Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A few random thoughts on Eric Cantor's defeat

Yeah, yeah, I know what you're all thinking: "You haven't written a blog post in a month and now you give us political analysis of the GOP? Where's our beagle haiku?!"

What can I say? It's been a busy couple of months for reasons I should probably write about here, too, when I get a chance. (Nothing bad, mind you, just village budget season, busy at work, rebuilding our porch roof, Arsen & Brigitte's impending move, etc. ... all stuff that is of great personal interest to me, but doesn't necessarily make for compelling blog post fodder.)

I'm pretty sure that most of you who stop by this blog occasionally know who Eric Cantor is, but since nobody outside political circles and the Beltway media really cares about the name of anybody in our terrible Congress, a quick introduction is in order. Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor is the the Republican House Majority Leader, which makes him #2 in the House of Reps hierarchy behind the Speaker of the House. He was generally considered to be the leading candidate to be the next Speaker. He was also one of the leading architects of the GOP's "Oppose all things Obama, whatever they are" strategy in Congress, one of the leaders of the GOP's return to a House majority in 2010, one of the GOP's top money-raisers in any role, a great help in the Tea Party's rise to prominence, and one of the most prominent institutional conservatives in Washington.

Last night, after spending more than $5 million on his Congressional primary, in one of the biggest campaign upsets in recent history Eric Cantor was beaten handily by an obscure Tea Party candidate who spent about $200,000 in campaign donations. Needless to say, the Beltway media, cable news, and the political Twitterverse went nuts.  And for once, they had something to truly go nuts about. This was genuine news that nobody expected. It was so shocking that I even (briefly) turned to the cable news channels for the first time in nearly 18 months. It was so shocking I even reckoned I'd add a few thoughts of my own to the maelstrom:

1) A lot of the instant analysis seemed to think this was about the base repudiating the national GOP's attempts to do some sort of immigration reform, since that's what a lot of the campaign rhetoric in this primary was about. I don't think that's entirely true, since to the extent that Cantor did anything on that front it looks to me as if he did more to block immigration reform than to move it along. I do believe, however, the immigration reform became a stalking horse for what this was really about:

2) People in both parties are really pissed at this Congress, and really pissed at the incumbents of both parties who spend their time working on the concerns of lobbyists and big money instead of spending their time working on the concerns of their actual constituents. Populism is alive and well in the GOP and in the Democratic Party. This result wasn't about very conservative versus ultra-conservative. This result was about "the people who feel they've been getting the shaft from politicians" versus K-Street.

3) How firmly ensconced was Cantor in the inner-Beltway lifestyle? My favorite statistic came courtesy of the New York Times. Cantor's campaign spent $168,637 at steakhouses since the start of 2013. I remind you again that his opponent spent about $200,000 on his entire campaign.

4) My guess is that despite the stench of this defeat Cantor will make more money in the next few years as a lobbyist than you or I will ever see in the cumulative total of our working careers. You don't get to be House Majority Leader without knowing how to game the system.  Don't worry, beef farmers of America. Eric Cantor will continue to rack up the ol' steakhouse bills, just from the other side of the slush fund.

5) This result is why I tell everybody working on a campaign to take nothing for granted and to work at it as hard as possible right up until the polls close. You never, never, never know for sure what's going to happen. Never.

6) Cable news has, if anything, become even more unwatchable during my time away from it. Given one of the most significant political stories of the last decade, this is what I saw during my visit to the cableverse. Fox News was unbearably moronic. MSNBC was unbearably smug. And CNN was airing an OJ Simpson "Trial of the Century" retrospective.

No, I'm not kidding about that last bit.

I reckon I can safely go another 18 months before checking in again.

7) Until last night I thought that my own obscure Tea Partying incumbent House Representative Kerry Bentivolio had zero chance to hold his seat in his August primary against challenger David Trott. For those who don't know of Bentivolio, he was an obscure Tea Party candidate who -- through a series of incredibly strange and unlikely events -- ended up as the GOP candidate in our gerrymandered district. He won in 2012, but everybody expected a more conventional candidate to challenge him in 2014, and that has indeed happened. Trott has been a big fundraiser for the GOP over the years, served on Mitt Romney's finance committee, has far outraised the incumbent Bentivolio, and has all the institutional Republican support any candidate could want.

Until last night I would've thought "David Trott wants to be the next Eric Cantor" would be the Democratic candidate's slogan in November. After last night's result I'd be surprised if Bentivolio's campaign isn't right now preparing a mailer with that message plastered across the front.

That primary campaign just turned interesting.

8) Closing thought -- I can't believe how much time I've spent blogging about internal Republican politics the last couple of years. I care 10,000 times more about what's going on inside the Democratic Party. But the truth is that Democratic Party politics since 2008 have been pretty predictable, whereas the most outlandish things seem to happen all the time on the right side of the aisle.

I am truly amazed that I live in a world in which the Republican Party is more colorful by far than the Democrats, since my fellow Democrats had a lock for decades on the "outlandish and colorful" title. Truly the 21st century is a strange and bizarre science-fictional place.

Here. I give you a photo of a blimp with a big video screen flying behind a giant video screen, in celebration of our strange sci-fi world:

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Silly Season Is upon Us

A little message I posted on my Facebook page. I rather liked its intent, so I reckoned I'd share it here, too.


Now that we're within six months of November 2014 Election Day, Election Season is upon us. So here's the deal:

For the next six months I'm going to do my best to keep this FB page a reasonably civil place. I have an active and vocal assortment of friends across all parts of the political spectrum, and I enjoy vigorous debate as much as the next fellow. But be forewarned that I intend to use the Loving Hammer of Delete actively and arbitrarily if I think things are getting out of control. Try not to aggravate each other too much, and we'll all make it to Wednesday, Nov. 5, intact.

In that spirit, some of you may notice you just received an invite to a local Gary Peters fundraiser hosted by Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash. (I'm on the host committee for this one.) I tried to target local folks who I thought might want to support the Peters US Senate campaign. If you got the invite and don't want to see stuff like that, let me know. Or, if you didn't get it but are interested, also let me know and I'll send along an invite.

And with that, let the games begin....

Monday, May 5, 2014

Expanding our beagle-haiku mandate to include beagle accessories

Binkie and Pinkie:
Katie's old squeaky toys that
She treats like puppies.

The beagle's binkies,
Rescued like Katie herself,
Now part of the pack.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

We're in the money! We're in the money!

I didn't start this blog with any crazy dreams of becoming a blogosphere billionaire. But at some point shortly after I started it up, I reckoned I'd throw a few Google ads on the page, mostly out of curiosity about how the whole blog/ad revenue thing worked.  It turns out that the first thing I learned was that Google doesn't pay out anything until you reach $100.

For the first few months the totals piled up in numbers that were shocking to me, given the low traffic at a friends-and-family sort of blog devoted to beagle haiku, my own fantasy sports teams, and random photos of stuff.  Then the revenues dried up and the totals increased by mere pennies a month.  I reckoned that either a few friends and family members had tired of clicking on ads, or that Google had changed their payment algorithm to more accurately reflect the very limited desirability of the advertising demographic drawn by hound-based poetry.

Either way, my dream of making literally dozens of dollars a year while blogging from the comfort of my own home had come to a screeching halt.

Oh, I'd check in every few months to see if I'd come any closer to the magic $100 mark, but more to satisfy my abstract curiosity than my pecuniary interest.  I'd crossed the $99 mark a while ago, so I'd begun to wonder whether I could ever cross the magic $100 mark or if this was instead the Zeno's Paradox of the digital economy.

And then, lo and behold, what should I see in my e-mail inbox today?


Time: Today at 12:51 AM

Please note that we've recently issued a payment to you for your Google AdSense earnings on Mar 25, 2014. Your payment has been sent and should be arriving shortly. For more information, please log into your account and visit your Payment summary page. You may also be able to find a reference number there to track or pick up your payment. 

The Google Billing Team


I'm gobsmacked!

I'd like to thank Katie the Beagle, Melanie Monagon's Drag-Racing Gremlin, and everybody in between. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do with this windfall (I'm open to suggestions!) but I'll be sure you let my vast and profitable Patio Boat audience know what you bought me.

Now get out there and click on some ads. Let's get that next hundred dollars here by 2020 AD!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Go away, Winter, and take your beard with you!

As some of you know, I grew a wee little beard this winter to help fend off the cold. Today, I went to the barbershop:



Now all I have to do is convince the weather to match my newly shorn state. Darn it, Winter, the calendar says that it's now Spring. It's time for you to go!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Detroit AutoRama: The Leftovers - Cycles, Exotics, and Oddities

Congratulations, intrepid reader! You've made it to the final post in the Patio Boat's epic AutoRama photo series. To be honest, I didn't set out to pen a saga, but even though I was only at the AutoRama for a few hours, I saw lots and lots of cool stuff that I reckoned was worth sharing.

This final post is a bit of a mish-mash of other stuff I saw that caught my eye. Let's start off with a couple of custom cycles:

There were at least a dozen of these custom-painted motorcycles lined up. The detail on some of them was truly astonishing.  Really, any one of them would be worth of a photoblog post of its own.

It's hard to read because it's black lettering on this matte black Lamborghini, but this Lamborghini comes to us from the Motor City Gumball Rally.

This 1971 DeTomaso Pantera comes to us from the brothers Mike and Jim Ring, the Ringbrothers, of Spring Green, Wisconsin. It was entered in the "Exotic Sports" class. Of course, almost everything looked exotic around here.

If there was an "Exotic Tractor" category, this 1938 Minneapolis Moline UDLX Comfortractor belonging to Diane Flis-Schneider of Lapeer, Michigan, would've been a shoe-in because it was one of one in that category.

Another exotic sports car, this practically new Fisker is already eligible to join us at the Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti, since brief-lived electric-car manufacturer Fisker has already folded. The car itself was a great-looking automobile. I especially like the solar panels on the roof, which recharge the batteries while you're parked during the day.

Pictures don't do justice to the size of this mammoth 1937 Hudson Terraplane owned by C.J. Kumar of Stouffville, Ontario. The body was lengthened four feet and widened eighteen inches to fit on a 2006 Dodge Ram 2500 Diesel chassis. This means really re-shaping every panel and increasing the size of all the trim accordingly. For example, the original Terraplane front grille was stretched nine inches and widened sixteen inches to fit. The fit and finish was great and it all worked together, but the end result seemed more like an elephant than a Terraplane.

I mean that in the very best way.

Finally, we come to the question, "What was the craziest thing you saw at AutoRama." Well, honestly, I don't know, but I do know that the short list includes this 1939 Chevy Master Deluxe owned by Tom Carrigan of Vermontville, Michigan. Why? Because he shoved a turbosupercharged V12 Allison V-1710 aircraft engine under the hood, that's why!

How big is a 1,710 cubic-inch (28.0 liters) engine? That's almost as much displacement as four big-block Corvette engines! The Allison V-1710 produces around 1,500 hp at takeoff and was the primary engine for the twin-engined P-38 Lightning fighter of World War II fame.

That's crazy!

Which, in all fairness is the point of an awful lot of the cars at AutoRama. I had a great time looking at them all and want to thank all the designers, mechanics, and owners who put them together and brought them there. It was a great way to spend a snowy Saturday night in Detroit, and I look forward to seeing at least a few of these same cars out and about on the roads of Michigan this summer.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Detroit AutoRama: Rat Rods

The AutoRama Extreme display in Cobo Hall's basement was way fun. There was a great vibe down here. It was a notably younger crowd than the top-flight builds upstairs. Everybody seemed to be having a great time hanging out and looking at each others cars. Rat rods have a few different connotations for folks. On the one hand, they give off a real old-school vibe of hot rods built the way they used to be built once upon a time. Old cast-off car frames with a big engine and no apologies. On the other hand, sometimes "rat rod" seems to come in as an excuse for "badly built car."

In any case, cool is in the eye of the beholder. All I know is that some of these cars I saw in the AutoRama Extreme display in the basement were way cool.

And frankly, this batch look as if they're hanging out on a street corner smoking a cigarette.

Let's visit a few of my favorites, and you can decide how you feel about 'em yourself.  First up, this 1947 Austin Sheerline "125".  Shame on me for not getting the name of the owner, but it was one of my favorite cars in the entire show:

I could re-type the info, but the writing on the window says it all.  My favorite part? "It is finished!"

No need for costly re-chroming here!

Next up, alas, yet again another case in which I didn't get the owner's name, but I guarantee that whoever he is, he put as much work into this Chevy pickup as any of the shinier trucks on the main floor:

Sometimes builders will talk about stitching together a car. I've never seen the term applied so literally.

The detail on the inside of the cab was equally impressive. This truck drew a real crowd and not a single one failed to point out the arm rest.

Kevin Gill of Ooltewah, Tennessee, brought this 1929 Ford Roadster to the show. They don't get any more old-school than this.....

... unless, of course you're talking about this 1929 Ford Roadster owned by Steve Sabotka of St. Clair, Michigan. The Mexican blanket on the seat is what really pulls this decor scheme together.

Here's another great rat-rod pickup, a 1952 Dodge Pickup owned by Glen Vierheilig of Clinton Township.

There were quite a few old pickups in the rat-rod section. You might think this is just the predictable meeting of the current rat-rod and classic pickup trends, but pickups really do seem to make an ideal platform for rat-rodding.  I suspect its a combination of rugged looks suiting the rat-rod aesthetic and the capacity of a strong pickup frame to handle a wide variety of engines and suspensions.

Rat rods often feature a ton of detail. I love the diamond-plate steel flames cut out around the radiator of the 1961 REO rod.

I've got to be honest. Sometimes the details don't always come together smoothly.  Of course, that might've been the idea for this 1947 Chevy pickup owned by Robert Pope.

Another great old-school build: 1937 Fiat owned by Gerry Scarborough of Clarkston, Michigan. I love the old winged motometer on the radiator.

By the time I reached the back corner of AutoRama's basement, my only disappointment was that I hadn't seen a single MG in the entire show.  I mean, I get it. Detroit is the Motor City and American Iron rules the day.  But it still would've been nice to see one relative of my the FUN MG during its long winter slumber.

And then, in the farthest corner of the basement....

It's a 1957 MGA with a 283 V8 shoved in the engine bay. This barn find didn't look as if it had moved under its own power in quite some time. The sign on it said it was owned by "Singlefinger" (yeah, beats me, too) and was apparently built by two unknown boys from Marysville, Michigan.  I have no idea if the owner is planning to do anything with it, but if they go for the full rat-rod treatment, I picked up the ideal replacement for this logo at the Speedcult custom steel images booth:

Now all I've gotta do is build a rat rod around it!

Tomorrow? The Patio Boat Blog's final batch of photos from the 2014 Detroit AutoRama: The Leftovers - Cycles, Exotics, and Oddities.