Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Bargain Bulletins

Let's start with an anecdote.

We've set the Wayback Machine for the winter of 1979. Those of you who are old enough to remember this particular winter will recall that it was nasty. Lots of snow and very cold - the kind of winter that makes me think fondly of global warming. I had just turned 15 and was a sophomore in high school. Like a lot of kids similarly situated, I had a paper route, delivering the Bargain Bulletin, a weekly shopper that had little or no editorial content, just a lot of classified ads. Essentially, it was Craigslist on dead tree. My route consisted of approximately 250 homes in my neighborhood, near Alicia Park in lovely Appleton, Wisconsin. For delivering these papers, I received the princely sum of about $10 a week. I subcontracted part of my route to one of my brothers, who was responsible for delivering about 50 of the papers, for which I paid him about $2. At some point, my brother made a discovery; since there was a lot of snow that winter, he could just as easily bury his papers in the park and pocket the money, since most people in the neighborhood considered the Bargain Bulletin to be little more than litter. So that's what he did. Meanwhile, I would trudge through the snow and deliver my 200 or so papers to the rest of the neighborhood.

When the snow melted, my brother's perfidy was discovered and I nearly was fired, although somehow I managed to talk my way out of the problem. I'm guessing that the Bulletin didn't have anyone to replace me, so they put up with me. I ended up quitting that summer when I went to Guatemala as an exchange student, but that's a different story.

Anyway, this experience was my first one in the working world and I learned a few things that still have application today.

  • If you employ cheap labor, sometimes you get bad results. I mean me and my brother in this. I should have simply delivered the rest of the papers, since it only would have taken another half-hour or so, but I wanted to make sure I was home in time to watch "Gilligan's Island" reruns or something like that, who knows. Even though I thought I was reliable, I wasn't. As for my brother, let's just say that his work ethic has improved immeasurably since those days, which his wife and children surely appreciate.
  • If you think something is important, you better be sure about your sub-contractors. I should have known better at the time; after all, I knew what my brother was like. But I chose to ignore what I understood.
  • You don't help anyone by becoming involved with enterprises that have little merit. It was easy to ignore what was happening since I didn't get any feedback on my performance beyond the weekly pay envelope filled with $2 bills.

So what is the point of this tale? I think it has a lot to do with the current state of politics. And I'll explore that in a later post.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A plethora of loose ends

Lots happening in the last few weeks and I haven’t had a lot of blogging time. When in doubt, break out the bullets:

  • As the recently departed David Halberstam pointed out in his classic book, “Summer of 1949,” there is a small army of admen on Madison Avenue who number among their duties coming up non-sequiturs that sound like something Yogi Berra might have said. One of my favorites faux Berraisms is “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” And, as a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers, that’s what I’m thinking. My beloved Brew Crew was off to a 24-10 start and now stand, three weeks later, at 28-23. Suddenly the hits aren’t falling, the pitching stinks and the hot young team is wheezing. The good news is that the rest of the NL Central is even worse. Still, it’s troubling to see. Meanwhile, the Twins seem to be waking up again and now the pitching reinforcements are starting to arrive from Rochester. Are we looking at a reprise of 2006? Could be.
  • Closer to home, my children continue to participate on hard-working but unsuccessful squads. Ben’s Brewers now stand at an unsightly 0-7, following a merciless 18-2 thrashing at the hands of the Mets on Friday, while Maria’s Rockies are 0-5. Lots more games this week and we’re hoping that both teams get off the schneid soon. On a positive note, both kids are improving their individual play; young Maria has been hitting the ball better and Ben continues to have an on-base percentage of well over .400 and has stolen 10 bases already this season. This is a very odd thing – our clan is not known for possessing great speed. If you look up the word “lumbering” in the dictionary, there’s a reasonable chance that Mr. Dilettante’s visage will provide the illustration. I remember getting timed in the 50 yard dash with a sundial. Okay, enough with the lame jokes or else this blog will need a two-drink minimum. Anyway, it’s disheartening to see the kids work so hard and see so little success. It’s become pretty apparent that there’s a competitive balance problem within the leagues; the top teams have been beating the tar out of the not-so-good teams. Ben’s team has only been close once all season; all the other games have been beat-downs. Something I’ll have to address with the league in the end-of-season evaluation, and at some length.
  • A while back I said I’d address the Packers’ draft, which I termed “puzzling.” I’m still stumped, but the recent contretemps involving Brett Favre would indicate that I’m not the only person who was puzzled. While I too believe that Randy Moss still possesses tremendous talent and that it would have been a lot of fun to watch a green-clad Moss catch touchdown passes over befuddled defensive backs, especially ones wearing purple, he’s demonstrated repeatedly that you cannot rely on him when it matters. Those of us in Minnesota saw a lot from Mr. “I Play When I Want to Play” and even the tremendously talented Vikings squad of 1998 could not win the big game. While I know that it’s hard for ol’ number 4 to get excited over the likes of Ruvell Martin and David Clowney, ultimately it’s gone badly for my beloved Packers when they’ve employed bad actors. Favre’s timetable may be limited, but Tradedown Ted Thompson does have to take a longer view. Things went much better in 2006 than I’d imagined was possible, so I’m prepared to suspend judgment for a while. Meanwhile, if Packer fans want to watch an anti-social wideout in 2007, remember that Koren Robinson may be back sometime in the fall, too. And who can think of a better place for a guy with a drinking problem to play than Green Bay, right?
  • It’s hard to get too excited about politics right now. While I continue to enjoy the aftermath of the smackdown that T-Paw provided to Larry Pogemiller et al., the rest of it is really getting tiresome. After being told George W. Bush is horrible for the 5,000th time, the message starts to lose impact, no? Those who wish to succeed W. have already been out on the hustings for a long time and, not surprisingly, familiarity starts to breed contempt. You can tell that things are getting desperate when most of the buzz on both sides of the equation concerns hefty Tennessee dudes who aren’t officially running and who have been spending most of their time pursuing the entertainment market (i.e., Fred Thompson and Al Gore). When guys like that start looking like potential saviors, it’s really time to start turning your attention elsewhere.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

It's good to be king

Caution: schadenfreude alert.

Not nice, but some people deserve it and right now the Democrats in St. Paul and Washington have gottten a pretty good whipping.

Let's start close to home: as I suspected they would at the time, the DFL completely misunderstood the election results and assumed that they would have carte blanche to start raising taxes and building government ever bigger. You could almost hear them coming into St. Paul in January humming "Happy Days Are Here Again." What did they get out of this session? The term of art would be "bupkes." Gov. Pawlenty outflanked them and broke out his veto pen, esssentially stopping the Democrats cold by suggesting that an already planned 10% increase in the state budget was probably sufficient. Pawlenty easily won the argument, held firm and as a results stands stronger than ever, while Larry Pogemiller, Margaret Andersen Kelliher and the rest of the Flower Pot Gang (to borrow from Joe Soucheray) were left with their agenda wafting down Jackson Street.

Then there's America's favorite couple, Harry and Nancy. They have been bellowing, huffing and puffing that they have a mandate to stop the war in Iraq. They have been dithering over timetables and taking conference calls from George Soros, Kos and the rest of the gang in the "reality based community," yet somehow George W. Bush's veto pen stopped them cold. Meanwhile, as I also supsected would happen, familiarity with Harry and Nancy has bred contempt - while it is less reported, the current polling shows that the Democratic Congress has an approval rating of less than 30%, similar to that of the MOST HATED AND ABSOLUTELY WORST PRESIDENT IN THE HISTORY OF THIS COUNTRY, GOD HE SUCKS, RIGHT KOS?!

While I have my suspicions that the D's are incapable of learning, there are a few things that they might try to understand.

  • Yes, the Republicans lost the last election cycle, but that doesn't automatically mean that the Democrats won the last election cycle. It was evident that there is widespread discontent with the war, but it's not necessarily because people believe it is lost, as Harry Reid has claimed. If you were able to dig a little deeper, you'd likely learn that many Americans are disgusted by the war because they believe we aren't doing everything we can to win it. If the Democrats had understood this, they might have came at it a little differently.
  • Taxes are still a big issue. If the government is problematic, which seems to be the view of many people in this country, it doesn't follow that the solution is giving the government more money and power over people's lives. Democrats still believe that a bigger government will improve people's lives, mainly because they are the ones who populate and perpetuate big government. There wasn't any mandate to enrich and add to the population of bureaucrats.
  • Just because many people decided they don't like George Bush, it never followed that they believe that the Democrats are somehow smarter. The Democratic Party hasn't really had any innovative ideas since the 1960s. About the only innovations they offer these days are really old ideas, like nationalizing health care or adding additional libertinism to the sexual arena. There was a sense that Bush and his administration needed a spanking, but that didn't mean that a bigger, more intrusive government was what people wanted.

So the Democrats are in control, but they don't have control. Meanwhile, Kos and the rest of his gang are fuming and making threats. Couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of people, doncha think?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Immigration again

I'll admit it - I really struggle with the immigration issue. Just about everyone in this country is, in one form or the other, a product of immigration. My forebears came here to escape potato famines and Prussian conscription, which are reasons that aren't especially different than the ones that lead people to our shores today. As a result, I don't think we really need to roll up the borders or put up nasty, Berlin Wall-style fences on the southern border. I think there are two problems that do need to be addressed, however.

First, assimilation. While my great grandfather read German-language newspapers throughout his life, he was able to speak English and function in the larger society. Too often we see that new arrivals are not being required to speak English and conduct their normal business in English. If I were to move to, say, Argentina, I would fully expect that I would be required to learn Spanish as soon as possible and would not expect people to accomodate me as an English speaker. Beyond the language issue, we need those who come here to at least understand, if not necessarily embrace, American ideals. Can we debate what those ideals are? Sure, we do it all the time. That's perhaps the greatest ideal of all, that we can argue. Where things get rough is when we have groups who don't want to assimilate and then start making demands (cf. taxi drivers, flying imams, etc.) It's problematic on a lot of levels.

Second, where the current bill is going to be a problem is that it is, as a practical matter, an amnesty. Personally, I don't think it's a bad thing per se, but what offends our sensibilities is seeing people get away with breaking the law. Law loses meaning when it is ignored and we need the laws we have to be limited and sensible. Most current laws regarding immigration are neither and while that complicates things, the laws do exist and if we turn them into dead letters when it suits our fancy, we essentially negate the meaning of law in the larger sense. That's not where we want to go.

Sitzer Park Blues

Doesn't really matter what they do, our Arden Hills Brewers can't get over the hump. Ben's Brew Crew took consecutive thumpings from the Rockies (not Maria's team) over the weekend, losing 25-5 and 13-4. The first game, played Thursday night, was about as demoralizing a game as I have ever seen. Unlike the lower levels of Little League, there's no five-run rule for each inning, which means an ineffective pitcher has to take a beating until he is either removed or the other team makes three outs. On Thursday, our kids took a tremendous, merciless beating - every ball the Rockies hit was a laser beam. They have one kid on their team who has to be the biggest 12-year old I've ever seen; the kid was about 6-1 and had to go about 175. I didn't check to see if he was shaving, but it was pretty amazing to watch this huge pre-teen clobber the ball, one majestic blast after another. Luckily, our guys are resilient, even though they've been getting clobbered in ways that Charles Schulz would have recognized. What's especially bizarre is that the American League is where the more modestly talented kids are supposed to play. If this Leviathan isn't good enough to play in the more competitive National League, you have to wonder what the NL is like. Amazing.

Ben continues to contribute offensively, getting on base, stealing and scoring. We continue to hold out hope that some time it will get better, but it looks like another long season.

Meanwhile, Maria's team is still on the schneid, too, but they are playing better. They lost to the Mets on Thursday at Lambert Park, 16-11. It was a much better performance and she and her teammates are improving every game. I think they'll win soon. Maria made a nice defensive play in the game and also put the ball in play, but the first baseman made a nice play and got her out. I expect to see Maria get her first hit soon, though - she plays hard and she's getting close.

Lots more baseball this week - games on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. I'll try to catch you up at some point.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Retrieving normality

Every day I get a little bit more of my life back. Today was one of those days. I went to see my neurosurgeon (technically, his nurse practitioner) and my endocrinologist this morning. Things are progressing very well, thank you very much. I am close to having some of the restrictions taken off my activities. I am able to drive now and to work, and I've been doing a little bit of both. About the only thing I'm not allowed to do is heavy lifting, which means that my lovely bride continues to have to lug the bags of salt downstairs. That's not good, of course, but she's a fine sport about it.

I'd like to think that I've grown a new appreciation of life since my surgery, but I'm not so sure that's the case. I am still the same guy I've always been - generally genial, occasionally surly, prone to the bon mot and (too often) the ill-chosen Anglo-Saxon terms. But I am grateful that I have an opportunity to live my life generally as I see fit. That's a privilege a lot of people don't have in this world.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Brewers/Rockies Update

Baseball is now in full swing and both Ben's and Maria's teams were in action over the last few days. Maria's Rockies played their first two games, losing 12-0 to the Cubs on Wednesday and 20-5 to the Nationals on Friday. The scores sound lopsided, but it really wasn't as bad as you might think. Maria's team is very young - 8 of the 12 players are first graders, and both teams Maria faced were pretty loaded with second graders. At that age, a one year age difference is enormous. The Nationals in particular looked like a bunch of monsters compared to our charges. But the Rockies played pretty well; you could see improvement from the first to the second game and my sense is that her team will win a few games this year. Maria made a nice play in left field in the second game; she has yet to get a hit, but she's up there swinging and she should get on the board soon. The Rockies take the field again Monday against the Reds.

Ben's Brewers had a heart-breaking loss on Thursday to the Rangers, losing 15-11 in a wild game that featured some amazing lead changes. The Rangers jumped to a 4-0 lead, then Ben's Brewers stormed back, scoring 11 unanswered runs to lead 11-4 at the end of the 4th. Unfortunately, the Rangers stormed back in the last two innings and overtook the True Blue Brew Crew. Ben was in the middle of the action; he walked twice, scored twice, stole three bases and knocked in a run in the game. The Brewers will also be playing a team called the Reds, also on Monday. Ben's game is at Wilson Park, while Maria's game will be at Perry Park. Watch this space for updates!

Bartleby the Copywriter

Mr. D has been busy for the past few days. I have a temporary contracting gig with a large equipment retailer located in the south suburbs. They are a growing company that competes with Home Depot, Menards, etc., but whose customer base tends to be more, shall we say, hardcore. I don't believe that Menards offers Ingersoll Rand Rivet Busters for sale, but these folks do. It's fun stuff to write about, even in the circumscribed style required for an equipment catalog. I'm guessing that the pure level of testosterone in the building might throw off my tests with the endocrinologists later this week, but it's a chance I'm willing to take. To give you an idea of what the place is like; when you enter their corporate headquarters, you get the same rubber aroma you notice when you go into one of their stores, or a Fleet Farm. Anyone who has entered such a place knows exactly what I'm talking about. It's a darned good smell, I say.

Life as a contractor is somewhat odd. I have a computer at my disposal, but I am sitting in what is essentially a space full of printers and art production equipment. You know you're among the creative types when there's a container full of Exacto Knives within reach. I find myself toiling away, describing a rivet buster or some NASCAR pit crew gloves when suddenly a grim-visaged person enters, places artwork on a square, measures it, then harrumphs and darts back to some unseen cube.

The gig should last for at least another 2 weeks. This is good news, because we need the money and the money is pretty good. Best of all, the guy I report to is a proud graduate of Cudahy High School. Anyone from the south side of Milwaukee is all right in my book.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Bullets with a nail gun

Sure, why not? A few things the blogger wishes to share, as follows:

  • Blogging may be light for the next 2-3 weeks; I have a part-time contracting opportunity starting tomorrow with a south suburban company that offers retail and catalog sales of tools and equipment; this is good news as our finances have been stretched and I have some bills to pay.
  • Even though the Star Tribune decided to bury the story under the fold, the story yesterday about the Islamists who were planning an attack on Fort Dix was a major story, for a lot of reasons. First, some of these guys are from Kosovo, a little problem that no one seems to mention these days, even though we continue to have troops there. Second, there's no evidence that these guys were exercised by concerns about the Palestinians or Iraq. And, most of all, they were planning to attack even though they hadn't been in direct contact with Osama bin Laden or any of his operatives. We have a problem with radical Islam and even though the Democrats have convinced many Americans that it's not as big a problem as BushHitlerMcChimpRatBastardTraitorToHisClassSimpyBushHitler or his neocon colleagues would have you believe, it remains a problem. Luckily, our betters are paying attention to more pressing matters, like the size of the mansion Jim Pohlad is building on Lake Calhoun. See Nick Coleman's sneering, green-eyed column today on the topic. Or better yet, don't bother.
  • Ben's Brewers may be off to a rough start, but the Milwaukee Brewers are on fire. Unfortunately, they don't get to play the Pirates and the Nationals all the time. The upcoming swing against the Mets and Phillies should tell us a lot about the True Blue Brew Crew.

Monday, May 07, 2007

You're a good man, Charlie Brown

My son loves sports. He must, given the way his teams get pummeled. It was a grim weekend at Sitzer Park for Ben’s Brewers, who were routed twice by the Cardinals, 18-2 and 19-4. A few thoughts amid the wind-blown carnage of the weekend:

  • Ben played pretty well for the most part. He ended up 1-4 between the two games, with a well-placed infield single in the second game. He also made a few nice plays at second base, which is clearly his best position. He had a few outfield misadventures in the second game, but overall he’s clearly a better player this year and I’m encouraged by his progress.
  • His teammates are really a good group of kids this year. The problem is they are, in the main, modestly talented. The Cardinals team had 2-3 very good players, most notably a large, intimidating starting pitcher who threw four perfect innings in the first game. They also had another hulking youngster who routinely launched balls deep into the early evening sky. The pitcher, who also clearly shops in the husky section, also took out Ben on a play at third base. I’m guessing this kid outweighs Ben by about 50 pounds and he sent Ben flying. It looked like Ty Cobb blasting Jimmy Austin off the base in the 1910s. But Ben dusted himself off and went back to playing. Had to admire that.
  • The rules in the American League are less compassionate than they are in the Junior Minor League. The meaning of this is pretty simple – there is no limit to the number of runs that a team can score in an inning, and teams can steal bases pretty much at will. Baseball is a game of rules, but there are also mores involved, too. In my experience, if a team is up by ten runs or more, they won’t keep stealing bases at every opportunity. Someone forgot to mention that to the Cardinals, who were absolutely relentless and ruthless and kept stealing bases, even when they were up by 15 runs or more. There’s an argument to be made that our kids have to stop the other team from doing that, but after a while you have to wonder about the sportsmanship of a team that is stealing bases when it’s already up 17-2. Is that extra run really necessary? Our kids definitely sensed that the other team was rubbing our noses in it. I know this – if our kids find themselves on the winning side of such a situation, we will call off the dogs.
  • It was a tough weekend to play baseball weather-wise. The winds were really howling on both Saturday and Sunday; one gust even toppled a Port-O-San at the park. Perhaps the additional ballast on the Cardinal players made a difference; I know that Ben and a few of his similarly slight teammates were really struggling with it at times.

    Still, hope springs eternal and the mighty Brewers will return to action on Thursday, May 10 against the Rangers, back at Sitzer Park. Game time is 6:30. Don’t miss it!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Summer of '73

Yesterday's post about childhood friendships, and the subsequent comments, made me think a little bit about what makes a summer memorable. I'm focusing on the summer of 1973 because it was a pretty significant turning point in my life.

I had wheels as a 9 year old - a mustard yellow Huffy Dragster 20" bike with the usual early 70s style, including the banana seat. I could go pretty much anyplace in town that I wanted and I did. I thought nothing of riding my bike across town. I would disappear for hours at a time and my mother never worried, because I always came home eventually. Once I learned we were moving, I would ride my bike across town to the new house to check out the new neighborhood. Sometimes I had a quarter in my pocket, which would usually buy me a snack or a can of Pepsi. Somehow, I don't see kids doing these sorts of things anymore.

As my great friend Mr. Miller points out, we spent a lot of time playing basketball that summer. Mills was a huge fan of Rick Barry, the great shooting forward who at the time was in the employ of the New York Nets. My dad had bought me an ABA-style ball and Mills and I would head over to Jackson School to play basketball for hours at a time. Although we both had hoops attached to our respective garages, Jackson was the place to go. We would keep score and do a running play-by-play; usually Mills would score about 175 points in the role of Rick Barry, while I would grab about 95 rebounds in my role as Billy "The Whopper" Paultz. Other neighborhood kids might saunter by on their way to the amazingly dangerous WPA-era playground equipment, but the court was ours. Later that summer another guy in the neighborhood was using my precious ABA ball and bounced it inadvertently on a thumbtack. That was the end of the ABA ball and 34 years later, I still miss it.

Mills and I did have another obsession at that point - comic books. We discovered that there was a second hand store on the edge of downtown that had an enormous stack of old comic books available for sale at 10 cents a copy. We bought dozens of comic books at a time. But we weren't interested in superheroes; we were devotees of Harvey Comics, featuring the comedy stylings of Richie Rich, the Sad Sack, Little Dot and Little Lotta, Hot Stuff the Devil and, above all, Casper the Friendly Ghost. We had a chance then to buy classic comic books that collectors today would crave, but not us. While it might have made more sense to follow Spidey and the Green Lantern, we didn't see it that way. Somebody had to buy the Harvey Comics and we were the ones. Edifying? Perhaps not. But walking home with an armload of comic books was always a triumph for us and we seemed to have the market to ourselves.

We played baseball that summer, too - our team won the Appleton Park and Rec League 9-10 year old division and I think someone back home still has my trophy. We also donned the red t-shirts of Catholic Knights Insurance that summer in the Cadet League. I was a late bloomer in baseball and wasn't very good at that age, so my primary strategy for getting on base was getting hit by a pitch, but it was a lot of fun, even when Linus VanderWyst (a quintessential Appleton name) hit a fly ball way over my head and got a home run. I can still hear my teammates yelling, "c'mon Mark, run! You gotta go get that ball!" I could feel the wrath of the entire Knights of Columbus on me as I chased after the flying sphere. We won the game anyway, but it was the longest 50 yards I ever covered.

I don't know if kids have these types of summers anymore. Our kids have activities galore, but all of them are have loads of adult supervision. These days, that doesn't happen. We've gained many things since the Summer of '73, but freedom isn't one of the gains.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Global village

It happens to just about everyone growing up - you make a friend and then the friend's family moves away. Or you move away. It happened to me in the summer of 1973, when my parents bought a new home across town. I could still visit with my friends from the old neighborhood, but it didn't happen very often. The two years after the move were often lonely, as I struggled to make new friends, at least one of whom is now well known within the Wisconsin law enforcement community. But you survive.

I'm thinking about this today because my daughter Maria has learned that one of her best friends will be moving next month. The difference for Maria is that her friend is not moving across town; she is moving to China. Maria's friend is actually of Japanese ancestry and her father, who is apparently a computer expert, will be moving to the Far East in the next month. Not surprisingly, Maria is quite saddened by this turn of events. It's tough to lose one of your best friends at an early age, especially since there's an excellent chance that Maria won't get to see her friend again.

But the irony of it is this - the world that Maria and her brother Ben are growing up in is paradoxically larger and smaller than the insular world I grew up in back in lovely Appleton, Wisconsin. Maria may not see her friend again, but she will have myriad opportunities to communicate with her friend, via e-mail, blog, webcam and other methods that are still on the drawing boards out in Silicon Valley. You can maintain friendships now without having to maintain proximity. While it doesn't lessen the sadness my daughter now feels about her friend moving away, it's still an amazing thing. We've seen amazing changes since that summer of 1973, when the only Americans who were going over to China seemed to be ping pong players and Richard Nixon. I marvel at the distance of those 34 years, even though I can still hear the soundtrack of that summer in my head quite clearly. Perhaps it's because you still hear all the songs on KQRS. Smoke on the water, the fire in the sky....

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mission accomplished

May Day has long been a favored day for lefties. For many years, this was the day that the Soviets would parade their tanks and missiles in front of the waxworks peering from the Kremlin balconies. It has been the day that those who support amnesty for illegal immigrants have chosen to mount protests. And since May 1, 2003, it has been the day that taunting lefties use to chide their sworn enemy, President Bush, over appearing on the deck of the aircraft carrier with the "Mission Accomplished" banner behind him.

It's always been a magical day for these peace-loving people, who demonstrate their commitment to moral goodness by showing incredible, unceasing hostility towards any who might disagree with their worldview. As someone who deserves excoriation on any number of levels, I thought it wise to look at how the Left has accomplished its mission in the past four years.

The mission has been simple - destroy the current president, no matter what it takes, and no matter what the damage might be. George W. Bush has made it pretty easy, since he has demonstrated, repeatedly, an inability to fight back against the daily calumnies heaped upon him. Bush has apparently believed that he was dealing with opponents who act in good faith. After four consecutive years of abuse, you'd think he would have learned that you cannot ignore what the Left is doing. Instead, he has stayed on task, stubbornly plowing forward even as his enemies continue to attack him.

My understanding is that Bush's approval rating is something like -25% and that he is only slightly more popular than Mussolini and root canals. I have followed politics for a long time and I have never seen someone who is vilified as much as George W. Bush. Even Nixon, during the height of Watergate, drew more sympathy from the American people than Bush apparently does now.

Still, I wonder whether the Left understands how Pyrrhic a victory they are earning. By destroying this president, they are also undermining the ability of any future president to effectively govern. The earth in Washington is not only scorched, it has also been covered by salt. All of the prospective Democratic saints (Hillary, Barack, Al) will find that they will have little goodwill upon entering the Oval Office.

It's a shame, really. We will need an effective leader once George W. Bush decamps to his ranch in Crawford. But I question whether there will be anyone who will be able to lead.

If the idea was to put nihilism in the saddle, then indeed the mission is accomplished.