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30.May 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Definitely mixed, no "blessings" Permalink to this item

Perhaps the spectacular understatement in the headline of former Rep. Stephen Hartgen's latest opinion piece for his old Times-News was his own doing? It would certainly be in keeping with his blunderbuss style. Closed GOP Idaho Primary Has Been a Mixed Blessing, it says there.

Not many duffers his age are this flexible! It's a big lift to send a share of blame to Democrats (and the "contentious and partisan media") for the sorry mess that Republicans created all by themselves. He might like to take that show on the road, to a state fair midway with Wayne Hoffman barking the rubes to come have a look.

The cheap shot at Judge Lynn Winmill, as if his being a "Democrat" had something to do with his "allowing" the crappy law Hartgen and his fellow Republicans passed in 2011 to stand is likewise tossed off in his careless way.

Democrats attempted to "manipulate" contests to prevent the very worst of ideological "hyper-partisanship," "bickering, insults, put-downs and now doxing," the "fat-cat outsiders" calling the shots, the reduced progress, the loss of civility, yes, "mostly" or perhaps almost entirely "from the rightists who contest and argue incessantly," the "narrow and strident candidates ... who lack even basic qualifications." (See next item.) That's right, every horrid fault he has correctly identified, without recognizing that the CALL IS COMING FROM INSIDE HIS OWN PARTY HOUSE. He's running out of time to catch a clue.

This is what it could sound like if he did: "What we did in 2011 was well-intentioned (by at least some of us), but seeing how it turned out, just 10 years later, I realize now it was a terrible mistake."

But no, the "deceitful" Democrats made them hurt themselves. With an 80% super-majority, the GOP has itself completely at its own mercy, and they are desperately calling out for help. Or for someone to blame for their problems. He's got the punchline close to right, anyway:

"The only immediate corrective would be to defeat or retire the most tin-hatted obstructionists, or to squeeze them out of the GOP and legislative caucus into an Anarchist Party of their own, as that is who they really are. In the meantime, we reap what we have sown."

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

Tempestuous little crockpot Permalink to this item

News director for local TV station opines for himself that Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane’s "complete takedown of the Lt. Governor’s executive order is about as straightforward as I’ve seen a legal opinion. Wow."

Hardly a news cycle went by before dad came home and smacked it down as "an irresponsible, self-serving political stunt," which of course is exactly what it was, and of course Janice McGeachin is just getting started.

Neighbor's flag iris

"Gov. Little chose to revoke your personal freedom by rescinding my order," she clapped back. "I remain undeterred and unwavering in my commitment to defend your rights."

Those would be your, ah, extra-constitutional rights, that she's making up as she goes along. Which, if you will dip into the comment thread under that tweet in the first link above, you will see is close enough for horseshoes and government work around here. Warren Christensen, @That_One_Man_:

"Ya well. "For once we Conservatives had someone defend our right for personal choice as parents and individuals. Only for Little to take that away and claim the rights belong in the hands of local school districts. Not the people. Thank you McGeachin!"

Just A Regular Idahoan notes "you might want to read it first." After some back and forth, Christensen agrees, did not see that coming!

"Fair enough. I will need to read his response. It only seems though the AG has been Littles puppet through it all during this Scamdemic so taking what he says with a grain of salt. Hope he references the article in the Constitution that states this."

Another local TV station summarizes and links to the original (with a weird bit of scripting that pops the PDF as you read their take). Plenty of information to work through to solve the puzzle. Senator Melissa Wintrow (D-19), who asked for the AG's opinion, "was correct that the executive order issued by Lt. Gov. McGeachin was unconstitutional, illegal and an overreach of the executive branch." Not just all that "tyranny" the RWNJs love to rail about, not just poorly thought through, not just null and void, but really stupid, to boot. Which... is cool with a lot of Idahoans. Who may well be voting for McGeachin in the primary next year. Freedom! Don't Red On Me!

28.May 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Corruption and cowardice Permalink to this item

Idaho's two Senators are not stand-out (nor stand-up) Republicans. The very opposite; they're the epitome of get-along pols, happy to vote in bloc without making waves. Jim Risch seems to like a TV camera; Mike Crapo seems to like to pose as a thoughtful statesman. But their public statements have long devolved to rehashed talking points, and when it really mattered in our descent to corruption and autocracy, they've failed to do the right thing, time after time. They voted NOT GUILTY when the former guy was impeached, and then they voted NOT GUILTY a second time, after he'd incited the failed January 6 insurrection.

They didn't join the actual insurrection caucus of the Senate, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz and the rest; but even in that moment, they were undistinguished, sticking with the larger part of the elephant herd to reject the Big Lie about the 2020 election without going all the way to stating it plainly.

Today, ahead of the holiday weekend, there were only 89 members of the Senate left to vote on whether to proceed with a bipartisan commission to investigate January 6. (Wouldn't want them to miss a holiday weekend!) Only 54 voted "aye"; cloture required 60 to "stop debate" before a genuine vote could take place.

Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK), Susan Collins (ME), Bill Cassidy (LA), Mitt Romney (UT), Ben Sasse (NE), and Rob Portman (OH) were the only Republicans to vote "aye." (All but Portman had voted GUILTY at the former guy's second impeachment, as well.) Lindsey Graham gave it lip service when it didn't matter, didn't raise his hand today. Look at how the cowards appear in the news when they speak up, and you can understand Crapo's and Risch's preference for keeping it on the q.t.

Risch didn't even bother to show up for the vote. Crapo voted Nay. Kirsten Sinema of Arizona didn't bother to vote either. Patty Murray of Washington, what?! But even with all the Democrats, and Patrick Toomey (R-PA) who said he would have voted "aye," that would have been 3 votes short of the right thing. Mitch McConnell's "private favor" Senate fell short, once again.

My way of putting this: we have a two-party system, and one of the two is anti-democratic. None of our institutions is prepared for what happens then.

— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) May 28, 2021

And what Sarah Kendzior said in her book, which you should definitely read, and again in a tweet on Dec. 10:

"Crime committed brazenly is over time redefined as something other than crime. It is entertainment, and then it is autocracy, and then it is too late."

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

Religion, sex, politics Permalink to this item

All those things we're not supposed to talk about in polite company. Matthew Sheffield offers a Twitter thread with his personal observations on Chrissy Stroop's piece about evangelical churches and "lives of sin." The "patriarchal Christianity’s longstanding and extremely unhealthy obsession with sex" thing, going back to Paul's and Augustine's personal problems, writ large upon the ages.

It's safe to assume each leaver's story is unique (even if they can be sorted into categories). I was an adolescent leaver (of Catholicism), and it wasn't about sex for me (which is remarkable, given how much was about sex when I was an adolescent). My shorter sense of that distant past is equal measures of: "you are not the boss of me," and "that stuff you're telling me I'm supposed to believe doesn't actually make sense, you know." I'm happy (and lucky) to say I was neither abused, nor did anyone attempt to coerce me to stay against my youthful will. After 9 years of parochial school, I decided for myself that it was too parochial, and upon that emancipation, found confirmation in my choice, and the impetus to keep going. (I've got siblings who stayed parochial far longer than me, and did, and didn't stick with the church, so a conveniently broad set of anecdotes to draw on, whenever I want to draw on anecdotes.)

Those two personal stories were pretty heavy, but the link Stroop offers to elaborate on the term "exvangelical," Scout Brobst on Vice, about a Uniquely American Crisis caught the humorous light in my morning at first:

"a production of Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames, a budget preview of the afterlife hosted by the Ohio-based company Reality Outreach Ministries. The left side of the stage was white and glowing to simulate heaven. The right side of the stage was red and relied on cheap pyrotechnics to simulate the lake of fire in hell."

That company name, you know: ROM-com. Catholics aren't usually included in the "evangelical" realm, which would DQ me from claiming exvan, but they've got that Pentecost thing, and the little flames over your head, at least one Sunday a year. (I thought there was a parade of Nth Sundays of Pentecost, but when I looked up the current Liturgical Calendar for the Diocese of the USA from the Committee on Divine Worship—see those flames, on the cover page—the parade is labeled Ordinary Time, and Pentecost is unique. Annually.)

Brobst's piece explores the the political dimension, and I note that the link to the former guy's "nondenominationalism" coughs up Error 404 from (truth in advertising). One could search a .gov archive, but the Wayback Machine is quicker. Said Q&A with Religion News Service, as scraped just before sunset. It's kind of a pathetic little thing, a little blasphemous, but mostly just dog whistling on the even of the election, to give the evangelicals supporting the Republican coalition cover to vote for him again. If we could take him at his word (ha ha), he truly believes God intervened to save him from Covid (after, you know, God must have given him Covid).

That "5 minute read" distilled by the FG WH is not nearly as forthcoming as Religious News Service's own treatment, which informs us that the interview was done in writing, with questions "negotiated with the White House press office." And this precious statement from the bowels: "White House staffers said that the answers are attributable to the president."

The "White House" as they say, "declined to respond to questions" of various sorts. One commenter complained that "This is an unsubstantive bit of puffery perpetrated by the White House Press Office with the complicity of RNS," which is certainly true when you look at the WH version, slightly less so from the RNS treatment. Another stated the obvious that "This doesn't sound like [the former guy]. Let's hear him say this in real-time without the prepared statement."

Of course, we'd already heard plenty the of real-time dump by that time, "fumbling biblical passages and speaking in obscenities." Right before "he received a greater share of the evangelical vote than each of the last three Republican candidates, including Bush." In case you didn't know that irony had been nailed to the cross and hung out to dry, try this anecdote (with emphasis added) from Brobst:

"At first, it looked like it was going to be a slow, gradual transition. Then, at 23, she was asked to leave her lifelong congregation, a church her parents helped to start. She was told that she had elevated her social justice agenda over sharing the gospel. And though she still identifies as a follower of Jesus, her religious habits have paused."

Jesus. And another Q&A from RNS, David French on Christian nationalism and evangelicals’ existential angst. He says he "stopped being a Republican" after you-know-whose primary season in 2016. But earlier,

"In 2007, much to my embarrassment today, I was speaking to a very conservative convention and someone asked why I was volunteering to go to Iraq and I said the two greatest threats to America were far-left radicals at home and jihadists abroad.

"Then I went to Iraq and I saw the difference between an opponent and an enemy. I had lived in deep blue places in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and in Ithaca, New York, with people on the far left of the political aisle, and I had a good life in both of those places. I could not have had a good life in Iraq under the control of the Islamic State. And I thought, “We are superheating our political rhetoric at home out of proportion to the stakes of our political controversies. And that’s dangerous.”

What do you see as the country’s greatest threats today?

"Today, the greatest threat we have is polarization itself —this commitment we have to view fellow citizens as enemies and the incredible animosity existing across American communities that would lead people to feel so desperate about the state of the Union they would literally storm the Capitol to stop the democratic process."

25.May 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

So nice to see you today Permalink to this item

Today's essential read: an interview with Shoshana Zuboff, as she Explains Why You Should Care About Privacy, but mostly, about how far down the road your privacy has already been sold. Starting with Apple's supposed pushback against Facebook, on behalf of... well, that's the thing.

"I don’t think we should ever expect a corporation to do anything that is not self-serving. Corporations are, by definition, self-serving."

First, a definition. Facebook, "the big whale in this discussion" is sometimes referred to as an "app" (a word more abused by distension than has been "blog"). This particular instance of software with a name that does stuff is "a massive surveillance empire worth hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars."

"And [Apple's] App Tracking Transparency has no bearing on Facebook’s, or any other application’s, ability to continue tracking you, collecting every aspect of your behavior, your activities, your thoughts and feelings."

This morning

How are you feeling, by the way? Never mind if you don't feel like saying, the things you've been searching for lately speak volumes. We kind of already know.

"The last 20 years have seen, especially the last decade, the wholesale destruction of privacy. ... We’re not just talking about targeted ads. We’re talking about subliminal cues, psychological microtargeting, real time rewards and punishments, algorithmic recommendation tools and engineered social comparison dynamics."

It's about Apple, yes ("the wealthiest and most powerful corporation, certainly in modern history, perhaps in the history of capitalism"), and Facebook, but more than that, it's about where we're headed:

"I had a data scientist who said to me the other day, “Look, the underlying norm of all software and apps designed now is data collection.” For all intents and purposes, all of them are designed to engage in surveillance."

After a brief glimmer of hope for emerging regulatory possibilities (mostly thanks to the EU), some of what just happened while we were many of us including our children('s children) stuck inside on computers for a year:

"Proctoring systems," "so-called safety systems, they’re tracking everything from notifications from social media, email files, chats, posts, messages, all documents, anything to do with the remote schooling activities. And then the proctoring systems, they’re doing facial recognition, gaze and eye movements to track attention. They’re producing what they call “suspicion scores.” They’re also taking microphones. They’re taking cameras. They’re insisting that cameras record your surroundings and broadcast that to the proctor."

Zuboff's name sounded familiar, and I had to dig around before finding the reference, in my unpublished booklist, started in the 80s, and not updated for a while. Her critically acclaimed (the "celebrated classic," she calls it on her site), 1988 book, In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power, was briefly noted, but not added to my published "best of" booklist, because I found the detail and academese plodding back in the day. I'm ready to give her another chance for her latest, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism.

She's now professor emerita at Harvard Business School, and her January feature for the NYT, The Coup We Are Not Talking About is an updated introduction and call to action, with this chilling punchline paraphrasing Justice Louis Brandeis brought up to the epigraph: "We can have democracy, or we can have a surveillance society, but we cannot have both."

"Two decades ago, the American government left democracy’s front door open to California’s fledgling internet companies, a cozy fire lit in welcome. In the years that followed, a surveillance society flourished in those rooms, a social vision born in the distinct but reciprocal needs of public intelligence agencies and private internet companies, both spellbound by a dream of total information awareness. Twenty years later, the fire has jumped the screen, and on Jan. 6, it threatened to burn down democracy’s house."

"Because norms are summaries of our common sense, norm violation is the essence of terrorism..."
Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality, 1966

In case that dream sounds only hazily familiar, you might be recalling the George W. Bush-era mass detection program briefly going by that name before it was rebranded under the same TLA as Terrorism Information Awareness. It's been out of the news for a long time, and's description has both a past tense feel, and an "official disclaimer" style. It was... defunded shortly after it got going? And those 16 "subsystems"... abandoned? Or perhaps parceled out as parts to the more firmly funded agencies. And, effectively outsourced to "the free market," so effective at exploiting opportunity without the encumbrances of oversight.

Writing after Inauguration Day, but before Republicans started stuffing January 6 down the Memory Hole, Zuboff warns that "democracy and truth remain under the highest level of threat until we defeat surveillance capitalism’s other coup." She's still got that academic muscle:

"The epistemic coup proceeds in four stages.

"The first is the appropriation of epistemic rights, which lays the foundation for all that follows. Surveillance capitalism originates in the discovery that companies can stake a claim to people’s lives as free raw material for the extraction of behavioral data, which they then declare their private property.

"The second stage is marked by a sharp rise in epistemic inequality, defined as the difference between what I can know and what can be known about me. The third stage, which we are living through now, introduces epistemic chaos caused by the profit-driven algorithmic amplification, dissemination and microtargeting of corrupt information, much of it produced by coordinated schemes of disinformation. Its effects are felt in the real world, where they splinter shared reality, poison social discourse, paralyze democratic politics and sometimes instigate violence and death.

"In the fourth stage, epistemic dominance is institutionalized, overriding democratic governance with computational governance by private surveillance capital. The machines know, and the systems decide, directed and sustained by the illegitimate authority and anti-democratic power of private surveillance capital."

What we've got here is not a failure to communicate, but communication systems hijacked to serve insatiable, mechanical greed, blind to the human cost:

"A study released in May by Britain’s Institute for Strategic Dialogue identified a core group of 34 extremist right-wing websites disseminating Covid disinformation or linked to established health misinformation hubs now focused on Covid-19. From January to April of 2020, public Facebook posts linking to these websites garnered 80 million interactions, while posts linking to WHO’s website received 6.2 million interactions, and the CDC's received 6.4 million. ..."

"[The former guy] and his allies prosecuted an election-fraud disinformation campaign that ultimately translated into violence. It took direct aim at American democracy’s point of maximum institutional vulnerability and its most fundamental norms. As such, it qualifies as a form of epistemic terrorism, an extreme expression of epistemic chaos. Mr. Zuckerberg’s determination to lend his economic machine to the cause makes him an accessory to this assault."

"Social media is not a public square but a private one governed by machine operations and their economic imperatives, incapable of, and uninterested in, distinguishing truth from lies or renewal from destruction."

24.May 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Another graduate of Trump U Permalink to this item

It's not as catchy as Fraud Guarantee, but hereinafter, the "Indemnity Undertaking" has a kind of ring to it. Also, is it time for "total truthfulness and candor" yet? Hat tip to Jennifer Hayden for today's headline, commenting in @emptywheel's thread of the new chapter in the graphic novel of ambassador-businessman (business ambassador?) Gordon Sondland, suing Mike Pompeo, individually, and the United States of America, all of us, for $1.8M in legal fees incurred in his forgetting and then remembering how we gave the business to Ukraine.

I love a good court filing, what with the concise introduction, and the allegations in numbered paragraphs. The man who thought he had future political aspiration accused of "intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation, and breach of warranty of authority," which seems plausible enough, although what a way to do business! Gordo only had verbals that he was going to have his butt covered with counsel.

Shorter ppg. #3: Pompeo threw Sondland under the bus, bigly. Shorter punchline: Pompeo's word isn't worth a bucket of warm spit.

8. For all his troubles, Ambassador Sondland learned that testifying truthfully and candidly before Congress as cameras roll was in fact a fireable offense in Pompeo’s Department of State. Plaintiff was terminated on February 7, 2020, simply for telling the truth.

Or as described in ppg. 49, Sondland "was advised that while the Administration appreciated his testimony, the Administration wanted to purge everyone remotely connected to the impeachment trial." Not to put too fine a point on it.

"Accordingly, the Counselor to the Department of State asked for Ambassador Sondland’s resignation. In response, Ambassador Sondland said he would consider that proposal, but asked about his attorneys’ fees."

You know, let's talk quid pro quo, if you get my drift? But duh, Sondland's testimony was not the lies they were looking for. If Pompeo was free-lancing, "intentionally or negligently misrepresent[ing] his authority to bind the Government," then "he was not acting in the course or scope of his official duties and was not subject to any governmental immunity." IDK, do we have any other evidence of such rogue actions by the defendant?

60. Such rogue actions by Pompeo outside the course and scope of his employment were not isolated events. For example, on April 16, 2021, the Inspector General of the Department of State released a report detailing Pompeo’s use of government employees for personal tasks for himself and his wife. These tasks—performed at taxpayer expense—included personal shopping and caring for Pompeo’s dog...

And then there was that time in the next paragraph where then-Secretary of State Pomposity spoke at a campaign event (aka the Republican National Convention) for his boss, "deliver[ing] this speech while supposedly on a diplomatic mission to Israel."

You can read all about it in the Washington Post too.

DK who got this pic

Update: If you're starting to feel sorry for Sondland, another Twitter commenter supposes "You can be certain that Sondland and his hotels received the full complement of the PPP loans," and another says "I’m reading 9 million." See here.

23.May 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The yearbook embarrassment Permalink to this item

A million years ago, my first year of high school, I volunteered to be the school newspaper photographer. I was entrusted with a Polaroid® camera and a limited supply of film for it. Black and white, of course, because the paper was printed with just black ink. Pretty sure (and thankful, I expect) that none of that work has been saved in any accessible form. I looked up my freshman year yearbook, and you'd barely known there was a student newspaper. Only the seniors had their "activities" listed (for their full 4 years). The three underclasses weren't even given whole first names to go with their class pictures, just an initial and surname. There was no need of a graphics editing censor to hide clavicles; when they said "neckline," ladies, they meant exactly that.

In contrast to today's story from Bartram Trail HS in St. Johns County, where Yearbook Photos of Girls Were Altered to Hide Their Chests, by Florida man. Parents and students "outraged."

I have to think however "furious" Riley O’Keefe was when she saw what happened, she's having the last laugh now, her winning smile featured in the New York Times, "before" and "after." Not quite laughable enough to make a bad restorations listicle, and not as bad as Brooke Bartlett's share, with "a rectangular piece of her plaid shirt had been cut and pasted over her chest." (Copied and badly pasted, ok.)

From 'Tower 1973'

Changing schools, friends, and activities for my sophomore year, my avocation for journalism was on hold for some years after, but I remember well that my best friend was the co-editor of the yearbook our senior year, a job he took very seriously, with resolve to do something stronger, better, more avant garde than the genre usually admits. There's a lot of tradition that can't be denied; everybody gets their name and picture in at least once. The faculty are featured. There are compartments to be filled. But the vision was to present "this year's story in the form of photo essays."

There were black end papers for one thing (congruent with the red-on-black-on-red cover graphic), and what a shame it didn't include the randy, raucous (and surprisingly affectionate) comments from classmates that punctuated my first year in high school. It did have a white page overleaf, and one note, from my friend, with another one, black on black, a secret artist's statement. Oh, and I see that my favorite English teacher, Paul Fehlhaber, was the advisor for all three editions while I was there. The mold was perhaps too strong to be completely broken, but I give them credit for bending it nicely.

Almost half a century ago, the conflicts were not the same as now: pretty much everybody's "neckline" was up there on the their necks, safely concealing the nakedness we all share underneath our clothing. Funny that, it isn't like we lacked for controversy, what with sex, drugs, rock and roll, the war in Vietnam, and the like. But the discipline of school photographers was still strong. Some of us had hippy hair, but we all had it nicely groomed on picture day.

Out in the wild world, of course, how much you do or don't show is not subject to the same kind of oversight as it is in high school. In college, the art department offered life drawing sessions in the evening (and not "required," to avoid awkwardness, offending, and irate prudes). I took the opportunity for part-time employment, with what was pretty good pay at the time, $5/hr, well more than the minimum wage. It's not quite as easy as it might look, but lowering your neckline is not the hard part; it's the holding still that taxes you.

The whole art of teaching
is only the art of awakening
the natural curiosity
of the young minds for the purpose
of satisfying it afterwards.

— Anatole France

20.May 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Racing to the bottom Permalink to this item

After the rag-tag gaggle assembled, under the watchful glare of the private security dudes in army play clothes, a slightly infamous Nevada businessman from the realm of "telehandlers" gave the introduction. Perfect. He extolled Janice McGeachin's qualities as "stand[ing] in parallel, in parity, with every one of those things [the Big Liar taught us]." Obviously, it does not need to make sense. But after other, presumably more capable speakers finished, McGeachin had her say, and only one line is worth noting:

“Everything that makes Idaho great is under assault.”

Excerpt of Brian Myrick photo

Even a stopped clock. She knows better than most after her minor role in our Worst Legislative Session Ever®, "objecting to virtually everything [Gov. Brad] Little’s done in the past year," with the pugnacious sabotage cheerleader Wayne Hoffman on her elbow. He's no doubt advising her to have "no comment to reporters," so effective for shilling for his secret corporate benefactors.

I moved to Idaho for the environment, for its higher education, and then to work in the technology industry for most of 40 years. That industry came here in large part responding to those same attractions. All of them are now threatened by the "libertarian" agenda of every man for himself smash and grab, and the know-nothing, anti-science wing of the Idaho GOP, for which McGeachin is the ultimate spokesperson.

"After her Boise speech, McGeachin declined to answer any questions from reporters, instead sharing hugs with crowd members including Idaho Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman, and posing for photos with supporters."

She joins a crowded field that includes the current Governor, and others you haven't heard of, including Ed Humphreys of Eagle who claimed he had "nearly 600 Idaho patriots" at his announcement. Five times the "crowd" that turned out to the Capitol for the Loot. Humphrey's message is that "something is wrong in America," and "something is wrong in Idaho," let's eliminate the state income tax, and "this is a war of good against evil." and "Idaho is the last foxhole." For, you know, the Good people. (See if you can watch ten minutes of that 50 minute go. Even at 2x speed, I couldn't.)

Brad Little didn't ask me, but I'll just offer up a campaign slogan for his next campaign, gratis:


15.May 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Insurrection, continued Permalink to this item

Reviewing our history, it's obvious that Big Liar is the apotheosis of the Republican Party's devolution. Head of a multigenerational crime family built on tax cheating, undisguised racism, corruption and pettifogging, now abetted by ranks of quislings eager to get their share of the action.

Heather Cox Richardson cites George Packer's prescient piece in The Atlantic last fall, a month before the reign of error was ended: Republicans Are Suddenly Afraid of Democracy. Except not really "suddenly." This has been a long time coming. Long enough that a mediocre senator from Utah could blurt the quiet parts out loud for the amen chorus.

“We’re not a democracy,” Lee tweeted in the middle of the vice-presidential debate, clapping back at Kamala Harris, presumably, and in support of the unctuous, performatively pious Mike Pence. I always hear that complaint in Ed Burmila's CamelCased SpongeBob rendition on The Baffler, wE’rE a rEPuBLiC nOt A dEMoCRacY. He might have had Mike Lee in mind, describing "the condescending tone natural to the mediocre white guy who doesn’t know what he’s talking about but is certain of its accuracy."

Contrast James Madison in Federalist 39, quoted there, and see if you can map the 2017-2021 experience to the concept of government "administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior." The pleasure of "the great body of the society," he meant, not the pleasure of a golfer chosen from "a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers."

Mike Lee publicly worried about "the excessive accumulation of power in the hands of the few" with innocence of irony that takes the breath away. Liberty, peace, and prospefity are the goal! "The campaign to soften up the country for a repudiation of democracy itself" continues apace within the minority opposition, fighting against the tyranny of their losing.

Last October, that tireless talk of "massive fraud" and "sending the election to a Supreme Court" he'd just finished packing was ludicrous, yes, but it was also deadly serious, a plan to have your vote taken away, for realio and trulio. Rank Republicans in a number of states were good to go with that plan. Just barely enough honest, upstanding ones stopped the steal, the clown-show court cases delayed the inevitable, but also laid the groundwork for sedition, and finally, insurrection. This actually happened, remember:

"When the FBI broke up a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer by right-wing extremists of the kind the president won’t renounce, [Big Liar] hurled insults at their intended target."

The writing was on the walls for everyone to read. Packer transcribed it, with eerie accuracy:

"[L]ike the antebellum South, the Republican Party holds on to power by exploiting the Constitution’s unrepresentative features—the Senate, the Electoral College, and unelected justices with lifetime appointments. These institutions have concentrated outsize power in a minority party that doesn’t hesitate to break the rules for maximum advantage. Its skill in drawing inside straights and turning weak hands into political domination has been impressive. But next month’s election seems poised to begin the return of majority rule.

"If so, then Republicans who trashed checks and balances for four years in order to consolidate conservative power will suddenly rediscover them. Not to constrain presidential abuses, but to thwart the popular will—first by trying to send the election to legislatures and courts and then, failing that, by blocking every move of a Democratic president and Congress. We’ll hear a lot of talk about the rights of minorities, the importance of separation of powers, and how America isn’t really a democracy."

January 6 photo at the Capitol

That was the incredible, outrageous plan on January 6. Eight senators and 139 house members from the black lagoon's mire—Hello, Russ Fulcher!—prepared to throw out votes from whole states to perpertrate the greatest fraud of our nation's history, in service to a psychopath whose corruption felt beneficial to them. The wild card of the summoned mob wasn't integrated with "the plan," because mob rule doesn't actually admit a plan. The voters, election administrators, dozens of courts, and a failing comedy show's worth of legal "talent" had all failed to stop the squealing, all that was left was the flag-waving, the pole jabbing, charging the barricades, beating the outmanned capitol police, the screaming, spitting, and defecating.

We've moved on to more calculated means. The Heritage Foundation's decades-long program of voter suppression is the only hope for the undead confederacy. State legislatures are working to fix the problem of Republicans losing free and fair elections. From HCR:

Paul Weyrich, the co-founder of the Heritage Foundation that has designed much of the legislation currently being passed in Republican-dominated states, said “I don’t want everybody to vote... our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

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

Mistakes were made Permalink to this item

Tomas Pueyo was a great source of useful information and analysis over the course of the pandemic. I'm on his freeloader subscription list, a candidate to upgrade on substack, if and when I ever do such a thing. His latest effort hit me a little flat, though. Billed as The Top 24 Mistakes of COVID Mismanagement, it seemed a bit... click-baity, but he's got enough credbility for an open. They're ordered from least important to most, because... that worked so well for Dave Letterman, I guess. And oh, the email wasn't big enough! You have to go to the web to see the top 10 list!

As promised, it "will be updated," and now he's got The Top 25 Mistakes of COVID Mismanagement already. Aimed at management, I guess, rather than a broad audience? It's weird. The least important failure was Infection Parties. Not having infection parties. Huh.

24. Immunity Passports thud next, on the same day we're reading that the CDC has declared all you vaccinated folks (all we vaccinated folks, thanks) can TAKE OFF YOUR MASKS. Not that we're going to do Passports, or Badges, or Vax Cards.

Here's bona fide dumbass Dan Gookin, Coeur d'Alene city council member, giving authoritarianisms in the Twittersphere the finger with his forged vaccination card. So, 23. Not Knowing Who to Trust, for sure.

Given the signal that tens of less important items are ahead of the most important ones, it's an invitation to skim. An exhortation, almost. Scrolling down for the headlines I hit 18. Forgetting that Good Fences Make Good Neighbors and OMG. Dude. You missed the whole point of Robert Frost's classic poem. The guy who said that was WRONG. Good neighbors make good neighbors. Fences have their place, but they sure as hell don't make good neighbors. If you have a bad neighbor, a fence doesn't fix the problem.

Be The Mister Rogers sign

We have a ton of bad neighbors here in Idaho, people willing to cut off their nose to spite their face. Even before the bad fence metaphor, 22. Underestimating People’s Willingness to Do the Right Thing.

A mistake experts made? What seems at issue here is OVERESTIMATING people's willingness to do simple, obvious, not-really-all-that-inconvenient things for THEIR OWN BENEFIT and for the benefit of public health. The responses to suggestions of "here's what we need to do for public health" was THIS IS TYRANNY, WE WILL RESIST YOU AT ALL COSTS, WE ARE ARMED.

In the Know-Nothing zone, people who have a hard time thinking clearly are not turning to "experts," but rather seeking out loud voices that feed their confirmation bias and/or paranoia.

Mr. Rogers did not have anything good (or bad) to say about fences, I'll bet. No fence to be found on this list of 70. Jesus himself might have said what's at the top:

"Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person."

At the bottom of Pueyo's email, just above the click-to-see-the-top-10 jump, 11. Misunderstanding Individual Freedom. We definitely are all over that one.

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

Down the rathole Permalink to this item

It remains to be seen whether we're seeing just the end of the Republican Party or the end of our democratic experiment. In any event, Rep. Liz Cheney has provided an epitaph.

"Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar."
– Liz Cheney

Of course a raucous closed-door meeting of House Republicans featured booing. Utah booed their own senator, Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican nominee for President. They're tired of being lectured! Bring some more of that pugnacious derision and ridicule from Big Loser that they can't get enough of! Let's talk about a "stolen" election, because how could a guy who never cracked 50% approval have lost?

My tl;dr from Heather Cox Richardson's latest: 63% of Americans approve of the job President Joe Biden is doing. The NYT news today has video excerpts of Cheney's public speeh yesterday. And today's inside dope:

In her parting remarks, Ms. Cheney urged Republicans not to “let the former president drag us backward,” according to a person familiar with the private comments who detailed them on condition of anonymity. Ms. Cheney warned that Republicans were going down a path that would bring their “destruction,” and “possibly the destruction of our country,” the person said, adding that if the party wanted a leader who would “enable and spread his destructive lies,” they should vote to remove her.

And so they did. I'm sure Idaho's Rep. Russ Fulcher was in the drooling mob shouting DROWN THE WITCH! I hope our Rep. Mike Simpson was not, but we won't know unless he tells us, and in far-right Idaho, and red districts across the land, the experienced members of Congress have become well-practiced in hiding under their desks.

The House members "ultimately opted not to hold a recorded vote, after Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, said that they should vote by voice to show unity."

Emerging from the meeting, Ms. Cheney remained unremorseful, and said she was committed to doing “everything I can to ensure that the former president never again gets near the Oval Office.”

“We must go forward based on truth,” Ms. Cheney told reporters. “We cannot both embrace the big lie and embrace the Constitution.”

Jonathan Chait distills the rump party's "strategy": "to allow [Big Loser] to hunt his internal critics to extinction." And the wider, historical view:

By ousting a leader for telling the truth about the election -- the Republican Party is proudly declaring that it no longer believes in democratic government.

In a democracy, you have free & fair elections, & the winners win.

You have competition for public approval and power.

— Dr. Joanne Freeman (@jbf1755) May 12, 2021

Speaking of prophecy, who can forget Lindsay Graham's shining moment of perspicacity, 5 years ago this month?

Lindsey Graham, May, 2016

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

Smash, grab, and bully Permalink to this item

A recent messaging campaign by The Idaho 97 urged our state legislators to "Please allow early childhood funding for Idaho," with direct language befitting the tail end of a session that has gone on far too long. (It's on the way to setting a record, abetted by its second "recess." The first one was forced by Covid-19 infections among members and staff, thanks to the general refusal to follow public health measures. This second one is to give the super-majority a chance to override any vetoes the Governor may make to the pile of bills they've sent him, their bid to nullify the tyranny of having an executive branch.)

One member of the House, District 5 Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy, of Genesee was not happy at being on the receiving end. She sent her own bulk reply, calling the messages "insulting, bullying and demeaning," and "angry." She said she would "continue to fight for all budgets that support education in Idaho. I stand by my votes and my personal integrity. And I won’t stand for bullying of any kind."

And it should be pointed out, she was the only one of the many recipients in the legislature who replied at all. Good on her for that. Let's keep the dialogue going! Here's my reply today:

Dear Rep. Caroline Nilsson Troy:

Thank you for your reply to the message I sent with the help of the Idaho 97 project. I appreciate your invitation to send you a direct message.

Catching up on the whirlwind of political news this weekend, your complaint about "insulting, bullying and demeaning" seems very strange to me. My advocating for early childhood education is motivated by concern for our future. It's nearly incomprehensible to me that there is a debate over accepting a multiyear, $6 million grant for education in Idaho, but that's where we are.

Wayne Hoffman sent out a victory message even before this longest-ever legislative session is brought to a close. Under the subject "winners," his headline was "Overall, a good session." He says "freedom-lovers owned education issues." I agree with him that "education is the single most important issue for the free future of our state," at least; except the part where he inserts "free" as justification for his and the Idaho Freedom Foundations campaign to sabotage our constitutionally mandated "system of public, free common schools."

His message goes on to celebrate that the "Pre-K indoctrination grant is dead" -- which is to say he and his allies on the extreme right succeeded in killing the $6M in funding for early childhood education, by fomenting lies and propaganda about it being "indoctrination."

You say you continue to fight for education funding. Thank you. I hope you will fight harder, because IT ISN'T WORKING VERY WELL.

The other news I'm considering this morning is about David Pettinger, Jessica and Mariana Marcu at a Republican Party gathering last night, continuing to harass and attempt to out the victim of what forced Aaron Ehlinger out of the legislature. "Insulting, bullying and demeaning" is too mild a description for that. It is horrific, vile, disgusting.

It is hard not to feel anger at such tactics.

The need for good people in the Republican Party to declare the end to them has never been greater.

Thanks for hearing me out.

Update: She responded inside two hours, with a thoughtful message, quoting someone else's email that she'd found most offensive. She said "I agree about the issue of early childhood education. I supported the first bill (226) and plan to support 1193," and noted that the Freedom Foundation "is a libertarian group, not a [R]epublican organization." True dat, but it's the tail that wags the dog of our legislature too much of the time.

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

National day of prayer Permalink to this item

Up Cole with the wind, down Glenwood with gravity, too, business at the bank this morning. The insides were gleaming, two young women staffing the operation, and no one inside but them and me. My assistant vice president tickled her keyboard, I poked and slid the stylus across a digital pad, and that was that.

Street signs

Now then, the way home was not on a schedule, and climbing the Glenwood hill is unlovely. Jog over to Coffey, somehow, on the other side of the ugly intersection with Chinden? Nah, I'm at Kent Lane, and there are better ways out than west, or south. North to Alworth, and around the horse track, noting its wire fence with the opaque screening. To keep the horses from being distracted? To keep freeloaders from seeing the race? But there are no horses, no freeloaders, no races. Just the monument to past gambles. I gambol on.

52d St. says NO OUTLET but I know it's a lie. It forks Remington, and the path downriver, and 52nd continues down to the upriver greenbelt path, six-tenths of a mile unwelcome diversion on those streets from what should be a quarter-mile along the river, but for two inhabitants who love their pieces of the river bottom flood plain and did not want to share. And a 3½ acre wedge owned by the county. I leaned right, past Giggle Lane, down to the river, up the river path. It's winding, from there. Either side of a lovely little garden there's a firm [NO TRESPASSING], and a [Welcome to our pollinator garden]. The path traverses a short stretch of Mystic Cove Way, finds the river again just up from Mystic Cove Park, and I'm remembering Snowmageddon when this was underwater, and I used the side bank, or waded through carefully, but before that OMG LOOK AT THIS BENCH THEY PUT IN.

It's Reham Aarti's "Hello Friend," 2019, and it is sparkling in the dappled sunshine. I stop to appreciate this perfect piece of art, how have I not done so before now? There is a fallen cottonwood twig on the seat, three dark green leaves, as if someone left the sprig in memory of a friend. The owlish hole-in-the-back looks to the river and its cottonwoods.

Reham Aarti art bench, 'Hello Friend,' 2019

Then the city side gets industrial, hammering of steel on steel is the ring of a morning's work, something automotive. Cascade River Gear, right handy to the river, a meat packer (shades of the offal past), then 43rd St., where a troop of school kids are being herded around the corner, perhaps from Future Public School, over to the Boys & Girls Club of Ada County or Riverfront Park (which isn't quite river-fronting, but close). I signal my right turn, the boy in the lead (I was always that boy in the lead) called up short by the young man leading from the middle, cheerfully but firm, "ok wait right there!"

About the third time I heard a sing-song "Hi bike rider" I realized that some kid was calling to me, it was language. I was grinning too big and passing and did not turn and reply as cheerfully as I'd been greeting everyone I met on the path. Then the means-to-and-end street, where I noticed that beautiful, shaded bungalow has added a funky two-story mother-in-law, and someone else is excavating today, and across Chinden, ugh, to climb back up the bench. A man walking down the sidewalk is talking to someone in his head, I hear "I'm ok," and I think "good," and up at the top curve, the incomparable corner lot overlooking Settlers Canal and a secret slough, where the sewer dropoff usually makes a malodorous cloud is COMING SOON and one can only imagine for how much. Get your bids in quick. 1.4 acres, 5,000 square feet, 5 bdrm, 3.5 bath, pool, a house-sized industrial building and beautiful landscaping. North of $2M I'm guessing, never mind the $893k assessment. Zillow's pre-listing "Zestimate" is 1.65M.

Back in my neighborhood, I note what's in bloom, all the trees leafing (or leafed) out by now, dogwood in splendor, a few irises, there's some Allium giganteum, and thus, back home.

The point being, it was much too nice a day to be staying in my room to pray, and it's not right to go on a street corner or capitol steps to do that. and why not make something beautiful out of a mundane errand? It's like Peter Mayer sings it, you know: everything is Holy Now.

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

That's what she said Permalink to this item

Jennifer Rubin: Fix the filibuster, save democracy.

"We know from the Republicans’ support of the Big Lie and their intolerance of honest argument that objections they raise to modification of the filibuster are not offered in good faith. This is a party dedicated to minority rule and to using all possible instruments, including deceit, to beat back democracy. We have seen what minority, authoritarian rule leads to: violence, rejection of truth, the normalization of white supremacy, and antipathy toward equal protection under the law. Manchin and other Democrats should want no part of this."

May the Fourth, 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The ultimate cancel culture Permalink to this item

40 years ago (my goodness), "adjunctification" was the new, new thing, not known by that name, as university administrators were guiding it below the radar.

It was obvious to the people on the short end of it much sooner, but this 7 year-old item on The Review dimensions the unfair pay and no benefits element of the rise of adjunct professors. (By which the author meant the rise of adjunctifying, not the adjuncts themselves.)

L.D. Burnett notes that we've reached the point where fewer than 1 in 3 college profs have tenure, or the possibility of tenure. As she writes on Medium, the biggest threat to “viewpoint diversity” on college campuses is "the precarity of faculty employment." Adjunctification is the Ultimate “Cancel Culture.”

May Day 2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

дезинформация Permalink to this item

Thinking about "disinformation" after reading Heather Cox Richardson's overnight wrap for April. What Dr. Herb Lin said to the House Armed Services Committee in regard to IT and information warfare:

“Information warfare threat to the United States is different from past threats, and it has the potential to destroy reason and reality as a basis for societal discourse, replacing them with rage and fantasy. Perpetual civil war, political extremism, waged in the information sphere and egged on by our adversaries is every bit as much of an existential threat to American civilization and democracy as any military threat imaginable.”

Erin Schaff photo/NYT

There's been a lot of that rage and fantasy going around lately. The FBI closing in on Rudy Giuliani as we have an operational Department of Justice again, unraveling the oligarch connections that gave Paul Manafort some well-deserved jail time, and led to the first of failed former guy's impeachments. No more pardons on offer these days, either.

If you can believe Rudy (ha ha), he said when the FBI came calling he said ‘Well, don’t you want these?’ And they said, ‘What are they?’ I said, ‘Those are Hunter Biden’s hard drives.’ And they said, ‘No, no, no, no.’

Rudy's got a son in the mix too, Andrew, seen "expressing outrage" at having a search warrant executed at his dad's place, accusing the DOJ of "politicization," is a nice touch. The former guy's lawyer's lawyer said "Giuliani never peddled disinformation on the Bidens," orly? They should be spinning up a libel suit against NPR then, which reported last October that Rudy "is known for making discredited claims about the Bidens." His big October surprise fizzled:

"Giuliani has repeatedly amplified discredited claims, to the point that Fox News' internal research team warned the network's journalists against relying upon him. Among the sources Giuliani turned to was a man whom the Trump administration's Treasury Department has designated as a Russian agent. Last month, Treasury officials said Andrii Derkach has pushed disinformation in Ukraine to spur unfounded corruption investigations and media coverage in hopes of damaging Biden and influencing the 2020 race."

That of course was after the 2019 October surprise of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman getting arrested at Dulles, their one-way tickets to Austria converted to a new destination, "hours after having lunch with Rudy Giuliani" at former guy's DC hotel. There was supposed to be a Rudy Rendezvous the next day, but whoops. All the greatest hits come back to me when I look back in the blog here, The Untouchables, now very touched.

Paul Waldman: Don’t let the GOP’s buffoonery distract you from its sinister intentions. "Though [the former guy] may be fading, that combination of stupidity and malevolence is still the signature quality of the party he left behind."


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007