Tuesday, October 09, 2007

My Blog Ranking

Sometimes you get a particular piece of news and you just really don’t know what to think of it. That’s the dilemma I face today.

Technorati is the authority for tracking blogs on the World Wide Web. I mean the authority. Nobody tracks blogs like Technorati does.

The blog tracking business is specialized. Not just anybody can track blogs. Technorati does it by inviting bloggers all over the blogosphere to put a little snippet of code on their page. Every time the page is refreshed, a server at Technorati gets pinged and the blog is tracked. Not rocket science. But pretty cool.

Heck, when I first established my blog last year, I balanced the corner of a heavy book on the “refresh” key and left it there overnight, just to raise my blog ranking.

Well, it didn’t work. (I think they have filters for that kind of stuff, anyway.)

Anyway, I just checked my Technorati statistics. According to their web site, they track 108.5 million separate blogs. (That’s million, with an “M”. Not as impressive as a billion with a “B”. But a lotta blogs, nonetheless.) There’s a whole lotta bloggin’ goin’ on out thar!

Out of that 108.5 million, my ranking is, uhm, 1,803,855th.

That’s when the good news / bad news starts to sink in.

Let’s see. On the one hand, I’m in the 98th percentile. Gee, that’s good enough to get into just about any Ivy League school. I oughtta be proud.

My guess is that there are a whole lot of dead blogs out there. Because it looks like there are just about 100,000,000 of them that actually have lower readership than mine. And my readership is just about as low as the belly of a flat skunk on the center stripe of a country highway.

On the other hand, I have almost two million blogs that I have to leap-frog to get to that coveted number one position. (That rank is currently held by “Boing Boing” at www.boingboing.net, described as “a weblog of cultural curiosities and interesting technologies”.)

Heck, I have 800,000 blogs that I have to leap-frog to get to that coveted one million position!

I’m not going to fret too much about it. I pretty much write what’s on my mind. Some of it is actually good. And some of it can be used for bird-cage liner.

I’m going to write what I want. A few people are going to read it. I may get lucky and get a book deal some day. All I need are about a million of my friends to commit themselves to balance a heavy book on the refresh key.

I think I just saw a pig flying by my window. With a melting snowball in his mouth. Maybe there is a chance for me after all.

Friday, October 05, 2007

That Dreaded Season

The Earth revolves around the sun once a year. And it rotates on its axis once a day. I’ve always had a problem with people who never can remember the difference between a “revolution” and a “rotation”. But that’s the subject for a different day.

The Earth’s axis is tilted at a 23.439281 degree angle. And therein lies my problem for today.

I live almost exactly half-way between the Equator and the North Pole. Around 40 degrees north latitude.

That means that here in the Kansas City area we have four seasons. Go a couple hundred miles north and they only have two. Go a couple hundred miles south and they only have one. But we have four.

And since it’s the first part of October, that means we’re coming up to the saddest season of all. It’s fall. Or autumn. It’s miserable enough that they thought it deserved two different names.

In my mind, “crisp” is just a euphemism for “cold”. There’s nothing “crisp” about this air. I like my crackers “crisp”. I like my air breathable.

It’s not that I don’t like autumn (or fall, whatever). I just think it’s sad. Summer is the time to get everything done. The yard gets mowed. The house gets painted. They play baseball. We go on vacation. Stuff happens. I like it.

Fall (or autumn, whatever) comes around and ruins everything. Suddenly I’m painfully aware of everything I didn’t get done over the summer. It’s a weird combination of a mad dash to get everything done and a sinking realization that it’s not going to happen.

The sun used to stay up until 8:30. I know it did. That’s about the time I have to flip on the headlights on my lawn tractor in July. And I still had a good hour of mowing time left. Now I can’t even get started mowing when I get home from work.

And don’t even get me started on the fact that we revert from Daylight Saving Time around this time of year. You lose a couple of minutes of daylight each day and then suddenly — BAM — a whole hour gets wiped out in one weekend. Depressing.

Holidays? Nope, just Halloween, that dreaded, stupid excuse for making your kids look ugly and cute at the same time so they can mooch candy from their neighbors. Each year I turn off my porch light and hang around the wholesale club until it’s all over. Pushing around a shopping cart full of five-gallon tubs of corn flakes was never so much fun. (Actually, there’s nothing as amusing as those institutional-size jars of mayonnaise.)

The only good thing about autumn (or fall, whatever) is that it’s only two seasons away from spring. Wake me up in time for Christmas. Then I’ll hibernate some more until March.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

FactCheck Has Company

You can measure the credibility of an organization by noting how much it’s interested in achieving its stated goal, rather than in taking credit for it.

For example, if an organization is dedicated to curing cancer, would it not rejoice if cancer was cured by a competing organization? Or would it try to discredit the cure, or inhibit the progress of finding the cure?

Moving from cancer to politics — not much of a stretch, actually — our collective hats go off to FactCheck.org, the arm of the Annenberg Foundation dedicated to keeping politicians honest, and to informing the public when they are less than so.

FactCheck.org rose to fame in the 2004 Vice Presidential Debate when Dick Cheney accidentally referred to them as FactCheck.com. Although a certain George Soros web site suddenly got a lot of hits, the confusion was cleared up the next day and I suddenly became a fan of this wonderful site.

It is the purpose of FactCheck.org (emphasis on the ORG!) to check on all the things that politicians say in public — both mundane and outlandish. When the outlandish is discovered, FactCheck.org (emphasis on the ORG!) rushes into action, publicly chastising the politician and setting the record straight. They are entirely non-partisan; Democrats and Republicans get equal treatment. They have no bones to pick; nothing to sell except the truth. It is truly American politics at its finest.

So I was pleasantly surprised when an email landed in my inbox from FactCheck.org (emphasis on — oh, I’m tired of that joke already) with the subject line, “We Have Company!”

That’s right FactCheck (dot whatever) is actually announcing the arrival of their competition. And, in true character with the organization, they couldn’t be happier.

The St. Petersburg Times has started a new web site, PolitiFact.com. (Yep, they’re a for-profit newspaper; dot-com is okay.)

Whereas FactCheck.org deals mostly in the hard truth (or fiction) of an item, PolitiFact.com attempts a little bit of qualitative judgment by assigning each item a “Truth-o-meter” rating. This unique 6-level scale rates each fact from “True” through “Half-True” all the way to “Pants on Fire!”

PolitiFact.org has been known to get slightly whimsical at times. Joe Biden’s comment that “The president is brain-dead” got an unmerciful “Pants on Fire!” rating, noting that brain death is defined as “irreversible unconsciousness with complete loss of brain function”. Gee, lighten up; I think a little poetic license in political rhetoric is acceptable.

But the point is that FactCheck.org welcomed the competition with open arms. Gotta give them credit for that. In a time where everybody is clambering for their share of the pie, FactCheck.org says the water’s fine, come on it.

FactCheck.org has always gotten my vote for their unbiased reporting and diligent quest for the truth. Once again, they have shown their true colors. They are more interested in getting the facts out there than they are in taking credit for it. And I admire them for that.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mr. Baldwin’s Winter

It’s been one of the warmest winters on record in New York. For the first time since 1877, no snow was recorded in New York City for the entire month of December.

Actor Alec Baldwin used the occasion to advance his personal liberal agenda. Writing in the Huffington Post blog, he said “All around us are signs of global climate change. And this Administration’s response is to send in more troops. If you don’t think there is a link between the weather and Iraq, you are wrong.”

Two weeks later, New York state was digging out of a record 100-inch snowfall.

Wow, I didn’t know George Bush was empowered to increase the world temperature by two degrees in a century, which somehow raised the temperature in New York to thirty degrees above the average, which in turn crystallized all the water in Lake Huron and dumped it on the Adirondacks.

Liberals and other global warming Chicken Littles fail to understand one basic concept of global climate science: the Earth’s temperature is not nearly as stable as they’d like it to be. And it never has been.

But their hatred of George Bush and anything capitalistic and entrepreneuristic blinds their better judgment into believing that a war on the other side of the world causes hurricanes on this side. (They literally salivated at the prospect of another Katrina last year and were publicly disappointed when the Atlantic went an entire season without depositing one significant tropical depression on our shores.)

The 10th through 14th centuries were warmer than “average”, which gave rise to the term “Medieval Warm Period”. That was followed in the 16th to 19th centuries by a period of cooler than “average” temperatures, now known as the “Little Ice Age”. What comes next? Yep, warmer temperatures. Duh.

This is in spite of the scare that we all endured in the 1970s of the threat of “Global Cooling”. Remember the Nuclear Winter that we were all going to face because of the carbon emissions of the time? Now those same carbon emissions are being blamed for a warming trend.

Guys, the main source of the heat of the Earth is the sun. The sun gets warmer, the temperature goes up. The sun gets cooler, the temperature goes down. It’s a big, big sun. Really, big. That means that it has a rhythm, but it’s a very, very slow rhythm. It takes it a long time to get a few degrees warmer and then a few degrees cooler.

Accurate temperature records measured with mercury thermometers were virtually non-existent before 1880. If a weather station moves across town (as it has in recent years in Los Angeles and Kansas City) the “average” temperature can fluctuate by ten degrees or more. You can plant a tree near a thermometer and lower its temperature reading. Or you can build a sidewalk near it and raise it. But none of those events have global impact.

You can count all the tree rings you want to, but nobody could have measured the temperature five hundred years ago with the accuracy of today.

And what of Mr. Baldwin’s snowless New York? Well, it’s the warmest winter in New York since 1877. Oh gee, Alec, I guess that means it was warmer 130 years ago than it is today. Are you going to blame that winter on George Bush, too?

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Richification of America’s Poor

It is a well-established fact that the poorest of America’s poor is wealthy when compared to the poor of most other countries. But that fact is lost on liberals who depend on the poor for their political survival. The constant redefinition of “poor” is the very foundation from where they derive their power.

In the thirty-one years between 1973 and 2004, the U.S. Census Bureau tells us that the percentage of people in America living in poverty “grew” from 11.1% to 12.7%. Did that mean that the billions of dollars spent on raising people from the depths of poverty has been wasted? Nope. It just means that the liberal egghead bureaucrats have done a great job of raising the poverty level each year to make sure a sufficient number of citizens fail to clear the limbo bar of prosperity.

Senator Ted Kennedy likes to refer to those “poor” as people who “go to bed hungry each night”. He and his fellow liberal legislators fail to understand the basic principle of algebra that says that if you define the bottom ten percent of your population as “poor”, then about ten percent of your population will always be, uhm, poor. Duh.

Let’s look at some facts about America’s poor that the think tank Hoover Institute uncovered.

Half of all households under the poverty level has cable television and at least two television sets. A fourth of them own a personal computer. Most of them own a vcr or dvd player.

Friends of mine who teach school tell me of students on free lunch programs wearing hundred-dollar designer tennis shoes and sporting fully-loaded iPods and GameBoys.

Half a century of Great Society reforms has bred a generation of sponges that take pride in beating the system while living in a luxury that the richest citizens of most third-world countries could only dream of.

How do we stop such abuses while still providing an adequate safety net for those who are truly needy? I think the answer lies in the numeration of the luxuries of those receiving aid. I propose a simple plan. With a little tweaking, it just might work.

In my plan, certain “luxuries” would be denied to those receiving federal aid. Simply put, if you are receiving food stamps or Medicaid or welfare payments, there are some things that you simply cannot buy.

For example, nobody receiving federal aid could subscribe to cable tv. Period. Cable providers would be required to submit a list of their subscribers to federal agencies who would match them against lists of recipients of certain federal programs. A letter would be sent to all households that match. They’d be given a simple choice: tv or federal money. You can’t have both.

Same for cellular phones. You want a phone? Give up your monthly check.

It wouldn’t have to stop there. Why should they be able to rent movies? No Blockbuster or Netflix memberships for these people. If they want to watch a movie, they can relinquish their government subsidy.

Magazines? Nope. There is no need for the poor to read TV Guide, Reader’s Digest, Playboy, National Inquirer. None of them. In my system they could have their choice: magazines or a check from the government. But not both.

Things like magazine subscriptions and cable service and Blockbuster membership — those would be easy to enforce. But heck, I honestly believe that the technology exists to prevent individual purchases, too.

Purchases of any shoes over fifty dollars would be off-limits to welfare recipients, if I had my way. The same goes for ice cream, grocery store bakeries, fine deli meats, and sugar-ladened breakfast cereal. And certainly no alcohol or tobacco products.

Entire stores would be off their list. They wouldn’t be able to buy anything from Starbucks, Crate & Barrel, or any department store fancier than JC Penney’s.

I think it’d be a good idea to force at least 80% of their purchases to come from Wal-Mart. Well, maybe Wal-Mart and Target.

Please understand that I believe in a capitalistic society where everybody should be buy what they want to and shop where it suits them. It’s not my intent to actually deny anybody any freedom. But when you accept federal money, you need to check your capitalism at the door.

I think everybody should have a right to buy all the fine things in life. I just don’t want them to do it with my money.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hillary wants to take it — all of it

Do you own anything? Anything? You might as well hand it over to Hillary Clinton. Right now.

She is currently the odds-on favorite to become the 44th President of the United States in 2008. And she has just declared that she wants it. All of it.

What is “it”? While speaking at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting, Hillary made this chilling statement:

The other day the oil companies reported the highest profits in the history of the world. I want to take those profits and I want to put them into a strategic energy fund that will begin to fund alternative smart energy alternatives and technologies ...

Those are six stunning words. Words that should never be uttered in public. Certainly never by an elected official...

“I want to take those profits.”

They send chills up my spine.

Just whose “profits” does she think she’s “taking”?

Mrs. Clinton, with all due respect (actually, with a total disregard for respect, but that’s just a polite thing to say), corporations don’t earn profits! They can’t. By their very definition, the profits belong to the owners of the corporations. In a capitalistic society, we refer to those owners as stockholders.

If you have money in a bank, if you have money in a mutual fund, if you have money in a 401k or an ira, if you have attempted to put away a little bit of money for your retirement years — there is a good chance that you are a stockholder. And Hillary wants to take your profits.

Hillary doesn’t want to take the profits from some nameless, faceless, fat-cat puffing on expensive Cuban cigars. She wants to take money away from you. She just doesn’t have the guts to admit it.

She has already identified several industries that — in her mind — don’t deserve to exist. Their role is better done by Big Government. They include the oil industry, the health care industry, and the pharmaceutical industry. At least. Big government has already taken over the education industry. Can transportation be far behind? Communication? Farming? Construction? Manufacturing? Where does it end?

“I want to take those profits.”

Well, Mrs. Clinton, there are a few profits of yours I’d like to take.

As a United States Senator, you earn a salary of $165,200 every year. I want to take those profits.

In 1979, you turned a $1,000 investment in cattle futures into a $100,000 profit. I want to take those profits.

In 1996, you wrote a best-seller named “It Takes a Village”, which earned you hundreds of thousands of dollars. I want to take those profits.

In 2000, you earned an $8 million dollar advance for your book Living History. I want to take those profits.

Watch out, people. Hillary is coming after you. She wants to take your profits. She thinks they belong to her.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Straight Shootin’ Dick

Vice President Dick Cheney is a guy of not many words. He’s also a guy that isn’t running for any election. You can tell that because he doesn’t need to soften his words when confronted with a liberal interviewer. No spin for Dick; just the facts, ma’am.

Consider this little clip from a recent interview with cnn’s Wolf Blitzer.

Blitzer: Do you think Hillary Clinton would make a good president?
Cheney: No, I don't.
Blitzer: Why?
Cheney: Because she's a Democrat. I don't agree with her philosophically and from a policy standpoint.
Blitzer: Do you think she will be president?
Cheney: I don't.
Blitzer: Who do you think will be?
Cheney: I'm not going to speculate.
Blitzer: Will it be John McCain?
Cheney: I'm not going to speculate.

That's what I like. Straight to the point...

Would she make a good president? Nope.
Why? She's a Democrat.
Think she'll be president? Nope.

Shades of Herbert Hoover.

Cheney gets criticized for being too corporate. Well, yeah, he was the ceo of a Fortune 500 company and was on the board of several other companies. Anybody with a resume that looks like that doesn’t need to be political. No punches pulled, no bushes beat-around here. He shoots straight. (Just don’t go duck hunting with him.)

When Cheney was tapped for the veep job, he didn’t need it. He didn’t need the money. He wasn’t seeking fame or lime-light or glory. He had no legacy that he had to write.

He decided to serve his country. Pretty admirable, if you ask me. And since he expects nothing in return, he feels no need to play politics with the media.

Reporters beware. If you ask Dick Cheney a question, expect an answer. Quick. Direct. Truthful.

In contrast to Bill O’Reilly, the spin doesn’t stop here. Nothing was ever spun in the first place.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Liberals Say the War Isn’t Over

I was prepared today to write an article congratulating liberals on their victory. I was going to say that they had won the civil rights war; there was no longer any reason to continue fighting it.

As evidence that they had won, I was going to point to the federally-mandated observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. Dr. King is the only human being that we honor is this method. We do not honor any president on their birthday. (We used to; we had separate holidays for presidents Washington and Lincoln — just watch Bing Crosby in “Holiday Inn” to see how they used to do it in the 1940s. But it was too inconvenient to have two holidays so close together, so they were morphed into a single celebration, supposedly honoring all presidents.)

We don’t honor any other birthdays. Not even the birthdays of liberal bastions like Franklin Roosevelt or John Kennedy or George McGovern. No liberal is worth of such tribute. None except, of course, Dr. King.

And in typical liberal fashion, we don’t actually celebrate anything he did, we just celebrate the fact that he was born. We don’t celebrate each August 28, the date he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. We don’t celebrate each March 25, when he led the famous march to Montgomery. Surely these — or any number of similar events in his life — would have been worthy of note.

No, liberals are never interested in what people actually do. One’s intentions, their wealth (or lack of it), or their heritage is sufficient for notice.

Of course, that’s in direct contrast with King’s dream that his “four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." True liberals are not interested in judging people by the content of their character. Their love of affirmative action policies proves that they would much rather judge people by the color of their skin.

As I was saying, I was prepared to congratulate liberals for winning. They had successfully used the birth — not the accomplishments — of a great American and perverted his message in a way that merely stretches the already-too-long Christmas holiday by another two weeks while doing nothing to advance the causes for which Dr. King so fervently fought.

I was going to congratulate liberals for winning, until I read about their surprising admission that they were, in fact, losing. That admission came from the deep south that Dr. King loved so much. It came from Shirley Franklin, the African-American Democratic mayor of the great city of Atlanta.

Ms. Franklin took to the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church, the very church where Dr. King was once pastor. Instead of celebrating the victories of the last half century that Dr. King had worked so hard for, according to an ap article, she admonished congregants not to pay tribute to King's dream on his birthday and then contradict it the next.

Millions can't find jobs, have no health insurance and struggle to make ends meet, working minimum wage jobs. Thousands of black and Latino students drop out of high school believing education will not matter. And statistics say it doesn't because they can't find jobs.

Yep, it isn’t good enough to have a black associate on the Supreme Court and a black Secretary of State. It doesn’t matter that the richest woman in the history of television entertainment is black. It doesn’t matter that no black has been denied attendance to a college or the right to vote or told to sit in the back of a bus in fifty years. It doesn’t matter that almost half of all professional baseball players are black, sixty years after Jackie Robinson broke one of history’s most famous color barriers.

No, liberals such as Ms. Franklin point out as evidence that the war has not been won the fact that black high school dropouts who understand rap music better than the concepts of balancing a checkbook have a hard time finding a job in a growing economy with virtually full employment.

Mayor Franklin, you are correct. As long as you keep reminding blacks of their failures and their shortcomings, the war will never be won. With people like you in power, Dr. King’s legacy is indeed one of defeat.