1 October 2004
Number eight

The Romans used to consider October the eighth month, hence the name, and I think it fits better into the No. 8 slot, if only because it banishes February to dead last where it belongs, and I rather like the idea of the year beginning with a hint of spring instead of with a blast of winter.

But as the tenth month, October still has a role to play, splitting the difference between the last vestiges of summer and the first signs of winter. In Oklahoma, it's cool, except when it's warm, and it's damp, except when it's dry, which suggests that most years it's hard to get a grip on October. This year, I'm even less sure what to expect; May, a similarly transitional month, was exceptionally dry, but summer wound up mostly cool and wet and May-like. Cool and wet isn't great for my arthritis — and no, I've not been taking Vioxx — but I suppose I'd rather have it now than in the middle of January.

On average, the first freeze in the city shows up around the 4th of November, which is still a way off. But there's about an eight-week range: in one year — 1952 — the first freeze was October 7. (In 1998, the first freeze held off until December 8.) At least things aren't going to be dull, unless of course they are.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:32 AM to Weather or Not )
Meanwhile at the debate shop

In 1960, radio listeners thought that Richard M. Nixon had won his debate with John F. Kennedy; the television audience, however, came down firmly on JFK's side. With this in mind, I left the TV off last night and listened to the debate on the radio.

Like most of blogdom, I didn't see hear a clear winner. Senator Kerry, I thought, did manage to turn the Smug knob down a notch or two, which surely helped. Neither candidate was operating at maximum eloquence level, though the President seemed to improve as time went on. And my mind wasn't changed: despite some serious fumbles along the way so far, I still prefer the Bush doctrine of preemption over Kerry's let's-not-make-anyone-mad approach. To swipe a line from Dave at Garfield Ridge: "One man spoke gibberish, but has a clear stance. The other man spoke clearly, but his stance is gibberish."

There is, of course, a lot more gibbering to come.

Fighting cancer at the front

It's the Third Annual Blogger Boobie-Thon, an amazing little fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation that last year brought in over $6000. This year's slogan is FIND A CURE OR AND BUST, and in return for your donation, you're entitled to a peek at the racks of some real women (and some actual guys), as distinguished from the artificially-enhanced stuff dispensed by Big Media. A pretty nice quid for your quo, I'd say.

Besides, it's October already. The year's running out and you need one more tax deduction, right? Thought so.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:58 AM to Blogorrhea )
If you quote it, you source it

Once and for all: There is no rule at Pottery Barn that says "If you break it, you own it."

The Barista of Bloomfield Ave. — serving Montclair, Glen Ridge and Bloomfield — offers some alternative rules that might be pressed into service.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:00 PM to Dyssynergy )
2 October 2004
Bubbling crude

I was here in Oklahoma in 1982, so I remember the Great Oil Bust entirely too well. Eric Siegmund, who runs the Fire Ant Gazette from Midland, deep in the heart of the Texas oil patch, recalls the days just before:

I remember a chart hanging on my office wall in 1982. It was an extrapolation of predicted oil prices, working off the run-up from the preceding few months. $50 was the cap on that graph; it represented the dreamed-of-but-unobtainable Holy Grail for oil producers everywhere.

Crude oil futures closed at $50.12 Friday on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Of course, fifty bucks today isn't the same as fifty bucks twenty-two years ago, and neither Oklahoma City nor Midland is acting cocky these days:

Producers I know are grateful for the premium, but nobody's actually doing deals based on it, or running economics using it. And thus far, I haven't seen any signs of the telltale oil-boom excesses that accompanied prior run-ups: new Benzes in the high school parking lots; yachts parked out in the horse pasture awaiting transplantation to water, somewhere; Lamborghinis with trailer hitches; signs announcing new private clubs. Sure, there seems to be a few more Hummers tooling around town than usual, but AFAIK, Rolls-Royce isn't planning on re-opening a dealership in Midland.

Jackie Cooper Imports in Oklahoma City used to carry a wide range of high-end motor cars, including both Rolls-Royce and Maserati — it was through their kind indulgence that I actually got some seat time in a Maserati in the early 80s — but today they sell only BMWs and Mini Coopers (Minis Cooper?). Seekers of hyperexpensive sleds must search elsewhere.

The mantra among producers here has been "O Lord, just one more boom, and I promise not to piss it away this time." I believe they were serious.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:56 AM to Family Joules )
An oasis in the Osage Hills

A botanical garden, says landscape designer Geoffrey Rausch, is like a museum — except that in the garden, the masterpieces are alive.

Conceptual plans for the Oklahoma Centennial Botanical Garden in Tulsa, to be designed by Rausch, were released this week, and a drive is already underway to raise $40 million for its construction. The garden site, 5323 West 31st Street North, covers 300 acres in the Osage Hills, and is adjacent to the Post Oak Lodge conference center. (Persimmon Ridge LLC, which owns this tract of land, has agreed to a 99-year lease at $1 to accommodate the garden.)

Proponents hope to draw 400,000 visitors a year once the garden opens in 2007, the 100th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood. I'll definitely be among them.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:30 AM to Soonerland )
So how's it, um, hangin'?

I get some odd email at times, but nothing quite as odd as this item sent to Michele:

Is there a correlation between a man's political affiliation and the side he "dresses" to, i.e., which side of his zipper his package goes or which way his member points when he's naked and not erect.

Having read sixty comments on that post, I conclude that there is not.

Or I could have just looked down.

Saturday spottings (time-warp edition)

It's not a jump to the left and then a step to the right; this time we're going backward and forward.

Back in August I noted the demolition of the building at 23rd and Classen that once housed a Beverly's Restaurant, and it occurred to me this morning that it had been far too long since I'd sampled any of the wares therein.

Beverly Osborne's first restaurant, dating to 1921, was just north of the State Capitol on Lincoln Boulevard; eventually there were half a dozen across town, the last to be built being the Pancake Corner at Northwest Expressway west of Pennsylvania, which sports red floor tile almost identical to the tile on my bathroom floor. Time, attrition and urban renewal took their usual toll, and now the Pancake Corner is the only Beverly's remaining. Still, it's hard to imagine that it was much different in the Good Old Days than it is now: it's a classic diner of the old school, everything happens right up front so you can see the level of chaos for yourself, and while prices are inevitably higher, the menu and the recipes are largely unchanged. I should be in such good shape when I'm eighty-three years old.

The Harkins Theatres in Bricktown aren't even eighty-three hours old yet, but they were doing a semi-brisk business for a Saturday afternoon, perhaps because four screens (including the monster Cine Capri) were devoted to the weekend's big debut, Shark Tale. Being the sensible soul I am, I went after lunch, reasoning that the Big Bevburger ($4.95 with fries) was likely to be more substantial a meal than the $5.50 Giant Popcorn at the concession stand. (I did, however, fork over three and a quarter for a box of Raisinets, because — well, just because, okay?)

Two weeks ago I said something to the effect that I'd be surprised if they made their first-of-October opening on time, and indeed they did, but there's a reason I trust my gut: about two-thirds of the way through Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, a section of ceiling molding and the backing material came crashing to the floor. (I suspect it says something about Sky Captain that hardly anyone noticed the crash, what with all the crashing and whatnot on screen, duly reproduced in Dolby® Digital.) The offending section was directly above an aisle, and no one in the auditorium was even close to being affected by it, but Harkins management was properly appalled, and everyone at that showing was comped with a free pass for the inconvenience suffered, while staff hurried in halfway through the credits to make the repairs.

We jump now into the realm of the timeless. A chap from a local Baptist church rang my bell this morning and handed me a package of light bulbs. (Good ones, too: GE Soft White Longlife 60-watt.) No catch: it's just part of their outreach. And, well, why not promote Eternal Light with something good for 1500 hours or so?

Sign at a Kelly-Moore paint store: 100% CARB FREE PAINT. I should certainly hope so.

And to the long cool woman in a black dress who was posing for photographs in front of, and darn near on top of, the Centennial Fountain around three o'clock: thank you, thank you, thank you. (Words fail me otherwise.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 PM to City Scene )
3 October 2004
Stratified for your protection

However much we rail about the excesses and inanities of the government — or the "govment," as Huck's Pap called it — we recognize that it's not one large, monolithic operation, as noted by Francis W. Porretto:

The military, the police and the courts are regarded as separate manifestations of the protective mechanisms of society. More significant, they're considered on a separate plane from the rest of the coercive edifice: "above" in importance, "below," meaning more fundamental to our stability and security, in structural terms. With-but-after the police would come the unarmed emergency responders: firemen, ambulance services, and comparable workers and agencies. But a long, long way down from all of the above would be the routiniers of the bureaucracy whose mission in life is to write public-school sex education syllabuses, enforce diversity-in-hiring quotas, or fine homeowners for having too high a fence. And infinitely further down are the myrmidons of the ATF and DEA, who've demonstrated a willingness to slay and spare not to prevent Americans from exercising ownership rights over their own bodies or their Constitutionally guaranteed right to own and carry whatever weapons they please.

Of late, I'd say the courts might have slipped a notch or two here and there, but otherwise this is spot-on. And I'd argue that the Feds, deep in their flinty little artificial hearts, don't think much of ATF either. Presumably by design, ATF is an organization that regulates three (well, four, actually) commodities that were thrown together seemingly at random: they have nothing in common other than the fact that some people in high places don't like them.

The DEA, of course, exists to make George Lucas, circa THX-1138, appear to be a visionary.

And please note Mr Porretto's reference to the "coercive edifice," which reminds us that all of government is coercive, though some parts are more coercive than others. And some have more legitimate claim to the consent of the governed than others: it's not at all difficult to find a correlation between the position of regard in which any segment of government is held and the strength of that claim.

In which precinct is the Greybar Hotel?

This Newsday story (from AP) perplexes me somewhat.

Coretta Scott King, addressing the Portland, Maine chapter of the NAACP on the occasion of its fortieth anniversary, called for an end to the disenfranchisement of convicted felons. And I can see the sense to this: once you've paid your debt to society, as it were, you return to the outside world, where you are once again entitled to the privileges — and subject to the responsibilities — of full citizenship. I don't think anything is gained, other than a measure of petty vindictiveness, by keeping people off the voter rolls once they've served their time.

But Mrs King lost me when she, as the story reports, "[praised] Maine and Vermont as the only states which allow prison inmates to vote." No doubt these two states have their reasons, and supposedly this is the general rule among European nations, which probably impresses some people more than it impresses me. I'll happily — well, at least not grudgingly — support a measure to restore the franchise to felons once they've completed their sentences, but that's as far as I'm willing to go for now.

(Via Politopics)

Format d:

By my reckoning, that's the third scariest thing you can type from the command line. (Second, of course, is format c:, while the scariest of all is fdisk, which, unless you know what you're doing, will indeed f your disk.)

Anyway, I had a bizarre failure around cluster number 13,900 on that logical drive: everything ground to a halt when reaching it. I found no virus or spyware, so I moved off everything I could, dropped to DOS — you remember DOS, don't you? — and reformatted the drive. To my surprise, the reformat turned up no bad sectors, so I have to assume that whatever files were in that cluster were so badly corrupted that nothing this side of Steve Gibson was going to read them.

I lost, by my count, three files, and two were restored from copies elsewhere, so I lost a total of one file and two hours. I'm thinking, though, that it's probably time to start pricing a new drive, maybe even a new machine for the desktop.

Yes, we have some bananas

Tomorrow at 7 pm, Tom Coburn and Brad Carson (geez, where's Sheila Bilyeu?) will face off in a debate at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond. Right now, it's too early to tell whether it will be essentially a repeat of this morning's Meet the Press.

One thing will be different, though: a demonstration. Around five-thirty, persons who are fed up with the severely-limited ballot access in this state, a law worthy, says onetime Oklahoma Libertarian Party chair Chris Powell, of a "banana republic," will meet on the east side of the Nigh University Center.

You can watch the debate live on KOCO-TV (channel 5) in Oklahoma City, or listen to it over KTOK radio (1000), which presumably will have a live Internet stream as well. How much attention they'll pay to the demonstrators remains to be seen.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:46 PM to Soonerland )
4 October 2004
Storms? We got some

After a placid September, one could be forgiven for thinking that maybe we were going to escape the usual fall storm season this year.

Until about 3:50 this morning, when a single clap of thunder rattled windows for blocks and initiated the standard cacophony sequence for aftermarket car alarms, and a single lightning strike turned the black sky — well, less black.

Then came the rain, fast, then faster, then faster still. There wasn't that much of it — the National Weather Service says .08 inch at the airport, probably less than a quarter-inch up here near Deep Fork Creek — but it was enough to play havoc with the weary travelers trying to beat the dawn.

This pattern should hold for the next few days, as we make up the September rainfall deficit in less than a week.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:35 AM to Weather or Not )
A deal yet undone

Steve Sturm at ThoughtsOnline offers the Top Five Reasons Why Bush Will Lose. To summarize: the President, while he's ahead, isn't all that far ahead, and there's this:

[W]hile Bush correctly reminds us that we now live "post 9/11" and that we need to act accordingly, he is still campaigning in a pre-2000 time warp. The Democrats have shown no restraint in doing anything, saying anything, sliming anyone and suing anyone — anything goes to defeat Bush. Bush has been slow to recognize this and slower to respond. This will end up being the single biggest factor in his defeat.

This presumes that people will respond predictably to any campaign maneuver, however shabby. I'm not so sure, though I admit that the number of particularly-egregious campaign tactics that have backfired is fairly small. (Everyone hates negative campaigning; simultaneously, everyone concedes that it works.)

If anything unravels the Bush campaign, it will be complacency: John Kerry is not going to fold up and slip away into the night.

Better than dead elms

Somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of the trees in Houston's residential neighborhoods are live oaks, which is fine if you like live oaks, possibly troublesome if you're a tree expert.

"Only 10 percent should be one species," says urban forester Charles Burditt. "Otherwise, a disease or other catastrophic event could wipe out a large percentage of your trees."

Do I get any points for diversity? I have a cottonwood, an evergreen or two, twin redbuds, and a couple of elms that are not at all well.

(Via BlogHOUSTON)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:08 AM to Dyssynergy )
Neither in sorrow nor in anger

It's a fairly safe bet that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be socked with a 25-point penalty and a $10,000 fine for an expletive he uttered in Victory Row at the EA Sports 500 yesterday; there is apparently ample precedent should NASCAR decide to do so.

Did Janet — Miss Jackson if you're nasty — really cause all this?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:03 PM to Dyssynergy )
5 October 2004
Crapheads in the sky

After discovering that it would cost over $700 to fly from Tulsa to Springfield, Illinois and back, the OkiePundit has had it up to here with the airlines:

In the last 20 years the airlines have done more to kill the economic development potential of cities like Tulsa and Oklahoma City than have even our legislators. By going to the hub system and reducing competition through consolidation they have made air travel more difficult for those of us in non-hub America. When corporate executives have to fly in to Oklahoma on incredibly uncomfortable propeller jets it becomes very difficult to persuade them to relocate their business here.

We're a little better off at this end of the turnpike — to the Illinois capital and back can be swung here for a smidgen under $300 — but my regard for the hub system, never all that substantial, completely evaporated when they told me once upon a time that I'd have to change planes in Houston to fly to Philadelphia. (And actually, that price can be beat from Tulsa if you buy far enough in advance, but you'd still have to change at Chicago O'Hare and then backtrack to Springfield, which strikes me as just slightly insane.)

Of course, regular readers know I'd just as soon drive, even all the way to Philly, but that's a different issue entirely.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:25 AM to Soonerland )
Quote of the week

Dawn Eden, scourge of Planned Parenthood, evaluating where things stand:

You can tell that Planned Parenthood is scared. They know that their position is morally indefensible, so they resort to relativist blather about "perspective." Meanwhile, they hope no one notices that their own perspective gives them a inside view of a certain orifice — the same one they recommend for "virginal" teen sex.

Which fear perhaps explains their desperate attempts to influence the electorate without jeopardizing their 501(c)(3) status.

(Update, 11:30 am: Someone got to this page with the implausible — to me, anyway — search string "how to end a pregnancy kill the fetus". Sheesh.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:28 AM to QOTW )
The Brad and Tom Show

Barbs, accusations, counteraccusations, and more barbs — what more could you want? Last night's Tom Coburn-Brad Carson debate was wild and woolly, more heat than light, but the candidates did manage to stake out some differences in position.

Best barb, in my opinion, by Carson: "We've sent people to Washington who did nothing for Oklahoma. But we've never sent anyone to Washington, D.C., who makes doing nothing for us their platform."

The candidates will debate again on the 25th of October in Pace Auditorium at Tulsa Community College.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:04 AM to Soonerland )
From a Tallahassee lassie

If these apply to you, you just might be a Floridian.

  • You exhibit a slight twitch when introduced to anyone with the first names of Charley, Frances, Ivan or Jeanne.

  • Your freezer never has more than $20 worth of food in it at any given time.

  • You're looking at paint swatches for the plywood on your windows to accent the house color.

  • You think of your hall closet/saferoom as "cozy."

  • Your pool is more accurately described as "framed in" than "screened in."

  • Your freezer in the garage now has only homemade ice in it.

  • You no longer worry about relatives visiting during the summer months.

  • You, too, haven't heard back from the insurance adjuster.

  • You now understand what that little "2% hurricane deductible" phrase really means.

  • You're putting together a collage on your driveway of roof shingles from your neighborhood.

  • You were once proud of your 16" electric chainsaw.

  • You now own 5 large ice chests.

  • You recognize people in line at the free ice, gas and plywood locations.

  • You stop what you're doing and clap and wave when you see a convoy of power company trucks come down your street.

  • You're depressed when they don't stop.

  • You have the personal cell phone numbers of the managers for plywood, roofing supplies and generators at Home Depot on your speed dialer.

  • You've spent more than $20 on "tall white kitchen bags" to make your own sand bags.

  • You're considering upgrading your 16" to a 20" chainsaw.

  • You know what "bar chain oil" is.

  • You're thinking of getting your wife the hardhat with the ear protector and face shield for your anniversary.

  • You now think the $6,000 whole house generator seems reasonable.

  • You look forward to discussions about the merits of "cubed, block and dry ice."

  • You ask your family and friends up north to start saving the Sunday Real Estate classifieds.

You know, Tornado Alley doesn't seem so bad all of a sudden.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:01 AM to Almost Yogurt )
We're talking serious archives here

Dynamo Dave Sherman has been doing this for four freaking years, man.

Seems like there ought to be some kind of tenure awarded at this point, doesn't there?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:29 PM to Blogorrhea )
Pellet court

This has nothing to do with Anna or with Silflay Hraka.

But, you know, it could.

(Via Fishbucket)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:04 PM to Blogorrhea )
Got a right to disappear

Evan Williams put it this way:

It's been almost six years now since I started working on what became the company I sold to the company we started talking to two years ago because of the product we launched five years ago.

In other words: having decided that Blogger is in good hands, Ev will sever his ties to Google at the end of this week.

What's he going to do? Not sure:

[W]hile I think I'm likely to start another company sometime, I'm forcing myself to be non-committal at the moment. My goal is to develop some perspective, learn new things, rest, and explore (which, of course, will make me more certain that it will be the right thing if/when I do get around to starting something else). Not that I won't be doing things — I expect to do some "projects." I don't plan to disappear from the web or Internet or blogging (although, I'm not committing to anything, mind you). I still think it's an incredibly exciting time, and we've only scratched the surface. (Duh.)

And has there been a falling-out of some sort? Apparently not:

People often want to imagine a conflict. And, I guess if you consider how often acquisitions go horribly, it's not entirely unreasonable to assume. Unfortunately — I mean fortunately — I can't help fuel any "Google acquires company, kicks out founder" headlines. Google management pretty much let my team and I retain control of Blogger since we got there. For better or for worse, they trusted that we knew what we were doing and attempted to support it without screwing it up. There are always new issues to deal with when you trade your old ones in. But, all in all, they've been awesome. And leaving was entirely my decision. They even offered that I could start something else within the company, if I wanted.

The reason I'm leaving probably comes down to personality more than anything. I've just always been stubbornly independent-minded — even when it wasn't necessarily in my best interest.

Good luck, Ev.

(Tilt of the sombrero to Eric Siegmund.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:42 PM to Blogorrhea )
It wasn't easy being him

A moment of silence, please, for Rodney Dangerfield, who died today in Los Angeles at the age of eighty-two.

Out of respect, of course.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:10 PM to Almost Yogurt )
6 October 2004
Carnival 107

As the numbers get higher, it gets harder to come up with cute titles for them.

Fortunately, the enterprising souls who host Carnival of the Vanities have no problem making the weekly Best of the Blogs series both readable and visually appealing, and that's certainly true of Beck, who hosts week #107 at Incite for your reading and clicking pleasure.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:34 AM to Blogorrhea )
Veepstakes

Okay, I admit it: I blew off the vice-presidential debate. Didn't pay the slightest bit of attention to it.

I blame this partly on John Nance Garner, who observed famously that the vice-presidency wasn't worth "a warm bucket of spit," assuming "spit" is what he really said, and partly on general indifference to the candidates. The Democrats have somehow managed to paint John Edwards as Bill Clinton with a chastity belt, and if Dick Cheney is truly pulling Dubya's strings, someone at a disclosed location (Hi, Karl!) is tugging on Cheney's.

If you care about this more than I do, and you'd almost have to, you can get the consensus of blogdom from Allah.

A bunch of ding-dongs

The image of the Avon Lady — neat, upright, unpretentious, pretty but not drop-dead gorgeous — is practically indelible, despite Avon's efforts in recent years to jazz up the product line. And I mean some fairly smooth jazz, too: if you've seen any of the recent biweekly campaign catalogs, you know that alongside the usual arrays of powders and moisturizers and lipsticks, they're vending some sort-of-sexy lingerie, not exactly Victoria's Secret, but not flannel and muslin either. It gets worse in March and April as they hawk this stuff for Mother's Day, which always leaves me with a serious case of cognitive dissonance: I can imagine it on Stacy's mom, I guess, but my mom wouldn't ever have gotten near it.

Still, I'm just this side of 51 years old; I can deal with images of scantily-clad (or less) women. I'm quite certain I couldn't when I was ten. And I really don't think it's a good idea to have grade-school kids trying to sell this kind of material for classroom fund-raising; it's probably less fattening than your average World's Finest chocolate bar, but kids are already getting overwhelmed with sexual stuff way before they're ready for it, and besides, what does your average Little League shortstop know about sun-protection factors anyway? Gimme back my Avon Lady.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:08 AM to Dyssynergy )
Wanted: leadfoot, size 7B

Well, they're not that specific, but Easy Street Motorsports is looking for a female driver for their ESX Subaru WRX STi on the 2005 race circuit. Salary is $40k, augmented by the usual sponsorship money, plus a full scholarship to Frank Hawley's NHRA Drag Racing School.

Qualifications?

Must be a female in good health and possess a valid U.S. driver's license.

Experience is not required, but it can be helpful when you have to pilot over 1000 hp of all-wheel drive, ground-pounding, thunder!!

Um, yeah.

(Via Jalopnik)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:52 AM to Driver's Seat )
The kid stays out of the picture

I am indeed blessed: not only did the Oklahoma Gazette render all my quotes accurately, but mindful of space (or taste) considerations, they snipped out my photo.

Besides, Michael Bates is much better-looking.

(The Gazette puts only a fraction of the complete article online, so you'll have to snag a copy of the dead-tree version to, as the phrase goes, Read The Whole Thing.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:02 PM to Blogorrhea )
Meanwhile on the A-list

Bill Whittle. Read. Now.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:19 PM to Blogorrhea )
Welcome, Gazette readers

Surely somebody copied down the URL on page 23.

Incidentally, I told Deborah Benjamin there were two blogs in this state that were far better than mine at political coverage; to her everlasting credit, she talked to both those guys. (Of course, she may have talked to them long before she ever got down to my spot on the list.)

Previous coverage and snarky comments are here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:41 PM to Blogorrhea )
7 October 2004
Where's the beef?

Same old place as it ever was: on the line. For OU-Texas weekend, the governors of the states have a "friendly" wager on the outcome of the game, and traditionally it's been a side of beef.

This year, there were protests. Vegetarian groups in central Oklahoma and in Austin, Texas asked that the bet be revised, and indeed in 2003 Governor Henry had put up 150 lb of corn meal instead of the usual grill fodder. Not this time.

And really, an event billed as the "Red River Shootout" is no place for arugula, if you ask me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:30 AM to Soonerland )
A gentleman's SEE

Walter Williams, as quoted by La Shawn Barber:

Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., enforces an academic policy that defies belief. Say I'm a freshman taking your class in biology. I learn little from your lectures, assigned readings and homework. I do attend class every day, take notes and manage to average 40 percent on the graded work for the semester. What grade might you give me? I'm betting that all but the academic elite would say, "Sorry, Williams, but no cigar," and I?d earn an F for the course. But if you're a professor at Benedict College and gave me that F, you'd be fired....

SEE [Success Equals Effort] is a policy where 60 percent of a freshman's grade is based on effort and the rest on academic performance. In a student's sophomore year, the formula drops to 50-50, and it isn't used at all for junior and senior years. In defense of his policy, Benedict's president, Dr. David H. Swinton, said that the students "have to get an A in effort [?!] to guarantee that if they fail the subject matter, they can get the minimum passing grade. I don?t think that's a bad thing."

I understand the rationale for this sort of thing: should a student not flunk out as a freshman, there's a chance he'll be back as a sophomore. If that were the only objective, though, it would be easier just to pass every freshman routinely and be done with it. But apparently Dr Swinton takes this stuff seriously: Williams quotes a report in The State to the effect that two instructors were sacked for not adjusting their grades by Swinton's fudge factor.

I grew up in South Carolina, a state which is not renowned for its academic brilliance, but a state which, at least when I was there, was willing to hammer on its students to get them to learn this stuff already. It is disheartening to see Benedict, an historically black college with a 130-year track record, shifting its emphasis away from academics and toward the politics of self-esteem; it's hard to see how SEE is going to contribute positively to the task of turning out graduates who are "powers for good in society".

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Dyssynergy )
It's xrlq

In lower case, for now, because he's only one day old.

Say hello to Baby Xrlq, of whom pictures are promised Real Soon Now. (Of course, the proud parents are no doubt, um, otherwise occupied right this minute.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:44 PM to Next Generation )
Fox to oversee henhouse construction

I know, I spend a lot of space on New Jersey stuff here, but let's face it: New Jersey manages to provide a whole lot of bizarre stories, and as far as Big Media are concerned, which isn't much, New Jersey and Oklahoma are in a dead heat for National Laughingstock, and stories like this give me a chance to, um, play favorites.

The Newark Housing Authority will assume responsibility for the construction of the city's downtown sports-arena complex.

This ought to be interesting, what with Authority director Harold Lucas under HUD scrutiny for managing to spend upward of $400,000 in a year and a half to renovate the Authority's offices, including a plasma TV for his own inner sanctum.

Amusingly, there will be a board empaneled to oversee the NHA's oversight of the arena. From his vantage point at Pavement Narrows, the Prop asks:

Why select an agency to run a major development that is so corrupt you won't vote for it without adding another group to oversee it?

Newark Mayor Sharpe James will be on the oversight board. He's quite excited about the new facility, which he says will mean a "new image for Newark." Given the nature of Garden State politics, I suspect not even a new mayor will be able to give Newark a new image.

Obligatory Oklahoma comparison: The 18,000-seat Newark arena will cost, says the city, no more than $210 million. The proposed new arena in Tulsa, with similar seating capacity, carries a $125-million price tag (the oft-quoted $183 million includes the cost of renovating the Convention Center). Oklahoma City's Ford Center, with 2,000 more seats, took a shade under $88 million to build.

(Dear Susanna: Aren't you just tickled pink to be in Alabama these days instead of New Jersey?)

I do believe it's true

The word hasn't made it to the city Web site yet, but they're putting it out in the City News utility-bill insert: you can now pay Oklahoma City utility bills at the zoo.

Really. Seven days a week, 9 to 5, the Oklahoma City Zoo's Guest Services Counter will take your check or money order in payment of your utility bill, assuming it's current. What's more, they're reserving a couple of parking spaces near the zoo entrance for utility customers.

In another development, the Municipal Court will now take plastic for city fines, in person or over the phone during business hours, and won't even charge you a service fee.

Eventually, they really need to unite all these functions and make them payable at okc.gov. (Right now, only traffic tickets can be paid over the Web.) But I can wait.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:47 PM to City Scene )
8 October 2004
Have you matriculated today?

There's a new scholarship at Michigan State University, available to a student of color who qualifies as lesbian, bisexual, gay or transsexual. Lajoya Johnson, who arranged for the scholarship and is now raising funds for it, says she hopes the scholarship will help make more LBGT students of color want to come to East Lansing. (I always thought the abbreviation was GLBT, but then I'm out of the loop on matters of this sort.)

This sort of thing is fine with me; I mean, a perfunctory search through some schools' financial-aid offices will turn up scholarships with requirements even more specific than just being nonwhite and nonstraight, and I'm not about to complain about them. I did, however, find something odd in this comment by the university's LBGT rep:

There's a reality that for some students, if they choose to be out and open about their identity, often risk being cut off by their families of origin. The burden of tuition and room and board then falls solely on their shoulders.

Which is no doubt true, but: families of origin? Didn't all of us (Adam and Eve excepted) originate in families? What did I miss here?

Meanwhile, Dawn Eden proposes sauce for the gander:

I would love to start a scholarship for heterosexual students. With a 4.0 grade average, of course. There could be an underprivileged 16-year-old girl in Michigan right now who wants to go to MSU, but can't get a scholarship because she's attracted to boys. This injustice must stop.

I suspect this would go over better than, say, if I proposed to endow a chair in NASCAR Studies at Bryn Mawr, but the world continues to surprise me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:44 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Melts in your mouth, not on your screen

Mike Horshead researches a question it didn't occur to you or me to ask: What is the correct pronunciation of M & M?

Don't laugh. This is undoubtedly a matter of serious interest in Hackettstown and along 8 Mile Road.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:38 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Barry calls a play from the sideline

Former OU football coach/demigod Barry Switzer has endorsed Brad Carson for Senate, an announcement which is far more important than I think it deserves to be; I was seriously thinking about not mentioning it here, but Wilson Research Strategies, which has been handicapping the Senate race, says that 16 percent of voters who chose Brad Henry for governor in 2002 said that Switzer's endorsement had influenced their choice. So Barry carries a lot of weight, even today; Chris Wilson of WRS says that "it's probably the second-best endorsement you could get, after Bob Stoops."

Bob Stoops had no comment, but John Hart of the Tom Coburn campaign sniffed, "Barry Switzer has a track record of endorsing liberal trial lawyers."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:28 AM to Soonerland )
Racking up the numbers

With two days still to go, the 2004 Blogger Boobie-Thon has exceeded last year's total; as of about an hour ago, the total in hand was $7066. (With 140 donors listed, this means that the average donation is right around fifty bucks.)

I'm sure there's some way I can urge you guys to donate without telling you to, um, put your money where your mouth is.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:34 PM to Blogorrhea )
Lorton hears a...what?

The Tulsa World points out in an editorial today [link requires Adobe Reader] that Brad Carson got the highest possible rating from Americans for Better Immigration, a group which seeks to reduce the number of immigrants; Tom Coburn, on the other hand, received a less-than-mediocre D-plus.

There's just one problem here: it's not true. Had anyone from the World bothered to read ABI's ratings in full — which Michael Bates actually did — it would have been excruciatingly obvious that both Carson and Coburn got exactly the same overall rating: a B-plus. And it's not like the details are hidden away; even without using Bates' links, I was able to find the scorecards in a matter of seconds.

What's really weird is that the editorial wasn't intended to cast a pleasing light on Carson, but to castigate the Republican National Committee for a Coburn ad about immigration; the ABI scorecards were merely a sideshow. Yet the World was perfectly willing to go on the attack with a complete misstatement of ABI's positions. What were they thinking? As lapses in editorial judgment go, this is so utterly amazing that I have to wonder if the World has been raiding CBS News to staff its editorial board.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:45 PM to Soonerland )
9 October 2004
Speaking of political ratings

Michael Crane has compiled a monster of a book called The Political Junkie Handbook, billed as "The Definitive Reference Book on Politics," 600-odd pages of facts, figures and whatnot, selling for $30 (quantity rates apply if you buy 5 or more). In an effort to draw attention to it, Crane apparently sent excerpts to some of us who are hard-up to fill blog space every morning, with the note "Please share this interesting information with your readers."

Fair enough. What I got was a list of a dozen lifetime ratings given to Senator John Kerry by various organizations, six liberal and six conservative, and judging by my spot-checks of a couple of them, converted from letter grades to numbers as needed. I figured I would arrange these in order of ascending rating, which presumably would therefore arrange the organizations in order of descending conservatism. (Ties are listed alphabetically.) Without further ado:

  •     0: Chamber of Commerce (2003 rating only)
  •     0: Family Research Council
  •     5: American Conservative Union
  •   10: Gun Owners of America
  •   14: National Taxpayers Union
  •   25: Citizens Against Government Waste
  •   85: Public Citizen
  •   92: Americans for Democratic Action
  • 100: American Association of University Professors
  • 100: Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
  • 100: Human Rights Campaign
  • 100: NARAL

Inasmuch as the National Rifle Association has worked diligently to portray Kerry as the right-hand man of the Antichrist — okay, that's a slight exaggeration — I was curious to see how Gun Owners of America, which is by most accounts a harder-nosed group than the NRA, managed to find ten points for him. And from their current Senate ratings page, I conclude that they figure he could be worse: he may vote against their interests all the time, but at least he doesn't introduce anti-gun measures. This undoubtedly is how Kerry gets an F, while Ted Kennedy, who does sponsor stuff like that, gets an F-minus.

There aren't any real surprises in this list, to be sure. But it's useful, I think, to look at the whole ball of wax at once, especially if your opinions, like mine, veer in from all over the spectrum.

Debate 2

Allah has the usual roundup from blogdom.

I had the debate on the radio and was half-watching one of my chat rooms, and to my surprise, some of the women in the room began taking up the candidates' talking points instead of the ostensible room topic. And things did get fairly spirited for a while, though a few of the guys bailed out rather quickly, perhaps sensing that their hopes of attracting the attention of one of those women were even fainter than usual. I tossed in a remark or two from time to time, but by and large, they were doing a pretty thorough job of reenacting the scene in St. Louis.

I hesitate to extrapolate from such a small sample — the room only holds 36, and only a fraction of them were participating actively — but at that moment, it looked to me as though those "security moms" for Bush might well include a substantial number of women who actually aren't moms. Which means, I suppose, that it's about time for the Democrats to deny that they exist at all.

Saturday spottings (Etruscan edition)

On the south side of the campus of St. Gregory's University, a small (850 students) Benedictine school in Shawnee, Oklahoma, is the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art, founded in 1914 by Father Gregory Gerrer, a Benedictine monk and an artist in his own right.

It's always worth the half-hour trip (35 miles, but traffic on I-40 tends to move at close to 80 mph once you're past Tinker Air Force Base) from the city to Mabee-Gerrer, but this year they have something literally unique: Unveiling Ancient Mystery: Etruscan Treasures, the first-ever showing of 225 pieces of jewelry from the collection of Count Vittorio Cini (1885-1977), passed down to his daughter Yana and made available by her husband, Prince Fabrizio Alliata di Montereale.

In addition to the Alliata-Cini collection, Etruscan Treasures features items that were imported to Etruria from other Mediterranean venues — Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia — that inspired the Etruscans' own artifacts. (For instance, to supplement an image of an Etruscan sarcophagus, there's an actual Egyptian sarcophagus from the museum's permanent collection.) There are workaday items and luxuries, reproductions of typical clothing based upon statuary, everything you'd want from a serious archaeological dig.

But the exhibition inevitably is dominated by the jewelry: small, intricately detailed, constructed with incredible precision using highly-sophisticated techniques. (A local jewelrymaker who contributes to the Antenna Audio tour program has actually duplicated some of the pieces; the reproductions can be bought at the museum at prices which reflect the difficulty of the task.) I quote from the catalog ($27.50) description of one piece in the collection:

Disc-shaped earring decorated with a six-petalled flower of beaded wire and central granule, inscribed in concentric circles of twisted, plain and spooled wire. Suspended from the disc is a pendant in the form of an inverted three-sided pyramid with a grain on the tip, decorated at the edges with spiral-beaded wire.

And they were doing this around 350 BC, mind you.

Of course, the greatest Etruscan mystery is "Where did they go?" We know that Etruria, whose borders correspond roughly with those of present-day Tuscany, eventually became part of the Roman Empire, and we are learning that some vaunted Roman innovations were derived (or blatantly copied) from Etruscan work. The exhibit is a celebration of Etruscan culture at its best, but it's also a grim reminder that no civilization, however sophisticated, lasts forever.

Unveiling Ancient Mystery: Etruscan Treasures runs through the end of October at Mabee-Gerrer. It's a national exclusive: this is the only place in the entire country to see this exhibit. And unsurprisingly, the museum register records visitors from all 50 states. (New Hampshire, says the front desk, was the last.) If you're anywhere in the vicinity, or even if you're not, it's worth the trip.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:16 PM to City Scene )
10 October 2004
Barrels of fun

Prices for Oklahoma crude oil generally lag behind the oft-quoted New York Mercantile Exchange rates for the OPEC stuff, but $50 a barrel has come to the Oklahoma oil patch, and activity is starting to pick up as a result.

And it's perfectly obvious why: a well capable of producing a mere two barrels a day, about average for the state these days, is good for $3000 a month now, justifying the expense to force it out of the ground. (The standard barrel is 42 gallons.)

The days of the "wild wells," of course, are gone forever; we're not going to see a repeat of the No. 1 Mary Sudik, which blew out in the spring of 1930 and spewed oil all over central Oklahoma for eleven days before being brought under control. No one knows for sure how much "Wild Mary" actually coughed up, but it's estimated she was peaking near 3,000 barrels an hour. Present-day oilfield equipment can handle these higher pressures; of course, with the fields largely played out, it's now necessary to force higher pressures into the wells to squeeze out a barrel or two. It wasn't worth it at $10 or $15 a barrel: the costs exceeded the potential revenue.

The state eventually figured out that its 7-percent Gross Production Tax wasn't helping matters, and in 1998 reset the tax to a variable rate based upon the price of crude. A similar structure applies to natural gas production, and gas prices are similarly high: Oklahoma Natural Gas advises that the stuff they piped into my house this month cost them $6.02 per dekatherm, a dekatherm being equal to 1 million British Thermal Units.

With prices where they've been lately, the state is able to levy the full 7-percent tax; in fiscal year 2004, which ended 30 June, the Gross Production Tax brought in $560 million, about $100 million more than had been projected, a small but definite boon to Oklahoma's ongoing budget woes, and this was before the huge run-up in oil prices. It's this sort of thing that keeps me from gritting my teeth as I spend $24 to fill up my car (figuring 12.9 gallons, at which point the orange Low Fuel light has just come on, at $1.86).

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:21 AM to Family Joules )
Hit the road, Jacques

The death of French philosopher Jacques Derrida reminded me of this January 2003 piece wherein I tried to find some common ground between deconstructionism and the blog technique known as "fisking."

Since undoubtedly Derrida will be mourned in academic circles, I'm happy to reprint this observation in NRO by Mark Goldblatt on the arrival of a documentary film about Derrida, which inspired my original post in the first place. (I didn't quote as much of it the first time around.)

[H]e is not now, nor has he ever been, a philosopher in any recognizable sense of the word, nor even a trafficker in significant ideas; he is rather a intellectual con artist, a polysyllabic grifter who has duped roughly half the humanities professors in the United States — a species whose gullibility ranks them somewhere between nine-year-old boys listening to spooky campfire stories and blissful puppies chasing after nonexistent sticks — into believing that postmodernism has an underlying theoretical rationale. History will remember Derrida, and it surely will, not for what he himself has said but for what his revered status says about us.

(Adjustment of hat angle motivated by Michelle Malkin.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:00 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Minor enhancement

I've set up a section in the navigation column specifically for The Vent: it contains a link (with number, title and date) of the newest edition, plus a link to the complete index. For those of you who also peek into that area, this will at least tell you up front when the updates occur.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:44 PM to Blogorrhea )
Half verbal, so to speak

I've always suspected that the SAT is important largely because ETS says it is, and I'd take these numbers with a grain of salt even if they didn't come with the disclaimer that "many of these scores are unverified."

For the record, I took it twice in high school, back in the Pleistocene era, and both times I scored between Scott McNealy and Rush Limbaugh.

(Via Bill Quick, who scored similarly.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:12 PM to Almost Yogurt )
11 October 2004
Wish I'd thought of this

It's a step beyond serendipity: the ability to claim credit for an innovation that requires you to do nothing at all.

Tulsa's KOTV, channel 6, is now promoting its Online Audio at its Web site, and you don't even need to be online to listen to it: just tune your FM radio to 87.7 MHz.

Under FCC rules, an analog TV channel covers a bandwidth of 6 MHz; channel 6 runs from 82 to 88 MHz. The color subcarrier is generally located 1.25 MHz from the bottom of the channel, or at 83.25 MHz.

TV video is AM. TV audio, however, is FM, and the FM subcarrier is located 4.5 MHz above the video subcarrier in all TV channels. On channel 6 in Tulsa, or indeed channel 6 anywhere in the US or Canada, this means 87.75 MHz. (Actually, some stations, including KOTV, are required by the FCC to offset their subcarriers by 0.01 MHz, so the actual FM audio from KOTV is at 87.76 MHz.) This signal is well within the reach of any FM receiver within transmitter range which can be tuned to approximately 87.7, and KOTV didn't have to do anything extra to provide it; it's a by-product of the way the spectrum is assigned. Any station on channel 6 should be similarly accessible.

On a hunch, I spot-checked three stations I knew to be on channel 6 — in Corpus Christi, Miami and Philadelphia — and none of them was promoting an FM-audio feed on the front page of its Web site.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to Overmodulation )
Grasping the obvious

October, says Planned Parenthood, is "October is National Campaign for Healthier Babies Month," and, well, who can argue with that?

Consonant with this month's theme, the organization is calling your attention to their articles in the "Having a Healthy Baby" series, which opens, logically enough, with Planning Your Pregnancy. It's a good-enough exposition of its type, though Dawn Eden notes that they missed one major point.

Hit the bricks

As Tulsa wrestles with trying to lure people downtown, Michael Bates explains what it takes:

Most of what needs to be done to make downtown appealing again involves the basics — a visible police presence to act as a deterrent against crime and an assurance to downtown visitors and residents alike, improvements to lighting and sidewalks, fixing and, where possible, reopening streets to auto traffic.

Mike Jones [in a Tulsa World editorial] goes on to say that downtown is no more dangerous than 71st & Memorial or 41st & Yale. That may be so, but at those other locations, people feel insulated from danger because they are in their cars. In a real downtown, you're going to be on foot as you go from place to place. If the arena is going to spark new restaurants and clubs downtown, people will have to feel safe and comfortable walking from the arena to the Blue Dome and Brady Village districts. Once an arena patron is in his car, downtown has lost the advantage of proximity — a myriad of restaurants and clubs are at his disposal, all within a 20 minute drive.

We've figured this out down here. Oklahoma City has increased its police presence in Bricktown and has installed a police substation in a rented storefront, pending the completion of a full-time police building on East Main. The Walnut Avenue bridge is closed for now, but will be rebuilt. And if you'd rather not walk all over Bricktown, there's always the trolley.

Of course, we provide places where you can feel a sense of danger in your car, too: just try to get through the Pennsylvania Avenue/Memorial Road/Kilpatrick Turnpike intersection.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:03 AM to Soonerland )
Voices made for newsprint

Public radio has an impressively-diverse collection of voices, from avuncular and garrulous Garrison Keillor to studiously-pinched Diane Rehm, from cheerful yenta Susan Stamberg to gruff Carl Kasell. What they all have in common, of course, is that they're all professionals, and they all sound like it. (Don't even mention Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers.)

However, not every voice on public radio is that of a professional, as Wendy reports:

[A]t some point they both started TALKING LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE. No verbal italics, no strutting around in vocal drag — just two people talking in ordinary tones and cadences with voices that were perfectly pleasant to begin with.

And I liked them so much better, and actually enjoyed listening to them, and began to think of them as my friends, even, until Mr. Super-Syllables suddenly remembered that he hadn't yet over-enunciated "Viva Voce" that morning and had at least three semi-obscure producer names to drop before 9:00, and Woman Newsreader realized it was time for her to breathily make love to a lengthy sequence of words as if they had nothing whatsoever to do with the dismal economy, war, terrorism, poverty, or death and destruction of any kind. And I went back to wanting to gouge out the radio tuner with my windshield ice scraper.

There aren't any real fingernails-on-the-blackboard voices on our local public-radio stations, though KGOU manager Karen Holp comes closest: there's always the sensation that she's just gotten to the bottom of her box of Cracker Jack and inexplicably didn't find a Coupe de Ville hiding therein.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:05 AM to Overmodulation )
Been there, doing that

John Rosenberg rips this tale from the very headlines:

[T]he platform of the Democratic party charges that "under the pretense of a military necessity of war-power higher than the Constitution, the Constitution itself has been disregarded" by such things as "the arbitrary military arrest, imprisonment, trial, and sentence of American citizens." The Democratic nominee, however, a decorated veteran, rejects the peace wing of his party and attempts to move toward the center, "vowing instead to prosecute the war with more skill and vigor than" the president.

He has, of course, a plan.

But I'm inclined to think that it may not matter come November.

12 October 2004
The center of the 'sphere

Andrew Sullivan? Not necessarily.

And really, do we even need one? The Professor recommended one of those weekly compendia with "You may find some blogs you like better than this one!" and caught flak for it. His response merits repeating:

Well, I'm not telling people not to visit my blog. But the blogosphere is a big place. Judging from the complaints I get from some readers that I'm not writing enough about stuff they consider important, InstaPundit is not, in fact, a one-size-fits-all blog. And neither are any others! I think it's important for people to find blogs they like. Lots of people come to InstaPundit and read it, and a few other blogs that I link to a lot, and don't venture further into the blogosphere. I try to encourage people to get beyond that because (1) I might not be around forever; and (2) I think those other blogs deserve more traffic, too. The blogosphere is more important than any one blog, and no single blog is everything to everybody, or should try to be.

Having been around forever, or at least comparatively so, I'm a firm believer in spreading the wealth, or the linkage, or whatever it is we cast upon the waters around these parts; while it is literally impossible to read every single blog — there aren't enough hours in a day even to type in the URLs — you don't get the full benefit of the collective wisdom (if that's the term) by sticking to two or three of the brand-name bloggers. That Gazette article last week highlighted four Oklahoma blogs and listed a handful of others, and while I certainly appreciate whatever traffic I got from it, I think it's important to look around for other voices. Bruce and Mike perform a valuable public service by providing linkage to dozens of Oklahoma blogs, and as I said in the Gazette piece, "There's always room for another soapbox." I suspect Glenn Reynolds would agree.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:27 AM to Blogorrhea )
Kabuling up a comparison

What's the difference between democracy in Afghanistan and democracy in Oklahoma?

According to Mike at Okiedoke, it's about 9 to 1.

More precisely, 18 to 2.

Sunday will never be the same

Everything I've read and heard tells me that John Kerry takes his religious faith seriously; he has, to be sure, some substantial differences with official Catholic doctrine, but I'm not inclined to accuse him of apostasy.

Still, Kerry's appearance at a predominantly-black Baptist church in Miami strikes me as at least somewhat cynical. As Susanna Cornett notes:

What do you think the Democrat party would do if Bush started showing up in churches all over Michigan, handing out Bush/Cheney signs and denouncing Kerry from the pulpit? You think suddenly the separation of church and state would become a hot issue? You know it would. Bush already is decried as the Evil Frothy-Mouthed Religious Freak by demonizing Dems because he lives his faith. So why aren't John Kerry and Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton called into account for pulpit stump speeches?

And "demonizing" is an important word here, says John Rosenberg:

There have been frequent laments about the increasing harshness of those who "demonize the opposition," but this is usually simply a figure of speech. But in that Miami church it became literally true, through the good offices of Rep. Carrie Meeks (D, Fla.), who declared that Kerry is "fighting against liars and demons."

There is, I submit, froth on both sides of the aisle.

(Update, 13 October, 7:30 am: La Shawn Barber looks at Kerry's pulpit pitch from a Biblical point of view.)

Not just a hat

A fellow named Pouncer left this as a comment at Stephen Green's place, and it's as good an explanation as I expect to see about how it is that some of us, George W. Bush included, don't get upset by the presumably-derisive use of the term "cowboy":

[T]he image I want the world to have of Americans in general and the US President in particular, the image that matters, the image they should understand is the image of the movie cowboy.

A cowboy can take the first punch without falling down, but then he wins the fight.

A cowboy fights fair — he doesn't respond to a punch by drawing his pistol.

But a cowboy doesn't wait for his opponent to "clear leather", either. If somebody "goes for the gun" the movie cowboy draws quicker, aims straighter, and amazes the onlookers with the awesome precision of his gun-handling.

A movie cowboy knows that sometimes, sadly, the sheriff is in league with the cattle baron or other forces of evil. Sometimes a cowboy has to choose between obeying the law, submitting to authority — or doing the right thing. In such circumstances the cowboy spits upon the law — he always chooses to do the right thing. (Speaking of spitting: A cowboy's attitude toward tobacco, liquor, guns — and morphine — isn't founded firmly on legalities, either.)

The movie cowboy doesn't really want to live in town and be sheriff for a timid bunch of fat bankers, gimpy bartenders, slick gamblers, scruffy miners and painted dance-hall girls. He'd like nothing better than to hand over the badge to somebody else — and ride on in pursuit of the next frontier. But there are kids, and the schoolmarm, the circuit-riding preacher and that youngster in the general store with the dime novel in his pocket, a .22 in his saddle holster and a dangerously quixotic gleam in his eye ... so a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.

A cowboy may surprise you with a quote from the King James Bible or a line or two from Shakespeare. His faith is deeper than he lets on. His appreciation of bawdy entertainments is raucous. But in either case, alone by the watchfire or by a dim and flaring lamp, the movie cowboy is liable to pull a battered book from his pockets to engage in a dialog with minds of generations gone, seeking lessons worthy to pass on to his own descendants.

You can have your ninja, your samurai, your viking, your paladin, your land-knecht, your vandal, hun, mongol, visigoth or aristocratic serf-abusing religous crusader rampaging back and forth across Eurasia looting and plundering, raping, pillaging, impaling, crucifying, enslaving, did I mention raping?, burning starving and destroying the very civilisations and societies that engendered them — all to the merry madrigals of the bards paid to spin the history. Fine. Great. That foreign shit can make for dandy movies, too.

Like, when Bing Crosby shows up — whistling — as the Connecticut Cowboy, er, Yankee in King Arthur's court — who shows the knights-on-horseback how to use a lasso... and a revolver.

Yeah, even Connecticut! Birth place of the Shrub. Cowboys aren't just Texans, y'all. Ever see the movie where James Garner teaches the natives how to ranch — teaches 'em in Hawaii? Do you have any idea how much beef is raised in New Jersey, New York, and New Hampshire? That you can walk into shops from Key West to Whidbey Island and buy boots, spurs, a hat — and yes, a six-gun?

Yeah, the image is important. We're cowboys, and they can call us that.

But they'd better be smiling when they do...

Thank you, Pouncer. (And thanks to Mark Twain, for A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, a book which I have read somewhere between twenty and sixty times in the last 50 years.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:03 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Crazy, man

The Houston Comical Chronicle managed this howler in this morning's dead-tree edition:

Exit polling and international observers predicted that Interim President Hamid Crazy would win election with more than 51 percent of the vote.

The online copy has been fixed, but anybody who reads the Chronicle's editorial page — assuming someone actually does read the Chronicle's editorial page — will witness this bit of sloppiness.

(Via BlogHOUSTON, which did.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:01 PM to Dyssynergy )
From the "It could be worse" files

Gwyneth Paltrow, in whom I have entirely too much interest after having seen Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, caught a fair amount of flak for naming her daughter "Apple".

Well, at least it's better than "@".

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:23 PM to Dyssynergy )
108

The end of the FM dial (well, actually 107.9), but nowhere near the end of the Carnival of the Vanities, the 108th edition of which is presented by Conservative Dialysis. Waste no time getting there to read it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:36 PM to Blogorrhea )
13 October 2004
Colors of the day

Anticipating the possibility that the Democrats might retake the White House, Eric Siegmund presents the revised (since Tom Ridge will be gone) Kerryland Nuisance Advisory System.

It's, like, so nuanced.

Greens on the State Questions

What is most interesting, I think, about this list of Green Party positions on this fall's ballot initiatives, is that it's deliberately incomplete; on three of the nine State Questions, the party will "make no statement." J. M. Branum explains:

Those questions with "make no statement" were those for which we...could not reach consensus on what a Green stance on this measure should be.

Which is fine with me. There's no compelling reason why a political party should have a stance on every conceivable issue.

Mr Branum notes further:

One thing that was abundantly apparent in our discussions was how badly written the measure descriptions were and how absolutely ignorant the legislature must think Oklahoma voters must be.

He cites SQ 713 as a particularly heinous example, and indeed 713, which raises the tobacco tax while cutting the top rate of the income tax, is a powerful argument for the metaphor of legislation as sausage.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:28 AM to Soonerland )
When activists attack

Vandals tagged Brad Carson's Tulsa campaign office at 1404 S. Utica with graffiti Sunday night; among the inscriptions were "Carson lies" and "Leave Tulsa alone" and, perhaps most horrifying, "liberal".

The vandalism was discovered Monday morning; campaign volunteers have been scraping off the graffiti.

"Froth on both sides of the aisle," I said.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:10 AM to Soonerland )
The Sinclair flap

The documentary film Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal has been picked up by the 62-station Sinclair Broadcast Group for broadcast in late October, a fact which has drawn fire from Big Media — even though Sinclair is pretty Big Media itself — and has brought threats of retaliation from supporters of John Kerry, who is, shall we say, unflatteringly portrayed in the film.

As tempests go, this one won't fill a teapot; perhaps a thimble is more appropriate. Much has been made of the fact that Sinclair stations operate in areas containing 24 percent of the viewing audience, which is true. On the other hand, around 90 percent of said audience has access to, say, CBS television, which has had no apparent qualms about acting on behalf of the Kerry campaign.

And yes, Sinclair has stations in swing states. They also have stations in California, New York and Massachusetts, states which are almost certainly going to cast their electoral votes for Kerry, and stations in Texas, Oklahoma and the Carolinas, states which are a virtual lock for Bush. In none of those states will the broadcast of Stolen Honor have any substantial effect on the election.

What's more, in none of the markets in which Sinclair operates does it command a majority of the audience. In Oklahoma City, KOKH-TV, a Fox affiliate, does well, and KOCB-TV is claimed to be the highest-rated affiliate of The WB, but the combination of the two doesn't draw anywhere near 50 percent of the local TV audience. Nor does Sinclair operate in any markets where they have two of the Big Four network affiliates: this is forbidden by FCC rules.

This isn't the first time that Sinclair drew political heat. Back on 30 April, Sinclair's ABC affiliates did not carry ABC's Nightline program, which was given over to a reading of the names of servicemen killed in the war in Iraq; Sinclair claimed the broadcast "appear[ed] to be motivated by a political agenda designed to undermine the efforts of the United States in Iraq." [Complete text reproduced here.] There was the inevitable wailing and gnashing of teeth. Still, only seven stations were affected, and ABC's ubiquitous radio network carried excerpts from the program; it strikes me as unlikely that a large number of people counted themselves as deprived as a result of Sinclair's actions.

I do quarrel with Sinclair's apparent belief that following a 45-minute film with a 15-minute panel discussion qualifies it as a "news event," exempt from FCC regulations or from McCain-Feingold. The Democratic National Committee has already said that it plans to file a complaint, claiming the broadcast is the equivalent of a contribution to Bush/Cheney. Still, how likely is it that the Democratic National Committee would object to, say, Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 being broadcast before the election? "It depends on the, um, you know, on the circumstances," said DNC counsel Joe Sandler, who quickly pointed out that Moore is an "established, legitimate, documentary filmmaker," dismissing Stolen Honor producer Carlton Sherwood as a "disgraced former reporter." Sherwood, incidentally, won a Peabody Award and was a member of a Gannett team that won a Pulitzer. I should be so disgraced.

Sinclair is taking comments on the matter.

Prognosis: The day before the election, this whole thing will have been forgotten. I can hardly wait.

Don't leave court without it

Bylaw 210(e) is part of the agreement a bank signs with Visa to be able to issue Visa cards. MasterCard's "Competitive Programs Policy" is similar. Both these clauses say basically the same thing: you can offer Visa and/or MasterCard, but no other credit cards.

In 1998, American Express, having been rebuffed in an effort to sign up banks to issue Amex cards, managed to persuade the Department of Justice that these policies were anticompetitive, and the government duly sued.

Three years later, the government won its case: Southern District of New York Judge Barbara Jones ruled that the policies violated antitrust laws. Visa and MasterCard appealed the decision, MasterCard arguing that American Express was not being denied access to customers by these policies. The 2nd District Court of Appeals upheld Judge Jones earlier this year. And the Supreme Court has now declined to hear further appeals, meaning American Express and Discover are now free to contract with banks.

MBNA, the third-largest card issuer (the merged Chase/Bank One is first, followed by Citibank), had already negotiated a deal to issue American Express cards, pending resolution of the suits, and they're ready to go after new and presumably upscale customers.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:52 PM to Common Cents )
Won't you take me to Dinkytown?

I mean, I could really get behind this.

Update, 14 October, 7:15 am:

You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

14 October 2004
Gimme back my ballots

At 5 pm today, there will be a Ballot Access Forum at Oklahoma City University, featuring Thom Holmes, Rachel Jackson and Chris Powell, from the Constitution, Green and Libertarian parties respectively.

The forum will be held in Room 102 of the Sarkeys Law Center on the OCU campus. It's free, and it's open to the public.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:09 AM to Soonerland )
Post-debate wrapup

I'm inclined to think that Kerry did well, but Bush was just a fraction better. Since the conventional wisdom holds that domestic issues are Kerry's turf, this has to be reckoned as a Bush win, though not a decisive one.

Number of hearts and/or minds changed at Surlywood: 0

And no hazard pay, either

Mike at Okiedoke has compiled from OSHA records a list of the most dangerous workplaces in Oklahoma.

What makes them "dangerous"? OSHA sent this letter to some 13,000 employers using these criteria:

The employers are those whose establishments are covered by Federal OSHA and reported the highest "Days Away from work, Restricted work or job Transfer injury and illness" (DART) rate to OSHA in a survey of 2002 injury and illness data. For every 100 full-time workers, the 13,000 employers had seven or more injuries or illnesses which resulted in days away from work, restricted work or job transfer. The national average is 2.8.

No place I have ever worked in this state appears on this list. There do seem to be a lot of nursing homes and Wal-Mart stores, though.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:51 AM to Soonerland )
Low man on a totem pole

This Kerryism from last night's debate seems to demand further examination:

If we raise the minimum wage, which I will do over several years, to $7 an hour, 9.2 million women who are trying to raise their families would earn another $3,800 a year....We'd put money into the hands of people who work hard, who obey the rules, who play for the American dream. And if we did that we'd have more consumption ability in America, which is what we need right now in order to kick our economy into gear.

Well, they wouldn't actually reach that presumably-happy plus-3800 state until the last year of the phase-in, but that's a quibble.

And yes, $5.15 seems absurd in the context of today, but where do you stop? Jacob Sullum follows it to its logical conclusion:

If the minimum wage can work this sort of magic, why not raise it to $100 an hour? Then everyone would be well-off, with plenty of spending cash to stimulate the economy.

I certainly wouldn't object to being paid $100 an hour, but I think it's fair to assume it's not going to happen in my lifetime. And somehow I suspect that if the minimum wage were raised to $100, prices would rather quickly jump upwards to cover the increased costs of labor, and what's more, the recipients thereof would be in a much higher tax bracket.

<fantasy scenario>
"Are you better off today?" As I pull two slices from my $35 loaf of store-brand bread and slap them with a dollop of peanut butter ($49.95 for a ten-ounce jar, and it's not even crunchy, fercrissake), I'm inclined to say No.
</fantasy scenario>

Now that I think about it, the last time my taxes were cut, I made sure the proceeds were cycled back through the economy. And I'd be happy to do it again, though I don't expect to get anything like $3800 a year from the next Bush administration — or anything at all should Kerry be elected.

Clutter reduction

The local GOP is now issuing dual yard signs: they're the same size as the standard-issue signs, but they carry both Bush/Cheney and Tom Coburn indicia. I caught two of them this evening within a mile of each other. Are the Republicans (or, for that matter, the Democrats) doing something like this in other areas?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:47 PM to Soonerland )
15 October 2004
It's fraud, says the AG

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson has told the Associated Press that the filing of the Medicaid reimbursement form for Dr Tom Coburn's 1990 operations on Angela Plummer constituted "fraud," though no charges will be filed as the statute of limitations has expired.

Coburn treated Plummer's ectopic pregnancy by removing both her Fallopian tubes, even though only one was affected, leaving her sterile. Since Medicaid did not pay for sterilization procedures for patients under twenty-one years of age — Plummer was twenty — Coburn reported only the removal of the tube containing the embryo.

Edmondson says that had Coburn described his actions in full, he would have received no reimbursement from Medicaid, and that his omission was intended to make sure he "got paid for something that he would not have been paid for had he submitted the claim accurately."

Plummer eventually filed suit against Coburn, claiming she had never consented to the sterilization, but did not pursue the matter.

Meanwhile, Coburn's rival for a hotly-contested Senate seat, Brad Carson, is already running ads waving the "fraud" description around.

Persuaded as I am that wording treatment descriptions in the way that pries the most money out of insurance companies is a true 21st-century art form, I'm inclined to dismiss Edmondson's claims as so much white noise. On the other hand, Coburn's deposition, in which he states that he had asked Plummer not to discuss the sterilization with Medicaid, is more troubling, at least to me.

(If you'd just as soon not go through NewsOK.com, the Carson campaign has posted the entire AP story here.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:28 AM to Soonerland )
Possible outages?

At least one reader close to home is reporting that this site is coming through piecemeal at best. Admittedly, this is probably appropriate — heaven knows I've had enough half-baked and otherwise incomplete ideas posted here — but I would like to know if anyone else is experiencing more than the usual trouble getting here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:54 AM to Blogorrhea )
No bag limit on weasels

John Kerry wants you to know that he is a hunter.

Someone ought to ask him stuff like this at a campaign stop:

  • What is the fee for a hunting license in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts?

  • When is black bear season?

  • What is the bag limit for ruffed grouse?

(Answers are here and here; second link requires Adobe Reader.)

The post-oil economy

If you're an alternative-fuels kind of person, you should be thrilled at $53 oil, says Rammer:

The recent boom in oil prices that has slowed economic recovery somewhat is exactly the best possible thing to both reduce dependence on Middle-Eastern oil and provide the US with alternative sources of energy. The key to the transformation is that with the oil price roughly double its historical level, many other sources of energy become economically competitive. Over time companies and people at large will convert from high-priced oil to other sources and once that infrastructure is built, it will be cheaper to keep it running than to switch back to oil.

OG&E reports that after one year of operation, 3,000 customers are buying 100 percent of their electricity from a wind farm, and 6,000 others are buying a fraction thereof. (Disclosure: I committed to buying 7200 kwh a year; through early October I have used 5600 kwh, which puts me pretty close to the 100-percent mark for the full twelve months.)

Other methods aren't quite so close to competitiveness yet, but:

[S]uffice to say, as you pay twice what you expect to fill your car's tank, realize that you are on the tail end of the oil economy. Don't expect that the replacement for oil will be much cheaper, but it seems clear that it won't be much more expensive than oil is now.

The world moves on, irrespective of cartels or of campaign promises.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:31 PM to Family Joules )
16 October 2004
Chirac Museum makes no Jacques

The Musée Jacques Chirac, located in the village of Sarran in the Limoges region, collects some five thousand objects given to the French president by foreign dignitaries and, um, other persons. What it's not collecting is revenue: attendance has dropped from 67,000 in 2001 to 37,000 in 2003. At £2.70 a head, the museum's accumulated deficit should be paid off sometime around the twelfth of never.

Greg Hlatky offers a suggestion:

Perhaps if they put on display all the bribes Chirac took to influence French foreign policy, they'd pack the house.

Maybe the UN will concoct an Oil-For-Museum-Passes program.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:02 AM to Dyssynergy )
Two for them, fourteen for her

I have never felt that it was my obligation to contribute (if that's the word) as much money as possible to the government: while I'm not going to file a false tax return, I'm also not going to shy away from every last exemption and deduction and exclusion I can legitimately claim.

Which apparently is also the policy of Teresa Heinz Kerry, who managed in 2003 to reduce her Federal tax liability to 12.47 percent. (Disclosure: My own tax bill, on about 0.78 percent as much income, was 10.69 percent.) In the light of John Kerry's faux-populist sentiments these days, his wife has come under fire for paying so little in Federal tax; I would argue that the flaw, if flaw it be, is in the tax system itself, not in Mrs Kerry's presumably-legal gaming thereof.

As would Fritz Schranck:

What's the problem here?

I thought that's why these IRS Code provisions were put into the Code in the first place.

It's also not her fault that FICA is based on wages, and that her 2003 money didn't come from working.

If the New York Post or [Stephen] Moore [of the Club for Growth, quoted in the Post article linked above] or other people don't like the fact that Mrs. Kerry can use the current tax code to this much advantage, then they have another option available to them — seek to amend the tax code.

As I see it, that's where this story may become valuable. Her tax returns may provide an incentive to reduce or eliminate some of the legislative loopholes, special privileges, and other curious devices that fill so many pages of the IRS Code.

And a good argument for the so-called Fair Tax, as well.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:28 AM to Dyssynergy )
A question for the ages

Well, not all ages, obviously:

Within 10 years there will probably be software that can merge photos and voices with movies. The most common use of this would probably be for [word excised from original to thwart Googlers, but it rhymes with "corn"]. Consumers would use the program to merge photos of celebrities or acquaintances with a [same word, used as an adjective] movie to create [same word, a noun this time] that stars whoever it is they lust after. Naturally, many people would be unhappy knowing they are depicted in home sex movies. Imagine that Congress decides to prohibit the distribution of the software. Do you think the law should be upheld, and if so, on what grounds?

An idea by Eugene Volokh, from the draft of a textbook on the First Amendment, as quoted (except as noted) in the Marginalia section of Playboy (November 2004).

(For myself, I think the most immediate effect of the development of this theoretical software is that bloggers of the female persuasion would quit posting pictures of themselves. Damn the bad luck.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:24 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Saturday spottings (on their own shelf)

This series has gotten to the point where it's almost not unpopular, which suggests that I maybe should give it its own category. Which I did, at least for a while.

Heritage Park Mall, on the west side of Midwest City (which is on the east side of the county), has been a rather gloomy place for years now. Built for three and a half anchor tenants, they've had to make do with two: Service Merchandise, in the "half" spot, has now closed all its retail stores, and Montgomery Ward is history. And while everything in the mall isn't suffering — Dave will be happy to know that El Chico still dishes up the Tex-Mex to good crowds — the general atmosphere has been one of "So when are they going to put this place out of its misery already?"

Not so fast, Bucky. The buzz was positive today, and while no one is saying for sure until the contracts are signed, the word is that a big-box appliance store, most likely Best Buy, is going to take over the Wards spot. (Circuit City once had a store across the street, but it died quickly, and its space is now occupied by a Goodwill store.) To me it seems like an odd place for a Best Buy, which normally shuns malls, but it's a fair distance from their other stores in the area, and with the local Sight 'N Sound chain having been sold off, this might be the time for Best Buy to make its move.

I go past it every weekday morning, but it's usually an hour or so before sunrise, so I didn't notice until today that the Guest House Inn, an old motel once a fixture of the no-longer-around Classen Circle, has been torn down. I have no idea what's in store for the lot; access from I-44 is not wonderful, and I suspect that antique dealers around this area have reached a saturation point. And somehow I doubt that people wanting to crash after a night at Edna's will crawl two whole blocks to the Courtyard by Marriott.

Coming back from the supermarket, I managed to get behind not one but two purveyors of pure pollution: a first-generation Dodge Intrepid and a going-on-fifteen Mazda 929, both of whom were spewing roiling plumes of noxious white smoke into the air and into the ventilation systems of everyone who wasn't fast enough to switch to Recirculate. I don't want to hear anything more about greenhouse gases and other dubious bugaboos until somebody does something about these easily visible and highly verifiable mobile smog machines.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 PM to City Scene )
17 October 2004
Who's paying for this microphone?

The Interested-Participant is frustrated by the absence of vital information on political yard signs:

In every election in my life I've been less informed about local candidates than those running for state and national offices. President, governor, senator, congressman, yes, I know who they are and which party they belong to. When it comes to local offices, I'm lost. The election approaches and there are names in television commercials that I've never heard. People running for judge, county commissioner, school board, dogcatcher, coroner, and they are all strangers to me. Not only that but, in many cases, you aren't given a clue as to which political party they belong to. On a local level, party affiliation is often hidden.

Sometimes there's a reason for this — officially, the election of a Mayor in Oklahoma City is nonpartisan, and judges here tend to be on a retention ballot — but I'm guessing that generally, it's an attempt to get some name recognition before you actually see the ballot and the straight-ticket option (where available).

There is, of course, a solution:

[C]ruise through your community's neighborhoods and look at the signs. If you want to know if Mr. Pick-A-Name is Democrat or Republican, just look at what his sign is placed next to. It doesn't take a lot of effort. Sometime between now and November 2nd, drive around town with a pad of paper. You'll easily be able to figure out who's for Kerry/Edwards and who's for Bush/Cheney. The adjacent signs you'll see are all the local politicians who don't like the voters to know which party brung them.

This does seem to work: I have yet to see any yards with split tickets. Perhaps the people who do cross party lines are less inclined to put up yard signs in the first place. On the other hand, I'm tempted to go offer space to some minor GOP candidate to contrast with the Democratic sign I already have.

(Update, 11:10 am: Then there's this.)

Where the tolerance is

An observation from Greg over in Denmark:

For good or ill, the secular west has bitchslapped Christianity and Judaism into submission. I was very close friends in Los Angeles with a woman who described herself as a "fundamentalist" Christian. She knew I was (at best) an agnostic. I once said, without thinking, that I thought the Gospels were one of the most beautiful myths of the western inheritance. My friend smiled at me indulgently and said that although she didn't consider it mythology, herself, she was at least gratified that I could see the beauty of her religion. I was mortified and apologized for my insensitivity. Then I asked if it bothered her that I wasn't Christian.

"It doesn't bother me," she said, "but I sure do pray for you!"

And I knew she meant that literally. She prayed every day, and somewhere in those prayers, sometimes, was a prayer that God might see fit to bringing me around to her (my friend's) point of view.

Does this sound like the reaction of "self appointed stuck up assholes with crosses stuffed up [their] asses"?

Compare and contrast:

I think it's safe to say that a lot of Muslims don't seem to want to play ball. They don't seem willing to subjugate their religion to... anything. It's Mohammad's way or the highway.

But in our marvelously tolerant namby-mamby western ways, we're all bending over backwards to accommodate some of these monsters. I don't understand why. Look at the mockery directed by western intellectuals toward Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and other evangelizing western Christians. Why aren't evangelizing Muslims subjected to the same derision?

Oh, wait, I remember... I think there was something about it in that book by Salman Rushdie...

Actually, Falwell and Robertson, often as not, deserve that derision, owing to their prodigious, maybe even God-given talent for absurd pronouncements. Still, Christian evangelicals as a group are viewed with suspicion by the More Secular Than Thou crowd — but God forbid we should fail to understand and appreciate Muslims.

(Via Debbye Stratigacos, who has been much missed these many months.)

The legacy of Mr. G

The Austin American-Statesman has one of the more egregious registration routines I've seen lately, and I don't want to put you through that if I can help it. On the other hand, when a family member makes it to the front page, I simply have to mention it here, so feel free to invent some persona and start reading here.

I'll quote a couple paragraphs to give you an idea of what's up:

They called him Mr. G. That's G, as in Giant, because everything about the late Roy Guerrero was big. His body. His heart. His commitment to children and community. Mr. G may be the greatest Austin hero you've never heard about, never read about. That's the way he wanted it in life; Mr. G was very much a modest man.

Roy Guerrero was no business titan. He never held political office. He didn't create public art. Rather: Mr. G was a public servant, a man who devoted 34 years of his life to our city's parks and recreation department. As a young man, he gave his time and attention to children in disadvantaged East Austin after World War II — and through his guidance, Mr. G empowered them to run for public office, create art, start their own businesses . . . and most of all, to live a life of substance.

Mr. G — Uncle Roy — died in November 2001. This weekend, in the park that bears his name, the people of Austin celebrated Festival de las Plantas, a celebration of the flora and the cultures that make the city what it is.

Just wanted you to know.

18 October 2004
The opposite of "nondescript"

We've heard so often for so long that a picture is worth a thousand words that we forget sometimes how vivid a picture can be painted with far fewer words than a thousand.

A reminder, courtesy of Syaffolee:

[O]n Friday, it rained, but by Saturday morning everything looked limpid and sloe-eyed, sort of like a woman who's been sniveling and bawling her eyes out for the past hour and now she looks all red and puffy but her mind is clear. The sky was a swirl of silver-gray trying to be blue but not quite making it, clouds white on top, dark on the bottom, moving west to east fast.

The air itself was brisk, cool but not cold. Wind whipped up any of the stray hairs that escaped from my ponytail. If you took in a deep breath of air, it smelled almost crystalline and sweet. New Hampshire is in the full grip of fall — if you drive down 89, the sky looks like a splotchy, gray-blue layer cake. The road swerves into hills that are carpeted with trees in red and gold. If you happen to be driving behind another car and the wind decides to pick up, the loose leaves from those trees get swept down to the road to mix with the churning wheels. After all that turbulent jostling, the leaves fly out from beneath the car as a shower of sparks — one can imagine that car as a mechanical fairy leaving behind a trail of pixie dust.

Still need a picture? I didn't think so.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:47 AM to Blogorrhea )
Limits to the technology

I pay most of my bills through my bank's online facility, though one-shots (medical stuff, subscription renewals, that sort of thing) are better handled by old-fashioned checks, since it's a pain in the neck to set up new payees in the system.

Moira Breen has noticed, down there in the fine print, that there are other bills not suitable for online payments:

Additional payments not allowed by Bill Payer include court-ordered payments such as alimony, child support, and speeding tickets, non-U.S. payees, or terrorists. Payments for Municipal Utilities are permitted.

"Guess you still have to make your payments to terrorists via the old-fashioned check or money order method," says Moira. I wonder if the same limitations apply in France.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:16 AM to Dyssynergy )
Tomahawk chops, grilled

A descendant of the warrior Crazy Horse (1842?-1877) has discovered that in 1951, a French strip club was given the same name.

Harvey White Woman, an executor of the estate of Crazy Horse, wrote a letter to the operators of the club asking that the name be changed:

I want the young people of my tribe to remember him as a strong leader and warrior and not some nightclub in Paris.

Alfred Red Cloud, another Oglala Sioux, delivered the letter to a club manager. He had his own concerns:

As I went into the place, the way it is set up, it exposes women. Women are sacred to us, they are the keepers of our generations to come.

It is unlikely, I think, that the operators of the Crazy Horse will be able to claim convincingly that the club's name had nothing whatever to do with the revered chief: founder Alain Bernardin had a keen interest in the American West in general and the cowboy saloon in particular. On the other hand, should a lawsuit be filed — so far, no litigation has been announced — I rather think it will be difficult for the tribe to prove damages; apart from this story, the entirety of what most people on this side of the Atlantic know about the Crazy Horse Saloon is that in the 1965 film What's New, Pussycat? Woody Allen plays a shlub who has gotten a job there. "I help the girls dress and undress," he says to friend Peter O'Toole. "Twenty francs a week."

"Not much," O'Toole says, and Allen shrugs: "It's all I can afford."

(Via Tongue Tied.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:21 AM to Dyssynergy )
From a lengthy brief

Chess grandmaster and general nudnik Bobby Fischer would like you to know that — um, well, this:

"I wear size 14 wide shoe. Just keep that in mind when you say I'm not a dreamboat, or not Mr. Right."

To hammer the point home, so to speak:

[Miyoko] Watai [Fischer's fiancée] had finished soaking in the therapeutic waters and was waiting in the lobby for him to come out of the men's section of the spring they had visited.

While there, Watai overhead a conversation "between two Japanese geezers," as Fischer referred to them, who had been marveling over the enormity of the male organ they spotted on a fellow bather.

When Fischer walked out of the hot spring's change room, the two men apparently pointed at the chess genius, said simultaneously, "Hey, that's him," to indicate who they had been talking about, and caused much embarrassment for his lover.

A couple of reminders from the real world:

(1) I wear a size 14 wide shoe. It doesn't mean a damned thing.

(2) There are grave risks in leaving the king unprotected.

(Suggested by Fark)

It's my party and I'll **** if I want to

The Top 10 reasons why Republicans are more satisfied with their sex lives than Democrats:

10. Two words: James Carville

  9. With Bill Clinton sidelined, total Democratic sex is off 62.7 percent

  8. GOP doesn't require Certificate of Gender Equality in advance

  7. Democrats are in a hurry, while Republicans have DeLay

  6. John Kerry said No before he said Yes

  5. Democrats favor targeted cuts, if you know what I mean

  4. "Honey, maybe if you tried a little affirmative action...."

  3. Democrats classify wet spots as EPA Superfund sites

  2. Walter Mondale in leather? Oh, hell, no

  1. You can't spell "Republican" without "pubic"

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:45 PM to Dyssynergy )
Gratuitous granddaughter picture

A year and a half, and already she breaks hearts.

Laney at 18 months

(Question from a reader: "The title of this post — did you rip it off from Susanna Cornett ["Gratuitous Niece Photo"] or Kim du Toit ["Gratuitous Gun Pic"]?" Answer: Yes.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:02 PM to Next Generation )
19 October 2004
The Senate road show continues

Brad Carson and Tom Coburn are scheduled to mix it up again, this time at the Performing Arts Center at Rose State College (I-40 at Hudiburg Drive, Midwest City), and beforehand, there will be another demonstration for ballot-access reform. Be there at 5 pm. (I'll be recovering from a dental appointment and will be in no mood to scream at passersby.) KFOR-TV will carry the debate live at 7 pm.

(Update, 8 am: This week's WRS poll gives Coburn a three-point lead, within the poll's 4.4-percent margin of error.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to Soonerland )
One more for the book basket

It's called School Work: How Two Grumpy Optimists Started a Successful Charter School (now how can you resist a title like that?), it's being published by Palgrave Macmillan, and it's written by columnist-turned-blogger Joanne Jacobs.

There are, of course, Uncomfortable Realities:

The advance is pathetically small, so if I make any money from the book it will come from royalties, which I'll have to generate by relentless self-promotion. With the help of my blogger buddies, I hope. Anyone who's a close personal friend of Oprah, drop me a line.

I don't know Oprah from Uma (yeah, right), but this is a book I will definitely have to read, which means that I'll actually have to buy a copy.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:35 AM to Almost Yogurt )
It's the thought that counts

Just arrived at Surlywood, courtesy of the Oklahoma County Republican Party: a cover letter signed by outgoing Senator Don Nickles, names and photos of GOP candidates, and two copies of the official state absentee-ballot application form.

A nice idea, I'd say, though I think I might have been more impressed had they addressed it to me, rather than to the person who had owned the house up until 1996, fercryingoutloud. (Has this place been occupied by Democrats for the last eight years?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:28 AM to Soonerland )
Eine kleine Driversmusik

Satellite radio? iPod in your dashboard? Bah. Come with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, to model year 1956, when Chrysler Corporation (via CBS Laboratories) came up with an in-dash record player.

"Highway Hi-Fi," indeed. Still, if it had caught on, would we ever had had 8-track (or even 4-track) tapes?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go pop a CD-R into the dash.

(Via Jalopnik, which is sorta like what you'd get if Wonkette were obsessed with rear axle ratios instead of — um, never mind.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:45 AM to Driver's Seat )
No snacks for you

There once was a time when it was considered cute to illustrate your Yellow Pages or other institutional advertising with sub-literate urchins, and the results were usually as godawful as this piece for an exterminator, from deep in the cultural wilderness of the early 1960s:

SLU#1: "Be's you got bugs?"

SLU#2: "Sure I are. Ev'rybody do."

Ev'rybody do not. Surlywood passed the annual termite inspection today with flying, um, fibers. Which means, of course, that apart from the weather, the major destructive force here is yours truly.

Semi-amusing sidebar: Since this property changed hands in the last 12 months, the 5-percent cap on property-tax increases no longer applies, and the county assessor was happy to bump up the tax bill by $175 this year. Offsetting a fifth of this, my homeowner's insurance inexplicably went down $35. (Well, it's explicable enough: I have slightly less crummy credit this year than I did last year.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:13 PM to Surlywood )
Sinclair retreats, maybe

I'm not quite sure what to make of Sinclair's announcement that they will not broadcast Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal in its entirety after all.

In its place, some 40 of Sinclair's 62 stations will air a one-hour program titled "A POW Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media," which, from the sound of it, will incorporate some footage from Stolen Honor.

While there's no indication that Sinclair advertisers were defecting in substantial numbers, Sinclair common stock has dropped by a sixth over the past seven trading days.

Kevin Aylward asks reasonably:

The blog left assures us that their objection to Sinclair airing the documentary was an alleged abuse of the public airwaves. Since they've made the case that cable and PPV were different than Sinclair's broadcast stations, they should be all in favor of one of the hundreds of cable channels (such as C-SPAN) showing the 45 minute documentary, right?

Sinclair's official announcement, complete with the list of stations airing the "POW Story" broadcast, is here.

(Update, 20 October, 2:45 pm: JimK at RightThoughts has seen Stolen Honor and reports.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:11 PM to Dyssynergy )
20 October 2004
One hundred nine

This is the second time the Carnival of the Vanities has been hosted by The People's Republic of Seabrook. (The first was way back in February 2003.) But not much has changed between #22 and #109; it's still the original weekly compendium of the best of the blogs, and it's still something you should read, even when something as lame as this is on the menu.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:33 AM to Blogorrhea )
What have you done for us lately?

"All politics is local," they say, and last night's Carson/Coburn debate, in which the dominant theme proved to be "What can you do for Oklahoma?", would seem to corroborate that generalization.

Meanwhile in Tulsa, a news story on the proposed state lottery almost turned into a debate in its own right, featuring lottery proponent Pat Hall and longtime opponent Rep. Forrest Claunch (R-Midwest City).

Color me officially undecided on both of these for now.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:40 AM to Soonerland )
There's no digesting in baseball

How exciting is the American League Championship Series this year? Says Cam Edwards:

You know it's a good series when your in-game snacks consist of Rolaids.

Indeed. I went to bed around the seventh-inning stretch and tuned in the game on the radio (WWLS), thinking for some inscrutable reason that the broadcast crew would lull me to sleep. Needless to say, it didn't happen, and not just because Joe Morgan is a highly-opinionated fellow.

Of course, a curse is a curse, of course, of course, so the Sox must lose tonight. Still, deep in my heart of hearts, I don't want to see anyone from Massachusetts lose until next month.

(Update, 11:15 am: The pertinent Fark thread reads: "Red Sox win game 6. Now one game from gut-wrenching heartbreak.")

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:50 AM to Base Paths )
Whatever happened to my Transylvania Twist?

Bobby "Boris" Pickett hit the Billboard Hot 100 seven times, three times with the same song, a feat so far unequaled.

Up at Hit & Run this morning, my eyes beheld an eerie sight: the environmentalists came calling, and Pickett was happy to blow the dust off his used-Karloff voice and evoke a whole new set of monsters.

You'll catch on in a Flash animation.

Cue the sausage man

Musings of a Fat Kid presents Jimmy Dean updated. I'll just give you the first verse:

Every mornin' on the Hill you could see him arrive,
Standing six-foot-four, weighing one-twenty-five,
Kinda scrawny at the shoulders and lacking a spine
And when he spoke at all, it was mainly to whine.
Big John....

Sing the whole thing.

21 October 2004
Loading up the frontage road

The abandoned Wal-Mart on I-240 east of Pennsylvania Avenue will be torn down, as will a currently-operating Mardel store: in their place will be a semi-upscale strip vaguely similar to Belle Isle Station on the northside, including new quarters for Mardel and the city's first Marshalls store.

This makes a certain amount of sense, since I-240 just about bisects the southside; it's halfway between Reno and SW 149th. Admittedly, most of the growth in this area is south of 82nd Street, half a mile south of I-240, which is the border of the Moore school district, but there isn't a retail corridor in the area that in any way rivals I-240.

I did find this comment by Ward 5 Councilman Jerry Foshee interesting:

Wal-Mart moves every five years and leaves a box. It becomes a blight and affects the neighborhood surrounding it.

It's very uncommon, though, to remove one of their abandoned boxes completely; usually someone will try to renovate it into smaller spaces. The developers evidently felt that this old box was unsuitable for their tenants. Of course, this leads to the next question: What happens when Wal-Mart, which is now west of Penn, decides to pack up and go somewhere else? I guess we'll worry about that when it happens.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:07 AM to City Scene )
Barber's holiday

La Shawn Barber is taking a break.

It's not the traditional blogger burnout, or the boredom that occasionally besets us all. This is something more fundamental:

I need to retreat, evaluate and determine what God has in mind, if anything, for this blog.

I'm not tired of it. I've just had doubts lately about why I'm doing this. Am I glorifying God or myself?

Accordingly, she's turning to the source:

Who, what, where, when and how isn?t important, but the anger I feel toward people who misrepresent my statements must be dealt with. I can't blog my way through it; I need to pray my way through it.

I often wonder how well-known people deal with it. Lies are written and uttered about them everyday, and they can't respond and react to every one. It doesn?t matter, ultimately. This is between me and God. I've let the blog and other things interfere with my time with him.

I don't claim to know the mind of God, but I'm inclined to think that whatever criticism she's receiving might be considered a test: as a Christian commentator, she knows that she can expect this sort of thing.

Hence the title, with "holiday" in its original sense of "holy day." I wish her well during her period of reflection, and I'm sure she will be back soon.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:34 AM to Blogorrhea )
Tucker: the man and his smarm

I've stayed off the Tucker Carlson/Jon Stewart dustup, mostly because I'm not a regular viewer of either Crossfire or The Daily Show, but partly because I could never say anything as pithy as Wing Chun does:

Imagine, for a second, that you're Tucker Carlson. (Let me help you to get into character: you're a dead-eyed assberet.) You know that, of the conservative pundits — a group that includes such non-luminaries as Sean Hannity and your own colleague Robert Novak — you are marginally the least loathsome. You are occasionally, privately, able to break from Republican doctrine (as he did in Vanity Fair this summer, talking some shit about the even more odious Karen Hughes). But on camera, you have an image to project, and that image involves a bowtie. If you ever had any idea of being a respectable journalist, that was a long time ago, and you can never go back. You hear the things that come out of your mouth sometimes and you realize you sound like someone who's never known the touch of any woman, never mind unconditional maternal affection. You would hate yourself if you weren't already dead inside.

And then one day, you're sitting across the desk from Jon Stewart, who gets to say whatever he wants about politics. He doesn't have to adhere to rigid party lines, because he's not a pundit; he also doesn't have to pretend to be objective on the candidates, because he's not a journalist. He gets to comment on politics to a tremendously receptive audience. He has an enormous amount of influence, and yet, because he's a comedian, he has no accountability. You're so jealous of him!

Then he starts talking, and it's like he's reading your secret diary. He's calling out every doubt you ever had about your career. He's got the crowd — your crowd — completely on his side. You can't argue with what he's saying because you know he's right, so you respond the only way you know how: barking weak put-downs and making straw man arguments. And since he can counter your claim that he doesn't report the news well by saying he has no mandate nor any responsibility to do so — since he is a comedian — your only option is to try to get the last word by saying he isn't funny.

I could quibble with bits and pieces of this. Regular readers will no doubt be able to come up with a list of loathsome liberal pundits, and I suspect Jon Stewart, deep inside, thinks he has some sort of mandate — The Daily Show's current tagline is "The Most Trusted Name in Fake News," after all — but whenever I've seen Tucker Carlson on the air, I've always wondered just what it would take to fill up that obvious emptiness inside; I suspect she's gotten Carlson dead to rights. And of all the variations on rectal millinery I've seen in the last year, I think I like "assberet" the best.

Teresa: behind the fa?ade

The right side of blogdom has had great fun at Teresa Heinz Kerry's expense, generally for good reason. But suppose — just suppose — that she's not really the mean-spirited jackass some say.

Impossible? Baldilocks hears something different:

Mrs. Kerry once said this about her late husband: "I'd rather have my husband alive than that money."

For all her billions, Mrs. Kerry can't bring back the man, who, from her own and all other accounts, was the love of her life. And she knows that.

Is she envious of Mrs. Bush? I don't know, but I do suspect that Mrs. Kerry has a hard time watching the Bushes interact with each other. I suspect that — during the third presidential debate — she had an even harder time listening to the president talk about falling in love with his wife, while her own husband sang the praises of his mother.

Yeah, you could say, "Well, if I was married to John Kerry, I'd be unhappy too," and you'd probably be right, but as Pascal reminds us, the heart has its reasons, and they don't always fall neatly into place.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:23 PM to Dyssynergy )
Post-season trend-spotting

As everybody except John Kenneth Galbraith, who must have been out of town, noted last night, the Boston Red Sox last won a World Series in 1918. This revelation packed enough of a punch to obscure the fact that the Bosox have appeared in no fewer than four World Series since the end of World War I. How did they do?

    1946 World Series — St. Louis 4, Boston 3
    1967 World Series — St. Louis 4, Boston 3
    1975 World Series — Cincinnati 4, Boston 3
    1986 World Series — NY Mets 4, Boston 3

This might not be a bad time to pick the [fill in name of National League club] in seven.

(Via Plum Crazy, "Home of the Vast Yankees Astros Cardinals Conspiracy.")

(Updated as deemed appropriate.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:02 PM to Dyssynergy )
22 October 2004
I'd like to thank the guy

Greg Shaw never wrote a song that made my baby fall in love with me, but it was Greg Shaw and his Who Put the Bomp 'zine who worked the hardest to sustain my interest in rock and roll after the early-Seventies descent into despair, dissoluteness and disco. (Okay, some of those things I like, but work with me here.) Bomp eventually evolved into a record label, and Greg found himself juggling the dual roles of fan and executive, a tricky dichotomy at best.

I knew he'd been ill in recent years, but his death at 55 comes as something of a shock, not least because I'm not so far from 55 myself and there was always that we-went-to-different-schools-together vibe about his writing: after all, we grew up with this stuff.

Dawn Eden, who knew Greg, has some more pertinent thoughts.

Happy birthday, world

In 1650, James Ussher (1581-1656) was serving as Archbishop of Armagh and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College in Dublin. A busy man, but not so busy that he couldn't calculate the very moment of creation:

I have observed by the continued succession of these years, as they are delivered in holy writ, that the end of the great Nebuchadnezars and the beginning of Evilmerodachs (his sons) reign, fell out in the 3442 year of the world, but by collation of Chaldean history and the astronomical cannon, it fell out in the 186 year c Nabonasar, and, as by certain connexion, it must follow in the 562 year before the Christian account, and of the Julian Period, the 4152. and from thence I gathered the creation of the world did fall out upon the 710 year of the Julian Period, by placing its beginning in autumn: but for as much as the first day of the world began with the evening of the first day of the week, I have observed that the Sunday, which in the year 710 aforesaid came nearest the Autumnal Æquinox, by astronomical tables (notwithstanding the stay of the sun in the dayes of Joshua, and the going back of it in the dayes c Ezekiah) happened upon the 23 day of the Julian October; from thence concluded that from the evening preceding that first day of the Julian year, both the first day of the creation and the first motion of time are to be deduced.

The evening and the morning were the first day, says Genesis, so Ussher obligingly published his starting moment as 6 pm (sunset, more or less) on 22 October 4004 BC.

The Geological Society of London will celebrate the 6000th birthday of the universe today, out of respect for Ussher's efforts, even though they will tell you that the good churchman was "spectacularly wrong." The fact that 4004 BC was 6007 years ago will be quietly overlooked.

(Suggested by Fark)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:55 AM to Dyssynergy )
Save energy or else

Eric Scheie, riffing on this Thomas Sowell column, suggests that maybe mandatory motion sensors and fluorescents aren't enough:

[W]hy stop with electricity? Couldn't body temperature sensors be used to determine how much heat we need? Timers on all faucets so that we don't spend too much time showering or brushing our teeth? A time limit on running all automobile engines, enforced by a shutoff switch after a certain period of time? A limit on how many times a toilet can be flushed during a day?

It might save even more energy to simply have mandatory power blackouts whenever the bureaucrats see fit.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is one step ahead of you, Eric.

Meanwhile, as always, the marketplace is at work. Oklahoma Natural Gas allows customers to hedge a bit by offering to sell them gas for the next 12 months at a fixed price per unit. At the moment, the price offered is higher than the rate being currently charged, but if prices should rise more than 18 percent, not at all implausible in these days of spiraling energy costs, you've beaten the system.

Being the cynical type, I must point out that it's not likely that you'd get the full 18-percent price peak until midwinter at the earliest, by which time you've already "overpaid" for a few zillion Btu, but for someone who has a lot more gas appliances than I have — only my furnace and water heater run on gas — this could be a far better deal later in the year.

I know, I know: "alternative fuels." Hey, I buy wind from OG&E, remember? But as a practical matter, nothing will speed the adoption of alternative fuels quite as efficiently as having to pay through the nose for ordinary fuels.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:30 AM to Family Joules )
We just don't have enough darn jeopardy

From the Only in New Jersey files:

In Franklin Township on the 26th of April, Robert J. Clark Jr. shot and killed a man in his back yard who was trying to steal his all-terrain vehicle. Gloucester County prosecutors charged Clark with murder, aggravated assault and a weapons violation.

The county grand jury, faced with the details, voted not to indict Clark on any of the charges, and in fact charged another man, alleged to be an accomplice of the thief, with burglary and theft.

Prosecutors are not taking this rebuff lying down, and are considering taking Clark's case to a second grand jury.

Then again, we're talking New Jersey here, where, says the New Jersey Coalition for Self-Defense, "the penalty for using Mace to fend off a rapist has a more severe punishment than the legal sanction for rape."

Obligatory Oklahoma comparison: This weekend Tulsa hosts the world's largest gun show at Expo Square.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:34 PM to Dyssynergy )
23 October 2004
Many tongues, some forks

During his tour of the Pacific Rim earlier this month, French President Jacques Chirac, anxious to get in a few shots at the Americans, was quoted as follows:

There is a tendency towards a prevailing Anglo-Saxon culture which eclipses the others. If we accepted our American friends' ideas, there would quite quickly be only one form of cultural expression, and all the others would be stifled to the sole benefit of American culture.

"Nothing would be worse for humanity," said Chirac, "than if there were only one language." Especially if that language were English, I suspect.

Reality intrudes, however, even into Gallic machinations, and a government review of the French education system calls for all students to study English, which is, after all, the language of "international communication." Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the French Prime Minister, reportedly favors the change, but M. Raffarin isn't in a position to dictate the terms, and a deputy within Raffarin's UMP party, Jacques Myard, has come up with what might be considered an alternative approach:

English is the most-spoken language today, but that won't last? If we must make a language compulsory, it should be Arabic.

However, Greg Hlatky replies that they won't have to:

With Europe's trends, learning Arabic will soon be made compulsory for you.

I suppose we can start to worry when l'Académie française opens up an Arabic annex.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:18 AM to Almost Yogurt )
The limits of city limits

By any reasonable standards of size, Juneau, Alaska is huge: in 1970, the city and the surrounding borough were consolidated and the city of Douglas was annexed, and now Juneau covers 3200 square miles, half of which is water — some liquid, some actual ice.

Apart from the ice, this happens in the Lower 48 as well. Jacksonville, Florida covers all of Duval County that isn't otherwise incorporated, over 750 square miles of land area (and a fair amount of water as well). Former Jacksonville Mayor Hans Tanzler explains the rationale for merging the city and the county back in 1968:

The population went down in the city over a 10-year period and exploded 200 percent in the county. Nobody wanted to live in the city, and the city's tax base was becoming eroded and weaker and less capable of carrying the load.

And Jacksonville was hardly alone in its woes, which explains much about Oklahoma City's annexation efforts after World War II and into the 1960s, in which the city ballooned to 640 square miles, then the largest in the nation. (About 20 square miles were subsequently detached.) Bethany and Warr Acres, adjacent to one another, are completely surrounded by Oklahoma City; ditto for Nichols Hills and The Village. Municipalities farther out began to expand: Edmond now covers 85 square miles, and Norman sprawls over 177.

Things reached a peak of sorts in 1999, when the city of Seminole annexed a strip of land about ten miles long and three feet wide, along the west side of Oklahoma 99 from the existing city limits to Interstate 40. Property owners objected, suits were filed, and eventually the state Supreme Court ruled against the city. The state has since acted to make annexation somewhat more difficult. In 2004, two bills were passed to provide some protection to owners in unincorporated areas: Senate Bill 851 exempts land used for agricultural purposes from municipal ordinances when it's annexed, and Senate Bill 905 changes the rules for so-called "fenceline" annexations.

But SB 905 doesn't officially go into effect until the first of November. The city of Harrah, on the eastern edge of Oklahoma County, has a 50-foot-wide fenceline which encloses an unincorporated area and which borders other municipalities in the county. Harrah would like to extend this 50-foot strip to 300 feet, presumably because under SB 905, they will have to have a minimum of 300 feet on at least three sides to be able to annex the interior of the rectangle without having to seek the consent of a majority of property owners.

There's just one problem: property owners tend to take a dim view of being annexed. There's a section of Oklahoma City that extends all the way to the Pottawatomie County line, and about five years ago some residents petitioned to be deannexed, on the basis that the city was never going to get around to providing city services that far out. (Fire Station #36 has since been opened at 17700 SE 104th Street.) Harrah is holding public hearings before the expansion of their fenceline, but I wouldn't expect their proposal to be welcomed with open arms.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 AM to City Scene )
Taking the initiatives

This week, a Very Special Vent: I take on this year's state questions. As Harry Kim might have said, I favor seven of nine.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:23 PM to Soonerland )
Saturday spottings (in a roundabout way)

The intersection of NW 10th, Classen Drive and Walker Avenue has been a mess for a long time, simply because it's a five-way intersection (though Walker is one-way north) and the lights are synchronized with the price of beets in Tegucigalpa or something equally implausible. As part of the 10th Street Beautification Project, aka "How do we keep St. Anthony Hospital from moving out of midtown?", the city has begun replacing the intersection with, heaven help us all, a rotary. (Readers from northeastern states may snicker now.) Detours are set to one block beyond, and are actually fairly clearly marked, which didn't stop some ditz in a powder-blue Ford pickup from wending southbound on Walker from 10th as I passed through on 9th.

A bit farther west, the Linwood Place neighborhood, towards the far end of the old westbound trolley line, is in spruce-up mode for the annual Home Tour tomorrow. Before I got married, I lived about two and a half miles west, and I used to take 19th Street to work, simply because the houses, especially through this area, were so darn gorgeous; almost thirty years later, they still are.

Closer to home, they've scraped off the southeast corner of NW 39th and May, which old-timers will remember as the onetime home of Shotgun Sam's Pizza Palace. None of Sam's successors did really great business, and the now-vacant lot will shortly become home for David Stanley Ford, which is moving across May. Stanley's place will be taken over by Lowe's, which is putting in one of their home-improvement stores. (Yes, there was a Builders Square at 36th and May, and yes, it's vacant, and no, Lowe's didn't want it: too small.)

Finally, a note from the back yard. Most of the trees around here in autumn end up with yellow or brown foliage, and not especially wondrous shades of either. However, my two sweetgum trees, a species with which I was not familiar before moving here, shed leaves just this side of stop-sign red, making for an interesting color display — and, unfortunately, making the need to rake more obvious.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:03 PM to City Scene )
Hazy on the concept

Today's spam offers to sell me the following software:

Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Professional
Adobe Photoshop CS 8.0
Adobe Premiere Pro 7.0
Macromedia Director MX 2004
Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004

All programs are full working versions and include serial numbers to install and run. All copy protection has been removed so you don't need to register them. This is the best software deal on the web!

How much? "400 percent discount," they say. Assuming that these packages sell in aggregate for, say, $1500, does this mean they're going to cut the total price by six thousand dollars?

If nothing else, this demonstrates that spammers and people who buy from spammers occupy the same rung on the intelligence ladder, and it's not very damned far off the ground.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:20 PM to Scams and Spams )
24 October 2004
The G spots

James Inhofe (R-OK) got to the Senate in 1994 on a platform of, in his words, "God, gays and guns," a phrase which has since become unofficial shorthand for the alleged motivations of the Oklahoma electorate. And on the off-chance that he was actually right, something that happens less often than you'd like with Inhofe, 2004 should be two-thirds of a banner year at the polls.

With no fewer than three State Questions on gambling, and a fourth dealing with Demon Tobacco, those with a mind to stamp out vice will have plenty to do on November's ballot. What's more, there's a referendum on same-sex marriage. I think it's a safe bet that the God and Gays segments will be present and accounted for.

Guns, however, have turned into a non-issue. The National Rifle Association sent along a copy of its Oklahoma Voter Guide — you can read it here — and while they note elsewhere that the Democrats have a faux sportsman at the top of the ticket, once you get down to the state level there's not a lot of difference in the candidates. Both Brad Carson and Tom Coburn picked up A ratings from the NRA, as did all the major House candidates except Bert Smith in District 5, who didn't return the questionnaire. In the state legislature, there are very few incumbents or challengers in either party who scored as low as a C. I interpret this as a simple statement: "We like our guns, now leave us the hell alone."

Still, even with guns off the table, turnout, I think, will be tremendous.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:35 AM to Soonerland )
I am he as you are he as you are me

Question: Is there any good reason why a voter should not have to present valid identification at the polling place?

The answer, by the way, is No.

(Via Dean Esmay.)

Make mine vanilla

The very Piquant Sheila admits that, by some people's reckoning, she's not all that spicy after all:

I am Caucasian. Certain parts of my body are so pasty white that I could apply as a stand-in for the Pillsbury Doughboy. I am heterosexual, and I'm sure my husband is quite pleased with that turn of events. I am female, another thing that pleases my husband no end. My lineage isn't chic — half Cajun, part Native American, Irish, and Scottish — which doesn't qualify for affirmative action or government programs. I am not a minority. I am not "oppressed" or maligned. I don't use hyphens to describe myself. I'm not a this or a that American.

Know what that makes me? A plain vanilla milkshake. Not some exotic Starbuck's concoction, which is damned depressing in this climate of whining, gimme gimme gimme Nanny State government. I feel left out.

And that's only the beginning.

Allow me to point out, however, that in the Real World, vanilla is highly prized and very expensive, and that most people settle for an inferior imitation thereof.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:46 AM to Almost Yogurt )
How about those Expos?

Deacon at Power Line wonders just how it is that the Boston Red Sox became the national symbol of futility:

A Red Sox fan born in 1949 has seen his (or her) team play in three World Series and has enjoyed three and a half consecutive decades of exciting, mostly winning baseball. His counter-part from Washington D.C. (me, for example) has seen his team move twice, one season of winning baseball, and no baseball for 33 years. A comparable Chicago Cubs fan has never seen his team in the World Series and has endured mostly losing baseball for decades. A Chicago White Sox fan will have seen his team in one Series, if he was lucky enough to have become a fan by 1959. A Houston Astros fan has never had his team in a Series. A San Francisco Giants fan has seen his team (like Boston) play in three Series without success. A Cleveland Indians fan endured decades of futility broken only by some success in the 1990s, during which the club lost the only two Series it's appeared in since 1948.

Yet somehow the Red Sox fans managed to obtain a near monopoly on the "woe is me" lament. To me, this represents the triumph of "hub-of-the-universe" arrogance coupled with the philosophy [of] victimization.

That and the fact that the Red Sox had a clearly-defined villain. The Cubbies or the Tribe could pass themselves off as lovable losers, maybe, without pointing fingers or dissuading their fans; Bosox Nation, on the other hand, preferred to mutter dark imprecations about the Evil Empire in the Bronx.

Of course, if they actually win this Series...but never mind, let's not go there. At least, not now.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:51 PM to Base Paths )
25 October 2004
Tie a purple ribbon 'round the redbud tree

Have you finally given up on keeping track of which colored ribbon represents what cause? Jeff Jarvis can help.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:05 AM to Almost Yogurt )
The official naughty list

Like most states these days, Oklahoma has a list of registered sexual offenders. Unlike most states, we're about to register violent offenders as well. (Only Montana maintains a similar list.)

The new law, named for murder victim Mary Rippy, specifies that offenders must register with area law enforcement within three days after entering the state or after moving to a new location. They must be continuously registered during the term of their sentences and for ten years thereafter, and are not permitted to work near children, or for any person or business working on school premises.

The law is not retroactive, so the list begins fresh on the first of November.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:29 AM to Soonerland )
We don't want any

For reasons having to do with the difficulty of getting alternative candidates on the ballot in this state, there is a small but vocal coalition urging Oklahoma voters to leave blank the section for Presidential electors as a protest.

Does this constitute refusing to take a stand? I don't think so.

Then again:

The newspaper [The Detroit News] today decided to vote "none of the above" in the presidential election. After I read the introduction to their editorial I didn't bother to read the rest closely, because it doesn't matter. It's bloviating. It's refusing responsibility. It's just... well, I'm nearly speechless, and I suspect you know already how much I like to talk.

The truth is, either Bush or Kerry will be president for four years. That fact doesn't change just because you may find neither candidate particularly compelling. There are genuine differences in how the two men would lead the country, differences that matter. We as voters have to make a very hard decision this year. Quite frankly, I don't agree with all of Bush's policies myself. But I have the courage and commitment to this country and my fellow citizens to make a decision, not pout and stay home.

Question: Does the Oklahoma "None of the Above" movement constitute pouting and staying home? Is declining to vote on this one race "thoroughly and reprehensibly pathetic"?

After all, Michigan voters have seven choices on their Presidential ballots, and:

At least have the courage and conviction to make a choice and stand up for your choice. It may not be Bush or Kerry, and if not, more power to you. Just make sure you vote.

[Emphasis in the original.]

Gentle Readers, what say you?

Fenway 6:9-13

If you'd asked me right after game three of the American League Championship Series — making the larger assumption that I might still have been awake at that hour, which frankly would have been a hell of a lot to assume — I would have told you in so many words that "The Red Sox don't have a prayer."

And obviously I would have been wrong, too.

(Via Accidental Verbosity.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:16 PM to Almost Yogurt )
I'd like to buy a consonant

Just what the world (or at least that part of it which is overrun with barking moonbats) has been waiting for: a font which lacks the letter W.

Versions distributed after the election, I assume, will include an additional L.

(Via Dowingba.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:04 PM to Dyssynergy )
26 October 2004
Shoes for industry, compadre

Mayor Cornett called last night. Or rather, his voice on tape called last night, and as such things go, it was a very professional job, fitting perfectly into the space alloted on my voice recorder. (Cornett's years of broadcasting and video production have obviously served him well.)

Anyway, the Mickster was making a pitch for State Question 707, which extends tax-increment financing beyond a single fiscal year. He pointed out that all the usual municipal and Chamber of Commerce types were solidly behind it, and that its passage would be a Good Thing. Since Cornett's own Oklahoma City is arguably the master of tax-increment financing, albeit most of the current projects occurred before he moved into the middle of the horseshoe, Cornett's arguments could have carried some weight — if he'd actually explained what SQ 707 would do, or if he'd bothered to mention so much as a single project that would benefit from it.

Then again, I rather suspect that explaining what state questions actually do is considered detrimental to their passage. Here's the ballot language:

This measure amends Section 6C of Article 10 of the Oklahoma Constitution. The amendment deals with the use of certain city, town and county taxes and fees. When authorized by law, cities, towns or counties can put these taxes and fees to use in three ways. The first use is specific public investments. The second use is aid in development financing. The third use is an income source for other public bodies in the area.

The Legislature can authorize cities, towns and counties to direct the apportionment of these fees and taxes among or between these uses. The amendment allows these apportionments to be prospective. The amendment permits these apportionments to continue from year to year.

The amendment permits cities, towns and counties to pledge certain taxes and fees beyond the current fiscal year and to pledge certain taxes and fees to repay some debts of other public entities.

Now I wouldn't have expected the Legislature to have written it like this:

This measure allows cities like Oklahoma City to sink millions into the rescue and restoration of the Skirvin Hotel over an extended period, rather than to have to spend it all at once.

But it would have been a pleasant change from the standard legislative boilerplate, which seems to be predicated upon the notion that the electorate is dumb as a post.

Which, come to think of it, it may be: somebody on the daytime version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire yesterday (at the $8,000 level!) was unable to identify the home state of Senator John Kerry, meaning either that this was a very old rerun or that Karl Rove forgot to send out the checks one week.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 AM to Soonerland )
Electoral collage

Political bits from around the state:

And remember: when news breaks, we scatter the pieces.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:05 AM to Soonerland )
It's the unreal thing

The difference between Diet Sprite® and Diet Sprite Zero®?

Zero.

(Via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:44 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Delayed follow-ups

Some things get shoved onto the back burner around here and eventually disappear behind the backsplash, never to be found again unless I'm browsing the referrer logs and suddenly I'm seized by the shock of recognition — or, alternatively, if someone writes in and asks "So whatever happened to [subject], anyway?"

No credit for guessing which is which.

  • Daniel Fears, then a teenager, had been accused of a shooting spree in Sallisaw two years ago; Fears, now twenty, was convicted on all counts in the Sequoyah County Court. Formal sentencing will be in December; the jury recommended two life sentences without parole for the murders, eight life sentences for shooting with intent to kill, ten years for feloniously pointing a firearm, a life sentence for discharging a firearm with intent to kill and 120 years for the five charges of drive-by shooting.

  • The return of the Yugo has been delayed; Malcolm Bricklin, when last heard from, said that exports to the US from Zastava Motor Works will not begin until 2005.

  • The Tulsa Philharmonic, which disbanded (sorry) in the fall of 2002, is still dead.

  • Then-Representative Leonard Sullivan, one of the prime movers in the effort to get the North Canadian River renamed, got some of his wish granted: the seven-mile stretch closest to downtown is now called the Oklahoma River. Sullivan, incidentally, is now the Oklahoma County assessor.

  • To my knowledge, Susanna Cornett never did come up with a signature lingerie line.

If there's any other topic I started on and didn't finish, please advise.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:33 PM to Blogorrhea )
Paging Ernst Stavro Blofeld

A 527 operation called Citizens for a Strong Senate, largely funded by San Francisco Bay bankers Herb and Marion Sandler, is running some anti-Tom Coburn ads locally, and one of them wound up in my mailbox. Listing a series of issues Coburn reputedly voted against during his six years in the House, the ad characterizes the physician as Dr. No.

Pity they couldn't get Ursula Andress for the ads.

(Comments about "fighting in the trenches" will be summarily deleted.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:52 PM to Soonerland )
27 October 2004
Questioning the state answers

TheTulsan.com has its endorsements up, and for some reason they urge reading my commentary on the state questions, even though we differ on our recommendations.

More to the point, they're quite a bit funnier. In disapproving of SQ 714, which adjusts the threshold for the senior real-estate valuation freeze, they offer the following:

Sorry, Grandpa, time to play "lifeboat": your generation has never, ever, paid in taxes what it is consuming in resources. The overwhelming majority of our generation will have to work until we are eighty or we drop dead to pay for your Viagra and motor scooters; most of you retirees will spend more time retired than you did on the workforce.

Well, maybe, if I live to be 118. (Should I tell them I'm barely into my fifties? Naw. Why make it worse?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to Soonerland )
Will it ever end?

Forrest Covington at The Muse at Sunset notes that it's not just popular-music types who are contributing to the polarization of the nation:

This whole election, actually the last four years since the last election, political stridency has spilled over like a toxic oil slick into areas of life hitherto uncorrupted. A lot of artist types have helped exacerbate the trend, mostly pop musicians and "actorvists", but some of the more "serious" types have offended as well. I recall especially Stockhausen's bizarre remark that September 11th was a "work of art".

[Insert "Karlheinz" joke here.]

Less than a week before the election, and already I wish 2008 was over and done with. One tradition — that of the gracious loser — was basically stomped to death four years ago; I shudder to imagine the next victim.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:49 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Retention headaches

Nineteen states, including Oklahoma, have a retention ballot for appellate judges: under the name of the court, the ballot reads, "Shall [judge's name] be retained?" The voter gets to choose Yes or No.

Dr. Bob Darcy, Regents professor of political science and statistics at Oklahoma State University, says that we don't know much of anything about the judges, but we vote to retain them as a measure of support for the judicial system.

Can anything be done? Should anything be done? Appointments for life will obviously remove the judges entirely from oversight by the electorate. The state bar maintains a Council on Judicial Complaints, but the Council's operations generally fly well under the public radar. Once in a while an interest group will try to stir up opposition to a judge who has issued a ruling unfavorable to them, but seldom does it make any difference: judges are routinely returned to office with about a 2-1 majority. Before I took up the mantle of Sort of Political Blogger, my own rule of thumb was to vote against anyone I'd ever heard of, on the basis that if the judge had somehow gotten into the news, it likely wouldn't have been good news.

Maybe there's a better way, but for the moment, I'm stumped.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:03 AM to Soonerland )
Destroy before reading

Glen Ridge (NJ) Schools are no longer sending notes home: all communications with the parental units will be conducted via email. (Presumably every home in the district has some sort of email access; I haven't heard any outcry from the Poor and Unwired.)

As a test, the district sent out this email. It does attempt to cover all conceivable issues, though this one might have thrown some people:

If you do not receive the test email, please be sure to check your SPAM blocking software. If you use AOL, please check your SPAM folder, highlight our message, and then click on "This is not Spam." If you do not receive the email or have technical problems, please email Winnie Boswell [email address snipped] to ask for assistance.

Hmmm. Can one reply to an email which was not received?

And "if we hadn't received it," wonders the Barista of Bloomfield Avenue, "how would we know?"

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:03 PM to Dyssynergy )
The bonds of earth get surlier

It's called Diary of a Flight Attendant, and that's just what it was — until the airline flew into a tizzy and suspended her.

The suspension, they said, was due to "inappropriate" images.

In case you were wondering, I keep a folder full of really inappropriate images handy, should someone decide to lower the boom on me.

In the meantime, the Queen of the Sky is grounded and could probably use a helping hand, especially if there's a buck or two in the palm thereof.

(Via Fark.)

(Update, 4:05 pm: I bounced this off my boss, who was unimpressed by the action taken by the airline: "Damn airlines need all the advertising they can get.")

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:54 PM to Blogorrhea )
We call 'em the way we see 'em

Apart from the state questions, I haven't made any specific recommendations for the election next Tuesday; whatever endorsements I wind up making will probably show up over the weekend while no one is reading.

If you can't wait that long, and if you don't live in my neck of the woods — at least one of which is close to certainty — Sean Gleeson has issued endorsements, not just for his precinct, but for yours as well, anywhere in the USA. It is always gratifying to see someone with such an evident devotion to public service.

28 October 2004
Across 110th

And now, a Carnival of the Vanities so big it takes two to host it (though Maddy seems to be doing the heavy lifting): #110 from The Twins Tell the Truth. Your weekly blog compendium contains an assortment of high-quality posts from all around the 'sphere, and something of mine to break the curve. Don't miss it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:33 AM to Blogorrhea )
When the night is gone

And I didn't see much of it anyway. It was rather pointless to try to observe the lunar eclipse, since we had clouds thick enough to choke a constellation — not that it stopped me from trying.

But eventually it dawned on me, so to speak, that I'd have to wait until the spring of 2007 for the next eclipse, and I spent the rest of the evening watching the Red Sox exorcise the ghost of the Bambino at the expense of the Cardinals. And in many ways, this was more rewarding, since given the Bosox' track record, the next time they'll win the World Series should be around 2090.

Well, it isn't Space Invaders

Or is it? Dawn Eden finds a Planned Parenthood videogame, and it supports the organization's apparent belief that missile command is too much to expect from joystick owners.

The title is "Birthcontroids," and that's just the beginning:

It sounds like a combination of birth control and hemorrhoids, which is appropriate, as the butt-ugly graphics seem to come from Uranus, and Planned Parenthood is, as usual, talking out of its Asteroids.

If you believe that the increasing sexualization of adolescence inevitably mars the experience — or even if you don't — you simply have to see this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:10 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Trying to appear chalant

So does this mean that George W. Bush is comparatively reckful?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:18 AM to Dyssynergy )
Arise, children of the fatherland

And here's just the candidate for you.

Welcome to Queue Gardens

Wait in line at the polls? The New York Times says "Lines that make voters wait for hours are a national disgrace, particularly for presidential elections. They discourage participation, particularly by the poor and infirm."

To which Matt replies:

[I]f voting is our most precious and sacred right, I really can't see that losing a few hours of Jerry Springer time every two years is an extraordinary hardship. Being beaten, shot or blown up, that would be a hardship and require "urgent" reform. For god's sake, people in this country wait in line three days for a stupid movie premiere, or concert tickets or a football game, and the New York Times thinks that a minor delay before you can cast your ballot constitutes a crisis?

This is my first Big Election in this precinct, and I have no idea how long it will take. Four years ago, where I used to live, I got to the polls about twenty minutes before they opened and was gone eight minutes later. I recall that in 1996, I showed up after work and spent about an hour or so in line. If this is some sort of hardship, I fail to see it.

And besides:

How is waiting a couple of hours to exercise your voting rights harder on a poor person than a non-poor person? Should we have express lanes set up and require people to bring a statement of income? Everyone under 20K per year gets to zip through. Seriously, you want to talk about lines and waiting, take a look at some of the pictures from election day in Afghanistan. Suck it up, NYT, democracy isn't free. Sometimes it costs one some time.

I've never considered the time wasted, even when, as is often the case, I've voted for a bunch of people who struggled to come in second.

29 October 2004
Bouncy, bouncy

Well, we got through the first day of Check 21 with no noticeable effects, although the credit cards processed through 42nd and Treadmill showed an increase in declines, which I am more inclined to attribute to customer perversity than to the new Federal regulations, which after all deal with, well, checks.

Then again, it might get worse: I have to figure that some of the same lunkheads whose MasterCards are maxed out are probably trying to pay their bills with checks which, if not hot, are certainly warmer than their surroundings.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:35 AM to Dyssynergy )
Run, Spot, run!

Just when I thought I'd seen everything, I see this: those wonderful folks at Planned Parenthood telling your kids — my kids would simply laugh, but then they're grumpy and cynical like their old man — that not only is it okay to be attracted to someone of the same sex, but we shouldn't overlook the erotic potential of livestock.

If you've been looking for a reason to avoid contributing to this organization (apart from the Federal dollars, which of course were yours to begin with, that it somehow absorbs on a regular basis), this stuff is the best you'll see all year.

The Dell you say

Dell is hiring in Oklahoma City.

Next month, the computer manufacturer will start construction on a new facility for its Oklahoma City sales center to replace the space they currently borrow from Hertz; the workforce will grow from 250 to 700 and could eventually reach as high as 3,000.

I misheard the location on the announcement and for a moment thought that they were going to locate in suburban Del City, prompting a brief reverie about the possibility of adding a letter to the town's name. ("Del" was Delaphene Campbell, daughter of city founder George Epperly.) As it happens, the new facility will be located off SW 15th Street at I-44, in an abandoned park once set aside for river development that never happened.

And now that I think about it, I'm due for a new computer.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to City Scene )
Making Service more Selective

As you may remember, Chuck Rangel's bill to reinstate the draft was defeated in the House, 402 to 2; not even Rangel would vote for it.

Still, it never hurts to Be Prepared, so if you're between sixteen and forty-five, you should give serious thought to getting yourself registered.

(Via Screenhead.)

We pick 'em: state and local

US Senator

I don't know which is more disheartening: the fact that reliably-loose cannon Tom Coburn (R) is still at large, or the fact that once-sensible Brad Carson (D) has reached new heights of shrillness in his efforts to get elected. My own political leanings are somewhere in between the two, and my fondness for gridlock would normally push me in Carson's direction — no way the GOP is going to lose the House this year, which means that a Democratic-controlled Senate would have great amusement value — but geez, what a whining kvetch Carson is these days, and even Coburn's lunatic claim that parts of Little Dixie are overrun with busty lesbian ninja pirates, or some such nonsense, doesn't make Carson look any saner. Under these circumstances, the least I can do is pick someone who isn't either of them, which leaves me with Sheila "Mobile Receiver" Bilyeu (I), and frankly, I fear for a world in which I can be left with Sheila Bilyeu.

Corporation Commission

I have no real gripe with incumbent Denise Bode (R) — her longtime ties to the oil and gas industry are hardly news — but challenger John Wylie (D), who publishes a newspaper in Oologah and who, as a reporter, covered public utilities for many years, might shake up the often-somnolent Corp Comm, which I suspect might be good for all of us.

House District 5

Who is Bert Smith (D)? Damned if I know. But he's not Ernest Istook (R) either, and with Frank Robinson off the ballot, not being Istook is probably enough to give Smith the nod. (And how many other districts can offer Bert vs. Ernie? I tell you, there are reasons to love this place.)

State House District 87

Don't get me wrong. I like Trebor Worthen (R), even if he is the evil spawn of an incumbent. But John Morgan (D) is a friend and a neighbor, and, well, I do have one of his yard signs. Besides, Worthen's most recent mailing showed entirely too many signs of "Well, maybe this will work," noting that Morgan is presumably a gay-marriage advocate (I dunno, though he did get an endorsement from GayOKC.com) and worse, Morgan is (gasp!) a lawyer. And I do know this much: John Morgan doesn't fret if you spit watermelon seeds on his shoes. For now, let's leave Trebor Worthen on his side in a cool, dark room until he matures.

Judicial Retention (eight seats)

As noted before, I'm not overly fond of retention ballots. Applying my usual rule — if his name rings a bell, vote him down — all these guys get a pass, because I don't recognize a single one of them.

Sheriff

I'm still peeved with current Sheriff John Whetsel (D) for trying to wangle a sales-tax increase for his little empire. On the other hand, I know nothing about Stuart Earnest (R), unless this is the same Stuart Earnest who used to be a county commissioner, in which case he's really, really old.

County Clerk

There's one thing I like about incumbent Carolynn Caudill (R): she caught hell for supporting Jim Roth, once her deputy, for county commissioner, what with Roth being gay and worse, being a Democrat, and she shrugged it off. Enough, I think, to keep her around, especially since I haven't seen any compelling reason to vote for challenger Lillie R. Hastings Buckner (D).

I reserve the right to change my mind between now and Tuesday, but I don't think I will.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:19 PM to Soonerland )
We pick 'em: POTUS

This site has given favorable coverage to the None of the Above campaign, which supports leaving one's Presidential choice blank on the Oklahoma ballot next Tuesday because said ballot is effectively restricted to the candidates of the two major parties. I continue to look favorably upon this idea, inasmuch as it makes a certain amount of sense: if you find those two candidates equally unacceptable, you are left out in the electoral cold.

But suppose you find them unequally unacceptable?

There are plenty of reasons to be wary of another four years of BushCo. The Republicans, dammit, have discovered the joys of deficit spending, and while they're not as profligate as Democrats would like to be, the likelihood that a second Bush administration would make much of a dent in the deficit is close to nil. And while I'm not especially fond of the watered-down Marxism vended by the national Democrats these days, I, for one, do not welcome our new corporate overlords: I see no reason to think being screwed over by a corporation is somehow preferable to being screwed over by the government. (Yeah, yeah, I know, vote with your dollars. And how many corporations do you know of that have been brought down by boycotts?)

Still: John Kerry? The mind reels, and not in a good way. In this entire campaign he has made exactly one salient point: you can't run from your record. And John Kerry's record is undistinguished, except where it's disgusting.

So I asked myself, "Self, if you had your druthers, and no divine intervention or Marvel superheroes or wishing for more wishes or any of that other stuff, how would you really like this election to turn out?"

<dream sequence>
Sunrise on the prairie. I'm awake for once, and I have time to kill, and as the fellow spins around with my breakfast, the little bell in the back of my head emits the faintest hint of a tinkle, reminding me that I shouldn't have had the large orange juice.

And then it hits me: "Don't I know you from somewhere?"

"I'm sure you don't," he says, and turns away.

The girl from the checkout counter catches him in mid-turn. "Terry, I can't read this. Is this the short stack or the full stack? You didn't write down the price."

I looked at him again. "Aren't you Terry McAuliffe?"

No response.

"I know I've seen you on the news. Terry McAuliffe. Head of the Democratic National Committee all those years. What in the world are you doing slinging hash in Snake's Navel, Kansas, fercrissake?"

His voice dropped to a whisper. "Not so loud."

"It is you, isn't it?"

"That goddamn John Kerry," he said. "I worked my ass off to keep him within reach for the whole year, and in the last week he pissed it all away. Didn't get the electoral vote, didn't get the popular vote, didn't get squat. We damn near lost Connecticut. Somebody had to take the blame."

He didn't say anything more, and I wasn't about to ask. Besides, the eggs were runny.
</dream sequence>

And, well, there's only one other name on the ballot.

Stark raving letter 23

An anti-Tom Coburn piece showed up here today, courtesy of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, castigating the GOP candidate for having had kind words for the national sales tax known familiarly — except, apparently, to Democrats — as the "FairTax". The reputed Coburn quotes are here.

The print ad features a typical collection of supermarket purchases, each with a price tag, and each with the notation +23% TAX below the purchase price.

Similar pieces have shown up in Kansas, attacking Kris Kobach, running for the 3rd District House seat, and also in Minnesota, where the target is Mark Kennedy, 6th District incumbent. What they all have in common, of course, is that nowhere is it mentioned that the adoption of the "FairTax" is contingent upon the abolition of the Federal income tax. Of course, the income tax is subject to all sorts of Congressional fiddling and diddling, and taking it away will leave the Democrats (and, yes, it is true, rather a large number of Republicans) with fewer tools to bend the populace to their wills, quite apart from the economic benefits we might accrue without their permission.

And while we're on the subject: if these people are actually paying $3.29 for a loaf of Home Pride Whole Wheat Butter Top, or $5.99 for what appears to be an 18-ounce jar of Skippy peanut butter, as pictured in the anti-Coburn piece, I'm damned glad they don't do my grocery shopping.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:25 PM to Soonerland )
30 October 2004
Without using the word "choice"

Nobody, we are told, actually favors abortion. It's a tragedy, but it must remain an option for those situations where there's no other answer: "safe, legal, and rare," in Bill Clinton's phrase.

Of course, things which are "rare" seldom are commemorated in T-shirts, suggesting that there's a mass market after all. And what is this market buying? Steve H. peeks into the basket:

The single biggest reason people support abortion rights is that they suffer from the delusion that every black woman has eleventy-two children by different fathers, all raised on Aid for Dependent Children, and that in a few years, blacks will outnumber whites. And then of course, they'll move in next door to us and their kids will want to date our daughters.

Can this possibly be true? Quoted in that same piece, this startling statement from BlackGenocide.org:

Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in America. 78% of their clinics are in minority communities. Blacks make up 12% of the population, but 35% of the abortions in America. Are we being targeted?

It's no particular secret — though it's not exactly shouted from the housetops either — that PP founder Margaret Sanger was a follower of Thomas Robert Malthus, who was arguing a "population time bomb" more than a century before Paul Ehrlich. And the fact that both Malthus' compulsive mathematics and Ehrlich's gloom-and-doom scenarios failed to pan out hasn't had any effect on Sanger's organization: that business about "every child a wanted child" is just sunny enough to obscure the insistence that, well, if you don't want it, it's not really a child at all: it's just a "blob of tissue."

This is not to say that I want the full weight of the Federal government brought to bear against anyone who's ever owned a single RU486 tablet (or the updated RU486DX version, which contains a math co-processor). But I persist in believing that the unpleasant task of correcting one's mistakes is simplified greatly by not making those mistakes in the first place.

(Prompted by a post by Steve Gigl.)

This program reminder

Bruce at This Is Class Warfare sends along a note to the effect that public radio's This American Life with Ira Glass has a special this week on vote fraud, and the producers have made it available on the Web before its scheduled air date, in case you might be faced with examples of fraud yourself. You'll need RealAudio to hear the advance version, and you'll need a relatively-quiet listening area: historically, This American Life has always been a program which demands — and generally earns — your full attention.

The rattling of the last sabre

So what did bin Laden really say? At Belmont Club, Wretchard offers a complete transcript and reads between the lines:

It is important to notice what he has stopped saying in this speech. He has stopped talking about the restoration of the Global Caliphate. There is no more mention of the return of Andalusia. There is no more anticipation that Islam will sweep the world. He is no longer boasting that Americans run at the slightest wounds; that they are more cowardly than the Russians. He is not talking about future operations to swathe the world in fire but dwelling on past glories. He is basically saying if you leave us alone we will leave you alone. Though it is couched in his customary orbicular phraseology he is basically asking for time out.

[Emphasis in the original.]

Left unspoken is one other question: if we buy bin Laden's deal, who gets to pick up the tab?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:55 AM to Dyssynergy )
Pitching in the next world

Let the record show that I was a quirky sort of child — and how surprising is that? — and that after three years of school, during which I was largely bored out of my misshapen skull, the parental units dispatched me to the distant city of Summerville, where I did two years at a compound for the allegedly gifted, emerging with certification through grade eight and no place to go and no idea of what I wanted to do once I got to wherever I was going.

The man who found a place for me was Father Robert J. Kelly, then recently installed as rector of Bishop England High School, the Catholic high school in Charleston. His terms were clear: some allowance would be made for my appalling youth, but I would be cut no academic slack whatsoever.

It was much later that I learned that Kelly had gone through some serious soul-searching of his own: while in the seminary in New England, he'd been spending his summers in the then-class A Eastern League, and big-league clubs were offering him bonuses to come pitch for them. In the end, a lifetime of service was more compelling than a career of uncertain length, and Kelly put on his collar and never looked back.

I'd like to say, now that he's gone, that everything I know I learned from Father Kelly, but obviously that isn't so: as a kid with a puckish sense of humor and a marked lack of maturity, I had to go to considerable effort to stay out of his office. I figured out quickly enough that he had a finely-tuned sense of humor of his own, but in the presence of an erring student he was all business, and that stuck. What I remember most, though, is that I was wandering in the desert, to the extent that you can wander in the desert at age twelve, and he was happy to take me in.

"If we are lucky," said Father Lawrence McInerny (also BE '69) in Father Kelly's funeral homily, about the same moment I was on the operating table last month, "we get to meet certain people who are simply 'larger than life'." The big Irish priest, I remember, was the very definition of the phrase; I am lucky indeed to have crossed paths with him.

Saturday spottings (pre-election)

A map [link requires Adobe Reader] of Oklahoma's House District 87 vaguely resembles a map of Minnesota, and judging solely by yard signs and bumper stickers, it's seriously Democratic down around Albert Lea and Rochester and gets more Republican the closer you get to International Falls or Moorhead, though registrations are more or less evenly split. (Stretching this map metaphor to its maximum, I live around Hibbing.) Operatives from both parties were busy today: I spied a woman bearing KerryOkies indicia on her minivan a couple blocks southeast of me, and later I caught two presumably younger women wearing Tom Coburn T-shirts canvassing along 36th Street (call it US 10).

Speaking of yard signs, I lost mine last night: the Oklahoma wind ripped the plastic right off the wire frame. It held up for more than three months, which is probably well beyond its expected lifetime; I'm not planning to request a replacement because, well, the election is Tuesday fercryingoutloud. (No, it wasn't stolen; a thief wouldn't have left the wire in place, and around the neighborhood, other signs for the same candidate were still up.)

I've seen a few pro-SQ 712 signs, but this was the first day I saw any significant number of anti-SQ 711 signs, with the tag "Don't Legalize Discrimination." Of course, I'd expect these close to home: ZIP code 73112, per Census Bureau guesstimates, has more same-sex couples than any other ZIP code in the entire state, though this is due partly to its sheer size (7.5 square miles).

Seen on a vanity plate: EDITUR. I don't know whether this was a Spanish translation or just someone in need of a kopy editur.

And finally, on the marquee at Whataburger: IT TASTES LIKE CHICKEN 'CAUSE IT IS CHICKEN. I assume they're trying to slam some competing product, but I don't want to know what that product is.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:12 PM to City Scene )
31 October 2004
Above all, no zeal

If you thought my backing of George W. Bush was a bit on the unenthusiastic side, well, I suppose it was.

On the other hand, compared to this sampling of Kerry endorsements, it's a veritable rave.

(Via Peppermint Patty.)

And I thought he split rails

The Log Cabin Republicans, an organization of gay conservatives, took their name from the story of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president:

President Lincoln built the Republican Party on the principles of liberty and equality. The party should return to its roots.

It is not in any way a suggestion that Lincoln himself might have been homosexual.

Not that there's anything historical about that.

Reflections in a glittering eye

More precisely, The Glittering Eye, whence comes this story of election duty in a nursing home:

I arrived a little before 9:00am, helped my colleagues complete the setup, assisted about half of the voters in preparing their ballots (the other half either required no assistance or were assisted by someone else). For those who are concerned about this process, the voter must complete an affidavit requesting assistance and they are then assisted by two people — one Republican and one Democrat. We do our best to preserve the voter's privacy during the process.

I won't violate my voters' privacy by telling you how they voted. Suffice it to say that it will be interesting to see how good a predictor the nursing home vote is for the final results.

Indeed. And while we're beset with reports of fraud, it's something of a relief to hear that somewhere the job of conducting an election is considered a civic responsibility rather than an excuse to indulge one's emotions.

I came upon this site by following a comment the Eye had left at Beldar's, on the subject of whether American actions are "breeding" terrorists, an idea which Beldar flatly, and correctly, rejects. Said the Eye:

[T]he argument that the U. S. prosecution of the War on Terror has created more terrorists is true in the same sense that private property has created thieves and our desire for life creates murderers. The question is not "Is it true?" but "So what?"

You go to the movies; you come out two hours later, and there's an empty space where your car used to be. If you can argue with a straight face that you brought it on yourself for going there in the first place, then maybe you can try to make the case that fighting terror causes terrorism — but you'll have to do it from right there in the parking lot.

Sunday spottings (stir crazy)

It was a nice day to stay inside and take a nap, but having been here and done that, I decided I'd just as soon venture out, and it's not like it was a particularly arduous task to do so.

Near NW 5th and Walker, an ancient motel, once a TraveLodge (which I, for some reason, have always read as "TREYV lodge," as though it might not be kosher or something), has been gutted and is being restored. It's about time; there ought to be some lodging around downtown that doesn't cost a hundred bucks a night.

A church on Meridian mentions SQ 711 on its marquee and trots out that well-worn business about Adam and Steve; while Googling about for an original quotation, I turned up an actual gay dating service called Adam and Steve. This particular A&S is located in Los Angeles, a place where off-center business names have long flourished; I remember a specialized sports shop there called The Merchant of Tennis. But we don't do so badly here in Soonerland: one of my current favorites, nomenclaturally speaking, is local florist Floral and Hardy.

The little westside Mexican restaurant called Zacatecas has been replaced by a little westside Mexican restaurant called Red Onion, whose owners are very likely unaware of a highly-dissimilar establishment with the same name that existed here in the 90s. The 1890s, that is; the Red Onion of the Oklahoma Territory days was a notorious "disorderly house," if you will, that was a primary target for the admininstration of Mayor Charles G. "Gristmill" Jones, who took office in 1896 pledging to clean up this wild and woolly town. (Among other things, Jones, who really did own a mill, was the president of the Oklahoma Territorial Fair Association, predecessor to the present-day Oklahoma State Fair; the city of Jones, northeast of town, is named for him.)

About a mile south of the Red Onion — the new one — is a night-spot called the Dirty Hoe. It sports a, um, gardening motif.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:04 PM to City Scene )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

Click the Permalink on an individual entry to read comments and TrackBacks if any