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Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei

News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Another spoof e-mail

A spoof e-mail purportedly from eBay:

Hello ,
Did you receive the payment for the item ?Please get back to me as soon as possible and let me know when you will ship the item to me.I wait for your email.Thank you

This e-mail is sent in a format resembling official communication, appearing to be a question from a member about a transaction. That's more effective than the normal "your account has been deactivated" e-mails. However, this particular e-mail would be more effective if:

1) the e-mail wasn't sent to multiple addresses in the CC box, suspiciously all starting with R and in alphabetical order;
2) all links didn't go to the same page;
3) the link was on a site that clearly wasn't eBay;
4) the e-mail weren't allegedly from eBay UK;
5) I ever sold anything via eBay.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Your AARP Idol is....

Taylor Hicks is the first gray-haired twenty-something American Idol! The marketing approach will be amusing to see.

Over 63 million people voted in the American Idol final, more than voted for any U.S. President. I'd point out that these totals aren't comparable, since you can vote more than once for American Idol, but then again, you can vote for President more than once if you're a Democrat in places like Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Seattle.


(Just an aside here.)

(We've all read and heard innumerable complaints about how long it took the Guard to get in and start cleaning up. Let's set aside the physical realities of mobilizing troops or traveling on shattered highways, and just assume for the moment, that oh, say 24 hours before Katrina had hit, George W. Bush had issued the following statement:)

("My fellow Americans, a category-five hurricane is bearing down on New Orleans. Because of the high likelyhood of looting and violence, and because the local authorities are not competent enough to conduct an evacuation or to adequately shelter those who cannot evacuate, I am sending in the National Guard immediately to preserve order and public safety.")

(Can you even imagine what the reaction to that statement would have been? But I digress.)

Will Collier's asides are better than many full blog posts!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Our divisive political situation

Are you sick of how the Republican vs. Democrat struggle seems to have worsened since the close 2000 elections?

You can pin it all on one person: Scott Falmlen.


Remember that the 1994 Florida governor's race was very close. Incumbent governor Lawton Chiles was reelected, in a Republican landslide year, despite being behind the Republican governor candidate late in the campaign.

Late in the campaign, the Democrats used phone banks to call elderly voters and say the Republican governor candidate would cut their Medicare and Social Security benefits. In a perfect world, these phone calls would have given the elderly a hearty laugh, as the governor of a state can't touch a federal program like these two. Alas, these phony calls had an impact, and may have turned the race. Scott Falmlen, a top Democratic party representative, repeatedly lied to reporters about these deceptive calls. (It's a reasonable assumption that Mr. Falmlen knew about this tactic, and could have prevented its use.)

The Republican candidate for the Florida governorship in 1994 was Jeb Bush. Had Mr. Falmlen not approved of these tactics, and Jeb Bush won, he would have been the front-runner for the 2000 Republican presidential nominee, instead of another Republican governor of a large Southern state. And Jeb Bush would have won Florida handily.

So, there you go.

Note also that lawsuits alleging voters were confused didn't happen with the 1994 governor's race.

Animal sightings

The large retention pond near home has the normal ducks and evil Canada geese, but another visitor is a large bird, perhaps a crane. On another visit, I saw something run across the grass into the pond: it looked like a beaver. Occasionally, one can see a little head poking out of the water, with a wake from the swimming body behind it.

On the way home, though still quite light out, I spotted a raccoon in the grass at the roadside. That's better than the normal place I spot raccoons: in the middle of the road, after being hit by cars. (Since I don't use a garbage can, raccoons remain "cute.")

Finally, there was a brown squirrel. Nothing unusual there, of course. However, this squirrel was foraging at the edge of the road, with its tail lying across the road. Now, its something of an optical illusion, and you think you are closer to the edge of the road than you actually are. But still, as I was driving by, I was picturing a cartoonish squirrel with a beaver-shaped flattened tail.

Do the worm!

Another commercial with a cool song is the Visa Check Card commercial, featuring a breakdancing worm animated flipbook-style on an unused checkbook. That song?

Looking for the Perfect Beat by Afrika Bambaataa.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Teammates for life

Here'a a touching story about Joseph Addai, new member of the Colts, and the injured teammate he never left behind.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The liberal blogger poll

Several other blogs had responded to this Atrios poll, so I thought I'd add my two cents.

Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration

Opposed. The issue here is a change in the law that prohibits many individuals from totally eliminating their debts with a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, requiring them instead to work out a partial repayment plan through Chapter 13 bankruptcy.

For many people, bankruptcy is unavoidable, whether caused by a large medical bill or a failed business venture. For a few, it's all due to bad decisions. Can you explain why, as a matter of principle, bankrupt individuals with above average incomes shouldn't repay part of their debts? Even in the most unfortunate bankruptcy case, where the family is completely blameless, why should they not repay as much of their debts as possible? Try picturing yourself as one of the creditors.

Repeal the estate tax repeal

Opposed, for philosophical reasons. Estate taxes are the purview of communist theory. If you're going to assess an estate tax, why not just assess a tax equal to 10% of the assets of the rich right now?

The estate tax doesn't actually reduce the amount of money transfered to the children of the rich, it just requires inefficient estate planning (survivorship life insurance and trusts).

I fully support a cultural shift: the rich should know that it is expected of them to give the majority of their money to charities and worthy causes, a la Andrew Carnegie. But if they choose to transfer their wealth to their heirs, that is their individual right.

Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI

No. It's a giveaway to the children of the middle class and unions with wages tied to the minimum wage. So few people are trying to support a family on the minimum wage, we'd be better off having rich liberals give money to the ones who really need it to support their families.

Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one)

I doubt anyone could propose a working plan. Looking at the health care systems of the world, you have rationing by waiting, rationing by connections, and rationing by money. Of the three, the latter is best of the bad options. Why? Money is a reward from doing good and valued work, so in some ways, money tells us who is most valued by society.

Again, this situation could be largely aided by a shift in culture: people should know it is expected of them to cover their own health care needs, via job or individual insurance. Only the truly indigent should rely on others to provide their health care.

Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation

Here's a liberal contradiction: supporting increased CAFE standards, while requiring stronger environmental restrictions. Changes to pesticides or arsenic in water might save a live every ten years, but increased CAFE standards (meaning lighter, smaller, less safe cars) cost more lives every year. The phrase penny wise, pound foolish applies here.

I'd like to hear discussion of improved CAFE standards for vehicles of the same shape, weight, and engine size. Can that be done, without pricing the poor out of car ownership? Otherwise, no.

Pro-reproductive rights, getting rid of abstinence-only education, improving education about and access to contraception including the morning after pill, and supporting choice. On the last one there's probably some disagreement around the edges (parental notification, for example), but otherwise.

Nos all around. Let's start with abstinence-only education. Of all methods to prevent pregnancy, only one is 100% effective. Compare, again, to the desired environmental standards. If a corporation wanted to stop one kind of 100% filtration at its big factory in favor of another, which would release chemicals that would give 1% of women a debilitating condition, liberals would scream in opposition. Yet that's what relying on birth control entails.

I do support education about contraception, but in conjunction with abstinence education. Explain that playing Russian roulette is stupid, no matter if the gun has 6 chambers, or 106.

Another point of contention: why do we think that 17 year old girls need their parents' permission to visit the museum as part of a school field trip, yet don't need their parents' permission to have an abortion? Which is the more serious issue?

Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code

Yes on the first, no on the second. A consumption tax would meet the first goal, while making taxes largely voluntary.

I find it hard to accept that some dollars should be taxed at a rate near 100%. Again, I support a culture that says the rich (Kerry, Edwards, etc.) should voluntarily pay higher taxes, but if an individual chooses to keep his money, that's his decision, not mine.

Kill faith-based funding. Certainly kill federal funding of anything that engages in religious discrimination.

No on the first, if the faith-based funding works. We've seen churches contribute meaningfully in every national disaster, often with smaller overhead than government agencies; why should these groups be prohibited from contributing equally from government-funded charity dollars?

On the second, I think we can agree that these groups should not discriminate. But let's be clear about terms. "Religious discrimination" does not mean expressing disapproval of homosexual relationships; it means a food kitchen denying food to needy homosexual victims.

Reduce corporate giveaways

Expressed like that? Sure. But that applies equally to all giveaways. As others have pointed out, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting receives a lot of giveaways. Tax credits for hybrid vehicles or installing solar panels also have to go.

In fact, what is termed "corporate giveaways" should have to be justified, given goals, and continued only if it succeeds at its goals. [I'll leave aside for now the issue of whether "corporate giveaways" are an appropriate role for the federal government under its constitutional authority.] Consider it like a business proposal. You tell the executive committee "By investing in advertising in Europe, we intend to increase sales of our product by 10%." The committee looks at the costs, and if it approves, the plan is a go. If after a year it's not providing the returns promised, you cut it off. Simple in concept.

Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan

I'd consider it, if it could be demonstrated that this plan would be better than the status quo. But that's not likely.

The whole of Medicare needs serious reform.

Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions. Change corporate bankruptcy law to put workers and retirees at the head of the line with respect to their pensions.

The second part is a recipe for disaster. The first part is largely a part of the structure of ERISA. Funding pensions is not that difficult an endeavor. But here's one suggestion: separate pension funds and funds covering retiree health care benefits. Haven't you noticed that all these pension plans being dumped on the government are union plans that also offer health care benefits?

Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana. Generally move towards "more decriminalization" of drugs, though the details complicated there too.

I'd actually be willing to try it, but the cynic in me says that those who advocate medical marijuana and promote hemp as a wonder plant want only one thing: to get high. But more drug use means more people dying to drivers under the influence, and for drugs that are addicting, more people ruining their lives.

Again, we need a culture of personal responsibility. And an absolute, mandatory requirement for any drug legalization is a recognization that drug addiction is absolutely, positively, in no way considered a disability, by anyone with any authority.

Imprison Jeff Goldstein for crimes against humanity for his neverending stupidity

Typical liberals: engaging in ad hominen attacks.

Paper ballots

Good idea. Best is a system of paper ballots that can be reliably read by optical scanners: a system that can provide results quickly, while providing a paper trail that is verifiable and makes it difficult to "stuff the ballots" with illegal votes.

Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies. Obiously details matter.

Daycare is a good idea. Obstacles to working need to be eliminated, as only through work will someone struggling improve their lot. Until I see details, though, it's hard to agree. Once again, see personal responsibility: those who have the means should pay the full cost of their day care, even if it means giving up first run movie tickets and $4 lattes.

Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.

Translation: charge taxes based on a wage of $360,000, pay benefits based on a wage of $90,000. In other words, a 75% cut for Social Security for the wealthy. Does that sound fair to you?

I prefer Social Security remains a government pension plan. It can retain its progressive nature, it can even become more progressive, but it should definitely have benefits tied to taxes paid. If you introduce a disconnect like this, what's to stop increasing taxes to fund certain favored groups? Social Security would then become another welfare program, where voters are bought off by their representatives.

The immigration speech

I liked it. It's about as far as any politician will reasonably go in the short term. It sounds like a barrier on the border was proposed, but not described as a solid wall. And I'd find it hard for anyone to oppose using the National Guard to enhance border security; how could anyone argue that defending America is not in the purview of the National Guard?

The one thing I would have liked to see in the speech is a veiled reference to the failure in Mexico. "For many Mexicans, they find that their only hope for a better future for themselves and their family, their only path to achieving their dream, is through a dangerous border crossing to America."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A double success story

Over at TCSDaily, Val MacQueen has an inspiring article. Asians, then part of the British Empire, sought to build a successful life in a British African colony, and built successful businesses. When Ugandan moron and thug Idi Amin kicked them out with nothing but the clothes on their back, they started over again in Britain. It's a heartwarming immigrant success story.

It also highlights an undeniable fact: the surest way to fourth world status is to kick out your successful countrymen, then give their property to your cronies. The evil Mugabe is reaping the lessons of Uganda right now.

It's been said often: if you took all of America's wealth and divided it equally, within a generation, there'd again be extremely wealthy individuals, and individuals with nothing. Having money helps you become rich, but it's neither a requirement nor a guarantee.

Return to New Orleans

Will Collier at Vodkapundit is blogging his current trip to New Orleans. It's well worth a read.

Dear President Wackypants....

Crosblog has the letter President Bush should send to Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

(Via Dave Justus)

Save our cultural heritage!

America's cultural heritage is at risk.

Worse yet, the very people who should be preserving our cultural heritage, America's teachers, are responsible.

Witness the case of the Gwinnett County, Georgia school system, and its complicit administrators. Beth Anne Cox, a student at Peachtree Ridge High School, was suspended, allegedly for threatening teachers. Her threat? A song, which began...

On top of Old Smokey
All covered with blood
I shot my poor teacher

Everyone, sing along with me!

With a .44 slug

So, you knew that line was coming, too? And why is that?

Because it's a song that every American student knows. It is certainly no threat; it's not even unique.

Thinking back to the halcyon days of my youth, I was a good kid. But that's a lie. I now realize that I was constantly threatening my teachers and school administrators. Like with this song:

Glory, glory to the elementary school
We have tortured all the teachers, we have broken all the rules
The principal tried to stop us, but we flushed him down the stool
The kids are marching on

Glory, glory hallelujah
Teacher spanked me with a ruler
Took her to the bank
Shot her with an Army tank*
The kids are marching on

And I evaded expulsion despite being known to sing the following:

Joy to the world, the school burned down
And all the teachers died
Except for the principal
He's hanging from the flagpole
With the rope around his neck
With the rope around his neck
With the rope, the rope around his neck

And I clearly should have been institutionalized, or at the very least sent to a halfway house, for the dangerous threats of this song:

Deck the halls with gasoline
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Light a match and watch it gleam
Fa la la la la, la la la la
See the school burn to ashes
Fa la la, la la la, la la la
Aren't you glad you play with matches
Fa la la la la, la la la la

A mere twenty years ago, silly songs were silly songs. Now, overzealous administrators and cowardly teachers see dangerous threats in every classic playground rhyme.

These silly songs are, quite simply, part of America's cultural heritage. It was truly remarkable how, no matter where we were, we picked up these songs. And forget multiculturalism. No matter where we're from, or the color of our skin, we were bound together with the other schoolchildren in the same way. We were all taken away from our freedom, our playtime, by those evil teachers and principals, and trapped in that horrible school.

Administrators need to tone down the hypersensitivity. As punishment for their stupidity, I sentence the Gwinnett County administrators to a month of playground duty, where hopefully, they'll learn a lesson or two about our culture.

*Alternate couplets:
Shot her in the butt / With a loaded coconut
Shot her in the rear / With a can of Miller beer

(As noted by Best of the Web)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

That's why it was familiar!

While watching VH-1, I saw the video for Coldplay's Talk. I was left with a strange impression: I knew I hadn't heard the song before, but still, the music was familiar. Was it used in a commercial, or a television theme song?

A quick trip to Wikipedia revealed the answer. The song uses the music from Kraftwerk's Computer Love! I never expected to see that happen!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Your chance to see how the rich live(d)

I highlighted a very fine home in the post titled Need a Starter Home? Now, you can see it yourself!

Le Chateau Renaissance is Indianapolis' Decorator's Showhouse, where decorators donate their time and work to decorate a magnificent house, which is then open for public tours. The whole thing benefits a local hospital charity. The event runs through May 14,

The original plan to use the governor's mansion fell through. Now I'm glad it did. I got to see the house last week, in a special preview, and it is magnificent. But no matter how much money I had, I couldn't see living in such a large house. What could one possibly do with that much space?

Here's one example. In most houses built in recent years, the master bathroom will have some common features to make it the "nicest" bathroom. Typically, you will see twin sinks, and a separate "garden bath" and shower stall.

For Le Chateau Renaissance, every bedroom had a full bathroom with twin sinks and separate bathtub and shower.

Monday, May 01, 2006

My day of shopping

In your face, communism!

Here's a summary of my May Day purchases:

Breakfast: Starbucks. Rather than my normal large coffee, I got the most expensive coffee beverage on the menu, and added a pastry to my order.

Lunch: Subway (within walking distance of work).

Dinner: A salad and drink from Arby's.

Groceries: I didn't particularly need to get groceries, but I did pick up some food, including a bottle of Chardonnay. (I have a couple of recipes I'd like to try, which use a Chardonnay cream sauce.)

Books: I did pick up An Army of Davids, along with two other books.

Total purchases: around $115. Much more than normal; I only exceed that if I'm getting a big ticket item or an airline ticket.