Monday, September 28, 2009

James Lewis: "I believe that Sarah Palin just gave her first presidential address"

James Lewis of American Thinker leaves no doubt as to how he believes the winds of change are blowing in the first paragraph of his piece, "Redefining Sarah Palin":

As President Obama fumbled badly at the UN and G-8 last week, Sarah Palin began redefining herself as presidential timber.
Mr. Lewis sets the cast of characters for the foreseeable future thus: 

1) "a president who is way over his head"
Given another eight years of seasoning Obama might have made a skilled presidential player, but he won election prematurely, as he himself told the press two years ago. He simply was not ready. He was right about that, but he could not stop himself from seizing the big moment. 
2) a future challenger in Sarah Palin, who "showed Reagan's classic simplicity and directness, and like the Gipper's best talks, she went straight to the heart of today's political battle."
Palin spoke in Hong Kong, the most cosmopolitan city in China. By addressing China in both a fair and a tough-minded way she is likely to make a favorable impression. I would think that the Chinese and Japanese are more impressed by clarity and honesty than by flattery and evasions. So you can be sure it is being read all over Asia. 
3) the observers:  we, the voters, along with the other countries and leaders.  Everyone's watching this.  First, we're watching President Obama appearing to be in a losing endgame with Mahmoud Admedinejad:
In the US battle with Ahmadinejad, the most dangerous maniac in the world, we can now see the likely winner. Obama has foolishly put himself into a position of unprecedented weakness, where he can no longer stop Ahmadinejad's systematic march to nuclear weapons. For the first time in history, nukes will be in the hands of a fanatical Armageddon regime that is determined to use them.  In such a contest it is will power that matters. 
Then, we're watching Sarah Palin redefining her own image without the help of her detractors:
Since the election campaign, it seems that Sarah Palin recruited a top-notch team of advisors and political talent. The Hong Kong speech goes straight to her alleged weakness in foreign affairs, and it is a very good first step toward re-making her media image to be more substantive. The truth is that most of our media heads would not recognize foreign policy substance if it hit them right between the eyes. But they know the image of substance, and the Hong Kong speech was good on both appearance and reality. She demonstrated "gravitas" -- in the pop slogan of the early Bush years. We need more of the same, but she has now shown convincingly that she can do it. 
I don't think it is possible at this point to assume that Obama will win re-election in a walkover.  And at this point, Sarah Palin is presenting herself as a very good alternative to his administration's failing policies.

(Hat tip:  Conservatives 4 Palin)

Unfairly Forgotten Song #7: Piece of My Heart by Tara Kemp

A few months before my last forgotten song honoree hit the charts, a California girl named Tara Kemp hit the top ten with two songs from her eponymous and only album.  The first, "Hold You Tight", went gold and is, to my knowledge, still somewhat familiar to people.  For years, this song was the only Tara Kemp offering available for request at Austin's Bob FM.  (Since then, they now show all tracks from her album as being available.  Yeah, right.  I've never even heard them play "Hold You Tight" in five years of operation.)  The second, "Piece of My Heart", is notable for, among other things, using the exact same rhythm track as "Hold You Tight" had.  (Seriously, listen to the two songs together sometime.  Part 2 of the October 4, 2002 Crap From the Past show actually plays the two together for comparison:  a Tara Kemp-a-thon.)

In any case, for some reason, as "Hold You Tight" held on through the years, "Piece of My Heart" seemingly disappeared entirely (as did Tara Kemp, apparently after her record company went under).  Luckily, thanks to the magic of YouTube, the video survives.

(Note: most information in "forgotten songs" entries comes from the always-reliable Wikipedia; as such, its veracity may be questionable.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Palin's speech brings out the haters

As promised, here's a closer look at the people who comment at CNN, as well as their abject hatred for Sarah Palin. As you may or may not have heard, she gave a speech in Hong Kong which has received some attention, and CNN wrote about it. Unfortunately, a good number of people who comment at CNN's website have felt the need to screech their scattered thoughts, most of which seem to center around either Sarah Palin being an idiot, the CLSA being idiots for inviting her to speak, or Republicans in general being idiots. In general, this is not a good way of convincing people of anything; however, it just might increase the likelihood of these commenters appearing as panelists on The Chris Matthews Show.

Enough of that...let's get to the comments.

  • Tony:  Obviously for Palin to get the gig, Lindsey Lohan, was back in rehab, Jessica Simpson is depressed over the loss of her dog and boyfriend, Britney Spears is working on her comeback and Paris Hilton wasn't interested.
  • DC Mike:  I would not pay one thin dime to hear this complete ignoramus speak. Never before has someone so incredibly stupid been a prominent member of a US political party. Her popularity amongst Republicans sheds light on the complete and total lack of intelligence within their party.
  • k:  So she happens to now afford a speech writer, most likely paid for by the RNC, so she has the appearance of intelligence. This doesn't change the fact that she's still about as "with it" as a Pig.
  • US Citizen:  Who she think she is? Only morans and combined total IQ of attendees must be in single digit. Is this a news worthy item? News Media is should be shame of them selves, giving this less than 5th grade intelect be the main story.
  • Josh Lewis:  I get embarrassed enough for her when I see her on television, I don't think I could handle watching her speak in person. She has no place speaking to such an exclusive group of intelligent professionals.
  • Debra:  This isn't about a liberal slant to the story. The point is that this is not a well versed person on any topic. To invite her is beyond reason. Perhaps it was a spectacle event. They could have gotten our former Miss California up there to do the same speech that someone else wrote. What's the point? I wouldn't pay 2 cents to hear her speak about any topic. It would certainly be a waste of time.

They sound like open-minded people, don't they?  I especially like the comments made by "US Citizen".  I almost think that the comments were made by someone parodying the haters' position; otherwise, they're just sad.  Seriously, "News Media is should be shame of them selves, giving this less than 5th grade intelect be the main story"?  I weep for the future.*

What exactly has happened to civility here?  (I refer here to both sides.)  Let's talk issues or reasons; let's not denigrate people as idiots, be they Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, or even Snowed In.

*10 points and virtually no prestige to the first to place that quote.

Sarah Palin shines in Hong Kong

Most of the reaction I've seen so far from Sarah Palin's speech at the CLSA Investors' Forum in Hong Kong appears to be quite positive.  At least one source remarked that she took not just one party to task but both major parties in the US, and she also gently chided China on the human rights front.

Surprising me, the NYTimes presented a fairly positive view of her speech.  I particularly liked this part:
A number of people who heard the speech in a packed hotel ballroom, which was closed to the media, said Mrs. Palin spoke from notes for 90 minutes and that she was articulate, well-prepared and even compelling.
Not really surprising me, CNN made the fact that a couple of people walked out the main point of its headline:  "Some early exits as Palin woos Hong Kong investors".
Those who attended her speech said she did well, though some could be seen leaving early on. A few of those people said they were heading to other forum offerings. Most people declined to speak with the media about the speech.
CNN didn't really have much to say about the content of the speech, choosing instead to use quotes from others, starting, of course, with someone who didn't care for her.  Typical.  (And, I could go on about the people who comment at CNN's articles, and I will, but not here.)

Dan Riehl links to the NYTimes (link above) and to AFP (linked by Breitbart), which, according to at least one of his readers, had the worst write-up of the speech.  Was it?  As they used to say during Monday Night Football, you make the call:
Although she touched on the threat posed to the United States by terrorism and talked about links with traditional US allies in Asia such as Japan, Australia and South Korea, one Asian delegate complained she devoted too much time to her home state of Alaska.

"It was almost more of a speech promoting investment in Alaska," he said, declining to be named.

"As fund managers we want to hear about the United States as a whole, not just about Alaska. And she criticised Obama a lot but offered no solutions."

Granted, they did offer some positive coverage:
"She was brilliant," said a European delegate, on condition of anonymity.
(Why would you need anonymity for a quote like that?)

But what really told me what I needed to know about AFP's coverage was that the author of this piece seemingly expected Sarah Palin to screw the speech up somehow:
There were no apparent gaffes though from Palin, who was mocked during last year's presidential campaign for her lack of experience in foreign affairs and for her verbal blunders.
Now, if we were to see sentences like that after President Obama (who was mocked during last year's presidential campaign for verbal blunders such as "57 states") or Joe Biden (oh, you know!) spoke, I wouldn't be so convinced that this report was severely slanted.  But, as you may have noticed, we don't.

(But Snowed, isn't your blog slanted?  Yes.  I like Sarah Palin.  Duh!  But at least I'll admit it.  The MSM likes President Obama as much or more than I like Gov. Palin, but with the exception of Chris "Snugglebuggle Kissyface" Matthews, no one will bother to admit the truth about this situation, not that we haven't already figured it out...)

For more on Governor Palin's speech, Josh Painter has a great write-up, including tweets from people who were at the speech and links to several other reports.  Check it out.

Don Surber also has a good take on it:
Methinks some people expected Joan of Arc while others expected Tina Fey. I think they got Sarah, a bright person from middle America who is more mainstream than the geniuses we have in Washington.
So what is the takeaway from this speech?  Is Sarah Palin prepping for a 2012 presidential run?  Who knows.  And, in my opinion, it's too soon to care anyway.  My takeaway is that Sarah Palin is going to be someone who makes things happen, whether she is in office or not.  And I think that is a good thing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Promoting Better Lighting

This week Austinites have a great opportunity to help promote better, more efficient lighting in construction around here.  For those who don't know it (and apparently there are many), there is a group called the Illuminating Engineering Society, which is made up of architects, engineers, lighting designers, etc. and is devoted to helping produce better lighting designs--not just nicer, more intricate designs, but also more environmentally friendly ones.  (Thankfully, it is possible to have nice lighting designs that are designers are no longer limited to those 2x4 fluorescent things that have been in everybody's office since about 1985.)

The local IES section will be meeting Wednesday the 23rd at 11:30am at Joe's Crab Shack on Riverside.  Here is the information that the local section has sent out regarding the meeting:

Did you know that the IES holds 25% of committee seats for ASHRAE?  Have you ever heard of the Advanced Energy Design Guide?  Have you ever wondered how lighting power densities were determined in ASHRAE or how many members the IES actually has?  This month’s meeting focuses on us – the IES.  We will cover the Who, What, Where of our organization including discussion about the new strategic plan (did you know there was one?), as well as delve into the inner workings of ASHRAE and its impact on LEED (with V3 updates).

If you are in a relevant field and are interested in seeing better lighting designs in Austin in the future, check it out.  You can get a discount by prepaying, so visit the local section website,, for more information.

Snowed In's Theory

I've come up with a new theory.  I don't know if I can call it a law yet; I suppose more testing is needed, but so far, my hypothesis appears to have been confirmed in multiple instances.

Snowed In's Theory:  Anyone who uses the term "teabagger", or any form of that word, to refer to Tea Party or other protesters who are concerned about the direction taken by government is not interested in having a meaningful discussion about issues.

Corollary:  Statements, articles, and/or interviews in which this theory comes into play may be ignored as a whole.

I've spoken previously about my contempt for arguments using this term here and's immature and offensive and generally beneath what a media pundit should strive to be.  Unfortunately, a lot of media pundits seemingly couldn't care less about things like civility or decorum.  It's a sad statement on things in 2009, but here we are.  So, with that said, as a public service, this blog will now be making more of an effort to call out those in the MSM for whom my theory comes into play.  Something tells me I won't be hurting for subjects.

Case in point:  Joe Klein of Time Magazine (also a frequent panelist on The Chris Matthews Echo Chamber Show), who in this post manages not only to insult people who disagree with Obama with the usual terms, but also manages to call all of us out as racists.  Yes, that's right, Mr. Klein apparently subscribes to the Jimmy Carter argument that because we disagree with the idea of government taking over, well, everything, we must really just hate President Obama because he's black.

And then he goes on about how President Obama has been downplaying the issue since he came on the scene.  Ummm, Mr. Klein, please explain how exactly he was downplaying the race issue when he said at a rally in Rolla, Missouri last year that the Republicans would try to scare voters by saying "He doesn't look like the other presidents on the coins."  In case you've forgotten, please view the following (the phrase in question occurs about five minutes in).

Seriously, Mr. Klein, we expect better from you than this.  Don't try to talk about people about which you are obviously not well informed.  While there are obviously some people not currently happy about the government who happen to be racists, don't paint us all with the same brush.  It just makes you look as prejudiced as you claim that we are.  (That, and calling people "teabaggers" just comes across as asinine, as I've said.)

And thus, Joe Klein, for writing this piece of tripe, you are the first person to be officially dishonored for having run afoul of Snowed In's Theory.  Congratulations, and here's hoping you are never so honored again.  And call us when you're ready to have an honest discussion.

(I ought to come up with some sort of image for this "honor"...any suggestions?) 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

RIP, Jammin 105.9

You can't say I didn't warn you.

Imagine my very, very slight surprise when I discovered that Jammin 105.9 was gone this morning.  I turned on 105.9 FM (KFMK), expecting to hear, most likely, Kidd Kraddick going on about something or another.  Instead, I heard rock music, which was quite a surprise, as I had been expecting KFMK to go all hip-hop for some time now.  Instead, the station was calling itself "105-9 the Planet", and it was playing an interesting mix of rock music, that's for sure.

And I was all ready to write it up on my blog and talk about where they might be positioned (between 101X and KLBJ, I thought), when I discovered to my chagrin that the internet was down where I was.  And so I waited.

In the meantime, it turned out that "105-9 the Planet" was simply a stunt.  And what format did end up on 105.9?  As expected, it is now hip-hop.  They're calling themselves "105.9 the Beat", taking the moniker formerly in use at 104.3 and 104.9 at different points in Austin's radio history and presenting themselves as an alternative to Hot 93.3.  (Warning:  when visiting Hot 93.3's site, make sure you use ".fm" in the address.  Don't use ".com" unless you like non-kid-friendly material appearing on your desktop.  Live and learn, I suppose.)

And that's all well and good.  But did this have to happen to Jammin 105.9?  It's well known that Clear Channel is trying to sell the station for a while, but before then, "jammin' oldies" was a popular format throughout the nation, right around 1999-2000 or so.  Jammin 105.9 got good ratings in the Austin market, and the station was entertaining and fun to listen to, thanks to the personalities in place at the time.

So what went wrong?  Well, several things happened.  First, there was attrition.  Personalities left the station and their replacements were either not quite as entertaining, or they were voice-tracked from another city, or both.  This was originally mostly due to long-gone 107.7 the End, which was all-80s at the time.  Plus, I suppose the format's popularity began to wane with the public.  So, KFMK tweaked its playlist multiple times throughout its history, eventually going from a mostly 60s and 70s Motown/disco mix to a mostly 80s rhythmic mix, until finally in 2006 Jammin 105.9 went to the mishmash of a format it had until this morning, with 80s rhythmic songs followed by 90s or 00s rap.  It was an interesting array of music, to be sure, but it did not entice me to leave my radio on the station for very long at any one time.  (The advent of Bob FM in 2004 was also influential in that aspect.)  Add to that the fact that all the live on-air personalities were let go in 2006 during the format tweak mentioned above, and suddenly KFMK became a station with no real unique character.  Jammin 105.9 was a bland mix of music that was sometimes good.  It was almost as if Clear Channel was trying to kill the station before selling it.  (The use of syndicated personalities such as Kidd Kraddick and Ryan Seacrest generally did not help with these images of the station.)

Then in the last 18 months or so, KFMK had a hybrid sort of format, with the mishmash most of the day, but hip-hop weeknights from 7 to 1 and weekends from noon to 1am.  This apparently did not appeal to listeners either, and so KFMK's ratings fell further.  It was only a matter of time before the format was going to change, and that day has come for Jammin 105.9.

With that said, for almost 11 years, Jammin 105.9 was an integral part of my Austin radio experience, and even though it was a shell of its former self when it departed this world, I will miss it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sarah Palin: Remembering 9/11: We Are Americans

9/11/2001. Never forget the innocent who perished, or those who gave of themselves with no thought to their own lives.

From Sarah Palin's Facebook page this morning:
It has been eight years since the United States suffered the worst attack on our soil since Pearl Harbor. As we look back, we should take stock of what has transpired since then. We have sent our nation's soldiers into battlefields far from home to defend us. These brave men and women live in treacherous conditions, facing improvised roadside bombs, suicide bombers and other attacks. Yet they fight on in their mission to defend the United States and all of us without complaint.

Our all-volunteer service is made up of Americans of all races, creeds, and economic backgrounds. These soldiers are on the front lines of this battle, and there are others in the fight as well. We must continue to give our utmost support to the United States military and those that support their efforts. In light of this, I have added my name to a letter sent to President Obama urging him to remain committed to prosecuting the War on Terror in Afghanistan. Never have so few defended the liberty of so many. We must continue to support their mission because they will continue to fight for us.

President Reagan ended his first inaugural with this story:

Under one such marker lies a young man-Martin Treptow-who left his job in a small town barber shop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division. There, on the western front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire. We are told that on his body was found a diary. On the flyleaf under the heading, "My Pledge," he had written these words: "America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone." The crisis we are facing today does not require of us the kind of sacrifice that Martin Treptow and so many thousands of others were called upon to make. It does require, however, our best effort, and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds; to believe that together, with God's help, we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us. And, after all, why shouldn't we believe that? We are Americans. God bless you, and thank you.

As we look back to that tragic day eight years ago we take pride in the fact that we came together as a nation in the days, months and years that followed. We rose to the challenge that fateful day and we still can. And why shouldn't we believe that? We are Americans.

I thank all our servicemen and women, in and out of uniform, for keeping us safe over the last eight years in the face of enormous odds.

Please thank a veteran today. They certainly do not look for those thanks, but they have more than earned it.

- Sarah Palin

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Three Responses to the Obamacare Speech

Eighteen hours after President Obama spoke before a joint session of Congress about the urgent need to secure his legacy fix the American health care system, he must be flummoxed to find that most of the attention has been diverted away from what he said. I have found three statements so far that sum up the response to the speech, at least for me. Excerpts only are shown, except for the first one.

1. Joe Wilson (R-SC), whose statement is shown in its entirety and which you've probably already heard 418 times by now:
You lie!
That comment, regardless of its validity, was stated in the wrong context. Rep. Wilson should have gone out and held a news conference to call President Obama a liar, as pretty much every Democrat in Congress did with regard to President Bush.

But was President Obama lying in his statement about illegal immigration which unintentionally solicited Rep. Wilson's outburst? More on that in this next response.

2. Kathleen McKinley, aka Rightwingsparkle:
I didn't hear anything different from the last 28 speeches he has given on health care. He said the same things that have been disputed as well.


He denies that abortion and illegal immigrants will be covered in the bill, and yet every wording that has been submitted by Republicans that specifically requires those things not be covered , in writing, has been rejected and thrown out by the Democrats. They know that if it isn't specifically rejected in the bill, it will be covered. It will fall under some other provision. It's their dirty little secret. Why else reject the language?

He says "nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have." Notice the nuance there. No, of course nothing "requires" it, but if your employer chooses the public option, then you have no choice but to change. The stone cold truth is that the Congressional Budget Office analyzed the health care bill written by House Democrats and reported that by 2016 some 3 million people who now have employer-based care would lose it because their employers would decide to stop offering it.

Ms. McKinley does a nice job of pointing out what could at best be described as half-truths presented by President Obama. She goes on to make other salient points that aren't covered here because I want you to go read her blog.

3. Sarah Palin:
After all the rhetoric is put aside, one principle ran through President Obama’s speech tonight: that increased government involvement in health care can solve its problems.


Our objections to the Democrats’ health care proposals are not mere “bickering” or “games.” They are not an attempt to “score short term political points.” And it’s hard to listen to the President lecture us not to use “scare tactics” when in the next breath he says that “more will die” if his proposals do not pass.

In his speech the President directly responded to concerns I’ve raised about unelected bureaucrats being given power to make decisions affecting life or death health care matters. He called these concerns “bogus,” “irresponsible,” and “a lie” -- so much for civility. After all the name-calling, though, what he did not do is respond to the arguments we’ve made, arguments even some of his own supporters have agreed have merit.

In fact, after promising to “make sure that no government bureaucrat .... gets between you and the health care you need,” the President repeated his call for an Independent Medicare Advisory Council -- an unelected, largely unaccountable group of bureaucrats charged with containing Medicare costs. He did not disavow his own statement that such a group, working outside of “normal political channels,” should guide decisions regarding that “huge driver of cost ... the chronically ill and those toward the end of their lives....” He did not disavow the statements of his health care advisor, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, and continuing to pay his salary with taxpayer dollars proves a commitment to his beliefs. The President can keep making unsupported assertions, but until he directly responds to the arguments I’ve made, I’m going to call him out too.
When it comes to the so-called "death panels", many people, including myself, had not done our homework when it came to the context of the House health care bill (HR 3200, Sec. 1233), but Sarah Palin certainly had.

And none of these excerpts cover the other main objection I have to a lot of these large spending bills, which is, of course, that we have to pay for it somehow. Kathleen McKinley sums that concern up:
He said that he will not sign a bill that will add a dime to the deficit. I don't think there is a reasonable person out there that believes that. The Congressional Budget Office said that the bill the House Democrats have offered would add $220 billion to the deficit over ten years.
And as for the response to these types of responses to the opposition? Again, Kathleen nails it:
Pres. Obama also said " I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility." He might also send that memo to the Democrat leaders who call ordinary Americans who oppose the public option "evil mongers," compared them to "Nazis," and call them "an angry mob."

One need only look at the people who troll the comment section for pretty much every Sarah Palin post on Facebook to see that this memo is needed, not just for the Democratic leaders, but for all of us--the sooner, the better.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

A Conservative Dad's View of the Austin Tea Party

On Saturday, I checked out the Tea Party at the Capitol, and I thought it would be educational to bring the 5-year-old along. The trip turned out to be an educational experience for both of us.

First of all, as we drove into downtown Austin, we saw at least three people with signs saying "I Need Tickets." The 5-year-old pointed out that those people shouldn't have been there because they should have gotten their tickets already. (This makes the 5-year-old wiser than many adults, apparently.) I then explained that many times, these people end up paying much more than the original ticket price, which pretty much solidified the 5-year-old's opinion on the matter.

Finally, we got to the Capitol Parking Complex, where I discovered, to my chagrin, that unlike what I had been led to believe, the first two hours of parking were not free. This led directly to my first real takeaway from this event, which should be passed along to anyone wanting to schedule an event in downtown Austin: never schedule an event in downtown Austin on the day of a UT football game. (The corollary to this would most likely be that people should never drive anywhere near downtown Austin on a UT game day without expecting to sit in traffic.)

We got to the Capitol grounds about twenty minutes before the event was supposed to start. There were already quite a few people there, as I expected. I haven't heard an official count (this site says more than 4000 were there), but we were both given wristbands (so "the media can't say 45 people were there", someone said later). The first person we met asked me if I was aware that Debra Medina (warning: page has embedded autoplaying video) was running in the Republican gubernatorial primary against Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison (I was). Most others were similarly genial, although there was at least one person shouting about his pet issue (in the case I'm remembering, the right to own guns). The 5-year-old didn't understand why he was shouting, and I tried to explain without going into a lot of detail.

As expected, there were hundreds of signs to be seen at the Tea Party. The 5-year-old wasn't paying attention to most of them, which was a good thing (because the 5-year-old reads quite well, thank you). Of course, everyone who wanted to be there came because we are not happy with the way the Obama administration has handled, well, pretty much every major item (I, for one, am not thrilled that the 5-year-old will have to help pay for this mess), but some of the signs were juvenile at best. I mean, do we really need plays on Obama's name, rude insults thrown at him (mostly...some were thrown at Nancy Pelosi and others), or whatever else? I feel about this about the same way I feel about people who use the term "teabaggers".

Anyway, about five minutes after the event was scheduled to start (and after the 5-year-old had asked me about 15 times when it would start), the canned music was turned off, and the first of many people took the microphone. I won't go into a lot of detail about what was said (the entire event has been posted on YouTube, starting here), but I will note a few things. First, I was surprised to see the event start with a prayer (that our country would do God's will), and I was happy that the 5-year-old got to see/hear someone sing our national anthem. Most of what I heard (I don't always hear too well, thanks to the 1990s and many pairs of earbuds) was about what I expected. Steven Crowder, who emceed the event, was his usual funny self.

With that said, I wasn't thrilled with what others said. Someone, I never knew who, raised the specter of whether Obama would allow elections in 2012. Um, yeah, didn't we hear the same thing about both Clinton and Bush? Besides, there are enough legitimate things to worry about with this administration, such as whether the dollar will have any value left after we print a bazillion of them to pay for everything. My takeaway from this: if you're concerned about a current issue, focus on that, rather than raising what-if scenarios to make things seem even worse. Both sides are bad about this, of course, but for me to be present at this particular event when someone said such a thing made me feel as if I was tacitly agreeing with him. Not so.

And this reminds me of something else I learned: if you didn't enjoy scheduled pep rallies in high school, you probably wouldn't enjoy political rallies such as this one. I always hated having to cheer on cue back then, and I felt rather silly when it was encouraged by the speakers at the Tea Party. Yes, I enjoyed hearing most of the speakers, you know, speak, but I wasn't moved to yell and scream in agreement by most of what I heard Saturday.

I did see some counter-protesters (three) holding signs in favor of a public option for health care and against "big insurance", but I didn't see much of any interaction between them and the main crowd. (One of them yelled about stopping big insurance, but no one knew what to do with such a remark. Seriously, everything stopped for about ten seconds.) But at least there were no hostilities that I could see. Takeaway: it is possible to protest and counter-protest without getting into fights, or, say, biting someone's finger off. (No, I'm not linking to the story, as most of my readers probably have seen it already, and it's gross.)

As it turned out, though, I did not get to see/hear all of the speakers (for example, I missed Joe the Plumber). The 5-year-old apparently has little tolerance for sitting and/or standing around listening to people speak for three hours about topics which are not quite as interesting to a 5-year-old as they are to me. I attempted to explain to the 5-year-old that people were not happy with what the president was doing, but later, the 5-year-old could only summarize what I said as something to the effect of "President Obama needs to stop." (At least she was trying to listen to me explain this.) The 5-year-old also wanted to go inside the Capitol and view the dome, which we did, and after that, we did not stay much longer, as the 5-year-old was "homesick", which I took to mean extremely bored.

And that brings us to the main lesson to be learned in all this, which I think many could stand to learn: don't bring a 5-year-old to a political rally.

You're welcome.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

When Sarah knocked it out of the park

On September 3, 2008, at least 37.2 million viewers watched what was basically the coming-out party for Sarah Palin. Her speech resonated with and inspired the viewers, and it made many, including the Snowed family, think that Gov. Palin would and should be part of the solution to the issues facing our nation.

In case you missed it, or you need to reminded that Sarah Palin is not the caricature pushed on you by the elites in both parties, I invite you to set aside 45 minutes and watch that RNC speech, and get to know the real Sarah Palin.

(Video courtesy C-Span)

The transcript, as provided by the NYTimes, may be found here. As can be seen, Gov. Palin truly shone, for example, when speaking about energy policy (applause breaks cut):

I fought to bring about the largest private-sector infrastructure project in North American history. And when that deal was struck, we began a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline to help lead America to energy independence.

That pipeline, when the last section is laid and its valves are open, will lead America one step farther away from dependence on dangerous foreign powers that do not have our interests at heart.

The stakes for our nation could not be higher. When a hurricane strikes in the Gulf of Mexico, this country should not be so dependent on imported oil that we're forced to draw from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And families cannot throw more and more of their paychecks on gas and heating oil.

With Russia wanting to control a vital pipeline in the Caucasus and to divide and intimidate our European allies by using energy as a weapon, we cannot leave ourselves at the mercy of foreign suppliers.

To confront the threat that Iran might seek to cut off nearly a fifth of the world's energy supplies, or that terrorists might strike again at the Abqaiq facility in Saudi Arabia, or that Venezuela might shut off its oil discoveries and its deliveries of that source, Americans, we need to produce more of our own oil and gas. And take it from a gal who knows the North Slope of Alaska: We've got lots of both.

Our opponents say again and again that drilling will not solve all of America's energy problems, as if we didn't know that already. But the fact that drilling, though, won't solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all.

Starting in January, in a McCain-Palin administration, we're going to lay more pipelines, and build more nuclear plants, and create jobs with clean coal, and move forward on solar, wind, geothermal, and other alternative sources. We need American sources of resources. We need American energy brought to you by American ingenuity and produced by American workers.

And, while she ended up not being part of a McCain-Palin administration, as it turns out, she did have a pretty good idea of where government would go under an Obama administration (again, audience reactions cut):

What does he actually seek to accomplish...? The answer -- the answer is to make government bigger, and take more of your money, and give you more orders from Washington, and to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world.

America needs more energy; our opponent is against producing it. Victory in Iraq is finally in sight, and he wants to forfeit. Terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay; he wants to meet them without preconditions.


Government is too big; he wants to grow it. Congress spends too much money; he promises more. Taxes are too high, and he wants to raise them. His tax increases are the fine print in his economic plan.

It's worth giving Sarah Palin another listen, isn't it?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Doggett, BOR Take Cheap Shot at Retired Lady

Austin's tolerant left has set their sights on...a retired lady in Fayette County.

The backstory, as has been reported at and elsewhere, is that Fayette County Judge Ed Janecka called Chris Boyle, VP-Secretary of the Fayette County Taxpayers Coalition, to ask her not to protest the opening this week of a Veterans Administration clinic in La Grange, an event at which Rep. Lloyd Doggett is scheduled to appear. Ms. Boyle, as might be expected, is protesting Rep. Doggett's support of HR 3200, the so-called Obamacare bill; she also added in a statement that Rep. Doggett had nothing to do with having the clinic in La Grange.

Rep. Doggett of course, said that he had everything to do with it, saying "With meetings in both Washington and Texas, I have been working on getting this clinic to La Grange since 2006. Last year, I invited the VA to a meeting with veterans at the Fayette County Courthouse to involve them in the planning for this clinic." (Figuring out how much holding meetings had to do with the actual placement of a clinic in La Grange is left as an exercise to the reader, but given that he didn't claim credit for getting the money appropriated in the first place, I'm gonna guess it happened before La Grange became part of his district.)

Then, with his usual grace, Rep. Doggett added, "These Teabag extremists have every right to protest my unwavering commitment to health insurance reform anywhere that I go..." One gets the feeling that he's making a sly reference the same unfunny euphemism to which people losing the public-relations war have clung since April, "teabagger". (Finding out the definition of this phrase is also left to the reader, with the caveat that the definition is NSFW.)

In reporting this, as might be expected, the Burnt Orange Report threw the offending term right into the title of both its two posts covering it. Along with this, the writers there have no problem coming right out and calling Mrs. Boyle "crazy", telling her to "seek psychiatric help", and so forth, while also making up viewpoints for her, such as that she wants Congress to "[s]top meddling in the lives of those veterans and giving them medical care." (Yes, it was probably hyperbole. But yes, it was also disrepectful.)

Until both sides can have a discussion without resorting to names and insults, expect this sort of behavior to continue.

Sidenote: And why would people feel the need to protest Lloyd Doggett at this event? Possibly because some of them were refused entrance into his townhall meeting Saturday, as shown:

"He told me, 'This crowd would not want you in there anyway.'"

And why were there so many people who would not want a dissenting opinion about health care? According to Ramparts 360, members were bused in from Dallas and elsewhere to pack Rep. Doggett's meeting. As for those people against the current health-care bill, there are reports that people were verbally and physically intimidated by people up to and including the senior pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Austin.

With this sort of behavior by Rep. Doggett's supporters, is it any wonder why people have taken to protesting?

Austin Traffic's Most Costly Delays

So which roads in the Austin area rank as the most congested? According to TxDOT, they're probably the ones you expect. 590 KLBJ is reporting that the Texas Department of Transportation has released a list (available here) of the 100 most congested roadway segments in Texas, based on the annual weekday hours of delay per mile. As might be expected, the Houston and Dallas areas take the top spots, but Austin, of course, has its fair share of roads on the list. All of these roads have a "Texas Congestion Index" of well over 1.0; this is an index of travel times during congestion versus travel times at, say, four in the morning. (If you ask me, most of the Texas Congestion Index values for these roads are woefully low; unfortunately, TxDOT didn't ask me.)

Most of these roads are projected to get a lot worse (TCI readings of up to 3.00, meaning a trip during rush hour would take three times as long as during non-rush hours) by the year 2028. Luckily, TxDOT's page very helpfully also points out what plans it has for each of those roads to improve them, hopefully to prevent a whole lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth by frustrated Texas commuters.

Unluckily, a lot of the Travis/Williamson County roads listed do not have a lot of improvements scheduled anytime soon, or even at all, for some of them. Let's take a look:

  • I-35 between Ben White and US 183 (#26): TCI of 1.41, projected to be 2.25 by 2028. Projected improvements: none. That's right, TxDOT, CAMPO, and whoever else is responsible for this mess are going to do nothing about it. There's a reason I use TX 130 to skip this mess whenever possible between 3 and 7.
  • Mopac between US 183 and US 290 (#44): TCI of 1.31, 2.01 by 2028. Projected improvements: building of managed lanes (that means HOV or HOT lanes). Find a carpooling buddy, commuters. The first projected bid date for this is December 2013. (Aside: it really bugs me when people call US 290 "Ben White" in that area. Ben White Blvd. officially ends at Lamar. Yeah, I suppose I am a roadgeek.)
  • I-35 between US 183 and Howard Ln. (#45): TCI of 1.30, 1.97 by 2028. Projected improvements: 1) widen the frontage road in one area; and 2) reconstruct the Parmer interchange. From experience, I know that the Parmer/I-35 interchange is nasty. It used to take me 15 minutes just to get through there going westbound at 5:30pm. So, I'm sure any improvement would be appreciated by thousands of people (well, once it's done, I guess).
  • Mopac between TX 45 and Parmer Ln. (#48): TCI of 1.27, 1.44 by 2028. First of all, I find this hard to believe, as Mopac north of Parmer is a toll road, and I have never seen it congested. (Feel free to correct me on this point, Mopac commuters.) Projected improvements: none.
  • US 183 between Mopac and I-35 (#49): TCI of 1.28, 2.08 by 2028. Again, I don't normally see this road backed up during rush hour (though it certainly is north of Mopac). Projected improvements: managed lanes, bidding in 2013.
  • I-35 between Howard Ln. and the north edge of Round Rock (#53): TCI of 1.27, 1.99 by 2028. Projected improvements: the rest of the direct connectors to TX 45, bidding in 2012.
  • Southwest Pkwy between Vega and Mopac (#54): TCI of 1.29, not projected to 2028. Well, this makes sense, given that you have a six-lane road ending at a traffic light where everyone is forced into one lane if they want onto Mopac. Not really the best plan, if you ask me. Projected improvements: none. I suppose you could always use Boston Ln. to cut over to US 290 and skip the lights, but that has its own problems.
  • Loop 360 from US 183 to RM 2222 (#55): TCI of 1.35, 1.50 by 2028. Obviously there are no projected improvements to 360, given that CAMPO is still trying to figure out what they'll do with the road. Till then, find a good radio station, I guess.
  • Loop 360 from RM 2222 to RM 2244 (#61): TCI of 1.33, 1.50 by 2028. Apparently it gets better if you are going southbound. Projected improvements: see above.
  • US 183 from RM 1431 to the Travis/Williamson county line (#64): TCI of 1.33, 1.48 by 2028. Projected improvements: the aforementioned managed lanes, starting at Lakeline Blvd. (Aside: seriously, 183 from the county line to Mopac isn't on here? Something's gotta be wrong with that.)
  • RM 620 from US 183 to RM 2222 (#70): TCI of 1.37, 1.86 by 2028. I suppose the much worse congestion in twenty years is to be expected; I wouldn't think any of those traffic lights will go away. Projected improvements: extend the Texas 45 freeway west to El Salido Pkwy. (Yet another aside: I'm sure 45 will be tolled, but it's still a "freeway"...traffic moves freely, or at least w/out traffic signals or cross streets.)
  • US 290 from "Oak" (I think this means Oak Hill) to RM 1826 (#72): TCI of 1.32, 1.44 by 2028. No projected improvements shown, but I think CAMPO and TxDOT are still figuring out how to make that part of 290 into a freeway, so something's going to be different by then (we can only hope).
  • FM 1325 from I-35 to Merrilltown Dr. (#78): TCI of 1.31, 1.56 by 2028. Really? Why is this here? Why aren't commuters using Mopac, which is, at most, a half-mile away? Yeah, I know, it's a toll road. Wouldn't you be saving time, and, therefore, money by using it anyway?
  • Loop 360 from RM 2244 to Mopac (#81): TCI of 1.30, 1.47 by 2028. Previous 360 comments apply.
Like I said, there aren't too many surprises here, although I think this congestion index is understating the delays present in some of these routes today, let alone 2028.

Obviously, TxDOT has its fair share of funding issues at present. Are more toll roads the answer? (Yes, I see you, Mike Dahmus.) How about raising the gas tax? (That's probably a non-starter in Texas at the moment.) How about mass transit? (Oh, right, we have Capital Metro.)

Or, is a paradigm shift in order? Is it possible that we'll see a majority of people shifting to telecommuting? (I'd like to; unfortunately, my home computer is older than my children combined.)

I don't know. All I know is that my Manchaca Road commute that used to be 15 minutes each way now averages 22-23 minutes as more and more structures go up in south Austin. That, and I know that we need to start this discussion now if we don't want to be seething in traffic in 2028.