Saturday, February 28, 2009

No Future For You

Mrs. D's well-executed blog post got me to thinking about something....

Let's look at something she said as a postscript:

P.S. Mr. D. - you need more crooners and less angry young men on your MP3 player

I'll admit that I have a lot of angry young men on my MP3 player. But they aren't young any more. Elvis Costello will turn 55 this year. Mick Jones of the Clash turns 54. John "Johnny Rotten" Lydon turned 53 last month. Richard Hell will be 60 this year. Roger Daltrey, who famously declaimed "hope I die before I get old," turns 65 tomorrow. I don't know if they will be getting a table at Denny's to celebrate, but they'll certainly be able to get a few dollars off on a Grand Slam if they so choose. (And as an aside, I might mention that one of Mrs. D's most favorite song stylists, Marvin Gaye, left this earth in a pretty violent way 25 years ago.)

Perhaps bile is a preservative. It's pretty amusing, actually. John Lydon experienced his greatest moment of fame was when he and his mates emerged in 1976, snarling thus:

God save the queen

The fascist regime

They made you a moron

Potential H-bomb

God save the queen

She ain't no human being

There is no future

In England's dreaming

Don't be told what you want

Don't be told what you need

There's no future, no future,

No future for you

It's 33 years on. Not only has that much future turned into the past, there's still a future ahead. And we still have the Queen, too. Not that John Lydon worries about such things much any more -- he's too busy selling stuff on his website. He's a successful modern businessman. Who knows, if the Queen has a sense of humor he might even be knighted some day. She's knighted worse reprobates than John Lydon.

We really need to take our Cassandras at a deep discount, doncha think? As we go through the coming months and endure more tales of woe, that seems like especially good advice. Consider the example of Jonathan Kay, a conservative columnist for Canada's National Post who really needs a Valium or something:

Conservatism as we know it is dead. Its last bastion of power, Washington, is being overrun as we speak, in a blitzkrieg operation fueled by popular panic and led by a charismatic field marshal. To the extent conservative ideology survives the onslaught, it will be as a guerilla force, making its presence felt on web sites and radio call-in shows but never in the corridors of real power.

No future, no future, no future for you! Somehow, I think the future will be a little brighter for conservatives than that.

MP3 Woes

And now, a guest post by Mrs. D:

Mr. D. gave me a MP3 player for my birthday a couple of months ago. I wasn't really sure that I wanted one but I figured that maybe I could use it while I did my daily morning ride on the exercise bike. I do not drink coffee so the bike ride is the way that I wake up in the morning. Now I have become addicted to listening to whatever song or whatever artist I want while I am exercising.

Thursday afternoon something happened to the MP3 player. I could select a song but it would not play that song or any song. No problem, Mr. D. said that he would let me use his MP3 player Friday morning. One catch, since he has a ton of music on his MP3 player, he suggested that I only use the shuffle.

I am not a shuffle kind of person. I have never used it and it is highly likely that I will never use the shuffle. So, my first 6:30 am dilemma was to commit to using an MP3 player with someone's favorite music on it or to listen to the radio. We've been married seventeen years and like lots of the same music. How could only using the shuffle be a problem? If someone from Stinger Nation is reading this - Stinger knows that maybe Mr. D. and I don't have as many favorite songs or artists that overlap than we think we do. I quickly advanced through about three songs until I was saved by Al Green. Now I have a new dilemma. I love Al Green's music but I do not like Al Green the man. Al Green and Ike Turner needed to go through some court mandated classes to learn how to be better husbands. How can I possibly have so many dilemmas at 6:30 am?

Does a MP3 player offer too much of a good thing because we can pick and choose exactly what we want to hear when we want to hear it? Or, maybe that is the beauty of the MP3 player.

Have a great weekend!

Mrs. D.

P.S. Mr. D. - you need more crooners and less angry young men on your MP3 player :)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Pokin' the Bottom of the Top 100

Think of this post as a guilty pleasure, except with less pleasure. We're obscurity hunting.

The rules are simple enough -- pick a song that finished in the bottom five of the Billboard Top 100 for five random years. The memorable songs for each year tend to be in the top 40, of course. But when you get to the bottom five, chances are you'll find a song that:

A) Someone liked; and

B) Sometimes that might be you.

The five random years are: 1967, 1970, 1975, 1983 and 1991.

Believe it or not, the #1 song for 1967 was Lulu's "To Sir With Love." Actually, one of the songs on the bottom of the Top 100 was awfully good that year. It is one of my favorite songs by the Who, an eternal classic, that found itself just ahead of Petula Clark's "Don't Sleep in the Subway" that year at #98. Feel the power, the menace and the vision of

For 1970, the #1 was Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." It was a long way from Art Garfunkel's angelic tenor to the bottom of the chart that year. There, at #98, you found the King of the Blues, B. B. King, with a number that in its own way is probably as enduring.

Let's be honest -- as years in music go, 1975 was pretty poor. The #1 was those 55-gallon drums of saccharine, The Captain & Tenille, with "Love Will Keep Us Together." That song makes my teeth hurt. Down at the bottom, there was some really weird stuff, like the #100 entry from the immortal Disco Tex, reminding you that "nobody cares how you wear your hair, darlin'":

Guess you had to be there.

When I think back to 1983, I remember Michael Jackson, but the #1 song of the year was the equally huge "Every Breath You Take," by the Police. Down at the bottom of the chart at #99 was one of Joe Jackson's finer efforts, actually recorded in late 1982 but one that you heard all the time the next year, especially on my college campus. It takes me right back.

1991 was actually a pretty good year in music, I think -- I wrote an earlier post about it. It was also the year that Mrs. D and I got married. The #1 for the year was Bryan Adams's "Everything I Do I Do It For You," the very model of modern power ballad and as insipid as they all are. You had better choices at the bottom of the chart, including the mightily amusing dance jam "Groove Is in the Heart" from Deee-Lite at #91, and at the bottom, R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People," here shown in a Sesame Street version called
that used to delight my son back in the day.

The moral of the story? Sometimes it's better to look at the bottom.

Have You Herd?

Obama is moving so quickly on so many fronts right now that it's been hard to keep track of everything. He's likely going to get most of what he wants, too. And the results will be transformative, more so than than the actions of any president since FDR.

How did we get to this moment? And why are so many people who ought to know better (I'm looking at you, establishment conservative punditocracy) simply waving it by? It's been an amazing development and I'm just gobsmacked by it.

I don't know what it's going to take for conservatives to snap out of it, but we have to find a way.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

In Case You Missed It

Scott Adams usually skewers corporate folly in Dilbert. But there's folly everywhere and Dogbert calls it out, as always.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You May Want to Get Some "Forever" Stamps

I used to have a stamp collection and had some of these when I was a kid. These are postage stamps from Weimar Germany in the period of hyperinflation from 1921-1923. When you hear some of the numbers that are getting thrown around, and you consider how much money the Fed is printing these days, I sure hope we aren't looking at something like this in a few years.

Happiness Is A Warm. . . Yes It Is

I am a: Glock Model 22 in 40 cal
Firearms Training
What kind of handgun are YOU?

H/T: Anti-Strib

Someone Tell Kate Knuth

The European carbon trading system is on the verge of collapse.
Of course, ours will work much better.

H/T: Captain Ed

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Confessions of a Bad Amateur Pundit

I wasn't able to watch President Obama's speech live tonight. I realize that makes me a bad amateur pundit. Bad pundit! I was at my son's Boy Scout meeting instead. It's the right thing to do -- we need to make sure our kids are ready to take on the world, because they are going to be the ones to pay for all this foolishness. Or not.

If you are interested in what The One had to say, the L.A. Times has the transcript. Based on the transcript, I do have a few thoughts:

  • It looks like President Obama did a lot of bank bashing. That's an easy thing to do, but it's too clever by half. It's true that some banks did a lot of questionable things, but there were other banks, like my former employer Bank of America, that were generally being responsible and ended up in trouble because of previous governmental interference. B of A was essentially force fed Merrill Lynch last year and has been choking ever since. Now, Obama didn't do that -- Bush (via Henry Paulson) did. But it's not accurate to portray the boys in Charlotte as Snidely Whiplash, either.

  • I see a little revisionist history in there, too. Consider this statement: In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. The transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869. Did not know that the Civil War lasted that long. And who is this "we" he means? Inasmuch as Obama represents the government, the implication is that the federal government directed how the railroads were developed in this country. That would have been news to James J. Hill, who built his empire almost entirely without public money.

  • To be fair, Obama expands on the argument as follows: In each case, government didn’t supplant private enterprise; it catalyzed private enterprise. It created the conditions for thousands of entrepreneurs and new businesses to adapt and to thrive. Hey, we're going to be catalyzed! Just like James J. Hill!

  • It also appears that he's going to pick up the cudgels from the Clinton administration and take on health care. Harry and Louise are warming up in the wings even as we speak.

  • One last thing: he's gonna soak the rich. But it's okay, apparently, because schlubs like me are gonna get a tax cut:

In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. But let me perfectly clear, because I know you’ll hear the same old claims that rolling back these tax breaks means a massive tax increase on the American people: if your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime. In fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut – that’s right, a tax cut – for 95% of working families. And these checks are on the way.

Not to put too fine a point on it: it is a massive tax increase on the American people. Rich Americans. According to Obama, I won't see my taxes increased a single dime. That may be true. But I work for a privately held company, so the owners of my company will get taxed up the wazoo. I hope they don't mind. The guy who owns my company has built an enterprise with sales north of $500 million each year, an enterprise that employs a lot of people in this country. He's not some silk stockinged plutocrat -- he's a guy from the Iron Range who had a good idea and the gumption to make it work. I guarantee you that everyone who works for my company would prefer that the owner send us checks, instead of Barack Obama.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Still On the Mend. . .

So I'm still a little light on the posting. So here are a few goodies from elsewhere:

Regularly scheduled blogging will begin soon. I hope.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Read and React

Blogging has been very light this weekend, mostly because I've been sick as a dog with some sort of bug. Fortunately, there are a lot of people out there who (a) are not sick, (b) are writing worthy stuff and (c) are doing a better job of it than I can when I'm healthy. So let me commend some things to your attention:

  • Bogus Doug Williams keeps a lower profile than some bloggers around town, but he's universally respected among those who know his work. That is because Doug is really, really good, especially in his ability to sustain an argument. He's a first-rate essayist. I could give you the high concept summation of his argument in this post about the limitations of modeling, but you really need to read the whole thing.

  • I'm pleased about the Twins signing Joe Crede -- if he's healthy, he'll be a force and it's better that he hit home runs for the Twins than against them. My friend Brad Carlson, who really knows his sports, has more thoughts.

  • Regular readers of this feature know that I always recommend Iowahawk, who is one of the most talented satirists on the 'Net. Unfortunately, some things that happen in the world aren't subjects for mockery. Let Hawk explain.

  • You may have missed a minor dustup that happened last week, in which Meghan McCain, daughter of some guy who ran for president last year, complained about the Republican Party's lack of technological chops. My colleague First Ringer over at Truth vs. the Machine suggests that, just perhaps, the medium isn't as important as the message.

  • As long as I'm throwing out recommendations, it's probably time to throw my brother the Stinger a bone, too. And if you think this food post is disgusting, you really need to see this. And keep clicking on the arrows -- it's truly astonishing stuff.

  • And to follow up on the Guilty Pleasures post of Friday, here are some samples of suggested sirens Keely Smith, Carly Simon, Crystal Gayle and Olivia Newton John, shown here with the Northern Alliance Radio Network Chorus Line.

Change You Can Believe In -- An Itemized List

All I can say is this: Thank God that Evil BOOOOOSH is gone so we can have reform.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Guilty Pleasures Part Thirty-Seven: The Sound That Only Men Can Hear

Before we get too far into this, you should read Night Writer's piece about Annie Lennox. Go ahead, hit the link. I'll still be here when you get back.

Glad you're back. So, let's talk about romance. Specifically, let's talk about girls. When we're talking about the distaff side, certainly the visuals make a difference, but pure beauty alone won't always trip a guy's trigger. It might be the scent of Chanel No. 5, or it might be that sly, come-hither stare that strips your conscience bare. But what really clinches the deal is the voice. Especially a singing voice.

We can all think of technically brilliant female singers who don't do a thing for you. Then there are women who could sing a grocery list and get your attention. The quality is ineffable, I guess. Explaining it isn't easy. But you know it when you hear it.

In his post, Night Writer identified Annie Lennox as a woman who has this quality. He's right - no doubt about it. Listen to this song and tell me it doesn't get your attention. Try not to pay too much attention to the twee video itself:

Now, let's compare and contrast. Around the same time as Eurythmics were in their heyday, a beautiful woman with a big voice was out front of another synth-heavy band. That woman would be Terri Nunn, and her band was Berlin. Consider this huge hit from 1986, from the soundtrack of the movie Top Gun. A lot of the atmospherics are similar, but do you hear the magic in the voice?

Technically, Nunn is every bit as good a singer as Lennox. But while Lennox's voice gets my attention and keeps it every time I hear it, I find my attention wandering when I listen to Terri Nunn. I feel the same way about a lot of contemporary female vocalists.

It's funny, though -- the voice that gets your attention can come from a lot of different places. On the thread to Night Writer's post, our good friend Gino mentions another 80s singer who is largely forgotten today, but who definitely had that special quality. She was just a teenager at the time and she was working for the morally dubious Malcolm McLaren, but even as she sang a trifle she had undeniable command, despite McLaren's obvious jailbaiting. It's Annabella Lwin, out in front of Bow Wow Wow, in a remake of the old Strangeloves tune. She's on the beach but this ain't Annette Funicello. No sir.

Again, compare and contrast. A contemporary of Annabella was Belinda Carlisle. Watch this and tell me who holds your attention:

Thought so. Now let's turn the way back machine to about 1960. You want a voice? I got one for ya. Here's Dinah Washington, with her partner Brook Benton, with an R & B smash that I'd be willing to wager many of my readers probably haven't heard before.

Dinah died young and she's largely forgotten these days, but she had it. Oh my yes.

Then let's take it way back. It's 1943. We're in the big band era and most of the best bands had vocalists. Frank Sinatra was working with Tommy Dorsey back then and Benny Goodman had himself a very nice young singer with a purr that really got your attention. It's Miss Peggy Lee, asking the musical question:

Think that didn't get your dad (or your grandpa's) attention?

As always, pick your fave. Or tell me someone else who gets your attention.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Very Special Edition of Random Crap from the 70s

Two items to call to your attention today.

First, a tip of the cap to my good friend Scourge, who will be putting her blog back on line soon. She offers an advertisement that pretty much speaks for itself. I'm a copywriter and I have to believe that there's a special place in copywriting Valhalla for the guy who got this one on the air.

Meanwhile, for all you Schoolhouse Rock fans out there, I commend to your attention this update from the ever-clever Jim Treacher. Although these days I'd like to see someone update this one.

Don't Do It

Whatever you do, don't click this link. Really -- I ain't kiddin'.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

An American Tragedy

It was a trade that left ripples throughout the history of baseball. It was May 8, 1975. The Milwaukee Brewers traded their dashing young outfielder, Bob Coluccio, to the Chicago White Sox for Bill Sharp.

I was 11 years old at the time, finishing up the 6th grade. My best friend, Mark Miller, was a huge Bob Coluccio fan. Mills just loved the guy. And suddenly, he was gone, traded to the hated Whities. The effect was devastating, throwing a spanner into the dreams of a young baseball fan. I nearly wept as I saw the heartache my dear friend Mills suffered as he tried to sort out the injustice of it all, the cruel cosmic joke perpetrated by the capricious and inept Brewer front office. Damn, it was bad. Mills even started rooting for the Twins. And in those days that wasn't easy, either.

And it wasn't so good for Coluccio, as the images on the respective baseball cards makes plain. In the uniform of the True Blue Brew Crew, Coluccio looked like a well-scrubbed American Adonis. As a member of the White Sox, Coluccio looked like an extra from an episode of Kojak. Even Coluccio's penmanship went to hell, based on the available evidence. There is a tear in the fabric of sports. And you can date it back to May 8, 1975.

Tales of the TC Men

We covered the Brewers the other day. Now, on to the Twins. Last season was pretty typical - the Twins pieced together a pretty good team and were contenders all the way, losing the division in a one-game playoff to the White Sox. Many of the same players return, some a year older and wiser. What will happen? A few guesses.

The everyday lineup should continue to be pretty good. The Twins have the most consistent first baseman in the American League in Justin Morneau, who has put up some excellent overall numbers each season and has improved substantially on defense. Alexi Casilla came on at midseason last year and became a steady second baseman who provides better than average offense for the position. He's young and talented, but I'd like to see him do it again. Nick Punto is likely the starting shortstop. Punto is a defensive whiz but isn't a great offensive player because he tends to be very streaky. If his usual pattern holds, he'll be closer to .200 than .280 this time around, but the Twins can probably get by with that. Third is where the hole is. The Twins have argued that they have options at the position in Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris, but neither man really won the job last year and it's not clear that either is in a position to take a step forward. Joe Crede is still out there, I believe, and if he's healthy he'd be a significant upgrade.

The key to the lineup is Joe Mauer, the local hero catcher and defending batting champion. Mauer had a mysterious kidney surgery in the offseason and may be behind in his conditioning, which is a cause for concern. If he's healthy, he's one of the 5 best players in baseball. There is a logjam in the outfield. Michael Cuddyer was injured last season and was not a factor, which opened the door for the impressive Denard Span to claim right field. While Cuddyer has one of the best outfield arms in the American League, Span is a great fielder and a prototypical leadoff hitter. In center, Carlos Gomez has a lot of talent. He's exciting and makes great plays defensively, but makes face-palming mistakes on the bases and is one of the most undisciplined hitters I've ever seen. He probably will keep center field but I wonder if he'll always be a tease. In left, you have a dilemma. Outside of Mauer and Morneau, Delmon Young may be the most talented guy on the team, but he's surly and was not nearly as productive as he should have been. He's also a liability on defense. Jason Kubel is a professional hitter but can't run a lick and pretty much has to play DH. It's possible that Cuddyer may end up in left.

Pitching, especially starting pitching, should be a strength of the team. The Twins ran out a number of young starters last season and all were successful in varying degrees. Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins and Nick Blackburn all were double-digit winners, but the X factor is Francisco Liriano, the talented lefthander who had electric stuff in 2006 but suffered a major arm injury. Liriano showed flashes of brilliance last year but he probably can't pitch the same way he did in 2006. If he can step up and take a turn with the others, the Twins will have the deepest starting rotation in the American League. They also have an outstanding closer in Joe Nathan. The problem is in between. There are a lot of pitchers available for bullpen duty, but none of them strikes you as a reliable 8th inning guy. If someone steps up, things will look pretty good.

The AL Central is hard to read this year. Cleveland went out and got some talent and might be the favorite on paper, but they haven't been very consistent in recent years. The Tigers still have a lot of talent, but the pitching that looked so formidable in 2006 has dissipated. The White Sox will be running out a few newcomers this season and it's not clear whether they will be as strong, while eternally rebuilding Kansas City still looks to be a year or two away. Figure the Twins to contend, but they could finish anywhere from 1st to 4th. If I had to guess, I'd say they'll finish 2nd to the Indians, especially if Travis Hafner has recovered from his myriad issues of 2007.

Pope Benedict Explains

So Nancy "Ardent Catholic" Pelosi got her meeting with Pope Benedict today at the Vatican. If she was hoping for some sort of dispensation, she didn't get it. The ever-observant (in both senses of the term) Rocco Palmo has the skinny from the Vatican:

Following the General Audience the Holy Father briefly greeted Mrs Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, together with her entourage.

His Holiness took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the Church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death which enjoin all Catholics, and especially legislators, jurists and those responsible for the common good of society, to work in cooperation with all men and women of good will in creating a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development.

The statement from the Vatican doesn't leave a lot of room for ambiguity. If Catholic legislators are enjoined to develop a just system of laws capable of protecting human life at all stages of its development, that wouldn't leave a lot of room for Pelosi's pro-choice record.

A lot of people, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, misunderstand the role of the Pope in the Church. He isn't an avenging angel who strikes down heretics. This will disappoint some who would love to see Pelosi publicly rebuked or even excommunicated for her role in keeping the abortion industry rolling in this country. Benedict simply wasn't going to take Pelosi to the woodshed. While he rightly expects Pelosi to change her ways, his primary concern is doing what he can to help all who hold the Catholic faith to gain salvation. And that decidedly includes Nancy Pelosi.

It's not up to Benedict, or to me or any other Catholic, to judge the condition of Nancy Pelosi's soul. Anyone who presumes to know such things is wrong. All Benedict can do is to teach the tenets of our faith and minister to those who need guidance. That is what Benedict did today. Nancy Pelosi's fate is in her own hands.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Best Looks of the 1970s

Al Hrabosky, Bake McBride and Oscar Gamble. I think the only thing on steroids back then was the hair.

Maybe Former Cub Great Ray Burris is Available Instead

It's the gift that keeps on giving. That would be Illinois politics. So it now appears that Roland Burris was lying about his dealings with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Turns out he was dealing with Blago's brother, which is likely a distinction without a difference.

I don't want Burris to resign. He's right where he should be. He's the very model of a modern majority senator. He is the embodiment of Change You Can Believe In.

Get Out of Denver, Baby

Obama to sign stimulus bill Tuesday in Denver.

Mr. Seger explains the significance.

I walked up back to speak to this southern funky school teacher
She had a lot of something heavy but we couldn't reach her
We told her that we needed something that would get us going
She pulled out all she had and laid it on the table showing
All I had to do was lay my money down and pick it up
The cops came busting in and then we lit out in a pickup truck

Go! Get out of Denver, baby, go, go
Get out of Denver, baby, go
Get out of Denver, baby, go, go
Get out of Denver cause you look just like a commie
And you might just be a member
Better get out of Denver
Better get out of Denver

Monday, February 16, 2009

Daddy Wags

More baseball -- time for some images of old ballplayers. This guy is Leon "Daddy Wags" Wagner, an outfielder who played primarily for the Giants but also bounced around a few other places in the 1960s. He was a lefthanded power hitter, an abysmal fielder and a very funny guy. Bill James in his Historical Baseball Abstract tells the story about Wagner's ill-fated venture into the clothing business. His store's slogan was "Get your rags from Daddy Wags." After that business venture went kaput, he went into the apartment business, with the slogan "Get your pad from Super Dad." His great misfortune was being born 10-15 years too soon for the designated hitter.

I'll be looking around for other colorful old guys to feature. If you have suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

True Blue Brew Crew Preview

Spring training begins for our favorite teams. The two teams that we follow at Mr. Dilettante are the Brewers and the Twins. As the season beckons, it's time to do a little talking about the teams.

The Brewers made the playoffs last year but ended up losing to the eventual world champion Phillies in four games. Two key pitchers in last year's run, CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets, are gone. Sheets is out for the year and Sabathia is now a very rich man thanks to the profligate Steinbrenner family. That's a tough tandem to lose, but there is reason to believe that the Brewers will still be a contender this season.

The everyday lineup should remain very good. Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, J.J. Hardy, Corey Hart and Mike Cameron are a very good nucleus. There is thunder up and down the Brewer lineup, more than at any time since the sainted World Series squad of 1982. Offense should not be a problem.

The question is pitching. While it's awfully tough to lose your top two starters, especially a superstar like Sabathia, the Brew Crew should be able to piece together a halfway decent rotation out of youngsters Yovani Gallardo and Manny Parra, along with the serviceable Jeff Suppan and newcomer Braden Looper. And there's always Dave Bush, the guy you'd like to replace. The new closer is a very old closer, Trevor Hoffman, who has decamped from San Diego after about 47 seasons in the 619 area code. It's not clear if Hoffman has anything left in the tank, but after the Eric Gagne disaster of last season he's worth a shot. There are any number of guys in between the starters and Hoffman, all of varying effectiveness.

The problem for the Brew Crew is that they live in a rough neighborhood. The Cubs are loaded again and the Cardinals should again be a formidable foe. Still, you don't get the sense that there is really a dominant team in the National League. The Phillies won it all but they don't scare you that much. It is easy to imagine the Brewers finding a way back to the postseason this year. It's also easy to imagine them finishing 3rd or even 4th in their division. We'll look at the Twins tomorrow.

The Stimulus Can Work for You!

I got $987,654,321, free Packers tickets and more! And it only takes a few minutes. Go see Leo and he'll hook you up.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ty Cobb and Shoeless Joe Jackson

Baseball is back. And not a minute too soon.

Pitchers and Catchers Report - II

And sometimes we don't like what we see. Like CC Sabathia in pinstripes. Still, hope springs eternal.

Paying For A Vehicle I Didn't Buy

I bought a new car recently. As it happens, it wasn't a GM model. But it doesn't matter, because it's increasingly likely that we'll all be paying GM anyway.

General Motors Corp., nearing a federally imposed deadline to present a restructuring plan, will offer the government two costly alternatives: commit billions more in bailout money to fund the company’s operations, or provide financial backing as part of a bankruptcy filing, said people familiar with GM’s thinking.

The competing choices, which highlight GM’s rapidly deteriorating operations, present a dilemma for Congress and the Obama administration. If they refuse to provide additional aid to GM on top of the $13.4 billion already committed they risk seeing an industrial icon fall into bankruptcy.

None of this is especially surprising, of course. The problems that GM is facing were decades in the making and there was no way that they could turn it around without finding a way to lower their operating expenses. And that cannot happen as long as GM is on the hook for all the guaranteed benefits and pensions that they agreed to with the UAW years ago. And the UAW ain't biting. And why would they? There's no incentive to make these hard choices as long the government is willing to keep funding things.

If GM goes into bankruptcy, it would force the hard decisions. A lot of people are going to take it in the shorts on this, no matter what happens. The auto industry is hardly the only industry that is hurting right now, though. And it's awfully difficult to see why GM and the UAW should be insulated from the consequences of their actions and the vagaries of the marketplace.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Why I Love the Internet

Because it makes it a lot easier to document the perfidy of politicians.

(H/T: Allah)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Pitchers and Catchers Report

All we can hope is that it won't be these guys.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Total Eclipse

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

-- Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice

During the 2008 campaign, President Obama was quite ostentatious in his denunciations of lobbyists. He said on more than one occasion that lobbyists wouldn't have a role in his White House.

He started backpedaling on that almost as soon as the election was over, of course. And, sure enough, a number of lobbyists managed to find their way into his administration. But let's be charitable and give him a pass for this. It was a promise that he never would have been able to keep and most people paying attention understood that.

The problem today is not what Obama promised. It's that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid don't see the world the same way. Click this link and consider the implications. From the article:

We're receiving E-mails from Capitol Hill staffers expressing frustration that they can't get a copy of the stimulus bill agreed to last night at a price of $789 billion. What's more, staffers are complaining about who does have a copy: K Street lobbyists. E-mails one key Democratic staffer: "K Street has the bill, or chunks of it, already, and the congressional offices don't. So, the Hill is getting calls from the press (because it's leaking out) asking us to confirm or talk about what we know—but we can't do that because we haven't seen the bill. Anyway, peeps up here are sort of a combo of confused and like, 'Is this really happening?'"

Well, congressional staffers aren't the only peeps who are wondering if this is really happening. Putting my partisanship aside for a moment, I have to say this: I sure hope this report is false. If we end up spending up to a trillion dollars on a bill that has been vetted by K Street and no one else, it would be a staggering betrayal. It's not so much a matter that lobbyists are more acquainted with the particulars of the bill. That's deeply problematic. What matters a hell of a lot more is that the people who should know what's in the bill apparently don't know the particulars. We're spending what will eventually be a trillion dollars appropos of who knows what.

I can believe in change. As the old saw goes, change is the only constant. But we all need to see what the change is. Maybe Judd Gregg can put a stop to this thing. Somebody has to. If this thing passes without sunlight, the lights we might eventually see will be the torches of an angry mob.

Ashley Judd Might Be Available

Apparently Judd Gregg is going back to the Senate and will not join Barack Obama's cabinet. The early reports indicate that taking the Census away from Commerce made it a no-go for Gregg.

That makes sense. If the Commerce Department doesn't administer the Census, what is the purpose of even having a Commerce Department? Thinking back, about the only Commerce Secretary I can even remember is Malcolm Baldridge, whose primary claims to fame were (a) being the brother of etiquette maven Letitia Baldridge and (b) dying in a rodeo accident.* His name is now on the Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award, which is slightly more prestigious than the Dave McClain Big Ten Coach of the Year Award.

Kudos to Judd Gregg for understanding that being a Commerce Secretary for Obama would make him a rodeo clown.

* Rodeo Etiquette would be a great name for a band, I think.

Morning Dilettante Recommendations

Since the morning paper doesn't arrive on too many doorsteps these days, Mr. D brings the news to you.

Today is the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. Over at Powerline, they have a series of essays about the most consequential president this country has ever had.

If you're having a hard time wrapping your mind around the size of some of the numbers that have been rising over the Potomac recently, Iowahawk has your back. He provides a handy synopsis in Numbers in the News. An excerpt:

An international mathematics research team announced today that they had discovered a new integer that surpasses any previously known value "by a totally mindblowing shitload." Project director Yujin Xiao of Stanford University said the theoretical number, dubbed a "stimulus," could lead to breakthroughs in fields as diverse as astrophysics, quantum mechanics, and Chicago asphalt contracting.

As always, read the whole thing.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

No Habeus Corpus For You

You know, I never get tired of stuff like this:

Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan, President Obama's choice to represent his administration before the Supreme Court, told a key Republican senator Tuesday that she believed the government could hold suspected terrorists without trial as war prisoners.

She echoed comments by Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. during his confirmation hearing last month. Both agreed that the United States was at war with Al Qaeda and suggested the law of war allows the government to capture and hold alleged terrorists without charges.

Remember how we were assured that the bien pensants who will finally administer real justice would put a stop to all the depredations of civil liberties that the Bushies perpretrated? Guess not. In a hearing today, Sen. Lindsey Graham drove the point home:

Graham, a former Air Force lawyer, stressed the stark difference between criminal law and the law of war. He and Kagan agreed that under criminal law, no person can be held indefinitely without a trial.

"Do you believe we are at war?" Graham asked.

"I do, Senator," Kagan replied.

Graham cited the example of someone who is not carrying a gun or fighting on a battlefield. "If our intelligence agencies should capture someone in the Philippines that is suspected of financing Al Qaeda worldwide, would you consider that person part of the battlefield?" he asked. He added that he had asked the same question of Holder, who replied that he agreed that person was on the battlefield.

"Do you agree with that?" the senator said."I do," Kagan replied. Graham said that under the law of war, the government can say, "If you're part of the enemy force, there is no requirement to let them go back to the war and kill our troops. Do you agree that makes sense?"

Kagan replied, "I think it makes sense, and I think you're correct that that is the law."

"So America needs to get ready for this proposition that some people are going to be detained as enemy combatants, not criminals," Graham concluded.

If you haven't picked up on it yet, let's be clear. One of the most irritating things about the Bush years was the moral vanity and preening of some on the Left, especially regarding the conduct of the War on Terror. Many of those folks are now getting the vapors about how Obama is betraying their core beliefs. Personally, I'm delighted that the Obama team seems to understand that it is a dangerous world out there and that it simply won't do to pretend that we can extend Miranda rights to enemy combatants. Our enemies view the world very differently than we do in the West. We don't like to think of the battles we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan as an existential struggle, but our enemies look it at that way. At a minimum, it appears that Eric Holder and Elena Kagan understand this. They will, along with David Petraeus and others who are charged with our defense, keep us free to be Code Pinkers and Truthers and sunshine patriots of the Hollywood variant. And their efforts allow me the freedom to call bullshit on those who sneer at them. God Bless America.

iTunes is Trying to Tell Me Something

No kidding – these five songs came out in a row just now:

Pretty Vacant, Sex Pistols
Trouble Man, Marvin Gaye
Brilliant Mistake, Elvis Costello & the Attractions
No Particular Place to Go, Chuck Berry
Big Spender, Peggy Lee

And next song?

When the Levee Breaks, Led Zeppelin

What could it mean?

Favre Retires Again

So says ESPN. I'm betting I won't have to retire this headline anytime soon. 'Round about May or so, I'm guessing ol' number 4 will be getting Mort on the speed dial again.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Stimulus Stampede

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

-- H. L. Mencken

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

-- Also Mencken

Are you getting an uneasy feeling about this whole stimulus thing? I am.

It really feels like we're being stampeded. The rhetoric has been apocalyptic. Consider this reasoned, measured statement that President Obama made during yesterday's presser:

My administration inherited a deficit of over $1 trillion, but because we also inherited the most profound economic emergency since the Great Depression, doing a little or nothing at all will result in even greater deficits, even greater job loss, even greater loss of income, and even greater loss of confidence. Those are deficits that could turn a crisis into a catastrophe.

This is a long way from FDR's "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." The only thing that's truly on offer is fear itself. This is stupid. The sky will not fall if this stimulus package does not pass. But we won't find out, because it's going to pass in some form or another.

So what are we likely to get from the stimulus package? And are we going to get it good and hard? Who knows? It's so huge, so full of stuff that it's impossible to wrap your mind around it. One site that is helpful is Stimulus Watch, a site that provides, among other things, a look at some of the "shovel ready" projects that are bidding fair to get some of the gigantic honey pot that's coming down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Minnesota has some projects in mind. For those of us in northern Ramsey County, this is exciting news. Let's consider a couple of worthy endeavors that are out there.

The first is from Roseville, which asks for $1.5 million to replace the clubhouse and maintenance shop at a golf course, which I presume would be Cedarholm. Cedarholm is a cute little executive course that sits near Highway 36 and Hamline Avenue, about a quarter-mile east of Rosedale Mall. It has lost money for years. I don't doubt for a moment that a new clubhouse would help make it a more pleasant amenity, but there's no way that the money will change the underlying economics of the site: it is a pitch and putt course and simply selling the land would yield far more money and economic development for Roseville and Ramsey County. But there's a chance that the folks in Elkhart, Indiana will be helping us to pay for this.

Meanwhile, in lovely Arden Hills, there's an idea to plunk down $40 million to get the long-moribund TCAAP site up and running. TCAAP is the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant, which is about as Superfund a Superfund site as you can imagine. There are unbelievable amounts of toxins buried out there and it's highly unlikely that $40 million would even begin to handle all the potential cost of abatement, especially since the new administration will be a lot less likely to be benevolent with developers. Arden Hills is a very nice, generally upscale suburb with an excellent location close to both Minneapolis and St. Paul, and while one could imagine a potential market for varying development in the area, the experience of New Brighton's disastrous Northwest Quadrant project makes me question where the interest would be in such a project. The Northwest Quadrant area had less environmental problems than TCAAP and is even closer to Minneapolis than the TCAAP parcel, but it has failed to come anywhere close to the rosy projections that the local goverment worthies came up with. Our friend Right Hook wrote an excellent synopsis of what happened with the Northwest Quadrant. It's a pathetic tale of local politicians pretending to be developers without understanding the fundamentals of what makes a project work. Perhaps it's possible that the majordomos in Arden Hills might do a better job of shepherding a successful project that sits less than a mile east of the Northwest Quadrant, but that's not the way to bet. And in any event, it's not clear why federal money would be warranted for a project that's been out there for over a decade and hasn't moved off the dime.

There are literally thousands of other projects out there. Some might be more worthy than these ones. But I'd be willing to wager that most of them aren't. And riddle me this: do you think that the laid off IT guys and Circuit City sales people have the skill set to be "shovel ready" and work on public works projects of this sort? It's a question that hardly anyone seems to be asking while we are stampeded into this brave new world that President Obama demands.
Cross-posted at Ramsey County Exposed

Monday, February 09, 2009

A Philosophical Question

If Alex Rodriguez hit a home run off Roger Clemens, and both were taking steroids, who had the advantage? And if Clemens struck out A-Rod, then what?

I don't know how to begin sussing out the news that A-Rod can now be called A-Roid. It is now apparent that, 'round about 2003, as many as 7% of major leaguers tested positive for steroids. Some were players who were hoping to hang on in a ruthless sport where even the slightest slip would send you away, never to return. But it is also clear that some supremely talented players were more Faust than Topps. The picture I've posted is A-Rod when he played for the Appleton Foxes back at the very beginning of his career. He was a big dude even then.

So how do you deal with this? There has been a great show of moral vanity regarding Mark McGwire, who is strongly suspected of being a steroid user. It is worth remembering that Cooperstown is already well-represented with reprobates, with Ty Cobb at the top of the list. It is a matter of public record that Babe Ruth used a corked bat. Do we kick him out of Cooperstown?

I really don't know what to think any more. What do you think?

Someone Tell Reese Witherspoon -- II

From the invaluable Jake Tapper at ABC News:

The Obama Administration today announced that it would keep the same position as the Bush Administration in the lawsuit Mohamed et al v Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc.

The case involves five men who claim to have been victims of extraordinary rendition -- including current Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, another plaintiff in jail in Egypt, one in jail in Morocco, and two now free. They sued a San Jose Boeing subsidiary, Jeppesen Dataplan, accusing the flight-planning company of aiding the CIA in flying them to other countries and secret CIA camps where they were tortured.

A year ago the case was thrown out on the basis of national security, but today the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard the appeal, brought by the ACLU.

A source inside of the Ninth U.S. District Court tells ABC News that a representative of the Justice Department stood up to say that its position hasn't changed, that new administration stands behind arguments that previous administration made, with no ambiguity at all. The DOJ lawyer said the entire subject matter remains a state secret.

This is not going to please civil libertarians and human rights activists who had hoped the Obama administration would allow the lawsuit to proceed.

Give Obama credit for recognizing that this is a dangerous world.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Big Blue Update -- Tourney Results

A fine season came to an end for Big Blue today, as the squad took 2nd in the MVBA tournament. Big Blue won their semifinal game this morning with a hard-fought 40-34 victory over a well-coached and talented Mounds View 74 squad. It was an uphill struggle all the way as the Mounds View squad jumped out to an early 10-point lead. But strong defense and a solid second half allowed our lads a chance to go to the lead. Ben's one basket was crucial, as it finally put Big Blue in the lead at 23-22. Clutch free throw shooting down the stretch provided to final margin of victory. Besides Ben's clutch basket, he also grabbed a few rebounds and caused at least 3 turnovers with tough defense.

The championship game was a rematch against mighty Roseville 5, which had rolled through the season undefeated, generally winning games by no less than 20 points. Our lads fought valiantly but came up just a little bit short, falling 37-30. The big and talented Roseville team was significantly taller and stronger than our squad, but the boys played very stout defense and held Roseville's scoring down to about half of what they usually scored during the season. Ben did not score but again played a fine overall game, with at least two rebounds and a steal in extensive action.

Youth sports can be problematic, of course, but coaching kids and watching them improve is a great pleasure. We had a very high-character group of kids on this team and it was a privilege to have the opportunity to work with them. And baseball will be starting soon enough!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Professor Mankiw Explains

If you hire your neighbor for $100 to dig a hole in your backyard and then fill it up, and he hires you to do the same in his yard, the government statisticians report that things are improving. The economy has created two jobs, and the G.D.P. rises by $200. But it is unlikely that, having wasted all that time digging and filling, either of you is better off.

People don't usually spend their money buying things they don't want or need, so for private transactions, this kind of inefficient spending is not much of a problem. But the same cannot always be said of the government. If the stimulus package takes the form of bridges to nowhere, a result could be economic expansion as measured by standard statistics but little increase in economic well-being.

And of course we all remember the first rule of holes -- if you're in one, stop digging.

It's Worse Than We Thought

Scandals continue to pop up among Obama cabinet nominees. Iowahawk has the scoop:

WASHINGTON - U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu announced his resignation this morning amid new reports that Alameda County workers had unearthed more than a dozen additional dead hobo bodies at his former home in Berkeley, California. The Nobel Prize-winning physicist had been the subject of a week-long controversy after he amended his White House application form to declare "3 or 4" hobo corpses in his crawl space, but after this morning's discovery, Chu said he felt he could no longer serve as an effective spokesman for Administration energy policy.

Fortunately, there are alternatives available:

Sources inside the administration say the President is favoring University of Texas petroleum geologist / registered sex offender G. Harland Tellis as Chu's replacement. Tellis is expected to face stiff opposition from netroots blog sites like the Huffington Post, who have thrown their support behind British pop singer Gary Glitter.

Sordid, sordid stuff. Read the whole thing.

Big Blue Update -- Tourney Time!

It was a succesful first day for Big Blue in the year-end tournament played at Island Lake in Shoreview, with two victories that send them to the semifinals.

Big Blue began the day with the fifth seed in the 13-team tournament. The first game this morning was a rematch against eighth seed Irondale 6 (the Orange team) and the lads cruised to a 56-30 victory. Ben did not score, missing on a few open jumpers that rattled around on him. But he did add at least four rebounds and a steal against our overmatched friends from the west side of 35W.

That brought us to the second round game, a rematch against third seed Mounds View 75, a team that had narrowly beaten Big Blue earlier in the season. It was a hard-fought contest but Big Blue was able to pull away in the second half and defeat the green-clad 75 squad by a final score of 43-32. It was a defensive struggle all the way and our kids were able to eventually crack the tight 2-3 zone that the 75 squad played. Ben didn't score in the second game either, but grabbed rebounds and played very good defense.

The wins send Big Blue's overall record to 10-3 on the season and they take the court tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. against the second seed, Mounds View 74. This is a team that our charges did not face in the regular season so it will be an interesting challenge. A win would put Big Blue in the championship game at 1 p.m., likely against Roseville 5, the undefeated juggernaut that has looked very impressive all season long. The challenge will be great and a lot of fun. Both games are at Island Lake in Shoreview. As always, trust Mr. Dilettante for exhaustive coverage of in-house 7-8 basketball in northwest Ramsey County. And what could be better, really?

Friday, February 06, 2009

The Cranky Old Dude Poster Child for Term Limits

I grew up in Wisconsin. I knew a lot of cranky old dudes when I grew up there. Most of them don't get anywhere near Congress. Unfortunately, David Obey did. Obey's in the picture, standing next to Pelosi and John Murtha. He's the one with the thickest beard.

Obey has been in Congress for a very long time. He first got elected to Congress 40 years ago and has been representing the 7th District ever since. If you hang around Congress long enough, it typically doesn't matter if you understand much of anything or not -- eventually you become a powerful person. That's what has happened to Obey. Because he's an old lion and the Democrats are in control, Obey is now chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. That means he has a lot of say over what gets appropriated. In other words, he's the guy who essentially crafted the House version of the crap sandwich a/k/a the stimulus bill.

Ordinarily a cranky old dude from Wausau will show a little bit of restraint. But since Obey has had a sinecure for all these years, restraint is not one of his strong points. It shows in the monstrous bill he has crafted. And since he has a sinecure, he doesn't much care what anyone else thinks. In fact, he's not afraid to tell you that.

So what? The dude bids fair to spend a trillion dollars and doesn't care if anyone is accountable for how it's spent? So what? It's not Obey's fault. It's whoever spends the money badly. Not him. Not ever. Maybe Congressman Obey would like to give me his credit card. Why shouldn't he? He's giving anyone who shows up at the trough my children's credit card. So what?

David Obey has been spending our money without compunction for 40 years now. I have several friends who grew up in the Wausau area. They are all very sensible people. Any of them would be a hell of a lot less cavalier about spending a trillion dollars than Congressman Obey. Any random person in the Wausau phone book would be.

There was a time, not that long ago, that public service was considered a public trust and our representatives were concerned about being stewards of public resources. I miss those days.

(H/T: Allah)

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Guilty Pleasures Part Thirty-Six -- Yes, There Were Good Songs in 1974, Too

I've written about the year 1974 before in this space. It is, to my mind, the worst year in rock history, a year dominated by silly novelty songs and some truly cringe-worthy stuff. But let's not worry about "Seasons in the Sun" and "(You're) Having My Baby," or "Billy, Don't Be a Hero" or "The Streak." Let's turn our attention elsewhere.

Some of the best music that came out in 1974 shared two characteristics: the artists that performed the songs were either one-hit wonders or had limited success; and the acts were mostly comprised of minority groups. Here are five excellent examples:

Consider the first choice, a silky smooth ballad that might have come from Teddy Pendergrass or Lou Rawls, but instead was the only chart hit for Al Wilson:

Then there was this lilting number, which came from the same place as the highly successful K.C. and the Sunshine Band, but instead featured vocalist George McCrae:

Quick -- name a successful Native American rock band. For whatever reason, there haven't been many. These guys had a big, enduring hit in 1974 and pretty much disappeared after that, although I'm sure they enjoyed the royalties from the Alltel commercials that have rolled in recently. It's Redbone, performing on the Midnight Special, with:

Then there was this bouncy number, which was a one-timer for a trio called the Hues Corporation. Appearing on the British show Top of the Pops in weird camera angles, they perform:

And probably the best known selection this evening is this chestnut from the band that spawned Chaka Khan. They had a few hits after this one and Chaka herself sailed into the 1980s and beyond as a second-tier diva. Chaka knew where to get her music, though -- this number was written by Stevie Wonder. Again from the Midnight Special, with Chaka sporting a sequined halter top that I'm sure was highly comfortable to wear, Rufus asks us to:

As always, cast your vote for your favorite. Or if you have another jam from '74, tell me why it's better than the five I've chosen here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Bon Appetit

When you can't decide what to write about, sometimes you should just go Glenn Reynolds-style and offer a buffet.

It seems like I'm endorsing Iowahawk every other day. That's because he's prolific and great. He's just tryin' to drive you to the store, Mr. Daschle. The money store.

We have great faith in negotiation in the era of Hope and Change. So how do you negotiate with people who do this?

So if we cap executive compensation at bailed out companies at $500K, on the theory that if an enterprise or entity receives federal largesse, the feds can dictate how an enterprise uses any of its resources, can we cap other forms of compensation for people at $500K? Like book royalties?

Support for the stimulus package is now down to 37%. And a solid majority (53%) believes tax cuts will help more than additional government spending. Obama promised that up to 95% of Americans will get a tax cut. Instead he's pleading for passage of a crap sandwich that 50% of Americans think will make things worse. For a guy who was widely praised for his strategic thinking, it's amazing to see: he's only two weeks into his presidency and he's already out on a ledge.

On the other hand, it does appear that our new president is capable of learning. A trade war would be a really bad idea 'round about now.

Pretty Vacant

AFSCME waters the AstroTurf. From over the transom:

My name is Chuck Loveless and I am the director of the Legislation Department for AFSCME. I have been in this business for more than 25 years, and never has there been a more urgent situation for public service jobs—and the entire economy. That's why I'm writing you for the first time ever.

President Obama's economic recovery plan—legislation that helps Main Street—is in trouble.

That's why I'm asking you to make a call right now to Senators Vacant Vacant and Amy Klobuchar. We have set up a special system, all you need to do is click on this link and provide your cell phone number to make your call. Tell them to vote YES for President Obama's "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan."

Emphasis mine. Finally, truth in advertising from AFSCME!

Best Thing You'll Read This Morning

As is so often the case, Bogus Doug nails it. Click that link.

UPDATE: Another good thing to read -- Ed Morrissey gets a byline in America's Greatest Newspaper. Money graf:

Not so long ago, Democrats ran on the "culture of corruption" issue. Who knew that was actually a campaign promise?
Read the whole thing, though.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

I'm Here to Help

Since so many Democrats are having tax problems and since we all need to get behind The One, it's incumbent upon us all to help. So here's a magic two line Q & A to solve the problem.

Q. Why do so many Democrats seem to have problems paying taxes?
A. That's easy, Andrea. The Republicans were so hell-bent in stripping away regulatory oversight that the IRS was decimated. How can you expect to drive compliance when those rapacious Republicans deny dedicated public servants the resources they need to do the work of the American people?

You're welcome, Mr. President.

Clear Vision

The plane went down in a farm field near Clear Lake, Iowa, 50 years ago today. And the course of rock and roll was changed inalterably.

The thing that's easy to forget now is how young Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J. P. "Big Bopper" Richardson were. Holly had already established a towering body of work and had not yet reached his 23rd birthday. Valens, who was riding high with three big singles, was only 17. Richardson was the gnarled veteran of the group, but was only 28. If they had born 50 years later and were coming up today, all would be eligible for American Idol, although I would wager that none of them could win because they don't fit the template.

While the losses of the talented Valens and Richardson are equally tragic, Holly is the guy everyone remembers, for good reason. If you listen to his records 50 years on, you can't help but be struck by how fresh they still sound. His songs are direct and to the point. Unlike Elvis, Holly was largely in control of his music and wasn't being drowned in the wash of strings and lame Jordanaires backing vocals that Col. Tom Parker imposed on Presley. Holly didn't face the real barriers of institutional racism that Chuck Berry and Little Richard did, and he wasn't a self-destructive reprobate like Jerry Lee Lewis. Holly had control of his art and his future – it was all out in front of him and he could have gone any number of ways with his career. He was learning how to use the recording studio to get sounds he couldn't otherwise produce. The late song "True Love Ways" suggests that Holly might have decided to go more mainstream with his sound, but that's a matter of some debate among rock historians. It's all speculation, of course.

Elvis gave rock its attitude. Chuck Berry gave rock its basic grammar of guitar and rhythm. Little Richard gave rock its theatricality. Jerry Lee Lewis gave rock its outlaw stance. When I think about Buddy Holly, the sense I get is that he gave rock its narrative style, which is why Holly is the patron saint of singer-songwriters, even though he rocked it more fiercely than most of those who came in his wake. Buddy Holly told stories. The guy whose career might have been a template for what Holly might have done is Dion DiMucci, who went from singing doo-wop with the Belmonts to becoming a tough-minded songwriter in the 1960s, even as he managed to derail his career a number of times with substance abuse. Holly was more grounded than Dion, but they shared a similar, no-nonsense sensibility that informed their music. And while Holly may have died 50 years ago today, his sensibility has survived him.

UPDATE: Gino reminds me that Dion was part of the tour and could have easily been on that plane, too. See his comments in the thread.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Pick a Tune from 1966 Thread

Since we seem to be about to replay the Great Society, let's play a few sides from 1966, but then I need your help.

In honor of Barack Obama's rendition policy, we present Johnny Rivers with Secret Agent Man

In honor of his legion of fanboys, we present the Count Five with Psychotic Reaction

In honor of Obama's upcoming meeting with Hugo Chavez, we present the Capitols with Cool Jerk

In honor of our guardians in the MSM, we present Slim Harpo with Baby Scratch My Back

And in honor of those of us who will be paying for all this fun, we present Lee Dorsey with Working in a Coal Mine

And now, we open the thread. Pick another song from 1966 that fits the groove (here's a good source of material) and put it in the comments. It's fun for everybody!

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Obama-Bashing for This Important Annoucement

In related news, Al Capone announced today that he was investing his income in tax-free municipal bonds

Sen. Dodd says he'll refinance Countrywide loans.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Someone Tell Reese Witherspoon

Who could forget the brave stand that Hollywood took against the evil Bush administration? It seemed like every few weeks yet another movie came out, speaking truth to power about the evil Bushies. It must have mattered a lot to Hollywood, because pretty much all of these movies were box office bombs. But they kept coming.

One of the more famous examples of this genre was Rendition, a 2007 film that shows an Egyptian national, who has the good fortune to be married to Reese Witherspoon, that ends up being suspected of involvment in an overseas terrorist attack. He ends up getting whisked away to the country where the attack took place and is turned over the locals for some tender mercies, including torture. This causes Reese Witherspoon to raise hell. I guess Jake Gyllenhall is involved somehow, too, but I can't independently confirm that because no one actually saw the movie.

As everyone in Hollywood wanted you to know, the Bush administration used rendition as part of their nefarious bag of tricks. This is one of many reasons that the brave souls of Hollywood banded together to support the candidacy of Barack Obama, who would put a stop to such things. Or not.

So why is Obama going to continue using rendition as part of his administration's approach to fighting terrorists? Because it works.

"Obviously you need to preserve some tools -- you still have to go after the bad guys," said an Obama administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing the legal reasoning. "The legal advisors working on this looked at rendition. It is controversial in some circles and kicked up a big storm in Europe. But if done within certain parameters, it is an acceptable practice."

So, what do you think the chances are that Hollywood will be producing Rendition II -- Obama Style? I thought so.

Closed Circuit to Marge

Happy birthday, fair sister! Hope that you've had a good one! I'll let you choose your favorite Marge.