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31.May 2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Looks Like a Bit of Disarray to Us Permalink to this item

IdaBlue asks:

"Does it seem odd to you that the party chair would participate in an IACI scheme to knock off a sitting Republican senator? How about that they’d use a misleading flyer implying that the candidate was a soldier?

"On their website, Veritas Advisors lists 'Truth' and 'Integrity' as firm values. If so, they ought to at least apologize for the misleading flyer."

This may be a trick question. Truth, Integrity and hardball, good-old-boy Idaho politics don't really seem to go together. This does put the pile of endorsements from state officers for Sullivan's continued reign in a different light. Slightly off-white, ecru, maybe.

But... the insiders were actually supporting Cramer? Boggles the mind.

H/t to the MG REport.

Shifty Permalink to this item

First, all the Democrats signed a pledge not to campaign in Florida and Michigan, because those states broke some combination of written and unwritten rules that put Iowa and New Hampshire first. Most of the candidates took their names off the ballot in Michigan, but Clinton didn't. Out of concern for the voters, don't you know.

"I personally did not think it made any difference if my name was on the ballot," she said. Or that she won? It still may not, except that she's really, really trying to have it make a difference in a contest that there is no way she could "win" at this point.

So much so that we're now hearing about suffragettes and civil rights and Zimbabwe and "the will of the people."

Today was the big day for the rules committee to somehow iron out a situation with no possible happy ending. Clinton can have whatever she wants, as long as it doesn't change the basic fact that Obama has more delegates, and will have enough for the nomination. Apparently, half a vote is better than none. Did anyone propose three-fifths?) Harold and Hillary won't settle for Rules, though: they plan to go again with Credentials, just to see if they can keep the game going into July, and August.

I have to say, Huckabee was more fun, and he knew when to quit within a month or two.

30.May 2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Coming Out of the Woodwork Permalink to this item

If we go by which group can shout louder, Ron Paul's supporters may enjoy an occasional advantage at the Washington state Republican convention. For the parliamentary moves, and the ultimate count of delegates, McCain isn't going to be seriously challenged. Still, it makes the humdrum business of the non-drinking parts of a convention more exciting.

H/t to Ridenbaugh Press for news of the Ronulans.

Primary Rundown Permalink to this item

You've seen as much of the results as you need, right? If not, the Secretary of State has something unofficial for the federal and state races now. For Presidential preference, it was Ron Paul in 2nd place behind John McCain; 24% of the "Republican" votes were more than 56% of the "Democratic" votes cast in the solid victory for Obama over Clinton. (I "quote" because we have no registration, or bar to voting the party of your choice in the primary; unless of course your choice is something other than the big 2.)

A solid 1 in 20 on both sides liked NONE OF THE NAMES SHOWN for President.

Idaho's latest ironic anti-government offering to Washington, Bill Sali, survived his freshman final exam easily enough, but with a pretty strong rebuke: in spite of a fairly low-key campaign, challenger Matt Salisbury got 40% against the incumbent US Representative. Bryan Fischer blamed it on a "huge influx of crossover Democrats," but then he also called a 60-40 win for a Republican incumbent a "thumping," and was beside himself crowing about the triumphs of "social conservatives" in the primary.

Debbie Holmes delivered a genuine, 70/30 thumping to self-proclaimed "Blue Dog" Democrat David Sneddon for the chance to oppose sitting Representative Mike Simpson. I'm not sure what a Blue Dog is, but I know I don't want one for my Representative. Jim Risch easily outpaced his 7 dwarf opponents, with only one, Scott Syme, breaking into a double-digit percentage.

Interest waned going down the ballot, 4,000 lost between President and US Senator, another 1,000 lost in the voting for our two US Representatives. Almost 20,000 fewer votes were cast for the hottest contest in the state, for a seat on the top of our Judiciary, as for President. The number of people who couldn't be bothered to fill in one of those black circles was about 67 times as many as the margin between Joel Horton and John Bradbury, in spite of the considerably larger ton of money that Horton spent on keeping his Supreme Court seat.

The majority of state legislative races were uncontested, or uninteresting, but a few were competitive. Steve Thayn lucked out to have a 3-way race that split his opposition, Gary Bauer and Matt Beebe tied for second for Seat A in District 11. Curt Bowers got thumped by well-connected ex-bureaucrat Pat Takasugi for Rep. 10-A.

Chuck Winder finally got elected to something, State Senator from District 14 with a 10% margin over the incumbent, Stan Bastian, and a strong 3rd-place showing by Saundra McDavid. Chris Troupis edged Dennis Warren by 21 votes, less than 1% of the total, for the Republican side of our State Senate district, #16. It won't matter if our little Democratic stronghold stays true to form, but that's not a given up here on the West Bench. Erstwhile blogger Clayton Cramer got easily beaten by Tim Corder for Senate in district 22; the stream of his consciousness searching for someone—anyone!—to blame is possibly the most pitiful election day result so far.

Updating my earlier post about the primary election: Betsy Russell reports the turnout at 25%, rather than the 15% I heard and reacted to earlier. So, my votes weren't as mighty as I thought.

28.May 2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Illegal Audit Settlements of the Idaho Tax Commission Permalink to this item

Speaking of our state Tax Commission, we're shocked, shocked to learn of an allegation that commissioners have improperly settled tax protests by large corporations for years, "saving the companies money but shorting Idaho by millions of dollars." Auditor Stan Howland, a 28-year veteran of the Commission, turned in what may be his final report, 17 pages of bombshell.

"I have written this report to document violations of Idaho laws and rules committed by several employees at the Tax Commission. These violations have occurred in the process of resolving large corporation income tax audits that have been conducted by the audit staff.... Although most of the violations specifically addressed in this report have occurred in the past year, they represent only a small percentage of the total audit protests that have been illegally settled over a much longer period of time. For many years the Tax Commission has allowed many large corporations to pay less income tax than that required by Idaho law."

But they're not just sweetheart deals. They're secret sweetheart deals:

"The Commission relies upon various public disclosure laws, and the illegal use of resolution options to keep this information from the general public. This allows these companies to avoid paying millions of dollars of income tax that are properly due the state of Idaho, and to do so in complete secrecy....

"These special deals are available primarily to those companies that are aware of the Commission’s willingness to compromise audited tax returns. The number of corporations receiving these 'deals' has increased over the years to a point where most large corporations now automatically protest all audits in anticipation of receiving their 'Idaho tax break.'"

Record Low Turnout Permalink to this item

Saw the number 15% somewhere, searching for results. Fewer than 1 in 6 voters could be bothered to cast a ballot? On the one hand, it's an astounding dereliction of the minimal duties of citizenship. On the other, it tells the same story as all those re-elected incumbents: things are going pretty well, really.

Which is not to say everybody's happy. A solid quarter of those voting on the backside of the ballot would rather have Ron Paul be President than John McCain, for example.

As far as moral opprobrium goes, shame on those 5.1 out of 6 who didn't vote, but from my self-interest, I'm happy they stayed home. It just means my vote, and the votes of the people who share my voting habits counted more.

Anyway, the Secretary of State has up-to-date 2006 results, and Ada Co. has a nice list of polling places and apologies for their "printing error" on irrelevant voter ID cards, but Eye on Boise and Ridenbaugh Press blogs have plenty of stories. Randy refers us to Dennis Mansfield's entertaining take, where he found the "victory" party "like watching a 1970's disco band reunion—you knew the faces, you kind of knew the music—but weren't sure you liked either."

Have to go to The Statesman, I guess, even though they didn't take the trouble to filter out the uncontested races or sort the results to emphasize vote totals over the alphabet.

The biggest news is that an appointment from Governor Butch Otter doesn't win the hearts and minds of the voters. Supreme Court Justice Joel Horton is a little young to be a good old boy, but he just barely survived his challenge from John Bradbury, with a 200 vote margin out of almost 150,000 cast.

Just Simply an Error Permalink to this item

As letters from the taxman go, this one was not the worst we've seen. It was only from the Idaho State Tax Commission, for one; they're not nearly as scary as the Feds. And it wasn't that big a bill: they'd acknowledged the income tax for 2007 that we'd calculated, and that we'd paid it, and now they just wanted...

$27.19 interest.

The brief paragraph above the numbers said that this had been computed according to Idaho Code Sections 63-3033, 63-3045, and 63-3046, and since the letter came late on Friday, I had the weekend to help myself to reading those, and to try to figure out how they'd come up with the interest due.

Nothing in the Code sections seemed to apply to us. Tuesday morning, I called, gave the reference number, and the gal asked,

"Did you send a check with your return?"


"It looks like maybe it was miskeyed... hold on a second...

"Ok, the interest is gone; it was just simply an error."

Local Attraction Permalink to this item

Given the price of gas these days, a holiday outing about 15 miles out of town seemed more manageable than the epic Memorial Day weekend adventures of yore. Even though the spike in hot weather had come and gone, the river managers made good on their promise to open the gates for the Lucky Peak "rooster tail," once used for the main outflow from the reservoir, and designed to aerate the de-oxygenated water coming out of its depths. (Now there's a power plant that would rather have the energy, and the fish... get tough or die.)

The Rooster Tail at Lucky Peak, May 26, 2008

It wasn't as big in real-life as in my memory, from that spring day in the late 1970s when I first came down highway 21 from the north, and wondered if something had gone terribly wrong with this odd-looking dam; had it sprung a gigantic leak that nobody knew how to stop up? Still, it's mighty big, especially if you get down to Spring Shores and walk around to the closest viewing point. (See those itty bitty people in the picture at lower left?)

We'd waited until the last day, after I misread the Saturday schedule, and we'd been too busy midday Sunday. I supposedly had a tennis match at 6:30 (it was rained out, two days running), so we went for the 4pm "opening" of the three hour show.

Traffic jam on Hwy 21, and at Spring Shores The newspaper had informed us that it would be $4 to get in to either of the state park units at the base of the dam. And there was "limited parking" at the new Foote park, up and over the dam, down around the obscure road that hardly anyone knows about. Right? And there was to be No Parking along the road.

The reality of the event was jolly chaos, the 45mph highway jammed down to stop-and-go for the convenience of gawkers (such as ourselves), and pedestrians, crossing from their find-a-spot-anywhere illegal parking to get a closer look (as we soon did, after we'd turned around at the overlook above the dam).

Some of the earlybirds got parking tickets along the road to Spring Shores, but by the time we were there, the only uniformed presence we saw was two Parkies standing at the turnoff, ready to tell anyone who couldn't infer the obvious that the park was full, sorry.

Memorial Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Rembering A Giant Permalink to this item

First poppy of 2008, freshly popped When you live to be 99, and accomplish a few things (or a lot of things, as the case may be), you give biographers the chance to prepare their material ahead of time. The Idaho Statesman was ready with a 4-page spread on the life of J.R. Simplot for today's paper, and for once their online coverage may actually be better. More color photos, at least, and not quite as tiny as they usually serve them up.

Other than being in Jack's company with a thousand of his closest friends at the Morrison Center when he slept through one performance or another, I have exactly one personal story to tell. I joined a group of members of the Opera Idaho chorus to go Christmas caroling one year, and our destination was the home of two of our best supporters: Jack and Esther Simplot. I'm sure the visit had been planned, so that they'd be home, and so that they wouldn't call the cops when a caravan of 4 or 5 cars made its way up the private drive and across the saddle to the mansion that covers the hill it was built on.

I remember being surprised at how narrow the ridge is, just wide enough for the paved drive. And how the house that doesn't look that big from the distance below, actually is that big.

I think we debated whether we should ring the doorbell or not, maybe started singing without doing that. Of course, the gathered family had to all come to the grand foyer, have the front doors thrown open and hear whatever it was we'd sung over again. They were delighted with the visit, and we had fun doing it. When we'd finished singing, Jack came out onto the porch to shake our hands, and to introduce himself. "Hi, I'm Jack Simplot," he said, maybe to each one of us.

It's not that there was any mystery to who he was or where we were, just his friendly, down-home style, and a jolly expression of his gratitude for our attention. (We didn't get to come in for punch and cookies, however.)

Postcard from the Red Planet Permalink to this item

It's not the first chance for me to think about it by any means, but something in the first photographs from the Phoenix Mars Lander reminded me of reading my way through the science fiction section of the Holy Family grade school library back in the 60s, where Robert Heinlein was the featured author, with his series tailored for "juveniles."

The planet of that WWII-era imagination was lively with a human population, as well as Martians. Our real neighbor is sadly desolate by comparison, with no thousand mile-long frozen canals to provide the escape of winter recreation for a Wisconsin boy.

Balancing Academics Permalink to this item

After Stanley Fish tries to get me to Think Again, I usually find that I think he's wrong. But up against the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor, professor of law at Florida International University, dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, former teacher at UC Berkeley, Johns Hopkins and Duke University, and author of 10 books (with another on the way), what the hell do I know?

His opinion regarding endowment of "diversity of thought" seems correct, even as I wonder if I would be so sanguine were he deriding the idea of a Chair in Liberal Thought and Policy at Conservative U. Ok, I wouldn't be sanguine so much as laughing if I read that. (By the way, when did "left-leaning" became the antonym for "conservative"? Shouldn't it be right-leaning/left-leaning, conservative/liberal, reactionary/revolutionary, and so on? Imbalance creeps in through choices of metaphor.)

Anyway, Colorado does seem to balance out well enough without adding endowed chairs to the People's Republic of Boulder; Colorado Springs. 'Nuff said.

25.May 2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Potato King Relinquishes Crown Permalink to this item

Just shy of triple digits, J.R. Simplot has headed for that great potato shed in the sky. It seems only fitting that we look to the Idaho Business Review for his life story; he was all-business, after all. But since it is Sunday, his take on religion, as quoted from a 1999 interview by the IBR:

"I'm a fact man and if it don't add up, I don't buy it; I don't believe in hocus pocus," he said in a 1999 interview; Simplot credited his longevity to disdain for tobacco and alcohol.

Bolt from the Blue Permalink to this item

Spring rain on lavender irises Insight can come from many different places, including "within." For Jill Bolte Taylor, the source and destination were the same: her brain. Her talk at TED this year revealed that her massive stroke had taught her some things outside neuroanatomy school, on the way to a book, and... an article by Leslie Kaufman that the NYT inexplicably dropped into Fashion & Style today.

"Religion is a story that the left brain tells the right brain," she says. Nirvana is something the right brain might experience.

I was reminded of the snippet of Speaking of Faith that I'd heard on the radio earlier this month, with a biographer of Bill Wilson, the founder of AA. Susan Cheever said she'd never had that "Road to Damascus" sort of moment that Wilson did: "No, I don't think I've ever had a direct experience of the Divine... indirect, sure. I think of faith as not something I have; it's something I aim toward, struggle toward..." Poignantly, they'd edited this next to it:

"You know, Alcoholics Anonymous is a very intimate way of living.... It's one thing entirely to believe in a God that controls all, and it's another thing to believe in a God who really cares whether or not you drink that tequila shot...."

Life is what you make of it, if you're lucky enough not to be swept away by a tsunami or buried in an earthquake. The stories we tell each other (and ourselves) about the experience are more or less charming fiction.

As Andre Gregory discovered, you don't have to believe in anything in particular to experience the Divine.

40,000 cfs Permalink to this item

Boise R. at the Glenwood Bridge, 4 to 5,000 cfs We get pretty excited around town when the Boise River gets up to 6 or 7,000 cfs (and well less than twice that would start to wreak havoc on all that lovely riverfront real estate that's been developed in the last couple decades), but check out the video journal from downtown Spokane: the falls are spectacular on most any day, but with 40,000 cubic ft. per second blasting down the basalt chutes, it's some kind of excitement!

Turns out that when I stopped at the Glenwood Bridge yesterday, I'd already missed the 7,000 cfs peak flow by a couple days, and it was in the process of sliding back below 4,000; our brief moment of hot weather replaced with pleasant and occasional showers.

24.May 2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

SW Idaho Blog Rundown Permalink to this item

Eye on Boise: Reasons to vote on Tuesday

RNWMV: Dirk Kempthorne - Why is this man smiling?

Ridenbaugh Press: At the Precinct Level. I noticed the big disparity for Precinct Committeeman candidates in the Ada Co. ballot, with 56 Democratic candidates for 52 positions (3 contested races), versus 164 candidates for 113 Republican positions, with 39 of the races contested.

Jasper LiCalzi Hot races in the Treasure Valley, in 4 parts. (The comments for part 4 features a criticism of a local station's news coverage because the "stupid weather guy" mentions "Grapul or whatever retarded thing he calls mixed rain and frozen precipitation/sleet." Speaking of retarded... it's graupel.)

Kevin Richert: The Senate debate: amateur hour

43SB: Vote for Debbie Holmes for Congress on May 27! (Or else the Zell Miller wannabe. Ewww.)

New West: Why Polls Matter - A Little

It Takes a Village Permalink to this item

As Nicholas Wade describes under a teaser headline about the bacteria thriving in your inner elbow, we, none of us, are alone. The community we carry around with us has ten times as many cells as we do, and hundred times as big a genome. Genome Research has made the Letter that prompted Wade's article available to non-subscribers, helpfully. (Therein we read that "mouse ear skin microbiota is strikingly similar to human skin microbiota.")

23.May 2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Good old girl's for Horton, too Permalink to this item

The Caller ID said POLITICAL MSG, hmm. It was a recording of our so-called First Lady, Lori Otter, asking me to vote for Justice Joel Horton. Makes me lean further still toward John Bradbury. The content of the message was the usual meaningless marketing-speak, even without the "I'm endorsing the guy my husband appointed" uselessness.

Secret Sacrifice Permalink to this item

Courtesy of the Freedom of Information Act Reading Timothy Egan's opinion column, The Invisible War, the word stage-managed popped out:

"Yet, for its prolonged clutch on our treasury and blood, no war as been so out-of-sight, so stage-managed to be painless and invisible. We’re supposed to shop, to spend our stimulus checks, to carry on as if nothing has happened — or is happening. Every now and then we get to rise at a stadium or pause on an airplane. Some sacrifice."

From our President using the Navy as his personal photo-op production crew, to him joking about the duplicity behind the war for the press club and giving up golf for his personal "sacrifice", to a Veteran's Administration official wondering if 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans they see is "something we should address in some sort of (press) release" before they get scooped, we have surely come to the nadir of technological warfare put in the service of business interests.

Larger than Life Permalink to this item

The signal accomplishment of Jim Risch's short term as Governor of our state (sandwiched between Dirk Kemthorne's ascendency to SecInt and C.L. "Butch" Otter's ticket to his father-in-law's ranch burgher on a hill) was a big tax cut. How big? It seems to have grown in his memory, from $50 million in 2006, when he called a special session of our Legislature, to $200 million today.

Our state economist says the net tax cut is closer to $30 million, but because the property tax was made retroactive to the start of 2006, we all got a one year bump, and here's Risch, two years on, juggling numbers that are long gone to sell himself into the U.S. Senate. (Oh and don't you love the down-home rancher schtick for one of our goodest good old boy trial lawyers?)

Not only that, 60% of the property tax cut went to businesses, not homeowners. But that's a Good Thing for Risch's best backers, of course.

Update: Betsy Russell re-runs her August 2006 take on how the "governor's tax shift" looked at the time.

Video for the People Permalink to this item

Somewhere out there in the ether, industrial automation connects with the YouTube phenomenon. On Jim Pinto's eNews, in fact.

"Estimates are that in 2007, YouTube consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet in 2000.

"A terabyte is one trillion bytes, or 1000 gigabytes. [Or a million megabytes; mega-mega. -T] Just a few years ago, bandwidth of "terabytes/day" sounded like science fiction. Current estimates of YouTube's bandwidth are 200 Terabytes/day, or 72 petabytes per year. That's a lot of Libraries of Congress, and equivalent to a sustained 9.26 Giga bps data stream."

I imagine most readers don't come to fortboise for gee-whiz technology stuff, and industrial automation, WUWT? But Pinto (and his readers) are nothing if not eclectic, and it goes off into some fascinating diversions from time to time. This issue's eFeedback includes discussion of Islamic militancy, a perspective on "The Post American world" from a Brazilian, and (closing the circle), a lament from an owner of an engineering company on the shortage of technical skills in the US, for example.

After reading Pinto for many years and having a sense of his point of view and his "voice," now hearing his voice and seeing him deliver his opinion adds a wonderful dimension to a "newsletter." And hey, he can sing and play the guitar, too.

22.May 2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Here Come da Judge Permalink to this item

There's exactly one non-partisan race in next week's primary in Idaho: deciding whether Joel Horton's appointment to our Supreme Court will be extended into an elected term, or whether we'll have John Bradbury take the seat instead. Horton had the lion's share of endorsements and the incumbency, by virtue of Governor Butch Otter's appointment; Bradbury got the Statesman's endorsement.

When the mail came today, with one more glossy promo for Horton, Jeanette wondered out loud "where is Horton getting all his money?" The report of a possibly serious conflict of interest for Horton on 43rd State Blues suggests an answer: the chummy good-old-boy network in the state.

21.May 2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Always Think Forfeiture Permalink to this item

Amidst the current flap about our comic Congressman's latest antic (the rub-your-eyes headline, Sali challenges ATF credibility), we might consider that yes, the slogan jauntily engraved on souvenir Leatherman tools (now bound to be very good business on eBay, I imagine) does not look so good in the broad light of day.

In spite of Sali's "look what I did!" inference to a generic report that "your constituents" (sent to any Members of Congress who asked) prompted the change, there is the boldness of his proposed mitigation: "he will pursue legislation to prevent the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) from restarting the marketing program."

"(O)nly Bill Sali had the vision to see that it was better to attack the symptom of the problem, rather than the root cause, just like doctors recommend."
Bill Sali Fan

That would be right up there with the bill to repeal the Law of Gravity that signaled his arrival in Congress.

Did you know that there's an Executive Office for Asset Forfeiture? (Somebody has to manage all the assets, eh?) Or that the Department of Justice's Asset Foreiture Program has the purpose "to employ asset forfeiture powers in a manner that enhances public safety and security." (The "state and local government agencies and some international law enforcement agencies" who are also after a piece of the seizure pie are mentioned, but not tracked on the DOJ site.)

If the purpose is legitimate, so are the Leathermen, eh? If the purpose isn't legitimate, we should be legislating something other than marketing. The data for 2006 show that the Federal forfeiture business is booming: almost double 2005's take, to almost $1.2 billion "net forfeiture revenue" and "investment revenue." (Idle assets are the devil's playground, presumably.)

Speaking of nice touches: the Awardee for the most recent, $37,460 contract was "Freedom Enterprises" in Spokane, Washington.

If We Could Talk to the Terrorists Permalink to this item

Or maybe sing, with a light-hearted Dr. Doolittle theme? I don't know, these crazy things just pop into my head now and then. This one prompted by David Talbot's piece on Salon today, Obama/Kennedy vs. McCain/Goldwater, imagining this year's race as "the 1964 campaign that never happened."

Now that George W. Bush has provided reason to extend Godwin's law from Usenet discussions to the realm of international politics, and the Peace Through War team has taken us into the quagmire to end all quagmires, I suppose it's time to consider whether we're looping through history again.

"Strong countries and strong presidents talk to their adversaries," Obama said in Oregon this week, maybe at the astounding rally of 75,000 in Portland on Sunday. While George W. Bush is shooting his mouth off about "appeasement," his speech-writers (I assume) digging into the history book to find a Senator from the past to criticize. (Never mind that it was a Republican, with the highest mountain in Idaho named after him.)

Since reliving past wars is on everyone's mind, I guess Bush wants to get people thinking about WWII instead of Vietnam, understandably. The Hitler/Nazi theme was part of the marketing of the Iraq war too, if you'll recall. Evil Dictator, Weapons of Mass Distruction, "the threat gathering against us." A threat worth killing hundreds of thousands over, if only you're paranoid enough.

But talking to our enemies. That's "reckless" and naïve, according to John McCain. Sort of like, what, Reagan and Gorbachev?

Well, not all enemies are rational, as we understand that term. Mutually Assured Destruction won't work if one party thinks that would be a good thing, actually. This too, was part of the Iraq war marketing; instead of imagining Hussein as someone who excelled in the art of the bluff, convincing his neighbors (and us) that he had awesome weapons when he was in fact near toothless, we were supposed to imagine him as the second coming of Hitler, bent on world domination.

World domination.

Who's business has that been these days? Homicidal dictator obsessed with Weapons of Mass Destruction. Hmm...

18.May 2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

With Friends Like These... Permalink to this item

What do you get when the first round leaves you 3 percentage points short of your competition and Bush, Rove and Cheney campaign for you? A loss by a wider margin. Consider a warm-up act for the summer conventions, for which we'll just have to wait and see whether Frank Rich or Karl Rove can provide more entertainment.

"...on Sept. 1, comes the virtually all-white G.O.P. vaudeville in Minneapolis-St. Paul. You’ll be pleased to know the show will go on despite the fact that the convention manager, chosen by the McCain campaign, had to resign last weekend after being exposed as the chief executive of a lobbying and consulting firm hired by the military junta in Myanmar.

"The conventioneers will arrive via the airport whose men's room was immortalized by a Republican senator still serving the good people of Idaho. This will be a most picturesque backdrop to the party's eternal platform battles over family values, from same-sex marriage to abortion."

17.May 2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Move Along, Nothing to See Here Permalink to this item

As I was driving back across Lucky Peak dam this morning (after morning wind—in May!), I noticed the sign that was put up after 9/11, NO STOPPING ON DAM and I thought about the accumulated artifacts of our fears, and the utter disregard for absurdity. Maybe it's because I visit during wee hours when only the most die-hard of the fisherman and the wind junkies are on hand. On a busy boating weekend (such as... today), I suppose there's plenty of traffic, and the motorboats would stack up if someone were to stop in one of the two narrow lanes with no shoulder. It would be annoying, certainly. And maybe incite some road rage?

But for the non-suicidal terrorist, I don't see how traffic enforcement would provide a deterrent. An excuse for action doesn't seem to be required any more. Considering the story from eastern Washington, where an employee of the Spokane Regional Transportation Council was taking pictures of a deserted weigh station, and had to explain to the State Patrol what she was up to... when he called her on her cell phone 10 minutes later. (How about if she answered "I'm sorry, but it's none of your business"?)

(h/t to Huckleberries, where you can read another selection of comments.)

15.May 2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Unconstitutional Discrimination Permalink to this item

Speaking of Judges taking action that is bound to drive the right-wing wild... here come the California Supremes high-stepping their way ahead of the majority to rule that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in that state.

Is this a big, sloppy kiss for the McCain campaign, tailored to motivate the enraged Base to come out and vote for the less liberal of the two moderates running for President? Could be.

Let their Legislature call it what they will, the civil right of committed couples to form their own more perfect unions is one giant step closer to equality under the law.

(h/t to Gila, and her mini civics lesson on the Liberal OC.)

Togetherness Permalink to this item

One of our neighbors asked Jeanette how long we'd been married now, and she got a chuckle out her answer that "we've been a number for 28 years, this week." (The May 18, 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens provided us a convenient marker for end of our first week together. Oh, and since there are 7 days in a week, 4 years between leap years, and 4 x 7 = 28, May 18 will be a Sunday again this year, how nice.)

This week—yesterday, in fact—also marks fortboise's blogiversary: it's eight!

On Judicial Activism Permalink to this item

I say we give a serious stink-eye on anyone from the Legislative branch complaining about Judicial. If said Legislator is also running for Executive, the double stink-eye. Consider George W. Bush's record of making his own "law" with utter disregard not just for the will of the people, but also the will of Congress, international treaties, centuries-old established principles, and common decency. There is plenty of room for improvement on the law-making side, with more problems from bad law than bad interpretation of it.

If Republican-appointees were the ticket to a better Supreme Court, we're already 77% of the way there, as Alan (and Wikipedians) point out. But here's John McCain trying to raise money under the well-rubbed subject of "Combating Judicial Activism." He can rest assured that the future of the U.S. Supreme Court, as he emphasizes it, has been on my mind for several presidential elections now, but his notion that Democratic appointees will "make law with disregard for the will of the people" is about as cock-eyed as the idea that Republican appointees will... what, make law according to public opinion polls? Oh no, it's "strictly interpret the Constitution," a magical prescription for a more perfect union. Republicans strict, Democrats out-of-control libertines.

Apparently the Straight Talk Express has accidentally taken the siding into Cooterville, where life is still conveniently black-and-white. (And the white men are in charge. And the black men are in jail.)

13.May 2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight Permalink to this item

Bill Sali blows off the Idaho Press Club, the League of Women Voters and Idaho Public TV in one fell swoop. Why bother? He's got a busy weekend, somebody on the radio wants to talk to him, a parade, a gun show... He's not taking his opponent seriously, confident that Republican primary voters will shoe him in. If they can find the time to get to the polls.

By way of an excuse, his spokesman Wayne Hoffman said that they never said he would, just that he might. That makes it so much appropriate, don't you think?

12.May 2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

John McCain's Sparkling Surrogate Permalink to this item

Ok, I took the trouble to see the original show, the video of her segment on This Week with George Stephanawatchacallit tagged with "McCain Surrogate Stresses Innovation." It reminds me of seeing Sun CEO Scott McNealy at Comdex (back when there was such a thing) responding to Fiorina's rollout of that strategy at Hewlett-Packard: the new logo! "Big whoop," I think was the sum total of his commentary.

"We have to incent innovation..."

Now her "business" is being Chairman of McCain's "Victory 2008," and her #1 talking point is that "nothing could be further from the truth" than the ugly rumour that John McCain is running for a 3rd Bush term. He is so anti-Bush, "it was John McCain, after, all who spoke—loudly—for four long years saying that Don Rumsfeld was the worst Secretary of Defense in history" and stuff.

In her vignette of the "typical American family sitting around the kitchen table," wondering whether they can send their kid to college in the fall, she doesn't explain how $30 or $50 of gas tax holidy is going to get junior any closer to registration day.

It appears that Fiorina is being pushed forward as the chief economic strategist for the McCain campaign, if not a tantalizing possibility for Veep. Did we need further illustration that economics is not something McCain has understood as well as he should?

Mothers' Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Just a Regular Gal Permalink to this item

I can't wait to see Carly Fiorina on The Daily Show; even on Sunday morning, she's cracking me up. According to Sarah Lai Stirland's report of her stint on This Week with George Stephanopoulos (a "brief" yet "wide-ranging" interview, go figure), "Fiorina said that she couldn't name a credible economist who supports the idea of a gas tax holiday."

"I don't think it matters. I'm a business person," she said, saying that economists' arguments are too theoretical, and don't address the everyday budgetary realities facing Americans.

I'm trying to imagine what Ms. Fiorina might know about anything having to do with the "everyday" since she blasted through the glass ceiling to top management positions at Lucent, and then Hewlett-Packard, before HP booted her out the door with only an 8-figure (or was it 9? I forget) golden parachute for consolation.

I wouldn't say she's a business person so much as a marketing professional, and lord knows, John McCain is going to need someone with those skills to put lipstick on the economic pig that George W. Bush has turned loose.

How Much Would it Have to Cost? Permalink to this item

About a week ago, gas was $3.40-something at the corner pump, but we drove a few more days before filling up. It had jumped to $3.599 by the time I made my selection of the lowest octane and replenished the Prius' tank. It didn't startle me into doing anything different, but it did make me wonder: how much will gas have to cost before I change my lifestyle? When I will I decide not to drive somewhere because it costs too much? $5? 8? 10?

And in the sea of SUVs raised on cheap gas, I wonder about how those big car owners are feeling about their choices. In the oil shock of the 1970s, there was a moment when big cars became anathema, "lead sleds" that no one wanted to buy. One guy I knew had a yard full of old Cadillacs that he was collecting, cheap because no one wanted to pay to drive them around any more.

How people get to work - pie graph The guy in front of me at the gas station opened the cap on his Corvette convertible, and made his selection on the other end of the octane scale. "91," I said. "Yeah baby!" He said "'93, actually," thinking I was talking about the model year. He bought something less than 2 gallons, I imagine because he hardly ever drives the thing and didn't want stale high-test in the tank. He's preserving its value as a work of sculpture, and for the (very) occasional thrill of go-fast.

Krugman mentions the NYT report of a surge in transit ridership, along with the observation that it has a long way to go. The neighborhood Pacman is still the single-occupancy vehicle; a great, big, gas-guzzling SUV SOV.

Two Interesting Conventions This Summer? Permalink to this item

There's something oddly comforting about the hand-lettered signs that persist around town, even after the direct appeals for Ron Paul have subsided into quixotic clues, New Age signposts to this millennium's version of Burma Shave. Dan Popkey's digging around the stealth campaign to take over the state's GOP convention in some fashion, on the way to making a statement at the national convention this summer. The only ones not looking forward to the possibility of that entertainment are the bosses, who would be perfectly happy to keep everything on-script and on-schedule. Annoint McCain, thrill over his choice of V.P. and then on to the final run to November.

But wait! There could be more!

40 contested races (out of 141) for precinct committeeperson in Ada Co. alone, and who knows how many others out of 44 counties and 900 races across the state, as the Republicans get an unaccustomed taste of democracy in their ranks. Will we add an Idaho chapter to the tales of insurgency?

"(T)he Nevada GOP (was prompted) to abruptly adjourn its convention last month. Paul delegates stormed the Spokane County, Wash., convention and passed an anti-war platform plank. Paul forces have skirmished with mainstream Republicans in Georgia, Oklahoma, Minnesota and Missouri."

Traffic Jam at the Top of the World Permalink to this item

Alan Arnette's dispatches are flowing again, as this year's narrow window of opportunity to stand on the summit of Everest opens... Fixed ropes and lashed-together ladders bottle-neck the increasingly well-traveled path between Base Camp and the upper camps, his guess that there were 150 climbers between camps 2 and 3, more than four miles above sea level.

Dale Oliver Hall Permalink to this item

Yet another of my Boise father figures gone before, Dale had a more remarkable life than the small part we shared in our time together on social occasions, from being a young draftee in WWII, to earning a Ph.D. in ecology in 1971, before most people had even heard that word. For his memorial this Friday, I know we'll feel the resonance of who he was through the family and friends gathered to honor his life.

8.May.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I'll never release my tax returns! Permalink to this item

Hillary has Bill, and John has... Cindy. She'll give up her tax returns when we pry them from her cold, dead hands!

My wife and I have been married for 26 years, and we filed joint returns for 26 years. Of course, we've been living in a community property state the whole time where mostly what's mine is ours and what's hers in ours. Not so much chance she might be rich and me an ordinary guy with a $169,300 a year job, trying to keep from looking elitist.

Funny thing about accumulating riches; they allow you to live well, but apparently part of the deal is doing all you can to keep the details secret. Even if you're married to the President of the United States of America?

Maybe Cindy McCain won't face that problem.

6.May.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Don't Bogert those records, Dirk Permalink to this item

Front page news today, about our former governor keeping his records from 7 years in office secret, in violation of state law.

Two years ago, the Idaho Attorney General's office told Dirk Kempthorne to give his gubernatorial records to the Idaho State Historical Society - like every governor before him.

There's so much wrong with this, where do we start? He's been "too busy" in his new job as SecInt to "vet" the records, and "cede control" of them. And his lawyer, Michael Bogert is acting like nothing's wrong, weaseling that the state has "jurisdiction" of the stuff, parked in the Department of Administration... even though yeah, "any public records request has to be approved by the former governor."

How does that work? They're the state's records, in the state's possession, and Dirk Kempthorne has no state position, but he and his lawyer get to keep everybody out of the boxes?

Kempthorne is also a former U.S. Senator from Idaho, and as such he has records from his one elected term in the federal government; those are sealed for 25 years, legally, and he figured the state would let him do the same thing?

No, it doesn't, and Kempthorne and Bogert have known that for at least two years now. So what is so important and so confidential that Kempthorne feels the need for this extreme secrecy?

4.May.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Press On Permalink to this item

The nice thing about the Idaho Press Club Best of 2007 Annual Awards is that there seems to be something for everybody; looks like more than 400 prizes. Good advertising vehicle for the Idaho Press Club, certainly; all those news outlets will be saying their name for weeks to come.

The less nice thing about the awards is that there isn't a hyperlink to any of the award-winning newspapers, websites, magazines, television stations, radio stations, public relations firms, students, or "new categories." They typed out a few domain names for us, but that was it.

Maybe next year.

3.May.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Crippleware Update? Permalink to this item

Last month, my copy of Quicken 2005 started sending me "Second Notices" of its plans to go on the blink as of April 30th. No more updates, or on-line connection. Time to send more money! Get a new version!

Except I like the old version ok. It's getting the job done, I'm used to its features (and shortcomings), and it's paid for. It's convenient to have it update stock and fund quotes, but I could live without that for, oh, ever. If I had to. I forwarded a piece of my mind to Intuit, which they redirected to /dev/null as usual, with an autoreply to tell me how much they appreciated hearing from me, whatever it was I said. Please don't reply to this message, we'll ignore that even moreso.

The warnings stopped, or at least stopped catching my attention, and I looked after other things, April ended, and here it is the 3rd of May. I started up Quicken for the first time in more than a week, and it wanted to know, would I like to update?

Same old update screen as I've had 6 or 8 times over the years with this copy. But... they said I wasn't getting any more updates after April 30, didn't they? You don't suppose... no, they wouldn't do that, would they? Sucker me into asking for an "update" that cripples my copy of the software so it doesn't work as well?

I said [Cancel]. And updated the stock and fund prices as usual, no complaints, warnings, or errors. Go figure.

Free Pander! Permalink to this item

Gail Collins takes a few shots at an easy target.

"(T)here is nothing worse than snobs who live close to the office making fun of a gas-tax holiday that would in the best possible circumstances save real hard-working Americans 30 cents a day. The point is particularly piquant when made by a guy who flies around the country in his wife’s private plane."

2.May.2008 Permanent URL to this day's entry

No More Credit from FOB Permalink to this item

Thanks to Red State Rebels for the links to the burgeoning story about Bill Sali's campaign fundraising adventure, now that the Club for Growth has apparently thrown him off the bus. I especially liked Sali's spokesman Wayne Hoffman's saying that his creditors "are extremely understanding," even if they are demanding cash for new transactions, thankyouverymuch. (Quoted in the Spokesman-Review.)

Resurrection... and Rejection? Permalink to this item

It turns out that the report of our cat's demise was an exaggeration. (These things can happen.) Color us surprised, and a little embarrassed to learn that she's been seen further afield in the neighborhood before this week than we ever imagined, and after her middle of the night departure on Tuesday, took up up residence under a backyard shed, four yards north. Those folks have a better fence, keeping tom cats out, and their female cats, now augmented by the one we thought was "ours," in.

After 17 years, if we were chopped liver, we might be more attractive to her. As it is, she did come out on our second try to lure her, eat a healthy portion of soft cat food out of a dish set in front of me, but wasn't about to be grabbed and taken "home" afterward.

Ain't we been good to ya?!

Update: She came on out for Jeanette, later, got carried home and brought inside. She's had some lap time, still talking and checking everything out, she'll want to go out and we won't let her, not right away.

Share the Waste Permalink to this item

American Ecology's promotional picture We get to burn up their oil, so it seems only fair for us to take some of the contamination back. (But... it was an accident. While we were over there liberating their country!) 13 million pounds of sand, loaded with depleted uranium and lead, headed to American Ecology in Grandview, Idaho. (They must have done a marketing study and found a better response to that name than "Radioactive Waste, Inc.")

We presume—hardly anyone's talking—that they're taking advantage of our low population density, our state's Republican management, and our apparently well-connected waste disposal company. Sure, it's a little out of the way getting most of 7,000 tons of sand from Kuwait to Idaho, but where there's a will, there's a way. We've moved a lot more oil that distance.

What isn't explained in The Daily News (Longview, WA) coverage going back to the middle of last month is why, if "we're talking about levels that you see in nature," according to AE's project manager, we didn't just leave those natural levels right where they were, but instead took the trouble to move them halfway around the world. Part of George Bush's economic stimulus plan, perhaps.

TDN said the AE project manager also told them that "any contamination on foreign lands must be shipped back to the United States for disposal." This particular boatload turned into two trainloads, moving from Longview up the Columbia and into the Snake River basin is "contamination" from 1991. Imagine what a growth industry we'll have when we start moving the contamination from Afghanistan and Iraq for 2001-2008 (and counting... up to 10? 15? 100 years?).

We may run out of oil to be shuffling sand before it's all shuffled to meet that standard. If the risk is negligible, and from the numbers cited, it sounds like it is, maybe we should get smarter sooner and get agreement to leave it where it is. The hardest part is getting the diplomats not to laugh when we say "trust us on this..."

Update: Hmm, smells like money. Naturally.

May Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

$10.9 billion and it's not enough Permalink to this item

ExxonMobil's profits up 17%, but folks wanted more. More, more, more. They made $11.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007, after all. Less is apparently not more in the oil business, and certainly not for the largest corporation in the world.

I don't know how much ExxonMobil's profits were reduced by the necessity of paying taxes on their 12-digit quarterly gross (plenty, one would hope), but it seems strange to have the relatively paltry federal excise tax on gasoline under attack, an idea "so ridiculous, so unworthy of the people aspiring to lead our nation, it takes your breath away," as Thomas Friedman puts it.

"(T)he biggest energy crisis we have in our country today is the energy to be serious – the energy to do big things in a sustained, focused and intelligent way. We are in the midst of a national political brownout."


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Friday, 06-Jun-2008 22:31:53 MDT