Thursday, August 31, 2006
Look: Ted on a Treadmill...or is it?
On some days, politics needs to take a back seat to treadmills. (HT - the resident adolescent) Anyone else catch the resemblance to a certain real blogger in a circa 1980s frat party look?
Yes, State, Kyle, Stan and anyone else that's gettin' bent about a lack of feed, I'm working on it.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
A year ago, we were in the throws of an unimaginable natural disaster bearing down on the
…given Katrina is the story/tragedy of the week, month, possibly even the year and she is about to make landfall inAll of these blogs are still up and current, yet there is not much posting about Katrina a year later. They have gone on with their lives, some in NOLA & some in new places, and they don’t find it necessary to share any thoughts on their personal natural disaster anniversary.
, I have collected a handful of blogs from Louisiana . Some are professionally produced others are just average, every day... folks that got up one morning and said; "I'm going to start an obsessive new hobby that will alienate everyone I know". Just kidding. Anyway, this is the list in no particular order. New Orleans
Pitch & Green -- Seems to be some normal person with a habit.
Sanctums Porch -- A slacker's blog; don't look for regular posts, but the guy's from
. New Orleans
Unapologetic – This one is put out by some artsy 30 year old with interesting taste in music and parents with a condo in Destin.
The Blog Pros -- I think these guys get paid for this stuff, in other words, this reads like the news we already have to eat. …
Perhaps that’s how it is -- a life-changing event doesn't need to be reminisced, as it is the axis upon which an altered life is built; Katrina is part of the every day for these bloggers working quietly to define choices and reframe life. I don’t know how survivors of Katrina see their history, but I hope they’re all making damn sure that the different life set at their doorstep is made up of good dreams.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Harkin hangs with Elmo: Is he getting ready for 2008?
The ground game is in play, the messages are set, the ads are in the can, it’s time to talk 2008.
Yepsen and Krusty Insiders are starting to speculate on the 2008 Senate race. Who’s going to take on Harkin? A nobody who wants it bad, a Statehouse pol with a 'take no prisoners' attitude, a Statewide pressed & creased numbers guy or our favorite winger.
Whoever it is, he or she will have to work hard and work fast. Harkin’s already back up running his Elmo & Me shtick and gearing up the troops to push the next set of hot issues – fat kids, alternate fuels, debt relief for twenty-something college grads. It’s no wonder why most high profile GOP types are not particularly interested in the idea of taking on his well-oiled political machine.
But what about that other well-oiled machine on the receiving end of Harkin’s generosity with other people’s money?
Harkin’s connection to the CIETC scandal could become a huge political problem as investigations into other
It’s not a major leap to assume that there are more well-oiled machines working the federal trough thanks to Harkin, and, for all we know, Harkin is the Senator with a hold on S2590, a bill that would create an internet database on earmarks and other federal spending. If we can lift the hold and get a fair debate in the Senate, Americans at home in their natural state will finally get to analyze the amount of fraud, waste and abuse handed down from on high.
If a potential Harkin challenger, say a Steve King, looked into the future and really understood that this issue of government waste and cronyism is not going to die with the 2006 cycle, you could really see where political teeth need to bite, and bite hard. A great investment might be to send a staffer in search of every Harkin earmark, attach each earmark to their Federal application and dig in to those earmark budgets’ for a little waste, fraud and abuse analysis. It’s all there, just waiting to be picked apart.
Steve King is the most discussed possibility to run against Harkin, and considering his long-term dislike for earmarks he could legitimately stake out that issue.
, the pork situation looks pretty grim, with the exception of Steve King from the 5th District. While many criticize King for his some of his views, on the issue of Pork, clearly he is a true fiscal conservative. King voted Yes (to cut the pork) on 17 of the 19 amendments. He voted No (keep the pork) on the Iowa Dairy Education amendment (190), and abstained from voting on the amendment for Tourism Development in Iowa (338). … (Geeks with Blogs) Kentucky
Truthfully, it could be the year Harkin goes down. If his opponent tracks the pork, and finds all the six figure incomes Tom’s been subsidizing with our money, then it’ll be really hard to maintain that Tom “do-gooder” Harkin persona, and much easier to convince voters it’s time for a change.
Potential candidates need to sit down and run a risk reward analysis on making this race. A guy like King would have a ton to lose. He’s in a safe House seat that allows him to coast through until redistricting and he likes being a Congressman, although I doubt Steve King likes the idea of sitting out this fight.
Besides, if he doesn’t move in 2008 he could face an intra-party challenge from one or two or three of the guys thinking they’re next in-line for fifth district anointment. If King does risk it and runs a good race, I think the political Karma will line up on his side, much to the chagrin of a couple of other senator wannabes who anticipate a Harkin retirement and an open seat.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Fastballs, Changeups & Knuckleballs
Writing a blog is similar to an overly long season of little league where the players and parents, except Super Jock Dad, want it to end. But it keeps going on and on, providing ever more opportunity for parents to deep end with embarrassing displays of unfulfilled childhood ego needs.
I suppose that’s a long way of explaining how I feel about this project; it was fun, but now I’m showing up out of some odd sense of obligation. Funny, nobody really misses this stuff, so it’s hard to figure out to whom I feel so obligated.
To spice up my writing, and in the spirit of our blog “take a joke” culture that shows on occasion, I’m working in the trash talk. I’m going to make as many subliminal, derogatory slang comments as possible. On second thought, a number of experts suggest that using on-line mediums to direct sexually explicit slang towards individuals is a form of bullying, and no one intentionally sets out to be a bully.
I know, I know -- I’m willing to play in a field rife with adolescent mindsets, I should expect anything and everything. Sigh.
The big reason I am writing is that I don't want to wait for Iowa bloglanders to take up unique points of view on current political topics – and I’m excluding State29 in that generic assessment. I’ve been reading blogs using changeup and fastballs, but I’m not seeing the Knuckleballs – writing that doesn’t spin and follows an unpredictable path.
I figure, if I can throw down a few knuckleballs I should play, even if all I want to do is go home.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
This is a good week for team Nussle: Radio
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver supports a repeal of the
law that declares English the state's official language. But Culver opposes a move to let illegal immigrants pay in-state college tuition to go to Iowa State or UNI. "We need to work on enforcing the current immigration laws and illegal is illegal," Culver says. … Iowa, Iowa
…Polls indicate a majority of Americans -- and Iowans -- support laws designating English as the official language. Culver says he's willing to go against the majority view. "You know what, as governor you have to do what you think is right and I believe most Iowans want to be fair and equitable," Culver says. "All of us are immigrants. My family came here in 1861. I'm a fifth-generation Iowan...I think it is important to repeal the English Only law."
Are there that many votes in
Chet must be suffering from the verbal runs this week, not a sign of a healthy campaign.
Nussle: campaign cash & Culver policy goofs
Yesterday evening, Jim Nussle collected a half a million dollars and change. The AP story out of the Globe Gazette.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said the Republican Governors Association that he heads has donated $500,000 to Rep. Jim Nussle's campaign for governor - the largest single donation the group has made in the country.
Romney made the announcement Wednesday at a Nussle fundraiser and said it shows that Republican strategists see
as the best chance for the party to win a governorship held by a Democrat. Iowa
"This is a great pickup opportunity," Romney said. "This is, of course, the only Democratic seat that is being vacated." …
…"We have not made any contribution larger than this to any governor's race."…
While earlier in the week, we all watched in discomfort as Chet Culver made a spectacular political belly flop with a too clever for voters policy idea. Chris at P.F. provides a detailed analysis, but you can't spin detailed analysis in 30 seconds.
Chet announced a series of economic development initiatives, which were obviously not floated to the outside political brains, that included the genius move to coral some of the IPERS money into a venture capital fund for underwriting home grown Iowa businesses, that is assuming the IPERS funds are still solvent. From Tuesday's DMR.
Iowa's secretary of state, included in a 10-point plan the idea of investing Public Employees' Retirement System's assets in venture capital for Iowa-based technology businesses. … Iowa
…This year the
Legislature took steps to shore up the fund, which as of last year was $2.2 billion short of being able to pay all of the benefits it had promised to pay. Iowa
I suppose this is the Democrats’ next logical step in collecting other people’s money for the benefit of a few well-connected cronies. They are certainly good at this game (see The Real Sporer for details).
Chet and his advisors -- oh certainly a loose term after this trick -- must have been ingesting some bad fungus to think this was a good idea and then not poll test their good idea. So far, the concept has been universally panned in the court of public opinion through commentary (here, here, here) and the curious silence on the part of other major Democratic political figures. No one from team Vilsack or the Democratic leadership in the Statehouse has made any substantive comment on raiding the IPERS funds for venture capital money.
Vilsack, Gronstal and Murphy’s hesitance to rush in and cheer for Chet’s Gnarls Barkley moment might have something to do with saving their own political skins. I have a mental picture of Chet Culver morphing into Jeff Skilling in cuffs, a former face of Enron; while the announcer compares the use of IPERS money on risky investments to Enron’s shell games that cost thousands of people their retirement.
The image is probably not unique. The good people helping Governor Romney spend the RGA money may have decided their math was a little off after hearing about Culver’s political dive and went back to their desks to rework the figures.
It’s always the smartest guys in the room that we have to worry about, isn’t it Chet?
Monday, August 14, 2006
M.A. Hanusa for SOS! Why not?
I don’t usually get to flip a press release out. Normally some member of a club is on it, but today I just happened to be working on this thing when this press release arrived. I checked around and OK has it up, it is news and collecting the news is her job and blogging is not my job, a habit...a wretched, compulsive habit that may require heavy doses of SSRIs at some point because I’m actually starting to dislike this stuff, besides, everyone has a blog...and it doesn't seem to have been picked up by the standard blogging crowd.
Anyway, the Republican Party announced that they’ve found her. Yeah, figured they didn’t put the traditional female on the ballot as governor-in-waiting so needed to shore up female independent voters who look at Republican men and get a funny feeling that a few too many of these guys secretly admire the anti-modernist sentiments found elsewhere in the world.
The Party solved the problem and nominated a safe and sanctioned election year token. I am not suggesting Mary Ann operates like a token; it’s just that any “minority” candidate nominated under these circumstances will have to live down that cynical assumption…and I’m sure she will.
RPI ANNOUNCES SECRETARY OF STATE CANDIDATE MARY ANN HANUSA
DES MOINES – The Republican Party of
Central Committee announced this evening that they have unanimously nominated Mary Ann Hanusa to run for Secretary of State. Iowa State
“We are thrilled to have Mary Ann Hanusa as our candidate for Secretary of State,” said Hoffmann.
Mary Ann Hanusa, a native of
Council Bluffs, has been active in her community and politics. She worked for Senator Charles Grassley in his Iowa office. Council Bluffs
The official papers to put Hanusa on the ballot will be delivered to the Secretary of State’s office by Republican Party of
officials before the August 18th deadline. Iowa
She sounds like a reasonable candidate and probably not nearly as hairy as that Mauro guy. I haven’t found a picture, but I am sure she’s holding her own at forty-something (that stuff counts in celebrity culture) and ready to walk the walk with the big guys selling brand GOP.
M.A. (I have no idea if she goes by M.A.) is a long time GOP staffer/activist originally from
If they can get past the obvious politics, the GOP Central Committee probably did the Party a favor by nominating a likable woman as the Republican choice for Secretary of State.
Saturday, August 12, 2006
Nussle & Culver: can you hear them; they talk about us...
Rambling on about Chet Culver’s interest in food and intellectual acumen are the favorite gossip topics for bloggers on the right, while Nussle’s purported habit of thinking with multiple anatomical systems is the favorite gossip for bloggers on the left.
In both instances, the observations have some basis in fact, Culver has a checkered academic career and has gained weight over the last year, Nussle experienced a difficult divorce and went on to remarry. But this stuff is only incidentally, if at all, relevant to someone’s ability to run
Let’s face it, Chet Culver and Jim Nussle are not perfect and they have never been perfect. However, to insinuate, as some blogs do, that evaluating character based on eating habits and personal rumors is a rational method for discerning a ballot choice is silly. We should demand good behavior while accepting that a governor might not, on some occasions, live up to our expectations.
We have put up with Vilsack’s lawyerly equivocating for years, and I forgive him.
I’m looking forward to talking about issues. I can’t help it; it’s infinitely more interesting than thinking about weight, ACT scores or any other kind of scores. I suppose the debate schedule currently being sorted out between the Nussle and Culver camps is the best indication that these guys are going to be serious. I can only hope that the right bloggers and left bloggers step back from the spitballs.
One more thing: as one of the few female political bloggers in
Men acquire money and power for better meat or better sex.
If you accept the premise of this observation, we could categorize our two gubernatorial candidates, but I’m not going to do that for you, really.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Yes, if you checked earlier this post might have looked a little different. Whatever.
It’s a rocky road into November, from Democratic Senator and Joe “statesman and closet neo-con” Lieberman in
Today’s WaPo takes it on and shreds Tuesday’s incumbent losses with this quick analysis.
...Lieberman's defeat came on the same night two House incumbents, Republican moderate Joe Schwarz in
Michiganand liberal Democrat Cynthia McKinney in , lost in their own primary challenges. Georgia
Each had special circumstances contributing to their losses, but, along with the defeats of more than a dozen incumbent state legislators in
earlier this year, they offered a cumulative warning signal for November, when control of Congress will be up for grabs. Pennsylvania
wants change and it's not just the war. Every incumbent in America in both parties ought to be quaking in their boots right now," Democratic consultant Dane Strother said. America
Darrell West, a political analyst at
Brown Universityin , noted opinion polls showed a majority of Americans unhappy with the country's direction and pessimistic about the future. Rhode Island
"Anytime you have a majority of people who think the country is headed in the wrong direction, it's a bad time to be an incumbent," he said. "
was part of the voter discontent, discontent, butut it's not the whole story."... Iraq
I know we shouldn’t pick on all incumbents. Some of them are nice people who work hard and play by the rules, but woe to the pols that encountered a smidge of trouble this past year or two, it could be a tough election.
However, for incumbents to lose they have to have good candidates running against them and that’s not always the case, although if I were Leonard "old shoe" Boswell I might be a little nervous about being branded one of the least effective members of Congress.
That could qualify as a smidge of trouble.
We have an official hog czar. Yesterday, legislators reviewed the DNR rules for hog lot siting and issued another slap at the Vilsack Administation, voting 7 to 2 to formally object to the Administrative Rules. Reported in today's Cedar Rapids Gazette.
…A legislative panel today chose not to halt a new rule giving Iowa's lead environmental regulator more authority in deciding where future livestock operations can be built, but gave opponents a stronger legal hand in challenging state siting decisions.
The Legislature's Administrative Rules Review Committee voted 7-2 to object to a proposed Environmental Protection Commission rule slated to take effect Aug. 23 -- a move that puts the state on the defensive in defending its action against a legal challenge.
…Several committee members argued that the rule vested too much power over locating where livestock confinement buildings in the hands of Jeff Vonk, director of the state Department of Natural Resources -- authority that exceeded the Legislature's intent…
Vilsack came out blasting the move with his usual litany of scolding rhetoric.
…"In an act of political expediency, our environment was sacrificed for political gain," the governor added in his statement. "I do not intend to let this action deter us from aggressive action to fight for and protect to the fullest extent Iowans' precious right to clean water, clean air, and an environment we can all enjoy."…
I suppose this means more money for the lawyers as both sides on this fight will put together the legal teams. I’m going to be relieved when the trial lawyer mentality is no longer living at Terrace Hill; Vilsack, with his tolerance for legal action, as spent a ton of government money and time fighting losing battles over the constitutional powers of his office.
Trial happy governors are probably not on the fast track to the White House, at least I hope not.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Cul'v'er & Nussle duking it out on the minimum wage
Is this election year going to turn on issues like the minimum wage increase? It could be, and to that end, yesterday’s dueling gubernatorial candidate comments on the need to raise the minimum wage is the first round on the issue.
’s secretary of state, said he would make it one of his top priorities to raise the state minimum wage to $7.25 per hour if he is elected governor. “Hard-working Iowans and their families can’t afford to wait any longer,” he said. … Iowa
…Culver spoke today at a new conference at Iowa Federation of Labor's headquarters in
. He argued that Nussle’s salary in Congress has risen $30,000 in the past decade, while the last minimum-wage increase was in 1997. He said Des Moines should join the 20 states that have raised their minimum wages above the federal minimum. Iowa
“In a Culver administration, raising the minimum wage will be one of the first bills that we propose,” Culver said. “In contrast, Congressman Nussle won’t raise the
Iowaminimum wage and he’s failed to support a real minimum wage increase during his time in .” (DMR) Washington
Got it. Culver will raise the minimum wage. Period. He will not use the issue to leverage additional proactive small business policy, just the minimum wage.
…GOP gubernatorial opponent Jim Nussle gave qualified support to a minimum wage hike if accompanied by financial help for affected small businesses.
"There is no debate on this issue -- increasing the minimum wage for Iowa's working families is overdue and will help ensure that no one falls through the cracks,'' Nussle said. "Hard-working Iowans who have played by the rules, but struggled to get ahead, deserve a fair wage so they can provide for their families.'' … (CR Gazette)
Nussle’s on board. He’ll raise the minimum wage, but he wants more. This sounds typical, although in a state with crushing business property taxes, he’s right to tie in the minimum wage issue with other issues, such as property tax reform, that will help small businesses make their increased minimum wage payrolls.
Fast forward to January, in a Culver administration we’ll get a minimum wage bill and not much else in the way of immediate help for small businesses. This is particularly true if Democratic Senator Joe Bolkcom is chair of Ways & Means. Joe’s never been a big fan of tax relief and is probably the major reason that HF 825 the House passed version of property tax reform didn’t make it out of the Senate Ways & Means. Under Culver, we’d get a minimum wage increase but not much tax relief for small businesses.
If Nussle is living at Terrace Hill, we can expect a minimum wage bill tied to a package of policy reforms aimed at helping
I suppose Republicans are starting to see the importance of thinking about workers and business owners as a team. You need to improve the quality of life of both of these constituencies if we want to improve
And it probably doesn’t hurt that David Broder put out a column aptly titled “Simmering Rage Within the GOP” that focused attention on an old guard Republican’s frustration at a Party that doesn’t seem to understand the need to be fair, at least on occasion.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
Steve King: fenced & wired
In honor of the Setphano Reys' of the Latino world out there praying that they don’t put too much juice on that wire, I’ve the intro and link to Congressman Steve King’s recent opinion in the Daily Nonpareil on the urgent need to fence & electrify the southern border.
Guest Opinion: Fence cost-effective, compassionate -- Congressman Steve King
Some newspapers and blogs embellish facts and add meaning to suit their bias. This has been especially true of comments I made when discussing the need for border fencing.
To be clear, I am a proponent of border security and enforcement first. If the administration continues to neglect enforcing our immigration laws, employers continue to demand cheap labor, and illegal drugs and people continue to pour across our wide-open southern border, I want the most efficient and cost effective system we can devise.
Many of us have experienced the jolt of an electric fence, which serves as a distinct reminder not to touch it again. You don't have to be a farm kid to know this, but bloggers and liberal activists don't notice that standard practice in security is often electrified wire on top of a security fence or wall. We do this with people and livestock all the time in the
, where electric wires top fences that protect factories, military installations and private buildings. It is not a new idea or a particularly bold one, no matter how strident activists would like to make it sound. U.S.
Okay, so I really don’t want to make you read anymore of that Steve King. I figure the multimillion-dollar, creepy version from
But read it if you must. It’s filled with the usual staff edited kingisms; a stream of Steve extolling his good earth confidence that building a twelve foot high fence, topped with electric wire will stop the flood of illegals, and funnel these determined people to the legal ports of entry where they’ll immediately be denied access and gladly return to their life of abject poverty a thousand miles to the south. Hmm, this string of logic seems to be missing a little bit of…something, perhaps a deeper understanding of the economics of migration?
I’m a big fan of the NBER -- expert economists elegantly crunching numbers -- so I went looking for a few points on the central problem in our illegal immigration debate: the interaction between economics and migration.
Professor George Borjas, in his introduction to an NBER book on Mexican immigration, provides an excellent summary of the elements that have converged to generate the current crisis in illegal immigration. On a quick read (eight pages), the key elements to the crisis center on the growth of the existing social infrastructure that facilitates immigrants’ access to economic opportunity, which, thanks to American employers, they have plenty of opportunity to inspire a move north. Mexican immigrants rely on their American based friends & family to get to the U.S. for jobs with significantly better wages than are possible in
Good fences make good neighbors if you live in
Oh, and what is with Steve King’s dislike for bloggers?
According to Steve, bloggers are strident activists who embellish facts to suit a personal bias.
Guilty as charged.----------------------------------------------------
Tom, crew, J & the girls: a fine finish in the Governor’s Cup - I'm glad y'all had reasonable winds.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Political Ethics: Round One, Culver & Nussle spin their plans.
It’s corruption week in Iowa; people are talking about it and everyone is against it -- well almost everyone, the Polk County insider syndicate & friends being the infamous exception. But even better than the knowing disapproval of the voting rabble with tilting heads and nodding tisks, is the dueling ethics plans being sent out by our gubernatorial guys. They both need “ethics plans” to cover for those distant political cousins crawling out of right & left closets.
Culver dropped his ethics plan on the media this past Monday.
Culver Announces Plan for Ethical and Accountable Government
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
(Des Moines) Secretary of State and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver stood at the State Capitol today to announce his plan for ethical, accountable leadership, and to restore Iowans’ faith in government that has been shaken by scandals, from CIETC in Des Moines to the corruption of Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff in Washington.
“Iowa’s next Governor must restore the faith in government that CIETC took away,” Culver said at today’s press conference. “This is not Washington, D.C. There must be a zero-tolerance policy for corruption at any level in state government. … link
Culver goes on in the press release to outline his ethics agenda:
- Develop political appointee reporting rules for financial and personal business that would make old Aunt Maude cringe;
- Increase the income of criminal and civil defense lawyers by seeking damages from the witless and very likely broke post-litigation Ramona Cunninghams’ of Iowa;
- Develop open databases for anyone from Iowa--Brazil, Finland, Nigeria--providing access to private citizens’ personal business records (just improving upon past SOS database efforts);
- Mandate ethics training through a reconstituted University of Iowa public affairs program because we need to fund more stuff in our bloated and expensive higher education system.
Followed by Nussle’s "yo' mamma" press release on Tuesday.
Nussle Calls for “End of Crony Bonuses” in Iowa Government
Nussle Will End Excessive Management Bonuses
DES MOINES—Iowa gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle today called for “an end of all crony bonuses” as part of his plan to clean-up state government and restore trust between Iowans and their elected officials.
Jim Nussle said, “As Governor, I will end this deceptive practice. When you sign up as a manager in public service, you should receive a fair salary that is clearly disclosed to Iowa taxpayers.” …
…“Iowans have had enough of these scandalous dramas and demand these crony bonuses be stopped once and for all,” Nussle announced this morning on statewide radio. “This is reprehensible when the State has been rewarding some managers for poor job performances at the expense of hard-working taxpayers and front-line state workers in law enforcement, corrections, education, and on down the line.” …
… After the job training greed scheme broke this past spring, Nussle called for an Iowa Inspector General to protect taxpayers, provide a safe harbor for state workers and citizen whistleblowers, and initiative independent investigations. link
This is Nussle’s blow back to Culver’s ethics plan announcement. There is nothing new on his Inspector General proposal, but the guy does outrage pretty well – a practiced politicians stock in trade.
Does it matter? Do voters really believe that with a few turned out policies our politicians can clean up thier ethical swamp?
I’ll answer it for y’all – NO.
Yes, it’s cynical to suggest that neither Culver nor Nussle will ever be able to produce enough policy to create a completely ethical political environment. It’s too easy to get ahead and stay on top in politics by taking a few short cuts; there isn't much of an incentive to change a way of being that produces easy wins.
The only good thing is that in a year when voters are willing to toss any and all of the well worn political bums, politicians always seem to rediscover a sharp sense of right and wrong. A contrite nod by the politicos to the voters with an “I hear you and we’ll be better, promise” can be enough to bring 'round a few of those weak willed voters that don’t demand enough policy bling. Culver and Nussle are just doing what they have to do to make the world right with some values voters, although I am sure it makes both camps wish for larger special interest voting blocs.
By November, these ethics plans will have been dissected & analyzed to the point of irrelevance, unless one or both of the candidates have stepped in it and the candidate(s)’ issues dribble out with every mention of the word ethics.
Can anyone spell t-r-o-u-b...