Monthly Archives: October 2015

Category: Statehouse

Senator McCaskill (D-MO) doesn't care what you think anymore.

Senator McCaskill (D-MO) doesn’t care what you think anymore.

Somebody will pay.” -Hillary Clinton

As a practical matter, climate change policy and resource exploitation policy should not be so closely entwined that we decline to build Keystone XL or leave oil (and money) in the ground. The goal should be to reduce our need for oil rather than the supply (on which our effect is limited.

MIT’s free online classes now have a pathway to a degree!

California has become a right to dry state! It’s a bit of a dilemma for libertarian-types as it pits ownership against contracts. I fall in favor of the former and consider it perfectly appropriate for California to say “Home ownership has to include this as a right and privilege.”… but I’m not a very good libertarian.

The Bureau of Land Management may be instigating a huge land grab on the Red River.

Some Hungarians want you to know that they are sorry about their Prime Minister.

“Are we over American airspace yet?” (They were, and an American was born.)

The most educated immigrants seem to be coming from Africa.

Sometimes I miss the Mountain West. Meanwhile, in New Jersey… and Europe!

“A former meerkat expert at London Zoo has been ordered to pay compensation to a monkey handler she attacked with a wine glass in a love spat over a llama-keeper.” –Sacramento Bee

Video game voice actors are going on strike. Game companies don’t seem too worried.

But hasn’t this guy heard of the NJ/PA minimum wage experiment?

Relatedly, regardless of the merits, that a majority of Republicans in Pennsylvania support raising the minimum wage ought to scare the crap out of the GOP.

This reminds me of when all of the guns were out to explain that there was no good reason to object to a black stormtrooper when in fact there was almost nobody actually objecting to a black stormtrooper. Except about sports.

Subversive graffiti on the set of Homeland.

Category: Newsroom

This is the second part of a series on Ryan’s ascent to the Speakership. Part one is here.


There is a natural tendency – especially at Ordinary Times, but elsewhere as well – to characterize the GOP as constantly in search of a hero. Always looking for the next Reagan. Paul Ryan, arguably, was emblematic of this around 2011 and 2012. He became the first congressman to be selected on a presidential ticket in almost thirty years, and the second in well over fifty. A lot of that was his youth, energy, and what was perceived to be his unfailing conservatism. Or something.

Three years later, with Cantor knocked off, Boehner leaving, and McCarthy out, Paul Ryan is once again looked to as the Stalwart of Conservatives. Or, at least, of Republicans. Is this yet another manifestation of the Republicans looking for a hero to save them? Initially, there was some justification for this view. If the idea was that they tap Ryan, Ryan is accepted by the rabble-rousers, and justice is restored to the Kingdom of Elephants. If that was the illusion, it was disabused pretty quickly. And predictably.

It was entirely foreseeable, and I suspect foreseen, that Paul Ryan would be the subject of some immediate pushback. That the guy who was considered Mr Conservative three years ago would suddenly become Not Conservative Enough. Because of course he is. Because of course they would. They could theoretically have declared victory. “See? For all that you fellow Republicans hate us, we replaced a less conservative option with a more conservative one. This is why we fight!” But to have embraced victory would be to embrace responsibility. It would embrace being accountable to those who have no sense of what tangible victory would look like and to people whose only sense of victory is another notch in their belt.

So, it is of no surprise whatsoever that many of the same elements that lambasted Boehner immediately started in on Ryan. It is no surprise that Ryan would become the next pachyderm metamorphosed into a rhinoceros. Many of them have lost sight of who they are fighting, or what they are fighting for. The fighting has become a thing unto itself. The belt-notches have become not a means to an end, but an end unto themselves. They fashion themselves warriors, but have become nothing more than reavers for fun and profit. They imagine themselves heroes, but are more reminiscent of Charlie Sheen shouting “Winning!” and “Tiger blood!” (more…)

Category: Statehouse

This is, obviously, more of an OT piece. But here it is for your reading enjoyment. Part one of two.


When Atlas says “This is not what I signed up for.”

If all goes according to plan, tomorrow Paul Ryan will be elected Speaker of the House. He didn’t especially want the job. He was nowhere in the general historical order of succession towards the speakership. But these are special times. How did we get here?

I’m not going to get into the Tea Party and PPACA and all that, because everybody knows – or think they know – the important aspects of it. Rather, the often overlooked event was the budget battle of 2011. With the threat of a shutdown and the debt ceiling, Speaker Boehner and President Obama worked out a compromise that included some immediate budget cuts and the promise of more down the line (with the threat of a sequester). Historically, compromises like this are celebrated and grumbled at by both sides and life goes on. This time, however, things went off-script. Almost immediately, Republicans were declaring resolute victory. Outsized expectations that Obama would go down in 2012 were born. But then people started looking more closely and the cuts that Boehner had extracted at the front-end were largely illusory. Then it was the Democrats who were declaring victory and Republicans who were scrambling.

There were three lasting political effects from the budget of 2011. The first – as described in Double Down – is that President Obama was extremely ticked off that what was meant to be a good-natured compromise was (initially) portrayed as such a Republican victory that embarrassed him, and he made the determination that would not happen again. The second is that Boehner lost the trust of the already ornery Tea Party and hyperconservatives in his party. The third is that it planted the seed for the Sequester.

In 2012, true to his word, President Obama did not compromise (much) in the budget process. This led to Boehner folding in order to avert crisis. That lead to more raucous cheering among Democrats. This victory was followed up on January 1st by the delaying of the Sequester, which again peeved conservatives, the Tea Party, and pretty much everyone important to Boehner’s Speakership. Shortly after newly elected congress convened in 2013, the Sequester went into effect, giving at least the illusion of a major Tea Party victory amidst a sea of losses – most specifically the presidential race, as well as senate races, both of which were laid at the door of The Dreaded Establishment. Message: Tea Party winners, Boehner loser. (more…)

Category: Statehouse

I’ve decided to do the major undertaking of listening to an audiobook autobiography of each of our presidents, starting with Alexander Hamilton. (Errr, that should be “All of our presidents along with Alexander Hamilton and maybe Ben Franklin somewhere down the line.”

This is not a political post! Rather, it’s about a love letter and break up letter Thomas Jefferson sent to a lover in France. It’s framed as a discussion between his head and his heart on what to do about her and his other obligations. It’s the sort of thing I might have written in my more self-absorbed days It’s really a fascinating read:


To Maria Cosway

My Dear Madam,–Having performed the last sad office of handing you into your carriage at the pavillon de St. Denis, and seen the wheels get actually into motion, I turned on my heel & walked, more dead than alive, to the opposite door, where my own was awaiting me. Mr. Danquerville was missing. He was sought for, found, & dragged down stairs. WE were crammed into the carriage, like recruits for the Bastille, & not having soul enough to give orders to the coachman, he presumed Paris our destination, & drove off. After a considerable interval, silence was broke with a “Je suis vraiment afflige du depart de ces bons gens.” This was a signal for a mutual confession of distress. We began immediately to talk of Mr. & Mrs. Cosway, of their goodness, their talents, their amiability; & tho we spoke of nothing else, we seemed hardly to have entered into matter when the coachman announced the rue St. Denis, & that we were opposite Mr. Danquervilles. He insisted on descending there & traversing a short passage to his lodgings. I was carried home. Seated by my fireside, solitary & sad, the following dialogue took place between my Head & my Heart:

Head. Well, friend, you seem to be in a pretty trim.

Heart. I am indeed the most wretched of all earthly beings. Overwhelmed with grief, every fibre of my frame distended beyond its natural powers to bear, I would willingly meet whatever catastrophe should leave me no more to feel or to fear.

Head. These are the eternal consequences of your warmth & precipitation. This is one of the scrapes into which you are ever leading us. You confess your follies indeed; but still you hug & cherish them; & no reformation can be hoped, where there is no repentance.

Heart. Oh, my friend! This is no moment to upbraid my foibles. I am rent into fragments by the force of my grief! If you have any balm, pour it into my wounds; if none, do not harrow them by new torments. Spare me in this awful moment! At any other I will attend with patience to your admonitions.

Category: School


Sean Davis looks at some myths about the state of gun control.

Here’s a way to potentially stop some mass shootings, but it’s pretty hard.

Malcolm Gladwell looks at school shootings as a contagion. Elizabeth Winkler takes objection.

Spencer Stone, one of the heroes of the French Terror attempt, was stabbed in an altercation in Sacramento. Sketches of the culprits have been released.

Matt Yglesias argues that despite appearances to the contrary, the Democratic Party is in trouble.

According to Nima Sanandaji, Sweden’s immigration strategy is reaching a breaking point.

Bangaladesh is about the get the green light on golden rice.

How the Egg McMuffin came to be. Relatedly, while I think there is something to this, I really want my all-day breakfast sandwiches.

Is it outlandish to believe that Chinese drivers are intentionally killing pedestrians due to incentives? It may have been a thing in Texas (sort of).

There was some “No more Californians” please sentiment in Deseret and Arapaho when I lived in each, but… Portland?

playboy“One of those wrecked ships carried a cat, and the crew went back to save it. I made the cat the feature of my story, while the other reporters failed to mention the cat, and were called down by their city editors for being beaten. The next time there was a shipwreck there was no cat; but the other ship news reporters did not wish to take chances, and put the cat in. I wrote a true report, leaving out the cat, and then I was severely chided for being beaten. Now when there is a shipwreck all of us always put in a cat.”

Speaking of animals in the lost and found, here’s a nice story of a dog that went missing in Yellowstone National Park for 42 days before being found.

Not only is everyone else having trouble keeping up with rising rents in San Francisco, but the tech companies themselves are having trouble. All bleeding stops eventually, and that which cannot go on indefinitely ends eventually.

Spinal chord simulation and robotic exoskeletons.

Category: Newsroom

ribsnotcrackEmmanuel Todd comes to bury Charlie Hebdo deceased, not praise them.

A French weatherman is canned after expressing doubts about climate change.

Scientists have totally found an alien satellite! Well, probably not.

Self-driving cars are coming to Canada!

Yikes. A school district in Florida is paying out a six-figure settlement due to some hypnotism gone very wrong.

While using racial slurs is wrong in most contexts, I kind of think this might be an exception.

An obstetrician and abortion doctor – previously sanctioned for performing home abortions – was found with a bunch of fetuses in his car.

Federal prosecutors are going after a Fox contributor for falsely claiming having worked for the CIA.

Hillary Clinton is apparently getting taller. I was actually under the impression that Rubio was shorter than 5’10″… roughly Paul’s height, actually. Am I wrong or has he grown taller, too?

Sometimes Jeb is cool in spite of himself. But seriously, don’t mess with the SEC.

Harry Enten is giving Ted Cruz another look. Cruz wouldn’t have much of a chance in most elections, but this is an unusual one. I think there’s a non-trivial chance that the nomination is going to come down to two Cuban-American candidates. Tom Coburn probably isn’t happy about this prospect.

For several Republican candidates, we’re approaching game time.

It looks like Justin Trudeau is about to be prime minister. Richard Nixon called it when Justin was in diapers.

Now that they no longer issue them, Maryland may take back its confederate license plates.

A surprisingly touching essay by The Voice of Richard Nixon. (or, more specifically, @dick_nixon).

Category: Newsroom

The Wall Street Journal had a piece about dating sites and grammar. The article opens up talking about the ever-increasing crimes against grammar. That, to me, is something of a lost cause as we increasingly type things on our phone with autocorrect that will take things that are right and make them wrong. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t really judge. I think decoding odd grammar and the occasional wrong word is going to start being on the reader. Right or wrong, that’s just the way it is.

That being said, I’m not sure that applies to dating profiles. The article goes on:

Dating site Match asked more than 5,000 singles in the U.S. what criteria they used most in assessing dates. Beyond personal hygiene—which 96% of women valued most, as compared with 91% of men—singles said they judged a date foremost by the person’s grammar. The survey found 88% of women and 75% of men said they cared about grammar most, putting it ahead of a person’s confidence and teeth.

“When you get a message that is grammatically correct and has a voice and is put together, it is very attractive, it definitely adds hotness points,” says New Yorker Grace Gold. “People who send me text-type messages, and horrific grammatical errors? I just delete them.” She recalls the red flag raised by one potential suitor who had written his entire dating profile in lowercase. {…}

One reason people judge grammar and spelling snafus so harshly is that they can reflect the level of effort, or lack thereof, that folks put into their bio. “People use quality of writing as an indication of work ethic,” says Max Lytvyn, co-founder of automated-proofreading company Grammarly.

I think this was true of me, to a degree, when I was a part of that world. The article highlights someone who wrote an app that screens people with bad grammar and use acronyms. Depending on the dating site, you might want as many indicators as possible of a bad match. LavaLife (which was the last one I used regularly) charged you for each connection you initiate. So you wanted to make sure that each person you reached out to was worth the coin. (This probably acted as a good filter for the ladies to prevent spam-suitors and the like.) It’s a bit ironic the degree of superficiality there is in Internet dating, but because there are so many people the inclination to look at superficial criteria – especially pictures – can actually be quite strong. Grammar partially falls into that category.

That being said, if somebody had a profile that absolutely jumped out at me, but contained grammatical errors, I would probably not let that get in the way. I say grammar “partially” falls into that category because in addition to being a matter of education level it is also a matter of personal expression. Which you can glean some information off of (the same way you might be able to with the personal expression of a lip ring or a tattoo) but it’s pretty limited. I am myself rather prone to typos and the like, so I might tend towards sympathy. But if that’s you it might not be a bad idea to have someone look over it for you or something. And on a superficial level – if it’s a personal expression – it seems like a good indicator that we’re not soulmates (like a lip ring or a tattoo).

I was talking on Twitter about this with someone (the guy who wrote Thomas and the Bitter Hand) and he commented that the woman that became his wife communicated in emails with absolutely dreadful grammar and it was a good thing he didn’t take the attitude of the people in the article and all that. He was talking, though, mostly about email. Emails are less formal than a profile (which is meant to be the first impression), so some slack there. Also, grammatical errors or no emails tend to be more involved. So if there are superficial errors, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to see through that and into the person’s intelligence.

So, in summary, I’m glad I’m not single anymore.

Category: Coffeehouse

Back home, there was a little town that had a little stretch of the Interstate that would go out during rush hour and ticket cars for driving underneath the minimum speed limit. the tickets were junk because the law also has a “reasonable and prudent” standard, but a lot of people would pay the fine just to avoid having to show up in court. It stopped at some point, though I am not sure by what mechanism it was stopped.

And with that, where better to find cars to ticket for inspection violations than a repair shop:

Bruce Redwine had seen enough. After years of watching a Fairfax County parking enforcement officer slap tickets on his customers’ cars for expired tags or inspection stickers, usually as the cars were awaiting state inspection or repair at his Chantilly shop, he snatched the latest ticket out of Officer Jacquelyn D. Hogue’s hand and added some profane commentary on top. {…}

They don’t understand why Fairfax police have zealously sought to enforce laws on expired tags or inspections, mainly on drivers who are making the effort to get their cars into compliance, while on private property. Hogue’s appearance in the industrial park often set off a scramble to hide customers’ cars inside the shops, the shop owners said.

“They’re harassing the small businesses trying to make it in this tough economy,” said Ray Barrera of A&H Equipment Repair. He estimated that his customers’ vehicles had been hit with $60,000 worth of fines and fees over the past six years.

Fairfax police said they are only on the property because of a letter issued by Mariah’s property management firm in 2009, specifically granting police permission to enforce county traffic, parking and towing ordinances.


Revenue-hungry Fairfax County is thinking about expanding the use of volunteers to write parking tickets after a five-year decline in the number of citations issued and amount of revenue collected.

The Board of Supervisors’ auditor of the board made the recommendation in a draft report that found citations had declined about 16 percent over a five-year period. Revenue fell about 5 percent despite a boost in the amount of parking fines and expanding the number of parking ordinances, the audit says.

To beef up collections, county auditors recommended that Fairfax follow other jurisdictions that have created special units of volunteers to enforce parking violations. Supervisor John W. Foust (D-Dranesville), who heads the audit committee, said he would forward the recommendations to the full board.

The worst thing of this sort to happen to me involved the former complex I lived in with my ex-roommate Karl. On New Years Day, Karl woke up to find his car missing. It seemed unlikely that someone would steal his decent but nothing-special car. He wondered if there had been some mistake, so he called the tow company on the sign in the lot and sure enough, they’d towed it. As it happened, his registration had expired with December. He asked if they were just going from car-to-car looking for expired tags. While that seemed aggravating, the truth was infuriating. No, they said, the apartment managers keep a running list and as a part of their towing contract turn over a list at the beginning of every month. As best as we could determine, the apartment complex got money from the towing company, which got money from the county.

When confronted, the apartment complex was entirely unapologetic. They basically said, “Well, you should have renewed your tags on time, shouldn’t you?”

The same is technically true of those who go to Redwin’s shop after Inspection has required. They could avoid all of this by crossing their T’s and dotting their I’s and taking care of everything on time.

The question is, though, what is the goal supposed to be here? The goal is to get people to pay for their registration and/or have their cars inspected as required by law. There are multiple ways to go about this, and consequences do have to include ticketing, fining, and at some point towing.

What the three stories have in common is belying the more powerful motivation of people trying to extract as much money as possible from people to feed the system. Whatever, system, really: Private apartment complex, private towing company, county coffers, state coffers, and individual agents whose job it is to meet their quotas management mandated goals. Which leads to some perverse incentives.

There is really no excuse to target people trying to correct their inspection situation because they are an easy target. To the extent that widespread delinquency is a problem, it makes sense to add on a general fine for late registration or inspection. I’m honestly really surprised when a state doesn’t. Back home, there is no special charge for delinquency, but whenever you do register while delinquent you are registering retroactively to prevent you from benefiting from your own lapse. Here, they don’t even do that, which is in my view excessively generous.

I don’t know what’s the case in Fairfax County and/or Virginia, and I’m honestly not sure it matters because it wouldn’t surprise me even a little bit if they got more money for delinquency and then more-more money for tickets. Fairfax County – in addition to not being a very right-wing place – has gotten a windfall from escalating property values and property taxes, but here they are. More generally, there just doesn’t seem to be much relationship between anti-tax sentiment and creative revenue-generation. I would prefer services be paid for mostly out of taxes and fair fines, of course. In part because the fines are most specifically what pays the salary of those who think its a good and fair idea to go to inspection stations to ticket people.

Category: Statehouse


David Bell looks at some myths about the French Revolution. Some are more interesting than others, but #2 was the most interesting to me.

Also interesting is the degree to which contraband smuggling might have been a cause of the French Revolution.

These 14,000 images of the French Revolution make me wish I was fluent in French.

NASA says we may be needing to say our goodbyes to Louisiana and Galveston.

Jason Kuznicki writers about how modern intellectual property law makes us feudal tenants

All major U. S. cities north of the Mason-Dixon line and east of the Mississippi have decreased in population from their peaks nearly 60 years ago.” (Except NYC and state capitals.)

Meltdown-Proof nuclear reactors? You have my attention…

Joe Carter asks why Black and Hispanic Evangelicals are more favorable to prosperity gospel.



The Dark, Haunted Joe Biden Center. “This table was just full of old alarm clocks and printed rules for the Biden Center.” I don’t know if I’d rather go there or to Dismaland.

It seems that 2013 was the first year that primary care physicians brought in more net revenue to hospitals than specialists. (PDF)

It seems like eventually we’re going to have to figure out where Asians fit in to the “whiteness” of tech.

Is excessive regulation of daycare hurting women in the workplace?

Uh, oh… are we looking at Peak Wind?

Freddie Armstrong writes about Dooce’s semi-retirement and the possible end of the mommyblogger.

Anne Continetti of the Weekly Standard and Anya Kamenetz of NPR look at a new book suggesting that the US is failing its brightest kids.

Category: Newsroom