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31.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

50 years of Wilderness Permalink to this item

Outdoor Idaho from Idaho Public TV has been celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act for some time, and they've produced a quite beautiful web collection of photoessays from its Facebook friends, What Wilderness Means to Me. Hightly recommended, even before I get through all 18. Lisa Kidd's, third on the list, "Learning to Love Idaho," is especially poignant.

Wilderness, and the idea of wildness that surrounds it, was what lured me out west. Once here, more than one attempt to get out into the wild ended up more comedic than dramatic, but from waking up in September, 1975 to fresh snow on a Ceanothus-covered hillside on the edge of the Selway-Bitterroot, to the Seven Devils this past summer, the Grand Canyon, Sawtooths, Eagle Cap, and more between, I've appreciated the challenge that protects the incomparable treasures we have in this state, and this country.

Tom von Alten photo, 2015

Rationing care Permalink to this item

The Upshot's interactive map of the healthcare uninsured in the U.S. reminds more than one viewer of a map of the Confederacy, with our wild west kicker (and Arkansas, Kentucky and the Virginias standing out as exceptions). I wish their by-county mapping put things things into a cartogram to reduce the distortion of wide open spaces, but it's still an impressive presentation of a huge set of data. New England and the Midwest got with the program, mostly. and the rest of the country did not. Even the "low" numbers are too high: 6, 7, 8%. But the high numbers—25 and 30%, and headed the wrong way—illustrate state-by-state experiments with death panel, in essence.

30.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

In other political news Permalink to this item

US avoids debt default as Congress passes two-year fiscal plan. That Republican leadership they promised when they took over the House and then the Senate is really starting to kick in. Not that we're quite completely devoid of opportunities for drama though:

"The agreement diminishes, but doesn’t eliminate, the odds of a government shutdown because lawmakers still must work out details before current funds expire Dec. 11."

And not that it was actually Republican leadership. The House vote (266-167) only had 79 members of the majority in favor. Senators (and presidential hopefuls) Rubio, Cruz and Paul have a juicy talking point about how business as usual is your worst nightmare.

Let the finger-pointing continue Permalink to this item

For a brief moment, it felt like I might agree with Richard Viguerie about something, that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus owns the most recent debate disaster, but first of all, give the guy a break. He's in a no-win job to begin with, and he's been a punching bag for longer than seems reasonable. Second of all, Viguerie buries his own lede, which is (of course) the "encyclopedic example of liberal media bias" a someone else phrased it for him, before he inserted "far-Left" [sic] and "establishment" in front of media. But yeah, I wondered what the hell they were doing in Boulder, too:

"Why Priebus chose the University of Colorado at Boulder – one of the most liberal universities in the country, in a community where there are a relative handful of registered Republicans – is a mystery only an establishment Republican could unravel, but it provided plenty of student volunteers and a picturesque backdrop for virtually every liberal interest group that wished to parade their cause in front of the national TV cameras."

Bring back the good old days of Ronald Reagan’s aide and image-maker who understood "the power of non-verbal communication; location, lighting, who was in the picture."

But the nut of the problem was just that: never mind the picturesque students, there were those ten candidates up on the stage. Would a "media" panel of "Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, and Rush" (no, seriously, that's what he said) have fixed the Leftwing problem?

Catherine Rampell has a slightly different angle of agreement: The Republican presidential candidates are right. The media do suck.

"But not for the reasons the candidates complained about Wednesday night.

"We in the media suck because we have rewarded their rampant dishonesty and buffoonery with nonstop news coverage. Which, of course, has encouraged more dishonesty and buffoonery."

She goes on to detail the wrong lessons we are teaching thereby. Lie confidently. (Fiorina wins that category.) Invent your own math. (As old as Ronald Reagan.) If you can’t think of something better to say, just bash the media.

29.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A history of crashing... Permalink to this item

followed by smashing success. On "this day in history," 46 years ago, down at the bottom of the 1960s' page at the Computer History Museum, we see that the first two nodes of the "ARPANET" were connected. "[H]andwritten logs from UCLA show the first host-to-host connection, from UCLA to SRI, is made on October 29, 1969. The first 'Log-In' crashes the SRI host, but the next attempt works!"

The exclamation point Permalink to this item

An original work by Thomas von Alten

While reading one more account of last night's debate (and the best so far, even better than Vox's impressive 2 minute explainer video, which is pretty good), and getting to the point where Frank Rich says "Bush is finished," Jeanette said "I knew he was done when they added the exclamation point." Rich continues:

"I’d argue that he was never a real candidate to begin with, for all the money and Establishment support he attracted. There are three basic requirements for running for president: a cause or causes you vehemently want to advance, the proverbial fire in the belly, and an enthusiastic group of grassroots supporters who want to propel you to the White House. Bush had none of the three.

"His campaign has been a study in incompetence that has mainly dramatized the candidate’s sense of entitlement. ...

"What’s also remarkable is how little Jeb is aware of the changes in his own party. He has seemed perpetually surprised by the heathens in the GOP’s midst. He should not have been. His own father, with his race-baiting Willie Horton campaign against Michael Dukakis, helped invite in the crazies. His brother and Karl Rove gave sotto voce encouragement to the gay-bashing forces of the religious right, and looked the other way as Sarah Palin paved the way for Trump, Carson, and Cruz. Yet Jeb still clung to a belief that the old-school patrician ethos of his parents could run to his rescue in 2016. History will look back at him, if it looks at all, as a world-class fool and the last exhausted gasp of a GOP that no longer exists."

Hell on earth Permalink to this item

That's if you subscribe to the "hell is hot" hypothesis. The journal Nature Climate Change has a solid paywall, but the abstract and teaser for this article published Monday are clear enough: Future temperature in southwest Asia projected to exceed a threshold for human adaptability.

The threshold for human adaptability.

Teaser for Figure 1 of the study cited

"This threshold defines a limit of survivability for a fit human under well-ventilated outdoor conditions and is lower for most people. We project using an ensemble of high-resolution regional climate model simulations that extremes of wet-bulb temperature in the region around the Arabian Gulf are likely to approach and exceed this critical threshold under the business-as-usual scenario of future greenhouse gas concentrations. Our results expose a specific regional hotspot where climate change, in the absence of significant mitigation, is likely to severely impact human habitability in the future."

The teaser for Figure 1, showing spatial distributions of extreme temperatures, is hard to read, but I see the scale runs up to and past 60°C on the dark purple, right end. That's 140°F, and shown in the "ensemble average 30-year maximum" creeping into the fertile crescent, a.k.a. Iraq, a.k.a. the Garden of Eden, in the semi-bleak and very-bleak modeled Representative Concentration Pathways of RCP4.5 and RCP8.5.

Oh yes it is Permalink to this item

Given the slightly more compelling entertainment of the World Series last night, I did not tune in to the GOP debate. I'll have to rely on media reports (ok and maybe some blooper reels) to find out how it turned out. Always fun to get a look from outside, so here's the BBC in its US & Canada section, about how the Republicans spar in fiery debate.

The media were also in the firing line - Texas Senator Ted Cruz got the night's biggest applause when he attacked the hosts, CNBC for stirring confrontation.

"The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media. This is not a cage match."

Hmm? RNC chairman Reince Priebus piled on afterwards, about the "gotcha questions." But hey, somebody has to clear the crowded field. I understand they had a ten-some. Can we at least declare the rest of them are done for? (Just before the end, I see there were still four gamely trying to be noticed in the warm-up act.) It's not like the media or anyone else are going to roll over like puppy dogs if one of these fellows or that woman were to be (a) nominated or god forbid (b) you-know-what.

Whether or not any of it can be trusted, here's what someone in the media thought: "Jeb Bush delivered another listless performance," Rubio parried the attack on his Senate absenteeism, and Chris Christie "outstripped Bush" to boot. And the front-runners? "Trump was low-key - it seemed almost that he is tiring of the process. Carson disappeared for much of the debate." Highlights had stuff about comic books, fantasies, government stealing Social Security taxes, guns, god, butter and accusations of hypocrisy.

Ron Elving (for NPR) figures Rubio was the "featured performer," with Cruz and Christie (who "seemed revivified") worth mentioning. Christie politely accused CNBC moderator of being rude, even by New Jersey standards, ha ha.

For Rubio's part, it sounds like he stuck a fork in his one-time mentor, responding to the subtext rather than Bush's attack on his slacking off his day job ("someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you").

"Bush was not able to establish much momentum after that, finishing near the bottom of the list in speaking time. It was his third flat performance in the debate series to date, and the most damaging in its timing. His campaign had highlighted this evening, calling it Bush's chance to rebut suggestions he lacks real enthusiasm for this campaign. In recent weeks, he has seemed diffident and off-message at times in public appearances. He has laid off staff, as his standing in the polls has continued to decline."

Can't quite say for sure that's losing, but we can say for sure it ain't "winning." (Maybe Bush needs a spell in the minors to get his mojo back.)

Elving has more about Cruz's attack on the media as "the night's peak energy point," and how the other candidates "tried to get in on the crowd's appetite for media criticism." Feeding the crowd's appetite will make for a better result, I'm sure. And here's an unexpected angle:

"Reince Priebus, the GOP national chairman who took control of the debates this year and made deals with the various news outlets, also expressed dismay after the debate and said changes would be made to future formats."

That would be "took control" in the same way Dr. Frankenstein did.

28.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Corner store Permalink to this item

The nice thing about a street layout with a one-mile grid is that you can have a drug store on every major corner, it seems. We've long had our choice of two flavors, Walgreens or Rite Aid (with the occasional drug-in-grocery store to fill gaps), but now, whoops, they're looking to synergize themselves. Says they'll keep the two brand names, so we can still pretend. Good deal for Rite Aid if the numbers in the story are accurate: value was $6.4 billion, buyout for "more than $9.4 billion in cash." Who needs a rewards card when you get a 48% premium on your purchase? ("The market" quickly factored in the difference, and Rite Aid shares were up 43% on the day.)

Also in the story, who knew, Walgreens previously merged with "the European chain Alliance Boots" we never heard of. And Duane Reade, USA Drugs and Kerr Drug.

They'll need to see how much stink-eye this next deal will get from government regulators, because yeah, it does have a little Monopoly feel to it. (As one consultant put it, "the pharmacy consolidation endgame has begun.") The other big player doesn't have much presence in SW Idaho, CVS Health (having acquired Long’s Drug, Medicine Chest and Navarro Discount Pharmacy). Between the three, maybe going to be two, there are 20,000+ drug stores, one for every... 15,000 of us.

A nice feature at the end of the NYT Dealbook piece is the credits, which is to say the considerable parade of pressed-shirt outfits who will be getting their rewards cards punched for the reams of boilerplate they'll be emitting:

"Citigroup advised Rite Aid. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom was legal counsel on transaction legal matters, and Jones Day was its legal counsel on antitrust regulatory matters.

"UBS advised Walgreens and will be the sole arranger on the bridge financing.

"Simpson Thacher & Bartlett acted as legal counsel to Walgreens on transaction legal matters, and Weil, Gotshal & Manges acted as its legal counsel on antitrust regulatory matters."

There's gold in them thar hills.

27.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The devolution will not be televised Permalink to this item

It will of course be delivered via the web. As in this remarkable piece of interactive work by the New York Times, Greenland is Melting Away. Start with a full screen video snippet of one of the thousands of rivers melting down through the ice, "like a knife through butter," and draining into a giant hole in the ice (a "moulin"), and on to the sea. That business is detailed in a zoom from satellite altitude (showing—who knew?!— how close Iceland is to Greenland, and its proper shape), down to the researchers' camp on the ice sheet.

Thanks to Connormah and Wikipedia

The full melting of Greenland’s ice sheet could increase sea levels by about 20 feet. We don't know quite when that might happen, or how fast it will, but as sure as Glacier National Park is losing its namesake, it is happening. Meanwhile, back in Rome, some are fiddling about.

"Each year, the federal government spends about $1 billion to support Arctic and Antarctic research by thousands of scientists... But the research is under increasing fire by some Republican leaders in Congress, who deny or question the scientific consensus that human activities contribute to climate change.

"Leading the Republican charge on Capitol Hill is Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the chairman of the House science committee, who has sought to cut $300 million from NASA’s budget for earth science and has started an inquiry into some 50 National Science Foundation grants. On Oct. 13, the committee subpoenaed scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, seeking more than six years of internal deliberations, including “all documents and communications” related to the agency’s measurement of climate change."

Smith represents the 21st District of Texas, a gerrymandered slice between Austin and San Antonio and five wide-open counties on the Edwards Plateau to the west. I imagine the wet end of his district got more rain than they could handle this month, even though the dry end is still in drought (as monitored by the collaborative effort of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture and National Drought Mitigation Center). Maybe bringing the Gulf of Mexico 20 feet closer to home sounds like a good thing to him. And Capitol Hill will still be above water with a 6m sea level rise. (It has more than 20m to give.) What me worry?

(tap tap tap) Is this thing on? Permalink to this item

Even easier than the old days when you had to point and click, now you just point, sort of. But if you've used a new-fangled computing device, you've probably had the experience of "uh, that didn't work."

Which is what I was having with the new version of iOS for an iPad. 9.0 is out, yay! Or, make that 9.0.1, yay! 9.0.2. Ah, no, call it 9.1 now. And so on. But in any event, and in spite of lengthy downloads that monopolized the home wi-fi at times, No nine-oh versions are yet up and spinning where I live. The Terms and Conditions would not take "Agree" for an answer, which I gather is a somewhat common symptom of the wi-fi update process not working, with apparently no known solution, other than try this other method instead, using iTunes, which requires some other computer you plug your not-quite-a-computer thingie into.

After downloading 9.1 yesterday and another tour of the Agree loop, I contacted Support, trying out the chat interface, under the quirky picture of two people, only one of whom was responsive. There was a dare I say "chatty" human on the other end, or else a computer that passed the Turing Test. The opening barrage from call me Scott:

Apple's image, posted for review and commentary

Hey Tom!

Before we get started today, your case number today is Case [the number].

With that case number, we offer a lot of resources via our support website at in new window)(Opens in new window)(Opens in new window)(Opens in new window)(Opens in new window)(Opens in new window)(Opens in new window)(Opens in new window)(Opens in new window)(Opens in new window)(Opens in new window)(Opens in new window)(Opens in new window)(Opens in new window) and our privacy policy is available at as well!

[sic] And so on. (Fortunately, the breathless exclamations faded after the opening phatic.) Tediously long story short, the way forward is to download and install the latest iTunes on something else and plug the iPad into that, and hope it works, otherwise I could try the "Get help when you see error messages" that they have for the iTunes method, but not the wi-fi one.

One part of the process that has worked is to have them mail me a copy of the agreements I'm hoping to one day tap-agree to, of which there are FOUR. The iOS Terms and Conditions (12 pages), the iCloud Terms and Conditions (16 pages), their Privacy Policy (7 pages), and the Game Center Terms and Conditions (7 pages).

Among other things, I agree not to modify, rent, lease, loan, sell, distribute, or create derivative works based on the Services, in any manner, and I shall not exploit the Services in any unauthorized way whatsoever, including but not limited to, using the Services to transmit any computer viruses, worms, trojan horses or other malware, or by trespass or burdening network capacity. I further agree not to use the Services in any manner to harass, abuse, stalk, threaten, defame or otherwise infringe or violate the rights of any other party, and agree that Apple is not in any way responsible for any such use by me, nor for any harassing, threatening, defamatory, offensive, infringing or illegal messages or transmissions that I may receive as a result of using any of the Services. (Even if... Apple iCloud gets in a snit and starts sending such offensive messages?)

I also agree not to do a wide variety of possibly nefarious and tortious things, including, but not limited to uploading, downloading, posting, emailing, transmitting, storing or otherwise making available any content that is unlawful, harassing, threatening, harmful, tortious, defamatory, libelous, abusive, violent, obscene, vulgar, invasive of another’s privacy, hateful, racially or ethnically offensive, or otherwise objectionable, which could cover a Lot. Of. Territory.

I also may not pretend to be anyone I am not.

And I shall not post, send, transmit or otherwise make available any unsolicited or unauthorized email messages, advertising, promotional materials, junk mail, spam, or chain letters, including, without limitation, bulk commercial advertising and informational announcements.

If only everyone actually lived by these agreements, what a wonderful world it would be.

26.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A small loan Permalink to this item

Donald Trump won the internet today with his comments about how hard he had it as a kid. The bar's not as low as it used to be, walking to school and back home uphill both ways in a snowstorm. For the Trumps, it was more about the penurious grubstake papa gave him.

“My whole life really has been a ‘no’ and I fought through it. It has not been easy for me,” he said in New Hampshire today. “And you know I started off in Brooklyn, and my father gave me a small loan of a million dollars.”

And he had to pay it back, with interest. Oh, the humanity. There's also the not-small matter of follow-on loans, and his actual inheritance, but Trump hasn't supplied factual details about all that. Just the "small loan" for his first million. Robert Reich was appropriately sympathetic:

"My heart goes out to the young Donald whose dad would lend him only a million. True, a million dollars in 1968, when Donald was 22, is the equivalent of almost $7 million today. But, hey, even $7 million from your dad must have seemed like small potatoes compared to other billionaires whose dads were far more generous. Donald probably asked his dad for $10 million, and his dad said “no.” Tough life."

25.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Politically incorrect Permalink to this item

Both coming and going: Ben Carson thinks that the forces of political correctness in academia are about persecuting people like him and his "traditional" values, with "pre-fascist thought." There ought to be a law! Which the Department of Education could enforce. It could "monitor our institutions of higher education for extreme political bias and deny federal funding if it exists."

That whole Seventh Day Adventism thing is kind of extreme, isn't it? If you ask Donald Trump, he's just not sure about that. Anybody else, you might suppose it was just admitting ignorance, but The Donald apologizes for nothing. Apologizing is for losers. Also, just looking stuff up would be for losers. Responding to pushback, Trump did play the ingenue, saying hey, "I would certainly give an apology if I said something bad about it. But I didn't. All I said was I don't know about it." (Quoted from the Chicago Tribune's piece, behind a splashover paywall annoyance that does not hide the article text from "view source." The two candidates were on dueling Sunday talk shows, so that's second-hand anyway.)

The Adventists' 11 page PDF with their 28 fundamental beliefs spelled out could dispel ignorance (if not incredulity) in short order. Should we then get after the particulars of belief we're not prepared to accept? Trump's claimed Presbyterianism has its own unverifiable elements, I'm sure, and an argument about days of the week, or of how recently God created the heavens and the earth doesn't seem germane to the question of which of these political neophytes should be considered for president of the United States. (Spoiler alert: neither.)

Instead of debating angels and pinheads, we might get more serious about the discussion of paying for healthcare, and whether or not some sort of "savings accounts" could magically replace Medicare insurance (as Carson seems to want to believe). (Spoiler alert: no.)

22.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Fright night Permalink to this item

As if on cue, Viguerie's own contribution to the Hallowe'en season, he will track you down and scare the hell out of you if you don't do like he says. House Republicans Who Support Paul Ryan Are Entering A Toxic Primary Environment. Yeah, "it's the Primaries, stupid!" but he says that like primaries haven't been amply toxic enough already. I guess only the most absurdly right-wing of the right-wing can avoid toxicity? Which is to say either you will be toxic, or you will suffer from his sort of toxicity. Interesting proposition. Take the jump, if you dare, and sample the "white-hot conservative anger bubbling at the grassroots of the Republican Party," or whatever it is that we want to call the alternate galaxy Viguerie inhabits and imagines himself leading. Just in case you didn't get the idea the first time, his wind-up includes another shot of "white-hot anger," emphasis on the white, eh.

"During the entire century-long civil war in the Republican Party, the progressive establishment leadership of the GOP has been selling the notion that the Democrats and the liberals are the problem, and that if conservatives would only line up behind establishment Republicans and put them in charge of the federal government, the growth of government and America’s slide toward socialism would stop.

"But as the reigns of John Boehner as Speaker of the House and Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader of the Senate have shown, nothing could be further from the truth. ..."

Still, there is ample real estate available equally far from the truth. It's a great, big universe.

Meanwhile, in the temporarily free world Permalink to this item

Conservative Headquarters ("CHQ") is apparently making good money selling its email list to advertisers of late, and lucky me. Today's customer does the run of the mill Viguerie-and-friends screed one better, under a subject line for "": "Obama To Invite United Nations Police Force Into The United States." The story features blue helmets rather than black helicopters, but you know the black helicopters will be coming too.

"We know that what is transpiring may be hard to believe; although, when it comes to what Barack Obama is willing to do because of his sheer hatred of this great country, virtually no dictatorial action that he takes these days is beyond belief."

Maybe useful for the sources they cite who are "sounding the alarm": Canada Free Press, WND (naturally, aka World Nut Daily), John Whitehead (founder of the Rutherford Institute). Sig says "Chris Carmouche," not a name I've heard before, whose organization has a precious address on "Catbird Circle" in Lorton VA.

Saving this one in the benchmark rant file. It's way more entertaining than yesterday's "Gold Will Not Be Enough to Prepare For What Lies Ahead" from Ron Paul." Just in case you were looking for investment advice.

Good governance means no golfing Permalink to this item

Especially not when you're supposed to be working. Also, no more extravagant eating and drinking, and abuse of power. Beeb says Xinhua says the Chinese Communist Party has banned all 88 million of its members from joining golf clubs. But wait, there's more! Or, less, actually.

The new rule on golf states that members are banned from "obtaining, holding or using membership cards for gyms, clubs, golf clubs, or various other types of consumer cards, or entering private clubs."

And this:

The Communist Party has also rephrased a previous clause banning adultery and mistresses, which now says that members are banned from "having improper sexual relations with other people which have bad repercussions."

21.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Pick of the day Permalink to this item

Fresh photo from this afternoon

In the middle of the bike ride, after the nice (almost 2 hour!) meeting with Rev. Sara LaWall, on the way home, I decided it was finally time to stop and look at what we've been passing by for weeks, an apple tree having--and dropping--a bumper crop of what I assumed must be wonderful, sweet, red apples. Sure enough.

There were two old cars in the driveway, better than junk, but maybe not all the way to running. I went around to the front door and tried the doorbell, waited, knocked gently, waited. Did some say "Come in"? Too much noise from the street for me to be sure, and that seemed improbable anyway. Eventually, the door was opened by an old woman in a housedress and with a snot-nosed grandkid at her knee. He gave me a big grin and greeting, I said "would you mind if I picked some of your apples?" with what I hoped was an ingratiating smile.

"My grandkids were out and they said there weren't any left," she said.

"I think there are some," I replied, not saying what I was thinking about her grandchildren's report or powers of observation.

She gave the ok, with a condition: "Would you mind bringing me ten of them? I can't get out there." Of course.

I picked my small pannier full off the tree, having to reach a bit, and thinking about all the more and better ones that would need a ladder, as I picked my way through the almost solid carpet of groundfall. Then I went through some of the ones on the ground, with plenty to recommend. I set the pannier down by the old cars, and sorted through the picking, selected out the very best dozen, and went back past the front window to the door with them in my arms. This time the door opened unprompted, and a teenaged girl had a bowl in hand, ready to receive. Grandma expressed her gratitude, saying "I love those apples!"

I'm sure we will love them, too.

Labrador, at length, to no useful end Permalink to this item

The Spokesman-Review blog Huckleberries Online picked up an echo from the recent piece in Rolling Stone, thanks to the professional boosterism of Rep. Raúl Labrador's press man and former political journalist, Dan Popkey. Before the highlights of the Fresh Air interview with Tim Dickinson (the Rolling Stone author), Popkey highlighted the highlighting of Labrador's and his Freedom Caucus colleague's "extraordinary success" and how they're all "smart, principled, committed conservatives."

It would have been ironic to have our extreme right-winger citing Rolling Stone for saying something positive, if only they actually had. Instead, behold the fabulous spin of "Journalist Describes How The Freedom Caucus Hijacked Congress," an interview that starts with Terry Gross saying "it's hard to overstate just how strange the circumstance the Republicans in the House of Representatives find themselves in today," with the so-called Freedom Caucus "at the heart of the paralysis gripping House Republicans," with "aggressive and uncompromising positions have made it all but impossible for mainstream Republican leaders to govern."

Among what Popkey presents as "highlights" from Dickinson talking to Labrador, the congressman "said he didn't, you know, care to be labeled an obstructionist because he wasn't there to vote his party." [sic] Never mind labeling or the whyfore, Labrador and the gang are obstructionists, and he in particular has seldom missed a chance to celebrate their "success" at obstructing things, preferably in front of a TV camera.

Dickinson's piece (alt title Meet the Fokkers) is out there for anyone to read in its entirety, from its framing

"Composed of nearly 40 of the most committed ideologues in the House, the Freedom Caucus has a simple mission: to get GOP leadership to deliver on the extreme, anti-government and social-conservative rhetoric that nearly all Republicans spout to get elected."

to its thrilling conclusion:

“[I]n the near term, America should brace for chaos — with Republican infighting jeopardizing not only the nation's credit, but funding for our roads and bridges, our veterans and the most vulnerable among us. Boehner was a unique politician: the son of a barback, most at ease at the country club. "He had unique skills bridging irreconcilable groups of Republicans and averting utter disaster," says Ornstein, the congressional scholar. "Nobody else, starting with Kevin McCarthy, has the ability to do it." The Freedom Caucus members have been emboldened by their coup, and anti-establishment presidential candidates will egg them on. This tiny band of radicals — who have built careers on hatred of government — won't be deterred until they've shaken the very foundation of the people's House.”

Part of Labrador's reliable schtick is that he's "there to vote his constituents," as if... the political extremity of half of Idaho knows what's best for running the country, starting with "stop everything!" That right there is some high-test crazy. Just as a measure of how smart, principled and committed Labrador is, consider how he can't bridge the divide between himself (and his gang) and the only-moderately conservative other congressman from Idaho, Mike Simpson, whose constitutents can just suck on it, I guess. Labrador prefers name-calling, because, well, Simpson is too "establishment" for his taste.

"From a lot of people's standpoint ... we haven't seen a lot of anything getting done" on any of those big issues Labrador was supposed to tackle, Aaron Kunz pointed out in his interesting September 9 interview with Labrador which aired in part a month later on Idaho Reports. The almost 20 minutes posted on their blog is worth watching. Labrador's first reaction was "I'd like to know who those people are, because they're wrong."

He offered to shoot the messenger before he then personally took credit for the reduction in the deficit over the past several years. "If I weren't here, that wouldn't be happening." Also, the sun would not rise in the east. Also, "back home" he talks to "real people," who are not like the aliens in Washington D.C. Or, he does "very little talking" and is just a really good listener.

Immigration was to be Labrador's signature issue, given his experience as an immigration lawyer and all. "We" tried some "reasonable" stuff, and passed bills out of the House... but "now the Senate has not taken them up." And hey, "we killed the disastrous Senate bill that would have granted amnesty to 12 million people and would have done nothing for our national security." Amnesty for 12 million, you say? I must have slept through that debate, or maybe that's just a ridiculous caricature.

Like any bona fide federal government hater, Labrador loves to reminisce about his good old days in the state legislature, "a system where it works" because balancing the budget and all. And "you can't be borrowing money" (except, ah, when you do). "No one's taking real responsibility," Labrador says. He and his extreme right wing buddies are the only guys. Asked about how one looks after genuninely important programs, Labrador's answer is that one does not. Nothing is genuninely important. There is only the magic mountain of a balanced budget, which must be scaled.

This is the durable beauty of ideological purity. Given a principle held firmly enough, no additional discerning thought or analysis is necessary. If the ideal principle doesn't happen to be sensible, well, we're not—ever—going to entertain that discussion. It is an article of faith, and "we" do not talk to the faithless. If we don't look at everything for where we can cut budgets, pretty soon we won't have enough money for anything. It doesn't make a lick of sense, but it doesn't have to!

Asked to opine upon the presidential race (and Trump's lead in GOP polls), Labrador said "the American people are completely dissatisfied with the political class, they're completely dissatisfied with the leadership here in Washington D.C." There is a danger of generalizing from one's own experience; if Labrador's as good a listener as he pretends to be (ok, I doubt he actually is), he'd be hearing a damn lot of dissatisfaction. All aimed at someone else, really sir?

Just as he counts passing a bill out of the House as a win, whether or not it has the faintest hope of passing the Senate, he calls leaders "feckless" for not ignoring Obama's veto threat and passing something anyway. Yes, he really is that stubbornly stupid about what it takes to accomplish something in his job. "At least we'll have a message to the American people..."

I get So. Damn. Tired. of hearing Labrador and his ilk presume to speak for "the American people." He understands "the problem" so perfectly, but only as it applies to everyone other than himself.

"We [he said, meaning everyone else] tend to think we don't have to listen to our constituencies [sic] and we don't have to, to listen to the people back home, because we 'somehow know better' than they do about what needs to happen here in Washington D.C."

"Our ideas win," Labrador says. "Look at the last election. Romney, on every single issue won the, the polls. You know if you look at the polling data, you know on issues of education, spending, uh military, all those issues, Romney did better than Obama. The only area where he failed was 'do you care about people like me?' ... We have a better message, but we don't use it as effectively."

That is some industrial grade cognitive dissonance right there.

Given the largest majorities in a generation in both chambers, Labrador supported Boehner last time around, thinking that now things would change, but mirabile dictu, "I think things are worse." At least the Congressman and I have one thing we can agree on! More Republican control, things are worse, got it. (Oh but just give us the Presidency too, then just wait and see!)

"What needs to happen is either they change as a leadership team, or we need to change the leadership team."

Because the Freedom Caucus is in charge, and they know they are 100% right. Shut up. "They serve at our pleasure, we're not their employees."

There is one thing they could talk about where something is happening: criminal justice reform. Labrador didn't quite take personal credit for all that, but does like to have a reason to claim he's "not really that partisan." He supposes this issue is more generational than. What do the old fogies decry? The "lawlessness" of the 60s and 70s. He does "share their concern" that "we can't be like the 60s and the 70s, that you don't punish crimes." Was he even alive back then?! Only sort of; he was born in 1967, graduated high school in the mid-80s. Take his historical perspective (along with so much else of what he says) with a grain of salt.

So, there is at least one idea so obvious that even Labrador can see the way forward and work with the "political class" to accomplish something. Maybe

Image adapted from the Congressional Research Service publication 'Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data', Feb. 2012

On public lands, Labrador think it's not so much a generational issue (unless his younger interviewer could give him a clue?), but east vs. west. "People who live in the west understand that it's not smart to have 65% of our land owned by the federal government" and "encumbered with all these federal regulations, with all these prohibitions of what we can do on those lands."

There he goes again, speaking for everyone. And he doesn't really know jack shit about resource management, but he's from Idaho, and he "thinks" that state management would be better. As long as yeah, the money keeps coming from the federal government to do what needs to be done. Nice.

His 200,000 acre "pilot project" to show how much better the state could do than the feds passed the House... stop me if you've heard this before. And is going nowhere else in a hurry. That "65%" (actually, just shy of 62%) is 32.6 million acres in Idaho, so the scalability of a 0.6% "pilot" would certainly be an open question.

At the very end, the nut of the problem: "We're going to continued to fight." We're not going to get things done by working together. We're going to fight.

20.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Playing dirty Permalink to this item

Here we go again. Raising the debt ceiling to pay for the commitments we've already made should be a non-issue, as it has been for pretty much ever until some right wing Republican monkey wrench gang figure out it could be leverage! Through old age or traumatic amnesia, I did not recall that the last time the House approved a clean debt-ceiling increase, Speaker of it John Boehner was only able to pull 28 Republican votes. The Hill remembers for me, and us, way back to 2014 (and the three before that). Boehner may be a lame duck, but he's our only duck at the moment, and it'll take 30 Republicans and the entire House Democratic caucus, or some other combination to get the job done. One insider figures Boehner has "at least 50 to 70 members" to go along, so maybe this is much ado about nothing. But

"[C]onservatives are warning that an effort to immediately depose Boehner as Speaker could be launched if a clean debt-ceiling increase is brought to the floor."

Let that sink in for a moment. A direct, one-item, "clean" bill to honor our debt could trigger a coup from the gang that couldn't shoot straight. Then what? Can they vote him out without voting someone else in? I looked to the House's history site, but found no help. Neither does Wikipedia say anything about removal (or impeachment, for that matter). The first time we jumped through these hoops, in 2011, ThinkProgress provided the research, from the 19th century procedural Jefferson's Manual, said to be "largely incorporated into the house rules":

A Speaker may be removed at the will of the House, and a Speaker pro tempore appointed.

A resolution declaring the Office of Speaker vacant presents a question of constitutional privilege, though the House has never removed a Speaker. It has on several occasions removed or suspended other officers, such as Clerk and Doorkeeper. A resolution for the removal of an officer is presented as a matter of privilege.

We could be looking at an unprecedented depth of incompetence for the House. No doubt the "Freedom Caucus" will celebrate it as a stunning victory. Stunning, for sure.

Something for everyone Permalink to this item

The Republican side of our presidential campaign remains unsettled, and the Upshot's dashboard is a great little toy to slice and dice the race. Marco Rubio has popped up to #1 in the prediction markets, which can't seem to stomach the first, second, or third choices in Iowa and New Hampshire polling, the non-politician hair-raisers of Trump, Carson and Fiorina. Jeb!'s still #1 in national endorsements and money raised, if you include "outside groups," where Bush's take is 4x his direct money. That $108.5M and counting is presumably fungible, and will devolve to whatever "Republican" ends up on top.

Rand Paul is #2 in national endorsements, and Ted Cruz and Chris Christie are tied for third, but mostly, Governors and members of Congress are keeping their powder dry on the GOP side. Not much upside in endorsing a loser, eh, and the Republican field is numerically rife with losers.

My analytic and/or predictive powers have been shot to hell across the alternate universe that is the GOP campaign. I thought Trump's dissing McCain would be the end of him, and surely Carson can't survive his combination of false bravado and cowardice in the gun realm, can he? It seems the trend is their friend, and Fiorina's chances are (incomprehensibly, and horrifically) still rising. #3 in NH and IA! Can't quit now! She might get a SecTreas out of this. Crazier things have happened.

A Facebook pal with a more generous eye than I suggested that "some of those long shot wannabes" should clear out and let "reasonable Republicans begin to coalesce around a halfway decent candidate and push [Trump and Carson] out of the top slots." Is Rubio halfway decent? That's what the prediction market is saying. He's got youth and inexperience on his side, and inexperience is all the rage this season.

Update: That same friend added that "Fiorina has tanked in the most recent polls. Her campaign is collapsing. I think she's polling below both Bush and Rubio now." So, some good news, at least.

19.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Homey don' play dat Permalink to this item

iPad photo, taken yesterday

Wisconsin politics have morphed into a strange beast since I lived there, now a mind-boggling 4 decades in the rear-view mirror. They're still capable of creating national figures, but the last couple have had some problems with lift-off. Paul Ryan made it all the way up to Vice-Presidential nominee, and next in line for President after two Romney terms, in an alternate universe. Scott Walker's corporate-friendly union-busting agenda provided a ticket to the 2016 circus, but Petered out before decision time. (His time as Governor seemed petery to me, but danged if he didn't survive the recall and get re-elected to boot. There's no accounting for taste.)

As you are no doubt aware, Rep. Paul Ryan is back in the news as the least unlikely Republican candidate for Speaker of the House, a job with a null intersection of "people who want the job" and "people who'd be any good at it." Maybe Ryan would be good at it, but for some weeks he's been saying he's happy just being Chairman of Ways and Means. (We should listen, maybe.) News is, he's advanced to a solid "maybe," with a catch:

"Ryan's confidants tell CBS News he will not horse trade with the House Freedom Caucus, a group of 40 or so deeply conservative members who have been demanding changes to House rules and other very specific promises from candidates for Speaker in exchange for their support. Ryan's confidants say he is not going to negotiate for a job he never sought, and that he has a record of conservative leadership that should be clear to every member of the GOP conference."

Let's establish that as a minimum requirement for Speaker, why don't we? The Freedom Caucus are a bunch of losers outside their own minds and their own districts, with pretty much nothing to offer the Republican caucus, the House of Representatives or the country. They've demonstrated "competence" at precisely one thing: rendering the House incompetent through their obstruction and sabotage.

Paul Ryan's not my cup of tea, personally, but if the report of the confidants is accurate enough, I give him props for setting the right ground rule. Don't negotiate with terrorists.

18.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Such generous advice Permalink to this item

Caught a snippet of Charlie Rose's show the other night, with historian Niall Ferguson flogging his new biography, Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist. Color me dubious about the "idealism" of Henry Kissinger, and his role in the Nixon administration extending and expanding our war in southeast Asia. But Ferguson's got such a plummy British accent, he makes any old wild speculation seem plausible while you're listening. That wouldn't extend to my reading that book any time soon, though.

Who should show up on the radio the next morning but same said Ferguson, opining upon a more current quagmire, the finer points of intervening in Syria, which he thinks the U.S. should undertake more than we have so far. We passed on the "relatively straightforward proposition" that the U.S. should give assistance to the opposition to Assad, as if... what sort of assistance then? What sort of "Free Syrian Army"? Obama "resisted that," and then "the last throw of the President's dice came this year" when he didn't accept Vladimir Putin's offer to "cooperate" in the battle against the Islamic State.

"I think it's fair to say the President has dithered. I put it this way, that he was playing solitaire while everyone else was playing chess and unfortunately it's now much, much more difficult to intervene effectively than it was at the outset of the Syrian civil war."

It sounds like Ferguson is playing some sort of arm-chair general at the club with one too many gin and tonics splashed down. We were working to train Syrian fighters. And after spending half a billion dollars we had ... four or five on the job. Scott Simon offered an opposing sort of counterpoint that the U.S. doesn't need a strategy, because we have no business doing anything about the tragedy spinning out of control, hmm?

"The reality is," Mr Plummy pressed on, "that allowing Islamic State to become an authentic state is very dangerous indeed for the United States, because this is an organization more dangerous than Al-Qaeda, and has the potential, unlike Al-Qaeda, to become a really major political force. If we allow Islamic State to become more statelike, I think ultimately the United States will regret bitterly not acting sooner to stop it."

He admitted—as accusation— that

"I have no clue what U.S. policy is at the moment, other than to hope that things turn out. The U.S. is no longer in a leadership role—that's an amazing thing. And indeed the United States from the early 70s right through this administration was clearly the dominant power broker in the region, and that is gone."


"At the moment, the situation is of almost mind-blowing complexity. There are at least five groupings fighting in Syria. Who knows how this ends?"

Surely not him. But imagines us looking back in ten years and regretting our mistakes that "let this situation slip into not just civil war, but regional war."

Oddly enough, we do not have to wait ten more years for that sort of retrospective regret; it's available today! It seems we've rather already "let the situation slip" into "a quamire within a quagmire," as Bernie Sanders put it.

16.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Socialists R Us Permalink to this item

Just this morning

Nice to have somebody at the Times who can give a regular shout-out to this reddest of red states and its socialist leanings. Timothy Egan: Guess who else is a socialist?

Connected by our lovely interstate highway system, kept high and dry and well-watered by turns of dams on the Boise River, enjoying a state university and its glorious football team, parked along a shared greenbelt that is the undisputed jewel of our urban oasis in the desert, and ruled by ideologues who decry our federal overlords, we use the internet and 501(c)(3) "educational" tax benefits to piece together an Orwellian screed narrated by a grumpy old man.

If only we had more of a free market, our forests would not burn, and we wouldn't need those socialistic fire fighters.

If only our super-majority Republican legislature and statewide elected officials and congressional delegation had MOAR POWER we could be reading about the Idaho Experiment instead of The Kansas Experiment.

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

Repatriots Permalink to this item

Derived from Jörn Klare's photo on; I'd ask permission if I could figure out how to contact him

Dave Johnson: Corporations owe Uncle Sam $620 billion, give or take, in taxes on income they've parked offshore. He helpfully summarizes the full report from the Citizens for Tax Justice, Offshore Shell Games 2015. Just 57 of the Fortune 500 corps disclose their estimate of U.S. taxes they're avoiding, which adds up to "only" $184 billion. The bigger number is CTJ's extrapolation based on the 6% average tax the 57 pay to foreign countries, versus U.S. rates.

The numbers of tax haven subsidiaries that we know about are rather dizzying. Citigroup reported 427 back in 2008 (but disclosed only 41 last year). Bank of America somehow went from 264 in 2013 to just 22 last year. For what they could track down out of the Fortune 500, CTJ figures 358 companies maintain at least 7,622 tax haven subsidiaries.

One of the many footnotes points to the GAO's one-page summary of its (57 page) July, 2008 report of the "enforcement challenges" that exist in the Cayman Islands, just the other side of Cuba. The challenges start with figuring out if what is reported is true, and extend to figuring out what isn't being reported. We do know that back in the day, the law firm of Maples and Calder had a nice little business going as the sole occupant of Ugland House, the registered office for almost 19,000 business entities. 5% of those were for sure U.S. owned, and "40 to 50%" had U.S. billing addresses. I imagine they party like it's MCMXCIX down there with the profits from shuffling tax avoidance paper.

60 Minutes reported on the Caymans (among other dodgy spots) back in 2004 in the report on Doing Business with the Enemy, finding that Halliburton was using a Caymans subsidiary to work around the sanctions on doing business with Iran, and did another look at the world's new corporate tax havens in 2011.

Here's the kicker though: Congress is being worked by corporate lobbyists to "reform" themselves out of the tax bill they're not paying. Johnson:

"[W]hen you hear that the “highway bill” can be “paid for” using “repatriation” (click the link to get a sense of this) they are saying they’ll let these corporations pay significantly less then they owe, and then use what’s left over (if any) to pay for the highway bill.

"When you hear a politician say they will “raise money” using “corporate tax reform,” what they are saying is let these corporations off the hook for a chunk of their taxes now and in the future. (When you hear the word “reform” in Washington these days it means get ready to get hit upside the head with a hammer.) In this usage, “How Tax Reform Could Help Save U.S. Infrastructure” actually means let these corporations pay significantly less than the $620 billion they owe, and use the rest for … whatever."

14.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's in the water Permalink to this item

At the Hatchery, 2001

Raised in the city that means beer, I could rattle off the slogans and jingles from any and every iconic brand. The land of sky blue waters, the blue ribbon, the champagne of bottled beers, the onomatopoetic Schlitz. At some point (after intoxication stopped being the point), it dawned on me that once you've had one industrial lager, you've had 'em all and it's time to move on.

Years after the railroad stopped rumbling over the Milwaukee River to the grain elevator and Continental Can, I've lost track of all those brands of my youth other than to get the sense that they are all merging into one, gigantic copper vat, the same way the names are merging. What will Anheuser-Busch InBev call itself after the $104 billion acquisition of SABMiller? I can't imagine. (Whatever it is, they'll need to steer clear of Bear Whiz Beer.)

The NYT's beer deal timeline has a waypoint not long after I was born, when August Anheuser Busch Jr.'s Clydesdales, Cardinals and mass marketing gave Budweiser the edge over Schlitz as "America's Top Beer." (Budweiser was a bit exotic back home, a domestic import.)

Over in Belgium, a country that knows quite a bit about beer, their two biggest breweries you rarely heard of merged to form Interbrew in 1987, then joined AmBev of Brazil, Coors and Miller together, Molson, Anheuser-Busch sells itself to InBev, toss in a Fosters, a Mexican twist subsuming Grupo Modelo... it's enough to make your head swim.

Make mine a Full Sail, wouldja?

Biggest loser Permalink to this item

Speaking of lighting Twitter on fire, it turns out the biggest loser of last night's Democratic debate was... Mike Huckabee! Still trying to figure out how to work this social media thing, he popped off with this gem:

I trust @BernieSanders with my tax dollars like I trust a North Korean chef with my labrador! #DemDebate

— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) October 14, 2015

Hadn't ever heard the other shaggy dog story in Huckabee's past, but let's just say that might turn up in a Gail Collins column in the near future. (What is it with Republicans and dogs?)

One wag noted that "The day may come you have to confiscate grampa's KEYBOARD as well as his car keys." Grampa Huckabee was popping off tweets left and right during the debate, almost as if... he were on stage.

Climate change? Nonsense! Democrats believe "a sunburn is worse than a beheading." (Fact check from Stacey Leasca: "In 2014, 9,940 Americans died of skin cancer. In 2014, 19 Americans died of terror attacks.") And yes he does want to keep talking about those emails.

Boise's off-year election Permalink to this item

Idaho's biggest little city is now in excess of 200,000 population, and we like our city elections in odd years for some reason. The mayoral race is kind of a big deal, although it's looking most like Boise native and long-term incumbent Dave Bieter cruising to a fourth term in November. One of his opponents, Judy Peavey-Derr made Twitter catch fire on Monday (as the Idaho Statesman put it) for saying that "the south end of town is getting blighted by a lot of refugees and different dialects coming into the school. I think the children are having—124 dialects in one school system is a little rough."

Dog whistle, much?

My friend and former Ada County Highway District commissioner Gary Richardson has a personal take on Peavey-Derr's massive foot-in-mouth performance, with a shout-out for Statesman commenters, not something you see every day. Southern Idaho has recently made national news for our anti-refugee contingent over in Twin Falls. The money quote in that piece from the editor of the Times-News, "Can you offer guarantees that we’ll be safe?" When did American exceptionalism turn into exceptional fear and xenophobia?

For her part, Peavey-Derr is trying to change the subject, a little. Now she says her late husband and she "were supporters of current refugees who call themselves new Americans," and let's talk about the homeless problem before we bring in any more. She has some finely-tuned xenophobia, accusing the mayor of favoring the North End, over the south and west ends. No word on the east.

The first debate Permalink to this item

There's plenty to dissect for those who want to analyze last night's debate, but more than anything, it was just nice to have a somewhat robust, adult conversation about issues of vital importance, rather than a parade of variations on "unhinged." Nobody was unhinged last night.

The NYT has a rundown of web reaction of last night's Democratic debate, play by play fact checking and a collection of video highlights. One of them was about how we're sick and tired of the Republican scandal-mongering:

As Clinton ended a response about her email controversy, Sanders jumped in, "I think the secretary is right — that is, that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails." The crowd went wild...

NPR's take on hits and misses is a quick briefing. Jim Webb's got a great résumé and would be good at something, but explaining why he's running "as a Democrat" was a little awkward. Also the "about ten minutes" meme. (Better than "fifteen," at least.) Anderson Cooper was more than a little rough on everybody, which I guess is a win for muscular journalism? Lincoln Chafee took the worst hit for complaining that he should have been given a pass for his very first vote in the Senate. (Bummer that it was so important, repealing Depression-era banking regulations in 1999, but he was not the lone Democrat to vote for it when the Senate passed it 54-44; that was South Carolina's Fritz Hollings. Chafee was in the 90-8 majority agreeing to the conference report, and a Republican back then.) Not so presidential, that. You have to at least say that the terrible mistake provided a learning experience, and you're better for it. You could even admit, "I was unprepared," given the circumstances, and look how much I did after I caught my stride. Or something about the benefit of hindsight. Saying you deserve a "take-over" is not what you were looking for.

Is being embarrassed better or worse than not being noticed, much? hard to say, but Chris Cillizza of WaPo figures that "The former governor of Maryland needed a moment in this debate to break out of the 1 percent crowd. He didn’t get one." (Hint: Martin O'Malley, who had nothing nice to say about Edward Snowden.) Cillizza's post also has a graph of minute by minute "Google search interest" during the debate. They didn't have those when I was a kid.

Mark Halperin and BloombergPolitics boils it down to a large, easy-to-read score card (A, B-, C+, D+, D) and slightly too long for Twitter takes. Jim Webb was "Intense and brooding ... griping and grumpy."

Just say no Permalink to this item

They can't do much, but the dead-enders in the U.S. Senate can still block others from getting anything done, so yay. Politico reports on why we can't have ambassadors to Sweden, Norway and the Bahamas, a director for the U.S. Agency for International Development, a leader for the BATF, and a hundred other positions, including thirty judidicial nominations. "Democrats say this Senate is on pace to confirm the fewest civilian nominees since the end of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the earliest records tracked on congressional databases." Republicans have their reasons, an assortment of repeated injuries, usurpations and oppressions. Obamacare! The Secret Service shenanigans! The Iran deal! Veto threats! Clinton's emails!

13.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Dead-enders Permalink to this item

David Brooks, through an intellectual process we don't quite understand has arrived, finally, at the stark recognition of "a long chain of rhetorical excesses, mental corruptions and philosophical betrayals," now arriving at anarchy and devouring its own.

I haven't studied Rush Limbaugh, (well, not since I read Al Franken's 1999 book on the subject) but I do know he's not the only popular bombast we've had on the scene in the last 20 or 30 years. And combining Newt Gingrich with Ben Carson is about as superficial a notion as it seems possible to have. Addicted to a crisis mentality? No. Fabulating "crisis" to contrast with one's own heroism. Carson is new, and strange, and not fully connected to reality in much of any sense. Gingrich was well-connected, and ambitious to demonstrate the correctness and superiority of his ideas, but at last able to measure accomplishment against ambition. But this:

"A contempt for politics infested the Republican mind."

seems accurately aimed at the far-right. And a more specific accusation:

"This anti-political political ethos produced elected leaders of jaw-dropping incompetence."

Such as accusation begs for more specific naming. You can't just wave your arms in the general direction of the whole party (or its back bench rump caucus). The name that springs most quickly to my mind is the Representative next door, Raúl Labrador, one of the loudest members of the Freedom From Agreeing To Anything caucus. His incompetence is neither jaw-dropping, nor of epic proportion. It consists of particular competence in the narrow specialty of obstruction.

"If a politician lacks the quality of detachment — the ability to let the difficult facts of reality work their way into the mind — then, [Max] Weber argue[d], the politician ends up striving for the “boastful but entirely empty gesture.” His work “leads nowhere and is senseless.”

"Welcome to Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and the Freedom Caucus.

"Really, have we ever seen bumbling on this scale, people at once so cynical and so naïve, so willfully ignorant in using levers of power to produce some tangible if incremental good? These insurgents can’t even acknowledge democracy’s legitimacy — if you can’t persuade a majority of your colleagues, maybe you should accept their position. You might be wrong!"

That's not a possibility under consideration. I'm reminded of the tweetstream that fluttered in and out of my computer last week, What Would Reagan Do wondering to Brit Hume "why does beltway GOP repeatedly site '13 shutdown as problem when it was followed by GOP Senate win?" and Hume answering "Because the public hated the shutdown, the party tanked in the polls & only recovered after it was over." Labrador weighed in:

2 Laughable - only down 3 points and bounced back. Since taking over senate, we are down 12 points #nofightnovictory

Yes, "2 Laughable," Raúl. The shutdown wasn't so bad and you "bounced back." You're still there in Congress, amazingly enough. And the GOP taking over the Senate was a disaster, at least we can agree on that?

@fortboise @Raul_Labrador When everything should be obstructed? Yes!

— Sarah Everett (@sarahzview) October 10, 2015

'Nuff said!

12.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Indigenous Peoples Day Permalink to this item

2015 Photo of Lucky Peak dam

Let's pretend that's why government offices are closed for the holiday today, shall we? Back when the folks who had been living in the "east Indies" that the rag-tag boaters from Europe "discovered" half a millennium ago welcomed the strange newcomers to the land that was their home. From your holiday read on Jacobin, adapted from Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States:

"These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands were much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing. These traits did not stand out in the Europe of the Renaissance, dominated as it was by the religion of popes, the government of kings, the frenzy for money that marked Western civilization and its first messenger to the

"[The Arawaks] "swam out to greet them. The Arawaks lived in village communes, had a developed agriculture of corn, yams, cassava. They could spin and weave, but they had no horses or work animals. They had no iron, but they wore tiny gold ornaments in their ears. ..."

And the rest, as they say, is history, written by the people with the superior metallurgy, weaponry and diseases.

10.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

No more questions about the Popeyes organization Permalink to this item

Or at least no more answers from the Carson campaign about the facepalming story of how he coolly handled a stick-up by telling the guy with the gun to stick it in the counter guy's ribs.

That's some savvy gun control leadership right there. Also, "sophistication." As he put it. Street smarts.

But come on people, it was 30 years ago, so shouldn't we just take it on faith that Carson's telling the truth, because if he were making up a story, wouldn't he make up a better story? Personally, I'm not convinced that he would. He's said a bunch of whacky things this week.

Before the campaign spokespeople clammed up, the business manager did chip in some juicy details. it was "the Popeyes on the corner of Broadway and Orleans Street in Baltimore between 1980 and 1983 when Carson was a resident at nearby Johns Hopkins hospital," according to CNN's report.

And Carson is said to have "recalled people in the neighborhood chasing the robber down the street." But not him, he didn't chase anybody. He was just there for some french fries.

Look who's buying the election Permalink to this item

158 families ponied up $176 million for the first phase of the 2016 presidential campaign. Nice of them to keep the math simple for the rest of us. They "overwhelmingly lean right, contributing tens of millions of dollars to support Republican candidates [138 to 20] who have pledged to pare regulations; cut taxes on income, capital gains and inheritances; and shrink entitlement programs." They just want us all to succeed... the way they did.

This is the quarter-million-dollar club. There's another 200 families just chipping at it so far, $100,000 or better. That all adds up to more than half of what's been contributed so far.

"Like most of the ultrawealthy, the new donor elite is deeply private. Very few of those contacted were willing to speak about their contributions or their political views. Many donations were made from business addresses or post office boxes, or wound through limited liability corporations or trusts, exploiting the new avenues opened up by Citizens United, which gave corporate entities far more leeway to spend money on behalf of candidates. Some contributors, for reasons of privacy or tax planning, are not listed as the owners of the homes where they live, further obscuring the family and social ties that bind them."

Nothing quite like the courage and pride in your convictions that leads you to keep it all secret. Coming from a post office box, just like our founding fathers did.

Rest assured that the best interests of the finance industry, first and foremost (64 of the 158), but also energy, real estate, media and entertainment and the health industry will get what they want out of the coming elections.

9.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Community government Permalink to this item

A friend posted a link to the Washington Times, a questionable neighborhood I rarely visit and never seek out, but his interesting ideas and an image of that cute Janine Turner from back in the day when Northern Exposure was a thing, and I'll help you out by pointing to the print version rather than the ad (and probably some malware, for good measure) larded "normal" page: Science about our neocortex validates our Founding Fathers’ vision.

She might have lit up the locals by starting with the question "What do our nation's Founders and monkeys have in common?" before going on to our (and monkeys') supposed "innate understanding" affirmed by "a relatively new anthropological theory," that she says "has revealed that the magic number for efficient communities is 150."


"This was the America about which French historian Alexis de Tocqueville raved. He marveled about how the American people helped each other, that they built their own churches, schools, and community gathering places; they helped each other with their problems. To ask the federal government for assistance was a notion not even contemplated. In a nutshell, the small local communities were self-reliant, independent - free. The federal government? They were in Washington, D.C. They had enumerated powers; they were kept in check and balance."

Also, travel was by foot, horseback or horse-drawn carriage. People still owned slaves, and de Tocqueville thought it best that all those inferior black people be shipped off to Liberia, or somewhere, so we could be more free and equal here, but never mind all that.

Just remember the magic of 150, as measured by Robin Dunbar's graduate research project in the 1970s and a type of Ethiopian monkey, and how big your neocortex is, and how many "individuals with whom we can have a genuinely social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who they are and how they relate to us" as she said he said. And from that... well, the blasted federal government is the enemy of our liberty, innit?

"The answer for restored liberty and self-reliance lies in the Dunbar Number. It is time to get back to basics, to get back to small groups, to assemble, petition, stand up and speak up. It is time to help our neighbors. It is time to help ourselves. It is time to reclaim our communities from the clutches of big government. It starts with small groups with a big conscience. Independence is depending on it."

It all sounded great other than the "clutches of big government." That sounds a little deranged. Also, while I'm not questioning that Dunbar number, nor offering my 401 Facebook friends as contradiction, but I will say that given the population of the planet (FORTY SEVEN MILLION times 150 of us, give or take) and this country (two millions, at least) that's a lot of small group work that maybe not so many of us are really prepared to undertake.

Once upon a time, I walked a good portion of the precinct I live in, distributing campaign flyers for good candidates for local and state office, and I discovered that for as small as a precinct is, it is a lot of work to walk up to every house in it. (I'm not cut out for mail delivery, I'm sure of that.) Looking on Google Maps and counting up houses, in just part of this precinct, less than a sixth of a square mile, or a bit over 90 acres, there are 219 single family homes and 7 apartment buildings. If they house an average of two people each, that's three tribes right there.

God bless Janine Turner for founding and co-chairing this Constituting America foundation, educating us about the Constitution through the arts. And a little dab of science here and there. But really, going back to a tribal way of life is neither an option nor a solution to any of what ails us.

Missed us by that much Permalink to this item

Photo this morning daybreak

After something woke me up dark early, I checked the weather and saw that it was crazy windy up at the lake. I grabbed a bite and the leftover coffee from yesterday and headed out in the dark of early morning. At the end of the block, there was our moon, whittled down from the big eclipse two weeks ago to a fingernail paring crescent, and accompanied by a surprisingly bright Venus. (Or maybe that was a UFO.) Ooo, and there was color on the clouds down at the treeline, red sky at morning (never mind what you've heard about that) this sailor's delight.

Much later, while catching up on the news (including two more school shootings in the U.S., just today), weather and sports, and sorting through pictures from the lake, there was a breathless piece about a big asteroid or something that was going to whiz by this planet we live on, and OMG, you know what that can do.

If it hits us.

Which it isn't going to.

Because I took the stupid jump and read through the stupid article down to where it says said object is calculated to be passing only "several million miles away" from our lovely planet.

Several million.

Do you know how high the moon? (This high? Man that dude could play the guitar.) It's a quarter million miles away, give or take, apogee or perigee.

8.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mr. or Mrs. Speaker! Permalink to this item

Saw the news on Facebook (via Twitter) before ConservativeHQ got updated, but it'll be the lead story soon enough: never mind the letter and rumors and the weird caloric metaphor of the grassroots being "white-hot" over lack of leadership in GOP, the hapless and bumbling heir apparent to the $49,500 pay raise that comes with being Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy is no más, abruptly withdrawing, after, it seems, he failed to withdraw wink wink nudge nudge.

Here I was thinking that "explosive" and "bombshell" were overblown hyperbole in CHQ staff coverage of some guy wrote a letter

"asking any candidate for Speaker of the House, majority leader, and majority whip withdraw himself from the leadership election if there are any misdeeds he has committed since joining Congress that will embarrass himself [sic], the Republican Conference, and the House of Representatives if they become public."

But no. Unlike the AP reporter and everyone she talked to, some people do know why he did it, and the stale gossip EXCLUSIVE on about Boehner replacement carrying on long running affair is no longer laughable.

You have to love the statute of limitation in the demand of "since joining Congress." Still; this narrows the field considerably, and with only Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Daniel Webster of Florida known running, the thing does indeed seem to be blown wide open.

If the Republicans can't agree on a candidate, I'm sure the Democrats would be willing to have Nancy Pelosi be the next Speaker. She has experience, too.

McCarthy put the best face he could on the debacle in his official announcement, with his wife at his side, but man, talk about your déjà vu all over again.

Update: Ellmers and McCarthy insist there's no truth to the rumors.

7.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

No experience necessary Permalink to this item

It's been just about forever since I applied for a job that didn't require some experience, never mind aptitude. But here we are and it's all the rage in the contest for Republican nominee for President of the United States. Peter Wehner's op-ed in the Sunday NYT is a succinct look at the phenomenon that has the incredible trio of Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina leading the pack, with their combined "zero years of governing experience among them."

Think of it as not so much "throw the bums out," which has proven to be essentially impossible for Congress, given the idiots in every else's districts, but rather "give us someone with no record whatsoever." (Histories of serial bankruptcy, collossal business failure and a brain stuffed with nonsense do not disqualify for some strange reason.)

It's hard to know for sure, but seems at least reasonably likely that Jeffery Rendall captures the self-proclaimed "Tea Partiers" Zeitgeist in his opinion piece for Richard Viguerie's ConservativeHQ today, covering the Presidential Horse Race 2016. Headline question is whether Ann Romney making the rounds discussing her new book is finally the end of the Mitt Romney rumors. (Rumors, you say? "We can't seem to get enough of the Romneys," you say?) Nevermind all that, or Donald Trump's bully comeback to Stuart Stevens, the guy with the unfortunate title of "Mitt Romney's top 2012 strategist," let's talk about Carly Fiorina firing for effect! Never mind her horrifying (not just to liberals) demon sheep imitation is fueled by made-up stuff, she's the anti-Hillary, which is all we're really asking for, apparently.

Let's put this in bold-face, that If Carly is the anti-Hillary, then Ben Carson is the anti-Obama, because she's... a woman and he's... well, you get the picture, right? Somebody at the American Spectator wrote:

Only Carson has been consistently and vehemently opposed to the [Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. you-know-what]: In 2013 he compared it to slavery: ‘It was never about health care. It was about control.’ This wasn’t bluster from a career politician. Carson is a neurosurgeon with intimate knowledge of our health care system.”

And, uh, slavery? He's doing well in national surveys on candidate "likability," we're told, so there's that. Said Spectator goes on to endorse the idea of having all the Republican candidates (who "polling averages detect," sorry Jim Gilmore and former IRS commissioner Mark Everson) join the next television spectacle, because why not? "Bobby Jindal is tied for fourth place in Iowa at 6%" and "Iowa is the first state to vote, right?"

"Just because some survey participant in Idaho has never heard of Jindal doesn’t mean he hasn’t been pounding the pavement (or corn fields?) of Iowa trying to meet people and talk to them one-on-one."

Look bub, unless and until you can demonstrate you know how to find both Iowa and Idaho on a map, we don't appreciate you talkin smack about who and what we've heard of, k? It's not like Bobby Jindal is seriously in contention. As for polls, has rounded up... almost 300 from this year that show head-to-head R v. D match-ups, and exactly one, count it, one of those has Jindal in it, losing 52 to 36% to Clinton. Their electoral maps of Clinton vs. The Republicans (a.k.a. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs?) has Hillary winning against eight (ok, Eight Dwarfs) of the contenders (but lots and lots of "Toss Up," presumably no pun intended), none of whom are Bobby Jindal.

Idaho and its 4 electoral votes are featured on a lot fewer maps than Iowa and its 6, mostly because we'll vote for pretty much any Republican candidate, never mind how inexperienced, profligate, deceitful, nasty, or nutty. No need to spend the money asking.

6.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Be very afraid Permalink to this item

Outfit named "Secure Freedom" (using ConservativeHQ's email list, as "one of our advertisers") really really really wants me to Take the Survey on Sharia Law in the United States and to scare the bejeezus out of me for good measure. No fewer than nine, count 'em grapho-buttons with the scary dude with an assault rifle and a middle-eastern look about him and some arabic script I can't decipher. Should Islam's Supremacist Shariah Be Allowed to Transform America? But I can't get past the fact that their logo looks like a cross between The Torch and The Donald.

The orange, white and blue version of their logo

It was not ever thus, as a bit of fingertip sleuthing shows this to be an effort from a 20-some year-old organization named the Center for Security Policy, with a website claiming existence for twenty-three years and twenty-five and a copyright notice claiming the twenty-eight years "1988-2015," with a different version of the logo in monochrome pale blue on dark blue and an image file named "new-branding-logo1.png" and some others on the about-us page with a useful orange hue, collected next to a banner of scaring flags for "Star Spangled Shariah," "Catastrophic Failure," "The Red-Green Axis" (probably not this Red Green), and on and on.

The brain child of one Frank Gaffney, there is no mistake about Shariah being one of its "research areas." They've got a website for "The Threat to America," and mapping Sharia, Secure Freedom Radio, etc. Gaffney's career in government looks to have peaked under Ronald Reagan, when he was Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy for seven months. Wikipedia styles Gaffney this morning as "an American conspiracy theorist" with a friendly smile under a penetrating gaze:

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) [which shows him slightly gimlet-eyed], Gaffney went "off the rails" sometime after being forced out at the Pentagon. The SPLC has described him as a formerly "respectable Washington insider" who has become "gripped by paranoid fantasies." According to the SPLC, Gaffney's beliefs stem from the discredited 1991 testimony of a lone Muslim Brotherhood member that he has come to believe is a "smoking gun, a mission statement pointing to a massive Islamist conspiracy under our noses."

David Keene of the American Conservative Union has contended that Gaffney "has become personally and tiresomely obsessed with his weird belief that anyone who doesn't agree with him on everything all the time or treat him with the respect and deference he believes is his due, must be either ignorant of the dangers we face or, in extreme case, dupes of the nation's enemies."

So, ah, I guess I'll pass on the survey jump.

5.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

And speaking of completely random Permalink to this item

Google accidentally put their own domain name up for sale and this MBA candidate took a flyer and dropped $12 for the privilege of being king of the world for a few minutes. Probably just as well they figured it out and yanked it back. Sanmay Ved would've been mighty busy trying to keep up with the customer support requests.

More along the old-fashioned LinkedIn content Permalink to this item

photo just this morning

My attention for business news is "relaxed" these days, but I was piqued by something about RBI governor and repo rates and 6.75% and 4% and wondered whether it was a baseball story or if it was something from another country and took that jump to find Vipul Patel of LION, the founder of Mortgage World and (a?) Home Loan Advisor and E N T R E P R E N E U R writing in bad translation style: "About a two years ago most banks were lending Home Loan at 10.75% to 11.00% range." RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, that's gotta be... somewhere else. See if you can follow the bouncing verb tense in this:

"The Urban Middle Class in the age group of 30-40 would experience a change in home loan eligibility and budget which doubles the purchasing power over the past 3 years.

"A salaried individual aged 30 years with a salary of 15 Lacs & savings of 15 lacs could have bought a house worth 75 to 90 lacs in early 2013, but nothing was available for this budget; then and even now."

Lacs, you say? Sounds like currency of some sort, and yes, and no: Lakh is actually a convenient multiplier of 100,000 for your rupees, written 1,00,000 in the Indian convention of digit grouping. It's fascinating, instructive and incomprehensible all at once. It also looks like the Wikipedia page needs updating for the colloquial forms and usage, as illustrated by Mr. Patel.

LinkedIn suddenly relevant Permalink to this item

Or at least catchy as all get-out in my inbox. I've been pretty good at keeping my response to eye-rolling rather than actually hitting the click bait, but this morning's email feed had me snapping every which way. "I Became a Trending Topic for the Wrong Reasons" was the top item which sounded interesting until the rest of it was "Here's why we [sic] need Peeple, the Positivity App I'm Building" and it was by the CEO of the Peeple App [sic]. Another app, meh.

But then senior editor John Abell's Daily Pulse gave me the backstory with an irresistable second item headline (after I'd jumped for peace breaking out beween Google and Microsoft, who've apparently settled a patent dispute).

Soylent Green is Peeple Another reputational service is trying to break through, but the pre-launch backlash is so intense, Peeple may never live it down. As initially sketched out, anyone using "Yelp for People" would be able to start a rating page on anyone else — no opt-out. What could possibly go wrong? “If you turn what should be an Onion article into an app, you're not a startup, you're a sociopath,” one random Twitter person suggested. Another: “so #peeple is what happens when two popular mean girls from your high school grow up & decide to make a slam book for the entire world?” The founders (two women, though surely not mean girls in high school) are having second thoughts, but the official launch is still scheduled for November.

The must-have app that was built on blurting of 140 or fewer characters now has pictures and stuff (you must've known this), and offers a sneak peek of the cute, parrot-based, lower-cased "peeple" logo, with the curiously just-clipped subhead "Character is Destin" and the whoops that's gratuitous "An app for the People" sub-subhead. Abhimanyu Ghoshal got a head start on Monday morning's top news because maybe he's on the other side of the dateline. Peeple's CEO and author of the LinkedIn piece ok maybe I should read it for the whole story decided it needed some changes before launch (like, um, everything does?) and now it's pointless because it's only positive. No everybody in with no opt-out, no instant defamation with 48-hour waiting period to remove negative comments and hell, "There is no way to even make negative comments." Yeah, that's D.O.A.

See, all LinkedIn needed was better headline writing.

Also, if I'd watched John Oliver's Last Week Tonight, I would've already known "that sounds awful." ("Have you ever been on the internet?") And that this has been going on for most of a week. Is there an international weekline?

3.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Did he say that out loud? Permalink to this item

A funny thing happened to Kevin McCarthy on his way to becoming Speaker of the House; he mistook the friendly audience of a Fox News studio and partisan hack Sean Hannity for a confessional, and bragged up how effectively the Benghazi Committee helped tank Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers.

Indignation ensued! Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee (most recently newsworthy for his dud infographic torpedo aimed at Planned Parenthood), "doubled down Thursday on his call for McCarthy to apologize for his Benghazi remarks, calling them “absolutely inappropriate” and “absolutely wrong” during an appearance on MSNBC," Scott Wong reports for The Hill. There is "confusion," not really cleared up by the Majority Leader's attempts to undo.

McCarthy returned to Fox News on Thursday night to walk back his comments. He said he already told Gowdy he regretted his statement and insisted the gaffe would not hurt his chance to become Speaker.

"It was never my intention to ever imply that this committee was political. Because we all know it is not. And it has one sole purpose: Let's find the truth wherever the truth takes us," McCarthy told host Bret Baier. "And you know what? Sometimes truth comes out, and other manners, and let's not let politics hold that back."

We all know it is not? Ha ha ha. But yeah, sometimes truth comes out.

McCarthy's flown under my political radar while he's been #2 under Boehner, but it appears that he could be spilling quite a few more beans in the days to come, going by Dana Milbank's assessment of McCarthy's challenges with the language.

"McCarthy’s difficulties were particularly alarming, both because he was mostly reading from a text and because he’s about to enter a very public glare in which his every word, or attempted word, will be analyzed. With the death of Yogi Berra, the new speaker may become the most famous mis-speaker in America."

The "good news" is that if he does manage to bumble to election as Speaker, "his colleagues won't be listening to him anyway"; "the backbenchers are used to leading their leaders," and how in the world is this guy going to keep from getting railroaded by the No to Everything end of the caucus if he can't navigate a prepared text?

Your tax dollars at work Permalink to this item

Something about a hurricane, viewed from outside our planet's atmosphere... a feast of images from the International Space Station, with Joaquin at the top of the page, but lots more to amaze down the page. Super typhoon Maysak from 6 months ago, for example, is a jaw-dropper.

They're not stinting on the pixels, either. Joaquin's portrait is available in its full 4928 x 3280 glory, a bit grainy in the vast storm, but plenty to look at around the scene. The night lights and edge of the envelope, for example:

NASA image from the International Space Station, link to original

2.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Yellow river Permalink to this item

Forgive the headline writer for the "watershed moment," and enjoy a more interesting report after the Gold King mine blowout and the Animas River running an other-wordly yellow into web newsrooms all across the internet. No question it was a blunder and P.R. nightmare for the EPA, but there's this, to set the context:

"Silverton residents have another term for the color Cement Creek turned in the mine blowout’s aftermath: familiar. Every spring, during peak runoff, Cement Creek – and in turn, a portion of the Animas River downstream – run almost that same turbid, nasty hue.

"It’s the nature of the place.

"From its headwaters in the shadow of the Red Mountains, Cement Creek plummets past a cluster of leaky old mine adits on the slopes of Bonita Peak in the upper reaches of the Cement Creek drainage, passing right beneath the now-infamous Gold King Mine."

And on through a ghost town, and past the water treatment plant that's been dismantled and six more miles to Silverton, Colorado, draining "one of the most heavily mineralized and volcanized patches of the earth’s crust."

In addition to it being a regular thing, it's not as terrible as it looks (assuming you're not a fish or desperately thirsty). It probably is on the Superfund scale of trouble, and maybe this episode will convince Silverton to stop resisting that designation. Or maybe not. Either way, it's a fascinating, long story about the legacy and future of the wild west.

1.Oct.2015 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Jobs search Permalink to this item

Funny that Carly Fiorina should bring up her palling around with Steve Jobs as a badge of honor. Oh right, he'd been fired from his job, too, "twice." Steve Levy's interesting take on how Jobs fleeced Fiorina proceeds dryly:

"Unlike Jobs, however, Fiorina did not go on to start a company, buy another small company and sell it for billions, or return to the place that fired her and restore it to glory. But the point of the story was that Steve was on her side, and by aligning herself with the sainted innovator, Fiorina racked up triple-bonus debate points.

As if. Her post-firing career has been primarily about self-aggrandizement (which, ok, she shared the penchant for that with Jobs), and little else. There is no tangible (let alone durable) innovation that she or anyone else can point to that came out of her brief stint at the top of Hewlett Packard. And no, giving her "triple-bonus debate points" in a field of smaller-than-life contenders to the GOP nomination does not count.

The Pope and mis-messaging Permalink to this item

The National Catholic Reporter's Vatican correspondent has some unanswered questions about how in the world Pope Francis had that arranged meeting with the newsy County Clerk from Kentucky. Read through that before you enjoy the palace intrigue speculation from Charles Pierce, for Esquire about whether Pope Francis was swindled into the meeting. He makes it sound amply plausible and amply intriguing.

I like the part about how it was an ABC reporter who just happened to ask that make-believe "generic" question about consciencious objection on the plane ride home, and then ABC worked up an "exclusive" with "noted civic layabout Kim Davis." Maybe just a coincidence, eh.

Retired Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, and Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Gene Robinson elucidates the difference between Kim Davis and a conscientious objector. Time's subhead is that the Pope "picked the wrong messenger for this lesson," but the evidence isn't very good that this was the Pope's choice. Never mind the chip on his shoulder (understandably, over being labeled "intrinsically disordered") or whether the Pope was mishandled, his point's a good one:

"Kim Davis has a constitutional right to her opinion, but she does not have a constitutional right to stay in a job whose duties she is unwilling to perform."

Update: More responses from spokesmen (they're always men, eh?) as the Pope and his people walk back the jolly inference of "validates everything" that Davis told ABC News. No. Not even. Per the statement:

"Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City. Such brief greetings occur on all papal visits and are due to the Pope's characteristic kindness and availability. The only real audience granted by the Pope at the Nunciature was with one of his former students and his family.

"The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects."

The religion that Davis came upon recently is not even the Pope's; story says the rather generic brand of "Apostolic Christian," adding another layer of weirdness. She wasn't interested in keeping the rosaries the Pope gave her, but her Catholic parents will appreciate the hand-me-downs, presumably.


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007