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

Idaho's Republican rape culture problem Permalink to this item

Travel photo from yesterday

We were saved from tuning into yesterday's ethics committee hearing for Rep. Aaron "von" Ehlinger, from Lewiston, by traveling home from the north country. Also, from taking a week off from obsessively following the news. That was nice.

Back in Idaho's capital, our legislature continues to slog through ideological posturing and puffery, unable to figure out how to finish the work they usually get done by March or early April, because of the need to respond to the "tyranny" of Governor Brad Little. To say yesterday's hearing (continuing today at 10am, omg) was a "distraction" is to beggar understatement.

The very worst session of the Idaho legislature EVER got much, much worse. Kelcie Mosely-Morris' report for the Idaho Capital Sun describes the scene.

"Committee chairman Rep. Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, stressed that the hearing was not a criminal trial, but rather to determine if [Ehlinger’s] conduct was unbecoming of a legislator."

Unbecoming of a legislator. Not exactly a trick question, but it's proving to be a hell of a brain teaser for the Idaho Republican Party. Did this 38 year-old member of the House of Representatives engage in "conduct unbecoming a representative which is detrimental to the integrity of the House" by forcing a 19 year-old intern to have oral sex with him?

The Speaker of the House, Scott Bedke, and the Majority Caucus Chairwoman, Megan Blanksma both testified to say they'd heard things. Followed a lobbyist to a bathroom. Followed the same person around at reception. The lobbyist was also concerned he'd gone through her purse, "and could possibly have her home address."

Witnesses for Ehlinger were the line-up of the right-wing extremists in the legislature. Vito Barbieri, Dorothy Moon, Judy Boyle, Priscilla Giddings. "Giddings and Boyle said [Ehlinger] conducted himself like a gentleman in their experience."

Alrighty then. Dorothy Moon was part of the mask-burning scene on the capitol steps last month. Her husband is in the national leadership for the John Birch Society. Moon said she believed Doe flirted with Ehlinger. Which... everybody knows, if you "flirt," that means it's ok to rape you? "I'm a woman. I know what it looks like to flirt," Moon testified.

For her part, Priscilla Giddings has imagined the 19 year-old victim is part of a plot to get a "conservative," and publicized the victim's identity for retribution.

Betsy Russell's Eye on Boise blog has Rebecca Boone's report for the AP, along with a warning: "graphic content."

"The intern told the committee that appearing in the hearing and all the proceedings leading up to it have been difficult.

“How do I explain that — vomiting on myself in the bathroom ... calling my mom because I'm terrified ... how do I explain that to the committee, what you've done to me?” she said. “I came here fighting and earning your respect. But I don't blame you. I forgive you. You're doing your job, and I am too.”

Compare that testimony from a 19 year-old intern to this:

"Several far-right blogs, one of [Ehlinger’s] former attorneys and White Bird Republican Rep. Priscilla Giddings have all publicly released the teen’s identity, making disparaging remarks about her and the allegations. Giddings scoffed and laughed at times during the hearing, including when the intern’s attorneys suggested that the bullying the intern had experienced would make other women less willing to report sexual assault."

Giddings professes to be a Christian. She sent out a "newsletter" to her constituents, no less, referring to the teenager as a “honey trap” and the allegations as a “liberal smear job," with a link to a far-right blog that included the intern's name, photo and personal details.

If being raped, being doxxed, having to testify in the state capitol wasn't enough, there was this, from an eyewitness report:

"[After Jane Doe] was escorted out the back door of the hearing room (where she was behind a curtain and taking video or photos was prohibited), a bunch of heinous people ran out of the [Lincoln Auditorium] and chased her up to the second floor. A few of us ran after them. She was crouched on the floor screaming and crying. A few people helped shield her while and man and I go in the faces of the people who were trying to film her."

And a reporter from @CBS2Boise chased her down to get some thrilling footage for the local news?!

Giddings needs to stand before her own ethics committee hearing. And be expelled, along with Aaron Ehlinger. The people assaulting the victim must be prosecuted.

Updates! OMG!

Earth Day, 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The anti-antiracism task force Permalink to this item

Idaho's Lieutenant Governor is the statewide office with the least responsibility. It comes with a minimal staff, and a minimal budget, and other than presiding over the Senate, there's not a lot to do. (Unless, of course, you know, and nobody wants to speak about that.)

Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, with pistol and Bible

For whatever combination of reasons (top of the list is who would want that kind of job?), Idaho expressed its full-on right-wing nutjobbery by electing a woman who is on the fringe. To put it kindly. She, and the most extreme element of the legislature have gotten it in their heads that the only thing wrong with "racism" in our society is that we're talking about it too much. In our universities. In our elementary, middle, and high schools. And maybe even in kindergarten and preschool!

They're railing about "indoctrination," threatening to defund what they don't like. It's not a new story: here's then-freshman Rep. Tammy Nichols making fake news about it back in 2019, the "leftist agenda" and all. But this legislative session, when there is actually quite a bit of real work they could be already be done with, and gone home, dealing with (rather than spreading) the coronavirus pandemic, they're just looking for more to say and do for their faction.

Cutting to the chase, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin has bootstrapped herself a "task force," and set up an outrage fishing expedition, in the form of a Task Force to Feed Her Confirmation Bias, aka to "Examine Indoctrination in Idaho Education." She's gone as far as a web page and a press release and a Google Form to survey all and sundry, which will collect any manner and color of opinion. Just imagine. You can comment anonymously, so just imagine that, in case you've ever seen anonymous comments on the intertubes.

Yesterday, I took a look, filled it out from my point of view as a University of Idaho graduate, about "Higher Education." (The form has a radio button set for the "level of education" your comment applies to; 5 choices, and "Other," but you have to choose one.) My UI degrees are a little dusty, 42 and 38 years on, and I don't have any recent, first-hand anecdotes to share.

A twitter thread from the mother of a grade school student made me think about a second submission. It starts like this:

My son is “white passing”. Today in class they had someone talk about anti-indigenous and anti-blackness in class. The guy asked if anyone was native, my son did not raise his hand in a class full of Caucasian kids.

The kids launched further into racist discussions and commentary on the sidelines. Making harsh jokes etc., and my son said he didn’t raise his hand bc he didn’t want to be picked on as racist jokes were prevalent in the class. ...

It's a worthy read. The thread, and the comments would be a good "feedback" to the Lt. Gov. and her task force, and the Idaho legislature, if they could quell their foregone conclusions for a moment, and consider our culture with an open mind. If only. Here's my second submission, focused on that more recent story:

I'm gravely concerned that your task force is an expedition to collect outrage, and use it as a weapon against public education in Idaho. That is, I do not believe this is a good faith effort. I'm a generous person, usually, in giving others the benefit of the doubt. But you (and others who profess to share similar views) have been outspoken in your beliefs and intent.

With that caveat, I offer you what I think is an important opinion expressed by the mother of middle school student, which could apply equally well to high school students. I'm a member of the dominant culture, replete with advantage throughout my life. My wife, on the other hand, grew up in Montana, where she looked like she might be part (or more than part) "Indian," and was significantly ostracized for nothing more than her appearance.

But that was many years ago, for both of us. This is a more up to-date anecdote. This is not my personal experience, but it reads as true to me, and rather tragic. It might be subtle if you're white. It's the sort of thing that would not much have gained my attention as a child, because *I didn't have to care.* But have a look, consider the comments, and consider that it is ESSENTIAL that our schools, from top to bottom, first ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THERE IS A PROBLEM. (Your task force seems intent on gathering "evidence" that the only problem is that some people are saying there is a problem.)

Update: A friend did a nice job of pointing out the obvious flaws in the Lt. Governor's "survey" technique, if this was really attempting a survey. Maybe her budget is too small to do it right? The friend said she was reluctant to fill in name/email, " "because [the] Lt Gov is so deep with so many groups that I do not want to be associated with... I cannot trust that my email and name wouldn’t be used in a deceitful manner." And, with name/email optional:

"People or groups could be filling out the form over and over and there is no way to know who is doing it... It also means that non-Idahoans can fill out this form and affect what happens with this stupid task force’s outcomes. ...

"This doesn’t seem very official—filling out a google form for an Idaho State Lt Gov. When I call our congressmen I usually have to give my name and zip code. By requiring a name and email, the person filling out the form could be from anywhere (or be a bot)! Doesn’t seem like an accurate or very secure way to handle this."

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

Dear customer: Please go away. Permalink to this item

Here's a new business model that might not have occurred to you: Sparklight, fka CableOne, originally a "cable TV" company, saw the necessity of providing all-in-one connectivity, and became an internet company. Sort of. How hard could it be?

It turns out that the email part is too hard for them. Or at least more trouble than it was worth. After several years of declining quality, they're now amputating their service. Who guessed an ISP could just decide not to do email if they didn't feel like it? Their FAQ starts with this gobsmacker:

Why are you discontinuing my Sparklight email account?

Many of our customers have expressed the need for a more robust email offering than what Sparklight currently provides. Because of this, the number of customers using our email has steadily declined over the past several years and as a result, we are discontinuing email service.

Flower photo, spring 2021

Yes, "more robust." Which came first, the egg of customers leaving, or the foul service? Perhaps this follows the pattern of Yahoo's discontinuation of their "Groups" feature, with one gigantic difference: Yahoo provided Groups to millions of non-paying customers, and the decades-old software was on its last legs, needing either a major overhaul or a complete redo.

Sparky goes on to refer to Gmail and Outlook as "premium email services." As in, services that work, "feature-rich and free." Joplin, Missouri was thrown off the bus early, for reasons they don't explain, and everyone else will be discontinued "market by market over the next 12 months." They'll send their customers "advance communication via email with the timeframe," in case you thought irony was dead. (Also: "If your Sparklight email address is your contact email for your Sparklight services, please contact us ... to update your account with your new email address.")

If you have (or had) any correspondents with cableone.net addresses, you're not hearing about "steady decline" for the first time, in the spam filtering, the false-positive bounces, the "I have a new email address" messages.

Not many people will tell you how much they love their ISP; we were CableOne customers back in the day, in the 1990s, and again for a while in the 00s. They told us we'd need to upgrade our modem at some point, and it was an annoying-enough last straw to push us to DSL. We don't love our new provider, but it works well enough that I'm not writing about them today, at least. We used pobox.com when that was kind of a cool idea, to not have to send anyone "we're changing our email addresses." We had to have an email provider to go with. When fortboise.org came into being, it was (eventually) obvious that we should have one (last) "we're changing" notice, and here we are. (With two underlying providers that our correspondents mostly don't have to care about.)

The last of the frequently asked questions is "What are the benefits of other email providers?" They don't belabor the obvious, most important feature: They're not being discontinued out from under you.

Update:
After my first take, one more piece of the puzzle from a friend who's a current customer.

"Gmail provided their email service for quite a while and it worked great," he wrote. "When they announced that Gmail was no longer going to be providing email for them, their email service worked really poorly at first. Then service improved a bit and then the gradual deterioration. ... it felt like they were purposely degrading the service to drive clients away."

12.April 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Jes' folks Permalink to this item

My inbox has a tale of two Heathers: Idaho's right-wing extremist, Rep. Heather Scott, and my favorite daily read, historian Heather Cox Richardson. In the former('s newsletter), I'm gaslit about how "Idaho folks are generally less fearful than others around the country" before Ms. Scott tells me why I should Be Very Afraid these days. "The overt and covert governmental and globalist assaults on our nation, state, and citizens, has been [sic] staggering, and there is good reason to be jittery." She led with a striking image of an avalanche, not in Idaho, not hers, not attributed.

"The coming avalanche is churning with federal gun restrictions; forced vaccines; immunization passes; forced mask mandates by corrupt courts, judges, city officials and hospitals; illegal aliens flooding our country; cozy China-Idaho relationships; critical race theory for pre-school kids; social justice; black lives matters and Antifa; higher taxes; corrupt elected officials; contact tracing; interagency data sharing; national and state spending; carbon credits; election fraud; and the list could continue on for many pages. Never in my life have I witnessed such broad sweeping changes to our Republic so quickly. The bitter carrot is big and shiny and disguised as covid relief."

She's no stickler for sensible metaphors. Or doing her own work. She defers to her fellow wing-nut, Rep. Ron Nate for the "economic" analysis "detailing the awaited woes if Idaho chooses to accept this trojan horse disguised as 'disaster relief' funds." Obvs, "IDAHO SHOULD REJECT THE FUNDING!!"

The better Heather's April 11 edition of Letters from an American informs me that Congress has been taking another two-week break (nice work if you can get it), but will be back in D.C. today. Once the party of "corporations are people, my friend," Republican are now all like DON'T BE STUPID JUST SHUT UP AND GIVE US MONEY. Also, Mitch McConnell is giving lectures about “open disdain for judicial independence,” def speaking from experience. The former guy is still wailing and gnashing at his golf club (about Mitch McConnell, stealing, and other things), and White Lives Matter was pretty much a no-show at its urban rallies.

How badly do you want it? Permalink to this item

The HelpDesk of IRIS wrote back in reply to my request for a copy of what immunization records the state of Idaho's database has on me. Boilerplate, I presume, but it starts with random speculation that

A copy of an immunization record might be found at one of the following places:

"Might." Also, "doctor's office," singular. Do you remember all the "clinics" you've been to? Nominally, my request was for information to help me "keep on track," but practically, I asked for "any and all data you have about me." They apparently prefer not to be bothered.

The double asterisk on "your local public health district" goes to a list of Idaho's seven, numbered districts, which many of us know better than we used to, but other than "panhandle" and "sw" their domain names (and numbers) are not all that obvious. Where is "phd5.idaho.gov," you might wonder. Or "siphidaho.org". Southern? "eiph" must be eastern. Ours is C-for-Central, even though we are SW-ish. Go figure. Above the list, this text:

**some local public health departments require you to have received services as a qualification to release immunization records. Please contact your local office for details.

If all of the chaff doesn't distract or dissuade you, the actionable part is in the middle of the email:

W.W. Denslow, c. 1900

If you have tried the above options and still can’t locate your immunization records, the Idaho Immunization Program MAY be able to assist you. Any immunization request requires filling out a public records request. Please click on the following link for information regarding completion of a public records request:
Public Records Request
You will be asked to supply some required information for your request to be considered.

Not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn't it. Instead of the Eye of Sauron, it's more the foppish Guardian of the Gates of Emerald City.

The link provided in the email redirects to healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/news-notices/public-records-requests, which is kind of all-purpose many hoops of bureaucracy. Requests must be in writing, on our form, notarized, "if the Department is unable to verify signature already on file." How would you know? Go a round with them to find out?

You should "please be very specific as to which program information you are needing, include dates, locations, or names of reports." On the plus side, it's a one-page form, and only four of the five numbered sections have things to fill in. Section 4 is the requester's signature, the date of the request, and a notary form. "If you are requesting individual-specific information, including yours, your signature must be notarized." So don't bother guessing whether you have a signature on file that you might be able to match.

The PDF is embedded in a frame in the browser with their PdfViewer.aspx, is not fillable, and the download link doesn't work. Flashes something that I can't read fast enough when I click on it. But I can "view just this frame" and decode the direct URL, which is https://publicdocuments.dhw.idaho.gov/WebLink/ElectronicFile.aspx?docid=14140&dbid=0&repo=PUBLIC-DOCUMENTS&pdfView=true, and that delivers just the (still not fillable) PDF.

Which makes me wonder: did the gang of 8 Republican leaders fill out this same form and get their signatures notarized before foaming about "egregious regulatory overreach and unlawful actions" to the Attorney General?

10.April 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Vax stat Permalink to this item

Latest update from our four-county Central District Health includes a list of 28 vendors at more locations that are providing Covid-19 vaccinations, and for the week ending April 5, dose amounts of 4,400 (Moderna), 7,020 (Pfizer), and 6,700 of the single-dose Janssen (J&J). That works out to about 2.5% of the population (counting the M and P as "half"). Everyone 16 years old and up is eligible.

The statewide dashboard says CDH has 37 providers, has administered 234,498 doses, out of the state's total of 784 thousand doses. 61% of people 65+ are completely vaccinated; 70% have at least one dose. For ages 16-64, 28.5% have at least one dose, and 15.3% are completely vaccinated.

Great progress, good inventory, availability, accessibility. Unlike the early days, if you want it, you can get it. We'll be easing into the "everybody who wants it has it" and trying to figure out how big a problem with vaccination refusal we have. I expect it to be fairly massive in Idaho.

This morning, as I was washing my hands, I remembered my grandmother's tutelage in personal hygiene, which seemed rather excessive to me in my ignorance. She had her first child in 1919; the great pandemic would have left a strong impression. A century later, I finally acquired the training she tried to impart.

As the scope of death this time around approaches the 1918 influenza pandemic (50M WW, 675k in the US), it's the topic of Heather Cox Richardson's April 9 letter, including our "curious amnesia" about it. It's hard to remember a year ago, let alone a hundred. She outlines the contrast in government response from the Duke and Dauphin last year, to the Biden administration this year, a lesson about government that will be important to remember.

That will be a long time coming to Idaho, where in the waning days of the legislature's disease-extended (and disease-spreading) session, the Republicans are doing their part to throw wrenches in the works, and/or assuage the anti-public health "libertarian" tendency of our rugged individuals. Debbie Mallis, of the Interfaith Equality Coalition:

"The 2021 Idaho Legislative Session seems to be largely about power. They want to exert more power over school districts, higher ed, local government, the Attorney General and of course, the people of Idaho. House State Affairs even discussed nullifying federal actions and rulings this week. Today the Senate advanced two major bills that would limit the governor’s emergency powers."

From Betsy Russell's blog on the Idaho Press, after S1136aa and H135aa passed the Senate on party-line votes:

"Both bills limit the governor’s emergency powers and give the Legislature an increased role; SB-1136aa addresses “extreme peril” declarations caused by enemy attack, terrorism or insurrection while HB 135aa addresses disaster emergencies in general. Neither changes the powers of local cities. Both limit emergency declarations to 60 days unless the Legislature extends them, though declarations could continue longer than that for the sole purpose of receiving federal disaster aid."

The disease caucus of the legislature is having their version of a burn barrel for masks on the capitol steps with a ban on bans. And you know what else? You try to make a mask mandate ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US, "any public health order or emergency declaration that the entity is operating under will be terminated." We are at seriously next-level stupidity now.

June, 2020 iris photo

For his part, Governor Brad Little took a stand against "vaccine passports" this week. “Vaccine passports create different classes of citizens," he said in announcing the order, but that's not quite right. The classes exist. Documentation would provide the means to improve public health. The Biden White House has ruled out "a credential" as well, saying "there will be no federal vaccinations database, and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential." Leave that up to the free market to solve, so that'll be fun. Add it to the list of data and metadata you can find out about someone for $19.95 on a dodgy website.

Yesterday, Idaho Republican leaders heads were exploding when they figured out that OMG NO THE STATE HEALTH DEPARTMENT HAS A DATABASE, which they're pretty darn sure is illegal. No statutory authority! Regulatory overreach! Unlawful Actions! Thank you.

Reading that they undertook "due diligence" and "requested any of their own personal records that may have been reported to the state Immunization Reminder Information System (IRIS)," I'm thinking, yes please, can I have my records too, because the "free market" has splatted them all over the place, in organizations that may have legal restrictions, but not, from my point of view, a fiduciary duty to serve my personal needs.

IRIS has catchy graphics, a Help Desk open during business hours, a warning on its front page, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO LOG ON UNLESS YOU ARE AN AUTHORIZED USER, and an institutional feel. It says it "was developed to record and track immunization dates of Idaho's children and adults, providing assistance for keeping everyone on track for their recommended immunizations."

What better way for me to keep on track than to have this information at my fingertips! I sent them a request, and we'll see if some animals are more equal than others, or if IRIS can blossom on an individual basis as well as for industry.

9.April 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Get thee to a Nonery Permalink to this item

Just as the center and purpose of political parties shifts over time, so goes religion. It seems absurdly casual to wave one's hand at "Christianity," as if it were one thing, two millennia into an experience comprising a cult, theocracy, the Inquisition, the black church, and the white church. David Frum has a wide-ranging Twitter thread this morning, starting with his thesis:

The most politically important "great replacement" under way in the United States is the "replacement" of conservative Christians by their own liberal and secular children and grandchildren.

He ranged from the Pew Research Center's decade+ of surveying the decline in "Christians" and the rise of the "Nones," to a remarkable NY Times interactive from December, Immigrant Neighborhoods Shifted Red as the Country Chose Blue (as "the Great Non-Replacement." The Chicago area was first up in that article, and I was distracted by thinking about regression to the mean, in more than the statistical sense.

Finally, to Isaac Bailey in Newsweek, I'm Struggling with My Christianity After [the former guy]. Let's call this "a peculiar version of religiosity" rather than over-broad big C.

"If [a peculiar version of religiosity] can convince so many to follow a man like [tfg] almost worshipfully—or couldn't at least help millions discern the unique threat [tfg] represented—what good is it?"

That one-sentence paragraph carries more freight than the Ever Given. Convince, follow, worshipfully, discern, threat. Bailey's piece is a good read.

His sample of Franklin Graham's paean to autocratic psychopathy is jaw-dropping. At least we can all agree with Graham that "we have never had a president like him in [our lifetimes]," thank god for that. This image from January, 2020, an "Evangelicals for *rump" campaign event, his serene highness absorbing the worship.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If prayers can be answered, was SARS-CoV-2 heaven-sent to vomit this man from our temple of democracy? It would be oh-so-Old Testament to wipe out a few million people to accomplish One Good Thing.

No thanks to "white Christian America," as Sarah Jones noted in NY Mag's Intelligencer in December; that deal with the devil, as exit polling showed at least three-quarters of white Evangelicals voted for the former guy. "While most of America tired of the president’s impieties, the born-again found in themselves a higher tolerance for sin."

"And the sins are legion, lest we forget. He tear-gassed protesters so he could walk to a D.C. church and hold a Bible in front of it without interference. He lied and cheated, and smeared women who accused him of sexual assault. He separated migrant children from their parents and staffed his administration with white nationalists. Over a quarter of a million Americans died of the coronavirus, while he railed against doctors and scientists trying to save lives. Not even a plague turned Evangelicals from their earthly lord. For [the former guy], the consequences are political and legal. For Evangelicals, the fallout has a more spiritual quality. What does it profit a faith to gain a whole country and then lose it, along with its own soul? ...

"Whatever the cause, whatever the rumor, the fear was always the same. It was about power, and what would happen if we lost it. Certain facts, like the whiteness of our congregations and the maleness of our pulpits and the shortcomings of our leaders, were not worth mentioning. You were fighting for God, and God was not racist or sexist; He was only true. The unsaved hated this, it made them angry, and that was proof you were doing the right thing. If “owning the libs” has a discernible origin point, it’s here, in the white Evangelical church."

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

How I spent my stimulus check Permalink to this item

In the dentist's chair, laid back, headphones.

"Is it staticky?" she asked.

"No, it's good. A little Spanish guitar. I might get up and dance," I said, snapping my fingers in the air, gaily.

"Are you a dancer?"

Not really. I have danced. I sampled answers in my mind.

"Yes," I decided.

"A little salsa?" she offered.

I was thinking of opera, how could I prove my claim?

"I took ballet in college."

An absurd claim, but I knew the word had magic. And it was true. One forgettable performance. The music came up to a moment, I clap clap clap clap clapped, the stage of my mind, to music only I could hear, and she laughed like a brook splashing in spring.

The voice inside my head told me it was the Aragonaise from Carmen, set on four guitars, followed by Quintettino "La musica notturna di Madrid," then Handel's "Music for the Royal Fireworks," the story of all the fireworks going off at once, and I wondered how that would fit into the dental work. (Alas, not in the Tafelmusik recording. Perhaps just as well, the live action had no fireworks.) "Liebesleid (Love's Sorrow)," by Fritz Kreisler and Verdi's "Canto di Virginia," augmented by the high-pitch whine of the drill, then the rumble of a low-speed tool, putting the percussion right into the jaw, that's an interesting effect.

The next morning, three Zooms and Episode 3 of Hemingway ("The Blank Page (1944-1961)") later, I was still thinking about the question, the present tense.

"I was..." I begin to think, and correct myself. "I am." I am not sure. Some things I did, I'm not going to do again. Most things. But some things keep coming around. I am a writer.

7.Apr.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sober assessment Permalink to this item

PBS Newshour coverage of the press briefing by the White House Covid-19 response team (Andy Slavitt, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Rochelle Walensky), about a half-hour well spent listing to their update on the #Covid19 response, with both good news, and bad news.

It's good to have competent people for this work, and honest communication. Serious people, experts in the field, sharing best info, facts, no gaslighting, no theatrical b.s., no bozos on this bus. (I keep thinking of the alternate, Bizarro universe, in which Former Guy levered his way to some kind of second term. We could be in Brazil's shoes. A year ago, he was elbowing his way to maximize his podium time, saying stupid things, enlisting equally ignorant lieutenants—Mike Pence! Jared!—who he was confidenct cound't upstage him.)

Slides from Dr. Fauci's update

Good news: 80% of teachers and school employees have at least one Vx dose. Over 55% of adults 65+ are fully vaccinated. (75% have at least one dose.)

Bad news: rising case counts, rising variants being reported, rising hospitalization.

Dr. Walensky says that B.1.1.7 is now the most common lineage in the US. (Welcome to evolution, right before our eyes, abetted by our (in)actions.)

Dr. Fauci on the duration of immunity: pretty good news, as far as we know, o(6-7 mo.) out, from infection, and post-Vx. (FYI: Immune memory comprises four major types: B cells, antibodies, CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells.) Envision a world with booster shots, designed for both "wild type" and "emerging variants."

Not said, but seems likely that such a "booster phase" would overlap with the initial vaccination phase. Non-participants are the wildcard, the biggest factor in our (not) being able to overcome continuing waves of evolution and infection.

A question about "the finish line," Slavitt said he's not sure that's the right metaphor... Dr. Fauci's take includes "concomitant diminution" (I love this guy) and "you'll know it when you see it."

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

NDA Permalink to this item

When I was in the corporate world, work wasn't "top secret," but most of what we did in the engineering trenches was "inside." While generally uninteresting to all but a select few, there were occasions when we needed to share information, but not with everyone. It had to do with competitive advantage, inventions-in-process, that sort of thing. My drawings were "proprietary" (per the standard drafting border). My lab notebook and most of my memos "Company Confidential." Our computer network was tightly firewalled, and for many years, very little of what I did circulated further than the division, and a select few vendors with a need to know. I agreed to let the company have the main piece of my mind for the duration, and they compensated me for the effort.

We did have others sign formal Nondisclosure Agreements, occasionally, and I signed a few NDAs with other companies. They were always for a specified term, and specified subject matter. I understood that you couldn't just wave your hands and enjoin someone from saying anything about anything, forever.

Even further back in the mists of time, one key takeaway from a course in Business Law: you can't have a legal contract for an illegal purpose. Seems obvious to say it, doesn't it? An NDA is a (purported) contract; one that proposes to keep you quiet about breaking the law is not binding.

Week-ago news of a US District Court Judge voiding the NDA that a certain candidate's 2016 presidential campaign required employees to sign brings that legal history back to mind. (H/t to Heather Cox Richardson's Mar. 30 letter.)

Judge Paul G. Gardephe (appointed by George W. Bush if it matters, which it's not supposed to) declared one employment agreement's provisions for non-disclosure and non-disparagement invalid and unenforceable, with a 36-page Summary Judgment.

It includes excerpts of the now voided agreement, and there under e., the signer was supposed to "(i) provide the Company with written notice of any legal obligation to disclose any Confidential Information as soon as you become aware of such obligation," and "(ii) not make any disclosure notwithstanding such obligation until the Company (or the appropriate *rump Person) has had a reasonable opportunity to seek an appropriate protective order or similar relief," and so on.

Company first, then the law, in other words. Interesting. In the next section, we see that the Company is concerned about Everything. Anything. Specifically?

"[A]ny means of expression, including but not limited to verbal, written, or visual, (ii) whether or not preserved in any medium now known or hereafter discovered or invented, including but not limited to audio recording of any type, written text, drawing, photograph, film, video, or electronic device, (iii) in any manner or form, including but not limited to any book, article, memoir, diary, letter, essay, speech, interview, panel or roundtable discussion, image, drawing, cartoon, radio broadcast, television broadcast, video, movie, theatrical production, Internet website, e-mail, Twitter tweet, Facebook page, or otherwise, even if fictionalized, (iv) in any language, or (v) in any country or other jurisdiction (collectively, the “Restricted Means and Contexts”)."

Don't even whisper it! What all does this supposedly protected “Confidential Information” include, you wonder?

"[A]ll information (whether or not embodied in any media) of a private, proprietary or confidential nature or that [Makes a Dull Thud] insists remain private or confidential, including, but not limited to, any information with respect to the personal life, political affairs, and/or business affairs of [MaDT] or of any Family Member, including but not limited to, the assets, investments, revenue, expenses, taxes, financial statements, actual or prospective business ventures, contracts, alliances, affiliations, relationships, affiliated entities, bids, letters of intent, term sheets, decisions, strategies, techniques, methods, projections, forecasts, customers, clients, contacts, customer lists, contact lists, schedules, appointments, meetings, conversations, notes, and other communications of [MaDT], any Family Member, any *rump Company or any Family Member Company."

Excepting of course, by definition, all those things which are illegal, because you can't have a legal contract to protect illegal acts. So that's a hell of a loophole for Mr. MaDT and his reticulating network that "business" that oozed into the highest office of trust in our land. And how big is this "family" umbrella, you may wonder? "Family Member" was defined as:

"any member of Mr. [MaDT]'s family, including, but not limited to, Mr. [MaDT]’s spouse, each of Mr. [MaDT]'s children and grandchildren and their respective spouses, including but not limited to [MaDT] Jr., Eric F. [MaDT] and Ivanka M. [MaDT], Tiffany [MaDT], and Barron [MaDT], and their respective spouses, children and grandchildren, if any, and Mr. [MaDT]’s siblings and their respective spouses and children, if any."

"If any" is a nice (repeated) touch. But wait, there's more! Any "Family Member Company" too, which is to say “any entity, partnership, trust or organization that, in whole or in part, was created by or for the benefit of any Family Member or is controlled or owned by any Family Member.”

And for how long? "During the term of your service and at all times thereafter." It is forever and ever, amen!

How did all this come into New York's District Court, we wonder. The plaintiff, Jessica Denson (individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated), filed a complaint against the "Campaign," alleging sex discrimination, harassment, and slander. And in late 2017, "the Campaign commenced an arbitration proceeding against Denson, claiming that she had “breached confidentiality and non-disparagement obligations contained in a written agreement she executed during her employment.”

The "Campaign" tried to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court of the State of New York said nope. Denson filed her complaint that the agreement was void and unenforceable. The "Campaign" tried to compel arbitration on this second lawsuit, and won that (in Aug. 2018). An Arbitrator boiled it down to $49,507.64 worth of breach. Denson clapped back with a class-arbitration demand, and it gets complicated. Jump ahead to February 2020, when "the Appellate Division, First Department, reversed the state court decision confirming the December 11, 2018 arbitration award, and vacated the award in its entirety."

And who else are we talking about? Remember Omarosa Manigault Newman and her book? Cliff Sims and his book? Alva Johnson and her lawsuit alleging battery and unequal pay based on gender and race? And doubtless more, unnamed therein. In June 2020, Denson sought to "serve targeted interrogatories designed to elicit basic information regarding the nature of the class,” including “how many individuals signed the same Form NDA, or a version thereof, and whether those contracts materially differ from one another,” but the Court did not let that happen.

By the way, this is a federal case because the plaintiff claimed the NDA violated her First Amendment rights. Work your way down the boilerplate for the Summary Judgment Standard, the Declaratory Judgment Act, and Standing to the "Campaign" moving to dismiss, "arguing that Denson lacks standing, and that her claims are barred by collateral estoppel." (Kind of the "we already won this once" defense.)

Amusingly (to a bystander), the Court cited a Twitter tweet from MaDT, back when he was allowed to make such things "about his efforts to enforce non-disclosure agreements" as providing Denson with a "well-founded fear" of attempted enforcement against her, supported by the pattern of behavior we know and detest from MaDT, and thus, Denson has standing. After the bad faith collateral estoppel was swatted away, the motion for summary judgment, and the heart of the public interest:

"Denson argues that the Employment Agreement’s non-disclosure and non-disparagement provisions are unenforceable under New York law because they (1) do not “contain any temporal limit”; (2) define “Confidential Information” to include “staggeringly broad categories” including “anything ‘Mr. Trump insists remain private or confidential’”; (3) restrict speech on matters of highest political importance and subject Campaign workers to potentially crippling financial penalties for exercising basic rights”; (4) “lack the requisite definiteness required of all valid agreements”; (5) “contravene[] public policy” by violating “the United States’ and New York’s commitment to public debate on matters of public concern ... [and] New York’s public policy against contracts that prevent the reporting of misconduct”; and (6) are unconscionable."

"At all times thereafter" is not a reasonable time limitation. (Also, it's not a limitation.) And "thirty-five categories of 'private, proprietary, or confidential' information" driven by what MaDT "insists" from time to time, for "more than 500 companies" are "vague," and lack definition and reasonable limitation. The idea (the Campaign had) that the judge could "blue pencil" their dodgy boilerplate to something enforceable was laughed out of court.

The Politico piece does a better job of a readable summary, and includes the reaction of the plaintiff:

"Denson celebrated the latest ruling, saying it dealt a death blow to a tactic *rump has long wielded to control his image.

“I’m overjoyed,” Denson told Politico. “This president ... former president spent all four years aspiring to autocracy while claiming that he was [a] champion of freedom and free speech. ... There’s many people out there who have seen cases like mine and were terrified to speak out.”

So, now, let the storytelling (and criminal prosecutions) continue.

Easter Monday, 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Makes a Dull Thud Permalink to this item

Our return to normalcy has been nice these last few months. I suppose the tranche of dead-enders who thought a nasty, sociopathic conman would make a powerful advocate for them in our nation's capital are still praying for the second coming, post-implosion, but without his Twitter feed, he lacks a certain je ne sais quoi. Some folks are posting his press releases, which seems like that should be a TOS violation too, but anyway, I'm not a reader. Who cares? I wouldn't even be writing about him if it weren't that his "Indian name" popped into my head for today's headline, and last week's story featured on the Sunday New York Times front page, jumping to a full, 2-page spread: How the Former Guy, Desperate for Cash, Robbed his Peeps.

Fans of the Firesign Theatre will remember George Tirebiter's campaign slogan ("You can believe me, because I'm always right, and I never lie.") as well as his son Porgy's enthusiasm for his chances. Let's just say, they were ahead of their time.

Father: Only if you stay out of trouble, boy. Your shennanigans can cost me this election.

Porgy: Oh, come on Dad. No Irishman can stop you from getting to be Dog Killer this time. You're a natural.

Father: Don't wolf your food.

Snippet from +rump fundraising site

Anyway, the story is, as the very rich, and very smart, and very crooked fellow was running out of other people's money on his way to losing the 2020 election fair and square, his Make a Wish whiz kids came up with brilliant twists for their online fundraising. The second pre-checked box for "yes, TAKE MY MONEY EVERY WEEK PLEASE" turned it into a "money bomb." Who needs a 1000% MATCH when one click for freedom lights up a cash flow that lasts until the well runs dry?

After Stacy Blatt's $500 donation (astounding enough all by itself, from a fellow living on less than twice that a month, and just months away from dying of cancer) multiplied into a negative $3,000 in less than 30 days, and after his bank account was drained and frozen, his brother Russell, called in to help, provided the understatement of the quadrennium:

“It felt,” Russell said, “like it was a scam.”

It was more than a feeling.

“Bandits!” said Victor Amelino, a 78-year-old Californian, who made a $990 online donation to Mr. Trump in early September via WinRed. It recurred seven more times — adding up to almost $8,000. “I’m retired. I can’t afford to pay all that damn money.”

Yes. Even that first $990 seems a little... ill-advised, doesn't it? No need for me to belabor the point. Shane Goldmacher (or was it Shame Gobsmacker?) has the whole story there in the NYT, inimitably illustrated with Doug Mills' photos.

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

Recess ends next week Permalink to this item

Good morning to the Idaho Capital Sun, our newest local news outlet. Long-time reporter Clark Corbin's piece on the legislature's plans to fix what isn't broken in our elections includes the unnecessary (Mike "voting shouldn't be easy" Moyle's H223), the vindictive (S1110, to keep the uppity citizens from having any more initiatives and referenda), the inappropriate (HJR4, to amend the Consitution and make Idaho the lone outpost of marijuana illegality, "esto perpetua"), and the dead (we hope, H255, H121, H106). Credit where due to the house majority leader for trying to laugh off his mal mot, a little?

"In debating the new version, Moyle attempted to walk back his initial claim about how voting should not be easy. Moyle said voting should be easy and cheating should be hard and that sometimes when he gets worked up in the heat of debate “I say things I probably shouldn’t say.”

"Moyle said he still worries about cheating and protecting elections."

Yeah, IDK, Republicans control so much (too much) of our legislature, 58/70 and 28/35 seats, it does make you wonder what's wrong here.

Corbin didn't mention an execrable pair of bills that are languishing in Sen. Patti Anne Lodge's State Affairs drawer: Rep. Tammy Nichols' H105 to end at-will absentee voting, and H219 from Rep. Brandon Mitchell and Sen. Regina Bayer to disallow student IDs as valid identification. House Ways and Means is apparently going to bury the minority leader's H55, Rep. Ilana Rubel's bid to have automatic voter registration at DMV offices.

Even if they stop saying "voting shouldn't be easy" out loud, there's still that.

You can look up all those bill numbers, text, and much more on the legislature's website.

raveling

Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007