Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A great South Dakota ad, and both candidates like it!

    In one of the more unusual campaigns ads of the year, this South Dakota ad, presented in Mission Impossible fashion, presents Democrat House challenger Matt Varilek as a sort of globe-trotting Eco-villian while incumbent Kristi Noem was busy running the family farm, being named Farmer of the Year and being elected first to the state legislature and then to Congress.
    The race has now become a contest between a globe-trotting, Green-Party-wannabe, corn-dog-eating, beer- and J├Ągermeister-swilling Democrat who has spent most of his adult life out of South Dakota and a Republican, Palinesque mom who raised her kids while managing the family farm and then found her way into politics as a state legislator and Congressman.
    What's odd about the ad is that it solidifies support for both candidates. Varilek's campaign took the unusual step of forwarding the video link to its entire email list, and supporters have shared it with numerous blogs. The gossip website Gawker called the video “an excellent ad for her Democratic opponent.”
    Republicans seem happy with the ad, which has gone viral. If I knew neither candidate it would certainly make me almost certain to vote for Noem. Most of my liberal friends would see it and likely become die-hard Varilek supporters.
    Great way to save money on ads. Just create ads that both candidates can agree on.

h/t Jackson Jambalaya

Monday, October 29, 2012

Predicting effect of Hurricane Sandy on election like predicting the weather itself

    Hurricane Sandy is the ultimate wildcard in the final week of the election cycle. Will it help Romney or Obama? I don't know.
    I think it will freeze the race in place a little bit. All eyes will be focused on weather news. Of course, Romney has saved a tremendous amount of his advertising budget for the last 10 days of the campaign, so presumably lots of eyes will see these campaign commercials. Except perhaps for the needed eyes of Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, where the electricity may be out.
    Romney's last week of advertising is likely to be upbeat in nature. Campaigns beat up their opponents all through the election cycle and then go positive in the last week. This positive message will play well during a time of disaster. Of course, Obama is going to be able to do a better job of providing disaster relief than Bush was during Katrina, since the recipients Hurricane Sandy aid probably won't be shooting at those trying to help them.
    Early voting was shut down Saturday and will be shut down for the next few days on the Eastern Seaboard. Coaxing people to go to the polls who might not have the discipline to go on Election Day was considered an important part of the Obama election strategy.
    Obama is no doubt glad to have everyone's attention turned away from Libya, where the most recent reports are that troops were set ready, willing, and able to rescue our ambassador and other Americans but that he refused to allow it. Will we find out before Election Day why Gen. Carter Ham was relieved of duty? Was it because he was about to rescue our citizens without receiving authorization to do so? Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, this issue may be blown away until after the election.
    There is some evidence that unpleasant events having absolutely nothing to do with the election can affect the outcome; voters tend to vote against the party in power when they are in a disgruntled mood. A Reuters new story suggests the outcome of the Ohio State-Illinois football game this weekend might well have an effect on voting behavior the following Tuesday. One study has found that a victory by a popular home team is worth 1.6 percentage points to the incumbent candidate. So if Ohio State loses, unhappy voters might take their frustrations out on Obama.
    The same article cites a study that shows that voters in coastal New Jersey towns apparently took out their frustrations over a spate of shark attacks on Woodrow Wilson, who was running for re-election, with these findings based on voting patterns on inland towns versus those of the coastal ones.
    Will voters take their frustrations about Hurricane Sandy out on Obama? My guess is that it will be too soon. If anything, the storm may help the president as there tends to be a "let's all pull together" attitude after a major disaster. It's only when hardships continue that people become frustrated and surly, and by that time the election will have come and gone.
    More problematic for Obama may be getting voters to the polls. Republicans tend to be more reliable voters; Democrats require more cajoling. If voting requires additional hardship in Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Hampshipe and Maine's Second Congressional District it could be a real game changer.
    It's sort of like watching a football game in a rainstorm. We all know the odds have been changed, but most of us don't know which team will benefit.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Does Obama care enough about the poor to let someone give them $5 million?

    Does Barack Obama really care about the poor?
    He says he does, but that's just good politics. Donald Trump has offered to give $5 million to the charity of President Obama's choice. All Obama has to do is release his college records and passport applications.
    That seems reasonable enough. Would you release your college records and passport applications in exchange for a $5 million (or even $5,000) charitable donation? I would. I bet Mitt Romney would. He gives millions to charity every year anyway -- on a percentage basis about twice of what Obama gives.
    Let's hold both candidates to the same standard. Certainly it's time for Romney to agree to release his college records and passport applications in exchange for someone giving a $5 million charitable donation to his charities. It's time to see which candidate is really caring.
    So does Obama really care about the poor or not? We'll see.

Leave 'tipsy' walkers alone, but throw the vandals and rowdies in jail

    Following the first home football game the Oxford Eagle carried a story stating that Oxford Police were cracking down on “drunk walkers.”
    Needless to say, this story created a great deal of concern for many of us, who would rather have tipsy students walk than drive. The notion of arresting students who are making wise choices just seems outrageous.
    So I did what any citizen would do. I snatched up my phone and called the mayor. Oxford mayor Pat Patterson is an old friend. His mother was my sixth-grade teacher, he roomed with my brother in college and he provided me with part-time employment from time to time as a student. So we can speak freely.
    And what Pat told me in no uncertain terms is that there is no city policy to arrest “drunk walkers.” And in fact, Pat gave me an internal police memo written before the Oxford Eagle story that said as much. I’m not going to reprint the whole memo as it contains some internal police content, but here’s a portion:

“As you are aware we have had an increase in students walking home from the bars. This is great news and shows they are trying to do the right thing. But this also brings other problems.
“The main problem is the increase in vandalism and noise disturbances on their way home. They have been knocking over mail boxes, stealing chairs off porches, dumping trash cans over, etc. etc.etc.
“We will have Zero Tolerance for anyone being public drunk, loud, disorderly or trying to destroy someone else’s property. In saying this I do not expect people who are not causing a disturbance to be arrested.”
    Now I’m sure that there have been arrests made over the years that shouldn’t have been made. Following the 2006 death of UPD officer Robert Langley, who was dragged to his death by a drunken Ole Miss student, police were very aggressive about arresting students who had been drinking, whether they were on foot or behind the wheel. But it is not current policy to bother students on foot who aren’t disturbing the peace or breaking the law.
    But students and others do need to understand that there are some real problems with having several thousand drunken college students roaming the streets at midnight. Vandalism is a serious problem. Loud noise is a serious problem. As a parent with two children, I’ve come to expect a certain amount of screaming at 1 a.m., but there does need to be a limit.
    A couple of weeks ago an 80-year-old man had his front door bashed in by a drunken student who was confused as to his place of residence. If the key don’t fit, dude, maybe you’re at the wrong place! It’s a fine line: Do the police wait until the student bashes in an old man’s door, or do they arrest him as he stumbles down the sidewalk, clearly in a drunken stupor?
    Much of the problem that Oxford has with rowdy students has to do with the university’s crackdown on student drinking in fraternity houses. There was a time – a better time – when students drank beer and partied in their fraternity houses and if they had too much to drink they went upstairs and found a spare sofa and sacked out for the night. So Fraternity Row has essentially moved to the Oxford Square.
    If the university wants to send its students into Oxford to drink and make merry, that’s fine. But the university ought to pony up some money to help police these kids to make sure they get home safely without harming or disturbing the residents of Oxford. It’s not too much to ask.
    If Oxford Police are arresting students who are just a little bit tipsy and not causing a disturbance – say a blood alcohol content of below .15 – then they shouldn’t and the city should take measures to stop them. I do not doubt that there have been some “innocent” students arrested, and the city officials and police chiefs need to work together to see to it that these arrests do not happen.
    At the same time vandalism is a serious problem. Late-night noise is a serious problem. Stumbling drunk students are a problem. The police have a duty to get these kids off the street and to protect the local citizenry.
    So the best advice for drunk students leaving bars is this: If you are really drunk, or feel the urge to make a lot of racket or tear something up, take a taxi home.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Holly Springs First Baptist to celebrate 175th year this Sunday; former youth get together Saturday

    First Baptist Church in Holly Springs will celebrate its 175 anniversary this coming Sunday, Oct. 21, with a 10 a.m. worship service followed by lunch. Members are encouraged to bring a dish, although there will be extra food on hand. (Note the time, it's 10 a.m., not 11).
    Needless to say, all members, former members, friends of members, friends of former members, prospective members, community members, and first, second, and third cousins once, twice, or thrice removed of all of the above are invited to attend.
    Former pastor Dr. Earl Kelly is scheduled to be in attendance and will speak briefly. Dr. Kelly was pastor in the late 1950s and early 1960s during a period of substantial growth for the church and went on to serve as Executive Director of the Mississippi Baptist Convention for many years. His sermons were said to have the power to cause chandeliers to drop, gas pipelines to explode and ravens to fly ominously around the sanctuary. (Anyone wanting to know what I'm referring to will just have to attend the anniversary service and ask).
   First Baptist welcomed a new pastor just a few weeks ago, Dr. Joe Lusby. Dr. Lusby is originally from Tupelo. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Ole Miss, a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry from Louisiana Baptist University. He was most recently the pastor at First Baptist Church, Greenfield, TN, where he served for 14 years. He has also pastored churches in Braxton, Olive Branch, and Tunica, MS. Dr. Lusby is married to Patty Watkins Lusby, originally from Abbeville, and they have three children, Kyle, Kayla, and Kristen.
    Milton Bell has helped to organize a reunion of former youth ministers and participants in the music and other youth programs in the church. Must of us are now almost eligible for the Young at Heart program! At any rate, since something is already scheduled for the church for this Saturday, a get together is planned for 5:30 p.m. at Clancy's Cafe in Red Banks. Milton said Ralph and Jean Thomason of Southaven are planning to attend, as are Howard and Linda Fuller. Lyndia lived with our family for a couple of months after Howard moved to wherever (St. Louis?) so she could finish some coursework at Ole Miss before she moved to join him. I'm planning to attend and look forward to seeing all of them. Bring the kids. For a few, bring the grandkids! For more information call Milton at 662-306-3736.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

As usual, nma.tv has best debate coverage

    Nma.tv says Obama won the Oct. 16, 2012 Town Hall debate by a nose. I wish we had this type of news coverage on the major networks!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Donate to Oxford United Way, earn Delta Skymiles; give to Komen, get AA miles

    If you are thinking about giving to the United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County, Delta Airlines is making your decision a little easier.
    SkyMiles members who donate to their local United Way online between October 11 and  November 11, 2012 will earn a one-time bonus of 1,000 miles for a donation of $50-124; 2,500 miles for a donation of $125-299; or up to a maximum 5,000 miles for a donation of $300 or more.  To get the Skymiles, you need to use a special web portal, found here. Of course, you are free to donate more than $300, but you won't get any extra Skymiles.
    To maximize Skymiles earnings you need to give either $50 or $125.
    I don't think the United Way is losing anything on this deal; Delta is just donating the miles. At one time I valued Skymiles at two cents each, so by that formula the 1,000 miles one receives from a $50 donation would be worth $20. My guess is that they are now worth closer to 1.5 cents each, making the miles worth $15 -- although in an emergency they can sometimes be worth more than a nickle each. The cost to buy 1,000 miles from Delta would be $35.
    In any event, by my calculation this is a way for me to give $50 to my local United Way while receiving a $15 rebate. Everybody wins!

    Now that you're feeling charitable and have helped out the local United Way, I'll tell you about another deal that in my opinion is just as good if not better. American Airlines has a Miles for the Cure promotion in which it is offering 15 miles for every dollar donated to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, up to a maximum of 60,000 miles.
    So the $50 donation that earns 1,000 Delta Skymiles will only earn 750 AAdvantage Miles. But AA miles are far more valuable than Delta miles. And while Delta miles never expire, AA miles do, so it's a good idea to "poke" your inactive AA account from time to time with miles earn from car rentals, hotel stays or charitable donations.
    And the AAdvantage miles rebate can be pretty rich. A $3,000 gift to Komen will generate 50,000 miles, which is enough for two off-peak tickets to the Caribbean, and unlike the case with Delta, with American you can sometimes actually book an award ticket. In the past the IRS has treated airline miles as de minimis, however I am not offering advice, just making an observation.

    Some of you are upset. I can sense it. You wanted to donate more but Komen gifts are effectively capped at $3,600 and 60,000 AA miles. Be of good heart as there is still hope!
    You can earn even more American miles for donations to the National Foundation for Cancer Research, and we are not talking chicken feed. Your donation of $66,667 will earn you One Million chilly-willy AAdvantage miles. Lesser donations earn fewer miles. Where can you go with a million miles? Anywhere you want. Repeatedly.

    Anyone wishing to make a donations in my honor (and to benefit my frequent flyer account) should feel free to do so!.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Presidential debate meets Autotune

What happens when the first presidential debate meets Autotune? See for yourself!

Hold your horses! Radisson offers one free night certificate for one paid night, must book by Oct. 31

    Okay, I said in my previous post I had only one word for travel and that word was Marriott. Well, add one more word to that list for one stay: Radisson.
    Club Carlson is offering a 1-for-1 offer for stays at Radisson hotels booked by Oct. 31 and completed by Dec. 31. The free night can be used at any Radisson or Radisson Blu in the United States, Canada or the Caribbean and expires after one year. So before you start booking those Marriott stays you do need to book one night at a Radisson!
    You must be a Club Carlson member. To sign up for this promotion click here.
    Club Carlson has been offering some pretty good promotions. Earlier this year they offered 50,000 points for a single stay at Country Inn & Suites and another 50,000 points for a single stay at any Radisson.  50,000 points is enough for a free night at virtually any Radisson in the world, and is worth anywhere from $200 to as much as $500, depending on where you decide to land. Jinny and I both took advantage of this offer, and I took advantage of another offer for 25,000 points. So for very little spend we have roughly 250,000 Club Carlson points between us. Hopefully we'll both be able to take advantage of this most-recent offer so that we'll have an embarrassment of Club Carlson riches.
    One of the reasons hotel chains offer these deals is to try to reel in new customers. To earn her bonus Jinny stayed at the New Orleans Country Inn & Suites on Magazine Street, which is really more of a boutique hotel than a run-of-the-mill Country Inn, and I think it is her favorite New Orleans hotel. She may be a Hilton Diamond and  Marriott Silver, but this is where she would rather stay in New Orleans. It's frequently booked, though.
    I would describe most of the other Country Inn & Suites as a notch above a Hampton Inn and a notch below a Hilton Garden Inn. I like them.

    Be aware that Country Inn & Suites is offering a free-night certificate for two-night stays Oct. 1 through Nov. 29. To book this click on the "Packages" tab when booking Sunday-Thursday stays. The certificates don't have a long shelf life though; they are only good Dec. 15, 2012 through Feb. 15, 2013, and you apparently have to register for the certificate after your stay. So all in all this offer isn't anywhere as good as the Marriott MegaBonus, but still worth a look for those who know they will get all their MegaBonus free nights.

    If you are going to take advantage of these Club Carlson offers, you might as well sign up for some extra bonus points. Click here to sign up for a bonus of up to 6,000 points per night for stays through Dec. 31.

    Jinny has requalified for HHonors Diamond for this year, and certainly there are some great benefits to the HHonors program for elites. But when it comes to bonuses -- things offered above and beyond the regular point earnings -- HHonors sometimes comes up short. For the Fourth Quarter HHonors is offering 1,000 bonus points per night; it takes 50,000 points to get a top Hilton room.
    A quick comparison of some various bonus offerings:
Radisson: Stay one night, get one free night certificate, maximum of one.
Marriott: Megabonus, stay twice, get free night certificate, Cat 1-4, maximum of three.
Country Inn & Suites: Complete a two-night stay Sunday through Thursday, get quick expiration free night certificate (plus earn generous bonus points!).
 Hilton: Stay 50 nights, get enough points for one night at a top Hilton.
    Needless to say, Hilton is at the bottom of Jinny's list until next year.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

For occasional travelers this fall and winter, just one word: Marriott

    For those of you with travel plans in the next few months, I have just one word of advice. It's not plastics; it's Marriott.
    For the casual or even not-so-casual traveler, Marriott has the best hotel deal going with their current MegaBonus offer, which runs through Jan. 15. Combined with a current gift card offer, this one can't be beat. You only have until Oct. 31 to sign up though, so hurry!
   So what is the MegaBonus offer? Well, it depends. Everyone gets their own, but most low-level Marriott Rewards members will be offered a free night certificate for each two stays, up to a maximum of three free nights. The free nights are good in any Category 1-4 Marriott Family hotel and expire after one year, which is an improvement over past promotions, where the certificates were only good for six months. This is the offer that both Jinny and I got.
    But each offer is personalized. Other MegaBonus offers which have been reported include:

Earn 2 Free Nights (Category 1-5 hotels)
1 free night certificate earned after every two stays.
Free night certificate valid for category 1 to category 5 hotels and expire one year from issuance. Maximum 2 free night certificates during promotion.

Earn 40,000 bonus points
25,000 bonus points after 15 paid nights
+15,000 bonus points after 20 paid nights.

Earn 50,000 bonus points
35,000 bonus points after 20 paid nights
+15,000 bonus points after 25 paid nights. 

Earn 50,000 bonus points:
Earn 5,000 points every second stay.

        It's important to note that the limitation to Category 1-4 hotels pretty much eliminates all of the top-end Marriotts. For New Orleans, that means the Canal Street Marriotts are out, but the Residence Inn and Springhill Suites a few blocks away in the Warehouse District are in. This is just fine for our family, as these rooms are great for families and our certificates save us about $150 per night. Last year we had a great New Year's Eve vacation at very low cost thanks to free Marriott certificates. Those lucky enough to get a Cat-5 certificate will find a few luxury properties available.
     You'll note I mentioned a Gift Card offer. To take full advantage of this offer, you really need to buy a Marriott Gift Card through the Southwest Airlines website to pay for your stays. You can earn up to 12,000 Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points by buying a $1,000 gift card. A smaller purchase earns fewer points. These points are worth $200 when buying a Southwest Airlines ticket. These are actual usable points, so this is money in the bank if you plan to fly Southwest.
    Let's do the math on this offer. A $750 Marriott gift card will return $150 in Southwest Airlines points, so your total investment is $600. Assuming a mix of Fairfield Inns, Courtyards and perhaps one full Marriott, all with one-night stays, you should be able to average six stays at $125 per stay. But thanks to your Southwest rebate, your real cost will only be $100 per stay. In exchange you will likely get three Cat 1-4 free night certificates. When buying the gift card, remember that if you will be charging food and drinks to your room you will want to go ahead and get the full $1,000 card rather than just enough to pay for six nights.
    If you are traveling on business and being reimbursed for your travel, the value of this deal is at least $125 for the free certificates plus $150 for the Rapid Rewards points, for a total of $525 in fairly easy money. If you are traveling for leisure or on your own dime, it still is a way to spend nine nights in nice hotels for an average of $50-70 per night (depending on whether your paid nights are at Fairfields or Courtyards). So it's a way to get Courtyard luxury for EconoLodge prices.
    To sign up for the Megabonus, just go to the Marriott site. Make sure your earning style is set to points and not airlines miles before trying to sign up.They have a Megabonus for airline miles, but it is weak.

    If you aren't a member of the Marriott Rewards program, please allow Jinny or me to "refer" you to the program. We will both get bonus points for your next five stays! Just click here to send me an email and I will send you a referral! (Or Facebook message me for my friends, so I'll be sure to get your message).

    Here's the link to sign up for Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program. (Note: this link was down when I wrote this but should be repaired soon).

    Here's the link to sign up for the Marriott Gift Card Offer.

    Now as a matter of hotel-point strategy, it's hard to earn a lot of points in the Marriott system, and it's hard to earn Elite Status beyond Silver. I think Marriott has these Megabonus offers three times a year, with a maximum of either two or three free nights. So for the heavy traveler, I suggest planning for enough stays to make your desired tier in the Hilton system, then just graze on the best offers that Marriott, Priority Club, Hyatt, and lately Club Carlson throw out. (And for the "own-dime" traveler, the Choice Hotels program actually has some great offers!).
    Between the various promotions that the various hotel loyalty programs put out there to lure customers, combined with the regular points that one offers just as a matter of course, a heavy traveler like Jinny will earn enough certificates and points for about 15 free hotel nights per year, if not more. Thanks to the Marriott MegaBonus plus some other offers, a lightweight such as myself can still earn five to seven free nights. For example, Jinny and I will soon have 10 of the Marriott free-night certificates between us; our challenge will be to start using them before the first one earned expires in July 2013 (I'm going to save my brother a phone call; these certificates are non-transferable, even to a family member).
    We recently went to New Orleans to watch the Rebels play. Between the Rebels, the Saints game and an AARP convention the city was booked solid, and hotel rooms were literally going for $300 and up per night. We had to do a split stay, but we stayed for free at two different hotels on points. Needless to say, we never would have made the trip if it had involved $800 in hotel costs. So it's nice to have free hotel rooms when you need them.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Say hello to the 28-hour work week as companies start to gear up for Obamacare

    We warned you! We did! Don't say we didn't tell you!
     The Obamiacs assured us that all we had to do was require every employer who hired someone for 30 or more hours each week to buy them insurance and all of our problems would be solved. And of course, it couldn't be a low-cost policy. It had to be the most expensive, comprehensive insurance money can buy, with low deductibles, low co-pays, no lifetime limits, and free birth control. Welcome to the good life!
     Many public-spirited employers of lower-wage employees were already providing insurance for their full-time workers. They didn't need a new law. But the insurance they have been providing isn't good enough for the government, which under the Obamacare law requires them to spend substantially more so there will be lots of extra money to provide college girls at expensive private colleges with free birth control and other extras that many working people neither need nor want to pay for.
     And so, faced with skyrocketing health costs under Obamacare, employers are acting rationally. They are cutting lower-wage workers back to a 28-hour-per-week work schedule. Remember, the employer-mandate only applies to full-time workers, so as long as the workers are kept under 30 hours the employer has no obligation to provide insurance.
     The Orlando Sentinel reports, for example, that the Darden Corporation, which owns Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Longhorn restaurants, is testing a new 28-hour work week in anticipation of new insurance rules that go into effect in 2014. If successful the shortened workweek will likely go into effect at all restaurants on the rollout of Obamacare.
     This isn't an outlier. This is going to be the new normal of employment for low- and moderate-wage workers. Obamacare is just going to make it too expensive to keep these workers on full-time.
     And sad to say for these semi-displaced workers, but because of the individual mandate they are still going to be required to purchase insurance or face fines. So instead of getting employer-sponsored insurance they can afford they are going to be forced to purchase subsidized, luxury policies entirely on their own or pay a fine -- and they will have a lot less money to do it with.
     Obama gave his word of honor that people who liked their current health insurance could keep their current health insurance. But that doesn't apply to many low-wage workers, who are losing both their low-cost insurance plans and the hours of work that they need to survive. These people don't want free birth control or to be forced to pay for lots of extras, they want the affordable insurance they used to have and plenty of hours at work to help pay for it. Those days are apparently gone forever, thanks to Obama, Pelosi, Reid, et al.
     As a matter of public policy, Obamacare did just the opposite of what it should have done. Instead of outlawing bargain health plans, we should have concentrated on providing every American with limited health coverage. But the Democrats were too concerned with forcing the Catholic church to buy birth control for rich, unmarried college girls to think about the needs of actual working people.
     Obama would no doubt say that Change is hard, but he sure Hopes you have enough money to pay your bills once you are semi-unemployed. But at least those stuck without full-time work or health insurance will be able to rest easy knowing that any full-time job they get will come with insurance. Of course, they'll never again get a full-time job for as long as they live.

Finally, a 2-minute Romney-Obama debate summary we can all understand

     I'm not a fan of long videos, but this 2-minute Chinese news animation of the Romney-Obama debate is great! If you don't feel it's worth your two minutes, tell me next time you see me and I'll give you a dime.
     If these people were to put out a regular product in English, they would put Fox News out of business.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Lucky Rebels lose to A&M due to two really bad calls

     Whenever I write anything about football, I always preface it by saying I'm not an avid fan, I just enjoy watching the Rebels play from time to time. So my opinions should always be taken with a grain of salt.
     I was at the Texas A&M game Saturday, and of course you, dear reader, likely already know what I'm going to say. But before I get there I'm share my partial good fortune.
     I usually attend games by virtue of tickets purchased on StubHub. Tickets for the lesser games can often be had for $5-10 (or even less) after shipping. That's for seats in Section M, which is good enough for me. But when the UTEP game rolled around a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to find a couple of seats in the Rebel Club advertised at a reasonable price. And what do you know but at that game our Rebel Club neighbor saw that we were "strangers" and told us he might have tickets for the A&M game. So I paid full price for a change and got some great tickets.
     The bad news was that the stadium water pump was broken so there was no water in the Rebel Club, nor in any of the upper levels, apparently. This meant the drink machines wouldn't work, and of course, no restrooms. They eventually brought in canned drinks and we took the elevator down to the second level to relieve ourselves. It was far colder than we thought it would be and we really weren't prepared, so it was nice to be able to retreat into the heated club.
     We weren't prepared for the weather at all. I set up a tent in the Grove Friday night at 9 p.m. Tent setup is a real sight to behold, as the Grove is completely empty at 9 p.m., and by 9:10 it is completely covered with tents. I put our tent at "half-mast," with the legs un-extended. As it turned out, we wouldn't see the tent again until after the game.
     When tailgate time came, the weather was so bad we decided to just join our friends for a "tailgate" around our dining room table. We didn't get wet. We didn't get muddy. We didn't get cold. We enjoyed a glass of wine. A good time was had by all.
     The Rebels played a good game Saturday. A&M made a remarkable number of errors, so the Gods of Chance were with us until the end. We got lucky and should have won. Two bad calls cost us the game.
     The first bad call was when Ole Miss sacked A&M's quarterback Manziel for a safety. There is no question but that it was a safety. But the officials apparently got confused, and instead of giving Ole Miss two points and possession brought the ball to the two yard line. It's two points numbskulls, not the two yard line! (I know they ruled it wasn't a safety. It was).
     And then was the decision by Ole Miss to try for the first down instead of punting in a fourth and inches situation with 3:02 left to play, Ole Miss leading 27-23, with the ball on the Ole Miss 39. Most people would say punt every time, but I can see the strategy in trying to keep the ball. What I say is, if you want to go for inches, don't use a shotgun formation! Don't throw the ball backwards three yards when you only need to advance it 10 inches!
     Did Steve Sloan and Ed Orgeron get together and call in that play? They must have.

     OTHER COMMENTS: I took a bathroom break during halftime, but Jinny said the Texas A&M marching band was phenomenal.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Rome bans sitting and eating gelato, so all I have are the photos and the memories

     This is one of my favorite family travel photos, taken from a Spring Break trip to Italy and Paris in 2008. It was a lot easier and cheaper to get a ticket with Skymiles in those days. I'm glad I used some while they still had some value.
     I'm fairly certain this was taken in the Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere, on the steps of the large fountain in the center of the piazza. Obviously everyone had just gotten a scoop of the famous Italian gelato, which makes one want to go back to Italy again. Don't bother with the stuff you might find in an American mall; it's not the same.
     We actually sat and rested for a while, and we noticed that the beggars outside the church actually worked in official shifts. One would beg for 30 minutes and then be relieved by another who would take his or her place. It was their job.
     I may not get a chance to take another photo like this, or if I do it may be costly. The Rome city council has enacted a 500 Euro fine for anyone caught sitting and eating in any place of historic significance. The Spanish Steps and the Pantheon certainly qualify; I'm not sure whether our fountain, above, does or not.
     The real problem wasn't with people eating gelato. There were apparently people having full-scale picnics at busy sites, setting up dining tables and splitting open watermelons. People have been using fountains to wash dirty food off their hands. I understand the need to crack down, but it does seem they should make an exception for gelato!
     Just think kids, you've gotten to sit at the steps on a Roman monument and eat gelato -- legally. No one will ever be able to do that again.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


      For the past couple of weeks liberal bloggers have been basking in the several-point lead that Barack Obama has had over Mitt Romney in national opinion polls. Most of these polls were conducted in homeless shelters and welfare offices, but that doesn't bother anyone as these are assumed to be a good sample of the American public.
     Tonight I saw the debate between Romney and Obama, and while Obama didn't do an absolutely terrible job Romney hit a home run. He needed it.
     One thing that needs to be driven home is the issue of tax rates. Obama keeps saying Romney wants to give the wealthy "tax cuts." Romney repeatedly said that the total share of revenue raised from the wealthy would not change, but that he wanted to cut rates and eliminate loopholes and shelters. Obama would then say again that Romney only wanted to give tax cuts to the wealthy. Romney would again have to correct him. After three or four times Romney all but said "Liar, liar, pants on fire," but in a polite way, comparing Obama to one of his children stretching the truth.
     Romney actually took on a few Shibboleths of the left. When Obama said quack-quack-quack about tax breaks for oil companies, Romney pointed out that these breaks mostly went to small producers and totaled about four billion a year, compared to the $90 billion Obama threw away to his donors on various "green" projects (why isn't Obama in jail for this?). "I have a friend that said you don't pick winners and losers, you just pick losers," Romney said. When Obama  went bleat-bleat-bleat about companies getting tax breaks for shipping tax jobs overseas, Romney told him in no uncertain terms that he had been in business for 40 years and he had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. "Maybe I need to get a new accountant."
     Part of the problem is that Obama, while a great speech reader, is fairly limited intellectually. He's never been able to speak without a teleprompter.
     Fox News Pollster Frank Luntz had a focus group watch the debate that had a large number of undecided voters. Thirteen of 25 had voted for Obama in 2008, so it was split 50-50. Virtually everyone said they believed Romney won the debate, and most left the debate saying they would vote for Romney. They tended to appreciate the fact that Romney pushed back against Obama's attempt to define his views, even over the moderator's objections.
     Several focus group members noticed body language issues, namely that Romney looked at the camera, looked at the moderator and looked at Obama. Obama spent a great deal of time looking down at the podium. This was also noted by Brit Hume after the debate. No one described Obama in positive terms, with "flat" being the terms used most often.
     One can argue, Rambo style, who drew first blood, but Obama hasn't made it a priority to get along with Republicans. As a practical matter he hasn't made it a priority to get along with Democrats, either. He doesn't like people in general. He actually belongs at some foundation, not as president. But the focus group uses a little knob to rate the candidates, and regardless of party Romney was absolutely off the charts on his closing statement when he talked about how he had to work with Democrats as governor of Massachusetts and that it would be his top priority because party aside we were all Americans.
     Of course, George W. Bush got along famously with Democrats in Texas and arrived in Washington thinking he would be able to perform the same magic. They soon informed him there would be none of THAT nonsense.
     It's going to be interesting to see how the next few days play out. The Luntz focus group was impressed with Romney. It was the first time many had seen him defined by anyone other than the Obama campaign. Finally our day in the sun has arrived.

Please sir, put a shirt on and pull those britches up!

     There was a news story recently about an altercation between Hip-hop stars Rick Ross (above) and Young Jeezy at the BET awards. Or perhaps the dispute was between members of their "posse." In any event, gunshots were said to be fired.
     I really don't care if these two go at it like Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. (Errata: Every Kentucky public official and attorney must swear an oath that they have never participated in a duel). What struck me was the photograph of Ross which accompanied the story. Why is a man such as this walking around with no shirt on? This guy has bosoms bigger than most women I know. He needs a bra in the worst way.
     And look at the pants. They aren't merely slung low in the hip-hop fashion. They are pulled down as if he is about to sit on the toilet. Why, oh why, would anyone pay to see this gentleman anywhere but in a circus sideshow?
     My children sometimes ask me why I wear a t-shirt when I go swimming. I'm a string bean next to this guy, but this is why children. Fat people should wear shirts.
     And everybody should keep their britches pulled up. Except when they're sitting on the toilet.