This is a piece I wrote about the importance of media outlets sharing the raw data on which their articles are based, as they do with prose (e.g., FOIAed documents) with increasing frequency. →
I want to emphasize a small but crucial point about Bob McDonnell’s defense in this unfolding scandal. His defense is that all of the gifts—$15,000 for one daughter’s wedding, $10,000 for another daughter’s wedding, $70,000 to his business, $50,000 to his wife, etc.—weren’t to him, but to his family members and his business. One of the gifts was a $6,500 Rolex, purchased by Jonnie Williams at the request of first lady Maureen McDonnell. A men’s Rolex, it’s engraved “71st Governor of Virginia,” and it is worn by the governor.
We’re to believe that this “71st Governor of Virginia” men’s Rolex, worn by the governor, was a gift to the governor’s wife? The very suggestion is ludicrous.
As is so often the case, The Simpsons did it first. In “Life on the Fast Lane” (season 1, episode 9, 7G11), Homer has completely forgotten to get a birthday present for Marge. He rushes out to the mall and buys a bowling ball. He has it drilled and engraved “Homer.” When Marge opens it, of course she realizes immediately that Homer intends this for himself. A few minutes later, she’s pondering an affair with a Frenchman who is providing her with bowling lessons.
Marge Simpson knew better. The grand jury will, too.
I enjoyed the hell out of covering his misdeeds in 2005. I hope he can provide the world with more fodder for hilarious tales of corruption in the years ahead. Given his lack of contrition (he regrets pleading guilty!), I think that’s likely. →
Several times recently I have squeezed a large number of oranges, enjoyed some of the delicious fresh-squeezed juice, and then been disappointed by the rest the next day. It tastes bitter, and becomes worse rapidly. This turns out to be the result of naturally occurring limonoate A-ring lactone (aka "LARL," a tasteless substance) breaking down into limonin, which is very bitter tasting. The amount of LARL varies between oranges and throughout the growing season. If there’s any way to arrest the conversion of LARL to limonin in the home-squeezing process, I don’t know about it. →
My friend Jonathan Stray put together an entirely fact-based FAQ on American gun violence for The Atlantic. Everybody can learn something from this. →
I’m more interested in orange juice than is probably healthy for somebody who doesn’t work in the industry and, as such, I’m excited to see Bloomberg Businessweek shining a spotlight on the horseshit that is "fresh squeezed," "not from concentrate," and "all-natural." These are all lies. It was squeezed months ago. It was concentrated to a point a hair’s breadth from the legal definition of "concentrated." It’s not natural, it’s created in a lab in a process more complicated than Coca-Cola. If you drank the stuff as its stored in giant vats, you’d spit it out—it’s flavorless at best, disgusting at worst. It’s only through adding a cocktail of lab-created flavorings that it takes like something that came out of an orange. Because those lab-created flavorings are based on molecules that are found somewhere—anywhere—in nature, they can be labelled "natural flavors," instead of "artificial flavors." →
Physicist Richard A. Muller was in the news last year after his Koch-funded study of global climate change concluded that it’s real, surely to the Koch brothers’ dismay. Now he’s penned an op-ed for the New York Times in which he says that his ongoing research has led him to the same conclusion as 99.9% of other experts in the field—that "essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases." Muller’s research shows that the UN and the IPCC actually understate the problem. He researched the climate change causes claimed by non-scientist skeptics (urban heating biases, cherry-picking data, faking data, solar activity, and global population), and found that none of them explained climate change. What did explain it perfectly was atmospheric carbon dioxide. →
The NRA’s major constituency isn’t their individual members, but gun manufacturers. We are entering the era of 3-D printers (I have several friends who own them), and it’s entirely possible to print a gun. Including counterfeit guns. The stock, the barrel, the receiver—everything. Adam Penenberg explains how this is liable to to have the NRA begging congress for regulation of the indstury, rather the opposite of the present situation. →
The etymology of “the whole nine yards” is a total mystery. Anybody who tells you that they know its origin is either lying or unknowingly parroting an urban legend. The number of feet of fabric required to make a suit? Number of cubic yards of soil removed to dig a grave? Number of cubic yards of cement that fits in a mixer? The length of a WWII-era ammunition belt? Nope, none of those are it. The earliest known use of the phrase was in 1962, but now there’s been a trio of new discoveries from 1921 and 1912. Why weren’t they found before? Because the phrase was “the whole six yards.” The number was inflated over the years, much as “cloud seven” became “cloud eight” and is now “cloud nine.” The origin of the phrase is still unknown, but one potentially important clue is found in the pair of 1912 uses—both were in Kentucky. →
For those of you not quite clear on what it is that I do, you might be interested in an article that I wrote for the Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, explaining The State Decoded and its application to laws and regulations. The project is more than halfway done, and I’m pleased with its progress. →
In a long piece, the New York Times looks at Michigan’s efforts to persuade Hollywood to make films there through enormous subsidies. It didn’t fail—worse, it succeeded. The state lost money hand over fist in the process. Paying businesses to relocate to your state or city is a huge waste, 99% of the time. →
The prior chair of the Florida Republican Party (2006–2010) and former governor Charlie Crist (2007–2011) have both told the Palm Beach Post that they didn’t push voter ID laws and the like in order to reduce fraud (there is none)—they did it to suppress turnout. The more people voting, the better Democrats do. They invented the fraud concern as a “marketing ploy.” Both men are on the outs with Florida Republicans, and this probably isn’t helping them make up. →
We have gone 332 months in which every month has been above the historical average temperature. There hasn’t been a single colder-than-average month since 1985. →
So says Republican leaders in Georgia. The UN! Agenda 21! Rural broadband! RAND! Obama’s 2008 election yielded the Tea Party. His reelection may breed an even stupider brand of nutjobs. →
Thank God. What an embarrassment it would have been for Virginia if this casually vicious racist had won. He fashioned himself in the image of the unreformed old southern racists of the 1960s, and never bothered to update his mindset, only how to fake it for brief stretches. In the meantime, Virginia—and the whole US—changed around him. Maybe he can spend even more time now fighting against anti-Semitism, since he told Wolf Blitzer in 2006 that he’d “use [his] time on Earth” to do just that. I wonder how that’s been going in the intervening six years? →
The only press coverage that Goode is getting for his wacky fourth-party presidential bid is for the possibility that he may be a spoiler for Romney in Virginia. This is another story in that vein. If Romney does lose Virginia by Goode’s Tuesday tally, a lot of people will be upset, but I’m pretty confident that Goode will not be among them. This is his fourth political party in the past decade—if need be, he’ll just join a new one. →
Jason Flanary, failed 2011 candidate for the Virginia Senate, had Twitter all a-flutter over the past few days after sending bajillions of really nasty anti-Obama SMS messages to mobile phones in total violation of federal election law. “VP Biden mocks a fallen Navy Seal during memorial. Our military deserves better” and “Obama believes killing children is a right until the umbilical cord is cut” were two of the messages. Flanary, a Republican, is on the board of the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce, and ran against Dave Marsden for Senate, garnering 46% of the vote. The Romney campaign says that they didn’t know the first thing about what Flanary was up to. Apparently Flanary’s company, ccAdvertising, is in the habit of sending out millions of illegal SMSes in the days before elections, in an effort to influence election outcomes. I’m pretty sure this story will have an unhappy ending for Flanary. →
There are two ways to pronounce “Missouri”—neither is right and neither is wrong. It’s become a geographic, political, and generational shibboleth. This article doesn’t mention Nevada, but that’s a state that seems equally divided (“Neh-VEH-duh” versus “Neh-VAH-duh”). →
In 2008, Focus on the Family wrote this letter from the future, warning their members about life in 2012 if Barack Obama were elected president. It’s hilarious. Comedy gold. Everybody’s gay, children watch porn, electricity is all but illegal, prayer isn’t allowed…it’s a hoot. If it wasn’t for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, I don’t think there’d be any media outlet that would later revisit and evaluate these sorts of claims. I wonder what Focus on the Family is claiming Obama will do with his next four years? And who would believe them? →
National Media has provided a bubble chart of beers, graphed by partisanship and likelihood of turning out to vote. Republicans drink Coors Light, Miller Light, and Sam Adams. Democrats drink Heineken and Corona. People who show up to the polls drink Amstel Light, Sam Adams Light, and Molson. People who don’t bother to vote drink Budweiser Select, Natural Light, and Busch Light. Fosters, Miller High Life, Busch, and Bud Light are equally popular among Democrats and Republicans. →