Sunday, August 31, 2008

East of North Dakota

So we went to the Fair yesterday and then my brother and ace wingman the Stinger went to see the Gopher football debut at the Dome. A busy but fruitful day. A few observations:

  • Lotsa politicians were out at the Fair yesterday. The family and I arrived around 11:30 and we came in through the south gate after riding the Trinity Lutheran shuttle bus. As we walked up Underwood Street, we came across the Al Franken booth. We noticed a smattering of people around the booth, about the same number as were queued up for the Deep Fried Candy Bars over on Carnes. I took a second look and saw that Al was there, standing among a group of maybe 15-20 people. I thought about going over and doing a Swiftee on him, but decided to be polite and kept walking. I really did want to ask him how Evan Montvel-Cohen is doing these days, though. Somebody besides Swiftee should. Like Pat Kessler, to name one example.

  • Later on I happened upon the forlorn SENATOR DEAN BARKLEY booth (that's what it says). Dean was there, but no one was talking to him. Again there was a small nest of people crowding around and I took a second look. And there he was: Jesse Ventura was in the house. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Jesse looked like crap. He looked tired, haggard and disheveled, with long graying hair poking out from underneath a cap at odd angles. When you see Jesse in person, it's pretty clear why he didn't get into the race himself. There's a certain amount of personal hygiene involved in being a Senate candidate and it appeared that Jesse ain't got time to bathe.

  • I also saw Priscilla Lord-Faris at her booth (crickets were chirping) and could see Elwyn Tinklenberg standing at the DFL booth, probably urging someone to read a few Bill Prendergast diaries over at Kos. I will say this -- I liked Priscilla's anti-Franken ad that ran on KARE the other night. Norm ought to send her a check after the primary.

  • The best political experience by far was stopping by the AM1280 the Patriot booth, though. Mitch Berg and Ed Morrissey were in high spirits and were holding forth in their inimitable style, discussing the current state of the presidential race with Patrick Hynes from the blog Ankle Biting Pundits. I admire both Mitch and Ed greatly and it was a pleasure to finally meet both of them. I also got to meet two other Minnesota bloggers that I hold in very high esteem, Marty Andrade and the Mayor of the MOB, King Banaian. I have all four of these gentlemen on my blogroll for a reason -- they are all outstanding bloggers and well worth your time. And while you're at it, go buy Marty's book.

  • As for the Fair itself, it was fun. The kids are getting older now but they still prefer the Kidway to the Midway, but I'm guessing that will change soon. We got most of the usual things we get every year -- the Pickle on a Stick, the enormo tub of French Fries, the bucket o' Sweet Martha cookies, but we also found and sampled the Big Fat Bacon. It's pretty good, but the bacon is so thick that it almost becomes a little ham-like in the middle. Still, for $3 it's a pretty good deal by Fair standards. They are located on Carnes, not far from Sweet Martha and the Deep Fried Candy Bars, making Carnes one of the best streets at the fair for having a portable defibrillator.

  • I also got my McCain button at the GOP booth on Carnes, which was really hopping mid-afternoon. Based on what I observed, there were probably an equal number of McCain buttons as Obama buttons being sported by the fairgoers. And there were many more Norm buttons that Franken buttons, probably by a 3-2 ratio. Does that mean anything? Dunno.

  • After we left, Stinger and I went to see the Gophers against hated Northern Illinois. The Gophers were enthusiastic and clearly more talented, but it's pretty evident that they have two issues: their pass defense is still abysmal and they appeared to be out-coached. NIU was 2-10 last year and a MAC team with that kind of record should expect to leave the Dome with a 41-14 loss. That the Gophers had to pull out a 31-27 win with last-second heroics is pretty damning. Some of the more pass-happy teams in the Big Ten are going to riddle the Gophers. Juice Williams of Illinois put up about 5 touchdowns against a very good Missouri team last night; I shudder to think what he'll do to our Rodents. I'm thinking 4-8 is about the best we can expect for Brew's Crew.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

On a Stick

Off to the Fair today, then the Gophers and NIU game at the Dome tonight. Will have a full report tomorrow. Meanwhile, here's a typically smart take on the Palin announcement from Speed Gibson.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Maverick Changes the Game

I'll say this for John McCain -- he's got cojones. I had tagged Sarah Palin as a possibility back in July but to be honest I didn't really think she had much of a chance. The reason she remained in the running was that all the commonly discussed possibilities had obvious liabilities. In the end, I assumed it would be Mitt Romney, T-Paw or Joe Lieberman. While there are clear risks with picking Governor Palin, the upside is really good. Here are a few reasons:

  • She's a fresh face and a reformer. Whether you think it fair or not, the Democrats have been beating the drums for the entirety of W's second term about scandal and secrecy and whatnot. If you want a pretty good example of the laundry list of calumnies, you could look at last week's Sunday Doonesbury cartoon. And because the Bush administration has never effectively responded to these calumnies, they are now seen as fact. That presented McCain with a challenge, since one of the main pillars of the Obama strategy is to present McCain as More Of The Same. McCain needed an outsider with reformer credentials. Sarah Palin certainly has those. If you don't believe me, ask the Murkowskis.

  • Would Sarah Palin be a Vice President in the mold of Dick Cheney? Not a chance. If you really want to get Rovian, the Republicans could even argue that Biden is more likely to be a Cheneyesque VP, given the lack of foreign policy chops that his prospective boss has. Since Palin won't be that sort of Veep, it also blows yet another gaping hole in the Third Bush Term meme.

  • This bold pick casts Obama's pick of Biden in bold relief. Joe Biden has never impressed me much, but he was a reasonably safe pick for Obama. But if you are the man who is going to bring Hope and Change to evil Washington, you probably shouldn't be picking a guy who first entered the Senate when you were 11 years old. Biden has plenty of foibles - his ripoff of Neil Kinnock, his braggadocio regarding his academic record, his notorious long-windedness - and for all the years he's spent in the Senate, he really doesn't have that great a record of legislative accomplishment. He simply doesn't have the star power that Obama could have sought. After the show the Clintons put on in Denver, I'm guessing that more than a few portsiders have some buyer's remorse about having ol' Joe riding shotgun.

  • It limits Obama and Biden's options. A more traditional Veep pick (like Mitt, T-Paw or Tom Ridge) would have been pretty easy work for Obama's operatives. Mitt in particular would have set up a great class envy thing that the Democrats would have exploited the heck out of. Palin isn't a rich woman and she and her husband have had to earn pretty much everything they have. And let's face it, Obama will have to tread very lightly with Palin, given the amount of ill will that his campaign faced when they took down St. Hillary. It won't matter to the hard-core feminists, because they won't vote for Palin anyway. It's the suburban women swing voters, who can relate to the life Sarah Palin has led, who will take umbrage if they go low on Governor Palin.

  • Go right ahead, rip Palin for being inexperienced and unqualified. Every time the Democrats attempt this one, it will point right back at their inexperienced candidate. And the obvious response is this: Sarah Palin is running for Vice President. Barack Obama is running for President. Let's see where that one goes.

  • Go right ahead, rip Palin for being a hick. I've seen the "she was the mayor of a town of 9,000 less than 2 years ago" meme at least a half-dozen times already. Let's be honest - that's preaching to the choir. The dazzling urbanites who enjoy sneering at the residents of Bugtussle were already going to vote for Obama anyway. The thing is, Obama needs the votes of people who live in exurban towns like Wasilla, Alaska. That sneering stuff might play in Portland or Philly or South Minneapolis; I suspect it won't play so well in McMinnville or Shamokin or Waseca.

  • About those soccer moms.... I don't know if Palin will attract that demographic or not. She's a lot more likely to help there than Mitt Romney or T-Paw would have, though.

  • Ace of Base. McCain's biggest problem thus far has been the notable lack of enthusiasm among the groups that have made up the Republican base for the last 30 years. Palin is an exemplar of pro-life, life NRA member and has even hunted moose. James Dobson hates McCain and even he's thrilled with the pick.

  • Sam's Club Republicans. This was T-Paw's meme, but Sarah Palin is well-equipped to exploit it. The notion here is that there are a lot of people who aren't that wealthy and who are looking for people who exhibit common sense, who understand their concerns, and who are skeptical of the blandishments of government. A plain-speaking working mother of five is more likely to reach these folks than two Senators, especially one who must continue to face the words he uttered about people bitterly clinging to guns and religion earlier this year.

  • You thought Hillary was angry before? If McCain wins, it's Sarah Palin who makes history, not Hillary Clinton. And it could be Vice President Sarah Palin that Hillary would have to deal with for her grudge match in 2012. With this move, McCain cut Hillary off at the knees, too.

What say you?

Cross-posted at True North

Welcome to the Palindrome

I'll have more on this tonight, but clearly I'm pleased with the pick of Sarah Palin. It completely sucks the air out of Obama's big moment and introduces an exciting newcomer with true reformer credentials onto the national scene. Very well played, Sen. McCain.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Denver Omelette

I was only able to watch parts of Obama's acceptance speech tonight. Jay Reding live-blogged it and his take on the speech was that it was disappointing and very negative. I agree with that, I guess. Since I wasn't able to watch the whole thing, I can't say for sure how good a speech it was. A few observations, though:

  • I made fun of the Greek Temple backdrop yesterday, but it didn't look that ridiculous when you saw the speech. I did like the way the backdrop emulated the exploding scoreboard at Sox Park at the end. I kept looking for Carlos Quentin circling the bases.

  • The opening introductory video was very good. I'd never seen a picture of Obama's mother before; she was a very pretty woman, with an open, friendly visage that almost reminded me of the prototypical 60s Kansas girl. That friendly visage is quintessentially American and I think it was useful to see that. Smiling people are easy to like.

  • And that brings me to one thing I noticed about the speech: not to put too fine a point on it, but the dude looked pissed. Obama's facial expression was often disdainful and even dismissive. He wasn't smiling much, on what should have been the happiest day of his political career. When Obama smiles, he is very appealing. When he lets his arrogance show through, he isn't. He looked arrogant today, which is very different from the way he looked in Springfield on Saturday. People forget the words, but they remember the image. Obama is supposed to be bringing hope and change; the frowning undercuts the message.

  • The speech itself was full of the usual Democratic talking points and there's really no point in rehearsing them here -- you've heard them all before and you know where you stand on them. One thing that Obama did say was pretty disgraceful: he claimed that the federal government "sits on its hands while a major American city drowns before our eyes." That's crap and he knows it. Billions of dollars have gone into New Orleans since Katrina. New Orleans was a very sick city long before Katrina came calling; the politics in Louisiana have been corrupt forever and while I agree that FEMA hardly covered itself in glory, there is plenty of blame to go around there, beginning with the local politicians and flowing through the Army Corps of Engineers and lots of other people. And when someone drowns, they are dead. New Orleans is hardly dead.

  • I think he also handed McCain a pretty good cudgel. Obama said "If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things. " He was talking about McCain, presumably. Problem is, McCain does have a record, a 26-year record. Obama, not so much. I'm guessing McCain's speechwriters will have a lot of fun with that.

  • My advice to McCain would be this: don't hesitate to engage Obama on the issues. His original pitch was that he was a figure who would usher in a new politics and end partisanship and diviseness. To use the current locution, all that went under the bus tonight. Obama stands revealed as a typical Democratic politician with the same laundry list of suppositions and policy stances that all his predecessors have shared: there's an unbroken line from Obama's speech all the way back to FDR. and if I were McCain, I'd introduce the Veep tomorrow and then re-challenge Obama to a debate a week for the rest of the cycle. Obama said he was willing to debate and McCain should not hesitate to call his bluff. McCain is excellent in the town-hall forum, my friends.

Is Maverick fishing for T-Paw?

Drudge thinks so. So does JRoosh. And Leo. And John Hinderaker at Powerline. And so do I. That clattering sound you are hearing are Larry Pogemiller's knees knocking together at the prospect of dealing with his ultimate bete noire, Governor Carol Molnau, in January.

Either that, or Maverick is REALLY good at headfakes. Better getcha popcorn, everyone - things may just get a lot more interesting.

Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions - 2008 Lid Lifter Edition

Is it time already? My goodness, it is, so we begin again with our weekly fall series of Fearless Dilettante Football Predictions. Since it's my blog, I pick games involving teams that I care about. That would include the following:

  • My high school alma mater, Xavier High School in Appleton, Wisconsin

  • My college alma mater, the Filene's Basement of college football, Beloit College

  • The two local high school teams in SD 621, Irondale High School and Mounds View High School

  • My beloved Wisconsin Badgers

  • My brother Stinger's beloved Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • My beloved Green Bay Packers

  • The local professional squad, known here as the Purple Helmeted Love Warriors

  • And any other random games that strike my fancy

So let's get to it.

Xavier Hawks 34, Freedom Irish 6. As Kris Kristofferson reminded us, Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose. And Freedom football loses a lot, especially to the mighty Hawks.

Totino-Grace Pizza Eagles 14, Irondale Knights 10. The Knights handed Totino their only loss last season. Irondale should be pretty good this year but it's usually a safe bet to pick Totino, one of the true powers in Minnesota high school football.

Mounds View Mustangs 24, Woodbury Royals 6. Woodbury tends to be either very good or very bad. Mounds View is good all the time.

Wisconsin Badgers 52, Akron Zips 9. I'm not sure how good the Badgers are going to be this year, but Akron is supposed to be putrid. No mercy is shown at Camp Randall, either.

Minnesota Golden Gophers 31, NIU Huskies 21. The Gophers weren't very good last year but NIU is weak even by MAC standards. I've got tix to this one so Stinger and I will give you the skinny.

The pros start next week, as does mighty Beloit. We'll check on them next time.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Mile High Pericles - UPDATE - You Call This Change You Can Believe In?

UPDATE: And here I thought that the acolytes of St. Obama were about providing Change You Can Believe In? And they can't even Buy American when it comes to B-List celebrities? Shameful, I tells ya. (H/T: Instapundit)
Tomorrow night's events at Invesco Field promise to be comedy gold. The One will present his speech in front of a backdrop that is based on a Greek temple. Even the reviews from his fellow Democrats aren't especially favorable about this latest demonstration of another great Greek word, hubris.

Said one Democrat: "This is a disaster of mythical proportions." Said another: "It's not enough that he wants to be president -- he wants to be Zeus." Said the first: "Will he send down thunderbolts from the mountain?"

Obama can be quite good with words, especially when he's reading from a TelePromTer, but he surely seems to have trouble with images. From the first pseudo-presidential seal to the vaguely heroic posters in Berlin through the second pseudo-seal and the variations on the House of the Rising Obama, it's been alternately disquieting and hilarious to see some of the stuff that's been going on. All of these examples are self-inflicted wounds. Then there's the problem of Obama's hero-worshipping supporters in the arts. Their contributions get really icky at times, as in this particular self-congratulatory video featuring a plethora of minor celebrities including Barry Manilow, who I assume will have to ramp up his efforts by re-writing one of his long-past dubious triumphs later on that goes like this:

His name was Barack

He is a vision

He gave speech back in oh-two

It was a true clairvoyant view

He would campaign now

Then eat his waffles

And while he tried to be the star

It all was content-free

Hope change for you and me

Sure, it's dumb but they had each other

Not Mike Huck-a-bee

At the campaign, campaign oh-eight now

Mark Penn's been consigned to a trash scow

At the campaign, campaign oh-eight now

Pure thoughtless passion was always in fashion

At the campaign, what's not to love

At the end of the day, mockery seems the right response to what we've seen. This guy, this campaign and this party are so full of themselves that they deserve to be mocked. In the end, there's not much substantive analysis to be offered from what's happened in Denver the last few days. Intellectually the Democratic Party has been on auto-pilot for well over 40 years now. The best and the brightest of the party are people like Rahm Emanuel, tacticians first and last, but lacking in the ability to come up with any new ideas. Quick - tell me a genuinely new and innovative idea that has come out of either the Obama or Clinton campaigns.

As my thoughtful portsider friend Rich points out, the Republican Party has done undeniable damage to the Republican brand in the past 8 years. The blame for that can be widely allocated. But when the elephants march into St. Paul next week, you won't be hearing anyone criticizing John McCain for his stagecraft. And in the end the Republicans have the same trump card that they've been playing for the past 40 years - they aren't the Democrats.

I Am. . . .

The full court press from the Obama campaign remains on to keep this ad from being disseminated. If you want to know why Obama wouldn't want people to know more about the Weather Underground, here's one possible reason.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Norm Blinks

I'm not sure even Michael Brodkorb can spin this one, or that he'll want to. Norm Coleman has helped to make the Gang of 10 the Gang of 16.

This is stupid. Incredibly stupid. Lose the election stupid. If you want to know why, all you have to do is look at the name of one of the portside senators who signed on to this "compromise" along with Pollyanna Norm and the probably doomed John Sununu of New Hampshire. From the story:

The other senators rounding out the Gang of 16 on Tuesday were Republican John Warner of Virginia and Democrats Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Tom Carper of Delaware and Ken Salazar of Colorado.

Emphasis mine. When we last saw Ken Salazar, he was involved in this revealing exchange with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Salazar was on record as refusing to go along with a resolution for drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf, even if the price of gasoline were to reach $10 a gallon. Norm had to know this, but he's apparently assuming that Salazar is now acting in good faith by signing on to a "compromise" bill that will only address a small percentage of the larger issue, which is the reality that the U.S. government has been artificially locking up a great portion of available resources for the better part of 30 years.

It's pretty simple, Senator -- you are selling out your leadership for a compromise bill that will never get enacted. You are providing political cover to your opponents, who put themselves in an untenable position politically. Instead of standing with Mitch McConnell and the leadership and working to elect more Republicans by keeping the distinctions clear about which party will do something about energy challenges, you chose to align yourself with people who will not hesitate to stick a shiv in your back. Ken Salazar is not your friend, Senator. The bill will not pass and your bi-partisan gesture will be gleefully shoved down your throat. You will continue to be the target of attack ads that tie you to chimerical corporate greed, both from the campaign of your risible opponent and the constellation of outside groups that are spending huge sums to elect your risible opponent. Indeed, Ken Salazar will stand at the front of the line to greet your risible opponent should he somehow defeat you.

You can't unring the bell, Senator. But you would do well to think hard about the mistake you made today. You hadn't made too many mistakes in your campaign up to this point. But today you did.

Cross-posted at True North

Monday, August 25, 2008

In Her Mouth, An Amethyst

So a bunch of college presidents have done something interesting recently - they've called for a discussion about rolling the drinking age back to 18. They've started something called the Amethyst Initiative in the hopes of moving a ball that hasn't really moved at all since 1984, when the Feds essentially ended the debate by threatening to withhold a percentage of federal highway money to any state that didn't get in lockstep with a 21 drinking age.

The reaction has been unsurprising. The primary force that drove the change is Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which has followed the path of many similar organizations that were founded for one reason but that morph into something else over time. Let's stipulate that no one supports drunk driving. Drunk driving was a significant problem when I was growing up and while I never have personally driven drunk, I was a passenger in cars driven by drunk drivers more times than I care to admit. It was a foolish risk to take and I am fortunate that we never were part of any carnage on the highway. It's an unalloyed good thing that drunk driving is taken much more seriously now than it was.

Having said that, I think the college presidents have a legitimate point. And MADD's reaction to this initiative is so over the top that I think that Glenn Reynolds's characterization of MADD as a temperance organization is correct.

The bone of contention is binge drinking, which is generally characterized as having more than five drinks in a sitting. By that standard, I was a binge drinker for over a decade, especially during my college years. Beloit was a very boozy place in the 1980s, as were pretty much all the colleges in Wisconsin, and plenty of nights we would be just getting warmed up when we reached the five-drink mark. A number of my college friends had undeniable problems with the bottle and I know a number of people who ended up having to go through rehab and others who managed to get away from the bottle through other means. Did having an 18-year old drinking age facilitate drinking? No question about it.

But there is something else worth considering. The drinking we did was done socially, out in the open. It wasn't the sort of furtive drinking that goes on now, especially among underage drinkers. And people didn't typically drink 18 shots in an hour on their birthday; anyone who tried would usually get cut off before they got there. We did most of our drinking in the local bars on or near campus, or at parties in the union or at the Greek houses. Did people do stupid things? Heck yes. Was there a chance that you might wake up the next morning next to someone you probably wouldn't consider a candidate for a long-term relationship? Yeah, that happened, too. Fortunately the statute of limitations tends to run on those things once you get past 30.

That's the nature of being a young adult. You tend to think you're invincible. You tend to discount the wise advice of your elders. Everyone pretty much goes through a bonehead phase at some point. Tragedies occur because young people are stupid. But the key is this - in a social setting, even if a lot of the people are lit up, there's generally someone there who isn't. And the people who aren't stupid drunk usually are able to help restore order, if not common sense. And in a social setting, you can learn from your mistakes. If you are getting blasted alone in your room, fall asleep and don't wake up because you've done a Jimi Hendrix, you don't.

One of our theories during our college years was that at least half of what you learn in college is how to act at a cocktail party. And by that we didn't mean drinking; we meant that you learn how to interact with people in the proper way, in a social setting. I'm not sure how much of that goes on among young people these days. College presidents are closer to the lives of young adults than most of us are these days. It's certainly worth listening to what they have to say.

Update: The Night Writer has a fun reminisce about a particular beer-fueled road trip, along with a few thoughts about bad beer. Go read it, awright?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A reading from Book of Daley

The opening chapter of the Book of Matthew lays out the geneaology and the direct line from Abraham to Jesus. Geneaology is key to understanding Chicago politics, too. To understand the Bible, it helps to know a theologian. To understand Chicago, it helps to know a political theologian or two.

I lived in the Chicago area for 5 years, during a time when the Daley Restoration took place. As this election cycle has continued, it's become increasingly clear that this election is about Chicago politics in ways that no other national election has been since 1968. Sen. Obama is from Chicago and, more importantly, of Chicago. It takes a lot of words to explain what that means, so I'm going to suggest that you read two related pieces that may help you understand.

The first piece is from our friend The Lady Logician, who came of age in Chicago and observed the odd rituals for a good part of her youth. While LL has recently decamped to Utah, she knows where the bodies are buried. As you read her piece, you'll notice that she links to another piece from Michael Barone, one of the most intelligent and respected political observers on the national stage. The main thrust of Barone's piece is the controversy surrounding the relationship of Obama with William Ayers, the one-time domestic terrorist who is now a respected part of what Barone calls tout Chicago. It's an interesting story, but the key to Barone's piece is the Book of Matthew-style discussion of how geneaology is key in understanding Chicago politics and why a member of the House of Madigan or the House of Burke or the House of Lipinski, to say nothing of the House of Daley, can pretty much control a baronage in Chicago, or beyond.

Hit those links - if Obama wins, Chicago politics will go nationwide. You need to know what that means.

Cherchez la femme?

Now that The One has failed to move the needle with his Veep pick, all eyes turn to Maverick McCain. McCain has one distinct advantage: just about anyone he picks will be more interesting (at least initially) than Joe Biden, who was an old story 20 years ago.

But what should McCain do? One potential play is to pick a woman. I have mentioned Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a possibility and some reports indicate that she might still be in the running.

McCain clearly hopes to capture distaff side anger over the snub of Hillary. He's got this ad out right now using a few choice Hillary soundbites as a truncheon (good female voiceover talent, too, with just the right frisson of outrage). If I were Obama, I wouldn't have picked Hillary either, since it's hard to look forward and watch your back at the same time. But there might be a certain percentage of outraged women who might give Maverick a look if he were to pick the right woman. The ever-reliable Ed Morrisey linked to a good analysis by blogger Cuffy Meigs about the three women who have been rumored as possibilities -- Palin and two corporate executives, recently retired eBay honcho Meg Whitman and former HP chief Carly Fiorina, who has been a key adviser to his campaign. One thing is pretty clear - McCain has no trouble dealing with strong professional women, as his marriage demonstrates.

It could definitely the right play. Meigs makes an excellent concluding point in her piece:

Executive experience, of course, is the leading theme here. NONE of the candidates have it, including Hillary herself. Perish the thought that the Executive Branch is helmed by an actual executive.

No executives. No women.

And the most tech-savvy person is the guy who can't pull off a mass text message. It's a gap screaming to be filled.

If things get ugly in Denver with Hillary and her PUMA (which stands for Party Unity My Ass, in case you were wondering) pals, I think the likelihood of a woman veep candidate could increase exponentially. McCain currently plans to reveal his pick on Friday at a rally in Dayton, Ohio. If Hillary and her people aren't publicly assuaged, don't be surprised if one of these three women appear on the stage with Maverick.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Apparitions of Springfield

Our intrepid Fox Valley correspondent The Appletonian was live-blogging the Obama-Biden rollout (best nickname for the ticket so far: "Clean and Jerk"). Appletonian's brief but pithy dispatches are pretty good and I especially appreciate that he has been willing to endure the extravaganza so I don't have to. I especially like this report on a classic non-sequitur from The One:

"For decades, he brought change to Washington." Huh?

We'll give the last word to Bugs Bunny on this one.

Kid blogging

My daughter Maria, who is the gold standard among 8-year old bloggers in the northern suburbs, has a post up at Fearless Maria. She'd really appreciate a visit and a vote if you're so inclined.


A few quick changes to the sidebar:

Unfortunately, I had to delete the link to my friend Strolling Amok's blog. He's had to discontinue the thing for the time being. I hope he gets back to blogging because he is very good at it and always has something interesting to say.

I've added What if? to the blogroll. Somehow I had missed this blog in the thickets of the MOB roster, but that's a mistake I won't make going forward. Proprietor Peg Kaplan has a smart take on a variety of topics and a wry sense of humor to boot. Hat tip to Mr. Stover for featuring her blog in a recent Best of the MOB competition - Dan performs a valuable service by reading widely and finding the good stuff, by the way. I know that I've gained readers on those occasions when Dan has recognized my work in BOMOB competitions. It's a very generous thing that Dan does and we shouldn't take it for granted. I don't -- that's for sure.

I'm also adding a link to a venture that's been helping to pay my bills - Kotula's is a new catalog and online venture that I've been working on, featuring a variety of cool stuff. Give it a look; you might find something you'd like.

That's a story-book, man

Give Sen. Obama credit -- he did something totally unexpected in naming long-time Labour Party stalwart Neil Kinnock as his running mate. It's the first time that a Brit has appeared on a major ticket. Born in 1942, Kinnock first came to prominence as the opposition leader and stood for election as prime minister back in the late 1980s. After falling short, he had a distinguished career in the opposition. Now, more than 20 years after his initial disappointment, he will have the opportunity for redemption. Few will forget his famous speech in which he discussed how he had come to prominence as the son of coal miner.

Oops. Sorry. I must have been confused. Obama named Joe Biden to be his running mate. He was born in 1942 as well. He also gave the same speech that Kinnock did in a late 1980s run for high office. It's pretty easy to get confused about stuff like that. Kinnock is from Wales and Biden is from Scranton. Kinnock is now the Baron of Bedwellty. Biden is a baron among bed-wetters.

So here's the question: what does it say about the Democratic Party's bench strength that Obama couldn't come up with a better choice for his Veep than a guy who has been the subject of mockery for more than two decades?
Cross-posted at True North

Friday, August 22, 2008

Since Obama Apparently Won't Name a Veep Tonight. . . .

Let's open up the old picture file and expand the list of available options. Which one of these folks would help his campaign the most? Discuss.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bad Move, Al

So I saw on the 10 o'clock newscast on WCCO that Al Franken has an ad up that plays the old "guilt by association" game. It went by quickly, but the gist of it was that Norm Coleman went fishing in Alaska with Ted Stevens and some lobbyists and now Stevens has been indicted and the ad was chiding Norm about it, using a talking fish for comedic effect, in the typically stylish and understated way for which Al is justly famous.

Memo to Al: you don't want to go there. Ted Stevens may be corrupt, but if you want to play guilt by association game, that means you'll have to explain your relationship with this guy. America's greatest newspaper offered this useful synopsis on my fellow Beloit College alumnus Evan Montvel-Cohen, who allegedly defrauded the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club in New York City in order to get seed money for the highly popular Air America. Good luck with that, Al.
Cross-posted on True North

Guilty Pleasures Part Twenty-Six -- Bassline Analysis

No politics today - back to music. Anyone who has spent much time in corporate America ends up at one point or another having a conversation about baselines. Enough of that. Let's talk bass lines.

In most bands the bassist doesn't get a lot of love. The rest of the Rolling Stones thought nothing of jettisoning Bill Wyman after 30 years of dedicated service. The Doors never even had a permanent bassist, bringing in different session musicians for their albums. That's always bugged me because a good bassist is crucial. But there haven't been too many bassists who fronted a band. The three that immediately spring to mind are Sting, Rush's Geddy Lee and that fellow from Liverpool with a lot of money. So for today I thought I'd give the bassists some love. In particular, I'm talking funk bassists.

There are two guys who came up around the same time who were really the pioneers of the style. The first was probably Larry Graham, who played a crucial role in the traveling circus of dysfunction that was Sly and the Family Stone. Eventually Graham got tired of dealing with Sly and started his own outfit called Graham Central Station, where he got to show off a little. Here is in a 1978 performance that is almost encyclopedic in its scope. And it's a funny song, too. Barney and his clubhouse notwithstanding, here's

The other godfather of the funk bassline is Bootsy Collins, who cut his teeth with James Brown and eventually went on to be a focal point in George Clinton's Parliafunkadelicment Thang. Bootsy had some odd moments, like this strange jazz fusion performance in Stuttgart, but when he and his brother Catfish were working with Brown, he has stellar. Here he is with Brown and Fred Wesley in one of Brown's best bands in an appearance on Italian television in 1971

To my mind, the year of the bass line was 1979, though. By then the dominant player was Bernard Edwards, who was the mighty engine behind what I believ was the best band of the disco era, Chic. Early that year Edwards uncorked perhaps the most influential bass line in rock history - you've heard versions of this bass line ever since. But the original was here:

That wasn't the only killer bass line that Edwards uncorked that year, though - he and his buddy Nile Rodgers also backed Sister Sledge in the song that battled My Sharona for the title of Song of the Summer that year and supposedly inspired Willie Stargell and his Pittsburgh Pirates pals to win the World Series that fall.

Something was in the air that year, I think, because even a wealthy Liverpudlian decided to get into the game, breaking out his old bass and giving it a thoroughgoing southpaw workout. This wasn't one of Sir Paul's better efforts, but there's some pretty darned good playing here. From the now largely (and justifiably) forgotten album Back to the Egg, it's Paul, Linda and the rest of their pals in Wings playing

Finally as 1979 faded into the shadows, Freddie Mercury and crew had to get in the act. This is about as clear a tribunte to/ripoff of Bernard Edwards as you'll ever hear, but give Queen credit, it is bassist John Deacon's finest hour. Out of the doorway, the bullets rip

Cast your votes!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Just name one, already

Who is Obama going to pick as his VP? Who's it gonna be? We want the name! C'mon, Barry, spill! If I don't find out soon I'm just gonna burst!







Sorry, I had to stifle a yawn. Just a guess: unless he surprises everyone and picks Hillary Clinton, the pick will be greeted with an elaborate shrug of the shoulders, especially given the growing consensus that it will be either Bayh, Biden or Kaine. None of them will move the ball at all. He should just pick one and get it over with. We now return you to regular programming.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Beloit College Mindset

About this time each year my beloved alma mater, Beloit College, reminds the rest of us that we are really, really old by releasing their annual Mindset List. This list was initially prepared about a decade ago as a way to help the then-aging faculty understand what the incoming freshmen were likely to know and, more importantly, were likely not to know. Beloit has done a good job of leveraging this list into an annual publicity bonanza. My old professor/advisor Tom McBride has annually appeared on the Today show to present the list to a nonplussed nation.

As is usually the case, the first list was very effective, offering such jaw-dropping assertions that the incoming students of the Class of 2002 had no effective memory of vinyl records, Jordache jeans or a world without MTV. The first list also had moments of wit, pointing out that, to the incoming members of '02, Michael Jackson had always been white. These days, the list primarily serves as a reminder that more and more of us are eligible to enjoy the early bird special at Cracker Barrel.

But beyond that, a decade on, the list tells you more about Beloit College, and academia generally, than it does about incoming students. Among other things, this year's list points out three things in particular:

There have always been gay rabbis.

Personal privacy has always been threatened.

Radio stations have never been required to present both sides of public issues.

I'm wondering: do 18-year olds spend a lot of time thinking about gay rabbis? Should they? And does a generation whose members routinely stand naked in the public square by posting just about everything about themselves on MySpace or Facebook pages really dwell much on threats to personal privacy? And is there really a great groundswell of concern among 18-year olds about the absence of the Fairness Doctrine?

Perhaps the incoming students will care about such things after getting a Beloit College education. The best thing about Beloit is that you can learn certain habits of mind, including a certain amount of skepticism about some of the prevailing nostrums in academe. But first you have to run the gantelet of foolishness that's endemic in this list. And I'd like to add one more thing to the list:

A small Midwestern liberal arts college has always issued a list of purportedly revelatory information about how things have supposedly changed, including observations concerning a variety of issues that typical 18 year olds rightly ignore.

Good luck to the Class of 2012. Maybe we'll see some of you at Homecoming next year.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Smoke on the Water

Now there's some good parenting for ya. At least they'll know where he is going forward - their basement, probably for the foreseeable future.

Who Is Barack Obama's President?

You'll have to bear with me on this one, since it's been over 25 years since I took my civics classes in high school. I think I remember this correctly, but I could be wrong. Things do change of course, especially in a world where the Constitution is a living document and all. It's always been my impression that we get one president at a time. Now I'm not so sure. We've learned plenty in this election cycle and now it appears we've received additional instruction from a presidential candidate who has been celebrated as a constitutional law scholar. Click the link and let Barack Obama explain it to you.

Good to know, I suppose -- All this time I thought that George W. Bush was the president for all of us. Turns out that John McCain has a proprietary interest in W.

Now I remember back in the Clinton years when certain dyspeptic NRA members had bumper stickers proclaiming that Charlton Heston was their president. I also remember that certain dyspeptic liberals were wont to proclaim that a fictional character named Josiah Bartlett (played by the fashionably leftist actor Martin Sheen) was their president when NBC used to air the television program The West Wing. But I never paid much attention to that, because the views of dyspeptic people are usually easy to discount.

It's not so easy to discount Sen. Obama, inasmuch as he is a consitutional law scholar and he continues to have an excellent chance to succeed "John McCain's President." It's possible that Sen. Obama is simply dyspeptic, too, but if that's the case he probably shouldn't be president. So the question is - who is Barack Obama's president? He hasn't said. Who do you think it is?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Back to that Same Old Place

If you can't tell, I find Chicago fascinating and it was great to be back this past week. A little more mental unpacking from our vacation:

  • There's no question that Chicago politics are still corrupt and stultifying, but I'll say this -- the place looked great. When I lived in the Chicago area, I rode the blue line Congress train into the city just about every day. This train runs down the Eisenhower Expressway straight into the South Loop, then runs north along Dearborn Street before turning northwest towards O'Hare. I remember those trips as being gritty, utilitarian and sometimes a little frightening, especially at night. The trains were often dirty and could be filled with thuggish young men, aggressive panhandlers and staggering drunks. You always had to keep your wits about you in those days. We rode the same train several times this week and it was astonishing how much better things were. Several of the stations along the line had been significantly refurbished and the trains were tidy. Even though I had young children in tow, I felt completely safe. Meanwhile the corridor of the Ike, which was an open dump when we lived in Chicago, had significantly less litter than you'll see on 35W or on 94 between the downtowns here. I don't know if Mayor Daley has some sort of Singapore thing going regarding littering, but it was an amazing transformation.

  • Millennium Park has to be one of the nicest additions to a city I've ever seen. It occupies a parcel of land on the north end of Grant Park and includes the whimsical Cloud Gate sculpture that is pictured above. This thing is the closest thing to a human magnet I've ever seen. Kids and adults are just drawn to it. They also built a gorgeous open-air ampitheather and a really neat fountain in the space, among other things. Not much in Chicago is free, but this is. My wife's aunt described Millennium Park as one of the happiest places she's ever seen. That is an apt description.
  • We were staying out in Oakbrook Terrace, on the eastern edge of DuPage County, and we ended up driving up and down Roosevelt Road a lot while we were in town. Roosevelt Road is famous for two things - cemeteries and hot dog joints. I'm not certain how those two facts relate to each other, but it would probably be reasonable to suspect a certain level of correlation. It also meant that I did get to the Portillo's in Forest Park to have an artery-clogging but yummy combo sandwich (dipped, but no peppers). Those cemeteries should be able to provide a comfortable margin of victory for Sen. Obama in the upcoming election, by the way.

The Residue of Design

I'm not sure what it is, but the Obama campaign is sure nuts about creating graphic designs. They floated the mock presidential seal earlier in the campaign, only to have it hooted down pretty quickly for a variety of reasons.

Now, they are floating this odd "Buy American" logo that is vaguely like logos for '70s rock bands, hockey teams, more '70s rock bands, motorcycle manufacturers and bygone gas stations.

Does any of this make you feel better about the Obama campaign? Or does it seem somewhat creepy? I am looking forward to seeing the inevitable Obama corn art at the State Fair.

The Bear in the Woods

It's been nearly twenty years since the Cold War ended. Some people have forgotten what it was like and a lot of people aren't old enough to remember. There was a time when an American politician could run an ad like this one and it would have an impact, even though it was possible that you might see this ad running immediately before. Even when they were quite rightly considered the focus of evil in the modern world, we've always been a little ambivalent about the Russians.

I've read a lot in the past few days about the events taking place in Georgia. It is quite possible that Vladimir Putin is using the current situation as a test case of the feasibility for reassembing the old Soviet empire. It is not coincidental that, even as his tanks have rolled toward Tbilisi, he has issued threats against Ukraine and Poland. Nor is it surprising that people are beginning to wonder if the bear is in the woods again. Bear tracks are often disguised as the ruts that tanks create and in this case, Putin isn't even trying to be subtle.

Things are different this time, though. The bear's victims are visible and vocal. And those who can contain the bear are active. The Germans are willing to support Georgia's entry into NATO. The Ukrainians are supporting missile defense. After a slow start, W is engaged. And what appeared to be a victory for the Russians may become Pyrrhic at best, and quite possibly a strategic disaster, especially if the missile defenses appear in precincts near Warsaw and Kiev.

It's been evident that the West has been divided for much of this decade. It's been easy to blame W for this and our portside friends have not hesitated to do so. But things are changing. France and Germany are under new management these days and their governments seem to understand that the greatest dangers they face emanate from places other than Crawford, Texas. As the hated Bush leaves the stage, the other actors seem to be understanding that they cannot be critics or spectators much longer. This is encouraging, because the bear we've seen this week is not the only one in the woods. The next president must understand all this. I have reason to believe at least one candidate does.

I Will Be Your Knight In Shining Armor, Coming to Your Emotional Rescue

White Knight
White Knight
Take Your Secret Self 1 Step Beyond today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Personality Test Generator.

Going 1 step beyond I would be rescuing damsels (or damsirs?) in distress, standing up as a champion for the underdog and/or righting every wrong you could possibly imagine. I am the incorruptible cop, the brave friend of little children, and the one who will constantly save your ass from your own repeated idiocies. When I die I don't need statues in my honor, just name your children and dogs after me. That would be pretty cool.

On the other hand, better to be the White Knight than this guy.

(H/T: Gino)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

I was on vacation all week and a lot has happened but I doubt the world has been waiting for pronouncements from this corner on everything that's been happening. But I do have a few quick thoughts:

  • As it happens, Sen. Obama went on vacation at the same time I did. He was in Hawaii and apparently was doing some windsurfing or somesuch. Good for him and, truth be told, it was a good idea for him to get away for awhile. The primary reason that some of Sen. McCain's shots about Obama's celebrity have been so effective is because Obama has been ubiquitous. Most people in the world get a vacation; no reason that presidential candidates shouldn't. I surely didn't miss seeing Obama's mug (or McCain's, for that matter) much in the last week.

  • While we're at it, let's give the "George W. Bush has been on vacation for 1000 days" meme a rest, too. Whatever else you think about W., anyone who honestly looks at the matter knows that a sitting president is always on duty, even if he's not sitting in the Oval Office. I saw Bush on television the other day and he looked like hell. So did Clinton in August, 2000, Reagan in August, 1988, etc. Presidents can be foolish knaves, but there has never been a lazy one in my lifetime. Bush gets more grief about being away from Washington because he drags his entourage to Crawford rather than the more desirable addresses that Clinton used to frequent.

  • I've been trying to catch up on the situation in Georgia but I'm still not sure what to think. Putin is testing us. He won't be the only person to test us in the coming years. That much is certain.

  • The picture I posted earlier today is an image of Schaller's Pump, an old-time restaurant/watering hole in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago. Aside from City Hall, it's one of the most important political addresses on the Chicago map, since it sits across the street from the 11th Ward HQ. The 11th Ward, and Bridgeport generally, is home base for the Daleys, who run Chicago, Cook County, Illinois and (from time to time) much more. Barack Obama would not be where he is today if he didn't have the blessing of the habitues of Schaller's Pump.


We're back from our vacation in Chicago. The kids had a wonderful time visiting places of unmistakable majesty, from Michigan Avenue to the Field Museum to the Sears Tower to Navy Pier and the latest jewel in Chicago's ever-expanding tiara, Millennium Park. We even saw a little bit of history at U.S. Cellular Field as we watched four consecutive White Sox sluggers bash home runs against the ever-inept Kansas City pitching staff.

The picture I've posted is the most interesting building I saw during our week there. Chicagoans will know it; I saw it while we drove back from the game with my friend Rich, who joined us for the game. Rich is a lifelong Chicagoan and understands what makes Chicago so fascinating and contradictory. You could probably fit 150-200 copies of this building within the square footage of the Sears Tower, but in some respects this unassuming little building matters more. I'll be unpacking the matter, and sharing plenty more thoughts about what we saw, in the coming days.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

C'mon! Baby, Don't You Wanna Go?

We are taking our long awaited family vacation starting tomorrow. We'll be in Wisconsin for some family stuff over the weekend, then we are headed to Chicago for the week. As such, this feature will mostly be on vacation during that time, too. Feel free to comb the archives for over 900 posts of rich bloggy goodness. Otherwise, I'll see you in a week or so!



Stockyard Days Parade

Today was the annual New Brighton Stockyard Days Parade. The parade celebrates New Brighton's long-lost heritage as a poor man's South St. Paul. I've written about the parade twice before so I won't bore you with the details, since they generally don't change that much year to year. Just a few quick observations.

  • As usual, the DFLers were right at the front of the parade. The mysterious Jan Parker was riding in a convertible early on, drawing essentially blank stares from the people I was sitting by. Shortly thereafter Kate Knuth came by. I was surprised at how few people she had with her. In 2006 she had an impressive orange armada but this time she only had about 10 people marching. Since New Brighton is home turf for la Knuth, you'd have expected a better turnout. I don't know if you can draw any inferences from this, but it wasn't an overwhelming show of support.

  • As usual, the Republicans were pushed to far back of the line. Ed Matthews came through with a small but enthusiastic band of supporters. Ed worked the parade line hard as he came by, so hard in fact that he inadvertently blew right by me. Don't worry about it, Ed -- we've got your back at Mr. Dilettante. No sign of Betty McCollum, which is surprising, because it's not as if she had anything else to do tonight. Maybe she's doing advance work on Nancy Pelosi's book tour.

  • Very late in the route Lori Grivna came by. Lori's marchers were a larger and considerably more enthusiastic group than what Knuth had. I was impressed by Lori's energy. I'll be revisiting her race for the 50B seat again soon. It's going to be interesting.

Headless Quarterback in Topless Franchise

Have fun in New York, Brett. He doesn't look convinced, does he?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

What's My Line?

The picture I've posted today shows a person of consequence in the metro area, but I would wager that most people don't know who she is. Do you know who she is? If you don't, I'll tell you in a minute. But first, a little history.

For many years there was a popular television quiz show called What's My Line. Four semi-famous panelists (usually including some combination of Bennett Cerf, Dorothy Kilgallen and Arlene Francis) would have to guess the identity of a contestant. The show would often feature famous people, such as Groucho Marx and Alfred Hitchcock, but a typical guest would be someone who was not famous. Sometimes that would include a politician who might not be immediately recognized. For example, an obscure Southern governor apppeared on the show in the early 1970s. He became a little more famous later on.

If the individual appearing in our picture played "What's My Line," I'd wager that a lot of people would have trouble guessing that she was an important political figure in the metro area. She has been in office for over a decade now and represents well over 75,000 people, although her reach greatly exceeds that. She and her colleagues control a significant operating budget each year and have the ability to levy taxes, an ability that she has not hesitated to use over the years. Despite this power, she has maintained a remarkably low profile over her tenure. You don't see her name in the paper much and while she might appear at a political event or two, most of her constituents would have a difficult time identifying her.

Another hint - she works in St. Paul. There are a lot of prominent politicians who work in St. Paul, of course. But most of them work up the street from our mystery guest. She and her colleagues work downtown. Because she works quietly, she doesn't get a lot of attention. And that has served her well, because it has meant that she can go about her business without a lot of scrutiny. More importantly, she has faced minimal opposition. It's about as good a gig as a politician can have - power without a lot of accountability.

But a few things have changed this cycle. She and her colleagues decided last year that they weren't sufficiently appreciated for their low-key operation, so they voted themselves a pretty significant pay increase. They also imposed a sales tax increase this year, one that was authorized by the legislature but did not have to be imposed.

So who is our mystery guest? Our mystery guest is Jan Parker, who represents District 2 of the Ramsey County Board and currently serves as board president.

In a future post I'll introduce you to a gentleman who plans to bring a little scrutiny to the workings of the Ramsey County Board and, if he is elected, actual reform. The gentleman's name is Rick Moses and he deserves strong consideration from the residents of District 2.

But I Don't Drink Nearly As Much Gin as William Powell

You Would Make a Great 1930's Husband

You would be an ideal 1930s husband.

You're attentive, understanding, clean, and friendly.

You'd make an great husband for a woman of any era.

H/T: The invaluable Marty Andrade

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

National Night Out 1965

We had our National Night Out party this evening. And we got something interesting - a look back at the history of our street. One of our neighbors had this picture and made copies for everyone. The photo I've posted is of our New Brighton neighborhood, technically known as Apache Hills, on the southwestern edge of New Brighton. The straight street that ends in a cul de sac in the center of the picture is our street and our house is the third house from the left. The picture was taken sometime around 1965 or so, about the time our house was built. The pond at the end of the street is still there, but significantly smaller today.

40 years on things look a lot different, of course. If you could get a comparable shot of the neighborhood today you would see a heavily wooded area. Our yard was bare 40 years ago and now has six mature trees on it. The open area with pond in the front foreground (actually part of St. Anthony) is now filled with townhomes. The old farm house (difficult to see) in the right foreground is gone.

At least four different families lived in our house before we arrived in 1997. Some of the people who were living in these houses in 1965 are still here today. That's one of the things that is nice about living where we do. All places, even Wonder Years-style subdivisions, have histories. And it's fun that we still have neighbors who can share their histories with us. The stories are worth knowing.

A rumor

Heard something happened in Brown County, Wisconsin today. Could confirm or deny, but getting past the point of caring. Next!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Today It's a Crisis

Apparently our year-long struggle with soaring energy prices is an emergency now, because Barack Obama thinks it is: he now says it is time to start tapping the oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. He announced this during a speech today in Lansing, Michigan.

Sen. Obama seems, however belatedly, to have discovered that the high gas prices we've seen this year have been taking a big bite out of the nation's economy. But it does beg a question: why now, on August 4, is it time to act?

Here is what Obama said on July 7 about using the SPR to help with oil prices:

I do not believe that we should use the strategic oil reserves at this point. I have said and, in fact, supported a congressional resolution that said that we should suspend putting more oil into the strategic oil reserve, but the strategic oil reserve, I think, has to be reserved for a genuine emergency. You have a situation, let’s say, where there was a major oil facility in Saudi Arabia that was destroyed as a consequence of terrorist acts, and you suddenly had huge amounts of oil taken out of the world market, we wouldn’t just be seeing $4-a-gallon oil. We could see a situation where entire sectors of the country had no oil to function at all. And that’s what the strategic oil reserve has to be for.

Odd. We haven't had a major oil facility destroyed because of a terrorist act. In fact, the price of oil has declined rather precipitously in the last few weeks. On July 7, when Obama made that statement, oil reached $145 a barrel, on its way to the high price reached on July 12, when oil closed at $147 a barrel. As I write, it is at $120.71 (and it may be less when you click that link).

Meanwhile, the price of gas has gone down, too. On July 7, the day that Barack Obama didn't think it necessary to tap the SPR, gas prices in the Twin Cities averaged $3.92. Today, the number is down to $3.63, although I saw it as low as $3.56 at gas stations near my house today. If $4 a gallon oil is not a crisis, why would $3.56 a gallon oil be a crisis?

Of course Sen. Obama is privy to information that the rest of us aren't. Perhaps we are looking at a real emergency tomorrow? Hard to say. But is the current state of the oil market, with prices falling, an emergency? I suspect we all would agree that it isn't. In fact, there's a pretty good likelihood that prices will continue to fall. So why is Barack Obama so concerned about gas prices now, a month on from when they were at their peak?

Put it this way: it is not likely that Obama's newfound devotion to consumer relief at the pump has a lot to do with the price tracking charts linked above. Rather, it's quite likely that this newfound devotion has a lot more to do with a chart that really matters to Obama.

Cross-posted at True North

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Frankie's Back. . . .

And suddenly the Twins are in 1st place, winning 6-2 over the Indians today. As amazing a season as 2006 was, this year might be even more amazing. None of the pitchers in the Twins starting rotation were pitching in the major leagues 3 years ago. Rick Anderson is some kind of genius.

Cue the Calliope

The wildest dreams of the assembled hordes of Bristol, CT have come true. Brett Favre will be reporting to the Packers tomorrow.

The author of the piece I've linked to is Gene Wojciechowski. He wrote a very good book about 20 years ago concerning the sportswriting business. The book is titled Pond Scum and Vultures. I have a copy. Seems pretty prescient, since that's what we've been dealing with throughout this farce.

We'll see you on the field, Brett. You've gotten what you wanted. Now I hope that Mike McCarthy closes practice to the press for the next three weeks and that all the satellite trucks are forced to decamp in Little Suamico. That would be what I want.

Well, yeah

I am 9% Idiot.
Friggin Genius
I am not annoying at all. In fact most people come to me for advice. Of course they annoy the hell out of me. But what can I do? I am smarter than most people.

And I was very careful not to drool on the keyboard when I took the quiz.

(H/T: Anti-Strib)

Say a prayer

Two friends of this feature need your prayers.

Leo Pusateri's son Doug and his near-fiancee Brooke were in a motorcycle accident early Friday morning, hitting a deer. Doug is okay but Brooke has had some traumatic injuries. She is getting treated at a hospital in Fargo and it appears that she is beginning to recover, but she will have a long road ahead. Leo provides the details here and Brooke has a Caringbridge site here with more information.

Meanwhile, our favorite SoCal correspondent Gino is dealing with some health issues related to a cyst on his cheek that may be a tumor. Gino discusses his situation here and here, with evident and justifiable frustration over the deportment of some of the caregivers who don't seem to care that much. Gino's already had enough heartbreak this year and while he's one of the toughest-minded guys I know of, even tough-minded guys need support.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

KSM's Involuntary iPod

Heard from my former B of A protege Aaron the Hippie yesterday, who forwarded a link to an article from the ever-reliable Guardian ("We Want to Be Pravda When We Grow Up"). It turns out that a Canadian intellectual property lawyer (which seems like a non-sequitur at multiple levels but I would assume are a lot of fun at parties) is musing that the music that is being used to "torture" prisoners at Guantanamo Bay should be subject to royalties as a public performance.

My patchouli-besotted pal asks the pertinent question:

Leaving aside questions of how ASCAP may be stopping torture where the constitution didn't; What pop tunes would you include on your torture list?

Aaron suggests the following:

Afternoon Delight by the Starland Vocal Band (which if not working with you I possibly would have never ever heard)
Mmm-Bop by Hanson
Anything by ABBA.

This is an impressive list, although I will admit that I like ABBA. A word to the wise - watch out for a hippie with a mean streak.

Aaron's suggestion drew an immediate rebuke from our mutual friend Strolling Amok, who also likes ABBA. SA (whose blog is on temporary hiatus) suggested the following:

I'd have to go with anything in the Toto, Air Supply, etc genre. I'd chew off my own leg to get away from that stuff.

Too much information, SA. But we take your point.

Here's the thing - conservatives are supposed to be the heartless bastards, but here we have a bunch of bleeding hearts who have a leg up on us in the torture department. Well, that simply can't stand, now can it?

That means it's time to open it up to the vast North American Mr. Dilettante reading audience and come up with the right songs to torture by. While we could probably save time by simply listing out the tracks on any random K-Tel record from the mid-70s, it's more fun to come up with our own.

So here are a few additional suggestions to get the ball rolling:

"Billy, Don't Be a Hero" by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods, an especially cunning choice because it was meant to be an anti-war song.

"Run, Joey Run" by David Geddes. No further explanation should be necessary.

"Sometimes When We Touch," by Dan Hill. Note to KSM and colleagues: 72 virgins not included.

"Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)," by Reunion. This one brings any party to a screeching halt.

"Ahab the Arab" by Ray Stevens and "Midnight at the Oasis, " by Maria Muldaur. Kind of a package deal. I especially dig the tambourine playing on the latter.

But now I turn it over to you. What other songs should our guests enjoy midst the breezes from the sea?