28 January 2009

(Click) "Did you hang up?" "No; I just said 'click'."

Hell, why not mandate 150-decibel klaxon horns for all video camcorders while you're at it?
A new bill introduced in the Congress by New York Republican Rep. Peter King requires mobile phones with digital cameras "to make a sound" when a photograph is taken. The move is part of the Camera Phone Predator Alert Act and the idea is to ensure privacy and safety of the public, especially children, claims the bill.
Children - we're always doing everything for the children, aren't we? Why just today I had to ask myself if I, myself, was doing enough for the children.
If enacted the bill would require any mobile phone in the US to make a sound "audible within a reasonable radius of the phone whenever a photograph is taken
with the camera in such phone."
How does this come about? Did one hysterical parent get into King's office and not leave until his intern drafted a one-sheet? Get ready, folks; government is here and it's here to help you. Even when you didn't need help. Oh, and here's the tax bill for that.

27 January 2009

DTV Brilliance

From Lileks via Twitter:
Why Rome fell: the Huns massed while the Romans were complaining about having to use a converter stylus to switch to a new kind of papyrus.

Blissfully Ignorant

Don't worry, fellow news reader; the Associated Press will sanitize it for you:

Supposedly no one has any clue who the perpetrators or the victims were, except that the AP hints the shooting might have been gang-related and tells us that "many of those at the house did not speak English." Did they speak any other language? The AP doesn't say.

(T)he story, as vaguely described as it was by the AP and the Eagle, reminded us of a scene from "Gran Torino," the new Clint Eastwood movie, which involves a Laotian gang in an inner suburb of Detroit. It says something about the state of journalism in Wichita that people who see Hollywood movies are better informed than people who read the local paper.

If you think the problem is Laotians, you're too smart by half; the problem is being too afraid to get into what's really behind the headlines, especially bad here because that's what news organizations are supposed to do.

26 January 2009

Cowards on Parade

To quote those Liverpool lads: "See how they run!"
The Senate on Monday voted unanimously to postpone the upcoming transition from analog to digital television broadcasting by four months to June 12 — setting the stage for Congress to pass the proposal as early as Tuesday.

Monday's Senate vote is a big victory for the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress, who have been pushing for a delay amid growing concerns that too many Americans won't be ready for the currently scheduled Feb. 17 changeover.
Boo hoo.
Obama earlier this month called for the transition date to be postponed after the Commerce Department hit a $1.34 billion funding limit for government coupons that consumers may use to help pay for digital TV converter boxes. The boxes, which generally cost between $40 and $80 each and can be purchased without a coupon, translate digital signals back into analog ones for older TVs.
The luddite converter boxes can be purchased ANYWAY! RIGHT NOW! They are in stock! Stop pussyfooting around because people are TOO CHEAP!

Let me repeat Rule #1 for the dumasses in congress - when something is free, the demand will be unlimited.

Cowardly lemmings; all of them: This once-great nation had 4-year's notice to get their own shit together. No one has a right to television, especially not on my (our) dime.

Light Reading

In the interest of seeing the bigger picture, here's a read from someone with lots of chips in the game:
If you take a longer timeframe, such as five to ten years, I am very optimistic that these problems will be behind us. A key reason for this is that innovation in every field—from software and materials science to genetics and energy generation—is moving forward at a pace that can bring real progress in solving big problems. These innovations will help improve the world and reinvigorate the world economy.
It's not like you're going to learn anything from listening to Robert Gibbs.

A Pax on Their House

I wonder what the everyday, American taxpayer, like me, can do to see to it that Citibank is rubbed off the face of the earth:

Beleaguered Citigroup is upgrading its mile-high club with a brand-new $50 million corporate jet - only this time, it's the taxpayers who are getting screwed.

Even though the bank's stock is as cheap as a gallon of gas and it's burning through a $45 billion taxpayer-funded rescue, the airhead execs pushed through the purchase of a new Dassault Falcon 7X . . .

A woman answering the phone at CitiFlight's private hangar in White Plains said she was "not authorized to release information" about the new jet. Dassault's US sales office declined to comment. Citigroup spokesman Stephen Cohen declined to comment.

President Obama offered no comment.

21 January 2009

Get on Board, or Else

For me, the difficulty in marching lock step with "seemingly everyone" for the next four years comes from the fact that I didn't just wake up politically after the most recent Iowa primary.

Liberals rightly recoil at the prospect of conservatives dictating which morals they should live by. Obama, though, has spent the past year preaching his own brand of morality — with a list of demands. Everyone, you see, "must" sacrifice. Michelle Obama recently explained, "Barack Obama will require you to work. . . . Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed." Those of us who refuse to buy left-wing orthodoxy will remain "uninformed" and, inevitably,

To require such fealty to power in the name of patriotism was once repugnant to the left. Now, with the right guy in charge, apparently it can once again be embraced.

Look, I AM rooting for the guy because I am rooting for us, as a nation. I want it all to be good for America but I continue to be creeped out by those who have never thought about the difference between sloganeering and governing.

20 January 2009

20 January 2009

Highlights for me:
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.

Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted -- for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom.

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions -- who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage. What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them -- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

No Class as Usual

It's always a media wannabe that demostrates no capacity for context, reverence or tradition. Wow - you figured it out; I guess you're going to heaven before the rest of us . . .
To the viewers of Top Gear, he is part man, part machine, with veins that course with petrol. But the true substance of “the Stig”, the BBC programme’s so-called tame racing driver, was revealed yesterday to be somewhat more prosaic.

The identity of the character, who test-drives cars around the Top Gear track, was divulged at the weekend as Ben Collins, a Bristol-based former American speedway driver and stuntman who doubled for Daniel Craig in the latest James Bond film.

Congratulations. Now go back to being nobody.

19 January 2009

Culture of Choice Creates Self-Induced Blindness

Mortman notes:
Peter Beinart, a liberal, has an interesting piece in today’s Washington Post: “Admit It: The Surge Worked.” It’s about Iraq. But buried in the piece is this fascinating swipe at Stephen Colbert:

Younger liberals, by contrast, have had no such chastening experiences. Watching the Bush administration flit from disaster to disaster, they have grown increasingly dismissive of conservatives in the process. They consume partisan media, where Republican malevolence is taken for granted. They laugh along with the “Colbert Report,” the whole premise of which is that conservatives are bombastic, chauvinistic and dumb. They have never had the ideologically humbling experience of watching the people whose politics they loathe be proven right. It’s a characterization of the premise of Colbert’s show — and by extension Jon Stewart’s? — that’s worth considering, at least in the context of what these comedians will find funny over the next four years.
Much more here on the whole idea of duping one's self to fit in with the "cool kids."

They hit Bush for everything — for the way he mangled syntax, for the books he read, because he worked out too much. Note now that the buff Obama is taking office, stories gushing about Obama's daily workouts flood the channels. Oh, yes, and the same people who belittled Bush for sending troops to war even though he only served in the National Guard somehow do not seem to notice Obama's utter lack of military experience . . .

"Growing into intellectual maturity has been, for me, largely a process of becoming free of the need to have my choices validated by the brothers," concludes Lowry: After many years I have come to understand that, until I became willing to risk the derision of the crowd, I had no chance to discover the most important truths about myself or about life — to know my calling, to perceive my deepest value commitments, and to recognize the goals most worth striving toward.

Right on.

How Do You Stay Vital?

Simple - make sure your interests have their own exeutive-branch pusher:

Quincy Jones: "I have traveled all over the world all the time for 54 years. The people abroad know more about our culture than we do," he said. "A month ago at my high school in Seattle, I asked a student if he knew who Louis Armstrong was. He said he had heard his name. I asked him about Duke Ellington and John Coltrane. He didn't even know their names. That hurts me a lot," Jones said.

Jones' lament seems far more of a condemnation of government schools than a lack of artistic production and knowledge. Additional government support would likely do for the arts what it's done for public education. Dismayingly, the Post reports that the leader of President-elect Obama's arts review transition team, William Ivey, has expressed some interest in this idea. Ivey, a former chairman of the arts endowment, wrote last year that the cultural environment had been neglected and needed to be fixed. "If the task requires consideration of a new government agency -- a Cabinet-level department of cultural affairs -- so be it," said Ivey.
The president's cabinet; keeping poverty, pollution, crummy housing (and sometimes war) in business since . . . forever.

17 January 2009

Pomp and Circumstance Now Sanctioned by the Networks

Watch out Tuesday; too much syrup will ruin your television:
The news media are giddy with excitement as Barack Obama’s Inauguration Day approaches but it would be a mistake to think reporters are always so worshipful of new presidents. While most presidents do start with a media honeymoon, a review of the past 20 years finds reporters are more celebratory when Democrats are taking over the White House, while coverage of GOP inaugurals has included a fair number of anti-conservative stinkbombs.

Bush’s second inaugural was met with far more hostility, with reporters attacking the $40 million price tag as obscene. “In a time of war and natural disaster, is it time for a lavish celebration?” ABC’s Terry Moran doubted. The AP’s Will Lester calculated that the money spent on Bush’s inaugural could vaccinate “22 million children in regions devastated by the tsunami....Do we need to spend this money on what seems so extravagant?” (Obama’s inaugural will cost $45 million.)

The day before Bush’s swearing-in, ABC’s Web site pleaded for tips of “any military funerals for Iraq war casualties scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 20.” Sure enough, then-ABC anchor Peter Jennings got his wish to report how “just about the time the president was speaking, there was a funeral for a young Marine reservist: 21-year-old Matthew Holloway was killed in Iraq last week by a roadside bomb.” Don’t look for the networks to use such tactics to sour Obama’s celebration.
Read it all.

Whistle. Stop.

Ah yes; the storied and historic whistle-stop train tour of the nation. How very presidential and classy. Hope he's stocked in lots of supplies for the transcontinental trip.

Or maybe the comically insignificant 140 miles from Philadelphia to Washington DC.

15 January 2009


Yesterday - "We will bury you."
Today - "Can you loan me a shovel?"
President Hugo Chávez, buffeted by falling oil prices that threaten to damage his efforts to establish a Socialist-inspired state, is quietly courting Western oil companies once again.

Until recently, Chávez had pushed foreign oil companies here into a corner by nationalizing their oil fields, raiding their offices with tax authorities and imposing a series of royalties increases. But faced with the plunge in prices and a decline in domestic production, senior officials here have begun soliciting bids from some of the largest Western oil companies in recent weeks . . .
Hugo Chávez - What a great world neighbor.
Chávez's olive branch to Western oil companies comes after he nationalized their oil fields in 2007. Two companies, Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips, left Venezuela and are still waging legal battles over lost projects.
Um, yea; you know how I screwed you over last time? I wonder if we can try again.
"An agreement on a piece of paper means nothing in Venezuela because of the way Chávez abruptly changes the rules of the game," said a Venezuelan oil executive who has had dealings with oil companies from China, Russia and other countries.

"Chávez is celebrating the demise of capitalism as this international crisis unfolds," said Pedro Mario Burelli, a former board member of Petróleos de Venezuela. "But the irony is that capitalism actually fed his system in times of plenty," he said. "That is something Chávez will discover the hard way."

Eric Holder - This is Your Life!

Tim Lynch @ CATO takes a walk down the AG nominee's memory lane:

6. In Mahoney v. Babbitt, 105 F.3d 1452 (1997), you signed a brief that took a bizzare view of free speech rights. You argued that people who support Bill Clinton could bring signs along the inaugural parade route, but that people who disliked Bill Clinton could be denied permits to bring signs to express their point of view. Where did you get that from? You say that as attorney general you would follow not only the letter but the spirit of the law, but your record does not support that.

Ricardo Montalban 1920-2009

The 'small Chrysler'? Holy cow . . .

11 January 2009

Don't Look Back in Anger

Class, Islam, Bush, Prop 8, bailouts; before you throw that last shovel of dirt on 2008, give it one last glance:
Once Bush was wounded over Iraq, his opponents smelled blood and jabbed at anything they could. Most current Senate civil libertarians voted for both the ‘that was then, this is now’ Iraq war and the Patriot Act, and oversaw the CIA and FBI as much as Bush did. A President Obama will not revoke all, or even most, of Bush’s supposedly unconstitutional measures. Why? Because he knows they did not end our civil liberties but most assuredly helped to keep us safe. In short, the media will grow silent as the issue now suddenly disappears—as we probably keep wiretapping and holding enemy combatants and terrorists in detention.

10 January 2009

Bad News for Chicken Little

I thought we were living in a Global Consensus; how did this contrarian information ever squeak out?
Thanks to a rapid rebound in recent months, global sea ice levels now equal those seen 29 years ago, when the year 1979 also drew to a close. Ice levels had been tracking lower throughout much of 2008, but rapidly recovered in the last quarter. In fact, the rate of increase from September onward is the fastest rate of change on record, either upwards or downwards.

As if it wasn't sad enough being Al Gore before this came out . . .

Father Time is Breaking Up That Old Gang of Mine

The Hee Haw reunion I've been hoping for is looking less and less likely all the time:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jon Hager, who performed in the musical comedy duo The Hager Twins on "Hee-Haw," has died. He was 67.

(Hee Haw producer Sam) Lovullo said Hager had been in poor health and was depressed since his identical twin brother, Jim Hager, died in May 2008.
That right there, friends, is an unwritten country music song.

My Favorite Band is Cooler Than Your Favorite Band

Thats Pretty Underground - Watch more Free Videos

Are You Among Obama's "Dumb?"

I feel a change in the airwaves!

President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team Thursday asked Congress to delay next month's planned switch to all-digital broadcast television. The incoming administration is warning that the TVs of millions of Americans could lose their pictures because of problems in the government's preparations.
He hasn't even taken the oath and he's mastered The Pander, and here's the type of loser (and voter he's pandering to:

As college football fans gathered at Steny’s Tavern in Milwaukee Thursday night, there were some who thought the Obama move was right on. Ricky Echols has a four
bedroom home with an analog television in each of those bedrooms. “You know you have to buy all those converters,” Echols said with a sweeping movement of his arms. “It’s just too much right now. I’m not ready. I’m not fully prepared.”
Ricky, you are too stupid for this world.

First, it's only TV. It's not food, shelter, human rights; it's TV so get some perspective. Second, everyone in this collection of states has had four-years of advance notice. On top of that, nanny government will bu you two boxes (whether you need them or not), so if you are caught out on February 17th, you don't deserve free TV, which is of such value in the first place.

But none of those obvious realities should get in the way of official government victimization:

Also on Thursday, Obama transition team co-chairman John Podesta said that with six weeks to go before the conversion authorized by Congress in 2005, officials remain concerned that elderly viewers, those in rural areas, people with low incomes and viewers with disabilities could be left in the dark.
See, if you live far from the tall city buildings, are not white, are over 50 or are missing a thumb like I am, you are clearly too stupid to have done anything to resolve your TV situation and now you need even more government handholding as you walk through this big scary world.

09 January 2009

Report on Asia Manouevers

I'm back in the saddle and it turns out "they" were right; the time change is tougher going west to east. At 7 last night I was a zombie, and at 4 this morning I was wide awake.

Quick recap: Mrs. Octane and I left the tundra on 20 December, spent a couple nights in Las Vegas where my brother-in-law lives and the three of us flew to General Santos City in the Philippines via San Francisco, Taipei, and Manila. After getting the tour and look-around from my father-in-law, his wife and their daughter, we all flew back to Manila on the 29th. On the 30th, BIL flew home to the states and the rest of us went on to Bangkok. We left Bangkok late on 2 January and retraced our steps back to Minnesota, getting home 4 January. As is my custom, I observed a lot of things:

Airports: First, BKK is really an amazing place. It's humongous, quite new, all glass, super modern, and it functions very well. It's maybe the most inspiring building I've been in architecturally speaking. TPE is nice but it's really one huge duty-free shop. I mean there's a bit of food, a currency exchange, even a museum, but not one news stand, magazine rack or place to get trail mix and one of those pens with the airplane that slides back and forth when you tip it up and down. MNL is a hit-and-miss affair as they utilize three very different terminals that are sometimes long shuttle rides to and fro. We nearly froze to death waiting 6 hours to check in and we're Minnesotans for crying out loud; just open the doors, Gloria; it was a perfect 72 degrees outside. GES is a quaint operations with its one entrance, two gates and no JetWays or taxiways; the planes turn around on big cul-de-sacs at the end of the runway. LAX usually creeps me out for reasons I can't quite pin down, but the burrito place in terminal 4 was just what I needed while we waited for our Vegas flight to be called. MSP, LAS, SFO are all just fine.

Airplane spotting is pretty fun. Lots of airlines and color schemes I'd never seen. In Taipei, I saw 10 China Air cargo 747s all lined up in a row, and in Los Angeles I saw a Qantas A380, which was not totally obfuscated by the Lufthansa 747 rolling in front of it. Whenever you fly over an ocean you always get the big-kid plane and better service. We flew Eva Air both ways over the Pacific and it was as nice as a 13-hour hump could be. I wholly endorse both Eva and the 777-300ER. On this trip we also flew on Northwest, United, Philippine Air and American. We we on board A320s, A330s, 757s, a 747 Combi and one dumpy old MD80 for the shortest of our dozen flights.

Anyone who says that only Americans stick out when they are overseas either hate Americans or have never been overseas themselves. Russians, Aussies, Japanese, Germans, Indians and Brtis are all fully capable of being loud, pushy, slobbed in t-shirts and flip flips and over-caloried.

Along those lines, it is not only the United States that is tight with its vehicles. In both the Philippines and Thailand, the rate of vehicle ownership is lower than the US, but there are cars, vans, SUVs, heavy trucks, small motorcycles, scooters and all sorts of unique contraptions on every road. The highways I saw in Thailand tended to be more modern than what I saw in Mindanao, and there are a lot more hired rides (jeepney, trike, tuk tuk) in both places, but both places do rely on internal combustion. In Thailand, large vans and SUVs are common, I even saw a drag strip outside of Bangkok. Most of Honda's vehicles are familiar to my eye; Civic, Accord, CRV, but Toyota has a lot of stuff I'd never seen - Innova, Wish, Harrier, Fortuner, Hilux, Estiva, Commuter, Vios and Avanza.

Both countries were heavily into the Christmas business. From the Muzak in airports to decor in stores and greetings by the locals, there was no 'happy holiday;' it was Merry Christmas. Maybe not so surprising in very Roman Catholic Philippines, but more so in very Buddhist Thailand, where they are clearly so secure in their own faith that being accommodating to Western tourists is no threat the their identity.

At the risk of sounding like Mr. Blackwell or a dirty old man, I have to say that Cathay Pacific cabin crew have the, uh, "smartest looking" uniforms; also nifty were Qatar Air, China Air and Eva.

Overly shy Midwesterners might want to leave their hyper modesty at home. Whether it's the locals bathing in canals or design of public restrooms or standard operating procedure of the masseuse, Thailand is no place to be a prude.

Tourist-centric or not, everyone we encountered was happy, polite and willing to help. Whether in a cab, restaurant, department store, airport, subway ticket booth, whatever; there were no surly, crabby, lazy, uptight grumps anywhere. Notice to waiters, bank tellers and bus drivers in my world - your crummy attitude will no longer roll off my back.

Other things I noticed:
  • Since the region is at about 15 degrees north latitude, residential satellite dishes point nearly straight up.
  • In the rural parts of the Philippines, someone is always burning something.

  • I didn't notice much smoking; I was mistakenly expecting smoking to be more commonplace that it was.

  • As a dog person, it was tough to ignore all the stray dogs.

  • No one has BlackBerries or iPhones; plain-jane Nokia's are the standard.

  • Even though I've accepted that tropical fruit just doesn't arrive here in perfect condition, I am now an a quest for pink guava juice.
In spite of our proximity to lost luggage, a deadly fire, a mall bombing, an earthquake, and an RPG attack down the street, it was great trip.