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

Welcome home Permalink to this item

STS 119 and IIS crews, talking to President Obama Speaking of the men (and women) in the moon, the Discovery has landed, again. I just happened to see a headline moments before the 2nd pass landing opportunity, and tuned into NASA TV for the last two minutes before touchdown. Awesome to see that thing coming in for another perfect landing.

I was trying to imagine what it was like for Sandra Magnus coming back to Earth, and gravity, after 129 days aboard the space station. Heavy. Tiring. Exhilirating. I imagine.

In the video gallery, the recent conversation between the Discovery and Space Station crews with President Obama and some schoolkids was a lot of fun. (Link's on the photo.)

Lights out Permalink to this item

Ok folks, this is it. Tonight. 8:30pm. Your time zone. You're going to help save the earth by turning off your lights for an hour. Send a signal. To the man in the moon. (If you have lights, that is.)

Folks in North Dakota, we're not asking you to participate, you do whatever you need to to stay safe and warm. Oh, and if you happen to be driving when the hour comes around, ah, go ahead and keep your headlights burning.

At the Palo Alto museum... I like my electrical hook-up, just like I like hot and cold running water, natural gas heating, and a sewer system carrying certain waste products smoothly away from my domicile. Can I turn off most of my lights and leave everything else running? How about if I black out the windows so the man in the moon can't see my house (unless he sees into infrared, of course).

If I were of a mind to participate, here's what I'd propose: go cold turkey. None of these half-measures. Go find your Main Breaker and turn it off. And why just an hour? Go overnight. All day tomorrow. (Could we do this sometime in summer instead of early spring?)

Failing that, how about we use resources wisely, and in moderation? Ok good, we've been doing that for decades. 10 or so kWh of electricity a day. About a third of average around here.

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

Owyhees (and a lot more) Wilderness Permalink to this item

NewWest: Crapo, conservationists laud passage of public lands bill

Ridenbaugh Press Passage of the omnibus

2C etc.: Why I love the Owyhees

KTVB: What the wilderness bill means for Idaho

Down the fortboise memory lane:

24.Mar.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Bloviating our way to prosperity Permalink to this item

I don't watch Lou Dobbs, but I was prompted to have a look at his conversation with ID-01 Rep. Walt Minnick about the woe-is-us federal budget situation. I'm still not smart enough to know what we ought to do, but the idea of Blue Dogs and Republicans working "across the aisle" in a bipartisan manner strikes me about as fantastical as any other dreams of bipartisanship.

"As soon as we can get an economic recovery" is of course the heart of the matter, and how we get there is anybody's guess.

What I was struck mostly about was Dobbs in his big, beautiful suit and comfy chair, pontificating about what a terrible state we're in because we don't produce anything and the budget is way too big. And what were you going to do to help, exactly?

Then there's the fact that "the mortgage business" threw the old rules out the window on the way to skimming fees off the unwell-to-do, buying real estate with no money down, bundling the resulting "paper" into increasingly inscrutable "instruments" to the point that we're now looking for a way out that doesn't involve admitting that (a) too many people took on too much debt, (b) there are penalties that have to be paid, and (c) pretty much all the people who brought us to this point are still running the show.

Yesterday's scheme that sent the market fibrillating was to sell "toxic assets" for 7 cents on the dollar (which alright, that's probably a little low), with 7 cents "match" from the government, and an 86 cent "loan" from the government. But if the assets were worth the $1 they say they are, we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we?

Is this a "match" like the good old days of 401k's? And is the FDIC going to cover the whole loan?! If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. We can only hope that it's not as bad as Matt Taibbi's reporting, though.

"The reality is that the worldwide economic meltdown and the bailout that followed were together a kind of revolution, a coup d'état. They cemented and formalized a political trend that has been snowballing for decades: the gradual takeover of the government by a small class of connected insiders, who used money to control elections, buy influence and systematically weaken financial regulations."

The reality is, while George W. Bush and Richard B. "Dick" Cheney and their pals were dilligently protecting the Homeland from any more box-cutter equipped Saudi whackjobs flying airplanes into large buildings, the financial strength of the greatest economy in the solar system was being systematically looted.

The World Trade Center collapsed after a terrorist attack in late summer 2001. The center of world trade has collapsed after a terrorist attack that started in the late 1990s and has yet to run its course.

And as outrageous as the millions of dollars in bonuses are, the most incredible aspect of this debacle is how ultimately miniscule was the bag of silver coins collected by the people who sold us out. For some tiny fraction of a percent of the overall damage, they have mortgaged—quite literally—our children's, grandchildren's, and great-grandchildren's futures.

And this terrorist attack is hardly over. The Blue Dogs and Lou Dobbs are going to have to learn how to bite if they're actually going to move us in the direction of prosperity instead of simply providing a sideshow.

"When one considers the comparatively extensive system of congressional checks and balances that goes into the spending of every dollar in the budget via the normal appropriations process, what's happening in the Fed amounts to something truly revolutionary — a kind of shadow government with a budget many times the size of the normal federal outlay, administered dictatorially by one man, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke. “We spend hours and hours and hours arguing over $10 million amendments on the floor of the Senate, but there has been no discussion about who has been receiving this $3 trillion,” says Sen. Bernie Sanders. “It is beyond comprehension.”"

Three trillion, with a T, that means me and thee are on the hook for $10,000 apiece. Thankyouverymuch.

23.Mar.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"With them words" Permalink to this item

Idaho's House passes the sovereignty bill, led by an illiterate and ignorant man supposedly representing St. Maries.

How droll. When we need government to do something useful as never before, they're putting on useless political theater.

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

Great Depression 2.0 Permalink to this item

An excellent, long, thoughtful piece about why the current thrashing is wrong-headed, and what we should be doing instead: No Return to Normal by James K. Galbraith, in the Washington Monthly.

First we need to set aside all the modeling and prognostication built on "normality" as defined by what happened in the last 3 or 4 decades. How many times have you heard "since World War 2" or "since the Great Depression" lately? The computer models don't really cover the pre-computer era.

"For the first time since the 1930s, millions of American households are financially ruined. Families that two years ago enjoyed wealth in stocks and in their homes now have neither. Their 401(k)s have fallen by half, their mortgages are a burden, and their homes are an albatross. For many the best strategy is to mail the keys to the bank. This practically assures that excess supply and collapsed prices in housing will continue for years. Apart from cash—protected by deposit insurance and now desperately being conserved—the American middle class finds today that its major source of wealth is the implicit value of Social Security and Medicare—illiquid and intangible but real and inalienable in a way that home and equity values are not. And so it will remain, as long as future benefits are not cut....

"A brief reflection on [the history of the Great Depression and recovery from it] and present circumstances drives a plain conclusion: the full restoration of private credit will take a long time. It will follow, not precede, the restoration of sound private household finances. There is no way the project of resurrecting the economy by stuffing the banks with cash will work. Effective policy can only work the other way around."

Lots more. Read it.

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

Was that wrong? Permalink to this item

Diebold admits audit logs in ALL versions of their software fail to record ballot deletions.

Moral hazards Permalink to this item

I guess Congress is reading my blog: the House is set to propose the 90% tax rate on bailout-ee bonuses I suggested a couple days ago.

I started thinking about a new angle before I heard that news today. One of the first things you learn in Business Law is that fraudulent contracts are not enforceable. While loan originators were writing mortgage contracts as fast as they could, keeping the fees and offloading the risk as fast as they could, the banks taking on the risk were buying insurance from AIG. And the folks at AIG who were selling the insurance (but mostly it seems, the top of the management pyramid) were writing internal contracts for the bonuses they'd receive for "performance."

But if you're selling insurance you can't make good on, needing an unfathomably large federal government to keep you from going under, and "guaranteeing" bonus payments; how can that not be fraud? Idaho's 1st District Congressman, Walt Minnick, says we should go ahead and let AIG go down:

"(W)e should now withdraw taxpayers' support and let AIG go bankrupt, let a federal bankruptcy judge void these ill-advised bonus contracts, sort out the losses, and bring in new, qualified management to properly manage AIG free of one more nickel of taxpayer support."

I'm not smart enough to know if that's a good idea or not, but I imagine there are some tens of millions of US taxpayers who'll think so. The big boys at the top are telling us we can't let another big outfit "fail," but they've already failed at pretty much everything except passing out golden parachutes. Somehow their continued business is essential to our collective well-being?

It's hardest to accept that argument when your personal economics is not built on debt, or insurance purchased for "investment," as opposed to essential protection. Save for retirement, pay as you go, live within your means... those used to all be touted as virtues, but they've been so dishonored in the breach that we built a banking system around the negation of all those values. And an insurance layer on top of that.

And now we can't live without it. We're told.

St. Paddy's Day ♣ Permanent URL to this day's entry

Late night news (and opinion) roundup Permalink to this item

Bill Schneider: Public Lands Bill Back on Track. After the Senate beat Coburn, the House misunderestimated its supermajority. Plan B: Stuff S.22 into H.R.146 (the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 Battlefield Protection Act of 2009), and try again.

Beeb: Pious 'fight death the hardest'.

Stephanie Cooke: A Nuclear Waste. We need an Energy Department, not just a Nuclear Energy Department.

Thomas Friedman: Obama's Real Test will be selling still more bailing out, to keep us all afloat. AIG bonuseers could help by voluntarily refusing their $millions. (Sadly, the chances of a 5-figure schoolteacher forgoing a significant chunk of her pay seem much higher than a 7- or 8-figure "insurance" exec taking one for the team.)

George sets example for Dick Permalink to this item

Work the speakers' circuit for your post-position gravy, but don't give it away. Say nice, bland things about your successor.

It'd be a shame if anything happened to your nice little world there... Permalink to this item

That's the subtext of Dmitry Medvedev's announcement that Russia plans a "comprehensive military rearmament," to include "first of all [their] strategic nuclear forces."

The Russian economy is so flush that they're ready to spend $140 billion on bluster? I guess that would be scarier if it weren't less than we've already spent bailing out an insurance company, but it does seem rather last-century to be talking about a new nuclear arms race. I suppose the only thing that's missing from the news is Medvedev to say "Bush started it!" Which unfortunately is true enough.

Tim Whewell reports inside Russia's military, and makes us wonder if this is not more about corporate restructuring than an arms race. "Staggering cuts" of up to 200,000 jobs sounds more like this century.

Ides Permanent URL to this day's entry

Good news or bad news Permalink to this item

Depends on your point of view: if you think the U.S. doesn't spend enough on foreign aid, you should be pleased to know we've more than doubled it, by having AIG send $58 billion of the bailout cash we gave them to foreign banks.

This is really, really stupid Permalink to this item

From part 2 of Nicholas Kristof's columns on Pathogens in Pork: Seventy percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. go to healthy livestock.

Not because they're sick, but because it allows packing them together in more compact Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), and to put on weight a little faster. "Nontherapeutic use." If you were trying to breed antibiotic-resistant organisms, you could probably come up with a better way to do it, but this way seems good enough.

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) "already kills more than 18,000 Americans annually, more than AIDS does," and at least one strain has made itself home at hog farms. "Research by Peter Davies of the University of Minnesota suggests that 25 to 39% of American hogs carry MRSA."

Frankly Dick, we don't give a damn Permalink to this item

Hey, lookit who's talking: CNN gave Richard B. "Dick" Cheney some airtime, which he applied to telling us to be very afraid. Now that we're not torturing suspected terrorists, we're at risk some more! Of course the evidence to support his claims is "still classified," so we'll just have to take him at his word, and ignore pretty much all the evidence that coercive interrogation actually doesn't work.

Let's have a calm counterpoint, shall we? Local attorney David Nevin spoke with Marcia Franklin on this week's Idaho Public TV Dialogue. Nevin's done some defense work, and has some of his own classified knowledge that he can't talk about, but he can put in a good word for the rule of law.

And as far as I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby deserving a pardon, we're going to take that with a grain of salt from the guy who ordered the dirty work, and who deserved impeachment, or at least an indictment.

Stink Tank Permalink to this item

The former President wanted it to be the Freedom Institute, but the latest plan is to call it The George W. Bush Policy Institute. And it's not really clear if it's going to be part of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, or "just next door," since wouldn't you know it, the post-Bush team wants to rewrite the code of institute governance the same way they rewrote the Magna Charta, Constitution, and Geneva Convention. On the one hand, they don't have a team of lawyers in the Attorney General's office to right secret memoranda anymore, on the other, it's just a wimpy informal understanding that's in their way this time.

The building might look just like one of SMU's, we're told, but I'm thinking rather than recycled Greek, the GWBPI needs a Post-Modern expression in the worst way. One of those things with a crumpled-up piece of paper for its maquette.

Unhappy anniversary Permalink to this item

"It's been a year since the collapse of Bear Stearns. To commemorate the unhappy anniversary, which marked the beginning of the global financial collapse, the Op-Ed editors asked five former employees to share their memories of the firm."

Gosh, it's only 0.2% Permalink to this item

But still, $286 million in bonuses seems a bit much for a company that's sucked $170 billion from the taxpayers, and is now 80% nationalized.

"Lawyers said the firm was contractually obligated to pay them." Nice contract if you can get it, eh? Executive "retention" comes ahead of the owners of the company (both the old ones, and the new ones). The newly government-appointed chairman tells us that

"We cannot attract and retain the best and the brightest talent to lead and staff the A.I.G. businesses—which are now being operated principally on behalf of American taxpayers—if employees believe their compensation is subject to continued and arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury."

If these are pre-existing contracts, it's not clear they having anything to do with "the best and the brightest." More like "the greediest and most culpable." Too big to fail, legally bound to pay for failure, and incapable of cleaning house... is there anything whatsoever that's right with this picture?

How about if we write a new chapter of the tax code that says if you work for a company that's required more than $100,000,000,000 in taxpayer funding to stay afloat, your bonus payments above, I don't know, $100,000? (to be really generous) are subject to a 90% tax rate. We can honor the contracts, keep most of the money where it belongs, and even let a little socialism trickle down to some unworthy executives.

14.Mar.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Oregon poised for pot progress Permalink to this item

Randy Stapilus reports on Oregon's House Bill 3274, proposing to have their "Department of Human Services establish and operate [a] marijuana production facility and distribute marijuana to pharmacies for dispensing to medical marijuana cardholders and designated primary caregivers."

It further proposes to tax marijuana dispensed by pharmacies at $98 per ounce, but the brief description doesn't explain why there needs to be a tax as opposed to just a sales price. If the state's producing, they'd sell their production, wouldn't they? Otherwise their plan for "a genuinely bipartisan, cross-ideological deal," would be socialized medicine, too.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, eh.

Friday the 13th Permanent URL to this day's entry

So, Zeb Bell is a liar Permalink to this item

I would've just thought he was mistaken, but since he made such a big deal out of calling someone else a liar, when he was flat out wrong... just doesn't give us any reason to give him the benefit of the doubt now, does it?

Filling up 12 hours a week with stream of consciousness is a risky business, and some of what comes out on "Zeb at the Ranch" reminds one of picking up rocks down at the river, and seeing what crawls out from under. Not to put too fine a point on it.

Why on earth would businesses want to advertise on such a show, and why would anyone want to patronize such advertisers?

Was that a "tweet" or a "twit"? Permalink to this item

A juror punching away on his cellphone during a civil suit. "Bad mojo" indeed.

What part of "Representation" doesn't he understand? Permalink to this item

You can practically feel the derision dripping off state budget director Wayne Hammon's dismissal of Nicole LeFavour's concern for bicycling facilities in the state. "The future of Idaho is not contained in the North End," he tells the Senator from the North End. She gets to expand on her point of view, in her blog, and he... well, he's subject to some derision from the likes of "fasteddy" commenting after the Eye on Boise account of the dust-up.

I've bicycled well more than the average on Idaho's streets and highways, and I've felt the sort of hostility Hammon has for nonmotorized traffic directly: from chip-seal induced vibration, to having people honk and shout "just for fun," throw things, and run me off the road.

I'd say Hammon owes the good Senator and his employers an apology for making an ass of himself.

12.Mar.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Honey, we shrunk your 401(k) Permalink to this item

It was all fun and games between Jon "The Daily Show" Stewart and Jim "Mad Money" Cramer until the latter came on the former's show, Then they had the most gut-wrenchingly serious interview that's been seen, I think, about the economic meltdown. You can watch the whole, unedited episode on the Comedy Central site: check it out. The money quote:

"CNBC could be an incredibly powerful tool of illumination for people that believe that there are two markets. One that has been sold to us as 'long term', 'put your money in 401ks, put your money in pensions and just leave it there, don't worry about it, it's all doing fine.' Then there's this other market, this real market that's occurring in the back room, where giant piles of money are going in and out, and people are trading, it's transactional, and it's fast But it's dangerous, it's ethically dubious and it hurts that long-term market, so what it feels like to us, and I'm speaking purely as a layman, it feels like we are capitalizing your adventure by our pension, and our hard-earned (money), and it is a game that you know that you know is going on, but that you go on television as a financial network and pretend isn't happening."

You can also sample the tsunami of excuses:

"Can it possibly be true that veteran Wall Street executives like Messrs. Cayne, Schwartz and Fuld—who were paid an estimated $128 million, $117 million and at least $350 million, respectively, in the five years before their businesses imploded—got all that money but were clueless about the risks they had exposed their firms to in the process?"

Bucket feeder Permalink to this item

Two of 'our' squirrels, munching on acorns My grandfather loved the gray squirrels that habituated his backyard on Newhall St. in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. He had a ledge by the kitchen window that looked out to their small backyard, and they had a little feeder on it. The small breakfast table was under the window, and so morning mealtimes included entertainment.

Now here I am, a grandfather myself, and being amused by our red squirrels, 1500 miles away. We take a slightly simpler approach to feeding. There's the oak tree for one, which looks after them on its own for much of the year. We collect a few gallons of acorns when it's time to rake them up, and our "feeder" is one of the buckets, set out under the spruce tree in the back yard.

These two were a hoot jumping up to the rim, diving in, popping up while eating, and then repeating the drill.

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

Come to our senses Permalink to this item

In addition to genuinely dire straits for millions of people in this country and hundreds of millions around the world, there is also the fantastic opportunity of this moment. (I have no way of knowing if things are any more dire for the billions of people at the destitute end of the economic spectrum, but it seems likely things are no better these days.) Two of many stories to consider: Conspicuous Consumption, a Casualty of Recession, and Tom Friedman's Sunday op-ed, The Inflection Is Near? Friedman:

"We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese..."

"We canít do this anymore."

And from Shaila Dewan's article:

"Even those with a regular income are reassessing their spending habits, perhaps for the long term. They are shopping their closets, downscaling their vacations and holding off on trading in their cars. If the race to have the latest fashions and gadgets was like an endless, ever-faster video game, then someone has pushed the reset button."

If "it's a little bit chic" to be pinching pennies, as one 30-something surmised, we've been très chic for a lot of years. We don't have to worry about being part of the problem by cutting our spending, because our spending has never been inflated, really.

Imagine a sustainable economy built on a focus on quality rather than quantity, on thoughtful reduction, reuse, and recycling, where "conspicuous consumption" was treated as a mild form of mental illness, deserving sympathy rather than emulation. Gettin' down with the Joneses.

Then instead of a catty snipe about "fashion faux pas" (wearing the same dress twice!) we might be reading about Idaho's first family's victory garden.

9.3.9 Permanent URL to this day's entry

New plan Permalink to this item

Federal funding for promising embryonic stem cell research is back on, without the "false choice between sound science and moral values" that the previous administration set up.

And while we're at it, let's have "a strategy for restoring scientific integrity to government decision making" as well. Selection and retention for science and technology positions in the executive branch based on the knowledge, credentials, experience, and integrity; what a concept!

Update: Jeanette's high school classmate Irv Weissman attended the signing ceremony, and was featured on tonight's Newshour.

Off the hook Permalink to this item

Say what you want about the RNC's chairman, at least he's not boring. When George W. Bush was the de facto leader of his Party, it had a Spokesman-in-Chief who could surprise and delight, but the levers of power gave him the ability to intimidate and terrorize (remember "Shock and Awe"? For a good cause, of course) as well. Michael Steele, on the other hand, is all about entertainment.

One of my favorite lines from him is: "Iím trying to move an elephant that's become mired in its own muck." Insightful, on the mark, and picturesque. And finding out that he was recruited by Lee Atwater? You couldn't make stuff like this up.

"And as tempestuous as the past month has been, Mr. Steele said in the interview, Republicans should get ready for more. “Iím very spontaneous,” he said, comparing working with him to riding a roller coaster without knowing when the next dip or curve might come.

"“Be prepared; you have no idea,” he said. “Just buckle up and get ready to go.”

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

Who is that behind the curtain? Permalink to this item

Gail Collins: Steele Yourselves.

"Does somebody else want to be chairman of the Republican National Committee? When it comes to good jobs, youíd think it would come in somewhere around being elected office fire safety warden."

Taxation and Representation Permalink to this item

Representative Phylis King (D-18) spells out her opposition to increases of gas tax and registration fees: we're in tough times, we're about to get stimulus money that has to be used in 3 years ("that should keep the ITD busy"), and:

"The biggest reason for me to say 'no' is that the Treasure Valley has 42% of the people and about 60% of the wealth (we are the economic engine of this state), but we receive only 25% of the Highway Distribution Money. That means that when we raise the reg fees and gas tax, we, in the Treasure Valley, are paying for roads and bridges for the rest of the state—which I donít have a problem with. Yet the single most important concern the Treasure Valley has identified is a need for local option authority for public transit. We need to start purchasing right-of-way for public transit now. In 10 years it may be impossible to purchase right-of-way and it certainly will be a lot more expensive.

"If the majority party wants my vote, they need to stop ignoring the Treasure Valley! Clete Edmunson from the Governorís office has talked to me and I have made my position clear to him and to the Chairman of the Transportation Committee that I will not vote for gas tax and registration fee increase without a public transit component."

6.Mar.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Dear John Permalink to this item

Delmar Stone, Executive Director of the Idaho Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers has a nice letter for Idaho Representative John A. "Bert," a.k.a. "Foot-in-mouth" Stevenson (R-Rupert)

"You have much to learn about sexual orientation, sexuality, and the importance of civil rights in a democratic republic. Our state is not a theocracy and your role as a legislator is not to impose your church's doctrine on your fellow citizens but to assist in expanding civil rights for all people, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender."

New billboard over Idaho Permalink to this item

The billboard along Fairview, E of Maple Grove The Humanists of Idaho, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the BSU Secular Student Alliance, the Nontheist Meetup group, and the Idaho Atheists are making a statement for eastbound Fairview.

It's March 6, do you know where your federal budget is? Permalink to this item

That would be the one for the fiscal year starting October 1st. 2008. In a few more weeks, half the year will be gone, and the Congress hasn't passed a budget yet?

After the Republican Revolution of last decade, when Newt and his boys were feeling their oats, they shut down the government way sooner than this. Mid-November, in fact, and then again in mid-December, with not enough warning for anyone to plan a good vacation around it.

Since that backfired for both Republicans, and Congress in general, they've figured out how to work around the problem with "continuing resolutions," a.k.a. "stopgap measures." So well, in fact that it sounds like we could go the whole FY2009 without ever passing George Bush's last budget.

Cornyn next to knuckle under? Permalink to this item

The latest missive from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, over Senator John Cornyn's signature looks like criticism of Rush Limbaugh to me, although he's doing his best to camouflage it as an attack on his opposition:

"This is an outrage. It appears the Obama Administration has forgotten that the salaries of White House staff are paid for by you the taxpayer. To say nothing of the fact that this story reeks of hypocrisy coming from a President who campaigned against these very cynical political tactics last fall."

How on earth can John Cornyn smell any reek of hypocrisy with the vapors he's been in down there in Foggy Bottom? And where was his outrage when Bush and Cheney were using the people's Executive staff for partisan errand boys? Did I miss his dudgeon over the use of RNC E-mail accounts to subvert the Presidential Records Act, and who knows what else (since the emails went conveniently "missing")?

But Jonathan Martin's piece at Politico spelled it out for him, so he could spell it out for his fundraising targets.

If only the Democrats were smart enough to pull this off all by themselves, but when the Chairman of the Republican National Committee is playing along, first criticizing, then apologizing to Rush, it's all upside. James Carville and Rush Limbaugh are in agreement: "It's great for us, great for him, great for the press," Carville said of Limbaugh. "The only people he's not good for are the actual Republicans in Congress."

Oh and the American public, a steady diet of hateful bloviation isn't particularly good for anyone who actually listens to it.

But since we're watching Kabuki here, the next scene would be John Cornyn rushing back onto stage and sliding to the feet of the Master with his face on the floor and his rump in the air.

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

Freeconomics Permalink to this item

How About Free?: "The Price Point That Is Turning Industries on Their Heads," from Knowledge @ Wharton (which used to make you sign up for its content, but now offers it "free").

I wrote Land of the Free 11 years ago, when Netscape shocked the young world wide web by offering its browser for the astonishing price of nothing. And now we've all gotten used to that price, for news, magazines, for searches to answer most any question, music, video entertainment... How do we all stay in business when we don't want to pay for anything?

"Business isn't static, and it's less static today than it's ever been. The great challenge the Internet poses is that it makes it possible to very quickly shift the allocation of money in certain industries. It's not easy to go through that kind of transformation, but that's life. Successful companies are the ones that appreciate that."

Neighborhood rundown Permalink to this item

Jim Hansen in the Idaho County Free Press: Idaho needs economic foresight, responsibility. "Idahoans are ready to face the challenges of the present crisis and invest in a stronger economic future. We deserve state leaders who will accept responsibility and focus on preparing our state to be a full participant in the economy of the future."

Gary Eller: Rebuilding the GOP.

Eye on Boise: They want how much for what?? "Melody Russell (no known relation to me) wants $34,000 to pay off credit cards..."

A quick skim through just the 23 pages Non State Agency Requests suggests that every boomer and booster (and every school district) who's paying attention has put some sort of request in. "Business OneStop" would like to sell us an "eGovernment Economic Stimulus" to "[serve] as the 24X7 online destination for a new or existing business, where business owners can log into their own manageable virtual workspace from the convenience of their home or office and complete critical state government transactions without forms and long wait-times." For 6 million bucks.

Scott Thorne's Little Wood Ranch has a $35 million irrigation project in mind. Red Carpet 21 has a "secret" solution to nation's energy problems that will only cost $420,000. Dirt cheap! Murdock and Walker Concrete proposes to "Pay back taxes, operating expenses until May, 2009" for $45 thou. The Minidoka Bowman need $100 grand for their "Archery Range, Trailer to haul portable targets." Micron Technology is ready to put $100 million to work, to "establish long-term manufacturing capacity" for Solar energy and LED lighting.

But $100 million here and a $100 million there adds up: to $4.75 billion in proposals. Not counting the state agency requests.

Ridenbaugh Press: Death/dignity/details, with a link to the website for the state of Washington's Compassion & Choices website, for their Death with Dignity Act.

Uncle Boise: "Just think of us as an extension of your already dysfunctional family."

The unequivocal notion also sent me off to see the NYT's interactive Flash graphic, Geography of a Recession. "Job losses have been most severe in the areas that experienced a big boom in housing, those that depend on manufacturing and those that already had the highest unemployment rates." The counties "with housing bubbles" include Idaho's SW corner (Owyhee?!, Ada, Canyon, Gem, and Boise Co., Nez Perce County, where Lewiston is, and Kootenai Co., just east of Spokane.)

Weather Report Permalink to this item

Did you hear me talking about violets and finches and shirtless sunshine in the high 60s? Just kidding. We woke up to the lighter, quieter, snow-covered neighborhood this morning, I hightailed it up the hill for the best powder day of my season. 3 new inches were on my car after I came back from 4 hours in the woods.

More snow down to Boise's sub-3000' elevation at nightfall, and there's talk of 7 to 11" up on the mountain overnight.



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

Your state sovereignty scorecard Permalink to this item

New Hampshire: not. Defeated 60-40 in the House.
Arkansas: nyet.
Tennessee: filed for introduction
Kentucky: posted in committee.
South Carolina S 424: referred to Committee on Judiciary, and then to a subcommittee.
Washington HJM 4009: Read, and referred to State Government & Tribal Affairs
Indiana SCR 0037: in committee
Kansas S 1609: Referred to Judiciary committee
West Virginia: been at since 2005, at least. Some are hopeful for this session!

And so on. Greg Demers effuses in The Cornell Daily Sun on Monday that "at least 11 states have introduced legislation," cites one action HJR 1003, passed the Okie House, 83-13. The Senate had a First Reading the next day, then quiet.

The website headline writers are running ahead of the pack, with "eleven states declare" over a story that says "at least 11 states have... introduced bills and resolutions," within quotation that marks that aren't attributed to anyone. (Then this week A.W.R. Hawkins quotes the site, from his article, which had the unattributed quotation, and "five more." Ya gotta wonder...)

So, if any of these state Legislatures which apparently have so much time on their hands to diddle with meaningless Resolutions were to actually pass one of these, what would it mean?

Pretty much nothing. "We spit in your general direction."

Conspiracy theory Permalink to this item

Screen shot from the Daily Show: nesting dolls The Daily News dredged up a nice picture of Rush (captured with an ever-so-slightly obscene gesture; I'm sure that was an accident) for their piece about how Limbaugh's elevation is a Democratic plot. Lee Atwater and Karl Rove must be smiling from their graves. (What? Oh, well, if he were in his grave, I'm sure he'd be smiling from it, too.)

And Limbaugh? He's over the moon! It's just more publicity and more gravy for him, and he's so certain that "conservatism, as articulated by me" is the "antidote to Obamaism," that he's happy to take the tatters of the Republican Party down to Davey Jones' locker with him.

Speaking of gravy, I've got yesterday's Daily Show send-up of Limbaugh as Jabba the Hut stuck in my head, and I really wish I could exorcise that. (Maybe Bobby Jindal could help.)

3.3.9: a square day Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's not just our wingnut, it's a movement Permalink to this item

"We think they oughta back off and let the states govern themselves a little bit," sez Dick Harwood (R-St.Maries). (Many of us in this state are waiting for some of that self-government stuff to land here, too.)

'Course, we're not talking about our 21-cents-on-the-dollar bonus payment that we get back with every tax dollar we send to Washington. And we're not—yet—talking about an actual Memorial from the Idaho Legislature, with absolutely no force of law or persuasion whatsoever; it's only made it through the House State Affairs Committee, 13-4. (Checking... 13 Republicans, and 5 Democrats, hmm.)

But see here, where <blink> is still in style, a majority of the states have declared "sovereignty"? And gosh, the same story that Clayton Cramer was chirping last week about how Obama "deliberately and repeatedly lied to America's 90 million gun owners across the country when he insisted that he would not try to take away anyone's firearms."

Batten the hatches!

Michael Steele agreed with me Permalink to this item

"Yes, it's incendiary. Yes, it's ugly." But then 20 million dittoheads all started hollering, and Steele had to apologize.

He's really, really sorry.

2.Mar.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

An ugly, ugly man Permalink to this item

I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh, I don't watch Rush Limbaugh, and if he came on to my TV screen, I'm pretty sure I would change the channel. But curiosity got the better of me and the HuffPo headline, Rush Limbaugh At CPAC: Doubles Down On Wanting Obama To Fail, sucked me into a one minute and 55 second dose.

Physical beauty ain't all it's cracked up to be, and you can't judge a book by it's cover, yada yada yada, but this vignette from the Republicans' current leading ideologue speaks volumes about why we are where we are, and why this man and the Party behind him have so little to offer us.

Explaining his desire for Obama to fail in terms of a Super Bowl metaphor didn't quite work for the CPAC crowd from what you can tell in the audio. The goofus fans for one side or the other were cheering and booing and missing the point so badly that Limbaugh had to shut them up.

Never mind the idiocy of thinking what "common sense" it is for him to want the leader of the country to fail the same way he wanted the other team's quarterback to fail in a football game.

We hate this ideology, so of course we want it to fail. We don't have to care about what's right, or how it turns out, because we know we're right. So we'd rather shoot ourselves in the foot—or head, what the hell!—than have a person and plans that disagree with us actually succeed.

He's happy to project his own narrow-mindedness, his own Schadenfreude on the other "team," too. "Did the, did the Democrats wanted the war in Iraq to fail?" Big "yeah" from the red meat crowd, still riled from the football metaphor.

Not that he's listening, but just to set the record straight: this Democrat wanted us not to start the war with Iraq. Having started it, and started sacrificing our soliders, and slaughtering Iraqis, and dissipating our military strength, I hoped for the best possible outcome. I wanted George Bush out of office sooner rather than later, and I wanted us out of Iraq sooner, rather than later. Not because I'm hateful and viscious, and spitting mad, but because Bush was never qualified to lead the country, and he drove it into a ditch, in large part because of the folly of the Iraq war.

One thing is crystal clear to me at this point: if the Republicans want any chance of returning to leadership, they need to throw Limbaugh and his dittoheads off the bus. If they can't figure out how to do it, they're damned.

This is lambikins here Permalink to this item

It's into the high 60s here today, unbelievable weather on the 2nd day of March. I went for a tennis lunch, and played without a shirt, soaked up my first good dose of vitamin D in 4 or 5 months.

Bogus announced last week that they were going to close up shop on April 11, which seemed like a long way out to forecast for a not particularly good snow year. Today it doesn't feel like they'll be open on March 11th, let alone through the month.

Honey, I shrunk the stimulus Permalink to this item

Before, and after photos of 'the stimulus bill' Our Division of Financial Management Administrator Wayne Hammon showed up to Idaho Reports Friday night with his copy of the stimulus bill and remarks about what Idaho might get out of it. It seems to be considerably more compact than when our junior Senator was thumping it on the podium earlier in the month.

I wonder if Risch or anyone on his staff has got around to reading it yet.

Party like it's 1997 Permalink to this item

When the Dow went above 7,000 twelve years ago, I remember the general, mild euphoria. A rising tide was lifting all boats, and even though one business I'd been in was shut down, there was another one with new and interesting work, and I was travelling around the world to do it. The web was new and exciting, and I was on the inside of it, ahead of the curve and bubbling to friends and family about how wonderful it all was, and reporters were starting to write about "" and that sphinxlike head of the Federal Reserve tried to poop the party crying wolf about "irrational exuberance," but no one had listened to him, and the Republicans hadn't even imagined they could impeach the President they so hated yet.

It never seems as much fun when the tide goes out, and the mud is exposed, and weird bottom-feeding creatures are left blinking in unaccustomed sunlight.

They're having a big snowstorm back east I hear, couldn't those traders have just stayed home or something?

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

People of color Permalink to this item

Idaho's been mighty white for a long time. The Census Bureau estimated it was over 95% white in 2003. But while I was out searching for a fan belt today, I stopped in to Winco at oh yeah the prime time of grocery shopping, late Sunday afternoon. (This is the store—back when it was Waremart—that used to be the same walking distance from our house as the Coast-to-Coast where I bought that last fan belt, coincidentally.)

I knew the three things I was after and where they were (spread through the store in that strategic retail way), and I lightly skipped around couples and singles and families who looked like they were taking their time, figuring it all out as they went along. Boise's current mix of cultures and colors is a world apart from the rest of the state right now; it's an exciting rainbow of people from all over the world. I had the sort of thrill you might get from having angelfood every day for a month and then biting into a lucious, dark carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

We're all meeting where we hunt and gather these days.

Don't make 'em like they used to Permalink to this item

The winter of '08-'09 looks like it could be the end of the road for our old furnace. A lot of design improvements have been made in the 46 years since it was new, but it's been pretty darn reliable, and generally, if it ain't broke, you don't fix it, right?

It did need to be fixed, back in 1986, and we had a Jack of all trades friend who tore into it, spent most of a day (or was it two?), ended up putting in a new 1/4-hp fan motor. Then 11 years later, more trouble, and Bob of Bob's Service Heating & AC worked on it, put in a new gas valve.

A friend whose furnace didn't last a third as long was told by the guy who replaced it that low-end furnaces last about 12 to 15 years on average, and better ones 15 to 18.

Seems as if there might be some confusion about "life" and "time between major service." That was certainly the case for the guy from A-1 who showed up on Saturday after I called for help, my week ago "fix" having turned out not to be on the mark. "Dude, you need a new system," he said, before futzing around a while, decreeing that "it's not moving enough air" and talking about changing the fan pulley, or something. Charged me the $118 I'd committed to, and left without changing anything or fixing anything.

I was focused on the temperature limit switch which had been acting up. Acting correctly for its intended safety function as it turns out, turning off the gas when the plenum temperature was getting too high, because there wasn't enough air getting through the system to move the heat.

I finally figured it out today: the fan belt had loosened up, as it wore out, over the last 11+ years. Shopping for a new one, I didn't have the option of going to the nearby Coast-to-Coast; it went under years ago, as did the Ace Hardware store that followed it. Home Depot? No belts. The guy there waved his hands in the direction of an appliance repair business that of course isn't open on Sunday. Wal-Mart. Seemed unlikely, and sure enough: they have half a dozen belts for some sort of lawn mowers. Fred Meyer? Used to.

So I came home and put the old belt back on, adjusted the adjustable drive pulley (who knew!) half a notch bigger, tensioned the belt properly, and let 'er rip... at least until I can track down a new one, and then long enough to get us to spring, at least.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Wednesday, 01-Apr-2009 10:33:04 MDT