1 March 2005
Underneath the cap
The County Assessor has gotten in his licks for the year, and given the progress of real-estate prices in this neighborhood, they were perfectly predictable.
According to today's notice, Surlywood is worth just over 11 percent more than it was at this time last year. Under Oklahoma law, they can increase the taxable market value a maximum of 5 percent, which they did. Assuming the tax rate remains unchanged, which it probably won't, my actual taxes will go up 5.7 percent.
Still, this is quite an improvement from last year, when as a new owner I didn't qualify for the 5-percent cap and they made up for what they didn't get from the previous owner in one fell swoop.
Engage the cloaking device
It's called a "plasmonic cover" by its proponents, Andrea Alù and Nader Engheta of the University of Pennsylvania, and it works by resonating in tune with the light that would normally illuminate an object, thereby reducing the amount of light that is scattered, making the object in question more difficult to see. Eliminate all the scattering, and the object is effectively invisible.
There is, of course, a downside: the cover must be tuned for any specific wavelength of light, which means anything you can see in ordinary visible light, which is made up of a multitude of wavelengths, isn't shieldable. Yet.
(Via the largely-unseen Syaffolee.)
You gotta know when to hold 'em
And, conversely, when to let them go. In the case of José Padilla, [link requires Adobe Reader] the Bush Administration was given a sharp reminder of the latter by the US District Court for South Carolina.
"The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." Const. Art. 1, § 9, cl. 2. This power belongs solely to Congress. Since Congress has not acted to suspend the writ, and neither the President nor this Court have the ability to do so, in light of the findings above, Petitioner must be released.
If the law in its current state is found by the President to be insufficient to protect this country from terrorist plots, such as the one alleged here, then the President should prevail upon Congress to remedy the problem. For instance, if the Government's purpose in detaining Petitioner as an enemy combatant is to prevent him from "returning to the field of battle and taking up arms once again[,]" Hamdi, 124 S.Ct at 2640, but the President thinks that the laws do not provide the necessary and appropriate measures to provide for that goal, then the President should approach Congress and request that it make proper modifications to the law. As Congress has already demonstrated, it stands ready to carefully consider, and often accomodate, such significant requests.
The Court ordered the government to charge Padilla, to name him as a material witness in an actual case, or to release him, within forty-five days.
(From SCOTUSblog via New World Man.)
Doing the poll dance
I get to sit today's election out: four of eight seats on the City Council are up for grabs, but the Ward 2 slot isn't among them. (Wards 1, 4, 7 and 8 have races.)
However, there is some serious stuff going on in the 'burbs. Mid-Del schools will be hoping for approval of the sale of $8 million worth of bonds to finance upgrades and repairs; Moore schools are seeking to issue bonds totaling $47 million, which would finance a new high school, new grade-school classrooms, plus computer and cafeteria upgrades.
Nichols Hills has some bonds to sell, too: $12.5 million to cover various city improvements. And Logan County wants to replace their ancient jail and seeks approval of a 0.75-cent sales-tax increase, to expire in 2015, to pay for the new lockup.
If you're affected by any of these, get ye to the polls.
(Note: This was written yesterday and set aside, and still had references to "tomorrow" therein; I have expunged same.)
But not for you
Sometimes they just write themselves:
A Springfield [Illinois] woman who began lobbying against gun violence after her son was shot to death in 2002 was arrested last week when police allegedly found an illegal gun and drugs in her home.
Annette "Flirty" Stevens, however, said Monday she's innocent, and the arrest is an attempt by police to get her to give up information about unsolved crime in the city.
The handgun, which had a scratched-off serial number, and drugs allegedly were discovered Friday morning inside Stevens' home in the [address redacted]. Authorities said they obtained a search warrant for the residence as part of an ongoing investigation of a recent series of drive-by shootings. No one has been hurt in the gunplay.
Stevens has not been formally connected to any crime directly related to the drive-by shootings. But Friday's discoveries could lead to her being charged with defacing the identification marks on a handgun, manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance and having no valid firearm owner's ID card, police said.
Further comment from me would obviously be superfluous.
(Discovered at JunkYardBlog.)
2 March 2005
Plastic everywhere you look
CardData reports that there are nearly fifteen payment cards per household in the US: 6.3 bank credit cards, 6.4 retail cards, and 2.2 debit cards. (I am running below average, but not much below.) By the end of this year, they say, there will be 1.5 billion cards in use, which is a whole lot of plastic. Then again, the card industry is sending out five billion solicitations a year, most of which are presumably winding up in the trash.
Mild to go, before I sleep
I was flipping through the dial the other day for some reason, and I caught Florence Henderson hawking handbags on one of the shopping channels. Now past seventy, The Actress Formerly Known As Mrs. Brady is showing a few signs of being past seventy, but her hemlines, even today, remain right above her knees, which, assuming my trusty Sony Wega is giving me accurate information, I find to be very much justified.
Which is by way of saying that contrary to popular belief, it is not necessary to push the envelope to get someone's attention, a position I think would be endorsed by Lileks:
Chris Rock at the Oscars. I was not offended. I did not go white as a Byrd weekend rally costume when he said naughty things. I've heard worse. I've said worse. I just think that the tone of public discourse should strive to angle up, rather than down. Others feel there's something liberating in the use of earthy, honest language. On one side, Donna Reed in a dress and pearls; on the other, a hoochie mama in a thong. I would suggest that the proper model is Donna Reed wearing a thong under the dress. Propriety in public, relaxed standards in the personal sphere.
Yeah, I know: Lenny Bruce. But Lenny got in your face for a few minutes and then disappeared back into the Village. Today it's considered a failure of the system if they're not in your face 24/7.
And you know, I don't feel at all put out at never having gotten to see June Cleaver's boob on national television.
What a ratio that is
Speaking of in one's face, George Carlin famously observed that there are seven words you can never say on television.
On the other hand, there are 1,121 words the NFL Shop will not print on a personalized jersey.
(Via Fark; above links should be considered Not Safe For Work.)
In the days of 39
My very first home town was Waukegan, Illinois, which was Jack Benny's home town. I didn't realize this until many years later, but it makes sense to me: whatever comic skills I have the sense of timing, the willingness to play straight man, the occasional bit of self-deprecation are all basically a low-budget version of Jack Benny's. And today I drop his name, not because of any desire to sound au courant, but because I know I owe him big-time. So when I returned to Waukegan for a visit in 2002, I was delighted to see him honored by the city that he called home.
Dawn Eden, who knows me too well, pointed me to this New York Daily News reminiscence about the day Jack played Carnegie Hall, and not for laughs, either. He loved the violin, and while he was never especially good at it his lack of musical chops became an early piece of Benny shtick just once, he thought, he wanted to do a serious concert.
It happened in 1959, and while nobody was going to confuse Jack Benny with Fritz Kreisler, Jack, after some scary practice sessions, did a creditable job: "a much better virtuoso than one would expect him to be," said the man from Variety. The concert, a benefit for the New York Philharmonic pension fund, raised $36,000, and Jack would go on to headline similar fundraisers in the years to come.
But he never let his newfound prowess go to his head. In 1961, home in Waukegan for the groundbreaking of the new Jack Benny Junior High School (now a 6-8 middle school), he beamed at the crowd and said, "Who would have thought that they'd name a high school after Jack Benny Junior?"
The audience roared, as they always did, and as I still do when I remember this story.
Shot down at the fantasy factory
It doesn't happen too often, but when it does, I get to teeter on the edge of sanity for just a few moments and contemplate things that can't possibly be, before the real world reasserts itself and gives me a dope-slap.
And, well, the circumstances were right: a sunnyish (for March) afternoon, traffic crawling at 25 mph, and in front of me, a beautiful (this is my delusion, and I say she's beautiful, so back off) blonde in a Benz.
Not just any Benz, either; this was the SL55 AMG in Arrest Me Red, the first one of these I've seen in the city, and for a moment I had a flash of "Am I even allowed to drive around here?"
After about two blocks, I'd gotten to the point where we'd negotiated the prenup, and after two blocks more, we were flying to Stuttgart to pick up some AMG accessories Mercedes had unaccountably forgotten to include in the car's $124,020 price.
She veered off after half a mile, which at 25 mph takes longer than you'd think, and I wound up a few blocks later inhaling the diesel fumes from a Metro Transit bus. Back to reality. It is a measure of how serious this was that one of my favorite songs ever the Walker Brothers' "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)" had popped onto the stereo and I didn't even notice.
Wherever you are, Lady Benz, thank you, and I promise to keep my distance.
Meanwhile in T-town
Michael Bates' ongoing battle against the Tulsa World got three-quarters of a page in this week's Oklahoma Gazette. You'd think this would be an obvious item for their Web site, but it fell through the cracks or something. (But see Update below.)
Ronald Coleman, general counsel for the Media Bloggers Association, characterized the World's outburst as "an incredible emblem of the thick-headedness of old-media monopolies."
World attorney Schaad Titus advances a new notion in this piece: if links by BatesLine or other blogs prompted the reader to shell out the World's regular fees before viewing, that's okay with them. I wish they'd asked him if they were going to cut Bates in on any revenue he might generate if he did this.
And speaking of Schaad Titus, two years ago he and the World pushed for access to a database compiled by the city of Tulsa as part of the settlement of a lawsuit alleging employment discrimination in the Police Department. "It is important for city [residents] to understand what has happened and have them believe the settlement is good for the city, to unite the city rather than divide the city," he said. "If you don't have public access, you'll have no way to understand." There is no record of whether Titus or the World offered to pay the city for database access.
(Update, 3 March, 11:30 am: Here's a link to the Gazette story. My thanks to Editor Rob Collins.)
Two to the eighth
According to Rolf Harris in "Two Buffalos," 128 is enough of those.
But we never get enough of the Carnival of the Vanities. The 128th weekly compendium of bloggage at its best is hosted by Belief Seeking Understanding.
Of course, when I hear 128, I think of this.
3 March 2005
Pinch-hitting for Penderecki: Alban Berg
Fritz Schranck reports on the new District of Columbia baseball team, the Washington Atonals.
Hey, it looks like that to me.
Of course, there will be sacrifices
The solution to global warming? Ravenwood figured it out years ago:
Most people think that most of our oxygen comes from trees. But with two-thirds of the Earth's surface covered with water, it actually comes from oceans full of plant plankton, who dutifully convert CO2 to oxygen through photosynthesis. The biggest harm to plant plankton is not global warming, since a spike in CO2 would just mean that plant life thrives. Instead, plant plankton's biggest predator is whales. Whales scoop up plankton by the truckload. It would seem obvious then, that the solution is to protect plant plankton by slaughtering whales. With an absence of predators, plant plankton will overpopulate and drastically cut CO2 levels.
Amend that bumper sticker to read SAVE THE WHALES: COLLECT THE WHOLE SET!
Third second thoughts
The House has voted 59-39 to repeal the Oklahoma Municipal Employees Collective Bargaining Act, which permits employees of cities with 35,000 population or more to organize into unions. The law has previously been found unconstitutional by judicial ruling.
The Senate has yet to vote on the repeal.
Now to unload "Van Helsing"
Peerflix is, for lack of a better term, a DVD-swapping service: you set up a list of discs you own and a list of discs you want, and Peerflix, for a buck a transaction, arranges for shipment from those who own to those who want. This could get very complicated very quickly, but those who go through dozens of discs per month (you know who you are) should be delighted.
(Via Lifehacker, yet another Nick Denton World Domination entity.)
Not this year, folks
The Oklahoma Libertarian Party sent this as a press release (it's not on their Web site yet), and rather than rewrite it and take credit for having written something, I'm running it as is:
After being told that ballot access reform legislation will not be heard in committee this legislative session, Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform says the new rules put in place at the State House aren't delivering openness and accountability as promised by House Speaker Todd Hiett.
House Bill 1429, which would lower the number of signatures necessary for an unrecognized party to get on the ballot, is assigned to the Rules Committee. Supporters of the bill were told by its author, Rep. Marian Cooksey (R-Edmond), that it would not be heard in committee. The office of Rep. Sue Tibbs (R-Tulsa), Chair of the Rules Committee, has confirmed that the bill will not be heard, but no reason is being given. The bill is identical to a bill introduced by Tibbs two years ago. Several members of the committee have already indicated they would support the bill, and Sen. Randy Brogdon (R-Owasso) agreed to sponsor the bill in the State Senate. OBAR members are finding it difficult to understand why the bill won't even be heard in committee, a necessary step for the measure to proceed to the House floor.
"Rep. Hiett took over as speaker and promised an open process," said OBAR spokesman James Branum. "HB 1429 has support inside and outside the Legislature. Someone is keeping this bill from proceeding, but there's no way for us to find out who or why. That's not an open process, and there's no accountability."
Current law requires an unrecognized party to petition for signatures of registered voters equal to 5% of the number of voters in the last presidential or gubernatorial election in order to get on the ballot. To participate in the 2006 elections, a party would need to gather more than 73,000 signatures. HB 1429 would change that to 5,000 signatures, the amount required until 1974. Surrounding states all have much lower signature requirements for ballot access, 1% of voters from the last election in Texas, 10,000 in Missouri, 5,000 in Kansas, and 1,000 in Arkansas. During the 2004 election, Oklahoma was the only state in the country limited to just two candidates for President.
If ballot access reform is not passed into law this legislative session, the issue may be taken out of the Legislature's hands. A lawsuit brought by the Oklahoma Libertarian Party is on appeal to the State Supreme Court. The Libertarians agreed to a stay in the case to give the Legislature the opportunity to act, but if HB 1429 is not even heard in committee the case will continue. Past litigation by the OKLP has resulted in easing restrictions on alternative parties at least four occasions.
And while the Libertarians are pushing this, they're not alone; members of the Constitution and Green parties are also backing the movement to loosen up the ballot. Could someone in the state GOP be pulling the strings behind the scenes? I don't know, but I find the idea that Republican brass might feel threatened by third parties more than a little amusing.
Where's the Undo key?
The reaction to the flipping of the columns was mostly negative, and the new BlogSnob format didn't fit well with it, so I reset them to the way they were, with the nav stuff on the left and the content, such as it is, on the right. My apologies to those of you who had just gotten used to it in reverse.
4 March 2005
Summer of '61
This week's assignment calls for the following: "you're 8 and it's a typical summer day." In the interest of having something interesting to say, I've stretched the definition of "8" to include "more than seven and a half, anyway"; I hope this doesn't meet with too much derision.
My father had recently been transferred to the Naval Base at Charleston, and there was a major waiting list for base housing, so for the time being, we (there being five of us, and a sixth appeared the following year) checked into the projects. I wrote about said projects back around the turn of the century:
"Legare" is an Old Charleston sort of name, and Old Charleston did things differently, so you shouldn't be surprised that it's pronounced "luh-GREE". Like Simon. George Legare had been a Congressman in the previous century, and for some reason Charleston County chose to name a public housing project after him. Across the road was a "separate-but-equal" facility for persons of African-American descent, this one named for a Senator, in this case "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman, one of South Carolina's most blatant white racists. One of the state's little jokes, I suppose. But I was too young to understand all these details; I was busy colonizing a series of abandoned culverts just off the edge of the project, and playing the occasional game of hopscotch. In fact, one of the neighborhood girls and I spent the better part of a summer day creating an Olympic-size hopscotch court. Forget jumping to ten, or even twenty; to negotiate this course, you had to complete nearly two hundred squares, circles, and whatever other polygons we saw fit. And we were about to do exactly that when the rain started and all our hard work and most of our chalk washed away into the grass.
The abandoned culverts served me as Fortress of Solitude for those occasions when I needed one, which was surprisingly often in those days. I didn't have a lot of friends, and the young lady who joined me in the hopscotch endeavors took entirely too much pleasure, I thought, from scaring me half to death. Not that I'd avoid her, of course.
This particular housing project was sandwiched between two major roads, the nearer of which became the Edge of the World, the point beyond which I dared not go on pain of, well, getting run over. There was, I recall, a little ice-cream stand on the Edge, but the times I had actual coin of the realm to spend there were few and far between, and I couldn't see any reason to hang around there unless I actually bought something.
The farther road contained no interesting commercial buildings, and what's worse, there was a railroad track running more or less parallel to it on the far side. I'd seen enough Saturday-morning Westerns to know that railroad tracks were what you got tied to if you'd gotten in the way of the Bad Guy, and I had no urge to be lashed to the rails, so I stayed clear of them. That is, until I noticed that beyond the tracks, there was a decently-sized hill, and inexplicably, there was a stairway of sorts, from just beyond the tracks, up the hill, to where?
Yes, I did find out, but by then, we were well into fall.
A ha'penny will do
The city of Broken Arrow has reduced its sales-tax rate from 3.5 percent to 3 percent this week. (The state sales tax remains at 4.5 percent; county tax varies, as Broken Arrow straddles the Tulsa/Wagoner county line.)
In 1998, Broken Arrow began collecting that extra half-cent to finance a new branch campus of Tahlequah-based Northeastern State University. The tax was scheduled to run eight years, but it brought in more money than anticipated, and additional NSU funding materialized. The city decided to drop the additional half-cent, and on the first of March made it official.
What's more, the bonds for the NSU project, which were supposed to be retired in 2011, are being paid off early, which will save the city about $1 million in interest.
Raiders of the Deep Rock
As of yesterday, billionaire Carl Icahn was the largest single stockholder in Oklahoma City's Kerr-McGee Corporation, controlling about 4.68 percent of KMG stock. Icahn associate Barry Rosenstein controls about 3 percent of KMG.
Typically for Icahn, he began making suggestions. In a letter to Kerr-McGee chairman Luke Corbett, Icahn suggested that the chemical business be spun off and that the oil-production business start selling future production in advance while prices are high. "Never before," said Icahn, "has there been such a disconnect between the stock market valuation of publicly traded (exploration and production) companies such as KMG . . . and the value at which oil and gas futures are trading in the commodity markets."
And while he was at it, Icahn nominated himself and Rosenstein to the Kerr-McGee board, a move which was not greeted warmly by management.
The most likely outcome? KMG will follow Icahn's recommendations to the extent that they get the stock price up to where he wants it, and then will pay him handsomely to go away.
Generally Consumer Reports is not one's first choice for snarky commentary, the "Selling It" section on the inside back cover aside, but whoever writes the little hundred-word individual-model blurbs in the annual Auto Issue has apparently gotten his leash paid out a few yards, to generally amusing effect.
The trend started last year, with this dismissal of the Hyundai XG350:
If you want to reminisce about a brand-new Buick from the 1960s, this is it.
And this on a car they recommend, mind you. The same verbiage is back this year, the Hyundai being essentially unchanged for '05, but some other vehicles come off a lot worse. The Chevrolet Impala's "interior fit and finish is borderline offensive." On the Kia Rio, "one of the lowest-priced cars sold in the US," you should "expect to get what you pay for." And Saab's two artificially-Swedened models, the 9-2X ("peculiar crossbreeding") and 9-7X, for which they put "Saab" in scare quotes in one line, apparently really annoyed them.
Nothing here that would jolt a Car and Driver reader, to be sure. On the other hand, Consumer Reports doesn't sell advertising, so none of the aggrieved automakers have the option of cancelling their ads in response.
5 March 2005
By now they might be seniors
The Junior League of Oklahoma City dates back to 1927; Mrs. Joseph Rumsey was its first president. Its purpose, then and now, is to promote volunteerism, develop opportunities for women, and provide support for local organizations. (The League's Remarkable Shop, a sort of upscale thrift shop, has been operating since 1930.)
The League's current headquarters is the Blinn House, the former Oklahoma County Home for Girls at 6300 North Western. Chesapeake Energy, whose campus is just to the south, has struck a deal with the League to buy the Blinn House, and Monday ground will be broken on a new Junior League office at Grand Park Center, just east of Western on Grand Boulevard. I expect that the Blinn House, which is on the National Register of Historical Places, will be changed little by its absorption into the corporate culture; you could show the Chesapeake facilities to a visitor and tell her it's a small private college, and she wouldn't question it for a moment. Not that I've ever done that sort of thing.
Incidentally, Pam Newby of the Junior League of Oklahoma City is the current President of the Association of Junior Leagues International.
Generally low Marx
I wrote that Junior League item and then hit the showers; at some point therein some unrepentant vestige of my Sixties self roused itself to reproach me for the proudly-bourgeois tone of the piece, and demanded: "How is this sort of thing consistent with sticking it to The Man?"
I may be past fifty, but I'm hardly past my rebellious phase. Still, times change as much as people do, and political issues, which by nature tend toward the ephemeral, change even more. (Heard anyone screaming for free silver lately?) So I reminded this spectre of the current Social Security kerfuffle and other putatively-evil BushCo initiatives, and pointed out that the Democrats, the party where Sixties burnouts seem to have been accumulating over the years, have positioned themselves as enthusiastic defenders of the status quo.
Besides, these days The Man is a neighbor of mine.
Buckets of brand identification
Costa sends along some thoughts before lunchtime at the Colonel's:
Technically, the restaurant in question is no longer called "Kentucky Fried Chicken", and hasn't been for years. Corporate officially changed the name to strictly KFC in order to get away from any perceived regionalism / redneckedness. Yes, it's a lame move, and in fact lots of franchises across the country still have "Kentucky" up on their outdated signs. But that's the corporate line.
Of course, some of your rumormongers believed it was because KFC was vending some unspeakable non-chicken products on the sly. And in some circles, the very word "fried" might be considered a pejorative.
I don't have extensive experience with Kentucky two visits and the only Kentuckian I know personally has relocated her sweet home to Alabama, but for the life of me, I can't think of anything particularly dislikable about the Bluegrass State. Then again, as a person of Midwestern birth who grew up in the South and now lives among the cowboys, I've never been able to work up enough arrogance to look down on other states. I mean, if I put my mind to it, I could probably say something nice about New Jersey.
But perhaps Kentucky gets more respect in the rest of the world:
In a slightly related note, a friend tells me that KFCs in Holland have maps of the US on their walls, with Kentucky highlighted and a pointer arrow on it.
I do hope this practice doesn't catch on at Taco Bell.
Saturday spottings (on the edge)
Generally, southeast Oklahoma City comes to an end at Pottawatomie Road, the far side of the 21900 block east, the beginning of Pottawatomie County. But there's a half-section beyond this point, and that's where I was headed today.
When you're this far from the center of things, you don't expect to find much in the way of city services, although I did see an actual Oklahoma City police vehicle patrolling near SE 130th and Peebly Road, and a few driveways sported the standard city trash containers. Otherwise, it's your standard exurban/rural area, large lots with an incredible variety of houses, the trashiest of trailers to the niftiest new construction, interrupted here and there by convenience stores and churches. This is not the place to go looking for a Burger King. (Indeed, one shouldn't look for a Burger King anywhere in the city these days: every one I've seen lately has closed up shop.)
What makes this little 320-acre parcel beyond the county line unusual is that it's literally inaccessible from the rest of the city. Pottawatomie Road runs along the western edge of it, but there are no eastbound roads; to get there, you have to get onto Fishmarket Road, by taking either SE 89th (which becomes Memorial Road) or SE 119th (which becomes Homer Lane) and going a mile east. Lake Drive (SE 104th) is the northern boundary of the spread, which extends half a mile to the south between Pottawatomie and Fishmarket. This part of Pottawatomie County is unincorporated and apparently largely unserviced: the McLoud post office delivers the mail, and street signs are likely to be handmade. Lake Drive itself is maybe a lane and a third wide. One southbound road, called Eastway, shows up half a mile to the west, but that's it. I am normally not a big fan of deannexation, but I honestly can't think of any reason why Oklahoma City should hold onto this remote tract.
I pushed on northward and wound up in Green Pastures, east of Spencer, an area annexed to Oklahoma City during the late 1950s. Green Pastures is mostly rural, not unlike that remote corner of Pottawatomie County, but its population is largely black. (We forget sometimes that at statehood, about 8 percent of Oklahomans had African ancestry.) Parts of it are spellbindingly beautiful; parts of it are scary. Sometimes they're the same parts. I really need to go back through there again and get a better look. (Ironically, I used to live a lot closer to there, but never made the effort to see it.) To the east of Green Pastures is an area called Dunjee Park, named for Roscoe Dunjee, legendary editor of the Black Dispatch.
Most of my Spottings excursions don't run 100 miles. This one did. And frankly, I needed the reminder that there's a lot more to the city than downtown, Bricktown, and what's around the corner. Mayor Cornett said in his State of the City address: "For over 100 years, we've been a City that has grown and expanded on the edges." We pretty much had to: after all, we got our first ten thousand residents in the first 24 hours.
6 March 2005
Not much in store
Last month I noted, somewhat belatedly, the lack of supermarkets on the city's northeast side, and it occurred to me afterwards that there wasn't an abundance of chain stores of any sort serving this largely-black quadrant: there's a CVS which used to be an Eckerd's (though, surprisingly, not a Walgreen's dogging its heels), one of Yum! Brands' KFC-plus-something-else stores, and a couple of Mickey D's around the edges, but chain retail is otherwise conspicuous by its absence. I wondered if this was an anomaly, but, says Karen DeCoster, it's worse in Detroit:
[U]ntil the Dennis Archer administration took over the mayor's office in 1994, there was hardly a single chain store anywhere that was willing to locate inside the city's borders. This was a phenomenon only known to Detroit. Most people whom I talk to, from other areas, cannot comprehend that the city of Detroit did not have mega-stores, shopping malls, retail giants, chain grocery stores, chain video stores, etc. within its city limits. This seems like a fairy tale to them. Phoenix, Chicago, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Dallas, etc. they have all had the benefit of economies of scale in their cities.
Detroit? Hardly a single K-Mart, Kroger, Meijer's, Blockbusters, or otherwise, was located in the city borders. Starbucks? Not a chance. The only businessmen left were the Arabs many are Chaldeans who opened up independent grocers, video stores, dollar stores, makeshift retailing outfits, etc. As one who had to shop at these places as a financially struggling 19-year-old, I can attest to the fact that these stores were absolutely awful: high prices, rotten food, poor selection, nothing fresh, and they were all dirty as all heck. It left city consumers with having to purchase their daily needs from these brave-but-less-than-efficient businesses, or make trips into the suburbs to find a place to shop. (Poor Detroit residents have consistently fought against these stores, what with their unkempt ways and high prices, but these people were the only ones, for the most part, willing to dare risk any kind of entrepreneurship in the city of Detroit.)
In some circles it is de rigueur to bash chain retail for its negative effects on local stores, an attitude which overlooks the possibility that some of those local stores might actually deserve it. And residents of northeast Oklahoma City who actually want to take advantage of the chains have had to venture into other parts of the city, or head east into the 'burbs. As close as Wal-Mart is likely to get is NE 23rd and Douglas Boulevard, in the north end of Midwest City, coming next year. Still, that's only six miles from MLK; imagine how far you'd have to drive or ride the bus to get out of Detroit.
They say that art and pain are intimately intertwined, and I'm inclined to agree; if I had to stand perfectly still with my clothes off in front of a bunch of art students for forty-five minutes, I'd scream.
Of course, they'd probably scream at the thought of having to look at me for forty-five minutes.
First we pass the bill, then we read it
The state of Ohio, starting 2 May, will license auctioneers, and will require them, among other things, to serve an apprenticeship, to pass exams, to pay an annual fee, and to post a $50,000 bond even if all they're doing is selling some tchotchkes on eBay.
The primary author of the bill, Senator Larry Mumper (R-Marion), apparently had no idea that it would have such a wide-ranging effect:
This was to insure that auctioneers were abiding by the established rules and regulations. The bill is flawed. We will amend it and correct the problem before it goes into law. It certainly will not apply to the casual seller on eBay, but might apply to anyone who sells a lot.
Translation: "Aw, come on, people, we're trying to do some serious regulation here, and you just want to nitpick."
You know, Senator, if you and your friends weren't so damned eager to regulate everything under the sun, you wouldn't run into situations like this.
Rule 7: No pooftahs
I turned this up at what is now billed as the last unorthodox church of the lactose incompetent. It's a passage from The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, and it's well worth repeating:
Two prime ministers are sitting in a room discussing affairs of state. Suddenly a man bursts in shouting and stamping and banging his fist on the desk. The resident prime minister admonishes him. "Peter," he says, "kindly remember rule number 6," whereupon Peter is instantly restored to complete calm, apologizes, and withdraws.
The politicians return to their conversation, only to be interrupted yet again twenty minutes later by a hysterical woman gesticulating wildly, her hair flying. Again the intruder is greeted with the words: "Marie, please remember rule number 6." Complete calm descends once more, and she too withdraws with a bow and an apology.
When the scene is repeated a third time, the visiting prime minister addresses his colleague: "My dear friend, I've seen many things in my life, but never anything as remarkable as this. Would you be willing to share with me the secret of rule number 6?"
"Very simple," replies the resident prime minister. "Rule number 6 is 'Don't take yourself so g--damn seriously.'"
"Ah," says his visitor, "that is a fine rule." After a moment of pondering, he inquires, "And what, may I ask, are the other rules?"
"There aren't any."
I do have to watch myself carefully for violations of this rule; should I go astray, the results are not pretty.
I can't choose, it's too much to lose
Los Bravos, a Spanish band with a German-born lead singer, scored three Top 100 hits in the States in the Sixties, the biggest of which was "Black Is Black" in late 1966, which made #4. Of course, you'll find Los Bravos on my singles rack filed under L. I suppose it would be more appropriate to move them to the Bs, but I'm not all that worried about being accused of deep, heinous, Euro-centric Caucasoid Cluelessness; I mean, it's not like they're Mexicans or anything.
[Insert ? and the Mysterians link here.]
To make this more interesting, let's say I bought the most recent 45 issue of "Black Is Black," which Universal had the temerity to pair up with Danny Williams' "White On White." It's enough to drive you to crimson and clover, over and over.
7 March 2005
Writing a new chapter
The Glittering Eye takes a dim view of the new bankruptcy-reform measure:
As I see it this bill is an attempt to secure for the credit card issuers, some of the biggest of all contributors to political campaigns, what was formerly unsecured credit and reduce their risks.
I don't have any problem with credit card companies making money. And I do think that people should be responsible for their debts. But there's a simple solution to reducing the exposure of the credit card issuing companies: stop giving unsecured credit. I do have a problem with the credit industry improving their bottom lines by having the government do the heavy lifting for them. They knew what the rules were when they issued cards to people who couldn't pay.
With literally billions of card offers every year, you have to figure that not everyone who replies is going to have a credit score in the 800s. And personal bankruptcies haven't been steadily increasing, either; from 2003 to 2004, they actually dropped slightly. I don't think bankruptcy should be viewed as just another personal financial tool, but I don't think it should be redefined purely for the benefit of the creditors, either.
(Disclosure: I went through a Chapter 7 in the early 1980s, though the amount I had written off was less than the amount I wound up paying back.)
Donna shows you her Chin
A Japanese Chin, in fact, with the clunky (and almost certainly AKC-approved) name Master Beauregard Duke Bebop W. Le Moko.
I don't think I'm qualified to call him "Beau."
Term limits for everyone
Rep. Trebor Worthen (R-Oklahoma City) has come up with House Joint Resolution 1015, which would limit all statewide officeholders to two terms.
The Lieutenant Governor, the State Superintendent of Schools, the Insurance Commissioner, the Treasurer, the Attorney General, the Labor Commissioner, and the Auditor and Inspector are all elected for four-year terms; the three members of the Corporation Commission are elected for six-year terms. Of the ten offices in question, five are occupied by Democrats, five by Republicans, so it's not like Worthen, a freshman Republican, is trying to engineer some sort of GOP coup here.
Worthen knows from term limits: his father, Robert Worthen, used to hold that same District 87 seat before running out of time. State legislators are now limited to twelve years in office. If you ask me, if twelve years is enough for legislators, twelve years is enough for other statewide offices; I'd support this measure if it were rewritten to set a twelve-year limit, three terms for everyone except the Corp Comm. And it is, at least in part, up to me: since this requires a change to the state Constitution, HJR 1015, if passed, would call for an election.
Coming full circle
Northern Virginia credit-card giant Capital One is paying $5.3 billion for Louisiana-based Hibernia Corp., giving them a retail presence they didn't have before.
Oh, wait, they did. Capital One was spun off from Richmond's Signet Bank in 1995; Signet was absorbed by First Union two years later.
There is truly no new thing under the sun, or in your wallet.
Tons of Saabs
I have now seen a print ad for the Saab 9-7X, which, as noted previously, is basically a Chevrolet TrailBlazer, more stock car than Stockholm. My prediction was this:
[T]here will be a fair number of buyers lined up at the Saab store who will have no idea that the sturdy Swedish steed before them was bred from purely American stock.
The General isn't inclined to tell them, either. From the ad:
With its clean, Scandinavian design, an available 300-hp, V8 engine and a taut, Saab-tuned sport suspension, this SUV refuses to blend in.
Unless you park it next to a Buick Rainier. (Come to think of it, why does Buick have a truck?)
Unique even in its approach to safety, the 9-7X features its ignition key between the seats to help reduce the risk of knee injury in a collision. After all, when a car company started by 16 aircraft engineers decides to design an SUV, status quo thinking doesn't stand a chance.
Of course, there's nothing remotely aircraft-like about this big rig, except for its Airbusoid mass. If this sort of thing actually catches on, we will know it is time for GM to stop all of its Saabing.
(Update, 9 March, 10:30 am: Saab CEO Peter Augustsson has resigned in the wake of a decision by GM to produce most of its European models at the Opel plant in Rüsselsheim, Germany instead of at Saab's Swedish facilities.)
8 March 2005
Where the babes are
Kimberly Swygert quotes P. J. O'Rourke:
"It's not that looks matter per se. It's just that beautiful women are always on the cutting edge of social trends. Remember how many beautiful women were in the anti-war movement twenty years ago? In the yoga classes fifteen years ago? At the discos ten years ago? On Wall Street five years ago? Where the beautiful women are is where the country is headed," said my friend.
To which I would add only the following observations:
1. The Neighborhood Association, and therefore the neighborhood, has been getting a steady influx of Major Babes;
2. There are an awful lot of extremely attractive females on my blogroll, most of whom got there long before I had any idea that they were extremely attractive.
Yes, I am that superficial at times. Thank you for noticing.
Gimme the Delhi special
Andrea Harris is tempted to say "Hooray for Bollywood":
[A]s I was watching the videos (all culled from the huge pool of Bollywood musicals) it occurred to me that movies coming from a place where you aren't even allowed to kiss a girl, much less undress and go at it like pistons in the engine of a Pontiac Sunbird (that is being filmed under spotlights with zoom lenses to a "hot jazz" soundtrack) and where each shot of pretty dancing girls seems by law to also require regular shots of a staidly bopping turbanned and sari'ed grandpa and grandma watching from the side, are about a thousand times more erotic than the steamy, razor-shaved-to-slide-under-the-high-end-of-the-MPAA-rating-guide products of soulless Hollywood.
Rather a lot of participants in Hollywood love scenes appear to be inspired mostly by Brian Wilson's "Little Deuce Coupe": they're stroked and bored.
I guess I am saying we need more, not less, rules, because from where I am sitting grownup things like pleasures were both more exciting when they were hedged around with moats and dragons and armed guards, and were taken a lot more seriously before the era of Let It All Hang Out turned into Let Janet Hang Out Her Tit On Daytime TV.
Well, I'd say we could probably use some unwritten rules, the sort that don't wind up in court, the kind that used to govern our public conduct before the cultural arbiters came up with the idea of celebrating the deviant, the norms being tools of the patriarchy and all those other Bad Things.
One of the most fiercely erotic scenes I've ever seen on screen was in Silk Stockings, a 1957 remake of Ninotchka with Cyd Charisse as the stern lady Communist seduced by French finery and/or Fred Astaire. When she swaps out her sturdy socialist underwear for the silken delights of the City of Lights, you see scarcely any flesh at all, but then you don't have to: you know what she's feeling. Were they to film this today, they'd have the camera in so close you could see every digitally-retouched vein, with all the warmth of a speculum just out of the fridge.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a big First Amendment fan, and where it says "Congress shall make no law," I'd like to think they mean it. But I'm weary of middle-school innuendo being passed off as actual examinations of human sexuality. There may indeed be folks for whom going at it like pistons in an engine is the highest form of expression, and I certainly wouldn't want them to be suppressed, but I can think of no reason why they should be celebrated either.
Over to you, Domenico
It goes like this:
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Me, I prefer to believe that Chris Muir thinks Giuliana Sgrena has no memory for lyrics, either.
Maestro Sergiu Comissiona died early Saturday morning here in the city, less than 24 hours before he was scheduled to conduct the Oklahoma City Philharmonic.
But before that final curtain, he taught a master class for conductors at Oklahoma City University, and Matt Deatherage was there:
The Maestro . . . looked quite relaxed. He would occasionally stand beside the podium and conduct briefly alongside a student. He kept tempo with the tiniest motions, so larger hand gestures clearly communicated his style and dynamic wishes.
Sometimes less is more.
And the concert did go on, with Philharmonic Music Director Joel Levine at the helm.
As the countdown continues
It's called "The Incapacitated Person's Legal Protection Act of 2005", it was introduced by Senator Mel Martinez and Representative David Weldon, both Florida Republicans, and its purposes are as follows:
(1) to facilitate balancing the acknowledged right of persons to refuse consent to medical treatment and unwanted bodily intrusions with the right to consent to treatment, food, and fluids so as to preserve their lives;
(2) in circumstances in which there is a contested judicial proceeding because of dispute about the expressed previous wishes or best interests of a person presently incapable of making known a choice concerning treatment, food, and fluids the denial of which will result in death, to provide that the fundamental due process and equal protection rights of incapacitated persons are protected by ensuring the availability of collateral review through habeas corpus proceedings.
Or, in other words, to prevent debacles like the upcoming execution (it doesn't qualify as anything else) of Terri Schiavo, scheduled for ten days from now.
(Courtesy of Patterico.)
9 March 2005
Devon backs off
Oklahoma City's Devon Energy Corp. is terminating its operations in Syria, citing current political pressures. US sanctions against Syria do not block Devon's oil exploration, but the company is unable to import replacement parts for its equipment.
Devon had planned to invest approximately $17 million in the Syrian oil fields, and began operations, with the consent of Congress and the Department of State, in 2002.
The libertarian vs. the conservative
Dan Lovejoy live-blogged the Doug Bandow/Dinesh D'Souza debate at Oklahoma Christian last night. A crowd of maybe 300 turned out; the writeup is well worth your time.
Home of the Braves
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, having taken care of all its other problems, produced a list of thirty or so college athletic teams with Native American names, mascots, logos, whatever, and one of the schools on the list is the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, whose teams are called the Braves.
And if the school has anything to say about it, they will continue to be called the Braves. As it happens, UNC Pembroke began operations in 1887 as the Croatan Normal School, charged with training Native American schoolteachers in answer to a petition by the Lumbee tribe, and while they broadened their scope to include other academic endeavors and other tribes over time, they did not admit non-Indian students until the 1950s.
So "Braves" makes sense for UNC Pembroke, and the Lumbees like it just fine. Says Tribal Chairman Milton R. Hunt:
To us, [the logo and nickname are] a part of the university?s name, just an extension of that, and the Lumbees would consider it an insult if it were changed.
The school must respond to the NCAA by the first of May.
(Via Tongue Tied.)
Scenery? What scenery?
When Bobby Troup was getting his kicks on Route 66, he noted that "Oklahoma City is mighty pretty."
He wouldn't have thought so if he'd had to take I-35 or 40.
When preceded by the letters LZ, 129 denotes the Hindenburg, the largest airship ever, and worth remembering for reasons other than its tragic demise that day in New Jersey.
Meanwhile, for those of us a bit more earthbound, there's the 129th edition of Carnival of the Vanities, hosted this week by Solomonia, as always incorporating seven days' worth of quality bloggage in a single handy container.
Kermac splits the difference
Kerr-McGee has now responded to the proposals by Carl Icahn, and while they're considering spinning off the chemical division as he suggested, and will engage in the sort of stock-repurchase plan he recommended, they dismissed his suggestion of selling off future production as "irresponsible." CEO Luke Corbett:
Mr. Icahn's proposal of a VPP [volumetric production payment] of this magnitude would extract the revenue from approximately 32% of our proved developed producing reserves, while leaving the company with 100% of the costs.
And that's not all:
We have seen VPPs employed productively on a much more prudent scale, but Mr. Icahn's proposal is tantamount to mortgaging the company's future simply to provide Mr. Icahn and his partners with some quick cash.
I'm not persuaded that selling off the chemical division is such a wonderful idea if oil goes bust again, the company will be in, you should pardon the expression, a deep hole but buying back $1 billion worth of stock puts some idle cash to work and props up the value of those equities at the same time, which should be useful.
10 March 2005
Sending Monsanto to the showers
Back when I was your average Young Married Suburban Lout, I had a porch covered with AstroTurf, and it was every bit as hideous as you think it was. But no matter how horrid it might have looked at my house, the Evil Syntho-Grass is at least a bazillion times worse with base paths cut through it.
So it's a joy to report that the National League, in addition to avoiding modern-day abominations like the designated hitter, this season spurns AstroTurf; with the former Montreal Expos now making unmelodic sounds in the nation's capital, there are no NL stadia remaining with plastic grass.
I note that out here in the Pacific Coast League, only one team plays on pseudogreen: the Portland Beavers. You'd think a bunch of Oregon grinders would have a genuine organic environment, but no.
Big wheels keep on turning
Tom Lindley's column in this morning's Oklahoman is perhaps a trifle overexuberant about the prospects for riverfront development along The River Formerly Known As The North Canadian:
With the new Dell Inc. call center under construction on the west end and a $110 million American Indian Cultural Center planned for the other, seemingly all that is left to do is carve up the middle of downtown Oklahoma City.
New zoning stipulations will need to be enacted, but no doubt plenty of room will be available for walking and running trails, bicycles and skateboards. There will be boats in the water and vegetation along the rocky river embankments. There will be room for high-rise apartments with remarkable views of the downtown skyline. To top it off, there may be room for a five-star hotel, a championship golf course and a new-age lifestyle center.
Quite a bill of goods. Then again:
Pat Downes, development director for the Oklahoma City Riverfront Redevelopment Authority, estimates inquiries from the public and developers have tripled since the new corridor was dedicated in December. "The first and longest step was to get water in the river," he said. "It's now a real river; it's no longer a speculative venture."
And just think of the money we'll save by not having to mow it.
Then again, the hard part turning a raggedy old ditch into a full-fledged river is already done. From here on out, it's all downstream.
Um, because he can?
The old saying goes: "Physician, heal thyself."
The legal equivalent, I suppose, is "Solicitor, sue thyself."
Bound to perplex
Breathes there a man with soul so dead, who never to himself has said, "Damn, I oughta write a book"?
Probably not. And it occurs to me that by now, with four thousand and odd blog articles, plus nine years' worth of Vents and various other ephemera on this site, I've already written a book. Maybe two or three.
And if I had the brilliance of a Scott Ott, the style and tenacity of a Dawn Eden, or the sheer verve of any number of people who do this better than I do, I'd think about trying to sell this stuff of mine.
On the other hand, I can't think of any reason why anyone should want to reread it at all, let alone in hard copy.
Come on down to my bloat, baby
Certified Web wizard Kevin Aylward weighs in on why monthly archives especially Powerline's are a bad idea:
With time based archives (like monthly and weekly), each entry is not stored on a separate page, but as part of the whole archive page. In the case of Powerline you now have to load the whole monthly archive page to get to any single article. That's not so bad early in the month, but as content and pictures are added eventually it doesn't load very fast even for high speed internet users. Dial-up users will get hourglasses instead of content.
The advantage of being one person with nothing to say: my largest single monthly archive, instead of being a Powerlinesque 4 MB, is a mere 240 KB. (This would be January 2005, if you're keeping score.) And I have E-Z-Linq individual archives so you don't have to read through them; the main reason I keep monthly archives at all is for my convenience in looking up stuff, in case I know about when I posted something but not necessarily where.
Disk-space limits? Perish the thought. I've used up about 105 MB of the 4800 (yes, Virginia, that's four point eight gig) I'm allotted.
(Update: Kevin Aylward adds: "I'm not picking on Powerline which happens to be one of my favorite blogs they just made for a fresh example.")
11 March 2005
And a nose of deepest blue
Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education, one of the more highly-regarded films of 2004, was apparently booked for the Noble Theatre at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, but was scrapped at the last minute when someone noticed it bore an NC-17 rating.
The Literary Tech sends a missive to that someone:
With respect, I would ask that you seriously reconsider this decision. I would suggest that decisions of this nature will not lead to a growth of the film program at MOA, and this decision does little to stimulate the intellectual life of Oklahoma City. While this issue is most starkly seen when applied to Almodovar's respected work, it is an issue that must redound to other works.
In transcending the immediate concern for Mr. Almodovar's Bad Education, one sees a time where only the most innocuous issues can be addressed in films presented at the MOA theater. The recent Oscar-winning film The Sea Within offers us a case in point. Anyone who takes exception to Mr. Almodovar's fine work would need to consider taking exception to a wide range of films of all sorts. In time, one would expect little of note or merit to be shown on the screen at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art. I hope for more for my city and, one day, for my son.
This was going to be the month that I actually buckled down, ponied up the bucks, and became an OKCMOA member; I think now perhaps I shall wait a while and see what happens.
(Update, 13 March, 9 pm: OKCMOA film curator Brian Hearn says that it was his fault that Bad Education was dropped; the Museum has a policy that requires NC-17 films be submitted to the Museum Board for review, and, he told GayOKC.com, he neglected to do so.)
For when "vibrate" isn't enough
Signs of the Apocalypse, Volume MDCLXVI: Wireless content company Brickhouse Mobile has announced that under an agreement with adult-film vendor New Frontier Media, it would begin offering ring tones for mobile phone users featuring actual porn stars making groaning and moaning noises, plus lewd wallpaper and downloadable video.
This, of course, supports Penn Jillette's argument that "Shopping, sex and shopping for sex propel all new technology." And I'm not one to get bent out of shape, so to speak, about sex: see previous item. On the other hand, I'm thinking I can keep my old stripped-down Nokia phone with no "cool" features whatever for a while longer. (Heh-heh. He said "stripped.")
(Via Jacqueline Passey.)
Kermac ups the ante
Round three in the battle of Carl Icahn vs. Kerr-McGee Corporation begins with a lawsuit filed by KMG against Icahn and his associates.
The suit claims that Icahn's group violated the Securities Act of 1934 by acting collectively without identifying themselves as a group, and that the SEC was not notified in a timely manner as required when one of the group acquired more than $50 million in KMG shares.
Counsel for Icahn said he hadn't seen the suit yet, but he believed it was "without merit."
Just one of the troops
This was the assignment:
Write about a specific event that precipitated a dramatic change in your perspective on life. This could be a childhood event, an illness, an accident, or even something someone said that really touched you or made you think.
That word "dramatic" put me off, since it suggests really substantive changes, and, well, I haven't had really substantive changes. I've been through a lot in my time, but I'm still basically the same person I was when I was born, except for not weighing seven pounds, six ounces anymore.
But I will cite one incident from May 1972, when I was taking the Army's Basic Combat Training, and doing generally well at everything that didn't require tremendous physical strength, something I'd never actually had. Still, I was making progress even at that, until an object on an obstacle course lived up to its name and smacked me to the ground, my ankle purple and twisted and swollen seemingly to the size of a watermelon.
So I got about on crutches for a couple of weeks, didn't mishandle any weapons or anything like that, but the dreaded PT test was coming up, and I figured I had to knock out a seven-minute mile with this bad leg or be recycled into another group and have to go through most of the same horrible things again for an extra six weeks. Since my best time before the injury was 8:07, I was not optimistic.
The test has changed much since then, but when I was there, there were five events, each of which were scored from 0 to 100 points, and 300 points, in whatever sequence, were required to pass. That day the mile run was last, and your friendly neighborhood gimp was faced with having to turn in a 6:53 time. I would have cried if it wouldn't have looked so pathetic.
Then out came the battalion commander, in fatigues like the rest of us but still looking as sharp as his silver oak leaf in the Missouri sun, and he said to me, "You can do this. Come on." And he took off around the oval to pace me through those 440 yards of hell four times over.
"Yes, sir." I was so absolutely flabbergasted that I forgot to notice how much pain I was supposed to be in.
And then, suddenly, it was over in five minutes, fifty-six seconds. I had 311 points. I had passed.
The rumor went around that our company was on track to be the first in several years to have completed the cycle with no failures other than disciplinary. I don't know if this was true, but I do know that I don't remember anyone from that company who did get sent back for another six weeks. It would certainly provide some motivation for the battalion commander. But I don't really care what was going through the Colonel's head right that instant. What mattered was that he considered getting my unworthy butt through the system an important part of his mission, and that's what he did.
If ever you ask me "So how did you get such a high opinion of the military?" this is your answer.
(Submitted to Wizbang's Carnival of the Trackbacks.)
12 March 2005
New improved full dimensional stereotypes
This made the email rounds and wound up in The Oklahoma Observer, fercryingoutloud, so I figure it's probably semi-safe to post. If you're considering seeking an engineering degree from a college in this state, you should be able to answer the following questions:
As always, be sure to show your work.
Soon you're talking about real money
Forbes notes that there are 691 billionaires in the world these days, 131 more than last year.
Almost half of them live in the US, and two actually live in Oklahoma: George Kaiser, oilman and BOk boss, #132 at $4.2 billion, and David Green, founder of Hobby Lobby, #548 at $1.2 billion.
Meanwhile at the World Wide Rant, Andy, inexplicably not finding his name on the list, has come up with a solution: every daily visitor to his site should click on the PayPal link and send him $2,857,142.
I am, I suppose, less ambitious than Andy; I'd be happy if only one person sent me $2,857,142.
Never tell me the odds
Miss Black and White meets up with a friend, the subject turns to Star Wars, and the truth comes out:
He was surprised and asked me if I knew what this meant. I shrugged. He said, "You know you can have any man you want. It would be like a guy who loves to go shoe shopping. There are three girls on the planet who truly enjoy Sci Fi stuff."
From which proceeds the following:
And you know, I probably could have cut the last couple of words.
The dimensions of celebrity
Just in the past twenty-four hours, people have wandered to this site inquiring about Pamela Anderson's bust size (which I understand is variable, but considerable), Debra Messing's bust size (which I understand is consistent, but not huge), and Ann Coulter's height (which probably doesn't matter, since she'll look you in the eye regardless).
In addition to these, there are the usual requests for photos of the following sans clothing: model Michelle Lombardo, KWTV news babe Amy McRee, and, most unexpectedly, Laura Ingraham. What's more, the number of Olsen-twin requests is up as well, though Teri Polo requests seem to be on the wane at last. There are, I'm starting to believe, people who think that there exist nude photos of everyone on earth, and that those photos can and will be found if you dig far enough into Google.
It is circumstances such as these which make me somewhat more grateful for my nonentity status: I would probably be horrified were someone searching for me with these specifications.
(For the record, I'm six feet tall, and if I ever run into Ann Coulter, I'll expect her to tower over me, but then I expect her to be wearing heels, and besides I slouch a bit; and only once, in 1984, before the era of digital cameras and readily-available scanners, have I ever posed for a photograph unclothed, not counting whatever baby pictures may have been shot back in the Eisenhower administration, which were presumably done without my consent anyway.)
Saturday spottings (short form)
After last week's industrial-strength excursion, and what with the arrival of weather suitable for yard work, I didn't get around much today, but there were a few things worthy of note besides the wholesale destruction of weeds.
My big Midwestern bank has been absorbed into an even bigger East Coast bank, and they're saying they want all the signs changed over within the next six weeks. Given the amount of new signage I've seen at the local branches, which is to say none whatsoever, I'd say they have their work cut out for them.
About twenty-five years ago, I visited Memphis, and fortunately, it's easy to find Elvis Presley Boulevard on the maps; actual street signs are few and far between, and the only one I saw was mounted about two stories above the ground, presumably to discourage theft. (I'm sure this sort of thing didn't happen when it was merely Highway 51 South.) North of Britton Road in The Village is a noncontinuous residential street called Abbey Road. When I was househunting, one of the first notions I got was to go look on this street, for obvious Fab Four-related reasons, but houses on those few blocks seldom seemed to be for sale, and the neighborhood in question seemed to be out of what I thought to be my price range anyway, so I gave the matter no further thought until today, when I was stuck in the usual May Avenue traffic, and ducked down a side road to evade it. A couple of turns, and there I was except that, contrary to the standard prevailing on other Village street signs, the sign for Abbey Road (this one, anyway) merely says ABBEY, with no further designator; for all the casual visitor could tell, it could be Abbey Drive or Abbey Place or even Abbe Lane. Have people been stealing street signs from The Village? And should we blame Polythene Pam?
13 March 2005
Where the beaches are not so good
John Phillips, editor at large for Car and Driver, has a couple of things in common with me: we're both in our early 50s, and we've both been to the Oklahoma Panhandle once. The difference is that Phillips drove there (with a photographer) in a European-spec three-cylinder turbo Smart ForTwo, and his observations got into the magazine's April issue (not on their Web site as of this writing). I can't tell whether he actually liked the place or not. A sample or three:
For the first time in recent memory, I was driving daily on roads that were sometimes empty to the horizon. And there's precisely no one selling grande decaf frappuccinos, plus it's as quiet as a mausoleum, if you can imagine a mausoleum with a steady 30-knot wind and a herd of polled Herefords. Throughout history, the Panhandle has been a place that would either kill you or make a man of you, especially if you were a woman.
Scary prospect. And there's this:
We headed south to Wheeless, which certainly was. "Is it free of wheels," [photographer Greg] Jarem asked, "or free of whee?" In fact, we could locate no living soul to confirm that the town was uninhabited, yet it contained one firehouse, a white clapboard Baptist church, a red limestone garage, and a graveyard. We tried to walk to the cemetery but were stymied by six inches of mud. In the schoolyard lay toys that might have been dropped 30 years prior. Wheeless appeared to have been abandoned one day at about 2 p.m. and no one could think of a reason to return. As we departed, the Smart hit a tumbleweed the size of a dishwasher. "That really cheered me up," said Jarem.
There's a picture of said tumbleweed, too. Let's hope the C/D Web site picks up on it.
That night, at the Pop-A-Top Lounge in Guymon, the Panhandle's largest town, a bartender named Wendy Ward told us, "This is the most judgmental place in the U.S. We have harsh opinions of everyone." I asked her the Panhandle's population. "Don't know, don't care," she shot back.
Um, 28,478 (US Census Bureau estimate, 1 July 2003).
But I suspect he just might have enjoyed the trip:
It took three 10-hour days to hit every berg and hamlet in the Panhandle. It was never boring. We finished in Slapout, whose eight residents live opposite the town's only business, a gas station. Two cowboys ran out to greet us, eager to lay hands on the Smart. They grinned at first, then smiled, then laughed until they were emitting wet pig snorts and their faces turned red.
And you know, if I saw one of these up close and personal, I just might giggle myself.
Playing the demographics
Women, according to the arbiters of political correctness, are an oppressed minority. I've always thought this was rather a bizarre notion, since women actually outnumber men nationwide, something "minorities" just don't do, and the term "oppression" is open to all manner of interpretations, not all of them consistent with history or with Webster's.
The only time you're likely to hear any mention of female numerical superiority, though, is in discussions of dating, where it is a common complaint that there aren't enough guys to go around. Men will look at this and sniff, "Yeah, right, so where are all the girls?" That's usually my cue to quote the late Jan Berry, who was bound for Surf City, where it's two to one.
There's no surfing to speak of in Bristol, Virginia, but it's almost two to one: 1.85 single women per single man, according to Census numbers and ePodunk. The flip-side is Crowley County, an outpost in the southeastern Colorado plains, where the men outnumber the women by slightly more than two to one.
In my own particular county, I'm facing a small numerical surplus of women, to the tune of twenty percent or so, but it's not a tune I know by heart, and picking it out, note by note, is a difficult task at best. Besides, narrowing the field to the one very specific subset required "women who will actually put up with the likes of me" is likely to produce an empty set, and a lot of other empty things besides.
(Suggested, quite inadvertently, by Michael Blowhard.)
That Online Coalition thing
About 2500 bloggers and readers of blogs have so far signed the Online Coalition's letter to FEC chair Scott Thomas requesting an exemption for blogs to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, aka McCain-Feingold, aka The Incumbents' Preservation Act.
Patterico thinks this is the wrong approach:
[I]n my view, political speech is speech at the core of the First Amendment. Neither the FEC nor any other government agency has any right to regulate it in any way. When my right to engage in such speech is threatened, my impulse is not to seek out a law carving out some exception for my speech. My impulse is to tell those responsible that they can go to hell.
Look at the big picture, folks. This isn't about our precious Internet. It's about the very concept of free speech.
What we're seeing is not a crazy offshoot of campaign finance "reform" legislation. It's a logical consequence of it. Something this important can't be handled by legislation, and left to the whims of lawmakers and regulators. It is a constitutional issue, and affects all free speech.
Which, of course, is absolutely true. Still, there's little to no chance that this measure is going to be scrapped anytime soon, and until such time as it is, I'm thinking that I will have to content myself with wangling an exemption, with the hope that some future Supreme Court will choose to send this law to the dustbin, or that some day there will be more exemptions than provisions and the entire house of cards will come crashing down.
The perfect, as they say, is sometimes the enemy of the good. Right now, I'm settling for the good.
(Regular readers will note that this is the exact opposite of my stance on dating and relationships. The consistent, as they say, is sometimes the enemy of the flexible.)
(Update, 15 March, 3:30 pm: Dan Lovejoy is definitely in agreement with Patterico.)
It was right there under your nose
Nickelodeon used to run a strange little show called Roundhouse, which I watched faithfully every week during its four-year run, because it was utterly without shame, because Aaron Spelling once threatened a lawsuit after they made fun of Tori, and because there was a June Cleaver-level hottie in the cast named Shawn Daywalt, who drew the Mom assignments in the comedy sketches, and who since seems to have vanished from the face of the earth.
In its role as a sort of SNL for kids, Roundhouse was fond of fake ads, and didn't shy away from the tasteless. One particularly memorable combination of both involved a breakfast cereal for children who picked their noses: "New Booger Bran from Mucus Mills," declaimed Daywalt. "You'll know it's nutritious, but the kids will think it's snot."
Since then, scarcely a single hardy soul will say anything kind about the stuff, which is perhaps a shame, especially should it prove to have medicinal value.
Weapons of crass extraction
Could there possibly be any catchphrase beaten to death more egregiously than the expansion of WMD?
No, there could not.
Worst bill of 2005
The session isn't over yet, but I can't imagine anyone coming up with anything more asinine than this. Witness HR 1746, by Dan Sullivan (R-Tulsa):
SECTION 1. NEW LAW A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 3119 of Title 74, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:
Any agency or governmental entity of this state that develops and implements a nondiscriminatory policy based on sexual preference shall be null and void.
SECTION 2. This act shall become effective November 1, 2005.
1) Sullivan didn't realize that the text as written calls for the outright abolition of any such "agency or governmental entity";
2) He did realize that.
Either way, it's the sort of thing that makes you wonder if Sullivan was always this stupid, or if he had to train for it. No wonder the Tulsa World has such dripping contempt for the electorate: they vote for people like Sullivan.
Matt Deatherage has much, much more. Incidentally, this thing passed the House in its original form 65-28; there being only 57 Republicans in the House, somehow at least eight Democrats got sucked, so to speak, into voting for it. What were they thinking?
(With thanks to Matthew.)
How to annoy Christopher Hanson
A week ago Monday, the Baltimore Sun published an op-ed by Christopher Hanson, professor of journalism at the University of Maryland, which acknowledged the power of blogs but complained that they were no substitute for Big Media. A sample:
A great many bloggers are either too self-absorbed to focus on keeping the public informed or too skewed by ideology to put factual accuracy front and center.
Two words: Dan Rather.
But what really vexed me was his gripe about the seeming frivolity of some of us:
Case in point: "The Dawn Patrol," Manhattanite Dawn Eden's preening report on Dawn Eden, iconoclastic neoconservative "petite powerhouse," illustrated with Dawn Eden glamour photos.
Some of us like our iconoclasts to be sorta glamourous when they can. It's not essential or anything nobody is on my blogroll on the basis of physical appearance but what's the harm?
Since this sort of thing apparently disturbs Professor Hanson greatly, I'm collecting glamour shots of bloggers for The Annoy Christopher Hanson Campaign. If you'd like to participate and possibly be singled out for abuse in his next op-ed, feel free.
(Update, 15 March, 2:50 pm: Christopher Hanson responds via email: "I am trying to be annoyed but am actually flattered by the attention.")
14 March 2005
Cold, dead hands, you know the drill
Fusilier Pundit goes through the list of nominees for positions on the National Rifle Association's Board of Directors, and makes recommendations thereto. If you're a voting member of the NRA, do give Fûz a look; his priorities make a lot of sense, at least to me.
A quick one while he's here
What makes the perfect song? Rich Appel, in his monthly newsletter Hz So Good, proposes criteria:
To me, the perfect song is about 2:30, has a beginning, middle and end, and is easy to sing along with.
Hard to argue with that, though I'd stretch it out a few more seconds; seemingly every Motown hit up through 1967 or so ran somewhere between 2:40 and 3:00.
And not every song that extends beyond the three-minute mark is flirting with tedium, but there was for quite some time an unwritten law that said Thou Shalt Shut Up Already: Phil Spector "accidentally" misprinted the first batch of labels for the 3:40ish "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" as 3:05, so as not to discourage DJs of that era with its sheer length. And Billy Joel got in a barb with "The Entertainer":
It was a beautiful song but it ran too long
If you're gonna have a hit, you gotta make it fit
So they cut it down to 3:05.
"The Entertainer" runs 3:38 on Streetlife Serenade; for the 45-rpm single, they cut it down to oh, never mind.
I mention in passing that Dawn Eden's biggest hit, a cover of Kirsty MacColl's "They Don't Know About Us" (on The Stiff Generation, released by Groove Disques) on which she's backed by the Anderson Council, checks in at a brisk 2:53, six seconds faster than Tracey Ullman's version, which was a US Top Ten hit.
The Freedom of Information Act requires that the agency receiving the FOIA request act upon it within twenty days.
Unless you're San Francisco Chronicle reporter Seth Rosenfeld, who has been waiting on a FOIA request from the FBI since 1981.
Rosenfeld, who has been researching Cold War activities by the FBI at the University of California-Berkeley, has received about 200,000 pages so far, but 17,000 are still not forthcoming. The FBI, ever-helpful, suggested that Rosenfeld file a request under FOIA to ask what's taking so long.
Now that's gridlock.
(Via Population Statistic.)
Walking my own walk
I must point out here, for the sake of
Many crappy returns
One of the more persuasive arguments in favor of same-sex marriage is "Yeah, let them suffer like the rest of us."
Over at Wizbang, Jay Tea has a little ditty 'bout Jan and Diane, two American kids from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who wound up having to work up four tax returns: two to the Feds, separately; a joint return to Massachusetts, which, unlike the IRS, considers them legally wed; and a simulated Federal return at the joint rates, because Massachusetts requires the numbers from such be carried over to the state return.
This sort of thing is old news to more, um, traditional couples who might live in State A and work in State B, but it serves as a reminder that everything isn't sweetness and light even if the government actually approves of one's marriage.
15 March 2005
Tripping the lights fantastic
If it's dark enough outside and you get halfway from the driveway to my front door, the floodlights come on.
This is no big deal, but it got me wondering just how small an interloper can be spotted by the motion detector.
And while I was pondering this matter last night, the floodlights came on, and I got to the window in time to see one of the neighborhood cats at a slow, deliberate pace, as though he'd had nothing to do with it and just happened to be passing by.
Which could possibly be true I mean, I didn't see the cat trip the beam. But he certainly wasn't startled by it.
TalkLeft's Jeralyn Merritt, guest-blogging at Vodkapundit, would like you to know that Kansas is dull:
Face it, Kansas is a plain-Jane. It's "I Like Ike" and Bob Dole country. It reminds me of my most hated food mayonnaise pale, bland, uniform in consistency and boring. There's no ocean, no mountains and its population is hardly a model of diversity. And it's always going to be that way. A simply mediocre, generic kind of place, totally devoid of bathos, highs or lows.
Of course and she comes this close to admitting as much in the comments her real objections to Kansas come straight out of Thomas Frank. Not that I mind; I liked Frank's book, which is nicely detailed and spiffily written. But Frank's assumption, that Kansans, culturally and economically, would logically be aligned with the Democrats had they not been somehow seduced in recent years by the GOP, ignores the simple fact that Kansans have almost always voted Republican. Seduction? More likely inertia. Whatever the GOP equivalent of the yellow-dog Democrat, Kansas has 'em.
And while I join Merritt in her dislike for mayonnaise, I can't bring myself to badmouth Kansas; oceans and mountains are wonderful things, but not essential things. Of course, if you want generic with diversity, you come to Oklahoma.
Have it your way, somewhere else
A couple of weekends ago I noted the general disappearance of Burger King in the metro area.
They're not all gone Burger King HQ says there are thirty-five locations remaining in central Oklahoma, though their definition of "central" extends as far as McAlester but local franchiser Ken Knight, who at one time owned fourteen Burger Kings in the area, has shuttered all fourteen, and he and Burger King are going their separate ways due to what Burger King calls a "history of ... failure to meet Burger King operating standards".
(Yes, Burger King has operating standards. Knock it off.)
At least two of the closed Burger Kings had been sharing space with gas stations: a Shell at NE 23rd and I-35, and a Conoco at Pennsylvania and I-44.
You, too, can write headlines
MIKE'S H'CAUST HONOR?
Gawker gives this the snark it deserves:
Hey, New York Post: We have limited headline space, too, but c?mon. This never would've happened under Dawn's watch.
In the spirit of innovation which has always characterized this site (okay, quit laughing, dammit), we now present what boils down to a caption contest with no picture. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to produce a suitable headline for the New York Post story linked above that sounds as Dawn Eden-like as possible. Assuming I can talk her into it (and if I can't, I've got more worries than I thought I did), Dawn herself will pick the winner.
Post your entry as a comment below. I expect this will be open through Friday at least.
It's dead, Jim
I pulled into the Batteries Plus store on the way home today in search of a replacement 3.6-volt for my cell phone. As the guy was installing the new one, he offered this bit of pragmatism:
There's a one-year warranty on this, which is about as long as the ones that come in the phones will last.
He looked at the front of my phone, which dates back to the Old Silurian times, and added:
At least, in the new phones. They last just about as long as the contracts.
Now we all learned about planned obsolescence back in the 1950s, when Detroit figured out that annual automobile model changes were good for the bottom line. And really, I can't say I'm too surprised at this, since rather a lot of wireless customers say goodbye after their contracts are up and go to someone else who might have an entirely different technology and almost certainly has an entirely different phone to vend.
Just for the sake of argument, this is the first battery I've bought for this phone since it was new in May 2001. And technically, the old battery wasn't quite dead; it just wouldn't hold a charge beyond the two-bar (of four) level.
16 March 2005
A house of fine repute
It's been gone for nine years now, and its owner died last month, but The Downtown Guy thinks it's time to resurrect Molly Murphy's in Bricktown.
I'm thinking it's a hell of an idea. If they're going to pitch Bricktown as a place where Things Happen, well, things were always happening at Molly's. The Oklahoma Gazette once described it as "a mixture of 20s Art Deco and the Taj Mahal," and they weren't kidding. And if the environment was wacky, the staff was insane. The food was okay, maybe a little better than that, but you didn't go to Molly's because you were peckish; you went to Molly's because you wanted to see just what in the heck was going to happen next, and it didn't bother you that you had to wait an hour and twenty minutes to get in.
Yeah, I know: reviving the original Molly's would be right up there with building a shrine to That '70s Show. But everything old eventually is new again, and frankly, I think it's time I got a chance to embarrass my grandchildren, who sooner or later will have to go to the bathroom.
A spoonful of bombast
Something called "Star Wars and the Treble Invaders" is coming to the Civic under the auspices of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic this Sunday, and I am disinclined to snicker. Lileks knows why:
At one of the Minnesota Youth Symphony concerts I MCd last year, they performed "Duel of the Fates" from a Star Wars movie, complete with a huge chorus. Two hundred people on stage, sawing and belting with great gusto at Orchestra Hall. They enjoyed it. Because it was fun to perform. A guilty pleasure, but what counts more the guilt or the pleasure? Look, I love Berlioz more than John Williams, because Symphonie fantastique is an incomparable work, and the Tuba Miram never fails to part my hair. But if I had to choose between the two, I might take Williams. He's produced 100X as much stuff, and listening to it does not feel as if I'm sitting in the Church of Classical Music in itchy church pants. I can skip around, whereas I always feel wrong if I FF through a Mahler adagio because I'm just not in the mood. It?s cheap popular program music, yes but such large portions!
And one does not lure the kiddies into the classical camp with Das Lied von der Erde, for sure.
It shouldn't happen to a dog
Terri Schiavo has forty-eight hours [link requires Adobe Reader] to go. Andrea Harris sums it up:
I'm not Catholic. And I think what they are planning to do to Terri Schiavo Friday is murder. There's not a thing wrong with that woman except that she has a damaged brain, so she can't sign checks and cook meals for her needy hubby. But by playing on the "ew, ick, a drooler" factor that comes to play when people see a brain-damaged person (and the shame people feel when they have that reaction) Mr. Schiavo with the collusion of my state's court system has made it so a perfectly innocent woman can be put to death in a way that would get a jail sentence and many shrieking denunciations of the perpetrator if it were done to a dog. But well, dogs can fetch, so they're more important than a brain-damaged woman. As for me, I'm hoping to get out of this state in a few years; Florida's not a healthy place to get sick in.
If that doesn't make you squirm, consider this:
Oh dear Providence: please grant that I never have a spouse who has such great concern for me, especially when I have other family members who are willing to look after me. The spouse (who, in giving orders prohibiting rehabilitation, coincidentally guarantees she never presses charge against him, indeed never speaks at all) claims preserving his wife's life is against her wishes while noting the financial burden of her continued care; the family pleads that where there is life there is hope, and that the costs do not matter, that somehow they will find a way.
Please consider, Dear Reader: Which would you prefer? Love like Terri's spouse, or love like that of her parents?
The actions of the spouse would appear to be in conflict with a loving spouse, but not in conflict with a malevolent one. But that is merely circumstantial evidence. He cannot be prosecuted for speculative malevolence for his ailing spouse.
But a justice system that was not detached from its obligations under the social contract would clearly see the potential conflict and mercifully take the ailing daughter from the custody of the spouse and put her in the care of her parents who will look over her without financial gain.
And one thing more bothers me. American liberals, who fancy themselves the protectors of the downtrodden, have been utterly silent on this matter. Can it be because they don't, even for a moment, want to appear on the same side of an issue as those hated "pro-life" people?
Not C-130, which is the Air Force's Hercules aircraft.
Instead, you should see the 130th Carnival of the Vanities, hosted this week by Bird's Eye View, and once again bringing you high-quality bloggage in a single handy digest. As He Who Does Not Need The Linkage might say, you might find a blog you like better than this one.
They read me, they really read me
I've stayed out of the "Is blogging a boys' club?" discussion stirred up by Steven Levy and abetted largely by Jeff Jarvis, but this piece by Cobb got me thinking:
In the blogosphere there is a real contingency of patronage. I'm not sure that everyone is so eager to say so, but it's real. As real as is the term 'blogosphere' is the term 'blogfather'. Ask any blogger of substance, and if they're honest (and are abetted by a technical clue or two) they'll know which other blogs send them the most traffic. They will also almost surely know who gave them their big break and under which circumstances that occured. There is not a conspiracy of white male bloggers, and I'd guess all of them would be loath to admit any such clubbiness, but all popular bloggers belong to a club and none of them are about to delink anytime soon.
I am neither popular nor possessed of substance bulk, perhaps but I do know which other blogs send me the most traffic. Day in, day out, the following (listed alphabetically by first non-article word) show up most often in my referrer logs:
Four men, four women. (My two largest traffic days ever came from a post by Michelle Malkin, but this was a fluke.) If there's really a "boys' club," no one's given me the Secret Handshake yet. And I don't really have a "blogfather," since I was out here before most of my regular reads; further, to my knowledge, no one sees me in this role.
I must point out that neither ScrappleFace nor LGF has ever linked to any individual article of mine, but I seem to rank somewhere above the middle of their blogrolls, and I have had some email correspondence with Scott Ott.
Oh, and I got pointed to the Cobb article by La Shawn Barber (in lieu of the usual "Via" tag).
17 March 2005
Coming and going
The Ohio House had passed an amendment to the Buckeye State's transportation budget to get rid of the front license plate, saying it was an unnecessary expense, but the Senate version of the bill, which retains the front plate, prevailed in committee, arguing that displaying a front plate served the needs of law enforcement.
Before you ask, yes, Timothy McVeigh, on the way out of Oklahoma, was busted on a plate violation, but he didn't have any plates on the car. (Oklahoma has managed just fine for sixty-one years with only rear plates.)
Scalia on the New Judiciary
I suppose this will cement my reputation as some sort of right-wing reprobate: I'm about to quote approvingly from a speech by Justice Antonin Scalia.
I was confirmed, close to nineteen years ago now, by a vote of ninety-eight to nothing. The two missing were Barry Goldwater and Jake Garnes, so make it a hundred. I was known at that time to be, in my political and social views, fairly conservative. But still, I was known to be a good lawyer, an honest man, somebody who could read a text and give it its fair meaning, had judicial impartiality and so forth. And so I was unanimously confirmed.
Today, barely twenty years later, it is difficult to get someone confirmed to the Court of Appeals. What has happened? The American people have figured out what is going on. If we are selecting lawyers, if we are selecting people to read a text and give it the fair meaning it had when it was adopted, yes, the most important thing to do is to get a good lawyer. If on the other hand, we're picking people to draw out of their own conscience and experience, a new constitution, with all sorts of new values to govern our society, then we should not look principally for good lawyers. We should look principally for people who agree with us, the majority, as to whether there ought to be this right, that right, and the other right. We want to pick people that would write the new constitution that we would want.
And that is why you hear in the discourse on this subject, people talking about moderate, we want moderate judges. What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you'd like it to mean? There is no such thing as a moderate interpretation of the text. Would you ask a lawyer, "Draw me a moderate contract"? The only way the word has any meaning is if you are looking for someone to write a law, to write a constitution, rather than to interpret one.
Which makes me wonder how much legislation is introduced on the basis of "Wouldn't this be nice?" instead of "Will this pass Constitutional muster?" And I suppose I'm conservative enough to think that if the answer to the latter is No, it doesn't much matter what the answer to the former might be.
(Found by way of Power Line.)
Your basic New York state of mind
Lesley anticipates the next move by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer:
Eliot Spitzer announced, today, that he was opening an inquiry into the amount of dust in the universe. "New Yorkers live in the universe. Therefore, we consider it within the venue of the New York State Attorney General's office to investigate the amount of dust in the universe and the adverse impact it has on the health of New Yorkers. We hope the universe will cooperate with my office in reaching a reasonable settlement." When asked if he would consider filing a lawsuit if an amicable settlement could not be reached, Spitzer replied "We're not ruling out any options at this time."
The universe was unavailable for comment.
But had the universe answered its phone, I'm sure it would have said something to the effect of "Bwahahahaha!"
Some day Ms Prince will come
Sometimes this is all you need to know:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel creator and Astonishing X-Men writer Joss Whedon will write and direct a big-screen, live-action Wonder Woman feature film for Warner Bros. with Joel Silver and Leonard Goldberg producing.
The right man for the job, clearly:
"Wonder Woman is the most iconic female heroine of our time, but in a way, no one has met her yet," Whedon said in a statement quoted by The Hollywood Reporter. "What I love most about icons is finding out what's behind them, exploring the price of their power. When Joel and I began discussing the character, I realized there is a woman behind the legend who is very fascinating, very uncompromising and in her own way almost vulnerable. She's someone who doesn't belong in this world, and since everyone I know feels that way about themselves, the character clicked for me."
You know Donna will be there opening night.
18 March 2005
I rolled out of bed at 5:45 yesterday morning and hit the freeway by 6:30. The tricky part was arriving at the 44/35 junction at exactly the same time as the 18-wheeler with only a few feet of ramp to work with.
The solution, as always, was simple enough: second gear, 5500 rpm, and gone. Still, this is not a road on which I'd like to be doing 80 mph at sunrise, so I gradually scaled myself back to something resembling the speed limit (60) over the next half-mile or so.
And I remembered something Mayor Cornett had said during his State of the City address:
You can get from one part of our City to another with incredible ease any time of day. In fact, we're one of the few cities where the police can actually watch for speeders during rush hour!
With timing that can only be described as impeccable, a police officer on a motorcycle appeared in the left lane. Didn't do much for my sense of incredible ease, but he wasn't looking my way, and by then I was pretty much synchronized with the traffic flow anyway.
I shall endeavor to keep it under 80 this morning.
(Update: Peaked at 74 mph.)
Drudge has this out no other sources yet that I can see.
**Exclusive Fri Mar 18 2005 00:50:07 ET**
The Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee, Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming) has requested Terri Schiavo to testify before his congressional committee, the Drudge Report has learned. In so doing it triggers legal or statutory protections for the witness, among those protections is that nothing can be done to cause harm or death to this individual.
Members of Congress went to the U.S. Attorney in DC to ask for a temporary restraining order to be issued by a judge, which protects Terri Schiavo from having her life support, including her feeding and hydration tubes, removed.
As Drudge says, "Developing."
As McGehee says, "Dang! Dia-freakin'-bolical!"
(Update: A writ of habeas corpus [link requires Adobe Reader] has been filed by Terri's family.)
(Update, 11:20 am: Fox News reports the House Government Reform Committee has subpoenaed Terri, two attending physicians, the hospice administrator, and Michael Schiavo. They are to appear next Friday at 10 am. Via BlogsforTerri.)
(Update, 2 pm: Judge Greer tells them what they can do with their subpoena.)
I think I will have fries with that
The Oklahoma House has passed, 93-7, a bill to insulate food producers from lawsuits by activists who seek to force their personal food choices on everyone.
House Bill 1554, by Dale DeWitt (R-Braman), protects food producers who meet existing state and Federal standards from civil liability for claims of weight gain or obesity. Said DeWitt:
Some individuals don't want to take responsibility for their own health and instead look to put the blame on food producers.
The Senate will consider this bill in due course. Similar measures have passed in sixteen states and are under consideration in twenty others.
This is what Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said:
Why would we give lifetime appointments to people who earn up to $200,000 a year, with absolutely a great retirement system, and all the things all Americans wish for, with absolutely no check and balance except that one confirmation vote. So we're saying we think you ought to get nine votes over the 51 required. That isn't too much to ask for such a super important position. There ought to be a super vote. Don't you think so? It's the only check and balance on these people. They're in for life. They don't stand for election like we do, which is scary.
What'll you bet that if the Democrats had thirty-five votes in the Senate, instead of forty-five, Boxer would be insisting on a two-thirds majority for confirmation?
Now if she wants to introduce a Constitutional amendment to require a three-fifths, or whatever, majority, that's just fine with me. Otherwise, she needs to find something else to piss and moan about. (And unfortunately, she almost certainly will.)
Callers from hell
Insufferable dillholes have been calling here for weeks now, most recently with a bogus Caller ID signature. (Area code "124," my ass.)
I don't really know whom they're looking for, and I don't really give a damn. I can, however, recommend that if anyone for any reason ever asks you to return their call at 866-877-0026, do so only long enough to tell them to perform an anatomical impossibility of your choice and then hang up with ferocity.
With right hand raised
The events of this day perhaps have emboldened me, and it's about time.
I will not be silenced, no matter what the Federal Election Commission or any other government agency throws at me in an attempt to circumvent the First Amendment.
Thank you for sticking to your guns.
19 March 2005
The Lonely Lib/Con reviews the case of Terri Schiavo, and sees another issue in its shadow:
It is indeed an echo of the abortion debate, where the issue is so fiercely polarized that pro-choice forces are finding themselves arguing that there's no moral difference between expelling a microscopic clump of cells and killing a viable infant in mid-birth, but that there is a difference between killing the infant during birth and killing it immediately afterward.
In service to their ideology they've entirely sacrificed both reason and humanity. Compared to that, a man who wants to kill his wife for money is easy to sympathize with.
There's no money in abortion, of course, unless you're the provider of same; what makes these issues run parallel to one another is the idea that a person should die for the convenience of another.
Should this notion prove defensible, I'll start working on a list.
By the numbers
Michele's been looking for songs with numbers in their titles.
Two years ago I put together a CD-R, a foreshortened version (with some songs shuffled) of an earlier mix tape. The track list follows:
Incidentally, "Forty Days" is the same song as Chuck Berry's "Thirty Days." The tape version substituted Boyd Bennett's "Seventeen" and Alice Cooper's "I'm Eighteen," the Clovers' version of "Love Potion No. 9," and added Nena's "99 Luftballons" and the Drifters' "Three Thirty Three."
The Guv goes down
Former Connecticut Governor John G. Rowland was fined $82,000 and sentenced to 366 days in the pen at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. He had entered a guilty plea to a corruption charge in December.
I spent about 550 days at Fort Devens myself, but this was before it became "an administrative facility housing male prisoners ... requiring specialized or long-term medical or mental health care."
Nodak Jack contemplates that Terri Schiavo subpoena:
After watching the baseball hearing, I'm convinced that even in her "vegetative state," she'd make more cogent arguments for her side than Jose Canseco made for his.
No argument here.
One of my listeners even suggested that she may be more alert than some of the members of Congress in front of whom she'd be placed.
("Listeners": Jack is co-host of "Noonday with Jack & Sandy" on WDAY radio in Fargo, ND.)
Somebody must have thought this was a really great idea:
Department-store king John Wanamaker used to say that half the money he spent on advertising was wasted, but he couldn't tell which half. I think it's a safe bet that whatever Keller Lawn Care / Heating and Air Conditioning spent on this little exercise was pretty much pissed away.
20 March 2005
Recall a time when the action/inaction of yourself or others has led, through a series of events, into having a profound effect on your life or others.
So far as I know, I have had no effect on anyone apart from immediate family members, and none of them would likely describe it as "profound."
Behind brown eyes
About two years ago, Justin Katz wrote a song from the perspective of Terri Schiavo. Opening verse:
Maybe if I try real hard
I can move my finger just a little bit
Maybe if I make some noise
I can make them understand
In E-minor, of course.
We don't really know what's going on inside her, apart from the first signs of hunger. Certainly I don't. But what we know about what's going on outside is disturbing enough.
But always two groups
Remember the flap over Linkers vs. Thinkers? It's back, and now there are gender implications (see Comment V):
the main difference i see between male and female bloggers is that (by and large) male bloggers tend to be content aggregators, whereas female bloggers tend to be content providers. with a lot of the male blogs, all the hyper-linking sometimes comes across as a bit of willy-waving "oh look at me, look at the sources i read." with female blogs, it's more frequently more general, chatty, real even.
Of course, there is a disclaimer attached:
to solve the wild generalisation problem such a sweeping comment creates: some male bloggers write 'female' blogs and some female bloggers write 'male' blogs.
Okay, I'll buy that, provided the quotes are kept in place, though it's ultimately a circular argument. Certainly there's no clear delineation that can be reliably identified by textual analysis, and no one person reads so many blogs that (s)he is capable of making this sort of judgment call and making it stick.
(I could say something about "male bloggers tend to use actual capitalization once in a while," but that isn't universally true either.)
For myself, I still think I am where I was when I wrote my original piece on the subject two years ago: somewhere in between. On the other hand, I must agree that there's an awful lot of, um, willy-waving out there. I assume I'm not doing much of it, because I don't hear a lot of giggling in the background.
(Found at aldahlia.net.)
Where sculpture meets architecture
Artist Dennis Oppenheim, at first glance, seems to be the curator of the Island of Misfit Toys; his sculptures are simultaneously utterly familiar and incredibly disorienting, and blown up to town-square size, they delight and disturb.
In short, he's a major figure in American conceptual art, and the Price Tower Arts Center in Bartlesville is presenting Dennis Oppenheim: Indoors, Outdoors for the next couple of months. Oppenheim himself will appear at the Arts Center's annual gala in April, to be followed by an exhibition of his video art at Tulsa's Circle Cinema.
I have a feeling I'm going to want to see all of this, just because.
R. Alex has a new cell phone. There's just one problem:
I don't know how to turn it on.
There is no "on" button.
What kind of cell phone... scratch that, what kind of anything electronic does not have an "on" button?
Well, there's my Olympus Digital Voice Recorder, which apparently is always on. Per the instructions:
If the recorder is stopped or paused for 60 minutes or longer during recording or playing, it goes into Standby (power-save) mode, and the display shuts off. To exit Standby mode and turn on the display, press any button.
In six months and about two hours of recording, it has yet to run down its first set of AAA batteries, so it must be saving some serious power.
Think of it as a valve job
Steph Mineart, whose Commonplace Book I have been reading for about six or seven years, is facing open-heart surgery: repairs to the mitral valve and its anchoring.
This is scary, but not likely lethal, and I wish her well as she gets ready to go under the scalpel.
21 March 2005
Here comes Uncle Ernie to guide you
Fifth District Congressman Ernest Istook (R-Warr Acres) will be holding four Town Hall meetings during the balance of this month. Interestingly, the two in the city will be confined to specific subjects, while those in the outlying areas will be open for discussion on a range of topics. I leave it to someone more cynical than I to speculate as to why.
Here's the schedule (as a taxpayer, I paid for a mailing of this stuff, so I figure I'm entitled to reproduce it):
Thursday, 24 March, 6:40 pm
Tuesday, 29 March, 10 am
Tuesday, 29 March, 4 pm
Thursday, 31 March, 6:30 pm
Says Rep. Istook, "Locally, the federal government interacts with our lives in ways which we may not always understand." I guess he ought to know.
The Oklahoma House delegation (four Republicans, one Democrat) voted unanimously in favor of S. 686, the Senate bill to put Terri Schiavo's case under the jurisdiction of the federal courts, signed by President Bush early this morning.
(The complete roll-call vote is here.)
If you've always wanted to live in a loft in downtown Oklahoma City and obviously some of you did, or there wouldn't be any efforts to increase the supply of same The Downtown Guy has an overview of what's available and a hint of what's coming.
And surely it's coming. Mayor Cornett has claimed that there is a market for 6,000 housing units in the downtown area; fewer than 1,000 are currently available. There is construction in MidTown, just to the northwest; plans are being made for the east.
I tend to marvel at this sort of thing, but then I remember the mausoleum that was downtown Oklahoma City thirty years ago: maybe a few signs of life from 9 to 5, but forget anything after sunset. Now, with rental units in the 'burbs being old and decrepit and boring the big apartment boom in the Seventies resulted in serious overbuilding, just in time for the energy industry to go bust downtown is becoming the place to be, especially if you work in the business district and have no desire to burn up lots of increasingly-expensive gasoline to get there.
A libertarian perspective, maybe
As distinguished from the libertarian perspective, since I suspect there exists substantial debate among libertarians and among members of the actual Libertarian Party.
The topic, of course, is Terri, and Marty Beckerman weighs in with this commentary at Dawn Eden's place:
As a libertarian, I support doctor-assisted suicide but you're right, the Schiavo case is sick. If this woman can actually still speak (and her family wants to keep her alive, despite the state's wishes), the dictatorial Communists in the Democratic Party have finally revealed their utter contempt for all human life, not just babies. You'd think the lefties and feminists would fervertly support a woman whose husband is killing her for money and a new slice of tang but no, Zero Population Growth is too important. If the Dems are so famously concerned about appealing to Middle America after Kerry was destroyed at the polls, what the hell are they thinking?
I'm looking at this case on libertarian grounds, not moral grounds if a government official orders you killed even though you're physically responsive, the majority of your family wants you to live and you've committed no crime, that's despotism.
Some consider suicide the ultimate human right. It's certainly the last one. And I don't really have a problem should the medical profession offer assistance, provided:
A tossed-off Beckoid "I'm a loser, baby, why don't you kill me?" does not strike me as particularly irrefutable.
This is, however, as far as I'm willing to wade into the waters of euthanasia: I am not the best judge of slippery slopes, perhaps, but as a wiser man than I once said, "You never think you have need of any chocks until you're in the truck, and you realize it's rolling down the hill. Backwards."
For myself, I haven't decided one way or another, haven't filed any legal documents or anything, but I figure there are worse ways to go than being shot out of a cannon.
Five points if your next line is "Can't trust that Dane."
Anyway, this is just a couple of not-entirely-random observations from a Monday afternoon.
Two reliable signs of spring were very much in evidence today: Gary England in his shirtsleeves telling the KWTV audience that "there's a fair amount of rotation" in some storm out in Lower Boondochia, which we of course never mock because we know said storm is headed here next, and the return of Cars from Hell, or at least Heck. Not far from Surlywood, in the space of sixty seconds, I counted three orphaned Daewoos, a battered Nissan Stanza wagon (taller than it's wide, or so it looked), and a remarkably-unbattered Peugeot 505 wagon. It's very rare to see any Frenchmobiles around town; I figure the last Renault 5/Le Car wound up as a kiddie ride at a county fair somewhere.
If you said you were going to show me a list of the Top 20 Monty Python sketches of all time, I'm sure I would have expected "The Spanish Inquisition," though I wouldn't have expected Entertainment Weekly's Josh Wolk (in issue #812) to have picked it as Number One. Still, he justifies it well:
Red-caped crusading cardinals threaten torture with (gasp!) the comfy chair! Unforgettable for one reason: torture by kitchen drying rack, and Michael Palin's inability to count two! Two reasons!
Dennis Moore? Dennis Moore? He's not in this bit.
The case of the gorgeous librarian
Desiree Goodwin's discrimination suit against Harvard, last mentioned here, has gotten as far as jury selection.
Goodwin, who says that her appearance has kept her from advancing in the Harvard library system in 2001, she claims, her supervisor told her she was considered "merely ... a pretty girl who wore sexy outfits, low cut blouses, and tight pants" asserts that she's lost out on $150,000 in potential earnings and has suffered emotional distress.
Opening statements will be issued tomorrow, assuming no last-minute settlement is reached.
Harvard President Lawrence Summers was not overheard suggesting that beautiful women might be better suited for research work.
Update, 22 March, 10 am: A posting at Sarah's feuilletons, by someone who knows the situation:
I'm not surprised, given my own experiences in the work world. The reality is that she is 40, exceptionally well educated and from my personal experience a fabulous resource at Harvard. That she looks easily 15 years younger, dresses well, not inappropriately, and is of African descent are things that don't mesh well often in the work world's opinions of appropriate behavior for women and minorities. Looking youthful, including being in healthy shape and in good spirits, are often declaimers for promotion of women; until they're then "old" and then they're too old for promotion. I've found the people at Loeb Library to be nothing but kind and helpful to students, so please don't take my sympathy for Desiree as displeasure with the library as a whole. But I recognize that there is a deep antipathy that runs counter to even so-called liberal ideals when a person of color is a good team player.
Also, the Boston Herald managed to come up with an unflattering photo of Ms Goodwin; those of you who seek a better photograph are directed here.
22 March 2005
How nonpartisan are they?
I have been known to kvetch about partisan influence on ostensibly-nonpartisan elections before, so this Seattle Times editorial by James Vesely caught my eye:
One way to get partisan politics out of public office is to force more candidates to run without party label.
The idea of nonpartisan elections makes more and more sense, especially in the public-works areas of government those places where management of the office is more important than setting policy. There's not much ideology that can or should be attached to, say, the state treasurer, so why only elect Democrats or Republicans? That was state Treasurer Mike Murphy's idea he offered to allow the Legislature to make the office nonpartisan, like electing an accountant or the state's best money manager regardless of party. Murphy, a proud Democrat, understands that he can be an effective steward of the state's purse without having to show his party card. The Legislature turned him down.
On the other hand, I don't think we've suffered greatly in Oklahoma by having the Treasurer elected by statewide vote: we were served well by Robert Butkin, a Democrat, and less well, I think, by his Republican predecessor, but the performance of neither, I believe, was affected by his party label.
And Jim Miller tosses in an angle I hadn't considered:
I am not wholly opposed to nonpartisan elections. They often make sense when the electorates are small. But they have one great disadvantage, well known to most political scientists, and unknown to almost all editors (or perhaps ignored by them). When electorates are large, political parties counterbalance the influence of the prominent such as newspaper editors with numbers. Partisan elections shift decisions toward majorities, and away from elites.
Nonpartisan elections especially increase the influence of newspapers, as Mr. Vesely must know. So when he argues that more elections should be nonpartisan, he is saying that the unelected editors at the Seattle Times should have even more influence. I can see why he would find that idea agreeable; I can't see why voters should grant him his wish.
Which leads me to the most obvious question: How much influence does the not-quite-post-Gaylord Oklahoman really have these days?
Just one of those things
Terry Teachout remembers meeting Bobby Short:
Going to see my idol in person seemed to me the perfect way to round out my trip to New York, so I booked a table for one and turned up half an hour before show time, blissfully ignorant of the fact that the Café Carlyle is an elegant watering hole intended for well-to-do New Yorkers, not teenage boys in ill-fitting black suits.
Not being much of a drinker, I decided to consume my minimum by having a late supper at my tiny table. I tore into my shrimp cocktail with gusto, unaware that anything was wrong until I put down my fork, looked around, and saw that no one else in the room was eating. I might well have died of embarrassment had it not been for the fact that Bobby Short, formerly of Danville, Illinois, spotted me for an out-of-towner the moment he walked through the door and came straight to my table to say hello, an act of kindness for which I am still grateful.
Teachout never went back to the Carlyle didn't want to "disturb that perfect memory," he said but when you're in the presence of greatness, once is probably enough. And the greatness will be remembered long past Short's death yesterday at 80; the songs he sang and played are standards, at least partly because he sang and played them.
Squeeze that fuel
Gas stations with prices under $2 a gallon for the low-suds stuff are few and far between at the moment, and while I have yet to hit that particular threshold myself I filled up Saturday for $1.979 at a station that has since raised its price two cents it's just a matter of time, and not much time at that.
Which is the sort of thing that draws attention to a group like 40mpg.org, which is dedicated to "[making] 40 miles per gallon the standard for all automobiles in the United States." All new automobiles, of course; there's no way to retrofit your old clunker for this kind of fuel efficiency no matter what you saw in that infomercial.
The benefits, say the organization, are "obvious":
[W]e reduce dependence on Middle Eastern oil, making us more secure; we lower the carbon emissions into the atmosphere that contribute to global warming; and we put America's technology community to work on these important problems, creating jobs, ensuring that the U.S. leads in the development and sale of new technologies.
Apart from my skepticism about global warming geez, it's cold outside these would seem to be reasonably sensible goals. That last item, though, implies that "America's technology community" is dragging its high-tech heels, and the list of available vehicles that actually get 40 mpg, lacking a single US nameplate, hammers the point home. Not that anyone will willingly buckle himself into a rolling penalty box like the Honda Insight.
Weight is an enemy of fuel efficiency, and the tendency today is to create ever-more-massive trundlers. I wouldn't mind seeing that trend stopped in its lumbering tracks. But with almost all minivans and most trucks sixty percent of the American auto market weighing in at over two tons, getting 40, even 30, mpg is going to be an uphill battle. And I still persist in thinking that it might be easier just to boost the gas tax to horrendous levels.
(Disclosure: My modest little sedan weighs 2960 lb empty and averaged 27.2 mpg on its last 87-octane tankful.)
The things some people read
With almost seven hours left before midnight, this is the site's fourth-busiest day ever, and there's a good chance it might make it to third. (Christmas Day 2004, I had 2,075 visitors; as of thirty seconds ago, I was at 1,721, and still averaging over 90 an hour.)
And the page everyone is demanding today was written in October 2003. Being the kindly soul I am, I posted an update last night, but hardly anyone has read it. I assume this is because the visitors were looking for something other than mere text.
(Update: Finished the day at 2,040.)
More truth than poultry
Someone got to this site recently with the search query what is a pellet court.
If you ask me, it's something like this.
As empty gestures go, not bad
The Oklahoma House has passed without dissent a resolution commending the Congress and President Bush for their last-minute attempt to rescue Terri Schiavo.
WHEREAS, the Founding Fathers affirmed in the Declaration of Independence that government's role is to protect and defend the inalienable right to life with which we are endowed by our Creator; and
WHEREAS, activist judges across the United States have abused the powers accorded them by, respectively, the U.S. Constitution, the Congress, and the various state constitutions; and
WHEREAS, Florida's Judge Greer has misconstrued the founding principles of the Declaration of Independence, cheapened the value of human life, and set a dangerous legal precedent wherein government is allowed to place an arbitrary value on human life; and
WHEREAS, in its findings, the court ruled without sufficient evidence that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state (PVS); and
WHEREAS, advocates of the forced starvation of Terri Schiavo have endorsed the notion that human life has value in proportion to the degree of burden that the support of that life may place on others; and
WHEREAS, convicted murderers and terrorists are accorded more due process rights and privileges than have been granted to Terri Schiavo; and
WHEREAS, certain elected and appointed officials across the United States continue to try to move our culture from a sanctity-of-life ethic to a "quality-of-life" standard in seeking to justify passive and active euthanasia; and
WHEREAS, a culture of life is essential to the protection of liberty and freedom.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE 1st SESSION OF THE 50TH OKLAHOMA LEGISLATURE:
THAT the Oklahoma House of Representatives commend the United States Congress and the President for their actions to protect the life of Terri Schiavo; we urge U.S. District Judge James Whittemore both to order an immediate injunction to reinsert Schiavo's feeding tube and to hear Schiavo?s case anew; and we implore the U.S. Congress to seek whatever additional remedies are at their disposal to protect and defend Schiavo?s life and the culture of life in the United States.
THAT copies of this resolution be distributed to the President of the United States, U.S. District Judge James Whittemore, and members of the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation.
At this writing, Judge Whittemore has already washed his hands of this matter; presumably Rep. Thad Balkman, who wrote this, will forward copies to the Sanhedrin of the Eleventh Circuit.
23 March 2005
Lots of luck
We've got way too much free parking, says UCLA urban planner Donald Shoup, according to this Scripps-Howard syndicated piece by Joan Lowy.
Obviously he's never been to Bricktown at sunset on Friday.
(Via Matt Rosenberg.)
For the 131st time
The Carnival of the Vanities is upon us, this week through the kind indulgence of CodeBlueBlog. A lot of the good stuff you missed in the last seven days is right here in a handy single-page package.
Meanwhile on G Street
"We're hosed," said the Second Under-Assistant Deputy Secretary to the Sub-Director for Procurement. "Who knew it would cost so much?"
"Just mention 9/11. That usually shuts them up."
"Not this time, boss. The whole budget has gone to hell. We can't just say 'Hey, we're doing homeland security here,' and expect them to approve all our expenditures."
"No, we can't."
An uncomfortable pause.
"Can we "
"Don't even think it."
"Can we cut payments to our contractors?"
"We could, I suppose. But how are they going to cut their expenses?"
"I'm sure they'll think of something."
For twenty-seven years Cal Hobson, a Lexington Democrat, has served in the Oklahoma legislature, twelve in the House, then moving up to the Senate, where he became President pro tempore in 2003, about the time he first acknowledged that he was struggling with the slings and arrows of alcoholism.
Today, Hobson is expected to step down from his leadership position. Mike at Okiedoke gives him a sendoff which puts the emphasis where it belongs: on the battles at the Capitol, not on the bottles in his desk.
Goodwin v. Harvard update
Richard Riley, representing Harvard, testified yesterday that there was "no hint" of discrimination against librarian Desiree Goodwin, whose lawsuit against the university began yesterday.
Goodwin stated that she had written a piece of ad copy for an employee newspaper in which she described, presumably tongue-in-cheek, her "never-ending quest to defy the image of the typical librarian"; she said her boss had heard a complaint about the piece from one of the head librarians. But what rankled her, evidently, was the boss's suggestion that she look for work elsewhere: "You really should apply outside of Harvard because the first thing employers look for is a qualified black person."
(I will probably do more of these, partly because they seem to draw readers, partly because I find this case interesting, and partly to take my mind off that other fortyish woman in the headlines who faces far worse a fate.)
The last word on ballot access
Actually, it probably won't be, but I doubt anyone will say anything much pithier than J. M. Branum's commentary in this week's Oklahoma Gazette.
If our state legislators think Oklahoma voters are too stupid to choose from more than two choices, they should have the guts to go on the record and say so. HB 1429 should have had a fair hearing before the Rules Committee with a roll-call vote. Instead, though, the bill was killed outside of public scrutiny in a process that seems more like how they do things in the People?s Republic of China than in a free country.
Speaker Hiett talks a lot about making state government "open and accountable"; I'd like to see him account for what happened to this bill.
24 March 2005
It ain't me, babe
N. Z. Bear warns of the dangers of Google's reverse telephone-directory lookup.
In the past I've not found such things particularly reliable, but I duly plugged in the ten digits anyway, and found, to my surprise, that I live in a duplex north of 23rd and Ann Arbor.
Also, that I'm a girl.
(Neither my alternate number nor my wireless number produced results.)
You remember this, I'm sure:
We walked in, sat down, Obie came in with the twenty-seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, sat down. Man came in said, "All rise." We all stood up, and Obie stood up with the twenty-seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures, and the judge walked in sat down with a seeing-eye dog, and he sat down, we sat down. Obie looked at the seeing-eye dog, and then at the twenty-seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one, and looked at the seeing-eye dog. And then at twenty-seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one and began to cry, 'cause Obie came to the realization that it was a typical case of American blind justice, and there wasn't nothing he could do about it, and the judge wasn't going to look at the twenty-seven eight-by-ten colour glossy pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us. And we was fined $50 and had to pick up the garbage in the snow.
But that's not what I came to tell you about.
For this tale explains far more about Judge Greer than you probably imagined.
Actually, it's not like he can't see at all; it's just that his vision is not correctable to near 20/20. Still, a prediction: Once this gets around, your friendly neighborhood death-cultist will point and say, "See? They're trying to tear down a differently-abled judge!" Of course, anyone who actually says "differently-abled" with a straight face goes immediately to the top of the To Be Euthanized For The Common Good list.
The inverse of the Living Will
Call it the Living Won't.
And unlike the usual formal legal documents, it doesn't require stilted legalese to make its point. [Possibly not safe for work.]
U! S! R!
USRobotics, who manufactured the modem I keep in reserve in case I need a dial-up, has sent me a list of deals on wireless gear. Are they worth a darn? I'd like to set up a wireless network at Surlywood, and I have a pretty good idea of what I need, but I draw a blank on brand names.
Where there's a will
Steve Sailer, talking about the quest for a bequest:
[M]illions of Blue State Baby Boomers are in line to inherit a bundle ... but not if Mom or Dad lives forever or, especially, if his or her slowly declining health requires a fortune in expensive care. A nice quick fatal heart attack would do the trick, but with Lipitor and the like these days, oldsters are going slower.
So, when you wonder why a lot of people, especially Democrats, are okay with starving Terri Schiavo to death instead of having her kept expensively alive, follow the money.
It's hardly the only reason, but it's out there, and part of a big topic that almost nobody wants to talk about in 21st Century America.
It's fascinating, if not even slightly surprising, how often "follow the money" works.
I am, of course, part of a long line of people who didn't leave much of an estate, a practice I expect to continue.
(Via La Shawn Barber, who has quite a collection of Terri-related material at this link.)
25 March 2005
Advice to the General
In 1929, General Motors had all these car nameplates:
Four of these La Salle, Marquette, Pontiac and Viking were invented to extend their "parent" marques (Cadillac, Buick, Oakland and Oldsmobile respectively) during the "Roaring" Twenties, in keeping with Alfred P. Sloan's decree to offer "a car for every purse and purpose." The Depression killed off Marquette and Viking within two years; Pontiac, outselling Oakland, survived its parent, and La Salle held out through 1940. (Oldsmobile, the oldest of the bunch, made it to 2004 before its, um, induction tube was removed.)
Of course, when you have 60 or 70 percent of the market, you can do stuff like this. When you're down to 28 or so, you can't, which is why Vice Chairman Bob Lutz has hinted that one of the surviving GM marques will be axed. At Wizbang, Paul thinks it's going to be Buick or Pontiac, and offers reasonable suggestions to jump-start Buick, hinting that Pontiac is expendable.
If you ask me, it is. Apart from the slow-selling GTO, itself a repackaged Holden from Australia, GM's ostensible "excitement" division has nothing all that exciting, at least until Lutz's baby, the Solstice roadster, shows up and when it does, it will have a Saturn sibling, called Sky. Dammit, guys, you can't go replicating cars just so Dealer Y doesn't whine about something Dealer X gets to sell.
And while you're at it, sell off your last few shares of Isuzu. They don't like you anyway and would rather be on their own. (So would Saab, probably, but they can't afford to leave.)
How I envision a Pontiac-less GM:
Chevrolet: Back to being a budget brand, with two exceptions: a minivan (GM should have only one minivan, and it should be a Chevy) and the Corvette. The trucks can stay.
Buick: Good old American ostentation, aimed at the lower-to-middle segments of the Lexus line. Think Sixties Riviera.
Cadillac: Actually making noises like they want to be the Standard of the World again. Let them. With Mercedes-Benz screwing up these days, now's the time.
GMC: Superfluous, especially if gas prices go through the roof and truck sales go into a tailspin. Besides, you're not fooling anyone with these rebadged Chevys.
Saturn: Home for the Consciously Weird cars. In a Pontiac-free world, the Solstice/Sky and the Vibe (the Toyota Matrix spinoff) should be able to find solace at Saturn. (Forget the Aztek. Please. And if we're going to keep the Ozified GTO, we should turn it into a Buick.)
Hummer: People who buy Saturns and such hate this brand, which justifies its continuance: all your marketing research is done for you.
I'm sure there's a place where Daewoo, Saab, Subaru and Suzuki fit in, but right now, except for Saab, they're not causing problems.
(Update, 11 am: GM marketroid Mark LaNeve says Lutz notwithstanding, no brands are destined for the chopping block.)
Some of our road scholars
At Tulsa Topics, Bobby has no kind words for a proposed gas-tax increase:
I was pretty biased to vote NO anyway if this ever made it to a ballot. I'm for better bridges and roads BUT after investigating the people behind the initiative, Oklahomans for Safe Bridges and Roads, and realizing the group that wants this tax is actually drumming up business for themselves, basically soured my opinion of this group. Since one of the major players is Bob Poe, ex-president of the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce, I believe that fact in and of itself is enough of a reason to vote NO on this tax increase.
Self-serving advocacy groups are hardly new to Oklahoma, but given Bob Poe's M.O., which includes such useful tools as "wild rants," and the fact that in his capacity at OSBR he's working for noted bumbler Neal McCaleb, there's at least a reasonable chance that OSBR will shoot itself in its collective foot long before a tax election can be scheduled.
Why Ace rules
So far as is known for certain, Edmund Burke didn't actually say it.
And if he had, he probably wouldn't have said it quite the way Ace does:
When good men do nothing, evil men are permitted to rule.
On the other hand, doing nothing is a lot easier than doing something. Doing nothing ... I don't know. It just "feels right" to me, somehow.
And maybe evil men should be allowed to rule, come to think of it. They generally seem to be highly-motivated and good at organizing.
Ah, the hell with it. I'm a Republican. I pretty much exist to insure that evil men rule.
George Wallace, who once claimed there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties, forks over a penny here: the Democrats have an occasional interest in getting evil women to rule.
It's never been a boys' club
A reminder from Aldahlia for those still wondering "Where are the women bloggers?":
There are MORE female bloggers out there than male. And, females have been in the blogging business for just as long, despite the claim that "men are more technical and got here first." Usr/bin/girl's blog started when Kottke's did. JenniCam hit the big time around the same time as Matt Drudge. KatGyrl set up the old school font collective before Atrios had even found blogger.com.
I suspect both Drudge and Jenni would wince at being lumped in with the bloggers, but the point is made: the guys didn't blaze this trail alone. Indeed, one of the reasons I started doing this on a daily basis five years ago was sheer admiration for what I was reading at /usr/bin/girl, which is to this day listed on the front-page sidebar under "Inspirations". (Bless you, Zannah. The rest of you, please do not hold this against her.)
And anyone who'd argue that "men are more technical" never saw me trying to fix a MySQL error.
Tech support may be withdrawn at any time
This is just wrong on so many levels, but....
The Terri Schiavo Status Firefox Extension is available for download.
The county strikes back
Back in January, two of the three Oklahoma County Commissioners voted to dissolve the county's Budget Board as of the first of July, putting the Commissioners themselves in charge of the General Fund. At the time, I suggested that this was payback to the Board for supporting a non-discrimination policy that included sexual orientation as a criterion.
Four county officials have now asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to rule that the Commissioners are in violation of state law, that they cannot legally establish a budget agency of their own.
The lawsuit, filed by County Clerk Carolynn Caudill, Treasurer Butch Freeman, Court Clerk Patricia Presley and County Assessor Leonard Sullivan, asks that the Commissioners be barred from using public funds to set up budget oversight.
The plaintiffs are hoping for a decision on or before the 30th of June.
Blogging the moon landing
Yeah, I know, this was 1969, before the invention of Wi-Fi or even comment spam.
But still: what if?
Matt Barr, the New World Man, shows you what it might have been like.
26 March 2005
GeoURL is back up, now in version 2.0, and if you track this site, you will be told that it is "Near Nichols Hills, OK, United States."
Well, yeah, I suppose that's true in the grand scheme of things, a mile and a half (the distance from Surlywood to Outabounds) qualifies as "near" but since I'm actually in Oklahoma City, wouldn't it have made more sense just to have positioned me there?
Or is the city considered so huge (over 600 square miles, after all) that a location therein is simply not specific enough?
Policy driven by emotion
Susanna Cornett considers the Terri Schiavo case, and she disagrees "with a lot of people you'd assume would be [her] ideological soulmates."
Somehow this issue has become a huge rallying call amongst religious people, and quite frankly I don't understand why. I don't think it advances the anti-abortion cause to fight for every flicker of life in every human shell no matter what kind of life remains for that person.
I think what's motivating them is the belief that in Terri's case, there's more than a mere flicker. Still, we are, as Susanna says, "at the mercy of battling medical experts," and the truth of the matter may never be known with certainty, especially with the designated guardian intent upon destroying the evidence.
She is most troubled, however, by the Congressional intervention:
I think it is, very simply stated, wrong. I am a firm advocate of state's rights. As a conservative, I am for strict interpretation of the Constitution, and for holding to the states as much autonomy as we can. By that I mean, I think the states Constitutionally hold all rights to make decisions about their jurisdictions, with limited exceptions as stated in the Constitution.
So, you say, let a woman die just so we can preserve a philosophical ideal? People have died for less, and are dying for precisely that in Iraq. But that aside, I say again that the issue comes down to the medical determination, and while I think some of the courts in Florida have behaved arrogantly, I can't say they have behaved illegally. Terri's case is not an easy or clearcut one. Emotionalism, in my judgment, will always lead to bad law.
That latter, at least, is indisputable.
I do recommend you read the whole thing: it's a thoughtful, reasonable essay, and after all, what good am I if I only refer you to articles that agree with me?
And then, the counterargument
As if in response to the previous item, Francis W. Porretto will not entertain discussions of federalism in this regard:
An innocent person's rights trump all considerations of governmental structure or judicial procedure. That includes the right to life, which is not something that can be suspended on a hopelessly interested person's say-so. If it is otherwise, then there is no conceivable argument by which private parties owe any allegiance to any level of American government. Any "principle" that allows a government to set aside an innocent person's right to life is no principle decent men should respect.
Why do I get the feeling I've just seeded the clouds with ACME" Whirlwind Pills?
A hurried change of subject
So here's where things stand in the Desiree Goodwin case:
Under cross-examination, the Harvard assistant librarian said that she'd been turned down for higher positions at four other universities, and admitted that her science background was insufficient for one of the Harvard slots she'd sought.
Meanwhile, the Interested-Participant takes a dim view of Goodwin's case:
My take on her lawsuit is that she seems to have a disagreeable personality and promoting her would probably cause friction. Sexy or not, Goodwin doesn't appear to display the personal skills necessary for a job with more responsibility and authority. With a history of continuously complaining about her job and running to the newspaper to whine, management would seem to have ample reason to decide against promoting her. As for the contention that Goodwin is "too sexy," I've seen several pictures and I think she looks frumpy.
As a person with a verifiably disagreeable personality, I can testify that I can cause friction even on the bottom rung.
Saturday spottings (forward-looking)
Predictions for available hotel rooms in downtown Oklahoma City:
Me, May '04: 1,414 by mid-2006.
The Downtown Guy, this week: At least 1,300 by 2007.
Given the subsequent delays on the Embassy Suites in Bricktown, I'm thinking TDG's time frame might be more reasonable than mine. Still, it should be remembered that during the grim post-oil bust days, we soldiered on with one major downtown hotel; the promise of half a dozen in the very near future constitutes some sort of vote of confidence in downtown Oklahoma City.
There are still a few spots that could use some burnishing, of course, and one of them is the old Braniff Building at 324 North Robinson, built in 1923 for Braniff Insurance, Tom Braniff's day job while brother Paul was learning to fly. In 1930, Braniff Airways moved into 324, and remained there until they relocated to Dallas in 1945. Kerr-McGee now owns the building, and gave it a facelift in the late 1960s. Most of the lower-story windows were broken in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and have since been replaced, but otherwise 324 (and the adjacent 310/316) are seemingly frozen in time, aging a little but otherwise showing no signs of life. The Braniff name, incidentally, was removed many years ago; the sign reads simply THREE TWENTY FOUR BUILDING.
Out in Midwest City, things are still in flux. The stretch of Douglas Boulevard from SE 15th to SE 29th, in the expectation of greater development, has been widened to five lanes (two each way and a center turn lane); Air Depot Boulevard is currently undergoing the same treatment. CiCi's Pizza has taken over the old Sound Warehouse building, once a moviehouse, in the 2300 block of Air Depot, and some of the strip centers near 15th have been freshened. At Heritage Park Mall, not much seems to have changed just yet there's been some attention to the surrounding foliage, I noticed but everyone I talked to who worked in the mall seemed happy, or at least hopeful, about the new ownership.
And I took a spin over to Union Station, 300 SW 7th, which isn't the easiest place to get to in this city. (Robinson south from downtown, then hang a right on 7th.) In the hands of the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority, the station is serving as, well, not much of anything these days. (Amtrak's Heartland Flyer stops at the old Santa Fe depot north of Reno on E. K. Gaylord.) Virtually all of the vintage rail infrastructure is still viable, were the city to pursue a light-rail transit system, although it's scheduled to be trashed once I-40's Crosstown route is rerouted literally through the old railyard. ODOT, of course, insists that "the integrity of [the station] will be maintained". I have my doubts that there ever will be a light-rail transit system in central Oklahoma, but I am quite sure that if there is, it will cost a lot more than it would had the Union Station railyard been left alone.
And as I passed by the National Memorial but never mind, you can imagine what sort of slaughter-of-the-innocents thoughts I was having.
27 March 2005
Remembrance of Vents past
If there exists a Blog Intelligentsia, certainly Terry Teachout and Pejman Yousefzadeh are Members in Brilliant Standing, so I was not surprised to find them taking on the fabled Proust Questionnaire, which Proust didn't actually write, but which he was asked to complete at a party for a friend.
A slightly-streamlined version of the Questionnaire appears on the back page of Vanity Fair each month. And if you're wondering when I'm going to get around to it, the answer is August 2002.
Where have all the children gone?
This New York Times piece notes that American cities are missing out on one particular demographic:
San Francisco, where the median house price is now about $700,000, had the lowest percentage of people under 18 of any large city in the nation, 14.5 percent, compared with 25.7 percent nationwide, the 2000 census reported. Seattle, where there are more dogs than children, was a close second. Boston, Honolulu, Portland, Miami, Denver, Minneapolis, Austin and Atlanta, all considered healthy, vibrant urban areas, were not far behind. The problem is not just that American women are having fewer children, reflected in the lowest birth rate ever recorded in the country.
Officials say that the very things that attract people who revitalize a city dense vertical housing, fashionable restaurants and shops and mass transit that makes a car unnecessary are driving out children by making the neighborhoods too expensive for young families.
Virginia Postrel isn't buying the "too expensive" line:
[I]n hugely expensive places like San Francisco that may be true. But my Uptown Dallas neighbors generally hightail it to the suburbs as soon as their kids start walking, and these are people who already own spacious three-bedroom townhouses. They want yards (even though there's a park two blocks away), less traffic, and less crime. They want suburbia.
Here in Oklahoma City, we simply don't have a lot of "dense vertical housing"; only recently has there been any uptick in demand for it. But the same situation applies here, and there's one factor no one's mentioned yet: the fear of central-city schools. Nothing will propel a family out of town faster than the prospect of having their youngsters exposed to this year's model of the Blackboard Jungle.
Oklahoma City is putting half a billion dollars into school improvements, which is a worthy goal, though money alone can't address all the issues involved. One issue seldom spoken is the city school district's racial balance, and "balance" is exactly the word: it's about one-third white, one-third black, and one-third Latino. And, well, some people like diversity a lot better on paper than they do in real life.
Still, we have to be doing better than San Francisco, where the city raised over $300 million for improvements to the schools over a 13-year period, but much of that money was mismanaged or simply stolen outright. I'm waiting to see what happens in my own just-out-of-the-Loop neighborhood, which has one of the better city schools; right now, it seems to be mostly young couples and empty-nesters. (As one of the latter, I haven't had a single occasion to tell those damn kids to get off my lawn.)
Rap : music :: welding : fish
Okay, that's not the precise comparison I was looking for, but I'm thinking Syaffolee might agree:
Some would argue that people dislike certain types of music because they haven't listened enough to it to grow to like it. Well I can say this: After being forced to listen to a profanity-ladden rap song on infinite looping from last night to this afternoon (played by no other than my annoying neighbors), my opinion of the genre has gone from extremely strong dislike to utter and complete loathing. Like going from -10 to -10^10^10^10. As for my neighbors, I wish someone would implant some earphones in their ears so they'd be forced to listen to a certain singing purple dinosaur for 24/7.
Noisy neighbors, of course, never listen to anything you like; this is a Law of Nature or something. (If you liked it, it wouldn't be noise, would it?)
And speaking of metalaws, the one most pertinent here would seem to be a variation on Gresham's: crappy music crowds out non-crappy music. Some not I might call that the Clear Channel Corollary.
A farmer in Cabot, Vermont was convicted of starving his cows to death; his one-year sentence was suspended, though he will serve 30 days on a work crew.
I wonder if they suffered much. Former State's Attorney for Washington County Tom Kelly, in an October interview, claimed they suffered "tremendously."
(Via The Currency Lad. Disclosure: I had a steak Friday evening.)
Drawn and halved
King County, Washington is fairly huge: 2300 square miles (including 180 square miles of inland water) and a population around 1.75 million.
The seat of King County is Seattle, population 570,000, area maybe 90 square miles. But Seattle is tucked into the far western edge of the county, and residents on the eastern side have felt increasingly alienated by what they see as Seattle-centrism on the part of county officials.
Nor is this a new phenomenon: residents of King County south of Seattle envisioned separating themselves into a new county, to be called Cedar, back in the 1990s, but the Washington Supreme Court ruled in 1998 that state law did not permit new counties to be created by popular vote. Rep. Toby Nixon (R-Kirkland) offered a bill this year which would leave Seattle and King County as coterminous entities and would create a new county from what was left. Said Nixon:
We've heard the argument that King County is just too big to be managed effectively. And we know people in rural King County are tired of feeling like their lives are dictated by Seattle. But looking at it from the other side, wouldn't Seattle jump at the chance to cut the rest of King County loose? No more hearing us complain about Seattle imposing land-use rules on us, no more of our voting against light rail just think of what Seattle could become if it didn't have us interfering in its plans, holding it back. It could spend its tax money however it likes and make whatever laws suit its priorities.
A heck of a pitch. But it's going nowhere in Olympia, at least not yet. So last week at a grange hall in North Bend, the new Cascade County Committee held its first meeting. They're facing an uphill battle: they must first persuade the legislature to allow the creation of new counties with one initiative, and should that succeed, then collect a second set of signatures to split off Cascade from King. The committee is not working with Rep. Nixon, though it would simplify their task should his bill actually get through the legislature. And they are considering four possible divisions, three of which would leave some other municipalities inside King County.
I don't see this sort of thing happening where I live Oklahoma County is fractious, but in no particular danger of fracturing but I'll be watching the birth (or stillbirth) of Cascade County, Washington with considerable interest.
28 March 2005
Handbags and history
I have to applaud this effort on the basis of sheer nerve:
Okiedoke.com is sponsoring the Oklahoma Sexiest Power Woman Awards. But I need your help in choosing the nominees.
Recognized women who are either currently, or have been, in government office, or top positions in business, journalism, academic institutions, the arts, non-profit community work or members of the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame, are eligible.
To submit a nominee, please leave a comment [to this post] with a link to a recent photograph of the nominee and a brief biography. Nominations will close on Sunday, 12:01 AM, April 3, 2005. Decisions for eligibility will be up to me. Beauty is not the determining factor for eligibility.
On the other hand, I did come up with a candidate: former Representative Laura Boyd, the only woman ever to be nominated for governor of this state by a major party (in 1998).
Without scrambling the nest egg
New rules for 401(k) accounts kick in today. Under the previous terms, if you left a job and had less than $5,000 in your 401(k), the employer would cut you a check for the proceeds, less 20 percent for taxes, unless you opened an IRA and rolled the 401(k) balance into it. (And, of course, if you kept the money, you'd have to report it as ordinary income and pay income tax on it.)
Today, if you have at least $1,000, the employer must set up an IRA on your behalf, and you have the option of leaving balances over $5,000 in the original 401(k) even though you don't work there anymore.
The idea, of course, is to keep you saving toward retirement: about 70 percent of employees changing jobs take the cash and run, and nearly half of all 401(k) accounts contain $10,000 or less.
Machiavelli has an off day
Was the Congressional action to save Terri Schiavo a cynical political ploy? Michael Barone says no:
It is possible that Democrats, if in control, might not have summoned a special session. But this was not a purely partisan issue. Democrats did vote for the bill and made its passage possible. Proceedings in the Senate could have been stopped by a single objection to a unanimous-consent request. No senator objected. Minority Leader Harry Reid cooperated fully with Republicans. In the House, enough Democrats returned from recess to provide the necessary quorum, and 46 Democrats voted for the bill, while 53 voted against.
Were all these Democrats and Republicans acting cynically? I don't think so. Take Sen. Tom Harkin, a liberal Democrat who worked for the measure. Harkin's interest arose from his long concern for the disabled he was a chief sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities Act and his desire to protect the rights of the incapacitated. Were his views informed by his Roman Catholic faith? I don't know, but what if they were? Legislators are under no obligation to have moral principles entirely divorced from religious beliefs. I can't answer for every member who voted for the bill or against it. But the quality of the debate suggests to me that large majorities on both sides were acting out of reasoned moral conviction more than political calculation.
And besides, the political fallout from the move, if you believe the pollsters, has been almost entirely negative. Evil Genius Karl Rove simply doesn't make this kind of mistake.
If I have any cynicism here, it stems from that dubious "talking points" memo that was somehow passed off as Republican instructions.
The monkey off its back
Montgomery Ward is back, sort of.
Yeah, I'm as surprised as you are. "Wards? They're dead."
But General Electric apparently sold the name to some enterprising Iowans which fits with Wards' Midwestern origins and they're on the Web selling stuff. No brick-and-mortar stores. There's even a catalog of sorts.
If this was announced somewhere, I missed it.
Deprived of context
Steve Allen, trying to show how horrible that rock and roll stuff really was, spent some time on his TV show declaiming lyrics the way you'd read a poem to a middle-school English class. And he took care to pick the most preposterous words he could, penned by the estimable Richard Penniman. They went something like this:
A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop, ba-lop bam boom.
Legend has it that this is the sanitized version, recorded at the insistence of Specialty's Art Rupe. If this be true, you perhaps don't want to hear Richard's original words.
The closest thing to a modern-day equivalent of this feat? The B-side of Ben Folds' 7-inch single "Landed," from the upcoming Songs for Silverman, is a perfectly straightforward cover of a Dr. Dre classic classic, that is, in terms of its Not Safe For Work terminology.
What's worse, it's actually pretty ******* good, though I can't imagine it getting the Syaffolee seal of approval. Sony has a stream for Windows Media Player which you can pick up here. It's not safe for work either.
(Via Blue Dot Blog.)
29 March 2005
From the Metaquestion Box
Heavy stuff from Babs:
[W]here is the line between blogging for ones own enjoyment and the responsibility of maintaining a public blog?
Right about here: ________________________
I did that because (1) I enjoyed it, lame as it was, and (2) I figure there are at least two or three readers who will accept it in the spirit in which it was given. (The Snark was a Boojum, you see.)
I do try to shove something up here at least once a day. (In practice, it's more like four or five times a day, assuming I'm not on Tour.) And I'm not above coming up with items that will elicit responses from specific individuals who are known to frequent this site; by so doing, I create the illusion of dialogue, which may not sound impressive until you compare it to the average monologue.
And, of course, I blog to meet girls. This works extremely well for some people, less well for others, and by "others" I mean "me."
But beyond that, I figure once it ceases to be fun, I probably should go look for some other avocation, even though the replacement will probably cost more (at its worst, running this place runs twentyish a month) and do less to shore up my insufficiently-outsized ego.
Besides, I've run this site for almost nine freaking years. As commitments go, this has to be one of the longer ones in my life. It's certainly the one that's caused me the least dyspepsia.
Lemuel was about half an hour into Das Rheingold when his mother branded him a "pervert" for listening to such things.
The pivotal scene here is when the giants, Fafnir and Fasolt, show up to collect from Wotan for building Valhalla, and the payment they demand is the goddess Freia. Wotan has no intention of handing over the goddess it's his sister-in-law, after all, and his wife would never let him hear the end of it and henchperson Loge, after looking for ways to get Wotan off the hook, reports that there's one alternative: the gold of the Rhinemaidens, recently swiped by the dwarf Alberich. The giants agree to the deal, but they take Freia with them as, um, insurance, and Loge and Wotan must descend into Alberich's realm and figure out some way to make off with the gold.
I guess this is sort of perverted, or at least perverse. Still, as Lemuel notes:
Lucky for me I wasn?t listening to Ligeti's Musica Ricercata or Lux Aeterna.
At least with Lux Aeterna you're too busy appreciating the shimmer of the vocalscape (is that a word?) to pay attention to the actual words.
Help like this we didn't need
Rich Lowry at National Review Online's The Corner, on Randall Terry:
I'm guessing that everytime he opens his mouth on TV support for keeping Terri Schiavo alive drops another couple of points.
On that basis, Jesse Jackson will likely kill off whatever support remains.
(Via Outside the Beltway.)
A rather pedestrian matter
The American Podiatric Medical Association has issued its list of America's Best Walking Cities, and the only question I had when I started digging into the data was "How bad did we do?" Two hundred cities were surveyed (here are the criteria), so I figured we'd finish around, oh, 150th? 170th? 190th?
Well, it says here [link requires Adobe Reader] that the Okay City ranks 123rd, which is better than I'd anticipated. Then again, we're right behind Detroit, a place where I'd be disinclined to walk anywhere for reasons unrelated to mere foot issues.
Tulsa finished 78th.
(Suggested by this Gawker item complaining that the Big Apple had dropped to seventh.)
HCA Incorporated, which operates medical facilities in 23 states, has announced that it will sell off ten of its hospitals, including Southwestern Medical Center in Lawton.
All the facilities to be divested are in relatively small cities; HCA plans to focus on hospitals in larger markets, such as Oklahoma City, where HCA operates the OU Medical Center.
30 March 2005
I guess I just wasn't made for this time
"You can't cut off one end of a rope and tie it to the other and expect it to be any longer when you're through."
Or so I said, way back when, to a scattering of jeers and catcalls. Apparently some people actually like Daylight Savings Time.
Well, not me. And not Steve, either:
[T]his annual ritual is totalitarianism at its most intrusive, and yet so well disguised that we all go along with it with hardly a complaint. I can remember wondering as a boy how we all managed to miss an hour in one part of the year and gain an hour in another part of the year where did they store that missing hour for six months? I soon realised that all that was happening was the equivalent of rotating the dial of the clock backwards or forwards underneath the hands. I now see that something of terrible significance is happening: the Government is decreeing that for the next six months we must all go to bed an hour earlier, get up an hour earlier, start work an hour earlier, eat our meals an hour earlier, walk the dog an hour earlier, in fact do everything an hour earlier than we would otherwise have done it. If the Government had dared to frame its decree in such literal terms, it would have been rightly ignored or at most sniggered at in much the same way as was the Emperor Claudius when, concerned that his subjects might be harming themselves by stifling farts, he decreed that henceforth farting was to be acceptable in polite company.
Link added by me. I will not yield on this matter.
(Via Phil Welch.)
The 132nd edition of Carnival of the Vanities, hosted by Eric Berlin, adds something new, and, well, let him describe it:
Like any other week, the Carnival is a madhouse array of postings from all around the blogosphere, submitted by the bloggers themselves. Unlike any other week, your humble Carnival host has also taken it upon himself to make shit up.
Indeed, of the 55 entries on display, eleven are flat-out fakes. Try your luck at spotting them all. (Not open to employees of CBS Worldwide Inc., Viacom, its subsidiaries and assigns.)
From the Department of Minor Milestones
In the Armed Forces, you learn a lot of word salad, but one three-letter combination you remember is ETS: Expiration, Term of Service.
Mine was thirty years ago today, at which time I was transferred to the Reserve, from which I was discharged in 1978.
And on this date in 1975, I was taking the long way home from a duty station in the Middle East. After years of "hurry up and wait," taking things nice and slow was actually difficult, at least at first.
Hang a left at the Ivory Tower
By now most everyone has heard that not only do college faculties lean to the left, they lean farther to the left than most of us thought.
Obviously some sort of conspiracy or is it? Lesley
[L]et's say I suggested that maybe the underlying reason for this is that conservatives just aren't as interested in thinky stuff like academics as liberals, preferring instead more lucrative careers in corporate America. Do you think the same people who insist we should be open-minded about suggestions that women just may not as be interested in thinky stuff like science as men wouldn't see my suggestion as prima facie evidence of bigotry against conservatives?
I certainly don't see it as evidence of bigotry. If anything, it's a reflection of the tendency of humans to collect in like-minded groups. If someone can show that the desire to teach is somehow connected to a leftish mindset, I'd like to see the research. And perhaps a conservative grad with the urge to change the world, so to speak, is more likely to choose to do so in a think tank than in the classroom, but I don't know of any numbers supporting this premise either.
Come to think of it, I'm not especially alarmed by the leftward slant of college faculties: there is no shortage of students who emerge from the groves of academe seemingly unaffected by the tilt. And I'm certainly not going to call for some affirmative-action program to put more conservatives on college faculties, which I think would be a case of the cure being at least as bad as the putative disease.
It may be that time itself will correct the imbalance, as people who lived through the 1960s and believed it to be the defining moment of American history die off and are replaced by people who are less afflicted with this particular form of nostalgia.
Can I pick 'em or what?
The answer, of course, is No.
Regular readers will remember that every year since 1984 I have attempted to pick the Playboy Playmate of the Year, and every year since 1984 I have been completely, utterly, definitively wrong.
Somewhere out there in the great state of Centerfoldia, my secret source let's call her "Deep Cleavage" has sent word that once again I have failed.
You know, consistency can get awfully tiring after a couple of decades.
O Death, where is thy sting?
Right here, apparently.
(Via the eternal Dawn.)
31 March 2005
The very smell of money
In 1931, the First National Center and the Ramsey Tower (now City Place) went up side by side (Park Avenue separates them) more or less simultaneously. The Ramsey was a general office building which occasionally housed a bank in subsequent years; however, the First National Center was built around what was at the time the largest bank in the state, and the Grand Banking Hall at its entrance was a spectacular Art Deco shrine to the American dollar, a lot of which were flowing into the state at the time. (Two words: oil boom.)
It's still spectacular, which is probably why The Downtown Guy thinks it would be perfect for the nascent state lottery. Certainly it would be a great backdrop. I just wonder what they're going to do with all those Enterprise Center people who some day are supposed to be hanging around all day.
(Revised with some minor changes, another link, and a reduced level of sarcasm.)
On the edge of town
A bill last year to simplify incorporation for small communities in the shadow of the big cities apparently didn't simplify matters enough, says the Attorney General.
The rural community of Banner, south of El Reno in Canadian County, sought to incorporate, citing 2004's House Bill 1858, which specified that communities within five miles of a city with population over 200,000 (which is to say, Oklahoma City and Tulsa) would be allowed the option provided the county commissioners can be persuaded that the area involved is compact and has historically been identified as a community. But the opinion of Attorney General Drew Edmondson states that while Banner might meet that requirement, a previously-existing requirement which prohibits incorporation of communities within three miles of cities with population under 200,000 was still legally in effect. Both Mustang and El Reno are within three miles of Banner.
The AG's opinion might also spoil the incorporation plans of Turley, a community in north Tulsa County, whose proposed city limits reach to within three miles of Sperry.
An honor I dream not of
Sometimes, I have to admit, Ann Coulter just nails it:
Today's brain twister: Would you rather be O.J.'s girlfriend or Michael Schiavo's fiancée?
As McGehee might say, "That's gonna leave a mark."
Good night, Theresa Marie
Surely the next world will hear you.
Cam's daily double
And another door opens.
Say hello to James Peter and Catherine Marie.
And Cam? Forget about sleeping for the next couple of years. Then again, you already know this.
Over one million served
Well, not yet, but sometime this afternoon, predicts Site Meter (okay, quit laughing), this humble little wrecking yard of a Web site will serve up page view #1,000,000.
My thanks to the 685,000 visitors so far, some of whom looked at more than one page.
(Update: Okay, very late this afternoon. At 9:41 pm Central Standard got that? Standard Time. A Googler from 188.8.131.52 in Worcester, pronounced sort of like Wistuh, Massachusetts.)
No takers yet
The house presently known as Surlywood went on sale on a Tuesday and sold that Saturday (contract was agreed to on Sunday), which wasn't a record for Oklahoma City real estate, but certainly delighted the seller's agent, who didn't have to put in a whole lot of work, and the seller herself, who got pretty much every cent she asked for it.
Not everyone has this good fortune. In December I wrote about a house in The Greens that the owner was advertising, among other places, on the Web. Way out of my price range, and I wasn't looking to trade up anyway, but I thought the seller's Web site was sorta neat, and I figured the place would sell in a big hurry.
A hundred days later and still it's for sale, and the owner has enlisted one of the brand-name agencies to assist in the matter. I'll keep an eye open for a few more weeks, just because.
Click the Permalink on an individual entry to read comments and TrackBacks if any