fortboise Home Blog Useful Sporting Sailing Friendly Site map Fine Print

Cover image of Sarah Posner's 2020-21 book
Recommended; link to the publisher's site. Read an excerpt on the Americans United for Separation of Church and State website.

Other fortboise logs
China 2003
Reading list

Le Guin
Monkey Cage
Monkey Cage
O'Reilly Ideas

World News from:
arab net
The Sydney Morning Herald
Axis of Logic
Baltic Times
Boise Guardian
Community Radio
Boise Weekly
Idaho Statesman
The Telegraph
The Guardian
Information Clearing House
People's Daily
China Daily
Al-Ahram Weekly
Der Spiegel
Hong Kong:
Asia Times online
The Times of India,
The Hindustan Times
The Jerusalem Post
The Daily Star
New Zealand:
New Zealand Herald
The Rocky Mountains:
HCN Goat
New West
Tunisia Live
Saudi Arabia:
Arab News
Sun Valley:
Idaho Mtn Express
The Moscow Times

RSS feed for this blog



2.28.22 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Cashing out Permalink to this item

Dropping in on the Monday morning Washington Post, I'm reminded of the former guy's whining about "Russia Russia Russia" after his earned publicity as a Manchurian candidate, after Hillary was spot-on when she said "puppet" and he stably geniused an "I'm rubber and you're glue" rejoinder. "This Russiar thing" never went away for him, and now, well, Putin’s war drives Trump’s personality cult to new lows, featuring a lip-biting Tom Cotton before the cock crowed three times. James Downie:

Three more times, Stephanopoulos repeated the question. Three more times, Cotton refused to answer. “George, if you want to know what Donald Trump thinks about Vladimir Putin or any other topic, I’d encourage you to invite him on your show,” the senator said.

The cowardice is obvious. As Stephanopoulos pointed out, “if a Barack Obama or Joe Biden said something like that, you’d be first in line to criticize him.”

In this morning's/yesterday's Letter from an American, HCR noted that "BP, Russia’s largest foreign investor, announced it is abandoning its investment in the Russian oil company Rosneft and pulling out of the country, at a loss of what is estimated to be about $25 billion."

Those are a lot of losses to cut. WaPo reports on Russia careening toward economic crisis as the US and European allies freeze ‘Putin’s war chest.’ Their sources told them "the freeze was immediately effective and intended to head off signs that Russia aimed to recall its international reserves from around the world." Not exactly a comprehensive freeze, though. This:

"The United States said it is also simultaneously issuing an exemption allowing “certain energy-related transactions” with the central bank of Russia, as the West has tried to continue the flow of Russian energy exports to sustain the European economy and maintain gas prices."

We like our oily cake and burning it too. Even if Putin's and Lavrov's personal fortunes were drawn and quartered, they could still land on their feet on some island exile, as long as they stay away from windows in tall buildings. The man and woman on the street, maybe not so much: "Reports have emerged of Russians crowding ATMs to make emergency cash withdrawals." (And here, from the NYT, with Sergey Ponomarev's photo.)

Shades of our 1999 visit to St. Petersburg, when the ongoing economic crisis was the fallout from the end of the Soviet Union, and the most any of the банкоматs we could find would disgorge in a transaction was 1000 рублей, equivalent to 40 USD at the going 25-to-1 exchange rate. We waited to get our dose in a line that was not moving, while a young American woman pumped repeated transactions, supervised by her local boyfriend with a very big grin on his face. (Her attitude held the increasingly restive crowd at bay, while his was just a happy "cha ching.")

My 1999 photo of St. Petersburg

27.Feb.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Grumpy old men Permalink to this item

Russia's dictator announces that he's putting the nukes on "high alert," blaming the west for making him do it. "Dear Colleagues," he begins in the video snippet from WaPo. These two guys are the colleagues he's addressing:

From WaPo video

Most of the video is a tight shot of Vlad speaking.

From WaPo video

Here's the whole scene, with some serious antisocial distancing. (Looks like more than 15 ft. to me, but ok.) Oh, and Ukraine's leader, and his defense minister.

Zelensky also met with his defense minister today. But the vibe was rather different

— max seddon (@maxseddon) February 27, 2022

Rick Wilson's Twitter explainer suggests Putin is "rattling the Last Saber" because he's losing, most of all. He's backed himself into a corner, and "the klept has been dreading this moment." They won't be so sure about going along with the Super Big Gag. This could be Putin's last act.


BREAKING: Maxar satellite imagery shows the table is now half a mile long. Intelligence sources within the US and EU fear that at its current rate of growth it will encircle the Earth by the middle of April.

— QuarantinedCoof (@QuarantinedCoof) March 1, 2022

26.Feb.2021 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The hegemon Permalink to this item

It's hard to imagine what I might contribute to clearing the fog of war, but the events of the week seem too important to leave without comment. A tweet trio from The Hoarse Whisperer is a start:

"Someday, historians will look back at the last two weeks and recognize that Biden and American intelligence outing Putin’s plans to fabricate a cause of war was a major historic domino.

"It led to Putin’s unhinged rant about restoring imperialist Soviet Russia which in turn shocked, scared and woke up even Putin’s “friends” to the danger he poses.

“Sometimes you have to enlarge a problem to solve it.”

"Putin enlarged it by revealing Ukraine to be merely part of his imperialist plan to destroy Eastern Europe as we know it.

"He was goaded into a narcissistic rage and in his ranting fury at being denied power, revealed all of his past lies for what they were.

"Putin was baited into telling all the world just what a dangerous madman he is.

"The future of Europe may have changed in that one moment."

That unhinged rant was disturbing, coming from a man who has seemed to use self-control as the means to dominate the world stage from a position of considerable weakness. Having no morals, vast wealth stolen from his country, and a willingness to employ murder and mayhem by turns have also been competitive advantages. (It's no wonder our carnival version was—is!—such an embarrassing sycophant. Cadet Bone Spurs is in love with the KGB agent who seized the brass ring.)

Whether his rant was truly unhinged, or just another act, I can't say. Maybe someone who has sat through a few of his hours-long Duma performances could weigh in. It could be important, given the nuclear arsenal he commands. How do you tell the difference between Mutually Assured Destruction, and a game of Civilization Chicken?

One extreme forecast coming across the feed in the last couple of days is that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin overplayed his hand, miscalculated the resistance he would face on the ground, and from world leaders, and this miscalculation will be the end of his dictatorship. That would be nice, even before we find out what would come next.

The other not-so-extreme forecast is that Russia will devastate Ukraine, decapitate its leadership, and whatever resistance Ukraine puts up will only compound the tragedy. It would be better, a good friend said, for them to simply surrender, to "demilitarize" themselves, as Putin has called on them to do. Better to do it early, then late, is the thought. Not that it would stop the killing; Putin's behavior evidences a blood lust that will not be quickly satisified. Consider his role in propping up and assisting Bashar al-Assad in destroying Syria, to preserve its minority rule. The many opponents assassinated. The bombing of Chechnya. There are lists.

Franklin Foer offers a prayer for Volodymyr Zelensky, an unexpected hero whose days are numbered. (But then that's true for all of us.)

Yesterday, Zelensky told a videoconference of European leaders that they would likely not ever see him again. The whole world can see that his execution is very likely imminent. What reason does he have to doubt that Vladimir Putin will order his murder, as the Russian leader has done with so many of his bravest critics and enemies? Zelensky’s fate is so clear that Washington offered to extricate him from Kyiv, so that he could form a government in exile. But Zelensky swatted away the promise of safety. He reportedly preferred that Washington deliver him more arms for his resistance: “The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.”

25.Feb.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

8% sales tax Permalink to this item

Given that it wouldn't have been that difficult to fix the blunder the Idaho legislature delivered to homeowners back in 2016, it's amazing to see the alternate bad ideas the Republicans running the show keep delivering. Props to the Idaho Capital Sun for this late January summarizing headline with the elegant quotes: Idaho legislators float new bill to ‘fix’ property tax problems they created last year.

I'm old enough to have forgotten about the peak of the 2006 bubble, but to have blogged about it: Business-friendly Idaho: homeowners pay for it. Imagine this:

"In his State of the State address, Governor [Dirk] Kempthorne summarily dismissed the notion that the legislator had a role to play in addressing the growing inequity in the property tax system that rapid inflation of residential property prices is driving."

Kempthorne did propose expanding the Property Tax Circuit Breaker to cover 10,000 more households (from 26,000 then). And it says there in my memory, that it was a voter initiative in the early 1980s that brought the homeowner's into being, as the lesser of 50% of the value of the house, or $50,000. If it had been adjusted for inflation, the top would've been $100k by then, and the residential taxes wouldn't have been increasing four times as fast as total taxes on commercial, utility and farm property, nor would they have been increasing 50% faster than the growth in spending by schools and local government.

Then Dirk got promoted to Secretary of the Interior, and Jim Risch had his little stint as Governor later that year, calling a special session of the legislature to "fix" the property tax problem. The nearly 16yo link to is defunct, but good for The Spokesman-Review, they've still got an accessible archive of Betsy Russell's work. The 2006 legislature did the deed in one day, ignoring the Democrats' proposal to just provide homeowners relief. Instead, the sales tax went from 5 to 6%, a major tax levy funding schools was eliminated, and the sop from surplus and "a savings account to protect schools from future downturns in sales tax revenues" did not, in fact, protect school funding. Her week-earlier piece, Tax reform benefits questioned should also be required reading for the Idaho legislature, but is not.

Our property tax assessment infographic

The regular legislative session in 2006 passed a bunch of changes, including increasing the homeowner's exemption cap to $75,000, and indexing it to poperty values. The state's 37 page History of Property Tax in Idaho has the rundown, for 1863-2019. The cap rose to a peak of 104,471 in 2009, lagging the bust and international financial collapse that brought us the Great Recession. Then it decreased (along with property values), to 101,153, 92,040, 83,974, $81,000 in 2013, before starting to climb again. In 2016, it would have made it back to $94,745, but the legislature intervened yet again, made it a nice round $100,000, but without indexing, effective July 1, 2016. That started a mighty tax shift, as property values inflated to historic highs, and the homeowner's exemption stayed put. Owners of all the other forms of real property benefited, at homeowner's expense. I updated our personal history, here on the blog in May 2019, as that capped exemption started to undo the "relief" of the big property-to-sales tax shift of 2006.

This year, surprise! blockbuster said to be "in the works," under which our sales tax would rise by a third, to eliminate most homeowners' property taxes. From 6% to the low, low, don't call it EIGHT percent, 7.95%, as if they were selling us discounted furniture. The mastermind, Jim Rice, or Caldwell boldly proclaimed “There’s no shift” this time; “this is a significant and permanent reduction.”

In one tax. For another. The one that happens to be THE MOST REGRESSIVE one the state has in its arsenal. Mink farmer Mike Moyle calls it an "opportunity": "As a consumer, you have an opportunity to adjust your spending habits. You can decide what purchases you'll make." Don't want to pay so much in taxes? Just stop buying things!

As Minority Leader Ilana Rubel and others have pointed out, this would give Idaho the highest sales tax in the country. "Many important questions arise: Will this actually generate enough money for local governments to function? Will it raise costs for renters, as rental properties would have to pick up some of the property taxes not paid by homeowners? In what ways would tax liability shift? What would this do to retailers, especially those near the borders of states with lower or no sales tax?"

As if the locals didn't have enough incentive to visit Ontario, Oregon to stock up on weed, groceries and supplies, this would be an even bigger draw.

Two's Day: 22.2.22 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Dark days Permalink to this item

Too much fascism in the news these days. I have nothing but good memories of Portland, Oregon, other than maybe that one time when I was 17 and hitchhiking "out west," and happened to traverse the freeway jungle in the middle of the night. The "campground" didn't seem like my kind of place, and I kept walking, hitched my way to a more comfortable pocket of my own, across the river into Washington.

It's been some years since we were last there, and the increasing extremism washing over the country has seemed to focus there. The shooting this weekend that made national news is still being sorted out, but as a noted in a tweet yesterday evening, The Portland Police Bureau is not a reliable source of information these days:

Things that the Portland Police Bureau reported as fact that some members of local and national media outlets quoted verbatim that was disproven within 48 hours:
- confrontation
- homeowner
- no ties to extremism

— Zakir Khan (@ZakirSpeaks) February 22, 2022

In the replies, somebody asked "what actually happened," and somebody answered:

"Afaik, a pissed off extremist left his duplex to confront a group woman doing traffic control(corkers) for a protest. He was well away from his home screaming "terrorist cu--s" at them when he opened fire on the unarmed women. Killed 1, injured 4 women.

"He shot over a dozen times into the group of women. Another nearby protestor was armed and returned fire, injuring him. Street medics responded quickly and saved lives, while a nearby ambulance stayed chillin'.

"Finally," one wag noted, "a good guy with a gun." The woman who was murdered was 60, and unarmed. And another comment, that the ambulance was "chillin'" because the cops would not let them through.

What do you do when you're living in a police state, and the police are on the side of fascist thugs? The comic stylings of Boise-area miscreants, such as the manly dude flying a large FUCK JOE BIDEN flag off the back of his jacked-up pickup truck cruising Cole Road yesterday can turn ugly in a hot minute. Free speech, to free fire.

21.Feb.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A way out of the traffic jam Permalink to this item

Autonorama book cover

The automobile industry has been selling dreamy futures for a long, long time. In his 2021 book, Autonorama; The Illusory Promise of High-Tech Driving, Peter Norton chases the dreams back a century, when pedestrians still had the right of way, and manufacturers feared the market was nearing saturation. General Motors' Charles Kettering came up with the bright idea of endless change driving endless dissatisfaction.

“In 1929 Kettering distilled his advice into an article, written for National Business, with a memorable title: "Keep the Consumer Dissatisfied." "If everyone were satisfied," he explained, "no one would buy the new thing." To Kettering, transport sufficiency was a threat to motordom's future. He advocated perpetual insufficiency, propelled by an ever-receding promise of future perfection. In short, Kettering was advocating not transport but transport consumerism. At GM the idea developed and acquired a name: futurama.”

Ten years later, Futurama was the hit of the 1939-1940 World's Fair in New York,

“where millions saw the city of 1960 as GM imagined it: a drive-only drive-everywhere city free of collisions and traffic jams, made possibly by highway engineering supplemented by the electronics of the vacuum tube era.”

The "vision" has been updated by the quarter century, with solid-state electronics, jet-age and space-age hardware; then "smart" systems; and now autonomy. Futurama 4, circa 2015, is "Autonorama," our bright, imagined, impossible future realization of drive-only, drive-everywhere, with the promise that we can sleep at the wheel while we do it. It's not flying cars, but we can dream about flying while our robotic servant whisks us to our destination. Someday.

Feb. 2001 photo

Having laid out the history of the ever-receding horizon of a glorious future, his concluding chapter provides an alternate path, away from never-ending dissatisfaction, and ever-widening ribbons of concrete that fail to eliminate congestion. Acknowledge that we don't know what people prefer because a lack of choice has been forced upon us. "[P]ublic policies, laws, and engineering standards [] prioritize driving at the expense of everything else." But we have good examples of experiments that worked. He cites New York City, San Francisco, Bogotá. We can experiment. We can look for practical sufficiency as a value, and recognize that technology provides tools, not "solutions," and definitely not vision. We have choices.

We need to break out of being sold to, to make better ones. Having a look at Norton's book is a good starting point.

19.Feb.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Everybody wants a piece of me Permalink to this item

Some cycles back, the Idaho Republican Party pushed through legislation to close its primary, in order to achieve greater purity of extremism. It's working! But it's not airtight. It is still possible for most voters to "affiliate" how they choose, and vote Republican in the primary. Since that's often the deciding contest, it's a reasonable thing to do, in my humble opinion, and I did it myself for a while.

Back in 2008, I wrote about the internal contest about whether to close the primary, and breezily surmised that one of the leading proponents of closure, Rod Beck, thought that his career had been cut short by cross-over votes. Now here he is an Ada County Commissioner, with a six-figure sinecure and a fascist sympathizer sidekick. May, 2009, we noticed then-Lt. Governor Brad Little laughing at the very idea that there were anarchists in his party, and now we have Lt. Governor Janice McGeachin, shill of a shill, go figure.

Picture from Feb. 17

By May 2012, the Idaho GOP had achieved its dream, and with judicial approval locked it down, sort of. Later that month, I went on the record as "Republican," voted in the (open) Democratic primary, and then renounced my affiliation. But I've been receiving hopeful mail and email from Republicans ever since. Could I just send $2? $3? $5? $45? $1,000?

Today's offering is from a Mr. Rod Dorilás, a candidate in Florida's 21st Congressional District, a long way from Boise Idaho, and not a CD I could find on an unlabeled map. What caught my eye was text showing in the inbox subject/teaser:

Just hoping you'll watch this, honestly - I'm often told that because I'm black, I shouldn't be a Republican...

I was kind of wondering where he'd go with that, because one does wonder. First generation American, son of two Haitian immigrants, enlisted in the Navy at 17, went to Syracuse U. Law School on the GI Bill, that's all great, "following graduation, worked for the Department of Commerce under President Trump (the honor of a lifetime!)," not so sure about that. But I can see why that might make you grateful and misplace your loyalty.

Curiously, that "I'm often told" teaser text was not in the html-formatted version of the message. I used "view original" to see that it was the lead in the plain text version, but for html, they styled it "color:transparent;visibility:hidden;display:none;" and sized it 0 pixels by 0 pixels for good measure. It goes without saying? New definition of "transparency"?

That last big button in the email is labeled TAKE A CHANCE ON ME.

17.Feb.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

But you didn't answer the question, Mike Permalink to this item

Still waiting for a direct answer to the question I posed to my three members of Congress first of the month. I'm in the "please allow 2-3 weeks" for Rep. Mike Simpson. Senator Mike Crapo's staff dispatched the "Thank you for contacting me regarding the events of January 6" letter, a bad match for what I sent. I wrote about "the man" from the first sentence, and every single paragraph. I had one question I wanted him to answer, easy-peasy, yes or no. Crapo's reply was tailor-made for someone else's inquiry. Give him credit for this:

"I stand by the First Amendment rights of Americans to peaceably assemble and demand redress for their grievances. What we witnessed at the U.S. Capitol was not peaceful; such violence is wholly unacceptable. All perpetrators should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced the arrest of over 500 perpetrators, with more arrests expected to come. Those illegal and seditious actions thwart the rule of law and could leave lasting, devastating consequences on our nation. I am truly thankful for the heroic actions by U.S. Capitol Police, D.C. Metropolitan Police, the National Guard and other law enforcement officials on the scene here and at other sites to keep the public safe."

Even if by the one year anniversary, more than 5 weeks before the date on the letter, the well-known arrest tally exceeded 725. That's "over 500," sure.

The next paragraph is in bold-face, apparently the main point, and talks about how the H.Res 503 Select Committee foundered after two of Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's selections were rejected (Jim Banks of Indiana, chair of the extremist Republican Study Committee, and Jim Jordan of Ohio, star of the first impeachment clown show and former "see no evil" coach at OSU, both surely intended to sabotage the effort). McCarthy took his other three toys and went home, with a comically blistering statement:

“This represents an egregious abuse of power and will irreparably damage this institution. ... Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts.”

But there are two Republicans who are party to a legitimate investigation, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, and former House Republican Conference chair, Rep. Liz Cheney. Crapo's letter said "there are already multiple investigations into the events of January 6," not including anything from Kev. the DOJ's criminal prosecutions, Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, and a bipartisan report from the Senate Rules and Administration and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees. H.R. 3237, the Emergency Security Supplemental Appropriations Act was signed into law and provides $300 million (!) to bolster security around the U.S. Capitol Building.

It must've just slipped his mind that there there is, in fact, a Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, and it is doing yeoman work to get to the bottom of the swamp.

The whole letter is a lot of tap-dancing to avoid mention of the Insurrectionist-in-Chief, and the $64 billion question. Giving him a second chance at it:

Thank you for your response of February 14, 2022 to my message on February 1. It appears I received the wrong email, however. You wrote about the illegal and seditious actions of January 6, but did not address the subject of my message, or the question I asked.

I ask you again:

Given the overwhelming evidence (including his own public admissions) that Donald J. Trump was the driving force behind the attempt to overthrow the 2020 election, do you agree that Donald J. Trump is unqualified to ever hold an office of trust in the United States?

At the first impeachment trial, barely two years ago, Rep. Adam Schiff concluded for the prosecution by asking and answering a question:

"What are the odds that if left in office he will continue trying the cheat? I will tell you: one hundred percent. ... If you have found him guilty, and you do not remove him from office, he will continue trying to cheat in the election until he succeeds."

You did not find him guilty in that first trial, incredibly, nor in the second. The only thing not yet borne out in Rep. Schiff's prediction is "until he succeeds." Not YET.

That's what my question is about. Will you continue to be a silent partner in the party of Trump, the party of a man who recognizes no norms, no laws, and no boundaries on what serves his own greed?

The riotous mob is responsible for their actions, and some are facing justice for it. The man at the top is still the nominal leader of your party, Mike. That will be your legacy if you do not repudiate him.

Lincoln's Birthday Permanent URL to this day's entry

How far off the rails Permalink to this item

Two topics in HCR's Letter this morning, tied together deep in the swamp of authoritarianism. I'm reminded of Mitt Romney's observation that Russia was our greatest geopolitical foe, back in... 2012. Two years before Russia annexed Crimea, and started the war in Donbas that has simmered for most of a decade. The New York Times Magazine's long read a month ago: In the Trenches of Ukraine's Forever War.

I'll admit, I scoffed at what seemed like campaign posturing, but we see now how right Romney was at the time. We did not anticipate the successes Russia's dictator would have in manipulating the American electorate, and installing a friendly team at the top of our government. Dangling the bait of big real estate deals must've seemed laughably simple to Putin. From the Sergeys yukking it up for a Tass photog in the Oval, to Helsinki, Donald Trump's Neville Chamberlain impersonation. [Stab from my past, October 2012, The fog of the campaign, when Benghazi was being made A Thing, and I put "alternate history" in quotes.]

So anyway, topic #1 is the possibly imminent invasion of Ukraine by Russia, abetted by Belarus (mostly). We've got troops on the ground, that National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan emphasized “are not soldiers who are being sent to go fight Russia in Ukraine,” but “are non-escalatory. They are meant to reinforce, reassure, and deter aggression against NATO territory.”

“Whatever happens next,” Sullivan said, “the West is more united than it’s been in years. NATO has been strengthened. The Alliance is more cohesive, more purposeful, more dynamic than at…any time in recent memory.”

President Joe Biden spoke [yesterday] with leaders from the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Poland, Romania, the Secretary General of NATO, and the presidents of the European Union to coordinate a response to Russian aggression.

And spoke to Putin today.

Story #2 is the trucker bollox overstaying its welcome in Canada. What is that about? And why would the reliable idiots at Fox News be cheering about them. In order to "freedom," they're screwing with the livelihoods of people on both sides of the border.

"According to Justin Ling in The Guardian, the convoys appear to have been organized by James Bauder, a conspiracy theorist who believes Covid-19 is a political scam and has endorsed the QAnon movement. Canada’s recent vaccine requirement to cross the Canadian border provided a catalyst to pull together a number of different groups opposed to public health measures with anti-government protesters. The protests were neither popular nor representative of truckers: there were never more than about 8000 protesters, 90% of truckers crossing the border are vaccinated, and the Canadian Trucking Alliance strongly opposes the protest.

"On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Canadian Trucking Alliance told Rose White of MLive that many of the Freedom Convoy protesters “have no connection to the trucking industry and have a separate agenda beyond a disagreement over cross border vaccine requirements.” Ling noted that the convoy participants flew neo-Nazi and Confederate flags and had QAnon logos on their trucks, but Bauder urged his supporters stick to the message of “freedom.”

They've got it all going on. Fake social media accounts tied to content mills in Vietnam, Bangladesh, Romania, and several other countries have been pushing the convoy. The former guy, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, anti-union hucksters.

"Disrupting a nation’s supply chains destabilizes its economy and thereby weakens the government in power. Indeed, U.S. lawmakers know this quite well: in 1972, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency funded a 26-day truckers’ strike in Chile that helped to destabilize the government of democratically elected Salvador Allende, who would be overthrown the following year by right-wing dictator General Augusto Pinochet."

10.Feb.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

True colors shining through Permalink to this item

What Adam Kinzinger asked on NPR, just before Christmas: "What is the rot in the system that led up to January 6, and how do we stop anything like this from happening again?" And Timothy Snyder: "This is what historians and political scientists who study coup d'états say, they say that a failed coup is practice for a successful one."

What we're potentially looking at, Snyder warns, is nothing less than the end of the democratic United States as we've come to know it.

"That's just the reality," he says. "And in order to prevent things from being frightening, you have to look right at them and say, 'OK, that's the monster. How can I disassemble it? How can I take it to pieces? How can I make sure that that story isn't our only story?' But it will be unless we tell it to ourselves straight."

In the latest Letter from an American, the man of the hour today is the fellow who always assumes he's the smartest guy in the room, by a long shot, and he's not half-bad at nasty either. After freely shooting his mouth about his work to overturn the 2020 election, the January 6 committee served a well-earned subpoena on him.

Navarro responded to the subpoena with a fire-eating statement calling the members of the January 6 committee “domestic terrorists” engaged in a “partisan witch hunt,” and inaccurately claimed that former president Trump has invoked executive privilege that he cannot waive. (In fact, Trump invoked executive privilege only over documents in the possession of the National Archives and Records Administration, and the Supreme Court denied his claims.) He tried to blame House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the Capitol Police for the violence on January 6.

He added fuel to the ongoing fight within the Republican Party when he added: “Pence betrayed Trump. Marc Short is a Koch Network dog. Meadows is a fool and a coward. Cheney and Kinzinger are useful idiots for Nancy Pelosi and the woke Left.”

Not sure why we haven't put him in charge of everything by now.

8.Feb.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Bad habits die hard Permalink to this item

Idaho's senior Senator Mike Crapo wants a fifth term. Just like the other four. Betsy Russell interviewed him for the Idaho Press, and I had some comments. (Originally seen in a Twitter thread.)

Russell does get Crapo to acknowledge that Biden was duly elected President, that's nice. But she didn't ask my question (that he hasn't answered yet, sent to him Feb. 1): Do you agree that Donald J. Trump is unqualified to ever hold an office of trust in the United States?

"Why?" is dodged with fight metaphors, none of which address the hostile takeover of his party, and militant extremists favoring autocracy. Just all the GOP red meat. "Incredible increase in regulatory activity," "border crisis," "crime wave," "assault on 2nd Amendment" [Narrator: there is no assault on the 2nd Amendment.]

His "big initiatives" don't include accountability for his party's obstruction and destruction, nor for the corrupt elephant that hijacked it. He la la la could not see the high crimes, and voted to acquit him.


And the wind-up, how he "effectively and solidly advocated for the conservative principles and values and policies by which Idahoans wanted our country to be governed."

Facilitating autocracy is not the conservative value we're looking for.

He's still baying at the moon of deficit spending, not a whisper of the budget-busting 2017 tax cut. (Not even taking credit!)

His party-line support for Mitch McConnell's corrupt stacking of the Supreme Court? Not a whisper.

Nothing about voting rights.

Worse than nothing about climate change. He's against what "attacks the oil and gas industry," the child of government largess, and the father of the disaster that's looming. Over his 5th term.

An oil and gas man to the bitter end.

6.Feb.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Counterfactual fundraising Permalink to this item

Still no word from any of my Congressman in reply to my opening question this month. But the NRSC sent a remarkable fundraising email, with the subject Please be truthful. Their highlighted question for me, under the salutation "Listen, Thomas, we're trusting you to tell us the truth..."

Have you left the Republican Party?

I'll admit the subject line and teaser text succeeded in getting me to open it up. The big, bold headline is something else:

The number of Americans identifying as Republican is the lowest it has been in a decade — (from Gallup Polling)

Three weeks ago, Gallup made news with a report that U.S. Political Party Preferences Shifted Greatly During 2021. A year ago, it was the case that the Democrats' 9-point advantage (in the combined "identify as/leaning") was the biggest since 2012. But in the 4th quarter last year, the script had flipped: 47% Republican, 42% Democrat. Taking out the leaners and the self-declared independents, the Democrat/Republican split was 30/25 in the first quarter, and 28-all in the fourth. (The remainder "won't commits" have the majority, 42%.)

It's a turtle of lies all the way down with these people.

5.Feb.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Conflict entrepreneurs (cont'd) Permalink to this item

Last month, Idaho Rep. Ron Nate trying to bully our university presidents, implying more budget cuts could be made upon them if they didn't stop everything that looks like social justice, and UI's C. Scott Green delivered a smackdown, with this memorable new term for right-wing extremism in search of profit from donors with more money than they know what to do with.

Nate is one of the Idaho legislature's RWNJ caucus, and a reliable shill for the agenda of the million dollar Idaho Freedom Foundation, "mak[ing] Idaho into a Laboratory of Liberty by exposing, defeating, and replacing the state's socialist public policies." There is hardly a more socialist enterprise than the establishment of a system of free schools, but don't you know that is inconveniently enshrined in Article IX of the state's constitution. (For his part, when he's not playing at citizen-lawmaking, Nate is a professor at BYU-Idaho, the religious college in Rexburg, owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.)

The IFF planned a local event featuring Corey DeAngelis, national director at the American Federation for Children, a DeVos family project to promote "education choice," the camel's defunding nose under the tent of public education. "Fund Students Not Systems" was the draw, and they'd lined up the historic Basque Center in downtown Boise as host.

43rd State Blues image

A goodly number of people responded to their offer of free tickets, and when they compared customers with their lengthy blacklist of everyone not right enough, they realized it might turn out to be a less than a wholly friendly audience. Some people asked the management of the Basque Center what they were thinking of, hosting this group, and things got pear-shaped. The Center tried to make it clear it was an arm's length transaction, "non-discriminatory," not an endorsement. Then the IFF dialed up the heat, as recounted by Sally Krutzig of the Idaho Statesman (as seen in the Spokesman-Review):

[IFF] president, Wayne Hoffman wrote on Wednesday that its contract with the center “was unexpectedly canceled due to threatening social media posts from left-wing activists and organizations. The venue had been made aware of social media posts from these radical groups that promised disruption, and the building’s managers feared that their facilities would be damaged by protesters.”

The president of the Basque Center board "confirmed that fears about building damage, member safety and “disruptive influences” led to the cancellation," after "he became concerned after seeing “various social media posts” from those who planned to attend the rally. Orbea declined to identify specific posts."

The Idaho Statesman couldn't find anything. Nobody I know shared anything that I saw. For its part, the IFF's sub-bully, Dustin Hurst, indicated he was keen on having "many well armed people who would volunteer to protect" them. Emily Walton called them out. And this gem of the mountains:

They are also think they are SpinMasters.

— IDF2 (@IDFreedom2) February 4, 2022

"People with opposing views" are now so frightening that Rightists must be ready to be Shootists, because Leftists, every last one of them to a man, woman, and nonbinary are "ugly, destructive, and dangerous." They got to change their evil ways, baby. After all those cities they've burned to the ground lately, ICYMI.

"Luckily, this serves as another loom [sic] at the ugly American left. They can handle the free exchange of ideas." [sic]

That's funny (not necessarily "ha ha") for a lot of reasons, not least that the IFF Veep has shown himself one of the least capable people for handling a free exchange of ideas. A snowflake, in fact. What more needs to be said? Oh, SEND MORE MONEY, of course.

3.Feb.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Apotheoses Permalink to this item

Thinking I would tidy up the many (54, if you must know) bookmarks of items pulled up but not read (completely, or at all) by spilling them all out to the blog, I quickly got lost in the one that happened to anchor the stack, Anna Della Subin's "Long Read" for The Guardian, How to kill a god: the myth of Captain Cook shows how the heroes of empire will fall. (In case the long title isn't explanatory enough, the dek: "In the 18th century, the naval explorer was worshipped as a deity. Now his statues are being defaced across the lands he visited.")

But before we get to Cook, we get to "a type of neoclassical painting [in which] the dead hero is bundled up to heaven by a host of angels, usually in a windswept tumult of robes, wings and clouds." The genre reminds me of the careful distinction between Ascension and Assumption in the Catholic oeuvre, Jesus getting up on his own, while Mary had to be lifted. I don't know if the Assumption qualifies as apotheosis, but maybe? As a grown-up, my benchmark apotheosis became the one we saw in 2004, Constantino Brumidi's fresco in the U.S. Capitol, as we stood below the great dome and tried to soak in the glory far above. Thank good news for long lenses, we had a souvenir to take home, not nearly as detailed nor anotated as you can now find on the US Capitol Visitor Center website.

The author riffs through several others I didn't know, semi-comically, with links to see for ourselves. Rubens' "terrified" looking James I, Barralet's Washington, an artist unknown's bromance of an airbrushed Lincoln and stone-faced Washington, Jean-Honoré Fragonard's Au Genie de Franklin, not quite as described. (I'm not seeing the top angel "dragging him upward," but yes, Franklin is portrayed as a "new god," with a star-crowned, oddly narrow-breasted angel intimately draping an arm across his thigh.) All that in the first two paragraphs! And by way of introduction to the premiere of Cook's, at Covent Garden, 236 years ago:

In 1785, in a Covent Garden theatre, a spectacle premiered depicting Capt James Cook’s voyages in the South Pacific. During the final scene of Omai, or A Trip Around the World, at the words “Cook, ever honour’d, immortal shall live!” an enormous oil painting descended from the ceiling – Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg’s Apotheosis of Captain Cook, commissioned for the occasion. Cook is carried up to heaven by the angels Britannia and Fame, but his gaze is directed back at the vertiginous earth, where ships and canoes are facing off in Hawaii’s Kealakekua Bay. His expression is queasy and his eyes seem to plead: “Don’t drop me!”

He looks positively shot out of a cannon to me, after his career of spreading invasive species about the Pacific, and "los[ing] touch with reality" on his 3rd voyage, before stumbling into the leading role in a local myth by "extraordinary coincidence," and giving all of himself, in the end, to the bloody denouement.

Spoiler alert: the Guardian's presentation is an edited extract from Subin's book, Accidental Gods: On Men Unwittingly Turned Divine, "a fascinating exploration of the paradoxes of humanity’s religious instincts," according to the the Washington Post's review. I want more; I put in an interlibrary loan request.

My 2004 photo

Groundhog Day, 2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

More than six weeks of this to come Permalink to this item

A rather horrifying read from the Flathead Beacon, over in Kalispell, Montana: Reading Between the Lines; "Over the last year ImagineIF Library staff has described a majority of trustees as creating a hostile environment that is antithetical to the organization’s philosophy." What isn't clear in the reading is whether the trio of know nothings that have taken over the board want to kill the system outright, or just make it serve their ideology. One director gone after "hostility from both trustees and county commissioners," "disrespect for professional librarians, feeling her own expertise was continually disregarded and her character vilified in the public sphere."

"In discussions over hiring a new director, [the interim director, Martha] Furman’s express warnings against removing the requirement of holding a master’s degree in library science (MLS) and lowering the salaries were ignored by the trustees’ majority, who offered their own preferred requirements.

“A director without any agenda except customer service would be great,” wrote trustee Ingram, while Roedel and Adams expressed the need to hire someone willing to make their desired policy changes happen.

"Furman resigned after four months."

So, how do you impeach a library board? Asking for a friend.

1.Feb.2022 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A simple question Permalink to this item

Jan. 29, 2022 sunrise photo

The details that continue to pour out of the investigation of the January 6 insurrection continue to amaze, astound, and horrify us. But none are surprising. The plot was spoiled a long time ago, and there is no mystery as to the identity of the Perpetrator in Chief.

Greg Sargent's tweeted observation, that "given all the new stuff we've learned in recent days about Trump's efforts to steal the 2020 election, it's simply extraordinary that virtually no Republicans see any of this as disqualifying for 2024" led me to write my Congressman. I'm sure it's a pointless exercise, but I like to be on the record about the big questions of the day.

So, here's the chance for Rep. Mike Simpson, Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch might have to say for themselves, whether they're still doubling down on the dirtiest blackguard who ever soiled the Oval Office. My letter to the three of them:

As I'm sure you are aware, the organized conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election was led by the man who stood to benefit the most, a man who has reliably put himself ahead of everyone else, who has put his own corrupt interests ahead of the country time after time, and who pardoned his co-conspirators when he was in office. (Steve Bannon and Roger Stone are two of the most execrable that spring to mind. Paul Manafort, good friend and servant to Russian oligarchs over the years.)

Who has publicly admitted his intent to overturn the election.

Who was unable to win any subtantive, evidence-based court challenge that would provide any basis for legally overturning any part of the 2020 election, in more than 5 dozen attempts.

He has now said he would pardon those who attacked the US Capitol—and YOU, PERSONALLY, INSIDE IT—in the January 6 riot.

My question for you: do you agree that Donald J. Trump is unqualified to ever hold an office of trust in the United States?

If you do not, please explain it to me. Like I'm in grade school.

Simpson standard autoreply: "Because of the complex nature of the issues and the volume of mail that I receive, please allow 2-3 weeks to receive a written response via email or postal mail." Fortunately for him, my inquiry wasn't one of a particularly complex nature.


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007