Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Okay, I'm Going Soft

Two knockout versions of an old standard that will bring tears to your eyes.

First a mashup by a boys choir on BBC Two:

Next, the "international" version from the documentary "Playing For Change." I'm not sure that music will bring peace to the planet, but listening to this song sure makes you wish it would:

Peripheral Note to My Previous Post

A writer for one of my favorite websites/magazines, Mental Floss, in an article about how much television Americans watch -- and the harm that befalls them because of it -- commented that he didn't watch much TV, "mainly The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and sometimes I'll watch a bit of Olbermann."

Any bets on where the writer gets most of his political information? He probably believes that he's knowledgable about politics. And as a writer for Mental Floss, he's supposedly one of the more intelligent people.

Why Polls Shouldn't Matter

If you want to find out what people want in dishwashing liquid, bath soap, toilet paper or deodorant, marketing research is the tool to use. Personal preference in items we use in our daily lives is part of our culture. We know what we like.

The same principle applied to politics is a disaster. I've made no secret of my disdain for polls and how the media use them to generate the stories that they want to promote. A recent study revealed the fruitlessness of polling Americans to ask them their opinion on political matters.

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) conducted a survey of 2500 Americans, quizzing them about American civics. The average score of all respondents was 49%. College educators did a bit better, at 55%. Something that may or may not surprise you: political officeholders scored 44% -- lower than the average person surveyed. (Take the quiz yourself here.)

I'm not criticizing anyone who doesn't score high on the quiz -- we each have our own strengths and interests. But the ignorance of Americans that the survey revealed illustrates the worthlessness of polls that ask Americans their "opinion" about something going on in politics. As we saw from the survey of Obama voters, most opinions are based on ignorance.

Pollsters should stick to soap. Everyone else should ignore polls.

(For those who are curious, I scored 93.4% on the quiz.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

When the Government Wants Power... doesn't matter who dies.

New York City just told church-sponsored shelters that provide beds for the homeless that they must stay open at least five days a week or not at all.

Temperatures in NYC are below freezing. Last year four homeless people froze to death.

What this means -- assuming the church shelters can't or won't agree to stay open -- is that if homeless people want a bed they have to turn to the city's government shelters, effectively replacing privately funded charitable work with taxpayer funded "entitlements." City officials are willing to risk homeless people dying in order to increase their power.

Never doubt how far government will go to impose its will.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Other People Say Smart Stuff, Too (Obama Edition)

Headline from a CBS story: "Obama Advisers to Public: Temper Expectations"

Now the words of wisdom from Obama's transition officer, Robert Reich: "We all have to be very careful about the expectations that we are putting on this man...."

Advice that could (and should) have been given prior to the election.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What Obama Voters Knew (and Didn't)

Zogby International conducted a multiple-choice poll of Obama supporters after the election to determine their level of knowledge about the candidates and the campaigns. What the poll revealed will be surprising to many people (mainly Obama supporters.)

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes (Or Not)

(First, I know that the song is in your head now, so here's a link so you can listen to it.)

Two things really caught my attention recently. There's the story that my friend Keith told me about his encounter with an Obama supporter in an airport. She was an older lady, and while they were both waiting for their flights they struck up a conversation. Unbidden, she asked him his thoughts on the election. Keith, ever the gentleman, said words to the effect of, "Things didn't go quite the way I would have liked."

The lady began to rhapsodize about how happy she was that Obama won, that America needed a change, etc.etc. Having stood all he could take, Keith asked the lady how she felt about Americans having to pay a tax to the United Nations. The Obama supporter looked confused and said, "I wouldn't like that."
Keith is a regular reader of the blog and said, "Didn't you know that Obama introduced legislation proposing just that?" I believe Keith concluded his story with "She got real quiet."

The other story that caught my attention was this news story detailing how, although Obama promised "change," he is choosing longtime political insiders for key posts. There's a saying about leopards changing their spots, and it's not a stretch to assume that these career politicians won't be doing anything different from the way they've always done it.
I'd say that Obama used the old "bait and switch" to win the election. Are the ones who voted for him smart enough to recognize when they've been bamboozled? Or is the fact that they voted for Obama in the first place all you need to know to answer that question?

Monday, November 17, 2008

How to Thrive in the Coming Economy

With the trillion dollar government bailout for lenders that made bad investments, the roller coaster of the stock market, and the unknown future of the cost for fuel (although we're now paying under $1.80 a gallon,) it's hard for most people to have any idea of what to do financially. Expert economists don't know what the effects of all this will be on our personal finances, so what's a regular person to do? Here are some strategies that will work in any economy:

1. Get out of debt. A few observations -- the less debt you have, the more of your own cash you get to keep. The less debt, the more flexibility you have in what you do with your money. The less debt, the less risk you have if a financial catastrophe strikes -- you lose your job, you have a medical emergency, etc. PLUS if you've saved your money because you have less debt, you have cash to handle the emergency.

2. Earn as much as you can. This might sound like a no-brainer, but we get complacent when we think we are making "enough" money. You may have heard of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. These are usually classified as motivators, or pressures to fulfill a need. After a need is met, though, it is no longer considered a motivator. If you're making "enough" money, there's no real pressure to earn more. In the next few years there's probably a 99.9% chance that our income taxes will go up. Democrats control the government. (Regardless of Obama's "promises," Democrats can't change their nature.) Somehow the bailouts have to be paid for. And the Bush tax cuts expire in 2010 if they're not renewed...and see my previous comments about Democrats and their nature. Tax revenue is their money. You can't avoid paying income tax (legally,) but you can try to outearn its effects. Extra jobs, overtime, selling stuff -- extra cash will always be handy. Consult a tax adviser to see what you can do to minimize the amount of taxes you owe.

3. Shop wisely. In a down economy, bargains show up. If you have extra cash, the appetite to buy things can overwhelm you. Resist the urge to buy the first shiny thing that you see. Buy quality. Establish the items that you want the most, and look for the best bargains in those.

4. Buy guns. Related to #3, this point concerns buying items that increase in value, a personal finance variation on the "guns and butter" model in economics. Americans typically are consumers -- that is, they buy lots of "butter." Think of the items that you use once and then have to replace. Those who purchase items that will increase in value -- "guns" -- also increase their net worth, their wealth. One thing about income taxes - they only tax your income, not your wealth. As Andrew Tobias wrote, "A penny saved is worth two pennies earned." Take advantage of financial situations, and use the opportunity to increase your non-taxable wealth. When the dust settles, you want to be in a better position financially than you were before.

Notice that I didn't say anything about investing. If the experts don't know whether to invest in stocks, bonds, real estate or, say, subprime mortgages, then I surely don't know. But if you follow the advice above, you'll be ahead of 99% of Americans.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Post-Election Revelations

Check out the media coverage surrounding the "new" afterword terrorist William Ayers wrote for his book "Fugitive Days." A quote from Ayers:

“We had served together on the board of a foundation, knew one another as neighbors and family friends...."

So Obama's "guy from my neighborhood" comment was an outright lie. Somehow "I told you so" seems a little inadequate. Not much coverage of the Obama-Ayers connection pre-election, other than to ridicule Palin for mentioning it. How can anyone anywhere dispute that the media were in the tank for Obama? The media selected the President of the United States.

Ten Most Annoying Phrases

University of Oxford researchers recently compiled a list of the "Top 10 Most Irritating Phrases in the English Language." Luckily, I manage to avoid using most of them, except for #6 when I'm trying to sound like Rocky Balboa.

1 - At the end of the day
2 - Fairly unique
3 - I personally
4 - At this moment in time
5 - With all due respect
6 - Absolutely
7 - It's a nightmare
8 - Shouldn't of
9 - 24/7
10 - It's not rocket science

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quick Wit

From Mental Floss comes a nice little puzzle.

The names of three states contain the letter sequence "NNE". Name them.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Movies and Inspiration

During the course of casual reading, I discovered something that I hadn't known before. This iconic image from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining

was inspired by this 1967 photo by Diane Arbus

If you didn't know the top photo was from a horror movie, wouldn't the real-life girls at the bottom look creepier than the movie ones?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Today's the Day

Plan on announcements of Obama’s victory to start at about noon.

So much has been written about the campaign over the last two years that pretty much anything I add is redundant. It’s clear that McCain is not the best candidate Republicans could have chosen. When we look back at the early primaries we can see the beginning of the trend – Democrats crossing over like crazy to vote for McCain in states where it was allowed, and the media repeating over and over that McCain was the Republicans’ best chance at winning the presidency. I previously posted. how the New York Times endorsed McCain, primarily because of all the Republican candidates he was the closest to Hillary Clinton on the issues. Now, of course, McCain is criticized by Obama for voting with Bush “90% of the time.”


I’ve followed politics for over thirty years, and I have never seen someone snake through the process like Obama has. Bill Clinton in 1992 is the closest, but he’s not even close to what Barack Obama has done. No charge, no scandal, no misstep, no gaffe, nothing has come close to sticking to Obama, and there have been plenty of them.

Obama has spoken offhandedly about the “typical white person,” about how poor people cling to their guns and religion, about how he’ll bankrupt the coal industry, about visiting “fifty-seven states,” and yet there have been absolutely no repercussions. The media downplays or completely ignores these statements.

The biggest surprise is the hostility the media had toward the Clintons. Two years ago I thought the Clintons were Democrat royalty, but when it came down to the wire, their friends abandoned them. (Think Bill Richardson.) The Clintons must have been pretty heavy-handed in their roles as leaders of the Democrat party, because the moment they were vulnerable, everyone left them behind.


Obama has made no secret of his plans. Historically he has been a collectivist/socialist, and in his speeches he has bragged about how he’ll raise taxes, and how he’ll spread the wealth around, a/k/a “buy votes.” There are Obama supporters who honestly believe that they will no longer have to pay their car payments or mortgage payments, because of him. (There is a reasonable argument to be made against universal suffrage.)

Obama has been against the 2nd Amendment – the right to bear arms – from the beginning. This ...politician... has proclaimed that he “supports” the 2nd Amendment, but that government should be allowed to ignore it. It’s not a big step to believe that he will press for a complete gun ban, and with a Liberal Democrat Congress it would likely pass.

The biggest loser this year is the media. They have lost all semblance of credibility or ethical standards. The one-sided support for Obama from the beginning has been chilling. Unquestioning, biased promotion of one candidate has made the media an extension of the Democrat party. And the probable introduction of the "Fairness Doctrine" in Congress to silence talk radio will add to the influence the mainstream media has on the country.

When did the decline of the media begin? When they started using polls as news. Poll numbers can be manipulated any way the polling body wants, and they are. The media reports nothing but bad news on the economy for weeks on end, then asks Americans how they "feel" about the economy. The predictable results are then published as evidence that Americans have lost faith in the President. In the same way, Obama's lead in the polls has been overplayed. Do you remember when McCain was leading in the polls, after he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate? No? It's because the media didn't want to report it. In one poll McCain led by as much as ten points, yet that was never a headline.

The media is the enemy. They wrap themselves in the Constitution just as other criminals do. And they are just as guilty of crimes against America.


With a likely Obama victory, what are Conservatives to do? Obviously, today you go out and vote, early and often. But for a long-term strategy, find and support the most conservative candidates locally, and at every level. Look for the ones who believe in smaller government. If they get into office and then become “big government” politicians, vote them out. Pressure every single representative to vote for smaller government. And you have to start at the local level.

Obama's election, if it happens, doesn't mean the end of the world. It can, however, mean a drastic change toward European-style governance (socialism) in the next few years. As Ben Stein put it, though, who occupies the White House is not as important as what happens in your house. Go out, earn as much money as you can, pay cash for eveything you can, and live the best life you can. The Democrats haven't taken those things away from you yet.