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The big A1 headline in the thin Monday paper today is Should the Capitol restrict security videos? which is an odd introduction to the curious personal problems of one Bryan Carter of Meridian, Idaho, who we learn has been poking around the building for quite some time, and who has a real itch to see himself on TV.
The recordings that haven't been scrubbed in the laundry cycle will show him sporting some sort of weaponry, because he's a member of Idaho Carry, Open & Concealed, and thus doing his part to make the abnormal appear normal. I guess that's what ICOC's mission is, but it's not so clear that Carter is the right man for the job. (Their opinions may differ from mine. Somebody in the organization thought a one-winged eagle with a gunbelt and pistol was a good idea for a logo, so place your bets.)
This is not normal. It's also a waste of my tax dollars to have this guy absorbing staff time to find his cameo turns on state property. Never mind the merits or concerns about public records under consideration in HB 207, a records request for 95 hours of Capitol security video from last year? Oh, and he "asked state officals to review hours of video from November 2011 and allow him to copy video 'only for the duration I am present.'" Look for the guy with the baseball cap maybe.
Nobody had any reason to care for the last 15 months, but now we do care, and we want to know why Carter is so keen to see what security cameras saw back then, and to get a copy of it for his own use. While he's made himself into a person of front-page interest, he's staying a bit mum: Dan Popkey reports that Carter "did not reply to repeated requests for comment last week."
Carter's video fishing expedition has provided him with 4h 35min so far, "for five locations" in the Capitol one day last month. When that appearance made the news, he expressed grave regret. "It broke my heart that I caused the legislators a concern," he said.
Now here he is causing everyone in the state some concern, and costing us some money as well.
We want to know: what has he been looking for in the Capitol? And now, what is he afraid has been caught on security video?
The larger question has to do with the supposedly god-given right to sport firearms anywhere one chooses, and in our state Capitol in particular. I think it would make a lot of sense to have everybody but the Capitol Police check their weapons at the door, don't you? The legislators have drawn a conceptual line in the sand, at least, led by Senate Pro Tem Brent Hill wondering "What happens when six people come and sit in the front row of the gallery with shotguns across their laps?" and "sure as heck not going to leave my senators in there with that."
Why only six? Why shouldn't everyone in the gallery be armed?
It's up to the Legislature to say, and they seem to be rather hoist on their own petard. There was an executive order banning "guns and long knives" from 1996 to 2008, but current Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter let it expire, "citing a 2008 law in which the Legislature said it had exclusive power to regulate guns in Idaho."
What do you say, boys?
The print shop provided a little unintended humor over the top of the Reader's View opinion from Sen. Mike Crapo and Rep. Mike Simpson in today's paper, splattering page I2 with red ink. (The piece is not on the Statesman's web site, what's up with that?) Their subject is "national debt" and the message is in the headline, same as what they said at the symposium earlier this week: "Doing nothing is the worst option," especially after all the worse-than-nothing that Congress has done already.
But what caught my eye (since I'd written about the symposium in some detail yesterday) was their misquote of what Maya MacGuiness said, expanding her bit of hedged hypothetical hearsay to a flat-out "fact." From this:
"Our debt levels are now so high that, um, the evidence out there implies that the economy's not growing as fast as it otherwise could be, because we've already borrowed so much."
they distilled this: "Our economy is not growing as fast as it otherwise could be." Much punchier, to be sure. But not more facty.
Never mind that it's a hypothetical projection. Some say our economy's not growing as fast as it otherwise could be because the stimulus was too miserly, and we didn't "prime the pump" with more government spending. That's a more plausible argument, but also hypothetical.
Call it editorial license, and perhaps Ms. MacGuineas is perfectly happy to have our members of Congress polish her spoken prose into a tighter bullet point in support of their message about how we're "screaming toward insolvency" in "this terrible crisis." Is it as bad as the Iraq war? Do we need to go shopping more again?
But we hear what you're saying Mike and Mike. Things bad. Must do something. And we say... Yes! Please do something. You're half our state's delegation to Congress.
Dick Armey's FreedomWorks is working social media, closing in on 5 million Facebook fans, to further its goal of persuading states to avoid having health insurance exchanges because...
Well, I'll be damned if I can make much sense of it, but the big letters say BLOCK OBAMACARE EXCHANGES and then a button-like rendering of JOIN THE RESISTANCE, set off with a partially red-filled hypodermic needle, and the "when you swoosh upon a star" logo.
It's a hell of a piece of work.
Their blog is no help in explanation, the Health Care Reform posts ran out of gas almost two years ago. But the issues page is chock-full of doom and gloom. Refusing, unacceptable, increasing desperation, throw a wrench in, expensive, cumbersome, intrusive, blah blah blah.
Just think how negative they'd be if this hadn't actually been a conservative idea to start with.
Illustrate it with a girl tied to railroad tracks, the steam locomotive barreling toward her, and pianoforte agitato, while Professor Krugman sums up the story to date in a paragraph:
"Republicans engaged in unprecedented hostage-taking, threatening to push America into default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling unless President Obama agreed to a grand bargain on their terms. Mr. Obama, alas, didn't stand firm; instead, he tried to buy time. And, somehow, both sides decided that the way to buy time was to create a fiscal doomsday machine that would inflict gratuitous damage on the nation through spending cuts unless a grand bargain was reached. Sure enough, there is no bargain, and the doomsday machine will go off at the end of next week."
What do we do? What do we do?!
"The right policy would be to forget about the whole thing. America doesn't face a deficit crisis, nor will it face such a crisis anytime soon."
As compared to, say, the notion from the nice president of the University of Idaho introducing the Symposium on Federal Fiscal Issues with a panel of Very Serious People in Boise this week:
"There's no greater issue facing our nation, Congress and our President than the federal deficit and our national debt."
Truly, the sky is falling. Idaho Representative Mike Simpson said it will fall in the next 90 to 180 days. He was among the purported "leading experts" in the panel of five, comprising three current politicians, one former politician and now gadfly, and the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The CFRB's oversized board includes Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, and Maya MacGuineas' bio suggests "pundit amplifier" more than expert, but give her a chance.
(Read the rest of what ran a bit long for a blog post, and prompted me to update my home page and essay list.)
We didn't listen to the whole flipping six hour debate on SB 1042 in the Idaho Senate on Thursday, but we did hear some of it via Legslature Live, including the argument from Senator Dean Cameron (R-Rupert) that it was important for Idaho to run its own health insurance exchange because... not because he "is the pig in this case" (which he did say), nor because he wants to ride a pig with spurs on (which Sen. Marv "red shirt freshman" Hagedorn said), but because
"You do not weaken the federal government by defaulting to them. You do not weaken the federal government by abandoning the field of battle. You make them stronger."
He couldn't bring himself to come right out and say that Idaho is nothing more than a pimple on the butt of the country, but he got enough said to let anyone who was listening to fill in the blank. And yet we're going to be the pimple that roared. While riding a pig with spurs on. Which will weaken the federal government. Yay!
As far as I could tell, the purpose of the protracted debate was to give (almost) all the senators the chance to express how much they hate Obamacare, before voting 2 to 1 in favor of the state-based exchange called for by our (Republican) governor. More than a few also took the opportunity to express their disdain, disgust, or just plain old dis for all things federal. Such as Sen. Cameron there, who I thought was a comparatively reasonable guy, but maybe he just stumbled off the rails there about how he wanted us to weaken the federal government, because... that makes Idaho stronger?
I've got mixed feelings about whether Idaho should do its own exchange, or just go with the fed's generic one for the states that don't want to do their own. I think having each of the 50 states have their own whack at insurance regulation is nuts. If we ran government like a business—something Republicans love to say they'd love to do—there'd be mergers and acquisitions left, right and center. I'm not convinced by the testimonials from the GOP members that Idaho can do a better job... because we're so special? We're not, you know. And if the quality of the debate in our senate is any indication, we need outside help.
Yet if I look at the roll call, it's hard to imagine me agreeing with all those people on the NO side.
Having done a little 3D printing, and a little factory engineering back in the day, the notion of Printbot Jr. being a "factory on your kitchen counter" is every bit as absurdly quaint as inventing your own Pong games, but sure, it could happen. Then the next time the hour hand on your kitchen clock breaks, or you lose the cap to a shampoo bottle, fire up the Replicator 2 by MakerBot!
Mr. Drumm bought a kit a couple of years ago because he wanted to be "the first family on our block to have a 3-D printer," he said. After assembling the machine, a complicated task that required a knowledge of soldering, he and his 6-year-old son managed to print a bottle opener. "It took 45 minutes and it was kind of crappy, but I was encouraged," Mr. Drumm said. "O.K., we're doing this at our kitchen table."
On the other hand, if someone in the neighborhood bought one of these and set it up and maintained it and kept the reservoir full and would sell me inexpensive manufacturing services, that could get interesting, even if it doesn't get terribly cheap. One of the things they don't talk about is whether there are any useful engineering materials involved. It doesn't much matter what you squirt to make clock hands, "New York-themed" gewgaws, or "orthopedic inserts" to get your short daughter into amusement park rides she shouldn't be on, but when it comes time to fix the burner, blender, or espresso machine, it actually does.
There's no doubt something useful is just around the corner, but it remains to be seen what that might be.
Update: Little did I know, and probably not the sort of thing the president was cheerleading for in his State of the Union speech: Ready, print, fire: making gun( part)s at home. As mentioned in the Guns in America segment of the PBS special series, "After Newtown," this is probably not a good idea for several reasons, not the least the stated purpose of "[expanding] a free sphere of action...in contradistinction to a planned regulatory scheme."
Managing our solar gain with trees and open windows and low night-time humidity, we don't burn a lot of electricity to drive the air conditioner at our place. There might be a handful of days or a week each year that plan A fails for one reason or another, so an offer of $21 a summer to let Idaho Power install a remote control switch to possibly throttle our peak usage seemed like a sweet deal.
Not that our participation would matter, but if enough people gave the company some control over end-user demand to trim peak loading, maybe we could delay a power plant from being built or something, right?
Funny thing happened on the way to not building another power plant, though: thanks to the economic downturn, the utility figures it can meet peak demand without the A/C Cool Credit program for the next four years, and they think it will be cheaper to burn natural gas than to keep paying air conditioner customers and irrigators that credit they agreed to.
In a negotiated settlement between Idaho Power, the PUC staff, the Idaho Irrigation Pumpers Association, the Idaho Conservation League and the Snake River Alliance (and still pending PUC approval), we'll be getting $1 a month in the summer instead of $7. If we want them to come take that box off the side of the house instead, they will, but if the program ever comes back they'll demand $85 (as compared to $zero the first time around) to re-install it. Just a coincidence that that would amount to a 4-year payback for the Cool Credit discount? Probably not. Also probably not a coincidence that our total bill has gone up by more than $7 a month on average since when this program got underway about a decade ago.
Patronage jobs are always at risk, so don't accuse me of Schadenfreude for noting that "firing most of their 100 staffers at American for Prosperity" is slightly precious. But hey, you spend ten $bazillion on a losing proposition, you should conduct an audit to see what went wrong, by all means. Or at least review the breakfast menu plan.
Even with some catharsis from pointing and laughing however, I'm not convinced that the problems of money in politics are as easily solved as letting "pretty dumb" rich people spread more of it around. Just as "proof" by repeated assertion is convincing enough for a lot of government work, simply discrediting a bad idea will not lay it to rest.
"This is the GOP's current internal debate in a nutshell: Do we need to change our ideas? Or just the packaging? Given Marco Rubio's State of the Union response restating Mitt Romney's platform, it seems both the party and the Kochs are leaning toward the latter."
H/t to @LOLGOP and retweeter slisher for the link to The Atlantic Wire.
Do we? The WSJ reports that a gaggle of Senators talking about immigration reform are considering a national identity card again, "high-tech" of course, and with "fingerprints or other personal markers to prove a person's legal eligibility to work." How about a little personal DNA inside?
"The lawmakers haven't committed to the 'biometric' ID card, and are wary of any element that might split the fragile coalition of Democrats, Republicans and outside organizations working toward agreement on a broad overhaul of immigration laws."
Yes, best be wary, and drop this like a hot rock, I'd say.
He's got a low profile everywhere (including his home state), and "conservative" usually goes without saying around here, but who knew? Idaho's Jim Risch is the most conservative in the U.S. Senate, according to National Journal. We are so lucky to have him.
Sure, there were 21 other Senators to vote against renewing the Violence Against Women Act (state's rights! don't you know), but just that one in Idaho.
Although driving into a brick wall or hitting your thumb with a hammer might be better metaphors. The next-up deadline is the March 1st sequester, that mutually agreed means to force Congress to act which is not working, unless you call a game of hot potato "work." This child looks like a lot of our D.C. fathers, but nobody wants to claim paternity just now.
This is SO VERY SERIOUS that Congresscritters had to take a couple of weeks off to clear their heads. Two of ours and a few others made their way to a symposium sponsored by the U of I where they could look very serious and say clever things such as
"The one thing I've discovered is for every complex problem, there is a simple solution that doesn't work."
Hard-earned wisdom from my Congressman, Mike Simpson, one of the less obstreperous and useless members of the House (compared to, say you know). His forecast seems likely enough too:
"I think sequestration is going to kick into effect, because I don't see the will on either side of the aisle to try to address what are painfully stupid cuts—it's a meat ax."
Painfully stupid seems to be the lead story right now. Congress' approval ratings may be lower than a slug in your salad, but individual members never seem to suffer for it. The impasse in Washington is so bad... they all had to take a couple weeks off, come home and look after their fundraising.
Here's an idea: let's make sure that members of Congress suffer first from their failure to do their jobs and manage the federal budget appropriately. As a measure of (undeserved) generosity, we could let them choose what order they want to give up their pay and perks: choose from salary, travel budget, office space, pension, healthcare insurance, staff budget, talk show time, and so on.
If we're feeling not-so-generous, we could make them wear GPS ankle bracelets and extradict them back to the D.C. area if they try to take another vacation before their serious work is accomplished.
Questions were being raised well before the Dynamis trash-to-energy project got on my radar last June, but the stink was clear enough when the Idaho Statesman poured ink over a Sunday front page in September. The details of how Dynamis had dissipated $2 million were wholly incompatible with the theory that they'd be paying the money back to the county.
But there's good news, too: for sticking a fork in this thing, county taxpayers get to avoid the legal costs of responding to a countersuit and whatever amount of specific performance Dynamis might have been able to command. Even a very small fraction of the total $70 million price tag would have made our sunk $2 mil look cheap.
Tuesday morning at the courthouse, everyone's getting together to sign the death certificate. So hooray for us.
What FDR said on the occasion of his inauguration in 1933, a dark time in our economic history that preceded an even darker time of global war:
"This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. ..."
That comes to mind after the Valentine's Day excitement at an area middle school, triggered by a school staffer imagining an 8th grader with a folding shovel was "a man carrying a double-bladed axe." Shades of Paul Bunyan, minus the bovine companion.
I have a double-bladed cruising hatchet which I was persuaded to buy on the advice that it was a good component of an essential self-sufficiency toolkit, but years later, I believe that advice was lame. A regular old single-bladed Boy Scout hatchet provides a broader range of function, pounding and cutting. Swinging both ways? That's kind of silly, isn't it? I've bushwhacked and whacked some bushes, and having two blades never made much difference. Maybe it helps focus the user's attention knowing what's in the hand is trouble either way. But I digress.
Unlike the duck-and-cover of my youth (possibly imagined; at most, I did that once or twice before it was recognized as pointless, and/or paranoid), one could argue that a lockdown drill is useful these days. Many did. We were able to find out how quickly five dozen law enforcement officers can converge on a school, exercise the automated voice messaging system to make a thousand calls, test the stress response of hundreds of parents and youngsters, teach kids to reach for the sky when told to by someone with a gun, and yes, let our children know that police have a very serious job sometimes, "to protect and serve."
There's to be some study and debrief, to analyze how well the "best practices model" was applied, and how well that worked. Perhaps the first thing we could agree on is that we need better surveillance cameras? Something not-so-grainy so that we might have a clue whether "a 3-foot-long object" in the hand of "a boy, about 5 feet 6 inches tall, wearing a Boise State T-Shirt" is part of a school project, or a prelude to mayhem. (But please, don't put the cameras on drones, ok?)
After the sorry debacle of the Idaho Senate's rejecting the governor's appointee to the Fish and Game Commission for the first time since 1974, a few closing words. The spurned nominee, Joan Hurlock had been serving on the commission for six months, and the people she served with supported her.
What she said Senator Monty Pearce said was "I am sure the governor could appoint you to another commission, maybe the nursing board."
Because... she's female, and everyone knows that qualifies you to be a nurse? What he said to the Statesman: "I'm not going there," meaning, as Rocky Barker put it he wouldn't engage in a he-said, she-said situation.
Now if Pearce had not said what she said he said, I'd say he would have certainly denied it. Because otherwise, he looks like kind of an idiot, doesn't he?
As does the Senator who led the opposition to Hurlock, Lee Heider (R-Twin Falls), fishing for ammunition around a group that helps wounded soldiers go backcountry hunting: in spite of ample opportunities to talk about the (non-)issue with Hurlock, he liked someone else's story well enough that he didn't trouble himself to confront Hurlock directly; just made sure he torpedoed the nomination based on the hearsay and whatever other reasons.
Which would leave us with Hurlock done with the volunteer (!) position on the F&G commission, Pearce and Heider looking like good old boy miscreants, and what else is new in Idaho, except for this item from Marty Trillhaase of the Lewiston Tribune, wondering if maybe the sooper secret anti-Hurlock evidence Pearce had hinted at (aside from a whiff of environmentalist about her, god forbid!) was that she chipped in several hundred bucks to Otter's opposition, wacky loser Rex Rammell.
"Supporting such a character would make anyone a questionable choice for Fish and Game. Is this what Pearce knew but couldn't talk about?
"Is Pearce that clever? No, really, is he?"
Beats me; he doesn't seem to be. And if Otter was miffed about Hurlock's support for Rammell, why would he nominate her to something?
On the plus side for Tim Heider, he's shown that he's at least clever enough to drop a really horrible idea he came up with for a "one strike and you're out" bill, "requir[ing] public school boards to deny enrollment to any student convicted of a violent felony and youths sentenced for any misdemeanor that carries a year or more in prison."
Betsy Russell reported "he said he realized language in the legislation could create unintended consequences for young people who get into trouble." You think?
Idaho's answer to recent calls for reconsideration of gun control served as a SOTU prebuttal: our legislators showing how much at home on the range they are, complete with 78-year old Rep. JoAn Wood enjoying the pleasure of shooting a Thompson submachine gun, planning to be ready the next time burglars come to rob her gun safe. ("It's too bad they're outlawed. For me, it might almost be safer.") That story could have been in the "Outdoor" section as well as "Idaho Politics," but the Statesman found space in their "Business Insider," go figure.
The barrage of whinge-nut letters to the editor (and yes, the bleeding heart liberal ones too) is not letting up any time soon, with Monday's sampling including "Freedom has a price," "Supremacy clause" and "Join Oath Keepers" on one hand, "NRA is not a friend," "Background checks" and "Raney is correct" on the other.
Actually, Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney walked back some nuance, lest anyone imagine he'd gone all squishy and anti-second amendment on us, as apparently some folks did, after the Reader's View that I applauded last month.
He might have been aware of the opinions of Freeper PotatoGun, whose "gut has been telling [him] to find a place outside of Boise" (feel free) or Will Grigg, who put two and two together and figures Raney would have been catching slaves in 1854. ("Let us take back the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.")
Doug Traubel of Mountain Home closed his letter with a cry of "Molon labe!" leaving me to wonder if those might have been Christopher Dorner's last words in his shootout in the San Bernardino mountains. If there was any interagency contention between local, county, state, and federal law enforcement officers involved in that manhunt, it didn't make it through the news filter.
What did make it through my personal filter turned into a dream last night that had me out hunting with a couple friends, and then looking the wrong way down a double-barreled shotgun being mishandled by a stumblebum member of another hunting party that wandered through our bivouac. "Please don't point your gun at me" I said, pushing the end of the barrel away from me, but he kept doing it, for no particular reason and ignoring my firm insistence on the most basic element of gun safety. I woke up thinking, that was disturbing.
This Sunday, we'll have a better-mannered conversation (I have to assume) on the subject, at the symposium hosted by the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and co-sponsored by the ACLU of Idaho and The Interfaith Alliance, with representatives from the NRA and the Idaho Sheriffs Association in the panel, among others. We can weigh the balance between our rights, and the longing for peaceful coexistence some of us have. What our President said in last night's State of the Union address should be part of the discussion:
"Overwhelming majorities of Americans—Americans who believe in the Second Amendment—have come together around common-sense reform, like background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun ... tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals ... [and] to get weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines off our streets...
"Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. Now, if you want to vote no, that's your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote. ...
"Hadiya [Pendleton ]'s parents, Nate and Cleo ... deserve a vote. Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora deserve a vote. The families of Oak Creek and Tucson and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence—they deserve a simple vote."
"We need to pay our bills on time, and always uphold the full faith and credit of the United States of America..."
The Speaker of the House sat on his hands. He's got no enthusiasm for that idea.
Without the benefit of the notice from his office, I didn't hear about Congressman Eric Cantor's "major policy speech" delivered to the American Enterprise Institute. His website provides advance excerpts, and the "news" that he was on the news, but I didn't find the actual speech anywhere.
Oh well. Paul Krugman apparently found a copy, and was slightly underwhelmed. It's not always easy to tell the difference between stupid and ignorance, but they're both problems, we have to agree on that. But depending on your point of view, the responsive action may differ:
"One side believes, at least in principle, in letting its policy views be shaped by facts; the other believes in suppressing the facts if they contradict its fixed beliefs."
That would be why Republicans in Virginia's State Legislature have specifically prohibited the use of the words "sea-level rise." It's "a left-wing term," don't you know. Still, I'm not sure it will keep Norfolk any better off to limit conversation to "recurrent flooding," and "increased flooding risk."
Perhaps a statue of Moses holding up his arms overlooking Chesapeake Bay will help keep Norfolk dry.
Let's just say if the Congress were running a business, bankruptcy could be just around the corner. Exhibit A is the US Postal Service, which is in transition, to be sure, and may or may not be prepared to respond to the changes in the market and technology. But what other business has to deal with this crazy requirement:
"A 2006 law requires the early payment of 75 years worth of retiree benefits within 10 years."
Business planning horizons don't often extend to 75 months; a lot can happen in 5 or 6 years. Even in something as slow moving as utilities, 20 or 30 years makes for enough uncertainty to drive a fleet of coal trains and a Canadian pipeline through.
In Q1 of FY2013, this accelerated funding of far-forecast future obligations accounts for all of the red ink: $1.4 billion outlay, $1.3 billion net loss. Still, the service is figuring out how to replace declining revenues for first class mail with increasing revenues in shipping packages, and came close to breaking even, in spite of the Congressional millstone around its neck.
The Postmaster General seems prepared to run his business like a business, and ignore his dysfunctional congressional overlords, starting with axing Saturday mail delivery (while keeping package delivery going).
Does this matter? Well, the Postal Service is the second largest ("private"?) employer in the country, after Walmart, and pays its employees well enough that they don't need public assistance for food stamps and Medicaid. That's reason enough for the Koch Brothers and the Cato Institute to push for privatizing, I suppose.
I don't remember that part about "how a bill becomes law" in Civics class where it's signed into law and then the rump of one chamber of Congress chokes it to death in the back room, but here: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is getting filibustered-after-the-fact by Senate Republicans. Think of it as delivering on their timeless promise of government ineffectiveness. Idaho's own Mike Crapo has his bold signature next to Mitch McConnell on page 1 of the February 1 letter to the president, ahead of the foot soldiers (thanks to his position as ranking member of Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, I suppose). Never lacking for a direct approach, they lead with the big lie:
"As supporters of strong and effective consumer protections..."
Since when would that be? Going on about "serious concerns about the lack of congressional oversight" (because we know how well that works), accountability, transparency, bipartisan, and never, ever, forget "commonsense." Enough said!
The New York Times editorial board, on quietly killing the consumer watchdog:
"These arguments are designed solely to give Congress more opportunities to stop financial regulation. A board evenly divided between the parties would quickly reach a stalemate and become inoperative, much as the Federal Election Commission has become. Besides, board members can be filibustered as easily as a director.
"Other bank regulators, like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, are not subject to the appropriations process, as a shield against political interference. Congress does, however, control the budgets of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and House Republicans have voted to strip those agencies of money needed to regulate derivatives and curb abuses. The consumer bureau was enacted by law, and now Republicans are using backdoor methods to destroy it. There is no greater argument for Senate Democrats to ban filibusters of presidential nominees, particularly when the future of an entire agency is at stake."
Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, puts it in plainer language:
"[T]hey [will] not confirm Richard Cordray to a full term as Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director unless the agency's powers and independence [are] first gutted."
More market uncertainty, more roadblocks to an economic recovery, and less protection against the non-banks (payday lenders, credit bureaus, mortgage companies, et al.) who have growing creative power to make lives miserable.
I saw just the end of the 60 Minutes segment last night, 40 Million Mistakes: Is your credit report accurate? And here's the just-released FTC study showing that the $4 billion a year industry runs with a 10 to 20% error rate. As Steve Kroft showed, if you're trying to get one of those errors fixed, and get routed to a call center in some other country from a credit report toll-free number, don't let the globalization bother you. "Regardless of where they are or who you talk to, they won't be much help."
The 60 Minutes team took a trip to Chile to talk to three former "dispute agents" for Experian. They didn't do "investigation," they translated letters and complaints into two-digit codes and three line summaries. If there was a difference of opinion... ?
"The creditor was always right."
FTC press release highlight bullet points (with my emphasis):
In the 60 Minutes report, Kroft notes that "much of what's known about the inner workings of the consumer credit agencies comes out of lawsuits filed by Len Bennett and Sylvia Goldsmith, who have subpoenaed company records and deposed employees and executives. They say under the current system, there is no way for people [such as the gal with debts from someone else—with a different name— on her credit report] to get their problems solved."
Steve Kroft: "So all these people who take the time to meticulously document their case, that the bill isn't theirs, or the bill has been paid, that is never seen by anybody?"
Len Bennett: "It's not seen by anyone who considers it in determining whether or not information will be removed from a credit report. ... It's never forwarded on—never—forwarded on to the creditor." "Without qualification, the dispute procedures used by the credit reporting agencies uniformly used completely fail to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Courts have found that. The Federal Trade Commission has found that. It's not even a close call."
Dear Senate Republicans: tell us that story again about how you're "supporters of strong and effective consumer protections."
The Idaho Legislature muddled along for quite a few years without my personal attention, and will no doubt proceed as it chooses. In my few attempts at persuasion, I can't say I've felt the power, although seeing badly crafted "education reform" legislation intended to make our schools safe for corporate service providers crash and burn at the hands of voters last November (and yes, now rising again like the phoenix) gave some cause for optimism. There is a bridge too far, even if it may have to be burned more than once. (This year's approach includes a "divide and conquer" element: Proposition 1 sliced into seven tranches, an approach that served so well in creative mortgage financing.)
One of our legislature's "features" is that committee chairman have rather remarkable powers of obstruction when it suits them, and a bit of a bully pulpit as well, if they like that idea. State Sen. John Goedde does, and here he is waving a bad novel cum objectivist manifesto that he "thinks" high school students should be required to read, because it made his son a Republican. Ha ha. (Ha ha ha.)
He was "sending a message to the State Board of Education, because he's unhappy with its recent move to repeal a rule requiring two online courses to graduate from high school, and with its decision to back off on another planned rule regarding principal evaluations." A "shot over their bow," to use a ballistic metaphor that's apparently especially communicative in these parts.
That gives us an idea why he did something, and that what he did was deliberately mis-aimed, but really, a shot over the bow? Demonstrating the reach and power of his long gun, to give the message "I can blow you up if I feel like it." His role in promoting the so-called Luna laws for education reform was amply incendiary, before the voters nullified his work last fall.
If nothing else, it's another chance to put Idaho in national comedy news. Michael Moynihan has a poke at the bumpkins for The Daily Beast, with a chance to say more about pedagogy than I think the chair of our state senate education committee has actually considered. It should really go without saying that "students are often more clever than academics, legislators, and philanthropists assume and aren't willing to simply adopt the politics of whatever book is plunked down on their desk."
Goedde's attempt to show the State Board of Education that he was more powerful (if not more clever) than they are may have backfired. The message received seems more likely "watch out, we have a loose cannon in the legislature." Heaven help us when he fires for effect.
Another member of Goedde's committee has introduced a bill, this one apparently in all seriousness, to "deny enrollment to any pupil found guilty of a crime of violence or who was imprisoned for more than one year." Something happened, once in a high school near him, and given that he has twenty-seven grandchildren in public schools, well. It sailed into Goedde's committee "with little discussion and no objection." Given a chance to comment, the head of the state's Department of Correction said something to the effect of wow, that's a terrible idea. As did Kevin Wilson, commenting on Kevin Richert's Idaho Education News blog post:
"[S]tatistics from other states showing that between 40 and 45 percent of dropouts wind up in the correction system, so this misguided legislation seems a particularly effective way to keep the School-to-Prison Pipeline running at full throttle. The additional benefit, of course, is that it helps to supply lots of new customers to the corporations that we've allowed to privatize the prison system. The only thing surprising about this unsurprisingly retrograde idea is that its sponsor, Sen. Lee Heider, didn't have the foresight to market it as education reform."
Since there is less than unanimity on the question, Idaho state GOP chairman Barry Peterson put out a presser to remind the Idaho State Legislature "that the state's Republicans stand opposed to the creation of a state health insurance exchange."
Some stand opposed anyway, even if not the Governor, C.L. "Butch" Otter. Maybe Peterson should check the Governor's website on the subject. His goal is to improve healthcare in Idaho. What's yours?
"The Idaho Republican Party's position is clear and irrefutable. We want no part of Obamacare. We want the state to reject the implementation of a health insurance exchange. We want the state to appropriate no money for an insurance exchange, and we want Idaho to be among the growing number of states that have refused to go along with an insurance exchange," said Idaho GOP Chairman Barry Peterson.
I don't think "irrefutable" means what you think it means, Mr. Peterson.
But I get that there is division in the ranks. Here we have
junior Congressman playing hooky from the actual job he's collecting
a six-figure paycheck for, to
campaign for Governor persuade
credulous new state legislators to just say no, no, no to everything and
anything that's part of Obamacare. House Health & Welfare Committee
Chairman Fred Wood says
"You have to wonder why a member of Congress who has so many issues on his plate at the federal level would come back and start—I don't know what the word is—but start meddling in the affairs of the state Legislature. To me, that's almost like somebody that goes off to college and comes back to high school. I mean, you've graduated and gone on to bigger and better things. What are you doing back here?"
Indeed. Maybe he got tired of sleeping on the mattress in his D.C. office? Or was hoping to change the subject from the single most embarrassing personnel decision by a member of Congress so far this year. (Don't worry Raúl, the year is still young.)
At any rate, Labrador's effort came up short in the Senate Commerce Committee, which just voted 8-1 in favor the Otter's health insurance exchange bill. (One of our few Democrats was the "no" vote, explaining on that "this legislation was exceptionally poorly written. The lack of legislative oversight is ... a real issue that should be of concern to many.")
As for Labrador's day job, he was apparently able to phone it in, via NPR (how's that for some Tea Party irony?) that he's not going along with the bipartisan immigration ideas, thankyouverymuch.
House Republicans "are not going to be able to vote for" a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a key GOP voice in the debate said Thursday.
By which I think he meant they won't want to, not they won't be able to, because you know, he only got one vote for Speaker and John Boehner is still kind of in charge.
Joe Nocera used to write mostly about business, but enjoys a wider latitude as a NYT columnist. Still, his piece about the Academic Counseling Racket, being about the NCAA, which is decidedly Big Business, is not so far afield. The story of one athletes personal travails, and the larger, scandalous foundations of academics serving sports rather than the other way around, brought back memories.
When what was deemed "financial exigency" led to the shuttering of the Learning Center at the University of Idaho, they discovered that the football program had a problem. Its players rather needed the help in learning and study skills, and tutoring if they were going to keep the grades up well enough to stay on the team. (Nocera talks about an alternate approach at the University of North Carolina, and probably others, "paper classes." "There wasn't any class. You sign up. You write the paper. You get credit," as Michael McAdoo succinctly describes.)
The UofI rather quickly reinstated the program they'd axed (having shunted its developer and champion off tenure track and into adjunct-like terms, before the educational innovation of "adjunct faculty" had been established) and saved the football team, sort of. (Winning is the only thing, after all, and the Vandals are long unwinning.)
So I went for a virtual campus walk to see what traces might be left of the organization I worked for once upon a time. I found the UofI Student Affairs page for Academic Support & Access Programs ("ASAP," cute), which starts with welcoming me to Tutoring and Academic Assistance Programs ("TAAP," which wasn't cute enough, perhaps).
"As you explore our website you'll see three unique programs," ASAP says, leading me to ask "what are these three unique programs?" and "why don't they just tell me right here where I'm reading, and provide hyperlinks?"
TAAP has an office, noted by the location map in the sidebar. The Street View link was curiously turned around, looking at "Malcom Renfrew Hall," which took me a few moments to recognize as the Physical Sciences building (I think) where I worked in a chemistry lab one summer (I'm sure). You know you're getting older when the people you once knew have turned into buildings. Turning around, an unfamiliar entrance, faint lettering on the wall, "Library." New library? No, a new entrance to the expanded library, Modern boxiness made PoMo with a bulbout, a twisted box on the side and an angular swoosh out one corner. Having the TAAP office in the Library would make sense, and if so, why didn't they just say so? Across from the library, building #678 (of 174, give or take), is now the "Teaching and Learning Center," remodeled from the University Classroom Center (UCC) ten years ago, the original architectural design borrowed from a warmer climate, all rooms with doors opening to the outside world and no interior hallways.
It's not so interactive, but the good old, printer-friendly campus map still gets the job done, and thanks for both alphabetic and numerical indexes. GoogleMaps' campus map on the other hand seems undergraduated. The "University of Idaho Library" book icon is parked on the intersection of Idaho Ave. and Rayburn St., the TLC mysteriously disappeared next to the new (to me) Idaho Commons on the other side of it. The TLC can't hide from the satellite view, and sits under the University of Idaho mortarboard.
But the Street View wouldn't lie, would it? In the mall between Library and the "Idaho Commons," and down the hill a bit on the NW corner, a sign, "TEACHING AND LEARNING CENTER" and maybe that's the entrance behind the wall and the trees? Yes, it must be. Ah, "Contact Us" on ASAP's page did include a building address, Idaho Commons 306. (Maybe the 3rd floor is street level from the Line St. side, so that Disability Support Services is accessible without having to use an elevator, thus furthering its mission "to facilitate inclusion by reducing/eliminating barriers, whether they are attitudinal, structural, programmatic or otherwise." But I don't think so.)
It took a while, but I finally struck gold in ASAP/TAAP/TLC, Tutoring & College Success, available for ALL UofI students, and sounding rather much like the Learning Center I worked for back in the late 70s and early 80s, with a course in learning and study skills (now "INTR 101 Focus on Success," "in which practical skills and strategies are integrated into students' academic curricula"). ASAP shows a staff of 14 altogether, and... three working in the Tutoring and Academic Assistance Programs, rather just like the good old days.
Go Vandals go, all bear down for Idaho.
At least as of the 2,641st click in the Two-way's poll below their news item that the iron is out, and someone let the cat in for Monopoly tokens.
I guess this is already old news for Today Show viewers, where Hasbro announced its Facebook vote? And it's hard to get worked up about the demise of an iron, especially a cold iron. Scottie was a distant second, keeping company with Battleship and Car. I picked Thimble, but I'm not sure why. It's always been there for me.
CBS News reports the U.S. Postal Service is expected to announce they're going to stop delivering mail on Saturdays (continuing with packages), which I read shortly after seeing the nice letter to the editor from Sharon Atkins, president of the Idaho Rural Letter Carriers Association pointing out what the NYT points out that the agency's losing money is "mainly due to a 2006 law which requires it to pay about $5.5 billion a year into a future retiree health benefit fund."
Because Congress said so, that's why.
That's prefunding that no one coerces out of the fully private sector. But if last year's net loss was $15.6 billion, eliminating that future retiree health benefit prefunding would be well short of making ends meet. All that and $2 billion saved from ending Saturday delivery won't get it, either, by most of an 11 digit sum.
The American Postal Workers Union complains that ending six-day delivery would add to the financial problems, but it's not explained how that could be. The volume of useful mail is headed inexorably downward, and it's more convenient to ignore online ads than it is to recycle junk mail.
Not sure what the answer is, but I'm on the 70% side of popular opinion that ending Saturday delivery is part of the solution.
Today's cover story in the Idaho Statesman's Business Insider section is about Idaho's Great Wage Trench as they call it, 5 page spread with big color pictures and data graphics, and a related one-page story, Why minimum-wage labor isn't so cheap from the Idaho Falls Post Register. The web rendering isn't so lovely, but aside from the pictures of the car wash guy and surgical technicians, there is the How Idaho fell behind with source citation for the Idaho Department of Labor.
What isn't on that graph, or in Bill Roberts' cover story is the vaguest mention of the Right to Work law that Idaho passed in 1986, with "promises of freedom and prosperity offered up by those who waged a nasty and well-financed campaign" (as Idaho AFL-CIO president Rian Van Leuven put it in his December Reader's View). That was at the bottom of the "deep recession and decline in the natural resources sector's economic strength" noted in the 1980s, from which Idaho wages have never recovered. (Plenty of folks commenting on the story noted the omission; the word "union" does not appear in the body of the story, just the comments.) The vaunted high-tech sector that was going to save us barely made a bump in the mid-90s.
Roberts did find space for NNU professor Peter Crabb's observation that wages aren't as low as they seem because the 3.4% increase over inflation in the last three decades "doesn't reflect factors such as the cost of health insurance premiums paid by companies, which are effectively an increase in pay that doesn't show up in wages." As compared to other states? The map graphic with states' data shows us lagging all our neighbors save Montana (where wages have failed to even keep pace with inflation): Oregon and Wyoming +7.9%, Utah +12.2%, Nevada +6.5%, Washington +18.2%. Most of the states are in the 10 to 30% range. The data in the "neighborhood" graphic, wage growth from 2007 to 2012, shows Idaho 6th out of 7 states, leading only Nevada.
The story ends with the question "Will things get better?" and quotes U of I research economist Steven Peterson, and Crabb, with maybes. High-tech, better education. Good luck.
It wouldn't have occurred to me to wonder whether Right to Work laws led to higher wages and benefits, because my expectation is exactly the opposite. That's the whole point of the laws, after all. But rather incredibly, all sorts of people do make that argument. Media Matters for America dispatches the "myth." Right-To-Work laws force employees To "work for lower wages and fewer benefits." The Economic Policy Institute estimates a 3% decrease, $1,500/year.
Dana Milbank provides the color commentary for Wayne LaPierre's star turn on Capitol Hill with some nice NHL flavor, about how his bodyguards "bumped and body-checked journalists out of the way so they couldn’t film LaPierre or question him as he walked." His boastful bio ("acclaimed speaker and political force of nature") is telling, but the delicately filleted statistics were the point he wanted to make. Just remember "only 62 were referred for prosecution" and never mind that oh, that was for Chicago alone, and a national number—for federal gun crimes—was 11,700, in one year.
LaPierre's biographical claim for "Renaissance man" follows the NRA's transformation described by Tim Dickinson's feature in Rolling Stone well enough, even if the "skilled hunter" part is going to be harder to prove than the president's life-long love of busting up clay targets.
"According to NRA legend, LaPierre is actually a menace with a gun. NRA's PR team once thought it would be sexy to film LaPierre at a firing range. "It was a nightmare," an NRA staffer told [NRA biographer Osha Gray] Davidson. LaPierre was aiming downrange for the camera when an engineer called for a sound check. To answer the man, LaPierre swung around, but he failed to lower his rifle, aiming it directly at the engineer—before someone took the gun away from LaPierre. The incident, terrifying at the time, became a dark joke at NRA headquarters. Staffers behind on their projects were threatened that they'd have to "go hunting with Wayne." (The NRA's press office did not reply to Rolling Stone inquiries.)"
Greg Sargent's Morning Plum gets closer to the bulls-eye in discussing Skeetgate, "the latest sign that the right remains very, very good at getting news orgs to follow shiny bouncy balls." (Or squirrels.) Not to put too fine a point on it,
"The question of whether Obama did or didn't engage in skeet shooting is utterly, totally, completely irrelevant to any of the actual policy proposals that are being discussed right now."
As perhaps could be discerned from tapping into the inevitably ongoing coverage of individual and group mayhem (such as Joe Nocera's dark quote-without-comment column, now a continuing gun report), including the sad story of the shooting range as mental health therapy failing.
In little more than a decade, the NRA's work as agent for industry development has changed LaPierre's talking points from "no guns in America's schools, period," to the more recent "the more guns, the better for everyone." (I paraphrase, slightly.)
"The shift in LaPierre's rhetoric underscores a radical transformation within the NRA. Billing itself as the nation's 'oldest civil rights organization,' the NRA still claims to represent the interests of marksmen, hunters and responsible gun owners. But over the past decade and a half, the NRA has morphed into a front group for the firearms industry, whose profits are increasingly dependent on the sale of military-bred weapons like the assault rifles used in the massacres at Newtown and Aurora, Colorado. ...
"Today's NRA stands astride some of the ugliest currents of our politics, combining the 'astroturf' activism of the Tea Party, the unlimited and undisclosed 'dark money' of groups like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, and the sham legislating conducted on behalf of the industry through groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council. 'This is not your father's NRA,' says Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, a top gun-industry watchdog. Feldman is more succinct, calling his former employer a 'cynical, mercenary political cult.'"
"The NRA wins because Americans lose focus. Because our outrage fades after each new heartbreak. Because by November 2014, most of us won't be thinking about the victims of Newtown. Most of us won't be thinking about guns at all—while millions of activists, riled by Wayne LaPierre and the NRA, will be thinking of nothing else. If this time is going to be different, Americans have to act different, give different, vote different. In his speech laying out his gun-safety agenda in January, President Obama was absolutely right: 'This will not happen unless the American people demand it.'"
While most people were ga-ga over the Super Bowl and Beyoncé, I was a lot more interested in the Davis Cup matches being played around the world this weekend. The USA had a dramatic go against an underdog Brazilian team who managed to beat the Bryan Brothers (which just about nobody has done in Davis Cup matches), and force it to the fifth rubber which went as far as a tiebreak in the fourth set between Sam Querry and Thiago Alves.
Oh, and that seven hour doubles match between Switzerland and the Czech Republic (which no, I didn't watch the whole thing, because fortunately I heard a spoiler, and could settle for just a couple hours of it).
So, what's next? How about the next Davis Cup match in Boise, Idaho?! Against Serbia!
When the final was in Portland, Oregon in 2007 I tried to get tickets and got skunked. This time... "ticket prices, set by the USTA, could range from $100 to $500 for a three-day pass," which, gulp, a bit of a challenge, but then the travel and hotel expenses will be quite modest.
The tie between Brazil and the USA this weekend in Jacksonville, Florida, looked badly underattended, with almost every view of the crowd showing lots of empty seats. What's up with that, Florida?
The Boise State University Arena (also known by a chain restaurant with naming rights, can't bring myself to say which) can hold a lot of people, but coach Patton told 'em "you bring it to Boise and we're going to pack it" so that's what we'll have to do. Two months from now!
My referrer objected, mildly, that I didn't address Godin's preliminary comment that "of course, this post isn't actually about airports" (probably why he titled his blog post eleven things organizations can learn from airports). But that said, he enjoyed reading my comments, he said.
I didn't try to be explicit about how my comments could be about organizations, but one could read them that way... or ok, I could spell it out.
Really, the most appropriate response is simple ridicule. Wonkette provides the reference implementation, for the complaint that our president is preparing to send insurance companies to death camps by first getting them to accept the state health insurance exchanges, as told by Senator Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood.
For those of you not from around here, Cottonwood is a lovely place, high on the rolling hills of the Camas Prairie, about 50 miles from nowhere, and with a population just below a thousand and shrinking. Nuxoll's district (7) comprises three whole counties (Shoshone, Clearwater and Idaho) and a piece of a fourth (Bonner), stretching more than 200 miles top to bottom.
Not many contestants in a geography bee could place it on an unlabeled map, but Nuxoll has definitely marked her place on the conceptual map of Tea Party wingnuttery.
Update: Social media aggregator (I guess it is) Chumly taps the source vein of nuttery from Senator Nuxoll. A whole week after she came up with that brilliant metaphor connecting the Holocaust and the impending demise she sees for health insurance companies, her course correction was to test whether people would have been upset if she'd said "Catholics" instead of "Jews."
I think it's safe to say she hasn't dug up a clue quite yet.
And in other news "from a constituent," health professionals are asking about weapons, and weapons at home... as part of a conspiracy? An inquiring mob of "Senator Monty Pearce, Representative Judy Boyle, Gem State Tea Party, Oath Keepers, and various other groups. Many members of the public" would like to know the answer to her closing question from earlier today:
"Do you think that the State or Federal Exchange will force doctors to ask the questions: Do you own guns at home? Do you have weapons on you?"
Um, Senator, do you have any idea whatsoever a health insurance exchange is? But the business of forcing doctors to ask questions, that is a familiar meme; many anti-abortion state legislators are attempting to impose such requirements, as one of the many hurdles and hoops between women and control of their bodies.
Say what you will about Frank VanderSloot (and take your chances in court), but he is a powerful man in Idaho, willing to use his considerable fortune to push his weight around. Measured by money and power, he's a big winner. Measured by recent politics (particularly his backing of Mitt Romney for president), he's kind of a loser.
Now he's splashed back into the news by suing Mother Jones for its article, Pyramid-Like Company Ponies Up $1 million for Mitt Romney and at least one tweet from MJ's co-editor in chief. "It's not about (money)" VanderSloot says, but he chose the amount to contest very carefully. $74,999 is one dollar shy of the amount that would land the case in a federal court, and take away VanderSloot's home town advantage. (Sisyphus provides more than I know about the legal angle he's working, as well as the catchy headline above.)
Mr. V. says the bad publicity from MJ cost him "millions," for which I very much doubt he has a whit of evidence. But maybe he used to advertise his company's alternative dietary supplements and cleaning products in the alternative press and has become corporata non grata there? At least there are the "thousands of gay customers, independent marketing executives, and employees" he says his firm has who he loves, respects and wants to keep buying and selling his products even if he doesn't think they should be able to marry one another.
We may find out what evidence he has for the $74,999 in damages he claims, given that Mother Jones says it stands by its story. I suspect it'll be easier to spend $74,999 on lawyers than it will be to prove the alleged damages.
At any rate, the flappage gave me reason to reread James Tidmarsh's personal response and challenge to Frank VanderSloot from a year ago, on a site that has had its own experience with Mealeuca attorneys, and to note that if VanderSloot rose to the challenge, I haven't seen that in the news anywhere.
Tom von Alten tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org