Boise Idaho windsurfing Photography Politics Religion Economics
Cover image of Fiona Hill's book
Next read; link to the publisher's site. Listen to Terry Gross' Fresh Air interview, from Oct. 6.
Other fortboise logs
China 2003
Reading list
Le Guin
Monkey Cage
Monkey Cage
O'Reilly Ideas
World News from:
The Conversation
arab net
The Sydney Morning Herald
Axis of Logic
Baltic Times
Boise Guardian
Community Radio
Boise Weekly
Idaho Statesman
The Telegraph
The Guardian
Information Clearing House
People's Daily
China Daily
Al-Ahram Weekly
Der Spiegel
Hong Kong:
Asia Times online
The Times of India,
The Hindustan Times
The Jerusalem Post
The Daily Star
New Zealand:
New Zealand Herald
The Rocky Mountains:
HCN Goat
New West
Tunisia Live
Saudi Arabia:
Arab News
Sun Valley:
Idaho Mtn Express
The Moscow Times
RSS feed for this blog


31.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Michael Steele, and the hip-hop GOP Permalink to this item

I guess this explains why I'm getting half a dozen fundraising emails a day. On this last day of the first quarter, there's even more reason to send money: make those quarterly number look good! You think? Not that I was planning on responding to Michael Steele, but thw whole spending contributions in a bondage-themed sex club thing, that's a real turn-off for me.

Let's get some sunshine in there Permalink to this item

I'm not much for the gold standard or getting out of the U.N. but I'm still willing to consider new information and ask questions. Such as... the one RJ Eskow uses to kick off his column: "What secrets are hidden in the Federal Reserve's trillion-dollar shadow?" A full-scale audit of all the Fed's major bailout activities sounds likes a great idea to me. I can understand why the beneficiaries of bailout funds might not like it, but since there's no such thing as a free lunch, we—the people paying for the lunches—deserve to see who all is on the guest list, and who ran up a tab with two and three desserts and cognac afterwards.

"[T]he Fed is a democratically-created institution, formed by an act of Congress. While it has a certain degree of autonomy, the Fed (the 'bank for bankers') is supposed to respond to the will of Congress, although it's had a habit of disregarding orders that don't please it..."

30.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Not a "checkpoint," it was a "saturation patrol" Permalink to this item

Jeanette's paper rainbow star After the Statesman's brief blurb about "a March 21 drug checkpoint" near the Oregon border in Owyhee County, there was a flap to quell. Indiscriminate "checkpoints" where everybody gets pulled over and searched aren't legal under state law, don't you know. This morning's headline, over a more complete story: Police try to quell flap over drug sting. Not really a sting either, but you know how short words fit best in headlines.

So in this saturation patrol, 15 troopers and several deputies found 53 drivers commiting some sort of "various traffic infractions" in a 7 hour period, and upon being stopped, were circled by drug-sniffing dogs who have magical powers of creating "probable cause" for a search. Woof, woof!

Highway 95 out toward Oregon is not exactly a busy highway in the middle of March, there might be 60 cars an hour? They could have stopped 10% or 15% of the traffic on a Sunday afternoon. A third of the 53 cars that were stopped were searched (some with the driver's "permission," which they might not have realized was "voluntary" under the circumstances), and of that third, Controlled substances were found in about three-quarters of them: 13 out of 18. They got one felony drug arrest (posession of meth), one "suspicion of DUI" and the rest were "cited for possession of marijuana and released."

If you're feeling a little uneasy about living in a police state, county sheriffs and the Idaho State Police working together to round people up on a weekend, the small comfort is that "ISP coordinates only a couple of these saturation patrols each year due to limited manpower and resources." If you're comforted by the results of sorties that "in the past have netted out-of-state felony warrants, fugitives, major drug traffickers and wanted rapists," that's the bad news.

29.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

How the health care insurance reform votes play back home Permalink to this item

Idaho's Congressman Walt Minnick is one of the six lawmakers featured in Adam Nagourney's piece in yesterday's New York Times, describing the response of voters to the position their members of Congress took in the health care debate. The others were John Barrow (Georgia), Alan Grayson (Florida), Chellie Pingree (Maine), Aaron Schock (Illinois) and Ahn Cao (Louisiana).

They tagged Minnick as the self-styled Democrat, "mingling at a dinner sponsored by the Idaho Freedom Foundation" with "contrarian" Texas Congressman Ron Paul a featured guest. William Yardly notes dryly that in this strongly Republican (state and) district, "some Democrats are disenchanted and Republicans are more energized than ever."

The accompanying slide show contrasts Minnick with a Representative from the other end of the Democrats' big tent, Chellie Pingree of Maine.

28.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sowing the wind Permalink to this item

How long will Republican leaders try to fan the flaming nutjobs for their individual gain? As Frank Rich points out the rage isn't about health care, it's about the group that used to have unquestioned privilege in the country confronting the inevitability of having to share, at least, or give it up entirely.

"How curious that a mob fond of likening President Obama to Hitler knows so little about history that it doesnít recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht. The weapon of choice for vigilante violence at Congressional offices has been a brick hurled through a window. So far....

"[N]o Republican or conservative leader of stature has taken on Palin, Perry, Boehner or any of the others who have been stoking these fires for a good 17 months now. Last week McCain even endorsed Palinís 'reload' rhetoric.

"Are these politicians so frightened of offending anyone in the Tea Party-Glenn Beck base that they would rather fall silent than call out its extremist elements and their enablers? Seemingly so, and if G.O.P. leaders of all stripes, from Romney to Mitch McConnell to Olympia Snowe to Lindsey Graham, are afraid of these forces, thatís the strongest possible indicator that the rest of us have reason to fear them too."

Fairly unbalanced Permalink to this item

A stopped clock is right twice a day. A defective and slow clock can be wrong all the time. Hence, Sean Hannity's offering, Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama's Radical Agenda, which Michael Steele tells me he just read, and "cannot recommend it enough." Lucky duck, he must've got an advance copy, since Amazon says it won't be released until Tuesday. (I do appreciate that the book is coming out in paperback directly, the better for recycling. Who knew Hannity had a Green streak?)

"Barack Obama and his radical team of self-professed socialists, fringe activists, and others are trying to remake the American way of life. They have used their new Democratic majority to launch an alarming assault on our capitalist system—while abandoning the war on terror, undermining our national security, and weakening our position in the eyes of our enemies."

Yes friends, for only $8 and shipping, you can drop down the rabbit hole into Sean Hannity's fantasy world, populated by peculiar and anthropomorphic creatures. Perhaps there will be a Tea Party of other Fox News commentators masquerading as Republican strategists!

If not a must-read, at least a musty screed.

25.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

American Enterprise Institute shoots messenger Permalink to this item

David Frum's "Waterloo" post describing the Republicans' epic fail on healthcare insurance reform went viral, and his AEI job went bye-bye. So much for the idea that competition of ideas is fundamental to a free society.

One of the key markers of incompetence is the failure to recognize one's shortcomings. AEI's retribution for a fairly straightforward assessment does not bode well for conservatives' ability to change course.

Technical problems! Permalink to this item

The Republicans in the Senate failed to accomplish anything useful in 40 amendments and other procedural hurdles, but they did manage to find something in the reconciliation of the big health insurance reform bill to ram it back to the House for one more vote, which they'll lose they lost, no later than 9:07pm EDT.

Sound bite of the day from the President: "They're actually going to run on a platform of 'repeal' in November. My attitude is 'go for it.'"

And this: rather than pursue an expensive and useless lawsuit, there's a more direct way for Idaho's political leaders to challenge the federal plan for healthcare insurance reform: come up with a better system (or at least one that meets the minimums) and you're all set. If the state's not prepared to do that, they could take a tip from Georgia's Attorney General and save some money.

H/ts to d2 and MG.

Did she really say "Dang gummit"? Permalink to this item

Well, if she did, I don't imagine it was an affectation. Great teaser in the NYT Headlines email for Jodi Kantor's story about Elizabeth Warren, head of Congressional oversight for TARP, and advocate for non-bankers:

"If there's one thing the financial industry dislikes more than a consumer protection agency, it's the thought that Elizabeth Warren might lead it."

We've seen her on PBS a few times, best with plenty of time such as here on NOW or Charlie Rose. Never got the flavor one of her students did, of her "Socratic with a machine gun" teaching style.

Here's Warren's explanation of the "moral hazard" of bailing out failing financial institutions: "The business plan is come and invest with me, and we're going to take all the money to Las Vegas, and bet it on RED 22, and if it comes in, WE ARE RICH! but if it doesn't come in, the taxpayers will pay us back."

Maria Hinojosa's response: "So, this is Capitalism for Dummies, and the U.S. Taxpayer is the dummy?"

24.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Hard to argue with him Permalink to this item

I'm not sure Idaho Rep. Steve Thayn is destined to be a GOP strategist, but he does make a pithy observation about political prospects: simply kicking out all the Democrats isn't going to solve our problems.

"What makes you think that conservative Republicans are going to fix our nationís problems? Where is the proof? Republicans have been in charge in the past and our problems got worse not better."

(Lest we get too carried away with his keen insight, his next sentence allows that "President Obama could possibly be the worst president in American history"; in less than 15 months? George W. Bush is a tough act to follow in many regards.)

Thayn's prescription for the future is not smaller government, it's shifting "most, if not all, human services" from the federal government to states. That, and returning to resource extraction and fundamental industry: logging, mining, agriculture, manufacturing, and energy production.

"The problem in the past with the Republican Party and conservatives in general is that they have had virtually NO IDEAS on how to deal with real social problems. Until Republicans engage in solving real human problems using limited government principles, I do not believe our problems will improve."

23.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The mouse that roared, and other wailing species Permalink to this item

Senator Jon Kyl got a generous dose of airtime on tonight's NewsHour. I tuned in a bit late, but got to see him wag his head in disappointment, and list some of the old obstructive tactics his party will continue to use, and some new ones they'll pull out, while railing against the Democrats "tactics to ram this bill through." "Poison pill" amendments, any "points of order" that will force the bill "back to the House of Representatives for one final vote," a uselessly symbolic attempt to "repeal" the law that was just passed, a parade of state lawsuits, and more going "on strike," refusing to participate in pretty much anything.

(So, how will we be able to tell the difference from the last year?)

They made a good run at it, and they certainly delayed the passage of the health care insurance reform bill, while empowering an assorted gaggle of fence-sitters to get special consideration in the process (which the Republicans could then deride).

But their gambit failed. They lost. But they're committed to the same strategy? That's the definition of insanity, basically (at least if you're expecting a different result).

Update: John Schwarz' NYT report on the legal challenge doesn't give it much chance of success, and he doesn't list Idaho among the states suing.

22.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Gimme some of that Google Fiber Permalink to this item

If Boise's such a great place to live, how come our mayor isn't listed among the leaders doing stunts to attact Google to build an ultra-high-speed broadband network for about this many customers FOR FREE?

Update: The Treasure Valley (or at least Boise, Meridian and Nampa) are teaming up on a bid. Will Google make a statement by choosing a place where "our state political leaders are more interested in laying asphalt and greasing each others' palms than building broadband"? Maybe they can join the fun of the Idaho Educational Network!

HCR Roundup Permalink to this item

TreasuredValley has a NYT front page snapshot, one of our Congressmen seen at the protests, and a link to the NPR list of "early deliverables." WaPo has photos from the protests on the Hill. Dennis Mansfield thinks we've gone insane. Wayne Hoffman vows to resist tyranny, whether imposed through a census form or mandated insurance. Sisyphus (and banjomike) take the measure of Walt's health care vote. Ridenbaugh Press tallies the Pacific NW vote, 10-6 in favor, and NewWest tallies the denouncements from the losing side.

Time to start over? Permalink to this item

Idaho GOP chairman Semanko isn't the only one who isn't prepared to be a gracious loser. There's Michael Steele, dripping with sarcasm:

"They've done it. Nancy Pelosi and her Democrat minions in the U.S. House—against the will of the American people—have “passed” their radical government-run health care experiment."

Pelosi! Minions! Will of the people! Radical! And my favorite, the quotes around "passed." But wait, it gets better.

"I'm absolutely outraged and furious beyond belief at the Congressional Democrats' craven partisan tactics! Republicans are ready to fight back, and we need your immediate help to remind Pelosi and crew they work for you. That's why I've authorized a money bomb to send a message that Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats will hear loud and clear."

The Republicans (let alone their front man) wouldn't know the will of the American people if it rose up and bit them on the ass (as it did in 2006 and 2008). But I do believe they understand "money bombs." Just to hedge his bet, Steele's covering the numerological angle: he's after $40 contributions, trying to raise $402,010 in the next 40 hours. Get it?

Are there 10,050¼ recipients of his fundraising emails prepared to chip in another $40 to Fire Nancy Pelosi! within the next 2 days? I can hardly wait to find out. I'm guessing there will be more emails. This particular "emergency" fundraising won't even cover Michael Steele's meal ticket.

21.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Something for everybody Permalink to this item

David Frum sizes up the health care reform vote as the Republican's Waterloo, "their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s." After they chose their strategy of united opposition to anything, and everything (except of course "let's start over"), went for "all the marbles, [they] ended up with none." Weirdly enough though, they did get a lot of what they used to want:

"[T]he gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romneyís Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994."

And how did the strategy of non-participation work out?

"We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat."

Frum makes a more important point about what he calls "the conservative entertainment industry," the bloviators who have been "mobiliz[ing] supporters with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information":

"When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say—but what is equally true—is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed—if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office—Rush's listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds."

Idaho's own Republican Party chairman Norm Semanko fired out a press release commemorating the passage by reciting the talking points that were supposed to kill the bill. He's got "disastrous" in there too, but he still wants to apply it to the side that prevailed. He says the magic words of demonization "Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi" (once, twice, three times, it's a spell, don't you know) and does go on.

"The American people want true health care reform that isn't about politics, but rather about the families, businesses and economy of the nation. Obama, Pelosi and the Democrats in Congress have continued to fail the American people, and today's vote is proof that they still aren't listening. Democrats can expect to pay the consequences at the polls in November, here in Idaho and across the nation."

Yes, well, we'll see. We stipulate the American people want true health care reform, but it's a matter of records that the Republican Party has been the party of obstruction and failure for lo, these many years. Dear Norm: you should be listening, too. To David Frum.

(H/t to banjomike on 43SB for the link to David Frum's blog.)

House Passes Senate Bill Permalink to this item

10:44 p.m.
"By a vote of 219-212, the House has passed the bill previously approved in the Senate last December, known as HR 3590. It would appear that 34 Democrats voted against it; 178 Republicans voted solidly against this bill." (NYT live blogging the process)

Update: Here's the interactive geography of the 219-212 vote on H.R.3590, the motion to concur in Senate amendments Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Geography of the vote Permalink to this item

The wheeling and dealing today seems to be all about abortion funding, Stupak won over, and earning the ire of the most single purpose interest group, and the Democrats say they've got enough to pass the bill, or whatever it is. The procedural vote, "On Agreeing to the Resolution Providing for consideration of the Senate Amendments to H.R. 3590 , Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and providing for the consideration of the bill H.R. 4872, Reconciliation Act of 2010," passed 224-206.

The NYT interactive graphic of the geography of that vote caught my interest, for the squirrelly gerrymandered warrens of districts in the Bay Area, southern California, NY, and on and on. Upper flyover country (including Idaho) has a bunch of huge swaths, one and two votes at a time, and then you have the places where all the people are and the votes are packed in by the dozens.

Westerners see themselves reflected in their geography as larger than life, I think. But in spite of our (representatives') opposition, it appears to be all over but the shouting.

Consider the opposition Permalink to this item

I liked this part of the speech Obama gave to the Democratic caucus yesterday:

"And I noticed that there's been a lot of friendly advice offered all across town. Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Karl Rove—they're all warning you of the horrendous impact if you support this legislation. Now, it could be that they are suddenly having a change of heart and they are deeply concerned about their Democratic friends. (Laughter.) They are giving you the best possible advice in order to assure that Nancy Pelosi remains Speaker and Harry Reid remains Leader and that all of you keep your seats. That's a possibility."

But more to the point:

"I know this is a tough vote. I've talked to many of you individually. And I have to say that if you honestly believe in your heart of hearts, in your conscience, that this is not an improvement over the status quo; if despite all the information that's out there that says that without serious reform efforts like this one people's premiums are going to double over the next five or 10 years, that folks are going to keep on getting letters from their insurance companies saying that their premium just went up 40 or 50 percent; if you think that somehow it's okay that we have millions of hardworking Americans who can't get health care and that it's all right, it's acceptable, in the wealthiest nation on Earth that there are children with chronic illnesses that can't get the care that they need—if you think that the system is working for ordinary Americans rather than the insurance companies, then you should vote no on this bill. If you can honestly say that, then you shouldn't support it. You're here to represent your constituencies and if you think your constituencies honestly wouldn't be helped, you shouldn't vote for this.

"But if you agree that the system is not working for ordinary families, if you've heard the same stories that I've heard everywhere, all across the country, then help us fix this system. Don't do it for me. Don't do it for Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid. Do it for all those people out there who are struggling."

Schooling the vote Permalink to this item

I'm some distance removed from my Catholic upbringing, but when Maureen Dowd talks about nuns, the memories of grade school ring for me like the bell after recess. There was only that one nun who really leaned into the corporal punishment business, but she made a lasting impression on me. Let's just say, talk of knuckle rapping and banging a head onto a blackboard create solid metaphors for me. And I agree with her underlying point: while the men may have been ultimately in charge of the organization, it was the women (all of the teachers were women) who carried the moral authority.

The first Presidential election that reached my consciousness was Kennedy v. Nixon; since I was 5 at the time, I have to assume the awareness of the question of Kennedy's independence from the dictates of the Church came later. I just remember knowing that Kennedy was the obviously correct choice because he was on the right team.

Hearing that Bart Stupak said "he listens to the bishops" seems rather scandalous from that distant context, but Dowd calls him out for something more important than admitting influence of the Catholic hierarchy on his political decisions: choosing the side with the losing moral proposition:

"The nuns stepped up to support true Catholic dogma, making sure poor people get proper health care. (Which would lead to fewer abortions anyway.)"

I wonder if having the Big Vote on a Sunday will help any lawmakers see the question in a different light?

Equinox Permanent URL to this day's entry

An immoral victory Permalink to this item

The Republicans and fellow travellers who demonized ACORN, and were helped in their cause by a bit of fraudulent filmmaking must be so pleased: it's on the verge of filing for bankruptcy. The history of how this came to be is featured up top in the NYT article, but you have to keep slogging (through the part where the "organization was dogged for years by financial problems and accusations of fraud") and take the jump to get to the vague acknowledgement that both an internal audit commissioned by the non-profit and the Brooklyn D.A.'s office found no evidence of illegal or criminal activity by the staffers. The slimeball operative, James "Just like Borat" O'Keefe has his legal problems in Louisiana, but apparently none in New York yet.

Oh, and the bill that Congress pushed through in the heat of the uninvestigated viral video was ruled unconstitutional by a federal district court judge in New York. (Not that Congress' action is moot: "no federal money is flowing to the organization while the government appeals the ruling.")

Yeah, but, financial problems! (Imagine that: a non-profit organization with financial problems.) And accusations of fraud! What good are they anyway? Stupid stuff like raising the minimum wage, registering the poor to vote, stopping predatory lending, expanding affordable housing, helped people prepare tax returns and get the refunds coming to them.

Yes, it's a fine victory for the Obstruction Party, with its means entirely in keeping with its end.

18.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Tomgram: That other big ticket item Permalink to this item

Speaking of F-35s, did you know that the estimated cost per copy has gone from $50 million to more than twice that, $113 million, in less than a decade? Or that the various Services are talking about ordering up thousands of them? (It'll be more than just Boise buzzing about how loud they are). Lt. Col. William Astore (ret.) has five questions we should ask the pentagon.

"[L]ast year, our country held innumerable public hearings on health-care reform. Congress continues to fight about it. Itís constant news. Thereís a debate alive in the land. All this for a program that, in ten years, will cost the American people as much as defense and homeland security cost in a single year.

"Yet runaway defense budgets get passed each year without a single 'town hall' meeting, next to no media coverage, and virtually no debate in Congress...."

Lunch with Violets Permalink to this item

Lunch today, garnished with violets I mentioned our backyard bonanza (as I often do this time of year) on Facebook (that's new to me), and someone asked for a picture. Reviewing previous episodes, and being reminded that they're edible, I thought I'd combine two timely subjects. Here it is: a hearty white bean stew with a garnish of violets. Bon appetit!

Random Access Permalink to this item

I got something from Twitter today, somehow, I'm not even sure how it happened. Oh, I was looking for David Pogue's take on Quicken 2010 to decide whether to take advantage of their HURRY! ONLY 5 DAYS offer to get an upgrade (or is it a pig in a poke?) and somehow shunted off to his Twitter feed (I never do this kind of thing, I swear) and he's talking about this guy doing piano improv on chat roulette and OMG it's funny go there.

Lining up for the big vote (or whatever it will be) Permalink to this item

Timothy Egan writes about the Northwest enough to enumerate first-term Democratic members of Congress in Republican-leaning districts who stand to lose their seat by voting for health care. I'm not sure who all he's thinking about with that phrase at the end of his opinion deriding Congressional "Purists", but Idaho's Walt Minnick would nearly qualify. (ID-01 is quite a bit more than "leaning" to the Republican side these days.)

Dennis Kucinich is a different sort of purist, the proximate inspiration for the column, after he came around to accepting that the perfect is the enemy of the good and agreed to vote for health care reform in an incarnation that is universally recognized as less than perfect.

I'm not expecting Minnick to change his "No" vote (for the House bill that passed), for as much as I would like to see it. He's got his reasons, all of which boil down to it not being good enough for what he thinks is important. Maybe the majority in ID-01 agrees with him, I don't know. But it seems like a lose-lose proposition for a Democrat in a tenuous position, Blue Dog or not. If HCR fails, the Democrats will be (deservedly) toast, and a spotted weasel with an R after his name on the ballot will be shooed in. If HCR passes in some form, somehow, and he stays on the wrong side of it, partisans on both sides can repudiate him personally, or categorically, take your pick.

We're number one! Permalink to this item

Given the general incompetence of our state's Legislature, it's surprising we could get out ahead of 37 other states and pass a "freedom from health care" bill before everyone else, but woo hoo. Now we have "a clear expression of State sovereignty," at the expense of the citizens of the state.

Idaho Reporter has video of the signing on video, in which you can size up C.L. "Butch" Otter's "pleasure" at presiding over the event, along with the irony of his concern about "adding Constitutional questions" to legislation. (Among the layers is the fact that Otter's was one of the deciding votes in Congress passing Medicare Part D, back when the Republicans kept the voting—and arm twisting—going long hours into the night.)

Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review asked the Governor how he felt about committing Idaho's limited funds on fighting a court battle with the federal government. He's "comfortable with it," so congratulations, Idaho taxpayers!

Part 2 of the video shows Otter letting his claque step up to take turns batting at Brian Murphy's question about the hypocrisy of Idaho working to get the F-35 and stimulus funds while refusing to play ball on health care. Proper role of government! Common defense! Not healthcare!

So... where is Idaho's proposal to scrap Medicare and Medicaid?

17.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Kindle whiners go short on Michael Lewis Permalink to this item

I've got a first edition Kindle, and I bought a book for it, and I have yet to finish that one book, while in the meantime I've bought others, read others. Some day I'll find all the pieces and charge it up and finish that one (but maybe not, because it was about "current" events which are getting less current every passing day).

Cover image of 'The Big Short' by Michael Lewis In the meantime, speaking about books about current events, Michael Lewis, an exceptional writer with a bunch of great books to his credit is out with another one, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine. He was on 60 Minutes Sunday, The Daily Show Monday and Fresh Air Tuesday.

There's a connection, right? Yeah: the folks who wild about reading books on Kindle are shorting Lewis' book (about how a couple guys figured out that "millions [make that billions, eh?] of dollars of credit swirling around the market were artificially inflated and almost worthless" and could see that the crash was coming) in the Amazon reader reviews, because... they can't buy it on Kindle yet.

I've wired up my site with Amazon Associates links for more than 10 years now its existence because, way back when, I thought that feature of reader reviews offered unique value both for highlighting good (and bad) books, and for explaining why a book is good or bad. Rather like "regular" book reviews, but different in that it didn't depend so much on a few elite and/or lucky reviewers who get widespread attention. Here, the everyday Joe and Jane Reader gets to have his and her say.

That has an upside and an downside, eh.

Here's a "real" review of Lewis' book, in case you're not already convinced (as I am) that it's a compelling read, even if you can't (yet) get it on your Kindle.

Illegitimate means Permalink to this item

I've got one Representative and two Senators in Congress, just like everyone else in the country. I've got a larger share of representation with those Senators thanks to our state's relatively small population, but given their politics, a fat lot of good it does me.

I happen to be a friend of Idaho's other Representative to Congress, but even though District 1 is literally a stone's throw (a good throw, I'll grant you, but I could do it with the wind behind me) from where I sit to type this, he's focusing his representation on those people over there. The days of a plain old email address are gone; now you have to go through a "contact me" form that wants your 9-digit ZIPcode and rejects out-of-district submissions.

You can still call, of course, or write one of them old-fashioned letters. And the Executive Director of the Idaho GOP put out a message to his fellow Republicans to do just that... except not crossing the ID-01/02 line, crossing the whole country: he says the local party

"has learned that Democratic Majority Whip James Clyburn is reporting that four Democratic Congressmen that were no votes on the health care bill have now switched to a yes vote" and "We need to flood their offices with phone calls, faxes and if local, go by their offices."

The closest one of the 4 is in Washington (state); the others are in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee, none of which are "local" to folks in Idaho, last I checked.

There's a lot of wheeling and dealing going on behind the scenes this week, and I'm not immune from the desire to influence other states' legislators (because I so rarely can influence my own), but this seems a rather pathetic attempt to drum up some astroturf lobbying.

Update: I forgot to mention the thing that jumped out at me in tonight's Newshour coverage of the Congressional maneuvers: "The Campaign for Media Analysis reported, groups trying to sink the health care overhaul have spent $5.5 million in the past 30 days. It said supporters have spent less than 10 percent of that amount."

Jon Stewart had a nice roundup of the barking heads of Fox News that are working the kill the bill angle, goading their supporters to jam the switchboards to let Congress know how much they oppose their own self-interest and favor the financial interests of the status quo. Yes, that's "conservative," even if it isn't very smart.

"It's gone viral, it's just a grass-roots, organic expression of the people's outrage... although you'll never guess who patient 0 is in the viral outbreak...." Huckabee, Dick Morris, Michelle Malkin, and the whole Fox "News" team. "And if you don't know what to say, just hold the phone up to the television, we'll take care of it for you."

Whose conscience will matter to you? Permalink to this item

Update: too late.
The House passed it this morning, after rejecting the proposal to amend it to remove the end-of-life care provision. Close enough to a straight party-line vote, 51-18.

The Idaho Senate has passed, and the House is on its third reading of the so-called "Freedom of Conscience" bill for health care professionals, SB 1353. It provides that "no health care professional shall be required to provide any health care service that violates his or her conscience," except in a life-threatening situation where no other provider is available. (Providers can't discriminate on the basis of patient's race, color, religion, sex, age, disability or national origin... unless their conscience tells them to, maybe?)

It also narrowly specifies the "health care services" for the proposed section of Idaho Code at issue to be "an abortion, dispensation of an abortifacient drug, human embryonic stem cell research, treatment regimens utilizing human embryonic stem cells, human embryo cloning or end of life treatment and care."

That last clause would allow a health care provider to ignore a person's Living Will if s/he felt it violated his or her conscience. How does that sound to you?

The definition of "abortifacient" is also legislatively expanded beyond its medical meaning, to include "any drug that causes an abortion as defined in 18-604, Idaho Code, emergency contraception or any drug the primary purpose of which is to cause the destruction of an embryo or fetus."

I think this is horrible legislation for its permission to health care providers to ignore someone's expressed wishes, for its attempt to expand the practical definition of "abortion" far beyond its plain meaning, and for the pernicious and very real possibility that those with limited choice in health care providers will be denied not just access to services, but access to knowledge of what services they can lawfully and morally consider, based on someone else's moral choices.

I suspect the Democrats in Idaho's House will be mostly or all opposed to this legislation for some or all of those reasons. Even if you disagree in the matter of abortion, you should be concerned about the end of life treatment provision. If you live in a district with one or more Republican House members, I urge you to contact them and express your opinion NOW.

Just one slightly confusing instruction Permalink to this item

Our letter saying the Census was coming (my goodness, was that really necessary?) arrived last week, and yesterday, the actual document. The cover page is dated March 15, 2010, so the delivery was smooth as silk. In bold letters, end of first paragraph, Please complete and mail back the enclosed census form today. First question:

How may people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2010?

Wait, April 1st? It's not funny enough to be an April Fool's joke, but it's a little goofy to be asking about the future in the past tense, with an emphasis on "today." Our household seems stable enough, we went ahead and replied with a "forecast."

16.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

You had me at "consider the source" Permalink to this item

Robert Creamer's top 10 reasons why voting yes on health care reform is good politics for Democrats, starting with:

"Consider the source. Who are the major advocates of the theory that it is bad politics for Democrats to vote for health care reform? None other than Republican leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner. If they recommend that Democrats vote no, then any Democrat with half his wits should fall all over himself to vote yes."

Did I fall asleep and start dreaming? Permalink to this item

The U.S. Secretary of Transporation saying "people across America who value bicycling should have a voice when it comes to transportation planning. This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized."

Get out! Seriously?!

Ray is in la HOOD!

(Thanks to CityDesk for the link.)

Why do conservatives hate America? Permalink to this item

You would think that support for the rule of law and a desire to provide for our common defense would provide some shared purpose, but Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), for one, seems more concerned about "a deep-seated and profound philosophical difference with the Obama administration" than all-for-one and one-for-all.

"[Attorney General Eric Holder's] comparison [of Osama bin Laden] to convicted killer Manson angered Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), who said it showed the Obama administration doesn't understand the American public's desire to treat terrorists as wartime enemies, not criminal defendants."

It angered him? Is he also angry that we've got a "war" (or two) going on that Congress didn't get around to actually declaring? Culberson would do well to listen to his colleague, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA):

"It doesn't befit a great nation to hesitate or equivocate on the question of following our own laws."

Ides.March.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Don't robo-call us, we'll robo-call you Permalink to this item

I always give a long moment's hesitation before picking up the phone with "Unknown name / unknown number" on the caller ID. What have they got to hide, anyway? I gave one the benefit of the doubt this evening, and it turned out to be the recorded voice of our junior Senator, Jim Risch, telling us that there'd be another call, tomorrow evening, so please pick up. Oh, I suppose this one would go through to voicemail, and the next one won't?

Anyway, thanks for the warning. There was also an email from this morning, telling about his "Telephone Town Hall Meeting":

"The next hour-long phone call is Tuesday, March 16th at 7 p.m. Mountain time. If you would like to take part in the call, please fill out the Tele-Townhall sign-up form. Requests must be made at least 24 hours prior to the meeting."

So let's see, 11:39am, you're giving us 7 hours and 21 minutes to respond to a bulk email? Great planning.

Maybe one of the topics in tomorrow's "meeting" will be whether the irony was intended or unintended in having the email newsletter put "F-35 Joint Strike Fighter" right after "Fiscal Responsibility: A National Security Issue"?

14.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The gang that couldn't shoot straight Permalink to this item

Speaking of alternative realities, my weekly fix of Frank Rich got off to a chuckle with his mention of "the new right-wing noise machine" (and "crackpot hit squad") Keep America Safe, "invented by Dick Cheneyís daughter Liz and the inevitable William Kristol." If Kristol were on The Simpsons he'd be Troy McClure, the man you may remember from such brands as Ahmed Chalabi and Sarah Palin. (Ironically, you may not remember Troy McClure, since he was retired in 1998 after the death of the actor who provided his voice, Phil Hartman. If only Billy Kristol had retired as graciously when his last useful idea—you tell me—gave up the ghost.)

"This McCarthyism has not advanced nearly so far as the original brand. Among those who have called out Keep America Safe for its indecent impugning of honorable Americans' patriotism are Kenneth Starr, Lindsey Graham and former Bush administration lawyers in the conservative Federalist Society. When even the relentless pursuer of Monicagate is moved to call a right-wing jihad 'out of bounds,' as Starr did in this case, that's a fairly good indicator that it's way off in crazyland."

Rich points out that the program extends beyond rewriting history for fun and profit, it's also about legacy. Given the disasters we're likely to be digging out of for some time, this is preemptive plausible deniability: "If any of these national security theaters goes south, those in the Rove-Cheney cohort will claim vindication in their campaign to pin their own failings on their successors." They'll no doubt claim credit for having laid the groundwork for any future success as well.

Rich provided the link to Jon Stewart's interview with the oleaginous Marc Thiessen from last Tuesday; we'd watched the edited broadcast version, with Thiessen's closing complaint about not getting a chance to speak his piece... during the interview and airtime to flog his book. What, he was expecting softball comedy? In the 10+ minutes that aired, he spoke for about 4½ minutes, including 10% of his time to whine about not being able to make his points.

As promised, Stewart has the full interview online, in three parts, more than half an hour, an extremely generous piece of publicity for a guy whose views he disagrees with (and for the good reasons Stewart expressed over the course of the 50-50 interview).

Thiessen talked about "millions of people held in the United States as enemy combatants in a time of war," and I'm trying to think when it was in history that we had war prisoners on that scale (let alone had them on home soil). The Revolutionary War? 1812? Eliminating the native populations from the "New World"? The Civil War? WWI? II? Never mind that it was the Bush administration legal team that came up with the "enemy combatant" category, to mean unlawful enemy combatants, primarily, and along with the idea of having an official U.S. prison that wasn't really in the U.S. because it was in Cuba, so the Constitution wouldn't apply. The Supreme Court rejected that argument.

Discussing "the habeus campaign" (otherwise known as the legal challenge against the Bush administration's attempt to do away with a principle of justice that has been established for seven hundred years, ending with the administration losing the Hamdan case before the Supreme Court, too), Thiessen is happy to presume detainees are guilty for not just past acts, but also for what they're going to do in the future: "even though we know that they may go out and..." We know that they may? And then a moment later, he changed it to "are," as in "even though we know they are going to go out and commit further terrorist acts."

It's a slippery slope, and we've slid a long way down it when a speechwriter presumes to read minds and adjudicate future guilt. The thesis that we've "stopped terrorism" is not only bizarre and factually wrong, it's dangerous. It's dangerous to have people like Karl Rove and Liz Cheney and Marc Thiessen sucking up airtime and spouting nonsense to a credulous public, arguing that we can secretly pick and choose which laws to obey and make ourselves safer in the process.

"It's demonstrably true that these techniques led to intelligence that stopped terrorist attacks that we would have probably... that we would very likely have been hit..." Thiessen said.

It all depends on the meaning of "it." Back to Frank Rich:

"The most devastating terrorist attack on American soil did happen during Bushís term, after the White House repeatedly ignored what the former C.I.A. director, George Tenet, called the 'blinking red' alarms before 9/11. It was the Bush defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, who lost bin Laden in Tora Bora, not the Obama Justice Department appointees vilified by Keep America Safe. It was Bush and Cheney, with the aid of Rove's propaganda campaign, who promoted sketchy and often suspect intelligence about Saddam's imminent 'mushroom clouds.' The ensuing Iraq war allowed those who did attack us on 9/11 to regroup in Afghanistan and beyond—and emboldened Iran, an adversary with an actual nuclear program."

The capper is that Ahmed Chalabi (who "receives not a single mention in Rove's memoir," conveniently) is still out there connecting dots, holding meetings in Iran and pulling strings to disqualify candidates for Iraq's recent elections.

13.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Last thought on standard time Permalink to this item

Jeanette's looking through Chinese Writing: an introduction by Diane Wolff, and came upon this statement, "built in" to their language, but sounding profound in ours, because we keep the atoms so distinct: the character for "brain," combined with that for "heart" form the character for "think."

The stain on professional journalism Permalink to this item

The advent of the Fox News slogan of "Fair and Balanced" was perfectly tuned to the Bush / Cheney era, with its Orwellian initiatives of "Healthy Forests," "Clear Skies" and the "war is security" depredation of our military strength. (Just one short century between "speak softly and carry a big stick" and "fire, ready, aim!")

Howell Raines is wondering why the mainstream media haven't "blown the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration -- a campaign without precedent in our modern political history."

"Through clever use of the Fox News Channel and its cadre of raucous commentators, Ailes has overturned standards of fairness and objectivity that have guided American print and broadcast journalists since World War II. Yet, many members of my profession seem to stand by in silence as Ailes tears up the rulebook that served this country well as we covered the major stories of the past three generations, from the civil rights revolution to Watergate to the Wall Street scandals. This is not a liberal-versus-conservative issue. It is a matter of Fox turning reality on its head with, among other tactics, its endless repetition of its uber-lie: 'The American people do not want health-care reform.'...

"For the first time since the yellow journalism of a century ago, the United States has a major news organization devoted to the promotion of one political party."

(My emphasis, and h/t to Randy Stapilus via Facebook.)

Mikhail Gorbachev, on Russia's future Permalink to this item

The man elected as General Secretary of the Soviet Union's Communist Party 25 years ago looks back at perstroika lost, and forward. He casts blame across the political spectrum, and accepts his own share, for "acting too late to reform the Communist Party," and "too late in reforming the union of the republics," and the ultimate sin, losing sight of the economy "in the heat of political battles."

Something our current legislators and leaders should note.

His prescription going forward is "development and modernization," diversifying the country's economy beyond oil and natural gas, and the necessity of a democratic path:

"If the people are to feel and act like citizens, there is only one prescription: democracy, including the rule of law and an open and honest dialogue between the government and the people.

"What's holding Russia back is fear. Among both the people and the authorities, there is concern that a new round of modernization might lead to instability and even chaos. In politics, fear is a bad guide; we must overcome it."

Leonine and lamby by turns Permalink to this item

Sunshine after snow after crocuses March came in gently, but it's roaring through the midsection. Winds forecast to gust over 40mph this afternoon, after snow down to Boise's elevation (at least) overnight. Sunshine now, and the temps forecast to be over 60 in a couple days!

What's not to like about springtime in the Rockies? I've got a tennis match scheduled in... 45 minutes. Should be interesting. [It was, wild and windy.]

Thanks for the memory Permalink to this item

Jeanette interrupted me just now, saying "I've got a present for you..." It was a postcard, from the New York City Transit series Poetry in Motion©, in cooperation with the Poetry Society of America, 1996, excerpting Edna St. Vincent Millay's 1922 poem, "Recuerdo."

In 1996, the tease of EXCERPT might have sent you to the New York City Library or something (on the subway, hopefully), but here in 2010, it sends you to Google, and you'll find that Poems of the Week, founded (coincidentally?) in 1996, ran the whole poem as PotW #6.

Let's just say it was perfect for Poetry in Motion.

12.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's all a misunderstanding Permalink to this item

It's dated as news (posted Feb. 24, before Coulter had been released from jail in Haiti), but Timothy Egan's take on the missionary impulse, that "lingering personality disorder of Western culture" makes interesting reading.

"[T]he curious case of Laura Silsby raises questions about cultural imperialism: what makes a scofflaw from nearly all-white Idaho with no experience in adoption or rescue services think she has a right to bring religion and relief to a country with its own cultural, racial and spiritual heritage?

"Imagine if a voodoo minister from Haiti had shown up in Boise after an earthquake, looking for children in poor neighborhoods and offering 'opportunities for adoption' back to Haiti. He could say, as those who followed Silsby explained on a Web site, that 'the unsaved world needs to hear' from the saved...."

11.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

This Hobson guy, crying Wolf! Permalink to this item

I saw "Hobson's choice" in print for the second time in a couple days and I was wondering where that expression came from when I saw that today's was Rick Hobson, joking with his own name in a letter to the Statesman. In his case, the choice was posting the names of successful Idaho wolf hunters on his blog. (Sadly, the pun doesn't really work; the original Hobson's choice, "a free choice in which only one option is offered" is not operative here.)

You'd think they be pleased at the publicity for their manly (were any womanly?) achievement, but instead they and their legislators got all worked up and are trying to get a law enacted. (It's awaiting action by our Senate.)

It all started with the wildlife, its defenders scaring tame partridges away to keep them from getting shot. Idaho makes it a crime (36-1510) to "disrupt lawful pursuit or taking" of any animal, and now we feel the need to protect our hunters against those who would "harass, intimidate or threaten [them] by any means including, but not limited to, personal or written contact, or via telephone, email website."

I'm not in favor of harassment, intimidation or threatening, but do our fearless hunters really need Idaho Code to protect themselves? Apparently man is still the most dangerous game!

Hobson says he sought to "illustrate the public nature of hunting," but instead he seems to have revealed that hunting has a decidedly private nature.

Cashing in on "public service" Permalink to this item

From the BCAA home page The Bush-Cheney Alumni Association (you think I'm making that up? No, really.), for its second act of communication to me is touting Karl Rove's book just out. The first act was a message to offer me a chance to opt out; as ever, the team is happy to assume that silence equals assent. In my case, I did make the decision to act by not acting, and see what they had to say. So stand back for

"never-before-told details about his own groundbreaking career and the legacy of the Bush presidency," as "Rove sets the record straight, explodes myths, responds frankly to critics, and passionately articulates why he made the choices he did as a conservative in the center of politics."


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

Glenn Beck is coming after ME now Permalink to this item

From the Glenn Beck video attacking me Will this man stop at NOTHING?!

This CNNBC news report has the details from the broadcast of Le Bebe-Homme Pleurant. (Sorry about the volume too loud and the lame controls on the Flash... this is the best I could do. Thank me for not embedding. And if you're on Facebook, go ahead and accept the login thing. What's the worst that could happen? Ok, well, he could come after you, too... Sorry about that.)

A successful non-profit Permalink to this item

In the middle of the real estate bubble, with plans afoot for huge housing developments up and down the foothills of the Boise front, thousands of new units, various of the to-be-impacted parties put up resistance. Apart from little things like the lack of water to support the land rush, people already occupying a slice of heaven weren't keen on thousands of new neighbors.

The Save the Plateau group was specifically focused on a place called Hammer Flat, which I know mostly as "up there" while driving by the dam that diverts the New York Canal from the Boise River (or "over there" from up at Lucky Peak reservoir).

The Boise Weekly's article about the city acquiring 700 acres of critical wildlife habitat has a nice Pete White aerial photo of the place. From the highway, the basalt palisade ("Black Cliffs") is striking; you don't see up to the "flat." This acreage is adjacent to 50 times more land in the "Boise River Wildlife Management Area."

We taxed ourselves starting not quite a decade ago to buy up some of the prize foothills land before it was too late, and this is the capper for almost all that's left of the $10 million. Money well spent if you can believe the estimate in the Statesman that our 10,471 acres are now worth more than 3 times what we paid.

Not that we're selling, eh.

So anyway, "Save the Plateau" can restyle itself "Saved" and fold up its tent. Job well done!

More to the story from the Boise Guardian, including the fact that Idaho Fish and Game tried to buy the Flat for $2 million "as late as 2004... and was out gunned when the developer offered about five times that amount."

7.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Dark night of the nation's soul Permalink to this item

John Yoo is dancing a jig with his Philadelphia Inquirer columnist job, exercising his thesaurus to marshall "farce," "cooked-up," "deeply riddled with errors," "incompetent," "pure incomptence," "obviously biased," "shoddy," "left-wing conspiracy theories," and finally, "persecution."

The good news is that it stopped short of torture, however, since there is no evidence the pain Mr. Yoo suffered was as great as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or death. He might have an argument for psychological harm, as the investigation of the Office of Professional Responsibility did continue for some years, starting as it did before the 2004 election, and continuing through the Bush second term.

He's willing to accept what "media reports suggest" to make his own accusation, against the OPR (the whole office?), of "another violation of professional rules of conduct," and—maybe—"a serious violation of federal criminal law."

It was under the Obama administration, and Eric Holder's Department of Justice that Deputy Attorney David Margolis was given the job of reviewing the OPR report. Margolis expressed his narrow conclusion in a memorandum dated just shy of the first anniversary of the Obama adminstration. He rejected the OPR's finding of "professional misconduct" because in his judgment they hadn't identified a "known, unambiguous obligation or standard [for] the attorney's conduct."

Yet somehow Yoo manages to cook his bile stew into a "witch hunt" of the Obama adminstration's making. And he takes a verdict of only "poor judgment" as vindication.

The bar has never been set so low.

6.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Free PopSci! Permalink to this item

Shrunken screen-shot from a 1972 issue of Popular Science Popular Science has partnered with Google to put its entire 137-year archive online for free browsing. Complete with the always popular "period advertisements" to "bring back memories for longtime readers." The magazine was a staple in our house when I was growing up; I would read every issue, cover-to-cover.

"Some things we projected with startling accuracy, and others remain today what they were then—dreams. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do."

Mmm, probably won't, given the execrable interface offered by the Google Reader. But it's a darn cool idea.

5.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Obama... it's OK to be American again Permalink to this item

Paul Rockower, on Innocents abroad: backpacking in the age of Obama.

"...on this recent trip I saw a relative dearth of Canadian flags on backpacks, suggesting that those camouflaged Americans finally removed the maple leaf 'security' patches from their bags."

More from him: Photography as Public Diplomacy, an exhibition. In addition to the lovely website, it's showing at the USC Annenberg Gallery, second floor, through May 17, 2010.

The alternate universe Permalink to this item

Un/employment graph from the White House report Good column by Paul Krugman today, debriefing the end of Jim Bunning's one-man show in the U.S. Senate.

"[W]hile the blockade is over, its lessons remain. Some of those lessons involve the spectacular dysfunctionality of the Senate. What I want to focus on right now, however, is the incredible gap that has opened up between the parties. Today, Democrats and Republicans live in different universes, both intellectually and morally."

The graphic from the latest report on the Employment Situation in February shows the gravity of the situation: while the monthly change in employment has returned from horrific, to flat, the effect on the unemployment rate in the last two years has been huge.

What a time for Republicans to be more concerned with the estate tax than unemployment benefits.

You can't learn from failures you won't admit Permalink to this item

Who says hindsight is 20-20? Certainly not the U.K.'s Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who insists that the Iraq war was the "right decision made for the right reasons."

No, seriously?

He did offer "veiled criticism" of the actual carrying out of the mission, forgetting perhaps that first principle of war so eloquently provided by ex-SecDef Rumsfeld: "stuff happens." (Insert two-armed gesture deflecting all possible blame to the sides of the room.)

Even better, "Right up to the last minute, right up to the last weekend, I think many of us were hopeful that the diplomatic route would succeed." Some of us were hopeful that the diplomatic route would be attempted, actually. Because that "greater certainty amongst the intelligence community that this weaponry was there" was actually not all that greater.

Poll results reported on March 11, 2003 still showed a majority of respondents (let's say "half" within the margin of error) said "inspectors should be given more time to search for evidence of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons on the ground in Iraq," although the Bush administration's marketing campaign had caused that number to drop in the previous month.

4.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Call of the wild Permalink to this item

The romantic appeal of "the mountains" and wilderness were what attracted me to Idaho, strongly enough that I moved to Moscow in 1975, site unseen. (Things are rarely what you imagine: I came to the state in August, riding up the old Lewiston grade in the back of a pickup truck, to roll out onto the loess hills of the Palouse.) This appeal extends to Oath Keepers and the Age of Treason as well. As featured in Justine Sharrock's report:

"When ['the shit hits the fan'], Pray and his buddies plan to go AWOL and make their way to their 'fortified bunker'—the home of one comrade's parents in rural Idaho—where they've stocked survival gear, generators, food, and weapons....

"A strapping Idahoan, Brandon (who doesn't want his full name used) enlisted as a teenager when he got his girlfriend pregnant and needed a stable job, stat.... Unlike his friend, he doesn't think the United Nations must be dismantled, although he does agree that it represents the New World Order, and he suspects that concentration camps are being readied in the off-limits section of Fort Drum. He sends 500 rounds of ammunition home to Idaho each month."

Massive fraud perpertrated on voters Permalink to this item

From the BradBlog video of Andy Breitbart Here in Idaho where any and all voter fraud could only have served to entrench Republican leadership, our burning issues are too many people wanting to vote in Republican primaries and the desire to force people to show photo IDs at polls there is ample outrage available over "those people" in our fair state (even if, ah, we don't know who those people are).

It's not easy to push back on a well-established meme, regardless of the truth of the matter, but we have to try, don't we? So please go climb up on your roof and shout as loud as you possibly can that the whole ACORN pimp scandal was a hoax. Which even a deprecated Republican "gut feel" could have told you was pretty likely. Andrew Breitbart, the guy who helped O'Keefe's fantasy film go viral to become best Mockumentary of 2009 has admitted he didn't know what was on the tapes. There goes that Pulitzer!

"This minor discrepancy" that O'Keefe didn't actually have the pimp get-up on when he went into the ACORN offices, that he didn't actually represent himself as a pimp. And other stuff. "Just like Borat" is an interesting defense... for something that led to a bill of attainder in the U.S. Congress. It passed the House last September, but it's a safe bet it won't be sailing through the Senate any time soon.

As the lost CPAC Breitbart video states, two different investigations, "one by the Congressional Research Service and one by former MA Attorney General Scott Harshbarger each found no evidence of crimes committed by ACORN workers on the highly-edited, heavily-overdubbed video tapes."

After O'Keefe was arrested for a scheme to tap the phones in the office of a Democratic U.S. Senator, "Breitbart revealed he pays O'Keefe a 'fair salary' to provide content for his three websites."

Ramajamadingdong Permalink to this item

E.J. Dionne Jr. deconstructs the Republican's big lie about reconciliation, including Orrin Hatch's opinion starting "wrong on a core fact." Recall that both our House of Representatives and Senate have passed a health-care reform bill, with a majority, and a super-majority, respectively. And what would come under reconciliation rules would be amendments, to... yes, reconcile the two bills. (Hatch's piece lost me when he got into the Constitution schtick, which has precisely nothing to do with filibusters and arcane rule-making.) Dionne:

Hatch said that reconciliation should not be used for "substantive legislation" unless the legislation has "significant bipartisan support." But surely the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, which were passed under reconciliation and increased the deficit by $1.7 trillion during his presidency, were "substantive legislation." The 2003 dividends tax cut could muster only 50 votes. Vice President Dick Cheney had to break the tie. Talk about "ramming through."

(My emphasis. That was back before the media had been told to care about reconciliation.) There's also the disingenuity of "significant bipartisan support." When there is such a thing for legislation, we don't need Senators talking to us from Op-Ed pages or other media histrionics, they just go ahead and pass the bill.

Karl Rove: Mr. Hindsight Permalink to this item

And no slouch at looking out for himself, with that job at Fox "News" and now a memoir inflating his "courage and consequence." Be still my heart.

Bush wouldn't have taken the country to war in Iraq if he hadn't really, really believed there were W.M.D., he says. Biggest mistake of the Bush years! Oh no, wait, that was "not countering the narrative" that "Bush lied." Well hey, a memoir is nothing without a narrative, he should know. Adam in St. Louis isn't the only one who's disappointed:

"...We are supposed to elect Republicans for their acumen in foreign affairs, yet the Bush [administration] responded with the least strategic and most resource heavy approach imaginable (i.e. full-scale invasion of a country that has little to do with Islamic extremism).

"They spent the US into oblivion fighting this 'enemy' while decentralized terrorist cells continue to operate across many countries. Now there is no money for health care and other domestic priorities. So in essence terrorism is still alive and well (because they fought the terrorist battle in the wrong way), and we are broke because of it. Thanks Karl!"

Life-form of the month: grass Permalink to this item

That's Olivia Judson's nomination (just in time for hayfever season) in honor of "one of the most momentous events in the history of the Earth," the evolution of grasses.

Long ago and far away, I took a course in Agrostology, and I'm sure I must've been told that "their leaves grow from the base, not the top," but the fact had slipped out of mind. (That's why your lawn doesn't mind being mowed, eh.) Plenty more fun facts in her column, such as how much of the planet's land is covered with grasslands (one third); how recently they showed up (around 80 million years ago, "in evolutionary terms, thatís yesterday") and took over; and yet another related science I hadn't heard of, phytolithology. She didn't even get into polyploidy, the multiplication of genetic material that grasses seem so good at.

Among the comments, one by Joseph Crane of Manhattan, Kansas was appropriately highlighted by the Times, and worth reading for some interesting specific scientific rebuttal. He's OK with the nomination, but he testily "fail[s] to see why book reports would be included in the Op-Ed section." (Because she writes well, about interesting things, Joe.)

3.3.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mike Gwartney's future in state government Permalink to this item

The guy most Idahoans never heard of, at the head of a state department that makes you go huh? is all of a sudden much in the news, thanks to Cynthia Sewell's story on Sunday about the misbegotten state contract for the Idaho Education Network, a statewide broadband system linking Idaho public schools, universities and businesses. The Statesman followed up with an editorial yesterday, saying Gwartney's problems are Otter's problems. Randy Stapilus' thoughtful "Chain of command" got me starting a comment that I thought I'd extend here.

"I heard one legislator say, 'We're only paying Gwartney $1 a year and I still don't think we're getting our money's worth.'"

I don't know either government or business as well as Gwartney does, but I've seen enough of each to recognize that large bureaucratic organizations have a great deal in common. That means they can both benefit from the same sorts of organizational development techniques, even as their core purposes differ broadly, from business' primary goal of making profit, to government's primary goal of maximizing the common good, within its limited purposes.

It's one thing to tackle making money as a bureaucratic Hero, quite another to tackle the fuzzy and often not agreed-upon mission of government the same way. As for the $1 salary, even beyond the brilliant snark that the Statesman promoted to print from its "online voices," it raises interesting questions:

Wall Street defends their obscene pay by reminding us how important it is to retain the "best and the brightest." What's Idaho getting for its non-pay?

Is Gwartney in it for humanitarian reasons, because he likes the power, what?

The Department of Administration for a state with a $2½ billion annual budget (give or take) has a lot of leverage. One big lawsuit could make the "savings" from Gwartney's salary even more irrelevant than it is now.

And still more Permalink to this item

The details about the statistical analysis behind the quiz state its purpose as predicting "the probability of your being in the Millennial age group, currently 18-29." A score of 51 or higher means its better than even odds that you are. The box plots and histograms of scores by generation show how dispersed the response data is, ranging pretty much from 0-100 for all but the "Silent" generation.

Looking again at the raw data it seems pretty clear that the supposed cultural divide has mostly to do with technology adoption, and the fact that you take for granted what you grow up with. The questions about cell phones and text messages, social media, and body art have most of the predictive power, it would seem, which boils down to a heapin' helpin' of common sense.

More on that Millennial quiz Permalink to this item

After I saw a bunch more scores role in from my Facebook friends, I did a few more runs through the quiz. I know that my holding out on getting a cellphone puts me in edge of the "late adopter" realm. I do, in fact, have a cellphone in the house, but it's the one I bought for the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Idaho (oh HA! That would definitely put me in the Silent group, eh?), and that has enough spare bandwidth to meet my "emergency" and travel cellphone needs well enough.

From my "baseline" of 5, if I add a cellphone, I bump up to 13, and I'm over the threshold for my rightful place as a baby boomer. If I would just send some text messages, I get 21, and if I'd send at least 10 text messages, I could be well on my way to GenX (31), even though I read a newspaper. (If I just stop watching TV and reading a newspaper, my score goes from 5 to 35.) Stop contacting government officials, and I'm up to 48, on my way to Millennial. Either a non-ear piercing or a tat, I get 59, both, and it's 70.

I didn't get around to reading the whole report, but it was clear that what they'd done with their survey results was to select questions, and apply weighting factors that would best match answers to the groups as they found in their survey.

Fun parlor trick, but actually an illegitimate technique for extrapolating from their survey to the whole population they purport to study. In essence, the game show amplifies what they concluded from their sample, which, while large enough to be representative (and with a modest margin of error) is by no means exhaustive (let alone definitive).

My constituents want a gamer Permalink to this item

Or as Faux Boehner put it in his Onion headline, My Constituents Care Way More About Political Gamesmanship Than Jobs, Health Care, And The Economy.

"My constituents deserve better.

"They deserve a leader willing to roll up his sleeves and play the types of twisted, greedy political games that, by their very nature, tear apart the fabric of our democracy for the sake of assuring reelection. They deserve someone on their side who will ask the tough questions, such as how will painting Democrats as radical ideologues play in, say, Arkansas? Can we vote "no" on the health care bill and still make it look like we give two craps about the welfare of ordinary Americans? How can we twist positive news about the GDP into a negative for the Obama administration?"

Are you millennial? Permalink to this item

Julie sent me to the Millennial Quiz from the Pew Research Center (now styling itself a nonpartisan "fact tank," cute). I scored a whopping 5 out of 100; not only am I not Millennial, I didn't even make it up to "Baby Boomer" (for which I'm centered in the date range).

The full report (take the quiz first, of course) says Millennials ("Generation Next") are
Open to Change.

Which I daresay characterizes me well enough. (And I have more reason to be confident than someone basing it only on hope.) "Open to change" is one of those things you might not be able to measure for yourself, though. Am I really open to change? I'm set in my ways, comfortable enough.... I watch more than an hour of TV a day (as do 57% of the Millennial respondents; in my case, the Newshour and The Daily Show are part of what keep me "connected" after all), and I read a newspaper, that's old school. The video game playing is kind of a red herring. The vast majority of everyone didn't do that in the last 24 hours.

Must be the "only a landline" that got me, and no text messaging. And I usually find Pickles funny, very "Silent" of me. (And what's up with "Silent" for everyone born from 1928 to 1945? Silent because they're not blathering on cellphones and Twitter? And you don't really think any Millennials have a long enough attention span to read a 149 page report do you?) Going through the response data, what I see is that we're more alike than different. Most people in every age group don't play video games, don't have tattoos, don't have piercings other than in their earlobes, and are spread across the political and religious dimensions they asked about.

1.Mar.2010 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Early spring Permalink to this item

Sure felt like it today: 2nd day running in the mid-50s, and sunshine. Crocuses are well up, daffodils coming, and we've got finches starting a new family in the eaves.

Spinning wheel Permalink to this item

It'll be one week tomorrow morning that my big PC's motherboard took early retirement, raising a stink and adding to the "disaster preparedness drill" that started with Westhost's fire suppression test gone bad, leading to many days' outage for way too many of its customers. If had gone out, it would've been the trifecta for me, but as it was, "only" my main PC and the church website I look after as "volunteer staff."

I would've been down for a much longer count had it not been for a trusty WinXP laptop that kept on ticking, with a somewhat synchronized set of files. (I do wish I'd done a more complete synch, though.) The hard drives survived, and I've got at least one copy of everything, multiple copies of most everything (and too many copies of a lot of things; but better three too many than one too few).

My main man had a 5-month-old Windows7 box that was way more buffed than the 5+ year-old DIY tower I'd built, and after the local PC shop pronounced the MoBo gone, I took him up on the offer.

Now, Windows7. My expectations were modest: don't make it too much harder to do the same things I've been doing with WinXP, and hey, if a useful new feature or two, that'll be fine. So far, no good. My rollover list included getting some basic tools and configuration in place, installing the software packages that I use frequently, and of course, copying the tens of gigabytes of useful files off my old disks.

That part went majorly pear-shaped as I learned about the thing people hated about Vista that Microsoft carried into the latest and greatest O/S: an absurdly over-protective "security" interface that obstructs more than it protects. The ease of home networking touted by their everyman marketing campaign might apply if you just happened to start from scratch and all your computers had Windows7, but how likely is that? The same legacy that has been the bane of their O/S development comprises those things we find most useful about computers.

So, we get a bucket of eye candy, a collection of selling points for corporate buyers, and a pig in a poke with a headache for just trying to get our work done. It'll be spring before I get back to my pre-disaster productivity.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Thursday, 01-Apr-2010 15:37:22 MDT