Saturday, April 05, 2008

More Paradise

Shaky, I know but the only way I could capture the other end of the tunnel...full of bats by the way.

Just liked the trees.

A Glorious Day in the Hill Country

All of these are about 40 miles SSW of Austin after a horribly dry winter. We need rain. That's why I can't produce pics of bluebonnets this year.

Character hits

RJ Eskow, writing on Huffington Post, discusses how character assassination is easily accomplished:

If Martin Luther King were alive today there would be no need for gunfire. He died just as he began speaking out forcefully against the Vietnam War. Were he alive to speak out against the occupation of Iraq -- as he undoubtedly would -- it's easy to imagine how the the character assassins would conduct their hit.

First, an "unnamed source" in the Justice Department would start talking to friendly reporters -- off the record, of course -- about "evidence" that Dr. King was receiving money from suspect Middle Eastern sources. Then the FBI's recordings of Dr. King's private life would be leaked to a friendly media outlet -- probably Matt Drudge. After that, Fox News would scour all the available video of Dr. King's speeches, carefully editing them so that they sound more inflammatory and less peace-loving. They would then broadcast them in an endless loop, as the YouTube hits of these misleading clips reached into the millions.

That's a much more effective way to destroy someone than a gun. Bullets only kill the physical body, but character assassination destroys the person's reputation -- and their political effectiveness. Martyrs are a powerful force, but disgraced leaders can't threaten the status quo.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Revised poll --->

Let's try this again.

My Wal-Mart Fixation

David Freddoso at NRO on the $4.00 prescriptions:

In September of 2006, Wal-Mart rolled out its $4 generic prescription deal, which promised to provide a month’s supply of some 300 drugs (now 361) for less than the cost of a pint of beer. Several other chains — Target, Costco (which is now offering 100 drugs for $10), and Kroger’s, among others — lowered prices in order to compete. Wal-Mart announced last month that its program alone, enacted without any government compulsion, has saved consumers $1.03 billion in less than 18 months. If the other firms’ price reductions are included as well, the total savings could easily be twice as great.

Heading to the Texas Lions Camp tomorrow

Time to get to work to get the camp ready for summer.

Joseph J. Ellis's American Creation

I enjoyed it but not as much as Founding Brothers. It covered a bit too much for me to process in just 13 hours. It probably didn't help that my road trips were few and far between while listening.

I really did enjoy the elucidation of the two tragedies of the founding...slavery and the Native American issues.

Re: Advice Needed

Thanks for the opinions. Here is the before picture:

When I get my books in, I'll post an after picture.

Old fart does Helter Skelter

Not sure what the message is here, but I'm pretty sure I don't like it. Some interesting video, though. Via Allah.

Michael Barone's breakdown of Texas (Dem. Caucus not included)

His Breakdown:

Clinton won her crucial victory in Texas, [that is a link to a very cool] 51 percent to 47 percent.

Obama carried 24 counties, Clinton 226; one was tied, and three small counties in the northern panhandle cast no Democratic primary votes at all. Obama carried four counties with more than 60 percent of the vote—Travis (Austin: state capital, University of Texas), Dallas (blacks and upscale whites), and Fort Bend and Grimes (western suburbs of Houston, with rapidly growing black populations). Obama counties were concentrated in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, metro Houston, and a ring of counties around Austin, whose denizens seem to be spreading across the countryside (the hill country west of Austin is beautiful). He carried Jefferson County (Beaumont, with the highest black percentage in Texas) and Smith and Tyler counties (East Texas, Tyler, and Longview, where most whites are Republicans and most Democratic primary voters were very likely black). Obama got an impressive 44 percent of whites' votes, probably mostly upscale, and 85 percent of blacks' votes. But he got only 35 percent among Latinos, according to the exit polls, and ran far, far behind Clinton in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, where she got 73 percent of the vote in Hidalgo County (McAllen), 77 percent in Webb County (Laredo), and 69 percent in El Paso County. You also see Clinton getting more than 70 percent in some east Texas and central Texas rural counties with low black populations: Jacksonians.

Helter Skelter

Still fascinating.

Re: Engagement

Uh, I actually will engage on one point. I've always heard that the Ohio Teachers Union Pension Fund is one of the nations largest which is why I mentioned it. While I certainly agree that a board of directors of Huge Co. is not going to care much about the vote of a single teacher who owns even some substantial interest (say a million bucks worth) of Huge Co., that board is going to care about the interests of the trustees of the Pension Fund (or the manager of a big mutual fund).

Update: btw, the point was not to say that corporations are pure. Nothing run by men can be. I'm a capitalist that believes in the markets; I'm not a corporatist. Left to their own devices, boards will always try to opt for monopoly or somehow otherwise put a competitor at a disadvantage for gain.

Re: Advice needed...

I go subject matter/genre and after that it is more just an aesthetic thing. What looks good next to what?

(Re: Hot Buttons. I mentioned in my first post that you and I had been down the corporate road before so I'm not going to engage but do appreciate your personal perspective.)

Advice Needed

I am putting out a call to my brethren for some guidance. As part of our home renovation, we had a bookcase made that will take up the length of an entire wall. It is being delivered/installed today. I've been going back and forth in my mind trying to decide how to arrange my vast book collection in said bookcase. By subject? By genre? Alphabetical regardless of subject/genre? Hardcover separate from paperback? Both intermixed?

The possibilities are endless....advice appreciated.

Re: (Oil Price Regulation) or we know how to push each others "hot" buttons

I'm trying to refrain from using the phrase..."begs the question" throughout this post. We'll see how I do.

I'm reading the posts from yesterday and I see the corporate mantra..."The companies’ duties are to their families...the shareholders". I swear that if I read this/hear this again, I'm going to make a bee-line to Houston to go through my father's VAST arsenal of weapons and go postal. The ONLY shareholders companies care about are the board of directors and upper management - that's it. Why do most shareholder proposals never pass at corporate meetings? Management would have you believe that it's because they are whacked-out ideas from whacked-out shareholders and all of us little guys go along with the "recommendations" of the board on how to vote. Maybe, it's because the board and upper management own a majority of the stock and it doesn't matter how any of us little guys vote.

Let's not forget that I was a part of a major "shareholder family" and I was told that my 20+ years as a part of the "family" was no longer needed or wanted, just so the "family" could make even MORE money. Not a performance issue, not an age issue, not a race issue, not a gender issue, a more $$ issue. And, I should remember that losing my job, my retirement, my pension, my insurance was a GOOD thing for the shareholders. And since I was a shareholder, they were doing this FOR me, not TO me.

I know that intellectually the arguments that most of the pro-corporate folks, economists and the like make on this subject are factual and right. But I am, like most Americans, a simple person and has a difficult time understanding why corporations, of any industry, never seem to make enough money and why these huge profits never seem to make it down to the worker, at the time when the salary gap between the worker and upper management has never been greater. I know that the corporate mantra of always doing what's best for the shareholders will never go away - I'd just like to hear that that also includes the average employee shareholder, the one that is doing the real work FOR the shareholder; the one making the sacrifices FOR the shareholder.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I voted no because not my first choice but I'm a moderate.

Gummint/IRS "Transparency"

The thing that really drive me nuts about the fuel tax (and those like it) in particular and corporate taxes in general is that these taxes are really opaque sales taxes on the ultimate consumers. If fuel prices were being marketed at say an average of $.50 less and then the receipts (does anyone even get gas receipts any longer unless getting reimbursed?) showed a sales tax of $.50 per gallon or $8.75 per tank (in my case), I think much of this demagoguery against corporations would have to stop.

This opacity is what gives rise to so much of that that the left (me, too) decries: lobbyists tweaking the tax code for the benefit of their clients. Very few have the time or inclination to sift through all the flotsam and jetsam of the code.

It's like the whole withholding thing. It's opaque. If we had to set aside every month one-twelfth of the amount of anticipated taxes for the year and then writing a big check every April instead of "escrowing" those taxes every month, people would be much more upset every April. Every one of us knows someone who is excited every January and file his return immediately because of the "refund" not realizing that he could have been earning interest on that refund (instead of having it devalued because of inflation).

Re: Oil price regulation

First, on the 9%, I just have to rely on those sources that I've seen around. I think that the Jacoby column had the average something less than that. But I think that it is the vertical margin he (and others) intends to address. It can't be completely vertical because Exxon/Mobile gets oil from some of its own reserves (at least I think it does) and some (I think the vast majority) from reserves owned by others.

As to the regulation of price, if you mean some governmental regulators out there setting price, then no. In Texas, the insurance industry is heavily regulated and often, as in title insurance, the prices are actually set by the state.

Excluding taxes, the prices are almost solely governed by supply and demand (with some effect that I don't pretend to understand by the speculators). In the 70's the spikes were triggered by the artificial decrease in supply by OPEC. Today, the spikes are due to our own increased demands as well as the increasing demands of two already huge, and growing, economies in Asia.

And why don't these folks rail against big Coca-Cola (a whopping 21% margin) or, what has to be much worse, big bottled-water or big Starbucks (I have no idea but $3.50 for a coffee seems outrageous to me)?

More Senatorial Gasbaggery

Does this have to happen every year?

Per Reuters:

Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine and Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island said record energy prices have been a windfall for big oil companies and they need to share some of their profits with consumers who are in need.

Now, from the International Herald Tribune:

Consumers [in Pennsylvania] also pay state taxes of 32.3 cents per gallon on gasoline, 11th highest in the nation.

Fuel prices in Pennsylvania averaged $3.28 a gallon for regular unleaded gasoline and $4.33 a gallon for diesel on Monday, compared with $2.70 for regular unleaded and $2.84 for diesel a year ago.

Federal fuel taxes amount to 18.4 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel.

It appears that the full set of fuel taxes paid by Minnesotans are $.404 per gallon and $.384 for Texans as of January, 2008 per the API.

Of course, that does not factor in any of the corporate income taxes paid by importers or producers, refiners and transporters (to the extent they are different entities), and retailers. I never see any discussion of local sales taxes figured in theses categories so I suspect they are not charged or are not charged uniformly.

Yep, just went back to the API chart and it appears that there are no sales taxes on either end of I-45, but other states do charge them (or some kind of other tax).

What? How about a tax break for those consumers in need?

LJ and I have been down this road before and my recollection is that the profit margin for big oil is about 9%. In gross dollars it always sounds huge, even obscene; it is much better to analyze by way of looking at the margins. If a farmer sell 50 bushels of corn to an ethanol refiner in 2006 for $250 and fifty more in 2007 for $500, what is wrong with that farmer earning $22 in profit the first year and $45 the next (assuming a 9% margin). As the price goes up the farmer should voluntarily decrease her margin out of some sense of fairness?

What about the farmer’s duty to her family? What does she do during the drought years which will surely come? This is Joseph’s interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream stuff... skinny cows eating sleek cows and blighted grain eating good grain...followed by seven years of a 50% tax rate.

Uh oh, just found a high-tax, anti-capitalist story in the Bible. I’ll just blame it on being in the Old Testament. Whose dreams are Snowe and Reed interpreting? And who’s enabling them to do it?

Do the federal or state governments reduce their "margins" because the price has increased? Why not do that for those consumers in need? Looks like in 2002 those consumers in need in Maine would save about $.419 per gallon of gasoline and those Rhode Island about $.494.

The companies’ duties are to their families...the shareholders. If they judge it a good idea to earn a little goodwill like Hugo Chavez did by offering a deal on heating oil to New Englanders, fine. BP has been running those green television spots for at least a couple of years now. Think that ad campaign’s being run to make the planet safer?

So the Senators know how to better spend that 9% than do the pension holders in the Ohio State Teachers Union? Better than me in my 70's when I’m trying to live off my 401k and what, the $1000 per month that Social Security will be able to send me?

Office walls

In follow-up to Scooter's post about what's on his office walls (quotes of Keynes and Greenspan) I've got a Faith Ringgold poster on my office wall:
Tar Beach: Woman on a Bridge Series Part I.
There's text in the white bands at the top and bottom. A little girl talks about lying on Tar Beach (roof top) and looking at the George Washington Bridge that her daddy helped build; she mentions that her daddy can't join the union because of his race. The original hangs at the Guggenheim.

Took me this long to post, as I was waiting on permission, now received, from Faith Ringgold's staff to post the image. (Have to take it down after 3 months.)
{Update: Image removed July 2, 2008.]

The Autobiography of Henry VIII

I enjoyed it and would recommend if you have any interest in the period.

New poll -->

Mozart and Chopin tie, 2 each. I'll let Stephanie explain what it means.

Re: Tammy Bruce

Heard about five minutes this morning and she sounded pretty right to me, railing on Barry for his silly gas commercial, execrating Carter, and praising Reagan.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ickes channels Michael

Hillary's camp is trying to execute Michael's strategy for her, as reported by Greg Sargent at TPM:

In an interview with me this morning, senior Hillary adviser Harold Ickes confirmed that Reverend Jeremiah Wright is a key topic in discussions with uncommitted super-delegates over whether Obama is electable in a general election.

The comments from Ickes, who is Hillary's chief delegate hunter, are to my knowledge the first on-the-record confirmation from a Hillary adviser that the Wright controversy is a subject in conversations between the Hillary campaign and the super-delegates her advisers are trying to win over to Hillary's side.

Oil in North Dakota

According to The Institute for Regional Studies at North Dakota State University:

In 1928 exploration work was conducted in 1928 by Transcontinental Oil Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This work was done likely due to the wildcatting of the Big Valley Oil Company which sank a well in the Nesson Valley. In 1937 Standard Oil Company of California leased land and conducted surveys in the state, expending over $100,000. In November 1937 drilling commenced by Manning and Martin Company of Denver. When the well was abandoned in 1938 it had gone to 10,281 feet.

It was not until April 1951 that oil was discovered in North Dakota on the Clarence Iverson farm near Tioga by Amerada Oil Company. The discovery set off an oil boom in western part of the state. Oil production centered in Williams, McKenzie, Mountrail, billings, Bottineau and Burke counties. An oil refinery was constructed at Mandan, N.D. After a decline in oil production in the late 1960s and early 1970s there was a resurgence in oil exploration in the later 1970s. Beginning in 1986 there has been a decline in drilling and oil production, but the Williston Basin may still be under-explored.

Sonny Bryan's

Is this still it in Big D?

Growing up, we were fans of Red's (Sonny's dad) but they are apparently all gone now.

Re: Film about ND Oil

But did they ever find it in the thirties? Pretty cool that they got members of the New York Philharmonic for the soundtrack. Finally had time to watch the whole thing.

I've got to think you're right about the wind almost never blowing westerly.

Update: Obama takes Texas

Updating yesterday's Statesman story: per the radio this morning with 50% of the counties reporting, Obama takes the Democrat Caucus 58% to 42%.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Top ten reasons why McCain wins

3. Obama's frequently posited obliviousness and never-posited arrogance: It strains credulity to believe that Obama had little reason to believe that Rezko was a crook. Or that he didn't realize his self-narrated links to Selma and the Kennedy family were fabricated. Or that his pastor was an angry bigot and conspiracy theorist. Or that he didn't fill out that questionaire that had his handwriting on it. Throw in his Hillary "you're likeable enough" and stories like this from the John Edwards camp, and the non-partisan avatar of Hope and Healing seems a bit less likeable himself.

List here.

Not that I've given this any thought, but Denver Barbecue?

These guys appear to be doing ok. Two British brothers who came to the US and fell in love with barbecue. They founded Brothers Barbecue in 1998 while I lived there. The first store, I think, was at Monaco and Leetsdale not far from my old home and right on the way home from my old office.

They appear to up to about ten different stores.

The best part about their stores is that they toured Kansas, Missouri, Texas and the South to learn about barbecue and serve specialties from each region at their stores.

The Texas style was only ok but I found the other styles pretty good. Silly animated bit at lower right hand of home page if you want to see their story.

Taylor is just a bit to the north of Elgin

And I drive past Louie Mueller's whenever I take the scenic route to Athens....wish he would open on Sundays.

There is just something wrong about these places having websites.

Elgin Barbecue

Meyer's Barbecue aka Cue-topia. Regular barbecue sauce not great but the sausages themselves were terrific. For some reason, I always judge based on the sausages.

It's good and the Taylor place is too. I think they are overrated but most Austinites think the places in Lockhart are the best.

Perfectly good words of which I tire:

surge..for the obvious reasons

transparency...though we could use a lot more of it still

normalcy...too Nixonian but apparently Harding caught a lot of flack for using it too many syllables, sounds like Samwise explaining to Gollum, "It’s a common ‘tater."

Mustang Adoptions

Had hoped to make this my first cool, and extra-Texas video post but the video only allows me to copy the link as opposed to the embedded code.

From today’s Austin American Statesman:

ELGIN [about 20 miles east of Austin where I had a fantastic barbeque plate on Saturday]— Two hundred wild mustangs stamp and snort, eager to escape the 18-wheelers that have carried them on a two-day journey from rural Nevada to Central Texas.

With a clank and a rumble, the door at the back of one of four tractor-trailers rolls up. Fifty horses pause, curious. Then they charge down a ramp, pushing and shoving their way into a series of holding pens at Southwest Stallion Station, one of the largest equine breeding farms in Texas.

Here’s the link to the video. The little mustangs are awfully cute.

Tammy Bruce

I was a little late getting to the office this morning and heard Tammy Bruce sitting in for Laura Ingraham. (My alternative would have been sports radio and listening to the report of the demise of the Horns to a much stronger Memphis team yesterday afternoon.) I read her The New Thought Police several years ago and while I enjoyed it, I was much more intrigued by the author. TNTP is essentially a book that could have been written by any number of conservatives as a rebuttal to what she (and I) perceives to be the left’s stifling (or desire to stifle) free speech. I can think of David Horowitz and Mike Adams as two who could have (and I think have) written similar books.

She was formerly the President of the Los Angeles NOW Chapter and while decidedly a Democrat, has some equally decidedly views from the right. From her website:

Tammy Bruce is an openly gay, pro-choice, gun owning, pro-death penalty, voted-for-President Bush authentic feminist. A lifelong Democrat, in the 1990s she worked to help elect Senators Feinstein and Boxer, and aided the Clinton for President campaign.

It’s been a while since I’ve thought about her and she seemed pretty good in the ten or so minutes I heard her substitute for Ingraham. If you’re in the car tomorrow or Wednesday, give her a few minutes.

A real man goes bowling

Obama takes Texas?

From the Austin American Statesman:

Obama won 2,471 delegates to the state convention, or 58 percent, in the Saturday caucuses, compared with 1,783 delegates, or 42 percent, for Clinton, according to an ongoing count Sunday by The Associated Press. More than 3,000 were still to be counted.

Obama's campaign predicted he would win the overall delegate race in Texas because of caucus support, even though Clinton won the popular vote in the March 4 primary

Barry - old style politico, ie, liar

"Once again, we have more evidence that Obama represents nothing more than the political winds. He has zero credibility, zero experience, and a penchant for telling people what they want to hear rather than any truth about what he actually believes. Either he lied to IVI or he’s lying now. In either case, it’s hardly the New Politics Obama has promised."

Sunday, March 30, 2008

To weight or not to weight

I'm watching an FSN show called Sports Science. They've just demonstrated that adding weights to a bat or a golf club for warm-up swings results in slower bat/club speed and less accuracy during subsequent unweighted swings.

Obama: Hold your forks

Contrary to Michael's assertion that Obama is done as a result of the flap over Rev. Wright, Gallup's Daily tracking poll shows Obama up by 10.

Of course, this is a snap-shot; it's national, rather than focused on states yet to vote, etc. Still, the trends are interesting. Obama's support looks stronger now than before the dust up.

Graph used by permission from Gallup. Their analysis is here.

Well it only took one more try....

You're right, it is really easy.


Just paste the embed code in this box but under the Edit Html tab? I see how easy it is to get the embed code but when I pasted the SNL code into the Edit Html field and then tried to compose, there was the code in the Compose tab field.

I'll play some more.

I grew up on government cheese; I prefer it

Testing embed from SNL:

[Update: I took movie embed out; it has served its test purpose, and I wonder whether it slows the loading of the SSJ page. Movie can be found here.]

Embedding trailers for movies

Here's a little blurb about embedding movie trailers. (I'm guessing that at least one of my blog brothers is thinking about posting trailers on occasion.)

The article notes that the trailers you find on YouTube are often pirated and likely to be yanked shortly after they go up. The author pleads for movie companies to make their trailers available for legal embedding, but as far as I can tell (from a cursory search of a few studios), it's still not common practice for the studios to make embed codes readily available.

Embedding movies is easy

Posting the movies is super easy. Don't be put off by unfamiliar lingo.

Html code is just text. It contains commands that are in the form of a word or letter ("tag") between less-than/greater-than signs. Because it's just text it can be selected, copied and pasted just like, well, text. The "embed code" is html code that will put a video in a web page.

For the videos, when someone posts a video on the web (in YouTube or elsewhere), it's common for the embed code to be made available too. Just look for the word "embed" somewhere on the page and then select and copy what's in that box or field. In YouTube, there's an "About This Video" box to the right of the video window, and the Embed box is at the bottom of that box.

In Blogger, when you compose, you have two options: "Compose" or "Edit HTML". Those are tabs on top of the composing box. Use the Edit HTML box and then just paste the embed code there. Voila.

With this method, the movie file doesn't reside on your computer nor do you upload it to Blogger. The embed code just references somewhere else on the web where the video is located.

It's actually less work than posting pictures.
(You can, of course, also post movies in the same way as pics, where the file is on your hard drive and you upload it to Blogger.)

[Update P.S.: Was everyone able to view the movies? I'm assuming it worked because it works on my computer.]