Sunday, January 31, 2010

More Bad News for Copenhagen Kate

Those climate change deniers -- man, they aren't scientific, are they? So we've been told, repeatedly. Good thing that we have organizations like the U.N's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that maintain strict standards of scientific rigor. Right? Well, the British press continues to stay on the story. Needless to say, it keeps getting better and better.

A STARTLING report by the United Nations climate watchdog that global warming might wipe out 40% of the Amazon rainforest was based on an unsubstantiated claim by green campaigners who had little scientific expertise.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its 2007 benchmark report that even a slight change in rainfall could see swathes of the rainforest rapidly replaced by savanna grassland.

The source for its claim was a report from WWF, an environmental pressure group, which was authored by two green activists. They had based their “research” on a study published in Nature, the science journal, which did not assess rainfall but in fact looked at the impact on the forest of human activity such as logging and burning. This weekend WWF said it was launching an internal inquiry into the study.

Is it too soon to say that the 2007 report is baked wind? The glaciers aren't melting and the rainforest isn't being destroyed by global warming, either. Tell you what -- believe in AGW if you'd wish. But y'all can stop telling me that your views are ungirded with "science."

Is it too soon to say that the 2007 report is baked wind? What say you, Rep. Knuth?

Home Truth

Mark Steyn gets to the heart of the matter:

Functioning societies depend on agreed rules. If you want to open a business, you do it in Singapore or Ireland, because the rules are known to all parties. You don’t go to Sudan or Zimbabwe, where the rules are whatever the state’s whims happen to be that morning.

That’s why Obama is such a job-killer. Why would a small business take on a new employee? The president’s proposing a soak-the-banks tax that could impact your access to credit. The House has passed a cap-and-trade bill that could impose potentially unlimited regulatory costs. The Senate is in favor of “health” “care” “reform” that will allow the IRS to seize your assets if you and your employees’ health arrangements do not meet the approval of the federal government. Some of these things will pass into law, some of them won’t. But all of them send a consistent, cumulative message: that there are no rules, that they’re being made up as they go along — and that some of them might even be retroactive, as happened this week with Oregon’s new corporate tax.

In such an environment, would you hire anyone? Or would you hunker down and sit things out? Obama can bury it in half a ton of leaden telepromptered sludge but the world has got the message: More Washington, more micro-regulation of every aspect of your life, more multi-trillion-dollar spending, and no agreed rules in a game ever more rigged against you.

There's more, a lot more, at the link. Read the whole thing.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

At least Bin Laden is aboard

The story on AGW keeps getting better and better. So earlier we learned that the Himalayan glacier story was crap. Now we discover that the head of the IPCC knew it before the start of the Copenhagen summit, but didn't bother to tell anyone:

The chairman of the leading climate change watchdog was informed that claims about melting Himalayan glaciers were false before the Copenhagen summit, The Times has learnt.

Rajendra Pachauri was told that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment that the glaciers would disappear by 2035 was wrong, but he waited two months to correct it. He failed to act despite learning that the claim had been refuted by several leading glaciologists. The IPCC’s report underpinned the proposals at Copenhagen for drastic cuts in global emissions.

Pachauri denies it, of course:

Asked whether he had deliberately kept silent about the error to avoid embarrassment at Copenhagen, he said: “That’s ridiculous. It never came to my attention before the Copenhagen summit. It wasn’t in the public sphere.”
But there's a problem.

However, a prominent science journalist said that he had asked Dr Pachauri about the 2035 error last November. Pallava Bagla, who writes for Science journal, said he had asked Dr Pachauri about the error. He said that Dr Pachauri had replied: “I don’t have anything to add on glaciers.”

Not when there's a chance to lock in a lot of money. And Dr. Pachauri could make a lot of money.

So what does the evidence actually show?

The Himalayan glaciers are so thick and at such high altitude that most glaciologists believe they would take several hundred years to melt at the present rate. Some are growing and many show little sign of change.
So what did Dr. Pachauri know, and when did he know it?

Mr Bagla said he had informed Dr Pachauri that Graham Cogley, a professor at Ontario Trent University and a leading glaciologist, had dismissed the 2035 date as being wrong by at least 300 years. Professor Cogley believed the IPCC had misread the date in a 1996 report which said the glaciers could melt significantly by 2350.

Mr Pallava interviewed Dr Pachauri again this week for Science and asked him why he had decided to overlook the error before the Copenhagen summit. In the taped interview, Mr Pallava asked: “I pointed it out [the error] to you in several e-mails, several discussions, yet you decided to overlook it. Was that so that you did not want to destabilise what was happening in Copenhagen?”

Dr Pachauri replied: “Not at all, not at all. As it happens, we were all terribly preoccupied with a lot of events. We were working round the clock with several things that had to be done in Copenhagen. It was only when the story broke, I think in December, we decided to, well, early this month — as a matter of fact, I can give you the exact dates — early in January that we decided to go into it and we moved very fast."
I guess nearly two months isn't so bad, even though we've been told that if we don't act now, the earth could be imperiled. But it's more likely that the delay gave a chance for the checks to clear.

The chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has used bogus claims that Himalayan glaciers were melting to win grants worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Rajendra Pachauri's Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), based in New Delhi, was awarded up to £310,000 by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the lion's share of a £2.5m EU grant funded by European taxpayers.

It means that EU taxpayers are funding research into a scientific claim about glaciers that any ice researcher should immediately recognise as bogus.

Pachauri may not get that money now. But the good news is that Osama bin Laden is aboard. Maybe he'll fund the research.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Somewhere in the 651 Area Code, Kate Knuth Must Be Muttering. . .

Get off my side.

Demonstrating a surprising concern for the environment, Bin Laden voiced his dismay at recent international efforts to tackle global warming.

"Discussing climate change is not an intellectual luxury, but a reality," he said. "All of the industrialised countries, especially the big ones, bear responsibility for the global warming crisis."

No word on whether bin Laden regrets missing the confab in Copenhagen.

And in a surprise that should hardly be surprising to anyone who thinks about it for more than a moment, bin Laden likes Noam Chomsky:

The terror chief also appeared to reveal himself to be a reader of the Guardian when he quoted from an interview with Noam Chomsky, the liberal linguistics professor, which appeared in the newspaper in November.

"Chomsky was right when he pointed to a resemblance between American policies and the approach of mafia gangs," he said. "Those are the real terrorists." Western intelligence has yet to be verify the authenticity of the recording, which was broadcast on al-Jazeera television, but independent experts said the voice on it appeared to be Bin Laden's.

Bummer, Kate.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Guilty Pleasures Part Sixty-Two -- Mysterious Wild Things That Drive Fearless Maria Crazy and All She Wants to Do Is Stop Them

Fearless Maria is back for another round of Guilty Pleasures.

Greetings from Mars, Earthlings! Wait a second -- I'm an Earthling, too? I must have been hypnotized? Benster, were you playing with the hypnotizing machine again?

He's not here, Maria. He's downstairs watching a basketball game, which seems to be plenty hypnotic for him.

Well Dad, then I won't worry about him. Dad, I have many questions.

Musical questions?

I suppose, Dad. One question I have is this: did the music get any less weird around 1990?

Well, there's one way to find out. And that's look at some music.

Are you going to pick weird songs on purpose again, Dad? Are you trying to make me think that the real old songs you like are better than newer songs?

Well Maria, songs around 1990 are already 20 years old, so they aren't so new anymore.

Compared to all that ancient stuff you like Daddy-O, 20 years ago doesn't seem so long ago, even if I'm only 10 years old.

Well, here's a song that will drive you crazy:

That song drives me crazy, Dad! It looks like an anime version of President Obama playing leapfrog with guys wearing couch cushions! I know that's not President Obama, but that's really strange, Dad!

Actually the singer's name is Roland Gift and he's British. So I don't think he's even eligible to be President, Maria.

Well, maybe he wasn't so gifted, then!

Not nearly as gifted as you are, Fearless Maria.

Why thank you, but let's get on to another song before the world ends. I hear an asteroid is coming soon!

Really? Hmmm.

Hmmm is right. That was pretty weird, Dad! I'm not sure that 20 year old music is all that good. I really don't like rap, you know!

There was a lot of rap back then, sweetheart. But I know a few other songs.

Dad, why would people want to listen to that anyway? I find it very mysterious!

Funny you should mention mysterious, Maria....

That video is beyond mysterious, Dad! It's pretty freaky, really. It's like being inside a kaleidoscope! But why would I want to be inside a kaleidoscope anyway, Dad? All I want to do is have some fun!

What's that you said, Maria?

All I want to do is have some fun, Dad!

Dad, I do have a question.

What's that, Maria?

What do car washes and beer have to do with fun? I don't think I'd want a drunk person washing your car! And I definitely wouldn't want them driving!

That seems like good advice Maria. Maybe we should send a note to Sheryl Crow and recommend that she try something different.

I think we should, Dad, but it's been a pretty wild night looking at all these weird videos!

But there's one more, Maria.

On a wild night?

See all the stuff that lady had to watch in the back of her taxicab? That's why I don't want to have a car yet! But I really like the puppies! Hint hint!

I think we've heard that hint before, Maria.

Well, here's another hint: it's time to vote, people! Pick your favorite song and put it in the comments section! And don't be mysterious! That will drive me crazy, or it will make me go hmmm....

"I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life."

J. D. Salinger, the man who put those words in the mouth of his most famous protagonist, Holden Caufield, died today at the age of 91.

While I have always thought that The Catcher in the Rye is an overrated book, it is quotable. And some of the words Holden Caufield utters ring true, even if he's admittedly a terrific liar.
All morons hate it when you call them a moron.

Indeed they do.

People never notice anything.

I'm glad somebody noticed that. Of course, since we're dealing with a self-admitted terrific liar, you have to account for the possibility that Holden Caufield never noticed anything either. And often the most corrosive lies we tell are the ones we tell ourselves.

Boy, when you're dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody.

It's not often that a man gets to write a fitting epitaph nearly 60 years before his own demise. Salinger spent nearly the last 50 years hiding from flowers and hosannas, walking away from the fame he'd achieved in the 1950s. As far as the larger world was concerned, Salinger might as well have been dead. And now that he has finally died, his works will come to life again and gain a larger audience than the occasional high school English class that seems to encounter him now. I don't think that is truly irony, even though irony is a deeply debased word, but I have to imagine that the old recluse might find it all somewhat amusing. And I'll bet that someone brings Salinger flowers, maybe even out of spite.

In a deeply dishonest world, sometimes a terrific liar is a useful guide. RIP.

SOTU Snafu

It's probably not worth rehearsing my policy differences with the President on the particulars of his State of the Union speech, but it's worth pointing out that his harangue against the Supreme Court was an amazingly dumb move. I don't think he earned himself much goodwill from the Court by doing it -- Justice Alito did a sotto voce version of Joe Wilson by mouthing "not true" at one point.

Even people who typically carry water for Democrats understood this was a bad idea -- for example, Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times:

This time, Justice Alito shook his head as if to rebut the president’s characterization of the Citizens United decision, and seemed to mouth the words “not true.” Indeed, Mr. Obama’s description of the holding of the case was imprecise. He said the court had “reversed a century of law.”

The law that Congress enacted in the populist days of the early 20th century prohibited direct corporate contributions to political campaigns. That law was not at issue in the Citizens United case, and is still on the books. Rather, the court struck down a more complicated statute that barred corporations and unions from spending money directly from their treasuries — as opposed to their political action committees — on television advertising to urge a vote for or against a federal candidate in the period immediately before the election. It is true, though, that the majority wrote so broadly about corporate free speech rights as to call into question other limitations as well — although not necessarily the existing ban on direct contributions.

So let's tote up the damage:

1) He insults a coequal branch of government (the judiciary) in the home of another coequal branch (the legislature), drawing the quiet ire of a Justice who will be in position long after the President has returned to Hyde Park;

2) He gets the facts of the case wrong; and

3) He complicates the life of Elena Kagan, his Solicitor General, to score a cheap point.

As we've all learned, President Obama has a lot to learn. Here's yet another suggestion that I'm certain the President will not accept, but I offer it anyway. Every administration engages in some measure of demagoguery, but smart administrations job out the demagoguery to underlings. Let Axelrod to this stuff, Mr. President -- it diminishes your office.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Because Every State Really Ought to Have Two Ridiculous Proto-Teutonic Candidates for Governor

I'm not sure if Arnold Schwarzenegger is running for re-election in California, but there's good news for our friends in the Golden State:

Move over Arnold, there's another celebrity in the race for governor in California. Prince Frederic von Anhalt, the husband of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, announced his intention to run as a liberal independent candidate Monday.

By all reasonable modern standards, von Anhalt is certainly qualified to be a candidate. KTLA helpfully points out his CV:

Von Anhalt is used to having his name in the news. He married Gabor in the mid-1980s.

In 2007, he claimed he was the biological father of Anna Nicole Smith's infant daughter.

Later that year, LAPD officers found him naked and handcuffed to the steering wheel of a 2006 Rolls Royce. Von Anhalt told officers that he was driving when "three white women" with a gun took his jewelry and clothes.

There has been speculation regarding whether Prince von Anhalt is actually a prince. According to reports, he was born Robert Lichtenberg, the son of a German policeman and bought his title after being adopted as an adult by a bankrupt daughter-in-law of the last kaiser.

Sounds like a good candidate to me. And we Minnesotans really can't sneer too much at a guy like von Anhalt throwing his hat into the ring, considering we elected Jesse Ventura. I think we missed a bet, though -- we really should have elected this guy.

(h/t: Kausfiles)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An anniversary worth remembering

Ed and Mary Jane tied the knot 47 years ago this day in Appleton, Wisconsin. While they've both been gone a long time now, their legacy lives on in their six children and seven grandchildren. And I'm proud to be one of those children. Thanks, Mom and Dad!

Helpful Explanations

I've been laying off the AGW business lately, but that doesn't mean there hasn't been news on that front. A particularly interesting example is the revelation, pretty much ignored in the U.S. press, that the claim that Himalayan glaciers were melting and could be gone by 2035 was, shall we say, preposterous. This is big news because this claim was a big part of the 2007 report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which by the way won a Nobel Prize. Fortunately the British press has been all over this story and it was moved forward today by the Daily Mail:

The scientist behind the bogus claim in a Nobel Prize-winning UN report that Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035 last night admitted it was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders.

Dr Murari Lal also said he was well aware the statement, in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), did not rest on peer-reviewed scientific research.

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Dr Lal, the co-ordinating lead author of the report’s chapter on Asia, said: ‘It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.

Hey, whatever works, right? There's more:

The claim that Himalayan glaciers are set to disappear by 2035 rests on two 1999 magazine interviews with glaciologist Syed Hasnain, which were then recycled without any further investigation in a 2005 report by the environmental campaign group WWF. It was this report that Dr Lal and his team cited as their source.

The WWF article also contained a basic error in its arithmetic. A claim that one glacier was retreating at the alarming rate of 134 metres a year should in fact have said 23 metres – the authors had divided the total loss measured over 121 years by 21, not 121.

Math is hard, I suppose. But there's more.

Last Friday, the WWF website posted a humiliating statement recognising the claim as ‘unsound’, and saying it ‘regrets any confusion caused’.
Well, confession is good for the soul, I suppose. But there's even more:

Dr Lal said: ‘We knew the WWF report with the 2035 date was “grey literature” [material not published in a peer-reviewed journal]. But it was never picked up by any of the authors in our working group, nor by any of the more than 500 external reviewers, by the governments to which it was sent, or by the final IPCC review editors.’

Which is what happens when you have a narrative to construct. And a conclusion you'd like. Read on:

In fact, the 2035 melting date seems to have been plucked from thin air.

Professor Graham Cogley, a glacier expert at Trent University in Canada, who began to raise doubts in scientific circles last year, said the claim multiplies the rate at which glaciers have been seen to melt by a factor of about 25.

A factor of 25? Well, I suppose that's pretty close.

Maybe I'm being a bit too harsh about this. After all, getting the right information is painstaking work.

One of the problems bedevilling Himalayan glacier research is a lack of reliable data. But an authoritative report published last November by the Indian government said: ‘Himalayan glaciers have not in any way exhibited, especially in recent years, an abnormal annual retreat.’ When this report was issued, Raj Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, denounced it as ‘voodoo science’.

Voodoo? Maybe someone ought to alert Pat Robertson! The good news is that Pachauri, who we have featured in this space a while back, was now on the case and had identified the scoundrels:

Having been forced to apologise over the 2035 claim, Dr Pachauri blamed Dr Lal, saying his team had failed to apply IPCC procedures.

Lal denies that. And we get a sense of what IPCC procedures actually are from the following:

It was an accusation rebutted angrily by Dr Lal. ‘We as authors followed them to the letter,’ he said. ‘Had we received information that undermined the claim, we would have included it.’

However, an analysis of those 500-plus formal review comments, to be published tomorrow by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), the new body founded by former Chancellor Nigel Lawson, suggests that when reviewers did raise issues that called the claim into question, Dr Lal and his colleagues simply ignored them.

For example, Hayley Fowler of Newcastle University, suggested that their draft did not mention that Himalayan glaciers in the Karakoram range are growing rapidly, citing a paper published in the influential journal Nature.

In their response, the IPCC authors said, bizarrely, that they were ‘unable to get hold of the suggested references’, but would ‘consider’ this in their final version. They failed to do so.

The Japanese government commented that the draft did not clarify what it meant by stating that the likelihood of the glaciers disappearing by 2035 was ‘very high’. ‘What is the confidence level?’ it asked.

The authors’ response said ‘appropriate revisions and editing made’. But the final version was identical to their draft.

Last week, Professor Georg Kaser, a glacier expert from Austria, who was lead author of a different chapter in the IPCC report, said when he became aware of the 2035 claim a few months before the report was published, he wrote to Dr Lal, urging him to withdraw it as patently untrue.

Dr Lal claimed he never received this letter. ‘He didn’t contact me or any of the other authors of the chapter,’ he said.

Do you sense there's a pattern here? It's pretty clear that something other than dispassionate inquiry was driving the work of Lal and the others involved. And yet I also wonder why we haven't heard any of this before now. If the Japanese government, or Kaser, or any of the others who raised objections at the time, were genuinely concerned, why didn't they make their concerns public in 2007? Or later on when this report received a Nobel Prize?

Or maybe we just shouldn't worry our pretty little heads about such things. Tim Blair notes this comforting explanation:

Professor Christopher Field, director of the Department of Global Ecology at the Carnegie Institution in California, who is the new co-chairman of the IPCC working group overseeing the climate impacts report, said the 2007 report had been broadly accurate at the time it was written.

He said: “The 2007 study should be seen as “a snapshot of what was known then. Science is progressive. If something turns out to be wrong we can fix it next time around.”

Yeah, let's fix it. Good plan, Professor!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Live by the Favre, Die by the Favre

No schadenfreude tonight. Favre threw the dumb pass at the end, which as a Packer fan I've seen numerous times before. It's part of the equation. And unless I miss my guess, Favre will be back.

One last thing: I've argued this before and I'll continue to argue this. The NFL overtime rule sucks. Favre, bless his heart, never had a chance to get the ball back to redeem himself. While the Vikings had a few chances to stop the Saints in the overtime, it was a lot to ask. They need to look at a variation of the college rule. But having said that, a team that turns the ball over 5 times ultimately deserves its fate.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


More as an FYI than anything else, I've made some long-overdue changes to the sidebar. I've done some culling from the recommended blogroll, mostly because the blogs seem to be dead or moribund. Since the blogs in question are still worth your time, they are now in the "Gone But Not Forgotten" category further down.

I've also added the home blogs of my Grumpy Old Men colleagues, along with a few other national blogs that I read regularly, like Ann Althouse and Kausfiles. I've also added No Runny Eggs, a strong blog out of Milwaukee, and The Curse of Bobby Layne, which is a lovingly compiled site detailing the utter futility of the Detroit Lions. A good blogroll ought to have at least a little schadenfreude, I think. And there are a few others as well.

Check 'em out.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Conference Championship Round

It's conference championship week. Can you feel the HYYYYYYPPPPPEEE! Of course you can. How could you not feel it?

I don't know what I feel. But I do know that my ears are numb from all the shouting of HYYYYPPPPPPE! that you do 'round here, Seabiscuit!

You stole my line, Decrepit! C'mon, man! Anyway, let's get down to bidness:

New York J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS (+7 1/2) vs. Indianapolis Mannings. Of the four teams still standing, the Jets are the least likely team to get to this point. I was very surprised that the Bolts failed to git 'er done against Mark Sanchez and the rest of his green-clad crew of misfits. Rex Ryan, the Jets coach, has said that his team was out of the race and that after the Jets made the playoffs, that they were going to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. It looks like he should be on a Coors Light commercial some day. Look for Indianapolis to try and get points on the board early and force Sanchez to win the game himself. Colts 35, Gang Green 30.

Okay, so let's look at what we have. On one side you have the aforementioned Mr. Sanchez, a hotshot rookie quarterback who makes some plays. On the other, Titan of Commerce Peyton Manning, the go-to-guy for half the companies in America for deadpan commerical fun. And he also works for Japanese companies, too. But what he really works on is opposing secondaries. I've seen it argued that Manning might be the greatest quarterback of all time. He could go a long way towards proving that by winning this game. And I suspect he will, although the pesky Jets will make him earn it. Colts 27, Jets 20.

Minnesota Skol Vikings (+3 1/2) vs. New Orleans Brees. This should be the best game of the playoffs. Both teams have solid veteran quarterbacks, dangerous running backs and explosive wideouts. Both teams also have very good defenses. Hurricane Brees will be a challenge for our intrepid Norsemen, especially since both Ray Edwards and Kevin Williams will be limited in what they can do. That means the Saints can work on Jared "Mullet" Allen, who can sack you and look like Billy Ray Cyrus at the same time. And we all know how painful that can be; ask Aaron Rodgers and Allen "Swinging Gate" Barbre. Brett Favre came back to try and get a ring. He might get it, but look for him to have to try and go gunslinger. And we all know what happens when he goes gunslinger. Saints 84, Skol Vikings 70.

So how do you sort these two teams out. Quarterbacks? Both awfully good. Running games? Both very good. Defenses? Both very good, too. There's a reason why these two teams are in the NFC championship game. They deserve to be. My guess is this: it's going to be more or less a standoff in normal play, but the special teams are where the difference is going to be made. Here's the thing: Percy Harvin has headaches, while Reggie Bush causes headaches. And if Harvin cannot answer the bell (and based on what I've heard, it's about a 50/50 shot that he won't), figure the Saints have the advantage. If Harvin can play, then give the special teams advantage to the Vikings, since Ryan Longwell is perhaps the top clutch kicker in the league. Of course, Vikings fans were saying the same thing about their kicker in 1998. As for Favre? He could throw the killer pick and break your heart, but I'm guessing he won't get the chance because the matter will be decided earlier. Saints 37, Vikings 27.

So you're saying that Percy Harvin is a better return man than Reggie Bush?

No, what I'm saying is that a healthy Reggie Bush might make the difference.

Just remember: Reggie Bush has a Heisman. And he can run. But he can't avoid the HYYYYYPPPPPPE! Ben out!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Guilty Pleasures Part Sixty-One -- Eyes on the Zeros

Man, it's been a long time since we've done a Guilty Pleasures around here. Fearless Maria, have you been hiding?

No! Well, sort of, if you count having to do a million pounds of homework and being cooped up in your room as hiding, then yes.

A million pounds of homework?

Yes, Dad! I took it to a truck scale and weighed it!

Okay, well then it must be true. Anyway, we've begun another new decade, or at least reached a year that ends in 0. So does that give you any ideas about what we should do tonight?

Why yes, it does. Why don't we do top hit songs from these years: 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990 and 2000, which was the year I was born! That was 10 years ago, people! I'm "double digits" now!

And the world is getting ready for you. Shall we begin?

Yes, sir!

So, let's look at 1960. It was the infancy of rock and roll and the top rock song on the chart (and #3 overall) that year was by two singing brothers from Kentucky, Don and Phil Everly.

And then there was this one, #10 overall, one of the first big dance crazes. It's Chubby Checker, doing

So how did you like those two, Maria?

Both are sort of "interesting." I just tried that Twist dance craze, but it seems kinda boring to me. But I do get the Chubby Checker thing -- he has a chubby face and was wearing an ugly checked suit. So he looked the part. Did you notice that the girls in the audience weren't sure if they were supposed to have fun or not? You'd think they would have figured that one out, right?

I suppose, but I'm not certain that fun was allowed in 1960, Maria.

They were certainly having more fun than the Everly Brothers, though. They were just singing. Maybe Chubby is more of a clown than Cathy's Clown, huh?

I think so. So do you think things changed by 1970?

Let's find out.

Well, consider this effort from our friends to the North. It's the Guess Who, pride of Winnipeg, Manitoba, in full snarl with:

And then, maybe a little less angry, there was this, from the always-cheerful Jackson 5:

Well those were pretty different! The Guess Who wanted to get the ladies out of there, but the Jackson 5 wanted to get the ladies in there! So, who was that singer for the Guess Who? I don't know, so I have to guess who!

Well, I know. His name is Burton Cummings.

It sounded like he should have been named Burton Goings! He looked like the world's angriest ice cream salesman! No chocolate for you!

But you like the Jackson 5, right?

Yes, but wasn't that weird for Michael to be singing about girls and love? Most of the boys my age are pretty gross and would rather talk about anything but girls!

Well, Michael had a little help I think.

Maybe he got some advice from Tito, huh? Or maybe he just wrote to Dear Abby!

As good a theory as I have, Maria. Shall we move on to 1980?

Sure. And look who's back! It's Michael Jackson again, but it looks he ditched Tito! And Dear Abby, maybe:

Dad, it looks somebody had a little accident with the glitter can! I'm not sure that sweater looks so good on him, either. But he sure got a lot more sparkly than he was 10 years before. Personally, I prefer the dress shirt and vest stuff -- I don't think he'd get to wear those glitter clothes to church!

That would have been interesting. But did you want to see another video from 1980?

Sure, Dad. What about this one?

That Blondie sure was busy. I assume a lot of people would have called her. Dad, is Blondie in the phone book?

Don't think so, Maria.

Oh, that's right, everyone was calling this number back then.

I think people are still calling that number, Maria.

You mean for the plumbing guy?

Yeah, I suppose. Anyway, shall we leak on over to 1990?

Yes, Dad. Can you show me some girl singers?

No problem, Maria. There were a lot of them. Like this lady, Alannah Myles:

And of course you had Madonna:

Seems like both these ladies like to strike a pose to me! Was that a big thing back then? Did Mom strike a pose?

Mom's not exactly the type to strike a pose, Maria.

Maybe we can get her to do that some time!

Good luck with that one, Maria.

Anyway, both those ladies have some really fancy clothes. I guess Alannah Myles wanted some black velvet, or maybe she was tired of it? It was hard to tell. It's hard for me to believe that these songs came out 20 years ago. The music style hasn't changed that much since then. I guess those crooning teenage idols we see these days are a little different, but they'd like to be able to strike a pose like Madonna, I bet!

No doubt about that, Maria. So shall we go on to 2000?

Well, Dad, you have to pick this one!

Yes, I guess I have to. I'll be honest -- I wasn't paying a lot of attention to the pop charts in 2000. I was kinda busy watching you. But since you were our child, we can turn to Destiny's Child and:

So let me see if I have this right. Carlos Santana said my name, but Destiny's Child want us to Say My Name? That's confusing! And does that mean that I'm the Destiny Child, Maria Maria?

That's a good theory, Maria. Let's go with that.

By the way, I think Destiny's Child must have been working for a paint store the way they keep changing colors quickly. I think that was a cool idea, but kinda weird. But you know what's really weird, Dad?

What's that, Maria?

That we're done. So let's have people pick their favorite in the comments section! Things really changed from 1960 to 2000, that's for sure!

And they keep changing, Maria. Yes they do.

The New Growth Industry Is. . .

. . .schadenfreude, of course. Mr. Air America, he dead.

It is with the greatest regret, on behalf of our Board, that we must announce that Air America Media is ceasing its live programming operations as of this afternoon, and that the Company will file soon under Chapter 7 of the Bankruptcy Code to carry out an orderly winding-down of the business.
So who killed Cock Robin? Here's what Air America believes:

The very difficult economic environment has had a significant impact on Air America's business. This past year has seen a "perfect storm" in the media industry generally. National and local advertising revenues have fallen drastically, causing many media companies nationwide to fold or seek bankruptcy protection. From large to small, recent bankruptcies like Citadel Broadcasting and closures like that of the industry's long-time trade publication Radio and Records have signaled that these are very difficult and rapidly changing times.

That's true as far as it goes, but it doesn't go very far. The problem for Air America was never vast, impersonal forces. It was their continual failure to find an audience. Rush Limbaugh isn't facing a "perfect storm" these days. Nor is Fox News, which lately has been beating both CNN and MSNBC combined in the ratings.

The thing about markets is this: you have to satisfy a need and it's best if you can satisfy an unmet need. There's no lack of liberal voices on the public airwaves; there never has been in my lifetime. You get the same basic undifferentiated liberalism on CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN and MSNBC. The public stations provide the same basic fodder, except with more classical music and pledge drives. Rush Limbaugh and Fox have been wildly successful because they have provided something that wasn't previously available. And Limbaugh and Fox will continue to grow because they understand their audience and nurture it.

I keep waiting for one of the major networks to change course and start competing on Fox's turf. There's money to be made. But they won't do it, even though the opportunity is obvious. It's an endless source of amusement. And fodder for blog posts, I guess. And if you want more dancing on the graves of our unfortunate portside pals, Mitch has you covered.

Say what you will

I really like free speech. And I like this decision:

The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations may spend freely to support or oppose candidates for president and Congress, easing decades-old limits on their participation in federal campaigns.

By a 5-4 vote, the court on Thursday overturned a 20-year-old ruling that said corporations can be prohibited from using money from their general treasuries to pay for their own campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.
This does three things, all good in my view. It frees corporations to express their views directly and openly, which is a good thing. It also means that there's less reason to form Orwellian front organizations to make the arguments that corporations can now make themselves. In addition, I can evaluate which companies are in the game and what uniforms they are wearing.

The Country's In the Best of Hands

Okay, look at this:

Mr. Blair, in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, revealed a previously undisclosed disagreement among the Obama administration's top officials over the handling of the Nigerian who is accused of attempting to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

The intelligence chief said Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should have been questioned by the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG, a special panel established by President Obama.

"We did not invoke the HIG in this case. We should have.
Frankly, we were thinking more of overseas people. And, you know … that's what we will do now. And so we need to make those decisions more carefully," Mr. Blair told Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican and ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee.

Emphasis mine. Okay, that makes sense. Choose the right tool for the job and all. One little problem though, revealed immediately thereafter in the same article.

Mr. Blair later issued a statement saying his remarks had been misconstrued. "The FBI interrogated Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab when they took him into custody," he said. "They received important intelligence at that time, drawing on the FBI's expertise in interrogation that will be available in the HIG once it is fully operational."

Again, emphasis mine. I trust you can draw your own conclusions.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rigoberta Menchu Was Unavailable for Comment

It's a Nobel laureate catfight!

But I have to say, I’m pretty close to giving up on Mr. Obama, who seems determined to confirm every doubt I and others ever had about whether he was ready to fight for what his supporters believed in.

That's Paul Krugman, Timesman and absurd Nobel laureate, dissing his fellow absurd Nobel laureate. Well of course he wouldn't fight, Krugster -- he won the Peace Prize, silly!

Your Tears Are Delicious

The old cliche holds that once an election is lost, the long knives come out. Behold as Mort Zuckerman pretty much sends a Chicago Cutlery warehouse sale to the president. You want red meat? Check this action out:

Obama’s ability to connect with voters is what launched him. But what has surprised me is how he has failed to connect with the voters since he’s been in office. He’s had so much overexposure. You have to be selective. He was doing five Sunday shows. How many press conferences? And now people stop listening to him. The fact is he had 49.5 million listeners to first speech on the economy. On Medicare, he had 24 million. He’s lost his audience. He has not rallied public opinion. He has plunged in the polls more than any other political figure since we’ve been using polls. He’s done everything wrong. Well, not everything, but the major things.

I don’t consider it a triumph. I consider it a disaster.

Read the whole thing -- it's an epic tantrum.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Martha and the Maguffins

It's over. Martha Coakley has conceded and Scott Brown has won the special election in Massachusetts. Every good amateur pundit needs to have an opinion or two on such things, of course. So here are mine.

  • Scott Brown ran a hell of a good campaign. He's a talented politician and he ran rings around Martha Coakley. Word is that Mitt Romney played a major role in getting Brown ready for this contest. If that is the case, it will certainly change the calculus among Republicans about Romney generally. Winning an election in Massachusetts is still a pretty good trick and if Romney has the formula to win in a state as indigo as Massachusetts, other Republicans will want it.

  • The question everyone will ask is this: is this election simply a local result, the product of a bad candidate and an inept campaign, or does it reflect on the Democrats nationally, especially the guy who sits in the Oval Office? Clearly, it's both.

  • There's no question that Martha Coakley was a spectacularly bad candidate. She was arrogant and aloof and she never seemed to understand that retail politics are part of the game. She campaigned like a divine right monarch and couldn't believe that the peasants weren't cooperating. By the time she realized she was in trouble, it was likely too late. Some portside commenters dismissed it when conservatives brought up the Curt Schilling comment, but people don't vote for politicians who seemingly don't understand their everyday concerns. That's a problem for a lot of Democrats these days. Tip O'Neill wouldn't have made that mistake. Nor would have Ted Kennedy.

  • Coakley's loss does hurt Obama, but he can recover if he figures out why it happened. I've long believed that the Democrats completely misread their mandate in 2008. The public was indeed tired of the Republican Party in 2008, but it was never clear that a majority of people were signing up for a sharp, leftward turn in our politics. Obama was a fresh, appealing face. But his appealing face was obscuring the faces of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and the rest of the 60s era Democrats who have been waiting for 40 years to finish the job that LBJ started. Once the gleaming new President was inaugurated, these refugees from Madame Tussaud's thought they had the run of the place. They didn't, though. Millions of people pulled the lever for Barack Obama in 2008. Harry and Nancy? Not so much.

  • Obama now faces a choice. He gets something that his predecessor Bill Clinton did not have until after the midterm elections -- a clear warning concerning what's ahead. Clinton, ever protean, was able to change his presentation enough to commandeer the center. He also co-opted the best ideas the Republicans had on offer in 1994-1995 and by doing so took them away from Bob Dole, his opponent for reelection in 1996. It wasn't hard for Bill Clinton to do this, because the only thing that Bill Clinton really believes in is, well, Bill Clinton.

  • I think Obama is more ideological. But if Obama can wrap his mind around self-preservation, he could easily pull the same feat that Clinton did in 1996. I can see no reason why he should have any loyalty to Pelosi, Reid or much of anyone else on Capitol Hill right now. And since he's not likely to cheat on his wife, Obama could have a better second term if he figures it out. Will he? Or will he double down on jamming through his current agenda?

  • Is Obamacare dead? This much is certain -- it's in a hell of a lot of trouble. The problem with career politicians is that they are careerists first. I'm sure you can envision quite a lot of the so-called Blue Dogs seeing this result and, ahem, recalibrating their position. Do you think Blanche Lincoln would be willing to march into the bayonet? How about Evan Bayh? There are a lot of others who may have thought their seats were safe. I doubt they feel this way now.

  • Obama and his White House allies would see scrapping the current measure and starting over as a defeat. They shouldn't. It's actually an opportunity. For all the talk of bipartisanship, there was never a real sustained impetus in Congress to let Republicans participate in the crafting of the various bills that have been floating around the past year. The search was for a fig leaf -- a Joseph Cao or one of the Maine Sisters in the Senate, to provide a veneer of bipartisanship. The Democrats never seriously entertained taking a Republican bill as a basis for what they might be able to do, even though they could have done so. The one outright Big Lie the Democrats told, and they told it repeatedly, was that the Republicans didn't have any ideas on offer. If Obama is smart, he'll pick up the phone tomorrow morning and call Paul Ryan.

  • Obama has scheduled his State of the Union speech for next week. It's now probably the most crucial speech of his presidency. He will need to choose his words wisely.

  • As for Pelosi and Reid? Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but it sucks to be you. I'd really like to be sympathetic, but you know what? I'm not.

Radio Free Dilettante — Special Election Edition

Guaranteed to have Mass. appeal:

Last Five:
Slide, Slave
Joy, Apollo 100
When a Woman Loves a Man, Ella Fitzgerald
If You Want Blood (You've Got It), AC/DC
Eclipse, Pink Floyd

Next Five:
Swamp Music, Lynyrd Skynyrd
It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over, Lenny Kravitz
Houses of the Holy, Led Zeppelin
Oddfellows Local 151, R.E.M.
What Good Am I Without You, Marvin Gaye/Kim Weston

Question for the audience

Does anyone know the French word for chutzpah?

The French minister in charge of humanitarian relief called on the UN to "clarify" the American role amid claims the military build up was hampering aid efforts.

Alain Joyandet admitted he had been involved in a scuffle with a US commander in the airport's control tower over the flight plan for a French evacuation flight.

You can pretty much look it up -- if there's a place in the Third World that's largely ungovernable, with rampant corruption and a history filled with petty dictators and extreme cruelty, there's an excellent chance that the official language of the country is French. And Haiti is Exhibit A.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Brad spots a contender for. . .

. . . the dumbest comment ever made by a politician. Just click on the link -- you have to see this one to believe it. Definitely merits the double facepalm.


Norm Coleman will not run for governor. Mitch Berg has the story:

I love Minnesota and I love public service, but this is not the right time for me and my family to conduct a campaign for Governor.

Timing is everything. The timing on this race is both a bit too soon and a bit too late. It is too soon after my last race and too late to do a proper job of seeking the support of delegates who will decide in which direction our party should go. The commitments I have to my family and the work I am currently engaged in do not allow me to now go forward.

Coleman is right. While he would be streets ahead of any of the DFL candidates, it would have been a tough sell to get him elected, even in what promises to be a much more favorable environment for Republicans. I would also suspect he'll consider waiting until 2012 for a chance to run against Amy Klobuchar, whose popularity in this state is a mile wide and an inch deep.

Meanwhile, what this really means is that the Feb. 2 caucuses are going to be pretty huge. At this point the conventional wisdom is that one of three legislators will emerge as the GOP standard-bearer: either Tom Emmer, Marty Seifert or David Hann. Based on what I know today, my preference is Emmer, who is a strong conservative and a pretty sharp guy. But I could be persuaded. As could you, most likely. The place to find out is at your caucus. We'll talk much more about this in the coming days. As Mitch says:

It’s a whole new race. And a big opportunity for conservatives – all of you, the Paulbots and Tea Partiers and Tax Protesters and pro-lifers and the whole works – to make a huge difference.

It all starts February 2. Be there.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Purple Quandary

Question: if you are not a Vikings fan, should you support the Vikings now?

I know that Packer Nation is divided on the issue, especially given the role of Lord FavreMort in this season. I guess I take my cue from my Dad, a lifelong Packers fan who always cheered for the Vikings in Super Bowls. Then again, he always cheered for the Cowboys in Super Bowls, too.

Dad's theory was to support your fellow rivals, either by division or by conference, as a sign of respect for the rivalry. Thus, he always supported the NFC team in the Super Bowl and whatever Big Ten team showed up in the Rose Bowl. I'd wager he even cheered for the Bears in 1985. And man, that's gotta hurt.

This sort of thing mattered more when I was growing up in the 1970s. All my friends had what we called our "second team," which was the team we'd support once the Packers were eliminated from contention, which was usually about October 10 in those days. There were a lot of kids who cheered for the Dolphins, or the Cowboys, or the Raiders. My second team was always the Redskins in those days, mostly because my best friend was an avid Redskins fan. I also supported the Steelers because of Rocky Bleier, who is still the most famous graduate of my high school. It was a smart way to enjoy the NFL, especially when you would otherwise have to cheer for Eric Torkelson or Estus Hood, which was a pretty futile undertaking.

So congratulations, Vikings. And have fun, Vikings fans. At least in this corner, we wish you well.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


If you want to represent Massachusetts, there are certain things you need to know. One of the biggest things: the Red Sox are a very, very big deal. And if you want to have any credibility with Red Sox fans, it's helpful to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the team's history.

In recent Red Sox history, few players have a larger role than pitcher Curt Schilling. He became most famous for the "bloody sock" game, when he pitched through injury against the hated Yankees to win Game 6 of the American League Championship Series in 2004. He won that game and the Red Sox went on to win their first World Series since 1918. It's the stuff of legend throughout New England.

As it happens, the now-retired Schilling is an outspoken fellow and has thrown his support to Scott Brown, the Republican who is challenging Martha Coakley in the special election to fill the vacant Senate seat in Massachusetts. As Ben Smith notes in Politico, the topic of Schilling came up in a radio interview with Coakley. Here's the (ahem) play-by-play:

In the intensifying Democratic precriminations game over who to blame if Coakley loses, here's one for the blame Coakley camp: On another talk radio show, "Nightside With Dan Rea," Coakley jabs Rudy Giuliani as a Yankee fan, then goes on to describe Brown supporter Curt Schilling, the great former Red Sox pitcher, as a Yankee fan as well.

The host sounds incredulous -- "Curt Schilling? The Red Sox great pitcher of the bloody sock?" -- and Coakley initially sounds unfamiliar with him. She eventually reverses herself, but it's an odd moment in a state that was transfixed by Schilling's performance in the 2004 World Series, where he helped the Red Sox win for the first time since 1918.

Smith has audio at the link so you can hear it for yourself. No matter what you think of the Red Sox generally or of Curt Schilling in particular, this is cosmically dumb stuff. You have to wonder: the state of Massachusetts is full of liberals and has a huge roster of liberal politicians. How did someone as oblivious as Martha Coakley end up being the standard-bearer of the party?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Divisional Round

It's time to bring out the BIG DAWGS. We are no longer messing around, children. Can you feel the HYYYYYYYYPPPPPPPE!

I'm not sure what I'm feeling. My ears are ringing after that blast of hype. Maybe a smidge of fear?

There's no time for fear, Decrepit! Underdog is Here! That old school stuff ought to reassure you. Or do you need to head out for the Early Bird Special?

Too late for that, Seabiscuit.

Of course. It's time to get down to bidness. Roll those picks!

Arizona House of Cards (+7) vs New Orleans Unstoppable Offensive Juggernaut (Except for Recently). Down in Saints country, they have a little cheer that I will recount for you. Who Dat? Who dey think they can beat the Saints? Arizona somehow managed to survive a comeback from Aaron Rodgers and steal a win in the desert last week. New Orleans is on a 3-game losing streak, but the game is in New Orleans, which is one of the most intimidating places to play in the National Football League. Make sure you click that link -- it will put you in the mood for the epic football action that will be taking place in the Superdome. Anyway, both teams can score at any moment, so the game will be decided on the turnover battle. And look for Karlos Dansby to deliver the blow. Cardinals 84, Hurricane Brees 77.

Benster? Okay, let's take a deep breath here. These teams will score. I agree. Heck, the Cardinals put up 51 points last weekend. But I don't see them scoring 84. In fact, I don't see them winning this game. New Orleans is built for this moment and they will take it. I don't doubt that they will struggle, and it's awfully hard to pick against Kurt Warner based on what we saw last week. But I'm going to anyway. Drew Brees is ready and I think they'll have enough energy to handle the Cardinals. Saints 41, Cardinals 34.

Charm City Birds (+6 1/2) vs. Indianapolis Mannings. It's very obvious to see that both teams are extremely young at the skill positions. Sure, Peyton Manning is in his 30s now and probably heading toward a midlife crisis, which I'm sure he'll have turned into a series of credit card commercials, but he's a Superfreak. He's Superfreaky. Yow. Anyway, the Ravens last week ran all over the Patriots like it was going out of style. Last year the Ravens went into Nashville and beat the Titans, who were the #1 seed in 2008. I think the Ravens have discovered a key to beating high-powered offensive teams, by keeping the opposing offense off the field. And they will do it again this week. Charm City Birds 30, Mannings 19.

Bold pick, Grasshopper! And again I can see your logic. The Colts won a lot of games this season in highly fortunate ways. Peyton Manning was unbelievably good throwing to various guys named after cities in Texas and some French dude who I think was Klondike Kat's enemy. It was really amazing when you think about it. But the key to this game is going to be defense. Can the Colts play enough of it to stop Baltimore's Ray Rice? I don't think so. I'm going to agree with the young fella. Baltimore 27, Indianapolis 24.

Dallas How 'Bout Them Cowboahs (-3) vs. Minnesota Skol Vikings. Guess who's back in the playoffs? Brett Lorenzo Fav-ray, or as we disaffected Packer fans call him, Benedict Brent. Minnesota comes in playing hot, but Dallas was even hotter. Tony Romo might have won last week, but the jury is still out on him and Roy "Wait a minute, am I supposed to catch that?" Williams. We haven't had any Jessica Simpson sightings here in the Twin Cities this week, so I don't think young Tony will be distracted by the ladies. Antoine Winfield will have to deal with "I Can See for" Miles Austin. I know the Dome will be rocking because I've been there for a Twins playoff game and the joint is louder than loud. You can here the noise for miles and miles. Oh yeah. Skol Vikings 30, Cowboahs 7.

As the young fella points out, Tony Romo won't let Jessica Simpson distract him this weekend. Which is a good thing, because I have the sense that Jared Allen is going to have a great game and Romo had better be ready. As a Packer fan in Minnesota, it's always amusing to watch how Vikings fans turn what should be a happy event into a festival of worrying and angst. Half of the fans I've talked to are convinced that the Ghost of Drew Pearson or something will smite their beloved purple-clad heroes and all the fun they've had this season will turn to ashes. Not. Going. To. Happen. Favre may not be good enough to run the table against future foes, but he's good enough to beat Tony Romo. Look for the Vikings to score early, set the tempo and keep Dallas from doing what they do best. Vikings 31, Cowboys 26.

New York J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS (+7) vs. San Diego Bolts. So, it's the little engine that could going up against the hottest team in the league. On the road, too. Last week the Bengals didn't even show up again and the Jets won rather easily. However, Phillip Rivers is proving to be a smart pickup for my fantasy league team and a Top 5 quarterback. I do not see Vincent Jackson getting shut down by Darrelle Revis the way that Ochenta y Cinco did. Look for the Green and White to be black and blue by the end of this one. Usain Bolts 63, Gang Green 2.

This seems like the easiest game of the weekend to pick. The Jets have played well down the stretch, but they aren't even close to the Chargers, talent-wise. Rivers has quietly put together a fantastic season and he has a wide array of weapons to choose from. Vincent Jackson is only one of them. He also happens to have Ladanian Tomlinson, one of the 5 best running backs in the history of the game, on his side, too. Tomlinson is looking for his Walter Paytonesque Super Bowl moment this year. And I suspect he'll have a chance to get it. And Norv Turner won't forget to give him the ball with a chance to score like Ditka did with Payton. And the Jets are merely a speed bump. Chargers 34, Jets 14.

I probably picked two of the more bold picks that I've ever made. But remember this -- the Benster has mad skills. Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you. Ben out!

Only Fair

We bashed Pat Robertson yesterday for his idiotic comments about Haiti, with good cause. Only fair that I call this deep thinking from Danny Glover to your attention:

Says Glover: “When we see what we did at the climate summit in Copenhagen, this is the response, this is what happens, you know what I’m sayin’?”

Actually Mr. Glover, I don’t know what you’re sayin’. Besides, everyone knows that the Haitian earthquake is Chimpy McHitlerburton's fault. Guess you missed the memo.

Sweet Martha Cookies

The special election to fill the open Senate seat in Massachusetts has had some pretty great theater. I have no idea if the Republican candidate, Scott Brown, can actually pull off the election, but I do know this: if Brown were to design the ideal candidate to run against, he couldn't have come up with a better foil than Martha Coakley, the standard bearer for the Democrats. She's had a hell of a few weeks. She has managed to:

They love their Democrats up in Massachusetts. Do they love them enough to elect Martha Coakley? Guess we're gonna find out.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fearless Maria Goes Double Digits

I don't know how it happened, but sure enough here we are. Fearless Maria turns 10 tomorrow.

I wrote this post about Maria two years ago and it still sounds right. Especially the way I described Maria at that time:

Maria is sweet, silly, funny and amazingly smart. She has moments of amazing insight and some days she has a tongue like a lash.

As you've seen over the past two years, all of that is true. Maria is truly fearless, even though she'd be the first to admit that some things in this world are plenty frightening. The thing is this: she has already learned that you must face your fears if you are going to move forward in this world. We all know people who never master that particular skill.

Since that day 2 years ago, Maria has continued to learn, grow and thrive. She has many great moments ahead and it's going to be a thrill to watch. Actually, watching isn't the right word. Parenting is hardly a spectator sport. Jill and I will support her as she makes her way in the world. Maria will make many decisions in the next 10 years of her life. And as those of you who follow this feature will agree, we have every reason to believe that she'll do a very good job of charting her path.

And one other thing: she promises that another edition of Guilty Pleasures is in the works.

Radio Free Dilettante — 011410

Last Five:
Help Me Rhonda, Beach Boys
Havana Affair, Ramones
Wooden Ships, Jefferson Airplane
Lovely Day, Busta Rhymes/Luther Vandross
Wake Up Little Susie, Everly Brothers

Next Five:
Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan
Personal Jesus, Depeche Mode
I Cheat the Hangman, Doobie Brothers
I Get the Blues When It Rains, Les Paul Trio/Peggy Lee
Bring On the Night, Police

Big Mac and Roids — III

So who were the players on the juice? The most definitive list to date has been around since the end of 2007, from the Mitchell Report that Major League Baseball itself commissioned. ESPN provided a handy compilation that you can read here. It's a wide-ranging list, but likely represents only a portion of the players who used steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs.

The annotation provided in the ESPN report is helpful, because it helps us understand the varying motivations of the gentlemen in question. For marginal players, the goal was to stay in the Show. A good example is Mark Carreon, a journeyman player who had a few good years in the majors but a guy I'd largely forgotten:

[Kirk] Radomski said that he provided Carreon with Dianabol pills toward the end of his tenure with the Giants (Carreon was with San Francisco from 1994 through the middle of the 1996 season). He believes that Carreon paid by check. According to Radomski, Carreon told him that the "ball was jumping off his bat" and that he could hit farther because of the anabolic steroids he used.
The statistics bear it out. Carreon, who had never hit more than 10 runs in a season, hit 17 in 1995. That's an improvement but it really wasn't enough, given the ferocious performance metrics that major league players must meet. As a first baseman, 17 homers is on the low end of average for what a team would like to see from the position. The steroids were enough to keep Carreon in the Show for a short time but apparently weren't enough to sustain longer-term success, since his major league career ended one year later, at the age of 32.

Carreon was a marginal player and needed an edge. It's perfectly understandable why he pursued the ministrations of Kirk Radomski, who actively supplied a variety of major leaguers and later provided key testimony in the Mitchell investigation. I'm not even certain it's worth attempting to muster much high dudgeon over a guy like Carreon, who had his moment and now is just another face in the crowd.

The larger issue remains -- how do we deal with more important figures like Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Rafael Palmeiro, Gary Sheffield and Barry Bonds? Under ordinary circumstances, all would be legitimate candidates for the Hall of Fame. In the case of Bonds and Clemens, we are talking about players who are among the greatest to ever wear a major league uniform. I have an idea and I'll share that next.

Explanations You Didn't Need

Go away, your idle prattle has grown tiresome:

  • Pat Robertson explains why the Haitians apparently deserved it. No, Pat, they don't (H/T: Gino). One other thing, Pat -- Christians tend to use the New Testament, too.
  • Chuck Schumer explains why you should support Martha Coakley. Apparently using gratuitous slurs is now mainstream. Good to know -- we've got a bunch for you and your colleagues, Sen. Schumer.
  • Newt Gingrich explains that he's a top-tier candidate for president, appropos of nothing. Memo to Newt -- your sell-by date passed about 12 years ago.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


The earthquake that struck Haiti yesterday has turned out to be catastrophic and may well end up rivaling the tsunamis of 2004 in terms of loss of life. Life in Haiti has been pretty terrible for an eternity now and this disaster requires a strong response.

I would recommend that you visit The Anchoress, who has compiled an excellent list of agencies that are in position to help.

Big Mac and Roids - II

Yeah, I was in the show. I was in the show for 21 days once - the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains.

That quote is fiction -- it comes from the most perceptive baseball movie I've seen, Bull Durham. The character who speaks the words is Crash Davis, as played by Kevin Costner. Davis is a very good ballplayer, but he's a career minor leaguer. The "show" is the major leagues.

In the merciless world of baseball, if you are a career minor leaguer you are a failure. You have failed even though you were likely the best player on every team you've played on, whether in Little League, Babe Ruth, American Legion, high school or college. You are likely capable of hitting a baseball 400 feet or more, or throwing a fastball that travels 85 miles an hour. Chances are you are an outstanding fielder. You are, by any reasonable standard, an elite athlete. In most cases, your work ethic is outstanding. And yet you are not good enough.

If you could find a way to get better, to gain the extra edge that takes you from the elite failure to the exalted success, would you pursue it? If the answer came in a syringe or a topical cream, would you let it go and accept your fate? Or would you pursue better living through chemistry?

I never had to answer that question. Have you?

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Already Gone

I work in the public sector. Around a year ago, management announced a hiring freeze. At that point, we already had several unfilled positions. The situation has continued to go downhill. If we were fully staffed at my position, we would have around 23 FTE's. Currently, we have about 8.0 FTE's that are unfilled. As each new person leaves our location and our supervisors send a request to HR to post the position, the supervisors are informed that HR is "aware" of the situation at our location. However, we are still have not been given the green light to post any positions.

A couple of years ago, when I first started, we had a minimum number of people that we needed to open the doors. Now if we are short of people, we can't call another location to borrow a person or call a part time person to come in and work a few extra hours. We simply open the doors to the public no matter how many people are working.

As a result, it looks like a bomb has gone off in the back workroom. Customers are not happy that items are taking weeks instead of days to get items put out on the shelves. We now rely on volunteers who come in six days a week to help us do one of our most basic jobs.

I worked on Sunday and Monday. Both days I ate lunch at 12:30. Only one other person was eating lunch in our breakroom.

I used to think that the line from the Eagles song Already Gone ("And then you'll have to eat your lunch all by yourself") was funny.

Now I'm concerned that I will be eating lunch at work all by myself at the end of 2010.

Big Mac and Roids - I

So he's finally admitted what has been long suspected: Mark McGwire, the hulking slugger who initially broke Roger Maris's single-season home run record in 1998, was using steroids. So how to react to the news?

  • As a practical matter, it's perfectly understandable why a ballplayer would have used steroids or other performance enhancing drugs. The benefits were obvious and the downside wasn't as obvious, especially at the time. There are always Faustian bargains available and, human nature being what it is, always takers.

  • If you watch old video of baseball games played in the 1970s and 1980s, the difference in body types is striking. I grew up a fan of the Milwaukee Brewers and they had hulking sluggers galore in that era, except that they weren't especially hulking. Other than Gorman Thomas, the rest of the key guys on that team weren't especially big. One of the best hitters was a skinny outfielder named Ben Oglivie, who probably weighed about 165-170. These days the scrawniest utility infielders are larger than that.

  • One of the arguments that McGwire apparently has made is that he regrets playing in the "Steroid Era." It's also the lamest argument he makes. While we don't have a lot of control over the world we live in, we all have free will. McGwire saw the money and the fame that was available and decided that he wanted it. There were plenty of other players who saw the same thing and resisted it.

More anon.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I'm Just Wild About Harry

That Harry Reid is more fun than a screen door on a submarine. By now you've likely heard some of the deep thoughts of the Senate Majority Leader in re: the President of the United States that are included in an upcoming book on the 2008 elections. Marc Ambinder retailed them on the Atlantic Monthly website yesterday:

He was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama -- a "light-skinned" African American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one," as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama's race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination.

Reid apologized profusely, of course. And Barack Obama, no fool he, was quite magnanimous in accepting his apology:

"Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today. I accepted Harry's apology without question because I've known him for years, I've seen the passionate leadership he's shown on issues of social justice and I know what's in his heart. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed."

So I suppose we should close the book on this one, right? While I suppose it's churlish to bring up a few other examples, sometimes churlishness is its own reward, right? So let's remember that the Internet is forever. Here's Barack Obama, then an Illinois state senator, discussing Trent Lott's controversial comments made at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, back in 2002:

Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D-13th), who hosted WVON's Cliff Kelley Show, challenged the Republican Party to repudiate Lott's remarks and to call for his resignation as senate leader.

"It seems to be that we can forgive a 100-year-old senator for some of the indiscretion of his youth, but, what is more difficult to forgive is the current president of the U.S. Senate (Lott) suggesting we had been better off if we had followed a segregationist path in this country after all of the battles and fights for civil rights and all the work that we still have to do," said Obama.

He said: "The Republican Party itself has to drive out Trent Lott. If they have to stand for something, they have to stand up and say this is not the person we want representing our party."

But it would be churlish to point out that double-standard. After all, we know what's in Harry Reid's heart -- the President has vouched for him -- and he's always been quite fair to other African American public figures. Oh, wait:

MR. RUSSERT: Why couldn't you accept Clarence Thomas?

SEN. REID: I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written. I don't--I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.

Reid said that in 2005 on Meet the Press. When asked to elaborate on his remarks later on, his response was risible, as James Taranto pointed out at the time. I've italicized Reid's comments for clarity, and Justice Thomas's comments as well:

An alert reader points out that on the Dec. 26 episode of "Inside Politics," a little-watched CNN show, Reid actually did name such an opinion, at the request of host Ed Henry (we've corrected several obvious transcription errors here):

Henry: When you were asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" whether or not you could support Justice Thomas to be chief justice you said quote, "I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written." Could you name one of those opinions that you think is poorly written?

Reid: Oh sure, that's easy to do. You take the Hillside Dairy case. In that case you had a dissent written by Scalia and a dissent written by Thomas. There--it's like looking at an eighth-grade dissertation compared to somebody who just graduated from Harvard. Scalia's is well reasoned. He doesn't want to turn stare decisis precedent on its head. That's what Thomas wants to do. So yes, I think he has written a very poor opinion there and he's written other opinions that are not very good.

It's interesting to learn that in Nevada eighth-graders write dissertations; we guess that explains how Harry Reid got to be as erudite as he is. He must immerse himself deeply in legal scholarship to be familiar with a case like Hillside Dairy v. Lyons, which doesn't exactly rank up there with Marbury v. Madison, Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade among famous Supreme court rulings.

To be honest, we'd never even heard of Hillside Dairy until we read the CNN transcript, so we went and looked it up. It turns out to be a 2003 case about California milk regulation. Here is Thomas's opinion in full:

I join Parts I and III of the Court's opinion and respectfully dissent from Part II, which holds that §144 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, 7 U.S.C. §7254, "does not clearly express an intent to insulate California's pricing and pooling laws from a Commerce Clause challenge." Ante, at 6-7. Although I agree that the Court of Appeals erred in its statutory analysis, I nevertheless would affirm its judgment on this claim because "[t]he negative Commerce Clause has no basis in the text of the Constitution, makes little sense, and has proved virtually unworkable in application," Camps Newfound/Owatonna, Inc. v. Town of Harrison, 520 U.S. 564, 610 (1997) (Thomas, J., dissenting), and, consequently, cannot serve as a basis for striking down a state statute.

Is that written at an eighth-grade level? We report, you decide.

Taranto asks a good question. As it happens, I have a son who is an 8th grader, the ever-erudite Benster. While he usually devotes most of his writing efforts to picking football games, I asked him if any 8th grader he knows would write a paragraph of this sort. Benster's response:

"Most 8th graders I know don't care much about agriculture, and the last time I checked no 8th grader has ever been on the High Court."

When in doubt, go to the source.

So can we infer that Harry Reid is a racist? Who knows? I don't know what's in his heart and frankly wouldn't want to venture any closer to analyze the matter. I suspect that Reid finds it pretty easy to criticize African-Americans, especially those who don't toe his particular line. He's hardly unusual that way. P. J. O'Rourke to Garrison Keillor, hardly ideological soulmates, have both argued that many liberals treat the people they love like hell.

A better question is this: should Harry Reid be held to the same standard as Trent Lott? And will he be held to the same standard? My take: Reid might be held to the same standard, but it's not necessarily the best thing for conservatives. Let's not kid ourselves -- having Harry Reid as the majority leader in the Senate is a gift that keeps on giving to those of us on the other side of the aisle. He's much more useful to Republicans as one of the key faces of the Democratic Party than he would be if he were relegated to the backbench with Lott. Keep fighting the good fight, Harry -- your failure is our success!

Friday, January 08, 2010

Benster and D Pick Your Playoff Games -- Wild Card Round

We're in the playoffs already? Playoffs? Playoffs! Can you feel the HYYYYYYYYPPPPPPE!

I guess I'm feeling the hype more than Jim Mora was.

Maybe that's what you would look like if you were an NFL coach, Decrepit! Of course, you're pretty much stuck coaching in-house youth sports.

In the words of this guy, it's what I do, and I do it well.

No, actually your picks are bankrupt, old dude! But enough of that, let's get down to bidness!

New York J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS! (+2 1/2) vs. Cincinnati Ochocincos. When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way. I know this song because my strange old father made me watch this strange old movie once. It won't help us pick the game very much, but it seems likes a good idea and an example of the services we provide to at-risk youth. Anyway, back to the game, if I can stop laughing at my own jokes long enough to make a pick. There will be a very good matchup to watch as Darrelle Revis matches up with Chad Ochenta y Cinco. He may not know how to pronounce his name, but I do. Everybody thinks the Bengals are just that good, but I'm calling the upset. Gang Green 30, Linguistically Challenged 19.

I can see why you think this will happen, Grasshopper. The Jets pretty much kicked the stuffing out of the Bengals last week in New Jersey, but this game is in Cincinnati. I suspect the Bengals will play much better this time. But I also think that much better won't be good enough. I like the Jets, too. Jets 16, Bengals 13.

Philadelphia Cheesesteaks (+4) vs. Dallas How 'Bout Them Cowboahs? There is going to be some blood tomorrow night. Last week Dallas put the donut on Andy Reid's boys, 24-0. The theory says that the team at home during the playoffs is probably going to win, but a couple of factors fall in favor of the Eagles. First of all, Dallas constantly chokes in the playoffs, especially since Tony Romo arrived. There's been the holder incident, the Jessica Simpson incident and other unfortunate events. There is also the revenge factor. DUH DUH DUH DUHHHHH. Feel the revenge, Tony Romo? Hey Roy Williams -- you don't have enough talent to win on talent alone! Look for the Cheesesteaks to give the Cowboys more than they can eat. Philly 50, Dallas 42.

So let me see if I understand what you're saying, Seabiscuit. The same team that couldn't score last week will put up 50 points this week? That's bold. Actually, I think this could be a shootout. The Cowboy defense has been very good lately but they can be had, especially if the Eagles hit a shot early on. And Benster has a good point -- Romo hasn't proven anything in the playoffs, while Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb is quite battle-tested. And that's why I once again have to agree with the young fella. Eagles 24, Cowboys 20.

Baltimore Edgar Allan Poes (+3 1/2) vs. New England Belicheks. On a fashion note, Bill Belichek wears ugly sweatshirts with the sleeves cut off, which is kinda creepy. New England will be shorthanded without Wes Welker, but Bill Belichek has proven that he not only makes bad fashion choices, but he is intelligent. Baltimore does not really have a dynamic offense but they are able to play ball control. And Baltimore might be on to something -- it's tough for Tom Brady to complete passes when he's planted on the sideline. We'll see if the game will slow down or if the Patriots will be able to play fast break. Charm City Birds 31, Belicheks 28.

I like your theory on this one too, whippersnapper. I think the Patriots are getting old in a hurry, actually, and they are ripe to be knocked off. It won't be this week, though. Patriots 27, Ravens 17.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+1) vs. Arizona House of Cards. All right -- I want a word with you Aaron Rodgers doubters. Aaron Rodgers is in the Pro Bowl. He's led the Packers on a 7-1 hot streak ever since that bad incident with the frightening Creamsicles. On paper, this game looks very scary for Green Bay without Al Harris. Charles Woodson will have to cover Holy Angels alum Larry Fitzgerald, leaving Tramon Williams to deal with Anquan Boldin and potentially Jarrett "Toast" Bush to deal with Steve Breaston. However, Boldin did not practice this week and odds are that he'll either go and be very limited or he'll be watching the game from the sidelines. Also, Arizona's best cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, is also hobbling around. That means that the Cardinals will have to put their number 2 cornerback on Greg Jennings and backups on Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley. That's just asking for trouble. The key to stopping Arizona is to disrupt Kurt Warner's rhythm. Maybe a little dose of Clay Matthews will do the trick. Packers 63, House of Cards 10.

Excellent analysis, but I don't see that score happening, young fella. The thing to me that's been most interesting about the run-up to this game is how much yapping the Cardinal players have been doing. It's almost as if they're using bravado to try to convince themselves that they can handle the Packers. The Cardinals are very strange, of course -- they can be almost unstoppable one week and terrible the next. Last week, they were terrible. Does that mean this week they'll be unstoppable? Probably not. Look for a wild, entertaining game, but if my theory holds true, the Packers will be coming to Minneapolis next week. Green Bay 38, Arizona 28.

Do not give Aaron Rodgers any more motivation. Vikings fans, remember well the words of Satchel Paige -- don't look back. Something might be gaining on you. Ben out!