Tuesday, September 30, 2008

American Idyll

Tell me if you think this is normal (OOPS - the video is no longer available, but it was a chorus of young schoolchildren singing a hymn to Obama).

With each passing week, this gets more and more prescient.


Which leads to this.

Happy October, everybody!

White Sox 1, Twins 0

Where have we seen this before? Jim Thome, one of the all-time Twins killers, strikes the mortal blow. Meanwhile, our heroes can't get any hitting when they need it. Nick Blackburn pitched a great game, but John Danks was simply better. Nothing you can do but tip your cap to the Sox and wish them well. The potential all-Chicago World Series is alive.

Meanwhile, congratulations to the Twins. Remember that Denard Span, Alexi Casilla and Jose Mijares were not on the active roster at the beginning of the season, but all were key players in the last game. It's easy to take Ron Gardenhire for granted, but you would be very hard pressed to find a more resourceful manager. We are blessed to have such a fine team to watch here in Minnesota.

Monday, September 29, 2008

These fragments I have shored against my ruins

Take it away, T.S. Eliot:

When Lil's husband got demobbed, I said—
I didn't mince my words, I said to her myself,
Now Albert's coming back, make yourself a bit smart.
He'll want to know what you done with that money he gave you
To get yourself some teeth. He did, I was there.
You have them all out, Lil, and get a nice set,
He said, I swear, I can't bear to look at you.
And no more can't I, I said, and think of poor Albert,
He's been in the army four years, he wants a good time,
And if you don't give it him, there's others will, I said.
Oh is there, she said. Something o' that, I said.
Then I'll know who to thank, she said, and give me a straight look.
If you don't like it you can get on with it, I said.
Others can pick and choose if you can't.
But if Albert makes off, it won't be for lack of telling.
You ought to be ashamed, I said, to look so antique.
(And her only thirty-one.)
I can't help it, she said, pulling a long face
It's them pills I took, to bring it off, she said.
(She's had five already, and nearly died of young George.)
The chemist said it would be alright, but I've never been the same.
You are a proper fool, I said.
Well, if Albert won't leave you alone, there it is, I said,
What you get married for if you don't want children?
Well, that Sunday Albert was home, they had a hot gammon,
And they asked me in to dinner, to get the beauty of it hot—
Goonight Bill. Goonight Lou. Goonight May. Goonight.

What a repulsive display today. If there really a crisis, the people in Washington sure the hell aren't acting like it. Pelosi dumps a 55 gallon drum of bile on the Republicans whose votes she needs right before the vote, doesn't get them, and then the Republicans take their ball and go home.

The reasonable conclusion - this isn't really a crisis, it's just kabuki theater. I mean, if the financial system was really on the verge of collapse, Pelosi would have had the votes going in, right? And if Republicans realized the gravity of the situation, they would have gone along, right?

All last week I tried to maintain my equanimity about this clusterbleep. Tried to be fair, even though there was ample evidence which side was primarily responsible for getting the ball rolling some 30 years ago (that's a hint). Even tried to look the other way while Barney Frank (D-Fannie Mae) and Chris Dodd (D-Countrywide) tried to escape blame. In a just world, both of them would be facing federal indictment, instead of crafting legislation that obfuscates their role in the mess. They'll skate, though. They have for years and nothing is going to change about that any time soon.

George W. Bush is the only actor in this mess who is certain to leave the stage in January. The cretins on the Hill will return, quite likely joined by a new President who spent his formative political years tied to ACORN. Happy days are here again!

The only solace? Even though it's not part of Catholic theology, I fully expect that there will be enough karma to go around for all these miscreants.

Shantih shantih shantih

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Modest Proposal

So, where is all the money going to come from to pay for this bailout? I don't know about you, but I'm pretty tapped out these days. And our friends who took out the negative am loans in 2005 so they could afford the granite countertops and whatnot, well, they're not doin' so great, either. We could always do the Weimar Republic thing and print more money; I could get used to paying for a loaf of bread with a wheelbarrow full of Jacksons, I suppose, and I've always wanted to be a millionaire. We gotta get the money from somewhere, right? Here's an idea:

Yeah, let’s have a tax on the rich - the super rich - McCain should support a clawback tax on billionaires alone. A confiscatory one that causes the WSJ editorial page to go crazy. I bet you’d find they’re mostly Democrats and Democratic party contributors - and that would put Obama and the Democratic party in a genuine bind.

Hey, why not? If you're going to play class warfare, why not go for it? Warren Buffett is famous for being a Democrat and famous for opposing the estate tax. So why not start dismantling his estate now? He's doing pretty well - he had enough money to buy a big stake in Goldman Sachs this week. And he really doesn't need all that money he's accumulated over the years, right? Instead of investing in Goldman, why not take Warren's pile and invest it into ACORN? That was part of the plan until today, and goodness knows we wouldn't want to shortchange those guardians of liberty, now would we?

The Tony Awards

Things haven't been looking good for John McCain in the last few days -- his contribution to the ongoing bailout scenario seems to have been a wash at best and for reasons that aren't clear to this observer, the developing consensus seems to be that Barack Obama won the first debate, even though he did at least two things that would have blown up in his face if he were a Republican. Life isn't fair sometimes.

But it's possible that the latest deux ex machina has arrived. Something weird happened last night in the SNL skit on the debate. The name of Tony Rezko was pulled from the memory hole. And now, it appears that Tony Rezko has decided that he doesn't really like prison so much and may be about to start testifying. The danger for Obama may not be direct -- although Rezko certainly extended an out-0f-the-ordinary favor to Obama in helping him to finance his home in Chicago, the real heat will be on Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who is up to his eyeballs in rich Rezko-y goodness. But an indictment of an Illinois governor because of his ties to the same guy that Obama got his house from would certainly open Obama up to a bunch of questions he'd rather not answer.

As the Chicago Tribune notes, Rezko is due to be sentenced in October. If he starts to sing sooner than that, the repercussions will extend well beyong the borders of Illinois. And they should.

CC Rider

Brewers 3, Cubs 1. The big man does it again. Best. Midseason. Acquisition. Ever. And the Brewers are in the playoffs for the first time since 1982. The Phillies will be tough to beat, but they should have a puncher's chance. And the way CC Sabathia is going, he might be ready to pitch Game 2.

Meanwhile, the Twins finally righted the ship and whipped up on the Royals 6-0. The Whities won, too, so now we become Tigers fans for a day. If the Tigers can't do it, the Whities get their shot at revenge on Tuesday in Chicago. I'm an Occam's Razor type of guy, so let's go, Motor City Kitties!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Just Don't Call Her Unpatriotic

This is lovely. Click on this link from Allahpundit and watch the video as Nancy Pelosi calls the House Republicans "unpatriotic" for not providing her with political cover.

Remember, you are never to question a Democrat's patriotism. Ever. Just so we're clear.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Roll With Me, Henry

That didn't take long. As I noted below, McCain backed Obama into a corner after Obama asserted that Henry Kissinger supported Obama's approach regarding Iran. Sure enough, Kissinger has weighed in. From Jennifer Rubin:

But the killer quote came from Henry Kissinger whom Obama had invoked to criticize McCain’s stance that we should not meet unconditionally with Ahmadinejad. Kissinger retorted: “Senator McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level. My views on this issue are entirely compatible with the views of my friend Senator John McCain. We do not agree on everything, but we do agree that any negotiations with Iran must be geared to reality.”

Unforced error for Obama. And millions of people saw it. That's gonna leave a mark.

True Blue

Brewers 5, Cubs 1. Rickie Weeks, a cipher for most of the year, strikes the mortal blow with a 3 run homer. Couple it with the Mets doing their typical el foldo against the Marlins and suddenly the Brew Crew is making like Lazarus. One game up with two to go is pretty good.

The Twins got their butts handed to them, but the Indians bailed them out by beating the Whities 11-8, so everything remains the same in the AL Central. Here's hoping that the Twins got it out of their system tonight.

The First Debate - McCain, Obama, Kissinger and Inigo Montoya

No live-blogging of the debate, but a few thoughts.

  • No one scored a knockout in this one, so if the polls are accurate and Obama is leading, then chances are that Obama will still be leading when the polls come out next week. I say that with one major caveat, about which more in a moment. Still, I doubt what happened tonight moves the needle.

  • McCain was the aggressor throughout and he seemed to get under Obama's skin a few times. The split screens were not kind to Obama, who was scowling and visibly perturbed on a number of occasions. I saw that several times during the course of the debates. Don't know if that makes a difference to people, but it might.

  • Obama took one huge gamble in invoking Henry Kissinger repeatedly as supporting his notion of meeting with foreign leaders without "preconditions." When McCain challenged him on it, Obama doubled down. My guess is that the reporters will be coming to Kissinger to find out what he really thinks. It's been 30 years since Kissinger has been relevant and I'm sure he'll not hesitate to speak to reporters. If Kissinger contradicts Obama in a forceful way, it will definitely leave a mark on Obama and it could move the needle.

  • Maybe it's just me, but as the candidates kept battling each other about what the meaning of "preconditions" is, I kept thinking of Inigo Montoya, the character played by Mandy Patinkin in the 1987 movie The Princess Bride. After listening to the character Vizzini (played by Wallace Shawn) continually refer to a series of events as "inconceivable," Montoya says "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." Given the way McCain and Obama were bandying the word about, the word does not mean what one of them thinks it means. When I hear someone say that they will meet someone without preconditions, I assume it means that they don't have expectations that the other party will have to do anything prior to having the meeting. That's not what Obama said he meant tonight and he made it clear that he thought McCain was misrepresenting what he meant. Perhaps it was "inartful phrasing?"

Welcome to the Broom Town

Twins 7, White Sox 6. Alexi Casilla strikes the mortal blow but the game belongs to just about everyone as the Twins would not give up after falling behind 6-1 early. I'm guessing Ozzie Guillen can't wait to see the Dome go offline. Now it's 3 against the Royals, who are playing pretty well. Too bad they couldn't find a way to send the Pirates in here.

Brewers win dramatically as well, with a walk-off grand slam by Ryan Braun. The fate of the season hinges on how well the Brew Crew handles the Cubs this weekend. That's not gone well lately. But hope remains.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Morphing MOB

Blogging is a pretty amorphous thing and people are constantly getting in and out of the game. In the past few weeks, a number of changes have been afoot among some of the better bloggers in the MOB.

It began with the announcement that the redoubtable Leo Pusateri was putting Psycmeister's Ice Palace in the deep freeze. Leo is a great guy and one of the best bloggers around, but his life has been getting more complicated and something had to give. That meant blogging. As Leo explains it:

As I've often said, a job worth doing, is worth doing right. Although I've enjoyed blogging, the time required to not only update a blog daily, but to really put thought into each post, was time that I was lacking. I was paying a little attention to each facet of my life, but nowhere near the attention each facet deserved; that included blogging.

The good news is that while Leo has shelved his operation, he has joined Chief and the rest of the Freedom Dogs and is contributing to that ever-worthy outpost, while continuing his ongoing efforts to oust John Murtha. Still, less Leo means that the MOB is lessened.

Meanwhile, our good friend John "Night Writer" Stewart is "re-purposing" his blog. What does that mean? Well, let the man explain:

Certain thoughts have been in the back of my mind for some time, and I let them come to the forefront while I was on vacation the last couple of weeks, and I've made a decision. Blogging has been a great exercise ... almost like calisthenics. The thing with calisthenics is that you can develop your muscles but at some point you're going to want to do something with them. As the Anthony Trollope quote in my header this week says, "Three hours a day will produce as much as a man ought to write." I now know I can put two to three hours a day into writing, because I've been doing this and now...I need to break from the familiar and comfortable and see what else I can write.

As when I started this blog, I have no idea what I'm going to write about, or what form it will take. I think I'd like to try a novel, but I don't have a vision for a story yet. It may be short stories at first, as the next step in my process. What I do know is that I'm going to take those two to three hours a night to work it out, and that means not writing as often here.

Again, that does not mean that the Night Writer is leaving the fray. He will still post from time to time and his family/partners in crime (Mall Diva, Tiger Lily, the Reverend Mother and presumably Uncle Ben) will still be offering their bon mots over at his place. This much I know -- whatever the Night Writer decides to do, it will be damned good.

But there's more: we also learn that the invaluable Marty Andrade is pulling the reins back a bit:

It’s not that I’m not writing anything, just not on the blog.

Presently I am working on two Bleacher Report columns and an end of season MLB Awards ballot that all the community leaders in the MLB section of the Bleacher Report were given. Plus, the 2nd edition of the Burger Tour (with 3 new joints and 2 new essays) is getting worked on.

However, this week’s lack of posts might be indicative of things to come.

On Monday I start my MBA program. There won’t be any fooling around. The MBA program becomes my #1 priority. This blog gets pushed down the priority list.

This is not to say I’ll be quitting the blog. Hardly. But it might become one of those annoying one-post-a-week-on-something-everyone-else-has-already-talked-about blogs. I also might start liveblogging more. It’s easy and well…pointless. But fun.

Marty's not exactly slowing down, it would seem. But even if his blog is one post a week, it will be worth your time.

The MOB is a pretty loose amalgam of people and the intersection of self-expression and life can be the scene of some major pileups. There have been times where I've wondered if I spend too much time on this particular avocation. For now it's full speed ahead around here. But for my own selfish reasons, I hope that Leo, John and Marty keep writing. All of them are good friends of this feature and have all been quite generous with their support. And because they may be less prominent players in the MOB in the future, it means that the rest of us have to do more.
Cross-posted at True North

Rules of the Game

It always drives liberals nuts when a conservative blogger blames something on Bill Clinton. So I'm not going to blame Bill Clinton today. But it's necessary to bring the following article from the Los Angeles Times to your attention (H/T: Ed Morrissey).

Back on May 31, 1999, reporter Ron Brownstein chronicled "one the hidden success stories of the Clinton era.

It’s one of the hidden success stories of the Clinton era. In the great housing boom of the 1990s, black and Latino homeownership has surged to the highest level ever recorded. The number of African Americans owning their own home is now increasing nearly three times as fast as the number of whites; the number of Latino homeowners is growing nearly five times as fast as that of whites.

These numbers are dramatic enough to deserve more detail. When President Clinton took office in 1993, 42% of African Americans and 39% of Latinos owned their own home. By this spring, those figures had jumped to 46.9% of blacks and 46.2%of Latinos.

That’s a lot of new picket fences. Since 1994, when the numbers really took off, the number of black and Latino homeowners has increased by 2 million. In all, the minority homeownership rate is on track to increase more in the 1990s than in any decade this century except the 1940s, when minorities joined in the wartime surge out of the Depression.

No matter your view of Clinton generally, it was positive news. But as always, there were other factors at play. Brownstein turns to an old Clinton hand whose name came up recently in the news:

But the economy isn’t the whole story. As HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo says: “There have been points in the past when the economy has done well but minority homeownership has not increased proportionally.” Case in point: Despite generally good times in the 1980s, homeownership among blacks and Latinos actually declined slightly, while rising slightly among whites.

All of this suggests that Clinton’s efforts to increase minority access to loans and capital also have spurred this decade’s gains. Under Clinton, bank regulators have breathed the first real life into enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act, a 20-year-old statute meant to combat “redlining” by requiring banks to serve their low-income communities. The administration also has sent a clear message by stiffening enforcement of the fair housing and fair lending laws. The bottom line: Between 1993 and 1997, home loans grew by 72% to blacks and by 45% to Latinos, far faster than the total growth rate.

But how did it happen? The answer lies at the heart of our crisis nine years on:

Lenders also have opened the door wider to minorities because of new initiatives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac–the giant federally chartered corporations that play critical, if obscure, roles in the home finance system. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac buy mortgages from lenders and bundle them into securities; that provides lenders the funds to lend more.

In 1992, Congress mandated that Fannie and Freddie increase their purchases of mortgages for low-income and medium-income borrowers. Operating under that requirement, Fannie Mae, in particular, has been aggressive and creative in stimulating minority gains. It has aimed extensive advertising campaigns at minorities that explain how to buy a home and opened three dozen local offices to encourage lenders to serve these markets. Most importantly, Fannie Mae has agreed to buy more loans with very low down payments–or with mortgage payments that represent an unusually high percentage of a buyer’s income. That’s made banks willing to lend to lower-income families they once might have rejected.

Emphasis mine. So what do you have here? Two Washington specialties -- an unfunded mandate and a system that encourages moral hazard. Both the banks and Fannie Mae assumed that Uncle Sam would ultimately pick up the tab if the market went south. It did. And that is where we are today.

So do you blame Bill Clinton for this? You could but I don't, at least not completely. Clinton left office in 2001 and the current administration has left this unstable edifice standing for over 7 years now. The Bushies noticed problems as early as 2001 and did propose reforms in 2003, as I noted yesterday. But the reforms never went anywhere for two reasons: opposition from congressional Democrats like Barney Frank and Christopher Dodd, and (perhaps more importantly) an unwillingness by the Bushies to fight the battle, most likely because they were afraid to be demagogued on the issue. It's all very understandable and makes perfect sense. And meanwhile, there was money to be made and a lot of people did make a lot of money during the past nine years. But now the bills are coming due.

It's easy to find news reports that chronicle the missteps and missed opportunities of the past. There's an especially apt line in Renoir's famous 1939 movie La Regle du Jeu ("Rules of the Game"). One of the characters attempts to explain the seemingly ordinary events that take place during a weekend hunting party in the French countryside that lead to a very bad end. The conclusion: they all had their reasons. It's true of all the players in our current melodrama. Chronicling the cruelty, stupidity and cupidity of everyone involved could occupy this feature for months but it won't change anything. What we need to do now is focus on the way forward.

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - Global Financial Catastrophe Edition

Rome is burning, y'all. So it's a perfect time to talk about football.

Xavier Hawks 21, Clintonville Truckers 17. Homecoming for the Hawks and a tough opponent. The Truckers are pretty good most of the time, but my sense is that the X will be ready for this one.

ACTUAL RESULT: XAVIER 27, CLINTONVILLE 16. The X was ready. Defense was tough all night.

Irondale Knights 31, Friendly Fridley 21. The Knights have been dominant lately, but they step up in class a bit with a tough game against their neighbors to the west. Based on what I can tell, the Knights should win, but it won't be easy.

ACTUAL RESULT: IRONDALE 42, FRIDLEY 7. A rout. Irondale wasn't especially friendly.

Mounds View Mustangs 34, Hastings Raiders 17. Hastings, like their Stillwater neighbors, is a river town with a fine football tradition. Also like Stillwater, Hastings is down a little this year. Look for the Mustangs to take advantage.

ACTUAL RESULT: MOUNDS VIEW 42, PARK OF COTTAGE GROVE 0. Lesson of this one -- don't depend on the schedule printed on the Mounds View website. Park is near Hastings, if that means anything.

Beloit Bucs 31, Knox Pure Prairie League Fire 24. Knox is one of the teams Beloit can beat and frankly any school whose nickname is "Prairie Fire" really deserves to get its butt kicked. Hope that my friend Stephen, who is a professor at Knox, will forgive me for making this common-sense argument.

ACTUAL RESULT: BELOIT 38, KNOX 0. That's about as big a butt-kicking as a Beloit team has ever delivered. Good for them, especially in front of the Homecoming crowd. And the worst part for the defeated Prairie Firers is that they have a 3+ bus ride back to Galesburg, Illinois.

Wisconsin Badgers 31, Meeeshegan Woolverines 21. Usually Ann Arbor is a graveyard but Go Blue is in transition right now. When the Badgers return there in two years, it will be a lot tougher than I expect it to be Saturday.

FINAL SCORE: MICHIGAN 27, BUCKY FREAKING FAILURE CHOKE MONSTERS 25. Epic Fail. Start the cheer now, kids.... "Over-rated... Over-rated." That was one of the worst chokes I've ever seen. And it won't look much better unless Michigan wins about 7 more games this season.

The Ohio State University 31, Minnesota Golden Gophers 17. Okay, let's give Tim Brewster some credit for righting the ship. The problem here is that OSU is still much better than the Gophers. But it won't be a rout this time.


Green Bay Packers 27, Tampa Bay Pewter Pirates 19. Tampa has been a tough place to visit for our beloved Pack in recent years, but this time the Pack has a better team. Look for Aaron Rodgers to come back smartly from last week's lessons.

ACTUAL RESULT: TAMPA BAY 30, GREEN BAY 21. Aaron Rodgers throws 3 interceptions, while Brett Favre throws six touchdowns for the Jets. Packer fans go back on suicide watch again. Not me, though - just go get 'em next week!

Tennessee Tuxedos 14, Purple Helmeted Love Warriors 10. If Matt Birk has trouble blocking massive, mean Albert Haynesworth, we might have a T-Jack sighting sooner than Week 8, which is still the over/under for when Gus Frerotte breaks down.

ACTUAL RESULT: TENNESSEE 30, VIKINGS 17. Easy to sum up this one, Vikings fans: Not. Good. Enough. Boy, the Packers are lucky that the rest of the division appears to stink.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

By the way. . . .

It is worth remembering that Fannie and Freddie were on someone's radar screen five years ago. As that noted conservative organ The New York Times reported on September 11, 2003:

The Bush administration today recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago.

Under the plan, disclosed at a Congressional hearing today, a new agency would be created within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that are the two largest players in the mortgage lending industry.

Two relevant points from the article. First, this:

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, which is part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, was created by Congress in 1992 after the bailout of the savings and loan industry and concerns about regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which buy mortgages from lenders and repackage them as securities or hold them in their own portfolios.

At the time, the companies and their allies beat back efforts for tougher oversight by the Treasury Department, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or the Federal Reserve. Supporters of the companies said efforts to regulate the lenders tightly under those agencies might diminish their ability to finance loans for lower-income families. This year, however, the chances of passing legislation to tighten the oversight are better than in the past.

However, the oversight wasn't tightened. Why would that be? Well, consider this:

''These two entities -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- are not facing any kind of financial crisis,'' said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. ''The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.''

Emphasis mine. Much will be decided in the coming days. One thing that has been suggested is limiting compensation for executives of companies that get bailouts. Perhaps the executives aren't the only ones who should have their compensation curtailed. Just sayin'.

(H/T: Powerline)

The Temple of Doom

Twins 3, White Sox 2. Sox fans probably are even more eager than Twins fans are to see that new stadium open up. This was the game that I thought would be the toughest one for the Twins to win. As expected, Mark Buehrle was really good for the Whities, but without Carlos Quentin and Joe Crede, it's tough for the South Siders to score runs right now. Nick Blackburn pitched just well enough and let's give a particular shout out to portly young portsider Jose Mijares, who merely dispatched two certain Hall of Famers and one of the most dangerous right handed hitters in the American League in the 8th inning. And a shout out to Carlos Gomez for making a great play in the 9th to save Joe Nathan's bacon.

Tomorrow night it's Gavin Floyd, who has been very good for the Whities, against Kevin Slowey, who has probably been the most consistent Twins pitcher in the second half. Getcha popcorn.

Oh, and the Brewers are now tied with the Mets for the wild card and the Marlins have informed America that they will actually try hard against the Mets over the weekend. Will the Cubs try hard against the Brewers over the weekend? Stay tuned.

Understanding How Bob Knight Felt

Back in the 1980s, the University of Wisconsin Badgers basketball team was a perennial Big Ten footwipe. For years the fans would grumble about the bumbling squads that Badger coach Steve Yoder would put on the floor. And every year, opposing coaches in the Big Ten would rush to Yoder's defense, telling anyone who wanted to hear that Yoder was a great guy, ran a fine program and was a credit to the university. Bob Knight in particular was especially fulsome in praise for Yoder. I'm pretty sure that in Yoder's 10 seasons in Madison, he never beat Bob Knight.

Over the past several years, I've felt the same way about Matt Millen, who finally got ashcanned today as the majordomo of the Detroit Lions. The Packers (and the Vikings and the Bears, for that matter) have been beating the Lions like a rented mule throughout the illustrious Millen era. For the record, I think Matt Millen is a great guy, has run a fine program in Detroit and is a credit to his franchise.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

There's A Reason They Call Him Learned Foot

This is why. A quick excerpt:

You see, none of this would have been possible if all those people who read "maximum loan amount" on their preapproved loan documents as "buy a house that costs this much" had just stayed out of the market; or at least had been familiar with the nuances of the word "maximum". Because all the (well, most of) the troubles Wall Street is currently facing can be traced directly back to the dimwit making $35,000 per year who just absolutely fell in love with that 1800 square foot $400,000 bungalow in Tangletown with its $8000 per year in property taxes. The figures and locations are of course different from case to case, but the ratios tend to be the same. Sure, there may be a thin film of folks who were victimized by circumstances and were forced to default. I'm certainly not blaming them. Most people get farked by the fickle finger of fate at some point in their lives. I'm talking about those people that you think about when you drive past those vast tracts of McMansions and overpriced townhouses in Eden Prairie or Plymouth, wondering to yourself: "how can so many people afford these super-expensive homes?" You now have your answer. Most of them can't.

Read the whole thing.

You Know the Drill

Some good news amidst the unrelenting gloom rising from the Potomac:

WASHINGTON - Democrats have decided to allow a quarter-century ban on drilling for oil off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to expire next week, conceding defeat in a months-long battle with the White House and Republicans set off by $4 a gallon gasoline prices this summer.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., told reporters
Tuesday that a provision continuing the moratorium will be dropped this year from a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running after Congress recesses for the election.

This is only the first step, since Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are planning to wait for a better deal that they expect to get from a President Obama. If you needed a reason to get involved in electing people like Erik Paulsen and especially Ed Matthews, here it is. Ed has a well-thought out position on the issue that you can read here. His opponent's position is to do whatever Speaker Pelosi tells her to do.

Speaker Pelosi might try to pull this back in the next Congress, but a Speaker Boehner would not. Retiring Betty McCollum would be an excellent first step and an act of civic hygiene as well.
Cross-posted at True North

Fellas - I'm Telling You - You're Gonna Want More Kubel

Twins 9, White Sox 3. Good win for our heroes, but tomorrow night is the game that matters. Mark Buehrle is one of the all-time Twins killers and Nick Blackburn has been pretty shaky of late. If the Twins win tomorrow night, it could get really interesting.
Oh yeah, the Brewers won, too, so they're not dead yet. The Pirates are better than chicken soup.

Get Back to Washington/Ask an Expert

Brief midday post. Two quick points:

  • It's possible that the Senate will vote on the bailout bill this week and that both Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain will miss the vote because they are too busy campaigning. I think it would be a very good thing indeed if both of them get their butts back to Washington, participate in the debate and vote. This is the most important vote that will take place in this Congress and if these guys want to be President, the people ought to know where they stand. Oh, and Biden should vote, too. Almost forgot about him.
  • Sometimes if you want to understand something, you should ask an expert. That's when I turn to the Nightwriter. Click the link, kids.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Price of Moral Hazard

Moral Hazard:

The risk that a party to a transaction has not entered into the contract in good faith, has provided misleading information about its assets, liabilities or credit capacity, or has an incentive to take unusual risks in a desperate attempt to earn a profit before the contract settles.

See also: 1999-2008.

So what are we going to do about it? Who knows? The Treasury Secretary wants to administer a $700 billion bailout. The bidding on Capitol Hill has already begun. Partisans on both sides are blaming the other for causing the mess.

The only thing I am certain of this: the people who are taking steps to fix the problem aren't likely to fix anything, because they all had a hand in it. I sure did: I worked for Bank of America for 3 years during the height of the boom and B of A was involved in what's happened (and is bidding to benefit from the wreckage). B of A had better standards than a lot of lenders, but I was privy to financial information for our line of business and there were some bad loans in our portfolio, loans that would never have been made in a more normal time. We all knew it, deep down, but no one wanted the party to end.

You can't count on Congress to fix the problem -- Barney Frank, Christopher Dodd and yes, Barack Obama were wholly-owned subsidiaries of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. You can't count on the Fed: Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernake would occasionally make cryptic comments about things, but they didn't stand up to say that madness was afoot. And the Bush administration didn't bother, either.

We all own this. It won't do to pretend otherwise.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Heaven 17

Today is my wedding anniversary - Mrs. D and I exchanged vows 17 years ago at St. Adalbert Church in St. Paul. I'm not sure what the traditional gift for your 17th anniversary is, although this website suggests furniture, so perhaps I ought to go out and get an end table or something.

We ended up having dinner last night since she has to work today and it's a school night. Those are some of the realities associated with wedding anniversaries - the daily grind often intervenes. Three years ago, we ended up celebrated our 14th anniversary by bailing water out of our basement because our sump pump had been disabled by a power outage caused by a huge storm that wiped out hundreds of trees in New Brighton. We fought off the flood with a flashlight and a plastic Kirby Puckett souvenir baseball cup, bailing the rising water into the laundry tub for hours. It's times like that when you understand what "for better or worse" really means.

One thing is certain - after 17 years, I remain convinced that I am the luckiest guy in the world. Jill has always been a very special person but she is better in every way than she was when we married - she is smart, funny, wise, generous and loving. And we've learned to adjust - you have to be able to change and grow together if you are going to make a marriage work.

Senate Candidate and Former (Current) SNL Writer

The usually reliable Politico website is reporting that Al Franken had a role in writing the opening sketch on last night's episode of Saturday Night Live, a ham-handed bit satirizing John McCain's political ads. What do we make of this?

  • In tough economic times, most business look at their supply chain as a place to cut costs.Is anyone really surprised that NBC would let a liberal Democrat currently involved in a political campaign participate in writing something for them? As a practical matter, NBC typically runs DNC talking points unedited on their newscasts, so at least this way they've cut out the middleman.

  • It's good to see that Franken is taking steps to find something to do with his life after he gets his butt handed to him in November.

  • As I watched the skit last night, I was wondering why it wasn't very funny. Franken's hand in the sketch explains why.

Bottom line - just about everyone in the media and entertainment industries are completely committed to pulling Barack Obama's butt across the finish line. The only person NBC employs as an on-air talent who isn't in the tank for Obama is Al Michaels, who has been known to let slip his conservative opinions during football games. (John Madden's candidate, from what I can tell, is Brett Favre.) Conservatives just have to accept it and move on.

Cross-posted at True North.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Curiouser and Curiouser

And now, for a trip down the rabbit hole.

The Washington Post published an article profiling Franklin Raines, the former Fannie Mae majordomo who has come in for justifiable criticism for his role in the financial shenanigans that took place under his watch. In the article, Post writer Anita Huslin notes that Raines also had been offering advice to Barack Obama's campaign:

In the four years since he stepped down as Fannie Mae's chief executive under the shadow of a $6.3 billion accounting scandal, Franklin D. Raines has been quietly constructing a new life for himself. He has shaved eight points off his golf handicap, taken a corner office in Steve Case's D.C. conglomeration of finance, entertainment and health-care companies and more recently, taken calls from Barack Obama's presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters.

Not surprisingly, John McCain's campaign staff noted that and on Thursday they came out with this ad, which notes essentially what the Post reported.

Obama has no background in economics. Who advises him? The Post says it's Franklin Raines, for "advice on mortgage and housing policy." Shocking. Under Raines, Fannie Mae committed "extensive financial fraud." Raines made millions.

Fannie Mae collapsed. Taxpayers? Stuck with the bill. Barack Obama. Bad advice. Bad instincts. Not ready to lead.

Also not surprisingly, the Obama campaign didn't like the ad much and complained about it, loudly. And equally unsurprisingly, members of the news media swooped in to condemn the ad. What was surprising: that two of the people condemning the ad are with the Washington Post.

First, Howard Kurtz called the ad into question, even though he had to admit that the information that McCain's campaign used is accurate.

Fannie Mae did collapse, requiring a government takeover, and Raines, its former chairman, paid $25 million in April to settle a case brought by federal authorities investigating his role in the agency's accounting problems. But he has never been a close adviser to Obama.

The commercial's main charge is based on an April story in The Washington Post that said Raines has "taken calls from Barack Obama's presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters." Reporter Anita Huslin says Raines told her that during an in-person interview.

An Obama spokesman called the ad's contention "a flat-out lie," saying Raines has "never advised Senator Obama about anything, ever." But Raines did not claim to have advised the Illinois senator personally. In an accompanying statement, Raines said he never "provided his campaign with advice on housing or economic matters." That contradicts what he told Huslin five months ago.

In other words, either Huslin is lying or Raines is lying. Neither one of them is John McCain, though.

But then there was more - the Washington Post continued on the trail of casting doubt on the veracity of the ad. Post writer Michael Dobbs in his "Fact Checker" said this:

The McCain campaign is clearly exaggerating wildly in attempting to depict Franklin Raines as a close adviser to Obama on "housing and mortgage policy." If we are to believe Raines, he did have a couple of telephone conversations with someone in the Obama campaign. But that hardly makes him an adviser to the candidate himself -- and certainly not in the way depicted in the McCain video release.

Again, the Post does not dispute that Raines did field inquiries from Obama's campaign. Look again at the ad's text: does it say that Obama is a close adviser to Obama? No. That would be Jim Johnson, another old Fannie Mae hand who was deeply involved in the Obama campaign and whom McCain featured in another ad the following day.

So what do we make of this? Apparently John McCain was wrong to attach enough credibility to a report in the Washington Post that he used it for an advertisement. Take it from Howard Kurtz and Michael Dobbs -- Post reporting is not to be trusted.

Well, some of us have suspected that for a long time.

Cross-posted at True North

Saturday Morning Flashback World

One of my favorite media experiences is listening to "Saturday Morning Flashback" on WXRT, my favorite radio station from Chicago. The show runs from 8-12 every Saturday and what they do is pick a specific year and play music exclusively from that year during the four-hour time slot. As it happens, as I write this the show is playing music from 1973, but it could be any year from 1965 through about 1996. You get a feel for what the music was like and they also add additional features about the news from the year, what movies were popular, etc. It's always entertaining.

But it's also deceptive, because the 1973 you get from WXRT isn't really what 1973 was like. If you look at the Billboard Top 100 for the year, you see some really wonderful songs and some really dire stuff, too. Some of the songs that are played were Top 40 hits, although you won't hear "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Ole Oak Tree" on the show, even though it was the #1 song of 1973. Of the top ten songs of the year, typically you might only hear #4 ("Let's Get it On"), #7 ("Crocodile Rock"), #8 ("Will It Go Round in Circles", with Billy Preston sporting a sweet Afro in the linked video) and maybe #9 ("You're So Vain") in a typical 1973 show. Meanwhile, you do hear some great songs like Little Feat's "Dixie Chicken," Bruce Springsteen's "Rosalita," but most people sure didn't hear those songs in 1973. And you also hear some songs that were hits but most people have largely forgotten, like "Why Can't We Live Together" by Timmy Thomas (#75 on the charts) and "Dancing in the Moonlight" by King Harvest (#36).

Sometimes I feel like we live in a Saturday Morning Flashback world. It's very easy now to get whatever music you want, whatever news you want and whatever experiences you choose. While I love being the editor of my own life, sometimes I wonder if my editorial decisions are blinding me to information and perspectives that would be useful to have. And I really wonder if we are missing things now that, 36 years on, will seem blindingly obvious. This has been a pretty momentous week - lots of things have happened in the financial markets and in Washington that will have very long-term consequences. Are we seeing things clearly right now?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Singing In the Rain

As always, Iowahawk notices something:

LAS VEGAS, NV -- Barack Obama stepped up his attacks on Republican rival John McCain today during a campaign stop in Nevada, telling supporters to "get in the faces" of waivering voters with his message of hope, change, and "brass fisties."

"Righty right, me malenky droogs," said Obama, nonchalantly spinning a steel baton while pacing the stage before a packed audience at a Las Vegas baseball stadium. "Come with uncle and hear all proper! Hear angel trumpets and devil trombones. You are all invited. I want you to talk to them whether they are independent or whether they are Republican. I want you to argue with them and get in their faces, with bootsie-woots if thou it suits."

Obama said his new gloves-off campaign strategy was prompted by what he described as a coordinated effort by McCain and talk radio to distract from his message of national unity."One thing I could never stand was to hear a filthy, dirty old partisan bushie, howling away his filthy songs and going blurpy blurp," said Obama. "Naughty, naughty, naughty! You filthy old soomkas!"

"So great bolshy yarblockos to you, Johnny brother," he added in a stern warning to the McCain camp, "We'll meet you with chain or britva or Dailykos anytime, not having you aiming factchecks at us reasonless. Well, it stands to reason we won't have it."

Indeed. Read the whole thing.

Houses of the Holy

Sarah Palin got a lot of grief because of last week's interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson, especially about the notion that we are fighting "a holy war," which Gibson doesn't seem to think is the case. Palin was widely ridiculed for her comments.

Turns out, there's a long line of presidents who have invoked God, as this video shows. Punch that link and give it a look. Further affiant sayeth not.

(H/T: Instapundit)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Twenty-Seven -- Soul '72

Not much commentary this time, since I think the videos speak for themselves. I will say this, though -- the early 1970s had a reputation as being a time when music wasn't that good, especially coming off the glory of the 1960s. It's not really true, though - especially when you are talking about what was then called Soul. Here are four fine examples -- good tunes all, with some really alarming fashion choices.

First up, it's The Main Ingredient, from an appearance on Soul Train, with their biggest hit:

One of the biggest hits of 1972 was this one from Joe Tex. Pay particular attention to the somewhat esoteric outfits on the gals dancing behind ol' Joe.

Those two were happy. But it wasn't all happy. Consider this cautionary tale from the O'Jays, even if you get distracted by the impeccable tailoring on display.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest Motown acts of the 1960s, the Temptations, were still around and they had one of their biggest hits with this one, also a cautionary tale, written and produced by Norman Whitfield, who died on Tuesday.

They don't write 'em like that any more. Well, mostly they don't.

Cast your votes!

Book 'Em, Danno

It looks like the guy who hacked Sarah Palin's e-mail account may be identified. Apparently a 20-year old University of Tennessee student, David Kernell, is being investigated. Click on the link concerning more about the background of this individual.

It's too soon to tell if this is the guy, or if it's someone else. I don't care who it is - the person who did this needs to go to jail.

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - Gratuitous Joe Paterno Bashing Edition

Football rivalries tend to be passionate, especially if they have a long history. This week's slate has some of that, but not as much as we'll see later on.

Xavier Hawks 17, Ripon Tigers 3. This year the mighty Hawks have been playing defense like it really matters, pitching two consecutive shutouts. There's very little history between the Hawks and Ripon, but what history there is favors the Blue and White.

ACTUAL RESULT: RIPON 39, XAVIER 22. Ripon pulled out a spread offense and was just too fast for the Hawks. Next weeked hated Clintonville comes to XHS for Homecoming.

Irondale Knights 41, North Branch Vikings 6. North Branch is a nice town on the outskirts of the metro area and there's very little history between these two schools, either. North Branch had a dismal season last year and so far things haven't improved much. The Knights should cruise in this one.

ACTUAL RESULT: IRONDALE 51, NORTH BRANCH 0. This just in -- North Branch is still dismal.

Mounds View Mustangs 31, Roseville Raiders 17. This is a good rivalry but historically Mounds View has had the better of it. Since the game is in Roseville, it may be close, but there's little reason to expect the Mustangs to fall.

ACTUAL RESULT: MOUNDS VIEW 35, ROSEVILLE 0. Surprisingly easy win. Those Mustangs might be pretty good.

Monmouth Scots 42, Beloit Bucs 10. Beloit and Monmouth have been playing for years and while from this distance it looks like the Bucs are getting better, they are not ready for this challenge. The Scots will battle hated St. Norbert for league supremacy and the Bucs will be spectators at best.


Badgers have a Bye. Looking at the schedule, so does a lot of the Big Ten, especially Penn State, which is playing Temple. Penn State can consider itself ripped, especially since it also played Coastal Seafoods, I mean Coastal Carolina a few weeks back. Next year I believe JoePa has scheduled these guys for a game, and he won't stop until the Lions have cut a path through all of the Seven Sisters.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 31, Florida Atlantic Owls 28. Last year the Gophers got beat down in Florida by these guys, but the Owls aren't as good this year. Give the Gophers the nod based on the home field and the chance that ancient Owls coach Howard Schnellenberger will be distracted by the cannon fire in the end zone after the Gophers score.

ACTUAL RESULT: MINNESOTA 37, FAU 3. It has to be said - the Gophers are making a lot of progress. Next week they go to Columbus - that will tell us a lot.

Carolina Panthers 21, Purple Helmeted Love Warriors 17. My Appleton readers are disappointed that the Vikings have decided to start Gus Frerotte instead of this guy. But it won't really matter much - the Vikings will rise or fall on the production of Adrian Peterson. The Panthers will likely have 8 guys in the box and until the Vikings can get their offensive line straightened out, Peterson will continue to run wild between the 20s and have little room in the red zone. Sorry, Purple.

ACTUAL RESULT: VIKINGS 20, PANTHERS 10. Good win for the Purple. Antoine Winfield may have saved their season. Tough trip next week, though, so caution is advised, oh manic Purple fans.

Green Bay Packers 31, Dallas Cowboys 28. Aaron Rodgers almost beat these guys in Dallas last year. This time the game is in Green Bay. The Cowboys have never won in Lambeau Field and the last two times they've come up they've been blown out. It won't be a blowout this time, but the guess here is that Tony Romo will try a little too hard and throw a key pick late.

ACTUAL RESULT: COWBOAHS 27, PACKERS 16. Nothing too complicated here - it looked like a Packers/Cowboys game from around 1993-94, with Romo in the Aikman role, Barber in the Emmitt Smith role and Owens in the Irvin role. Irvin didn't usually hurt the Packers that much - it was always Alvin Harper in those days, and so it was yesterday - the other guy was the one with the dagger. Packers just have to get better, like they did after 1994.

The New Bridge

Took the new 35W bridge this morning. It's very nice, well designed and the traffic flow was outstanding. I won't miss 280, that's for sure.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Don't Need to Discuss Much

Gus Frerotte takes over for Tarvaris Jackson. The Vikings have apparently bailed for now on their great experiment. As always, the backup quarterback is the most popular guy in most NFL towns and we're no different here in the Land of Purple. Viking fans dimly remember that Frerotte had some success as an injury replacement for Daunte Culpepper a few years back and they are perhaps hoping that magic can return.

I'm skeptical. There's a reason why Frerotte has bounced around a lot in his career. He has a good arm and he's smart, but he has always tended to wear down as the season goes on. He's also 37 years old and largely immobile, which is trouble given the current state of the Vikings offensive line. Some of Jackson's best plays have been with his feet, plays that Frerotte probably can't make. My guess is that Viking opponents will continue to stack things up to stop Adrian Peterson and that they will continue to strugle offensively.

In theory, Jackson will be benched for the rest of the season while Frerotte takes over. The guess here is that Frerotte will get hurt and we'll see T-Jack back under center by midseason. And by then, the Vikings will have settled into 3rd place in the division, where they will remain for the rest of the season.

Feel the Love

What on earth would have possessed the Gawker gang to accept the results of a hacking of Sarah Palin's e-mail account and post the results for the world to see? I don't really want you to click on that link, because what's there is none of your business. Nor is it mine. But there it is. And it probably will reside on caches on computers forever, even if Gawker eventually takes this scurrility down.

The good news is that the FBI and Secret Service are investigating the matter and these enterprising people who did this are probably all going to be headed for jail. It's a pretty open and shut case, after all, because they posted the stuff on a website. While they likely tried to hide the actual IP addresses involved, the Secret Service is very good at figuring this sort of thing out. They will.

I already see that the spin coming from the port side is that Palin shouldn't have been using personal e-mail for state business. What's been published thus far doesn't support that conclusion, but that doesn't matter. It's long since been clear that anything can be done to Sarah Palin and her family and she simply has to live with it. It's a good thing that she's tough, because she has been put through something that is unbelievably shameful.


  • October 11, 2002: The United States Senate passes Public Law 107-243, more commonly known as the Iraq War Resolution, with a vote of 77-23. Senator Paul Wellstone, involved in a re-election campaign against challenger Norm Coleman, votes against the measure.

  • October 25, 2002: Sen. Wellstone dies in a plane crash near Eveleth, Minnesota.
  • October 29, 2002: A memorial service honoring Sen. Wellstone is televised throughout Minnesota. It turns deeply partisan, with speakers including Rick Kahn and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) openly campaigning for replacement candidate Walter Mondale.
  • The backlash against the memorial service proves costly to the Democrats as Norm Coleman wins election. Polling suggests that the tone of the event may have cost other Democrats running in elections elsewhere in the country.
  • January 7, 2006: a helicopter crash kills Maj. Stuart Anderson near Tal Afar, Iraq. Seven other soldiers and four civilians are killed as well. Major Anderson is survived by his wife, two daughters and his parents. "He was very proud of being in the military,” his father, Claremont Anderson, of Hoffman, Minn., said earlier this month.
  • September 16, 2008: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee runs an ad featuring Maj. Anderson's parents, including the aforementioned Mr. Anderson. In the ad, the grieving parents blame Sen. Coleman for voting for the war. As noted in the timeline, when the war was authorized, Sen. Coleman was a private citizen.

Cross-posted on True North

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Keyser Sose of Washington

I don't usually post during the day, but you really owe it to yourself to read this blog post about Jamie Gorelick, the former Clinton operative who seems to be at the scene of every disaster that happens in the 202 area code. Truly astonishing.

(h/t: Instapundit)

Monday, September 15, 2008

A Coyote on Rolls Road

Saw something unusual today as I was coming home. My usual path takes me through our residential neighborhood and I was traveling north on Rolls Road when I saw it, standing in between two houses about 15 feet from the road. A coyote, staring nonchalantly at me while I drove past. It was a little smaller than an Irish Setter but had the unmistakable muzzle of a coyote. It had probably wandered up into the neighborhood from Mirror Lake, the large pond that sits at the end of my street.

I've seen foxes, deer and even bald eagles in the neighborhood before, but never a coyote. Our neighborhood is Wonder Years suburban vintage, with a variety of 60s era houses plotted along winding streets that are named after autmobiles (Rolls Road, Continental Drive, Cord Circle, Riviera Drive and Benz Road). It's not exactly a place where one would expect to see anything other than a squirrel or rabbit, but nature has learned to adapt to the urban setting and you see all manner of fauna these days.

It doesn't surprise me that a coyote might live in the neighborhood. They are smart, resourceful animals that will eat whatever they can find. They might prefer a squirrel, but they will raid the garbage if they have to. They find a way to survive.

Sometimes I wonder why we give people less respect for their resourcefulness than we give coyotes. Today was a tough day in the financial markets, with Lehman Brothers filing for bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch seeking shelter from my former employer, Bank of America. There was a certain measure of panic in the market, but rationality was ultimately maintained. While it is hard to imagine a world without a firm like Lehman Brothers and I certainly emphatize with those who lost their jobs today, you have to believe that we can adapt to the changes that are afoot. Both of the presidential campaigns were alternatively promising help and casting aspersions about the good will of the other. They need to do that sort of thing right now - it probably won't do to pretend that a hands-off approach is the wisest. But I suspect it is.

We don't know how much rot there is among the major financial firms right now, although we'll eventually find out. But this much is certain - like the coyote on Rolls Road, we'll adapt. We may eat some garbage in the short term, but the hunting will improve.

We're Desperate

Do you remember Michael Dukakis? Watch this ad and tell me if it sounds like things we're hearing now.
And for a special bonus -- check out the sources listed on the second link, then tell me when left-wing columnists like Joe Klein and E. J. Dionne's views became dispositive on an issue. Do you suppose that if McCain ran an ad citing Sean Hannity's views as evidence for an assertion that most people would accept it?
(H/T: Hot Air)

Ned the Dead (Part Two)

Brewers fire Ned Yost. Man, that was fast. Let's see what ol' Dale Sveum can do for them.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ned the Dead (and other thoughts)

Haven't done a bullet post in a while, but a drizzly day seems like a good day for a drizzle of thoughts. All sports, though - let's give politics a rest for a day.

  • It's increasingly looking like my beloved Milwaukee Brewers are going to choke yet again. They went into the weekend up three games in the wild card race to Philadelphia and are in the process of getting swept by the Phillies while dodging the raindrops that have been falling all over the Eastern Seaboard. When it matters, the Brewers are falling apart. Goodness, it's irritating. This team has more talent than any since the lone World Series team in Brewers history but has had an awful penchant of blowing games in the late innings. It may not be entirely fair to blame this on manager Ned Yost, but it's pretty clear that if the Brewers miss the playoffs again, Ned will be gone. As for the picture, my friends back home in Wisconsin will remember.

  • The football season has been a lot of fun so far, but things will start getting interesting this week. The Badgers passed a major test last night at Fresno, but begin a really nasty stretch after a bye week. They go to Michigan, then entertain Ohio State and Penn State on successive weekends, then face a trip to Iowa, a home game against Illinois and a trip to Michigan State. Can the Badgers run that gauntlet unscathed? If they do, you'll have to look at them as a BCS team for sure. At this point, Penn State looks like the toughest foe they will face but trips to East Lansing and Iowa City are usually highly problematic.

  • Can we now put a rest to all the Favre longing, Packer fans? Aaron Rodgers played a pretty darned good game today in Detroit and it's increasingly clear that he is the best quarterback in the division. If the Packers can beat the Cowboys in Green Bay next weekend, it will set the tone for the rest of the season. And it sure will be nice to have the Cowboys play the Packers someplace other than Dallas for a change.

  • After a Vikings loss, it's often entertaining to listen to the carping on the "Vikings Fan Line" post-game show in KFAN, because it's usually a festival of schadenfreude. I didn't get the chance today but my sense is that the natives are really restless about the Purple being 0-2. If you look at things objectively, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the Vikes are where they are. We've heard all summer long about how the Vikings would be vastly improved, but those assertions never made a lot of sense. Jared Allen is an excellent speed rusher, but he can pushed around at the point of attack. Nose tackle Pat Williams has played at a very high level since he's come to Minnesota but he's an old guy by NFL standards playing a very punishing position and it's reasonable to assume that he will wear down. Darren Sharper is getting up there, too. Upshot -- there was reason to suspect that the defense, while generally stout, could be exploited. And it has been. On the offensive side of the ball, T-Jack is still a work in progress and is in danger of moving from prospect to suspect, while the offensive line has only two good players on it right now. Bryant McKinnie will come back eventually but it's doubtful that he'll play at the level needed to make a big difference. This team's ceiling has probably always been 9 wins. I'll say this -- I'd rather be a blogger than Brad Childress round about now.

  • We had a little fun jawing about scheduling patsies on the prediction thread. I chided the Gophers for having lowly Montana State on the schedule, prompting a commenter to also chide the Badgers for having might Cal Poly on the schedule at the end of the season. It's an interesting question - whom should you schedule? I've always thought that the ideal non-conference foe is a second-division school from a BCS conference. Good examples of teams to schedule would be Iowa State, Vanderbilt, Baylor, Arizona, Duke, etc. Teams like Fresno are not good choices because they can beat you. For non-Big 10 conferences, the Gophers and Indiana are excellent choices. I did take a peek ahead to the Badgers non-conference opponents in upcoming seasons (the information is available on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel website) and see that the Badgers will be looking at Oregon State and Arizona State in upcoming seasons. These are pretty good foes. If Tim Brewster can get the Gophers to a more competitive level, it will be interesting to see who starts to show up on the Gopher slate.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mrs. Mojo Rising

Sarah Palin really bothers some people. Take Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell. She dumps a 55-gallon drum of vitriol in her latest column. And it's personal, too.

Sarah Palin makes me sick. I hate that she was able to steal Barack Obama's mojo just by showing up wearing rimless glasses and a skirt.

I hate that she makes Joe Biden look like John McCain and John McCain look like the maverick he is not.

Bad, Mojo-stealing Sarah. And there's more - she must be a bad mother:

Even with a supportive husband, I doubt seriously that Palin has time to be a hockey mom unless she is making a personal appearance on a campaign trail.

And while 7-year-old Piper Palin gave the world a fuzzy moment on stage at the convention when she licked her hand and smoothed her baby brother's hair, and when Bristol, 17 and pregnant, held Trig against her chest while her mother shook the hands of adoring fans, I couldn't help but wonder what it's really like for these kids.

After all, there's no such thing as a superwoman, and children of driven moms make their own sacrifices.

The charge is nonsense, of course. Children of driven moms make sacrifices. So do children of indolent moms. And children of driven dads. We all make sacrifices at some point or another. No one gets to choose all the circumstances of their life. Children eventually realize that.

Toward the end, Mitchell gets to the real problem with Sarah Palin:

Sarah Palin makes me sick because although black Democrats have been responsible for giving white candidates the boost they needed to beat their Republican opponents in tight races, these voters are now being insulted by feminists who say they will cross over into the McCain camp because of her. How can that be?

See, the problem isn't Sarah Palin. It's that feminists owe black Democrats. It's Time. Obama is Here and these nasty feminists aren't getting in line. And the Dream is slipping away. Never mind that feminists are a subset of all women and that many of the women who will support the McCain-Palin ticket are doing so for reasons that have nothing to do with Palin's gender.

One of the things children eventually learn is that while some dreams do come true, not all dreams do. And most children as they mature come to understand that and adjust to the circumstances of their life, especially regarding the things that they cannot control. Perhaps some day Mary Mitchell will come to understand these things, too.

Cross-posted at True North

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wile E. Obama, Super Genius

The news came out this morning that, for at least the fifth time now, Barack Obama is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore. One of Obama's most reliable bobos, Adam Nagourney of the New York Times, read the scroll in this morning's edition:

Senator Barack Obama will intensify his assault against Senator John McCain, with new television advertisements and more forceful attacks by the candidate and surrogates beginning Friday morning, as he confronts an invigorated Republican presidential ticket and increasing nervousness in the Democratic ranks.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe was ready to reassure the fretful faithful, although he chose an interesting turn of phrase in his remarks:

“We’re sensitive to the fluid dynamics of the campaign, but we have a game plan and a strategy,” said Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe. “We’re familiar with this. And I’m sure between now and Nov. 4 there will be another period of hand-wringing and bed-wetting. It comes with the territory.”

And sure enough it came this morning, the opening volley in the only war that really matters to the Obama campaign. It was an ad that chided McCain for being out of touch because he can't use a computer!

That's right, Grandpa Cancer is so out of touch that he can't use a computer! How could anyone vote for a guy who can't use a computer?

It's a brilliant riposte, except for a few little details.

  • The primary reason McCain can't personally use a computer is pretty simple - his arms don't work well because of the injuries he suffered as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Given the frequency that McCain mentions that part of his life, it might have occurred to someone in the Obama braintrust to think about that. And it's an especially risible charge to make given McCain's clear understanding of the power of computers and the net, as documented in this article from Forbes concerning McCain's 2000 campaign.

  • What's more, sneering at some for not being able to use a computer is especially misguided considering how many people in this country still have difficulties using a computer. There are a lot of seniors who don't use computers regularly and who are frankly embarrassed about it. I wonder how they might feel about a presidential candidate rubbing someone's nose in the dirt about that. I might also share this experience: when I was between jobs a while back I spent time at the Minnesota Workforce Center. Every day I would see people who came there who had absolutely no idea how to use a computer and needed the staff to basically do everything for them. These people were not doddering idiots; they simply needed help. I wonder how they might feel about this ad.

  • One other point regarding e-mail. Do you know how many e-mails a typical executive sends? Not many. You know why? Pretty simple -- e-mail is forever and in our litigious society any correspondence from an executive on any topic can be grist for the lawsuit mill. Perhaps Bill Clinton could have explained that to Obama yesterday, considering he only sent two in his entire 8-year term.

Another unforced error from Sen. Obama.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven Years On

I wrote the following two years ago, on the 5th anniversary of the attack on America. I don't think I can say it any better now. Although I do have one thought I'll share after this.


It was an especially beautiful morning, and really a gorgeous day, one of those days that make September the best time of year in Minnesota. The sky was clear and the morning air was crisp. I climbed on the 4 bus on Foss Road and began my journey to my office in downtown Minneapolis. I arrived at my desk about the same time the first plane hit.

We all can remember what we were doing that day. I remember thinking that this was different. I remember the first reports coming around as routine office chatter – “did you hear that a small plane hit the World Trade Center?” Then we learned the second plane had hit. And the rumors were flying. Planes were crashing into buildings all over the country. The Air Force was shooting down airliners. We knew the nation was under attack, an attack we couldn’t quite comprehend. Work at my office crawled to a standstill as a single television set showed the smoking buildings. Broadcast e-mails from the top executives imploring everyone to “get back to work” were ignored.

We didn’t know what we should do. A co-worker and fellow Catholic, who knew of my involvement at my home parish because we’d compared our experiences, suggested that we go to St. Olaf for noon Mass. A group of us did and found the downtown church filled to the rafters. We heard the pastor speak of peace, of remaining calm, of God’s love on a day when hatred was streaked across the skies and the airwaves. And we knew that Father Forliti was right. But we also knew that there would be a fight and the world had changed.

I went home that night and turned on the news. My son, freshly arrived from kindergarten, bounded down the steps, looking for his usual dose of Scooby Doo. My wife called down, “No, Benjamin, don’t go down there!” But he was there and he saw the footage of the plane striking the second tower. And he knew, in his child-like way, that this was real, and it was horrible. He started to cry and ran back up the stairs, screaming “I don’t want to see that!” I will never forget the look on his face.

Five years on, I think a lot of us are still screaming “I don’t want to see that!” It’s a rare thing in this life to actually witness evil, to see malevolence on a grand scale, to view an atrocity happen before your eyes. Most of the time, evil tends to happen quietly, in the background, without wide exposure. Because we don’t often see it as it occurs, we tend to either recoil from what we see, or fail to understand what we are seeing, or deny that we see is evil. That’s natural – we call it coping. But coping is not enough. Taking off our shoes in the airport is coping. We can cope indefinitely. But evil remains.

And I think we have to call this thing what it is – evil. Flying planes into buildings is evil. Bombing nightclubs and mosques is evil. Providing a cash stipend to the families of suicide bombers is evil. Pushing elderly men in wheelchairs into the Mediterranean is evil. Blowing up subway trains is evil. This is what we still face, five years on. I cannot predict where we will be in five years from this day, but I can only assume that we will still face evil. And saying “I don’t want to see that” will remain insufficient.


Two years on, you know what has changed? I think a lot of people are no longer saying "I don't want to see that." I'm afraid that a lot of people have chosen to be ignorant, or worse. Eternal vigilance, people. Eternal vigilance.