News and Stuff: 23 July 2014


“Understanding the spirit of our institutions to aim at the elevation of men, I am opposed to whatever tends to degrade them.” Abraham Lincoln

“Low voter turnout is a sign of a content democracy.” Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky)

“…in the end, look, this is the most consequential administration since Ronald Reagan…America emerges from the Obama years a different country. It emerges with something close to universal health care. It emerges with a reasonably useful financial reform. It emerges with some important changes in energy and environmental policy. Not many presidents leave that behind.” Paul Krugman

“Israel confronts an undeniable reality: it cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely. Doing so is not only wrong but a recipe for resentment and recurring instability. It will embolden extremists on both sides, tear at Israel’s democratic fabric, and feed mutual dehumanization. How can Israel remain democratic and Jewish if it attempts to govern the millions of Palestinian Arabs who live in the West Bank? How will it have peace if it’s unable to delineate a border, end the occupation, and allow for Palestinian sovereignty, security, and dignity?” Phil Gordon, White House coordinator for the Middle East, speaking on July 8.

“The loss of life itself is devastating. The loss of life to research to helping end HIV and AIDS is profound.” Anthony Hayes, speaking about the loss of 298 passengers on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Many of the passengers were prominent researchers and scientists heading to Melbourne, Australia for the 20th International AIDS Conference.


86 The percentage of American local TV news stations which do not assign a journalist to statehouse reporting. (Pew Research Center)

97 The percentage of Representative Jackie Walorski’s (R-Indiana-02) party line votes in 2013. The average for Republican members of the House is 92%. Walorski is currently being challenged for her House seat by Democrat Joe Bock. (Gannett; Indianapolis Star)

375,000 The number of cases currently pending in U.S. immigration courts. There are only 228 immigration judges in the country. (PBS NewsHour; National Association of Immigration Judges)

7.54 Million The number of American involuntary part-time workers in June of this year. These workers would prefer to work full-time jobs but are only being given part-time hours. The average U.S. workweek in June of 2014 was 34.5 hours. (Gannett/USA Today)

91.6 Million The number of acres of corn planted in the U.S. this year. This is the smallest number of corn acres planted since 2010 but still the 5th-largest corn crop planted since 1944. 84.8 million acres of soybeans have been planted this year, a record high. (Gannett/USA Today)

40 Billion The approximate dollar amount of yearly earnings by tipped employees in the U.S. The IRS estimates that $11 billion of these earnings go unreported every year. (Vox Media; KCRW To the Point)


Shorter Renee Ellmers, (R-North Carolina-02): Women are Flummoxed by Charts and Graphs. 

The full Renee Ellmers? While advising Republicans on How to Talk to Women during a Conservative Women’s Panel Discussion, here is what Representative Ellmers said: ” Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level. You know, one of the things that has always been one of my frustrations, and I speak about this all the time — many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they’ve got some pie chart or graph behind them and they’re talking about trillions of dollars and how, you know, the debt is awful, and you know, we all agree with that. But by starting the discussion that way, we’ve already turned people away. Because it’s like ‘that doesn’t affect my life; I don’t understand how that affects my life.’ So one of the things that we have worked with, with our male colleagues – and I have seen a difference, I will tell you I’ve seen a difference- is to, again, engaging individuals on their level. Talking about them on a personal level first…We need our male  colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman’s level and what everything that she is balancing in her life – that’s the way to go.”

I should note: Even in my deplorable female condition, I need a pie chart, graph, or table to understand Ms. Ellmer’s exceedingly loose grip on syntax. And, needless to say, the bald statement that “men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level.” Additionally: This is an election year. North Carolina, please vote.

Gratuitous Garden Photo: a.k.a. When Cucumbers Ruled the World

July Garden

Seriously, you can’t tell it in this picture but the cucumbers are taking over the planet, with a happy mix of tomatoes, nasturtiums, geraniums, and sweet potato vine just waiting to be strangled. Any day now.

Much of the current events in our world leave me feeling bleak. The garden doesn’t solve any of it but it does provide some minor relief to me when the world seems to have gone awry. I wish everyone had the luxury of something green to sustain them and, better yet, being far enough removed from the tragedy that relief is a possibility.

Sources and Disclaimer: Quotes do not necessarily imply endorsement of ideas or persons cited. Sources  for this post include but are not limited to: CNN/Fareed Zakaria Global Public Square; Gannett; Indianapolis Star; KCRW To the Point; NPR; PBS NewsHour; USA Today; WBUR On Point with Tom Ashbrook; and Alexander Keyssar “The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States.” 

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In July, When the Lilies…

The Stargazer Lily

Stargazer Lily

If you love a flower that lives on a star, then it’s good, at night, to look up at the sky.

     – Antoine de Saint-Éxupéry, The Little Prince 

Feeling My Luck (Dusk, Queen Anne’s Lace, Indiana and Me)

“I walk to think and not to think. If I did not walk I would not recall a forgotten friend…brought to mind by the smell of…a hedge, or would forget to feel my luck, conjured up (who knows why) by the sight of reflected light on a hill.” -Susan Minot

Tracy Ditch

Indiana in July

Greenwood, Indiana in July

Don't ever let anyone tell you that Indiana isn't pretty.

News ‘n Stuff: 10 July 2014


“I think that these problems, these challenges that immigration presents the United States really pre-exist this crisis and we need to keep our eyes focused on the fact that these are children who are seeking protection here and not try to solve our dysfunctional immigration system on their backs.” Wendy Young, regarding the over 52,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America who have arrived at the US-Mexico border seeking asylum

“If Obama likes ‘em so much, let ‘em stay at the White House.” One of the protestors in California who caused a bus loaded with women and children refugees (immigrants) to turn away from the detention facility in the area to which they were headed.

“We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.” Attributed to Louis D. Brandeis

“You know, the United States is one of three countries out of 45 major countries in the world that spends less per student on poor kids than it does on wealthy kids…[We] are spending less per student on poor kids in poor communities than we are on rich kids in rich communities in K through 12. Everybody else in the industrialized world, every other rich country, does it exactly opposite.” Robert Reich

“I feel reasonably comfortable that I can write two or three good stories for the next day’s paper if I have all day to do it. And my predecessors had that luxury. The demands of the internet, though, are suce that you’re writing quick versions of the story that, if you’re lucky, have the virtue of not being wrong but don’t have anything like the depth of analysis I’d want them to have, a sense of context and consequences. So the web has put real pressure on the enterprise and robs you in a way of the time for reading and reflection and consultation that would make the next day’s story even better.” Journalist Adam Liptak



52.5 The percent of the popular vote which Indiana’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz won in the 2012 election to secure her office. Governor Mike Pence secured his with only 49.8% (47.5%) of the popular vote. Superintendent Ritz is currently fighting the governor’s office for the ability to do her job (admittedly, this is a partisan way to phrase it). (Sources on percentage vary: NWI Times and Courier Journal are two sources)

63 Percent of working-age Americans who either have a job or are looking for one. This is the lowest percentage of workforce participation since 1978. (CNN; Fareed Zakaria GPS)

182 The number of executive orders President Obama has issued in more than five years of being in office. President Reagan issued 381 during his two terms in the White House; President George W. Bush issued 291. (Gannett; USA Today)

200,000 Number of jobs in the U.S. supported due to loans provided from the U.S. Export-Import Bank in 2013. The Ex-Im Bank also generated $1 billion in revenue for the United States Treasury in the same year. The Ex-Im Bank provides guarantees to buyers of American goods and low-interest loans to exporters based in the U.S. Its charter expires 09/30/14 and it looks as though the Congress will not renew it. (Renewing the charter would count as doing something and that might spoil their nearly-perfect record of inaction.) Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) has written an op-ed advocating for its renewal. (CNN; FZGPS)



That SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Decision? Doesn’t it also just really, really point to the craziness that is the American way of tying one’s health care to their employment?

So, Indiana College Democrats posted a Buzzfeed Thing against incumbent House Representative Todd Young (R-IN-9). And I should say, I don’t like it. It shouldn’t have been Facebooked by either Democratic challenger Bill Bailey or the Democrats of Johnson County. (It was.) Sure, it’s the kind of thing young, cool kids do. Sure, it has plenty of ironic and knowing GIFs (Into the Woods, Arrested Development, heck yeah). But: it, like too much of the political ocean we’re all swimming in, oversimplifies issues and people, even Todd Young, who despite the GIFs and votes one doesn’t at all like, is not stupid, should not be “shamed,” served in our military, is now serving in our Congress, and is also a real human being. This article makes Democrats look bad. It makes us look like single-issue voters. (“Don’t see your issue? Just scroll down!”) It panders to the image of Democrats and voters as takers, out for the government cash or tax break which benefits them. It just makes us look small. Besides, this kind of post will only appeal to people who are already not voting for Rep. Young. I totally get that every knowing pundit, manager, and political science major can tell you that the way to win an election is to draw big distinctions and limit oneself to bullet points; to know your audience and to hit them repeatedly in the “one spot” which will reach them. And I disagree. I think Americans are smarter than that. Even Democrats are smarter than that. Savvy use of GIFs aside, this does nothing to advance the dialogue, the Democratic candidate, or the country. What is politics for? And if it’s not for advancing us all, then why campaign for it? And if the method of campaigning doesn’t match what we want politics to be for, then why employ that method? I don’t care if you are in college. (And Mr. Bailey and fellow Dems of my neck of the woods, you should know better.)

Cool Link for Plant/Garden Types: 13 Vegetables That Magically Regrow Themselves

Probably Not the Best Use of My Time (Wanna-Be Writer Issues):


Writer Issues

This is the kind of thing that a fake writer will have enter her head while writing. Imagining Fake-Clippy (Flippy) is not helpful. Neither is taking the time to photograph and edit a paper clip to create Flippy.

As Flippy’s contribution to this hack’s “creative process” was to suggest “You should stop writing. Seriously, there are too many words and that frame story is stupid. There is no one in the world who would enjoy reading this. Stop. With. The. Writing.”

Flippy and I are through.


Sources and Disclaimer: The views of quotes and persons cited should not be construed to imply endorsement of ideas or opinions cited. Sources used include, but are not limited to, the following: CNN; Gannett; NPR; MSNBC; WAMU Diane Rehm Show; WHYY Fresh Air with Terry Gross.



Stay Cool, America. (Happy Independence Day!)

Popsicles and Petunias

Happy Fourth!


Baker’s Dozen: 26 June 2014

Thank You, Indiana.



“In time, Americans will look at the marriage of couples such as the plaintiffs, and refer to it simply as a marriage — not a same-sex marriage.” U.S. District Judge Richard Young

“Schools are increasingly assessed on their ability to produce good employees rather than educated minds.” John Langdon

“We’re talking about children as young as five and seven years old…I think, as Americans, we need to be careful how we treat these kids.” Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, speaking about the refugee crisis of thousands of child immigrants (most from Central America) who have been crossing the southern border. An additional 115 agents, with another 150 scheduled to join, have been deployed to assist at the border.

By the Numbers

11.4 The average age in years of vehicles on U.S. roads in 2014. The average age of vehicles on the road following Cash for Clunkers in 2008 was 10.1 years. (USA Today; Gannett; IHS Automotive; Polk)

12 The percentage of all American jobs which are related to infrastructure. (NPR; WBUR On Point)

26 The percentage of Americans who have no savings. 67% of Americans have less than six months’ worth of expenses saved. (USA Today; Gannett;

38 The percentage of U.S. median wage which is roughly equal to the federal minimum wage. This is one of the lowest percentages among rich nations. (CNN; Fareed Zakaria)

>1 Million The number of Iraqis who have been forced from their homes so far in 2014. The number is increasing daily. (NPR)

Other Things

What a difference 1100 years can make: In the early Middle Ages, the Levant and the Middle East traded luxury items with Byzantium and Western Europe. Included in the items exported from Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran were sugared violets and rose jam. The prime exports now (for too long) seem only to be despair, devastation, disease, violence, chaos. And oil. The flowers were better.

Shorter SCOTUS Regarding Aereo: One Nation Under Comcast.

Link: Everything you ever wanted to know about recycling in Johnson County, Indiana.

Today’s Moment in Sloppy Writing:

Sloppy Writing

The usual disclaimer applies regarding quotes and errors. Additional sources include the Indianapolis Star and The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Middle Ages, 950-1250. Comments always welcomed and appreciated.

Read more of this post

Baker’s Dozen: 20 June, 2014


“I think what we don’t understand about the specialness of poverty in America is that…in this country, if you’re poor you’re less likely to be married, you are less likely to have people around you, to have communities that are intact. In most societies, it is the poor who, despite not having resources, at least have community.” Anand Giridharadas

“No one has the guts to just let [poor people] just wither and die.” John Johnston, Republican candidate for Indiana’s 10th District, who made it better the next day by saying “It’s like training a child, either you enable them or force them out at some point.”

“In the end, if we remain stuck in an economic climate in which stagnation and disappointment are the norms for large numbers of Americans, the most likely risks to our politics are not rogue leaders or an insurgent political party. They are endless vacillations, low levels of public trust, and political options that are stunted by a poisonous atmosphere and heavy discontent.” Don Peck

“The reason we won this campaign – there’s just one reason – and that’s because dollars do not vote; you do.” David Brat, who defeated incumbent and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the primary election for Virginia’s seventh congressional district, despite being outspent 20 to 1. Republican Brat will face Democrat David Trammel in November’s general election.

“…[independents and moderates] are the majority but they are not the majority of voters. They don’t show up to vote, especially in primaries. The people who are the most engaged voters are also the most partisan.” Amy Walter

“…just because you’re consistently liberal on views or consistently conservative doesn’t necessarily make you extreme…and, in fact, one of the challenges of finding ‘a center’…is the center’s really fragmented. It’s all over the place and they’re not necessarily moderate in their views; they’re not always looking for the middle ground.” Michael Dimock of Pew Research Center, discussing the new study on politics and polarization in the U.S. and how independents frequently have strong views on separate issues but if one looks at the “sum” of their opinions, they don’t lean ideologically one way or another.

By the Numbers

620 Number of detainees who have been released from Guantanamo Bay since 2002: 532 under President Bush, 88 under President Obama. 149 detainees from 19 different countries remain: 78 cleared for transfer to their homelands and 51 who have been deemed too dangerous to release but for whom there is insufficient evidence to try for specific crimes. (PBS NewsHour citing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel)

>1,000 Number of anti-government and patriot militia groups active in 2013. (Southern Poverty Law Center; NPR/WBUR On Point)

20,000 Number of elephants killed by poachers in Africa in 2013. (PBS NewsHour)

21,000 Number of U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement officers active on the U.S. border with Mexico. The number of border patrol agents has more than doubled since 2004. (MSNBC)

84 Million Number of patients treated by VA health systems in 2013. The VA currently has 338,000 employees. (NPR/WAMU The Diane Rehm Show)

Other Things

Chick on the Left

Distinctly blue-tinted chick.

This Has Been Bothering Me for Awhile: The Chicks on the Right, in their own inimitable way, advocated in one of their columns (04/25/14) that the next president of the United States doesn’t need to have a college degree. One, they said, look at Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates. Two, they said, “nine other presidents, including our first, never went to college, either.” Third, they said, just look at Wisconsin governor Scott Walker (R): he’s pretty much awesome (he’s also probably going to be indicted, but still, totally awesome). The Chicks pointed to the worst of the worst college courses being taught; they pointed to “liberal indoctrination in universities.” They said that what the president needs is “character, drive, passion, intellectual ability, and determination…the ability to connect with people and communicate…someone with innate intelligence who has experienced hard work…College degree optional.” Sure, Chicks. College degrees are so meaningless that only 39.4 percent of Americans have one, including those with a two-year degree. Many economists and policy wonks agree that raising the educational attainment level of our population is critical to our country’s future. Having a president who doesn’t have higher education or enthusiastically supporting the lackluster value of what could be said to be a minimum mark of achievement or otherwise honing that “innate intellect” is an excellent way to lower the bar all the way around: Hey, kids, don’t go to school because it’s expensive and you want to be president, don’t you? Hey, president, just connect with people and what better way to connect than to be just like 60.6 percent of us? Hey, country, world, and emerging tech economies, we’re as bad as we wanna be and we have intelligence, communication skills, character, and drive. We just can’t prove it on paper. Trust us. And, I guess, the lowering of the bar stretches to newspapers, too. After all, the Chicks on the Right with their harsh screeds, name-calling, and advocacy of less education have a column. (See Addendum/Update Below)

Link: Armadilloes in Indiana!

Disclaimer and Sources: The use of quotations is not intended to imply agreement or endorsement of ideas or persons quoted. Sources for this post include but are not limited to: Indianapolis Star, MSNBC; NPR (WAMU Diane Rehm Show and WBUR On Point with Tom Ashbrook); PBS NewsHour; and Don Peck’s book, Pinched. Comments, corrections, opinions welcome and encouraged. (And still seeking guest posts! Email me at

06/20/14, 9:35 p.m. Update and Clarification regarding what I said about the Chicks on the Right and the College-Degree-Optional President:

Here’s a link to the Chicks’ original article, for starters.

For seconders, in fairness to the ladies, this was actually one of their more cogent and reasonable articles and they weren’t as hateful to all people who don’t agree with them as usual. That being said, it was also one of their more pointless articles: it’s not actually a pre-requisite that the president have a college degree. In this day and age, it helps, but it’s certainly not literally required. And despite my last statement about the COTR having a column, it’s not that they shouldn’t have a column in the newspaper. As I’ve said before, I don’t think they should write for it as they write for their own blog or employ in their news column the same methods and practices they employ on their conservative radio talk show. I’m all for a broad range of opinions. I’m not, in the main, for generalized hate. Sometimes, too often, that’s the direction they choose.

Thirdly, I know many intelligent, informed, capable, and driven people who don’t have college degrees. If they were running for national office, I would vote for some of them. Conversely, I also know advanced-degree-holders whose knowledge is being kept so far under wraps, they appear to be mystified by their mother tongue and/or immune to efficient processes of any kind. Of course, in choosing a leader for the country, all of the characteristics the Chicks listed are what we want. Of course, if someone exhibits those qualities, what does it matter if that person has advanced education?

Except, to argue for that feels like participating in the weird and inexplicable “anti-intellectualism” strand that has entered American politics. (See also here: Palin) In the same way that I prefer a doctor who has actually gone to medical school, I prefer a candidate who has sought out and completed courses beyond the 12th grade level. A college degree is not a guarantee of intelligence, work ethic, or erudition. But it is a limited but essential value in establishing the credibility of someone you can’t personally vet. It’s like the first chip on the “Meets Expectations” Bingo scorecard; the lowest rung of the “Basic Competency” ladder; the minimum statement that someone who wishes to lead the country took their future seriously, planned ahead, and was voluntarily exposed to a broad range of people and ideas.

I’m for more knowledge, no matter how it’s gained. A college degree is just one method among many of demonstrating that the process of “more knowledge” was engaged in. It’s a leading indicator and a starting point. It’s not a ceiling. So, while a college degree is not required for someone to be a president or legislator and it shouldn’t maybe, say, legally be, it’s not unreasonable that it’s pretty much expected. That’s the way it should be. Regardless, we shouldn’t be advocating for more candidates or presidents with less education.

That’s just not smart.



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