Sunday, May 31, 2009

For the Record

I am unabashedly pro-life. And because I am unabashedly pro-life, I condemn the murder of Dr. George Tiller categorically and completely.

That is all.

Happy Birthday, Mom

I wrote the following piece 3 years ago today. Don't think I can improve upon it. Since most of you probably haven't seen it, it seems like time to bring it back. Happy 76th birthday, Mom.


Today is my mother’s 73rd birthday. Mom died six years ago, following complications from a mastectomy. The last years of Mom’s life were difficult for her physically, as she suffered the after-effects of a 40+ year, pack-a-day smoking habit. Toward the end of her time, she spent a large amount of her time in a wheelchair and was residing in an assisted-living facility at the time of her death. But that was only part of it.

Mary Jane Heimermann was born May 31, 1933, in Center Township, Outagamie County, Wisconsin, about 6 miles north of my hometown of Appleton. Mom was blessed with enormous talent and cursed with unfathomable demons. She was an accomplished singer, lead vocalist in a Sweet Adelines barbershop quartet that performed throughout the Midwest and in Canada. She came of age at a time when women generally were not able to reach the executive suites unless they were secretaries. She became one, serving as a top admin for senior management at Kimberly Clark Corporation. She could type over 100 words a minute on a manual typewriter and would regularly help her bosses craft correspondence and maintain complicated business records. She met an army veteran turned college student, Edward Heuring, and married him in January, 1963. Her husband graduated from the University of Wisconsin that spring and took a job with a large, Chicago based insurance company. The young couple then moved to a small apartment in Cicero, a Chicago suburb best known as the redoubt of Al Capone, where your faithful correspondent arrived at the end of that year, 10 days after shots rang out in Dallas.

Even then, the demons started to appear. Mom grew increasing apprehensive about raising her young son in the big city, so the family moved back to Appleton the following summer. A total of six more children arrived between 1965 and 1976, including a daughter who died shortly after being born. Meanwhile, the sweet, talented and poised young wife and mother began to slide into bouts of mental illness. She grew increasingly estranged from reality, regularly raging against her husband, her neighbors and the world at large. As her rages would escalate, she would be periodically hospitalized at mental health facilities in the area. She was provided medications which would help, but the side effects would eventually cause her to “go off her meds” and the cycle would begin anew. Mom would be confined several times to such facilities.

Meanwhile, her husband and children struggled to understand the demons. Dad eventually left in 1977, no longer able to deal with the rages and abuse she heaped upon him when she was sick. The children remained with Mom in the family domicile for six years, during which time Mom would do the best she could to raise her six children. My siblings and I turned our attentions outward, becoming involved in school activities and friendships. After graduating from high school in 1981, I left for college and returned home only infrequently. My siblings continued to live in the house until Mom was hospitalized in 1983. At that time my father and his new wife took the remaining kids into his home, where they lived the rest of their respective childhoods. My father passed away in 1990, following complications from surgery.

After the family left, Mom lived in various apartments and facilities. She watched as another woman completed raising her children, a task that she ached to complete but was unable to do. She lived the last few years of her life as essentially a ward of the state, with her older sister serving as her conservator. During the last years of her life, she remained on her medications and was able to be a proud grandmother. She greatly loved her children and saw them as the fruits of her life’s work. Unfortunately, she left too soon.

So why am I writing all this? There are a lot of reasons. You cannot choose the circumstances of your birth, or who your parents are. You can try to run away from the circumstances, but they are integral to the person you become. Mom suffered a lot in her life and I believe she is in a better place now, but I sense that she would have accepted the physical pain to remain here and watch her grandchildren grow up. Most young women coming of age in mid-century America did not have a lot of choices available. I can never really understand what my mother’s life was really like. But it is a conundrum that will eternally draw my attention. And it should.

Another Modest Suggestion for the Sotomayor Confirmation Hearings

Ever since her nomination has been announced, I have assumed that Sonia Sotomayor will indeed be replacing David Souter on the Supreme Court. I know of no reason that she should not be confirmed; while I disagree with her stated politics, she is certainly qualified to be on the Court.

The important job for Republicans, and conservatives generally, is to use the confirmation hearings as a teaching moment. It's important to get Sotomayor's views out on the public record, to the extent that she will reveal them.

I would do one other thing. The Republicans will be able to call witnesses and there is one person that America needs to hear from on the Sotomayor nomination. That person is Miguel Estrada.

If you don't know who Miguel Estrada is and why he matters, I would like to call to your attention this piece from Byron York in the Washington Examiner. Consider the following:

In 2001, President George W. Bush nominated former Justice Department lawyer Miguel Estrada to a seat on the federal courts of appeals. In that instance, as today, the nominee was was a Hispanic with a compelling story and impressive qualifications. And some of the very people who are today praising Sotomayor spent their time devising extraordinary measures to kill Estrada's chances.

Born in Honduras, Estrada came to the United States at 17, not knowing a word of English. He learned the language almost instantly, and within a few years was graduating with honors from Columbia University and heading off to Harvard Law School. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, was a prosecutor in New York, and worked at the Justice Department in Washington before entering private practice.

Estrada's nomination for a federal judgeship set off alarm bells among Democrats. There is a group of left-leaning organizations -- People for the American Way, NARAL, the Alliance for Justice, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the NAACP, and others -- that work closely with Senate Democrats to promote Democratic judicial nominations and kill Republican ones. They were particularly concerned about Estrada.

In November, 2001, representatives of those groups met with Democratic Senate staff. One of those staffers then wrote a memo to Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin, informing Durbin that the groups wanted to stall Bush nominees, particularly three they had identified as good targets. "They also identified Miguel Estrada as especially dangerous," the staffer added, "because he has a minimal paper trail, he is Latino, and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment. They want to hold Estrada off as long as possible."

And they did. As York details in his piece, the Democrats succeeded. They threw up a number of procedural maneuvers and eventually filibustered the Estrada nomination, along with many more Bush administration nominees. Eventually Estrada tired of it and withdrew his name from consideration.

I don't know if Miguel Estrada would have made a good Supreme Court justice or not. His story is at least as compelling as Sotomayor's. If academic credentials and job performance matter at all, he surely should have had the opportunity to serve on the Court of Appeals. As the Democrats prepare to take their victory lap for appointing the first wise Latina to the nation's highest court, it would certainly be worth reminding the American people of the role their party played in derailing the aspirations of a wise Latino.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Name That Pundit

Q. Who said this?

In practice, Obama wants to let government goons snatch you, me and anyone else they deem annoying off the street.

Preventive detention is the classic defining characteristic of a military dictatorship. Because dictatorial regimes rely on fear rather than consensus, their priority is self-preservation rather than improving their people’s lives. They worry obsessively over the one thing they can’t control, what George Orwell called “thoughtcrime” — contempt for rulers that might someday translate to direct action.

Is it:

A) Rush Limbaugh

B) Michael Savage

C) Lew Rockwell

D) Glenn Beck

Take a second and consider it. Click on this link while you think about it.

So, who did you say it was? Guess what, it was a trick question. The answer is dyspeptic left-wing cartoonist Ted Rall, who is calling on Barack Obama to resign. That's something, I suppose. As JWF points out, Rall called for George W. Bush's execution.

Here's a thought -- no matter what you think of the 44th President of the United States, it might make sense to have your comments maintain at least a loose tether to reality.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Most Peculiar, Mama

Nobody told me there'd be days like these/Strange days, indeed.
-- John Lennon

Back in 1992 I was living in Chicago, preparing to move to Minnesota. Mrs. D and I made a trip up here and we decided to stop at the newly completed Mall of America. As we were walking by Oshman's Super Sports store, I happened to notice that former Viking great Chuck Foreman was sitting at a table in front of the store, signing autographs. At that moment there was no line, so I sidled over to him, shook his hand and then told him the following: "I want you to know that I grew up 30 miles from Green Bay. Thanks for ruining my childhood." I was smiling when I said it, so he just looked at me and started laughing. He knew I was joking.

And I was joking, because it wasn't Chuck Foreman who ruined my childhood. It was Fran Tarkenton. Sir Francis, the scrambling, annoying little fellow who played quarterback for the Vikings through their highly successful reign over the old NFC Central division in the 1970s. That weasel Tarkenton, who seemed always to be just out of the reach of former Packer greats Alden Roche or Clarence "Big Cat" Williams, throwing darts to Stu Voigt or Ahmad Rashad, forever moving the chains and breaking the hearts of the downtrodden Packer fans. We'd watch those games and suffer through them, even though we knew that our heroes were going down. And they did. And it was always Tarkenton at the helm.

A lot has happened since Tarkenton stopped tormenting me. For over half of the 30 intervening years, a swashbuckling quarterback wore the Green and Gold, often tormenting Vikings fans in the way that Sir Francis had done me wrong. Brett Favre became the face of the Green Bay Packers and in some ways the face of the entire National Football League. For 16 mostly happy years, Favre led the Packers to a bunch of winning seasons and a Super Bowl, the prize that had eluded the hated Tarkenton. Last year there was a messy divorce and Favre decamped for New York, where he played intermittently well, then retired after the season.

Favre doesn't really retire, though -- he just blows off the offseason stuff then finds another team to play for. Favre wants to play for the hated Vikings, and it appears that there is mutual interest. And his interest has caught the attention of Fran Tarkenton.

“I think it’s despicable. What he put the Packers through last year was not good. Here’s an organization that was loyal to him for 17, 18 years, provided stability of organization, provided players. It just wasn’t about Brett Favre. In this day and time, we have glorified the Brett Favres of the world so much, they think it’s about them. He goes to New York and bombs. He’s 39 years old. How would you like Ray Nitschke in his last year (playing for) the Vikings, or I retire, and go play for the Packers? I kind of hope it happens, so he can fail.”
So I read this and my head starts to spin. Here he is, the hated Fran Tarkenton, who often left me sputtering like Daffy Duck during my childhood, using Daffy Duck's favorite adjective to describe the quarterback who returned the Packers to glory. And I find myself agreeing with Tarkenton.

John Lennon was right -- nobody told me there'd be days like these.

In Your Facebook

From the Decisions I May Come to Regret Department:

Yep, I joined Facebook last night. Mostly I'm curious -- I am aware that a lot of people I know play in that particular sandbox and I've already heard from a few folks, even though my page currently contains my standard picture (which is getting a little old, but then again so am I) and not much else. Will spend some time working on my page in the coming days and we'll see what happens.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Purple Dragons Take the Field

Well, they aren't famous yet, but we'll do our bit. My daughter Maria's softball team, the Purple Dragons, played a spirited game today against the Red Cobras at Pinewood School in lovely Mounds View. Maria batted in the 2 hole and made the most of her opportunity, getting 4 hits in as many plate appearances. Not much to report on the fielding front but the team looks pretty good. They are playing in a 3-team in-house league for the Mounds View Softball Association, so there will likely be further grudge matches against the Red Cobras and the other team in the league, the oddly monikered Blue Tacos.

It's going to be a fun summer, but your humble correspondent thinks he has half the infield dirt of Ramsey County on his shoes right about now. But when you want to know what's going on in 7-10 in-house fastpitch softball in the Mounds View School District, this is where you'd better be looking.

Here's A Question to Ask Sonia Sotomayor

Never mind the "wise Latina" business. Here's a better question, provided here free of charge for any enterprising member of Senate Judiciary Committee.

Judge Sotomayor, as you know two of the fundamentals of jurisprudence are contract and bankruptcy law. What is your view concerning the actions of the Obama administration in the Chrysler bankruptcy?

res ipsa loquitur 052809

Who are the evil, greedy bondholders who are driving GM to bankruptcy? Meet a miscreant.

The old "cui bono" question. One answer, and why it might in the end be the wrong answer.

Robert Gibbs helpfully explains the rules of engagement regarding the Sotomayor nomination. I seem to remember Ari Fleischer coming in for some criticism for saying something similar a few years back. Meanwhile, Doug Williams gets to the heart of the matter.

Mitch Berg brings word of a promising new blog, especially for those who wonder about the Byzantine world of Hennepin County government.

Leo delivers a well-deserved smackdown, in his own inimitable style.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Shoreview Red Update 052709

The mighty Red continued their road warrior ways, defeating Forest Lake Maroon 13-8 this evening at Southwest Jr. High School in lovely (if windswept) Forest Lake. The Red got off to a quick start, then fought off a furious Forest Lake rally and put the game away with some timely late-inning hitting. Ben was officially 1-2 with a walk and scored an important run in the decisive 5th inning.

The win puts the Red's record at 2-3. They will next take the field back at Bucher Park on Friday at 6:30 p.m. for a game against Shoreview Navy. If you want to know about 13-year old in-house baseball in the northern suburbs, you'll always get the skinny at Mr. Dilettante.

Radio Free Dilettante - Even I Can't Make Sense of This Edition

Last Five
New Spanish Two Step, Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys
Take the Skinheads Bowling, Camper Van Beethoven
Dream in Blue, Los Lobos
Misterioso, Thelonious Monk
The Sounds of Silence, Simon & Garfunkel

Next Five
The Somnambulist, XTC
Middle of the Road, Pretenders
Behave Yourself, Booker T. & the MGs
Cynical Girl, Marshall Crenshaw
Disco Inferno, The Trammps

Bartleby the Bondholder

So the question came down to the GM bondholders today: would you like one of those tasty crap sandwiches that the government and its junior partners in the UAW offered Chrysler?

They would prefer not to.

General Motors said Wednesday that not enough bondholders agreed to an exchange offer, which expired at midnight Tuesday, to make the deal go through. GM's board of directors will meet shortly to discuss the next step.

The automaker was attempting to persuade bondholders to trade in $27.2 billion in unsecured public debt notes in exchange for a 10% stake in the restructured automaker. GM needed 90% of bondholders to agree to the plan. On Wednesday, the automaker said the amount of notes turned in were "substantially less than the amount required by GM to satisfy the debt reduction requirement" set forth by the U.S. Treasury.

The bondholders are hoping that if GM goes into bankruptcy, the claims will be adjudicated as they are typically in bankruptcy proceedings, which might provide a better result than taking a 10% stake in an operation that may be buying its stock certificate paper from Kimberly-Clark.

It's going to be plenty interesting to watch how this particular minuet plays out over the next few days. The unspoken subtext here is that in some respects this battle is union vs. union, since the UAW was hoping to make out on the transaction, while many of the institutional bondholders are apparently pension funds for public employee unions, especially teachers' unions in Michigan. If I were Barack Obama, I wouldn't want to have to referee that fight.

Chinese Curse Tuesday

The old Chinese curse is "may you live in interesting times." Well, we got that goin' for us. . . .

  • The California Supreme Court upheld Proposition 8 yesterday, but left standing all gay marriages performed in the time between when the existing law in California was overturned and the passage of Prop 8. That's the right decision; if a state Supreme Court tells the voters of a state that it can't amend its own state constitution, then you officially have rule by judicial fiat. Proponents of gay marriage are free to continue the work of winning hearts and minds to the rightness of their cause.

  • A lot of people are paying particular attention this utterance of Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, who said "that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." I'm not sure where that belief falls in the realm of responsible jurisprudence, but there is no doubt that it is a very American way of looking at the world. If you doubt that, you haven't read Walt Whitman.

  • Allahpundit over at Hot Air found this piece. Don't know if it's true or not, but I surely hope it isn't. Because if it is true that Chrysler dealerships slated for closure are primarily Republican, it would represent something very sinister in our politics.

  • Meanwhile, Kim Jong-Il is getting very busy. What does the endgame look like? One very likely scenario? A nuclear Japan.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Group Dynamics and the Court

President Obama has selected Sonia Sotomayor to replace David Souter on the Supreme Court. Since every good amateur pundit needs to have an opinion on the matter, here's mine:

From what I can gather, she is pretty much a doctrinaire liberal. Since there was almost no chance that Obama would nominate someone who wasn't, it's hardly surprising. The best repository of criticism that I've been able to find about Sotomayor comes from Jeffrey Rosen's piece in The New Republic. The primary argument seems to be about judicial temperament.

The most consistent concern was that Sotomayor, although an able lawyer, was "not that smart and kind of a bully on the bench," as one former Second Circuit clerk for another judge put it. "She has an inflated opinion of herself, and is domineering during oral arguments, but her questions aren't penetrating and don't get to the heart of the issue."
In other words, she is the anti-Clarence Thomas. Rosen further reports:

Her opinions, although competent, are viewed by former prosecutors as not especially clean or tight, and sometimes miss the forest for the trees. It's customary, for example, for Second Circuit judges to circulate their draft opinions to invite a robust exchange of views. Sotomayor, several former clerks complained, rankled her colleagues by sending long memos that didn't distinguish between substantive and trivial points, with petty editing suggestions--fixing typos and the like--rather than focusing on the core analytical issues.
This is the key point. Sotomayor, if confirmed, is likely to be a suitable (for liberals) replacement for Souter. She is also unlikely to change the group dynamics of the current Court, nor would she move the needle in any real way.

My view is that group dynamics are especially important for this Court. The four conservative justices -- Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito -- are pretty much of the same mind. The liberals -- Ginsburg, Breyer, Stevens and Souter -- are also pretty much of the same mind. The swing vote is inevitably Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy's style of judging is (to be charitable) a bit idiosyncratic and my sense is that he's often less likely to look at the law than at the tone of the argument that's been made. My fear was that if Obama had picked a liberal with strong persuasive skills that might make it easier to influence Kennedy, and by doing so he could have changed the balance of the Court with this pick. I don't see Sotomayor doing that, especially if she is as personally abrasive as it appears.

President Obama is going to get two more picks soon -- Justice Ginsburg is quite ill and Justice Stevens is quite old. The next pick could be a game-changer. Here's the name to watch: Cass Sunstein.

Somebody Call Hans Blix

North Korea detonates second nuclear device

Actually, a better idea would be to call John Bolton. Bolton called what happened last week in the Wall Street Journal piece I've linked. Here's the money part:

If the next nuclear explosion doesn't derail the six-party talks, Kim will rightly conclude that he faces no real danger of ever having to dismantle his weapons program. North Korea is a mysterious place, but there is no mystery about its foreign-policy tactics: They work. The real mystery is why our administrations -- Republican and Democratic -- haven't learned that their quasi-religious faith in the six-party talks is misplaced.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently rejected "linkage" in Russia policy as "old thinking." Disagreement in one area, she argued, shouldn't prevent working on "something else that is of overwhelming importance." Whatever the merits of linkage vis-à-vis Russia, de-linking a second North Korean nuclear test from the six-party talks simply hands Pyongyang permission to proceed.

Joe Biden predicted that Barack Obama would be tested. The blue exam book just hit his desk.

Q. What would Colin Powell's Republican Party look like?

For a guy who publicly expressed his support for Barack Obama, Colin Powell sure has been noisy about his membership in the Republican Party. Bruce Bartlett, a former Reagan hand who has been ostentatious in his criticism of the Republican Party, noticed something:

Yesterday, Colin Powell restated his continued membership in the Republican Party. But he didn’t really explain why. It seemed more like an act of defiance than a statement of fact—no one is going to tell him what part of the bus he can sit in and no one is going to tell him what political party he can be a member of. That’s fine, but if Powell is going to make a point of staying in a party that doesn’t particularly want him—former Vice President Dick Cheney has more or less told him to leave—then Powell has a responsibility to do more than give the occasional television interview criticizing the GOP’s lack of inclusiveness; he needs to engage it on a systematic basis.

While Bartlett gets Cheney wrong -- Cheney didn't read Powell out of the party so much as he suggested that Powell had already left -- Bartlett is right about what Colin Powell needs to do. It is passing strange that when the Republican standard-bearer was a moderate like John McCain, that Powell chose to support Obama instead. I'm hard-pressed to think of which Republican Powell could support these days. Powell really ought to tell us. And if the Republican he can support stares back at him in the mirror, he needs to offer himself for office.

While you were at the picnic

You may not have noticed this:

Governments worldwide have to raise some $6 trillion in debt this year, with huge demands in Japan and Europe. Kyle Bass from the US fund Hayman Advisors said the markets were choking on debt.

"There isn't enough capital in the world to buy the new sovereign issuance required to finance the giant fiscal deficits that countries are so intent on running. There is simply not enough money out there," he said. "If the US loses control of long rates, they will not be able to arrest asset price declines. If they print too much money, they will debase the dollar and cause stagflation.

"The bottom line is that there is no global 'get out of jail free' card for anyone", he said.

Watch what happens carefully:

The US Treasury is selling $40bn of two-year notes on Tuesday, $35bn of five-year bonds on Wednesday, and $25bn of seven-year debt on Thursday. While the US has not yet suffered the indignity of a failed auction – unlike Britain and Germany – traders are watching closely to see what share is being purchased by US government itself in pure "monetisation" of the deficit.

You may not remember the 1970s. But you may get to experience them.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Diva and Swing

The had a wedding yesterday, did Diva and Swing
Witnessed by a Tiger Lilly and David the King
The bloggers did assemble, with friends and family
To wish the happy couple well in matrimony

Since the groom is one of blogdom's more notable internet poets, couldn't resist a little doggerel on their behalf. It was a wonderful day. Read all about it, right here! And for some early pictures, go here!

Congratulations, Faith and Ben!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Love and Marriage

We spend a lot of time talking about the issues of the day. No matter how much they might animate us, what really matters are the decisions we make from day to day. Tomorrow I get to witness a very momentous decision --the marriage of a young man and woman.

Ben and Faith are getting married tomorrow. And I will be live-blogging the event on the Night Writer's blog. They are special people and it is a great privilege to help them chronicle this moment in their lives. I've been busy storing up the proper adjectives to describe this young couple. Their relationship, and the way they've chosen to approach their marriage, is a remarkable story. Click on the first link and you'll see why.

Just wondering. . . .

I could write for days on the speeches that President Obama and Dick Cheney gave yesterday, but there isn't time right now. Here's a question for the audience, though:

If it is true, as President Obama asserts, that the Bush administration was indifferent to the rule of law and was busy shredding the Constitution, why would it have even bothered to seek legal advice? And when the Supreme Court ruled against the Bush administration, it complied with the rulings. Does this really sound like a lawless administration to you?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Anti-Strib Fades Away

The rumblings have been going on for some time, but after periodic threats over the years, Tracy "Il Duce" Eberly is going to pull the plug on Anti-Strib, where you are greeted with the cheerful, stirring motto "We're not complete assholes!"

Tracy and his long list of contributors (17 at last count) are a contentious bunch, but also a very talented group as well, including one of my favorite bloggers and an important early supporter of this feature, the Lady Logician. It's never been a blog for the faint of heart -- the language is often R-rated and the invective has never been in short supply. It's also been a place that has long welcomed dissenting opinions; one of the major players at A-S has been a fellow named Ed Salden, a smart and thoughtful liberal who has produced some of the most interesting work that Tracy has published.

But it's always been Tracy's blog. I don't know Tracy personally, but he's always been a lot of fun to read. In a way he's always reminded me of a crusty metro columnist in a big-city daily, someone like Mike Royko. He's always been interested in a lot more than politics and he's written on a wide variety of topics over the years. He's also given his contributors plenty of space, which has meant that every visit to A-S would provide something surprising.

They've also rarely hesitated to mix it up with some of the other bloggers in town. I contribute to Truth vs. the Machine, which has had some run-ins with Tracy and his crew over the years. Tracy calls things as he sees them and that's led to more than a few skirmishes. I think that's a good thing, though. The fights we have among ourselves, especially in the MOB, can make us all better bloggers.

Tracy's decided to shut it down now, though, because the level of invective in the comments section has become too much. There has long been a nest of lefty commenters at his site and a number of them are pretty nasty folks. It's been long evident that dealing with these trolls has made running A-S more trouble than it's worth. It's a shame.

Blogs come and go all the time. Very few have the impact on the local blogosphere that A-S did. The disparate voices gathered there will have to find new outlets; in one case that has already happened. That's good news. The voices of A-S -- Kermit, the Admiral, Harlan Kraqure, Margaret and all the others -- are voices that we need to hear. I wish them all well and thank Tracy for the insight.

The One Law that Congress Always Passes

Our betters in Washington are correcting our behavior again. The first order of business is the Credit Card Bill of Rights, which Congress passed by lopsided margins (never a good sign) and sent to President Obama for signature. The purported benefits of the bill sound promising enough, so long as you don't think about them too much:

“This bill will make the lives of hardworking Americans better,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat who sponsored the House version of the legislation. “It will help level the playing field and restore balance to credit-card contracts.”

People who ring up big bills on credit cards pay pretty high interest rates -- there is no doubt about it. There are others who pay their bills in full each month and don't pay any interest at all. The banks that issue credit cards make a lot of their money on transaction fees that they charge merchants, which is one reason why many merchants will offer a discount to cash buyers. The card issuers make the rest on interest payments from cardholders. So what is going to happen now that Congress and the President have decided to stop the credit card companies from charging as much interest?

Banks under the legislation will be prevented from pricing for risk, said Edward Yingling, president and chief executive officer of the American Bankers Association, said in a statement. Short-term unsecured loans will be turned into riskier, medium-term loans, and the bill will mean less available credit.
In other words, the benefits of a credit card (convenience, not having to carry cash, etc.) will be harder to obtain. And there will also be a return to annual fees and potentially the elimination of grace periods for charging interest, meaning that even those customers who pay their bills in full each month will now be charged interest. So what does it mean? Credit cards will be more expensive for everyone.

Then we have the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard, a federal mandate that forces automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars. The standard had not changed for a number of years, but President Obama changed it this week, raising the standard from the current 27.5 miles per gallon up to 42 in 2016. It's all seashells and balloons, according to environmentalist groups:

In introducing tough new CAFE measures the Obama administration is hoping to kill three birds with one stone: Resolve outstanding litigation by the Big Three automakers; enhance the administration’s international credibility in the fight to slow climate change; and offer struggling US automakers a chance at salvation by embracing cutting edge technologies.

And it appears that it’s going to work. US automakers are lining up behind President Obama’s initiative to set CAFE standards for new cars at 42mpg by 2016 — even though it means that they must improve fuel efficiency by 5% per year over the next six years. That’s a formidable challenge for an industry that has been all about power and speed decades. But automakers seem heartened by having a roadmap, stimulus funding, and an ally in the President who is working to help them meet the challenges of a low-carbon economy.

Chrysler is bankrupt and GM probably will be soon enough, but they are heartened to have a chance to enhance the administration's international credibility. It is good to have your priorities in order. But there is a little problem with this lovely scenario:

To improve fuel economy, auto makers primarily reduce the size and power of
vehicles. Unfortunately, this downsizing has tragic consequences (See Figure) . As far back as 1989, consumer advocate Ralph Nader admitted that "larger cars are safer - there is more bulk to protect the occupant." Numerous studies have proved this point. For example:

Researchers at Harvard University and the Brookings Institution found that, on average, for every 100 pounds shaved off new cars to meet CAFE standards, between 440 and 780 additional people were killed in auto accidents - or a total of 2,200 to 3,900 lives lost per model year. [See the figure.]

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data indicate that 322 additional deaths per year occur as a direct result of reducing just 100 pounds from already downsized small cars, with half of the deaths attributed to small car collisions with light trucks/sport utility vehicles.

Using data from the NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Traffic Safety, USA Today calculated that size and weight reductions of passenger vehicles undertaken to meet current CAFE standards had resulted in more than 46,000 deaths.

Since the laws of physics will not change, requiring all vehicles to be smaller increases everyone's overall risk of death or injury in auto accidents. Insurance data bear this out; occupants of small cars do worse than passengers of larger sedans, minivans or sport utility vehicles (SUVs) in every kind of accident.

So yeah, people might die, maybe even thousands of them each year. If you want to make a tasty omelet in the CAFE, you need to break a few eggs, right? And if you drive at all, or are even a passenger in a vehicle, you know exactly what this means. In a crash between a Prius and a Suburban, the Suburban will win every time.

I guess Congress and the President can live with those deaths. Good to know. Meanwhile, it's always worth remembering what P. J. O'Rourke said -- the one law that always gets passed in Washington is law of unintended consequences.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Shoreview Red Update 052009

It was a hot and windy evening at Bucher Park this evening and an ill wind blew for the mighty Shoreview Red, which leaped out to an early lead but ended up on the short end of a 19-12 slugfest againast Shoreview Green. Green started out very strong, batting around in the first two innings, negating the early hot hitting of our might Red squad, then holding on in the end.

Ben was 1-4 on the day and made several contributions on defense. They will next take the field on Wednesday, May 27 with a long trip to play a mysterious Forest Lake squad up in Forest Lake. More details anon, once we hear from our travel agent....

Signs of Progress

After months of portside cheerleading out of our betters in the press, the headline from this AP dispatch is encouraging:

Sen. Reid botches 3 subjects at news conference

Meanwhile, there's this news:

California voters reject slate of budget propositions

And science marches on:

The destructive emotion du jour: bitterness

There's a message in all this, and I trust that you will draw the correct conclusions.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy birthday, Dad

Today would have been my father's 76th birthday. He has been gone a long time now, nearly 20 years, but I still think about him just about every day. I wrote a piece last year about him that you can find here.

As I've said before about my dad, if he'd had his druthers he would have changed some of the circumstances of his life. But he did make the most of the opportunities he had and that's a lesson that I've always tried to absorb.

High Noon at Midnight in St. Paul

So the Minnesota Legislature has adjourned, passing a final budget bill that Gov. Tim Pawlenty is certain to veto.

Speaking at a rapid-fire clip and ignoring the shouts of Republican legislators, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, muscled the bill through in moments on an 82-47 vote. That's well short of the 90 votes needed for a veto override, but strong enough to send the intended message to Pawlenty and the public. Minutes later, the Senate approved the bill on a 35-1 vote.

The bill, which mirrors an earlier version vetoed by Pawlenty that raised income taxes on the wealthy, liquor and credit card companies, is destined for a certain veto by Pawlenty, who now will be left to make good on his promise to balance the budget through unilateral cuts, or "unallotments."

It's all good, I think. When T-Paw announced last week that he was prepared to make the cuts he has the statutory authority to make, it was pretty clear that he had checkmated the DFLers, who reacted in the way I expected them to react, doubling down on their earlier approach.

T-Paw will now wield the terrible swift sword and cut away at the bloated budget that the DFLers sent him. The DFL and its media auxiliary will begin baying at the moon about how the sky will fall. The sky won't fall. And the voters of Minnesota will have a clear choice in 2010 about the approaches on offer from the two parties.

Just a guess -- T-Paw is going to win this one. And when he does, he'll be in excellent position for pursuing other options in 2011 and 2012.

Shoreview Red Update 051809

There appears to be a bit of vampire in our Shoreview Red squad, because they came out at night. We played our only night game of the season last evening and the Red responded with ferocity, dispatching Spring Lake Park 15-4 under the lights at Aquatore Park in Blaine. We had excellent pitching and solid defense throughout and the bats came alive. Ben was 1-2 with a walk and scored the lead run in the decisive 5th inning, when the Red batted around.

The Red take the field next on Wednesday against Shoreview "Soylent" Green for a 6:15 p.m. tilt at Bucher Park in Shoreview. As always, Mr. Dilettante is the place for the coverage of north suburban 13-year old in-house baseball action. Really, where else would you go?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Obama at Notre Dame

You can read the transcript of his speech here. It really comes down to a "let's agree to disagree" statement where abortion is concerned. And of course under that formulation, abortions will never end. Which is what Obama wants.

As crucial as abortion is, there are other issues. Above all, Notre Dame has a symbolic importance to American Catholics that other institutions do not have. Obama could have given this speech at Georgetown, or Marquette, or the University of San Francisco, and it wouldn't have mattered nearly as much. But because Obama came to Notre Dame, it matters a lot more.

I'll have more to say about all of the following points, but as I've thought about this moment, I've come to the following conclusions.

  • Catholic universities, and Catholics generally, have to make a choice that everyone else in the West has to make; do you look to tradition and the accumulated wisdom of the ages, as expressed through faith, religious teachings, long-standing cultural norms and the hard-got lessons of human experience, or do you look to the secular worldview that concerns itself exclusively with this world? The good news about living in the West is this: at this time, in 2009, you can still choose. You get to choose whether you put your faith in the word of God and the teachings of your church, or you can pay more credence to man-created documents like the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions and suchlike. It's my impression that many Catholics, including many who are leaders of Catholic institutions in this country, are more concerned with man-created documents than they are with engaging and understanding the teachings of the Church.

  • We've seen this same dynamic for years taking place with our Protestant brethren, especially in some of the mainline Protestant churches. And the results have not been good for these churches, which have struggled to maintain membership and support as they have drifted into a therapeutic secularism that is more concerned with the blandishments of this world than the promise of the next. It is precisely because the evangelicals have understood that one's faith in God is inextricably tied to the next world that they have been able to gain adherents.

  • If you hold the secular worldview you necessarily put your faith in the world itself, and if you see the world in those terms, Barack Obama is an attractive figure. He would seem to be the culmination of much that has been long desired. Many people who see the world in this way are in leadership positions in our most prominent institutions. Notre Dame is one of those places.

  • We often hear that the influence of the Church is on the wane in the West. This is especially the case in Europe, where secularism is a much more powerful force. The Church, which has ever adapted, understands this well. That is why the greatest energy in the Church right now is coming from places like Africa and South America. Benedict XVI may very well be the last European Pope for a long time.

  • If Benedict leaves the stage in the next 2-3 years, I would hardly be surprised if the next Pope is a person of color. And if the next Pope is from someplace other than Europe, he will immediately become a rival to Obama on the world stage.

  • In the past, European and American priests were missionaries to places like Africa and South America. In 2009 it is not unusual to attend a Mass in the United States in which the celebrant is a priest from Africa, or India, or Vietnam. I have been to many such Masses. These priests are, in the main, priests who came to the priesthood under the long, transformational papacy of John Paul II. These priests are now missionaries to the West. And they are traditionalists. They are not men who hold a secular worldview. They will be part of the transformation that is coming to the Church in the West. They are evangelicals in the context of the Catholic Church. And the younger bishops and archbishops who are coming to power within the hierarchy in the United States, men like Chaput in Denver and Nienstedt here in St. Paul-Minneapolis, are like-minded. They are the ones who drove the conference of U.S. bishops to condemn Notre Dame. They are the ones who pushed older leaders like Francis Cardinal George.

  • The current leadership at Notre Dame is not beholden to the new leadership that is emerging today. But that too will change.

  • Many conservative Catholics have watched the long march of secularism and worry that secularism will destroy the Church in this country. But the ground is moving under the secularists' feet. And in 20 years time, I suspect that we will view the honoring of Barack Obama by a major Catholic university not as the beginning of the end of the Church's influence in America, but rather as the moment where the secular tide began to recede.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Eric Holder Explains It All

I think I got it now. Attorney General Eric Holder explains it here:

Lungren wondered: Are Navy SEALS subjected to waterboarding as part of their training being tortured?

Holder: No, it's not torture in the legal sense because you're not doing it with the intention of harming these people physically or mentally, all we're trying to do is train them --

Lungren: So it's the question of intent?

Holder: Intent is a huge part.

Lungren: So if the intent was to solicit information but not do permanent harm, how is that torture?

Holder: Well, it... uh... it... one has to look at... ah... it comes out to question of fact as one is determining the intention of the person who is administering the waterboarding. When the Communist Chinese did it, when the Japanese did it, when they did it in the Spanish Inquisition we knew then that was not a training exercise they were engaging in. They were doing it in a way that was violative of all of the statutes recognizing what torture is. What we are doing to our own troops to equip them to deal with any illegal act -- that is not torture.

Okay, that means we have two options:

1) We can waterboard all we want and call it training (after all, KSM needs to know how to handle other bad things that will happen to him in custody); or

2) We can try the Bushies for hate crimes, because it's the same logic used there.

Well, actually we can do one other thing. Let the matter drop entirely. And there's a pretty good chance that's what is going to happen in the end.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pelosi Haiku/Creative Abuse is Fun/Anyone Can Play

Over at HotAir
They are doing some Nancy
Pelosi haiku.

I wrote a bunch on
the post there, but decided
to bring them over here,

Now I have made a
Post of them on my own blog
Here is what I wrote:

Represent Frisco
But dying in Washington
Save me, Steve McQueen

I am queen of the
San Francisco Democrats
Bow to me, dammit

The fascist regime’s
Not in London, Sex Pistols
No future for you

Now I offer this

Cautionary tale to my own

Betty McCollum
Stares slackjawed in disbelief
Botox acolyte

Don’t hitch your wagon
To the lying sack of crap
Speaker of the House

Thought your seat was safe?
Automatic union votes
Guarantee your job?

Now the stench is part
Of you. Now we tell the tale.
You’ve no place to hide

If you want to play
Feel free to join in the fun
Write it haiku style

Put your best shot in
The comments section. The beat
Is five seven five.

Why Can't We Be Friends?

"I heard you're working for the CIA/They would not have you in the Maf-Eye-Ay."
-- War, "Why Can't We Be Friends"

For a woman who had enough skills and intellgence to fight her way through Congress to the Speaker's chair, you would think that Nancy Pelosi would have the common sense to know better than to accuse the CIA of lying. She did it, though.

For the first time, Pelosi (D-Calif.) acknowledged that in 2003 she was informed by an aide that the CIA had told others in Congress that officials had used waterboarding during interrogations. But she insisted, contrary to CIA accounts, that she was not told about waterboarding during a September 2002 briefing by agency officials. Asked whether she was accusing the CIA of lying, she replied, "Yes, misleading the Congress of the United States."

Let's be honest -- the CIA has never been the same since the ravages it undertook in the wake of the Church Commission hearings back in the 1970s. Still, given the nature of the work it is tasked to do, the CIA always manages to find people who (a) are very smart, (b) pay a lot of attention to detail and (c) don't have a problem being ruthless. And most of the people at Langley are just bureaucrats. But very smart ones.

Do you suppose that the CIA has plenty of information about what they told Congress in September 2002? I do. Do you think Dick Cheney knows what they know? I do. Do you suppose that the CIA would not hesitate to leak something that undercuts Pelosi's assertions? I do.

And I'm hardly the only one. Rep. Steny Hoyer, Pelosi's ostensible deputy/rival, isn't exactly rushing to Madame Speaker's defense:

But when asked directly whether he shares Pelosi's belief that the CIA misled Congress, he backed off.

"I have no idea of that. I don't have a belief of that nature because I have no basis on which to base such a belief," Hoyer said. "And I certainly hope that's not the case. And I don't draw that conclusion."

Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Lieberman said this about the CIA:

No, on that specific point, I totally disagree. You have to have confidence in the CIA. And over the 20 years I’ve been here, I’ve been briefed constantly by the CIA and I’d say that they’ve told me the truth, as they see it.

It's good to have friends. It would appear that Nancy Pelosi doesn't have too many right now.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

res ipsa loquitur 051409

Judge for yourself:

St. Paul at Fraters on the interesting connection between David Feherty and Al Franken.

Iowahawk presents a celebrity roast of Obama (warning: definitely not safe for work -- more F-bombs in this one than a room with Blago and David Mamet, but with a definite purpose). Pay special attention to the dialogue from "Liz Windsor."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Shoreview Red Update

It was windy at Cummings Park in Arden Hills and the homestanding Red seemed to get blown away, losing 14-3 to the Coon Rapids Athletics this evening. The visiting Athletics pitched very well and were able to piece together a number of small rallies, enough to put the game out of reach. Ben went 0-2 with a walk.

The team will again take the field on Monday.

More Heartbreak in Washington

So do you remember a few weeks back, when the Obama administration decided that it was going to release photos that the ACLU was demanding that apparently show abuse of detainees in Iraq? Not any more:

President Obama met with White House counsel Greg Craig and other members of the White House counsel team last week and told them that he had second thoughts about the decision to hand over photographs of detainee abuse to the ACLU, per a judge's order, and had changed his mind.

The president "believes their release would endanger our troops," a White House official says, adding that the president "believes that the national security implications of such a release have not been fully presented to the court."
Ya think? We've covered this ground several times before, of course, as the cocksure Obamanoids continue to discover the implications of the posturing they put forth on the campaign trail.

For their part, the ACLU is highly displeased:

"The reversal is another indication of a continuance of the Bush administration policies under the Obama administration," ACLU attorney Amrit Singh told ABC News. "President Obama's promise of accountability is meaningless, this is inconsistent with his promise of transparency, it violates the government's commitment to the court. People need to examine these abusive photographs, but also the government officials need to be held accountable."

Word to the wise, counselor: the president is a politician first, middle and last. I'd say that I'm sorry he broke your heart, but I'm not really that sorry. While I agree that government officials need to be held accountable, I'm hardly convinced that they need to be held accountable to the ACLU.

res ipsa loquitur 051309

A Labour MP delivers a smackdown

I still plan another longer post in my series on President Obama's upcoming visit to Notre Dame, but in the interim this site may interest you, especially the video.

Doug Williams reminds us why data integrity matters. And then there's the matter of how the data are used.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

V-J Day

Congratulations to my brother Patrick and his lovely bride Jenny, who welcomed their second son into the world today. Young Vincent Jerome is a strapping 8 lbs., 14 oz. and 21 in. long, making him a very big arrival indeed. Pat, Jenny and big brother Eddie are all delighted to welcome young Vincent to the family and Uncle Mark feels the same way.

Time for an open thread

It's been a while. Any topic you'd like, but your comment must include a reference to a lyric from a song from one of the following:

The Who
Elvis Costello & The Attractions
The Spinners

Added credit for getting more than one of each in a single comment. An example of how it's done:

I talked to my sister the other day. She told me she has an appointment with a major manufacturer where she is touring the facility. Well, I just don't know where to begin about all this, because it's a dangerous place. I'm not sure how much more of this we can stand. But by now I'm sure you're asking, why should I care?

Have at it. And if you can name the four songs I referenced in that one paragraph, you're at least as much of a music obsessive as I am....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Shoreview Red Begins Season

The baseball season began today and Shoreview Red lost a heartbreaker to crosstown rival Shoreview Royal by a final of 16-15 at Bucher Park in Shoreview. Red started out with some hot hitting and went out to an early lead, but the game became a see-saw affair and the homestanding Royal squad was able to coax over the winning run in the bottom of the 7th inning as darkness approached.

Ben had a good debut performance, going 2-3 with two walks and scoring a run in 5 appearances. As the score indicated, the game was a slugfest and while there's room for improvement, the squad played pretty well for the debut.

Red takes the field again on Wednesday evening against a mysterious Coon Rapids squad at Cummings Park in Arden Hills. Game time is 6:15. As always, if you want to know precisely what's happening in 13-year old in-house youth baseball in Northern Ramsey County, look no further than Mr. Dilettante.

Speaking Truth to Power, 2009 Edition

It was a pretty slow news weekend and perhaps the most noteworthy event was the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, especially the performance of comedian Wanda Sykes. You can see the whole thing at the link if you wish. The commentary from Nikki Finke discusses the bravery of this performer, who dares to speak truth to power:

I've been to the White House Correspondents Dinner. And, if history is any judge, then comedians asked to perform there seem to do best when they joke with gentle jibes rather than go for the jugular. Someone should have reminded Wanda Sykes about that before tonight. Because not since Don Imus roughed up Bill Clinton at the annual event has a comedian been so mean-spirited. Certainly, Stephen Colbert wasn't to George W Bush. But, unlike Imus or Colbert, Wanda Sykes didn't lay a glove on the sitting president Barack Obama. Instead, she reserved her barbs for people who weren't there: Dubya, John McCain, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

What to make of this? I strongly believe we need our jesters, especially ones who are willing to make fun of people who are actually in power. Maybe someday we'll get a few who are actually willing to make fun of the present administration. For now, we'll just have to do with these warm thoughts from people like Ms. Sykes:

Sykes was at her most vicious on the subject of Rush Limbaugh. "Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails. That's like saying, 'I hope America fails.' Or that 'I dont care if people are losing their homes, their jobs, our soldiers in Iraq.' He just wants the country to fail. To me, that's treason. He's not saying anything differently than what Osama Bin Laden is saying." Then, turning to the president, Sykes added, "You might want to look into this, sir. Because I think maybe he was the 20th hijacker. But he was just so strung out on Oxycontin that he missed his flight."

Realizing she shocked the crowd with that remark, she said, "Too much? But you're laughing on the inside..."

But she wasn't done. "Rush Limbaugh [says] 'I hope the country fails." I hope his kidneys fail. How about that? He needs some waterboarding, that's what he needs."

Yeah, I'll admit it. Wishing for someone's kidneys to fail makes me laugh on the inside. But then again I'm just a coldhearted bastard. And if my kidneys should ever fail, I'll be sure to let Wanda Sykes know, because I'm sure she'll get a good chuckle out of it.

(H/T: Instapundit)

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Being President Is a Lot Harder Than It Looks

The Obama Presidency Moral Vanity Walkback continues apace. Last week we learned on a Friday night that the Obama administration was thinking well, ya know, maybe we were just a little hasty on scrapping the military commissions for terrorist trials, even though they had spent the previous year berating the Bushies for such things. The report that day from in New York Times had the following Profile in Courage:

“The more they look at it,” said one official, “the more commissions don’t look as bad as they did on Jan. 20.”

Several officials insisted on anonymity because the administration has directed that no one publicly discuss the deliberations.

Well, it looks like they've made a decision. Not that they really want you to know. This week they used to Washington Post to slip a note under the door. While they would like to assert that they are much, much, much, much more fastidious with the rules of evidence than they imagine the evil benighted Bushies were, apparently the structure itself is hunky-dory.

The Obama administration's plan to reinstate the commissions with modifications reflects the fear that some cases would fail in federal courts or in standard military legal settings.

"It looks a lot more difficult now than it did on Jan. 20," said one government official.

I suppose it does. Of course, the erstwhile members of the Moral Vanity Chorus are not amused:

"This is an extraordinary development, and it's going to tarnish the image of American justice again," said Tom Parker, a counterterrorism specialist at
Amnesty International.

And they don't like it much at the ACLU, either:

Civil liberties advocates, who insist that federal courts can handle terrorism cases, vowed to challenge any new process.

"We'll litigate this before they can proceed, absolutely," said Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "Any effort to tinker with military commissions would be an enormous mistake. There is no way to fix a flawed process that has not rendered justice."

Please understand -- Obama and his team are simply facing the reality of the situation. While Amnesty International, the ACLU and the rest of the Moralizing Majority don't want to admit it, the sorts of people who end up at places like Gitmo are hard cases and bad people. Historically, enemy combatants who fight without uniforms and hide among civilians weren't accorded any rights at all. Most were simply shot. A military tribunal is actually a large improvement over summary execution.

It's easy (and fun!) to take shots at the leadership from the outside. It's quite another matter to govern. Obama and his team don't want to acknowledge that maybe some of their criticisms of the Bushies were ill-considered, which is why they keep releasing this information on Friday nights, hoping that the matter will pass quietly. Still, by keeping the commissions going, they are doing the right thing. And if the scolds don't like it, so be it. They aren't going to be happy no matter what Obama does.

I don't know if George W. Bush reads a newspaper on Saturday morning, but I imagine if he does he's enjoying a quiet chuckle over all this.

(H/T: Ed Morrissey)

Friday, May 08, 2009

Summer of 1973

Yesterday Maria and I did a Guilty Pleasures that largely centered around music recorded and performed in 1973. That summer was an eventful one in my life and I thought I'd share an old post that I wrote a few years ago on the topic. And I even found the picture on the right that shows a bike that was identical to my old bike.

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.

Bad Week for the Doms

First DeLuise, now DiMaggio. Dom DiMaggio, Joe's bespectacled little brother, died this morning at the age of 92. Dom never got the attention he really deserved, playing in the shadow of his famous brother and his famous teammate Ted Williams. But he was really a fine ballplayer, an outstanding defensive outfielder and a good contact hitter with a career average of .298.

If you want to get a good perspective on the kind of guy that Dom DiMaggio was, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of David Halberstam's The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship, which talks a great deal about DiMaggio and his relationship with Williams, Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky. It's an excellent read and like all great baseball books, it is about a lot more than the game.

The Friendly Skies

It is a nice picture, isn't it? Sure, they scared the hell out of a few thousand people in lower Manhattan to get it, but really it's a gorgeous result. Nicely balanced, beautiful composition. Really a fine piece of work.

And was it all worth it? Well, probably not for Louis Caldera:

A top White House aide resigned Friday for his role in Air Force One's $328,835 photo-op flyover above New York City that sparked panic and flashbacks to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Here's a thought. Next time, maybe the White House ought to take a look at the Internets. You can get a pretty good result with Photoshop and you can get it for less than $700.

I know a few people who are pretty good at Photoshop, too, and they'd be happy to teach Team Obama how to use it, for only a nominal fee, I'm thinking. In fact, you could hire maybe 4 or 5 of them on full-time for the money that was spent on this little photo opportunity.
C'mon, Mr. President. Pick up the phone. Give Mr. D a call. I'll be happy to give you a referral.

Keeping Our Eyes on the Calvinball

One of the striking things about the machinations surrounding the Chrysler deal that the Obama administration is currently brokering is that people who are typically bothered by insider dealing and shady manipulations don't seem much bothered by it. You know, Democrats. David Skeel, a law professor at Penn, noticed too:

The Obama administration has closely patterned itself on the famous opening year of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. But the plans the administration has rolled out for Chrysler and is now cheering on in the bankruptcy court would make a true New Dealer turn over in his grave.

In the early 20th century, large troubled corporations did not file for Chapter 11 like they do today. They used a process known as “equity receivership,” which involved an artificial “sale” of the company to a new entity set up by the debtor and the investment banks who represented its bondholders and stockholders. The new entity was the only bidder at the sale, and creditors who were unhappy with the terms of the reorganization had very little opportunity to interfere.

New Dealers hated the process, which they saw as opaque and designed to foist a deal crafted by the insiders on everyone else. Jerome Frank, a lawyer who later headed an important New Deal agency and became a federal judge, complained in 1933 that the judicial sale in these cases “was a mockery and a sham.” He said, “A sale at which there can be only one bidder, is a sale in name only.” In 1938, thanks to the handiwork of another prominent New Dealer, future Supreme Court Justice and then-SEC Chairman William Douglas, Congress dramatically altered the bankruptcy laws, eliminating the former practice.

That was then, this is now.

The Obama administration blueprint for Chrysler’s bankruptcy looks startlingly like the artificial sales that the New Dealers so abhorred. Unlike a traditional reorganization, in which the parties negotiate the terms of a restructuring that is then voted on by each class of creditors and shareholders, the administration plans to quickly sell Chrysler’s most important assets to a new entity—“New Chrysler”—whose stock will be owned by Chrysler’s employees and Fiat. The senior lenders who objected to the government’s offer (which amounted to little more than 30 percent of their claims) will not have any vote on the sale. Their only option is the one they have pursued: objecting to the sale, and praying that bankruptcy judge Arthur Gonzalez takes a hard look at its terms even while the government is breathing down his neck and saying in a sense, he better approve or else.
There's more, a lot more, at the link. Read the whole thing. (H/T: Instapundit)

A Very Special Closed Circuit Message to Rep. Linda "Dirty" Sanchez, D-CA, Regarding Your Proposed Legislation

Voltaire called. He really doesn't think much of your idea. Now stop being such a compassion fascist, m'kay?

p.s. Come and get me, copper.

res ipsa loquitur 050809

Pelosi was briefed on use of "enhanced interrogrations."

The Fourth Estate gets its assignment.

Call back when the minicamps are over.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Guilty Pleasures Part Forty-Five -- Dad, What Were the 70s Like?

So, Maria asked me this question the other day: "Dad, what was the world like when you were 9 years old?" Well, Maria, are you sure you really want to know?

Yes, Dad, I'm sure. I can take it!

I turned 9 at the end of 1972 and was 9 for most of 1973. Let's put it this way, Maria -- there were a lot of things that I didn't understand.

Like why it looks like some people got their outfits from a garbage can?

Yeah, that's one thing all right, Maria. So do you want to see some really weird stuff from around that time?

Whatever, sure I guess. Wait, I'm supposed to be enthusiastic about this, right?

If you wish.

All righty then. Yaaay! Show me the weird 70s stuff, Dad! Pysch!

While I don't want to doubt your sincerity, Maria, we have videos to show. Let's start it out with something very odd, from 1973. This is a dance craze that somehow never really made it to Wisconsin. I don't think you'll be surprised once you see Roxy Music, gently suggesting that we:

You know what I think, Dad? I think they ought to be stranded! Man, those are some weird outfits, especially that strange guy at the synthesizer in the back. Here's a helpful hint: maybe he should be way in the back, so you can't see his horrible outfit!

Maria, that's Brian Eno, who later went on to make a lot of good records with other people. Fortunately, he stopped dressing like the victim of a tragic tinsel accident!

So you do think he'll appreciate that comment, Dad?

He's too rich to care what I think, Maria. Let's move on to the next one. One thing that was really big in those days was something called progressive rock. Some of the musicians were really talented and like to play really fancy music. Like these guys. This is Yes, singing:

Dad, that guy at the keyboard looks like Hannah Montana! And also, according to my research, the band's name should be No, because no one wants to see those horrible outfits!

It was hard to explain, Maria. I'm still not sure I can.

Dad, one other thing. About those lyrics. "Mountains come out of the sky, they stand there?" Maybe they need a little help with their earth science, Dad! I thought that mountains usually stayed put!

Yeah, typically they do, Maria. I told you it was a little weird. Shall we move on?

Bring it on, Daddy-O!

You got it. So, you've been learning how to play the guitar, so I'll bet you'll recognize this next one. It's one of all-time most famous guitar riffs. It's so famous, it's deep. Deep Purple, that is.

Yep, I've heard that one, Dad. It's on KQRS about every half hour or so, right?

As a matter of fact, you're right, Maria. You could be their program director!

Well, maybe. One thing, though -- I'd sure like the lead singer guy to button up his shirt. Apparently he can hold a microphone, but he can't button his shirt! Shocker!

Believe it or not, Maria, that look was considered cool in those days.

Well, right now it's considered hairy, rude and disgusting!

Well, we'll be sure to let him know that. Anyway, here's another one from around the same time. If you thought some of the outfits you've seen before were weird, try out these guys. It's Mott the Hoople, singing:

Dad, it looks like those outfits came all the way from a garage sale! Or maybe the nearest garbage disposal! And what's with the singer wearing the huge sunglasses inside?

That's Ian Hunter, Maria. He was a very good singer, but I agree, the glasses were big enough to have windshield wipers installed on them.

Dad, so that's what it was like when you were 9?

I'm afraid so, Maria.

Maybe you should have been 12 instead!

Well, I got there eventually. And here's a song from when I was 12, in 1976. These outfits are completely different. Trust me on this. It's ABBA, performing for King Gustaf of Sweden, singing:

That's a good video, it even has the lyrics on it! So Dad, what's a "treaser?" Is that more of that creative journalism?

I think it's a typo, Maria. I don't think I've ever heard of a treaser.

Maybe it was some kind of candy that they had in Sweden that you couldn't get in Wisconsin! Because in Sweden, they consider Wisconsin a foreign country!

Heck Maria, I think some people in Minnesota consider Wisconsin a foreign country.

Well, I guess that's right. Should we have people vote?

Yes, I think we should. Any advice to our voters, Maria?

Try not to dress like anyone in those videos, otherwise you'll have to go through the side doors like the hippies do!

Good advice, Maria. Good advice.

Calvinball in the Financial Markets

One of the funniest themes in the old Calvin & Hobbes cartoon was the game "Calvinball," a totally improvised game that had really no rules. It's a funny idea for a cartoon that centers on the adventures of a 6-year old boy, but it's no way for a president to conduct economic policy:

Many investors are sitting on the sidelines, as is much money. Why? Because it is impossible to know what the rules of the game are. And that's because the administration and the Congress keep changing the rules in capricious ways in pursuit of larger political objectives.

Government interference in the normal conduct of business has had a chilling effect on financial markets and threatens the progress of the recovery. The Treasury and the Fed have created many new programs to provide liquidity to the financial system, to help banks restructure their balance sheets and to re-invigorate securitization markets.

So far, the interest in these has been distinctly muted because potential participants fear the longer term consequences of getting involved with any of these programs.

The Term Asset-Backed Lending Facility (TALF) is a good example. It was designed to stimulate an important part of the credit market--based on securitized loans--by providing a facility to lend up to $1 trillion in loans to buyers of top-rated securities that are collateralized by credit-card debt, auto loans, student loans, small business loans and commercial real estate loans. Because they are non-recourse loans, the investors have little downside exposure. But so far, they have stayed away. They are afraid of the strings that may be attached, since the loans are ultimately secured by TARP funds.

Above all, business people are rational actors, especially those with a fiduciary duty. If you can't be sure of the rules, it would be foolhardy to invest money, or pursue financing of any sort. That's why the Chrysler deal is such a problem. Why put money into an enterprise if the government is able to rewrite the rules to your detriment and vilify you for making legitimate claims as a creditor?

This isn't a game. I wonder if some of the people in Washington really understand the implications of what they are doing.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

When will the madness end?

You may have heard about the controversy surrounding Carrie Prejean, the young lady representing California in the Miss U.S.A. pagaent. I'll not rehash the details here, because you can find out about all of it on the Internets if you'd like. Suffice it to say, her views on gay marriage (she's agin it) aren't especially popular among certain people. She's also made significant mention of her religious beliefs, which run counter to conventional wisdom.

In order to effect some sort of revenge against Miss Prejean for her apostasy, there have been somewhat racy photographs of her circulating on the Internets, too. In one of the photos, she's apparently topless, although her back is turned to the camera. I'm not especially interested in them, but I'm afraid a trend is emerging here. Another prominent critic of gay marriage has been photographed topless and the picture is on the Internets, too.

Ya know, someone really needs to denounce this sort of thing. Or something.

Happy Birthday to

our friend Amanda, blogger extraordinaire, regular commenter and woman-about-town, who has a mildly significant birthday today. Be sure to do her a favor and (a) wish her a happy birthday and (b) if you know of any places with a really good Early Bird Special, be sure to let her know. I'm thinking she'll appreciate it. And if you see her out tonight, she'll be easy to spot because she'll be wearing this hat.

For the record

We shall not speak of this guy at Mr. Dilettante until he actually makes a move.

Becker and Fagen Explain

Sometimes the answers lie in the classics.

I'm not one to look behind I know that times must change
But over there in Barrytown they do things very strange
And though you're not my enemy
I like things like they used to be
And though you'd like some company
I'm standing by myself
Go play with someone else

I can see by what you carry that you come from Barrytown

Don't believe I'm taken in by stories I have heard
I just read the Daily News and swear by every word
And don't think that I'm out of line
For speaking out for what is mine
I'd like to see you do just fine
But look at what you wear
And the way you cut your hair

I can see by what you carry that you come from Barrytown

In the beginning we recall that the word was hurled
Barrytown people got to be from another world
Leave me or I'll be just like the others you will meet
They won't act as kindly if they see you on the street
And don't you scream or make a shout
It's nothing you can do about
It was there where you came out
It's a special lack of grace
I can see it in your face

I can see by what you carry that you come from Barrytown

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Dom DeLuise, RIP

He was a funny guy. Here's a perfect example (not safe for work).

Radio Free Dilettante – Cinco de Mayo Edition

So what is iTunes telling us today?

Last Five:
A Small Package of Value Will Come to You Shortly, Jefferson Airplane
Tell Me What You See, the Beatles
And It Stoned Me, Van Morrison
Pickin' the Cabbage, Dizzy Gillespie
Respect, Aretha Franklin

Next Five:
39 and Holding, Jerry Lee Lewis
Should I Stay or Should I Go, the Clash
Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing, Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell
Sunday Morning Coming Down, Johnny Cash
Barrytown, Steely Dan

Better Call the SWAT Team

I try whenever possible to keep a sense of humor about things. Unfortunately, this isn't funny at all:

Pakistani authorities advised the people of Swat valley, in the north west, to evacuate the district's main town Mingora Tuesday, as Taliban extremists took effective control of the place.

A humanitarian crisis now looks likely as the provincial government said that 500,000 people are expected to flee Swat.

Locals reported that Taliban fighters in charge of the streets of Mingora, having fought gun-battles with the local army base through the night.

Up to now, Pakistan had pretended that a controversial peace accord with Taliban in Swat was still holding. But the evacuation indicated that the situation was no longer manageable and that an army offensive against the militants could begin within hours.

Guess it's time to stop pretending.

We've had a few dress rehearsal crises so far in the young Obama administration: the pirates, the swine flu, etc. This is the real deal. We're about to find out if his administration is up to the task. I pray it is.

(H/T: Hot Air)