Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Short Comment About Polls

I will post more later, But there is something that has been bothering me for a while about the way polls are presented.

Numbers don't lie, but numbers can mislead. A non-political example here:

Auto insurance commercials claiming that the 'average person who switched saved' some hundreds of dollars. It's a non-statement. Of course those who switched saved money. Those who called for a quote and found they wouldn't save money didn't switch. It's akin to saying "90 percent of my friends think I'm a decent guy."

This pertains to polls because, again, numbers can be misleading. When you see job approval ratings, they might be close to accurate. When I see a news broadcast covering healthcare, and they ask, "Do you approve of Obama's plan for healthcare," or "Do you agree with Obama's handling of healthcare reform," or any version thereof, it's too ambiguous to mean anything.

There are false negatives, but no false positives to balance the poll. If you think the public option or the broader term 'reform' is a bad idea, you say no to the question. If you think it's a good idea, but still think he's not doing enough to reach the goal, you say no. There are people who want a public option, or want Obama's goal to be reached, that will say no because he's not doing enough. There is no scenario that would make a person opposed to reform or a public option answer 'yes' to that poll question.

Because of those false negatives, with no balancing false positives, I'm skeptical about the common wisdom and the interpretation of these polls.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mika Brzezinski and Inconsistent Righteous Indignation

Over the past few months, I've been watching Morning Joe almost everyday. I almost always appreciate the tone of the show, and the humor they go through the news with is a refreshing bit of wit. Also, I hardly ever agree with Joe Scarborough on anything of substance politically, but almost always agree with him on social things.

Mika Brzezinski is usually a moderating voice, and while I do appreciate how she tries to stick to the issues, it's good to see a fun side to her on-screen persona. I laughed a lot at the black and red shoes she got on Friday's show. Now, I have to bring up my biggest problem with the way she plays devil's advocate at the table.

The way she reacts to women's issues is completely opposite the way she views everything else. It's nice to have a calm head when you aren't directly involved, when you have never experienced it yourself and cannot relate to the group of victims. In some ways, it's even more admirable to be a level headed commentator when you are in the group of victims, or have so many common experiences that their pain is your own.

On the flip side, it's nice to see someone be passionate about things that affect them, but even more inspiring when people are passionate about their fellow humans regardless of background, socail class, or any other defining feature.

On this, she fails miserably in my opinion. She is irrationally passionate on issues she can relate to, and skeptical on any she has never experienced. I'm only talking now of social ills facing the country. On things like the Afghan war, the economy, or political races around the country, I think she strikes the perfect tone. But on social issues, Mika Brzezinski has straddled the fence whenever she sees fit. I'm not sure if it's her, or producers, or whatever, and I am not in the habit of questioning motives. I have no idea what she's thinking, but can only go on what she says.

I have two examples of each sticking in my proverbial craw, the later topic resurfacing just this morning.

For dispassionate indifference, see the way she responded to issues of race with 1.) Henry Gates and James Crowley issue and 2.) Rush vs The World(or at least the part of it he's been attacking for years).

For irrational passion, see the way she reacts to the 1.) Letterman scandal and 2.) payment for breast implants for California's biggest advocate of 'opposite marraige,' which resurfaced on the show this morning as they briefly covered the state wanting the money back.

Where was the sense of 'wait and see' from the Gates/Crowley affair when she was slamming CBS for not investigating and having solved this question just hours after everyone found out about David Letterman's indiscretions? Why should some have to keep quiet on their opinions of Rush Limbaugh joining a league he's insulted so often, in a position of AUTHORITY over the very people he's been slandering, when she doesn't have to shut up about people in a beauty contest trying to look 'better,' whether their definition is correct or not? Why can't David Letterman get the same distinction of crime vs. controversy that Rush Limbaugh got from her?

Unlike those, which I guess are rhetorical, there are some others that just don't have a simple answer, or an answer at all sometimes. Is sexism more or less offensive than racism? Is sexual infidelity more or less harmful than race baiting? Should we let the answer be based on whether we are black or female? What would a black woman say? The outrage, real or fake, righteous or not, isn't helping us find the answer to any of those.

I have been searching for video clips online. I'm not sure the best way to do that, so it will have to wait. I suggest any reading this do the youtube, huffpost, or any other online video crawl.

I have, to date, agreed with only two things Pat Buchanan has ever said on air, but they came in rapid succession. Roman Polanski and David Letterman broke at nearly the same time, and Pat's clear answers to the two situations couldn't have agreed more with mine had they come from my own voicebox. In my opinion, Polanski should be 'under the jail,' and Letterman may be a jerk, but last I checked, plenty of jerks still have jobs. No one is saying he did anything illegal. We should all wait and see, while internal investigations and criminal investigations play themselves out.

Mika's reactions to Pat Buchanan's responses only served to highlight the disparity between her responses to these very similar situations. For anyone who doesn't think they are similar, take a look at how affirmative action affects women and blacks. See how civil rights legistlation continues to improve the way both blacks AND women interact with the majority of America's population.

Just as a side note, I have other stuff I'd like to write about. So much of this blog seems to be about things I don't like these days. I have other posts that I wrote and never posted, many about stuff I found funny or uplifting. Maybe I will one day, but they are handwritten and need to be typed out.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rush Limbaugh is NOT being held down by the new Man

I don't have a famous blog. I don't have some insight that nobody else has. I do, though, still have my belief and my common sense. Today, I want to use that to focus on the 'Rush Limbaugh v. Everyone Else' argument.

Rush is not misunderstood. He is not only controversial. He has crossed lines in a way that only the most blind supporters or the most out-of-step with society can defend. If I say the sky is blue for a reason no one has thought of, I may be controversial. If I say the sky is purple, I am not.

Whether he made comments about slavery or not, he has recently called for segregation of school buses. He has mocked the president, using slurs and everything else in his power, for reasons no one can understand.

I hear defense of his bid and really wish I could laugh at the irony, but it is just too sad. Anyone who tries to block free speech in defense of free speech is an idiot, or at least blinded by the trees so much they can't see the forest. There is no clever defense of Rush Limbaugh saying 'he only used his right to free speech, so you can't use yours to oppose him.' All this shouting down has been from people with similar rights to free speech, and free speech has never, ever been the same as consequence free speech. You can say whatever you want, and I can think you're an idiot for it.

The people so quick to castigate David Letterman are the first to call Al sharpton and others out for their defense of Rush?

Make no mistake. I do NOT hold to the belief that this should be a purely financial decision. Even if it was, though, this would still be a one-sided argument. Please bear with me. Now, I don't have the best terms for the groups I'm trying to describe, but I hope you understand that the greyscale here is more sincere than anything you hear in most of the sound-bite driven media society that permeates the air.

Set aside his absurd statement that he's color-blind. Even Rush Limbaugh would have to admit that the country he lives in and loves is not. Some may be racist, but those that aren't could be shamed by his statements. That will keep some 'socially conscious whites' from giving the NFL as much money. Some are actually racist, and they will stay away because of the very beliefs that Rush Limbaugh wants to foment. Some African-Americans won't give their money to anything associated with Limbaugh. Some people will tune in to see the hubbub, but then tune back away to NASCAR, the NHL, NBA, USTA, or whatever passtime they prefer for three to six hours of their sunday afternoons after deciding the NFL is still not for them. How is this a black-listing of Rush Limbaugh on pure political or social basis?

I don't want to spend much time on the actual morality of what he does in this post, so I'll just say a few things.

1.) There's an expression I'm fond of that states "No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible." If someone could add to that, he or she would probably say that any snowflake that does would never admit to it.

2.) The class clown can never whine justifiably when he is handed the dunce cap and a stool to put in the corner.

Rush Limbaugh is either one of the most cynically calculating men in radio or one of the most racist.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I've been dying to get back to this...I hate that I missed all the important, interesting things for the past few months, especially since there were so many valid opinions, and so many questions that went unasked. Today, though, let's just be grateful when things go right, and be happy for the survivors of US-Air flight 1549.

Let's all make sure, whether we have frequent flier perks, pay a little extra, or just get to the airport at the right time, we don't take the extra leg room of the exit row without making sure we can still do the duty.

You never know...and it didn't have to work out this well.

Monday, June 30, 2008

My Amatuer Write-Up on the Pontiac Solstice

I had a comment asking about changing engines in Subarus. Funny how so much experience can lead to so little insight. I'm sorry I don't have more specific answers, but I do have one tip, but this only applies to Subaru-swapped Saabs that are capable of sub-13 second 1/4 mile runs.. Don't put it completely together. Every time you work on the engine, and you get it swapped for this week's new one, leave a few of the non-essential bolts loose. That way when you need to replace the engine again later, you have a headstart. Trust me, when I went to the video store after changing my engine one Saturday, I kicked myself upon my return. I tightened all those extra bolts for nothing.

That reminds me of a second hint. Keep beer. That way, your friends will say, "I can help," and you say "Cool, the beer is on me," and they never do the non-beer calculation of work. I sold mine a while ago, and it was running good for a while when I sold it, but when I did need this trick, it worked like a charm.

Now to the actual review. This isn't a Car-mag style review. It's what an average person would do when given the chance to drive a car around the corner and back, but with the bonus of the salesperson not tagging along.

I sold my car for an old Corvette that I mentioned in another post. Good car, but it sucks as a moving truck.

So my old Corvette is great to me...but I was actually thinking about cheating. I said the following to a good friend.

I’m actually talking to a dealer down here later today. Pontiac dealer. I’m considering trading in my vette for the Solstice. Depends on what they’ll give me for it. I REALLY, REALLY miss shifting…after a five speed like I had before, this 3 spd automatic feels awfully…pedestrian. Like I’m not driving, I’m just directing traffic. “Here, car. Go here. Now turn there. Take me to my home.” But considering it only has 46,000 miles on it, I might decide to keep it, and just mod it to what I like. Back then, they were 4-spds, but there are direct bolt in kits for 5- and 6-spds available for the car. Match that to a GM crate motor, WITH warranty, bought from a dealership, and I bet I’d love it. So I gotta see…this is like, a lot of money for me. I’m financially okay for the first time in a while, and living like I’m broke for so long helped. My plan in march when I bought the car was, “It’s in decent shape now. Buy it mostly cash, and drive it on the cheap until you find something for a job. Then do what you want.” So it did that. I haven’t put any money into the car, just two tires…but no repairs. It even helped me get my crap here. Back and forth to MI the past couple weekends, pass foot well, pass seat, and rear cargo area with hundreds off lbs of crap. I like this car. However, I can tell you from experience, 70’s corvettes weren’t made to be moving trucks. the ergonomics are all wrong.

So I decided to go test drive the cars, and to see what I thought. This is the message I sent him after the test drive.

I actually went to test drive them this weekend. I think it’s off…but not for the reasons you think. 1, you’re right, the gxp is a must. 2, the dealership only had automatics…which is fine for a test drive, as I still got a decent idea of the power of each. But I swear, that gxp is a turbo…only Americans are stupid enough to buy a turbo automatic…why would anyone buy a car that can NEVER stay in it’s power band?

The thing about the vette is that even without a warranty, everything is still simple. Even the mods are 40 year old technology, and it’s all tried and true. There is nobody at the mild level like I would be, who is trying something for the first time. Someone, somewhere, has done that before…the car’s been on the road since the 60s. Also, since the vette has such a huge following, you can buy parts from aftermarket, or from GM still…they have a 3-year 36,000 mile warranty on their crate motors, and you can get them installed at the chevy dealership, so it’s a little different ballgame still.

Now, the worst thing about the solstice was comfort. I fit in the car at least as well as I do in my vette…but unlike my vette, nothing inside the car is where it should be in relation to the seat. Think child reaching to a counter too tall for him to get cookies, and that’s what the steering wheel felt like. The cluster seemed to be where the windshield belonged. And don’t get me started on the center console. I think that would hurt after a while. Not to mention it was all cheap plastic, and not even the soft-rubbery kind. I don’t care for the most part, but at least were my elbow rests could be soft. And that high center console? It was bad enough in an automatic, but imagine a manual where you HAVE TO keep your arm up there while driving. It wouldn’t seem like something that small could be a deal breaker, but believe me…it was…that center console was unbearable.

The handling though…wow…they took my car for evaluation on a trade in, and just gave me the keys to each in turn. The base one held the road well, but it was torqueless…at all rpms…but then I got in the gxp, and took it back to my makeshift test track, and was amazed. Aside from the auto issue…I’d imagine it would be fine in a manual, and it was pretty peppy for a car that small after it got in the powerband. When I tried cornering, I was in awe…

My test track was a mall parking lot, the overflow part behind the mall, over in one area where a jcpenney’s or something had closed down. And for the cornering, I started from a deadstop, and held a tight circle as I sped up, and that little car was hugging the road. After the last circle, I did a little non-uniform cornering, but it held true, and stayed predictable.

I just don’t think I would get enough out of it to make it worth the extra money over my vette, which is paid off. And the torque is noticeable. My vette, with only 190 hp, still puts out a very-american near-300 lb ft of torque. So that, plus the cool-factor of a classic chevy, plus it’s price effectiveness, plus how it’s comfortable for me, I don’t think I’ll do any more than that right now. I think I’ll keep the vette, keep working, and later this year get a practical car, and keep the vette still. So it’s like what I said before…six in one hand, half a dozen in the other, but 20,000 extra dollars for it.

As for my old car…
I loved the car when I had it of course, but even more now as, yes, with the passing of time, the negatives seem to diminish, and I only remember the great times…sentimentality taking over I guess…I will have another one soon, but I’ll probably build it on the late 90’s chassis, only a few grand for the car, and way-sub 3000 lb curb weight makes it a much better starting point.

So there it is. My write up. I test drive cars often, and if they make an impression on me, I might comment on them again soon. Thanks for reading.

Issues with Lou Dobbs

I thought Kitty Pilgrim, Errol Louis, Keith Richburg, and James Toronto did an excellent job on Lou Dobbs tonight. Not related to my contention with many of Lou Dobbs episodes, because he really is 50/50 with his bashing of both. But on so many other shows that air on CNN, the so-called 'CNN Contributors' are just...I don't know...not even shills...they're just poorly disguised surrogates who collect a paycheck from CNN every once in a while. I thought the four people on tonight's episode did an EXCELLENT job of actually representing a news organization or a viewer rather than a party. This isn't that I agree with them, it's that when they're talking, sometimes you can't even tell what their party o' choice is.

A few others that do? In my opinion, David Gergen is fair. So is Jeffrey Toobin. I have a few others, both repub and demo, and I'll update the list as I remember who they are.

Now onto less-than-praise for "Lou Dobbs Tonight"

tonight's lou dobbs poll: Do you believe Senators Obama and McCain are both pandering to the pro-amnesty, open borders crowd in order to win Hispanic votes in November?

While pandering is an important part of politics, it's not important because a show full of self-indulgent talking heads want to blast it for ratings. Pandering is an important part because no candidate would ever get elected if he said the truth. Until the media stops trying to pick fights, and the American public is willing to accept compromise with their fellow voters, you'll never hear a candidate say "I think we need to deal with something more centrist." Moreover, I think this show is pandering to angry Americans for veiwers. Fine for American Idol, or some call-in telethon. But the last I checked, Lou Dobbs doesn't claim to be "Angry, Pointless, Pandering."

The other thing I've noticed is that, as long as both sides will take each other out of context, and the media does too for a story, we'll always have surrogates, pandering, and meaningless discussions where people are too afraid/smart to get trapped into something that will be shouted on every news station for the next 2 1/2 days.

And is Lou really an independent, or a Republican that just doesn't like any currently prominent republicans?

Late edit:

I typed this blog before watching AC360. The episode tonight featured a Republican, sorry, my memory doesn't work well at noon, let alone midnight. But the democrat was James Carville.

I have a couple questions raised by watching the interview.

1.) Why is John McCain's Military service out of bounds, but Barack Obama's religion isn't?
2.) Why do both candidates, McCain and Obama, get to take things out of context, then get to attack the other for things that, to quote a judge in the Apple music vs. Apple Ipod and Itunes, "An idiot in a hurry could tell the difference between?"

Obama keeps pulling McCain's quote about 100 years out of context. Anyone who listened to 30 seconds prior to that knows that McCain was saying, "If the fighting is over, but we need to stay to train, or help with inventory, or even just eat more of the middle eastern cuisine we've grown to like, we'll be there as long as we have a reason to be."

McCain took the entire question of this Clark military service comment out of context, then refused to say Obama wasn't behind it, much like he refused to say that Obama wasn't an undercover muslim. Obama today said "John McCain's an honorable person, and..." blah blah blah. When people attacked Obama's religious background, McCain basically said, "He says otherwise, and we know nothing to prove either way." Of course, in the world of political double-speak, that means. "I'm not gonna be the one to say things without proof, but if you want to, then go ahead."

To put it simply, acting offended about something for no reason is just as dumb as playing stupid.

And enough about the stupid flag pin...Raise your hand if you don't wear a flag pin. Put your hand down if you aren't patriotic....

All of you with your hands still up, shut up, and go away.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Men in Capris

I'm a huge fan of sports, and I love tennis. Raphael Nadal is an amazing player, someone who is never out of any point. Europeans do a large number of things different from Americans. All that said, he doesn't get a free pass on this.

No man should wear capri pants. Ever.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Well, it's been a saddening couple of weeks. Two of my heroes died. Tim Russert and George Carlin. Even though they took different weapons, they were attacking the same problems.

I have heard people suggest that Carlin wasn't funny...that he was just an angry old guy who liked to yell into a microphone. Not true.

George Carlin attacked the establishment, and did so in a way only a handful of people pulled off. He didn't laugh at you. He invited you to laugh at everyone else with him. He asked you questions that, while funny, were intended to make you try to figure things out. All good comedians take you along for the ride rather than just talking to you for a little while.

I heard a few of his acts, starting with his attack on euphemisms when I was younger. I laughed. But he was right. He had a talent for making people burst into laughter then, while holding their ribs and rolling on the floor, turn to the person next to them and say "He's so right."

When I heard the bit about the difference between dogs and cats, I couldn't stop laughing. If you own a dog, and you heard the part about breaking things in the house, then looking guilty, you know what I meant about laughing so hard while saying, "That's so true!"

From an insignificant but huge fan, we'll miss you George.

More on Tim Russert tomorrow. It only seems appropriate to talk about Russert on a Sunday morning.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Introductory post...

Hello to my three fans. Don't worry, I won't tell people you clicked here on accident as long as you let me imagine you're actually fans. Yes, that inclcudes you too, Mom.

At the very least, I've tried to repay the favor with a few promises. I promise that after reading, you'll agree the post is better than a monkey could have done. I promise I'll never put on crappy music that you'll find interfering with your winamp. I promise I'll never put starbursts in the background, or crazy images, or use some text color/background color combo that makes your eyes die 5 years earlier than you do. And I promise that I'll never click the button marked "Put ads between posts."

I don't know why I created this blog. While I do have things to say, I'm under no illusion they're important or special. However, all my friends are apparently in some choir I didn't know about, and they tell me they're sick of my preaching. I have always thought, "As much as I like the sound of my own voice, I bet other people would too." Then I realized that microphones were expensive, handheld loudspeakers were ineffective after a few dozen yards, and the internet was great for saying things most people would ignore.

So now, when something gets on my nerves, or really gets me excited or hopeful, I'll post about it. My blog is open for everyone to post replies, and i'll approve all of them regardless of what they say as long as there is no profanity.

A lot of my favorite things are simple. I have a 1980 Corvette that serves as my only car and I love it, but it will never be a show car. Translation: fun, cheap and paid off. Nothing I've found beats a few good songs on the radio and a game of cards. These blogs will primarily be positive in nature, unless I see a pet peeve, or something I just need to point out, but even then, I don't ever really get too angry with things.

A few of my pet peeves:

When the media decides to cover a story a certain way and completely misses the point (sometimes intentionally). An example: The entirely stupid question "Is America ready for a black president?" What does that even mean? Are YOU ready for a black president? Do you think your NEIGHBOR would vote for a black man? Is America in such good/bad shape that a black president is okay? I hate when people dodge a question...I hate when people asking an ambiguous question to dodge the answer even more.

When we all agree that a situation exists, then the media takes the path of least resistance to a cause no one I know would agree to.

When the media in anything decides to talk for us, then acts like we said it not them. To me, this seems prominent in the automotive press most often.

When people who don't have any idea about something decide to make decisions about it. I'm not even sure if this is true, but I once heard an anecdote about people at Sony not wanting to produce a Spider-Man movie because another superhero movie, some Power Rangers film, had flopped just a few years earlier.