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Wide White: January 2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

McCain or Huckabee?

I just watched the debate and I'm very torn. McCain's sniping at Romney is juvenile, snarky at best, and hasn't impressed me. Huckabee keeps on going and is actually polling neck-and-neck nationally with Romney, just behind McCain. On top of that, one of the 8 or so states that Huckabee has a shot at winning next Tuesday is Minnesota.

I'm also not as confident in McCain to nominate strict constitutionalists to the Supreme Court bench. His endorsements from Rudy Giuliani and Arnold Schwarzenegger have only made me further doubt this. As concerned as I am about Huckabee's fiscal habits in Arkansas, I'm equally concerned about McCain's temperament as displayed tonight and a few questionable bills and positions of his, including McCain-Feingold and his stance on ANWAR, which I'm not ready to support.

I know there are still 6 days for me to decide before I must caucus, but tonight's debate tips the scales back to Huckabee, 51-49.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What if you woke up dead?

Legally, that is...
WARSAW (Reuters) - Red tape is preventing a Polish man from returning from the dead.

Piotr Kucy, 38 and from the city of Polkowice in southwest Poland, was wrongly identified by authorities last August as a drowned man, only to show up a few days after his own funeral.

Despite pointing out the fact that he was alive to government officials, Kucy still remains dead in official records, stopping him from working and paying social insurance.

But on the bright side, a local newspaper reported on Tuesday, he no longer needs to pay taxes.

"We are nearly through January, and my documents still say I'm dead," Kucy told Gazeta Wyborcza, adding: "It's a bit of a joke." But a registry office official was adamant about the situation. "This citizen does not exist," she told the paper.
So much for government efficiency...

H/T: my wife

Monday, January 28, 2008

State of the Union highlights

My three favorite quotes from the State of the Union address.
Some in Washington argue that letting tax relief expire is not a tax increase. Try explaining that to 116 million American taxpayers who would see their taxes rise by an average of $1,800. Others have said they would personally be happy to pay higher taxes. I welcome their enthusiasm, and I am pleased to report that the IRS accepts both checks and money orders.
This got a huge response from Republicans and dead silence from Democrats. I loved it!
Next week, I will send you a budget that terminates or substantially reduces 151 wasteful or bloated programs totaling more than $18 billion. And this budget will keep America on track for a surplus in 2012. American families have to balance their budgets, and so should their Government.
It's just too bad Bush didn't apply these principles during the 6 years that Republicans had control of Congress.
Last year, I asked you to voluntarily cut the number and cost of earmarks in half. I also asked you to stop slipping earmarks into committee reports that never even come to a vote. Unfortunately, neither goal was met. So this time, if you send me an appropriations bill that does not cut the number and cost of earmarks in half, I will send it back to you with my veto. And tomorrow, I will issue an Executive Order that directs Federal agencies to ignore any future earmark that is not voted on by the Congress. If these items are truly worth funding, the Congress should debate them in the open and hold a public vote.
This is a great first step!

Overall, not an earth-shattering speech. I could dissect it more, but I need to sleep.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Republican Primary: who to vote for (and why)

Heading into Super Tuesday, Minnesotans (and members of 20 other states) will attempt to clarify the Republican presidential nominee. With this post, I'll attempt to help clarify your choice on February 5th.

(NOTE: None of the candidates has 100% of my support. The best candidate is okay, maybe good at best, but I wouldn't say any of them are great. Candidates are listed in order of my preference for them, beginning with my least favorite.)

Mitt Romney

Simply put, I can't stand him. I've expressed my disdain for him here and here and continue to follow that train of thought. As I said here, I doubt he would raise taxes and there's a good chance he'll stick with the pro-life position he is currently holding. But regardless of those positions, he's changed positions so many times on so many issues (including these two issues) that I can't trust him on anything. He's slick and seems to be willing to do whatever it takes to get to the White House. If he garners the Republican nomination, I don't think I could vote for him. If I do, I'll be holding my nose.

Rudy Giuliani

At least Giuliani still holds most of the positions he did 5 years ago. The problem is, he's still on the wrong side of the issues. He's pro-abortion, which is an immediate turn-off for me. I hesitantly considered supporting him here, but by the time I got to here, had definitively cut off the possibility of voting for him. He's only turned me off in debates with his pandering to voters both on the left and right. As I've stated before, "I can't support a candidate who runs kittywampus around the issues and fails to communicate clearly and directly."

Ron Paul

I've expressed both concern and support for Ron Paul here and here. I like his government reform annihilation platform. However, as much as I don't like the travesty in Iraq, I also don't think immediate pullout is the answer, as Paul does. Additionally, the congressman's quirkiness often leaves him looking very silly and un-presidential. Oh, and never mind that he's the only Republican without a legitimate chance of winning the primary at this point.

Mike Huckabee

If I don't vote for Huckabee, he'll have barely lost my vote. My biggest problem with him is economic. He doesn't have a great track record from Arkansas, having been known as a fiscal moderate who was willing to raise certain taxes and - more importantly for me - spending throughout his governorship, but he checks out with me on nearly every other issue and his personality is dynamite. I've indicated support for him here and here and that support remains intact. However, the economy is quickly becoming the dominant issue and I think it's a huge liability for him. He also reminds me of Bush in many ways and we desperately need someone who cuts spending and/or cuts through the partisan mess in Washington. I'm not convinced Huckabee can do either. Combine those things with his failure to build on his momentum from Iowa and I'm seriously questioning his viability as a candidate.

John McCain

Until recently, I don't think I've ever shown any support for John McCain. My impression of him has always been that he's a liberal Republican. I didn't know why or what issues he was liberal on, just that he was liberal. (Never mind that he was the second most conservative Republican in the last congressional period, the 1o9th Congress.) I noted my concerns in a few posts, including here and here. However, he impressed me in a debate that I watched and I decided to take a second look. So, why did I decide I could support him? First, he's pro-life, so an issue that's a major obstacle for me with Giuliani and even Romney was not an issue. Second, the reason he opposed Bush's tax cuts - a serious problem I had with him - was Bush didn't provide reduced spending along with it. McCain realizes you can't cut taxes without cutting spending when you've got a budget deficit. (He's now in favor of extending those tax cuts because, as he says, lifting the cuts would be the equivalent of a tax increase, which he opposes.) Third, McCain is right on the war, but more importantly, he was in favor of increasing the number of troops over there at a time when most Americans (admittedly, including me) were ready to pull out. On top of that, I trust him; I believe what he says. He's also the only candidate who I'm confident can beat any Democrat.

I've had concerns with McCain over immigration, but those concerns are no less with Huckabee, whose position isn't much different. Both are in favor of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants in our country. I understand their point though and it's not a make-or-break issue for me.

Does McCain have holes? Yes, absolutely. But I'm leaning towards him over Huckabee because of two major reasons: 1.) I trust him and don't believe he'll change his position, confidence I'm not quite sure I have in Huckabee given his smooth personality (which is a huge advantage and likability factor for him) and spending concerns. 2.) While Huckabee has slowly slid from contention, McCain has established himself as the more viable candidate.

At this point, the race is probably down to McCain, Romney, and possibly Giuliani. Between the three of them, there's no question who I support. I like the grisly Vietnam veteran and former POW.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Out-maneuvering the government

This is crazy, but it's kind of funny too.
Farmer hides castle from building inspectors

LONDON (Reuters) - A farmer built an entire mock castle behind a screen of hay bales and lived there concealed for four years to evade planning regulations, officials said on Friday -- but it may be torn down anyway.

Robert Fidler hopes to take advantage of a provision of planning law that allows buildings without planning permission to be declared legal if no objections have been made after four years
The [borough] council wants the building near Redhill some 30 km south of London to be demolished, along with an associated conservatory, marquee structure, wooden bridge, patio, decking and tarmac racecourse.

"It looks like a mock-Tudor house from the front and it's got two turrets at the back," the spokeswoman said. "I understand there is also a cannon."

The couple would have been unlikely to get planning permission as the farm was in "green belt" land where building was restricted, she said. A hearing takes place in February.

Fidler's wife Linda told the Daily Mail newspaper the children grew up looking at straw out of the windows of the house and that they kept their son away from playschool on the day his class were due to do paintings of their houses.

"We couldn't have him drawing a big blue haystack," she said. "People might ask questions."
I say let the guy keep it for his effort!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I'd have kicked her off the bus too

I don't know why I'm posting this other than to publicly lament the condition of this person.
LONDON (Reuters) - A British bus company has apologized to a girl who is led around on a leash by her boyfriend and describes herself as a human pet after one of its drivers threw her off a bus.

Tasha Maltby, 19, told British newspapers she was the "pet" of her 25-year-old fiance Dani Graves.

Pictures showed her dressed in black Gothic-style clothing with silver buckles on a silver chain -- which the driver of a bus from the firm Arriva took exception to.
The fact that the bus company had to issue this statement is asinine:
"We have spoken to the driver who has talked about health and safety," a spokesman said. "Should she be attached to a chain and something happens on the bus, that could be dangerous. All we are saying is that she is very welcome to use the buses but not when she is on her lead."
This is pretty telling too.
Maltby -- who lives on state benefits and got engaged in November -- said her choice of lifestyle might seem unusual but was harmless.

"I am a pet," she told the Daily Mail. "I generally act animal-like and I lead a really easy life. I don't cook or clean and I don't go anywhere without Dani. It might seem strange but it makes us both happy. It's my culture and my choice. It isn't hurting anyone."
That just makes me sad.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Islam in Burtonia

Since Jeff re-entered the world of blogging, all has returned to normal.

However, I find his Google ads rather non-Burtonesque.

Look closely at the ad towards the top.

Alright, quit squinting at the picture above and just look at the closeup below.

I don't think Jeff and dating have much in common at this point in his life, much less Muslim dating. I could see Christianity and Islam, but Muslim dating?

Thankfully, by the time I returned to his blog a few hours later, the misrepresentative Muslim dating service ad had been replaced by one that's more in tune with Jeff's interests: technology.

Thank you Jeff. Without you (more accurately, without your post on Islam that triggered the ads) I wouldn't know that Islam ringtones exist. I'm forever indebted to you and your perseverance with Ads by Google.

Good news for the banks

Home mortgage applications are on the rise.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Applications for home mortgages jumped for a third consecutive week as plunging interest rates encouraged more homeowners to seek refinancings, an industry group said on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of refinancing applications surged 16.9 percent in the week ending January 18 to 4,178.2, the highest level since March 2004. The activity was up 92 percent since the beginning of November....
This is good because it means more money being injected into the lagging banking industry. With all of their dud loans, they're a bit short on cash. (Shorter than they were, anyway.)

This is also good.
Mortgage rates have declined amid signs the housing downturn and less consumer spending will push the economy into recession, cooling the growth that fuels faster inflation. The Federal Reserve on Tuesday surprised markets with a 0.75 percentage point cut in its target interest rate, citing a weakening economic outlook, less availability of credit and softening labor markets.
It's good for me because I'm in the middle of the whole mortgage and home buying process. It's tough to complain with the rates where they're at right now! I just hope all of this actually helps turn things around.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Google searches hitting this blog

I find it amusing to see what Google (and Yahoo,, AOL...) searches lead people to Wide White. Here are just a few search entries out of the last 100 clicks.

(Clicking on the links will take you to the search query that brought up this site. This site is still in most, though not all, of those queries.)

How are caucus votes divided?
football positions
"how caucus works"
did Hilary Clinton work in Alaska?
hamburger to much salt (strange query...)
chet white
how many countries make up great britain (oddly enough, this hit came from someone in the heart of Britain's foe: Paris, France)
wide white
minnesota license plate Dead (what?!?)
john mccain wedding photos (first people come here looking for Fred Thompson's wedding pictures and now John McCain's? I don't get it...)
kafluffle(yes, I did use this word...I was quoting Bush)
fire hotter than pistol basketball
oldest college player
why learn english music video
white bacteria in hot tub (I know NOTHING about that!)
sperm donation sacramento (I know even less about that!!!)
initiative at work
Minnesota State Capitol Building wedding photos
american stupidity polls
Wide White
were scotland and northern ireland part of america ? (and this hit came from the UK)
football positions
vikings attendance (it stunk)
cold opens the office
lake superior wedding photo
will interest rates keep dropping (yes, but not for long)
"mark kennedy" cairns email
st paul mn presidential candidates
mody dicks on hennepin avenue
friut stickers
wide white
license plates in Roseville, minnesota (I wonder if they're dead?
Wide White
isaac weix
Everyone concentrates on the problems we're having in this country lately; illegal immigration, hurricane recovery, alligators attacking people in Florida (can you Google a few more words there?!?)
fred thompsons wedding picture (I STILL don't have them!)

It's interesting to see how few people actually capitalize any letters in their searches (hey, I don't either).

Hopefully posting these search queries doesn't confuse Google even more...

Dressing up for Wal-Mart

This just cracks me up.

H/T: a co-worker

Friday, January 18, 2008

This should help

I'm still anxious to see details, but hopefully this "shot in the arm" helps give the nation a swift kick in the...
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush called on Congress on Friday to give the U.S. economy a "shot in the arm" with an election-year package of temporary tax cuts and other measures worth up to $150 billion.
He said he wanted Congress to move quickly on a stimulus package that would focus on tax rebates for families and incentives to encourage business investment. The White House said the package could create about 500,000 new jobs.
Under discussion are proposals to trim the lowest income tax rate and give the money back in a rebate. Lawmakers are also considering allowing businesses to immediately write off 50 percent of their new investments.
Even the Democrats are joining in on the fun.
"I am encouraged and share the president's view that we need prompt bipartisan action to strengthen our economy," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Of course, massive spending could still be the downfall of the economy.
Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said after Bush's remarks on Friday that the president needed to accept some spending as part of the package.
I guess I'll believe it when I see it, but hey, seeing politicians talk about it is still encouraging.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Google amazes me

My wife sent me a link to a feature on Google Maps called "Street View". (It was unveiled to the public in May 2007 and the Twin Cities were brought on board December 10, 2007.) I love Google Maps and think it's the best map site in existence, but I'd never tried the Street View function. The Twin Cities happens to be one of the locations in the country that Google chose for this feature and it's amazing!!

Here's how it works. You go to Google Maps and find the location you want to go to. As long as the street is highlighted in blue, you can do a Street View. Click the Street View button at the top right of the map and a little yellow man will pop up in the middle of the map. Drag him to where you'd like to see the street view and a window pops up with a view of that street. You can advance about 10 yards at a time along the street and can scan around 360 degrees, as well as zooming in and looking up or down.

Here's an example with the building I work in. Try it out, it's pretty sweet!

View Larger Map

If you click on the picture and drag your mouse, you can move up, down, and around. If you turn it down towards the street, you'll see the arrows that let you move down the street.

Play around and be amazed!

Monday, January 14, 2008

An electronic grocery shopping experience

Pretty soon, you may not be able to get away from commercials in the grocery store. (The portion I bolded is my favorite part of this technology.)
Video ads are planned for grocery carts

SEATTLE - Microsoft Corp. is bringing digital advertising to the grocery cart. The software maker spent four years working with Plano, Texas-based MediaCart Holdings Inc. on a grocery cart-mounted console that helps shoppers find products in the store, then scan and pay for their items without waiting in the checkout line.
Starting in the second half of 2008, the companies plan to test MediaCart in Wakefern Food Corp.'s ShopRite supermarkets on the East Coast. Customers with a ShopRite loyalty card will be able to log into a Web site at home and type in their grocery lists; when they get to the store and swipe their card on the MediaCart console, the list will appear. As shoppers scan their items and place them in their cart, the console gives a running price tally and checks items off the shopping list.

The system also uses radio-frequency identification to sense where the shopper's cart is in the store. The RFID data can help ShopRite and food makers understand shopping patterns, and the technology can also be used to send certain advertisements to people at certain points — an ad for 50 cents off Oreos, for example, when a shopper enters the cookie aisle. Microsoft said it is still working on how it will present commercials and coupons.
Hey, advertise away, but if technology can make life easier, I'm in!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

And the rates keep dropping

As the Fed continues to slash interest rates, mortgage rates should come down too.
WASHINGTON - Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke pledged Thursday to slash interest rates yet again to prevent housing and credit problems from plunging the country into a recession.

The Fed chief made clear the central bank was prepared to act aggressively to rescue a weakening economy. "We stand ready to take substantive additional action as needed to support growth and to provide adequate insurance against downside risks," he said.
Some economists believe the Fed will slice its key interest rate by a bold half percentage point when the Fed meets next on Jan. 29 and 30. Others, however, think the Fed will go with a more modest one-quarter percentage point reduction, given concerns that high energy prices could spark inflation.
In light of such risks to the economy's growth, "additional policy easing may well be necessary," said Bernanke.
That's more good news for anyone in the market to buy a home, especially if you're a first time home buyer who doesn't have to worry about trying to sell a home in a depressed housing market.

And if you don't think the housing sector impacts (or reflects, depending on the angle you're taking) the overall economy, think again.
The housing slump — aggravated by harder-to-get credit — has weighed heavily on national economic activity. Foreclosures have soared to record highs and financial companies have wracked up multibillion losses because of bad mortgage investments. The problems, which are expected to persist well into next year, have unnerved Wall Street.
I don't know how long the market and the interest rates will continue to fall together, but I don't think I want to wait too much longer to find out.

Man down...

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has ended his bid for the Democratic nomination for president.

I can't say that this was a surprise. I will say, however, that he was probably my favorite Democrat. His impressive resume - state representative, US Congress, U.N. ambassador, energy secretary, New Mexico governor - wasn't enough to overcome his lack of star power. He leaves it to Obama, Clinton, and Edwards to duke it out. Oh boy...

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Controlling controlled burns...

I was reading a story about the 50-car pileup in Florida and, while the story is very sad, I was able to get a laugh out of this line:
Firefighters on Tuesday had battled a controlled burn that got out of control and charred 250 acres...
So maybe I'm desperate for a post topic, but I don't feel like posting about politics (hey, the primaries are interesting, but only to me...) and yes, I did think it was funny that it said "a controlled burn that got out of control". Call it a controlled burn that didn't go as planned. Or maybe a burn that got out of control. But...

Okay, I'll stop wasting your time.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Disappearing Car Door

Check this out. A car door that folds under your car rather than swings open. Extremely excessive, yet excessively cool!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

How a caucus works (roughly)

My wife thought I should explain how a caucus works since a lot of people don't know. Since the Iowa presidential caucus is tonight and Minnesota also votes by caucus (not primary), I thought it was a good suggestion.

Caucuses are run by parties and are used to choose each party's candidate. Each precinct in the state gets a certain number of votes (sort of like the electoral votes awarded to each state). Each precinct must then decide who to give those votes to. The voters in that precinct meet at a set time (usually 7:00) at a set location (often a school) to caucus. They then separate into groups depending on who they're voting for. Those for Obama in one group, those for Hillary in another group, the one guy for Dennis Kucinich in another corner, etc. Each candidate must have at least 15% of the group present in order to get a vote. Once everyone has sided with a candidate and each candidate has at least 15% of the total number of people present supporting him or her, the caucus is complete and the votes are apportioned based on the number of people supporting each candidate.

Here's an example:
  • Precinct 123 gets 5 votes.
  • 100 people in precinct 123 show up to vote.
  • Voters split up into groups supporting each candidate. There is also a group for undecided voters who can be persuaded to join a group supporting any candidate.
  • Any group not having 15% (in this case, 15 people) of the total number of people there must dissolve itself. Those members must find another candidate to support. So, if Romney has 15 people, Huckabee has 30 people, McCain has 15, Giuliani has 5, Ron Paul has 10, and the undecided group has 25, the folks supporting Giuliani and Ron Paul would have to go to the undecided group or pick another candidate to support.
  • Throughout the night, those supporting major candidates (candidates with at least 15% support) are busy trying to persuade those who are undecided and those whose candidates were unable to garner 15% of the vote to join their cause.
  • At the end of the night, the 5 precinct votes are divided between the candidates. If Huckabee has 60% of the vote, Romney 20%, and McCain 20%, then Huckabee would get 3 votes and Romney and McCain would each get 1 from that precinct. Each precinct then sends representatives to the state convention to cast their precinct votes for their respective candidates at their party's state convention.
If all of that is really, really confusing, then you're probably just better off going and figuring it out as you go. It's a lot more fun that way! :)

The biggest disadvantage to this system versus the primary system found in states like Wisconsin is that you have to caucus with just one party. It feels a little bit more like you're a member of that party, like you're committed to that party, which results in lower turnout among independents.

Regardless, it's the system that is in place in a number of states and for those of us living in Minnesota, it's the system we'll be following on February 5th.

As for tonight, go Huckabee!! (And I really, really, really don't want Romney to win...)

P.S. I should have noted that this is an EXAMPLE of a caucus. Each party runs their caucus differently in each state. Not to confuse you even more...