Wednesday, December 31, 2008

christina's new year's eve

gives new meaning to the term 'pub crawling'Seriously, I really, really cannot help myself.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

for the record

These are the various headers that I used this Christmas Season:
Dec 1 thru Dec 2: Within an hour or so of putting this up, The Brother called me from Germany to tell me to take it down. Apparently it hurt his eyes. My wife complained to me, also, having opened the page on her computer at school.
Dec 2, 10:59 A.M. thru Dec 3:44 P.M. This was just wrong, soooo very, very wrong, and put up solely to provoke reaction from The Brother.
Dec 2 thru Dec 7 Wrong, perhaps, but only on a kid-level, and we're all grown-ups here, right?Dec 7 thru Dec 10 Admittedly, as a sop to the wife, something not quite so horrible for a while.Dec 10 thru Dec 14 meh.Dec 14 thru Dec 17 more Bad Santa.
Dec 17 thru Dec 19 Snow (just a little) in DallasDec 19 thru Dec 22 This is actually one of my favorites
Dec 22 thru 24 Gotta have a Hanukkah banner, right?Dec 24 thru Dec 31
And finally, a New Year's banner, from Dec 31 thru the 2nd or so.

Monday, December 29, 2008

where's Adam Smith now?

Remember how they used to tell us that the reason the Capitalistic American system was better than Communism was because it used Money as a motivator? Yet to hear Republicans (the chief advocates of capitalism) talk, the primary problem with much of American business is the unreasonable demands of American workers for more money. If we cant have more money, what exactly is supposed to be our motivation to do all that work that is making our Capitalist Aristocrats so wealthy? Fear of losing our jobs (or whatever lame, troublesome health care we may have)? Pride and loyalty to a company that will drop us like a hot potato should a cheaper alternative become available?
Hmmm. Motivation through "loyalty" and fear, but not money... where have I heard of that system before?

I bring this up because where I work instituted a new policy this year that says that on weeks where we have paid holidays, we will not get overtime pay until we've worked over 40 hours. This, despite (or perhaps because) of the fact that holiday weeks are often very busy, both because they're shorter, and because management (both work and client) couldnt advance plan their way out of a wet paper bag. This means, for instance, that if you had to work on July 5th, 2008, a Saturday, you would have been paid at your normal hourly rate (until you hit the magic forty).
Now, a sensible person would ask, "Why would I want to ruin my holiday weekend by working, without even getting the benefit of time-and-a-half*?" Well, it could be because the management frowns upon such questions, considering them to be evidence of a "negative attitude". It could also be because any question of pay vs. worth is met with the question "Are you saying you dont work as hard as you could because you're not paid enough?" (a question on par with "Honey, does this make me look fat?" for the desirability of hearing it). Or it could be simply because people have actually been fired because they displayed an unwillingness to come in and work on Saturdays when it was deemed "necessary"?

As you can perhaps see, a sensible person wouldnt ask this question, unless he had a union backing him up. But since Texas is a "right to work" state (an Orwellian doctrine that supposedly means "you dont have to join a union and pay dues if you dont want to", but actually works out as "we can fire your ass for any reason, especially if you're sniffing around a question of worker's rights") most of us dont have a union (and many who do dont get much out of them**). So a sensible person keeps their head down, does the work, grumbles a lot, and dreams of a better job***. Again, is this the American Dream, or some other country's?

Here's an idea that I would never even consider putting before my staunch conservative, "free-market"-loving boss: A worker who slacks off on the job is a true capitalist. After all, the most successful capitalists are those who give the least product they can get away with for the most money they can collect.
That means that the guy in the next cubicle over from you, the one who's always surfing the web while you're hard at work - he's a better capitalist than you are. The guy who's always busting his ass, maybe working overtime off the clock, who frowns at the guy surfing the net because "he's not pulling his weight" - that man is a communist, sacrificing for the Glory of the State (or, in this case, of the Corporation), not considering his own self-interest but the needs of the Boss (who probably has far fewer than he does). That's not the Capitalist Way!

here's the way it REALLY worksAll the talk of capitalism and free markets and such is almost always really just code for the old fashioned notion of the law of the jungle. The strongest get it all but the scraps, the weak can go die, and we all pay homage to those who've got the goods, even when they've gotten it through our hard work.
Somehow, I dont think is what is meant when folks talk about the American Dream. Or is that just another Disney-like phrase to sell us some shit we cant afford?


* Hell, no, we dont get double-time on Holidays.
** My wife's Teacher's Union being a prime example.
*** and between the economy and the cost of higher education, dreaming is about all one can do anymore.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

sunday funny

It's a repeat, but it bears repeating as the BushCo continues to try and spin it's why out of the hole they've dug for themselves. I woont even discuss the right-wing columnists, because everytime you say their name is another day they get published, and their ends cannot come soon enough.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

a little song

Years ago I made up a little Christmas song, then I forgot it. I've remembered it again, so I thought I'd share it with you all.

are those plastic trees? they just aint natural
kill a tree for jesus
and his birth devine
show how much you love him
by cutting down a pine
put it in the living room
watch it dry all out
when the needles hit the floor
hear the trumps a'shout!



It works best if you sing it with a twangy, redneck accent.

Monday, December 22, 2008

you could be reading a spammer, apparently

I cant be a spammer, because I DO NOT wear tiesFor some reason, Google has tagged me as a spammer blog, which is real fucking annoying, I gotta tell you. To start with, it means that I have to do a word verification every time I want to write a post, even if I'm just saving it as a draft. How exactly did they "identify" me as a spammer? Hell, if I know, but it's not because I use Twitter or something. Is it because I access my blog from both home and work and occasionally my mom's house? I wouldnt think that'd do it. Is it because I dont use twitter? Or is it because I dont use their "follower" programs or tags or any of the other fancy doodads? Is it because I dont have ads? If I had ads, would that make me less suspect?

Maybe, if the government is going to insist on monitoring every on-line communication for terrorists, could they at least get rid of the spammers also? Then Google could get back to the business of running a web network and leave me the fuck alone.

Addendum/Update:

So they've apparently decided that I'm not a spammer, since everything seems to be cleared up. Ironically, today I looked at my spam folder in my Yahoo mailbox, and discovered that the notice sent last Friday by Blogger had been shunted there by the spam filter. Do you suppose that's a rivalry thing?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christina's Hanukkah


You realize that I cant help myself, dont you?

Friday, December 19, 2008

suggestion

The only people who should get bonuses for work done in the period immediately preceding the bonus should be the people who are doing the actual production of whatever it is that is being measured. For management, bonuses should be rewarded for long-term gains, not short-term ones. The farther one is from the bottom of the production line, the longer a period ones performance should be based over. Because let's face it, when a companycuts costs by cutting workers, the people who are making that cut work are the workers who are left. They bear the burden of the decision right from the start. If the decision turns out to be a good one, then reward it, but not until time shows whether those cut were redundant or vital. Until then, reward those who make the cuts work.

Economists love to talk about increases in productivity, but all an increase in productivity means is that your workers are worried about losing their jobs. Productivity does not fall in hard times.

I say this after reading yet another tale of managerial self-largess*. How did America return to the feudal system?


* courtesy of Pryme

Thursday, December 18, 2008

meme for the day

"The press appears ready to make up for letting Bush get away with 95 months of criminality by holding Obama accountable for any crime committed within a 400 mile radius."

That's all you need to know about how the next four years will go. Seriously. Right there. Repeat it twice a day; once in the morning and once in the evening.

My source. His source.

I encourage you to post this on your blog. Perhaps multiple times. I have no intention of watching another President be abused like Clinton was, unless he sorely deserves it, like Bush did (but didnt get).

And everytime some asshole tells you that the press has a "liberal bias", or that Obama's getting a "free ride", or that the press only reported the "bad things about Bush, but never the good", repeat that phrase.
Out loud.

Hopefully it'll sink in, because we just dont have time to wait for all the old white people to die.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

quote for the day



"I act for free, but I demand a huge salary as compensation for all the annoyance of being a public personality. In that sense, I earn every dime I make."

Michelle Pfeiffer

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

question

behold my hairdo of innocence!


So, Rod Blagojevich wont resign because he says he's done nothing wrong. Which leads me to this question: Is this simply a stance recommended by his lawyer, or does he actually believe he's innocent? And if the latter is true, what does this say about Chicago politics?

This is important, because if I'm wondering this, you can bet that Republicans are too, and they've got a somewhat bigger voice to ask that question with than a blog read by a half dozen people.

Monday, December 15, 2008

monday night at the movies


via Skippy the Bush Kangaroo

annoying flash fun for the day


Merry Christmas folks! I had to post this, at least for the day because it's so damned amusing.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

surfin'

1) Apparently, Italians are very concerned about the details, even if they're fake (the details, I mean, not the Italians).
2) Pity the poor, unemployed Republicans.
3) Oh crap! Saur was right, Obama is an al-Manchurian candidate!
4) With the arrest of Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, Florida and Louisiana have a strong contender in Illinois for the Corruption Cup Finals!
5) An article about Paris Photo celebrating its tenth anniversary. With Photos!

Friday, December 12, 2008

good ol' days

Here's a good yardstick to measure Obama's first State Of the Union speech, should this economic mess spread out the way it looks like it will:
I must say to you that the state of the Union is not good: Millions of Americans are out of work. Recession and inflation are eroding the money of millions more. Prices are too high, and sales are too slow. This year's Federal deficit will be about $30 billion; next year's probably $45 billion. The national debt will rise to over $500 billion. Our plant capacity and productivity are not increasing fast enough. We depend on others for essential energy. Some people question their Government's ability to make hard decisions and stick with them; they expect Washington politics as usual.

from Gerald Ford's 1975 State of the Union address
How quaint, a politician that tells it like it is. And that national debt! They had no idea how good they had it back then.

Can you imagine being nostalgic for the 1970's?

via Jurassicpork

Thursday, December 11, 2008

found the perfect nickname?

David Brin has been refering to this decade as the "Naughty Aughties". Dunno if it's his idea or someone else's, but it's as good a name as I've heard yet (though in the future we may look back upon this time and refer to it just as the "Oughts", as in "there were things we ought to have done to save ourselves, but we decided to take the money instead".)

Update: Somebody has already trademarked the term, if you can believe it. It's things like this that make me think that our culture cannot collapse fast enough.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

intelligent pwn


Ha Ha!

My very first real post was about "Intelligent" Design. How I do wish I'd written about it as well as Roger Ebert did while refuting Ben I-owe-my-fame-to-Ferris-Bueller Stein's film "Expelled".

props to the Princess

Monday, December 08, 2008

first Festivus sighting!



Every year I note the first sighting of a Festivus reference that I come across, and this year's "prize" goes to Alan Sepinwall, and his call for disappointing TV for the year 2008. And, no, you cannot nominate Knight Rider, for, as Alan points out, you knew it was going to be bad from the beginning.

i got nothin'

When I first started this blog, I had nothing to say, really, so it sat idle for nearly three months while I waited for something. Turns out that something was stupidity. Now that the Bush Administration* is nearly gone, and adults will once again be occupying the White House, I'm finding that there is once again little to say.

Can you hear me now?I'll think of something, I'm sure, because this blogging thing has gotten under my skin, and the lack of stupidity (aside from the general miasma of stupidity which passes for everyday life) cannot go on, but I'm still thinking that it maybe time for a retooling of this blog. I'm thinking that it's entirely possible that Obama may actually do what the nation hired him to do, which is run the country in a responsible manner, which will mean that I can pretty much ignore politics altogether.
Or perhaps not.

Meanwhile, the economy just keeps looking grimmer and grimmer. That ought to provide me with something to discuss, at least as long as Google/Blogspot doesnt fall victim to our little Depression.


* Time was, I'd have used a snarky pseudonym like "the Bush Cabal", but lately just saying "Bush Administration" seems condemnation enough.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Christina's Christmas

I heard somewhere once that the girl in Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World" was unable to walk, which makes the picture far more poignant. The original, I mean.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

memes to me

This is a quiz harvested from Samurai Frog, who in turn got it from Byzantium's Shores. The idea in front is to bold the things you've done. Incidentally, this was not a tag, I just felt like doing it on my own.
Have you...

Gone on a blind date

Skipped school in college, for sure. Not before, though, I dont think.

Watched someone die

Been to Canada

Been to Mexico once... oh wait, there was that time I crossed the Rio Grande down in Big Bend. No, really.

Been to Florida

Been to Africa

Been on a plane: a single round trip in a jet, and single flight in a Cessna

Been lost, never for long, though

Gone to Washington, DC once on a school trip (aforementioned jet flight) and once driving through in the middle of the night after a wrong turn.

Swam in the ocean: The Gulf of Mexico is like a lovely warm soup.

Broken a bone: Be forewarned, kids! Do not play tag on a metal merry-go-round in the winter. They're slippery.

Been in a traffic accident twice, but not while I was driving

Cried yourself to sleep: Of course not, I sprung from the womb full grown and manly - there will be no weeping

Been on TV when I was a college freshman, my fraternity pledge class threw a party. A news crew showed up as part of a story on teen drinking. It was a pretty good party, all in all.

Stole traffic signs: one "no parking" sign. I'm very sorry.

Played cops and robbers

Recently colored with crayons: crayons rock! They're also capable of wonderful, subtle tones... in the right hands (not mine, sadly).

Sang Karaoke

Paid for a meal with coins only

Done something you told yourself you wouldn't: When I moved south, I swore I would never say "y'all", wear a cowboy hat, or have a pair of cowboy boots. All three vows have fallen. This is in addition to the usual "that's not a toy" and "if your friends jumped off a cliff, would you want to also?" things said to your kids.

Made prank phone calls

Laughed until some kind of beverage came out of your nose & elsewhere: milk, always milk.

Caught a snowflake on your tongue

Danced in the rain

Written a letter to Santa Claus

Been kissed under the mistletoe

Watched the sunrise with someone

Blown bubbles

Gone ice-skating: badly

Been skinny dipping outdoors: The aforementioned soupy Gulf

Gone to the movies: duh

Have a nickname: Yes. And that's all you need to know.

Body piercings


And now, just a bunch of random questions, I guess.

1. Favorite drink?

Iced tea, or a cool cup of distilled water

2. How much do you love your job?

Not much. I dont hate my job, though, I reserve that pleasure for my boss.

3. Birthplace?

Dubuque, Iowa.

4. Favorite vacation spot?

That's the kind of question that assumes that I go on vacations more elaborate than going to see a relative on a holiday. I love the mountains, I love the desert, I love the ocean, I♥NY, I love to visit my relatives. The important thing to me is not where I go, but that I do go.

5. Ever eaten just cookies for dinner?

No, that's dumb. You need ice cream, also.

6. Favorite pie?

Mmmmm, pie. I love pie. It's better than cake, for sure. Favorite? Cheesecake (which I consider to be pie), or maybe peach pie, or key lime is good. And then there's cobbler, which is pie-like and is so good warm with a scoop of ice cream. Now I'm hungry.

7. Favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving. You get food, relatives and long weekend, but without the pressures of gift-giving. Plus, it's in the fall, and that's my favorite season.

8. Favorite food?

This "favorite" thing is kind of irritating, really. I'm a grown-up, I've got a list: Cheeseburgers, pepperoni pizza, rocky road ice cream, indian food, cheesesteaks (sans bell peppers, and with pepperoni), chicken gizzards, mashed potatoes and gravy with some sort of deep-fried meat, fresh corn on the cob, spanish clementines, salsa verde, frito chili pie made with Wendy's chili, chocolate milk shakes, peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, hot dogs with mustard and pico de gayo, catfish tacos,...

9. Favorite smell?

Spring days right after it rains or cool, crisp fall nights, roasting chicken, pig farms (wierd childhood thing), fresh mown grass, wood shops, kittens,...

10. How do you relax?

Books, unless I want to shut off my brain, then TV. Google Images is fun for hours, also.

11. How do you see yourself in 10 years?

No clue. If you had asked me this ten years ago, I never would have guessed I'd be where I am.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

new header

The Brother called from overseas to tell me how wrong my new Christmas header was, so I'll replace it with a new one. Hope this one's okay.

Addendum, 3:44 pm

I couldnt do it. I hope the Brother saw it, I wish I'd gotten a look at his face when he did, but I couldnt leave that there. So there's a new, cleaner one.

Theses are fun to make, by the way.

Monday, December 01, 2008

unconnected dots... again

Well, well, well. It seems that the Bush Administration had been warned ahead of time of the possibility of the current financial crisis, and had been warned in fairly specific terms:
- Regulators told bankers exotic mortgages were often inappropriate for buyers with bad credit.

- Banks would have been required to increase efforts to verify that buyers actually had jobs and could afford houses.
- Regulators proposed a cap on risky mortgages so a string of defaults wouldn't be crippling.
- Banks that bundled and sold mortgages were told to be sure investors knew exactly what they were buying.
- Regulators urged banks to help buyers make responsible decisions and clearly advise them that interest rates might skyrocket and huge payments might be due sooner than expected.
Will this be the hallmark of the reign of George W. Bush: obliviousness in the face of warning?
The administration's blind eye to the impending crisis is emblematic of its governing philosophy, which trusted market forces and discounted the value of government intervention in the economy. Its belief ironically has ushered in the most massive government intervention since the 1930s.

Many of the banks that fought to undermine the proposals by some regulators are now either out of business or accepting billions in federal aid to recover from a mortgage crisis they insisted would never come. Many executives remain in high-paying jobs, even after their assurances were proved false.

read this

My friend Burk writes about beer.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

photoman

Okay, so here's some very nice photos by Jeff Bridges that he took on the set of "Ironman". Photo Geek that I am, my great concern was what kind of camera was he using (a very wide angle, possibly panoramic, like a Sietz 6x17)? I'd love to have one of those, but dont have the wherewithal of Bridges. On the other hand, nobody yells Big Lebowski quotes at me either.

props to Beam Me Up

Saturday, November 29, 2008

"center-right", my ass

you conservatives PWNED!  Got it?Dont let those conservative talking ass-heads fool you: America is not as conservative as they want it to be, and all their insistance that it is wont push it any more rightwards.

props to Kel.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Dave Knows Everybody:
(a joke)

It's Black Friday, and I'm lazy, so...

Dave was bragging to his boss one day, "You know, I know everyone there is to know. Just name someone, anyone, and I know them."
Tired of his boasting, his boss called his bluff, "OK, Dave, how about Tom Cruise?"
"No dramas boss, Tom and I are old friends, and I can prove it."
So Dave and his boss fly out to Hollywood and knock on Tom Cruise's door, and Tom Cruise shouts, "Dave! What's happening? Great to see you! Come on in for a beer!"
Although impressed, Dave's boss is still sceptical. After they leave Cruise's house, he tells Dave that he thinks him knowing Cruise was just lucky.
"No, no, just name anyone else," Dave says.
"President Bush," his boss quickly retorts. "Yup," Dave say's, "Old buddies, let's fly out to Washington and off they go. At the White House, Bush spots Dave on the tour and motions him and his boss over, saying, "Dave, what a surprise, I was just on my way to a meeting, but you and your friend come on in and let's have a cup of coffee first and catch up."
Well, the boss is very shaken by now but still not totally convinced. After they leave the White House grounds he expresses his doubts to Dave, who again implores him to name anyone else.
"The Pope," his boss replies.
"Sure!" says Dave. "I've known the Pope for years." So off they fly to Rome.
Dave and his boss are assembled with the masses at the Vatican's St. Peter's Square when Dave says, "This will never work. I can't catch the Pope's eye among all these people. Tell you what, I know all the guards so let me just go upstairs and I'll come out on the balcony with the Pope."
He disappears into the crowd headed towards the Vatican.
Sure enough, half an hour later Dave emerges with the Pope on the balcony, but by the time Dave returns, he finds that his boss has had a heart attack and is surrounded by paramedics.
Making his way to his boss' side, Dave asks him, "What happened?"
His boss looks up and says, "It was the final straw ... you and the Pope came out on to the balcony and the man next to me said, "Who the f*k is that on the balcony with Dave?"

Stolen from Bits and Pieces

Thursday, November 27, 2008

philosophy time

Thanksgiving is a family holiday, after all. Enjoy this with a little cranberry. This is one of my favorites.

And if that's not your cup of tea, how about a little turkey/helicopter tragedy á la WKRP in Cincinnati (it's the whole thing, too*).

Finally, let us not forget that we're still spending billions of dollars fighting wars in faraway countries in order to preserve the flow of the oil that's destroying the planets livability, which is something to not be thankful about.

* limited time offer, sadly

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

a cunning plan... or not

Hey everybody!
Tonight, while reading Jim Kunstler's blog and getting depressed (then reading Robert Reich's blog, which is usually more upbeat, and getting really depressed), I had a thought. I've been worrying about Christmas, and the cost of all the presents at a time when money is tight and saving it seems like a really good idea. What will I get the kids? How will I afford something nice for my wife? Does everyone else in the family get White Elephants this year?

Then it came to me: Gather up all the credit cards in the house, max them out! I mean, what the heck, go wild. Afterwards, ignore the bills, let the bank stew until they ask for more money from the government. I mean, I'm already in for $9200* or so for the family from the current bailout, and I dont have anything to show for it. At least this way I'll get a LCD TV or a new heater core out of it.
Here's the beauty of the plan: Say, worst comes to worst, and they force you somehow to pay back the money. Well, most economic experts seem to think that there will be some inflation before this is all over, the serious doomsayers predict massive inflation. If they're right, the money you spend now will worth less (or possibly even worthless) when you pay it back. You Win!!!

Well, that's the theory, anyway. I wont really do it. Basically, that would be stealing (being pre-meditated and all) and my depression-era parents didnt raise me like that. Considering how handy the lessons they did instill in me may come in as this economic mess gets worse, I guess I cant complain if that particular one is forbidden.

It's a shame though. It would've made for one hell of a Black Friday.


* 700 billion divided by a 300 million population makes about $2333 per person so that banking CEOs and AIG execs dont lose their bonuses

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

state of taxation


Ever wonder how your state stacked up against the others, tax-wise? Everyone will be moving to Oklahoma, soon, right?

Taxes by state
SalesGas/gal.Cig./packBeer/gal.State burdenRankState/Fed. burdenRank

Alabama

4.0%

$0.20

$0.43

$1.05

8.8%

46

28.0%

49

Alaska

none

$0.08

$2.00

$1.07

6.6%

50

28.1%

48

Arizona

5.6%*

$0.19

$2.00

$0.16

10.3%

31

31.3%

25

Arkansas

6.0%

$0.22

$0.59

$0.21

11.3%

13

30.7%

32

California

7.3%

$0.46

$0.87

$0.20

11.5%

12

34.3%

8

Colorado

2.9%

$0.22

$0.84

$0.08

10.4%

30

31.8%

23

Connecticut

6.0%

$0.44

$2.00

$0.20

12.2%

8

38.3%

1

Delaware

none*

$0.23

$1.15

$0.16

8.8%

47

31.2%

26

Florida

6.0%

$0.33

$0.34

$0.48

10.0%

38

33.6%

12

Georgia

4.0%

$0.26

$0.37

$0.48

10.3%

32

30.9%

28

Hawaii

4%*

$0.33

$1.80

$0.93

12.4%

6

33.0%

16

Idaho

6.0%

$0.25

$0.57

$0.15

10.1%

35

29.6%

42

Illinois

6.3%

$0.40

$0.98

$0.19

10.8%

22

33.2%

14

Indiana

6.0%

$0.32

$1.00

$0.12

10.7%

25

30.8%

30

Iowa

5.0%

$0.22

$1.36

$0.19

11.0%

18

30.6%

33

Kansas

5.3%

$0.25

$0.79

$0.18

11.2%

15

31.0%

27

Kentucky

6%*

$0.19

$0.30

$0.08

10.9%

20

30.4%

34

Louisiana

4.0%

$0.20

$0.36

$0.32

11.0%

17

29.1%

44

Maine

5.0%

$0.29

$2.00

$0.35

14.0%

2

33.9%

10

Maryland

6.0%

$0.24

$2.00

$0.09

10.8%

23

33.1%

15

Massachusetts

5.0%

$0.24

$1.51

$0.11

10.6%

28

34.4%

7

Michigan

6.0%

$0.36

$2.00

$0.20

11.2%

14

31.9%

21

Minnesota

6.5%

$0.22

$1.49

$0.15

11.5%

11

33.9%

11

Mississippi

7.0%

$0.19

$0.18

$0.43

10.5%

29

28.1%

47

Missouri

4.2%

$0.18

$0.17

$0.06

10.1%

34

30.2%

38

Montana

none

$0.28

$1.70

$0.14

9.7%

41

29.8%

39

Nebraska

5.5%

$0.24

$0.64

$0.31

11.9%

9

31.8%

22

Nevada

6.5%

$0.33

$0.80

$0.16

10.1%

36

35.2%

4

New Hampshire

none*

$0.20

$1.08

$0.30

8.0%

49

30.8%

29

New Jersey

7.0%

$0.15

$2.58

$0.12

11.6%

10

35.6%

3

New Mexico

5.0%

$0.18

$0.91

$0.41

9.8%

40

28.8%

45

New York

4.0%

$0.41

$1.50

$0.11

13.8%

3

37.1%

2

N. Carolina

4.3%

$0.30

$0.35

$0.53

11.0%

19

31.3%

24

N. Dakota

5.0%

$0.23

$0.44

$0.16

9.9%

39

30.2%

37

Ohio

5.5%*

$0.28

$1.25

$0.18

12.4%

5

32.4%

18

Oklahoma

4.5%

$0.17

$1.03

$0.40

9.0%

45

27.8%

50

Oregon

none

$0.25

$1.18

$0.08

10.0%

37

30.7%

31

Pennsylvania

6.0%

$0.32

$1.35

$0.08

10.8%

24

31.9%

20

Rhode Island

7.0%

$0.31

$2.46

$0.10

12.7%

4

35.1%

6

S. Carolina

6.0%

$0.17

$0.07

$0.77

10.7%

26

30.3%

35

S. Dakota

4.0%

$0.24

$1.53

$0.27

9.0%

44

29.3%

43

Tennessee

7.0%

$0.21

$0.62

$0.14

8.5%

48

28.8%

46

Texas

6.25%*

$0.20

$1.41

$0.19

9.3%

43

29.8%

41

Utah

4.7%

$0.25

$0.70

$0.41

10.7%

27

30.3%

36

Vermont

6.0%

$0.20

$1.79

$0.27

14.1%

1

35.1%

5

Virginia

5.0%

$0.20

$0.30

$0.26

10.2%

33

32.9%

17

Washington

6.5%*

$0.36

$2.03

$0.26

11.1%

16

34.0%

9

West Virginia

6.0%

$0.32

$0.55

$0.18

10.9%

21

29.8%

40

Wisconsin

5.0%

$0.33

$1.77

$0.06

12.3%

7

33.3%

13

Wyoming

4.0%

$0.14

$0.60

$0.02

9.5%

42

32.1%

19

*State collects a gross-receipts tax that is applied before the retail level.

Updated March 27, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

listen up

Malcolm Gladwell is a clever, clever fellow. His Book goes on my Christmas list.
Gladwell debunks what he calls the "peculiarly American" belief that character, intelligence and hard work determine success.

"It's the age-old American myth of the self-made man," Gladwell says, "the idea that we are not wholly, but largely — responsible for our own success … When you look at the lives of the highly successful, the idea that they're self-made crumbles."
Everytime I hear some asshat say that the wealthy shouldnt be taxed any higher because that'd be the government "taking away their money", I think, "did the rich guy himself do all the work that made him his money, or did he use people who profited far less from their labor than he did?". This isnt exactly what the book is about, but it's all related. It may or may not take a village to raise a child, but it sure as hell takes a nation to make a rich man.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

quote for the day

Budweiser Beer, in the 3rd lowest tax system for developed nations in the world, was bought out by a Dutch company, where taxes for corporations are between 50 and 65%. Apparently, they didn't here enough of how taxes are crushing their companies in Deutchland and they need to tune in more to our AM radio stations to get this education.

(not the "real") William Shatner, commenting at Conrary Brin

You know, when you think about it, this ought to be obvious. By the "evidence" given us by the sky-is-falling-anti-tax crowd, no country in the world ought to be able to buy or beat an American company, and certainly not one from that bastion of Socialist wrong-headedness, Europe. And yet somehow they do, dont they?
And while I'm on it, let me comment on the idea that raising taxes will remove the incentive of the wealthy to invest their money, presumably resulting in them just sitting on their huge piles of cash like Scrooge McDuck or something. Well, as the McDuck imagery suggests, that's just silly (and childish). Money is only part of the goal of investment. An equally important reason to invest money (one might even say a more important reason) is power. Even if your financial returns on your investment are "reduced*" by a whopping 5% (¡ay caramba!), there is no tax whatsoever on the power that investing millions in a company will bring you, and unless Obama is really, really smart, there never will be.

Tax rates around the world.


* that is, reduced through taxation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

yet another question

Seems to me that if a president breaks the law, then uses Executive Privilege to withhold information, then that president is, in effect, above the law. And no one in America is supposed to be above the law, right?

Monday, November 17, 2008

another question

Out in my driveway is a 1993 Ford Escort that I havent driven for two or three years (my wife says I always have a dead car in the driveway... I wish I could say she's wrong, but it seems to be genetic - Dad did, too). I mention this because I would love to see a company offer retro-fitting kits for older cars like this one to change them over to electic vehicles. I really liked driving the Escort (I stopped because I the struts are shot, and I'm not sure it'll pass the emissions inspection required here in the city), but I'd like it even more if it was powered by electricity instead of gasoline.

So here's today's question: How about, as a condition of any bailout, we require automakers to provide just such a retrofit conversion? No, it wont sell any cars, but they dont seem to be doing much of that anyway, and if there's one thing that people do when the economy goes south, it's hold onto old stuff. If they can convert their old car, and The Big Three sells them the parts to do it (and perhaps the dealers provide the labor, for a fee of course), then maybe everybody wins.

Of course, all this is irrelevant if you live someplace that has gone out of it's way to make registration of such a vehicle difficult. Maybe we could adress that issue, also.

Addendum: an interesting article about Japanese executive compensation vs. American. Think we can get CEOs to discuss cutting their pay when they ask for taxpayer monies to keep "their" companies afloat?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

more old people stuff

Remember my post the other day, about how the election would have looked had young people been the only ones voting? Well, here's a whole bunch more "what if"s for your entertainment value.

Courtesy of Dr Zaius

sunday funny


more here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

question

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Explain this to me. Why would you have an on-line article that no one is allowed to reprint on their own on-line site? I mean, that's the way that one becomes an on-line presence, isnt it? You can post all the articles you want to on-line, but until you get distributed around the internets, appearing on the websites and blogs of other people, you're just whistling in the wind. However nice a link may be, a quote and a link is better, and those are going to go to the ones who allow them to cut and paste, without fee or penalty.

quote for the day

"My thought is that the current GOPpy crop should be re-branded as 'self-servatives'."

Tony Fisk commenting at Contrary Brin.

Friday, November 14, 2008

English is fun!

The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse
We must polish the Polish furniture.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
I did not object to the object.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
They were too close to the door to close it.
The buck does funny things when the does are present.
A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
After a number of injections my jaw got number.
Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

props to Jonco

Thursday, November 13, 2008

damned if you do, damned if you dont

XKCD is wise, XKCD is good.

I might also point out that the music quality of the MP3 that you buy from I-tunes (or anybody) is not nearly as good as you'll get from a CD.

And you'll have back-up, even if you wont want to spend the next year of your life ripping them all again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

ah ha

If you've wondered at the recent drop in the prices of LCD devices, well, wonder no more. Maybe they'll go down even more now?

why? why?

my mouth waters just looking at the picture... six pleaseI love Jack-in-the-Box tacos. I dont understand it, but I do. They're awful things, really. They've got a strip of some kind of meat paste, and a triangle of American cheese, laid out in a corn tortilla. Then the whole thing is deep fried. A bit of lettuce and a squirt of hot sauce. Two for a dollar.
Irresistible.
Do not forget the hot sauce, because, like the breakfast burritos at Whataburger (also delicious, but mysteriously named "taquitos")(and consisting of much higher quality ingredients), they're not that great without a bit of the spicy red.
Seriously, this is not a recommendation. It is merely a testimony of my sad, sad love of a horrible, horrible meal.

Mmmmmmm. Tacos.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

eat this, old people


source: mydd, via Gerry Canavan.

So, these young folks... what lesson do you suppose they drew from the last eight years? All you folks who've kept Republicans and their doctrine of every-man-for-himself in charge, or at least framing the debate, for the last quarter decade, I hope this question keeps you up at night. Pray that Obama turns out to be a good, caring leader.

Richard Vernon: You think about this: when you get old, these kids - when *I* get old - they're going to be running the country.
Carl: Yeah.
Richard Vernon: Now this is the thought that wakes me up in the middle of the night. That when I get older, these kids are going to take care of me.
Carl: I wouldn't count on it.

From the Breakfast Club

(behe)mouth wide open

If it's too big to fail, then it's too big for national security. Time to take it down to a size that's safe for the nation.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Dave's blogtroll no. 6

Well, folks, it's time for one of my more venerable traditions (aside from bitching and moaning, that is): the blog troll! Blogtrolling is when I go out chasing the "next blog" button through the tubes (Stevens will never live that down). To that I've added the blogs that I find at random (usually while hunting images in google). It has been a time-tested method of finding new and interesting blogs, frequently not on the beaten path, and I post them here not only to share y bounty with you, but because I prefer to use links in my blog rather than the "favorites" menu on my computer. So peruse and enjoy!

Another Limited Rebellion: art
Karen Eriksson: Swedish-based Artist
Left of Center: a lefty blog (duh!)
Making Conservatives Cringe Since 1977: (duh, again)
Daniel Keys Moran: one of my favorite authors
Photos Northwest: photo blog (ya think?) - New blog
Supertouch
The Quaker's Colonel
Rense: the link is to a collection of funny images
The Political Cat
Skippy the Bush Kangaroo
The Rut: cartoons
Urf, a Grave New World: cartoons
Exploding Dog: cartoons
Questionable Content: a comic
Candorville: a comic
Boiling Point: cartoons
Amy Crehore: artist
A Belgian Submariner and Afghanistan: a soldier's blog
Yellow: a photo blog
Gerry Canavan
The Shrewdness of Apes: a teacher blog
Missouri Loves Company: another teacher blog
Electronic Cerebrectomy
Monkey Fluids: old illustrations - altered
Ionarts: DC-area art blog
Mr Fabulous
Crazy Gollum: (a ferr'n blog)
Sighs of my Life: a military wife
Welcome Back to Pottersville
The Meming of Life
Pritinder: Artist
The Mean Reds
Toy: French artist
Le Revue Gauche
Zaius Nation: damn dirty ape
everyday.perils: she says she'll do a photo a day... or not
a cool flicker site
yes, it's slow, but enjoy the ride
previous blogtrolls: no. 5, no. 4, no. 3, and the other one (not sure of its number - there may actually be only 5 of them).

Sunday, November 09, 2008

that's all I have to say about that...
for now

I've tried to stay out of the gay marriage fray, having made my opinion known years ago, knowing that people apparently need to be bigoted assholes, and living in Texas myself, where ignorance is an official sport running slightly ahead of football.
But here's someone else's opinion, and it's a damn good one, so I'm going to post it:
"I'm not gay. None of my best friends are gay. It doesn't matter. When a government uses law to sort people into categories, whether it's straight/gay, black/white, rich/poor, religious/not, it's a misuse of power. Official power. The power with the most guns behind it that not only threatens force, but uses it regularly. Bravo to The People for electing Senator Obama (though I voted for Senator McCain), but shame on those very same people who voted for Prop 8. You just don't get it yet. "Change" for you is just another empty motto, huh? I'm a conservative and even I voted against Prop 8."
That'll do for now. I figure maybe when my kids are my age we might have pulled our heads out of our collective asses, but probably not. So, I figure I've got plenty of time if I feel the need to voice my opinion.

Last note: 10 "reasons" to oppose gay marriage.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

the tubes! they burn!

Etch-A-Sketch '08!
More hand turkeys!
An alternative to windpower, and with no calm days!
You only thought you were getting rid of Bush in January. You wish!
"Good Christians" send hate mail!
Unbelievable Airplane Landing!
I love Jamie Lee Curtis!
Barack Obama is not a socialist - just ask the Socialist!
Holy shit! We dodged a bullet, folks. (still, to be fair...)
It's official: We're screwed!

dallas morning views

Right here is what is wrong with America:
The college degree myth

For the past 20 years, we have been hearing how important a college degree is to our future. The future has now come to pass.
What good did the college degrees do for our bankers, CEOs or political captains? I have noticed that when a business fails, bank fails, someone goes to jail or a bad decision is made, the person’s college is never mentioned.
What we need in our leaders is not a college degree, . Give us a person with good common sense in the above positions, and we will be a country that will not be beat in any endeavor. Parents, save your money and teach your children some common sense.

Thomas Varacky, Grand Prairie
Thomas, you are an idiot.
You're right that Americans need to display (and be taught) more common sense, but all the common sense in the world will not help you if you do not have the learning to use with that common sense. A good education for everyone, consisting of facts upon which one (and all) can build our own opinions, that is what will is required to become a country that will not be beat in any endeavor. Without that education, we wont even be able to beat the world at flipping hamburgers, and that's all we'll be good for.

Friday, November 07, 2008

some thoughts on an Obama Presidency

1. Somebody talked about the Obama Administration getting a long "honeymoon". Well, maybe he will, but it's no doubt going to be haunted by the stalkings of his crazy Ex.

2. Mr Obama, if you do nothing else: Investigate, investigate, investigate! That alone will make the nation a better place.

3. The election of Obama is working as a kind of Anti-9/11, but with the same effect. All over the world, there has been an upswelling of positive feelings for the United States, similar to the sympathy we recieved after the bombings of that terrible September morning. Do you think Barack will piss that away the same way George did? Me neither.

4. A conservative blog I read suggested Obama would return to the old Fairness Doctrine. Considering the poison spread over our limited and publicly-owned airwaves, plus the abundance of cable and satellite stations, this doesnt seem like such a bad idea.

5. Didja notice? Now that the Republicans are no longer holding the nation's ATM card, now they've decided that it's time to get back to the "fundamentals" of fiscal responsibility. Too bad they didnt learn that lesson 6 or 7 years ago (and I must confess that I find their "return to core values" a bit... fake? shallow? hypocritical?... Oh, what's the word I'm looking for? Weasel-y? Hard-to-swallow? It'll come to me.)

6. Imagine the dismay of the racists. Obama won, and black people didnt riot! How they gonna prove the superiority of the white race if the dark-skinned devils dont act up?

7. Now that he's found Rahm Emanuel a job, could he maybe get Nancy Pelosi one, too?
come on, it'll take him at least a week to do all that

Thursday, November 06, 2008

how many bloggers feel this way?

see more at xkcd.comAnd how many of them will simply fade away? Not me, though the tone will probably change here.

Oh, who am I kidding? There's always something to bitch about.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

results: 11/4/08

Republicans never were much for boats and rising tides
swim!

civilization at the gates

huns across AmericaWhat will we do now?

Some suggestions:
- more money for education, especially college, especially in the area of science.
- tax credits for energy-saving home improvements such as windows, doors, insulation, and HVAC replacement.
- End cost-plus contracts on everything. No-bid contracts, too.
- A massive road improvement program, one which also includes construction of bike lanes and paths.
- Automobile licensing taxes based on gas mileage - the lower the mpg, the higher the tax (though, to an extent we already have that in the gas tax). Yes, I realize that's a state thing, but still.
- A Manhattan Project-like program to develop cheap, efficient batteries for electric cars - the surest way to escape oil dependence. Tax credits for electric cars, also.
- Some sort of Agricultural program that encourages local produce growing. One bullet we dodged in the credit meltdown was that shipping almost ground to a halt - considering how much of our food comes from overseas, and how much fuel is spent moving food around, maybe local growing would be both more efficient and safer.
- Figure out a way for GM, Ford (and foreign makers, also) to start selling the small, fuel-efficient cars that the rest of the world enjoys in America, also. Many of them you just simply cannot drive here legally. Ever hear of a "Kei Truck"?

That's all I got for now, and it's bed-time anyway.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

just do it

Seriously.
Go do it.

Now.

vote or dont vote


Wish I'd seen this earlier.

via Jonco.

Hey! Undecideds!
Does this help?


in the pro column

I'm impressed as hell with this endorsement of Barack Obama by the New Yorker, which says everything it ought to say, and says it clearly and well.

Never in living memory has an election been more critical than the one fast approaching—that’s the quadrennial cliché, as expected as the balloons and the bombast. And yet when has it ever felt so urgently true? When have so many Americans had so clear a sense that a Presidency has—at the levels of competence, vision, and integrity—undermined the country and its ideals?

The incumbent Administration has distinguished itself for the ages. The Presidency of George W. Bush is the worst since Reconstruction, so there is no mystery about why the Republican Party—which has held dominion over the executive branch of the federal government for the past eight years and the legislative branch for most of that time—has little desire to defend its record, domestic or foreign. The only speaker at the Convention in St. Paul who uttered more than a sentence or two in support of the President was his wife, Laura. Meanwhile, the nominee, John McCain, played the part of a vaudeville illusionist, asking to be regarded as an apostle of change after years of embracing the essentials of the Bush agenda with ever-increasing ardor.

The Republican disaster begins at home. Even before taking into account whatever fantastically expensive plan eventually emerges to help rescue the financial system from Wall Street’s long-running pyramid schemes, the economic and fiscal picture is bleak. During the Bush Administration, the national debt, now approaching ten trillion dollars, has nearly doubled. Next year’s federal budget is projected to run a half-trillion-dollar deficit, a precipitous fall from the seven-hundred-billion-dollar surplus that was projected when Bill Clinton left office. Private-sector job creation has been a sixth of what it was under President Clinton. Five million people have fallen into poverty. The number of Americans without health insurance has grown by seven million, while average premiums have nearly doubled. Meanwhile, the principal domestic achievement of the Bush Administration has been to shift the relative burden of taxation from the rich to the rest. For the top one per cent of us, the Bush tax cuts are worth, on average, about a thousand dollars a week; for the bottom fifth, about a dollar and a half. The unfairness will only increase if the painful, yet necessary, effort to rescue the credit markets ends up preventing the rescue of our health-care system, our environment, and our physical, educational, and industrial infrastructure.

At the same time, a hundred and fifty thousand American troops are in Iraq and thirty-three thousand are in Afghanistan. There is still disagreement about the wisdom of overthrowing Saddam Hussein and his horrific regime, but there is no longer the slightest doubt that the Bush Administration manipulated, bullied, and lied the American public into this war and then mismanaged its prosecution in nearly every aspect. The direct costs, besides an expenditure of more than six hundred billion dollars, have included the loss of more than four thousand Americans, the wounding of thirty thousand, the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, and the displacement of four and a half million men, women, and children. Only now, after American forces have been fighting for a year longer than they did in the Second World War, is there a glimmer of hope that the conflict in Iraq has entered a stage of fragile stability.

The indirect costs, both of the war in particular and of the Administration’s unilateralist approach to foreign policy in general, have also been immense. The torture of prisoners, authorized at the highest level, has been an ethical and a public-diplomacy catastrophe. At a moment when the global environment, the global economy, and global stability all demand a transition to new sources of energy, the United States has been a global retrograde, wasteful in its consumption and heedless in its policy. Strategically and morally, the Bush Administration has squandered the American capacity to counter the example and the swagger of its rivals. China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other illiberal states have concluded, each in its own way, that democratic principles and human rights need not be components of a stable, prosperous future. At recent meetings of the United Nations, emboldened despots like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran came to town sneering at our predicament and hailing the “end of the American era.”

The election of 2008 is the first in more than half a century in which no incumbent President or Vice-President is on the ballot. There is, however, an incumbent party, and that party has been lucky enough to find itself, apparently against the wishes of its “base,” with a nominee who evidently disliked George W. Bush before it became fashionable to do so. In South Carolina in 2000, Bush crushed John McCain with a sub-rosa primary campaign of such viciousness that McCain lashed out memorably against Bush’s Christian-right allies. So profound was McCain’s anger that in 2004 he flirted with the possibility of joining the Democratic ticket under John Kerry. Bush, who took office as a “compassionate conservative,” governed immediately as a rightist ideologue. During that first term, McCain bolstered his reputation, sometimes deserved, as a “maverick” willing to work with Democrats on such issues as normalizing relations with Vietnam, campaign-finance reform, and immigration reform. He co-sponsored, with John Edwards and Edward Kennedy, a patients’ bill of rights. In 2001 and 2003, he voted against the Bush tax cuts. With John Kerry, he co-sponsored a bill raising auto-fuel efficiency standards and, with Joseph Lieberman, a cap-and-trade regime on carbon emissions. He was one of a minority of Republicans opposed to unlimited drilling for oil and gas off America’s shores.

Since the 2004 election, however, McCain has moved remorselessly rightward in his quest for the Republican nomination. He paid obeisance to Jerry Falwell and preachers of his ilk. He abandoned immigration reform, eventually coming out against his own bill. Most shocking, McCain, who had repeatedly denounced torture under all circumstances, voted in February against a ban on the very techniques of “enhanced interrogation” that he himself once endured in Vietnam—as long as the torturers were civilians employed by the C.I.A.

On almost every issue, McCain and the Democratic Party’s nominee, Barack Obama, speak the generalized language of “reform,” but only Obama has provided a convincing, rational, and fully developed vision. McCain has abandoned his opposition to the Bush-era tax cuts and has taken up the demagogic call—in the midst of recession and Wall Street calamity, with looming crises in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—for more tax cuts. Bush’s expire in 2011. If McCain, as he has proposed, cuts taxes for corporations and estates, the benefits once more would go disproportionately to the wealthy.

In Washington, the craze for pure market triumphalism is over. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson arrived in town (via Goldman Sachs) a Republican, but it seems that he will leave a Democrat. In other words, he has come to see that the abuses that led to the current financial crisis––not least, excessive speculation on borrowed capital––can be fixed only with government regulation and oversight. McCain, who has never evinced much interest in, or knowledge of, economic questions, has had little of substance to say about the crisis. His most notable gesture of concern—a melodramatic call last month to suspend his campaign and postpone the first Presidential debate until the government bailout plan was ready—soon revealed itself as an empty diversionary tactic.

By contrast, Obama has made a serious study of the mechanics and the history of this economic disaster and of the possibilities of stimulating a recovery. Last March, in New York, in a speech notable for its depth, balance, and foresight, he said, “A complete disdain for pay-as-you-go budgeting, coupled with a generally scornful attitude towards oversight and enforcement, allowed far too many to put short-term gain ahead of long-term consequences.” Obama is committed to reforms that value not only the restoration of stability but also the protection of the vast majority of the population, which did not partake of the fruits of the binge years. He has called for greater and more programmatic regulation of the financial system; the creation of a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank, which would help reverse the decay of our roads, bridges, and mass-transit systems, and create millions of jobs; and a major investment in the green-energy sector.

On energy and global warming, Obama offers a set of forceful proposals. He supports a cap-and-trade program to reduce America’s carbon emissions by eighty per cent by 2050—an enormously ambitious goal, but one that many climate scientists say must be met if atmospheric carbon dioxide is to be kept below disastrous levels. Large emitters, like utilities, would acquire carbon allowances, and those which emit less carbon dioxide than their allotment could sell the resulting credits to those which emit more; over time, the available allowances would decline. Significantly, Obama wants to auction off the allowances; this would provide fifteen billion dollars a year for developing alternative-energy sources and creating job-training programs in green technologies. He also wants to raise federal fuel-economy standards and to require that ten per cent of America’s electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2012. Taken together, his proposals represent the most coherent and far-sighted strategy ever offered by a Presidential candidate for reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

There was once reason to hope that McCain and Obama would have a sensible debate about energy and climate policy. McCain was one of the first Republicans in the Senate to support federal limits on carbon dioxide, and he has touted his own support for a less ambitious cap-and-trade program as evidence of his independence from the White House. But, as polls showed Americans growing jittery about gasoline prices, McCain apparently found it expedient in this area, too, to shift course. He took a dubious idea—lifting the federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling—and placed it at the very center of his campaign. Opening up America’s coastal waters to drilling would have no impact on gasoline prices in the short term, and, even over the long term, the effect, according to a recent analysis by the Department of Energy, would be “insignificant.” Such inconvenient facts, however, are waved away by a campaign that finally found its voice with the slogan “Drill, baby, drill!”

The contrast between the candidates is even sharper with respect to the third branch of government. A tense equipoise currently prevails among the Justices of the Supreme Court, where four hard-core conservatives face off against four moderate liberals. Anthony M. Kennedy is the swing vote, determining the outcome of case after case.

McCain cites Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, two reliable conservatives, as models for his own prospective appointments. If he means what he says, and if he replaces even one moderate on the current Supreme Court, then Roe v. Wade will be reversed, and states will again be allowed to impose absolute bans on abortion. McCain’s views have hardened on this issue. In 1999, he said he opposed overturning Roe; by 2006, he was saying that its demise “wouldn’t bother me any”; by 2008, he no longer supported adding rape and incest as exceptions to his party’s platform opposing abortion.

But scrapping Roe—which, after all, would leave states as free to permit abortion as to criminalize it—would be just the beginning. Given the ideological agenda that the existing conservative bloc has pursued, it’s safe to predict that affirmative action of all kinds would likely be outlawed by a McCain Court. Efforts to expand executive power, which, in recent years, certain Justices have nobly tried to resist, would likely increase. Barriers between church and state would fall; executions would soar; legal checks on corporate power would wither—all with just one new conservative nominee on the Court. And the next President is likely to make three appointments.

Obama, who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, voted against confirming not only Roberts and Alito but also several unqualified lower-court nominees. As an Illinois state senator, he won the support of prosecutors and police organizations for new protections against convicting the innocent in capital cases. While McCain voted to continue to deny habeas-corpus rights to detainees, perpetuating the Bush Administration’s regime of state-sponsored extra-legal detention, Obama took the opposite side, pushing to restore the right of all U.S.-held prisoners to a hearing. The judicial future would be safe in his care.

In the shorthand of political commentary, the Iraq war seems to leave McCain and Obama roughly even. Opposing it before the invasion, Obama had the prescience to warn of a costly and indefinite occupation and rising anti-American radicalism around the world; supporting it, McCain foresaw none of this. More recently, in early 2007 McCain risked his Presidential prospects on the proposition that five additional combat brigades could salvage a war that by then appeared hopeless. Obama, along with most of the country, had decided that it was time to cut American losses. Neither candidate’s calculations on Iraq have been as cheaply political as McCain’s repeated assertion that Obama values his career over his country; both men based their positions, right or wrong, on judgment and principle.

President Bush’s successor will inherit two wars and the realities of limited resources, flagging popular will, and the dwindling possibilities of what can be achieved by American power. McCain’s views on these subjects range from the simplistic to the unknown. In Iraq, he seeks “victory”—a word that General David Petraeus refuses to use, and one that fundamentally misrepresents the messy, open-ended nature of the conflict. As for Afghanistan, on the rare occasions when McCain mentions it he implies that the surge can be transferred directly from Iraq, which suggests that his grasp of counterinsurgency is not as firm as he insisted it was during the first Presidential debate. McCain always displays more faith in force than interest in its strategic consequences. Unlike Obama, McCain has no political strategy for either war, only the dubious hope that greater security will allow things to work out. Obama has long warned of deterioration along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and has a considered grasp of its vital importance. His strategy for both Afghanistan and Iraq shows an understanding of the role that internal politics, economics, corruption, and regional diplomacy play in wars where there is no battlefield victory.

Unimaginably painful personal experience taught McCain that war is above all a test of honor: maintain the will to fight on, be prepared to risk everything, and you will prevail. Asked during the first debate to outline “the lessons of Iraq,” McCain said, “I think the lessons of Iraq are very clear: that you cannot have a failed strategy that will then cause you to nearly lose a conflict.” A soldier’s answer––but a statesman must have a broader view of war and peace. The years ahead will demand not only determination but also diplomacy, flexibility, patience, judiciousness, and intellectual engagement. These are no more McCain’s strong suit than the current President’s. Obama, for his part, seems to know that more will be required than willpower and force to extract some advantage from the wreckage of the Bush years.

Obama is also better suited for the task of renewing the bedrock foundations of American influence. An American restoration in foreign affairs will require a commitment not only to international coöperation but also to international institutions that can address global warming, the dislocations of what will likely be a deepening global economic crisis, disease epidemics, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and other, more traditional security challenges. Many of the Cold War-era vehicles for engagement and negotiation—the United Nations, the World Bank, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—are moribund, tattered, or outdated. Obama has the generational outlook that will be required to revive or reinvent these compacts. He would be the first postwar American President unencumbered by the legacies of either Munich or Vietnam.

The next President must also restore American moral credibility. Closing Guantánamo, banning all torture, and ending the Iraq war as responsibly as possible will provide a start, but only that. The modern Presidency is as much a vehicle for communication as for decision-making, and the relevant audiences are global. Obama has inspired many Americans in part because he holds up a mirror to their own idealism. His election would do no less—and likely more—overseas.

What most distinguishes the candidates, however, is character—and here, contrary to conventional wisdom, Obama is clearly the stronger of the two. Not long ago, Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, said, “This election is not about issues. This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.” The view that this election is about personalities leaves out policy, complexity, and accountability. Even so, there’s some truth in what Davis said––but it hardly points to the conclusion that he intended.

Echoing Obama, McCain has made “change” one of his campaign mantras. But the change he has actually provided has been in himself, and it is not just a matter of altering his positions. A willingness to pander and even lie has come to define his Presidential campaign and its televised advertisements. A contemptuous duplicity, a meanness, has entered his talk on the stump—so much so that it seems obvious that, in the drive for victory, he is willing to replicate some of the same underhanded methods that defeated him eight years ago in South Carolina.

Perhaps nothing revealed McCain’s cynicism more than his choice of Sarah Palin, the former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, who had been governor of that state for twenty-one months, as the Republican nominee for Vice-President. In the interviews she has given since her nomination, she has had difficulty uttering coherent unscripted responses about the most basic issues of the day. We are watching a candidate for Vice-President cram for her ongoing exam in elementary domestic and foreign policy. This is funny as a Tina Fey routine on “Saturday Night Live,” but as a vision of the political future it’s deeply unsettling. Palin has no business being the backup to a President of any age, much less to one who is seventy-two and in imperfect health. In choosing her, McCain committed an act of breathtaking heedlessness and irresponsibility. Obama’s choice, Joe Biden, is not without imperfections. His tongue sometimes runs in advance of his mind, providing his own fodder for late-night comedians, but there is no comparison with Palin. His deep experience in foreign affairs, the judiciary, and social policy makes him an assuring and complementary partner for Obama.

The longer the campaign goes on, the more the issues of personality and character have reflected badly on McCain. Unless appearances are very deceiving, he is impulsive, impatient, self-dramatizing, erratic, and a compulsive risk-taker. These qualities may have contributed to his usefulness as a “maverick” senator. But in a President they would be a menace.

By contrast, Obama’s transformative message is accompanied by a sense of pragmatic calm. A tropism for unity is an essential part of his character and of his campaign. It is part of what allowed him to overcome a Democratic opponent who entered the race with tremendous advantages. It is what helped him forge a political career relying both on the liberals of Hyde Park and on the political regulars of downtown Chicago. His policy preferences are distinctly liberal, but he is determined to speak to a broad range of Americans who do not necessarily share his every value or opinion. For some who oppose him, his equanimity even under the ugliest attack seems like hauteur; for some who support him, his reluctance to counterattack in the same vein seems like self-defeating detachment. Yet it is Obama’s temperament—and not McCain’s—that seems appropriate for the office both men seek and for the volatile and dangerous era in which we live. Those who dismiss his centeredness as self-centeredness or his composure as indifference are as wrong as those who mistook Eisenhower’s stolidity for denseness or Lincoln’s humor for lack of seriousness.

Nowadays, almost every politician who thinks about running for President arranges to become an author. Obama’s books are different: he wrote them. “The Audacity of Hope” (2006) is a set of policy disquisitions loosely structured around an account of his freshman year in the United States Senate. Though a campaign manifesto of sorts, it is superior to that genre’s usual blowsy pastiche of ghostwritten speeches. But it is Obama’s first book, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” (1995), that offers an unprecedented glimpse into the mind and heart of a potential President. Obama began writing it in his early thirties, before he was a candidate for anything. Not since Theodore Roosevelt has an American politician this close to the pinnacle of power produced such a sustained, highly personal work of literary merit before being definitively swept up by the tides of political ambition.

A Presidential election is not the awarding of a Pulitzer Prize: we elect a politician and, we hope, a statesman, not an author. But Obama’s first book is valuable in the way that it reveals his fundamental attitudes of mind and spirit. “Dreams from My Father” is an illuminating memoir not only in the substance of Obama’s own peculiarly American story but also in the qualities he brings to the telling: a formidable intelligence, emotional empathy, self-reflection, balance, and a remarkable ability to see life and the world through the eyes of people very different from himself. In common with nearly all other senators and governors of his generation, Obama does not count military service as part of his biography. But his life has been full of tests—personal, spiritual, racial, political—that bear on his preparation for great responsibility.

It is perfectly legitimate to call attention, as McCain has done, to Obama’s lack of conventional national and international policymaking experience. We, too, wish he had more of it. But office-holding is not the only kind of experience relevant to the task of leading a wildly variegated nation. Obama’s immersion in diverse human environments (Hawaii’s racial rainbow, Chicago’s racial cauldron, countercultural New York, middle-class Kansas, predominantly Muslim Indonesia), his years of organizing among the poor, his taste of corporate law and his grounding in public-interest and constitutional law—these, too, are experiences. And his books show that he has wrung from them every drop of insight and breadth of perspective they contained.

The exhaustingly, sometimes infuriatingly long campaign of 2008 (and 2007) has had at least one virtue: it has demonstrated that Obama’s intelligence and steady temperament are not just figments of the writer’s craft. He has made mistakes, to be sure. (His failure to accept McCain’s imaginative proposal for a series of unmediated joint appearances was among them.) But, on the whole, his campaign has been marked by patience, planning, discipline, organization, technological proficiency, and strategic astuteness. Obama has often looked two or three moves ahead, relatively impervious to the permanent hysteria of the hourly news cycle and the cable-news shouters. And when crisis has struck, as it did when the divisive antics of his ex-pastor threatened to bring down his campaign, he has proved equal to the moment, rescuing himself with a speech that not only drew the poison but also demonstrated a profound respect for the electorate. Although his opponents have tried to attack him as a man of “mere” words, Obama has returned eloquence to its essential place in American politics. The choice between experience and eloquence is a false one––something that Lincoln, out of office after a single term in Congress, proved in his own campaign of political and national renewal. Obama’s “mere” speeches on everything from the economy and foreign affairs to race have been at the center of his campaign and its success; if he wins, his eloquence will be central to his ability to govern.

We cannot expect one man to heal every wound, to solve every major crisis of policy. So much of the Presidency, as they say, is a matter of waking up in the morning and trying to drink from a fire hydrant. In the quiet of the Oval Office, the noise of immediate demands can be deafening. And yet Obama has precisely the temperament to shut out the noise when necessary and concentrate on the essential. The election of Obama—a man of mixed ethnicity, at once comfortable in the world and utterly representative of twenty-first-century America—would, at a stroke, reverse our country’s image abroad and refresh its spirit at home. His ascendance to the Presidency would be a symbolic culmination of the civil- and voting-rights acts of the nineteen-sixties and the century-long struggles for equality that preceded them. It could not help but say something encouraging, even exhilarating, about the country, about its dedication to tolerance and inclusiveness, about its fidelity, after all, to the values it proclaims in its textbooks. At a moment of economic calamity, international perplexity, political failure, and battered morale, America needs both uplift and realism, both change and steadiness. It needs a leader temperamentally, intellectually, and emotionally attuned to the complexities of our troubled globe. That leader’s name is Barack Obama.

—The Editors


I need to find out if my friend Burkhard was involved in this.