27 August 2010

Not as Good as Lincoln-Douglas; And Other Things

Running for Senate

A newspaper ad has run over the past week in the Fairmont newspaper, the Times-West Virginian. It’s a political ad by one of the minor Republican candidates for the open Senate seat, KBlockquoteenneth Culp, a CPA. (The subject of whether we should be having such a special election may be for another day.) This fellow has virtually no chance of winning. One advantage that kind of uphill fight is that the candidate can pretty much say anything they want and anything they believe, hope that their message “goes viral,” and they pull off a miracle. They don’t have to worry much about killing sacred cows or offending people. Sometimes, once in a blue moon, really, this tactic works. (The national example that comes to mind is Jesse Ventura as governor of Minnesota.)

Mr. Culp’s ad was OK by my standards. Here are some excerpts:

“I remember what it was like to work my way through college because my parents were poor. I know what it’s like to have to go to work every day to feed my family . . . to buy food, clothes, gasoline and make a mortgage payment . . . to have to buy used cars because I can’t afford a new one. . . . I remember what it was like to work 70 to 80 hours per week, 52 weeks a year to build a successful business. * * * I am the only candidate who has a comprehensive plan for getting our economy back on its feet. Once we have stopped Obama’s radical, socialist agenda we need to get back to a fairer income tax system that rewards success, not punishes it. * * * Don’t be fooled by all the slick ads running on TV. It’s going to take an outsider to fix these problems.” [Not that my grammar is great, but I didn't fix any of his, either.]

Oh, by OK, I do not mean that I agree with Culp’s politics or positions, just that he is stating them, which is unheard of. Mind you, this isn’t Lincoln-Douglas debate material, where the candidates spoke for 3 hours at a time, but it’s lots more than “Vote for Smith, the People’s Choice!”

Unfortunately for candidate Culp, the ad is terribly ineffective. (I also think some of it is a little zany and patently absurd, but those are political opinions rather than opinions about politics.) Candidate Culp mentioned his real opponents by name - a TERRIBLE idea. Culp acknowledges the good points of the two most prominent candidates in his race – so essentially he bought them a little bit of advertising space. “John Raese is a fine gentleman.” [Even some Republicans disagree with that one. John Raese is rich, handsome and wields power indiscriminately with an ax.] “I especially respect Mac [Warner] because of his 24 years of military service." Warner has a conservative/golden boy/military image which most politicians would sell their mothers into slavery for. His ideas are those of a dogmatic conservative “true believer,” which is always somewhat chilling. And finally, Culp fills about 12 column inches with 6 or 7 point type explaining at length his positions and beliefs. In a responsible nation with a responsible electorate, those lengthy explanations are precisely what responsible candidates need to be doing. Is it any surprise that this is so ineffective in America? Other than generally oppose Barrack Obama, I have no clue what any other Republican candidate plans to do.

Oh, the Democratic primary will be a runaway by Governor Manchin. His chief opposition is from Ken Hechler, a former history professor, Congressman and Secretary of State who is pleasant, pleasantly quirkly (drives around in a red Jeep) and 95 years old. To make a statement, Governor Manchin really needs to pull about 80% of the vote.

Addendum, Sunday, 29 August 2010:
1 - Governor Manchin took 70% of the vote, which is a touch worrisome.
2 - John Raese polled 71% in a 10 person field, but only one other strong candidate was running. Considering the money he dumped into ads, that's not a total shock.
3 - A press account this morning of "person on the street" opinion states: "Raese’s TV ads were enough to convince **********, a 69 year-old from Morgantown, to vote for him. Though he’s a millionaire businessman, he appears on camera in jeans and a denim shirt, his sleeves rolled up, talking about the jobs he’s created." He appears on camera. Can you believe it? This individual expressly voted because of how he appears on camera. St. Patrick with Rattlesnakes, welcome to the New America, Land of the Superficial Appearances.

But a Bigger Problem . . .

I reminded LaJ in the car tonight that “Tomorrow is the election.” Her reply: “What election?” In this season of haphazard and ad hoc decision making (which isn’t over - most likely, there will be the Governor’s chair to fill), it is hardly surprising that lots of intelligent people who do not have politics in their blood are wondering just what the hell is going on. Of course, this inures to the rich and well known.

Mi Casa Ain’t Su Restaurante

At least in the Mid-Atlantic area, Mexican restaurants seem to be named with random Spanish words which have been picked, probably, because Americans in this region know that they are Spanish words. Two Mexican restaurants in the Fairmont area (both excellent, by the way) are La Casa & Mi Pueblo - but I doubt that locals would name a restaurant “The House” or “My Village/Town.”

Note to Fairmonters: No Wings Olé is not a Mexican Restaurant. The closest it gets is that some crockery was probably made in Mexico before the wholesaler outsourced manufacturing to China.

General note on regional cuisine: I have a client, a very pleasant Hispanic gentleman from Arizona. He’s an American born & bred, but has relatives on both sides of the border and is fluent in both languages. While he longs for home, he has been seriously enamored of the cookery at the Bob Evans Restaurants, an Eastern chain that is a pure Midwestern country theme, the sort of place that serves breakfast all around the clock. (He also has a killer recipe for sopapillas.)

Time Magazine:

The current cover of Time shows a star & crescent in a stars & stripes theme with the legend “Is America Islamophobic?”
If you take the “phobic” part to mean general dislike, the answer is yes, and that’s OK with me.

Pippa passes.


23 August 2010

This Wretched Scribe Afflicted with Acute Philosophical Atrophy


LaG, the Matriarch of the Clan, continues to experience severe medical problems. Thus, the regularly-irregular publication schedule of this wretched scribe's blog has been irregularized even more than usual. She is receiving good care, Pastor Josh and friends from Central Christian Church are much in evidence, and Bro. Butch Moore continues to faithfully discharge his Obligation by his resolute attention to the physical plant needs in the Home on the Ridge. Thanks for the many expressions of concern and prayer is always appropriate.

Brad Pitt and the Oil Spill

Actor extraordinaire Brad Pitt has weighed in on the Gulf Oil Spill. Formerly an “opponent of capital punishment,” enquiring minds will be fascinated to know that he is willing to make an exception for “those who are responsible.”

OK, it is a grave error to say that celebrities shouldn’t comment on public issues unrelated to their fields (in this case, acting and picking up girls - I am not qualified to judge him on the former, and the publications displayed at the checkout line in the grocery store suggest that he's a whiz on the latter.) Actors are amongst those given leave to wax ineloquently on damn near anything by the First Amendment. Listen, the problem here isn’t that he speaks, it’s that we listen. Are we so spectacularly dumb that we value the opinion of a handsome yet random actor over that of anybody with a reasonably complete science education? And when anybody spouts an opinion which is self-evidently absurd, why do we publicize it?

The Gulf Oil Spill was indeed an indecent and monstrous blight. The causation is anything but simple and linear. Nobody understands the extent of the damage. [Right wing and corporate apologists opine that everything is A-OK, because we can’t see much oil now. Guys, meet Brad; Brad, meet the guys; You have a lot in common.] I’ve yet to see anyone mention as one basic cause our obscene reliance on oil, to the extent that 80% of Congress and 100% of the past 8 presidents are/have been willing to give every other demi-sheikh a blow job and to the extent that we drill wells 5000 feet deep in the ocean.

How did the causes align to permit this well to blow? We need to know. Brad Pitt cannot tell us. Neither can I. Neither can nearly anyone in Government. The best oil geologists and engineers work in industry. BP is losing double-digit billions on this road kill salad and I’m betting that they’d sort of like to avoid a repeat. Other companies likely are laughing up their sleeves, but want to make sure the attention doesn’t turn on them.

One other subject totally absent from the press coverage was the long hours and brilliance of the engineers who fixed the well. They were working with robots on a problem caused by excessive pressure in an environment where the ambient pressure was in the order of 150 atm.

Brad, old love, if I want advice on picking up girls, I’ve give you a jingle.

Craigslist Ad I’d Like to See

"Classy guy seeks woman of any age who enjoys long walks on the beach, gentle rain showers, sipping wine, going to concerts, and flower gardening, and who enjoys doing all of the above alone. I’ll be at home, take your time."

Safety, Monies and Mama

Son Tim attended in interesting fire call yesterday. A compact car hit the end of a guardrail on Rt. 250, impaled itself 30 feet into the guardrail (down the middle of the car) and caught fire. The angel who looks after children and fools was on duty and the occupants walked to the ambulance.

I drove past the spot today. The guardrail had a single layer curved piece protecting the end, and that did nothing to retard the progress of the car significantly. The curved piece is fairly cheap as safety devices go, and you get what you pay for. I’ve seen the aftermath of crashes into the large square “target” endcaps which crumple the corrugated steel of the guardrail to absorb impact, and those appear to work fairly well, but they have to be darn expensive.

Safety costs money. In the accident yesterday, we can assign some responsibility for the extent of the damage to the guardrail designer and installer. But isn’t there a whole lot of “pilot error” in running a car off the road and hitting a guard rail that hard? What is our responsibility as a society? How much safety should we buy with tax dollars? How much should we mandate by regulations? Does it matter how stupid the hypothetical people are we’re protecting? How about the probability of harm and probable extent of harm? Here again, we’re denied a simple linear analysis and burst squarely into economics and morality.

Carry Me Back to Old Brasilia

Last week, I received by mail from a well-known third-party vendor will who I will not name (but I will say that a large South American river is involved) a package containing, among other things a rather decent knife from a rather decent manufacturer. I purchased this as a gift for my brother. On the packaging is a 1:1 photograph of the knife. I’ve seen the packaging on the same model direct from the manufacturer, so I know that it is clean and has no stickers of any sort on it. However, this third-party vendor (wisely) plastered a bright yellow sticker on the box with the legend “Sharp Object Inside.” They also sell irons with stickers “Remove clothing before ironing,” (which is not as funny as it once was because I talked to someone who actually ironed something on themselves and got burned).

Maybe these stickers are bad for evolution.

Pippa passes.