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25.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Copycat twit Permalink to this item

Is it just something in Washington( state)'s water? The Everett Herald says it's not the same guy, but here's another anon with a pointless, and impossible request, this one to Snohomish County.

“I hereby request copies, in whatever form available, of each and every document in your agency's possession of any and every kind whatsoever without exception or limitation except as provided by narrow exception of law. The date range that this request relates to, encompasses or covers begins at July 4th, 1776, and runs until today's date, November 18th, 2014.”

Because... I live in the basement, and don't have anything better to do?

24.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Nice work if you can get it Permalink to this item

calendar for 6 mos.

Remember when you learned the days of the months? Something like this: "Eleven days hath January, February, April; twelve in March, May and June. July hath 16, September but 10. Eight days in December, seven in November, two in October, and August hath no days at all."

That would be your 113th Congress' second session.

I saw it on the NorthDecoder blog, but I see this is straight from the horse's mouth (or perhaps "the elephant's behind"). You can get your very own one-pager PDF from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, showing that the U.S. House of Representatives' calendar has had and has plans for being in session just 102 days this year.

Like the man says, "Freedom | Opportunity | Accountability."

23.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Habeus corpus vidi Permalink to this item

Thanks to the miniaturization and proliferation of technology, citizen interactions with police are being seen and analyzed in greater detail than ever before. Think of it as the implementation of the imaginary sky-being who knows whether you've been bad or good, giving all a practical reason to be good, beyond mere goodness' sake. It's protection against abuses for the citizenry, and possibly swifter and surer justice for miscreants (including some who may wear uniforms).

© 2014 Tom von Alten

Now imagine that this being who lives in the clouds is also a bit of a blabbermouth, willing (or perhaps coerced) to tell all your friends, neighbors, and everyone about everything. Boordom, meet boredom. Who's going to watch hours and hours and hours of uninteresting banality in order to glean the occasional "Cops" moment? Besides this 20-something "computer programmer" who lives in his parents' basement, sending anonymous emails to police departments demanding "daily updates" "on every 911 dispatch on which officers are sent; all the written reports they produce; and details of each computer search generated by officers when they run a person’s name, or check a license plate or address," oh and "all videos from patrol-car cameras and plans to seek copies of body-cam videos once police begin using them."

Since it's apparently legal to ask for all that, for only the cost of "making copies," Seattle will be thinking again about their 6 month pilot program to outfit a dozen officers with bodycams, let alone equipping 1,000 officers by 2016.

This is, apparently, why we can't have nice things.

The one loophole to Washington police departments' advantage mentioned in the story is that "agencies are not bound by a time limit; they only must provide a reasonable estimate and can provide records in installments." Assuming that satisfying the voyeuristic impulses of an anonymous twit and his YouTube followers is not top priority, those daily updates could be a bit backlogged.

The policy director at the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs "pointed to a Pullman [WA] Police Department employee who recently spent 30 minutes to redact a 27-second video clip of sensitive information as an example of how labor-intensive the work can be." They might get faster tools or techniques, but that 60:1 sort of time suck is not at all unusual when it comes to working with video these days.

"Michele Earl-Hubbard, a Seattle attorney who specializes in public-records law, said Wednesday she is wary of public officials when they complain the “sky is falling” in regard to public-disclosure requests."

"Earl-Hubbard said officials have legal tools at their disposal to control large requests, such as delivering materials in installments and collecting copy fees with each release to make sure the requester is serious. Avenues also exist to protect privacy, she said."

Charging for one hour of staff time for one minute of video (unless perhaps the requester is in the video?), and requiring up-front payment could take care of the gadfly problem. (Or give some video processing tech firms a big boost in business?)

“They’re using this as kind of their poster-child thing,” Earl-Hubbard said. Yes, and thanks to that poster-child living with his parents, to make it so convenient as to be inevitable, eh.

22.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Warming in the Arctic Permalink to this item

Dana Nuccitelli has a nice animation illustrating confirmation bias in this blog post on Skeptical Science about the Arctic sea ice extent this year, the 6th lowest on record. The 34 year trend in the graph is not yet "down by half" but close to it, and headed that way, even as the variation includes ten episodes of "recovery!" The "read the rest" jump is to the author's piece in The Guardian a month ago.

Data graphic of reconstructed Arctic sea ice extent

"Normally the ‘debate’ is depicted as being between climate ‘sceptics’ on one side and mainstream climate scientists on the other. Many bystanders assume that the truth must lie somewhere in the middle. However, in reality it’s the mainstream scientists who fall into the middle of the spectrum, with climate contrarians on one extreme, and those who believe climate scientists are underestimating the impacts of global warming on the other extreme.

"Moreover, climate contrarians have made the most consistently inaccurate annual Arctic sea ice predictions to date. Once again this year, contrarian blog readers submitted the most optimistic Arctic sea ice prediction to the competition hosted by the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH), and once again their predictions were among the least accurate."

The recent, and century-and-a-half graphs showing the declining trend show strong signals. The millenium-and-a-half reconstruction (Kinnard, et al. 2011), with a range of uncertainty illustrated, is starker still.

20.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Children's story Permalink to this item

© 2014 Tom von Alten

A couple of weeks ago, the sermon topic was "Achieving immortality," and it was better-attuned to my own beliefs (and lack thereof) than the pie-in-the-sky salvation of some adherents of leading monotheisms near you. You have the opportunity to live on for good reason in the memory of those who know you while you're on this earth.

The children's story was the same message, delivered via Judith Viorst's gentle rendition in The Tenth Good Thing about Barney. No worries about a spoiler alert, as I don't remember the title thing or the other 9, really, as I was distracted early on by mention of seeds and "food in the ground" for them.

That's not quite the way of the world. "Nutrients" are not "nutrition" for green plants in the same way "food" is for Barney and us. (I can safely tell you that Barney is a cat.) Seeds come with baggage, they pack their meals to last until they can push up out of the soil to the light. It is the light of life, the energy with which plants transform carbon dioxide and water into—do you long for miracles? This is one—food! For their own sustenance and for more than that. This is not the only means of transformation that life has found, but it is the most successful one, the fabulously, outrageously, abundantly ubiquitous one that is the foundation of the living world we know.

19.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Exclusive authority, absolute discretion, and stuff Permalink to this item

Here's something I did not remember from civics class (if it was mentioned): "the Executive Branch has exclusive authority and absolute discretion to decide whether to prosecute a case." Of course, I took civics (or whatever) before the Supreme Court made that declaration in their opinion in United States v. Nixon.

Brought to me by the distinguished Erwin Chemerinsky and Samuel Kleiner, in their explanation as to why the president's forthcoming executive action (whatever it might be?!) will be legal, thankyouverymuch, and with precedent in actions by Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II.

Which is not to say the heads of Republican leadership and their friends on Fox News will not be exploding on Friday or so. Still, a tiny bit of perspective may be helpful:

"In 1987, the Reagan administration took executive action to limit deportations for 200,000 Nicaraguan exiles, even those who had been turned down for asylum. Similarly, President George H.W. Bush in 1990 limited deportations of Chinese students and in 1991 kept hundreds of Kuwait citizens from being deported. President Bill Clinton regularly used his power of prosecutorial discretion to limit deportations; in 1993 he gave 18-month extensions to Salvadoran residents, in 1997 he limited deportations for Haitians, and in 1998 he limited deportations to Central American counties that had been devastated by hurricanes.

"President George W. Bush also took major steps to limit deportations on humanitarian grounds. In 2001, he limited deportation of Salvadorian citizens at the request of the Salvadorian president who said that their remittances were a key part of their nation’s economy. The Bush administration embraced prosecutorial discretion and ordered the consideration of factors such as whether a mom was nursing a child or whether an undocumented person was a U.S. military veteran in making the determination on whether to order a deportation.

"The Bush administration explicitly recognized that humanitarian factors must play into the deportation decision. ..."

18.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Forecast: continued chilly Permalink to this item

Still catching up with the newspapers that piled up when we flew off to Chicago for a family get-together weekend before last, and came across re-elected ID-01 Rep. Raúl Labrador's guest opinion (subtitled "GOP Wave") and the catchy headline Republicans must seize chance to govern responsibly. Better late than never, eh? "Americans are weary of both congressional gridlock and executive branch incompetence," he says, happy as ever to point fingers in every direction but his own.

snow stake

While a certain amount of Republican enthusiasm is to be expected, especially in ruby red Idaho, the boosterism is ever-so-slightly disingenuous, given the remarkable four-year run of Republican legislative obstruction and sabotage. Some House bills are going to "heal our country," you say, and "serious consideration in the Senate" is now in order? Let us "unleash the pent-up energy of millions of Americans ready to go to work in an economy that restores fiscal sanity and assures a level field in tax and regulatory policy," which could only mean that Labrador and his colleagues have a secret plan to raise tax rates on the wealthy and high-income folks who have been doing so splendidly in spite of the Great Recession's aftermath?!

Or, possibly, "level field" is just a nice-sounding, who-could-disagree-with-that bit of filler to spice up the tepid palaver.

Labrador forecasts that "the Senate logjam will break" in January, because Harry Reid and his fellow Democrats will, no doubt, just roll over and ignore the considerable minority power that's been leaving their every initiative dead on arrival, in favor of having their tummies rubbed. And Obama will overcome his "reluctan(ce) to acknowledge the scale of the GOP wave and the need for change," because the People Have Spoken.

Eye in the sky Permalink to this item

The Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS) has a little user rating facility for their image posts, going from 1 to 10. I've seen a few 9s, maybe even an 8, but mostly it's just all 10s. The latest image, "Mixing Paints," from 10 AU out from our star is yet another, peg-the-meter picture.

"Nature is an artist and this time she seems to have let her paints swirl together a bit.

"What the viewer might perceive to be Saturn's surface is really just the tops of its uppermost cloud layers. Everything we see is the result of fluid dynamics. ...

"This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 25 degrees above the ringplane. The image was taken in red light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Aug. 23, 2014."

17.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Follow the money, part 2 Permalink to this item

Kelcie Moseley responded to my emailed inquiry about the unreadable bit.ly URL in the graphic of the Press-Tribune story I commented on yesterday, and sent the link to the Secretary of State's campaign finance reports archive for legislative districts 1-13. They vary from scanned hardcopy forms to "scanned" versions of online data entry, none of which make digesting and analysis particularly easy. I looked at a couple and extracted the data from one, just to explore on my own. District 12's Rep. Rick Youngblood tallied $11,050 from June through September, and had $14,300 year to date as of his report through Sept. 30. All but three of the contributions were from corporate entities of one sort or another. A thousand bucks each from Micron Technology and Realtors PAC led the year-to-date column, $950 from Idaho Power close behind.

snow photo

Youngblood reported a nice $500 from Speaker of the House Scott Bedke's personal account, and $150 total from two other individuals in that time. The other 96% of his $14,300 YTD total was from corporations, PACs, and one from district 27 Rep. Fred Wood's campaign. A third of the corporate/PAC contributions (by count) were from out of state. By dollar amount, the top 9 Idaho corporate/PAC donors accounted for more than half of his contributions.

It's good to know Youngblood says he's not letting anyone tell him how to vote, but how long will these organizations keep paying for his campaigns if he doesn't do what they want him to? This particular "citizen legislator" doesn't look so citizen-y when you read his campaign finance report.

It's payback time Permalink to this item

Dave Johnson has a different angle on what I was talking about yesterday in Follow the money, on the Campaign for America's Future blog: The Republican Paid-For Agenda. Without putting it quite as plainly as "intending to deliver for their constituents," it does seem to be the case that the GOP and the interests of the enumerated lobbies are well aligned. Oil (the Keystone pipeline) and coal (Mitch McConnell's from Kentucky after all), billionaires (naturally), "defense," Wall Street (always top of mind for both parties), insurance, telecom and so on.

The theory is that business is good for everyone, so if we're good to business, yay. Those corporate persons who have the most cash available to speak freely are first in line for government largesse. As ever.

Science is hard Permalink to this item

The main thing I don't like about Ed Lotterman's "Real world economics" column is that when I enjoy a new edition in our local paper, I usually can't find it on the web right away to point you to. The Idaho Statesman has an archive of his columns (and probably paywall-limits on their access to it), but not the one they ran on Saturday. There's a version of the column in the Bismarck Tribune's digital edition, under the title Misuse of averages results in statistical lie, rather than the Statesman's choice of "Hard to gauge exchange health." The print version I read has a more nuanced statement of the lesson in it as well, as the lede:

"If you can compute some metrical measure of an economy or society but it will clearly mislead people rather than inform them, don't publish that indicator or cite it as evidence of anything.

"That's not Ph.D.-level research methodology. It involves integrity and common sense. The corollary, of course, is that computing meaningful metrics is often far more complex than people realize."

Given how seldom they see it done, people might make the inference, but it's easier to have one's prejudices reinforced and to be confused, misled, and equate statistics with lies. One might also equate prose with lies. And photography. And poetry, that's the worst.

JK. Advertising the's worst, especially when it's political advertising, disguised as assessing the performance of someone else's policy that you don't like. Never mind the meaningless bucket of "common sense," integrity is the essential component, and in such short supply. Even with integrity, considerable skill is involved in figuring out what to measure, how to measure it, and which statistics of measurement are meaningful. So many ways for things to go off the rails. Richard Feynman said it most memorably, in his 1974 commencement address at Caltech:

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool."

Having common sense-level integrity and meeting that principle is not, however, sufficient to add to the store of human knowledge. There is "a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you're maybe wrong, that you ought to have," Feynman said, "when acting as a scientist," hoping that that's what the graduates at Caltech were aspiring to do.

And yes, for as dismal as it may be, economics is a science; a very difficult science, in fact.

16.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Follow the money Permalink to this item

Early in my corporate career, someone mailed me a survey with a dollar bill inside, as incentive to fill it out. Since I didn't care to do that, I took the trouble to send it back in the return envelope. When I told the story to one of my co-workers, he offered a different strategy: take the dollar and throw the survey away. He convinced me that it was ethical as well as sensible; I had no obligation to the surveyor, and they had no business making a demand on someone else's employee's time. No reason to throw good money after bad, and certainly no reason to throw money away. I was able to use the strategy exactly once after that. It makes me think that mailing out dollar bills might not be a viable long-term business model.

After the recent election, in which many hundreds of millions of dollar bills changed hands without such careful parsing of the ethics, it occurred to me to wonder about the implication that large corporate donors were getting something for their money. For all the many solicitations we received, none of them suggested any sort of quid pro quo could be claimed if I were to "chip in." For the contributions we made, we didn't think to ask "what will we get for this?" or the even more remarkable "here's what we want in return."

As individuals, we're free to throw our money into whatever winds we like, with no one to answer to. Maybe the people who designate corporate political donations are even more detached—it's not their money, after all. But you would think a business would have some sort of "return on investment in mind," wouldn't you?

Kelcie Moseley got local legislators to discuss lobbyist donations and the Idaho Press-Tribune ran it the Sunday before the election, but I don't imagine it swayed many votes in overwhelmingly Republican next-door Canyon County. Maybe they don't read newspapers anymore. But this:

"Every Republican incumbent in Canyon County has taken $100 to $500 this year from Altria Client Services, which is the parent company for Phillip Morris, one of the world’s largest tobacco corporations."

What is big tobacco after in making contributions to Idaho Republican legislators? Did those legislators raise their hands and ask for money, or is Altria just sending money to whomever? Sen. Patti Anne Lodge said she didn't ask, and that she "always use(s) that money for something that’s for kids in an anti-smoking way," after, um, campaign expenses are covered?

The quid pro quo for donations from a payday loan company is a little plainer. Idaho is a great state for their business, what with our highest fraction of minimum wage jobs and the fact that they can and do charge more interest here than any other state, 582% annual interest.

Brandon Hixon says he doesn't like taking money from corporate interests, but hey, he needs money to be successful!

“If people are worried about the money we take from lobbyists, I would encourage them to go out and contribute to their candidates financially,” Hixon said. “If I could raise the amount of money I need to be successful, I would do that in a heartbeat. That would be my preference.”

Freshman Rep. Rick Youngblood, who said he's never had more than a "funny look" when he's stood up to lobbyist said he's immune from influence, but knows others who aren't.

“I know there are legislators that vote every morning based on how the (Idaho) Freedom Foundation says they should vote, and I refuse to pull that kind of stuff,” Youngblood said. “I’m not going to let lobbyists or corporations do that either.”

He does at least nod to the IFF conceit that they're something other than a corporate lobbyist for hire. They're a "non-profit," "educational" organization, don't you know. Educating Idaho legislators how they should vote.

15.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Tell me more Permalink to this item

snow pic

Somebody's game on Facebook found my news feed today, trolled with a big font in an image (a bit of virus all in itself, thanks to the FB's decision to not trouble itself allowing users to format text),

If you could write a note to your younger self, what would you say in only two words?

Choose your words carefully? Hold my beer and watch this? There are plenty of pithy and funny two-word combinations. "Apple $113.08" was one suggestion. Going up? The first time? "Be you." "Take naps." "Love yourself."

Drive carefully. Stay cool. Smile. Be happy! Don't worry.

There are plenty of younger selves on the loose these days, and once in a while I think how I should impart some wisdom in their general direction, but what can you tell kids these days? What would my younger self do with two words of wisdom? "Don't smoke" would have been really good advice, but I wasn't listening.

No way I'm settling for two words. First of all, pay attention.

Wake up.

Be kind.

Enjoy life.

Some rules were meant to be broken. (How do you know which ones?) Learn from your mistakes. Failure's educational. Learn from other people's mistakes.

Keep exploring.

Which makes me wonder which younger self I'm supposed to be talking to. The younger the better if you want some leverage. Some of the people who did share two and more words with me covered a lot of my needs. "You are loved" was a pretty wonderful gift from the get-go.

Habits matter. One of my Stanford profs told all the younger selves prepared to absorb his pithy utterances that "everything matters," which is not what any of us wanted to hear as an answer to the question of what we needed to do to get a good grade.

Keep trying.

Keep learning. Keep loving.

This is a once in a lifetime experience.

14.Nov.14 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The family business Permalink to this item

It's been a lot of years since I worked in it, but the threads are woven through long and cherished memories. My great nephew and great niece have the lead roles, and my brother and his wife have cameos that absurdly understate all that they've built. The Milwaukee Road is a nice touch, as is the model of the 1245 N. Water plant where I played when I was Jack's age.

12.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

La maledizione Permalink to this item

Rigoletto

Opera Idaho's advert for its opening of Rigoletto in two days brought back a variety of memories, from both sides of the proscenium. They reminded me that original title was "The Curse." Given the banner subtitle for the 2014-15 "Season of the Baritone," we might have expected trouble. "The iconic melodrama boasts an action-packed plot, memorably complex characters, and a hit parade of brilliant music," as they say, and for less than the cost of putting it on, you can go see it at the Morrison Center Friday evening at 7:30, or for a Sunday matinee at 2:30.

With some time off recovering from the election, mostly practicing that thing your mother used to say about "if you don't have anything nice to say, shut up," it's hard not to connect the dots between the melodramatic cast of characters with the current political scene, as we live out the curse of remembering the past but finding ourselves repeating our mistakes and reelecting incumbents. Butch Otter's third term, really? There's a price to be paid for this, as the third act of the "fatally flawed" contracting for the Idaho Education Network unravels.

The plot is more complicated than could be squeezed into an evening at the opera, but with those same baritonic underpinnings: greed, treachery, family and good old boy connections in high places and so on. Kevin Richert reported that taxpayers were out $11.4 million after the feds refused to pay their 75% share of the bad deal. And there will be more bills coming due. Most of a $million for the state's lawyer, and the still to-be-adjudicated damages to the company that got cheated. The Governor insists that the "legal decision does not detract from the value of the IEN," which, sure, nobody said a bad word about having broadband in schools, did they? Having the contract for your "proudest achievement" declared null and void isn't as bad as having your daughter murdered (whoops—spoiler alert!), but it's some stale champagne to toast the start of Otter's third term.

9.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Fly some friendly skies Permalink to this item

8:00 am flight, up earlier than we wanted to be, everything working pretty well and about the time the attendants are wheeling the drink cart down the aisle, gal makes an announcement there's no coffee on the plane.

Excuse me?

Sorry we forget to tell you before we left!

Legroom for sale or rent

The crowd took it pretty calmly, because at that point, what are you going to do? We've been conditioned to expect the very least they can do, and they're delivering to expectations. No one expects any food any more. There was water, at least, and some carbonated sugar water. "Free!" Our roll-aboards are defunct: 2" too tall. Not so many full-sized airplanes coming into Boise any more. The people aren't getting any smaller but the overhead bins are, and did we mention you have to pay to check a bag?

Damned if you do and damned if you don't. Under the circumstances, we packed a little skimpier in some soft-sided bags and crammed to fit, well-coordinated with the spacing of the back seats. "From" $69, each, they might be able to adjust us up in that department too, but we did not inquire. Some lucky frequent travelers probably got to stretch their legs an extra 6" with a courtesy upgrade. That would be glamorous, don't you think?

On the way home, they did have coffee, as usual, the flight left on time and arrived on time (as had the outbound one), and best of all for us (if not United), it was only about half full. The precious seats with extra legroom did not all get sold; but to maintain class discipline, the gate agents didn't move anyone forward, and no one tried to cross the line after the door was closed.

The staff was happier, the passengers were happier, but maybe the people who watch the bottom line were grumpy. As I got off the plane, and thanked the flight attendant (and captain) by the front door, she smiled and said "welcome home," making the easy guess that I was more Boisean than Chicagoan, and making the arrival just a little more pleasant.

6.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Not feeling all that cooperative Permalink to this item

First, Richard Viguerie was all fiddle-dee-dee about how all Republicans ran and won as born-again conservatives, and since they want to pretend to be like him, they ought to do what he tells them, right? "The GOP has an obligation and mandate to undo, obstruct and oppose Obama's policies" was the subhead. And just to be perfectly clear, today's "Hot Comments" includes a selection of pull quotes, starting with

“No Republican ran on a platform of cooperation, conciliation and compromise with President Obama.”

Which, yes, is kind of what we expected, but so soon? We're not going to bask in the make-believe of an Obama, Boehner and McConnell Alice in Wonderland tea party?

Forget that, it's a mandate baby. Click through to the RWNJ post-election press con with leaders from Citizens United, ForAmerica, Susan B. Anthony List (Susan would be rolling over in her grave), Tea Party Patriots and in the inestimable Family Research Council. If you dare.

5.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

One good idea came through Permalink to this item

Timothy Egan: Election 2014: Gun Sense. He mentions the yet another school shooting in Washington state last month, and just before the election, but not how much of a role it played in passing I-594, the ballot measure "designed to keep felons, the mentally ill, people under certain kinds of restraining orders and others from buying weapons through unlicensed dealers — mainly gun shows and through the Internet."

It's a political "no-brainer" according to him, with popular support for universal background checks north of 90%. Just as long as this sort of thing isn't connected to any particular candidate who can be personally defeated by the industry and its self-promotion machine. And it overcame deliberate interference in the form of a competing initiative, to block expanded background checks if they go beyond the nearly nonexistent federal standards. "See, they’re all for states rights ... until they aren’t."

But I-594 didn't pass 9-to-1; more like 60-40 (with an even narrower margin of defeat for I-591). So it's possible but not a foregone conclusion. Now that Idaho's legislature and governor have raised the bar for citizen initiatives and referenda, don't expect to see anything of the sort in this state.

More on ACHD Permalink to this item

No Traffic Signs

It seems that District 4's new Commissioner-elect may have a "Ronulan" bent. "I expect him to try to privatize all roads so we can pay tolls to a private company every mile or two," joked one Facebook friend. You couldn't tell that or much of anything else from his "Elect Kent" campaign website. The Issues page says "Coming soon." Why I am Running proceeds in the third person under that headline to talk about "less government" and how ineffective, wasteful and squabbling the ACHD is now, and his plan to bring "conservative, common-sense principles" to the Commission.

One of his two endorsements was from the Fairview Business Coaltion, unhappy about "the process we business owners were subjected to." Which, sure, OK, but Fairview Ave. runs through Districts 2 and 5. The Idaho Association of General Contractors was the other for Goldthorpe, and for Bob Bruce (who turned out to be an also-ran in District 3, incidentally containing the east end of Fairview), as "pro-business leaders" who "you will find to be trusted friends that we can work with."

Please send him money and write “Idaho AGC” in the subject line [sic] on the bottom of your check to help the candidates track contributions more effectively. Because what are friends for if you can't keep track of them?

The Idaho Statesman editorial board liked Goldthorpe because "The Meridian Parks & Recreation Commissioner speaks our language," that being the cute pun in a headline, apparently. "ACHD should not be a roadblock to businesses in this county." Recent flaps will "become a thing of the past." Yay.

Don't blame Ada County Permalink to this item

At least not as much as some places. With 100% of the precincts counted as of 6:34 AM, the unofficial results show 62.5% turnout (not great, but well above the national average for midterm elections in the low 40s), and about 30% of the state's total votes cast here. The Democratic candidates for the 2nd Congressional district, Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer and Superintendent of Public Instruction all ahead, and all but the Treasurer's race by wide margins.

The western half of the county leans far right though, and the biggest disappointment in our household is that hard-working Steve Berch appears to have lost to incumbent Lynn Luker, late of the failed freedom for religious bigotry legislation.

The Coroner candidate endorsed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio lost, so that's something. Rebecca Arnold and Mitch Jaurena will be gone from the Ada Co. Highway District, replaced by Paul Woods (the Boise mayor's pick) and Kent Goldthorpe, and Sam Hoagland will make a fine judge, as will Emily Walton make a fine Trustee for the College of Western Idaho, winning her three-way race with a commanding 63% of 87,000 votes cast.

The unnecessary HJR 2 Constitutional amendment didn't pass muster in the county (or the state, as it happens), and the Boise City fire bond passed easily with over 76% approval.

Statewide, the unofficial results from the outgoing Secretary of State's office as of 9:17 am show a Republican sweep, right down to the incredible, you've got to be kidding me, "you betcha" and very worst statewide candidate I can remember in my almost 40 years here, Sherri Ybarra, 217,014 (50.7%) to 211,291 (49.3%).

Update: Local results from on the ground up north show who can be blamed for Ybarra winning in a squeaker (and oh my what a nice big hug from Governor Butch): Kootenai County's margin for Ybarra was 9,016 votes, 50% more than her statewide edge. It could be something in the water, you know.

Update #2: Checking Facebook, I see that Rebecca Arnold will not be leaving the ACHD (and she represents our district, ugh).

The day after Permalink to this item

The "Progressive Breakfast" email from Campaign for America's Future has a selection of meat and potatoes with cold, lumpy gravy. It starts with Robert Borosage's Debacle: Get ready for the real fight and the presumptive Senate Majority leader, who I expect to keep seeing more than I want to in the next couple years (not counting his appearances on The Daily Show, which are always funny).

"Mitch McConnell, who drove the Republican strategy to obstruct every Obama initiative to paint him a failure, now warbles the soothing tones of bipartisan cooperation. Republicans made election night conversions from negative partisans to claim a mandate for bold, pro-jobs policies.

"Any “cooperation” will be on their terms. They will invite the president to join in corporate tax “reform” that will lower corporate tax burdens, in cutting back Social Security or lifting the retirement age, in budgets that savage the vulnerable and lard the Pentagon, in ruinous trade deals that undermine American workers. They’ll champion “repatriation” of the dough that corporations have stashed abroad to pay for infrastructure, handing multinationals a massive tax break and an incentive for even more tax avoidance."

Of course, the "cooperation" has been on Republican (and McConnell's) terms for the last four years already: do what we want or we will obstruct everything, up to and including shutting down the government. Borosage supposes that "frustration with a recovery that most people haven't enjoyed" ruled the day, and "the Republican theme was to blame President Obama and tie Democrats to him, arousing their base." As David Letterman put it,

“Take a look at this: gas under $3 a gallon – under $3 a gallon. Unemployment under 6%, whoever thought? Stock market breaking records every day. No wonder the guy is so unpopular.”

And now what? Blame it on Democrats being too liberal? Can't hardly "return to the center," given how far we've already lurched to the right. (The "center" is now to your left, sir.) Borosage's hopeful note is pie in the sky for at least two years:

"There is a populist majority waiting to be forged. Majorities will rally for full-employment economics, for fair taxes on the rich and the corporations, investment in rebuilding the country and educating the children, strengthening retirement security, making college affordable, lifting the minimum wage, curbing CEO excess, empowering workers, guaranteed paid family leave, paid sick days and paid vacations, balanced trade to make things in America again, taking on the corruption of our politics by big money, investment in new energy and innovation that will create jobs and more."

Politico: Big win for conservative money. "Conservatives tweaked their playbook to spend bigger and earlier to crush tea party insurgents and define Democratic candidates."

Bloomberg Politics on the demographics: The Senior Citizen Sweep.

Norm Ornstein sees a civil war in the Republican party looming, after they conclude that their strategy—"Obstruct what Obama wants, delegitimize him—was their "formula for victory."

"[A] good portion of the base is going to say, “See? We won without having to do anything on immigration, without having to do anything to reach out to minorities, single women, young people, the growth areas in the electorate. We just keep on doing what we’ve been doing and we’re going to be in great shape.”

The question about "returning to the grand bargain" is darkly funny, given that we never came close to that, and that the older people who are the most reliable voters "thinks we should slash government" but not Medicare and Social Security.

But repealing Obamacare, that'll definitely be on the agenda, even though it seems absurdly unlikely that could happen over Obama's power to veto, which is surely about to get some exercise.

Election Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Yes we did Permalink to this item

We voted

Emily Walton for CWI Trustee Permalink to this item

On the way over to our polling place, I had the thought that if we somehow arranged to eliminate party designations on ballots in Idaho, the 80/20 lead Republicans have been enjoying of late (even as they continue to imagine election fraud is a really important issue, go figure that) would probably drop to 50/50 in a heartbeat. What, no (R), who do I vote for?!

Emily Walton for CWI Trustee

The election for one of the College of Western Idaho trustees has Stan Bastian unopposed. The other one has a decision to make, and based on all I know about her, I'm 100% behind Emily Walton. The lack of expressed fervor here on the blog in the past weeks and months is my oversight, never mind that.

No, really. You've got to be kidding me. Permalink to this item

As James Kent put it for Facebook:

"ZOMG! She goes for full on Caribou Barbie. There it is, people. Unless you get votes for Jana today, $arah Palin will be in charge of education in Idaho. Did someone ask Ybarbie what newspapers she reads?"

"She" being Sherri Ybarra, a.k.a. Sherri Ybarra for Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction, reporting the long-awaited winning "Catchphrases" (if not the winners) from her contest, at precisely 8:00 MST:

1st Place - Ybarra, You Betcha!
Runner Up - Yearn to Learn
Runner Up - Creating a Better Future, Today.

So, um, remember that when you're voting today.

3.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Say when Permalink to this item

By far the funniest (as in good clean fun, and combined you've got to be kidding me incredulosity) element of this election season was when Sherri Ybarra announced that she was having a "catchphrase" contest for her campaign middle of last month (with a reminder to "do your own work"). That was jolly for a few minutes and a day or two of locally viral sharing in social media, but that died down and/or was superceded by the revelation hit parade. On October 26 (between "it's not quite a doctorate" and "I'm not quite Educator of the Year"), she posted to her tightly-patrolled Facebook page that "winners have been chosen...and will be announced soon!"

Oct. 27, Bruce Twitchell asked "Soon?"

Oct. 29, Paul Hemenway wondered "Have I missed the announcement of the winners for the catchphrase contest?" and two days later wondered if there really were any winners, and by the way, what about the prizes that were offered? "I don't understand how if the winners were chosen 5 days ago they still haven't been posted. :-(" The candidate responded:

Sherri Ybarra for Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction There sure are winners Paul Hemenway! Just waiting on a couple of issues. Will be announced very soon! Thank you for your patience! :-)
October 31 at 9:30am

Dan Enright I think she's going to borrow one from Janet Jones on election day.
October 31 at 4:52pm

Paul Hemenway So tomorrow is election day. I'm confused what good a campaign slogan is if you don't even announce it until the day before elections, that is providing you actually announce a winner today.
3 hours ago

Cindy Myers Tonight? Tomorrow is election day. Who announces a campaign slogan the night before the election?
2 hours ago

Sherri Ybarra for Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Paul Hemenway. Correction, we will be announcing the catchphrase winners tomorrow morning at 8am. Again, thank you for your participation, feedback, and creativity! Have a great day.
2 hours ago

Matt Compton Who won?
about an hour ago

Was that a last-minute catchphrase entry from Matt Compton, or is he asking about the prizes? At any rate, time check, tomorrow morning at 8am MST, polls open in southern Idaho, and at 8am PST, they open in northern Idaho. Better late than never! Plenty of catchy phrases are still being offered as possibilities:

"Don't forget to vote!"

"I found my polling place, how 'bout you?"

"Am I elected yet?"

"I'm the Republican."

Ouch. Toni Sutton: If she wins, I assume it will be "Boy, are Idaho voters stupid."

One other unanswered question Permalink to this item

Just how bad does a Republican candidate in Idaho have to be to lose a statewide or semi-statewide race? Never mind Congress, where Idaho is prepared to fully endorse the last N years of partisan gridlock and Obama Derangement Syndrome. We have at least three important races that will tell the tape, and not coincidentally, they're the three the Idaho Republican State Central Committee threw its weight behind last month.

enough is enough

All three are at risk of defeat, I should think. Our incumbent Governor wants a third term for some reason, and in spite of a sorry history of scandals resolved and yet to be resolved. (At least he's still fighting against teh gay marriage, whatever it may cost taxpayers.) He survived—just barely—a Tea Party-ish challenge from the extremer right in the primary, but big John Bujak is standing solid as a happy alternative for those who can't stomach yet another term of Butch but couldn't dream of voting for a Democrat. In addition to the IRSCC's support, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry and the national Republican Governors Association has been spending on Otter's behalf, there's a sarcastic ad campaign pretending to be from Balukoff while hitting all the dog whistle themes, and they've even got Mitt Romney saying nice things about Butch.

The Secretary of State has no incumbent, after 8+ (!) terms of Pete Cenarrusa and 3 of Ben Ysursa, who's retiring this year, and who endorsed Phil McGrane in the four-way primary and then got very quiet when Lawerence Denney got through with 37% (and McGrane came in last). Denney rose up to the top in the Idaho House, before his colleagues had had enough and sat him back down. The nadir of his long list of missteps was when he tried to rejigger the bipartisan redistricting commission after the 2010 census by trying to remove one of his own appointees because she wasn't as keen to gerrymander as he wanted. That case went to court, unbelievably, and yes, he lost. (The inestimable Christ T. Troupis was attorney for the petitioners in Lawerence Denney, Speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives, and Norm Semanko, Chairman of the Idaho Republican Party vs. Ben Ysursa, Secretary of the State of Idaho.)

Holli Woodings, the Democratic candidate is a relative newcomer, served one term in the state House, but she's smart and capable and has done a good job of identifying her opponent's considerable shortcomings, including his self-serving perservation of a "special provision" that allows longtime members of the legislature to get a huge spike in their pension if they obtain a full-time state job. Denney stands to go from $500/mo. to a generous $3,600/mo for the rest of his life, with only a single term as Secretary, a happy outcome he helped arrange by single-handedly killing a 2012 bill that would have eliminated the loophole, when he was Speaker of the House. Not that newspaper endorsements are flawless (see Jim Risch, Idaho Statesman, below), but the Statesman, Idaho Press-Tribune and Magic Valley Times News all picked the supposedly inexperienced Woodings over the all-too-experienced "Boss" Denney.

And last, and least, the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction, another four-way GOP primary delivering a surprise winner with nearly no campaign, and no political history. Sherri Ybarra was not so much a dark horse as a pink unicorn. Her mysteries unraveled in a stranger-than-fiction series of revelations from the most personal (losing track of a husband) to the most basic civic participation (not voting).

Despite all we (should) know, survey says... Otter and Denney cruise to victory, keeping our good old boy network humming in spite of the expensive and continuing damage. The race for Super is a dead-heat, however, as a "survey of 1,001 likely voters with landlines who answer unsolicited calls and press buttons for pollsters" shows with a margin of error three times the sampled difference. Imagine that: one candidate with relevant qualifications and experience and a history serving in the administration, and the other candidate with a fudged résumé, a plagiarized website, made-up awards and made-up endorsements, and oh did we mention that she's hardly ever voted in her adult life? (She's ready to make amends if we all vote her into the job with the six-figure salary.) As Gary Crooks put it for the Spokesman-Review, Idaho voters face the Ybarra test:

"If Ybarra, a Republican, is elected, it will be a teachable moment for us all: Party affiliation trumps common sense."

The end is near Permalink to this item

ICYMI, Election Day is tomorrow. The local newspaper's letters section, where everybody can have their tiny say once every 30 days, has been overflowing with expressions of support and anti-support. Mine was apparently in the "more" wave on Saturday. Keep it short, and sweet.

While Senator Risch has done some things for and to the state of Idaho over the years, his current "seniority" doesn't make much of a case for his re-election. A piece of duct tape over the "NO" button would do the same job he's been doing. Let's elect someone who's actually interested in working for us. Vote for Nels Mitchell.

Other supporters included Virginia Hemingway ("We need a senator working for the benefit of all Idahoans: Nels Mitchell. Nels has integrity and the ability to build consensus. The gridlock in Congress must end. The U.S. Senate needs Nels' fair-minded ideals."), Charles Bauer ("Idaho deserves to have representation for all our citizens, wealthy or not."), Connie Collins ("Nels Mitchell - knowledgeable about issues, consensus builder, respectful, a listener...") and Marcia Pursley ("Of all the Idaho legislators I worked with between 1974-1982, there is only one whose word I could not trust: state Sen. Jim Risch.")

In his own words, Jim Risch: There's nothing happening when we're back there and there's nothing happening when we're not back there. What's the difference?

On Sunday, Jim Risch bought half of the front page of the "Insight" section and used it to reprint the Idaho Statesman's endorsement of him, which might be summarized as "yes, he's been a really poor Senator, but at least he'll have seniority!" Nothing quite like a full-color expression of mutual back-scratching: we'll give you the business Jim, and thanks for returning the favor.

If you've been watching the coverage of contested races across the country, you haven't seen Idaho colored anything but ruby red. RealClearPolitics, for example has Risch in the dozen "safe races" for Republicans, to no one's surprise. If all 8 of the races they show as "Toss Ups" were to go Republican, they'd get a 55-45 majority in the Senate and the mirror version of what we have now. Stay tuned for a show of Harry Reid's power as Minority Leader, which I imagine would be every bit as obstreperous as Mitch McConnell's interminable term in that role has been. There will be wailing from new directions about "partisan gridlock."

Oh where is the seldom heard from independent, persuadable voter, interested in the issues, integrity, fairness, new ideas? We do not know.

2.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

More on debate Permalink to this item

Still simmering over that debate between Idaho's candidates for Governor. Looking at some of the high/lowlights, there was the cute line John Bujak had ready for the first question about his personal battles with the legal system.

"I'm surprised that I get the questions about scandals, with Governor Otter standing next to me," he said. And the loveable punchline for the libertarians in the audience: "I've taken on the federal government, and the state government, and I've won."

But let's get back to one of the biggest scandals of Otter's tenure, the demise of the Corrections Corporation of America's running the state's prison system when it was discovered they were billing for staff they didn't actually provide. We don't know how much they cheated the state, but in negotiations that Otter stayed out of (as a recipient of campaign donations from CCA, he "recused" himself), we know the state and the company settled for $1 million, before all the facts of the matter were known to the state, or the public, at least. (Who knows what CCA knows?)

"That [settlement] contract is not final," the Governor insisted, after also insisting that he wasn't part of the negotiations and doesn't know whether or not the $1M settlement (of the larger number he wanted to pretend it was for, counting a foregone inflationary increase in CCA's rate) was "fair." (He wasn't part of the negotiations because the Corrections Corporation of America was one of his campaign donors.)

That was after he insisted that veteran reporter Betsy Russell was "wrong on the one million, first off." "Check your FOIA." The settlement was "well in excess of a million dollars." Russell tried to figure out what he was talking about, and he looked at her and said "so what would the settlement be?" In other words, he doesn't know, but he told her she was wrong, "first off." Whatever.

"So is 1.3 million a fair settlement?" Russell asked, trying to get Otter to answer the pretty direct question she'd originally posed, and giving him the number he wanted.

"I do not know," he said, flatly. He'll know better when the FBI finishes their investigation.

A.J. pushed back on the Governor's ultimate responsibility in the matter. What would he have done differently, Kevin Richert asked? He said he would have done the investigation first, "The Governor's just said he didn't know if 1.3 million dollars was a fair settlement or not." Otter insisted on a rebuttal, out of turn, "because it's only fair,"

Screen shot from the video of the debate

"Because A.J. knows different." [wagging his finger on each word.] "A.J. knows—if he's done his homework—he knows that that contract is not final. That negotiation is not final. If there is anything found out in the forensic investigation, in the forensic audit, and he's an auditor!" [waving his hand, wrinkling his face in the distress it caused him to say this!] "He oughta know better! To make a statement like that, shame on you A.J., you know better than that."

A.J. laughed at the audacity, "Governor, wait a minute."

"If the FBI comes up with something, then all bets are off!" Otter finished.

In the meantime, the shame is mostly on the Governor who led us into this privation with one of his campaign donors, and hasn't actually done his own homework, and seems to have a gambling problem besides. Remediation will start with actually comprehending the settlement agreement the state has already made. "The Parties desire to finally and fully resolve all disputed claims arising out of the staffing discrepancies," it says.

These are a few of my favorite stills Permalink to this item

Shared by one of Bujak's supporters who was taking pictures from the live audience.

From the Idaho Governor debate, Oct., 2014

1.Nov.2014 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Another rollicking gubernatorial debate Permalink to this item

A.J. Balukoff for Governor

Not nearly as much fun as the one for the Republican primary back in May, but this one between the incumbent, C.L. "Butch" Otter, Democrat A.J. Balukoff, and Libertarian John Bujak, had its moments, mostly the ones with Butch Otter being rude and confrontational with both of his opponents, and with the three experienced reporters asking questions.

Otter started with a breathtaking braggadocio about the state of Idaho "leading the nation out of the Great Recession." Say wha? Our big state isn't all that populated, and its GDP ranks somewhere in the 40s, perhaps about 4 tenths of a percent of the country's total. That would be some mean feat of leading from the rear.

After Betsy Russell of the Spokesman-Review outlined Otter's (rather abysmal) performance on his stated three top priorities, and asked why voters should expect anything better from a third term, he accepted the challenge by some weird personal tack:

"I don't know how long you've been reporting in Idaho..."

Memory trouble, Governor? It should seem like she's been around as long as you can remember, shouldn't it? She's the President of the Idaho Press Club, for one thing, and has been reporting for the Spokesman-Review and the Idaho Statesman before that for 23 years-ish. That'd be most of your time as Lieutenant Governor, and all of it in the U.S. House and the Governor's office.

Later, he tried to throw questions back at her instead of answering the ones she posed, and his "you're wrong" approach didn't pan out in the fact check. Apparently his debate coach's advice was "if you feel defensive, get offensive." And "lean into Bujack, and wave your arms at him." And if A.J. says something you don't like, try "Shame on you." "...and you know better than that, Rocky," Otter scolded the Statesman's veteran reporter, Rocky Barker at one point.

The most embarrassing moment was when he tried to deflect the criticism about the Idaho Educational Network bidding scandal by first insisting "there was only one bidder," as if Idaho's Supreme Court had not ruled that the contract was illegal. Otter tried to change the subject to Bujak's child support payment problems, thinks he’s won the day, and Bujak calmly swats him down.

"Yeah, you know, we’re not talkin about a month of child support, we’re talkin about millions of dollars the taxpayers in the state of Idaho are having to pay because of your incompetence."

Otter, back behind his podium, said "I’m corrected." And quite well, I might add.

While he was out from behind his podium and leaning over in to Bujak's territory, the camera only emphasized how much larger and powerful (and calm, and in control) Bujak seemed. In a bar fight, Bujak would drop Otter like a bad habit.

And on it went. Otter was rather remarkably confrontational, emotional, rude, gesticulating and not acting the least bit like an executive. Does he think he’s entitled to keep his position just because he's Republican? I can see why so many of his fellow party members are tired of him.

Otter's response to our state's dubious distinction of having a greater fraction of minimum wage jobs than the rest of the states was to position it as some sort of family values. Our families all pull together, by golly. We just need to have more families with 9 kids who can work their way up the ladder by marrying a billionaire’s daughter. Balukoff's incredulous reponse:

"Governor Otter, are you recommending that parents put their kids to work to make ends meet, is that your economic plan?"

When it came time to discuss the same-sex marriage issue, in which the 9th Circuit put the kibosh on Idaho's Constitutional declaration, Otter sneered that "Frankly, A.J. doesn’t understand this," rambled on and finally recited the 10th amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the conservative and Tea Party ne plus ultra.

Balukoff responded that he was talking about the 14th amendment, that one with the equal protection of the laws, don't you know. Is Otter the one who "frankly doesn’t understand" or is his ignorance feigned? Either way, it wasn't a good performance. Anyone paying attention would have to agree, this man does not deserve a third term as Governor.

raveling

Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007