Writings and observations

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So even before Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Anton Scalia is cold in the ground, lines are being drawn over his replacement.

Scalia was a self-described “originalist” in interpreting the Constitution and Bill of Rights. In other words, he sought to apply what the founders intended in the context of their times. Just in terms of the Second Amendment, “well-regulated” militia did not mean regulation in the way we perceive the word. Clocks have regulators; it meant well-trained and reliable, not regulated-by-the-government.”

Kinda like when Hamlet told Ophelia to “get thee to a nunnery.” If you pull out a real Oxford English Dictionary and study the etymology of Shakespeare’s time, “nunnery” did not mean a convent. It was English slang back then for “whorehouse.” Changes the whole meaning of the joke. That’s “originalism.”

We will not have another “originalist” the likes of Scalia on the Supreme in our times. Italians aren’t part of the perpetually indignant and offended identity politics of the Progressive era who need pandering to. They just work, think, build and invent stuff: not qualifications necessary or desired for high office. Scalia prevailed over an egregious decision having to do with death row cases – depriving post-trail exculpatory evidence of consideration during appeals – but on balance he held the court to weather.

No, the next appointee will be an LGBT/disenfranchised/victimized irritated type with an Ivy League law degree. There are, one is sure, decent folks even amongst this ilk, but even were Obama to break stride and appoint, say, Jesus Christ, juris doctor, for the job, the GOP would obstruct it. So it is business as usual in Washington, D.C.

But since identity politics is sure to frame the appointment, why not appoint a Native American? As I mentioned in a brief brain-fart the other day on Facebook, surely no more disenfranchised and screwed-over population exists in this country than the American Indian.

All nine Supreme Court seats are occupied by lawyers but there is no Constitutional mandate that a High Court member has to have a law degree. Surprised? I was, too. Non-lawyers have served in that high office before, the last being Stanley Reed, who was appointed to Supreme Court Justice in 1938 and served until 1957. He never held a law degree, although he was admitted to the bar. Robert H. Jackson joined the High Court in 1941, retiring in 1954 without ever having obtained a law degree, although he did attend one year of law school at Albany.

Nor is there a minimum age: the legendary Joseph Story took his place on the Supreme Court at the tender age of 32, back in 1811.

The Constitution in fact specifies neither age nor professional minimum requirements to serve on the High Court. So why are fat-cat juris doctorates (left or right) the only possibility for nomination these days?

One answer lurks in the composition of the United States Congress. Lawyers comprise the single largest voting block in the Congress: 43 percent. Sixty per cent of U.S. Senators are lawyers; 37.2 per cent of House members are attorneys.

This is not a new problem.

According to Legal Reform Now, “Since the time of de Tocqueville (1841), students of American government have noted the over representation of lawyers in American politics (se e.g., Hyneman 1940; Hurst 1950; Matthews 1954, 1960; Schlesinger 1957; Derge 1959; Eulau and Sprague 1964; Keefe and Ogul 1989: 117-18). And it seems that the more important the political office, the more lawyers who occupy that office.”

What seems to have changed is the nature and motivations of lawyer-congressmen. Continues Legal Reform’s analysis:

“With the large number of lawyers descending on Washington in the 1970’s to enforce newly passed civil rights laws in an increasingly liberal culture, the goal of lawyers changed from doing good to simply increasing their power and influence. And in a very short time their income too.

“As in many other aspects of our society there was a change from meeting one’s public responsibility to attempting to enrich oneself. Even at the expense of one’s fellow citizens.

“In To Kill a Mockingbird [Harper Lee, RIP] Gregory Peck played Atticus Finch, a white lawyer using a rifle to defend a black man’s life by blocking the entry to a jailhouse door. That was in the 1930s. How many lawyers today would do the same to defend an individual’s right to justice? Very few.”

Maybe the one physicist, the one microbiologist, the one chemist, or one or two of the eight engineers (all in the House, with the exception of one Senator who is an engineer), or one or two of the
29 farmers, ranchers, or cattle farm owners (four in the Senate, 25 in the House) or the two almond-growers and two vintners serving might have the testicular fortitude to take up arms against the genuine evils depicted by Harper Lee or Mark Twain. The lawyers in Congress? They’d cop a plea bargain for their bigot and collect their fee.

But I digress. Scolding greed-head lawyers in Congress and their increasingly pernicious presence in the press is like shooting fish in a barrel. But it is time we rid ourselves of this time-honored tradition of lawyers selecting lawyers to govern us.

Lawyer Obama should consider a Native American tribal elder to replace Scalia, pedigreed or not in the rubber-stamp of law school. That would appeal to his identity politics and quiet down the Republicans. My friend Lisa Reimers of the Iliamna Village on Bristol Bay in Alaska would be an elegant choice. She knows the consequences of unilateral EPA actions. Or if it has to be a lawyer, Howard Funke of Idaho, of the Sho-Ban Tribe, who fought and won the Swan Falls Dam case for Indians and migratory fish.

You’ve had eight years to do something right, Mister President. Here is your chance. Appoint a wise Native.

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Why I’m quitting writing about mining:

First and foremost, I’ve lost interest. I find tube hi-fi much more interesting.

Second, I have been connived and fooled by the best in the business and passed this tomfoolery off to my readers. 

Justin Rice and the Russell Brothers took me and many friends into near-bankruptcy on the Azteca Gold project up Two-Mile just northeast of Wallace. I republished many of their lies and I am ashamed of it. I trusted them. Their lies seemed true at the time.

Secondly, I’ve been hauled into federal court involving a lawsuit between shareholders and Bob Genovese over a mine I wrote about, the Liberty Silver Trinity silver property near Lovelock Nevada. I still think it’s a good prospect, discovered by US Borax and heavily and positively reviewed by a respected mining evaluator, SRK, but after my writing a positive article the stock tanked and the longs lost, well, their shorts and have dragged me into their shit. Never owned a share of Liberty. I did lose $7,000 on Justin’s gambit, long after I wrote about it, and I could probably sue Justin for his lies, but really, why sue because I’m stupid or gullible. Maybe Ralph Nader could knock some sense in to me.
Whatever happened to, You pays your money and you takes your chances? Ain’t that the American way?

Capitalism is by nature creative and destructive. What do we taxpayers owe the buggy-whip makers for going out of business because of the auto mobile, which did not require horses? Precisely nothing. But then in steps the modern federal government, to sue Henry Ford for buggy-whip-maker damages. This latter mind-set prevails today and it’s why your kids can’t read. But that’s another rant.

I am not abandoning in spirit the hard-rock miners for what they do, which if you think about it, is magnificent. But having been conned twice, and having passed along bad advice, it’s time to move on. And I have some very precious vacuum tubes I need to sell.

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When, unless you were in the Armed Services, were you ever “COMMANDED” to do anything?

I don’t think even bully policemen use such phraseology.

But when a biped who managed his or her way through law school, then sucked up to enough political turds to become a Federal – or might one say, Feral – Judge, is allowed to COMMAND(ED) our behaviour, something is wrong.

Weather un-permitting, to show up and testify at a Federal Hearing in which one does not have a dog in the fight and for this, one is recompensed the federally-ordered princely sum of $20 per day, disregarding gasoline, oil, tire wear and the major trauma of driving 120 miles through an Idaho blizzard to comply.

Civic duty my ass.

Coupla rich bastards suing some other rich bastards, and I have to be a witness for them?

For $2.50 an hour?

I tried to beg off, given the weather and the 20-year-old nature of our car, but such was not to be.

It would inconvenience the $500-an-hour lawyers who flew in to Spokane the night before and whined about the 30 miles of flat roads they had to endure in their knock-new and fully or doubly reimbursed rental cars from the airport to their comfy hotel rooms?

As meantime we were scraping ice off the windshield and shoveling snow just to get out of the driveway, just hoping not to die on Fourth of July Pass courtesy of some relocated Californian in his or her brand-new 4-wheel drive, which we all know are invincible in Idaho weather.

Does this invasion of my sentient human rights make me a Tea Partier? No. Those poor people have been duped into thinking that anything Idaho does affects the Constitution of the United States. Gun control? Abortion? And an Idaho takeover of federal forest lands – as if you could pay for it. Nope. Talk to your federal Congressman. Meanwhile, let your school children starve until God provides. Shame on you.

Does it make me a Republican? Nope, for the reasons listed above. You Rs became one and the same with the Toilet Paper party. Cowards, the lot of you.

Does it make me a Democrat? Even a Shoshone County, Idaho Democrat? Nope. You back a national party that would shut down mining, logging and any other leg-up a working person might need. Your magical minimum wage stunt has just created computers to replace them and now all those hopeful kids are out of work. Splendid effort on behalf of the working man.

So who’s left? Ronald Dump with his hair-trigger on the nuke button? No way, no matter how much Putin likes him.

Sure looking for advice here. Meantime, I don’t need no stinking lawyer-judges.

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Ever think about opening a savings account for your kids or grandkids? Prepare for a coronary.

Times have changed. I have fond recollections of my father marching me down to the Canada Post Office to open a savings account in which to squirrel away a small portion of my monthly newspaper route earnings, seeded by his very generous $5 Christmas gift. I promised to deposit 50 cents into the account every month, learning the virtue of thrift as I watched my money grow.

Every month I did as promised, and watched the postal clerk tote up the balance and hand-enter it into my passbook – but something was haywire. Every now and then, extra pennies were included in the account balance: three here, a nickel there. Confused, I asked the clerk to re-check his arithmetic. “Oh,” he said, “that extra money is the interest you earn on your deposits.”

At the time, the Canada Post was paying around 3 percent per year on simple savings accounts – as were most banks north and south of the border, and the U.S. Post Office as well.

Three cents free money for every dollar you had in there. Pretty cool, the young paperboy thought.

To digress a bit: Yes, you used to be able to open a savings account at the post office in the U.S., Canada and many European and Asian countries. You still can in Vietnam, Japan, Taiwan, Israel, France, Germany, South Korea, India, South Africa, among other places.

(It is, one is certain, just coincidence that the U.S. Post Office closed its 55-year-old savings accounts service in 1966 – the year after LBJ removed silver from U.S. coinage – and that Canada Post closed its 100-year-old savings accounts service in 1968, the same year our northern friends likewise abandoned silver coinage.)

As we said, how times have changed. Five bucks can’t open a savings account in any state or province in North America we’re aware of. Our own bank requires an opening deposit of $25 and pays a staggering 0.01 percent in interest. Additionally, it exacts a $4 monthly “service charge” if one’s balance drops below $3,000 – even for a day.

Under those terms, your minimum $25 deposit would shrink at the rate of $4 per month, leaving you with a $1 balance at the end of six months and $3 underwater at seven months. One’s money is clearly safer under the mattress.

Back when we still young and tossing newspapers off the back of Copper, our chestnut-coloured cutting horse, we didn’t know anything about mortgages, compound interest, or any of that other adult stuff.

Looking to history, however, we learn that while the banks and post offices were paying 3 percent interest on savings accounts, the banks and government agencies like FHA and the VA were charging twice that rate – 6 percent – for 30-year fixed-rate home mortgages. That’s a 100 percent mark-up. A grocery store owner should be so flush.

It’s gotten much better for banks these days and much worse for us in the intervening 55 years since we first started in the newspaper business.

Nowadays and with stellar credit, one can obtain a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for 4 percent from a lender which is meanwhile paying a wholesale price of 0.01 percent for its “raw material,” that is, the cost of its savings deposits. That’s a 40,000 percent mark-up, not the seemingly extravagant (but in hindsight niggardly) 100 percent mark-up typical of 1960.

Surely there is an economist who can explain to us why this cavernous difference between 100 percent and 40,000 percent exists without needing such words as “larceny” or “criminal,” or busting out laughing at our naivety – or at least explain to us why opening a savings account is such a speedy way to go broke.

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Apple Inc.,
c/o General Delivery
Cupertino, California

Dear Apple:

We have gone through our biennial wireless contract renewal with Verizon, and in process decided to upgrade our coal-powered 4s iPhones to the less-obsolete pellet-burning iPhone 6s. This we were able to accomplish without great expense by promising to consign our great-great-grandchildren to a Verizon contract.

Verizon’s service has been for the most part reliable, being the only cell-phone carrier to operate seamlessly during Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in Florida and Louisiana, and during fire, flood, snow and heat in northern Idaho. “I can’t get a signal,” is a frequent whine of the urban-dwelling tourist visiting Wallace. “Here, use this. It even works at the back of the bar,” we say as we hand them ours.

We’re also umbilical-corded to Verizon by virtue of its virtual phone book. Who wants to hand-transfer 1,200 contacts to another carrier?

That said, the most disagreeable aspect of the “upgrade” is Apple, Inc.’s insistence that it redesign, for every iteration of the iPhone, the bloody charging jack. That $160 you’ve got invested in cords and wall and car chargers from the last time you bought a new phone? Worthless, all because of a two-bit jack.

Maybe Apple makes its trillions by engineering into its phones this no-backward-compatibility feature. There’s certainly precedent for it. Every time Apple does a major operating system upgrade, the iMac you’ve been happily using is rendered suddenly an unsupported boat-anchor.

There are five pin-outs on each end of a micro-USB cable. You only need two to charge the damn battery (plus and minus, just like a car), and those DC charging connections can carry a totally unrelated alternating current signal on top of the charging current. That leaves three pin-outs for whatever nefarious uses Cupertino has in mind.

C’mon guys, I know there’s been a drought down your way but torturing your international clientele with new incompatible connectors isn’t the way to make it rain.

Quit jacking us around.

Sincerely,
Bill Gates

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s massive spill of arsenic-laden contaminants into Colorado’s Animas River (literally, from the Spanish, River of Souls) a week ago has all the makings of a slow-speed softball pitched at this relentless critic of EPA’s hubris, bullying and unscientific bullshite.

The EPA has distinguished itself as a great general contractor when it comes to moving gigantic piles of dirt from one place to another – but that’s about it, at least as regards the mining cleanups it has attempted.

Too, too easy to swing at that softball. Instead, I am going to feel EPA’s pain.

Somebody there in EPA’s Durango operation screwed up. It might’ve been an engineer, a surveyor, an historian or even just the poor back-hoe operator who breached a tailings dam and set loose 3 million gallons of crud into the Animas River, which pollution has now spread to New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and the Navajo Nation.

EPA either lied about, or flat didn’t know, the spectacular dimensions of their spill, first claiming it was 1 million gallons a day after the event, then copping to 3 million days later. I expect that number to rise as the slide rules come out to calculate the true volume of the tailings pond they busted. I’m guessing that they didn’t lie, they were just slow to grasp the situation. Gee, who hasn’t been there?

It would be easy to call for the hangin’ judge here. Hoist the bastards on their own petard.

Instead, I would prefer that EPA take a lesson from this. Mining companies screw up, as do oil companies, as does anyone in the risky business of providing the resources to fuel western civilization. They most times don’t bust tailings dams for profit. Somebody just goofed. It’s human nature.

Is punishment due? Perhaps, but not on a grand scale. So, EPA, you who have been so skillful at playing the blame game and beating mining companies into bankruptcy for simple screw-ups, take a good hard look in the mirror.

EPA, I feel your pain. Perhaps now you can feel ours.

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Bond DAVID
BOND

 
Rant

Collectively, we American homeowners and business owners owe the banksters about $13.2 trillion in debt. This includes the $10 trillion owed by people living in single-family homes.

This, in a banking system that charges 7 percent compound interest on money it pays no interest on. Since we cannot divide by zero, let’s pretend the banksters are paying 1 percent to the U.S. Fed. That’s a 700 percent mark-up.

Would you tolerate such a mark-up on a refrigerator, or a new truck or snow-machine? Of course not. But those of us locked into mortgages just have to buck it up.

And if the banksters drive your neighbour out of his home because of a lost job in this Great Recovery, watch these criminals drive your own property value down.

The banksters don’t shovel the walks of these empty houses. They won’t mow the lawns. They will not shovel the rooftops. They will let the pipes freeze to blow out in late winter. Their repossessed houses stink.

Truth be told, I’d rather have a couple of gang-bangers living next door to me than a Wells Fargo- or Chase Manhattan-owned house. At least the crankers shovel their sidewalks, even if it’s at 3 a.m. with the boom-box pounding.

I got a lot of life’s lessons from an old Indian gentleman I crewed with on the Nanaimo Harbour Patrol. Gilly could lasso a loose log from a boom off the fan-tail with one hand while he hand-rolled a ciggie with the other in pouring rain. In rough weather when he wasn’t sure I was competent to keep the ship stable, he consigned me to make the coffee. This, to him, was an important drill. One burp, every 15 seconds, on the percolator over the ship’s stove, no more, no less. Which meant holding the percolator at just the right height over the stove.

“Keep it in the pants,” Gilly would say, with his hand-rolled cigarette hanging out of one side of his crinkled lips. He was talking about woman issues, viz Lysistrata, the ancient Greek comedy written by Aristophenes, wherein the women kept their flies zipped up until the men quit going to war.

Being all of 14 years old, I didn’t have Gilly’s wisdom nor that much curiosity about girls. I liked boats better. But I got his point.

“Keep it in the pants.”

What if we went on a mortgage strike? Just quit, en masse, making payments for one month. What are the banksters going to do with 10 million homes and businesses they have on the hook? Maybe they could sell them back to us at their actual market value, or at least start mowing the lawn.

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Bond DAVID
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Rant

My father, Richard Milton Bond, slipped the hook this morning. Had he lived another month he would have been 94 but given his failing health, I would not have wished that on him.

The whole family, even we kids, called him Dickie and he never minded. He had a raucous laugh, an even greater sense of humour and greater than that, a spirit for adventure and a disdain for bullshite.

He had a pilot’s heart and a disdain for common thinking. Linus Pauling taught him freshman chemistry at Cal-Tech, whence he transferred with the V-12 program to Berkeley, where he met my late mother, Patty, while both were on the student council.

Our family started in Santa Barbara, where Dickie got his advanced flying tickets on the GI Bill, then moved to Philadelphia where he worked for Ingersoll, the company that made Mickey Mouse watches (amongst many more important things), then to Great Falls, then Spokane, where he built our house, then back to San Francisco.

He found himself unwillingly embroiled in the California politics of Edmund G. Brown (Jerry’s dad) at the Calor Gas Co. and took his fledgling family to the unknown town of Nanaimo, British Columbia, where he assumed the manager’s job of the Vancouver Island Gas Company at a severe cut in pay and opportunity. This, all by the time I was six years old.

Vi-Gas, as it was known, was a marvel. It took barged-in natural gas from the Vancouver mainland, re-compressed it and shot it out through the local pipelines. One of Dickie’s goals had been to build a gas pipeline from the mainland to the island, but the B.C. government, socialist at the time, wasn’t having any of it unless one of its cronies could come up with an alternative. Nobody did.

But watching that gas plant with its giant turbines and pumps was a great joy to a little kid – plus there was a blackberry patch outside to die for in late summers.

Dickie taught me my love of flying. He had grown up on Stearmans and had access to, at various times, a Cessna 170, Cessna 180, Piper Comanche, and later, a Lake LA-4 amphibian, and he would always let me drive. Needless to say I dashed to flight school at a certain legal age. He also taught us how to drive boats and water ski at high speeds.

He was a stern son-of-a-gun, too, Marine that he was. Discipline was no further away than his fraternity paddle – which endured an untimely death when younger-brother Marc and I found where he hid it, and took it down to the beach over an open fire.

He laughed like crazy over our stunt, but promptly cut another one, used it, and it remains hidden to this day.

When we returned to Spokane in my mid-teens, Dickie gave Tom Foley a run for his money for the U.S. Congress in 1968. We lost by a nickle, it was a nasty close race on both sides, but Foley had the kind grace to appoint brother Marc to the Air Force Academy a few years later. Dickie later served a dozen years in the Washington State Legislature, so not too bad of a finish, all the way around.

What else can you say about a Dad who gave you a Huck Finn childhood? In our early years in Nanaimo we didn’t live fancy; powdered milk and rice puffs for breakfast, a two-mile hike to school and bologna for lunch. It didn’t seem odd or poor to us. In fact, it seemed like a great life to we little kids. We had a beach and hot-dogs. What more could a little kid need?

Perhaps there is another thing. When last we saw each other 18 months ago in Anchorage, we had a good chuckle over memories and I got to thank him for being a great Dad, and he told me he loved me. That’s hard for a Marine to do. So maybe, just maybe, have the same conversation with your parents, before it’s too late.

Dickie, Semper Fi. You were one helluva Dad.

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Bond DAVID
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Rant

It has been six months since a failed California carpenter,who has been hustling for public office in Shoshone County since the day he arrived, terminated my print newspaper career, aided and abetted by a clerk-typist. This, after more than 40 good years in the game exposing crooked people, ranting and raving, and other fun duties.

I never saw this sucker-punch coming and it still hurts and bleeds, and every day and night it makes me wonder if I deserved all the national, regional and state awards I have received from my peers. Oddly, I hold the son of the California carpenter, and the spouse of the clerk-typist, in high regard.

But whither?

Where will truth be spoken to power in our town? Who will give voice to an exhausted miner or a wrung-out Walmart clerk? The unions cannot do it; they’ve shot themselves in the foot, padded their executives’ pockets and looted pension funds too many times.

Indeed, whither?

In my naivety, I believed newspapers would carry this load. They have not and will not. This is not about me. There are many far greater journos than I, but they’re not working in the trade anymore, either. We are unemployable. ‘You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth.” Lousy movie but a great line.

Again, whither?

Print is dead, and it’s the only trade I’ve ever known. There is nothing like watching a block-long Goss or Cleveland press roll to a halt and the pressmen re-plate Page One at 11 o’clock at night with your story, the one you knew would rock the town and toss some bums out of office, and watch that baby fire back up.

The party is over. That’s not a newspaper you’re picking off the front porch in the morning, fuelled by the fire of young men and women who actually gave a damn about your town. It is a revenue-seeking device, counting upon your ignorance and absence of curiosity.

Once again, whither?

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