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December 2007
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February 2008

You're doing a heck of a job, Wang

It's always interesting to watch the local version of stories from China. This one just cracked me up:

TRAFFIC on the Beijing-Guangzhou railway line has "basically" returned to normal, a spokesman of the Ministry of Railways announced.

Transport capacity has been greatly restored and the railway authorities are doing their best to send hundreds of thousands of stranded travelers across the country on their way home for next week's Spring Festival, Wang Yongping, the ministry's spokesman, said last night, China News Service reported today.

That's from the Shanghai Daily.

So, normal includes as many as 800,000 people hanging around a train station?

OK, that's an easy pot shot. It's just that I can relate to a train station and bad traffic. I used to make a living off bad traffic. It's a little harder to relate to $1.4 trillion.

And yet with all that money, they can't make their trains work? Something's out of whack here. Reading Fallow's piece just makes me nervous.


Of Course McCain is telling the truth

Am I the only one to notice this? I think McCain is lying about a few things. Hell, it's hard to believe much from any of these candidates. But I think McCain has a small verbal tic to let us know when he's doing it. He prefaces the lie with "Of course."

"I have never, ever supported a specific timetable" for withdrawing troops, Romney said. McCain's accusation on the eve of Tuesday's primary, he said, "sort of falls into the dirty tricks that I think Ronald Reagan would have found reprehensible." ... McCain stuck to his guns, saying, "of course he said he wanted a timetable" for a withdrawal.

Here's another:

But, look, I voted -- I voted on the tax cuts because I knew that unless we had spending control, we were going to face a disaster. We let spending get completely out of control. Of course, those tax cuts have to remain permanent.

Here's one that the Freudians out there will love, especially because he said this after his mother besmirched all those in his party:

I want to thank my wife, Cindy, the best campaigner in the family, and my daughters Meghan and Sidney, who are with us tonight, as well as my son, Doug, and our children who could not be here, and of course, my dear mother, Roberta McCain.

I suppose this is helpful. If you like all the stuff McCain says that is NOT prefaced by "of course" then you might be comfortable voting for him.


Lobbyists acting within the law?!?!? Stop the presses!

USA Today makes a big splash about how how lobbyists are spending money on legislators.

Despite a strict new ban on gifts to lawmakers, lobbyists routinely use these prime locations to legally wine and dine members of Congress while helping them to raise money, campaign records show. The lawmakers get a venue that is often free or low-cost, a short jaunt from the Capitol. The lobbyists get precious uninterrupted moments with lawmakers — the sort of money-fueled proximity the new lobbying law was designed to curtail. The public seldom learns what happens there because the law doesn't always require fundraising details to be reported.

I had to put the emphasis on the word legally. The paper had to throw that in there because what they are doing is legal. The emphasis of the story is that something pernicious is going on. It's an old journalism trick, when you want to make something look bad, you throw in a lot of "Real Estate records show that..."

I know it is fashionable to bash the lobbyists, especially in an election year, but Congress does make laws that have an impact on businesses, and so it's OK with me if all the hardware stores in the country pitch in a few bucks to hire someone to represent their views in Washington so that their business doesn't get creamed.

Of course, the people in congress know that the laws they pass have a real impact. After all, they wrote the "lobby reform" that allows the money to be spent in the way it now is, in spite of what they may have said about it during some press conference. I don't think they are quite as shocked as USA Today wants all of us to be that money is still being spent on lobbying.


Almost feel sorry for Hillary

I posted a couple weeks ago wondering why Hillary's voice was fine when Bill's was shot. Now, Hillary's is gone, too. I couldn't find a video to embed, but this one will make you reach for your lozenges.

Of course, I'm not sure if this is from lots of speeches, or just from yelling at her husband. Bill Clinton's anger is legend, and more stories are coming out about it all the time, including new information about how Bill tackled Dick Morris and would have punched him had Hillary not intervened.

Morris said that Hillary told him that he only yells at people he loves, so using that... umm.. logic she's yelling at him even now. Or not.

Best write-up of the weekend rout of Hillary, I thought, came from Slate.

My favorite bit:

"But after South Carolina we might see Bill Clinton suddenly dispatched to solve some new crisis in a country with no satellite trucks and no cell towers."

And that was written before the news that exactly that is going to happen. Well, maybe not the other country part, but clearly he has been put in the dog house.

It was also written before the Kennedy clan decided to pile on.

And is it just me, or does it look like Teddy's had some work done?


Welcome to the TT neighborhood!

After more than a year with this domain, I finally have seen someone else using the same top-level domain, so welcome to the club, Ma.tt.

As he writes, getting Ma.tt was a kind of life-changing thing for him. I know what he means. I got it as a small gift for myself when I sold my first company. Maybe when I sell another company I'll buy an Audi (Sco)TT.

The domain is so short that it's a bit startling for a lot of people, but once people get used to it, it's cool.

My niece actually started calling me "Ska-dot-tt."

The funny thing is that Ma.tt is best known as a blog publisher, the power behind WordPress, which I loved for the late, great CreditCardVC.com. But I couldn't figure out how to make it work for a weird domain like sco.tt, so I switched over to TypePad, which I do not love. It's fine, but I loved WordPress.

So, don't be surprised if there's a switch a comin'.

One thing a commenter on his site said is that he thinks it will hurt Matt's Google rankings. It's actually helped mine, even though this blog is only in it's very early early days I'm already the top result in a search for Scott Yates. So, Google doesn't discriminate against odd domains. Nice to know.


Positive Identification

Mike Arrington wrote today about a new thingamajig that makes one of the zillion social networks work better with your email inbox. He says your inbox is "not only the 'original' Internet social network, it's going to be the backbone of social networking going forward."

There are indeed a bunch of social networks, as Brad Feld wrote about a couple of days ago. He said his "head hurts" trying to think about how to coordinate one person between all those networks.

There are non-digital world examples of this kind of problem that people have faced forever. Our family faces it every year at Christmas Card time. We have a spreadsheet from when we got married that we try to update, coordinating that with email contact directories, letters sent during the year, etc. It's interesting that some people exist only in the Christmas Card list, others there and digitally in an in-box, but not on a social network.

The reason I bring all of this up is this: Yes, the whole space is complicated and yes, it's hard to keep it all straight. But I think this is all good news, really good news.

In the old days, people could use their company directory and maybe a church or school directory, plus an address book that rarely changed, to keep track of everyone in their lives. Now it's harder to keep track of everyone, but we are in contact with that many more people. Life is more complicated and interconnected, but how much richer and more well informed we are because of our direct exposure -- even if it is digitally -- to so many more people!

While it may seem like a chore keeping track of all those people across all those directories, it's a blessing indeed that you have all of those people around you in the first place.

So, no more whining!


The Clone Wars

The government assures us that eating meat from cloned animals is safe.

I hate to appear to be a Luddite, but I'm just going to say no to cloned meat. I'll leave it to others to make all the scientific arguments, etc. My argument is based more on the notion that is perhaps best to eat better by having a bit more connection and association with what we eat.

The argument was made very well in The Crunchy Conservative. The point that the author made in that book was that it is NOT conservative to have federal regulations built around maximizing profits of the biggest food corporations.

The downside of this, of course, is that we'll have to pay more for our food, but I suppose if we don't buy 64-ounce single-serving sodas and eat perhaps more food that we cook ourselves rather than have it cooked and frozen for us into a bland cardboard-like substance.

Cooking with Friends seems like a great idea.

There's so much to say about food, and I'll have more to say here in the future, but for now, count me out of eating cloned food, thankyouverymuch.


Don't call him crazy

The proper term for Doug Bruce is "mentally ill." To call him "crazy" is insensitive to people who suffer from his condition.

For readers not in Colorado, Doug Bruce is a guy who is hated by the Republicans, and loved by Democrats. He is a Republican, by the way, and Democrats love him because he is who he is.

Today, after demanding a swearing-in that had never been demanded before, Bruce kicked a photographer. Then he demanded an apology from the photographer for taking pictures.

Now, before you go saying, "That guy's crazy" consider this description:

Diagnostic criteria for 301.81 Narcissistic Personality Disorder
(cautionary statement)

  • A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  • has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

  • is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

  • believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

  • requires excessive admiration

  • has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

  • is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

  • lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

  • is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her

  • shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
  • That's from the DSM description of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

    Unfortunately, there's not a lot of good treatment, so we may just be stuck with this sideshow for the next ten years unless the people of Colorado Springs will somehow find a way to muzzle this nut job.

    Oops!


    Futzers Untie!

    Reading this terrific post:

    And how does one amass this information, you may ask. Well…by what I lovingly call: FUTZING.

    I’m not sure if I am even using the word correctly, but what it means to me is the process by which one wanders around without aim, having conversations (with new and old friends), gathering random information, learning ostensibly useless knowledge and avoiding all tasks/duties clear and present.

    I think there are Futzers all around the world, millions of them.

    Few are getting paid for it, it's true, but they can and do have a lot of power taken together.

    It reminds me of the line from Casablanca where the German in charge is saying to the Renault that the desert is honeycombed with traitors, and they are waiting for a leader.

    Hmmmm.


    One morning with my morning newspaper

    That papers are dying is one of those facts that gets lamented on endlessly here on the Interwebs. I won't go into all that here, except to say that I'm doing my part to keep the printed paper alive. I read the Rocky Mountain News every morning, typically with my 4-year-old son in my lap, trying to keep the tradition alive.

    Today was great, because there was a story about a probe nearing Mercury. Space is very big with the 4-year-olds.

    Today's Rocky was also terrific for some ground-breaking layout. For 102 years, more or less, the schedule for the National Western Stock Show has been printed in an unintelligible mass of type. Tradition is everything with the Stock Show. The Rocky broke that up by doing a great spread with one column for each day, and events broken up by Horse Events, Rodeos, etc. It was great.

    But then in the same section, just below the helpful rundown of all the Children's events, were two ads for "Topless Bullriding" and some other "adult" event. I had to turn the page fast -- 4-year-olds are fast with the questions.

    I know that newspaper staffs have been cut to the bone marrow, but doesn't anyone check to see if ads are around appropriate editorial content anymore?

    One other short item that can't be overlooked:

    Garyhart
    John Enslin, a terrific guy and great reporter and baseball fan, wrote a story about the opening of the new Obama office in Colorado. Gary Hart spoke. Here's an excerpt:

    But what clinched his support, Hart said, was when a supporter of an Obama opponent said they "we're going to throw the kitchen sink at him."

    "Everybody in this room is probably too young to remember that I ran for president," he said, drawing applause. "I had a breakthrough in New Hampshire and then they threw the kitchen sink at me."

    Ummm. As I recall, Gary Hart challenged reporters to investigate him after persistent questions of his womanizing in DC, often with pal Warren Beatty. (See the politics section of this wikipedia page, which has the quote about how Warren wanted Gary's life, and Gary wanted Warren's.)

    Hart told reporters that they would be bored.

    Hard to say if they were bored. Watching a certain kind of film that will trip up spam sensors is boring, too. But nobody was throwing any kitchen sinks, unless you classify your own hypocrisy as a sink, kitchen or otherwise.

    I'm starting to sound like an old prude, ranting about adult ads next to kids listings, and an aging statesman trying to whitewash his own sordid history. You'll have to decide for yourself it's it prudishness or enlightened commentary incorporating journalism analysis and catching the political hypocrites.

    Yeah... That's it. The second one.


    Fly Fishing?

    I love the meme on the Opinion Journal's Best of the Web today: Great Orators of the Democratic party.

    So here is my own version for Colorado from today:

    • "One man with courage makes a majority."--Andrew Jackson

    • "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."--Franklin D. Roosevelt

    • "The buck stops here."--Harry S. Truman

    • "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."--John F. Kennedy

    • "It's inspiring to stand here with you at the start of a new legislative session. Actually, it's a little like fly fishing."--Bill Ritter

    His voice is shot, and why?

    We're getting to the point in the campaign where candidates are losing their voice.

    I understand that Bill Clinton is not a candidate, but it's interesting that his voice is shot,

    and Hillary sounds just fine. (This is the only video I could find from Jan. 7, 2008.)

    Also, the finger that was kept under his thumb for most of his presidency is now wagging in full glory.

    As for the content of what Bill is saying, I have to say that I actually find it kind of sweet from one narrow point of view: He really thinks that all of the investigations that lead to him being impeached and all the other damage he faced pale in comparison to the "blistering" attacks he and his wife are getting from another Democrat, even though the evidence of those attacks is pretty thin. What's cute is that it's about his wife, so the clear vision he has about politics, and even about himself, gets thrown out the window.

    I remember reading in a book by James Carville that Bill Clinton has always had that blinder. Consultants would show him the clear proof that the audience reaction to Hillary would tank moments after she took the stage from him. He would ignore it, saying that she just had her hair done in a bad style, or something.

    Politics and everything else aside, I have to say that I find that kind of sweet.

    UPDATE: A friend chided me that showing that attack by Bill Clinton is unfair if I don't also include the response from Obama, which seems rather complete to me. I'm not commenting on the content, but I think it is right to have both sides, so now you have that link.


    Sinkers

    I have a category called "floaters" for stuff that just hangs around, but doesn't really apply to anything else.

    I did not create that category to handle stories like this:

    It's a fat world, after all

    Disneyland announces plans to close the "It's a Small World" attraction to deepen its water channel after the ride's boats start getting stuck under loads of heavy passengers. Employees ask larger passengers to disembark - and compensate them with coupons for free food.

    Mmmm. Free food at Disneyland! I'm so there.


    Putting in to Iraq

    I got to see some snippets of the debates last night in New Hampshire. The Republicans (other than Ron Paul) all seemed to talk about Iraq in terms of how to be successful there in a military sense, and why pulling out was a bad idea. The Democrats clearly tried to out-withdraw each other, one saying the troops should come home, the next saying that the troops should come home and there should be no permanent base there, etc.

    Am I the only guy who thinks we need to be more involved in Iraq?

    Look, we still have a big base in Germany. It's been a good thing over the last 50 years that we had a base there. It's also a good thing that we were involved with the European economy, and that our culture and our lives are so intertwined.

    We have, in this country, a lot of people who are from Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, etc. While lots of people in this country could tell you the name of their favorite place for coffee in Florence, they couldn't name the capital of most of the countries in the Mid-East.

    In the debate, and in general, the Republicans have been more willing to talk about the forces that were behind the 9/11 attacks and the continuing threat from Islamist Jihadists. The solution they offer, I fear, stops short of what's needed.

    We set up bases in Germany and Japan after WWII because we wanted to stop fascism where it started, but we didn't stop with the bases. We sent cultural, diplomatic, economic and other types of workers public and private. We taught baseball to the Japanese. We learned to love German Engineering.

    That's what we need in Iraq. We need a big military base, and we also need Peace Corps volunteers, and we need to teach them baseball, and we need universities with exchange programs there. The list goes on and on, but the last thing we need is to try to pull everything out.


    Literally Freezing to Death

    I literally yelp for joy when I discover a great blog.

    This one just tracks abuse of the word "literally" and has a handful of great links to other single-issue grammar blogs.

    The item above was about the misuse of the word by a formerly leading candidate for president, though I don't think many voters turned away from her because of that. On the other hand, she did sound a bit like an unpleasant sixth-grade teacher.

    Though her campaign has worked assiduously to make her appear warmer and more likable, she sounded a bit scolding at times.

    "What is most important now," she said, "is that as we go on with this contest that we keep focused on the two big issues; that we answer -- correctly -- the questions that each of us has posed: How will we win in November 2008 by nominating a candidate who will be able to go the distance, and who will be the best president on Day One? I am ready for that contest."

    Anyway, I hope that whomever you support for president you will join me in hoping that none of the candidates' acolytes actually does freeze to death, literally or otherwise.