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Opinion >  Column

Spin Control: Competition to be the 51st star in the American flag

A reporter’s email inbox fills up with way too much stuff, but there is a danger in reading things too quickly in the daily attempt to sort the wheat from the chaff. It’s possible to get an unwarranted shock.

Like the email from one of the many semi-serious news sites that proclaimed last week that U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib was putting up a 51-star flag outside her office in support of a 51st state.

Wait a minute. Was a member of “The Squad” – that group of progressive Democrats – quitting the sisterhood and signing on with conservative Republican state Rep. Matt Shea and his merry band of Liberty state fans? And if so, shouldn’t he send Tlaib an actual 51st-state flag with the osprey in flight, broken sword in one talon and broken shackle in the other?

The Liberty state folks have pretty well laid claim to 51st statehood hereabouts, ever since Shea made filing a resolution to split Washington at the Cascade Crest an annual, if legislatively ignorable, issue. Of course, way to the south and east of us, folks in Puerto Rico are angling to be the 51st state. So maybe Tlaib was siding with the islanders, rather than the inlanders.

But a closer read of the story being flogged by the LifeZette Morning Update revealed that Tlaib was talking about supporting to push statehood for the District of Columbia, an issue that has kicked around for decades.

American flags on the street lamps around the other Washington had been replaced with 51-star versions of Old Glory as part of the latest push, and Tlaib was offering to fly one outside her congressional office.

How’d they do that?

Fifty-one is an odd number and doesn’t lend itself to an easy breakdown of rows for stars in an American flag. It’s the product of two prime numbers, but neither three rows of 17 nor 17 rows of three would work.

The old 48-star flag had six rows of eight stars, and the briefly used 49-star flag had seven rows of seven. The 50-star flag alternates five rows of six with four rows of five.

The 51-star flag follows that pattern. It has four rows of nine alternating with three rows of eight. If Puerto Rico or D.C. slips in before a proposed Liberty state, a 52-star flag would be a relatively easy mix of four rows of six and four of seven. But asking to become the 53rd state might be a problem, flagwise, as 53 is a prime number and the best option might be five rows of five stars and four rows of seven.

Bettor up

Although Gov. Jay Inslee dropped out of the presidential race more than a month ago – and some would say he should’ve done so much earlier – he remained a bettable option last week on to become the Democratic nominee.

If just barely.

Inslee was posted at 80-1 to be the Democratic standard bearer, way behind Elizabeth Warren at 2-1 and Joe Biden at 3-1. On the plus side, those were the same odds they were giving bettors on Julian Castro and Marianne Williamson, who remain in the race, and better than the 125-1 odds for Bill de Blasio, who dropped out Friday.

It may be worth noting that these oddsmakers might not be as knowledgeable about politics as sports. On Monday, they were quoting odds for the next National Security Adviser to replace John Bolton. Robert O’Brien, who was named to the job on Thursday, was going off at 15-1.

Taking a flying leap

Some candidates will do almost anything for attention and a little money.

Put Nancy Harris, a Democrat running for U.S. Senate in solidly Republican Idaho, in that category with her plan to raise money to campaign against Sen. Jim Risch.

Harris announced last week that if she raises $15,000 between Sept. 18 and the end of the month, she will base jump off a bridge in Twin Falls.

The Perrine Memorial Bridge is 486 feet tall at its highest point, and it does allow base jumping. Harris said she’d be doing a tandem jump, which means she’d be strapped to someone with a parachute who does this on a regular basis, so the odds of the chute opening and Harris floating safely to the ground are very good.

Much better, it would seem, than the odds of a Democrat being elected to that particular Senate seat, which Harris noted hasn’t happened since 1948.

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