Friday, April 22, 2011
Receiving Friendly Fire
As much as I look forward to the day that President Obama becomes former President Obama, I can’t help but feel a little sympathy. It’s not for him, precisely, it’s for anyone who occupies that seat and has to deal with the constant drone of noise coming from people absolutely demanding that their pet cause become the administration’s main priority. I’m sure it’s bad enough when it comes from the opposition party, but the truth is that much of the needling comes from supposedly friendly corners.
When I read some of this stuff, I can’t help but think we’ve become a nation of children who no longer understand what actually constitutes an important issue. For all of my complaints about the current administration, for example, their speed in dealing with the urgent 1915 Armenian genocide problem doesn’t really rank as one of the truly important bits.
Friday, April 01, 2011
The iPad Gap: Pure Speculation
I find myself wondering how long it will be before someone starts complaining that the poor in America don’t have access to iPads and that iPads are somehow key to their future opportunities for success. How long will it be before some government agency is asking tablet manufacturers to make special programs for the poor and carriers are bullied into some kind of subsidized plan for 3G network access?
What I find most intriguing is that if the government can’t pay for something it deems desirable, it will search for opportunities to make companies pay for them. Those companies are often quite willing to acquiesce, but the cost of providing a good or service at below its actual value isn’t a cost that the company will pay. It’s a cost that we, who aren’t subsidized, will pay.
Of course, all of this is done in the name of helping. Which is why so many of us wish the government would, maybe, help less.
Consider credit card reform. The changes made to protect consumers from the card companies had what I would consider to be an entirely predictable set of results: prior to implementation, cardholders saw rate increases and credit lines lowered. People on the lower end of the spectrum will have a harder time getting any credit (even though these are the folks that most needed “protection” and it will probably end up benefiting the high-cost payday lending outfits) and more cards will charge you an annual fee. So your over limit fees are capped at what the government considers a reasonable amount, but you’ll pay the difference in some other fee or in those interest rate hikes that the card companies pushed out before the new protections went into effect.
I’m sure that there will be a few more rounds of government protection to card holders that are meant to deal with those nasty side-effects of the reform--and that there will be more surprises in store for consumers.
Which, again, is why so many of us wish the government would, maybe, help less.
Making it harder or more expensive for a company to do business isn’t always the best way to protect a consumer. Ultimately, if that company wants to stay in business, it will simply pass on new costs to consumers. When Comcast is forced to provide services below cost, it won’t just sit there dumbly wondering why the bottom line doesn’t look as good as it used to; it will raise rates where it can to compensate. Some small percentage of their customers will get a service below its real value and the rest of its customers will pay more than they should.
So, when will we first see the call for free or cheap tablet computers for the poor? It will probably come from an education advocacy group and it will probably provide yet another distortion on what I wish were a much freer market.
What’s my point? My point is that I am tired of a government that has such an overwhelming need to protect and help me. All those protections and all that help comes at yet another cost--and I’m already feeling overburdened.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Worth the Click Through
Thursday, November 04, 2010
Drudge Links As They Should Have Been
Seriously, though, what the hell is wrong with Mexico?
Sunday, October 17, 2010
When Burqas Attack
From the Daily Mail:
I would suggest that Ruby is a little confused on the subject of the definition of “attacked.” She might have, dumbly, felt attacked, but she sure as hell wasn’t the one who was attacked.
I’m no fan of the burqa. What it symbolizes is repulsive and the treatment of women in some Islamic nations is horrendous. That doesn’t make it in any way okay to attack a woman for wearing the thing--physically assaulting a woman isn’t such a great corrective to what many consider to be a symbol of women’s subjegation and abuse. In fact, it left the victim feeling terrified, humiliated, and abused.
Lovely work, that.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Moscow on the Hudson through Fresh Eyes
It has been a long time since I saw Moscow on the Hudson--probably since I was in high school--but I remember liking the movie. Netflix, one of my new bestest friends, streamed the movie into my home tonight and looking at it is a little like looking back into a time capsule. In some ways, it is also like looking at a better version of America.
For those who don’t remember, the movie is about a Russian musician (Robin Williams) who defects in a Bloomingdales in New York City. It follows him from Moscow, through his defection, and through learning to live in America. It isn’t a completely easy journey for him and it shows both him and his adopted country with warts and foibles and a bit of complexity.
With all the references to the old USSR, KGB, and the Reagan presidency, it is a look at a world that doesn’t exist any longer--it excites some of the same nostalgia bursts as Red Dawn without the campy overtones. But if you look past that little, gentle nostalgia, there are also some wonderful moments in watching the immigrants’ journey that put me in mind of an America that lives mostly in my hopes and may never have been entirely real. It glorifies hard work and opportunity over government handouts, it despises hyphenated allegiances at the cost of an American identity, and, in the end, it praises, if you’ll pardon me, the spiritual necessity of liberty over the state-controlled and, theoretically, perfectible society.
Two scenes really stand out to me. First, early in the movie, the immigrant watches a room full of new citizens taking the oath of citizenship. It is very quietly affecting as the judge gives her statement before administering the oath: “Today you will become citizens of the United States of America. No longer are you an Englishman, Italian, a Pole or whatever, neither will you be a hyphenated American. From this day you are no longer a subject of a governement, but an intergal part of the government, a free man.”
Then, nearer the end, when William’s character has suffered an assault and he is questioning the value of freedom when liberty is put to particularly dark purpose, he is reminded by a diner populated mostly by immigrants (a Cuban, another Russian, a Chinese man, and the American server) of the words of the Declaration of Independence. And while, as a scene in a movie it feels almost glib and you would be forgiven for wondering how such a moment might have calmed the anger Williams was showing, I can’t help but enjoy watching these folks extolling the virtues of freedom.
It’s no great movie. The character’s transition, for all the difficulties, still comes too easy. Too scripted. It also makes the emotional choices a little too simple for Williams giving a relatively tidy ending where some of the reality is bound to be messier. Still, I enjoyed it and have to say that a few of the performances are remarkably good. Williams, himself, is wonderful. He’s a good deal better than the script and he gives the whole thing more gravity than it might deserve.
More than anything, though, it was like a visit with an old friend. Not challenging, not new, but warm and comfortable.
Moving from there to Every Which Way but Loose, is particularly strange, though. Time has done precisely nothing to make Sandra Locke’s singing any easier to stomach…
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Billie Joe Armstrong Embraces His Inner (Very American) Idiot
Britain’s Q magazine--one of a handful of music magazines that I still read regularly--published a sort of musical overview of the last decade that, of course, incorporates a look at the political events that shaped these years. Predictably, my opinions weren’t well-represented. In fact, reading music journalists writing about the musings of rock stars on some of the weightiest issues of our times isn’t likely to wake any slumbering brain cells. It is rarely interesting, it is even more rarely insightful, and it is close to never useful to any larger debate.
Witness, for instance, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong’s take on Obamacare:
There’s a nuanced view of health care that neither seems to have any understanding of what assistance was in place for the poor before Obamacare nor of any of the practical issues of how to properly administer any healthcare plan. Deep thought is not this man’s strongest suit.
Of course, if he had simply said that I wouldn’t be writing this post. That’s a very tame grade of dumb. What is more impressive is the full-on weapons grade dumb that he exhibits when asked this by Q’s interviewer, “If you went for a beer with Bush, do you think he’d turn out to be quite a nice guy?”
Billie Joe’s answer is, well, inflammatory.
What a ridiculous, silly little man.
If you’re inclined to read the interview, you can find it on page 61 of the January, 2010 issue. Why, yes, I am a little behind on some of my reading. Why do you ask?
Update: Having read the magazine, I find a very specific trend to be intriguing. Of all of the interviews in the issue, when the musicians were asked about the best and worst of the decade, those who went political answered almost unanimously.
Worst of the decade was President Bush. Which seems a tremendous hyperbole when you consider the global economic meltdown, the terrifying natural disasters, and the rise of Real Housewives of Wherever.
Best of the decade was President Obama. Which seems just as tremendously premature. I imagine, though, that his actual job performance won’t be changing their minds.
And precisely none of them mentioned Osama bin Laden, terrorists, or the 9/11 attack. Defining the “worst” thing of a decade is always difficult, but here’s the thing: no matter what you think of former President Bush, he did not go into office intending to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. If anything, he had sounded during his first campaign, like a mild isolationist. The worst thing of this past decade could very easily be that thing that precipitated the wars that no one really wanted: the terrorist attacks that murdered thousands of innocents. Not just terrorist attacks in the US, but around the world.
I find it mind-boggling that not one of the people interviewed noticed that the worst “thing” of the decade was the surge in deadly, radical Muslim terrorists working hard to destabilize governments around the world.
I truly love music, but these are not serious people.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Congratulations to Ryan Frazier
In the Republican primary for the 7th Congressional District, Ryan Frazier won over Lang Sias. I look forward to doing everything I can to help Frazier win this race--I have complete faith and confidence in the man to represent us well. From the moment I met him a few years ago, while he was running here locally, I knew that he had the potential to be a big player at a much higher level.
It won’t be an easy fight against incumbent Ed Perlmutter, but it is a winnable race.
Read the rest. If you live in the area, consider signing up to help Frazier win this seat; he is a thoughtful and accomplished conservative and the kind of person who I will be proud to have represent us.
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
That’s Not Right
I was going to lead this story with something like this: “I found myself wondering if they had been inspired by So You Think You Can Dance.” Then I realized that it doesn’t really fit my mood right now; not that there isn’t room for humor, but that it isn’t how I want to see this story today. So, instead, this:
I continue to insist that I not only can judge other cultures, but I must judge them so that we maintain a clear-eyed understanding of what distinguishes us from them. We’re told we aren’t supposed to judge and we aren’t supposed to think in terms of us and them--I know this because, like the rest of you, it has been hammered into me from the time I was a child.
It just isn’t done. The problem is that what we were taught is wrong. It is vital for us to be honest and open about other cultures in the world--not in deifying or demonizing those cultures, but in being earnestly critical in the same way that I hope we consider our own culture and politics. With that said, imagine what I think about the culture that gives us a news story like this:
We need to judge because we need to constantly remind ourselves of what it is that we value as a society and what it took to create something as grand and diverse as the United States of America.
Friday, July 30, 2010
I do not think that means what you think it means…
I think President Obama is confused on the precise meaning of the word “dignity.” if Rangel resigns now, forced out by questions of ethics, the correct term would be “shame.”
For what it’s worth.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
My wife and I laugh and mock when Hollywood types pat themselves on the back for their bravery. They choose a role designed to get them critical applause and an Oscar and they tell us how brave they have been by, say, playing the role of a gay man confronting bigots, for example. There is nothing brave in that and their well-practiced gravitas and denunciation of the straw men that they build up in the movies are just an extension of the make-believe worlds in which they live and work.
That isn’t to deny artistic merit or even to say that there aren’t truly meaningful movies or is it to say that all of their words are playacting; it’s merely to note that there isn’t much bravery required to cash big checks, denounce racism, and collect awards.
Bravery is something else entirely. If you want bravery, then look to the cover of the latest Time magazine and you will see the face of a brave woman.
If I ever seem proud of my own bravery--or overly proud at my small accomplishments--someone slap me and point me back to this young woman.
Read the rest. Beware: it is, very honestly, a disturbing image.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
I Have Seen the Enemy. And He is a Moron.
Ahmadinejad, aside being amazingly hard to pronounce correctly, is picking a fight with an octopus.
For some reason.
I’ve been known to insist that Michael Moore, microwavable pork rinds, and America Has Talent are all symbols of decadence, decay, and exceptionally bad taste in the West, but Paul the Octopus just seems like harmless fun.
Maybe Mahmoud sees something in Paul the Octopus that has eluded me, but I think the answer is more simple that that: Ahmadinejad has gone all Oliver Stone on us and slipped a little further down the slope to outright insanity.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Tancredo, You Ignorant Slut
From the Denver Post’s blog this morning, we find that Tom Trancredo is getting ready to launch a third party candidacy.
Tancredo’s fixation on illegal immigration has sometimes reminded me of the Westboro Baptist Church’s obsession with gay folks: unhealthy and wrongheaded. Listening to him over the years--and, if you life in Colorado and vote somewhere on the right side of the divide, you’ll have been forced to listen to Tancredo regularly--it seems that there isn’t anything that can’t be blamed on the border-jumpers. Now, he doesn’t take it to the same place as those idiots from WBC, he doesn’t carry signs that say things like “God kills wetbacks” or anything like that, but, like those folks, Tancredo’s mind just seems to naturally drift toward that topic.
Personally, I think he would be a tremendous bore at a dinner party. He’d be that guy who followed you around, talking constantly about things that you showed even the vaguest, polite interest in, and scaring off all the pretty girls. I hate that guy. This is why Tancredo has never been invited to a Blogger Bash.
I’ve never had a problem with a guest worker program, although I’m a “enforce first, reform later” kind of a guy, so I’m not opposed to politicians who want to find ways to enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders. It’s just that he never seemed to have much else--aside from the occasional bellicose comments about waging war against our Muslim enemies--that defined him in the public eye. Illegal immigration is the issue that has defined his public service; and the one note that he sings on the subject gets pretty tiring over time.
I say this by way of noting that, damn, I’m tired of Tancredo and his almost Britney-esque need for public attention. Like the guy at that party, he just keeps following us around, constantly talking, smugly happy that he’s still got an audience, and entirely convinced that he’s changing the world. In fact, what he is managing most to do is alienate the people who should be naturally drawn to him. The guy at the party is pretty, though, and that’s where you find the difference: Tancredo is going to bring the damage.
After threatening the Colorado GOP last week, Tancredo made good on his threat this week: if the Republican candidates for the Governor’s office didn’t leave the race under the conditions that Tancredo had set, he was going to run as a third party candidate and punish them for not bowing to his pressure.
He has the right to run in this race, but he has no chance of winning and little chance of bringing Colorado GOP in line with all of his opinions. What he does have a chance of doing is acting as a spoiler for the race; he’ll have an opportunity to put in some a lot off effort to help re-elect Hickenlooper. And he has a decent chance of succeeding--his entry will make it much harder for the GOP candidate to win. What galls is that Tancredo’s success doesn’t leave us with a third party governor or more conservative governance in Colorado; it leaves us with Hickenlooper, a center left guy who doesn’t cross much ideological territory with Tancredo. Instead of supporting positive change, even though it didn’t perfectly fit the borders of his own preferred candidate (at all times, that candidate would be himself), he chose to support the Democrat’s candidate.
I imagine that Hickenlooper is sporting a big smile today.
Tancredo decided last week that he would hold the Colorado GOP hostage to his whims and this week he decided that his whims were to hurt the party, hurt the candidates, hurt conservatives, and hurt the people of Colorado by helping to re-elect Hickenlooper.
Tancredo, you ignorant slut. Instead of finding a way to help us, you’ve found a way to hurt us.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Sherrod to President Obama: It’s a Black Thing. You Wouldn’t Understand.
I learn this morning that our president is a person of pallor.
Rev. Wright is going to be cranky when he finds out.
An aside: I really take issue with her hyper-racialized view of the world. The tone really bugs me.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Wrongful Termination: Yes, It is a Teachable Moment (Updated)
Shirley Sherrod should not have been fired. This from Stephen Spruiell at National Review Online tells the story:
Love me some Breitbart, but here’s the thing: gotcha journalism (and we bloggers are wildly susceptible to this kind of thinking) leaves you open to this kind of thing. When you do your best to catch someone screwing up--showing weakness or hypocrisy--you aren’t actually engaging their ideas. There’s nothing wrong with exposing bad behavior--in fact, we have an obligation to do just that--but we should do it while critically considering the context and the evidence. The things that were said by the left during the Bush years were often the worst sort of gotcha journalism and, like her or loathe her, the treatment of Sarah Palin has often ignored her thoughts in favor of digging for personal attacks.
Ms. Sherrod wasn’t treated well by anyone in this situation. As easy as it is to view bureaucrats as sort of inhuman, the truth is that the loss of her job and the comments about her character could have serious repercussions in her life. It’s something she didn’t deserve.
Sherrod shouldn’t have been fired (and certainly shouldn’t have been fired before the context was considered) and she is owed an apology by everyone who ran with the story. Earlier today, the NAACP referred to this as a teachable moment and I agree. The lessons we need to learn are about how we handle political differences these days and how we handle racial politics these days. It’s not a very pretty lesson at all.
Update: You might also want to consider what the Anchoress has to say on the subject.
Sunday, July 04, 2010
Friday, July 02, 2010
I Find Myself Wondering…
...If there is a big spike in folks either Googling or trudging over to YouTube to watch Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans.” And, if so, if there is a subsequent spike in secondary searches (from people like me) listening to “Sink the Bismark” again for the first time in years.
Because, seriously, those are awesome songs.
Well, if so, let me simplify your morning.
And then, if you find yourself wondering at my wondering, check this out. I’ve just discovered that my wife doesn’t know either of these songs--has never even heard them.
Her parents neglected to educate her properly. Bad parents. Bad, bad.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
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.
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).
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:
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