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28.Feb.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

"Take that down, please" Permalink to this item

It was a golden moment of TV, and Howard Kurtz making noise about being silenced by his employer (spoiler alert: Fox News) gave Daily Kos occasion to revive it. When Kurtz says "This is not the graphic we're looking for, hold off, take that down please."

Data graphic from 2018 Monmouth U poll, 'Who [sic] do you trust more?

But no, we can't unsee it! That Monmouth poll was March, 2018, when Twisted Grifter was big on the whole "fake news" schtick. And could have been a bragging point for Fox News, given they beat the sitting president by 10 points (even as they were losing by 15 to 18 to their competition).

I've been short on blogging about the $1.6 billion Dominion defamation lawsuit, which caught a serious gear this month. Heather Cox Richardson's Feb. 27 daily provided a quick summary of the latest filing, and we could also take a look at CNN Business' "top 10," the biggest revelations from Dominion's latest "explosive" legal filing.

Rupert Murdoch admitting that his top talent was pushing lies? Calling bullshit on Don the Con? But this, this is not "shocking," it's blindingly obvious:

Murdoch said it was “wrong” for Tucker Carlson to host conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell after the election. When asked why he continued to allow the MyPillow CEO to continue appearing on Fox News, Murdoch signaled it was a business decision. “It is not red or blue, it is green,” he said.

Then there the was the campaign oppo intel that Murdoch was feeding to boy blunder:

Murdoch gave Jared Kushner “confidential information” about then-candidate Joe Biden’s ads “along with debate strategy” in 2020, the filing said, offering Trump’s son-in-law “a preview of Biden’s ads before they were public.” At most news organizations, this type of action would result in an investigation and disciplinary measures.

Kind of a non sequitur there, "most news organizations." That's not the topic under discussion.

Meanwhile, Murdoch's pump organ has decided that MoveOn's cash isn't green enough for them, and refused to run a MoveOn ad, assembling the greatest hits of the hosts, blurting inconvenient truths behind the scenes. Shorter: "Fox News Liked to Viewers to Keep Them From Fleeing."

24.Feb.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Meanwhile, in Idaho voter suppression news Permalink to this item

The Idaho House State Affairs committee is prepared to solve the pretty much non-existent problem of abuse of absentee ballots, thanks to the Tawdry Grifter demonizing mail-in ballots for his 2020 loss, and making it a Republican litmus test. Rep. Joe Alfieri (R-Coeur d’Alene) derided people opting for convenience, shades of last February's debacle from Mike Moyle, declaring that "voting shouldn't be easy."

Above Dry Creek yesterday

Now they want to limit absentee ballots to "those in the military, disabled, hospitalized or infirmed, on a religious mission, or living in another state temporarily." (So our famous emigrant, Wayne Hoffman could still get one, for his "freedom" to live in another state?) "Vacation" isn't good enough, but a vacation home is ok?

Never mind testimony from our Secretary of State, (Republican!) Phil McGrane, saying the rate of voter fraud is extremely low, and that he fears the bill would reduce the number of people who vote.

“I don’t believe the security of our elections and accessibility need to be in conflict with each other,” McGrane told the committee.

Ruth Brown of Idaho Reports notes that testimony was about how the bill would advantage the advantaged, and disadvantage the disadvantaged, same old story. Thanks to Lupe Wissel, state director of AARP of Idaho for testifying in opposition.

She said her members may not be sick, they may not have a disability, and they may not be hospitalized, but their comfort level is to vote absentee.

“Voting is every citizen’s right, and HB 75 places undo restrictions as to how to people can vote,” Wissel said. “The allowable provision to vote and how to vote by are, I believe, heavily restrictive and unwarranted. Many older Idahoans have earned the right to be free.”

As usual, the majority of the committee ignored testimony it didn't want to hear, and voted to introduce the bill, even with 4 of the 11 Republicans not voting. (Props to Rep. Chris Allgood, R-Caldwell, for his "no" vote, joining the two Democrats.)

Education, out of sorts Permalink to this item

Is it absence, or abstinence that makes the heart grow fonder? Either way, one of the Idaho legislature's shrillest extremists wants to spell it out the latter in state code. Rep. Barbara Ehardt of Idaho Falls "touted the bill as 'the simplest bill I've ever brought' according to Laura Guido for the Idaho Press, but the House Education Committee voted 11-6 to return to sender. Ehardt says "she heard of sex education programs that were being billed as “abstinence” programs in which abstinence was being defined as abstaining from getting pregnant or sexually transmitted diseases," and so she wants to have Idaho State Code make her definition explicit.

“That’s my frustration, that we’re deceiving our parents,” she said.

Notice how hearsay turned into a statement of supposed fact. But anyway, if we mostly just don't talk about sex, and then tell our children Just Don't Do It, we'd solve our education problems? There's a definition of insanity in that load of horse manure, to be sure. No pony.

Ehardt wants "abstinence" to encompass "physical contact between individuals involving intimate or private areas of the body" that can potentially result in pregancy, sexually transmitted infections, or present emotional risks. That's all from the Idaho Press report; I'd look up the bill and quote it directly, but it hasn't been printed. If "that can potentially result" is made Code, we're looped right back Ehardt's whisper worry. She'd have to, you know, spell out the specific things she wants to outlaw, and make the Code a (really bad) sex education manual that anyone could crack open.

I don't know about you, but my sense is that every inch of my body is private property. "Sexually transmitted" begs the question, but you do know you could get mononucleosis or herpes simplex from kissing, right? Among other things. And "emotional risks," seriously? We're all walking through that minefield, every day. I'm old now, but not so old I can't remember what high school was like.

Rep. Steve Berch (D-15) called out the elephant dropping its load on the committee: “I see absolutely no need, no reason whatsoever, for this bill,” Berch said. “I’m just really tired of it, I think we have far more bigger fish to fry.”

Maybe one of the more important issues is providing "period products" at public schools, to address the fact that some students who need them can't afford them, and are probably embarrassed to bring up the issue. That bill seemed well-intentioned, but the committee struggled to get that all the way to print too, and sent that back for a possible do-over.

The Idaho Education Newsroundup led with a school bathroom bill, which did get through committee and out to the senate floor. "Gender assigned at birth" is the term of art, to justify discriminating and stigmatizing transgender students. As Michael Hon of Meridian put it,

“God made man and woman … and eventually men and women made men’s and women’s bathrooms for men and women. We have either part A or part B. Let’s keep it simple.”

Senator Chris Trakel, late of making a scene at a Caldwell School District hearing last month, chipped in "don't wait until little girl is raped or molested," an accusation so facile and unsupported that you have to wonder how much of it is projection.

The Daily Beast headline last month said that Trakel went "berserk," ever so slightly overstated, although after puffing himself up to his "official position," he essentially threatened the board with legal action for not doing what he wanted them to do. The reporter did extend the courtesy of an interview to Trakel afterwards, for which he was better behaved. ("Hey, if he had sounded more like that, Pesina might have even listened to him and the meeting might have accomplished something.")

One of the three high school students who testified at the hearing made a statement for the ages. Let those who have ears to hear, take note. (Yeah, that's Mark 4:9, for those who like to get Bibical.)

“The struggles that you might not experience yourself do not mean they do not exist.”

21.Feb.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The South is risible again Permalink to this item

The contest between liberal democracy and authoritarianism is heating up. Having turned "liberal" into an epithet, extremists in the Republican Party are now working to stamp out the system that our founders created. They like to celebrate it (and them) when it suits them, which seems to be less and less often.

It's hard to know which is more incredible: Marjorie Taylor Greene elevated to being their spokeswoman, or the quisling Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House feeding Tucker Carlson 41,000 hours of Capitol surveillance footage from January 6, 2021, as if we didn't already have a bipartisan Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. (The chair of the committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MI) had some thoughts about the security implications about entrusting that material with a Russian propagandist.)

MTG is in the news for beating the drum of secession, on Twitter, of course, our new national cesspool. "Everyone I talk to says this," she tweeted, that "we need a national divorce." And what, exactly, is a bridge too far for her? "[T]he sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats."

Liz Cheney responded with a short civics lesson, reviewing "some of the governing principles of America":

"Our country is governed by the Constitution. You swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Secession is unconstitutional. No member of Congress should advocate secession, Marjorie."

All that and more in Heather Cox Richardson's daily for Feb. 20. And from the Daily Kos, whoops, Marjorie forgot she lives in a blue state. It's all about the "everyone I talk to" problem.

17.Feb.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

When the circus comes to town (and the nurses leave) Permalink to this item

If you're not from around here, it's not easy to comprehend the depth of the crazy that's pouring out of the Idaho legislature. Even if you are from around here, it's a big lift. Some of it is clown-show crazy, like the "Greater Idaho" (and considerably "Lesser Oregon") notion to combine the dry side of Oregon with our state in order to push the boundary of legal marijuana further west of the Snake River. Reps. Barbara Ehardt (R-Idaho Falls) and Judy Boyle (R-Midvale) got a ringing endorsement for their House resolution, 41-28, to "just engag[e] in a more formalized conversation." (You have to wonder what they're smoking.)

Some of it is QAnon conspiracy crazy, such as today's story that Sen. Tammy Nichols and Rep. Judy Boyle want to criminalize the administration of mRNA vaccines. Just a misdemeanor, oddly; why not go for a felony? The gentlelady Peter-principled into the Senate after two terms in the House said "we have issues this was fast tracked" because... the FDA approval of two specific mRNA vaccines, the ones that just saved millions of lives around the world "may not have been done like we thought it should've been done." HB154 declares that "a person may not provide or administer a vaccine developed using messenger ribonucleic acid technology for use in an individual or any other mammal in this state." Not just those two mRNA vaccines they're worried about because of what they heard on the intertubes, mind you. Any mRNA-based vaccine.

It's possible this particular bill will be spiked in the Health & Welfare committee, but who knows? The Republicans have a 10-3 supermajority there. (The legislature is also working on HB155, to prohibit vaccine "passports," required testing and so on for "certain purposes," not just for Covid-19 or SARS-CoV-2, but for "any subsequently identified mutation, modification, variant, or strain of coronavirus."

And some of the whackadoodle is street-level crazy, like trying to take control of the streets around the state capitol here in Boise, or to limit the governor's power on disaster orders, brought by timber thief Phil Hart. Co-sponsored by "home of the crazy" District 2 legislators Heather Scott and Dale Hawkins.

The street deal is temporarily stalled, at least, for not-crazy Chuck Winder wanting "to see an Attorney General’s opinion on the issue before moving it forward." The joke's on us, with our replacement AG a former Freedom Caucus firebrand in the big House, who ran on making the office more political. Why not take over the streets? Why not ban vaccines? Why not put the legislature in charge of disasters. (They have so much experience in the realm.) Why not invade Oregon? Why not tell school districts what books they can't have in libraries? They'll know it when they see it, eh.)

Why not repeal Medicaid expansion that voters insisted on by initiative? (Why not put the initiative permanently out of voters' reach?)

Why not take over healthcare? Why not intervene in a federal lawsuit to allow the legislature to practice medicine? Meanwhile, this idea to provide an incentive to nurses to practice in rural areas, they're not so sure about that. It took the three Democrats on the 13-member committee to get that bill over the line, on an 8-5 vote.

Which is good, because between the legislature and the pandemic, healthcare professionals are leaving the field—and Idaho—in droves. Last fall, the Idaho Department of Labor published The Post-COVID Outlook for Idaho Health Care Workers. They imagine in the long-term, we'll shift back to the way things used to be (and just for fun, quote John Maynard Keynes' motto of the dismal science, “In the long run we are all dead”). But this, at the top of their outlook bullet points (with their emphasis):

"[T]he near-to-medium-term outlook will be one of acute shortages for specialized health care practitioners — like physicians and surgeons — and ongoing shortages for several critical occupations including nurses and pharmacists."

And this, from their survey data, with my emphasis:

"Among all the health care occupations surveyed, nurses, pharmacists, physicians and surgeons mentioned Idaho’s cultural or political climate as a reason for a labor market exit or relocating out of state. A changing cultural and political environment are more difficult issues to tackle, with the flight of human capital as an unintended consequence of these shifts."

Datagraphic, employment trends for healthcare occupations in Idaho, 2019-21

Update: Charlie Pierce caught wind of the anti-vaxxers in the Idaho legislature. Scientific Miracles Are No Match for the Morons.

"So this is what may be coming to your town soon: a new front in an unprecedented war, not against the disease but against the cure, an appeal to scientific unreason, a heresy against the idea of a miracle....

"In the Age of Morons, complexity is a fatal flaw in the defense of any position, no matter how scientifically valid that position may be."

15.Feb.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The Big Ripoff Permalink to this item

Randall Eliason in the Sidebars blog: The Sleeper Charge Related to January 6 How do you get Capone?

It won't come as news to hear that our former guy was—and is!—crooked as the day is long. It's been the family business for more than his lifetime, after all. Maybe it's just a pipe dream, but we imagine there is a way to accountability. Some day. Could it be... wire fraud? Seems like it could!

"Raising money by sending emails containing false claims and then using the money for other purposes is a textbook example of wire fraud -- and federal prosecutors love wire fraud. "In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, let me quote what federal judge (and former federal prosecutor) Jed Rakoff once wrote about mail fraud – wire fraud’s companion statute:

"To federal prosecutors of white collar crime, the mail fraud statute is our Stradivarius, our Colt 45, our Louisville Slugger, our Cuisinart – our true love. We may flirt with RICO, show off with 10b-5, and call the conspiracy law “darling,” but we always come home to the virtues of [mail fraud], with its simplicity, adaptability, and comfortable familiarity. It understands us and, like many a foolish spouse, we like to think we understand it."

13.Feb.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Black History Month Permalink to this item

Here's a Lincoln's Birthday story that never made it into any of my history classes, from Heather Cox Richardson's Letters from an American, Feb. 12, 2023. From Springfield, Illinois, "even in the Springfield made famous by Lincoln." I remember learning that Springfield is the capital, and not much else. It's downstate somewhere, away from the conurbation of the NE corner that was my only experience of the next state over. I did not learn that the NAACP chose the hundredth anniversary of Lincoln's birth as their starting point, or why.

"The spark for the organization of the NAACP was a race riot in Springfield, Illinois, on August 14 and 15, 1908. The violence broke out after the sheriff transferred two Black prisoners, one accused of murder and another of rape, to a different town out of concern for their safety.

"Furious that they had been prevented from vengeance against the accused, a mob of white townspeople looted businesses and burned homes in Springfield’s Black neighborhood. They lynched two Black men and ran most of the Black population out of town. At least eight people died, more than 70 were injured, and at least $3 million of damage in today’s money was done before 3,700 state militia troops quelled the riot.

"When he and his wife visited Springfield days later, journalist William English Walling found white citizens outraged that their Black neighbors had forgotten “their place.” Walling claimed he had heard a dozen times: “Why, [they] came to think they were as good as we are!”

10.Feb.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Oversight and Accountability Permalink to this item

Idaho Republicans control state government with a super-majority. So, for those who love everything about state government, give them credit! (It's odd that so many of them keep complaining about state government, though.)

Once in a while, the extremist and normal wings can't come to terms, and the Democrats get to declare a modest victory, such as when the Dems helped advance the "Idaho Launch" program this week, providing Idaho's high school seniors modest grants they can use at Idaho higher education institutions or for training through private businesses, for "in-demand careers." (The $80 million apprpriate was made in last year's special session of the legislature, "without any policy attached to it." The Senate still has to weigh in.)

Searching up "idaho democrats help launch" to find that story on Idaho Reports, two others came up higher in the hits: the Idaho Democratic Legislative Compaign Committee's short presser, and one from a north Idaho screed site pretending to be journalism as the "Idaho Tribune." (I mean, a Gothic font and that name, right?) Their meandering headline splutters into the story, "Democrats and RINOs Ram Brad Liberal’s Idaho Launch Program Thru House," before including an insult for one legislator in particular. The vote was 36-34, which in the first embedded tweet is more accurately said to have "squeaked." Perhaps it squeaked while it was being rammed.

This morning's local front page had the story about Idaho's Republican super-majority working to eliminate the state's bipartisan Joint Legislative Oversight Committee, in favor of the Legislative Council that it controls. Lauro Guido's report notes the JLOC is "the state’s only committee evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats." (Our once-a-decade reapportionment commission is equally split; look for the Republicans to "fix" that before 2031.)

From there to the big House, courtesy of the teaser in Heather Cox Richardson's daily, the Oversight and Accountability Committee going after Twitter for not being Fox News enough, mostly. (Before Melon Usk took over, that is.) It's Hunter Biden's laptop time, and the Very Serious Concern About the First Family's Finances' time to thud.

I recommend you take the time to watch Ranking Member Jamie Raskin's 7½ opening statement in full. If nothing else, celebrate his energetic lesson in our First Amendment freedoms, in a do-rag. (He's undergoing chemotherapy for cancer while holding down his day job, rather well.)

"There’s no carve-out to free speech for speech relating to Hunter Biden or the New York Post, but there is a significant carve-out when the speech is deliberately calculated to produce imminent violence and chaos and is likely to produce it. That’s why Twitter’s deliberate indifference to Donald Trump’s Big Lies and incitement, its decision to ignore the pleas of its own key employees to deal with the impending explosion of violence against our police and our Congress on January 6, 2021, are matters that require serious investigation and reflection. Rather than conspiring to suppress right-wing MAGA speech as my Republican colleagues astonishingly claim, Twitter and other social media companies knowingly facilitated Donald Trump’s spread of disinformation, or what his own sycophantic Attorney General William Barr called, “bullshit,” and gave voice to his followers’ glorification of violence and calls for civil war."

Any questions?! But wait, there's more! Jim Jordan's leading the Judiciary Committee's Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, and Raksin joined two current Senators and one former Representative to testify on oversight of the DOJ and FBI before its first hearing. 3 Republicans to 1 Raskin is about right, especially with Ron Johnson, Chuck Grassley and Tulsi Gabbard respresenting the losing side. (Gabbard is a former Democrat, former Congressman from Hawaii, and current Fox News contibutor.)

After Matt Gaetz led the assembled group in the Pledge of Allegiance, Jordan recognized himself for his opening statement, to quote FBI whistleblowers in 2021 and 2022, and drip with derision at the very notion that violent domestic extremism is a problem. "Only a sample," he says, "dozens and dozens of whisteblowers, which would be at least 48? I bet he doesn't have 48 whistleblowers. He brings up "what we've learned in the Twitter files," stuff and nonsense. What that hearing produced was that the former administration had weaponized Twitter to its own seditious ends. Which we didn't actually need a whistleblower to inform us about. Ron Johnson put out a call for "men and women with integrity" to come be whistleblowers. You couldn't make this stuff up.

Raskin is recognized 48 minutes into the the 3 hour and 44m C-Span video, and spoke for 15 minutes, more TV definitely worth watching.

"Millions of Americans already feel that 'Weaponization' is the right name for this special subcommittee. Not because weaponization of the government is its target, but because weaponization of the government is its purpose.

"The odd name of the weaponization subcommittee constitutes a case of pure psychological projection. When former President Donald Trump and his followers accuse you of doing something, they're usually telling you exactly what their own plans are. By establishing a select subcommittee on weaponization, they're telling us that Donald Trump's followers will continue weaponizing any part of the government they can get their hands on to attack their enemies, defined as anyone who stands in the way of their quest for power."

Jordan gave Raskin perfunctory thanks and added a snide assurance, and insult that "we will focus on the facts, something I felt was not exactly presented in the proper way in your testimony." Perhaps he took exception to Raskin quoting Jordan's own CPAC show?

“Relaxing with a friendly interviewer, Chairman Jordan gave the game away entirely, ‘all of those things need to be investigated, just so you have the truth,’ he said. ‘Plus, that will hope frame up the 2024 race, when I hope, and I think President Trump is going to run, and we need to make sure that he wins.'”

That's on C-Span too. It was the "Givin' Liz the Biz" show last August, with Matt Schlapp and Jordan. No, seriously. Steve Benen got it right when he pointed out that the GOP’s ‘weaponization’ committee celebrates Festivus far too early. Screenshot from Weaponization subcmte hearing

Grievances to air seemed to center around Trump's first impeachment, in fact, when Jordan was bulldogging the defense, and Jonathan Turley was the GOP's go-to Constitutional Lawyer, not actually a match for Jamie Raskin. Dan Goldman, the Democrats' lead lawyer back then, is now representing NY-10, sitting on the subcommittee, while the hapless Republican House counsel for IMPOTUS #1, Steve Castor is sitting as Jordan's right-hand man. He's got a face that could go in the dictionary under "perplexity." (While looking up his name, I discovered that his cousin, Bruce Castor Jr., got to represent Trump in the Senate for his second impeachment trial. That's some commitment to nepotism.)

Two more takes to wrap this up. Dana Milbank: Yes, weaponization committee. We are all out to get you. And, "The weaponization panel’s weapon of choice will be the blunderbuss."

I don’t want to be conspiratorial about it, but House Republicans somehow turned Room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Judiciary Committee hearing room, into the main ballroom of a QAnon convention. The witnesses — including world-class conspiracy purveyors Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Ivermectin) and former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (I-Ukraine bioweapons labs) — might as well have been auditioning to guest-host “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

And the inimitable Charles P. Pierce, featuring one of the parts I skipped: Sen. Ron Johnson Tries to Speed-Run All of the Right's Most Fevered Conspiracies.

"I am concerned that the senator can skip through the syllabus that quickly—from The Laptop, to federal provocateurs in the January 6 mob, to COVID denialism. He's become a sort of Conspiracy Jukebox and someone has got their finger smashed on the shuffle button."

9.Feb.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Smackdown! Permalink to this item

Sleepy Joe Biden turned out to be more than a match for the barking MAGAs of the House. You will have heard some of that already, and perhaps seen MTG as a weird, furry meme or two, but I enjoyed Digby's take for Salon, with a bit of history from the oughts, refreshed by the former guy, speaking in South Caroline last weekend. He celebrated Joe Wilson's then-shocking outburst at the 2009 State of the Union. "At the time, it was a shocking breach of decorum that stunned the nation." And now... that sort of thing shows "dedication and the love of your country, right?" (Just don't be taking a knee for the National Anthem, by god.)

Cover image of Ruth Ben-Ghiat book, Strongmen

I recently read Ruth Ben-Ghiat's 2020 book, Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present, and it put our diversion to psychopathy in a longer perspective. Starting with Mussolini, because he was the modern prototype, providing a model for that German guy to follow on his way to starting WW II. Augusto Pinochet, Francisco Franco, Muammar Qaddafi, Silvio Berlusconi, Mobutu Sese Seko, Viktor Orban, Rodrigo Duterte, Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi are in the roll call, and yeah, it starts to weigh you down after a while.

"Ours is the age of the strongman, of heads of state who damage or destroy democracy use masculinity as a tool of political legitimacy, and promise law and order rule – and then legitimize lawless behavior by financial, sexual, and other predators. Covering a century of tyranny, this book examines how authoritarians use propaganda, virility, corruption, and violence to stay in power, and how they can be opposed."

She wrote it before our fomer guy had been stopped, at least temporarily, by American voters. Seems like maybe there should be an update in a paperback to include January 6 and its aftermatch? Hopefully not a sequel, though.

Silvio Berlusconi showed up in the blog 7 years ago this month, about the time the other Republican contenders were dropping like flies, and then after the election, when kleptocracy looked like a good bet, and "plaudits" in the media were "betray[ing] a disagreeable longing for authoritarianism, a Mussolini-style nostalgia for a macho leader who’s always right..."

It's a short leap off the turnbuckle to last Tuesday night's bleacher bums "behav[ing] like they were at a WWE wrestling match instead of a joint session of Congress." Did the SOTU rehearsal red team imagine some of what was coming? For a guy who can struggle with public speaking, Biden came up with some great rejoinders, not least of which was getting the bulk of the House GOP to roundly deny they would ever go after Social Security or Medicare. It's good to know.

Jennifer Bendery gets the last word in my coverage, detailing how The Best Part of Joe Biden's SOTU Address Happened After It Was Over, when "Biden spent another 20 minutes cracking jokes with Supreme Court justices, telling stories, taking countless selfies, talking to people’s kids on cell phones, listening to Democratic and Republican lawmakers’ requests for help, and offering comfort to people who needed it."

Well, maybe one last thing, for a lighter side of a dark comedy. Seth Myers' Closer Look: Greene Melts Down and GOP Gets Caught Lying During Biden's State of the Union.

Up from three-fifths, anyway? Permalink to this item

That's the thought that occurred to me at the end of Judd Legum's substack about the state of apartheid in Jackson, Mississippi. With links to the originals added:

Ultimately, “the exclusion of DC residents from a voice in Congress contributes to the underrepresentation of voters of color in the American political system,” the Brennan Center writes. “According to a New York Times analysis, based on the voting power of each U.S. senator, the average Black American receives ‘only 75 percent as much representation as the average white American.’”

The Brennan Center piece also notes that "the debate over the disenfranchisement of DC residents has always been tied to the area’s racial demographics and Black political power."

District of Columbia residents get three electoral votes, at least, thanks to the 23rd Amendment, ratified in 1961; unlike two states with smaller population (Wyoming, Vermont) and three others under a million residents (Alaska, the Dakotas), DC has only a non-voting delegate to the House, and no representation in the Senate. The DC Voting Rights Amendment would have fixed that, and Congress passed it with two-thirds majorities in 1979, but only 16 states ratified it.

In 2020, and 2021, the House passed the Washington, DC Admission Act, while the Senate is sitting on its hands.

What's still working is a system of racial entitlement that was set up from the get-go, the "three-fifths compromise" giving white southerners partial credit for the people they'd enslaved. The Brennan Center has a reprint of the Nov. 2019 piece in The Atlantic, The Electoral College’s Racist Origins. "More than two centuries after it was designed to empower southern white voters, the system continues to do just that."

Is a color-blind political system possible under our Constitution? If it is, the Supreme Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act in 2013 did little to help matters. While black people in America today are not experiencing 1950s levels of voter suppression, efforts to keep them and other citizens from participating in elections began within 24 hours of the Shelby County v. Holder ruling and have only increased since then.

In Shelby County’s oral argument, Justice Antonin Scalia cautioned, “Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get them out through the normal political processes.” Ironically enough, there is some truth to an otherwise frighteningly numb claim. American elections have an acute history of racial entitlements—only they don’t privilege black Americans.

The howls of outrage about "wokeism" are all about maintenance of our long-standing racial entitlements. As mekke okereke put it:

"Truly racist people are a minority in this country, but systemically racist people, are almost all of us. Most of us do not want to participate in racist systems, but many times we don't even know that we are in them, or what we could do to stop contributing to the harm."

7.Feb.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Tour of the sausage factory Permalink to this item

We went to the Capitol today for the House Judiciary & Rules committee hearing on HB 71, the "CHILD PROTECTION ACT – Amends existing law to revise provisions regarding the crime of genital mutilation of a child." And stuff. The committee room was full; we were shunted to one of two overflow rooms, where two-thirds of the space was occupied by large, empty chairs, the dais, the desk, and the chairs in the back were mostly occupied, until half of the group got up en masse and left. High school students? Church group? DK. The big screen technology was hit or miss, and acting chair Heather Scott struggled to keep all the balls in the air from time to time. She did seem like more of an adult than I've ever seen her at the legislature, at least. She warned bill opponents about straying from "speaking to the bill" more rigorously than proponents, to my hearing, even as she mostly kept her biases to herself.

Geese honking at a Great Blue Heron

Why was Heather Scott in charge? Because this is chairman Bruce Skaug's bill. He introduced it, followed by Blaine Conzatti, president of the Idaho Family Policy Center, a religious organization claiming to be "the premier conservative Christian policy research and educational organization in the state, IFPC is working to promote biblically sound public policy." Did IFPC write the bill? Copy it from ALEC? They all framed the issue with the most risible characterizations they could. It's about "child sex changes," eugenics, sterilization, "cutting away organs," catastrophic mutilation, chemical castration, and so on. Skaug tossed out "and on the spectrum" at one point, as if, I don't know, he was playing a doctor in the legislature?

Rep. Skaug made a point that in case of "uncertainty," the legislature is free to act. Conzatti's remarks jumped from uncertainty to a conclusory that "puberty blockers are irreversible." When one opponent wound up his remarks by saying "this is ignorant," one of the other committee members interject to caution about "attacking motives." Ignorance isn't a motive, of course. But willful ignorance is motivated, by definition.

A representative of the Catholic Church had his two minutes. He began one sentence with "Man is only truly himself when..." and I felt like I was whooshed back into last century. The Original Fall was cited as the source of problems. No questions for him.

Jay Richard of the Heritage Foundation weighs in "for," calling out circular, and unfalsifiable reasoning. Ironically.

And here's a fellow who's a member of the Idaho Freedom Foundation (but not speaking for them), he thinks it's "interesting" that this is a hot topic just now, and then goes ahead and recites the same talking points about the "transgender surgery pipeline" as all the other proponents. Yes, it's very "interesting."

Crystal Ivie is "vehemently opposed." "Rep. Skaug is wrong," she says, informing the audience about the science that's being ignored in favor of the mistaken belief that there's XX and XY and that's that because, idk, the Bible told us so?

The last gal to testify said had same-sex attraction, didn't want that, and was "healed by Jesus Christ." Scott actually reined her in, to my surprise.

Conzatti gets to wrap up the two hours of public testimony, lauding everyone who agrees with the bill. The fix is obviously in. Nothing is going to change the opinions of the supermajority of Republicans prepared to push this through. (Is my guess.)

A committee member has concerns that circumcision is a form of genital mutilation, isn't it? He's worried that this bill might accidentally outlaw circumcision.

Rep. Gannon moves to hold the bill in committee. "It needs a lot of work." Notes "contradictory" testimony. The Idaho Academy of Family Physicians (not a religious organization) testified that "this bill goes too far." "This legislation goes way beyond surgery," Gannon notes. He proposed working with IAFP and others to come up with "a reasonable bill, if it's necessary." The Republicans won't be having that!

Rep. Gallagher makes a substitute motion to send it to the floor with a "do pass" recommendation. Rep. Nash speaks up, with the experience of having a transgender sibling. "Mostly what I felt like my family member needed was people to believe them." He brings up the elephant in the room that's been quiet a little while, the "faith-based medical neglect" that Idaho allows, to the detriment of the neglected.

Somebody's got a question for Skaug, who has taken his seat, and gets addressed as "Mr. Chairman." The formalities kind of wind my clock. Skaug notes we don't have any reporting of the incidence. That is to say, they're legislating from ignorance. We're preempting a made-up problem.

Gallagher wants to cut off debate "move[s] the previous question." The committee isn't ready, votes 4-13 to keep going. Gallagher will have to wait. Rep. Ehardt has something to say. She insists "there are two sexes," and that's that. Sex is functional! There are, ah, ovas and, and... sperms. "There's a lot to learn in this," as she is illustrating remarkably well. Adults are ok to do whatever they want, "but when it comes to our kids," you know.

Rep. Young expresses her gratitude for all the "love" in the room. She has a story about a "detransitioner." A personal anecdote of someone she knows that is "compelling" for her. What a way to legislate. She comes up with a "first, do no harm" pitch. If only the legislature had that in their oath! Wroten will support it. Cannon will support it, even as he "still struggle[s] with this." "In the end, you gotta go with your gut."

Rep. Mathias brings up the 1997 book, "The Fourth Turning," and the NYT article about it from May, 2020. "Every 85 to 110 years." How do we get out of the cycle and get back to, ah, greatness. "We have to reestablish trust in goverment." He notes that the legislature is only selectively following the principle of putting parents first in making decisions for their children. (It's a trap!) Young, who claims to be "the biggest momma bear in the building" notes that we do put limits on parents. "Every principle has bounds and limits." (It's an easy lift to justify a decision you've already made.)

At 4:20, acting chair Scott says "ok committee, I think it's time to vote." It'll be a party-line vote, right? Right. 14 ayes, 3 nays.

We with through most of this last year, and the House passes a similar bill. It died in the Senate. But this year, the Senate's tipped over to extremists too, so I suspect the only possibility of stopping it is a veto from the governor, which seems unlikely.

What you refuse to know can kill you Permalink to this item

WaPo news analysis from Philip Bump: Conservative doctors were more likely to see hydroxychloroquine as effective. Also ivermectin. And more likely to see Covid-19 vaccines as ineffective. Readers of my blog will be familiar with this recent history:

"After vaccines became widely available, Republican-voting counties were more likely to see covid-19 deaths relative to their populations than Democratic-voting ones. In fact, research has shown an explicit gap in the death toll between Republicans and Democrats.

"Not only were Republicans more likely to reject recommended approaches to the virus, they were more likely to embrace unproved ones. ..."

Now science can add research being published next week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, having surveyed doctors and laypeople during the first two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“[C]onservative physicians were approximately five times more likely than their liberal and moderate colleagues to say that they would treat a hypothetical COVID-19 patient with hydroxychloroquine,” the researchers write.

My readers will also know about "blind" and "double blind" studies, and why they are essential. Susceptibility to confirmation bias is a human trait, not limited to "laypeople." As Richard Feynman put it, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

“After reading otherwise identical results, partisans’ responses were more polarized when the drug was identified as ivermectin relative to when it was anonymized, with participants who were more conservative reporting that the evidence was less informative, the study was less methodologically rigorous, and the authors were more likely to be biased.”

There was a segment on the Newshour last night that relates to the theme, beyond the pandemic: How a talk with his father pulled an Oregon man out of online conspiracy theories.

"In the real world, I was falling behind," David Morrill said. "In this digital fantasy, I was unlocking the secrets of the universe." In his case, drug-induced psychosis triggered a crisis, and then a change of course, with his parents' help. Connection is so essential:

"I wish I could give more of a single moment where the not believing in conspiracies kind of emerged. All I know is that, by your not being judgmental, by not telling me that it was all fake or that I was crazy, I was able to slowly climb back out because of your support."

Now he's working at figuring out what happened to him, and how he can use that understanding to help others, "focusing on conspiratorial ideation and persuasion online."

6.Feb.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A roundup of disappointments Permalink to this item

Missing my old Twitter outlet today, I guess, that place where one could easily point-and-snark at issues of the day. Mastodon is a better, more decent virtual space where that behavior seems more out of place. To me, anyway. From various sources, sub-news of the day includes:

That's trending well beyond "disappointment," as is the enormity of a 7.8 earthquake in Turkey. But there is good news out there. For example, the woman who found a bag of almost $15,000 in cash and turned it in, had $40,000 raised on her behalf so that maybe she can get a car, and not have to walk almost 3 miles to work every day.

4.Feb.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A personal anniversary Permalink to this item

Bicycle, in snow

The exact date ticked by end of last month before I'd written about it here, but February 1st works, too. That was my second day of work as a newly-minted mechanical engineer here in Boise, Idaho, and the first day I rode my bike to work. I hit my first Boise pothole in the dark (because, February), which left a bit of a flat spot on my back rim, less than three years after I'd built the wheels for my new ride.

It bothered me for a while. I did my best to adjust it out, but some wheel damage doesn't lend itself to fixing. I haven't noticed (or thought about) it for a good while, but checking just now, I see that yes, it's still there. 40 years later.

3.Feb.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Look, up in the sky! Permalink to this item

It's not a bird, it's not a plane, and oh honey, there ain't no Superman. It's a giant balloon, and It's All Anyone Can Talk About.

Some Montanans wondered why, in a time of high-tech spy satellites, China would send a balloon. “It was eerie,” Donna Pavlish said as she took a walk in Billings on Friday. “Unsettling.”

Balloon image, edited from a 2007 original

Once upon a time, and as best I can tell, never before told here on the blog, we visited the San Diego Wild Animal Park. I found the date at least, December, 1998. That's pre-blog, and any photos would be prints from negatives. If I wrote it down, that must be ink on paper. The park is now called the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, featuring at least 8 kinds of "safaris," starting from "$29 & up" for a walk in the park, all the way up to the Ultimate Safari, $700 & up per person. And up! Sheesh, you'd think it would all-inclusive for that kind of money. There's the back-of-a-truck safari ($90 & up), and Cart Safaris, for $57 & up.

You can now travel to the "African Plains" via web cam for free, 13 choices from the zoo and the safari park all in all. A look around might make this story more fun.

When we were there (half of its life ago now), the Cart was the safari-like thing we did, on a rubber-tired train of two (or three?) long, open-air carts, with a driver and a guide who told us stories as we rolled around the winding park road within the fenced hinterland, to see the "wild animals" sort of in the wild. Coming up to one curve we couldn't see around, the mixed collection of herbivores out in the "savannah" were behaving strangely. Rather than grazing peacefully and randomly, they had organized themselves into a bunched platoon, all facing the same way, heads-up alert. Facing down something we couldn't see.

For all we knew, this happened regularly, but the guide was surprised, and a little concerned. She said she'd never seen them do something like this before. Had someone let predators into the peaceful kingdom?

After a suspenseful minute or two, we came around the corner for the Big Reveal: there was a cluster of half a dozen party balloons tied together with ribbon, enough bouyancy left to keep them clear of the ground, but not enough to send them up, up and away, drifting on a light breeze, toward the herd, obviously a threat of some kind. We presume—they presumed—the Unknown is Dangerous, and Must Be Watched For Any Sign of Trouble.

It was funny to see, and seemed deeply instructive. Look at those ignorant animals! Just after we'd been ignorant animals looking at the ignorant animals. Just like the dek in the NYT story, it was all anyone could talk about.

In late 1998, the stock market metaphors sprang to mind. We were five years into the dot com bubble, and a sudden downdraft made us wonder if the party was over and the looming disaster from y2k might be the end of civilization. Ha ha. The Nasdaq Composite index had gone from under 1,000 to 2,000 (for a moment) before giving back a quarter of that... and then went on to triple by early 2000. And crash. And rise again, up, up and away to over 15,000 in late 2021, before Russia's invasion of Ukraine trimmed the it back to low 5 digits again.

Beware the balloons.

Update: The USAF shot it down with a missile, once it was out over the Atlantic. But you already knew that, because The Balloon was all anyone could talk about, almost.

Update #2: Our Sunday (Feb. 5) Times' print deadline was apparently too early for the shoot-down to make the front page, but there was a story below the fold, with a headline too subtle to grab my attention on first scan. "Tracking a Flight of Fancy, Fear and Fascination" is the headline over Katie Rogers' piece. It's no longer featured on one of the multiple tabs of the "Chinese Balloon Over the U.S." coverage. I tracked it by author to find the web headline Look! Up in the Sky! It's a ... Chinese Spy Balloon?

"A version of this article appears in print on Feb. 5, 2023, Section A, Page 20 of the New York edition with the headline: Wafting Over America: Flights of Fancy, Fear and Fascination."

Versus page 1 of the National Edition. The balloon "air-dawdled" online and "was spotted air-dawdling" in print, before it was a "lumbering orb," which in truth did not contain any lumber. (The online version has been updated now that “the round big white ball that we saw all of the sudden looked like a shriveled Kleenex.”) But here's my money quote:

Greg Garrett, a professor who teaches literature, pop culture and theology at Baylor University, says humans are hard-wired to be threatened by things that we don’t recognize.

“As human beings, to look up in the sky and see something we’re powerless over makes us crazy,” he said. “It’s one part of the political reaction, which is, ‘we’ve got to shoot this thing out of the sky,’ regardless of the difficulty and the danger.”

So it is written, so shall it be done.

Groundhog Day, 2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

All your base are belong to us Permalink to this item

Sorry, it's the irresistable headline to go with this piece from Science News: All of the bases in DNA and RNA have now been found in meteorites. That'd be adenine, guanine, cytosine, thymine and uracil, a.k.a. A G C T and U. Just add sugar and a little phosphate and you've got yourself life on Earth. Ribose has been found in metorites too; that's the sugar in the sugar-phosphate backbone of ribonucleic and deoxyribonucleic acid.

I got you, babe.

1.Feb.2023 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Banner valley Permalink to this item

In a Publishers Weekly's Soapbox column from last April, "an author bristles at the idea," something about fictional characters and the good and bad of cultural appropriation, and I'm happily reminded of the conversation with my brother this morning, when I joked that I "bristled" about something. (People calling concrete "cement," if you must know.)

"Don't bristle," he said, "just enjoy."

Such good advice. I said I wished I'd had it (and taken it) 40 years ago. Jeff (aka "RJ") Hoffman's "Let Fiction be Fiction" column had some other bon mots:

"Considering life through eyes that aren’t mine seems the whole point of fiction. And as I learned to build a novel, I found that writing also centers on empathy. Empathy is the window to the core of every character."

That figures in the conclusion of another piece of publishing introspection, one driven by a two years older kerfuffle: The Long Shadow of 'American Dirt'; How a literary world uproar changed book publishing. It was an uproar that passed without my notice, given my non-fiction backlog. "A minor blog" factors in the story (one that had a "discursive and furious takedown" of the novel), and of course "a social media rampage ensued, widening into the broader media."

Who can write about what? Who gets to say who can write about what? Thank goodness it's not up to me to say. I would surely bristle

Tastes like chicken Permalink to this item

Thanks to HCR's end-of-month daily for the prematch skinny on today's meeting between our President, and the Speaker of the House. She gives context (and the link) for the Memorandum sent Jan. 30 by National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and Office of Management Budget Director Shalanda Young to "Interested Parties," stating the two questions Biden will ask of McCarthy:

Will the Speaker commit to the bedrock principle that the United States will never default on its financial obligations... [and agree] that it is critical to avoid debt limit brinksmanship?

When will Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans release their Budget?

And get specific about what exactly they propose to cut, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, ACA health coverage, research, education, public safety, "as well as how much their Budget will add to the deficit with tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and large corporations, as in their first bill this year."

So if McCarthy wanted to actually prepare for the meeting, he could. The 3-page memo goes on to tabulate the deficit increase that GOP policies expressed so far would produce over a decade, from $hundreds of billions, to $2.7 trillion, to extend the 2017 tax cuts.

The initial response suggests McCarthy plans to keep the political gamesmanship going, with a gaslighting tweet that's a little too obvious:

Image of tweet from @SpeakerMcCarthy

Please represent me Mr. Speaker, by agreeing to agree that you will not use the threat of national default as a negotiating tactic, and that you will get to work on a budget with a realistic chance of passing Congress. And stop tweeting, for god's sake.

Stealing your lunch money Permalink to this item

The Idaho Statesman editorial board took a whack at the school vouchers bill state Senator Tammy Nichols introduced yesterday, "cut-and-paste legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council," they note, with the link to Here are the facts that Idaho school voucher supporters don’t want you to know.

“This legislation has been modeled after Arizona, with 10 years of experience and is considered the gold standard being used by most other states,” Nichols said in introducing her bill. So let’s take a look at Arizona’s experience to see what’s in store for Idaho if this bill becomes law. In November, the Grand Canyon Institute analyzed the zip code distribution of applications for Arizona’s new universal Empowerment Scholarship Account voucher program. ..."

In short, it's a gift to students already enrolled in private school (not a rescue line to students in "failing schools"), and it's trickle-up economics; lower-income families subdizing upper-income families, on average. And with "10 years of experience," there's this:

"Arizona is unable to measure academic impacts of the voucher program because there were no accountability measures in the legislation."


Private schools can accept or reject students as they choose.


Total private school subsidies in Arizona have now reached $600 million.

The project to circumvent Article IX of our state constitution is not new this year, by any means. The center of gravity of right-wing extremism against public education has shifted from the House to the Senate, after the 2022 election, however.

"Interesting to note that some of the reasons Nichols cited for the need for school vouchers are inflicted by far-right legislators like Nichols: “declining test scores, overcrowding, students not meeting grade-level benchmarks, bullying, teacher wages, staffing shortages, curriculum issues, indoctrination, and the list goes on,” she said.

"At least three of those reasons — overcrowding, teacher wages and staffing shortages — are direct results of underfunding public education, and perhaps more students would meet grade-level benchmarks, such as third-grade reading, if Nichols hadn’t led the charge to kill a $6 million early childhood literacy grant two years ago."

Just for example.


Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007