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30.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Make-believe is good enough Permalink to this item

Rep. Steve Scalise is now more than just the Republican Study Committee guy, he's also moved up to House Majority Whip, thanks to Eric Cantor being tea-partied out of the #2 spot and Kevin McCarthy moving up. His name is still going out on the RSC updates though. Today's starts with a little jig about last week's decision about recess appointments, under the keep-on-the-attack headline of "The President violates the Constitution." So said the Supreme Court, anyway, in its unanimous ruling in NLRB v. Noel Canning. Scalise writes:

"In 2012, the President made three 'recess appointments' to the National Labor Relations Board while the Senate was in pro forma session specifically to prevent recess appointments. All nine Justices ruled these NLRB appointments were unconstitutional, ultimately upholding the position of Republicans in Congress and nullifying the president's lawless actions relating to the NLRB. This unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court is just one of many steps we are taking to stand up for the Constitution and push back against President Obama when he abuses his power."

So yay for them, but the ruling by the Supreme Court is "one of the many steps we are taking"? The Supreme Court is part of the Republican Study Committee now? Some of their rulings sure make it look that way, but that's slightly over the top. Never mind the acknowledgement that the Senate's perfunctory gavel-whacking was "specifically to prevent recess appointments."

The Congressional tactic is endorsed over the Executive's, and obstruction wins the day. It's a victory, but something short of a righteous one, and the "violates" and "abuses" flavoring is a mighty crock.

Jeffrey Toobin's piece for The New Yorker points out another problem: what's "Constitutional" isn't necessarily right. Regarding "the madness of Senate confirmations":

"About twelve hundred executive-branch positions are subject to Senate confirmation. Does the Senate really “advise and consent” on this many Presidential appointments? Of course not, or not in any thoughtful way. Neither the executive nor the legislative branch could function if this many people were seriously evaluated. Rather, the process is a needless gauntlet for the nominees and a vehicle for expressing congressional pique."

29.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Constitutional U.S. Permalink to this item

The story in the NYT about hapless little Arivaca has some crazy stuff about what it's like living close to the Arizona-Mexico border and living with the Border Patrol's random attitude and checkpoints.

The Border Patrol’s parent agency, Customs and Border Protection, said in a statement that existing laws give its agents broad powers to question and arrest people and to seize evidence, and that those powers are not bound by geographic restrictions. The agents, the statement said, “enforce the nation’s laws while preserving the civil rights and civil liberties of all people” with whom they interact.

But the stories don't make it sound that way. And more specifically, the random stops at checkpoints "within 100 miles of the border" is a gobsmacker. 100 miles is a long way, and multiplied by the perimeter of the country, it is one hell of a lot of area. I imagined the picture... fetched a handy US government map, and drew it in. You may have heard of the "continental" U.S.? This here is the Constitutional U.S.:

Map of the US minus 100 miles at the border

Sorry about that Florida, Maine, Hawai`i, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, LA, San Diego, New York City (whose Lady Liberty has always been suspicious, amirite?) and (poetically) Washington D.C.! You're just a little too close to trouble.

Capital and its discontents Permalink to this item

Haven't found my way to what Philip Greenspun calls Thomas Piketty's "verbose tome," the bestselling Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Greenspun's detailed book review may have saved me the trouble. If not, I could look at his dozen posts "about the trees inside" in addition to this one one looking at the dismal "forest."

It doesn't sound like the central point, but worth noting that the field of economics and its "appearance of scientificity" should not be confused with real science, with real predictive power. Piketty's amusing self-deprecation:

"There is one great advantage to being an academic economist in France: here, economists are not highly respected in the academic and intellectual world or by political and financial elites. Hence they must set aside their contempt for other disciplines and their absurd claim to greater scientific legitimacy, despite the fact that they know almost nothing about anything."

By Greenspun's reading Piketty proves his point by first explaining factors for the accumulation of and return on capital, and then "pretty much ignores them" to "[posit] that returns on capital going forward will be just as good as they have been in the past." It's a big, juicy prediction that rests on a set of unlikely assumptions.

Greenspun's expertise is more in EE and computer science, but he's been freelancing in economics, including his late-2008 prescription for how to stave off depression with a bullet list of impossible dreams, including promising to business managers that we'll have

Might as well aim high. There is also his suggestion that we have "corporate governance that relieves investors from worry that profits will be siphoned off by management," which, why should business managers want that? Which is not to say I don't endorse the idea:

"[The government] could stop prohibiting shareholders from controlling the board (i.e., stop encouraging corporate boards that consist of the CEO’s golfing buddies) and also allow shareholders to directly select and choose a pay system for executives (as would not be uncommon in a private company). It seems doubtful that shareholders would voluntarily pay $50-100 million/year to an executive under whose management the company did not outperform benchmarks such as the S&P 500."

28.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mood-altering media Permalink to this item

If you're one of the billion or so (or is it two already?) users of Facebook, and have checked in lately, you might have heard the one about Facebook running an experiment about "emotional contagion" on its customers. My first thought was to check to see if this was something from The Onion, but this really happened. The research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"In an experiment with people who use Facebook, we test whether emotional contagion occurs outside of in-person interaction between individuals by reducing the amount of emotional content in the News Feed. When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred."

Yes, that's right, they're not just messing with the user interface and what they serve to you to optimize how many ads they sell, they're also doing it... just for fun. Or "research." The blue box on "Significance" touts their "massive" undertaking, with N=689,003, to find that "emotional contagion occurs without direct interaction between people (exposure to a friend expressing an emotion is sufficient), and in the complete absence of nonverbal cues."

Such a large sampling makes it possible to measure miniscule effects. The differences in "negativity" or "positivity" reduced may be statistically significant, but they're also surprisingly small.

Robinson Meyer rounds up Everything We Know About Facebook's Secret Mood Manipulation Experiment for The Atlantic, including a discussion of whether it was well-designed, and whether it was ethical. (The user agreement you all click-signed ensures that it was technically legal.) This:

Did an institutional review board—an independent ethics committee that vets research that involves humans—approve the experiment?

Yes, according to Susan Fiske, the Princeton University psychology professor who edited the study for publication.

“I was concerned,” Fiske told The Atlantic, “until I queried the authors and they said their local institutional review board had approved it—and apparently on the grounds that Facebook apparently manipulates people's News Feeds all the time.”

Just in case you were wondering. Fiske also said:

“It's ethically okay from the regulations perspective, but ethics are kind of social decisions. There's not an absolute answer. And so the level of outrage that appears to be happening suggests that maybe it shouldn't have been done...I'm still thinking about it and I'm a little creeped out, too.”

27.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Pitchforks and plutocrats Permalink to this item

One of the zillionaire point-oh-one percenters who found his way there with some combination of a lucky gamble, a "greater tolerance for risk" and "an intuition about what will happen in the future" is now looking over the horizon at torches and pitchforks. A lot of other countries' plutocrats have come and gone. Does American exceptionalism make ours immune? Nick Hanauer doesn't think so.

"[T]he problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

"And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last. If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when."

Don't do what I did and miss the fact that there are three jumps: Nanauer's got more than just a warning. Too much government is not the problem. Unchecked capitalism "tends toward concentration and collapse." Have a look at the bottom line: less inequality and a renewed middle class will promote faster economic growth. Win-win, and nobody ends up on the wrong side of a pitchfork.

26.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Everyone's a winner Permalink to this item

Team USA and skipper Jürgen Klinsmann could've been a lot happier in the pouring rain at the eastern corner of Brazil today, but they're happy enough. We lost 1-0 to Germany, but good enough for second place in Group G, Portugal beating Ghana by only one goal, and (most of all) Germany having earlier kicked Portugal's butts 4-0.


No Free Speech Zone Permalink to this item

August, 2004

Last time we walked by the Supreme Court of the United States, some folks were kneeling in prayer, just below the marble steps, which I see now is outside the exclusion zone they've decreed for themselves. In the early Oughts and last summer of the first Bush/Cheney administration, protection against terrorism was still the order of the day, and tourists in D.C. were readily intimidated by authority figures of various stripes, better safe than sorry. I'd been spotted as a potential threat by pausing in front of the White House south lawn while astride a bicycle. On your knees was OK... outside the buffer zone. And so long as any "communication or expression of views or grievances" wasn't "reasonably likely to draw a crowd or onlookers."

All this comes to mind on the occasion of said SCOTUS decreeing that you know what? Free speech for people harassing and intimidating women seeking access to legal reproductive health care services including birth control, cancer screenings, and abortion is more important than a 35 foot buffer zone.

It's along the lines of Idaho legislator (and governor or party chair wannabe) Rush Fulcher insisting "we do not need to relinquish our privileges" when challenged by a bill to repeal the legislators' special concealed carry without license deal.

All of us animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

25.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mistakes were made Permalink to this item

Today brought yet another unexpected plot twist in the Idaho GOP edition of Kramer vs. Kramer (more in a Cosmo Kramer vein than Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, but still with the community property fight). William Spence reports that the parliamentarian whose opinion that adjourning with nothing decided meant deciding the officers would have new two year terms now says he "inadvertently misread the rules." (Note to future parliamentarians: print a hard-copy ahead of time, and don't depend on being able to find all of what you need to know with your smartphone. Also, some studying ahead of time might be good.)

At this point, with conflicting legal opinions and unreconciled belligerents, it should be a no-brainer that the Central Committee is going to have to meet to resolve the question of who's in charge, and who knows, maybe filling in the missing pieces in the party's rules. But even having that inevitable meeting is causing trouble, as the presumptive hold-over Chairman changed the locks, waved goodbye to the Executive Director and has proposed his own meeting date, conveniently after the RNC's summer meeting in Chicago. (The RNC has already opined that Idaho's party is chairmanless; is Peterson after a summer vacation in the midwest? Just making sure no one else gets to go? Or—most likely—stubborn as a mule and just as bright?)

Statement of principles Permalink to this item

Inspired by the bad example of the Republicans' state convention the week before, the Democrats stepped up for freedom and unity and produced as good a party platform as I can remember seeing, in terms of saying what needs to be said, succinctly, and without overreaching. Unless all of a party's candidates agree on something specific, there's little to be gained by putting proposals in the document. (There may not be all that much to lose either; even the deep absurdity of calling for the repeal of the 17th amendment in the last—and now held-over—GOP platform didn't disturb any measureable aspect of state politics.)

It's easy to underreach, too; since a platform's only power is that of persuasion, making it too general makes it purely a waste of time. I'd say the Democrats did a good job of hitting down the middle. In that regard, you might think that support for effective transportation, modern telecommunications, necessary public infrastructure, world-class public education, access to affordable quality health care, democracy based on honesty, and equality and respect for all would go without saying. In this state, sadly, they do not.

24.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Vote early, and often Permalink to this item

While trying to lift my jaw off the floor at this real-live and not-subtle case of voter fraud from the suburb right next door to where I grew up, I noticed that the perp has apparently "expressed an interest in attending law school." The school might take his money, but passing the Bar could be a problem if any of the baker's dozen of felony charges get proven.

Let's just say he had a bit too much enthusiasm for civic duty. He managed to cast five votes in the recall election against Wis. Gov. Scott Walker, somehow, according to the complaint.

"In the presidential election, Monroe cast an in-person absentee ballot in Shorewood on Nov. 1 and drove a rental car to Lebanon, Ind., where he showed his Indiana driver's license to vote in person on election day, Nov. 6."

The Raw Story's report says he "insisted to investigators that he did not remember voting in the elections because he takes drugs for Attention Deficit and Obsessive Compulsive disorders."

Time to vote. Time to vote. Time to vote. Time to vote. Time to vote.

Scandal clown theater Permalink to this item

Even Fox News seems hard-pressed to put yesterday evening's congressional entertainment program, starring House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, and the Commissioner of the IRS, John Koskinen in a light wholly positive to the Republicans running the show. The featured quote brought to mind a scene I would have liked to see:

Issa: “We have a problem with you and you have a problem with credibility.”
Koskinen: “With all due respect sir, I know you are, but what am I?”

Congressional indignation over a lack of credibility, well. Fox didn't pick up on this opening ceremony detail that Jeremy Peters provided, for the New York Times:

The hearing was tense from the outset. Mr. Issa was displeased even before Mr. Koskinen could take his oath. When the congressman asked the commissioner to raise his right hand to swear to tell the truth, he scolded him, “A little higher, thank you.”

Boots, picnic table, afternoon

Or turn back the page one year to the point when we learned that Issa told Treasury's inspector general for tax administration "to narrowly focus on the Tea Party organizations" to see if you can figure out why the i.g. found t.p. targeting, specifically.

That was after five congressional hearings, and a lot of studied ignorance about the real IRS scandal. Herman Schwartz:

"As rewritten and interpreted by the IRS, the tax-exempt statute cannot be applied in any clear and consistent way – particularly by a shell-shocked, under-staffed and under-trained agency. The agency’s primary purpose is to collect money, yet it was mandated to evaluate partisan political activity.

"The only way the IRS can properly apply the law is as Congress wrote it: 501(c)(4)s must limit themselves exclusively to public welfare activity, and not engage in any political activity at all.

"Odds are, this won’t happen. Because the IRS has now been condemned so harshly on all sides, it may approve just about anything. Big money will likely be able to continue spending billions of secret dollars – and making a mockery of democracy."

Still, in March (of this year), the IRS Commissioner said he'd provide all of Lois Lerner's emails. And now he says he can't deliver, omg!

"It is not unusual for computers anywhere to fail, especially at the IRS in light of the aged equipment IRS employees often have to use in light of the continual cuts in its budget these past four years," Koskinen said. "Since Jan. 1 of this year, for example, over 2,000 employees have suffered hard drive crashes."

And oh, by the way:

The IRS was able to generate 24,000 Lerner emails from the 2009 to 2011 period because she had copied in other IRS employees. Overall, the IRS said it is producing a total of 67,000 emails to and from Lerner, covering the period from 2009 to 2013.

Speaking of credibility, let's remember the full size and scope of this "scandal" that Republicans can't let go. The IRS examining applications from organization seeking 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status as "social welfare" organizations to see if they were in fact about political action. You might remember (I did not) that the gal with the tens of thousands of emails, some apparently missing (or disappeared, hmm?) kicked off the festivities by apologizing for others' actions, and saying she'd gone about correcting the problem.

We're now 411 days into it (helpfully counted by the TaxProfBlog), and have progressed to evening theater, at least, along with the spluttering op-ed stylings of Michael Gerson, about "a mix of arrogance and delusion that seems designed to incense Republicans." (Nice to know something is working in D.C.)

It was more than a year ago that Dick Morris fulminated about the "full dimensions" of the scandal, in an inimitable style that exposes way more than you want to know about what's in his mind, "tapped so deeply into his psyche," instruments of Nixonian vengeance and something about supervising "the castration of the wealthy people and groups whose access to the political system was opened wide by the Court."

To quote General Anthony McAuliffe, Nuts!

22.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Watching you for your own good Permalink to this item

The other day when I was visiting the convenient (but soon-to-shuttered) branch of our bank, I noticed a new thing at each of the teller windows, and wondered what the 18" tall, slender and featureless (from my point of view) cylinders might be. Air purifier came to mind. White noise generator? "It's a camera," the teller replied when I asked "what's that?" Apparently the half-dozen cameras strategically placed on wall-mount brackets around the room weren't providing enough detail. It seemed a strange upgrade for a branch that's less than two months from closing, but I suppose they'll be able to reuse them.

Photo from Spokane Valley, Washington

That vignette came to mind as I read the NYT piece about the latest in workplace surveillance: Unblinking Eyes Track Employees. Putting a bank customer on live video doesn't seem like a huge privacy issue, especially since customers understand the desirability of deterring robbery. For employees, the balance of power is a little different, but for starters there might still be mutual agreement, such as the opt-in described for what Sociometric Solutions has to offer. Never mind an RFID badge that can open the door to your office building, how about a "sociometric badge,"

"equipped with two microphones, a location sensor and an accelerometer, monitor the communications behavior of individuals — tone of voice, posture and body language, as well as who spoke to whom for how long."

Frederick Taylor would be so pleased. He might also be amazed that in 2014, it could be reported that as a result of sociometric study, a "shared 15-minute coffee break" could be found to increase productivity. Who knew! (The article arrived at Taylor a few paragraphs after he came to my mind; but then my first professional job was as a process engineer, looking for ways to improve efficiency and quality on a production line.) Much as back in the day, the current talk on the sales side is all very scientific and "hailed as a progressive force," but a whole lot creepier than someone watching you with a stopwatch in hand.

Summer Solstice Permanent URL to this day's entry

Chaos theory Permalink to this item

Andrew Bacevich, talking to Bill Moyers about chaos in Iraq and the duplicity of ideologues, a.k.a. why should we be taking advice about more "muscular, global activism" from the people who screwed this up in the first place? Or reading an opinion piece from Dead-eye Dick and his fair-haired daughter?

ANDREW BACEVICH: [R]arely has a major American newspaper published an op-ed that was so thoroughly shameless. Again, what is the cause? What was the catalyst of the instability that racks Iraq today? The simple answer is the one that Cheney and his daughter don't want to mention: the unnecessary, misguided, and frankly immoral war launched by the United States in 2003. We destabilized Iraq. In many respects, we destabilized the larger region. And [the] misfortune of Barack Obama is that he inherited this catastrophe, created by the previous administration.

BILL MOYERS: So is it duplicity or self-delusion?

ANDREW BACEVICH: It depends I think on who we are talking about here. For somebody like Vice President Cheney berating Barack Obama for somehow surrendering American leadership and in the course of doing that simply ignoring the record of the administration in which he served--that's duplicity. That's malicious partisanship.

Not that Obama and the last three Congresses don't have some things to answer for too, but we are done taking advice from the Cheneys, Kagans, and Kristols.

The party of smaller, more dysfunctional government Permalink to this item

The fortunes of the Tea Party in the federal government are mixed; Eric Cantor's demise suggested it wasn't as dead as suggested by some of the eulogies following the primary season, but then meet the new boss, same as the old boss, Kevin McCarthy bowled over the token opposition.

Dana Milbank's key observation is that in spite of the "establishment way" prevailing, the story is not that the establishment beat the Tea Party, but that "ideology had little to do with the elections."

"For all the talk of the struggle between the tea party and the GOP establishment, it has become a false dichotomy. In ideological terms, the tea party has already won the battle; Republican lawmakers new and old have shifted so far to the right that the differences among them are minor."

Credit the Tea Party faction for driving the shift. Primary challenges to moderates (such as the one from Bryan Smith here in Idaho that the Club for Growth funded until they figured it was a losing cause) have turned reasonable, competent members to facsimiles of the barking mad Opposition Party, "close enough for government to not work," you might say. Mike Simpson really, really wants you to know he voted over 40 times in Congress to repeal Obamacare.

In our state "laboratory," the launching pad for that opponent McCarthy clobbered, there's a richer drama going on. Tapped by the sympatico chairman, Barry Peterson, to run the convention, Raúl Labrador demonstrated the self-fulfilling prophecy of "government is broken" in his inability to manage the simplest of self-government exercises, the biennial state convention, albeit in a more poisoned atmosphere than anyone had had to deal with in my memory.

Labrador's two terms in the Idaho House, and now into this second term in the big House haven't provided him the experience to prepare for or run a contentious meeting. His Congressional career has been a series of media appearances and belligerent "no" votes for pretty much everything. For the one issue that should have been in his wheelhouse, as a Puerto Rican and immigration lawyer, his inability to work well with others left him blaming everyone but himself for yet another failure. In the case of Idaho's Republican state convention, Labrador didn't spend much time dwelling on his or its failure. He did describe it, anyway:

"This is as low as the party can go. We have hit bottom. I think the party has no choice but to go up from here."

There's plenty of downside, actually. And the warring factions in Idaho suggest that many members are prepared to go lower still. Both sides are accusing each other of deliberately planning a "predetermined" failure of the convention, inferring malicious motives and exchanging ad hominem attacks in newspaper website comment threads and social media. The line between "government is broken" and "let's break government" have been blurred; mutual assured destruction loses its deterrent value when it becomes one of several options to consider. Delegates to the convention decided no result (if they knew what they were doing) or "let's just keep the status quo then" (if they were persuaded by Labrador as chairman and whoever was advising him as parliamentarian saying that a vote to adjourn would give all officers another term).

Former state chairman Trent Clark's assessment of the rules committee's attempt to settle things was that "a dozen political activists threw all principle and integrity away in a desperate effort to retain their grasp on power," "to empower their political bosses with tyrannical authority." Maria Nate, a member of the rules committee and the wife of its chairman (I'm guessing) says the Governor is "spitting mad," "goes on a tirade to win at all costs, even if that means burning down the party." Clark is "moving the goal posts to hide what happened in Ada county which was a blatant attempt by the governor to stack delegates." LeeAnn Callear "can tell [Clark's] motives are not pure," and Clark calls the opposition "a mob of cronies." Eric Skip McGilp now believes "the governor is a power hungry, juvenile who will go to any lengths to get his way and overrule his own convention."

Jeff Wright celebrates the "small government republicans" having already taken control from the "Big Government Republicans" in Idaho, and the shootout in Moscow being "some feeble attempts" at recovery by "BGR extremists" who "are no longer in control and they hate being in a falling minority." And the BGRs are in league with the Democrats, don't you know!

"The fact that the Dems have spent so much time propping up the BGR with money and support to try to oust the small government Republicans, should be an eye-opener to every actual conservative in the state. Look at all the comments from the Dems lambasting the Liberty and TEA Party caucus. The Dem Attorney General candidate withdrew because the sitting Atty. Gen. looked just fine to him. what bigger signal does anyone need?

"The Dems attack small government Repubs because they know their party has much more to fear from small government Republicans than the BGRs. If they think 23% of the legislature is a small minority wait until they see what 15% or less looks like."

(Wright also thinks the "the Dems, being collectivists, operate lock-step, top-down. What the great Commander or Queen bee tells them to do, they do." If nothing else, I can tell he's never infiltrated a meeting of Democrats.)

20.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Helping sort you out Permalink to this item

If you don't mind answering a few questions (agree/disagree/don't include) and picking a state, clarity+campaign(labs) will sort you out against SmartVAN's National Voter File Co-op and point you to where you could have neighbors most likely to give the same answers. It's rather entertaining to jump states and alternate answers. In Idaho, if I "prefer urban areas," it comes down to a choice of a handful of Boise ZIPcodes. If I don't prefer urban, I should move to Ketchum.

In Washington state, make that Seattle ("prefer urban") or one of the San Juan Islands. In Oregon, Portland, or halfway between The Dalles and Bend.

Here let me sort this out for you Permalink to this item

Since the Republicans can't figure out (or agree) on how to follow their own rules, let me help.

According to undisputed accounts of who was there, and Article II, Section 4, a quorum was present at Thursday's Executive Committee meeting. There were apparently 8 non-officer members and 2 expired officers present. If you count the latter, they had 10 of 17 (with Financial Chair currently vacant), more than 51%. If all the officers' positions became vacant by inaction of the failed convention, you reach Risch's reported "8 of 12 voting committee members."

The notice requirement of Article II, Section 3.1—10 days—was not met, and thus no action taken by the Executive Committee at the meeting could be valid.

The Rules Committee's purview comprises: reviewing the rules under which the Central Committee operates; recommending amendments to the Central Committee for consideration; issuing reports; requesting information; and "any other such work relating to the effective administration of party rules."

Deciding on what the convention could or could not, or did or did not do would seem to fall within that "any other work." Do they have the power to render an opinion contrary to the existing rules, the National party, the laws of Idaho, or Robert's Rules of Order? They do not. In spite of their refusal to note their supposed action last night as a "recommendation" to the Central Committee, that's all it can be.

In other words, they can state that the Executive Committee meeting on June 18 is invalid, because it violated the rule for 10 days' notice. They cannot validly state that because some number (Christ Troupis has 40 affidavits, we heard) of the state convention delegates thought they were affirming the existing officers by voting to adjourn, the vote to adjourn was an election.

The motion to adjourn has the highest precedence in Robert's Rules, and is not debatable nor amendable. And it has no baggage compartment.

The offices are vacant, until the Executive Committee holds a meeting with proper notice and a quorum of its current members, or until the Central Committee meets.

You're welcome.

Majority rules Permalink to this item

First we had dueling lawyers, and now dueling committees. As discussed two days ago, we've had legal opinions against (from the party's General Counsel) and for (from attorney-at-large Christ Troupis) the rather preposterous notion that delegates to the GOP's state convention voted for adjournment and keeping Barry Peterson and the other officers on. Troupis's opinion featured burbling about "doctrines of estoppel and quasi-estoppel" as if he were the Wizard of Oz. Then 8 of the 12 members of the Executive Committee met—without Peterson—to elect interim officers (other than Chairman, which they're leaving to the Central Committee). Peterson said "I was in the office all day yesterday and nobody came to the office and said a word to me about the meeting" and Jason Risch told the Statesman "I personally talked to him yesterday afternoon about it."

Working the coneflower in our front yard

My first reaction was what I said in the comments: "one of these two men is a bald-faced liar. I know which one I'd bet on, but YMMV." (Paula Jane Ferrin Hunt responded "My bet on the liar is Risch," so both sides of the wager will be covered.) My second thought was that Peterson's statement might be literally true, and utterly deceptive if Risch talked to him on the phone, rather than coming into the office. As Peterson likes to comment to the press, "interesting."

Rod Beck weighed in in the comments:

"Article II section 2 of the Idaho Republican Party rules provide for 18 voting members of the Executive Committee. Jason Risch admits only 8 voting members of the Executive Committee joined his rump phone meeting, that he has NO authority to call. No proper notice and not a quorum to conduct ANY business and called by Jason Risch. Therefore, what we now have are the express wishes of a majority [sic] of 8 of the 18 voting members of the Executive Committee of the Idaho Republican Party that has no force or effect and will not be recognized as valid by Republicans across the state of Idaho."

The party's rules provide for 18 members... and the party's not-recently-updated website shows 17 members in office; the list is at least partly stale, because Dawn Hatch has succeeded Rod Beck as Region IV chair. (Region IV is the only one of the 7 which comprises a single county, Ada.) Beck continued in his comment:

"The official standing rules committee of the Idaho Republican Party Central Committee will be tonight [i.e. June 19] @ 7:00 PM at the Capitol and will try to sort all this out. The Rules Committee is comprised of 2 members from each of the 7 Regions of the State. Each duly elected Region Chairman appoints 2 member of the rules Committee from their Region. Ron Nate has been Chairman of the Rules Committee for several years. This committee is current and valid. Stay tuned. Attend if you're interested in all the confusion see if they can sort this out."

I had a prior engagement, but Jeanette attended and took 7 pages of interesting notes to augment the reporting from Nathan Brown of the Twin Falls Times-News and the stream of tweets emanating from the Capitol. (Notable: Nathan Brown's feed, @IdahoGovernment, and Jared Larsen:

"I proposed rules last year to reign in #idgop standing rules com because it was becoming an entity unto itself. Sad to say I was vindicated."

Jeanette says five of the 18 Rules Committee members present did most of the talking, and two of those, Trent Clark and Grant Loebs seemed to represent the establishment wing (for lack of a better term).

In spite of his not being on the committee or holding any party office, Christ Troupis' opinions were solicited and accorded great respect, even as they didn't stand up very well to specific questioning. Loebs eventually asked him "why are you here?" Just trying to help out as a volunteer!

Notable members of the Rules Committee include the failed Club for Growth challenger to "liberal" Rep. Mike Simpson, Bryan Smith (calling his position "neutral" at one point to obtain time to speak), and the notorious scofflaw and former state representative Phil Hart.

Ironically, after Clark made a motion for the members to "read, understand and follow the rules that allow us to govern ourselves," which a sufficient number clearly have not done, he saw fit to direct a barb toward both the Tea Party faction and the Democrats as using "shady tools" (as Kimberlee Kruesi tweeted). There were plenty of Democrats (and a few Republicans) in the audience who would have been happy to respond, but other than Christ Troupis, none were deemed in order.

In Betsy Russell's rundown of the continuing chaos in the Idaho GOP, she has a link to Trent Clark's rules committee recap on Facebook, under the ever-so over-the-top headline, "Absolute Power Corrupting Absolutely." The stakes aren't quite that high, but the battle is fierce. Maria Olsen Nate (hmm, spouse of Ron Nate "chairman of the rules committee for several years" according to Rod Beck?) responded,

"Wow Trent, do we even belong to the same party? This all began with Otter's desperate attempt to stack the convention with delegates to the convention. Otter did this so he could get his guy in as chair. ..."

That does seem to be the proximate cause of the convention blowing up, even though it wasn't under discussion at the Rules Committee last night.

Region II chair (and thus member of the Executive Committee) LeeAnn Callear, who earlier complained (in a comment under Popkey's June 19 story linked in the first paragraph) about the funky, short semi-notice of the Executive Committee's meeting she didn't get to on Wednesday illustrates the toxicity of the infighting, firing for effect at Clark:

"Trent works for Monsanto and IACI, not the Idaho GOP. In 2012 donated to 1 candidate in region 2 races, not one republican, but gave $1000 to liberal democrat John [Rusche]. He fought at one meeting, similarity too how he acted last night for the right for Patty Ann Lodge to live in one district and won for Senator, and precinct person in another. He said that it was her intent to some day move to that vacant lot that matters. He should be practicing law, because he knows how to twist it. Too bad he is losing his sway."

And summarizing her view from the convention:

"The only reason we voted to adjourn was with the condition given, which was our vote clearly. Trent did not like the outcome of the vote. He wanted Mike Duff has chairman, or his parner Doug Sayer, who knows his motives. I can tell his motives are not pure."

We'll give Trent Clark the last word out of his own Facebook thread:

"Just to set the record straight: (1) notice how, absent an argument, people go for character assassination and impugning motives, (2) as for my motives, most who know me know I do not carry water for any 'faction,' but believe the cause of freedom requires integrity and keeping the moral high ground. Last night, a group of people whose cause I support ceded the high ground, and became as corrupt as the very establishment they oppose."

Update: This is why it's nice to have reporters: Dan Popkey talks to Trent Clark and fills in all sorts of background I didn't know, including that he was state party chair from 1999-2002.

19.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Who is John Doe? Permalink to this item

You know you're in deep water when the local paper runs an explainer about the ins and outs of your case. Six convictions in the first round, five county District Attorneys in the follow-up, and a lot we don't know, because it's mostly a secret probe to find out whether crimes have been committed. There's enough made public to establish that

"[I]nvestigators are looking into whether the Wisconsin Club for Growth and other conservative groups illegally coordinated with the campaigns of [Wis. Governor Scott] Walker and candidates for state Senate during the recalls that were sparked by Walker's limits on collective bargaining for most public workers."

The Wisconsin Club for Growth sued. A U.S. District Judge issued an injunction against the probe. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed him, said he had to certify that the presecutor's earlier appeal was "frivolous," and he did that, and reinstated the injunction. Meanwhile... there's this email

in which Walker tells Karl Rove, former top adviser to President George W. Bush, that [top deputy R.J.] Johnson would lead the coordination campaign. Johnson is also chief adviser to Wisconsin Club for Growth, a conservative group active in the recall elections.

We Will, In Fact, Be Greeted As Liberators Permalink to this item

If only Richard B. "Dick" Cheney could find a hobby the way W. did. Instead we have to listen to him opine on current events when what he says should be in his memoir from 2001-2009:

“Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”

As Charles Blow puts it, "His whole legacy is wrapped in wrong."

Blow does recall a time when Cheney was a bit more on the ball, before the megalomania set in. It was 1994, and the occasion was his defense of his Defense decision in the earlier Gulf War:

“Once you got to Iraq and took it over, and took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq you can easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off. Part of it the Syrians would like to have to the west. Part of eastern Iraq, the Iranians would like to claim, fought over for eight years. In the north you’ve got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It’s a quagmire.”

We're now seeing the pieces of Iraq flying off.

18.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Getting to stalemate Permalink to this item

Betsy Russell pulls together the various recent threads of the Idaho GOP's "abnormal times" for the Spokesman-Review. It's quite a story. Between the lines, and for the meeting of the central committee's rules committee tomorrow night, the first order of business remains some sort of determination of who's in charge? Barry Peterson used to be, and claims he still is (and hopes to get a legal second opinion to back him up), but it rather looks like a decapitated chicken at this point. Still active, but without evidence of clear purpose.

We're not perfect...

As the Democrats drop in on Moscow for their version of a state party convention this weekend (which I can guarantee will not be as interesting as the last one), I'm thinking back to the times I ran for election as a candidate to be a delegate (I went 1-0-1, in case you're wondering; attending once as delegate and once as an alternate), and how there were no backroom deals for the rank and file. There were "automatic" seats for previously elected and party officials, but the caucus-goers who put their hats in the ring individually stood up and introduced themselves and made a short pitch (at least if there were more people wanting to go than seats available). The last caucus we attended looked to require far more patience for mind-numbing process than we were ready to endure, especially for the opportunity to spend our own time and money for an event that's sort of interesting and fun, but without a tremendous opportunity for accomplishment.

Nevertheless, there were established rules about electing delegates, which were followed as carefully as could be. The processes could be tedious, and somewhat inscrutable at times, but there were never any significant disputes about simple fairness.

It was outgoing Secretary of State Ben Ysursa who provided the "abnormal times" lifted up to headline, and I imagine him shaking his head in dismay (if not disbelief) at this descent into squabbling within Idaho's ruling party. We don't all have to get along but shouldn't we at least be able to follow the rules? You don't need a tinfoil hat to see that the governor was—justifiably—fed up with the Peterson/Beck wing of the party and the damage it has already done, but to cook up whole slates of delegates for Ada and other counties and pass them in a sort of procedural putsch showed an abiding contempt for democratic process. Rod Beck might have been excluded in a fair process too (he has been by Idaho's voters at large, multiple times), but he deserves a chance among his peers, at least.

Instead, the strange and stranger backroom dealmaking devolved to a "yes or no" contest between the two factions of the party, which turned out to be close enough to tied for government work to get precisely nothing done. It doesn't seem coincidental that it happened with Raúl Labrador presiding; he's been rather instrumental in bringing the same incapacity to Congress during his two terms there.

Labrador has his own chance with a jury of his peers, tomorrow, for House Majority Leader. He insists this is a serious bid for the position, in spite of his having shown pretty much no qualifications whatsoever, and based on little more than talk show appearances and facile quips such as "Republicans will never again unite the country until we first unite our Party."

He insists he's "uniquely qualified" without being able to describe his qualifications, beyond having a good mother.

His prepared remarks for the candidate forum take tone-deafness to a new level, starting with his opening line that "I have decided to be your Majority Leader..." Ah, hello, Raúl? It's actually the people voting who will be deciding the question. There are certainly others in your caucus who feel irrelevant, as you say you do, but did you ever, once, consider that your irrelevance is of your own making?

The whole pitch boils down to "we need to change leadership." An argument could be made (without breaking a sweat), but once we all stipulate that, why should we change to you? Because it's your American Dream? Because voting for Raúl means "we're listening"? No small irony there, from a man whose broadcast channel is so much stronger than his reception.

The Tea Party may still be at the kids' table as Margaret Carlson observes for BloombergView, but that doesn't mean they can't start a national food fight to rival the show they just put on in Moscow, Idaho.

Update: Peterson's choice of lawyer, Christ Troupis, gave him the answer he wanted. "No vacancy exists," based on legal argument with imaginary foundations (imho). As I commented there on the S-R, let's by all means settle this in court.

17.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Plot thickening Permalink to this item

It seems the Idaho Republicans never contemplated a feckless biennial convention that could not elect its officers to two-year terms, and there is no provision for office-holders to keep their positions at this point. That's the legal opion of Jason Risch anyway (and yes he's related; he's our junior Senator's son). They could have provide that officers "shall serve for two years or until a successor is elected," but didn't.

That's the kicker at the bottom of a remarkable blog post from Betsy Russell in which we read that the Tea Party wing with the convention in a headlock called the governor "after midnight Thursday night" to play Let's Make a Deal: you endorse Russ Fulcher, and we'll let you have those delegates from Ada County.

That's pretty astounding.

I don't need to say "but wait!" at this point; you know there's more.

Barry Peterson doesn't like that legal opinion from Jason Risch, and is having an Al Haig moment. He's still the boss of us! And besides, he'd like his own opinion, from the Tea Party candidate for Attorney General who lost his attempt to unseat the incumbent in the May primary.

Along with his conspiracy theory about the demise of the convention, he's imagining that because

"the convention chairman, 1st District Congressman Raúl Labrador, conferred with his parliamentarians and announced that the result of voting for adjournment would be that “the party officers and the party position as to the platform etc. would be as they were constituted,” Peterson said. “Overwhelmingly, the vote was carried.”

We're adjourned and you all get to stay in office, that's what the delegates voted for? Good one.

Here we go again Permalink to this item

James Fallows isn't right about everything but even a blind pig could find the nuts who were wrong about everything in Iraq and who are now (or still) making the rounds as Serious Commentators.

"We all make mistakes. But we are talking about people in public life—writers, politicians, academics—who got the biggest strategic call in many decades completely wrong. Wrong as a matter of analysis, wrong as a matter of planning, wrong as a matter of execution, wrong in conceiving American interests in the broadest sense. None of these people did that intentionally, and many of them have honestly reflected and learned. But we now live with (and many, many people have died because of) the consequences of their gross misjudgments a dozen years ago. In the circumstances, they might have the decency to shut the hell up on this particular topic for a while. They helped create the disaster Iraqis and others are now dealing with. They have earned the right not to be listened to."

Paul Wolfowitz. Scooter Libby. Frederick and Robert Kagan. Paul Bremer. The inestimable William Kristol,

"a special case of someone so wrong so often that he's a reliable reverse-predictor guide to reality, see this, which doesn't go into his enthusiasm even now for Sarah Palin."

On the brighter, or at least more interesting side, Steven Simon's op-ed prediction: ISIS will fail in Iraq, and Iran will be the victor.

Deconstructing the mess Permalink to this item

Jamie Grey gives it a go, for KTVB. Outgoing Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna provides the establishment point of view: the committees had been stacked, representation was out of whack, and the party chairman was steadfast in his refusal to explain or justify any of that.

Luna believes the solution once they were at the convention would have been for the chairman to explain the committee assignments. As the fighting intensified, Luna says he stood up and asked for an explanation.

"Basically what I said is, 'You have people that have left their jobs and their families and spent lots of money to be here, and there's a question that's being asked that I think if it was answered, we could move forward and accomplish our work'. If the party chair would just stand in front of the group and explain how he chose people to serve on these committees and why he chose this makeup," Luna said.

Luna said the chairman refused to answer that question.

"I think that's the point where everybody thought, this is not going anywhere and is probably not going to end well," Luna said.

For its part, the Tea Party faction was pushing back on the establishment's preemptive predetermination, the approving of stacked slates of delegates at the county level to try to prevent yet more lunacy to be packed into the state platform, as well as to unseat Barry Peterson, the state chair who doesn't seem to like the Governor. (The feeling seems to be mutual.)

We didn't expect them all to get along, but it was a surprise to see both sides willing to do nothing at all but try to bend (and break) the rules in their favor, and for such miniscule stakes.

Picture tweeted by Labrador

Meanwhile, the man who chaired the convention, and who has arguably helped bring the state's GOP "as low as the party can go," is back in D.C., and ready for the next level of his personal aggrandizement, tweeting about his next appearances before a camera, making the rounds of Fox and Friends and the Laura Ingraham show, where they will mutually chortle about the demise of the not-quite-obstructionist-enough Eric Cantor (in which Ingraham had a starring role) and creating the opening for Majority Leader that Labrador is now barking at.

Lights! Camera! Inaction!

Update: If I'd seen it before writing the above, I would've worked in Popkey's front page story in today's Statesman about the deal that didn't quite get struck to have (failed primary challenger to the sitting Governor) Russ Fulcher and (Pocatello businessman and "establishment" candidate for party chairman) Doug Sayer shunt aside the current state chair and share party leadership. Somehow.

16.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Bridge to nowhere Permalink to this item

Optimism and high self-esteem are good qualities for a politician to command. A capacity for accurate self-assessment might just get in your way. In spite of his lack of demonstrated success at unifying any disparate group of his party members, and a record of amplifying their differences more than anything else, Idaho's Congressman Raúl Labrador avers that he believes he's "uniquely qualified" to unite his party as the next House Majority Leader.

The dateline is kind of a hoot, too: just two days after he presided over the most astoundingly divided state party convention in living memory, and declared “[t]his is as low as the party can go. We have hit bottom. I think the party has no choice but to go up from here.”

But indeed the state, and national party does have a choice; they could go lower still. Electing Labrador as Majority Leader, for example.

Here we have Idaho Permalink to this item

The Idaho state GOP convention went national, of course, nicely assembled for the Washington Post by Jaime Fuller.

Mr. Peanut is offering to help you "harness the power of Cocoa Peanuts" in a brilliantly placed ad just above the copy of the Latah Co. GOP's memorable logo mash-up. (Your ad placement may vary.)

One of the more quotable quotes Jaime highlighted was the one from Senator Chuck Winder:

“It was basically the ultra-, ultra-conservative, tea party-libertarian type people basically flexing their muscle in the way the thing was organized. It’s a real shame that a convention comes to that stage, where there really wasn’t any real floor leadership, there wasn’t any fairness in the process, either in the credentials committee or on the floor. It was all predetermined. It’s kind of ‘who’s going to have the power,’ rather than working together.”

Just about any Democratic politician in the legislature might have offered the same comment about what it's like to serve with Winder and his fellow more establishment Republicans.

But those people Winder is talking about view his establishment ilk as part of "the left" which needs to be "run out of town," at least. RobinOfKingston's account for the Freepers is presumably representative.

Flag Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Freedom and unity fiasco Permalink to this item

The Republican State Convention 2014 "Freedom and Unity" pins are going to be quite the collector's item. Some of the holders may be able to cash them in to replace the (almost certainly nonrefundable) $75 delegate fee that some party-goers had to pay even though they never got to take one of the 15,000 empty seats in the Kibbie Dome. Ada, Bannock and Power Counties' delegations were all deemed to be "tainted" somehow, and rather than find a way to settle the dispute, or carry on with semi-unity, convention chair Raúl Labrador mercifully pulled the plug on Saturday afternoon. It had taken most of two hours Saturday morning to try to call the roll, but see, that was the point. Who's in? And who's out? The whole delegation of Power County had apparently gone home. Let's have lunch.

Afterwards, some exercises in parliamentary procedure, but no voting on platform resolutions, no three-way contest for a new party chairman. (They're going to keep using the tired old one.) Lots of freedom, but not so much unity.

Image from the Latah Co. GOP, posted for commentary

The Latah GOP's red, white, blue, black, green, yellow and gray logo will live on in irony, its mash-up of talismans as incongruous as the final result. (For those unfamiliar with the city in the hills, that's the "I-Tower" water tower that stands above the University of Idaho campus; some wheat to represent the Palouse's rich agriculture; an Idaho White Pine—our state tree, with most specimens long-ago logged, or killed by white pine blister rust; an Appaloosa with its spots on the wrong end; an anatomically incorrect American flag, all wrapped up in the vaulted cross-section of the expansive Kibbie "Dome." I can't explain what "ReKnew" is supposed to be about.)

Betsy Russell's report for the Spokesman-Review: Idaho GOP convention fiasco leaves state party in disarray. Clark Corbin's headline for Idaho Education News went with "meltdown."

The man presiding over this "mess" was ID-01's Congressman, taking the weekend off his paying job (saying "no" to everything doesn't take all day), getting some facetime with Friday night keynoter Senator Rand Paul, and announcing that he'd be running for the #2 job in the House after Eric Cantor's surprise demise. (Labrador says Cantor "is a good friend," which I have no reason to believe is true, and that he's inferred from that one gerrymandered district in Virginia that "Americans are looking for a change in the status quo.")

The state con might have been a "practice run" with what should have been a easy crowd. The GOP in Idaho has every statewide elected office, all four members of the Congressional delegation and 80% of the seats in the legislature. The platform business was likely to be a little crazy, but the Idaho Republican Party likes a little crazy in their platform. The three-way contest for party chair between the Tea Party incumbent, the sheep breeder and the businessman was going to be contentious, for sure, but worth settling. If nothing else, we wanted to see if Mike Duff's notion that who got elected state chairman could cause "35 to 40 percent of the Republican base stay home in November."

Will they come out and vote for a party that can't run its own convention?

Correction: Leslie Madsen-Brooks pointed out that Appaloosas can have their spots wherever they please.

All this and two parliamentarians Permalink to this item

Not quite noon up north, time to check the #idgop Twitter stream and my what a vicarious show it is. @Billie_Siddoway tweeted late last night that there was "no grand bargain to resolve Idaho GOP convention dispute," and not apparently any small one, either. Sen. Bart Davis is added as co-parliamentarian, and the Secretary beings calling the roll, Ada County is first by virtue of the alphabet, and they start by calling the original delegate list!

Two hours on, they're still trying to get through the roll call, nobody home from Power County. Chairman Labrador bumbles into a point of order for failing to follow the order of business in the rules, and will committees be appointed and confirmed so that they can report?

Charlette Kremer: "I'll bet there will be a line at the ladies room during the next break at #idgop. Lots of lipstick to freshen up."

Billie Siddoway: Labrador called the motion to consider the appointment of committees out of order. An appeal to the order of the chair is pending.

Kimberlee Kruesi Delegate asks for a roll call vote on Labrador's ruling. Groans and cheers from audience.

Top two primary Permalink to this item

Last Sunday, the Idaho Statesman ran a guest opinion by Sean Coletti, Ammon city councilman, registered Republican, and a precinct committeeman, with the resolution he would have offered in Moscow this weekend, had he been able to attend the Republican state party convention. Oddly, I can't seem to find the piece on their website, but it is on the Twin Falls, halfway across the state toward Idaho Falls (and next-door Ammon), with an overstated title: A New Platform for Idaho’s GOP. (The resolution would be a new plank in the platform, at best.)

I'm sorry he didn't have the wherewithal to have someone else take it to the convention; it could have been the most important thing to come out of the confab on the Palouse. I do agree with him that having elections "focused on picking the best person for the job," and having "an actual, open and free exchange of ideas with all people of every political stripe, and a competitive primary which leads to an actually meaningful general election" would be a big improvement in what we have now.

Since bungled the formatting, I'll provide the essence of it here, cutting to the chase with fewer whereases:

"Whereas, the recent shift of the Idaho Republican Party to close primary elections has not had any noticeable effect on protecting the primary from other political parties, but has instead reduced overall voter participation by excluding all individuals who choose not to or cannot affiliate with a party; and Whereas, the goal of the primary election in Idaho should be to encourage full electoral participation and enfranchisement, in an effort to allow the Idaho people to elect the best candidates for each position; and ...

"Whereas, the top-two system will bring to the general election the best two candidates for each elected position, making the general election much more attractive to all voters, thereby increasing voter participation and bringing a more vibrant and active debate of ideas; and ...

"Whereas, the top-two system will not, as is feared by some, do away with political parties, as all candidates will still be able to choose to associate with a particular party, and parties will still be able to show their support for their favorite candidates;

"Be It Therefore Resolved, that it is the official position of the Idaho Republican Party to eliminate the closed primary system and instead support a platform position which supports a top-two primary election system in the State of Idaho; and

"Be It Further Resolved, that the Idaho Legislature is directed and encouraged to amend Idaho Code, Title 34, Chapter 9, to repeal the closed primary and enact a top-two primary system in the State of Idaho; and

"Be It Further Resolved, that the Idaho Secretary of State is directed and encouraged to enact rules in the State of Idaho governing the operation of a top-two primary election system in the State of Idaho."

13.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Foreshadowing first amendment GOP con Permalink to this item

Couldn't quite make out what the signs said in Geoff Schroeder's snapshot of the "Free Speech Area" outside the Kibbie Dome from this morning, so I enlarged the photo. Interesting!

Your First Amendment play area at the ID GOP con

Update from Facebook:
Convention treasurer @jareddlarsen: If #idgop has to refund $75 for each Ada delegate & alt, would cost abt $15,000; "a devastating blow."

Update #2: Kimberlee Kruesi has a good rundown of the day's events for the AP, hosted on SLC's KSL and Betsy's blog. Late-breaking news is that Raúl Labrador might come up with a way to quash the credentials committee's attempt to disqualify 20% of the delegates. "Stay tuned."

GOP credential fireworks Permalink to this item

Trying to follow the Idaho Republican Party's convention through tweets is like watching a futbol game through a soda straw. Fascinating and unsatisfying. The one sure thing is that the Credentials Committee, where they'll decide who all to kick out of the "big tent," is where the action is. Kimberlee Kruesi:

Lots of anger over the credentials committee. One delegate went so far to say that "even Hitler had more subtlety than this." #idpol #idgop

Not standing for the flag at #IDGOP convention because I don’t worship false gods. Getting looks like I ate a puppy.
Prince WilliⒶm

Among other fun facts scrolling by is that the committee has no power to appoint delegates, just unseat them. So unseat away! There go 24 delegates from Bannock Co. Five from Power Co. Debt collector and failed congressional candidate Bryan Smith interrogates the Ada Co. chair, turns it into a deposition. Can we vote for a slate? Do we need a majority or a super-majority? Who are those people behind the curtain?

Cornel Rasor, of "gay is OK, but not if you come to work in a tutu" fame is appointed as parliamentarian, by Idaho's Tea Party rising star, who, ahem, will also be running for majority leader in the big House. (Why not? If the only program is blocking legislation and appearing on TV news shows, he's ideally suited.)

And... the credentials committee votes "overwhelmingly" to reject Ada County's delegates. Ada as in the most populous county in the state, and where Boise, the state capital is. That would leave quite a number of volunteers who paid their own way up to Moscow with some unexpected free time, and firearms.

Under the vault of the Palouse Permalink to this item

News from the north includes a photo of the "Free Speech Area" arranged in advance of Rand Paul's appearance (no irony intended, I'm sure), and the likely crucial Credentials Committee with Beck vs. Ada Co. likely to tip the course of the party platform for another couple of years.

When I heard they were going to do all this stuff in the so-called Kibbie Dome (it's curved about one axis, a vault, not a dome), capacity 16,000, I wondered how that could possibly work for a convention. The answer seems to be "not so well."

Melissa Davlin of Idaho Reports (via Betsy Russell) notes that in the cavernous stadium, "everyone is having trouble hearing, and there has been some confusion." No irony intended there, either.

The Divide Permalink to this item

It's not exactly news that our system of justice is profoundly broken, but the stories of its brokenness have become so routine that a certain numbness sets in. The ordinary mayhem of accidents, natural disasters, and the occasional mass murder provide regular distractions from the big picture. And when we do glimpse that big picture in some fleeting way, it's dispiriting enough to make us long for distraction.

An introduction to Matt Taibbi's latest effort at documentary storytelling, The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap is thus inevitably downbeat, but the same emotional impulse that has us turning to look at car wrecks makes it a compelling read. In our philosophical ideals, we aspire to fairness, "equal protection under the law." In our real world, we fail to reach that goal, ever more spectacularly.

If it were just the story of how to brazenly steal $5 billion under the nose of a supervising judge, have the deception exposed, and then have the cuckolded judge give it his blessing anyway ("the greatest bank robbery you never heard of"), it would be horrific enough. Juxtaposed with the degrading venality of searching underwear drawers to prevent "welfare fraud" and stealing crappy old cars from illegal immigrants, the enormity of the divide is made plain.

"Legally, there's absolutely no difference between a woman on welfare who falsely declares that her boyfriend no longer lives in the home and a bank that uses a robo-signer to cook up a document swearing that he has kept regular records of your credit card account. But morally and politically, they're worlds apart. When the state brings a fraud case against a welfare mom, it brings it with disgust, with rage, because in addition to committing the legal crime, she's committed the political crime of being needy and an eyesore.

"Banks commit the legal crime of fraud wholesale; they do so out in the open, have entire departments committed to it, and have employees who've spent years literally doing nothing but commit, over and over again, the same legal crime that some welfare mothers go to jail for doing once. But they're not charged, because there's no political crime. The system is not disgusted by the organized, mechanized search for profit. It's more like it's impressed by it. ..."

12.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The circus is in town! Permalink to this item

Gonzaga University, Spokane, Wash.

While we were visiting Moscow last weekend, we heard that someone from the GOP called the gal who looks after the local farmer's market to let her know that the "open carry" dudes (and maybe some dudettes) would be showing up this weekend. Nothing says "socially awkward" quite like needing your long gun strapped over your shoulder. We can at least hope they're on their company manners for the duration and nobody gets shot accidentally or on purpose.

Meanwhile, the real shenanigans get under way at the convention! Congress' Tea Party darling Raúl Labrador is tapped to chair the proceedings, and some possible answers to how the platform could get any crazier are rolling in: a constitutional amendment to declare that “every child has a right to a female mother and a male father,” proposed by Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll could be best in show. But there's competition: parents choosing curriculum (no evolution for our kids, damnit!), and how about

"a Bill to facilitate the process of an Idaho Constitutional Amendment defining the use of the Bible, for literary and historical purpose, to be implemented within our primary and secondary public education non-elective literature and history academics."

Yes, that's right, constitutionally compulsory literary and historical Bible study. (Which, be careful what you ask for; more than a few Bible-believing parents might not want that included in their curriculum picks.)

The parliamentary fireworks will be lively as well, with the preliminaries leaning toward the Rod Beck-Barry Peterson wing, and squeezing out the Ada County rational wing, in spite of Beck losing his election for precinct committeeman and being outgoing Region 4 chairman. (Possibly outgoing state chair) Peterson was challenged on the veracity of his claim that our county chairman's list of committee choices didn't arrive on time, and allowed it was "an interesting observation," but number one, he doesn't have to tell the truth, and number two, it's up to him to pick and choose.

The parties of broken government Permalink to this item

Just when the country club Republicans looked to have quashed the Tea Party and restored a semblance of order, this upset, "unrivaled in the history of congressional primaries" by Jonathan Martin's estimate. Newt Gingrich inevitably weighed in, with a pugnacious outlook.

“What the Republican establishment and the Chamber of Commerce don’t understand is that there’s a large element of America that wants a fight,” said former Speaker Newt Gingrich. “If you’re a conservative, you think Barack Obama is literally destroying the country you love. And you watch your leadership and they seem unwilling to take him head on, and also unable to outmaneuver him.”

That "literally destroying the country" bit was the chewy center of yesterday's semi-robocall from the RNSC, in fact. With whackjobs trying to kick off the revolution by armed confrontation of the BLM, or just shooting cops in cold blood, if "that fury" only gridlocks the capital for the rest of this year and the rest of Obama's presidency, we might call it a success.

The headline "this is why we can't have nice things" keeps occurring to me, but there are too many stories to put under it. Because one of the most conservative congressional districts in Virginia found Eric Cantor too squishy on keeping the government functioning, minimally? Or immigration reform? Never mind the damned lies, there are still 1,974,688 people who have been "removed" (now including those "excluded" from entry and what used to be called "deported") and 1,609,055 "returned" (apprehended and prevented from entering the country) during the Obama administration.

Whatever. This Congress and the next one are as unlikely to pass anything titled "immigration reform" as they are to agree on what in the world that might be.

The lowest possible bar, passing a budget and/or continuing resolutions to keep the majority of the lights on, will be amply challenging. "Reconnecting with the Latino vote" seems an impossible dream for TeaPublicans. Unless... shouldn't we have three parties already?

11.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Do I sound that bad? Permalink to this item

Seemed like a robo-call, clicked to a "may I speak to Thomas?" startup in a convincingly human voice, I said "you're speaking to him," and a slightly different voice launched into the spiel about how the National Republican Senatorial Committee would save the country from Barack Obama and Harry Reid, if only... could they put me down for a contribution of $100, or blah blah blah?

"You ask that question as if you're a human, but you're a recording, aren't you?"

"Oh, do I sound that bad?" he asked with a polished chuckle, before assuring me that he was indeed human, but "using a computer for quality control."

Good to stay spot on-message and avoid unwanted deviation from the script. Was it all piped in until the final "can I put you down" pitch? Not that it matters. I typically don't have the time of day for telephone solicitation, and didn't bother telling him I'm only on their list because of the RWNJs in Idaho who insisted on a closed primary to better ensure their purity, left it at "we're doing what we can for support" (and the verb intransitive) before hanging up.

Who's in charge here? Permalink to this item

Stunner in the morning news, fundraising email subject summed it up succinctly: "Wow. Wow wow wow."

"Seriously: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor just lost his primary to a Tea Party challenger. Eric Cantor -- Eric. Freaking. Cantor. -- is officially too moderate to win the nomination of the Republican Party. And the results are not even close!

"The Tea Party isn't just alive and well -- it's taken wholesale control of the GOP."

Not that I keep on top of Virginia politics, but I did not see this coming. An economics professor with a couple hundred thousand bucks and change took out the GOP's #2 man in the House. (Cantor raised $5.4 million for his campaign.) If you can believe the New York Times, it was over "being soft on immigration" and supporting "what critics call amnesty."

“The American people want to pay attention to serious ideas again,” Mr. [David] Brat said, speaking on Fox News.

Riiiight. But whatever whoever says on the channel of the barking right (Brat had "significant help from conservative talk radio hosts like Laura Ingraham," the Times said), it'll be dueling Randolph-Macon professors this fall, in what everyone thought was Cantor's district, "heavily Republican."

And Cantor can go on to a lucrative career as a well-oiled lobbyist, or something.

"Mr. Cantor received what amounted to a warning shot from local Republicans at a district convention last month in Henrico County, his political home base, when conservatives ousted one of his loyalists as Republican chairman while he looked on.

"Yet he seemed to recognize the seriousness of the threat only in the final weeks of the campaign, when he suddenly shifted his advertising and began sending aides from Washington to his district. At that point, it was too late to stave off defeat."

It's not that far from Washington to Virginia, is it? At some point, it seems like the candidate himself might want to go do a little campaigning.

The bigger picture is about to be dissected five ways to Tuesday. Jonathan Weisman and Jennifer Steinhauer declare it a bad omen for moderates, to say nothing of everybody, as Cantor's defeat "pull[s] the top echelons of the House even further to the right and most likely doom[s] any ambitious legislation, possibly through the next presidential election."

9.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above Permalink to this item

If dad says no, what are you gonna do? Go ask mom, of course (and be very careful not to give away that you already tried dad). In Idaho's domestic political drama, the desired treat is all that federal land within our state's border just sitting thee, and "dad" is Attorney General Lawrence Wasden. Mom is... ok, the analogy goes into the weeds with the Republicans on the legislature's interim "habeus terram" committee turned to (as IdahoEd News commenter Kevin Wilson put it) "a lawyer willing to take taxpayer money to tell us what we want to hear."

The 2013 legislature launched this effort, wanting something more than an empty resolution demanding the feds do something they were not about to do. The interim committee has the power to get something done, even if that something is padding the nest of a friendly lawyer.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder, one of two leaders of the interim committee who committed money out of the legislature's Legal Defense Fund without bothering to consult the whole 10-member team explained the situtation in quasi-grown up terms:

“We’ve hired legal counsel from outside of state government primarily because we didn’t feel as the Legislature that we were getting the help that we needed from the attorney general’s office, once they determined the legal prospects of the case against the federal government on this didn’t have much merit.”

That also captures the reason that the legislature established a legal defense fund for itself: for those occasions when they have a case with no merit and the Attorney General's opinion isn't what they want to hear. (Kimberlee Kruesi covered the story for the AP a week ago.)

Winder's co-chair is none other than deposed Speaker of our House, and now candidate for Secretary of State (and thus a seat on the Land Board), Lawerence "sic" Denney. The Democrats' candidate for SOS, Holli Woodings is understandably keen to highlight Denney's impossible dream.

"Lawerence Denney has a history of spending public dollars on private lawyers when he’s looking for a specific outcome. He sued the state of Idaho to close the Republican Primary elections. The lawyer who pushed the lawsuit, Christ Troupis, was paid $100,000 in taxpayer dollars. When Denney didn’t like the fair and independent work of the Redistricting Commission, he and Troupis sued, and failed, in the Idaho Supreme Court. Had Denney prevailed Troupis would have again been paid with taxpayer dollars.

"Now, with the federal lands committee, we again have Denney using taxpayer dollars to shop around for an attorney who will give him the opinion he wants."

D-Day + 70 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Reconsidering reconsideration Permalink to this item

The Ada County Highway District had special meeting that drew another full house to their Garden City headquarters, and after a moment of silence and another for reflection on the 10,000 men who gave their lives 70 years ago today, Commissioners Jaurena and Arnold went ahead and put another bullet in the corpse of the Buffered Bike Lan Pilot Project.

After the formalities of adopting the agenda and waiving the requirement that this be brought up at next week's meeting, Commission President John Franden explained why it was no one in the standing room only crowd other than Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan who would be testifying, and that only the two commissioners who had voted against the original motion would be allowed to move for reconsideration.

Jordan made her case for there being "new information," that Clearwater Analytics had offered to provide 150 new bike (I'm pretty sure she said) parking spaces in the multimodal center, and that oh by the way, the ACHD had already blown by its up-front budget of $45,000 and it was going to cost still more to undo the paint and candlesticks.

The audience applauded heartily, as Jordan raised her hand trying to squelch the out of order outburst. Franden controlled the meeting with a sure hand, ignoring the crowd's response, and Commissioner Jaurena said he'd read all 12,000 comments, and Jordan's testimony was "nothing new" and it would be "arbitrary and capricious" for them to reconsider. No motion from him! And Arnold agreed, so that's that. Franden, and Jim Hansen, and then Arnold all had a chance to say something generally positive about continuing to work on something, who knows what.

Meeting adjourned. The "anti" part of the crowd applauded that, considerably more weakly than the early round.

The video of the meeting ended with a busy signal from Commissioner Sara Baker who was phoning it in; "it" amounted to announcing her presence and nothing more. Word was, she was adamantly against the project, but since she hadn't been on hand to vote against it on the record, she had no standing to move reconsideration), sort of poetically. The audio ends with back and forth comments:

"I think she hung up."
"I think she did."
"That was subtle."

Still thinking about buffered bike lanes Permalink to this item

Sven Berg has another story in the Idaho Statesman, timely before today's 3pm reconsideration meeting at the Ada County Highway District HQ. The headline, at least, paints the city vs. supra-city conflict combative: City Council President Slams ACHD Over Bike Lanes. But MaryAnne Jordan's email (quoted in the story) is hardly a "slam"; she questioned the sincerity of ACHD's effort for good reason, and asked for reconsideration, which they are providing, today.

I had the same frustration about the lack of individual commissioners' email addresses that Jordan did. I wanted to write to my district #2 commissioner, Rebecca Arnold... but not sure what good I might do. At the mid-May meeting, she expressed her personal assessment of the pilot project—she tried it once (in a car, of course), and didn't like it, and decided she'd just avoid the whole thing, as too confusing for her. Excuse me, a highway district commissioner? Isn't that part of the job description to assess the roads in the district relevant to your decision-making?

Not sure where the director Wong is coming from, but the "demon" metaphor certainly doesn't sound objective. Dealing with regional traffic would certainly make one familiar with demonic issues. I also haven't seen his follow-up presentation, but the mid-May one was deficient in its lack of abstracting INFORMATION from the bike count data they'd collected. BIKE USAGE IN THE PILOT AREA WAS SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASED, but Wong highlighted "gee there were more bicycles on some of the sidewalks" in an eye-chart array of numbers. It was clear he'd overlooked the signal in the data. At THAT time, the decision to be made was whether to pull the plug, or keep it going for the whole very-short-term one month pilot as planned, and the defect wasn't enough to prompt the commissioners to abort the mission.

Were the data updated at the decision meeting, and presented in a way that showed a clear comparison before/during/after? Jordan's "slam" email asks to the ACHD to "delay the removal of the existing lanes pending the opportunity of the working group to make improvements," which couldn't possibly be a more reasonable request.

I can't help but think it mostly depends on former city council member Sara Baker's point of view (if all 5 commissioners show up), or who the quorum comprises if fewer show up for the special meeting.

Scapegoat and campaign Permalink to this item

Amy Goodman's opinion ran in the Spokane, WA Spokesman Review under the headline Bergdahl's story is nuanced. Madison, WI's Cap Times brought the punchline to the fore with the darkening of the American soul.

Either way, it's the best op-ed-length summary of the situation I've read, from "professional Beltway hecklers hurling invective," and the "unrelenting campaign" from Fox News (well-documented by Media Matters, along with a lot more slime from your video), juxtaposed with the "disciplined, contemplative activism" of Bob Bergdahl and the ample collection of—no better word for it—nuanced facts of the matter, which remain to be adjudicated, as need be, in a court of military justice, and not the kangaroo court of public opinion.

The New York Times weighed in to note that the claim of "six soldiers died" (let alone eight) while searching for Bergdahl was "murky," at least, even after it has "hardened into a news media narrative." The context in Afghanistan was "a time of ferocious fighting" and the six who died outside their outposts may or may not have been "looking for him," two months after he was captured. Being close enough to the events to know more of the facts doesn't keep you from having an ax to grind; it may only serve to sharpen the need for a scapegoat. The hot air on Fox clears a lot of fog of war, but it's "reality TV," not reality that gets highlighted.

Update: Idaho politicos weigh in, including Senator Mike Crapo passing up the opportunity for a lot more "no comment" than he might have provided, and making me wonder if the outrageous question of impeachment awaits the mid-term election results. Credit where due, ID-01 Congressman Raúl Labrador actually had something considered, useful and appropriate to say, for perhaps the first time I can remember.

5.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"Morning glory is blue" Permalink to this item

Soon after I became acquainted with Idaho's flora on a first-name basis, it occurred to me to wonder what I used to see when I looked out a car window at greenery passing by. Was it all just anonymous color and texture, light and shade? Because now there were particular things to see. On the road today, I was thinking about variations on white-flowered plants, from rose-family shrubs (serviceberry? hawthorne? blackberry?), cream-colored elderberry, small forbs (yarrow, white top), to the enormous outbreak of poison hemlock running for miles in and around Lapwai.

White flower

These decades later, it's mostly about recognizing old friends, and making a note of where to look for harvesting fruit when it's in season, or whether there's a noxious weed problem that might be improved.

The other day, while a buddy and I were playing tennis, he mentioned a certain little white flower growing along the edge on his end of the court, recognizing it as something that grows up in the hills around his house, and wondered what it was. Without going over and looking, but familiar with the local weedery, I guessed "morning glory." A fellow hitting against the backboard two courts over rebutted my conjecture, saying "morning glory is blue."

That's news to me. It was passing strange for him to insert himself in the conversation. I was a little curious about what his expertise might be, but not enough to further interrupt our game to engage him. At the next changeover, I walked to the weed (which was exactly what I expected), and pulled it out by the roots (as a public service). The other guy had walked over to take a look himself, and pronounced "that's vineweed. Yup. Vineweed."

I'd never heard of "vineweed," but common names are ubiquitous and variable, and I simply made a note of his claim, carried the plant back to my tennis bag and dropped it in the shade. My hitting partner (who knows me pretty well) said "you gonna take it home and identify it?" "Yup."

Always nice to have reason to crack open my rebound copy of Hitchcock's Flora of the Pacific Northwest, I went directly to the index for "morning glory" to be reminded that it's the type genus of the family of that name, Convolvulus, Convolvulaceae, and the specimen in hand was quite certainly the exceedingly common, and noxious Convolvulus arvensis, a.k.a. bindweed, a.k.a. morning glory.

There is at least one species of Convolvulus that's blue. But the 200+ species are mostly white or pink, some blue, violet, purple or yellow.

Boise's bike lane project to be reconsidered Permalink to this item

The Ada County Highway District put the kibosh on extending the Buffered Bike Lane Pilot Project at their meeting earlier this week, but there was apparently so much pushback from the City of Boise (mostly), that they're reconsidering, at a special meeting tomorrow, at 3pm. (That URL is generic for "other meetings" so expect it to expire quickly.)

Maybe all five commissioners will show up this time? Sara Baker's absence left the motion to extend the project dead on a 2-2 vote. If Baker's in favor, a re-do could be all that's needed?

2.June.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Software wants to be (tax) free Permalink to this item

Almost summertime: go jump in a lake

When our Legislature was discussing HB 598 this year, the obligatory fiscal note said "the fiscal impact is not expected to be significant and is estimated here at $2 million to $5 million annually." Didn't we have this discussion last year? Well, "problems were encountered in the rule-making process," which is to say the previous get-out-of-tax-free play hadn't produced a large enough windfall from the Idaho Technology Council's point of view. The bill's statement of purpose concludes:

"Since software that is delivered electronically is a service and performs a function equivalent to services that have generally not been taxable in Idaho, it is appropriate to modernize Idaho law to state clearly that such software is not subject to Idaho sales or use tax."

How many things are wrong with this picture? Start with the revised estimate of fiscal impact, higher by a factor of 10, give or take: Betsy Russell reports that "The state stands to lose as much as $40 million a year in sales taxes in the future, much of that from large software system upgrades at big businesses," according to the State Tax Commission.

And who knew I was buying a "service" when I downloaded TurboTax earlier this year? It's long been the case that "buying" software amounted to obtaining a limited license to use someone else's code, with de facto limits of term, if not explicit ones. (Your software might not expire, but the operating system it runs under will.) So they spelled it out more broadly, to declare that

"computer software that a user accesses over the internet, over private or public networks, or through wireless media, where the user has only the right to use or access the software by means of a license, lease, subscription, service or other agreement"

is not "tangible personal property," but rather "a service," and thus (by magic of "generallly excluded"), not subject to sales tax. But an exception to the exception: we're still going to tax

"digital music, digital books, digital videos and digital games, regardless of the method by which the title, possession or right to use such software is transferred to the user."

The Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy notes that however "generally" services are exempted from sales tax, quite a few services are subject to sales tax. Good old 1986 law declared that "the term ‘tangible personal property’ includes any computer software which is not a custom computer program." But no more. We just punched a $40 million hole in our tax code, pretending the impact was a tenth that size and "not expected to be significant," and that the vague threat of some "tech businesses [who] told lawmakers that some likely would leave Idaho without such an exemption" was real.

Not that we're credulous rubes or anything.

CEOs on parade Permalink to this item

The LinkedIn teaser was for "The Code Conference," which is kind of up my alley, but somehow I overlooked the post-colon part of the title. Reading through important person Esther Dyson's recap of the gabfest put on by (former WSJ staffers and now) happy CEOs Walt and Kara, it began to dawn on me that this was more about the secret language of CEOs than the code that makes software go. It has a color scheme (new!), "tough questioning" and a "lack of PowerPoints" except for the one gal who had a "special dispensation." It's a different sort of celebrity, too; Gwyneth Paltrow talked about her kind, but that was "slightly off-key."

"[O]verall, there didn't seem to be much to celebrate. Your mileage may vary, and so may your choice of driver, but I thought that by far the most interesting product on display (in a video) was Google's driverless cars – and those aren't a mass item this year.

"The CEOs by and large were subdued; though there was lots of humor, it was talk-show humor rather than the delight of a founder anticipating a huge new market. ..."

And I don't suppose anyone brought up the news about median CEO pay going up 8.8% year over year, now up to a whopping $10.5 million (even with the "signing bonuses" that "often guarantee that new execs can make bank before they even demonstrate any performance" filtered out!). Alyce Lomax points out for The Motley Fool that that's ripping you off, however you slice it. But then "you" weren't there at the CEO Code Con, were you?


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007