Tuesday, November 30, 2010

2010 Online Red Kettle, and other ways to help out this holiday season

As has been my wont for the past couple of years, I am once again hosting an Online Red Kettle for the Salvation Army, for those who have either already finished their shopping or want to plan out their donations in advance.

So, if you would like to donate through my virtual kettle, you can do so by clicking the kettle below:

(Image courtesy The Salvation Army)

A couple of other ways to help out this holiday season (and, really, any time) are as follows:

If you are in the Austin area, the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas, where, according to what they have said, your monetary donation can go about five times as far as a food donation, as they can buy in bulk and save money.  They do a lot of good work, and we've supported them before.

Also, my online friend (though we disagree politically) Kim Doyle Wille supports (and I believe I have as well, by participating in one of those retweet-this-hashtag-and-we'll-donate-money schemes) Feeding America, which is a more national program than our local food bank, obviously.

All of these options are well worth your support.  Regardless of your where your political and religious affiliations lie this holiday season, let's all help someone out who needs it.

"Snowed In" Nominated for Austin Blogger Award!

Wow.  Until today, I did not even realize there was such a thing as the Austin Blogger Awards.  (Yeah, it's new for 2010, created by local megablog Republic of Austin.)

And I was even more shocked to find that your humble author's blog was one of the five finalists in the category of "Best Local Politics Blog", particularly since a lot of the recent entries concern the decidedly non-local Bristol Palin (as does yet another upcoming entry, which will undoubtedly thrill "toque").  Well, there were also a few about up-and-comer and certain-to-be-2012-TX25-candidate Donna Campbell, as well as a couple of State House-related entries.  And who knows, maybe some nice readers still remember what was, at the time, a rather big scandal involving former City Council member Jennifer Kim.  (It should be noted that one of my local politics blog competitors had an assist in helping me break that one.)

But whatever the reason, I am pleasantly surprised, to say the least, to see my blog honored with four other blogs, all of which are rather well-known, at least by me.  I very much appreciate whoever nominated me.*  Thank you.

So, then, I would appreciate it if you would use the link below and vote for me by 5pm CST on Friday, December 3.

(Image courtesy Austin Blogger Awards)

*No, I didn't nominate myself, as far as I remember, and if I did, I probably would have kept my nomination to some category such as "Least Often Updated Local Blogs".

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On a personal note...

Hello, "toque" of Hamilton, Ontario.  Thanks for the link.  Though I must say I feel a little like I'm being stalked here, what with you hitting my blog multiple times yesterday.

I'm sorry you think I'm an idiot for supporting the positions of a politician you don't like, and for voting, legitimately*, for her daughter on a reality show.  And I have to say, I see a little disconnect between your saying that you are a Christian and your calling us "these idiots"--in the same paragraph, no less.  I don't think you're an idiot, as I have no idea who you are.  But as you seem to know me so well, perhaps you can elaborate as to why my voting for Bristol makes me such an idiot, and why it is so much worse than, say, voting for Sanjaya.  (I'm pretty you know who Sanjaya is, given your more than eight thousand posts on a reality TV message board.)

Or are you, perhaps, one of many people blinded by hatred--yes, hatred--for Sarah Palin, to the point that you think anyone who might agree with her politically is either evil, stupid, or both?

In any case, the traffic is appreciated.  But you might remember that someone on the other side of the screen is still entitled to an opinion even if that person disagrees with you.  You're entitled to think I'm an idiot, just as I'm entitled to think you need to rethink your opinion.


* I never said everyone voting for Bristol was cheating in my last post.  I certainly am not.**  Yes, I know a few people are.  I may have to revisit the topic.

** Heck, the kid's using half the household votes for Kyle.  Stop the presses, it's a Disney Channel conspiracy!!!!11!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Politics and Prizes: Are conservatives pushing Bristol, and if so, so what?

The successful run of Bristol Palin on ABC's Dancing With the Stars has caused reactions that run the gamut from delight in her success to vitriol at those awful right-wing conspirators to total indifference.  (Strangely, one person I know spends way too much time telling people that he doesn't care about things like this, which lead me to believe that he does care about things like this...)

I've written before about the haters, but now, in addition to their constant whines of "she's not a star" and various cheap shots and simply untrue statements about her character, some people have gotten it into their heads that Ms. Palin is the object of a large-scale conspiracy to cheat the system because all these Tea Partiers (I won't use their favorite term) are voting for her.

First of all, yes, there are definitely a lot of people who want to vote for Ms. Palin.  Yes, part of that, apparently, is something called "Operation Bristol", which seems to be spearheaded by online talk show host Tammy Bruce. She explained it in a recent tweet:

And in addition to "Operation Bristol", there are, in fact, a lot of other Sarah Palin fans who want to vote for her daughter, especially after the same hatred some directed at Sarah was directed at Bristol.  For both of these women, the amount of hatred some people have dished out is way, way out of proportion with their station in life.  (And yes, that was true even when Sarah Palin was governor of Alaska...some people--and I could name names, but I'm not gonna give them the attention they seem to so desperately want--threw everything in the book at her in the form of bogus ethics charges, nasty online rumors about her marriage or her fifth child, etc.  No one deserves that, even if they are a governor, or even a president.)  When I, and presumably others, see someone unfairly on the receiving end of that ugliness, we try to defend the one attacked.

Plus, Bristol is an underdog.  People love an underdog, unless they're blinded by partisan hate, and judging from the tweets every week when Bristol survives, a lot of people are so blinded. 

And, in my opinion, for what it's worth, Ms. Palin has shown a vast improvement in her dancing since this competition began.  But let's call a spade a spade.  A lot of people just like Bristol Palin, even if you don't.  (I've written about why that is the case here.)  And no amount of whiny tweets, whiny blog articles, or whatever else--such as this Tampa Tribune article linked by Free Republic (in which Bristol is unfairly characterized as having "stumbled her way through two dances" when in fact this week was her best week)--is going to keep me from voting for her.  (What will is a child wanting to vote for Kyle Massey because of having watched way too much Disney Channel.  But I digress.)

If you don't like that people are voting for Bristol, talk to ABC, which allows audience voting to determine half the score, or to Fox, which started the audience-determined reality competition craze in this country with American Idol.  They know that the audience voting is what keeps people watching, and occasionally the audience isn't going to vote for the judges' favorites.  Remember Kris Allen?  Steve Wozniak?  Sanjaya?

(Aside:  Firefox's spellchecker does not flag "Wozniak".  Somehow I'm not surprised.)

Besides, do you folks think that people are just stupid? Or that Bristol is somehow undeserving of public support because--gasp--she's related to a conservative?  Do you really think that accolades aren't given to people on the other side of the political spectrum, simply because they are on the other side of the political spectrum?

Take, for example, the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which has previously honored such comedy legends as Richard Pryor, Bob Newhart, and Bill Cosby.  To whom was this prestigious prize given this year?

Tina Fey.

Tina "I can see Russia from my house" Fey.


Tina Fey, while a talented writer, actor, and comedian, almost certainly got this award, along with a good portion of her name recognition, for impersonating one Sarah Palin, and for the damage that did to public perception of Governor Palin, who, as much as SNL-watchers might want to believe it, is not an idiot.  Other than that, Ms. Fey had a fairly nice career, but nothing to compare with last year's winner, Mr. Cosby.  Can you tell me that politics--specifically, left-wing politics--did not play a role in this?

Don't believe it?  The Washington Post seems to.  And so does Ms. Fey:

A lot of Sarah Palin in today's Style section. It was inevitable: First, there was Tina Fey, launched to zeitgeist heights by her Sarah Palin imitation, receiving the Mark Twain Prize, and of course it came up in her acceptance speach, as she "offered some mock hands-across-the-political-divide commentary," writes Paul Farhi.
The rise of conservative women in politics, [Fey] said pointedly, is good for all women, "unless you don't want to pay for your own rape kit . . . unless you're a lesbian who wants to get married to your partner of 20 years . . . [or] unless you believe in evolution." The lines played first to nervous laughter and then to not much laughter at all.

Or, if you like, we can go back a few years to when the Dixie Chicks won multiple Grammy Awards for their song "Not Ready to Make Nice", basically a collective thumbing of their noses at people who did not care for Natalie Maines's anti-Bush statements.  Given that the song did not receive a lot of airplay on many country stations, it certainly didn't win because of a groundswell of support from radio listeners.

And, oh yeah, how about last year's Nobel Peace Prize?  You might recall that it was awarded to President Obama, partially because, as Thorbjørn Jagland put it, "no one could deny that 'the international climate' had suddenly improved, and that Mr. Obama was the main reason."  In layman's terms, President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize because he was not George W. Bush.

These three examples are just the first ones that came to mind.  I could find more.  A lot more, I'd bet.

So, yeah, at least part of Bristol Palin's success on Dancing With the Stars is political.  But don't ever tell me that the other side doesn't do this too.  And don't complain because our side is doing it back.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The light-bulb question revisited

Rick Perry's recent visit to The Daily Show appears to have been well-received by most.  With that said, though, PolitiFact took issue with a few of the comments that he made on the show; apparently he has made the same types of comments in his book, Fed Up!  Our Fight to Save America from Washington (Disclaimer:  I get paid if you buy through this link.), and PolitiFact, styling itself as a shining beacon of truth, feels the need to revisit statements it made earlier.

One of PolitiFact's statements piqued my interest, as it was something on which I have opined before, namely, the phasing out of incandescent lamps over the next few years.

(Aside:  those not in the lighting business call them "light bulbs", but from what I have seen, those in the business call them "lamps", "luminaires", etc.  One person once told me, rather haughtily, that "bulbs" are those things you plant in the ground.)

Now, PolitiFact rated Governor Perry's statement that Washington is "even telling us what kind of light bulb we can use" as Barely True.  But is that a fair assessment?  Well, let's look at PolitiFact's assertions.

What we found: In 2007, Congress voted to improve the efficiency of light bulbs. President George W. Bush signed into law the Energy Independence and Security Act, which set energy efficiency standards for kinds of incandescent lamps (light bulbs), incandescent reflector lamps (like track lighting in your kitchen), and fluorescent lamps, according to a December 2007 summary by the Congressional Research Service.

So far, so good.  The EISA was what eventually came from Congress after some rather clunky earlier attempts

PolitiFact continues:

Our search for instances of the government directing which bulbs residents can use unearthed a June 2010 editorial in the Washington Times objecting to Federal Trade Commission-issued regulations of light-bulb labels. The editorial says the regs were ordered by Congress as part of its 2007 decision to force the more efficient, curlicue-shaped compact fluorescent light bulb "on a public that so far has refused to embrace it willingly. Beginning Jan. 1, 2012, the editorial says, bureaucratic rules will phase in, and" conventional 100-watt bulbs "will be first on the contraband list."

It sure sounds as if Washington is meddling with the types of lamps one can use to light one's home, office, or wherever, doesn't it?  PolitiFact doesn't think so:

Jen Stutsman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Energy, told us that conventional incandescent bulbs are not expected to meet the efficiency standards Congress set, though the government expects manufacturers to improve incandescent technologies to meet the higher standards or consumers will move to compact fluorescent light bulbs, LED technologies or halogens. She said new standards for 100-watt bulbs take effect in January 2012. New standards for 75-watt bulbs start in 2013 and standards for 60- and 40-watt bulbs start in 2014.

Stutsman said the expected shifts aren't equivalent to the government telling Americans which light bulbs to use. "Under no circumstances does it say that a consumer must purchase a specific type of light bulb," Stutsman said.

No, but it makes it impossible for a plurality, if not a majority, of the American people to get the traditional light bulb they want.  Ms. Stutsman is being generous in saying that "conventional incandescent bulbs are not expected to meet the efficiency standards Congress set".  It is simply not possible for a traditional tungsten filament incandescent lamp to meet those standards.

And why is that?  Well, let's look at the EISA itself, specifically Section 321:

`GENERAL SERVICE INCANDESCENT LAMPS-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Rated Lumen Ranges Maximum Rate Wattage Minimum Rate Lifetime Effective Date 
1490-2600                   72             1,000 hrs       1/1/2012 
1050-1489                   53             1,000 hrs       1/1/2013 
750-1049                   43             1,000 hrs       1/1/2014 
310-749                   29             1,000 hrs       1/1/2014 

On the morning of January 1, 2012, the country will wake up to discover that the 100-watt incandescent lamp (which produces about 1750 lumens and therefore falls into the first category) is no more, replaced with a 72-watt bulb with something other than a tungsten filament, since the tungsten filament is pretty much the same as it was when Edison perfected it.  (Oh, and guess what:  it'll be more expensive.)

So, in that respect, if you wanted to buy a regular old 100-watt light bulb in January 2012, the government very much would have mandated that you could not do so.  I call that a lot more than a Barely True.

(Postscript:  I know the reasoning behind these moves.  I know why some people like incandescent lamps and why others don't.  I also have already said that I believe that LED lamps will be in the mainstream within five years.   I'm not trying to debate lighting at this point.  It just serves as an example of nanny-state government on the rampage.  Rick Perry was pointing that out, and PolitiFact, I believe, had to get rather technical in an attempt to score a cheap point against him.)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Where Do We Go From Here?

As in 2008, one side won big in yesterday's elections.  This year, though, the winning side was the side that did not win in 2008.  So what happens next?  Well, as in 2008, I have a few thoughts, some of which are recycled from back then:


1. Now is the time to congratulate the Republicans who just retook the House. Pray that God blesses them, and all our country's, and our world's, leaders with much-needed wisdom.

2. That doesn't mean that there is not room to oppose the policies and programs desired by the Republicans. Of course there's room for that. But there's a way to oppose a policy without tearing down a person.  Both sides are sadly experts on tearing people down.  Enough is enough.

3. It is time to decide if the current policies of the Democrats--specifically, the vast expansion of the federal government and trillion-dollar deficits, which can only lead to much, much higher taxes--are reasonable and proper for this country to follow.  The voters seemingly have said that they are not.

4. And that leads to the next action item: do not let the MSM and quasi-conservative pundits tell you that the problem was that your side did not get its message out.  Trust me, you did.  It was rejected.

5. Like it or not, the other side holds a better hand at this time. There will be opportunities to work with them on items that are important to both sides.  For example, you may have noticed that you're running out of time to avoid having a nasty tax increase (about which I wrote here) hit the American people.

6. Absolutely, positively, don't be jerks about it. Yes, the voters resoundingly disagreed with you. That doesn't mean they're any less intelligent or more evil, or that they hate people. (And, as I've said before, they're overwhelmingly not racists.)  Do not sink to the level to which some on your side descended six years ago. Remember the disparaging cries of "Jesusland"? The contempt directed toward middle America? Jim Treacher will remind you, if you really want to revisit that era. (Some of his examples of that behavior are NSFW/language.)


1. Yes, by all means celebrate this win. Realize, though, that in most instances, you did not earn it, in all seriousness.  This was a repudiation of the Democrats' policies and their absolute overreach with regard to the size and job of the federal government.

2. Remember that it is possible for people to oppose your policies, too, without being evil, stupid, or whatever.

3. There will be opportunities to work with the Dems on policies, but remember, you were elected because the majority of voters want government to change course from the direction in which it was headed, not just during the Obama Administration, but during most of the Bush Administration as well.  Don't compromise the principles the voters affirmed.

4. Can we stop the infighting, please?  I see people all over Twitter saying the Tea Party cost the Republicans the Senate (no, they didn't), and of course, the quasi-conservative pundits have taken shots at Sarah Palin since the day her VP candidacy was announced.  Stop already.

5. Again, do not be jerks about it. And don't go around telling the other side its viewpoint is invalid because our side lost this one.  I may disagree with your opinion, but that doesn't invalid it.

And for everyone: be thankful it's over, and enjoy the Christmas ads!