Right Thinking From The Left Coast
If everything seems under control, you're not going fast enough. - Mario Andretti

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Friday And Weekend Music Thread

It’s time once again for the weekend music thread. This weekend’s theme is:

The Seventies

Yes, they get a lot of flack. Platform shoes, bell bottoms, ties wide enough to land a 747 on, Jimmy Carter...but there were quite a few good tunes to come out of the Me Decade, so get your groove thing on.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 07/31/08 at 09:36 PM in Fun and Humor  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

The Race to the Card

Oh, it’s on:

Sen. John McCain defended his campaign Thursday for saying that Sen. Barack Obama is playing the race card.

McCain’s campaign manager charged that Obama falsely accused the McCain campaign of injecting race into the presidential contest.

Asked by CNN’s John King whether that was fair criticism, McCain said it was.

“I’m sorry to say that it is. It’s legitimate. And there’s no place in this campaign for that. There’s no place for it, and we shouldn’t be doing it,” he said in Racine, Wisconsin.

The Obama campaign has denied the accusation, but McCain said, “I’ll let the American people judge.”

In a statement earlier Thursday, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said, “Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. It’s divisive, negative, shameful and wrong.”

Here is what Obama said:

“So what they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know, he’s not patriotic enough. He’s got a funny name. You know, he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills, you know. He’s risky.”

If Obama hadn’t made the crack about the dollar bills, I’d be 100% with him.  But I don’t see a reading of that line that doesn’t include a racial angle.  Was he trying to say he doesn’t look like the presidents on those bills because he doesn’t wear a big powdered wig?  I think not.

That having been said, this is incredibly whiney of the McCain people and hardly Presidential. This is the sort of thing you ignore and let Sean Hannity fulminate about.  It’s pure “gotchya” campaigning.  We don’t need to mine Obama speeches for oblique racial references to oppose him.  His open and loud policy positions are more than enough.

If I had responded at all it would been like so:

If Barack Obama wants to think we oppose him because of his name or his patriotism or his origins, he’s free to wallow in such self-indulgence.  We oppose him because he has the worst trade record in the Senate, because he has no plan to control federal spending and because he’s demonstrated a lack of insight into foreign policy.  That would be true even if he looked like George Washington.  Or Martha.

John McCain circa 2006 would have said something like that.  John McCain circa 2008 seems to have fallen prey to the Campaign Weasels, and not a particularly talented or interesting group of weasels at that.  Honestly, if he doesn’t turn things around, this is going to end in a landslide.

Update: Thinking about this a bit more, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that John McCain has fallen in with a bad crowd. One of the things I used to like about McCain was his easy and blunt manner of speaking. He’s retained that, somewhat.  But you can see that the image polishers have been working on him.  Remember his Gates of Hell comment, where he weirdly smiled at the end?  You could almost see the wheels turning.  “Consultants say I must appear less gruff.  Must smile at end of every speech.  Smile, dammit, smile!” I have also noticed when he is on The Daily Show or The Tonight Show that he’s developed a weird tendency, when answering a question, to turn awkwardly toward the camera, utter some sound bite and give a grin that is almost disturbing.

The people who gave him the bad advice that led to those weird facial tics are still there.  His miraculous rebound from footnote to nominee has convinced him that these people are geniuses and the key to his victory in November.  They’re not.  They’re giving him bad advice.  He’s whining about unfair press coverage; he’s accusing Obama of playing the race card; he’s comparing his opponent to Paris Hilton.  Whether these attacks are accurate or not is hardly the point.  They come across as petty, not Presidentail.  It frankly makes McCain look a whiner.  Six months ago, I don’t think I would put “McCain” and “whiner” in the same sentence unless they were interrupted by “beat to a pulp”.

Conservatives are supposed to be confident in our views.  We laugh at liberals when they act like they’ve already won an election.  We know that celebrity is fleeting and that substance wins out.  McCain used to be this way.  I wish he would be again.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 07/31/08 at 09:36 PM in Election 2008  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink


Hoo boy. No matter who gets elected, hopefully the end of the Bush administration will mean the end of the idiot era:

The Bush Administration has ignited a furor with a proposed definition of pregnancy that has the effect of classifying some of the most widely used methods of contraception as abortion.

A draft regulation, still being revised and debated, treats most birth-control pills and intrauterine devices as abortion because they can work by preventing fertilized eggs from implanting in the uterus. The regulation considers that destroying “the life of a human being.”

Many medical groups disagree. They hold that pregnancy isn’t established until several days after conception, when the fertilized egg has grown to a cluster of several dozen cells and burrowed into the uterine wall. Anything that disrupts that process, in their view, is contraception.

The draft regulation, circulating within the Department of Health and Human Services, would have no immediate effect on the legality of the pill or the IUD if implemented because abortion is legal. But opponents fear it would undercut dozens of state laws designed to promote easy access to these methods of birth control, used by more than 12 million women a year.

Dozens of Congressional Democrats—including presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama—have signed letters of protest blistering the proposal. His Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, declined to comment.

I’m sorry, but preventing pregnancy isn’t quite the same as terminating one, and whoever got this started has their heads up their rear ends. This is an area where McCain is ostensibly more sane than some of his colleagues and would be a great chance for him to distance himself from the Bush Administration. I’m sorry he apparently won’t take up the challenge on this one.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 07/31/08 at 07:26 PM in Health Care  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

It’s Getting Better All The Time

The American takes apart the idea that things are getting worse for Americans.  I question some of their figures, but most are sound and consistent with what I’ve seen elsewhere.  What impressed me the most were two things


As Americans know, today’s rising food and energy prices are crimping household budgets. But there are other ways to understand the relative size of the rise of food and energy costs. For example, in terms of time worked at the average pay rate, the real cost of a 12-item basket of basic foods has hardly budged. And while the work-time price of gasoline doubled in recent years, a gallon of gasoline still goes for less than 11 minutes of work (Fig. 3). At 20 miles per gallon, an hour of work will get you 110 miles down the road; at 30 mpg, you can go 165 miles.

Most of the progress on food and gas prices was made in the first half of the last century—notably right before farm subsidies kicked in to keep food prices elevated and third world denizens poor.  But there’s also this:

The lament-filled anecdotes about long hours and low pay just don’t stand up to the test of hard data. Real total compensation—wages plus fringe benefits, both adjusted for inflation—has been rising steadily for several generations (Fig. 4). Over time, the fringes have become a larger share of the rewards for work, dampening the statistics on wage increases. At the same time, we’re spending less time at work. An average workweek has fallen from 39.8 hours in 1950 to 36.9 hours in 1973 to 33.8 hours today.

Not all those hours are spent on actual work.  Human resources experts estimate that 1.6 hours a day go to non-work activities; employees themselves say it’s more than two hours. What are workers doing? Most of them are using the Internet for personal business or socializing with coworkers (Fig. 5). It’s no coincidence that the busiest times for online auctions come during the hours when most Americans are supposed to be hard at work (Fig. 6).

We’re not only working less on the job. We’re also taking less time for household chores. Since 1950, the annual hours devoted to work at home has fallen from 1,544 to 1,278. Working less means we have more time for ourselves. The hustle and bustle of everyday life conceals the fact that a typical American has more free time than ever. We start work later in life and live longer and healthier lives, enjoying added years of retirement. All told, only about a quarter of our waking hours are consumed with work, down from 45 percent in 1950 and 35 percent in 1973 (Fig. 7).

I believe those work figures include vacation and sick days as time off work.

The reason these numbers fascinate and inspire me is that time is the only currency that a human being really has.  The reason I hate high taxes is because it means people burn up more of their lives working for the government.  The reason I hate over-regulation and our byzantine tax system is that people lose years of their life to unproductive crapola.

But the big picture is that a person born in 2007 can expect to spend 65,000 hours working, 60,000 on home chores and a whopping 329,000 hours doing everything else.  This compares to 94,000, 81,000 and 216,000, respectively, for the idyllic 1950’s.

People do work hard today.  I certainly do and so most of you guys.  But our narrow vision keeps us from remembering that our parents worked harder.  Housework alone—before the era of appliances—could use up an entire lifetime.  Paid vacations were a luxury; paid sick leave even more so.  We lose that perspective because life is hectic these days.  We’ve also blurred the line between work and home.

Nevertheless, the Democratic meme that people are working harder for less is just garbage.  The only way they can get there is to manipulate the numbers.  They don’t count benefits when they compare wages.  They don’t compare apples to apples when they consider costs.  According to them, I’ve made no economic progress because my car—with A/C, CD player, anti-lock brakes, airbags, crumple zones, 33 mpg, very clean exhaust and 150,000 miles on it—costs about the same relative to my salary as the smoking, shuddering, stifling, unsafe, unreliable, lead fuel guzzling, filth-belching behemoth my dad had 40 years ago.

It’s nonsense.  But we still fall for it because of that human need for martyrdom and our strange willingness to idolize the past.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 07/31/08 at 06:39 PM in Politics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

“And What Will Your Sidearm Be Having?”

A quasi-liberal guy tests the waters when it comes to packing heat in public.

What happens when a Middle Eastern-looking man and a young black man walk into a LongHorn with loaded pistols on their belts?

“Welcome to LongHorn, will it just be the two of you?”

The hostess told us there would be a 20-minute wait. We stood at the doorway and talked. Nobody said a word or even looked at us funny. A few people glanced down at my belt as they walked up, but honestly, a new iPhone would have caused a bigger fuss than our guns.

While we waited, I told Carmichael that my original plan was to meet him at Chuck E. Cheese. “I’ve been to Chuck E. Cheese with a gun,” he casually replied.

The only awkward moment of the evening was when our food arrived. Carmichael told me that my entree, the Outlaw Steak, looked far more appetizing than the shrimp he’d ordered.

“It’s a huge steak; you can have half,” I said.

“Two dudes sharing food,” he replied. “That’s gay.”

I had walked up to the restaurant concerned that something bad would happen because I was carrying a gun. I worried that I’d be confronted by someone, or that someone would call the police. At the least, I expected hostile or fearful stares.

Instead, nothing happened. I realized that I was more aware of my gun than anyone else in the restaurant. I was nervous and terribly self-conscious. My gun was easily visible to about 15 people during dinner. No one paid attention to it.

The only person who acted like it was strange to have a gun in a restaurant was me.

Welcome to the world of the Second Amendment…

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 07/31/08 at 04:25 PM in Life & Culture  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

When Nasty Takes Over

A couple of items with regards to the way both candidates are campaigning. First, Obama responds to the McCain campaign’s now-infamous celebrity ad:

We want to have a serious debate. But so far, we’ve been hearing about Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. I do have to ask my opponent: is that the best you can come up with? Is that really what the election is about? Is that worthy of the American people? Even the media has pointed out...that McCain has fallen back into ... predictable political attacks and demonstratively false statements… Spending all this time talking about me instead of talking about what he’s going to do.

Second, a look at the problem with taking this road:

The problem is that it follows a line of spots that were either stupid, dishonest, or borderline incoherent; that’s why some GOP analysts are worried about Maverick’s negative turn lately. It’s not that attacks are bad per se, it’s that McCain has a solid brand of his own that he’s neglecting or even devaluing by hitting Obama in such petty ways.

Finally, it appears that McCain is taking his cues from Karl Rove, and that might not work this time around:

It’s really hard to tell when an attack will backfire, but at the rate McCain’s cranking out attack ads and lines about Obama lusting “to lose the war,” the higher the odds he’ll wreck his image. And then Obama can say whatever he wants about McCain without much blowback. I can’t believe McCain doesn’t remember how this works.

I think he does remember, but he seems desperate to avoid losing another high-profile race. McCain seems to be acting more like a Senator running for re-election rather than a presidential nominee with a vision. This is the big leagues, something that McCain can’t seem to recognize, at least when it comes to his campaign style.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 07/31/08 at 03:50 PM in Election 2008  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Espresso For The Right

Is this an idea whose time has come?

Ann Coulter books sit stacked by the fireplace, and a picture of Ronald Reagan hangs on the wall. Fox News plays on all the televisions, and stock market quotes scroll along an electronic ticker above the cash register.

Behind the counter, owner Dave Beckham smiles proudly in a khaki T-shirt that reads “Zip It, Hippie.” The shirt is for sale at the Crown Point, Ind., cafe, along with ones that say “Peace through Superior Firepower.”

“It’s a change from the traditional liberal bastion coffeehouses,” Beckham says. “No one is going to bad-mouth America in here.”

I wish them luck, but what will really make this revolutionary is if similar shops open up in San Francisco and Seattle. Choice-it’s not just for liberals anymore.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 07/31/08 at 03:33 PM in Life & Culture  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Mythbusting the Moon

I’m swamped today.  I’ll be posting plenty later tonight.  In the meantime, here’s a trailer for a really cool Mythbusters coming up.

This should be fun.

PS - If you can find it, Penn and Teller’s episode of Bullshit on this subject is really good.  Plus, it has an appearance by my fellow Wahoo— The Bad Astronomer.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 07/31/08 at 02:52 PM in Science and Technology  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Paris Obama

I really don’t see the point of the anti-Obama celebrity ad.  I have never voted for or against a candidate because of his purported celebrity status.  In fact, the candidate that I had the most respect for was a famous Hollywood actor who could inspire massive crowds.

If Team McCain keeps going this way, they are going to lose big in November.  They need to stay on message and attack Obama’s record on trade, spending and taxes as well as his cringe-inducing genuflection to powerful unions.  Better still, they should put forward ideas on tax reform, reigning in entitlements, restructuring the school system and balancing the budget.  The ad does this—but only as an afterthought to the Britney Obama bashing.

Right now, they are going down the same road as Hillary did—severely underestimating their opponent.

Of course, there’s never anything that conservatives do that can’t provoke an even dumber liberal response.  Huffpo thinks the celebrity ad is a secret call for assassination. Seriously. (H/T Allapundit).

Update: Marc Ambinder:

Celebrity? How many movies and TV shows has McCain appeared in? How many SNLs has he hosted? Wasn’t a movie made about his life? Wasn’t McCain the original politician celebrity? Celebrity?

Posted by Hal_10000 on 07/31/08 at 09:58 AM in Election 2008  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It’s What We Call The News

We’re in a slow part of the news cycle these days.  But not so slow that CNN has to do a piece on someone seeing Jesus in their cat’s fur.  I’m fine if someone wants to see their savior in a pizza.  If they need to believe that all-powerful creator has devoted his effort to creating a murky visage of himself in swiss cheese, more power to them.  But putting this on the news?

I honestly don’t see it.  It just looks like cat fur.  And is it blasphemous that Jesus is on the cat’s rear quarter?

I have two tabby cats.  Maybe I should be checking them for revelations.  Actually, my fat primary cat’s fur does create a vaguely demonic pattern on his forehead.  That’s what I get for naming him after Darwin’s bulldog.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 07/30/08 at 11:08 PM in Religion and Sky Pixies  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

The Audacity Of Symbolism

Because it’s not about him. No, really.

“I have become a symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions,” Obama said, a witness told the Post.

Republicans and others are jumping on the quote as evidence of Obama’s more egoistic impulses, but other Democrats in the room today suggest that the quote is out of context and twists Obama’s meaning to mean the complete opposite of what he was saying.

“His entire point of that riff was that the campaign is NOT about him,” says a House Democratic staffer. The Post “left out the important first half of the sentence which was something along the lines of ‘it has become increasingly clear in my travel, the campaign, that the crowds, the enthusiasm, 200,000 people in Berlin, is not about me at all. Its about America. I have just become a symbol.’”

Is Obama channeling Prince? Whatever the reason, this is where Obama’s hubris can make him a target. Yes, his candidacy is historic, as would be his getting elected. But the problem with seeking sainthood is that you can set yourself up for a big fall when the faithful find out you’re only human. Obama does have a lot going for him. He is perhaps the ultimate blank slate candidate who allows everybody to project their own hopes-and fears-onto him. But leadership isn’t about symbolism, it’s about solutions. Stick with those, and leave the sainthood for future generations to decide.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 07/30/08 at 07:08 PM in Election 2008  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

I Know Who Killed Me

Various left-wingers are blaming the Right Wing for the tragic shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.  I’m curious if they’re willing to blame Al Gore for any eco-terrorism.  After all, he has said that the very fate of our planet hangs in the balance.  In fact, he believes it so much he’s sending his son to another planet.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 07/30/08 at 07:06 PM in Left Wing Idiocy  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Change You Can Teach

The WSJ has a scathing editorial on the differences between the two presidential candidates on education.  Here’s McCain:

“Parents ask only for schools that are safe, teachers who are competent and diplomas that open doors of opportunity,” said Mr. McCain in remarks recently to the NAACP. “When a public system fails, repeatedly, to meet these minimal objectives, parents ask only for a choice in the education of their children.” Some parents may opt for a better public school or a charter school; others for a private school. The point, said the Senator, is that “no entrenched bureaucracy or union should deny parents that choice and children that opportunity.”

After noting the success of voucher and privatization programs, they list the response of the Teachers’ Unions’ Bitch Democratic Party:

Congressional Democrats have refused to reauthorize the D.C. voucher program and are threatening to kill it. Last month, Philadelphia’s school reform commission voted to seize six schools from outside managers, including four from Edison. In L.A., local school board members oppose the expansion of charters even though seven in 10 charters in the district outperform their neighborhood peers.

It’s well known that the force calling the Democratic tune here is the teachers unions. Earlier this month, Senator Obama accepted the endorsement of the National Education Association, the largest teachers union. Speaking recently before the American Federation of Teachers, he described the alternative efforts as “tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice.”

Mr. Obama told an interviewer recently that he opposes school choice because, “although it might benefit some kids at the top, what you’re going to do is leave a lot of kids at the bottom.” The Illinois Senator has it exactly backward. Those at the top don’t need voucher programs and they already exercise school choice. They can afford exclusive private schools, or they can afford to live in a neighborhood with decent public schools. The point of providing educational options is to extend this freedom to the “kids at the bottom.”

I’ve written before about translating the Democratic Eduspeak.  Whenever they say that vouchers or school choice will harm “the system”, they are telling you that “the system” is far more important to them than “your kids’ futures.”.  It’s a “system” that does stuff like this:

Ten struggling schools in the Fort Worth district are spending more than $200,000 on staff retreats, including $64,500 by South Hills High School for a three-day stay at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine.

The money comes from grants through the federal No Child Left Behind program and must be used by the schools to analyze student test data, comprehensively assess needs, make a campus improvement plan and team-build, according to the Texas Education Agency, which distributes the money. The retreats are allowed, but some wonder if the venues might be excessive.

No. Don’t hold them accountable, Mr. Obama.  Don’t give parents an opportunity to put their children in schools that are not only better, but cheaper.  Keep supporting “the system”.  The money must flow.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 07/30/08 at 06:33 PM in Politics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Astrologers Unite

If you ever wanted proof that astrology is garbage, here you go:

Amazing that her psychic talents failed to tell her that the ground was moving.  At least, I think they failed.  I was a little distracted by her more tangible “talents”.

Update: This was also noted by Dave Barry.  The comments are hilarious.

There’s a similarity there, between her upper torso and the astrological sign for Libra. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but that doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 07/30/08 at 06:06 PM in Fun and Humor  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink

Nonbelievers Need Not Apply

Creeping fundamentalism, British style:

A city council has blocked its staff from looking at websites about atheism.

Lawyers at the National Secular Society said the move by Birmingham City Council was “discriminatory” and they would consider legal action.

The rules also ban sites that promote witchcraft, the paranormal, sexual deviancy and criminal activity.

The city council declined to comment on the possible legal action, but said the new system helped make it easier for managers to monitor staff web access.

‘Very strong case’

The authority’s Bluecoat WebFilter computer system allows staff to look at websites relating to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other religions but blocks sites to do with “witchcraft or Satanism” and “occult practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism”.

Under the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003, it is unlawful to discriminate against workers because of their religion or belief, which includes atheism.

National Secular Society president Terry Sanderson said the city council’s rules also discriminated against people who practise witchcraft, which is also classed as a legitimate belief.

He said the society would initially contact the council and ask for the policy to be changed, and otherwise pursue legal action.

He said he believed he would have a “very strong case”.

Mr Sanderson said: “It is discriminatory not only against atheists but they also are banning access to sites to do with witchcraft.

“Witchcraft these days is called Wicca, which is an actual legitimate and recognised religion.

“We feel very strongly that people who don’t believe should not be denied the access that people who do believe have got.”

I’m not sure what the city council’s real goal is here. Are they trying, as so many seem to be these days, to be too politically correct and not offend any believers? If that’s the case, then why shouldn’t their employees feel free to look at non-religious sites as well? Or is the council afraid of encouraging the spread of witchcraft? Do they think their staff are suddenly going to start using black magic against them?

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 07/30/08 at 03:58 PM in Religion and Sky Pixies  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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