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Posts published in October 2012

Earmarks of a very bad marriage

rainey
Barrett Rainey
Second Thoughts

The other day, I overheard someone say the one thing Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan need right now is a “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” as Tammy Wynette used to sing. As someone who’s made more than one trip down the aisle, the comment stuck in my consciousness. Now, 30 days or so out from the election, I not only agree but suggest the principals act quickly.

To say the candidate mating of Ryan to Romney was made in Heaven taxes both my political and religious beliefs. Romney chose Ryan with the far right of his own party holding a white shotgun between his shoulder blades. “It was white for the formal ceremony,” as they used to say. The “outwingers” of whatever base there is left of the Republican Party didn’t start off liking Romney. They still don’t like him all these months later. They trust him even less. So they chose the “bride” to keep an eye on the “groom” as it were.
Let’s take this analogy a few steps further. Let’s also – in a moment of total jest – suppose Romney wins the White House. No, I don’t think that will happen. But play along a minute.

Mitt becomes President. He sits in the Oval Office wondering what to do now. He has no previous relationship with Congress. He’s completely over his head in foreign affairs. His own party doesn’t like him – or trust him. Being a man of good faith, he’s gathered around him the same ignorant staff that served him so poorly in the campaign. There sits a guy with no idea what to do. And outside the fellow billionaires, no friends to speak of.

Now, next door in the old Executive Office Building – (E-O-B as it’s called in Washington) – next door sits Vice President Paul Ryan. I know that’s not likely, but just bear with me a minute. With his years in Congress, he’s created a large phone and computer directory – lobbyists, donors, bundlers, party throwers, committee chairmen and – wait for it – all members of Congress and, more importantly, their staff people who really know how to operate the government. More than that, he can put a face with nearly all the names. He’s got relationships, emails and unlisted phone numbers. Don’t you wish “President” Mitt had one of those files? Well, Paul has. Mitt hasn’t.

Add to this insider’s advantage yet another. The Republican Pro’s – and the base – like him. Trust him. They’re looking to him to keep Mitt – across the street there – on the straight and narrow. Ryan’s their guy. The other guy? Well…….

Now here’s where we get to the real problem. During the campaign, Mitt – er President Romney – had either no positions on issues or every position on issues – depending on the glass half-full, half-empty theory. He had what I charitably call “situational” positions. Name the situation and he’ll come up with a position.

Ryan, on the other hand, comes from the zealot wing of his party. Because he’s a much younger person without some experience to tell him better, he’s got fixed positions on issue after issue which he’ll share at the drop of a Powerpoint. He’s even got an executive budget. Sure, it may be crazy and entirely bogus. But he’s got one. And “President” Mitt doesn’t. More than that, all the Republicans in Congress have a copy. Most of them have already voted for it at least once.

Ryan’s got an abortion position – none – no way – no how – never – for no reason. Romney has had every – pardon the word – conceivable position on abortion. Ryan’s campaigned to privatize both Medicare and Social Security. Romney says he’ll “protect” seniors on Medicare and his jury’s still out on Social Security. Ryan has hardcore positions on issues Mitt still hasn’t developed more than one or two responses for.

The more serious point here is – as far as Congress and party pros in Washington are concerned – Ryan is one of them and Mitt isn’t. Ryan has access to – and relations with – people Romney has yet to meet. Ryan has political partners on Capitol Hill waiting to get on his bandwagon on issues near and dear to all their hearts. Romney doesn’t.

“Oh yes,” you say. “But Mitt is President and Ryan is number two.” That’s a fact. And protocol says the President runs the show. Yeah. Can you say “Dick Cheney” and “George Bush?” Where was the power in that match-up? Whose hand was up whose back?

A President Romney in the White House who, in eight years of running for President, still hasn’t a clue about operation of the executive branch of government. Sitting directly behind him, Ryan, in his 40′s and firmly fixed in both his political status, his youthful zeal for enacting his own agenda and in high favor with the power structure of the far right in Congress and his own political party.. If you were Romney, would you be comfortable? If you were Romney, would you be looking over your shoulder? Would you sleep nights? Is this really be a “marriage made in Heaven?”

As a guy with his own faulty record in the marital bliss department, this Romney-Ryan nuptial looks to me to have more than its share of land mines. I think it’ll take more than counseling. Does the Supreme Court do divorces on the side?

Idaho 100 is out, as is a first review

The new Idaho 100 book by Randy Stapilus and Martin Peterson (see the box and link above) is out and available, as of today.

As is the first review, which dominated Page 1 of the Idaho Statesman today. Here's what columnist Dan Popkey had to say about it.

From it: "“Idaho 100” is intentionally provocative, meant to spur debate, while reminding us from whence we’ve come as we approach next year’s territorial sesquicentennial. ... Peterson told me that he aimed to give “an overview of why Idaho is what Idaho is.” Stapilus said the “real value is in opening up often obscure but important parts of Idaho history.” They’ve succeeded. The rankings are less important than the acts that earned a spot."

Be sure and read the comments after the piece, too.

Lower prices?

carlson
NW Reading

Natural gas prices have been going down. Here's a description of the situation in Idaho, from a Public Utilities Commission report.

Intermountain Gas Company customers received their sixth consecutive decrease in gas rates effective today due to a decline in the cost of gas the company buys for its customers and increased gas supply.

The decrease will come in two components: a reduction in monthly bills effective today as a result of the lower gas prices and a one-time bill credit in December. Combined, those adjustments result in a decrease of 7.1 percent for the average customer.

The yearly Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA) projects gas prices for the next 12 months and either surcharges or credits customers the difference between the projection and the actual cost. Sometimes the PGA is adjusted more than once a year if gas prices materially change.

The variable portion of customer rates is based on the Weighted Average Cost of Gas or WACOG, which makes up about half a customer bill. With this application, the WACOG drops from 41.8 cents per therm to about 33.5 cents per therm, as low as it has been since 2002. The WACOG represents about half the total customer bill, which is now about 66.8 cents per therm during the winter months and 70.2 cents from April through November for a customer who uses natural gas for both space and water heating. For that customer, the average bill will decrease by about $1.51 per month. A customer who uses natural gas for just space heating will see a decrease of about 17 cents per month. A commercial customer will see about a $6.46 per month decrease.

In addition to the $6 million price reduction as result of lower gas prices, a one-time credit totaling $11.9 million will be included on customers’ December bill. For residential customers who use natural gas for both space and water heating the one-time credit will be about $29.85. Residential customers who use natural gas for space heating only will receive a credit of about $19.40. The average December credit for commercial customers is about $129.80.

The commission said the credit will help customers during a time of year when natural gas bills are highest. “Instead of embedding the value of the credit in rates throughout the coming year, the single credit method will allow customers more immediate rate relief during a time period when natural gas usage is typically nearing its peak.”

The are several other significant factors in the overall reduction: 1) $3.7 million in benefits generated by release of some pipeline transportation capacity, 2) $4.8 million attributable to the collection of pipeline capacity costs, a true-up of expenses from the 2011 PGA and capacity release credits and 3) a $1.3 million deferred credit balance, which is the difference from the commodity costs Intermountain actually paid for natural gas and the WACOG that was included in rates.

The commission did give the company authority to surcharge customers for Lost and Unaccounted for Gas, which reduced the total credit allowed customers by $2 million.