Meanwhile on the A-list

Tanni Haas, Ph.D., author of Making It in the Political Blogosphere: The World’s Top Political Bloggers Share the Secrets to Success (Cambridge: Lutterworth Press, 2011), was kind enough to send a review copy this way, and I admit that it took me a while to get around to it, on the basis that if I wanted to know what bloggers think, I could presumably read blogs. Then again, as Dr. Haas points out in the Introduction:

Studies have found that political blog readers consider such blogs more trustworthy sources of information than they do any other mainstream news media, including online and offline newspapers, television, and radio. Political blogs are considered more trustworthy because they provide access to a broader spectrum of issues than is available in the mainstream news media; cover those issues in greater depth, with more independence and points of view; and present them in a manner that’s more understandable and relevant to readers.

And this reflects my own experience: I buy the local newspaper because it’s, well, local, but for national coverage, I’ll hit several blogs and monitor my tweetstream.

“Several,” of course, is not by any means a lot. Dr. Haas says there are 1.3 million blogs classifiable as “political.” (I don’t consider this a political blog: maybe 10 to 15 percent of the posts here have some sort of political orientation.) In the book, twenty name-brand political bloggers are interviewed — six or seven pages each — and now and then there’s something that looks suspiciously like wisdom. For instance, Haas quotes Thomas Lifson of The American Thinker:

Many people write material in order to demonstrate how much they know, or to put forth a point of view they feel strongly about. But they sometimes forget who the reader is, and what the reader needs to know… So the one piece of advice I’d give people is to look at their material through the eyes of the reader who doesn’t know you, who doesn’t care who you are, and who needs to be given a reason to read the next sentence of your posting and continue all the way through.

I am reasonably certain that no one will accuse me of trying to show off how much I know.

The principles of Making It in the Political Blogosphere can occasionally be extended to blogs on other topics; the “tribalism” of poliblogging referred to by Kevin Drum, for instance, likely exists in every other subject with more than a handful of bloggers. I’m thinking, therefore, that the book may also be of interest to people who can’t stand the thought of writing about politics, and there are, I suspect, many more of them.

(Here’s the obligatory Amazon link. The book can be had in trade paperback for $15 or Kindle-ized for $9.99. Being as how I’m in a generous mood, I’ll send a PDF to the first five people who ask nicely.)

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Cabinet refinishing

The precedent was set by Ronald Reagan, who in eight years managed not to dismantle the Department of Education. Subsequent Presidents in both parties have followed Reagan’s lead, and while it’s not too difficult to see why the Democrats have done so, it might be unclear why the Republicans have done the same. It is not, however, unclear to Robert Stacy McCain:

[A]bolishing whole departments of the federal government would deprive the next Republican president of the opportunity to appoint their cronies to top jobs in those departments. Maybe you have no desire to be an assistant deputy undersecretary in the Department of Education, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t well-connected Republicans who covet such posts. So you’re messing with the “jobs for the boys” factor of partisan loyalty, which doesn’t matter to you — the rank-and-file voter — but matters a great deal to young GOP operatives who see an administration position as a stepping stone to a lucrative career as a K Street lobbyist.

Which suggests an idea: Close K Street. You can’t actually get rid of lobbyists — there’s that whole First Amendment business about the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” not that these people are likely to have any grievances worthy of the name, but you can’t slap ‘em down for the sake of slapping — but if various institutions can get away with so-called Free Speech Zones, at a linear distance from anyone controversial who happens to show up, there’s no reason why you can’t set up a Universal Lobby somewhere in, say, the Flint Hills of Kansas.

Of course, the more elegant solution would be to get the government out of areas where lobbyists have persistent interests, but this isn’t happening either: see Reagan, supra.

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Detroitus

Which is a combination of “Detroit” and “detritus,” of course. Doug Ross has a list of the 10 worst cars ever produced by Detroit, and while I have no particular qualms about selecting the Chevrolet Vega as The Worst — it was indeed a shitty little car — I have several items for demurral.

Number Six was the Jaguar X-type, which qualifies as a Detroit car only because Ford owned Jaguar at the time, and it is not, as suggested, a Jagified Taurus: it was based on the European Ford Mondeo. Now we did get Ford and Mercury versions of the Mondeo — the Contour/Mystique twins — though arguably the Jag, with its higher price tag, sucked worse.

Admittedly, Number Five, the Pontiac Aztek, has been on the receiving end of opprobrium for quite a long time, but apart from its ungainly stance, the only real problem with it was searing, wretched fugliness. And the driver didn’t have to look at that so long as he kept driving.

And how could they leave off the AMC/Renault Alliance? This Kenosha, Wisconsin product of “Franco-American Motors” started out as one of the best-built cars in the land, and ended up four years later as one of the worst: more than half of them were recalled for a questionable connection between heater core and cooling system which, if you were lucky, would merely dump hot, steaming Prestone into your lap.

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We need a title for this

Sometimes the simplest shtick is the best. Steve Melcher has been vending something called That Is Priceless, billed as “Art’s Greatest Masterpieces Made Slightly Funnier,” for many months (and one book) now. The structure is always the same: artwork, artist, and then completely bogus but often hilarious title. An example from not too long ago:

Girl in the Fields by Charles Sprague Pearce

Charles Sprague Pearce, American

Taylor Lautner in “Anne of Green Gables,” 1881

Oil on canvas

This was #702. I have no idea how long he can keep doing this, but I have to figure there are many hundreds of paintings just waiting to be given a 21st-century context.

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Where’s the fire when you need it?

Because after a 70-minute slog to get home, the longest it has taken me in the eight years I’ve been here on a day where there was no snow, I can think of several people I’d like to seal up in a Bessemer converter.

Along with their cars, in fact. Some shlub got himself racked up on I-35 “north of 50th,” according to the radio — try “between 63rd and the I-44 westbound junction,” ya nimrod — and while I’m in no position to judge the heinousness of his driving, I have no problem pointing to the fourteen people who decided they’d accelerate into what passes for a breakdown lane and slide off the next exit. The first thirteen were merely stupid; the fourteenth actually tried to kill me. As the title card on the film doesn’t say: God forgives. I don’t.

Also marked for a cruel and painful death, since they keep filling up my Caller ID: all these third-party debt weasels who buy written-off accounts at pennies on the dollar and then robocall everyone in the Western Hemisphere in an effort to find someone stupid enough to pay them. Being melted down into slag is too good for ‘em.

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H2OMG

Protip: If you’re suffering from dehydration, scarfing down some bottled water can help.

I mention this here because you can’t say that on a product label in the European Union:

EU officials concluded that, following a three-year investigation, there was no evidence to prove the previously undisputed fact.

Producers of bottled water are now forbidden by law from making the claim and will face a two-year jail sentence if they defy the edict, which comes into force in the UK next month.

From the actual ruling [pdf]:

Article 2(2)(6) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 defines reduction of disease risk claims as ‘any health claim that states, suggests or implies that the consumption of a food category, a food or one of its constituents significantly reduces a risk factor in the development of a human disease’. Upon request for clarification, the applicant proposed water loss in tissues or reduced water content in tissues as risk factors of dehydration. On the basis of the data presented, the Authority concluded in its opinion received by the Commission and the Member States on 16 February 2011 that the proposed risk factors are measures of water depletion and thus are measures of the disease. Accordingly, as a risk factor in the development of a disease is not shown to be reduced, the claim does not comply with the requirements of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 and it should not be authorised.

Got that? Just because it can cure dehydration doesn’t mean it can reduce your risk of dehydration.

If you happen to be in the UK, the National Health says that that drinking water helps avoid dehydration, and that Britons should drink at least 1.2 litres per day.

I’m no fan of bottled water myself — not enough electrolytes — so I’m figuring that this is turf protection: government believes it alone should have the power to make meaningless, easily-mocked claims.

(Via Coyote Blog.)

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Bashfully yours

Heaven knows I’ve seen versions of this complaint all over the place:

It is a simple fact that most nudists are men and therefore most of our readers are male. For men, nudism seems to be easier to adopt. Perhaps it is because our bodies are not “sexualized” by society in the way the female form has always been. Perhaps it is women’s fondness for fashion. Whatever the reasons, almost every nudist man will experience difficulty in convincing his wife, girlfriend or female friend to take a step forward and give nudism a try.

I’m having a little trouble with that “simple fact.” It is certainly true that most nudists who identify as such on the Net are men, and I would not doubt that most of this guy’s readers are in fact men. I will even contribute a corroborating data point to the “will experience difficulty” statement, though it’s thirty-odd years old and may not count for much nowadays.

But I wonder if maybe he’s keeping a version of the “no true Scotsman” argument under the kilt he isn’t wearing. There is, I have come to believe, no actual shortage of women who, left alone to their own devices (no, not those devices, necessarily), will leave their clothes in the closet. They’re comfortable with that.

But getting them out of the house that way is another matter entirely, and to be consistent with the premise here, we have to define “nudist” as someone who participates in social nudity. The major nudist organizations will agree, since it’s in their best interests to have people showing up at organized activities. But I don’t want to be in the position of telling someone who hasn’t had anything on all weekend that she’s not a “true” nudist. Then again, were I faced with someone meeting this description, one may legitimately wonder if I could say anything at all, coherent or otherwise.

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Clap for the silent killer

Way back in the early days of smog control, they warned us that carbon monoxide would kill us all.

Except, of course, to the extent that it doesn’t:

Found in the exhaust of vehicles and generators, CO has been dubbed the “silent killer” because excessive inhalation is lethal, poisoning the nervous system and heart.

Now, in a surprising twist, Prof. Itzhak Schnell of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Geography and the Human Environment has discovered that low levels of the poisonous gas can have a narcotic effect that helps city dwellers cope with other harmful environmental factors of an urban environment, such as off-the-chart noise levels. This finding indicates that CO, in small doses, is a boon to the well-being of urbanites, better equipping them to deal with environmental stress.

Not to be confused with high levels of the poisonous gas, which has a narcotic effect that helps you drop dead in the front seat of your car with the garage closed, assuming current emissions standards even permit such high levels.

[Researchers] asked 36 healthy individuals between the ages of 20 to 40 to spend two days in Tel Aviv, Israel’s busiest city. The test subjects travelled various routes to sites such as busy streets, restaurants, malls and markets, by public and private transportation or by foot. Researchers monitored the impact of four different environmental stressors: thermal load (heat and cold), noise pollution, carbon monoxide levels, and social load (the impact of crowds).

Participants reported to what extent their experiences were stressful, and their input was corroborated with data taken from sensors that measured heart rate and pollutant levels. Noise pollution emerged as the most significant cause of stress.

The most surprising find of the study, says Prof. Schnell, was in looking at levels of CO that the participants inhaled during their time in the city. Not only were the levels much lower than the researchers predicted — approximately 1-15 parts per million every half hour — but the presence of the gas appeared to have a narcotic effect on the participants, counteracting the stress caused by noise and crowd density.

OSHA’s current recommended limit is 50 ppm, averaged over 8 hours.

This research has been published in the journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. Regina Spektor was not available for comment.

(Via Muck and Mystery.)

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Strange search-engine queries (303)

As the holiday season shifts into high gear, many people will simply not have the time to go fooling around on the Web. And then there are these folks:

what does the | 1 2 3 on a light switch mean:  You were standing there, right by the switch, not two minutes ago, but you have to hop onto the computer to find out what it does? How long have you been in Congress?

is flirting degrading:  Depends on how you do it, Mr. Favre.

list of words that are no longer in use today:  But then we’d be using those words, and we’d have to take them off the list, wouldn’t we?

why does my transmission whine:  Learned it from you.

why do we no longer use frigidity and impotence in sexual dysfunctioning: Those are imprecise terms with uncomfortable, even accusative, connotations. Kind of like “whining transmission.”

rehabilitate uggs:  (1) Take them off. (2) Put them back into the box. (3) Set the box out by the curb, and go buy some new shoes.

what does gear 2 mean in a mazda 626:  The same thing as it means in most cars: second gear. What were you thinking?

are “ach transaction cancelled” emails ok:  I swear, if P. T. Barnum had had an email account, he’d have figured the sucker-replication rate to be much higher than sixty per hour.

acura brand positioning:  “I want a Honda, but I don’t want anyone seeing me in a Civic.”

two headed girl dies:  Make sure you sign both guestbooks at the viewing.

“morals clause” building naming rights:  For instance, you wouldn’t want a Jeffrey Dahmer Nutrition Center.

pictures of a transmission pringle switch:  You gonna replace those chips yourself?

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On the [whatever] side of the street

OKC expat Sid Burgess says that politics, as practiced today, is harmful to our most basic units of organization:

[O]ur politics is killing our neighborhoods. It is killing them because we are being convinced by politicians that we can’t get along. That our differences are too great. What you will recognize if you listen to this podcast is that two very different ideologies can and must learn to recognize our common burden. All politics isn’t local. Just turn on the TV. What perhaps is more true is that all politics should be rooted locally. We should determine what is best for our country by what is best for our neighborhoods.

The putative populists on the tube? Forget them:

We need strong, local political and social movements. We need stronger towns. Strong towns make for better public safety. Better public health. More freedom for the markets to pick and choose winners and losers. Again, we are being divided on issues that are national and are then being prepped to import the partisanship back into our communities where the issues are much more practical.

To put it another way: We have several thousand new people moving into this city every year, presenting challenges to the local economy and to the local infrastructure. And you want me to worry about, for instance, the presumed threat posed by the so-called “one percent”? You are not serious.

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Aorta play this on the radio

Songs from the Heart by Dr SmithAbout a week ago, I posted something on a message board to the effect that I had more or less adjusted myself to buying music via download, at least for acts with a national or worldwide following — but for local bands, I’d try to find a CD if possible.

About a week before that, at the suggestion of one of the Gazette scribes, I gave a listen to “The Time Is Right” by Dr. Smith. It was somehow light yet sludgy, and it ground on for nearly eight minutes. Halfway through, I resolved to find more of this, and shortly thereafter I wound up on the band’s Facebook page, which pointed me to a download location. They also were offering “Physical CDs,” which I found amusing, with the notation “when manufactured,” so evidently I got one from the first batch. (As further evidence of same, Gracenote had nothing on it, so I typed in all that stuff myself. You can thank me later.) Besides, there’s no way I was going to pass up an album whose first track is called “Zombie Bitches Kicking People’s Ass.”

I’m still trying to find some sort of shorthand to explain Dr. Smith. The current formula seems to be Toadies minus “rural”: they’re capable of being just as creepy, but you don’t sense banjos playing in the background. At least three tracks from Songs from the Heart (a title I really should swipe sometime) have been YouTubed, if you’re curious. And is this band named for the jerkface stowaway in Lost in Space? Silly me, I didn’t ask.

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Us and them

Bill Quick makes the salient point about Them:

The basic analysis has to be that, despite cosmetic differences, the left and the right at all levels of politics and governance in the United States are, first and foremost, members of a ruling class, and regard maintaining their perks, privileges, powers, and status in that ruling class as being of primary importance to them. The only thing members can always agree on is defending themselves and each other from assaults on the ruling class.

This is a recipe for tyranny, corruption, and fiscal collapse, all of which we see in full play in these dangerous and degraded times.

And when you’re plunging off the cliff, accelerating at 32 feet per second per second, it’s disheartening in the extreme to realize that even if all of present-day Washington were dispatched to Sheol, the replacements — or at least, those who have manifested a desire to assume that role — are unlikely to slow us down to any better than 29.5.

Still, Stein’s Law prevails: something that can’t go on forever, won’t. The only question is whether we stop at the bottom, or somewhere above.

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And you’re so old

Last Wednesday, Paul Anka brought his road show to Warsaw, to make up for a concert appearance that had been canceled earlier.

How much earlier? Forty-eight years earlier:

Anka was about to finish his 1963 tour of Poland with a concert in Warsaw when it was learned that [John F.] Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. Anka could not perform on the evening of Nov. 22 and apologized to his Polish fans who had gathered in the Warsaw theatre for his concert: “I would beg for their assistance in making me feel that I will be doing no injustice to them and please, I’d like to say good night to them.”

Anka, now 70, will be back on this side of the pond later this week; he has US and Canadian shows planned for December.

(Title, of course, is from the first line of “Diana.”)

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Heavy Medicare thunder

I suppose I should be bothered by this:

The title was swiped from Rich Appel, who notes:

I’m sure everyone who was involved with “Born to Be Wild” isn’t laughing or shaking their head, because, well, Blue Cross is putting money in their pockets. Surely nothing to be scoffed at in this era, regardless of one’s convictions. The thought was probably, if Blue Cross wants to use the song, more power to them.

But it really compromises everything “Born to Be Wild” has ever stood for. You think?

I dunno. I figure if a song can survive being on the soundtrack of Herbie: Fully Loaded (in an energetic performance by The Mooney Suzuki), it can survive even this.

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Scrutinizing a fatter auto-insurance bill

I managed to go two years without a premium increase, and I figured that this happy situation couldn’t last. It didn’t. On the other hand, the actual bump is less than four percent — the insurance provider on my house should learn from this — and as is my wont, I’m providing a breakdown:

  • Liability (injury): up $14.60.
  • Liability (property): up $4.10.
  • Uninsured motorists: up $4.10.
  • Comprehensive: up $0.50.
  • Collision: down $11.10.
  • Road service: up $5.00.
  • Rental reimbursement: up $6.70.

Available discounts were increased by a buck. Total coverages remain unchanged.

If the next question is “Why are you carrying collision on an 11-year-old car on which you owe no money?” the answer is simply that if this thing gets banged up beyond repair, I’ll need the proceeds for a down payment on the next ride. And dropping it would save me less than $20 a month.

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We’ve had this recipe before

It was established long ago that Steve Lackmeyer’s favorite song is not Jimmy Webb’s Los Angeles epic “MacArthur Park,” as evidenced by this departure from his usual subject matter in order to bash one version thereof.

He was clearly not anticipating this response from the estimable GenghisKDuck on its applicability to Oklahoma City:

This would be an excellent name/theme song for the new park that’s going to be somewhere downtown there. I can see this all coming together. It’s like a subliminal park thing that was just kind of floating around that you probably weren’t aware of. A kind of visionary thing that hadn’t really gelled.

Think of it as a sideways method of honoring Jimmy Webb, who hails from these parts: he was born in Elk City. And while it’s not my favorite Webb song — for purely personal reasons, this is — the only real objection I can make to bestowing the MacArthur name on the new downtown park is to point out the fact that MacArthur Boulevard doesn’t come within six miles of it. Then again, anyone who’s figured out that Park Avenue and Park Place are a mile apart can presumably deal with that.

So far, Steve seems to be taking it well.

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