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31.Mar.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

No, we can SEE YOU Permalink to this item

Coming out of Year One of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, 18 years after The Original SARS, which failed to sufficiently raise humanity's hackles, our household is fully vaccinated and a few days away from +2 weeks for both of us. Out of adversity, some learning: when, and how best to shop for groceries at minimal risk. And some privilege: without regular work hours since the year of The Original, I can shop whenever I want to, which has been on a mid-early weekday morning.

Working off a store-route ordered list, I think of it as gymkhana, mostly, and seeing that term's etymology is Anglo-Indian-Persion, how appropriate for the crossroads of culture that is the grocery store. Everybody has to go there sooner or later (even though I did see that River City Church is still having its FREE FOOD events in our neighborhood, and there was still a line of cars this Wednesday morning).

Old and new masks

From my limited sample (during de facto old people's hours), mask discipline peaked a couple of months ago, and is now starting to fatigue. As of next week, it might just be theatrical for my part, but unlike Rand Paul, I'm perfectly willing to suffer a relatively minor inconvenience for the greater good. Hell, I've put on stage makeup and sung in the opera chorus to amuse my fellow humans. That was much more inconvenient than wearing an N95 for shopping.

When I saw the first woman low-rider, I didn't say anything (I am so not having conversations when grocery hunting), but my gaze must have lingered just long enough to encourage her to be better, and she pulled it back over her nose as I walked by. The second violator, a grown-ass man way old enough to know better, had a camouflage mask down on his chin, and was impervious to stink-eye. I did my best to antisocial distance from him, but he helicoptered into the same bulk food aisle I was in, and then OPENED A BIN TO REACH IN AND HELP HIMSELF TO A SNACK, which I imagine happens all the time, but damn, when people are LOOKING RIGHT AT YOU? I was minding my own business at the moment, but a 20-something stocker saw what he did, said "DON'T DO THAT," peremptorily, and caught my ear. "Oh, ok," Mr. Maskhole said, and bugged over to the next bin aisle and inside my head I'm screaming FOLLOW HIM!

I mean, how bad a customer do you have to be in order to be disinvited right out of the store? A question we didn't used to have to ask so often.

Driving home, I heard that the Wisconsin Supreme Court just blocked their Governor from issuing any new public health emergency orders to mandate face masks without the approval of the state legislature. The Democratic governor, and the Republican-controlled legislature. By the majority Republican-appointed high court. (The current mandate was set to expire on Easter Monday anyway, but bonus days of freedom!) The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's story notes that "Wisconsin and Arkansas join a handful of states that have lifted mask mandates in recent weeks, including Texas, Mississippi, Iowa, North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana."

It's a form of mob rule from my point of view: legislative tyranny trumps (perceived) executive tyranny, as we fail to adapt to changed circumstances. "Emergencies" aren't supposed to last this long, the right insists. You are not the boss of me. As for Christian principle, no greater love and all that (here in the middle of Holy Week), homey don' play dat.

"The question in this case is not whether the Governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully. We conclude he did not," Justice Brian Hagedorn, writing for the conservative majority, said.

Hagedorn said state law governing public health emergencies "must be read to forbid the governor from proclaiming repeated states of emergency for the same enabling condition absent legislative approval."

The J-S pulled a quote from the dissent, written by Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, and that gave a fair synopsis, but having dipped into the 78-page ruling let me recommend further reading, starting with the whole ppg 74, with a bit of my emphasis:

"This is no run-of-the-mill case. We are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that so far has claimed the lives of over a half million people in this country. And with the stakes so high, the majority not only arrives at erroneous conclusions, but it also obscures the consequence of its decision. Unfortunately, the ultimate consequence of the majority's decision is that it places yet another roadblock to an effective governmental response to COVID-19, further jeopardizing the health and lives of the people of Wisconsin."

In its urgency to override the state's governor, it seems the court was willing to abuse the law, and its own power, granting "taxpayer standing" to the plaintiff, "on a conjured justification neither briefed nor argued by any party," and proceeds to grant relief that was not asked for, against an executive order that was not properly before the court.

"[T]he product of this new theory [for standing] results in a standard so low that all that is needed for taxpayer standing in this court is a song and a whistle with an ability to produce a melody appealing to at least four justices."

The siren song of an opportunity to un-legislate from the bench was just what they wanted to hear.

Update: Today's local paper had this story about Idaho leaders encouraging continued mask-wearing on the front page. ("Leaders" as in the governor, and our state epidemiologist. Legislative leaders are still on recess.) Would have worked that in if I'd seen it sooner. You might could still get Covid-19 even after being vaccinated. Hopefully it won't be as serious a case, if you do. "No vaccine is 100%."

29.Mar.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry


There's "just two slides," and you can't see them to go with the 10 minutes of leaked audio from Kyle McKenzie, research director for the Koch-run advocacy group "Stand Together" talking to conservative opponents of House Resolution 1 on January 8. But that's ok! What a story!

Most importantly, the takeaway that works, up there in my headline. Good to know that a "very neutral description" [sic] of the bill makes people "generally supportive." That's "worrisome" to the team, who recommend "deep storytelling where you have tons of examples" about "negative impact" to obuscate the more obvious conclcusion. If all else fails, argue that we have "more important issues" we should address rather than, you know, massive voter suppression by Republicans.

It's also "concerning" that the "cancel culture" meme is failing. All the way down to gee, if all donor lists were made public, we'd be able to see who DIDN'T give money to a cause, and non-givers would be... embarrassed.

It doesn't have to make sense.

Luna to the rescue Permalink to this item

Props to Jay Rosen for highlighting "the one" stuck boat news story for those of us who couldn't get enough, Brendan Greeley writing in the Financial Times: The bank effect and the big boat blocking the Suez. The other kind of "bank," of course, a cross-sectional history of the Suez, and the joys of hydrodynamics, which is "what a five-year old would do, if a five-year old had a PhD."

The words "moon" and "tide" do not appear, reflecting a bias toward engineering over celestial dynamics, the heavenly clockwork which keeps watch over the wayward regardless of what else happens. The diggers and pumpers and tugs had plenty to do with it, I'm sure, but the big picture is that our luscious planetary companion brought in more water to float that bad boy out of there. Woot! indeed.

My own recreational hydrodynamics fall in the broad middle of the spectrum between bathtub toys and mega-container ships, and I read Greeley's description with both driving the Ever Given, and a sailboard in mind:

"When you drive a boat, you are always in drift. You are attached to nothing. Stuff happens in the water beneath you that does not make any intuitive sense. Sometimes your stern (your tail) moves faster than your bow (your nose), and in a different direction. Sometimes both stern and bow are moving in the same direction at the same speed, but it’s not the direction the bow is pointed. On a boat, you don’t always go where you’re pointed."

All that is true about windsurfing too, except that (as noted), "size matters," and so at smaller scale and with direct kinesthetic engagement, pointing and drifting and bow and stern are much less mysteriously incomprehensible.

The other thing missing from Greeley's account is a cross-section of the Suez canal at the trouble spot, said to be lined with stacked boulders, part of the Ever Given's malady, as it "punched through the riprap at a steep angle, and wedged its bow bulb in the soft sand beyond it. This was not a grounding. It was a walling." Or a banking, he might have written. For the Financial Times, heh.

2001 photo, Columbia R. at Rufus, OR

27.March 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Waiting for the moon Permalink to this item

Not that anyone has reason to take the trouble, but the irregular entries here in the blog provide a metadatum of my time and attention. Between March 8 and today, there are 4 singular dailies, and 14 days unremarked. That's well above average quietude, and only parts of it will ever be explained. The felling of our 60 year-old oak and the DIY cleanup following accounts for a lot of it. Spring weather is nice, and there are things to do outside. A software project, getting my sailing weather page updated to deal with the National Weather Service cutting off its data feed and fobbing it off to quota-controlled services from SynopticData took a chunk of my time. And so on.

The moon is coming full, around noon (Mountain Time) tomorrow is its moment, and as ever, a spring tide will be pulled by it. NOAA's tide predictions extend to both oceans, Caribbean Islands and across the Pacific (that state of ours, and those territories, you know), but not to the middle east. Looking elsewhere, we see today's high tides at Suez estimated at 1.93 and 1.96m, centimetering up to 2.08m midday Monday, and 2.14m three cycles later, just after midnight Wednesday. "Today is a good fishing day," it also says. 21cm is 8¼", but the New York Times' story said "up to about 18 inches" on Monday. Hmm.

from interactive

Global shipping, like Idaho's legislature, is taking an unexpected holiday right now. Locally, the issue was Covid-19 spreading through the body. Globally, the issue is the EVER GIVEN wedged in the Suez canal.

"On Friday, the company that oversees the ship’s operations and crew, Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, said more and larger tugboats had arrived to help, with two more due on Sunday. Several dredgers, including a specialized suction dredger that can extract 2,000 cubic meters of material per hour, were digging around the vessel’s bow, which is wedged into the canal’s eastern bank, the company said. It added that high-capacity pumps would begin to pump water from the vessel’s ballast tanks to lighten the ship."

It's the longest hundred miles in shipping right now. Long enough that some companies are figuring a month-long, $million detour around the Cape of Good Hope might be a better deal. Brace yourselves:

"A world whose initial experience with the coronavirus featured the hoarding of toilet paper now braces for fresh shortages of that vital commodity. Like many consumer goods, paper products are transported through the Suez Canal in giant shipping containers."

We're sitting pretty at our house, just bought a Scott 10-pack, which we've learned lasts us slightly over half a year.

21.March.21 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Epicenter of freedom? Permalink to this item

The Idaho Legislature found a suitable way to mark the one year-ish anniversary of the pandemic: with a wave of infection breaking through the body this week, leadership called a recess for 2½ weeks, after a closed-door GOP confab Friday morning.

The Speaker of the Idaho House, Scott Bedke, steadfast in his determination to pretend that Everything Is Fine assures us that "All we did was press pause. Nothing gets erased." So, not quite the answer to all our prayers, but ok.

Bedke said he was "not all that surprised." "We knew it was a possibility, and we planned for it as best we could." Which... what?! The hell they planned for it as best they could. They started the session by ignoring calls to reconsider its form and timing, and they ignored the public health measures in place in the city around their Capitol fiefdom. They debated one idiotic and counterproductive pissing match after another, including perhaps the apotheosis of the 66th Idaho Legislature's First Regular Session, House Bill 202 proposing to define our disaster out of existence.

In Title 46 MILITIA and MILITARY AFFAIRS, no less, Chapter 10 State Disaster Preparedness Act, Rep. Julianne Young of Blackfoot, just down the road from Idaho Falls, proposed to add these two definitions:

(10) "Epidemic" means an excessive, prevalent, widespread outbreak causing a significant increase in mortality rates due solely to an infectious disease. An epidemic may be moderate, with a twenty-five percent (25%) attack rate and a one and one-half percent (1.5%) fatality rate, or severe, with a thirty percent (30%) attack rate and a two and one-half percent (2.5%) fatality rate

(11) "Pandemic" means an excessive, prevalent, multinational epidemic.

See there, this would only be moderate, not at all severe, and whoops, what exactly does "excessive" mean there? But the point is, really, not that many people have died yet, only a couple thousand in Idaho, so What Is The Big Deal Anyway?

Along the way, there was a proposed ban on mask mandates from Rep. Karey Hanks of St. Anthony, just up the road from Rexburg. She "said she preferred legislation banning mask requirements at hospitals," if you can imagine that, but god bless our legislature, that was a bridge slightly too far, and she had to settle for HB339, noting that neither "political subdivision" nor "State" includes "any hospital or health care facility." Of course people showed up at the statehouse without masks to testify in favor. One said "she's tired of hearing that private businesses are allowed to do what they want."

“I understand that to a degree, but Walmart and Costco and restaurants, I don't view them as private businesses,” Claudia Frent said.

Another well-traveled gal who escaped from California last August to "get away from the sheer madness that's happening there" put in another 8 hours to drive down from Sandpoint to testify in person.

“We likened it to we didn't want to be the last Jews in Germany because we know what happened there,” Susie Gilman said.

Let that simmer a while.

And then add a dash of the last paragraph of Keith Ridler's report of the committee hearing of the bill for the AP:

"Matthew Andrew, who is filling in for Republican Rep. Bruce Skaug, who is out with COVID-19, said he had reservations about taking away local control but voted to send the bill to the House."

As a substitute, he might have missed the memo; from the Idaho legislature's point of view, they are the alpha and omega of "local control." They're not having it from cities, school boards, universities, counties, public health districts. The Legislature is All.

With a 10-2 party line vote (and yes, that's how unbalanced our legislature is), off to the House floor, where, just before he found out he was among the Covid-positive, the Judiciary Chairman, Greg Chaney pointed out that the proposed 67-2359(c)'s absence of mention of "contagious or infections disease" would mean the bill would protect "a welding teacher who refuses to wear a welding helmet," or "a surgeon who refuses to wear a mask if it’s a county-owned hospital." Yet another Republican confab sent that off for a friendly amendment.

In regard to the work stoppage announced Friday, Senate Majority Leader Kelly Anthon of Burley added that yeah, sure, we had been planning on a stop-restart anyway, to figure out how to handle the flood of federal money coming our way. With the restart set for Easter Tuesday, maybe they can plow right through April showers and into May flowers.

The Senate Pro Tem, Chuck Winder does a nice job of capturing the hopes, prayers, and innocent wonder of our ruling party.

“When we came here in January, we didn’t know what was going to happen,” Winder said, “and we had two members of our body come down with COVID. Fortunately, they’re both back with us. It’s an answer to a prayer that they’re here. It’s also an answer to a prayer that more of us did not succumb to the virus.”

"Our body" in the sentence refers to the Senate. That other body, the House, is out of sight, and mind. Apparently Jesus looks out for some of the little children and fools who can't be bothered with the most basic public health measures, but actually, lots of people predicted what was very likely to happen. Me, even, two months ago to the day, communicating with one of the wingiest of our right-wing nut jobs, Rep. Ron Nate, of Rexburg.

But Jesus does not look kindly upon all this talk about racism, sexism, and white supremacy, certainly not in any of our educational institutions! Republican "Region IV chair," Ed Humphreys of Eagle popped into a seven-minute meeting of the Idaho House Education Friday morning, to introduce RS288. "This bill would prohibit teaching racist, and sexist concepts in Idaho public schools," he said.

What's that now? Regular viewers of KTVB will know who this guy is, I don't, but watch his head exploding as he describes what just happened. This "routing slip" and two other bills-in-gestation were passed "unanimously" out of committee after Democrats Sally Toone, Steve Berch, and John McCrostie walked out of the hearing, hoping to quash its quorum, but no joy. With only four of the 15 members out sick, and the 3 Democrats, the remaining 8 got in just before the recess wire.

Sally Krutzig of the Post Register colors in the sketch, Midvale's Rep. Judy Boyle getting to be in charge because Chairman Lance Clow is one of the legislators out for Covid-19, and Humphreys "set[ting] up a video camera to film himself" before "tak[ing] a crack at the racist filth being taught to our students," as he subsequently bragged on Facebook, according to Krutzig.

In other headlines, next-door Canyon County is extending its emergency declaration, and Idaho Falls and Rexburg in SE Idaho made #1 and #3 on the New York Times' nationwide hotspot list. As of this morning, Idaho Falls is still at the top, 60.9 daily cases per 100,000 population, and Rexburg has eased down to #6. (Pullman, Washington, college town twin to Moscow, and the University of Idaho, is up to #5, at 39.1/100k dailies.) Rexburg is also #10 on the cumulative confirmed case rate chart, with 7,760 in its 53,006 population.

On a lighter note, watermelon farm transplant and professional scofflaw Ammon Bundy remains crosswise with the law, "unable" to make his court date because he refuses to ruffle his handsome beard with a mask, and don't you know the Ada County Courthouse requires one for entry. To your own jury trial for trespassing, even. That was sufficient for a ride to the hoosegow (which, he tells us, is a "miserable" place to be). Bad is the company of Bundies, and three of his erstwhile pals now have charges against them too.

Fellow "anti-mask activist," Aaron Von Schmidt, also failed to appear, and "after a scuffle with law enforcement, Casey J. Baker, 69, was arrested and charged with a felony count of battery on a law enforcement officer and misdemeanor count of resisting and obstructing officers. Garth G. Gaylord, 32, was cited, but not arrested, on a charge of resisting and obstructing officers."

Then a dozen or more of the not-yet-arrested protestors headed to Magistrate Judge Manweiler's home to make more noise and write with chalk on the sidewalk. The larger news, top of Ryan Suppe's report for the Idaho Press is that our most junior Ada County Commissioner thought he had enough swagger to ask the judge for special dispensation for Bundy, who really doesn't like wearing a mask. Let's ex parté!

KTVB's "the 208" has this gem of video coverage, Arms-Crossed-Gal says don't "ask," "Force him! Force him!" while Bundy stands, pointlessly, at the Door He Cannot Enter, and you see the lightbulb come on in his head.

Still from Pam Hemphill? video, on KTVB

"Not 'ask him', demand," Bundy says to the hapless Commish, with the Irresistable Fist of Freedom. Davidson, cowed by the fake-cowboy mob, says ok, he'll go back an get himself into still more trouble providing "constituent services," as perennial GOP runner-up David Leroy put it.

17.Mar.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Asked, answered, blocked Permalink to this item

Kind of a new experience for me, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I have a lot of strong opinions, and Twitter can bring out the worst in people. Why should I be an exception to that? Anyway, not the sort of thing I thought would get me. Midweek after the start of daylight savings time, I decided I was going to try a new approach this time(!). I've been among the annoyed from half-year to half-year, but not super-annoyed. My current circumstances make it relatively easy to get along with whatever, so in addition to trying to not let it bother me, I decided I wouldn't get into it with anyone complaining about it, just let it go. Part A worked fine, and if I'd executed Part B, that would have been better.

2001, maybe this photo was

But someone I follow asked about time changes, "Does anybody like them?" And stuff. She wasn't really asking a question, and didn't appreciate me raising my hand and "helpfully" answering, just for myself, mind you, is what I meant. ("Good for you?" she replied, and then blocked me before I could see that.) It was a request for commiseration, not for information, and me adding "In the big scheme of things wrong in the world, time changes don't wind my clock too much," oof. TMI. Mansplainy.

Electra the henwife answered too, to say "I like them," and why, and maybe didn't get blocked for that. I've certainly seen and heard a lot of people don't like time changes, except maybe that extra hour in a day in the fall seems cushy at a dark time of year. The justification of something something farmers never really made a lot of sense. If someone complains about the rain, you're not supposed to say "well the plants need it!" right? (Does anybody like the rain? Farmers!)

Before the blinds were drawn all the way tight, I saw that she's got a couple kids who were having a bad time of it. Not the time change per se, but the scheduled events that just shifted an hour, it sounded like, and having to meet deadlines. Genuinely irksome. I've had to meet a lot of those over the years, and have fewer (and fewer) than I used to, so I'm lucky and/or privileged at this point, and I could just shut up about it, but I didn't. So now I have a new reason to be unhappy about the time change, and it's so weird to be both too sensitive and too insensitive at the same time.

If only I could go back an hour and try again, I'd just scroll on by, and we could still be nominally friendly quasi-acquaintances.

16.Mar.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Work, live, hunt, fish, pray Permalink to this item

One of the many, many, many nice things of the new regime is that Heather Cox Richardson's daily Letter from an American can do much more than give historical context to a daily outrage. Positivity is back! It's in a progressive vein.

Her letter for March 15, 2021 is about the appointment of Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) as Secretary of the Interior, confirmed by a 50-41 vote of the Senate. (Hey, where'd everybody go?) Four Republicans voted in favor; none of them from Idaho, you won't be surprised to hear.

"Haaland is the first Indigenous cabinet secretary in our history, heading the department that, in the nineteenth century, abandoned Indigenous peoples for political leverage. She is a member of the Laguna Pueblo Nation, whose people have lived in the land that is now New Mexico for 35 generations. The daughter of two military veterans, Haaland is a single mother who earned a law degree with a young child in tow. She was a tribal leader focused on environmentally responsible economic development for the Lagunas before she became a Democratic leader."

1924 political cartoon

Cox Richardson's succinct overview of our mistreatment of indigenous peoples and the exploitation of resources touches on the exemplar of US insider dealing scandals, Teapot Dome, named after a jolly rock over a lucrative formation in Wyoming. It's celebrating its centennial this decade, a story worth reviewing. The miscreant and fall-guy (so rarely the same person these days) was named Fall. Albert Fall. The Senator from New Mexico, when he was made Secretary of the Interior!

"Huge bribes" eventually came to light, thanks in part to Wisconsin's Republican Senator Robert M. La Follette, and the Committee on Public Lands. The Wikipedia entry notes that La Follette thought Fall was innocent at first, but "his suspicions were aroused after his own office in the Senate Office Building was ransacked." This made me laugh out loud:

"[T]he sudden improvement in [Fall's] standard of living was suspect. He even paid up his ranch taxes, for example, which had been as much as 10 years past due."

The down-Fall eventually came from a dogged investigation led by Democrat Thomas J. Walsh of Montana, the most junior minority member, as the Secretary worked to cover his tracks, and succeeded in the cover-up.

The Wikipedia entry notes that the scandal (and other malfeasance of the Warren G. Harding administration) led to Congress giving itself "subpoena power... for review of tax records of any U.S. citizen regardless of elected or appointed position."

Here in our present day, the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, John Barrasso, represents Wyoming, along with Sen. Cynthia Lummis, their 2% share of that august body on behalf of just 0.17% of the US population. And a lot of oil, gas, and coal.

[He] told Haaland that his state collects more than a billion dollars a year in royalties and taxes from the oil, gas, and coal produced on federal lands in the state, and warned that the Biden administration is “taking a sledgehammer to Western states’ economies.”

Haaland reassured him that having “lived most of my adult life paycheck to paycheck,” she understands the economic struggles of ordinary Americans and is fully on board with the administration’s plan to build back better, “to responsibly manage our natural resources to protect them for future generations—so that we can continue to work, live, hunt, fish, and pray among them.”

“A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” Haaland tweeted when Biden announced her nomination [in December]. “I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land.”

Addendum: has a two-part take on the Teapot Dome oil field from 5 years ago, with more detail from the 1920s in the first part, and the history of the oilfield since the 1920s, for "an interesting case study of a public-private partnership covering eight and a half decades of the oil business in the United States."

13.Mar.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It all depends how you look at it Permalink to this item

Remembering a time in the 1980s, or early 90s, October, I'd climbed the extension ladder up into the oak and done some pruning, but not as much as it needed, but enough for that particular day. I sat cradled in its branches, enjoying a beautiful fall day, letting go of obligations of whatever sort pressing upon me, thinking about watching a baseball game later, and accepting that it was enough for a day. Enough.

I anticipated the fact that the tree was not forever, as the man who planted it had done as well. I would have to take it down some day, some day soon, it seemed like. Its main trunk had been killed by extreme cold in a winter in the early 1970s, -26°F my neighbor tells me, and not the not sort of trauma that seemed repairable. It was a goner, clearly. Just a matter of time.

Oak day image

When we bought our house and suburban sixth acre, the miniature forest was its winning appeal. The fellow who brought it into being had eclectic taste in trees, a man after my own heart. Spruce, fir, pines, maple, willow, juniper, aspen, a larch, and the big oak, crippled and robust at the same time. He'd planted a second oak next to it, Quercus rubra counterpoint to the Q. robur that seemed not long for the world. Closer to the house; a questionable idea to me, but it seemed that Roger's view of the trees was more temporary than mine, their vocation dedicated to making firewood and little else.

Indeed, his next home was a tree farm, out in what was then wide-open ag land, and now we call "Meridian," an improbably large "city," you'd have to call it. It might still be there, or it might be a subdivision by now. Its neighbors are in subdivisions of tract homes, for sure. Christmas trees are where the money is, he figured, and it kept him going for a while, but not forever. Anyway, it's too late to know his mind better than I have, and to learn how he felt about trees. He might feel good to know his big old oak lasted as long as it did, and that it has moved on to good hands that will turn its beautiful wood into beautiful furniture. And quite a bit of it will make beautiful firewood. He and Elinor took their wood burning stove with them, and other than a decorative blaze or two in the living room fireplace, all those trees Roger started have not warmed his old house. (They have kept us coolly shaded in summer, however.)

The maple was too big for its spot, survived a hundred whacks before it rotted badly enough to be done. The willow was always a wild problem right on the fence line. It's too hot and dry here for aspens, the grove whithered and faded, a new sprout grew to a tree, too close to the neighbors for their liking, had to be cut. Another new sprout is too close to the house, but we're letting it go a while. A spruce blew down, semi-catastrophically. I took two others out, clustered too close to the larch, and the driveway.

Squirrels, fed on infinite acorns, picked up where Roger left off, planting. Lots and lots of oak trees. Walnuts. One year, that shrubby little thing in the front yard had pretty pink flowers, and turned them into peaches! Then another surprise tree fashioned its flowers into apples! We have a taller-than-the-house oak, a tall-as-the-house oak, an almost-as-tall-as-the-house oak, and lots of baby oaks. A tree farm of oaks, just about. But people don't put up oak trees for Christmas, and our luck sharing transplants hasn't been good.

Oak day image

The felling of the oak was done inside Thursday morning, less than 15 minutes from putting the chain in, to the crash. It was expertly done with three cuts by an expert sawyer, dropping it more or less exactly where he'd aimed, the best wood bucked and trailered away, the street raked and swept, the hardwood slash pushed into a tight pile half in our yard, running a bit roughshod over the chokecherries, half still in the street until we can finish the cleanup, always the bigger part of the job.

Oak day image

Oak day image

Oak day image

There was collateral damage. The little red oak, 40-year-old Peter Pan understudy, prized view out our office window in the fall, happy squirrel perch for acorn breakfast and lunch, was in the way, in the wrong place, fated to never flower, snipped dead in a second. In the extended version of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Oak Breaks Concrete. (Who knew?) It's a shame the neighbors didn't leave their yard as yard; now we'll have to pay to reproduce their impervious predilection.

Oak day image

Oak day image

Oak day image

Worst of all, oak branches were tangled around the top of the closest (too close) fir, and that is now 15 ft. shorter, and less fir-shaped, leaving a new wound in our skyline. I woke up at 3 o'clock the next morning with too much on my mind, sorrow and remorse for what I'd just made happen, did not get back to sleep.

Oak day image

Oak day image

The next day—yesterday—as I was getting my chainsaw ready for the work ahead, I realized what I'd been hearing was the neighbor kids in our yard, three of them out with the mom of two, and "having a good time in your wood pile," as she explained when I said hello from a distance.

Say what now? I thought, mentally verifying that my homeowner's liability insurance was current. The youngest, 5, had summitted the slash pile, triumphantly. I was too gobsmacked and charmed, simultaneously, to go over there and Say What Needed To Be Said, judiciously as could be done. I went in the house and told Jeanette, asked her to please Have A Word. She said she went reluctantly, but it was fine, a polite prohibition, followed by a wholly friendly conversation.

Oak day image

After errands, ending with parking the car in the street to conceal and protect the pile from unwary passers-by, I looked at the pile with a sixty-years younger thought and saw that yes, it was indeed an alluring little pickup playground. An "attractive nuisance" they call it, which is a legal way of saying hey kids, check this out!

8.March.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Idaho's extremists have a problem with education Permalink to this item

In the second of his complaints about the excessive liberality of the Idaho Press, Roger Neuman's letter to the editor takes exception to Sally Krutzig of the Idaho Falls Post Register referring to HB 226 as "seemingly innocuous." As the rest of the first paragraph on the front page makes clear, there was a "heated, nearly two-hour debate" that resulted in the closest vote of the session, so far.

So, one paragraph into the (front page) report, we know (a) this wasn't expected to be controversial, and (b) it turned out to be. We want to know more. That's good writing, as one would expect on the front page. Neuman's complaint:

"The bill wasn’t so innocuous to the majority of House members, who voted not to accept federal funds that would have supported early childhood education. Opponents of the measure objected because of the involvement of a nonprofit organization with ties to a national group that “supports a social justice curriculum” and teaches that “whiteness, for example, confers privilege, as does being male.”

"Nothing innocuous about that, is there?"

I'm willing to bet $5 to a donut that Neumann is amply white enough, and man enough to enjoy the privileges those groups have. A little bit more empathy could go a long way.

As the story, and other sources makes clear, the use of $6 million of federal funding is supported by both of Idaho's US Senators (Republicans not known for leaning liberal), our Governor, the Idaho Association of Commerce & Industry, and the US Chamber of Commerce. (Some of the important reasons why are covered in Krutzig's featured story.)

But it seems that Reps. Priscilla Giddings and Heather Scott led the attack against the bill sponsored by Paul Amador (R-Coeur d'Alene), because of a second-hand association between an Idaho organization and a national one, neither of which teaches children directly. It would hardly be the first time that Giddings and Scott have gone off half-cocked with misleading information. The debate devolved into an ideological fight over whether or not women should stay at home to raise their children instead of working, and the core, anti-government message of the extremists in the legislature that EDUCATION IS INDOCTRINATION.

(Ironically, some of our legislators are women, including those two leading the charge. Shouldn't they be following their own advice and staying home?)

When Kevin Richert covered the proposed grant two months ago, for Idaho Ed News, he noted that advocates are avoiding the word “preschool,” which, isn't that incomprehensibly bizarre? Hello, Idaho!

At the end of the heated debate, it looked like the House would kill the bill on a 35-35 tie vote. Rep. John McCrostie (D-Garden City) changed his to vote to Nay, so that he could move to reconsider the bill. The House did later vote on reconsideration, but killed that on a wider margin.

Generally, Idaho legislators are more willing to consider the occasional new idea (which they're not very willing to consider) than to entertain the suggestion that they made a mistake.

Driven by the fevered imagination of extremists in our legislature, Idaho could refuse a grant of $6 million a year for three years that would help provide for the future of Idaho children in the most needy of our working families.

Needless to say, I found the letter writer's outrage badly misplaced. I appreciate the coverage in the Idaho Press, and found it amply fair and fact-based. Unlike, you know. I hadn't heard that much about the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children, nor whatever national group Giddings and Scott are worked up about, but IAEYC's Director, Beth Oppenheimer, has made a career out of supporting education in Idaho.

That's the side I want to be on. That's the side Idaho legislators take an oath to support, in fact, since our state Constitution's Article IX, Section 1 calls upon them to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.

Some of them just can't seem to keep it in mind when they're in session.

6.March.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Feel the burn Permalink to this item

From Heath Druzin photo

Aaaand, Idaho goes national again. Twitter threads from Sergio Olmos and Heath Druzin reporting from our Capitol this morning, as a sorry gaggle of pandemic resisters issues a proclamation that THIS IS NOT A PANDEMIC—oh, whoops, the GOP-monopolized legislature is not our topic today, it's a PROTEST, in which MASKS WERE BURNED IN A BARREL, as one does. With little children sprinkled in for good measure.

People are talking. Qasim Rashid notes we're 33d in education (that high, really?), 40th in healthcare access. Sherrilyn Ifill suggests we add that 39 sec. video to "the time capsule so that the remnant that survives this era can show what really happened." Don Winslow has one word. Peak 2021: mask burning is the new book burning.

Texas: Lifts mask mandate in the name of freedom.

Idaho: Hold my beer.

— Kyle Wendel (@kylewendel) March 6, 2021

Hubs of one of the three legislators present (all womans, huh; Dorothy Moon's, there with militia-wannabe Heather, Scott and Tammy Nichols) says he was "kinda the point man" and IT'S A RALLY NOT A PROTEST. Or, uh, AN UPRISING, you might say. Also attended by the Lieutenant Governor with her flaming red beret, and you can see why even a Republican-dominated legislature would want to keep her on a short leash . (But TBF, they want to "rein in" to Governor, too.)

From Heath Druzin photo

While following this trashy bottom-of-the-barrel reality show on Twitter, I was heartened by a photo of some decent people in my neighborhood, out volunteering with Idaho Fish & Game, to plant bitterbrush up on Hammer Flat. There are always opportunities to do more, to make the world a little better place.

Bonus update:
NPR has comix now, what? For grown-ups, though. How One COVID-19 Nurse Navigates Anti-Mask Sentiment... right here in downtown Boise, Idaho.

"I don't want to be a fearmonger, but this is what I'm seeing. And I think that's one of the reason it's just killing so many nurses' souls. You can't constantly see person after person after person becoming so oxygen hungry and just withering away in front of you—gasping for air—before you just, you lose a piece of yourself."

5.Mar.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Look both ways (and dash) Permalink to this item

When I moved to Idaho in the mid-70s, the somewhat famously pedestrian-biased ordinances and enforcement in Moscow were a revelation. My midwest sub/urban upbringing taught me a survival of the fittest mentality: look both ways, and then get across the street dodging cars that will mindlessly run me over if I get in their way. It's only recently, thanks to the tutelage of denizens of the Boise Bike Lanes Facebook group that I learned about "unmarked crosswalks," that exist at nearly every intersection of streets. Here's what the Boise Police Department wants you to know about that:

“Anywhere there’s an intersection of streets, drivers must yield to pedestrians. A driver crossing a marked or unmarked crosswalk should stop and wait if they see a pedestrian waiting to cross.” said Sgt. Konvalinka. “Any areas where there are a lot of people, including parks, should be a sign to keep a an extra eye out for pedestrians.”

This is just not in the behavioral patterns of the bulk of drivers anywhere I've lived. Now I know "it's legal for me to cross here," but I'm still assuming that people in cars will hit me if I give them the chance. Even with one of those HAWK jobs (the tortured acronym for High-intensity Activated crossWalK beacon), with the BIG RED LIGHTS OVER THE ROADWAY, the idea of "stop and wait when you see a pedestrian waiting to cross" seems edgy to some.

The comments under the BPD post provide a wider glimpse of big-city life these days. ("Very diverse" is how the BPD describes it in the video.) "The types of people standing at those intersections have changed," one person writes to the world. "This weekend we saw a man with a foaming mouth dripping down to his shirt, raising his hands up aggressively and shouting something in the direction of my car. ... I'd avoid the area if I could. Occasionally, people have walked in front of my car intentionally looking right at me."

As opposed to, idk, accidentally looking right at you? And another: "The yelling, aggressively jeering homeless folks, like the one carrying a five foot staff and the others screaming at kids from the sidewalk or across the street get a little much at times. I'm chill but it makes my kids uneasy to have some homeless dude trying to intimidate people by shouting his way down the street..."

Crosswalk photo today

Whatever. If you're driving, you still HAVE TO STOP FOR PEDESTRIANS. Colby Spath points out the obvious need for a HAWK signal at the particular location the BPD called out. And Jared Ostyn adds, "this whole section needs reworking. Not only is it too wide, encouraging speeding, but this is one of the only places in Boise with a bike lane on BOTH sides of the street."

Up in our more suburban neck of the woods, we have the no-bike-lane, 4 lane speedway, Cole Road, with marked crosswalks half a mile apart, and mid-century subdivisions platted without sidewalks. (Walking seemed like a relic of a bygone era, I guess. Also, if you're walking, you obviously put no value on your time.) Try your luck getting across the legal, unmarked crosswalks at "Swift Lane," for example. No pun intended.

Old Inauguration Day, 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

3 hours, 19 minutes Permalink to this item

Tuned into a couple of large chunks of day 2 of the Senate Rules and Homeland Security Committees' hearing on the January 6 attack on the Capitol yesterday, and that time span is what sticks in mind. My live-tweet thread, fwtw, and the NYT report: Officials Put ‘Unusual’ Limits on D.C. National Guard Before Riot, Commander Says. I'm sure WaPo must've covered it as well, but it's not popping out at me on the web. There's this from Tuesday: The Pentagon acted as quickly as possible, “sprint speed,” according to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, who "said defense officials approved a police request for assistance in about 60 minutes..." and then "it then took several hours for D.C. National Guard members to mobilize and get in place," what? Something something "from a cold start."

C-Span screen grab

If you don't have 4h to watch the whole thing, the 8 min. featured clip of Gen. Walker's testimony cuts to the chase. Today's print edition of the Idaho Press has it as big headline-front page news, deservedly: GENERAL: PENTAGON HESITATED ON SENDING GUARD TO CAPITOL RIOT (and the dek: Capitol Police warn of militia group's 'possible plot' to breach Capitol day). "Hesitated" is doing a lot of work there.

Gen. Walker "told senators that the then-chief of the Capitol Police requested military support in a “voice cracking with emotion” in a 1:49 p.m. call as rioters began pushing toward the Capitol," and said he "immediately relayed the request to the Army but did not learn until 5:08 p.m. that the Defense Department had approved it."

Walker said "he could have gotten personnel into the building within 20 minutes of getting approval." After the 5:08 p.m. approval, "Guard troops who had been waiting on buses were then rushed to the Capitol, arriving in 18 minutes."

Maybe it was mentioned in the parts of the hearing I missed, but what didn't seem to be part of the discussion was what the Commander in Chief was doing while the U.S. Capitol was under attack. Because... we already know that? He was watching TV. And occasionally tweeting.

WaPo's Dana Milbank leads with those three hours and 19 minutes too. As does their Editorial Board.

We have yet to hear from the one-time +rump White House aide promoted to acting defense secretary as the walls were closing in on the mob boss, Christopher Miller, and criminal perjurer Mike Flynn's brother, Lt. Gen. Charles Flynn, who was in on the call. But then Miller made himself pretty clear in his Jan. 4 memo, saying that "without [his] subsequent, personal authorization” the DCNG could not “be issued weapons, ammunition, bayonets, batons or ballistic protection equipment such as helmets and body armor.”

In yesterday's hearing, "Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, was incredulous." Also in yesterday's hearing, co-conspirators Ron Johnson, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, who were not incredulous.

3.March.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Look who's talking now Permalink to this item

Former Guy's right-hand man, Mike Pence, is out with an opinion piece, hosted by the Daily Signal. I saw his tout-tweet, and responded on Twitter. Reformatting the <281-character chunks into this blog post. To Mr. Pence:

Your take on fraud, trampling the Constitution and eroding confidence in our elections COULD BE RELEVANT if and when you are prepared to tell the truth. Until then, your op-ed isn't worth a bucket of warm spit.

Especially when you kick it off with the Big Lie of 2020. No credible evidence has been provided to support the claim that the election was "marked by significant voting irregularities" that warrant "the concerns of millions of Americans about [its] integrity." There was nothing "significant" that would have changed the result in the wide margin of the popular vote, or in the margins in any of the decisive states.

A remarkable number of challenges were brought by your losing side at the top of the ticket. The only one that was not rejected by the justice system was insignificant. Were any of these challenges made in good faith? None proved to be credible in court.

It's an astounding record of failure in more than 5 dozen cases.

As you well know, the greatest threat to election integrity in this country is VOTER SUPPRESSION that has been a long-term project of the Republican Party to maintain its power in spite of its inability to muster a majority in national elections. (C.f. 2000, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020.)

Your sinecure as "distinguished visiting fellow" there at The Heritage Foundation is nice, what with your having been VPOTUS, Governor of Indiana, and member of Congress, but not if you are continue the shocking and despicable record of lying that were the hallmark of your administration.

Your enabling of the former president, and your silence in the face of the dangerous lies is now your legacy.

You have forfeited your standing to speak to us about "trampling the Constitution."

1.Mar.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Vexillology Permalink to this item

As our (northern) spring-bearing month comes in like a lamb, under an oh so clear, blue sky, a jolly Twitter post highlighting the (apparent) "Flag of the Kingdom of Benin" reminds me of one of my favorite pages in the World Book Encyclopedia, 1955 edition, which would not have had the Greco-Roman portmanteau to add to the enjoyment.

I come neither to praise, nor bury Caesar, but for the glossary, including those flag-like objects, the Vexilloid, and Vexillum, and elements of Hoist, Fly, Canton, and Fimbriation. And to wonder how one signals distress in Switzerland, Georgia, Iceland, Austria (fess up, or fess down?), or Scotland.

Flag of Iceland


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007