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Archive for February, 2013

NPR CEO: They’d Be Fine Without Federal Subsidy">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©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 OFAIt 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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