Friday, October 29, 2010

Late Post from Portland, Bomb Threat all Safe

Well, I rarely do a 5:00 on Friday post but we’re all safe up here in Portland after a backpack turned into a major bomb scare at the Federal Courthouse nearby and so I’m playing around on the NYTimes site.

The post is to show a NYTimes Tweet analysis of candidates leading up to the election.  In their latest interactive feature, watch as electrons (tweets) bomb in and out off the candidate nucleus.  It’s a fascinating dance of information.

I typed in Harry Reid and Sharron Angle – they were a buzz of activity.  But LePage and Mitchell are interesting too.  Interesting, but I can’t see how they’re remotely useful.

Anyways, have a happy pre-election weekend.



Do you recognize this logo?


How about these?



The top one was the Moogaz in bubbles, the bottom ones BP and Google.   How well do you think you can do at these?  Test out your logo determining capabilities at this neat Flickr project.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Eliot Cutler Surges – Drama in the Maine Governor’s race

If you haven’t been paying attention, Eliot Cutler is surging in polls.  Two weeks ago, he never had a poll over 11%.  Now fresh off the presses he’s leading Libby Mitchell 28%-24% and only trailing LePage by 12% (LePage is at 40%).  Normally, 12% is a steep climb with a week to go but it seems support for Mitchell and LePage is eroding equally fast, and when asked, 51% of Mainers have a negative view of LePage. With 8% still undecided and a 4% drop in LePage support, Cutler leads.

It now seems pretty clear that Cutler represents the only real chance of beating LePage.  Democrats should think seriously about swallowing a pill and supporting Cutler.

How prevalent these third party independent candidates will factor into next Tuesday hasn’t been written.  But already there are confirmations that Bill Clinton asked Democratic Senate candidate  Kendrick Meeks to drop out so that Charlie Crist could beat Republican candidate Marco in Florida.  Clinton had at one time campaigned for Meeks.

Clinton campaigns for Libby this Sunday, travelling to Lewiston on her behalf.  Without the balance of the Senate at stake, it’s hard to see Clinton asking Libby to drop out, but with Tea Party control of the Blaine House at stake, who knows. 

If you’re a Democrat and you’re not sure what to do, here’s Eliot Cutler’s website.

A Place you Can Count On

Local Portlanders might recognize Yan Lam, owner of the Oriental Table on Market Street.  75% of the writers of the Moogaz love his establishment.

Yan is profiled by the Press Herald today.


Yan came as a refugee from Vietnam in the late 1970s, had a sponsor in New York City, but ended up at a tire shop in Biddeford.  Seeking the “golden mountain”, Yan used credit cards to open and run Oriental Table.  He’s an incredibly nice guy and the Moogaz salutes his entrepreneurial spirit.

Plus, the Orange Chicken is really delicious!

Follow up

Following up on the Juan Williams incident and a post I did a few weeks ago, here we have a site called Pictures of Muslims Wearing Things.


You can buy official Muslim garb here too.  Garb is a funny word, huh.


chances are this guy will vote republican

but America needs him regardless.

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Things that will Change the World

Look for real time data to become the new buzzword.  After all, who can wait for weekly, monthly, or quarterly reports anymore?  To make split second decisions, you need split second data. 

Take for example consumer spending.  Since the dawn of time, Wall Street and Washington wonks anticipate the Commerce Department’s release of its Consumer Spending report. 

Here’s a blurb from Bloomberg Businessweek:

Consumers likely spent more in August and saw their incomes rise, but economists don't expect the gains to be enough to greatly alter the sluggish economy.

Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected the report would show consumer spending and incomes each rose 0.3 percent in August. The Commerce Department will release the new August report at 8:30 a.m. EDT Friday.

The gain in spending, which would follow a 0.4 percent rise in July, would indicate that consumers are spending at a moderate rate.

But what happens when the data that comes out of this report is already old the minute it’s released?  Well, mintdata makes that a reality. has quickly shot up to become the household financial management giant on the block.  It allows users to track their spending, set up budgets, and stream real time data from their bank and credit accounts. 

Now has begun displaying the aggregate trends.      In this example, mintdata shows who is spending money in Boston and what categories are growing and shrinking.


Click over to Average Purchase and you have a live data stream of inflation.

There’s some fun things to lookup too.  You can drill into a particular shop. Here’s a look at how well Morton’s Steakhouse is doing.  Looks like people are buying more steak (average purchase price is up) since earlier this year.


You can quickly see how this shreds any monthly or quarterly look at consumer spending. 

Sadly, Portland Maine isn’t on the list.  I was curious to see how much people spent at Market Street Eats.  Maybe next month.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Moogaz Movie Moment: The Messenger

Quick interruption of our normal feeds to do a movie review.


The Messenger sets Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster as an Army team whose job it is to notify families of dead soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

These two performances are outstanding and the character and setting framing is well enough to keep you interested.  Ultimately though, this movie suffers the same problem as The Hurt Locker: it cuts in and out of a tense, war environment without wrapping the characters into a complete story.  There’s no beginning, middle, and end.  And when it does end, the sum of things you don’t know well exceeds anything you learned in two hours.  So you feel less than satisfied.

But it does expose the massive amount of loss that our country has experienced in the last 10 years since the wars began.  And no review of this film would be complete without expression a deep gratitude to the families and service people who suffer tremendously in obscurity.

Throw a comment if you’ve seen it.  It’s streaming on Netflix.

Gummy Bear Massacre

Me and candy are at war right now.  You see, I have three kids.


Georgia finishes her piano lessons and gets rewarded with candy corns (candy 1, Keith 0).  We go to visit Aunty Jackie and within minutes it’s “daddy, can i have an aunty jackie treat?” (candy 2, Keith 0).  Three minutes later, repeat.  (candy 3, Keith 0).  Aunty Michelle bakes cookies.  (candy 4, Keith 0).  By the end of an average day, the score resembles something like a US-Lichtenstein Olympic basketball game.

It’s not just candy. It’s donuts.  And popsicles.  And juice boxes with sugar.  Ice cream.   

I’m constantly bombarded with sugary missiles from everywhere.  It’s not just birthday parties.  It’s Friday nights and Saturday mornings.  It’s when the kids visit work.  And when they visit their friends’ houses.  It’s on a box.  It’s with a fox.

I’m sort of laughed at when I suggest there’s way too much sugar in our kids lives.  “It’s ok this one time.”  “Be happy.”  Nobody realizes I’m at war.  I can’t be happy when I’m at war.

Anyways, the battle rages on.  October 31st is fast approaching and I feel a Waterloo coming on.

(inspired by a NYTimes article this morning)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Megaberth Comes to Portland

Sounds like the latest reality TV show - megaberths.  But no this isn’t a strange combination of large people and obstetrics.  It’s Portland’s $4.9 million addition to entice larger cruise ships.  Construction starts this week and is scheduled to complete next summer (from Forecaster article)

Here’s a map.

The Bollard wrote an interesting piece in 2008 about where these tourists go; most take excursions which can range from nearby Freeport to far away Mount Washington.

Anyways, I had forgotten that Portlanders approved the bond back in June.   Actually, it seems as if all of the Old Port is humming with construction (   And there’s rumors of a new link to Nova Scotia (  Hardly seems like a Recession.

New National Video and a quick plug

In that over 60% of the MuGaz admin staff are big fans of The National, i thought I'd throw this out there.  Its their new video for “Terrible Spiders” the debut track on High Violet.  the real take away from this video is that the band’s front man, Matt Berninger is a nutcase.  We saw him in Boston and assumed he was really drunk.  turns out he’s like this all the time.

I saw this on Paste’s “Awesome of the Day.”  which is a really fun go to.  Other posts include a montage of 160 of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best lines and this little nugget about a UK service that will turn your cremated remains into an LP.


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None of the Above

If you haven’t seen Brewster’s Millions, you should.  If only because the Tea Party is the modern Monty. 

image Monty is a run of the mill guy, worn out pitcher in a depressed New Jersey city, who loves his friend Spike.  He’s your average Joe.  In a race between two established candidates, our average Joe has to spend $30 million in 30 days.  He starts out running as a candidate only to realize that he doesn’t really want to be a politician, he just wants to throw the bums out.  And this is the modern Tea Party, $30 million in 30 days to throw the bums out.

Unfortunately, when the Tea Party wakes up from their party on November 3rd, they’re going to face the same hangover Monty felt.  And there’s no $300 million from George Burns (although come on, doesn’t Boehner look exactly like this guy).

My Dad sent out a well intentioned email summarizing the Tea Party angst.  Surprisingly, I kind of felt myself drawn to the early pieces.  It was like rooting for Monty.

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then they [sic] campaign against them.  Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

Of course then the forwarded email gets Fox Newsisized. There’s your standard Nancy Pelosi reference (we need a villian).  And a list of taxes in case you forgot that there was a hunting license fee.  But it’s the end that sheds light on the Party of Tea.

Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, & our nation was the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

That’s when I’m like WTF? 

None of these taxes existed 100 years ago.  Well neither did airplanes.  But ok, you don’t like taxes. NOBODY DOES.  This is where most journalists end their amazingly probing inquiries (sarcasm) of the Tea Party.  But the debt?  How many times do Democrats have to say that it was the Bush tax cuts that created our current debt?  Or the Bush wars.  Or the let’s stop watching Wall Street policies.   And the largest middle class?  Take a look back at an earlier post on income inequality; it’s amazing that the Tea Party and the rich-supporting Republicans are even remotely on the same page.  If you really want a strong middle class, you really should be supporting unions and eliminating tax cuts for the rich, not exactly your conservative plank.  Conservative policies DO NOT HELP the middle class. And mom staying home with the kids.  Hi, welcome to the 2010s.  But if you really want mom staying home with the kids, Sweden (we know all Tea Partiers love Sweden) pays for it.

The point is that the Tea Party is a throw the bums out party who’ve aligned themselves with the devil (George Burns, Oh God you Devil, get it?).  In thrusting up the Republicans, they’ve demolished any hope of actually solving the problems they care about.    And in the meantime, we’ll be choking on cigar smoke.  And Hackensack will still have a train running through the outfield.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Eliot Cutler does know our fortune: Paul LePage

I've been ignoring the possibility of a third party candidate in Maine for as long as possible. Why? Because I know a third party candidate has some of the perspective I'm looking for in both a leader and politician - balls and vision. Usually they can't win though, and so I try to look the other way knowing that in the end I'll be both voting for and against one of the two major party candidates. In the case of Maine's gubernatorial, two things have made this strategy crumble: the utter ineptitude of Libby Mitchell's campaign and the very real possibility that we will wake up on November 3rd with Paul LePage in the Blaine House. Scary on both counts.

Eliot Cutler has always been there, fuzzy, in the background. The first push to the front was the incessant internet advertising. Then came the rising poll numbers, steady over the past month, all the way up to last week's Critical Insights poll putting him dead even with Libby Mitchell. And both well behind Paul LePage.

There's some earth moving in Maine this week. Momentum, once on the side of the underdog, cannot be stopped. A third party candidate needs believability and last week's poll gave Cutler just that.

But that's not the only thing! Do you know what else gave Cutler some believability this week? The Maine Democratic Party mailer tying "China's Lobbyist" Eliot Cutler to the loss of Maine jobs to overseas labor markets, most notably, China. On this mailer we have juicy quotes like "Maine jobs could go to China" and "As recently as this summer, while running for Governor, Cutler welcomed to Maine a group of Chinese businessman promoting Chinese involvement in our economy." What does that even mean? This mailer is a pathetic jumble of "China" sentences and a photo of Eliot Cutler. If it came from LePage's campaign it would be one thing; into the recycling bin it goes.

But because it came from the state Democratic Party I immediately think two things:

1. Eliot Cutler is a contender.
2. I should look into Eliot Cutler because this mailer manages to be both offensive (really, fortune cookies?) and wildly impertinent (really, isn't this election about job creation?).

And suddenly, Mainers, we have a three horse race.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Keep your enemies closer

Well, if the president needs an enemy then China isn't working so much. The people just can't get behind the nuances of currency manipulation I guess. But it's true - all presidents eventually need an "other" against which to define their goals and future legacy.

Enter Republican-controlled Congress.

The left has to recoil from such a notion, but as today's NYT article points out, having a divided government gives Obama an early edge in 2012. That's very important, more so than this year's midterm elections.

Once the Republicans take control of Congress they'll have the same issues Democrats have had over the past two years: legislating from a majority highlights a party's internal dissent. The supercharged anti-everything Tea Party reps will find that it's nearly impossible to have a functioning congress without an appeal to the middle. I don't envy the fire-tanned Representative from Ohio. It will not be easy to lead this rowdy bunch.

Realistically, could the left have expected to hold on for two more years? The first half of Obama's presidency has been nothing short of surprising. Anyone who says differently is either a conservative or somehow believed Obama would with one wave of the hand make America Europe. Campaigns are never ever the same as governing. A look at the facts shows that despite his own party's incompetence and anxiety in the face of difficult decisions, Obama was able to usher through some of the most impressive legislation in generations. Health Care. Bailout. A new START treaty. And, he's withdrawn a majority of American troops from Iraq. Tom Dickinson hits all of this and more in the most recent Rolling Stone. Two years is all a president can really hope for in the American political system (unless your FDR, but then we'd need to be at war with half the world).

This productivity will indeed change after Nov. 2. No longer will the Democrats be able to push through sweeping legislation. But neither will Republicans, for there numbers will not be overwhelming. The pace of change will slow and Americans will instead see incremental change, some vetoes, and a whole lot of showboating and melodrama on the right side of the aisle.

As we approach Nov. 2 the president's approval rating sits just below 50%. His likability has not changed since the summer. Democrats are turning out in early voting (yes, they're still fired up, and what more, there's more of them with each passing year). In January, Obama will have a Republican House (and perhaps Senate) that will either play ball or kneel to the far-right demands of their party's newest members. Who will lead, Boehner or Bachmann?

Either way, Obama benefits. And 2012 begins to look a whole lot brighter.

(Unless of course you believe Obama is prophetic, in which case the whole world ends on December 21, 2012).

Friday, October 22, 2010

American Freak Show

Jimmy McMillian, thank you for your service in Vietnam but now, welcome to the American Freak Show.

And whoever in Colorado created this ad, you also contributed to the American Freak Show.

Both of these were courtesy which is rising in my must-see-political-sarcasm blog list.

We’re creating American Freaks so fast we need books to chronicle them.  This one’s just coming out.

American Freak Show: The Completely Fabricated Stories of Our New National Treasures 


I forgot to post Jimmy’s site when I originally posted - – classic.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Greene Street

Shorpy, a historic pictorial blog that I’ve mentioned before, has an awesome picture out today of Ithaca, New York circa 1900.  I love this street.  The caretakers of this block clearly respected their environment.  Look at the attention to detail in the well laid out cobblestones, edging, grass, and trees. 

With the Google, I was able to find today’s Green Street.  The buildings on the left match up, but hardly anything is left of this once proud rue.  Today’ caretakers probably wouldn’t think twice about the cracks in the road, the grass growing through the sidewalk, the strewn wires blanketing the streetscape.


When did Green Street stop caring about the physical surroundings they live in?  Is it that they had too much to do?  Did their fortunes fade?  Did they have too many places to be in that they couldn’t keep up with their own place? Did the invention of the car, engineering, and cheap manufacturing ruin their street?  Or did the mechanization of their lives just make them oblivious to their changing surroundings?

Place is important.  The streets we live in make up our lives.  This is why I get so mad at the City of Portland for spray painting construction notes all over the cities brick sidewalks. Here’s an example, it might as well be Congress Street or Monument Square (it’s not)

For now, here’s your moogaz homework.  Keep an eye out for street scenes like the one above as you walk around Portland and remember what a well laid out environment could look like.  Oh Greene Street.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why is Life so Hard

So there you are.  Debt.  First you got the clothes that the fashionable people have.  Then you splurged on the catered birthday party because the boss had one.  Next thing you know you’re divorced and bankrupt.  And everyone around you in middle class land is suffering the same fate.  You wonder, this can’t just be me. Well, it isn’t.

Cornell economics professor Robert Frank says it’s inequality baby.

What’s income inequality?  Why should I care?  Income inequality is the income difference between the highest earners and the lowest earners in a society.  Frank argues that it’s the bedrock of a lot of our modern day issues.

In the US, the rich are getting richer faster than the middle classes ability to keep up.  That doesn’t stop the middle class from trying to keep up though.  Instead, they use debt and second jobs to maintain a standard of living of the person just above them.  Frank calls this expenditure cascades.

The rich have been spending more simply because they have so much extra money. Their spending shifts the frame of reference that shapes the demands of those just below them, who travel in overlapping social circles. So this second group, too, spends more, which shifts the frame of reference for the group just below it, and so on, all the way down the income ladder. These cascades have made it substantially more expensive for middle-class families to achieve basic financial goals.

But what makes this article great is that Frank has looked at 100 countries and he finds concrete evidence that in countries where inequality is getting worse, there are higher rates of all forms of stress: marriage stress (more divorce), financial stress (bankruptcies), and driving stress (longer commuting times because of affordable housing).  

And yet, even though income inequality is such a driving force to many of today’s social woes, it hardly gets talked about as an economic issue. 

When Fox News screams against taxing the top 1% of the rich, remember that it’s not because Democrats don’t like rich people.  It’s because lower income inequality is a major economic force.  And when Sarah Palin yells freedom, we should take into mind that policies that favor income equality may actually lead to more freedom (freedom from stress) than policies which say that the government shouldn’t do anything. 

As we head into the polls next month, people are angry.  But I can guarantee the policies of hands off, let the rich get richer will do nothing for us.  Except make life harder.

1946, with a Stamp

This is a cool story.  A postcard sent in 1946 was found on the floor of a mailroom in Farmington, Maine and delivered to now 83 year old Ruth Webber McGary.

Farmington State Normal School, Farmington, ME

1946 was the year of the bikini.  The precursor to the copy machine (a giant drum with ink) was the latest technology buzz.  And Republicans picked up 55 seats in the House of Representatives after Truman nationalized railroads to prevent a national calamity.  In World affairs, focus was on building a United Nations and a plan to rebuild countries far away (Europe).  And “although Truman cooperated closely with the Republican leaders on foreign policy, he fought them bitterly on domestic issues,” says Wikipedia.   Wow, what a different world it was. wink wink.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Grizzly Bears, Amélie, and Giving them the Unicorn Stick

I tend to block out Sarah Palin.  She’s loud and annoying and frankly does an injustice to grizzly bears, who up until this year were a proud species.   But then she went and messed with unicorns.  Nobody in the Gosselin household disparages unicorns.  It’s an unwritten rule.  If Amelie, my four year found out, she’d be really upset.  After all, she’s going as a unicorn for Halloween this year.  And we do a unicorn story every night.

Ok, so here is mamma bear’s quote:

California would need to create more than four million jobs over the next 10 years to keep up. Does anyone seriously think that the liberal policies of Pelosi and Reid and Obama -- heck a Boxer and a Brown -- are going to be able to turn this around and get the job done. They act like they're permanent residents of a unicorn ranch in fantasyland if they really think they're gonna be able to turn it around with the liberal policies they have to continue, and you know, it's pixie dust.

She’s right about the jobs.  I’ve been saving a graph in my back pocket and now it’s perfect save-the-unicorn arming material.   The Washington Post has an awesome interactive feature which shows just how many jobs we’ve lost since the start of the Great Recession and what it would take to get back to full employment.  The interactive feature is cool, the job losses staggering.


I’m pretty sure I know the policies that the Democrats would use to fix the problem: infrastructure improvements, stimulus spending in clean energy jobs, focuses on exports.

What exactly would the furry creatures over there in grizzly land propose?  Well, princess fuzzy herself doesn’t really offer an ideas (other than to disparage the great winged white unicorn).  So I’ll go to my Pledge to America pocket card to find out how Boehner and the Republicans plan to get job growth to 6%.

And there it is.  The massive proposal for stimulating the economy and generating 6% job growth is …

  • Permanently stop all job-killing tax hikes
  • Give small businesses a tax deduction equal to 20% of their business income
  • Rein in red tape
  • Repeal job-killing mandates

Which is to say an Obama-style stimulus plan (remember the stimulus plan was 30% tax breaks) plus ABSOLUTELY NO OTHER PLAN ON CREATING NEW JOBS.  It’s right there in the GOP “plan”.

No new energy jobs plan.

No new exporting job plan.

No new transportation plan.

Nothing about how our population is aging and how immigration could generate jobs.

They’re plan will “continue to lead the fight against terrorism with a plan to keep terrorists out of America.” Actual quote. Well, that’s good i guess.

Here’s where I wish I could see a media clip of an elegant unicorn stick (that’s what Amelie calls the horn) impaling a loud, stupid bear.  OMG, it actually exists.  This wikipedia article is hilarious. I’m stealing the picture for the end of this post.

They Keep Stealing the Cream in the Swiss Rolls

You got to love the Swiss.  Swiss rolls.  Swiss coco.  Name something Swiss that isn’t awesome.

The Swiss are congratulating themselves after completing a tunnel link that will cut the train time for travelling between Germany and Italy by 1 hour; maybe more importantly reducing the amount of heavy pollution across the eco-sensitive Alps.

The project, funded by the EU, started in 1996 and will be opened in 2017.  It’s a core part of their transportation vision.

Since the US is a global leader and we’re so awesome, I thought I would lay out some US projects on the same scale and let you know their current status.

New Jersey – New York City Tunnel.  In order to maintain New Jersey’s third lowest gasoline tax in the country, the new governor of New Jersey Chris Christie has pulled the plug on the new rail line into New York City.  Apparently, short term paving projects and keeping taxes low is more important than keeping New York City from becoming a giant traffic parking lot.  This article by DailyFinance highlights the recent transportation debacle.

California High Speed Rail. Luckily, at least one governor is supportive of a plan to reduce our dependence on airplanes and automobiles.  Governor Schwarzenegger has been very supportive of a voter-approved $40 billion plan to connect San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego with high speed rail.  And it makes sense.  As one who use to have to wait 2 hours in an Orange County airport to take a one hour flight to get back to the airport in the Bay Area so that I could drive an hour home, taking a simple fast train ride makes soooo much sense.  But California is having their share of current road funding projects, and there’s the looming election of Meg Whitman who has problems envisioning the future.

The Big Dig.  With a major race in Massachusetts pitting Duval Patrick against former Bay State Financer Charles Baker, the Big Dig’s financial history is in the limelight again. Thankfully, it’s already built and we can enjoy a walkable connected North End now.  Otherwise, who knows if this would be approved.  Remember this:

The Trans-Texas Corridor.  Well here’s one project we’re glad is dead.  Rick Perry (also running in a tight election) pushed hard for a super corridor across texas.  The massive 12+ lane monument to oil has little local support and appears dead for the time being.

The concept for the Trans-Texas Corridor, shown here in an artist's rendering, calls for separate lanes for cars and trucks; rail with separate lines for passenger, high-speed freight, and commuter traffic; and a utility zone.

So what have we learned from this little exercise?  The Swiss are cool people and I wish I was there.  And there are two types of leadership.  Leadership one says the US is already a great country and picks the past over the future.  Leadership two admits we have a ways to go and thinks of great ways to connect our country.  You can guess which is prevailing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Close your Eyes and Imagine

Close your eyes and imagine Afghanistan.  If you’re exposed to as much media as most, images of war and fighting probably pop to mind. But a white horse?

More and more projects like this NPR one keep showing up on my radar.   Benjamin Rasmussen, a photographer, sets out to capture photos of the side of Afghanistan we don’t think about, the beauty.  Every time I see one of these projects, it resets my internal faith in humanity a little bit.  So enjoy.

Actually the post was inspired by a similar post on where Occidental College PhD and Oklahoma native Lisa Wade literally wades into our relationship with cultural norms.  Some time ago, she posited a similar exercise.  Imagine Muslim women.  Her guess was that the black burka pops right into mind (Google muslim women and you’ll see)  and she talked about the feelings that evokes after seeing it time after time after time.  But how about these women?

image CoupleArgueChildYalda Faqeerzada (left) and Uzra Azizi, enrolled at Holy Cross, are among 47 Afghan women in the United States taking part in a program called The Initiative to Educate Afghan Women.

An astronaut?  a family fighting?  Women in college?  All Muslim women. 

Well, breaking stereotypes is a fun exercise.  Now back to my nerdy IT group.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Incredibly Sophisticated Graphs on Why Mainers Leave

My guess is that they get tired of all the lobster paraphernalia. Well, if you’re a data head you just can’t settle for hear-say.  So from the get-to-know-the-candidates area of the League of Young Voters site this weekend, I followed a study posted by Anne Haskell, my representative for district 117 called Where They Go and Why?

if you live in Maine, there’s really nothing in it that you didn’t already know.  But graphs and numbers are good for the soul.

Students who choose out-of-state institutions versus in-state ones mostly have the same framework for choosing; they look for quality of education in their field of choice.  As you might expect, affordability and connections to local jobs or family play more into students choosing locally whereas students choosing out-of-state are a little more likely to rate culture as an important aspect.   For first generation college students and ones who finance more of their own education, staying local appears to be even more of a factor.

What’s interesting is that the Maine brain drain doesn’t really happen when they choose a school.  The study shows that half of Maine’s best-and-brightest students go to Maine colleges.  So that’s good.

But when they graduate from a university or college, the numbers change. Two-thirds of the best and brightest “choose” to leave.  And the reasons for staying versus leaving are entirely based on their values.  If they say that they value friends, family, recreational activities, and social connections then they’re more likely to choose to live and work in Maine.  But if they value career opportunities, a job, or its benefits they’re more likely to choose outside.  And if they’re field was technology, they were even more likely to leave Maine.

The study also looked at what areas these graduates were in since graduating – helping professions a whopping 46%.


So what conclusions to draw?  The study concludes that increasing funding in education is an option.  Since quality is an important factor, schools in Maine need to stay at or above par.  But more importantly, the study rightfully places the focus on the transition from school (either in Maine or not) to work.

… if the goal is to have and maintain a more highly educated workforce, the evidence clearly points to the need for greater economic development. If Maine is going to be competitive in the global economy, Maine must expand its economic base. Only by expanding career opportunities will Maine be capable of turning Maine’s so-called “Brain Drain” into a “Brain Gain”. Clearly this is critical to the future economic vitality of the State and its citizens.

What the study doesn’t go into is what I call breaking the cycle.  If Johnny sees helping professions as a way to make a wage, he/she will study helping professions, and with a glutton of new helping professionals wages will remain at or near stagnant.  So people will pick something different and leave.  The shift to better opportunities has to happen as the graduate enters the Maine workforce.  Universities with incubator programs and strong ties to new industries break the cycle.  Suddenly, Johnny is exposed to a new idea or way to earn a living.  And this grows the industry which grows wages, etc.  If I had $50 million, here’s where I would put it.   

There’s a couple of caveats to this though, mainly (hee hee) in that the schools of Maine are in locations that don’t really have strong commercial bases – think Orono, or Farmington.  And on the flip side, Portland, with the strongest in-state connections to commerce, lacks a strong institution to partner with.  So lots of work to be done there.  Time for lunch though.

By the way, speaking of brain drain, my fourth grade self could’ve done the graphs in this study.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Deconstructing Diarrhea

I love arguments.  Give me some tenets and some ground to fight and I’ll go to town.   But I was recently handed an argument built on diarrhea, as a lot of Democrats have lately, and now I have no idea what to do.  Here’s how it happens (follow along with the original article here)

First, take a news story that everyone has heard of and use it as a solid lead in to your argument. 

When McDonald's told federal regulators in a recent memo that it would be "economically prohibitive" for its insurance carrier to continue to cover its 30,000 hourly workers unless it received a waiver from the ObamaCare requirement that 80% of premiums for such minimed plans be spent on medical care, alarm bells went off in the White House.

Ok, seems like it’s going somewhere.  The ObamaCare reference is starting to smell a bit though, a little like Mallory after lunch. 

Vortex-Flushing Toilet Bowl

Inject Nancy Pelosi.  This is important because you need a villain.  Someone everyone can hate.  At this point forget policy, or what’s better for the country, or anything of any substance.

Suddenly the "affordable health care for Americans" that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke of when she passed a bill no one had read was revealed to be an unaffordable fraud that threatened to throw untold numbers of young workers into the ranks of the uninsured in an already precarious election year.

I like verbs we’re using so far.  Alarms in the White House.  Revealed.  Like it’s kindred pooh, this article stirs up emotion immediately.  And then inject a hint of socialism.  Like eating six tacos the night before, this is the stuff that can really clear out a church.

Remember the days of sharing the burden and spreading the wealth? These 30 waivers exempt coverage for around a million workers, teachers, farmers and young people who can now go to the polls with a little less angst.

Wait, wait, before we get to the crescendo, I need to try and argue something here so let me get into the meat (no pun intended … really).  If I read this correctly, and it’s hard to read pooh literally, the main argument is that the waiver helps teachers, farmers, and young people and so they want to vote for the people who are helping them.   I’m confused.  Why is this bad?


By the time we get to the end, like the taco induced mess, pooh covered words are just flowing out. Unconstitutional.  Lied to.  Fraud.  And so the reader is left no other conclusion.  Clearly the crap is beautiful and great and telling me something that I need to know.  WTF?

Me?  As someone who loves an argument, I have absolutely no idea what to argue here.  I’m staring at a big pile of festering shit and wondering, why is everyone so mesmerized.

I’ve been hard on the administration lately.  But in truth, the author of this article knows that health care exchanges aren’t scheduled until 2014 to give insurers time to build them.  And without exchanges, there’s no competition or availability for low-cost insurance plans.  And mandates are needed to collect premiums from healthy young people.  Otherwise, you can’t support insurance plans that cover everyone.  And that include preventative medicine, so that we don’t wait to treat someone until they have a Diabetes-induced heart attack because they couldn’t afford a doctor’s visit. 

What’s hard to believe is that people really rally behind this.  Forget that the new insurance plans will be better for McDonald’s workers or that to get to this better environment, the DHHS is doing what the bill said to do to prevent current insurance plans from dropping.  No, it’s so much more in these days to criticize change.  (And it’s so refreshing to hear it from, who is, after all, for the little guy)

Well, go ahead everyone and clap for your pile of pooh.  Leading up to the election, we seem to be doing a lot of this lately.  I’ll be in the bathroom celebrating the invention of the toilet.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Check ME Out

If you drive around Maine (or New England) you’ll notice a lot of vanity plates.  When a coworker purchased one for his new car this morning, it made me wonder – where is Maine on the percentage of vanity plates?  And well, the Internet being a completely awesome place to pull random data on morning thoughts, here’s the rundown of states and percentage of vanity plates.

Maine is 6th in the country with vanity plates.  1 out of 10 people in Maine have one.  Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut are all in the top 10 as well. 


Since it’s Friday, here’s something to do for the weekend.  Apparently there’s an official Consecutive Number Plate Spotting organization dedicated to the game of spotting numbers in license plates in order: 1,2,3, etc.  The rules are, as you imagine, quite a bit more detailed and exact. Originally a UK game, it most definitely can be played in the US but the founder warns that “ this game is very long and practically impossible to complete. In order to give yourself a fighting chance it is worth familiarizing yourself with number plates of cars that are regularly parked in and around your road. Especially if the numbers are within the next twenty or so that you are looking for. Then when your reach that number you can conveniently go and spot it. You can often clear 3 or 4 numbers on a good day if you are well prepared.”  He also advises that you write down you current number so you don’t forget and establish t-shirts and membership badges.

Remember the license plate above has a 4 in it.  You’ll need this by Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Worst Wedding Video Ever

Courtesy Ezra Klein’s interlude and a Russian videographer, light pong in a forest with a phallic champagne bottle and some awesome 80s guitar rifts.  Patrick and Michelle – you should get one of these done.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Malaise, Ain’t it a Bitch

What do you do if you really want to vote non-of-the-above.

First, the Democrats were in power and people voted for a Contract for America.  Then the Republicans were in power and the Democrats took Congress.  Now the Democrats are in power and here we go again.

Matt Bai in the NY Times this morning argues that the real issues people care about have nothing to do with jobs or healthcare.  People are generally going too fast, see too much rudeness, are surrounded by chatting heads and an endless see of technology that does little to improve basic lives.

Fuel that with a destructive media machine whose single goal is to sell talk and inject it with cash flying all over the place from everyone but the little guy and there you have the discontent that has been brewing for a while.  The policy neutral independent who just wants a better life for his or her child has a simple voting rubric: antiestablishment.

Nate Silver knows his numbers.  And in a blog this week he reinforces this independent malaise by suggesting 2012 may be the year of the third party.  Actually, he gives 15 reasons why a third party is a real contender this cycle. 

Heading into what will certainly be a disastrous election, as a Democrat I’m buoyed by the fact that the voting has little to do with the mountain of achievements Obama has made in the first two years.   And if the trend continues, the electorate will be ready to switch back by 2012.  So that’s good.  Even if we’re not really solving anything.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cynicism, the Technocrat, and Solar Panels in the Desert

In a Great Recession, we’re surrounded by cynicism.  The market may not rebound.  Jobs are lost.  We’re doomed to fail to China.  Truthfully, these fears and worries were always present, but in a hopeful economy the doubts are suppressed.  In a Great Recession, all we have is doubt.

Hold that thought for a minute.

Today the White House announced that it will return solar panels to its roof.  This is good right?  It reinforces the push for renewable energy.  It falls in line with stimulus investments in clean energy and Obama’s mandate that Federal buildings go green. We should be happy.

But then creeps in doubt.  Didn’t we already install these things during Jimmy Carter’s presidency?  Wasn’t Jimmy Carter a failure?  Aren’t Obama’s poll numbers in the bag?  Oh God, what if Obama is Jimmy Carter? 

What starts out as a nice little technocrat decision to add a solar panel back up to the roof is actually a doubt megaphone.   And you can be assured that the cynicism police will be out in force – I can already hear the piercing shrivel of Megyn Kelly.

And this is where Obama is failing us.  (No, not that Megyn has a y in it, but yes that’s a problem)

In a Great Recession where all there is is doubt, we need bold confidence.  It isn’t enough that the stimulus has good things in it or that we’re making small but good steps, we need to know where we’re going.  America goes through the past like Mallory goes through diapers. They crave the future.  To quote Michael J Fox in American President “People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.” 

Well, all we have right now is sand.  Someone tee up a mirage please. 

How inspirational COULD it have been if Obama wrote an executive order mandating that every Federal building would have solar panels in 5 years?  Now that’s a mirage I could sink my teeth into. 

clear contradiction.


Really?  Cause I masturbate.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Panis ad multitudinem Circus

Oh Caesar, you’d love the US these days.  The masses are as entertained by the lions as they were back then.  And money shifts from the Forum to the Magistrates and vice versa as freely as bets before the big Gladiator match.

Ezra Klein describes:

It's hard to wave away the news that special interest groups have increased their spending fivefold since the 2006 election, particularly given that fewer than half of them are disclosing their donors. And yes, that money is going pretty much where you'd expect: Democrats have been outspent 7:1 in recent weeks.

That's a lot of cash. Gamechanger cash, in fact. And it highlights one of the Democrats' odder difficulties going into the election. They've passed a lot of high-profile laws that were about restraining corporate behavior -- but those laws required long negotiations and compromises with the very interests they were attacking. The health-care reform bill, for instance, and financial reform. TARP, of course, was passed by George W. Bush, but most voters blame the Obama administration for it. The GOP has effectively attacked them for this, arguing that the Democrats have sold out to various corporations. At the same time, those same corporations hate those laws, small concessions to them notwithstanding, and are now pumping millions of dollars into the GOP's 2010 campaign.

So the Republicans are simultaneously able to stand against corporate interests and get funded by them, and in the post-Citizens United world, there are few limits, or even disclosure requirements, able to shine light on their play.

In case you’re wondering what this means at the local level, New Hampshire is soaked in cash.  The US Chamber of Commerce alone has pumped in $1.3 million to buy its Magistrate.  This chart shows the other hordes who have come knocking at New Hampshire’s door.

Even the policies of the Republicans play into our Romanas.  Shall we cut the deficit and give tax breaks to everyone while increasing (miraculously through the Roman Gods) silver to fight the Gauls.  Hail Caesar! Shall we deny a hard working Carthaginian whose lived in Rome all of his life and whose your parents came here to find work the right to be a Roman.  Hail Caesar! Shall we fund the aqueducts and the Apian Way.  Let it crumble!  The Senate votes No, no, no!

With so much corporate money at play and with the masses feeding at the trough of Fox News, its not surprising Democrats are fleeing Rome.  Aqueducts be damned, let bread and circus reign.  Pulsat vulgus. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Come on, Bill. Do it for the folks

As many of you know, Bill O’Reilly has a new book out called Pinheads and Patriots.  I have to admit that I don’t know much about O’Reilly directly.  I am not a fan of The Factor.  In fact, to be completely honest, most of what I’ve seen of O’Reilly has been reflected off Colbert.  But based on the recent interviews between StewBeef and Papa Bear, I took a look at the free sample of this most recent polemic.

Here’s literally the first page.  The last 50 pages is just an old interview with the President, who O’Reilly lovingly refers to as Barak Hussein Obama.  Read it all but note the highlighted portions (because i was pretty excited to learn how to use that feature of my “snipping tool”)

papa bear's opening

That’s right, baby its payback time!  Now you’ll get to hear my ridiculous musings on my definition of what America is for …wha?…$28?  I thought this was a thank you gift for making you so rich and famous?  You’re so grateful to us for making you a big celebrity that even the kindle version of your book costs $13.

That’s kinda bullshit, Bill.  I get that publishers take a big cut of the profits but if you are going to start off by thanking people at least make the electronic version of the book free. Is it just that you don’t want to give anything away for free? Would that would make you a conspirator in the socialist takeover of the county our grandparents fought for? Those same grandparents who don’t want Republicans to privatize their social security.

No I did not read the rest of the book. The first 30 pages were so full of venom and spite, I did not feel the need to read any further. Talk about your snipping tools.

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Flaming Lips, Education reform and Superheroes? Is it my birthday?


Davis Guggenheim, the other guy behind the Inconvenient movie, has a new documentary out about the state of the US public school system.  Its not yet playing in Portland, but I'm sure it will be soon. Trailer below.  I'm pretty psyched, despite the lack of capes and heat vision.

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