I Give Up
Writer's Block And Indifference
I've been trying for over two weeks to write an essay about Cindy Sheehan that was both innovative yet compassionate.
And . . . I can't. The task is too much.
The innovative bit, I was all over that. I had a really great setup, comparing Cindy's speeches and blog posts with the famed Kübler-Ross Model of the five stages of grief. The second step is anger, and she really hasn't got past that.
No, the trouble was remaining compassionate. The reason why Cindy's presence in Crawford has been effective (to whatever extent it has been) is because, in the words of New York Times
columnist Maureen Dowd, she has "absolute moral authority." Stating truths about Cindy Sheehan is tantamount to launching personal attacks on her.
And I wanted to take the high road.
But when I see her say things like this
I am starting to lose a little compassion for [Gold Star Moms who still support the war] (h/t RCP)
. . . and this
George is finished playing golf and telling his fables in San Diego, so he will be heading to Louisiana to see the devastation that his environmental policies and his killing policies have caused. (h/t Hugh)
. . . the possibility of discussing Cindy Sheehan and still maintaining a modicum of compassion approaches nil. I'm simply not that good a writer.
I wouldn't trade places with Cindy Sheehan for a blank check from an oil company CEO. But it's impossible to come to any other conclusion than she's filled with such narcissism and loathing that she deserves pitied contempt. Who's responsible for her son's death? Not the murderous lunatics who'd rather kill 1,800 American soldiers than surrender their twisted ideology of terror and death, but George W. Bush. And hurricanes, especially powerful ones, have evidently never existed until George W. Bush placed his hand on the Bible on January 20, 2001.
With the entire English language at my command, I can't think of a way to describe such intellectual depravity and yet not sound mean. So be it.
I wallowed in the self-pity of my ineptitude for a couple days, but witnessing the catastrophic events on the Gulf Coast has given me a powerful wake-up call. There are worse things than writer's block. It's surreal to hear the news that the entire city of New Orleans has been evacuated
. Due to the blow Hurricane Katrina delivered to the domestic oil production capabilities on the Gulf Coast, gas prices have spiked again. I don't care.
And Cindy Sheehan still blames the President and will follow him to Washington. How completely irrelevant she has become.
I won't be around to post tomorrow, but I'm still participating in the Hurricane Katrina Blog For Relief Day
. Click here
to go to the American Red Cross Relief Fund set up for the hundreds of thousands of victims of Katrina.
Let's offer more than Cindy Sheehan's vendetta of hatred.
Crappy PhotoShop UPDATE: Guess Who Loves My Graphic?
Michelle, How Could You?
Welcome Riehl World View Readers!I had almost forgotten about this, but reading about Dan's little brouhaha with Michelle Malkin reminded me that it wasn't the first time Michelle had, for lack of a better term, ripped someone off. By the way, I also just noticed . . . I never offered proof of how Michelle borrowed my graphic without credit: click here.I already mentioned
how Brian Maloney of The Radio Equalizer
has accented his post on August 6
with my horrible little PhotoShop parody of Al Franken's book.
He's used it three more times
since then. In that first link, he paired the image side-by-side with a snippet from a Mark Steyn column in the Chicago Sun-Times
Whether it was just a coincidence, or whether he wanted to create the monstrous pun "Franken/Steyn," I can't say. Either way, it's about as close as I'm ever going to get to Mark Steyn without violating the restraining order.
It's also showed up at the RonaldReagan.com Message Boards
But the real coup de grâce
came when Michelle Malkin, who's helped Maloney push the story along, decided to preface her post on August 10 at 1:49 PM with my silly little graphic. She didn't ask for permission; that's cool — not like it's copyrighted or anything. However, she also didn't credit or link back to me. This is not cool. Maloney does it every time he posts the image, and I thank him for the modest traffic I've recieved from Radio Equalizer readers in return. Even though my website address appears at the bottom of the image, a link by Michelle would have made it so much easier for her readers to find my website. Without a link, they just pass right on by. My Sitemeter official traffic referrals from michellemalkin.com: 0.
I sent Michelle an e-mail about it yesterday. If it weren't for the eagle-eyed and smokin'-hot BlondeChampagne
sending me an e-mail about it, I'd never have noticed it at all, since by the time my Internet was fixed, the post had scrolled off Michelle's front page.
I'm a huge fan of Michelle's, have been for years. This is honestly the first time I can say she's disappointed me.Edited 9/14 12:15 AM to add the RWV welcome and explanation.
Marchand Chronicles UPDATE: Getting "S-crude" Some More
Plus, I Do Math Badly
It's now up to $2.659
in some places around here. It fell off this morning, but expect another spike on Thursday. That's usually the pattern.
I also dunced my way through this paragraph from my essay
Nearly half of the pump price is comprised of the cost of crude oil. Crude recently spiked at over $60 per barrel. There are 42 gallons in a barrel, so of the $2.559/gallon cost in my neighborhood, about a buck-fifty of it was needed just to purchase the crude oil.
Do the math: $60/barrel divided by 42 gallons/barrel = $1.42, which is still more than half of $2.559.
The source for my "nearly half" statement is from the Energy Information Administration
, which included this handy little chart for the makeup of the price of gas:(Click to view full-size)
These numbers are, as you can see, old. But take a look at a chart from June 2005:(EIA)
Let's break these percentages down to what they actually mean:
*Today gas prices averaged $2.57/gal (from IndianaGasPrices.com) and crude oil averaged $66/barrel (Bloomberg).
**Assuming the Distribution/Marketing percentage of 7% nationwide during June 2005 applies here and now.
As you can see, the distributors and marketers of gas are trying very hard to sell as cheap as possible. Refining costs more following new environmental regulations and existing ones that mandate cleaner gas in the summer. Plus, the price of crude has skyrocketed.
And that's why we're being charged so much.
No Internet Or Satellite? Whatever Shall I Do?
Oh, The Humanity!
Sometime last week my computer caught the fritz and somehow passed it on to my satellite dish. I was stuck in the 1970s for several days.
It was terrible. I was running out of things to do to occupy my time. I had a wedding to attend on Saturday and a poker tournament on Sunday (I played terribly). But besides that . . . nothing. I actually cleaned my apartment
— that's how bored I was.
Perhaps I could have used that time to reevaluate my dependency on technology and decide to reorient my life towards simpler things.Nahhh.
What am I, Amish?
Some remarkable things happened while I was away. I shall remark upon them later.
Five Things You Didn't Know About Me And Probably Didn't Care To Know
But I'm Telling You Anyway
Jaxia from Steal The Blinds
has redesigned her personal blog and has come up with a name for it that fits her: You Know You Wanna
As part of her housewarming, she answered five questions sent to her by a reader
, and I volunteered to be the next link in the meme. And she has good questions, too:1. At the movies: Popcorn, candy, pickle, hotdog, Coke or none?
Popcorn, definitely. The way I see it, you're getting hosed on all of them, but at least at my local theater, ponying up $6.50 for a large popcorn entitles you to free refills. The trick is identifying the slow point in the movie that enables you to go fetch it.2. What do you plan/hope to study in grad school?
That will depend on the particulars of the school and whether or not I need the Bachelor's to take Master's classes. Ideally, the answer would be Political Science, but if that's not feasible without getting another B.A., I'd probably get a writing concentration to hone the P.O.S. columns I churn out.3. What happened to "Douchebag of the Week?"
DotW, along with the rest of the ambitious itinerary I laid out for myself when I started the blog (found here
), was sacrificed on the altar of my day job. I work upwards of 50 hours a week and don't have access to a computer while there. I was convinced I could crank out a variety of essays on a daily basis, in addition to regular blogging, and still have time for my job. I was, well, wrong. Very wrong. If you scan the early days of the archives, you'll find that a lot of posts contain me apologizing for the delay and/or cancellation of scheduled pieces.
I don't think I ever actually officially surrendered this battle; I just quietly pulled the schedule and scaled back to just the "Marchand Chronicles" essays. I do hope to find a job which would allow me to write more, but it's impossible unless I can live on an hour of sleep a night. I can't. Since my current job involves travel, that's very dangerous.
Besides, my original premise of DotW was that nobody else in the blogosphere had it. I soon found out I was wrong there, too. Among a wide variety of other blogs with similar awards, Decision '08
has had a "Weekly Jackass" since late last year. (He even picked Eason Jordan
the same week I did
.)4. What is your best childhood memory?
This is tough, as there aren't that many. I don't want to say that I had an unhappy childhood, as that's the sort of maudlin, pity-party B.S. I can't stand, and also because I was never physically, psychologically, or sexually abused as so many kids are. But all the same, my parents bitterly divorced early in my life and I lived with an overprotective mother who wouldn't let me leave the confine of my backyard. So the happiest I can remember being is playing baseball, by myself, with my trusty whiffle bat and small cheap glove. I didn't understand "friendship" then. It was a foreign concept to me. I still have a hard time making friends. I was so damn happy then because I had no idea what I was missing.
If I ever saw a video of my young friendless, lonely self now, I'd probably cry.5. Peanut Butter: Crunchy, creamy or allergic to peanuts?
Creamy. Are you kidding me? I grew up on the stuff. You know you have a serious problem when a PB&J sandwich on Wonder Bread doesn't make you feel at least a little bit better.
The chunky stuff got caught in my teeth.
Volunteer to let me interview you next, or I'll just send you questions at random.
"Return To Flight" Returns Home Safe
Discovery lands at Edwards AFB at 7:11 AM this morning. (NASA)
Welcome home, Discovery
Marchand Chronicles: High Gas Prices
Mike MarchandThe Marchand Chronicles
August 8, 2005
The gas pump couldn't have shocked me any more unless it actually hit me in the face with the nozzle.
My day job depends on a lot of (unreimbursed) travel, so I dread when the gasoline price spikes, as it did to the tune of a quarter per gallon this morning.
But what I dislike even more are the ridiculous ideas people come up with whenever the laws of supply and demand don't work in their favor.
People: the rise in gas prices is not a conspiracy. It's not a hoax by Big Oil to shake you down for cash. There are reasonable explanations for every penny that goes into the price.
Nearly half of the pump price is comprised of the cost of crude oil. Crude recently spiked at over $60 per barrel. There are 42 gallons in a barrel, so of the $2.559
/gallon cost in my neighborhood, about a buck-fifty of it was needed just to purchase the crude oil.
Crude oil prices are market-based. While it's possible to game the market, for the most part, market prices reflect the economic reality of supply and demand. When demand outpaces supply, as it is right now, the price goes up, as it has.
This has caused many people to blame the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), especially the Middle East nations that make up the majority of their members, for the high market value of crude. This is only partially true; only one-fifth of American gas comes from Middle Eastern crude oil shipments, but OPEC dominates the world market and therefore has the largest say in the day-to-day rise and fall of the price.
The next process in the chain is refinery, followed by transport and finally sales. In each case, just as in the price of crude, the people responsible are limited by markets. In fact, what you pay at the pump is often sold at less than true cost because of "fuel duels" between competing stations. No, the secondary culprit for gas prices, after the price of crude, is taxes.
That's right: Uncle Sam and his fifty-one nephews (one of them's adopted) slap a massive surcharge on gasoline. The national average is 44¢/gallon.***
As the price of crude continues to rise, that tax represents less of the price of gas as a percentage, but even at $2.559
/gallon, the tax rate on gas is over 17%.
There's a federal gas tax of 18.4¢/gal. There's state sales taxes. There's state excise taxes. There's state taxes addressed for environmental hazards. There's local and municipal taxes in many areas. Oil companies and gas stations are limited by the markets for how much they can charge; drilling, extracting, transporting, refining, more transporting, storage and sales all cost money. But the government takes its money — our
money — without effort. They don't even pay anyone to collect the tax. So if you're upset about the high price of gas, consider petitioning your local or state government.
Here in Indiana, though, taxes aren't the problem. Combined federal and state taxes total 44.1¢/gal, just barely over the national average. But the average nationwide price for a gallon of unleaded is $2.369
. Since the price of crude, transportation, and sales are more or less equivalent nationwide, the problem is in the refining. Here, once again, the "invisible foot" of government has punted this up.
As noted before, the economic law of supply and demand is incontrovertible. But thanks to government regulations, U.S. gasoline is not uniform nationwide. Depending on where and when you pump, you are putting one of over 40 different formulations of gasoline in your vehicle, mostly based on environmental guidelines. This splinters the total supply and raises the prices. Worse, areas with rare blends that suffer problems in the refinery or transport process will see the cost skyrocket dramatically. For example, in August 2003, the price of gas in Phoenix jumped to as high as $3.79/gallon after a pipeline rupture choked off the supply.
The gas that's $2.559
here is the same environmentally-friendlier, ethanol-based formula used in the Chicago metro area. Its rarity is the reason why it's nearly twenty cents higher per gallon.
Customers fed up with the high price of gas have clamored for the government to "do something." This stems from the belief that they're being gouged by the private sector. Nothing could be further from the truth: the market price can't be changed, but taxes and regulations can. While price fixing has happened (several arrests were made of owners who jacked up prices following the September 11 attacks), for the most part, the government is powerless. Crude oil prices are set by the market; more refineries can't be built because of Not-In-My-Backyard disagreements; rare gas blends can't be eliminated because of environmental concerns; and exploratory avenues for domestic production, like offshore derricks or opening the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) for drilling, are hot-button political controversies. In fact, the recent energy bill had the ANWR provisions stripped to ensure Congressional passage.
In order to get lower prices, a tradeoff will have to be made in lower tax rates or environmental protections. Until then, we're stuck. Get used to it. ***
Forty-four cents per gallon is an average by state. But since the most populous states (California, New York) tend to have higher state tax rates and the least populous states (Wyoming, Alaska) have some of the lowest rates, the average per pump
is actually higher. Back
(Crossposted at Steal The Blinds.)I've Discovered The Secret To Winning At Poker . . .
. . . getting good cards.
It's tough to win otherwise.
This afternoon, I was in yet another satellite to the WPT Borgata Poker Open. At least, I thought I was. In reality, I spent two hours playing "Texas Fold'em." Aside from the occasional blind steal, I won just two hands all tourney: once when I tried to steal with K¨
, flopped two pair with 5/5/3, went all-in and wound up winning with a backdoor flush; and another when I won a coin flip holding pocket fours.
I busted out after I misread another player who went all-in preflop. I held A¨
and figured I had a coin flip; he had A/K instead. If that weren't bad enough, another player holding A/J joined the party, so I was dead to two outs. After I lost that pot, I had less than the big blind and was pretty much toast. (I was officially busted out by another A/K. Man, what is it with that hand??
I still finished in 58th place out of 246 players.
I wonder how well I could have done if I had a decent hand or two.(Edited 8/7 12:22 PM to add the Steal The Blinds link.)
Al Franken's Next Book
If He Were Consistent, That Is
(click to enlarge)
If you haven't heard about this, The Radio Equalizer
is all over it. (He liked the pic so much he used it in his most recent post
. Thanks, Brian!)
And don't get all pedantic on me; I know to be gramatically consistent, the title should be Thefts
and not Thieves
. Too bad. Thieves
sounds better.(Edited 8/6 1:00 AM to fix the pic/link. Re-edited 8/7 12:20 AM to add the new TRE link.)
Atkins, Inc. Sinks
Figures, Since Fat Floats
On Sunday, Atkins Nutritionals, Inc. filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection.
This is seen as a great victory by those industries whose products Atkins warned dieters to be wary of, but they're wrong: ANI's demise is NOT a repudiation of the Atkins diet or the low-carb lifestyle in general.
It's purely business. ANI product popularity soared when low-carb dieting became a fashionable trend, and their bubble burst when mega-conglomerate competitors like Kraft flooded the market with low-carb offerings (and also when morons gave up on low-carb because they thought eating an Atkins bar along with their regular horrible diet would still work). They grew quickly and couldn't adapt to the shrinkage. It's a classic business story.
So, one more time, for misinformed or ignorant dolts like the ones quoted in print saying idiotic things like "It just proves that what Atkins was trying to do was just too extreme"
and "I hope people will remember that restrictive dieting is temporary, and a healthy eating style you can take with you forever"
: low-carb is here to stay, and when ANI retools, me and a couple million other Americans will still be buying. And for God's sake, educate yourself
before you make dumb statements.
As for my personal progress, I've been on Atkins for a little more than six weeks and probably have lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-30 pounds. I don't know for sure because I didn't weigh myself before beginning, nor have I since. While this might seem silly, I have two very good reasons: 1. Knowing what my weight is would probably demoralize me and I'd throw myself in traffic, and 2. it's tough to find scales intended for livestock, even here in Indiana.
Filling The Gaps
Houston, We're Fixing The Damn Problem
When the space shuttle Columbia
lifted off in mid-January 2003, nobody suspected that the crew was already doomed. Insulation foam from the external tank detached during launch and struck tiles on the left wing of the shuttle. This irreperably compromised Columbia
's ability to reenter Earth's atmosphere.
External tank insulation also fell off during the launch of Discovery
. But because this mission has a thousand eyes on it all the time, NASA was quickly able to determine that the foam did not hit the shuttle. However, the insulation problem was what NASA spent the last 2½ years trying to fix, so they indefinitely grounded the rest of the fleet
Discovery lifts off on July 26. (AP)
However, Mission Control soon discovered a new problem for Discovery
: small "gap-fillers" in between the ceramic tiles on the underside of the ship near the nose cone were protruding from the shuttle. NASA frequently noted after a landing that sometimes these gap-fillers would stick out an inch or so from the belly of the craft. However, they'd never discovered this phenomenon while the ship was still in orbit
These gap-fillers are only necessary for liftoff, to keep the tiles from colliding with each other during the incredible amount of vibration as the shuttle thrusts upwards. However, the small protrusions could affect Discovery
So, being a clever and imaginative bunch, NASA ordered the astronauts to boldly go where no one has gone before: on a spacewalk under the shuttle. Early this morning, Mission Specialist Steve Robinson dangled from a robotic arm underneath Discovery
's belly to pull out the gap fillers or, failing that, cut them off with a modified hacksaw
It never came to that.
Steve Robinson maneuvers under Discovery to remove gap fillers early this morning. (AP/NASA)
Believe it or not, there's now yet another
problem: part of Discovery
's thermal insulation blanket is sticking out from below the pilot's window.
The thermal insulation blanket is protruding out more than 1½ feet. (Reuters/NASA)
Mission Control is postponing a decision about that until tomorrow. Discovery
is set to land early Monday morning.
While the shuttle missions are not 100% safe, NASA is taking a proactive approach to fixing problems.
SciGuy liveblogged this morning's spacewalk
and is the go-to site for updates on Discovery
Marchand Chronicles: Judge Roberts' Hearings
Mike MarchandThe Marchand Chronicles
August 1, 2005[I]t is vital that Judge Roberts answer a wide range of questions openly, honestly and fully in the coming months. His views will affect a generation of Americans, and it his obligation during the nomination process to let the American people know those views . . . I voted against Judge Roberts for the D.C. Court of Appeals because he didn't answer questions fully and openly when he appeared before the committee . . . But now it's a whole new ball game for those of us who voted against him, for those of us who voted for him and for Judge Roberts. I hope Judge Roberts, understanding how important this nomination is — particularly when replacing a swing vote on the court — will decide to answer questions about his views. Now that he is nominated for a position where he can overturn precedent and make law, it is even more important that he fully answers a broad range of questions.
. . .
And so, therefore, not only should he be fully answering questions about his own views, but we will — we hope we don't have to go through what happened with Miguel Estrada, when we asked for some of the papers and arguments when they worked in the Justice Department, that we didn't get them. It's going to be very important, particularly for a Supreme Court nominee replacing a swing vote on a divided court, that we get all the information and people don't throw up barriers to that information . . . [T]hat's what caused the entire Senate not to — or many in the Senate not to support Miguel Estrada. That's what caused me not to vote for him then, not to vote for Judge Roberts then. But as I said, it's a new ball game. And as long as he answers the questions fully and openly and gives us the documents that we request, we can be able to explore his views.
—Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), July 19, 2005, at a press conference following the nomination of Judge John Roberts to the Supreme Court (h/t: AYCU
It was only moments after President Bush announced John G. Roberts as his nominee to the Supreme Court that Chuck Schumer tipped his hand on how the Democrats would oppose him. This tactic is not new: merely hours after Robert Bork was nominated in 1987, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) delivered a vitriolic screed on the Senate floor that, although it was completely over-the-cliff rhetorically, devastated Bork's chances of confirmation.
Within minutes of Roberts' nomination, the Democrats had these templates for judicial opposition stamped and ready to roll off the assembly line. Their obstruction comes in two flavors: Bork and Estrada.
The trouble is, neither one of them will work, since neither of them will rise to the level of "extraordinary circumstances" that would justify a filibuster following the "Gang Of 14" compromise in May.
Conservatives are already promoting what they call the "Ginsburg Rule" for John Roberts when he attends his hearing. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg was examined in 1993, her steadfast answer when questioned on how she'd decide hypothetical cases was "no hints, no forecasts, no previews." Ginsburg didn't invent this defense; four of the last five justices confirmed to the Supreme Court (Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer) explicitly stated during hearings that they could not and would not answer questions that would compromise their judicial integrity
. They were all confirmed with less than ten dissenting votes in the entire Senate.
This is more than an evasive maneuver; it's of the utmost importance that judges hear all cases before them with an open mind (in fact, Senator Patrick Leahy [D-VT] praised outgoing Justice Sandra Day O'Connor for that characteristic just before Schumer announced his litmus tests). However, the Democrats want to have it both ways: an impartial jurist who sacrifices his ability to examine cases without prejudgment while under the klieg lights. This is an impossibility, but the Democrats think they've found a win-win scenario: if Roberts answers the questions, he'll be lumped in with Robert Bork; if not, he'll be accused of being secretive about his true views and therefore an extremist . . . like Robert Bork.
As for the "documents" Senator Schumer wishes to see about John Roberts, those date back to his time in the Solicitor General's office. Ordinarily, these sensitive memos would be protected by attorney-client privilege. It's unclear just how they'd matter, as Solicitors General work at the behest of the Administrations they serve and not by their own views; furthermore, Roberts was merely a deputy in the SG's office.
But that scarcely matters to Democrats: the reluctance to release confidential documents served as the basis for the filibusters of the nominations of Miguel Estrada and, later, John Bolton to the ambassadorship at the UN. Last week, when the Bush Administration unloaded 75,000 pages of documents from Roberts' time at the White House Counsel's Office, it still wasn't enough. "What are they trying to hide?" asked lefty group People For The American Way in a press release. The answer: it doesn't matter. Every living Solicitor General, employees of Republicans and Democrats alike, urged that these privileged documents stay sealed during Estrada's hearing in 2002. To this day, they have not changed their position.
Because of the "Gang Of 14" compromise, Democrats have a rhetorically vague but conceptually definable line of "extraordinary circumstances" that they must prove to justify a filibuster. But they can't establish "extraordinary circumstances" with the only two tricks in their book. In fact, forcing nominees to make pledges on their views or release confidential documents are the only extraordinary actions taking place.
In the end, John Roberts will be neither Borked nor Estradified. There's only one other model they've tried, and it’s for emergency use only. While some drunk-on-Kool-Aid lefties have already tested it
, let's just hope Roberts won't be Thomassed, either.
Fair warning: I reserve the right to post any and all criticisms and flames, in their entirety. Seriously. Just ask