Archive for October, 2008

lol Dutch

October 31, 2008

If you grab a shot with your cell-phone camera of your cat doing something cute, you have to turn it into an lol-cat creation. I think it’s a state law. I snapped this one of Dutch relaxing in his favorite chair and giving me a stern look.

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Dazed and confused

October 31, 2008

This has been the longest presidential campaign ever. We know about the two candidates’ positions, opinions and backgrounds than we probably know about our own family histories. And yet:

With the sand in the 2008 campaign hourglass about depleted, Campbell is part of a stubborn wedge of people who, somehow, are still making up their minds about who should be president. One in seven, or 14 percent, can’t decide or back a candidate but might switch, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo! News poll of likely voters released Friday.

The story calls this 14 percent the “persuadables” but perhaps it should be the “befuddled.” What in the world are they waiting on, a sign from the heavens?

Boffo socko jack-o

October 31, 2008

Carve your own virtual jack-o-lantern.

Rocks and stones

October 31, 2008

I never got this:

Sometime after midnight, nearly 200 people will throw toast at The Artists’ Studio stage.

Though some consider throwing food to be poor manners, it’s all part of the fun of “The Rocky Horror Show LIVE!” which encourages audience participation.

I heard for years and years from people who went to see the movie version several times — some even made a weekly ritual of it. I had a chance to finally see it on TV, and it just seemed silly. Some of the parody was too broad and some too cute, and it just fell flat. But I watched it alone, and the whole point or the movie has always been the social experience, everybody shouting and throwing stuff at the screen at the appropriate moment.

I had the same experience with “Reefer Madmess,” which is supposed to be hysterically funny because of its wild exaggerations of the dangers of marijuana. But its deadly earnestness was so excrutiatingly boring that I could only stand about 15 minutes of it. Maybe it would have helped to be stoned.

Stuff

October 31, 2008

I say stuff here just to say stuff, then other people say stuff, and we have a real good time. But this is just blogging, which doesn’t amount to much in the long run. People who are running for governor shouldn’t say stuff just to say stuff, and too often that seems like what Jill Long Thompson is doing. Like here:

Daniels’ Democratic challenger, Jill Long Thompson, however, said Hoosiers should be able to choose whether they want to follow daylight saving time.

“There are two issues with regards to this issue. Daylight saving time and the time zone. Jill’s stance on this issue is that she believes there should be a non-binding, statewide referendum so that Hoosier voters can make their voices heard on this issue,” said Jason Tomcsi, Thompson’s press secretary. “The goal should be to have as many counties on the same time in a way that makes sense to Hoosiers.”

Hoosiers should be able to choose whether to follow DST by participating in a non-binding referendum? On the same time in a way that makes sense to Hoosiers? That makes no sense.

Sunday is the day, by the way. Fall Back, troops!

Closing time

October 31, 2008

Is this election over with yet? Did I just hear last call?

Oh, and are all you people who think you’re going to bed with a 10 prepared to wake up with a 2?

Wrong rules

October 31, 2008

Unconstitutional as hell:

If you have a political sign on your property and live in Terre Haute continue reading!

There are a few rules you must follow. One, you can not have more than one sign per candidate on your property. Two, the sign can not exceed more than 32-square feet. Lastly they can not be up for more than three months at a time.

But if nobody challenges the rules, it doesn’t matter. Where’s the ACLU when we need it?

Mind games

October 30, 2008

I think he is, therefore he is:

INDIANAPOLIS—Unless citizens throughout America keep him in their thoughts, say his name to themselves over and over, and otherwise believe in him with all their might, Barack Obama may cease to exist, the candidate warned supporters Thursday.

“My fellow Americans, I am currently very strong and very, very real,” Sen. Obama told a cheering crowd of 12,000 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. “Even here in Hoosier country, a traditional Republican stronghold, your faith has kept me from growing faint, becoming transparent, and slowly fading from view.”

“But please, don’t stop now,” Obama added. “Unless you continue to believe in me, I’ll completely disappear. You have to keep me in your thoughts at all times!”

Thank goodness for The Onion — it may be our only comic relief for the next four years, since everybody else seems afraid to make fun of Obama.

Comic relief

October 30, 2008

For the “world keeps getting stranger” file:

A JAPANESE man has enlisted hundreds of people in a campaign to allow marriages between humans and cartoon characters, saying he feels more at ease in the “two-dimensional world”.

[. . .]

“I am no longer interested in three dimensions. I would even like to become a resident of the two-dimensional world,” he wrote.

“However, that seems impossible with present-day technology. Therefore, at the very least, would it be possible to legally authorise marriage with a two-dimensional character?”

Yeah, darn those limits of “present-day technology.” If all he’s interested in is length and width with no depth, I can introduce him to a few women I’ve met in bars.

Hold up there, Fat Lady

October 30, 2008

Maybe we shouldn’t be too quick to write off John McCain:

WASHINGTON, DC – In a shocking reversal, the Alien has switched his endorsement from Barack Obama to John McCain.

With major implications for the U.S. presidential election, political kingmaker the Alien has changed his endorsement amid furor. Both political camps are buzzing about the implications, as the Alien has correctly predicted the winning president in every election for the past 28 years.

 

Ongoing investigation points to Cindy McCain as being the cause for this historic shift in allegiances.

Uncovered photos suggest that in a last ditch effort to help her husband’s failing campaign, Cindy McCain seduced and then blackmailed the Alien for his endorsement.

And Francis Fukuyama, meanwhile, is endorsing Barack Obama:

At a time when the U.S. government has just nationalized a good part of the banking sector, we need to rethink a lot of the Reaganite verities of the past generation regarding taxes and regulation. Important as they were back in the 1980s and ’90s, they just won’t cut it for the period we are now entering. Obama is much better positioned to reinvent the American model . . .

Obama is the answer for the nationalization of a good part of the banking sector? Fukuyama is the professor who said, with the collapse of Communism, that we had reached “The End of History,” so perhaps we should respect his wise judgment.

Soft in the middle?

October 30, 2008

We need to elect Barack Obama to save the middle class, say the Democrats. But how much does the middle class really need saving?

If you’re at a Catholic shrine, it’s a good idea to show respect for the Virgin Mary. In New York, a Yankees cap will make you look right at home. And among a Democratic crowd, you can never go wrong by lamenting the decline of the middle class and the stagnation of wages.

I don’t have to tell Barack Obama. He makes a habit of claiming that “wages are shrinking,” working families have lost ground, and the country desperately needs his “Rescue Plan for the Middle Class.” His economic program rests on the unshakable conviction that everyone except the wealthy is doing worse and worse all the time. If elected, he will find sympathetic ears among Democrats in Congress, where never is heard an encouraging word.

In the midst of alarming headlines, it’s easy to persuade people that things are worse than they used to be. The only problem is that aside from the transitory effects of the current turmoil, they aren’t.

[. . .]

Terry Fitzgerald, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, says the answer is simple. Far from declining, he writes, “the economic compensation for work for middle Americans has risen significantly over the past 30 years.”

The mistake made by the School of Gloom is looking only at wages, narrowly defined. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory workers, adjusted for inflation, fell by 4 percent between 1975 and 2005. But those figures deceive because they omit fringe benefits like health insurance, pensions and paid leave, which make up a bigger share of total compensation than before. The numbers also rely on a mismeasure of inflation.

When those flaws are corrected, a very different trend leaps off the page. Median wages, says Fitzgerald, rose 28 percent between 1975 and 2005. Nor were the gains restricted to Bill Gates and Hannah Montana: Significant gains occurred in the middle as well.

That’s not to argue that everybody is better off — and the article doesn’t. But we should put all the doom and gloom in perspective. Unless our “leaders” respond to the current panic by tearing everything apart, we’ve got a pretty good economic system that allows for plenty of growth and prosperity.

Just the fax

October 30, 2008

Faxes? People still send faxes?

Indiana Attorney General Steve Carter has filed suit against three companies that sent unwanted faxes offering clothing and discount health plans.

Carter filed suit in St. Joseph County against Five Star Advertising, Inc. and Sportex, Inc., seeking injunctions to stop the companies from faxing unwanted advertisements offering sports apparel.

We forget what a bold and fun innovation the fax seemed at the time. When I was on the Big Brothers/Big Sisters board, it took us six months to convince the director that the agency needed a fax machine. You can get documents immediately without driving all over town or waiting days for the mail! Oh, all right, grumble, grumble.

Now, with the combination of e-mail and pdf files, the fax seems like today’s telegraph, passed by and just waiting to die. Maybe we can use it for money orders!

Pick one

October 30, 2008

When they came for those who made $250,00 a year, I remained silent; I make so much less than that.  When they zeroed in on those who made $125,000, I remained silent; that’s still rich by my standards. When they finally came for me, what could I say? That I knew they were drawing a line, but I’m shocked, shocked, that they moved it to me?

“What we’re saying is, that $87 billion tax break doesn’t need to go to people making an average of $1.4 million,” Biden said.

“It should go to middle-class people, people who make $150,000 a year.”

Actually, Barack Obama has promised to cut taxes on households earning less than $200,000 a year while raising taxes on those who make more than $250,000 annually.

You wanna defend this, you have two choices: 1)  Biden is just being Biden again, showing why he is the worst vice presidential choice in modern history or, 2) He’s inadvertently revealed the truth of what Obama’s “spread the wealth” slip really means.

Another biased poll

October 30, 2008

This seems like a ridiculous amount of trouble to go to for something we’ll have the official results on in less than a week:

Vigo County’s reputation for predicting presidential elections has reached across the ocean, stirring the interest of an Italian newspaper correspondent, who is visiting Terre Haute.

Mario Margiocco, 63, is trying to discover how the county has correctly picked the presidential winner, with two exceptions, since 1892.

Meanwhile, the results are in for the Weekly Reader poll of the nation’s students, which has predicted the winner in 12 of the last 13 presidential elections:

And the nation’s students resoundingly say that Barack Obama will be the country’s next leader. In the 14th Weekly Reader election survey, with more than 125,000 votes cast from kindergarten through 12th grade, the result was Obama 54.7% and John McCain 42.9% (with “other” candidates receiving 2.5% of the student vote). The Obama victory in the classroom electoral vote was even more resounding: The Democrat won 33 states and the District of Columbia, garnering 420 electoral votes, while McCain took 17 states and 118 electoral votes.

Come on, doesn’t anyone else see the obvious liberal bias in this poll? Liberals, as we know, see the government as mommy and daddy — they look to the state to fulfill all their needs. Well, these “voters” have actual mommies and daddies who look after their every need. Think these kids are going to vote for scary old “Eat your peas!” John McCain?

Whopper of the day

October 29, 2008

Har-de-har-har:

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says after the election she would like to see Congress back in session to pass a second stimulus package.

“Grow the economy, create good paying jobs, in the future in a way that is a green recovery, geared toward Main Street and is fiscally sound,” said Pelosi.

And on concerns that Democrats might control both the White House and Congress she said the following:

“Elect us, hold us accountable, and make a judgment and then go from there. But I do tell you that if the Democrats win, and have substantial majorities, Congress of the United States will be more bipartisan,” said Pelosi.

Bigger majorities will bring more bipartisanship. I like that! That means I can eat more and weigh less. We can spend more time at the office and get closer to our families. We can watch more television and become more physically fit. We can listen to politicians more and become smarter!

Stuck in the past

October 29, 2008

The Journal Gazette can’t bring itself to endorse Mike Pence for Congress. After praising Pence’s opponent for having better views on such things as health care and the economy, the JG says this:

It is the war and his position on it that should give voters concern about Pence. Pence, who has shown admirable skepticism, courage and independence on other matters, has accepted without challenge the current strategy despite the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

All right, which one of you forgot to tell the JG that the surge worked, the war is pretty much over and we seemed to have actually won it? I know it wasn’t my turn.

Not so good in Afghanistan — we can grant them that one.

Question of the day

October 29, 2008

The Maranatha Chapel Full Gospel caused a stir in Harlan this week with a question on the message board outside the church: Do you want a Muslim for your president? WANE TV did a story and sort of hinted at what the controversy might be — you know, something to do with the McCain-Obama presidential race. The Journal Gazette was more explicit about what the fuss might be about:

The sign refers to the persistent fallacy that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, a Christian, is secretly Muslim, a sentiment even dismissed by Obama’s Republican opponent, John McCain.

Neither story tackles the assumption behind the question, which is that identifying someone as a Muslim is an acceptable insult. The intolerance is not in falsely claiming Obama is a Muslim but in the fact that such a claim is believed to have only one possible defense: Of course I’m not a Muslim. This puts a whole religion on the level of such pejoratives as liar, racist and homophobe.

It might be interesting to have a Muslim as a presidential candidate, because it might lead to an important national conversation. It is widely believed that Islam cannot keep its hands off  government in the separation-of-church-and-state tradition of the West, because the purpose of government under Islam is to enforce God’s law. Actually, there’s quite a debate going on about that in the Muslim community, not unlike the debates we had in the beginning of this country, when a religious people had to be convinced that keeping church and state separate would not harm their religious institutions. (Fascinating background article from the Hoover Institution here, if you want to read more.)

If a Muslim even wanted to be president, I presume he would be from the secular-government side of that debate. The candidate could start with a JFK-type speech, then engage us all — Christian, Muslim and otherwise — in a lively look at that murky territory between religion and government.

And I’m not a Muslim, either, by the way — not there’s anything wrong with that.

Times change

October 29, 2008

Ah, music to my ears (pdf file). Let’s talk about a presidential candidate who fails to understand “the fundamental problem of increased production”:

by encouraging great numbers of Americans to believe that it is possible to grow richer by working less and producing less; by fostering the idea that there exists somewhere a great fund of wealth which has only to be divided more equitably in order to make everybody prosperous; by permitting important members of the Administration to preach the doctrines of class jealousy and class hatred.”

That’s not a conservative diehard railing against the candidacy of Barack Obama. That was The New York Times in 1940, explaining in an editorial why it was supporting Wendell Willkie instead of endorsing FDR for a third term. But times change, and the Times now supports Barack “spread the wealth” Obama. How could a paper have such smart people then and such dumb ones now?

(via Best of the Web)

In denial

October 29, 2008

I report, you deride:

During the campaign, the media has largely respected calls to treat Bristol Palin’s pregnancy as a private matter. But the reactions to it have exposed a cultural rift that mirrors America’s dominant political divide. Social liberals in the country’s “blue states” tend to support sex education and are not particularly troubled by the idea that many teen-agers have sex before marriage, but would regard a teen-age daughter’s pregnancy as devastating news. And the social conservatives in “red states” generally advocate abstinence-only education and denounce sex before marriage, but are relatively unruffled if a teen-ager becomes pregnant, as long as she doesn’t choose to have an abortion.

So, one side is, “Oh, no, no, don’t, EVER,” but “Oops, OK, that’s cool,” and the other side is, “Hey, kids, do whatever you want,” but, “Oh, my God, how could this HAPPEN?” I’ll let you decide which is more realistic and more likely to produce healthy families.

So long, paper

October 29, 2008

We had to beat down a rumor a couple of years ago that The News-Sentinel had “a plan” to give up the paper product and go online only. It didn’t make sense for any newspaper then, and it doesn’t make sense for most now — the online revenue stream isn’t there yet. But we’re probably getting to the point where it will make sense for some papers. Here’s the biggest name so far to go online only:

The Christian Science Monitor is turning off its press and going fully online. I heard about this at my conference on new business models for news last week and said it makes perfect sense. The Monitor is a powerful and respected brand that already serves an international audience. I hadn’t looked at it on paper in decades but I’ve read its stories online. Paper was a drag.

Actually, as a commenter points out, the Monitor isn’t going totally paperless. It’s goiing to have a weekly magazine-type product for analysis and use the Web for its daily coverage. This has seemd like a good model to me lately, and the Monitor is well-positioned to pull it off. It has an audience of opinion makers and is underwritten by a group not obsessed with ever-increasing profits.

I wouldn’t have said so as late as a couple of years ago, but I think the end of paper is near. There will be better-than-Kindle products for books, electronic photos are quickly making hard copies pointless, we will soon have a newsprint-like digital device that can download the latest editions of the daily press. We’re in a transition period right now that’s scary for those who have always made money from paper (including my employer, alas). But it’s exciting to watch unfold, too.

Panic attack

October 28, 2008

Arthur Laffer on making a bad situation worse:

When markets are free, asset values are supposed to go up and down, and competition opens up opportunities for profits and losses. Profits and stock appreciation are not rights, but rewards for insight mixed with a willingness to take risk. People who buy homes and the banks who give them mortgages are no different, in principle, than investors in the stock market, commodity speculators or shop owners. Good decisions should be rewarded and bad decisions should be punished. The market does just that with its profits and losses.

[. . .]

But here’s the rub. Now enter the government and the prospects of a kinder and gentler economy. To alleviate the obvious hardships to both homeowners and banks, the government commits to buy mortgages and inject capital into banks, which on the face of it seems like a very nice thing to do. But unfortunately in this world there is no tooth fairy. And the government doesn’t create anything; it just redistributes. Whenever the government bails someone out of trouble, they always put someone into trouble, plus of course a toll for the troll. Every $100 billion in bailout requires at least $130 billion in taxes, where the $30 billion extra is the cost of getting government involved.

If you don’t believe me, just watch how Congress and Barney Frank run the banks. If you thought they did a bad job running the post office, Amtrak, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the military, just wait till you see what they’ll do with Wall Street.

His point is that there are always winners and losers. All the government will be doing — in addition to doing all the damage it can — is choosing different winners and losers. “Panic” does not usually result in rational action.

Spending ed.

October 28, 2008

Good idea:

The group, which included teachers, school board members, district administrators and leaders of nonprofits, recommended that the state consider making personal finance part of Oregon’s math graduation requirement.

Ultimately, the committee wants students to have to show they’re proficient in the subject to receive a diploma.

Of course, maybe kids shouldn’t even be spending money until they get married and have real, full-time jobs. This will just give them the idea it’s all right to be spending at such a young age, and it’s something parents should be teaching them anyway. Maybe they could have a “savings only” curriculum.

Off the hook!

October 28, 2008

For years, Hoosiers suffered the ignominy of being associated with Earl Landgrebe, who said, as the last defender of Richard Nixon, “I have my mind made up — don’t confuse me with the facts.” Perhaps now we can have our release from shame. Alaska Rep. Don Young, defending Sen. Ted Stevens, gets a little carried away:

“I think he can win. He’s the best thing for that, for the Senate. Alaskans know this. This is a trumped up charge. If you look at not reporting, supposedly gifts — he reported everything he got. I think it was wrong when they prosecuted him on this issue.”

[. . .]

“I think that’s going to be, you know, a matter of opinion. I can remember Richard Nixon, you know, his years of service, what he’s done, and everybody were ridiculing him and he ended up being the greatest president in the history of our century.

History will rehabilitate George W. Bush and Jimmy Carter before it looks kindly on Richard Nixon.

The 2.5-year itch

October 28, 2008

I love you madly! You are my life! Come here, you fool, and ravage me! OK. now I’m bored:

The honeymoon period is officially over two years, six months and 25 days into wedlock, according to new research.

This is the point in the average marriage where both partners take each other, and their relationship, completely for granted.

After the second wedding anniversary couples are far more likely to scatter socks and pants around the house, leave the toilet seat up, hog the remote control and go without make-up.

I can do all the above, any time I want, and nobody minds. It’s called divorce. Unfortunately, I started taking myself for granted in the first year.

Local rules

October 28, 2008

The Richmond Palladium-Item jumps on the statewide smoking BANdwagon:

But as much as this newspaper traditionally champions local government and home rule decision-making on most issues, some issues simply command a wider, more uniform standard. Legislators have, for example, already said the time of day is one of those, weighing in mercifully a few years back to remove the state from a crazy-quilt pattern of time zones to embrace uniform, statewide daylight-saving time.

Smoking ought to be another. Richmond- area residents can accept the fact that our rules on smoking will differ widely from those of our Ohio neighbors. There’s an accepted level of jurisdiction sovereignty there. But Richmond’s rule ought not vary widely from those imposed on residents in Wayne County, or Wayne County’s variance from neighboring Henry or Randolph counties, and on and on.

There is every difference in the world between smoking bans and time zones, which the Richmond paper doesn’t seem to understand and which would be a useful topic for greater discussion. Time zones, like a uniform currency, are legitmate concerns for the national, never mind state, government. As we travel around this vast country, it is necessary to have some things in common so we know how to deal with each other. Smoking is, like prostitution and gambling and a thousand other things, one of those issues we should decide based on what kind of community we want to have.

There is a concept much admired in libertarian circles but mostly ignored in mainistream politics called “local knowledge,” the idea that communities know their own needs and desires and challenges and should decide their own fates accordingly. The more local our decisions, the more likely they are based on how we actually want to live. The more removed they are, the more likely they are based on somebody’s arbitrary idea of how everybody else should live.

It isn’t always easy to know where to draw such lines. The air above us moves freely, so it affects us all and should be controlled by the federal government, right? But the pollution above Gary’s factories doesn’t make it to the cornfields of DeKalb County. I should be in charge of the stream on my property, but if it empties into a tributary that empties into the common supply of drinking water, what I put into it matters to everybody else. Education is the quintessential “local knowledge” issue, but we also want to develop the skills as a nation to help us compete in the world economy.

Understanding those lines is essential to appreciating our federalist system, which at its core demands the careful defining of local, state and nation prerogatives. Unfortunately, the trend is away from local decisions and toward centralization. That means we are getting fewer rules based on how we want to live and more based on the arbitrary implementation of top-down power. That deserves a lot more debate than it has been getting.