Archive for June, 2011


June 30, 2011

“Republican adults celebrate Fourth of July more intensively”

This just came up on the Ace of Spades HQ. Harvard did a study and found out something about the 4th of July. No, they didn’t just figure out it is in commemoration of the American Revolution. They figured out its no good for Democrats.

Paul Bedard writes at US News&World Report:

The three key findings of those attending July 4th celebrations:

  • When done before the age of 18, it increases the likelihood of a youth identifying as a Republican by at least 2 percent.
  • It raises the likelihood that parade watchers will vote for a Republican candidate by 4 percent.
  • It boosts the likelihood a reveler will vote by about 1 percent and increases the chances they’ll make a political contribution by 3 percent.

What’s more, the impact isn’t fleeting. “Surprisingly, the estimates show that the impact on political preferences is permanent, with no evidence of the effects depreciating as individuals become older,”said the Harvard report.

In other words: according to this study, the more openly and freely patriotic the event, the more it helps Republicans. It helps people be more likely to vote for a Republican, it helps people become more involved in politics and voting, and it helps form their later understanding of life and political values.

Assuming this study is valid – and I tend to give counterintiutive studies greater weight than those that confirm the study maker’s bias – this says quite a bit about American politics.

Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor David Yanagizawa-Drott and Bocconi University Assistant Professor Andreas Madestam (wow, those names) try to paint this as the GOP being more successful at aligning themselves with patriotism. But even if that’s all this shows, it still doesn’t reflect well on Democrats or their voters.

First off, most of the “aligning themselves with patriotism” that Republicans have done has been just basic patriotic work like having flag pins and red white and blue bunting, something the local DNC office in town utterly lacks. By contrast, Democrats have consistently questioned, criticized, and found fault with the nation and its actions. It isn’t that the US deserves no question or criticism, its that when that ends up being your hallmark, by contrast the other guys look a whole lot more patriotic.

Second, this looks more like one party aligns better with what people want and remember America as being. And whether that’s true or not, it says volumes about what the Democratic Party acts like. Because over the years, those initial images and experiences will be supplanted and shaped by what you see and learn about the parties. Apparently what people are learning and experiencing is not contradicting what they thought early on.

Personally I don’t see the Republican Party as any more “American” than the Democratic party. But I can definitely see why people would consider one the more openly patriotic and more tied to small town American values than the other.

Third, what does it say about Democratic Party voters when they want to vote for the candidates that don’t remind them of patriotism and small town Americana?

Now, what would this study be like if it was done on gay pride parades?


June 30, 2011

“All the perplexities, confusion and distress in America arise, not from defects in their Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honor or virtue, so much as from the downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit and circulation.”
-John Adams

The US Government keeps trying to promote the dollar coin. Worldwide, coins for the basic denomination of money are in use most places, such as one-pound coins in England, one-Euro coins around continental Europe (for now at least) and so on. They’ve been trying for years without much success.

Their biggest debacle was the Susan B Anthony dollar, released with huge amounts of promotion and pomp, probably because almost nobody knew who she was before the coin was stamped. The big problem with that one was its size: it was almost exactly the same size and weight as a quarter. Sure, it had an angular stamp rather than circular on the face (the edges were still circular) and it looked different, but it was so similar to the quarter that vending machines had a hard time telling them apart. So did consumers, and they didn’t care for it.

So the US Treasury tried several other tactics. My favorite was the Sacajawea gold dollar, which was plated with gold. That looked great, was the right size, and had a special weight. It felt and looked valuable. I used to keep one in my wallet as an emergency buck, something just in case. I still see them around and would rather spend them than paper money.

One of the reasons these coins don’t take off is that Americans are just not used to coins being worth much. its been a quarter century since you could buy anything useful with coins, and people just aren’t used to using them much. Coins take up more space than bills, and most folks aren’t used to carrying them around.

I should make a qualifier here. People who live in states with a sales tax or who have to use toll roads carry coins around, but they don’t carry them around to spend. You keep money in your car for the toll bridge, you keep a mountain of silver around because of that annoying sales tax that keeps giving you more change than you expected, but most folks don’t carry a pouch filled with coins.

Stores have a problem with the dollar coins as well. Here’s a cash register drawer:

See those coin slots? There’s five. The four main ones are filled with change, but the fifth is used to store rolls of coins in case you need to break out more. Either you carry extra rolls of coins, which is what everyone is used to, or you carry dollar coins in that last slot, which nobody is used to, and which slows things down when you run out (call the manager, get some out of the safe, etc).

This is the same reason that the $2 bill only took off at the ponies; there’s nowhere to put one, most big stores put 50s in that last slot and small ones put checks in there. Sure, people can adapt easy enough (small stores put big bills under the drawer, if they take any), but its not something folks are used to.

The latest effort by the mint is a presidents series, dollar coins with different presidents on them. These are also gold, so I’d probably like them, but the problem is I’ve never seen one. In fact, few people have. The US Treasury Department has a billion of the things stored in a warehouse somewhere (not Fort Knox). Since 2007 the federal government has required the creation of these coins, but since most stores don’t care for them, most people don’t want them, and most machines aren’t ready for them, they don’t get into circulation very well.

So they go on shelves. Which really is a shame because I love the idea, I wish we had more coins, and I do carry a coin purse around. Its not a very good one, but its the only one I have. I like coins, they feel valuable, they look good, and they make me think of olden days and pieces of eight. They’re treasure. Banknotes are just paper (well cloth, but you know what I mean).

Yet I rarely use money to buy things these days, even though I like the coins. I use a piece of plastic or a number. Its just more convenient. I use coins to buy little stuff, but anything over a couple bucks out comes the card. I don’t have to carry money with that debit card, just the plastic.

And maybe that has a lot to do with it too; its like adding a new fancy buggy whip as Henry Ford rolls Model Ts off the assembly line. Maybe they are great, but who needs them these days?


June 30, 2011

“let me be absolutely clear.”

President Obama said that congress should skip their vacation if they can’t get the budget passed. He condemned congress for being lazy and not doing its job, and claims that Republicans are the main problem since they won’t just give in and agree to tax increases instead of cuts.

I don’t have a problem with congress doing without vacations if they can’t do their most basic constitutional duty and present a budget like they are legally required to every year. I even think they should immediately and publicly announce that they’re cutting their own salaries, benefits, and staff to start off with, showing genuine desire to deal with the debt.

But really, President Obama? Telling others they need to vacation less and work harder? Seriously? I’ve heard of throwing rocks in glass houses, but this guy is packing a minigun.

Then he called tax hikes the “sacred cow” of Republicans, condemning them for not wanting to raise taxes in bad economic times. This is just hilarious, given that the entire budget is apparently a sacred cow to the Democrats, who want to cut nothing and just raise taxes. Nothing.

Even the AARP in one of their patented “scare the seniors” ads mentioned several ridiculous spending programs and called for them to be cut instead of doing anything whatsoever with Medicare (cut, reform, doesn’t matter, just don’t touch it, is their position – if you’re a Republican). But to the Democrats in Washington? Nothing can be touched.

And he’s telling Republicans to drop their sacred cow? Dude, you have a buffalo herd of them. Couldn’t you cull a few?

Ooh it doesn’t stop there. President Obama called six times for corporate tax breaks used to buy jets to be cut, telling the Republicans they’re awful for not doing so in his speech yesterday. Except… the “stimulus” package that he and the Democrats in congress told everyone over and over was absolutely necessary to ram through instantly, without reading, to save the country from unemployment as high as eight percent … that stimulus package was the bill that gave these businesses the tax cut Obama is referring to.

Uh… if its such a great idea to get rid of, why did you put it into law to begin with? Not a single Republican voted for that piece of trash. I agree, cut it, but why are you yelling about that when it was your idea to begin with?

Look, people will put up with a lot from politicians. They’ll accept that you’re basically crooked, they will tolerate you being a scumbag, they will even accept you being partisan and pointlessly hostile to someone because they’re from another party.

But one thing they won’t really put up with is bald faced hypocrisy. Lack of integrity really grates people’s nerves, like a rasp on an exposed spinal cord.

Leadership isn’t doing one or two things in 2 years then yelling at others to do something. Its getting in front, helping and showing them how, working side by side with them to get it done. Simply throwing a budget so lousy that nobody voted for it is not enough. Roll up your sleeves, put down the mashie, and get to work with something other than your jaw.

And who is it that is trying to stop Obama from being clear, that he has to keep appealing that they don’t keep him from it?


June 30, 2011

“He’s a suitor!”

One of my favorite movies of all time is O Brother Where Art Thou, the Coen brothers remake of the Odyssey in which three escaped convicts discover a treasure in music. And the soundtrack (which was a huge best seller) also was a treasure, something I listen to quite often. Its packed with old time gospel, blues, and bluegrass numbers that are charming, sad, and wonderful.

There was a concert that was put on before the movie came out, featuring all the acts that were in the soundtrack called Down From the Mountain which was terrific too – you can watch it on Youtube or if you have Netflix its available for streaming. In that concert were the Peasall Sisters.

These cuties played the daughters of George Clooney’s character and they were in the concert, too. They had grown up a little bit (the oldest really shot up) and you can tell the oldest (Sarah) is just terrified to be on stage while the two younger don’t much care, they just are trying to sing. The other two are Hannah and Leah and they could sing pretty well for tykes.

They did the song “In The Highways,” which apparently was written for the movie, both in the film (in the background during a political rally) and in the concert. They’re adorable, but that was 10 years ago and they’ve grown up some. They have a disc out I want to buy as soon as I can called Home To You which includes the old song Logtown, which is sad and beautiful:

I love this old time stuff for three reasons. One, its part of my heritage and background, as an American I love the things from my past because it helps remind me of who I am now and how we all got here. Like a Dutchman who loves things about the Netherlands or a Black man who thinks about his grandfather’s heritage in Africa, Americans justly ought to enjoy their history and heritage.

Two, the music is so genuine. Unlike Pop Culture which is primarily focused on excitement, emotion, and sales, Folk Culture is focused on genuine production by regular people as part of a society. Bluegrass is just folks, its the songs about life and hard and good times, honest and real. They sing about sadness and death and loss with clarity and openness, unashamed to talk about their future and where they will be one day. The music has a reality to it that no other music does, although the Blues and Country comes close.

And three, the music is unashamedly, straight forward Christian. There’s no attempt to force faith on anyone, theres, nothing deliberate, their Christianity is just part of life. It is presumed, and expressed not at some breathless emotional and self-focused level like modern “Contemporary Christian Music” but at a basic, personal level. This is just how they are and its such a part of them that it comes out in their work, not to reach some goal, but just as part of the music and life.

And that’s both refreshing and comforting in these days of hostile, fundamentalist atheism and so much pressure toward secularism and contempt toward faith.

The Peasall Sisters are all Christians and they have a gentle, honest faith that comes out in all their music. They have wonderful, clear young voices that blend in beautiful harmony, and the simple accompaniment is subdued enough to just give them some music to sing by rather than a performance. I can’t recommend this disc enough. Lots of their stuff is available to listen to on Youtube.

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