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Hallowe'en Permanent URL to this day's entry

Something creepy on the boil Permalink to this item

As the "indignation theater" about allegations of spying around the world plays out, here's something to think about for the holiday shopping season, reported by the BBC News: chips implantedin electric irons and teapots, with microphones, or cameras, and/or Wi-Fi capability to "keep you connected," as it were. Russia's finding them in imports from China.

Hey, we get some stuff from China too, don't we?

So here's a partial fix-bill Permalink to this item

Senator Ron Johnson's (R-WI) proposal is cleverly titled If You Like Your Current Health Plan, You Should Be Able To Keep It, and has Idaho's two Senators among its co-sponsors. The thing is, if we're going to make insurance more broadly available and more affordable (for some people, anyway) by broadening the pool with a mandate to have insurance, we can't possibly accept any old policy as good enough. There have to be some standards. Did the PPACA set the standards too high? If so, they need to be adjusted, but there are a legion of devils in the details, and I'm guessing rough seas in front of a Republican Senate bill.

Especially one as ridiculously simplistic as this one, with no standards to meet whatsoever. I'll go ahead and pronounce this dead on arrival. It might make a nice party decoration tonight, but it amounts to a cheap publicity stunt, to capitalize on the yes, overstated promise that Obama made about keeping coverage.

Cue more crying shame, eh? The question should be, how much coverage should people be required to have? and if the PPACA got it wrong, fix it. But to see that yes, lots of people are getting cancellation notices (for good, bad, and "can't tell" reasons) and to wave this foolscap around in the Senate is just more pointless theater.

Which is what I just emailed off to Risch and Crapo:

As one of your constituents likely to have an existing health care insurance policy that I like well enough but may not be able to continue, and believing it may well be an adequate policy (not "junk"), I'm quite interested in a potential fix. But I looked at Ron Johnson's bill that you're co-sponsoring, and OBVIOUSLY, THAT IS NOT IT AND WILL BE DEAD ON ARRIVAL IN THE SENATE.

It's more cheap theater. There MUST BE STANDARDS for an insurance mandate to make sense. You're smart enough to know that, and also smart enough to know Johnson's bill is not adequate.

I'm really fed up with Congress playing games and wasting my money and not doing anything useful.

Last light Permalink to this item

At Lance Pitman's Arcadia St. Cemetery, 2010 Enjoying my last day of the convenient mashup of my gmail, NYT, NPR, Wired, BBC, Slashdot and stock market feeds, and the handy bucket of static links and the Weather gadget which is not nearly as good as my view out the window and an outdoor thermometer.

But still. What do they get out of turning off a mature product that "just works"? Damn it.

Yes, there are alternatives, none of which bowled me over on the first look a few days ago, and all of which require me to figure something out, and do something, which really, I'd rather not have to do.

Nor do I have to, so I'll just wait to see what sort of sorry face Google paints on come daybreak tomorrow. Best possibility is, they have a "JK" logo for the day, and don't mess with my home page.

Update: Adding irony to insult, about the time I was watching The Daily Show last night and seeing Jon Stewart's joke about Google's ability to hide barges and stuff, I had an email offering me a custom URL for my Google+ profile, woot. It was from Google+ team <> and the click-through process led to a step involving "give us your mobile phone number, or give up." Um, sure, ok, I give up. How hard do you want to work at keeping Google+ from reaching relevance, I wonder?

30.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Opportunity lost Permalink to this item

It's a crying shame that Congress didn't spend some time between when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed—3½ years and a month ago!—and today working on refining and improving it, because lord knows, it's going to need some refining and improving. Various provisions were kicking in along the way, but it wasn't until just this month when turned on (such as it did) that the rubber met the road and millions of us started to see that hello, this actually will affect me! Quite a bit!

Instead, we got the National Lampoon version of a Congress, where know-nothing Tea Party clowns insisted the only way forward was to first repeal everything. Because an absolutist, no-compromise ideology works so well as a political strategy, don't you know. (And yeah, I thought of all this before Obama said something like it today. "If they put as much energy into making this law work as they do in attacking the law, Americans would be better off.")

Last night's Newshour featured a segment with Jonathan Gruber, "a health economist at MIT who's considered one of the many architects of the Affordable Care Act," and Robert Laszewski, "a consultant to the health insurance industry," and captured a good bit of the present drama rather well. Laszewski came across as justifiably mad as hell, as someone who's "been in the health insurance business for 40 years" and who had "a gold-plated Cadillac plan," for which Blue Cross just sent him a cancellation notice.

Is it possible to "distinguish between anecdotes and the larger question[s]," as Gwen Ifill tried to get the two men to do? Even if "vast majority" of 19 million is overstated and it's just a non-negligible fraction of 12 million people in the individual insurance market who are not going to have "grandfathered" policies, that's some millions of anecdotes of people who aren't going to get to keep the policy they might be happy with.

I'm a few months shy of a cancellation notice, but I'm presuming I'm one.

ROBERT LASZEWSKI: In the individual health insurance market, it's very common for people to increase their deductibles in order to avoid rate increases. My estimate is something like 80 percent of the people in the individual health insurance market between now and December 2014 will not be able to keep the plan they're in.

Those will be some of "Obamacare's losers," as Ross Douthat put it in his blog this week, in one of his several interesting analysis pieces in the last two weeks, looking at the nexus of ideology, legislation, unintended effects at suboptimization in process.

"Based on what we've seen from premiums to date, the individual market's “mandate-regulate-subsidize” setup isn't creating a universal benefit a la Medicare or Social Security or a means-tested benefit paid for through progressive taxation: rather, it's creating a bifurcated system in which protections for the lower middle class and the sick are funded in part through what amounts to a flat tax that falls most heavily on people making just slightly higher incomes."

29.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Tales from the crypt Permalink to this item

Former Vice, Richard B. "Dick" Cheney is flouting his book, which might have been titled "I Did it My Way" or "The Empire Strikes Back" or something a lot more entertaining than whatever it is titled, talked to Bill O'Reilly and blamed the Obama administration for failure in Iraq. Yes, that's astounding. We could have kept a military presence in Iraq, and all would have been well. (You know, like it was before we left.)

What did we get out of it? O'Reilly wanted to know.

Cheney has no answer to that question, so he answers the one he wants to: we were very afraid. O'Reilly presses him to answer the question.

If there had been any substance to what we wee afraid of, it would have been very frightening. Oh, and Moammar Khadafy, he just rolled over because of fear of our military. See how smart we were!

Dick Cheney says he doesn't want to pass judgment on whether Karzai is corrupt, that's rich. He was "our guy when we needed him." (He's happy to pass judgment on Obama, but not Karzai.)

In Dick Cheney-land, we must rule the world. We don't have the choice not to.

"Our adversaries no longer fear us and our allies no longer trust us."

Enough time has passed for me to feel a dab of nostalgia for Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon on occasion. If things ever get so bad that nostalgia for the time of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney is in order, I'm happy to say I'll be long dead by then.

I'm presuming the book tour will reach its peak on Hallowe'en, and our former veep will vanish with the morning dew on All Saints Day.

Are you happy now? Permalink to this item

CNN reports that "The Obama administration offered its first formal apology to Americans and Congress for the botched rollout of the website for people to enroll in the President's signature health care plan."

Yesterday's news included a soundbite of an indignant Congressperson complaining that he hadn't heard anyone apologize yet in the hearings.

So there you go.

Acknowledging error does not, of course, fix anything, but it's the first step on the way. Marilyn Tavenner, who runs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said

"I want to apologize to you that the website does not work as well as it should." The website "can and will be fixed" so that the "vast majority" of consumers can use it smoothly by the end of November, she added.

28.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Funny story about a subsidy calculator Permalink to this item

Obamacare costs and subsidies, per the Kaiser Family Foundation The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation did just what I figured could have (and should have) done: write a compact little webform-based subsidy calculator that doesn't require account creation, round trips to a server or connecting to any databases. (I'd seend the link somewhere, opened it in another tab, but hadn't gotten around to looking at it before going through the Hx experience.)

Ten inputs and a submit button. State, ZIP, income selector for "2014 dollars" or "% of poverty level", annual income, employer coverage available yes/no, number of people in family, number of adults enrolling, age, smoker yes/no, and number of children enrolling.

For a household of two, poverty level = $15,510, and in Idaho (as in many other states) the results start with Your state has not decided expand Medicaid, which it has the option to do, for anyone under 138% of the poverty level ($21,404 for a household of two).

From 138 to 400% of the poverty level, there is some level of tax credit subsidy, and at the lower income levels, a reduced out-of-pocket maximum. Beyond 400% of poverty, you get to choose bronze, silver, or gold, and pay the government-set maximum price (I presume). Or get a not-government-approved plan (or not), and pay the fine. Or make sure you never are owed a refund come tax time, and the IRS will never be able to collect your fine, until Congress closes that loophole, which they probably will.

Let's chat about the Hx Permalink to this item

A the end of my first login session, I had occasion to use the chat interface, which did allow me to connect anonymously (call me Ishmael) and had the usual chat-phatic and delays, but eventually provided me with confirmation of a reasonably straightforward Q/A: I've got a few extra months to close the deal. Editing a bit for brevity:

[12:01:33 pm]: Welcome! You're now connected to Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat. Thanks for contacting us. My name is Jacqui. To protect your privacy, please don't provide any personal information, like Social Security Number, or any other sensitive medical or personal information.

[12:02:53 pm]: Tom
Hi Jacqui. I have a current health insurance policy with a renewal date in May, 2014. Is my understanding correct that I have more time (beyond the March 31 date I see on to get squared away through the exchange?

(chat status says "Agent is typing..." while I was typing. Hmm. Was she? Or is that miswired?)

[12:07:14 pm]: Jacqui
After March 31, 2014, you can get new private health insurance through the Marketplace for 2014 only through a special enrollment period if you have a qualifying life event such as a job loss, birth, or divorce.

[12:08:40 pm]: Tom
But I have private health insurance now, and it runs through April 2014. Are you telling me that getting a policy through the Hx requires I cancel/replace my existing policy?

[12:19:50 pm]: Jacqui
Thank you for your patience. You are correct, losing coverage would qualify for a special enrollment. I've included the list. They include:

[12:22:09 pm]: Tom
Thank you. You answered the question in the affirmative, but I posed it in the negative. Just to be sure... Do I understand correctly that when my current policy ends on May 1 (or whenever the exact date is), that is a qualifying event for special enrollment?

[12:23:00 pm]: Jacqui
That is correct. first looks Permalink to this item

A few years shy of Medicare age, and without an employer to conveniently provide me with health insurance, I'm part of the intended audience of the Affordable Care Act's Healthcare Insurance Exchange. As a sometime web application designer, I'm also interested in how this thing works (or doesn't work). But since I've got a policy that runs through April of next year, and since I don't expect any software beyond modest complexity to work out of the box (or to work well at first), I was not in the big queue of real or pretend customers on October 1st. (Plus I was too distracted by the government shutdown.)

Still, my time will come, so with this month's kerfuffle starting to settle down, I gave it a whirl and set up my account while watching game 3 of the World Series Saturday night.

The account setup had a few hurdles, but it worked well enough. I set aside actually logging into my confirmed account until today. Other than seeing a "system unavailable" message from the first try at the login page, I didn't encounter any significant problems. (Navigated to the home page, and followed its "log in" link, got in on the first try.)

I see that there's a great deal of complexity involved in walking through the estimates to determine eligibility for subsidy. All of that could have been done with a one or two-page "eligibility estimate calculator" web form, I think, letting it be no commitment, private, and requiring NO roundtrips to the server, rather than this series of very small, one or two or three inputs at a time steps that ultimately required dozens of round trips to the server(s).

I went through the eligibility determination, receiving a machine-generated letter at the end. Maybe I'm eligible for a tax credit, but only if I go through the Hx to get a policy, and depending on how my wild guesses about current and future income actually turn out.

Jen Cardello of the Nielsen Norman Group has weighed in on the Hx usability with a list of 10 guidelines it breaks. (Never mind the meta-guideline she breaks: "lists don't have comprise 10 items, you know.") First and most important and I agree completely with:

1. Allow users to see the product/information before registering

and yes, I did notice that the username creation criteria were a bit much, if not "incredibly confusing." Some might be confused, as will some folks have trouble coming up with a good password. But the trouble with

5. Use email address as username.

is that email addresses change all the time. Anyway, this instruction from the Hx:

Choose a unsername that is 6-74 characters long and must contain a lowercase or capital letter, a number, or one of these symbols _.@/-

is crazy. My failure and Jen's failure show us that there's an AND in the criteria, which cannot be parsed out of the instruction that sounds as if it's all "or": { letter | number | symbol }. (Not that that would make any sense, but that's a literal reading.) What I found worked had only letters and '_', but jen's email address which included letters and '@' and '.' did NOT work. They're not telling us— in a(n item #7) "specific and actionable error message" what's wrong.

6. Simplify password requirements.

I overlooked the "different from your last six passwords," ugh.

9. Remove unnecessary steps


Gimme that old time religion Permalink to this item

Rafael Cruz "It's said this way: that God is looking at the church and everyone in it, and deciding in the next three and a half years, who will be his bankers."

Hands go up in the audience, volunteers affirming their readiness to preacher Larry Huch at the New Beginnings Church in Irving, Texas. I'd say I didn't see that coming, but thanks to Bruce Wilson's report on alternet actually, I did.

Hadn't ever heard of Ted's dad Rafael Cruz before, but he makes a hell of an impression.

Cruz père reminds the congregation of God's exhortation to be fruitful, multiply, and then be anointed as "kings" to go the "battlefield" of the marketplace and "take dominion."

Take dominion over everything, people. It's the end times transfer of wealth, don't you know.

"The pastor referred to Proverbs 13:22, a little while ago, which says that the wealth of the wicked is stored for the righteous. And it is through the kings, anointed to take dominion, that that transfer of wealth is going to occur."

(The printed words don't do justice to the delivered message. Watch the video. And do not trouble yourself with the context of Proverbs chapter 13 or the fact that the particular ditty referenced is about providing for your children's children more than stealing from sinners.)


"We knew that if the son was like the dad, we could trust him to be our senator."

And yeah baby, "the Senate is just the beginning. It's, it's gonna be much, much, much, much higher." Oddly for all that muchness, the pastor is visioning the understated but still mind-boggling destination of "supreme court justice or vice-president." I guess vice-president like Sarah Palin became vice-president, maybe.

But in the meantime, it's worth noting that this taking dominion and transferring wealth is not the pie in the sky, by and by sort, but rather the wink, wink, nudge, nudge, giddy-up sort. Wilson:

"...Ted Cruz' apparently notable role in getting George W. Bush into the presidency led in turn to Bush's 'Faith Based Initiative' - that continues to this day under two successive Obama administrations and which, during the Bush years, funneled billions of dollars to churches and institutions associated with the religious right.

"In other words, the 'great transfer of wealth' is about more than wishful thinking. It's about an ongoing effort, by leaders and institutions of the evangelical right, to gradually gobble up the secular sphere of government."

Those would be the same megachurchs who flout the injunction against electioneering by 501(c)(3) non-profits. What, is the IRS going to come and get Pastor Huch's tax exemption out of Irving, Texas?

25.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Flying under the radar Permalink to this item

Crabapples and chain link at Elm Grove Park Sounds like great fun to barnstorm the state of Idaho in a neighbor's 4-seater on a sunny fall day, especially if you can round up a campaign donor to buy the gas. But Betsy Russell's first post about Lawerence Denney's tour to announce his candidacy for Idaho's Secretary of State has a "how many things can you find wrong in this picture?" sort of feel.

With government shutdowns and spectacular website failures in the news, the man who wants to be in charge of the state's paperwork couldn't be bothered to get his campaign website updated in time for his announcement tour, even giving himself 10 days' notice.

Denney said updates to his campaign website will be up "shortly." He said he planned today's announcement tour now because of the good weather. "We picked this day 10 days out, and we are very, very fortunate," he said. "It's a beautiful day."

His campaign slogan might be "better lucky than good!" if he "planned" on good weather 10 days out. What else is he planning? He's planning on keeping all the SecState staff who do the good work after he replaces the head man.

And he could be planning a considerably more comfortable retirement with a single term in the top job giving his PERSI benefit a more than 6X boost. Could be the answer to a farmer's prayers. "That's right" and "Amen."

In Boise (the state capital, don't you know), a couple dozen supporters showed up, and there was no advance notice to the press.

John Miller's report for the Associated Press highlighted Denney's pitch to tilt at the windmills of "election fraud allegations," and to keep the Land Board from getting into any more commercial property. House majority leader Mike Moyle, one of Denney's lieutenants back before Denney got voted out of the Speaker's chair also sniped about the current Secretary, Ben Ysursa having "gotten sideways with the party on some issues."

Put another way, the Idaho Republican Party's rightmost wing got sideways with the Secretary of State, doing his job for the people of Idaho, and here comes Lawerence Denney to fix that right up.

Update: Russell's follow-up story on how Denney killed the bill that would have kept former legislators as he's hoping to be from spiking their PERSI benefit.

23.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Smells like a big opportunity Permalink to this item

Long before the digital age, a proponent of temperance wrote a letter to the editor with a punchline declaration that alcohol is the excrement of yeast for aversive therapy. It did not dent my affection for beer, but it did prompt me to write one of my better LTEs, which ran under the headline "Living in a Plant Sewer." The oxygen, don't you know.

But wait, there's more! Much, much more. The co-founder of Amyris in Emeryville, California, a "pioneer in the field" according to Andrew Pollack's account for the NYT talks about genetically engineering organisms to produce assorted organic molecules in equivalent terms:

"It's just like brewing beer, but rather than spit out alcohol, the yeast spits out these products."

"Spitting out" sounds a little better than you know what, but only a little. Still, we're talking about a single cell organism, with none of the apparatus for doing anything unseemly. They're just teeming microbiological factories for turning sugar and oxygen into ethanol and carbon dioxide.

With a little synthetic applied biology, the output can also be tinged with a little je ne sais quoi. Vanilla-, saffron-, patchouli-, mosquito repellent- or malaria drug-scented. Or orange-flavored.

"It's really environmentally friendly. The whole process is sustainable," said Toine Janssen, chief executive of Isobionics, based in the Netherlands.

Here's the part that struck me, buried in the middle of the piece, past the discussion of potential economic and agricultural disruption and environmental benefits and whether this products should have to be labeled GMO or not:

"By shuffling DNA, partly by design and partly at random, robotic systems at Amyris produce and test tens of thousands of yeast strains a month."

My emphasis, which preceded the question that came to mind: what could possibly go wrong? Maybe we can get some science fiction out of this, too.

22.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Run for your life Permalink to this item

The Arcadia St. Cemetery, 2010 In keeping with the Hallowe'en theme that is expanding to fuel the end-of-October economy, while we wait for Thanksgiving shopping to kick in, my Congressman, Mike Simpson is whistling as loud as he can past the Republican Party's graveyard. He said, or said he said, or at least wrote with quotation marks,

"Now is not the time to eat our own..."

Obligatorily, I am not making this up. Think of it as the other Simpson's Tree House of Horror.

Apart from the unintended holiday humor however, the "press release" on the Congressman's House website is most assuredly not about the closing exhortation ("Let's get to work") but all about the most believeable sentences in the center:

"It is about winning. I want to win."

Nevermind "Idahoans deserve the truth," but about how he wants his intended audience to vote for him over his primary challenger, the politically blank slate whose Club for Growth-driven campaign is working to paint Simpson as not right-wing extremist enough for ID-02.

First and foremost, Simpson wants to say that the Affordable Care Act is "government run health care." And secondly he wants us all to know it as "Obamacare," so that we can simplify our contempt for it. And thirdly, and most importantly (for the "our" he's talking to), he wants us to know that his 11th-hour vote to not drive the government over the cliff should not—NOT, not, not—be taken as supporting this despicable Obamacare in any way, shape or form.

The shutdown was a strategy, not a core principle, people. "The only disagreement between Republicans over the last few weeks has been over strategy, not policy," and his having "ultimately opposed the strategy of shutting down the government and threatening the U.S. credit" was because it was a losing strategy, although he did not come right out and say that word.

I'm in complete agreement with him on that point, and my complaint before during and after has been that Simpson didn't help House Republicans stop the losing strategy sooner. (It's not just Republicans; everybody is losing.)

His "vision" for a health care system is first and foremost (and second, third, fourth, ... and forty-second) about "full repeal of Obamacare." Make no mistake! Once we get that done, free market and stuff.

Still, the comments on his Facebook page under the teaser and excerpt show what he's up against. Ed Prescott:

BY-BY - TURM LIMITS, No more fat cats.

And Lisa Smith:

You blew it last week, done

And the slightly more nuanced take from Doug Mcniff, whistling a different tune, "constitutional respresentation":

"We expect more. The republicans dont have a different direction than the democrats, it's a matter of velocity. The republican leadership is on the same track as the democrats, just behind. Idaho needs constitutional representation first. Mike, show us, don't tell us. I have voted 42 times is lost on me. In the end the republican leader negotiated it all away."

My own take on the scene, and as part of Simpson's potential audience at least (I'll put on rose-colored glasses for the primary if need be) is expressed by Mr. James Kent:

"I wouldn't be bragging about the 42 times you've engaged in wasted effort. Pass a jobs bill like you promised. Or how about immigration, a farm bill, or investigating domestic spying, since you have so much time on your hands."

21.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Let's go shopping Permalink to this item

One nice thing about being a Senator is the license it gives to pontificate about matters you know hardly anything about. You could read Dr. Seuss in a filibuster, say, or be Marco Rubio and pile on to the criticism about On the estimable Fox News Sunday, Rubio pronounced that "In the 21st century, setting up a Web site where people can go on and buy something is not that complicated."

Do tell, Senator! How many shopping websites have you set up? How many websites have you used and found to be flawless?

I'd be especially interested in the ones that worked from day 1 with a few million or tens of million users trying to get in and kick the tires, under national media scrutiny.

20.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Inside that guy's head Permalink to this item

George Will might have been going for "fair and balanced" in his criticism of the president and the intransigent Tea Partiers, and leading with a sentence that combines tautology with self-indictment in one handy package: "Much is wrong with Washington these days, including much of what is said about what is wrong."

Fungus among us I'm not going to go after all of Washington, nor all of the opinion writers about Washington, nor the Tea Party nitwits for a change, just Will, and just his observation about Obama's "self-regard,"

"the scale of which has a certain grandeur, reinforces progressivism's celebration of untrammeled executive power and its consequent disparagement of legislative bargaining."

So much to unravel from that Brobding-dangling phrase. The first is that Will has reached inside the president's head and pulled out the man's self-regard for our examination, as if he were Hamlet and considering a fictional life for dramatic effect.

Not just this one man with a certain delusion of grandeur, but all of progressivism! Celebrating untrammeled executive power! (Alas poor Richard B. "Dick" Cheney, whose own such celebration we thought would be the apotheosis of unitarity.)

"This is why Obamacare passed without a single vote from the opposition party — and why it remains, as analyst Michael Barone says, the most divisive legislation since the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act."

(Thank heaven for hyperlinks so we can be learn all about that 159 year-old benchmark in a 4 year-old piece by Michael Barone, describing his fresh sting from the more recent "legislative legerdemain and political trickery" of the Affordable Care Act. Why stop at Medicare, the Civil Rights Act or Social Security when you can polish your antebellum bona fides?)

The meme of "disparagement of legislative bargaining" may be more recognizeable in the recent Tea Party wailing about the president "refusing to compromise," or worse, "refusing to negotiate," which is why the fact we ended up with a budget within spitting distance of Paul Ryan's idea and a good 20% lower than Obama's proposal is a strangely unheralded miracle.

Also why we still have sequestration, the compromise so horrible that Obama's bet was neither party would let it come into being, and instead would be forced to actually do some legislative bargaining.

But give Will credit for dressing up his ad hominem attack on Obama along the way to exhorting the Tea Party to stop being a bull in a china shop, lacking the ability to "translate intelligent intentions into achievements." It is elegant and esoteric and has appeals to authority.

Much more handsome than the example given by "ardent independent" Tom Woodall's letter to the editor at the figurative and literal bottom of the Saturday stack, deriding the "arrogant, inexperienced neophyte" and "recognized ultra-liberal with radical supporters" whose two election wins poor Woodall finds it "impossible to understand." Let's cut to the chase:

"Think about this: He never speaks lovingly about America. Raised outside our country, did he hear Kate Smith sing 'American the Beautiful' or listen to the Lone Ranger, or his grandfather telling him how Americans saved the world during World War II? Did he eat hot dogs at a July 4th picnic while watching a patriotic parade, play Little League while his father cheered? No. Instead he faults us—claims we are ignoble; creates envy, divisiveness; incites disrespect to those with differing opinions, lowered U.S. standards to Chicago gang level. He is a demagogue. Wake up America."

The tempting response I can not avoid: I know you are, but what am I?

18.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Working out our differences Permalink to this item

One of my favorite Senators is going to be on the budget conference committee. Hooray for Bernie Sanders, and Paul Ryan's worst nightmare.

"In a sense, what Paul Ryan is saying is yeah, I lost the election. It doesn't matter. I want you to implement all of the ideas that I campaigned on and lost. You know what? The American don't want to see cuts in Social Security, or privatization of Social Security, They don't want to see cuts in Medicare. They don't want to see cuts in Medicaid. They don't want to see the EPA abolished, the Department of Education abolished. They don't want to see the VA privatized. They don't want to see the minimum wage, the concept of the minimum wage, done away with so that the people of America could work for four bucks an hour."

16.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Not to put too fine a point on it Permalink to this item

The New York Times editorial board, on The Republican Surrender:

"The Republican Party slunk away on Wednesday from its failed, ruinous strategy to get its way through the use of havoc."

And did we mention?

"The only things Republicans achieved were billions of dollars in damage to the economy, harm to the nation's reputation and a rock-bottom public approval rating."

So, not a total loss. The downside is that short-term deal guarantees we'll be watching the tawdry sequel in January and February.

The House did its job at the 11th hour—literally—with some nice bipartisanship, too: all 198 Democrats joined 87 Republicans to pass the bill. Opposed? 144 Republicans. One gross.

Just goes to show how wrong you can be Permalink to this item

In its 2012 endorsement for the Republican candidate for the Senate seat of Kay Bailey Hutchison, the Houston Chronicle described Ted Cruz as "one of the shooting stars of the 2012 election season." Hard to imagine a more prescient description. A brief flash of light and momentary heat from a tiny piece of space debris being incinerated in the atmosphere. That it looks like a "star" for the briefest moment is, as we all know, an illusion, uncounted orders of magnitude away from reality.

Cruz might fit in a sentence with John Cornyn well enough, but with Lloyd Bentsen and Lyndon B. Johnson? I don't think so.

And now neither does the Chronicle. They've retracted their endorsement, making the rather easy observation that Cruz "has been part of the problem in specific situations where Hutchison would have been part of the solution."

This is what losing looks like Permalink to this item

Is the WSJ "Review & Outlook" on their reporting or editorial side? They've always had good reporting, and execrable editorializing, so I'm guessing the former, but with a subhead of "It's time to wrap up this comedy of errors," no byline and a headline with a big French word, it sorta seems like an expression of opinion. But all I get is the "subscriber content preview" of The Debt Denouement, so what do I know?

They've captured the Zeitgeist, however, with "melodrama," "dreary end," "the small band of 20 or so House conservatives who have been all but running the House since this fiasco began" and "blundered" "out of politial pique."

Fiddling Permalink to this item

While we teeter on the brink, one of Idaho's Congressmen will be taking time today for his monthly talk with national and district media and bloggers. Free lunch for news media! Boldly quoted:

While questions are not limited to particular topics, Members are expected to discuss the government shutdown, the debt ceiling, ObamaCare, as well as other issues!

You think? Oh, I have a question, Congressman. Aren't you embarrassed to be such a blatant whore for media attention, while you're crashing the government?

His tweets about his monthly gaggle are at least relief from the tiresome tout-stream.

ICYMI, I was on @TheLeadCNN yesterday talking about the debt ceiling

I will be on @TheLeadCNN at 4:10 pm ET to discuss the latest with the debt ceiling. Hope you can tune in!

VIDEO: I was on @ThisWeekABC discussing the #shutdown and debt ceiling

I will be on @ThisWeekABC on Sunday to discuss the #shutdown, debt ceiling, + news of the day. Check local listings

VIDEO: I was on @CrossfireCNN yesterday discussing the government #shutdown and the debt ceiling

I'll be on @CrossfireCNN tonight at 6:30 ET with @rosadelauro. Hope you can tune in!

AUDIO: My interview w/ @MorningEdition about the govt #shutdown + debt ceiling

I will be on @AC360 at 8 PM ET tonight. Topic: Latest with the #shutdown

ICYMI: @IdahoStatesman: #Nampa High students find a way around Capitol, Library of Congress closures

Ah, ICYMI, Congressman, the taxpayers are funding your salary, staff and media operations with a budget into 7 figures. When are you planning to do your job in any way, shape or form?

"I will continue to fight to repeal ObamaCare in Congress until the job is done." - Raúl Labrador

Update: Rocky Barker reports that Labrador says conservatives weren't pushing to defund Obamacare, only delay it, without mentioning that OMG YOU'RE KIDDING RIGHT BECAUSE YOU'VE BEEN ALL ABOUT REPEAL




like, for instance with the Labrador Statement on Obamacare Repeal on his website, and here, here, here and here.

Gravity Permalink to this item

We are witnesses to some spectacular history being made, to be sure. We live in interesting times. The shorter version of some of it:

A very small-minded man had a big idea: let's shrink government to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.

After 8 years of Republicans in the White House, and one debacle after another culminating in the economic crash so bad we called it Great, slightly more than half the country had the temerity to elect a black man as President. The central feature of his campaign was "Hope."

The financial crisis had reached the point that many people on both sides recognized the need for unprecedented government intervention.

Hell's Canyon sunset That was bad enough, but when some of that intervention actually seemed to work, a little bit, something had to be done to reverse course. A collection of government has-beens and corporate interests cooked up (or tapped into, take your pick) the grassroots Angst and delight in fancy dress to create the TEA Party, harkening back to the colonial revolt against being overtaxed by the monarchy.

"Taxed Enough Already" is the expansion of that little acronym, and symbolizing the "libertarian" notion that really any tax is more than we care to pay. Our tax rates were modest, and for the briefest moment at the turn of the millennium, they nearly balanced our spending. Time to divvy up the spoils, using the basic rule that "Them that's got shall have."

After the public larder had been well and truly raided, TEA Party theater became the rage. Sales of guns, ammunition and three-cornered hats went through the roof. A rag-tag brigade rode the wave to seats in Congress, celebrating their inexperience and willingness to challenge the status quo, and break things for as long as necessary to get rid of that black man in charge.

A small but single-minded minority was able to obstruct congressional action on most everything, and drive the federal government to the brink of default. The establishment Republicans rode the tiger. The President and Democrats blinked and made concessions. Sure, the country's credit rating took a justified hit, but you have to grind a few gears if you're going to throw it into Reverse!

In a misguided attempt to put a stop to the tactic of extortion, "sequestration" was hatched as a consequence so horrible that surely both parties would come up with something better to avoid it.


The TEA Party rump and Grover were fine with that, however. Less is More! Weakness is Strength! Ignorance is Bliss!

And since driving the government (and economy, and country) worked so well, let's do it again!

This time, the President and Democrats realized the madness of capitulation and did not blink, did not ransom the hostage, did not offer terms of surrender.

We started shutting down the government.

Even the formerly rational Republicans joined the chutzpah chorus to say "this is all the Democrats' fault!"

But our leaders insisted that we surely would not go over the bigger cliff of defaulting on our sovereign debt, because that was unthinkable. (Except for some of the leaders of the insurrection who started saying gee, maybe it wouldn't be all that bad.)

We'll work out a deal at the last minute, was the plan, and the deal will be short-term, because we can't agree on hardly anything, but in one, or two, or six weeks, or maybe 3 or 4 months tops, we'll roll out Armageddon IV to get everyone so frightened we can actually come up with prudent legislation that will take us to a prosperous future.

But the House—the Republican majority in control of the House, and its leader, the Speaker of the House, John Boehner—has lost its way. Collectively, it has learned how to say No to everything and anything, and forgotten how to say Yes. The endless rehearsals with symbolic Bills to Nowhere, known by all to be DOA in the Senate are now all it knows, all it can do.

Government is shrinking.

Some of the corporate masters pulling the TEA Party strings may be pleased with this result, but an increasing number have recognized that this could end very badly.

Asked whether he really wanted to drown the government in a bathtub, Grover Norquist smarmily said "No. We want it down to the size to where it would fit in a bathtub. And then it could worry about what we were up to."

You might think the "we" is imperial; Norquist's stature could make you think of Napolean. (You might also want to ask him about the creepy implication of the metaphor he came up with.) But Norquist disclaims his personal role in enforcing the "pledge" that all good Republicans were supposed to take, to never, ever vote for anything that would make taxes go up, and accept the consequences from a nationwide political machine designed to execute deserters.

It was just a simple-minded, simple idea that could win. People don't like taxes, by and large. They're fine with the goods, services, infrastructure and direct payments that governments provide, but they'd just as soon not have to pay for all that with their own money.

Just one nagging question left: where is the jobs program, exactly?

15.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

This is just not on Permalink to this item

Email today, footered to say it's "confidential & for the sole use of the intended recipient(s)." Rather like Major League Baseball's telecasts, it goes on to tell me that "Any review, reliance, dissemination, distribution, copying or other use is strictly prohibited & may be illegal."

Or may not be illegal. And who is "strictly prohibiting" me from what, again? The writer, who says she works for "Linkforce Ltd based here in UK" is also the purveyor of the opinions expressed. Those are "personal & are not attributable to Linkforce or any of its associate companies." The footer goes on. (It's rather interesting, as boilerplated footers go.)

"The reliability of this method of communication cannot be guaranteed. It can be intercepted, corrupted, delayed, may arrive incomplete, contain viruses or be affected by other interference. We have taken reasonable steps to reduce risks against viruses but cannot accept liability for any damages sustained as a result of this transmission."

Nice; a liability disclaimer to go along with the attempt at getting a little astroturf link rolling on my site. (But if the opinions are personal, who else is included in the "we"? It's from the UK, so maybe it's a royal we.)

What are we talking about, anyway? The sender

"would like to place an article on your website containing a link straight to my client's desired URL, from a keyword of their choice that would be on topic. It would be a small text link contained within the article."

Sorry ma'am, I'm not in that sort of business.

13.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Extortionist demands escalate when you give in Permalink to this item

That's Robert Reich's punchline in a Facebook post earlier today. As is often the case, he gets more directly to the point than I do, and I think his opinion is worth endorsing, and doing my small part to circulate it more widely. So, here:

"Now is the time to lance the boil of Republican extremism once and for all. Since Obama became president, the extremists who have taken over the Republican Party have escalated their demands every time he's caved (when he extended the Bush tax cuts through the end of 2012, offered spending cuts and then a Super Committee and sequester to get the debt ceiling lifted in 2011, permanently extended the Bush tax cuts for incomes up to $400,000 to avoid the fiscal cliff of 2012, offered a 'chained CPI' and Medicare cuts in 2013). This time, though, Obama didn't cave—at least, not yet. And now, with the government shuttered and the nation on the verge of defaulting on its debts, public opinion has turned sharply against the Republican Party. And the GOP's corporate and Wall Street backers are threatening to defund it.

"Suddenly the Republicans are acting like the school-yard bully who terrorized the playground but finally got punched in the face. They're in shock. They're humiliated. They're trying to come up with ways of saving face. With bloodied noses, House Republicans are running home, abruptly turning negotiations over to their Senate colleagues. Their demand to repeal or delay the Affordable Care Act has vanished. Now, it seems, negotiations over the federal budget deficit are about to begin once again. But keeping the government running and paying the nation's bills should never have been bargaining chits in the first place, and the President and Democrats shouldn't begin to negotiate until they're taken off the table. The question is how thoroughly President Obama has learned that extortionist demands escalate if you give in to them."

11.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

About using my "endorsement" for your ad revenue Permalink to this item

When you're tiny and have a great idea, a slogan like "Don't Be Evil" sounds rather clever and catchy and words to live by. When your great idea turns your business into a juggernaut... it may be harder to make sure you're following the slogan. I'm still willing to give Google some benefit of the doubt and assume the still want to live by that, and in some ways they surely do.

For their upcoming change of Terms of Service, they've got a calm and rational summary, and the assurance that you're in control of what you share, and the means to opt out of having your profile name and photo used in reviews and advertising.

Next step is the page about shared endorsements, and the all-important checkbox at the bottom, helpfully pre-checked for you to affirm that "Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads."

No, thank you.

Are you sure?
When you disable this setting, your friends will be less likely to benefit from your recommendations.

Yes, thank you, I'm sure. My friends know how to find out what I like and dislike.

What we have here is a failure to communicate Permalink to this item

Today's wave of letters to the editor starts with FAILURE TO NEGOTIATE in caps and bold, with the new style of highlighting the first few words instead of providing (or using) a short headline. Works better for that one than the NEVER HAVE letter, and adds an amusing challenge for writers to start with something catchy. The old challenge of breaking out of stale memes remains in place. Gerald K. King fails the test with the #TeaPartyShutdown false equivalency chestnut.

"Implementation of Affordable Care Act is the problem at the center of this shutdown crisis," yes, and how did that happen again? One side insists, insists, insists, insists (times ten) that even though they lost the debate creating the law, they want everything to stop until they get their way. (Or at least "most everything we don't care for anyway.") So, um, yeah, "both sides!"

If only we give the T.P. crybabies what they're kicking and screaming for (starting with... a one year delay, yeah, that's the ticket), they'll promise to be quiet and let the government go again.

Joseph J. Dewey is not content with this half measure, and uses the "HEY LOOK OVER THERE" technique. It is all the Democrats' and Obama's fault for "not compromising"! And did you see where the President sent helicopters to throw a tarp over Mount Rushmore?

And yes, it's time once again for the monthly screed from Dano Savino, such a pity he led with IT SEEMS LIBERAL MARXIST instead of the "mountebank mumbler" he also managed to stuff in his first sentence.

The shifting center of towne Permalink to this item

Turnout on the old UP spur into Boise Big feature in the front of today's paper about a commercial real estate development I'd never heard of: the ‘Village’ in Meridian. The Statesman's single quotes on that signify the somewhat obvious fact that a mall's not a "village," and remind me when the Boise Towne Square was the new, new thing in the late '80s, "after more than 20 years of planning." I remember the end of the planning, and the fight over "urban renewal" downtown, repurposing land and businesses once served by the railroad, and worries that a mall afield would be the death knell of Boise's downtown.

Somehow we all learned to get along, and while a million square feet of new retail, entertainment and commercial space may put a kink in the aging Square, it's not dead yet. Nor is it (or was it ever) "square," or a "Towne." It has become the nexus of a sprawl of all sorts of businesses, and ironically enough with the only remaining railroad line in Boise forming the primary axis.

The old Towne Square, on an only slightly larger scale (1.2M sq. ft.) is likely a bit nervous about the upstart Village, even if the latter's 17 retailers can't compare to the former's 130+. More to come. And in the same damn neighborhood, really: The Village is not even 4 miles from the Towne Square. Their respective sprawling is actually connected already, even if a cemetery and an island residential area sit between them as the crow flies.

It is somewhat disorienting to read about this new-to-me thing "strategically located near the geographic, population and employment centers of the Treasure Valley" (and even if the project manager's notion that "Meridian has become the epicenter of life in the Treasure Valley" seems impossibly self-serving). The story covers where those three centers are without ever getting around to mentioning where The Village actually is. If you have to ask, I guess they're not talking to you. (But I'll whisper it: Eagle Road and Fairview Ave.) It's built at what has become the busiest intersection in the state, adding to the location's singular unattractiveness from my point of view. But that's just me.

In addition to the exciting prospect of a "Bellagio-style fountain" (with "multidirectional 30-foot sprays choreographed to light and music") there are to be "fire pits" in both Fountain Square and at Big Al's entertainment center and Jumbotron. Also in the "everything is fake" style of the new Las Vegas, "a sports-book type sports bar."

10.10.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Day ten Permalink to this item

This was "found circulating on Facebook" as one account put it, asking if anyone knew who wrote it. I didn't go through the ten thousand+ comments to see if there was an attribution (and the original post hadn't been edited.) In the meantime, it needs to circulate more. It's a helpful reminder about both how we got here and where "here" is. Substitute "healthcare insurance reform patterned after a conservative market-based idea" for "healthcare" for greater verisimilitude if you like.

Oct 2008: "You'll never get elected and pass healthcare."
Nov 2008: "We'll never let you pass healthcare."
Jan 2009: "We are going to shout you down every time you try to pass healthcare."
July 2009: "We will fight to the death every attempt you make to pass healthcare."
Dec 2009: "We will destroy you if you even consider passing healthcare."
March 2010: "We can't believe you just passed healthcare."
April 2010: "We are going to overturn healthcare."
Sept 2010: "We are going to repeal healthcare."
Jan 2011: "We are going to destroy healthcare."
Feb 2012: "We are going to elect a candidate who will immediately revoke healthcare."
June 2012: "We will go to the Supreme Court, and they will overturn healthcare."
Aug 2012: "The American people will never re-elect you, because they don't want healthcare."
Oct 2012: "We can't wait to win the election and explode healthcare."
Nov 2012: "We can't believe you just got re-elected and that we can't repeal healthcare."
Feb 2013: "We're still going to vote to obliterate healthcare."
June 2013: "We can't believe the Supreme Court just upheld healthcare."
July 2013: "We're going to vote like 35 more times to erase healthcare."
Sept 2013: "We are going to leverage a government shutdown into defunding, destroying, obliterating, overturning, repealing, dismantling, erasing and ripping apart healthcare."

9.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

In a world of confusion and hurt Permalink to this item

Just like Rand Paul wasn't, I'm not sure if the Democrats had poll-tested "refuse to negotiate" when he sidled up to Mitch McConnell and a hot mic, but I suppose they will have done some of that sort of work since. Now the more salient question is, how in the hell is the president supposed to negotiate with crazy? (h/t to Sysiphus)

Witness the spectacle of Republican Senators, now featuring Idaho's own Mike Crapo, reassuring "young people" that they're driving the government off a cliff for their benefit.

"Well, in the short term, first of all, I think that any such default would be short because I don't think either party would allow that to last. I don't think it'll happen, but if it did it would be very short...It all depends on what it generated. If it generates some real progress toward entitlement reform and getting tax reform teed up for activity, then I think that's one of the best things that could happen for young people. On the other hand, if it simply in the short term generated government defaults, that's gonna be harmful. So it's kind of a long-term versus short-term view."

Yes, or kind of a test to see whether you believe the right-wing fringe is crazy like foxes, or just crazy like batshit.

From the video 'Peanut Butter, The Atheist's Nightmare' There's ample evidence that it's willing to harm others to get its way, and both cowardly and duplicitous enough to accuse the other side of being responsible for what it has accomplished. Accepting the notion some seem to have that it also competent in any way, shape or form is another form of crazy. Competent at obstruction, and quite possibly destruction, yes, but the fringe doesn't need to test how well owning up to and celebrating sabotage would poll. It's a no-brainer, you might say.

Brinksmanship as a tactic is bad enough, with a growing record of collateral damage over the past two years. Denigrating the potential of full-on default to create catastrophe plunges no-nothingism to a new nadir. Paul Krugman details the depth of incompetence of the Boehner Bunglers, choosing what to believe regardless of evidence to its contrary, selling it with fervor regardless of the consequences, and doubling down on failure after failure.

"It has been obvious for years that the modern Republican Party is no longer capable of thinking seriously about policy. Whether the issue is climate change or inflation, party members believe what they want to believe, and any contrary evidence is dismissed as a hoax, the product of vast liberal conspiracies.

"For a while the party was able to compartmentalize, to remain savvy and realistic about politics even as it rejected objectivity everywhere else. But this wasn't sustainable. Sooner or later, the party's attitude toward policy—we listen only to people who tell us what we want to hear, and attack the bearers of uncomfortable news—was bound to infect political strategy, too."

The spectacle of the Speaker of the House feigning indignation and anger as he plays a losing hand and blames anyone but himself for the failure of his leadership. He didn't want this to happen! He just expected the Senate and the President to give in. Apparently still expects that to happen.

"This isn't some damn game! The American people don't want their government shut down, and neither do I!"

There are too many levels of indirection to parse what all is going on in the Speaker's head, but that encapsulates his incompetence well enough, in acting, arguing, negotiating, and most of all, leading.

Beyond the blue horizon Permalink to this item

Once upon a time, anything involving "progressive" or "diversity" (never mind "liberal") was quickly demonized by the powers that be around here. It's still true in many ways, but there have been some changes. Hewlett-Packard's setting up shop in Boise was partly responsible for some of them, and other large employers, including Albertsons and Micron played a part in significantly expanding our cultural horizons.

To recollect where we came from, consider this from the April, 1986 feature in National Geographic, "Japanese Americans: Home at Last":

"A civilian War Relocation Authority (WRA) was established to assist the evacuation. Its first director, Milton S. Eisenhower, brother of the general, envisioned the agency overseeing a humane resettlement program that would put the uprooted Japanese back to work in public and private jobs throught the inland states. But the reception Eisenhower received at a meeting with the governors and attorneys general of ten western states on April 7, 1942, convinced him that such a scheme had no hope of realization. Wyoming Governor Nels Smith warned that if Eisenhower's plan were attempted "there would be Japs hanging from every pine tree." Explained Idaho Attorney General Bert Miller: 'We want to keep this a white man's country.' Eisenhower resigned."

That was when we were at war, of course, just 4 months after Pearl Harbor was attacked, and war is hell. Since then we've just had the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the invasions of Cuba, Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf War, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and so on into the Global War on Terror.

G.I. Joe came in multiple flavors, including she-Joe, so there's that.

8.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Still swinging a hammer at 89 Permalink to this item

There are some beautiful pictures to go with the SF Chronicle story about Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter working on a Habitat for Humanity project in Oakland. And impressive. How cool is that to see him cutting, carrying and hammering at the end of his 9th decade? We all should be so lucky, and so dedicated.

Salmon River whispers Permalink to this item

One of the things I like most about Facebook is the connection it provides to some of my nieces and nephews, a generational change that is quite salutary compared to the too-brief interactions I had with my own uncles and aunts, most of whom I never knew after I'd grown up.

In response to a health issue one mentioned, I thought of the pithy advice our boatman on the lower Salmon River had given me just before I slipped into the water to swim a small rapid one summer, and I shared it with her: "Remember to breathe when your head is above water."

Sounds obvious perhaps, but it was precisely the right thing for him to say to me, precisely the right moment, and quintessentially Clancy. Writing some connected thoughts in my journal this morning, I had occasion to ask Jeanette what his last name was, and then to check the spelling, and then to find Vince West's beautiful, powerful remembrance of Clancy's life and farewell, evoking that too-short stretch of the rivers of our lives running together, one trip of a lifetime.

He was a legend among his fellow boatmen, and one has written a book about him. She was featured last year on Boise State Public Radio, now with a short item on the web, and a couple of audio segments. Anything Worth Doing: A true story of adventure, friendship and tragedy on the last of the West's great rivers. "Tragedy" might be a bit strong, as we're all bound to die. He died too young it seems, but if your stories are still being told and retold seventeen years downstream, you did have a life well-lived.

Remembering Clancy inevitably has a physical form. I remember the casual, wordless panache with which he'd eddy out after a short rapid, slide the fishing pole out from under his seat and cast a lure just... perfectly to the spot where the fish were relaxing in the third dimension of the eddy. It had to be planned, or you might even say orchestrated, but it wasn't like an orchestra, it was like him tying his shoes, something done so many times that the channel of its memory was polished to a perfect, round curve that you longed to just rest your hand on, and absorb the warmth of the sun as a meditation on river, and flow, and rock, and fish, and how we all are connected.

The Salmon River at the Geological marker, Oct. 24, 2010

7.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Quote of the day: the power of prayer Permalink to this item

"Lord, lead them away from the unfortunate dialectic of us vs. them..."

Rear Adm. Barry Black (Ret.), U.S. Senate Chaplain, quoted in an interesting piece in today's New York Times. He spent nearly 30 years in the Navy, and now 10 years as Senate Chaplain, after being selected by then Majority Leader Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) in 2003, and working at present without pay.

"In his role as chaplain, a position that has existed since 1789, he acts as a sounding board, spiritual adviser and ethical counselor to members of the Senate. When he prays each day, he said, he recites the names of all 100 senators and their spouses, reading them from a laminated index card.

"It is not uncommon for him to have 125 people at his Bible study gatherings or 20 to 30 senators at his weekly prayer breakfast. He officiates weddings for Senate staff members. He performs hospital visitations. And he has been at the side of senators when they have died, most recently Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii in December."

Tweet from and reply to Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) The article does not discuss the degree to which Mr. Black's praying may have improved relations in the Senate, but in the more essential realm at the moment, between the Senate and the House, the Majority Leader seems slightly less than inspired, hammering upon the credibility problem the Speaker of the House is up against.

No doubt Mr. Reid is feeling a little "acid" over House leadership continuing to blame the #TeaPartyShutdown on the Senate, such as my Congressman, "helpfully" tweeting, "in case you missed it."

6.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"All roads led back to St. George" Permalink to this item

Not the dragon-slayer, but to the not-so-little southern Utah town where Jeremy Johnson plied his trade in information about government grants to create a font of largesse and, if you can believe the allegations the Federal Trade Commission has assembled, "a really interesting fraud done by a clever guy at the expense of the most vulnerable people." That's the view of a former director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection who worked on the case, which was reported in the NYT back in June: In Utah, a Local Hero Accused. His uncle is quoted describing how Johnson got the idea for (the now defunct) I Works:

"He saw one of those infomercials where this guy was selling catalogs of government grants for $99. He said: 'That's the crummiest delivery system I can think of. I can do a lot better with a subscription base and people could sign up and cancel when they didn't need it anymore.'"

And of course if they don't get around the cancelling, the so-called "online membership model" will maintain a very nice cash flow in the aggregate. A lawyer for a bunch of defendants (but not the head guy), by way of arguing the disclosures were adequate stipulates that "out of some 10 million membership enrollments, I Works' customers canceled about three million during the free trial period."

Seven million enrollments ticking over to monthly billing, for... $12.95 a month, or maybe $39.95 a month, and pretty soon dropping $99 for a one-shot catalog looks like a fantastic bargain.

You don't have to annoy very many people with this "business model" to cause trouble in the payment pipeline, however: at just one percent customer chargeback reversals, banks take notice and can blacklist a company from obtaining new merchant accounts. (No need to wait for the FTC!) 1% of 7 million is not all that many unhappy customers, at least when your marketing is effective enough to recruit 15,000 rubes per day, which the FTC says this was, at its height. It took a while to figure that out, "because the company was operating under so many different names and programs: Easy Grant Finder, Bottom Dollar, Business Funding Success, Fast Gov Grants and many more."

The many names and many entities might have been deemed "small family businesses," given how Johnson enlisted more relatives than a greeting card sales team. That lawyer cited above represents "Mr. Johnson's wife and parents, and 24 other companies named as defendants."

Just in case you've ever felt mildly persuaded by a "testimonial" accompanying a sketchy sales pitch, this:

"The complaint also contends that promotional testimonials from satisfied customers were false. Mr. Johnson, court filings say, had created his own grant program. Called Grant-A-Day, it gave money to individuals for things like utility bills or college textbooks. The testimonials on the sites, court filings say, came from people who received money through this program, not from government grants. (Court filings for the defense don't deny that assertion, but contend that the testimonials were nonetheless authentic and came with disclaimers like 'results may vary.')"

You can bank on that.

While the court case grinds on, and Johnson takes up lumberjacking, and attacking the government (using the internet, naturally) for a supposed conspiracy against him, it rather looks like he could make some money writing fiction, too:

"Imagine for a moment the possibility that I have done no wrong," he recently wrote in a report prepared for a police detective in Salt Lake City. In that event, he said, government officials would be to blame for ruining his business, seizing and selling his worldly goods, putting him in jail and, perhaps most significant to a marketer for whom believability is everything, diminishing his reputation "from one that was known for good to that of a mastermind of a $300 million fraud."

Could the TeaParty shutdown bail him out? Get a load of this, just reported in the Salt Lake Tribune:

"FTC attorneys have asked a federal judge in Nevada to suspend proceedings in their consumer-fraud lawsuit against St. George businessman Jeremy Johnson, saying they were barred from working even voluntarily because of the shutdown.

"Johnson opposed the motion, according to the FTC filing. Karra Porter, the Salt Lake City attorney for Johnson's I Works company and others, also objected to the stay.

"'The United States has elected to cease operation, voluntarily relinquishing prosecution of this matter (which it initiated) by depriving its attorneys of funding' and prohibiting them from working voluntarily, Porter said in her opposition to the stay."

5.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

While we're "conversing" Permalink to this item

Excerpt of the photo of the Nampa HS kids with the Congressman @Raul_Labrador just tweeted an invitation to "Please read my new e-newsletter, "#Shutdown Week: Different Attitudes, Different Results," which sure, OK. (I did strip out some trailing malformed querystring foo on that link, "q=prettyphoto"--which, seriously? And no, I am not making this up.) He leads with:

"The federal government has been shut down for four days and counting, and yet President Obama and the Senate Democrats still refuse to negotiate. It's incredible: the President will negotiate with Iran—the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism—but he won't negotiate with House Republicans."

First of all, the passive (agressive) voice: "the federal government has been shut down." Indeed. Who arranged for that, Congressman?

Second of all, congratulations on quickly touching on all the #TeaPartyShutdown talking points in your modest "newsletter" item, including using those high school students from Nampa for props. All but two of them are smiling and look to be having a great time getting your personal tour and celebrity treatment, and in probably more than one case "feeling blessed." But two of them look more thoughtful, and I'm quite interested to hear what they might have to say about their outing to the Capitol.

And lastly, Congressman, I have to say, you take the cake. You have some monstrous chutzpah dangling off you to play the game you're playing at so many other people's expense while you tweet and bleat and call people names from your exceedingly comfortable position, to add World War II veterans to your prop list while you pretend outrage at the "callousness" of the opposition who has finally shown the courage, thank you, to just say no to your sabotage of our federal government.

As you say in your topic sentence, "it's incredible." But you're showing an all-too familiar pattern, of the arsonist come back to enjoy watching the fire he's started.

Stockholm syndrome Permalink to this item

Excerpt from Labrador's twitter feed Along with the latest poll results on how the spinjob of the #TeaPartyShutdown is going, ID-1 Rep. Raúl Labrador found time to give very special attention to some Nampa High School students in Washington D.C. for a far afield trip, and tweet about it yesterday. What's not to like about special treatment at taxpayer expense, complete with a little ideological whipped topping, I'm sure? Labrador directed his staff to show the kids a good time.

"It made everyone feel like a celebrity because it was like we were getting special treatment," said [Nampa High School senior Amelia] Williams, 17.

That's not "like" you were getting special treatment, Amelia, that was special. (Considering yourself "very blessed" is reading a bit too much into what you just received, however.)

Having accomplished the government shutdown and with no pressing media appearances to occupy his own time, the Congressman gave the students and teachers a personal three hour tour (cue theme song from Gilligan's Island, Raúl in the lead role) through the Capitol and the Library of Congress, and out for burgers.

The comments under the Idaho Statesman's fluffery (at worst, but maybe it's damning "quote without comment") are not kind. One included an excerpt from and a link to The Economist, and their duly horrified editorial, No way to run a country. But beyond the idiotically useless false equivalence of "everyone's to blame," this simple truth: "Republicans are setting a precedent which, if followed, would make America ungovernable." And more importantly, "it gets worse."

"America enjoys the 'exorbitant privilege' of printing the world's reserve currency. Its government debt is considered a safe haven, which is why Uncle Sam can borrow so much, so cheaply. America will not lose these advantages overnight. But anything that undermines its creditworthiness—as the farce in Washington surely does—risks causing untold damage in the future. It is not just that America would have to pay more to borrow. The repercussions of an American default would be both global and unpredictable."

The Republicans—the House Republican Tea Party faction, in particular—have started us down this road to ruin, and our economic competition in the world (not exactly "our enemies" in every case, but maybe close enough) will certainly be doing all they can to capitalize on a remarkable series of blunders. That credit downgrade the last time around may have come from a source that had its own dubious role in the financial setup for the Great Recession, but it was most certainly a shot across the bow of our ship of state.

Some giftie did give us the gift of seeing ourselves as others see us, and hello Congressman, you are making us look like utter fools as you strut around as tour guide and media gadfly, fiddling to give Nampa High students the time of their lives while you burn down Rome.

4.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Your omnibus shutdown post Permalink to this item

Seeing if I can keep all my comments for day 4 in one post, which I promise I will stop updating by midnight.

By the way, did you think this was about the deficit? Huh uh. Dylan Matthews' infographics show that the hard right has successfully moved the center of the discussion so that we're talking about how much we're going to shrink the government, not about whether that makes sense, or the particular ideas of what to cut, and why, and with what repercussions.

That level of actual discussion and compromise seems quaint and old-fashioned by now, with a yellowish tinge from a century past.

The Senate's CR offer was far closer to the Ryan budget than the President's, and "widely assumed" to be "a relatively uncontroversial proposition. But then Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) came in...."

And a reminder of something I'd already forgotten: the "grand bargain" was to include increased revenue. Let's hear that bit of "negotiation" from the House Republicans, why don't we. Make a meaningful opening offer.

The trouble with all the posturing is that when you actually arrive at a genuine emotion, the audience may be too tired to respond to it. The Speaker of the House is now angry because "this isn't some damned game," is he? Good. Now he's starting to experience what the people watching the debacle he's leading are feeling. I feel your pain, sir. Please shut up about the Affordable Care Act and pass the continuing resolutions necessary to fund the government.

Anything short of that and I'm sorry, but my inference is going to be that you do, in fact, think this is nothing more than theater games. You have lost, trust me. The only question is how badly you've lost, and how much collateral damage your losing will inflict. That's going to depend on how long it takes for you to admit it.

8 Reasons for Democrats to just say no to a grand bargain
Richard Eskow had me at number 1: "If you reward hostage-taking, there will be more of it." Which is how we got here.

My Congressman has put in the long years of service to get close to leadership, although being tight with the Speaker may not seem as glorious an achievement as it did a goal to strive for. But he's getting space in the press the old-fashioned way, unlike Idaho's other guy, riding the Tea Party tempest for self-promotion as job #1.

Restless House Republicans are looking to the Speaker for direction, The Hill reports:

But with the deadline for raising the $16.7 trillion borrowing limit less than two weeks away, they also admit they are forging ahead without a clear endgame in mind.

"Everybody's tried to envision one, but nobody has it yet," said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), an ally of Boehner. "Honestly, I don't know what we're going to do."

(That's slightly less pathetic than Indiana's Republican House member, Marlin Stutzman, who said "we're not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is," prompting well-deserved derision from the top. This does not rise to an explanation about how respect must be earned, it's more at the go-to-bed-without-supper level of instruction.)

And while they don't know what they're going to do, they're whipping up some more of the "well let's just turn this back on" bills, looking to cherry-pick parts of the government they like, and feed the "they won't negotiate" meme. The extreme rump of the Republicans "shows no signs of backing down," even if some of them have been shamed into giving up their $500 a day pay while they screw the country wholesale. It's the principle and for our own good don't you know.

"There's some pain and suffering, but I don't think that pain and suffering compares one bit to the pain and suffering of being stuck with a lifetime of ObamaCare," said Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga).

It doesn't hurt Gingrey personally that 9 out of 10 Americans hold Congress in contempt. The Speaker of the House is oh-so-carefully trying to hint that he won't let his leading from the rear go as far as default, but to be reassured by that we'd have to believe he has some control of the events unfolding, control that has not been much in evidence.

The tactic of brinksmanship depends on the threats being credible, and if they aren't, really, the only thing left is to get so close to the brink that it scares the other side into doing what you want, which yes, has worked a couple of times now, in a half-assed sort of way, but there have been a few too many cries of "Wolf!" for Boehner to show up and not get laughed at. It's not pretty, but the disrespect has been well-earned.

This is going to be expensive. Real fiscal conservatives would not be willing to waste this much money, and risk this much economic damage even if they're willing to accept collateral damage to someone other than themselves. Plenty of estimates to choose from; Moody's Analytics' estimated the shutdown will "reduce fourth-quarter economic growth by as much as 1.4 percentage points," depending on how long it carries on. My emphasis, and change of tense from "would" to "will," because here we are.

3.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

In their own words Permalink to this item

After Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell said "I'm all wired up," you might suppose Sen. Rand Paul would realize that he wasn't off the record, but you'd be wrong.

Watch, listen and learn (YouTube, 40 sec. video) how Senate Republicans are talking to each other about how various phrasing works in the polls. Because that's what matters, not the hundreds of thousands of people they've put out of work for their political tactics.

A little ray of sunshine clouded over Permalink to this item

Yesterday there were hints that Rep. Mike Simpson might be one of the rumored sensible wing of House Republicans willing to support freeing our government held hostage. The Washington Post showed him as #16 of now 19 reps "supporting a clean continuing resolution" to fund the federal government, evidenced by this tweet:

@CongMikeSimpson I'd vote for a clean CR, bc I don't thnk ths is a strategy tht works. I thnk th strategy tht works is on th debt ceiling

Counting all the Democrats, that would put us "on the precipice" of an agreement, of sorts. Local political reporter Dan Popkey notes the so-called clean continuing resolution would be for a week or two and even that is more than the Congressman can give unwaffled lip service to in an official announcement:

"Let me be clear, I am going to continue to support the position of our Republican Caucus in the ongoing shutdown dispute. Having said that, similar to Senator Rand Paul, I could support a very short-term clean CR, perhaps one or two weeks, while we continue to negotiate on a longer-term bill that addresses priorities we believe are important."

Declaring that he "thnks th strategy tht works is on th debt ceiling" is some cold entrails. My Congressman is willing to go along with the plan not just to shut down the federal government, but also to risk the full faith and credit of the United States of America, and quite possibly crash the global economy into another recession as a strategy.

The plan is to keep us on the brink of catastrophe, as long as it takes to get the minority way.

After his many years in the House, the GOP achieving a majority and Boehner's rise to Speaker put Mike Simpson in the top leadership there. Whatever hope the two of them had for genuine accomplishment has been hijacked by the extremists in their party, the know-nothing, do-nothing firebrands who are willing to make millions suffer for an ideological principle.

Ezra Klein and Robert Costa covered the question of why Boehner doesn't just ditch the hard right on Tuesday, and I'm afraid the same pathetic reason for his failed leadership might apply to Simpson as well.

"He relishes the job and the position... He loves being a major American political figure... He's just trying to survive and enjoy it while it lasts."

That seems to apply to the whole Congressional delegation from Idaho, in fact. Raúl Labrador salivating to get as much TV time as he can, Jim Risch just fiddle-dee-dee to be Senator ad infinitum and Mike Crapo tasting the party circuit. I don't see how this can end well.

Let's all be talking to Congress, shouldn't we? Permalink to this item

Here's my email to my House Republican today, Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho's 2nd Congressional District:

While your email form requires selection of a specific issue, and this is about "budget," it's about a lot more than that. It's about EVERYTHING the Congress has in its power.

Beyond the disingenuous spin about how the House did its job, and this shutdown is someone else's doing, what exactly do the extreme right Republicans who seem to be running this show want to get out of holding the government and our economy hostage to their demands?

It appears that shutting down the government was the end in and of itself, a goal that is utterly at odds with your history as a public servant. Why do you continue to enable this misbehavior?

I understand that a lot of people don't like what they've been told The Affordable Care Act is or will do, but that has more to do with political messaging than reality. At any rate IT WAS DULY PASSED BY CONGRESS, SIGNED INTO LAW BY THE PRESIDENT, AND UPHELD BY THE SUPREME COURT. That's done. Move on.

PASS WHAT'S NEEDED TO FUND THE GOVERNMENT so that you and everyone else can get on with the more important goals of tax, spending, immigration, and entitlement reform, etc.

2.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Another reportorial view Permalink to this item

Somebody (Joshua Keating?) at Slate came up with a cute idea for a regular feature: using the "tropes and tone normally employed by the American media to describe events in other countries" for what's happening here. Starting with... the government shutdown, of course, just before it happened.

"Six years into his rule, Obama's position can appear confusing, even contradictory. Though the executive retains control of the country's powerful intelligence service, capable of the extrajudicial execution of the regime's opponents half a world away, the president's efforts to govern domestically have been stymied in the legislature by an extremist rump faction of the main opposition party."

By contrast, reporting Permalink to this item

It hardly matters that this sentence appeared in what might be "news analysis" or even "opinion," Eduardo Porter's writing under the headline Why the Health Care Law Scares the G.O.P., I appreciated what appears to be a succinct and accurate statement of what just happened:

"Bowing to the vehemence of its Tea Party faction, the House G.O.P. forced a government shutdown when Senate Democrats refused to delay or defund the president's health overhaul."

And similarly, what said Tea Party faction and House G.O.P.'s idea of bipartisan negotiation going forward should be:

"House Republicans are threatening even further damage if they don't get their way, possibly unleashing financial chaos if they manage to force the United States into its first default ever on the government's debt."

And then on with the analysis, which is certainly interesting to consider, a plausible alternative to "the argument that half the Republican Party has simply lost its mind":

"Flawed though it may turn out to be, Obamacare, as the Affordable Care Act is popularly known, could fundamentally change the relationship between working Americans and their government. This could pose an existential threat to the small-government credo that has defined the G.O.P. for four decades."

That's the way William "wrong about just about everything" Kristol saw it two decades ago, a disaster in the making for his brand of conservatives. The question I have is whether said disaster is the implementation of a slightly beneficial and supremely complicated bit of health insurance reform, or the destruction of government ways and means to accomplish much of anything, redefining "compromise" as "do it our way, or we will shutdown the government, which actually suits our purposes pretty well too."

Which is to say, will they be content with self-destruction, or are they going to succeed in taking the rest of us with them?

Common sense! Permalink to this item

You know someone lacks an actual argument when they raise the flag of common sense (also known as "common-sense"). And no, it doesn't make it any more convincing to post it on social media. Yesterday, I noted Idaho's Congressman trying "irresponsible and unacceptable," which was an even poorer choice, given the inevitable reflexive irony. ("I'm rubber, and you're glue," I might have said in the Facebook comments.)

Shared on John Boehner's Google+ account yesterday afternoon, and brought to my attention as "Hot and Recommended" by Google-bots. "He" quotes himself, adding an amusing sort of formality to a medium that knows little of a crisply tied pink tie for other than comedic effect:

"This morning, Senate Democrats rejected common-sense efforts to re-open the government, and rejected fairness for all Americans under the president's health care law. We hope that Senate Democrats—and President Obama—change course and start working with us on behalf of the American people." - Speaker Boehner

Half of the Republicans, 'ready for bipartisan talks' And a QuickMeme sort of image, eight white guys in white shirts (they've stripped off their suit jackets, ready for some hard work), lined up on one side of a shiny wood table and... empty chairs on the other side.

Yes, that's right: it's Clint Eastwood at the Republican Convention times eight, muthas! I see the Speaker himself was not prepared to talk; probably too busy figuring out his new Google+ thingie. I do like the look of the fellow on the left end (must've drawn the short straw to be on the left, eh), who I don't recognize, pen and ringbinder at the ready, and a far-away look in his eyes, so bored out of his mind that he can't even pose busy. "When did Eric say lunch was going to be?" he's thinking.

Update: The NYT's editorial board calls a spade a spade: John Boehner's shutdown. This "success" has 30 fathers, but the guy with the big gavel is trying to dodge ownership for his own role.

"He stood in the well of the House and repeated the tired falsehood that the Affordable Care Act was killing jobs. He came up with a series of increasingly ridiculous demands: defund the health law, delay it for a year, stop its requirement that employers pay for contraception, block the medical device tax, delay the individual mandate for a year, strip Congressional employees of their health subsidies. ... Finally, at the last minute, when there was still time to end the charade with a straightforward spending bill, Mr. Boehner made the most absurd demand of all: an immediate conference committee with the Senate. Suddenly, with less than an hour left, he wanted to set up formal negotiations?"

"For six months, the Senate has been demanding a conference with the House on the 2014 budget—talks that might have prevented the impasse in the first place...."

1.Oct.2013 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Irresponsible and unacceptable Permalink to this item

Rachel Maddow: "This is not an 'accident' that keeps happening." The do-nothings in Congress have been working toward, and planning for shutting down the government since before they were elected in 2010.

Astoundingly, beggaring the vocabulary to describe hypocrisy and deceit, Tea Party darling Raúl Labrador of Idaho posted this to his Facebook account yesterday, beating the drum of his radical right-wing House Republicans' talking point:

"For the second time in three nights, the House voted to keep the government open. The Senate, on the other hand, refuses to negotiate, even if it means a government shutdown. That is irresponsible and unacceptable. The American people deserve better."

Today, he's been all about what TV shows he's going to be on to talk about the shutdown. Well Congressman, Ms. Maddow rather beat you to it.

"When president obama was first elected in 2008, he, of course, came to Washington with something every president wants, a House and a Senate controlled by his own party. and in the two years where the democrats had the White House, the House and the Senate , we got Wall Street reform, student loan reform, credit card reform, health care reform, obviously, the fair pay act, expanding of the GI bill, they reauthorized the children's health insurance program, expanded national service programs, they fixed the disparity between crack and powdered cocaine, we got the hate crimes act, the START treaty between us and Russia on nuclear weapons. They repealed don't ask, don't tell, they did the cash for clunkers, the stimulus, which included the greatest middle class tax cuts ever. That was all done by the congress elected at the same time as president obama in 2008. They were elected in November of 2008. They were sworn in in January of 2009, and in the next two years, they got all of those things done.

"Then the Republicans did really well in the midterms, and the Republicans took control of the house for the first time in years, and John Boehner became speaker. And since then, there has not been a single significant piece of legislation enacted into law. There have been a couple of trade bills. There was a bill that seemed to be inspired by a 60 minutes segment about whether or not members of Congress get insider trading tips in the course of doing business in Congress, but yeah, nothing. Nothing. No significant legislation since John Boehner got the speakership. The republicans won the elections in November 2010. They were sworn in in January 2011. Since then, zero, zip, nothing in terms of legislative accomplishment.

"And that, of course, is because they have been otherwise occupied. After getting sworn in in January, by April they threatened to shut down the government. That was April. By July, Republicans had forced the first ever debt ceiling crisis in American history. We got our national credit rating downgraded for that one until they eventually blinked. By September that year, Republicans were threatening another government shutdown. By April of the following year, more threats from Republicans of another government shutdown. By December, by this past December, happy new year! Republicans were pushing us over the fiscal cliff! By January, this past January, congressional Republicans were talking about forcing another debt ceiling crisis before again backing down.

"And now, happy September 30th. We are due for that often threatened Republican shutdown before tonight is through. This is not an accident that just keeps happening over and over again. Republicans control one half of one branch of government, and they have never had any plan to use that control to pass anything into law. If they had had that kind of plan, they might have passed something into law, but they haven't even seriously tried. We are deep into year three of them running the house now, and we've got zip from them in terms of law or policy. And we're at seven and counting when it comes to can't keep the lights on failures of basic governance, and that is just as they planned it."

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

Molly Ball: The night the GOP cracked up. This appears to be the same kind of unity shown at Jonestown. Moderate conservatives in revolt (how can we tell?) at the same time as the hard-liners are drawing their lines even harder.

"The Senate Conservatives Fund sent an email to its supporters denouncing 'the Republican establishment in Washington' for telling 'lies to help them fund Obamacare.' It accused GOP leaders of using the mandate delay as cover to disguise the fact that they were allowing the rest of the law to go into effect—something the group called unacceptable. Obamacare, the email said, must be stopped 'dead in its tracks.' And it helpfully listed the 29 members of the House who might be amenable to this appeal, a group that included such stalwarts as Michele Bachmann, Louie Gohmert, Steve King, Joe Wilson, and Ted Yoho.

"If there are, as the Washington Examiner's Byron York has reported, about 30 conservatives making Boehner's life hell, these are surely them. Representative Devin Nunes, a California Republican, told the New York Times that it would not be enough to term his hard-line colleagues lemmings, 'because jumping to your death is not enough' for them. He termed them, instead, 'lemmings with suicide vests.'"

And yet here we are, October 1, the government shutdown sure as shootin', but Obamacare still alive, and here in red state Idaho, our federal health insurance exchange is live and open for business.

You can't visit Yosemite for its 123rd birthday, but you can still enjoy 32 impressive photos on display at The Atlantic.

Off-balance Permalink to this item

Excerpt of's assessment of polarization in the House Those who argue that our two major parties are really the same might argue there really is only one party, of, by, and for the moneyed interests, but it sure seems like we're dealing with at least three right now (Blow-things-up, Republican, and Democrat). Norm Ornstein is prepared to count to six, with five Republican flavors. What James Fallows wrote in his false equivalence guide to the days ahead, that I linked to two days ago:

"[T]he fight that matters is within the Republican party, and that fight is over whether compromise itself is legitimate. Outsiders to this struggle—the president and his administration, Democratic legislators as a group, voters or 'opinion leaders' outside the generally safe districts that elected the new House majority—have essentially no leverage over the outcome."

While the Republicans duke it out among themselves, Ornstein is not at all sure the five sub-parties are poised to take away any useful lessons, even if they do go ahead and lose the third presidential election in a row in 2016. How could they be when the goals of the House, Senate, Presidential hopefuls, Southerns and non-Southerns are so disparate? (And how can he count House Republicans as just one party? Better make that six flavors.)

For the 2012 election and the years leading up to it, we had Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell insisting that his only goal in life was to make sure Barack Obama was a one-term president. Maybe that was the last point of unity, and see how well that worked.

"The House and Southern Republican parties are more concerned with ideological purity and tribal politics than they are with building a durable, competitive national party base to win presidential and Senate majorities."

The battle for the 2nd congressional district in Idaho certainly has the stink of "ideological purity and tribal politics" to it, with a Club for Growth candidate pitted against a conservative who is trying to look 10 shades more conservative than ever (or than sane) to compete.'s assessment of polarization in this Congress (excerpted here) shows what accounts for the greater distance between the two Bigs: the Republicans have been steadily distancing themselves from the center, at a much faster rate than the Democrats. (H/t to Fallows for that, too.)


Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Saturday, 27-Feb-2021 16:24:22 MST