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Posts published in August 2017

Eclipse bust

rainey

Well, now. Ol’ Sol has come and gone and come again on our Oregon coast and we locals are still here. What’s not here are the catastrophic failures of our electricity, telecommunications, water and sewer services we were repeatedly warned about.

But, most of all, what’s not here are the hundreds of thousands of tourists that were supposed to turn our entire coastline to mush. They just didn’t show up.

I’d bet, never in recorded history, have so many prepared so much for so long for so few. The traffic elves tell us all the highways between I-5 on the East to the Pacific on the West didn’t carry much more than the normal August vacation load. Friends drove in from Portland the morning of the big show with no delays.

As for the sad economic repercussions, my guess is many local businesses up and down the beaches were their own worst enemies. Not all. But many.

For months, there were numerous reports of price gouging for the period up to and including the eclipse weekend. A lot of motel/hotel rooms normally $150-$200 a night were suddenly priced at $1,000-$1,500 a night (three night minimum). I was wondering, considering all those price increases, if our little family would have taken a chance on the always unpredictable Oregon coastal weather environs and paid that $1,500 a night only to wake up to a heavy layer of clouds and fog. We wouldn’t have. Apparently we weren’t alone.

Gas prices started to tick up days ago. Restaurant menus were reprinted with prices two and three times the originals. We had lunch at a favorite local dive last week. Gone were the usual lists of fare. In their place, the waitress handed us a poorly printed sheet of paper with about half the items and double and triple the price. Bottle of water $3 - order of onion rings $12 - burgers $12 and up. And up.

As we looked first at the menus and then back to her, she said “Don’t worry about the prices. They’re not for locals.”

Now, I don’t have a problem with a shrewd businessperson making a buck or two when a special opportunity comes along. No, Sir. That’s enterprise in action. BUT enterprise and opportunity need to be tempered with a dose of reality that jacking up prices can reach a tipping point where people say “NO!”

That “NO” point was apparently reached in many coastal communities this week even as our real estate just happened to fall under the middle of the eclipse track as it entered North America.

So, grocery stores are left with aisles filled with stacks of goods ordered up for the expected hordes. Gas stations maxed out on supplies and some had a tanker or two to ship back to the distributor. Restaurants that had over-ordered raw foods - especially seafood - suddenly had to find some offsite freezers. And the local shirt shops may take it in the shorts with unopened cases of 2017 eclipse “T” shirts that didn’t sell.

Lincoln City Mayor Don Williams owns several small businesses in the region including a couple of fast food franchises. When asked his reaction to the no-shows, he admitted it was bad. He said he’d ordered a lot of extra food supplies and scheduled extra counter and serving help. Ever the optimist, Williams added “Guess I can go easy on the groceries next week.”

Lots of us are breathing sighs of relief that predictions of huge, unmanageable crowds were overblown. Law enforcement and other emergency personnel are relieved they weren’t called upon to deal with highway and other problems. Local hospitals didn’t get the run of burned eyeballs emergency staffs had been fearing.

Given those price increases locally, visitors were not likely to stay the night and most went back home Monday afternoon with cameras full of eclipse pictures and some bent and worn viewing glasses. They saw what they came to see on one of the most perfect coastal, blue sky days this year. Then left.

But, for locals, this eclipse business was kind of a downer. Just as the wildly inaccurate warnings of gloom and doom were overrated, so too were the prospects of many business people looking to score a “big one.” Well, maybe next time.

A style of condemnation

jones

Whether dealing with an abhorrent event precipitated by neo-Nazis in Charlottesville or just an everyday spouting-off of hatred by white supremacists, responsible public officials should stand up for decency.

Congressman Raul Labrador says it is “not his style” to comment on events such as that which occurred in Charlottesville over the weekend. Standing mute against hateful speech and actions does not work. Idaho history demonstrates that the way to stop white supremacy is for people in positions of power to strongly and publicly denounce it.

Back in the early 1980s, the Aryan Nations organization in northern Idaho was on the rise. It attracted other white supremacists to Idaho, many of whom had cut their teeth in prison. Many good people in the area stepped forward to speak against them but it was a formidable task. I had just taken over as Attorney General and was asked by Marilyn Shuler to help with malicious harassment legislation that was designed to combat the supremacist threat. The legislation had hit a roadblock in the Legislature, which we were able to overcome. Marilyn, who was a powerful Idaho voice for human rights, brought me into the effort to deflate the supremacist cause.

I participated in a number of rallies to speak out against the supremacist group and its hateful creed but noticed something interesting about the meetings. Kootenai County undersheriff Larry Broadbent and I observed that we were the only identifiable Republican officials at the rallies. It appeared that many were holding back to see where the tree might fall.

As time went by, the public became aroused by the Aryans’ message of hate, but also about the black eye they were giving to the State of Idaho. Responsible Republican officials started stepping forward to denounce the hate mongers and that was the key to the group’s eventual demise—it took an all-hands-on-deck approach. People take note of what their leaders say and it is incumbent upon those leaders to help provide a moral compass.

Idaho leaders were generally quick this time in calling out the neo-Nazis, KKK, and other white nationalists. Governor Otter, Congressman Mike Simpson, and Senator Mike Crapo spoke out strongly and were soon joined by Senator Jim Risch. Congressman Labrador held back until goaded by the Governor because, as he explained, his style was not to speak out on these “issues” since he regarded the Charlottesville events as “politics.” White supremacy is not an issue or politics. It is indecency and it requires denunciation by society in order to deprive it of any hint of legitimacy.

The Congressman is correct that “trite media statements” will not solve our country’s problems. But, powerful, heart-felt condemnation of hatred, bigotry, and racism by people in leadership positions in our fine State can make a difference, as history shows. This is especially so for anyone who aspires to be governor, the most important position in State government.

And, the condemnation should specify the hate groups being called out, such as the KKK, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists and nationalists. We should expect or accept no less from those who would lead the State. If a candidate does not already have such a “style,” he or she should certainly adopt a public anti-supremacy posture.

Idaho Briefing – August 21

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for July 17. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for July fell to its lowest levels since mid-2008 while businesses led the nation in over-the-month job growth at 0.6 percent.

The Boise National Forest is temporarily closing the South Pioneer Fire Recovery Project area including the Rock Creek drainage on the Lowman Ranger District for public safety. The Rock Creek drainage includes National Forest System road 594.

State Representative Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, on August 16 sqaid he will run for the 1st District U.S. House seat now held by Republican Raul Labrador.

Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has released his latest Consumer Protection Division report.

Based on demand, both United and Delta Airlines have added additional flights at Idaho Falls Regional Airport (IDA) on the days before and after the eclipse. Allegiant Airlines has not added any additional flights.

Northwest federal agencies that work to protect the environment, fish and wildlife are pledging to partner more closely on understanding water temperature modeling needs for Columbia and Snake river salmon, steelhead and bull trout. These fish need cool water, and part of the regional effort to recover these species includes studying the conditions and actions that will help protect and improve cold-water habitat.

PHOTO Capt. Nick Caraballo, 391st Fighter Squadron pilot, fills out flight logs before flight August 8, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Airmen from the 391st from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho demonstrate their tactical prowess during RED FLAG-Alaska 17-3. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Malissa Armstrong)

Racial magnets

stapiluslogo1

Some years back we toured the Statehouse at Mississippi and got a courteous tour of the place from one of its legislators. He asked where we were from and, told Idaho, replied that he knew little about the state other than references to its famous potatoes and famous neo-Nazis.

A week ago, Charlottesville, Virginia took the spotlight on the neo-Nazi front, but Idaho is not out of the racial extremist picture. The 24/7 WallSt. website compiled data on hate groups from the Southern Poverty Law Center - which for decades has been tracking such organizations - and found Idaho has the second largest number of such groups in the nation, per resident. (Montana was first, but it has a smaller population; Mississippi was in third place.)

Back when the Mississippi legislator offered his perspective, I felt obliged to clarify something. The neo-Nazis he (and so many other Americans) had heard of did exist, and then still had their compound in Kootenai County. But never were there more than a few hundred there, and usually no more than a few dozen. They were never popular in the state. On the few occasions when someone associated with them ran for public office, they always lost by overwhelming margins.

It would be more comforting to stop there and suggest that there may be a few bad eggs in every basket, but it’s only a very, very few.

Still. Reputations can feed on themselves; prophecies can self-fulfill.

Idaho, especially (not exclusively) northern Idaho, became known as a place where white supremacists or separatists or nationalists might feel comfortable.

That isn’t entirely about attitudes. Idaho is relatively remote from big population centers. As a matter of demographics, it is more homogenous than most of the country: Low percentages of minorities, ethnic, religious and otherwise.

It evolved in a certain cultural mythology as part of a region where people uncomfortable with multi-cultural environments could go to withdraw from the rest of the country.

According to 24/7 WallSt., we get to this: “There are 7.1 hate groups for every 1 million people in Idaho, nearly the greatest concentration of any state considered. One of the least diverse states in the country, some 91.5% of the state’s population identifies as white, nearly the largest share of any U.S. state. Despite the state’s relative racial homogeneity, or perhaps because of it, one of the dozen hate groups operating in Idaho is a KKK chapter based in Hayden.”

Listen to state Representative Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, in a statement (from radio host Dave Hodges) she reposted about Charlottesville: “The way the media has set this up, the mention of white nationalist, which is no more than a Caucasian who (sic) for the Constitution and making America great again, and confusing it with term, ‘white supremacist’ which is extreme racism. Therefore, if one is ‘guilty’ of being white, one is clearly racist. And if one is white AND loves America, they are a white supremacist capable of carrying out violent acts against nonwhites.”

The terminology may be slippery, but the attitudes, and stances, are not. The message gets out. Idaho’s top elected leaders, including many of those in current posts, have for many years denounced racism in the state. Idaho has its Anne Frank memorial and plenty of leaders who fight racism in the state.

But the lower-level, sometimes underground, message often is more welcoming - to white race-based groups, and often not so much to everyone else.

Talking to our children about nuclear war

richardson

For those of us who recall the duck-and-cover drills of the late 1950s and early 1960s, the president's recent remarks directed at North Korea were a chilling reminder of a time in which nuclear war seemed an ever-present possibility.

I remember when the family who lived across the street began building a fallout shelter in a vacant lot next to their house. I had only the vaguest idea of the purpose of a fallout shelter, but it seemed like a good idea to have one in the neighborhood.

Adults talked in hushed tones about the missiles in Cuba and discussed exactly how long after a nuclear attack it would be safe to emerge into broad daylight. More often than not adults talked over us, not to us, about the headlines on the evening news.

I remember hearing my mom talking on the phone with a friend. She didn't know I was listening. "The neighbors said the girls and I could come to the shelter, but Fred wasn't welcome - because he was born in Denmark. They said he wasn't really an American."

I couldn’t make sense of what I heard. Was mom really saying that someone thought my dad, a naturalized citizen who had served in the U.S. Army and loved his chosen country beyond words, wasn't really an American?

Mom was furious with our neighbors even while wondering aloud if, should it come to that, she should go to the shelter with my sister and me, or stay with my dad in our home. Mom didn't approve of eavesdropping so I never asked her about what I had heard. But I thought about it – a lot.

In time, the threat of nuclear war subsided. Our neighbors never did build a fallout shelter though they went as far as digging a very large, very deep hole in their vacant lot. And, thankfully, Mom never had to make an impossible choice.
All this has come back to me as I watch coverage of the escalating rhetoric between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump. I recall the fear I felt as a child when the possibility of mushroom clouds lingered in the national consciousness.

Hearing the president talk, almost casually, about unleashing "fire and fury like the world has never seen," was more than unsettling. After all, the world has seen some pretty devastating "fire and fury" We need only remember Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Of course, in WWII, the U.S. was the only nation to have the A-bomb and President Truman ordered it be used to stop a terrible war, not to start one. Imagine if the world had as many nuclear armed nations then as it does now.

As I reflected on these things, it occurred to me that adults who loved me and wanted to spare me worry in fact created more anxiety by avoiding honest and calming conversations. In the 60s, there were only three news channels and the evening news with its ominous headlines played but once a day. In today's 24-7 news cycle, saturation coverage is the norm.

Whether we know it or not, our children are watching - and listening. And adults need to find age appropriate ways to talk to them, to help them make sense of the news. That's more easily said that done. It is difficult to explain to a child something that is almost impossible to comprehend as adults. But it is important we make the effort.

We need to teach our children the lessons of history in words they can understand. We must encourage them to ask us questions that they may be afraid to ask. And we must model resilience by showing our children that, in a republic, citizens have agency. We have the power to write letters to the editor and to our senators, members of congress, and other elected officials. We can attend rallies, speak our truth, and campaign for candidates who will work to stop the saber-rattling and promote civil discourse. And we can prepare our children to hear false narratives from people who are ill-informed or indifferent to the truth. We can show them where to find reliable sources they can trust.

When I wrote the first draft of this essay, I was focused on tensions with North Korea. Now, the violence and racism on display in Charlottesville weighs heavily on my mind. It seems that each day’s news reminds us of the danger and destruction so easily unleashed in the world. But this is all the more reason to have those difficult, critically important conversations with our children and, not only with our children, but with each other.

The wisdom and the history

carlsonlogo1

On occasion there are quirks of history one should pay attention to because they are accurate predictors of the future even in the face of conventional wisdom. For example, virtually every political pundit in Idaho takes it as a given that whoever wins the Republican gubernatorial primary next May is a lock to become Idaho’s governor in January 2019.

Probably so, but maybe not. There is an historical factoid that says otherwise. In modern times the Idaho governorship has changed party hands every 24 years twice in a row. In 1946, C.A. “Doc” Robins, a state senator from Benewah County and a medical doctor, defeated incumbent Democrat governor Arnold Williams. This began a string of Republican governors in Idaho for 24 years.

The string ended in 1970 when the Democrat state senator from Nez Perce County, Cecil Andrus, defeated incumbent Don Samuelson. This began another string of 24 years in which Andrus and his successor, John Evans, a former state senator from Oneida County, held the governorship.

In 1994, with the victory of Republican Phil Batt, a former state senator from Canyon County, the governor’s chair again changed hands after 24 years. If history is an accurate guide this should tell the pundits two things: Idaho’s next governor will be a Democrat and a former state senator.

There’s the rub one might say. There is no such politician on the horizon. Au contraire. There is a former Democrat state senator from Latah County, Dan Schmidt, who also is a medical doctor, and is reportedly seriously considering entering the gubernatorial race.

On the basis of history alone Democrats should encourage him to run. Set aside the fact that he is extremely competent and established a reputation for doing his homework and was especially knowledgable on health care issues during his six years in the Legislature. He knows the issues and he knows the state.

He also reportedly believes a contested race for governor among Democrats will keep Democrats home and minimize the tendency of some to register as Republicans for the primary because of the mistaken belief that is where the action will be and will determine who the next governor is.

Reliable sources report Schmidt has already talked to A. J. Balukoff, the Boise businessman and the Democrat’s gubernatorial nominee in 2014 who spent $3.5 million of his own money in a losing race to incumbent Governor C.L.”Butch” Otter. Balukoff is set to announce he is again seeking the office in early October. Schmidt may surprise and announce his candidacy in September.

Of all the candidates running for governor Schmidt willl have the least resources. He is not personally wealthy like Balukoff or Republicans Tommy Ahlquist or Lt. Gov.Brad Little. Nor does he have a government job like Rep. Raul Labrador that pays him while he is seeking another office.

None of them will outwork him and he believes the fact that he is not trying to start at the top and buy the office will work to his advantage. He also believes Republicans will nominate First District Congressman Labrador as their nominee. He sees Labrador as far and away the most conservative of the Republicans, but thinks many in the GOP are tired of Tea Party conservatives and some of the extreme views they hold.

He reportedly believes he can capture these disenfranchised Republicans and that he will also be more attractive to independents than will Balukoff. Furthermore, Schmidt reportedly says one should not underestimate the ability of Labrador to show his lack ocompassion for the needy, the homeless and those he would kick off medicaid.

In other words Schmidt thinks the Democratic nomination for governor is well worth purusing because Labrador is quite capable of losing the race. Is history on Dan Schmidt’s side? Time will tell but it just might be.

Keeping our word

joneslogo1

The Pentagon is shamefully breaking its word to some non-citizens who joined the military for the purpose of gaining U.S. citizenship. A number of legal aliens who stepped forward to serve the United States are being denied the expedited citizen status they were promised.

The Pentagon initiated a program in 2009 to recruit non-citizens with skills considered to be vital to the national interest, including doctors, nurses, and persons with specific language expertise. The Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program started as a pilot program for up to 1,000 recruits and was expanded to 5,000 based on its success. It has been open to asylees, refugees and certain legal aliens. Service members recruited through the program become citizens upon completion of basic training.

The program was closed last December but service personnel who enlisted before that time have been left twisting in the wind. The Pentagon has asked the Homeland Security Department to stop processing their applications and has implied they might not receive their promised citizenship. This could result in about 1,000 service members being at risk of deportation. Can’t we do a better job of keeping our word to people who step forward to serve our country?

We have a long history of relying upon non-citizens for our national defense. Indeed, one of my ancestors came to America with French forces to fight in the Revolutionary War and was injured in the Battle of Charleston in 1780, according to family history.

My first duty assignment in the Army was as executive officer of a transportation battalion in Okinawa. The commanding officer was a German national who was serving to gain U.S. citizenship. One could hardly have imagined a more patriotic person than Captain Dietmar W. L. Zurell.

The Pentagon says that over 109,250 members of the armed services have become American citizens through their service. The Army has enlisted 10,400 persons through the MAVNI program since 2009.

The program has included some exceptional people, including a 2016 Olympic silver medalist, a 2012 Army Soldier of the Year, and a winner of the Marine Corps Marathon in 2012. About 30% of the individuals entering the armed forces through MAVNI have served in special operations units in foreign countries because of their language skills. This is a critical role, given the number of conflict areas around the world where U.S. forces are currently serving.

Although it seems to be short-sighted, the Pentagon has the right to terminate the MAVNI program. But, those who enlisted and have not yet received citizenship should get what they were promised. People who are willing to risk their lives to serve this country deserve honorable treatment.

A number of the MAVNI recruits who were caught in the pipeline have filed suit to force the government to honor its commitment to them. They should not have had to do so. Perhaps our Congressmen could help them get their citizenship.

Cracks in discipline

rainey

All military services have boot camps - the entry period of weeks or months in which unsmiling drill instructors in perfectly pressed uniforms try to blend a lot of sows’ ears into a functioning silk purse.

The D.I.’s most abiding point - made in many verbal and physical ways - is that each recruit is to become part of a team that always - ALWAYS - follows orders. Makes no difference what branch of the military you’re talking about, the absolute adherence to order-taking is the most basic element in each. From slick-sleeved private to four-star general, receiving an order comes with the expectation you’ll carry it out, is the basis of military discipline.

While military history has provided a number of instances when an order was questionable and should not have been followed, the vast majority of that same history points heavily to the responsibility of each member of a military unit to act when and as told.

In recent week, we’ve witnessed some worrisome events as some military voices have been raised in objection to following orders. Not privates or corporals. We’re talking voices from the top. Where stars and gold braid sit atop the chain of command.

First, it was members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff openly objecting to the Commander-in Chief’s announcement he wanted transgender troops out of the military. Now. While Trump’s decision - proclaimed by tweet - was widely reported as new policy, the Chiefs representing all branches of service responded with a unison voice “Not so fast.”

For them to act, they intoned, the order had to come through proper Pentagon channels and be accompanied by written policy changes detailing how removal of transgender personnel was to be accomplished. Without such channeling and documentation, the “order” would not be obeyed. There was no White House response. The Commander-in-Chief’s voice was ignored.

Within a few days, the commander of the U.S. Coast Guard said his branch of the military had no intention of identifying and removing anyone on the basis of transgender identity. Period. Again, no White House response.

Even more concerning, in these six months of Trump’s ruinous reign, there have been numerous insider reports of conversations among the most senior officers of whether to act on a presidential order to use military force. In other words, if some sort of attack is ordered from the White House, what will be the miliary’s response?

A month or so ago, that sort of discussion might have been a bit less important. But, now that Trump has threatened North Korea and Venezuela with possible military action, the subject of “will we comply or won’t we” has been moved to the front burner.

As Trump has thrown his bellicose verbal weight around with threats, there’s been no apparent eagerness of military leaders to get into a new war. Far from it. John McCain, John Kerry, former defense secretaries and other politicos with extensive military experience, have cautioned against such action and recommended diplomacy. Even our inexperienced (Exxon) Secretary of State has not endorsed his boss’s threats, preferring talk over shooting.

In about 230 days, Donald Trump has managed to break or screw up much of our national government. In ignorance and/or deliberately. We’re seeing damage inflicted in nearly all federal departments. Good, professional people cashing out and leaving. Hacks and administration spies being sent into nearly all agencies and important vacancies across the board being left unfilled which further weakens the system.

Some disagreements at the top of the Agriculture or Human Services Departments are one thing. But, dissent regarding orders from the Commander in Chief expressed in the highest echelons of the Defense Department are quite another.

Millions of lives are at stake. Nuclear bombs, creating nuclear wastelands across the globe, are launched from there. The very issue of who survives and who doesn’t is decided there.

If the American military is having discussions at the very top of the organization about what to do with a presidential war order, that issue had better be decided promptly. And publicly. Your life and mine are riding on how that seemingly gray area is resolved.

Idaho Briefing – August 14

This is a summary of a few items in the Idaho Weekly Briefing for July 17. Interested in subscribing? Send us a note at stapilus@ridenbaugh.com.

Idaho State University President Arthur C. Vailas on August 9 announced his plans for retirement. The announcement was made to the Idaho State Board of Education during its monthly meeting.

Construction of a non-motorized trail between the Redfish Lake recreation complex and the City of Stanley will soon become a reality, according to the Sawtooth National Forest.

The Bureau of Land Management on August 9 said livestock grazing will continue on BLM-managed portions of the Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.

Major General Gary L. Sayler (pictured) announced on August 10 that he will retire October 31 after more than seven years as Adjutant General of the Idaho National Guard, capping a 45-year military career.

The Department of Finance announced on August 10 that financial regulators from five states, including Idaho, have reached a joint settlement agreement with two subsidiaries of IQor Holdings Inc. for failure to comply with federal and state consumer protection laws related to debt collection practices.

PHOTO Six thousand tons of alfalfa containing elevated levels of bromide could soon be bioenergy thanks to a collaboration between the state of Idaho and Idaho National Laboratory. (photo/Idaho National Laboratory)

Eclipse the revelator

stapiluslogo1

A line of argument in politics in recent years, as in the great Lyndon Johnson books by Robert Caro, has held that the old saying is a little off: Power doesn’t so much corrupt, as it reveals. Power can make the doing of things easier and with less consequence, so we can see more clearly what lies underneath.

It turns out that a solar eclipse can do the same thing.

Friends of ours, who live in the upcoming eclipse totality zone, are hosting a couple of out of state eclipse-interested friends. (Our house, six miles away, is merely in 99.8 percent totality.) They’re not charging their friends any rent or room fee. As matters sit today, I call that a passed character test.

The eclipse, to be sure, is an understandable business opportunity, and there’s no harm and nothing immoral in taking some advantage of it. But at some point, somewhere along the line, it turns into greed, and totality areas all over the country have seen some ugly behavior and sad exposures of character.

There was, for example, the news story about a woman formerly from Idaho, now living near Washington, D.C., who booked an Idaho Falls hotel room back in October 2013. They had an agreement (for a fairly high room rate based on normal Idaho Falls levels). Some months ago the hotel said it wanted to raise the rate by $60; the couple reluctantly agreed. Then, earlier this month: "[The manager] started questioning us and telling us that our rate was way too low for this event and he wanted to raise our rates. My husband said, well you have already raised our rates once and we have a contract with you.”

That hotel in the news story now reportedly has rooms listed at $700 during the eclipse period. If you’re familiar with Idaho Falls lodging, you know this is not just a slight price increase. It is not even an outlier increase, or among the highest. Quite a few establishments regionally have been shooting far over $1,000 a night for rooms that ordinarily would rent for a tenth as much. (The Idaho attorney general’s office has fielded a number of complaints about room rentals.)

Okay: Room rates are, as a normal and reasonable matter, marketplace-flexible. They vary with seasons and holidays and location popularity, and they can sometimes be negotiated by late arrivals (at places with plenty of empty rooms that same night) or by third-party deals. There’s nothing holy about a particular rate.

But when rates rise abruptly, even during times of high popularity, by factors of seven or ten or more, you have to think something in the system, and in people’s willingness to simply take advantage of others and throw conventional rule books out the window, is wrong. There are human consequences. Good luck if you need to travel then for business, or visit a relative. Good luck if you’re not wealthy.

I don’t mean here to focus over-heavily on the lodging industry; lots of private homeowners are renting out their houses for a couple of days for almost unbelievable amounts. And I don’t mean to focus either just on rental rooms; the urge to suck up stray bucks seems to have become notably intense with this particular phase of the moon. (Airbnb reports an explosion of both requests for homes, and homes on offer.)

Consider what this kind of grasping reveals not only about our willingness to take advantage of others.

There are people in the totality zone who should, in bright light, take a good look in the mirror.