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Archive for February, 2013

Former NPR CEO: They’d Be Fine Without Federal Subsidy

Why am I not surprised to hear this come out only after this guy no longer works for NPR?

Ken Stern, who was NPR’s chief operating officer before becoming its CEO in 2006, has said that even though the network now gets “less than 10 percent of its funding” from government, that money comes at an “enormous cost in terms of credibility, focus, and the efforts they have to do to maintain that support.”

Stern told Newsmax TV this week that “with that relatively modest funding, they’d be smart to actually think carefully about going on their own with corporate, individual, institutional, and foundation support . . . There are actually a group of charities that do pretty well on their own.”

Mr. Stern, the author of a new book on charitable giving, is onto something. NPR has convinced a large chunk of red America that its reports are hopelessly biased or elitist, or both. In early 2011, even before the James O’Keefe scandal in which the young videographer captured NPR’s director of development engaged in stereotypical bashing of conservatives and questionable comments about Jewish-owned media, the network was in trouble. It surived a House vote to defund it by only 228 to 192.

You’d be surprised how many charities now getting public grants would be fine without government aide.  The amount in tax breaks a charitable deduction can provide is usually enough to help, even in tough times.

The problem right now — or at least since the Great Society — is that we have a system set up where it is more about obtaining a government grant than actually getting money from the private sector to help aid in their mission.  During my days at HUD — and I frankly doubt this has changed in the four years since I left — the top FOIA requests had nothing to do about administration transparency.  They were all about trying to get their hands on the previous year’s top grant proposals.

Groups wanting government money wanted to copy what those previously successful had done before them.

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Meta Moment of the Day

Actual summary of a news story at CNN.

New York (CNNMoney) – When it comes to budgeting for the federal government, things are about to get strange.

Starting Friday, federal agencies will be forced to make cuts to their programs without knowing what their actual budgets for this year will be. Why? Because Congress never passed a budget, just a stopgap funding measure that expires soon.

No budget?  Gee, who hasn’t done that for nearly four years and counting…?


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Newest Moon of Pluto Likely to be Named “Vulcan”

First of all some house-keeping stuff regarding Pluto.

1)  It is still not a planet.  The few people who do astrophysics for a living still classify it as a “Dwarf Planet.”

2)  This designation is completely understandable when you actually think about the size of Pluto.  Its entire diameter could pretty much only cover about two-thirds of the size of our moon.

3)  Blame the Kuiper Belt.  It’s a bunch of massive disc of Pluto-sized masses on the edge of our solar system.  It being out there has made us reassess what’s “a planet” when you have a bunch of things floating out there the size of Pluto or bigger (see Eris), you have to wonder are they all planets, or just a second type of asteroid belt?

4)  Pluto already has a number of moons, three of which are named (Charon, Nix, Hydra) and two which are not.

It’s the naming of the last two which is now in the news and thanks to someone familiar with the term, “Vulcan” got a bit of a boost in the online voting.

After weeks of online ballot casting by people around the world, the poll asking the public to name two of Pluto’s moons — currently called P4 and P5 — ended Monday.

As of 12 p.m. (1700 GMT) Feb. 25, the polls closed with a total of 450,324 total votes cast since Feb. 11 with ‘Vulcan,’ a Pluto moon name proposed by Star Trek’s William Shatner, is the clear winner.

“174,062 votes and Vulcan came out on top of the voting for the naming of Pluto’s moons. Thank you to all who voted! MBB,” wrote Shatner via Twitter.

Cerberus came in a clear second with nearly 100,000 votes.

Vulcan was a late addition to the Pluto moon name contenders, and pulled into the lead after Shatner, building on his Capt. James T. Kirk persona, plugged the name on Twitter. Vulcan, the home planet of Kirk’s alien-human hybrid first officer Spock, is not just a fictional world in the Star Trek universe. It is also the name of the god of fire in Roman mythology, and officials at SETI added the sci-fi favorite to the ballot for that reason.

“Vulcan is the Roman god of lava and smoke, and the nephew of Pluto. (Any connection to the Star Trek TV series is purely coincidental, although we can be sure that Gene Roddenberry read the classics.),” wrote SETI scientist Mark Showalter in a blog officially adding the name to the list on Feb. 12. “Thanks to William Shatner for the suggestion!”

These votes don’t necessarily mean that P4 and P5 will end up being called Vulcan and Cerberus, however. SETI is going to recommend the winning names to the International Astronomical Union — the organization responsible for naming the moons. The IAU will take the results into consideration, but ultimately they have final say over what the tiny moons are called.

“Cerberus” was the Pluto’s three-headed hell hound in who guards the gates to the Underworld in Greek mythology.  He’s known as “Kerborus” by the Romans.

Also, this is not the first time that “Vulcan” has come up as the possible name for something in our solar system.  For years, ancient astronomers believed there was a small planetoid mass between the Sun and Mercury.   The thinking was they’d use “Vulcan” to symbolize the belief that such a mass would have to be hot, like a volcano.

Alas, it ended up being a stray asteroid or something and eventually disappeared; never to be seen or heard from again.

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National Rifle Association Member Poaches Obama 501c4 Website

Guess all the smart tech people who were on-board during the campaign aren’t on the clock anymore.


At the beginning of the year, President Barack Obama’s new 501(c)4 political nonprofit, Organizing For Action, was launched with all the usual bells and whistles. But the tech wizards at OFA forgot one important rule in today’s Internet world: Register all the iterations of your website address before someone else does.

Now Obama’s team is filing complaints against the folks smart enough to get the addresses before he did.

As Obama’s OFA made its debut, no one in his purportedly Internet-savvy campaign had obtained the corresponding .com, .net, .org or .us sites, nor did OFA register other names that are close to its official one, as is the sensible practice. In the case of the .net address, a fellow named Derek Bovard had already registered the .net address by the time Obama’s team took notice.

Bovard has routed his new site to the homepage of the National Rifle Association.

So, whenever anyone goes to www.organizingforaction.net they end up seeing the homepage of the NRA.

Not surprisingly, OFA is pissed and has filed a complaint to the Internet Corporation for Names and Numbers (ICANN) which rules, runs and controls all URLs.

Bovard says he believes he has a solid claim to the domain and has documentation from the U.S. Patent Office to back him up.  Chances are, if he’s forced to give it up, he may well be allowed to be compensated for it.

Time will tell what happens next, but the idea that as sophisticated an Internet operation as OFA got pwned like this is too hilarious to ignore.

UPDATE — Don’t feel too sorry for OFA.  It was reported this weekend that those who raise $500,000 get a private briefing with President Obama along with other high-level members of the administration in an arrangement which makes the selling of the Lincoln Bedroom under Clinton look like child’s play.

The White House had a fun press briefing today trying to avoid explaining what they were doing.

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For the Record…

…I suggested this on Twitter first.

SO SINCE DEMOCRATIC LOBBYISTS ARE SAYING THAT the worst thing for them is if the sequester hits and nothing happens, I assume that the Obama Administration is doing what it can to ensure maximum sequester-pain for voters. Somebody ought to be filing FOIA requests for emails concerning sequester implementation; there’s probably some gold there.

Right here exactly.

Sequester Tweet(Yeah, that “is” should be an “if,” so sue me.)

As you can see, Glenn retweeted my suggestion as well.  Third icon in is his.

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Is Manitowoc Really Asking its Residents to Pay for Corporate Art?

It’s been a while since I’ve been in Manitowoc, so the “awe-inspiring” sight of seeing two giant Bud cans and one giant Bud bottle when I drive down Washington Avenue hasn’t come into my view in quite a while.

Would I be disappointed to see them gone?  Maybe, but I also have to ask what were the city fathers thinking when they thought that using tax dollars to save them?

Last fall, it was decided a Manitowoc landmark would stay put, thanks to a huge community outcry.

The city stepped in so the iconic Budweiser paintings on silos could stay.

This after the silos owner, Riverland Agriculture, tore down the banners and was set to sandblast the paintings in November.

“The city took a position awhile ago through our ordinances that they were non-conforming signs and Riverland did what they had to do and started taking them down,” said Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels.

But Nickels quickly heard from community members who wanted to save the Anheuser-Busch beer cans.

“We had an outcry from the citizens. I received on my own well over 1,000 emails in a 48 hour period to keep the murals,” Nickels said.

So he struck a deal.

“We met with Riverland to see what we could do to save them,” said Nickels.

He told Riverland Agriculture the city would pay up to $25 thousand to cancel the work. The city council approved the payment earlier this week.

“The cancellation costs were loss of profit, they had vehicles they were sending up from Salt Lake City and different areas to power wash that needed to be returned,” Nickels said.

After the murals were saved, the mayor encouraged residents to help raise money for the costs of cancellation – plus preservation and maintenance of the murals.

“I’ve never intended to use tax dollars to maintain, preserve or the cancellation costs for the beer bottles. The citizens wanted to keep it, and I believe through fundraising efforts they can,” said Nickels.

But Nickels says the money’s been trickling in slowly. Initially, only $2,500 was received from from Larry’s Distributing, which sells Anheuser-Busch products.

This week, another $50 came in. But other than that, no other money has been donated by those who wanted to keep the murals in the city’s downtown.

$2,550?  That’s it?

Oh, I’m sure more checks will be in the mail after this story was published in local Lakeshore media, but the reality of the situation is two fold here: 1)  No one still knows how much it will cost to maintain the murals in the future — also on the taxpayer dime it would seem.  2)  This was an emotional decision not a fiscal one, sadly, that is often is par for the course given Manitowoc’s past spending decisions.

The city is still millions in debt due to bonding from unneeded projects during the Kevin Crawford days and it decides it can blow $25,000 on what essential is corporate art.  Sure it does.

Riverland had maintained them for years because they were a storage facility for Anheuser-Busch for its upper-Midwest barley supply.  That stopped a few years when the facility was closed and the owners were told to scrap the murals under public advertising laws (giant beer bottles cause kids to drink in Manitowoc or something like that…) and then a group came along and said to save them as “public art.”

We have strange leadership running the city up in Manitowoc.  Sadly, I don’t see that ending anytime soon.

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