Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Video Killed the Self-Important Stars

So do you remember the lame Will Ferrell video from last week? Here's an appropriate response.

res ipsa loquitur 093009

Professor Althouse delivers a smackdown to a philosopher who engages in sloppy thinking, which seems to be contrary to the typical job description of a philosopher.

No, really? ACORN involved in voter fraud?

Another fair question that's related and a lot closer to home.

Rep. Alan Grayson explains it all to you. He's full of ideas, too.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


It's been busy around here and I haven't had much time to post. Two very quick thoughts in convenient bullet form:

  • I love the movie Chinatown as much as anybody, and I certainly understand that having your pregnant wife murdered by the Manson Family would be enough to drive anyone crackers. Still, I don't get why Roman Polanski should get a free pass for what he did in 1978. You can find the details elsewhere but let's put it this way: would you want your 13-year-old daughter to go through what Polanski's victim went through?
  • I understand that having the Olympics in Chicago in 2016 would be a Very. Big. Thing. I also understand why the President would want to go to Copenhagen if he thought his presence would seal the deal. Still, it seems to me he has more pressing matters on his agenda. I would hope that the IOC would understand.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Radio Free Dilettante - Instant Autumn Edition

The cold front came through Minnesota with a vengeance yesterday. iTunes responds thus:

Last Five:
Turn-Down Day, The Cyrkle
Willow Weep for Me, Frank Sinatra
Working for the Man, Roy Orbison
Ancient Highway, Van Morrison
Four Horsemen, The Clash

Next Five:
Father Christmas, The Kinks
My Gorilla Is My Butler, Sly and the Family Stone
Vogue, Madonna
What Can I Say, Boz Scaggs
Seven Nation Army, The White Stripes

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Meme Goes On

Night Writer did this one. So did Mitch. My turn.

1. The phone rings. Who will it be? Increasingly, it's a call for Fearless Maria.

2. When shopping at the grocery store, do you return your cart? Yes. It only takes a minute and as a former Targetoid I tend to worry about damage to vehicles in parking lots.

3. In a social setting, are you more of a talker or a listener? It depends on the crowd. I can go into raconteur mode pretty quickly, but I usually prefer to listen and then fire off a one-liner. Better to pick your spots.

4. Do you take compliments well? **blush**

5. Do you play Sudoku? About once every 6 months or so, just to prove that I still can. I prefer crossword puzzles.

6. If abandoned alone in the wilderness, would you survive? If I were armed, sure. If not, predators would be drawing lots.

7. Did you ever go to camp as a kid? Day camp once. My son is a Boy Scout, though, so I've more than made up the gap in the last few years.

8. What was your favorite game as a kid? Wiffle ball. We'd play all day long, all summer long. We'd keep track of our home runs. One summer I hit about 500 and still finished 3rd. Tough league among my buds at Alicia Park.

9. If a sexy person was pursuing you, but you knew she was married, would you? Happens all the time -- that's the advantage of being married to a sexy person.

10. Could you date someone with different religious beliefs than you? Never seemed to work very well back in the day.

11. Do you like to pursue or be pursued? I defer to Satchel Paige, who said "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."

12. Use three words to describe yourself? I think not.

13. Do any songs make you cry? No, but plenty of them make me cringe. And if you know me at all, you know better than to click any of those links. For the love of God, don't do it.

14. Are you continuing your education? Every day. In every way.

15. Do you know how to shoot a gun? Yes. Not necessarily well, though. Subject for further research.

16. Have you ever taken pictures in a photo booth? Sure, but not for a long time.

17. How often do you read books? Each day, without fail.

18. Do you think more about the past, present or future? Probably all in equal measure.

19. What is your favorite children’s book? I agree with Night Writer on this one: “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak.

20.What color are your eyes? Grayish blue. Kinda like my hair these days.

21. How tall are you? 5-11, if we're going to be honest about it.

22. Where is your dream house located? If I'm going to dream, I'm going to have more than one. A deluxe condo in either Chicago or New York, a nice estate in England and a home on the North Shore. And not necessarily in that order.

23. If your house was on fire, what would be the first thing you grabbed? If my wife and kids are safe, probably our wedding album. But even that could be replaced if necessary.

24. When was the last time you were at Olive Garden? A few months back -- I got a gift card from the parents of one of the teams I coached. It wasn't very good and the wait staff clearly was more interested in turning tables than serving us. They cleared my wife's plate even though she wasn't done eating, which was pretty lousy. We won't be going back any time soon. If you happen to be in Roseville, try something else.

25. Where was the furthest place you traveled today? Northeast Minneapolis, Roseville, Arden Hills. A whirlwind itinerary, I tells ya.

26. Do you like mustard? Darn right I do, and pretty much any kind you can think of. The more coarse ground it is, the better. Someday I gotta get back to the Mustard Museum in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. It is one of many great Wisconsin shrines to gastronomy.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Week 3

Well, howdy! It's Week 3 and we're still picking those games.

And I'm still kicking your....

That's about to end right here and right now, Decrepit! It's a new week and I can feel the power. And that means it's time to get to it. Are you ready, Dad?

Yes I am, youngblood. Call it out!

Minnesota Golden Gophers (+1 1/2) vs. Northwestern Wildcats. No, I'm not talking about the Wildcat formation, because you don't build a university on a football formation. Needless to say, the Wildcats will not be running wild on Saturday. Minnesota 38, Cats 10.

Hmm. You have a little more faith in the pesky Gophers than I do, young man. The Wildcats have a quarterback named Kafka, who is the namesake of a man who wrote a famous book in which a man was turned into a giant insect. With all the weird stuff the Wildcats run, it could be a Kafkaesque afternoon for our locals. Northwestern 31, Gophers 27.

Michigan State Spartans (+3) vs. Wisconsin Badgers. This is going to be a good game. I do believe in Bucky, however Michigan State looks like they have a good team this year. But since the game is being played at Camp Randall, Bucky comes out on top, but just barely. Bucky Badger 40, Sparty the Spartan 38.

Last I heard, they do play defense in the Big Ten, grasshopper. So I think it will be a little more low-scoring than you do. But even though I'm tempted to pick the Spartans, whose season is in danger of circling the drain following two tough losses, the fact that the game is in Madison will make the difference. Wisconsin 28, Michigan State 19.

Iowa Hawkeyes (+9 1/2) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions. You've gotta like JoePa. After falling asleep while I was watching the Iowa game last week, I gotta say that Iowa is not a front-runner in the Big Ten this year. Penn State is my favorite to win the league this year. Penn State 28, Iowa 17.

Fearless Maria thinks that JoePa looks like the guy from the movie Up. You did fall asleep last week because you weren't feeling well, Benster. Then again, Iowa has that effect on a lot of people, so don't worry about it. The Hawkeyes ruined Penn State's season last year and they haven't forgotten in Happy Valley. I think it will be close but look for JoePa and his friends to prevail. If he doesn't, look for JoePa to attach about 10,000 hot air balloons to his house and drift off to South America. Penn State 24, Iowa 21.

San Francisco 49ers (+7) vs. Minnesota Vikings. So Fav-ray's next opponent is like the Sahara Desert. There's very few oases of talent on the Niners. I used to have Frank Gore on my fantasy team and he's still good, but there's little else to get excited about on the offensive side of the ball. Look for the Berlin Wall to stop them and it will not collapse like the real one. Vikings 30, Niners 7.

Well, the 49ers do come into the game 2-0. Of course, I believe they played Wofford College in one of their games, so I'm not sure how much stock to put in their performance. I suspect that the Vikings will play pretty well and that the game will follow a similar pattern to what we've seen this year, with the Purple wearing down the opposition in the second half. Purple 27, Niners 16.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-6 1/2) vs. St. Louis Rams. I will forever have some anger directed toward Marc Bulger, because in 2007 he was my fantasy league quarterback and he imploded and then I had to go with Gus Frerotte, who threw 5 picks in one game. It's enough to scar a kid for life! Even though there are injury problems for the Packers, they still have enough guns to beat the Rams. Pack 24, Rams 17.

I was somewhat surprised to find out that the Rams are still in the league. They might be the worst team in the NFL, which is a good thing because even marginally competent NFL teams tend to put Aaron Rodgers on his back these days. The Pack should win, but it's going to be an ugly game, I think. Packers 23, Rams 9.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (-2) vs. Seattle Seabags. First of all, please know that we're only picking this game for Gino's sake. The Walrus is gone from Seattle, most likely to an ice floe someplace in the Aleutian chain. Seattle is a mess and there is nothing anyone can do to say that Seattle is going to win the NFC West. I'm going to swallow my pride on this one. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz 20, Seabags 14.

Let's give the ursine wretches of McFetridge Drive some credit -- beating Pittsburgh was a pretty good trick. And I tend to agree with the young fella that Seattle won't pose much of a threat this week. Da Bearz 24, Seattle 16.

Remember the words of Tim Tebow: you'll never see a blogger pick games any harder than I will the rest of the year. Got that, Decrepit? Actually, that's the wrong speech, but you still da man, Tim Tebow!

I have no idea what that means, Ben. But rock on with your bad self.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A gentle reminder - now with images!

UPDATE: Instapundit has more. And an apt summation, to wit:

No arrests like these at the Tea Parties, either. Until we see scenes like this, I don’t want to hear yammering about the violence inherent in the Tea Party movement.

Just so.


Next time you hear something about the bad behavior and nastiness of those horrible tea-baggers (or whatever the term of derision is this week), remember: they aren't in Pittsburgh right now:

Protesters split into smaller groups. Some rolled large metal trash bins toward police, and a man in a black hooded sweat shirt threw rocks at a police car, breaking the front windshield. Protesters broke windows in a few businesses, including a bank branch and a Boston Market restaurant.

The video is here. Charming people.


Warning: If you are expecting a post about politics, Guilty Pleasures, football picks or the latest headlines please skip this post and come back and visit Mr. Dilettante's Neighborhood tomorrow.

Next week at this time, we will be packing our suitcases for a trip to Beloit, WI. We will be attending my reunion. Mr. D and I met many years ago at Beloit College. Since we both graduated from the college, we return every couple of years for reunions. We both love going back to Beloit.

This year we will be attending a cluster reunion which means that my class and the two classes behind me will all be attending the same 20th reunion cluster events even though for some people it will actually be their 21st reunion, others their 20th reunion and still others their 19th reunion. Interestingly enough, this year I also attended my 25th high school reunion. Because Beloit does the cluster reunions, every few years I have both a milestone high school and college reunion in the same calendar year.

Five years ago, I attended my high school reunion. I felt like I was back in high school, consulting with my two good friends about what we would wear to the event. The three of us all arrived in dress pants and it seemed like 99 percent of the other women wore their little black dresses (LBD), heels and diamond jewelry. Oops. About a month later, we attended a Beloit reunion. I did little if any consulting with my Beloit friends about what to wear. Many people spent the afternoon in jeans at the football game and went immediately went to the dinner still dressed in their jeans. I went back to the hotel, put on a LBD that I had purchased the week before the reunion and then went to the dinner. Oops.

Okay, I learned my lesson. Last month I appeared at my high school reunion in a LBD and fit in with all of the other women.

I'm not sure what to wear to the big dinner at the Beloit reunion. Truth is, I love to dress up. Casual is hard for women. For men, casual usually means simply a pair of khaki pants and a polo shirt. Casual is not well defined for women. Ultimately, I will probably end up packing several outfits and end up choosing something on Saturday afternoon.

Maybe I will split the difference and wear a LBD with Reeboks.

Real Wannabe Tinpot Dictators of Genius

Lately it hasn't been going very well for Manuel Zelaya, the deposed leader of Honduras. The good news is that Zelaya has analyzed the matter and has a theory about what is happening that he shared with the Miami Herald:

It's been 89 days since Manuel Zelaya was booted from power. He's sleeping on chairs, and he claims his throat is sore from toxic gases and "Israeli mercenaries'' are torturing him with high-frequency radiation.

"We are being threatened with death,'' he said in an interview with The Miami Herald, adding that mercenaries were likely to storm the embassy where he has been holed up since Monday and assassinate him.

"I prefer to march on my feet than to live on my knees before a military dictatorship,'' Zelaya said in a series of back-to-back interviews.

Israeli mercenaries? Probably Joooooos! Dammit, they'll getcha every time! I consulted my Spanish dictionary and found out that Zelaya is the Spanish word for meshuga.

Just a reminder: this is the man that President Obama wants to lead Honduras.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Comedy Gold, ACORN Edition

Great move, guys:

Community activist group ACORN is suing the makers of a hidden-camera video that showed employees of its Baltimore office giving tax advice to a man posing as a pimp and a woman posing as a prostitute.

Tax advice? Well, what kind of tax advice was that?

Two employees at the Baltimore, Maryland, branch of the liberal community organizing group ACORN were caught on tape allegedly offering advice to a pair posing as a pimp and prostitute on setting up a prostitution ring and evading the IRS.

Okay, let's be charitable and call it exceptionally ill-considered tax advice. But what would the cause of action be for ACORN? From the news report:

The liberal group contends that the audio portion of the video was obtained illegally because Maryland requires two-party consent to create sound recordings.

Which is, of course, an utterly ridiculous law. If the law were enforced at all times, it would be impossible for any company to have any audio/video surveillance tapes (excuse me, Mr. Liquor Store Armed Robber, may I have your consent to film you leaping over this counter and sticking a gun in my mouth?) or for news agencies to film any news event without getting prior consent (excuse me, crowd of protestors, may I interrupt what you're doing and have you all sign a waiver and release? Please line up over here to the right.)

But here's the fun part: if the suit were to go forward at all, the defense would have the opportunity to pursue discovery. And lo, can you imagine the interrogatories?

Please, please, please go forward with this suit, ACORN. We'd have to pop enough popcorn to keep Con Agra Foods subsidiary Orville Redenbacher in business forevah.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

But What's Puzzling You Is the Nature of My Game

This is strange:

For the first time in nine years, the United States allowed Burma's foreign minister to come to Washington, a sign of softening U.S. policy toward the military junta that has run that Asian nation for nearly five decades.

Maj. Gen. Nyan Win quietly arrived in Washington on Friday night and left the next day after meetings with members of Burma's embassy, a U.S.-Asian business council and Sen. James Webb, the Virginia Democrat who has advocated closer ties to the junta, according to Kyaw Win, a spokesman for the embassy. The foreign minister also took in some sightseeing, visiting the White House, the Lincoln Memorial and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. A State Department spokesman said Nyan Win did not meet with any U.S. officials.

I guess I would have assumed that a United States Senator is a "U.S. official," but never mind that. Let's remember why Burma has been under sanctions all these years. Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard explains:

All senior members of Burma's military junta are banned from visiting Washington except for very specific international meetings. Nayan Win would certainly fall into the category of a senior official. The visa ban went into effect under President Clinton, who implemented the restrictions in October 1996 against the so-called Law and Order Restoration Council -- an Orwellian term the junta decided to drop in favor of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997.

On October 1, 2007, President Bush announced that because of ongoing repression he was adding more than three dozen military officials, political leaders of the Union Solidarity Development Association (the junta's paramilitary thugs), and their families to the visa-ban list.

What is the reason for these sanctions, you might ask?

Granting a waiver for Nyan Win to visit Washington is a diplomatic coup for a regime that is continuing, as this is being written, a military offensive against ethnic groups that has already resulted in more than one million internally displaced refugees and tens of thousands more pouring over the border into China, Thailand, India and Bangladesh; more than 3,200 villages burned, and most heinous -- the use of rape as an instrument of war against women. The regime is actively engaged in war crimes. This is in addition to the oppression of Burma's democratic freedom fighters and the everyday killings and murders that are standard regime fare. If a Burmese official of comparable rank has visited Washington in the last 20 years, no one I talked to can remember it.

Clearly, Nyan Win is a guy that has blood on his hands. He is a Major General in the Burmese Army. He has participated in meetings where junta plans were discussed and approved -- including those dealing with suppression of democratic rights and the plotting of violence against ethnic groups the regime considers hostile. He designed the diplomatic blueprint for convincing the international community to swallow the regime's campaign of terror. He is Burma's von Ribbentrop.

Honestly, I don't get it. What do we gain from this? Somebody help me out on this one.

Hollywood Plutocrats, Standing Up for You!

Okay, here's the most risible thing I've seen in a long time. Behold as Will Ferrell, who gets paid $20,000,000 a picture, and a host of other Hollywood luminaries mount a mock defense of insurance company executives, who apparently are overpaid or something.

I can't claim credit for this thought as someone else said it first, but it's spot-on. It's just too bad that Natasha Richardson couldn't participate in this righteous project.

Radio Free Dilettante – 092209

The iTunes goes old school, mostly:

Last Five:
Walking into Clarksdale, Page and Plant
Blue Rondo a la Turk, Dave Brubeck
End of the Line, Traveling Wilburys
Just a Thought, Gnarls Barkley
Bloomdido, Dizzy Gillespie

Next Five:
Is That All There Is, Peggy Lee
Big Fat Butterfly, Saunders King and his Blues Band
Telstar, the Ventures
Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Major Lance
Aja, Steely Dan

Monday, September 21, 2009

18 Years Ago Today

Hours fly,
Flowers die.
New days,
New ways,
Pass by.
Love stays.

- Henry Van Dyke

Happy anniversary Mr. D!!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Guilty Pleasures Part Fifty-Four -- Nothing Compares to Pumping the Gun in the Vogue Shack Down Now

Hey people, Fearless Maria is back in town. So don't you mess around. And plus, we've got Mr. D!

Good day, everyone. So Maria, what are we looking at today?

Well, you should know, you helped pick the songs out!

True; we just had to set up the narrative a little bit. We've turned the Wayback Machine to the year 1990. And we've found a number of selections for you today.

You betcha! So if you want a sneak peek at the songs, you might be able to figure it out from the title. So where should we begin, Dad?

How about with one of the enduring video images of 1990, the giant face of Sinead O'Connor, singing and emoting with abandon as she updates an old Prince song in a very different way:

Hey, Dad! Was she one of the "Addicted to Love" ladies? She has that black short hair and the white face!

I don't think so. She seems to have a few emotions, including crying at the end. In fact, I'd guess that she would have nothing to do with the "Addicted to Love" people. Especially Robert Palmer.


What's wrong, Maria?

I'm trying to strike a pose but it hurts because my arm is tangled around my neck and my other arm got caught in my sock so I'm hopping around on one foot!

That's not quite how Madonna planned it, is it?

No, Dad. This is what it look like:

Wow, it looks like they just came out of Vintage Clothes R Us! They are striking a lot of poses, too. I wonder where they shot the video. It looks sort of like a haunted house.

I'm not sure about where they are. What Madonna is doing is combining what was then a current dance music style and some of the images of the late 1940s and 1950s. She was actually very interesting that way.

Well, at least they weren't doing the Strand!

Well, if Madonna stays on the same timetable, she should be getting to the Strand sometime next year, I think.

I hope not, Dad. Anyway, let's take a vacation! Dad, could you load up your Chrysler?

I don't have a Chrysler, Maria.

Aww, but we have to go with the B-52s to the:

Hey, Ben! Guess what? We just found that the B-52s "Love Shack" is at Tomahawk Scout Camp! And I didn't know they had goats and Chryslers as big a whale there! How come you didn't tell us?

I think it's supposed to be a secret, Maria. Just like the Knights of Columbus handshake.


Guess we have to move on, then, don't we?

Yes. It seems like a lot of people were dancing in 1990, Dad. Like these Technotronic people:

Hey Dad! You what would make my day. Make my day. Make my day?

I'm almost afraid to ask, but what would make your day, Maria?

If Technotronic would take speech class or something. I had to go to speech class and I'm a lot easier to understand than those ding dongs. "Pump oop the Jeee-aamm?" What's that all about?

Commerce, Maria. Commerce.

Oh yeah, I just thought of something else, too. They should do one of those mash up things with them and Prince. Get it? Raspberry Jam!

That would probably be easier to take and sets up a really good corporate partnership possibility with Smuckers. Good thinking, Maria!

Help! Run for your life!

Why, Maria?

Because Aerosmith just told me that:

So why did Janie get the gun, Dad?

Because it's hard to buy a rocket launcher, Maria.

Couldn't she have used one of these, instead?

Seems like a better idea to me, Maria. But it's time to move on, doncha think?

Yep. Hey check out what's inside the t.v.! It's a World Party!

Dad, you realize they're dumping garbage on these people. If they were any further down now, they'd be in China!

It doesn't seem like a good place to play music to me either, Maria.

But didn't you say that sometimes it feels like people are dumping garbage on you, Dad?

I must have had a bad day at work when I said that.

Well, fortunately for everyone here, we threw this trash out before we started the contest. So it's time to vote, people! Pick your favorite in the comments section. But stay away from rocket launchers on the strand, or you'll be addicted to not having your vote count, baby.

Good advice, Maria. Always good advice.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Original Neocon

That would be Irving Kristol, who died today at the age of 89. The link from the Associated Press provides plenty of good biographical information on Mr. Kristol. Over at Commentary magazine, editor John Podhoretz explains why Kristol matters so much:

The intellectual and political life of the United States over the past 60 years was affected in so many important and enduring ways by Irving Kristol that it is difficult to capture in words the extent of his powerful and positive influence. Irving, who died today at the age of 89, was the rarest of creatures—a thoroughgoing intellectual who was also a man of action. He was a maker of things, a builder of institutions, a harvester and disseminator and progenitor of ideas and the means whereby those ideas were made flesh.

High praise indeed. And utterly true. Podhoretz:

The number of institutions with which he was affiliated, or started, or helped grow into major centers of learning and thinking is hard to count. There is this institution, COMMENTARY, where he began working after his release from the Army following the conclusion of the Second World War. There were two other magazines in the 1950s, The Reporter and Encounter, which he helped found and whose influence on civil discourse was profound and enduring, even legendary. There was The Public Interest, the quarterly he co-founded in 1965 with Daniel Bell and then ran with Nathan Glazer for more than 30 years, which was the wellspring of neoconservative thinking on domestic policy issues. He helped bring a sleepy Washington think tank called the American Enterprise Institute into the forefront. And he made Basic Books into a publishing powerhouse that was, for more than 20 years, at the red-hot center of every major debate in American life.

It was through his encouragement and lobbying efforts that several foundations began providing the kind of support to thinkers and academics on the Right that other foundations and most universities afforded thinkers and academics on the Left. Through his columns in the Wall Street Journal, he instructed American businessmen on the relation between what they did and the foundational ideas of capitalism as explicated by Adam Smith and changed many of them from sideline players in the battle over the direction of the American economy into frontline advocates.

Aside from William F. Buckley, Irving Kristol was arguably the most important intellectual figure on the American Right in the 20th Century. Lately the term "neocon" has become something of a slur in certain precincts of American life. Much of the venom comes from the backstory of neoconservatism, which was largely an intellectual movement of American Jews away from the increasingly radical leftism of the 1960s. Kristol, along with individuals such as Norman Podhoretz (John's father), David Horowitz and Ronald Radosh, were the prime movers in this movement. It took no uncertain courage for Kristol and his colleagues to make the move -- he and the others have been objects of derision and scorn on the Left for well over 40 years.

John Podhoretz's piece has a lot more and you should read it. But more importantly, I'd commend that you read some of Kristol's highly influential essays. Commentary has opened its archives and has made 45 of Kristol's available online. They are worth your time.

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Week 2

Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends. I am the Benster, and once again I have brought out the Mr. D for Decrepit to pick the games.

Well Sparky, how did we do last week? Or would you prefer not to review the carnage?

Okay. Decrepit went 6-0 and I went, uh, 4-2.

Old dudes are wise, grasshopper.

Well, don't forget that I torched you in fantasy football!

There's little chance that I'll forget that, since you bring it up every 20 minutes or so. But anyway, don't we have some games to pick, Seabiscuit?

We do. Let's get to it, Dad!

California Bears (-14) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. Well, I have to say that I don't like the Gophers' chances in this one, because the Pac-10 is a strong conference in my opinion and Adam Weber is going to open up a can of Fail. Cal 31, Goldy 21.

Hmmm. I don't think Adam Weber is going to be the issue this week. The question is whether the Gopher defense can stop Cal's offense. I doubt they can, but the 14 point spread seems a bit high to me as well. Think it will be a wild one. Cal 42, Minnesota 31.

Wofford Terriers (NL) vs. Wisconsin Badgers. I don't even know where Wofford is. And I don't even know if they are in Division 1-A, or the FBS or whatever the heck they are calling it now. Time to cage the Terrier. Bucky 56, Wofford 3.

Well, let's find out where Wofford College is. According to the Google, it's located in Spartanburg, SC. Their enrollment is around around 1,500 students, which makes it smaller than most of the schools in the Twin Cities, including Macalester, St. Thomas, St. Catherine and potentially Lakeland Dental Academy. The Badgers should really be ashamed of scheduling this school. But Brett Bielema has no shame. Next year the Badgers should schedule a larger, more formidable foe. Like Eden Prairie High School, for example. Wisconsin 42, Wofford 14.

Michigan State Spartans (+5) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish. I think this is going to be a good game. I saw a bit of the Irish last week and they looked pretty good, even though they lost to Michigan. But I think Sparty is going to win. Sparty 22, Notre Dame 21.

Interesting pick, young man. I think ND is the better team and they are at home. Michigan State is the same as they always seem to be -- talented, yet very erratic. You really shouldn't lose a game to the Central Michigan Chippewas, but that is what the Spartans did last week. Until Sparty figures out their running game, they will be a bit short. Notre Dame 31, Michigan State 17.

Minnesota Vikings (-10) vs. Detroit Lions. Okay, Detroit -- you got no defense to speak of. Drew Brees lit you up like a bonfire last week and the jury is still out on Matthew Stafford. I have to go with #4, as he breaks yet another record. Vikings 49, Lions 0.

So what did you say the name of the Lions quarterback was, Ben?

Matthew Stafford. Why?

Okay. For a minute I thought you meant this guy. Fortunately, he's been confined to Branson. The Lions might want to go to Branson, too, after they get their butts handed to them this week. I expect that the Vikings will score early and reasonably often in this one, though the one stud on the Lions, WR Calvin Johnson, will get a score or maybe two. Vikings 34, Lions 17.

Cincinnati Bungles (-9) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. Okay class, let's take a look at the Bungles offense. At quarterback we have Carson Palmer, who seems to get hurt. At running back, we have Bears retread Cedric Benson, who got in trouble with the league. And at wide receiver, we have Chad Ocho Cinco, who is the biggest headcase I've ever seen. Green Bay wins. Pack 31, Bungles 0.

The Bengals aren't too good. That's true. They aren't as inept as some other teams in the league, but they won't do too well in Lambeau. And if you need to bring in Cedric Benson, you have issues. They might have been better off bringing in Cedric the Entertainer, who at least is funny on purpose. Packers 27, Bengals 14.

Pittsburgh Stillers (-3) vs. Bear Down Chicago Bears. Okay Gino, we're going to throw you a bone and pick this game. It is going to be hard hitting. But I believe in the Steeler defense. Look for Jay Cutler to throw at least 2 more interceptions in this one. Steelers 10, Bears 7.

Da Bearz have issues. So do their fans, of course (just kidding, Gino!), but the biggest problem is that they lost Brian Urlacher for the season last week and they are still trying to get by with some gimpy defensive backs. I suspect the name you'll hear called on Sunday is Santonio Holmes. And I suspect that ol' Hub Arkush will be crying in his Old Style by the time this one is done. Steelers 24, Bears 13.

That's it for this week. And oh by the way Gino, Dad really didn't mean anything by the comment he made about Bears fans. Just because we root for different teams doesn't mean we can't all get along.

That's a truly noble sentiment, Ben! I'm proud of you! But we still need to give Gino a ration.

The Scranton Cassandra

You might remember this deep thought from Joe Biden, offered out on the hustings last year:

"Mark my words," the Democratic vice presidential nominee warned at the second of his two Seattle fundraisers Sunday. "It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."

"I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate," Biden said to Emerald City supporters, mentioning the Middle East and Russia as possibilities. "And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you - not financially to help him - we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right."

Emphasis mine. As it happens, there hasn't been a crisis per se, although there have been some missed opportunities (Iran) and decisions to back the wrong horse (Honduras). But Biden was on to something, because yesterday's decision to stick a shiv in the back of Poland and our other eastern European allies by canceling a missile defense system for their countries is frankly bizarre.

I don't see what we get from this. From the linked article:

President Barack Obama’s decision to scrap a U.S. missile defense system for eastern Europe won praise from Russian leaders. What it didn’t win was a sign that they will cooperate to thwart Iran’s nuclear program.

For their part, Obama and his minions insist it doesn't have anything to do with Russia, even though Russia benefits directly:

Obama stressed that his reversal of President George W. Bush’s plan to place radar and missile interceptors in the Czech Republic and Poland reflects a new assessment of Iran’s missile capabilities, not a response to Russian opposition.

“This is not about Russia,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said yesterday.

Do you believe that? I sure the hell don't. What's worse, the timing was despicable, as Mitch Berg points out:

Not only did Obama sell America’s allies in Eastern Europe down the river, he did it on the seventieth anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland, which completed the final parting-out of Poland’s fledgling democracy in 1939.

And I also have to agree with Mitch's conclusion:

There are many areas where I’m willing to chalk Obama’s actions up to stupidity, and the invincible ignorance that follows whenever you put a bunch of Ivy Leaguers in the same place.

But I’m sorry - there was no way in hell Obama and his staff didn’t know the significance of 9/17 in Poland. No f****ng way.

So we go back to Joe Biden's statement. No, Mr. Vice President, it's not apparent that you're right. Not at all. And if you wonder why, consider this.

More on this last link later.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Perhaps Rep. McCollum Could Explain

Her decision to join with 74 other members of her party (including Rep. Ellison) to vote against defunding ACORN.

Should we assume she's totally cool with funding organizations that are happy to advise how to evade taxes and set up a child prostitution ring?

Closed circuit to the potted plants at KARE, WCCO, KSTP, etc. — maybe you could ask her?

Have at It

So, here's a chance for my portside pals to take a swat at the pinata.

Frank J. Fleming:

Now conservatives have more reason to be angry these days, with liberals in charge and all the spending and government takeovers. But with Democrats having complete control of the government, you’d think liberals could be dismissive of
conservatives and be calm themselves. But no, they’re still crazy angry. Maybe even angrier than before. Biting-fingers-off angry. They’re screeching about how all the people opposed to Obama are racists and neo-Nazis and stupid, and they’re using sexual slurs against protesters and boycotting everyone who disagrees with them. They’re still nuts, but why?

See things from their point of view. The most fundamental principle liberals have is that they are all very, very smart, and everyone should listen to them. Nothing angers them more than something that challenges them to reexamine that core tenet. And that’s why they were so delighted by the election of President Obama and further wins in the House and Senate. For a moment they thought the American people had recognized liberals as their superiors and said to them: “Please! Smart people! Lead us and tell us what to do!”

Ann Althouse, quoting the Washington Post on the Baucus proposal, with Ann's comments italicized:

Drafting young adults into any health-care reform package is crucial to paying for it. As low-cost additions to insurance pools, young adults would help dilute the expense of covering older, sicker people. Depending on how Congress requires insurers to price their policies, this group could even wind up paying disproportionately hefty premiums — effectively subsidizing coverage for their parents...

An early draft of the proposal set the penalty at $750 or $950 per year for single people, depending on income. But according to various insurance experts, even the least expensive plan under the bill could cost more than $100 per month, making it cheaper for people to pay the fine than to buy insurance.

Yes, kids, why don't each of you throw about $800 into the pot and get nothing out of it, not even any insurance. Do your part. Remember what Obama said about being responsible:

Now, even if we provide these affordable options, there may be those -- especially the young and the healthy -- who still want to take the risk and go without coverage... The problem is, such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money.

Yeah, you little jerks. Step up and contribute.

Go ahead and start refutin'. And enjoy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

That's Gonna Leave a Mark

Former President Carter made the following observation yesterday in re Joe Wilson:

Responding to an audience question at a town hall at his presidential center in Atlanta, Carter said Tuesday that Wilson's outburst was also rooted in fears of a black president.

''I think it's based on racism,'' Carter said. ''There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president.''

Well, now. Ann Althouse (who voted for Barack Obama) on Jimmy Carter:

Lots of people who voted for Obama believed that his election would reflect the extent to which Americans had moved beyond racism. That was part of why some people voted for him. Little did we realize that it would turn every criticism of the President into an occasion to make an accusation of racism. Racism is revolting, but so is the notion that we aren't allowed to criticize a President!

Jimmy Carter's supremely sleazy accusation requires a solid, sound rebuke. It is an effort to place the President of the United States beyond criticism.
But she's just getting warmed up. Here's the finale:

Jimmy Carter is doing something that, before the election, he would not have revealed that he planned to do. It is a low and despicable political move that he should be ashamed of.

And since demanding apologies is all the rage, let me say that I would like the wizened old husk of a former President to beg our forgiveness.

Whap! Oof! There's more. Read the whole thing.

(h/t: Prof. Reynolds)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

From Little ACORNS Big Scandals Grow. . . .

If you haven't seen the video that James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles have shot at ACORN offices in various parts of the country, you really should. Today's installment is especially entertaining.

It's a curious time in our nation. Conservative outlets publicize things, Congress acts upon what they publicize and the MSM can't be bothered to cover any of it. Consider the reaction of outgoing ABC News anchorman Charlie Gibson, discussing his ignorance of what is happening with Don and Roma at Chicago's WLS radio:

Don: Okay, here’s my news question. A Senate bill yesterday passes, cutting off funds to this group called ACORN. Now, we got that bill passed and we have the embarrassing video of ACORN staffers giving tax advice on how to set up a brothel with 13-year-old hookers. It has everything you could want – corruption and sleazy action at tax-funded organizations and it’s got government ties. But nobody’s covering that story. Why?

Gibson: HAHAHAHAHA. HEHEHE. I didn’t even know about it. Um. So, you’ve got me at a loss. I don’t know. Uh. Uh. But my goodness, if it’s got everything including sleaziness in it, we should talk about it this morning.

Roma: This is the American way!

Gibson: Or maybe this is just one you leave to the cables.

Roma: Well, I think this is a huge issue because there’s so much funding that goes into this organization…

Gibson: I know we’ve done some stories about ACORN before, but this one I don’t know about…

Roma: Jake Tapper did some blogging on it. I know he’s blogged at least once on this scandal.

Gibson: You guys are uh really up on the website.

Emphasis mine. Either Gibson has completely dropped the ball or he doesn't want to know. And that's passing strange, considering he's in the very recent past wanted to be seen as authoritative. Recall that this is the same Charles Gibson who put his glasses on the end of his nose, peering and sneering at Sarah Palin for being out of touch. Perhaps he's decided to start his retirement early?

The ACORN scandal matters because they have managed to get a lot of money from the federal government over the years, even though they have been working essentially hand in glove with the Democratic Party. And the scandal matters because President Obama has worked with ACORN over the years.

But I'll drop it now, because we aren't supposed to talk about it. As you were....

Monday, September 14, 2009

Credit Where It's Due

The other day I praised the importance of plain speaking. In that spirit, hats off to President Obama for apparently calling Kanye West a "jackass." Too bad they felt it should have been off the record:

"In the process of reporting on remarks by President Obama that were made during a CNBC interview, ABC News employees prematurely tweeted a portion of those remarks that turned out to be from an off-the-record portion of the interview. This was done before our editorial process had been completed. That was wrong. We apologize to the White House and CNBC and are taking steps to ensure that it will not happen again."

Coulda been his Sister Souljah moment. Could still be. Fess 'up, Mr. President. No one in America is going to disagree with you on this one.

Radio Free Dilettante - 091409

Last Five:

Lullaby of London, the Pogues
Heard It in a Love Song, Marshall Tucker Band
Games Without Frontiers, Peter Gabriel
Middle Man, Living Colour
Love Rollercoaster, Ohio Players

Next Five:

Peaches, Presidents of the United States of America
The Wait, Pretenders
What Good Am I Without You, Marvin Gaye/Kim Weston
Family Affair, Sly and the Family Stone
Why Don't You Do Right, Peggy Lee

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Norman Borlaug, RIP

When we think about the most important figures of the 20th Century, we tend to focus on the politicians -- Churchill, FDR, Mao, Hitler, Stalin, Reagan -- but there are others who arguably impact far more human lives. Norman Borlaug, who died yesterday at the age of 95, is one of those people. Ronald Bailey of Reason magazine interviewed Borlaug in 2000 and Bailey's introduction to the interview explains why Borlaug is a giant:

In the late 1960s, most experts were speaking of imminent global famines in which billions would perish. "The battle to feed all of humanity is over," biologist Paul Ehrlich famously wrote in his 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb. "In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now." Ehrlich also said, "I have yet to meet anyone familiar with the situation who thinks India will be self-sufficient in food by 1971." He insisted that "India couldn't possibly feed two hundred million more people by 1980."

But Borlaug and his team were already engaged in the kind of crash program that Ehrlich declared wouldn't work. Their dwarf wheat varieties resisted a wide spectrum of plant pests and diseases and produced two to three times more grain than the traditional varieties. In 1965, they had begun a massive campaign to ship the miracle wheat to Pakistan and India and teach local farmers how to cultivate it properly. By 1968, when Ehrlich's book appeared, the U.S. Agency for International Development had already hailed Borlaug's achievement as a "Green Revolution."

So how did Borlaug's wheat do? Bailey:

In Pakistan, wheat yields rose from 4.6 million tons in 1965 to 8.4 million in 1970. In India, they rose from 12.3 million tons to 20 million. And the yields continue to increase. Last year, India harvested a record 73.5 million tons of wheat, up 11.5 percent from 1998. Since Ehrlich's dire predictions in 1968, India's population has more than doubled, its wheat production has more than tripled, and its economy has grown nine-fold. Soon after Borlaug's success with wheat, his colleagues at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research developed high-yield rice varieties that quickly spread the Green Revolution through most of Asia.

Contrary to Ehrlich's bold pronouncements, hundreds of millions didn't die in massive famines. India fed far more than 200 million more people, and it was close enough to self-sufficiency in food production by 1971 that Ehrlich discreetly omitted his prediction about that from later editions of The Population Bomb. The last four decades have seen a "progress explosion" that has handily outmatched any "population explosion."

Ehrlich and his neo-Malthusian colleagues were utterly drubbed. It is passing strange that the Left has claimed the mantle of Science while disdaining the actual applications of science that Borlaug and his colleagues developed. You hear an echo of this argument today in the ongoing argument over "sustainable agriculture." Gregg Easterbrook profiled Borlaug in the Atlantic back in the mid-90s and made this crucial point about Borlaug, who had graduated from the University of Minnesota just as the Dust Bowl was about to begin:

At the same time, the Midwest was becoming the Dust Bowl. Though some mythology now attributes the Dust Bowl to a conversion to technological farming methods, in Borlaug's mind the problem was the lack of such methods. Since then
American farming has become far more technological, and no Dust Bowl conditions have recurred. In the summer of 1988 the Dakotas had a drought as bad as that in
the Dust Bowl, but clouds of soil were rare because few crops failed. Borlaug was horrified by the Dust Bowl and simultaneously impressed that its effects seemed least where high-yield approaches to farming were being tried. He decided that his life's work would be to spread the benefits of high-yield farming to the many nations where crop failures as awful as those in the Dust Bowl were regular facts of life.

As Bailey also notes from the 2000 interview:

More than 30 years ago, Borlaug wrote, "One of the greatest threats to mankind today is that the world may be choked by an explosively pervading but well camouflaged bureaucracy."

Now, 40 years on, that's still true. Rest in peace.

(h/t: Instapundit)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Week 1

What up, guys? The Benster is back in the house and he brought his decrepit old Dad with him.

I'm not really that decrepit, Benster.

After you're done getting your butt kicked in predictions, you'll feel really decrepit. Bring it on, Mr. D!

So here's how we're going to do this. We will pick some college games and some pro games. Both me, the mighty Benster, and that old dude who runs the blog. And we'll see who does better. How does that sound, D for Decrepit?

Sounds groovy.

Game on. First, we're going to start out with a stadium opening. In case you live in Minnesota, but your address is under a rock, chances are you probably heard about the new TCF Bank Stadium. The Gophers are finally going to play in this thing tomorrow.

Air Force (+ 3 1/2) vs. Gophers. All Air Force is good for is a bunch of pilots and falcons flying around their home field. Funny, falcons don't really play football, the last time I checked. Minnesota 31, Falcon U. 3

Okay Benster. I'm a little less optimistic than you are, but I do think the Gophers will have enough offense this week to win the game. Minnesota 31, Air Force 27.

Fresno State (+ 9) vs. Wisconsin Badgers. I don't even know where the heck Fresno State is. I don't know anything about them, so let's just say that destruction will rain down from the heavens and Fresno State will go back to wherever it is they call home depressed. Wisconsin 35, Fresno State 0.

I know where Fresno is! It's in the middle of nowhere! Actually it's about in the middle of California, in an agricultural region, and it's supposedly a pretty awful place. So when they go to Madison and get beat, they'll be used to awful. Wisconsin 28, Fresno State 17.

Southern Cal (-7) vs. The Ohio State University. Well, unless Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez suddenly become re-eligible, I'll have to continue the Big 10 sweep. Ohio State 24, USC 17.

And I'm finally going to disagree with you, Benster. Southern Cal may not have anyone you've ever heard of on the team, but they always have better athletes than just about anyone. And besides, Jim Tressel really needs to lose the lame sweater vest. He looks like a substitute math teacher. And the math is against the Buckeyes this time. USC 34, Ohio State 20.

Vikings (-4) vs. Cleveland Browns. To put it straight to you Queens fans, Brett Favre is really playing for you guys just to stick it to the Pack. And he's going to have a miserable day and prove that coming out of retirement is not a good decision. I'm calling the upset here: Cleveland 13, Queens 10.

Well, I'm very proud to see that my son has learned to disdain the locals! Having said that, I don't see any way that the Cleveland Browns, as currently constituted, can beat the Vikings. Here's the story, of a man named Brady, who was busy getting sacked by Jared Allen. Vikings 27, Cleveland 10.

Chicago da Bearz (+3 1/2) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. I'm the zookeeper that is the NFC North. I'm sorry to say that a Bronco came into the Bear pit and has a bad attitude. And it looks like da Bearz want to kick the Packers where it hurts. Except the leader of the Packers squad will torch the defense of da Bearz. I might add that their middle linebacker is overrated and you remember what happened the last time da Bearz went to Lambeau. Meat Packers 40, da Bearz 0.

That pick ought to get a rise out of Gino! I dunno, Benster. The Packers have looked pretty good in the preseason, but so have da Bearz. I do like the beloved Green and Gold at home, though. Green Bay Packers 31, da Bearz 21.

Detroit Lions (+13) vs. New Orleans Saints. The last time the Lions won, Barack Obama was still in the U.S. Senate, George Bush was president and Matthew Stafford was getting ready for the senior prom. I put a picture of Bobby Layne with this post, because the last time the Lions were any good, he was the quarterback. And Barack Obama wasn't even born yet. The Lions have a horrendous defense and the Saints feature my dominant fantasy league quarterback, Drew Brees! The Saints are going to go marching in and dominate. Saints 63, Lions 0.

Mrs. D just suggested to me that Benster is confused and is picking the Florida State game, based on that score. The Lions are allegedly a professional team, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. They will be better this year. And they may even win a game. But it won't be this week. Saints 34, Lions 17.

Anyway, we'll compare the results and then see how we do. My dad, as usual, is going to lose this competition. But I, the Benster, am ready to begin gloating anytime now.

We'll see, young fella. We'll see.

On Terminological Inexactitude

Sorry to keep picking at this particular scab, but this needs to be said.

Joe "Horrible Breach of Decorum" Wilson called the President of the United States a liar on Wednesday night on the matter of whether or not those in this country illegally would have eligibility for Obama Care. Once everyone's jaw lifted from the floor, the President said, "not true."

The consensus seemed to be that Wilson was out of line for calling the president a liar. Was Wilson right?

The controversy over Republican Rep. Joe Wilson's shouting out "You Lie!" at the President over his claim that illegal immigrants wouldn't benefit from health-care reform apparently sparked some reconsideration of the relevant language. "We really thought we'd resolved this question of people who are here illegally, but as we reflected on the President's speech last night we wanted to go back and drill down again," said Senator Kent Conrad, one of the Democrats in the talks after a meeting Thursday morning. Baucus later that afternoon said the group would put in a proof of citizenship requirement to participate in the new health exchange — a move likely to inflame the left.

At the risk of inflaming my portside friends, let's just say the president was suffering from a little terminological exactitude. And this has happened before, of course.

On Decorum in Congress

We had a lively discussion yesterday on the matter of decorum in Congress and I was instructed at some length on the horrible breach of protocol from Congressman Joe Wilson (not to be confused with Ambassador Joe Wilson, who made a lot of money from calling the President of the United States a liar).

A little recent history seems to be in order. Consider the wise words of Representative Fortney "Pete" Stark of California, discussing the actions of the President of the United States, circa 2007:

You don’t have money to fund the war or children. But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.”

Let's see if we have this straight -- you cannot call the President of the United States a liar on the floor of the U.S. Congress. But you can say what Rep. Stark said, apparently. From what I can tell, he did not utter these words at a Rage Against the Machine concert, by the way.


I wrote the following 3 years ago. It still seems right to me.


It was an especially beautiful morning, and really a gorgeous day, one of those days that make September the best time of year in Minnesota. The sky was clear and the morning air was crisp. I climbed on the 4 bus on Foss Road and began my journey to my office in downtown Minneapolis. I arrived at my desk about the same time the first plane hit.

We all can remember what we were doing that day. I remember thinking that this was different. I remember the first reports coming around as routine office chatter – “did you hear that a small plane hit the World Trade Center?” Then we learned the second plane had hit. And the rumors were flying. Planes were crashing into buildings all over the country. The Air Force was shooting down airliners. We knew the nation was under attack, an attack we couldn’t quite comprehend. Work at my office crawled to a standstill as a single television set showed the smoking buildings. Broadcast e-mails from the top executives imploring everyone to “get back to work” were ignored.

We didn’t know what we should do. A co-worker and fellow Catholic, who knew of my involvement at my home parish because we’d compared our experiences, suggested that we go to St. Olaf for noon Mass. A group of us did and found the downtown church filled to the rafters. We heard the pastor speak of peace, of remaining calm, of God’s love on a day when hatred was streaked across the skies and the airwaves. And we knew that Father Forliti was right. But we also knew that there would be a fight and the world had changed.

I went home that night and turned on the news. My son, freshly arrived from kindergarten, bounded down the steps, looking for his usual dose of Scooby Doo. My wife called down, “No, Benjamin, don’t go down there!” But he was there and he saw the footage of the plane striking the second tower. And he knew, in his child-like way, that this was real, and it was horrible. He started to cry and ran back up the stairs, screaming “I don’t want to see that!” I will never forget the look on his face.

Five years on, I think a lot of us are still screaming “I don’t want to see that!” It’s a rare thing in this life to actually witness evil, to see malevolence on a grand scale, to view an atrocity happen before your eyes. Most of the time, evil tends to happen quietly, in the background, without wide exposure. Because we don’t often see it as it occurs, we tend to either recoil from what we see, or fail to understand what we are seeing, or deny that we see is evil. That’s natural – we call it coping. But coping is not enough. Taking off our shoes in the airport is coping. We can cope indefinitely. But evil remains.

And I think we have to call this thing what it is – evil. Flying planes into buildings is evil. Bombing nightclubs and mosques is evil. Providing a cash stipend to the families of suicide bombers is evil. Pushing elderly men in wheelchairs into the Mediterranean is evil. Blowing up subway trains is evil. This is what we still face, five years on. I cannot predict where we will be in five years from this day, but I can only assume that we will still face evil. And saying “I don’t want to see that” will remain insufficient.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Meanwhile, playing in the kabuki theater

While I hate to interrupt the festivities taking place now as our fastidious liberal friends hit the Joe Wilson pinata with their kendo sticks, our good friend Bike Bubba reminds us of something else.

What say you, ye righteous portside commenters?

The D's Do Their Part to Stimulate the Economy

Well, our kids are back in school now and I think that I am finally done shopping for school supplies. I am amazed every year at what appears on the school supply lists from the schools as well as other essential items that need to be purchased by parents. Here's a partial list of items that we were expected to provide.

  • 60 sharpened pencils per child

  • 2 dozen reward type stickers

  • Clorox wipes

  • Vocabulary textbook

  • Calculator

  • 3 packages of Post-It notes

  • Books for the classroom

  • Dry erase markers

  • 1 or 2 boxes of tissues

  • Paint set

  • Highlighter

  • Sketchbook

  • Sharpie pen

  • 3 ring binder

  • Clipboard

  • $15 cash for classroom activities and additional supplies

Of course, we also have to provide the usual additional items like crayons, colored pencils, composition notebook, notebooks, folders, black/blue pens, red pens, glue sticks, erasers, etc.

When I went to school, there were only a few items on the school supply list. We could buy the items and put them all in our heavy duty cardboard pencil box and take everything to school on the first day. I spent more time trying to decide between the Partridge Family lunchbox and the Donny Osmond lunchbox than I did looking for all of the rest of my school supplies.

The week before school officially starts, my kids go to school to meet their teacher and drop off a grocery bag full of supplies plus they bring additional supplies on the first day of school. When did the required number of supplies expand from everything fitting into a 6" x 9" pencil box to everything barely fitting into a backpack?

Hopefully our checkbook recovers from purchasing the school supplies in the next ten days or so before the PTA fall fundraiser order form comes home.

The Dude is Good

I may have to reconsider my views, inasmuch as President Obama has already reduced the number of Americans without health insurance by at least a third in the past month. From yesterday's speech to Congress:

There are now more than thirty million American citizens who cannot get coverage.
Just last month, he told us this:

"Nearly 46 million Americans don't have health insurance coverage today."

Wow. That's real progress. I wonder what changed?

No Game

I'll try to get to parsing more of the President's speech at some point, but for now I'd call your attention to John Hinderaker's useful review, especially the following:

Here are some excerpts from the speech that I thought were noteworthy:

Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics.

Then, a few minutes later:

Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it most. And more will die as a result.

By far the biggest scaremonger on this issue has been Obama himself.

Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed.

I'm not sure whether Obama and his handlers understand how this sort of talk grates on those of us who are not liberal Democrats (a large majority of the country). Debating public policy issues is not "bickering." Disagreeing with a proposal to radically change one of the largest sectors of our economy is not a "game." This kind of gratuitous insult--something we never heard from President Bush, for example--is one of the reasons why many consider Obama to be mean-spirited.

Yep. And there's a lot more. Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Gino Needs an Adjective

Gino has called me out for not giving him a proper superlative on the post immediately below that announces the new group blog.

So, let's have a contest. Pick your favorite from the following and tell me which one best describes our favorite California correspondent*:

very best

I think the smart money is on "splendiferous." But cast your vote!

*Oops, I just remembered that Amanda is out in Cali, too. So I guess you should pick an adjective from the list for her, too. The smart money on that one: resplendent.

Since We Don't Have Enough Projects. . . .

Here's another. The inimitable Kingdavid has started a new group blog called Grumpy Old Men -- The Prequel. The initial cast of characters seems like a very strong group, including KD himself, the immortal Picklesworth, Gino, my good friend Brad Carlson and the shadowy figure known as The Moose. And there may be others -- the KD network is vast and influential and he's quite likely to find other worthy contributors. I know KD is actively soliciting a blogger who can defend the honor of the Detroit Lions. That might be tough....

Oh, and I'll be weighing in over there too. You can be the first kid on your block to bookmark this crucial new enterprise. I'd strongly recommend it. Don't forget.

Meanwhile, the Neighborhood remains intact and regular programming will continue here.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The 18 Minute Gap

So the President gave his speech to the nation's schoolchildren today. You can read it here and watch it here. As I predicted, it was perfunctory and hortatory. Here's a representative paragraph:

That’s why today, I’m calling on each of you to set your own goals for your education – and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as doing all your homework, paying attention in class, or spending time each day reading a book. Maybe you’ll decide to get involved in an extracurricular activity, or volunteer in your community. Maybe you’ll decide to stand up for kids who are being teased or bullied because of who they are or how they look, because you believe, like I do, that all kids deserve a safe environment to study and learn. Maybe you’ll decide to take better care of yourself so you can be more ready to learn. And along those lines, I hope you’ll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don’t feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter.

Whatever you resolve to do, I want you to commit to it. I want you to really work at it.

Did the President say anything that merits an objection? Not that I can see. Was it necessary for him to make the presentation? Not that I can see.

As it happens, my school-age kids didn't end up seeing the speech anyway. My son doesn't start school until tomorrow (a perk of being in the top dog class at his middle school) and my daughter reported that her school was "too busy" to bother, since it was the first day of school and they had other things that needed attention. Based on reading the speech, it wouldn't have bothered me very much if they had seen it, since the message was so noncontroversial. My guess is that the experience of hearing President Obama tell them that they need to work hard and wash their hands would have almost no impact on their lives. They've heard all that stuff before from their parents. Pretty much every day. My kids don't really need the reinforcement. But thanks anyway, Mr. President.

And that is where the issue lies. It's quite possible that somewhere in this nation, some kid may be inspired listening to an African-American President touting the same wisdom that all 43 of his predecessors would have offered in a similar situation. The problem is this: the message needs reinforcement. And the reinforcing message needs to come from parents. And the problem isn't the children. The problem is the parents who can't be bothered with the tedious business of rearing their children. To the children of such parents, such words typically fall from the speaker's mouth like road gravel. The sound is a dull roar that doesn't signify much.

President Obama may want to be a shining example to the youth of our nation. It's a noble thought and for the sake of this discussion I'm going to assume that he had no ulterior motives beyond trying to offer his life story as a good example for the youth of this nation. And while I disagree with the President's politics, there's no gainsaying that his life story is an inspriational one, just as the stories that Horatio Alger penned some 130 years ago were similarly intended. But President Obama's postmodern, picaresque Horatio Alger story is just that -- a story. It can't replace active, involved parenting. His Washington-based ministrations can't provide the individualized attention a child needs to understand the world. And beyond that, doing such things is not his job. He could give an 18-minute speech every day (and sometimes it sure seems like he does), but the gap would remain.

And as long as President Obama continues to go back to the well of his own experience to provide justification for what he does today, he delays the work that he does need to attend to. Beyond the current war of his choosing (health care), there are a lot of other challenges afoot that need attention, right now, many of them in the foreign policy arena. Education is a crucial issue, but the responsibility for administering education falls at the local level and there are many, many people who have the responsibility for dealing with it. My daughter's school principal can't do much about what is happening in Afghanistan, Honduras or Israel and he wouldn't see it as his role in any event. He's better situated to assist in my daughter's education than the President of the United States. And I'd prefer that the principal do the job, since Mr. Obama has other pressing duties. At some point, the time for speechmaking comes to an end and the president needs to start doing other things. I think we're past that time now.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Labor Day Music Special

I was going to do a Guilty Pleasures this evening, but since it's a SCHOOL NIGHT (heh heh), Fearless Maria is hors de combat this evening. So let's do something a little different.

Labor Day usually means a few things: picnics, a nice day off and usually a series of lamentations in the MSM about the waning influence of organized labor. You could almost set your watch by it. This being Mr. Dilettante's Neighborhood, I'd rather talk about music.

My good friend and regular portside commenter Rich mentioned songs about working a few days back and made a number of excellent suggestions. I'm going to provide you links to a few of those songs, and a few others that Mrs. D and I thought of, for your Labor Day pleasure. You can either vote for your favorite, or suggest another one that you don't see here. My commentary will be pretty minimal, though -- most of these speak for themselves.

We Gotta Get Out of this Place -- The Animals, with a needless intro from Casey Kasem.

Career Opportunities -- The Clash, with some excellent hats.

Working for the Clampdown -- also The Clash, warning what happens when you start wearing blue and brown.

Smithers-Jones -- The Jam, a band that never quite made it here in America, even though they were just about as big as the Clash back in the U.K.

5:15 -- The Who. Out of my brain on the train.

Working Day and Night -- Michael Jackson, one of many great tracks from Off the Wall.

Workin' in a Coalmine -- Lee Dorsey, the original.

Workin' in a Coalmine -- Devo, perhaps not an improvement, from the now largely forgotten variety show Fridays.

Industrial Disease -- Dire Straits, which contains one of my favorite lines in rock history: "two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong."

Work With Me, Annie -- Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, from way back when. I don't think he's talking about his job. This song merited a response from Etta James: Roll With Me, Henry

Work to Do -- the Isley Brothers, a great one from their second commercial peak in the early 1970s.

9 to 5 -- Dolly Parton. Well, yeah. Also some nice cameos from various Disney characters.

One Piece at a Time -- Johnny Cash does a little method acting. Better than stealing office supplies.

Work Song -- Cannonball Adderley Sextet. The audio on this one is very low, but it's a nice, er, jazz workout and my high school pep band used to play this song before our home basketball games, so it's got some good memories.

When the Night Comes -- The Boomtown Rats. Bob Geldof's band was a pretty iffy proposition, but I liked these guys a lot in high school and this one still works for me.

And the best part -- we got through the whole shebang without referencing Johnny Paycheck. Oops.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Weekend in Football

Football has kinda snuck up on me this year but now it seems like things are happening. A few quick observations:

  • The Big Ten isn't much better, is it? Ohio State almost got beat by Navy, Iowa should have been beaten by Northern Iowa and my beloved Badgers fell asleep against hated Northern Illinois. The Gophers won in overtime against Syracuse, but weren't exactly impressive, either. And Night Writer's Missouri Tigers kicked the Illini all over St. Louis. I don't think it's going to be pretty this year.
  • The watched parts of a few games yesterday and the best team I saw was Cal, which just hammered a pretty good Maryland team. Notre Dame looks much improved, too. Michael Floyd, the former Cretin star, was dominant. It's quite possible that in a few years, when Floyd hits the NFL, that he will be as good a wide receiver as another Minnesota product, Larry Fitzgerald.
  • By the way, isn't Cretin Derham-Hall just an amazing program? They have produced Paul Molitor, Chris Weinke, Steve Walsh, Joe Mauer, Michael Floyd and now Seantrel Henderson, who is ranked the number one potential recruit in the country. You'd be hard pressed to find another high school anywhere that has produced so many talented people.
  • The NFL starts next week and the biggest news were the cuts. Nothing too surprising happened with the Vikings. John David Booty wasn't good enough to be on the team. It will be interesting to see what the Vikes decide regarding the backup quarterback situation. The word was they were shopping Tarvaris Jackson, but it was wise not to trade him. I know that most Vikings fans doubt his ability, but I still think he has upside. If he'd been available on the waiver wire, I would have wanted the Packers to pick him up as a backup.
  • As for my beloved Packers, not too many surprises, either. Ruvell Martin has been a contributor for the past few years, but he was always the 4th or 5th receiver, so it's no shock to see that he didn't make the team. No one else that was a contributor last year has disappeared, either.

The Van Down by the River

Van Jones steps aside:

"On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me," Jones, special adviser for green jobs at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said in a statement announcing his resignation just after midnight Saturday. "They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide."

Jones is a lawyer. As such, he ought to know that the truth is an absolute defense. And quoting someone accurately isn't a lie. Don't worry about him, though -- I'm sure MSNBC is hiring.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Story Behind the Stories

Two stories have been pretty big ones this week in the larger conservative blogosphere: the speech that Obama plans to present to the nation's schoolchildren, and the saga of "green jobs" czar Van Jones, who has a few, shall we say, exotic views of the world. A few thoughts:

  • Some of the things I've seen said about the Obama speech to kids are kinda silly. I don't believe for a moment that he has some sort of special powers that are going to mesmerize the impressionable youth of America. He's most likely going to give some perfunctory, hortatory remarks about the importance of schools, paying attention to your teachers, why learning is important, etc. It would be highly surprising if he started touting the Van Jones worldview. It's not nefarious stuff.
  • However (and you knew there'd be a however), there are two problems with the speech. First, his timing stinks. Our kids will be starting school next week and they have to get used to new routines, new teachers and have a lot to learn. They don't really have time to listen to a scheduled speech, even if it is from The One. And you'd better believe that some of the teachers resent the imposition.
  • Which brings up the second issue: Obama doesn't seem to understand that he is completely overexposed right now. He has made himself ubiquitous since January 20. He's everywhere, all the time. He's also going to make a speech next week to a joint session of Congress to tout his latest version of Obama Care. Frankly, I have neither the time nor the inclination to stop what I'm doing to receive instruction from the President of the United States at his whim. My sense is that the healthcare debate signals two things: people are worried about what Obama is planning; and an increasing number of people would simply like to move beyond the dramatics and, shall we say, move on? Obama went on vacation this week. It would be better for him if he'd extend that for another week or two and stop getting in America's face for a while.
  • In re Van Jones: yes, I agree completely with my conservative brethren, it's an outrage that a 9-11 Truther and Mumia supporter holds high office in the Obama administration, in a position that has accountability to no one but Mr. Obama himself. It's also an outrage that our mainstream media isn't concerned in the least that a whackjob like Jones is in position. Can you imagine the consternation there would have been if a President McCain had decided to make someone like Alex Jones a czar of something or other?
  • It's all true and most of it is irrelevant. We're way past the time where it matters whether the MSM is fair to conservative views. They aren't and won't be. That's how it is. And of course Obama never should have appointed Jones in the first place and it says something bad about Obama that he did, but it's no surprise.
  • The larger issue is the number of unaccountable czars this administration has. I know, I know -- Republican presidents have had czars, too. Bill Bennett made his bones as a drug czar under Bush 41 (and wasn't especially effective either, but that's a different post) and every president since has had some czars. Historically, presidents have selected czars to deal with a special project that is especially intractable and thus tough to solve through normal channels. The problem is that the czars are unaccountable to anyone but the president. I completely understand why a president would want that power, but I don't think it's desirable. There was a time when most Democrats would have thought so, too, but apparently it's only really a problem when a Republican is president.
  • Van Jones is the czar for "green jobs." He has control over billions of dollars and no apparent oversight. And he's nuts. What could go wrong? But never mind that. It does raise another question or two. For example, why the hell do we have a Commerce Secretary? Wouldn't the encouragement of "green jobs" be the Secretary's bailiwick? And why do we have a czar (Kenneth Feinberg) who controls executive salaries at companies that have taken federal bailout money, in some cases against their will? The MSM may not be especially concerned about these matters, but word gets out.