Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Four Flusher

You go away for a few days and miss out on all the fun.

I now understand that Brett Lorenzo Agonistes de la Mancha Favre decided that it would be better to stay away and not join the lovely and talented Brad Childress and his merry band of purple helmeted love warriors in exotic Mankato. Instead, ol' number 4 will remain retired, collecting his pay from Sears, Wrangler and any other marketer that values attention whores.

My. Perhaps that was too harsh?

History is littered with examples of how untrammelled egos can cause tremendous trouble for other people. Now that the saga appears to be over, at least for the moment, let's look at the winners and the losers. As it happens, the winners are in rather short supply.

Loser: Brad Childress and the Viking Brain Trust (and I use that term loosely). It always struck me as passing strange that a professional football team would let someone who isn't even willing to commit to joining the team have as much influence as Favre was able to have over the Vikings. What does it say about an organization that it would go through such contortions just to get a 39-year old quarterback to sign, only to be rebuffed when the time for a decision actually arrived? These cool, calm professionals got played. Big time. Oh, and good luck with that stadium you want, boys.

Loser: ESPN. How many reporters were on the Favre beat? You had Chris Mortenson, John Clayton, Ed Werder and a Greek chorus of reporterettes and reporteroids decamped in and around Hattiesburg, Mississippi, one of the premier summer vacation destinations extant, watching a 39-year old man throwing footballs with a high school team. Every time the great man broke wind, you'd see it reported on the crawl. Favre had his own freaking category, making him the equal of Major League Baseball, the Tour de France and just about everything else that actually happened over the summer. How much time and effort was expended on what eventually turned out to be a non-story? How many text messages, tweets and breathless dispatches did we hear from the worthies who populate the ESPN roster, all amounting to nothing? On the bright side, Favre coverage was fairly circumspect on ESPN Deportes.

Loser: Local Media and Fox 9. If ESPN got played, so did every media outlet in the Twin Cities. All the breathless hype that was expended, the Star Tribune web page -- gone, just like that. And how does Fox 9, which carries the Vikings games, now feel? In order to air the Vikings games, they will likely have to purchase thousands of tickets each week, especially in an economy where it is highly unlikely that a corporate angel will agree to pay thousands of dollars to the Vikings so that we can all enjoy the continuing saga of Sage Rosenfels. Sometimes a balloon simply deflates. This thing is Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Loser: Brett Lorenzo Favre. I will stipulate that as a lifelong Packer fan, I am deeply grateful to Mr. Favre for his often-stellar play over a 16+ year period. The Packers, from the end of the Lombardi era through the arrival of ol' number 4, were many things. Most of all, they were boring. Even the fun teams and the fun years were in the end pretty dreary. Favre changed all that. Had Favre simply walked away at the end of the 2007 season, he'd be remembered as one of the all-time greats, a guy with an unrivaled determination to play, to win and to entertain. After his ultimately desultory season with the Jets and this third-rate romance with the Vikings, his national reputation is now something rather different. Memories will fade and eventually Canton will call. Perhaps all will be forgiven. But that's not the way to bet.

Winner: Ted Thompson. You tell me -- would you rather be the Vikings brain trust right now, or would rather be the Packers brain trust? Aaron Rodgers played well last year as Favre's replacement. While the team took a stumble last year due to defensive lapses, the pieces are in place for a much better performance in 2009. Ted Thompson may be a dull technocrat, but the Favre saga is now well into the rearview mirror for the Green and Gold. Some 300 miles to the west, not so much.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

res ipsa loquitur 072809

Yet another example of why they are the "Paper of Record."

Late breaking news: Iowahawk is still a genius.

Chin up, Vikings fans: if you get tired of waiting for Favre, there's always an alternative.

I'm leaving town today to spend some time with my son up at Boy Scout camp in bear- and tick-infested northwestern Wisconsin. Back on Thursday.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Radio Free Dilettante — Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent Edition

Heading for scout camp tomorrow....

First Five:
Confessin' the Blues, Chuck Berry
Spanish Rose, Van Morrison
Gimme Shelter, Rolling Stones
You Make Loving Fun, Fleetwood Mac
The Road's My Middle Name, Bonnie Raitt

Next Five:
Age of Consent, New Order
Burning With Optimism's Flames, XTC
Nobody's Sweetheart, Chet Atkins
On a Plain, Nirvana
Selfless, Cold and Composed, Ben Folds Five

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Guilty Pleasures Part Fifty -- Food Groups, Bad Suits and Playing the Fool in 1972

It's been a while but I've finally been able to track down Fearless Maria so we can do another Guilty Pleasures.

Yes, yes, I have a very busy schedule. Do not bother me from hours 1-4. Just kidding, Dad!

Well, I'll take that under advisement. So I thought that for today, we could look back at the year I turned 9, 1972. Maria, you are 9 years old right now.

9 and a half, Dad. Ha!

Good point. Anyway, did you ever wonder what the world looked like when I was 9?

Yeah, but I hope that it wasn't filled with bad suits like the rest of the 1970s were!

I'm guessing you're going to be very disappointed in the clothing choices, Maria.

I'm getting used to that, Dad. So what did you find in the compost area today?

Well, you're probably right, Maria. Most of these suits probably belonged in the compost pile, but I'm guessing that they will survive even nuclear attack, based on their high content of industrial-strength polyester.

Just as long as they're buried, Dad. Deep in the ground. In a coffin, even!

Well, we can start out with someone who unfortunately did die recently, Michael Jackson. I'm pretty sure he wasn't buried in this suit, though. This one goes out for your brother Ben, who is busy fending off bears at Tomahawk Scout Camp.

Ben, you're always running here and there. Getting chased round camp by big black bears!

And if you look behind and don't like what you find, you'll know it's a big hairy black bear! Roar!

Very nice, Maria. But what about the song itself?

Nice, but the suit that shouldn't have left the compost pile. It sort of looks like a banana with a handkerchief wrapped around it. Anyway, who is the Ben that Michael is singing about?

Would you believe that the Ben in this song is a pet rat?

Cool! Maybe the pet rat could get eaten by the bears! Maybe we shouldn't tell Ben that his song is about a rat, huh? His Chinese symbol is a pig!

Well, I don't think Michael Jackson sang any songs about pigs. Anyway, shall we move on?

Remember, we weren't going to pick that one, Maria.

Oh, you're right. Sorry, Dad!

Ahem. Anyway, as we were saying. Here's one of the big hits of 1972, an enduring classic from Al Green. Hard to go too far wrong with this one, I think:

I know what I'd say to Al Green, Dad! We could stay together, but you shouldn't stay together with that awful suit you're wearing! It looks like you cornered the plaid suit collectibles market with that thing! Dad, how many plaids had to die to make that suit? I hope Al Green wasn't a plaid dad! How sad!

Channelling Dr. Suess again, Maria?

Yes, I am Maria, bla-dia. Hee-hee-he-ya? More comments? See ya!

I don't think I even want to understand what brought that on. Anyway, I'm going to do something daring here and risk the wrath of the ever-vigilant Eric Carmen Fan Club. I'm bringing back a song I discussed over a year ago, but that fits the 1972 thing really well. This song was a big hit for the Raspberries, seen here in a performance on the old Mike Douglas Show. Here they are, offering to:

So how do you like those raspberries, Maria?

The main singer looks more like a grape than a raspberry, Dad! What's with the purple? Shouldn't they be wearing magenta or something? And the hair? Nice tomboy style! And why does he keep calling for his mama mama mama? Maybe he needs to change his shirt? Or his diaper! And what's the deal with Joe Namath and Billie Jean King? I thought you told me they were athletes, Dad!

Yes, but for some reason they were on the show with the Raspberries.

Maybe they should have been wearing a raspberry beret!

That came later, my dear. Anyway, let's move on. Time for a little fun from Soul Train. First, let's look at this song, from The Main Ingredient:

Dad, you know what is one of the main ingredients in a suit?

No, Maria, what is it?

Buttons! How come these guys don't seem to have any buttons on their shirts? And by the way, what's with the host on Soul Train?

You mean Don Cornelius, the guy who introduces the music?

Yeah, him! He has a bad suit like Herb on WKRP, Michael Jackson's Afro and Harry Potter's glasses! Those are the main ingredients of a fashion disaster. It should have been left on the mannequin!

But did you like the song, Maria?

Well, yes. But if they're going to wear those suits, they're the ones playing the fool, Dad! And plus when they wear those suits they're not the Main Ingredient. They shouldn't even be in the dish! Let's hope that's not the appetizer!

Well, since you seemed to enjoy that one so much, let's try another. Here's more Don Cornelius, this time introducing his favorite band the O'Jays, as they sing:

Ouch! That hurt!

What hurt, Maria?

Looking at those suits is just like getting stabbed in the back, Dad! It's what they do. They smile in your face, then wear suits that are a disgrace, the O'Jays, O'Jays! And did they ever sell orange juice, Dad?

Not to me they didn't, Maria. We always got our orange juice delivered from Bud the Orange Juice guy when we were kids. Ask Uncle Paul about that.

Okay. I'll make sure I do that. So Dad, you know what's really good about this contest?

No, what Maria?

That you didn't pick this one, this one or this one. And definitely not this one!

Well, the Argent song isn't that bad. The video is dull. But the others are pretty dire.

But you can pick one of the others. Just place your vote in the comment section. And the title says it all -- in 1972 you had bad suits and food groups, so everyone was playing the fool!

Let's Hear It for El Niño

As I've noted before, it's been a very cool summer here in the lovely upper Midwest. That doesn't necessarily have anything to do with short- or long-term trends with the weather.

Then again, there's new evidence that human activity doesn't, either:

Because El Niño−Southern Oscillation is known to exercise a particularly strong influence in the tropics, we also compared the SOI with tropical temperature anomalies between 20°S and 20°N. The results showed that SOI accounted for 81% of the variance in tropospheric temperature anomalies in the tropics. Overall the results suggest that the Southern Oscillation exercises a consistently dominant influence on mean global temperature, with a maximum effect in the tropics, except for periods when equatorial volcanism causes ad hoc cooling. That mean global tropospheric temperature has for the last 50 years fallen and risen in close accord with the SOI of 5–7 months earlier shows the potential of natural forcing mechanisms to account for most of the temperature variation.

So is it our old pal El Niño, or is it your SUV, you big ol' carbon footprint tromping rat bastard? These researchers strongly suggest that it's not you, or your SUV.

So if this research is correct, do we need cap and trade and other draconian measures that are being demanded suggested? Don't know the answer for sure. But as with everything that the Obama administration proposes, I'd suggest two things:

1) Be skeptical, especially when you sense you are being stampeded to a result.

(H/T: Yid with Lid, which has lots more)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A hunch

Can't prove this, but I swear that if you look at the way Brett Favre has comported himself, one could conclude that he's actually still working for the Packers as an agent provocateur. The reports that he now has various Viking players begging for him to come, and the apparent distress that this is causing the incumbent Viking quarterbacks, indicates that this whole sordid saga is really sowing the seeds for a train wreck in Vikingland later this year.

My sense is that Brad Childress decided over the offseason that he wasn't going to let Tarvaris Jackson get him fired, which is why he first got Sage Rosenfels, and now has been playing the ardent suitor to Favre. The irony? Childress might be setting himself up for a scenario where Brett Favre gets him fired instead, no matter whether Favre crosses the Rubicon/St. Croix or not.

What do you think? Oh, and by the way, no matter how this shakes out, the Packers will still have the best quarterback in the NFC North this year.

Iowahawk Remains a Genius

You should know that by now, though. He turns over his space to Sen. Kennedy this time:

The statistics are sobering: the cost of American health care is rising almost as fast as the cold, briny water bubbling up from our floorboards. So far we have already lost the 8-track player and several Vic Damone tapes, and if allowed to continue these trends threaten to engulf all of us within the Oldsmobile. We must quickly wake up and face the facts: inaction is no longer an option. That is why it is critical for the future of all the occupants that one of us swim off and get us some kind of free health care program.

As always, read the whole thing.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I Just Want to Calibrate

There are certain things you'd expect an adult to know. Especially an adult who happens to be Leader of the Free World.

For example: you know what's really not a smart idea? Insulting police officers. Professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates learned that the hard way when he got arrested recently at his home in Cambridge, Mass. And President Obama seems to be learning it now, after he blithely said that he thought the police involved in the Gates incident acted "stupidly." Now he's offered the non-apology apology:

"This has been ratcheting up, and I obviously helped to contribute ratcheting it up," Obama said of the racial controversy. "I want to make clear that in my choice of words, I think I unfortunately gave an impression that I was maligning the Cambridge Police Department and Sgt. Crowley specifically. And I could've calibrated those words differently."

So what the hell does "calibrated" mean, anyway? Were the controls off on his teleprompter?

Word to the wise, Mr. President: if you don't know all the facts about an issue, fight the urge to opine on it. It's easy for a penny-ante blogger like me to opine and bloviate, because my words ultimately don't mean much. But when you are the President of the United States, every word you utter gets great scrutiny. The backbencher days are over.

Will Obama figure this out? Put it this way: he'd better. The thing is, there's ample reason to doubt that he will any time soon, for reasons our friend Doug Williams explains quite nicely:

Before seeking the presidency, Obama's experience in government was hardly impressive. He was never an important legislator at any level. His well established history of voting "present" in the Illinois legislature seems to be the best characterization of a legislative career that one could charitably call "undistinguished." His private sector experience was even worse. Unless you count his years spent as a "community organizer," which should more accurately be seen as his first step on the rung of the famously corrupt Chicago political machine, his experience amounts to a brief and unremarkable stint teaching constitutional law after serving as an editor of the Harvard Review (despite which he curiously never had a single article of his own published).

His list of accomplishments across all levels of endeavor reads rather impressively... if he were applying for admission to a liberal arts college. It's fantastically inadequate as a background for the leader of the free world.

But guess what? He's our President. So we'd better hope he starts figuring things out. And as always, go read Doug's piece in full.

Got bored, so

I changed the color of the blog again -- keeping the header green in solidarity with the still-simmering masses of Iran, yearning to breathe free. Otherwise, I think this should be easier to read than the green and gold scheme we had up recently.

Better? Worse? Meh? Lemme know.

Narratives Are Hard Sometimes

As we continue to examine Barack Obama's boffo performance on Wednesday, one thing slipped my attention. I had always thought that the principal problem with the medical industry was the evil insurance companies, or so I've been told.

Obama gave us another enemy on Wednesday night -- doctors themselves, especially those evil tonsil-taking doctors. And the proprietor of the blog Rightwing Czar noticed:

Hasn’t Obama been telling us this whole time that it is the big bad insurance companies that are causing the problems in health care? Aren’t they the ones that are making record profits and tying the hands of doctors in giving good patient care?

That's what I thought, too. Which is why the president's bizarre rant about tonsils was so revealing. Back to you, RW Czar:

But the President might have accidently revealed his hand last night when he started talking about doctors trying to make money. He is clearly saying that he does not want doctors making decisions about patient care because they are only interested in profit. If Obama believes that doctors can’t be trusted to make good decisions about what a patient really needs, then why should we believe him when he says he wants to make sure that it is doctors who make those decisions?

An excellent question. One would hope that we get an answer to that question in the coming days. That's not the way to bet, though.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bad Amateur Pundit (but not really) - Now, with Update!

Missed the Obamafest on television last night -- was at my son's baseball game (they won 16-10, by the way) instead. I'm sure that someone else will provide exhaustive coverage of the what the president said.

I did see a 3-minute clip of him here. In it, he says three really risible things:

1) Removing the profit motive will lead to better results
2) Doctors are deciding to remove tonsils because of fee schedules instead of prescribing medication
3) What he is proposing is what the Mayo Clinic is doing.

I assume that anyone who hasn't spent most of their adult life on a university campus can understand why the first point is risible. The second is silly; a tonsillectomy used to be a very common event but these days very few are performed, precisely because doctors are using increasing effective medications to handle most similar issues, all without Obama's interference. The last is silly because the Mayo Clinic has already come out against the Obama plan, to the extent that it (or anyone else, including Obama) can understand what's actually in it.

Go ahead watch the clip on the attached link and see if (a) I misrepresented what he said or (b) if I missed anything else.

Update: the Associated Press takes stock of a few of our President's assertions. My favorite:

OBAMA: "You haven't seen me out there blaming the Republicans."

THE FACTS: Obama did so in his opening statement, saying, "I've heard that one Republican strategist told his party that even though they may want to compromise, it's better politics to 'go for the kill.' Another Republican senator said that defeating health reform is about 'breaking' me."
You'd like to think that he'd realize that he's no longer a backbencher and that people pay great attention to the things he says. I'm not sure he does. And again, I remind you of Professor Althouse's quite sensible point:

The Democrats have dumped a drastic, complicated health care bill on us and they are ramming it through before we can even figure it out. That's what matters, not the fact that the party out of power is squawking about it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

We Can Be Like They Are

The health-care debate gets increasingly acrimonious as people start to focus on the details. President Obama will be back on the air tonight for yet another attempt at moving the ball forward. Don't know if he'll have much luck; as Mickey Kaus asked recently:

Hmm. When was the last time a President's campaign-style attempt to sell a policy has actually succeeded in selling the policy? I can't remember it. I can remember lots of flops (e.g.,Bush on Social Security). Traditional trips to non-Beltway places like Cleveland get heavily filtered by the media, for example. Prime time news conferences don't get huge ratings, right?. The only thing I can think of that might have a momentum-changing effect is a roadblocked prime-time presidential address.

He's trying the news conference tonight -- the roadblocked (meaning on all channels) prime-time presidential address is probably coming in August.

There are a lot of problems with the reforms that Obama posits, but one the most problematic is the notion that we will save money somehow. Unfortunately, as Paul Howard points out in City Journal, the most effective cost-savings mechanism isn't going to be too popular:

Thus, when the head of the Congressional Budget Office (Congress’s fiscal watchdog) testified last Friday that none of the bills under consideration in the House or Senate would rein in spending—and that all would likely increase it—the president’s reform push took a heavy hit. The CBO’s assessment underscored an important reality about health care. Lowering health-care costs (which have been rising faster than inflation for decades, except for a brief period in the 1990s) while improving quality is possible, but it’s awfully hard, for one simple reason: when it comes to health-care spending, death is the only really cheap option.

Howard's piece is very good: read the whole thing.

It may be a cheap shot, but I worry that if Obama's health care proposal goes forward, we may be faced with a healthcare regime that in effect says this: dying for your country isn't just for soldiers anymore.

UPDATE: our favorite University of Wisconsin law professor makes a crucial point:

The Democrats have dumped a drastic, complicated health care bill on us and they are ramming it through before we can even figure it out. That's what matters, not the fact that the party out of power is squawking about it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Doug Saves Me Some Work

Of all the tiresome Obamacans in our news media, David Brooks is the most tiresome of all. His latest column deserves a fisking. Oh my, does it deserve one. Our friend Doug Williams has it under control. Just read it.

res ipsa loquitur 072109

Buzz Aldrin demonstrates that he can land more than a lunar module.

It all seems so very familiar.

I'll bet someone in Washington takes this advice.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Here We Are Now, Entertain Us

Click the link and then riddle me this:

1) How could this work as well as it does?
2) Who the heck would think of doing this in the first place?

(H/T: Allahpundit)

Radio Free Dilettante - Get Your Buzz Aldrin On Edition

And what is iTunes trying to tell us today? Share your best guess in the comments section.

Last Five:
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, Bryan Ferry
I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better, the Byrds
Rat in the Kitchen, UB40
Throw It Away, Joe Jackson
Young Man Blues, the Who

Next Five:
Sunset Grill, Don Henley
Hey Jude, the Beatles
Walking in Your Footsteps, the Police
Da Da Da, Trio
Whistling in the Dark, They Might Be Giants

It's All Good

There wouldn't be any reason to hide anything, would there?

The administration's annual midsummer budget update is sure to show higher deficits and unemployment and slower growth than projected in President Barack Obama's budget in February and update in May, and that could complicate his efforts to get his signature health care and global-warming proposals through Congress.

The release of the update — usually scheduled for mid-July — has been put off until the middle of next month, giving rise to speculation the White House is delaying the bad news at least until Congress leaves town Aug. 7 on its summer recess.
My faith in the power of Hope and Change is unshaken. Nothing to see here. These are not the budget numbers you are looking for.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Res ipsa loquitur

One of the worst pieces I have ever read. Can't say that I recommend it, but you should read it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Yes, We Have No Banana Republic (Yet)

After the initial news that the Honduran military, in conjunction with the remainder of the government and with the backing of the courts, removed President Manuel Zelaya from office, coverage of what's going on in Tegucigalpa has been somewhat sketchy.

I was disappointed to see that President Obama immediately backed the wrong horse, supporting the leftist Zelaya, who is an ally of Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. It seemed especially odd that Obama came out so forcefully on this issue after his (let's be charitable) muted response to the crisis in Iran.

He may want to take a second look at what's going on down there, for two reasons:

First, the negotiations going on in Costa Rica are going nowhere, mainly because Zelaya was demanding to be put back in the presidency without having to answer the charges against him. And since he isn't going to get his way, Zelaya is now planning to come back and start a rebellion:

The ousted Honduran leader said the midnight deadline for his return to the presidency was not negotiable.

"If at that time, there is no resolution to that end, I will consider the negotiations in Costa Rica a failure," Zelaya said at a news conference Friday night at the Honduran embassy in Nicaragua. "I am going back to Honduras, but I am not going to give you the date, hour or place, or say if I'm going to enter through land, air or sea."

Zelaya's wife, Xiomara Castro, implied the return was imminent, telling demonstrators in the Honduran capital Saturday that "President Zelaya will be here in a few hours despite the bayonets."

Zelaya did not say what steps he would take once on Honduran soil. But earlier this week, he said Hondurans had a constitutional right to rebel against an illegitimate government.

Here's the thing: the reason Zelaya got the boot is because he was trying to get a plebiscite that would change the constitution to allow him to run for a second term, something he is barred from doing by the Honduran constitution. And this brings us to the second thing we learned today.

Zelaya had every confidence that his planned plebisicite would work. Why is that? Well, this report from the Babalu blog explains it pretty well:

A Spanish Catalan newspaper is reporting that Honduran authorities have seized computers found in the Presidential Palace belonging to deposed president Mel
Zelaya. Taking a page right out of the leftist dictator's handbook, these computers, according to the news report, contained the official and certified results of the illegal constitutional referendum Zelaya wanted to conduct that never took place. The results of this fraudulent vote was tilted heavily in Zelaya's favor, ensuring he could go ahead and illegally change the constitution so he could remain in power for as long as he wanted to.
(Strike is in the original post.) How would this work? Behold the rough translation that Babalu offers, which seems pretty accurate to me based on my knowledge of Spanish, from the paper:

The National Directors of Criminal Investigation seized various computers from the Presidential Palace that had recorded the supposed results of the referendum to reform the constitution that the deposed leader, Manuel Zelaya, was planning to conduct on July 28, the day he was removed from office.

The official investigation now deals with the possible crime of fraud and falsification of documents due to the fact that some of the certified voting results had been filled with the personal information of individuals that supposedly participated in the failed referendum that did not take place because of the coup.

One of the district attorneys that participated in the operation that took place this Friday showed reporters an official voting result from the Technical Institute Luis Bogran, of Tegucigalpa, in which the specific number of people that participated in table 345, where there were 550 ballots, 450 of which were votes in favor of Zelaya's proposal and 30 were against, in addition to 20 blank ballots and 30 ballots, which were nullified.

The seizure took place on the third floor of the building attached to the Ministry of the Presidency that had been rented to the ex-minister of the Interior, Enrique Flores Lanza. The deputy district attorney, Roberto Ramirez, declared this area as a "crime scene" and, although he did not want to provide further details, said that further evidence had been found that could be categorized as crimes of fraud, embezzlement of funds, falsification of documents, and abuse of authority.

I suppose it's possible that the new government forged these computer records to frame Zelaya. But if Zelaya had reason to know what the results of the plebiscite would be before it took place, it would explain why Zelaya has comported himself in the manner that he has. He expected to win.

Maybe the Obama administration has a better explanation of what's going on in Honduras than what I've posted here. So far it hasn't been forthcoming.

(H/T: Instapundit)

The Limits of Nostalgia

The summer of 1969 was an uncommonly eventful time and we'll be looking back at a lot of 40th anniversaries in the next few weeks. Today's anniversary is an uncomfortable one for a lot of people, but it's worth remembering what happened that day:

Shortly after leaving a party on Chappaquiddick Island, Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy of Massachusetts drives an Oldsmobile off a wooden bridge into a tide-swept pond. Kennedy escaped the submerged car, but his passenger, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, did not. The senator did not report the fatal car accident for 10 hours.

Kennedy got by with it, in large measure because the nation's attention was turned elsewhere, as the Apollo 11 astronauts were en route to the moon. He is now an old man, battling what is likely terminal cancer. His lifelong dream of nationalizing the health care system may now be in reach and he is fortunate that his dream wasn't already in place when he needed the care he is now receiving.

Whenever you hear anyone call Ted Kennedy the conscience of the Senate or somesuch, remember Mary Jo Kopechne.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Uncle Walter

Walter Cronkite, the longtime anchor of the CBS Evening News, died today at the age of 92.

If you didn't grow up watching Cronkite, it's difficult to explain the power that he wielded at the helm of CBS News. These days you can get your news from any source you'd prefer, but during Cronkite's tenure he was probably the most important and influential newsman in the world. For many Americans, you would only learn about something if Walter Cronkite told you about it.

Politically, Cronkite was a fairly traditional liberal, hardly different than most other journalists then and now. For the most part, his reportage on the CBS Evening News was pretty even-handed. His colleague Eric Sevareid handled the commentary most nights and that worked pretty well, although there was one very important departure from that. You didn't get a sense that Cronkite had a rooting interest in the outcome of political campaigns, even though he almost certainly did. He made certain to avoid outward shows of partisanship while he anchored the news. His successor, Dan Rather, wasn't as careful.

Later in his life Cronkite got significantly more involved in politics and ultimately became a standard-issue leftist. It's hard for me to care too much about that any more. He was a citizen exercising his First Amendment rights and while his fame certainly garnered him a larger platform than most of his fellow citizens, by that time his voice was one of many, not the pre-eminent one.

There's a lot of old video out there of Cronkite. Here are a few examples:

Assassination of John F. Kennedy

Assassination of Martin Luther King

Death of Lyndon Johnson (this one I remember watching)

RIP, Uncle Walter. We'll not see your like again.

17 July 2009

It's about 2:30 p.m. CDT in Burnsville, Minnesota. The temperature is 60°F. The wind is howling and the sky is the color of a diplomat's pants.

July. It's the new October.

res ipsa loquitur 071709

When is a stimulus package not a stimulus package? When it doesn't stimulate anything. Ed Morrissey tracks the shifting explanations.

Sen. Barbara Boxer sets a witness straight. Witness thinks otherwise.

Steve Chapman on the public option.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Not to put too fine a point on it

I've never been so proud of my senators as I am today. Watch our solons in action as:

Al Franken asks Sonia Sotomayor to discuss Perry Mason episodes; and

Amy Klobuchar asks Sonia Sotomayor about watching the All Star Game.

On the bright side, Franken is saving his follow up questions concerning Matlock ("Why did Matlock always wear the same suit? I think he got it from Sam Ervin.") and L. A. Law ("So when you watched L.A. Law, did you ever fantasize about having sex with Victor Sifuentes? Because I totally wanted to nail that Grace Van Owen chick."). Maybe he'll ask those tomorrow.

res ipsa loquitur 071509 -- Kabuki Theater Edition

It doesn't really matter much because Sonia Sotomayor is going to get confirmed to the Supreme Court anyway, but you can read two interesting takes on what's happened so far here and here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Holy Roman Empire Was Neither Holy, Nor Roman, Nor an Empire. Discuss.

Read this story and riddle me this:

What's more bizarre?

(a) That Norma ("Jane Roe") McCorvey would be one of the protestors arrested at the Sotomayor hearings; or

(b) The senator she interrupted is Al Franken?


res ipsa loquitur 071409 -- It's Not Easy Being Green Edition

Exhibit A (H/T: Ed Morrissey)

Exhibit B (H/T: Mitch Berg)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Radio Free Dilettante — Senate Judiciary Committee Edition

2-4-6-8, now it's time to bloviate!

Last Five:
Chain of Fools, Aretha Franklin
Walkin' Blues, Eric Clapton
Gone Daddy Gone, Gnarls Barkley
Mary Anne, Marshall Crenshaw
Parker's Band, Steely Dan

Next Five:
Hateful, Clash
I Wanna Be Your Dog, Uncle Tupelo
Gee Officer Krupke, West Side Story Soundtrack
Gimme Shelter, Rolling Stones
Chinatown, Thin Lizzy

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Estereo Azul

This is a continuation of a series. Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 are linked.

I've always loved music and listening to the radio was always a big pastime growing up. My Guatemalan host family loved to listen to music on the radio as well. Their favorite radio station was something called Estereo Azul, "lo mejor del mundo." That translates into "Stereo Blue, the best in the world." I begged to differ.

Since it was the summer 1979, we were at the peak of the disco era, although the backlash was imminent, about which more in a moment. Let's put it this way -- Estereo Azul was riding the disco train big time. No matter when you turned in, it was wall to wall dance tunes, with the occasional commercial for "Frenos de Guatemala" (Guatemala Brakes, an auto supply concern) on "Calle Cinco, Zona Nueve."

For a kid from Wisconsin who owned a "Disco Sucks" t-shirt (which I wisely left behind), it was a minor bummer. We'd climb into one of the family vehicles and on a typical trip into the city we'd probably hear "Give Me Love," "Get Off" by Foxy, "Bad Girls" by the ubiquitous Donna Summer, or if the d.j.'s were feeling a little more mellow, perhaps "Que un Tonto Cree, por los Hermanos Doobies."

The longer road trips, to Atitlan or Chichicastenango, made for especially strange listening. Since the quality of car stereos is so much better today, it's hard to remember how odd music could sound on a radio. And since the Guatemalan terrain is mountainous, the radio signal would dart in and out at odd times. You'd settle back in your seat and look at the countryside when suddenly a blast of bongo drums would jolt you awake. The host father didn't like to change the radio station and we'd listen to static, then nothing, then Alicia Bridges calling for some "ack-shown."

The eldest son of the host family had an enormous stereo system in his room, with tower speakers and a state-of-the-art turntable. He loved to blast his records at night, which he did until his father would get tired of it. I would wander down to his room to hear what he was playing, but he wasn't especially interested in my views on music. He had the best record that had ever been recorded, he told me. Yep, he had Gino Vannelli. That would clear me out of his room pretty quick.

As I would listen to all this music that I despised, I kept thinking about my return to the United States. I was wondering what music I'd missed that summer as I was trapped in the disco inferno. I knew that my friends were starting to get their driver's licenses and were starting to cruise around with the radio on. I couldn't wait to get back and join them. At the time I left for Guatemala, the big song on the local radio in Appleton was "The Logical Song" from Supertramp's Breakfast in America album, which I saw displayed in the Vista Hermosa shopping mall for the first time a few days before I was to leave the country. That was on July 12, 30 years ago today. What I didn't learn until I returned was that something else happened in Chicago on July 12. And I wouldn't have to worry about listening to disco music much longer.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

il miglior fabbro

Peggy Noonan, a writer I've long admired, has been off the rails for at least a year now. She wrote an especially despicable column about our favorite politician yesterday. I was thinking about fisking the column, but there's no need. Doctor Zero over at Hot Air has it all under control.

A representative sample of the rich, fisky goodness on offer at the link:

Noonan is symptomatic of a defeated, collaborative wing of the GOP that wants nothing more than to be thought well of by the Left, which they believe has decisively won the political and cultural battles of the twentieth century. Their idea of a “conservative” is someone who can eke out a small discount on the price tag of mammoth liberal programs. Their goal in 2012 is to find a bland, pleasant, “moderate” Republican, who can win the approval of the media mullahs as a “serious candidate,” then lose gracefully and give America’s First Black President his second term. The idea of serious conservative reform terrifies them: radical overhaul of the tax system, dramatic reduction in the size of government, a system that compels Congress to live like humble servants of the people instead of Renaissance royalty… Who will throw those wonderful cocktail parties in Washington, if the conservatives burn half the city down? Who will tell Peggy bedtime stories of dashing social engineers with titanic government schemes? Where will she find hip, exciting statists she can celebrate with schoolgirl treacle, like this nonsense from her 2008 endorsement of Obama: “Something new is happening in America. It is the imminent arrival of a new liberal moment. History happens, it makes its turns, you hold on for dear life. Life moves.” She was on to something with that last bit. Obama has made a lot of American businesses think about moving.

Go read the whole thing. Do not hesistate.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Gut Feeling

Visceral (vis-uh-rel)

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, the word has four meanings:

1. felt in or as if in the viscera
2. not intellectual
3. dealing with crude or elemental emotions
4. of, relating to, or on or among the viscera

Your viscera are your guts. When we talk of visceral reactions, we're not talking about reactions that are given a lot of thought. Fear and revulsion are visceral reactions.

Which brings us to Al Franken.

Earlier this week I wrote a post where I gently referred to the junior senator from Minnesota as "Senator Steaming Pile." Our friend Amanda, who performs regular acts of kindness by coming here to challenge our assumptions (and I am quite sincere in saying that, by the way), took notice of that and gave me a gentle dig about "taking the high road." But she did more than that. She also wrote a post on her always-interesting blog Memeopolis and she mentioned a couple of very useful things:

The reaction of conservative acquaintances and bloggers however, has been a vitriolic gnashing of the teeth and bloodthirsty name-calling. They HATE Al Franken. HATE. Hatehatehatehate. Instinctively, at first I felt slightly defensive. I mean, Al hasn't even done anything in office yet. Good or bad. Give him a chance to f*** up, yeah?

That's a fair point. Then she made a better, more provocative point.

But then I realized that their emotional reaction could be likened to my affection for Sarah Palin.

I'm guessing that I am one of the conservative acquaintances that Amanda mentioned in her post. Which got me thinking about Franken and why I feel the way I do.

Hate is a strong word and a strong emotion. It is also an emotion that is learned. I don't know if I hate Al Franken -- if were hurt in a traffic accident or somesuch and I came upon him, I'd whip out my cell, call 911 and then see if there was anything I could do to help him until the pros arrived. But I do dislike him quite a lot, probably more than just about any other politician on the current scene. And I will do everything in my power to ensure his retirement in 2015.

Why is that? Is it a visceral reaction, a gut feeling? Or is my disdain for Franken something that I learned? The answer is pretty clear: it is something I learned. The first time I saw Franken was on Saturday Night Live back in the late 1970s. He then appeared in skits with his comedy partner, Tom Davis. He was a semi-regular presence on that show for years and, in some cases he was pretty damned funny. His imitation of the dour and preachy Illinois Sen. Paul Simon in the mock presidential debates in the 1988 cycle was spot-on and hilarious. It's worth remembering that history.

The problem that most conservatives have with Franken is that when he entered into the political arena, he was an especially vicious guy. I'd even be willing to forgive him that, though: as they say in Chicago, politics ain't beanbag. My problem with Franken is that he has a history with someone I know personally. That someone is Evan Montvel-Cohen. The story of Franken's involvement with Montvel-Cohen, and the scam Montvel-Cohen pulled on the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club to get funding that was instrumental to the founding of Air America ,was much downplayed during the election cycle, but it was to my mind the most damning thing about Franken. Montvel-Cohen and I both attended the same college. I know him. He was a shifty character then and most everyone on our campus recognized it. Franken did not, apparently. More importantly, Franken didn't do much of anything to make the situation right after he became aware of it. To me, the incident speaks to Franken's character and judgment. And it speaks quite badly.

Do I have a visceral reaction now when Franken's name comes up? Yeah, I guess I do.

So what about the reaction that Amanda has to Sarah Palin and the reasons for her reaction? She can answer that herself. I'd be willing to wager she has an interesting story to tell. And it's useful to tell these stories, I think.

Cap This

All the caterwauling I've done this week about cap and trade, and now this:

As President Barack Obama encouraged world leaders meeting in Italy to intensify the fight against global warming, legislation to cut U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases suffered a delay in the Senate on Thursday.

The leading Senate committee responsible for developing the climate change legislation has delayed by at least a month its crafting of a bill, leaving less time for Congress to fulfill Obama's desire to enact a law this year.
So why would you delay something that's URGENT URGENT URGENT as cap and trade? Two reasons, apparently. First is the old Beltway standby, sloth:

"We'll do it as soon as we get back" in September from a month-long break, Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer announced.

Emphasis mine. While there's little doubt that our wallets are all safer when Congress is not in session, how many people do you know who take a month-long break? I guess a month-long break is fine as long as you don't spend it in Crawford, Texas. But there's a more important reason:

The Senate delay came as Congress was preoccupied with healthcare reform, Obama's top legislative priority, and as senators continued to bicker over how to reduce industrial emissions of carbon dioxide without putting U.S. businesses and consumers at a disadvantage.

Healthcare reform, in this context, is of course the ongoing effort to replace the current patchwork of private insurance with the all-new shiny government-run healthcare program, which will save skabillions of dollars and will be run effectively and efficiently through the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Now, moving effective control of the economy over to the Beltway is tough work, especially if you're trying to get it done before people notice what's really happening. What I suspect: the Democrats realize that they can't get both national health care and a carbon regulation scheme, especially with people starting to notice that some of the other Change You Can Believe In isn't working so well, so they have to choose. And since taking over healthcare provides more effective control over how people live their lives, that's the smart bet.

August is now a very important month. When the solons come home, it's time to let them know what the consequences of voting for government control will be. While I don't expect that Betty McCollum, Amy Klobuchar or Al Franken care about the views of a mouth-breathing blogger, if enough other like minded people make it clear that there will be consequences for nationalizing vast swathes of the economy, we may be able to stop these horrible ideas. And if that happens, business will start investing again and Obama might even get his economic recovery. Eventually Bill Clinton figured that one out. Let's see if The One is as quick on the uptake as Slick Willy.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Why are we doing this again?

I keep hearing we gotta have cap and trade. So what would you call this?

Cap-and-trade regimes have advantages, notably the ability to set a limit on emissions and to integrate with other countries. But they are complex and vulnerable to lobbying and special pleading, and they do not guarantee success.

The experience of the European Union is Exhibit A. Emissions targets were set too high. Too many pollution allowances were given away to industry. The value of a carbon credit plummeted. Companies made windfall profits by charging customers more for energy while selling allowances they didn't need. And the Europeans have not had much success reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Disputes on the next round of reductions led to the creation of a two-tiered system to appease Eastern European countries fearful of the cost to their industries.
It's quite simple, actually. The advantage of cap and trade is that it disguises the reality that the government controlling the regime is imposing an especially onerous and regressive tax. And the market for these credits will necessarily be as arbitrary as the market for credit default swaps was. And I think we all remember how that movie ended.

And there's this little problem, too:

Washington, D.C.-During a hearing today in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, EPA Administrator Jackson confirmed an EPA analysis showing that unilateral U.S. action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions would have no effect on climate. Moreover, when presented with an EPA chart depicting that outcome, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said he disagreed with EPA's analysis.

"I believe the central parts of the [EPA] chart are that U.S. action alone will not impact world CO2 levels," Administrator Jackson said.
What would be needed? The agreement of China and India. Likely? Well, not so much.

Maybe there's a good reason to set up an artificial market for intangible credits that are well-nigh impossible to price, with the goal of doing something that won't work. Guess I'm not seeing it. Help me out, people -- explain the benefit, if you can.

(H/T: Heritage)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Guilty Pleasures Part Forty-Nine: Maria Ponders Artistic Choices

We're back for more music and once again Fearless Maria is in the house! So Maria, what would you like to listen to this evening?

Can we do an entire version with Hannah Montana songs? Or doesn't your audience understand greatness?

Well, I'm not sure they quite understand the majesty that is Hannah Montana, Maria.

Well, at least the Old Kids on the Block aren't on the magazine covers these days!

True. Unless they are on the cover of Modern Maturity.

Well, I think we should just knock them right off the block and try something else. What do you have in your pile of scraps today, Dad?

Hmmm. Sounds appetizing, Maria. How about some random early 80s stuff? This is music I heard when I went to college back then.

Okay, let's see if you learned anything, Dad!

Well, let's start out with this one. These guys were a personal favorite of mine back then, because they were a fun band and they had a song called "Stand Down Margaret," which came in handy when I wanted to pick on my little sister. But that's not the song I have here. This one is from 1982, toward the end of their time. It's the English Beat, telling the truth at last:

I confess that the singer looks like a girl, Dad! He's wearing eye shadow and a weird beret hat thingy and earrings! And when he's shouting with the fire all around him, he sounds like a girl! Is he confused, Dad? Or is he confessing he's a girl?

I don't know, Maria. That sort of thing passed for art in those days, I guess. I confess I'm somewhat confused by it myself! Shall we move on?

Yes yes yes yes yes! I'm Miss Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes!

When did that happen, Maria?

When I don't want to see that tomgirl English Beat dude, Dad!

Okay. Let's try another odd group of Englishmen, then. These guys were a big deal in England but never really broke big in the States. This song is a jaunty little number from 1982. It's The Jam, with

I bet I know why they were called The Jam, Dad.

Let's hear your theory, Maria.

Because they didn't want to be called the Jelly, or the Honey, or the Mustard, or the Chutney, or the Nectarines or Plums or something! Good thing they're not called the Jellyfish, either, even though they seem to flop around a lot like a jellyfish. Why do you think they couldn't stay in focus on the video, Dad?

That's another one of those artistic choices, Maria.

I don't know, Dad. Maybe the cameraman was from a town called malice!

Good theory, Maria. Let's try this one. Here's an odd-looking lady with her somewhat big hit and very big hair. From 1981, it's Lene Lovich, requesting a

Who would give a new toy to the likes of her, Dad? She looks she's in a too-tight and too makeup-y Halloween costume! And even worse, I think she had the all-time Bad Hair Day! I think she should use her credit card and get professional hairdo help immediately!

Well, again Maria, this is one of those "artistic choices" that people made back then.

Well, next time she makes an "artistic choice," maybe she should choose not to look so ridiculous!

Good advice, Maria. And do you want to know something really weird?

No, but I'll bet you'll tell me anyway. Right, Dad?

Well, of course I will, Maria. Did you know that a few years ago Target used that song for selling toys at Christmas?

Oh my gosh! I don't see how that would work. What were they selling, Ridiculous Hair Elmo?

I don't know, Maria, but I'm betting it didn't work. Shall we move on?

Yeah, we better.

Okay, let's get a little more mainstream. This one was a big hit for the Clash in 1982, although the video is kinda weird. They filmed it in Austin, Texas, for reasons I can't understand, but it does include some excellent armadillo footage. Here they are, singing

Wow. Bad hairdos, crawling armadillos and a trip to Burger King. What a weird video! So Dad, are those people reasonable? Or is that just some more of those artistic choices you keep talking about?

You're making me suffer for my art, Maria, aren't you?

Well, maybe this next one isn't too bad. Right?

Let's find out, shall we? It's our old pal Joan Jett, covering an old Tommy James and the Shondells tune, but with slightly less reverb but a lot more attitude.

Nice pants, Joan Jett! What is crimson, anyway?

It's a shade of red, Maria.

Okay, that makes sense. The song wouldn't work so well if was "Burgundy and Clover," I guess! So Dad, I have a question. Do you think Gino will like any of these?

Maybe, Maria. If not, he'll like this.

Yes, I bet he will, Dad. As for the rest of you, go ahead and vote in the comments section. Don't be shy! And make sure your choice is artistic, too!

Who knew?

Well, maybe you did. Still, it's nice to have the Associated Press actually pointing out the obvious:

President Barack Obama promised to fix health care and trim the federal budget deficit, all without raising taxes on anyone but the wealthiest Americans. It's a promise he's already broken and will likely have to break again.
AP writer Stephen Ohlemacher would also like to remind you of a promise then-candidate Obama made:

Obama made a firm tax pledge during the presidential campaign, repeating it numerous times in the weeks and months leading up to Election Day: no tax increases for individuals making less than $200,000 a year or couples making less than $250,000.

"Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes," Obama told a crowd in Dover, N.H., last year.

Is that true? Not a chance. Ohlemacher explains:

Obama also signed an anti-smoking bill in June that grants authority to the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco. To pay for the new program, a fee is being imposed on the industry — and presumably passed on to consumers — estimated to generate more than $5 billion over the next decade.

While not directly increasing taxes, a House-passed version of Obama's plan to reduce greenhouse gases blamed for causing global warming would similarly increase American families' home energy bills by $175 a year on average, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Here's the truth, folks. If any version of the cap and trade fiasco becomes law, the costs will far exceed the $175 per family increase in heating costs. All the companies that use power will also be affected and, to the extent possible, those costs will be passed on to consumers as well. And with inflationary pressures coming from the stimulus and other genius programs of this administration, many things are going to cost a lot more money, and soon.

With Senator Steaming Pile now occupying a chair in Washington, the D's pretty much have the muscle to do as they see fit. Change You Can Believe In is coming, good and hard.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Radio Free Dilettante — Ignoring the Coast to Coast Freak Show Edition

iTunes again provides an alternate history of the day:

Last Five:

A Legal Matter, The Who
Tell Her She's Lovely, El Chicano
I'm Not in Love, 10cc
I Would Die 4 U, Prince and the Revolution
Playin' in the Dirt, Robert Cray Band

Next Five:

Then Came You, Spinners and Dionne Warwick
Those Shoe Biz Shoes, The Guess Who
Death or Glory, The Clash
Hot Rod Lincoln, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
When the Levee Breaks, Led Zeppelin

Manure with gift wrap

Despite 4-5 days of rapturous coverage in the Twin Cities media, including a full-page photo in the Sunday Pioneer Press and lead stories at least 3 times on the 10 p.m. news, Al Franken is still a steaming pile. Senator Steaming Pile, perhaps, but still a steaming pile.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Look in my eyes, what do you see?

I'll give Sarah Palin this much -- she knows how to get attention. Good for her.

I've defended Palin on a number of occasions recently, because she does face a lot of scurrility. But in watching the action on some of the conservative blogs that I read, I must say this: a lot of Sarah Palin supporters really give me the creeps. For some of these folks, any criticism, no matter how mild, is thoughtcrime.

This thread over at Hot Air is illustrative; if you're not convinced, you'll find a half-dozen more that are similar. The post I've linked, which references a post put up by the guy who runs the highly-caffeinated conservative blog Ace of Spades, shows reaction to even mild criticism of la Palin that is just astonishingly vitriolic.

I have long criticized those supporters of Barack Obama who treat him as a demigod; I've kept the Obama Messiah website on my blogroll because it serves as a handy compendium of idolatry and foolishness.

Sarah Palin is a politician. A gifted one, one who reaches many people, without question. But a politician nonetheless. And we don't need a cult of Sarah on the right.

Things that won't end well

My internet access was down nearly all weekend (bad Comcast! Bad, bad Comcast!) and many things happened. A few very quick thoughts:

Word to the wise, fellas: taking a mistress doesn't end well. Exhibit A. Exhibit B.

Zelaya doesn't get to land in Honduras. This also won't end well. Here's a hint, folks -- anything involving Hugo Chavez is a fool's errand.

Meanwhile, the train wreck continues to approach Minneapolis.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

No Qum-baya

This is very big news:

The most important group of religious leaders in Iran called the disputed presidential election and the new government illegitimate on Saturday, an act of defiance against the country’s supreme leader and the most public sign of a major split in the country’s clerical establishment.
Most of the big-time mullahs live in Qum, and this statement from them undercuts most of the claims that Khamenei has made. If the gray eminences call the election illegitmate, that's not something even the Basij can walk back.

All Khamenei has left now is cudgels. You can do a lot with cudgels in the short term, but in the long term, there isn't a long term.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Palin, Hors de Combat?

Who knows? You could interpret her announcement that she was stepping down as governor of Alaska any number of ways. Or it might just be as simple as she's had enough.

It would be hard to blame her. She has been attacked in ways that are just jaw-droppingly personal and mean -- consider this lovely parting gift that appeared briefly at HuffPo today in the wake of her announcement. A quote from bien pensant Erik Sean Nelson's piece:

In Sarah Palin's resignation announcement she complained about the treatment of her son Trig who always teaches her life lessons. She said that the "world needs more Trigs, not fewer." That's a presidential campaign promise we can all get behind. She will be the first politician to actually try to increase the population of retarded people. To me, it's kinda like saying the world needs more cancer patients because they teach us such personal lessons.

Her first act as President: To introduce a Pre-K lunch buffet that includes lead paint chips. Sort of a Large HEAD-START Program.

Comedy gold, no? Can you imagine anything like that being written about any other politician in the United States? And if you are wondering why it was pulled, here's the author's, ahem, explanation:

No story, I pulled it down. I got some emails from offended loved ones of the retarded. No one was seeing the absurdity of Palin hiding behind her children, so my piece was not accomplishing anything good. That’s all that happened.

Good to know. It's not that perhaps Palin loves her son. Naah. Couldn't be that. Kid is just a prop, a human shield, against the righteous broadsides of those who see absurdity in the very existence of Trig Palin. He's just something a politician hides behind. Perhaps the most interesting question here: what good can be accomplished by telling retard jokes?

I have no idea whether or not Sarah Palin should have any political career beyond what she has had in Alaska. She has provided a very valuable service, though -- she has exposed a lot of ugliness among certain of her detractors.

UPDATE: As always, Mark Steyn gets to the home truth of the matter:

Occam's Razor leaves us with: Who needs this?

In states far from the national spotlight, politics still attracts normal people. You're a mayor or a state senator or even the governor, but you lead a normal life. The local media are tough on you, but they know you, they live where you live, they're tough on the real you, not on some caricature cooked up by a malign alliance of late-night comics who'd never heard of you a week earlier and media grandees supposedly on your own side who pronounce you a "cancer".

And the result? Steyn:

Most of those who sneer at Sarah Palin have no desire to live her life. But why not try to - what's the word? - "empathize"? If you like Wasilla and hunting and snowmachining and moose stew and politics, is the last worth giving up everything else in the hopes that one day David Letterman and Maureen Dowd might decide Trig and Bristol and the rest are sufficiently non-risible to enable you to prosper in their world? And, putting aside the odds, would you really like to be the person you'd have to turn into under that scenario?

National office will dwindle down to the unhealthily singleminded (Clinton, Obama), the timeserving emirs of Incumbistan (Biden, McCain) and dynastic heirs (Bush). Our loss.

That's about right. Read the whole thing.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Just a quick note -- I will be making some changes to the blog in the coming days. The sidebar badly needs updating and there are few cosmetic things I'd like to do.

The most important change is that I have turned off comment moderation. I've used it for about six months now and frankly I've only nuked one spam comment in the whole time. Most of my regular readers respect what we try to do here and don't post anything objectionable in the comments section. If I see problems arise, moderation may come back.

As always, I appreciate your support of this feature and always welcome any suggestions on ways I can make it better.


Guilty Pleasures Part Forty-Eight: Lovecentennial!

We're back for more music and this time Fearless Maria is in the house!

Whoo hoo! Hang ten, dudes!

So when did you take up surfing, Maria?

Never, it's just a cool greeting and I wouldn't say "Good day, Mr. Dilettante, did you have a scone for breakfast?"

That's good, because I didn't have a scone.

And I'm not really sure what a scone is anyway. But it doesn't sound very tasty.

It's like a combination of a muffin, biscuit and hockey puck, Maria.

Pass! Anyway, what are we doing tonight, Dad? (As if I don't already know.)

Well Maria, I thought we could look at some music from the big Bicentennial year of 1976. How does that sound?

Bad, because music from the 1970s almost always is. Did you find anything reasonable?

Well, let's find out, shall we? We can start out with the number one song of the year, which pretty much dominated the airwaves all summer long in 1976. It's our old friend Paul McCartney, answering the criticism of his old associate John Lennon, with:

Well, that wasn't too bad, I guess. But the beginning part is pretty freaky and Paul McCartney doesn't look especially, well, normal there.

I hate to tell you this, Maria, but in 1976 that's the way people looked.

Yuck. I hope you didn't look like that!

I'm hoping that most of the photographic evidence of me around then is safely hidden someplace in the "Excabitty."

I know where that is! It's right by Drip's Drill, right?

And Drip's Drill is right next to Anderson's Spur!

And they are all right next to each other. And I never get to see any of them, right?

Yep. You've got the drill.

Yeah, Drip's Drill.

Okay, enough of the inside family humor. Let's move on. One of the things that became pretty evident in 1976 was that disco was coming to the forefront. This song was a big hit in the late spring of 1976 and featured one of the greatest Motown artists, now in full Vegas mode. It's Diana Ross, mentioning that she has a:

Love Hangover

Lots of images from 1976 in that one, Maria. What do you think?

Well, the commercials are much better than the $5 footlong and the Filet-O-Fish commercials that I have to put up with now! And, oh yeah, the song's pretty cool, too. Pure disco. So Dad, did you get to sail in one of those tall ships?

No, if I was in a boat in 1976 it was probably a rowboat at camp.

Too bad, Dad! Those look pretty cool. Let's hope that people didn't litter on those big ships!

Far as I know, that didn't happen. Anyway, the next song was another discoish thing from the spring. Check out the enormous Afros on these dudes. It's the Sylvers, with

Boogie Fever

Dad, that's some really big hair! I guess they didn't have reasonable barbers back then!

Well Maria, I think they wore their hair that way on purpose.

Why? To make a bad impression? Or did they want to get it stuck in an elevator? You could fit a family of seven in the lead singer's hair!

I don't know, Maria. I've never quite been able to figure that one out. Anyway, we'll move on to something a little different. The next song was a big number one hit for a more traditional vocal group called the Manhattans. Here they are, in all their melodramatic glory, rocking the wide-lapeled white jump suits and patiently, lovingly explaining that it was time to

Kiss and Say Goodbye

Dad, the song is nice, but what's the deal with the jumpsuits? And why did they keep showing us their butts?

Maybe they thought we'd be interested in their butts?

If they think that we are, then they're psychos! Because they are who we thought they were!

Nice Denny Green reference, Maria! Glad you took the high road! But let's move on. Next is one of the last big hits of the first part of Elton John's career. This time he brought along a friend. Here they are in all their sartorially-challenged splendor, Sir Elton and his pal Kiki Dee, admonishing each other

Don't Go Breaking My Heart

Dad, that Kiki Dee might be the worst dancer I've ever seen. And I think they got the lyrics wrong, too!

What do you mean, Maria?

I think it should go "whoo whoo, nobody told us and nobody showed us how to dress!" Dad, it looks like Elton John's glasses must weigh about 20 pounds. Those must have hurt his face, don't you think?

It probably hurts more for Elton to watch that video now, Maria. But let's move on.

Yes. Please! Let's move on! What's left, Dad?

Well, here's something totally different, also from the spring of 1976. This one got all the way to number one and didn't seem to have any dance beat at all. It's the Bellamy Brothers, with their twin acoustic guitars and one very impressive mustache, suggesting that we'd better

Let Your Love Flow

Dad, it's a good thing they weren't the Bellybuster Brothers! But it's a pretty good song, I think. Kinda country, don't you think?

Indeed, Maria.

So Dad, I was wondering. Was 1976 a pretty bad year for music?

You could say that, Maria. Especially since we didn't look at this, this or this.

Dad, thanks for not making me watch those! Oh, and just so you know, those last three are definitely NOT part of the contest! So you know the Drip's Drill! Go ahead and vote in the comments section, people! Happy 4th! Bye!

Truth or Dare

A few things I noticed over my lunch hour. I dare you to click on all the links.

I sincerely hope this is not true.

Then again, it turned out this was true.

If this is true, it's quite interesting.

Well, if you want to know how I really feel.

Generally I find Steve Sack's editorial cartoons in the Star Tribune quite tiresome, but this one seems quite true.

(H/T: HotAir)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


This is a continuation of a series. Parts one, two and three are linked.

It is one of the most beautiful places in the world, certainly the most beautiful place I've ever been. Lake Atitlan sits in the Guatemalan highlands, about 80 miles west of Guatemala City. Aldous Huxley famously described Atitlan's beauty as "too much of a good thing." From the main point of entry at Panajachel, you can look across the lake and see three volcanoes, San Pedro, Toliman and the lake's namesake, Atitlan, which towers 11,604 feet above sea level. The waters of Lake Atitlan are almost impossibly blue and beautiful, and the lake's depth is well over 1,000 feet.

My host family owned land not far from Atitlan, in a small village named San Pablo la Laguna, near Panajachel. We went to Atitlan twice during my time in Guatemala, some 30 years ago. In 1979, the tourists were coming to Atitlan, but the amenities that are now on site were not there. Things were changing -- developers were building large lakeside hotels in and around Panajachel. My host family was, to put it mildly, distressed by this development.

What they loved about Atitlan was how "rustica" it was. It was a remarkably quiet place, largely free of the sounds of civilization, even though many people lived in the area. One of the things that's most striking about Guatemala is the brightly colored clothing that the natives wear. Along the road in San Pablo la Laguna, you would often see "las indigenas" as they quietly went about their business. They were generally friendly and would smile at you. Most didn't speak much Spanish, instead speaking the native Kaqchikel, a Mayan dialect. A few would shyly point at me, asking if I was a "gringo." It was pretty obvious, I imagine. Their clothes, which were expertly woven with intricate patterns and designs, were combinations of vibrant reds, blues, greens and yellows. It was a high-definition world, some 20-25 years before the advent of high-definition television.

It also seemed to be a place of unbelievable poverty, especially to a kid who had grown up in a fairly prosperous town. One day as I walked with members of my host family, I spotted a mother washing clothes in a stream. The water in the stream was filthy with effluent, excrement and goodness knows what else. The brightly colored fabrics were set to the side, while she attempted to clean several pairs of white trousers, which the men in the area often wore. The wind had shifted and the stench was nearly overpowering. In halting Spanish, I asked my host mother why they would be washing clothes in a dirty stream.

That is their life, she replied.

I thought about that for a moment. My host family, while not ostentatiously rich, owned a beautiful home back in Guatemala City, as well as the house in San Pablo la Laguna and a small but highly profitable coffee farm near Ciudad Antigua. They had hired two people from the area to work as domestic help at their home, so they weren't necessarily indifferent to the poverty they saw. They did accept it, though, as something immutable, something that could not be changed.

A few minutes later, we arrived at a path on the shore of Atitlan. I looked down the shoreline toward Panajachel, where the hotels were being built. I asked the host mother what she thought about the hotels.

They are terrible, she replied. This place is so beautiful, so untouched by the modern world. It is awful what they are doing.

There was no question that Atitlan is beautiful. But I wondered whether the hotels might bring more money, more opportunity to people like the woman washing her clothes in the polluted stream.

No, the host mother replied. These indigenas, I needed to understand, were not capable of understanding the world that was being built in Panajachel. It will ruin everything, she insisted.

I always wondered about that. Perhaps the idyll that my host family enjoyed, far from the noise and clamor of the city, needed to be ruined just a little. Maybe the money that would come from from tourism might provide a better standard of life for the people who lived around this beautiful place. I still wonder about that today.

Catching Up

Have been under the weather the past day or two and posting has been non-existent as a result. As always, things keep happening, though. A few quick thoughts:
  • Senator Al Franken it is. God help us. The proper course for conservatives? Don't get mad, get results. Job one: find a good candidate to run against Sec. of State Mark Ritchie and retire his corrupt butt ASAP. Job two: find and amplify every outrage that Mr. Franken commits in the next 5 1/2 years. There will be many, because the dude can't help himself. 57% of Minnesotans did not support this guy -- that is worth remembering. If you were among that 57%, it's crucial that you remain vigilant.
  • The silver lining of the Franken debacle? Now the Democrats have no excuses. They own the government. It's all theirs. And don't think that some people haven't noticed. Go ahead, guys -- march right into that bayonet.
  • The situation in Honduras merits more comment than I'm able to give it at the moment. But for now, let's say this: if you find yourself on the same side of the argument as Daniel Ortega and Hugo Chavez, it's time to check your premises. Here's a good place to start.
  • The Supreme Court decision in the Ricci case also deserves more comment than I'm able to give it at the moment. My suspicion is (a) because the case was decided on a very specific point of law, there's less there than meets the eye and (b) that while it really doesn't tell you that much about Sonia Sotomayor's jurisprudence, it does tell you something about her work ethic. A one-paragraph summary judgment on such an important issue didn't do the issue, well, justice.