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Heard on the radio that Shinseki resigned his post as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. He's had a long career of service to the country, and even though it's not a great way to call it a day, I'll send my best wishes to him and his family for a well-deserved retirement (if he's ready for that; he's only 71).
The news was a couple hours old, so time for everyone else to weigh in. Speaker of the House John Boehner isn't satisified with having a scapegoat, and is said to be wanting the President to "be accountable" for the mess at V.A., whatever that might mean. He should resign, too? Gosh was Congress ever responsible for doing anything, ever, to provide the support and capacity for dealing with our commitment to veterans? Maybe they could've done something useful instead of having dead-letter votes to repeal Obamacare half a hundred times. Shouldn't Mr. Speaker be accountable for the continuing political clown show he's running in the House?
At any rate, the “systemic, totally unacceptable lack of integrity” in the system that Shinseki failed to recognize and root out will remain a signficant problem to solve, and whoever is working on it should do his or her best to ignore the political jackals looking for election year offal. Start with eliminating bonuses that can be obtained by cooking the books, which is a prescription that could be dispensed to many other government agencies, and large corporations.
The periodic missives from the Republican Study Committee and the fellow who seems to lead it, Steve Scalise, are occasionally light entertainment, and mildly informative as to the state of right-wing thinking. The RSC's remarks for Memorial Day were neither entertaining, nor informative. Jumping to blame Obama for all that's wrong with the Veterans Administration did, however, seem to set a low-water mark, the kind that leaves a scummy residue.
As if the RSC had done anything for veterans lately, or ever.
People with a lot more experience than I'll ever have took the time to describe the enduring problem of long-term commitment those who serve. Two of note: Colby Buzzell (with memories going back to when he was seven) and Jim Wright.
"Ask yourself something, if Congress really cared about veterans, I mean if they were really as concerned as they purport to be, then why was this brought to the public’s attention via a half-assed tabloid news outfit like CNN instead of the House Armed Services Committee? How come they didn’t know? How come it wasn’t veteran senator John McCain, since this happened in his district? When was the last time Arizona Senator Jeff Flake checked his email? Arizona has nine Representatives in their House delegation, four republicans and five democrats, so where were they? Veterans in Arizona have been complaining to them for years about these problems. I guess they were too busy with Benghazi and birth certificates and the definition of marriage and shutting down the government to notice."
And one other thing in Wright's estimation:
"[S]peaking from personal experience, the truly ironic part here is that the VA of today, the VA under Eric Shinseki and Barack Obama, is orders of magnitude better than it has ever been.
"Ever. Under any administration.
"Over the last five years, things have steadily improved. They’re a long way from perfect but they’re a long long way from what they were when this war began thirteen years ago. Most of the peeling paint and the mildew and the banal uninterested bureaucracy is gone, not all but most of it."
John Conyers Jr. has been goading Congress to start a conversation for two and a half decades. The latest effort, HR 40, has been buried in the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. Ta-Nehisi Coates may or may not have any more success, but his case for reparations in The Atlantic is an opportunity to reconsider the question demanded by (as his subtitle puts it) "Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy." I suspect the story of my hometown, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, could be substituted for Chicago easily enough in the last item on that list.
On his blog, the author describes how his own thinking changed, from four years ago when he took the opposite position. Which is not to be confused with the sort of opposite position Kevin Williamson offers now for the National Review, which is to say the welfare state and progressives are pretty much the problem, and haven't we had enough talk about race already?
"The purpose of a debate on a reparations bill of the sort being offered by John Conyers Jr. is not so much to construct a program of economic compensation as it is to have another verse of that Democratic hymn, an honest conversation about race. (As though we ever talked about anything else.)"
If such is all that dialogue can offer, we might save the trouble. Because we can't translate from aggregate disadvantage to any sort of collective action (even that word is suspect, isn't it?), let's just draw the curtain on "moral theater" and get on about extolling invisible hands and (here's a new turn of phrase for me), liberating the labor force "from the dysfunctional, antique Prussian model of education that contributes so much to black poverty."
Williamson offers the simpler, truncated view of history. "The people to whom reparations were owed are long dead; our duty is to the living," 'nuff said.
"It seems as if after Newtown, we just gave up. We decided that this is the kind of society we are going to live in—a society that has too many guns, and a society that chooses to ignore people with mental illness and their families, at great cost (see Liz Szabo’s timely piece in USA Today).
"Part of the problem is that just as gun control opponents and gun control advocates can’t agree on even common-sense things like background checks, the mental health community can’t come to a consensus about how best to fund—and treat—mental illness. ..."
The issues are too deeply embedded and too widespread to solve with a piece of legislation, but this could be a start, with a change of direction: HR 3717, the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act” proposed by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA). Cutting funding for mental health services, cutting hospital facilities, and putting more people with serious mental illness in prison is a demonstrable failure.
The Ada County Highway District commission had a meeting yesterday with an update about the "Boise Downtown Implementation Plan Pilot Project" atop the regular agenda. I was there for the first hour and a half, and you can share the experience from the ACHD's video archive.
They started spot on time at noon, dispatched the consent agenda in 2 minutes flat and then ACHD Director Bruce Wong gave the update, with slides and their preliminary data. Following that, the fifty? or more members of the general public who came had a chance to ask and answer questions with the commissioners.
The proximate question for the commission was whether they'd continue the pilot project to its scheduled end in early June, or pull the plug after the first three weeks, and more feedback from the project than any of their projects had ever elicited. There were a couple people unhappy about the project, but most were positive to very positive, and recommended the ACHD stay the course, at least. Several made good arguments for extending the pilot project, noting that it takes a while for people to get used to change, and to understand how to work with something new.
The director said data collection was "easy," with electronic means to count vehicles, and "people" put in place to count bicycles. But with fifteen locations for the latter, it's hard to believe they could have the same sort of comprehensive coverage we have with electronic hardware. They're confident in the accuracy of their counting, but I didn't see what all they covered, or any measures of variability discussed. There are always more bikes in May than in April, presumably, so the "during" would show an uptick compared to before, simply based on the calendar. BSU just wrapped up its term, and that will change traffic substantially. He did say what he talked about was "focused on AM and PM peak times," with bicycle counts taken 7-9am and 4-6pm. The slide's not quite readable in the video, and I didn't see it on the ACHD website, but a request was quickly answered with an emailed copy. I copied the numbers into a spreadsheet and made a graph to see what was what:
Wong's presentation circled the unexpected "more bikes on the sidewalk" in three locations on Idaho and Main, but the full picture shows a much stronger message as primary: significantly more bikes on the street, using the new facility.
The biggest negative is that the project took out 90-odd spaces on Main and Idaho, and "the parking is now strange." People don't like strange. There are challenges for loading zones; double parking is tolerable if there are three lanes, not so much if there are only two. The temporarily-marked lanes are "not attractive"
Of 20 businesses the ACHD surveyed, twelve said they're losing customers, but without any sort of specifics Wong could report. That's one of many things creating a common theme of "attitude" among the critics of the new arrangement. They were worried there'd be congestion and traffic slowdowns; so far that hasn't been the case, and they reported no decrease in vehicle speeds. The "No turn on red" over bike boxes is being honored in the breach.
After Bower's presentation, and recommendation that we continue as advertised, and perhaps extend some parts beyond June 4, city council president Maryanne Jordan spoke about the city's feedback to date (delivered in a letter as well), expressed support, and answered questions. Jordan reported that the city council and mayor are unanimously and "enthusiastically" pleased with the project.
The next comment, from a downtown business owner, was in the top two grumpiest. If they've taken out a lane, where will the Mayor put his trolley? "Why does the City Council count more than the citizens? Do bikers get off their bike and go into businesses? Or just in and out?" Some of those bikers have "their ears all plugged up." I wanted to ask do drivers get out of their cars and come in to your business? And what about the ones with their windows rolled up and the radio on?
Former city council member Anne Hausrath, delighted that the ACHD is doing something about her "favorite mode of transportation," even if it's not the one she uses most of the time, was one who hoped the project would be extended beyond June 4. "When people perceive that cycling is safe, they'll come out."
Erik Kingston said he appreciated decisions being made based on "actual data" rather than "opinion-based reality," and noted that the self-selected, simplified web survey (noted as "horrible" in another's comments) was not the same as representative statistical measurement. It takes thousands (9,700, he said) of bicycles to add up to the same impact as one car.
Speaking of opinion-based reality, the most remarkable (and grumpiest) testimony I saw was from Esther Simplot, who started with a compliment for the "very nice landscaping outside my academy" and didn't hear president Franden say "that was CCDC [Capital City Development Corporation], not us," carried on thanking him all the same.
"I did my own count, for three days, and after that. I saw one bicycle the first day. The second day, I saw two bicycles, going the wrong way, and I don't know if I saw any bicycles on the third day and after that. And I haven't kept count, but there's very few bicycles using what you have prepared on Capitol Boulevard. I don't go on the other streets quite so much."
She's feeling it's all "very complicated" down there, and it's too "convoluted." "You must have hired someone from Yale, a genius in city planning."
Her skill at traffic counting is a match for her tact, at least.
She wants a big bicycle parking lot 4 blocks away, and they can walk. Why should cyclists just have "free rein" she wants to know. "Everybody else walks. They can walk." Thanks for the landscaping, now hey you kids, get off my lawn.
She made her indignation about people around her enjoying unearned privilege very clear. "It's very simple."
Boise Guardian, in a short preamble before quoting the ACHD's press release provides another dose of opinion-based reality. "In a week’s worth of trips down Capitol Blvd. we have seen only two bikes using the system." Not sure if that's a team of counters, or the royal "we," but the comments below the post give a flavor of the attitude and anecdotes in the air.
The executive director of the non-profit Boise Bicycle Project, Jimmy Hallyburton, was allowed to run past the nominal 3 minute limit without interruption, mentions Boise's recent "4th highest" accolade, how cycling is increasing, hinting at some of the education (and advocacy) his organization is doing for the project, especially for "folks our age," never mind the commission members have an average of more than 20 years on the guy. He drives too, he tows his dog in a trailer. Good project, keep going, more education. President Franden asked a softball question to emphasize the good work BBP does (including teaching free "commuting classes"), thanked him for that.
Scanning down the tabulated Ada County results (still unofficial, but showing all 145 precincts counted), some local observations:
Update: correction on that four-way for Judge; a little bird tells me there will be a runoff between her and second-place finisher Sam Hoagland in the fall, since no one received a majority of the votes cast. Too bad all the races don't work that way.
A decent candidate, a Teapublican, and a couple of also-rans walk into a primary... and it's hard to predict what the punchline's going to be. Checking the Secretary of State's unofficial numbers with 99½% of the precincts reported, the top of the ticket went to the main players on the Republican side, our incumbent Senator and Congressmen, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Controller (narrowly). (The Governor's race matched a different opening joke, the one about a biker, a cowboy, a curmudgeon and a normal guy. Cowboy wins.)
With Ben Ysursa retiring as Secretary of State, a chance for something new, and a race between deposed Speaker of the House Lawerence "sic" Denney; the competent but relatively untried successor Ysursa endorsed, Phil McGrane; the avuncular real estate and Melaleuca salesman, and right-wing pol turned high school teacher and stuff, Evan Frasure (with an endorsement from ex-Con[gressman] George Hansen of all people); and a retired U.S. Army Colonel with an Al Haig, "I'm in charge here" style.
Anyway, the Colonel and MLMer split a fat third of the not quite 140,000 votes cast on the Republican side, "Boss" Denney got a fatter third to himself, and McGrane came in second with the rest. More than a quarter, less than enough. Yay for Duck Dynasty fundraising, 2nd amendment, and tilting at windmills, an activity that isn't actually in the SOS job description, but we'll see what he can do, if Idaho doesn't go crazy and try a Democrat this fall.
The other four-way was for Superintendent of Public Instruction, a post that's been alternating between competent Democrats and ideological Republicans for as long as I can remember, and with more nuanced differences between the three non-Tea Party candidates. The voters had a hard time telling them all apart it seems but with the dust close enough to settled, the three men (including the anti, Eynon) all got scant quarters, and Sherri Ybarra gets the Republican nomination, 28-24-24-23. (The good news is, voters will have a competent Democrat option in the fall, Jana Jones.) Was it that we thought we should have at least one woman in state-wide office? That she supported the Idaho Common Core standards? That we liked someone who refused to answer a simple and direct question about raising taxes yes or no?
Ybarra's campaign site, currently featuring "Superintended" in the title, includes other questions she won't answer, oddly. What letter grade would you assign to the 2014 session? What do you think the Legislature did wrong this session, regarding K-12? And her top priority of "working with the Governor's Task Force for Improving Education to implement its recommendations." Her Topics of concern page statement on educational funding is every bit as uncommitted and obfuscated as she delivered in the debate. She needs to study up, and "I am very student-centered, and maintaining a vision on the top three priorities can enhance our revenue and show high returns on our investment."
Story in today's paper about the Buffered Bike Lane Pilot Project and the "mind-boggling" response they're getting from the public reminded me that I hadn't filled out the survey yet. As I guessed, the survey didn't provide for much nuance, and I'm not surprised that it's running about 2-to-1 "against." Anyone who's ridden a bicycle in city traffic is familiar with the general reluctance of the motoring public to give up a foot or two; the prospect of losing a whole lane is bound to start a fight.
I sent my "essay question" (they didn't ask) response by email. We're in the category of "shop, do business, recreate" downtown, and probably more often by car than bicycling. Jeanette and I rode downtown on our tandem a week ago Sunday and tried out all three streets, and then I went back on my own to drive the test route in a car, and to walk around and take some pictures.
The concern I had when I first heard/read about the "bike boxes" was reduced by first-hand experience. A motorcyclist had wandered past the stop line and into the large green box on Capitol at Myrtle with his right turn signal on, and when we rolled up beside him, there was time for him to admit he didn't know what the bike box meant. We both tried to answer at the same time, and I said "you're not supposed to be there..." wondering how best to explain before the light changed. I was prepared to wave him ahead of us, but he ended up waiting to turn behind us after our slower-than-a-single startup.
Lots of people don't get the whole "stop line" concept even without a green box, nor is NO TURN ON RED as communicative as you'd think. (For the demo project, you're just supposed to "know," somehow about that? Doesn't seem likely.) I generally don't have a problem with motorists going right on red around me when I'm at a light waiting to bicycle straight on; I encourage it when I can, because I'd just as soon have more traffic out of the way, and because I know I prefer moving on than standing still when I'm driving.
The left turn bike at Idaho seemed visually much too small for the tandem, but in use, it was fine—just let the extra length hang "off the back." At another turn box, we were slightly behind a trio on two bikes, one of them a "trailer tandem" three-wheeler, also too long to fit, but we all proceeded without a problem (albeit in the light, Sunday afternoon traffic).
The "candles" provide a nice feeling of security while bicycling, and they didn't bother me while driving. Likewise, the "outside" parking lane (curb, bike lane, parking lane marked with the short, unintimidating plastic markers, and then the traffic lane) gives a GREAT sense of security, and other than some visual novelty, did not seem confusing or difficult to me in either mode.
Overall, it seems like conversion of a LOT of road real estate for bikes, and I can understand that most motor-only users will not be happy with reduced capacity, or any perceived detriment to their crowding. I do hope the Ada Co. Highway District can figure out how to apply the lessons effectively, and continue their promotion of walking and cycling while still allowing motorized traffic to move smoothly.
There are still some bugs to work out, such as the counterflow and counterintuitive DO NOT ENTER - EXCEPT BICYCLES on 8th Street, which is one-way (and low speed) for cars, and has a (street-marked only) lane for bicycles up along the cars parked on the "left" side (from their POV). This trio preferred the narrow sidewalk which is further constricted by a sandwich sign, and in poor visibility coming out of afternoon sun into shade to the street. There wasn't any pedestrian or car traffic, so no conflicts this time, but generally that move would've failed badly in the middle of downtown's pedestrian-friendly quarters.
The counterflow entrance a block away, off Idaho was better painted (the green "entrance" box on the pavement), better lit, and has a better parking setback.
It's a jolly little bike ride to our polling place at the Leisure Villa, meeting neighbors along the way, at the check-in, one of us on the ballet, at the ballot box, and for a friendly chat outside. As the record will show, our household went with a split ticket today (and so I did not vote for my wife, sadly). I voted in the way that I thought would do my county and state the most good.
One of the signs on the door, brought to you by the right-most, "pup tent" wing of the Republican Party says "WE NEED THREE THINGS," (1) your photo ID (or you can sign an affidavit certifying identity), (2) your party affiliation (because Rod Beck wants to know), and (3) your ballot choice, which is unconstrained if you affiliate Republican, but which is limited to Democrat or Non-Partisan should you affiliate otherwise.
Doyle Beck's guest opinion in the Idaho Statesman voices his aggravation "with the self-proclaimed head of our Republican party" (a.k.a. the state's highest elected official) who he deems unfaithful for a variety of reasons, some of them good ones.
"We continually read from all of the papers across Idaho bashing Governor Otter concerning scandal after scandal and repeated allegations of cronyism. More disturbing is that the claims of corruption and cronyism are not just a liberal rant from leftist liberals like Taule and Trilhaase. They are actually true."
I'm familiar with Marty Trilhaase, now at the Lewiston Tribune, but I had to look up Corey Taule, who I see is a senior reporter at the Idaho Falls Post Register. A representative piece of his on, hello, the same topic as Beck's, from December, 2011 is hosted on idahodems.org: Idaho’s culture of corruption.
Nice to see we can find points of agreement between the rightest of the right and the "leftist liberals," isn't it?
Among Beck's complaints is that Otter has refused to endorse the state party's platform, that "North Star that shines forth those time-honored Republican principles that we as Republicans rely on for liberty and freedom" in its entirety. Specifically?
Rather than simply check all the boxes (as his main primary opponent Russ Fulcher did), Otter responded with a short letter saying some of what he does and doesn't like about the platform. Protecting Idaho's farmers and ranchers from [sic] an act of Congress and a federal agency, yay. Second and tenth amendments, yay. Balancing the budget and not raising taxes, yay. Repealing the 17th amendment, not so yay, "unnecessary if the 10th Amendment is fully and properly applied," but yay for discussion and debate on the topic. Not so yay on returning to the gold standard, but he does "support auditing the Federal Reserve in the interest of transparency and accountability."
None of the party faithful (that I've seen) are questioning the platform's preamble, in spite of its implied religious test in the first sentence. I.1.B., privatizing Social Security? I.1.C., telling Congress to balance the budget. I.1.D., privatize! (Not to be confused with "privateer"— and only "where appropriate and workable.") 2.A lower taxes, and 2.B cut spending. 2.E "We believe that Idaho Citizens should not and or shall not be taxed for federally mandated health care."
Mandated health care? Is that like death panels? Or if you're talking about insurance, is this about abolishing Medicare? I could go on, but you can tell I'm not a big fan.
I'm not saying that there aren't some good generalities (and maybe even a good specificity here and there), but I am saying that it doesn't make sense as a whole, let alone as a "North Star." And there are a ton of bad ideas, such as striking paragraphs 2 through 6 of section 2 of Article III of the state constitution and thus do away with an independent commission for decennial reapportionment of the state legislature.
Back to Doyle Beck's opinion, after the aggravation, bashing, stink face, pouting, puppetry, backroom culture of lobbyists and cronies, "liberal polices" and the failure to pledge allegiance to the platform, "Otter has simply lost his way." I put in my $.02 in the comments, that Otter may or may not have lost his way, but the Republican Party in Idaho has certainly lost its. The current platform is the documentation, and map to oblivion.
Tim Beck, Owner/President of Audio Thrill Productions ("Bringing Idaho the best Electronic Dance Music events since 2008"), and... the author's son? nephew? and Ron Paul fan responded with razor-like rhetorical wit:
"Tom, you sure do hate freedom don't you?"
The headline sounds rather helpful and ideal, Never Forgetting a Face, but the name of the NYT Technology section series that this is part 7 of suggests the downside: YOU FOR SALE. The details of the history of the technology and the polymath behind it took me back to Romper Room. Picking up the story after he "dropped out of high school to write a physics textbook" and was accepted to a doctoral program in physics at Stanford at age 17:
Still interested in how the brain processes visual information, he started a computational neuroscience lab at Rockefeller University in Manhattan, where he and two colleagues began programming computers to recognize faces. To test the accuracy of their algorithms, they acquired the most powerful computer they could find, a Silicon Graphics desktop, for their lab and mounted a video camera on it. They added a speech synthesizer so the device could read certain phrases aloud.
As Dr. Atick tells it, he concluded that the system worked after he walked into the lab one day and the computer called out his name, along with those of colleagues in the room. “We were just milling about and you heard this metallic voice saying: ‘I see Joseph. I see Norman. I see Paul,’ ” Dr. Atick recounts. Until then, most face recognition had involved analyzing static images, he says, not identifying a face amid a group of live people.
Somewhere between the research, inventions and commercialization (a work still in process, to be sure), when intelligence agencies began making inquiries, he says, it “started dawning on me that this was not an innocent machine.” That was before 9/11.
We can plan on the obsolescene of "keys, cards and codes" on the one hand, and to mass surveillance, “basically robbing everyone of their anonymity” on the other. Convenience and security.
[The phone rings, day before election day, "wireless caller" I don't recognize, but in my area code, I answer, dubious, "Hello?" The robo-dialing software that was supposed to connect me to someone with a political message failed to recognize me as human, let alone which human. No one to share the irony with but the Missus and you, dear reader.]
Or try this on for size, from the company led by former chief of military intelligence for Israel, in use at a private L.A. high school:
“If a girl will come to school at 8:05, the door will not open and she will be registered as late,” Mr. Farkash explained. “So you can use the system not only for security but for education, for better discipline.”
As for the many players in the industry getting together and agreeing to standards for commercial use of the technology, they'd love to, except all the details are proprietary. A Facebook spokeswoman is quoted, but really, her statement might be the only point of unanimity possible:
“Multi-stakeholder dialogues like this are critical to promoting people’s privacy, but until a code of conduct exists, we can’t say whether we will sign it.”
We'll let the market and spy agencies sort things out. Guidelines, even, "could stymie progress in a very promising market, and could kill investment" according to one company's chief.
Some sort of password manager seems an essential tool these days, and after using ad hoc means for many years, I recently switched to the open source Password Safe based on a positive recommendation, good user reviews, and seeing that Bruce Schneier endorsed it. I haven't combined it with cloud storage, nor dug in to the Android or iOS (compatible) apps, but it does what it does the way I want it to with local storage.
That came to mind in seeing news about another such app, with cloud storage that didn't turn out so well: LifeLock Wallet pulled from app stores and all user data deleted amid security concerns.
All user data deleted?! That's right, in spite of there being no evidence that user information had been compromised, they decided that it was "the right thing to do" to have user's information deleted when they open the "wallet."
The app was previously known as "Lemon Wallet," the story says, in an unexpected bit of truth in labeling. If you had the misfortune of using this, and worse, relying on it to store your information without an alternative backup, you might like to know this workaround:
"We’ve heard from a reader that switching your phone to airplane mode before opening the app can give you access your data without having it wiped by the server. Once you’ve backed up any important information, we recommend you let the app delete your data in order to protect yourself from the security flaw."
Congratulations to my sister for great coverage from the Chicago Tribune for the fotoMuses group she's in and their upcoming show at the Bloomingdale (Illinois) Museum: Hopes & Dreams.
Curator and fotoMuses member, Joanne Barsanti, chose the challenging theme. Involved in her local Lions Club, she was drawn to the Lions "Follow Your Dream" theme. She took it one step further to create "Hopes & Dreams" for the fotoMuses, who found it more challenging than expected. "Envisioning your dream is one thing, but to display it in a photograph is another," Barsanti said.
The political robocalls are rolling in, the likes of T.P. Congressman Raúl Labrador extolling the virtues of T.P. wannabe Governor Russ Fulcher, and here's one I didn't expect, Brandon Woolf's campaign for State Controller calling, on his behalf, wanting me to know he's the only candidate for that post who has been endorsed by the NRA.
The last time I paid much attention to the State Controller's race, in 2006, we had an extremely well-qualified candidate running against a virtually unqualified good old gal, and the state made its choice pretty much solely on R over D. (You can guess which was which.) The bureaucracy survived the dislocation, the incumbent coasted to re-elected in 2010, and when she wasn't able to serve out her second term, her apparently competent chief of staff was appointed to succeed her, and now he's running for election as an (unelected) incumbent.
The Controller is all about fiscal responsibility, transparency in government, accounting, maintaining the state's information technology, and one of the five seats on the Land Board, managing Idaho's endowment lands. Only the last of those has the potential for partisan political ramifications, really, so what on earth does the race for Controller have to do with the National Rifle Association and its interests? "Rifling" doesn't sound like something I want in the state offices.
Ah, but of course there's a RWNJ-backed candidate for controller, Todd Hatfield, who has a background in accounting, and who is campaigning primarily on the issue of getting the Land Board out of competition with the private sector. He doesn't say how the fundamental requirement to maximize return on the endowment could proceed without such "competition," however.
So, adding the NRA to Woolf's side is all about reassuring GOP primary voters that he's OK to vote for.
That was the pithy career advice to graduates from the 2006 commencement speaker at Knox College. This year, we have to make do with some reruns (or worse, "nothing but milquetoasts" who can "pass a test for benign mediocrity and politically correct sensitivity)" if nominees can be shouted down by "lefty thought police" or "the knuckle-dragging hard right."
Timothy Egan, on The Commencement Bigots.
Idaho does have an excellent candidate in the race for Governor. Democrat A.J. Balukoff is happy to answer questions directly. His top priorities are education and our economy. He supports Medicaid reform in Idaho, and expanding coverage for low-income families. He supports the Idaho Core Standards, modeled after the Common Core standards now adopted by 44 states, to promote higher-level thinking skills in education. He stands with former Republican Governor Phill Batt in supporting extension of the Idaho Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity. He believes that Judge Dale's decision in the marriage equality case this week
"was correct because it says a state cannot bar a certain group of people from enjoying the same rights enjoyed by everyone else. It upholds the constitutional protection of equal treatment for all people"
and that Idaho should not use its limited resources to fight the ruling to the US Supreme Court. He supports raising, and indexing the minimum wage. He supports protecting the environment through collaborative processes, which the Owyhee Initiative showed us is possible.
The entrance to the IdaCorp annual shareholders meeting was well-guarded, and they checked "the list" as well as our documentation of ownership before they let us in. (We learned later from Rocky Barker that they were letting the press come in without proof of ownership.) And the agenda was clear about their objective ("to conduct an informative and meaningful Annual Meeting in a fair and orderly manner"), and intention for Order ("An attendee who is determined to be out of order by the Chairman will be asked to leave the meeting," and failing cooperation, "will be removed").
That's not quite the way I remember the Rules of Order, but between the statement and show of force (rental security was all around the building), and the quite ruly crowd, there were seldom heard any discouraging words in downtown Boise today.
There were a lot of upstanding captains of industry in power suits, free parking around their corporate HQ, and the usual smattering of white-haired shareholders looking after their dividend flow. "It should be short and sweet" one of the suits assured one of the graybacks, just before the new President, CEO and Director of both companies (IdaCorp and its subsidiary Idaho Power) got the show on the road.
Of the 39,000 shareowners, 50 or so were there in person, leaving no suspense to the perfunctory offical business portion. Directors elected, advisory resolution on executive compensation approved, and independent auditor appointed. The auditor's agent thanked the shareholders and said he was looking forward to counting the beans.
Now for the interesting part, starting with an entertaining video/slide show about the company's 2013 accomplishments. Lots of spinning transitions, hey, that's how electricity is made after all. The 500 KV GatewayWest and Boardman to Hemingway (B2H) transmission projects were featured, along with the HOT HOT HOT last summer. Fires. 3,407 MW new all-time high (at a time when there was only 10 MW of wind power supplied). Fish. A drone flying... next to a boat. White sturgeon survey in Hell's Canyon, goats battling noxious weeds, eating up the utility corridor. Go goats! New solar powered lights in their downtown parking lot, from local Inovus Solar. Target Rock Advisors says we're leaders in sustainability, and there's a pile of printed reports in back, on heavy, slick paper covered with brown ink to make it look like grocery bag paper.
Stock performance is good, dividend is up, they're committed to to dispensing 50-60% of their income as dividends, yes thank you. Community outreach, charity, veterans, pets, they're big on social media, very big. They're big on safety.
They're big on a "Balanced generation portfolio" (although I'm sure they'd love more hydropower). In 2013, hydro and coal were about even and just under 40%, natural gas and wind about 10% each, and the leftovers of "Biomass, Geothermal and Other" 3%. All that hot hot hot summer peak demand and solar is so far in the small change.
The company is "on a glide path" to reduce dependence on coal; you can't just turn it off. There are "no new coal plants in our integrated resource plan." Boardman plant slated for 2020 closure, I think he said. Any questions?
A good portion of the crowd lined up by the microphone in the back, and everyone was polite, complimentary, and had issues they were interested in hearing about. Electric transportation? (The CEO is thinking of getting an electric car himself.) What happened to that PV demo project? ("It did get delayed." ... "We are looking very hard at it.") What alternative to coal is ramping up while that ramps down? (They "need something with a throttle on it," but for right now, new transmission capability and "energy efficiency" are their top two items in the resource plan. They're evaluating "thousands of MW of hydro opportunities.")
They say they don't need more power until 2018-2020, and are slow-playing as much as half a gigawatt of solar projects, and more than that in wind, in defense of their customers. "We could roll over on the issue, because it's 100% pass-through," but they want happy customers who don't get stuck paying for something that doesn't meet their needs. "We're not saying 'don't come,' we're saying pay your fair share of the cost."
"Will we get to zero (carbon)? No we will not."
The Idaho Power CEO imagines there's "an insatiable appetite for energy," but at my house, we're pretty steady and satiable. More population = more customers, and yes, it looks insatiable to the utility, even if we are collectively satiated (it seems) until 2018-2020.
For a closing word, one grayback stands up with memory of a mere $21/share, and he likes the dividend, thankyouverymuch. The overly voluble woman behind me says "I bought it when it was $9!" a couple times. After the meeting, we all have a friendly gaggle, I get my picture taken by Rocky Barker while I chatted up the CEO. (His report of the event for the Idaho Statesman has the benefit of more history with the corporate meetings, and the power issues in the region.)
If you're strapped for time but want to experience the heady flavor of Idaho politics, you should sample last night's debate among the four Republican candidates for Governor put on by Idaho Public TV. As one of the reporters asking questions said, it was quite the debate.
They'd announced ahead of time that there was going to be a 30 second buffer so they could hit the kill switch if "colorful" and perennial candidate Harley Brown went off the rails, but if they had to use it, I did not notice. He seemed just sufficiently well-behaved to get invited back in 4 years. Props to moderator Melissa Davlin for keeping the wild bunch reined in, and for the reporters who asked good and serious questions of all four players, not all good and serious candidates.
First up, will the Governor continue to spend taxpayer money to defend our not-looking-defensible consitutional prohibition of same-sex marriage? Absolutely!
Russ Fulcher managed to get his big two selling points in, that our current governor somehow aided and abetted Obamacare, and that Common Core (which he was duped into supporting at first) is almost as bad as black helicopters, or worse: the federal government taking over the minds of our children. We have "too much government control" in Idaho.
Hey Walter Bayes went to jail for homeschooling, but he's got four boy rodeo winners "and one daughter"... among his 8 boys and 8 girls. I'm guessing the education was sub-par, but it was at least wholesale: he bragged in his opening that he's got seventy-seven descendants.
In addition to being the only state with a Republican supermajorities in its legislature and a Republican governor to decide to have its own healthcare insurance exchange (a work in process; year #1 relied on healthcare.gov, which worked well enough to get more than 76,000 people signed up, twice the target set by the feds), we must be the only one whose Republican governor is running for reelection extolling the virtues of being "reality based."
That came up most often in response to Fulcher's pie-in-the-sky about the state taking ownership of the huge tracts of federal land within our boundary, so we can cut more trees, drill more gas and oil, and mine our way back to the glories of the 1800s. (Not bad for a semiconductor salesman!) Fulcher wanted viewers to
"ask yourself: Are you better off today than you were eight years ago? If you’re like most of us, the answer is no. It’s time to shake up the establishment."
Let's see, 2014 minus 8 is... 2006. We'd got over the dot.com bubble and bust and were drunk on the real estate bubble, thinking that was never going to end, speaking in the generic "if you're like most of us." With the crazy quilt foursome up there, it was an unintentionally funny line. It did give me pause to count my blessings; our well-being is not actually that closely tied with who is governor, or how closely aligned his thinking is with reality.
So let's hear it for the status quo with a clown show, props to Butch for limiting his face time to this one debate, and salting it with local color to reduce the opportunity to talk about his administration's scandals and shortcomings. If only Fulcher were smarter or more likeable; those qualities seemed in short supply for the fellow that stymied even biker Harley Browns' stand-up routine:
“Folks, you have a choice: A cowboy, a curmudgeon, a biker or a... normal guy. Take your pick.”
Like any good salesman, Fulcher knows how to act normal, but a four-year dose of his Tea Party elixir would keep us sub-normal for some time to come.
Update: If you've only got a couple minutes, here's your highlight mashup. It's mostly Brown and Bayes, of course.
The punchline from Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Wagahoff Dale's Memorandum Decision and Order yesterday in Susan Latta and Traci Ehlers, Lori Watsen and Sharene Watsen, Shelia Robertson and Andrea Altmayer, Amber Beierle and Rachael Robertson versus C.L. “Butch” Otter, as Governor of the State of Idaho, in his official capacity, and Christopher Rich, as Recorder of Ada County, Idaho, in his official capacity, and State of Idaho, Defendant-Intervenor:
"After careful consideration, the Court finds Idaho’s Marriage Laws unconstitutional. This conclusion reaffirms a longstanding maxim underlying our system of government—a state’s broad authority to regulate matters of state concern does not include the power to violate an individual’s protected constitutional rights."
The judge declared her order with a permanent injunction against the State of Idaho to take effect 9am MDT on Friday. On Monday, the State apparently had a notion of what was coming, asked for a stay of whatever ruling came against it, so that it could appeal, to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and if it were to lose anything there, to the United States Supreme Court.
The motion notes that the Supreme Court stayed a similar injunction in Utah, where adminstrative agencies, same-sex couples and citizens generally "have been plunged into uncertainty, chaos, and confusion over the marital status of the same-sex-couples who received marriage licenses in that State before the United States Supreme Court stepped in."
There may be some ups and downs, to be sure, but how nice of the State to evince some concern for same-sex couples at the last minute! And to remark ("in all due respect to this Court") that "it is only the United States Supreme Court that can give the answer to that issue in a way that commands the respect, allegiance, and compliance of the entire nation." As if only. Still, that may be one of the few cogent arguments the State advanced.
In response to the State's and amicus curiae Cornerstone Family Council of Idaho's argument that the State should prevail because "federalism!" the Judge notes: "Federalism is not just a bulwark against federal government overreach; it is also an essential check on state power."
(The CFC of Idaho provided the only "for" testimony when the Idaho House State Affairs Committee took up Rep. Lynn Luker's attempt to legislate religious power to discriminate, as regular readers may recall from February entries here, here, here and here.)
Speaking of religious liberty, the Judge's order refers to our church, the Boise Unitarian Universalst Fellowship, albeit not by name, in regard to the Watsens' "larger celebration of their marriage" in 2012 after their small legal ceremony in New York in 2011, and in its support for their union:
"[S]ome of the Plaintiffs actively worship in faiths that recognize and support their unions. (S. Watsen Dec. ¶ 13, Dkt. 51.) To the extent Governor Otter argues that Idaho has a legitimate interest in validating a particular religious view of marriage, that argument blithely disregards the religious liberty of congregations active in Idaho."
Update: The Governor's motion for a stay is denied as the Attorney General (also running against a Tea Party candidate in the Republican primary next Tuesday) scrambles to make his own request for a stay, and appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Why scrambling? By now, this is getting predictable. Oregon looks to be next.
That'd be "red" as in Republican (and beyond), the topic of last night's "community conversation" arranged by Boise State Public Radio, How one political party came to dominate Idaho. The three panelists were well-positioned to have answers on the historical question ("this is not a debate"): our current Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, the former U.S. Attorney and political strategist Betty Richardson, and retired BSU professor and longtime local commentator Jim Weatherby.
I'd subtitled my notes "or, how did we get so crazy?" but that didn't factor into the conversation as much as I expected it to. The very much shorter version of how Republicans came to dominate is with "a deeper bench," solid organizing from the precinct level spearheaded by former Governor Phil Batt, the legislature's shrewd redistricting after the 1990 census, and stomping on the grave of unions with "Right to Work" legislation. The expected liberal influence of inmigration from California turned out to be an elephant in a poke, as the panhandle loaded up on San Diego, L.A. and Orange county escapees rather than the liberals who seem to still like the Golden State well enough.
The Democrats gained ground in 1988 and 1990; Mike Burkett beat Jim Risch for an Ada Co. senate seat, before Risch went on to his short stint as Governor and his current sinecure in the U.S. Senate. Ysursa referred to the "infamous Hill v. Cenarussa redistricting" at the start of the 90s, and that famous convergence of the last day of filing, Sine Die and Governor Cecil Andrus' veto of an abortion restriction bill veto. Democrats had "two icons," Andrus and Senator Frank Church (defeated in 1980 by that year's no-nothing, anti-government Tea Party sort of candidate, Steve Symms, now happy as a D.C. lobbyist), and "very little bench." Ysursa's memory goes back to 1958, when a "Right to Work" initiative was defeated, decades before the legislature enacted the anti-union law and the voters were persuaded to affirm what has demonstrably become the "Right to work for less."
Phil Batt promoted the Republicans as "the party of the big tent," following Ronald Reagan's principle that someone who was with you 80% of the time was your friend, not a 20% traitor. "Now we're into a phone booth and a pup tent," Ysursa said (but controlling all statewide offices and the legislature all the same).
1994 was the turning point here, as well as in the Congress, as local elections came to be nationalized in Newt Gingrich's Contract With (or "on," depending on your point of view) America. Demonizing unions (and public education) worked wonders; the Idaho Education Association used to be one of the most influential organizations in the state.
Weatherby noted the winning focus under Andrus was education, environment and economy, "clearly what the Democrats stood for." That was twisted into fear-mongering about social engineering, comin' to get yer guns, and the federal government's regulations (never mind the money that flows into our state, exceeding the taxes going out).
But what next? What will change? Richardson is hopeful that generational and geographic shifts will bring us back from the fringe, and hopes change won't be "glacial." Weatherby wishes for a return to the emphasis on education, environment and economy. Ysursa expects change, and hopes it'll be in the Republican party first.
"You can be so far right you're wrong."
Update: Adam Cotterell, who moderated last night's event, has a feature on Boise State Public Radio's site, How Idaho Became A One Party State. He notes 1990 as the recent high water mark for the Democrats, with both Congressional seats, half the state Senate and three of seven statewide offices, including Cecil Andrus, then elected to his fourth term.
Greg Sargent's WaPo "Plum Line": A Senate race about... climate change! Odd place to face off there in Michigan, but "the centrality of the Great Lakes to the Michigan economy; and the huge expenditures on behalf of [GOP candidate Terri] Land by the political group founded by Charles and David Koch" set the scene. Her opponent, Democratic Rep. Gary Peters
"intends to talk about climate change as a key issue in this race, with a focus on the Great Lakes and on the role of a Koch Industries affiliate in a major local story involving piles of petroleum coke along the Detroit River."
I would think those piles of coke (which you can visit on Facebook if you like) would be topic enough, the billionaire brothers "turning Detroit into their own personal trash can" for the waste product of the Canadian tar sands, where the Koch boys lease a million acres or so for extraction purposes.
But the climate change forecast for the Great Lakes is potentially lower levels, amply disruptive if not as bad as having your shoreline flooded out. They've been sixty-five feet lower in the past, and it could happen again. (Maybe they won't be able to ship that petcoke into Detroit?) So Peters is pressing Land to say where she stands on the issue of the human role in climate change. Land's spokesperson Heather Swift:
“Terri believes that there should be a healthy and educated debate on the impact of human activity on our environment, but she does not agree with radical liberals like Tom Steyer and Congressman Peters on the extent of the effect of human behavior on our climate. While Terri continues to focus on jobs, the economy and protecting the Great Lakes, Congressman Peters has instead focused his energy on selling out Michigan workers and adopting the radical agenda of California billionaire Tom Steyer.”
"Radical liberals" is a bit unhinged, but nobody likes outside money influencing elections (unless they're getting some), right?
Then there are the Koch brothers. The Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity has spent millions on ads attacking Peters on Land’s behalf. According to Forbes, Koch Industries has ”contributed millions to organizations that have studied human-induced global warming with skepticism.” This has raised questions about whether the Kochs’ political activities are “blatantly self-interested,” Forbes noted, because Koch Industries is “a major carbon emitter, vulnerable to tighter emissions controls.”
Update: John Oliver notes the problem of "balanced" one on one coverage, and shows how to debate climate change deniers. And speaking of facts, it seems that West Antarctic glaciers have now retreated far enough to set off an instability in the ice sheet that will make continuing retreat irreversible.
"Those six glaciers alone could cause the ocean to rise four feet as they disappear, Dr. Rignot said, possibly within a couple of centuries. He added that their disappearance will most likely destabilize other sectors of the ice sheet, so the ultimate rise could be triple that."
She said she was calling "all [her] conservative friends" to warn them about Mike Simpson, and to extol the virtues of the Club for Growth stooge (my word, not hers), Bryan Smith, in next Tuesday's primary. Paid for by the "Concerned American Voters," who don't show up on the radar much. Second call today, I don't remember what the (equally competent voice) actress called herself the first time. Faith? Hope?
ask Sheldon Adelson for a job, [in]fluencer and Anchor Betty Liu
advises. He's got an HR department to say no to pissants like you.
Instead, you might compliment him on his
queen and princess. Find some common ground, such as "I visited your
casino, and I love the Chinese characters on your toiletries!"
Maybe the big man will give you a little smile, or a million dollar nudge in your next bid for the White House.
Time for those second and third thoughts on the holiday. Here's an open letter to pastors on the subject, from a non-mom put off by being left out of the church services, the Anarchist Soccer Mom, who would prefer it to be "Just pay me the same as a man and skip the flowers Day," and Maureen Dowd, With Malice Toward Nuns. (That's a bit further afield, but along the lines of patriarchical control.)
Finished my protracted read of Eli Pariser's 2011 book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You and am ready to add it to my recommended reading list. Pariser was instrumental in the rise of MoveOn.org and remains its board president, and I see now that he's also the chief executive of Upworthy, the purveyor of "meaningful" content hoped to go viral, and which ironically, is outside my own click-through filter bubble along with anything else that might "blow my mind." Expanding is good, but all things in moderation.
A lot more has happened in technology, politics and the world since he wrote the book, but it remains timely, I think, as what he describes in process has added still more capability, engagement, and become still more pervasive. It was well before Edward Snowden's revelations which might have taken it in a different direction, although the main point that "what you're seeing is filtered" stands on its own regardless of how much governments and corporations see about you, unfiltered.
"[T]he rise of pervasive, embedded filtering is changing the way we experience the Internet and ultimately the world. At the center of this transformation is the fact that for the first time it's possible for a medium to figure out who you are, what you like, and what you want. Even if the personalizing code isn't always spot-on, it's accurate enough to be profitable, not just by delivering better ads but also by adjusting the substance of what we read, see, and hear.
"As a result, while the Internet offers access to a dazzling array of sources and options, in the filter bubble we'll miss many of them. While the Internet can give us new opportunities to grow and experiment with our identities, the economics of personalization push toward a static conception of personhood. While the Internet has the potential to decentralize knowledge and control, in practice it's concentrating control over what we see and what opportunities we've offered in the hands of fewer people than ever before."
In his concluding chapter, "Escape from the City of Ghettos," where he exhorts us to get out more and try new stuff, and to try to retake more control over the information we consume, this simple, and as yet unattained list of "Fair Information Practices" that ought to support our efforts. They were clear enough to Nixon's Department of Housing, Education and Welfare in 1973:
Quite a bit easier said then done; Pariser notes that 40 years later, "we're still waiting for them to be enforced." A new government initiative, you say? That's going to be a heavy lift for governments that have demonstrated a stronger preference "to eliminate privacy globally," as Glenn Greenwald put it,
"without the slightest bit of hyperbole or melodrama; it's not metaphorical and it's not figurative; it is literally true–that the goal of the NSA and its five eyes partners in the English speaking world–Canada, New Zealand, Australia and especially the UK–is to eliminate privacy globally, to ensure that there could be no human communications that occur electronically, that evades their surveillance net; they want to make sure that all forms of human communications by telephone or by Internet, and all online activities are collected, monitored, stored and analyzed by that agency and by their allies."
That's on their end, and the best we might do is rein in the worst of the abuse. Mostly it's up to us to "get over it," and address the issues that Pariser raises about our end of the information flow. Understanding and overcoming confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, the power of default choices, and the easy distraction is the challenge of this information age we're in. To that end, Pariser's book is an excellent (and quite readable) backgrounder.
In celebration of Bike Week, a light, celebratory "we're number 4!" in the Boise Weekly, picking up from the one infographic the League of American Bicyclists cherry-picked out of the American Community Survey Census report, Modes Less Traveled—Bicycling and Walking to Work in the United States: 2008–2012.
I was curious about how they divided up metro areas, such as whether "San Francisco" was just the city proper, or what. (It's hit or miss: Palo Alto and Menlo Park are on the "small cities" list, for example.) Plus, I've been in a number of bike-friendly cities, and while Boise has made good improvements, I don't think it's reached "number 4" just yet. The report doesn't say what the "reference week" was, but since Minneapolis beat out Boise in the large cities list, it wasn't in winter, for starters. The numbers are based on the question "How did [you] usually get to work LAST WEEK?" with 11 choices (including Ferryboat, and Other), pick one.
Table 1 shows rates of walking and bicycling to work for the nation's 50 largest cities by total workers, which ranges from 3+ million (NY) down to 170,000-some, and which doesn't include Boise, Idaho. But Boise is in the "Larger Cities (Population 200,000 or greater) list of table 2, and yes, fourth, after Portland, Oregon, Madison, Wisconsin, and Minneapolis, with 3.7% of us saying we usually biked to work that week.
Medium-sized cities (100,000-199,999) have higher rates however, and some WAY higher. Davis, CA, 18.6%. Key West, Corvallis and Boulder are all in double digits. Santa Cruz 9.2%, Eugene 8.7%, Palo Alto 8.5%, Berkeley 8.1%, Cambridge 7.2% and so on.
What I didn't know is that many times more workers walk to work than bicycle, even after walking has dropped by half in recent decades, from 5.6% to 2.8% overall. Total bicycle commuting reported is less than a quarter of walking. (In the 1980 census, there were TEN TIMES as many walkers as cyclists.) There are exceptionally "walking-friendly" cities: Ithaca, NY showed more than 40% of workers walking, Athens OH, 37%.
Bicycling is mostly a guy thing: 0.8% of male workers, versus 0.3% of females bicycled, overall. (The walking stats are not gender-biased.) And given that numbers skew to young, and low income, there's probably a lot more "save the expense" sentiment involved than "save the earth." Naturally, there's a distance-to-work factor, and it combines with mode to refelct time-to-work. Walkers spend the least time commuting (average 11.5 minutes), cyclists next (19.3 min.), all other modes the most (25.9 min.).
Table 2 shows "top 15" lists for walking and bicycling for small, medium-sized and large cities, and suggests a combined metric they didn't tabulate or graph: cities with high combined rates (high enough to make both top 15 lists in their size category). I put that together and show it here, with the 2 small, 7 medium and 7 large cities that are apparently most walkable, and most bikeable. The game starts at 10% and goes up to the example set by Boulder, Colorado, where one-fourth of the commuters walk to work, and another tenth bicycle, 34.5% total.
A good news story, sort of, about Rand Paul was in today's Idaho Statesman, picked up from the New York Times. He's "diverging" from his party on the subject of voter ID, a.k.a. "stricter voting laws as a way to crack down on fraud at the polls." It's not a huge lift, given that said fraud has pretty much defied detection to date. It's "common sense" that voters should identify themselves, but not so much sense that we should be having this protracted conversation about a non-problem. But good on Paul for coming out and saying so.
“Everybody’s gone completely crazy on this voter ID thing,” Mr. Paul said in an interview. “I think it’s wrong for Republicans to go too crazy on this issue because it’s offending people.”
Yes, let's keep the crazy in moderation. Or, we could take on the underlying issue, that "civil rights groups call the laws a transparent effort to depress black turnout" more directly?
After meeting with black pastors, and down the street with the Republicans, Paul "made no mention of voting rights" and shifted to "the message that the party needed to soften its edges and show more sympathy to populations that have felt overlooked and maligned by Republicans." This on his cross-country tour, practicing telling disparate audiences what they want to hear for his 2016 presidential bid. This is the quote the caught my eye:
“There’s 180,000 people in Kentucky who can’t vote. And I don’t know the racial breakdown, but it’s probably more black than white because they’re convicted felons. And I’m for getting their right to vote back, which is a much bigger deal than showing your driver’s license.”
The story was from Memphis, right next-door to where Paul is a U.S. Senator, and in the neighborhood of the top 6 states for highest rate of disenfranchised voters. (Florida—with more than 1.5 million, and a rate north of 10%, Mississippi, Kentucky, Virginia, Alabama, and Tennessee.) Oh, and the Republican National Committee is having its spring meeting, too.
I'm thinking, he's the U.S. Senator from Kentucky, going on this tour through Memphis, Chicago and Detroit, trying to address important issues about race, including disenfranchisement, and he doesn't know the facts of the matter?
He might be interested to know that researchers at the University of Louisville published a study in 2009, estimating the impact of Kentucky’s felon disenfranchisement policy on 2008 presidential and senatorial elections. The focus of that research was
"Kentucky, one of only three states that permanently disenfranchise all persons with felony convictions even after termination of criminal justice supervision."
"One out of every 17 Kentucky residents is disenfranchised, a rate more than twice the national average. As a result, nearly one of every four (23.7 percent) African Americans in Kentucky is ineligible to vote, a rate nearly triple the national African-American disenfranchisement rate of 8.25 percent (League of Women Voters of Kentucky, 2006)."
The study went on to infer from a sample of 425 surveys that even if voters had been reenfranchised, they wouldn't have affected the 2008 outcomes, so we might as well let them vote. (Seriously.) And there's this possible justification for Paul's ignorance:
"[I]t is unclear precisely how many felon ex-supervisees are in the state, have had their voting rights restored, have died, and/or left the state. Kentucky maintains no official disenfranchisement statistics."
On the other hand, The Sentencing Project's study of State-Level Estimates of Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States, 2010 might be something one of Paul's staffers could have a look at and brief the Senator. Jump to page 10, and "Variation by Race" to see state-wise mapping of African American disenfranchisement rates in 1980, and 2010 (figure 7). Florida, Kentucky and Virginia stand out, for their rates now exceeding 20% of the adult voting age population. Kentucky is a "leader" in total disenfranchisement (the cartogram shown here, my outline added to help Paul find his home state) and in African American disenfranchisement rate. The latter was 3.66 times the non-black disenfrachisement rate in 2010, the year Paul was elected to the Senate.
The NYT piece winds up by dryly noting that "some Democrats were not impressed by Mr. Paul's efforts at outreach." Quoting a member of the Tennessee General Assembly:
“Get real, Senator,” Mr. Hardaway said. “To come here, to Memphis of all places, and espouse the principles and ‘goodness’ of today’s Republican Party,” he added. “Excuse me if I’m not buying it.”
In the "did not see this coming" department, Richey Rich bucks the mainstream of his party and calls for an increase in the minimum-wage. The reasoning is as perfectly tone deaf as ever:
"I think we ought to raise it because, frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay, and I think communicating that is important to us," he said. ... "I also believe the key for our party is to be able to convince the people who are in the working population, particularly in the Hispanic community, that our party will help them get better jobs and better wages."
Starting riiiiight.... now.
Alternately, he could just drive around town in one of his convertibles and throw hundred dollar bills in the air every afternoon.
The state GOP scored a big name for their state con next month: Rand Paul! Yay! They're hoping to pack the Kibbie Vault by the thousands at $50 a pop. "Wouldn’t it be something if we had 18,000 people in the Kibbie Dome?" chairman Barry Peterson enthused. Yes, it would certainly be "something." I don't expect they can pack the Vault, but we'll see. I'm more certain that a fair tranche of the attendees will have their $50 admission waived one way or another, but they could make up the difference with the inevitable private appointments for schmoozing and getting a glossy photo with Randy.
We can look forward to the message of "limited government and personal freedom" (and "free land") being hollered from the hilltops for months to come. The Spokesman-Review Huckleberries Online blog provides one discussion forum. I enjoyed the opening comment about the suspicion that "Ron has Rand say things that he sometimes wishes he could say, but can't/won't for fear of losing his doctrinaire libertarian supporters," as if... Rand were Ron's puppet? Ron has supporters (or cares about losing them)? The senior Paul has not been getting much press lately.
There's definitely a "more pragmatic" side to Rand, but also ample predilection to turn libertarian principle into something crazy such as defending a deadbeat stealing from the government, because he doesn't think law enforcement should be part of what government does. (That was until Cliven crossed the bridge too far; and Rand backpedaled furiously, with every other name-brand Republican. Even Reince Priebus could tell that Bundy was "completely beyond the pale," "highly offensive and 100 percent wrong on race.")
Oh, while we're speaking of race: Bill Cope's got a good column in this week's Boise Weekly, with a trip down memory lane to the Gipper's August, 1980 speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, just about the dawn of the Sagebrush Rebellion and "government is the problem." If that had been prophecy, it certainly would have been self-fulfilling. With the benefit of 34 years hindsight however, it looks a lot more like tactical plan than something oracular.
One of those "computer service" scammers called this morning, and I took the third way, between just hanging up and expressing indignation, distracted him with a question after his opening salvo:
me: Hello! Are you in India?
him: No sir, actually I am in Pakistan...
me: Well, hello from the other side of the world, Pakistan! (sounding very excited)
him: Yes sir, if you could just please turn your computer on...
me: And you want to direct my actions from Pakistan! I don't think that sounds like a good idea.
Emmett Rensin's profile of Bill Nye and his segue to "Climate Guy" is entertaining, not least for me to see that we're the same age and earned the same college degree, in mechanical engineering. (He didn't mess around the way I did, got his 4 years out of high school. And I never went into stand-up or had a TV show.) I'm not quite convinced that it's (just) "a performance," however. I think Nye knows what he's talking about well enough, and can hold his own in a real debate as well as one with a make-believe opponent. I also happen to think a background in mechanical engineering is a good start to provide skills in studying big scientific issues in sufficient depth to be an educator or to discuss them with members of Congress. Rensin's off-hand remark about "superficially flimsy qualifications" makes me wonder about his qualifications more than Nye's.
Given the degree to which climate change science has been politicized, the performance skills are definitely useful, but Nye is not simply putting on a show. If "[speaking] in digestible, declarative sentences [and] returning over and over to concrete examples for arguments" were trivial, we might see a lot more of it, and less political theater.
On one level, positioning the vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee against a public TV star is a level stage. On a more important level, Bill Nye, the science guy is far more qualified to opine on the topic at hand than Rep. Blackburn, with her degree in Home Economics and a 20 year career in Republican politics.
Jon Huntsman Jr. laments the sorry state the GOP has come to, treating what may be the most important issue of our time as a joke:
"So obtuse has become the party’s dialogue on climate change that it’s now been reduced to believing or not believing, as if it were a religious mantra.
"This approach reached a new low last month during a North Carolina congressional debate at which all the Republican candidates chuckled at a question on climate change — as if they had been asked about their belief in the Tooth Fairy. Is climate change a fact, they were asked. All four answered no."
Huntsman's call to action is for Republicans to "get back to our foundational roots as catalysts for innovation and problem solving," which I'm not sure I remember, but this:
"If Republicans can get to a place where science drives our thinking and actions, then we will be able to make progress. We need to plan for the impacts of climate change at all levels of government. We need to empower Republicans leading those efforts to make decisions and investments that benefit their constituents, the party and the planet. Denying the science will only hinder their chance for success."
My preference would be for a Congress that was an honorable institution, but the threat of the body "holding someone in contempt" seems more oxymoronic than "jumbo shrimp." Former IRS official Lois Lerner will face that music as House Republicans try for a two-fer, against the IRS (for having the temerity to enforce regulations, perhaps being slightly more vigilant against GOP pals) and Benghazi (for whatever it is that went wrong there, and whatever was said about it afterwards).
“This is not going to be a sideshow,” Speaker of the House John Boehner said. “This is not going to be a circus.”
Then, his voice rising in anger and his face darkening to red, he went through the list of investigations that conservatives have pursued to frustratingly inconclusive ends over the last several years.
Yes, well, he doth put on a show, and doth protest overmuch.
Looks like Rand Paul got himself a special Derby Day hairdo for his Saturday date with Rupert Murdoch. The best kind of libertarian to have as a friend is a rich one with a media empire who thinks he can take advantage of your friendship, eh? Not to put too fine a point on it, Jason Horowitz:
That Mr. Murdoch, no novice when it comes to matters of political imagery, allowed himself to be paraded for six hours around the boisterous and bourbon-drenched grounds like a prize horse behind a proud jockey, amounted to a message to more establishment Republicans that, as Mr. Murdoch put it, “I’m very open minded.”
Between the two of them, they were able to place a (losing) bet on a self-service betting machine, so there's that. And knowing how to step "precariously through a tunnel that smelled heavily of manure" without getting any on you will be good practice for the 2016 campaign.
Since Anthony Kennedy and his pals have decided that we all can open our public meetings with a prayer, the American Humanist Association is looking on the bright side. The SCOTUS opined that local governments must make “reasonable efforts to identify all of the congregations located within its borders” and welcome an invocation by anyone who wishes to give one, regardless of their faith. The main thing is that we're not to “denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities, threaten damnation, or preach conversion.” (Quite Unitarian Universalist, that.)
"The Humanist Society, an adjunct of the American Humanist Association, just launched as a platform for humanists to be identified within local government borders so that they can offer secular invocations pursuant to a legislative prayer practice. The website provides sample secular invocations and an interactive map to find a humanist who can deliver an invocation in one’s local area. Though this is a new program, there are already 50 individuals approved to give secular invocations, and the program is actively seeking to bolster this number."
Christi Turner has put together a nice infographic/photoessay for High Country News with the Timeline: The BLM vs. Cliven Bundy, starting with Bundy's pop, who applied for his first-ever federal grazing permit in 1953. Must be something in the water; the Bundy clan are slower than a desert tortoise in paying what they owe. Don't much about David Bundy, and it says he "eventually pays what the feds say he owes," which is a lot more than we can say about Cliven.
There's also an index of court and federal documents if you prefer, from 1994 through 2013.
It's taken him a while to learn the local ropes, but Idaho Statesman opinion page editor Robert Ehlert seems to be catching on, judging by his helpful glossary for "Polticalspeak" as we ramp up to the May 20 primary.
True conservative: This is a powerful combination of the previous two words spoken with pomp and the kind of self-righteous indignation that is purchased with PAC money. As an example, a federal-level candidate often remarks he is not just "a true conservative," he is "the true conservative."
I believe that postcard came yesterday, in fact.
Don't miss Sharon Fisher's suggestions for additional terms in the comments.
sovereignity or 10th Amendment: we want to do something the Feds won't let us do.
proper role of government we want to stop doing something we're supposed to do.
There's a simple and reliable way to become a perfect financial advisor in a world of binary decisions. For N turns, start with 2^N targets, and tell half them to "buy" and the other half to "sell." Discard the 2^(N-1) people you gave the wrong advice to, divide the remainder in half for your next buy/sell recommendations. If you want an audience of 10,000 instead of 1, just multiply 2^N by that number, and start sending those Make Money Fast emails. Eventually, you will have some number of people who are amazed at your ability to the predict the future, and they will pay you great sums to handle their money.
Another way to be "always right" is to limit your predictions to things far enough in the future, and general and/or complicated enough that refutation is kept at a safe distance. Deficits will lead to disaster, you might say, 5 or 10 years from now. 20 for sure.
I'm not quite ready to dive into professor Krugman's 20 PDF slide deck for his just-finished course, Econ 348, "The Great Recession: Causes and Consequences," but his op-ed Why Economics Failed seems like a pretty good introduction to it, with two easy points to be made:
#1: "The clean little secret of recent years is that, since the fall of Lehman Brothers, basic textbook macroeconomics has performed very well."
#2: "[M]ost people find the logic of policy in a depressed economy counterintuitive."
What brought to mind the "fake prediction" scam (which must have a well-known name, but I don't see it in this list of confidence tricks) while reading Krugman's piece was this:
"[P]owerful political factions find that bad economic analysis serves their objectives. Most obviously, people whose real goal is dismantling the social safety net have found promoting deficit panic an effective way to push their agenda. And such people have been aided and abetted by what I’ve come to think of as the trahison des nerds — the willingness of some economists to come up with analyses that tell powerful people what they want to hear, whether it’s that slashing government spending is actually expansionary, because of confidence, or that government debt somehow has dire effects on economic growth even if interest rates stay low."
We so love to hear what we want to hear, stroking confirmation bias. It's not easy to consider opinions you disagree with, and worse than that, it's all too easy to dismiss facts that disagree with your opinions. (As always, I could be wrong about everything, but I'm pretty sure I'm not.)
Ann Wheeler, the Republican State Committeewoman from Power County (pop. 7,538-ish) sent out an op-ed of her own, complaining about the intramural warfare between the old guard and the "ultraconservative wing" of her party, which I guess are a.k.a. the liberal RINOs and the Tea Party at this point. About the latter:
"The Tea Party movement started out as an effort to reduce federal spending and taxes during the economic downturn in 2009."
Which, if Krugman knows what he's talking about, means that it started out as an effort to do exactly the wrong thing. But Ms. Wheeler's point seems to be that that was all well and good and Republican. The problem is that
"It has expanded to include things that have nothing to do with either spending or taxes."
Which, yes. And the general demonization of compromise in any form. That on top of insisting on doing exactly the wrong thing is especially problematic.
Just when you thought it was safe to get on your bike and go for a nice ride in the springtime, the Ada County Highway District seems to have lit up the old us vs. them in downtown Boise. (Full disclaimer: I was born an "us," tried being a "them" but it didn't work out at first, later have become both an "us" and a "them," as I remain to this day.)
There are some "bike boxes" now, for a trial run, and not the cardboard sort you use for shipping. They're green paint on pavement, out in front of stop lines, which means... keep out? Watch out? Not sure. You can cross a stop line to make a right turn on red, so can you go through a bike box to do that?
One friend-of-a-friend Facebook thread quickly devolved into the tiresome, tireless, and ever-unproductive battle between bike lovers, bike haters, and a few of us wondering if we couldn't all just get along. One of "them" says:
"I guess I am still not seeing why it is necessary to allow bikes on roads intended for cars."
Just get the hell off the road, would you? The same commenter later opined that he didn't "care so much what the rules are, as long as they apply, equally, to all" because this isn't "a magical mega city like Seattle or NYC, there is plenty of room to build out routes and roads for all."
Another one of "them" who doesn't want bicycles "to mingle with traffic (with a false sense of security)"—apparently this person can not balance on two wheels?—suggests that since bicycles [sic] aren't "registered, license plated & forced to keep vehicle insurance at all times," they're just damn freeloaders "And if they scratch your car with their carelessness, who pays for damage?"
Gosh, it makes you wonder how his car "accidentally" got scratched, doesn't it? (He said it was a MAMIL—"Middle Aged Moron in Lycra"—and the scratch was "down the full length of your car with a pedal," which sounds like one hell of an acrobatic bit of payback.)
"And just because you're hugging a tree and all that other blah-blah-blah, doesn't mean you are above the rest of society."
And yet another one of "them":
"I've never seen a cyclist wanting to 'work together' to share the road. I've in fact even been told by several cyclists they don't have to follow the same laws as drivers and motor cyclists (which yes, they are required to follow all the same traffic signs and signals). So the fact that they are getting an entire traffic lane to themselves, well I think that's a bit. Uncalled for. If they don't want to follow the same laws, they don't get to use the same roads."
But no, the laws are not exactly the same, and some people have a hUUUge problem with that, starting with the ignorance.
Speaking of which, I'm ignorant of perzackly what this green bike box I'm seeing talked about does and requires. A look through the April 2014 edition of Idaho's Driver's Manual shows me the astounding new Diverging Diamond Interchange (visit I-86 and Yellowstone Ave. in Chubbuck if you like), but no hint of the bike box.
Ah, here it is, from the ACHD: What is a bike box? And the part that'll miff some "thems": "No right turns on red at these intersections!"
C.T. "Chris" Troupis wants to be Idaho's Attorney General, and in his two-minute opening statement last night, which we have to presume is the best-scripted thing he could come up with, his opening argument is that Wasden has been doing the job too long. 12 years (not "terms" as the moderator misspoke in his opening), and while he has served in various government positions "since President Reagan and Governor Andrus were in office," the voters have been OK with someone who worked his way up from (Owyhee) county prosecuting attorney to serve as a deputy and chief of staff in the AG's office before being elected AG in 2002.
They've both been practicing as attorneys for the same 30 years or so, and no suggestion either should because of that. So why has Wasden overstayed his welcome, exactly?
"We all know that the power of political office can be so immense, and so intoxicating that there's a great danger of being captured by it. The Attorney General has held public office for over a quarter century. He's been employed in that office since President Reagan and Governor Andrus were in office. That is long enough.
"Because even though Mr. Wasden is a good man, he's lost his way. Perhaps decades ago he had the right vision, but his recent actions show that he has been captured by the immense power of office. ..."
Troupis doesn't know what "we all know," of course, but it's certainly interesting to hear what political office—something he's never held—seems like to him. (He ran for the state Senate in 2008, in my district, but we're not his kind of people.)
He wants a piece of something that can be so immense and so intoxicating, you don't say. And he says (on his Facebook page, I couldn't find a campaign website) he knows for sure "Idaho does not need any more career politicians." We should have someone who is "principled, fearless," inexperienced, ignorant, and prepared to spend immense and intoxicating amounts of taxpayer funds to tilt at the windmills of repealing the Affordable Care Act and "reclaim" [sic] federal land within the state's borders so we can cut more trees.
Here's Betsy Russell's report on the debate, for the Spokesman-Review. Dan Popkey's report for the Idaho Statesman back in March is interesting too, with Troupis talking about his religious calling to serve, "within a broad penumbra of God's will." Sounds a bit shadowy, as was his inferring endorsements from vague expressions of support.
Update: Listening to the debate a second time, I appreciated Professor Weatherby's focus on the administrative experience of the two candidates, and pressing the point when Troupis dodged. He's a sole practitioner, with none of the sort of experience Wasden has in multiple positions in "the largest law office in the state," with a staff of 200 or so.
Troupis continued to say "I would be recruiting some people who I would not anticipate would be career politicians, or have a career in public service." He'd be looking for "young lawyers, right out of law school" for 2 to 4 years "and then move on."
Let's not talk about administrative stuff, lest we "miss the forest for the trees." (Which he thinks we should be cutting down.)
This just in, HealthCare.gov tells me they reset my password.
"Recently, you may have heard about a new internet security weakness, known as Heartbleed, which is impacting some websites. HealthCare.gov uses many layers of protections to secure your information and we’ve recently enhanced our systems to add additional protections. While there’s no indication that the Heartbleed vulnerability has been used against HealthCare.gov or that any personal information has ever been at risk, we have reset consumers’ passwords out of abundance of caution."
I would've been even more impressed if they hadn't reset my password, thankyouverymuch, and left it at "uses many layers of protection" and "there's no indication."
Not that that will change the result for the next go 'round of the exchanges: people forget their passwords All The Time, and a large fraction of a large number of people will be needing to start over, one way or another.
There's another little quirk that caught my eye: they got a little cuter than they needed to be with the apostrophe in the subject line. It looks fine in gmail, but in Outlook, like this:
That black diamond mystery is the flag for a character encoding problem
that did not have to happen. Looking at the source of the message, the
verbatim subject is:
which is perfectly consistent with the June 1992 (!) RFC 1342 for "Representation of Non-ASCII Text in Internet Message Headers." It specifies the hoary Windows-1252 character set, and quoted-printable encoding, in which character #92 is a jolly apostrophe, ’. The thing is, good old ASCII has a perfectly readable, no one would ever notice apostrophe, ' as character #27 between & and (, and ship it, you're done, and no need for =? wrapping and taking the risk that some email clients aren't up with the program.
That said, Outlook 2010 certainly should be up with the program, and don't blame healthcare.gov, but still: when did we lose sight of "close enough for government work"?
The New Yorker seems to be short-staffed; they've taken Andy Borowitz off the comedy satire beat and put him on straight news: Millionaires Unite to Defeat Minimum Wage.
And yes, Idaho's well-to-do pair of Senators were on the "winning" side.
Pity the poor GOP whip from Texas, complaining that "this is all about politics":
"This is all about trying to make this side of the aisle look bad and hardhearted."
Which isn't actually all that difficult now, is it?
Las Vegas used to be a lot more "wild west" than it is today, I'm sure, but Nevada has long been a hybrid culture by having made legal what was illegal elsewhere. Maybe not prostitution, but for gambling and a certain recreational drug, other states have caught up and surpassed it of late. The Cliven Bundy affair is a bit of throwback, with an "open range" feel, and I guess that's what a lot of the gun-toting militia folk that flocked there are after. Reading KLAS-TV's account with local law enforcement's perspective sounds like a bad mash-up of Mad Max and Unforgiven.
Police faced possible 'bloodbath' at Bundy protest is the headline about how Las Vegas Metro Police felt about being between the BLM and the derangement posse, "outgunned and outmanned." Sgt. Tom Jenkins:
"We didn't show any fear that day, but I can tell you, we all thought in the back of our minds, we all thought it was going to be our last day on earth, if it went bad. ...
"We were told, we're going to go down there and we're going to get between the BLM and the protesters. We were going, okay, we've been there before, but as we were driving up, it was like a movie set. It didn't look real; people in the back of pickup trucks with rifles and shotguns. It was hard to grasp that at the beginning. ...
"They had no respect for authority. Everything that you can think of to call a human being, animals, everything," Jenkins said.
One person in the crowd even asked Jenkins if he was ready to die.
"I don't know his name. He was wearing a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey. I'll never forget that," he said.
Morning mail from TechHive today says Google Glass is now officially a normal, everyday product that anyone can buy, but then whoop, updated 1:30pm PDT (on some unspecified date, but not today's, since it's 8am MDT right now), "The purchasing page referenced below is a remnant from Google's one-day sale, and will be deactivated soon."
Gee, I missed last week's one-day sale, but there on Amazon, yes, I can see many sellers offering the Explorer Edition XE V2 in "Cotton White" for most or all of $2,000, or on up to $2,499.99 or even $3,949.00. Plus shipping. Seriously, $3,949.00 plus $6.99 shipping?
And some channel conflict here. The most helpful one-star review says "just sign up for the Explorer program" and get it directly from Google for $1,500. (Except, ahem, "we're out of spots in the Explorer Program for now".) Beware that while the product is "very futuristic" according to R. Garth, there is "one big Caveat" with a capital C:
"First of all when you wear one you look kind of dorky, it screams geek at the top of [its] lungs! Secondly and more importantly is the feeling you get from other people when they see you wearing it. Even my wife was uncomfortable being around me when I wore it. My friends all got quiet and said nothing of any substance until I took it off. ..."
I guess if you're looking for more peace and quiet and time alone with Google, it could be just the thing?
Tom von Alten