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30.June 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Idaho's idea of a Grand Old Party Permalink to this item

We heard yesterday that Raúl Labrador had risen up out of the obscurity of his failed bid to be Governor, and got himself elected chairman of the Idaho Republican's by the narrowest possible margin of 220 delegates voting. Now today, I see it was another party has-been, fomer Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna who picked up the "finalist" trophy. As the winner put it:

"It’s amazing how close it was," Labrador said. "It tells us how our party is divided and united."

United and divided behind two of the less distinguished members of the right wing nut-job faction. Either one would be a step up from the fellow who had to resign for reasons that used to be scandalous but are now merely tawdry. First-degree stalking, and doing his thing in the bushes, is the allegation.

Anyhow, the party is moving forward, after a fashion. In his call for unity, the newly elected chairman exhorted the members to "stand united" and to "do the things that are necessary to defeat the real enemy, which is the bad ideas of the other side."

Here in Idaho. Where no idea advanced by the Democrats can advance without a significant measure of Republican support, and bad Republican ideas can only be thwarted by a veto or the voters. We sent Tom Luna's bad ideas packing with referendums; broke the Republican stalemate on Medicaid expansion with an initiative; and it took Governor Brad Little to stop the GOP's attempt to silence future voters' efforts with a veto. (The attempt to neuter the voters' initiative and referendum power is bound to be back, next session.)

In the 2019 session, one of our district 16 representatives, John McCrostie, mentioned a few Democratic ideas that passed:

And the Democrats helped kill HJR2 that would have tipped the composition of the redistricting commission to let the GOP gerrymander legislative districts after the 2020 census. I guess that would be one of the "bad ideas of the other side"?

G20 Permalink to this item

While our president* was palling around with terrorists at an international gathering of world leaders this week, signaling how much he likes the Russian and Saudi Arabian method for controlling the press, we had the two waves of Democrats on prime time, vying for attention along with NBC's lineup of sponsors. Twenty, count 'em, twenty, plus a few also-did-not-rans who failed to make the cut, who few among us could hope to name on a quiz show.

Leading the "who?" and "why?" categories, Marianne Williamson. ICYMI, this effusive recap by Emily Stewart for Vox: "everything she said was awesome."

"She sort of feels like a cross between your local psychic, the hippie lady who runs the town secondhand store, and your mom (or, um, you) two glasses of Chardonnay deep. She speaks with a cadence and accent that’s hard to put your finger on, but let's just say it's the definition of, as Marianne would probably put it, groovy."

Hello, lamppost, what'cha knowin'? Stewart names half of the candidates we didn't see along the way, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Rep. Seth Moulton, and mentions the jab against "all these plans," that Donald Trump won with just that mindless MAGA slogan, so... um, what? The discontinuity function, in the god bless the folks who tried to capture the (INAUDIBLE) (CROSSTALK) (MULTIPLE PEOPLE SHOUTY) full transcript:

"I will tell you one thing it’s really nice if we got all these plans but if you think we are going to beat Donald Trump by just having all of these plans you’ve got another [think] coming because he didn’t [win] by saying he had a plan. He won by simply saying make America great again. We’ve got to get deeper than just the superficial fixes as important as they are."

Right T oh.

28.June 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Like a heat wave, burning Permalink to this item

You don't miss your water until your well runs dry. You don't miss your jet stream and global circulation patterns until your thermometer goes POP. Haven't heard much about it lately, but I think about the Gulf Stream once in a while, and how Europe might fare if the North Atlantic drift changes that. (We don't know.)

On the subject of thermometers, and measurements in Celsius as almost all of the world uses, here's a simple guide:

Two days ago, news was that European heat waves are the new normal. One tidbit of many: "By mid-June, the number of wildfires across Europe had already far exceeded those in the entire 2018 season." Just below the Jens Meyer photo of lemurs at a zoo in Germany licking fruit-filled ice blocks on Wednesday, this:

"The jet stream and other circulation patterns are changing. This favors the buildup of hot and dry conditions over the continent, sometimes turning a few sunny days into dangerous heat waves, according to Dim Coumou, a researcher at the Institute for Environmental Studies at Vrije University in Amsterdam. ...

"The number of heat waves in France has doubled in the past 34 years and is expected to double again by 2050, while their intensity has also increased."

Today's news is France's hottest day on record.

🌡️44.3°C : nouveau #record de #température absolu battu à #Carpentras dans le #Vaucluse en ce vendredi après-midi à 13h48. Précédent record : 44.1°C à Conqueyrac le 12/08/2003. ⚠️ Attention ce record reste provisoire, la valeur pourrait encore augmenter.

— Météo-France (@meteofrance) June 28, 2019

And at the end of that short Heat waves are on the rise piece from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) that the NYT linked to, this, with my emphasis:

"While in Europe we worry about reaching 40° Celsius this week, India has seen temperature records above 50° Celsius recently. Heat waves can heavily impact societies by leading to additional deaths in vulnerable groups such as old people and children, and the combination of hot and dry conditions can lead to water shortages and harvest failures. Only rapidly reducing fossil fuel use and hence CO2 emissions can prevent a disastrous further increase of weather extremes linked to global heating."

50°C is halfway from freezing to boiling. 122°F.

27.June 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Gerrymandering is just fine Permalink to this item

SCOTUS handed the dead king of gerrymandering, Thomas Hofeller, a win and a loss today as they wrap up their year. The loss of the citizenship question in the 2020 census is a big deal, but the win is even bigger: as Mother Jones puts it, the Supreme Court’s gerrymandering ruling is a doomsday scenario for voting rights.

[T]he court’s conservative majority, in a 5-4 opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts, found Thursday that drawing maps to help one party remain in power presents “political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts.” “We conclude that partisan gerrymandering claims present political questions beyond the reach of the federal courts,” Roberts wrote.

State courts may or may not be willing and able to intervene where the federal courts have vacated the field. Voters may or may not be able to act through initiatives—as some did as recently as last year—to right the wrongs of gerrymandering and other forms of voter suppression.

Absent such intervention, the stated motivation and accomplishment of North Carolina's redistricting commission will almost certainly become the norm. As reported in the New York Times, the NC GOP won 10 of 13 Congressional seats with 53% of the statewide vote in 2016, and again in 2018, with the statewide vote "about evenly divided."

In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan outlines the majority's failure:

“The only way to understand the majority’s opinion is as follows: In the face of grievous harm to democratic governance and flagrant infringements on individuals’ rights — in the face of escalating partisan manipulation whose compatibility with this nation’s values and law no one defends — the majority declines to provide any remedy. For the first time in this nation’s history, the majority declares that it can do nothing about an acknowledged constitutional violation because it has searched high and low and cannot find a workable legal standard to apply.”

Update: As usual, Charles Pierce says it better than I do.

"Once you've legalized bribery and influence-peddling, and declared the Day of Jubilee on which racism had vanished entirely from our election procedures, legalizing gerrymandering is a pretty easy lift. ..."

"Citizens United opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate money, which led to conservative legislative majorities that were insulated from inconvenient voters by Shelby County, and that now can immortalize themselves by drawing up their own maps with which to do so. This has worked to create a charade of self-government to replace the real one that threatened for years to cause themselves and their donors all kinds of trouble."

Sum sum sum sum sum sum summertime Permanent URL to this day's entry

Head for the hills Permalink to this item

11 Texas Senate Democrats fled the 2003 legislature for a month and a half in 2003, to try to stymie Republican gerrymandering, after a group of state representatives had done likewise. Here's a stab from the past in the Wikipedia account:

"U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, then a powerful figure in Texas politics, advocated arresting the Texas Eleven, telling reporters that he supported using FBI agents or U.S. Marshals to arrest the runaway Democrats and bring them back to Austin, asserting that redistricting is a matter of federal concern."

That page links to the section of the quorum page on quorum busting, with briefs on the 2003 Texas incident, the 2011 moves by Democrats in Wisconsin and Indiana, and now this latest incident, of Republicans trying to prevent Oregon Democrats from taking action for climate change.

In a related vein, a letter to the Chicago Sun Times back when Republican members of Congress were fleeing out of embarrassment in 2018. They ran Paul Ryan's photo with it, appropriately enough.

In the now-Democratic controlled big House, the GOP is not so organized as to have a quorum-busting minority flee foggy bottom (if that's even a possible tactic), but Chip Roy of Texas thinks forcing lots of roll call votes is the next best thing. As the headline puts it, colleagues grouse: "This Is So Stupid." Speaking of disasters, Roy also managed to delay passage of a $19 billion disaster relief bill last month, after hit had passed the Senate, and The Dems tried to get it done before Memorial Day. "Single-handedly" stopping unanimous consent, what a bold move. (After Congress' extended holiday "weekend," the House passed it 354-58.)

Is all fair in love and war? Is gerrymandering war? Trying to prevent climate catastrophe, is that war on the Republican way of life in Oregon? (Tim Horrell of McMinnville calls himself a "former Democrat" and the legislation an "atrocity.")

Eventually we'll have to accept the consequences of our failure to cooperate. When full-on cataclysm actually hits, we're pretty good at pulling in the same direction in adrenalin-fueled bursts. But we don't seem capable of keeping it up for more than a little while.

June 2019 photo

Flag Day 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

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

Shep Smith's head is quietly exploding, on the non-propaganda side of Fox News. "As if he doesn't know the difference between lunch with the Queen of England and stuff coming from a Russian translator!"

Smith: "When you heard this, what was your first reaction?"

Judge Andrew Napolitano: "The President of the United States of America is prepared to commit a felony to get re-elected."

Or as Susan B. Glasser observes for The New Yorker, "there is no such thing as an outrage-free week anymore." Trump is now pro-collusion, as he feeds on "division and discord," rather like one of those original Star Trek demons who made alien civilizations fight each other to feed on the energy of hate, "a reminder of Trump’s uniquely successful brand of public crazy." Consider this astounding fact of our current national stature in the eyes of the world:

"In Germany today, Trump’s approval rating is somewhere around ten per cent, and surveys have shown that Putin is more trusted as an international actor than the American President."

Slight misstatements Permalink to this item

We no longer have that nagging question few of us had really thought to consider a few years back: what would it be like to have a genuinely immoral, self-absorbed tyrant with utter contempt for the law as president of the most powerful nation in the world? As the man himself might have put it, "not good."

It seemed awful enough when George Bush the Lesser was the man, and Richard B. "Dick" Cheney and a team of legal goons in the Department of Justice were greenlighting torture and mass surveillance in service to the Unitary Executive. The Republicans were all in favor until it was Barack Obama in charge. In spite of their program of obstruction and sabotage, we had a time of recovery and rebuilding, and then, the great hijacking. Mitch McConnell set the scene as Unitary Executive of the Senate and gateway to the Supreme Court, and then Donald Trump turned the Grand Old Party into a Grifting Parade of Oligarchy.

Our utterly untrustworthy president, wholly unfit for an executive position, solely interested in his personal aggrandizement, is now blowing up international trade, blowing up international relations, blowing up treaties left and right, blowing up diplomacy, and likely to blow up the middle east (again) for a campaign stunt. He has now effectively confessed to obstruction of justice on at least two national TV networks in one-on-one interviews. "That Russiar thing" with Lester Holt on NBC News in May, 2017, and now to George Stephanopoulos on ABC News.

Screen shot from ABC News

"Excuse me," he says, interrupting, bullying, lying. Props to Stephanopoulus for staying cool as a cucumber and letting the orange gas bag show us the full depth of his fatuous sociopathic self in an exceprt of less than 2 minutes. Falsely claiming there was no crime; accusing Don McGahn of perjury, and "excuse me" for himself not testifying. Donald Trump? Under oath?! Shirley, you jest.

You might say this is belaboring the obvious, but a great question: "If you answer these questions to me now, why not answer them to Robert Mueller under oath?"

(Not because we need to know why; that's obvious. But because we want to hear and see the tap dancing walrus.)

"Because... they were looking to get us for lies, for slight misstatements," he says pursing his tiny lips and tiny fingers. So slight. The slightest misstatements ever in the history of the world.

"I looked at what happened to people, and it was very unfair. Very very unfair."

He's talking about "people" who lied to the FBI, and who pleaded guilty or were convicted of that and other crimes. While this deceitful bastard is sitting in the garden for an interview.

Screen shot from ABC News

You can tell when George found the mark, pointing out that Trump's answers to questions from the Special Counsel didn't include answers to the evidence of obstruction. When Trump is cornered, it's "excuse me, excuse me, I'm talking," or coming up with a name to call his antagonist. (Not usually to his or her face; Trump prefers to perform for a mob, attacking people who aren't there to punch back at him.)

Here's the criminal on the White House grounds, pressed with a completely legitimate question on his deliberate deception, obstruction of justice, and lying, and what's his comeback? "Look George, you're being a little wiseguy, OK?"

Michelle Goldberg poses the only question that matters right now, from Trump to America: Who’s Going to Stop Me? No need to belabor who isn't going to stop him. It won't be the perfidious Senate Majority Leader or his team of dwarfs in the US Senate, blocking any moves to protect our electoral system from foreign monkey-wrenching. Idaho's two Republican Senators, Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, have consistently shown that none of this bother them enough to say anything out loud. They are perfectly fine with a lawless president, so long as it's a Republican.

"That Trump has no loyalty to his country, its institutions and the integrity of its elections is not surprising. That he feels no need to fake it is alarming. With the end of Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, House Democrats’ craven fear of launching an impeachment inquiry, and the abject capitulation of Republicans to Trumpian authoritarianism, the president is reveling in his own impunity.

"Maybe the insult of it can jolt the country out of its current stasis. Every so often, Trump says or does something so grotesque that it cuts through the despairing numbness engendered by his presidency, galvanizing the forces of decency anew. It happened after Trump defended white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, after he compared nonwhite countries to excrement, and after he bowed and scraped before Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. This should be one of those moments."

12.June.2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Uninformed healthcare consumption Permalink to this item

Neither of the members of the household are big on consuming, which generally is a good thing. "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" expresses a common goal of staying out of the system (as well as those days of yore when a doctor might come to you instead of vice versa).

But when you need one, availability seems a virtue. We were pleased to find a doctor more or less in our neighborhood, and available for very timely attention, when Jeanette needed medical attention last month. There was a prescription, a referral, additional testing to be done, and a procedure, all in the space of less than a month. I'm sure it's familiar to many, but not to us.

The only talk about money, and the only money changing hands for quite a bit of attention so far was for the inexpensive prescription. $9.99. Jeanette has had Medicare (parts A and B) for some years now, alternating briefly with a Medicare Advantage deal that included Part D when it was new, and no added cost, but dropping D (and the alt-insurance) when it started to have a premium. If you're not taking any regular medication, an insurance program for medication doesn't price out. (Of course Something Could Happen, but she/we opted to self-insure against that possibility. This time, anyway, the bottle of pills affirmed the decision.)

The first notice that all this competent, professional attention would require payment came in the form of an invoice from the first provider, for the first visit, not quite 4 weeks later. 5 line items, 4 with numbers in the $ columns at right. There's a claim number and provider to start, n/c. Then the "Description of Service" written in code designed to be compact, and unreadable by laymen and women. A numeric code (no decode, no footnote), followed by OV NEW PT DETAILED LOW MDM. Not sure about "OV," but new patient, detailed, low, medium. What? And the charges for that, $188.00. Payments from MEDICARE NORIDIAN (what's NORIDIAN?) of 0.00, and then an "Adjustment" of 85.81 from MEDICARE NORIDIAN, leaving "Your Balance Due On These Services" the difference, $102.19.

Like most questions, you can find an answer on the web to what is CPT Code 99203? for the price of an ad view. (I searched for "medical code 99203," so learned that the magic word is "CPT" for free.) It covers a visit including "a detailed patient history, a detailed examination and a medical decision with low complexity." (I wonder what an undetailed history or examination would be. And what "complexity" thresholds might be.)

Apparently (AFAWK, since Medicare hasn't reported anything to us), they like to charge $188 for this but Medicare only allows $102.19. Medicare A+B doesn't cover an OV NEW PT DETAILED LOW MDM, but it provides a discount.

When reviewing this blog post with Jeanette (and obtaining her permission to post something nominally about her), she wondered what the redress would be for providers charging more than Medicare allows. No idea about that, but it did lead to an insight about rate-setting: providers are motivated to aim high; if they charge exactly what Medicare allows, it's all the same to them, and us. But maybe Medicare will bump its allowance up, and they don't want to aim low, and get paid less than they could have. In the case at hand, for this, "the code most commonly used for evaluation and treatment of new patients," we get a make-believe "46% discount" from the nominal charge; the uninsured get to pay the 84% higher price than Medicare allows.

The web also tells us about Noridian Healthcare Solutions; it's outsourced administration, based in Fargo ND, an LLC, a subsidiary of Noridian Mutual Insurance Company®, and has been "a trusted Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) since CMS opened its doors in 1966." Also, "Our solutions are designed and delivered by employees who never lose sight of the health care recipient behind every transaction." (I assume that garnered more thumbs up than "we value you as a health care recipient" in the focus group.)

Welcome to the machine.

11.June 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Lessons from the Mueller Report, continued Permalink to this item

Really, just reading highlights would be instructive. Rep. Ted Deutch, Democrat of FL-22 works that angle at 1:50-ish of the 4:25 C-SPAN video. After the president has told McGahn to fire the Special Counsel, and McGahn has refused to do it, considered resigning, and been talked out of it by Reince Priebus. Rob Porter was the next guy in line to take orders from the feckless Lord Orange. From page 115-6, of volume 2:

"The next day, on February 5, 2018, the President complained about the Times article to Porter. The President told Porter that the article was 'bullshit' and he had not sought to terminate the Special Counsel. The President said that McGahn leaked to the media to make himself look good. The President then directed Porter to tell McGahn to create a record to make clear that the President never directed McGahn to fire the Special Counsel. Porter thought the matter should be handled by the White House communications office, but the President said he wanted McGahn to write a letter to the file 'for our records' and wanted something beyond a press statement to demonstrate that the reporting was inaccurate. The President referred to McGahn as a 'lying bastard' and said that he wanted a record from him. Porter recalled the President saying something to the effect of, 'If he doesn't write a letter, then maybe I'll have to get rid of him.'

Let that sink in. The president instructed the White House counsel to create a false record to attempt to corroborate the president's lie, while accusing Don McGahn of being "a lying bastard."

Lessons from the Mueller Report, Presidential Obstruction and Other Crimes Permalink to this item

That was the full title recited by the House Judiciary Committee chairman, introducing yesterday's hearing. ICYMI, it's about a direct attack on our democratic process. The Special Counsel's team did not find sufficient evidence to charge criminal conspiracy, but they did document 171 contacts between members of the Trump campaign and transition team, and the campaign.

I watched some of it, around an hour and a half of the four and a half. The following is a bit long, but it's not that long. Take what you like.

What did ranking member Doug Collins from Georgia have to add?

He stipulates that we were attacked, but he has a question about our priority here. ("Proaritee" once he gets worked up.) We should do something about the attack! He doesn't want to hear from mere commentators.

"Wull guess what, this committee is now hearing from the seventies and they want their star witness back!"


Good news, C-SPAN2 is not just a fixed camera anymore, they've got multiple views, and a switcher! So let's see that star, John Dean, patiently waiting his turn, with a wry smile at this smarmy bastard's attempted insult of the man who brought down Richard Nixon by telling the truth.

And cut back to him after Collins skips over the "corrupt cabal of Strzok, Page, McCabe, Comey and others, how we actually got started here" to accuse John Dean of being the Godfather of... something. The mob of attacking unlikeable presidents, that's all.

Remind us, Ranking Member Collins, of just which criminal indictments have been handed down, on what evidence, against those people you say were in a "cabal," investigating the crimes you've already stipulated did happen.

And spare us the reiteration of the "no collusion" talking point, which anybody who's read the report (let alone is paying attention) knows is a red herring. And the shaking your head and saying "there was no charged obstruction" while pretending that the Special Counsel did not describe crimes of obstruction (former US Attorney Barbara McQuade will explain those for you later in the hearing), and explain why there were no charges brought (to paraphrase only slightly, "there's no reason for it, it's just DOJ policy").

You sir, are a dishonest partisan hack.

The relevant question is should the president be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors?

Hint, and spoiler alert: the answer is, yes, he should.

It's not (just) about the last election or the next one. It's about the integrity of our government, and its democratic process. Since I'm sure you're a smart guy, and know that, I have to conclude you're perfectly willing to subvert our system for your partisan purposes.

While Dean was giving his short opening statement, recounting his having explained to Nixon that dangling a pardon in front of Chuck Colson was obstruction of justice, C-SPAN cut back to Collins, to see him stone-faced, reading (Dean's written statement, we imagine). Dean went on to express his hope that Don McGahn would testify to the committee, representing, as he did, "not Donald Trump, but the office of the president." "I think he owes that office his testimony before this committee," Dean concluded.

Joyce White Vance, former US Attorney, with 25 years experience as a federal prosecutor, agrees with a thousand others with similar experience that the president committed crimes that would have resulted in any other citizen being indicted, and convicted.

"I have reviewed volume two of the Special Counsel's report which lays out the evidence collected while investigating potential instances of objection of justice. Based on my years of experience as a prosecutor if I was assessing that evidence as to a person other than a sitting president is covered by the [Office of Legal Counsel] memo the facts contained in the report would be sufficient to prove all the elements necessary to charge multiple counts of obstruction of justice. The evidence is not equivocal, nor is the charging decision a close call. I would be willing to personally indict the case and to try the case. I would have confidence that the evidence would be sufficient to obtain a guilty verdict and to win on appeal. Here is what i see as a prosecutor reading this report. There is an attack by a foreign country on our country and on our election and on multiple occasions the president tried to thwart it, curtail it or end it completely either by removing mueller out right or by interfering with his ability to gather evidence."

John Malcolm, Heritage Foundation guy who's done some lawyering said he liked volume 1; but is "less enthusiastic" about volume 2. He thought the Special Counsel could have been more direct about the president's indictability, and put the Attorney General in an "awkward" spot... of having to also not indict the president, because of DOJ policy, wut?

C-SPAN gives us a cut of "Gym" Jordan and Matt Gaetz yucking it up, because why should they bother to pay attention to this guy. 35:00

He goes on about "bribing witnesses" as if that didn't happen (what is the promise of a pardon if not a bribe?), and explaining about how the president was oh-so-understandably exasperated by being investigated. Maybe what sure looks like corrupt intent wasn't "naked self-interest."

Former US Attorney Barbara McQuade read the report, and like others who have, can summarize the Big Problem succinctly, about 39:00.

"The obstruction described in the report created a risk to our national security. It was designed to prevent investigators from learning all of the facts about an attack on our country by a hostile foreign adversary."

If you're in a hurry, just watch McQuade's opening statement, during which C-SPAN gave us a shot of Jordan and Gaetz twiddling amongst themselves.

The goofballs on the Republican side

McQuade points out that the Constitution does not merely give the president the power to "execute" the laws, but it "requires him to faithfully execute the laws."

Doug Collins launches into his rebuttal by leaning on the integrity of Attorney General William Barr. That's a reach. And going over the problem with "collusion," he gets to asking and answering his own question, thankyouverymuch, this is a man in a hurry.

"I'm sorry, was that a question? May I answer?"

Nope, that ain't part of the Doug Collins show ma'am. She does get to refer him to "page 1" of the report. He rambled on in the general direction of John Dean, harping on his admission that Dean wasn't there as a fact witness (duh) right up until he'd used up his time. But Dean was smart enough to take the opportunity to respond. We're here for educational purposes.

"This report has not been widely read in the United States. It's not even been widely read in the Congress."

After Dean answered the fake question, Collins didn't want him to have the last word. "I appreciate that and for educational purposes I really meant it more as a statement and not as a question."

He punctuated himself with two pokes of the eraser end of his pencil. Not to put too fine a point on it.

So we are all now better educated as to what an ass you are, since you were already allotted time for "a statement," and then you were given time to ask questions, but you just pretended to ask questions. The witness provided a useful answer to the question you pretended to ask. You provided your confession. Got it. And Dean's answer was the only useful thing to come out of that.

Steve Chabot (R-OH) sounds like a nice guy, until he starts misusing "collusion," and pretending that Barr gave us the last word. Then he sounds like just another partisan hack echoing GOP talking points.

OMG, here comes Gohmert. Why is he even here? To recite the crimes of John Dean, and embarrass him? You are as stupid as a sack of hammers, aren't you, Louie?

Gohmert rambles on, jamming as many words as he can into his 5 minutes, reading his prepared talking points statement, winds up to WHAT REALLY BOTHERS ME before interrupting himself to sarcastically deride one of the two US Attorneys, and her 25 years experience, because what is experience really? There was something about D-Day almost landing too, but he ran out of time. Mercifully.

"The gentleman's time has expired without questions," the chairman concludes for him.

9.June 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A sporting chance Permalink to this item

Roland Garros, the French Open, men's final, introduced on NBC Sports by Dan Hicks, in a way that I can only hope not many French speaking people heard. Not that I'm much of a French speaker, but still, from the opening bonjour to the graceless "Coup de Mousquetaires," there was some butchery.

The saving grace was the quick-witted Mary Carillo, sizing up the moment waiting for the 3rd point to start with "we already have crazy people yelling, in the first game of this match." Then a baby started crying, not too loud as Nadal's first serve clipped the net and went long, then lustily, shreakingly, as he got ready to try a second. "Oh boy," she said, no pun intended. As the cry morphed into a shriek of indignation toward both the father and a thousand fans shushing, and the camera found an usher, the father and baby parading to the nearest exit, Hicks belabored the obvious, "is that the culprit?" You can only imagine the eyes rolling out the back of the heads in the editing booth, as if they were switching to random crowd shots hoping to get lucky. Carillo to the rescue: "I think that baby is saying, 'didn't we watch this last year?'" Hicks and John McEnroe followed her lead, chuckling, and Carillo finished it with sweet empathy for the "poor dad!"

Back to the tennis, hmm? Is it too soon to talk about Nadal's slow play and its gamesmanship? It is not. With the countdown shown atop the scorebox, Hicks: "notorious for milking the clock, even before it became a factor" [sic]. He meant before the rule was made visible enough to enforce, once in a while.

Thiem went for two much after resisting Nadal's assault in the 5th point, loses the moment, the game, starts his serve with a double fault, and we're all thinking, oh oh. But he paints a line to win the 2nd point, runs Nadal all over the court to win the 3rd, and looks to have a winning drop shot in the 4th, before Nadal answers huh uh, watch this. An uncharacteristic unforced error from Nadal early in the rally for the 5th point, and... Thiem runs him around some more, forces an error to level the match at 1-all.

Could Thiem wear Nadal down? Nadal just turned 33, Thiem is 25. But Thiem played all four of the previous days, spending 4 hours beating the current world number one, while Nadal's semifinal beatdown of yes, still the Greatest Of All Time, if not in Rafa's house, Roger Federer was his only match in the past four days. Carillo leans into the challenge Thiem faces, not able to prepare for the contest against the GOAT-at-Garros.

"Not with anybody who hits the way he does, who moves the way he does. This guy creates his own weather system. It's calm out there today, but gale force strokes, his movement... thundering shots, lightning quick" and Dan Hicks stumbles in to cut off the poetry, "and probably, never has there been a more relentless player of first point to the last," and McEnroe drives a stake through the riff with "no doubt." The next point revives the commentariat with a "balistering backhand there by Thiem!"

Then an amazing point at 40-30, Thiem defending corner to corner to corner, surprising Nadal with another shot he didn't expect to make, and the net gets in the way. "Talk about relentless! Deuce!" If only there were words to describe what is happening. "You don't want to be working quite this hard, this early," Johnny Mac drily observes.

The boys set a hell of a standard four games in. Can Thiem keep this up? Can Nadal? He almost always has here at Court Philipe Chatrier. Nadal is dripping sweat halfway through the 5th game, misses a forehand by a shockingly wide margin. His pre-serve ritual seems more agitated than usual. Misses a first serve, makes the next five, but misses the sixth. 30-all on Nadal's serve. He tries to shorten the point with a drop shot, Thiem is on it quickly, but Nadal defends, Thiem volleys again, Nadal defends again, Thiem with another great volley, Nadal defends, Thiem has to run back and restart the rally, Nadal doesn't press him hard enough and another blistering backhand is followed by an even more blistering forehand, crosscourt clean winner for the first break point.

The rally on the break point goes long, eases back from superhuman to rope-a-dope for just a moment, after Thiem ran around for a premature forehand, making the crowd gasp as he loops that crosscourt to the sideline. Nadal leaves a down-the-line shot a bit short, and that's the forehand Thiem wanted, buries it in the far corner, a winner against all but one or two players in the world. How did Nadal dig that up? But he couldn't actually defend the assault, and Thiem hammers the overhead sitter for a 3-2 lead.

Ladies and gentlemen, we may have ourselves a contest here!

Is Nadal the best ever at breaking back? Maybe. Probably. (I don't have a stats guy.) First point with the first lead, Thiem gets behind in the point, makes Nadal hit three smashes to take it but it's taken. Slips early in the next rally, loses it. Tries to get cute in the third point and sprays an error to fall behind love-40. Done? Not quite. Paints a line to save the first break-back point. The next rally, I'm wondering how long can he keep hitting that full-body topspin backhand? and the answer comes with a Nadal forehand winner short on the sideline. Not long enough. Back "even" at 3-all. Except if you're "even" with Nadal, you're behind, n'est-ce pas?

"You just have to be So Fit to recover from rallies like this," Carillo says. It's going to be survival of the fittest, and we're not sure who that is, yet. Nadal misses another offensive forehand.

"There's a lot of pressure going for your twelfth French Open," McEnroe jokes, whistling an ironic winner past Hicks who stumbles on the follow. "How about trying to break through to your first?" Yes, exactly.

[ I wrote up the rest of the match as I watched it run off the DVR; I'm assuming the audience for my sports commentary is even smaller than for the blog in general; if you want more, let me know. ]

7.June 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Our cheap electricity flows on Permalink to this item

Cheery news from our power company that price decreases are kicking in for most customers. Residential users might not notice their fraction of a percent, but -0.65% is better than plus something, right? "Large general service," "large power" and irrigators are more likely to notice the rate decreases of 5.55%, 7.06% and 5.13%. An April 15 presser detailed the array of adjustments; the annual Power Cost Adjustment decrease was more than offset by the Fixed Cost Adjustment increase for residential users. The FCA story is in a longer presser from mid-March, but here's the nut of it:

"The FCA allows Idaho Power to recover an IPUC-authorized level of fixed costs per customer. If, because of reduced energy use per customer during the prior year, the company collects less than the authorized fixed-cost amount, it is allowed to collect the difference through a surcharge. If the company collects more than the authorized amount, it refunds the difference to customers through a credit. Both scenarios have happened in the past."

Spring flow at the Diversion Dam, 2015

We'll just plan on "no change," and bills running about $1 a day to keep our operation running, with about 10kWh per day. (The "typical" residential customer uses 950 kWh/mo, they say, triple what we do; for that, expect savings of 2¢ a day. Don't spend it all in one place.)

And in streetlight news, Idaho Power has asked the IPUC for approval to change all area lights, flood lights and company-owned street lights from high-pressure sodium lights to LEDs. That sounds mostly good, especially the part about complying with International Dark-Sky Association standards for shielding (mentioned in the penultimate FAQ, about color temperature), with "schedule 15 flood lights" the exception ("due to the nature of a flood light fixture in general").

D-Day + 75 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Because they care so much about voting rights Permalink to this item

Turns out, the "Michelangelo of gerrymandering" did not have a chance to sanitize his records before he shed his mortal coil. There was "a huge trove of documents related to Mr. Hofeller’s work as a Republican consultant" left for his estranged daughter to discover, and to casually mention to Common Cause about the time they were challenging North Carolina's gerrymandered redistricting.

Now the official statements by a Trump transition team guy, an assistant AG for civil rights, and the Secretary of Commerce are looking closer to the felonious end of the spectrum between disingenuous and flat-out perjury.

No one of sound mind is going to believe that more effective enforcement of the Voting Rights Act is on the Republican to-do list at this point. But plenty of right-minded types are willing to pretend to care, while slipping a shiv in its back. Some of them are on the Supreme Court; one is now the Chief Justice.

But wait! There's more.

Mark Joseph Stern for Slate: evidence of more lying, to delay a special election in North Carolina.

"The newest discovery from the files pertains to Covington v. North Carolina, a challenge to Republicans’ racial gerrymander of state legislative districts. In 2016, a federal district court ordered the legislature to draw new maps and hold a special election after finding the map had been illegally gerrymandered along racial lines.

"The Supreme Court agreed that the maps were unlawful, but sent the case back to district court to resolve how quickly Republican lawmakers could draw new maps without excessively disrupting the state’s elections. GOP legislators insisted that they had not yet prepared any maps and would need ample time to do so. So the district court declined to order the special election, allowing Republicans to maintain their supermajority for another year and further manipulate state elections. (The supermajority was broken in 2018, the next election under the new maps.)

"According to Common Cause, these representations to the district court were a lie. ..."

4.June 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Reproductive freedom is a basic human right Permalink to this item

Michelle Alexander's powerful opinion in the NY Times last month: My Rapist Apologized; I still needed an abortion. I don't suppose all the folks hell-bent on outlawing abortion are going to get around to reading it, let alone be persuaded, any more than they've been persuaded by incontrovertible statistics that access to contraceptives is the best way to reduce abortion.

But even if you don't need to be persuaded, Alexander's own story makes the case for empowering women to make their own reproductive decisions.

Rebecca Solnit reminded me of the op-ed, in her piece for the Guardian: "Lies pave the way for anti-abortion laws. To defeat the laws we must fight the lies. A wave of new laws banning and restricting abortion could not have been passed without misleading the public about what abortion actually is."

"Michelle Alexander made a really important point: all that palaver about exemptions for rape just mean that rape victims who want abortions will have to try to prove they were raped. Given how rarely men are convicted of rape, and how slow and intrusive and hostile to victims the legal process is, one can imagine the fetus reaching preschool age or maybe kindergarten or possibly law school before the court case is concluded.

"It is another way to intrude into women’s lives and terminate their rights.... Reproductive rights are what make women in their fertile years able to participate fully in public and economic life, to have the same bodily sovereignty men take for granted, to be free and equal. I believe the hatred of abortion is often because it makes women free and equal, and it is often advocated by people who show no interest in the health of infants or wellbeing of children. Or women. And at this point, in science, facts and truth. Their lies pave the way for their laws."

Update: The Unitarian Universalist Women's Federation actions page is all about the Supreme Court at the moment, with a statement regarding abortion bans at the top this month. The core principle: Each person has the right to make their own moral decisions regarding their bodies, their reproductive choices, and their own lives.

The ACLU's capsule history of abortion bans in the various states, and legal challenges that have ensued (20 challenged and struck down; 8 unenforceable under Carhart II, 3 ballot initiatives rejected by voters, etc.). That talks about "as early as 13 weeks in pregnancy," but the latest wave anticipating the ultra-conservative Supreme Court majority's quashing precedent has far surpassed that. Alabama legislators "voted to ban abortions in nearly all cases," and 5 states passed measures going back to six weeks (plus Missouri, at eight). Idaho's 20 year old entry in the ACLU list, from the "partial-birth abortion" craze, was found unconstitutional because 1) its terms were "so hopelessly imprecise that physicians simply cannot know what conduct it bans," 2) the ban lacked an exception to protect women's health, and 3) it lacked an adequate exception to protect their lives.

Enjoy the waters while you can Permalink to this item

Says here on that Idaho inspectors looked at more than 110,000 "vessels" crossing our borders last year. That would be 300 a day if it were every day of the year, but if it's like May through September, that would be more than 700 a day. And out of all those boats, they found 50 of them with invasive mussels. If there were no false negatives, that's a 0.045% rate of infection. On in two thousand-ish.

This year's numbers are 14 intercepts out of "more than 7,000 watercraft so far." If the numbers are right, and the inspections perfect, that would be 0.2%, more than four times higher.

"State invasive species manager Nic Zurfluh says quagga and zebra mussels could cause nearly $100 million in damage and lost revenue each year if the species infest Idaho waters."

Given that one bad boat put in a body of Idaho water could turn the trick, it's worth a lot of expense and effort to prevent it. Even though the invasion seems inevitable. The mussels will cause millions of dollars in damage and lost revenue when they infest our waters.

Aug. 2016 photo, Will Hise riding

2.June 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Guess we don't need "privacy" settings then Permalink to this item

Never mind the underdressed showman at the F8 conference, when you show up in court, you have to make some effort to actually touch upon the truth. Lawyering for Facebook, Orin Snyder argued before US District Judge Vince Chhabria that "there is no invasion of privacy at all, because there is no privacy," on Facebook or any other social media site.

As seen in Ben Popken's report for NBC News.

If you can't find the time to read the Mueller Report Permalink to this item

I confess I have not yet read it myself. But I did just read David Frum's concise summary of what the Mueller Report actually said on The Atlantic's site, and I recommend we all read at least those 600 or so words on the subject. Some of what Frum quotes from the report:

The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion,” Mueller wrote. This help “favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The Trump campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” and it “welcomed” this help.

There is insufficient evidence to accuse the Trump campaign of criminal conspiracy with its Russian benefactors. However, “the social media campaign and the GRU hacking operations coincided with a series of contacts between Trump Campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government.

These contacts were covered up by a series of lies, both to the special counsel and to Congress. Lying by the Trump campaign successfully obscured much of what happened in 2016. The special counsel in some cases “was not able to corroborate witness statements through comparison to contemporaneous communications or fully question witnesses about statements that appeared inconsistent with other known facts.

Over and above his efforts to fire the special counsel, “the President engaged in a second phase of conduct, involving public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts in both public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation.

The subversion of the investigation was brazen. “Many of the President’s acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons, occurred in public view.

The DOJ, run by Trump's man, William Barr, continues to try to blunt the shock of the Special Counsel's report, and to feed the ridiculous "case closed" narrative. Almost the whole of the GOP is following that lead. Barr is going a step further, with a shell game to draw focus on WHO STARTED THIS INVESTIGATION instead of the damning findings.

It is now up to the House of Representatives to act.

Just like Permalink to this item

Short take from Luke Darby in GQ: William Happer, a 79-year-old physicist capping "a respected career at Princeton" with a quote worthy of The Onion, but no:

"The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler," said Happer, who serves on the National Security Council as the president’s deputy assistant for emerging technologies.

That was pulled out of the also no joke NYT piece about the Trump administration hardening its attack on climate science, which dated it as said in 2014 in an interview with CNBC. Maybe his opinion has evolved since then?

His boss' boss is "less an ideologue than an armchair naysayer about climate change, according to people who know him," it says. That's cool, the world is going to hell in a handbasket and an extremely stable genius is in charge.

"In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, initiated during the Obama administration. It will expand its efforts to impose Mr. Trump’s hard-line views on other nations, building on his retreat from the Paris accord and his recent refusal to sign a communiqué to protect the rapidly melting Arctic region unless it was stripped of any references to climate change.

"And, in what could be Mr. Trump’s most consequential action yet, his administration will seek to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests."

Happer is going to lead "a new climate review panel," an idea preposterous enough to garner Larry Kudlow's and Steve Bannon's disapproval. Not because they disagree with the purpose or a war on science, it's just the optics and timing. "Better to win now and introduce the study in the second inaugural address," Bannon says.

It's the little things Permalink to this item

Roll Call had a report last month that the Interior Department has formalized its policy to let political appointees review Freedom of Information Act requests. The featured request was for emails between Lolita Zinke, wife of former Secretary Ryan Zinke, and a National Park Service official. A career employee rounded up 96 pages' worth, which Zinke's communications director, Heather Swift, managed to winnow down to just 16. (So now we can have a FOIA request for documents regarding their handling of that FOIA request.)

The current administration claims that the last one used to do that kind of thing too, ain't no big deal. Cue the office of circumlocution.

In an email, Interior spokeswoman Molly Block said every FOIA response is “made by a career FOIA officer, after concurrence by a career lawyer in cases where information is redacted.” The process allows “a FOIA officer to receive contextual information in order to help them better apply the relevant legal standards,” she said.

Block said the process existed at Interior under the Obama administration, but she did not provide evidence to support that assertion. The department formalized it in 2018 “for the sake of transparency,” Block said.

1.June 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

End of an era Permalink to this item

Notice from a vendor of web-based software I use:

"Internet Explorer will no longer be supported as of June 1st. Please make sure you update to Chrome, FireFox or Edge."

IE logo, spun a bit

There's at least one web app in my mix that only runs on Internet Explorer these days, so go figure. Also, I kind of thougth Edge and IE were the same thing, but apparently not. Let's see... Three years ago blog post says Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer 11 are even better together in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. Edge is the default win10 browser, but "some Enterprise customers have line of business applications built specifically for older web technologies, which require Internet Explorer 11."

There's an "Enterprise Mode," which sounds kind of retro Trekkie, but it's not that kind of Enterprise. The author also tosses out the acronym LOB without expanding or explaining. Line of Business? Yeah. "[C]ustomers ... would like to limit usage of IE11 to only the LOB apps which require it, opening all other sites in Microsoft Edge."

And the term "evergreen browser," which I guess is one that keeps getting updated and you don't pay attention or care, it just works. "We’ll continue to evolve both the web platform and the user interface with regular updates."

Oh my, That Is Not The Way Things Used To Be, is it? Mentions Edge as "safer" and IE11 as "less secure."

There was this, a year ago April, about the Browser wars 2018 you never heard of (because we're not still having those, are we?): "Microsoft Edge falls behind ... Internet Explorer?"


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007