Reading; shop Amazon from the book link (or the search widget below) and support this site.
World News from:
The Sydney Morning Herald
Axis of Logic
Information Clearing House
Asia Times online
The Times of India,
The Hindustan Times
The Jerusalem Post
The Daily Star
New Zealand Herald
The Rocky Mountains:
Idaho Mtn Express
The Moscow Times
Or make my day
Amazon Wish List
Rep. Jason Chaffetz put on one hell of a show as part of his job as House Oversight & Government Reform committee, starting with a tearful lament that the government is not spending enough money combatting cancer. Not that he's actually proposing taking money from Planned Parenthood in order to use it somewhere else. First things, first: let's take that money away.
But it isn't as if the government is writing a check into a giant slush fund. The majority of payments to Planned Parenthood are for individual health services rendered under Medicaid and Title X services. $400 million's worth, in serving most of 3 million patients a year. Chaffetz' patronizing mansplaining included an infographic cooked up by an anti-abortion group, just about drawn with crayons, and represented as straight from Planned Parenthood's annual reports. The supposed "trend lines" cherry-picked from two data points each had "up" and "down" correct and just about nothing else. Vox deconstructed the dishonest visual aid well enough to show comparisons between 2006 and 2013 in context of 4 broad categories of services PP provides, although reinforcing the misleading "trend" from a thin sample of the whole.
If this were about facts, perhaps Media Matters' comprehensive guide to the deception in the attack on Planned Parenthood would be useful. If it were about actual legislation, the illegality of cooking up a bill of attainder against a health services organization would be relevant.
But it's not about facts, or law, or even legislation. It's not about women's health services, or even about abortion. It's about grandstanding politicians sensing an issue ripe for fund-raising, their most constant obsession. And at least for this House committee, it's about a chairman's lack of integrity and dishonesty, and the general disregard for facts that another member of the committee, Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin displayed in his ridiculous "as a guy" schtick and hand-waving notion that if Planned Parenthood disappeared, there'd be just plenty of options. For him, at least.
If his fellow Senators turning their backs on Ted Cruz's tiresome grandstanding really was an "unprecedented procedural trick," kudos to them for coming up with a new way to rebuke a member who is far too full of himself.
...his colleagues appear to be no longer listening. Cruz was allowed only to speak for an hour on Monday night under Senate rules, and no one was itching to grant him an exception.
“The Democrats are objecting to my speaking further. And both the Democrats and Republican leadership are objecting to the American people speaking further. I yield the floor,” Cruz said quietly.
Only an hour! That must've really stung. (Just in case you can't get enough of Cruz' brand of theatrical indignation, the Dallas Morning News provides a link to the full hour on YouTube.) Good night, sweet prince, at least until some cameras are on you outside the chamber and you can blather about a "dirty" continuing resolution involving—the horror!—Democratic votes in both the Senate and the House, to effect the pre-ordained Republican surrender monkey plan of not shutting down the government.
Give him credit for a remarkably limited imagination, at least. Shutting down the government is the only way of effecting change in Washington D.C., he tells us.
Update: Apprentice master bloviator Paul Ryan over on the House side has a plan too, speaking of procedural tricks. Another go at repealing the Affordable Care Act, with enough of a twist that it could actually get to the President's desk before being binned.
Only 1½ shopping days till the shutdown!
Robert Reich on Facebook this morning:
After CNBC’s John Harwood asked Jeb Bush why the economy has seen more growth under Democratic administrations over the last 35 years than under Republicans, Jeb gave a muddled answer and then pivoted to attacking Obama for being hostile to capitalism.
HARWOOD: You really think Obama’s hostile to capitalism? Trans-Pacific Partnership—he’s moving forward. South Korea, Colombia, he finished those agreements that your brother had moved down the line.
BUSH: I definitely do. I think he has a deep-seated belief that through government programs and through government regulation, you can improve the social condition.
Hello? So thinking government can improve the social condition makes you hostile to capitalism? Were Republican presidents Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt hostile to capitalism? If they—along with Democratic presidents like Franklin D. Roosevelt—hadn’t improved the social condition, American capitalism might not have even survived.
It doesn't have to make sense, it's just red meat for the conservative base, which is going to need a lot of feeding to reach enthusiasm for Jeb!
The other imaginary meme that is making the parades (whether or not it's winning hearts and minds) is the Donald Trump hat slogan about making America "great," "again," as if we somehow slipped off our pedestal in the time since... oh right right right, we elected Barack Obama. There are those pesky historical facts that keep cropping up, such as Ester Bloom's observation that back in the day, taxes were high, unions were strong, and government was big.
"No wonder Trump’s message is so powerful—it’s a sugar pill coated with nostalgia. He is not promising to make America great, he’s promising to make it great again. But to what era does he intend to take the nation back?"
Rewind 35 years to "Morning in America," when worker productivity improvements and their rising pay got divorced, maybe. Or 1969, when that damned pollution control stuff made our car engines more complicated. How about 1950, when "housing was cheap. Gas was cheap. Movies were cheap"?
If you're nervous about the time machine overheating, maybe 1991-ish, when we kicked Iraq's butt but left Saddam Hussein in power to keep the country together and the superrich started parking their equities off-shore to avoid taxes.
With all the time and direction information in mind for tonight's eclipse, I considered somewhere nearby just clear of the trees, but decided the occasion warranted more than that. I studied the terrain view of Google Maps to try to figure out the nearest, best place, and decided to go south to the end of Cole Road, and then cut over to Pleasant Valley if need be, left with plenty of time to get somewhere and setup by sunset/moonrise, nearly coincident here by the equinox. The view led us to just over the top of Pleasant Valley Road south of the airport, and town, and not quite in the visual disturbance of the overlit penitentiary, in time for a fabulous sunset.
The worrisome clouds to the south appeared to be out of the way, and provided scenic attraction while we waited, and continuing past moonrise. A few coyotes yipped as we settled in and added a layer or two against the quick cool of evening up where the breeze could find us.
Lining up was easy enough: sunset straight behind us, moonrise dead ahead, right? It did come up slightly further south than I'd guessed, but close enough for us to spot it as just an eclipsed sliver showed before slipping into low haze. As it came out of that, it looked positively sci-fi, then rose clear above the desert hills with half an hour to go.
I was shooting up a storm, trying different exposures and what-not, and realized my battery was going to run out! Oh well; I saved just enough for one shot 4 minutes into totality, and we called it good soon after, headed back down the hill to see that quite a few people had driven out this way, but most didn't go up or over the hill for the best view.
My ten best shots are in this album on Picasa. (Link fixed now, with authkey, I hope.) Enjoy!
At the grocery store, after shopping, and finding my bike had been joined by a few more while I was inside. Had the panniers packed and as I was unlocking it,
Him: Nice bike!
Me: Thanks. (Looked up to see a maybe 20-something ginger with a friendly smile.) It's older than you are... 1980.
Him: That's WAY older than me. Have you had it the whole time?
Me: I built it.
Well ok, I didn't build the frame, but I put it all together, and built the wheels. And on the way home, I took another look at that old apple tree on Swift Lane with the ground under it covered in groundfall and the branches loaded with ripe fruit and thought "that's not right," rang the doorbell and waited for a teenaged boy to control the nasty barking dog, and check with somebody older to answer my question, "sure." After filling up the rest of the free space in my panniers, I rode off eating the good half of one of the ground fallen.
The conclusion is that "scientifically grounded, empirically validated behavioral innovations can help policy makers improve government initiatives for the benefit of all Americans, regardless of their political inclinations." The bad news is that if people know the "other side" was in favor, they're more likely to oppose the innovation. It's the curious politics of the "nudge," don't you know. I like it unless he likes it.
Carl Hulse's news analysis is understated perfection in its headline: John Boehner Successor Is Likely to Face Similar Problems. All it's lacking is ", duh." The House Republicans are the gerrymandered dog who have permanently caught the car, and... now what? Says there he "succeeded to a significant degree in cutting spending and eliminating the costly earmarks he despised even as he padded the Republican majority through his political savvy and fund-raising prowess." Is that all there is?
Whatever the downside to earmarks and the log-rolling they begot, a system with no incentives for cooperation has been a recipe for gridlock, most of all. Now look for "emboldened conservatives applying tremendous pressure to confront Democrats and the White House more than Mr. Boehner was willing or able to do," such that just keeping the lights on will be an enduring challenge. The grown-ups in the Republican Party are hoping Boehner's last month on the job might address "the most pressing unresolved problems that so readily annoy conservatives: funding a highway bill, renewing the Export-Import Bank and even increasing the federal debt limit." The work is unglamorous to the point of being soporific, but expect the extremists who are celebrating the Speaker's departure to attempt leverage at every turn. The less interesting (and more essential) the necessary business, the better for attaching unrelated pet ideology.
In these last days, there will be plenty of editorializing to work through if you're into that sort of thing. If you like to eat dessert first (as I apparently do), start with Gail Collins' Bye, Bye Boehner. Former wingman Eric Cantor weighs in, says he "was stunned" by the news, telling us more about how close the two weren't. The easy (for some) compliments of the guy on his way out were expected, but characterizing quitting as a "selfless" act is a bit of a stretch. I don't blame Boehner for quitting his terrible job, but "selfless" this is not. And this here is kind of crazy talk:
"By stepping down amid the tumult in the House conference, he has given my former colleagues in the House, fellow members of the Republican Party and the broader conservative movement a chance to demonstrate to the American people that we are prepared to govern and worthy of their trust."
That's been adequately undemonstrated already in the last 5 years, as the intramural football was not so much "throwing only Hail Mary passes," as Cantor puts it, but throwing the ball out of bounds, over and over again. We're supposed to put the extremists that managed four dozen ineffectual votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act in charge and see if we get a better result? On the one hand, Cantor sounds like a sensible person, more sensible than I remember while he was in Congress. On the other... well, let's just say "delusional" is showing up a lot in the comments, along with the mentions of his being voted out of office by those pesky constituents of his. Because he wasn't "conservative" enough.
The NYT editorial board sums up their assessment in the lede: "Speaker John Boehner’s shocking decision to resign from Congress is a sorry measure of how far right-wing extremism has immobilized the Republican Party and undermined the process of healthy government." Which we can contrast with Richard Viguerie's topsy-turvy point of view that Boehner's quitting "shows that there is a time limit on how long a small minority can run roughshod over the rights and interests of America's conservative majority." That's right, the long-term Party leadership is the "small minority" running roughshod over rights. It's time for a "complete house cleaning, starting with the corrupt revolving-door staff that have been the behind-the-scenes representatives of the special interests," which is planned for just a couple days after pigs fly.
It's not that "the end of a Congress run by K Street, the Chamber of Commerce and the special interests whose addiction to unlimited spending and Big Government have been destroying this country" wouldn't probably be a good thing, it's just that Congress run by the king of direct mail is an even less inviting prospect. (How about we just let him run the Catholic church as Pope Richard instead? His critique of the current Pope's visit is a sight to behold, in which he uses a metaphor comparing Francis to a guard dog that didn't bark. Seriously.)
Speaking of that supposedly "corrupt revolving-door staff," John Lawrence, said to have worked in the House for 38 (!) years, provides his interesting point of view as John Boehner Fades Away. Back in 2010, he told White House staffers that "Boehner loves to cut deals, but he never can deliver the Republicans to pass them," and sure enough.
"Invariably, he would have to come to the Democrats because a sizable chunk of his conference would reject the agreement he had negotiated, giving leverage to the White House and the Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi. Indeed, virtually every continuing resolution, debt ceiling increase, tax extender or other must-pass bill over the last five years has required from 30 to 50 Democrats to overcome the deficit Mr. Boehner chronically encountered among his own members."
That would be the deficit from the same "two to four dozen members" of the No Caucus that Charlie Dent was talking about yesterday.
Yeah, I worked my way up from recycling newspapers (talk about your ink-stained wretchedness), to delivering them, to writing some, to editing once in a while. 20 years ago, the web replaced print, as far as I was concerned, and the rest is history, even if "blogger" is a bit short of king of the world. Cara Carleton Sneed, with a name worthy of the first line of a nursery rhyme, a.k.a. Carly Fiorina, felt her rags to riches tale was so compelling there should be a domain name for it, fromsecretarytoceo.com, even before she goes on to become the President of the United States for her first elected office.
Or maybe that's just "an independent expenditure committee and not authorized or coordinated with any federal candidate or candidate's committee," coincidentally named "CARLY for America." That would make the self-serving unctuousness of it all slightly less nauseating, maybe. Ms. Fiorina is quoted, saying "Character was everything and character was defined as candor, integrity and authenticity." If only. Just your average middle-class family with dad "a law professor who taught at Stanford, Cornell and Yale universities, and became Duke Law School dean. Joseph Sneed, her father, also was appointed deputy U.S. attorney general under President Richard M. Nixon, and served as a longtime federal appeals court judge in San Francisco," as Michelle Ye Hee Lee tracks it down for a "Fact Checker biography" on WaPo.
The top rail has a teaser question, "Have you worked with Carly?" and an invitation to "Tell Your Story," but I honestly don't think they'd feature what I'd fill in their webform, any more than they're going to feature the three Pinocchios that Lee awarded for the dodgy account that falls short of candor, integrity and authenticity all at once.
Nice to see NPR link to the U.S. Navy's Astronomical Applications Dept., from their story about the lunar eclipse coming this Sunday evening, conveniently scheduled in our prime-time. The Navy's Lunar Eclipse Computer spits out the particulars for whatever location you like. For my neck of the woods, W116°13', N43°37' in round numbers, the eclipse will be in process when the moon rises almost due east about 7:30 pm Sunday evening, 40 minutes from totality, which will run from 8:11 (with the moon at 6.6° altitude) to 9:24 pm MDT (and 19.1° high). Moonrise will be just a few minutes after Sunday's 7:33 sunset here, everything nicely balanced in the vicinity of the equinox.
Space.com's Supermoon Luna Eclipse 2015: Full "Blood Moon" coverage is appropriately effusive about this eclipse lining up almost exactly with perigee, the moon's closest approach to the earth. John Walker's calculator on Fourmilab Switzerland shows perigee at 7:47 pm, and the full moon (the center of totality) at 8:52 pm here in MDT. Brilliant!
More Navy narrative in its Sky This Week feature.
We have to conclude that John Boehner realizing his dream of having the Pope come talk to Congress is connected to his calling it quits. There was a private audience with the Pope involved, and afterwards, more time with the family, or something, just seemed like a better deal than herding the cats of the Republican party. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) beggared understatement with his observation that “The next speaker is going to have a very tough job.” Yes, it is the House's "hard-right members, who he said were unwilling to govern," and yes, Raúl Labrador, we're looking at you and your pals, and the blight you've become.
“The dynamics are this,” Dent said. “There are anywhere from two to four dozen members who don’t have an affirmative sense of governance. They can’t get to yes. They just can’t get to yes, and so they undermine the ability of the speaker to lead. And not only do they undermine the ability of the speaker to lead, but they undermine the entire Republican conference and also help to weaken the institution of Congress itself. That’s the reality.”
And what House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said, quoted in the BBC News:
"The disarray among House Republicans, their obsession with shutting down government at the expense of women's health needs to be reckoned with and recognised."
Of course, now that the rump right has deposed the too-moderate, too-appeasing Speaker, let the speculation begin about who will get a new musical chair. Idaho's limelight-seeking back bencher is bound to get mentioned, a "possible long-shot" in Cooper Allen's estimation. Let's hope it doesn't go any further than that. There are almost no requirements to qualify for ideological flame-thrower and talk show gadfly. Actual leadership is a considerably taller order. Labrador seems capable of organizing a lynch mob, but not much else.
Update: Robert Costa's "Debrief" feature on WaPo, a poignant moment near the end of John Boehner's career in Congress, yesterday evening.
As we hurtle toward yet another "government shutdown," engineered by the Republicans trying to leverage manufactured crisis into legislation their hearts desire, it's getting difficult to parse what all Congress isn't accomplishing with all the negatives. The Hill's lede is that "the Senate on Thursday rejected a short-term spending bill that would defund Planned Parenthood, thwarting the opening move by Republican leaders to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1."
They're trying to avoid a government shutdown, are they? And rejecting the poison pill thwarts that avoidance? Sorry, but "defunding Planned Parenthood" is not actually a legimate legislation initiative at the moment, no matter how fervently you believe that some cocked-up videos are proof that they're the spawn of the devil.
The Republicans have majorities in both houses of Congress, and keeping the government functioning is their primary obligation. The power of the minority in the Senate (at least) will be applied as a check and balance against illegitimate legislation, which is to say no matter how sadly Mitch McConnell flaps his lips about "regret" for the "crisis" with "Democratic" in the same sentence any government shutdown and cost to the economy is a 100% Republican®-branded cluster.
Also, Ted Cruz, desperate for attention and making the ideological point that the Republicans ought to be able to get something (other than the blame, that is) for their majority. Can he force "weekend work," and does he want to? Pissing off the whole Senate will get him as much campaign attention as actually going to Iowa would, and besides, Ted Cruz is never, ever, never, ever going to be his party's nominee for President, let alone President.
I'm with Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, in believing that "Americans overwhelmingly support the care that Planned Parenthood provides." If the Speaker of the House can't rein in the conservative rump that's pledged to vote against any funding bill that includes Planned Parenthood, he can jolly well find some Democrats to vote for a clean spending bill, and celebrate the "bipartisanship" in it. If he doesn't, the buck stops at the desk with the big gavel.
It's not about just having women who need health services go "somewhere else," either. That's magical thinking as Sarah Kliff explains, on Vox.
"But a Vox review of academic research, recent Planned Parenthood closures in Texas, and interviews with half a dozen health policy experts suggests the opposite. Historically, researchers have found that when Planned Parenthood clinics close, other clinics do not step up to fill the gap. Meanwhile, when there are fewer reproductive health clinics available, women get less reproductive health care — from birth control to cancer screenings to STD testing and treatment. Unintended pregnancies would likely increase, too."
In other words, it's not just vindictive, it's counterproductive. A lose-lose proposition.
While searching for help on what is quite apparently a persistent bug in Apple's iOS upgrade process, I was reminded that the company's corporate HQ is located at 1 Infinite Loop, which ha ha, except that having downloaded iOS 9 and now willing to tap-agree to the Terms and Conditions, it is not amusing to have that be stuck in an apparently infinite loop. I see it's been a problem for iPhone 5, iOS 7, 8 and now 9, at least three years running. (And no, it does not "look like it's fixed!" How accurate could the information be on a site that puts a useless and irrelevant pop-up ad on the word "Update"?) Looks like some combination of resetting, rebooting, fixing it on the server has been the result for most people, but the web-answer-space is totally overrun with the noise from however many thousands (millions?) of people have experienced the problem and sought help. From site:apple.com? Maybe, but if they were competent enough to have online help readily accessible, would we even be having this conversation?
The might-be-good-news is that I can go back to using other apps, and ignore the uselessness of the "Install" path for this shiny new operating system with the same old start-up problem.
It was a lovely quiet respite from news of Rowan County, Kentucky, but didn't last long enough. County Clerk Kim Davis is back in the news, exploring new forms of contempt in what her lawyer refers to as—and I must disclaim that I am not making this up, and very much doubt he did it with a puckish sense of irony—as "a good-faith effort to comply with the court's order."
Street scene in Boulder, Colorado ("the happiest place in the United States" and "#1 college town") was a ton of fun this past Sunday. Our timing was certainly happy, hitting the end-of-summer extravaganza on the Pearl Street mall, full of arts, crafts, people out in the sunshine, buskers and touts. The gal juggling knives while balancing on a board on a piece of pipe on another piece of pipe on another piece of pipe was a hoot, and as the light was stretching toward evening, I came across the quintet Miracles of Modern Science working strings and a drum set without amplification but a ton of catchy verve. Wishing I'd picked up a CD, but at least I snapped a picture of their name to track them down on the web. Start with the top left "official video," of "Mothers in Jeans" for a nice sample with the personnel I saw (playing that song, among others). The visual's an amusing "road trip" circus that lines up with what it was like to have 12 gentlemen of a certain age on the loose for the Intermountain USTA sectional playoff in Denver. Only one of the Idaho teams came good, but a lot of fun was had by all who attended. (5 of 8 winners in the 5-state contest were from Colorado; Idaho, Nevada and Utah teams split the remainder. Home court elevation advantage seems huge.)
The trip to Boulder fit between the last matches on Saturday and our late Sunday return flight, and gave us a chance to enjoy another day in what has to be the most perfect weather Colorado ever gets. A buddy and I strolled around the University of Colorado campus to see what there was to see, a few students here and there, but mostly pretty quiet. We asked one co-ed with a laptop out by a pond if classes were in session, and she said "yeah. Midterms!" We'd joked that everybody must be inside studying, and a turn through the library showed that it was no joke.
Outside the library, this interesting sundial seemed to be out of order. The upside said KNOWLEDGE AND TIME ABIDE IN THE SAME PLACE and FOR SUMMER READ THIS SIDE. The backside said FOR WINTER READ THIS SIDE, but neither side had a shadow of the central pole at about 1:30 in the afternoon. Oh, hey—it's close to the equinox (in the wee hours of Mountain Time this morning), and the slab is in the plane of the equinox, leaving the shadow to fall where it may, but not upon the slab. (The equinox can be considered a vector direction as well as a moment in our orbit around the sun.)
Another interesting design choice is the engraving of hour lines from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., slightly above where the shadow ever falls.
A career in theater criticism might be the best preparation for political analysis. It certainly makes for a more entertaining point of view, as Frank Rich demonstrates with his nice, long piece for New York Magazine, arguing that Donald Trump is saving our democracy.
"In the short time since Trump declared his candidacy, he has performed a public service by exposing, however crudely and at times inadvertently, the posturings of both the Republicans and the Democrats and the foolishness and obsolescence of much of the political culture they share. He is, as many say, making a mockery of the entire political process with his bull-in-a-china-shop antics. But the mockery in this case may be overdue, highly warranted, and ultimately a spur to reform rather than the crime against civic order that has scandalized those who see him, in the words of the former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, as 'dangerous to democracy.'"
Don't worry, you won't increase Trump's popularity or favorables by following those or any of the other many links Rich provides for overcoverage and hand-wringing. Just have fun with it. As you will do if you enjoy a feature-length piece by Frank Rich as much as I do. For those concerned that yeah, but what if he somehow gets elected, reassurance:
"The best news about Trump is that he is wreaking this havoc on the status quo while having no chance of ascending to the presidency. You can’t win the Electoral College in 2016 by driving away women, Hispanics, blacks, and Asian-Americans, no matter how large the margins you pile up in deep-red states. Republicans who have started fretting that he’d perform as Barry Goldwater did on Election Day in 1964 have good reason to worry."
Looking at the photo on top of the NYT piece about her rising profile, I'm struck most of all by the fact that Carly Fiorina is striding ahead of Scott Walker (now in asterisk territory) and Jeb!, in a pair of spike heels that none of the other candidates could hope to pedal. Nevermind the wardrobe comparison; anyone with the least experience of her business career could see the headline with "redefine" in it as inevitable as the sunrise in the east. Of course she's redefining her record. Her business career was a spectacular failure to the tens of thousands who paid for its rise and fall.
If A Thousand Words Graphic Arts (and Senator Boxer's campaign, which worked the meme to good effect back in 2010) played a little loosey-goosey with the facts, it only makes a finer patina on the irony. Fiorina has never let facts hold her back. The part of executive pay known as "salary" these days is a term of art having to do with failed from inception efforts to rein in excessive CEO pay. Captive compensation committees' workarounds that comprise the full "take" inevitably provide the biggest payday when the executive resigns, jumps ship (!) to the next lucrative scam, or in the rare sort of case that Fiorina enjoyed, is fired.
However many jets or yachts were involved, the round number for Fiorina's parting gift that sticks in my mind happens to be a tidy 0.1% of the $24.2 billion merger with Compaq Computer: $20-some million. (Compaq's outgoing CEO, Michael Capellas took home about half that after the smoke and mirrors had cleared, for no work at all.)
Those are business results that speak volumes about Fiorina's understanding of "success" and her expectations for the future. Running for President has become a strange sort of "reality" show, but whoever ends up winning the election will have the most demanding service job in the world. To say that Fiorina is not suited to service beggars understatement. Medieval French literature may be more instructive, as Amy Chozick and Quentin Hardy point out for the Times:
"The deal was so personal to Mrs. Fiorina that she referred to HP as “Héloïse” and Compaq as “Abélard,” a pair whose romantic letters became treasures of medieval French literature, which she studied at Stanford. (Abélard was eventually castrated after fights with Héloïse’s family, a detail Compaq executives were unaware of at the time.)"
Vulture capitalist (and deposed HP Board member) Tom Perkins is still enthusiastic (at least in the video footage the campaign is splicing together) about how "she'd close deals" even though "the older people at HP never endorsed her and were unhelpful." He's not talking about me—I'm the same age as Carly, for one thing—or about any of the worker bees who provided the substance that bubbles up to Powerpoint presentation in the C-suite. Fiorina took her charter to transform a staid and competent engineering company into a marketing superstar, an act which depended more on presentation than anything tangible. One of her machine gun redefinition bullet points is that "we [sic] tripled [HP's] rate of innovation," no doubt as measured by patent filings, goaded with incentive pay to engineers that measured quantity with no regard for quality. And "top-line growth rate"? Cash flow?
Old adages survive for the wisdom they contain. "Never confuse activity with progress" is the black-letter warning needed on the Fiorina package. Her hyperactive stage presence never fails to disappoint when it comes to actually delivering goods (other than the "deals" that Tom Perkins touts). After her last campaign, she left staffers waiting to be paid for years, amounts that are chump change for a woman with 9 figure wealth, and only settling up the debts in preparation for this campaign.
She's a woman who knows how to look after herself, that much is certain, and put on a show, and spin negative results into limelight. Can she convert the 30% "never heard of" into fans and keep a 34-23 favorable to unfavorable ratio based on her stage presence? I wouldn't think so, but then I'm an old engineer who doesn't really understand how marketing works.
The Library! lendeth, and the Library! calls its books back home. Today's the day for Emma Sky's compelling account of her time in Iraq, a book that came highly recommended, and does not disappoint. I was slow getting started because it seemed inevitably downbeat (and yeah, when I could tell I wouldn't finish it on time, I jumped ahead to the final section, "Aftermath" and chapter, "Things Fall Apart," Jan. 2012 to July 2014). It's more than just that: it's a very personal, very inside look at Sky's life and work in Iraq in the initial "direct rule" of 2003 to 2004, the "surge" in 2007, the 2008-2010 drawdown, and that last bit. Embedded with, but not part of, the Coalition Provision Authority in Kirkuk, and the military in Baghdad (and more I won't get to), she had a unique point of view, and has written a fascinating book.
Rather than try to identify the most important insight(s), especially without having the whole thing read, how about one quirky snippet, from the long hot summer of 2007, when Anbar province "had become the most violent part of Iraq":
"A darkness had descended on a province which had hitherto been known only for its date palms. Al-Qaeda had banned smoking. It also forbade cucumbers and tomoatoes from being sold together, bestowing on them opposite genders and regarding their mixing as lascivious."
The rest of the chapter is not so breezy, and any excerpt may leave a mistaken impression of being representative. Read the book. The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq, Emma Sky, 2015. Here's the final paragraph of the last chapter in part 2 ("Victory"), the most upbeat moment:
"The US military strove to embody the ideals and values of the Founding Fathers that America should be a place for different peoples regardless of background and creed. They had accepted me into their tribe. I had become part of their band of brothers. I felt that everything in my life had been in preparation for this work in Iraq. They had allowed me to be myself, a non-compliant force, and had given me the platform to be all that I could be. It was now the end of the season—and against the odds we had won. We were disbanding and heading home."
P.S. Putting the (book's) title on this blog post, I realize that it's the same word I've been using for 15 years for my month-to-month "forward" links, as opposed to the rear-view mirror links, "raveling." No relation, just a coincidence having to do with the way the world works.
If only I were looking to turn this place into a shopping mall, AmazonAssociates are ready to help. They're offering me "Native Shopping Ads" to "seamlessly integrate highly relevant recommendations into [my] web pages in a stylishly designed and responsive ad unit," promising to deliver "a more compelling visitor experience and shopping opportunity."
Do let me know if you feel you're not seeing enough ad units here, and need more shopping opportunities.
Could not stomach the whole Republican debate. That was deeply, deeply horrid. Is it really possible that one of these people could be President of the United States? Larry Wilmore covered my perplexity pretty well on the Nightly Show, before seeing any of the debate. "What is this obsession Republicans have with wanting unqualified people to lead the free world?"
Some of what I did see, between the candidates' wild scramble for face time: Fiorina winning the short answer smackdown contest: "I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said."
Trump, that oily real estate trader came back with... flattery? Changed his tune completely? Seriously? This is not someone you could trust to keep his story straight from one audience to the next. "I think she's got a beautiful face, and I think she's a beautiful woman."
Whew. Maybe she was, once. But you get to 60 years old, there are some truths you can no longer escape, not even with a lot of botox treatment.
Update: If you give a hoot, you could be swimming in post-debate opinions, but here are a couple I liked, first of all for Bill Scher's arithmetic headline: 3 Hours + 2 CEOs + 3 Senators + 5 Governors + 1 Doc = 0 Jobs Plans. But they are all over defunding women's healthcare, tearing up the deal with Iran, and reforming the tax code. (Shouldn't those Senators have that work started already?)
And Ezra Klein's shout-out to Fiorina for stopping Trump cold, that attempted rejoinder "weak and desperate" behind his "pleading grin." As for geopolitical substance, there was Carly's "crisp, machine-gun specifics" about she would punch over her weight with the U.S. military. But... "the problem, substantively, was that Fiorina didn't actually know what she was talking about."
"Or take her biggest applause line of the night: a riff on the Planned Parenthood tapes that set conservative Twitter afire. 'I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, it's heart beating, it's legs kicking while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.'
"The only problem? Nothing like that happens in the Planned Parenthood tapes. As Sarah Kliff, who has watched all the tapes, wrote, 'either Fiorina hasn't watched the Planned Parenthood videos or she is knowingly misrepresenting the footage.'"
Or, most likely, both, exercising her "notable faciity for delivering answers that thrill ... but fall apart under close examination." Not that contact with reality, honesty or integrity are actually in play in this contest.
(I do have to take issue with Klein's wind-up, where he refers to the current circus as "the most talented Republican field in a generation." If that field assessment is accurate, it is not the good news.)
Remember that feeling you had when you got your school paper back and it was covered with red ink? Maybe you were too deflated to pick yourself up and work harder, but maybe you took it to heart and resolved to (a) fix this paper so you didn't get a failing grade, and (b) try harder next time. Maybe even have your mom or dad or somebody look it over before you handed it in?
You might think that the Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state of Idaho would strive for excellence in her written communication. You might also think that her large staff would have someone on it who could help achieve that goal.
But it seems you would be wrong.
Unless this essay on Idaho Ed News is early April Fools humor? It's you've-got-to-be-kidding-me bad from the get-go, its headline ignorant of the meaning of the word "persevere." "Over the past number of years," it begins, leaving you to wonder what number that might be. Or not. But go ahead see if you can navigate the first paragraph without hurting yourself stumbling over the oversprayed punctuation. There are more stray commas than a drunken painters' dropcloth.
I thought it might be funny to do a red-ink markup of the thing, but before I finished, I realized it wasn't funny, it was horrible. Face-palmingly awful. Just part of the [sic]ness:
"We have faced many challenges in education over the last decade, including financial obstacles, higher expectations in our standards, and stricter accountability measures. But we showed grit and determination. This is our moment in time, the one we have all been waiting for. This is personalization in education; but, this will be tangled and muddled, and there will be failures that we will need to learn from. Finally, our state is bringing back the local-control and bottom-up approach that we Idahoans enjoy, in our educational system. And, as your state superintendent I want to renew our partnership and build excitement for our educational system and our students, and I will continue to drive our agenda forward, with a message that failure is just a stepping stone on our path to success!
"You are going to experience misfortunes and you are going to fall, but that's not the point. It's how quickly you get back up, that really matters!"
You may find yourself in a beautiful office building, with a beautiful job, and you may ask yourself—well—How did I get here?
Update: Daniel Walters put more effort into it for the Inlander. I like the way he considered the (extremely small) possibility that it was performance art: "If Ybarra is intentionally making mistakes in this essay to highlight the value of making mistakes, that's some next-level meta jiu-jitsu she's pulling."
H/t to Idaho Ed News—again—for the linky. What I'd comment there, if their pseudonymity policy and site weren't cross-wired, is that having someone point out the occasional typo or grammatical mistake is not an invitation to "bad grammar karma." Karma needs no introduction, first of all, and secondly, if you were to put up something as riddled with error as this effort of Ybarra's, criticism would be a good thing.
After a lot of sound bites and news clips and a debate or two in the presidential race, I finally paid a bit more attention to one of the candidate's speeches. Not quite full attention, because it's too easy to multitask, and I have a few spinning plates in the air right now, but check this guy out: Bernie Sanders at Liberty University (yeah, that's right; Liberty U). 28 minutes of YouTube video, to the point, and a damn sight more inspirational than any of the other candidates I've heard.
Here comes our own nattering nabob of negativism Wayne Hoffman to tell us what he's fond of saying and to ridicule the hypocrisy of Idaho's legislature for not being "pro-free enterprise." There are some good points to be made: that the tribal gaming folks are interested in their own business, not our moral rectitude; that yes shutting down a big gambling business will have a financial impact; and that politicians generally lack ideological consistency. But the rule of law has always been a bit of a hobble on unbridled enterprise. Don't blame our Supreme Court for "invalidating" the Governor's veto; Otter's attempt to veto the bill failed because he didn't deliver it in time.
While lamenting that "lawmakers denied these entrepreneurs the right to due process," Hoffman imagines the semi-demise of gaming as "a sizable blow to the horse industry," as if there were actual ponies running around the video track of the slot machines. That's a load of virtual manure. If Hoffman believes in the cause maybe his Idaho Freedom Foundation could buy some due process for the slot machine entrepreneurs and help them sue to have the law overturned. Don't hold your breath.
The good news was that yeah, that was a NY city police officer, not an unbelievably brazen smash and grab identity thief. That bad news was that a perfectly innocent guy standing by the door to the Grand Hyatt was smashed and grabbed because (the story goes), an actual perp pointed him out as a confederate.
If the unfortunate bystander didn't happen to be someone famous, the story might not be in the news. But it was former tennis star James Blake, and is becoming kind of a big deal. Apology from the mayor, for starters. "This shouldn’t have happened and he shouldn’t have been treated that way," de Blasio said, obviously.
The NY police commissioner imagined that "race [had] nothing at all to do with" the arrest, for CNN, and that the officers had a photograph of a suspect who "looks like the twin brother of Mr. Blake."
By all means, let's see that photo and compare.
Because now that we can see the surveillance video (included in today's follow-up report), there's some explaining needed, and not just because of officer Frascatore's checkered history, and because he and whoever else was in on the "bust" didn't get around to reporting the "void arrest," made by Frascatore while he was in plain clothes, and never identified himself as a police officer.
That's a line out of Wayne's Word, using his newsy lawsuit against the Boise School District for his personal fundraising purposes. We won't need to "click here" to "donate to the legal challenge," since our tax dollars support the school district, and whatever legal expenses it will incur to defend itself. Derek Farr answered the lawsuit, in part, with 5 things we learned from it, on BetterIdaho. It's not about protecting taxpayers, benefiting children or their education or school funding. It's about Wayne Hoffman. Duh.
Turns out late may not be better than never; in the case of Idaho
Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter's curiously tardy veto of the legislature's
ban on so-called "instant" (a.k.a "historical")
he did not make the five-day deadline, and our
Court said the outlaw stands.
Even after you make your way through the muddy track of too many negatives, you may be left to wonder why the Governor couldn't get his homework in on time. Join the crowd. Betsy Russell's report quoted the Governor's statement that
"...I gave Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill my word that he could be the first to inform his colleagues of my veto, instead of having them learn of it through press reports."
which, yeah, that doesn't actually make a lick of sense. You send your veto upstairs to the Senate, and there's the news. You don't have to hand it to a reporter along the way. And besides, what's wrong with learning stuff through press reports?
On the plus side, it gave our state Supremes a chance to stand on their hind legs and declare that we do actually have three branches of government.
"Thus, it is the this Court's duty to intervene to prevent the governor and the Senate from circumventing the Constitution and manipulating the veto power in this case."
Also to note that freshman Secretary of State Lawerence "sic" Denney's performance was subpar, his defense in the case deemed "frivolous" and "disingenuous" in Justice Daniel Eismann's concurrence.
What our Supreme Court lacks is the ability to explain to John Q. Public why we are learning about this strange chapter of misgovernance in press reports. Betsy's next post explains at least that this is really Game Over. The Governor is not appealing. So to speak.
Richard Viguerie's latest "direct mail" is over the top, as usual, but it seems like the breadth, variety and histrionics are all dialed up to 11. The Iran deal (styled as the "Obama-Corker Nuclear Weapons Deal" to focus on his alt-target) has him particularly wound up. It "insults the memory of 9/11 victims and middle east vets" somehow; Corker's present opposition is "phony" because of his "shameless surrender of the Senate's power to consent to treaties." Let's just say when you're reduced to "insults the memory," you must not have much of an argument. Ditto for John Podhoretz (quoted out of the New York Post) going with gratutious bodily fluids, it's "spitting on the Constitution." And a rally today, Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Sarah Palin, Mark Levin and Glenn Beck headlining, woot. North Korea and Libya factor in along the way.
More on "Planned Parenthood's human organ trafficking," demand Congress blah blah blah and also "stop these companies from subsidizing" human organ trafficking, just so we can say human organ trafficking again. Also, we need to choose between babies and bureaucrats.
Presidential Horse Race 2016: Who's "in," who's "out" (somebody's out?), what Fiorina is telling Trump to do, what the Donald is tweeting, is Ben Carson being ignored by pollsters? And Trump is "the candidate the GOP deserves" according to Ben Domenech in The Daily Beast,
"an organic and anti-establishment response uninterested in negotiation. It is a revolt that seeks nothing less that the annihilation of the party’s ruling elite—and, perhaps, the Republican coalition along with it," "a vibrant and fed-up mass of people who see the Republican Party as standing for nothing, so they have turned to someone who can beat the party by standing for anything."
(Also, huge props to Domenech for a little electrical engineering metaphor, even if rabble as cage doesn't make a lick of sense: "The Tea Party rabble, organized into its second-stage groups, actually functioned as a Faraday Cage for Republican leadership. They allowed for a lot of lightning and static, but nothing that would actually seek the outright destruction of their coalition...")
"Has Mike Huckabee finally found his break? Does The Donald need to cut into Carson? Fiorina hammers Hillary, sticks to her message; Cruz takes on local issue to make a larger point, and, the only thing 'inevitable' about Jeb is a painful loss." Because... ("First Lady of the Conservative Movement attorney") Phyllis Schlafly is not only still alive, she's explaining "Anchor Babies and Jeb Bush on Trial in Texas." Meanwhile, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee are fighting over who gets to stand next to Kim Davis after she gets out of jail. (Why didn't they visit her when she was inside, I wonder?) And who can use "tyranny" in the most sentences.
Is the West dead yet? Mitch McConnell is a surrender monkey. Mission Barbecue stops at noon to sing the national anthem (and "it's not hokey"). What Jeb and Hillary have in common, according to ha ha ha Peggy Noonan on the WSJ opinion page.
Nice thought for the day from that other Facebook founder, the one you've probably never heard of, Dustin Moskovitz:
"Many people believe that weekends and the 40-hour workweek are some sort of great compromise between capitalism and hedonism, but that’s not historically accurate. They are actually the carefully considered outcome of research by Henry Ford in the early part of the 20th century. ... Since then, other researchers have continued to study this phenomenon, including in more modern industries like game development. The research is clear: beyond about 40 to 50 hours per week, the marginal returns from additional work decrease rapidly and quickly become negative."
His blog post last month was prompted by the NYT piece about Amazon's excesses, but it's a good fit for the holiday weekend, even if that link doesn't offer any hints about what "research" Ford actually carried out. Edsel Ford, Henry’s son and the company president back then was quoted, too: "Every man needs more than one day a week for rest and recreation..." No mention of what every woman needs; who's looking after dinner when said man is having his R&R?
Also, while it's nice to hear a tech executive encouraging "a healthy work-life balance," it's a little bizarre to have him declare that it's not altruism: "We are maximizing our velocity and our happiness at the same time." And, "You can have it all, and science says you should."
That would be the latest version of scientific management, with a geek twist. We're not just going to maximize your output, we're going to maximize your happiness, too. He does modestly note he's limiting himself to the "perspective of the tech industry," but is pretty sure "the pattern definitely exists prominently in other industries, and in companies across all industries."
That's the "pattern" of treating people like machines, replaceable and often relocatable units, for the "cold, hard pursuit of profit." Determining that 40 to 50 hours/week is the optimum duty cycle for your human resources is better than nothing, but for people working two or three jobs to make ends meet because they're not being paid a living wage, the benefits of science won't be so obvious. The detriment of continued attacks on labor unions, those folks who brought us Labor Day, are also worth mentioning for the holiday.
Barry Schwartz, a psychology professor at Swarthmore College looks at the problem from a different angle: job satisfaction is about more than finding the optimum number of hours per day, per week, or whatever. The 2013 Gallup poll result cited, that 90% of workers were either “unengaged” or “actively disengaged” from their job, says there is huge of room for improvement. Starting with a more worthy thought for the day:
"When employees have work that they want to do, they are happier. And when they are happier, their work is better, as is the company’s bottom line."
There's this meme about the most prominent outsiders in the race, as if... well, I'm not sure as if what, but we'll stipulate they're both long shots, so far. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took the trouble to outline the difference between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders from his point of view, which is interesting, but not as interesting as Trump's—handwritten—response. The ugly part is amazing enough, and the signature, but for me the topper is the closing: "Best Wishes."
Marc Johnson knows a thing or two about public affairs, and has some free campaign consultancy for how Jeb! ought to deal with the Donald; invoke St. Ronald! And what better place to do it than the Reagan presidential library at the next big debate later this month? (Just don't bring up any actual history of the 1980s, the heresies of what actually happened.)
Judge David L. Bunning of Federal District Court in Kentucky is not cutting the renegade Rowan County Clerk any slack. He ordered her jailed for contempt of court. “The court cannot condone the willful disobedience of its lawfully issued order,” he said. Her get out of jail card is to agree to comply with his order and issue the marriage licenses, but if her post-conversion word is reliable, she will be resisting that compulsion till kingdom come. One friend estimates the media circus has just begun. "Fox and CNN will run the story 24/7, and armchair prophets will warn of the end of days."
Beyond Ms. Davis' personal crusade, and the Liberty Counsel's use of her to fulfill its mission of "Restoring the Culture by Advancing Religious Freedom, the Sanctity of Human Life and the Family," you have to wonder if any of the crusaders are capable of thinking beyond this one issue that has them in a twist. County Clerks should all have the "religious freedom" to personally decide who gets to participate in civic life and enjoy their services? Also every and any government official of any stripe? To say they haven't thought this through would beggar understatement.
Davis' statement two days ago explained how she was saved four years ago, and how she must now "be obedient to [Jesus Christ] and to the Word of God," and she's not taking this lightly. "It is a Heaven or Hell decision."
That would make it worth sitting in jail for the rest of her life, I guess. This is looking more like mental illness than civil disobedience.
Something old, something new, both things borrowed, something blue.
More: book site for Musicophila with videos and stuff; and NYT Sunday Book Review for The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq, by Emma Sky.
Jonathan Adler mines the Scalia archive to find his analagous explanation for why Kim Davis should either do her job or quit it. (Scalia and his cohort don't mind quietly revising their opinions after the fact however, so more research may be needed to positively affirm.)
Davis' plea for Court protection was rejected, so we won't hear from Scalia first-hand. We will find out whether the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk is officially in contempt, on Thursday, but the facts of the case seem clear that she holds the law in some contempt, or at least subservient to her supposedly firmly held religious principles.
Whatever those may be these days.
The actual law she's supposed to administer is sort of like Iran's president, just a figurehead, while the higher law, what she says God tells her to do, that's like Ali Hosseini Khamenei, the guy who's really in charge.
Davis' principles are newsworthy because they exclude anyone from being licensed to marry someone of the same sex. They have not yet excluded multiple divorces, adultery, and what-not on her part. From a friend of a friend of a Facebook commenter:
"Kim Davis has been showered with so many blessings. She was blessed to have her first sinful divorce filing processed by a non-judgmental clerk that didn't let Jesus' harsh pronouncement against divorce stop him/her from allowing Kim to receive her ungodly, society destroying divorce. And she was blessed to get a non-judgmental clerk to process the application for her second, adulterous 'marriage' licence. More blessings with her second divorce. And her third adulterous 'marriage' And her third divorce. And her fourth adulterous 'marriage' So many blessings. I do hope she appreciates them. I really do. Because it can be hard to find non-judgmental clerks who won't let their own personal feelings interfere with their official duties."
Never mind all that says Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, which is providing Ms. Davis' legal representation. She converted four years ago, and now has a clean slate. Not relevant! “She was 180 degrees changed.”
Carly Fiorina complaining about unfair rules seems a little precious, but CNN announced a change in its qualification rules for its Sept. 16 debate, because of a paucity of polling. We won't know for sure who's in until September 10, but Fiorina claims she's in the top 5. Not that she could be trusted to report such a thing, but if true, that would put non-pols in three of the top five spots for the Republican nomination right now. No more politics as usual! Republicans as a group have been such a dismal failure, we want a non-Republican Republican, an anti-politician politician, an outsider, a neophyte, a business leader who knows a thing or two about failure, or perhaps a soft-spoken brain surgeon who says funny things about soft tissue.
The Upshot's dashboard does show Fiorina 5th in Iowa polls (but, Iowa), and now in a four-way tie for 6th in prediction markets. Quinnipiac U.'s poll has her in eighth place. The money (#13) and the national endorsements (#12) have not piled on the bandwagon as of yet, but that's a badge of outsider-honor, shared with Trump and Carson. Plus, Fiorina v. Trump would be good for ratings. Fiorina celebrate the triumph of yet another supposed challenge of the status quo, and Carson... bless his heart, urged CNN to include everybody.
Idaho Public TV has a Facebook page for its Outdoor Idaho show, and they've been using it to run a monthly photo contest for some time. A lot of the images will knock your socks off, and they seem to get better month after month. Last month, I decided that just maybe some of my images were good enough to contend, and submitted a few. The results are in, and as I clicked through and "liked" almost every one, I had a sinking feeling that the competition was just too good and I would have to get over the disappointment of not having any of mine picked.
They declared six "winners," but happily for all of us, there are 50-some "honorable mentions," and midway through, I was delighted to find one of mine among them. No Facebook account needed, just fill your biggest screen with a browser and click away through the "Iconic Idaho" August 2015 photo contest winners. (Mine is the down on my knees in the whitebark pine duff macro shot of Lewisia columbiana, an arrestingly beautiful, tiny wildflower that caught my eye on the way up to the top of the Seven Devils in the Hells Canyon Wilderness.)
On top of the world, late July, He Devil
LinkedIn keeps me in touch with people who are still working more regular jobs than I am, and sends lists of postings for things that seem to line up with what I've told it about myself. They read rather like reruns at this point. I suppose I could do that, if I had to, but even expressing the necessary enthusiasm in an interview (let alone showing it 5 or more days a week) seems too high a bar. Subject line is "Tom, 10 new jobs for you," give them credit for a vivid imagination of how hard a worker I am. Also, somebody should edit these things so they don't sound like robots put them together out of spare parts. "Exciting opportunities exist to participate in the development of new emerging technologies." As opposed to the old emerging technologies, I guess. Everybody knows R&D, but "MSR integration"? LVS? DRC? EDA? Mixing sentences and sentence-like lists in search of a subject.
This one mentions "Perl," which is not something I've seen called out in a lot of job descriptions. I've done some of that for 20 years, and the cool kids don't capitalize the name of Larry Wall's scripting language from the 80s (even if Wikipedia does). It also reminds me about what one manager told me about not liking to hire a guy who smokes a pipe, because pipe smokers are "always messing around with that thing." True about perl hacks, too.
I see that successful candidates for this position will have "a strong work ethic that is driven to succeed," and wonder about an ethic with a (driven) mind of its own.
It has been and will continue to be the policy of this company to administer all human resource actions and benefits without regard to a list of things, and to use passive construction in odd ways. Don't forget your excellent communication skills, both oral and written, and the ability to multi-task with good organizational skills.
Yes, yes, I've got all that, but no I don't want to with a nip of fall in the morning air, and a cat on my lap and hot coffee right here without driving to work. Nice of you to ask.
If you aren't so comfortably situated yourself, and do want to get something useful from it, here's some accumulated advice from my friends in the HP Alumni Association: How to use LinkedIn, including why and how to use it, how to change the default privacy settings to avoid sending "distress signals," and a link to the Kaemmerer Group's suggestions for how to improve your chance of being found by a human or a bot, should you wish to.
Tom von Alten