Thank you, Houston Chronicle!

We could not get the answer to this jumble in the March 28 edition of our paper, and we inadvertently tossed the 3/29 edition which had the answer. Worse, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser doesn’t put its crosswords or other puzzles online. They appear in print only.


If the syndicator of the puzzle, Tribune Media Services, has an archive function on the game’s website I couldn’t find it.

Fortunately for me, the Houston Chronicle does put its jumble online with an archive, so I found the damned answer. It was driving us crazy.

Why Arizona’s politics seem insane

Someone has finally attempted to explain to us non-residents of the 48th state just how and why it has shifted so far to the right politically that it has nearly shot itself in the foot economically several times over the past few years.

In a weird way, it was good intentions that did it, says James Oliphant at National Journal. How so?

The clean-elections law was supposed to minimize the influence of big business and outside groups. Term limits were intended to rein in so-called professional politicians.

The trouble with the clean elections plan was that it forbade candidates from accepting any private money at all and compensated for that by lowering the bar for getting public money to $1,000 made up of 200 $5 contributions. As you can imagine, a whole lot of people decided they were perfectly competent to run for the state Legislature.

The measure benefited fringe candidates who had a harder time raising money through traditional means like PACs and corporate money—and it gave them enough support to survive against a better-funded challenger, particularly in GOP primaries.

As to term limits, they forced long-time legislators out and made room for the fringe people who now had a way in because of the public financing.

And what a fringe it has been! It’s given the state SB 1070, the “show your papers” law of 2010, and more recently SB 1062, the bill which would have exempted any business from laws against discrimination if it felt its right to exercise its religion was burdened by those laws.

The whole thing is fascinating, particularly for those of us who have lived in that beautiful place and have been asking ourselves “what the hell is going on there these days?”

They’re only dollars searching for good homes


Click to enlarge

Justice Roberts is either bought and paid for by billionaire donors to the Republican party or horribly naive. I don’t think he’s naive.

Here’s Dahlia Lithwick:

Really, it’s weird. The man takes the Metro to work, and yet he handily dismisses what every human American knows to be true: That if dollars are speech, and billions are more speech, then billionaires who spend money don’t do so for the mere joy of making themselves heard, but because it offers them a return on their investment. We. All. Know. This. So how can the chief justice blithely assume the following:

Spending large sums of money in connection with elections, but not in connection with an effort to control the exercise of an officeholder’s official duties, does not give rise to quid pro quo corruption. Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner “influence over or access to” elected officials or political parties.

And since the chief can find no evidence of silky burlap sacks lying around with the Koch brothers’ monogram on them, it must follow that there is no corruption—or appearance of corruption—afoot.

Like I said, I don’t believe he’s that naive.

Oversubscribed after all

The news that the Affordable Care Act, despite its early malfunctions, still managed to acquire 7 million “customers” has predictably driven the Republicans even further round the bend about it than before. I have no sympathy. They never offered an alternative, they have repeatedly voted to repeal it, and they refused to work with Democrats in Congress when it was being written. They are the most worthless excuse for a political party I’ve seen since, well, never.

As Jonathan Chait says pithily, the train did not wreck.

Will that finally settle the Republicans’ hash? Not hardly. They’re going to continue to screech about it for months to come.

To be sure, the critics are clinging desperately to scraps of hope. Some of the customers haven’t paid their first premium yet! (True, but most of them have no reason to pay before their first bill is due.) Most of the sign-ups were already insured! (No, that’s a measure that includes off-exchange sign-ups, which include lots of rollovers from the pre-Obamacare market. States that ask have found 80 to 90 percent of new exchange customers were previously uninsured.)

What it boils down to is differing philosophies of government: Democrats want to help people, Republicans want to help themselves.

The buyer was a nitwit

A while back I bought a pound of Italian sausage for use on pizzas. I’d bought it before, of course, but the difference this time was that I bought it ground rather than in links. Then I put the whole package in the freezer without thinking about how annoying it was going to be to break off just the amount of sausage required for one pizza.

Seeing that at 4:00pm caused me to change my menu plans for the evening. I am not in the mood to try to break up a pound of Italian sausage. We’ll have hot dogs and canned chili instead.

New instrument search

Who has the scoop on mountain dulcimers? I feel like learning a new instrument, and dulcimers have a nice sound, are fairly inexpensive and look pretty easy to learn.

I have one friend on Facebook who plays the instrument. I figure I’ll be surprised if anyone else I know does, but it would be an amusing surprise.

Addendum: Here’s a rather famous singer performing one of her early songs on a mountain dulcimer.

Bear DOWN, Arizona!

Got my nerves frayed a little bit watching the Sweet Sixteen game between Arizona and San Diego State this evening. UA didn’t take the lead until about the four-minute mark of the second half, and it was still nip-and-tuck down to the final moments. They did pull it out, however, and now they face the 2nd-seeded Wisconsin Badgers, who defeated Baylor handily earlier in the day. That game will be on Saturday in Anaheim.