Thursday, January 31, 2008
Bill Ritter, You Ignorant Slut
Bill Ritter wants to raise taxes on the people of Colorado. He wants to raise taxes to the tune of an estimated $500 million a year.
Now, get this: he doesn’t want to let the people vote on it and he doesn’t want to call it a tax. How will he work his plan? By raising fees on the 5 million cars registered in Colorado by an “average of $100.” For reference, currently, according to the article, the average car registration in Colorado runs about $142--mine is a good chunk higher on a 2001 Mazda Millenia and I’m curious to see if I’d be right there in the “average” category. A $100 fee would tack about 50% onto my registration fee.
And I don’t have any say in the matter.
What is most frustrating is that since 1992, Colorado has had a “Tax Payers Bill of Rights” (TABOR) which is not only Douglas Bruce’s finest hour, but says that any tax that increases government revenue by more than the combined rate of population and inflation must be approved by a popular vote. There is a lot more to the TABOR Amendment, but this is the part that concerns us here. Ritter’s proposal--regardless of your opinion of the merit of his goal of rebuilding roads and bridges throughout the state--is designed to circumvent Colorado’s constitution and the TABOR Amendment by levying a monumental increase in fees in the state without allowing the voters any say in the matter.
Colorado’s citizens approved the TABOR Amendment because they wanted a hand in the economic decisions of the state--and a half-billion dollar end run around the voting public isn’t just a bad idea, it’s an unethical violation of the spirit of TABOR.
Governor Ritter, who is facing tough funding choices right now (partially because of some of the other interesting features of TABOR--features that I like because in theory it forces our state government to think hard about its funding decisions), should go to the people and make his case. If the roads and bridges are in such bad shape, explain to us why current registration fees, gas taxes, and other state funds aren’t enough to cover maintenance and repairs. If it is so necessary to pile this new spending onto the budget, persuade me and my fellow citizens that a fee or tax increase is the right path to solving the problem.
We may agree and we may not agree, but, ultimately, it’s our money that these folks are playing with.
Governor Ritter, you have an opportunity to back away from your suggestion and do the right thing by letting the people of Colorado vote and choose. We are adults and it would be nice if you would treat us as such.
Update: Kindly linked by our friend, Robert.
Does Bill Clinton Hate His Wife?
At a time when consumer confidence in the US economy is flagging, the deficit is growing, run-away entitlement spending threatens to seriously damage our economy, and it’s really freakin’ cold and snowy outside in Denver, CO, is telling a Denver crowd that we need to stunt the economy to combat global warming a winning strategy?
I would say no. Bill Clinton would say yes. Unless he secretly hates his wife, in which case his evil plan to derail her presidential bid is coming along nicely, thanks.
A charitable view might imagine that he misspoke, but I’m not so sure. Increased economic activity means more energy consumption. Even with breakthroughs in efficiency, energy consumption tends to go up as economies grow and energy consumption tends to go up as populations become more affluent. It’s hard to work job growth, fiscal responsibility, and the American love of comfy living into a strategy of intentionally hobbling the nation’s economy, I would guess. But, then, I’m not an economist, so my ideas might just be old fashioned.
I watched a portion of his speech last night, and I admit that it was fun to watch him smack down a Truther who had disrupted the event--even while advocating a position that I find foolish (immediately ending the war without, apparently, consulting the military, without considering consequences, without even a nod to the idea of victory), he was strong in his defense of common sense and verbally slapped the Truther around a bit when he wouldn’t shut up. The crowd was appreciative and so was I.
None of which changes the fact that Bill must hate his wife to be talking about intentional economic slow-downs during her campaign. And, damnit, I want some global warming to come along and melt the snow and give me warmth. Global warming is a promise that I want our elected officials to keep.
PS - I’m not the only one who thinks Bill might be batting for the other team. Wait, that didn’t sound right, did it?
PPS - Apparently I’m being unfair. He actually made a good point with the not-so-out-of-context bit that you can read at the link. Bill doesn’t hate Hillary.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Tonight’s Debate: Why Paulites Should be Cranky
I got home late and didn’t immediately jump into watching the debate. I didn’t have the strength. I couldn’t resist the call of the pander entirely, though, and tuned in about half an hour ago. In that time, Ron Paul sat looking frighteningly attentive (as he does), but given no chances at all to speak. Then came a magic moment: the question put to all the candidates, in essence, “Was Justice O’Connor the right choice?”
Ron Paul was allowed a tiny snippet of an answer before being rudely cut off with the question being shuffled to the next candidate down the line.
He was about to give an answer that, I think, would not only have been interesting but would have matched my own beliefs. Instead of treating him with the tiny bit of respect due to any of the candidates, he wasn’t even allowed that little moment to give his thoughts.
I don’t support the guy (and, in fact, was preparing a lengthy post in opposition to him), but if he’s going to be allowed to debate, he needs to be allowed to speak.
PS - I miss Fred. I really miss Fred.
PPS - Huckabee could make the same complaint. And he is. WIth extra crankiness.
Overheard at the office today during a discussion about the remaining presidential candidates:
Heheh. There is something attractive about that idea…
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Actually, Less Surprising Than You Might Imagine
That doesn’t surprise me in the least, and here’s why.
It isn’t unusual at all that the political center and the independents would be gravitating in McCain’s direction.
Now, ask me who, in my post-Fred depression, I will be supporting. That’s a much harder question.
My cyclical Quixotic urges were fulfilled in throwing in behind Thompson for a while, so I can’t imagine even pretending to support Ron Paul’s more fringe ideas. Besides, his support has peaked: it’s amazing how much quieter the Internet is without his more vocal hordes galloping from blog to blog to defend their love. Don’t get me wrong: there are good, principled reasons to support Paul, but some of his supporters seem to mistake their principles for cause to pummel even principled opponents into submission with the power of their swarming voices.
Beyond that, Rudy is damned near the end of his run. This leaves two GOP choices, and I’m not happy with either of them.
More on that later.
For now, let’s just be happy we have something easy to address: it isn’t shocking that independent votes might be the key to winning even a Republican primary. Now, imagine how important those voters might be to winning an election against Obama.
Take That, Prognosticators of Doom!
I love a good take-down.
Which is precisely why everyone should vote for my house band over at the brand new, freakin’ awesome Whiskey in my Sippy Cup. Because I am worthy and hopeful and not at all a prognosticator of doom.
Actually, to be fair, there are a number of really good covers in that mix.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
More Cloverfield and Godzilla
Shawn Macomber talks Cloverfield, Godzilla, Jonah Goldberg and other such things. If you’ve read my rambling review below, this sort of ties in with some of what I was saying. I hadn’t seen this post before seeing the movie, but a few bits of it are damned close to what I wrote.
And Retro has funny thoughts, a freakin’ map, and he noticed that the impaled chick didn’t seem to suffer much from her serious wound. Beware: big spoilers. I did see this before I saw the movie, but I refused to read everything after the map because I didn’t want the surprises killed for me. Glad I waited.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Cloverfield: A Review
Is it a minor message movie or is it just big, dumb fun? The question has been bounced around a little, and I found myself wondering about it when I went, sans fiance who stayed home sick, to see Cloverfield tonight.
First, and more important, though, I wondered if it would even work as big, dumb fun. The trailers had left me cold: Blair Witch meets Godzilla wasn’t inspiring me to spend nine bucks on a ticket. The early reviews and advice of friends won the day, though, and I’m glad they did.
Ignoring any possible social messages, the Blair Witch hook works far better for Cloverfield than it did the earlier movie simply because the plot--what there is of it--holds together better as the movie continues. Not that the plot is much more--and, actually, is probably less than some--than your typical monster movie. The difference is that, once viewers got past the Blair Witch personal video camera conceit, the movie becomes tedious and the characters unlikable. Cloverfield builds tension and pace, draping the story over characters too hurried to actually build much in the way of personality, all the way until a bit of a weak ending that did less to wrap things up than indicate that the whole endeavor just suddenly ran out of steam.
Like Blair Witch, it also helps that most of the movie exists without blatant, in-your-face shots of the monster--and when the real reveal comes late in the film, you’ll probably be glad that they didn’t focus much on the baddie.
Cloverfield also works better than, say, the 1998 abomination, Godzilla. In fact, Cloverfield is far more a spiritual successor to the original, 1954 Godzilla than any of that film’s sequels, but it does it on a lesser level.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Midnight Love Songs: “He Stopped Loving Her Today”
I might-shoulda called this one “Midnight Torture for Country Music Haters,” but, somehow, it fits my mood.
It’s honest-to-God country music, so it isn’t particularly sophisticated and it doesn’t have much in the way of pretense. If you can take it for waht it is--without any sense of irony or that knowing, self-conscious attitude that robs art of any sense of its own honesty--you’ll find a simple story about a man who loves a woman, only, in grand country tradition (like it’s brother, the grand blues tradition), happiness isn’t a feature of this love.
The story isn’t presented with flowery poetry, it just unrolls slowly and simply from the first lines--"He said I’ll love you ‘til I die. She told him you’ll forget in time"--building up to its tear-jerking conclusion with an inevitability that doesn’t make it any less tragic. Again, if you can simply take it on its own terms, it really might be the saddest song I’ve ever heard, and I am a collector of sad songs.
George Jones didn’t write the song, but he gave it the perfect voice. He’s unpretentious, but affecting, and brings out the sense of loneliness and sadness that the lyrics so perfectly describe. This is, indeed, beer drinking music and one of the few country songs that regularly finds room on my iPod.
“He Stopped Loving Her Today” just may be the world’s saddest song.
Bonus for the haters, though: the cheesy, early-eighties aesthetics are almost painful.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
The Stimulus Package Just Seems Like Bad Math
I wasn’t a big fan of the stimulus package because, regardless of the idea of the rebates as tax cut, I can’t imagine that the outlay is going to do much to help people. My own rebate will likely go directly into a savings account to be used to pay my 2008 taxes, which doesn’t work much to stimulate the economy, does it? Perhaps I’ll let someone talk me into buying one of Apple’s new Time Capsules, instead--but if I were to be honest, I would probably be doing that regardless of the tax refund.
I support the business tax cuts, on principle, although, but the rebate outlay is going to be huge and won’t address the underlying problems of our economy. People are more than willing to spend: through the toughest parts of the last few years (and through all of the minor recessions of the last few presidencies), citizens have continued to show a remarkable willingness to spend their money to the point that individual savings are frighteningly low. Is spending really the problem?
Anyway, news of the stimulus deal is further dampening my enthusiasm.
Here’s what bugs me: if a rebate is in any way meaningful, it goes back to the people who have actually paid. This package won’t send money to the people at the top, but it will send to people at the bottom who didn’t pay in. That’s not a rebate, that’s a brand new outlay and another way of piling more debt onto the current deficit. How, precisely, is that a good idea? Another thing that our economy doesn’t need is even more debt from a Federal government that can’t seem to find ways to keep its budget balanced.
Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe the greater good is being served with significant business tax cuts and the trade off is the only way to have made the deal. Maybe, since I’m not an economist, I don’t understand the complex machinery of our economy that will be motivated by giving an extra $300 to those of us earning little enough to receive the bounteous harvest from Uncle Sugar. It would be fair to assert any of the above, and I’m willing to listen to arguments lecturing me in the ways that I’m wrong; but right now I just feel like we’re seeing another bad deal being made that will fail to address the real issues facing our nation’s fiscal future. That just seems like bad math.
At least Pelosi and Co. can now say that they accomplished something over the last few years. Hollow Achievements “R’ Us.
Update: Investors certainly think that I’m wrong.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Heath Ledger Has Died
It hardly counts as important news, but it sure as hell surprises me. Heath Ledger, the actor from Brokeback Mountain and A Knight’s Tale, was one of my favorite up-and-coming actors. At just 28, he’s gone far too early.
Update: More news:
...I am disappointed. Why do you ask?
Updated: And Nathan ads his own thoughts on the subject. I can’t decide if I think he’s more optimistic than I am or not.
California’s Lesson to the Rest of Us
I didn’t support Arnold for Governator when he first ran mostly for two reasons: first, I felt that his accusers were credible enough that I believed he had acted in hugely inappropriate ways towards women during his career in Hollywood (not a stretch for nearly any self-obsessed movie star), and, second, that I didn’t believe that he would act as a strong conservative. Of course, I’ll never be able to prove the first, but the second seemed to be accurate.
Yes, I praised the man during the 2004 election cycle, mostly for his speeches at the RNC. He deserved that praise: he was eloquent in a way that Bush rarely is, which is funny considering the years of jokes about Schwarzenegger’s accent. Apparently, my first instincts were more trustworthy than that second glance.
I’ve snipped huge chunks because, frankly, this post will already be too long. So, please, do go and read the rest.
The short story, though, is very simple: conservative California voters who were voting for change got ripped off. The Arnold they hoped for wasn’t the Arnold they got and now they are in, very nearly, the same situation they were in when Davis was recalled.
That ties into why I’ve supported Fred Thompson, too: I trust him to behave in a responsible, adult, conservative manner in office. When faced with financial difficulties, I trust that he will be the first guy in a long time to say, “We need to trim our expenses instead of finding new ways to add to the debt.” Aside from Ron Paul--and the possibility of him earning my vote is slender, indeed--how many of the others come across as honestly economically conservative? Huckabee, with his love of nanny-state projects? Romney with his health care mandates? Perhaps Giuliani and, on a good day, McCain could strike a conservative chord. On the left, of course, you’ll only find various shades of terrifying new mandates and projects to suck the money right from your wallet.
The same goes for entitlement reform: only a handful of the candidates express any serious interest in tackling the issues facing Social Security and Medicare, for instance, with all of the others rushing toward solutions that would remove gobs of money from the private sphere and shuffle it right into one or another form of welfare (and, yes, that’s precisely what Social Security is) without tackling the underlying problems of the structure that the programs are built upon.
I get going for the best of the bad, but California under a Republican who is very nearly a Democrat has to act as a cautionary tale to the rest of us. He ran on change, but offered more of the same. He had an economically conservative message, but piled new debt on old. California needed a big change, but it got a big con.
Republicans--and America--need to see a true economic conservative in office. We need to hold feet to the fire and force a change in economic expectations. Of course, the likelihood of that is slender when it comes to asking people to actually give up pet projects.
The contemporary wisdom seems to say that you can’t ask Americans to sacrifice because Americans won’t accept negative messages from their leadership. That’s only half true: Americans won’t accept unrelenting negativism from their leaders, it’s true. But I believe that Americans, faced with a cogent argument, will accept that it’s only through a little bit of sacrifice that we might face ultimate economic renewal in this country.
Universal health care, big stacks of cash in aid to the rest of the world, a speedy switch to alternative forms of energy, free pre-school and college for everyone are all just so much useless talk if we let the economy crash under the weight of irresponsible policies. Anyone who promises to fix the economy by adding even more to our future obligations, and subsequently funding it by taking money out of the pockets of the people who create the jobs, is selling the Free Money Fairy theory of economic recovery: if we believe hard enough, then everything will be just fine.
Arnold-like leadership, on a national level, would be disastrous.
Unfortunately, South Carolina’s soft showing for Thompson probably put an end to his presidential run, which is a damned shame. While he is more socially conservative than I am, I came to believe that his fiscal and foreign policy would be strong and reliably conservative in nature--more so than Bush has been and distinctly more than Romney, McCain, Huckabee, and Giuliani would be. My loss.
Soon, Republicans will be choosing the leader that will take them into a fight against the economically irresponsible policies of Clinton or Obama (What? You really believe that right now is the time to saddle our economy with a meteoric jump in tax rates and expanded social programs when we can’t even find long-term funding for our current obligations?). Simply finding a way for the GOP to win isn’t enough; finding a way to win with a principled leader is what we need. California chose Arnold on big talk and personality instead of on a history of principled action. That should be warning enough for the rest of us.
Monday, January 21, 2008
I Hate Stupid People. Just Sayin’.
In response to a late night, one car accident that took the lives of three idiots, the sister of one of the deceased had this to say:
She was glad that her brother was killed drinking and driving.
What an idiot. What a foolish little girl. What a short-sighted ass.
The only thing that makes me happy is that they didn’t take anyone with them. The only redeeming factor in this is that three young people who thought it was a good idea to drink and drive--going well over 100mph in an area that I’ve heard is a 35mph zone, although, since I’m not familiar with the area, I couldn’t say with authority--have removed themselves permanently from the road. I feel safer.
Amber Dawn Kowalski was a twenty-three year old mother who cared for her year-old child and father who had Alzheimer’s. It’s good to know that Lorie Flaherty is happy that Kowalski died in such a phenomenally useless way. I’m comforted.
These three kids died dumb. Aside from safer roads, there is absolutely no good that comes from a tragedy like this--and don’t dare call it an accident. There was no accident in the decision-making that lead to this ending. Calling it a good thing and raising a glass is just a way to make something horrible even worse.
Big Win for Women (But Not for Katie Holmes)
But if they do, then they’re really asking for it, if you know what I mean.
It’s a brave, new day in Saudi Arabia for the fairer, and more easily subjugated, sex.
I saw an interview with Katie Holmes recently and remarked that her brain and personality seem to have been sucked out forcibly with a special vacuum cleaner attachment. That doesn’t do much to make Cruise a shill for a genocidal lunatic, though, he’s really just kind of creepy.
About That Super Bowl…
Firstly, let me say that it seems so right that San Diego would lose again (sorry, Don). They had a better season than I expected, but their record wasn’t as strong and their ending was, essentially the same as last year’s exit. It just took a little longer to get there. But it was tough cheering for the Patriots.
The Pats deserve this, though. I never, ever thought I would see the perfect season--and I think I gave Miami a better shot at losing all their games this season than I gave New England for finding a way to win it all the way through. While Coach Belichick remains an irritating figure in the game, there is no denying that he has put together one of the most dominant teams of all time--not just this year, but over the last seven years. The Patriots earned this trip in a way that, quite literally, no other team ever has.
It was a little tough for me to watch the Packers lose, though.
I was one of those people who was saying that Favre needed to retire last year. I said that he had lost some of his talent and that there was no way that they could build a team quickly enough to be a playoff contender with him as quarterback. Boy, was I wrong. Not only did he have the talent, but so did the team. Yesterday’s game wasn’t the prettiest, but it does little to take away from his great season. I hope he comes back for at least one more round.
Speaking of that, I hope Tony Dungy comes back, too. Not only has he been a great coach, but he’s been an upstanding figure in the NFL. With none of Belichick’s antics, Dungy put together a team that has played at the top level for years. It would be sad to see him go and hard as hell to replace. There will be mourning in Indianapolis if he decides to retire.
Now, at last and improbably, we have a Brady-Manning Super Bowl. It’s just the wrong Manning. Congratulations to Eli for playing so well in the playoffs and proving that Archie and Peyton aren’t the only Mannings to make their ways to the big game. The Giants had a season the few expected and deserve some congratulations, too.
Still, in my head, Eli and the Giants don’t match up particularly well with the Patriots. While I wouldn’t mind being wrong, I don’t see this one being an exciting game and I imagine that most people watching will be more interested in seeing how the Patriots close out their season than there are those who believe the Giants have a shot.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
Two Questions on a Sunday Night
Part of the Bush stimulus plan aimed at heading off a recession would be giving individual tax payers a little check (I’m seeing something between $200-300) in hopes of stimulating short term consumer spending. Of course, there are other reasons to do this and the entire stimulus package will contain other components, but this check from Uncle Sugar to you is what I want to talk about.
First: Do you think that individual checks like these are a good idea in heading off a deepening recession and why?
Second: If the stimulus package is approved, what will you do with the check that you receive?
Saturday, January 19, 2008
We’re Number One: And This Time I’m Kind of Happy About That
Normally, I put up “we’re number one” posts because it cracks me up to see how search results get people to this site (and how disappointed they might be when they show up). You’re lucky I don’t torture you with some of the more disgusting search results, actually--lately, most of my search results are coming from people looking for pictures of seriously disturbing sexual practices or a desire to see Steve Green on the cover of Playgirl.
I hope they enjoyed the read.
The Better Pander
One of Shawn Macomber’s recent posts about the Nevada caucus explores Hillary’s pandering to the casino workers--and actually manages to make her look a little better in the process.
What is even more interesting (because presidential election politics are only allowed to take up so much of my days--right now it’s capped at 15% which is still seeing to be too much) is the fact that Shawn worked in casinos for a time and makes this statement: “I have no doubt whatsoever gambling is a net positive. None.”
I’ve never given much thought to whether gambling was a positive or not; I’ve just always believed that free people can be as stupid with their money as they want--they don’t need my approval or disapproval. And, for the record, I’m occasionally one of the stupid people. I love the craps table and deuces wild video poker and I’ve never needed anyone to tell me whether or not I have the right to play. This isn’t a criticism of what Shawn wrote, it’s just that I’ve never spent much time thinking about whether gambling was a net positive or negative for anyone other than myself.
The Shawn-eye view of the world of Vegas is a different one from my own. Vegas isn’t a place where I’ve ever lived; it’s just a place that I’ve played. I love Vegas by night, but Vegas by day is ugly and dirty. Vegas is great for two or three days; four days later, the noise, the sidewalk porn, and the glitz are just tedious and oppressive. Shawn’s view is of the part of Vegas the most of us have never experienced.
Read the rest. Then go read about his experience at an Intelligence Squared debate at the Asia Society in New York--which sounds like an incredible way to spend an evening. I’m jealous.
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