Friday, September 21

Fade out

I've moved to a different blog, Letters In Bottles. Provided that works out fine, I probably won't be around here much. It was a fun.

In case you're wondering, I made 205 posts over 18 months and got 5,260 visits.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, September 12

Is it really mysterious?

The headline on CNN's business page is The Mystery Behind Surging Oil... what's pushing oil to $80?.

Some short-term factors are plain to see. There's the big drop in crude inventories and a reported shutdown of nearly 200,000 barrels from Alaska's North Slope - a fourth of the region's total output - and a gathering storm in the Atlantic.

Yet at the same time, crude inventories, while declining recently, remain above average for this time of year...

Add to this the end of summer driving season and the rise of oil prices to eight times what they were in the late 1990s remains something of a mystery.

Perhaps the answer is in the other big headline of the day: No relief in sight for battered dollar.

The dollar is down across the board. The Euro is at a record high. If you're traveling, prices are brutal.

We import oil from other countries, so if the dollar is weak, then oil should cost more, duh. All imported products should be more expensive.

A weak dollar comes from two places: the Fed 'injecting' money into the economy, which reduces the value of a dollar, and our trade deficit with other countries, especially China, who now have lots of dollars so they value payments in dollars less and less against their own currencies.

Friday, September 7

Some more thoughts on the debate

Remember that diner in which Fox News had a correspondent talking to average New Hampshirians that they cut to from time to time? Turns out that restaurant does breakfast and lunch and closes in the afternoon, apparently.

It's not that I thought that it was random people in the midst of a meal, there was a strange lack of food and it was 9-10:30 pm their time, but I never recalled them letting the viewers know that it was staged. Of course I figured there was some kind of casual screening--so many people showed up and they only let in enough people or only republicans. I think they tried to play it as normal as possible considering they could have had a few people in a room with a tv or the front row of the debate and do the same exact thing.

They did ask some good questions, thought. That one to Romney made him look like a deer in headlights.

The other thing that's been going around in my head is when Huckabee said that the Republicans should stick with their war plans even if it costs them elections. In comparison to Ron Paul, who as a republican is drawing Democrats and independent voters, that might be one of the strangest things I've heard lately. If some of the Republicans want to keep up their whatever in the face of public opposition and jettison those who disagree with them, then they're going to go the way of the Whig party within the next few election cycles.

I've only recently been able to start asking myself this: what exactly is there to win in Iraq?

Thursday, September 6

Republican Debate, Activate!

There was another Republican debate this evening, this time on Fox News. I'd say they put on a better debate than CNN (excluding the first question about Fred Thompson which invited a Republican "situation where people are stroking each other's ego without producing anything of value" (I didn't want to write out the certain two word phrase), by most of the candidates). First of all, there were three rotating moderators so no moderator seemed to be an active participant like Wolf Blitzer often did. Furthermore, they spread out the talking time more evenly amongst the candidates than it's been distributed so far in a debate. Fox also had a good format of podiums with a few 'average people in a restaurant' breaks to break it up. The CNN debates started with podiums and then went the candidates sitting in chairs, which seemed strange with a large group.

Back to the average people in the restaurant, they had some pretty good comments. One man called out Romney on saying that his sons are helping the country by getting him elected in place of joining the military. Towards the end, a college student directly pointed out how Rudy doesn't exactly jive with the whole 'family values' thing. Overall Romney was the one taking the most flak.

This debate was much more lively than past ones. The crescendo had to be the confrontation between Huckabee and Paul over the whole war thing. I walked back in from the other room and Ron Paul was talking about withdrawing completely right in the short term. Then the other candidates went through the various degrees everywhere from 'phasing out soon' to 'long term presence'.

Finally it got to Huckabee who was next to Ron and they starting going back and forth. (the Hippie Perspective posted on it) It must be dorky to say, but I realized that I had that exciting feeling in my stomach when Ron Paul started actively defending his stance on Iraq. Or maybe it was just the first time in these many months that we've actually had something similar to what happens at an actual debate happen amongst the presidential candidates. Or maybe someone was just saying what needs to be said.

Iraq is probably issue on which I agree with Ron Paul the least. I don't think we should drop everything and run. Huckabee, using the same words as I've used before, said that 'we broke Iraq and now we've bought it'. After screwing up that country and region even more than it was before, I can't see us just packing up. At the least, we should learn from our misadventures for the future and not interfere in future events. Paul made the point that Israel has enough weapons to take care of Iran themselves without us. That's the one thing we owe the world--not to go around messing up their stuff. Thinking about it, international welfare makes about as much sense as domestic and corporate welfare.

Here's how I think the candidates did:

Like I said, Romney seemed to be getting criticized the most. Tonight he just seemed flat, like that old, mostly empty 2L bottle chilling in the back of the fridge--not much of a pop or spark to him in his answers.

Guiliani's appears to have gotten off his streak of mentioning 9/11 and terrorism in every answer. As a lady in their focus group said afterward, paraphrasing, 'he talks about what he did in New York City. I want to hear what else he's got' then she did the disappointed frown/head tilt thing right into the camera.

The reporter asked their focus group who did the best and they said McCain. I agree, despite having a collapsing campaign, he seems to be on the rebound. He tied himself to Iraq and the immigration debate which turned out to be quite a faux pas for him. News from Iraq has been sounding good lately and he's put enough distance between immigration and himself.

McCain had the pop this evening. Things started off on a good note for him as the others mentioned him. Rudy said he'd support him if he weren't running and Huckabee complimented him. He was able to score big on taking the principled stand on being against all torture from his own experience. Thinking about it, he didn't necessarily have the best solutions but he had good paths in that he could take the 'wise elder' decision making strategy.

Nothing remarkable stood about about Hunter, Duncan, or Tancredo. Going from nine to eight candidates doesn't seem like it'd make a big difference, but the stage seemed much smaller and more manageable.

Huckabee's done well lately. He was lingering around in the bottom with the just mentioned three, doing well in the Iowa straw poll seems to have given him credibility. Naturally I'm still supporting Ron Paul, but Huckabee is a palatable alternative, not in an ideological sense, but as far as how the candidates come across. (Unfortunately he's got a bit of that religious aura, which is a big turn off for me in selecting politicians.) I first saw him on Tucker on MSNBC talking about healthcare in response to Sicko in addition to tonight and in general I agree with what he says. He does a good job at appearing to be a level, common-sense person, though delivery shouldn't be how one votes. After all, what politicians say is mostly fluff. Send in the Pander Bear!

Ron Paul seemed particularly motivated this evening. Unfortunately, being as straight up front as he is about withdrawing, I can't imagine he'll chase away a few average republicans.

On the bright side, I hear increasing talk of this 'Constitution' thing and the 'federalism' stuff. Off the top of my head, this evening Rudy said it's the only pledge the president should make. I like to think that since Ron Paul's main spiel is constitutionalism, the other candidates are starting to mention more of it to not let him get more of a conservative stance than them. I can only hope they look into what they're starting to talk about and try to actually stick to the spirit of the document.

Talking about constitutionalism, one of the things that bothered me the most in the debate was some of the candidates were talking about a national ban on gay marriage and then some kind of amendment about it. That is completely wrong. The federal government doesn't issue marriage licenses, therefore it has no say in them. It's as easy as that. Try to change your state and if that doesn't work and it means that much to you, you're free to move to a different state. Though I'm most definitely not for abortion, I can't force my opinion on others and I would like to see Roe overturned--it's a state's decision and I can live with that. So many things the federal government has taken up were never meant to be handled on the national level.

Tuesday, September 4

Water Cooler Break

As Carl Sandberg says:

"The school year comes
on little cat feet."