Archive for April, 2006

Pander party

April 28, 2006

The gasoline "crisis" has brought out the worst in everybody, including the ridiculous spectacle of craven Republicans shamelessly trying to outpander the Democrats. Investigate Big Oil! Give everybody a hundred bucks to tide them over! For the record, if that matters anymore, here’s a pretty good breakdown from NPR of just where your gas money goes. It includes this surprisingly honest and accurate assessment:

So you have a situation where demand has been growing steadily and inexorably, and the system of supply is quite vulnerable. That’s the basic recipe for high prices.

Well, yeah. It’s called supply and demand, and it’s working today exactly the way it has for hundreds of years.

What do the Republicans have left, by the way, that distinguishes them from the Democrats? They’re spending like drunken soldiers.* They groveled at the public opinion polls over the Dubai ports deal. The fumbled immigration and let Democrats move to the right of them on border security. I think a rout by the Democrats in November is looking more and more likely, no matter what anybody says about how safe most districts are for incumbents. And this won’t happen because Democrats have a plan or a message similar to Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America. Republicans are doing it all by themselves.

*I know the phrase normally used is "like drunken sailors," but I was in the Army and think the Navy deserves a break once in a while. We also lost our ability to exercise fiscal restraint while under the influence. The only difference between wastrel soldiers and sailors and members of Congress is that we usually woke up the next morning, hung over, perhaps with a tattoo and an unpleasant memory of a strange woman, and moaned, "Where did all that money go? Whatever was I thinking?" Members of Congress seem to be taking the advice of one of my uncles on how to avoid a hangover: "Well, son, you just keep drinking."

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Which way to go?

April 28, 2006

I know many of you — perhaps most — will vote Tuesday in the primary you’ve always voted in. But maybe some of you are like me and vote in the primary that seems the most interesting or has a race or two you’d really like to express yourself on. It’s usually not too difficult at the Allen County level — Republicans have so much of a lock that I’ve seldom voted in the Democratic primary (there often being few contests in the first place). But I’m having trouble deciding which primary to vote in this year.

Recommending the Republican primary: The race between Bill Brown and Marla Irving for county commissioner. I don’t care that much about the Buskirk-Bloom commissioner race; perhaps I should, but I don’t. Ken Fries seems to be so far ahead in the sheriff’s race that my vote won’t make a difference. But the Brown-Irving race looks to be a close one, and I’d like to weigh in; I think Brown would be a good commissioner, and I’d like to do my part. Secondary consideration: the County Council race between Cal Miller and Fred Warner. This should also be a close one, and I’d  like to see Miller have the chance to put his aggressive attitude to good use for four more years.

On the Democratic side: The race between Geoff Paddock and Phil GiaQuinta for 80th District state representative. This one matters because the 80th is a pretty safe Democratic seat, and whoever wins the primary will likely win the general election. It’s an open seat because of the retirement of Ben GiaQuinta, Phil’s father. Phil is likely to win because of name recognition — he’s even using his father’s yard signs. I don’t think he’d be a bad representative, but I like Paddock better. Secondary consideration: the Tina Taviano-Mike Joyner race for sheriff. This one probably doesn’t matter in the long run — we’re just deciding who will lose to Fries. But Taviano is a very qualified candidate — she has the experience on the sheriff’s department AND the academic credentials to understand that being sheriff also means running a business.

So, right now, I’m leaning toward voting in the Republican primary, because both of the races I’m interest in matter; on the Democratic side, only one of the two does.

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It’s too nice to work today

April 28, 2006

What a great idea:

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – Instead of enduring a day of inattention and spring fever, Bellingham Christian School declared a "sun day" and gave everyone the day off.

School administrators had told the students there would be no school on the first sunny day that hit at least 63 degrees. After Monday’s forecast called for a high of 65, school was closed. The mercury actually hit 68, the National Weather Service reported.

Haven’t you ever wanted to call in well? "I’m sorry, I’d love to come in to work today, but I just feel too good, and I don’t want to spoil it."

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Liver worst

April 28, 2006

You can’t say the don’t have priorities in Chicago:

Forget about skyrocketing gas prices, soaring property tax assessments and corruption that has federal investigators crawling all over City Hall. Chicago aldermen have a more pressing concern: foie gras.

Chicago restaurants can no longer sell the pricey liver delicacy that most Chicagoans can’t afford, have never tasted and probably never will, under an ordinance unanimously approved at Wednesday’s City Council meeting over Mayor Daley’s derisive objections.

Animals die. We eat. Until PETA takes over everywhere, as it apparently has in Chicago.

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Worst of the worst

April 28, 2006

Yesterday, we talked about good music — picking one song from every year you’ve been alive to come up with a playlist for your life. Today, let’s talk about the worst songs ever. CNN.com got 5,800 responses to its request to name the worst song of all time and compiled a top-five list (actually, it would be the bottom five, wouldn’t it?). I don’t quibble with the awfulness of the songs on the list they came up with:

5. "Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks

4. "I’ve Never Been to Me" by Charlene

3. "You Light Up My Life" by Debbie Boone

2. "Muskrat Love" by The Captain and Tenille

and, drumroll, please, voted the absolute worst of all time:

1. "You’re having My Baby" by Paul Anka

As correspondents raved, of Anka’s song, "How can a person not be annoyed by lyrices like, ‘You’re a woman in love and I love what it’s doing to ya’?" and " ‘What a lovely way of saying how much you love me’ — if that isn’t the most egocenter, solipsistic, revolting line of all time."

They missed what I would pick as the absolute worst of all time, however — "MacArthur Park," written by Jimmy Webb (who actually penned some pretty good songs and should have known better) and "sung" by Richard Harris. Can there be lyrics any more pretentiously deep and sophomorically symbolic and just outrageously stinko than "Someone left the cake out in the rain, and I don’t know if I can take it, because it took so long to bake it, and I’ll never have that recipe again"? You’ll have to look hard to find anything more pathetic than people who actually like the song trying to figure out what it "means."

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Run of the mill

April 27, 2006

When I hear "diploma mill," I think of people padding their resumes with phony college degrees. But this story refers to phony high schools:

Last November, The New York Times reported on a Miami "correspondence school," with no classes or instructors, that offered degrees for $399. The paper reported that athletes from the school had signed with schools such as Florida and Tennessee. Subsequent stories revealed other questionable high schools.
The fraud is committed to make athletes eligible for college competition, although Lennon characterized it as an issue of concern for all of higher education. He said the NCAA, individual school admissions offices and law enforcement need to work on the problem together.
Oh, no, no problem with college athletics, no siree. They are all fine programs and make a real contribution to schools’ academic missions. Oh, yeah.

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Reporting on the blogging about the reporting on the blogging

April 27, 2006

News-Sentinel staffer Ryan Lengerich wrote a story about local blogging. Mitch Harper, a blogger mentioned in the story, did an immediate critique of it. Indiana Pundit, another local blog covered in the story, posted the questions Ryan asked and the answers given, along with a link to the story. There’s nothing in all this that makes me want to add to the already extensive comments I’ve made about blogging and the new media over the last several months. I just couldn’t pass up the chance to use the headline I did.

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A song a year

April 27, 2006

This is just an interesting post:

For her 36th birthday, a friend asked a favor: Name one great pop song for each year of her life. I added a rule of my own, not to choose more than one song by any one artist. If you’re gong to make a mix tape, you’ve really got to mix it up. For my birthday, here are 37 of’em. We’ll start in 1969 and work up to 2005.

What’s interesting to me is not all the choices I’d argue with — that’s part of the fun of a list like this. I know more of songs from the later years than I would have imagined. Just shows how popular culture can seep into you even if you make a decision to turn your back on it. It probably doesn’t hurt that there’s such a lack of really new stuff these days, when you’ve got Johnny Cash covering Depeche Mode and Feist doing an old Bee-Gees song.

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Save your gas money

April 27, 2006

Aduo_1 I think I saw this vision in a nightmare once:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – In a new television commercial promoting Tennessee tourism, a dashing young Elvis Presley drives his red convertible Corvette Stingray in a clip from his 1967 film Clambake.

But this time, the bouffant blonde riding shotgun has a familiar Appalachian twang. Through digital wizardry, it’s Dolly Parton who’s sitting aside the King of rock ‘n’ roll.

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Word

April 27, 2006

My brain hurts. Sometimes, my head feels so full of stuff that I can’t take in one new thing without losing one. Sorry I forgot your birthday, Sis, I had to remember who was running for county commissioner. I apologize for forgetting your name; I had to remember what "wiki" means:

LONDON – A massive language research database responsible for bringing words such as "podcast" and "celebutante" to the pages of the Oxford dictionaries has officially hit a total of 1 billion words, researchers said Wednesday.

[. . .]

Oxford University Press lexicographer Catherine Soanes said the database is not a collection of 1 billion different words, but of sentences and other examples of the usage and spelling.

Cripes. That’s almost as many words as McDonald’s has sold hamburgers. If our knowledge base is growing by leaps and bounds, it makes sense that the number of words is, too. There are actually only from 500,000 to a million words in English, depending on who is doing the counting and how many scientific words are counted. An educated person knows about 20,000 of them and uses only about 2,000 in a week.

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Not bad for a white

April 26, 2006

Larry Bird wine? Can’t wait to see the Journal Gazette’s critics review it. Can’t top this:

If athletes want their fans to support their ventures into wine making, they must insist each bottle truly captures who and what they are.

For instance, the Larry Bird Chardonnay that is set for release next month should be described this way: "Surprisingly good for a white. However, those who don’t tend to enjoy whites may find it to be extremely overrated. It looks somewhat bland and unexciting at first glance, but once uncorked it exhibits characteristics that belie its somewhat disgusting appearance. Be sure to drink within 10 years because it ages horribly."

Reminds me of a joke I heard around the time of the O.J. Simpson trial. Word was, they were going to make a movie about the case, "featuring John Elway as the slow, white Bronco."

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Throw the book at ’em

April 26, 2006

Well, this is just outrageous:

HUNTINGTON, Ind. Authorities in Indiana say they found cocaine hidden in the spines of two Bibles that a woman allegedly bought and tried to send to her husband in jail.

Anthony Duckworth, who’s been in the Huntington County jail for months, and his wife, Amy, have been charged with two counts of trafficking with an inmate.

Doesn’t  this couple know the enormity of their crime? A jail, after all, is a taxpayer-funded facility. Aren’t they aware of the separation of church and state? Couldn’t they have used a dictionary, for God’s sake?

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Drive and toss

April 26, 2006

I know I find this sad because of my job, but I can’t help feeling that others might also read it with a twinge of regret:

A young teen riding his bike at dawn reaches into his shoulder bag, grabs a tightly folded newspaper and deftly throws it to the front steps.

It’s an image as American as apple pie, but the paperboy has gone the way of the milkman.

Today’s papers usually arrive by anonymous drive-and-toss. For reasons including the demise of afternoon papers, a shift to centralized distribution and earlier delivery deadlines, adults in cars now make up 81 percent of the country’s newspaper carriers.

That’s something I have in common with the people mentioned in the story — President Truman,  John Wayne and Bob Hope, Willie Mays,Tom Brokaw and Warren Buffett — I had a paper route as a kid, for the same newspaper I now write for. It was the first year our family moved to Fort Wayne. I had lived only in the country, and the newspaper route helped me learn what a city was like and how people lived here. The joke about newspapers used to be that it was the only multillion-dollar enterprise that rested on the shoulders of 12-year-olds. They did a good job for a long time, and their passing, I think, is a larger signal of societal change than the disappearance of the milkman.

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Spank me, I’ve been bad!

April 26, 2006

What a fun company this must be to work for:

Court records say the company’s motivational practices began in the Hayward office, where sales teams competed, with the winners poking fun at the losers. The conduct included throwing pies at the losers, feeding them baby food, making them wear diapers and swatting their buttocks with a competitor’s yard sign.

This all came to light in the court case in which a worker sued over the spankings. Obviously not a team player.

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May the biggest man win

April 26, 2006

Just in case you think our polical campaigns sometimes get too personal:

Among the crowing, slurs and insults being flung around in Mexico’s election race, campaign ads in this country are even competing over which candidate has the greatest manhood.

From television spots to interviews with presidential hopefuls, you could be forgiven for wondering if the only thing that counts in this election race is size.

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The essence

April 26, 2006

Life sorts. Time levels.

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Metaphor alert

April 26, 2006

I have no idea what a "moderate liberal" is, but this Indiana University graudate claims to be one. He has discovered, you know, that we all live in cages — poor people have small ones and rich people have big ones — because we are all, you know, "prisoners of our culture."

The majority of the world is content within their cages. Most are able to fly from one branch to another, eat plenty of food, and drink to their hearts’ content.

Excuse me, please — I have to go rattle my cage now until my Midwestern, white, Protestant culture sets me free. Into a bigger cage, I guess.

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Promise keepers

April 26, 2006

Oh, the poor stadium authority. Because it let a private company actually keep some its property, continuing the family business, it’s in so much trouble:

The agreement leaves the authority with about 500 fewer parking spaces than were promised to the Indianapolis Colts, which will call the stadium home.

To make up for that, the authority probably will need to build a parking garage that — at an estimated cost of $15 million — the panel cannot currently afford, authority chairman David Frick said.

That’s $30,000 a parking space, isn’t it? That’s what you get when you make promises you then have to strongarm others to keep for you.

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A billion here, a billion there

April 25, 2006

I’m like most people, I suppose; we look at stories about wretched excess and think, this is ridiculous:

CEOs at larger U.S. corporations on average earn $430 for every $1 earned by the average U.S. worker.

Twenty-six years ago, CEOs received an average of $10 for every $1 earned by a U.S. worker.

Somewhere in that quarter-century, something went terribly wrong.

But we’re being manipulated; such stories are an easy way to push our envy buttons. When the columnist writes that "a recent Corporate Library analysis shows CEOs at 11 of the largest U.S. companies were on track to receive a total of $865-million in pay, despite their presiding over an overall loss of $640-billion in shareholder value," he’s not making a one-on-one comparison. To know how to really judge the compensation, we need to see how and individual company is performing and study that in relation to what the CEO is paid. (He does flirt with that concept in noting that Carly Fiorina got a $21.6 million severance package despite her "uninspired performance.") And note that he talks specifically about the "11 largest companies" and sometimes refers to "the largest companies." He’s not talking about ALL companies.

It’s also worth noting, as this defense of CEO pay does, that it’s a little misleading to merely look at this year’s bottom line when decrying outrageous CEO compensation. A good CEO looks (or at least is supposed to look) at a plan going out five years or longer. Some of this year’s losses might in fact be deliberate as part of a long-range strategic plan.

Yeah, yeah, I know, the pay is still outrageous, no matter how we defend it. I also think it’s outrageous that baseball players get multimillion-dollar contracts when their batting averages or win-loss record goes down, and I resent the heck out of all those obscenely rich rap artists. But a lot of people are willing to pay to see the baseball player or listen to the rap artist, so what’s my real gripe? All these CEOs have boards and shareholders to answer to and customers they must please with their goods or services. If all those people are kept happy, it’s no concern of mine. Even something as essential as petroleum products will ultimately bow to the dictates of supply and demand.

Anyone whose compensation is determined by others — whether it’s the guy serving you fries at McDonald’s or the CEO of ExxonMobile — is worth exactly what those with the purse strings are willing to pay, no more or no less.

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This site is a gas

April 25, 2006

If you’re driving around the country, this map will help you decide when to stop for gas. Or you can just stare at it and get an overview of who is paying what. Just look at all that green out west — we hate them out there. Right click to get county information (zooming in first helps). Here’s what you get if you click on the Allen County link.

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Manipulation 101

April 25, 2006

The therapeutic culture has gone one step too far:

Anger management courses for convicted armed robbers, wife beaters and stalkers are being axed by the prison and probation services following an official inquiry into the murder of the city financier John Monckton.

Home Office instructions sent to the probation service say that anger management courses are counterproductive and actually help violent offenders who make premeditated attacks to manipulate the situation to their advantage.

Those who don’t follow the rules figure out how to manipulate the system, taking advantage of clueless, feelings-oriented facilitators who just want to help. I’m shocked, shocked.

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Walk it off

April 25, 2006

This poor senior citizen can’t walk because he can’t afford the gas to drive to where he likes to walk. The headline sort of says it all: "High gas prices keep me from exercising." His solution: Seniors should protest by observing "Slow Mondays’ and slowing down to 22 mph. It will save gas, and get everyone else’s attention. I think I’ve already been behind some of these people.

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Thank God for DVDs

April 25, 2006

Oh, it’s going to be a long, loooong summer. I’d hate to even think about the 10 movies they can wait to see.

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My sins

April 25, 2006

Just For The Record notes Mark Souder’s recent radio ad and wonders if we can now draw the conclusion that he is, heh-heh, a one-issue candidate just like William Larsen, the only difference being that his issue is the War on Drugs rather than Social Security. I heard that ad, too, and something else struck me about it. After saying that some scoff at him because drugs will never be completely eradicated (or something to that effect), Souder goes on to mention other things that can never be completely eliminated, like child abuse and spousal abuse; just because we can’t completely win against something doesn’t mean we should stop making an effort. Fine, but then he goes on to say, "The issue is SIN."

Excuse me? You have every right — the obligation, even — to decide what would not be in the best interests of the society at large and then pass laws that the rest of us are obligated to follow. You can even say you’re trying to increase the level of morality. The people who say the law shouldn’t "impose morality" on us are wrong. The law defines how we should treat each other — if that’s not a moral issue, what is?

But you go too far when you slyly work religion into your ad. My sins are none of your business.

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Pay as you go

April 24, 2006

This might be the future of journalism:

I decided to try a little experiment. Instead of lining up an assignment from an editor to cover Northern Iraqi Kurdistan, I struck out on my own without asking permission from anyone. Almost all my material was posted directly to this Web site. I wanted to see if the amount of money I can raise from readers competes with the industry’s going rate.

It does.

I raised more money from you to cover Iraqi Kurdistan than I’ve made covering any other country on paid assignments. I also had a lot more fun publishing my own material here instead of somewhere else. It is so much nicer to have the freedom to write whatever I want without any oversight, without any rules or restrictions, without any word limits, and without any delays.

The "mass market" model we’ve all been working under has depended on a relative handful of gatekeepers trying to figure out what the most people are interested in and getting big-bucks advertisers to foot the bill. The new model — in an era where people pursue narrower interests and advertisers are more interested in niche markets — is likely to be the individual pursuing his own passions and getting likeminded people to pay for it. Think of Pay Pal as Public TV or Radio pledge week, but on a much smaller scale.

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