Archive for May, 2008

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McClellan Book Reaction Hilarity Depot Thread

May 28, 2008

This is a thread for all the LOL’s over this McClellan book thing.  I just find it hilarious width and breadth of the theories I’ve come across.  Like, “who got to him” type stuff.  “I question the timing” .  Ya know.  Deflector shields on MAX. 

Also, I’ll admit that I heard this on the radio today.  This Scotty thing actually brought a woman to tears:

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: We’ll start with Darla in Bellingham, Washington. Hi, Darla, nice to have you here.

CALLER: Hi, Rush. I tell you, I’m so… I’m so… I can hardly talk. I am so upset about this Scott McClellan book. I — I have children and grandchildren that I have to try to protect in our great nation. And here for a buck, for payback, I don’t care what it is. He can’t wait ’til the president’s out of office? We have to do things, and, of course, he has more credence because he’s known, quote, unquote, the president longer than many so he comes out with this trashy crap in this book that gives to the haters of this country, the terrorists of the world. If it makes our news media wonder if the president’s going to comment on it while he’s trying to give a speech to a graduating class then, oh, it must be that important, well, if they say it and it emboldens them — and it always does embolden them — well, does it make the country safer? Where is the patriotism in this country? I can certainly say it. We have lost our soul. Scott, you’re a citizen of the country first. If it’s payback to the president, fine. Is it payback to me? Is it payback to my family, too? Do you have to make the buck first? (voice breaking) I am sorry I sound upset but, Rush, that’s just — I — I — I don’t get it. I’m — I’m fed up. Where is the patriotism in this country? Where? Why have we decided that we don’t just have to hate the president, we have to hate our country, we have to hate what it stands for, we have to put our desire for money and our 15 minutes of fame above everything?

 I’ll try to get more as I stumble upon it.

Update:  Good stuff at Sadly No! and Hysterical Raisins.

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Milestones In The Long Journey Back To The Line Of Scrimmage

May 24, 2008

Great news!  That rag-tag band of terrorists that didn’t exist until we invaded Iraq may have finally been defeated.  Of course, we’ve seen these “al Qaeda in Iraq is on the run” flashes before, but I’m still gonna give the h/t to Hot Air ’cause, well, maybe because I don’t remember ever posting about it. 

Anyway…

The battle against the people a little closer to those who actually attacked us is ongoing:  Taliban Attacks Spike in Afghanistan 

 

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How I’ve Been Spending My Free Time As Of Late

May 21, 2008

I have to apologise for my recent absence from the Chamber. Well, on second thought, I still have been checking in, I just haven’t been posting anything new. The reason:

Grand Theft Auto IV

I’ll admit, I’ve been into video games since I was a kid.  My brother and I would sit and play the Intellivision system for hours. Later came the NES, then the Sega Genesis, then the Playstation, then the PS2. And sprinkled in there somewhere I bought a Nintendo 64 and a Sega Dreamcast. I guess it’s safe to say that I’ve always been a “gamer” . Over the last few years, however, I’ve spent less free time with it, and I had been progressively shifting my hobbies over to the internet, eventually resulting in the creation of this blog. In fact, over the last year, my games and consoles have been mostly dust collectors, with the exception of pulling out a little Guitar Hero. And unlike previously, I did not run out and buy the new PS3 when it first came out.

A few weeks ago, however, a buddy of mine convinced me that the new GTA IV was going to be the reason to break down and buy the new console. So, I gathered whatever trade-in video game software and hardware that GameStop would actually take and drove to the store to get myself the new system and the game (and a couple others) at the beginning of May.

So, the reason why I haven’t been posting on the blog as much is because this game is so darn addicting. It really is the most enveloping and escapism-enabling entertainment product I’ve ever seen.   And I’ve played a lot of video games and watched a lot of movies.

Even if a player chooses to avoid the violence and debauchery, its hard not to marvel at the genius of it all. I mean, the realism of the graphics, physics and soundtrack are impressive enough, but the storyline and the freedom to sculpt the experience to one’s liking takes it to a whole new level.    

It’s like an interactive action movie.  For the game’s characters, got everything from egotistical gangsters to power-tripped cops to bitter cab drivers to impatient pedestrians.  For the action, you can engage in high-speed car chases, intersection gun battles, drive-by shootings, scaling buildings and even beating someone down with a baseball bat.  But, if you just wanted to play it cool and be a good boy, you could just call up your pal Packie, hop in a cab, pick him up and head to the bar to get wasted (and naturally, if you try to drive home, the chances are you’ll get the cops on you).   Taken symbolically, the game represents an almost comically cynical view of America, right down to the entertainingly satirical TV shows that you can watch on the sofa in your safehouse.

While playing I couldn’t help but wonder how much work must have gone into creating it (a hint I finally received once I finished the main story missions and watched the credits roll for at least 20 minutes).    The attention to every conceivable detail is just plain impressive.   For example, I couldn’t believe that when the hood of the car you’re driving finally flies off (due to damage combined with a high rate of speed), you can actually hear it land on the street behind you…in the rear surround speakers.    Flies buzz around trash receptacles.   You walk past a bum on the street spouting insane rhetoric.   You can hear the click-clack of elevated trains pass overhead, and look over and see its shadow on the building across the street.    People scream and flee if they see you point your gun at them.  Is it too real?  I dunno.                                                                                                             

Anyway, that’s where I’ve been.  So, I decided to create a thread for comments on the game…or if someone wants to give me grief over it, that’s fine too.

Update:  Game Hint

It’s kinda handy to keep a LCPD cop car parked in front of your safehouse(s).  For convenience purposes, of course.  On the other hand, it may be more fun to just steal the cop cars when you want them.  Up to you.

Anyway, if you want a quick vigilante mission and you don’t want to go through the hassle of finding a cop car, here’s what I do…

From wherever I happen to be, I just hail a cab, go back to the safehouse, then hop in the cop car.   Once I’ve accessed the police computer, I select “Call Police Backup”.  They get there in seconds, which is just long enough to go back the the LCPD screen and select either “View Current Crimes” or “View most Wanted” to pick my next mission.  The cops show up and hop out of their cars, guns drawn.   I calmly get out of my parked cop car, walk over and jump right into one of the “backup’s” cars and head on towards the target criminal.   Unfortunately, once I’ve done a few missions in that car, it gets pretty beat up and I have to ditch it.  (kinda fun to see how many missions you can get one car to last) ….So, I just pull it aside and hail another cab to go back to the safehouse, repeating the process.   In other words, I always have a fresh cop car (and more importantly, the computer access) in about the time it takes to hail one of those taxis that are so commonplace in the game (I’m the type that is using the cabs to get anywhere in the city in mere seconds).   It’s makes it easy to do vigilante missions over and over.

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The Patriotic Duty Of Blowing One’s Stimulus Check

May 9, 2008

The other day I saw an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press:  The economic-stimulus rebate: Save it or spend it?   Having not yet received my check from Uncle George, I decided to read on.

America needs help. Sue Wagner, an economic patriot, is answering the call.

The Brooklyn Center telecommunications worker used her $600 check — part of the $168 billion national economic-stimulus package — for a spa that was installed in her back yard Tuesday.

I want this country to be stimulated,” Wagner said.

That’s exactly what government officials want to hear. Checks began to flow from Washington, D.C., this week, part of a program to lift the economy out of the doldrums by boosting consumer spending. Every taxpaying adult is supposed to get $600, plus an extra $300 per child for families. But as officials await the impact of the rebates, a Pioneer Press online survey showed fewer than a third of volunteer respondents would spend the money as officials hoped.

It got me thinking.  Should I blow this thing?  And if I do, will I feel patriotic?

I sat and thought about all the things I could do with an extra $600, and my practical side kept telling me that I should put it on a gas card to combat the ever-soaring gas prices.  Then I thought I should just dump it into my mortgage.   Heck, there are probably a thousand things that I could have done that would have been financially safe and reasonable. 

As I was arriving to work the next day, I got out of my 2000 Cougar, walked toward my building and looked back to confirm that I had armed the car alarm.  As I looked at it I was reminded how old the car was getting, and that it wasn’t looking as good as it used to.  It had a crack in the fiberglass front bumper valence, and my carbon-fiber hood was looking cloudy and discolored (having been subjected to the elements for a few years).  I decided right then and there what I was going to do with that check:  My Cougar was going to get a makeover.

So, I contacted my body shop and scheduled the appointment.  I told the guys while I was there for the estimate that this was a stimulus check expense.  They smiled and a few of them told me that work had been pretty slow lately and that they really appreciate the business.  Apparently people had better things to spend their money on than repairing cosmetic damage on their vehicles, or so I guessed.  I handed over the keys and told them I’d see them in a week.

Well, I recently got the car back, and I gotta say that I couldn’t be happier.  I figure that I killed a couple birds with one stone.  I had fixed up something that had been bugging me for quite some time, and used my chance to stimulate the economy.  I guess the added bonus is that I get to advertise it all over town as I drive around:

Ahh…patriotism!

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LOL-Worthy Local TV Spot

May 8, 2008

I listen to the radio personalities on the Twin Cities own KTLK radio just about every day. It’s the local home of national pundits like Hannity, Rush, and Levin, as well as local guys like Chris Baker and Jason Lewis. In other words, it’s a conservative-leaning station dawn ’till dusk bash-fest of all things liberal.  Of course, you wouldn’t have known that based on their brand-new TV spots they’ve been running lately:

click image to watch
click image to watch

As long as “in-depth analysis” of “all the latest news” really means a series of consecutive rants for 3 hours, I suppose the whitewash is acceptable.

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Why Obama, Part VIII: Gas Prices

May 6, 2008

I know it’s been a little while since I added another installment to my “Why Obama” series, so I figured that with all the talk here in the Chamber about those obscene gas prices lately it was as good a time as any to highlight the issue. 

There’s been quite a bit of debate over this (with good reason), and a lot of attention has been paid to the fact that Obama is departing from McCain and Clinton with regards to suspending the 18-cent federal gas tax for the summer.  I know that when I first heard about it, my initial reaction was that it was a gimmick and wouldn’t really save people that much.  Of course, I’m no economist, so…

Luckily, the economists have weighed in, as the Obama campaign posted on the “fact-check” portion of the website:

Washington Post Fact Checker: Temporary Illinois Gas Tax Holiday Showed that Economic Benefit Was Minimal and the Majority of Consumers Didn’t Feel They Were Paying Less. “The gas tax moratorium proved politically popular in Illinois, but economically questionable. The Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission estimated that the state lost $175 million in revenues during the six-month period. A subsequent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that gas prices fell by 3 percent, meaning that only three fifths of the savings from reduced taxes was passed on to consumers. “It turned out to have a pretty small effect,” said Joseph Doyle, an assistant economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Consumers were slightly better off, but the benefits were spread very thinly, and the government was a lot worse off.” A poll by the Chicago Tribune showed that only 28 percent of motorists believed that they were actually paying less for gas as a result of the temporary suspension of the tax. Obama has changed his mind dramatically on the tax cut since voting for it back in 2000 in Illinois. On the campaign trail Monday in North Carolina, he described the proposal as a “short-term quick fix that we can say we did something even though we’re not really doing anything.” [Washington Post Fact Checker, 4/29/08]

Economists Agree: Most Savings from Gas Tax Holiday Are Passed on to Producers, Not Consumers. “James Hamilton, professor of Economics at the University of California-San Diego, said that most of the benefits from a temporary tax moratorium would likely go to producers rather than consumers. He said that states that suspend gas taxes are able to respond to rising demand more efficiently than the country as a whole, because gasoline supplies can be easily moved from one state to another. “Prices would certainly rise to the market-clearing level,” said Hamilton. “I would expect the price [of gas] to go back to very close to where it was before [the tax cut], in which case consumers would not see any benefit.” Another economist, Jeffrey Perloff, of UC-Berkeley, agreed that a federal tax moratorium would likely have less impact on consumer gas prices than a state moratorium. He said his models showed that a suspension of the 18.4-cent federal tax on gasoline would likely result in a temporary 9 to 12 cent reduction in the cost of a gallon of gas to the consumer, with the remainder of the reduction coming in wholesale prices.” [Washington Post Fact Checker, 4/29/08]

There’s a lot more there there, but the consensus is pretty universal.  In fact, when Clinton was pressed to name a single economist that has endorsed the “tax holiday”, her response was “I’m not going to put my lot in with economists,”, which is an answer that sounded like it came from George Bush.   It kinda begs the question as to who she is putting in her lot with, if it isn’t the experts.

The bottom line here is this is a phony gimmick; an easy thing to propose in light of the current situation as an attempt to buy some votes.   Obama’s position is grounded in reality.

What Obama should do right now is take this and pivot to a reminder to everyone that there are certain easy things we as Americans could do to relieve the financial burden of gas, as long as we’re talking about pennies on the gallon:

At this stage, I’d consider it a patriotic duty to make sure my air filter is clean and my tires are inflated.   hmmm…maybe I should be running a presidential campaign?

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From Flag Pins To Rev. Wright To Ayers

May 5, 2008

I stopped by memeorandum today and noticed that we may have something of a baton pass in the works, as the media and the blogosphere appears to have gone hoarse from the 24/7 pontificating and debating the cosmic implications of the rhetoric of Obama’s former pastor.  Today’s feature shifts the focus a bit, and it comes with the discovery of a picture that was taken in 2001:

OMG!  He’s stepping on Old Glory!  In 2001!   That’s year 9/11 happened!  Why, Obama is going to pay for this, ’cause he, like, knew him ‘n’ stuff!

I think I’m beginning to see a trend here.  Let’s review the scorecard for the knocks on Obama coming from his opponents:  Flag pin, Rev. Wright, and Bill Ayers.   Next will be Rezco.  I know… people must be saving the attacks on the real ISSUES for later.   Or is this the best they got? 

Speaking of which, a blogger at Just One Minute quips: Reaching? Those Are Warm-Up Stretches 

Lots of details on an unreported link between unrepentant Weatherman Bill Ayers and unforthcoming candidate Barack Obama are at this post, but here is the headline – in 1995 Bill Ayers founded and worked closely with the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, first chaired by Barack Obama.

As if the loose Obama-Ayers connection of a charitable organization is just downright damning or something.  Nope, no reaching going on.   We’ve entered a no-reach zone.  Though I love how every blogger and radio pundit uses the phrase “unrepentant terrorist”.  As if to imply that somehow the attacks would be held back a bit if Ayers was repentant.  Yea right.

Somebody let me know if Ayers is on Obama’s advisory board, ’cause at least they had that to work with WRT Wright.   Till then I’ll just be shaking my head.  Sure, Ayers was/is a radical, but until I hear Obama echoing the sentiment…

UpdateH/T to Sphinx on this one.  Oops.

 

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Dump The Truck

May 2, 2008

Today I spotted this NYT article (via memeorandum): As Gas Costs Soar, Buyers Flock to Small Cars

DETROIT — Soaring gas prices have turned the steady migration by Americans to smaller cars into a stampede.

In what industry analysts are calling a first, about one in five vehicles sold in the United States was a compact or subcompact car during April, based on monthly sales data released Thursday. Almost a decade ago, when sport utility vehicles were at their peak of popularity, only one in every eight vehicles sold was a small car.

The switch to smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles has been building in recent years, but has accelerated recently with the advent of $3.50-a-gallon gas. At the same time, sales of pickup trucks and large sport utility vehicles have dropped sharply.

In another first, fuel-sipping four-cylinder engines surpassed six-cylinder models in popularity in April.

I post this as a follow-up to the Gas Price Rant Thread, but also because I work at a dealership (yes, every once and awhile Chamber visitors will learn a little more about ChenZhen the man, and it’s true that I sell cars).

So, I guess I can say that this is hardly surprising to me, but I’m amazed at the change in the market in just the last 6 months.  We can’t give these trucks and SUV’s away, and the cars that many people would have previously laughed and pointed at (like the pictured Chevy Aveo) are now holding their values and flying off the lot.  People are doing the math at this point, and the cost of ownership of these V8 trucks is simply getting outta hand.  

For an example, let’s compare fuel costs between the Chevy Aveo (since I mentioned it) and the Chevy Tahoe (since the NYT mentioned it’s 35% drop in sales in the article), using my 10,660 mi. annual commute to work and back that I used in the “rant” thread:

 

That’s a difference of $832, or about $69 extra a month…just to drive to work.

Or, if one uses the default EPA estimates of 15K miles/year with 45% hwy and 55% city average, there is a difference of $1264, or an extra $105 a month.  Within the context of buying a new vehicle, it’s definitely going to be a factor because when you’re talking about a $600/month payment on a new Tahoe, you’re really talking about $700/month in relation to picking a more fuel efficient car instead.

The additional problem for those who already own one is that the market is so soft on them that they won’t get squat for it on a trade-in, so you’ll see more and more people flipped upside down on their payments (lingo we use to describe a situation where the owner owes more on their vehicle than it is worth), perhaps to the point that they can’t get out of it even if they wanted to.   We’re seeing these people more and more.

It’s getting rough out there, let me tell ya.  

 

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