CT To CA — All The Way To Nebraska

Google Location history

I’m writing tonight from Lincoln, Nebraska, continuing our trip to California.

This was a good day on the road. The goal was 600 miles and we did 627… though Google informs me it’s only 563 miles as the crow flies.

Next time we’re going by crow!

Overall we’ve driven 1,384 miles since we left Connecticut. That’s 48% of the way.

Lots of folks have been asking about Doppler. I can’t overstate how good a traveler she’s been, laying on Helaine’s lap with her head resting on the center console. Most of the time she’s dozing. She’s never a bother.

The trip has affected her appetite. She has refused to eat her normal food. We spent an hour or so going to Petsmart in Mishawaka, IN&#185. The dry food we got made no difference!

We’re told she will eat when she’s hungry. She’s still eating treats.

Google’s navigation app is how we find our way. Leaving Petsmart it took us to a road closed for construction!

Google knew the road was closed. It said so on my screen!

We tried to find another route, but Google kept asking us to u-turn and go back.

We ad libbed our own route, skirting around the Notre Dame campus in South Bend. This shopping trip/detour (and stops for gas and the bathroom) is why we only averaged 57 mph today.

Traffic was moderate on the Indiana Tollway. We stayed mostly at the speed limit with little opportunity to go faster. Things slowed down as we drove into Illinois, staying south of Chicago. Speeds finally picked as we moved into rural Western Illinois.

It’s easy to think of the Mississippi River as the center of the country. Not so! We’re 400 miles west of the Mississippi and just approaching the middle.

Next up was Iowa. I expected boring. It’s actually quite pretty. Both Helaine and I were pleasantly surprised.

We passed hundreds of farms along the way. It’s early in the season. The corn is as high as an elephant’s ankle.

What is tall (and huge) are the dozens of power generating windmills we saw. I’m all for clean energy and wind power, but the truth is, they’re a blight on the landscape.

If the folks here don’t mind, I don’t mind. I’m a definite NIMBY on wind power.

Around 6:00 PM CDT, 20 miles short of Council Bluffs IA, we pulled into a rest area to make hotel reservations. Iowa provides free WiFi at the rest areas. I plopped the laptop on the hood and pecked away. Thank you Hawkeyes.

We’re staying across the road from the Nebraska State Penitentiary!

The goal is another 600 mile day tomorrow which would bring us past Denver and through the Rockies. With Nebraska’s speed limit set at 75 mph (meaning a cruising speed around 83 mph) it’s easily doable.

&#185 – Mishawaka is best known as the home of Ann Nyberg’s sister.

I’m A Political Junkie

Have the Republicans marginalized their chance in the general election by moving outside our nation’s norm? Could be. Or maybe it’s me who’s out-of-step?

I am a political junkie. I follow politics, but more importantly I usually enjoy following politics. That being said I’m sick of Iowa and ready to move on. In fact more ready to move on than see the results!

Rick Santorum helped me better understand my own angst by explaining today he supported Mitt Romney in 2008 because Romney was more conservative than John McCain. Of course Santorum is and all the other candidates now claim to be more conservative than Romney.

Wherever the Republican Party was four years ago it’s more conservative today.

Have the Republicans marginalized their chance in the general election by moving outside our nation’s norm? Could be. Or maybe it’s me who’s out-of-step?

I don’t like Romney. It has been said he looks like the guy who fired your dad.

I disapprove of the role of firms like Bain Capitol in our economy. It is Romney whose leadership at Bain helped shape that parasitic industry. He is very good at doing something most of us would find quite distasteful. In Bain’s game there are a few big winners and a lot of losers!

Dislike is one thing. A few of the candidates outright scare me.

I am obviously not the target audience for the candidates in Iowa.

This is not to say President Obama is the draw he was four years ago. Sure he walked into a horrific situation left by the previous administration, but it’s the other stuff that’s upsetting.

He gave telcos who spied on American citizens (aka – us!) retroactive immunity. The Patriot Act and other affronts to our liberty remain in place. The Bush era tax cuts remain for the wealthy. Guantanamo. Our continued presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. NDAA. It goes on.

Even with those weaknesses barring a “’68 Chicago” scene at the Democratic Convention I can’t imagine the Republicans winning.

Maybe I should follow my weather advice and avoid long range forecasting. It’s seldom right.

Is Dodd Done?

To me it has always seemed Connecticut is an address of convenience for Senator Dodd. He’s from Connecticut the way ships are registered in Liberia and Panama or businesses are incorporated in Delaware and the Cayman’s.

Christopher_Dodd_official_portrait_2-cropped.jpgJust as I was getting set for bed the Twitterverse started going a little nuts with word Senator Christopher Dodd will announce he’s not running for reelection to his Senate seat. The announcement, if true, is a shocker even though I’ve been telling anyone who’d listen he was unelectable.

Unelectable candidates run all the time. They lose. I assume he figured that out.

He’s run and won six times. Thirty years in the Senate. Quite a record. Alas, here in Connecticut the bloom is off the rose.

Every time a sleazy rock is turned over concerning banking or finances there seems to be signs Chris Dodd has been there. His mortgage deal with Countrywide, sweetheart or not, never seemed like the kind of deal I’d get.

In the NY Times Gail Collins wrote of his opportunism and Connecticut’s skepticism:

The trouble began with Dodd’s presidential campaign when he famously attempted to win over the voters in the Iowa caucus by moving his entire family to the state and enrolling his daughter in an Iowa kindergarten. Iowa, you may remember, responded enthusiastically and awarded him nearly 1 percent of the vote. Connecticut was mortified.

Mortified. Exactly.

I’ve only met Chris Dodd three of four times in my 25 years here. At a UCONN basketball victory parade I jumped on the back of a flatbed truck and interviewed Dodd and Joe Lieberman on live TV.

The truck began to move as I was clumsily climbing on. Senator Dodd leaned over and reached out to help. He has the softest hands I have ever felt on a man!

A few years ago I walked into the conference room as Ann Nyberg was getting set to interview him. I looked at the Senator and said, “I’m just a typical American boy from a typical American town.”

Nyberg was confused. She flashed a quizzical look. Too young to understand.

Dodd smiled and continued, “I believe in God and Senator Dodd and keeping old Castro down.”

We were doing lines from Phil Ochs’ “Draft Dodger Rag.” The Senator Dodd in the song was Chris Dodd’s dad, Tom. Being in the Senate was like being in a family business.

To me it has always seemed Connecticut is an address of convenience for Senator Dodd. He’s from Connecticut the way ships are registered in Liberia and Panama or businesses are incorporated in Delaware and the Cayman’s.

427px-Richard_Blumenthal_at_West_Hartford_library_opening.jpgMore than likely this opens the door for Attorney General Richard Blumenthal to run.

For Republicans this is a worst case scenario. Dodd was weak. Blumenthal is strong and well liked. It will be tough to muddy this consumer oriented former Marine.

Dick Blumenthal is a retail politician appearing and pressing the flesh at more events than any three other pols in Connecticut. I suspect more Connecticut residents have had personal contact with the AG than any other elected official. That kind of stuff pays off.

Now I can go to sleep.

Brokaw Beats Me To The Punch

Our system of local government has barely evolved over the past one hundred years and we are still governed by these same archaic institutions formed before the invention of the light bulb, telephone, automobile and computer.

For the past few weeks I’ve been mulling over the cost of decentralized government, wondering how to blog it. Then I picked up this morning’s Times and Tom Brokaw had beaten me to it!

He doesn’t mention Connecticut by name, but we have many problems similar to those he cites for New York, Iowa and the Dakotas.

“Here are a few examples. It’s estimated that New York State has about 10,500 local government entities, from townships to counties to special districts. A year ago a bipartisan state commission said that New Yorkers could save more than a billion dollars a year by consolidating and sharing local government responsibilities like public security, health, roads and education.

One commission member, a county executive, said, “Our system of local government has barely evolved over the past one hundred years and we are still governed by these same archaic institutions formed before the invention of the light bulb, telephone, automobile and computer.””

Each of our 169 towns and cities duplicates the efforts of its neighbors. We have fire and police departments along with road crews and recreation workers.

Some towns, West Haven comes to mind, have multiple fire departments within the same town, each with its own chief and commissioners!

In Connecticut, probably elsewhere too, the wealthy communities don’t want to throw their lot in with the smaller ones. At the same time little towns don’t want to be drowned out by their larger neighbors. I get it.

Having all these layers and levels of government is expensive. Right now it’s a luxury we cannot afford.

Here Comes The Cold

Even without knowing meteorology this map is impressive.


My friend Bob, who knows more about math and computers than any human safely should, created this loop to show the cold air moving into the Plains and toward the East Coast. The colors depict temperatures.

As he pointed out, earlier this afternoon there was a 50&#176 temperature difference between eastern and western Iowa.

Even without knowing meteorology this map is impressive.

Where There’s Smoke There Might Be Nothing

Yesterday, seemingly out of the blue, Matt Drudge headed his website with an image from an upcoming National Enquirer front page. Because Drudge is archived, I can show you the page.


With the Iowa caucuses two weeks away, and Edwards developing some steam, that’s a pretty provocative and potentially damaging story… even if untrue. Using Google news, I started scouting around for additional details. There were none easily found even at the National Enquirer’s site.

It’s easy to write this stuff off, except I believe it was Drudge who broke the Monica Lewinsky story. Beyond that, this is not Generoso Pope’s Enquirer, breathlessly tracking Elvis at K-Mart.

This afternoon, the story has slid from it’s top-of-the-page perch, but is still posted by Drudge. The John Edwards headline now links to the Enquirer’s reporting, which includes denials and a claim of paternity from Andrew Young (a former Edwards insider, not the former Atlanta mayor and congressman).

With Google, it’s possible to work backwards on a story. In this case, it was like a small brush fire which smoldered for months before bursting out. There were rumors in September, published on Huffington Post (in a fascinating story “Edwards Mystery: Innocuous Videos Suddenly Shrouded In Secrecy,” where cover-up, unexpected silence and obfuscation made the reporter more, not less, curious) and other bits and pieces, mostly on thinly read blogs.

That there is scant ‘legitimate’ news coverage of this story nearly a full day after it broke implies the story can’t be verified… in other words, in its original version it’s probably not true.

Will this damage Edwards? Is this a political hit job or maybe the result of a ‘rush to publish?’ Or, maybe it is true.

Enquiring minds want to know!

Break In At Obama’s Place

Drudge has it on his front page, though pretty far down the left side. The AP wrote it up nicely. A bit of trouble Friday night at Obama Headquarters in Iowa.

(AP) DAVENPORT, Iowa The Davenport, Iowa, campaign headquarters for presidential candidate Barack Obama was burglarized Friday evening.

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor says two laptop computers and some campaign literature were taken. A campaign worker discovered the burglary this morning, and a report was filed with Davenport police.

Vietor says that it doesn’t appear that it was anything sensitive or irreplaceable was taken.

Hmmm…. where have I heard this before? Here’s the opening ‘graph’ of a story from the New York Times, June 17, 1972.

WASHINGTON, June 17 — Five men, said to have been carrying cameras, electronic surveillance equipment and burglary tools, were arrested shortly after 2 A.M. today after a floor-by-floor search that led to the executive quarters of the National Democratic Committee here.

Here’s a copy of the actual story that ran on page 30 in the Times and the text of the story that was on the front page of the Washington Post. Remember, we knew nothing else except there was a burglary in Larry O’Brien’s office at the Watergate (The image of the front page on the left is from two days later, June 19, 1972).

I doubt last night’s burglary was anything more than a burglary. The stolen laptops were probably the target.

On the other hand, Watergate also seemed like a meaningless burglary. Nixon was way ahead at the polls. He would end up winning the presidential election with 60% of the popular vote and nearly 97% of the Electoral College.

Why would CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect the President) even care what O’Brien did or did not know?

Just for a second, let’s make believe there was something politically evil going on Friday night in Iowa. Are there still Woodwards and Bernsteins in journalism? Are there Ben Bradlees and Katherine Grahams who would allow reporters to spend days and days pursuing leads which probably weren’t going to pan out? Few thought Watergate would be anything more than the 2-bit burglary it was.

I’m afraid I know the answer.

Corporate journalism, where publishers (and TV managers) answer to stockholders, not individual owners and where the cost of debt service has entered into the daily decision making process, has changed journalism in profound ways.

If 1972 happened in 2007, how much would we know?

Quoted in Hartford Magazine – Again

A few weeks ago Elizabeth McGuire of Hartford Magazine asked me to respond to some thoughts from the news director of one of my competitors. I thought you might like to read the finished product.

“A great, great deal has been said about the weather, but very little has ever been done.” More than 130 years after Hartford resident Mark Twain made that observation, we still have a great deal to say about the weather. “What is the one universal content item in a newscast that affects everyone? It’s the weather,” says Nick Lawler, a senior consultant with Frank N. Magid, a widely recognized television-industry consulting company based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “In national and local studies, weather usually comes out as one of , if not the top reason for people to watch a newscast,” says Lawler.

It’s not surprising that competition is still among local television stations to grab weather-watcher’s attention. Stations may not be able to do much about Mother Nature but they certainly attempt to track her every move. For example, WFSB-TV has been promoting “Early Warning Weather.” What’s that mean? “The combination of the most advanced technology and the most experienced team of meteorologists means we can warn viewers about what’s coming faster and more accurately that any other station,” says News Director Lyn Tolan. “We can give you snowfall to a portion of an inch for the area where you live. It’s really amazing stuff.”

Veteran WTNH-TV weatherman Geoff Fox, however, doesn’t buy Tolan’s claim. “We are much more accurate than we were in the past,” says Fox. “However, we believe that an accurate forecast, of value to our viewers, begins with realistic claims of our abilities. We don’t promise what we can’t deliver.” Fox also says, If she (Tolan) would like to make a wager on her claim, I will gladly take her money.” Thus challenged, Tolan says that though she stands by her claim, she’s not “a betting woman!”

Men (and Women) In Black III

I was surprised to see a half page ad in today’s Hartford Courant from the air staff (members of AFTRA) at WFSB in Hartford. Their union negotiations have been contentious, to say the least, over the past few years.

Some long time employees have worked for Travelers Insurance, Post-Newsweek and now Meredith as station owners.

Travelers was local, which always makes a difference. And, at that time, the money was flowing in like water, to a station that had cost them a pittance to put on-the-air.

Post-Newsweek was a print oriented company and, though many people felt they weren’t as employee friendly as Travelers, the station continued to be a good place to work.

Meredith is also print oriented but it’s a different situation from Post-Newsweek. I am not involved in their labor negotiations, but I have heard that Meredith declared an impasse and implemented their last/best offer. There’s not much the union members can do short of walking out.

Today’s ad said the anchors and reporters would all wear black as a sign of solidarity – and they did. The ad also listed some of their grievances. A friend called me from their newsroom to say the tension was high and management had spoken to some on-the-air people.

Meredith is going to have to make a decision on how they value the folks on-the-air. Considering the preponderance of research that says, to a large extent, people watch TV stations because of whose on the air, I will be interested to see how far this goes.

This isn’t a grade school fight. Would Meredith really cut off their nose to spite their face? Will the union cripple the station by walking out and risking their own jobs at the same time? Are there more job actions to come or will cooler heads prevail? How can it benefit any company to be at war with their own staff?

I work for the competition and I want to win, but not by default against a crippled opponent. This time, the news will be from the newsroom.

(The Hartford Courant featured an article about the situation, which is attached below)

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