August 26, 2010

Post Misses the Point

The Washington Post demonstrated an overwhelming (willful?) misunderstanding of the Tea Party Movement in it's coverage of the Alaska Republican Senatorial primary.

They assert that incumbent Lisa Murkowski is on the verge of defeat due to an "ambush" by her opponent Joe Miller - with a little help from former governor Sarah Palin. The Post notes that Murkowski faces defeat even though she is:

… a member of the Senate GOP leadership whose last name has reigned in Alaska politics for three decades.

What they don't understand; what the entire left in American politics and media don't understand, it that is probably a part of the reason she is going to lose.

They hinted at it later in the piece, but never really identified it as one of the core reasons for "upset."

Murkowski had run in the tradition of a long line of Alaska politicians who touted their ability to bring an outsize proportion of Washington money to the state.

Miller used the same argument against her - portraying her as the consummate insider, a liberal and an accessory to keeping the state a ward of the government.

In particular, Miller criticized Murkowski's support of the 2008 Wall Street bailout, for opposing a repeal of President Obama's health-care overhaul, for backing a cap-and-trade energy tax and for supporting abortion rights.

Murkowski was clearly part of the problem and clearly not all that politically savvy. She clearly doesn't get the Tea Party, and the mood of the people, any better than the Post.

People are upset about out-of-control government spending and the specter of the higher taxes that will be necessary to pay the bills for Washington's profligacy. In the face of that it doesn't seem all that bright to base your campaign on how much pork you've scored.

One of the things that the Post, unfortunately, gets right may be its characterization of Joe Miller. (emphasis added)

Miller, a graduate of West Point and Yale Law School who served as an Army officer in the Persian Gulf War, has embraced positions that make him one of the most conservative candidates seeking public office this year.

He has called for phasing out Medicare and Social Security, as well as eliminating the Education Department because it is not mandated in the Constitution. Last month, he told ABC News that he opposes extending unemployment benefits because he does not think they were "constitutionally authorized."

He opposes cap-and-trade legislation for carbon emissions on the grounds that, as his campaign Web site says, "the science supporting man-made climate change is inconclusive."

It is unfortunate that a candidate who doesn't think the government should be doing things the Constitution does not permit the government to do is considered outside the norm.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:02 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

August 20, 2010

Strange Juxtaposition

Sometimes advertising decisions fail to make any sense at all.

Flipping through channels this evening I saw that Fuse TV was playing the movie Pink Floyd, The Wall.

The Wall was one of the all time favorite albums form my misspent youth. It was the first album I bought with my own money.

The movie came out when I was in college and I loved it. Of course my perception was slightly distorted when I saw it in the theater.

I was happy to see it on TV even though iFuse felt compelled to censor some of the lyrics. It brought back some fun and foggy memories of my younger years

Watching the movie with commercials was a little jarring as they didn't handle the breaks very well. But in there defense it's not an easy movie to cut into for commercials.

The really really really strange thing is that main sponsor, featured at least once and sometimes twice in every commercial break was Candie's Limited Edition Collection – Designed by Britney Spears.

There is just too much cognitive dissonance for me to even try to understand. 

Talk about harshing my mellow.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:21 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

Offensive By Design

One of the great things about being a designer is that there a million things that you can redesign, even if no one asks you to. You can do it just for fun, as an exercise. The really good part is most of the time there is no one to tell you how awful it is.

Most of the time.

Some times, a designer gets a clever idea to stage a public redesign and put it all on a website for the world to see. They will even invite other designers to participate. These designers will upload their stuff to this site and other people can come around and tell them how much they suck.

Or this case how far beyond suck they have gone. The assignment was interesting enough - redesign U.S. currency. One designer, Dowling Duncan, designed not only the ugliest currency ever seen, but managed to create a positively offensive one dollar bill.

The basis of the concept Barack Obama = George Washington.

I guess this give a whole new meaning to "The One."

The designer says he made this choice to celebrate the fact that The One is the first black President.

George Washington is not on the dollar bill just because he was the first President. He is on the dollar because of what he did to earn the privilege of being the first President.

George Washington risked everything to help create this nation. It was his courage and resolve and leadership during the Revolution that earned him the title"Father of out Country."

The One has done nothing to earn the honor of appearing on American currency. Much like he had done, and does nothing to earn the honor of a Nobel Prize. The accomplishment that the designer claims to be celebrating is not even his. The One got to the White House on the backs of thousands who came before him.

Leaving aside the appalling concept of The One replacing George Washington, the bill (and all the others in the series) are ugly. They look like tickets. As though this is good for one admission and the box officer person will tear off the top portion and had you back The One as your stub. And on what planet would it ever be appropriate to include a politician's campaign logo on currency?

This redesign of the currency was purely and intellectual exercise. The decision to replace George Washington with The One marks it as an intellectual failure by someone with obviously no understanding or appreciation for the founding of this nation.

UPDATE: Added a full size image below the fold.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:12 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

August 19, 2010

A Five Minute Sanity Break

You could certainly find a worse way to spend a random five minutes than reading this column by Thomas Sowell. I doubt you could find a better way.

Sowell's column touches on the reasons why so many people feel the federal government no longer operates with the Consent of the Governed. He writes:

Not since the Norman conquerors of England published their laws in French, for an English-speaking nation, centuries ago, has there been such contempt for the people’s right to know what laws are being imposed on them.

The extent to which the federal government no longer sees the citizens of this nation as the source of it's authority and as a self governing people is appalling. It was bad when the Republicans controlled the Congress and the White House and the GOP paid an electoral price for their arrogance and statism. But it is ten times worse under the current regime. To them we seem to not be a self-governing nation of free people but a nation of subjects that it is their right to rule.

If you've got five minutes go read Sowell.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:11 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

August 18, 2010

By Way of Introduction

Many, many, many years ago - when I was college - I read F.A. Hayek's classic work The Road to Serfdom. I read a tattered old hardcover edition that I borrowed from a friend.

I thought it a good time to read it again since current events seem to keep bringing it to mind, so I bought a copy of The Definitive Edition edited by Bruce Caldwell. In addition to the interesting history of the book in Caldwell's introduction, the book contains the prefaces Hayek wrote for various editions. One that I had not read before was the foreword to the paperback edition published in 1956. This passage stood out particularly strongly:

It is for this reason that I rather hope that the time may now be more favorable in America for a serious consideration of the argument of the book than it was when it first appeared. I believe that what is important in it still has to render its service, although I recognize that the hot socialism against which it was mainly directed – that organized movement toward a deliberate organization of economic life by the state as the chief owner of the means of production – is nearly dead in the western world. The century of socialism in this sense probably came to an end around 1948. Many of its illusions have been discarded even by its leaders, and elsewhere as well as in the United States the very name has lost much of its attraction. Attempts will no doubt be made to  rescue the name for movements which are less dogmatic, less doctrinaire, and less systematic. But an argument applicable solely against those clear-cut conceptions of social reform which characterized the socialist movements of the past might well appear as tilting against windmills.

Yet though hot socialism is probably a thing of the past, some of its conceptions have penetrated far too deeply into the whole structure of current thought to justify complacency. If few people in the Western world now want to remake society from the bottom according to some ideal blueprint, a great many still believe in measures which, though not designed to completely remodel the economy, in their aggregate effect may well unintentionally produce this result. And, even more than at the time when I wrote this book, the advocacy of policies which in the long run cannot be reconciled with the preservation of a free society in no longer a party matter. That hodgepodge of ill-assembled and often inconsistent ideals which under the name of the Welfare State has largely replaced socialism as the goal of the reformers needs very careful sorting out if its results are not to be very similar of those of full-fledged socialism. This is not to say that some of its aims are not both practicable and laudable. But there are many ways in which we can work toward the same goal, and in the present state of opinion there is some danger that our impatience for quick results may lead us to chose instruments which, though perhaps more efficient for achieving the particular ends, are not compatible with the preservation of a free society. The increasing tendency to rely on administrative coercion and discrimination where a modification of the general rules of law might, perhaps more slowly, achieve the same object, and to resort to direct state controls or to the creation of monopolistic institutions where judicious use of financial inducements might evoke spontaneous efforts, is still a powerful legacy of the socialist period which is likely to influence policy for a long time to come.

Just because in the years ahead of us political ideology is not likely to aim at a clearly defined goal of piecemeal change, a full understanding of the process through which certain kinds of measures can destroy the bases of an economy based on the market and gradually smother the creative powers of a free civilization now seem of the greatest importance. Only if we understand why and how certain kinds of economic controls tend to paralyze the driving forces of a free society, and which kinds of measures are particularly dangerous in this respect, can we hope that the social experiments will not lead us into situations none of us want.

It is a contribution to this task that this book is intended. I hope that at least in the quieter atmosphere of the present it will be received as what it was meant to be not as an exhortation to resistance against any improvement or experimentation, but as a warning that we should insist that any modification in our arrangements should pass certain tests (described in the central chapter on the Rule of Law) before we commit ourselves to courses from which withdrawal may be difficult.

When you write a book in 1944, and the foreword to the 1956 paperback version is relevant and applicable in 2010 you have earned the appellations "Timeless" and "Brilliant."

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:22 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

August 15, 2010

Counting on Customer Stupidity

I am very much an online person. I like to do as much as I can online. My wife sometimes doesn't understand this but I think it stems from the fact that other than the people I like, I don't like having to deal with people.

Actually, that's not completely true. I don't like having to deal with stupid people. So if I do as much of life as I can online it minimizes the chances that I'll have to deal with an idiot in real life.

I bank online. I shop for everything, except food, online. And when I shop for food I use a self-check out. I order pizza online.

A current food tradition in the Macklin house is pizza on Friday. Since my son has become a recent fan of the new and improved Domino's Pizza, Friday has become Domino's night. For the record, I think Domino's pizza still sucks. About all they succeeded in doing with their new and improved is to rise to the level of a half decent frozen pizza.

But it is one of the small sacrifices a parent makes for a child that I will suffer through mediocre pizza to make him happy. Plus I can order it online which means I don't have to talk to whomever they hired to answer the phone and screw up my order. You also don't have to listen to whatever pre-recorded message they are playing that day and you don't have ask what they are running for specials and hope that they are telling you about the best offer for you and not the best offer for them.

Online you can scroll through a list of their special offers and coupons and pick the deal that's best for you. I have learned looking through these offers that part of Domino's business model for driving revenue is to count on customer stupidity. For instance, there is a coupon that offers three medium one topping pizza's for $5.55 each. A seemingly good deal except for two things. One, a Domino's medium is really a decent sized small. Two, directly above it is a coupon offering any combination of three medium one topping pizzas and/or sandwiches for $5.00 each. So if three medium one topping pizzas will satisfy your pizza needs you can choose to pay $5.55 each or $5.00 each. I wonder how many people are stupid enough to pay the extra $1.65 for their three pizzas.

But that example, while amusing, is not the most egregious. For the greatest example of "you would have to be really stupid to pick this offer marketing" we have to go to a screen shot. Because if I just described it you would never believe me. I included a second offer for comparison purposes and I swear other than scaling and converting the screen grab to a jpeg I did nothing to the image.

I'm sure if I asked, Domino's would not tell me how many $28 medium one-topping pizza coupons they have redeemed. Just as I am sure that there are people out there stupid enough to choose that option.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 10:26 AM | No Comments | Add Comment

August 14, 2010

"Shut Up," He Said.

The One decided it was time to express his carefully considered opinion on the construction of a Muslim Community Center and mosque in the area of Ground Zero in New York City.

Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities - particularly in New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. The pain and suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones is unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.

It is refreshing to hear The One speak of the founding ideas of this country as if they matter and should govern how we govern. I wish he would apply those principles more broadly, and more often.

While it is true that Muslims have the same freedom of religion in this country as any other religion, and I believe they have the legal right to build what they want on their privately owned property, The One's message to the rest of us is pretty clear. Shut Up.

He says he understands "the emotions that this issue engenders." He understands. He just doesn't give a damn, and just doesn't want to hear about it. Multi-cultural sensitivity doesn't apply when the culture being offended is American.

The First Amendment to the Constitution protects freedom of religion by enjoining the congress from establishing an official national religion or restricting the practice of any faith. What The One wishes we would all ignore in this case is that First Amendment also protects our right to freedom of speech.

The principal that all Americans have the right to express their opinion in opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque, and that they will not be told to shut up by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:13 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment

August 10, 2010

The Personal and the Political

My friend Jack asked me today when I was going to start blogging again, and it was a good question because it seemed I hadn't done much blogging lately. Then I looked at the front page and saw the last post was written on June 27 so I basically missed all of July. A lot of stuff happened in July too. Blogging it would have been fun.

You would think that being unemployed would leave me with lots of free time to read the internet and write blog post after blog post after blog post. You would think that, and you would be wrong. Here's why.

Being unemployed sucks. Being unemployed for over a year really really sucks. Being an unemployed graphic designer can alleviate some of the suckiness. The first thing a newly unemployed graphic designer does after their resume and portfolio is go into the freelance business. It helps these days if you know a thing or two about HTML and CSS, so I taught myself how to so that in my spare time. Which I had a lot of.

I've been able to pick up a little work here and there. Just enough to keep the wolves at bay. And those little pockets of activity have been wonderful and energizing during a time that is generally draining and depressing.

Blogging takes energy. The morass of being out of work robs you of that energy. Because, being unemployed sucks.

Another factor is that for me, blogging is largely an exercise in advocacy. It's about putting an idea out in the universe in the hopes that one person picks up on it and it impacts that one person's thinking. Even if that one person is my good friend Jack.

A few months ago mine was one of millions of voices speaking out against the healthcare takeover. In fact my voice was a part a large majority of the American public that opposed the healthcare takeover.

But the bastards did it anyway.

During the Bush years when they tried to pass an amnesty for illegal immigrants the American people said, "NO," and the immigration "reform" legislation died. When Bush offered up Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court - a nomination that makes Elena Kagan look qualified by comparison - the people said, "NO," and the politicians listened.

Not this new gang of "intellectual elites" who know better than we do how to live our lives and care for our families. From this bunch we get "We have to pass the bill so you can see what's in it."

It leaves you feeling like you should roll over and look if they at least left you a $20 on the night stand. But if they had, they would just turn around and take 25% in taxes.

It makes advocacy via this one little blog feel like shouting into the wind of a very nasty storm.

Then Jack comes along and asks me when I'm going to start shouting again and I remember that it is not about changing the world with a few blog posts. It's about reaching one person and reminding them that they deserve freedom and liberty.

But enough of the personal. Let's get to the political.

Congress has passed yet another bailout bill. This time they are not bailing out banks and Wall Street Tycoons who over invested in junk mortgages created through government intervention in the housing market. This time they are bailing out, other governments.

Really what they are doing is bailing out state education budgets so they don't have to lay off teachers.

Teachers, police and firefighters are always used as political footballs. As soon as a state or municipal government starts to run short of money they start to talk about how many teachers, police and firefighters they will be forced to cut. They do this because most people think that teachers, police and firefighters are a good thing to have in a society so it makes it easier to convince them to bend over and accept a tax hike instead. (And still no $20 on the nightstand.)

I bet a decent honest accountant going through any government budget could find enough money being stolen or wasted that the layoffs, tax hikes and bailouts wouldn't be necessary. But their political hay to make there, so it will never happen.

But really what the Democrats are doing is bailing out the teachers unions. More employed teachers means more dues paying teachers filling union coffers.

And since a good chunk of that teacher's union money is going be donated to Democrats running for election, what they are really doing is using borrowed tax dollars to be paid back by future generations to fund their own damned reelections.

Is it any wonder that recent polling shows that only 21% of Americans believe the U.S. Government has the consent of the governed?

I have seen a number or articles and blog posts based on this theme:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

I think this piece really got things started:

Will Washington's Failures Lead To Second American Revolution?

The Internet is a large-scale version of the "Committees of Correspondence" that led to the first American Revolution — and with Washington's failings now so obvious and awful, it may lead to another.

People are asking, "Is the government doing us more harm than good? Should we change what it does and the way it does it?"

Among the places I have seen the sentiment echoed is Confederate Yankee.
Ernest S. Christian and Gary A. Roberts wonder aloud whether the power grabs of the Obama Administration and the ruling class mentality of entrenched Democrat and Republican political machines will lead to a second Revolutionary War.

I'll lay it out bluntly for you; either the American people—not extremists, but good and decent patriots like your neighbors and yourselves—will revolt and destroy the ruling class and reform our government based upon first principles, or the United States we know as our forefathers conceived it is dead.

These people, and many others I have read, have wrapped their heads around the possibility of armed rebellion and bloodshed in the streets. I don't think it is what they want. They are not eager for revolution. They see it as one possible destination if we don't get off the road to statism and socialism.

I think they are right. It could get to the point where the only choice we have is to submit or fight.

I don't think it is inevitable, but our chances of stopping it are becoming fewer. I don't think we have a chance to get off The Road to Serfdom in this November's election. But I think we have a chance to slow down. To send a message to Washington that they have gone too far and that We the People are ordering them to stop.

And if they listen, if they get the message, we can through subsequent elections begin to undo the damage decades of creeping statism has done.

Will they listen? Will they get the voter's message? I sincerely hope they do, for I sincerely fear what may happen if they don't.

(Thanks Jack)

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 04:46 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

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