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« August 2010 | WILLisms.com | October 2010 »

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 874 -- Midterms.

It's Rare That Presidents' Parties Add Seats-

The odds are already stacked against Obama. Historically, the party in the White House loses lots of seats in midterm Congressional elections. Below is the entire list of those who bucked that trend, and either lost a small number of seats, or actually gained seats:

More than two dozen midterm elections have been held over the last century. In only three has the president’s party gained House seats and in only three others have their House losses numbered eight or less. That includes President John F. Kennedy’s only midterm election, in 1962, which was colored by the Cuban missile crisis in late October.

We still have work to do to keep Obama from making this list, but it doesn't look good for the President. November is coming.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Texas To Gain Four New Congressional Seats.

Posted by Will Franklin · 30 September 2010 01:11 PM · Comments (1)

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 873 -- Texas To Gain Four New Congressional Seats.

Success Begets Success-

More Texanomics (click through to see this graph larger):


What's interesting about these numbers is that California has continued to gain population, even as its net domestic migration has been an outflow. Texas, meanwhile, has (like California) also grown due to foreign immigrants, but Texas has seen the highest number of Americans moving from other states.

The result? According to Election Data Services, Texas will pick up four Congressional seats in the upcoming reapportionment, at the expense of states like Michigan (-1), Illinois (-1), Massachusetts (-1), New Jersey (-1), New York (-2), Pennsylvania (-1), Ohio (-2), Missouri (-1), and Louisiana (-1) that are all losing seats and Electoral College Votes:


Notice what most of those states losing seats have in common. Notice what most of those states gaining seats have in common. People have voted with their feet. They have fled from Democrat-leaning states and instead chosen Republican-leaning states.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Bragging On Texas.

Posted by Will Franklin · 29 September 2010 12:17 PM · Comments (2)

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 872 -- Bragging On Texas.

Texas is PAC-MAN-

From Texanomics, August 2005 to August 2010:


Another look at Texas versus the other top 25 largest states:


Texas had added more jobs since 2001 than 15 states have total jobs:


Texas owning it. It's proof positive that conservative Republican ideas work.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Texas Is A National Leader In Cleaning Up Air.

Posted by Will Franklin · 28 September 2010 12:01 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 871 -- Texas Is A National Leader In Cleaning Up Air.

EPA Overreach Threatens Texas Progress-

Texas is the number one wind energy producing state in America. If Texas were its own country (don't get any ideas), we'd be among the top 5 or 6 wind energy producing countries. Texas also produces a fifth of the nation's crude oil, a fourth of the nation's fuel supply, a fourth of the nation's natural gas, roughly 60% of the nation's chemicals.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation elaborates:

Over the last decade, as the Texas population grew by over 4 million people and the state economy grew by a rate of 40 percent, Texas air quality dramatically improved—thanks in large part to the FPP. The Houston region, in years past vying with Los Angeles as the most ozone- polluted part of the country, reduced ozone levels from 119 parts per billion (ppb) in 1999 to 84 ppb in 2009. The home of the nation’s largest petrochemical industrial complex, Houston, TX, met the still legally binding 85 ppb federal ozone standard.
In spite of the evidence that it is working, EPA decided that the Texas Flexible Permitting Program violates the Federal Clean Air Act (CAA).

Texas has become a national leader in effective and innovative environmental programs. From 2000-08, Texas lowered nitrous oxides (NOx) levels by 46 percent and ozone levels by 22 percent. Over the same period, national NOx levels fell by only 27 percent and ozone levels declined by only 8 percent.

The EPA needs to stop messing with Texas. We're adding 4 new Congressional seats. Our economy is the most robust of any large state. More jobs. Fewer bankruptcies and foreclosures. And one of the best improvements in our air quality.

For federal government bureaucrats, process and control matter more than results.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Do Primary Votes Translate Into General Election Energy?

Posted by Will Franklin · 27 September 2010 04:19 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 870 -- Do Primary Votes Translate Into General Election Energy?

Spend, Spend, Spend-

In the 2008 election, we heard again and again that the Democrats' robust turnout in the primaries and caucuses would translate into higher turnout in the general election.

The 2010 story is nearly the inverse:


Virtually every leading political indicator points to a midterm election this November that could range anywhere from difficult to disastrous for Democrats.

The nation’s high unemployment rate, the declining approval ratings for President Barack Obama, and the Democrats’ lingering deficit in the generic congressional ballot all paint a dark picture for the ruling party.

And now, it appears, the Republicans have another indicator going in their favor – the “battle of the primary ballots.” Two years ago, the Democrats had a big edge in presidential primary turnout, a reflection of the “enthusiasm gap” that benefited them from the start of the year to the end. This time, however, it is the Republicans who have the most energy. This is evident not only in polling data but also in the GOP’s lead of more than 3 million votes over the Democrats when comparing the number of ballots cast in each party’s primaries through the end of August.

I am not completely sold on being able to universalize the "more primary voters means more general election voters" effect, since some primaries are just more competitive than others, but there could be something to it. Here are a few reasons:

1. Campaigns have to gear up for a tough primary fight, so they figure "it" out sooner than campaigns that coast through easy primary battles. This goes for mechanical campaign activities such as distributing campaign paraphernalia, signs, etc., but it also goes for messaging, staffing, and a variety of other internal campaign things.

2. If you have a heavily contested primary, and the other side doesn't, you simply have more extremely likely voters you can target for the general election. Ever wonder why you started getting mail from certain candidates or organizations all of the sudden? It's probably because you voted in enough consecutive primary elections. Your vote is private, but the fact that you voted in a certain primary is public information.

3. Even in highly negative primary campaigns, you may gain a sort of inoculation advantage. You become vaccinated against attacks. If your primary is truly contested, your opponent will use up most/all of the attacks and desensitize voters to them when they pop back up in the general election.

4. Ultimately, hotly contested primaries can energize brand-new voters. Some of the TEA party folks are infrequent voters, typically, but the satisfaction of winning a primary over the establishment RINO candidate could very well turn that infrequent voter into a dedicated, consistent, reliable activist, for years to come. Your new voters, although far more rare than the media typically portray, are going to be among your most evangelical (in the non-religious sense-- more "marked by militant or crusading zeal"). They will fight your fights. They will recruit others. They will get in the trenches and go to work, because they are true believers who aren't yet jaded.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Texas Winning The Recession.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 September 2010 06:41 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 869 -- America's Recession.

Job Loss Visual-

The recession is not created equal:


So, who will lead the recovery? Texas:

The debate between Richard Florida and Joel Kotkin on the future of the U.S. economy proves yet again that experts usually have trouble agreeing on anything. But when it comes to predicting what place will lead the country to a solid economic recovery, forecasters are all on the same page: Nobody's messing with Texas.

Although the economy has slowed in recent months, the prospects for a robust recovery are still looking up for the Lone Star State. Texas gained 14,000 jobs in June even as employment fell in 27 other states, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That brought Texas's total for the first half of 2010 to 178,700 -- more than twice that of any other state.


High-tech centers in Austin and Dallas have created an economy ranging "from cow chips to computer chips," as the Fed's Phillips put it. A tech-heavy index of the best-performing cities in the country last year by the Milken Institute, an economic think tank, ranked Austin first and placed three other Texas locales -- Killeen and environs, McAllen, and Houston -- in the top five.

Obama could learn something from Texas.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Congress Doesn't Get It.

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 September 2010 01:17 PM · Comments (0)

iPhone 4.1: HDR Photos.

Yesterday, I downloaded the new iPhone iOS 4.1 software/firmware for the iPhone 4, and today I got to try out one of the new features, the automatic HDR (High Dynamic Range) feature built right into the camera. Apple explains it this way:

Take great photos that capture a wider range of light intensity using the new high dynamic range (HDR) setting on iPhone 4, which automatically combines multiple exposures into a single HDR image.

Apparently, the way it works is that it takes three photos in rapid succession (almost instantly) to create one HDR photo. HDR is really only useful when there are varying levels of light in one shot. Some of the best real HDR photography out there can be found at the Austin-based Stuck In Customs blog.

Having been a frequent visitor at Stuck In Customs for a while now, I was skeptical about the new iPhone HDR feature, but it seems to work pretty well so far.

You can select whether or not to have the HDR turned on:


Just tap that button that says "HDR On" if you want to turn "HDR Off." Easy.

When in HDR mode, the output in your iPhone camera reel folder is two photos. One "normal mode" and an HDR photo.

So this morning, I took some photos at an outdoor endorsement press conference in downtown Austin. The "normal" photo is on the left, and the HDR version is on the right (you can click on each image to see larger files):

This one is a .gif. I should also note that for the sake of bandwidth, I downsized this in Photoshop from more than 5000 pixels wide to 1500 pixels wide. I further downsized it into a clickable thumbnail. Keep that in mind. Notice how the sky becomes much less washed out. The clouds become far more defined. The colors become more vivid and bright.

Another angle. This one, I saved as a .jpg. Both the sky and the truck become more vivid, but if you look closely there is a little distortion in the tree branches and so forth. I think I could have possibly done a better job holding still, but I didn't really know it actually took three photos in rapid succession. As Gizmodo put it:

In HDR mode, the iPhone 4 captures three exposures to combine into an HDR photo: underexposed, normal, and overexposed. Even though it's shooting those sequence of pictures pretty fast, it's not instant. So, if you move the phone, or if your subject is on the run, you're going to wind up with some mutant friends with three arms or whispy ghosts when the phone tries to mix all the photos together.

I should also note that sometimes I like to focus on the sky or background when I take photos for a cool effect, but the HDR feature seems to work best when you just focus in on the foreground subject.

I also snapped these two of Governor Perry with some of the leadership of the Texas State Association of Fire Fighters:


See the difference?

In this one, I am pretty sure I never focused the shot on anything in particular:


The people look mostly the same, but in the HDR version, Governor Perry actually blends in more with the podium than in the non-HDR version. The HDR is a huge improvement, though, in terms of the washed out sky and bright, concentrated sun pouring over the building.

In this one, from roughly the same position and angle, I tap-focused on the sky, and here's what resulted:


Clearly, an improvement.

Finally, if your subject is moving and gesturing, as Governor Perry tends to do when he speaks, you may get something like this:


The HDR version looks much better, but the main subject looks like a hologram or someone from The Matrix.

Generally, I am a fan of the HDR feature on the iPhone 4.1 firmware. I like that it keeps the "normal" version if you are inclined to go in with Photoshop and do a more manual fix, but I also like that it does tend to help photos. You can either choose it or not. Not locked in either way. This is a feature that, with practice, can probably produce some cool shots.

Overall, the camera on the iPhone 4 is one of the most important upgrades over my old iPhone 3G. I shot this picture on my iPhone 4 before the HDR feature and messed around in Photoshop with the Dodge tool on the buildings and the water paper filter on the sky to create this effect:


This shot is not HDR, but I am digging the capabilities on the iPhone 4 camera, and the new HDR feature is a definite plus.

Read More »

Posted by Will Franklin · 10 September 2010 12:15 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 868 -- Congress Doesn't Get It.

Spend, Spend, Spend-

The National Taxpayers Union has scored bills for August, and it's not pretty. By an overwhelming margin, Congress is increasing spending, not trimming it:



The 184 House bills scored during the month of August would increase spending by approximately $99.5 billion annually if all bills were enacted.



The 96 Senate bills scored within the month of August would increase spending by approximately $62.9 billion on an annual basis if all bills were enacted.

Pelosi and Reid just don't get it.

Also worthy of note. NTU has analyzed past sessions of Congress, and Democrats really do introduce more spending bills than Republicans, although the post-1994 session of Congress (1995) was one of the very best, and Republicans did lose their way slightly and gradually over the next several sessions.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Exports.

Posted by Will Franklin · 9 September 2010 01:09 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 867 -- Exporting, Manufacturing.

Texas Exports Number One In America-

Another one from Texanomics. A look at Texas exports:


A couple of tidbits about Texas exports:

Texas is the number one exporting state in America, now 8 years in a row. Texas is one of only a handful of states to add manufacturing jobs every single month so far in 2010.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Unions.

Posted by Will Franklin · 8 September 2010 05:51 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 866 -- The New Face Of Unions.

Government Bureaucrats-

Quick. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word "union"?

For me, I think of All Along The Waterfront with Marlon Brando, or Jimmy Hoffa being buried under that stadium, or the big union dude who assaulted me outside of the Norm Coleman - Walter Mondale debate in October of 2002 in Minnesota.

For many, the first thing that pops into their heads is blue collar, salt-of-the-earth folks in an auto factory somewhere in Detroit, welding metal together with sparks flying everywhere-- and Bob Seger playing in the background.

But for the first time in generations, the majority of union members work for the government:


Even as unions have fallen out of favor in the private sector, they dominate the public sector. The U.S. Postal Service employs three times more union members than the entire U.S. auto industry.

When someone says, "union member," you shouldn't think of Rosie the Riveter. You should think of bureaucrats who work for the government. That is the new face of the union movement in America.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Obama's Supporters Turning Away Because He is So Awful.

Posted by Will Franklin · 7 September 2010 04:34 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 865 -- Economy Opening Young Obama Supporters' Eyes.

No, He Can't-

Eventually this:


Friday's labor report is the latest confirmation that our economy is sputtering. A loss of 54,000 jobs and a 9.6 percent unemployment rate are bad enough. But a deeper look, at the little-known civilian employment-population ratio, presents what may be a more revealing and troublesome picture.

In contrast to the better-known unemployment rate, which measures the percentage of adult Americans who are actively seeking jobs but do not have one, the civilian employment-population ratio could be called the employment rate, measuring the percentage of adult Americans who have a job.

The August report, released Friday, pegged the employment rate at 58.5 percent, the same as June and only a tad higher than July's rate of 58.4. These numbers are approaching the dismal employment rates of the early 1980s, when the rate bottomed out at 57.1. Since the start of this summer, nearly 400,000 Americans have entered the labor force, but only 130,000 have found jobs according to the BLS release.

Will cause more of this:

The college vote is up for grabs this year — to an extent that would have seemed unlikely two years ago, when a generation of young people seemed to swoon over Barack Obama.

Though many students are liberals on social issues, the economic reality of a weak job market has taken a toll on their loyalties: far fewer 18- to 29-year-olds now identify themselves as Democrats compared with 2008.



Previous Trivia Tidbit: States With Income Taxes Have More Budget Crises Than States Without Income Taxes.

Posted by Will Franklin · 3 September 2010 12:15 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 864 -- States With Income Taxes Have More Budget Crises Than States Without Income Taxes.

Income Taxes Not The Answer-

I keep promoting this Texanomics blog, and I've had people ask if it's me doing it. It's not, but so far so good:


Go check out the Texanomics blog to see a larger version (just click the graph). The green line is Texas. The orange line is other states without a state personal income tax. The blue line is the United States, and the red line is states with personal income taxes.

I've written about this plenty in the past. States without income taxes perform better economically than states with income taxes.

One of the arguments in favor of income taxes is that they help smooth things out and prevent budget crises when the economy turns downward. This is simply incorrect. States with income taxes have plenty of budget woes. Indeed, states with personal income taxes have more budget crises than states without personal income taxes. Far from smoothing things out and providing a "third leg of the stool" of stable revenue, states with income taxes have more volatility in their revenue collection than states without income taxes:


Just say no to an income tax in Texas.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Obama's Dropping Popularity.

Posted by Will Franklin · 2 September 2010 01:01 PM · Comments (0)

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 863 -- How Badly Will Obama Hurt Democrats In 2010?

Obama's Down-


The number of voters who Strongly Disapprove of the president’s performance held steady at 43% in August. At the same time, the number who Strongly Approve inched up a point to 27%.

Those figures generate a full month Presidential Approval Index rating of -16, a slight improvement from last month. From December 2009 to March 2010, the president’s approval index bounced back-and-forth between -14 and -15. In April, the index jumped four points to -11, the highest level of optimism measured since October 2009. That number, however, has steadily declined in the following months.


It's bad, but it has sort of stabilized.


How much will Obama's unpopularity harm the chances of Democrats in November?

How much will Democrats turn on Obama after the devastation?

Does Obama secretly want Democrats to fail in 2010, so he will have a better chance to succeed when he is on the ballot again in 2012?


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Obama's Jobs Deficit.

Posted by Will Franklin · 1 September 2010 02:19 PM · Comments (0)