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29.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

General Factotum Barr Permalink to this item

We all pretty much new he was a snake to begin with, but just in case there were any questions, yesterday's hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. In an earlier lifetime, I might have watched it live but I decided not to boil my blood in the midst of our first good heat wave of the summer. It's never the same relying on the observations of others, but it will have to do this time.

From Wonkette's liveblogging

Heather Cox Richardson is my first stop in the morning, guaranteeing an unburied lede, and reference links, if needed.

"[Barr's] combative answers confirmed that he is Trump’s man. He is committed to the narrative that dangerous anarchists are endangering law and order, and that Trump was unfairly targeted by FBI agents in what Barr calls “Russiagate.”

Predictably, the rank ranking member, Jim Jordan of Ohio, yet to be held to account for his failure to respond to sexual misconduct complaints at the Ohio State University, "with both his signature rapid-fire yelling and a video deceptively edited" to feed the +rump campaign narrative. And his indignation.

As Democrats spoke over Barr, Jordan repeatedly complained at their behavior, saying “I do not think we have ever had a hearing where the witness was not allowed to respond to points made, questions asked, and attacks made.”

Except for every one that he's been in, that is.

The Attorney General of the United States of America is, nominally, the chief law enforcement officer of the Executive Branch, not (yet another) "fixer" for the president. Also not the "General" of a hodge-podge army to use in attacks against citizens in this country.

There is still some sort of law against lying under oath (isn't there?), so when pressed on his free-wheeling week-ago claim that "within two weeks we've had 200 arrests" in Kansas City—news that nobody in Missouri could verify—the AG had to walk that back as a "misspoke." Which is not to say the campaign effect was already done and dusted. Rawstory reported 6 days ago:

“Barr’s false claim, livestreamed by the White House, raised questions about the Justice Department’s trustworthiness,” continued the report. “And the point Barr apparently was illustrating only grew shakier Thursday as officials in Kansas City clarified further that the arrests that did occur resulted in no new federal charges — with the exception of one case announced earlier this week.”

(Coincidentally, 200:1 is also the Vegas line that there's more perjury in Barr's testimony in any given hour. (In case you wondered, the one "federal" case was a 20-year-old charged with being an unlawful drug user in possession of firearms, driving a stolen car. Probably near some suburbs.)

Barr also was forced to admit lying about the US Attorney for the SDNY, Geoff Berman "stepping down." They say that Justice is blind, and Barr shows us that's at least half-right. When Washington's Rep. Pramila Jayapal pressed him on the protesters in Michigan (in the shit-show following +rump's LIBERATE MICHIGAN tweet, subverting the Governor's stay-home order to protect publich health), she asked whether the AG was aware that protesters had called for the Governor to be "lynched, shot, and beheaded." Was he aware about that? The guns, swastikas and so on at the state capitol?

"No," he wasn't! "Well there are a lot of protests around the United States," how's a body supposed to keep track of everything? And hey, it was the Governor, so that's kind of a state matter, and I'm a federal guy. Jayapal's questioning could've been boiled down to a yes/no: You're a lawless hack working to subvert the Constitution in favor of +rump, isn't that right sir? Yes or no.

A week after Tom Ridge spoke up, we now have another former head of the Department of Homeland Security (under George W. Bush) calling out the attack on American cities. Michael Chertoff, on the Hijacking of Homeland Security:

"...White House statements demonstrate the president reveling in the use of brutal and aggressive force, especially in cities that he characterizes as governed by liberal Democratic mayors. And if the politically performative aspect of this policy were not already obvious, it is rendered unmistakable when footage of the mayhem is broadcast by Trump campaign commercials."

One little problem with a call to DHS leadership: illegally Acting Secretary Chad Wolf is not actually the man for that job; he is fully in the bag. And the other thing that was rendered unmistakable yesterday is that Bill Barr plans to do everything he can to keep +rump in office. DOJ's "policy" to keep quiet two months before an election? Fuhgeddaboudit. His and John Durham's "Russiagate" world tour and witch hunt is pretty much guaranteed to be working up to a series of October surprises.

In the less-measured reportorial realm, Evan Hurst liveblogged yesterday's tragicomedy. After you wade through more than a few other F-words, he extracted this F-word from the AG's opening statement: factotum.

"Ever since I made it clear that I was going to do everything I could to get to the bottom of the grave abuses involved in the bogus “Russiagate” scandal, many of the Democrats on this Committee have attempted to discredit me by conjuring up a narrative that I am simply the President’s factotum who disposes of criminal cases according to his instructions. Judging from the letter inviting me to this hearing, that appears to be your agenda today."

28.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

SAP "Industry 4.0 is Now" Permalink to this item

From the how did I get on this subscription list stack today, and the company that has always signified "all-encompassing enterprise software bollox" to me (with almost no first-hand experience, thank goodness):

"Is your organization keeping pace with the changes brought on by Industry 4.0? Are you ready to redefine your manufacturing processes and the value your products provide for the next stage of industrial revolution?

"Join SAP for our Industry 4.0 Webcast Series, a two-part, 10-episode web series dedicated to helping you on your path to operational excellence across your entire supply chain for Industry 4.0 and beyond. Each 45-minute episode led by industry experts will explore solutions, strategies, and best practices that address today’s most pressing supply chain and manufacturing challenges for your organization’s growth tomorrow."

Episode 1 has dropped. "Explore SAP’s Approach to Industry 4.0 and Intelligent Assets: The Industry 4.Now Strategy." It's 4 point oh, and 4 point Now, nice. As ever, SAP is the cosmic Swiss Army knife and adhesive that does everything.

Further episodes will be out weekly, with a gap before the last one to build excitement (or acknowledge vacation time in late August).

SAP roll graphic

How to Achieve Operational Excellence for Maintenance Processes. Drive Operational Excellence and the Intelligent Factory: Digital Manufacturing Operations, Automated Kanban, and Intralogistics Material Flow for Discrete Manufacturing Industries. How the Intelligent Factory Can Help You Drive Operational Excellence – Experience Digital Manufacturing Operations for Process Industries. Analytics from Shop Floor to Top Floor – Leverage a Digital Operations Center for the Intelligent Factory.

The abstracted teaser graphics go from quasi-automation to quasi-analytics, something factory-floor robotic, to a final roll of raw? finished? material spooling into the or out of the shop floor. The yellow-to-blue color sequence keeps it from being utterly mundane, but there's no avoiding the fact that it looks like a roll of toilet paper. Essential stuff, in our culture, at least, from shop floor to top floor, but kind of an odd closer.

26.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Mao in the Age of +rump Permalink to this item

When we went to China in 2003, rescheduled from April to November due to the SARS outbreak, our itinerary was laden with shopping opportunities. Neither one of us were that big on souvenirs and we limited ourselves to a very few items. Jeanette got a calligraphy set that was not quite as nice as a factory second, from a vendor desperate to unload end-of-season junk. I got a Movado knock-off with a "stainless steel" band that soon rubbed off to expose copper underneath. (What was coming off was probably bad cadmium plating, which took the shine off sporting a copywatch. Also, between ubiquitous clocks when I need them, and now always-on-time cellphones, who needs a watch?)

And I got a copy of Mao's little red book. In German. Given my limited fluency, the secrets of China's once revered Great Leader are safe with me, somewhere in the house.

Red-Color News Solider cover

Shortly before departure, and unremarked by us at the time, Li Zhensheng published his "Chinese Photographer's Odyssey Through the Cultural Revolution," Red-Color News Soldier, describing one of the great political upheavals of our time in text, historical documents, and remarkable black and white photographs. Seventeen years on, when Li died in June, the New York Times obituary brought this BIG red book to my attention, extolling Li's collection as "one of the most complete and nuanced visual chronicles of how China’s Cultural Revolution had an impact on daily life far away from Beijing."

Amazon has the French edition for 386€, German for 60€, Spanish for $41.37, but currently unavailable in English. I checked our library. No luck. "Did you check interlibrary loan?" Jeanette asked. Didn't know that was a separate search specification!

It was available! I've got a copy owned by the Molstead Library of North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene, due Tuesday. It's a BIG red book, clever homage to the subject, and one hell of an artifact of the history of "Red China" from my teenage years.

Reading it in mid-summer 2020, when the odds of the American experiment suddenly feels like a coin-toss, is sobering. "The Base" these days are not quite the same thing as the Red Guard of the 1960s, but there's a rhyme to it. The Cultural Revolution unfolded over the course of a decade, so still plenty of time for our story to go either (or any which) way. Not to give away the ending (which you know, right?), and it doesn't bring the story fully up to date, but there were some lessons learned:

While the Central Committee continued to insist that Mao's mistakes were "secondary, his merits primary," in June 1981 the 11th Party Congress issued a historic resolution that held: "Practice has shown that the 'cultural revolution' did not in fact constitute a revolution or social progress in any sense.... Chief responsibility for the grave error of the Cultural Revolution, an error comprehensive in magnitude and protracted in duration, does indeed lie with Comrade Mao Zedong. In his later years ... far from making a correct analysis of many problems, he confused right and wrong and the people with the enemy... Herein lies his tragedy."

23.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The best blogging I know Permalink to this item

Heather Cox Richardson's Letters from an American is a must-read. I wish I had a fraction of her skill at boiling down our current events. I keep getting distracted by my head exploding. Here's her wrap in the July 22 post, less than half a year after the Senate GOP, save Mitt Romney, acquitted the president of charges of high crimes and misdemeanors for withholding military aid from Ukraine to further his political ambition.

"The Trump campaign has released an ad suggesting that the choice in 2020 is between “PUBLIC SAFETY” and “CHAOS AND VIOLENCE.” But observers quickly noted that the image of street violence in the ad was not from America, it was from Ukraine in 2014.

"And the image was not of respectable police officers defending the rule of law. It was the opposite. It was a picture taken when democratic protesters were trying to oust corrupt oligarch Viktor Yanukovych from the Ukraine presidency. Yanukovych was an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and fled to Russia when he was thrown out of office in Ukraine. Yanukovych was in power thanks to the efforts of an American adviser: Paul Manafort, the same man who took over Trump’s ailing campaign in June 2016.

"So to illustrate “chaos and violence,” the Trump campaign used an image of a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch’s specialized federal police wrestling a pro-democracy protester to the ground. And Donald Trump and that oligarch won power thanks to the same advisor.

"Honestly, it’s hard to see the use of the image as a mistake."

The questions get harder at the end Permalink to this item

We've seen the "leader of the free world" turned into a punchline, the "rule of law" mocked by its inversion, the parade of fixers sent to jail (or left off easy), the cautious times on the stairs, the mincing down a ramp, the umbrella, the toilet paper on the shoe, the hair, the orange makeup, the palling around with dictators, the trade deals stealing our lunch money, the wall, the stormstroopers surging into American cities, and too too much of Dear Leader professing that he's "cognitively there" even as he can't string together subject, verb, object into a coherent sentence, never mind a paragraph.

The month before he shed this mortal coil (on the day before the 2016 election, no less), Leonard Cohen dropped the swan song for our times, "You Want It Darker," a prescient anthem for 2020.

I didn't know I had permission to murder and to maim

You've seen some of the interview with Chris Wallace by now, the closing softball about the good parts of his time in office. The battle with facts.

"Ready? Would you please get me the mortality rate. Kayleigh's right here. I heard we had one of the lowest, maybe the LOWEST mortality rate anywhere in the world. Do you have the numbers please? Because I heard we had the BEST mortality rate."

"Here's the bottom line. I've been very unfairly treated, and I don't say that as paranoid. I've been very – everybody says it."

God knows what was on that piece of paper she handed him, but he saw what he wanted to see, after he turned it right side up. (Or did he?)

"Number, number one low mortality rate. "I hope you show this inner—cause it shows what fake news is all about."

What in the absolute EXPLETIVE is going on here?

His increasingly demented brain appears capable of containing only superlatives. WORST or BEST. He likes BEST, ok? And it's a terrible, nasty question to suggest otherwise. He has people who can hand him pieces of paper, ok?

We all can look it up. Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center mortality analysis. At best, we're in the middle for the observed case-fatality ratio, between Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Columbia. 3.6% today. With 50, 60, 75,000 new cases in a day, that would be 2 or 3,000 deaths coming. For a day's worth of cases.

JHU mortality analysis, 2020-07-23

Deaths per capita, we're in tenth place. 43.77 per hundred thousand. And of course WE'RE NUMBER ONE IN DEATHS. (South Korea has seen <0.6 deaths per hundred thousand. Fifty-six countries have <1 per 100k.)

Remember when the prospect of 60,000 deaths seemed like a lot, but maybe we could limit it to that, and that would considered some kind of "success"? Only twenty 9/11s? That was a little over three months ago. Early April, when we were having a "very bad week" but there were "some glimmers of hope." In New York, "the number of hospitalizations, requirements for intensive care and intubation over the last few days have actually stabilized and [are] starting to come down." Dr. Fauci revised his projection from late March, when he said "between 100,000 and 200,000" people in the US could die from Covid-19.

It was when "shelter in place" and business shutdowns were as tight as ever (not very) in a lot of places. 15,000 had died already, and not quite half a million had been confirmed infected.

It was a month before Derek Chauvin coolly, casually murderd George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for eight minutes. Three months before Bill Barr and his team "rolled out" a federal invasion of American cities. Not enough unrest for the reelection campaign, you say? Well, let us just show you some unrest. The "Border Patrol" can now be pretty much everywhere, and our street theater this summer is a rolling Reichstag fire.

Is there anything else about that cognitive test you'd like to perseverate about, sir? Oh my god.

"If you get it in order, you get extra points, he said."

Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.

What @yourauntemma said: "These are components of Trump's narcissistic supply, not items on any #CognitiveTest."

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

We still have questions Permalink to this item

Robert Draper's feature for the latest NYT Magazine takes us back to the halcyon days running up to the war in Iraq, when Rummy and the team were hot to blow up some attractive targets. "Dick" Cheney, "Scooter" Libby, Wolfowitz, Feith and the gang were stroking their guns in late 2002, and working to "make the case" to the American people and the rest of the world that we needed to get after Hussein, Or Else.

After the CIA's Deputy Director, John McLaughlin gave a measured presentation of what even the hawks recognized as not enough, and with two more weeks' "fine-tuning," the "still in development" "rough draft" was run by POTUS in the Oval. George Bush the lesser didn't think it was enough yet, either. It needed to be "more convincing."

"Probably needs some better examples. ... Maybe have a lawyer look at how to lay out the structure of the argument," Bush continued. "Maybe someone with Madison Avenue experience should look at the presentation." He added, "And it needs to tie all this into terrorism, for the domestic audience."

Colin Powell is 83 now, and looking as formidable as ever. (Or, if you're French, "formidable!") He still wants answers about the sorry tale he got drafted into. The retrospective gave me occasion to look back in the day to see that three days after that insufficiently vetted speech at the United Nations, I was our protesting against the (coming) war—again—on a nearby street-corner. La plus ça change.

Coming to a suburb (and an urb) near you Permalink to this item

While the proto-fascists in the +rump administration, and right-wing media (especially, but not exclusively) paint Portland as a war zone, The Oregonian reports another side of the story.

"The images that populate national media feeds, however, come almost exclusively from a tiny point of the city: a 12-block area surrounding the Justice Center and federal courthouse.

"And they occur exclusively during late-night hours in which only a couple hundred or fewer protesters and scores of police officers are out in the city’s coronavirus-hollowed downtown.

"Those events are hardly representative of daily life, including peaceful anti-racism demonstrations that have drawn tens of thousands of protesters, in a city of 650,000 people that encompasses 145 square miles."

Oh, and some "smaller skirmishes" in other parts of the city. Still, footage is footage, and it plays nicely into the narrative of "the city as lawless and under threat of constant riots," that your Law & Order reality TV star needs to thump the Save the Suburbs drum and tweet the dog whistles of reliable racism. And here's the thing:

"With most Portlanders sticking close to home amid coronavirus, however, national TV coverage has been able to shape even some Portland residents' sense of protests and police action taking place in their city."

Good on The Oregonian for reconsidering their role in the main event and the side shows, considering "the totality of events," and making "clear distinctions between the large, peaceful demonstrations" separate from "the smaller group that gathers downtown at night."

But one local news source can't cover all the goings-on, and has a lot to push back against. As Heather Cox Richardson describes, "the administration appears to be constructing a scene of violence and disorder for the news media to show to viewers," as they "attempt to overshadow the increasingly alarming news about the coronavirus, which is now burning across the country with renewed vigor."

In a latter to the inspectors general of the DHS and the DOJ, the House committee chairs for Judiciary, Homeland Security Committee, and Oversight Committee, wrote that they "stand with our fellow citizens protesting systemic racism and police brutality throughout the country," and expressed alarm at this administration's abuse of emergency power, going back to where it started, with the Attorney General acting as Field Marshall.

"On June 1, 2020, horse-mounted federal authorities in riot gear used chemical agents, smoke, and rubber bullets to violently remove protestors from Lafayette Square—so that the President could have a photo-op in front of the historic St. John’s Church."

An alphabet soup of little green men with "special deputation" supposedly "meant to last only thirty days" (and only 14 days for the DEA agents brought in). Lest we forget:

"[T]his is not the first time the Trump Administration has used force to suppress dissent. For example, in 2017, federal officials assisted local law enforcement officers in deploying cold water cannons, pepper spray, and tear gas on Americans protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline across the Standing Rock Reservation. ...

"The Attorney General of the United States does not have unfettered authority to direct thousands of federal law enforcement personnel to arrest and detain American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights. The Acting Secretary appears to be relying on an ill-conceived executive order meant to protect historic statues and monuments as justification for arresting American citizens in the dead of night. The Administration’s insistence on deploying these forces over the objections of state and local authorities suggest that these tactics have little to do with public safety, but more to do with political gamesmanship."

The Just Security blog dug up some history on Bill Barr's previous foray into extra-judicial deployments, when he was an assistant attorney general, 30 years ago, and happy to brag up about how he found "the legal books" allowed them to send federal law enforcement to St. Croix and "play it by ear" after a major hurricane in 1989. The House Committee's letter (with my emphasis) concludes:

“This is a matter of utmost urgency. Citizens are concerned that the Administration has deployed a secret police force, not to investigate crimes but to intimidate individuals it views as political adversaries, and that the use of these tactics will proliferate throughout the country. Therefore, we ask that you commence your review of these issues immediately.”

Bombus huntii photo

One person I know in Portland lamented what tear gas was doing to the bees in her neighborhood, as she changed the water and cleaned bee and bird baths. After I said something about hearing that the mayor was one of the good guys (telling the feds his city didn't need their "help"), she filled in more detail:

"Last night the Portland Police gassed my neighborhood. The Feds aren't allowed to be anywhere without federal land or buildings.

"I live in North Portland in a predominantly black neighborhood that was protesting near my house.

"We heard the pop sounds, we saw the cloud raise up over our neighborhood trees.

"The Feds downtown at the Justice Center also used tear gas last night. But I live far enough away from downtown that there's no way we'd feel that up here.

"Ted Wheeler has not banned the use of tear gas as he promised the protestors he would early on in the protests. He told the police they could only use it in 'life or death situations.' So they came up with reasons like 'violent anarchist graffiti,' the crowd is chanting too loud, the crowd is too large, etc.

"Then the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the police could only use tear gas if there was a riot.

"Peaceful protestors marched to the Portland Police union building. They were called a riot on sight as they rounded the corner, before even arriving at the building.

"There's been tear gas more nights than not in Portland and it's been escalating.

"Ted Wheeler has had the opportunity to make good on his word of no tear gas. He's had almost 43 days of opportunity to tell the police to stop using tear gas. He hasn't. We call him War Crime Wheeler for a reason."

A couple days later, hizzoner was down in the thick of it, and took some federal tear gas himself, an eyewitness to an unprovoked, and "egregious overreaction." "This is not a de-escalation strategy," he said. Indeed, it is demonstrably the re-election campaign strategy of Donald +rump and his lackeys to manufacture enough urban violence to energize his base. The New York Times report suggests Mayor Wheeler hasn't won over all the locals, but at least they now have a common experience, and enemy.

19.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Wishful thinking Permalink to this item

A quintet of NYT reporters on today's front page, "Passing Off Virus Burden, White House Fueled Crisis," online as Inside Trump’s Failure: The Rush to Abandon Leadership Role on the Virus. "The roots of the nation’s current inability to control the pandemic can be traced to mid-April, when the White House embraced overly rosy projections to proclaim victory and move on."

That's kind of the whole story. When it was already "a public health, economic and political disaster," the +rump adminstration was working full steam ahead "to shift responsibility for leading the fight against the pandemic from the White House to the states."

The “state authority handoff” "was at the heart of what would become at once a catastrophic policy blunder and an attempt to escape blame for a crisis that had engulfed the country — perhaps one of the greatest failures of presidential leadership in generations."

I started reading this last night, and got hung up on that sentence, that one word there. Perhaps. They already have the "one of" escape clause, so it doesn't even have to be number one, or top three. You can be in the top 10 and still be "one of the greatest."

Let's just call it, here three months past mid-April, with 140,000 dead, and more than a hundred thousand of them unnecessarily dead. No question about it. One of the greatest failures of presidential leadership in generations. Or, ever.

Why wouldn't Donald J. Trump be the greatest failure? Running our country like one of his businesses. "An incredible businessman," one of his early supporters put it, and no lie. Take your pick: Airlines, Vodka, Mortgage, The Game, Casinos, Steak, University, and now his greatest failure: U.S.A. All branded with the soil of his surname.

Self-triage Permalink to this item

St Luke's has a thing they're calling a "self-triage tool." Thinking about how I might self-sort myself into one of three buckets, "no need for attention just yet," "needs attention," or "goner," I took a look. First off, a list of emergency warning signs (I don't have, thanks), and if you do call 911:

Beyond that, you have to have an account with them to go through it. I do. Logged in and gave it a whirl. They have an alt-path (that I didn't follow) if you're an employee.

1. In the last 14 days, have you been exposed to someone with known or suspected COVI9? ("Close contact" is defined: being within 6 ft. of a person who has COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes, and stuff. "Prolonged close conversation is probably at least 10 minutes." Being coughed or sneezed on.)

2. Any of these symptoms in the past 2 weeks?

Nope and nope. That's all. Nothing to see here, move along. I didn't give "other" answers to explore the tool's decision space, and if I don't have to, I'm ok with that.

(H/t to the Idaho Press for the link, in their COVID-19 roundup on Friday.)

18.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Investing in the future Permalink to this item

Reading last Sunday's Economic View from Seema Jayachandran, "Extending a Helping Hand Can Be Profitable" in print, only slightly distracted by "profitable" as applied to humans, poverty, healthcare, I see the webhed is worse: Social Programs Can Sometimes Turn a Profit for Taxpayers. "Government assistance can be expensive, but a new study shows that some programs more than pay for themselves," the subhed explains. I joked about the blinding obviousness of it all.

Who knew that programs designed to children, youth, young mothers might more than repay the investment in more productive, higher-earning, higher-tax paying citizens in future generations?

Alternately, who didn't know? The "taxation is theft" team adamantly opposes the possibility on every level. Ironically, the purely distilled libertarian view is well-suited to a 4 year old capable of differentiating "mine" and "not mine" (and greatly preferring the former), without being too much troubled with the realization that other humans have mental states, needs, etc. Most of us do move beyond that level of reasoning.

From the abstract of the scholarly paper that informed the article, A Unified Welfare Analysis of Government Policies, from "a comparative welfare analysis of 133 historical policy changes over the past half-century":

Some playing cards

"Our results suggest that direct investments in low-income children’s health and education have historically had the highest [Marginal Value of Public Funds, the ratio of recipient "willingness to pay" to the net cost to the government], on average exceeding 5. Many such policies have paid for themselves as governments recouped the cost of their initial expenditures through additional taxes collected and reduced transfers. We find large MVPFs for education and health policies amongst children of all ages, rather than observing diminishing marginal returns throughout childhood. We find smaller MVPFs for policies targeting adults, generally between 0.5 and 2."

Talking about the long-term benefits of modest help from the government, Jeanette was reminded of how she'd repurposed her National Defense Student Loan for the quasi-educational purpose of getting her first divorce, and I joked that her surname could've been "Schneider," working my limited capacity for multilingual punnery. Saying that out loud brought to mind my post-high school factory job (in a diecutting factory), and the lunch-break education in Sheepshead that the old hands provided for nickel a point tuition. Schafkopf being a good old Bavarian card game, one of the details in scoring is Schneider, the cutting line, halfway to winning a hand. If you don't make the "Schneid," you lose double.

I could picture the face of one of my coworkers, at cards, or at the bar on payday, more than at a machine, and remembered "he was short a few segments of his fingers." And that was that where the conversation devolved into giggling at the unexpected turn.

17.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Bundy gang rides again Permalink to this item

The Idaho Press update of yesterday's Wild West Show at the Southwest District Health office includes "forced entry" (as we all can see from Lori Marr's video) and "tried forced entry," and this remarkably anodyne explanation from Caldwell Police Lt. Dave Wright:

Still from Lori Marr video clip

"They just wanted the ability to attend the meeting," Wright said. "They had some demands they wanted to have met, and they wanted to have their voices heard," he added. After police talked with the group and the meeting was postponed, everyone left and there were no arrests made, Wright said.

Ain't that swell? In addition to Bundy assaulting the SWDH employee, and forcing his way into the building, he threatened violence in "future situations" if y'all don't do like he says. In that so-sly third person style, always leaving someone else to take the fall.

Check with Jon Ritzheimer, Ryan Payne, Jason Patrick, Joseph O'Shaughnessy, Duane Ehmer, Darryl Thorn, Jake Ryan, Blaine Cooper, or Wesley Kjar on how well that works out. Or LaVoy Finicum.

"Bundy said he wasn't there to debate a possible mask mandate, but the Board of Health's authority to enact one. He said he intends on being present for the next meeting, and hopes the public will have in-person access for it. He said he believes future situations could get violent if there isn't, and Thursday's measures were aimed at preempting possible physical conflict in the future."

That's right, Ammo is working to keep the peace.

16.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Red zone Permalink to this item

The Center for Public Integrity reports a not-publicized executive branch document dated two days ago that tallies states that should revert to more stringent protective measures to combat the pandemic. The document lists 18 states in the "red zone" for case rate (>100 new cases per 100k population), and 11 states for test positivity (>10% of diagnostic tests coming back positive).

"A document prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force but not publicized suggests more than a dozen states should revert to more stringent protective measures, limiting social gatherings to 10 people or fewer, closing bars and gyms and asking residents to wear masks at all times.

Idaho made both lists. Two days on, Idaho's dashboard has its record showing of 727 cases (691 confirmed, 36 probable). The variation has been high in the last week; we were ramping up past 500/day then dropped down to "only" 316 on Tuesday. Average for the last 7 days is just below 500 confirmed+probable. That's 190-some new cases per 100,000 population for the week ending July 15. Test positivity for the last three weeks (ending last Saturday, July 11) was 10.3, 11.3 and 14.5%.

The White House document's section on Idaho, pages 92-98 (of 359 total), shows red zone metro areas includ Boise, Coeur d'Alene, Twin Falls, Burley, and Ontario (which is actually in Oregon, go figure). Eleven counties, including our Ada, and next door Canyon, Owyhee, Payette and Washington. Those neighbors are four of the six counties in Southwest District Health. (Ada is in Central District Health, along with sparsely populated Valley, Boise, and Elmore counties.)

Ada and Canyon counties are the primary nexus of the SARS-CoV-2 contagion in Idaho, as the "Top Counties" cumulative new cases graph (through last Friday) shows. We have 40% of the state's population, and 2/3rds of the case count.

From the Governors Report, 2020-07-14

This morning, the Southwest District Health board was set to have a meeting, but a gaggle of protesters seeking to disrupt it managed to do even better: get it postponed into next week (when no doubt, they will be back—somewhere—for more).

Lori Marr videorecorded Ammon Bundy at the point of the spear trying to rush into the SWDH office, where masks and temperature checks were being required to enter, but of course they refused to be "muzzled." Marr posted the video to her Facebook feed. It's an unpleasant 25 minutes to watch, but it does document criminal assault on Bundy's part, among other stuff. The guy in the red shirt and black mask does a hell of a job staying cool during all that. That can't have been easy. The recording also features children of the corn being used as props and shields, and Lori and Ammo getting all sweet and docile when the Caldwell PD shows up, after they'd been yelling at plainclothes government employees beforehand. Your run of the mill cowardly bullies.

As Nicole Foy of the Idaho Statesman noted there were 200 people waiting to listen to the livestream of the meeting before this couple dozen blustering idiots managed to get it canceled. Jacob Scholl's report for the Statesman noted that "input and updates from a number of large health care systems" were at the top of the agenda, along with consideration of whether or not to impose a mask mandate. The SWDH board comprises one commissioner from each of its counties, and one "physician representative."

One of those members, Adams Co. Commissioner Viki Purdy, has been outspoken and mocking about the idea of wearing masks. She was featured in a front page story in today's Idaho Press for taking to social media to post stupid things, some of them stupid enough to get canceled, "flagged by Facebook for promoting false information."

On Tuesday, the Idaho Statesman published an editorial noting that Purdy has made it abundantly clear that "a health board consisting of county elected officials in more rural parts of the state should not be making vital decisions about the health care needs of a larger, more metropolitan county." (Adams Co. has less than 2% the population of Canyon Co., and less than 1% of Ada Co.'s population.) And yesterday, Canyon County recorded more new coronavirus cases than any other county in Idaho.

Still from Lori Marr video

On Tuesday, the Central District Health board voted 5-1 to mandate masks/face coverings throughout Ada County (and not the other three counties in the district). Today, who knows how SWDH would have voted, but not that lopsided in favor, I'm pretty sure. More likely against, which is sort of what Ammo and the gang would have wanted, except they're perfectly fine just disrupting stuff, getting publicity and getting a de facto (non)decision for FREEDOM.

The gal recording today's scene at the SWDH office did not get in her own shot this time, but when she recorded her visit to the Capitol to deliver the "proclamation that our legislators [sic] wrote when they came [sic] on June 23rd" and a copy of a hot-off-the-press self-published screed, "Disgrace: the TRUE STORIES of How Governor Brad Little Destroyed the Businesses, Lives, Hopes, and Dreams of Hundreds of Thousands of Idahoans," it was all about her, her crazy eyes, her expressed contempt for the Governor's secretary and "serving" those documents on Gov. Brad Little.

"Episode ___ of the Twilight Zone of Idaho," she deemed it, and she ain't wrong about that. Watch for the gleam in her eyes when she says "Hell."

Rundown Permalink to this item

Started my day with Heather Cox Richardson's July 15 Letter from America, the daily midnight wrap-up of you won't believe what happened next. Not easy to summarize, but you can read the whole thing for yourself, and take the 15 jumps she provides. It starts with an update of the +rumPence "data management" change to stop having hospitals report Covid-19 data to the CDC. She notes that reporting has been going to three different systems: the CDC's ("which has been in place for 15 years"), HHS Protect, and TeleTracking, and that only the CDC is being cut out.

"[O]bservers worry that Trump is trying to take control of information about the coronavirus in order to conceal it," she notes, before describing another motivation that rivals "hiding health data to help my reelection campaign" for venality: money.

"HHS Protect is developed by Palantir Technologies, a data-mining firm that works with the Pentagon and law enforcement agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Peter Thiel, a billionaire Trump supporter, co-founded the company, which last week confidentially filed paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to go public. An initial public offering (IPO) would have made bucketloads of money in any case, but a federal contract to compile coronavirus information is a sweet addition to its portfolio."

From the CNN jump provided, more about Thiel as libertarian, "surrogate for Donald Trump's 2016 campaign" and indispensible pal of the CIA and ICE. And money. Money, money, money. "Palantir is helping empower government agencies: it scored $1.5 billion in new contracts with the US government in 2019 alone."

So a $10 million "non-competitive" job is just kind of walking-around money, but thanks to Sen. Patty Murray for asking questions all the same.

But wait, you know, there's always more, the "peculiarly nasty stick" of using the data flow to control the distribution of Remdesivir, one of just two drugs shown to have some effect against Covid-19. (The other? Not hydroxychloroquine; the latest from the FDA notes that they issued an Emergency Use Authorization for Remdesivir May 1, and they revoked the March 28 EUA for chloroquine phosphate and hydroxychloroquine sulfate on June 15.)

"Two weeks ago, the Trump administration bought up almost all of the world’s supply of the drug for the next three months."

"The rest of the world was outraged at this purchase," understandably, and HHS Secretary Alex Azar said, in essence, we're taking over, because America.

"Now, it appears, in order to get access to [Remdesivir], hospitals will need to use the private data systems the administration supports."

And thereby line Peter Thiel's pockets. So he can contribute to the +rump campaign. To keep a murderous despot in power. It's one hell of a story we're living through.

15.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Peter principle Permalink to this item

In the network diagram of kakistocracy, the Dunning-Kruger effect occupies a large territory. Before that came around, there was the principle described by the research of Laurence J. Peter, that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their "level of incompetence."

Things were more structured and orderly back in the 1960s; there must have been cases where people overshot the mark, but none quite as spectacularly as spring to mind in our present day. That is, it's possible to rise well beyond one's level of incompetence under the right circumstances. In both cases, an illusion of superiority is the essential element.

Ethics? What are those

Back in April, when the +rump administration's mishandling of the pandemic was well-established, but not yet recognized for its deadly potential to establish pariah status for the nation, the White House trade adviser, Peter Navarro made news by second-guessing Dr. Anthony Fauci over the unproven efficacy of the anti-malaria drug hydroxycholoroquine.

You're probably aware that no such "efficacy" has been established to date. More simply, we have no reason to infer that the drug is either safe, or effective for treating Covid-19. But we didn't know that in April, when IMPOTUS was touting his belief that a miracle would make his nightmares go away.

Navarro trotting out his "second opinion" at that point would be comedy gold if it weren't one of the many actions foreshadowing the tragedy we're now living (and dying) in. He's not a medical doctor, but he has a Ph.D, he told us. A "social scientist." "And I understand how to read statistical studies, whether it's in medicine, the law, economics or whatever."


Indeed, an average, well-qualified holder of a Baccalaureate degree should be expected to understand how to read a variety of statistical studies in fields beyond their own. It would be best if they also understood the general outline and limitations of their knowledge, and ignorance. Social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger (with Ph.D.s from Stanford, and Cornell) put their punchline in the title of their famous paper: "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments." Even mediocre doctoral students should be able to read all the way through the subhead for comprehension. Or a bit of the abstract:

"Across 4 studies, the authors found that participants scoring in the bottom quartile on tests of humor, grammar, and logic grossly overestimated their test performance and ability. Although their test scores put them in the 12th percentile, they estimated themselves to be in the 62nd."

Navarro lost a variety of election campaigns, and shopped political parties, before mind-bending himself into "a Trump Democrat" and his main chance, all-around wise guy with a potpourri of "adviser" jobs that never required Senate confirmation. The Jared Kushner sort of expert.

A million years ago last December, when Navarro was more focused on his trade advising job, he trotted out Ron Vara to support his views. His alter-ego.

"Ron Vara is the fictional character that Mr. Navarro created and cited as an expert more than a dozen times in five of his 13 books, where he offered searing critiques of China. Mr. Navarro’s use of the fabricated source emerged in October after an Australian scholar reviewed all of Mr. Navarro’s writing and discovered that one of his sources was imaginary."

In Alan Rappeport's report for the NYT, he says "Mr. Navarro confirmed the authenticity of the memo." Citing his made-up "source." Our new version of "authenticity."

Today, we have a combination of scientific, political and journalistic malpractice, with USA Today coming up with the so-clever idea to seek out Navarro's second opinion as counterpoint to their editorial extolling Dr. Fauci's "extraordinary expertise" and "exceptional ability to communicate with ordinary people." Never mind that Navarro's "forcefully denigrating the doctor" "shows how hard it is to find an actual medical professional willing to undercut Fauci."

Maybe, just maybe, our current situation would encourage USA Today to step outside their tedious "both sides" trope and let their own editorial opinion stand on its own?

Navarro is ever the hero in his own account, "making the case" to support "the president's courageous decision" to "take down the flights from China," and "working feverishly on behalf of the president in February to help engineer [sic] the fastest industrial mobilization of the health care sector in our history." And, incredibly, he brought up his reading of studies supporting hydroxycholorquine again.

USA Today whispered in a footnote that oh by the way, the Food and Drug Administration has revoked its approval for treating Covid-19 with hydroxychloroquine. And then they ask their readers, what do you think of the opposing view?

Sadly, there wasn't a comment facility. (Other than have at Twitter.) I did chip in a "strongly disagree" with the 80% on the spectrum, even as it felt like a mistake to play along with this bit of clickbait in service to journalistic malpractice. I neither "agree" nor "disagree" with malpractice. It should be shunned.

Update: The +rump administration doesn't walk much of its colossal bumbling back, but once in a while. Today was one of those times. Peter Baker tweets word from Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, riding on Air Force One (via "pooler @toddgillman"):

"Peter Navarro's statement or op-ed or whatever you want to classify it as was an independent action that was a violation of well established protocols that was not supported overtly or covertly by anybody in the West Wing."

The personal endorsements for Goya's canned beans from First Daughter (amended above) and IMPOTUS (on Instagram) are still operational, however. New slogan, anybody? "Oy vey, It's Goya."

Bastille Day 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Spamalot Permalink to this item

13.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Widespread looting Permalink to this item

It's not news that a sickness is upon the land. Also, this pandemic. The former has all the familiar forms, with various twists we might not have seen coming. John Michael "Mick" Mulvaney writing an opinion piece about how the next stimulus bill should focus on dealing with Covid-19, because... well, Mick-son "was tested recently; we had to wait 5 to 7 days for results," and Mick-daughter "wanted to get tested before visiting her grandparents, but was told she didn't qualify." How did that make him feel? "That is simply inexcusable at this point in the pandemic." He wants to talk to the virus' manager, I would presume.

He suggests we direct some more money to research, temporary hosptial beds and therapeutics, and, "if politics dictate that traditional fiscal stimulus has to be part of the package, then a payroll tax cut, and tying capital gains to inflation, are likely a politically viable package." Yes, that's right, if only the capital gains tax were lower than the already historically low rate, then life would be great again, and start trickling down on the workers.

(Weirdly, and how did I miss this news? in addition to him not being acting chief of staff to +rump, he's apparently not head of the Office of Management and Budget any more, either? Says there he's the US's "special envoy for Northern Ireland." The OMB's site must say who's in charge, somewhere, but it was easier to look it up on Wikipedia. Russell Vought is the acting director, says there.)

Next up, an oily lobbyist you never heard of, Brian Petty, with something to say to the New York Times after it published Hiroko Tabuchi's article examining the cratering of oil and gas companies, and the last-minute looting by executives before they jump ship. MDC Energy is a couple hundred $million short of satisfying creditors and cleaning up abandoned wells, but it scraped together $8.5 million out of its couch cushions for "consulting fees" for its chief executive, before it filed for bankruptcy.

Petty demanded to know, "what is a Japanese woman doing on this beat anyway?" Petty's consulting business, Hunt Petty LP styles itself "a strategic resource for the global oil & gas exploration industry," with a mission of "promot[ing] the achievement of policy parity in the alignment of offshore safety regimes." That's a mission that could serve almost anything, when you think about it. (Proably the point.) Aligning safety regimes, what?

You'd think Petty might have something to say about the substance of the NYT piece instead of just a racist, misogynist cheap shot at an author he apparently knows nothing about? Her writing is a lot more clear than the Hunt Petty LP mission statement, at least. The good news is, Tabuchi's article received more well-deserved attention, so thanks for that. That woman also won the 2013 Pulitzer for explanatory reporting; she seems to have a better handle on how to use language than Petty. From her article:

"Whiting Petroleum, a major shale driller in North Dakota that sought bankruptcy protection in April, approved almost $15 million in cash bonuses for its top executives six days before its bankruptcy filing. Chesapeake Energy, a shale pioneer, declared bankruptcy last month, just weeks after it paid $25 million in bonuses to a group of executives. And Diamond Offshore Drilling secured a $9.7 million tax refund under the Covid-19 stimulus bill Congress passed in March, before filing to reorganize in bankruptcy court the next month. Then it won approval from a bankruptcy judge to pay its executives the same amount, as cash incentives."

Fifteen million here, twenty-five million there, after awhile it starts to add up. Says there, "almost 250 oil and gas companies could file for bankruptcy protection by the end of next year, more than the previous five years combined, according to Rystad Energy, an analytics company." Anybody want to take credit for that?

Of course. "Two months ago I saved the oil industry, IMPOTUS just said. That was after "I created it." "Texas is not going to have to let go of millions and millions of people." (Fun fact: BLS statistics shows all employment in the oil and gas extraction industry at about 150,000-some.)

So many distractions in all this, but the bottom line is a familiar story: widespread looting abetted by political complicity, at the expense of the environment, with taxpayers left holding the bag.

2020 photo

In a similar vein, different industry, Jane Mayer's piece for The New Yorker, Back to the Jungle: How Trump is Helping Tycoons Exploit the Pandemic. Good Christian tycoons, no less, empowered by "economic emergency" to turn the Birds Per Minute up from 140 to 175, without worrying too much about worker safety. The union spokesperson, said "It’s like the ‘I Love Lucy’ episode at the chocolate factory," except not so funny. Because we're in an emergency, the company only has to show "good faith" (also no joke) that they're not abusing the health and safety of the workers on the production line. Mountaire's owner, Ronald Cameron, has stashed over $300 million in a Jesus Fund—literally, the "Jesus Fund"—while workers may not be able to afford the health-care plan, and have to get by on Medicaid and food stamps. He's not just exploiting the workers, he's fleecing taxpayers to boot.

"The gulf between Cameron’s spectacular wealth and his workers’ meagre circumstances echoes the findings of a recent study by two Harvard economists... In the paper, “The Declining Worker Power Hypothesis,” Stansbury and Summers argue that, in the past four decades, the single largest driver of income inequality in America has been the decline in worker power, much of it stemming from the collapse of membership in private-sector unions."

Private-sector workers belonging to unions has gone from 33% in the 1950s to 6% now, fueling "an upward redistribution of income to high-income executives, owners, and shareholders." Praise the lord.

Update: @dabeard's tweet on the oil and gas story included an email address for Petty, above the derision for "relentless and ignorant reporting on all things fossil fuels." I took the liberty to send him a note, not really expecting anything to come of it. After looking up Hunt Petty LP, and seeing that its contact information did not have Petty listed, I tried his partner, too.

Dear Dr. Hunt:

I'm not sure if your partner's gmail address will be kept going for long, so perhaps you can forward this message to him, while you contemplate how his recent remark will reflect on Hunt Petty LP going forward.

I will say, I thought Ms. Tabuchi's article was quite informative, and well-written. For a company professing a mission of... well, ok, I'm not quite sure what "promot[ing] the achievement of policy parity in the alignment of offshore safety regimes" actually means. Safety? Accountability? Or avoiding accountability for safety? Could be almost anything, which, perhaps is the point.

Hunt replied inside half an hour, with a cryptic bit of LP poetry:

fyi. definitely attaches to HPLP. Twitter user posted the Guyana governed sponsorship page. Hope it blows over.

I assume "HPLP" is pronounced hiplip internally. The "fyi" addressed to... Petty? Not sure what in this he would think is for my information. Perhaps he bcc'd his partner. The second sentence seems to be addressed to me, and the third is a mystery. I looked at the Twitter thread for something about Guyana, not seeing it. There is a response from Bill McKibben though, observing that "there's nothing these guys hate as much as good reporting, especially from someone who doesn't look exactly like them."

"Hope it blows over" seems addressed to his partner, again, not me. Maybe what he sent to me was supposed to go to Petty?! That'd be weird. As is his closing exhortation:

"Helmet on, head down."

I'm also reminded by replies in the thread that the other fellow with contact info is "Doug Leak," giving it all a feeling like bad fiction. Lobbying (and "consulting") for the oil and gas industry, we have Hunt, Petty and Leak. And speaking of leaks, the NYT story on why this story matters:

"The federal government estimates that there are already more than three million abandoned oil and gas wells across the United States, two million of which are unplugged, releasing the methane equivalent of the annual emissions from more than 1.5 million cars."

11.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The president is a crook Permalink to this item

Robert S. Mueller III knows it. Mitt Romney knows it. (Plenty of other Republicans know it too, they just don't say it out loud.) Bill Barr pretended to know it when he wanted a job. Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin Wittes know it.

And the Lincoln Project sure as hell knows it. He's crookeder than Richard M. Nixon.

10.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

You make a great argument for single payer health insurance Permalink to this item

As luck and pandemic would have it, Jeanette and I arranged eye exams on the same afternoon last month. The office was in nearly full-mask mode, and requested compliance from all customers. We wouldn't have it any other way, and whether by design or improvisation, we went through the process in tandem, one station after the other, from machine refraction, to technician pre-check, and then the session with the optometrist. It was efficent for us, and for them; the total time was around two hours, which was what they said to allow for a "regular" appointment. I felt a little short-changed as far as time to discuss eye health, but with a planned follow-up to evaluate some new contact lenses, I figured I'd make up the difference.

Come the billing, I see our charges for the "Comprehensive Exam" were significantly different. Jeanette's was $144; mine $225. Unsurprisingly, it's an insurance thing. She has Medicare (which doesn't cover the exam; somehow "eye health" got separated from "health"), I have private insurance with Regence (which also doesn't cover the exam). Even without covering the procedure, Medicare dictates what can be charged. My insurance doesn't.

When I called billing and had all that explained to me, I found it hard to put into words how annoying it was for "the system" to be laid bare so obviously. The gal in billing swims in this day in and day out, and assured me that everybody does the same thing. I said "I understand your point of view, but I'm not sure you understand my point of view."

But—what difference does it make whether or not she does? She's not going to change anything, certainly not on my behalf. It's the system. Get over it. Pay the extra $81. (It's only 56% more.)

"Thank you for trusting us with your eye care. Have a nice day."

Gimme those old-time LTE Permalink to this item

Back in the day, Letters to the Editor was all we had for social media, and it was not easy to build and maintain a good lather with the long delay inherent in publication. We're enjoying the old-fashioned reality of letters in the Idaho Press these days, and today's batch was a corker. John Landers, from small-town Wilder, calls on us to imagine.

"Imagine no freedom or choices or no churches and you could be rounded up and put into concentration camps with barb wire all around for voicing your opinion and than watching your family being tortured and executed all because you were different. What would you do if America was invaded and buildings were blown up and body parts everywhere and you were sent to reeducation camps and the invaders imposed on us military rule and your rights violated and liberties trampled and you ate what they told you and you lived in camps where disease was not uncommon."

I was reading it aloud, breathlessly, and was a bit disappointed as that second sentence was beached with "not uncommon." But it picks up again with censorship, torture, death, starvation, thirst, massacre, and so on, "life slipping away and ruled by tyrants." Think about it.

"One day it could all could be gone but who will you blame or make excuses because we all stood by and let it happen and the world became an order by the wealthy and they became the new world order and the illuminati were the rulers and life was no longer because it faded."

And Bravo to Alan Malone for the easy lift of the Idaho Freedom Foundation onto its own petard. If only they could appreciate the irony of their predicament. The "Freedom" foundation is usually first to celebrate itself as the enemy of government. The recent "emergency non-session" calling for an emergency session because of the emergency of the Governor invoking emergency powers for a... non-emergency? was a bit confusing, even for the participants. A proclamation, then! Or... "just the way she feels," maybe.

Or, the coronavirus could be challenged to a duel. Pistols at ten paces, at dawn.

Malone suggested reading the ("highly entertaining") legal opinion published on the IFF website, on the constitutionality of a special session. I did enjoy a look through of the purported "Legal Memorandum" from two Arizona lawyers that's at the top of their stack at present. They have an Idaho attorney, Bruce Skaug, who "joins the legal opinion," albeit without putting his name in the FROM line with the Arizona boys. Skaug makes an appearance in the first footnote, where it's noted that he "was associated with and actively researched the issues," a delicious combination of passivity and activity. The footnote cites Idaho Rule of Professional Conduct 5.5(b)(2)(iii), having to do with the UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF LAW, providing that said "association" of an Idaho lawyer absolves the Arizona boys from breaking Idaho rules.

Malone then invites us to "accept it as completely reasonable," just for fun. Enemy attacks (such as the conspiracy-minded are insisting China has made on the rest of the world, knowing, somehow, that the U.S. would be especially vulnerable right now) are said to justify the Legislature to call itself into session. Somehow. In order to "[insure] the continuity of governmental operations." In order to follow the rabbit down the hole, you have to also accept that whether we've been attacked, and whether "legislative action is necessary to ensure [sic] 'the continuity of governmental operations'" are question that only the "plenary discretion of the legislative branch" can answer.

"Further, even if the existence of the requisite “emergency” and “attack” were amenable to judicial determination, there is at the very least a reasonable factual basis for the Legislature to find that the virus and the destruction it has wrought derived at least in part from the concerted hostile activities of foreign actors."

Festus and Marshal Dillon

And besides, "no provision of the Idaho Constitution prohibits the Legislature from convening itself in a special session when it deems necessary" for whatever! Just because it has never happened, and there is no procedural mechanism for it to happen does not mean it couldn't happen. (It's more convincing if Paul Manafort, aka "MC Stammer" says it.) The punchline was that

"the Legislature’s convocation of a special session on June 23, 2020 to address issues arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Governor’s related proclamations and executive orders is authorized by, and consistent with, the Idaho Constitution."

You probably already know that Extraordinary Session could not find its bootstraps? But if Marshal Law does come to town, he might want to have a look to see if the "IFF's call for civil disobedience is propaganda that creates distrust, panic and confusion among Idahoans," as Malone concludes. Bravo.

9.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The impossibly slow grind of justice Permalink to this item

SCOTUS in overtime dropped three bombshells today, even as their two decisions about +rump's financial records carefully missed the boat. Prosecutors in New York can get the records (but "shielded from public scrutiny under grand jury secrecy rules until after the election, and perhaps indefinitely"), and Congress can not, "at least for now." Both votes 7-2, both written by hit-in-the-head Chief Roberts.

“No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding.”

But, ah, sure, he can still fuss and fiddle and run out the clock for four years. It could've been "four more years" if he hadn't screwed up the pandemic response so murderously badly. And Congress, should it wish to investigate evidence of money laundering, terrorism, and foreign involvement in US elections in order to enact legislation thwarting such behavior will have to do so with out looking into the records of the Grifter-in-Chief. It's just too fraught, John John says, we've hardly had to deal with such a case in 200 years. Vacated and remanded, and y'all go argue some more.

The best shady lawyer and prinicipal pettifogger for +rump, Jay Sekulow, "portrayed the decisions as at least a temporary victory," which, you know, was the goal all along. Exhaust the opposition. If only his boss can win another term, he's got a DOJ fixer to do the rest, and keep that 2016 hush money hushed. (ICYMI, +rump and his company were paying his previous fixer, Michael D. Cohen, for payments made to keep the romping and spanking quiet.)

“We are pleased that in the decisions issued today, the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked both Congress and New York prosecutors from obtaining the President’s tax records,” Sekulow said in a statement. “We will now proceed to raise additional constitutional and legal issues in the lower courts.”

So that's two. The third decision was way below my radar: 5 of 9 ruled that Nearly Half of Oklahoma Is Indian Reservation, amazing enough, but how about that wildcard Son-of-Anne saying we're now going to "hold the government to its word"? Talk about a dangerous precedent.

CJ spluttered in dissent that confusion was being sown, with "the State's ability to prosecute serious crimes will be hobbled." So weird how he's not worried about that in regard to America's First Family of Crime though.

8.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Circle the wagons Permalink to this item

A good old friend from Moscow, now living down under, and missing her usual visit to the Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest & Festival, shared a comment posted to a site based in Weiser, Idaho, in response to reporting of Covid-19 in Idaho’s Southwest Health District, "next door" counties Adams, Washington, Payette, Gem, Canyon and Owyhee. Weiser is the county seat of Washington Co., claims about half of the 10,000-some county population. Slightly over 1% of the county's population is confirmed infected, so far. Its case rate of 1,181 per 100,000 ranks third-highest at the moment. The nearby population centers in Canyon and Ada counties are at 650 to 700 per 100k, and have about half of the state's eight and a half thousand cases to date.

Google satellite view excerpt

Ada County (with the city of Boise inside) is in SW Idaho, but not the SWHD; Ada, Boise, Elmore, and Valley counties are in Central District Health. The satellite view of southwest Idaho and eastern Oregon shows the lay of the land, and of the people. We are where the water is, where the desert can be made green. The Snake, Boise, Payette, and Owhyee rivers are our organizing principle. The Snake River is the state "line," from Nyssa on up to the state of Washington. Ontario is on the Oregon side of the Snake, with slightly more population than all of the county Weiser is in. It's Oregon's 56th largest city. Fruitland is in Idaho, and Weiser-sized.

Alright then, with that long-winded context, here's what this fellow (we presume it was a fellow) had to say:

"I would like to take this opportunity to remind people that wearing a mask in Ontario is still optional in almost every business so don’t put off visiting your favorite shops because of fear mongering hype and propaganda. There still a lot of strong people in Ontario and I hope in Fruitland as well.

"We got a lot of tragically ugly weak people in our area trying to push fear and destruction but like all things, the strong and wise will prevail. Keep Idaho and Ontario strong. No one cares about the rest of Oregon as it is way past saving. Best to just cut it off and any people who support big city weakness."

I was struck, not for the first time, by the sharp focus of self-disclosure in the projection onto the "other." "A lot of tragically ugly weak people." This self-styled heroic beautiful strong person in small town Idaho tells us that four million, two hundred thousand others in Oregon are not worthy of a moment's consideration. A million whatever uglies in big city Idaho, pfft.

It has always been easier to give lip service to the ideals of Christianity than to live the values that some claim are at the core of our righteousness, what makes us exceptional. The Bible is a lot to carry around, but the important part is pretty easy. The Gospel According to Mark is but 28 pages in the New Revised Standard Version, and since ten commandments seem to be three of four more than anyone can keep in mind, Mark has Jesus boil it down to just two. Love God. "The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"

It could fit on a wallet card with space left over.

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, underestimated the size of the earth by considerable measure, and, failing to discover the business opportunity he had planned on, began a campaign of looting and enslaving the unfortunate natives where he landed. The rest, as they say, is history.

7.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Period piece Permalink to this item

Not sure how it came back around, some old (or new) tweet that I saw yesterday probably, but Adam Server's headline in The Atlantic: The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying. "The pandemic has exposed the bitter terms of our racial contract, which deems certain lives of greater value than others."

When I caught up with it this morning, I noted the date: May 8. I visualized my fingers as I counted back, one, two months. And one, two more months to early March, when impending catastrophe was first recognizable, if not actually imaginable. March 8 was a Sunday, I was in church, and after the service, after thanking our minister for her sermon, and giving her a slightly awkward shoulder/side hug, I gave voice to a forecast: "everything is about to change." That feeling when a kernel of truth escapes your lips, and still, you have no idea what it means.

The Wednesday after that, the church's officers decided we should set an example by using Zoom for our board meeting on the 19th, and it seemed sort of novel and like a fun thing to try. Within two days, everything about our assessments did indeed change, and on Sunday the 15th, we had our first Zoom worship service, to be followed by sixteen more. So far.

In early May, Ahmaud Arbery had been dead six weeks, and video of his killing had gone viral (as we say), prompting a second Georgia prosecutor to put the case to a grand jury, which hand brought murder charges against the men who had chased Arbery down and shot him, for running while black.

"To see the sequence of events that led to Arbery’s death as benign requires a cascade of assumptions. One must assume that two men arming themselves and chasing down a stranger running through their neighborhood is a normal occurrence. One must assume that the two armed white men had a right to self-defense, and that the black man suddenly confronted by armed strangers did not. One must assume that state laws are meant to justify an encounter in which two people can decide of their own volition to chase, confront, and kill a person they’ve never met."

The first Georgia prosecutor, the one who concluded gee boys, that sure sounds like "self defense" to me, found a four years old incident justifying charging a lifelong resident of Coffee County for felony voter fraud for helping another woman to use an electronic voting machine. Olivia Pearson was a city councilwoman, and could conceivably be put in prison for 15 years for telling another voter where to put the voting card into the machine.

"Over the next two years, Ms. Pearson navigated two trials, two defense counsels, three dropped charges and one hung jury. Finally, in late February, after a 20-minute jury deliberation, she was acquitted of all charges."

And two years after that, George Barnhill was still the District Attorney, happy to let a couple of white men slide for murder. As Serwer boils it down, "A crime does not occur when white men stalk and kill a black stranger. A crime does occur when black people vote."

"The underlying assumptions of white innocence and black guilt are all part of what the philosopher Charles Mills calls the “racial contract.” If the social contract is the implicit agreement among members of a society to follow the rules—for example, acting lawfully, adhering to the results of elections, and contesting the agreed-upon rules by nonviolent means—then the racial contract is a codicil rendered in invisible ink, one stating that the rules as written do not apply to nonwhite people in the same way. The Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal; the racial contract limits this to white men with property. The law says murder is illegal; the racial contract says it’s fine for white people to chase and murder black people if they have decided that those black people scare them. “The terms of the Racial Contract,” Mills wrote, “mean that nonwhite subpersonhood is enshrined simultaneously with white personhood.”

Two months ago, it was already clear and measurable that the racial contract was cashing in black and brown lives faster than white lives. "Regular folks" were wondering what all the fuss was about, while president had finally found a reason to apply the Defense Production Act, by ordering meatpacking plants to remain open. He said his order "will solve any liability problems" for the plant owners.

Of course people with limited income, limited savings, limited (or no) health insurance, living in communities with compromised infrastructure are going to be hit harder. But let's address liability. And looting.

Big news yesterday was the list of companies that received the most money from small business bailout loans, the $150,000 and up crowd. 661,218 recipients got at least that much.

48,922 entries show "0" for the number of jobs retained. Maybe they forgot to fill in the number? Ten businesses got $5 to $10 million and reporting that they'd retained ONE job. Another 19 reported one job for $2-5 million. 125 businesses got $1-2 million, and 251 got $350k-1 million for one job. The 900 businesses that got only $150,000 to $350,000 for retaining one job seem like slackers. (Remember that the PPP was set up to help meet payroll for 8 weeks. So these are apparently slackers with seven-figure annual salaries. The top tier would be annual salaries in the range of $30-60 million.)

The 50,000-some firms that retained 0 or 1 jobs for their generous share of the half trillion dollars parallels the 50,000 deaths that have been tallied in the last two months, roughly doubling the total since Serwer's piece was new. This morning, it's over 130,000, as we add more than 45,000 confirmed cases each day. Whether founded on denial, disbelief, dysfunction or the grossest incompetence psychopathology can muster, our national response is a near-comprehensive disaster. "Will some people be affected badly?" +rump asked no one back in May. "Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon."

We gave The Ayn Rand Institute: The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism between $350,000 and a $million to retain 35 jobs. We gave three Churches of Scientology some hundreds of $thousands to retain 0, 39, and 98 jobs.

The 8 weeks that that currency download was to tide us over have come and gone, and it's summer, and we're still waiting for that promised +rumpian miracle where it all just goes away, while the large-scale experiment on human biology continues apace. Idaho has now surpassed 8,000 confirmed cases, and no doubt thousands unconfirmed. Death is not yet rampant, only a couple dozen Benghazis, so that's nice.

Data/gfx from NYT interactive

For the state's largest city, home of this virtual Fort Boise and the state capital, the Mayor has taken us back to Phase 3, after bar patrons started a cluster. Masks are mandated in public spaces, and for my grocery shopping expedition yesterday, all my fellow shoppers and all the employees I noticed were on board with the plan.

White People's Independence Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Wave that flag Permalink to this item

The Somervell Times, declares itself "the news source for Somervell County" (Texas, I see, but not from its site), an apparent news desert. Covid-19 resources are the feature item, dated March 23. I came for last October's Boy Scout Flag Retirement Ceremony because of the odd image of a very tattered Old Glory. Good illustration for that story, because, it's clearly a candidate for retirement, unless... it's some special flag?

The image shows 42 stars, in a 7 x 6 array, the blue field looking a bit more square than it should be. Wikipedia's graphic tabulation of the historical progression of designs verifies my suspicion: there was no flag with 42 stars. We went from 38 to 43 in 1891, when North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, and Idaho became states. The image must have been cropped to lose 6 stars on the left, out of the 48-star flag that was in use from 1912 to 1959 (when Alaska made us 49). It could be from WWI or WWII, and have a story. I bet it has a story.

An image search finds it claimed as an original image by a Pixabay user, Tammie, of Louisburg/USA, a professed amateur who offers it free for others to use, and with no caption. Perhaps it originated with her. A Google Image search finds that it has metastasized on the internet, which apparently loves it some free image. There are more than 5 dozen instances of the exact image being used, and none of them that I drilled down to had any thing more about the flag.

Pinterest has it tagged "86 Best Christian images." Idaho's Rep. Heather Scott used it in her April 2, 2020 newsletter, themed The Virus that Tried to Kill the Constitution-COVID, The Constitution and Cause for Concern. (She can ramble around.) On her to-do list, steadily, is to "stand and speak up against tyranny at all levels of government."

She used it again in her latest newsletter/email, subject "A Freedom Note," featuring the tired image between her name, and "Happy Indepence Day!" The subtext that she doesn't quite bring herself to say outloud is how much distress we're in. (The good news is, she's not ready to turn her miscropped flag image upside down yet?)

Rep. Heather Scott shared image

My curiosity was piqued because it is a striking image, one I'd expect to have a caption. There's something not quite right with it, which is true about Scott, too. She has a thing about flags, it seems. Five summers ago, she was proudly parading with the flag of traitors over her campaign banner, and when challenged on her cluelessness, and tastelessness, she claimed to have been "promot[ing] free speech."

Not in a good way, but OK. In her Happy Independence Day! free speech, she's worried about "new mask mandates and edicts [being] forced upon us from heavy-handed government across our country and state," and she's asking herself, "is this the year we lose America?" We all should give the Declaration of Independence another read, she thinks.

Personally, Frederick Douglass' descendants reading part of his 1852 speech quite moving, and I recommend it to the good Representative from Idaho's District 1. (It's a long speech.) "I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary," Douglass said back then.

For Scott's part, she closes with a religious trope, searching up "freedom" from her concordance. (2 Corinthians 3:17, if you must know.)

"Spend your time this holiday weekend celebrating the freedoms we have left like never before! Connect with friends, neighbors, and love ones and plan for the coming days. Ask our churches to return to the Word of God, repent, turn from our wicked ways, and seek Him (Jesus). Because salvation and reliance on almighty God will give us total freedom!"

Lord almighty, save us from patriots such as this.

It took her 12½ days to get back to me, but she did eventually reply to my inquiry, wondering if there was a story behind the flag image she'd scraped off the web and reused without attribution or caption. She emailed 2:49 am July 17 to say "No story behind it. It just reminded me of how many must feel in the fight for freedom." We're all a little discolored and tattered, eventually.

Are we united, or divided? Permalink to this item

A friend highlighted the couple days ago PBS Newshour segment with Charlayne Hunter-Gault and David Brooks, Reasons for hope amid America's racial unrest. We're regular viewers, but attention can wander, and it was worth watching again.

"My rule is, the more uncomfortable the conversation is, the more I learn from it," Brooks said.

Homemade bunting element

We Americans love our children, our work, our neighborhoods. We can make connections, bridge divides, "weavers" can make a difference, moving to a better future. Brooks was responding to the common action and common purpose many of us felt as the pandemic expanded, I wonder how much of that is sustainable?

In Boise (and elsewhere in Idaho), the rapidly increasing Covid-19 case count has led to a return to "phase 3" restrictions, and an order from Boise's mayor mandating mask wearing in public, taking effect today. She isn't turning loose any jackbooted thugs to enforce it, but rather urging voluntarly compliance, you know? The list of exemptions provide mile-wide loopholes: if you can't "medically tolerate" a face covering (with no requirement to provide documentation), you don't have to. And if you can keep your distance, 6 feet.

The city made masks available, a free six-pack of disposables per household. Jeanette and I took the opportunity to go for a tandem ride on a beautiful, sunny but not hot morning yesterday, from our house to the Boise Depot, where they were handing them out. There was a line of cars working its way to the handout station, but no line for bicyclists. On the way home, we stopped and had a pleasant, socially-distanced visit friends who live nearby, us in the street, them in their front yard. And we exchanged pleasant greetings with everyone we crossed paths with, whether they were out walking, walking the dog, riding a bike, whatever.

Yesterday afternoon, the oxymoronic Health Freedom Idaho managed to assemble a hundred or so protesters at city hall, without masks on, of course, and take the trouble to burn some masks to demonstrate their contempt at the idea of being urged to voluntarily take action for their own and their community's health. Some of them went on to they mayor's home to see if they could make trouble. Neither the mayor or the police took the bait, but

"People’s Rights" organizer Mario Berea "told the Idaho Press that Friday's protest at the mayor’s house will be the first of many, and that he hopes to designate shifts for protesters to stay outside the mayor’s house around the clock in the coming days, including on the Fourth of July."

I'm guessing they will tire pretty quickly, but we'll see. That puts David Brooks' and the Aspen Institute "weave" project, "a cultural movement renewing America's social fabric," on one side, and the berzerkers on the other. In their corner, they have our dark and divisive authoritarian-in-training with his magical thinking, tireless gaslighting, race-baiting, and projection. "New far-left fascism," he called his opposition. Annie Karni boiled it down for the NYT, and I'm feeling like the second graf is far enough until the next shit-show comes around:

"With the coronavirus pandemic raging and his campaign faltering in the polls, his appearance amounted to a fiery reboot of his re-election effort, using the holiday and an official presidential address to mount a full-on culture war against a straw-man version of the left that he portrayed as inciting mayhem and moving the country toward totalitarianism."

The country is demonstrably moving toward totalitarianism, in the form of kleptocracy and Bill Barr's perverted Department of Justice, so there is that.

Back to the local level, you can compare and contrast Mayor Lauren McLean conversation with Boise State Public Radio's George Prentice late last month with the reliably unhinged commentary attached. "This communist dictator," Agenda 21, Bill Gates, the United Nations, Disqus member bpherg is a one-woman conspiracy BINGO card.

2.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Giving up Permalink to this item

Dear Leader is the measure of all things. Fox & Friends hold more sway upon him than the best work product of our phalanx of intelligence agencies, who struggle to overcome the cognitive bubble he inhabits. "The president does read," his press secretary assured us yesterday, "and he also consumes intelligence verbally."

Then what happens?

We've "opened up" enough to stop the horror show of the daily coronavirus "briefings" comprising an hour or two of +rumpian stream of consciousness, but we still haven't found a way to tackle the elephant in the ICU. We're now an object of incredulity and pity for observers in Europe, and a pariah nation to its officials.

More than 51,000 confirmed cases in the US yesterday, as the infection rate accelerates. More than 128,000 dead.

Plenty of incredulity on this side of the pond too, as Senator Rand Paul trots out useless derision for one of our best infectious disease experts. "It’s important to realize that if society meekly submits to an expert and that expert is wrong, a great deal of harm may occur," Paul opined vapidly, demanding "more optimism" from Dr. Anthony Fauci, as if, what, that's what experts provide? Optimism?

Next, let's talk about what happens if society meekly submits to dilletantes and idiots, men and women promoted multiple levels above their actual competence.

We could... make the Black Hills Black again, maybe? Nothing quite like fireworks in the forest in July.

Presidential example

1.July 2020 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Your COVID-19 scorecard Permalink to this item

Arizona's State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee has come up with a COVID-19 Addendum: Allocation of Scarce Resources in Acute Care Facilities, "created from a proposed COVID-19 triage protocol given to the Arizona Department of Health Services on April 16, 2020," and going by that PDF, the recommendation was approved on June 12. There are "triage color groupings," "updated to include SOFA scores" (SOFA = Sequential Organ Failure Assessment), for when the state's health system reaches "Contingency" or "Crisis Level," and is unable to take care of everyone.

We've moved past the planning stage, now. Two days ago, azcentral. reported the state health director declared that hospitals could activate those "crisis care standards."

Triage, of course, is the Napoleonic wars-inspired sorting of casualties (Fr. trier: to sort) into groups likely to live (regardless of care), die (regardless of care), and depend on treatment to determine their outcome. Just like your mileage, the number of categories may vary. The basic three-way divisions have a fourth category: dead. (A.k.a. "Presumed dead," or "Expectant" in the US military system.)

The folks in Arizona came up with a "points" system, which is sort of like golf: the lower your score, the more likely you are to get attention. (Unlike golf, in that you'd rather not need attention.)

It seems rather gruesome, but that's the business, and where the catastrophic failures in leadership has brought us. Down at the end of page 8, an Appeals Process is envisioned (but not detailed, other than to note the accuracy of the score can be appealed, but "appeals based on rejection of the criteria will not be allowed"). "Time-critical situations" may eliminate the consideration of an appeal.

An exception exists for "chronically ventilated patients" who bring their own ventilator. So, if you can, BYOV.

It's complicated medical stuff, not really meant for general readership, but it can be deciphered with some patience and web references. One's SOFA score for adults comes from Table 1-A (labeled "Table 1" below the header), and ranges from 0-4 in six categories, so can run from 0 to 24. The Pediatric table (variously labled 1-P, PELOD-2, and I) has ten criteria in five categories, some with age variations, and a sparse matrix that looks like it could produce scores from 0 to 18, but I'm not a doctor. Whatever it is, that relevant score gives you from 1 to 4 points on the "Summary Table 1: Multi-principle Strategy for Determining Triage Priority Score." (There's no apparent way to get 0 points from that first row on page 6.) PLUS "ADD 0 POINTS" [sic] if you're expected to live more than 5 years if you survive the acute illness, 2 POINTS if death is expected within 5 years despite successful treatment of your acute illness, and 4 POINTS if your death is expected within a year even after successful treatment of your acute illness.

For sure, that's a score of 1 to 8, and a color-code of red (1-3), yellow (4-5) or "blue" (6-8). (The blue is more like aqua; good for color blindness? I think so.) My less verbose version:

Summary Table 2: Determining Triage Color Group for an Individual Patient

Between Summary Table 1 and Summary Table 2, there are three examples of combining the two components from Table 1 to get a result in Table 2, and one of the examples is in error, giving a score of 2+4=6 ("BLUE") when by their formula, it should be 2=2=4 ("YELLOW").

In case you were wondering "what could go wrong when you're dying, the facility is overwhelmed and someone's trying to parse this 14 page document."

Still, that's not as bad as the fact that they've rather stood the concept of triage on its head. Those in the least distress who are most likely to live more than 5 years after successful treatment are the highest priority. Those in the greatest distress and with the least life expectancy are the lowest priority. As in, "we're cutting you loose, sorry." But hey, "with respect, care, and compassion," and decisions to be made "without regard to basis of race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, veteran status, age, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity, quality of life, or any other ethically irrelevant criteria."

H/t to Steven Spohn, on Twitter.


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007