Thursday, April 20, 2023

This is Why Normal People Hate Politics

Well, there is more than one reason for that, of course. But exactly that cringey fawning beyond-embarrassment-and-maybe-even-self-awareness tone of puppy-love for a politician is alone enough to make regular people hate politics.

What does it take to make a man debase himself like that? What could possibly be in it for him that would outweigh the contempt he must feel for himself? 

Potomac Fever is a disease that strikes not just presidential candidates but also the long, long, trail of moochers and sycophants that follow in their wake. That is just sad. 


Tuesday, April 18, 2023

NJ Senator Menendez is 'Justice-Involved' Again

According to NBC News today, my least favorite elected offical, New Jersey's Senator Menendez, is under federal investigation again, for public corruption, again. 

Campaign finance records show Menendez's campaign has spent about $200,000 to pay two law firms as well as a document search company. 

Sources familiar with the matter have previously said that Menendez has been under criminal investigation in connection with a Weehawken meat company, IS EG Halal, that won an exclusive contract with the government of Egypt. Several sources have said owners of that company have given expensive gifts to the senator’s wife in the past. 

Investigators have sent out dozens of subpoenas, with sources familiar with the matter saying they are looking into whether Menendez used his position as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee – which oversees $2 billion in aid to Egypt – to help the New Jersey company get the exclusive contract.
The last time the Justice Department prosecuted him he escaped justice due to a deadlocked jury. Maybe he'll be that lucky again.

Newly Upgraded White House Fence Defeated by Infant Intruder

So, for lovers of trivia and minutia, can you guess how actual security design professionals determine how close is close enough for the spacing of pickets in a high-security fence? 

Hint: the human head is the most irreducibly small element that an intruder has to push through an opening. No matter how skinny a body may be in all other dimensions, the adult head can't get smaller.

How large is that typical adult head, and how would you know? Sample hat sizes? Conduct experiments? Survey your friends?     

Thanks to the U.S. taxpayer, none of that is necessary because the motherlode of body measurement data comes to us from the U.S. Defense Department. If you are prepared to be suitably impressed, go to page 478 at the linked report and check the head measurement known as the 'bitragion breadth.' 

That's the smallest head dimension relevant to a picket fence. An intruder must get that front width of his head through an opening if the rest of his body is to follow. 

I urge you to really appreciate the scientific legitimacy of DOD's anthropometric data. Go deep into the dork forest of sample sizes and standard deviations. 

Thanks to that good work, we can say with a high level of confidence that 5.5 inches of clear opening distance between the pickets of the White House fence is enough to stop nearly all intruders (not counting infants, of course), without being ridiculous or unaffordable. 

A tip o' my government hat to whoever worked on that project.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Biden Reaches Out to Republicans - Not That Kind!

Amid the expected gaffes and flubs of an overseas POTUS trip, Joe Biden topped himself today by posing for a selfie with Gerry Adams, the former President of Sinn Fein and someone who, while definitely not the political front man for a terrorist group, you understand, exercised quite a bit of influence with the 'hard men' of the IRA Army Council. 

The two have met and done grip-and-grin photos together a couple times before. Way back in 1993 Biden lobbied the Clinton administration to issue visas to Adams and his close colleague Martin McGuinness and allow them to visit the U.S. over protests from the UK. 

McGuinness, unlike Adams, made no bones about being the IRA's chief of staff during some of the worst of the IRA's campaign against the British. 

The IRA war may be over now and all that, but you have to wonder how our British allies see that friendly gesture.

Friday, April 7, 2023

NPR Gets Owned By Elon Musk (Our Biggest Taxpayer)

He who pays the piper calls the tune, and fewer and fewer people are listening to NPR these days whatever tune they play. 

Listenership is down from its pandemic peak of 30 million a week to the current 9 million, according to Pew Research. Digital media must be the only thing keeping NPR afloat these days, even as it cancels programs and makes major layoffs

Maybe that 'listener-supported' money will make up the $30 budget gap NPR is facing. Oh, that reminds me - This post was made possible by the Winston and Muffy Wellborn Foundation, creating a more just, diverse, and equitable world by tax-sheltering a small part of his Robber Baron great-grandfather’s trust fund bucks. I hope that helps. 

Amid all that fiscal trouble, now comes the new post-Elon Twitter labeling NPR as state-affiliated media to NPR's great dismay. So great that NPR is currently refusing to use its Twitter account. 

Maybe Twitter is just doing its part in fighting mis-dis-and mal information in social media. Homeland Security can't carry that whole load by itself, so thanks, Elon, for policing your own corner of the internet. 

The argument for calling NPR state-affiliated is the federal appropriation of $525 million in tax money that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting got this fiscal year. That's up from the usual appropriation of $490 million. 

NPR’s website says that federal money is "critical" to its radio operations, so maybe it is not entirely crazy to call NPR state-affiliated. They aren't making their way without government money, after all. The very words national and public are heavy hints at the least. 

The case against applying that label is in Twitter's published definition of state-supported, which excludes "government funded operations that exercise independent editorial control, such as the BBC (sic)." I add the "sic" because the BBC is entirely funded by its government via mandatory license fees charged to any British person or organization using any type of television equipment. The BBC is independent of its owner? Get out of here.  

That definition needs a reality check if anyone believes there can be independent editorial control when a media outlet is dependent on a government for its funding. NPR itself states “Federal funding is essential to public radio's service to the American public and its continuation is critical for both stations and program producers, including NPR.” Critical for its continuation = dependent upon. 

NPR appears to be allergic to simply reporting that $525 million figure, since when they disclose their funding they dance around the total amount by breaking it into several categories. Nevertheless, the critical role of federal funding is clear from this NPR explainer on its financing:
Federal funding is essential to public radio's service to the American public and its continuation is critical for both stations and program producers, including NPR.
Public radio stations receive annual grants directly from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) that make up an important part of a diverse revenue mix that includes listener support, corporate sponsorship and grants. Stations, in turn, draw on this mix of public and privately sourced revenue to pay NPR and other public radio producers for their programming.
These station programming fees comprise a significant portion of NPR's largest source of revenue. The loss of federal funding would undermine the stations' ability to pay NPR for programming, thereby weakening the institution.
Elimination of federal funding would result in fewer programs, less journalism—especially local journalism—and eventually the loss of public radio stations, particularly in rural and economically distressed communities.
After all that pleading NPR really ought to admit the state-affiliated label, and just be happy they aren't called state-owned.


Update as of 4/9/23: NPR is now labeled "government funded media." Further update: NPR still hasn't refused any government funding.