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No particular reason to take Newt Gingrich's return to campaigning seriously, but all sorts of reasons to find it entertaining. Marc Johnson's post-mortem of his appearance on Face the Nation last week, for example.
I love the part where Gingrich talks about how "frugal" he and his current wife are, the evidence for which being he paid his $half-million (give or take) bill at Tiffany's on time and with no interest. (Can you imagine the salesperson there tantalizing the customers with "no interest" while shuffling trays of ice with plenty-hundred percent markup?)
Just regular 'mericans, spending more on their body ornaments than your house and car are worth.
"The right of the people to monitor the people's business is one of the core principles of democracy."
So sayeth Dane County Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi, in voiding the Wisconsin law that would have curbed collective bargaining rights for many state and local employees.
Hard to imagine how changing the rules for collective bargaining could constitute an "emergency," but that was the argument for not providing the minimal 2 hours' notice for the meeting, let alone the normal 24 hours' worth. The Wisconsin Supreme Court gets the last word, early next month, but in the meantime, we can savor Judge Sumi's point of view.
"This case is the exemplar of values protected by the open meetings law: transparency in government, the right of citizens to participate in their government and respect for the rule of law."
Speaking of running past your allotted 15 minutes, there's Alan Simpson and his bag of insults for anyone and everyone who disagrees with him on anything. Or everything. That gives him a pretty good range, from Grover Norquist to the AARP.
I think his true calling for his remaining time on earth is some form of Don Rickles-esque standup rather than elder statesman. No offense to Mr. Rickles. Simpson is so far gone he almost manages to make Grover Norquist into a sympatheic figure.
...Simpson called Norquist "some guy just wandering around in the swamps," and slammed the no-tax-hike pledge Norquist routinely asks politicians to sign.
"If the American people are in thrall with Grover Norquist, some guy just wandering around in the swamps, taking a pledge from people at a time when America was flush, pushing people like Orrin Hatch off the cliff as if he were a commie," Simpson said. "I mean what kind of a nut is this guy?"
"I think as you get older, reality drifts away at various speeds," Norquist told HuffPost, adding that he'd never been accused of wandering in swamps before. "I'm not quite sure what that means."
The Color of Conscience: Human Rights in Idaho documents the history of the Aryan Nations group in Idaho, the people who fought against it, and the continuing challenges for human rights in this state.
It's always so heartwarming to hear politicos use the royal "we." Here's Norm Semanko's response for the Idaho GOP to the news that opponents of Tom Luna's education "reform" had garnered enough signatures to put a referendum on the 2012 ballot:
"We're not surprised. To get a referendum on the ballot, you only need 6% of registered voters, and we know that that opposition, which was mostly financed by an out-of-state Union, paid $75,000 to hire people to gather signatures. In fact, I am a little surprised that they didn’t get this done sooner."
The Party supports the (Republican) Governor and Superintendent, quelle surprise. As for the voters, well, it appears that we won't have to depend on Mr. Semanko's inferences about what "will of the people was made apparent in November" 2010, but can look forward to the voters expressing their preference on this particular issue directly.
Is it too soon to talk about impeaching Clarence Thomas? His failure to meet legal requirements to disclose his wife's earnings as a right-wing tout seems like basis enough. He's demonstrated his preference for attacking his accusers rather than doing the right thing (going back to his confirmation hearings, at least), which would start with making his legally-required financial disclosure forms public, and almost certainly continue with recusing himself from any cases considering the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Alternately, we could go with a criminal investigation, to address the allegations of ProtectOurElections.org, that
"Justice Thomas falsified 20 years of judicial financial disclosure forms by denying that his wife had income sources; second, he engaged in judicial corruption by receiving $100,000 in support from Citizens United during his nomination and then ruling in favor of Citizens United in 2010 without disclosing that fact or disqualifying himself; and third, he conspired with his wife in a form of 'judicial insider trading' by providing her with information about the result of the Court's decision in Citizens United prior to its issuance, which she then used to launch a new company to take financial advantage of that decision to benefit her and her husband."
(More detail in the letter from attorney Kevin Zeese to the F.B.I.)
Thanks to two of my Facebook friends for leading me to Nicholas Kristof's Religion and Sex Quiz. I'm not as sharp on my Bible as some in the household, but I could pretty much guess where he was going, given that he's a liberal columnist on the New York Times and all.
My favorite one (and one that I knew the answer to) was about what the people of Sodom were condemned for. I'm not going spoil it for you. His is a better-than-average test design, multiple multiple-choice, "some questions may have more than one correct answer." Just like life. And religion. And sex.
(Speaking of which, a favorite joke of a college professor who used to surprise his students with pop "quizzies" the cute name for which was more amusing to him than his pupils. After a particularly difficult one, an angry co-ed turned in her paper and complained, "if this is one of your little quizzies, I'd like to see one of your little 'testies.'")
Oh, and while we're on the subjects of religion, sex and politics, I might as well mention another FB-friend referral, to Gail Collins' The Year of Living Adulterously. "Never have we had sex issues with so many layers."
"Really persistent sexual misbehavior says something about the character of the person involved. In Gingrich's case, we have a failure-to-settle-down problem that extends way beyond matrimony. He can't even hang onto a position on Medicare for an entire week. This man is a natural for an occupation that rewards attention deficit. Maybe God actually meant to tell Newt to stay on Fox News, but accidentally shipped the message to Huckabee."
Yeah, me too. And Harold Camping, whose 15 minutes of fame are into a brief overtime with explanations for why his "prophecy" didn't happen. It did happen, he says!
I told you so, didn't I?
But seriously, every day is Judgment Day, doesn't everyone know that? Start making a list and for heaven's sake don't put stupid stuff like "punch my boss" on it.
Multi-postal h/t to the boys over on 43rd State Blues for some entertaining viewing of late. In no particular order, Jay Smooth's note about not feeding trolls, What have Unions Ever Done for Us? some success in resisting the homophobia in Uganda, and Reggie Holmes' take on the Idaho Freedom Foundation's disreputable keynote speaker, and how the local pols gaggled around him.
Not always safe for work, or powers-that-be.
Jeanette, who knows a lot about such things, tells me that by the way, there's a pretty small number of Select who will actually get the Rapture Ride. 180,000 was the number she mentioned.
And that's not 180,000 of those living, but 180,000 humans who have ever lived. So your chances are not all that good. Even if God Almighty were picking among the 7,000,000,000 or so current residents, that would be just 1 in 38,889.
If Boise and the Treasure Valley were average, our quota would be a couple dozen at the most. Sure, they'd be special people, but there are a lot of comings and goings in the neighborhood, and to tell you the truth, I wouldn't expect to notice if 20 people left, unless I happened to be looking out the window when one of them zoomed heavenward.
My point is, just because 6pm has come and gone in your time zone doesn't mean it was a false alarm. The eruption of Grimsvötn could be a sign, you know, the beginning of 5 months of Hell on Earth. (The exploding watermelons in China could be, too.) I'm just saying.
A popular right-wing trope of late is the supposedly crushing burden of regulation that the federal government imposes on us, and thereby keeps us from the economic vibrancy we would otherwise enjoy.
That complaint came to mind while I read Matt Taibbi's summary description of the 650-page report of the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan, with Tom Coburn of Oklahoma as ranking minority member. In addition to excoriating Goldman Sachs, according to Taibbi, "their unusually scathing bipartisan report also includes case studies of Washington Mutual and Deutsche Bank, providing a panoramic portrait of a bubble era that produced the most destructive crime spree in our history—'a million fraud cases a year' is how one former regulator puts it."
"Lloyd Blankfein went to Washington and testified under oath that Goldman Sachs didn't make a massive short bet and didn't bet against its clients. The Levin report proves that Goldman spent the whole summer of 2007 riding a 'big short' and took a multibillion-dollar bet against its clients, a bet that incidentally made them enormous profits. Are we all missing something? Is there some different and higher standard of triple- and quadruple-lying that applies to bank CEOs but not to baseball players?"
So why isn't Blankfein in a striped suit at the crossbar hotel?
The CBS news report of a seismic fault found through the Rocky Mountains in Idaho mentions the proximity of the nearest town—Stanley—to Boise as 80 miles, which was kind of a surprise. It's 132 miles by the most direct road, a 3 hour+ trip, but yeah, looks like 80 miles as the crow flies
"Major seismic events took place on the fault line 7,000 and 4,000 years ago, Thackray said, meaning that another event is statistically 'due,' but such activity is unpredictable."
That's "due" as in scientific wild-ass guess, huh?
Sometimes the snippet returned in the search list is enough to make you start laughing:
"... Tony- and Emmy-winning actor John Lithgow, who performed a dramatic, verbatim reading of the statement" from Newt Gingrich's campaign.
Verbatim! OMG. Thanks to the Newshour for the heads-up, Stephen Colbert, the Huffington Post, and Hulu. And most especially, John Lithgow for the comedy gold.
Speaking of the GOP candidate circus, there's still that woman who needs no actress to read her lines.
"There's so much fire in my belly, I struggle with that, every day!"
I think antacids can help with that.
If you're not planning on joining the Rapture tomorrow, and you're in the Boise area, here's something interesting to do with your Saturday: United Vision for Idaho's Community Progressive,
"about community building, bringing people together, and connecting them to other people and organizations who share those values. ... [V]arious events will showcase how small businesses, nonprofits, musicians, artisans and local growers and farmers work together and show how our shared investments create thriving, vibrant, sustainable communities and progress we can all celebrate!"
Kicks off 10am with a rally at the Capitol, continues with a walking tour downtown, a non-profit fair, workshops, farmers' market, live music.
I'm still claiming "junior" senior status, but I was born before 1957, and so would be grandfathered into the existing Medicare system if Paul Ryan and his plan were to seize the day. Not that that's about to happen (and certainly not without being ground up in the legislative sausage mill first), but the proposal still strikes me as deeply dishonest, or as Timothy Egan puts it "a naked play for greed in defending the plan."
"Seniors, as soon as they realize this doesn't affect them, they are not so opposed," he has said.
But that's not how it turned out, and the "early verdict" is negatory.
"This plan is toast. Newt Gingrich is in deep trouble with the Republican base for stating the obvious on Sunday, when he called the signature Medicare proposal of his party 'right-wing social engineering.' But that's exactly what it is: a blueprint for downward mobility."
A blueprint that voters, seniors and not-so-seniors alike, are prepared to repudiate.
It was a surprise to me that Newt Gingrich could take his chances seriously enough to declare his candidacy (should've gone for one of those "exploratory committees" first), but the speed at which his own buddies are whacking him down must be giving him pause. He wasn't that well-loved the first time around, and conservatives aren't showing a lot of enthusiasm for Wonk Take Two.
Weirdly enough, I agree with Gingrich's criticism of Paul Ryan's approach to changing Medicare into what, it's not clear. (A "voucher" program for the states to screw up?)
And it warms my heart to read "Conservative radio host Bill Bennett" as one of those durable comedy acts that won't go away. Editing a book of virtues was not enough, he still has more to say. Now that The Donald has admitted the idea of his candidacy was indeed a joke, and the Huckster went out in a blaze of Ted Nugent accompanying glory, maybe Bennett should throw his hat in the ring!
Didn't I just use that headline? Oh well, it's my blog. Here's Tom Tomorrow's version, in the form of an innocent bedtime fable.
I usually see his work in ink, once a week in the Boise Weekly, where I appreciate his ability to capture everything that needs to be said in 6 small panels. I see from his blog that he's left Salon, and can now be found in the Daily Kos comics section, as well as Credo and Truthout.
Interesting collection of opinions described by Ezra Klein under his question Why does the gop hates taxes so much?
It's been my observation and opinion that pretty modest incentives do change aggregate behavior a great deal, whether it's putting up solar panels and wind generators, buying better furnaces, or avoiding doctor bills.
But the idea that maintaining low taxes, or lowering them further on high-income earners will somehow cause them to make jobs doesn't add up so much, unless you're talking about jobs in yacht building or for car salesman.
Apart from micromanagement, there's the macro-problem of coming somewhere close to balance between government revenue and spending. We don't go there much, but we were there a decade ago, when George W. Bush and pals took us right off the rails and into the state we're in now, whether it's a "crisis" or just a big problem calling for collaborative leadership.
Part of coming to our senses could be what Robert Frank suggests in the NYT piece helpfully linked in Klein's sidebar, and reprinted (as a PDF) on Frank's own site. Tax more of what we don't want, and less of what we do, and for heaven's sake, don't cut programs that result in helping people in need and reducing future deficits.
We've made some political contributions from time to time, but we are not, and almost certainly never will be the sort who can drop a $kilobuck for a morning snack. The "free speech" aspect of letting people spend gobs of money on politics is one thing, but having a government that's greased with moneyed interests just seems like a bad idea. Unless of course you're a moneyed interest, in which case it seems like a great idea, and no doubt you're so pleased with the results of late.
I think Idaho's Senator Mike Crapo is one of our better politicians (which OK, that's not saying a lot), but a fundraiser with a BP oil lobbyist for his "Freedom Fund" PAC, right before the Senate Finance Committee heard from oil executives?
You sort of wish these people were more subtle, at least.
That catchy phrase may be the perfect description of Newt Gingrich's surprising inability to recognize when his 15 minutes are over, by 15 years. It's a guy thing, undoubtedly, same as the Donald's difficulty in understanding that we're laughing at him, not with him. When in hand a lemon, we can at least celebrate lemonhood, and many thanks to Gail Collins for "attempting to read all the books written by Republican presidential candidates so you will not have to."
"The subtitle of Five Principles for a Successful Life is 'From Our Family to Yours.' Given Gingrich’s famously adultery-strewn life, he’s not the first person you’d expect to pen a book of family advice about any topic other than how to navigate divorce court. Early on, Newt and Jackie explain that they decided this book was necessary because Jackie's children 'began to ask questions.' ..."
And even after dispatching the Newtster, the Republican field is a rich vein, material for a month of columns, at least.
"[I]n our reading we have already learned that Mitt Romney has no sense of humor and that Mike Huckabee once had a pleasant demeanor that he is now trying hard to overcome for the Tea Party's benefit. Also that Tim Pawlenty is like the guy you'll switch lines at Home Depot to avoid having to talk to while waiting to get to the cashier."
Oil execs in the hot seat, but hey, they can take it. Air conditioning, baby! And they've got their excuses lined up:
1. If you hurt us, we'll hurt you. Worse.
2. We're struggling! "We have shackles on us."
3. If you raise our taxes, you should raise everyone's.
4. Other companies have a higher profit margin than we do.
And last, but not least,
5. Tax proposals are un-American.
Here's Senator Orrin Hatch today, saying "this hearing should not be used to score cheap political points." And rolling out a "chart" to illustrated what he means to say "with all due respect."
Oh ha ha, all due respect. With all due respect, Senator, isn't the back end of the pony a remarkable likeness for you?
We're going to miss Jim Lehrer's steady presence on the NewsHour, asking pointed questions to try to cut through the political blather (even though blatherers will not be dissuaded):
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: ... So, divided government, one could argue, is, most times, the only kind of government that can do really difficult things.
JIM LEHRER: But in every one of those cases you just named, Senator--I went through those, and every one of those cases, a compromise involved both spending cuts and increases in taxes.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: Well...
JIM LEHRER: But you're saying that that's not the case, that you will not--that the Republicans will not accept as a--quote--"compromise" anything that involves what the Democrats want, particularly the president, which is raising taxes for people who make over $250,000 a year.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, I don't want to get into an argument with you.
By which he means he's going to start by denying facts.
And then go on to hammer the points he wants to make, irrespective of what he's being asked, and to continue to deny the inevitable consequences of what he's proposing. In a really condescending way.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: Jim, you're a smart guy, but I'm not going to let you answer for me.
So here we go again, playing chicken with the economy to satisfy the quite frankly insane notions of the Republicans of how to avoid catastrophe.
I've received maybe half a dozen letters from the IRS over the years, and even though none have been really bad news, it's never welcome correspondence. There were two in today's mail, one addressed to me, one to Jeanette.
"We're required to send a copy of this to both you and your spouse," they say. At the same address? Regarding the joint return we filed? Yeah. So, just the one bit of bad news, but two copies.
It seems our calculation (which was really TurboTax's) for our Form 1040 this year didn't agree with theirs. They figure we owed them $1.73 more, either because "we made changes to your return," or "the payments claimed on your return did not match our records," or "you owed other taxes or legal obligations" that they're required to collect.
OK. Fine. Whatever. A dollar seventy-three?
I hope they don't have to pay first-class postage for their letters, because if they end up sending four, that kind of pisses away the buck and six bits. If I'm going to pay higher taxes, I'd like it to go to something more useful, like a drone pilot's coffee break, say.
It takes money to make money. Buy real estate with no money down. Buy low, sell high. Choose your favorite aphorism for relief from the sickening feeling you'll get from reading Matt Taibbi's tale of the real housewives of Wall Street in The Rolling Stone.
Given how 8 or 9 digit numbers make most of our eyes glaze over, the $220 million scam inspiring the title seems as good as any, even though our outrage needs be scaled up by a factor of a thousand for the main attractions (such as the $800 billion in Fed loans that Goldman Sachs collected on its way to record profits).
To keep things as clear as possible, the housewives in question named their "business" after the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility. Their sights were set considerably higher than mere "trickle down"; Waterfall TALF so much better describes a program to collect a heaping helping of the gusher of free cash flowing out of our recent "crisis."
"Neither seems to have any experience whatsoever in finance, beyond Susan's penchant for dabbling in thoroughbred racehorses. But with an upfront investment of $15 million, they quickly received $220 million in cash from the Fed, most of which they used to purchase student loans and commercial mortgages. The loans were set up so that Christy and Susan would keep 100 percent of any gains on the deals, while the Fed and the Treasury (read: the taxpayer) would eat 90 percent of the losses. Given out as part of a bailout program ostensibly designed to help ordinary people by kick-starting consumer lending, the deals were a classic heads-I-win, tails-you-lose investment."
Tens of millions of ordinary folk are still looking for a sign (a.k.a. "a job") that the Great Recession has ended; the swellest of the swells are feeling pretty good about where we are, perhaps puttering about on the weekend in the 12-car garage.
There are plenty of people saying plenty of things about the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of the U.S. military, and I don't imagine anyone's been waiting to hear from me on the subject. I didn't feel like cheering or chanting, and what Martin Luther King Jr. had to say about violence (before it was edited by some "anon.") remains one of the most difficult teachings for human beings to accept:
"Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
When it comes to "turning the other cheek," we're not that kind of Christian nation and never have been. (I'm not that kind of Christian myself, either.)
In terms of what more there is to say about the particulars, Timothy Egan has an excellent point regarding clearing the fog of war from Abbottabad: "After debriefing the Navy Seals, the White House should give as full an account as they can without compromising future missions."
Arizona tried to add to its state government coffers by selling "Don't Tread on Me" plates... but some in the Tea Party aren't buying: "it goes against what we stand for, which is limited government."
At long last, the results are in and two of Einstein's predictions of general relativity have experimental confirmation behind them. When I was at Stanford in 1989-90, Gravity Probe B was already more than 25 years old, and some of my fellow students worked on mechanical engineering components of the system. 14 years later, the experiment launched into earth orbit, and here 7 years after that, the researchers are finally ready to publish what they found.
"The spacecraft orbited the Earth for 17 months carrying four ping-pong ball sized gyroscopes ... made of fused quartz spheres [coated with] niobium and cooled to the temperature of liquid helium. ... [T]he physicists were able to confirm the geodetic effect to an accuracy of 0.28 percent, and frame-dragging to within 20 percent."
Science marches on.
Gateway, to their significant discredit responded to my inquiry with level II unctuous apologies, and an offer for "out of warranty service / repair" for the low, low price of $199 USD (plus shipping). To them? Seriously? So they could say "gee, we tried to fix it, but n.g., here's a shiny new drive that you could've bought at the local office outlet for $100."
I held fire while I waited to see what would come of Seagate's review of the initial support call.
I'm happy to report that the review went well, verified my claim that I'd been told the drive would be fixed AT NO CHARGE, management had approved that resolution (honoring the contract we'd entered, how nice of them!) and a UPS tracking number would be posted for the drive's return shipping ASAP.
So, good on Seagate, bad on Gateway, and a word to the wise: find out if you have a Seagate HD in your computer, and if so, check their customer knowledge base to see if yours is in the affected group.
If it is, I STRONGLY recommend you do a full backup of your drive and get the firmware updated before you get to enjoy this kind of adventure involuntarily. And for heaven's sake, keep data you're not willing to lose at a moment's notice backed up.
Helen Caldicott is not nearly so sanguine about the consequences of either of our two greatest nuclear power disasters as some technologists are. The full effects of Fukushima Daiichi and the resolution of the tsunami-caused catastrophe are still TBD, but she's got issues with the notion that sure, Chernobyl was awful, but not that big a deal after all.
"There's great debate about the number of fatalities following Chernobyl; the International Atomic Energy Agency has predicted that there will be only about 4,000 deaths from cancer, but a 2009 report published by the New York Academy of Sciences says that almost one million people have already perished from cancer and other diseases. The high doses of radiation caused so many miscarriages that we will never know the number of genetically damaged fetuses that did not come to term. (And both Belarus and Ukraine have group homes full of deformed children.)
"Nuclear accidents never cease. We're decades if not generations away from seeing the full effects of the radioactive emissions from Chernobyl."
"Nuclear power is neither clean, nor sustainable, nor an alternative to fossil fuels—in fact, it adds substantially to global warming. Solar, wind and geothermal energy, along with conservation, can meet our energy needs."
It's in their nature, apparently, whether they have iOS or Android. Wired reports that Google faces a $50M lawsuit over their phone O/S tracking location, too.
My Seagate disk drive made its way across the country on UPS trucks and arrived save and sound in Schaumburg on Monday. They sent a little email assigning me a case number, as if there weren't enough numbers attached to this incident already. Then I got a phone call this morning, from the fellow who's my "consultant," to inform me that they had verified that my drive is inaccessible due to the firmware issue they've known about for more than two years.
But since this is an OEM drive, sold to us in a Gateway box, and Gateway and Seagate don't have a support deal in my favor, they can fix it right up ... for $300 they would.
I went ballistic, moderated only by the certain knowledge that my consultant was just reading from the playbook that someone else wrote and handed to him. Nothing personal. I pointed out that at the very least, my initial interaction with their agent had left me with the wrong impression, that their repair center was going to fix my drive, if it could be fixed with new firmware installed through their factory interface, for free, and that only if that failed would we be talking about for-pay services (which would start at $700, not $300, btw).
He's now "reviewing the audio recording of initial call with customer," which gee, I wish I'd recorded now, too.
Meanwhile, I spun up Gateway support channel, starting via "chat" enabled by giving a web form the serial number on the box. Short answer was so sorry, out of warranty, but he'd make a "one time best effort" to provide help. Further ballistics, and he was pressing those "auto text" buttons intended to placate the regular stream of customers he deals with who need placation. My favorite was this one:
"I can understand that you are really upset. I will do my best to help you."
I thought of asking him if he thought I should take a a stress pill, but didn't get around to it. What did get me to level II support (with an email address and a case number) was this:
"The system manufacture date was Dec. 2008. This problem was well known to Seagate and Gateway about that time as I can show you from published reports.
"You, Gateway, failed to notify us of the defect, and the update available to proactively fix the problem. So here we are. I will appreciate your 'one time best effort,' but I will also tell you that if I have to pay Seagate $300 to get my data back, you, Gateway, will have lost my business forever."
Tom von Alten tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org