Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dog Bites Man

Another Obama Nominee Has Tax Issues.

But you'd better pay your fair share, buster.

Radio Free Dilettante – Out Like a Lion Edition

Music for a foul, rainy day in the upper Midwest.

Last Five:

Seventh Son — Johnny Rivers
Sympathy for the Devil — Rolling Stones
His Eye is on the Sparrow — Marvin Gaye
Chinese Checkers — Booker T. and the MG's
The Tide is High — Blondie

Next Five:

Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams
(and Dream Your Troubles Away) — Art Tatum
I Will — Beatles
Sherry Darling — Bruce Springsteen
Whistling in the Dark — They Might Be Giants
Hey Tonight — Creedence Clearwater Revival

The Country's In the Very Best of Hands

Here's a great idea:

It was nearly two weeks ago that the House of Representatives, acting in a near-frenzy after the disclosure of bonuses paid to executives of AIG, passed a bill that would impose a 90 percent retroactive tax on those bonuses. Despite the overwhelming 328-93 vote, support for the measure began to collapse almost immediately. Within days, the Obama White House backed away from it, as did the Senate Democratic leadership. The bill stalled, and the populist storm that spawned it seemed to pass.

But now, in a little-noticed move, the House Financial Services Committee, led by chairman Barney Frank, has approved a measure that would, in some key ways, go beyond the most draconian features of the original AIG bill. The new legislation, the "Pay for Performance Act of 2009," would impose government controls on the pay of all employees -- not just top executives -- of companies that have received a capital investment from the U.S. government. It would, like the tax measure, be retroactive, changing the terms of compensation agreements already in place. And it would give Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner extraordinary power to determine the pay of thousands of employees of American companies.

As David Bowie once asked, do you remember your President Nixon? He tried this back in 1971 and it didn't go particularly well. Of course, now that the smart people are in control there won't be any unintended consequences like runaway inflation, because the economic responses of Treasury Secretary Geithner will be so finely calibrated that they will be fail-safe. And if you are even slightly skeptical of this serendipitous outcome, our Congressional betters are happy to correct such retrograde thinking:

Rep. Alan Grayson, the Florida Democrat who wrote the bill, told me its basic message is "you should not get rich off public money, and you should not get rich off of abject failure." Grayson expects the bill to pass the House, and as we talked, he framed the issue in a way to suggest that virtuous lawmakers will vote for it, while corrupt lawmakers will vote against it.

"This bill will show which Republicans are so much on the take from the financial services industry that they're willing to actually bless compensation that has no bearing on performance and is excessive and unreasonable," Grayson said. "We'll find out who are the people who understand that the public's money needs to be protected, and who are the people who simply want to suck up to their patrons on Wall Street."

Actually, I agree with Rep. Grayson. People shouldn't get rich off public money and should not get rich off of abject failure. And if we extend the logic, I would expect to see Rep. Grayson returning most of his income to the U.S. Treasury and further expect him to reside in a youth hostel while he's in Washington. I don't think such expectations are excessive and unreasonable -- do you?

Monday, March 30, 2009

I Could Write Something Today. . . .

But it wouldn't approach this. Doug Williams continues to look at the financial crisis and think things down to the roots. A brief sample below, but read the whole thing. Now.

Too many people in this story assumed they could know the inherently unknowable. This belief was fed by a constant stream of whiz-bang new technology, mathematics, and product offerings - each one increasing the fallacious assumption of certainty and invulnerability in its own way. It's not the first time in human history people were humbled in the attempt to assert human mastery over areas of chaos and doubt. And it won't be the last.

Chin Up, Folks

Iowahawk assures us all that The Country's In the Very Best of Hands.

Click the link. You'll feel better.

Geithner Motors

So, do you believe that this guy can run GM better than Rick Waggoner? Remember, when governments design cars, the result is this.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Less Than Zero

Well, I hear that South America is coming into style.

The Obama administration asked Rick Wagoner, the chairman and CEO of General Motors, to step down and he agreed, a White House official said.

On Monday, President Barack Obama is to unveil his plans for the auto industry, including a response to a request for additional funds by GM and Chrysler. The plan is based on recommendations from the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry, headed by the Treasury Department.

The White House confirmed Wagoner was leaving at the government's behest after The Associated Press reported his immediate departure, without giving a reason.

Guess now we know what HopeandChange is.

A pistol was still smoking, a man lay on the floor
Mr. Oswald said he had an understanding with the law
He said he heard about a couple living in the USA
He said they traded in their baby for a Chevrolet
Let's talk about the future, now we've put the past away

Pay attention, everyone. Pay attention.

The Meaning of Notre Dame - I

The conversation happened nearly 30 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was coming to the end of my junior year in high school and was sitting in the guidance counselor's office. We were looking over my transcripts and the my college board scores, which were pretty good.

"Mark, you've had a good career here at Xavier," the counselor began. "You are in the top 10 in your class and your board scores are in the 97th percentile. That's really good."

"Thank you, sir," I replied.

"I'm really happy about this, because I think you'll have an excellent chance to get into Notre Dame," he continued.

Notre Dame. The Golden Dome. The shining goal of all kids attending midwestern Catholic high schools. I had made the grade. I was supposed to be happy about this, judging from the grin on the counselor's face. This was supposed to be the best news I'd received in my life.

Then I said it. "Well, sir, that's good, but I don't want to go to Notre Dame."

He looked at me as though I had broke wind in the chapel. "Mark, if you have the credentials to go to Notre Dame, you really need to go there. Don't you understand what this means?"

I did understand. All my life I'd been told about Notre Dame. I'd seen the highlight films on television. I'd heard the stories about my high school's proudest son, Rocky Bleier, who was a star running back at Notre Dame, then survived injury in Vietnam to become a key member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who were winning championships at the time. I'd met the alumni, who were pillars of the local community. I'd read the commentaries of Father Hesburgh. And here I was, with an opportunity to be a part of it all. And I didn't want it.

The counselor then asked if I wanted to go to Marquette instead, or maybe St. Norbert. No, I replied, I wanted to go someplace else. I told him the schools I was considering and he begrudgingly dug through his files to find the information he had on each. Our time was up and the next student was waiting. He looked at me one last time and said it again.

"Mark, you really should go to Notre Dame."

After that day, I was pretty much on my own as far as the school's guidance department was concerned.


There are many, many Catholic universities in the country. The most prestigious is probably Georgetown, but Notre Dame is the one that matters. It is the ideal for many Catholics, especially Catholics who live in the Midwest. It is probably the most visible symbol of Catholicism in this country. And while I had no interest in matriculating there, and don't regret the decision I made all those years ago, I recognize the power and importance of the place. These days Notre Dame is in the news for other reasons. I'll be writing about the controversy, which involves the invitiation of President Obama to speak at this year's commencement address, and what it means, in the coming days.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


When I get the chance, I spend my Saturday mornings listening to the Flashback radio program on my all-time favorite station, WXRT in Chicago. Each week the show picks a year between 1965 and 1996 and plays music from that year only for 4 hours. As it happens, today they have chosen 1977.

One of the reasons I like Flashback is that WXRT picks the best music of the year and ignores some of the more dire stuff. That's a good approach to music, because that means you get to hear Sir Duke and Hotel California, but you can avoid Andy Gibb and Leo Sayer. You also get to hear artists and music from 1977 that might not have reached your ears at the time, like Talking Heads, Joan Armatrading, Cheap Trick and Iggy Pop. When it comes to music, a selective memory isn't such a bad thing.

When it comes to politics, having a selective memory is a lot more problematic. 1977 was the dawn of the Carter era. If you're old enough to remember the 1970s you know that the Carter era did not end well. The memories seem to be returning to some erstwhile supporters of our current president, such as the normally sober observers at The Economist, who have, ahem, noticed a few things as of late (H/T: Captain Ed).

HILLARY CLINTON’S most effective quip, in her long struggle with Barack Obama
for the Democratic nomination last year, was that the Oval Office is no place for on-the-job training. It went to the heart of the nagging worry about the silver-tongued young senator from Illinois: that he lacked even the slightest executive experience, and that in his brief career he had never really stood up to powerful interests, whether in his home city of Chicago or in the wider world. Might Mrs Clinton have been right about her foe?
Well, yeah, executive experience would have been a helpful thing to have. But there's more:

His performance has been weaker than those who endorsed his candidacy, including this newspaper, had hoped. Many of his strongest supporters—liberal columnists, prominent donors, Democratic Party stalwarts—have started to question him. As for those not so beholden, polls show that independent voters again prefer Republicans to Democrats, a startling reversal of fortune in just a few weeks. Mr Obama’s once-celestial approval ratings are about where George Bush’s were at this stage in his awful presidency. Despite his resounding electoral victory, his solid majorities in both chambers of Congress and the obvious goodwill of the bulk of the electorate, Mr Obama has seemed curiously feeble.

None of this should be surprising to anyone who remembers the 1970s. The Democratic Party hasn't changed in any appreciable way since Lyndon Johnson. And one of the continuing patterns in American politics ever since then has been that the Democrats are most popular when they are unable to enact their preferred policies. When they get power, as they did in 1976 and 1992, they inevitably lose it quickly. While it's possible that pattern will not hold this time, there are excellent reasons to believe that 2010 will be a good year for the GOP.

One of the things that's been most amusing about the past few months is watching Obama supporters come to the realization that, hey, the guy is a liberal after all. But it's still tough for these Obama supporters to get past their cognitive dissonance:

Though he campaigned as a centrist and promised an era of post-partisan government, that’s not how he has behaved. His stimulus bill attracted only three Republican votes in the Senate and none in the House. This bodes ill for the passage of more difficult projects, such as his big plans for carbon-emissions control and health-care reform. Keeping those promises will soon start to bedevil the administration. The Republicans must take their share of the blame for the breakdown. But if Mr Obama had done a better job of selling his package, and had worked harder at making sure that Republicans were included in drafting it, they would have found it more difficult to oppose his plans.

Yep, he's a liberal. Still, the Economist believes that Republicans must take their share of the blame for the breakdown. Why? Carbon-emissions control and health-care reform are not things that Republicans support. Nor should they. But it gets worse for poor Obama -- he's being betrayed by his own party!

If Mr Obama cannot work with the Republicans, he needs to be certain that he controls his own party. Unfortunately, he seems unable to. Put bluntly, the Democrats are messing him around. They are pushing pro-trade-union legislation
(notably a measure to get rid of secret ballots) even though he doesn’t want them to do so; they have been roughing up the bankers even though it makes his task of fixing the economy much harder; they have stuffed his stimulus package and his appropriations bill with pork, even though this damages him and his party in the eyes of the electorate. Worst of all, he is letting them get away with it.

This is all nonsense, of course. Obama supports card check and his bobos have been quite vocal in bashing financiers of all stripes, except this guy. He hasn't done much of anything about the pork except grouse a little bit when he signed bills filled with it. But it's all Kabuki.

It's tough on those Obama supporters at the Economist, who end up begging for him to come to his senses:

But Mr Obama has a long way to travel if he is to serve his country—and the world—as he should. Take the G20 meeting in London, to which he will head at the end of next week. The most important task for this would-be institution is to set itself firmly against protectionism at a time when most of its members are engaged in a game of creeping beggar-thy-neighbour. Yet how can Mr Obama lead the fight when he has just pandered to America’s unions by sparking a minor trade war with Mexico? And how can he set a new course for NATO at its 60th-anniversary summit a few days later if he is appeasing his party with talk of leaving Afghanistan?
He can't do these things, because he is not a transformational figure. He is, at bottom, a very conventional Democrat. He is doing what his party does. We saw it in 1977, when a new president made symbolic changes but didn't project strength in doing so. We can avoid the bad music of 1977, but we shouldn't expect the politics to get any smarter when we keep electing the same orchestra, no matter how outwardly impressive the fellow at the podium is.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Guilty Pleasures Part Forty-One -- Hey, Wait a Minute

I brought Maria home from the hospital and we were going to write one of these, but it's gone! Maria, have you seen that Guilty Pleasures thing?

Dad, you're just looking in the wrong place.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Comedy Gold from Our Thought Leaders

You may have heard about the JournoList, a uselist/chatroom/cabal of lefty journalists. It's been the subject of much conjecture and suspicion in the right wing blogosphere.

Mickey Kaus has published a transcript of one JournoList exchange regarding Marty Peretz, the longtime majordomo of The New Republic. Put it this way -- no one is going to confuse this exchange, titled "Marty Peretz is a Crazy-Ass Racist" with the Algonquin Round Table. Check out this outstanding bit of discourse from the excitable Eric Alterman:

Quit lying about my record, Jonathan Chait. Or at least check the archives before descinding into Kirchickism. What I posted about Eve was an article I PUBLISHED. It could hardly have been going behind her back to PUBLISH an article, could it? What I explained when you last leveled this false accusation ... [SNIP] ... was the fact that had I known Eve was on the list, I would not have posted it here, even though it was relevant to the discussion at hand, because a) I had no wish to hurt the feelings of someone I had never met, and b) this is no less important, I respect the value of civility on this list. As you well know, there are plenty of attacks going on between yourself, Matt, Ezra, Spencer, and myself that do not make it onto this list because we respect the importance of civility here. Or at least we did.... I expect Ezra will want to intervene here, but please do feel free to forward our exchange to Marty. I
can only imagine how proud he'd be....

Meow. Sounds like high school with a thesaurus, doncha think? At least at my high school, instead of petty gossiping the kids played Sheepshead instead. There's a lot more at the link. Conservatives have plenty of things to worry about these days -- a third-rate chatroom of catty lefty journalists is hardly one of them.

Maria Update

Maria had her surgery this morning at Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare. It was successful and she is resting comfortably at the hospital this evening. We expect to bring her home tomorrow. She's a tough young lady. Thank you all for your prayers and support -- they mean more than I can adequately express.

Mea Culpa

I owe y'all an apology. If you were wondering who was responsible for the financial crisis, Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva has the answer:

‘This was a crisis that was fostered and boosted by irrational behaviour of people that are white, blue-eyed, that before the crisis looked like they knew everything about economics,’ he declared.

‘Now they have demonstrated that they don’t know anything about economics.’

President Lula, head of Brazil’s main left-wing party, said that ‘no black man or woman, no indigenous person, no poor person’ had been in any way culpable for the global banking crisis.

I have blue eyes and I worked for Bank of America for three years. Sorry about that! I'll try to be more careful next time....

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


My daughter Maria has been through more than a few things in her young life. She arrived back in 2000 with a cleft lip and palate and she's had to undergo a number of surgical procedures over the course of her life to deal with this issue. Tomorrow morning she does so again, this time to have a bone graft in her upper jaw. We'll be at Gillette Children's tomorrow morning for the surgery and she should be home on Friday.

I give Maria a lot of credit, because she's been a pretty good sport about all the hassles she's had to endure. She's an amazingly tough-minded kid and she doesn't really feel sorry for herself. One of the things that I've noticed is that children, for all the gaps in the knowledge and all the fears they have, are often better at adapting to challenges than some adults are. Maria is that way and we see a lot of resilience every time we go to Gillette. You see something that might break your heart every time you go there, but you also see a lot of hope and even more joy.

As a parent it is your responsibility to teach your children, to impart the hard-got wisdom you've gained over the course of your life. But I'm convinced that Maria has taught me more than I'll ever be able to teach her.

Scarlet Letters

I haven't written much about the AIG bonus issue because it's been so obviously an exercise in Kabuki. Today we actually heard from someone from AIG who isn't groveling about his role with the company. The New York Times, bless its soul, printed an open letter from AIG hand Jake DeSantis to Edward Liddy, the chief exec of the giant insurer. De Santis's letter pretty much speaks for itself.

I understand how retention bonuses work because I earned one from Bank of America in 2006. The circumstances were different — B of A had decided to close its Minnesota offices and was moving operations to Hillsboro, Oregon. As a result of this, I ended up losing my job. B of A knew that the move would be disruptive to its business, so it offered me and a number of my colleagues the opportunity to earn a retention bonus if we stayed with the company while it wound down its operations in Minnesota. While the bonus was only a fraction of what the AIG folks earned, it represented the equivalent of an additional 2-3 months' salary. Rather than leave B of A early, I stayed on and worked to the end.

It was the right thing for B of A to do. While I was hardly irreplaceable, it would have hurt the line of business substantially if I'd left early. That is why companies pay retention bonuses. I never felt bad about taking the bonus, because I'd earned it.

No matter what you might think of AIG generally, it had a legitimate business reason to pay such bonuses, because retaining people who can do complicated tasks is a big challenge. If you want to keep people in position, you have to pay them. And since DeSantis was a "dollar a year" man, he essentially worked for free this year, since he is now in the position of having to give up his bonus. And now AIG won't have his services for much longer. Perhaps one of AIG's critics can do the work that DeSantis does, but I wouldn't bet on it.

Reading the Transcript

As I mentioned earlier, I didn't see the Obama presser, but the transcript is here. A few things worth noting.

In talking about the torrent of red ink that's coming, Obama said this:

First of all, I suspect that some of those Republican critics have a short memory, because, as I recall, I'm inheriting a $1.3 trillion deficit, annual deficit, from them. That would be point number one. Point number two. Both under our estimates and under the CBO estimates, both -- the most conservative estimates out there, we drive down the deficit over the first five years of our budget. The deficit is cut in half. And folks aren't disputing that.
May I dispute that? If you look at the numbers, the reason the deficit gets cut in half is that he starts with the disastrous year we are currently enduring. Even under his most rosy scenario, he never cuts budget deficits below the levels we had during the profligate Bush administration.

He also says this:

But I'm -- look, I'm not going to lie to you. It is tough. As I said, that's why the critics tend to criticize, but they don't offer an alternative budget.
I don't have time to look for it right now, but I'd be willing to bet I can find one. And when I do, I'll let you know what it says.

One last point, on charitable giving. Obama wants to limit the ability of the evil rich to deduct charitable donations. Charities are worried about this, but Obama is pretty blithe about it:

QUESTION: It's not the well-to-do people. It's the charities. Given what you've just said, are you confident the charities are wrong when they contend that this would discourage giving?

OBAMA: Yes, I am. I mean, if you look at the evidence, there's very little evidence that this has a significant impact on charitable giving. I'll tell you what has a significant impact on charitable giving, is a financial crisis and an economy that's contracting. And so the most important thing that I can do for charitable giving is to fix the economy, to get banks lending again, to get businesses opening their doors again, to get people back to work again. Then I think charities will do just fine.

This is worth a post of its own. And I'll get to that anon.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Two New Additions to the Sidebar

Since it's good to share, I'm adding two exciting new features to my sidebar.

I haven't gotten around to understanding the whole Twitter thing yet, but from what I can tell that you only need one Twitter feed. So I've chosen Christopher Walken's Twitter Feed. If you imagine reading it in Walken's voice, it is comedy gold. Thanks to Mitch for bringing it to my attention.

My friend Scourge has returned to blogging from a long hiatus. The internet is much better with her return.

Bad Amateur Pundit

Obama needs to stop scheduling his pressers when I'm at the Boy Scout meetings with my son. Wish I had something really intelligent to say about what Obama said, but since I didn't see it, I don't. Stinger did notice something, though. Actually, two things.

Radio Free Dilettante – Dawn of Fascism Edition

Apologies in advance to Gino!

Last Five:

Anarchy in the U.K., The Sex Pistols
Ghost Town, The Specials
Don't Sit on My Jimmy Shands, Richard Thompson
Mary-Anne with the Shaky Hand, The Who
White Honey, Graham Parker

Next Five:

Working at the Car Wash Blues, Jim Croce
Message in Our Music, The O'Jays
Ain't No Mountain High Enough, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Cry Baby, Janis Joplin and the Full Tilt Boogie Band
Old Man, Neil Young

Monday, March 23, 2009


A quick note on a change to the blog. Going forward, I've decided to moderate comments on this blog. That means that, going forward, any comments will wait in a moderation queue until I approve them. A few thoughts on the reason for this change:

  • I recently had a situation on the blog where an anonymous poster put some information in my comments section about another individual. The information was technically correct but was misleading. Since this is my blog and has my name on it, I am responsible for the content that appears here. I'd rather not take a chance on having something appear here that turns out to be wrong or malicious or libelous. By instituting comment moderation, I should be able to stop that from happening.
  • I've thought about barring anonymous comments, but I understand that some people have good reasons for posting anonymously. So for now, I'm going to continue to allow it.
  • I fully expect to approve and publish 99.99% of the comments I receive going forward. I haven't nuked more than a half dozen comments in the 3+ years I've been blogging and that won't change. I've been very fortunate that my commenters have been thoughtful people. There is very little rancor on this blog because of it. I fully expect that to remain the case.

Thank you to everyone who supports this feature.

Rally Caps

I get the sense that the stock market wants to rally. Today's 497 point rise in the Dow is unalloyed good news. I'd really like to see my battered portfolio start to get better and there's reason to believe that it could recover quickly. Unless the government decides to do something really stupid.

And right on cue, here's something really stupid:

The Environmental Protection Agency's new leadership, in a step toward confronting global warming, submitted a finding that will force the White House to decide whether to limit greenhouse gas emissions under the nearly 40-year-old Clean Air Act.

Under that law, EPA's conclusion -- that such emissions are pollutants that endanger the public's health and welfare -- could trigger a broad regulatory process affecting much of the U.S. economy as well as the nation's future environmental trajectory. The agency's finding, which was sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget without fanfare on Friday, also reversed one of the Bush administration's landmark decisions on climate change, and it indicated anew that President Obama's appointees will push to address the issue of warming despite the potential political costs.
This is a masterpiece in understatement. To put it simply -- if the Clean Air Act is used as a rationale for challenging anything that might cause "global warming," there won't be much of anything happening. One thing has been quite clear in the years since the Clean Air Act was first passed; it is an ideal way for enviornmentalists to litigate the hell out of pretty much any project. It's well-nigh impossible to bring new power plants online these days because such projects are fought every step of the way.

It's also possible that the promised infrastrucure projects that are part of the stimulus package will be slowed or stopped outright because of such findings. Would building that new highway produce more CO2? Sure it would. Can't have it, then!

To put things in perspective, consider the testimony of another Obamanoid:

Last month, Howard Frumkin, who directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Environmental Health, testified before a Senate committee that the CDC "considers climate change a serious public health concern" that could accelerate illnesses and deaths stemming from heat waves, air pollution, and food- and water-borne illnesses.
Think about how stupid this is. One of the primary reasons that water-borne illnesses are rare in the United States is that we have outstanding sewage treatment plants. Illnesses like cholera are almost nonexistent here because we are able to clean the water we consume. It was a huge story when Milwaukee had a problem with cryptosporidium a few years ago; in many parts of the world such pathogens are a given in the water supply. It's actually one of the triumphs of public works that liberals ought to celebrate. But these plants require maintenance and, in some cases, replacement. Now imagine a regulatory scheme that stops construction of such plants because they would inevitably cause a rise in greenhouse emissions. Could you have an EPA that, through its attempts to regulate CO2, would cripple our ability to undertake projects that are necessary for public health and public safety? If you have doubts, you aren't really paying attention.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Back in town today -- we took a short family trip up to St. Cloud to get the kids wet at the big Holiday Inn up there. I haven't even looked at the blog or the web since Friday. I'm sure many important things have happened, but chances are you've already read about them elsewhere. A few quick thoughts to share:

  • Depending on the numbers you look at, there are about 165,000-170,000 people living in the St. Cloud area these days. I swear that there were at least 165,000 cars going down the roads in the confluence of Highways 15, 23 and 75, the area around the Holiday Inn and the Crossroads Center mall on Saturday afternoon. Traffic on those roads was every bit as bad as it is around Rosedale or some of the other malls in the Twin Cities. If there's been a lull in economic activity in St. Cloud, you could have fooled me.

  • There were a lot of kids at the hotel and my kids had a fine time splashing around the water -- they have two full-size pools and five pools altogether -- and playing games in the other recreation areas at the hotel. It's a nice trip from where we live, because we can get up there in less than an hour and yet it is decidedly out of town, even though you can still get the Twin Cities radio and television stations there.

  • I did get to watch a little of the NCAA basketball tournament over the weekend. While I'm disappointed that my beloved Marquette Warriors (I know, officially Golden Eagles but they'll always be the Warriors) and Wisconsin Badgers both got blown away in Boise today, the tournament has been its usual fun. And I am happy to tell you that I have 15 of the 16 teams in the Sweet Sixteen correct. And I have to give my son Ben a lot of credit for picking Cleveland State to beat Wake Forest in the first round. Brad Carlson posted his bracket and so far Ben and I are both beating Brad. But we'll see how it turns out.

  • I also saw the opening skit on Saturday Night Live. The comedians of the world sure seem afraid to make fun of Barack Obama.

  • I'm going to be making a few housekeeping changes to the blog in the next day or so. Stay tuned.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Actually, It's Not.

More Hope and Change from President Shecky. Take it away, Anchoress!

According to Jake Tapper, Obama and Leno talked bowling.

Towards the end of his approximately 40-minute appearance, the president talked about how he’s gotten better at bowling and has been practicing in the White House bowling alley.

He bowled a 129, the president said.

“That’s very good, Mr. President,” Leno said sarcastically.

It’s “like the Special Olympics or something,” the president said.

When asked about the remark, the White House had no comment.

Good grief. This guy is the Leader of the Free World? Back to you, Anchoress:

Perhaps President Obama, who received a rather tidy Book Advance just before he was sworn in, (does anyone else remember how Newt Gingrich got castigated for ‘using his office to sell a book’?) should donate some of the proceeds of his advance, say…I dunno, 90% - to the Special Olympics, to show he doesn’t really think that it’s okay to joke about “extra chromosome people” like Al Gore did (yes, I remember
everything). Or, at least, that he should not insult disabled people by comparing them to himself, or to political junkies, in general.

As a political junkie, I can say that.

Sigh. One almost gets tired of saying it, but one must say it, still: Can you IMAGINE what the press and the Dems would do with that, had Bush said it. Can you IMAGINE what the press and the Dems would have done with the Irish PM Teleprompter gaffe (the press has helpfully embargoed the video, so Obama doesn’t have to see it playing 24/7, as Bush would have - had Bush so gaffed). Can you IMAGINE what the press and the Dems would have done if Bush had given the Prime Minister of Great Britain a lousy pack of 50 “Classic” DVD’s that didn’t work in the UK?

Yes, I can imagine the uproar we'd hear if President Bush had comported himself in this way. I think we heard every malapropism that the man ever uttered -- Jacob Weisberg saw to it. Let's give Jake Tapper credit where due: he seems to understand that the job of a White House reporter is to provide information, not to serve as a member of a journalistic Praetorian Guard.

I have only two things to add. First, I have volunteered at Special Olympics events numerous times in my life. I'd recommend the experience to everyone, especially President Obama. Second, since I've been to these events, I can assure you that most Special Olympians are better bowlers than Barack Obama.

Oh, and go read the rest of the Anchoress's piece.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Guilty Pleasures Part Forty -- The Big Dance Party

Since everyone's talking about the Big Dance, let's look at some dancing. As always, my musical consultant Fearless Maria is in the house and she has helped me select some oddball stuff for your dancing pleasure. And Maria would like everyone to know that she has written a new post, which you can find right here. So go read it, okay? But wait until you're done with this one. We'll remind you about Maria's post later. Right, Maria?

You'd better, Dad. How about some music, okay?

Good point. As fans of this feature know, we are especially fond of go-go dancing. While we were looking for something else, we found this one, which shows some state-of-the-art go-go dancing done to one of the greatest Chuck Berry songs of all time. Check this out:

Hey Dad -- those girls swishing their hair back and forth will have a bad hairdo tomorrow. That's for sure!

Well Maria, there was a universal cure for bad hair in the 1960s. And if you don't have an ozone layer some day, you'll know whom to blame.

Meanwhile, we found this one. I'm not even sure who is singing this -- it might be a guy named Vigon, but it doesn't matter. It's a song that the Stones covered much later, but we're all about the dancing here and this is primo. I think this about 1967. Most excellent boots on this one.

As we entered the 70s, things got less free-form and more stylized. For example, this classic from the heart of darkness. It's our old pal, Van McCoy, suggesting that you "do it."

Maria, as a young lady of the new era, how do you feel about some of the, ahem, vintage fashion choices shown in that video?

If you ask me, those men and ladies are humiliating themselves and apparently don't know it. The freaky white baggy pants outfits look like bloomers from the 1800s, waaaay back! I am glad that the guys in this video were able to give their hats to the New Kids on the Block, though -- my teachers have told me that recycling is a good idea.

Good insight, Maria, although you should probably know that people in the 1970s weren't capable of feeling humiliation, for reasons that I'll explain to you when you get older. Put it this way -- there was a lot of behavior going around in those days that your teachers will warn you to avoid.

By the time we got to the 80s, disco had returned to the underground clubs from which it sprang and, truth be told, a lot of people didn't miss it very much. But there was dancing going on. It just didn't quite play out the same way. But I remember this one very well:

And if that didn't work, you could always do this:

And by the end of the decade, it started to get weirder, but at least we got Bootsy:

Any thoughts, Maria?

Weird is right, Dad! I like the last song, but what's with the weird outfits? Here's an idea: why don't you play this version of the song? Looks like a Cartoon Network dance party!

Works for me, Maria. Meanwhile, we'll stop the party here, because contemplating dancing in the 1990s is just too painful.

So pick yer poison. Any last thoughts, Maria?

This is why I take guitar lessons, Dad. That way I can play rock and avoid this stuff! And remember, you're supposed to read my new blog post, buddies!

Our President Is the Bomb

A breathtakingly dumb statement from the Commander in Chief:

“The same is true with AIG,” he said. “It was the right thing to do to step in. Here’s the problem. It’s almost like they’ve got — they’ve got a bomb strapped to them and they’ve got their hand on the trigger. You don’t want them to blow up. But you’ve got to kind of talk them, ease that finger off the trigger.”
Let's parse this statement a bit, shall we? President Obama says that AIG has a "bomb strapped to them and they've got their hand on the trigger." So they are terrorists, then? And the implication here is that the honchos at AIG willfully built a metaphorical bomb, strapped it to themselves and are now contemplating whether or not to pull the trigger. In other words, one could reasonably believe that the President of the United States is comparing the management of AIG to a terrorist organization. Wow.

And then let's look at the last part: "But you've got to kind of talk them, ease that finger off the trigger." If the AIG executives are the equivalent of suicide bombers, what on earth would you say to them? What sort of talking points are available for discussions with suicide bombers?

It would be desirable if Barack Obama would understand that he is the President of the United States and that when he speaks, each word has tremendous import. If I didn't know better, I'd be thinking that the President of the United States is a deeply irresponsible man. Trouble is, I don't know better.

Somewhere in Juneau, Sarah Palin sits in her office and laughs quietly to herself about all this.

A Good To-Do List (after the President returns from schmoozing Jay Leno, of course)

Did someone say Kabuki? From Stephen Spriuell at the Corner regarding AIG:

Ed Liddy sized up this situation when he got to AIG and came to the conclusion that the best course for taxpayers and for the financial system was to pay the bonuses. This gets back to something I wrote earlier: If Obama disagrees with Liddy's decision, he should either A) fire Liddy, or B) fire the guy who hired Liddy (Tim Geithner). What he should not do is go along with this Kabuki outrage, in which official Washington pretends it had no idea that big financial institutions — especially failing ones — might need to keep paying their top employees competitive salaries.

Of course, it would be nice if the Obama administration figured out a better way to wind down AIG, but unfortunately, as Rich pointed out the other day, Obama decided that it was far more important to do Great Society II than to formulate a set of clear rules for the orderly liquidation of insolvent non-bank financial institutions. I'm all for figuring out how to get the government out of AIG, but I don't think shaking our fists over these bonuses is getting us closer to a solution.

Whatever happens will have to wait until the President attends to more pressing matters, like appearing on the Tonight Show. No word on whether or not he'll be bringing any members of his Cabinet along to participate in a Very Special Episode of the "Jaywalk All Stars."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Good to Know Part 2

Barney Frank thinks John Boehner is partisan hack. That's saying something. It almost reminds me of what Triumph the Insult Comic Dog once said about Rob Reiner at a Friar's Club roast (obligatory content warning - not safe for work):

David Crosby thinks you've let yourself go.

Pretty Boys

Those 1982 Brewers were some good lookin' dudes!

Good to Know

CNN calls Christopher Dodd a liar. Scroll down to the second video and see it for yourself. You need a machete to hack through all the verbiage that the senator from Connecticut lets fly, but it's all there.

Darn glad that the reformers are in charge now, aren't you?

Reading Is Fundamental

They've been around since I was a kid. Reading Is Fundamental, or RIF, is a non-profit that advocates for children's literacy. Their very name makes a valid point. Too bad that Congress and President Obama don't seem to understand it.

I'm sure you've heard the caterwauling and high dudgeon surrounding the bonuses that various AIG hands are getting, even though their company is currently burning through federal bailout money at an amazing and alarming rate. Mr. Obama and the highly compromised Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Countrywide, Goldman Sachs, etc.) have been especially vocal in expressing disgust about this money going out.

Well, thought you ought to know that both Obama and Dodd specifically approved this expenditure in the stimulus bill. As the invaluable Jim Geraghty points out (H/T to the always-alert Instapundit):

Who in their right mind would codify in law that bonus payments to executives at bailed-out companies could not be prohibited?

Well, Chris Dodd.

From page H1412 of the Final Stimulus Bill, “SEC. 111. EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE:

'(iii) The prohibition required under clause (i) shall not be construed to prohibit any bonus payment required to be paid pursuant to a written employment contract executed on or before February 11, 2009, as such valid employment contracts are determined by the Secretary or the designee of the Secretary.”

So this is what happens when you draft a law and don't read it, and then sign it into law without reading it. The law explicitly allows through the bonuses that the AIG honchos received. As Paul Begala once said in a different context: "stroke of the pen, law of the land."

There's so much kabuki theater going on these days in Washington it's hard to sort out. The Obama administration seems to have channeled Joe Louis by developing a Bum of the Month Club -- first it was Rush Limbaugh, now it's the AIG execs. I'm sure they will have another scapegoat queued up for April. Maybe it will be you.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day

I noticed that our friend the Night Writer decided to recycle some earlier work for St. Patrick's Day, so I decided to steal the idea and recycle an older post, too. You should read Night Writer's post, which includes a highly amusing tale of mischief surrounding the extensive St. Patrick's Day revels at that well known bastion of Irishness, the University of Missouri-Rolla. No, really.

Night Writer went back three years for his post, and I'm going back 3 years as well. Back in 2006 this feature was in its infancy and I had a readership that on good days approached the high single digits, so I'd be willing to wager that nearly everyone who reads this blog now was otherwise engaged in those days.

Despite my highly Germanic surname, I am one-quarter Irish and therefore have the right to celebrate my ancestors from Counties Cork, Sligo and Wexford. In addition, my favorite dead poet is Yeats (my favorite living poet is this guy, of course), so I mused thus:

We return to William Butler Yeats, this time to his recounting of the events of Easter Rising of 1916:

I HAVE met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman's days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
A horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone's in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven's part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse -MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Yeats was celebrating the heroism of those Irish patriots who fought and died in the Easter Rising of 1916. He wrote this poem much later and it has the elegiac tone of man with many regrets. He even begrudgingly celebrates his enemy MacBride, the "drunken vainglorious lout" who had won the affections of the great love of Yeats' life, Maud Gonne.

I've known a lot of drunken vainglorious louts over the course my life, but my generation didn't face subjugation and the deathless hope that led these men to fight against a force they had no chance to defeat. The primary reason for this is simple enough: my Irish forebears had left long before and had come to America.

Much of the romanticism attached to Ireland stems from the almost endless supply of cruelty and misfortune the Irish have suffered, both at the hands of oppressors and through the disastrous choices that so many Irish have made in response to their circumstances. Like many Americans, my ancestors, bearing the surnames of Donovan and Murphy (among others), emerged from the coffin ships and found nurture in this new land, where their descendants have found better opportunities and better lives. They chose not to stand like MacDonagh and MacBride, Connolly and Pearse, but instead fled the darkness of the Emerald Isle. The irony is that they had to leave places like Wexford, Sligo, and Cork in order to experience the Luck of the Irish, understanding that Branch Rickey was right -- luck is the residue of design. On this St. Patrick's Day, I remain grateful for their sacrifices and the risks they took during their passage, so that I, their great-great-grandson, could enjoy a better life.

Three years on, that still seems right to me. Happy St. Patrick's Day.

We call the wind Soliah

We can assume that budget negotiations are going well and that state business is moving along swimmingly. Things must be in good shape if Governor Pawlenty has the time to spend grandstanding about the imminent return of Sara Jane Olson, a/k/a Kathleen Soliah, to Minnesota.

Let's stipulate that Soliah would need to take a dozen Dale Carnegie courses to rise to the level of pond scum. There is no doubt that her crimes as a member of the infamous Symbionese Liberation Army in the 1970s were horrible and that the murder of Myrna Opsahl was a particularly despicable crime. I also get that she was not exactly remorseful over the crimes she committed and that most of her champions are annoying self-congratulatory leftists.

Soliah has served her sentence. Her family lives here. If she causes any trouble, there's a phalanx of St. Paul cops who will be ready to whisk her off the pokey at a moment's notice. Unless there is a statutory reason that she should serve her parole in California, there's no good reason to keep her out of the state. The best way to deal with Kathleen Soliah is to let her fade into the obscurity she so justly deserves. And self-congratulatory proclamations from our side of the aisle are just as odious as they are from the Left.

Two caveats: if Soliah so much as makes a peep about politics, ridicule and scorn are very much in order. And if she attempts to market any memoir or another of her adventures in Jacobin cooking, all proceeds should go directly to the Opsahl family.

Monday, March 16, 2009

We Are (clap clap) the Hawks (clap clap)

Something to crow about, at least a little bit. My beloved alma mater, Xavier High School, has made it to the Wisconsin state basketball tournament in Madison for the first time. The mighty Hawks are 22-3 and will face the hated Monroe High School Cheesemakers on Friday in Madison. The picture shows our school's home floor, the Torchy Clark Gym. It seats about 1,500 people and it is one of the loudest places you will ever encounter.

While this is the first trip the Hawks have made to state with the public schools, for many years there was a private school champion crowned in Milwaukee. Back in those days, the old Wisconsin Independent Schools Athletic Association (WISAA) would crown champions a weekend or two before the public schools would crown their champions. Xavier won championships in 1963 and 1995 under the old system and now has a chance to add some public school hardware to the trophy cases. The 1963 squad featured Xavier's most famous alumnus, former Pittsburgh Steeler running back Rocky Bleier. We've also sent Greta Van Susteren to the larger world, for what that's worth.

During my high school years we went to the private school version of State every year. In those days the games were played at the old Milwaukee Arena (a/k/a the MECCA), which was the home court for Marquette University and the Milwaukee Bucks. It was a loud, proud old building and since the big-city schools in Milwaukee tended to dominate the event the crowds were usually pretty good. We would always bring good teams down there but in the end we would usually fall a bit short. But it was a lot of fun. I got to go every year and we often would stay at the old Plankinton Hotel, where we would set up Nerf basketball games in the hallway and (in later years) have a few cocktails. Since the drinking age was 18 in those days in Wisconsin, it was possible, especially senior year, to have a few drinks. But the drinking wasn't nearly as much fun as playing Nerf basketball in the hallway, especially if kids from other high schools would come down the hall to play with us, which happened a few times. And know this -- the kids from Manitowoc Roncalli did not have game.

One year we couldn't get into the Plankinton and we stayed at a Holiday Inn about a mile west of the arena. We were very confused when we saw some very oddly dressed African-American gentlemen coming down the hallway. It was an early brush with fame as we discovered we were sharing the hotel with the Ohio Players, who were in town for a show. You didn't see too many people like Sugar Bonner in Appleton, Wisconsin -- that much is certain. But once you got to Milwaukee, you never knew what might happen.

I'm happy that this generation of Xavier students gets to go to State. No matter what happens, the memories will endure. Even if they don't see the Ohio Players.

il miglior fabbro

AIG is much in the news and I was going to write something about it. But there's no need to because Bogus Doug has covered matters better than I could have. So go read what he has to say. I'll write about something else later, unless Doug beats me to it.

Bracket Time

Although my first and most enduring sporting love is baseball, there's no event that is more fun than the NCAA men's college basketball tournament. I don't really have time to an in-depth analysis of the field and since there are thousands of such analyses available all over the Internet, there's no reason for me to do so. But I do have a few thoughts on teams that I follow.

My childhood team was the Marquette Warriors of Al McGuire. Those teams were the most colorful road show in college basketball, with their nationwide roster and garish uniforms (gotta love the shiny gold lame shorts they wore in their run in 1977), but the thing that was interesting about them was that they were really a defensive-minded club. They didn't really blow too many teams out, but they would win games by 8-12 points, whether the opponent was Stetson or Notre Dame. After Al left MU went through a long, steady decline in the 1980s and 1990s, but lately they've been better. They made the Final Four in 2003 with Dwayne Wade and this year's squad was deep and talented. Then they lost a key player, guard Dominic James, and they lost a bunch of games down the stretch in the brutal Big East. There's no shame in losing to UConn, Pitt, Syracuse, Louisville and Villanova -- that was the gantelet that MU ran. They get Utah State first, a tough but winnable game. After that it gets harder.

The Badgers weren't really very good this year. They started out well, had a horrid stretch in the middle of the Big 10 season, then righted the ship and played pretty well. Still, they were a bubble team and deservedly so. They are in as a 12 seed against a deep and talented Florida State team. They will have a chance in that game but it won't be easy and I suspect they are one and done.

The Gophers are a year away, I think. They did very well this year because they have young talent and Tubby Smith is an excellent coach. Next year they get a major talent infusion and it would not surprise me at all if they win the Big 10 and have a deep tourney run. As for this year, Texas is a tough draw, but I think the Gophers have a pretty good chance to win. If Lawrence Westbrook gets hot, the Gophers are tough to beat.

For other views, see fellow hoopheads Brad and Stinger.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Three Card Pogey

I used to see them pretty regularly on the Congress El train in Chicago, on my way home to Oak Park. They'd set up shop in the back of a car, as far as possible from the conductor. There would always be the guy with the cards, a guy who would pretend to win and another guy, usually a row or two away, who would be on the lookout for CTA personnel or the occasional Chicago gendarme who might be riding back to his house on The Island, the neighborhood just south of the Eisenhower and east of Austin Boulevard where a lot of Chicago police officers and other city employees who were required to live in Chicago had homes.

The game was always the same. The dealer would be playing the cards and the so-called winner would be winning money by picking the right card. Eventually someone would let their greed and gullibility get the best of them and would ask if they could get in on the action. Of course they could play. The mark would sit down, win a hand or two but then something weird would happen and they'd be out the money they'd won and whatever else the stake had been initially. Usually it wasn't a lot of money -- $10 or $20, but the occasional refugee from Happy Hour would keep playing and would eventually go home out $100 or so and needing an excuse for the wife. You can't win in the game, of course.

I don't suspect that Larry Pogemiller is a card sharp, but his victims in the Minnesota Senate are certainly easy marks. The proposal came down last week from the Democratic leadership indicated that the powerful teacher's union lobby was actually going to get nicked a bit. Pogey said that up to $1 billion (with a b) of funding would be cut. As the breathless dispatch from Minnesota Public Radio had it:

What is most notable is that Senate Democrats are proposing $1 billion in cuts to early childhood education and K thru 12 schools. K-12 funding is required under the Minnesota Constitution and lawmakers have been reluctant to cut those programs for fear of angering voters. Senate Education Finance Chair Leroy Stumpf, of Plummer, said the depth of the budget problem, along with a sputtering economy, mean all programs have to be on the table.

Early childhood education and K-12 spending are sacred in Minnesota. It was extraordinary that the Democrats would actually propose cuts. It was a real Nixon to China sort of thing.

If the Republicans were smart, they would have immediately recognized this as a ploy and would have pocketed the proposal as the baseline number for more cuts. A clever Republican would have said something like "we welcome this long overdue proposal to bring fiscal sanity to our education system. We'll work to ensure that these painful budgetary changes do not impact the students in the classroom and we'll then pursue existing innovations like Q-Comp to ensure that the best teachers are rewarded for their performance."

As we are too often reminded, Republicans are not smart. Governor Pawlenty immediately followed his baser instincts and tried to outflank the Democrats to their left:

"They're using a robotic approach to budgeting which is across the board approaches when we should be prioritizing," Pawlenty said. "Some things are more important than others. That's why we said even in these challenging economic times we'd put more money into education, not less."

T-Paw's motives are primarily focused on two things: winning the news cycle and keeping Q-Comp, which attempts to bring merit pay to the salary structure in education, on line. Tom Dooher and the rest of his droogs at Education Minnesota HATE Q-Comp. Really, really hate it. They want it gone and because the DFL is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Education Minnesota, Larry Pogemiller and the rest of his friends in the Legislature want it gone, too.

Here's what's going to happen. Now that T-Paw, Geoff Michel and the rest of the geniuses who run the Republican Party have ruled out cuts for education, the DFL will groan and suggest other ways to reduce expenditures. I can guarantee you that Q-Comp will be the first thing they cut. And in the endgame that results, they will win. The Democrats will make the choice pretty simple -- if you want to keep Q-Comp, then you will agree to tax clothing in the state. No Tax T-Paw, now boxed in, will have no choice but to kill Q-Comp in order to protect the taxpayers. Education Minnesota will get all the money they want and after the pliant news media around the state publish reports from either the Humphrey Institute (or some other coven along the Mississippi) that show that Q-Comp is ineffective, it will be gone.

But look on the bright side. Tom Dooher and his friends will have so much money after the budget is passed that we'll be able to enjoy another spate of victory lap television ads on the 10 o'clock news. And the KARE Bears and WCCO need that revenue because the car dealers don't have any money to spend on ads these days. It's a win-win!

I do hope that the next ad I see with Dooher on it is filmed in a Chicago El car. That would be truth in advertising.

Cross-posted at Truth vs. the Machine and True North

res ipsa loquitur 031509 (but with quotes)

Someone better tell Jon Stewart that irony is dead. The money quotes:

It really is a silly campaign. What are we saying ‘no’ to? Trillions in new spending? An unpopular, earmark-laden bill that the President himself was embarrassed to sign? A new national energy tax? Releasing Gitmo terrorists into the U.S.? We’d like to thank them for reminding the American people that we are saying ‘no’ to those things.

and this:

[W]hat the Democrats don’t want to reveal in all of this is that they don’t need the GOP to pass any of their legislation. They own the government. It’s theirs. Success and failure is all theirs to hold. This is the goal that they’ve spent most of the last eight years trying to reach. And now that they have?

They’re scared.

Read the rest. (H/T: Instapundit)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bombo Rivera!

Why? You even have to ask why?

We Must Be in the Blue Period

Michael Ramirez over at Investors' Business Daily is a great political cartoonist. This is why.

(H/T: Powerline)

50B Recap

We had the House District 50B Republican BPOU convention this morning at Christ the King Lutheran Church in New Brighton. 35 total delegates came to the event and we have now established our leadership team for the next two years.

The new BPOU chair is Nick Quade, an energetic and enthusiastic young conservative who currently serves with the Ramsey County Conservation District. Nick is an extremely bright and principled fellow and he understands well the challenges that are ahead of him. The rest of the board is a mixture of veterans and newcomers, including Deputy Chair Tim Kocon, Secretary Michelle Quade and the invaluable Bev Aplikowski, who returns for another stint as treasurer. The 8 vice chairs include outgoing BPOU Chair Gerry Tietz, Gina Bauman, Doug Blomberg, April King, Glenn Kluthe, Garry Lysiak, James Sculthorp and Lion Templin. Gina currently serves on the New Brighton City Council and Doug and James have been longtime stalwarts in the BPOU.

It's a good leadership group with a mix of veterans and enthusiastic newcomers. I would expect the message that 50B Republicans deliver to our fellow citizens will be one of principled, well-thought out conservatism. That is what is required and this feature will do its part to ensure that the message gets out there. While recent election cycles have been difficult for Republicans, we are in a position to hold our opponents accountable for their performance. The challenge ahead is to identify and prepare candidates who can take our message to our fellow citizens and to strengthen the organization that these candidates will need to help them deliver the message. That work begins now.

Cross-posted at True North

Friday, March 13, 2009

Theme for 50B

The instructor said,

Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you---
Then, it will be true.

Langston Hughes, "Theme for English B"

I've always been particularly fond of this poem, even though my experience growing up in a prosperous town in Wisconsin is quite different from the experience of the protagonist of the Hughes poem, a young black man from Winston-Salem growing up with Jim Crow. One of the reasons that I blog is the idea that it's important to go home and write a page. It's not always easy and there are times, as has been the case this week, where it's easier to post pictures of Eraserhead or go back to the well for music posts repeatedly. Sometimes iTunes can tell stories that you aren't able to muster yourself.

It's been especially hard to write about politics. It's not as if there's any lack of material -- with the Democrats in power, there are any number of outrages and inanites available for even the laziest conservative to skewer. There's not a lot of joy in it, however. The blogosphere is so full of would-be Zolas screeching "J'accuse" that it starts to feel like the aviary at the Milwaukee Zoo, which I always remembered as a place filled with macaws at full throat, a ghastly wall of noise that would leave my ears ringing for days afterward.

We conservatives are doing a lot of screeching these days, but a lot of it is pretty damned incoherent. One of the lies I tell myself is that somehow conservatives, by their nature, are less emotional and more reasoned than our liberal friends. The reason it's ultimately a lie is pretty simple -- a lot of conservatives these days are operating out of emotion.

Many of the emotions are understandable and heartfelt. I was at a meet and greet for the 50B BPOU last night and when you listened to the people who were in the room, the anger and frustration were palpable. There was anger toward the Obama administration, anger toward the Republican Party, anger toward the news media and genuine fear that the people in power are taking the country places that we will regret. I feel all those things, too. I've been convinced for a long time that Barack Obama is going to be a disaster and nothing he's done so far has dissuaded me of that view. It drives me nuts that so many Republican Party operatives are more interested in self-promotion than in trying to build and sustain a principled political movement with a coherent governing philosophy. It all makes perfect sense.

But emotion cannot win the fight that conservatives now face. It's going to take serious, principled stands on the issues and a willingness to take the time to explain why conservative principles are better. It's well-nigh impossible to explain Edmund Burke with a Twitter feed, especially since so many Republicans have lately set principle aside for reasons of expedience. But we have to find a way to make our case. And that means we need to unite.

It's going to take time and effort. We need to start at the bottom and build. The 50B BPOU meets at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning at Christ the King, on 7th Street in New Brighton. The BPOU is where things will begin. Most conservatives understand that the Republican Party is at best an imperfect vessel, but it's the vessel we have. We can only build for the future if we make the foundation for our efforts strong enough.

I write this page because it comes out of me. That is my Theme for 50B. See you tomorrow morning.

Cross-posted at True North

Radio Free Dilettante – Friday the 13th Edition

Posted mostly to annoy Gino, of course. Interestingly, a lot of instrumentals in the first group.

Last Five:
Groovin', Booker T. & the MG's
Embryonic Journey, Jefferson Airplane
Philly Dog, The Mar-Keys
The House That Jack Built, Aretha Franklin
The In Crowd, Ramsey Lewis

Next Five:
It's Wonderful, The Rascals
Land of 1,000 Dances, Wilson Pickett
Wild Mountain Honey, Steve Miller Band
Land of Confusion, Genesis
Meeting Across the River, Bruce Springsteen

Never seen together in the same room

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Eraserhead.

Cheap, easy and satisfying!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Closed Circuit to Mills

Happy birthday, good sir! Make sure to tune into WHPW later on today for another edition of the W-I-S-A-A REPORT!!!! It immediately follows "Aboard the Reading Rocket" with Miss Sandy and Rocko. Check local listings....

res ipsa loquitur 031209

Norm Coleman's campaign donor database was hacked and then posted on the Internet. Powerline offers one perspective on the matter; the ever-cogent commenters over at MDE offer another. Feel the love.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Guilty Pleasures Part Thirty-Nine: Teen Pop Sensations, as chosen by Fearless Maria out of Gino's Personal Record Collection

Our friend Gino was concerned that we were running out of ideas for posts here at Mr. Dilettante. While that hardly seems likely, sometimes you have to dig deep to get some traction. While Gino was in the hospital last year, he foolishly gave me the keys to his old blog, Such is Life. Among the "contributions" that I made to his blog was to take a survey of Gino's record collection. Gino may not have noticed, but I actually made some electronic copies of some of his other favorite songs, just in case my inspiration was flagging. I have consulted with a musical expert and my partner in crime, my daughter Fearless Maria, and we have chosen from Gino's vast collection a few especially happenin' tunes for your dining and dancing pleasure this evening. Remember, these are Gino's favorite songs, so be gentle in your observations.

Maria, what do we have first?

Well Dad, I'd like to start out with teen sensation Bobby Sherman! I heard that back in the day, people used to say, "Peace, Love and Bobby Sherman!" Sounds groovy, Dad. Isn't it boss? You said stuff like that when you were a kid, right? So anyway, here is the man himself, Mr. Bobby Sherman!

Dad tells me that Gino still has an outfit just like what Bobby Sherman is wearing. Nice neckwear, Gino! Is that an ascot or your old kerchief from the Cub Scouts?

Anyway, that's enough of Bobby Sherman. Let's move on to a 70s freak. I heard that some of Dad's sisters liked this guy. I'm not quite sure why, but maybe they can explain it some time. But what's really weird is that Gino likes this guy so much. He's Shaun Cassidy!

Da doo run run? No, Gino, run for your life! I really like the beginning part, when Shaun does his Miles Davis imitation and turns his back to the audience! Miles Davis and Shaun Cassidy, together for the first time ever? Not only in a song, but probably in a sentence!

So far, I gotta say that Gino's record collection is pretty lame. Now I know that a lot of people really liked this next guy. He could fix you up in the hospital and sing to you afterwards. Dad, was Gino in General Hospital? Maybe he saw this guy, the singing doctor dude, Rick Springfield!

At least he dresses a little better than Bobby Sherman. That's something, huh Dad? And that song isn't quite as lame, either. Less "do" in it than the first two songs!

Dad, I'm not so sure about Gino's record collection. Are there any better songs than this?

I don't know, Maria. So far, I have to agree, this stuff is pretty lame. Try this one and see what you think. These guys are called the New Kids on the Block, but it's been a pretty long time since they were new.

Dad, these guys are pretty lame, too! What's up with the hats, anyway? And the dancing -- looks like they are going flip on their head and crack it open like a melon! And that might be an improvement!

Dad, enough of this. I'm taking us out of all this old guy junk that Gino loves so much and it's time to kick it up a notch. Kick it new school. Like this one!

Gino, you should get this one! Nobody's Perfect! And your record collection proves that Hannah Montana is right!

And now it's time for these folks. They are huge right now, too! This is from Camp Rock -- no, not a Boy Scout camp where you would wear your Bobby Sherman kerchief, Gino! Check it out!

No, not Play That Funky Music, Gino! Try to keep up! These guys just played at the White House for Sasha and Malia! I don't think the Play That Funky Music guys could even get past the security gate. Dad made me put that link in. It's pretty stupid if you ask me!

Okay, vote for something now. Mom says I need to go to bed right away!

Thanks for loaning us your records, Gino! Mighty sporting of you.

Radio Free Dilettante 031109

Last Five:

Fire, Ohio Players
White Moon, The White Stripes
Operator, Jim Croce
Red River Rock, Johnny & the Hurricanes
Lovely Rita, The Beatles

Next Five:

Keep-a-Knockin', Little Richard
Kiko and the Lavender Moon, Los Lobos
The Lady Is a Tramp, Frank Sinatra
Mighty Love, The Spinners
Slave to Love, Bryan Ferry

Something that just occurred to me

Some of William Shatner's line readings on "T. J. Hooker" would have worked very well on Twitter.

"She came here with stars in her eyes and left with a bullet in her chest."

"Ethics and morals are living together in a trailer park on the wrong side of the tracks."

The Local

We spend a lot of time worrying about what happens in Washington, but what happens in St. Paul usually will have a greater impact on how you live your life. Two quick thoughts on that:

  • I went to a town hall meeting that our local representative Kate Knuth held last weekend. I've been critical of Kate for a variety of reasons and will remain so. Having said that, I certainly can understand why (a) she has support in this community and (b) it will be difficult to beat her any time soon. The reason has less to do with Kate than with the cross-section of the community that showed up at this meeting. There were about 40 people in the room. We all introduced ourselves and explained why we were there. Of the 40 people in the room, probably 30 were essentially mendicants. They came here for benefits, they need this government blandishment, they are worried about this program or that program. Besides myself and another friend or two of this feature, there were maybe only a handful of others in the room who are more worried about what government can take away from you than what it can give you. And that is the challenge -- the medicants and clients of the state will always be there, will always vote and will always support earnest young suppliers of government largesse like Kate Knuth. The people who end up paying for such things are usually too busy working to attend town hall meetings.

  • Which brings us to the matter of politics at the local level. Conservatives are going through a period of navel gaving right now and there's a lot of skepticism about the Republican Party, and with good reason. It is frustrating to deal with the Arne Carlsons and the Tony Bennetts of the world, who call themselves Republicans but often act in ways that are indistinguishable from Democrats. They get by with it for a simple reason: they show up. We're in BPOU season right now and that means it's time for local conservatives to make their voices heard. The best way to do that is to get involved at the local level. The 50B BPOU will take place on Saturday at 9 a.m. at Christ the King, which is on 7th Street NW in New Brighton, a few blocks east of Silver Lake Road. We'll decide who will lead the Republican Party at a local level at that meeting. If you want things to change, you need to start in a place where your voice can be heard. The 50B BPOU is just such a place.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

res ipsa loquitur 031009

Bogus Doug explains the sucking maw of AIG. And from the U.K., columnist Janet Daley discusses opportunism on both sides of the pond (H/T: Powerline).

Monday, March 09, 2009

Fish and Chip Paper

You better speak up now if you want your piece

You better speak up now

It won't mean a thing later

Yesterday's news is tomorrow's fish and chip paper

-- Elvis Costello

I'm not sure where we're going to get our fish and chip paper in the future. Time Magazine has come out with a list of the "10 Major Newspapers That Will Either Fold or Go Digital Next" and look who's number 2 on the list:

2. The Minneapolis Star Tribune has filed for Chapter 11. The paper may not make money this year, even without the costs of debt coverage. The company said it made $26 million last year, about half of what it made in 2007. The odds are that the Star Tribune will lose money this year if its ad revenue drops another 20%. There is no point for creditors to keep the paper open if it cannot generate cash. It could become an all-digital property, as supporting a daily circulation of more than 300,000 is too much of a burden. It could survive if its rival, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, folds. A grim race.

I've written about this subject before and it's not necessary to rehearse the grim details, but it is jarring to see that a paper that has over 300,000 subscribers might simply disappear. Depending on which numbers you look at, the Star Tribune is one of the top 20 newspapers in the country in circulation. But it's a very sick paper indeed and Time is likely correct that if the paper doesn't make money, it will disappear sooner than later.

It's possible that the future for the Star Tribune will be online, but I'm not certain how that revenue model will work. The Wall Street Journal has been able to charge for online content because it provides valuable information that is awfully difficult to find elsewhere. I don't suspect that an online Star Tribune would be able to do that, so it would have to depend on advertising revenue. The Christian Science Monitor has now gone to an all-digital format and seems to be hanging in there, but it has institutional support that the Star Tribune ultimately lacks. It would be competing against some of the local online publications, which are fairly dicey. I don't doubt that a sufficiently funded Star Tribune would have little trouble brushing aside something like the MinnPost, but it's difficult to see how it could continue long-term without a patron.

As for the Pioneer Press, it's difficult to see how it would benefit from its larger rival's demise. The Pi Press has long been a place that produced excellent journalism, but only sporadically. It has never been able to gain much of a toehold on the other side of the Mississippi and I can't envision the current ownership being willing to invest the money and effort needed to make it anything more than it is now.

So what will the future of journalism in the Twin Cities look like if the Star Tribune folds? I have a few ideas and I'll be sharing them with you in the coming days.