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Leap Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Bon mots after bad acts Permalink to this item

Maureen Dowd's on a roll today, with stories from the Greek tragedy that is the Republican contest for the presidential nomination. "Sanctorum" tops the other contender I saw on a blog, "Santorquemada," for subtle accuracy. Aeschylation. The Party of id, "the dark, inaccessible part of our personality ... chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations," as Freud called it, is out of control.

"[T]the GOP's id is unbridled. The horse has thrown the rider; the dark forces are bubbling. Moderates, women, gays, Hispanics and blacks—even the president—are being hunted in this most dangerous game."

What to make of the man with three degrees who thinks the president is a "snob" for supporting higher education—college, community college, post-secondary vocational training?

We assume he's not an idiot, but why is he acting like one? Whatever it takes to the get the nomination? "Reaching out" to Democrats to monkey-wrench the Michigan primary? (Which worked well enough: Romney "won" by a few percentage points of the total votes cast, but Santorum collected the same number of Michigan's delegates as Romney: one-half.)

Honey, who is that out there under our car? Permalink to this item

Sharon Fisher reports the sound of the other shoe dropping: the FBI out to collect the GPS units that they illegally (so sayethed the highest court) put on suspects' cars without a warrant. Not that I saw anyone in our driveway, but it seems there are some thousands of units to be retrieved. Simon Barrett of Blogger News Network:

"[T]he Supremes ruled in part that the placement of the devices constituted trespass. Will they now be forced to break the law again to retrieve them? What if these devices have been in place for months? At what point does the car owner own them? How soon before they are for sale on eBay? How many will simply disappear? How many people will have an FBI agent knock on their door? 'Hi I am agent Fred Blow of the FBI, and I want to crawl under your car to recover our very expensive GPS bug that we planted a while back.'?"

More than 140 character answer to a retweet Permalink to this item

Bailey Siewert: I mean, what are the odds that I'll actually use statistics in real life.

50-50? No wait, it's higher than that. Death, taxes, statistics. But then statisticans say we're bound for the Singularity. And Republicans vow to never raise taxes, and only lower them, so... wow, the only certainty in life is going to be statistics. "I guarantee it."

28.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mistakes were made Permalink to this item

The race in Michigan is too close to call! It's between someone whose wife drives two Cadillacs and has some of his best friends NASCAR owners, and the guy who wants to throw up, and then wants his throw up back. (Would it be rude to point out that you can't have it both ways?)

In the twist I didn't see coming, there's Rick Santorum encouraging Democrats who want to delay the Romney annointing (maybe for another 4 years, which would likely be "indefinitely"). C'mon over cross-over voters! Vote for the least likely, least likeable, least plausible candidate... because he's all for it! Can't get much more religious than enemy-of-my-enemy frenemies.

My god. Is Donald Trump still available on the ballot? Michelle Bachman? The Herminator? Rick Perry?! Anybody? I'm feeling a little hurlish myself. Speaking of frenemies, how about this reasoning for deciding how to cast your vote? Onjel Benson:

...decided to vote for Newt Gingrich because of his experience in Washington. "The Republicans don't like him, that's O.K. with me. The Democrats don't like him, that's O.K. with me. I think he has a plan, and he's the smartest one of them."

27.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sounds hysterical Permalink to this item

Thomas Jefferson: "It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my legs."

John F. Kennedy: "I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end—where all men and all churches are treated equally—where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice—where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind—where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the law and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their work in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood."

We've kind of added women and sisterhood, and a few more religions in the 51½ years since Kennedy spoke those words. Some day we might get around to atheists, too. (Thanks to National Public Radio and the JFK Presidential Library and Museum, by the way, you can not only read the transcript of JFK's speech, you can listen to a recording as well, which I just did.)

Ronald Reagan: "We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief, nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free, and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief."

Rick Santorum: "To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up. What kind of country do we live that says only people of non-faith can come into the public square and make their case?"

Yes indeed, what kind of country do we live in? The nice thing about Mr. Santorum's nausea is that he can use his straw man to wipe up his vomit as need be.

Reason to worry Permalink to this item

As entertaining as the never-ending race for the Republican nomination may be, Robert Reich spells out some cause for concern in the course of events. In short,

"A party of birthers, creationists, theocrats, climate-change deniers, nativists, gay-bashers, anti-abortionists, media paranoids, anti-intellectuals, and out-of-touch country clubbers cannot govern America."

Recent history makes it clear enough they can obstruct governance. We need more than that.

"America is a winner-take-all election system in which a party needs only 51 percent (or, in a three-way race, a plurality) in order to gain control. In parliamentary systems of government, small groups representing loony fringes can be absorbed relatively harmlessly into adult governing coalitions. But here, as we're seeing, a loony fringe can take over an entire party—and that party will inevitably take over some part of our federal, state, and local governments."

Making sense of the Eurocrisis Permalink to this item

Success has many fathers, it's said and failure has many analysts. What's up with the continent across the pond? Paul Krugman answers his own question about what ails Europe, boiling it down to a Ron Paul special:

"By introducing a single currency without the institutions needed to make that currency work, Europe effectively reinvented the defects of the gold standard—defects that played a major role in causing and perpetuating the Great Depression."

And what the failure is not: the ultimate indictment of the welfare state. The facts (damn those pesky facts) inconveniently disprove the most desirable of the morality play plots.

"[F]alse stories about Europe are being used to push policies that would be cruel, destructive, or both. The next time you hear people invoking the European example to demand that we destroy our social safety net or slash spending in the face of a deeply depressed economy, here’s what you need to know: they have no idea what they’re talking about."

The dreaded interview Permalink to this item

Reading Forbes' piece on 10 interview questions designed to trick you, I found it hard to maintain emotional detachment and consider the utility of the list separate from my own reactions to the possibly "trick" questions. I never asked any sort of trick questions of interviewees myself, and I can't recall being put on the spot these ways, either. But then all told, I haven't actually been through that many interviews on either side of the table. Lucky me.

And I certainly haven't been through any during this Great Recession a lot of people are still in. The first two questions seem like the ultimate Catch-22 for a job-seeker. If you're out of work, what's wrong with you? And if you're not out of work, aren't you cheating on your current employer by being here in this interview? The good news in the first instance is that you've actually cleared the unemployed need not apply hurdle that many companies have set up. And in the latter instance, you can come up with some heroic story about all the arrangements you had to juggle and the extra shifts you've pulled, because... well hey, you're smart and employed, right?

Number 4 on the Forbes list is at least, as they say, a "tricky" question, even if it's not intended to be a trick: Do you know anyone who works for us? What can you do besides tell the truth? If you've got a good connection, that's good. If you've got a bad connection... maybe it's just as well they don't hire you.

No. 8: Can you describe a work or school instance in which you messed up? Of course, you have to be able to. Pick one that's kind of funny, and one for which you have not just "an important lesson learned" from the experience, but a story of how you turned adversity into triumph.

And finally, if you survive the interview (of course you will), don't forget the Thank You Email.

25.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Just how personable are corporations? Permalink to this item

We know they can "speak" freely by pouring as much money into elections as they like, thanks to the Supreme ruling for Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Can they be held liable for tortious acts? (And which is more tortious, torture or outright murder?)

The SCOTUS will be hearing oral arguments in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. on Tuesday, a class action suit for "damages and other relief for crimes against humanity, including torture and extrajudicial executions, and other international law violations committed with defendants' assistance and complicity between 1992 and 1995 against the Ogoni people."

Peter Weiss, vice president of the Center for Constitutional Rights summarizes how we came to the question and what's at issue for the NYT Opinion Pages: Should Corporations Have More Leeway to Kill Than People Do?

Enumerate and lead on Permalink to this item

Photo by Robbie Giles, via The State Board of Education is perhaps thinking to itself "we didn't think this would be that big a deal," and it does remain an unfortunate sideshow from my point of view as a supporter (and beneficiary) of higher education in Idaho. The President of the U of I, refers us to the Tuesday presser, What is a Flagship University? with a pretty good description of what he was thinking when the university brought the term into their mission statement, inspired by the 1998 convocation speech at Texas A&M given by UC Berkeley's Chancellor, The Future of Flagship Universities. Maybe heavy inside baseball, but interesting reading about university "systems" that are often "unwieldy confederations of very different kinds of institutions," as Idaho's inarguably is. He highlights the success of California's system in providing "both universal access and the delineation of excellence":

"We have created institutions that are superior to the revered institutions of Europe and we have provided a model of excellence that is being emulated everywhere. We have combined graduate education with research in a fashion and to a degree that is not practiced anywhere else, and higher education has been one of our most important means of cultural exchange and the distribution of American ideals and values throughout the developing world, as thousands of students come here of study each year."

Update: Last word, maybe? Bill Roberts reports more nuances of the story in the Sunday Idaho Statesman. You've read most all of it here, already, except perhaps the innuendo that the word was a burr under Bob Kustra's saddle... and a conspiracy, you say? You didn't hear that from me, but you did hear that (a) most of the people in the state would roll their eyes one way or the other about what looks like a silly dust-up in the schoolyard, and (b) no one, and especially not the State Board of Education seems prepared to speak out in response to the idea of world-class excellence embodied in, and carried out through the likes of the California Master Plan. The political leadership in Idaho simply does not have sights that can be aimed that high.

Two Cadillacs Permalink to this item

It's either the title of a Rockabilly hit from half a century ago, the punch line to a bad joke, or... Mitt Romney going off-script at the Detroit Economic Forum event in the caverns of Ford Field. Charles Blow sums up the post-mortem of the Romneyan fantasy that his free market tough love for the auto industry would have made things even better.

Rick Santorum and John Winthrop Permalink to this item

A timely history lesson from Joe Nocera about Rick Santorum's conservatism, dating back to the "founders' forefathers": a Revolutionary Idea. Outdoing even the Puritans, Santorum sees us better off pre-Reformation.

"Winthrop's core idea—that the state must enforce God's laws —never completely went away. Well into the 1800s, a number of states, including Massachusetts, continued to have establishment churches. For much of our history, religion regularly seeped into civic life. In the 1950s ... Joe McCarthy used to rail at 'godless communists,' the implication being that America was a country that lived 'under God.' Indeed, President Eisenhower added that very phrase—'under God'—to the Pledge of Allegiance, with scarcely a whimper of protest."

23.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Smart graphic design Permalink to this item

Linked to the designer's blog post about it First time visit to, lured by the idea of U.S. Interstates as a Subway Map, or more specifically, as a design derivative of the iconic London Underground map springing from H.C. Beck's schematic that broke free of the railroad reality. Iconography is about abstraction, identifying the mnemonic essence; a map is about an aid to navigation.

Found on Fast Company's Co.Design site where it was "infographic of the day."

Day? What day? How did I get there? Don't remember. I could figure it out and explain, but that would spoil the magic maybe.

Also noted: the designer, Cameron Booth's clever monogram, his U.S. highway map in the same theme, and fabulous art prints, on the also interesting society6 site. Lots to like.

"Flagship" fracas still flapping Permalink to this item

Joel Mills of the Lewiston Tribune pushed a bit harder than I did yesterday, to discover that the University of Idaho's missionary statement of flagshipitude was, in fact, endorsed by the State Board of Education last year and freely waved for five months. (The SBOE 2011 meeting archive includes the revised statements submitted by BSU, ISU, UI and LCSC on pages 103-109 (of 179!) of the meeting agenda and the record of the 5-3 vote in the minutes of the meeting.

Thanks to Dave Oliveria's Huckleberries Online for the peek behind the Trib's paywall.

22.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Driving toward insanity Permalink to this item

It was three on one in tonight's debate for all matters of foreign policy, rabid fear-mongering cubed, versus Ron Paul's sane, measured, sensible statements of basic priniciple. Rick Santorum was near-apoplectic in accusing the president of the United States of timidity and characterizing Iran as the embodiment of all evil, "the most prolific proliferator of terror in the world." Andrew Sprung, quoted by Kevin Drum in his blog post on this last debate:

"When the discussion turns to foreign policy, there is nothing these three won't say to inspire the fear and hatred they think will push themselves past their rivals for the nomination and ultimately tear down Obama. Nothing. ..."

"Gingrich, Santorum, Romney. They are in different degrees and proportions liars, frauds and fearmongers (with an admixture, in Santorum's case, of sincere fanatic Islamophobia). One of them could be president. One of our two national political parties is degenerate. We are in peril."

In one word Permalink to this item

Ron Paul: consistent
Rick Santorum: sanctimonious
Mitt Romney: slippery
Newt Gingrich: megalomaniacal

Not that I'm a Ron Paul fan, but he is the only one of the four who came up with an honest and accurate self-assessment in the debate this evening when CNN's John King posed the challenge to the candidates to select one word to characterize themselves.

3 economic misconceptions Permalink to this item

Morgan Housel's trio on The Motley Fool makes me wonder how many other common sense notions I carry around that just aren't so. No sense in repeating the myths and risking reinforcing them, so here are the facts:

1. Less than 3% of personal consumption expenditures go to Chinese-made goods and services; almost 90% of US consumer spending is on American-made goods and services.

2. China owns less than 8% of US government debt outstanding.

3. Less than 10% of oil consumed in the US comes from the Middle East.

Making sense of Idaho's higher education Permalink to this item

The next act in Idaho's annual cycle will be the budgeting, as the "pointless distraction" over adjectives settles down and we start to wonder why we've been talking about mission statement mish-mash for most of a week anyway. Kevin Richert pointed out last Friday that while it's "nice" that the State Board of Education "loves all its children equally," the state's Legislature "has shown its love for higher education by whacking 26.4 percent off the universities' general fund budget over three years."

The "business friendly climate" the Legislature keeps saying it wants to create in our state would be greatly enhanced by strong institutions, a well-educated workforce, and all the cultural amenities that go with colleges and universities. (And don't forget football!)

The hard work has always been figuring out how to divvy up insufficient resources among competing interests and competing institutions, and as I read through the separate and strangely sorted lists of "primary emphasis areas" for four of the six institutions, I wondered about what all was coming and going, and what thinking was going into the governance decisions. As a graduate of the U of I College of Engineering, I've had a personal interest in that, but the center of population and big donors (mostly Micron Technology) long ago resolved that dispute to "both, and" rather than "either, or." Boise State got its own share of engineering resources, after UI's attempt to preempt it with University of Idaho, Boise left the flagship foundering on the University Place scandal.

Sprinkled through the pages of the instruction, research, and student affairs work session minutes that weren't intentionally left blank are tables of "areas of primary emphasis" for four of the six institutions, oddly sorted and with hard-to-follow comings and goings. I've organized them into two tables, the first showing the stated current areas of primary emphasis, and noting what is coming off the list:

Emphases continuing and being removed, Feb. 2012

And the second, showing the continuing emphasis, with the areas being added. Some of the name changes seem cosmetic ("Health Professions" becoming "Health Sciences"), but I suspect they all represent some important signals to the people involved.

Emphases continuing and being added, Feb. 2012

It adds up to six or seven areas of emphasis being downgraded, and a dozen added, change on a scale that would seem to require significant investment. Among the changes, Business is shown returning as an emphasis at the U of I, after that had pretty much been ceded to BSU. BSU to emphasize Nursing, previously shown only at Lewis Clark State College. ISU is shown adding Energy Sciences, a new category that sounds like a stalking horse for Engineering. And surprise, Arts and Literature at the State College in Lewiston.

In search of our missions Permalink to this item

After fishing around the university and State Board of Education websites a little yesterday to see what was what on the "flagship" dustup, and not finding any sort of public statement from the SBOE, I sent an email asking if there had been one. The Chief Communications and Legislative Officer, Marilyn Whitney, wrote back, and sent a couple of interesting references. She noted that:

"U of I's mission statement (dating back to 1998 with a slight update in 2007) does not contain the word 'flagship.' The update proposed and considered last week would have included that term. The board decided in a unanimous vote to remove that and comparative terms in other institutions' statements as well."

"Remove" is the way I heard the news, and what everyone has been responding to, but in spite of using that term, what she's saying is that the Board considered the proposal to add that word, and decided not to, which doesn't sound quite so heinous.

She pointed me to the "previous" mission statements of the 3 universities and 3 colleges under the Board's purview, along with its preamble, approved in April, 1998, and the work session document of the "proposed and approved" revisions from last week. Here's the process in bureau-speak:

"When an institution modifies its mission statement they follow a vetting process that includes departmental, faculty, and student input, buy-in, and support for proposed changes. Once that has taken place, pursuant to policy and accreditation standards, its governing board approves their mission statement."

Translating that to a procedure, and guessing who would lead the charge:

  1. An institution's leadership gathers input from administration, faculty and staff
  2. Leadership makes a proposal
  3. The Board of Education decides what, if any of that proposal to accept, and that's that.

So, then, however the U of I carried out their part of that process, they produced three paragraphs that started with the sentence:

"The University of Idaho is the state's flagship and land-grant research university."

The Board unanimously decided they didn't like "comparative terms," so refashioned that to

"The University of Idaho is the state's land-grant research university."

Their work session document shows the one tweak on the U of I, and heavy markup of BSU's single paragraph (that did not involve comparative terms):

"Boise State University is a public, metropolitan, research university offering providing leadership in academics, research and civic engagement. The University offers an array of undergraduate and graduate degrees and experiences that foster student success, lifelong learning, community engagement, innovation and creativity. Research, and creative activity and graduate programs, including select doctoral degrees, advance new knowledge and benefit students, the community, the state and the nation. The University is As an integral part of its metropolitan environment and is the university is engaged in its economic vitality, policy issues, professional and continuing education programming, policy issues, and promoting the region's economic vitality and cultural enrichment."

They struck the modifier "statewide" from ISU's mission of "leadership in the health professions and related [fields]"; leadership being a fine thing to to assert in any event, but just not comparative, intramural leadership. We're all in this together.

21.02.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Redistricting redux Permalink to this item

After the first commission failed, the second commission came up with a plan the Supreme Court rejected, the goodest old boys on the Republican side tried to fire their appointees, the appointees said we're not leaving, the A.G. and S.o.S. said no, you can't fire them, and commission #2, unamended, came up with the plan we're going to live with for the next decade, it's all over but the shouting and the ton of paperwork local election officials will need to get done before the May primary.

In terms of shouting, we've got competing Reader's Views in the Idaho Statesman. Lou Esposito opened fire first, providing an all-purpose, truth-in-advertising disclaimer quote from Mark Twain. He imagines that the two commissioners in question, Dolores Crow and Randy Hansen,

"were appointed to the Redistricting Committee only after agreeing to a very direct and difficult assignment—follow the law, serve the citizens of Idaho, ask for help when needed and keep House Speaker Lawerence Denney and GOP Chairman Norm Semanko informed of any attempts to interfere with committee business—including the progress of the committee and the eventual approval of the maps."

Hard to put too bald a face on political hackery, and the committee members did have the direct and difficult assignment of following the law and serving the citizens of Idaho. Beyond that, we're in the figment orchard of Esposito's, Denney's and Semanko's imagination. It was most certainly not the committee members' "assignment" to keep Boss Denney and lame duck Semanko "informed."

Esposito's appeal to the authority of "a top constitutional attorney" (Christ Troupis) and the Idaho GOP's own attorney (Jason Risch, son of Idaho's junior Senator, Jim Risch) is slightly pathetic. We had great attorneys, so we figured we had a good case? Esposito complains at how "disappointing" it was "that the state attorney general's office was so obviously out of its depth throughout the process, with a consistent pattern of ill and bad legal advice," but then none of its opinions were overturned. (Don't miss the comment by "JamesBond" below Esposito's rant.)

George Moses, from the first committee will have his rebuttal run as a Reader's View in tomorrow's paper, and Kevin Richert provides a preview today. Moses didn't call on Samuel Clemens, but his admonition works well: "If history is to be rewritten, best that it be rewritten accurately."

"Esposito also makes a disturbing assertion; that commissioners owe some sort of obeisance to their appointing authorities. Our understanding, and that of our appointing authorities, was that we served on an independent commission with a duty to the Constitution and people of Idaho. No one else. We consulted with many in the course of our work; we took direction from none. Or, as Mr. Esposito so delicately puts it, we did not 'ask for assistance' from party or legislative leaders."

Flagship down Permalink to this item

We've got Idaho® Potatoes, the Best Snow in Idaho (6" in the last couple days, and more on the way, 14°F at the summit this morning), and a week ago, the venerable University of Idaho was the state's flagship university, as you could read right there in its mission statement. The U of I opened in the fall of 1892, and awarded its first undergraduated degrees in June, 1896.

In a nod to Harrison Bergeron, the State Board of Education reportedly felt "the word 'flagship' simply carried too much weight, suggesting a special prominence over the state's other universities. "We don't want to do anything that tries to indicate prominence, or to not encourage [the state's universities] to work together," SBOE president Richard Westerberg said.

The U of I's president, Duane Nellis is not happy, but presumably the SBOE will not get to tell him what he can and can't say in his welcome message on the university's website, so the message of "premier land-grant research university and flagship institution" will live on to some extent.

The student body president started an online petition to the Board, noting that "U-Idaho graduates nearly twice the rate of any other Idaho public institution and receives 74% of all research funding in Idaho."

BSU 4-yr grad. rate: 6% Meanwhile, down in the state capital where the Board met, and where the institution once known as Boise Junior College started awarding baccalaureate degrees seven decades after the state's first university, some folks are decidedly feeling their spuds, as it were. One of those 6-panel "what I do" photoshows (the latest thing making the rounds on Facebook) highlighted a small number in a big font for BSU's graduation rate, about an order of magnitude lower than my retired university professor spouse guessed it was. Six percent, really? Yes, really, according to the National Center for Education Statistics; BSU's 4-year graduation rate is 6%. Its 6-year graduation rate is running just over one-fourth, 26%. By comparison, the U of I graduates 24% of its enrollees in four years, 55% in six.

Update: Guess I should read the morning news before blogging away: the chairman of the U of I Foundation and the president of the U of I Alumni Association had their Reader's View opinion in today's fishwrap, that metaphor removal hurts all Idahoans. And they explained it in terms the locals can understand:

"Imagine the State Board of Education telling Boise State that it could no longer refer to itself as having a top-ranked football program? What if it could only refer to the Broncos as just another Idaho public university football team, no better or worse than the rest?"

20.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mystery man Permalink to this item

Speaking of Frank VanderSloot, Idaho multimillionaire, poltical mover and shaker, and national finance co-chairman for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, rumor has it that his multilevel dietary supplement and cleaning product marketing enterprise has taken steps to keep itself off of Wikipedia.

As of tomorrow (GMT), there's a terse entry for the man, but nothing about the company. The botanical name the company appropriated for its own use, yes, but not the company.

The closest you can get is Melaleuca Field, home of the Idaho Falls Chukars minor league baseball team you've never heard of. ("Chukars" is what the locals call the introduced partridge, Alectoris chukar, when they go out to shoot them. And the national bird of Pakistan.) The baseball park was named in honor of the company after it chipped in slightly less than half of the $1.3 million needed to tear down the last ballpark and build a new one on the same spot.

What could possibly go wrong? Permalink to this item

If we don't get quite as far as the combination of science fiction and comedy that is the idea of flying cars, the good news about unmanned aerial vehicles filling the air is that no aeronauts will be going down with ships. For folks on the ground, the news might not be so jolly, however.

Acknowledging the possibility for problems, the FAA has initially said it wouldn't allow anyone but governments and hobbyists to sport drones around the airwaves. Because... commercial interests would be more dangerous than hobbyists? And of course, one can always trust the government. For "as little as $300," and using your iPhone as a controller, you too can be a drone pilot.

Sounds kind of fun, actually. Any good drone will include a camera, and you can count pygmy rabbit holes, sage grouse, or sunbathing neighbors. Get ready for a burgeoning UFO craze, a market "valued at $5.9 billion," and poised to—sorry—really take off, doubling in the next decade.

Another race I'll never win, place, or show Permalink to this item

My tolerance for the boredom of plain old running with no ball involved has been limited to a maximum of about two miles. There's no way I'm going to run a marathon, or even a half-marathon, no matter how lovely the scenery might be along the way. (Long distance bicycling, on the other hand, allows one to proceed at an appropriate site-seeing pace without excessive exertion, and is quite salutary. Doesn't even have to be all that long distance.)

Combine running 13-some miles with a reasonable chance of horrible spring weather, an entrance fee, and the necessity to be in the crowd of the first 2,100 lucky people through the wickets in a scant 9 minutes to even have a chance to stand at the starting line? Fuhgeddaboudit.

19.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Some phoney theology Permalink to this item

If only sanctimony were a good measure of valid religiosity. But no. Juan Cole: Ayatollah Santorum excommunicates Obama, mainstream Protestants. Eh, what's this? "Not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology." Not that we're about to have a religious test of some sort for the office of President, but if we were, Rick Santorum would be failing.

"Just as Santorum has excommunicated Obama and the other mainline Protestants, so Muslim fundamentalists such as Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966) in Egypt declared mainstream Muslims to have departed from the faith. In Islam this is called Takfir or declaring someone to be an unbeliever even if the person considers him or herself a believer. Sunni Muslim authorities, and even the Muslim Brotherhood, reject the practice of takfir. Thus, Santorum is more extreme in this regard than the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood."

18.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Getting to know all about you Permalink to this item

Image from Hot off tomorrow's NYT Magazine, courtesy of David Pogue's tweet: How Companies Learn Your Secrets. It features Target, but the same story applies to "any other large retailer" as well.

"For decades, Target has collected vast amounts of data on every person who regularly walks into one of its stores. Whenever possible, Target assigns each shopper a unique code—known internally as the Guest ID number—that keeps tabs on everything they buy. 'If you use a credit card or a coupon, or fill out a survey, or mail in a refund, or call the customer help line, or open an e-mail we've sent you or visit our Web site, we'll record it and link it to your Guest ID,' Pole said. 'We want to know everything we can.'

"Also linked to your Guest ID is demographic information like your age, whether you are married and have kids, which part of town you live in, how long it takes you to drive to the store, your estimated salary, whether you've moved recently, what credit cards you carry in your wallet and what Web sites you visit. Target can buy data about your ethnicity, job history, the magazines you read, if you've ever declared bankruptcy or got divorced, the year you bought (or lost) your house, where you went to college, what kinds of topics you talk about online, whether you prefer certain brands of coffee, paper towels, cereal or applesauce, your political leanings, reading habits, charitable giving and the number of cars you own. ..."

Update: the author, Charles Duhigg has a book coming out, end of the month: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

She is the very model of a modern Major General Permalink to this item

Get a load of China's first lady-in-waiting, Peng Liyuan, "showing off her vocal pipes" as well as a very smart, crisp uniform. I like our current First Lady just fine, but this one from China is something to look forward to.

17.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Waiting for God Permalink to this item

Glenn Greenwald lifted up an Idaho rock and shines a light on the wriggling creature found underneath: Frank VanderSloot, Melaleuca headman, national finance co-chair of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, and big-time funder for the Restore Our Future SuperPAC. The latter has the same jolly business model of any manner of dietary supplements and cleaning products, VanderSloot's own business, and the religion Frank and Mitt share: Recruit your friends!

Nevermind the absurdity of a millionaire preaching frugality while running a business selling things people don't actually need.

Having not—yet—experienced the man's "chronic bullying threats," I am not—yet—"petrified even to mention his name," and am happy to promote Greenwald's piece, the recipients of his bullying including 43rd State Blues and Jody May-Chang, Dan Popkey's blurb (even if he keeps calling the guy "Greenwood"), Huckleberries Online, Eye on Boise, and anyone else who wants to shine a light on his tactics. Greenwald:

"[M]any people who threaten to bring [bullying defamation] suits—especially those with deep pockets making threats against those who cannot afford to defend themselves—know full well that it will never get that far because the threats themselves will suffice. That's the dynamic that has to change, and (this is addressed to any lawyers for VanderSloot and Melaleuca reading this) this is the dynamic that will change if someone stands up to these pernicious tactics."

Delegate arcana Permalink to this item

Idaho GOP p.r. touts "that Idaho's 32 delegates are more than Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada!" Yes, 32 is more than 28, and much more than 12. It is not, however, more than the 68 total delegates those three states will have, making the lead sentence illiterate in multiple dimensions. How is it that crazy Idaho gets more than states with twice the population?

Take a tour through some amazingly cocked-up rules for allocating delegates this year. 10 for all states, 3 per Congressional district, 3 party leaders, and bonus delegates! And penalties for miscreant states! (New Hampshire, you know you are.) Idaho may be tied for second-to-last in electoral votes (4), but we are #30 in delegates, larger than Michigan (with 16 electoral votes), Arizona (11), South Carolina (9), and yes, New Hampshire (same 4 electoral votes as we'll have). Go figure.

How long did you test that? Permalink to this item

Chevy Volt ad says they've tested their shiny new battery for "395,000 hours" which you may recognized more easily as 45 years. Does that mean they started in 1967, when, um, battery technology was a little different? Of course not. They didn't test a battery for almost 400,000 hours, but sure, they've racked up that many battery-hours of testing, and can probably make some good inferences and extrapolations about a few things.

Our Prius battery was assembled and installed about 11 years ago, now 3 years past its warranty (still well short of the 100,000 miles they offered, but "lesser of" and all), still going strong. The Prius fleet is doing pretty well from what I hear (and don't hear), with some 3 million sold, so I guess they have, what, billions of hours of battery testing? So far, so good.

Brain Friess Permalink to this item

Rachel Maddow seems entertaining enough in snippets, but I get tired watching her for very long. Still, this segment on the issue of contraception, Rick Santorum, Rick Santorum's billionaire supporter Foster Friess, and much, much more in the politicians vs. women's health realm is interesting viewing.

The assault on religious liberty angle is getting good mileage on the talking head circuit. Mike Huckabee saying "we are all Catholics now" takes that trope from its quiet repose in the cliché bin to crazy self-parody.

"Somebody rang a bell somewhere, and now it's a Republican scandal, apparently. And so now, even in the face of public polling data that shows this to be politically suicidal, Republicans are running full-tilt against contraception, offended by policies that they themselves supported, demanding that those policies be rolled back and that we not only carve away access to contraception for people who work at religiously affiliated institutions, but that we let all employers deny access to contraception ... [or] anything, and thereby get rid of health insurance as we know it."

Maddow takes us back to the dawn of erectile disfunction advertising in the late 1990s—Bob Dole's swan song—to the present day, and a strangely medieval slant to the lighting, Roy Blunt in the halls of Congress proposing to let any employer can opt out of any health care insurance provision, as long as they say it's for "religious" reasons (or a "moral conviction"). Of course, for-profit corporations have as their 1st Commandment "make money," so a religious justification is easy to come by. Corporations are people too, remember, and who's to say their religion isn't as valid as the old-fashioned kind? (In a nod to those who had their first sexual and/or traumatic health experiences in a car, Blunt's trying to attach his amendment to a highway bill.)

16.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Did he really say that out loud? Permalink to this item

Grover Norquist, on the not-so-delicate process of settling on a Republican nominee:

"We are not auditioning for fearless leader. ... We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don't need someone to think it up or design it. The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate."

As quoted by, and commented upon by David Frum on The Daily Beast. The President just needs to sit there and wait for the glorious (Republican-controlled) House and Senate to deliver legislation, and have "enough working digits to handle a pen."

I'm not that big on hero worship, or imagining that some fearless leader is all we need, but a wait for essential leadership out of the Congress seems a rather forlorn prospect.

Space is a mess Permalink to this item

It's still mostly empty, of course, but with close to 20,000 objects larger than 10 cm in the same orbital realm where our satellites do their thing (and our space station and its astronauts do their things), it's only a matter of time before something crashes into something else.

Leave it to the Swiss to come up with a program to clean things up: CleanSpace One.

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

Judging severity Permalink to this item

Maybe the "severely conservative" meme will die a quiet death, but it has created some funny moments, such as Richard Viguerie complaining that he'd never heard anyone say that in any of his born days, and then adding that "Romney has shown, once again, that he can mouth the words conservatives use..."

But, um, they don't use that, you said.

Paul Krugman addresses the ball and hits a long, straight drive into the fairway, on Romney's "gift for words" and something "clearly gone very wrong with modern American conservatism." Defending medieval Crusades (they rather liked George W. Bush's as well), denying science, modeling tinfoil hats, and increasing reliance on "fantasies and fabrications."

They have gazed too long into the abyss, and now the abyss gazes back, as "a base that really believed in all the hokum."

Simple and complicated Permalink to this item

Ira's Fountain, Portland, Oregon I woke up thinking about The Most Important Discussion in the World, and my favorite dichotomous joke came to mind. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who think there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who know it's more complicated than that.

Not exactly conservatives v. liberals, but it's in that vein. One of my liberal friends posted a link to a video of Judge Napolitano ranting about unity, and not the good kind:

"What if what we call 'public opinion' was just a manufactured narrative that makes it easier to convince people than if their views are different, then there's something wrong with that, or there's something wrong with them?

"...What if the heart of government policy remains the same no matter who is in the White House?"

It's the attraction of Ron Paul and his candidacy. It may be why the Republicans can't find a candidate they agree on, after affirming disagreeability as their highest principle.

The choir I'm in sang this past Sunday, for a worship service on the theme of love. We sang words from 1 Corinthians 13:13, and Z. Randall Stroope's setting ("Caritas et Amor") of a tenth-century antiphon, Ubi Caritas.

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est
Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor

That is,

Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ's love has gathered us into one.

I was raised in one of those One True Faiths, which did not take on me, in spite of the occasional application of corporal punishment. I branched out, and in my better moments, in the same direction as Karen Armstrong. In July, 2009, Armstrong spoke at TED, on the topic "Let's revive the Golden Rule", a theme which Ron Paul briefly visited in one of the many recent debates (and which, to my horror, many in the partisan crowd booed; not feeling all that Christian nationy).

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est. Saecula per infinita saeculorum. Amen.

13.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Out of sight, out of this world Permalink to this item

New Horizons tracking graphic, out past Uranus With a busy 24/7 news cycle, you might have forgotten about NASA's New Horizons mission, given that it was launched 2,216 news cycles ago. When the mission was conceived, and the Lockheed Martin Atlas V lit up, Pluto was still a "planet." Now twenty-two and a third AU out, New Horizons crossed the orbit of Uranus almost a year ago; it'll be another 2½ years to get to the orbit of Neptune, and 1,246 days to reach our most famous dwarf planet and its four (!) moons before heading into the Kuiper Belt.

Discovery News' coverage includes a look back to Sol, "reduced to a bright dot seen against the backdrop of constellations," one four-hundredth the brightness (not counting our lovely blue sky) that we know and love.

Newt, meet petard Permalink to this item

The National Review's editors combine to annoint Rick Santorum as the new leader in the anybody-but-Romney race for the Republican nomination, while skewering the previous not-Mitt presumptor as a talented "resource" for any future Republican president, but noting the "grave mistake for the party to make someone with such poor judgment and persistent unpopularity its nominee."

"It is not clear whether Gingrich remains in the race because he still believes he could become president next year or because he wants to avenge his wounded pride: an ambiguity that suggests the problem with him as a leader. When he led Santorum in the polls, he urged the Pennsylvanian to leave the race. On his own arguments the proper course for him now is to endorse Santorum and exit."

They're not going to set the bar too high for Santorum, though: no need for "sensible policy" prescriptions ahead of time, let's see if he can run a national campaign, first. (What's he been doing so far?!)

11.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's about the shared responsibility of health care Permalink to this item

Page Mill and I-280, 2001 Whether you love or hate the Obama administration decision to require some religious institutions to provide for no-added-cost contraceptive coverage for their employees' health care insurance, or think the modification of the mandate was a first step (wait, did we say that out loud? We meant unacceptable), an appropriate accommodation, or a waffling capitulation, you can't deny it has inspired a ton of creative writing. And the predictable (didn't the administration see it coming?!) outrage and overheated rhetoric. My god, this is a war on religious freedom! Isn't it?

Actually, no, it isn't. It also is not a reason to conclude that

"Obamacare and the mandate must be repealed, destroyed, burned, and the ashes of its political proponents scattered as an object lesson to anyone in the future who might entertain another go at such tyranny."

as Pat Archbold's "refreshing spin" on teh crazy paints it.

"A government that can mandate that you buy something and mandate what it is you buy" sounds like tyranny indeed, except for the fact that we—as a society—are going to pay, one way or another (and sooner or later) for citizens' healthcare, unless we adopt the libertarian model of pay-as-you-go. Can't, or didn't buy insurance and don't have the money to pay? Sorry, we can't stop that bleeding you got there.

The question is not one of religious rights, it's about corporations versus individuals. Does the corporate church have a right to say what is and isn't acceptable health care, or whether you may or may not have any? Religious employers shouldn't have to make moral decisions on behalf of their employees, and their employees shouldn't have their access to healthcare be a "fringe benefit" of their job.

But if you want overheated and intemperate rhetoric lighting up the blogosphere let's just close this chapter and go back to discussing the necessity of universal, single-payer healthcare, why don't we? That's the question "Obamacare" didn't address, the capitulation to industrial interests that led us to where we are this weekend.

OMG! VOA Permalink to this item

This girl Jessica Beinecke can sure represent me. Skip ahead to the video sample of her show for motivation to plod through the text. We saw the feature about her on the Newshour last night (in the "education" segment), so knew it was a hoot. OMG! A great comic face, a cute, perky blonde, sounds like perfect Mandarin (how would I know?), and a window into our culture via slang, explained. Easy to see why thousands are tuning in to her "cross-cultural platform where everyone can come and discuss our cultures and our languages, and our day-to-day and how similar they are." Otherwise known as... the Voice of America, 2.0.

10.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's not about religious freedom, it's about women's health Permalink to this item

Gail Collins' Tales from the Kitchen Table expresses the problem with the howling and the rending of garments over the new health care insurance provision that yes, even Catholic hospitals and universities have to provide for insurance for women's health as the women see fit, and not just as the bishops see fit.

"Organized religion thrives in this country, so the system we've worked out seems to be serving it pretty well. Religions don't get to force their particular dogma on the larger public. The government, in return, protects the right of every religion to make its case heard."

But not to coerce others to follow their notions of morality.

Still, the Obama administration has responded to the calculated firestorm with a calculated retreat: "in cases where non-profit religious organizations have objections, their insurance companies will be required to reach out to employees and offer the coverage directly."

Unless maybe it's a Catholic insurance company?

Funny how this works Permalink to this item

Republicans, who never met a tax cut they didn't like, are fumbling all over themselves to come up with more unrelated baggage to pile on to legislation they're figuring the Democrats must pass. Or else... fine, we'll just let them expire! And blame the other side, of course. Think that'll sell? How about no unemployment benefits unless you have a high school diploma? And can pass a drug test? Freeze federal workers' pay for another year? Delay some environmental regulations while we're at it?

That's right, our two months have gone by, making it Groundhog Day in Congress, as Rosalind Helderman wags it. We know how hard Republicans fight for tax reductions for the 1%, but for 160 million wage-earners? Not so much. And more importantly, even though it actually has not been two whole months, there's the one-week February recess coming up. It's the... uh... President's Day recess, that's it. You know how cranky a bunch of kindergartners can get if they don't get their recess!

9.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

That's fine with the House Resources Committee Permalink to this item

Listened to much of the committee hearing via Idaho Public TV's Legislature Live audio feed. I was struck by the Committee's expressed willingness to look on the sunny side, to accept the assurances of those in favor and to overlook all expressed concerns about the hoped-to-boom oil and gas industry in the state, as committee members sent it on with a "do pass," and a unanimous vote.

I accept that HB 464 does provide for local Planning and Zoning oversight, to some extent (right after it declares the legislature intends to "occupy the field of the regulation of oil and gas exploration and production" in the state), leaving the p&z "authority granted cities and counties pursuant to chapter 65, title 67, Idaho Code," with which I'm not initimately acquainted.

But I think Justin Hayes of the Idaho Conservation League brought up the most important issue, in that the new law would rather magically define away the problem of toxic chemicals being disposed of by injection. Idaho Code 42-3902 currently defines "Injection" to mean "the subsurface emplacement of fluids through an injection well." The revised section would explicitly exclude

"the underground injection of natural gas for purposes of storage; and the underground injection of fluids or propping agents, other than diesel fuels, pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations related to oil, gas or geothermal production activities"

from the definition of "injection," and likewise exclude

"any well drilled for oil, gas or geothermal production activities, other than one into which diesel fuels are injected pursuant to hydraulic fracturing operations"

from the definition of "injection well." No need for logic in the law, apparently!

Lobbyist Roy Eiguren representing the Idaho Petroleum Council, was given the last word, and I found his self-congratulatory observation that "this is Idaho coming together" inappropriate. He's a lawyer, with a client whose interests are not necessarily aligned with those of the people of Idaho, and to recite his history of working on the side of government is misleading at best. If he's happy, it means the party he represents got what it was after.

One of the other proponents for the law, and the industry, responded to the criticism from an opponent that "these things blow up" by saying "I haven't seen any explosions." So that's that, and I'm sure there won't be any trouble in Idaho, because we're very special.

Bending over for backward for oil and gas Permalink to this item

Here's an opinion piece from the Idaho Chapter of the American Planning Association about the industry-driven legislation making its way through the Idaho Legislature, with a hearing this afternoon before the House Resources and Conservation Committee.

The Idaho Chapter of the American Planning Association (IDAPA) represents over two hundred planning officials, private-sector planners and planning commission members throughout Idaho. Our members are concerned with proposed draft legislation, specifically House Bill No. 464, currently being rushed through the State Legislature at the behest of the oil and gas industry.

Our concerns are specifically centered on the proposed bill's amendment of Idaho Statutes 47- 317 creating the State of Idaho’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the addition of a new Section 3. The new section invests the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission with unlimited authority to regulate and approve the siting, development, and operation of oil and gas wells, as well as the siting of transportation and production facilities. This creates a class of land uses that would be exempt from local land use regulation, the traditional purview of cities and counties within Idaho. We believe this is unnecessary and unwise.

The IDAPA Board is aware that House Bill No. 464 has been modified somewhat to address the concerns of the Idaho Association of Counties and the Association of Idaho Cities. While the amendments are a slight improvement over the original, we remain opposed to the bill for the following reasons:

Make no mistake; this is a bad bill for the residents of Idaho’s communities, both large and small. Idaho has never been a state where citizen’s desire centralized government decision making. Land use development and regulation is a matter of local control that is best decided through an open, transparent, and local process as mandated by the Local Land Use Planning Act. While we support legislation that encourages the responsible development of resources and the creation of jobs, we do not see the need to sacrifice local self-government to do so. We are mystified as to why the Idaho Legislature would abrogate longstanding law for a single class of land use. . .

The Idaho Chapter of the American Planning Association respectfully suggests that the legislature consider alternatives for providing technical assistance to local governments in the regulation of oil and gas developments rather than overriding the provisions of the Local Land Use Planning Act. We have offered and continue to offer our membership’s assistance in the development of a model ordinance that local governments, both cities and counties, could adopt to regulate oil and gas extraction, transportation and processing. And we still support the right of Idaho’s citizens to exert local control over the health, security and character of their communities.

American Planning Association, Idaho Chapter
Daren Fluke, AICP, President

7.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Legislating reality Permalink to this item

Doonesbury is having a jolly run right now with an imaginary (ok, I hope it's imaginary) business, myFACTS, "home of optimized reality." They're selling sets of facts made to order, $29.99 and available for immediate download. Art is of course imitating life, even as life imitates art.

In the latter realm, Bruce Bartlett opines on part of the Republican agenda, to tilt the budgeting process such that it will permanently favor tax cuts, and avoid run-ins with reality. Bartlett is not exactly a flaming liberal: he was a member of the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, and served on staffs of Representatives Jack Kemp and Ron Paul. His alarm at "a smokescreen to incorporate phony-baloney factors into revenue estimates to justify unlimited tax cutting" carries more weight as a result.

Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan (R-WI), took a run at the smokescreen last year, buying a set of facts from the Heritage Foundation's Center for Data Analysis rather than using the dusty government approach from the the Congress' own Joint Committee on Taxation or Budget Office. (Expect him to make another try this year.) Bartlett:

"I am also suspicious of what appear to be politically motivated investigations into C.B.O. by Republican congressional staff members, reported on Feb. 2 by The Wall Street Journal, and Republican efforts to gut the Government Accountability Office.

"As I have previously noted, this fits into a pattern—since getting control of Congress in 1995, Republicans have often abolished institutions that they couldn't turn into puppet organizations for promoting their agenda.

"In other words, it is an issue of credibility. Republicans don't really care about accurate revenue estimates; they just want them to show that tax cuts pay for themselves, so they can pass more of them without constraint. As my fellow Economix contributor Simon Johnson has noted, the corruption of the agencies that produce budget data is a crucial cause of Europe's debt crisis."

(My emphasis.)

Well-coiffed and well-oiled Permalink to this item

Given that Congress is held in remarkably low esteem, Speaker of the House John Boehner blames everyone —anyone—other than himself. It's the Senate! (As in, the Democrats in the Senate, wink wink, nudge nudge.)

I watched the interview on last night's Newshour and in between talking back to my TV, I noticed that Judy Woodruff raised the essential issue on the payroll tax cut shuffle, to which the Speaker did not give a meaningful response:

JOHN BOEHNER: ...We passed a year-long extension in the payroll tax credit in December.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But it included material the White House - the administration, Democrats were never going to go along with.

JOHN BOEHNER: We had reasonable offsets in spending that, most of them, came from the president's own budget. And so we've done our work. We're in conference with the Senate trying to come to agreement. But it's pretty clear that our Senate colleagues want no part of cutting spending. ...

"Your work" is passing a bill you knew was unacceptable to the Senate, and the President? We'll give you an Incomplete on that one.

This just in Permalink to this item

"We think we can communicate through the clutter."

Newt Gingrich is a candidate for President of the United States! And he's going to the convention in Tampa. Mark his words. It's about his obligation to his small donors. And championing the poor and their access to trampolines. And a lower minimum wage.

Nice to have him opining on others' "greatest fantasy," but he didn't get around to the Obama campaign's; which would be that Gingrich campaigns all the way to Tampa.

Terrance Heath breaks down the strategy of what looks like mutual assured destruction... in order to cement that meme that moderates are bad for Republican chances? So he can make another run in four years? Seriously? Just imagine how tired we'll be of hours of Newt Gingrich debating anyone, everyone, anywhere, everywhere.

I mean, it's fun for a while, but not forever.

"...If you can't tell the truth as a candidate for president—which is by the way a charge that has been made by McCain, by Fred Thompson, by, by Huckabee—if you can't tell the truth as a candidate for president, how can the country possibly expect you to lead as president? And I frankly was stunned. I, I make no bones about this. In the second Florida debate, I had nothing to say, because I had never before seen a person who I thought was a serious candidate for president be that fundamentally dishonest, and it was blatant and it was deliberate and he knew he was doing it."

[question from the press, couldn't hear, it, but asking for specifics, apparently]

"I don't want to tell you now. [Squinty-eyed sardonic smile] Please, Jeff [expansive gesture, arms wide, palms up], you have to give us a few trade secrets."

6.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

And I'm offended by Karl Rove. So what? Permalink to this item

Super Bowl Sunday is Bizarro Day for the DVR, I zipped over chunks of the program, but made sure to let the ads play, something I just don't do any more. Most seemed like failures, of good taste, or of persuasion (or in the case of all those trying to sell Bud Lite, both). One of the standout productions was Chrysler's comeback meme, for Detroit, and America, featuring Clint Eastwood's inimitable presence.

But somehow Karl Rove read Chrysler's marketing genius as a campaign ad, and told his foxy friends he was "offended". Imagine that, pretty thin-skinned after all these years. The offense of the idea of corporations in bed with politicians is laugh-out-loud funny coming from him, even if he can't tell the difference between Detroit style and "Chicago style." And never mind that the auto industry bailout was a bipartisan effort, spanning the Bush-to-Obama transition.

But Rove has never been about making sense, just scoring points. I do hope he was rooting for the Patriots.

Update: Andrew Rosenthal takes some similar jabs at the easy target, with the helpful reminder that the greatest businessman ev-ar (and well-heeled son of a Michigan Governor) decried the "wasted billions" of the government helping keep Chrysler and GM alive.

Finally cracking down on that voter fraud thing Permalink to this item

Turns out the problem wasn't so much with showing ID at the polling place, but the Indiana Secretary of State, guilty of six felony counts.

"Prosecutors said he used his former wife's address instead of that of a condominium he had with his fiancée because he did not want to give up his $1,000-per-month Fishers Town Council salary after moving out of that district."

Secretary of State and Town Councilman, you have to admire a guy who can handle multiple jobs. And truth in advertising, Charlie White listed "election integrity" as one of the "major issues" of his 2010 campaign. Sure enough!

It's kind of interesting that the Governor is slow playing replacing the guy, because maybe the Judge will dial down the felonies to misdemeanors. Even while White is lashing out (on Fox News, that's nice) at Governor Mitch Daniels for doing the same thing.

5.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Unintentional humor Permalink to this item

On the way to observing that the remnant crop of Republican aspirants are not that funny (bring back the Herman-ator!), Mark Leibovich has some good ones under Four Candidates Walk Into a Bar... The "anti-candidate" who didn't make the cut, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan (who?!), provides a rather pithy insight about the contest:

"With the absence of humor, you're not dehumanizing and objectifying your opponent, you're dehumanizing and objectifying yourself. In great comedy, the actors believe they are important serious people and the audience knows otherwise."

Or they, um, act like they're serious people? Newt Gingrich gives a pretty strong impression he's not acting, so maybe that's why he doesn't come across as funny ha ha ha. Self-deprecation should be an easy ask for him, he's got no shortage of material. But that genre requires a generosity of spirit he doesn't muster much. Running for president is serious business, after all.

4.Feb.2012 Permanent URL to this day's entry

But Idahoans were duly impressed, I'm sure Permalink to this item

Ok, I'll admit I missed the not-quite obvious opportunity for pointing and laughing when our ID-01's Congresscritter and seven of his freshman pals held a press conference with a big, phony check representing the money they didn't spend from their budgets that they were going to "pay back" and use to reduce the national debt by 0.00001%. I thought it was just the amount that was laughable, but maybe that's mean-spirited. Every little bit helps, right?

Yes and no. Stan Collender points out that getting A cash advance on your MasterCard to make a payment on your Visa doesn't actually improve your credit score, or reduce your debt. It's not like we gave the boys a wad of cash for walking around money and now they're turning it back in. They didn't spend as much as they might have, so we didn't have to borrow as much to cover the expenses... but that doesn't bring money into being.

"If you're shaking your head at the stupidity of this situation... congratulations: You understand it better than at least eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

"For the record, the eight anything-but-financial-geniuses are Jeff Landry (R-LA), Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), Joe Walsh (R-IL), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Kevin Yoder (R-KS), Raúl Labrador (R-ID), Steve Southerland (R-FL), ad Mick Mulvaney (R-SC)."

Silent supporters Permalink to this item

If English were the sole language of our government, I suppose the story would have come from Greenwood H.S., but Palo Verde sounds a little nicer. (And didn't Las Vegas used to be in Mexico, anyway?)

Trip Gabriel's snippet of retail politics in a caucus state is short and charming, but I had to wonder, in a group of 22 people, with almost everybody going with the finally front-running Romney, why wouldn't the two for Ron Paul and the one for Gingrich be willing to say something—anything—for the candidate they chose?

Anyway, all eyes on Nevada, where 50,000 or so registered party-goers will hammer a few more nails in the campaign coffins of the remaining Rick, and Newt. Ron Paul will tag along to the convention, we know, and Romney will win the nomination. The only suspense left is to see how unctuous Gingrich can be in whatever speaking slot he's allotted in the summer arena, before his next ride into the sunset.

Groundhog Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Beat the heat Permalink to this item

One wag wondered if Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow meant that we would have some winter, which we really haven't. Ok, it's been dark, and cold, and even snowed a little once or twice, but compared to what we're used to it just hasn't amounted to much. Which bodes badly for the hot season to come, promising something dry, burning, and smoky. But I do not come to praise, nor bury the weather, but rather Spay Neuter Idaho Pets, Inc. and its cleverly cute event marketing. In addition to $19 vouchers for spaying ("Beat the Heat!"), you might like the 4th Annual "SPAY" ghetti No Balls fundraiser.

If your pets could read, they would give those puns an "ouch." But a worthy cause, to be sure.

Be still my heart Permalink to this item

What better holiday than Groundhog Day for Donald Trump to pop up again, and endorse Mitt Romney? In Las Vegas.

It seems that Mitt has reached either a sufficient state of craziness, certainty of capturing the nomination, or both, for Trump to reach a state of pronouncement. If it's sunny in southern Nevada, expect 6 more weeks of campaigning.

And, as Gail Collins points out 9 months of Mitt Romney talking will produce a mighty stream of strange insights about the rest of us, as seen by the very rich.

An endorsement from the Donald will be perfect.


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Monday, 17-Dec-2012 16:23:50 MST