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28.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"All we need is to nominate the right candidate" Permalink to this item

Well, what have we learned? Rush Limbaugh is close to being elevated by the GOP cardinals to Pope of the Reactionary Right. No one dares cross him after Phil Gingrey's pitiful trip to the woodshed. After an "immense ovation" from CPAC, Limbaugh exhorted the faithful that all they need is the right hero. Sadly, their cupboard is decidedly bare, with a gaggle of has-beens, wanna-bees and early flameouts:

Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Ann Coulter, Mitt Romney, Bobby Jindal, Ron Paul, Sarah Palin, two people Fox News couldn't bring itself to mention and, bringing up the rear of the non-binding straw poll, Charlie Crist.

Mitt Romney won for the third straight time, and I believe he chose the four foot stuffed panda bear as his prize.

Maybe if the GOP's "news" outlet didn't have a sidebar of "PEOPLE WHO READ THIS... Also read these" leading stories, "Porn Plot: Vivid's Sordid Plans for Nadya 'Octomom' Suleman," "Bad Manners: Jennifer Aniston Snickers at Brad Pitt's Oscar Loss, "Facebook, MySpace Reveal Pain of Musician's Daughters Before Shocking Murder-Suicide," "First Lady of San Francisco Bares All in Raunchy Sex Scene," and "U.S. Prepared to Shoot Down N. Korean Missile."

National Enquirer, look out!

Sunset on newsprint Permalink to this item

I remember giving a presentation to my workmates about this astounding new communication medium called the World Wide Web, in the summer of 1997. That was when there was still some novelty to saying "it's on the web," but it had been said enough that some eyes would roll at the phrase. I showed pictures of the sun's shadow on Earth during a total eclipse, Io and its shadow on Jupiter, and the spectacular 1994 collision of comet Shoemaker-Levy with that planet, gave tips on using screen space more effectively, how to work your way out of a broken URL, how to get driving directions.

"I believe that a newspaper is an experience..."
– John Temple, the last Editor and Publisher of the Rocky Mountain News

The first job I had beyond raking leaves and shoveling snow for kindly neighbors, the first real job that I had to get a work permit for (as a 12-year-old), was delivering The Milwaukee Sentinel in the wee hours of the morning, and going door-to-door to collect from most of my customers in the evenings. The Sentinel was long ago subsumed by the Journal, to become the improbably named Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which of course has a website now, and jobs open for newspaper delivery (Part time done by 6 am!), among other things.

It takes a little while to download the 21:48 minute video documenting the Final Edition of the Rocky Mountain News, but it's worth the wait for some of us, at least. It fell 54 days short of celebrating 150 years in the newspaper business, yesterday.

(Thanks to former workmate John "Quill" Taylor for the link.)

27.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Let's go fly a kite Permalink to this item

Wide open spaces, sunshine, a little wind, snow covered hills... welcome to Snowkite Solider! Something tells me I've got go try that, even though I have to assume they selected the best riders and best airtime to feature.

"50, 60, 70 foot glides..."

25.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

No Aphorisms for Pleasant Grove Permalink to this item

Holding vigil, before the monument was removed Given the things that need our time and attention, this really seems like it belongs in the Don't We have Better Things to Do? file, but the Supremes have spoken, on the subject of whether Summum could compel the city to put up their monument to their Seven Aphorisms.

The short answer is "no."

The longer answer is we are really dumbfoundedly confused about what these granite tablets that dropped down into our city parks on the Day the Earth Stood Still for Cecil, Charlton and Yul really mean.

The federal appeals court in Denver said the First Amendment to the Constitution compeled the city to display the Summum monument. (And... what all else?!) Alito said the existing monuments were government speech. But not religious, of course, since the government couldn't say such a thing as to Establish one religion or another.

The 9 Justices were falling all over themselves to support Pleasant Grove, coming up with four, count 'em four concurring opinions on top of the opinion of the Court which everybody but Souter joined. The Bobsey Twins concurred to say th-th-th-that's all, folks!

"The city can safely exhale. Its residents and visitors can now return to enjoying Pioneer Park's wishing well, its historic granary—and, yes, even its Ten Commandments monument—without fear that they are complicit in an establishment of religion."

(Isn't a Wishing Well kind of pagan or something? Who's supposed to be granting those wishes, anyway?)

“Everything flows out and in; everything has its season; all things rise and fall; the pendulum swing expresses itself in everything; the measure of the swing to the right is the measure of the swing to the left; rhythm compensates.” Summum

Aren't we all just waiting with baited breath (what, something fishy in here?) to see what Bryan Fischer will say?! (And what about Brandi, whatever happened to her?) Ok, maybe you're not waiting, but you know he's going to have plenty to say.

"In a groundbreaking ruling, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously today that Pleasant Grove, Utah—and every other city in the U.S., including Boise—can decide what monuments to display in a public park without violating the First Amendment," Fischer chortles.

Ok... and the City of Boise did decide that they didn't want the 10C monument in the park, so that's that, right Bryan?

Mardi Gras Permanent URL to this day's entry

Can do anything... except tell the truth Permalink to this item

Bobby Jindal's response to the not-the-State-of-the-Union: "Republicans are ready to work with the new President...."

Ah, Bobby? We don't know each other, and as far as I know, you're a stand-up guy, a state Governor and all that, but seriously? I'm afraid I can't take that kind of wild claim on your say-so.

And did you really bring up the $8 billion Las Vegas to Disneyland highspeed rail line? You didn't get the memo that that wasn't in the final Bill? Republicans appear to be ready to work the same old program of lying boldly, and keep telling the lies in the hope repetition will convince us.

Fiscal responsibility (or not) Permalink to this item

Not that actual facts are going to convince anyone, or change any of the posturing, but Ed Lotterman does a nice job of putting the sources of our debt into perspective.

"...four-tenths of 1 percent of our 2009 debt comes from Kennedy-Johnson era deficits. Together, Nixon and Ford contributed 3.3 percent, while Carter reduced the real debt slightly....

"Nearly 24 percent of our current debt comes from Ronald Reagan's presidency. George H.W. Bush contributed another 13.6 percent and Bill Clinton added 4.8 percent.

"George W. Bush is the champ, however. More than 36 percent of the total came from deficits between his first budget year, fiscal 2002, and February 2009."

Twenty years of Republican Presidents, 74% of our debt.

Not the State of the Union Permalink to this item

But hey, it's the closest we'll get to one this year. The nicest thing I notice right off the bat is that Richard B. "Dick" Cheney won't be haunting the background of the scenes captured by the video cameras.

Are they spending more TV time on the pre-speech parade, or have I just not paid attention? Clarence Thomas didn't want to wait behind Ruth Bader Ginsburg, barged around, in a hurry to... get to his seat? I guess it's kind of sad that there's no one he's looking forward to seeing in the Chamber.

This President sure lights up the room in a new way. I guess we're still in the honeymoon?

Update, afterwards: Signing autographs on the way out, nice. The only thing missing is one of the Members having him sign a big, fuzzy tennis ball.

22.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Featured wingnut #2 Permalink to this item

Wayne Hoffman, fighting for Idaho's autonomy, points out that by accepting the federal stimulus package, we are ceding control to the Feds! We were all set to handle our own economic trouble by responsibly tapping the stabilization fund... or wait, were we about to cut at least $62 million from the state's budget for education, or perhaps $110 million, or perhaps use the cover of darkness to kill teachers' collective bargaining rights?

And if the "price of sovereignty" as Hoffman puts it is $84 million, is the rest of the more than $300 million the state may receive unencumbered?

According to Hoffman, we're "practically hands the keys of our schools to the federal government." I looked up Title VIII of the Bill to see what he might be talking about.

"Each local educational agency receiving funds... shall be required to file with the State educational agency, no later than December 1, 2009, a school-by-school listing of per-pupil educational expenditures from State and local sources during the 2008–2009 academic year," and that "each State educational agency shall report that information to the Secretary of Education by March 31, 2010." We all keep track of expenditures anyway, so that shouldn't be too heinous.

There are indeed some conditions to be met, with a lot of references to other laws I didn't follow, in the realms of "Education for the Disadvantaged," "Impact Aid," "School Improvement Programs," "Innovation and Improvement," "Special Education," "Rehabilitation Services and Disability Research," "Student Financial Assistance" and "Higher Education." (Please refer to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Higher Education Act of 1965).

I don't know how that all adds up for education and its funding in Idaho, but I will stipulate there is to be some responsibility tied to the federal money. Hoffman has inferred that the golden handcuffs will mean

"no meaningful education reform for years to come and [continued subsidizing of] wasteful spending by public schools and state colleges. It restricts how much states can cut from public schools, colleges and universities. While that limit is not likely to not impact Idaho's public schools, it could well influence spending decisions for colleges and universities."

"Such a policy mindlessly mandates continued waste," Hoffman warns, as we are forced to put federal policy ahead of our own.

The bold and courageous option is still available, I suppose, For Idaho to refuse the stimulus money, and go its own way. Somehow I don't think the Legislature is prepared to actually walk that talk.

Featured wingnut #1 Permalink to this item

What more fitting day than George Washington's birthday to consider life on the frontier with the help of Clayton Cramer, now billed as "a historian in Horseshoe Bend," but known and loved by Idahoans for his job holding down the right edge of the blogosphere. His self-introduction ("Clayton's commentary on news and events of the day. Broadly speaking, I'm a conservative with libertarian sympathies...") sounds a bit schizophrenic, and the head-and-shoulders-and-torso photograph makes me think of Sasquatch for some reason...

Anyway, Clayton's Reader's View coupled with another column from Wayne Hoffman gives today's Statesman a decidedly Westward Ho feeling, as if it's crossed the Ada County line and headed into the Canyon. We'll get to Hoffman in a moment.

Mr. Cramer thinks about guns a lot. I'm guessing he rubs one or more of his guns on a daily basis, and loves the smell of bluing. His View leads with the 'L' word—lied. Obama lied when he told Idahoans he wouldn't take their guns, Cramer's headline shouts. So, Obama has taken our guns? Oops, not yet, but he's going to, just you watch.

It's bullet point number 29 of 40 for Urban Policy that has Cramer in a twist. Under Crime and Law Enforcement, the policy point is to

Address Gun Violence in Cities: Obama and Biden would repeal the Tiahrt Amendment, which restricts the ability of local law enforcement to access important gun trace information, and give police officers across the nation the tools they need to solve gun crimes and fight the illegal arms trade. Obama and Biden also favor commonsense measures that respect the Second Amendment rights of gun owners, while keeping guns away from children and from criminals. They support closing the gun show loophole and making guns in this country childproof. They also support making the expired federal Assault Weapons Ban permanent.

Cramer is willing to "give Obama the benefit of the doubt about whether closing the 'gun show loophole' violates the Second Amendment," even though "there really isn't any 'gun show loophole'...." Generous! But he continues,

"It is impossible to make guns 'childproof' without making them adultproof. So far, I have seen no technology that works well enough to do one without doing the other. That's why many of the proposed laws requiring 'childproof' gun technology exempt guns sold to police departments. Police department guns have to work reliably; civilians defending themselves from criminals, obviously, don't need reliable guns, because criminals will stop their attack when they realize that you are having a malfunction."

And the blasted assault weapons ban. That "is clearly an attempt to take away guns."

"It is an attempt to disarm law-abiding adults of the one category of firearm most clearly protected by the Second Amendment - those that would be suitable for overthrowing a tyrannical government. (Those Democrats who were ranting and raving last year about how President Bush was going to call off the 2008 elections and make himself dictator might want to ask what you would have done in that situation. Would you have written angry letters to the White House?)"

Good question! What would we have done? Let's say we were of a mind of a well-armed, broadly conservative, sympathetic libertarian who felt the government had gone too far. Rally the North End Irregulars and get in our cars to drive to Washington and take over the Capitol by force? Sadly, we will never know, having overthrown the tyranny of Bush/Cheney in the new-fashioned ways of term limits and a democratic election.

Perhaps if Obama's support for unexpiring the Assault Weapons Ban comes to fruition, we can look forward to Clayton leading the Horseshoe Bend irregulars on a new expedition against tyranny?

21.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"How did you hear about us?" Permalink to this item

Back in my cubefarm days, when the web was new, I started collecting the recommendations that were passed about from time to time on an internal newsgroup into "Best in Boise" recommendations for various sorts of goods and services. There is no recommendation as valuable as the personal one, from someone you know (and whose judgment you trust). I kept the notes, for glass, concrete, exterior painting, roofing, plumbing, and so on.

It came to mind today when the furnace was telling us it needed work. Earlier this week, I gave a shot at replacing the thermostat, finally retiring the bimetal spiral/mercury bulb AirTemp that proved not to be at fault, and still trusty after 45 years. Programmability has its virtues though, so that was a low risk attempt at a fix, with its own benefit.

This morning, the occasionally bouncy ignitor relay was doing its alarming jitterbug again and I went digging through receipts and Quicken to see who it was we had do the last service... back in 1997. All that turned up was a couple of cash entries for thermocouples, the DIY prelude to the professional work that followed. But it did prompt me to look up my co-workers recommendations.

That gave me several good leads, including the one I went with, recommended by John "Quill" Taylor, A-1 Heating and Air Conditioning. One of their service guys returned my call promptly, gave me an estimate for a basic service call, and and with a half dozen questions, gave me a suggestion as to what might fix the problem: clean the thermocouple by the pilot light. Seems to have done the trick, along with adding to my Mr. Fixit sense of well-being for the week.

Thanks to Charlie at A-1, and to John.

And if you're looking for a recommendation for remodeling, autobody work, an accountant, plumbing, roofing, exterior or interior painting, home or auto glass, carpet cleaning, concrete, drywall, flooring, water softening, a brake job, local movers, or appliance repair, let me know.

20.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Standing for principle Permalink to this item

The Idaho Senate State Affairs committee quietly refused to even print a Bill to extend the Idaho Human Rights Act's anti-discrimination provisions to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. (Idaho's so-called "Human Rights Commission" didn't support the legislation either.) Bryan Fischer applauded the inaction:

"I think the State Affairs committee made the right decision today. Every other place in the country where these gender identity and sexual orientaiton discrimination laws have gone into place, they've been used to harrass and intimidate and punish businesses who make decisions based on traditional and time-honored standards of human sexuality."

So the "traditional" decision-making of firing people just because they're gay can keep on keeping on in our state.

In addition to her speaking to the committee after co-sponsor Senator Charles Coiner (R-Twin Falls) introducted the proposal, Nicole LeFavour has her say on her blog, "on why more than 42,000 people deserve to be able to work at their jobs, go to school and live in a house or apartment without fear."

She is on the right side of history, and Bryan Fischer is on the wrong one. It's only a matter of time before his hateful, bigoted use of religion to justify discrimination becomes a sorry historical footnote.

Big stack of lies Permalink to this item

Jim Risch, putting on a phony show It's time for the Friday night news, and one of our staples during the legislative session is Idaho Reports. This week's included the video bite of Jim Risch's little theater stunt for his former fellows, showing off the the "1,000 page Bill," which is actually 407 pages.

And he's showing it off by stacking up... what must certainly be at least 4 reams of paper, twice the claimed number of pages (assuming it was printed single-sided), and five times the size the actual bill, or ten times the size of the actual Bill printed double-sided.

Impressive. Dishonesty.

Lead, follow, or get out of the way Permalink to this item

I assume this is mere bureaucratic ineptitude on their part rather than genuine incompetence, but the Idaho GOP has just sent out a "Paid for by the Republican National Committee" mailing that is still flogging the hapless salt marsh harvest mouse. (At least they didn't call it "red-breasted"; did Risch think this was a Commie mouse perhaps?) The RNC's mailing decries "Obama's Disappointing Month," and features all the buzzword talking points that—hello?—didn't really work for them in the last election. Bipartisanship, earmarks, lobbyists, you know, round up the usual suspects.

I can't help but think of the anti-hero of US Airways 1549, unsung only because everything else worked out so perfectly and all were saved: the overzealous passenger who opened one of the rear doors, thereby flooding the rear of the cabin and putting the people in the cheap seats, and Flight Attendant Doreen Welsh at risk of being trapped and drowning in a sinking airplane.

After the 2008 beatdown the Republicans so richly earned, a certain amount of sour grapes are understandable, and good luck raising money right now by reciting all the "disappointments" in this first month of the Obama administration, but whenever you're ready to start with the "bipartisanship" thing, do let us know. We assume that in spite of the disingenuous whingeing, you do know the meaning of "solid majority" (especially here in Idaho!).

You and your lead bloviator can "hope" Obama fails all you like, but you go near that back door, expect trouble.

Nationalize! Permalink to this item

Wasn't the first Great Depression triggered by banks trading in securities? And didn't we enact a law to prevent that in 1933? (And didn't the first "reform" of Glass-Steagall trigger the banking crisis of the 1980s?) And didn't the 1999 Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act set the scene for today's debacle?

Now comes Objectivist Supérieure Alan Greenspan climbing aboard the bandwagon for... nationalization of the big banks, for a "swift and orderly restructuring."

"I understand that once in a hundred years this is what you do," the retired oracle told the Economic Club of New York, over their lunchtime gruel. I don't remember my fin de siècle that well, did we do this in 1909 or so? That was a lot of world wars ago.

Our senior senator still has the chorus of "GOP tax cuts and regulatory relief" in mind, inhabiting the dream world of "what America was" where many Idahoans prefer to live. (The Idaho Mountain Express, in the heart of rich and liberal Blaine County, takes Crapo and Risch at their word and suggests they act on their stated principle: Idaho should refuse stimulus money. Ha! With the exception of "the three Idaho counties with a majority of voters who supported President Obama—Blaine, Latah and Teton.")

The forecast for bank losses is now measured in $trillions, ten of which won't quite pay off the national debt anymore.

$1.2 trillion in murky sub-prime mortgages, some $7 trillion in commercial real estate loans, credit-card debt and junk bonds, "then there are trillions more in high-grade corporate bonds and loans and jumbo prime mortgages, whose worth will also drop precipitously as the recession deepens and more firms and households default on their loans and mortgages," write Matthew Richardson and Nouriel Roubini in last Sunday's WaPo.

"Nationalizing banks is not without precedent. In 1992, the Swedish government took over its insolvent banks, cleaned them up and reprivatized them. Obviously, the Swedish system was much smaller than the U.S. system. Moreover, some of the current U.S. financial institutions are significantly larger and more complex, making analysis difficult. And today's global capital markets make gaming the system easier than in 1992. But we believe that, if applied correctly, the Swedish solution will work here.

"Sweden's restructuring agency was not an out-of-control bureaucracy; it delegated all the details of the cleanup to private bankers and managers hired by the government. The process was remarkably smooth.

"Basically, we're all Swedes now. We have used all our bullets, and the boogeyman is still coming. Let's pull out the bazooka and be done with it."

But beware the half-measure today's story reminds us, in the words of Elizabeth Warren, appointed last year to head the Congressional Oversight Panel for the first wave of the Wall Street bailout:

"Think about where we are now: putting $40 billion into a financial institution that has a market capitalization after the infusion of only $15 billion. Looks a lot like a step toward nationalization."

I think $25 billion is even more than we loaded onto pallets and shoved out the back hatch of C-130s in Iraq isn't it?

Warren reported to Congress earlier this month that the Treasury had overpaid by almost $78 billion when it bought distressed assets from banks last year.

"There may be good reasons to subsidize the banks, but those need to be overt. Don't say there's no subsidization here while there's deep subsidization," Warren told McClatchy. The "worst possible position for us would be to semi-nationalize while denying that it's happening."

Deroy Murdock offers the (Nancy) Reagan response, "Just Say 'No' to Bank Nationalization." He does raise the good question of why anyone is still seeking Alan Greenspan's counsel, with a dollop of ridicule for "Republicans who have wandered off the ranch," such as Lindsey Graham. Rather than taking a page out of The Communist Manifesto for "bank confiscation," Murdock argues that we should... wait for it... lower taxes, of course! This time the twist is to repatriate the "$1 trillion (that) languishes offshore, enervated by America’s high corporate and personal-income taxes."

"Regarding nationalization, America's free market has devolved in half a year from unsullied maiden to street-corner whore. This sad truth is one more reason for the American Right to repudiate the Bush-Rove-Paulson borrow-spend-and-bailout model and its architects, as if severing and discarding an infected appendix."

19.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Personal incredulity strikes again Permalink to this item

Jim Risch talking to the Statesman editorial board, as quoted by Kevin Richert, and speaking in our folksy Idaho way, with authority about the rest of the human race: "There's no human being that's read that bill."

Makes me think of some of the other Bills that made their way through Congress without much in the way of reading, let alone thoughtful oversight. The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 springs to mind, but that was before Jim Risch's time in the big house.

Deep in the heart of Idaho Permalink to this item

Riggins is halfway between our once-upon-a-time North Idaho home and where we live in Southwest Idaho. (North of south, there is no "east or west," it just goes central, north, panhandle.) It's where the Little Salmon River joins the main, the "River of No Return," in a beautiful network of steep canyons.

As for any little-known and scarsely populated territory, the default assumption is that the politics will be somewhere between rabid and reactionary, and "No Trespassing" signs mean what they say, with a bullet.

I don't know how well Robert Schultze fits into his neighborhood, but his letter in the Idaho County Free Press is a breath of fresh air from central Idaho.

"...The cheap Conservatives who borrowed and spent this nation down the path to bankruptcy have also tried to destroy our Social Security system. Cheap Conservatives don't mind wasting our taxes on illegal wars that bankrupt the U.S., but they won't spend a dime on infrastructure, unemployment benefits, middle class tax cuts or health-care for children...."

Here's his call for bipartisanship:

"Cheap Conservatives who won't back our new president should be booted out of office."

18.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"It was part of talking points that circulated on Capitol Hill." Permalink to this item

Well at least we got some accurate information from the office of Senator Jim Risch today. This was his director of communications, Brad Hoaglun's explanation for why the Senator's featured complaints about the stimulus bill in his presentation to the state legislature were bogus.

Maybe he should've stuck with the "it's difficult reading" line, which was more likely original. Yes, everything's more difficult in Washington, because the country has 200 times more people than this state does.

And maybe the Republicans could get going on something other than mimeographing their talking points and handing them out to all their Members to take back home and wave around?

And maybe Jim Risch could do what he's telling us to do and "not only read the stimulus bill but [study] the stimulus bill and know it paragraph by paragraph and page by page." I'm sure he'll be delighted to find out that it's only 407 pages long and not 1,100 pages as he and his spokesman seem to think.

17.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Let a smile be your umbrella Permalink to this item

More than anything else, I think Republicans lack a sense of humor. Here in Idaho where they pretty much run everything, a special few (such as our current Governor, C.L. "Butch" Otter) rise as far as affable, but that seems to be the limit. Sarah Palin's wild ride was built on a comic persona, but it was dark, an unintrospective comedy. Someone fed her that "pallin' around" line and she ran with it, carrying the hope of her Party that the public would find the rumors of Obama's secret life as a Muslim to be a distraction from an economy in the tank.

The one erstwhile Terrorist they could point to was not much to look at, and it must have been a disappointment when he wouldn't even rise to the bait. When Bill Ayers finally did get his say (and the Statesman ran the op-ed piece that the NYT published, hackles were raised up and down the state, and the WaPo op-ed from Charles Lane was quickly run to keep things fair and balanced.

Letters ensued from both sides, none quite as memorable as the one from Bill Sinclair, addressed to "all the screeching, seething, spitting, hate-filled radical liberals, representatives of the Democratic far left, the party of compassion and tolerance, fairness, free speech, and diversity of thought."

"If Bush is the inept buffoon you portray him as, how is it possible that this one man was able to orchestrate single-handedly the destruction of America as you describe it?"

We're not saying it was single-handed by any means. But do note that the 2-year-old who is close to helpless when it comes to orderly block-stacking is more than capable of single-handedly knocking down any number of patient hours' worth of stacking in no time at all.

Better that Sinclair had taken Deborah Solomon's approach, and that Sarah had taken Bill up on his offer of a talk show, "Pallin' Around With Sarah and Bill," and give us all a chance to learn from our mistakes.

Better that our senior Senator Mike Crapo ("CRAY-po," please) would give the last administration more absence to let our hearts grow fonder to the Republican myth before trotting out talking points that the economic crisis wasn't George Bush's fault. If only we'd had more tax cuts and less regulation! Now that we've had the recitation of reasons why federal handouts are so terrible, we can resume our role as welfare state, cheerfully accepting $100 back for every $83 we pay in federal taxes.

15.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Who's afraid of the big, bad filibuster? Permalink to this item

Hat tip to Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio for the great idea of boosting the political entertainment industry by requiring more than just the threat of a filibuster to force Senate action to clear the 60-vote cloture bar.

"The alternative the Democrats have over there is act like a representative democratic body and change the rules," DeFazio said. The Senate should require Republicans to actually do the deed, and speak continually on the Senate floor to block debate.

And thanks to Randy Stapilus for bringing it to our attention out of the middle of a rambling piece in the Bend Bulletin

Truth and reconciliation Permalink to this item

While the new administration settles in and we wait to see how its principle of openness will impinge on the array of secret programs left from the last one, Tobin Harshaw runs down opinions about whether we'll see a Truth Commission or More Rendition?

I'm reasonably certain things are already "better" but I don't have any confidence that they'll rise to "good," nor that we'll be permitted to know one way or the other.

Valentine's Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Live life Permalink to this item

With the harsh reality of a plane crash that left no survivors at the top of the news, and the stories of the lives ended just being told, we watched last Sunday's 60 Minutes feature with the captain and crew of US Airways Flight 1549, one of the rare happy endings for an airplane accident.

Life is a wild ride, and it ends all too soon. Let the people you love know how you feel, and help someone in trouble if you can.

13.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Breathtaking inanity Central Permalink to this item

Bryan Fischer's Alliance-of-One would rise to Orwellian if it weren't stuck at self-parody. He's always so pleased to be quoted by the leading fundy Blat; don't let the typo in the headline confuse you: "IVA IN THE NEWS – EXCEPT FROM TODAY’S WORLDNETDAILY."

Fischer wants to add his support for the "Academic Freedom" to substitute fundamentalist dogma in place of a century and a half of scientific advancement. And he wants to use the good old Reverse Hook strategy of accusing everyone else of the very faults that he exhibits to the extreme.

Humpty Dumpty and Alice in Wonderland The result of a shared enterprise of expanding knowledge is "dogma," and the insistence that science give way to his favorite deity is "freedom." The argument from personal incredulity is the centerpiece of this sorry table setting, and "more than 750"—count 'em!—Ph.D.s have lined up to take seats for an Argument from Authority and not much else.

If it were just deliberate, blinkered ignorance, it would be bad enough, but Fischer and his ilk add willful and persistent duplicity, and treat it as a virtue. Such are the "Values" of the IVA.

"The utter absence of transitional forms in the fossil record is a huge problem," Fischer writes, with an implied syllogism that would make Lewis Carroll chuckle. Utter? Absence? Huge? Problem?

Fischer is pleased to remind us (and the Academic Freedom club is pleased to use as their slogan) that "Darwin himself" said that "a fair result can only be obtained by stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question." As if the Creationists had the faintest interest in any views other than their own.

Here's the deal: when, and if, you have any scientific facts or arguments, bring 'em on. If you want to play word games to masquerade your religion as something it is not and never will be, without the art to even put a pair of coveralls on the one and only strawman you have to flog, you deserve the ridicule you have already earned and been presented with.

And please do squeal like stuck pigs about how unfair it is that you're being denied a fair hearing. It just never gets old, this act of yours.

Lincoln's and Darwin's bicentennial Permanent URL to this day's entry

Vatican on the bandwagon Permalink to this item

With a gathering to celebrate the sesquicentennial of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of the Species.

And just for fun, they'll have a little Intelligent Design on the docket, for consideration as "a phenomenon of an ideological and cultural nature," "worthy of historic examination, but certainly not to be discussed on scientific, philosophical, or theological grounds."

Darwin's birthday Permalink to this item

A nice compilation on by Randy Alfred for the occasion: Feb. 12, 1809: Darwin — Adapted There, Evolved That.

We enjoyed reliving Intelligent Design on Trial on Tuesday, more for the first-person interviews than the hammy trial re-enactments.

Visions of ignorance Permalink to this item

I'm guessing The Idaho Statesman's comics survey will get a lot more participation than their Vision for the Valley survey, the latter aiming to be "the unbiased and scientifically valid collection and reporting of the opinions, preferences, and beliefs of the people within the community," (presumably not including their comics preferences).

I made my way through both of them, and found that the comics one was a lot easier to fill out, even as it was at least as revealing about me. (I used the final comment space to ask them to please move Pickles off the fold. And hey you kids, get off my lawn.)

"We treasure our Valley as a creative, caring and involved community. We will take bold action to ensure a vibrant and diverse economy, a well-trained work force, safe and active neighborhoods, lifelong learning and growth opportunities for all, and an attractive and sustainable environment. Working together, we believe the Valley can be the most innovative, prosperous and healthy community of our size."

I found the draft Vision for the Valley warm and fuzzy, but not so much actionable. Compared to what? It's certainly a better statement than "our vision is to take whatever results from invisible hands of the most enthusiastic real estate developers and an ad hoc transportation network based solely on private automobiles."

The 10 specific areas of focus seemed like they could be more useful: a strong economy, environmental stewardship, educational opportunity, "investing in mobility," worker training, "constructive collaboration" between the public and private sectors and government, a creative culture, a caring community and so on.

At some point it has to translate into action, with the action measured against agreed-upon values and goals. That's always been the hard part.

For example, no one would write a vision statement or a priority item to "do we all can to kill public education," but watching our Legislature respond to the current economic crisis has to make you wonder if that's on the agenda.

11.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

We have a comment for Sharon Ullman, however Permalink to this item

Nothing quite as self-righteous as a small-town (or county) politico, but Sharon Ullman's "we don't talk to the media" act beggars the imagination.

Dear Sharon: hello? What universe are you inhabiting?

We—the people—expect you to talk to the media, so they can tell us what you are (and aren't) up to, and we can decide whether we want to elect you to another term, or not.

Right now, it's looking like not. I don't care how cool your blog is.

10.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A real threat to marriage Permalink to this item

You probably thought Ken Starr was so over, a dusty, pre-9/11, last-millennium, historical footnote for the "unintended consequences" entry of the high school Civics text. But no! He's still busy, now working for the Propostion 8 Legal Defense Fund, trying to invalidate 18,000 marriages in the State of California. Here's a small (and beautiful) part of the human side of the story:

(Thanks to All I'm Saying and Sisyphus for bringing it to my attention.)

P8LDF and Mr. Starr: what God has joined together let no man put asunder. (Any Californians in the audience? Have your say to your Supreme Court.)

7.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Here's the Spirit Permalink to this item

Something refreshing from one of those fabulously successful titans of industry—Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix: Please Raise My Taxes.

Michael Steele's first Saturday radio show was taking the opposite tack. Yes, the same tack that the Republicans have been hammering tirelessly for 5, 8 years, 2½ decades: if only we lower taxes, everything will be better. But we did. And it isn't.

One thing that isn't getting a lot of air time right now is capital gains tax rates. Maybe because raising the rates would provide a tax reduction right now. Call it the inverse Laffer Curve: if we were to raise that tax rate right now, it would provide the means for Uncle Sam to help share in the all-too-uniquitous investment losses. Funny how that works.

Breakfast of Champions Permalink to this item

When I saw Norm Semanko's email suggesting that I might be one of 12 or 15 Very Special People to attend the February 19 meeting with new RNC Chairman Michael Steele, I spent a brief moment wondering what my chances were. Would there be an essay contest? A personal interview? Did I need to spruce up my résumé?

Maybe all that, and more. $500 more. I'll just plan on the usual, granola at home.

5.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Bug report Permalink to this item

Another year, another Davos, another TED, and still no invites in my mailbox. That means I missed the droll spectacle of Bill Gates turning his jar of mosquitoes loose on the hoi polloi for dramatic effect. Waiting "a minute or so before assuring the audience the freed insects were malaria-free."

Slashdot had a field day with the story. "Just Like When He Led Microsoft," wrote the first wag, "releasing bugs into the wild while complaining about viruses." (He was quickly corrected: malaria is spread by protozoa, don't you know, not by a virus.) "Assault !" wrote another, modded to max Insightful.

"This willful act could be considered assault by one of the attendees and BillG arrested. Even if not stung. Worse for him, this conceivably could come under US federal terrorism laws.

"Some people are allergic to mosquito bites even if the mosquitoes are disease-free. Harm is not necessary in most states to convice for assault (that's battery). Just the threat of harm....

"Even if they don't bite, he threatened and deliberately generated fear. That is the essence of assault. People get convicted using toy guns."

Joe the Lesser responds, "Drug dealers and minorities do, WASP billionaires don't."

4.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

NYT Board to Cheney: STFU Permalink to this item

Not in so many words, of course, but the message was clear enough, and well-deserved.

"In an interview published today by the website Politico, the (thankfully) former vice president let loose a stream of disinformation and attacks on Mr. Obama that were breathtaking even by the standards of a man who set new lows for meanness and dissembling."

Shocking pork barrel Permalink to this item

Out of $800 billion worth of stimulus, what's the very worst of the horrid, horrid, waste? 40 cents from every man, woman and child for super computers to research climate change, about a quarter for the National Endowment for the Arts, a buck and change to to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, fitty cents to insure honeybee farmers, and a dime to remove fish barriers in rivers.

Seriously? We're looking at almost $3,000 per capita in this spending bill, and that's the best you can do, big John? Whining about $625 million for useful stuff, and sending it out in a chain letter, "forwarding my email to at least five of your friends and family members." Yeah, they'd love that.

I'm tempted to send in $2.25 worth of outrage, but I guess I won't.

Now, what were the Republicans bringing to the discussion again?

Why don't you start with something easy, tell us what you have in mind for an actually serious problem, the still unexplained colony collapse disorder that is a significant threat to the most basic industry in the country, agriculture. Bee pollination is essential to $15 billion/year worth of added value to crops, 24 times your outrage list.

Market opportunity: Faraday cage wallets Permalink to this item

Scanning for Radio Frequency IDentification in U.S. Passports, a new hobby that may extend to RFID tagged driver's licenses in the near future. As slash-dotted from Australia's iTnews, reporting on a British hacker in San Francisco. Welcome to our global village.

Neighborhood blog rundown Permalink to this item

One of those moments when there's too much going on for me to comment on it all, so it's time to let the system work as intended and refer to others.

the unequivocal notion: Tom Luna to run for 1st CD? Seems like the newest batch was just sworn in, but it's apparently never too soon to handicap the next race for Congress.

Ridenbaugh Press: An open and shut case between the the Idaho Republican Party Central Committee and the party rank and file.

The MountainGoat Report: A Thing of Beauty... Rod Beck tries his hand at partisan maneuvers and snarky blog commenting.

Eye on Boise: Idahoans are apparently itching to start killing them some predators. Moscow's Gary Schroeder, chairman of the Senate Resources committee, and a fur trader, brought a pelt with him, and put it up on the wall during his committee's hearing on Groundhog Day. Ain't government fun?

synaptic disunion: a day like any other...

Groundhog Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Novel Fulghum Permalink to this item

I've been debating quitting the Amazon Associates program, since no news is better than bad news every quarter. Not like I'm depending on this site making money, but it was nice to receive a small contribution to its upkeep from time to time. Between the myriad channels for information, sources for printed matter, and my preference for low- (or no-)key advertising, the pittance that used to show up every so often has dried up. I guess I could blame the bad economy, too. And I'm a little suspicious about the technology; it might have been too easy to game when they first set it up, and now I wonder if they've taken anti-gaming far enough that it's just cut me out.

It's mostly inertia keeping it going here, the links on this page and on my (rather moribund) reading list easier to leave in place than to change.

I'm also not keen on them sending me messages about how I can advertise for them even more. For free? But this morning's mail had something intriguing on offer, and since I enjoyed carrying What On Earth Have I Done? with me when last I travelled, it's worth mentioning, I think. We saw Fulghum speak in Portland in 2007, and had the pleasure of hosting him at our church a year ago. In both appearances, and the book, his style was to weave together vignettes into a larger picture, and a heart-warming message. (He seems capable of doing that with aplomb regardless of the size of the audience, or the time allotted.)

Third Wish, in a boxed set with CD soundtrack So, now: a novel, that's different. Third Wish has a vaguely intriguing title, and comes in a two-volume boxed set with a CD soundtrack to go with. All for the low, low price of $24.98 (and free shipping on orders over $25... so can I get a pack of gum with that?).

"First published in the Czech Republic (where it quickly became a bestseller), Third Wish is a sweeping, lavishly plotted novel in five parts, bound together by a profound love story that spans the globe. It is at once a classic quest novel and a rich parable for our times, inspired by the works of Lewis Carroll, Milan Kundera, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, among others. Presented in a boxed set as two richly illustrated paperback volumes with an accompanying CD musical soundtrack, this is a true one-of-a-kind novel."

Sounds interesting, doesn't it? See what you think, with a sample of music inspired by the book, early customer feedback, and a note from the author, if nothing else.

1.Feb.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Give it Back Permalink to this item

When the bubble was blooming, all that hot air justifying CEO pay as somehow necessary to keep the success happening didn't make sense actually, but since we didn't have any leverage against the masters of the universe, it sufficed to end some of the conversations, at least. Now that it's pretty much agreed that those new clothes the masters told us they were wearing are fictitious too, it's time to restore some rationality into the job market.

As the tens and hundreds of thousands of job cuts stack up in the news, there are a lot of people wondering what could possibly be bonus-worthy in the banking industry. The punchline quote of Maureen Dowd's column, "Disgorge, Wall Street Fat Cats," calling on the President to "think like Andrew Cuomo, who she quotes:

"'Performance bonus' for many of the C.E.O.'s is an oxymoron. I would tell them, a) you don’t deserve a bonus, b) where are you going to go? and c) if you want to go, go."


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Sunday, 01-Mar-2009 21:38:45 MST