«  September 2008  |   Main   |  November 2008  »

»  October 31, 2008


Scary: I just got robo-called by Portland Trick or Vote.



Pre-Election Friday Fortune: I don't know if every cookie in the Fujin had this fortune this week or not, but it's not really that kind of place:

Opportunity awaits you on next Tuesday.
The lucky numbers were:
4   9   18   21   26   33
On the other hand.

It was three months and three days ago (July 28) that I got this fortune (along with two others):

Remember three months from this date, Good things are in store for you.
Since then, I've busted up my knee, I didn't get the promotion one of the other fortunes promised, and the one vacation Barbara and I had planned for her birthday got cancelled because of (natch) my little knee problem. And I've got another four weeks on crutches.

So. My advice would be, don't bet the farm on the predictions of fortune cookies.


»  October 30, 2008


Country First: John McCain's campaign slogan in the original German.


What the...?  

Halloween Commercial:

In The Know: Has Halloween Become Overcommercialized?
It may not have been quite Halloween, but the Roky Erickson show last night at the Wonder Ballroom was a — shall we say — scream...


»  October 27, 2008

What the...?  

smart Car Updates:

smart/Bakfiets comparison

A couple of weeks back, Barbara and I wandered over to see Nathan, Sara, and Everett for a photo shoot, so Nathan could put together his two-part comparison of the smart car and the Dutch Bakfiets cargo bike.

Regrettably, I wasn't able to make yesterday's local smart get-together. About twenty smarts and assorted hangers-on, met at the Evergreen Air & Space Museum in McMinnville, where they got a group shot in front of Howard Hughes's Spruce Goose (photo via Mikie at the Smart Car of America forum).

smart cars in front of the Spruce Goose

Then, in order to get some other entertaining small car photos, they caravaned down to Silver Falls State Park via the Wheatland Ferry (another Mikie photo).

smart cars on the Wheatland Ferry


»  October 24, 2008


I want to Fly in to Your airspase: Vlad and Boris with "Song for Sarah":



Everyone Else Is Doing It:


»  October 17, 2008

What the...?  

And ... Twins!:

Smart Twins

A great morning in smartspotting. Some folks around the corner have a yellow and black ("bumblebee") hardtop and they were just pulling up to their garage as we were leaving. Then, in the parking garage at Kaiser Sunnyside, there was a black and white hardtop. Two rows down was a virtual twin of our own red and black cabrio.


»  October 16, 2008


Cutting It Close: Never again (via "The Caucus" at The New York Times)!

The last time Mr. McCain canceled an appearance on “The Late Show With David Letterman” Mr. Letterman was not amused, and he has not let go of his fury. Mr. McCain has been the butt of Mr. Letterman’s disdain (feigned or not) ever since.

So when Mr. McCain found himself stuck on the tarmac here in Philadelphia, with what aides described as a two-hour delay on planes flying to Newark, he knew he had to act. Thus began the great McCain Airlift of 2008.

Mr. McCain’s campaign plane turned around, and the campaign hired a small helicopter to whisk him, his wife, Cindy, two of their aides, and two Secret Service Agents, to their rendezvous with comedy.



Plumbergate: I hearby christen thee "Plumbergate":

'Joe the plumber' isn’t licensed
Local man focus of presidential debate

"Joe the Plumber" isn’t a plumber — at least not a licensed one, or a registered one.


According to Lucas County Building Inspection records, A. W. Newell Corp. does maintain a state plumbing license, and one with the City of Toledo, but would not be allowed to work in Lucas County outside of Toledo without a county license.

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he works under Al Newell’s license, but according to Ohio building regulations, he must maintain his own license to do plumbing work. >He is also not registered to operate as a plumber in Ohio, which means he’s not a plumber.

Mr. Wurzelbacher said he was hired by Mr. Newell six years ago and that the possibility of him eventually buying the company was discussed during his job interview.


Mr. Wulzerbacher’s notoriety has raised the ire of Tom Joseph, business manager for Local 50 of the United Association of Plumbers, Steamfitters, and Service Mechanics, who claimed that Mr. Wulzerbacher didn’t undergo any apprenticeship training.

"When you have guys going out there with no training whatsoever, it’s a little disreputable to start with," Mr. Joseph said. "We’re the real Joe the Plumber."

Mr. Joseph said Mr. Wulzerbacher could only legally work in the townships, but not in any municipality in Lucas County or elsewhere in the country.

"This individual has got no schooling, no licenses, he’s never been to a training program, union or non-union, in the United States of America," Mr. Joseph said.


What the...?  

Tuesday's Fortune: From Tuesday, at the Fujin:

You will be happily surprised by a long time friend.



Put Your Game Face On:

John McCain leaves the stage after the third 2008 presidential debate

John McCain leaves the stage after the third 2008 presidential debate



Democratic Republicans: If I was making the big money at The New York Times, I might give even my blog entries a second look over. Then again, maybe Adam Nagourney (reacting to last night's McCain/Obama debate) knows something we don't:

Throughout the 90-minute debate tonight, Mr. McCain offered voters what amounted to a reprise of all the attacks that have been lodged at Mr. Obama over the past year, by Mr. Obama’s Democratic Republican opponents, Ms. Palin, Republican leaders and, at times, Mr. McCain
No period at the end of that sentence, either.


»  October 13, 2008


Bad Choice, McGovern: Anyone who reads this blog (I mean, the both of you) knows that I've devoted a fair amount of space to 1972 Democratic presidential nominee and former South Dakota Senator George S. McGovern. Here and elsewhere, I've defended his policies &mdash particularly his foreign policies — because I truly believe they would have been a far more rational path to American success for the past four decades instead of the long, militaristic road we've trod since the Vietnam War. I went to last year's McGovern Conference to meet him and some of the others who participated and wrote about his run for the White House 36 years ago. And I did a fair amount of research and writing on a book project on McGovern's foreign policy that will probably never see the light of day at this point.

However. As with anyone you might admire, there are always points of disagreement. Last fall, when I met him, McGovern was supporting Senator Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination this year. Couldn't really see how that meshed, apart from his lon association with the Clintons. And, of course, for at least a couple of months, he's been speaking out against the Employee Free Choice Act. Then, last week, commercials against the EFCA featuring McGovern started appearing across the country.

I'll let my dad, the retired managing business representative for a trade union take it from here.


I know you've been an admirer of George McGovern. I have been, too (and I voted for him in 1972, when you were still a bit young to vote). So I was really disappointed this morning when I saw him appearing in a commercial sponsored by the groups opposing the Employee Free Choice Act. The same sponsors are bashing those Democrats like [Jeff] Merkely who support this labor-sponsored proposed legislation.

McGovern said in the ad that he came to his position opposing the proposal after studying both sides of the issue. But I think he and others fail to understand that under current law, employers can recognize a union which gathers authorization cards from a majority of employees without going through a secret-ballot election. Currently, however, the choice on whether or not to grant such recognition is completely up to the employer, not the employees. I think that, at least in this case, our old friend McGovern may be suffering from the same syndrome that afflicted Elizabeth Furse when she endorsed Gordon Smith for the U.S. Senate.

Opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act claim that union organizers may high-pressure employees into signing authorization cards and that the only way to make sure employees really want union representation is to have a secret ballot election held by the NLRB.

At my local union meeting today, one of the reps told a story that illustrates where the pressure on employees actually comes from. The union organizers were handing out flyers to employees entering the company's parking lot, and planned to leaflet the exiting employees as they left. Soon, supervisors informed employees in the plant not to accept any flyers as they left. The supervisors then stationed themselves near the exit to observe whether these instructions were followed (and probably to take down the names of those employees who disobeyed). I've had exactly the same thing happen in years past when I was helping to organize.

When it comes to coercion of employees on the question of union representation, employers hold vastly more power over employees than do union organizers. George McGovern ought to know that.



»  October 10, 2008


Unimpeachable Source : With character witnesses like this guy you know you're going to get off the hook:

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell on Friday praised Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens' sense of honor at his trial on corruption charges, calling his reputation for honesty and integrity "sterling" in the quarter-century they've known each other. "As we say in the infantry, this is a guy you take on a long patrol," said the retired four-star Army general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


[W]hen defense attorney Brendan Sullivan asked Powell to describe Stevens' reputation for honesty and integrity, Powell's answer was simple: "In a word, sterling."

"There was never any suggestion that he would do anything that was improper," said Powell, who told jurors he knows Stevens "extremely well" after having worked with him on military appropriations issues for decades.


Stevens has always been honest and upfront — "someone whose word you can rely on"— when he worked with him on Capitol Hill, Powell said.

"I had a guy who would tell me when I was off base," Powell said. "I had a guy who would tell me when I had no clothes on." And as people in the courtroom started to chuckle, Powell smiled and added, "Figuratively."

Powell added that Stevens has always put his country first, even when Powell had to go to him to explain that the military needed to draw down some of the forces in Alaska. Stevens didn't like the idea, Powell said, but listened to the arguments and finally agreed to support it for the good of the country.

"He fights for his state, he fights for his people but he always has the interests of his country at heart," Powell said.



The Hazard of Duke: Since I got a mention in Mike's Blog Roundup at Crooks & Liars yesterday, I checked in on my server logs to see a respectable increase in traffic for the day, but as is often the case, some of the other items in the report were disturbing.

Most particularly that the top search term associated with people who have come to the site so far this month is former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard and politician "david duke." (I hadn't realized that Duke's successor in the Louisiana House was Sen. David Vitter.) I wonder if there's any connection to the tenor of the McCain campaign's recent days? Not only is "david duke" the top term, it's been clicked through more times in just the first nine days of October than my usual top terms (the seemingly-dormant game engine otoy and the late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin) usually get in an entire month.



»  October 8, 2008


Making a Killing on eBay: Nicole Belle at Crooks & Liars notes Sen. John McCain's float of former eBay CEO Meg Whitman as a Treasury Secretary in a McCain/Palin administration during the debate last night.

I like Meg Whitman. She knows what it’s like to be out there in the marketplace. She knows how to create jobs. Whitman was CEO of a company that started with 12 people and now, 1.3 million people in America make their living off eBay.
I've commented elsewhere about the validity of that 1.3 million figure, but Daniel Gross took a more in-depth look at it at Slate back in May, after McCain had claimed that "1.3 million people in the world make a living off eBay."
The number can be traced to a 2006 study conducted by ACNielsen on behalf of eBay. The company surveyed eBay sellers around the globe, including 2,000 in the United States. And it concluded that "approximately 1.3 million sellers around the world use eBay as their primary or secondary source of income," with an estimated 630,239 in the United States. Take careful note of the phrasing, however: primary or secondary. That could mean 50,000 use eBay as a primary source and 1.25 million as a secondary source. Or it could mean the split is closer to 650,000-650,000.

EBay doesn't break out the numbers, but it's a safe bet the reality is closer to the former. Even the minority of sellers who meet the company's "power seller" requirements aren't coming close to "mak­ing a living" selling on eBay. To reach the lowest level, bronze sellers must rack up $12,000 in sales (sales, not profits), or move 1,200 items over the course of a year. "A bronze-level power seller isn't making a full-time living on eBay," says Cindy Shebley, who began selling on eBay in 1999. "They have to really crank it up and get into higher tiers, like titanium." Levels rise from silver ($3,000 or 300 items per month) to Titanium ($150,000 or 1,500 items per month). Shebley is a silver-level seller (mostly photography and lighting equipment) but says most her income comes "from supporting sellers as a consultant and a teacher." Shebley teaches classes and is working on a new book, How To Market an eBay Business.

It's an astounding tribute to the strength of the eBay model that in the face of the looming worldwide recession the number of Americans making a living off of selling stuff on the Internet has gone from "most" of 1.3 million in the spring to an actual 1.3 million as of yesterday, at least in the telling of John McCain.

Then again, if Gross' analysis is closer to the actual truth, it's just another example of McCain's tenuous grasp of economic reality.



Insular: The Oregonian published a self-centered article by writer (and -- of all things -- journalism student) Becky Ohlsen on Sunday, another installment in their long-running series of opinion pieces hewing to the conservative line that Portland is a homogeneous bastion of elitist liberals.

A few letters in response appeared in today's paper, including one by me, although it was somewhat truncated (material they cut appears in bold below, editorial additions appear in italics).

Every couple of years, the Oregonian runs a column like Becky Ohlsen's on Sunday, making the claim that "With few exceptions, Portlanders inhabit perfect liberal values."

Perhaps that was the case for Ohlsen when she lived in Portland. I guess it's taken a trip to beyond her bubble here to realize that there are people of different stripes in the world. But really, she could have managed the same feat at home if she'd been paying attention.

Becky Ohlsen's opinion piece reiterates a stereotypical view of Portland that every large city -- including her current vantage point of New York City -- receives from self-appointed moralists promoting The Big City as a cesspool of sex, drugs, and liberalism. The problem is, in NYC or Portland, [But] you don't have to go any further than, say, the letters and opinion page of The Oregonian to find people espousing views diametrically opposed to the Prius-driving, arugula-eating, hipsters Ohlsen seems to have surrounded herself with here.

Ohlsen says "This is not a call for Portlanders to start roaring down their bike-laned city streets in SUVs." Is that a serious claim? Has she somehow missed SUVs and trucks on the streets of Portland in her time here? Is she truly unaware that not everyone working in the center of the city, riding MAX from Gresham or driving in from Lake Oswego might not fit her pigeonholes on politics, religion, or other topics? Does she know that The Oregonian publishes Dave Reinhard? She seriously thinks Portlanders don't argue?

Apart from fixing the question mark after "topics," I'm not sure that the edits improved the text here.


»  October 7, 2008

What the...?  

I Want to Know What's Happening on Wall Street:


»  October 6, 2008


A Forgotten Demo: #35 - Pot Heads

Not many people remember that Richard Nixon preempted network television on November 7th, 1972 for a full day marathon of "Mr. Ed."

It was a brilliant strategy, because just as polls were closing, they aired "Ed the Witness." SPOILER ALERT…In "Ed the Witness," Wilbur ends up in Mexican jail after refusing to pay a repair bill to a mechanic who damaged his trailer. Mr. Ed has to gallop across the border to come to the rescue….

Wait, what were we talking about?

Oh, right.

What Pot Head hasn't dreamed of being sprung from Mexican jail by a talking horse? Anyway, Nixon's people knew this, and used it to defeat George McGovern in a landslide.

To this day, George McGovern asserts that he lost the Election due to the striking resemblance between Wilbur and Thomas Eagleton.


What the...?  

Trio: For my folks:



A Revoltin' Possibility: From today's analysis of the presidential race at electoral-vote.com, in a discussion about the eventual winner picking a Senator of the other party for the Cabinet in order to put their seat back in play:

One factor that both candidates will no doubt consider when looking for cabinet members is the possibility of flipping a Senate seat. This will will especially crucial if the Democrats end up with 58 or 59 Senate seats. For Obama, there are three potential choices that will give the Democrats an extra Senate seat: Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH). All three states have Democratic governors (technically, Gov. John Lynch (D-NH) is up for reelection, but his victory is about as certain as anything in politics can be). In addition, three Republican senators from states with Democratic governors are up for reelection: Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. John Sununu (R-NH). Any of these who win are also candidates for the cabinet since their governors are Democrats. For Obama, picking one of them would be a twofer: showing his willingness to work with Republicans while flipping a Senate seat. Needless to say, he would emphasize the first point while really being entirely focused on the second one. Snowe and Specter are long-time respected senators and there would be little carping about their appointment to the cabinet. If Obama were to choose Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR), there would be a special election immediately to fill the vacancy.


»  October 3, 2008


We Are the New Pakistan: At an increasing pace after the end of the Second World War, the US has sold arms and munitions to countries around the world. Everything from bullets to landmines to tanks to jet fighters to missiles. It's a time-honored tradition for countries with weapons technology to directly or indirectly supporty the sales of that technology as a ready source of cash (see Krupp). There's always a market for a more efficient way to kill the enemy.

The US is far from alone in the market, of course. For the entirety of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was a major exporter of weapons, with China following up, even making knock-offs of the famous AK-47 rifle of Soviet design. Everyone with the production capacity got into the game. An enormous amount of the "foreign aid" the US has handed out over the past decades has been paid back into the hands of private American arms manufacturers.

There were a few things that had to be done sub rosa, however. Cluster bombs and land mines, well, their sales were perfectly acceptable to the US government, because we did out best to torpedo any treaties or resolutions banning their sale or use. Technology for nuclear weapons, however, was another matter. That's something that's just not talked about, because the US was nominally on board with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NNPT). It's been an open secret for a long time that Israel has nuclear weapons, but they don't talk about it, and we don't ask about it, in a sort of radioactive version of the military policy on homosexuality.

When the wrong people are involved, though, and it gets out in the open, as it did with Pakistan and A.Q. Khan a few years back, people got the heebie-jeebies. Pakistan saw an opportunity to make some much-needed money from Libya and Iran, as well as gaining missile technology from North Korea. Each of those countries, in turn, could get standard armaments from other sources, but weren't on the approved list for nukes. A win-win situation all around for them.

At the time, of course, the Bush administration was incensed (at least, as incensed as they got with good buddy Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf). Now, though, we've got the opportunity to make a few bucks of our own from nukes -- and as you may have heard, there a sort of money crisis going on -- so the House and Senate have agreed to sell nuclear fuel, technology, and reactors to Pakistan's friendly neighbor India, a country that (like Pakistan) hasn't agreed to the NNPT.

In exchange, India agreed to open up 14 civilian nuclear facilities to international inspection, but would continue to shield eight military reactors from outside scrutiny.


Senator Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, called the deal a "grievous mistake" that would reward rogue behavior. "We have said to India with this agreement: 'You can misuse American nuclear technology and secretly develop nuclear weapons.' That's what they did. 'You can test these weapons.' That's what they did," Mr. Dorgan said.

He added: "And after testing, 10 years later, all will be forgiven."

Mr. Dorgan and Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, tried to amend the agreement to explicitly require the United States to cut off nuclear trade if India conducted a new nuclear test. The agreement's backers defeated the proposal, arguing that it was unnecessary and that nuclear trade would be halted in such a situation.

Sen. Ron Wyden voted for this stinker, which passed 86-13-1 in the Senate (Sen. Gordon Smith supported it, as well). Representatives Darlene Hooley, David Wu, Earl Blumenauer, and Peter DeFazio all opposed its passage in the House (298-117).




Ba-Dum-Bum: In the wake of the vice-presidential debate with Gov. Sarah Palin, via BoRev.net, some humor for a Friday morning from an actual woman president:

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet wrapped up her trip in the United States last Friday but didn't leave until getting the last laugh. "Why has there never been a coup in the United States?" joked Bachelet to a group of prominent U.S. investors. "Because there is no U.S. embassy in the United States."


»  October 2, 2008


Where Were the Gaffes?: I wish I'd been recording this, but just about 8PM I was watching CSPAN2 and the camera was on Obama advisor Susan Rice who was was being interviewed in the spin room after the vice-presidential debate. Standing in the background was a thin, bespectacled, serious-looking guy who looked pretty familiar. Then as the interview was wrapping up, he squatted down out of camera sight and up popped "The Daily Show" correspondent John Oliver, who asked her "Where were the gaffes?" After a brief back-and-forth, she apologized for the lack of gaffes on the part of Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, and Oliver left.



Wasting Time: What I should be doing with my time instead of reading my email and blogging (assuming I had any real talent):

Sep 19, 2008, 01:34 AM

Trism developer Steve Demeter revealed at a conference that he had generated $250,000 in income from his popular iPhone game since its launch on July 11th.



Polly Wants a Debate!: In honor of Sen. Joe Biden's "debate" tonight with Gov. Sarah Palin:

I think Cardozo could probably pilot a plane, because he has experience flying!


What the...?  

Home Turf: One year ago today: Mom, Dad, and Barbara at the town center of Chester, Cheshire, England. Some of my Plant family ancestors came from the area. It's the last one in this series, because we went home the next day.


»  October 1, 2008

What the...?  

Olde: One year ago today: Me and my parents waiting for lunch at Ye Olde Kings Arms (est. 1585) in Congleton, Cheshire, England.