Tuesday, October 31, 2006

John Kerry, Super Genius

This is something I've noticed for a long time, but it's even more amusing today. If you could go back to October 31, 2004, and drive around the Twin Cities, you would see various versions of John Kerry for President bumper stickers on a limited number of cars. But you would not have seen dozens of them on a typical drive through town. Today, two years later, I see more John Kerry bumper stickers on cars than I did during the 2004 election. I have seen Kerry stickers on cars that are 2006 or 2007 models, including a silver Honda Fit and a black Buick Lacrosse I saw driving down 35W in recent days.

That means that, at least in some cases, people are putting bumper stickers for a defunct political campaign on their cars. I can only guess at the intent of these drivers; I'm guessing that they view the Kerry sticker as some sort of talisman that tells other drivers that they didn't support George Bush in 2004. This is silly, but one of the beauties of free speech is that allows people to speak foolishly.

But I wonder how many of these folks are proud of John Kerry today, after his revealing comments of yesterday. Kerry, appearing at a campaign event for Phil Angelides in California, said that people who don't get education (as he understands it) "end up in Iraq." There are a few ways to parse this - the most charitable is that he is taking a shot at George W. Bush, his fellow Yalie. But a less charitable sort might see this as the same old condescending shot at the soldiers that liberals like Kerry like to imagine they are defending. If so, it's a decided insult to many men and women who have served with distinction in this war. And my guess is that the second interpretation is the one that is going to stick. And it could bite Kerry and the Democrats in the ass with a week to go in this election cycle.

I'm always struck by the arrogance of the left. Thomas Sowell has written extensively about this topic and one of his books is titled "The Vision of the Anointed." Kerry is a classic example of this sort of thing - he is a bright fellow and he is a polished if pompous public speaker. Still, he seems to say these arrogant things at inopportune moments. We tend to call this sort of thing a "gaffe," which denotes a mistake, but which really means "a moment of unguarded truth." The real John Kerry believes that soldiers are generally suckers and that he must support the troops by removing them from combat missions and redeploying them to do armed social work, perhaps in Darfur or East Timor. But Kerry can't say that openly. Unless he slips, like he did yesterday.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Over the weekend recap

It’s all moving quickly now, so let’s take a quick review.

Dilettante Family Football was a decidedly mixed bag over the weekend. Both the mighty Xavier Hawks and the redoubtable Washburn Millers were unceremoniously dumped in their respect state high school playoffs, with the Hawks getting a 41-7 dismissal by Wrightstown and the Millers falling to Holy Angels, 21-14. So it goes, I guess. Meanwhile, as expected, the Beloit Buccaneers suffered a 37-7 thrashing at the hands of St. Norbert, while the Badgers escaped with a 30-24 win over upset-minded Illinois. Meanwhile, the Packers continued their convalescence in style, scoring an easy 31-14 win over the eternally hapless Arizona Cardinals. Denny Green’s Desert Redbirds are who we thought they were – a very poor team.

It’s status quo on the election front with only 8 days left. Karl Rove is confident and everyone else is confident that Karl Rove is wrong. So, who do you believe?

I caught a little of the latest appearance of Bill O’Reilly on David Letterman’s show on Friday night. The last time O’Reilly was on, he got his butt handed to him, but not this time. Letterman seemed cranky and out of sorts, unable to answer the questions that O’Reilly posed about the war and his understanding of things. One of the biggest problems that a lot of lefties (and Dave, God love him, is a lefty) have is that they aren’t used to being challenged on their beliefs. Most of what passes for good conversation in a cocktail party doesn’t necessarily hold up under scrutiny. When Letterman said “you’re putting words in my mouth, just like you put artificial facts in your head” to O’Reilly, you could tell that Dave didn’t have an answer and you got a glimpse of the intellectual laziness involved. Bill O’Reilly has, for better or worse, thought hard about a lot of topics. While a wise ruler keeps a jester around, the jester is usually not put in charge of foreign policy. We got an excellent glimpse of why on Friday night.

The Cardinals finished off the Tigers with relative ease on Friday night, too, adding an appropriate end to a strange but wondrous baseball season. The Cardinals really struggled down the stretch, almost missing out of the playoffs entirely with an 83-79 record. But they got hot in the playoffs and dispatched the Padres, Mets and Tigers. Tony LaRussa’s squad hit well, pitched great and gave the world a great role model in David Eckstein, the Series MVP. Eckstein is a tiny fellow, but he is a gamer. I have been involved in coaching Little League baseball ever since my son started playing and all the coaches who have been stressing fundamentals and how talent alone will not get you there now have Exhibit A, driving around in a brand new yellow Corvette (the MVP prize Eckstein received).

Friday, October 27, 2006

Dilettante Football Update

Games we care about 'round here:

Appleton Xavier at Wrightstown: will the mighty Hawks meet their maker? I understand from my cheesehead spies that Wrightstown is loaded.

Holy Angels at Minneapolis Washburn: the fearsome Millers step up in class against the alma mater of Larry Fitzgerald and John Stocco. Should be fun. A win would likely mean a grudge match against Benilde-St. Margaret.

Illinois at Wisconsin: Ron Zook is starting to see some progress down in Champaign, but the Badgers should win this easily if they aren't looking ahead.

Cardinals at Packers: More chicken soup for the Pack, after a nice soothing bowl in South Florida. The Cards have talent but they are the Cards. Could this be the game that gets Denny Green fired? Stay tuned.

Patriots at Vikings: Mrs. Dilettante is thinking this will be a lot of fun. I'm thinking she's right, as usual. The win at Seattle was impressive, but this should be more telling.

I don't know who Beloit College is playing this weekend, but I don't think it matters much - they have been roadkill all season and there's no reason to think they won't hold serve.

Enjoy your football, y'all!

Still measuring the drapes

Another day, another round of stories about how the Democrats are destined to sweep those nasty Republicans out of their sinecures on Capitol Hill. Now we're hearing that this could be a bigger sweep than 1994 and that those Republicans had better watch out because they'll find their belongings floating in the Potomac, the voters are so intent on punishing their bad sins. I can almost hear the band cueing up "Happy Days are Here Again," not heard much in the past 15 years.

Oh, glorious victory! Oh, excitement! Oh, bliss! Cue the Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, showing Amy Klobuchar leading Mark Kennedy 62-34! Throw a bucket of water on Michele Bachmann, the Wicked Witch of the East! It's over, I tell you! It's over! Don't bother voting, you silly Republicans, your masters have betrayed you and you'll only be crushed by the Juggernaut that's coming down the path! These are the days of miracle and wonder - don't cry baby, don't cry, don't cry.

It had better happen. If it doesn't, I'll need a canoe to ford the streets of Minneapolis, to escape the torrent of tears emanating from the Star Tribune building, and WCCO-TV, and every place else. Is it time to place a discreet call to FEMA for flood insurance? Naaahhh. It's in the bag. Don't worry, y'all. Happy Days Are Here Again! Keep telling yourself and it has to come true.

Motor City Kitties Throwing It Away

First it was Joel Zumaya, then it was Fernando Rodney. Twice now Detroit Tiger relief pitchers have made plays that would have earned the scorn of any coach in Shoreview Area Youth Baseball. I should know, since I've been one. If you saw last night's game, you are aware that Fernando Rodney fielded a routine ground ball, threw to first and launched the ball about 20 feet over the first baseman's head, setting up a Cardinal rally that turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead, as the Cardinals eventually went on to win by the score of 5-4. Previously, Zumaya made a bizarre decision, fielding an attempted sacrifice bunt and trying to pick off the lead runner at 3rd base. Problem was, the third baseman wasn't there yet, since he wasn't expecting the throw.

So now the Cardinals, who staggered into the playoffs with an 83-79 record, are one win away from winning the 2006 World Series. In fairness, the Cardinals are a far better team than their record would indicate, but the playoffs this year have been full of surprises. Unless the Tigers figure out basic baseball, it looks like the most unlikely result of all will happen.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


Had an interesting e-mail exchange with a former colleague of mine today. He told me that, as a United Way fundraiser, some of his co-workers were planning to deliver Candygrams. My former colleague asked what I thought was a sensible question - whether or not the candygram would be delivered by a landshark*. He received "a sea of blank faces" as a resposne, along with the sneaking suspicion that he's getting old. For the record, I believe my former colleague is about the same age as I am. So he can rest assured that he is old.

Hey nineteen, that's (A)retha Frankin/She don't remember the Queen of Soul/Hard Times befalling Soul Survivors/She thinks I'm crazy, but I'm just growing old.

Thus sang Donald Fagen, way back in 1980, about a similar dilemma. Popular culture being what it is now, I'd guess that a nineteen year old woman of today would have a better chance of knowing Aretha Franklin than the love/lust interest that Fagen chronicled. People do get second chances now - I even saw Sam Moore is out performing again, 40 years after his glory years as the front half of Sam and Dave. But it is unnerving to think that something you remember well is falling down the memory hole.

This sensation, noticing your own obsolescence, is part of why the Beloit College Mindset List is always such a crowd pleaser when my alma mater trots it out each August. We have an older population now and one that is especially insistent in clinging to its own nostalgia. Living in the age of MP3s and DVDs also means that we can have our memories pretty much on demand. Back in 1980, it would have been quite possible for a young woman not to know who Aretha Franklin was. Aretha wasn't on the radio much then. Today, you can hear her by accident a half-dozen times during the course of a day. True story - in 1980, I didn't know who Marvin Gaye was. I only discovered him once I went to college, even though he was still actively recording throughout his life. Today, I own several albums with Marvin's music and can get anything he ever recorded with just a few keystrokes.

So we are getting older, but we can shape our experiences in ways that were unimaginable in 1980. Even if our experience doesn't include a landshark.

*If you still don't know what a landshark is, it refers to a bit on the original Saturday Night Live program, where a "landshark" attacked various victims by pretending to be a messenger, or plumber, or by delivering "candygrams." I still smile when I think about the bit, even if no one else remembers it. Who knows, maybe in 2035 no one will understand why "I need more cowbell" is so funny, either.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Dilettante Family Football Scoreboard

Results from yesterday's playoff games:

In Minnesota:

Minneapolis Washburn 54, Minneapolis Edison 12

The Millers roll on as the top seed in 4A Section 5.

In Wisconsin:

Appleton Xavier 35, Park Falls/Butternut/Glidden/Mercer 14

In the Xavier game, it appears that its opponent was stymied by a surfeit of slash marks. Next assignment is hated Wrightstown.

Watch this space for further updates!

What happens if

  1. Those Democrats win the House? The republic will not collapse. In some respects, having a defined adversary in one or more branches of Congress would probably work to the GOP advantage in some respects. One of the reason that the Democrats have been able to gain ground, at least rhetorically, in this election cycle is that they can plausibly claim that they don't have any say in what is going on in the government. Putting Nancy Pelosi's face on the Congress would probably help George Bush, because I believe that the Democratic party has been essentially laying in the weeds. They don't have to push a specific agenda right now; all they have to do is ostentatiously point out "we're not responsible." And they don't have to explain what their solution is. And not surprisingly, they haven't. A lot of people have decided they aren't going to listen to George Bush any more. But they will listen to Pelosi if she becomes Speaker. And that might be the worst result for the Democrats.
  2. The Democrats fail to win? That's actually a more interesting question, since it would represent something approaching an existential crisis for the Party of Government. Things will never be more advantageous than now and the Democrats continue to benefit from an incredible MSM echo chamber and the enconia of the people who buy their ink by the barrel. For the past six years, there has been a relentless drumbeat of bad news that various people have tied, to varying degrees, around the neck of George W. Bush. Bush's approval rating, as we are reminded daily, is something like -3000%. In fact, dead people, animals and most plants hate George W. Bush, too. Yet, somehow, his political party may still end up pulling this out. If your opponent is as universally hated as George W. Bush is purported to be, and you still lose, what does that say about you? If I were a Democrat, I sure wouldn't want to answer that question.

Patty doubles down on dishonesty

If Patty Wetterling ends up in Washington, I sincerely hope she’ll take a deep look at what she did to get there. If she wins her contest against Michele Bachmann, her victory will come with the unmistakable patina of shame. I have been observing politics for a long time now and I’ve never seen a politician cling to a specific, demonstrable lie harder than Patty Wetterling. And that includes Bill Clinton.

The lie in this case is the claim that she has made about her opponent, Michele Bachmann. Wetterling claimed that Bachmann supports the imposition of a 23% national sales tax. Bachmann has never said that she would impose such a tax. The idea of a national sales tax is something that hasn’t gotten much past the theory stage, but in every version I’ve seen it would work like this. A 23% tax would indeed be imposed on most purchases, but (crucially) not food. The tax would replace the federal income tax entirely. And in most versions I’ve seen, each taxpayer would get a rebate check from Uncle Sam equal to 23% of the first $35,000 of income earned, or about $8,050. You will get serious debate whether it would work, but it would likely mean that most people would pay less taxes than they do now. And it would also mean that the cost of the federal government would be pretty easy to calculate. But at this point it’s an idea and I strongly suspect we’ll never see this implemented in our lifetimes. There are too many people who benefit from the current tax system and such people have a lot of power. Complexity is a boon to tax lawyers, accountants and IRS agents, to say nothing of those in government who prefer that the true cost of government be hidden in an incomprehensible thicket of laws and regulations.

Bachmann, like a lot of people who think about these things, would be interested in looking at whether or not such a taxing regime would work. But no one, including Bachmann, would ever impose such a tax in addition to the current tax structure. When Wetterling ran her first ad on this topic, she claimed that Bachmann wanted to impose a 23% sales tax immediately. That is a lie, because it not only misstates the truth, but it also a deliberate misstatement. Most commentators, including those who would prefer that Wetterling win, pointed out that the ad was, at minimum, misleading, but Wetterling has continued to run the ad despite nearly universal condemnation.

But now Wetterling has doubled down. She has started running a new ad, which repeats the same lie. Featuring the usual attack ad elements (spooky music, a picture of Bachmann that makes her look like a fugitive from Madame Tussaud’s), there’s the lie, repeated again. And she continues to beat the dead horse that is Mark Foley, even though she has been called out on national television about the dishonesty of another ad on that topic that stated that a half dozen representatives had covered up for Foley, none of which she could or would name. That is a tactic that I, as the son of a town that sent Joe McCarthy to Washington, can recognize.

Bachmann is hardly the ideal candidate. She is a Holy Roller type and her ambition is palpable. There's a faint whiff of the Stepford Wife in her. And as a Catholic, I have mild concern about her membership in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, whose members tend to be polite but virulently anti-Catholic. I would have strongly preferred that Phil Krinkie (a hard-nosed, notoriously green eyeshade Republican) or Jim Knoblach (a bright if vanilla Republican) had been the Republican candidate in the 6th CD. But Wetterling has run a disgraceful campaign and it would be a bad thing if the voters would reward her mendacity with a seat in Congress. Patty Wetterling has made enormous contributions to the public discussion as a child safety advocate, and she has faced the loss of her son Jacob with grace and dignity. But she’s throwing that legacy away right now. It is a sad, almost tragic spectacle.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Scenes from a weekend

An interesting weekend with lots of things happening. Here are a few of them:

  • I first learned how to play cribbage when my dad taught me the game in the early 70s. I've probably played the game for about 35 years now, but I never played in a game with a perfect hand before. Until Saturday, that is, when I dealt my son a perfect hand. He got three fives and the Jack of clubs, then the five of clubs was cut. A perfect hand in cribbage is a lot like a hole in one in golf. You have to have enough skill to make the play, but there's a lot of luck involved. The odds of a perfect hand are about 2.85 million to one and Ben got it. Pretty neat and, needless to say, he's absolutely thrilled about it.
  • I think you can make the argument that the Badgers are good. Bucky put together another impressive Big Ten beatdown on Saturday, strolling into West Lafayette and giving the home-standing Purdue Boilermakers a pretty thorough 24-3 thrashing. This Badgers team is smart and resourceful, and their latest running back, P. J. Hill, looks like a cross between Ron Dayne and Greg Pruitt. The Badgers have one tough road trip left, to Iowa City, but otherwise they have winnable games. An 11-1 record and a return trip to Orlando look like a pretty good bet right now.
  • Did you notice that the Packers actually won yesterday? Yep, it was in all the papers. The Pack finally got off the schneid in Miami, beating the Dolphins 34-24. I think that the Packers should make arrangements to have all their opponents start Joey Harrington, by the way. Nice win and it takes some of the gloom and stench off the precedings. Now, the Pack has to win one at Lambeau. And, just in time, arrive the perennially lousy Arizona Cardinals, who have not won in Green Bay since the probably the Eisenhower administration. Can you say winning streak? In 2006, yet? Maybe.
  • Two games into World Series now, it looks like a good one is brewing. The Cardinals probably have their best chance on Tuesday, when they put their ace (Chris Carpenter) up against Nate Robertson, the most pedestrian of the Tiger starters. Robertson is pretty good, mind you - he'd be in the starting rotation of any team in the league and might even be a number one in a few places, but he doesn't have the intimidation factor that some of his colleagues do. One thing we've learned, however - the Cardinals aren't intimidated by anyone. When you have Albert Pujols on your side, you have a chance. But I still like the Tigers in six.
  • Can I get through an entire post without mentioning politics? Yes - if I stop now. So I will.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The levy was dry

Along with everything else we've had to endure during this seemingly endless political season, we are also having to deal with yet another levy vote in the Mounds View School District. This is the fourth time the district has gone to the voters for more money in the last decade. They have been successful twice, once for a capital expenditure levy, another time for an operating levy. Another time, they were shot down. Now they're back, again, asking for more money.

I'm torn about this. Of course we have two children who are currently attending schools in the district and the extra money will help. But, at the same time, there is no question that the impact of teachers' union contracts and some questionable spending choices has made the financial situation of the district than it might be otherwise. As usual, the school district has released a list of especially draconian cuts should the levy not pass (CLOSE THE POOLS! NO BAND FOR YOU! CLASS SIZES AVERAGING 3,455!). And they would probably make those cuts, too, because between 70-80% of available monies are tied to salaries.

But at the same time, I have neighbors who live on fixed incomes. They have paid for their homes and supported the school district with their property taxes for up to 40 years now. And some of them may be forced from these modest homes if property taxes continue to rise. And when they are forced from these homes, there's not been much evidence that families with children are moving into these houses. Instead, young families seem to be moving further out, to places like Lino Lakes, Andover, Hugo, etc.

So what do we do? If the levy pases, it will mean that our property taxes will go up about $200-250 next year. But it will likely be more than that, as the city and the county will be increasing their levies as well. It's getting to be a squeeze, but it's a necessary one. Everyone loves lots of government services, but people love to have someone else pay for them even more. And the days when Wayzata and North Oaks residents would subsidize the rest of us through draconian state income taxes are gone.

My guess is that the levy will pass, but it will be close. And, truth be told, I hope the vote is really close. The district, the unions, and those who have driven up costs with an endless ratchet need to understand that the day of reckoning is coming. It may even arrive this election cycle.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A few sports thoughts

Random observations:

  • The Badgers have an opportunity this weekend to make a big statement. They are off to West Lafayette to play the Purdue Boilermakers, who have been a pretty solid program since the arrival of Joe Tiller ten years ago. The Badgers have won a few times down there, but generally it's been a challenge. If the Badgers can beat Purdue, they have only one more tough road test left, at Iowa City, with three winnable home games against Illinois, Penn State and hated Buffalo. Could this be an 11-win season? It's possible.
  • Koren Robinson finally ran out of appeals and he is now out of the NFL for at least one year. It's a sad story and I hope he can get the help he needs. I still wonder if Green Bay is a good place for a recovering alcoholic, though.
  • The NLCS has been pretty darned good and the performance of the St. Louis Cardinals surely indicates that getting to the playoffs may be all you need. The Cards really stumbled down the stretch and looked like a barely competent squad, but they've played quite well and if they win tonight, will be in the World Series. Way back at the beginning of the season, I suggested that Albert Pujols might be the best player in baseball. I'm standing by that assertion. As long as he remains in the St. Louis, the Redbirds will be a contender.
  • Let's give a cheer to Mrs. Dilettante's alma mater, mighty Washburn High School. The Millers took the City Championship with a convincing 42-13 thrashing of St. Paul Johnson yesterday. Although the balance of power in high school sports has swung decisively to the suburbs, the kids who play sports in the city schools work hard and produce some good results.

Ugly time

Lotsa stuff flying around these days in the various Minnesota political campaigns. What is remarkable is the amount of vitriol and hatred that's in the air. If you want a look at the mood, I'd suggest you go over to the Star Tribune website (www.startribune.com) and look at the blogs, especially the blog by political writer Eric Black, and the one by metro columnist Katherine Kersten. Blog sites can be a wide-ranging place and the internet generally has been a free-fire zone, but it is simply amazing to see the raw anger and invective that's on display there. Kersten's new blog is especially amazing - her blog has been in business for about a week now and every time she posts a thing, a coterie of lefties immediately swarm to the post and post ad hominem comments. Kersten is an odd columnist - she's essentially a movement conservative who has spent a lot of time in the the world of think tanks, but she really engenders a lot of rage for some reason.

And I think that's really the story of this election cycle - people talk about passion and motivation for voters, but what I'm seeing is rage. There are really a lot of very angry people right now. The ads that the candidates have been running, especially in the Wetterling/Bachmann and Klobuchar/Kennedy races, have been just vicious. The Hatch/Pawlenty race is getting nasty, too. It's difficult to say what's going to happen, although I suspect that the winners will be Bachmann, Klobuchar and Pawlenty. I've always thought the concept of Minnesota Nice was somewhat specious, but it's pretty much gone, now.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Loose ends

Time to tidy up after a nice fall weekend.
  • Looks like the Badgers are even better than I thought, and the Gophers are worse. Bucky put a 48-12 beatdown on the Gophs that was as thoroughgoing as it was impressive. P. J. Hill appears to be a worthy heir to the mantle of Dayne, Davis and Calhoun, while the Badger defense consistently stifled what had been a productive Minnesota offense. Things look good for Bucky, but they get a good and interesting test next, traveling to Purdue to face the always dangerous Boilermakers. I haven't seen enough of Purdue this year to have much of a feel for them, but they have pretty much won the games they were expected to and have lost the games they were expected to. That means a typical Purdue team and a tough assignment. If Bielema's boys are up to it, a really nice season (10+ wins) is possible.
  • Mark Kennedy needed a knockout on the Meet the Press debate this weekend, but he didn't get it. Darling Amy Klobuchar continues her easy path to the Senate. I'm increasingly convinced that she is pretty much an empty suit, but that appears to be enough this year, especially with her opponent's angry nerd persona pretty much taking any sympathy away from his generally sensible views. I still believe John Kline was the better candidate for the job, but so it goes. And, for what it's worth, even if Klobuchar is an empty suit, she'll be an improvement over Mark Dayton. Any random reader of this blog would be an improvement over Dayton.
  • Meanwhile, we have an interesting race at a much more local level. I live in Minnesota House district 50B, which has long been a swing district. The current incumbent, Char Samuelson, decided to retire and we are in the midst of a pretty lively race. The Republican nominee is Lori Grivna, well known to voters as a long time member of the Mounds View school board. Her opponent is Kate Knuth, daughter of a previous 50B representative and, at 25, the dictionary definition of an earnest, fresh-faced young lefty. Knuth has never had a job outside of academia and points with pride to her Fulbright grant to study something environmental in Norway. I have a very good friend who also earned a Fulbright, to study forestry in Sweden. My friend was smart enough to understand, as the Swedes now apparently do, that socialism is not really a growth industry. Young Kate seems to believe otherwise, based on some of her more addled pronouncements. If you've ever spent time on a liberal arts campus, you'll recognize the type -- earnest, energetic, clad in birkenstocks and North Face gear, angry at the world she knows from living off trust funds and honoraria. There are literally thousands of such young women on American campuses; mostly, they grow out of this sort of thing and, in about 20 years, evolve into someone who's a lot like Lori Grivna - suburban, minivan-bound, generally sensible and vaguely liberal, at least in public. Yet, somehow, Knuth seems to be ahead in the race, despite her obvious inexperience and her quintessentially bubble-brained ideas. Grivna should be winning this race easily, but she's quite likely to lose. I'm not sure why, but her campaign has not caught fire, even though she has been a proven vote getter in the district on a number of occasions. My guess is that she could have, and probably should have, run as a moderate Democrat, since that is what she really is. Which proves, I think, something fundamental about politics. When faced with a choice between a liberal and someone who's not quite as liberal, but unwilling to argue against liberal premises, people will choose the authentic liberal. And Kate has better looking lawn signs, too.
  • My son and I have a fantasy football team and we are kicking butt. Here's our current roster: quarterbacks are Tom Brady and Mark Bulger; running backs are Tiki Barber, Willie Parker, Frank Gore and Dominic Rhodes; wideouts are Donald Driver, Lee Evans, Santana Moss and Brandon Stokely; tight ends are Todd Heap and Jermaine Wiggins; kickers are Matt Stover and Josh Scobee; defenses are the Giants and the Chargers. We are scoring well over 100 points every week. And you don't want to mess with us. My son will likely be interviewing for the soon-to-be-vacant Detroit Lions GM job sooner than later....

Friday, October 13, 2006

Gatling snark

Quick, crude and nasty - here we go:

  • Air America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today. They had filed for intellectual bankruptcy from their inception, of course, but the creditors are apparently getting tired of waiting to get paid back. Some credit goes to my fellow Beloit alum Evan Montvel-Cohen for his bizzaro financing schemes (all Al Franken had to do was to ask me and I could have filled him in about EMC), but there's a limit to how much audience something like this would have. And we're finding out now.
  • So Ted Kennedy went a-campaigning in Christopher Shay's district in Connecticut recently and started in on the Foley scandal, especially concerning Dennis Hastert. Shays had the temerity to mention Chappaquiddick, saying something like "Dennis Hastert never killed anyone." Oooh, that hurt. Memo to DNC: if you want to bruit about scandals generally, and sex scandals in particular, don't send Ted.
  • Word of Shays' shot reached the increasingly tiresome Don Shelby, who used his daily commentary slot on the WCCO news to decry Shays for a lack of civility. Don is apparently much more bothered by Shays's mentioning of Chappaquiddick than he is of what Ted Kennedy did (and, more importantly, didn't) 36 years ago. As always, Mary Jo Kopechne was unavailable for comment.
  • There's been an interesting discussion going on between Star Tribune political reporter Eric Black and Hugh Hewitt, the former Justic Department lawyer/Reagan operative turned talk show host. Black has appeared on Hewitt's show twice in the past week to discuss the propriety of the scurrilous ads that Patty Wetterling has been running. It's been pretty fascinating stuff. Black is a good guy and tries to be fair, but he is a liberal, of course, though he's loath to admit it. There are transcripts at www.radioblogger.com; they are worth a look.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A few quick snark shots

Not much time to post recently; I am working on something that I hope to have finished in the coming days. Meanwhile:
  • Kim Jong Il apparently trumps Mark Foley. Things that matter may end up being discussed after all in this election cycle.
  • I'm still amazed that the Star Tribune decided to run a piece on Alan Fine, the Republican longshot in MN-5, having been charged with assault by his now ex-wife in 1995. The charge was dropped and the record was expunged last year. That means, as a matter of law, it never happened. But it still merited front-page coverage. Meanwhile, Fine's opponent, Keith Ellison, is facing charges from 2005. But you wouldn't know that if you read the Star Tribune.
  • Placido Polanco may be the American League MVP. While he was out of the lineup, the Detroit Tigers fell into a prolonged slump that allowed the Twins to win a pennant. Now that he's back, the Tigers look like a favorite to win the World Series.

More soon!

Monday, October 09, 2006

The problem that didn't go away

So it looks like Kim Jong Il has crashed the nuclear party. He presides over a squalid totalitarian state that has nothing, except for nuclear weapons. Its citizens are starving and only those who take up arms for the regime can expect food. This is not good.

Suppose we could play the blame game. That damned W dropped the ball! No, it was Clinton, who dropped his pants! No, it was the feckless U.N., with their resolutions that Kim treated as toilet paper! It was all of the above! It was none of the above! It was Mark Foley!

Upshot (and I use that term advisedly) - it doesn't matter. What does matter is that a crazy man apparently has nuclear weapons. Sting once famously worried if "the Russians love their children, too." Not surprisingly, the Russians did and still do. I'm not so sure about Kim Jong Il. And our options are pretty limited - it's not as if we can send Jack Bauer or James Bond or even James Baker over there. This has been a long time coming and everyone involved has been pretty feckless. And now the largest blackmail campaign ever begins.

Badger badger badger badger

Sometimes you have to write about positive things. So, let's talk about those Badgers.

Things are looking up for the Badgers. They have managed to post consecutive routs of Big Ten bottom feeders Indiana and Northwestern, and now a downcast Minnesota Gopher team is coming to Madison for next week's game. The Gophers are a better team than their record would indicate, but it's difficult to see how they will right the ship against the Badgers this week.

Bucky seems to have finally found, nearly ten years on, the new Ron Dayne. Redshirt freshman P. J. Hill is a bruising back with pretty good speed. Hill put up some Dayne-like numbers against Northwestern over the weekend, rushing for 249 yards. He checks in at 242 pounds, somewhat lighter than Dayne, but he is also a punishing runner. In the recent past, the Badgers have offered scatback types as their featured back; both Brian Calhoun and Anthony Davis were excellent college running backs, but they were pretty small and took a lot of punishment during their careers.

Meanwhile, the defense seems to be playing well. Bret Bielema came to Madison with a reputation as an excellent defensive coach and strategist; it appears that for the most part, he has lived up to that reputation. Where the Badgers have had trouble is when the opponent has had vastly superior physical talent; Michigan's Mario Manningham torched the Badgers during their only loss of the season, but Manningham is torching everyone right now, including such worthies as Notre Dame and Michigan State.

Meanwhile, the Gophers played a fine game against Penn State, only to lose in overtime because of a botched extra point and a questionable pass interference penalty. The Gophs do have a veteran quarterback and their usual stable of Big Ten-quality runners and blockers, but they have not been stout on defense. And that, ultimately, will be their undoing in Madison this weekend. It could be a wild one, but I suspect the Badgers should win it pretty easily in the end, with a score of something like 41-24.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Gone in a flash

So much fun, gone so soon. The Twins were barely in the playoffs long enough to get the license number of the green and gold bus that ran them over. It was quick, not especially merciful, and an odd coda to what had been a magical season. A few thoughts:

  • As readers of this feature know, my boyhood baseball hero was Roberto Clemente. I think I have a new hero - Brad Radke. It's really astonishing what Radke did down the stretch; he was pitching with a broken shoulder. Two years ago, Curt Schilling of the Red Sox gained national fame for pitching with an ankle injury that left blood on his sock; that blood was the emblem, the red badge of courage, that will forever mark his career. Radke was trying to do something much more difficult. And despite his short outing on Friday, he was magnificent. He can sit on his fishing boat now secure in the knowledge that he was the most inspiring player of this and many other years.
  • It will be an interesting off-season. Will the Twins keep Torii Hunter? Will the Twins pony up some big green to lock up Justin Morneau for the long term? Will the Twins be able to find another starting pitcher or two, and maybe another big bat, to make another run next year? They should be able to. Terry Ryan has been very resourceful with a lot fewer resources, but logic dictates that ol' Carl Pohlad should open the vaults a bit and give Ryan a chance to do something more substantive.

Thank you, Twins. It's been a fun year. And now, back to other matters.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Foley's Catheter

All week, we've been watching the waste drain out in the Mark Foley case. It's been a regular festival of recriminations. Five days in, what can we conclude:

  1. Garrison Keillor may be a partisan hack when it comes to his predictable left-wing politics, but he has an eye for the writerly detail that's hard not to admire. Keillor once referred to House Speaker Dennis Hastert as a "shambling galoot," which is, to use a French term, le mot juste. I don't think Hastert is a bad guy, and I'm guessing that he is telling the truth about what he knew and when he knew it, but he's about as unimpressive a spokesman as you could find. He has no shot at winning what's becoming a p.r. battle.
  2. It's very interesting that the Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times, which both had some of the e-mails that Foley sent, decided not to pursue the story initially. Apparently both newspapers felt that the story was not newsworthy.
  3. There is clearly a distinction between the e-mails that Foley sent and the instant messages that he sent. The IMs are apparently where the x-rates stuff comes in. It's curious that so many of the accounts of this episode have conflated the two things. Writers in this era certainly know the differences and the distinctions and you would think that the distinctions are important to the story.
  4. It will be very interesting to see what the self-appointed scourge of Minnesota politicians, WCCO reporter Pat Kessler, says tonight about the ad that Patty Wetterling has been running about the case. Wetterling's ad claims two very specific things: that Congressional leaders have admitted to a cover-up; and that Foley "molested" children. Neither claim is true, of course; Congressional leaders (presumably Hastert et al.) have not admitted to anything like a coverup, nor would they. And sending x-rated IMs to pages is horrible, stupid, gross, despicable and many other adjectives. But it's not "molesting," at least as the term is generally understood. Kessler has promised a "Reality Check" - if he does not note those two realities, he's clearly not interested in reality.
  5. If I were a "Congressional leader," I'd be getting ready to up the ante. I'd demand that everyone in Congress turn over every e-mail and captured IM the Members have produced since, say, 1995, and then turn it over to the FBI for investigation. I'm willing to wager that Mark Foley is not the only Member who thinks too much about his member.

Dome Arigato

So say the Oakland Athletics, who have taken it to the Twins in the first two games of the ALDS. The Twins now head out to Oakland for two must win games, with a pitcher with a broken shoulder being all that stands between them and the end of a magical season.

How did it happen? Chances are good you saw the highlights. The Twins have not hit well at all during the series, with only three solo home runs and a scratched-out, too little too late Game 1 run, to show for 18 opportunities against the A's pitching staff. Johan Santana and Boof Bonser both pitched well enough to win, but neither did. Meanwhile, Torii Hunter's miscalculation on Mark Kotsay's sinking liner in Game 2 serves as an appropriate emblem for the series thus far - close, but not close enough.

So can the Twins come back? Sure. The A's have choked before, losing series after taking 2-0 leads against both the Yankees and the Red Sox. The last game is usually the most difficult one to win. The Twins have been resourceful all season and have had to play like a playoff team since Memorial Day.

A few hunches:

  • Someone unexpected will deliver a key blow in the next game. Someone like, say, Phil Nevin.
  • Radke will be heroic. He may have only one start left in his arm, but he's such a gamer that I wouldn't bet against him.
  • Danny Haren is a good pitcher, but he's inconsistent. And someone on the Twins is going to get him early on.

There's a psychic toll here for the Twins; how many times can a group of individuals go to the well? We'll find out soon enough.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A bad year for Foleys

It's getting hard to keep up with all the miscreants named Foley. First there was Fran "Faux" Foley, erstwhile Vikings executive with the upholstered resume and the anger management issues. Now we have Mark Foley, erstwhile congressman with a predeliction for abusing power through unsubtle electronic come-ons. What do we learn from this latest episode?

  • The Republican leadership in the House is not exactly on top of its game. If Foley's behavior was fairly common knowledge, which apparently it was, he should have been bounced out many years ago. Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, but those who would be seen as virtuous need to walk the talk.
  • The Democrats are pretty silly pretending to be concerned about this, considering how they closed ranks behind Gerry Studds (who actually did what Foley wrote about), Bill Clinton and Barney Frank, among others. It's awfully difficult to take any Democrat preaching morality at face value at this late date.
  • This campaign is already plenty dirty. And I would bet that we'll see a lot more of this sort of thing. Both sides are desperate and desperate people generally act accordingly.
  • Some day, when this campaign dies down and we've moved on other things, we ought to spend some time thinking about why so much of our politics is driven by the use and misuse of male genitalia. I don't want to go all Andrea Dworkin here, but I think it's really an issue, but not necessarily in the way most people think about it. But that's another post.

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Sunday to remember

I first became interested in baseball when I was about six years old; that would have been the 1970 season, the year Brooks Robinson completely dominated the World Series. The following year, 1971, I can vividly remember going to my grandmother's house (she had color t.v.) to watch Roberto Clemente cavort over the fields of Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Roberto became my hero, because he could do everything. Since those days, I've seen, played and coached a lot of baseball games. But I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like October 1, 2006.

As the day began, the Twins were kicking themselves; they had been given two remarkable gifts from the Kansas City Royals, but were in the process of losing two games to the hated White Sox. Amazingly, the TC Men still had an opportunity to win the AL Central pennant as the day began, but it was difficult to imagine that the lowly Royals would actually sweep the mighty Tigers in Detroit, on the last day of the season. Sure enough, the early reports from Motown were discouraging, as the Tigers jumped to a 6-0 lead over a team that had lost over 100 games. Meanwhile, the Twins had to beat the White Sox one last time to have a chance.

The Twins faced the enigmatic Javier Vasquez, a talented White Sox righthander who had struggled down the stretch after a fabulous start. The Twins brought out Carlos Silva, who has become the dictionary definition of inconsistent and who can rightly be regarded as the only disappointment in what has been a remarkable season. Somehow, the magic continued. The heart of the Twins lineup, Mauer and Morneau, managed to get key hits. Then Torii Hunter, at 30 the eminence grise of the Twins lineup, launched a Vasquez pitch deep into the left field bleachers. The celebration began. Meanwhile, Silva held firm, holding the Whities to only a handful of hits in a solid performance. Meanwhile, the Twins bullpen, best in baseball, shut the door on Ozzie Guillen's squad for the rest of the way. The Twins had done their part, winning 5-1. The pressure was on the Tigers, who were in cruise control with a 6-3 lead.

Then a funny thing happened. The Royals rallied and tied the score. The fans, who had witnessed the Twins victory on the Metrodome field, stayed in the stands and watched the Royals and the Tigers battle on the Jumbotron screens. The Royals took an 8-7 lead, somehow. Could this miracle happen?

Doubt creeped in as Tiger slugger Brandon Inge blasted a late home run. Now it was tied, and the Royal bullpen, kerosene merchants of the first order, were in charge of the Twins' fate. But somehow the collection of ragtag arms that had made up the worst overall staff in the American League began to stiffen. The game remained tied and extra innings ensued.

By now, the Twins players were watching too, crowding around their dugout and looking at the giant images above their heads. Some 30,000 fans remained in their seats, the day's contest long past, without vendors or other entertainment, simply watching the events unfold. And the Royals held on, through the 10th inning and onto the 11th, where they withstood a Detroit rally that had the bases loaded with only one out. Then on to the 12th, facing Kenny Rogers, the irascible lefthander who had started the All-Star game for the American League this season. And somehow, Rogers faltered, giving up two runs to the Kansas Citians, surrendering to the likes of Joey Gathright and Esteban German.

The Royals sent out someone named Jimmy Gobble to pitch the 12th. He retired the Tigers with minimal incident and suddenly, the celebration was on. The Twins, who had never been in 1st place all season, were, on the last possible day, finally there alone. A pennant would fly over the Metrodome again. And, most of all, the dread Yankees were forestalled.

It's an awful long way from Roberto Clemente to Jimmy Gobble. But each has made magic for this fan. One of the wonders of baseball is that you can actually see something like this happen. In football, you don't see that many upsets. If the Michigan Wolverines face the Minnesota Gophers, most of the time you can guess what will happen. But you never can tell with baseball. And as this magical 2006 campaign rolls on, there's so much more ahead. I can't wait.