Saturday, October 31, 2009
I suppose the only thing stranger in the Idaho State Journal today is a story about Pete Peterson who is running against Butch Otter. On the strange-o-meter, his campaign is almost as bizarre as Rex Rammel's. Almost...
From time to time I read the official Google blog and find some of the things Google is doing absolutely fascinating. This week, the Google blog featured news on how they are trying to make searching for music online a little bit easier and hopefully more effective. Now when you do a search for music, you will find audio previews of those songs provided by Google, mySpace, iLike and Lala. How cool is that? Not only will it be easier to find the music you're looking for, Google has partnered with Pandora, Rhapsody and imeem to help users discover music they might enjoy based on their searches. Very cool.
Blue Moose Democrat has a great synopsis of the uphill battle Congressman Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) faces when re-election time rolls around. He points to a piece at MyDD that discusses the numbers Randy Stapilus first presented several months ago in respect to conservatism among northwestern members of congress. It will be interesting to see what comes of the Republican primary for the 1st CD seat, as it stands now Vaughn Ward is raising quite a bit of money while Ken Roberts is piling up endorsements. It will be interesting to see in coming weeks how the IDP and progressives across the state react when Minnick votes against health care reform and other progressive legislation that will come to the floor of the House. It isn't impossible for a Blue Dog Democrat to vote for health care reform that contains a public option (or "socialized medicine" as Minnick likes to call it). In fact, two fairly prominent Blue Dogs will be voting in favor of the public option--Congresswomen Jane Harman (D-California) and Loretta Sanchez (D-California).
News out of the executive branch--this week the White House released visitor logs containing information on those who have had meetings with senior staff and the administration from the time of Obama's inauguration through July. This was good news for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), an organization that has been asking the White House for these logs since July and earlier. It has been a busy week for CREW with the release of missing White House emails, the 2004 transcript of the interview of Dick Cheney by Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald in the CIA leak case that outted Valerie Plame and sent Cheney's aid to prison, and the huge news of leaked documents regarding ongoing House ethics investigations of individual members of congress. Seems like visitor logs are small potatoes, but this is a huge victory for ethics and history.
At the top of the hour my kid brother is playing in a state playoff game here at Holt Arena. Best wishes to the boy that just got over the swine flu!
I have piles of information for upcoming posts (a few on Congressman Minnick, one on my completion of the complete Cantos of Ezra Pound, and probably a few others), but I don't have a plan of attack as of yet. And I'll hopefully update my reading list and blogroll soon. You'd think I could get these things accomplished while I am spending so much time not sleeping lately...
Saturday tunes (all but ended now as I've been watching Animal Planet non-stop with my older brother) include the great song I spotlighted in yesterday's TGIF Tunes, Train's newest songs "Breakfast In Bed" and "Parachute," and Lee Ann Womack's "Have You Seen That Girl?"
Thursday, October 29, 2009
..."[T]ime and again we've been reminded of the difficulty of building a nation in which we're all free to live and love as we see fit. But the cause endured and the struggle continued, waged by the family of Matthew Shepard, by the family of James Byrd, by folks who held vigils and led marches, by those who rallied and organized and refused to give up, by the late Senator Ted Kennedy who fought so hard for this legislation, and all who toiled for years to reach this day.-- Excerpt from remarks given by President Barack Obama yesterday at a reception in the East Room of the White House commemorating the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed this week, just over eleven years after the beating death of Matthew Shepard.
"You understood that we must stand against crimes that are meant not only to break bones, but to break spirits -- not only to inflict harm, but to instill fear. You understand that the rights afforded every citizen under our Constitution mean nothing if we do not protect those rights -- both from unjust laws and violent acts. And you understand how necessary this law continues to be.
"And that's why, through this law, we will strengthen the protections against crimes based on the color of your skin, the faith in your heart, or the place of your birth. We will finally add federal protections against crimes based on gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. (Applause.) And prosecutors will have new tools to work with states in order to prosecute to the fullest those who would perpetrate such crimes. Because no one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hands of the person they love. No one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are or because they live with a disability."
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Bobby Jindal was the poster boy for stimulus hypocrisy. That is until Congressman Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) "lauded" an announcement by the White House today that the U.S. Departments of Treasury and Energy were awarding $2.2 billion in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds to 805 recipients across the country, a list that includes Idaho Power and the Spokane-based Avista Utilities. The Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) are funded by the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
In simple English, the money being awarded that Minnick is praising today as "great news for Idaho" and is proudly attributing to the hard work of the Idaho delegation, is stimulus money.
Why does it matter if the money comes from stimulus funds? Because Walt Minnick and every other member of the Idaho delegation voted against the stimulus plan. Not only did Walt Minnick vote against the stimulus bill, he consistently votes against earmarks as a way of stating that he is a principled fiscal conservative and does not believe the role of government to include handouts of any sort...
...That is, unless those handouts are beneficial to the state he hails from and beneficial to the constituents who elected him.
What's the difference between Congressman Minnick and his counterpart here in the second district, Mike Simpson? Congressman Simpson voted against the stimulus on party lines and doesn't masquerade as a fiscal conservative when it is convenient. Simpson routinely "brings home the pork" and doesn't pretend to be against earmarks. Where you might catch Simpson being against the stimulus before he was for it, you will never catch Mike Simpson refusing government funds if he thinks it will benefit his district. When the TEA Party protests were in full swing in this state, the protesters praised Minnick for his stand against the stimulus plan and they made it very clear that they do not appreciate the earmarks Simpson constantly secures for the state, but you didn't hear one of them saying they didn't like the money the federal government is pouring into the INL and other southern Idaho projects. The difference between Walt Minnick and Mike Simpson? Mike Simpson doesn't pretend to be something he is not.
Will we be seeing Congressman Minnick arrive at Avista with a poster-sized check for $20 million and at Idaho Power with a check for $47 million? Best guess? Bobby Jindal better watch his back, his position as poster-boy for stimulus hypocrisy may very well be on Minnick's radar.
I noticed Kevin Richert's defense of Senators Crapo & Risch in regard to the Franken Amendment and not only wanted to call bullshit, but also thought how unfortunate that yet another white man is willing to join the fray, the fray that would rather side with big government contractors than actual rape victims. Calling bullshit for the rest of us, Wordsmith takes Richert and the rest of the defenders of the thirty members of the United States Senate who cast this despicable vote to task, and good on her for doing so. It's about time someone points out the flawed reasoning. Don't think Wordsmith's way of going about this is the most respectable, fine, go read what Sisyphus has to say, he's a little less crass, but just as on point as Wordsmith.
Monday, October 26, 2009
"I anticipate 15 (percent) of the population still refusing* to buy coverage. Incidentally, that is essentially the same percentage who refuse to purchase auto insurance even though it is mandated by law."
(*Editor's Note: Emphasis on 'refusing' my own, Sen. Cameron apparently doesn't understand that the poor in Idaho aren't refusing anything--how can you refuse something that is beyond financial reach?)
Saturday, October 24, 2009
"The play is a sequel to The Laramie Project, which was based on the reactions of people in Laramie, Wyo., after Shepard, a 21-year-old gay college student, was murdered there in 1998. The new production revisits the townspeople a decade later and also portrays an interview with one of Shepard's killers."
42. S.AMDT.2631 to H.R.2847 To redirect funding of the National Science Foundation toward practical scientific research
Sponsor: Sen Coburn, Tom [OK] (introduced 10/7/2009) Cosponsors (None)
Latest Major Action: 10/13/2009 Senate amendment proposed (on the floor)
Thursday, October 22, 2009
ISU administration showing complete disregard for facultyAppeared in the Idaho State Journal 10/18/2009
By Leonard Hitchcock
Idaho State University Provost Gary Olson now writes a regular column for the ISJ. In his columns, he has told us much about research activities in various academic departments. What Dr. Olson has not yet told us — though he could — is why there’s such trouble at the university.
The public is now aware of a series of incidents in which the ISU administration has taken actions that were clumsy, ill-advised and often embarrassing to the institution. It dismissed several long-time employees in the Idaho Museum of Natural History without good cause, and restructured that institution in such a way that it’s now unclear whether or not it will be able to carry out its official mission. It half-heartedly went through the motions of consulting with faculty about a new workload policy, then enacted its own very different policy, without seeking the faculty’s consent. It dismissed a physics professor from his department chair post, alleging that he had put the university in legal danger, when there is clear evidence that he had consulted with the administration and been given a go-ahead for his actions. It is now attempting to fire an engineering professor because he was insufficiently deferential when criticizing administrative actions and policies, and has actually barred him from campus. It has imposed upon the university a development plan that emphasizes research and threatens to degrade the instructional excellence that has distinguished ISU among its peers.
Incidents such as these, taken individually, might be written off as no more than typical managerial mistakes, of the kind that employees in any bureaucracy are well acquainted with. But in this case, there is more going on. A public university is a peculiar institution. Its core work force is made up of professionals (the faculty). In that respect it’s a bit like a hospital. But it’s also like a corporation in that its management has final authority regarding most policy and operational matters. In the world of academia, the tradition is that universities engage in what’s called “shared governance.” That means that there is a division of authority within the institution: Roughly speaking, things that have to do with the academic functions of the university, e.g. teaching, research, scheduling classes, hiring and evaluating faculty, are under the control of the faculty, whereas things having to do with the “business” side of the operation, e.g. facilities, maintenance, finances, student services, etc. are controlled by the administration.
Shared governance gives the faculty an important role in decision-making, and that’s as it should be. They, and they alone, provide the services that are the raison d’être of the university. They alone possess the subject knowledge and the teaching and research skills that bring clients to the institution. They alone interact with that clientele on a daily basis. Hence, just as patients’ interests are better served when physicians participate in administrative decision-making in hospitals, so students are benefited when their professors have a role in governing the university.
It must be recognized, however, that throughout the history of higher education there has been hostility between faculties and administrations. That is in large part because a university administration, like any managerial body, believes implicitly in its own wisdom, and would prefer to operate without interference from its employees. To counteract this inclination, and make shared governance possible, there must be rules that create a balance of power between the administration and the faculty. That’s why faculty have traditionally been given certain rights, most importantly tenure and “academic freedom,” and mechanisms by which they are assured of participation in university governance, such as, in ISU’s case, a faculty senate.
But such measures are often insufficient. The intrinsic power of an administration is so great that, ultimately, shared governance will exist only if the administration wants it to. At ISU, that does not seem to be the case. Over the past six months, this administration has significantly eroded faculty authority and expanded its own control of the institution. To do so, it has threatened the careers of critics, used its power over finances, including salaries, to intimidate faculty, and turned department chairpersons, who are meant to be mediators between faculty and administration, into agents of the administration. It has largely ignored the Faculty Senate’s official channel for policy input, the Faculty Senate Advisory Council, and created an alternative consultative group, the Provost’s Advisory Council, with a faculty membership chosen by the administration. And it has instituted oversight processes, financial and editorial, that have unnecessarily restricted the independence of departments and other units on campus.
The financial difficulties facing higher education in Idaho have been used to both justify and conceal the expansion of administrative power. The State Board of Education recently backed away from proposals purportedly addressing those difficulties that would have empowered administrations to abrogate faculty contracts even when no official “financial exigency” had been declared. But it didn’t reject expanding administrative authority in principle; it merely said that the proposals “needed work” (ISJ, 10/14/09). In other words, the faculty have dodged one bullet. That doesn’t mean the fight is over.
(Reprinted with the permission of the author)
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
"AT ABOUT THIS POINT the weak-hearted reader usually sits down in the road, removes his shoes and weeps that he 'is a bad linguist' or that he or she can't possibly learn all those languages. One has to divide the readers who want to be experts from those who do not, and divide, as it were, those who want to see the world from those who merely want to know WHAT PART OF IT THEY LIVE IN."
(Ironically, this is exactly how I am beginning to feel about ever finishing a complete reading of Pound's Cantos. I just want to know which way is up after reading Pound's work.)
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
INSURANCE AGENT: My dear sir, that is a fine house--pray let me insure it.
HOUSE OWNER: With pleasure. Please make the annual premium so low that by the time when, according to the tables of your actuary, it will probably be destroyed by fire I will have paid you considerably less than the face of the policy.
INSURANCE AGENT: O dear, no--we could not afford to do that. We must fix the premium so that you will have paid more.
HOUSE OWNER: How, then, can I afford that?
INSURANCE AGENT: Why, your house may burn down at any time. There was Smith's house, for example which--
HOUSE OWNER: Spare me--there were Brown's house, on the contrary, and Jones's house, and Robinson's house, which--
INSURANCE AGENT: Spare me!
HOUSE OWNER: Let me understand each other. You want me to pay you money on the supposition that something will occur previously to the time set by yourself for its occurrence. In other words, you expect me to bet that my house will not last so long as you say that it will probably last.
INSURANCE AGENT: But if your house burns without insurance it will be a total loss.
HOUSE OWNER: Beg your pardon--by your own actuary's tables I shall probably have saved, when it burns, all the premiums I would otherwise have paid to you--amounting to more than the face of the policy they would have bought. But suppose it to burn, uninsured, before the time upon which your figures are based. If I could not afford that, how could you if it were insured?
INSURANCE AGENT: O, we should make ourselves whole from our luckier ventures with other clients. Virtually, they pay your loss.
HOUSE OWNER: And virtually, then, don't I help to pay their losses? Are not their houses as likely as mine to burn before they have paid you as much as you must pay them? The case stands this way: you expect to take more money from your clients than you pay to them, do you not?
INSURANCE AGENT: Certainly; if we did not--
HOUSE OWNER: I would not trust you with my money. Very well, then. If it is certain, with reference to the whole body of your clients, that they lose money on you it is probable, with reference to any one of them, that he will. It is these individual probabilities that made the aggregate certainty.
INSURANCE AGENT: I will not deny it--but look at the figures in this pamphlet--
HOUSE OWNER: Heaven forbid!
INSURANCE AGENT: You spoke of saving the premiums which you would otherwise pay me. Will you not be more likely to squander them? We offer you an incentive to thrift.
HOUSE OWNER: The willingness of A to take care of B's money is not peculiar to insurance, but as a charitable institution you command esteem. Deign to accept its expression from a Deserving Object.
Source: Bierce, Ambrose. The Devil's Dictionary. New York; Washington: The Neale Publishing Company, 1909.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
There must be a dozen good, new albums out today, but the CD I chose at about 3am this morning (oh, how iTunes has changed my buying habits) is the newest release of the artist known as Five for Fighting. Instead of a quirky, possibly hysterical album from Bowling for Soup (yes, occasionally my taste in music goes there), the folksy sound of Grant-Lee Phillips, or last week's releases from artists like Michael Bublé (with a great cover of "Crazy Love"), Brandi Carlile, Morphine, and Blake Lewis, I went for a CD from a guy that is brilliant on the piano and has solid songwriting credentials.
I couldn't have made a better pick. Here's why:
This afternoon I have found myself in many of the tracks on the new album and have found the general piano greatness to be awfully soothing. Though I have been enjoying my break from this blog and have cut back drastically on the blogs I have been reading, I wouldn't say my time away has been a particularly upbeat period. My personal discouragement, frustration, and in some ways heartache, came to a head last night. This CD is exactly what I needed to ensure today didn't resemble yesterday in any way.
"When life's got you down
and you can't make a sound,
because despair has stolen your song.
Raise up your fist and into the abyss
scream, "coward, get off my lawn!"
There's always a reason to break.
Hope because nothing less
will save the day."
It is amazing how much music can make or break a mood.
Another musical comment, this week there's a great little concert happening in Pocatello. I really appreciate that venues like The Icon are bringing great concerts to Pocatello, so I'll show my excitement for Marcy Playground coming to town Thursday night by sharing this video. The song is "Good Times" and it is from their most recent album, Leaving Wonderland...In A Fit Of Rage (released this past summer). Physically, I'm not up for concerts, but I support them however I can even if that means sharing the information here. I am not only a big fan of bringing concerts to the gate city, I'm a big fan of 90's bands, Marcy Playground being one of them.
Now, this isn't my official jump back into the blogosphere, it might be a few days until I've even thought about a topic long enough to write something worth reading. However, I'll be returning soon and appreciate the patience of those who check daily to see if I've returned from "the abyss."
Thursday, October 8, 2009
"Does he have the respect of the people in Washington, D.C. to get the job done? I question Craig's morality."
-- Dennis Curtis, Burley City Councilman, Comment made during Tuesday night's council meeting regarding Cassia County's retention of the services of former Senator Larry Craig's consulting firm in an effort to bring a medium security prison to the Malta, Idaho area.