent Justice Roger Burdick's response was that Bradbury's claim was "abject malarky."
Eye on Boise has more about the "heated moments" in the debate.
Half an hour was not nearly enough time to explore all the issues these guys have to discuss, let alone for all the possible entertainment between them.
The Boise School District's Residential Construction Program has completed the nation's first student-built LEED certified home. They're having an Open House on May 21st, 11:30 to 5:00, at 1627 Watersilk (Mill Creek subdivision, S. of Overland between Maple Grove and Five Mile).
Congratulations to the participants, and my buddy Scott Larson for making it happen.
Still scratching our heads on this "repeal the 17th Amendment" concept that's apparently tucked into the Tea Party baggage, and for which both leading Republican candidates for Idaho CD-01 have voiced their support. Marc Johnson provides some history of why this is a really, really nutty idea, after Randy Stapilus offered Taking the 17th on Saturday.
"The state legislature—any state legislature—is capable of more than enough mischief, thank you, without trusting them to elect our U.S. Senators. I really hope the otherwise serious people who are supporting this idea are merely guilty of pandering to the movement of the moment. If they are serious, the tea they're drinking has fermented."
Adam Graham tells us it's "one of those conservative wish list items" but not one that can be given "serious treatment" in a limited span of time. If only we had an hour for "a Lincoln-Douglas style debate on the issue of the direct election of Senators," we could move beyond the caricatures and straw men.
Well, do tell, why is this on anyone's wish list?
If we could imagine our Congress without the 17th Amendment, I think it's a safe bet that a T* Party would be loudly calling for the direct election of Senators to address the evils of the entrenched pols in Washington D.C., beholden not to the people themselves, but only to elite good old boy networks in state Legislatures. It's hard enough to vote the bums out, without having to vote out the bums that voted the bums in first.
Every time we talk about the placebo effect, I'm fascinated. Olivia Judson's "necessarily brief" treatment in yesterday's Opinionator Blog is no exception. She deems it "potentially one of the most powerful forces in medicine," a place where beliefs, ignorance, hope, anxiety, fear, trust, suspicion and ritual are tangled into a confounded puzzle with more ways to thwart its study than there can be studies.
It's not limited to medicine, either. As the Congress tries to provide "financial reform" and revamp regulation that pretty much everyone agrees we need some of, I'm wondering how much of the ritual of hearings, public shaming of those we deem connected to faults, and yes, legislation itself, has its useful action through a placebo effect. If people feel better about markets, things will go up and to the right and the economy can start humming again.
Judson offers a variety of additional reading suggestions, but alas, few that are hyperlinked. (Maybe just knowing they're out there will make you feel better.)
The Idaho Statesman is offering the online voter guide again this year ("powered by e.thePeople" the underlying web property says), using your address to generate a sample ballot. No privacy worries, you can use your neighbor's address if you like. :-)
Pick your Party (since Idaho Republican Party v. Ysursa has not progressed to the point of keeping you from making a last-minute and unfettered choice), review the detailed comparisons of candidates answers to questions, their endorsement interviews and so on, then you can pretend vote, and print your ballot cheat-sheat. Or, you can browse the 33 races, or the 85 candidates.
I don't suppose they actually are new, but the respected vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway (or is it the vice chairman of respected Berkshire Hathaway?) offered an incredible assessment of one or both of Goldman Sachs and the state of morality in the business world. We read from the AP that "Charlie Munger said he believes Goldman is the nation's best investment bank in terms of morality and competency."
"Our problem is that our commercial banks and our investment banks have been regulated with a combination of permissiveness and stupidity," Munger said.
Munger compared the bankers that have caused problems to tigers that escaped from the circus and ran amok.
"It's that idiot tiger keeper that didn't do his job," Munger said. "The government regulatory system has utterly failed us."
Yes, well, we have no expectations of "morality" from tigers, do we, so the analogy doesn't quite match the circus we find ourselves in. Recall that the regulatory failure stems from decades of clamoring for "free markets" to work their unfettered magic and raise all our boats with a rising tide.
But that's not the deal. The deal is that free and unfettered markets enable a very select group of competent and not-so-moral people to make out like bandits, at the possible very great expense of everyone else. That's why we have a lovely "recovery" going, the Dow handily back into 5 figures, while more than 1 in 10 workers remain unemployed or underemployed.
The delicate art of setting the right and right amount of regulation is the heart of the issue. It'll never be perfect, but we have to strive for "good enough" against considerable counterveiling forces demanding we "don't tread on me."
Alan Schram's notes from the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder's meeting on the Huffington Post reads more like straight news than the AP story, interestingly. Not so much discussion of morality and tigers, more about business, which, after all, is what BH is all about. Still, there's a lot we're not getting in a few short articles, since the Q&A session lasted eight hours, according to Schram.
Erik Holm's live-blogging account for the WSJ says it was only five hours, following an hour-long video to open the show, and an hour for lunch. Holm quotes the "always substantially more blunt than Buffett" Munger as saying that while Goldman did nothing illegal [um, HOW THE HELL DOES HE KNOW THAT?], the firm was engaged in "socially undesirable" activities.
For Warren Buffett's part, he does have considerable moral standing (with "an unused carry-forward on his latest income tax return from charitable donations of $7 billion"), and uses it to argue for, among other things, higher taxes on the wealthy, and maintaining the estate tax.
Since Buffett doesn't allow the event to be recorded, I guess I'll have to put it on my calendar for next year. (We bought a couple BRK B shares after the BNSF deal was announced, and before the reverse split that made the non-voting shares considerably more accessible to small investors.)
We stumbled upon the Great Performances offering on PBS, too late to see the beginning, but then a couple days later found that, too. Now I see you can watch it online, a remarkable gift.
It's an amazing production with wonderful acting, and gave me the additional bonus of sweeping me back to that day when I showed up a half hour late for my first period English class, and was given a choice: go to the office and get a tardy slip, or memorize a soliloquy from Shakespeare, by Friday.
That may have been the most brilliant moment of pedagogy I experienced in my 4 years of high school. (Thank you, Mr. Felhaber.) I eagerly accepted the "punishment," and set to the work. (By the end of the week, I had a second memorization task for another tardy; my parents were out of town, you see.) Lo these 4 decades later, the gift lives on.
But never mind that. Watch this great performance!
Remember that ginormous Lehman Brothers bankruptcy? Turns out it's the gift that keeps on giving. $730,000,000 in fees and expenses for the lawyers, accountants and "restructuring experts," and "no end in sight."
Some firms are racking up billable hours for as much as $500 or $1,000 an hour, and one company added on a charge of $148,426 to compile its bills and time records.
The creditors are apparently happy with the prospect of getting anything, even if it's a few pennies on the dollar, and doesn't happen for another 3 to 5 years down the road.
They shoot looters, don't they?
Richard Viguerie presumably likes the "old school" label the Washington Post gave him for his Sunday op-ed, offering "advice for the Tea Party." I have no idea whether Viguerie is a leading light of "the" conservative movement, but he clearly seems himself in that role.
By his reckoning, when the first member of the movement was nominated for president, back in 1964, the "movement had just two legs: free markets and a strong national defense. After religious conservatives became the third leg, conservatives won three landslide presidential elections in the 1980s."
Kind of a simplified political arithmetic there: free markets + strong national defense + religious conservatives = landslide! (Never mind that we've always had markets that were somewhere between free and fully regulated, and likely always will. Or that we've always had a strong national defense. And yes, religious conservatives. Remember the Puritans?)
"But even that was not enough to stop the expansion of government. The tea party has added a fourth leg: an emphasis on limiting government through fidelity to the Constitution and our nation's founding principles, without being operationally aligned with either party. With this addition, we conservatives now find ourselves sitting at a large four-legged table and outnumbering liberals by almost two to one in a recent Gallup poll."
Bully for the demonization of the word "liberal," I guess. The "detailed [sic] political ideology findings" comparing 2000 vs. 2009 with single-word descriptors (and "very" modifiers for the tails) show a slight polarizing trend, and a mostly normal (in the statistical sense) distribution, with a bias to the right, conservative, cautious, status quo. Conservative and v. conservative up 2 percentage points, liberal and v. liberal up 2 percentage points, taken out of the middle.
You can join the self-identifying crowd who agrees with Viguerie and fill out his poll to tell him how much you agree with him (96% of the first 178 responses), and fine tune the "socialist, or Marxist?" label for President Obama. What I added in my response to him:
Like others who are cheering the Tea Party movement, you seem elated that all these people now agree with you. It's nonsense. A lot of people find SOMETHING in the litany of complaints being collected by a gaggle of "independent" whiners. Good luck with that.
A Facebook post by a friend celebrating "spinach getting big enough for our first harvest" was a bit of surprise today, since we've been grazing on our Orach (Atriplex hortensis) for a month or so. It goes bitter as it gets big, so it's good to thin it regularly, and it stays tastier in cool weather, so this April was a good one for the crop. Best of all, it comes back in profusion from a few plants left to bolt (even after the birds work it over, which they do with enthusiasm), with no particular effort on our part.
It's one of the things we bought from the local, now defunct heirloom seed business Seeds Blüm, back in the 90s, before it went out of business. It's not quite as palatable as the "Popeye" spinach that supermarkets stock, but it's hardy as all get-out, and has gloriously repaid the couple bucks' investment a hundred times over.
We still have the catalog of "Heirloom seeds and other garden gems" from 1993, a 100-page collectors' item with Holly Chamberlain's birds, butterflies, talking beets and costumed potatoes, Whole Earth Catalog-style, without quite so much fussiness about the layout and graphics.
Tom von Alten tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org