fortboise Home Blog Useful Sporting Sailing Friendly Site map Fine Print

Cover image of Fiona Hill's book
Next read; link to the publisher's site. Listen to Terry Gross' Fresh Air interview, from Oct. 6.

Other fortboise logs
China 2003
Reading list

Le Guin
Monkey Cage
Monkey Cage
O'Reilly Ideas

World News from:
arab net
The Sydney Morning Herald
Axis of Logic
Baltic Times
Boise Guardian
Community Radio
Boise Weekly
Idaho Statesman
The Telegraph
The Guardian
Information Clearing House
People's Daily
China Daily
Al-Ahram Weekly
Der Spiegel
Hong Kong:
Asia Times online
The Times of India,
The Hindustan Times
The Jerusalem Post
The Daily Star
New Zealand:
New Zealand Herald
The Rocky Mountains:
HCN Goat
New West
Tunisia Live
Saudi Arabia:
Arab News
Sun Valley:
Idaho Mtn Express
The Moscow Times

RSS feed for this blog



31.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Down the rabbit hole Permalink to this item

Sacrifice, and the nature of any particular religion are not the only realms of Trump's ignorance. Turns out he hasn't been keeping up with events in Ukraine, in spite of his current campaign manager's experience in the region.

“[Putin is] not going into Ukraine, O.K., just so you understand,” Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee, said when the issue came up. “He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right? You can mark it down. You can put it down. You can take it anywhere you want.”

“Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?” Mr. Stephanopoulos interrupted.

“O.K., well, he’s there in a certain way,” Mr. Trump replied. “But I’m not there. You have Obama there. And frankly, that whole part of the world is a mess under Obama with all the strength that you’re talking about and all of the power of NATO and all of this. In the meantime, he’s going away. He take — takes Crimea.”

You know what whole thing is a mess right now, it's that political party Donald Trump took over. OMG.

Norm Ornstein and Thomas Mann have been talking about and writing about the Republicans' mess for some time, and they've worked with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle for more than four decades. Here, on Vox, from two weeks ago: The Republicans waged a 3-decade war on government. They got Trump. From their 2012 book:

"The Republican Party has become an insurgent outlier in American politics — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

And in this latest piece:

"We did not advance our argument about asymmetric polarization lightly. We had worked closely with members of both parties and are not unaware of the issues and divisions inside the Democratic Party. But we had seen the GOP go from a problem-solving center-right party to a problem-solving very conservative party — and then evolve into an obstructionist party intent on appeasing extreme forces inside and outside Congress.

"This new version of the party eschewed any serious effort to bargain and compromise with the opposition party, an essential activity within the American constitutional system."

Quite capable of speaking for herself Permalink to this item

The outrages the spew forth from Donald Trump show no sign of letting up. In response to Khizr Khan's moving speech at the Democratic convention, Trump went after Khan's wife, the Gold Star mother of US Army Captain Humayun Khan, killed serving his country in Iraq, for not giving a speech. "Maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say, you tell me, but plenty of people have written that," Trump supposed. Seriously. A man without even the courage to make his supposedly damning observation directly, and putting it on "plenty of people."

But Ghazala Khan does have something to say, and the Washington Post put her opinion in print.

"Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart."

Except, inexplicably, for Donald Trump.

"When Donald Trump is talking about Islam, he is ignorant. If he studied the real Islam and Koran, all the ideas he gets from terrorists would change, because terrorism is a different religion.

"Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices. He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means."

PART II THE GREAT BICYCLE TRIP ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ The last of July - Suamico, Wis.

Map of day 26 and 27

Dad woke me at 7:00 and I started to run around. Rode down to Dave's & returned the stuff, back to Glendale to eat & sit around a while. Hit the road at 9:00. Mobile once again. My derailleur cable snapped in Mequon. Luckily a store was a mile away. Fixed that and then my glasses in Thiensville. Rode north through farm country. Fields of corn & clover. Stopped at a farm on I for directions and water ahhh. Some good hills for sweating. Took an unmapped road parallel to 57 & then 32. As the road split to two single lanes to intersect 57, a dog lept out of the ditch at me as three cars passed by on my left. I got my leg away from it, heart in mouth. Stopped in Kiel at the DQ and went to sleep on a bank of the Sheboygan River. When I woke up it was cloudy but my vigor had returned. When I crested the hill on 32 above 151, the sky was getting very dark to the north. Rolled down to the rain bar. Shortly after, the wind went from W to NE and the storm descended. I played pinball and ate jerky and got drunk while the downpour soaked my bike, the corn & everything between. Chatted about the wind & rain and cracks of lightning. It cleared in the west but rained on. The Missus took over and turned on the Olympics and I had a Bud for the road and left when it finally stopped and the sun had called it a night. Rode screaming down as the clouds & earth changed colors. The "wayside" was in the middle of [ the intersection of ] 32 & 151. Oh well. The wind & storminess made me anxious as I gulped my soup in the dark. Winked off in my clothes under my drying sleeping bag & got in later on. Was feeling shitty at the weather & inconveniences. The first day was fine, tho. Smells of living things and clean country air & sights. The morning [of the 31st] was quite chilly with a brisk north wind, rode to breakfast in Reedsville. The folks seemed pretty cold. Bought some hide gloves. Labored slower, using lower gears till refreshments in Lark. Quickly through Shirley and then to a panorama of the Fox River valley. Down & up into the city. The bakery & then a Lightning Big Boy. Rode thru & around, smelled the paper mill & took off my shirt as the day finally got warm. North on County J till the power lines came. Went by a house w/a VW van & a big stepvan '4 sale'. Stopped to inquire about camping & so I'm in the field of long grass behind the barn. Watched the last day of the Olympics (right now) with Tim as the day ended.

[Whew. The journal entry before this was written at 2 in the morning of Friday, July 30, seven hours before I hit the road, apparently. One day's entry—for two days' ride—took up three days' on the engagement calendar, 11 lines/inch, 5¼" wide block font, no paragraph breaks.

One of the most durable memories of the trip—boiled down to two sentences—was that German Shepherd lunging at me at the highway intersection. I've had a wary eye for loose dogs and a ready hand for the tire pump ever since. The waves of midwestern weather and the rolling hills of Wisconsin blend into the scenery. Changing from the original A-to-B goal and US 12 route, I stopped bothering to tally my daily mileage, but maybe I can piece it together from the hints of highways and towns. Wisconsin's county roads have one or two letter designations; state highways are numbered. Wisconsin 32 meets US 151 in Chilton, merging through town and with neither intersection today offering any sort of "wayside"; there's Klinkner Memorial Park on the south side of town. There's also a town of Wayside, a couple miles south of Lark. Reedsville, where I said I had breakfast, is 5 or 10 miles east of Chilton, makes me think I might have jumbled some numbers or names? Reedsville, Lark and Shirley make a beeline for Green Bay, mentioned just as "the city" and the smell of a paper mill.

My plan was north to Sault Ste Marie and into Ontario, and so up the west side of Green Bay, and I see now that I was inland from Manitowoc the first night, and just north of the city of Green Bay the second. Driving, it's one or another interstate that didn't exist back then, 120-some miles. Google's bicycling route is 130 miles from Glendale to Suamico, "via Ozaukee Interurban Trail" with 1,260 ft. uphill and 1,316 ft. downhill and "caution - may involve errors or sections not suited for bicycling." As ever.]

28.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Local news Permalink to this item

Caught a little bit of the local nightly news from yesterday, thanks to the DVR time-slot misaligning with the DNC running long.

The fire news is big this time of year, and I noticed that the weather had a graphic "WEATHER CONTROL" which seems like it's setting expectations a bit high. Plus, with several days of 100° weather and more coming, do you really want anyone to think you're responsible for that?

The BSU Broncos football team is highly regarded in their conference, whatever that is now. I guess a lot of people are interested in that. And some sports guy got a trip to Las Vegas out of it.

The tiny sound-bite mashup of the DNC was awful and useless.

Somebody killed in a one-car crash. 31 year old woman went off the road. Wasn't wearing a seatbelt. What the hell.

Protesters against the BLM—no, not Black Lives Matter, it's the Bureau of Land Management—selling oil and gas leases. Oh, and look, there's spinmeister John Foster, now the oil and gas companies' "industry spokesman."

Then the wired-up-to-national (I assume) TERRORISM ALERT DESK, never short of material. 48 dead in Syria, ISIS claiming responsibility. There was an attack in Baghdad, and a priest killed in France. ISIS warns London is next on its list. Be very afraid.

After an advertising purgative, some feel good news. Dude in Salem, Oregon is dropping Benjamins on people at random. "Benny" leaving his signature on $100 bills. Five hundred of them, maybe.

Then WEATHER CONTROL again. People, if you're in control, TURN DOWN THE HEAT. A picture of the lake up in McCall is not enough.

And there was more, more, more. By the time it got to what I was after, there was only 10 minutes of the hour-long Late Show left. Nothing to do but look it up on the web.

The man who owes too much Permalink to this item

Josh Marshall, of Talking Points Memo: What's Going on With Putin and Trump and Why It's a Big, Big Deal.

Mixed in with the cursory, outlandish, cartoonish, disturbing, ignorant, impulsive, and plain stupid... are "high level advisors to Trump who have been deeply immersed in the Putin world of dirty politics and energy concessions that characterizes Putin's Russia and the post-Soviet successor states."

"Those associations might simply be unsavory if the candidate were an experienced political figure or surrounded by knowledgable advisors. Neither is the case."

And Trump continues to stonewall all inquiries about the sources of his (claimed) wealth and current cash flow. If we give him the benefit of the doubt that there is a "high volume of money flowing in [his] direction," there is No . Possible . Excuse for us not to know a great deal more. Certainly not because he's being audited.

"The most minimal version of the story is actually a very, very big deal and in some ways the more high-octane and outlandish aspects of it are obscuring that. We know very, very little about Trump's finances. For most presidential candidates - the Clintons, Obamas, even the Bushes - it's important to see their tax returns. But there's not likely to be much of significance there. They either don't have much money or they've already been tightly scrutinized. Trump has a long list of bankruptcies, foreign business connections, huge debt loads. Seeing his tax returns is really essential. And yet we haven't seen them. And he's justified this on the basis of a preposterous claim that he can't because he's being audited - something that makes no sense at all. Even the fact that Trump owes a huge amount of money to DeutscheBank a foreign bank that has been under tight scrutiny recently from US regulators is a big deal. How would that possibly work if that scrutiny continues and the Presidential personally owes them hundreds of millions of dollars?"

Pithy observation from my Facebook world:

"My question is, when does it become a matter of national security to delve into the degree to which he owes money to foreign powers like Russian oligarchs? ... Trump begins getting national security briefings this week. ... When does the DOJ vet [this]?"

Gee, if only Congress were in session, they could pull together some committee hearings on the subject.

The man who said too much Permalink to this item

Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger arranged to prolong the war in Vietnam to secure the election in 1968. The government of Iran worked to sabotage Jimmy Carter's re-election bid by delaying the release of American hostages. (They had a lot to pay us back for.)

I guess political correctness was doing that sort of thing in secret, and Donald Trump's got no time for that. He just popped off that invitation to Russia to do a little (more) espionage and mess with his opponent off the top of his whacky head, I suppose.

“Nobody ever — and I think I can be confident about this — nobody ever stood up at a podium and said, ‘Bring it on,’” said Jeremy Shapiro, a Brookings Institution scholar of foreign policy, referring to Mr. Trump’s invitation for a foreign power to meddle in his own country’s politics.

Well, not bring that on, but George W. Bush did infamously say, literally, "Bring it on," an invitation that a variety of insurgent groups in Iraq accepted. That goes back to the roots of the Islamic State in the Levant (or Syria, if you like). Not one of the brightest moments in the history of U.S. diplomacy.

Now, we're plumbing previously unimaginable depths, and the people with experience in foreign policy are "struggl[ing] to articular the scale of his deviation from political norms." "[S]ome defenders argue was meant as a joke." (Like Trump's candidacy, a bad one.) He said he was being "sarcastic." Really, why would we pay attention to his blurting whatever pops into his head in a desperate cry for more attention? Most charitably, he is simply without a clue (as VP Joe Biden pointed out last night). "He has no sense of what an extraordinary statement that was," Shapiro said.

Which leaves us to wonder how many of the risible things Trump has said we should be ignoring. That "joke" about ignoring our obligations to our NATO allies, for example?

27.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Ten cent shave club Permalink to this item

Not that I'm a paragon of male grooming, but I do shave, periodically, during the spring and summer. I shaved just yesterday, in fact. My equipment needs are exceedingly modest. I bought a brush... in the 1970s, it must have been. And have bought at least three of those round cakes of shaving soap over the years, kept in a coffee cup. And razors. Lots of razors.

My shaving kit

Haven't tracked my spending super closely, but close enough, and it looks like over the last 2½ decades, I've dropped $30 on disposable razors. If I'd shaved year round, maybe double that? And multiply by two for a higher standard of grooming, if you like. That would be $120 in 25 years, or... 40 cents a month. (As compared to what I've actually spent, about 10 cents a month.)

That left me out of the target demographic for Gillette, and for Proctor & Gamble, who paid $57 billion for Gillette, back in 2005. I never could understand how razors could pay for so much advertising. But then there's a lot about advertising I don't understand.

That also left me out of the great joke (and business) of the Dollar Shave Club, which I'm just now seeing, thanks to the NYT Dealbook feature about DSC being bought up for a cool $billion by Unilever.

The one and half minute free ad posted on YouTube is well worth 20 million views, still fresh and funny for someone seeing it for the first time. And targeting "men who do not like to shop" sounds like genius.

Professor Solomon Davidoff wants us to consider that "super-successful companies with few employees should worry an America struggling with inequality." Something clever like Dollar Shave Club could come along and disintermediate the 90% of unproductive overhead you didn't realize your business was selling to people.

"[This] is no doubt the wave of the future. Expect more start-ups in disruptive areas. Expect more old-line companies to find themselves on their back feet, compensating by paying outsize, sometimes incredulous [sic] sums for breakthrough competitors. And expect more enormous investment in all things new as the old companies without unique assets struggle to compete."

(We are incredulous; the sums are incredible.)

Ghostwriter gone rogue and Russian intrigue Permalink to this item

Tony Schwartz is tearing up the Tweetosphere.

I broke the unspoken code of confidentiality with Donald Trump on Art of the Deal because I truly believe his election imperils the planet.

— Tony Schwartz (@tonyschwartz) July 27, 2016

In the face of social unrest and opposition, I can easily see Donald Trump declaring martial law and suspending the rights of ALL citizens.

— Tony Schwartz (@tonyschwartz) July 27, 2016

In my experience with Trump, he always revered tough guys such as boxers and autocratic leaders. Has he been conspiring with Putin? Scary.

— Tony Schwartz (@tonyschwartz) July 25, 2016

All that and the apparent consensus that it was Russians that hacked the DNC woke us up this morning wondering what it would mean if #PutinOwnsTrump.

"Putin is a nicer person than I am." - Donald Trump

Six weeks ago, a team of Washington Post reporters took a look inside Trump’s financial ties to Russia, his "30-year history of business with Russia," "based on interviews as well as a review of deposition transcripts and other court records in which Trump and his associates have discussed their overseas work." And that funky bromance of the Kremlin's long-term dictator. $14 million for a beauty pageant brought to Moscow, and maybe yet another Trump Tower ought to be chump change for a billionaire, but then while we all wait to see any legally documented evidence of Trump's supposed outsized wealth, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered.

"Since the 1980s, Trump and his family members have made numerous trips to Moscow in search of business opportunities, and they have relied on Russian investors to buy their properties around the world."

“Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” Trump’s son, Donald Jr., told a real estate conference in 2008, according to an account posted on the website of eTurboNews, a trade publication. “We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

This was when DJT Jr. was bullish on Russia's “natural strength, especially in the high-end sector.”

What the hell? By Trump Senior's account, we should not underestimate the power of flattery, either. “A guy calls me a genius, and I’m going to renounce?” Trump said. “I’m not going to renounce him.”

With geniuses like this, who needs idiots?

26.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Back on the political scene Permalink to this item

We watched—and enjoyed—much of the evening's coverage of the Democratic National Convention, which, as you would expect was nothing at all like last week's horror in Cleveland. The speakers were very well chosen, and the dramatic tension about what Bernie and his supporters would do kept it interesting, through to Sanders' speech and his whole-hearted endorsement of Clinton and call for party unity. And oh yeah, the platform reflects a lot of what Sanders wants to accomplish. (It's a heavy lift to get any of that through Congress, but saying what you're after is the first step.)

And Michelle Obama absolutely knocked the ball out of the park. What a great First Lady (and First Family) we've got.

Meanwhile on the Republican side... Trump was jabbing tweets at the DNC, hoping to make someone squeal. And of course, the fundraising continues. Are you happy? Send some money! Are you mad? Send some money! Are you afraid? Send some money!

But reading the pitches, I mostly want to know, are you out of your mind?

Ah, the first riff from, aka American Horizons PAC, subject line DNC In Shambles. As if. You wish. And this rhetorical question: "We also heard from dozens of speakers, none of whom bothered to mention ISIS or Islamic Extremism. Don't you think that would be worth mentioning?"

Well... the Republicans covered that so bloody well last week, why don't we just take a day or two off? Here's a few of the quotes that caught my ear in last night's speeches:

Rep. Keith Ellison:

"Not voting is not a protest, it's a surrender."

Elizabeth Warren:

"What kind of a man roots for an economic crash that cost millions of people their jobs? Their homes? Their life savings?"

Cory Booker:

"Patriotism is love of country--but you can't love your country without loving your countrymen and countrywoman.

"We can't just 'tolerate' each other... We are called to be a nation of love.... Love recognizes that we need each other... when we are indivisible, we are invincible."

Michelle Obama:

"I wake up every morning in a house built by slaves... And I watch my daughters, 2 beautiful young intelligent black women, playing with their dogs on White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters take for granted that a woman can be President of the United States. Don’t let anyone tell you that this country isn’t great — that we somehow need to make it great again. Because this right now is the greatest country on earth.

"We need to pour every last ounce of our passion and our strength and our love for this country into electing Hillary Clinton as president of the United States of America."

Around the world in 503 days Permalink to this item

What's the hurry after all? Solar Impulse completed its historic round-the-world trip, from Abu Dhabi to Abu Dhabi, finishing, oddly enough at night (and with all the lights on). It has batteries, of course, to save up what the 17,000 solar cells collect when they can.

40,000 km without fuel.

The single pilot sat inside a "cockpit about the size of a public telephone box," which, for those in the audience who've never seen one, does not sound like a particularly cozy place to hang out for long periods of time. The seat does recline all the way, but you only get 20 minutes sleep at a time, for a non-stop as long as... 118 hours ("5 days and 5 nights," in round numbers), crossing half the northern Pacific from Japan to Hawai‘i.

Borschberg flying, screen shot from video

Bertrand Piccard ("psychiatrist, explorer and aeronaut") and André Borschberg ("engineer, entrepreneur and pilot") took turns for the 17 legs), with Captain (dare I say) Piccard getting #17, and Borschberg the record-breaking 5 day solo.

It's a great, big ocean, and a great, big world to fly around in a telephone box, innit? Jolly enough on a sunny day at snack time (or under a full moon over the ocean), but no getting up to walk around and stretch your legs.)

"A new Utopia? A beautiful scene from science fiction? No, a cutting-edge technological challenge! A sufficiently eccentric project to appeal to one’s emotions and get one’s adrenalin pumping: to harness a clean and renewable form of energy, and use it to fly night and day without limit."

They had a big team behind them, and there's a a wonderfully rich website including a blog (of course), and 10 videos from the round-the-world solar flights that will give you goosebumps. #4, Golden Gate Bridge flyover definitely worked for me.

And #9, Bertrand Piccard’s cockpit tour (also featured on Wired UK a month ago), "while flying at 8,000 feet, Bertrand gives you a GoPro cockpit tour, describing all the tools in his temporary home," shows us that it's much nicer than a public telephone box.

25.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

So much work still to do Permalink to this item

Inside the Democratic party, one twit imagined that it "could make several points difference with my peeps" if a candidate (let's say an independent Democratic Socialist with a Jewish background, hypothetically) didn't believe in a mythical sky being.

Chuck Todd started the interview with Sanders on Meet the Press for this weekend, by saying he "should note, that you talked about your belief in God last fall." So, that should have been that. Especially given, you know, that Constitution thing. Which part of that last phrase in Article VI is not clear?

"[N]o religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

Good for Bernie in ignoring that diversion along with the rest of what was in the Wikileaks dump of DNC emails. [In case you want a different angle than heads exploding, Allen Clifton addressed the ridiculousness of the "controversy": "...nobody has shown a specific action (at least any that were credible) where the DNC did anything that actually led to Clinton winning a state..."] And Bernie stuck to the main message:

"We're going to focus on defeating the worst Republican candidate I've seen in a lifetime. We've got to elect Secretary Clinton."

Down here on earth, Deepak Chopra gets to the point as well, about America's shadow, and its current spokesman.

"When the shadow breaks out, what's wrong is right. Being transgressive feels like a relief, because suddenly the collective psyche can gambol in forbidden fields. When Trump indulges in rampant bad behavior and at the same time says to his riotous audiences, 'This is fun, isn't it?' he's expressing in public our ashamed impulse to stop obeying the rules."

Encouraging us to "turn on each other" as Elizabeth Warren put it. But speaking of shadows, isn't this a considerably bigger story than a possibly too-partisan head of a partisan organization?

"[R]esearchers have concluded that the national committee was breached by two Russian intelligence agencies, which were the same attackers behind previous Russian cyberoperations at the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff last year."

That's from David E. Sanger's and Nicole Perlroth's reporting for the New York Times, a bit jumbled with the intra- and interparty tit-for-tat, and speculation about the intent of the cy-ops.

Still, it isn't disputed that Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was "one of several American advisers to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the Russian-backed leader of Ukraine until he was forced out of office two years ago." Or that "Yanukovych was a key Putin ally who is now in exile in Russia."

"In April, asked on Fox News about his relationship with Mr. Yanukovych, Mr. Manafort said he was simply trying to help the Ukrainians build a democracy that could align more closely with the United States and its allies."

Uh, sure, that sounds fine. Imagine for a moment what we would have heard—would be hearing—about an Obama or Clinton campaign chairman with that item on his or her résumé. Or if one or the other had also casually suggested we'd toss Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (and whoever) off the NATO bus if they weren't up to snuff in their defense spending.

Update: There's apparently quite a bit more than vague innuendo to bandy about. Josh Marshall, in Talking Points Memo: Trump & Putin. Yes, It's Really a Thing.

24.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

More fear, less reason Permalink to this item

My graph of data from

The psychology of why Americans are afraid of historically low crime levels is a fascinating thing to consider, and the answers you might think of are featured in that NYMag piece. But the "historically low crime levels" are the interesting thing to me.

There are more of us, living in more crowded circumstances, and in spite of what you hear and read in the news, there's a lot less crime than there used to be. "The national crime rate is about half of what it was at the peak in 1991."

23.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Here comes the sun Permalink to this item

Solarize the Valley logo

There's still time (but get a move on—just over a week left) to take advantage of the Solarize the Valley program to get a free solar site assessment and installation bid, with prenegotiated prices. The limited time offer ends July 31.

There are a couple of fun events coming up this week as well: tomorrow (Sunday) evening, 5 to 7pm, a Solar Block Party, on north 7th Street between Eastman and Brumback, and on Wednesday night (July 27), 6 to 8pm, a Clean Energy Party at 4929 E Sagewood Drive in Harris Ranch, hosted by my friend and former engineering colleague, Lisa Hecht, who just had her PV system installed and turned on in early June. She's collected her first megawatt-hour as of this week.

Last Tuesday, Jeanette and I joined the Solar Bike Tour and Porch Party in Boise's north end, which included Scott Flynn of Flynner Homes tellingus about this "net zero" home design, one of four they've built in Boise.

My photo of the Net Zero home up on 8th Street

Then down to the Boise Co-op where the manager talked to us about their solar PV system on the roof of the building they lease. At one point when he was going into details of their HVAC systems and refrigeration, he stopped to say how great it was to have this many people who were really interested in all that. He doesn't usually get such rapt attention! Then we all climbed up and checked out the installation.

My photo of the solar bike tour at the Co-op

Solar panels on the Boise Co-op roof

On the Co-op's website, they have a page showing their instantaneous power production (23 kW in the middle of a sunny summer afternoon as I write), and history for a day, week, month, or 12 months. For the life of the project, they've collected more than 82 MWh since Sept., 2014.

We ended the tour at the office of the Idaho Conservation League, where they've just installed PV panels that are supplying half of their electrical demand. We heard from a fellow from the city about the Sustainable Boise program, and among other things, I learned that the city's annual electric bill is about $5 million, and it's been running Twenty Mile South Farm for more than two decades, now with more than 4,000 acres, where the "biosolids" from its two main wastewater treatment plants go, fertilizing alfalfa, corn, and small grains.

Tribal wisdom Permalink to this item

Just finished Sebastian Junger's compact, powerful book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging this morning, and the stories of war and trauma and catastrophe and the generally positive way humans meet them put the current failings of our political scene in a different light. In his description of the siege of Sarajevo, considering the resilience of the besieged, I couldn't help but wonder how close we are to that level of disintegration. Perhaps that's the fear of those responding to a mythic return of "law and order" as well.

Junger's focus does not extend much to the perpetrators of conflict, not necessarily a fault for his book, but important, unexplored territory, especially as we consider the election of a man whose performance at least echoes that of totalitarian demagogues of recent memory.

We need community, we have always needed community, and it requires more than mounting a large flag on your pickup truck for your errands about town. (Even if you leave your stars and bars at home and stick to the stars and stripes.)

Casting our own institutions as the enemy is so obviously self-destructive, it should go without saying, but does not. How can we take a would-be leader who promises to be "for you" and to provide "your voice" seriously when he has never been for anyone but himself, current spouse and offspring? It's an absurd remedy for what troubles us. Have we really reached that level of desperation?

The "Homecoming" in Junger's subtitle refers to reintegration of soldiers into society, and given what failure in that can mean, the three crucial factors that anthropologists have identified as crucial are worth noting:

"[C]ohesive and egalitarian tribal societies do a very good job at mitigating the effects of trauma, but by their very nature, many modern societies are exactly the opposite: hierarchical and alienating....

"Secondly, ex-combatants shouldn't be seen—or be encouraged to see themselves—as victims. One can be deeply traumatized, as firemen are by the deaths of both colleagues and civilians, without being viewed through the lens of victimhood....

"Perhaps most important, veterans need to be feel that they're just as necessary and productive back in society as they were on the battlefield....

"Unfortunately, for the past decade American sliders have returned to a country that display many indicators of low social resilience. Resources are not shared equally, a quarter of children live in poverty, jobs are hard to get, and minimum wage is almost impossible to live on. Instead of being able to work and contribute to society—a highly therapeutic thing to do—a large percentage of veterans are just offered disability payments. And they accept, of course—why shouldn't they? A society that doesn't distinguish between degrees of trauma can't expect its warriors to, either."

The point of the book is much wider than welcoming home the troops, however. Veterans are not the only group who need to feel they're necessary and productive members of society. The "dismal realization" he's come to by returning from war zones is that "we live in a society that is basically at war with itself."

"People speak with incredible contempt about—depending on their views—the rich, the poor, the educated, the foreign-born, the president, or the entire US government. It's a level of contempt that is usually reserved for enemies in wartime, except that not it's applied to our fellow citizens. Unlike criticism, contempt is particularly toxic because it assumes a moral superiority in the speaker....

"The most alarming rhetoric comes out of the dispute between liberals and conservatives, and it’s a dangerous waste of time because they’re both right. The perennial conservative concern about high taxes supporting a non-working underclass has entirely legitimate roots in our evolutionary past and shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. Early hominids lived a precarious existence where freeloaders were a direct threat to survival, and so they developed an exceedingly acute sense of whether they were being taken advantage of by members of their own group. By the same token, one of the hallmarks of early human society was the emergence of a culture of compassion that cared for the ill, the elderly, the wounded and the unlucky. In today’s terms that is a common liberal concern that also has to be taken into account. These two driving forces have coexisted for hundreds of thousands of year in human society and have been duly codified in this country as a two-party political system. The eternal argument over so-called entitlement programs—and more broadly, over liberal and conservative thought—will never be resolved because each side represents an ancient and absolutely essential component of our evolutionary past."

To the extent that our two parties have devolved beyond competition to "predicating power on the excommunication of others from the group," and "spew[ing] venomous rhetoric about their rivals," we could be a more sure means of self-destruction than any gang of terrorists or wave of illegal immigrants. Our legislative branch, at least, has reached a remarkable state of self-induced paralysis. To install a supposedly heroic leader in the Executive branch would invite metastasis.

22.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Throwback Friday Permalink to this item

Remember when... the right wing demonized Barack Obama for how self-centered he is?

The non-profit Media Research Center, fulfulling its mission "to create a media culture in America where truth and liberty flourish," used its "" division ("THE RIGHT NEWS. RIGHT NOW.") to publish someone tallying the first person singular in an Obama speech two years ago.

And so the final answer is... Donald J. Trump.

Back to the future, an almost straight news report tallying "law and order" last night, and part of the "I alone can fix it" promise:

"I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored."

Down the Trump escalator Permalink to this item

Even sound bites were too much for us; it was too awful. Watching the replay of the individual time trial in the Tour de France was much more appealing to me. I suppose there must be some people talking about how The Donald knocked his big speech out of the park, but really?

Michael Barbaro's take for the NYT was that it was a chance for Trump to escape his caricature, aaaaand he didn't take it. Damon Winter's photograph on top of the online version is boffo, worth at least a thousand words of news analysis. Further down, Doug Mills captured the stage scene, with the smaller-than-life candidate lost in a background of make-believe flags, overwhlemed by that name, those glorious capital letters with golden-pixel trim, TRUMP.

"In the most consequential speech of his life, delivered 401 days into his improbable run for the White House, Mr. Trump sounded much like the unreflective man who had started it with an escalator ride in the lobby of Trump Tower: He conjured up chaos and promised overnight solutions....

"Inside the Quicken Loans Arena, a thicket of American flags behind him, he portrayed himself, over and over, as an almost messianic figure prepared to rescue the country from the ills of urban crime, illegal immigration and global terrorism.

“I alone,” he said, “can fix it.”

"But Mr. Trump made no real case for his qualifications to lead the world’s largest economy and strongest military. He is, he said, a very successful man who knows how to make it all better.

"Campaign speechwriters from both parties were stupefied."

There is something inevitably stupefying about a mass gathering in general, and political conventions in particular. But this #RNCinCLE was something special. I don't personally feel the need for public figures to tell heart-warming (or bathetic) stories of their lives, but some vague bit of human empathy seems a prerequisite, doesn't it?

Trump's last words to close her speech were "I love you."

Brian Snyder/Reuters original photo, excerpted for commentary

And this morning, I see he and I agree that the convention was "very special," if not for the same reasons. It raised the bar on stupefaction. The "love-filled" part, well. That's all under the cheetoh dome, I'm afraid. He felt the love of an energized mob chanting "TRUMP TRUMP TRUMP" and that was very very special to him, I'm sure.

I also see that there were ample photographic opportunities to capture the Big Giant Head and the homunculus that's driving the image. Bryan Snyder of Reuters over Yoni Appelbaum's piece for The Atlantic, "I Alone Can Fix It."

Those large, sometimes full screen images you see at the top of most web pages these days are referred to as "Jumbotron," and nobody fills a Jumbotron quite like this man. Take the jump to see it bigger; it needs to be huuuuge to have the full effect.

If Leni Riefenstahl were alive, Trump would hire her to film this speech. Then not pay her.

— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) July 22, 2016

21.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mike Pence turns out to be despicable Permalink to this item

Speaking of character—or the lack thereof—Mike Pence stood up on his hind legs last night and coolly read off his Teleprompter-scripted speech that

"It was Hillary Clinton who left Americans in harm’s way in Benghazi and after four Americans fell said, what difference at this point does it make?"

As if... she were speaking about those American lives when she said that, testifying before one of the many pointless Republican-led fishing expeditions that produced great noise and thousands of pages of reports signifying nothing, burning up $7 million in 10 congressional committees and dozens of hearings.

As if... the ultimate price paid by Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, in service to their country, was his for the cherry-picking for a cheap-ass political talking point in demonizing his opponent in a political contest.

Mike Pence makes a big deal about being a Christian, first and foremost. But he doesn't seem to be keeping track of one the most basic of Judeo-Christian principles:

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Update: A month ago, when Trump was warming up to the attack on Hillary, he tweeted "If you want to know about Hillary Clinton's honesty & judgment, ask the family of Ambassador Stevens." Robin Wright did just that, for The New Yorker. Ambassador Chris Stevens' sister, Dr. Anne Stevens, who has been the family's spokesperson since his death answered questions. For example:

What did you think of Secretary Clinton’s conduct on Benghazi?

She has taken full responsibility, being head of the State Department, for what occurred. She took measures to respond to the review board’s recommendations. She established programs for a better security system. But it is never going to be perfect. Part of being a diplomat is being out in the community. We all recognize that there’s a risk in serving in a dangerous environment. Chris thought that was very important, and he probably would have done it again. I don’t see any usefulness in continuing to criticize her. It is very unjust.

H/t to

Of mice and men Permalink to this item

Scott Walker stood up in front of the projector showing a homey Wisconsin (I presume) farm scene, as if... he knew which end of a cow the milk comes from? And it turns out the Trump campaign didn't know which end of the Twitter his short term opponent and now booster is on. But still, thanks for bashing Hillary, Scott!

But the theme for last night's #RNCinCLE was MAKE THE GOP BACKFIRE AGAIN, with Ted Cruz delivering a speech the Trump campaign previewed, apparently on script, and then some. (He spoke for 23 minutes, with a 9 minute script.) The punch line was the rather anodyne exhortation to "vote your conscience," but what turned out to be an oddly discordant suggestion in the hall. When he got to the "God bless" punctuation without saying Yay for Trump, he was booed off the stage, and then barred from Sheldon Adelson's suite, even worse. And as usual, The Donald just can not stay away from the show (even though he's not staying overnight in Cleveland, eww), making his daily appearance with timing intended to deliver a swift kick to Cruz's backside for good measure.

Turns out the whacky conspiracy theory about papa Cruz and the attack on Mrs. Cruz were a bridge too far. This much sounds like less-rehearsed sincerity from Cruz:

"I’m not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father, and that pledge was not a blanket commit that if you go and slander and attack Heidi that I’m going to come like a servile puppy dog and say, 'Thank you very much for maligning my wife and maligning my father.'"

James Hohmann, writing for the Washington Post notes that Cruz "fancies himself a political tactician," "playing the long game" for his 2020 run for president, working on the assumption that Trump's going to lose. Having him booed off the stage might have been a crafty plan by the Trump team, even though they haven't shown a lot of that sort of craft. FWIW, Richard Viguerie declared it political suicide. (Oh, and "convention organizers committed political malpractice by giving him such a prime speaking slot with no commitment to endorse Trump" by Hohmann's estimate.) It seems lose-lose all the way around. If Trump wins, Cruz will be rattling his conservative bona fides with real outsider status, not just annoying most of his colleagues in the Senate. In the meantime... discouraging words not welcome at the convention. Emphasis in the original:

"The Cruz team was prepared for some blowback, but they were taken aback by the truly humiliating scene. He was very loudly booed in the hall, as hundreds of delegates shouted “endorse Trump” and “honor your pledge.” Heidi Cruz did not have security, and Ken Cuccinelli was so worried about her safety that he escorted her off the floor. As he did, delegates pointed at her and shouted “Goldman Sachs” (where she works). “People in my own delegation started approaching her and yelling at her,” he said. (To be fair, others were yelling “Ted, Ted, Ted.”)"

One on-the-scene tweet said "Felt legitimately frightening being in a room watching that much hate directed at one person inside. Unreal." Welcome to the Trump rally. How about the blood-thirsty hate directed at Hillary Clinton by pretty much Every Other Speaker on the program?

But it's ok—tonight's theme is MAKE AMERICA ONE AGAIN. [CORRECTION: I hear it's MAKE AMERICA FIRST AGAIN, not quite the same thing.]

Meanwhile, don't miss the tweetstream appended to the WaPo piece, and @BillKristol's inimitable contribution: "Dear @SenTedCruz: If you'd like to run so there'll be a candidate in the fall who believes in freedom and the Constitution, give me a call."

Not as funny: about the time Mike Pence was declaring that our country wouldn't abandoned our friends, and Donald Trump would stand with our allies, David Sanger's interview with Trump for the NYT went live, in which the would-be president equivocates about whether we would come to the aid of a NATO country attacked by Russia.

Trump wants to know whether they've paid their bills first, because he knows a thing or two about not paying bills, and leaving allies in the lurch. Marc Johnson, on Trumping the Shark:

"I’m going to posit that never before in the history of modern U.S. politics has one party, a party that has for so long held rock solid views on foreign policy and America’s place in the world, so quickly and violently changed direction. The Trumpian “pivot” on foreign policy is now complete and the implications are coming into focus. As usual with Trump there is little doubt or nuance....

"Trump has torn the Republican Party from its post-war moorings, even more so it is now clear than Barry Goldwater did in 1964. His appeal to nativist, know nothingism, his exploitation of fear, his appalling ignorance of our own history and the world’s has gone way beyond anything we have seen since McCarthy in the early 1950’s. This is truly the GOP’s McCarthy Moment and no time, as Edward R. Murrow said of the Republican’s earlier demagogue, for citizens—particularly Republicans—who oppose his nonsense to remain silent."

Maybe that personal attack from Trump was heaven-sent, and Cruz did exactly the right thing. And the response shows how hard it is to swim upstream against partisanship. Politics is certainly more than just a team sport (as Cruz said), but that's what it is first of all. And even though Donald Trump is exceedingly un-Republican, self-obsessed, sociopathic, dangerous, and wildly unpredictable, he won the party's contest. You're either with us, or against us, is the message out of Cleveland.

Too few people are standing up to say "wait a minute, this is crazy."

20.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Loopy Permalink to this item

A Fwd: for A favor from one Speaker to another to me. John Boehner says he "looped [me] into our email chain" because Speaker Ryan needs my help. Over his reply to Paul Ryan. Over Paul Ryan's message to him. Between the "retirement" and "golf course tomorrow" phatic, this, verbatim:

"I hate to ask, but I need to ask a favor from you. We set an crazy goal of raising $1 million this week during convention, but I think we might come up a little bit short.

"Do you know anyone in Idaho who can help us out ASAP?"

Yes, that's quite "an crazy goal." In the middle message, Boehner forwards three names, "Alison D., Robert H.," and mine.

A million dollars, by the end of the week? Sorry, we're a bit tapped out at the moment, can't answer the call. ("Again.")

Donald Trump's make-believe Permalink to this item

The man who sold his soul to the devil for half the advance and half the royalties comes forth with his remorse, ably recorded by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker: Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All. Not that it's going to change the momentum of the presidential race, but Dr. Frankenstein's debrief is worth some attention, even if it comes late.

[A]s he watched a replay of the new candidate holding forth for forty-five minutes, he noticed something strange: over the decades, Trump appeared to have convinced himself that he had written the book. Schwartz recalls thinking, “If he could lie about that on Day One—when it was so easily refuted—he is likely to lie about anything.”

Schwartz says the "very different book" he'd write today would have a very different title: "The Sociopath."

“He has no attention span.”

“’s impossible to keep him focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then...” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said.

Suggested question for the next debate: "Have you ever read a whole book, Mr. Trump?" And if so, which one? It sounds like he probably hasn't even read Schwartz's book. But Trump would come up with something, and it would almost certainly be a lie.

This year, Schwartz has heard some argue that there must be a more thoughtful and nuanced version of Donald Trump that he is keeping in reserve for after the campaign. “There isn’t,” Schwartz insists. “There is no private Trump.”

...Schwartz says of Trump, “He lied strategically. He had a complete lack of conscience about it.” Since most people are “constrained by the truth,” Trump’s indifference to it “gave him a strange advantage.”

It's the gift that keeps on giving. Jane Mayer describes the whopper of a lie—the foundational lie—that Trump maintains on the strength of his shameless braggadocio, without a shred of evidence:

In my phone interview with Trump, he initially said of Schwartz, “Tony was very good. He was the co-author.” But he dismissed Schwartz’s account of the writing process. “He didn’t write the book,” Trump told me. “I wrote the book. I wrote the book. It was my book. And it was a No. 1 best-seller, and one of the best-selling business books of all time. Some say it was the best-selling business book ever.” (It is not.) Howard Kaminsky, the former Random House head, laughed and said, “Trump didn’t write a postcard for us!”

Update: Jane Mayer reports that Trump's legal lackey has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Schwartz. Trump wants to litigate whether or not he wrote the book? That would be pretty insane. Oh, and Trump demands that Schwartz sends back his several million dollars share of the royalties. Poor little bully Donald Trump!

Bringing the light and darkness to Cleveland Permalink to this item

Mention of Ben Carson's weird speech prompted us to look that up, and see, my goodness, the liveliest performance from that guy ever. He finally woke up! Which is not to say he's got woke.

We have to start thinking about what we might never recover from, he warns us. Good advice. And trots out of a favorite boogieman of the wonk class, Saul Alinsky, author of Rules for Radicals. Jeanette pulled out her copy (the one dedicated to her and signed by the author), to see that yes, Alinsky celebrates Lucifer in the epigraphs. Also, Rabbi Hillel ("Where there are no men, be thou a man"), and Thomas Paine:

"Let them call me rebel and welcome, I feel no concern from it; but I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul."

Alinsky admires Lucifer as "the first radical known to man," Clinton wrote about Alinsky, ipso facto, Hillary Clinton is the devil.

Not to put too fine a point on it. Or show any understanding of the many revisions of mythology that predate (and postdate) the Bible, or the children's storybook mash-up of Lucifer ("light bringer") and the Devil of Revelation.

Carson's political incorrectness gives him permission to run roughshod over our founders' original caution in avoiding religious divisiveness and make believe he's true to their better principles, happy to celebrate (with the crowd shouting to back him up) "In God We Trust" and "under God," those later, not-so-true additions.

"The secular progressive agenda is antithetical to the principles of the founding of this nation."

Which, um, is not quite acknowleding the truly radical nature of our revolution, any more than it gives Lucifer (or Jesus!) his due.

"If we continue to allow them to take God out of our lives, God will remove himself from us, we will not be blessed and our nation will go down the tubes."

This is a pretty pathetic account of God, I have to say. Is He nothing more than a stuffed toy two children are fighting over?

Screen grab from Youtube of ABC 15 Arizona video

After Carson exhorted the crowd to rise up and take the country back, the D.J. took the cue for a musical "Get on up!" Don't suppose they lined up permission from the authors for that, either. The audience would not be visualizing Jodeci's version and video, or the candid biopic about James Brown, and definitely not that politically incorrect original, Get Up (I Feel Like a) Sex Machine.

Talk about your cultural misappropriation.

Screen grab from Youtube of ABC 15 Arizona video

But never mind that, the camera found a Code Pink member in the crowd, trying to wave a small banner for NO RACISM NO HATE, as other participants tried to hide it with the American flag (yes, that actually happened). One bottle blonde in a smart red jacket grabbed the fabric and pulled hard, but not hard enough to get it away from the protester.

It was silk, and the protester was cheerful, strong, and not so easily overcome by a staunch but aging Republican matron.

The Dumpster fire in Cleveland Permalink to this item

From the Speaker of the House booting the candidate's name ("Donald Day Trump") and struggling with the rest of the single sentence announcing the official nomination, to Mitch McConnell getting booed for being just his usual procedural self, to Trump's own shouty appearance on the Jumbotron the day's theme of "make America work again" got lost in the hate Hillary soufflé.

Over the TOP

Donald J. Trump Jr. had the honor "to be able to throw Donald Trump over the top" with 89 of New York's delegates ("and another six for John Kasich"). And good for Paul Ryan trying to make this about policy "ideas," anyway. His ideas for what to do about government aren't all that great (in my and others' humble opinions), but let's do have a discussion about politics rather than the despicable, deeply horrible thing that "former federal prosecutor" and perhaps soon-to-be federal defendant Chris Christie put on, introducing his act as "hold[ing] Hillary Rodham Clinton accountable for her performance and her character."

With a kangaroo court that would make a Congressional hearing blush, Christie lead most of the star and stripe-spangled partisans to cries of "GUILTY" interspered with chants of "LOCK HER UP."

In the pans of the audience, there were at least a few faces of calm, not prepared to play their role as Christie's sock puppets. But at least a thousand pumping their signs and fists and voices.

We watched a relatively small amount of the evening's festivities (and way too much of Christie), filtered by the PBS Newshour team, heavy on the commentary, and generally overwhelmed by the noise. When they did feature speakers, only tiny samples of what they had to say seemed bearable. The arKANSAN woman celebrating her down-home accent, attacking Hillary with the coldest after-smile I hope I'll ever see. Trump's daughter talking about the sweet daddy none of us outside the family ever get to see. Mike Mukasey...

We skipped over what the final Attorney General of the George W. Bush terms had to say. He was the one who wasn't willing to rule out torture as a tool of government in his Senate confirmation hearing, and who provided cover for the Department of Justice officials acting on supposed good faith. Contrast what he had to say to the American Bar Association in 2008 with Chris Christie's performance last night: "Not every wrong, or even every violation of the law, is a crime. In this instance, the two joint reports found only violations of the civil service laws." Just a few insignificant quibbles in the Bush DOJ. But Clinton's careless handling of what seem to be utterly forgettable "secrets"? That "exquisitely" sums up the case against her. He did not mention that the FBI affirmed his earlier point that he could see so clearly 8 years ago.

It's justice on a sliding scale. In a Trump administration, the plan seems to be to have it administered by an angry mob.

Clinton compared the night—aptly, I have to say—to The Wizard of Oz. There was "even a fog machine. But when you pulled back the curtain, it was just Donald Trump, with nothing to offer the American people."

A telling quote from one of the many staunch Republicans who are not prepared to go over the top with (or for) Trump: "I don't understand why I should hold the Republican nominee for president to a lower standard than I hold my 5-year-old. You don't call people names. You don't bully people." And this value I share: "It is so beyond me why that is attractive to people."

Trump thinks waterboarding is "fine," along with "killing families of terrorists," and when asked whether members of the military would follow him told Fox News, "They won't refuse. They're not going to refuse me. Believe me." Jonathan Hirsch, just retired from 28 years in the military, a former Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer should represent all of us in being offended at the very idea.

Next in the NYT playlist: Donald Trump's Biker Force includes "Bomb Dog" of the Ohio Gunfighters:

"The armed citizen is the first line of defense; law-abiding weapons carrier, but the people that don't want to follow the law, they'll get what they deserve."

Trump is—what else?—over the top about all the angry white men (and a few of their biker chicks) showing up and amplifying his hey you brown people, get off my lawn message. Give that "just a chainsaw artist from South Carolina" credit: he and his man Donald Trump are indeed "reinventing" the Republican Party. Over the top.

19.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Fifth dimension Permalink to this item

Donald Trump couldn't contain himself to the later days of the convention; he needed to be there from the get-go, upstaging himself with glaring backlighting and teleprompters rising from the pit, the tune of Queen's "We Are the Champions" accompanying him, clapping for himself. The unaddressed ironies only making it more perfect. Half of America is undergoing a conversion therapy, longing for the good old days of the 1960s when... wait, what? We're longing for another Nixon administration, seriously?

The Trump campaign is misappropriating the work of others, old news. You like it? Just take it. We are the champions of the world. No time for losers.

If only Melania's speech-writers had included the part of Michelle's original where treating people with dignity and respect was valued even if you don't agree with them. They skipped that part.

The Rudy Giuliani reprise was beyond weird. Shouty. And a retired General telling us that "War is about winning," and echoing a call to jail Hillary Clinton. Any need to bother with an indictment or conviction? War is crushing people.

Not seen on the main RNC channels, Dana Milbank recounts some of teh crazy face of Trump's GOP burning down on the banks of the Cuyahoga River, with a "freak-show atmosphere" featuring open carry, the droning of kudu horns, a guy carrying an eight-foot wooden cross, and the primary challenger to John McCain saying “We don’t need frail, fearful, old people representing us.”

The law and order candidate Permalink to this item

How do you express your disagreement with divisiveness without being... divisive? That's the tall order for the "rump faction" (as Jonathan Martin and Patrick Healy styled them for the NYT) "determined to resist [Trump] and to send a message that his brand of divisive politics did not represent their party." Threatening to leave before Thursday night's coronation is a thing, but it's hard to imagine the Left Behind doing more than shouting their good riddance and enjoying the balloon drop and drunken stupor all the more.

The "overwhelmingly white audience" heard from mostly white speakers, and a couple of carefully chosen people of color, pleased to demonstrate their contempt for the Black Lives Matter movement. The Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, David A. Clarke Jr., featured in that.

Excerpt of photo from, filename 'hero-1.jpg'

Clarke styles himself The People's Sheriff, with a beautiful white hat over his dressy whites, at least at the top of the page. Most of his uniforms and his podcast teaser have darker themes. He looks good on a horse, no matter how out of place that might be in the wholly urban county he serves. (The county does have some very nice parks.)

Right Wing Watch has taken note of Clarke's "enthusiastically bashing President Obama, his Justice Department, Hillary Clinton and the Black Lives Matter movement" on Fox News and elsewhere. He did not go so far as to refer to BLM as "black slime" at the RNC last night, nor did he reprise his call for "pitchforks and torches" as a solution to the problem of the Supreme Court letting gays marry each other.

Oddly enough, not much about moar guns, either, from the fellow who "used his speaking slot at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention this year to throw red meat to the crowd, including a call for the arrows on the Great Seal of the United States to be replaced with a semi-automatic rifle."

"There is nothing else I'd rather hold in my hand when fighting government tyranny than a Bible in my left hand that I used to swear to uphold the Constitution, and in my right hand, a Winchester rifle, a symbol of freedom and liberty and the United States of America."

"In fact, I propose that we change the Great Seal of the United States, you know the one with the American bald eagle holding an olive branch in one claw and arrows in the other. We should take those arrows out of the eagle’s claws and replace them with a semi-automatic rifle, preferably one that shoots M-855 ammunition.”

If you're not an enthusiast of ammunition, you could look it up, and wonder why a design criticized for "inadequate incapacitation of enemy forces despite them being hit multiple times" would be lauded. Apparently the bullets can exit the body of the enemy without yawing and fragmenting, but there was a kerfuffle about "green tip" M-855s being classified as armor-piercing when hey, we're just having fun and exercising the Constitution.

And protecting ourselves from government tyranny.

And technically they're not really armor-piercing, anyway. Responding to John Q. Public and the 80,000 comments they'd make "publicly available as soon as practicable," the ATF assured us a year ago March that the Obama administration was not coming for your ammunition. They claimed they were making "a good faith interpretation of the law and balanced the interests of law enforcement, industry, and sportsmen." And it was about protecting the lives and safety of law enforcement officers from the threat posed by ammunition capable of penetrating a protective vest when fired from a handgun, which makes it passing strange to have Milwaukee County's sheriff a champion against the tyranny of regulation.

Clarke is assuming that with his Bible in his left hand and his Winchester in his right, he'll be on the winning side when push comes to shove. More from RWW:

Clarke has been colorful in his condemnation of President Obama and Hillary Clinton for sympathizing with the Black Lives Matter movement, calling them “straight-up cop haters.” He called Obama a “heartless, soulless bastard” for speaking up about “goons” killed by police and said that the Obama administration’s attempts to address racial disparities in policing were a plot to “emasculate the police” in order to impose dictatorial control.” He accused the president of worsening racial divides in the country by pitting “whites against blacks” and “Hispanics against Americans.”

Here's his whole speech last night, on YouTube, kicking off with a bad-ass BLUE LIVES MATTER, and then contrasting his heavy heart over the murder of Baton Rouge police officers, with having no one held responsible for Freddie Gray's violent death while in police custody. Yay.

He's about "making American safe again," and there were some nice pre-printed signs in the audience to show for his "prerequisite" meme toward greatness.

"Safety is a shared endeavor," starting with a willingness to play by society's rules, the code that ensures "stability, fairness and respect. It is based on a foundation of trust in each other, and in the people who administer and enforce society's rules, which at its foundation is the rule of law." Citing Martin Luther King, yay for that, and casually waving away the Occupy movement and Black Lives Matter, based on the actions of "some" as "anarchy." That was easy.

"Donald Trump is the steadfast leader our nation needs. He has spoken passionately to me of his belief in our American system of justice, and he speaks of the values that are at the foundation of our social contract."

No one is above the law. Yay. Just one little dig at Hillary Clinton in his speech, no need for him to harp on the main theme of the week. And on sign of the more off-the-hook Constitutional Sheriff or the exquisite irony of accusing Obama of having "classic narcissistic personality disorder."

I don't know if Clarke has done anything heroic, but he's been elected to four 4-year terms, running as a Democrat to match the metropolitan hatch. Yet here he is, dressed to the sheriff-nines, looking heroic, and calling Donald Trump the Hero we need, based on... well, mostly not being Hillary Clinton, but never mind that.

The Wikipedia article on Clarke suggests it's not just the federal government he has difficulty summoning actual trust and respect for; his relationship with Milwaukee Co. government comes up a bit short, too. From 2013:

"Clarke issued a statement calling [Milwaukee County Executive Chris] Abele a 'vindictive little man' and saying that 'Abele should be drug-tested. He has to be on heroin or hallucinating with that statement.' Abele responded by saying that it was 'unfortunate the sheriff, instead of engaging in thoughtful civil discourse, is making personal attacks and making light of a serious problem in our community and state.' On another occasion, Clarke said that Abele had 'penis envy.'"

Update: David Neiwert examined Clarke's conservative media act and "Constitutional" bona fides for the Southern Poverty Law Center last fall.

18.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Shorter Trump/Pence on 60 Minutes Permalink to this item

Gawker selects "the most excruciating moments" for us.

"We are going to have unbelievable intelligence."

Déjà vu! Trump is religious. "I won the evangelicals." Religion is easy, you can just pretend whatever you like. Whatever others seem to like. We like Christians—they're winners. Muslims? Not so much.

Trump answering the question of whether Pence thought Trump had gone too far on John McCain (you remember—that first time we thought, that's it, it's over, this guy is a clown, he's had his 15 minutes and then some). Trump answered the question addressed to Pence.

"You could say yes. I, I, that's ok. That one, you could say 'yes', I mean, that's fine. Hey look, I like John McCain. But we have to take care of our vets."

Coincidentally, it was exactly one year ago today that I opined that The Donald was the rump of the litter, and his casual insult of the 2008 Republican nominee for President would be the epitaph of his campaign.

A year later, almost half the country doesn't care. John McCain doesn't matter. He's not coming to the convention, because he's too busy with his own fight to get re-elected to the Senate. God knows why he wants to keep doing that for a sixth term, and round out four decades in Congress, but that's what he's doing.

Pence just smiled... what was he thinking? We don't know, he didn't get to say much between Trump's interruptions ("excuse me"). He didn't seem to want to say much. He's ok being the quiet man, the conservative, the insider, the straight man.

Lesley Stahl said "I want to know if Mr. Pence would go in and say to you, 'What did you say?'..." while Trump continued to talk over the top of her—and him.

Mr. Pence? Are you there? Is anybody home inside that smiling bobblehead?

A great sense of entitlement Permalink to this item

Scott Mecham's bio blurb under his guest opinion in the Idaho Statesman says he's an independent investment manager and CPA, and he's been working in downtown Boise for nearly 20 years.

Sounds a lot more respectable than his rambling screed featuring the classic motorhead lament of bicyclists who don't pay for roads, break laws, and just Get In His Way, along with a shotgun spray at Boise city officials. He didn't have the temerity to name anyone in particular, but definitely pot-shots at the Mayor, and everyone else at the top of city government.

My photo, 2014

Shorter: Hey you bikers, get off my streets.

There were a couple of weird ideas down toward the end:

"We need a freeway ring around the city and high-speed rail from Caldwell to at least Gowen. In addition, Eagle Road needs a rail system from I-84 to Eagle."

A ring of freeway, now that would really improve the neighborhood. I am all in favor of rail systems, but I'm certain there is no constituency within the nearest ten thousand square miles prepared to pay for such a thing.

What Mr. Mecham and the Statesman didn't get around to mentioning is that he serves on the Ada County Highway District's Bicycle Advisory Committee. Pretty sure he doesn't speak for the BAC; but I do wonder what he contributes to their work. Devil's advocacy? Vox populi? At a minimum, representing the most virulent anti-cyclist part of the community.

It's not news that the ACHD and the cities within it don't always see eye-to-eye, but Mecham's "contribution" to the discussion is about as welcome as another layer of chipseal.

17.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The new ruling family Permalink to this item

The Donald Trump and Mike Pence in gold chairs show was something else. All their differences washed away (except for those areas where Trump gave Pence permission to agree, if not to actually speak long enough to answer a question). Trump let Pence speak a little bit. And Pence was happy to have Trump interrupt him and talk over him so he didn't actually have to answer questions directly.

The religious test for who gets into the country is ON.

"I don't think we should ever tell our enemy what our tactics are," Pence said after Leslie Stahl pressed him on whether he'd be ok with torture. Trump likes that. "Enhanced interrogation saved lives," is what Mike Pence says he thinks.

Let's be clear: "enhanced interrogation" is a euphemism for torture. The evidence for how effective torture has been is equivocal, at best. The argument that the end justifies the means—whatever means—is ethically, morally, legally and politically anathema.

Trump is a liar, and crooked as a gold-trimmed $3 bill. He's doing his best to deflect the ugliness of his own dealings by accusing Clinton of having those very characteristics so central to his own story. If he isn't a sociopath, he's a convincing actor playing one. And Mike Pence, who insists he's a "Christian" first and foremost, is frighteningly malleable, seemingly incapable of responding to the challenges of leadership from a genuine moral foundation. He's now Trump's man, and he'll say whatever is needed to deflect direct questions and honest confrontation with his past positions, now thrown out the window.

The Sunday New York Times covered Trump's history of "being creative with the truth," as they put it for the headline. He has "an operatic record of dissembling and deception," a.k.a. "truthful hyperbole," a.k.a. not truthful, a.k.a. LYING. Not to put too fine a point on it.

"Indeed, based on the mountain of court records churned out over the span of Mr. Trump’s career, it is hard to find a project he touched that did not produce allegations of broken promises, blatant lies or outright fraud."

And the Republican Party is about to express how crazy they are about the guy as their presidential candidate.

Update: Krugman's column on the problem of false equivalency starts with a succinct status report for a lead paragraph:

"When Donald Trump began his run for the White House, many people treated it as a joke. Nothing he has done or said since makes him look better. On the contrary, his policy ignorance has become even more striking, his positions more extreme, the flaws in his character more obvious, and he has repeatedly demonstrated a level of contempt for the truth that is unprecedented in American politics."

15.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Seven weeks Permalink to this item

40% is the high plains of Congressional job approval in the public's opinion, something we recall only from distant memory. The all-time low is 9%, and we're well above that at last check: 16%. A nice, round five times as many people disapprove of Congress' performance as approve. (According to Gallup, 4% have no opinion.)

They don't seem to be able to do a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g, let alone anything useful. Maybe you've heard that old saw (from "some old man who was glad he was still showing up" as one wag put it for Yahoo! Answers), that 90% of success is just showing up.

Where does that leave Congress? Unsuccessful. I had a hard time getting past the first line of this item in the NYT Politics section, not even the whole lead sentence:

"Congress limped out of town Thursday for a seven-week recess..."

What more complete expression of their impotence could they make?

"At midday, Democrats played host to Mrs. Clinton while Republicans retreated to a separate room to enjoy Alaskan salmon and halibut served by Senator Dan Sullivan, Republican of Alaska, as gossip about Mr. Trump’s vice-presidential pick swirled.

"By day’s end, a plan to aid the fight against the mosquito-borne Zika virus, a measure to prevent terrorists from getting guns, scores of judicial confirmations, a sweeping bipartisan criminal justice reform package and basic appropriations bills were left scattered about like errant wrappers from the Senate candy drawer. ..."

For Republicans, "reignit[ing] old disputes over government financing for Planned Parenthood" was more important than doing anything about Zika. Mitch McConnell held a repeat vote "to show that Democrats and not Republicans were the ones obstructing." At some point, he probably stood at a podium for reporters and said "Let's be clear."

“It’s inexplicable,” said Senator Marco Rubio, of Florida, a state that's likely to care very much about Zika.

Excerpt of Mark Wilson/Getty Images photo, for commentary

All they need is one piece of legislation for a good photo op, and Mark Wilson was in the press gaggle to capture "Speaker Paul Ryan signing legislation this month to combat opioid abuse, a bill that became law." (I love the gal in the white jacket who didn't get the memo that said "don't look at the camera! Look at the signing!") Oh, and they reauthorized the FAA. Hopefully they did provide funding for that, because they didn't provide it for the opioid abuse thing.

“Nobody ought to be taking any victory laps,” said Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, with subtle understatement.

“The structure of governing isn’t working,” former Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) said.

So why not take seven weeks off, with pay? (There's fundraising and campaigning to do, don't you know.) Why not accept $23,000+ pay for HALF OF JULY AND ALL OF AUGUST AND INTO SEPTEMBER for really doing nothing instead of all that play-acting in D.C.?

Just don't forget to keep having someone show up to hold those pro-forma sessions so that the Executive branch can't make any recess appointments while you're on recess. Funny story about that "just kidding" perfunctory: the so-called Freedom Caucus stood up on its hind legs and filed a privileged resolution to introduce a measure to impeach the head of the Internal Revenue Service.

Impeach him!

("Conservatives say he wasn't forthright with documents regarding the agency's scrutiny of conservative nonprofits.") Since House rules say that "privileged" measures must be acted on within two legislative days, that will mean action... likely after Labor Day. (No pun intended.) Except...

"Any pro forma sessions, during which no legislative business is conducted, that are held over the recess will constitute legislative days that count toward the resolution's expiration. Consequently, the motion could expire as soon as next week while the House is out of session."

In the meantime, there's strength in numbers. We can't impeach Congress en masse, and no one seems able to throw the bums out individually. (Don't underestimate the power of having "paid administrative leave" while you go fundraising.) Last time we started in on that, we just got a new load of bums, this "Freedom Caucus," for example. (And yes of course, Idaho's District 1 Raúl "do nothing" Labrador is a member.)

The other cheek Permalink to this item

Some kinds of art, you look at it and say "sheesh, I could've done that." You didn't do it, of course, but you could have. If you'd wanted to. And thought of it. Then there are other kinds that go a few steps beyond, and just capture your attention and transport you to another dimension.

Here's one of the latter, filed under "health news," and it is that, and a principle of human interaction, and a hell of a story. From this week's Invisbilia podcast, illustrated and accompanied by the performance collective Manual Cinema: She Offered The Stranger A Glass Of Wine, And That Flipped The Script.

The whole podcast is an hour, more stories and the topic of noncomplementary behavior, civil war in Syria and radicalization. Recommended. Might have to get back into the world of listening to podcasts.

As we brace ourselves for further hostilities—in countries we feel empathy for, and in countries too foreign to elicit that reflex, in political campaigning that seems interminable, and in everyday interaction in social media and real life—something to think about. And oh, this is not actually a new idea, is it? Proverbs 15:1: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

Quatorze Juillet.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Ill-advised Permalink to this item

After Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg told us what she thought of Donald Trump and the prospect of his being president, she reconsidered, and "express[ed] her regret in a statement that fell short of an apology."

“On reflection, my recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them,” she said in a statement. “Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect.”

Some of my friends were distressed that she would back down, but the first thought I had when I heard the news on the radio (including that says-it-all-in-tweet-length quote from her), I thought it was just right. Perfect. It shows her thoughtfulness, and willingness (and ability) to learn. Something that by contrast, Trump so sorely lacks. What she said about him is demonstrably, unquestionably true: He is a faker, he has no consistency about him, he says whatever comes into his head at the moment. And how the hell has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? Why is the press not hounding him on that?

I can't imagine what this place would be--I can't imagine what the country would be--with Donald Trump as our president.

(That's what she said. Speaking for so many of us.) Less than a year ago, all the chief bloviators not only couldn't imagine it, they couldn't even imagine that IT COULD HAPPEN. I hope that's the case, but now that he's the Republican nominee-presumptive, it definitely COULD happen.

All that said, it doesn't need to be said by a Justice of the Supreme Court. She was right the first time, and more right the second.

As for the target of her criticism and incredulity; he just blurted (and tweeted) out the top of his furry head whatever he thought of at the moment, lashing the distinguished judge with his run-of-the-mouth contempt. He certainly won't apologize for any of that, or any of the other contemptible stuff he's said. Never mind reconsidering what is and isn't ill-advised.

As for the more general "outrage" that Justice Ginsburg might freely speak her mind, there is the fact that previous justices have amply shared political opinions, and oh right right right,

"Maybe conservatives shouldn’t argue about the integrity of the Court while in their fourth month of refusing to give it a ninth justice."

Now Richard Boone is following me around too Permalink to this item

That black hat, pictured

Or should I say Paladin is, after I made the connection to that black hat of my teenage years and the TV show that was très cool back then (next post down). Rather than dig around and find a picture of the actual thing, I just searched the web, and to keep from stealing an image, I wrapped what Amazon's serving for the boxed set with an Associates link. (If you've been dying to get that boxed set, by all means, have at it, but it was kind of a joke.)

Anyway, over on Facebook, I'm now seeing ads for the many permutations of recordings of the old Have Gun-Will Travel series. From Amazon.

Or at least I was before I came back to my senses and deleted all of today's cookies.

DWB Permalink to this item

I got stopped by a police officer once in my life on "suspicion." It was back when I was kind of a punk ass kid, but holding down a regular job in a factory, working the night shift. Maybe it was after I'd been promoted to supervisor (of a crew of four, I think it was). I was styling a cheap felt hat, rather like the one Richard Boone wore for his lead role in Have Gun Will Travel, I imagined. It was after midnight, and I was walking home, nearly there, on the deserted streets of the north suburb of Milwaukee where I'd lived almost my whole life.

My home turf. And yeah, I saw the cruiser at some distance, because one, there was no other traffic, and two, I was not fully angelic in my behavior up into the high teens, and knew how to watch out for cops.

But on this particular night, I was faultless. I was just walking home from work, looking forward to climbing into bed. I was legally an adult, and I knew it, and I was doing an adulty thing, coming home from work. And just for the hell of it, and wth a sense of entitlement you might even imagine, I acted suspicious. On purpose. Not in a big way, and not outside the bounds of the straight-as-a-string 5 foot sidewalk I was walking on, next to the grassy median, along the main street at the south end of the Village of Whitefish Bay, the street along which I had walked or bicycled to school and back for eleven years.

Richard Boone as Paladin

I don't remember what or how suspicious I was, but I think I waited until he'd gone off on a side street, and then ran a little bit, so the second time he saw me, the time and distance would have seemed wrong.

Whatever it was, it accomplished my odd purpose, to be stopped by the police, for doing (pretty much) nothing at all. After midnight on a weekday, and the only one out on the street. In an unsuburban black hat.

The cop asked to see my ID, and I wanted to know why he wanted to see my ID, and did not think I had to show it to him. Maybe I started cagey about what I was doing (why did he want to know?), but eventually I'm sure I said I was walking home from work, and lived nearby. (My ID had the address on it, just around the corner, and half a block away.)

He was not amused, and more stubborn than me. He threatened to take me to the police station to sort things out. On what grounds? Resisting arrest? Arrest for what? He had no reason to arrest me, but I did not now the finer points of my rights, and I'm not sure he did, either. At any rate, no one had reported a crime or a suspicious character in the neighborhood. (Lucky me.)

I got as far as the back of the patrol car, and I guess he really didn't want the inconvenience of going anywhere, because we did not, and eventually, to avoid going for a drive (and thus making my time and distance to bed considerably farther), I did cough up my ID card and he could see that sure enough, I lived a few houses down the street. He must've wondered what my problem was. Just eighteen, and male.

What my problem was not, ever, was fear of bodily harm, or really getting arrested, let alone getting put in the village jail. I'd done a thing or two that might have landed me in jail, but not this night, not lately. No one had had "the talk" with me. I was clean as a whistle, full of myself, and striding through the night ready, and prepared for righteous indignation at being challenged. Those were the days.

Tim Scott is a U.S. Senator (from South Carolina), which is kind of a big deal. Speaking in the Senate yesterday, Scott said "In the course of one year, I've been stopped seven times by law enforcement."

Seven times. In one year.

Speeding? At least once, and for "driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood," and stuff. One stop was for not using his turn signal when turning left with a police car right behind him. For the fourth left turn. Coming into the apartment complex where he lived.

Imagine the next time you're out driving, a police car gets behind you and follows you. For four left turns. And takes issue with your proper use of your turn signal.

On the fourth turn.

His brother became a Command Sergeant Major in the U.S. Army, also a position that demands respect. [It's the highest enlisted rank there is, other than the one and only Sergeant Major of the Army. "Functioning without supervision, a CSM’s counsel is expected to be calm, settled and accurate—with unflagging enthusiasm. Supplies recommendations to the commander and staff, and carries out policies and standards on the performance, training, appearance and conduct of enlisted personnel. Assists Officers at the brigade level (3,000 to 5,000 Soldiers)."] He got stopped for driving a Volvo which seemed too nice a car for the likes of him.

"Imagine the frustration, the irritation... the loss of dignity, that accompanies each of those stops."

98 out of 100 of the members of the U.S. Senate haven't had this experience. They'll need some help to be able to empathize, and to recognize that something is seriously wrong here.

13.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Moving forward after tragedy Permalink to this item

In the headlines: Sanders endorses Clinton, calling to unify democrats. Obama tells mourning Dallas, "We are not as divided as we seem." China dismisses The Hague tribunal's rebuke of its south sea takeover. David Cameron hustles out of 10 Downing Street. ("The only resident of 10 Downing Street to be spared the indignity of one of Britain's fastest political transitions in recent memory will be Larry the Cat.")

Michael Lindenberger's appreciation for heartening words all around at yesterday's memorial speech in Dallas included praise for the reminder delivered by former President George W. Bush:

"Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions."

And speaking of judging, RBG and DJT are having a public tit-for-tat, somewhat incredibly, and such that the NYT editorial board weighed in on Trump's side, notwithstanding the raw comedic presumption of his lecturing others on "highly inappropriate" behavior, and the induced incredulity.

“He says what everyone thinks. He says what we’re all thinking. He’s bringing people together. We say, ‘Hey, that’s right; we can say this.’” –Trump supporter

Nicholas Confessore: "Defying modern conventions of political civility and language, Mr. Trump has breached the boundaries that have long constrained Americans’ public discussion of race." And celebrates the supposed virtue of "political correctness" on the way to not just observing that race relations are worsening, but doing quite a bit to make it so.

Trump's campaign has "electrified the world of white nationalists," according to Confessore, and many others. The candidate waves it away as often (and generically) as necessary. "I disavow." And acknowledges all the anger as the wind beneath his wings.

At the memorial in Dallas, President Obama asked, rhetorically, “Can we find the character, as Americans, to open our hearts to each other?” This is not a question anyone can imagine Donald Trump asking. His campaign is about defining who is American, so we can know who all to close our hearts to, and take advantage of. It's just business.

The accusations of Obama making race relations worse are getting more and more histrionic and preposterous. Really, he's done all that just by being black (even though his mother was white; the one-drop rule, remember). The Trump takeover of the GOP is his fault, for getting uppity and getting hisself elected president twice. Calling for unity.

It's not easy to pay attention to a full-length eulogy; it doesn't make the nightly news, and who has time for a 40 minute speech? But it's archived at, and definitely worth the time to read 3,700 words.

"[W]e cannot take the blessings of this nation for granted. Only by working together can we preserve those institutions of family and community, rights and responsibilities, law and self-government that is the hallmark of this nation. For, it turns out, we do not persevere alone. Our character is not found in isolation. Hope does not arise by putting our fellow man down; it is found by lifting others up."

He's bringing people together, if only we will heed his words.

12.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A pony in there somewhere Permalink to this item

Good op-ed by Sam Tanenhaus in the Sunday Review section, How Trump Can Save the G.O.P., and I'm glad that the online version of Nicolas Ortega's amusing cartoon retains some of the original's strength, covering almost the whole front page with ink. "Conservatives should thank him for exposing the party’s real problems" is the thesis in Tanenhaus' subhead.

"For many years — in fact, for much of its modern history — the G.O.P. has made a fetish of ideological rectitude at the expense of meeting the needs of voters. It is Mr. Trump who is finally addressing their real economic concerns."

"Addressing" is easier than resolving, of course. Idaho's Rep. Raúl Labrador repeatedly "addressed" immigration reform when that was the hottest topic going, with the legitimate experience he brought as a legal advocate for immigrants before he changed jobs to career politician. But his only resolution seems to have been to maximize his TV time. He couldn't find his way clear to working with a group of eight, let alone a majority of the House.

What has risen to support from a majority of the House has been mostly one publicity stunt after another. (Not sure why we haven't had the 70th or 80th vote to repeal Obamacare yet.)

I've barely wrapped my head around Trump having captured the GOP nomination, and still consider the possibility of him winning as a Bizarro World scenario that can't get beyond the magazine rack at the dime store. (Not to, uh, date myself or anything.) Maybe this is the winning scenario for the country:

"But even in crushing defeat, he could be a kind of reverse Goldwater who shifts the party closer to the center. Trumpism, if not Mr. Trump himself, might return the party to the pragmatic conservatism of presidents like Eisenhower and Nixon."

The good old days of Eisenhower are a bit sketchy for me (and most of the country), but more of us can remember Nixon, with some mixed nostalgia, especially after Trump just revived the "law and order" theme 48 years on. What a long strange trip the GOP has been.

It's the "bubble of self-regard, the intemperate and blustering bully, the counter-wonk who seems unversed in the most basic policy debates, the rabble-rouser who was slow to disown racists" that's hard to get past to imagine "flexibility and [an] appetite for pragmatic maneuver" could do us some good in a President You-Know-Who.

But if some part of Trump's run can unlock the ideological stranglehold the Tea Party conservatives have on the Republicans, it could be a good thing. Tanenhaus' predictions haven't always come true, of course. His 2009 effort to expand an essay into a book, The Death of Conservatism (now on the bargain shelves) imagined that Obama's election would drive a stake through the heart of

the decadent “movement conservatism” of today, a defunct ideology that is “profoundly and defiantly unconservative—in its arguments and ideas, its tactics and strategies, above all in its vision.”

and that hasn't quite happened.

11.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Behind your scenes Permalink to this item

After Newt Gingrich's remarkable invitation to join the "Speaker's Club" (supposedly "reserved for those who have proved themselves as true conservatives") which gave a chuckle before deletion, I now have a message from Paul Ryan, wondering if I "[got] a chance to see Speaker Gingrich’s email?"

Yes. Yes, I did.

But just in case, the current Speaker of the House forwarded me his invitation (I assume, the saluation as "Paul,") so I'd be sure to see it.

That was his invitation to join... his own fundraising club, odd.

But anyway, do you have Any Idea of all the stuff that goes on under the hood when you click on an email solicitation link like this? I mean beyond the first-level deception of a heavily coded (it's "just for you," don't you know) link to that's labeled as if it were going straight to

I'm a bit more knowledgeable than most, working as I do in web design, and paying some attention to the online advertising business since the dawn of the millennium and before, but I didn't have as much of an idea as I do after Firefox had hung up one too many times and I finally asked the question, how can I just turn off javascript? thinking I might take what's a radical step just once in a while, for those sites that are more broken with javascript on these days.

I was expecting a switch, buried in some crufty documentation, and was perturbed when... huh, I see there still is a switch, described right there on the page I'd searched up, under the heading Enable and disable JavaScript.

How on earth did I miss that? (Another lesson in web design: people can overlook really obvious stuff, even when they're looking for it.)

But I'm glad I did miss the on/off switch, because after I scrolled past that section and down to Allow and block JavaScript on certain domains, with its recommendation for the NoScript privacy extension, I installed it.

On installation, by default, it disables ALL javascripting, which just flat out breaks a lot of web pages these days. By "a lot," I mean just about all. But there are variations to "broken" though, and an accessible [Options...] menu that lets you pick and choose what you'll allow. It's reasonable to let scripting from the page's own domain to run; and typically necessary for basic page styling and function these days. You can "Temporarily allow" if you want to be stingy.

And you can see what other domains are wanting to get involved in your browsing experience. In the case of, his banner headline and the footer box came across, but no function or punchline to the page without javascript. The Options list showed that

wanted a piece of my browser too. Just for fun, and with nostalgia for the good old days of a week ago, I clicked Temporarily allow all this page, to see my facsimile Speaker's Club membership card, the pitch to Become A Member Today and the top of the boxes I might click, to donate $25, $50, $100, or more to join. And lots more scripting barking at the door, thanks to my temporary permission. Check this out:

Screenshot with NoScript UI

In addition to the page's own scripting and the three domains listed the first time, I see snuck in without an invitation. And now

all want to play me. Presumably in the middle there doesn't give a shit.

9.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Zeitgeist Permalink to this item

The June 20th edition of The New Yorker made its way to the desk in front of me, and even these three weeks later, I enjoyed Ryan Lizza's take on the political scene, Occupied Territory, about how the Republican élite struggle over whether to resist Trump or capitulate. It was when Senator Lindsey Graham had drily noted that Trump's racist attack on the judge in the case of Trump U. offered "an off-ramp" to Republicans who didn't want to be Trumpublicans. (The off-ramp has not yet become crowded.)


That was back before James Comey let Hillary Clinton off the hook, sort of, for spilling the beans (sort of) about Kofi Annan and the phone call to Malawi, and before Alton Sterling was shot by Baton Rouge police while pinned to the ground, and before Philando Castile, an apparently decent guy who made the mistakes of being black, having a broken taillight and a concealed carry permit was shot by police while sitting in his car next to his fiancée and in front of her daughter, and his fiancée live-streamed the aftermath on Facebook, and before a decorated, infuriated veteran of the war in Afghanistan killed five and wounded seven Dallas police officers (and two civilians) in the latest (as far as I know; I haven't checked the news this morning) mass shooting, and before Micah Xavier Johnson was then terminated by a police robot carrying a bomb.

I'd already read Adam Gopnik's brief observation on The Horrific, Predictable Result of a Widely Armed Citizenry, and hopped over to George Saunders' full-length answer to his question Who Are All These Trump Supporters? Even with the man's growling, ranting, shouting, digressing, and shtick nugget careening, the supporters and detractors facing off in a gauntlet of bile and prepared for violence, the rather calmer assessment of us vs. them seems a strange respite. About anger.

"Where is all this anger coming from? It’s viral, and Trump is Typhoid Mary. Intellectually and emotionally weakened by years of steadily degraded public discourse, we are now two separate ideological countries, LeftLand and RightLand, speaking different languages, the lines between us down. Not only do our two subcountries reason differently; they draw upon non-intersecting data sets and access entirely different mythological systems. You and I approach a castle. One of us has watched only “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” the other only “Game of Thrones.” What is the meaning, to the collective “we,” of yon castle? We have no common basis from which to discuss it. You, the other knight, strike me as bafflingly ignorant, a little unmoored. In the old days, a liberal and a conservative (a “dove” and a “hawk,” say) got their data from one of three nightly news programs, a local paper, and a handful of national magazines, and were thus starting with the same basic facts (even if those facts were questionable, limited, or erroneous). Now each of us constructs a custom informational universe, wittingly (we choose to go to the sources that uphold our existing beliefs and thus flatter us) or unwittingly (our app algorithms do the driving for us). The data we get this way, pre-imprinted with spin and mythos, are intensely one-dimensional. (As a proud knight of LeftLand, I was interested to find that, in RightLand, Vince Foster has still been murdered, Dick Morris is a reliable source, kids are brainwashed “way to the left” by going to college, and Obama may yet be Muslim. I expect that my interviewees found some of my core beliefs equally jaw-dropping.)"

Saunders talked to some of those Trump supporters, who he found "friendly, generous with their time, flattered to be asked their opinion, willing to give it, even when they knew I was a liberal writer likely to throw them under the bus," go figure. One story of the "usurpation anxiety syndrome" he saw:

A former marine in line for a Trump rally in Rothschild, Wisconsin, tells me that, returning to the U.S. from a deployment overseas, he found himself wondering, “Where did my country go?” To clarify, he tells me that he was in Qatar on the day that Obama was first elected. “I was actually sitting in the chow hall when they announced the results and he gave his speech,” he says. “I saw such a division at that time. Every black member of the military was cheering. Everybody else was sitting there mute. Like stunned.”

That would have been a long time ago. Seven and a half years. One fellow who might or might not be a Trump supporter, but assuredly is not going to vote for Clinton, commenting on the Huckleberries blog in the Spokane paper expressed how "terribly disappointed" he is with Obama.

"Not only for his foreign policy and economic policy but mostly for his handling of the race issue. When he was first elected, I had high hopes that the race issue would finally be put to bed. After all, having elected a black President surely demonstrates our Country is not race driven. We are open to all races and the opportunity provided to each of them. But, Obama has created a racial divide in the Country that haunts us each day. It started with Treyvon Marin and continued through Ferguson and all of the race related tragedies we have endured. In Ferguson, he sent the Justice Department to investigate and hopefully find a racial element. Sending Eric Holder was a clue. But, after a thorough investigation, it was determined that the shooting was justified and "hands up, don't shoot" was a myth. A falsehood. It never happened and yet it become the rally cry for black lives matter and other similar movements. Obama has taken sides in these matters time and time again and it has divided the Country. Obama was given a great opportunity to heal all racial wounds and rather than healing them, he put salt on them to make them fester."

It's hard to know where to start, but I think the core issue is that Obama made the mistake of presidenting while black. Supporting Black Lives Matter (which Mr. hmoffsuite equates with killing cops) "was divisive." That name starting with BLACK is divisive. Depending on the implied "TOO" is too subtle. Can't we all just get along? We elected a black president, aren't we done?

History professor, possible Trump Vice-President wannabe and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (a man who knows something about divisiveness) just announced that HE GOT IT: It is more dangerous to be black in America.

"It took me a long time, and a number of people talking to me through the years, to get a sense of this: If you are a normal, white American, the truth is you don't understand being black in America, and you instinctively underestimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk."

7.7.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

There ought to be clowns Permalink to this item

Grade school photoshop from CHQ

A little unintended humor as Richard Viguerie ticks off all the people he thinks Trump shouldn't pick for VP, calling it a "CHQ Exclusive." Very exclusive. I can hardly hardly wait until he gets around to his actual selection, which I assume will be Ted Cruz.

So far, it is totally Just Say NO to Chris Christie and Choosing Bob Corker as VP Would Crash Trump’s Campaign (how would we know?) and John Kasich May Be Trump's Worst Option, all with a photoshopped jester hat that looks... well, about as cartoonish as the guy who's picking. Along with the mad drawing skillz, they're able to mine the archives and find a photo of the No/Crash/Worst guy with BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA, administering the touch of death to any True Conservative®.

ConservativeHQ is awfully dour about all this. The readers of the New York Times provided a lot more fun with their thoughts and suggestions for Trump's VP, none of which seemed to turn up John Kasich. Everybody else is there. Sarah Palin! Some other cartoon character! Donald Trump himself! Or why not Ivanka? Steven Ager's rewrite for a Sondheim tune is perfect. Look for it. Also, the last word on Rick Perry.

Doubling down Permalink to this item

Just the first 12 seconds of the clip from Reuters, top of this NYT report of Trump responds to media criticism gave me pause. It's a rally, sure, but so shouty. So angry. This man has some serious problems. Re-parsing his own bully English,

"I SAID, 'BAD GUY, REALLY BAD GUY, BUT HE WAS GOOD AT ONE THING, HE KILLED TERRORISTS.' NEXT DAY, 'Donald Trump loves Saddam Hussein,' I don't love Saddam Hussein, I hate Saddam Hussein, but he was DAMN GOOD AT KILLING TERRORISTS..."

And so on. First of all, someone needs to clue the Donald into the fact that Saddam Hussein is dead. He's over, he can't feel the hate any more. Secondly, he did not actually have that much to do with "terrorists" back in the day, unless you want to imagine that the majority Shi'ite population of Iraq back then and "Terrorist" are identical categories. (Ok, sure, a lot of folks at the Cincinnati rally that Trump was shouting at probably do imagine. And include all the Sunnis too.)

Third of all, is Trump trying to win, or lose? Maybe the lesson he took from lining his pockets as his crappy businesses went bankrupt was that losing pays. When he should be talking about nothing but the rigged system that's letting Hillary Clinton off the hook for mismanaging a tiny handful of the tens of thousands of emails during her time as Secretary of State—he had notes to read from—he can't help but go off-script and apoplectic.

On script, after he declared that Clinton "lied," the crowd cheered. Trump reads on, "She sent vast amounts of classified information," where by "vast" the script-writer was just flat-out lying, and Trump is just reading, what the hell does he know? Also the "the lives of the American people put at risk" part of the script, "so that she could carry on her corrupt financial dealings" and then riffing off-script, "probably, that's probably why she didn't want people to see what the hell she was doing."

Trump knows about keeeping people from seeing what the hell he's doing (and corrupt financial dealings) well enough; that's why we're not looking through his tax returns these days.

We know a lot more about Hillary Clinton's emails at this point than about Donald Trump's corrupt financial dealings and tax dodging. Of the 30,000+ emails Clinton turned over the State Department, a good number ("more than 2,000" according to had classified information, most of which was classified after the fact. 110 were said to have "contained classified information at the time they were sent or received."

And "some," FBI Director James Comey told us, "bore markings indicating the presence of classified information." The FBI found "several thousand work-related emails" that Clinton (and her lawyers) hadn't produced and of those, Comey said three were classified at the time they were sent or received.

Tommy Christopher, writing for MediaIte boils it down further. The "very small number" Comey referenced was TWO, and Comey's curiously indirect "markings indicating the presence" is about "the notations contained in both of the emails in question were the result of human error." Christopher's headline from yesterday summarizes his position: "Here’s Why Hillary Clinton Isn’t a Liar and James Comey Needs to Shut the Entire Hell Up," which he goes on to explain pretty well, actually.

If that seems too web-random, take it from the New York Times

"While [Comey] did not identify any [of the 'very small number'], he was evidently referring to two emails that one of Mrs. Clinton’s close aides, Monica R. Hanley, sent to prepare her for telephone calls with foreign leaders, according to a State Department official familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified information.

"One email, dated Aug. 2, 2012, noted that Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations, was stepping down as special envoy trying to mediate the war in Syria. A second one, sent in April 2012, discussed Mrs. Clinton’s call to the newly inaugurated president of Malawi.

"Each was marked with a small notation, “(C),” indicating it contained information classified as “confidential.”

Neither Kofi Annan stepping down as special envoy to Syria nor a phone call to Malawi seem quite capable of putting "the lives of the American people" at risk to me. YMMV.

6.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Make America grate again Permalink to this item

Screen grab from CBS News

As a friend put it on Facebook, the world according to the GOP's Presumptive:

Hillary Clinton: evil (but only after he cashed her wedding gift)
President Obama: evil
Saddam Hussein: strong guy
Vladimir Putin: strong guy
Kim Jong-Un: strong guy
Chinese Communist Party: strong guys

Oh, and the link to the snippet from CBS News, wherein Donald Trump praises Saddam Hussein.

"You know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn't read 'em the rights. They didn't talk. They were terrorists–it's over!"

Call it the new Republican Party vision for America. We aspire to have a country as great as Iraq was under Saddam Hussein.

5.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Heads exploding in 3, 2, 1... Permalink to this item

No criminal charges?! And, uh, no comparison to other Secretaries of State, Colin Powell and aides to Condeleezza Rice in particular, but let's move forward. The Chief Strategist for the Republican National Committee, Sean Spicer got a softball from Judy Woodruff on the Newshour tonight: "What is an appropriate punishment in your view?" she asked, and whoops, he did not have a ready answer.

"I don't understand how you square that circle," he said.

In FBI Director James Comey's "unusual transparency" we heard that "there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information," a curiously adjective-rich assessment, that the Republicans and Donald Trump will be making hay out of.

The outrage coming to my inbox would be slightly more convincing if it weren't combined with fundraising for the NRCC. The system is rigged! Send money!

The final conclusion, from Comey:

“Opinions are irrelevant, and they were all uninformed by insight into our investigation, because we did the investigation the right way. Only facts matter, and the FBI found them here in an entirely apolitical and professional way. I couldn’t be prouder to be part of this organization.”

About Jupiter Permalink to this item

We don't know how long Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager from JPL practiced this line, but it made for a nice tidbit in the presser about a JOIfull 4th of July. That's Juno Orbit Insertion: “The spacecraft worked perfectly, which is always nice when you’re driving a vehicle with 1.7 billion miles on the odometer.”

This is rocket science, on the other end of the not-quite five years ago launch, August 5, 2011 from Cape Canaveral.

For those of us accustomed to seeing live coverage, or at least a lot of pictures on our Facebook news feed, the event was under-illustrated, but if things go well, that will be amply corrected shortly. In the meantime, yesterday's image of the day: Juno closes in on Jupiter. JunoCam was shut down 5 days before insertion, 3.3 million miles out. That's 14 times the distance between Earth and our one Moon, but close enough to mark Jupiter's biggest four, the ones that Gallileo saw, just over 400 years ago: Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa. (All due respect, but the other 63 moons and the rings are less than 1/30,000th of the total orbiting mass. Ganymede has twice our Moon's mass; the top three are all larger, and Europa still more than half of Moon.)

Screen shot of the NASA Juno Mission Trailer

In case your memory of Juno as a free email service is fresher than your Greek mythology:

"During its mission of exploration, Juno will circle the Jovian world 37 times, soaring low over the planet's cloud tops -- as close as about 2,600 miles (4,100 kilometers). During these flybys, Juno will probe beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and study its auroras to learn more about the planet's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

"Juno's name comes from Greek and Roman mythology. The mythical god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief, and his wife -- the goddess Juno -- was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter's true nature."

If you were looking for more 4th of July excitement from Juno (I have to say, I kind of was), you could watch the Juno Mission Trailer again. The closeup of Io and its shadow over the roiling Great Red Spot—twice the size of Earth—is mesmerizing. It also takes me back to another image of Io and its shadow, one that I used to illustrate a tech talk about this new-fangled World Wide Web, given back in 1997. That image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, is still available from JPL, along with a ton more, including—why settle for just one eclipse when you can have three?—the triple conjunction of Europa, Callisto, and Io on Jan. 24, 2015. (Amalthea and Thebe were in the mix too.)

One of the other interesting (not quite so dramatic, but it's "360" interactive) videos notes that there are three "passengers" on board: Gods Jupiter and Juno, and Human Gallileo done up in aluminum Lego.

2.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A hundred years on Permalink to this item

Yesterday marked the centennial of the battle of the Somme, in which the industrial revolution and the seemingly insatiable human longing for war combined to take the lives of one and a half million men.

When J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" was made into a movie, its battle scenes seemed a bit excessive, true as they might have been to the books. But the author was working from first-hand experience, as Joseph Loconte describes for the anniversary. He was a 24-year-old junior officer, and as such, with a limited life expectancy. (If it were a Star Trek episode, he would have been wearing a red shirt.)

It's a hell of a story.

The BBC's timeline of 141 days of horror suggests that if anything, the story of the orcs and elves and men and hobbits and Nazgûl didn't quite capture it all.

1.July.2016 Permanent URL to this day's entry

MILWAUKEE Permalink to this item

So much has transpired, where to begin? Tuesday [June 29] I went into town with Bob—to the Co-op & then to Stella where with much tribulation and camaraderie, Bruce & I put in a Seguino crank & Simplex derailleur. Took all day but quite nicely. 2 good Michelins for free.

[Skipping the bits about friends remembered and not, enjoying a free day in Madison. Then after the goodbyes, on July 1...]

On the road again. Those tall gears are wonderful. More energy is required but it makes you go faster. (Duh!) Out & on the road before you know it & down it. Hilly Wisconsin farmland fine sunshine brkfst. in Jefferson Centr. A waitress/cook/busboy got everything done. Past rivers & lakes to a wayside & down grade to Waukesha. An A&W showed up on Blue Mound Road & refreshment found. Tried (or planned, rather) a route into town which soon deteriorated to random N & E zig zags. Ended up heading to Walthers via 35th St. Not as bad as I imagined it would be. Talked to Phil & headed for the burbs. Skip & Mom were here so it was a pleasant homecoming.

Map of day 25

[That first century ride in Montana with the wind at my back from (near) Checkerboard to Roundup had me thinking I needed a bigger top gear, and with a new cotterless crank to replace the creaky original, I added a 54T chainring that was just the thing for roller coaster Kettle Moraine hills.

These days, a ride from Madison to Milwaukee can go via the Glacial Drumlin Bike Trail, from Cottage Grove to Waukesha, developed ten years after my ride. Of course it's built on abandoned railroad right of way, more of what used to be the Chicago & Northwestern, the same line that rumbled through my dreams from down at the end of the street I grew up on.

Would I pay $5/day to ride on a 52 mile trail? No. $1.18 in 1976 dollars? Maybe, probably not. My daily spend averaged about $6, and toll roads weren't in the budget.

From one short-term hometown to the bigger one where I grew up, not exactly to my childhood home; the folks had moved out of that after I went off to college. This was originally my notion of the whole trip, and the next step was to do some architectural intern work for the new building (the 5th, and current one) to house Wm. K. Walthers, Inc., the business my grandfather started, and that my brother Phil is running today. In '76, the business was on 34th St. and I'd put in a lot of miles on the Raleigh between home, and high school and the office, working in the print shop, warehouse, and Terminal Hobby Shop. Google's street view of that old building (November, 2015) is ripe for nostalgia, leaves yellow and gone and the place for sale, a faded sign for Southeastern Education Center over the door and looking all empty inside. I worked during July in one of the upstairs rooms, and out at the new place, the former big box discount store on Florist Ave, 3½ miles away. At some point, there was a rooftop tour at the new place:

Up on the roof

So, that's the first half of the trip, 1,726 miles, give or take, just over 69 a day for 25 days on the road. I scanned ahead to see when it was I got the notion to keep going, without finding it. What I do see is that I resumed on July 31st, which will book-end this month's edition of the blog with today's "ending" and new beginning.]

Map of 25 days


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007