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30.Apr.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Divergence Permalink to this item

Timothy Egan's turning phrases in his blog, today's entry about the off-brand Presidency. Short version is that Obama's a liberal. And we're OK with that.

"In a recent Pew Center poll, Americans were asked to describe Obama in a single word; the top of the list was 'intelligent.' Not black, which is what historians dwelled on. Not socialist, which is what the pickled cranks of the far right have called him."

Watching last night's press conference, I was occasionally distracted by the verbal pauses as he decided how to answer questions, and there was the usual avoidance of saying anything too specific. (Imagine that, a President who's careful too.) But never any doubt that he's capable, and what a good thing, given the unprecedented pile of disasters bequeathed to his administration by the past 8 years.

"Karl Rove insists that Obama is a more polarizing president than George W. Bush, pointing to yawning approval gap between Democrats and Republicans. Nobody knows how to wield a wedge like Rove, but he's wrong on this one.

"The gap is there because the Republican Party has shrunk to a raisin of its former self, baking in the sun of the old Confederacy. A mere 21 percent of people called themselves Republicans in a Washington Post poll."

That shrunken raisin of the old Confederacy is alive and well here in Idaho, in charge of running the state. More than a few of them seem happy with the prospect of running the state into the ground, "proving" that government is broken, the same way Rove's team did when they had the chance.

29.Apr.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

See 'ya' later Permalink to this item

Perhaps the problem with Idaho's House and Idaho's education is that the former resents that they never got enough of the latter. Take the note they left for the Senate for example. The "apostrophes" should have been "quotation marks," of course. And they should have been on "later" rather than "ya," because odds are, the House will be back on Monday, because the Senate will not concur on a motion to stick a fork in the 2009 session.

Or maybe the quotes were supposed to be on "Sincerely," or "Best wishes."

Another map view of swine flu Permalink to this item

snippet from the NYT interactive swine flu map Jon Stewart gave us a good laugh over the TV graphics person who painted the whole of Canada red for having 13 reported cases of H1N1 influenza, but the good people in the NYT multimedia department did a step better by creating an interactive map with epicenters and size of outbreak combined. This while we contemplate poor little Édgar Hernández's being identified as "the" first human case.

Nonini is a disgrace Permalink to this item

The Chairman of the House Education Committee either has one hell of a dose of chutzpah, or he's demonstrably unsuited for the important job that fell into his lap.

"I think weíve done our best for education," he told the House.

Really? The best you can do? Bob, maybe you should just gracefully retire and go to the golf course. As Duane Hagedone's caddy or something.

No joy in Midvale Permalink to this item

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Midvale nine that day;
The score stood 35 to none, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Denney died at first, and Geddes did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, "If only Clement could but get a whack at that –
We'd put up even money now, with Clement at the bat."

But Moyle preceded Clement, as did also Nonini
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a flake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat;
For there seemed but little chance of Clement getting to the bat.

But Moyle let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Nonini, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Bobby safe at second and Mike a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Clement, mighty Clement, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Clement's manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Clement's bearing and a smile lit Clement's face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Clement at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt.
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt.
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Clement's eye, a sneer curled Clement's lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Clement stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped –
"That ain't my style," said Clement. "Strike one!" the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
"Kill him! Kill the umpire!" shouted some one on the stand;
And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Clement raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Clement's visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Clement still ignored it, and the umpire said "Strike two!"

"Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered "Fraud!"
But one scornful look from Clement and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Clement wouldn't let that ball go by again.

The sneer has fled from Clement's lip, the teeth are clenched in hate;
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Clement's blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout;
But there is no joy in Midvale – mighty Clement has struck out.

With my apologies to Ernest Lawrence Thayer and the good people of Mudville.

Fantastic bird blog Permalink to this item

Check out Rob Miller's day in Hull's Grove (and follow the link to his Picasa album).

Field day Permalink to this item

Or as Dem's spokesman Julie Fanselow put it, it's Do or Sine-Die-and-Say-You-Did Day at "Dysfunction Junction."

Latest report is that there's no deal, the House will adjourn, and the Senate will call to send in the clowns a couple days from now. It's always fun when the taxpayer-funded circus comes to town, innit?

Bryan Fischer wants to have his friends over for another tea on Monday too. I don't suppose that'll be as splendiferous as Tea Party I unless Fox "News" helps the grassroots catch fire though, but the weather might be nicer at least.

Politicians big and small Permalink to this item

Newt Gingrich, Olympia Snowe, Lincoln Chafee, "KiKi" McLean, Thomas Davis III, Douglas Schoen, Ed Rogers, Jim Leach and Mary Beth Cahill on Arlen Specter's switch.

Dennis Mansfield: Let the man do his job! Plenty of time for a campaign and so forth, later on. We'll see if others in his party can be so gracious.

We know Bob ("funny like the plague") Nonini, for one, can't. It's not just the spite in his complaint that $18,000 early retirement incentives for teachers are "golden parachutes," it's the stupidity. The IEA is quoted in today's story in the Statesman as estimating the early retirement program has saved the state almost $100 million over the past 10 years... but short term, it costs money, and short term, we're all feeling a little short of that.

Never mind that the Senate specifically rejected Nonini's proposal to eliminate the retirement incentive; he's proposed it again, at the last minute and with a retroactive kicker no less, when the House is rarin' to get out of Dodge.

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

One more Democratic Senator Permalink to this item

We thought the next one would be Al Franken, but no! Arlen Specter, long one of the most reasonable voices on the right side of the aisle, finally decided his Party had gone off and left him. Oh, unless you like RNC Chairman Michael Steele's take on today's big event:

"Arlen Specter committed a purely political and self-serving act today. He simply believes he has a better chance of saving his political hide and his job as a Democrat."

And horror of horrors, what does this mean?!

"Arlen Specter handed Barack Obama and his band of radical leftists nearly absolute power in the United States Senate."

I'm picturing Steele as near-apoplectic, totally j-axis. He threw in two "radicals" in one paragraph of his screed, and a bit further down he pulled out "craven." Before the inevitable loyalty deprecation ("put his loyalty to his own political career above his duty to his state and nation") and the mention of Benedict Arnold. Jes' sayin'.

If you're outraged—he hopes this outrages you!—here's what you should do: grit your teeth like George Washington, and join Michael Steele in this fight by making a contribution of $25, $50, $100, $500 or $1,000 right now. Right now!

We gave you Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman, we get Specter. Seems like a good trade to me, what's your beef?

Time and Space Permalink to this item

Do you know how fast the speed of light is? Or how short a nanosecond is? Here, let me tell you: a nanosecond is how long it takes light to go about a foot (through space, or air; in other media, your mileage may vary).

So a foot, 12 inches, is one light-nanosecond.

Our favorite nuclear fusion reactor, Sol, is 93 million miles away (give or take). That's one astronomical unit, eh? No, I mean 1 Astronomical Unit. Eight light-minutes.

Now, looking up at the day or night sky, everything you can see, except for satellites, space junk airplanes, UFOs, three minor planets and that big old moon is farther away.

Our gas giant buddy Jupiter is 5.2 A.U. away, for example. The sunlight bouncing off it and coming back to your retinas left our star... oh wait, that's a problem in orbital geometry, isn't it? Well, more than an hour, but less than an hour and a half ago. Light from the sun takes 4 hours to get out to Neptune. And so on.

So, why is this news? It's news because astronomers have spotted the gamma ray burst from an exploding star a long way away. A looooong way. A veeerrrrryyyy looooooooooooonnnnnnggggg way. And time. 13.035 billion light-years away, by their calculation, and the most distant object ever "seen." What we're seeing out there was over before our own solar system was even a gleam in the eye of your favorite deity.

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

Swine flu hoax Permalink to this item

Google Maps snapshot on morning of the 28th Since evolution is just a theory after all, this has to be secret government plot, right? Stand by for a lot of email on this. The chain of reasoning will make your head spin.

First of all, none of the epidemics we've been warned about have ever come true, right? "This is a prelude to martial law folks."

Woah, didn't see that coming!

They're going to get "tens of millions" "to stand in long lines begging for the Magic Flu Vaccine." Which doesn't work. And you're not really at risk anyway.

So that should be good news, right? Except... the writer actually seems to want 90% or so of the too many people on the planet to be wiped out.

So just ignore the hoax, OK? And keep your inbox clean. I'm not putting up any anti-hoax links, you'll be getting enough of these on your own. But you can follow the hoax itself on Google Maps.

Bring back the boring bankers Permalink to this item

Krugman: Money for Nothing. Financial firms are paying big again (already?!), "simply because they can."

"At this point, however, itís hard to think of any major recent financial innovations that actually aided society, as opposed to being new, improved ways to blow bubbles, evade regulations and implement de facto Ponzi schemes....

"(G)iven all that taxpayer money on the line, financial firms should be acting like public utilities, not returning to the practices and paychecks of 2007.

"Furthermore, paying vast sums to wheeler-dealers isnít just outrageous; it's dangerous. Why, after all, did bankers take such huge risks? Because success—or even the temporary appearance of success—offered such gigantic rewards: even executives who blew up their companies could and did walk away with hundreds of millions. Now we're seeing similar rewards offered to people who can play their risky games with federal backing."

Reinventing Behemoth Permalink to this item

Now that HP has morphed and merged its way to be "the world's largest technology company," as Ashlee Vance puts it, it warrants a three-jump feature in The New York Times, mapping CEO Mark Hurd's brain and the like. Among the highlights (for me, anyway) is the photo of two people I used to work with, HP Labs researchers Carl Taussig and Albert Jeans. The adjectives are suitably larger-than-life:

"Most pressing is widespread concern that Mr. Hurd has built an inflexible, solipsistic giant so obsessed with schematics and data-driven fiscal machinations that it has lost the ability to deliver that prized and perennial Silicon Valley trick: to surprise and astound."

Here's something that surprised and astounded me, way down toward the bottom of the story: HP now has 321,000 people, right about twice as many as when I bailed out 5½ years ago now. And they've been doing nothing but whack, whack, whacking jobs all along the way. One ginormous merger and then back to whack, whack whack.

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

Should we bicycle into Wilderness? Permalink to this item

Shortly before their demise... Bill Schneider proposes that we should allow it (even though he's not interested in doing it) so that Wilderness proponents can all pull together rather than pull apart. Which would be great if they all agreed on the answer, which they don't. Makes for an interesting discussion, in the comments.

The Act didn't say, largely because Congress didn't contemplate the issue way back in 1964. But the Forest Service decided that we shouldn't, on their own.

Update: well, kind of on their own. The Act says that except as specifically provided for, there shall be "no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft [and] no other form of mechanical transport" which would certainly seem to leave bikes out. But see here, and the debate goes on.

A different view of the Supreme Court Permalink to this item

If you know Maira Kalman's work, I don't need to say anything more than "there's a new one out." If you don't... well, it seems a bit sacreligious to type any of her hand-lettered words for a teaser, but if it makes you go look, it'll be worth it.

"Inside it is all polished wood and marble and red velvet drapes ad decorum and history and everything you would want in a Supreme Court....

"It is friendly. There is a sense of well-being and harmony. No miserable clerks scurrying around. They seem to love it here. Hear, hear! I like the people. The Public Information Officer. The Court Marshal who gets to ban the gavel and say 'OYEZ OYEZ OYEZ.'"

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

Saving a life Permalink to this item

A remarkable story from Jeannie S, as she counts down the days to her 60th birthday, about the walk home.

If it's evil and wrong, it doesn't matter whether it "works" Permalink to this item

Cliff May's got a big but: "I'm not in favor of torture, but..." Judith Miller, now working for Fox "News"? That's choice. Give her credit for arguing the moral side of the question, though.

Shepard Smith adds some respectability to the network by putting it simply: "We are America, we do not torture."

And then he really goes off, and Trace Gallagher keeps on truckin' like nobody's business, "there are two schools of thought on this," you know the good old moral relativistic school of thought, where if it worked, well, then.

Yeah, that would be the George W. Bush and Richard B. "Dick" Cheney school, where you get some lawyers to write rules to make the techniques of the Spanish Inquisition A-OK. Or maybe the School of the Americas.

Credit GWB for finding something quiet to occupy himself at least. We've heard much more than we want to from RBC now, and no doubt more on the way, right up to a macabre and pointless "I told you so" if there's another attack of any sort. Unless his ticker gives up the ghost before that can happen. It's a race against the clock.

Eric Etheridge deconstructs the give-and-take yesterday and today with the astounding question of whether Cheney is "winning" "the torture debate." Winning?! Somebody comes up with another cocked-up memo about how someone, somehow was tortured and gave up some actionable information that maybe prevented something, in someone's opinion, which makes cashing in our morality OK after all?

Earth Day + 39 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Bloglove Permalink to this item

Tulip open for business Thanks to uneq-n's link list today for a trip to the Gaythering Storm.

These Republicans sure know how to run a state Permalink to this item

The Legislature's on its 101st day, the Governor's whacked it upside the head with 35 vetoes in an all-or-nothing bet and the House... is done for the day before 11am, adjourning with a little doggerel?!

"A perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm" Permalink to this item

Today's must-even-though-you-don't-want-to read, from Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti in the NYT: " one involved... investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate."

"The top officials [CIA Director George Tenet] briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

"They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective...."

Ineffectiveness is in the eye of the beholder. If you were after evidence of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda, being able to obtain such "proof" made the tactics effective in one sense.

A crazy, immoral and self-defeating sense that Richard B. "Dick" Cheney continues to defend.

They kept us safe. So it was worth the subversion. Permalink to this item

As we consider whether and to what degree Obama or his administration has changed course on the question of prosecuting people for torture under the Bush/Cheney regime, we read from Politico that Cheney followed up on his public statement to Fox "News" that if only we could see the ends, we'd acknowledge the means were justified.

Did he make his request to the National Archives, in the "appropriate process for requesting declassification," or did he go straight to the CIA? More specifically, does he have any friends in the CIA, and can we look forward to some Good News leaks coming from gee-we-don't-know-where? It's ok to have the Obama administration deny that Cheney "had directly asked the CIA to declassify memos that he claims would vindicate Bush-era techniques for harsh interrogation of suspected terrorists," as U.S. News reports, but really, how would they know what Cheney did or didn't do?

Part of me thinks that in a big agency, somebody must like him. But the other part thinks "maybe not."

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

Standing up to the Madness Permalink to this item

Amy Goodman, live in Boise, Thursday night, at the Linen Building, 1402 W. Grove, benefit for Boise Community Radio.

Free "preview," Goodman and Glenn Greenwald on Bill Moyers Journal from earlier this month.

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

Not low enough for Turd Blossom Permalink to this item

Turd Blossom, bloviating on Fox 'News' Bill O'Reilly likes to drip with derision, such as for his fatuous criticism of that leftist rag, the New York Times for "opining" with its headline "Memos spell out brutal CIA mode of interrogation." From O'Reilly's point of view all the memoranda had to offer were "details."

But he's no longer the main attraction on Fox "News": they've got Karl Rove to make O'Reilly actually seem like a relatively reasonable person. Rove is happy to tell us that if we read those memos, we'll be "reassured about what our government was doing, but maybe a little concerned that they weren't doing enough."

"The only bad thing that happened is that the Obama adminstration gave the enemy, the Islamist, terrorist extremists a big psychological victory. They're going to go to the internet, they're going to share this information with their recruits, and they're going to say 'look how weak the Americans are'...

"And all of these techniques have now been ruined."

No more Mr. Nice Guy Permalink to this item

What, you think a couple vetoes are just a little light humor?

Try this then: eight appropriations bills, VETO. And with such a nice message to go with:

"I have no problem with these bills. At some point they will merit positive consideration. However, consistent with my desire to provide you with the time to positively address our need for an ongoing source of transportation revenue, I am vetoing these bills and will continue vetoing appropriations bills until an adequate transportation bill is approved by the Legislature and delivered for my consideration.

"I tried to be diplomatic and respectful of the Legislature and its deliberations with the actions I took earlier today. yet it seems my efforts instead left many confused and questioning my resolve. So to eliminate any doubt about where I stand and to expedite the legislative process, I am vetoing these appropriations bills before me immediately. Further, let me say unequivocally that I do not intend to call a special session of the Legislature because I am not going to let this session end until this legitimate and proper role of government is addressed in the manner it deserves."

That seems pretty clear.

The Party of broken government Permalink to this item

The Idaho Young Republicans have lined up a service project for the spring, and will be volunteering for two hours at the Boise Rescue Mission one Saturday next month. Then lunch and drinks at Cafe Olé! They're teaming up with the Idaho Old Republicans, so they should be able to do lots of sorting food, stocking shelves, and other miscellaneous projects. Good on 'em.

What caught my eye was the chairwoman's philosophical motivation for the members to get out and volunteer:

"As Republicans, we believe the government cannot effectively strengthen our communities."

It's more than an anti-government slogan; it speaks volumes of the deep and disappointing failure of imagination that seems to pervade the Party, and its leadership.

Like all human enterprises, governments are less than perfect, and there is room for improvement in responsiveness, efficiency, and so on. (Don't get me started.) But to simply toss it all out, and to imagine that the occasional service project for a couple hours on a Saturday is going to get the job done is astounding in its naïveté.

We need governments; we need good government. We need political parties that understand that fact and work toward the goal of improving government, not "proving" that government is broken by willfully breaking it. And we need political parties that have a principle of respect for the people who we've elected or hired to do the necessary work of our governments.

Bubblehead goes trifecta Permalink to this item

In what has to be my favorite milblog in the world, retired submariner Joel Kennedy having already dispatched abortion and gay marriage, now tackles the Second Amendment.

As usual, the comments are an interesting maze of twisty passages, not all alike. (And for those of you still wondering about fortboise's lack of comment facility... it has more to do with my time and attention and the fact that I use home-grown software to manage what goes into my blog. I welcome responses by email, and will post complementary and contrary views that seem fitting.)

One of Joel's many anonymeese wonders, rhetorically, "Why are so many Americans now acquiring guns and ammunition to the point that shortages exist? They're all nutjobs? Mystery solved, I suppose." There is the madness of crowds explanation of course: they don't have to be individual nutty to be nutjobs en masse.

My personal explanation is that it's a classic case of viral marketing gone haywire, our lovely new intertube technology providing a rumor mill more capable than any in history. I'm not even suspicious that gun and ammo makers are behind it all, even as they may have happily jumped on board.

The only problem is that these products being virally marketed are a bit on the dangerous side. You could poke an eye out with that thing.

99 Days and Counting Permalink to this item

Eye on Boise continues the steady feed of stories from the Statehouses. The Governor is about to "act on legislation" this morning, maybe acting as I write. I hope he's not going to sign Senate Bill 1175 and command Fish & Game to kill bighorn sheep for their own protection.

The good news, if there is any, is that this "second-longest session" is not going to make it to first place, 2003's 118-day session. We trust.

Like the Statesman's editorial board, many of us just want to know Why are they still here?

How low can you go? Permalink to this item

It's not exactly the Truth and Reconciliaton process, and while some of the people following orders have been let off the hook, and all the people giving the orders seem to have quietly cleared out of town, it remains to be seen whether the team of lawyers writing the Stay out of Jail Free memoranda will have to atone for their sins.

(So far, not so much: John Yoo remains embedded at Berkeley—on the "keep your friends close and enemies closer" principle?—Jay Bybee has a lovely job as a Federal Judge—awaiting impeachment?—Douglas Feith sits in a think tank and maintains a web bulwark against critics, and the means to flog his memoir; William J Haynes II got on with a nice oil company; Alberto Gonzales went out defending torture; David Addington has gone quiet; and the Spanish court may not have the stomach for War Crimes indictments after all.)

The collective reading of the memos turned up this study in enormity: rather than being a magic elixir for volubility, as former CIA officer John Kiriakou suggested in late 2007, waterboarding was deemed necessary (or desirable?!) an astounding 183 times on KSM, and at least 83 times on Abu Zubaydah. In Zubaydah's case, the torture was after he'd told investigators everything he knew. Which wasn't all that much, as it turns out.

More tempest in Boise's teapot Permalink to this item

Two Arbiter journalists weigh in on the Tea Party: Steve Mercado says the Republicans hijacked an ideology, while Dustin Hurst's "they" of the ralliers and uniters were all over the map:

"Men, women and children (representing the entire political spectrum) flooded the parks and streets downtown on Tax Day, to protest a myriad of topics."

"No venemous core at the center of this protest," Hurst tells us; just "rebellious optimism." Sounds lovely. Both stories include a nice slide show from last week's event (better with the sound off, if you love our national anthem, however).

16.Apr.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Adam's blog all bettah now Permalink to this item

Updated: Adam complains about Google's slow response, says it's fixed. I guess the good news for the random surfer is that when you see that warning from Google, chances are the site may already be fixed? The bad news for a site owner is you get tarred (much) longer than necessary, and trying to complain to Google is like spitting in the ocean.

Google's page block warning, for I've seen this red-on-black Google Safe Browsing screen twice now; the first time was on an unlikely site, this time one that's considerably more likely, because it's larded with a lot of widgets and spinblits that the owner probably doesn't have a clue about. Google tells me that is "suspicious": "visiting this web site may harm your computer."

"Of the 488 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 14 pages resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2009-04-14, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2009-04-13.

"Malicious software includes 185 trojans, 34 scripting exploits. Successful infection resulted in an average of 1 new process on the target machine."

Adam, if by some wild chance you read this, Google invites you to request a review of your site using Google Webmaster Tools. Good luck with that.

Britain's Got Talent Permalink to this item

Susan Boyle knocked their socks off on the British amateur hour show, and her charming YouTube vid's gone viral, 12 million+ views. I've already got "you must watch this" from multiple directions, and enjoyed it well enough.

What made "great" TV is the tension between "we expect you to make a fool out of yourself" and what actually happened. Having been close to people on stage putting their talent on display, and taking that risk myself on occasion, I thought there was a lot more of interest than the "she sure showed those snarky critics!" stand-and-cheer moment.

What if she hadn't been outstanding? What if she'd been merely "OK," wavered from the pitch somewhere, stumbled on a line not perfectly memorized? What if she'd only been good enough for the church choir, and not a full-on solo? Or even funnier looking, or walked with a limp?

What if we didn't so routinely judge people by their looks, or our assessment of their "talent"? We look to the rare, supremely talented individual for inspiration of what's possible, even as we don't expect to approach the top ourselves. But each of us have a "Susan Boyle" moment possible in our lives, an opportunity to be nervous, but confident, to show what we've learned, what we can do, maybe goof up and walk off stage when we should soak in the ovation, or maybe find out that we're not as good as we thought we were, or maybe find out that we were actually better than we thought.

It's not easy to withhold judgement, give each other the benefit of the doubt, and presume that we each have inherent worth and dignity. And it's certainly not prime-time entertainment.

Where was the outrage? Permalink to this item

I was looking for the sign saying
$30,000 a day
Legislators go home.

And the one saying WHO IS JOHN GALT.

TBogg: Bagging gang aft agley. "...there was a small problem with message discipline and so we got a heaping helping of neo-nazis, birthers, bitters, gun nuts, racists, secessionists, and those who would point out that proper spelling is not mandated in the Constitution so suck it liebrals!!1!"

Mountain Goat: Tea Time in Burley. 400, or maybe four? people showed up. WE'VE BEEN SQUIRED.

The unequivocal notion has a better roundup of links than I'm going to come up with, including Nathaniel Hoffman's CityDesk writeup and photostream (including that sign I was looking for).

Clayton Cramer: lots of sign pictures and this good news "I didn't feel even slightly intimidated by the police."

Tax Day! Permanent URL to this day's entry

Rain in your tea Permalink to this item

Could've been worse: it was snowing up in the foothills.

Maybe something got organized after we left, but it was nowhere near a nice enough day for us to hang around and wait for the pork feed. And the whole scene was too creepy. There were tens of people in Boise's Capitol Park, maybe headed for a hundred, and the body language was all about "don't tread on me." These are people who you don't want to get close to, and who don't want to get close to you.

2009 Tea Party 'crowd', Boise

2009 Tea Party 'crowd', Boise

NO MORE sign at the Tea Party This guy had "FOR SALE / FOR SHAME" in black and white on the other side of his sign, and wasn't actually doing a perp-walk face-hide, just happened to have his hand up when I snapped the picture. He wasn't doing any favors to the poor gal doing the work preparing lunch, hanging around the grill with his "NO MORE PORK!" sign.

After I'd given up finding a good photo, I found Jeanette chatting up two guys who professed to be looking for the undercover cops (they'd spotted one guy with a City of Boise photo ID, decided he must be one), but who I'd give even odds were themselves. Following some comment about pork, he said "that's all we'll have in a couple of months." I said "what do you mean, where's the beef gonna go?" He didn't answer my question.

Jeanette suggested you could just go to the dump and wait for someone to shoot a horse.

Speaking of pork, how about this F-250 of Action Painting's that's too big to fit a parking spot? (You didn't deduct business miles for driving downtown did you?)

Action Painting's big rig

A dozen yeggs for breakfast Permalink to this item

There's still the Symms Fruit Ranch in the family, but mostly since Steve Symms had his stint as Idaho's 1st C.D. Representative in Washington, we've lost touch. Rumors of him being a lobbyist floated around from time to time after his 20 years (!) in Congress, not much to say about that. Except now, when he's offered to have some of his D.C. friends over for breakfast at a $thousand a pop, on behalf of his successor, who happens to be a Democrat.

Stranger Steve wants us all to know "it's just business," he wouldn't actually vote for Minnick or anything. "Iím still Steve Symms. I havenít changed my view of anything. Iím still the old libertarian Republican."

Happy to play both sides however he needs to on behalf of his company's clients, that's nice. It does suggest he may be more effective as a lobbyist than he was as a Congressman at least.

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

Financing Sol Permalink to this item

I've got a nephew inside SolarCity, the company featured in a Newsweek story this month. Like the economy in general, and construction in particular, anything depending on capital markets is in a world of hurt right now, and the CEO of NRG says "the alternative-energy sector is flat on its back."

But SolarCity is bucking the trend, with a creative financing idea: lease the hardware, and let the electron flow support the cash flow. Sounds like it's working out.

People are used to the idea of 15, 20, even 30 year mortgages, but corporations as a rule can't fathom such timescales. When you're focused on next quarter, 10 years is nigh on to forever.

Promising "a return on their investment within five years" is too long "in this climate," we're told. When I worked in hardware, the rule of thumb was that if you could show payback in less than one year, your proposal was worth discussing. Two or three, not so much. Five years was visionary stuff, crazy wells you drill in the middle of nowhere expecting to hit something interesting once in 10 or 30 tries. Pretty much throwing your money away, but it made for good dog-and-pony shows, so worth the occasional fling.

Everything having to do with "finance" seems suspect right now, for a lot of good reasons, but one aspect of our economy is as certain as sunrise: we depend on energy flow, and the most important flow we've got is from our lovely star, shining on our Goldilocks planet. It's our lease on life after all, so this could make a lot of sense.

"as much sense as a caterpillar smoking a hookah" Permalink to this item

That's from Bernie Horn's take on tomorrow's meet-up of Alice, the March Hare, and the Mad Hatter.

Cut tax rates for the rich! Cut the corporate tax rate! Abolish the capital gains tax! Abolish the estate tax! Oh, and oppose the Employee Free Choice Act!

It's going to be almost as patriotic as those Republican staffers filling the Florida hallways and demanding to stop the recount in the fall of 2000. Or the "red, white and blue Patriotism" that Newt Gingrich is selling now, with "a dialogue where we work together to solve problems."

The power of true conviction Permalink to this item

"...a lumpy white envelope with no return address"?! My goodness, you send your Representative a tea bag and you don't have the testicular fortitude to put your return address on the envelope? Pathetic.

"With the protest expected to reach a crescendo Wednesday—organizers say some 300 'tea parties' are scheduled for April 15—some conservatives are now trying to persuade folks to send just the tag or write the word "tea bag" instead.

Or, just put out a tweet, "tea bagging my Congressman."

Update: This just in: Michael Steele offers the means to send a virtual teabag to your choice of the four Democrats at the top. (And hey, your choice of 4 different teabags, think of the possibilities!) He doesn't offer you the opportunity to edit the message, however. This hasn't troubled the 3,997 4,220 patriotic clickers who've already sent their powerful message.

"To hold the Democrats in Washington accountable for their record tax, spend and borrow schemes, I am sending a virtual tea bag to protest your plans to raise taxes on every American this Tax Day."

That ought to settle that.

"But in a humane way." Permalink to this item

Two of 'our' squirrels, munching on acorns The wife told me to put out another bucket of nuts this morning. No, it's not for tomorrow's Teabag Day, these are real nuts, acorns, for our squirrelly friends. The squirrels, I mean.

Spokane has a slightly different concept of hospitality, using the Rodenator Pro which "pumps propane and oxygen into the tunnels of squirrels, then sends an electric spark that causes an explosion. The shock waves kill the squirrels and collapse their tunnels - but in a humane way, the agency said."

Letters from home Permalink to this item

You can go out and find more diversity of opinion than ever before, but the process of stumbling into things and following endless chains of hyperlinks can't bring home the flavor that the daily fishwrap has in the Letters to the Editor section.

Yesterday, we had Gary Miller of Meridian chasing his tail with the "anti-religion is religion" trope:

"To say there's no God because science can't find him is circular reasoning, as the scientific method is itself hopelessly trapped within the realm of the natural world."

To say that science is hopelessly flawed, but then argue about what some scientist supposed is "statistically and mathematically impossible" (making the leap of faith that Miller actually characterized someone else's view correctly) is circular too, but that doesn't stop it from happening.

Today's feature is Betty Barrett of Boise, exhorting us to learn the "Ten Cannots" and providing the litany of Obamamania that is doing so much for ammunition sales of late.

Can you say "projection"? Sure you can.

In Ms. Barrett's alternate universe, Obama would never "consult learned and knowledgeable leaders," because he believes he is "all knowing." Is there any hope of Obama recognizing the wisdom of the Rev. William Boetcher's 1916 Commandment to protect the rich?

"Not for one who envision himself as a world savior."

Easter Monday Permanent URL to this day's entry

He said, she said Permalink to this item

Jay Rosen opines that it's been a lame formula for a long time, now more than ever, "in the land of the active user." Perhaps, but I think the nature of time, attention and mobs is that the fraction—and import—of "active users" may remain less than significant.

Blogging doesn't have the same push for deadlines, nor do its proponents work with the same concern for risk of error; the "voices on both sides of the issue" model is not so common among them. (Bloggers typically know they're right, so not so much need to present the opposite side of an issue.)

"Regression toward a phony mean" is a catchy description of the long-term dulling effect of the "get some quotes on both sides" style, so easily exploitable by those who wish to foster regression toward a phony meme. Calculated touting of positions that are extreme and more extreme make the extreme sound familiar, at least, eventually plausible, then it's the consensus, isn't it? Closer to the center than that really far-out idea you hear about these days, anyway.

Tribal coherence and having cultural reliable transmitted with minimal waste of resources spent on dissection and analysis are presumably adaptive, even they are also exploitable. (See next item, below).

Finally, we reach the wisdom of The Simpsons (same network as the "Fair and Balanced" "News"), and regression toward a phoneme. D'OH!

Astrotea Permalink to this item

Ridenbaugh Press provides a brief refresher on the original Tea Party, and some description of the organizations behind the planning for this coming Wednesday. Dick Armey rides again!

I trust that a suitable portion of the members of Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity are FBI infiltrators.

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

A conservative dream for all Americans Permalink to this item

Steven Thrasher has family reasons for celebrating the recent Iowa Supreme Court decision, dating back to 1958, when his parents-to-be fled Nebraska's limited view of marriage.

This is one realm in which "Iowa" and "Idaho" will not be confused any time soon, although I imagine the Hawkeye State has its share of seething fulminators as well as we do.

"(T)he desire to define relational rights and responsibilities with a partner, to have access to the protection that this kind of commitment affords, is rather conservative. But it's a conservative dream that should be offered to all Americans. Though it takes great courage for gays to marry in a handful of states now, one hopes that someday, throughout the nation, gay marriages, like my parents' union, will just be seen as marriages."

9.Apr.9 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Alma Mater Permalink to this item

Screen shot of Dave Beach from the video (linked) Swimming upstream through the many unread newsletters in my inbox, I was attracted to a teaser for the "Video of the Month," about The Product Realization Lab. I didn't immediately associate the name with my own experience, but seeing, hearing, and feeling the intense enthusiasm that Dave Beach brings to the work he does, facilitating creativity at Stanford, was a delightful visit to the old school.

Machine shop, model shop, foundry, welding, CAD loft, it's just a ton of fun.

8.Apr.09 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Apocalypse now? Permalink to this item

Charles Blow: Pitchforks and Pistols. How far are the nutjobs from dangerous?

More Values Better Permalink to this item

Not satisfied with an Alliance, now we've got a Coalition: the Idaho Values Coalition. We hope it'll be at least as worth watching as its prime source.

Roger Ebert does Bill O'Reilly Permalink to this item

Pretty thoroughly, I might add.

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

On the verge of economic history Permalink to this item

We just don't know which way the chips are going to fall off the cliff. Late last month, we had a surprise contribution in the creative writing op-ed contest from Boise City Councilman Alan Shealy, who turns out to have a background in financial wheeling and dealing, or as he puts it, "meaningful experience with derivatives," trading them for Citicorp and UBS from 1982 to 1991. (That was back when they were "a plain vanilla business - relatively simple, effective and utilitarian.")

Boiling the considerably florid prose down to its component parts, we see the message: this global economic scam was really, really, really big, so we can't let it fail. It would go "supernova."

"If AIG were allowed to fail, the myriad counterparties that bought protection from it would suddenly be holding worthless contracts."

Implying that these contracts from a company whose equity position is in Davey Jones' locker are not worthless at present? They've certainly paid off handsomely for the "counterparties" at the collection end of the mega-billion-dollar taxpayer-funded bailouts to date.

Shealy warns of "historic economic dislocations," and things could always get worse, but we are pretty much in the middle of historic economic dislocations already. Will pumping more of our money into AIG make things better, or worse?

Minnick fires his answer back toward downtown Boise. AIG ain't what it was last September, and the only remaining question is how the dismantling is to be completed, not whether. But Minnick has some pie-in-the-sky as well, imagining that "big hedge funds" might get as much as "70 or 80 cents on the dollar for their investment." You think? We can ask why the Fed didn't discount the first payouts to big banks (as we cry in our beer), but I'm not seeing the unwashed masses being made 70% of whole.

7 or 8 cents on the dollar would be a better bet.

Today's Idaho Statesman reprinted a fine chart put together by David Ingold of The Chicago Tribune, titled "Wheel of Misfortune," showing a radar plot of how bad things are, with radii of 10, 20, 30... 60 years, and black bars (natch) for those items that are "the worst they've ever been." Black bars on number unemployed, continued unemployment claims, KBW Bank index (of 24 banks stocks), consumer confidence index, housing starts, new home sales, new homes completed.

We're all survivalists now.

You say you want a revolution Permalink to this item

The Tea Party meme is catching on, I guess, or at least being used. I keep thinking back to the original one in Boston, through the misty haze of remembered history class. What was that about again? Taxation without representation? An egregious tax on one of our staples?


We've had our groceries taxed here in Idaho for some time now, and you'd actually have to put an extra tax on coffee to get my attention. As far as the remote rulers in Washington taxing us too much, we get back more from the Feds than we send them in taxes here in Red America, so what's to complain about, really?

The taxdayteaparty video is intended to incite by annoying, I guess. The "chorus" sounds like a badly-tuned chainsaw. And the closing V.O. (with the cute little girl with her tongue out as backdrop) to

"Speak now... or FOREVER hold your piece."

is just too, too much. One of the commenters, a rabble-rouser from Indiana recites poetry:

If you have lost a big chunk of your retirement, this is your fight
If you have lost a big chunk of equity in you home, this is your fight
If you have lost your job, this is your fight
If you have lost your home because you lost your job, this is your fight
If you have a small business, this is your fight.
If you make over $250,000 a year, this is your fight...

Especially that last one, if you make a quarter million bucks a year, this is all about you.

I do wonder what the battle plan is. Elect more Republicans on the glorious "lower taxes!" platform? Shoot our guns off in the air? Carry a sign saying WHO IS JOHN GALT?

Where were these people when George W. Bush and Richard B. "Dick" Cheney were driving our country into a depression, that's all I want to know.

3.Apr.2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Too easy to vote in Idaho Permalink to this item

Members of the Republican Party in Idaho control both houses of the State Legislature. The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Controller, Treasurer, Attorney General, and Superintendent of Public Instruction are all Republicans, as are both U.S. Senators and one of our two Representatives in Congress.

Obviously, the state must have a significant problem with voting fraud. The party leadership wants to put a stop to it.

We are planning to try ignorance, sounds like Permalink to this item

Notes from the Floor: In the Words of Teachers.

"After the introductions, teachers from all over the state stepped to the microphone one after another to tell stories of what it is and has been like in their classrooms these past years. They described their students or trying to pay their bills. Together the 30 or so of them gave the most amazing State of the Schools I've ever heard."

It's the Republican caucuses, stupid Permalink to this item

Thank you all for making such a big stink about an inconsequential incident. Was it an intemperate response, a spur-of-the-moment wrong answer, or <shudder> a Change in Policy? As if it matters in any way, shape or form.

Ken Roberts, Republican Caucus Chairman affirmed on Idaho Reports' After the Show that the ruling party in the state has no intention to do any of its Party business in the light of day.

That's the story. The continuing contempt for the people of this State who they represent.

Not out of the woods yet Permalink to this item

Not when the same day's news"paper" has a story describing first-time homebuyers getting into the housing market (with properties selling for 50% or 67% below their bubble prices, and using new-fangled tools like "down payments," and monthly payments limited to a portion of "documented income") and the FASB relaxing accounting rules so that "banks [can] report higher profits by assuming that [mortgage] securities are worth more than anyone is now willing to pay for them."

"A 26-year-old first-time buyer... closed on a three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhouse in November, paying $87,000 for the foreclosed property with an FHA loan. The price was far below the $261,000 the house sold for in October 2006, but a few weeks ago, a townhouse with the same layout and fancier features sold for $75,000. And a third is about to close for $65,000..."

Where did those (3x261 - 87 - 75 - 65 =) half a million dollars go? Well, they were never really there to begin with. Except on some banker's paperwork. Wishing won't make them come back, any more than making stuff up on balance sheets will create "profits."

I will predict however, that certain well-placed banking executives will obtain a real percentage of these make-believe profits and carry them out the door before any teller hits the little red button to summon the police.

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

Recycle your electronic junk Permalink to this item

Wired has a possibly useful Gadget Lab How-to Wiki with a list of companies that'll help you do the right thing and/or eke out some scrap value.

Our EPA calls it eCycling, cute, and links to regional programs, and eventually you'll find our state DEQ's online recycling directory, organized right down to the County (and covering more than simply "electronic junk").

Still looks like a crazy quilt of too much information to track down, though. We've got our old mercury bulb thermostat, for example (along with batteries, burned out compact fluorescents, and of course those old computers), and that has its own specialty destination. Or way station, more like it.

Don't you shoot that think off! Permalink to this item

Is it a communications satellite, or an ICBM test? Or is it two <click> two <click> two missiles in one? We're assuming the worst, and will be just livid if Daffy Dong Il and the boys light that thing up.

April Fools Permanent URL to this day's entry

Miss Universe Does Gitmo Permalink to this item

Robert Mackey captured it for us, fortunately, because her handlers later sanitized her blog.

"The water in Guantánamo Bay is soooo beautiful! It was unbelievable, we were able to enjoy it for at least an hour. We went to the glass beach, and realized the name of it comes from the little pieces of broken glass from hundred of years ago. It is pretty to see all the colors shining with the sun. That day we met a beautiful lady named Rebeca who does wonders with the glasses from the beach. She creates jewelry with it and of course I bought a necklace from her that will remind me of Guantánamo Bay :)

"I didnít want to leave, it was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful."

Conficker reports rolling in Permalink to this item

Good on Brian Krebs' Security Fix column for rounding up the latest news of the dreaded worm.

I hear that the infection also caused progress in Idaho's State Legislature to grind to a halt.

And that Conficker is really cool to watch in 3D

Justice Department to Ted Stevens: just kidding! Permalink to this item

The headline is U.S. plans to drop case against former Senator from Alaska and the dateline this morning is April 2. Maybe they're planning to do it tomorrow? Or didn't want us to wonder? But here we are, wondering.

"In a stunning development, Justice Department lawyers told a federal court that they had discovered a new instance of prosecutorial misconduct in the case and asked that the convictions be voided. There would be no new trial in the case....

"Senator Mark Begich, the Democrat who defeated Mr. Stevens in November, issued a statement calling the Justice Department's decision “reasonable.”"

Voiding the convictions is a bit more than "dropping the case." But no, Begich isn't giving the Senate seat back.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Friday, 01-May-2009 12:16:10 MDT