Tuesday, June 29, 2010

i heart iowahawk


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Carter Must Be Lovin’ It

Is it just me or has this entire administration seemed a little like one long malaise speech? It’s making the Carter years look positively upbeat.

In between telling us that we’ve turned a corner (when we obviously have not), we get messages about how things are horrible and, just maybe, it isn’t going to get better.

More than a year on, the message remains just how bad the last administration was, how unlucky they were to have inherited such a mess, and, gosh, life is tough. Here are a few messages I really think President Obama and Vice President Gaff-o-Matic need to learn if they want to do something other than offering excuses for the next few years before being ushered out of office with nothing to show for their effort but a pair of “I’m With Stupid” t-shirts (which I’ll be happy to send on my own dime--assuming I have any dimes left after the program of threatened tax hikes, fee hikes, energy cost spikes, and new health care costs that have been leveled toward me like the barrel of a freakin’ 12-gauge).

  1. Stop blaming. I don’t care who’s fault it is right now, all I know is that America hired this duo because they said they have the answers. They promised answers to the wars, to the economy, to our energy policy, and to our political divisions--and so far, the answer has been to blame someone else for just how rough life is in the White House. Get to solving the problems.
  2. Don’t tell me it won’t get better. “There’s no possibility to restore 8 million jobs lost in the Great Recession.” I tell you what, Vice President, step the hell aside and let American businesses and ingenuity do the job, then. If you don’t have any ideas, I guaranty you that there are people out there that do have ideas--and if government won’t make it too hard, they’ll put their time, their money, and all their ideas to good use in finding ways to get us working and making money. It won’t always work, but you won’t win a lot of money betting against America. You guys weren’t hired to tell us that we can’t fix the problem--and if that’s what you really believe, then get the hell out of the way.
  3. Stop making it hard for us to dig our way out. This isn’t a good time to saddle us with more taxes and regulations. This isn’t a good time to make it unattractive to hire new help. This isn’t the time to threaten businesses with new barriers to entry or to make it harder or more worrisome for businesses to expand, invest, and hire. And yet, that’s exactly what you are doing under the guise of saving us from this recession. You don’t have to spend us into prosperity; not only will that plan only leave us hurting, but there is an easier plan that doesn’t involve piling debilitating debt on top of our already crippling debt--and leaving our next few generations to clean up the mess. Here’s the solution: leave us alone. We don’t want handouts and free crap, we just want the freedom to pursue opportunity without worrying about how the government will punish us for our risk-taking.

Businesses are like consumers: when they understand the rules, when they know the costs and risks, they adjust, they expand, they take calculated risks in hopes of creating reward. The problem comes when the rules and risks aren’t understood, when folks believe that the rules are changing faster than they can keep up have no space from which to take those risks. They have no way to judge whether the potential reward is worth the cost.

None of which changes the fact that Youth in Revolt, (which, in the simplest terms might well be described as a quirky, humorous look at a boy suffering a psychotic break who obsesses dangerously over a pretty girl) is absolutely wonderful. Smart, beautifully shot, entertaining, and morally questionable, it’s still not for everyone. But if the sound of seeing Better Off Dead as written and directed by Wes Anderson sounds intriguing, then this might be the movie for you.

Update: Michael Steele hasn’t quite been the person that I expected when I supported him for his job as head of the RNC, but on this issue I find that I am echoing his words:

“ Americans know that job creators thrive and hire when the economic environment is stable and predictable, not when politicians are taking over whole industries, passing sweeping thousand-page industry overhauls and empowering unelected bureaucrats with hundreds of regulatory decisions. It’s time to stop the economically illiterate micromanagement of our life-blood industries and let us work.”

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

If by Any Weird Chance…

...You happen to be attending the Hillhead 2010 show, let me know. If you have any pictures, I’d love to see them.

Tough Choices for Obama

General McChrystal was wrong. Even if he and his aides were right about everything they said in the Rolling Stone piece (PDF warning), they were wrong. It was purely dumb to let the reporter from RS have that kind of access to the general’s inner circle. It was dumber still to treat the reporter like just another troop with an ear for the kind of rough commentary that comes from military man instead of like an enemy looking for an ugly story to break in a magazine not known for its friendliness to the military. And it was completely idiotic to break the rule that even a trainee in basic knows: you don’t get caught playing in national politics and that rule is more important the higher you get up the food chain.

If you can’t swallow your words, you resign your position. An officer in a time of war can’t expect to keep his job after displaying judgment that poor. To allow him to maintain his position, in fact, would be damaging to an already depleted presidency--a show of weakness that President Obama really doesn’t need right now. And yet firing McChrystal could be hugely damaging to the war effort--finding the replacement, confirming the appointment, and getting the new commander up and running could leave Afghanistan a mess during the transition. I somehow imagine that our enemies won’t be honoring any timeout requests.

What Obama needs to be asking himself right now is how he can visibly punish McChrystal, preferably involving a change of command in Afghanistan, without creating a huge setback in a war effort that is already in near-crisis. I have been unimpressed with our president’s executive capabilities thus far, but I hope that he and his advisors can find the right path on this. The BP spill is ugly, no doubt, but completely fumbling Afghanistan would be ruinous (and not just to a presidency). McChrystal needs to resign and he needs to offer up everything that he can do to help this president maintain authority and credibility.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Misplaced Praise, Eighth in a Series of 562 (Updated)

Congratulations to the teachers and administration of Tiogue School in Coventry, Rhode Island, a “Blue Ribbon School of Excellence where Everybody is Somebody for Some Reason or Another!” The way you protected children from the very real dangers of little, tiny, plastic simulations of weapons glued to a hat was just marvelous. Your death-grip embrace of zero tolerance rules regarding weapons is an example to us all; someday we can all make ridiculous, well-intentioned decisions without having to overtax our brains with things like common sense and context.

Which is awesome. Life is easier when you don’t have to think too much.

Christan Morales says her son just wanted to honor American troops when he made a hat decorated with an American flag and small plastic Army figures.

But the hat ran afoul of the district’s no-weapons policy because the toy soldiers were carrying tiny weapons.

“His teacher called and said it wasn’t appropriate because it had guns,” Morales said.

Morales’ 8-year-old son, David, was assigned to make a hat for the day when his second-grade class would met their pen pals from another school. She and her son came up with an idea to add patriotic decorations to a camouflage hat.

Earlier this week, the Tiogue School in Coventry sent the hat home with David after class. He wore a plain baseball cap on the day of the visit instead.

Superintendent Kenneth R. Di Pietro said the principal told the family that the hat would be fine if David replaced the Army men holding weapons with ones that didn’t have any.

“The issue for us was, can it be done in a way that didn’t violate the zero-tolerance for weapons?” he said. “Nothing was being done to limit patriotism, creativity, other than find an alternative to a weapon.”

Superintendent, you, sir, are an idiot. In no sane mind do little army men even marginally qualify as weapons or as dangers to your school students. The teacher who turned the child in deserves just as much criticism, but I find myself running out of polite, family-friendly words for the thoughts in my heads.

If they ever wondered why some folks have worried at handing over their children to the care and mercy of our public schools, well, this helps illustrate the point. Until school administrators can fully engage their own brains, how can we possibly expect them to successfully educate our children?

While the individual school’s rules might differ (I couldn’t find a copy online), the district lists as an example of their school rules a zero-tolerance for weapons rule (link opens a pdf in a new window):

Weapons or items that could be used as weapons (including toys) are not allowed in school (zero tolerance and is often an offense that requires out-of-school suspension)

From the same document, we get the district-wide rules on drugs and weapons:

Drugs, Weapons, Inappropriate Materials:
For the safety of all students and faculty and based on state regulations, students may not bring to school drugs or weapons of any kind. Students who display behaviors that represent danger to other students, regardless of the fact that a weapon may be a toy or utensil or that a drug or illegal substance may be later identified as non-threatening, will be addressed through disciplinary action up to and including suspension. Every student deserves to learn in a safe and threat- free environment.

Could the little army men glued to the hat really be used as a weapon in any more of a useful sense than, say, your typical spork could be used as a weapon? Unless the school has drastically different language (and language that would be even more utterly stupid if it is so broad as to include army men in the range of things that could be used as a weapon or even manage to be meaningful simulations of real weapons), then the teacher and administrators somehow judged that, yes, those toys were a real hazard to other children or to their learning environment. Which is, in the most polite term I can imagine, just silly.

Read the story.

Update: Check out Jen’s post. Complete with graphics.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Idiocy in Edinburgh

If you’re a gun nut, this story will have you screaming. If you aren’t, then you might still find the five year jail sentence handed down to be ridiculous.

Me, I guess I’m more on the gun nut side of that scale.

A grandmother has been jailed for five years for possessing a “family heirloom” World War II pistol.

Gail Cochrane, 53, had kept the gun for 29 years following the death of her father, who had been in the Royal Navy.

Police found the weapon, a Browning self-loading pistol, during a search of her home in Dundee while looking for her son.

She admitted illegal possession of the firearm, an offence with a minimum five-year jail term under Scots law.

Cochrane told the High Court in Edinburgh that she had never contemplated she might be committing a crime by keeping the gun or that she might need to get a licence for the weapon.

She said: “I thought it was just a war trophy.”

Defence solicitor advocate Jack Brown argued that the circumstances surrounding the case were exceptional and that it would be “draconian, unjust and disproportionate” to jail the grandmother-of-six.

Unjust and disproportionate, indeed. An 80 year old Czech pistol with no ammunition isn’t worth a five year sentence.

Of course, I’m one of those weirdos who doesn’t believe that I need the government’s permission to be allowed to defend myself and to own the right tools for that defense.

Read the story.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

AT&T Data Plan Changes

Today’s announcement of AT&T’s data plan changes for users with smart phones didn’t leave me particularly happy. While it won’t have any effect on me immediately (my phone is under contract for the next year and a half, give or take a bit), it isn’t the direction I wanted to see AT&T go in policing their own 3G network.

AT&T Inc. will stop letting new customers sign up for its unlimited Internet data plan for smart phones and iPads, hoping to ease congestion on its network by charging the people who use the most data more.

The move comes just in time for the expected unveiling of Apple Inc.’s new iPhone next week.

Current subscribers will be able to keep their $30-per-month unlimited plans, even if they renew their contracts. But starting Monday, new customers will have to choose one of two new data plans for all smart phones, including iPhones and BlackBerrys.

I haven’t had the same exceptionally negative experience with AT&T that others have; I’ve used the voice network from Florida to Hawaii and a bunch of places in between and rarely found a place where I didn’t have coverage. I’ve been with AT&T since I bought my first cell phone (and through two service changes here in Colorado that had users shunted off into a different carrier and then brought back right before the initial iPhone launch), and I’ve been reasonably happy with the service. In fact, the move to 3G when I upgraded my phone made me even happier. The network coverage seems wider and stronger--even though it brought a small price bump over the original device.

The original iPhone was an interesting experience for me. Not only did it surprise me in its utility, but it surprised me because I was happy to see my monthly bill raise from about $40/month to a bit over $70 per month (my original bill plus a mandatory $30/month unlimited data plan). When I upgraded to the 3GS near the beginning of the year, my contract changed again and I now pay about $88/month. And I’m happy.

To recap: I have seen my cell phone bill double over the last few years and I am happy. Which is not something I would have expected.

Part of that happiness comes with not having to worry about data usage with the knowledge that I’m not going to be hit with any big fees if I go over my allotment, unlike, for instance, the charges I pay when I use my phone from, say, India. Now the rules are going to change and new users will need to worry about their data use. If I sign another AT&T contract, I know that it will force me to “upgrade” to their new service levels and watch my data allotment slashed. If AT&T doesn’t offer a reasonably priced, unlimited plan when that moment comes, I might jump ship for Verizon--and if the iPhone isn’t offered on other carriers, I’ll consider moving to something Android based.

That said, their new contract with 2 gigs of data for $25/month is more than I use in any given month. More than double what I’ve used in any given month, in fact. Below is my data usage going back a few months.


At no point did my usage even top the 1 gig mark. Note, by the way, the moment that the 3GS came into my world--I’m sure you’ll see it in an instance.

So, AT&T’s new policy wouldn’t likely curtail my network use--or, at least, if it did it wouldn’t be by much and it wouldn’t be often. Why am I suddenly unhappy, then?

My unhappiness started with when AT&T started pushing the 3G Microcell/Femtocell device. The device hangs on your local high speed network and acts as a sort of mini cell phone tower in your home--and then it pushes your voice and data traffic over the local network instead of reaching out to the nearest AT&T cell tower. Which sounded pretty interesting.

In fact, I considered buying one so that I could kill off our landline at home. But after buying the device from AT&T, I found that it wouldn’t give me what I needed because it would still ding me for minutes when I was using, in large part, my own high speed Internet service to transfer voice data. So the 3G Microcell helps AT&T offload traffic from their heavily taxed network, adds a (one time) $150 fee for the user, and still uses up minutes. Maybe it’s just me, but that equation doesn’t seem quite right. In fact, it seems a little insulting.

I don’t mind businesses making a profit from me when they provide good service; for the most part, AT&T has done that. But these new rules and regulations are starting to make me feel a little used. A little unhappy.

If the trend continues, I’ll be needing a new cell phone carrier.

Read the story.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Al and Tipper

No cheap shots at Al Gore today--at least, not from me.

Al and Tipper Gore, whose playful romance enlivened Washington and the campaign trail for a quarter century, have decided to separate after 40 years of marriage, the couple told friends Tuesday.

In an “Email from Al and Tipper Gore,” the couple said: “We are announcing today that after a great deal of thought and discussion, we have decided to separate.

“This is very much a mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together following a process of long and careful consideration. We ask for respect for our privacy and that of our family, and we do not intend to comment further.”

Separation is almost invariably the first step in a divorce. I’m not a particularly wise person and my ideals aren’t shared by everyone. That said, I recently told a friend, and I believe it to my core: divorce is very much like war. That is, it is the worst option until it is the only option.

The structures that a couple builds in 40 years of life together--the good and bad experiences together, the dreams still unfulfilled, the friends and the family that grows over those decades, and the mutual support that comes from knowing someone that intimately can all be burdens and blessings. It’s hard to lose all of that (sometimes even the bad bits).

Whatever it is that has brought them to this point, my best wishes to the couple that they can find a way to hold their marriage together. Failing that, I hope that their friends and family help them through what will be a rough time in their lives.

Read the rest.


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