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Basketball is a fun and exciting game, I'm sure. I understand that millions of people are really excited about the NCAA tournament. That's cool, and worth lots of money to lots of people (if not the athletes), and god love them, but I'm just not interested.
I do like tennis, though, and didn't mind that the Miami ATP men's final was moved to an early time today to accommodate the basketball games, because I just set the DVR, and worked out in the yard most of the afternoon. To come back and find... that seriously? They cut away from the end of the MEN'S FINAL of a 10-day long tournament, 6-all in the third and deciding set, to show... well, a bunch of ads, and a little bit of the BEGINNING of a basketball game. They couldn't wait another what, 10 minutes at most?
If you want to cover NCAA basketball, fine, do it. But if you don't want to cover tennis, or there's something you don't understand about how it works, please, let some professionals handle it would you? But don't do this half-assed whoop, we gotta go sell some ad time and get to the tipoff and the first couple minutes of the next game, sorry about that. That's just incredibly stupid.
The image of the larger-than-life Jesus on the cross behind the altar at Holy Family remains clear in my mind's eye long years after the space was deconsecrated and turned into a gymnasium. We started school with Mass, and you couldn't attend Mass without being confronted with that dominating sculpture.
So yes, it comes as a surprise to read the claim that images of Jesus's crucifixion did not appear in churches until the tenth century from Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker. The introduction to their book, Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire is now almost five years old, but what's half a decade when you're talking about a millennium?
"We found no Crucifixions in any of Ravenna's early churches. The death of Jesus, it seemed, was not a key to meaning, not an image of devotion, not a ritual symbol of faith for the Christians who worshipped among the churches' glittering mosaics. The Christ they saw was the incarnate, risen Christ, the child of baptism, the healer of the sick, the teacher of his friends, and the one who defeated death and transfigured the world with the Spirit of life. This transfigured world is our world, paradise reopened."
The tipping point for a new attitude that carried down to my early encounter, around 1960, seems darkly poetic:
"[W]e found the corpse of Jesus in northern Europe, in a side chapel of the enormous Gothic cathedral in Cologne, Germany. There, among the mottled light and shadows, hangs the Gero Cross, the earliest surviving crucifix, sculpted from oak in Saxony around 965. ...
"The Gero Cross was carved by descendents of the Saxons, baptized against their will by the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne during a three-decade campaign of terror. Charlemagne's armies slaughtered all who resisted, destroyed shrines representing the Saxons' tree of life, and deported 10,000 Saxons from their land. Pressed by violence into Christian obedience, the Saxons produced art that bore the marks of their baptism in blood."
From that, to Pope Urban II's "holy war," the First Crusade, in 1095. It's a hell of a way to seek salvation.
Brock's and Parker's alternative seems far more attractive, especially on a bright spring day dressed in daffodils and budding leaves on wild roses and raspberries. It was living in this world, being present in the every day, that drew me out of that church with the crucified Jesus centerpiece many years ago. Their words are a Universalist hymn today.
"Paradise is human life restored to its divinely infused dignity and capacity, and it is a place of struggle with evil and injustice, requiring the development of wisdom, love, nonviolence, and responsible uses of power. Power can be experienced as spiritual illumination of the heart, mind, and senses felt in moments of religious ecstasy, and it can be known in ordinary life lived with reverence and responsibility. Paradise is not a place free from suffering or conflict, but it is a place in which Spirit is present and love is possible."
Nice bit of travelogue from Ta-Nehisi Coates' time in Paris, and on to Switzerland, bringing back memories of our 20-years-ago trip with Eurail Passes. We did too many countries and too many languages that time around and it took a while for much of my one year of high school French to perk up to usefulness. First stop after a midnight departure out of Milan and a restless night in a 6-bunk 2nd class sleeping car, we were near-helpless. Even finding our way to the i-punkt in Saint Raphael, we couldn't converse well enough to use the telephone to find a place to stay... until a clerk had mercy on us and used her lunch break to help us out (in English) more than she was supposed to.
We were steered to a bus ride along the coast to the Hotel Robinson Crusoe, which was a bit of a dive for lodgings, but had a lovely restaurant, and some convenient rocks across the road for jumping into the salty Mediterranean. The next day, my language nadir was at a train ticket window where I hoped to correct the bad TGV tickets we'd been given, for a smoking car, from Marseille to Paris. The gal was having a bad day, week, or life, and was not interested in my hopeful entreaty expressed in a foreign language she didn't care for.
"Ici on parle français," she said, icily, finally. If only I'd had a Texan accent, I might have said something equal parts witty and rude and had a fun story for it. But as it was, she couldn't have played the part of the snooty french clerk any better if she had tried. She was—is—the prototype, the archetype, the ne plus ultra, and there is no sentence in that language I know quite as well as that one, to this day.
We eventually sorted out seats on the train, enjoyed le Train à Grande Vitesse (but not for the scenery; it's just a blur), enjoyed our three nights in Paris, and were ready to fly home after one more train ride, to the airport. Two things happened at Gare du Nord. Bustling toward our connection to leave the country, we crossed paths with some Americans who were just arriving... and looking more bereft and helpless than we had ever been on our trip. The man had just had his wallet stolen, with his passport and "all their money." There was nothing we could do for them but offer sympathy and wish them well. Then go get tickets. While I waited in line, I rehearsed the request I would make in the agent's native language, and hope it was intelligible, and that he wouldn't ask me anything in return. My turn, and... it worked! He looked at me with an expression as unimpressed as the "on parle" woman's had been chilling, slid the tickets and my change through the window and said "have a nice trip" in perfectly clear English.
Thanks, we did.
I'm jingling an old watch that has a broken mainspring, from back before they used to run on batteries. And by gum, this thing is still right twice a day. Unlike Representative Pete Nielsen from Mountain Home. But he does draw an interesting parallel between a cogent argument and two cherries to put on that milkshake he's hankering for: with judicious selection from the price history of silver, you could make a case for pert near any whackadoodle economic theory you like. Back in the Pleistocene, when Nielsen lived near the garden of Eden... Heck, let him tell the story:
"Every night my friend ... he would stop at the drugstore in Eden, Idaho and buy a hard ice cream milkshake ... with one of these quarters." Today, the silver in that quarter is worth "a little over five bucks," Nielsen said. "You can take this quarter today and still buy that same milkshake. It did not lose its purchasing power, and that's what we're talking about. ... Gold and silver coin retains its purchasing power."
Silver and gold have nice power at the moment, it's true. But looking back over the last 50+ years (adjusting for inflation in 2011 milkshake prices), the 5.6 grams of silver in Nielsen's jingling quarters have been worth $5, $4, and less than $2, just in the last 5 years. Ten years ago, they were worth about one 2011-dollar. Same as about twenty years ago. Thirty years ago... well, anywhere from $2 to twenty times $2, depending which side of the Hunt Brothers you were on. In the halcyon 1960s, $2. Give or take 30%.
Good to see that Idaho's Superintendent of Public Instruction is to the left of Glenn Beck on the issue of implementing of core standards for education. You can't spell "Commonists" without "Common," people. We have us an infiltration.
"Beside being dumber, our kids are going to be indoctrinated with extreme leftist ideology."
That's "dumber" as in more stupid, not less able to speak. As in, Michelle Malkin is against the Common Core too, so there. I confess, I haven't studied the issue, so the best I can come up with is the ignorant notion that if Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin are vehemently opposed, there's probably nothing to worry about.
Now that gun advocates have put a stake through the heart of legislation to ban weapons with certain cosmetic features, what's left? New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has a ton of money that he's happy to spend on advocacy, and the issue of gun violence is one he's supporting in a big way. The two ads from the Mayors Against Illegal Guns have an interesting angle for promoting stricter, universal background checks.
Whether or not that finds traction, it seems likely a national gun registration database will remain a bridge far too far, even as it occurs to me that the comprehensive marketing databases with accumulating material of interest to corporations and political parties for our personal dossiers could identify "gun owners" and "owners of multiple weapons" (for example) with pretty much laser accuracy.
If you're really paranoid, you'll be wanting to keep all your transactions in cash, and for heaven's sake, don't use social media or email or search engines for anything.
Update: LaPierre v. Bloomberg on Meet the Press seems like an entertaining and unfair fight.
Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, not exactly a voice of moderation in general, has somewhat cogent words in his prediction that we'll get "some kind of universal background check" even though we musn't keep records. "Given the behavior of the federal government," Coburn says, "some of" "a certain level of paranoia" is justified.
So... keeping our personal arsenals safely untracked will provide protection against the government overreaching? A LaPierresque talking point.
The closest category choice in the Governor's email contact form was "miscellaneous," which seems woefully inadequate. Nevertheless, I just sent him this, under that selection (minus the hyperlink added here for context):
Dear Gov. Otter:
Now that the legislature has agreed to go forward with SB1108, favoring the Idaho Farm Bureau and other pecuniary interests in the state at the expense of actual democratic participation by Idaho's citizenry, it appears up to you to say "yay" or "nay" to raising the hurdle to the initiative and referendum process.
I'm hoping you will VETO this ill-advised attempt to limit the people's say in our governance.
Thanks for your consideration.
Floyd Norris provides some comfort for those who may find the wheeling and dealing impenetrably obtuse: "If the proposal does not make sense to you, don't despair. It is largely gibberish." That's the good news? The bad news: "the sheer incompetence and stupidity documented in [last week's] report" by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
You can obtain your very own copy of JPMORGAN CHASE WHALE TRADES: A case history of derivatives risks and abuses from documentcloud.org, and work your way through the 16 page Executive Summary, and on through Background, Increasing Risk, Hiding Losses, Disregarding Limits, Avoiding Oversight, Misinforming Investors, Regulators and the Public, over 300 pages in all, with 1,654 sequentially numbered footnotes, should you so desire. There's gold in them thar hills.
The only man who may have a clue what exactly "sell the forward spread and buy protection on the tightening move," "use indices and add to existing position," "go long risk on some belly tranches especially where defaults may realize" and "buy protection on HY and Xover in rallies and turn the position over to monetize volatility" meant, said London whale, Bruno Iksil, the fellow who "monetized volatility" into 10-figure losses for J.P. Morgan Chase (and corresponding gains for many happy investors taking the other side?) was not talking to the subcommittee.
"My first stress test," [Anat Admati, Stanford professor and co-author of The Bankers' New Clothes] told me, "is the test of prosecution." She noted a recent comment by Eric H. Holder Jr., the attorney general, that some banks were so large that he feared it would "have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy," if criminal charges were filed against the bank.
"If the economy cannot stand them being prosecuted," she said, "they fail the stress test."
Among the Senate subcommittee report's 7 recommendations there is this:
"Implement Merkley-Levin Provisions. Federal financial regulators should immediately issue a final rule implementing the Merkley-Levin provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, also known as the Volcker Rule, to stop high risk proprietary trading activities and the build-up of high risk assets at federally insured banks and their affiliates."
The Volcker Rule was supposed to be implemented last July. Recent headlines include How Goldman Sachs beat the Volcker Rule (Jan. 22, 2013), Republicans Seek Volcker Rule Repeal In Exchange For New Wall Street Reforms (Feb. 12), and Volcker Rule Could Be Delayed—Again (Feb. 27).
"One of the big reasons this rule is so complex is to accommodate all the lobbying for exceptions," former FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair told HuffPost a year ago. "Now the lobbyists are arguing against the rule because it is too complex!"
We've all been waiting for the LED equivalent of what the people working for Thomas Edison came up with: a better light bulb. David Pogue gives an entertaining tour of the state of the art which doesn't quite motivate a run down to the home improvement store.
Longer life, fewer watts per lumen, less mercury, that's all good. But "equivalent to a 40W incandescent"? I don't need much of that. Nor do I need color-changeable, strobing, remote control, underwaterish colors, a system that expands to 500 or 1,000 bulbs, or something I may not live to see burn out.
Nothing I use regularly is burned out at the moment, I'll bide a while.
The House is sorting through budget proposals, and
followed the path of least resistance by passing Paul Ryan's
dead letter. The Hill reported that only three
Republicans appear opposed ten Republicans voted no (and none of
them my Representative, Mike Simpson (R-ID-2). Along the way, the
Democrats let them fight among themselves over the Republican Study
Committee's super-austerity plan (deeper cuts–except for defense,
flatter taxes, moving the retirement goalposts to age 70) by voting
"present." The Right blocked the Righter, and that went down, 104-132.
The budget sent over by the Senate was dismissed, 154-261. The
Progressive Caucus budget? Fuhgeddaboudid.
Back to the Paul Ryan position paper, the relatively meaningless document. ID-1 Rep. Raúl Labrador got his five lines of fame:
"Some people in this conference believe that the plan is just to pass the Paul Ryan budget and once we pass the Ryan budget, then we have met ... all of our goals. My goal is not to pass a meaningless document by itself unless we actually implement the policies that will get us to a 10-year balance."
Paul Ryan got plenty of news with his DOA re-do of last year's failed ideas, but there are alternatives, including, and especially, The People's Budget from the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
"Budgets are more than collections of numbers; they are a statement of our values. The Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget is a reflection of the values and priorities of working families in this country. The 'People's Budget' charts a path that keeps America exceptional in the 21st century, while addressing the most pressing problems facing the nation today. Our Budget eliminates the deficit and stabilizes the debt, puts Americans back to work, and restores our economic competiveness."
Eliminates the deficit in 10 years, invests in job creation, clean energy and broadband infrastructure, housing, R&D; creates a fairer tax system; enacts a health care public option; safeguards Social Security for 75 years... what's not to like?
David Brooks tut tuts about a man and his horse (and his column now includes the correct location of the statue pulling his metaphor), but Dean Baker rides to the rescue to address the larger need, for "remedial logic."
We have "the context of prolonged and sustained stagnation" on one hand, and the Tea Party-driven calls for government austerity on the other, the near-certain recipe for disaster amply illustrated by "Europe's austerity-plagued periphery." Wages are at the lowest percentage of the economy on record, while corporate profits are at the highest. This is not the time to amplify the disparity. The way out, described by the Smart Talk issue brief:
Yes, some tall orders, but all pointing forward to shared prosperity, rather than the enhancing the "winner take all" systems we have in place now.
Perhaps George W. Bush has a pang of guilt or regret once in a while, but how would we know? Dick Cheney says he doesn't, but like so much of what he's said over the years, it's hard to believe. At any rate, the candid judgment of a dying veteran is a worthy read for this anniversary of the escalation of the war on Iraq. An excerpt cannot do it justice; follow the jump.
News from the Electronic Frontier Foundation that they were able to convince a federal district court judge, at least, that having the FBI issue "National Security Letters" without any sort of court approval, demanding customer information from telecomm companies, with a permanent restriction against notifying anyone about anything, including the fact that a demand was made, is unconstitutional.
In today's ruling, the court held that the gag order provisions of the statute violate the First Amendment and that the review procedures violate separation of powers. Because those provisions were not separable from the rest of the statute, the court declared the entire statute unconstitutional. In addressing the concerns of the service provider, the court noted: "Petitioner was adamant about its desire to speak publicly about the fact that it received the NSL at issue to further inform the ongoing public debate."
"The First Amendment prevents the government from silencing people and stopping them from criticizing its use of executive surveillance power," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "The NSL statute has long been a concern of many Americans, and this small step should help restore balance between liberty and security."
If tax dollars can be spent on religious schools... does that mean any old time religion? That bit in the Constitution about keeping church and state separate led the Wisconsin Supremes to the ruling that as long as the government "maintains neutrality," vouchers will be a-ok.
So many religions, so many little minds.
How would taxpayer-funded instruction in Scientology grab you?
The other day, I heard Stephen Hadley on the radio, sharing his notion that "we were all wrong," by which he means just everyone not just, oh, the willfully in error White House Iraq Group he was part of. "Everyone" who was wrong certainly did include Judith Miller, Kenneth Pollack, Robert Kagan, William Kristol, George Will, Ann Coulter, Peggy Noonan, Andrew Sullivan, William Safire, Fouad Ajami, Charles Krauthammer, Richard Gephardt, Tom DeLay, George Tenet, Paul Wolfowitz, Scooter Libby, John McCain, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush. (Thanks to Micah Silfry for typing the bulk of the list for me, and for listing some of the people who were not wrong: Noam Chomsky, Ron Paul, Patrick Buchanan, Arianna Huffington, Robert Byrd, John Mearshimer, Stephen Walt, John le Carre, Edward Said, Terry Jones, Jonathan Schell, James Fallows, Mohamed El Baradei, and the governments of Russia, France and Germany. And some of the best informed people at the CIA.)
The groupthink and denial that Hadley embodies was more than I could take. I turned the radio off.
Paul Krugman points out that in the march of folly, there were voices in opposition, warning "that we were making a terrible mistake—that the case for war was weak and possibly fraudulent, and that far from yielding the promised easy victory, the venture was all too likely to end in costly grief."
"The really striking thing, during the run-up to the war, was the illusion of consensus. To this day, pundits who got it wrong excuse themselves on the grounds that 'everyone' thought that there was a solid case for war. Of course, they acknowledge, there were war opponents—but they were out of the mainstream.
"The trouble with this argument is that it was and is circular: support for the war became part of the definition of what it meant to hold a mainstream opinion. Anyone who dissented, no matter how qualified, was ipso facto labeled as unworthy of consideration. This was true in political circles; it was equally true of much of the press, which effectively took sides and joined the war party."
The "we were all wrong" group covers a broad range of credulity and duplicity, as well as misplaced loyalties. The kingpin, presumptive war criminal and man with a broken heart, Richard B. "Dead-eye Dick" Cheney, remains absolutely certain everything he did was tip-top, and utterly blind to the idea that he might have any faults. Doesn't spend a lot of time thinking about that. But the unnecessary, pre-emptive war that left hundreds of thousands dead and a country in chaos even to this day?
"I feel very good about it. If I had it to do over again, I'd do it in a minute."
The World of Dick Cheney is so dark and horrific that it could very nearly suck the humor out of Andy Borowitz.
Mike Moyle is a state representative for District 14, the sprawling NW corner of Ada County that comprises Eagle, Star, and a lot of urban/suburban/agricultural boundaries. It has fingers reaching into Garden City in its southeast corner, and down to Meridian along the southern edge. He's been around the legislature a long time, and as House majority leader has an important position. As someone who has "long questioned the role of urban renewal agencies in Idaho," as reporter Cynthia Sewell put it, he saw fit to opine upon Boise Mayor Dave Bieter's self-nomination for the Capital City Development Corporation's board of commissioners. It has the look of "a power grab," Moyle said, to have Bieter fill the open seat on the 9-member board, along with two city council members. "Moyle warned that Bieter could be trying to steer the agency's money toward projects of his choosing."
"If (Bieter) gets enough control of the board, they can do whatever they want with that money." Moyle said.
How nice that he has time to look out for the 210,000 residents of Boise in addition to his own 45 thousand constitutents and his party duties?
This issue has been kicking around a while, and reflects familiar red/blue rural/urban Republican/Democratic divides. The country folk don't trust the city folk, and they have think tanks to spell out the particulars when need be. The Cato Institute and dittohead Idaho Freedom Foundation were on the job two years ago when the Idaho House fired for effect with more than a half dozen bills "taking aim" at urban renewal as the headline writer wagged it, cued by one of the representatives suggesting if only we had more guns, we wouldn't have to deal with crime and blight. Because, urban renewal is about crime and blight?
Never mind that they had to light up "the rarely-convened House Local Government Committee" back then; it seems the previous years' effort couldn't make the desired headway in Rev and Tax.
House Bill 95 was the one that ended up being passed (complete with an "emergency" provision to put it in place ASAP), after amendments in both chambers and a two month process through both chambers. HB 96, 97 and 110 made it over to the Senate for a quiet death, while HB 98, 116, 125, 185 and 198 died in committee, and HB 99 (sponsored by Phil "Artful Dodger" Hart) and 114 were voted down in the House. What eventually passed required that urban renewal districts be created by a majority of voters in a citywide or countywide elections, and reduced the term of bonds from 24 and 30 years to only 20. It put limits on the districts' ability to expand by annexation and gave agriculture and forest land owners special privileges in refusing to be included, and against having their property deemed "deteriorating" as long as it has been "in use" within the last three years.
Moyle is not opposed to government benefits, however. His issues page includes support for business incentives, and highways-on-credit GARVEE bonds in addition to the red meat of protection against eminent domain, and lower taxes. The "rural incentives" of "property tax exemptions for business development in designated rural areas" sounds rather like urban renewal districts for the non-urban.
His rurality could become hugely more suburban if the gigantic subdivision outside developers have in mind for Idaho comes into being. They were on the frothy edge of the real estate bubble, but still gleam in some eyes. There's the perfectly ill-timed Legacy, the ten times larger M3-Spring Valley, Hillsdale/Willowbrook, Monarch Ridge, Trellis, Kastera, Braigal, High Plains... (But already-started, off/on again Avimor is over the line into District 19, anchored by the most liberal/urban area of the state, Boise's north end.)
There are plenty of legal nuances I don't understand, but when it comes to boating, the first and most important rule is unambiguous. Avoid collision. One sentence, two words, no confusion. If you don't know what that sentence is telling you, you shouldn't be driving a boat.
Now then, with lots of boats on a lake, nighttime, post-fireworks, and maybe, I don't know, some substance impairment, that number one rule might be more difficult to follow. But still. Watch where you're going and don't hit anything.
Todd Frederick Stauber failed to adhere to the rule last 4th of July, and drove his powerboat into an unoccupied, moored sailboat. I don't know about "grossly," but it's clearly "negligent operation of a vessel." Yet the guy's lawyer got the misdemeanor criminal charge dismissed because "the law is unconstitutionally vague." We've had this problem before, in a case about negligent driving of a motor vehicle; that statute was fixed, but "state lawmakers inexplicably adopted the original law’s faulty language when they drafted the negligent operation of a vessel law in the 1980s."
That's what you get with "citizen legislators," I guess. The current text is appears to be Idaho Code 67-7017, which we might compare to 49-1401 RECKLESS DRIVING to see what's different. There's something, I don't know what, more specific about
"carelessly and heedlessly or without due caution and circumspection, and at a speed or in a manner as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property"
(for driving a motor vehicle on a road) than driving a vessel
"in a careless or heedless manner so as to be indifferent to any person or property of other persons, or at a rate of speed greater than will permit him in the exercise of reasonable care to bring the vessel to a stop within the assured clear distance ahead..."
The errant boater "still faces charges of misdemeanor injury to a child and other violations of Idaho's Safe Boater Act," at least. Oh, and this:
"Prior to the Ellisport Bay crash, Beckley was charged with negligent operation after allegedly driving recklessly through a no-wake zone encircling Warren Island and hitting a marker buoy last June. He pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of speeding and was fined $67, according to the Idaho Supreme Court Data Repository."
The paddlewheels of justice turn slowly.
Don't know that much about Wayne LaPierre, but in his most spotlighted moment, responding to the Newtown shooting after what should have been a thoughtful delay, he did, yes, come across as a little crazy, or at a minimum, wound a good bit too tight.
Now he's on about how people are calling him crazy, but he's not the crazy one, we just need more guns to be more safer. It's a comfortable meme for many, including the fellow from Mountain Home who wrote to the Idaho Statesman (Business Insider) after its piece about businesses tiptoeing around the issue to remark upon the Boise Towne Centre mall's no-carry policy and announce that he would no longer be shopping there. Alright then.
He'd be amply comfortable at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where LaPierre's act just garnered "wild applause." Let us meet violence with more violence! It says in The Bible "an eye for an eye," does it not?
At the CPAC, a foreign journo with the gift to see ourselves as whatever we might be, Jim Newell of the Guardian. Hail, hail, the gang is all here. LaPierre, Romney, Ryan, Santorum, Trump... I swear to god you couldn't make this up: La Bachmann giving out Tea Party blogger awards.
"Winner of the Best News Blog of the year was posthumously awarded to Andrew Breitbart. ...the crowd thinning out. The activist journalist James O'Keefe presents an award to a near-empty room."
"Journalist" James O'Keefe, now that is some high-octane crazy.
What's this you say? Paul Ryan's grandstanding political statement is not just useless to the point of counterproductive but dishonest as well? Who would have guessed. Catherine Hollander's piece for National Journal gives a quick overview of the Federal Reserve's recent doings that's more informative than the hackle-raising "debasement, cheat us and collapse" from the Eddie Munster of doom. (Not to mention "cronyism, waste, fraud and abuse."
Anytime someone's opening salvo is about what he'll do for you in ten years, check to see if your wallet is still where you left it. (At least Wimpy would only lie about next Tuesday.)
Dana Milbank has some choice words for the Ryan "budget" as well: amazing and wondrous, magic asterisks, sleight of hand, flimflammery, and the Freudian slippage from Ryan's lips to God's ears:
"This to us is something that we're not going to give up on, because we're not going to give up on destroying the health-care system for the American people."
I sent a note to my Congressman, ID-02 Rep. Mike Simpson:
We both know (and he knows too) that Paul Ryan's political statement masquerading as a budget proposal is a dead letter. You've spoken up forthrightly on the need for meaningful action from Congress on fiscal reform.
I suppose the House will endorse the statement, as it has endorsed so many others in recent years, such as the thirty-some "repeal Obamacare" bills.
My hope is that my Congressman, you, Mike Simpson, will stand up and say and do the right thing and vote NO on another piece of useless, no-compromise posturing that does NOTHING WHATSOEVER to solve ANY of our problems.
Thanks for your consideration.
The usual, warm autoreply thank-you includes the observation that "our representative democracy only works when citizens are willing to be involved in their government." We'll see. In 2-3 weeks, due to "the complex nature of the issues and the volume of mail that [he] receive[s]."
I did make a copy of the text I filled into the web email form this time, since I see the state of Congressional comment user interfaces is to digest what you send without a trace coming back your way. By the time you hear back 2 or 3 weeks later, you might not remember what it was you said. (You certainly wouldn't be able to discern it from one or another boilerplate response a staffer selected after "carefully considering" what you wrote in.)
Bernie Sanders has a Constitutional Amendment he'd like us to consider, the Democracy for the People Amendment. Apart from some "nothing shall be construed" disclaimers, here's the nut of it:
"Whereas the right to vote in public elections belongs only to natural persons as citizens of the United States, so shall the ability to make contributions and expenditures to influence the outcomes of public elections belong only to natural persons in accordance with this Article."
The Bill, and the amendment text with explanation and a couple Q&As in a fact sheet are on Sanders' Senate website. Sounds like a good idea to me.
I happened to notice Visibone's inset chart intended to simulate the form of color blindness known as "deuteranopia" (in which the green-responding cones aren't responding quite right) and had the thought that whoever came up with the palette for colorizing old black and white movies must've had that. He (most likely a he) couldn't understand why anyone complained.
While I enjoyed the 60 Minutes segment featuring Sheryl Sandberg Sunday night, I'm neither in the target audience for her book nor likely to read it. It's been interesting to read about it though, and I appreciated Maureen Corrigan's meta-coverage for Fresh Air, mostly for the link to Sheryl Sandberg's "famous" TED Talk, Why we have too few women leaders. (Noreen Malone's riff on overachieving acknowledgments was fun, highlighting Sandberg's thanks to "140 people for contributing to her 172 page book." Someone edited every sentence? My god.)
By the time you get to be a billionaire(ss), you're inevitably worth listening to, even if you may or may not be the most reliable source for reasons why. And kudos to Kevin Drum for noticing that Norah O'Donnell's quasi-hostile style on 60 Minutes made one of Sandberg's points eloquently: we don't ask successful men the same questions about their legitimacy as we do women.
Caught the tail end of the today's testimony to Idaho's House Rev and Tax Committee for the two bills aimed at reducing or eliminating our so-called "personal property tax" which is a tax on property (other than real estate) used in business. (Betsy Russell's coverage for the Spokesman-Review here, here, here, here and so on, altogether 37 on the morning, most in favor of HB 272 and against HB 276 and only one against both.) Complete elimination (HB 276) will either reduce state revenue by $120 million a year, or require someone else to pay more. The friendlier tax shift (HB 272) will reduce the burden on all businesses, and eliminate it for most, at a price of $20 million-ish in foregone revenue.
Then I stumbled upon Katherine Newman's NYT Opinionator item: In the South and West, a Tax on Being Poor, describing long-term trends with roots in Reconstruction. We (Idaho has a generous dollop of both "southern" and western) are making taxes more regressive, this effort to ease the burden on business the latest installment in the process. For the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry, just having the lowest paid workers in the nation does not make us attractive enough. (We are also one of the 23 states holding the minimum wage at the federal minimum, and are "#1" for percentage of workers making just the minimum.)
What Newman (professor of sociology and a dean at Johns Hopkins University) and the co-author of her book found from "[analyzing] the combined burden of sales tax, state and local income taxes on poor households in 49 states [all but Alaska], based on consumer expenditures, from 1982 to 2008," "after factoring out all other explanations":
"For every $100 increase on taxes at the poverty line, we saw an additional 7 deaths and 78 property crimes per 100,000 people, and a quarter of a percentage point decrease in high school completion.
"Southern states have far higher rates of strokes, heart disease and infant mortality than the rest of the country. Students drop out of high school in larger numbers. These outcomes are not just a consequence of a love of fried food or higher poverty levels. Holding all those conditions constant, the poor of the South—and increasingly the West—do worse because their states tax them more heavily. They have less money to buy medication, so their health problems get worse. High sales taxes make meals more expensive, so they shift to cheaper, unhealthy food. If people can't make ends meet, they may turn to the underground economy or to crime. ..."
Well, you can see why the Republicans didn't want Elizabeth Warren in charge of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and can't be too pleased she's now a U.S. Senator saying stuff like
"If you're caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you go to jail. But evidently, if you launder nearly a $1 billion for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night... I think that's fundamentally wrong."
AG Eric Holder put it plainly enough to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Really big financial institutions are too big to prosecute, lest it "have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy."
Robert Borosage figures that "too big to jail" means to big to be. Congress... will do nothing, I'm sure.
In other financial regulatory news, the S.E.C. has accused Illinois of securities fraud, but the state probably won't be going to jail either.
"The states are legal sovereigns, and federal securities regulators have much more power to police corporate wrongdoing than potential violations by the states and municipalities."
When "much more power" is hardly enough to do anything, all that seems to be left is the power of creating some negative publicity. If you shopping for munis, think thrice about Illinois'.
"...passed a law in 1994 allowing itself to put less than the required amount into its pension system each year. ...
"By 2003, the state was so far behind that it issued $10 billion of bonds and put the proceeds into its pension funds to make them look flush. The main underwriter of those bonds, Bear Stearns, was later found to have made an improper payment to win the business, figuring in the corruption trial of a former governor, Rod R. Blagojevich.
"In 2005, the state passed another law, giving itself a holiday from making even the inadequate annual pension contributions called for by its 1994 schedule. It said it would offset the missing money with bigger contributions from 2008 to 2010, but then did not do so. ..."
(Mr. Blagojevich's current residence is listed on Wikipedia as Federal Correctional Institution, Englewood, Jefferson County, Colorado, so not everyone turned out too big to jail.)
If you're on the receiving end as a state pensioner, good luck. You're goint to need it.
"Illinois is one of a number of states where the teachers, state police and certain other public workers do not participate in the Social Security program, so they have no federal backstop in case the state system should fail."
"No expectation of privacy" was one of the catchy phrases I remember from my time in the corporate world, describing what employees should have for their use of the employer's computing resources. Harry Lewis notes the "typical Terms of Service Agreement" is "written by lawyers on the assumption that almost nobody will read it, and that those who might read it will be too powerless to object," thus constituting "a nice, safe policy to have on the books."
Mr. Lewis is the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at Harvard, where he has taught for close to 40 years. He wrote the "Privacy of Information" section of Harvard's Student Handbook, and "helped steer the development of a policy for faculty email," and thus has a unique perspective from which to comment on email privacy at Harvard.
It seems the folks in charge of searching email for stuff weren't up to speed, and in the course of looking for who was responsible for a leak to reporters, went on a fishing expedition through the email of 16 deans serving on the university's Administrative Board. Or was this fully permissible (no matter how unseemly or unnecessary) thanks to a subtle variation of academic rank that changed the deans' status from "faculty" to "staff," and made them fair game for whatever? This much is true about "the confluence of two forces":
"One, the authority of the faculty is in decline. Members of the Ad Board are being treated as staff, not faculty, because staff are more easily controlled than faculty, and the increasingly centralized power structure of the university values control very highly. And two, the thing that most needs to be controlled in the modern university is information itself. Our communications offices have grown while our library staff has shrunk. The faculty finds out about things by reading press releases and Gazette stories. In the information-control university, an email gone astray is grounds for a witch hunt."
I don't suppose I'm the first person to see some irony in the original scandal being about students (allegedly) cheating on a take-home exam for the "Introduction to Congress" course. Seems to be more introduction than anyone bargained for.
Update: The Boston Globe piece that broke the story: Harvard University administrators secretly searched deans’ email accounts, hunting for media leak; and NYT coverage: Harvard Search of E-Mail Stuns Its Faculty Members.
No need to confirm that Wisconsin's Representative Paul Ryan "has no aspirations to rise in party leadership beyond committee chairman," when he's so clearly topped out. He joins Sarah Palin's illustrious company of "failed Republican vice-presidential candidates," albeit with the good sense to run for two jobs at once last year rather than actually commit himself to Mitt Romney's losing cause. There is still time for him to enjoy his temporarily warm welcome on Fox News, and the power to make newsy but useless legislative proposals, such as the thirtieth-something attempt to repeal Obamacare, certain to be as D.O.A. in the Senate as each of the earlier ones have been.
Campaigning for 2014 or 2016 already? This is not "premature," but rather "postmature," planting the flag for yet another demonstration of the Peter Principle. This is a man who has risen to his level of incompetence, and then some.
Excellent and not-very-long item by John Freemuth, professor of political science and public policy, at Boise State University, posted on Betsy Russell's Eye on Boise blog: The backdrop to the public lands debate, with five bullet points to move beyond "public lands theatre" to some sort of meaningful discussion about improving land management. The last point is the open-ended observation that we're not all starting from the same understanding:
"Many easterners, including the media, often don't know the difference between national parks and national forests, and they haven't a clue about the Bureau of Land Management. Nonetheless they feel that these are public lands, partly theirs. They might be receptive to concerns of westerners with extensive federal land in their backyards, and the lost revenues that often means, but we have yet to discover a common starting point for these conversations."
Our proverbial well-wishing has come true: we live in interesting times. While the debt scolds wail about impending disaster (which, when it comes to factual basis, is found to be about the pig in the python, and advances in medical technology, and corporate interests adept at local optimization, not so much "government is too big", and not about the debt ceiling and not about this year's budget), an ideological rump has taken over the Republican party and is driving us into and over various geographic features. A term or two in Congress is a nice stepping-stone to whatever. Or even a crazy run at vice-president and you could get a job at Fox News for a while.
It's a parade of mediocre ideas on floats, pulled by draft animals, interspersed with marching bands trying (and failing) to step around the excrement without breaking stride.
Newt Gingrich saved us from the horrors of Hillarycare back in the
1990s, only to unleash the demon of
FoundationObamacare on the present day. We're all gonna die!
If only the President would get serious, says the Speaker, seriously. Seriously! Despite a good-faith offer! We always thought the sequester was a bad idea, and it wasn't our idea either, other than about 98% of it, "designed to guarantee that Congress acts." Yes, that's right, a grand bargain with provisions so heinous it will force us to reach another unspecified grand bargain down the road. Whoops.
"It's telling," the Speaker wrote, "that the media is calling President Obama's efforts to reach a legislative solution 'perfunctory,' 'virtually absent' and not discernible." Just as "it's telling" what put a stake in the drone sideshow in front of John Brennan's confirmation:
"After Democrats threatened to keep in the Senate in session through the weekend to deal with the confirmation, Republicans allowed a quick vote and Mr. Brennan was approved, 63 to 34."
And with Eric Holder's "just say no" letter in hand, Jane Fonda and other malcontents can breathe slightly easier.
One of our many problems is that Congressional salaries and staff and perks are not on the trimming block (let alone the chopping block) while the rest of us wait to see what trickles out of Foggy Bottom. Possibly next up, if there are no drone strikes over the weekend: los tres amigos Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Marco Rubio try to blow things up.
A real-life friend had a post on Facebook about an item about "arguably the best writer on the internets," and it was someone with an only vaguely familiar (especially given how distinctive it is) name, Ta-Nehisi Coates. I should pay attention. Before getting to the piece on observer.com, I found this op-ed in today's NYT, The Good, Racist People, and see what my friend was talking about.
Thanks to The Atlantic's archive, I can also now read "the article that launched Mr. Coates toward stardom", as Jordan Michael Smith puts it, the May 2008 response to "the audacity of Bill Cosby's black conservatism." (If and when I'm ready, I can follow the links in that to Atlantic articles by Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois from the 19th century. I wonder how many kids these days have never picked up a magazine.)
The Calmer House Gallery in Joliet, Illinois has an amazing archive of its past exhibitions, which I noticed when following the link my sister sent me a couple months ago to her exhibition just now, after hers has past. Currently, they have 20 or so images from Ken Bronowski, "Winsome and Rust." Good title for the scenes of the gone before.
I'm usually not much for artist's statements, except perhaps as a genre onto itself; the words usually seem irrelevant to strong work. Still, I wouldn't mind a few words about the collections, since I'm not likely to make any of their opening receptions. Perhaps a little what, where and why. All the same, a fine web gallery they've got there.
Long-time natural resources reporter Rocky Barker provides background for some of what the Lieutenant Governor didn't cover in last week's Idaho Reports interview, concerning the reasons federal forests produce so much less revenue than the state's do.
Here's a Utah Congressman talking to one of Idaho's House subcommittees, with the same sort of astounding statistics as Brad Little had: 52 times the timber harvest from state lands! 917 times the revenue! In simple terms, the state has already glommed onto the best and most productive forest land.
"Private forests and state forests are, by definition, high-value forests. If they weren't, the owners would have disposed of or traded them in years ago."
And if we're going to glom more, we'll be looking for the best of what's left, don't you know, not the timber requiring new roads to get to, where "much of it is either too prone to erosion, too steep or covered in trees that are so low in value" that it "isn't worth the cost of gasoline for the chain saws."
And shouldn't that Utah Congressman be taking care of business in his own state, or D.C.?
I've heard of "vexatious" and I've heard of litigants, and I probably heard of this category somewhere, sometime, but not as memorably as in the story of an Idaho woman fighting the rule on vexatious litigation making the news. In spite of her declaration that everyone has wronged her, the story didn't provide detail to explain how all of "Utah, California, Montana, Idaho's federal court, the 9th and 10th U.S. Circuit courts of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court," and yes, now a judge in eastern Idaho all came to the same conclusion about her.
Courts keep records (and private parties are making a business out of keeping mug shots) so it didn't take long to find the Supreme Court of Utah's opinion for example, from 2003 (April 1, 2003, nice) when Ms. Telford was a.k.a. Lundahl. As of that date, and just before that one court,
"Since 1999, Holli Lundahl [had] submitted no fewer than twenty-seven filings, consisting of nineteen appeals, four petitions for extraordinary writ..., two petitions for writ of certiorari, and two petitions for interlocutory appeal."
Not bad for a non-lawyer, representing herself. The other courts listed must have similar stories to tell, but I'll call my curiosity satisfied with the SCOTSOU's point #14:
"[T]he judiciary of this state is largely funded by the taxpayers. It stands to reason that Holli should not be allowed to harass the judiciary of this state at public expense."
(They used her first name because "this matter was originally brought as a counterclaim by Holli Lundahl's sister, Kelli Lundahl," and oh by the way, there were "very troubling allegations that Holli has appeared at hearings and misrepresented herself as Kelli acting pro se" to boot.)
And the good news is, the principles say there's "no rush" to set their conclave and start sending smoke signals. 45 journalists for every voting Cardinal, that's going to give a nice boost to the economy over there in Italy.
And enough to spot a ringer, one Ralph Napierski of Germany who made the fashion faux pas of wearing a fedora instead of a skull cap, and isn't that cummerband supposed to be red instead of purple? (It is Lent, but still.) Vincenzo Pinto's photo for AFP/Getting Images brightened my day for a number of reasons. The jolly imposter getting his picture taken (by a fellow with his own fedora, I'm suspecting a confederate), and Cardinal Sertio Sebiastiana showing how to liven up a tired old cassock. Red piping from stem to stern and about the cape, and the cheery rhythm of tightly-spaced red buttons all the way.
I hope Bill Cunningham is one of the 5,000 journalists, and riding his bike around the Vatican.
Showing the kind of intellectual firepower we've come to expect from our own legislators, neighboring Washington state representative Ed Orcutt (R), the ranking member of his party on their House Transportation Committee has come up with a remarkable theory to support his negative attitude toward bicyclists: they pollute more than automobiles! Orcutt wrote to a constituent:
"If I am not mistaken, a cyclists [sic] has an increased heart rate and respiration. That means that the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider. Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride."
Indeed, those bicyclists—and the good Representative—are actually polluting when they don't ride, too. As compared to... well, perhaps the thought experiment helpfully provided by Diogenes in the comments could help Mr. Orcutt figure this out:
"I'll get in a closed garage with a cyclist on a stationary training bike, and Orcutt can get in another closed garage with a running car. ..."
Saturday's Statesman front page featured a pair of high-profile stories for Idaho: the state is giving J.R.'s mansion back and UI President Duane Nellis is on his way out after a short stay, and self-serving salary shenanigans that benefited his left-behind peers. Not so much Texas; everything's bigger down there I hear, and so presumably will be his pay for the same job at Texas Tech.
Don't count me among the "Vandal boosters" who pushed the State Board of Education to let Nellis tap the university's foundation to pad his wallet, even as students struggle to keep up with the cost of attending. Nellis is making a whopping $341,700 annually (counting that lovely house on the hill in Moscow, or not?) even as we make the news for being "tops" in workers at minimum wage. We "led the nation," Bill Roberts wrote for his lede.
We like our ironic juxtapositions planted high on a hill with a big flag waving. J.R. Simplot's flag was so big the neighbors complained about the flapping, actually, and he had to downsize just a bit, but had some outsized scale to spare. When he got too old to enjoy his hilltop manse, he arranged for taxpayers to cover the upkeep.
J.R. was famous for his savvy business dealings, rich as Croesus from getting the contract with McDonald's for french fries, and after the giveaway and before he shed his mortal coil (just shy of 100), he was still for more land, in exchange for the 40 acres the house sits on: he didn't give that to the state. "Almost immediately" after the house gift,
"assessors decided it was worth about a quarter less than original estimates, at the same time state officials concluded renovating the outdated 25-year-old home would cost much more—and take far longer—than expected. ..."
"Meanwhile, the costs were piling up: Maintenance costs of $80,000 seemed expensive in 2007, but they're now pegged at $180,000 for the current year: Electricity, $30,000; replacement flags: $5,100; janitors: $12,000.
"It was this list of never-ending bills—the tile roof is now in need of major work—more fit for the billionaire who built the place than a conservative state that prides itself on how much money it doesn't spend that eventually proved decisive."
Oddly enough, the attempt to raise free will contributions for this charity case fell short, after "just a few hundred thousand dollars" were raised toward the $3 million deemed needed. The family insisted "no givebacks" for years, but as this became an increasingly embarrassing (to say nothing of ridiculous) footnote on the Simplot legacy, they've come around to a sense of civic duty. We'll soon be relocating the state china, and the heirs will be trying to figure out what to do with a house no one wants to live in.
The University of Idaho's next president, whoever he or she may be, will probably live in government housing up in Moscow, as Nellis did (after 100 large for its R&R). Nellis doesn't have a lot to say beyond deeply caring phatic for all he'll be leaving behind. The TTU Board of Regents hasn't actually voted to accept their "sole finalist" yet, so too early for a bridge bonfire?
The last president at Texas Tech served about as long as Nellis did in Moscow, jumping ship to Alabama last summer. What a fun game of musical chairs! No word about Nellis' salary negotiation for the new job, but I see that the previous guy was making about the same as Nellis here, $350,000 (not counting "benefits") with most of a $million in salary for his staff in the president's office.
Nellis made quite an entrance, deeming it "not unreasonable" to compare the initial UI offer with what he and his wife made in their two jobs at Kansas State. At his level, arguments don't have to make sense. And quit living in the past, would you? Just read in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal how excited they are about their new guy (using uidaho.edu's own p.r. no less). The chairman of the Board of Regents sounds like he's in love:
"You can recognize how good of a person he is. Just in the interview that I was in with him, he was very, very impressive. [He is] such a great educator, cares about the common goal of our students and wants our students to succeed."
Not bad for somebody who doesn't even work there yet.
There aren't a lot of high-powered, good-paying jobs-for-life in this world, but as the Catholics' Popeless moment begins, one has been a hot topic for the last several weeks. I bet there's only one person I know who has a view about two completely different religions' head men from a member's perspective. Lucky us, she's a fine writer and blogging on The Blue Review. Liza Long: Time to Give up the Keys?
I wasn't paying that much attention to the end of Ezra Taft Benson's term in the mid-1990s, so she filled in some interesting history for me, even before I followed the link to his grandson's public testament to leaving Mormonism, organized religion and god-belief altogether.
We had a vaguely positive impression of Idaho Lieutenant Governor Brad Little, which seems to have been a matter of him keeping a somewhat low profile, or us not paying close attention. His performance on Idaho Reports this week showed how much he is cut from the standard mold around here: ideological gasbag making a hobby out of kicking the federal government at the same time he's feeding at the trough. (Not to put too fine a point on it: from 1995 to 2011, the Little Cattle Company and the Highland Livestock & Land Co. have received a flow of more than $300,000 from the feds.)
Idaho managed to cut its parks budget 85% and is doing just fine. Why can't the feds do the same thing? The sequester threatens Yellowstone with a mere 8% budget cut and there's all this wailing and gnashing.
"If the federal government would have even a fraction of that kind of common sense, this would not be a big problem," Little said.
Eighty-five percent, that's a heapin' heppin' of common sense! How did that work, anyway? Betsy Russell reported a few salient facts the Lt. Gov. didn't get to, a month ago:
Volunteers gave the parks 86,000 hours of free work in the past year for one thing. Yes, the general funds portion of the deparment's budget was cut from $9.6 million down to $1.3 million (even if the director thinks it needs to go back up to $2.8 million for this year; the Governor's thinking we don't need the "replacement items" at issue).
But the total budget is north of $30 million, of which $5 million came from the feds. There's some money the federal government could save with a little common sense.
Aaron Kunz tosses up a softball: with fewer federal dollars coming in, is it time for the state to take more control (as our new rancher-House Speaker is thinking about)?
"Our efficiency on running public lands is like 3OO times the federal government, we get 300 times the return that the federal government does. Granted the federal government's got a little different charge than the state does, but even just a fraction of that would change the, would change the reality of how those, of how they operate."
Too many rules! "The state process is always easy." Just a bit more "active management," and poof! 300 times more return. We have some crazy efficient management in this state. As long as you don't look too far up the asterisks.
Tom von Alten tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org