Sunday, August 30, 2009

August 30, 1990

I'd set my alarm clock early, because I knew that it was going to be a long day. My father had had a heart attack two weeks before and had undergone quadruple bypass surgery a few days later. He'd been in the hospital for two weeks now and things weren't going well.

As I packed my bag for a visit, I was listening to the radio. A song that had been popular that summer, "Way Down Now," by World Party, was playing and I was absent-mindedly singing along:

Won't you show me something true today
C'mon and show me anything but this

I didn't know the half of it.


August of 1990 had already been a very eventful month. Jill and I had been edging ever closer to marriage and we were very excited about it. We'd been ring shopping earlier in the summer and I finally had managed to squirrel away enough money to get the ring. I'd placed the ring on Jill's finger 3 weeks before, on a flight from Chicago to Minneapolis. As soon as we got off the plane, Jill's mother noticed the ring and leaped into action. By the time the weekend had concluded, we'd already had a line on the church and the reception hall.

A week later the call had come from my brother that Dad had a heart attack. Jill and I were on our way to Appleton the next day. My brother had told me that although he'd had the heart attack, he was okay and that the prognosis was good. Still, we decided to find out for ourselves.

My brother's report had been accurate. Dad seemed fine when I talked to him on the phone. Jill was delighted to show her future father-in-law the ring. When we walked into Dad's hospital room, he seemed in good spirits. Jill smiled when she saw him.

"You know, when a couple gets married, it's the father of the bride who's supposed to have the heart attack, especially when he thinks about the bill," Jill said.

My dad laughed out loud. "Tell your father I had the heart attack in solidarity with him," he said. While Dad was still in the hospital and surgery awaited, it seemed like the worst was over, so we returned to Chicago and our lives after the weekend.


The surgery was going to be tricky -- a quadruple bypass. The prognosis was good, though -- we had been assured that as many as 90-95% of people who had the surgery were able to get out of the hospital within weeks and resume a normal life. The odds seemed good.

But things had not gotten much better. The surgery turned out to be complicated and complications from surgery began almost immediately. After another week, my brother had called again and told me I should come home.

I didn't own a car, so the trip home was complicated. I climbed aboard an Amtrak train at Union Station and rode it to Milwaukee. I met my sister at the station and we drove the two hours back to Theda Clark Regional Medical Center in Neenah, the hosptial where my dad was being treated.

As we drove, we talked about everything except the problems Dad was having. My sister had attended a concert at Alpine Valley over the weekend, a concert that ended in tragedy when Stevie Ray Vaughan and members of Eric Clapton's road crew were killed in a helicopter crash. Vaughan had performed there that night with Clapton and Robert Cray and my sister had felt that Stevie Ray had blown everyone else off the stage.

"It was an unbelievable concert, Mark," she said. "But I can't believe that he died. You just don't know what's going to happen, do you?"

I thought about that. I knew what she meant. But there was a long silence.

By the time we got to the hospital, things were seeming pretty dicey. Dad had been in intensive care for a few days and was drifting in and out of consciousness. We spent a lot of time sitting in an outside area overlooking the Fox River. At the time I was nearly a pack-a-day smoker and they weren't especially interested in having me pollute the waiting room. We weren't allowed to visit Dad; only my stepmother could go in. I could peek my head into his room, but I'm not sure he knew that I was there.

Dad's best friend was a pathologist named Charles Awen who lived in Oconto, Wisconsin, a small town about 70 miles north of Appleton. He wasn't involved in Dad's case but he'd been in to see Dad and I could tell that he was worried when I talked to him.

"I don't know, Mark. He doesn't look too good," Dr. Awen said. "The problem he's had is that he's been confined to bed for so long and he's had a lot of blood clots that have formed. He's at risk for a pulmonary embolism."

"Is there anything I can do, Dr. Awen?" I asked, even though I knew the answer.

"Not really. He's being treated for it now, but it's going to be tough."

Dr. Awen was right. It was going to be tough. By late afternoon all my siblings were at the hospital. We got a report from the doctor who was treating Dad. He told us he was cautiously optimistic. He also told us that we really didn't need to hang around the hospital, because there wasn't much we could do for him at this point. My brother Pat, who at the time lived in Milwaukee, asked if he thought Dad would make it through the night. The doctor seemed to think that wouldn't be a problem, so my brother returned to Milwaukee.

The rest of us went to George Webb, a classic U-shaped diner that is straight out of an Edward Hopper painting. We tucked into massive plates of greasy food and told bad jokes and laughed. It was an enormous release of tension. We had taken the medical staff's counsel to heart and were hopeful that maybe the storm would pass.

By 10 o'clock, we were all back at the big house on Railroad Street. The air was thick with cigarette smoke and laughter. So much so that I almost didn't hear the phone ring. But I did and I answered it. The voice on the other end was matter of fact and frankly a little chilling.

"This is Theda Clark. You need to get back down here. Things have taken a turn for the worse."

"We're on the way," I said. And we were.

We were there in 15 minutes. As Dr. Awen had feared, a large blood clot had broken free and had traveled to Dad's lungs. He was having difficulty breathing and needed emergency surgery. The doctor asked my stepmother if she would authorize it.

"Of course I do! What are the odds of success?"

"Not good," the doctor replied. "Less than 10%."

"Do it. We're going to the chapel to pray."

And we did. We prayed hard. I don't know that I'd ever prayed so hard in my life, before or since. We'd called my brother and he was tearing down U.S. 41 back to Neenah, hoping against hope that he could be there to help in some way, any way.

I know that God hears our prayers. And I know that God answers our prayers, too. But for whatever reason, the prayers weren't answered in the way we would have hoped. Dad passed away about a half hour after we'd arrived back at the hospital. When we went in to see him, we noticed that his fingers were clamped to the side rails of his hospital bed, as if he were fighting to the very end. He wasn't ready to leave, any more than we were ready to have him leave.

It had been 15 hours earlier, in my apartment in Chicago, that I'd heard the song that followed me like a nagging argument all day long.

Won't you show me something true today
C'mon and show me anything but this

19 years later, I still wish I'd been shown anything but this.

You don't need Teddy

Geoff Garin, whining in the Washington Post:

The problem is not that there is no Ted Kennedy among the Democrats who understands the art of compromise. The problem is that there is no Republican willing to provide, for health reform, the kind of bold leadership that Kennedy provided to help pass controversial legislation when George W. Bush was president.
Heartless bastards. But there's more:

Democrats did not get their way on the creation of the Medicare prescription-drug benefit, but on that, too, Kennedy decided that something was better than nothing, even though seniors were required to buy their coverage through private companies and Medicare was prevented from negotiating with the pharmaceutical companies for the best prices.

Kennedy gave Bush a victory rather than sending the Republicans to their Waterloo because he believed the result was more important than short-term politics. If Republicans really want to honor the senator's memory, they should stop using him as an excuse for the failure of health-care reform and instead start living up to his example.

A few very brief thoughts:
  • Help me understand why the Republicans should want to honor the memory of Sen. Kennedy. I'd love to know why that's so important. Someone must know. I think Rick Kahn tried to provide a similar rationale a few years ago, but somehow it got lost in translation.
  • The prescription-drug benefit was hardly something that all Republicans wanted. Most Republicans I know opposed the effort. It was instead another example of George W. Bush's efforts to reach across the aisle. And when the history of the Bush administration is written, it may very well loom larger than the GWOT as a debit on the ledger.
  • Anyone who says opposing Obama Care is about "short-term politics" is blowing smoke at you. If this dog's breakfast is passed, there will be nothing short-term about it, of course.
  • As always, it's time to remind everyone of a simple reality. The Democrats have the votes to pass Obama Care at any time in the current Congress, if they are willing to muscle recalcitrant members of their own caucus. If Obama Care is that important to the future of the republic, and the Democratic Party is so confident that their view of things is correct, they should just pass the damned thing and be done with it. The potential loss of a few Blue Dog districts should be transitory as the wisdom of this decision becomes clear.

It's time for the Geoff Garins of the world to stop whining. You guys won. Barack Obama said so. You wanted the power. You have it. You told us that you were ready to govern. Well, get to it. If you are right, the Republicans will be out in the political wildneress for at least another generation. You don't need the Republicans.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Profiles in Sorensen

They sent Ted Kennedy off today and the level of attention that the moment received was nothing short of stunning. Kennedy got half the evening newscast on CBS and was the recipient of wall-to-wall coverage from the cable nets and from NBC, which was providing Tom Brokaw in full sonorous mode and detailed footage of hearses and government vehicles.

I understand what is driving this: the Kennedy myth is still strong in many precincts. I've always been immune to it: I don't much care for the politics of the Kennedy clan (malleable as it has been) and since it's always been my assumption that we fought a revolution in part because we were tired of having royals, the desire that some people have to treat the Kennedys as royalty has never made a lot of sense to me.

Ted Kennedy was a senator for almost 47 years. He's been hugely influential. But there are others who have served in the Senate longer. Among Kennedy's contemporaries, Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd served even longer. Carl Hayden went to Washington to represent Arizona when it reached statehood in 1912 and didn't leave for 56 years. No one provided wall to wall coverage of Thurmond's demise and it's highly unlikely that Byrd will be lionized in the way that Ted Kennedy has been these last few days. Hayden is now largely forgotten, even though one could credibly argue that he was the single most important politician involved in the development of the western United States in the 20th century.

So how did this happen? What made the Kennedys so important? In a word, marketing. And the most important marketer of the Kennedy myth is still around. That would be Ted Sorensen, the longtime confidant and speechwriter to the Kennedys. He's the man who ghosted Profiles in Courage and he's the man who saved Ted Kennedy's butt in 1969. Scott Johnson at Powerline has the skinny:

The telltale hand of Theodore Sorensen can be seen in the allusion to JFK's (and Sorensen's) Profiles in Courage: "The stories of the past courage cannot supply courage itself. For this, each man must look into his own soul." But Kennedy's call on his constituents to render their verdict on him drew directly drew on the stratagem pioneered by then-President Richard Nixon in his brilliant 1952 Checkers speech.

And if you look at the speech, it is a brilliant stroke. After earlier invoking the names of John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Charles Sumner, Henry Cabot Lodge and his martyred brother, he concludes thus:

I pray that I can have the courage to make the right decision. Whatever is decided and whatever the future holds for me, I hope that I shall have been able to put this most recent tragedy behind me and make some further contribution to our state and mankind, whether it be in public or private life.

The gauntlet laid down? Will the citizens of Massachusetts have the courage to forgive Teddy, the heir to Adams, Webster, Sumner, Lodge and his brother? They did have the courage to forgive, of course. And his career resumed.

The courageous thing for Kennedy to do, and the honorable thing, would have been to follow the example of John Profumo. Mark Steyn reminds us how Profumo handled his own scandal in Britain, some six years before:

When a man (if you’ll forgive the expression) confronts the truth of what he has done, what does honor require? Six years before Chappaquiddick, in the wake of Britain’s comparatively very minor “Profumo scandal,” the eponymous John Profumo, Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for War, resigned from the House of Commons and the Queen’s Privy Council, and disappeared amid the tenements of the East End to do good works washing dishes and helping with children’s playgroups, in anonymity, for the last 40 years of his life. With the exception of one newspaper article to mark the centenary of his charitable mission, he never uttered another word in public again.

That wasn't a course of action that Ted Kennedy could have imagined. He was too important. And the myth of Camelot and the hope of redeeming the nation, was too important. It was a lie, of course. But it could have been a lie Ted Kennedy told himself, and it could have been a lie that a more alert populace could have rejected. That he could get others to accept and endorse the lie is a testament to the power of the words and intellect of Ted Sorensen. He bought the myth 40 years.

Sorensen is now an old man and is really all that is left of the original Kennedy mythmaking apparatus. The other sorcerors who created and promulgated the Kennedy myth -- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Pierre Salinger, Arthur Schlesinger, Theodore White -- have long since left the scene. The dream is dying a little more each day. And it's just as well. We need to face the world and our future as it is. And the myth that Ted Sorensen helped to create won't be especially useful to us.

Belated News Flash

Several weeks ago, we attended a pot luck dinner on National Night Out. Our neighborhood usually has a good turnout. It is good to meet the new neighbors and hear all of the neighborhood news.

Well, this year I learned something that I thought might provide a chuckle for the Mr. Dilettante's Neighborhood readers. Truth in advertising - I have not actually verified this piece of news. Our next door neighbor has a young son who loves the usual toddler movies including ones featuring the Little People. Not familiar with the Little People? They are made by Fisher-Price and undoubtedly you have seen the Little People farm. So, guess who does one of the voices of the Little People on the movies? Aaron Neville. Not exactly typecasting. . . .

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Prayer Request

In case you didn't see it, my good friend (and regular commenter) Rich made the following request:

One quick request: My cousin Tim Evans, who is a PFC in the Marines and was stationed in Afghanistan, got hit by an IED over the weekend. He is a great kid who blew off a football scholarship to enlist. He was banged up pretty badly, but physically, he should be OK. However, he also sustained a severe concussion, and there's some concerns about long-term effects. Any prayers would be appreciated.

I am praying for Tim and I would request that everyone who reads this feature do the same.

Try the decaf

You'll get differing opinions about the propriety of speaking ill of the dead. In the case of the recently departed senator from Massachusetts, it's especially problematic. I do know this much: what my friend Leo Pusateri posted on his blog was hardly vicious. The reaction he got? Well, it seems a little over the top (note: link NSFW).

I am amused that a guy who blogs at a site that has trouble getting through a post without letting an F-bomb fly would attempt to use the Joseph Welch quote as a truncheon against Leo, though.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Be My Baby

Everyone is talking about Ted Kennedy's death today, and rightly so. He was a hugely important figure in American life for much of the last 40 years. But we also lost someone else today who brought a lot of joy to the world -- songwriter Ellie Greenwich, who wrote many of the great pop songs of the 1960s, mostly with her songwriting partner and then-husband Jeff Barry. Greenwich was a contemporary of Carole King and because she wasn't as successful a performer, she was often forgotten. That's too bad, because she wrote some great songs. A lot of the songs were Phil Spector productions, but she ranged beyond that. Here are just a few of the great songs that she gave us:

Be My Baby, by the Ronettes

River Deep, Mountain High, by Ike and Tina Turner

Da Doo Ron Ron, by the Crystals

Leader of the Pack, by the Shangri-Las

Do Wah Diddy, by Manfred Mann

Chapel of Love, by the Dixie Cups.

Six great songs, six different performers. And it's hard to imagine the early 60s without these songs. RIP.

Back from KC

We had a lot of fun on vacation. We'll get back to reality soon enough. A few thoughts from the trip:

  • If you think the Star Tribune is bad, you should see the Kansas City Star. An aggressively stupid newspaper, but with even less content the Strib.
  • My new all-time favorite television sports guy is Jack Harry at the NBC affiliate in KC. This guy is gruff, old school, obtuse and unintentionally hilarious. Picture Sid Hartman with a flat top haircut and a gravel voice and you've got the picture.
  • Claire McCaskill, who theoretically represents Missouri in the Senate, comes off as very silly. She was doing a "town hall" in KC while we were there and even though she put her thumb on the scale in designing the format, she still seemed flustered even though the tough questions were screened out.
  • We talk a lot about "Minnesota Nice," but the people we met in Kansas City were considerably more friendly than most people you encounter 'round here. And everyone is unfailingly polite.
  • The difference between Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park, Kansas and France Avenue in Edina is pretty much non-existent.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Everything Is Up to Date in Kansas City

We're still on vacation in Kansas City. Having a great time. A few observations:

  • One of the things you don't always appreciate about the Twin Cities until you leave is how well signed it is. We made some sport about the expense of changing out the signs for the terminals at the airport, but by and large it's pretty easy to figure out where things are in the Twin Cities. Kansas City leaves a lot to be desired that way. You often don't find out about exits until you're just about on them. This has been pretty problematic a few times here -- fortunately, I'm a big fan of abrupt lane changes.
  • I don't know how nice the new ballpark will be in Minneapolis, but they'll have to go a long way to improve on Kauffmann Stadium here. It is absolutely gorgeous and the renovation they did is spectacular. It's the nicest ballpark I've been in. Too bad the product on the field is, well, terrible.
  • We went to the Harry S. Truman Library on Saturday. While's there's more than a little big of hagiography going on, it's a pretty neat place to visit. It's easy to forget how momentous the times were when Truman served the nation. A hell of a lot of things were on the line back then. I highly recommend a visit if you come to this area.
  • Today we went to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and the American Jazz Museum, both located in the historic 18th and Vine District east of downtown. The neighborhood is the one referenced in the Wilbert Harrison song about Kansas City and was the centerpiece of African-American life here. Both museums have a lot to offer and the kids had a great time.

Bottom line -- this is a nice place to visit, especially if you just want to get away from the Twin Cities for a few days. And I'm glad to see that the Stinger is keeping the neighorhood filled with content.

Meanwhile, over in Green Bay

While the secret dream of many a Vikings fan has finally come true, his replacement has quietly continued to put up solid numbers, keeping in tune with his solid 2008 season (4000+ yards, 28 TD, 13 INT). Last night against Buffalo, Aaron Rodgers played the first five series, and played well. And, it looks like the 3-4 defense Dom Capers is putting together has come out of the gates strong. These are continuing trends from the game against Cleveland last week.

Of course, it's the preseason. We have to remember that Detroit went 4-0 in the preseason last year. But, the team Minnesotans love to hate could be pretty decent this year. So heads up,'s not going to be a cakewalk just because you have the best 39-going-on-40-year-old QB in the league in your fold....and I don't think Chicago is going to be the only bump in the road for you either.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Radio Free Dilettante: I'm Your DJ Now, Princey...

Bonus points to whoever gets the reference (easy one for anyone who is around my age).

Before I begin, I should say that Mr. D and I have a lot of overlap in our musical tastes. But, there are definitely places where we part ways (although his picking up on the White Stripes is me hope). Oh, one other difference...I actually have an iPod.

Last Five:
"This Fine Social Scene," Zero 7
"1972 Bronze Medalist," The Bad Plus
"Open Your Heart," Madonna
"Since You're Gone," The Cars
"Big Me," Foo Fighters

Next Five:
"Oh Daddy," Adrian Belew
"Future Foe Scenarios," Silversun Pickups
"Iceman," Descendents
"Bullets," Editors
"Goody Two Shoes," Adam Ant

Hey, no hip-hop...this list may be Maria-approved. Actually, I should do an all hip-hop one just because she called me out on not posting.

Open Thread

We're on our way to Kansas City for a quick vacation, which most likely means a vacation from blogging, unless Stinger decides to post something (and I bet he might, especially after the way Fearless Maria called him out).

In the meantime, have an open thread. Anything you want to talk about. Start an argument, go nuts, have fun, whatever. My only request: don't work blue. Back Tuesday.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Guilty Pleasures Part Fifty-Three -- Fearless Maria Seeks the Kansas City Sound

Fearless Maria is here and we're kinda struggling for a theme this week. You see, we're headed for a vacation starting tomorrow and we've been a little distracted with getting ready.

Dad, why don't we do a Guilty Pleasures on where we're going?

Say, that's a good idea, Maria. We're headed for Kansas City for the weekend.

So are there a lot of rock bands from Kansas City?

Well, uh, er, um, no. Actually, not many at all.

So what do the people do down there anyway? Hum to themselves?

No, I think they like music. In fact, the American Jazz Museum is in Kansas City and we're going there during our vacation.

Wow, the people in Kansas City probably get tired of blowing trumpets and tubas all day long! Bum-bum-BUM! I bet they're out of breath!

Well, that might be. So anyway, I'm still thinking about rock songs from Kansas City. There is the song "Kansas City" which was a big hit for Wilbert Harrison in 1959.

Well, Dad, was Wilbert Harrison from Kansas City?

No, he's from North Carolina.

Then you can't use that one! Rejected!

Okay. Tough room! Anyway, we'll expand our horizons a little bit and use some jazz stuff. This first guy had a number of R & B and jazz hits in the 1940s.

Whoa, he's old! Is he still alive?

No, he died over 30 years ago. But his music still is worth some attention. It's Louis Jordan with:

Dad, I was wondering if that lady would ever pick up the phone! She probably didn't want to call because it costs too much money, not because she forgot the number.

Yeah, the phone company pretty much had all the money back then, Maria.

So was his number 867-5309?

That would be a real wrong number, Maria!

Guess you're right, Dad. What else you got?

Let's see. There's this chestnut from the great saxophonist Charlie Parker, performing here with a very young Miles Davis among others. It's a classic performance of:

So, why do they show their noses so close?

Who knows?

Good pun, wise guy! So you don't know, do you?

Nope, I just assume the usual excuse -- shoddy production values.

And nose hair!

Okay, I can see that you're losing interest in jazz.

Yeah, break out the Kansas City rock and roll!

I looked, Maria. I really didn't find much. I did find this one, a soulful number from the early 70s. These guys are from Kansas City, but that's about what I know. It's Bloodstone with:

You know what's scary, Dad?

No, what's scary?

Their hats! It looks like they're wearing the clothes that the Ohio Players threw out!

Those bad clothes were an occupational hazard in the 70s, Maria.

I know, they really had a lack of style back then. Can you come up with someone better than Bloodstone, Dad?

I'm not sure, Maria. Not from Kansas City. These guys were from Topeka, Kansas. That's something.

Maybe we'll let it slide. You seem desperate, Dad!

You don't know the half of it, Maria. This is Kansas, with the song that polluted millions of proms in the 1970s. Breathe in the significance of:

I don't think there was really any dust in the wind, Dad. You know why?

No, but I'd love to hear your theory, Maria.

All the dust was caught in the fiddle player's hair! Those are some really scary looking dudes, Dad!

Well, I did like the totally sweet powder blue tux that the guitarist was wearing.

If you ask me, that looks like it came out of the sewer!

Could be, Maria. Anyway, I'm really running of ideas here. What do you suggest?

KC and the Sunshine Band!

Why not? Here ya go!

That trombone player bought his outfit at Rugs for America or something!

I thought he looked more like a television test pattern.

What's that, Dad?

The test pattern comes on when the television station goes off the air, Maria.

When is that, Dad? Television stations stay on all night!

I'm dating myself again, aren't I?

You're not that old, Dad! So what if you can remember Harry Truman!

Now there's a guy from Kansas City! Anyway, enough of this. Vote for your favorite in the comments section.

You better vote, because while we're in Kansas City this might be the only post you'll see around here! Unless Uncle Stinger picks up the pace a little bit! Slacker....

res ipsa loquitur 082009

Outgoing Greenpeace leader says lying is justified, because "we, as a pressure group, have to emotionalize issues." Or is he lying about that?

MSNBC doesn't let a little inconvenience get in the way of the narrative.

The future is in good hands.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Another Wingut Speaks Out

I can see why the Obama administration is getting angry with these nasty right-wingers. They keep saying things like this:

I am finally scared of a White House administration. President Obama's desired health care reform intends that a federal board (similar to the British model) — as in the Center for Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation in a current Democratic bill — decides whether your quality of life, regardless of your political party, merits government-controlled funds to keep you alive. Watch for that life-decider in the final bill. It's already in the stimulus bill signed into law.

Must have been Rush Limbaugh, or maybe Glenn Beck or Ann Coulter. Someone irresponsible like that. Or maybe Sarah Palin has been turned loose on the Facebook again, making more of her reckless wild-ass charges. That's what you'd think, right?

If that's what you think, you're wrong. The author is Nat Hentoff. Here's the full quote from his latest column:

I was not intimidated during J. Edgar Hoover's FBI hunt for reporters like me who criticized him. I railed against the Bush-Cheney war on the Bill of Rights without blinking. But now I am finally scared of a White House
administration. President Obama's desired health care reform intends that a federal board (similar to the British model) — as in the Center for Health Outcomes Research and Evaluation in a current Democratic bill — decides whether your quality of life, regardless of your political party, merits government-controlled funds to keep you alive. Watch for that life-decider in the final bill. It's already in the stimulus bill signed into law.

Emphasis mine. If you don't know who Hentoff is, he's a man with impeccable liberal credentials. He spent the majority of his 50+ year career at the Village Voice, which no one confuses with National Review. He wrote a book, The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance, that was highly critical of the Bush Adminstration's actions in the aftermath of 9/11. He's one of the most important living experts on the meaning and importance of the First Amendment. He's not a nut. He also offers this cautionary note, quoting journalist Wesley Smith:

As more Americans became increasingly troubled by this and other fearful elements of Dr. Obama's cost-efficient health care regimen, Smith adds this vital advice, no matter what legislation Obama finally signs into law:

"Remember that legislation itself is only half the problem with Obamacare. Whatever bill passes, hundreds of bureaucrats in the federal agencies will have years to promulgate scores of regulations to govern the details of the law.

"This is where the real mischief could be done because most regulatory actions are effectuated beneath the public radar. It is thus essential, as just one example, that any end-of-life counseling provision in the final bill be specified to be purely voluntary … and that the counseling be required by law to be neutral as to outcome. Otherwise, even if the legislation doesn't push in a specific direction — for instance, THE GOVERNMENT REFUSING TREATMENT — the regulations could." (Emphasis added.)

Emphasis noted. Read the whole thing.

Good News

My old high school pal John Gietman informs me that the Packers got the full $4500 for Brett Favre in the "Cash for Clunkers" program.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Radio Free Dilettante – Ol' Number 4 Edition

My iTunes welcomes Brent to Minnesota:

Last Five:
The Windmills of Your Mind, Dusty Springfield
I Can't Stop Loving You, Ray Charles
Somebody Crying, Marshall Crenshaw
Runnin' with the Devil, Van Halen
You Took Advantage of Me, Art Tatum

Next Five:
It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), R.E.M.
Crazy, Gnarls Barkley
Lost in the Supermarket, The Clash
Back on the Chain Gang, The Pretenders
Carry Me Back, The Rascals

Favre the Ted Thompson Gunner

Apologies to Warren Zevon:

Brett Favre was a warrior from the Land of Hattiesburg
With a Thompson gun for hire, fighting was the word
The deal was made with Ron Wolf on a dark and stormy day
So he set out for Fox Valley to join the bloody fray

Through ninety-six and seven they fought the NFC war
Fingers on their triggers, knee-deep in gore
For days and nights they battled the Niners to their knees
They killed to earn their living and to help out the heads of cheese

Brett Favre the Thompson gunner...

His comrades fought beside him - Ted Thompson and the rest
But of all Ted Thompson's gunners, Brett Favre was the best
So the NFL decided they wanted Brett Favre dead
That son-of-a-bitch Ted Thompson blew off Brett Favre's head

Brett Favre the headless Ted Thompson gunner (Time, time, time
For another peaceful war
Green Bay's bravest son But time stands still for Brett Favre
'Til he evens up the score)
They can still see his headless body stalking through the night
In the klieg lights of ESPN
In the klieg lights of ESPN

Brett Favre searched the continent for the man who'd done him in
He found him in Milwaukee in a barroom drinking gin
Brett Favre aimed his Ted Thompson gun - he didn't say a word
But he blew all credibility from there to Hattiesburg

Brett Favre the headless Ted Thompson gunner...

The eternal Ted Thompson gunner, still wandering through the night
Now it's two years later but he still keeps up the fight
In Maplewood, in Hopkins, in Inver Grove and Fridley
Ziggy Wilf heard the burst of Favre's Ted Thompson gun
And bought it

Speaking of pointless drivel....

Favre arrives in Twin Cities, to sign with Vikings today.

Oh, where to begin. Such a target-rich environment. Let's see:
  • First, as a Packer fan, I'm more amused than angered by this. There's no reason to be mad a Favre. He's not being disloyal, he's being bull-headed. He got it into his brain that he was indispensable. Ted Thompson didn't agree. And Ted was right, of course. It's 2009. I'd rather have a 25-year-old Aaron Rodgers at the helm than a guy who is going to turn 40 in October.
  • By signing today, Favre got his way and demonstrated the desperation of the lost souls at Winter Park. Why go through training camp? Why bother with the alphabet soup of activities that are supposedly an essential part of the modern game? Who needs a mini-camp, an OTA, a trip to Mankato? And remember all the assurances that we heard from the assembled brain trust in Eden Prairie. Favre is just another guy. He'll go through everything everyone else does. Guess not.
  • So I wonder how all the boys at ESPN feel, especially the ones who spent the summer logging long hours in Hattiesburg watching for smoke signals from the Favre compound. How many breathless dispatches were offered, how much air time did the network offer, only to have Jay Glazer of FoxSports get the scoop when it really mattered. Ol' Number 4 used Mort, Ed Werder, John Clayton and countless others as a footwipe. Hope you enjoyed it, kids!
  • As for the season ahead: who knows? If I were to guess, I don't think it ends well for the Vikings. The final image Packer fans have of Brett Favre is watching him throw a bad interception in the 2007 NFC championship game. It served as a nice bookmark to the bad interception he threw in the playoffs in 2003. Maybe it will be different this year, but that's not the way to bet.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pointless drivel

So, this is what it's like to have an!!

Anyway, just thought I would put up a post letting people know that I will be putting up the occasional post here....which, as anyone who reads SN knows, is infrequent.

I think I made a pretty decent intro to myself and what I am about on my first post at my blog. Read that, and you'll get a pretty good idea of what I'm about.

Oh, I will make one point. In making his announcement that he was not running for a third term as Wisconsin governor, Jim Doyle said he was not going to "pull a Brett Favre." So, rest assured, Minnesotans. Doyle will not flirt with the idea of running for governor of this state. That was what he meant, right? Probably just as well...he is about as beloved in Wisconsin as Brett Favre will be if Jay Glazer turns out to be right.

OK, there you go, Mr. D....I finally put up a post.

Write Your Own Punchline

Dancing With the Stars' cast includes Tom Delay

Let's get the ball rolling:

1) What is the opposite of Must See TV?

2) We can only hope this is on tape delay.

3) It's actually a square dancing segment with Ronnie Earle calling the moves.

4) I've got a Congressman who lives on the Hill. He won't do it but ol' Hammer will. He do the boogie, he do the K Street Boogie.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

It's Loud and It's Tasteless, and I've Heard It Before

Sometimes it's tough to keep the narrative straight. Perhaps you might remember this. Back in the distant past, nearly two weeks ago now, we had it on good authority that those who were protesting Obama Care were somehow inauthentic. The way to tell? They were too well dressed. In fact, we learned that they were part of a "Brooks Brothers Brigade." The president's press secretary, the always-dapper Robert Gibbs, explained the dynamic thus:

Mr. Gibbs compared the protesters with the "Brooks Brothers Brigade" that he said appeared in Florida after the 2000 presidential election.

"I seem to see some commonality in who pops up at some of these things," he said, without elaborating. "You can see quite a bit of similarity between who shows up where."

Two weeks later, the town meetings have been happening throughout the country and now a different picture emerges of the protestors. Turns out the protestors aren't Brooks Brothers people at all. In fact, they aren't fashion forward in the least. They are a mob. And not very well dressed at all.And our betters don't approve. Here's the measured response of Robin Givhan of the Washington Post:

By and large, the shouters are dressed in a way that underscores their Average Guy -- or Gal -- bona fides. They are wearing T-shirts, baseball caps, promotional polo shirts and sundresses with bra straps sliding down their arm. They wear fuchsia bandannas and American-flag hankies wrapped around their skulls like sweatbands. A lot of them look as though they could be attending a sporting event and, as it turns out, the congressman is the opposing player they have decided to heckle. If not for the prohibition on signs and banners inside these meetings, one could well expect to see some of these volatile worker bees wearing face paint and foam fingers, albeit the highlighted digit would be one expressing foul displeasure rather than competitive rank or skill level.

The nerve of these people, huh? Why can't they be like their betters? Givhan then provides some useful context:

The elected officials stand in front of a lectern or roam the hall -- making sure not to stray too far from the protective reaches of their security detail, just in case a yeller lets a right hook fly. At the town halls hosted by Sens. Arlen Specter and Claire McCaskill, both legislators dressed for business. Specter was in a dark suit and tie. McCaskill wore a chocolate brown jacket with a narrow standing collar. Sen. Ben Cardin wore a dark suit with a navy striped tie to his meeting with his health care mob. They all peered at the irate speakers in some combination of stoic disbelief, subdued annoyance and preternatural calm.

Here's a guess: if the assembled mob/throng/yellers were making a Congressional salary and had the perks that a typical Congresscritter enjoys, they might not need to wear "promotional polo shirts." And let me confess: I've been known to wear a promotional polo shirt myself. The stitching on the left sleeve of the red polo shirt I am wearing right now provides an unmistakable advertising message for one of my former employers. It's a fine shirt and makes excellent weekend wear. But it is the mark of my inferiority. If you're going to wear a polo shirt, it really ought to have a polo pony or a crocodile or somesuch on it.

What's really happening here is a very old story, of course. This is a matter of class. Our betters have worked hard to achieve their station. They have gone to top-flight universities and soaked in the verities they have learned and have applied these life lessons quite diligently. They know better than to wear the togs of the sales rep, the middle manager, the line worker. They've long since learned the importance of rejecting the ethos of such people, the forgotten middle class they'd prefer to forget. They've gotten beyond that. It's an occupational hazard; facing the rabble they represent/transcend is a difficult thing, indeed. But it's something that must be done, no matter how distasteful the process. The middle managers and sales reps and general contractors aren't a resource to learn from: they are a cash crop to harvest.

And please understand, our betters love people, even though the people are so damned slovenly. That's why our betters are endeavoring to provide something as important and necessary as Obama Care. They understand that this is Kabuki theater, of course, and that town halls and other listening events are part of the process. Of course you get a listening tour. Just don't expect anyone to hear anything.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What's Your Name, Little Girl

Mr. D and I have been married for a long time now, getting close to two decades. When we got married, I went from a well known Scandinavian last name to a German one that is frequently mispronounced.

I started out this summer by going to the wedding of Ben and Faith Worley. I met many new people. I was introduced to many of the guests as Mrs. D. Mr. D introduced some of the guests by their blogger name and then told me their real name. As a result, I met lots of very nice people but I am still trying to put the blogger names with the real names.

Last month I received a message on Facebook from a reporter from a famous TV station. CNN was searching for a local woman who was in the middle of her big fifteen minutes of fame. We share the same first name, same maiden name and we live in the same state. The CNN reporter assumed that I was the same person and it was urgent that he speak to me. However, I am not the same person who was appearing on national morning talk shows, the dancing bride who boogied down the aisle at her wedding. I highly doubt that CNN would like to do a story about a suburban wife and mother who works part time.

Last weekend Mr. D and I went to my high school reunion. I reintroduced myself to people I hadn't seen in a couple of decades and of course the only way that they could remember me was if I used my maiden name.

Some days this summer, when the dinner I make is a favorite, or if I have a special surprise activity planned for the day, my kids have taken to calling me the best mom in the universe. On the flip side, when I am assigning allowance chores I am definitely not called the best mom in the universe!

Forty years ago was the Summer of Love. Think I will remember this as the summer of many names.

August 14, 2000

When the phone rang at 3 a.m. on Monday, August 14, 2000, I knew what it meant. Things had been going badly from the start and we were now at the end. It was my brother on the other end of the line.

"Mark, she's gone."

"Okay. We'll be there later today."

There wasn't a lot more to say. I'd had a few days to steel myself for what was coming. I'd driven nearly 600 miles round trip by myself two days earlier, hoping to see something better than what I'd seen. It was a forlorn hope. Now it was time to return. This time it was time to say goodbye. My mother had passed away.

My mother was 67 years old. She needed oxygen because of her emphysema and had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She had gone into the hospital for a mastectomy six days earlier and complications set in almost immediately. She never made it out of the hospital. I'd gone home on Saturday for a quick visit, returning home the same day. Mom was tired, angry and somewhat incoherent. The attending doctors and nurses seemed concerned but optimistic and I thought that I would see her again. I thought wrong.

We started getting ready. We had to make some phone calls — let the office know I wouldn't be around for a while, let my wife's parents know, all the calls you have to make when a life-changing event needs to be explained. These days you might be able to put a post up on Facebook or a blog, but in 2000 those things weren't around yet.

Since we'd been on vacation the previous week, I'd driven well nearly 1,500 miles and was pretty much exhausted. We were still recovering from our vacation and we couldn't leave right away; there was laundry to do and arrangements to make. My son, then 4 years old, couldn't understand why we had to make another long trip in the car. I understood what he felt -- the last thing I wanted was another 289 mile trip. The trip from the Twin Cities to Appleton was about 5½ hours under the best circumstances; you had to take a somewhat convoluted path back then, driving through the back end of Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls before heading east on Highway 29. We also had a highly cranky infant daughter in the car and we had to make a number of stops along the way. As the light of the day began to fade, we pulled into Appleton and checked into the Microtel, a new but pretty spartan place out by the highway. We just wanted to get some sleep.

It didn't work out. The disruptions in schedule were a little too much for our daughter and she spent most of the evening crying. Eventually I had to try the old trick of driving her around to lull her to sleep. I put her in the car seat and began to drive around town. By then it was deep into the night, almost 3 a.m. the next morning. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I noticed the lightning flashing in the western sky. I turned on the radio and tried to find out what was happening; there was a severe thunderstorm warning and the potential of a tornado. Travel was not recommended.

Still, I continued to drive. The rain came down in sheets and the lightning crackled across the sky in weird horizontal patterns. My daughter, who had finally started to fall asleep, was awakened by a clap of thunder and began to cry again. I made another loop through the west side of town, down Mason Street toward my old neighborhood. I turned right on Cedar, then left on Outagamie, stopping briefly in front of my boyhood home. At that moment, the rain began to slow and my daughter started to fall back to sleep. As I wound through the streets of my youth – Reid Drive, Douglas Street, Prospect Avenue, past my high school, past St. Mary's cemetery, back to the highway, I craved sleep most of all. Sleep would come soon enough. The only good news was that the longest day of my life was coming to an end.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I Wouldn't Read This If I Were You

I am evil. I am like Bull Connor.

I am comforted that my opponents are tempering their rhetoric, however.

Run away now. You don't want what I got.

Les Paul, RIP

Les Paul died today. You can't overstate his importance in the history of modern music. Besides being an outstanding guitarist, he essentially invented the modern solid body electric guitar and also was the first recording studio wizard to come up with multi-track recording. You don't get to modern rock and roll without Les Paul.

Mitch Berg has an excellent summation of why Les Paul matters over at his place. And as always, you should hear the music, as performed by Les and his wife Mary Ford:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Guilty Pleasures Part Fifty-Two -- Take a Letter, Dad

Fearless Maria is back in the house and this time, I'm driving. Dad, you know what's the best part about that?

What is it, Maria?

Now you have to be the voice in the italic type! I'm driving this bus and you're going to have to get off at the next stop if you don't watch your step, buddy!

You've put me on notice, haven't you?

Yeppity do. Now, today we've got some music from all the way back in 1969. That's 40 years ago, Dad!

Yes, I remember it. I turned 6 at the end of that year. Started kindergarten, too!

So let's get started. First, we have this weird guy that I never knew existed, but his name is R. B. Greaves, and he wants someone, maybe even me, to:

It sounds like this Maria is supposed to be his secretary. Back in those days men often had secretaries and they would type letters for their bosses.

Why? Were they too busy being lazy bums to type their own letters? They must not have had the skills to pay the bills! And why did his recorder start bursting into flames at the end? Apparently since can't type his own letters, his mission was impossible!

Sounds right, Maria. I'm guessing you would have had a lot to say about life in 1969.

Well, the whole thing makes me suspicious. And Elvis Presley seemed to be pretty suspicious, too, because he has:

Dad, Elvis looks a little sweaty there, don't you think?

Well, I'm thinking that white jumpsuit he was wearing was probably made of some strange polyester fabric.

Why did Elvis seem to change outfits in the middle? You know what, Dad? I'm pretty sure he was lip-syncing on some of this. So Elvis is being pretty suspicious with his own mind. That's what I think.

Actually, I especially like his sideburns. Those are pretty impressive. You could build a bee's nest in those things!

Plus, he's shaking his butt a lot. Wasn't he a little old for that by then? I don't think the girls were swooning over that stuff by then!

Well, you'd have to ask those girls, but they aren't girls any more.

I bet some of the girls might have looked like this lady in the next song. It's a group called Smith, with:

Well, first of all, I think there's a little mistake in the lyrics on this one, Dad.

What is that, editor?

Number one, I'm thinking she didn't touch this "Baby" person's heart. She probably stabbed it with that pointy headband thing! And also, I think it was the belt that was torn apart.

No, that's fringe, Maria. A lot of people wore fringe outfits back then, including most of this band, apparently.

They seem like they belong out on the fringe, Dad! But I did think the song was, well, interesting. But maybe she was overdoing it a bit with the "NOBODY NOBODY" business. Maybe nobody wants to hear that screaming!

Good point, Maria. So what's next?

Well, it's just Sly and the Family Stone, all wearing really huge hair and if you ask me, they sure don't look like:

Holy smokes, Dad! Sly's hair is as tall as the Willis Tower!

What you talkin' about, Willis?

Dad, they renamed the Sears Tower the Willis Tower. Try to keep up, slow Daddy-O. I guess the rest of the band had an unexpected trip to the hair salon.

Well, considering how long they'd grown it out by then, if they showed up at any hair salon it probably was unexpected, don't you think?

Yep. And it wasn't very smart, either, because their hair was so big that it didn't fit in the camera frame and it looked like they had their heads cut off!

Technology has gotten a little better since then, fortunately.

Yes. Finally, this last song really earned its singer a lot of Cash. Here's Johnny Cash, who seems confused, singing:

Nice hair, Johnny Cash! You seem to be the only person who owned a comb in 1969. The song is some story, though! I wouldn't want to be named George or something like that!

Here's something you might not know, Maria. Johnny Cash was singing that song for a bunch of inmates at San Quentin Prison in California. Some of those guys in the audience were pretty rough dudes.

I wonder if any of their names were Sue?

I'm pretty sure that were all named Bill or George or any old thing, but not Sue.

Well, don't sue me, but it's time for everyone to vote! And if you don't vote, we may have to send you to the Neighborhood Prison, which might not be as bad as San Quentin, but, ooh, it's a tough place! Don't try to survive on mush -- vote in the comments section! Anything else you want to say, Dad?

I think that went well. But you still don't get to drive the Santa Fe.


Fearless Benster's Football Predictions - Preseason Week 1

Hi. I'm the Benster and I am in the neighborhood, peeps! And no, that's not me in the picture. But it's time that you got the picture, so here we go.

I'm talkin' about practice football. The pre-season officially starts tomorrow. No "Annie" references, please! Let's get right to the picks, even as my sister gives me grief. You have to be real pro to pick games under these conditions! These are just the Thursday games, I'll be back to pick the rest later on.

Baltimore 31, Washington 17. Even though I am probably the biggest Santana Moss fan out there, Baltimore is just too good defensively and there's no way that Jason Campbell will ever be the best quarterback in the league. Sorry, 'Skins fans!

New England 21, Philadelphia 14. This is just an educated guess, but I think Tom Brady won't do much on a surgically-repaired knee. Since Brady is my Dad's fantasy football quarterback, I will probably run away with the fantasy football league title AGAIN. By the way, my quarterback (Drew Brees) is not on a surgically-repaired knee and is the hottest quarterback in the league.

Arizona 23, Pittsburgh 0. Even though this is the pre-season, you can't count out the revenge factor. Arizona FTW!

Dallas 28, Whoever the heck plays in Oakland O. Do I even need to say what is going to happen to the Raiders? Who is the next mediocre Oakland quarterback?

And remember, watch the games that are going on in your area, unless you don't have cable, because we all know that hoboes don't have enough money for cable. They can't even fix the hobo suit.

Two Great Points

Gary Gross has the well-deserved smackdown that T-Paw delivers to DFL "leaders" Larry Pogemiller and Margaret Anderson Kelliher, as the governor declines to attend a "Minnesota Leadership Summit" that they were attempting to gin up:

The state already has an annual “Minnesota Leadership Summit.” It’s called the legislative session and it lasts approximately five months. This past year, rather than taking timely and decisive action to deal with our budget deficit, the Legislature’s DFL leadership wasted the first few months of the session. Passage of your final budget bills in the last few minutes before midnight on the final day of the session was indicative of how you managed the situation.

That's going to leave a mark.

Meanwhile, the idiosyncratic and highly valuable Camille Paglia, who supported Obama and still seems to want to, makes another great point, even though she seems to want to avoid the obvious conclusion:

And what do Democrats stand for, if they are so ready to defame concerned citizens as the "mob" -- a word betraying a Marie Antoinette delusion of superiority to ordinary mortals. I thought my party was populist, attentive to the needs and wishes of those outside the power structure. And as a product of the 1960s, I thought the Democratic party was passionately committed to freedom of thought and speech.

But somehow liberals have drifted into a strange servility toward big government, which they revere as a godlike foster father-mother who can dispense all bounty and magically heal all ills. The ethical collapse of the left was nowhere more evident than in the near total silence of liberal media and Web sites at the Obama administration's outrageous solicitation to private citizens to report unacceptable "casual conversations" to the White House. If Republicans had done this, there would have been an angry explosion by Democrats from coast to coast. I was stunned at the failure of liberals to see the blatant totalitarianism in this incident, which the president should have immediately denounced. His failure to do so implicates him in it.

Implicates, you say? Keep thinking, Camille. You're getting very close to the truth, even if you'd rather not acknowledge it yet.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Going Postal, or Hello, Newman!

When we look back the current madness in the future, I think it's quite possible that we might remember August 11 as the day that Obama Care suffered the mortal blow. And the funny part is this: it may have died by the president's own hand. How, you ask? Well, our agent of Hope and Change compared the proposed public option for health care to the Post Office. The ever-alert Cuffy Meigs has the skinny at the link, to wit:

Yep. That's true. And the jokes pretty much write themselves, although Cuffy was nice enough to provide Seinfeld music on the end of his video to help set the mood. If you've been paying any attention lately, you know that the postal service is hemmoraghing money right now and that it is likely to eliminate Saturday delivery. So why would we want to create a new health delivery system that is as efficient as the Post Office? And to extend the analogy, the way the president posits the matter, the current health care regime is more like the FedEx and UPS; competitors that win in the marketplace.

So riddle me this: why again do we need a new, substandard federal system? Why is this so urgent?

Thank you, Mr. President. You've come up with the perfect analogy and provided a great service to your nation in doing so. You have my heartfelt gratitude.

p.s. if you ever wondered why the president needs a teleprompter at something like a town meeting, this is why.

Radio Free Dilettante — Fresh As Today’s Headlines

I see narratives:

Last Five:
She Has Funny Cars, Jefferson Airplane
Big Sister’s Clothes, Elvis Costello
Cynical Girl, Marshall Crenshaw
Treat Her Like a Lady, Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose
Let’s See Action, the Who

Next Five:
Dream Weaver, Gary Wright
Future Shock, Curtis Mayfield
Red House, Jimi Hendrix Experience
American Squirm, Nick Lowe
I Say a Little Prayer, Aretha Franklin

National Brotherhood Week

Everybody seems a little disagreeable these days, so let's enjoy a few moments together.

First, here's some theme music from Tom Lehrer:

So many mean things have been said about Our President lately. Wonder where we've heard that before:

One hallmark of the new mainstream Hitler rhetoric is that the speakers typically try to soften the accusation right after making it. [Andrew] Greeley said, "He is not another Hitler. Yet there is a certain parallelism." [Guido] Calabresi said he was "not suggesting for a moment that Bush is Hitler." No, course not. That was probably the furthest thing from his mind when he decided to link Bush with Hitler. In his heyday, Joe McCarthy used the same rhetorical device. If he wanted to plant the idea that someone was a traitor without quite saying it, he would announce that somebody or other "is a traitor to America's highest principles," which is not exactly an accusation of treason.

As a test of the state of "Bush the Nazi" rhetoric, I went to Google and typed in "Bush is a Nazi" and got 420,000 hits, well behind "Hitler was a Nazi" (654,000 hits), but then Hitler WAS a Nazi and had a 75-year head start. (Computer searches like this are very crude instruments. They sweep up many references that cannot fairly be listed as slurs. But they do offer a rough idea of the amount of name-calling.)

President Clinton did fairly well in the Nazi sweepstakes (158,000 hits, but that's only 20,000 references for each presidential year, compared to 120,000 annually for the 3 1/2 year-incumbency of George Bush.) The odd thing is that I typed in the names of every Nazi I ever heard of, excluding only Hitler himself, and the group total was still less than George Bush gets alone. This might indicate that either that George Bush is by far the second most important Nazi of all time, or that the Democrats and the left now require some sedation.

That's from a John Leo column in 2004. Do the same search today and you get over 5,000,000 hits. By the way, in case you were wondering, Guido Calabresi is a sitting federal judge.

I am heartened that the Democrats are getting the vapors right now about some of the mean, rotten, awful things that those astroturfin', teabaggin', knuckle-draggin' Republicans are doing, especially the handful of miscreants who were totin' swastikas at a few rallies. I'm sure we'd be able to enter a new era of good feelings, if only I could stop dragging my knuckles. I'm working on it. We do need to make the world safe for Andrew Sullivan, of course.

We might need to get some help to a few other needlessly angry people, though.

(H/T: Instapundit)

Monday, August 10, 2009

res ipsa loquitur 081009 (Now With Breaking Updates!)

Shut up, they explained.

Opponents to Obama Care are partisan mobs, according to the WH script. Sometimes the supporters are, too.

And here is how it plays out in Denver (h/t: Powerline, which also has an interesting look at the performance of pet conservative David Brooks on Meet the Press yesterday).


This should buy a whole lotta astroturf.

On the one hand, this is pretty alarming. On the other hand, it makes Cash for Clunkers seem a bit like the after-dinner mint in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life.

On a totally different note, be sure to vote in the poll for the time of the next MOB Party over at Mitch's place. And remember, the correct answer is September 12. As Foghorn Leghorn might say, that's a hint, son.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Happy motoring!

Cash for Clunkers is wildly successful, I've been told. Bull.

If the various commenters on the Obama Pep Squad were saying "wildly popular," that would be right. Any program that gives out free money is going to be wildly popular. But let's think about what this program really does.

Say you're a fairly typical Minnesotan -- you and your spouse earn around $60K a year. After the various deductions you are allowed to take, your taxable income works out to around $35,350. The federal tax bite you are looking at is $4,504.

Your neighbor, who makes about the same money you do, maybe a little more, is tired of driving his old yet serviceable second car (a 1997 Chevy Monte Carlo, like the one pictured with this post*) and goes in for Cash for Clunkers and gets a new Toyota Corolla. He gets a $4,500 credit to buy it. Guess what -- all the taxes you paid for the year are devoted to financing his new car! And if you're lucky, your neighbor might even let you drive it around the block or something!

If we really want to do that sort of thing, I suppose we can. But why not just cut out the middle man and write your neighbor a check directly? Maybe that's why the government needs the $4 that would have been left over from what you paid in taxes for last year. Shipping and handling charges, I believe.

Thought that your taxes were going to pay for national defense, or roads and bridges, or something else? Naah, why would the government do that when they can dispense favors instead? Guess all the infrastructure projects that we've heard about are all under control now.
* I would also note that the picture of this Monte Carlo comes from a car dealership website. The dealer thinks this car has value. If your neighbor turns in his Monte Carlo for Cash for Clunkers, it gets destroyed.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Professor Krugman Explains

So why might you oppose Obama Care? What's the real reason? Let the most deserving Nobel laureate since Le Duc Tho or Rigoberta Menchu explain it to you:

But they’re probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they’ve heard about what he’s doing, than to who he is.

That is, the driving force behind the town hall mobs is probably the same cultural and racial anxiety that’s behind the “birther” movement, which denies Mr. Obama’s citizenship. Senator Dick Durbin has suggested that the birthers and the health care protesters are one and the same; we don’t know how many of the protesters are birthers, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s a substantial fraction.

It's the Nobel Laureate as Jeff Foxworthy: You might be a racist if you oppose Obama Care. Good to know. In fact, you probably are. And a "birther," too. As we all know, anything that Dick Durbin says is probative. QED. And these guys probably disapprove of you, too.

Doesn't this make you despair? How can we ever handle all the withering scorn from our betters? Take it away, David Boaz:

The good news for advocates of limited government is that our opponents are displaying a striking lack of confidence in the actual arguments for their proposals. If they thought they could win a debate on nationalizing health care, or running trillion-dollar deficits, they wouldn’t need to reach for such smears.

Friday, August 07, 2009

I was relieved that Mr. Dilettante decided to change the color of his blog before he invited me to join Mr. Dilettante's Neighborhood. I understand supporting the Iranian opposition but when Mr. Dilettante changed the color of his blog on June 19th, didn't anyone else notice that it matched the Packers colors? Just for the record, I support another team in the NFC North Division.

res ipsa loquitur - a very special lunch hour edition

Behold the astroturfers/teabaggers/enemies of the state at work in St. Louis. Be sure to keep scrolling.

My TvM colleague Gary Miller gets to the heart of the matter. Over/under on the walkback for "inartful phrasing" on this one is probably sometime after 5 p.m. today.

Peggy Noonan redeems herself: Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, accused the people at the meetings of “carrying swastikas and symbols like that.” (Apparently one protester held a hand-lettered sign with a “no” slash over a swastika.) But they are not Nazis, they’re Americans. Some of them looked like they’d actually spent some time fighting Nazis.

On Astroturfing

Just a quick reminder of something:

Last month, President Obama held a conference call with a small group of liberal bloggers, asking them to keep pressure on Congress in the health care fight. Now those same bloggers are part of an orchestrated effort by the Democratic Party and the White House to portray protests against their health care legislation as, well,

For example:

John Amato of Crooks and Liars was on last month's conference call with Obama. Yesterday, Amato asked, "How long will it take the traditional media to expose the corporations that are running this con and even mention the word 'astrotufing' in a serious way?" In the same post, he praised Robert Gibbs for accusing the protesters of being phony.

David Dayen of the blog D-Day was on the call. Yesterday, he wrote a post titled, "Top-Level Democrats Assault The Extremist Astroturfers." It began, "The White House took the lead on this, publicly calling the teabagger disruptions an example of astroturfing and citing conservative industry-backed groups taking credit for activating the rioters. Now other elements of the Democratic Party are taking up the baton. Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer blasted the clown show today..."

Joan McCarter of Daily Kos was also on the call. Yesterday, she wrote of the protesters, "It's kind of sad, isn't it? They think they're part of a real populist movement, but the freedom they're fighting for is the freedom of corporations to make even more money off of them. It's that cynicism of this astroturf campaign that's particularly disturbing, because it's not about the rights of citizens to freely express their dissent."

You know what? I don't much care if these bloggers want to help the White House sell Obamacare. It's a free country. Should you take their complaints about the nefarious forces on the Right seriously? Your mileage may vary, but I surely don't.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Radio Free Dilettante — Astroturf Patriot Edition

iTunes is trying to tell me something again.

Last Five:
Take Me Out, Franz Ferdinand
Bargain, the Who
Moonage Daydream, David Bowie
Can't Stand Losing You, the Police
Bound to Fall, the Byrds

Next Five:
Flirtin' With Disaster, Molly Hatchet
Find Somebody, the Rascals
Death or Glory, the Clash
Ain't That Peculiar, Marvin Gaye
Whole Lotta Rosie, AC/DC

Home truth

Allahpundit at Hot Air nails it:

Why can’t the Democrats just pass what they want to pass with their supermajority and stop whining incessantly about Birthers and mobs or whatever? The answer, I think, is that the whole “mob” meme is effective only insofar as it creates the impression that the GOP is the stumbling block to ObamaCare, which of course is an outright lie. It’s the Blue Dogs who are holding things up for fear of a backlash in their purplish districts if they vote for socialized medicine. Which brings us back to the astroturf smear: If the left’s so sure this is all a psy op by Republicans and that Joe Public’s gung ho to run health care into a collectivist ditch, then the Blue Dogs should call the GOP’s bluff and pass whatever Obama wants. Then, when they’re all reelected next year, the great conservative fraud will be proved and The One will have a great victory, no? Put up or shut up, kids.
Word. Read the whole thing, of course.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Birth of the Kulak

Something has to be done.

I have to admit it. I've published critical things about the president's grand designs for health care and let's face it, it was pretty damned impertinent of me. And it's entirely possible that something that has appeared under my byline is "fishy."

The White House is rightly concerned:

There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to

Let's face it, we need to be sympathetic to the concerns of the White House on this. It's pretty damned tough to keep track of all the casual conversations that are going on in this country. Most places that are efficient at doing that have taken many years to develop a network of secret police that is comprehensive and disciplined enough to do it. Just between you and me, I went to my neighborhood block party yesterday and I'm almost certain that a few of my neighbors said something untoward, too. We simply can't have that.

Now I had it on pretty good authority that the shag nasties of the Bush administration were doing stuff to develop such a force for their evil purposes, but since the Bushies essentially sucked at everything, they were never quite able to develop the sort of comprehensive organization that would be useful to the nation in this, our hour of need. We just don't have the tools to keep track of those conversations that concern our now-benevolent leaders. So I really need your help to make sure that justice is done. Turn me in. And don't worry -- once I'm in custody, I'll make sure my neighbors are turned in, too.

The e-mail address is in the cited quote above. I'll repeat the address just in case your scroll bar isn't working. It's Paste that into your browser if you need to, do whatever it takes. Do it for your country.

Maria is in the neighborhood

Hey folks! As you can see, I am part of our lovely neighborhood here at Mr. Dilettante's Neighborhood. First, I'm going to do my normal post, so here it is!

Here are our upcoming events.

School. I'm going into the 4th grade this year. I don't know who my teacher is yet, because they never tell us that until the last day of August or the first day of September. So that is one big fat ?

Anyway, before school starts I'm going to this art camp thing in Roseville and my 2-week park program thing in Arden Hills. Dad says I'm making a real tour of the northern suburbs. Not that he would know, because Mom usually takes me.

And our last upcoming event is our vacation to. . . Kansas City
This should be fun, since we will go to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the American Jazz Museum, a Twins game against the Royals at "The K," as my brother the Benster says. That's all good, but what's really good is that we'll go to:

They have tons and tons of rides and probably some food or something and, guess what? They even have one of those wooden roller coaster thingies, or whatever Mom and Dad used to drool over a couple thousand years ago! If Mom and Dad get their way, we might also go see the Harry Truman Library. Truman was president before Dad was born, so that must have been a really long time ago, maybe a triple thousand years ago! I'm not sure, though -- we may need to send out Indiana Jones to check those old bones!

Now, for our pastcoming events! Cool, I made a new word! People, add it to your dictionary!

Anyways, in the past I was born. Just kidding! Well, I was born, but we won't go that far back. Well, I've had an awesome summer and I went to the grocery store about 3 trillion times, but that's not so awesome. I've had plenty of sleepovers with my friends and stuff like that and it was the best week ever when the Benster went to Camp-enster and I had some fun-enster! Cool, now I'm Doctor Suess!

And now, finally for our presentcoming events!

Things that are happening right now -- I am doing this post. And tomorrow I will march in the New Brighton Stockyard Days Parade with the rest of my Junior Girl Scout buddies. So keep a look out for me and I might throw some candy at you!

And now for our last part of the post -- Maria's Joke Corner! In this part of my post I will tell jokes that I made up myself. Well, most of them, anyway. And most of these ones in this post are my own.

First, I decided to make up my very own Chuck Norris joke. I hear those are pretty popular.

When Chuck Norris drinks milk, the whole world is safe. Too bad Chuck Norris is lactose intolerant. And my dad says that means lactose is in a whole lot of trouble.

Now for a pun -- what kind of walks do horses go on? Neigh-ture walks!

Now, let's tell a Gino joke! Gino's relatives came to visit and they saw that his room was full of Bears posters. So for his birthday they gave him some honey and some stuff to keep the bees away!

And now I'll do one that Ben made up (or stole from somebody else). What movie does a dentist watch? Plaque to the Future!

That's it for my first post -- remember, Maria is in the neighborhood! See ya!

Stuff I learned over the lunch hour

Not in my house, you don't.

At one point, I was feeling embarrassed that a slight plurality of my fellow Minnesotans sent Al Franken to the U.S. Senate. Then I remembered who's already there.

Why didn't someone tell us this?

What is the meanest thing you can do to a politician? Provide an exact quote.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

What's up in the 'hood?

Alert readers will notice that the name of this feature has changed to Mr. Dilettante's Neighborhood. I am changing the format to include new contributors to this blog. Since we'll be adding some new voices, that means things will be a little different around here. How it's all going to shake out isn't yet clear, but it was time for a change. Watch this space for potentially thrilling updates!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Guilty Pleasures Part Fifty-One -- 86 This List

Fearless Maria has returned from her whirlwind tour of the Arden Hills Park Department and has picked out some new songs for your listening pleasure today. So, Maria, what are we going to review today?

Cowabunga! We've got some good, bad and okays today. And this will be what it's cracked up to be!

Fair enough. Let's set the Wayback Machine to the year 1986.

You know why I don't like the Wayback Machine, Dad?

Why is that, Maria?

Because the Wayback Machine just leads you to trouble, like this first song.

Good point, Maria -- this one is kind of odd. For one thing, the singer can't make up his mind if he's singing English or German. It's our old pal Falco, offering to:

Yep, it's a dude with a rainbow wig and breeches hanging out with rejects from Sturgis. So what do you make of this, Maria?

Well, I don't know what century he's in! I guess the Wayback Machine must have broke! There's pirates and people from colonial times and then there's the dressed in black 80s girls. And I'm guessing that purply rainbow wig was an accident with the cotton candy machine! And also with his freaky outfit I don't see why he deserves to have all those fans!

Well, I'm not one of them, that's for sure. Shall we move on, Maria?

We'd better, before that cotton candy machine attacks us!

Okay. Costumes seemed to be a big thing in 1986. Check out this one, in which the lovely ladies of Bananarama go through several costume changes as they cover the old Shocking Blue hit:

Where did they film that? Planet Weird? All I can say is that they sure had a bad run through the costume department? Devils that shake their butts, weird wizards coming out of coffins and vampires, and then some girl wearing a beret pushing a boy out of her house? Dad, I think there's one mistake in the lyrics.

What's that, Maria?

Life in Venus, life in fire is definitely not my desire!

Yeah, I don't think those back to school outfits you got are fire-resistant. Anyway, want to see something else that's a little strange?

Strange is all we seem to have, Dad!

Yep. This one was one of the biggest hits of 1986. Marvel as former Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel is turned into fruit art. He wants to be your:

Smash! Dad, did you hear that?

Sure I did, Maria. What was that?

That was how it felt to watch that video, Dad! Did you notice that Peter Gabriel borrowed that Falco guy's cotton candy hair? And I know that my pet Webkinz chicken Jimmy found the dancing headless chickens quite offensive! And if the song is about sledgehammers, what's with all the food?

Maybe he was thinking about this guy. I thought when he turned into fruit he looked like the seed corn art at the State Fair, myself. But I don't think that was what he was going for, Maria. Let's move on quickly. Here's one that got a lot of people angry back in 1986.

Holy smokes, that is the most weird look I've ever seen! Fire red lipstick and white faces with black clothing! Geez, those people look like zombies from the garbage can of the dead! Hope they got paid a lot of money for that!

I don't know, but I do know that Robert Palmer made a lot of money on that.

Looks like he spent it all on hair gel, Dad!

Actually, it does. Anyway, it's getting late, so let's end with a typically twisted 80s bedtime story. Our old friends with the facial hair get really weird here:

Well, what do you know? It's Santa Claus and friends, riding around in an old red car that turns into a spaceship that crashes out of a pyramid! That happens every day, right Dad?

I especially like the monster truck, too.

Who wouldn't, Dad? And so now, you're going to have to vote! Pick your favorite and tell us which one you like in the comments. You know what I've learned this time, Dad?

What is that, Maria?

That the 80s have a lot of makeup, hair gel and costumes. And it's just as weird as the 70s. Buh-bye!