Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mike Huckabee - Libertarian Force of Nature!

There's a message every libertarian can get behind: "I kill animals and want guns in every household and I hate fucking taxes." Sounds like a good, old-fashioned, small-government conservative.

Plus Chuck Norris thinks he's cool.

Too bad it's a total lie. From Robert Novak's "The False Conservative" in Monday's Washington Post:

"Huckabee is campaigning as a conservative, but serious Republicans know that he is a high-tax, protectionist advocate of big government and a strong hand in the Oval Office directing the lives of Americans. Until now, they did not bother to expose the former governor of Arkansas as a false conservative because he seemed an underfunded, unknown nuisance candidate. Now that he has pulled even with Mitt Romney for the Iowa caucuses and might make more progress, the beleaguered Republican Party has a frightening problem.

The rise of evangelical Christians as the force that blasted the GOP out of minority status during the past generation always contained an inherent danger: What if these new Republican acolytes supported not merely a conventional conservative but one of their own? That has happened with Huckabee, a former Baptist minister educated at Ouachita Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The danger is a serious contender for the nomination who passes the litmus test of social conservatives on abortion, gay marriage and gun control but is far removed from the conservative-libertarian model of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

There is no doubt about Huckabee's record during a decade in Little Rock. He was regarded by fellow Republican governors as a compulsive tax-and-spender. He increased the Arkansas tax burden 47 percent, boosting the levies on gasoline and cigarettes. When he lost 100 pounds and decided to press his new lifestyle on the American people, he was hardly being a Goldwater-Reagan libertarian."


And Chuck Norris is diminished for endorsing him.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Perils of Pooping at Work

If you are lucky as I am to work at place with nifty security badges that dangle from your waste, and you are a little self-conscious of being readily identified as one who craps on the work toilets, you may want to be more careful than this guy:... Because the snooping fellow in the stall next to you, who hid his ID in his pocket before squatting down, may be able to tell who you are. And if you're really unlucky, he may be snapping a pic with his hated Motorola SLVR L7 Cameraphone and blogging your pants-down stooping to humanity's lowest common-denominator (expelling solid waste) all over the Interwebs.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Out West, No Snow

I spent Thanksgiving near South Lake Tahoe and in the distant dreamy parts of my brain, when I booked the trip back in October I envisioned myself ripping a few early-season turns at Kirkwood or Heavenly. Much to my dismay, the scene (though never reliable in the Sierras this time of year) was grim indeed.

The weather was cold and clear, with just a dusting of natural snow at the highest peaks rimming the Tahoe basin. The screenshot above, from one of Heavenly's Webcams today, tells you everything you need to know. The skiing's no good, so we went for a hike.

The fickleness of the early season is nothing new in Tahoe, where in recent years the skiing hasn't picked up until January. But this year, the lack of snow is affecting more reliable areas like Utah and Colorado.

Aspen, Snowmass and Vail all had to push back their openings after a promising October gave way to a warm, sunny November which didn't deliver snowstorms, nor evening lows that would permit adequate snow-making.

In Utah, the mixed news from isn't much better:

"Alta opens Friday, November 30, at 9:15 am! Traditionally Alta opens with more snow than we have today. Mother Nature hasn't given us much snow lately, but the tireless efforts of our snowmaking, grooming and mountain crews have us ready to open this Friday...."

Tahoe I'd expect, Colorado I can forgive, but Alta, which may have America's most reliable natural snowfall, is just plain freaking me out.

I think I was in Vermont, a few years back, when I hear some greybeard wistfully state that he'd be sad if he lived to see the day when you couldn't ski in the New England winter. His was a haunting and early cry of fear for the American ski industry in the face of global warming.

Now here we are watching another wobbly ski-season struggling to take off...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mount Rainier from Horizon Airlines Flight 2045, October 25, 2007

For Thanksgiving I wanted to say something a little bit weepy and sentimental regarding my sensitivities and feelings of gratitude about life. Other than the obvious things: friends; family; health; for which I am of course thankful - I also am thankful for the myriad and amazing moments of beauty that life offers up at every turn and in many unexpected ways.

On a recent flight from Walla Walla to Seattle we got this amazing view of Mount Rainier covered in powder-white snow and lit up in dramatic Alpenglow shades of pink and blue and gold by the setting sun. There were low-lying clouds and blazing fall colors dotting the thick green forest here and there like campfires. It was in a word breathtaking, and the mountain itself is eye-poppingly huge!

My view, however was obstructed by the top-mounted wings and engines of the Bombardier Q400, perhaps the least window-seat friendly fuselage ever designed and which you can see in the upper-right of the some of the photos. Determined to 'capture the moment,' I strained and squirmed and stretched in my seat, snaking my neck into chiropractically ill-advised positions and maneuvered my cameraphone up to the grimy, yellow-tinged acrylic and....

So there it is. Everyday, unexpected beauty right in the world we live in.

Unfortunately the 1.2 megapixel camera in the hated Motorola SLVR L7 is lousy at capturing it. And that I am not thankful for.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Taste for Trash

This photo, once again from the hated SLVR L-7 cameraphone, doesn't do it justice, but what I'm attempting to capture here in terms of abstractist, high-altitude. turbulence is the sheer amount of packaging waste I received along with my $5 United Airlines 'Right Bite' SnackBox.

What you're seeing is the equivalent, in branded plastic detritus, of the shells of half a dozen Maryland blue crabs which would take 45 minutes and hundreds of hammer strokes to eat. Yet I devoured the paltry volume of food (when compared to the ample volume of petroleum-based packaging) that produced an equal amount of rubbish in a little less than two minutes.

Served in its own shrink-wrapped paper box, this 'all natural, all high-energy, all delicious' ode to superfluous packaging contains:
  • Bumblebee® SensationsTM Lemon & Pepper Seasoned Tuna Medley
  • Late JulyTM Organic Crackers
  • Wild GardenTM Hummus
  • Stacy's® Multigrain Baked Pita Chips
  • Fino Selections Gouda cheese slice
  • Newman's Own® organic California raisins
  • Mini-Toblerone®
  • Napkin
  • 'Silverware'
  • 'Moist' Toilette
I took mine with a cup of Starbucks coffee and was immediately swimming in my own trash heap. Apart from the abundance of garbage that literally exploded from the relatively tidy package I received from the stewardess, I was also impressed that not an inch of it was unbranded. So the accusation of it being completely senseless packaging, is dampened somewhat laughably by the fact that each and every bit of packaging is dual-purpose: a.) sterile food delivery receptacle and b.) advertising space. Remember, the only good thing the history books say about the Indians is that they used every bit of the buffalo.

Now, even as we speak, in the wind-whipped vastness of the Pacific Ocean churns the Great Pacific Trash Vortex. It feeds on our plastics and adds to it bulk like a black hole. By credible scientific estimates it is twice as wide as Texas and indestructible since plastics can persist forever at the molecular level.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Two Pumps of Caramel?

My special lady likes the caramel macchiato at Starbucks. As her partner in crime, I've been indulging in a couple of these myself recently - smooth velvety caramel, melted in a rich blend of frothy milk and fresh roasted coffee. Delicious.

And suspicious. This last weekend, we dropped in on the neighborhood Starbucks and the barrista manboy behind the counter took our orders, two tall (meaning the smallest size?) caramel macchiati and with a lurid wink at my special lady, said 'two pumps of caramel right?'

What? I asked the special lady. He knows your coffee order like that? What else does he know, in the Biblical sense? Is my wife making a cuckold of me with the local Starbucks barrista?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Tom Ridge, PR Schill: 'Welcome to the USA and Forget All that DHS Business From My Former Life'

One of the anticipated upshots of the weakening American dollar was supposed to be this torrential influx of foreign tourists/expats gaming the exchange rates and living the high life stateside like the way old Mexico used to be before the 1980s. Plenty of anecdotal evidence would seem to support this expectation - San Francisco and New York are swimming in tight-jeaned, Old Worlders with their Euro-powered flossy - but the facts say something else. It ain't happening, or at least not enough to be the silver lining to our darkening economic situation.

It seems even the promise of affordable American good times and cool toys cannot by itself overcome the steady decline of foreign tourism, professional and academic exchange that we created late in 2001 by passing (without reading) the Patriot Act.

So to combat this problem, the travel industry has hired former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, to PR this into a positive situation.

Does anyone else see this as untenable? (Or at the very least ironic.) That Tom Ridge, who, as first ever DHS Secretary, set up the very real consular barriers to entry for foreign visitors, has now been hired to 'communicate' a way around them?

Then again, who is better qualified to point out the loopholes in the system than the man who created the system? And I can't fairly call Mr. Ridge a hypocrite, after all he was one of the first to bail on the Bush Administration way back in '05 for corporate pastures with green, green dollars. Since seeing that kind of light, maybe's had a change of heart. Maybe now he's actually pro-business and not just pro-businessman (ala Team Bush).