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21.Oct.21 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Writing a better ending to a bad story Permalink to this item

Today's opening radio segment started in Montana, and sprawled over to Idaho, which is in the same sorry boat: Organizing online, Covid skeptics drive public health professionals from their jobs, including our own county's former commissioner, Diane Lachiondo. Our current Zeitgeist has a real Lord of the Flies feel to it. (The fictional one you're more likely to remember, rather than the real one I'll have more to say about in a moment.)

Outside St Lukes today

The response to health professionals urging people to get a life-saving vaccine has been angry confrontation, and the deployment of a "playbook" of bullying, intimidation, and sabotage. A coordinated attack on public health. With directly deadly consequences. This is a mental health crisis of epic proportion, precipitated by the long-term corruption of the Republican party, goaded by the racist response to the election of Barack Obama, and leading to its takeover by the least inhibited narcissist, and the ongoing capitulation of half the Senate, and the worst of state party organizations.

In the 2020 election for Ada County Commissioner, Democrat Lachiondo was narrowly defeated by a juvenile party hack and neo-Nazi sympathizer, Ryan Davidson, who then led the initiative to install a washed-up, back bench Congressman, and a "freedom loving doctor" in the four-county district health board. (Action by the three-member commission is facilitated by long-time party hack and chortling fence turtle Rod Beck, who seems more carelessly than willfully destructive, but who knows what's inside his head.)

We are watching the deconstruction of our democratic republic, in service to corporate interests, abetted by our Least Generation, unwilling to sacrifice their "freedom" for even the simplest public health measures. A month or two, maybe a little. But six months? Eighteen? That was far too much to ask of them.

I think of one of this campaign's local lieutenants, Wayne Hoffman, a former journalist turned astroturf shill and saboteur, running the Idaho Freedom Foundation for the benefit of unnamed donors who pay him a six-figure, county commissioner-sized salary for his efforts.

Looking back in my personal and web archive, I found it was two years ago this week that Boise State University's annual Frank Church Institute conference was about "DEMOCRACY in an AGE of ANXIETY: Russian Intrusion, Chinese Confrontation, Populist Disruption." US chickenhawks were cutting and running in Syria (except for guarding the oil), with a toothless rebuke from the House, 354-60, even as the first impeachment of Donald J. Trump began in earnest.

What didn't make the blog was the "Diversity Forum" held at BSU just a few days later, the culmination (at that point) of the mid-summer shot across the bow of the new university president, two weeks into her job, launched by Rep. Barbara Dee Ehardt (R-33) and cosigned by the most extreme 27 members of the Idaho House. GOP lawmaker says social justice agenda has run amok was the Idaho Ed News headline. Diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives don't reflect Idaho values, Ehardt had emphasized in her letter.

My photo at the Oct 2019 Diversity Forum

"This drive to create a diversified and inclusive culture becomes divisive and exclusionary because it separates and segregates students. These initiatives by nature highlight differences and suggest that certain groups are treated unequally now—and that BSU should redress these grievances," she complained in her letter.

Oct. 22, 2019 photo

My unedited notes from the forum start with this: Ehardt is very angry about something. WTF is she asking for? She wants to control others, because she doesn't like people being controlled. Also, the 2nd amendment. Because... hate speech. "God bless the 1st amendment." Her thing is conservative views are being suppressed. ... E brings up lady justice and her blindfold, without the vaguest sense of the racial injustice that blindfolded gal has sanctioned. She's been a basketball coach. So, exhortation. Does that have to be so angry?

After the forum, which had the IFF as a cheerleader for the "conservative" side, at least, I saw Hoffman out in the hall, hunched into his phone, cheerfully catching up on what just happened, I imagine. He is amply knowledgeable in the arc of this decades-long story. He could write a book. Come clean, become a mensch, maybe even strike it rich in the process. Just a crazy notion, I know, but we all love a story of conversion and redemption, don't we? Saul of Tarsus launched a religion that dominated much of humanity for two millennia.

Now then, let's move on to a less fictional story with a happier ending, and the possibility of better angels in human nature. Rutger Bregman, historian, author of five books, including Utopia for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders and a 15-hour Workweek, and a journalist for De Correspondent, while that was a thing in 140 countries, wrote a piece that ran in translation on The Guardian last year.

He'd been previously featured there for an opinion piece on work-life balance, written in the halcyon era of 2016, when seeking "balance" could be top of the non-breaking news. The solution to (nearly) everything: working less sounds attractive, slightly anodyne, and... perhaps revolutionary, if your business is exploiting labor in "bullshit jobs" developing new ways of getting people to click on ads to buy things they don't need? There's an amusing video from him (speaking in perfectly good English, with a lilting Dutch accent) on the same topic: We could all work 15-hour weeks, and get away with it.

That was on his way to his fourth book, and making one of the Top 10 TED Talks of 2017 (along with Elon Musk and His Holiness Pope Francis), Poverty isn't a lack of character, it's a lack of cash. Joe Manchin isn't a fan; he's stuck on board with Margaret Thatcher's notion that poverty is a personality defect. The estimates from 4 years ago: the cost of child poverty in the US: $500 billion/year. And the cost to end child poverty? $175 billion/year. The difference would be $3.25 trillion in a decade, before adjusting for inflation.

If you're still with me after all those good jumps, here's the destination the fictional reference in the first paragraph brought me to: A year ago May, The Guardian ran an adapted excerpt from Bergman's book Humankind: A Hopeful History, and it is truly a joyful, short read: The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months.

20.Oct.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Living with Covid-19 Permalink to this item

Zeynep Tufekci's twitter thread linking to and elaborating on her NYT op-ed is a fascinating adjunct to it. The Unvaccinated May Not Be Who You Think. One of the tweets is a weird glimpse into the business side of healthcare.

"I recently had a minor concern during a routine COVID test on a weekend. It resulted in a bill I was told would be between $0 and $4500—and nobody could tell me which, for months. And my insurance is what counts as really solid, for the US. Just nuts."

She's been right about a lot of stuff, for the duration (at least). She quotes her tweet from February, 2020: "...the likelihood of containment is very small. This coronavirus will stress all infrastructure. Are we ready?"

We were not, for all sorts of reasons. Fast forward 20 months and the local daily's front page feature is looking at what "endemic" Covid may bring. "We've lost the war," says the chief clinical officer of our nearest big hospital system, Saint Alphonsus.

Everyone will be exposed, and eventually, infected. Get your immune system ready. You can do it the easy way (readily available vaccines, at no cost around here), or the hard way ("natural" immunity from infection, running the risk of severe symptoms, debilitating "long haul" symptoms, and death.) In Idaho alone, we've now had more than a 9/11's worth of deaths, so far. 3,316, and counting.

“If you choose to socialize with others, be careful who you choose to socialize with. They should have the same beliefs that you do of protecting themselves. And establish ties with those friends who you can trust...."

Three views of history unfolding Permalink to this item

When the shock of being on the wrong end of murderous mob come to "take back our country" from the electeds who were dutifully lining their pockets was still fresh, one week on, Kevin McCarthy had a moment of candor, stating the obvious: “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters” and stuff. On his way to arguing for censure rather than a 2nd impeachment. And right after the oleaginous Matt Gaetz had offered the "theory" that it was antifa and Democrats false-flag rioting to stymie the 2020 election's result from being certified.

Image from FG's personal photog, mebbe?

Barely two weeks later, Kev made a pilgrimage to Mal-a-Lardo to shower in the former guy's golden affection. So nobody's holding their breath for him to do the right thing today, and whip his House caucus to a unanimous vote to hold FG's Rasputin in contempt for ignoring a Congressional subpoena. Still, it's fun to imagine that alternate universe?

In our current reality, there are a (very) few leaders emerging from the minority. Liz Cheney, foremost. Her political views are almost entirely anathema to me, just like her dear old dad's, but she has at least called bullshit on her party's hijacker. And on Kevin McCarthy. As Heather Cox Richardson describes in her October 19 Letter, the vice-chair of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol

noted that Bannon appears to have had “substantial advance knowledge of the plans for January 6th and likely had an important role in formulating those plans.” She also suggested that the arguments Bannon and Trump were making “appear to reveal one thing: they suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of January 6th. And we will get to the bottom of that.”

Cheney went on to “add one further thought, principally for my Republican colleagues.” “You all know that there is no evidence of widespread election fraud sufficient to overturn the election; you all know that the Dominion voting machines were not corrupted by a foreign power. You know these claims are false. Yet former President Trump repeats them almost daily.”

She asked her colleagues to “consider the fundamental questions of right and wrong here. The American people must know what happened. They must know the truth. All of us who are elected officials must do our duty to prevent the dismantling of the rule of law, and to ensure nothing like that dark day in January ever happens again.”

View #2 comes to me from HCR's attention as well, yesterday's speech in the Senate by Angus King (I-ME), advocating for the Freedom to Vote Act, calling on the Republicans to do the right thing, instead of the easy thing of threatening to filibuster the legislation, that way of obstruction and quiet sabotage they've shown such aptitude for in the last decade. It's about this experiment we've been running for the last two and a half centuries. 24 minutes, worth your full attention. Or look up King's press release, and his own transcript.

"[T]he United States of America is an anomaly in world history. We are a two-hundred-and-forty-five year old experiment in self-government which is based upon an idea which was radical in 1776, was tested at Gettysburg, Antietam, Shiloh, and The Wilderness, was defended at Anzio, Iwo Jima, and Normandy, and was codified in 1965: an idea that the people—all the people—are the ultimate source of power and can govern themselves through their elected representatives.

"The historical norm is just the opposite—kings, pharaohs, dictators, czars, warlords, emperors, and, more recently, presidents-for-life. Throughout most of human history—and right up to the present in many countries around the world—the people have little or no say in the decisions that determine their fate. ...

"Given the consistent history of this experience, it’s clear that our experiment is fragile, that what we have and take for granted is in no way guaranteed. As has been the case with democratic experiments throughout history, it can fail—rarely from external attack, almost always from erosion from within. ...

"Deliberately undermining that trust for short-term political advantage—which is exactly what is happening right now—is a tragic and dangerous game. No election, no endorsement, no Senate seat, no presidency is worth it. Nothing is worth destroying what our forebears fought and died for. Nothing. ...

"[D]estiny has placed us here at one of history’s fateful moments; our response to it will be our most important legacy. I believe that we all know our responsibility—and whether we like it or not, history will record whether we, each one of us, meets it."

The third view is from Sarah Kendzior, author of Hiding in Plain Sight which you should have read already. (That's an Amazon Associates tagged link; bad habit of convenience I haven't quite given up.) She does not suffer fools lightly. She's got a flurry of tweets teasing the latest episode of her and Andrea Chalupa's podcast, Gaslit Nation, The Polonium Tea Party. I'd need a timbre adjustment to listen to a whole episode, which I have yet to do. But she's a hell of a writer, and they are amazing observers of these interesting times we live in. Quoting themselves in one of the Twitter threads this morning:

"Congress and the DOJ ... gave [Steve Bannon] a head start. They gave him a nine-month head start, even though he confessed his crimes and plans for more crimes both before and after the attack. They have been letting this asshole—this Goldman Sachs, Harvard, Hollywood elite operative asshole loaded with money and tied to fascists around the world—run around while the GOP decimates the right to vote and lays the groundwork for a new coup."

"The GOP are aiming for electoral autocracy, for a legalized coup, in 2022 and 2024. The Biden admin is not taking this seriously. All rights stem from voting rights, but they are not making a serious effort to protect voting rights. You need to look not only at the villains of the situation—Bannon, Trump, etc.—but why Democratic institutional actors let them get away with it even when it will ultimately prevent them from holding office or passing policy.

"Remember that when Bannon, Kushner, and the rest of the Trump admin left office, they took with them any state secret they wanted, because they had access to everything and have no qualms about how to weaponize it. There should clearly be an investigation into Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, and we explained last week that one of the reasons there likely isn't is that their former lawyer is Merrick Garland's best friend and mentor."

I'm still naïve enough to hold out some hope for Garland's DOJ; yesterday's FBI raid on Oleg Deripaska's lovely manse in foggy bottom (right next door to the Conways, don't you know), for one. It's a hell of a slow grind, those wheels of Justice, to be sure. And a long damn time with nothing coming out the chute but rotten sausage. But every once in a while, somebody gets what they deserve.

16.Oct.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Idaho stupid is deadly. And burns Permalink to this item

Reporter Elenee Dao of ABC-affiliate KXLY up north got me started with a Twitter thread saying Idaho is the most dangerous state for Covid, according to a study by WalletHub, based on 5 metrics: rates of transmission, positivity rate, hospitalization, death, and vaccination rate.

Here's the WalltHub thing, focused on the good news, the safest states during Covid-19. 50 states and the District of Columbia rated, with scores from 0 to 100 scores ranging from #1 Connecticut at 92.44, on down to Montana (24), Wyoming (16), West Virgina (12) and finally, Idaho. Our score just over 5. Tied with WV for highest death rate. Tied with Michigan for highest transmission rate.

The top of local news today is that we're marking the one month anniversary of statewide crisis standards of care in our hospitals. The consequences of failed political ledership are measurable in multiple dimensions. One of them:

500 Idahoans have died. In the last month.

Public health districts "overwhelmed" with a growing backlog of cases. "[S]taff have been yelled at, swore at or hung up on when reaching out to people who test COVID-positive..." Two days ago, we read that the largest school district in the state was giving up on contact tracing; they can't keep up.

"With a high volume of cases, collecting that data has become heavily burdensome, Superintendent Derek Bub said. “Administrators are chasing around contact tracing all day. Nurses are chasing around contact tracing,” Bub said. “And what’s happening is they are staying till 11 or 12 o’clock at night to get their other work done.”

The Idaho GOP-installed political hacks on the four-county Central District Health board are micromanaging its staff, and squelching communications to, ah, solve our problems? Here's Raúl "nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care" Labrador gaslighting us, at the end of Hayat Norimine's report for the Idaho Statesman.

“My goal is not to micromanage anything,” Labrador said, but added that “certain directives,” including support for CDC recommendations, should not be given without board approval.

The CDC isn't perfect. But to have a failed Congressional back-bencher and a "freedom loving doctor" who has boldly admitted to malpractice in prescribing ivermectin to all comers is a special level of alternative stupid. Idaho stupid.

From KTVB video

Speaking of which, one of the specific complaints came from CDH board member and Idaho Rep. Megan Blanksma (R-23), criticizing the sharing of Boise Mayor Lauren McLean's Facebook post discouraged setting off fireworks at home. “While that’s not political, it was limited in what its public health value was,” Blanksma said. You think?

Here where we get 11 inches of rain in a good year, surrounded by flammable range and forest lands. Barely a week after some dipshit kids lit up 400-some acres of the foothills with some fireworks. But hey, that wasn't Boise, it was next-door Eagle, where the city council just voted to allow shooting firearms within city limits. Their Corporate Shill Freedom Index scores are going to go through the roof!

IANAL, but Permalink to this item

It's a fact that Stephen Bannon is a criminal, admitted by his acceptance of a pardon by the former guy, his criminal co-conspirator. What we don't know is whether either of them will enjoy the experience of justice. That comes to mind catching up on Letters from an American, for Oct. 14. It seems FG

"has suggested he “plans to” challenge the subpoenas on the grounds of executive privilege, he has apparently not actually done so, and he is having trouble finding lawyers willing to work for him. He has a bad reputation when it comes to paying his bills and is perceived as toxic after January 6."

The story of the insurrection continues to unfold, the foot soldiers' court cases slog on, the criminal leaders mostly continue to skate free, and wait, what's this? THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS IS HEATING UP AGAIN! It seems Joe Biden is actually the Grinch and the supply chain crisis that is completely within his power and so totally his fault COULD LEAD TO HOLIDAY DISASTER because you may not be able to obtain That Special Toy, which, as everyone knows, is The Reason For The Season®. Oh, the humanity.

I did my own research Permalink to this item

40-some years ago last summer, I got a job in George Rubottom's organic chemistry lab and learned some of the ropes, what to mix with what, how to catch falling glassware on my foot, and interpreting NMRS results. Back when we weren't afraid to say nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. (Having to do with nuclei, after all.)

The work was about how to put x and y together to make z, in a long chain of chemical algebra that could lead to synthesizing something useful. The description of work had something about oxazarines, I believe it was, which I've never seen make the news. Maybe the field didn't blossom, or maybe something related ended up being "it."

My part was nothing near any sensible ends I could report to you at this late date, precursors for making something else, and I have no idea if anything I did was useful. George was an affable boss, anyway, and I felt like I was learning a lot. He played intramural soccer, something of an exotic sport back then and there. (I played good old city league softball for the Billiard Den.)

You can see the ScienceDirect overview for Oxaziridines and Oxazirines. "Generally formed by the action of a peracid on a combination of a carbonyl compound and an amine, either as a Schiff base (243) or a simple mixture," it says there, that's greek to me, now.

"Oxaziridines and oxazirines are three-membered heterocyclic compounds containing an electronegative oxygen and nitrogen atom in the ring. Oxaziridines are saturated heterocyclic compounds, whereas oxazirines are unsaturated compounds. Since the first discovery of oxaziridines in 1956 by Emmons, they have been used for a variety of reactions due to their unusual reactivity."

"The smallest heterocyclic compounds having three electronegatively different oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon atoms in a three-membered ring system" it goes on to say in a 2008 introduction, so maybe there was a geometric, and "small is beautiful" attraction to them. Oh, and here's why the first category doesn't show up so much for searching: "oxazirines are rarely reported with respect to their chemistry and are only observed as an unstable, transient reaction intermediates."

From my 1978 journal

Just like that summer Research Assistant job. Having a certain curiosity about pschoactive substances, I noted at some point that compound X could be easily synthesized from A and B, and we already had A in stock, so I might just add some B to the next supplies order, eh? I don't remember what X was, but given the ease of assembly, I imagine methamphetamine, well before it was infamous enough to show up on a billboard. When the boss looked over the order I turned in, he pointed at the B and said "you know, they track orders for this," and I said "oh" (I think), and that was the end of that. Whenever I hear "a word to the wise," I think about George.

I rounded out my General Studies degree in the next three semesters focused on Botany. My next summer featured a two week course in Wilderness Ecology, horse-packed into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, no less, part of a team of three that did a 1500m transect of the vegetation from the edge of Rock Lake to the ridge above it, one square meter at a time. And a job as Night Waterman on the U of I golf course, moving sprinklers in the dark, and driving a Cushman around the Palouse hills with the pedal to the metal.

13.Oct.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Death, Taxes, and Manufactured outrage Permalink to this item

As Twitter sometimes asks, did you want to read the article first? None of the cast of characters in the paper seemed interested to do that, reading through the account of the "roundtable discussion with bankers and other business leaders" you weren't invited to, at Idaho's Capitol yesterday. Betsy Russell's coverage of the latest GOP manufactured outrage has a short take on her blog (free), and the full story on the Idaho Press, Sen. Crapo decries proposed IRS reporting rules. The decrying is part of a campaign to get bankers to enlist customers to kill the plan and anything like it, before it gets started.

Never mind that the proposal (published most of half a year ago now) is relatively anodyne, and that "it hasn’t been turned into a legislative or regulatory proposal yet," and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Ron Wyden (D-OR) has already said he is considering a dialed-back version, Crapo made news by shouting

“I think this is [sic] the biggest violation of personal privacy that has ever even been proposed, let alone enacted, by the United States government, and it’s something that every American ought to be incredibly worried about.”

Biggest ever! And this from someone who voted for the USA PATRIOT Act back in the day, so I'm sure he wouldn't be going hyperbolic on us. (He also voted Yea for the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005, and the USA PATRIOT Act Additional Reauthorizing Amendments Act of 2006, in case you were wondering about personal privacy proposals that have been enacted on Mike's watch. He and his fellow partiers did, finally get a little hinky about all that when Obama was president.)

The disingenuity reported out of the roundtable discussion held in our Capitol on Tuesday is breathtaking. Quoting Betsy's quoting of the spluttering outrage over a cornfield full of straw men:

Museum piece photo, 2018

John V. Evans Jr., president and CEO of DL Evans Bank said "requiring banks and credit unions to report every single transaction is just ridiculous," which, sure, if anyone were proposing such a requirement, that would be ridiculous.

Deneen May, president of the Western Idaho Region for Zions Bank said "We" (the royal we?) "believe that neither Zions Bank nor any other financial institution should be required to be the reporting arm of the IRS," except for, you know, how they send you a 1099 every year already?

And Charley Jones, president and owner of Stinker Stores, said, “I’ve never been afraid of Big Brother — then I see this. ... You can’t make this stuff up.”

Au contraire, mon ami puant! Mike Crapo's made it up right in front of you! Ringing the alarum, and you all are standing up on your hind legs and barking on command. (Also, Stinker Stores, wut? Do they do a little side banking job along with the gas, groc, smokes and lottery tix?)

Incredibly, Idaho's senior US senator "said he doesn't trust the IRS." You know, the federal agency charged with carrying out the tax code that Congress has written and that presidents have signed into law.

There's a link to last month's report from Natasha Sarin, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy, The Case for a Robust Attack on the Tax Gap with a more fact-based punchline (my emphasis added):

Today, the “tax gap”—the difference between taxes that are owed and collected—totals around $600 billion annually and will mean approximately $7 trillion of lost tax revenue over the next decade. The sheer magnitude of lost revenue is striking: it is equal to 3 percent of GDP, or all the income taxes paid by the lowest earning 90% of taxpayers. ...

Today’s tax code contains two sets of rules: one for regular wage and salary workers who report virtually all the income they earn; and another for wealthy taxpayers, who are often able to avoid a large share of the taxes they owe. ... [E]stimates from academic researchers suggest that more than $160 billion lost annually is from taxes that [the] top 1% choose not to pay.

The actual thing that has been proposed (which you could look up, on pages 94 and 95 of the 114-page General Explanations of the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2022 Revenue Proposals) is

"[A]n information return" to "report gross inflows and outflows with a breakdown for physical cash, transactions with a foreign account, and transfers to and from another account with the same owner. This requirement would apply to all business and personal accounts from financial institutions, including bank, loan, and investment accounts, with the exception of accounts below a low de minimis gross flow threshold of $600 or fair market value of $600."

That proposal extends to crypto asset exchanges and custodians, too. Beginning in 2023. That's the proposal, mind you, published in May. It's up to Congress to legislate something out of it, should they choose to. And, here, two weeks ago, discussion of that very thing: Democrats eye narrowing Biden plan on bank reporting to IRS.

Maybe, just maybe—hear me out, just spitballin—a member of the World's Greatest Deliberative Body® could actually discuss and negotiate in good faith, instead of fulminating at phantoms and drumming up outrage among his banker and gas station friends. He's been the chair of the Finance Committee, now its Ranking Member of the minority. Paid to represent all the people's interests, not just the interests of the wealthy and tax avoiding.

Indigenous Peoples' Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

The hoarding Permalink to this item

Definitely a step up from Columbus Day, even if I wonder if a presidential proclamation "recogniz[ing] their inherent sovereignty" can possibly be done unironically. Do let us commit to "honoring the Federal Government’s trust and treaty obligations to Tribal Nations," at least, starting right... today.

"Our country was conceived on a promise of equality and opportunity for all people" is a glorious fairy tale, so demonstrably false it hardly seems enough to add in the same sentence that "we have never fully lived up to" such a promise, we didn't ever really make, did we? Show me where we did where there isn't a de facto blinking asterisk. It was a smash and grab operation from the get go, with moments of tranquility for regrouping.

Let me recommend that the next time you're in Washington D.C. (or hey, New York! It's one museum in two locations), take the time to visit the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. (The website is also a rich experience you can enjoy without needing to travel.)

But anyway. I started writing this morning with an odd combination of shorter, and longer time horizons, prompted by one of those referral-fishing emails, seemingly tailored to me, and my site, personally, but not quite fully human. The genre is: "you mentioned something we talk about and want to promote, you might like to give us a link, eh?" Anyone taking more than a few minutes to read stuff here should recognize that's not how this works. I wrote about something in September, 2009, you say, and I might like to... add a link? That no human would ever stumble upon, but Search Engine Optimization baby!

It's nice to know a link deep in might be worth something to someone, even if they're not proposing to, you know, pay for the privilege. "Organic" links are the best, eh? Hard to come by around here. Please don't keep trying, the answer is almost certainly "no." The spammy 2nd try ("just wanted to follow up with you in case you missed my previous email") did prompt me to back and look what was on my mind and fingers 12 years and a month ago.

Not to drag out the suspense, the nugget in question, via a still-good NYT link, from two months after "a jobless man living on welfare" struck it rich in an English farmer's field. This so-called Staffordshire Hoard has its own website, because of course the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found would do. And there would be orbits of skeevy touts wanting to work some piece of the action, including "mine," a "fellow" with an email address inexplicably @

Never mind them, THIS HOARD IS FABULOUS, a look into the Anglo-Saxon culture of the 6th and 7th century like none other. We can't really know their minds or their times, but WE HAVE SOME OF THEIR BEAUTY BOOTY,

"small and incredibly fine objects, breath-taking in their beauty and minute detail. A very high level of craft skills was needed to construct the gold and silver objects and decorate them with garnets and other inlays and to create such complex and individual objects."

Even the items' categorization shows how far out of touch we 3rd Millennials are: Hilt Fittings, Pyramids and Buttons, Pommel Caps, Seax, Religion, Mystery Object, Gold and Garnet Fittings, Animals, Helmet.

That's the long, long, long gone (and dug up again!) view. The much shorter long gone view, from when my blog had not quite turned 10, included some foreshadowy snippets in the way of the blind squirrel in a nut field. Shiny bits that catch my eye here today:

Cole Elementary, Sept. 2009

9.Oct.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

THIS INTERVIEW IS OVER Permalink to this item

It should be the last word, but given Idaho politics, it surely won't be. CNN dropped into our capital city to get a piece of the action, tried to interview Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin at her place of work, and it didn't go well. Not counting for late night comedy writers, it was great for them.

The clip ends with the last word from former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones, in pithy summary: "This is the only lieutenant governor that I can recall that has acted like an idiot."

But is it an act? You look at the clip of the reporter trying to get her to respond to questions, and she's a deer in the headlights along the crepuscular highway. It might not end well. Her attempt to go indignant Bill O'Reilly is so pathetic it reaches pitiable.

Scraped from news in May, 2021

She does not strike me as capable of whipping up an Executive Order with a month's leadtime, let alone quick when she hears the governor is stepping out of state for a day. So who is pulling her strings, and filling her pretty little head with wild and crazy ideas? Her one and only paid "staff" person? A political hack such as IDK Wayne Hoffman of the "Idaho Freedom Foundation," former newsman and now long-time shill and saboteur for secret corporate donors?

Without a script, or an earpiece and Wayne on a god mic, she is lost in the woods. DON'T TALK TO THE MEDIA is now the IFF's signature defense mechanism for every question about accountability. They're doing the talking, thankyouverymuch, the media are just supposed to cover what they say. Not taking any questions. They don't believe in accountability. They are vandals. (Not the good kind, either.) You can hear Wayne's eyeballs rolling back, I TOLD YOU NEVER TO TALK TO THE MEDIA WITHOUT A SCRIPT AND SOMEBODY NEAR THE SWITCH ON THE AMP.

McGeachin's latest one-day show was not without benefit, however. It got people talking about the absurdity of "leaving the state" triggering a transfer of power. It made sense in 1889, sure, but a hundred years on, we actually have telephones and stuff to keep in touch.

The Lt. Governor parroted "but the Constitution!" and that's pathetic too. No doubt one of the IFF rocket scientists will augment McGeachin's tweeting with "legal research" to bothsides the Attorney General's opinion; McGeachin didn't like what the AG told her last time she asked a question, lost, may be in contempt of court, and... wants taxpayers to pick up the $50,000 tab. Stupidity is expensive after a while.

6.Oct.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Comedy tonight! Permalink to this item

No way to quietly sneak out of state for a few minutes or part of a day when your mission is Grandstanding At The Border, so this time, Idaho's Gov. Barney Fife issued a shot across his Lieutenant Governor's bow. It wasn't in the press release, but he tweeted out his Facebook post. As one does. Admire the brevity of the text in the tweet!

I’m very sorry that she interrupted your political grandstanding with her political grandstanding

— Brett Grieser (@brettxpw) October 5, 2021

Kind of the reverse Al Haig moment, I AM STILL IN CHARGE HERE, EVEN IF I LEAVE. Before the bulk endorsement of baseline sanity came in, the comments were not kind about Mom and Dad fighting. "Why are you even going on such a useless, ceremonial trip, especially when Idaho is under crisis standards of care?" asked one. "My god this is just so humiliating," said another, and YOU KNOW WE WILL BE ON LATE NIGHT TV AGAIN.

around these parts that’s known as a great-grandstand

— Greater New Jersey Irredentist (@Ragnarogatory) October 5, 2021

One measured Constitwitional Scholar asked, "What does the Idaho Constitution say about your powers when you’re out of state?" We know! We know! A greater Own than this, no man has Self-Owned:

"Attempting to deploy our National Guard for political grandstanding is an affront to the Idaho constitution and insults the men and women who have dedicated their life to serving our state and the country."

For her part, Idaho's latest contribution to the devolutionary sequence launched by Caribou Barbie, and Yes, She Is A Candidate For Brad's Big Chair in 2022, Janice McGeachin did not waste a minute. "Unabashedly." AHMA CALL OUT THE NATIONAL GUARD she declared. AND ISSUE SOME TOTALLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL EXECUTIVE ORDER because TYRANNY and FREEDOM and stuff. Signed, Sealed, and Delivered, baby! Endorsed by our inestimable Secretary of State, Lawerence Denney. I wonder if there's a hostage video of the signing.

Sig block on 'Governor' McGeachin's EO

The Adjutant General of Idaho's National Guard, Major General Michael J. Garshak, did not endorse "Governor" McGeachin's call.

"I am unaware of any request for Idaho National Guard assistance under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) from Texas or Arizona... As you are aware, the Idaho National Guard is not a law enforcement agency."

Couldn't find his whole letter; the ING site doesn't do a lot of pressy stuff, and the official Twitter feed is tight-lipped. Most recent entry August 5. June 4 before that. The Loot Gov doesn't have much control over her web pages, it doesn't appear, but just enough to get a dodgy image of her shady EO posted.

COPS “White Van in the Hood,” a dark comedy (if you're white) Permalink to this item


Quiet suburban street unfamiliar with police presence, west side of Boise, Idaho. 2 am. Dark. Quiet. Two cars parked neatly in the driveway in front of a one-car garage. On the right, a 26 year-old white Ford Windstar, Parked Very Neatly. Nose to the street. Personalized plates, cute names on the two of them. It is Quiet.


Homeowner (HO): White, gray bed hair, banana yellow nightshirt, dark plaid jammy bottoms.
Officer Friendly (OF): Young, white, not big, fit, still a bit wet behind the ears. Midnight black uniform, packed with stuff.
Thought But Did Not Say Out Loud (TBDNSOL): a mute.

HO is up to use the toilet, groggy. It is quiet. A car on the street, driving a bit emphatically for this time of night. Bright lights shine on HO’s windows, as if... the neighbor has aimed at the house, to back in the driveway across the street? More flashes of white light sweeping across curtains. Neighbor is out with flashlight because... what. HO goes to living room, peeks through curtains, would like this to go away, but it’s not going away. More sweeping flashes of bright light hitting curtains. What. Is. Going. On. At least one set of taillights visible. HO pokes head out front door, without turning on any lights, or getting his glasses.

HO, just loud enough, with annoyance: “What’s going on?”
OF: “It’s the police. Is... Is this your van?”
HO: “Yes.”
OF: “Have you... has anyone been out driving it? Do you live here by yourself? Is there anyone else with you?”
TBDNSOL: Slow down, Sparky, What the fuck are you on about?
HO: “That’s my car. I live here. Nobody’s been out driving it.”
OF: “Because we had a description and this van matches it.”
TBDNSOL: You had a description?
HO: “That’s my car. It has been parked there. All night.”

For all but about an hour and a half of the last two and a half weeks, in fact. Someone else does live here with HO, but most uncharacteristically, she is not at home. She has not driven the van for months. She is out of town.

OF: “Oh, OK. We had a description...”

HO withdraws head from doorway. Closes door, goes back to bed. Not sleepy. Decides to call the police department to find out WTF, gets up, puts on his grandfather’s blue terry cloth bathrobe, glasses, slips phone into pocket, back to the LR and... they’re still here. Two police cruisers, middle of the street, out front the house. Idling. HO puts on sandals, turns on porch light, finally, steps out the front door, ambles to and down his short driveway toward the cars. OF pops out of rear car, launching into explanation.

OF: “You see, we had a report, up the street, it must’ve been somebody at the wrong house I think, a Ring camera, there was a van, and this van matched the picture.”
TBDNSOL: Up the street. This street? One of the 17 houses between here and the bend, and the end of it? Which one, exactly? What disturbance was there? Were there humans, or just this Ring fellow? Can this really be happening at 2am on this street?
HO: who has seen some cop shows on TV: “Did you run my plates?”
TBDNSOL: Of course they ran the plates. They’ve been out here more than 20 minutes already.
OF: “No, we didn’t run your plates.”

OF and HO have walked to near each other, HO has hand in pocket, on his cellphone, did not give a thought to Really Shouldn’t Probably Have Hand In Pocket Right Now. He has lived here since before OF was born.

HO: “These are my cars...”
HO: “...I live here, nobody’s been driving them. I was out in the van this afternoon, came home and parked it at... 3pm and it hasn’t moved since.”
OF: “There was this picture”

OF takes out his cellphone, diddles, zoom to The Evidence, a half-buggered, blurry image of the back third of... a white vehicle. Minivan, or SUV, you can’t really tell. One red taillight visible, could be a Windstar. Obviously, this vehicle is up to no good. And the image... “matches” this van in the driveway, in the way that if you’ve seen part of one unadorned white minivan, or SUV, and you can’t really tell, in a blurry lo-res picture taken at night, they all look alike. In the dark. BUT LOOK WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SHINE A WHITE FLASHLIGHT ON IT! HO and TB are slack-jawed at what is happening.

HO: “It's been parked. Nobody has driven it.”
OF: “Yeah, OK. Sorry to bother you.”

HO turns, walks back to house, turns off porch light. Goes inside, back to bed. Does Not Get Right Back To Sleep. Listens for departure that he does not hear. At 3 am, peeks out the curtains again. The police cars have left. It is Quiet. Dark.

~ Scene ~

5.Oct.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sorting through your bins Permalink to this item

We have good city services here, with 3 kinds of bins: trash, recycling, compost. Residents can have (well, rent) any of three sizes for each: Big (95 gal.), Medium (65 gal.), Small (48 gal.) The rate structure provides incentive to accept all three. If you insist on just the big trash bin, you'll pay the highest rate; 63% more than the lowest (for a set of three small or medium bins). No incentive for Small over Medium. And a scant 6% incentive for either of those versus Large. The blue (recycling) bins, accepting a variety of recyclables without resident sorting needed, get picked up every other week, trash and compost bins weekly.

Nov. 2019 photo

The compost service is great, if you ask me. We have a fine home compost pile that we feed, maintain, and harvest from periodically, but we also have a lot of trees and shrubs that produce woody stuff that doesn't go down well when it's time for it to go down. We had 3 Medium bins for many years, but I decided life would be better with a Large compost. (And, since we often only put out a load of trash every other week, a Small bin would suffice for that.) One Large in our mix costs the same as three Large, but a buck and change per month, NBD. (Still it irks me that our virtuous trash tippage doesn't get any more bonus than it does.) Before the compost service started, our trash bin was used for yard waste more than household waste. I figured it would sweeten the landfill, but there's only so much you can do with one of those.

No one else in our neighborhood has our pattern. Three Large is the mode, for sure, with a smattering of Mediums. Then there are the We Need Another Trash Bin households, which make me wonder. Thinking of all this as I went for a walk today, and passed a four-bin household, wondering what they do to fill up two Large bins in a week, and then I got downwind of their emptied compost bin, with the cover left open and oh my god your compost bin should not smell like that. Ever. Or maybe it was one of their trash bins? That should not smell like that either.

Update: Two days later, after everyone else had put their bins away (of course), those four bins were still out, and the compost bin still had its lid open, and there were a bunch of flies all over it. Ew.

4.Oct.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The new judicial activism Permalink to this item

Donald Ayer was a US Attorney and principal deputy solicitor general in the Reagan administration and deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration, so some background in the old Republican Party. I made note of his opinion when more than a thousand former DOJ officials called on Bill Barr to resign, June 2020.

He's back, with a NYT op-ed, The Supreme Court Has Gone Off the Rails. With the perspective "of having participaed in the Reagan revolution of the law" (with Roberts, Alito, and Thomas), which supposedly "inspired and propelled" the caereers of another third of the current roster (Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, and Coney Barrett).

My serendipitous photo, 2004

As it casts aside whatever precedent it doesn't like, the Court's "recent history suggests that it lacks a majority of justices with sufficient concern about the basic continuity and integrity of the law or the ability of government to function." One item in particular:

"The idea that personal religious concerns do not excuse compliance with neutral governmental policies appears all but dead."

Another blow against the Voting Rights Act.

Against transparency.

It's not the Reagan-era pabulum about government being the problem. More toward "might makes right." Ayer notes that failing to remember that the "revolution" was about stopping judicial "meddling"

"will squander the public trust that is so essential to the court’s historically unquestioned authority to say what the law is. Already this year, Americans’ approval of the court has plummeted."

Gallup's latest poll says only 40% approve of the justices’ job performance.

"A recent survey by Marquette University Law School documented the same dramatic drop. Its numbers showed public approval sliding from 60 percent in July to 49 percent in September."

That's a steep slide. So... they've undertaken a marketing tour?! Coney Barrett, Thomas, and Breyer defending the court's work in public appearances. Coney Barrett! You may remember her from the pre-election race to ram her confirmation through Mitch McConnell's Senate just a year ago, and the celebratory Covid-19 super-spreader event that infected the White House from the top down, giving the Donald his best balcony scene ever. I'm sure she has a lot of wisdom to impart after her first year on the job.

And one of the most extreme partisans, Samuel J. Alito, whining in an hourlong speech at the University of Notre Dame, for god's sake? (With fully two-thirds of the justices Roman Catholic, it's the go-to venue; that's where Thomas speechified, too.) You might not be surprised to learn that Alito's defenses "tend to either ignore or gloss over some key context."

Also, the gaslighting from him, claiming that criticism is meant to "game the system." Never mind that the first year of the Trump administration had as many requests for emergency relief as the previous 15 years combined, with the court granting more than two-thirds of three dozen+ applications so far for 2017-2021.

"That success rate is pretty extraordinary. Numbers crunched by Reuters show that in 2020, the court granted 10 of 11 emergency requests from the Trump administration and 10 of 15 from religious groups, but only about one-third of requests from state and other government groups, and precisely zero out of 97 from other private parties."

Nancy Gertner's op-ed headline in the Boston Globe cuts to the chase: Do Supreme Court justices have competing judicial philosophies or are they just partisan hacks? "Stripping away wholesale respect for precedent in many areas and at breakneck speed raises profound questions."

2.Oct.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The dark, dark inside Permalink to this item

Speaking of actively working to undermine our democracy (next item), I stumbled on a link to Anne Nelson's piece from February in The Washington Spectator, read it for the second time as if for the first, and only checked the date when I was done. It was amazing reporting less than two months after January 6. In a nutshell: How the CNP, a Republican Powerhouse, Helped Spawn Trumpism, Disrupted the Transfer of Power, and Stoked the Assault on the Capitol.

I must've tweeted about it, at least? It's a good, long read, with a cast of characters that will likely mix the familiar and not-so-familiar for you. The glimpses of Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn feeding the crazy at the White House in the final days are astounding. The long-term co-opting of evangelical voters, the Koch brothers, Richard Viguerie's troll army, the circle of jerks in astroturf organizations and the Federalist Society feeding the judicial pipeline. It doesn't admit an easy summary, but it's worth your time.

In the middle of it, there's the account of August, 2020 meetings of the Council for National Policy, where Trump appeared ahead of the RNC convention:

"Over chants of “USA! USA!” Trump acknowledged key supporters by name, including CNP President William Walton, Executive Director Bob McEwen, and Secretary Jenny Beth Martin. His rambling speech attacked familiar enemies and lauded familiar friends, including evangelicals, extractive industries, and the gun lobby. Photos from the event showed several hundred tightly packed, unmasked guests in the ballroom. That afternoon’s program featured attorney Cleta Mitchell, an Oklahoma native and a longtime CNP board of governors member, on panels called “Election Integrity: Securing the Ballot Box” and “Election Integrity: Action Steps.” Executive committee member Brent Bozell III told his fellow members that the left plans to “steal this election.”

“And if they get away with that, what happens?” Bozell demanded. “Democracy is finished because they usher in totalitarianism.”

I've got a family member who's deep into the Bizarro World of trumpism, and this is exactly what he thinks happened. That the Democrats stole the election, and we're sliding into totalitarianism. It's so completely counterfactural and preposterous, where could you start? The former guy was the... savior? From totalitarianism? And Joe Biden is...? There are tens of millions of people who have become completely unhinged from the reality-based community, and who are free floating pawns for the corrupt interests that are working this grift for all its worth.

The big picture Permalink to this item

My favorite daily historian gave me permission to "take a break tonight," which is welcome, even though regular readers here may have noticed I've been on break a lot, lately. A personal story that would make for a hell of a telling, but I don't know if (or how much) I'm ready to put out to the world just yet.

In Heather Cox Richardson's October 1 Letter from and American, she notes that some in the media are a little overblown in current DC events, what with the four deadlines and a non-simple debate about big policy (and spending, and taxation) questions. "The Democrats are in disarray" is a Republican talking point, not news analysis. The Republicans, for their part, are tidily arrayed, as if... Everything Is Fine, here in the pandemic, and the dawn of autocracy, alternately "led" and cheered on by a psychopath.

Cast your mind back one year: when we leared that Hope Hicks had Covid-19, and was likely spreading it on Air Force One. The former guy had it! His wife! The day after "the infamous presidential debate when Trump yelled and snarled at Biden, while his entourage, including Hicks, refused to wear masks despite a mandate that they must do so."

The debate when the Proud Boys came up and FG said "stand back and stand by." The Melanie Christmas tape. Kimberley Guilfoyle booted from Fox News with a $4M cleanup bill the network had to pick up. And on and on, just "one single day" in that last presidency.

Five months later, there was this: "In March 2021, the Democrats passed the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion economic rescue package that has helped the administration produce more jobs in its first six months than any other administration in American history." So now, ask yourself (as David Rothkopf did):

“Are the Dems the ones in disarray when they are crafting specific programs while the GOP offers up only cynical Tweets & obstruction? The only GOP agenda items are voter suppression, defending the worst president in history & when they have power, pushing tax cuts for the rich.”

That was a $five trillion deal in tax cuts, by the way, lighting the debt on fire so that they could come back and decry it later. What HCR concludes:

"The issue right now is not Democrats’ negotiations over the infrastructure bills—regardless of how they turn out—but that Republican lawmakers are actively working to undermine our democracy.


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007