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



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

Is this a great country, or what? Permalink to this item

C. cusickii drawing from Hitchcock and Cronquist

At the top of the year, end of spring and edge of summer, we took the "back way" to the Wallowas, for a couple nights camping with friends, on our way to Spokane, and Spokane Valley. On the route through Weiser, Cambridge, along the Brownlee reservoir, cross over to Oregon, and then down the Brownlee-Oxbow highway, up Pine Creek, and North Pine Creek, on the way to Joseph, the spur to the Hells Canyon Overlook is pretty much a required side trip. If you walk around a bit, you can find a spot with a view all the way down to the river at the bottom of the canyon, but "the canyon" for sure, and if the weather cooperates, a good view of the Seven Devils, across the way in Idaho.

June 17 is too early for blackberries and thimbleberries along the road, but it was a perfect day for wildflowers at the overlook, under a mostly cloudy sky that was getting ready to come crashing down. (The rain was just starting as we left the overlook, and we drove into a thunderstorm that went as far as pouring rain, and hail before we escaped.) Lupine, yarrow, paintbrush, phlox, penstemon, buckwheat, balsamroot and more were all having their moment. One of the species in bloom was a pale blue that made me think of Camas, but I didn't look closely enough to be sure, even as I took its picture. I collected bouquets and the "big view" rather like a kid in a candy story, in a bit of a hurry as the storm rumbled toward us.

After returning home and looking more closely at the pictures, I realized I had no idea what species the pale blue beauty was, other than that I was sure it wasn't Camas. Camas, in the lily family, reliably counts to 6 for its flower parts, and this thing had four petals and stamens. In the process of trying to track it down, I found a Forest Service page for the overlook, with "wildflowers" in the URL. Promising, but it includes just a few small photos, and a list in text. "Several penstemons, helianthella, larkspur, columbine, old man's beard, scarlet gilia, wild onions, and Cusick's Camas" is an interesting list, with at least partial overlap with what we saw. Camassia cusickii is the first species listed for the genus in Hitchcock & Cronquist's Flora of the Pacific Northwest, pictured with a dense spike that would have definitely stood out in the field, located on "steep moist hillsides near the SR, along Pine Cr., Baker Co., and possibly elsewhere (as along upper Imnaha R, Wallowa Co.) in Ore."

Detail from my photo of F. albicaulis

Looking for contact information, I found a jolly email address, wildflower (at), which seemed like the very thing, sent a couple details from my photos, and asked them if they recognized it. Within a week, the National Botanist in Washington D.C. replied, and said he'd forwarded my inquiry to "one of our botanists" who's worked in the Pacific Northwest. Still no answer, but nice to hear from my Forest Service, "caring for the land and serving people."

This morning, some weeks after I'd moved on to other tasks and other flowers, a follow-up message with the identification: Frasera albicaulis, in the Gentianaceae ("Gentian") family. Aka "whitestem Frasera," listed in Hitchcock with 5 varieties: albicaulis, cusickii, idahoensis, columbiana, and nitida, differentiated by the "scalelike processes (crown scales)" that alternate with the stamens, and that I didn't notice to focus upon, alas. (I think they were Fasera albicaulis var. idahoensis, fwtw.)

He included a link to a "Botany Photo of the Day" post from 2010 from the University of British Columbia, and that has a link to the University of Washington's Burke Herbarium Image Collection with more than two dozen photos, and a map (of Washington) showing where all their herbarium specimens were collected.

Looking again at my wider shot of "all these wildflowers in bloom!" I see that bunches of whitestem Frasera were a featured attraction.

Photo from Hells Canyon Overlook, June 17, 2019

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

Article II powers Permalink to this item

In the middle of last week's NYT Magazine piece about Pete Buttigieg, there was a keen insight about our rancorous political moment, from former Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges:

"I think the Trump agenda and Trump demeanor have increased our capacity to dehumanize one another."

As a culture, we are in the processing of leveraging Schadenfreude—pleasure in others' misfortune—into sadism. It was all fun and games when it was the mass entertainment of "reality" TV, Lost, Survivor, The Apprentice. The clownish grifter cast in the role of a Master didn't see it as a joke, but rather as an endorsement of his remarkable skill at turning fraud into a windfall. Why shouldn't he be president? He was smarter than all the Generals, all the pundits, he was richer than anyone could imagine, and he was unfettered by a conscience. He alone could fix it. Why not put a sadistic, narcissistic psychopath in charge? What could possibly go wrong? We need to shake things up.

The party that tried and failed to resist his takeover now supports him, shamelessly, simply pretending that all those things they said were made irrelevant by winning, by an economic boom leveraged from that last Republican-driven bubble and crash, by the long and painful recovery during Obama's two terms, obstructed by the Republicans at every turn. The Supreme Court has been jerked to the right for a generation, redefining "corruption" out of existence, killing campaign finance restrictions, neutering the Voting Rights Act, and establishing gerrymandering as the law of the land, as long as state legislatures want it to be.

Lindsey Graham is their poster child. When his 2016 attempt to run for president had washed up on the shoals of 1% support, his powers of observation were at their peak.

"[Trump] is a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for."

That wasn't a particularly keen insight, but for him to say it out loud was a thing. After Trump won the nomination and then the electoral college, Graham went all in for the orange man. His latest move is to revive McCarthy, echoing the president's race-baiting, xenophobic bigotry with gusto and accusing "the Squad" of being "a bunch of communists." He's become a demented puppet dancing on the grave of irony for the credulous dotard who keeps telling us how much he believes Vladimir Putin and how much he loves Kim Jong-un. ("Shortly after Graham made the comments, Trump shared them in a tweet, writing, 'Need I say more?'")

If you weren't sure we've entered Bizarro World, you can read the WND ("World Nut Daily") coverage of this latest episode, in which a blogger self-identified as a "fan" of Trump is quoted in detail criticizing "a blunder of epic proportions," as "the single stupidest act of Trump's presidency." It's not about being racist, mind you, but about unnecessarily attacking members of Congress he imagines are already self-destructing. The cognitive dissonance is strong in this one.

"Note that the Associated Press accuses Trump of 'starkly injecting race into his criticism of liberal Democrats.' But Trump didn’t say a word about race. It was the AP that starkly injected race into the controversy."

Three years on, thanks to Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell and Jim Risch and Mike Crapo and every other Republican in the US Senate, we are stuck in a time loop in which late night comedy shows have supplanted reality TV. Between recitation of sur-@realDonaldTrump's tweets and sound bites of Louie Gohmert's head about to explode, Seth Myers explains the Special Counsel's report in a nutshell:

"The bottom line from today's hearings is, it's the same as it's always been. We just got to see it played live on TV. Russia interfered in the election to help Trump. Trump welcomed and encouraged that help, and then he almost certainly committed crimes to obstruct the investigation of that help. Mueller couldn't indict Trump so the only remedy is impeachment. It's up to Congress now."

That's the short summary of the House Judiciary Committee's Friday court filing, demanding all the redacted information from the Mueller Report, any transcripts or exhibits referenced by the redacted material, and the transcripts and grand jury material that relates to:

  1. President Trump’s knowledge of efforts by Russia to interfere in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election;
  2. President Trump’s knowledge of any direct or indirect links or contacts between individuals associated with his Presidential campaign and Russia, including with respect to Russia’s election interference efforts;
  3. President Trump’s knowledge of any potential criminal acts by him or any members of his administration, his campaign, his personal associates, or anyone associated with his administration or campaign; or
  4. Actions taken by former White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn II during the campaign, the transition, or McGahn’s period of service as White House Counsel.

The House Judiciary committee insists it needs all that to "have access to all the relevant facts and consider whether to exercise all its full Article I powers, including a constitutional power of the utmost gravity — approval of articles of impeachment."

Trump has been having some sort of fever dreams about Article II of the Constitution, so let us reflect on that article's punchline, Section 4:

"The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors."

25.July 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The weather machine Permalink to this item

My father's picture from Kwajalein, 1944

In October, 1943, my dad had just turned 24, and after graduating from the University of Wisconsin as an accounting major, he was now in the Navy, in "class 7" of Aerological Engineering at UCLA. 8 months later, he graduated with 27 other Navy officers and 118 Army Aviation cadets. That was three days before "bad weather conditions and good forecasting joined hands to aid the Allied forces in the D-Day invasion," as he put it, turning the tide of World War II in Europe. Later that summer, he was aboard a ship for the first time, the USS Copahee, an Escort Aircraft Carrier (a "baby flat top"), when it sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge at dark-thirty, on its way to Pearl Harbor. Sixty years later, he put stories of his time during the war, working in the Naval Air Transport Service on Kwajalein and Majuro, into a memoir that he shared with his family, one of many amazing gifts he shared during his life.

But I showed up a decade after the war was over, when "the Navy" meant the Naval Reserve and the one weekend a month when dad was gone, down to Glenview, Illinois, and then home with colored margarine from the base PX, smuggled into "America's Dairyland." I understood he was a "weatherman," and so the Golden Science Guide to Weather was my portal to both meteorology and my father's secret life away from home. The 301 Full Color Illustrations were magical.

Fast forward 30 years and a lot of miles, it occurred to me while skipping across the nearest big lake on a sailboard that this new-fangled World Wide Web could provide the means to aggregate observations from the local National Weather Service instruments and help avoid unnecessary trips to a not-windy venue. That's been evolving for more than 2 decades now, as the Upper Treasure Valley Sailing Forecast (and a more compact mobile version). Mostly, it's a snapshot of the current local weather, boiled down to the numbers that matter for sailing. I do add a top-line pithy distillation of others' and my forecast now and then (and the sunrise, sunset and full moon forecast is very reliable).

After a lot of years making do with remote sensors and inferences (and the inevitable disappointments of error), the local sailors have combined to install a weather station at Barclay Bay, improving everyone's weather eye. (Experience and lore are passed around in discussions in email, and up at the lake.) The general public can see the Wx data (with a whizzier interactive graphical interface) via Weather Underground.

Image of 'The Weather Machine' cover

This all puts me squarely in the target audience for Andrew Blum's readable popular science book, The Weather Machine; a journey inside the forecast. At the start of chapter 9, "The App," this lovely bit of parallel history:

"The first weather forecast appeared on the Internet on February 23, 1991, put up by a gangly graduate student at the University of Michigan named Jeff Masters. The atmospheric science department in Ann Arbor had a satellite dish on the roof that collected a data feed from the National Weather Service. For an assignment in a class on interactive weather computing, Masters wrote a short program that gave the data feed a simple interface: Anyone on campus could type in an airport code, and the NWS forecast for that city came back. At the time, Michigan was the heart of the Internet, thanks to the work of MERIT, a nonprofit that held the government contract to operate the Internet's backbone. With the help of their staff, Masters bolted a second little program onto his original one, plugged a spare machine into their network, and made his weather tool available to anybody on the Internet.

"Very quickly, that became everybody on the Internet. In the first week it was live, Masters had five hundred users. Three months later, 120,000 people a week were getting in the habit of asking for the forecast by three-letter code. He named the tool Weather Underground, in a cheeky allusion to Michigan's radical 1960s political group, because at the time it was radical: 'a geeky, underground, cutting-edge sort of thing,' as he put it to me. Within a year, Weather Underground was one of the most popular sites on the Internet."

The story continues, and we learn that The Weather Channel bought up Weather Underground (in 2012, changing its own name to The Weather Company at the time), and then IBM bought up TWC (minus the Weather Channel). The notes for the chapter include a link to a slide deck Masters presented, which led me to a slightly newer, bigger version: Sometimes You Need a Weatherman to Tell You Which Way the Wind Blows. (That slideplayer site has others of his that look interesting, including Nine Potential $100 Billion Weather Disasters of the Next 30 Years, and The Future of Weather Disasters.)

I recommend the book for its big picture view of weather forecasting, from its early days of careful, tedious observation, to the inception of analytical methods that were far ahead of their time (and the computing hardware to carry them out), to the present day, in which we benefit from "the most successful international system yet devised for global cooperation for the common good in science or in any other field," as John Zillman, former director of Australia's Bureau of Metrology put it.

As the titles of Dr. Jeff Masters' slide decks spell out, we're going to need what this international system provides more than ever as we deal with the consequences of the great experiment we're running on our atmosphere and weather systems.

Signed, sealed and delivered Permalink to this item

Detail of original at

Business will be off the hook at inktale this morning, where OneTermDonnie's Presidential Seal is available in various media. T-shirts, wall art, coffee mugs, throw pillows, and more, famously advertised at the Turning Point USA’s student summit on Tuesday.

One head has rolled for the mischief, as spokespersons are quoted saying silly things. "I don't think it was malicious intent, but nevertheless," and my favorite, so appropos of the whole Trump administration, "it was a last minute throw-up."

What's not in dispute is the perfection of the send-up. Morphing the American Eagle into the two-headed one off the Russian coat of arms (check out the three-fingers + thumb "talon"), clutching golf clubs and cash. Excelsior.

23.July 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's the heat and the humidity Permalink to this item

NWS data graphic for Boise

It wasn't so much rain as some low-hanging virga accidentally scraping the ground, but I was out in the park when the first wave of precip happened this morning. With the overnight low in the high seventies, and the humidity riding up past 50% (augmented by the well-watered grass surround), it was what we'd call really humid around here.

Second morning of clouds to go with our heat, this time ripening to thunderstorms forecast to go from "isolated" to "scattered" for the afternoon and evening. Per the red flag fire weather warning:

"Little rain with gusts up to 40 mph are possible with the strongest storms. Prevailing southwest winds will also be on the increase later today through Wednesday morning ahead of an approaching cold front. Drier and cooler conditions are expected Wednesday."

A low back down to 62 would be lovely, as would a Wednesday high only in the 80s, and a shift back to a more regular, stable weather pattern, of which we have not had much this year. "Low around 60" (and our one-sixth acre suburban forest) is our indispensible natural air-conditioning.

Update: In case you're wondering what a "red flag" warning is, this: Lightning strikes spark six fires in Malheur County. (Malheur Co. is the SE corner of Oregon, just across the border from Idaho. The smoke will be over our way shortly.) And this: Sheep Fire on Idaho National Lab site grows to 85,000 acres. That's a hundred thirty-three square miles.

Update #2: Pamela Ren Larson and Dennis Wagner, of the Arizona Republic committed a rather amazing act of long-form journalism with USA Today: Where will the West's next deadly wildfire strike? The risks are everywhere. Includes an interactive map to see if your community is one of the more than 500 that have a higher hazard potential than Paradise, California.

Update #3: I thought this was just a casual little weather report, and then the subject of fire came up. Here's another arresting article about the effects of our gathering climate crisis: Huge swathes of the Arctic on fire, ‘unprecedented’ satellite images show; "Earth’s boreal forests now burning at rate unseen in ‘at least 10,000 years’, scientists warn." Fires across Greenland, Siberia and Alaska are burning forests and peat.

18.July 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Let's get organized Permalink to this item

The great explorers of our species had the privilege of naming things they discovered. Given the proliferation of languages, and ephemeral nature of "discovery," naming privileges have not been exclusive, even though certain time-limited naming rights may be. Boise State University had a BSU Pavilion once upon a time, until the price was right to call it the "Taco Bell Arena." I called it the Chihuahua Dome. Now, if the State Board of Education approves (which as far as I can tell, they haven't, yet) the new name will be the "ExtraMile Arena," in commerical homage to a joint venture between Chevron, USA Inc. and Jacksons Food Stores Inc. The free market determined that this was worth $8.4 million over 15 years. And good news, there's "a growing offering of healthier food options" to go along with your Chevron gasolines with Techron.

I'm now looking for something to go with "Gas & Groc" for what I'll call it.

My picture, on July 14th

Those of us born into a world where most things were amply discovered, and well-named still have opportunities. I bring computer files into existence day after day, and they all need names. It's nice to be able to tell something about what's inside by the moniker, and for those things that become recurring series, it's nice to have names that alphabetically sort into Who-What-When.

I like that order, a lot. Your mileage may vary. (Maybe you should try Techron?) To make it work, make your dates like this: YYYYMMDD, with numbers. Because 1 and 2 and 10 won't sort, but 01, 02 and 10 will, and because "April" does not come before "January."

You can leave some of the categorizing to a file system, but if your document ups and goes to another computer, then what? Then something like MyOrganization-TreasurersReport-20190630.xlsx will stand proudly declarative, and sort into formation at the drop of a header click.

17.July 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The party of Lincoln Permalink to this item

Who remembers the good old Mitt Romney laying into Donald Trump as candidate?

"Here's what I know: Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He's playing members of the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House, and all we get is a lousy hat." Romney said that "dishonesty is Donald Trump's hallmark," pointing to his "bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics."

That was all spot-on, and then there was this from his successful 2018 campaign for the Senate, reported in the Washington Post:

"If the president were to say something which is highly divisive or racist or misogynistic, why, I’ll call him out on it, because I think it’s important to let people know exactly where one stands.”

And this week... there seems to be some waffling. On Monday, he alliterated in a comfortable portion of the alphabet. "The president’s comments were destructive, demeaning, and disunifying," and... uh, anything else? "Frankly, very wrong." Alrighty then, let's be frank. Would you go as far as to say 'racist' comments? "That's all I got, thanks."

My headline above was inspired by the House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy's tepid attempt to reclaim some 19th century moral high-ground. (No, really.) He felt his chamber's "order and decency" was disturbed, not by the president's calling out four of its members and telling them to go back where they came from, but by the Speaker calling a spade a spade, more D words, plus one: "disgraceful and disgusting and these comments are racist." That was a bridge too far for McCarthy, who said "Today is the day that historians will write about."

One of many.

Doug Collins of Georgia condemned the "breathtaking partisanship" on his way to trying parliametary procedure to stop the resolution that was eventually supported by all the Democrats, 4 Republicans, and the newly ex-Republican Justin Amash of Michigan. (Will Hurd-TX, Fred Upton-MI, Brian Fitzpatrick-PA, Susan Brooks-IN, in case you're wondering.)

The Senate Majority Leader and august gaslighter Mitch McConnell went with the simple denial, "the president is not a racist." Despite all the evidence we've seen over decades. On the Fatuous Friends show, Brian Kilmeade complained that it is “personally offensive” to call the president a racist. Not him personally, but the president personally. Justin Baragona of The Daily Beast drily notes that Kilmeade, "of course, had no issues back when his colleague Glenn Beck declared President Obama a 'racist' in 2009."

Three of the four members of "the Squad" were born in the U.S., which, ok, does have some problems that need fixing right about now, and the fourth was born in Somalia, and is now a citizen. (And a member of Congress.) So, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's page on Immigrants' Employment Rights Under Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws section is only 25% applicable, and the other 75% is def racist, but see there, under the Harassment Based on National Origin, for example:

"Examples of potentially unlawful conduct include insults, taunting, or ethnic epithets, such as making fun of a person's foreign accent or comments like, 'Go back to where you came from,' whether made by supervisors or by co-workers."

My Congressman, Mike Simpson, made a sort-of statement on Facebook (and screen-scraped it to Twitter), collecting several hundred comments so far. He's ahead of the other three members of our Congressional delegation, but his position is so compromised, I'm not sure it was worth the effort.

Rather than Trump's vile remarks, he focused on Speaker Pelosi's condemnation, and that she "[made] herself the sole arbiter of what speech should be condemned," before, ah, the whole House voted on the condemnation. It's "the uneven application of the Democratic outrage machine" that bothers him, even as it "proves that this is yet another disingenuous political stunt." This is about as weak tea as you can imagine:

"I don’t agree with the President’s words and I do wish he would choose his more carefully. However, I also completely disagree with the constant focus on arguments between politicians and the media’s obsession with fanning the flames of disagreement."

They all have work to do (true dat), and just 5 weeks to do it before the end of the fiscal year. (If I were a betting man, I'd bet most of it doesn't get done, as usual.)

Trump's two chief apologists and committeemen in the House, Mark Meadows (he has a black friend, btw) and Gym Jordan chalked up Trump's latest tweetrum to "frustration," which makes you think, the guy lives in Our Free, Beautiful and Very Successful Country. If he is not happy with his frustration here, he could leave! Why doesn't he? Instead he's made a brand out of being a whiner, the man who is perpetually upset.

Lindsey Graham came out of cold storage to level a charge of Communists! at the Squad, incredibly, as if he'd done a reverse Rip Van Winkle and woke up forty years earlier than he went to bed. The Cold War is back on!

And, perhaps inevitably, but none the less sickening for that, at the next Trump campaign rally, the three-syllable percussion chant is now "SEND HER BACK." The mob incitement is working as planned. Here in the party of Abe Lincoln.

More than one way to be dismal Permalink to this item

Can we step away from politics for just one moment? Here's an entry I started just as 2017 was about to turn into 2018, and... got distracted.

Working instead of retiring sounds nice if you love your job, are struggling to make ends meet, and have flexible hours. If you can't retire, and have to find a job—almost any job—that doesn't sound as good.

Peter Whorisky's preview of the U.S. without pensions for the Washington Post chronicles various 70-somethings in the latter category, under the teaser "I hope I can quit working in a few years."

The story of the Tulsa plant of McDonnell Douglas, and its 1994 closing, "with an eye toward cutting retirement costs" brought to mind the divergence between productivity and wages that I graphed more than four years ago.

Quick update: it hasn't improved very much, 10 years into the recovery from the Great Recession. Them that's got shall have.

Ben Wikler's follow-on Twitter thread describes just how this "speaks to perhaps the central deivide of our times," as "vast numbers of boomers" enter retirement age.

15.July 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Big-picture economics Permalink to this item

If the numbers can be believed ("economists widely doubt the veracity of the overall Chinese growth figure," the story says), China's lowest-in-three-decades annualized growth of 6.2% would have its economy doubling in less than 12 years' time. (Keith Bradsher's report for the NYT says Chinese officials said "the economy grew 6.2 percent between April and June compared with a year earlier," but I'm assuming that number is annualized, because omg.) That's down from earlier this year, "when growth came in at 6.4 percent, matching a 27-year low reached during the global financial crisis a decade ago."

Give our president* some credit for that, with the trade war he started because he thought it would be so much winning for us, and Congress having ceded anything and everything one can call "national security" as ok for dictatorial power of the executive.

I'm sure he'll celebrate the news. Stand by for bragging on Twitter. Should the rest of us celebrate, or what? I think it's generally good news, actually, not because we're in a zero sum game and hurting another country makes us great, but rather because easing up on the insanity si good. 6 and 7% annual economic growth of the largest or second-largest national economy in the world is presumptively cancerous rather than beneficial.

As I wrote in one of the oldest essays I published on the web, "growth" comes in many flavors, not all coming up roses. In the whole earth-sized picture, having China's red-hot economic growth taper back modestly seems a good thing, even with over-reaction to scorecard numbers (and even if the numbers are inflated). One item mentioned is that "consumer interest in buying luxury automobiles may finally be stabilizing," what's not to like? Not sure what to make of the Chinese government "pumping huge sums of money into infrastructure" (other than that we're still waiting for infrastructure week over here), but that embedded tweet with a flyover of Guiyang city, capital of one of the poorest provinces in China will give you pause.

At any rate, remember that scaling back from whatever, to 6% (or 5, 4, 3%) is not a "downturn," but reduced acceleration. It's not deceleration, it's still increasing. Bigger than ever. And growing.

13.July 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Hire education Permalink to this item

Just because the Idaho Legislature sine died its way out of Boise, and the temperature's into the 90s doesn't mean the hijinks are over. Here comes the way-right faction of our citizen servants, en masse, to tell Boise State University's new president how she ought (not) to be running things.

Author Rep. Barbara Dee Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, and her camp followers wanted to "mark the start of a conversation with BSU," Nathan Brown put it for the Idaho Falls Press Register, quoting this gem of an intro: "Both myself and my fellow legislators certainly want to begin a dialogue as to the direction of higher education in Idaho," she said.

Shall we, uh, start in the English department?

"We’ll continue to proceed," she continued (to proceed), "and we want to make sure we’re focusing on academic excellence. And then we also want to make sure as best we can that an education in Idaho is affordable to Idaho kids."

June 2019 photograph

What she, and the rest of them, and Wayne Hoffman of the anti-government "Idaho Freedom Foundation" do not want is "this drive to create a diversified and inclusive culture" because they figure that's "divisive and exclusionary because it separates and segregates students." Let us not highlight differences, nor "suggest that certain groups are treated unequally now." Redress grievances? We deny grievances exist.

I don't recognize all the back-benchers on the co-signing list, but Sage Dixon and Heather Scott of District 1, Vito Barbieri (2), Priscilla Giddings and Paul Shepherd (7), Judy Boyle (9), Brent Crane (13), Majority Leader Mike Moyle (14), Asst. Majority Leader Jason Monks and John Vander Woude (22), Christy Zito (23), and Bryan Zollinger (33) lead the list of usual suspects.

Erhardt's stumbling "Idaho way" prose is no match for the original, Wayne Hoffman's month-ago screed against "inclusion" efforts. Aiming at a "buffet of braggadocio" from the interim president, Hoffman wanted to lay out a good old-fashioned Idaho welcome for the new president, Marlene Tromp:

"It’s unknown whether Tromp will deploy the same condescending rhetoric, but the fact that she has described herself in interviews as motivated by “social justice” makes one wonder."

For their part, all 21 members of the Joint Democratic Caucus of our House and Senate wrote their own letter to the new BSU president, with an alternate view of what all the "Idaho way" comprises, including affordable and equal access to life-long learning opportunities, fairness, security.

It won't be lost on Dr. Tromp that the whole Democratic caucus is outnumbered by the far-right tranche of the House. Her statement quoted in the 2nd piece from the Press Register makes it sound like she'll be up to the challenge:

“Political divisions in our country often make these conversations very difficult and can even cause harm. I believe we can have a meaningful dialogue that underscores our common commitment to the well-being of our students and to the future of the state.

“I am grateful for the genuine engagement of our legislators, as well as to people from across the state who have reached out to me to express support. Public universities must foster and protect the open exchange of ideas in order to ensure a broad and deep educational experience. Boise State is honored to carry forward this critical charge.”

Speaking of the cost of higher education in the state, our first female president ever at BSU will be paid $425,000 a year, not quite as much as all 28 of the members of the House put together, but well more than the whole Democratic caucus. She has an M.A. and Ph.D. in English.

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

Speaking of that citizenship question for the census Permalink to this item

You really must read Charles Bethea's piece in The New Yorker, A Father, a Daughter, and the Attempt to Change the Census; How Stephanie Hofeller’s estrangement from her family may have altered American political history.

"Hofeller preferred to keep the details of his work private and to avoid paper trails. “E-mails are the tool of the devil,” he explained to fellow-operatives. Still, he did leave some documentation behind. About a week and a half after Stephanie learned of her father’s death, she made a trip to her parents’ retirement home, in Raleigh, North Carolina, where her mother, Kathleen, still lives, looking for keepsakes. She later described the visit in a deposition for a lawsuit concerning legislative redistricting in North Carolina. In her father’s bedroom, she found a jewelry box, which had been hers as a child. She also found four external hard drives and eighteen thumb drives that had belonged to her father. One of the drives was labelled “NC Data.”"

Never promised you a rose garden Permalink to this item

"Social media summit" sounds like, idk, George Costanza breaking down the word "manure" as totally a good thing. "Social" is good, we're all consuming the hell out of "media" and "summit" is, well, a peak experience. And for the White House to have such a thing... I guess we have to qualify that it was the Trump White House, which will put the ma-nure in perspective.

As the president* said yesterday, and of course, I am not making this up, "I used to watch it: it'd be like a rocket ship when I put out a beauty." Now, he is not so happy. As the inimitable Wonkette sums it up, Sadsy The Clown Bitches About His Twitter Follower Count, because wouldn't you know it, Barack Hussein Obama has 107 million followers, and POTWEETOH is scraping along with under 62 million, "and you become angry at it."

That's what that main event was about, HULK SMASH, but there was also after-matter, Rose Garden event in which Trump admitted defeat on the census citizenship question (even as he promised to employ the full power of federal government data mining as an alternative) and somebody let one-time-insider-now-outside Sebastian Gorka in, to almost start a fight. In the Rose Garden. Because "You're not a journalist — you're a punk!" Gorka yelled. No really. And another attendee said to the target of Dr. G's huffery, "And for the record, he would kick your punk ass," as others chanted "Gor-ka! Gor-ka!"

No, really. That happened. As Aaron Rupar boils it down,

"It was ugly. It was paranoid. It demeaned the White House. It was also entirely in step with the Trump administration and Trump’s Republican Party."

A darker, oilier swamp than one might imagine Permalink to this item

Now that Alex Acosta has had to cash in his position as Secretary of Labor for his role in "[overseeing] a secret, obscenely lenient deal that let [Jeffrey] Epstein escape federal charges for sex crimes over a decade ago," what next? As Michelle Goldberg's op-ed headline notes, the Caligula administration lives on.

The depth and breadth of depravity continues to beggar my imagination. This weekend's "bid on strippers to be your caddy" at Trump National Doral got called off, but there's plenty more "gross Trump stories" to go around without outdoor exposure. Remember those heady days at the end of the 2016 campaign when the Access Hollywood tape dropped and righteous Republicans were tut-tutting about the end of the run, praying to have Pence take over the top of the ticket, and have Trump crawl under a rock? Those were the days.

Those days came long after Epstein served out his 13 month sentence, with "work release," having his valet come pick him up out of the clink, to go off and do what, we don't know, because nobody in the hedge fund business seems to have done that kind of business with this guy. (That Business Insider piece says "a portion of it made by handling the $6.7 billion fortune of L Brands CEO Les Wexner, according to Bloomberg." There was other handling, as well.)

Davidoff Studios/Getty Images via the NYT

Goldberg unrolls a few of the greatest hits, and the one thing that seems to trigger empathy from Donald Trump: accusations of sexual misconduct, especially with underage girls. Such as this tweet from a month and a half ago: "I have NOTHING against Roy Moore, and unlike many other Republican leaders, wanted him to win."

A dark network was holding Epstein up; if it all comes crashing down, the rolling heads are certain to make for a bipartisan circus. Frank Rich handicaps who's next for New York magazine. Along the way, we'll have more comic stylings such as this:

"The Wall Street Journal editorial page, meanwhile, portrayed Acosta as a political victim — a stand that, if nothing else, is in keeping with the ethos of its proprietor, Rupert Murdoch, who did nothing as Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly carried out their reign of sexual terror at Fox News."

There is likely some renewed interest in the heavily redacted copy of Jeffrey Epstein's Little Black Book that Gawker published in early 2015, at a minimum, even though that seems rather quaint compared to what-all federal agents just pulled out of 9 East 71st Street in Manhattan after they crow-barred the beautiful front door, reported on July 9 to include

“a vast trove of lewd photographs” of young girls, including pictures of “at least one girl, who, according to her counsel, was underage at the time the relevant photographs were taken.” Agents also discovered “in a locked safe … compact discs with hand-written labels including the following: ‘Young [Name] + [Name],’ ‘Misc nudes 1,’ and ‘Girl pics nudes.’” Prosecutors added that the “search of that home found “hundreds — and perhaps thousands — of sexually suggestive photographs of fully- or partially nude females.”

And there had to be some Johns in there too, don't you think? So much to uncover still lies ahead of us. Before we leave it to the explosion of other sources and court filings, a big shout-out to Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown, without whom we would not be having this conversation just now.

Not to put too fine a point on this, Rebecca Solnit: Monsters rule over us, on behalf of monsters.

"The Senate’s Brett Kavanaugh hearing was a referendum on this aspect of rape culture. Christine Blasey Ford told us how she was assaulted and that Kavanaugh was not alone in the room as he attacked her, and then we got to see senators waffle, deny, excuse and ignore, and we learned about the malevolent machismo of prep-school culture and how the great fraternity of the northeastern power elite of the USA operates first and last to protect its own. The law of the land is now handed down to us by a man whose redfaced, self-pitying, rageful lack of self-control was displayed to a watching world and who got the job anyway."

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

Into the dark Permalink to this item

Not sure why the Beeb blunted the headline by posing it as a question; it's beyond dispute that there is a growing far-right threat online. The section from the woman who infiltrated groups is particularly disturbing.

"Some of those who engage with extremist content will be offered a link to take them to the next level - often an invite-only encrypted messaging app. Telegram, for example, which was used by the Islamic State group, is popular with the far right. ...

"Ebner says that recruiters tailor their messages depending on where they are: 'To recruit people from the gaming community, they would use a very “gamified” approach. When trying to recruit someone from the ultra-libertarian platforms, they would emphasise topics around freedom of speech. When trying to lure people from the conspiracy networks into their far-right channels, they would immediately reference those conspiracy theories.'"

Luck of my daily news flow, that story came to me just after the Yahoo News investigation piece about the true origins of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. Spoiler alert: it's spelled out in the lede.

"In the summer of 2016, Russian intelligence agents secretly planted a fake report claiming that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was gunned down by a squad of assassins working for Hillary Clinton, giving rise to a notorious conspiracy theory that captivated conservative activists and was later promoted from inside President Trump’s White House."

From the Internet Research Agency troll farm, to alt-right websites, to primetime Fox News shows, and homegrown trolls such as Roger Stone, Steve Bannon and Sean Hannity. But I didn't expect to have Jay Sekulow pop up: just after he'd "been hired as one of Trump’s lead lawyers in the Russia investigation," in mid-May 2017, Sekulow was on Hannity's show promoting the conspiracy theory. Never mind that Fox News was forced to retract the story. A good conspiracy theory lives forever on the internet. (The 50th anniversary of the fake moon landing is this month.)

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

Backyard fourth Permalink to this item

As if on a timer, the quiet reverie of the holiday morning was punctured by the first motorized yard implements at 9 am. Gentlemen, start your engines. I looked up from my reading, Valencia Robin's close-to-home Dutch Elm Disease in the NYT Magazine, to consider the scene out the patio door, lush in its greens and morning light, still, and ever-changing.

We bought this place by virtue of its location (good bicycling distance from work, and the university, and center of town) and the plant collection. In 35 years, there have been changes, amid the continuity of the trees that attracted us, even as they have long outstripped their planter's intended purpose (he viewed them as firewood, mostly). The privacy of a dense woodland has opened into an airy indifference (and the threat of doom if a windstorm), while the understory has cycled through various chapters, always with raspberries. That thread runs from our wedding vows on Moscow mountain, our move to Boise, through a handful shared with our granddaughter in the summer of her second year (and so then the magic of her finding good serviceberries in the forest of Mt. Rainier, calling me over to share), to breakfast this morning.

There was a more or less traditional lawn in the center, with a clutch of aspens, longing for cooler summers and higher elevation. The lawn has been squeezed from all sides (and why not), the aspens long gone, and not gone: a new one popped up too close to the neighbors, I hacked it off below the fence line, and now more of them coming, the army sown by dragon's teeth. Where the aspens once stood, there are now plum trees, scion of a grove on the south side of Paradise ridge; a squirrel-planted oak tree; walnuts; Jerusalem artichokes whose fecundity outstrips their utility to us; the annual tomoatoes in pots. The Virginia creeper attacks the back fence, and everything else that stands on its own. A grapevine battles against that, and all. The Juniper survives its periodic trimming clear of the power lines, and see there, the neighbors' cedars have gotten too big too.

This slice of it is framed by the fir, our tallest, maybe the whole neighborhood's champion, and the weedy Russian olive, its pedestal annuals grown and spread and currently featuring the pink to purple palette of Delphinium. The Vinca has outcompeted the mints, coexists peaceably with the iris, cotoneaster, catnip, and valerian, eats the lawn when no one is looking.

Photo just now

3.July 2019 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Tanks for the memories Permalink to this item

Jack Holmes, for Esquire, on "that whole dictator vibe" of what's planned for the holiday tomorrow:

"What we used to dismiss as pathetic theater for totalitarian strongmen is now as American as giving any movie with a sex scene an R rating."

Still, it is def pathetic theater for our flabby Cadet Bonespurs. Think of it as a possible infrastructure week.

"While it would be something of a tragedy—the Memorial Bridge was built in 1932 ahead of the bicentennial of George Washington's birth, marks the western end of the National Mall, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places—watching a piece of American infrastructure collapse under the weight of American military spending would be quite a metaphor for our current state of affairs. In fact, the bridge is "crumbling" and in grave need of rehabilitation, which the Feds approved in 2018. Without the rehab, authorities said it would have to be turned into a footbridge in the next few years. So yeah, throw some 60-ton tanks on it."

Mother Jones reports that the administration is distributing a "guide" with talking points for troops who will be on duty for the holiday extravaganza, including on-message and off-message phraseology. "I am proud of my tank" is good. Do "stay in your lane," and do not "guess, lie or speculate."

Rule of law? What rule of law? Permalink to this item

Props to the unheralded work of court reporters. Some of them have to do their work over the phone, if you can imagine doing that with a conference call of half a dozen or more. Cindy S. Davis transcribed the conference with Judge George Jarrod Hazel of the US District Court of the Southern District of Maryland, lawyers for three plaintiffs in cases brought against the Commerce Dept., and two DOJ laywers this afternoon. It seems that the Judge noticed POTWEETOH's tweet whining about his attempt to further enable gerrymandering with a citizenship question in the 2020 Census, and wanted to know what the hell was going on.

Joshua Gardner, Special Counsel for the Department of Justice, after noting that he has "always endeavored to be as candid as possible with the Court," was pretty much blind-sided by the president. He said he'd "confirmed that the Census Bureau is continuing with the process of printing the questionnaire without a citizenship question, and that process has not stopped," and that his legal opinion was that "as of now, the basis for the citizenship question is firmly enjoined, vacated, and does not exist."

But another DOJ lawyer has new marching orders. Joseph Hunt, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division:

"We at the Department of Justice have been instructed to examine whether there is a path forward, consistent with the Supreme Court's decision, that would allow us to include the citizenship question on the census. We think there may be a legally available path under the Supreme Court's decision. We're examining that, looking at near-term options to see whether that's viable and possible."

Could they, uh, have until Monday to get back to the Judge to answer his questions? Nope. Here come the Judge:

"By Friday at 2 p.m. I want one of two things. I either want a stipulation, as we've been discussing, indicating that the citizenship question will not appear on the census, or I want a proposed scheduling order for how we're going forward on the equal protection claim that's been remanded to this Court. I want one of those two things by Friday at two o'clock."

That'll be interesting.

A frustrated president who wants to fight, a head-spinning Twitter turn, advisers who feel they have few options, a rebuke from an amazed judge and more — on the messy affair of the census citizenship question, w/⁦@mattzap⁩ and team:

— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) July 4, 2019

Worth appending this quote from that worth-the-jump WaPo report, in the statement from Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund:

“Under this administration, there’s no accounting for doubling down on stupid. Today’s reversal from yesterday’s certainty repeats the pattern of this entire affair, which began with Secretary Wilbur Ross — who inexplicably remains in the Cabinet — lying to Congress and the public about the reason for the late attempted addition of a citizenship question to Census 2020. MALDEF is fully prepared to demonstrate in court that racism is the true motivation for adding the question, and by doing so, to prevent the question from appearing on the Census.”

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

Religious assembly Permalink to this item

This year's General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations was held last month in Spokane, Washington. We were there for parts of it, some of which you can experience online in video, and text. (Not sure how long that's available, but now.) Jeanette and I attended disparate parts of the 5-day gathering, and enjoyed visiting with our family in the area at the same time. (Location matters: we've been to three GAs over the course of 25 years now, two of them in Spokane, and the other in Portland.) We were there for the Service of the Living Tradition, to celebrate our minister, the Rev. Sara LaWall, receiving full fellowship from the UUA, for the Ware Lecture, featuring Richard Blanco, a few of the workshops, and, after the fact, the Sunday morning worship service, In This Delicate Turning.

The business of deconstructing white supremacy was one of the main themes of the conference; some of that must be captured in the "General Sessions" that comprised the official UUA business of the annual meeting. We've been delegates in the past; we weren't this time, and only heard the echoes of what all went on, including what was in that Sunday morning service. One question from my notes:

How do we know when conflict is healthy and necessary and an opportunity to grow, and when it is unhealthy and destructive? There seems to be a celebration of conflict (of a certain type), because we all know things are not the way they should be, and so there is amply legitimate reason for conflict. That whole afflict the comfortable thing. And words from Rebecca Parker at the end, to comfort (and exhort) the afflicted:

The choice to bless the world is more than an act of will,
a moving forward into the world
with the intention to do good.

It is an act of recognition,
a confession of surprise,
a grateful acknowledgment
that in the midst of a broken world
unspeakable beauty, grace and mystery abide.

There is an embrace of kindness
that encompasses all life, even yours.

None of us alone can save the world.
Together—that is another possibility, waiting.

While sharing in the worship service we did not attend, I also shared in the vicarious European travels of a friend, with his photo of a busker trio (used with permission):

"Just outside [the Hofbräuhaus München], and I loved this, were the craziest busker trio I've ever seen play, with an accordian, a balalaika and a hammered dulcimer. Still, music is music and they were playing Queen's We Are The Champions. Good weird stuff!"

I noticed that the view through the shop window included a sign on the antitheft device at the entrance/exit, saying "Schön, dass Sie da sind." (Lovely that you are here; apparently a common idiom, just not one I'd stumbled into in my adventures in German.)

Roger Singer photo, Munich

Bootstraps Permalink to this item

It's a bit too brief to call it a "review," but Christine E. McCarthy's quick take on Robin DiAngelo's book, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism provides an answer to the "what's that?" question prompted by the title, and a good capsule description of the nut of the problem.

"Many whites, she notes, engage with a strawman of racism, seeing it as individual actions taken by bad people to intentionally hurt others. In reality, racism is a complex, interconnected system and social dynamic in which the people of one race benefit from maintaining their dominance over all others."

In a comment following the brief, J. Cosgrove illustrates white fragility even more succinctly then either McCarthy or DiAngelo (who came up with the term, back in 2011), with this perfect deflection of criticism. It's not me, it's them. Why is it so hard for white people to talk about racism? Apparently, because it doesn't really exist:

"It's not hard for a conservative white person but it would be for a liberal white person since they cause most of the dysfunctional behavior in a lot of the black communities through their policies. These policies had good intentions but incredibly bad outcomes which they do not acknowledge. Given that: the main issue today is not racism but claims that racism is an issue and the dysfunctional behavior in a lot of the black and hispanic communities."

Liberals and people of color are the source of all this problem. Obviously.

As the publisher's page for the book notes, you might also be interested in How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide, by Crystal M. Fleming. Or, perhaps a longer, more detailed review. From Katy Waldman's year-ago review for The New Yorker:

"The book is more diagnostic than solutions-oriented, and the guidelines it offers toward the end—listen, don’t center yourself, get educated, think about your responses and what role they play—won’t shock any nervous systems. The value in “White Fragility” lies in its methodical, irrefutable exposure of racism in thought and action, and its call for humility and vigilance. Combatting one’s inner voices of racial prejudice, sneaky and, at times, irresistibly persuasive, is a life’s work. For all the paranoid American theories of being “red-pilled,” of awakening into a many-tentacled liberal/feminist/Jewish conspiracy, the most corrosive force, the ectoplasm infusing itself invisibly through media and culture and politics, is white supremacy."


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007