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Hallowe'en Permanent URL to this day's entry

Not your best government job Permalink to this item

Don't know how much we need an Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities, but we've got one, and it currently has vacancies. Scanning through that overview, linked from the latest email newsletter from the IRS, I see that

"ACT members meet in Washington, DC approximately five times a year, each session lasting two days. Members are not paid for their time or services. Members are reimbursed for their travel-related expenses to attend working sessions and public meetings."

Let's say you live somewhere other than D.C., and don't have reason to be there 5 times a year when the two-day meetings are. Figure at least a day's disruption to get there and get home, and so 3 full work weeks of unpaid advisoring. Who would want that job, and why? You'd have to be pretty excited about discussion of relevant employee plans, exempt organizations, tax-exempt bonds, and federal, state, local and Indian tribal government issues, I'd guess. Or perhaps allured by the prospect of the clearance process including, among other things, pre-appointment and annual tax checks, an FBI criminal and subversive name check, fingerprint check, and security clearance.

Throw in a Senate confirmation hearing, and I would be all over that.

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

In their own words? Permalink to this item

Lawerence Denney, my least favorite candidate for Idaho Secretary of State (just so you know) has his Facebook campaign page touting his campaign site's "In Their Own Words..." feature, assembling endorsements, of sorts from his best pals. Reading a couple, I was reminded of asking people for recommendation letters, back in my job hunting days. There were two kinds: the confidential sort, that would be forwarded directly from the writer to company (or whatever) doing the hiring, and the not confidential sort, given to the recipient, who could look them over and decide whether or not to use them, first of all.

I'm not saying the "not confidential" sort would be dishonest, mind you, but all parties involved know and expect them to put the best possible light on anything mentioned.

Anyway, Denney's campaign came up with yet another form of endorsement, the "edited to suit" testimonial. Raúl Labrador's is the only one of the baker's dozen that limits itself to the endorser's own words; two sentences. The other twelve are written in third-person essay style with quotes from the "sources," and go beyond the implicit wink-and-nudge you'd expect in an unsealed letter of recommendation.

He did do a little better than just lining up the right-of-right GOP caucus (Labrador, Monty Pearce, Mike Moyle, Judy Boyle, Lenore Hardy Barrett), but still, with this introduction:

"Over his years of service to the people of Idaho, many other public servants have come to know Rep. Lawerence Denney. They each have a unique story to tell ..."

it could have been a lot more interesting if they'd gone through a third party and asked for confidential recommendations, eh?

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

The Pope is a Universalist Permalink to this item

An oldy (May 2013) but goody, and in spite of the headline NPR put on it, Sylvia Poggioli's story and quote from Pope Francis makes it clear that what he said is that atheists have been redeemed, not that they "can be."

"The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! 'Father, the atheists?' Even the atheists. Everyone!"

Never mind an intervening Vatican spokesman or Catholic blogger huffing that "redemption" is not "salvation," thankyouverymuch. "That's the risk of delivering off the cuff sermons," Stephen Kokx concludes, rather presumptuously. (Criticizing the Pope, really?) But "the real fault" he thinks "lies with the theologically-illiterate press corps, whose understanding of basic Catholic doctrine is so infinitesimal that it is increasingly unable to report on the Catholic Church without completely embarrassing itself."

Father, forgive them for their enthusiasm for a Pope who wants to speak to all people, and not just Catholics.

And I'll admit I made the leap of faith over the divide between redemption and salvation (and left it in my headline because I want to believe), in spite of having slightly more than infinitesimal understanding of Catholic doctrine.

The business of eternal damnation awaiting me if I fell short of a set of church rules that mixed obviously good ideas (Thou Shalt Not Kill) with slightly less obvious, self-serving ones (Thou Shalt Go To Church On Sunday). And by the way, damn, eternity is a long time, isn't it? The idea of univeral reconciliation seems inevitable for anyone who believes in a God of love, but as that Wikipedia entry points out, "the doctrine has generally been rejected by Christian organized religion, which holds to the doctrine of special salvation"; many are called, but few are Chosen. Stay in line, Or Else. (Sister Mary Donald, may you rest in peace.)

The Pope calls us to good. That's the message I hear, and take to heart. There is not a chance in hell that I'll be returning to Catholicism, I'm sorry. Insider attitudes such as Kokx's illustrate the problem all too well. We don't need to count angels on pinheads, and we don't—can't—all believe alike.

Follow the money Permalink to this item

New (to me, at least) voice in the Idaho political blogosphere, Holly Cook's "My Idaho Politics," with a couple of pieces about the large chunks of money flowing into politics these days:

Look at campaign finance records, or watch democracy erode... or perhaps "and" watch it erode. It doesn't seem watching alone is going to change anything. I watched the news last night and heard that outside groups have spent more than $70 million in the hotly contested North Carolina's Senate race, and spending may reach 9 digits by election day.

Idaho's Senate race is more hardly contested, given long-time incumbent Jim Risch's fundraising momentum and magic R of victory, in spite of the fact that (as I just wrote in a letter to the editor for the Statesman) that a piece of duct tape over the "NO" button could do the same job that Risch has been doing.

In his own words, Jim Risch: There's nothing happening when we're back there and there's nothing happening when we're not back there. What's the difference?

As Cook tallies up in her evaluation of Risch’s campaign finance this cycle's take includes $22,500 from Koch Industries, $10,000 from each of Halliburton, Chevron, General Electric, and Exxon, and many $thousands more from big corporations you've heard of, but not for their business in Idaho. Maybe for their battles with the Environmental Protection Agency, though, in regard to greenhouse gases, lead, and nitrates in groundwater?

Oddly enough, Risch doesn't need the money the taxpayers are paying him, but he's enjoying his time as a Very Important Person in the nation's capital. "This job is a breeze," he said. He could do it "ad infinitum."

Desperate times Permalink to this item

Yesterday's super-sized postcard mailer to our "family" from the Idaho Republican State Central Committee seemed to be perfumed with flop sweat, and tinged with no small hint of racism: the scary black man there on the obverse, tarring three decent candidates as "Idaho's Obama Liberal Democrats."

obverse of Idaho Republican State Central Commitee mailer

And that concluding threat:

If Republicans Stay Home, Idaho's Obama Liberals Win. Every Single One of Them.

On the reverse, in red, white and... yellow (?!), the three Republicans candidates most at risk in this election: mediocre and scandal-plagued Governor "Butch," the affable partisan hack too much for many in his own party Lawerence Denney, and the inexplicable Sherri "You've got to be kidding me" Ybarra.

reverse of Idaho Republican State Central Commitee mailer

One of my conservative/libertarian-trending pals posted the dark side on Facebook with the comment about what came in his mail: "A great example of what I despise about partisan politics." In the discussion with his friends, he responded to a casual accusation of "both sides engage in such actions":

"It doesn't happen in Idaho politics. One side has a firm grip on power and anyone with a 'D' next to their name is branded as an 'Obama Liberal' in order to scare the sheep to just mark the 'R' box. I don't know Jana Jones, but the other two would be a Moderate or Conservative Republican in just about any other state.

"The Republican candidates—at least the ones on the flip side of this flyer—are really sub-standard, but they'll probably win just because of the 'R'.

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

Actually? Permalink to this item

Took me a bit to track down the online version of Betsy Russell's story that ran in today's Idaho Statesman print edition, about the race for the ID-01 US House seat. That's because it ran more than three weeks ago in the Spokesman-Review. Better reprinted late than never, I guess.

Raúl Labrador unfiltered tends to repeat himself, it seems. Regarding his having had two bills pass the House (and languish in the Senate) this year, he said:

“If you look at the record, that’s pretty good in the House. As you know, not a lot of things are passing. To actually have two bills pass is actually a positive thing.”

He has sponsored a small handful of bipartisan measures, including the identical bills for a "Smarter Sentencing Act," HR 3382/S 1410, languishing in committees. Almost a third of the Senate (including 6 Republicans, if not Idaho's pair) and 52 House members (including Mike Simpson R-ID, and 36 Democrats) are co-sponsors. It's "aimed at relaxing harsh 1980s-era federal drug sentencing laws" by giving federal judges more discretion than current "mandatory minimum" sentences allow. His opponent in the race, Democrat Shirley Ringo, agrees with the measure and "applaud[s] the fact that he’s taken steps in that direction."

Labrador said the measure is an example of how he can bring the left and the right together.

“I call it jokingly the ‘wing-nut coalition,’” he said, “when you have the right wing and the left wing actually working on an issue that can actually, I think, make a huge difference for our nation.”

But somehow this record of no actual achievement (and a couple near-achievements) is, in Labrador's mind at least, evidence that he "[tries] to work with people all across the spectrum to get things of consequence done." Shall we give him a pass and another term for this effort, producing no tangible result? How strange that the party of "free market" solutions and supposed meritocracy would be willing to utterly overlook such non-performance. (It's everyone else's fault, I suppose.)

Shirley Ringo for Congress

Ringo, who has made easing the economic burden on the nation’s middle class a central point of her campaign, takes sharp issue with that. She cites Labrador’s support for the government shutdown, which she called “pretty much a temper tantrum against the Affordable Care Act,” his opposition to spending bills – even when they affect programs on which Idahoans depend – and his opposition to raising the minimum wage.

“Sometimes pragmatism has to kick in and you have to know people back home need this,” she said. “I have been particularly frustrated with the dysfunctional behavior of our Congress over the last couple of years, and I feel strongly that our Congressman Labrador is part of the problem.”

Woodings for Secretary of State Permalink to this item

Holli Woodings' campaign is running down the "Bottom 10" items of her opponent's history in the legislature, and today's—#7—is "Rejecting Transparency."

In 2009, two years after the Center for Public Integrity had given Idaho a failing grade for its non-existent financial disclosure requirements, the state Senate unanimously passed a bill to expand Idaho's "Sunshine" law for financial disclosure requirements by elected officials, intended to prevent hidden conflicts of interest in the state's lawmaking. It had the support of the Governor as well, but Lawerence Denney, then Speaker of the House, singlehandedly killed the effort.

Holli Woodings for Secretary of State

The CPI's 2012 overall assessment of the states shows Idaho "only" in 40th place, with a D-minus, and along with Vermont and Michigan, having "no financial disclosure requirements for lawmakers and executive branch officials."

The Spokesman-Review's reporter in Boise, Betsy Russell wrote Idaho's "story behind the score" page on the CPI site (undated, but early 2012, going by the contents) and highlights "brightly colored threads of accountability and transparency that run throughout all three branches of Idaho's state government."

But none of them thanks to Lawerence Denney. Russell:

"Denney has also been key to blocking revolving-door legislation here. In 2007, he pledged to back such legislation after a scandal involving his relationship with a California developer. Denney advised the developer to fire its lobbyist—with whom Denney had quarreled—and hire a former member of the House leadership instead. Denney later changed his mind about the legislation; nothing passed."

We were "in the midst of a messy redistricting process to draw new legislative and congressional district lines" when Russell wrote this piece; that'll be an item lower down on Denney's Bottom 10.

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

Not the candidate of the year, either Permalink to this item

The benefit of the doubt has a lot of inertia. Even after the crazy parade of prevarication and assorted missteps (discussed below, here and here) just a week and a day before the election we find out that those two "Educator of the Year" accolades Sherri Ybarra has been touting in her run for Superintendent of Public Instruction were almost entirely in her mind. A local award for which she was selected by her peers, as she's been saying? Not quite that, either. She was nominated to compete for state Teach of the Year, twice.

As Maxwell Smart used to say, "missed it by that much."

The good news is that Idaho voters have a great candidate running for this statewide office this year: Jana Jones.

Jana Jones for State Superintendent of Public Instruction

In his own words: Ben Bradlee on liars Permalink to this item

This is what I was reading when Adobe's Flash player distracted me: the Washington Post's excerpt of its former executive editor's 1997 lecture at UC Riverside. It rather defies my further excerption, so I'll just tease it with this:

"Where lies the truth? That’s the question that pulled us into this business, as it propelled Diogenes through the streets of Athens looking for an honest man.

"The more aggressive our search for truth, the more some people are offended by the press. The more complicated are the issues and the more sophisticated are the ways to disguise the truth, the more aggressive our search for truth must be, and the more offensive we are sure to become to some.

"So be it."

Turn that frown upside down! Permalink to this item

Smiling Flash crash widget

No reason to pout about yet another crash of the Adobe Flash plugin; I wasn't interested in whatever it was advertising anyway. Sounds like time to reinstall Flashblock and leave Flash blocked as a matter of course, with a button to turn it on when it is something I want to see or do.

Blue Review political tone Permalink to this item

Nathanial Hoffman's "web-native journal" has a quarterly print edition, published by the Boise State University College of Social Sciences and Public Affairs and the Boise Weekly, now up to Vol. 2, No. 2, and just before the midterms, why not make it The Politics Issue? The print version has #politicalanimal teasers on a few people I know (and others I've only heard of), with jumps to the web. Get to know Emily Walton (running for the College of Western Idaho Board of Trustees), ACLU-Idaho's interim executive director Leo Morales, Community Center and Interfaith Alliance of Idaho board member Ben Wilson, Inside Baseballer China Gum, Cecil Andrus' old press secretary Chris Carlson, anti-government gadfly Wayne Hoffman (ironically "allergic to red meat"), and more.

The article about measuring the tone of Governors' State of State speeches provides an interesting meta-analysis of political speech, even though I'm not sure how much predictive power there could be in that.

One slice of Nathaniel Hoffman's infographic DICTION scores

Even with the requisite disclaimers, there's a temptation to read too much into such palaver. I wondered about the variance of "tone" in the small population, even as the individual measurements struck me as mostly more similar than different. The infographic's narrowed scale of 30 to 70 units of the not really defined "political tone" showed uniformity more common than distinctions. Hawai`i's Governor's diction stood out for "Community" (and against "Activity," as it were), Arizona and Utah stood out a bit for "Optimism," but that was about it. Some of the clichés and boilerplate probably need boiling down first.

Giving in to the tempation, I imagine Hawai`i's "outlier" status in geography, culture and history gives its people a better vantage point to recognize the truth in Red Green's observation that "we're all in this together," inhabitants of a lonely island teeming with beneficent life, dependent on potentially fragile ecosystems and well-behaved neighbors.

Collateral damage Permalink to this item

One of many expensive anecdotes from last October's "symbolic" government shutdown, goaded by one of Idaho's congressmen: Labrador costs local business $140k. On the one hand, "only" $140k (well less than the Congressman's annual salary, without counting benefits, perks and staff), but on the other, for a north Idaho river guide, that's enough to spoil more than a whole year's work.

Shirley Ringo for Congress

For his part, Labrador wasn't man enough to take credit for his "work." A year ago, Labrador said Republicans may be 25% to blame for the standoff, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was 75% responsible. (Quite the concession when he could have just blamed it all on Reid.)

"We're not the ones punishing people," Labrador said. "It's actually Harry Reid who's punishing people."

Voters in Idaho's first congressional district have a better alternative to another term of self-promotion from Labrador: Shirley Ringo.

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

That age Permalink to this item

The original is a color negative, exposed October 1999

You learn something new every day, I hear, and one thing today was in John Rember's column in Wednesday's Boise Weekly: Paul McCartney wrote "When I'm Sixty-four" when he was 16. That was in 1958 or 1959, a while before he hit the big time. Its wider popularity on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in '66 was kicked off the year his dad turned 64. And now that Neil Young's an old man, I wonder how the echoes of his piercing voice in his late 20s on "Old Man" reverberate in his mind, lo these four and forty years down the road.

There are people around today who weren't even born back then. "Impossibly old," as Rember put it, crossing the 6th power of 2 on a recent "today."

One, two, buckle my shoe. Three, four, open the door. (And since we're connecting dots with music, the final snippet of Jefferson Starship's "Mau Mau (Amerikon)," "open it, open it, baby, open that door," segueing into Rosalie Sorrels' "Baby Tree," the odd little lullaby I sang to my mother the last time I saw her alive and to grandchildren in my arms.)

23.Oct.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Did she? She has Permalink to this item

While unbagging the daily news I noticed the top right headline, Did Ybarra exaggerate her degree from U of I? which of course was old news to me by then. Then I noticed in a coinbox dispenser a different headline, which I'm not sure I remember exactly, but it was a statement rather than a question. "Ybarra has exaggerated..." maybe it was. Can't say which came first, and the web version still has the Did? version. The story is under Betsy Russell's Spokesman-Review byline (and footered that "Statesman staffers and Idaho Education News contributed), so we can refer to Russell's story directly. She earned a "Specialist" degree, we're told, not the doctorate she "claimed for months that she expected to get in August." But maybe I didn't yet see that as of August, "Ybarra had only been enrolled in the doctoral program at the University of Idaho for one semester," this summer's, after she'd "been enrolled on and off for several years" in the specialist program.

Not that Idaho has seen fit to have its Superintendent of Public Instruction actually experienced in education (our outgoing Super has a degree in Weights and Measures earned from an online U.) But given that Ybarra's campaign spokeswoman says she's "working toward her doctorate," let's try an easier question. Does she have a thesis topic yet?

Denney Bottom 10 Permalink to this item

Holli Woodings' campaign for Secretary of State has come up with a survey inviting people to rank "The Denney Bottom 10" missteps of her opponent and his time in the Idaho Legislature. Not a bad idea to highlight the lowlights, but I found the forced ranking difficult. There are so many bad acts to choose from! One of them, at least was easy to sort out: "[becoming] Idaho’s first ousted House Speaker in three decades" was more of a positive step—by Denney's peers—than a misstep by him. Let's select out the top class of disqualifiers instead, not necessarily in rank order:

Comic (sans) Blitzkrieg Permalink to this item

Did you happen to notice it's election season? And yes, it has now been extended to be slightly longer than baseball season, no mean feat. Today's NRCC/Romney for President Inc. missive (which, hmm, all those FINAL NOTICEs I got yesterday since I haven't sent money yet apparently were not final final) has "Karl Rove" in the From field and How we win (memo inside) for the subject. I was disappointed to find no actual memorandum in there (even though the text says it's an "exclusive political memo on the GOP October Ad Blitz," who could've guessed they'd do that?! It'll be more than this email, which is just the same old, same old, yada yada yada Barack Obama yada yada Pelosi's campaign machine yada yada send us some money.

But "today's breakdown" has an image of a whiteboard with greasy text in those familiar office colors of red, black and blue, and a font that's slightly more insouciant than its nominal referent, Comic Sans:

NRCC image

Below the image, Rove's punchline:

"Thomas, you and I know Congressional Republicans must have the resources to blast through the next two weeks with a strong GOP ad blitz."

But just so you know: this message reflects the opinions and representations of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and is not an endorsement by Mitt Romney.

Surely that is too many exclamation points Permalink to this item

Aljazeera America picked up the ACLU case against a Louisiana school board that was settled back in March, to the extent that such things can be settled, with "an order requiring the school district to refrain from unconstitutionally promoting or denigrating religion. The court’s order also mandates in-service training for school staff regarding their obligations under the First Amendment."

It's hard to imagine "training" is going to get it done, given this sort of question, regularly (!) featured on a "science" test from sixth-grader teacher (and young Earth enthusiast) Rita Roark, fill in the blank:

"ISN'T IT AMAZING WHAT THE _____________ HAS MADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

First of all, ALL CAPS seems out of place, doesn't it? Aljazeera's copy editor trimmed the impossibly long parade of exclamation points to just three, still a couple beyond necessary. If you can't tap sixth graders' enthusiasm for learning without this kind of excess, something is wrong. Oh, and if they're throwing up on the way to school, that's an indication, too.

The ACLU's own report on Lane v. Sabine Parish School Board preserves the original punctuation.

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

Who is Jay Fack? Permalink to this item

Heard an odd snippet from the debate between candidates for Idaho's Superintendent of Public Instruction while driving yesterday evening, and went back to the web archive to see the whole thing in context. Maybe the first mention was Ybarra intending that "having the support of JFAC" and having them "behind me every step of the way" would be a good thing? Jones responded:

"My opponent talks about her having the support of JFAC; now there are multiple members on JFAC and I know that Sherri hasn't talked to all of JFAC, and, um, to say that she has the support of JFAC is probably... to me, is inappropriate."

I tuned in right around 39:00, with Ybarra saying,

Screenshot from the debate

"I'm sorry that my opponent is misinformed and has been gone so long that she doesn't know who JFAC is but they are listed on my website and they most certainly do support me."

Jones was eager to respond, but first had to deal with a question from Bill Roberts about Republican leaders saying that Jones—a Democrat—would have a tougher time getting funding for schools than her opponent. With that done, Jones added:

"I have to tell you Sherri, I do know who JFAC is, I've testified in front of JFAC several times and that not every member of JFAC is on your website."

Indeed they are not. There are 20 members of the Legislature's Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee, from the Senate Finance and the House Appropriations committees, 16 Republicans and 4 Democrats. Late this afternoon, there are exactly two of the twenty members listed as part of Ybarra's "Campaign team": Senator Shawn Keough (R-01) and Representative Maxine Bell (R-25). Jennifer Swindell's report on Idaho Education News notes there were a couple other JFAC members not listed who had given some support, which brings us to 4/20, or 20% of JFAC anyway.

To the increasingly bizarre collection of detritus collecting in her gyre, including plagiarism, unexcused absences, claiming broad and specific support she doesn't actually have, confused stories about her marital history and not voting in at least 15 of the last 17 state elections, today's addition is plain old résumé padding. Turns out that doctorate (a.k.a. "EdDs") she was working on is a specialist degree (and OK, her About Me page has it both ways).

Ybarra's closing statement in the debate said it all. As Idahoans, we don't focus on the negatives of the past, such as everything you've been hearing lately, never mind all that. We're looking forward!

Update: aaand, she's working on her doctorate, anyway.

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

More last minute legal work for the Governor's unappealing campaign in Latta et al. v. Otter et al., first, permission to go over the length limit, and if we need more time, that too.

Close on the heels of this (unopposed) request for permission, the full-on, 33 page plea, delivered with 50 pages more of wrapper, Table of Contents, Table of Authorities and Miscellaneous, said miscellany wrapping up to the pièce de résistance of the Hitching Post owners' fabulous publicity stunt, starting back in May threatening to "close before performing samesex marriages," and updated to October 15,

"just two days after the panel lifted its stay of the district court’s order in this case, the Knapps were contacted and asked if they would perform a gay marriage ceremony, which they declined on religious grounds. Knapp v. Coeur d’Alene, Case 2:14-cv-00441-PEB, Verified Complaint, Document 1, at 2. Absent a religious exemption (which the City apparently is now considering), for every day the Knapps continue to refuse to perform that particular wedding, they could face up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine."

Did they actually research these contentions as well as, say, some random blogger in the hinterlands, or are they taking the Knapps and their lawyers at their words? Speaking of "misunderstood, and for the most part ignored." Do tell, was it an actual pair of prospective customers who posed this question, with a marriage license in hand, or was it a convenient "someone" who asked, so that the Knapps could "decline on religious grounds"? At a minimum, the legal team did not bother to talk to the City Attorney or read Betsy's blog.

The conclusion winds up to reiteration of the argument Monte Stewart presented in early September (and which did not persuade), those "enormous risks to Idaho’s present and future children" (not counting any of the children of same-sex couples, of course who must be thrown under the bus), "including serious risks of increased fatherlessness, reduced parental financial and emotional support, increased crime, and greater psychological problems."

This post hoc formulation of "unsupported legislative conclusions" that may or may not have informed the voters who agreed to amend the Idaho Constitution was weighed against the denial of equal protection of the law by the three judge panel and found wanting. The plaintiffs' experts in Nevada's case offered historical data from Massachusetts, with ten years' experience of same-sex marriage and "no decrease in marriage rates or increase in divorce rates in the past decade."

Judge Reinhardt's opinion noted that the Coalition for the Protection of Marriage ("Intervenor-Defendant-Appellee" in the Nevada case)

[took] issue with this conclusion, arguing that the effects of same-sex marriage might not manifest themselves for decades, because “something as massive and pervasive in our society and humanity as the man-woman marriage institution, like a massive ocean-going ship, does not stop or turn in a short space or a short time.”

He also rejected "out of hand" the "crass and callous view of parental love" that imagines

"a father [seeing] a child being raised by two women [deducing] that because the state has said it is unnecessary for that child—who has two parents—to have a father, it is also unnecessary for his child to have a father."

Sounds to me like the 9th Circuit Judges who rejected the appeal understood things well enough.

21.Oct.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Hitch in their gitalong Permalink to this item

After the north Idaho City of Coeur d'Alene passed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination for "sexual orientation and gender identity/expression" in housing, employment and public accommodations, there were conversations between the City Attorney and Donald and Evelyn Knapp, owners of the "Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel" across the street from the Kootenai County courthouse, long in the business of getting people "hitched" in matrimony. They were anticipating trouble should the court case challenging Idaho's Constitutional ban on same-sex marriage result in that being overturned, and here we are, it has been.

To the attorney's surprise, the business morphed itself into something new, and the "Alliance Defending Freedom" wants to make a federal case for religious liberty out of it. It seems the ADF helped the Knapps convert their business registration to a "religious corporation" earlier this month, and as blogger Jeremy Hooper details, they changed their website (also earlier this month, it appears) to remove traces of the "wedding ceremonies of other faiths as well as civil weddings" they used to offer.

Tom von Alten photo, copyright 2002

It might be from a DDOS attack, but most likely it's just lack of preparedness for so much free publicity: the 'Post's website (which I was going to provide a link for, but now won't bother) is coming back Bandwidth Limit Exceeded this morning. The Intertubes are also being het up by thousands of emails aimed at the CdA mayor, goaded along by our least favorite former son, Bryan Fischer, now fomenting hatred in his adopted home of Mississippi. None other than Coeur d'Alene's U.S. Congressman, Raúl Labrador has weighed in as far as his Facebook page with a link to The Volokh Conspiracy piece in which Eugene V. says "I know of no reason to think they’re lying about their beliefs," more about how much research he did than anything else.

What was once a business offering a Four Square sort of marriage experience, or (by their own publicity), "civil" ceremonies and ceremonies of "other faiths" has, as of just this month, become a fervently held religious belief system that wails against coercion of any sort. I daresay even being coerced to accommodate a "traditional" couple asking for a civil ceremony must be a bridge too far now.

I didn't read through all 442 claims of their complaint, just a couple hundred. If I were a judge, and someone put this kind of lien on my attention, I would start with a burr under my saddle. I didn't see any hint that their business has changed over the years. They spend a lot of time professing their faith, which, god love 'em for that, but they also say this is a for-profit business. Seems like they're playing both sides of the law, and not showing the integrity they profess to hold so dear.

The outrage is not as convincing to me as it may be to Eugene Volokh or Raúl Labrador, but if they want to be religious, as they say they do, a fair amount of bigotry is allowed them. The City Attorney said as much in his letter to the Knapp's counsel:

"If they are truly operating a not-for-profit religious corporation they would be specifically exempted from the City's anti-discrimination ordinance."

Will they follow (opposing) counsel's advice and dismiss their lawsuit before any more time and resources are expended? Seems unlikely, given the publicity accruing to the business chapel and the advocacy group.

And this: Marci Glass responds on her blog with a certain amount of professional criticism, regarding the Sanctity of the Wedding Mill.

Update: The Wonkette picks it up, off of "Tucker Carlson's Internet Rage-a-torium." Why wouldn't this go viral, after all? Persecuting the Christians, again. And Idaho's Governor has picked up the reins, using it as documentation of "harm" to argue that he should have eleven judges of the 9th Circuit hear the case, after not coming close to persuading three.

Outbreak, continued Permalink to this item

We just this week got around to watching our DVR'd copy of Frontline's Sept. 9 piece on the current Ebola outbreak (the "deadliest on record" as they subhead it, in that deadly serious narrator's voice). Can't remember if that was before, as or after the hysteria was lighting up here in the US, but it was nine months after the first case surfaced in West Africa, and its reporting on the state of things through the summer and the courageous work of members of Doctors without Borders/Médecins sans Frontières had a lot more useful information about the context of the crisis than can survive exposure to typical mainstream media. It was six months after MSF medical teams started dealing with the problem in West Africa, and a week after MSF issued a press release saying a global bio-disaster response is urgently needed. One of Idaho's two Congressman, Raúl Labrador issued his own press release last Thursday, calling for action to... circle the wagons.

"Last week, I joined 16 colleagues in writing the leaders of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Aviation Administration. We asked Dr. Tom Frieden of the CDC and Michael Huerta of the FAA to implement stronger travel safeguards, while still allowing rescue and aid workers to undertake their courageous efforts."

In other words, you courageous aid workers can still go over there please, but we don't want you to fly commercial to get back. Mr. Labrador said he "hope[s] this step will help dispel unfounded fears." And he wraps up by saying that he's sending "prayers" to all and sundry.

With the fear-dispelling news that the quarantine period for 43 people in Dallas—including Thomas Duncan's family members living in the apartment where he stayed before going to the hospital—has elapsed with no new cases, and attention to the CDC's budget troubles, Republicans on the campaign trail are a bit more defensive. The New York Times reports that "House Republican leadership aides have repeatedly said lawmakers are not calling for an actual ban of airline flights, even as the likes of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, have done just that." Legislation to suspend visas, instead? Legislation in late October?! Yeah, that's not going to happen.

"In reality, Republicans are not planning a legislative response, at least for now, Republican leadership aides said Monday. They merely want their voices heard."

No kidding.

David Brooks' take on what the Ebola crisis reveals about culture is interesting meta-analysis.

"The critics point out that these people are behaving hysterically, all out of proportion to the scientific risks, which, of course, is true. But the critics misunderstand what’s going on here. Fear isn’t only a function of risk; it’s a function of isolation. We live in a society almost perfectly suited for contagions of hysteria and overreaction."

The gaps between the so-called makers and takers, the 1% and the 99%, the job creators and the masses working one or more minimum wage jobs (if they should be so lucky to have them) are becoming increasingly durable boundaries. "People are much less likely to marry across social class, or to join a club and befriend people across social class," he writes.

"That means there are many more people who feel completely alienated from the leadership class of this country, whether it’s the political, cultural or scientific leadership. They don’t know people in authority. They perceive a vast status gap between themselves and people in authority. They may harbor feelings of intellectual inferiority toward people in authority. It becomes easy to wave away the whole lot of them, and that distrust isolates them further."

To illustrate his point with delicate elite sensibility for his readership which does not include most of those whom he describes, he quotes George Eliot's novel from the 19th century, on loneliness and distrust.

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

Woodings for Secretary of State Permalink to this item

Tom von Alten photo, Oct. 2014

The Idaho Statesman's editorial board said they made their decision to endorse Holli Woodings for Secretary of State without regard to either candidate's "experience," because they didn't believe what experience the two had was "very applicable." Lawerence Denney conceded as much in their debate in his answer to the first question. "I believe you really don't have to have a lot of experience in running an election... I think you have to have good people who have a lot of experience running elections." Our 44 County Clerks and the staff of the Secretary of State take care of everything, don't worry.

But now, in his rebuttal to the Statesman's endorsement of Woodings, Denney wants to insist that his years as a decidedly partisan legislator are not simply relevant, but the decisive factor. (He'll leave the partisanship at the door, he's said. Trust him, even though we have no experience of the non-partisan Lawerence Denney.) It's a convenient argument for him, if not persuasive.

The board expressed concerns about Denney's "past partisan dealings and future plans to tinker with voting," which I and many others share. Rather than admit he's tilting at a windmill, Denney continues to press for applying "readily available technology" (sounds better than "fingerprinting" this time) to a solve the non-detectible voter fraud we might have in this state. (Is that why Republicans hold so many of our government offices?)

"Faith, family and freedom" are lovely, as are motherhood and apple pie. Does Denney really intend to imply that he has some special claim on the three Fs over Woodings? Let's talk about fairness, first.

The last thing Denney had to do with "honest, open and fair elections" was to put his thumbprint on the scale of the bipartisan Redistricting Commission by trying to fire Dolores Crow and Randy Hansen for not doing his and (then GOP chair) Norm Semanko's bidding. The Idaho Supreme Court had to settle that dust-up. Fortunately, Idaho Public TV's archival memory is longer than the Statesman's and you can still read Kevin Richert's recap of the fiasco in which Denney, Semanko and GOP attorney for hire Christ Troupis are featured as the biggest "losers."

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

Smaller government is infectious Permalink to this item

Joan McCarter highlights the partisan angle that Republican budget cutting nearly halved CDC's emergency preparedness since 2006. ("Government is the problem," after all.) There's also that partisan thing about approving Obama's nominee for Surgeon General just now, because... the NRA doesn't like his attitude toward guns. What would trauma surgeons, emergency department staff, spinal cord injury specialists know about gun violence, anyway? And besides, approving a nominee for Surgeon General would hand Obama a victory.

The larger point is made by Judy Stone's technically detailed and well-reasoned blog post on the Scientific American site that McCarter cites: Ebola is showing us that Politics and Public Health Don’t Mix. The whole thing is a worthy read, but the $64 billion (give or take a couple orders of magnitude) pull quote is near the end, just before the part about $1 billion less for the CDC's public health preparedness and response efforts in 2013 than there was in 2002, and tens of thousands fewer workers in state and local health departments since 2008:

"We need a health care system that cares for all, even for those without insurance, without causing them to delay seeking care until they are seriously ill, perhaps infecting others in the process (e.g., tuberculosis, more commonly)."

Infographic from 1998 WHO/CDC pamphlet

Everything is connected. The economy and healthcare in West Africa matters to us. Funding for the World Health Organization matters to us. People who have nowhere to go but an emergency room for health care, and who wait too long to go because they can't afford the bill and how long they have to wait to be seen by someone and whether electronic medical information systems are designed more for maximizing billing and minimizing liability than for patient care matter to us. Influenza, measles, whooping cough, Enterovirus-D68, chikungunya, dengue, MERS and bird flu all matter to us at least as much as Ebola, for as scary as that may be right now.

The December 1998 pamphlet on Infection Control for Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers in the African Health Care Setting from the CDC and WHO matters, from the design of health facility posters for the procedures of putting on and taking off personal protective equipment and building incinerators, to community education materials, to all the other continents of the world as well as Africa.

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

Twisted into a disaster Permalink to this item

Jefferson County (Missouri) Recorder of Deeds Debbie Dunnegan was just asking... and ok, she acknowledged that she made a poor choice of words, but gosh "meant no ill intent toward anybody," and was just interested to know from "all [her] friends who have served or are currently serving in our military,"

"...I cannot and do not understand why no action is being taken against our domestic enemy. I know he is supposedly the commander in chief, but the Constitution gives you the authority. What am I missing? Thank you for your bravery and may God keep you safe."

Why bother with impeachment when you can just have a military coup?

“Something innocent and simple got twisted into a disaster because it’s an election,” Dunnegan said.

Implausible deniability Permalink to this item

You know that story about "had nothing to do with" that whole private prison contractor scandal? That was the Governor talking about just hisself, not members of his staff. It seems that Rocky Barker and Cynthia Sewell are picking up some of the slack Dan Popkey left behind to go work for Congressman "Hablador," and brought us front page news in today's Idaho Statesman. The Governor's staff were involved in that settlement deal with Corrections Corp. of America that Otter "recused" himself from, since CCA has chipped in 5 figures for his campaigns over the last decade.

Rather a messy business getting into bed with the "private sector" to solve our public problems. Did Otter consult the Attorney General's office in this matter? They're not talking, and apparently not covered by open records law. (Attorney-client privilege, I suppose—just because taxpayers are footing the bill doesn't mean we are the "clients.")

That state took over the operation of its prisons from CCA this summer to address the most immediate free market failure, but the story is still unfolding. We do know that Otter denied the AG's request to launch a criminal investigation back in February, based on the Idaho State Police's finding no reason to pursue ... itself. Then Otter changed his mind, and the FBI took over in March, "and continues to investigate."

But mismanagement isn't a crime (such a shame for CCA's business prospects), and it wouldn't surprise me if the FBI comes up dry, anymore than if someone resurrects Ronald Reagan's catchphrase about government being "the" problem. Or how about Harry Truman? Commentor Marv Hammerman offers a memorable phrase: "The buck stops... with someone on my staff of whom I have no knowledge and take no responsibility."

Not new news? Permalink to this item

What's this you say, yesterday's story that Sherri Ybarra skipped at least 15 of the last 17 statewide elections is "not new news"? Rewind all the way to September 26, when Ms. Ybarra said “We have all missed an election or two in our lifetime, and I am not exempt from that.” This neatly combines "new math" and set theory, doesn't it? "An election or two" is a proper subset of 15 of the last 17, that's true. The speaking for "all" of us in utter ignorance of any fact is a bit out of school, however. But then Ybarra is a bit of a stranger to the electoral process. Give her advance placement credit for wanting to make amends! That job with the 6-figure salary she's vying for will "repay Idaho" for all that civic duty she overlooked. Or, as the Idaho Democrats put it (not to put too fine a point there):

"Sherri Ybarra wants people to do something for her that she would never do for them: vote."

Will Idaho invest in Ybarra's remediation and rehabilitation? We've made some poor choices for Superintendent of Public Instruction in the past, using the "just vote for the Republican" algorithm, which the most recent polls (taken before the "not new news" revelations this week) suggested was still in force. Anne Fox has about faded from short-term memory (if not the web), but Tom Luna hasn't quite left yet, cleaning out his office as he prepares to take a spin through the revolving door.

And this just in, the "How I Can Help" section of Ybarra's website announces her contest to come up with a "catchphrase" for her campaign. This sounds original, and indeed, the rules require that (as one wag put it on Twitter) "Do as I Say, Not as I Do," which damn it, would be perfect, but now it's not original. Your ideas could win a Kindle Fire! I just submitted "You have got to be kidding me," resisting the temptation to include an expletive. Jeanette offered another:

Ybarra: prettier than her predecessor

Join the fun, kids! (The rules say you have to be over 18 to win, but take a hint from the candidate and fudge that a bit if you need to.)

15.Oct.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

NO on HJR 2 Permalink to this item

Our ballot this cycle includes HJR 2, a proposed amendment to the Idaho Constitution to affirm power the Legislature already has by law, and has been practicing, regularly. It's a bit of a mystery why we're even having the discussion, let alone voting on it. Former chief deputy attorney general and counsel for the Idaho PUC and Transportation Department, and current law professor Jack McMahon makes the case for a "NO" vote in the Idaho Statesman.

"Idaho's Legislature already has the strongest power of any legislature in the United State to review agency rules. Every year, the Legislature reviews all rules the agencies have enacted in the previous year. ... But in Idaho, the legislative review process extends not just to rules enacted during the prior year, but to thousands of rules that have been enacted over the decades. Every such rule expires every year unless expressly extended by the Legislature."

Lacking a compelling reason to alter the Constitution, the answer must be to leave it alone.

Fear of the month club Permalink to this item has a "card stack" of 19 things you need to know about Ebola and on the first of them, there's a datagraphic of the leading causes of death in Africa. Ebola is, so far, off the charts on the nearly negligible end. HIV/AIDS and respiratory infections are number 1 and 2, more than a million deaths each. Malaria is #4, and if ebola deaths were to increase to the alarming figure reported yesterday as a possibility, of ten thousand cases a week, that would make ebola as serious a killer as malaria.

The US population was busy freaking about the first case here (not counting the first four people to get sick overseas and come back here for treatment), and more so about the second one, a nurse in Dallas who contracted it in the course of carrying for the first patient. The death rate here is 1/5, with the 6th case TBD. (Card 5 of 20 makes some distinctions about "Americans"... as if we should not be so concerned about Africans?)

But the outbreak is unquestionably accelerating right now, and the exponential growth curve in card #8 is unsettling, as is "up to 1.4 million people infected by January." And card 12: "One problem with treating Ebola is that Ebola treatment is draconian," because "tending to the sick is exactly how Ebola spreads."

Questions of "protocol" and its breach reveal that our healthcare system's preparedness is very much an open question. At least we have resources for supplies and facilities... but training in the rigorous safety procedures has not been driven by necessity, yet.

I used to work in technology that required "clean room" facilities of various kinds, and we worked hard to make systems robust and foolproof, but failures were inevitable wherever there was a dependency on fastidious behavior. It's not easy to be careful, all the time. "Gowning" and de-gowning are tedious and the more times you have to do it, the more likely you are to get careless about the particulars. I'd imagine procedures are more compelling when life and death (rather than just hardware failure and scrap rates) are on the line, but just as the need to be wide awake while driving doesn't keep you awake, that sort of compulsion is not enough by itself.

Long story short: the epidemic will get worse, and scarier before it gets better, and our reactions to it will be more dramatic than a pareto chart of diseases would suggest they should be.

A day to celebrate in Idaho Permalink to this item

The party came off this time, about the 3rd or 4th try. People started gathering at 8 am, and with some nice singing by members of the Boise Gay Men's Chorus for starters, we were all primed for the 10 o'clock start of legal same-sex marriages in Idaho in front of the Ada County Courthouse today. There was cake, cupcakes, cookies, coffee, bubbles, banners, lots of media (and non-media) with cameras and camerphones and video cameras, a dog or two, all sorts of couples and singles, some married, some about to be married and all of them ebullient. From the Idaho Statesman's report, I see that Amber and Rachael Beierle, two of the plaintiffs in the Idaho court case were first in line. (At least six of the eight plaintiffs were there in Boise this morning.)

"Onlookers cheered and blew soap bubbles as couples of men and women emerged from the courthouse onto the plaza after receiving their licenses. ... No one who opposes gay marriage was seen inside or outside the courthouse."

The weather cooperated after an October fashion, cloudy and cool but not raining for most of the time, a brief midday shower and now afternoon sun. I'm sure there's a rainbow in the neighborhood.

Update: Betsy Russell's report for the Spokesman Review.

14.Oct.14 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Vote Hoagland Permalink to this item

Map of Idaho's 4th Judicial district, and Stanley

"Judicial temperament" would seem to be an esoteric legal term of art, but in some cases, you can see its absence without needing special training. The City of Stanley is a tiny little outpost in central Idaho's high mountains, usually noted for its views of the Sawtooths and its low temperatures in the fall, winter and spring. Its website has a frequently asked question page about its legal expenses, many of which have been incurred because of Rebecca Arnold.

Former Stanley mayor Hannah Stauts wrote a letter to the editor back in May, before the primary vote that winnowed the field to Arnold, and Sam Hoagland, who by all accounts I've seen is a suitable candidate for Fourth District Judge. (The Fourth District comprises Ada, Boise, Valley and Elmore counties; Stanley is in Custer Co., "what America used to be," according to its website. Population density not quite up to 1 person per square mile.)

My experience with Arnold has been limited to her work on the Ada County Highway District, where she was unimpressive in her assessment of Boise's buffered bike lane experiment downtown. She said she tried driving the street with the trial setup once and didn't like it, avoided it, voted to kill it before giving it much of a chance.

The other candidate for judge is Samuel Hoagland, who justifiably features the Idaho State Bar Survey results comparing the two candidates on his campaign website. The people who know the relevant factors best rate Hoagland above average (3.12 on a 4 point scale), and Arnold below average (1.88). "Judicial temperament and demeanor" is one of the four rating dimensions.

Promises to make Permalink to this item

Wedding bells are set to ring tomorrow, and this time, it seems that same sex marriage really will happen for Idaho. The Idaho Statesman recapped the roller coaster play by play on late Friday: the full set of Supremes said they would not hear the case, and lifted Justice Kennedy's emergency stay from Wednesday, but since the 9th Circuit had recalled its Tuesday mandate, its previous stay was back in force, and something more was needed. That came Friday night... and finally, officially, yesterday (on a federal holiday, even), Plaintiff-Appellees’ motion to dissolve the stay is GRANTED, effective at 9 am PDT Wednesday, October 15, 2014.

Photo from a Palouse sunset, Oct. 2014

It's not easy keeping track of all the lawyers making hay out of taxpayer dollars on this affair either. There's one I hadn't heard of before in Betsy Russell's story, providing a filing for Governor Otter:

[P]rivate attorney Gene Schaerr in Washington, D.C., took umbrage at the idea that the stay would be lifted before “reasonable appellate options have been exhausted,” saying, “Granting that motion would … improperly treat the sovereign State of Idaho as an ordinary litigant, entitled to no more respect than a fly-by-night payday loan business or massage parlor.”

Seriously? How do things like this pop into someone's head, and how does that someone have so little self-awareness that he would let them pop out into public?

One of the previously losing attorneys, Monte Neil Stewart, whose oral argument I found rather unimpressive last month is trying a new tack: he's claiming the Circuit court stacked the deck on him, gave him three judges bound to rule against his case through some sort of conspiracy.

“We bring the issue of bias in the selection process to the Circuit’s attention with respect and with a keen awareness that questioning the neutrality of the panel’s selection could hardly be more serious.”

So, give him a shot at the en banc of eleven judges. Could hardly be more serious?! He's found himself "an expert statistician" to produce some "sophisticated statistical analysis" that it’s highly unlikely that the judges he likes least would be picked to hear his case.

My favorite Facebook lawyer friend noted that Stewart is "flirting with contempt in every possible way" after observing that

"Litigants accusing judges or their court of bias and misconduct has always been proven a winner for those who just got their ass handed to them. The nice thing about this back handed slap is that the Plaintiffs should have a swell time when the court decides attorney fees and costs."

But all of which, most unfortunately, will be coming out of Idaho taxpayer pockets, not those of its Governor, Attorney General, or gravy train of private attorneys.

Promises to keep Permalink to this item

Just your run-of-the-mill confidence scam, and I usually would have deleted this sort of thing without much attention, but something caught my eye. The "Capt." in the From address, I suppose, "Capt. Carr Kate Lee." "Greetings," she begins, "I know you will be surprised to read my email."

Well, sort of.

"Am an american citizen, apart from being surprise you may be skeptical to reply me because based on what is happening on the internet world, one has to be very careful because a lot of scammers are out there to scam innocent citizens and this has made it very difficult for people to believe anything that comes through the internet but this is a different case."

Riiight. But it does take an interesting turn after the "two trunk of consignment boxes containing America $100" (bills?) when she says "To Prove my sincerity, you are not sending me any money. Because most of this scam is about sending money." That part seems genuine enough!

"I must say that I'm very uncomfortable sending this message to you without knowing truly if you would misconstrue the importance and decides to go public."

Whoops, she seems to have relied on the wrong person. But here's my favorite phrase for the day: "I will be vivid and coherent in my next message..."

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

The least among you Permalink to this item

You're probably getting those big glossy mailers offering to get you an absentee ballot to make sure you get your vote in? The latest one to reach our house from the Republicans seems to have taken an unusual tack, celebrating incompetence. Huh.


8.Oct.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Judicial ping pong Permalink to this item

We can't tell what in the world is going on, but Garrett Epps has at least delineated the terms of confusion in regard to the question Why is Anthony Kennedy pausing gay weddings now? Same-sex marriage was on and off and now back on in Nevada, but off in Idaho, specifically, because our Governor doesn't want to take "no" for an answer.

"The emergency stay will be in effect only until the Court gets the plaintiffs’ reply Thursday. Kennedy can either grant or dissolve the stay, or (more likely) refer the application to the full Court for a prompt decision. The standard in either case is, according to precedent, this: How likely is it that four justices will think this case worthy of hearing? That standard was met by the three previous cases—which were then denied. But like the Kremlin seating chart, a stay in this case would mean not mean nothing."

The plaintiffs won, however. Why should they need to answer? Lyle Denniston's SCOTUSblog post notes that the "emergency" request was filed with the Ninth Circuit about the time the moon was being eclipsed by the earth, "3:30 a.m. for the state and at 5 a.m. for the governor." Unless that's Eastern time? When nothing makes sense, almost any explanation will do. But here's a better one than the alignment of celestial bodies:

"...Thomas Perry, counsel to Idaho Governor Butch Otter, has packaged his particular appeal in language that makes it possibly different from the three cases the Court denied Monday. The reason is this: In its opinion yesterday, the Ninth Circuit panel did not simply follow United States v. Windsor in its reasoning. It went further, deciding that all legal distinctions based on sexual orientation are subject to what lawyers call “heightened scrutiny”—that is, they are presumptively unconstitutional, almost like distinctions of race, religion, or sex.

"Despite numerous opportunities to do so, Kennedy has never been willing to designate a “level of scrutiny” for sexual orientation. His opinions are determinedly vague on what standard he is applying. Even if—as I suspect—Kennedy is now a confirmed vote to allow same-sex marriage, the standard-of-review question has implications for cases involving employment, public accommodations, and religious freedom. If four justices want to decide that issue, Idaho says, here’s their chance."

Update: Excellent analysis by Marc Johnson: When to Quit.

7.Oct.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A victory for equal rights Permalink to this item

Idaho was still up in the air when the news about the U.S. Supreme Court's inaction yesterday made same sex marriage at least "effectively" legal in 11 more states, to a total of 30; today, the Ninth Circuit dropped the other shoes, for Idaho and Nevada, and the rest of the Circuit: Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Montana, Alaska and Hawai`i.

Here's one place to obtain your own copy of the ruling. Thanks to FB pal James Kent for highlighting a footnote on page 21 that I missed while wading through all three judges' individual comments:

"[Governor Otter] states, in conclusory fashion, that allowing same-sex marriage will lead opposite-sex couples to abuse alcohol and drugs, engage in extramarital affairs, take on demanding work schedules, and participate in time-consuming hobbies. We seriously doubt that allowing committed same-sex couples to settle down in legally recognized marriages will drive opposite-sex couples to sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll."

Betsy Russell's Eye on Boise post includes a quote from one of the plaintiffs, my friend Lori Watsen:

“It means so much for the courts to recognize our family and say that we must be treated equally. Our son will be able to grow up in a world where the state treats his family the same as other families.”

Update: There's still the question of what next, and when? From that same FB pal:

"Judge Dale refused to issue a stay. The Ninth Circuit Court issued an order staying Judge Dale's opinion pending appeal which I've linked up. The court expressly took notice that a stay should issue because of the stay issued by SCOTUS in the Utah case, Kitchen. The appeal in Kitchen was dismissed and the stay removed by SCOTUS yesterday.

"In short, the appeal is over and with it the stay. It's Otter's move to request another stay pending appeal, but given the SCOTUS ruling yesterday, he's not going to get it."

The state has 7 days to appeal further within the 9th, or petition for a Writ of Certiorari to the Supreme Court.

Update #2: Five more words from the Ninth Circuit: “The mandate shall issue forthwith.” The party at the Ada County Courthouse is on, tomorrow morning at 8am.

Tune in for Nels Mitchell for U.S. Senate Permalink to this item

The one and only debate that sitting Senator Jim Risch deigned to grant his challenger will air tonight on KTVB (channel 7) at 9 pm. Not that Nels Mitchell's campaign manager is an objective observer, but Betty Richardson noted the contrast between the two from watching the recorded session.

"Nels was thoughtful, calm, and deliberate. He carried himself like a statesman. Jim Risch, on the other hand, grew ever more shrill—waving his arms, raising his voice, and either making faces or looking off camera while Nels was talking."

The other anecdote from the get-together is a real gobsmacker:

"[W]hen Risch arrived at the studio, Nels greeted him and extended his hand. Risch refused to look at Nels or shake his hand! He finally did so at the end of the debate—when the cameras were rolling!"

What a guy. Speaking of what a guy, the debate between Secretary of State candidates Lawerence Denney and Holli Woodings is on tonight, too. 7pm (MDT) on Idaho Public TV.

The mountain to climb Permalink to this item

We went to the Medicaid expansion forum put on by Idaho Health Care for All and TransForm Idaho last night, dedicated to the memory of our (and their) friend Gene Barrett, "beloved teacher, intrepid cyclist, concerned citizen." Two of the four candidates running for Governor responded to their invitation and were there, A.J. Balukoff and John Bujack, along with Dr. Ted Epperly, physician, CEO of the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho and a member of the Governor’s recent (and second) Medicaid task force.

The first question that occurred to me was, where was the elephant that needed to be in the room? Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter couldn't be bothered to show up. I suspect there was more than one Idaho legislator in the audience, but at least Representative Sue Chew (D-19), sitting in front of us, near the front.

With 104,000 people in the state lacking healthcare insurance and in the gap between being able to afford it via the ACA exchange (or through an employer) and Medicaid as it is, pretty much everyone will acknowledge "something needs to be done," and wave their hands at the problem.

Epperly started by explaining "the gap," and the five options the Governor's task force considered:

  1. Do nothing
  2. Redesign the catastrophic health care cost program ("CAT fund") and indigent care funds, both "reactive" systems, responding as they do only to catastrophe
  3. Medicaid redesign with a "care management plan"
  4. Buy private insurance on the health exchange (6 states looked at it, Arkansas and Iowa are doing it, and having issues); or
  5. Direct primary care option - so people had access to primary care (but which doesn't address "the rest" of health care expense—medication, lab/X-ray, emergency room, outpatient treatment or hospitalization)

In 2012, the first task force was unanimously in favor, and this year they voted 10-3 to expand and redesign Medicaid in the state. But the "no" votes were from the three Republican legislators in the group, so convinced of their body's inability to act in this matter that apparently no facts could persuade them. (The Governor's Medicaid Redesign Workgroup web page has a ton of linked documents, but I don't see the "final report" there, nor any evidence the Governor got the message that he didn't actually seem to be after.)

Tom von Alten photo, 2014

Epperly noted that the Governor's directive to the task force was to recommend the best path forward, "regardless of political viability," but members of the legislator make it their business to ignore the Governor whenever it suits them.

A.J. Balukoff provided a simple anecdote to illustrate both the problem and opportunity: a mother who didn't take her daughter to see a doctor for the ache in her gut because she couldn't afford it... until the appendicitis was acute, and the bill to treat her ended up more like $100,000 than the several $thousand it would have cost to treat non-acute appendicitis. Never mind the risk.

This was my first time to see Bujak in person, and he's interesting. Well-spoken and not afraid of hostile audiences, he's accustomed to defending his rigid, simplistic positions without much recourse to facts in evidence. In his introduction, and throughout his remarks, he made it clear that he thinks we should not expand Medicaid. The one paragraph on his campaign site might have been put on a poster at the front of the room, and he could've saved himself the trouble of showing up.

For the live audience, he didn't go off so much about how Medicaid expansion was a conspiracy of doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to make money, but instead kept emphasizing that we need to "restructure" the whole system, without ever going into detail what that would mean, or how in the world he proposes to initiate the process. (Convene a libertarian task force? Good luck finding volunteers for that.)

Bujak's other concern about expanding access to healthcare is that the wave of needy people would "overwhelm the system," ignoring the central problem of responding to catastrophe instead of need. The issue got attention, but not enough, and there was no way to hold Bujak's responses to fact or logic. At a couple points the crowd got restive and people were tossing out challenges and questions with the moderator not sure how she might control them. One fed up attendee said "time's up!" a couple times, and finally the moderator spoke up and said "we're going to move on" and everyone—including Bujak, as he sat down—got a chuckle.

Bujak did mention Washington state's plan as a model, and I see that their legislature did expand Medicaid to extend coverage to more than 300,000 people in their state, as of this January 1. From the news overview, it's not clear how this is unique and different from what the task force recommended for Idaho, or how they kept from having their system overwhelmed by the needy having more access to healthcare.

Whether our state can move on is far from clear. Our performance to date shows both a lack of political will, and insufficent skill. Bujak pointed out the unfortunately obvious: any change has to get through the legislature. "What you hear from me is some of what you're going to hear from the floor," he said. From true believers, who can afford their own healthcare, one way or another.

It's irresponsible to take back more than we put in, Bujak says, that clarion call from the Red States to stop taking more than their share from the federal government that you don't hear very often.

But it's more irresponsible to maintain the status quo when people are dying for want of care and costing everyone more by delaying needed care. Bujak's casual insistence that government can't do anything, and that the "free market" solves all problems is practically as well as morally bankrupt. The ample palaver about "restructuring" isn't worth a bucket of warm spit. His business has been in persuasive argument in an adversary system, where you don't need a solution, you just need to outwit the opposition. No one in this crowd was buying it, and there aren't enough rubes in Idaho (for as many as there are) to put him in the big chair in the Capitol.

6.Oct.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The nut of the problem Permalink to this item

Asked to address the parade of scandals that the GOP has been leading in recent years (a couple of which are squarely in his court, c.f. "redistricting"; Denney one of the "goodest old boys" in that story) that party's candidate for Idaho Secretary of State, told the City Club of Boise today, “Ninety seconds to explain all of those scandals is going to be a little bit difficult.”

No kidding. Denney did take the time to self-righteously invoke the state's constitution as somehow tying his hands from doing more about "the Phil Hart affair." His opponent, Democrat Holli Woodings called b.s. on that:

“...a very good friend of mine, Rep. Eric Anderson, who serves his district honorably in North Idaho, was unseated from his (vice) chairmanship for bringing ethics complaints.” Anderson filed an ethics complaint against Hart; Denney then removed him from his committee vice-chairmanship. “So to me that brand of partisanship does not belong in the Secretary of State’s office, and I hope you agree,” Woodings said.

Update: This is as good a place as any to mention that the Idaho Statesman endorsed Woodings for Secretary of State on Saturday. All of the Republican's greater "experience" lead them (and a lot of people in the state) to have more "concerns" than confidence. Some responses to the endorsement in Huckleberries Online are good, too.

Woodings v. Denney at City Club today Permalink to this item

Missed the City Club debate between the candidates for Idaho's next Secretary of State, but there are some busy tweeters doing the bite-sized stream of consciousness thing to tide me over until I track down an audio stream... Tuesday night at 7, or maybe here. Are hashtags case-sensitive? Let's hope not. #ccboi is your ticket.

@slfisher: Dr. Weatherby urges us not to respond other than sighing or rolling of eyes. #ccboi

@slfisher: Rep. Denney is explaining how he was nonpartisan as Speaker of the House. <splutter>

This one would have made me splutter:

@magicvoice68 Rep Denney says vote by mail compromises security, wants to remove absentee balloting (including overseas military voting).

@scott_nicholson Rep Denny, I'm a Vietnam veteran & i voted by mail.

@KevinRichert Denney: "I think that negative campaigning is suppressing the vote." 2nd District race was shameful. But negative ads seem to work.

@KathyGriesmyer Denney & fingerprinting: it's about cool voting technology. So cool that only certain ppl could vote. Like white old men

Not that there's anything wrong with white old men, just that they shouldn't be the only ones who can vote, eh. Let's talk about the state pension business, shall we? Sharon Fisher notes that Denney stands to go from $400 to $3600/mo. if he wins this election.

@slfisher Rep. Denney says if it was such a good idea, why didn't anybody else propose it after him?

@slfisher Rep. Woodings says she tried to propose the bill and she was shot down because it was "too political."

And Denney's Quixotic quest to take over federal lands, what's up with spending $61k (of taxpayer money, not his own) after the Attorney General has told you you're full of beans?

@scott_nicholson Denny not backing down from hiring outside counsel instead of going through Idaho Attorney General. I'm calling bullshit on this one.

Betsy Russell's several blog posts are at the top of the stack tagged Holli Woodings.

Update: This Wonkblog piece from Justin Levitt in August sums it all that fraud you keep hearing about in the headline: A comprehensive investigation of voter impersonation finds 31 credible incidents out of one billion ballots cast. So, 99.999999997% not a problem. But who's counting?

4.Oct.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Send in the clowns Permalink to this item

You read through the Wikipedia entry on Ben Carson and you can't help but be impressed by his achievements, yet since he retired from neurosurgery and went into punditry (and occasionally running for President), only the odd things come to mind. His 1996 criticism of for-profit health insurance is simple and spot-on:

"The entire concept of for profits for the insurance companies makes absolutely no sense. 'I deny that you need care and I will make more money.' This is totally ridiculous. The first thing we need to do is get rid of for-profit insurance companies. We have a lack of policies and we need to make the government responsible for catastrophic health care."

But no one stepped up to do away with for-profit anything, and "make the government responsible" hasn't been on the agenda lately. Pandering to the conservative Values Voters Summit a year ago, he called the Affordable Care Act “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery” and used a made-up quote from Vladimir Lenin for good measure, and responded to criticism by attacking critics.

He might be for a single-payer, everybody-in system, but the "solution" of giving every newborn child an electronic medical record and a health savings account doesn't quite add up either. Who built and maintains (and provides security for) this electronic recordkeeping system? And does that HSA have any money in it, or will we just be handing out piggy banks?

The NRSC elephant that adorns all these Romney for President list emails I'm getting

I was prompted to find out more about him by his name on yet another email in the NRSC/Romney for President Inc. elephant parade, this one starting with "Replacing Obamacare starts with..." etc.

"We, as a country, need to have a real conversation about how to reform our healthcare system in a way that improves quality, reduces costs, expands access, and honors America’s legacy."

I can totally agree with that, but the notion that "taking back the Senate from Harry Reid and the Democrats" will lead us to such a "real conversation" would sound deranged if it weren't so utterly disingenuous.

But wait! There's more!

Someone I hadn't heard of until she showed up on The Daily Show news last week, Joni Ernst. "Her" message is more or less generic, and features what she cares about (she's leading 48-42 by one poll... so send more money!), and the true-enough observation that "millions of Americans are disappointed" by Congress as a whole (let alone the dysfunctional half she wants to highlight).

Ms. Ernst is about more than just a chicken fight, however, get a load of this: she said she would support legislation that would allow "local law enforcement to arrest federal officials attempting to implement" the Affordable Care Act. The county Sheriff, I suppose that would be. And personhood for fertilized eggs and zygotes.

Apart from the comedy shows, probably the biggest issue of the season is the professed ignorance about climate science that seems to have a strange attractor within the Republican party. Ernst "can't say one way or another," so never mind those "job killing regulations coming out of the EPA." Jeffrey Toobin, for The New Yorker, Republicans United on Climate Change (denial, that is):

"[I]t’s virtually impossible to find any leading Republicans, including potential Presidential candidates, who will agree, without equivocation, on all of these points: that temperatures are rising, that human beings caused it, and that the nation and the world must take action to address it."

If Toobin's analysis is correct, we can thank the Citizens United decision and the Republican Party's moneyed "gatekeepers" Charles and David Koch for the elephant blinders, enforcing climate-change denial as "the price of admission to the charmed circle of Republican donors."

1.Oct.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

You cannot be serious Permalink to this item

The Republican Governors Association has taken an interest in Idaho's race for some reason, hoping to keep their current member in his job for a third term. They make a good case for being "uncoordinated" with their party's candidate by calling the Democrat, A.J. Balukoff, a "typical politician," with a "six-figure range" ad buy. That would be uncoordinated, ignorant and tone-deaf to boot, with a creepy, chuckling basso narration.

What does the RGA know about Idaho, let alone Balukoff? You want to get "typical," try this quartet on for size, as featured on the RGA home page:
Photos of Republican Governors: Christie, Jindal, Walker, Scott

A.J. Balukoff is a successful businessman with a clear statement of priorities and positions, and a political career that extends as far as being president of the Boise School District Board of Trustees. His opponent has been in and out of state politics and Washington D.C. for more than 40 years and has accumulated enough animosity within his own party to have earned a rather formidable primary challenge this year.

I wouldn't call Otter "typical," but he is a consummate politician, in rather stark contrast with his Democratic challenger.

Update: Betsy Russell's full article breaks it down. " that are exaggerated, out of context or just plain wrong..." About the only thing the RGA got right is that A.J. thinks we should expand Medicaid, as does the study task force the Governor stood up to consider the question.


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007