Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Get out the tin foil hats

Someone alert Rosie O'Donnell. It's happened again. For the second time in history, fire has melted steel.

I'm sure it's all George Bush's fault.



Sunday, April 22, 2007

Re-thinking my attitude toward country music

I may not get past the annoying twangy thing, but maybe I like country music more than I thought I did.

The reason? A commentary by Jeff Foxworthy at the end of the CMT Music Awards -- a commentary that highlights his belief that country music is all about honor, family, humility, faith, and doing what needs to be done. The YouTube video is at the end, after the script I painstakingly transcribed (including Foxworthy's drawl). I've highlighted my favorite parts:
Well, this is the third year in a row that I have done this, which sets some sort of record for me being on TV with the same show. And I started thinking about why I like country music and doing this show so much, and here’s what I came up with, y’all.

I like country music because it’s about the things in life that really matter. It ain't about braggin’ about how you’re gonna mess somebody up or how somebody ain't respecting ya. It’s about love, family, friends, with a few beers, a cheap woman and a two-timin’ man thrown in for spice.

It doesn’t take political sides, even on things as ugly as war. Instead, it celebrates the brave men and women who go to fight ‘em, the price they pay to do it, and the longing we have for them to return home to the ones that they love.

It’s about kids, and how there ain’t nothin’ like ‘em. I get tired of hearin’ about how bad kids are today, because there are a lot o’ great kids out there that just need somebody to love ‘em and believe in ‘em. Country folks love their kids and they will jack you up if you try to mess with ‘em.

People in country music don’t forget the people that allow them to do what they do for a livin’. They sign autographs and they take pictures with the fans, because they know without ‘em, most of us entertainers would be gettin’ a lot dirtier in the course of our workday. We are thankful that people want to hear the songs and the jokes that we write.

Country music doesn’t have to be politically correct. We sing about God because we believe in ‘im. We’re not trying to offend anybody, but the evidence that we have seen of him in our small little lives trumps your opinion about whether or not he exists.

We love country music because it touches us where we live. It’s about mamas and when they were hot, and when they are unappreciated, and when they were dying. It’s about daddies and the difficulties they have sometimes in telling the people that they work so hard to protect and provide for how they feel about ‘em.

Country music is about new love and it’s about old love. It’s about gettin’ drunk and it’s about gettin’ sober. It’s about leavin’ and it’s about comin’ home. It’s real music sung by real people for real people. The people that make up the backbone of this country. You can call us rednecks if you want, we’re not offended, ‘cause we know what we’re all about. We get up and go to work, we get up and go to church, and we get up and go to war when necessary.

All we ask for is a few songs to carry us along the way, and that’s why I love this show, because it ain’t some self-important Hollywood hype with the winners determined by somebody else. On this show, you decide who goes home with the trophy, and you get to dance and sing along with the people that bring you the songs of your life.
And here's the video:

(HT: Dean Barnett)

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Quote of the Day: on successful abortions

Robert George, a professor of politics at Princeton University, wrote to National Review's Jonah Goldberg recently on the topic of abortion, and Goldberg shared the text. It included this nugget:
The (attempted) abortion is a success or a failure depending precisely on whether they transform a living human fetus into a corpse. Anything short of fetal death---including live birth---is a failed abortion.
This is, of course, the antithesis of a doctor's supposed duty -- to prevent (if at all possible) a body from slipping into corpse status.



Friday, April 20, 2007

Quote of the Day: 'Plainer talk' on abortion

My favorite internet writer, Tony Woodlief, weighs in on the Supreme Court's Partial-Birth Abortion ruling, improving on my comments from Wednesday:
It's not clear that the latest ruling will reduce the rate of infanticide, despite the gnashing of teeth among pro-abortion spokesmen and corresponding celebration by anti-abortion spokesmen. Deprived of the relative convenience of murdering the infant outside the womb, abortionists will return to severing its limbs and head inside the womb.

Does the language offend? Shall I refer to that creature with eyelashes and grasping fingers and the capacity to feel the sun on his face, were he wanted, as a fetus? Shall I call the act of hacking him apart late-term intact dilation and extraction? I'm not one of those who indulges in the fantasy that every abortion-rights advocate is profoundly evil, but there is something distinctly wicked about this mangling of language, all in an effort to disguise precisely what goes on when a woman who believes she has no more options puts her feet in the stirrups.

As he says later in the piece, "Pro-abortion advocates too often clinicalize and dehumanize the child to be murdered, and anti-abortion protestors too often dehumanize the woman who consents to the killing. Perhaps a little plainer talk, a little more honest talk, might do us all some good."

Maybe, but I'm not optimistic.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Quote of the Day: NBC's 'editorial' decision

Radio host Hugh Hewitt has minced no words in taking NBC to task for its embarrassing and indefensible decision to broadcast the near-final words of the Virginia Tech murderer. Among the labels Hewitt has used are "shameful" and "repulsive."

Today, he interviewed Minnesota's James Lileks, who is usually a humorist and newspaper columnist. The VT murders offer nothing for humor, of course, and Lileks made a point I hadn't considered, but which makes NBC's "editorial decision" all the more deplorable (emphasis mine):
Our paper this morning, and I love my paper, but when I picked it up off the stoop today, above the fold, banner, was a picture of this idiot with his guns outstretched and a fearsome look on his face, the exact same thing that about 30 people saw before they died, which meant that everybody sort of had to put themselves into that horrible moment. And for a half a second there, I felt a small portion of what they must have felt, and it was, it felt like a violation, and there was no reason to put it there, except, of course, it’s news.
The problem, of course, is that for thousands of people in Blacksburg, Virginia, people who are still sorting through their emotions, it's not news. It's propaganda. But that is increasingly proving no obstacle to the mainstream media.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Quote of the Day: the Partial-Birth Abortion ban

Today's Supreme Court decision, upholding the ban on Partial-Birth Abortion, is appropriate and completely justified in a country that has recently weighed in on important human-rights issues such as the treatment of war prisoners.

But lest you think that it's a sweeping defeat of pro-abortion forces in our country, just start reading at the third sentence of the decision (emphasis mine):
In the usual second-trimester procedure, “"dilation and evacuation”" (D&E), the doctor dilates the cervix and then inserts surgical instruments into the uterus and maneuvers them to grab the fetus and pull it back through the cervix and vagina. The fetus is usually ripped apart as it is removed, and the doctor may take 10 to 15 passes to remove it in its entirety. The procedure that prompted the federal Act and various state statutes, including Nebraska’'s, is a variation of the standard D&E, and is herein referred to as "“intact D&E."” The main difference between the two procedures is that in intact D&E a doctor extracts the fetus intact or largely intact with only a few passes, pulling out its entire body instead of ripping it apart. In order to allow the head to pass through the cervix, the doctor typically pierces or crushes the skull.
So in other words, the majority opinion states that it's not OK to pull the baby out in one piece, smash the skull and vacuum out the brains; but if the doctor rips a baby into 10 or 15 pieces while it's still in utero, that's not a problem.

This is madness.



Monday, April 16, 2007

Quote of the Day: Guiliani on abortion

Rudy Guiliani, in this interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt, comes across as someone who wants to be perceived as a conservative but really holds a fairly liberal position on the issue of abortion.

Hewitt asks Guiliani about how his Catholic faith has affected his life ("It’s been a very, very important part of my life"); turns the tables to ask if the pro-choice Guiliani can keep the Catholic majority enjoyed by President Bush against the Catholic John Kerry ("I hope that people look at the overall record . . . and realize that there’s not ever going to be agreement 100% with anybody that’s running for president"); and finally asks Guiliani to describe his position on abortion.

RG: My position is that I hate it, I don’t like it, I would advise anyone on a personal basis that they’d be better off using the option of adoption if…but ultimately, it’s an individual’s choice that I don’t see dealing with by trying to put somebody in jail over it.

HH: Would you like to see Roe V. Wade reversed, Mayor?

RG: I would [hesitates, not indicating agreement]…what I’d like to see are abortions reduced, and adoptions increased. And I reduced…abortions declined about 15, 16% while I was Mayor, I think more than the national average. But most importantly, adoptions went up over 60%.

HH: But would it be a good day or a bad day for America if Roe V. Wade was reversed by the Roberts’ Court?

RG: Oh, I think that’s something the Court has to decide.

HH: All right.

RG: And I think that I would appoint strict constructionists as judges, I would not have a litmus test, there’d be a general test, a philosophical test, and that is are you going to interpret the Constitution as best you can based on what it means, not what you’d like it to mean? I can see conservative, strict constructionist judges coming to the conclusion that it should be overturned, or I could see some of them coming to the conclusion that it’s been the law for a substantial period of time, it is precedent, and applying stare decisis. So it’s not a litmus test.

He absolutely refused to respond to the question on Roe v. Wade, instead taking a very Clinton-esque approach by emphasizing the abortion rate during his time as mayor of New York City. And even his defense of the abortion rate in NYC was interesting, in that he started to take credit for the reduction, but then changed his statement to note simply that it dropped while he was mayor.

His invocation of a classic liberal canard -- "it’s an individual’s choice that I don’t see dealing with by trying to put somebody in jail over it" -- makes me suspect that he hasn't given the pro-life position much thought. It implies that the overturning of Roe v. Wade would result in the jailing of women undergoing illegal abortions, but no serious pro-life advocate would advocate such a penalty.

And then, seeming to know he's dug himself a hole, he tries to throw a bone to pro-lifers by using the "strict constructionist judges" language of conservatives. But even then he refuses to be pinned down, saying that a real conservative judge could rule either way on Roe.

Can you feel Rudy Guiliani twist and turn?

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Is it just me?

Or does Steve Novick...

bear a striking resemblance to a certain '70s super-spy?

No, really.

OK, maybe it's just me.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

World ends, higher education hit hardest

As a University of Oregon alum, I received an "important message" from University President Dave Frohnmayer yesterday (emphasis in original):
We are at a critical time in the budget negotiations in Salem, and I need your help to protect our state funding. In December, Governor Ted Kulongoski proposed a budget for higher education that would provide stability and begin to undo a decade of disinvestment. However, the budget recently proposed by the co-chairs of the Ways and Means Committee takes a significant step backwards from the governor's request. Simply put, this proposal, if enacted, would degrade the quality of the University of Oregon.
It would degrade the quality of the school? Wow, it must be bad. You'd think Republicans were in charge of the budget, but no -- the Ways & Means co-chairs are Sen. Kurt Schrader of Canby and Rep. Mary Nolan of Portland, both Democrats.

The email continues:
The co-chairs have cut $35 million from the Oregon University System operating budget. This includes cuts to enrollment growth and faculty salaries. If enacted, the cuts would mean higher tuition for Oregonians. The co-chairs also cut 83 percent from the Oregon University System capital construction budget.
Thirty-five million? What are they thinking? Did Karl Rove plant mind probes into their brains?

It concludes by asking me to contact the committee members to express my concern "about the proposed cuts to higher education - concern that is being conveyed almost daily in newspaper editorials across the state."

Oh, newspapers are editorializing against it? Double wow. It must be really bad.

But wait.

At Rogue Pundit, we get a clearer picture of what's really going on. RP wrote last week that the current higher ed budget is $735 million, which was actually about $6 million less than the 1999-2001 figure. Clearly, the higher ed budget has slipped over the last eight years, so for 2007-2009, Gov. Kulongoski proposed a new budget figure of $859 million, an increase of almost 17 percent.

The Ways & Means co-chairs reduced Kulongoski's proposal to $843 million, so it's only an increase of nearly 15 percent. So what President Frohnmayer calls a "cut" is really just a smaller increase, and what he claims will "degrade the quality of the University of Oregon" is really a lie.

Yes, that's right. A lie. It might not be the increase Mr. Frohnmayer wanted. It might not even be the increase that's justified. But an additional $108 million dollars will not degrade the university system or the U of O, and I believe Mr. Frohnmayer knows it. And his threat of higher tuition is a reprehensible, unjustified threat.

(The governor's recommendation of $483 million for community colleges was reduced to $458 million; and his $401 million budget for university construction bonds was reduced to $56 million, because the Ways & Means co-chairs were concerned about the level of the state's already-existing debt load. But those figures do not "degrade" the university, either.)

Rogue Pundit makes another interesting observation: inflation over the last eight years has increased by 23.2 percent, so even a 17 percent increase falls behind inflation. It would have to be $914 million to match inflation.

But meanwhile, the K-12 budget, which was $4.6 billion in '99-01, is scheduled to increase to $6.245 billion in '07-09, an increase of almost 36 percent.

If we were concerned with keeping up with inflation, that figure would only be $5.67 billion, or a difference of almost six hundred million dollars. If we kept the K-12 budget at the rate of inflation, we could bring the university system up to the inflation level and still have half a billion dollars to fill a rainy-day fund without increasing taxes on corporations.

If we wanted.

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Quote of the Day: on Rachael Ray

Today's QOTD comes from Brian at A Boy Named Sous, for his description of the Food Network diva that seems to show up on every cooking show, cookbook and magazine cover even remotely related to food:
OK, I'll admit that I ceased being a Rachel Ray fan a long time ago. It's not bad enough that I've never spent $40/day on food while on vacation in m entire freaking LIFE, but the fact that every damned thing she eats gets a reaction that would make a pr0n star proud gets on my nerves.
Yep, the reaction-to-food thing bugs me, too.



Monday, April 09, 2007

Bad product & company rant

I've had bad experiences recently with the service from a Northwest company and a product from an international company, so I'm going to rant against both.

Rant No. 1: MS Glass, which does automobile glass replacement in the Portland and Seattle markets. I have a crack in my windshield, so I called my insurance company to get it fixed. As insurance companies don't give referrals, I found MS Glass in the phone book.

My insurance company informed me they weren't a "preferred provider," but that usually tells me they're not willing to play the insurance company's games, which is a good thing. They were willing to take my insurance company's money, so I made an appointment for them to come to me.

The appointment was during a block of 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., which is annoying but unavoidable, it seems. As my time block wore on, however, it became apparent that their technician would show up at the last possible minute, thus forcing me to waste even more of my day.

As it turns out, that was wrong. The end of the time block came and went, and no one showed or called. So, I called at 1:01 and told them they'd missed their window and I couldn't wait, but I would call them later.

To their credit, they called the next day to ask if I still needed their services. Instead of answering, I asked what happened, and the girl I spoke to said, "We were slammed yesterday, but there was someone on their way to you when you called. After all, we said we'd be there between 10 and 1, so they could have shown up at 1."

Except for the fact that you weren't here at 1, I told her, so I won't be using your services. (And, I thought to myself, I'm sure there was someone just around the corner.)

Her response? She sounded like she couldn't have cared less. Like she was in the middle of painting her nails, and needed to get off the phone so she could lay down a second coat.

I followed up with an email asking for the name of the manager, but haven't received a response.

So, dear folks at MS Glass: if you can't make an appointment, you call and let the person know. If you blow it, you don't act like it's irrelevant. And when that customer emails to ask for the name of the manager, you don't ignore the email.

Maybe there's a reason you're not a "preferred provider."

Rant No. 2: Timex. Many months ago, I went to Costco and bought my wife an alarm clock/CD player made by Timex. Fairly quickly, we discovered several flaws in the clock -- the radio reception was virtually non-existent, and to label the means of setting the time as "a hassle" would be generous -- and should have returned it. But, it was one of those things that never rose high enough on the priority list.

Jump forward to this Spring, and the US Congress makes a change to the start of Daylight Savings Time. This is a problem in the alarm clock, which is preset to change the time on the old DST date. Remember, changing the time is a hassle. Well, add to that the fact that changing the time early still doesn't solve the preset change (which, admittedly, is an issue not of Timex's making), and the fact that suddenly the clock spontaneously changes in and out of DST, and we have a problem. The missus might be getting up on time, an hour early or an hour late, the explanation of which doesn't go over well with her employer.

I went to Timex's website, hoping for some idea of what to do, and quickly discovered that Timex's focus is overwhelming on watches. This page represents the entirety of the company's information on clocks, and this page doesn't seem to have any downloadable information on clocks.

So, maybe Timex makes good watches, but I would not recommend buying their clocks.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

The liberal definition of 'responsibility'

Oregon liberals need little motivation to hate the oil companies (heck, sometimes I'm not fond of them myself!), but a story in this week's Willamette Week details a kind of forest-for-the-trees perspective that made me laugh.

The story talks about how gasoline sold during colder temperatures is denser than gas sold in warm temperatures. Officially, gas is supposed to be sold at 60 degrees, so the public gets gypped in warm-temp sales because the same amount of gas takes up more space in your gas tank (thus, you get more for your money in cold temps). It's called the "hot fuel" debate.

How much does this affect our pocketbooks? The Kansas City Star did a series last year on the issue, and estimated that it costs Oregon drivers $10 million every year. The Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles reports that in 2005, the state had just more than 2.8 million licensed drivers, so that averages out to a cost of $3.50 per driver per year, or less than seven cents per weekly fill-up.

But hey, those evil gas companies are already making record profits, and the estimated nationwide cost of hot fuel is somewhere around $2 billion every year, so Oregon is one of several states to file a class-action suit against the oil companies for the "scam."

But that's not what made me laugh.

At the end of the Willamette Week article are (as of this morning) two comments, one from "Jeff" in the Chicago area, wondering if any such lawsuits have been filed in his area. He writes (emphasis mine):
I have noticed that my vehicles seem to burn through gas extremly fast and I am suspect that the stations here may be doing the same thing. I have 2 mercedes that must run on 93 octane and an escalade that requires 89. This is costing me a fortune. If anyone knows of any lawsuites being filed here I would appreciate your letting me know.
So, it's the classic liberal mentality: blame someone else. "Jeff" has three expensive cars (a new Escalade starts at $55,000, includes a 26-gallon gas tank and gets 13 miles per gallon for city driving, so he probably spends $80 with every fill-up), and he could solve his fuel problems by getting cheaper, more efficient cars. But he doesn't want to change his personal behavior, he wants to sue the oil companies.

(This would be a prime spot to mention the mansions and jet fuel bills of Al Gore and John Edwards, but I'll let Max tackle that.)

Personal responsibility? What's that?



Thursday, April 05, 2007

A Great Compliment

I am Coyote at Northwest Republican has nominated me and my humble blog abode as a "Blog That Makes You Think."

This is probably the best compliment I could receive, even though I sometimes question how much value I really bring to this thing we call the Blogosphere.

The Thinking Blogger Award was started in February by The Thinking Blog. So, my duty now is to continue the meme, selecting five blogs that Make Me Think. (I choose to define this as blogs that present me with information I hadn't heard before; or blogs that present a perspective I either had not heard or had dismissed, with such coherence that it causes me to revisit my biases.)

They are (in no particular order):

1. Northwest Republican. No, I'm not doing this just because he nominated me. Coyote and his stable of contributors, because they're so well-connected, provide information I can't find anywhere else. And even when covering information that's readily available elsewhere, NWR provides a unique perspective.

2. Jack Bogdanski. Jack and I rarely agree, but I usually respect his opinion. He approaches politics from a liberal perspective, but he's able to see the idiotic nature of people from across the political spectrum, idiocy that I sometimes ignore when I haven't thought it through or am too willing to give someone of my political persuasion the benefit the doubt.

3. Tony Woodlief. Tony is probably my favorite internet writer. His prose is funny, insightful and -- at times -- gripping. Most of the time, his favored subjects are his children -- the daughter who passed away before her fourth birthday, and the three brothers she never knew -- but he also skewers popular culture and the way that Christians interact with and attempt to influence culture. He makes me think about my role in the world as someone who is politically-minded, but mostly he reminds me of my responsibilities as a husband, a father and a follower of Jesus.

4. Michael Totten. Michael is a Portland-based writer who has made it his life's mission to travel to and help others understand the culture of the Middle East. He makes regular jaunts to Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Iraq (probably among others), and gives a first-hand understanding of the forces struggling to shape that part of the world. His writing and photos provide a unique glimpse into one of the world's hottest hot spots.

5. Stand To Reason. This was a hard one, because there are several evangelical blogs that give my brain fodder for consideration, including Mark D. Roberts and Evangelical Outpost. But Stand to Reason is able to focus on the central tenets of Christianity in a way that emphasizes reasonable discourse instead of the passionate, thoughtless repetition sometimes found in the evangelical community. (Those other guys do that, too, but I only had room for one more!)

So there's my contribution to Blogs That Make Me Think. Thanks, Coyote.



Tuesday, April 03, 2007

This will accomplish...what?

While I was away for Spring Break, I see the junior senator from the state of Oregon completely imploded. Gordon Smith voted in favor of a troop pullout within four months, distinguishing himself as the only Senate Republican willing to tell al-Queda how long it had to wait before it could start a full-scale slaughter of Iraqi civilians.

With that vote, Sen. Smith lost my support in 2008. I won't vote for his Democratic opponent (whomever it may be), but I won't support Smith, either.

However, the Northwest Republican rumor mill reported that Bill Sizemore may be considering a primary election challenge against Sen. Smith next Spring.

You remember Sizemore, don't you? In the 1998 governor's election, he won exactly one county against Incumbent John Kitzhaber, and that was tiny Malheur County, where he beat Kitzhaber by 363 votes. Overall, Kitzhaber beat Sizemore by 383,000 votes out of 1.1 million total votes cast, or more than 34 percentage points.

The author of a plethora of tax- and union-related ballot measures, Sizemore has been the favorite whipping boy for the unions. That included a multi-million-dollar racketeering judgment against him that took almost seven years for him to clear his name in the courts.

Sizemore is, in some respects, the Oregon version of Newt Gingrich; good ideas that are obscured by personal foibles. (I'm not saying Sizemore has Gingrich's ability to communicate or to think of creative policy ideas, only that his efforts are blunted by his personal issues.)

Run Bill Sizemore against Gordon Smith, and what happens? Most likely, Smith will clean the floor with him, because Republicans may agree with Sizemore's priorities, but I don't think they're willing to vote for someone with his history. It will mark Sizemore's second effort to "send a message" through personal candidacy, and will mark his second devastating defeat.

The only possible impact on Gordon Smith will be that he has to spend some of his campaign money to ward off a primary challenger (though I don't see that being a lot); and he has to defend his Senate votes earlier in the campaign season, thus exposing his inconsistencies to a press and a Democratic Party that are both eager to trumpet those issues.

Although doubtful, there is another possible outcome stemming from a Sizemore-Smith matchup: perhaps Republican resentment against Smith is broader than I imagine, and Sizemore squeaks past Smith in the primary. What happens then? Sizemore gets pasted by the Democratic machine even worse than in 1998, and becomes even more of a laughing stock.

It will also be a knock-down blow for Oregon's Republican Party, which will once again demonstrate its lack of effective candidates and organization and will cause independents to lose faith in the party's legitimacy.

Gordon Smith, for all his maverick status, is still a more reliable conservative vote than any Democrat (including Joe Lieberman) will ever be, and in many respects I hope he wins reelection in '08. But regardless, a Bill Sizemore candidacy would be a disaster -- for him, for his priorities, and for his party.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Stupid comment of the day

Tommy Thompson, former Wisconsin governor and Bush administration cabinet member, announced today that he would pursue the 2008 GOP nomination for president.

In an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, Thompson made one comment that stood out to me, and which was noted in an AP article:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has made ''terrible mistakes'' in the handling of the fired federal prosecutors. ''I would not have appointed Mr. Gonzales. I would have appointed somebody that was loyal to me,'' Thompson said.
He would have hired someone who was loyal to him.

Isn't that what got us into this mess (among others) in the first place? Appointments that emphasize cronyism at least as much as competence?

Thanks, Mr. Thompson. You've told me all I need to know about you.