Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bad Bathroom Etiquette

Fair warning: if you're overly sensitive or squeamish about bathroom etiquette, this may not be the post for you.  It won't get gross or inappropriate, just...well...direct.  I'm speaking from a corporate America perspective, by the way, not a personal home perspective.  Different rules.

One of my pet peeves is bad bathroom etiquette.

There are only a few rare circumstances under which discussion can or should be started in the bathroom.  Generally speaking, just don't do it.  I don't want to chit-chat or small talk while you're standing next to me.  And yes, you're standing RIGHT next to me.  It's bad enough that every bathroom designer in America apparently thinks that 12" of wall space split by a divider that's approximately the size of a piece of construction paper is sufficient privacy.  I mean, seriously??  Ladies, you may complain about having to wait in line for one of only two stalls, but at least you have full walls and doors to surround you in a comforting shell of invisibility.  Would you rather deal with the potential of inadvertently bumping the woman next to you while you reach for the toilet paper?  I think not.

Regardless, as I'm standing shoulder to shoulder in an almost absolute lack of privacy and doing my business, I really don't want to talk to you about my day, my kids, your kids, the weather, the Chiefs, or anything else.  I want to get away from you.  It's nothing personal, you understand.  I just don't want to be in that sort of proximity for any longer than I have to.  I suspect you don't either (though if you're the type to strike up a conversation in this situation in the first place, maybe you do), so let's just call a spade a spade and get moving.  Talking just prolongs the experience and makes it more intimate, and if there is one place in the world I do not want more intimacy, it is in a corporate America bathroom.

Also, I really don't understand what's so hard about getting your used paper towels into the trash.  It doesn't take Wilt Chamberlain to drop wet paper into a wide open hole, just gravity and half of a functional thought.  I can't remember how many times I've watched a guy toss his trash at the can, miss, and continue on out of the bathroom.  Quite frankly, it's rude.  It's rude to the people who are paid to clean up the bathrooms, and it's rude to everyone who has to use the bathrooms and look at your nasty trash until someone cleans up after you, you lazy moron.

The worst thing for me, though, is what I've taken to calling the fwoosh-n-flick.  Some of you know what I'm talking about.  You do your business, you walk up to the sink, you stick one and a half fingers under the water in a hygenically-deficient fwoosh, then flick off the three drops of water that actually made their way onto your fingers.  And that's good enough for you.


If you think this is acceptable, I think you must have been born in a barn.  And you've lived in one your whole life, too.  There's a guy on my floor who subscribes to this theory of hand 'washing', and I can assure you I will never shake his hand.  Not only this practice downright gross, it's also hygenically irresponsible.  Don't get me wrong, I'm generally not a big fan of overreacting to health and germ issues, but still...that's crossing a line that just shouldn't be crossed.  Even if there were no germs involved...it's still crossing a line.  Perhaps the most astounding part of the fwoosh-n-flick, though, is what happens after those three drops of water are gone (wait for it)...

You go grab three paper towels and dry off your hands.

Pardon my language, but W.T.F.!

I know you didn't get enough clean water on your hands to require one paper towel, much less three.  The fact that you grabbed them and used anyway is essentially an admission that you really REALLY should have washed your hands in the first place.

And then you miss the trash can with your nasty trash.

Come on, people.  Leave the bad bathroom etiquette behind and join us in the 21st century.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fault Lines

Hot Air:

The earthquake near the nation’s capital this week prompted speculation about fault lines in the Washington DC area. This has actually been a hot topic for the White House, as it desperately searches for ways to blame the economic failures of Barack Obama on anyone but Barack Obama. The President and his team have repeatedly blamed “bad luck,” corporate jet owners, the Tea Party, and the weather for the malaise and high unemployment that have become hallmarks of his term in office. Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Michael Ramirez of Investors Business Daily puts the two stories into his singularly unique perspective:

IBD also has a stinging editorial about the economic failures of the Obama administration:

Obama likes to blame the depth of the downturn for the “painfully slow” recovery. “We didn’t get into this mess overnight, and we won’t get out of it overnight. It’s going to take time,” he said — nearly a year ago.

The claim is bogus. This recession lasted only slightly longer than the 1981-82 contraction — 18 months vs. 16 — and wasn’t as severe when measured by peak unemployment.

But the economy came screaming out of that downturn, and in three quarters was already well into an expansion. The 1973-75 recession lasted 16 months, but also took only three quarters to fully recover.

Obama’s also fond of blaming the sluggish recovery on the fact the recession resulted from a “financial crisis,” alleging that something about that kind of recession makes for a longer recovery time. But it’s not like all the other slumps didn’t have any hint of financial crisis behind them.

Now he and his friends have taken to blaming bad luck and Republican bad faith for supposedly weakening what had been an improving economy.

“In 2010 … we were growing,” Obama’s former chief economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said Thursday. “Now, at the beginning of this year, we get earthquakes, tsunamis, revolutions in the Middle East, European financial crises. Now we got earthquakes outside of Washington, D.C.”

But Obama’s recovery was vastly inferior to previous ones well before these alleged headwinds emerged. Plus, revised GDP numbers show that the recovery was softening throughout 2010, with GDP growth slowing in each successive quarter.

Small wonder Ramirez calls the White House the “epicenter of excuses.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Just Playin' Through

Check out these headlines:

US Jobless Claims Up, Gasoline Lifts Consumer Prices
One in five American children now living in poverty according to new report
Spending Cuts, Not Tax Hikes, Best for Deficit: NABE
World stocks plunge on growing recession fears
BofA layoffs are the latest as an industry shrinks
Green-jobs explosion a “pipe dream,” says … [the New York Times]

Now, in this context, what are The One and Sheriff Joe doing?

Goofing off. And golfing. Lots of golfing. No really, LOTS of golfing:
78th time, if you’re counting. Helps him think. After all, he’s gotta get that jobs package together, which he assures us will save the economy.
Oh, and isn't this a nice little bit of icing on the cake:
Michelle Obama Thursday traveled separately from President Obama to Martha’s Vineyard, costing taxpayers thousands in additional expenses to get her a few hours of extra vacation time.
So, while the American economy is crashing down around him, President Obama is, well...

The results of all this? New lows all around. How long to we have to wait until the election again? At this rate, Hillary needs to be gearing up pretty quickly.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Early Arm-Chair Quarterbacking

I'm pretty reluctant to spend too much time speculating specifically on the 2012 election. It's several months away from the point at which the nominees will be decided, and a few more months until the actual election. In other words, it's a political lifetime, and anything can happen. That said, we are getting close enough that the early pressure is starting to build, and with politics being politics, people can really shoot themselves in the foot or put themselves ahead with the smallest of things. I'll probably start working some election stuff in every now and then, but I'll try to make sure it's something that has some usefulness beyond pure speculation.

First in this line of thinking is a post at Hot Air:

In order to win re-election, Barack Obama really needs an economic renaissance. As James Pethokoukis reports for Reuters, it’s looking increasingly clear that he’s not going to get it. The big analysts are now banking on almost zero growth and even higher unemployment than we have now for next year’s presidential election:

The White House’s worst-case scenario for the economy on Election Day next year has become Wall Street’s baseline scenario. After looking at a string of weak economic reports and Europe’s growing fear of debt meltdown and contagion, JPMorgan – led by Obama pal Jamie Dimon – has just come out with a politically poisonous forecast.

The megabank now thinks the economy won’t grow much faster over the next 12 months than it did during the first half of this year — and that’s assuming Europe doesn’t go all pear shaped. It sees GDP growth at just 1.5 percent this year, 1.3 percent next year with unemployment at … 9.5 percent heading into the final days of the election season. “The risks of recession are clearly elevated,” the bank said. Here’s its reasoning:

Consumer sentiment has tumbled and household wealth has deteriorated. Survey measures of capital spending intentions have moved lower and the housing market shows little sign of lifting. Small businesses, retailers, builders and manufacturers all report a weaker business environment. Global growth has disappointed and foreign growth forecasts have been taken lower. In response we are lowering our projection for growth, particularly in the quarters around the turn of the year.

Team Obama had better permanently shelve any plans of running a “Morning in America”campaign. In fact, if a) the economic forecasts of Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs are accurate, and b) voters behave as they usually do during bad economic times, then c) Barack Obama will be a one-term president. No president in the modern era has been reelected with the unemployment rate higher than 7.4 percent, much less two percentage points higher.

It’s worth noting that we’d have to actually improve to get to 1.5% GDP growth in 2011. The advance Q2 number was 1.3%, and the Q1 figure got downgraded to 0.4%. So far, there have been no indications of improvement by the middle of Q3, and the Philly Fed economic index drop suggests a weaker GDP number for this quarter. If we stay in the mid-1% range for an extended period of time, we will start losing net jobs again, which will feed into the pressure on Obama.

Basically, we’re looking at a replay of 1980′s election, and perhaps even the 1976 election as well, although that had a lot of other baggage than just economic malaise, such as Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon and general anger at Republicans for Watergate. George H. W. Bush lost his re-election bid after the economy tipped over into a mild recession in 1990-1 and had already begun recovering by 1992; Clinton ran on the economy and managed to win it in a three-way race. These kind of economic numbers suggest a landslide defeat for Obama. Even if they turn out to be a little on the pessimistic side, Obama won’t get much support for, say, 2.2% growth and 8.7% unemployment by next summer.

Can Obama make the election next year about anything else but the economy? The only issue that voters care about at even close to the same level is the federal budget deficit and the debt, where Obama wants to raise taxes and leave the drivers of debt and deficits – entitlement programs – largely alone. Unless Obama manages to score a big victory on national security, this next election is looking pretty grim. And Obama can ask Bush 41 about how much a big victory over Saddam Hussein in 1991 helped him in the 1992 election.

I think there's a lot of red meat here, and much of it is stuff that I've mentioned before. The economy is almost always the #1 issue for most voters (the only notable exceptions being active war sometimes taking precedence). If the economy turns around between now and election day, Obama is likely a shoe-in for a second term. However, if things get worse -- or even if they stay the same -- things are going to get ugly for him.

The Democrat talking points are going to be something along the lines of:
- yesbut yesbut...if we hadn't done what we did, things would have been much worse
- yesbut yesbut...we could have accomplished so much more if it weren't for those awful obstructionist Republicans Don't fall for either of these tactics. The facts don't support them. There's absolutely no way to prove how much worse things would have been, and there's a lot of evidence suggesting that what Obama did actually made things worse themselves. If debt and spending are the problem (and I don't think even the Dems would disagree with that assertion at this point) then how is more debt and more spending going to solve the problem? It just makes the problem worse. Reality has been affirming this exact point for the past two and a half years. Remember these charts, and in particular the one of all of the recessions and recoveries over the past several decades:

These are no-brainers. If you talk with someone about this and they give you that 'so much worse' line, just show them these charts and ask them to explain how Obama's actions have helped us out.

The second argument is even easier. In order to obstruct, the minority party has to have enough members to actually stop something on a vote. Here's the not-so-secret secret: from 2007 until January of this year, the Democrats ran Congress. And, obviously, starting in January of 2009, they ran both Congress and the White House. And, also up until earlier this year, they had veto-proof majorities. The Republicans couldn't have obstructed anything if they'd tried.

Another thing that is blindingly obvious about this argument is that Obama got everything he wanted. TARP? Check. Stimulus? Check. Obamacare? Check. Bank bailouts? Check. Insurance company bailouts? Check. Takeover of car companies? Check. The list goes on and on. He got every single one.

So again, I ask you: what obstruction? There was none from Republicans until the beginning of this year, and even that has been lukewarm at best. Don't allow these fallacious arguments to go uncontested.

So, back to Hot Air's point. If things don't improve big-time, Obama is looking at essentially the perfect storm of debacles for his re-election campaign. I've still never been convinced that Hillary isn't out there waiting in the wings, patiently biding her time, waiting to step in. Not even Obama can overcome everything, and given
what is potentially brewing against him, if he remains the head of the Democrat party, we could see a monumental shift away from Democrats like we haven't seen in decades. Don't think for a moment that the power brokers behind the scenes will allow that do happen.

If things don't improve, I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Obama 'chose' not to run for re-election, and Hillary stepped in to fill his shoes.

Time will tell, but as the ugliness continues to grow, I personally think it's more and more likely.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Power Line Blog held a prize competition for $100,000 for whoever can most effectively and creatively dramatize the significance of the federal debt crisis. Any creative product was eligible: videos, songs, paintings, screenplays, Power Point presentations, essays, performance art, or anything else.

Several entries have gotten a lot of attention and a lot of views or listens. But unquestionably, the one that has most gone viral so far is Doorbell.

Cable Customer Bill Of Rights

Amen, amen, AMEN!  From the folks at Gizmodo:

Over the past few days, we've received more than 1,000 horror stories about bad cable experiences: tales of bad techs, terrible service, and troubling billing practices. We used those to build a cable customer's bill of rights.

As we read our readers' stories, we noticed patterns. The same things go wrong again and again. The same things keep popping up. And it turns out, what we expect is really quite simple. We want to get what we pay for; we don't want to pay for things we don't use; we expect to be treated fairly and honestly. This is what we expect of our cable companies. These are our basic rights.

Or at least, they should be.

1. We should be able to choose the channels we want

And more to the point, we ought to be able to only pay for the channels we select. Hundreds of channels are meaningless if we only watch a dozen. We (almost) all have digital boxes now. A la carte pricing is feasible, and reasonable. Make it happen.

2. Appointments should be kept

If we've taken a half day off of work to wait for a cable technician, the tech should show up: on time, as promised. If a tech will be late, we deserve a phone call to let us know that. No shows are completely unacceptable.

3. Installation windows should be no longer than two hours

But we shouldn't have to take a half day off of work at all. We really want to be able to schedule an appointment at a particular point in time. But we understand: The cable guy has to crawl through an attic at midnight in rural New Hampshire before he can to get to us, or whatever. Fine. If you have to use a window, make it reasonable. We're willing to accept two hours. Don't make us wait longer than that.

4. Get it right the first time

Look, Kabletown, it costs you money every time you have to send a tech to our pad. Do yourself—and us—a favor: Implement a process where you verify everything to the customer's satisfaction at the end of a service appointment. The tech should arrive with all the equipment he or she needs, even if that means driving a rolling electronics shop. If you have to come out a second time, compensate us for our time.

5. Deliver the speed we pay for

Hey Mr. Cable Operator: Have you seen speedtest.net? Because we have. And all too often. Many of us are not getting the speeds we're paying for. Don't blame this on our router. Don't blame it on our Mac. We're too smart for that. And we don't care what's going on in our neighborhood. That doesn't matter! What matters is that we're paying for more than we're receiving. Fix it, or give us a refund.

6. Make our bills clear and detailed

Speaking of speed, print it on our bill. Don't say we're paying for "blast," and then make us have to go look that up online. Print that we're paying for 20Mbps downloads. Instead of printing "x6" print "six month introductory rate." Print the date that discount ends. Don't use abbreviations. Don't surprise us.

7. Our bills should be accurate

It's infuriating that we even have to mention this, but we do. Please don't bill us for services we don't use or equipment we don't have. Don't double bill us in two locations when we move. Don't end our teaser rates before they expire. Don't charge us more than you offered us on the phone.

8. Don't cap our bandwidth

Look. We like to play games. We have roommates. We stream Netflix and Hulu and ESPN. We need a lot of bandwidth. That's why we have cable Internet to begin with. Sometimes, we'll need more than 250GB a month. Sometimes, it's going to be a lot all at once. If you feel like you must institute a bandwidth cap, make that plain. Mark it in bold text on the service plan itself. Tell us when we call you to sign up. Make it just as apparent as the speed you're advertising. Better yet, why cap it at all? Give us an unlimited option. We'll pay for it. At least for now.

9. Equip your call centers to do everything

Your call centers ought to be able to handle anything we send their way, from getting a tech to our place, to fixing a problem on our bill, to getting us new equipment. We don't care where they are, just what they can do. It doesn't matter if we're calling Bangalore, India or Bangor, Maine; whoever we talk to should be able to handle all our problems. No, we don't want to hold while you transfer us. No, we don't want to call a different number.

10. Honor all your offers

No matter where you make an offer, you ought to honor it. Don't advertise one rate online and then tell us we can't have it because we called in. If you're offering a discount on the Internet, it should be available whether we call you up, walk into an office, or telex you our credit card number. All of your sales staff should know about it, and be able to access it no matter where they work. When you tell us that the offer we saw online is only available if we sign up over the Internet, we feel lied to. And we hate feeling lied to.

Or screwed.  That feeling sucks, too.  Both are common when dealing with cable companies.  Now, if only we could somehow magically enforce these rules on them...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Uncannily Accurate

This is my life...

Except for the part about getting to schedule my own meetings, of course.

Stop-Motion Star Wars Beauty

Everyone knows the iconic profile of the Millennium Falcon. What you may not know is how it was built. Here are two fantastic versions. If you have less than 90 seconds to watch, go for the first one; if you want the full definitive movie, go for the second.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Debt-End Bus Tour

I know, I couldn't stay away for long. But I just had to give an update on the ridiculous bus tour that Barack Obama is perpetrating conducting right now. There's too much there to ignore.

First off, you know it's a transparent sham when even the AP calls it 'a hunt for photo ops'. Funded by taxpayers, naturally. The bottom line in all the posturing, though, is the question of what Obama is doing (or going to do) about the economy. He has yet to put forward any kind of a plan despite repeated assertions that his position and plan are 'well known' to everyone. Of course, since the CBO can't score speeches, that's precisely what Obama's next solution is going to be: another speech. Skepticism abounds:

After months under fire for producing no plan to address the debt, deficit and unemployment, the president has at last decided to … give another speech. The Washington Times reports:

Seeking a jolt for a wilting economy, President Obama will give a major speech in early September to announce new ideas for speeding up job growth and helping the struggling poor and middle class, a senior administration official told the Associated Press.

The president’s plan is likely to contain tax cuts, jobs-boosting infrastructure ideas and steps that would specifically help the long-term unemployed. The official emphasized that all of Mr. Obama’s proposals would be fresh ones, not a rehash of plans he has pitched for many weeks and still supports, including his “infrastructure bank” idea to finance construction jobs.

On a significant and related front, Mr. Obama also will present a specific plan to cut the suffocating long-term national debt and to pay for the cost of his new short-term economic ideas.

His debt proposal will be bigger than the $1.5 trillion package that a new “supercommittee” of Congress must come up with by late November.

Hmm. Sounds a little like the budget speech he gave in April — a roundabout way of addressing the problem without addressing the problem and, more importantly, without committing to a concrete plan.
Hot Air also adds this:
More not to look for: Any assumption of responsibility from the president, who, as he has toured the Midwest to make the case to the American people that he has “stabilized” the economy ... has made a point to paint an image of this Congress as the do-nothing obstacle to his purportedly proactive leadership.
Yep, that seems to be one of his recurring themes these days. Of course, even that facade will only happen after his next vacation. Upon hearing that news, Donald Trump mused that Obama 'takes more vacations than any other human being' he's ever seen. Hard to argue with that, really.

Since there's a complete lack of official plannage right now, let's look at some of the things Obama's minions are saying. Their favorite word seems to be 'stimulus'. More specifically, they think 'stimulus' is what is needed. Of course, it would be wise to examine what they consider to be 'stimulus'. We all remember the infamous cash dumps from a couple years ago that did absolutely nothing to stimulate the economy, but what are they talking about now? Try
more food stamps. No, I'm not kidding. That's as a follow up to other great stimulus ideas like extending jobless benefits and preparing for a space invasion. All good stuff, to be sure, and probably at least part of the reason that Obama's approval rating on the economy is at a new all-time low:

Almost 50 points underwater on the seminal issue of the age. If that holds and he figures out a way to get reelected anyway, maybe he really is the messiah.

That had better be some speech next month, champ.

A new low of 26% of Americans approve of President Barack Obama’s handling of the economy, down 11 percentage points since Gallup last measured it in mid-May and well below his previous low of 35% in November 2010.

Obama earns similarly low approval for his handling of the federal budget deficit (24%) and creating jobs (29%).

Note well: Among independents he’s under 50 percent on all seven key metrics, bottoming out in the low 20s on jobs and the economy and in the teens on the deficit.

Over at Rasmussen, the number who say the country’s on the right track stands at a sparkling 15 percent, down 10 points in just a month.
His approval ratings are making gravity look sluggish. This is what continually amazes and dismays me about the current Republican leadership - they should be hammering away at these numbers day in and day out, boldly and aggressively attacking on every front. *sigh*

But trifle not a liberal with fact or reality! Obama is still peddling the notion that we're not in danger of another recession:

Who wants to be the one to tell him?

“I don’t think we’re in danger of another recession, but we are in danger of not having a recovery that’s fast enough to deal with a genuine unemployment crisis for a whole lot of folks out there,” Mr. Obama told CBS News Senior Business Correspondent Anthony Mason. “And that’s why we need to be doing more.”…

“What is absolutely true is confidence matters,” Mr. Obama replied. “We should not have had any kind of brinksmanship around the debt ceiling.”

“I wish [House Speaker John Boehner] had taken me up on a grand bargain to deal with our long term debt and deficit,” he said. “We still have the opportunity to fix that. It’s not too late. I will be putting forward a plan that will be similar to the plan I put forward to the speaker.”

Translation: If we do end up in a double dip, it’ll be your fault. Just like everything else.

I dunno, I might actually agree with him on this one. It truly can't be said we're in danger of another recession when we actually haven't pulled out of the first one yet. But, that's a debate for another time.

Anyway, the mind-bogglingly bass-ackwards nature of this bus tour doesn't end with the economic facts of the day. Oh, no, there's a healthy dose of hypocrisy, too. Get a load of this...
[W]hile Obama’s public remarks were often filled with implicit threats against resistant Republicans, he also talked at length about the promise and potential of America, and how the three days viewing the country aboard a specially outfitted bus had reminded him of that.


He touched upon red-blooded American motifs. “We’ve got folks in America driving Kias and Hyundais. I want to see folks in Korea driving Fords and Chryslers and Chevys,” Obama said Tuesday in Peosta. “ I want to sell goods all over the world that are stamped with three words: 'Made in America.'”
All fine and good. But the buses he's using on this tour were custom made for this trip...in Canada. One Republican Congressman commented, "Well, I guess he not only likes Canadian health care, but he likes Canadian RV's". Indeed. And has anyone stopped to ask why the colors of these buses are black and red (colors long associated with Communism) rather than red, white, and blue? And what about the sheer green-ness of the whole thing? After all, it's a 40-car 2-minute procession everywhere it goes? How many trees are being planted to compensate for the evil, EVIL carbon footprint he's laying down all over these states? Hypocrisy abounds, my friends.

With liberals, it always does.

Special bonus feature for the day: Real or Fake (government spending, that is)? Watch all the way to the end...

Who says we can't make actual cuts in government...?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Book Of Eli

Okay, let's take a break from politics for a moment. A non-politics blog post I've wanted to do for a long time is a review of the movie The Book of Eli.

First off, if you're the type to avoid spoilers, stop reading now. This movie has been out for almost a year, so if you haven't seen it by now, you're not likely to do so...unless you suddenly find a compelling reason. So, in the interest of, well, sparking interest, I'm going to share a bunch of spoilers. You've been warned.

Starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, and Mila Kunis, this story is set in a post-apocalyptic future thirty years from now. Brutality and bare subsistence is the order of the day, and humanity has largely been reduced to a violent and meager lot trying to eek out a miserable existence in a washed-out and barren world, with few old enough to remember what it was like before the bombs went off. One of those is Eli (played by Washington), a wanderer who carries with him a book -- the Bible -- and a single directive from God: to protect the book and go West.

Along the way, he meets a ruthless thug named Carnegie (Oldman) who more or less runs a town by virtue of his control of the water supply. He, too, is old enough to remember the world before the bombs, and knows the power that resides in 'the book'. Unlike Eli, however, his motivation is purely selfish, and he lusts for the book only as a means to control the people. Copies of the book are essentially non-existent, however, and a throwaway line in the movie explains that survivors blamed the bombs on the book, so all copies were burned years ago. When Carnegie hears that Eli carries the book, he will stop at nothing to trade for or steal it.

One of his attempts to get the book is by forcing a girl in his employ
named Solara (Kunis) to try to seduce Eli. Eli gently turns her down, and instead shows her how to pray. This is the first time we really see the stark difference between Eli and the rest of the world. Eli, of course, refuses to be taken in by Carnegie's schemes, and moves on from the town. Solara follows him to enlist his help, and it's not long before Eli saves Solara from roadside thugs. Carnegie, too, is pursuing Eli, all pretenses at negotiation for the book gone. On the run, Eli defends himself and Solara against Carnegie's forces while teaching Solara a completely different outlook on life, relationships, and the world, all based on what he'd learned from the book. Eli seems to be protected from on high, avoiding attack after attack, bullet after bullet, burning through Carnegie's henchmen at a startling rate and almost inerrant in his own fighting technique. Carnegie isn't so lucky, however, and gets shot in one of the melees. Not surprisingly given the state of the world, his wound becomes infected.

Eventually, Carnegie's brutality and obsession overcomes Eli's defenses, as Eli is shot and left for dead, and both Solara and the book fall into Carnegie's hands. Solara escapes and comes back for Eli, only to find that he is staggering onward (to the West) despite his injury. When questioned by Solara, Eli explained that he'd spent so many years protecting the book that he forgot to live by what it said. He'd been given a message by God, and he would follow it to the end while trusting God to hold him up along the way.

Carnegie lets them go, exultant with finally owning the book he had sought for so long, only to find out that the book that Eli had guarded so fiercely was written in Braille, and completely useless to Carnegie. As this realization dawns, he is overcome by his infected wound, and as he becomes weaker and weaker, he realizes that his pursuit of Eli and the book has reduced his henchmen -- and thus his power and influence -- to such an extent that he is vulnerable to a revolting citizenry. Justice is served.

In the meantime, Eli and Solara find their way to the West Coast, and San Francisco. There they find a pocket of civilized people, struggling to rebuild human society and rise out of the morass that mired the rest of the world. They had just completed the construction of the first post-apocalypse printing press and were trying to collect works of literature and religion for printing and distribution. After traveling West for years with nothing for companionship but the Bible, Eli has the whole thing memorized and dictates it for the printer shortly before he dies. Thus, the Bible takes a prominent place in the new birthplace of human education and learning. Eli's mission is complete.

This movie is not for the faint of heart, nor the flimsy of stomach. Several parts are pretty graphically brutal, and many others strongly imply behavior that any normal person would find beyond repugnant. However, I believe the brilliance of this movie is that these characteristics are peripheral, and used primarily to amplify the core message of the story: faith in God's ability to provide and protect, if we would only trust in Him.

If you look at the Bible (and, for that matter, at history), you'll see over and over that God's awesomeness, faithfulness, and power are most on display when humanity is at its worst. Time after time, the Israelites turned away from God, but God never turned away from them. Jesus Christ was brutally punished, tortured, and executed for the crime of being the only perfect man to walk the Earth, and the Son of God. Saul, a ruthless antagonist to early Christians, converted to the second most prominent figure in the New Testament, and is largely responsible for spreading Christianity to the Gentiles. The list of examples is vast, and continues with relatively contemporary examples like Victor Frankl in the Nazi extermination camps, missionaries serving the primitive tribes who killed their relatives, and so on. There is nothing that humanity can do that is so evil that God cannot transform it into beauty and redemption. This movie illustrates that idea incredibly well.

No doubt some will say that such violence and vicious conflict isn't necessary to illustrate God's love for humanity, and that's probably true. But think about every impactful and emotional story you've ever heard, seen or read - didn't it include a generous amount of antagonism before the triumphant conclusion? What good is any story without conflict? B.O.R.I.N.G. Conflict is required, and the bigger the conflict the more satisfying the victory. It's storytelling at its core, and this particular story is a diamond.

Not understanding why, and not knowing his destination, Eli nevertheless forged ahead on faith, even when the book was no longer in his hands. His is a story of faith in God, and one that illustrated just how capable God was of fulfilling his promise of protection and providence. There were plenty of trials and grievous wounds to Eli along the way, and he could have bailed at any point during those difficulties, but he didn't. Because of his faith, God remained steadfast to Eli through it all, and all of humanity would be blessed because of it. I think this is a lesson that most of us could take to heart in our own lives.

Some movies try to be somewhat circumspect in their treatment of Christian values. The Chronicles of Narnia movies are obvious references to Christianity...for Christians. But I think that it's very possible for non-believers to completely miss the secondary meanings of so much in there. Not so with The Book of Eli. The Christian message is overt, Scripture is commonplace, and I don't see how it could be mistaken. I was genuinely shocked at the fact that this movie ever came out of Hollywood.

So, is this a good movie? No. It's a great movie. It's got action, heroism, a vile villain, thought-provoking emotion, and a walloping good message. Is this a movie for everyone? Absolutely not (under no circumstances should children be allowed to watch this!). But if you can get past the objectionable stuff, this one is well worth watching.

For a first-hand look, here's the official trailer:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

You're Supremely Dense

That's really the only possible conclusion one can come to when contemplating that Barack Obama has embarked upon a bus tour of Midwestern swing states to 'let the president hear stories from real Americans across the country who are suffering from the effects of a slumping economy', and apparently thinks that you're going to buy it.

Sure, he knows what's really got people down. But that's all according to his plan, and he'd rather campaign and nail down some good photo ops of him being thoughtful and sober as he 'listens' to those people who are having a rough time. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney mocked the whole thing as a 'magical misery tour', and he's right.

Of course, this bus tour is probably the direct result of the Obama administration to bolster his deflating approval ratings, which are at an all-time low: 39%. Shockingly, the liberal media is keeping mostly mum about that little fact (in contrast, they counted down the percentage points during George W. Bush's entire presidency), but the truth is the truth, and that's what it is.

But never trouble a liberal with facts. You know, facts like the real causes of the economic slump, and the commensurate plummet in his approval ratings. No, no, Obama is out there maintaining that the problem is essentially everything but him:
At a town hall meeting on his campaign-style tour of the Midwest, President Obama claimed that his economic program "reversed the recession" until recovery was frustrated by events overseas. And then, Obama said, with the economy in an increasingly precarious position, the recovery suffered another blow when Republicans pressed the White House for federal spending cuts in exchange for an increase in the national debt limit, resulting in a deal Obama called a "debacle."

"We had reversed the recession, avoided a depression, gotten the economy moving again," Obama told a crowd in Decorah, Iowa. "But over the last six months we've had a run of bad luck." Obama listed three events overseas -- the Arab Spring uprisings, the tsunami in Japan, and the European debt crises -- which set the economy back.

Right. Disregard the almost trillion-dollar stimulus that stimulated nothing, disregard the almost trillion-dollar TARP (technically, he wasn't in office yet, but he was pushing hard for it as the Dem nominee) that propped up foreign banks but failed to prompt domestic banks to lend, disregard the bailouts/takeovers of hundreds of banks, insurance institutions, and car companies, disregard the multi-trillion-dollar budgets that he's pushed out, and disregard the multi-trillion-dollar Obamacare he shoved down our throats. All of these things were signed into law over the will of the American people and have poured gasoline onto the embers of the economic trouble we had, stoking a massive bonfire...but never mind all that. It was the tsunami, the Arab spring (whatever the heck that is), and Europe being irresponsible (which is ironic, considering he's implementing very European policies here...).

Here's a great example of how Obama's policies are failing right before our eyes. Take his yammering about being 'green'. One of the companies he visited a while back where he gave a rousing speech about the value of 'green' jobs is Massachusetts-based Evergreen Solar, which is the third largest solar panel manufacturer in the U.S. Back in March of 2009, Obama used Evergreen as a shining example of what green jobs should be, and their latest effort was promised to provide 800 jobs in a thriving industry. Unfortunately, they're now going bankrupt. And sending their jobs overseas to China.

You see, the dirty little secret is that none of these 'green' industries can sustain themselves without massive infusions of cash from the government. Ethanol? It causes food shortages in third world countries, and
more energy is required to make a gallon of ethanol than that same gallon provides in a gas tank. Wind power? It's only viable in certain small areas of the country with enough regular wind to keep 'em spinning, and even then there are gas-powered generators as backup systems (because it costs more to let them stop and start as the wind dictates). Oh, and these same liberals who insist on using wind power also refuse to have windmills sully their landscape views of the ocean, where wind power might actually be useful. Solar panels? Well, look no further than Evergreen for that story.

This is what happens when the government tries to artificially induce favored industries and technologies for political reasons. They fail. Expensively.

This is typical liberalism, and typical of the Obama administration. It's got to stop, and we've got to establish some sort of fiscal sanity before our ship of state goes completely underwater. You're not dense, and neither is the American people. Obama just thinks you are.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Catching Up

Sorry for the lack of posts lately.  I've been studying for the GMAT test over the past couple of weeks, and the last few days in particular have been full of data sufficiency problems and arcane algebraic scribbles.  Ugh.

But, that's over now, I got the score I needed, and now I can get back to something resembling normal life.  Of course, I'm going to be taking a few days off here, so regular posting won't come back quite yet.  :)

However, I wanted to leave you with just a few thoughts...

Barack Obama's approval rating is at its lowest point ever (maybe that's partly because he prefers to celebrate Muslim holidays rather than Christian ones).  Most Americans
(73%) think the nation is on the wrong track.  Most Americans (63%) understand what the political class doesn't seem to get (or refuses to acknowledge): the key is to ACTUALLY  CUT SPENDING.  And finally, in case you're stressed about all the negative press about the Tea Party...more voters express more confidence in the Tea Party to understand the real problems we face and do the right thing than Congress.

The battle for the American people has been won, friends.  Now we just have to take on the idiots in Washington.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Speaking Of Downgrades

Jim Geraghty nails it in his daily email blast:

You don't see a lot of late-Friday-afternoon posts, and by Friday evening, the computer is off, the kids are running around, and dinner is in progress. Barring some developments that are impossible to ignore, such as Osama bin Laden being killed, I try to fast from news for 48 hours or so.

Boy, was this a good weekend to avoid the news.

The rumors were out by 5 p.m., but a little after 8 p.m., it was official from Standard & Poors:

We have lowered our long-term sovereign credit rating on the United States of America to 'AA+' from 'AAA' and affirmed the 'A-1+' short-term rating. . . .

The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics.

More broadly, the downgrade reflects our view that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges to a degree more than we envisioned when we assigned a negative outlook to the rating on April 18, 2011. . . .

We could lower the long-term rating to 'AA' within the next two years if we see that less reduction in spending than agreed to, higher interest rates, or new fiscal pressures during the period result in a higher general government debt trajectory than we currently assume in our base case.

That's a thoroughly depressing -- and no doubt, brutally honest -- assessment.

Naturally, the Obama administration did what it does best in response: They blamed their political opponents.

This was a "tea party downgrade," said [Obama's chief strategist David] Axelrod on CBS News' Face the Nation.

Axelrod said S&P's decision was "largely a political analysis." "And that's what we should focus on because what they were saying is they want to see the political system work. They want to see a sense of compromise. They want to see the kind of solution that the president has been fighting for, a large solution that will deal with the problem, that will be balanced, that will include revenues."

Instead, said Axelrod, conservative, Tea Party-influenced Republicans "played brinksmanship with the full faith and credit of the United States. And this was the result of that."

"It was the wrong thing to do to push the country to that point" he said. "And it's something that should never have happened. And that clearly is on the backs of those who were willing to see the country default, those very strident voices in the tea party."

Of course. Nothing's ever their fault.

Actually, look above at that S&P statement. It doesn't say anything about increasing revenues. In fact, in the full statement, you'll see, "
Standard & Poor's takes no position on the mix of spending and revenue measures that Congress and the Administration might conclude is appropriate for putting the U.S.'s finances on a sustainable footing."

It is revealing that Axelrod can look at this and declare, "They wanted to see revenues."

Doug Powers
has had it:

For the first two years of Obama's presidency, the Democrats, including one John Kerry who now wants everybody to believe he's become a reborn frugalitarian, had full control of the Senate and House. At that point the Democrats could have done anything, including cutting back spending to sane levels (pause for laughter), but instead they went on a wild spending binge and presided over the largest expansion of government since World War II. . . .

Tea Party members of Congress should propose a new round of cuts to match what John Kerry says were on the table just to get to the level of responsible spending these Democrats are trying to have everybody believe they've been after all these years. It would be a nice outreach in the spirit of bipartisanship.

I like Ed Morrissey's analysis:

S&P didn't say anything yesterday that was not common knowledge and common sense. If you had to rate a potential investment that had an income of, say, $22,000 a year but had costs of $37,000 per year, a standing debt of $143,000, and contracted future debt that exceeded $1 million, would you give that investment a gold-plated AAA rating and buy their bonds at the lowest interest rate possible, or at all? Of course not, but that's exactly the fiscal situation of the US, at a 100,000,000:1 scale.

The anger is mainly misdirected. The media wants to blame the Tea Party, but the Tea Party wants to solve the actual problem -- overspending and over-commitment to entitlement programs. The Tea Party wants to blame the Obama administration, and it deserves some blame for refusing to address the real structural problems of the US fiscal condition. But that fiscal structure far predates Barack Obama, both as President and as human being, and Congresses and White Houses of both parties have done little to address the real problems in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

Why? Because as soon as people try to do so, demagogues accuse them of wanting to push Grandma over a cliff. Voters respond by punishing the reformers and rewarding the demagogues.

Nonetheless, the reckoning is at hand, and we can see who sees this depressing fiscal development as another crisis to not be wasted, another opportunity to demonize the opposition. It's what they've been doing since day one.

I'm reminded of Daniel Hannan's remarks to former U.K. prime minister Gordon Brown, and can't resist paraphrasing: "Soon the voters too will get their chance to say so. They can see what the markets have already seen: that you are the downgraded president of a downgraded country."

In closely related news:

Fewer voters than ever feel the federal government has the consent of the governed.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 17% of Likely U.S. Voters think the federal government today has the consent of the governed. Sixty-nine percent (69%) believe the government does not have that consent. Fourteen percent (14%) are undecided. ...

The number of voters who feel the government has the consent of the governed - a foundational principle, contained in the Declaration of Independence - is down from 23% in early May and has fallen to its lowest level measured yet.

Perhaps it's no surprise voters feel this way since only eight percent (8%) believe the average member of Congress listens to his or her constituents more than to their party leaders. That, too, is the lowest level measured to date. Eighty-four percent (84%) think the average congressman listens to party leaders more than the voters they represent.

Voter approval of the job Congress is doing has fallen to a new low - for the second month in a row. Only six percent (6%) now rate Congress' performance as good or excellent.

This is why I call the current crop of elected Republicans incompetent. We know that elected Democrats are doing their damnedest to remake transform destroy America in terms of the nation it was founded to be, and has been for the past 230+ years. There is enough evidence that anyone with a quarter of a working brain can see that (if they're willing). What is surprising is that there is currently no real counter to their hellbent destructive rampage.

With this kind of dissatisfaction running rampant throughout the country, it should be easy for Republicans to take the path that is both the right thing to do and the one that scores political points.

They're just not doing it.

Here's the key question: in the chaos that is sure to ensue as markets gear up post-downgrade, will anyone in Washington stand up and demand fiscal responsibility, or will we see more panic-induced save-the-world-NOW measures that will just make things worse like we've seen so often over the past two years? TARP, the stimulus, this latest debt deal...all of these have been jammed down the throats of an unwilling and unwanting American public on the premise of being the only possible thing that can avert the impending catastrophe. Of course, none of them have worked, and have only served to make a bad situation worse. Will we get more of the same from our elected 'representatives', or will they finally get real?

Yeah, I'm afraid so, too.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Funny In A Very Sad Way

The Final Final Wrap-Up Post

Okay, I'm really trying to make this the last post on the debt ceiling debate. Coverage will continue on the economy as always, of course, but I wanted to round out this particular subtopic and move on.

So, the debt deal is now law. Rather than the spending-cutting, tax increase-avoiding, save-the-economy-and-the-world measure Obama and the Democrats made it out to be, reality once again reaffirmed the conservative viewpoint: there was nothing good here.

In the two days since this passed, the stock market has plunged almost 1,000 points, 500 of which came just yesterday, the largest single-day drop since 2008, when the economic powers that be rebelled against the TARP program. This was also the ninth straight day of decline, the longest losing streak in 33 years. Fear is running rampant, and there is talk of another recession (though from the unemployment and GDP numbers, it's hard to seriously argue that the 2007 recession ever really ended). Global markets are similarly freaked out.

Oh, and remember how the essence of the deal was a debt ceiling increase now for promised spending cuts later? Well, Obama sure made short work of the increase now, spending 60% of it in one day. This has pushed America to a disastrously bad landmark: we are now borrowing a full 100% of our gross domestic product. It is for this reason -- and the fact that no one in Washington seems to have any inclination to actually reduce the reckless spending that has gotten us here -- that it is more than likely America's AAA credit rating will be reduced despite the deal passing.

Planned layoffs are on the rise. Russia is congratulating Obama on doing what it failed to do throughout the last half of the 20th century - remove America's superior defense and economic advantages. That really says something, doesn't it?

Don't trifle a liberal with fact, though - the Dems are still out there saying they've 'really turned around' the economy. Really?
Well, then welcome to the Obama 'recovery':

If by 'turning around' they're referring to the fact that since 2007 they've destroyed the biggest and healthiest economy in the history of the planet, well, then I'd have to agree with them.

America has had enough, though. A recent Gallup poll shows Americans opposed the deal by a factor of 2:1. Rasmussen agrees, reporting that only 22% actually approved of it, and 58% doubt it will actually lead to genuine spending cuts down the road. Hey, Washington Republicans...what's wrong with you that you couldn't figure it out, when most of the rest of America clearly has? I don't think there's any reasonable doubt anymore that the Democrats have no problem governing against the will of the American people (they've been doing it for two and a half years solid), but it's looking more and more like the Republicans are complicit in that, too.

Rasmussen also found that -- in a continuing show of complete and utter sanity and realism -- a staggering 82% of likely American voters thinks that Obama and Congress should take a 25% pay cut until the budget is balanced. Oh, I LIKE that!!! If I had to offer one suggestion, I think we should ditch the 25% pay cut and instead drop them to an income equal to that of the median American household - $50,000 a year. I'm guessing we'd see a balanced budget amendment in days! Just my opinion. Oh, also, it's worth noting that a full 62% favor the wholesale and immediate replacement of Congress, and 63% believe that no matter how bad things get Congress can somehow make it worse. Once again, the mind boggles at how completely, utterly, incoherently inept the Republicans in Congress are to fail to see and tap into this massive discontent.

And let's not forget that one of the most recklessly dangerous provisions of the deal is a massive de-funding of the Department of Defense. In fact, it's such a drastic cut that even Obama's own Secretary of Defense is calling it 'completely unacceptable'.

And make no mistake - higher taxes are on the horizon. From what I've read and seen, here's one likely way it will play out. Because the GOP signed onto this deal and is professing there are some big spending cuts in it (which there aren't, remember!), as things continue to fall apart the Dems will start clucking their tongues and take up a new mantra: we tried it your way and it didn't work; now we have no choice but to raise taxes. Let's see how long it takes for that narrative to start flowing forth.

Anyway, in the ultimate show of class during this process, VP Joe Biden accuses those who opposed the deal of being 'terrorists'. He denies it, of course, but several Democrats who were present at the time have confirmed it. Where are the civility police when you really need them? Is Biden going to have a beer with Republicans to smooth things over? As she has become so adept at doing, Sarah Palin made hay with the comment:
"It's all talk and no real action. Otherwise he'd be on Biden and tell Biden to tone it down a little bit. Yeah, right, independent patriotic Americans who desire fiscal sanity in our beloved nation being called terrorists. Heck, Sean, if we were real domestic terrorists, shoot, President Obama would be wanting to pal around with us, wouldn’t he? I mean he didn’t have a problem paling around with Bill Ayers back in the day when he kicked off his political career in Bill Ayers' apartment," Palin said on FOX News' "Hannity."
That stinging sensation you're feeling is the truth...

So, what is President Barack Obama doing in response to all of this economic mayhem and destruction?

Partying. And fundraising. It's a star-studded birthday bash, with a fabulous dinner costing $35,000 a plate (yes, you read that right) and a price tag of $10,000 for the privilege of having a picture taken with him. But out of all that nonsense, and despite all of the devastation of America that his policies have wrought, here's the part of this event that sends shivers down my spine:

Obama tries to tap into the fuzzy warmth of his "incredible journey," recalling how unusually warm it was at his Grant Park victory party back in November of 2008. And then we get to the crux of Obama's mid-2011 fundraising theme song:

The thing that we all have to remember is, is that as much good as we’ve done, precisely because the challenges were so daunting, precisely because we were inheriting so many challenges, that we’re not even halfway there yet. When I said, “change we can believe in,” I didn’t say “change we can believe in tomorrow."

Remember his campaign pledge to 're-make' and 'fundamentally transform' America? Look around you at what he's already accomplished.

And then contemplate the fact that in his mind...he's not even halfway done...