Saturday, August 29, 2009

One Year Ago Today...

One year ago today, most people in America were introduced to someone they had never heard of before when John McCain chose then-governor of Alaska Sarah Palin. Many were caught off guard, including, at least temporarily, the Obama-Biden campaign. Since then, of course, most people who follow politics know what has become of Gov. Palin.

I think that she is now in a good position to advocate for better policies than are getting out of DC these days. When she announced her resignation in July, I wasn't sure at the time that resigning was a good idea, but I think the total disappearance of the ankle-biting trolls who were happily coordinating to file frivolous ethic charge after frivolous ethic charge has been a boon for her. Of course, it's also helped that some of the ankle-biters' masks have slipped, mostly courtesy people such as Robert Stacy McCain and Dan Riehl. IMO, the future looks brighter for Sarah Palin now than it did, say, two months ago.

But that's not what I wanted to write about today.

You see, I knew of Sarah Palin before August 29, 2008. And I wanted her to get the VP nod from John McCain. (I certainly didn't want her to deal with the inordinate amount of vitriol, hatred, and flat-out lying directed at her, but, silly me, I did not anticipate that happening when I was sitting at my desk one year ago today. But that's a subject for a different post.) So one year ago today, I was excited, for the first time in a while, about the future of conservatism. (The administration at the time was doing its part to weaken fiscal conservatism, as we all know at this point.)

Though I had heard the name Sarah Palin originally in 2006, when she knocked off incumbent governor Frank Murkowski in the AK gubernatorial primary (which, at least from my vantage point in Texas, was a good thing, due to what I was hearing down here about corruption in Gov. Murkowski's administration), what really introduced me to Gov. Palin, a couple of years later, was a blog called "Draft Sarah Palin for Vice President", by Adam Brickley.

See, I was resigned to having John McCain, whom I perceived as a moderate (and still do, pretty much) as the Republican presidential candidate, and since that didn't excite me very much, I was spending a little bit of time researching potential vice-presidential candidates. One of the first sites I encountered was Adam's. I knew nothing of Sarah Palin at that time, so my first thought, of course, was "Who???" Luckily, Adam had taken the time to list reasons why she was deserving of the VP nod, as well as to list her positions on the issues.

Well, this Sarah Palin seemed like my kind of conservative, but I am generally not convinced by one person's opinion. So, I did a little more looking into her, and I found a video of her appearing with Glenn Beck in June of last year:

Sarah Palin, from her own statements, appeared to me to know more about energy policy than anyone else involved in the presidential race. And in a summer where most of America was paying over $4 a gallon for gasoline, that was an important plus. Between that, the fact that she was a fiscal conservative, and the other potential VP candidates' positions with which I disagreed, I became convinced that she was the right candidate for this race.

And so I found myself on the night of August 28, 2008, sitting in front of a computer, partially to comment at various sites about the parts of Barack Obama's acceptance speech with which I disagreed, and partially to monitor this thread at Adam Brickley's site. There was lots of speculation, mostly fueled by a commenter named "Drew", who, it turned out, was sent by the McCain campaign to give out information just a little at a time. Because of Drew, I went to sleep that night knowing that Gov. Palin was going to be the pick.

And so I, with many others, was sitting again in front of my computer to see her speech at Sen. McCain's event in Dayton the next day. I was excited about what a Sarah Palin could do for our country.

Some other time, perhaps, I will most likely go into the year since then, and what the McCain campaign did right with Sarah Palin, and what everyone got wrong. But in looking at the issues and the challenges, and how she has faced them, I remain confident that Sarah Palin needs to play a large role in the future of conservatism in this country, for the sake of our country's future.

Oh, and it was Gov. Palin's speech in Dayton that said that today, August 29, was her anniversary. So, I hope she and Todd are having a good one. I hope they're spending it far from the din of the haters.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cap Metro board member wants to cut Red Line funding

590 KLBJ reports today that Capital Metro board member Mike Manor has proposed a massive cut to the Red Line's 2010 operating budget, affecting jobs and rail schedules. (KLBJ reports that the proposed cut is 48%, but the numbers on its site don't add up at present.) This proposal is due to the massive shortfall that Capital Metro appears to be facing in the coming year.

Given the Red Line's interminable delays, low ridership projections, and now this opposition from its own board members, the Red Line is seriously looking like one of the biggest failures in mass transit, well, ever. It does not appear at present that the huge amounts of money thrown at this commuter rail project (as local blogger M1EK will tell you, it is NOT a light rail project, or anything resembling one) will ever be recovered. Meanwhile, traffic continues to get worse.

Final thought: given Austin's reluctance to build a decent road/highway system and Cap Metro's seeming inability to run a working transit system, can our transportation policy be summarized as "Keep Austin Congested"? I say yes.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Yet more changes to local news

For those who keep up with that sort of thing, two Austin stations announced some changes affecting their news departments. Thankfully, neither announcement seems to involve any staff cuts this time.

First, KEYE gave out more information regarding its soon-to-begin 4pm newscast. As usual, NewsMcNabb beat me to getting it posted, so I won't go into detail. I will, however, note that with the moving of Jason Wheeler to the 4pm newscast (with Michelle Valles), Austin native (and genuinely nice person) Katherine Stolp has been promoted to anchor the weekend newscast. Congrats, Katie.

Then, KXAN announced (courtesy Dale Roe of the Statesman) that it would start airing a 9pm half-hour newscast on KNVA (the CW Austin), to be anchored by Shannon Wolfson. This is designed to provide an alternative to the hour-long Fox 7 News at 9. (It should be noted that this schedule change contradicts the previous fall schedule sent out for the CW Austin, so who knows what this means for the four or five local people who watch MyNetwork TV.)

In general, I see these changes as good (for once). What's your take?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Water Rationing and the Concerned Citizen

Now that Austin is under Stage 2 Watering Restrictions, Austinites who see water waste are encouraged to call 311 to report it.

But should I?

Should I, as a concerned citizen, expose my fellow citizen to a fine of upwards of $400? Or should I be more concerned for the entire community (and thus more of my fellow citizens) and its water supply? Would I be considered a jerk for narking on a neighbor, or would I be a jerk for letting my neighbor's behavior slide so as not to put him in what could be a bad situation in this economy? Or both?

I mean, it's one thing to see your neighbor running a sprinkler and rue the fact that he's run it for the past hour, but it's another thing entirely to cause your neighbor to lose what could potentially be a good percentage of his income for the month. And yet, if too many people get away with this waste of water, then Lakes Travis and Buchanan, and, hence, the Austin Water Utility, will not be able to keep up with the demand.

Another thought to consider is whether residents are familiar with the current ordinance. At this point, I don't know how residents couldn't be familiar with it. It's been trumpeted on all news stations and mentioned in the paper, and even if someone doesn't watch local stations, they should have received, as the Snowed family did (several times, until we answered) notification by phone of the restrictions. (Side note: if you see the number 999-911-9999 on your Caller ID, it is an official notification from local authorities in many US communities. Take the call.) At this point, I am forced to conclude that Austin residents must know about this by now.

Some soul searching might be required to answer the question of whether to report others for wasting water, but for myself, I have to believe that the better choice is to make the call and get the waste stopped. If it makes me a jerk, so be it.

As you may have guessed, I addressed this question because I have observed houses with automatic sprinklers running this week. The first one, on Monday morning, I did not report, though I thought about it; I did not remember the address. The second one, yesterday, I did report. I don't feel great about it, but I think I have done the right thing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How NOT to acquire new children's books

The other day the Snowed family visited our local branch of the Austin Public Library, as the children are voracious book readers (though the 2-year-old doesn't do a lot of reading by herself yet...). As usual, the 5-year-old picked out about ten books or so, while I picked up a book I thought the 2-year-old would like. And, I was right; the moment I put the 2-year-old in the car, she wanted that book. "Daddy, I want it!"

I figured it would not be a problem to give my daughter a book to peruse in the car on the way home. I was wrong. Very quickly I learned something important about my daughter: she gets carsick when she tries to read in a car. And did she ever, all over the book. Yuck.

Mrs. Snowed, thankfully, knew the best way to clean up such a mess on the pages of a book, and she did so. The book is now readable once again, though it is obvious that the book had gotten wet at some point.

And this brings us to the policies of Austin Public Library. We thought it would be for the best to call the library and ask them what they wanted to do with a book that had previously had on it, well, what it had had on it. The librarian to which I talked was quite nice, and she told me that once a book has had bodily fluids on it, it would be considered damaged and would no longer be acceptable for distribution. This makes perfect sense to me; I don't think I'd want a book on which someone else's child had gotten sick. So, it appears that we will be buying a replacement book for the library system, along with a $10.25 processing fee. That's the downside. The upside, if there is one, is that we get to keep the damaged book. Now, we're paying about twice the price for this children's book because of the method by which we are acquiring it.

So, to make a long story a little bit longer by adding a summary paragraph: if your child might get sick in the car, don't give him or her a library book (or, really, any book) to read. It's just not a good idea.

And if you want to buy books for your kids, stick to the bookstores. It's a lot less of a hassle.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Single-Payer Advocates to Protest at Whole Foods Today

The Washington City Paper reports that as part of its boycott of Whole Foods, a group calling itself Single Payer Action has organized a protest to take place today at several Whole Foods locations because of CEO John Mackey's recent Wall Street Journal op-ed opposing a public option in the increasingly less popular Obamacare plan. And, since Austin is home to the headquarters of Whole Foods, it makes sense that one of the locations at which they will be protesting is this one.

Single Payer Action's call to action may be found here. In it they say, among other things:
Our demand: That Whole Foods allow single payer advocates to set up shop inside Whole Foods stores around the country and allow them to counter the lies and distortions of their CEO John Mackey on health care.

Oooookay, that seems likely. I don't suppose you guys would be happy if John Boehner, Sarah Palin, and whoever else set up shop at Robert Gibbs events and countered whatever misstatements he might be making? (I'd enjoy it, but let's be serious.) And while we're at it, do you expect to get a lot of traction calling Mr. Mackey a liar?

Anyway, they'll be at the 6th/Lamar Whole Foods from noon to 1:00 today if you want to go and make fun of them for standing outside in the Austin heat for an hour.

You know, I may go shopping at Whole Foods in the next few days just to spite these people.

p.s. At least in Washington, Republicans are planning to counter-protest. Story here.

(hat tip: @RepPartyofTexas)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cash for Clunkers: An Extremely Non-Scientific Observation

We've all heard the about the Cash for Clunkers program--specifically, how it's slow to pay and is therefore causing some dealers to pull out of it, or how some people were claiming that the website would allow the government full access to your personal computer--but the fact remains that new car sales are up as a result of this program. (As far as I know, neither of the Snowed family vehicles is eligible because, darn it, our mileage was too good to qualify.)

I hadn't really thought about the program very much until this morning, when I decided to pay attention to the new cars I was seeing on Manchaca Rd. (I could tell they were new, of course, because they didn't have license plates yet, though I suppose they could have had those new Texas plates I've seen in a few places.) In my relatively short drive to work, I noticed at least four plateless cars. Not surprisingly, one was a Ford Focus, which has proven to be quite popular. At least two others were "imports", that is, not one of the "Big 3" American automakers.

Not really a surprise to me? None of them were produced by partially-government-owned GM or Chrysler. Yeah, I wouldn't buy their cars either at this point.

(Disclaimer: the Snowed family vehicles were made, fittingly, by GM and Chrysler. Both were bought used, a long time ago.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dispelling Obamacare Falsehoods: 5 Freedoms You'll Lose

(Hope you enjoy this's likely to be the first of many in a series.)

After hearing from Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Lloyd Doggett, and dozens of others that Obamacare will save us all, we have nothing to fear from it, everybody wants this, and whatever other talking points they have on a particular day, I decided that my blog (with its incredibly tiny sphere of influence) needed to point to some actual truth about it. Let's face it: people on both sides of this have made some pretty absurd statements.

But here is some truth, as disclosed by CNN, of all places: you'll lose 5 key freedoms under Obama's health care plan. The article discusses these in detail, but in short, those freedoms are:

1. Freedom to choose what's in your plan
2. Freedom to be rewarded for healthy living, or pay your real costs
3. Freedom to choose high-deductible coverage
4. Freedom to keep your existing plan
5. Freedom to choose your doctors

Do please check this out, since some of these items have been routinely misrepresented by President Obama and others. The gist is this: did you like the HMOs of the early 1990s? Then you'll really love Obamacare. If you didn't, then tell your representative and senators before it's too late.

(Hat tip: Conservatives 4 Palin for the link)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Congressman Doggett, Meet Reality

Congressman Lloyd Doggett seems to be doing a good job of milking the attention he's gotten from his August 1 town hall meeting at Randalls (see here and here for examples), but apparently he has not taken the time to get his facts straight about the controversial Obamacare bill before speaking about it publicly.

Case in point: at a meeting at a local Holiday Inn today (as covered here by KXAN), Rep. Doggett responded to a "what's the rush?" question thus:

"Maybe it was a rush when Harry Truman proposed it," responded Doggett. "But, it's not a rush anymore. We have been working on this bill since last year."

To the credit of at least some of the audience, he was rewarded with a fair amount of jeering laughter. It is obvious that the Democratic leaders are trying to rush this bill through. If nothing else, their own words say so, as shown:

"This debate is not a game for these Americans, and they can’t afford to wait any longer for reform."


"Number one, I’m rushed because I get letters every day from families that are being clobbered by health care costs. And they ask me, can you help? So I’ve got a middle-aged couple that will write me and they say, our daughter just found out she’s got leukemia and if I don’t do something soon we just either are going to go bankrupt or we’re not going to be able to provide our daughter with the care that she needs. And in a country like ours, that’s not right. So that’s part of my rush."

--Barack Obama, 23 July 2009 (courtesy the Wall Street Journal)

"Now — with Americans strongly supporting health insurance reform, with Congress reaching consensus on a plan, and with a president who ran and won on this specific promise of change — America is closer than ever to this century-deferred goal.

"This fall, at long last, we must [emphasis mine] reach it."

--Nancy Pelosi & Steny Hoyer, "'Un-American' attacks can't derail health care debate", 10 August 2009 (courtesy USA Today)

Afterwards, [President Obama] told reporters that what he heard only strengthened his conviction that health care reform is needed now.

--"Obama Steps Up Campaign for Health Care Reform", 20 July 2009 (courtesy Voice of America)

It is time for Rep. Doggett to step up and be truthful with his constituents. It would be a lot more productive than continuing to complain.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Cox Media to Keep Statesman

After, what, a year of trying to unload the Austin American-Statesman, Cox Enterprises decided that none of the offers it received for the paper were good enough and has withdrawn its sales offer. The Statesman's own writeup of this development may be found here.

I suppose that with and whatever other online presence the Statesman has, perhaps it is in a better position that places like, say, The New York Times, which, I understand, is kicking around the idea of charging for online access again. Because, you know, that'll keep people coming back, just like it did when they tried TimesSelect a couple of years ago. Oh, wait...

I'm still not certain that newspapers in their current form will survive much longer, but I guess that remains to be seen. Obviously some are in better shape than others.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

What Now, Time Warner?

I'm not sure what Time Warner Cable is playing at, but my basic cable package got an unexpected addition this week on channel 7. Unfortunately for my political tastes, it's MSNBC. It may be an error, as the picture quality is a little grainy, but I have no way of knowing. Time Warner's channel lineup webpage, as might be expected given my previous posts, is no help; it still thinks that the basic package includes channels 19 and 20.

Again, since it's MSNBC, this doesn't really add a lot of value for the Snowed family. As an example of the fine quality programming now added to our system, I got to watch Lloyd Doggett and Rachel Maddow complaining about the reception he got a couple of days ago at Randalls, followed within about five minutes by the biggest display of cheerleading for a political party as I've ever seen on a "news channel", by Ms. Maddow, of course. (But, of course, only Fox is biased. Whatever. If you want to see real mob rule, check out the examples cited by Michelle Malkin.) But I digress.

A few of my readers (who now number well into the single digits, I think) might recall that I was about ready to dump Time Warner last year and may be wondering why I haven't done so. There's an easy answer: this is the cheapest package we could find anywhere. Plus, WGN America has vastly improved its program library. To each his own, I suppose.

(Shameless plug: if you would like to help me made the switch to another provider, please feel free to visit the tip jar, conveniently located to your right.)

Update (8/22/09): I'm not sure if Time Warner is reading this blog, or if they discovered this story on their own, but last night, MSNBC has disappeared from channel 7, replaced by, of course, nothing. Such is life with a cable provider such as this.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Doggett Gets an Earful...Again

It seems that Lloyd Doggett (D, TX-25) can't go anywhere without hearing from people not happy about the health-care bill. As most people heard Saturday (except me, because I was apparently not keeping up with anything that day), Rep. Doggett was met at his town hall meeting at a local Randalls by such a group. As I'm two days late with this news, I'll simply refer people to Michelle Malkin and Robbie Cooper. And, I'll go ahead and post the video everyone's already seen (or not, if they stay as well-informed as I did this weekend).

Commenter "Sara" at Robbie's blog had an interesting fact to add:

It actually started after he decided to cut his “office hours” short by 40 minutes and leave in a huff.

It doesn't appear from that as if Rep. Doggett was interested in hearing what people had to say. And while the Stateman's writeup of the event indicated that the crowd was angry and yet respectful (according to someone present at the event), Rep. Doggett felt the need to issue a statement denouncing the protesters as a "mob, sent by the local Republican and Libertarian parties". (Writeup, again per the Statesman, may be found here.)

And after that note of camaraderie, Rep. Doggett apparently held a press conference today on an unrelated matter. I say "apparently" because the KXAN report I saw covering it had more to do with his complaining about the protesting, complaining that they don't want anyone else to be heard, blah blah blah. It should be noted that KXAN reporter Jenny Hoff stated that she did not observe any protesters at the event today. That report is right here:

So I guess the question at this point is: why complain about protesters if no one was there today protesting, Rep. Doggett? Is it because you want people opposed to the health-care bill to shut up, as you accuse them of wanting of you? And if so, doesn't that seem the slightest bit, well, hypocritical?

And, more importantly, if this was so organized, as you claim, why didn't I know about it?