Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A good read: The W-S Journal

People may not think much of the newspaper industry, but individual newspapers are still pretty good. You really can't beat the medium yet, it's just that you can come close enough to really, really mess it up.

These stories were all in the Winston-Salem Journal today:
PETA plans porn site

Iraq: 40,000 more U.S. troops home this month

4.2 million have classified security clearance. That's nearly the population of metropolitan Washington, D.C.

Bomber kills leader of Afghan Peace Council; Karzai cuts U.S. trip short.
Hell, I didn't even know Karzai was in the states. That's pretty good story selection.

Google: World's most "gets it" company

From Google Adsense, via email:
"In the next month, we'll introduce the +1 button and personal recommendations to display ads. ... Soon, your users will be able to endorse specific ads and make the ads more likely to appear to their social connections."

Continued brilliance.

For random comparison's sake, I went to Harris Teeter tonight. Their "application" for one of those savings cards lists your drivers license number as "required information."

It didn't make me want to shop at Harris Teeter.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ashley Henderson-Huff: A soldier 5 years gone

Even though I wrote myself a note, even though the University of Georgia honored her last week, I almost forgot today was the anniversary of my friend Ashley's death in Iraq.

I saw a reminder on Facebook, through a friend of mine that I didn't know knew her.

That is how life is.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Forbes Rankings: From Worthless to Worth Quoting

Since I showed up in North Carolina last year, I've been fascinated by the adamance state GOP leaders have displayed in arguing that the state is, in fact, a terrible place that hates capitalism and lies in ruin solely due to decades of Democratic control of the state government.

And I kept saying, "Then how come you and 9 million other people live here? How is it the state does so well each year in Forbes' ranking of best states to do business? How have all these America-hating North Carolina commies managed to fool Site Selection Magazine into naming the state No. 1 in business climate 9 out of the last 10 years?"

And I learned that Forbes was just "some magazine." That taxes are far too high. That outsiders don't fully understand the problems Democrats have created for North Carolina businesses.

Which is why I was surprised today when I came to the fourth paragraph in House Majority Leader Paul Stam's press release on the General Assembly move to prohibit gay marriage:
"According to Forbes Magazine ranking of best business climates, eight out of the top 10 states have defined marriage in their state constitution."
Interestingly, of the other two states in the Forbes' top 10, 50 percent of them are North Carolina.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gay marriage: You sure we need a law?

California Gov. Jerry Brown put out a quotable veto message last week, rejecting fines for kids who won't wear a helmet while snowboarding:
The measure would impose criminal penalties on a child under the age of 18 and his or her parents if the child skis or snowboards without a helmet.

While I appreciate the value of wearing a ski helmet, I am concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable transfer of authority from parents to the state. Not every human problem deserves a law.
While the specifics of this particular issue are fairly ... specific, the theory Gov. Brown worked from put me in mind of the gay marriage question before the N.C. General Assembly during the special legislative session starting today.

Does the disagreement over gay marriage deserve a law? And not just a law, but a place in your state constitution?

Note: I'm not labeling marriage or sexuality of any kind as a "human problem," beyond the fact that it's something we don't all agree on.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

May Flights of Angels

The University of Georgia honored Ashley Henderson-Huff and Noah Harris during half time of Saturday's South Carolina game. Both died serving their country, and their families were given framed University of Georgia jerseys.

I'm very proud to say Ashley was a friend of mine, and my thoughts this weekend are with the people whose lives have been so horribly changed by the events of Sept. 11.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Post Office double dealing with employees on leases, contracts

This was my last freelance story before moving to Winston-Salem. Basically, the U.S. Postal Service has all these longstanding relationships with local postmasters, who make extra money by renting space to the post office, particularly in rural areas.

The USPS also contracts with former, and in some cases current, employees to handle rural mail delivery routes. It's not clear whether any of this is really costing the post office which has major financial problems, more money. In some cases it seems to save money, because the rent hasn't gone up that much in 40 years.

The Post Office Inspector General's Office breaks much of this down in a report you can download here. Auditors determined federal and postal regulations were violated. They also questioned the wisdom of renting from and contracting with employees, particularly since, in some cases, postmasters helped make the decision to rent their own building.

Also, the names of the contractors are being kept secret for reasons that don't sound like good reasons to me.

At any rate, read the story. I also have databases of the leases and contracts that weren't included in the Inspector General's report. If you want them, let me know and I'll email them, save you a FOIA request.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Reporter, Hired

I started a full-time job with the Winston-Salem Journal today.

I suspect the blog "Lucid Idiocy (Politics)" will continue here, but it's url will almost certainly change from

Aah, accuracy. You've hassled me yet again.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lawyers: Dotting t's in 'not a contract'

Just finished signing a 13-page lease that required my wife and I to initial the bottom of nearly every page. About halfway through, the lease noted that it "shall not be strictly construed against either the landlord or the tenant."

Then I can't help but think it could have been condensed.

To be fair, the phrase "this is not a contract" appeared only once in 13 pages, on a document from the state REALTORS (TM) Association. It's got a real "required by state law" feel to it, but I do not see a code sight.

Voting Mitt Romney's pocket book

Click image to enlarge.

Turned out this car belongs to a young man (19) who was home schooled and listens to Rush Limbaugh while he delivers pizza. So, while the car inspired my headline, it wasn't the example I might have hoped for.

It still reminds me of something my dad says, which has been a political truism for many years: People vote their wallet.

But I don't think that's true for a lot of people right now. Many vote their philosophy. Some are so frustrated by the size of social welfare programs and the evident impossibility of slowing government spending that they've said, "Enough, period."

Others, I don't think they know when they're screwing themselves. Manipulated correctly, they'll do it with a passion.

February 2012 update: The New York Times shows what this hypothesis looks like when you turn it into a real news story:
He says that too many Americans lean on taxpayers rather than living within their means. He supports politicians who promise to cut government spending. In 2010, he printed T-shirts for the Tea Party campaign of a neighbor, Chip Cravaack, who ousted this region’s long-serving Democratic congressman.

Yet this year, as in each of the past three years, Mr. Gulbranson, 57, is counting on a payment of several thousand dollars from the federal government, a subsidy for working families called the earned-income tax credit. He has signed up his three school-age children to eat free breakfast and lunch at federal expense. And Medicare paid for his mother, 88, to have hip surgery twice.