Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Unreality TV

Update (09/01/11): It now appears that the president's address will be on Thursday, Sept. 8. I'm definitely watching the Packers instead.

President Obama schedules an address before a joint session of Congress on the same day as a previously-scheduled Republican debate:

The speech will fall on the same night Texas Gov. Rick Perry makes his debut on the 2012 GOP debate stage. The Republican presidential field is set to take part in a debate, also scheduled to begin at 8 p.m., at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. The debate will go on as scheduled, NBC said in a statement Wednesday.

Asked whether the speech was purposefully scheduled the same night as the Republican debate, White House press secretary Jay Carney said, “Of course not.”
A few brief thoughts:
  • I think we can safely assume that Carney's assertion on the timing is baked wind.
  • Unless Obama is planning to declare war on someone, a joint session seems like overkill. Maybe he can interrupt his speech in the middle and launch a Tomahawk missle at Bashar Assad from the podium. That would be entertaining.
  • If the Republican debate draws higher ratings than Obama, it will send a useful message.
  • I plan on watching the Packers that night. [Wait, aren't the Packers playing the next night? -- Ed.]
  • Good point -- the Packers play the next night. Still, I'm sure I can find hours of pregame Packer hype the night before the game and that would be far more edifying than anything Obama is likely to say.
  • The one useful thing about the president's power play is this: he's once again demonstrating his arrogance in a way that is sure to rankle a lot of people. I'm guessing that a lot of people would rather watch the normal prime time shows than listen to the president drone on about Green Jobs 3.0 or whatever the hell he's going to discuss.
  • After a while, I get the sense that the television networks are going to get tired of this sort of thing. They lose ad revenue when the president commandeers the airwaves and let's face it, they have a business to run. I'm guessing that for CBS, "Big Brother" usually draws better than the Big Brother in the White House. And it's less contrived, too.

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- No, Really, We're Actually Doing This Again

Man, oh man, I've been waiting for this. I have so much HYYYYYYYYPPPPEE! stored up that I could power a sports car with it! And that reminds me of something, Decrepit....

I know, you want to drive my car. Forget it, pal. 1993 Buick Roadmaster for you.

Well, that's okay. It has a big honkin' trunk and I'll need it to hold all the HYYYYYPPPPE! Also, soon Mark Dayton will recognize that I'm legally able to drive and I can also have the power to shut down the state!

Well, the shutdown was certainly filled with HYYYPPPPE! So maybe you could do it. But that's not why we're here, right?

You got it, Geritol Fan! Football is here, baybee! And there's actually a full slate of college football action available for us to pick. So I'm ready to unleash my latest brilliance. Watch me work....

UNLV Runnin' Rebels (+35 1/2) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. So the college football season starts in Madison tomorrow night. And the Badgers found themselves a pretty good quarterback to start the year. His name is Russell Wilson, and he appears to be a merger of two famous sporting goods companies, Russell Athletics and Wilson Sports. No word on whether he wears Under Armour, though. He was the quarterback at North Carolina State for the past few seasons, but was able to transfer to Madison because he's already graduated from N.C. State. Now he can get a real education, Big Ten-style. The real question is, can the running game be as deadly as it was last year, given the departure of bruising human dump truck John Clay and road grader Gabe Carimi, who are now building a highway out in western Minnesota or something. I don't know much about UNLV, but neither do they, so I'll assume that the Badgers will open up a can of whoop-something or other tomorrow night. Badgers 100, Running Sores 0.

Well, that might be a bit much to expect, but it seemed like last year the Badgers could score 70 points when they saw fit, so perhaps you're right. I'll be curious to see how Wilson does. He's not like the typical Badger quarterback, because he actually has a lot of athleticism. He's also thrown over 70 touchdown passes in his career. That's going to be trouble for a lot of teams. Badgers should handle UNLV in Madison. Badgers 49, UNLV 14.

Minnesota Golden Roadkill (+22) vs. USC Trojans. It's the long-awaited debut of the new Gopher football coach, Jerry Kill, a/k/a "Jerry the Cable Guy." Why do we call him Jerry the Cable Guy? I have three reasons. First, Fearless Maria suggested it and we try to pay attention to everything she says. Second, he has that same twangy voice that the more famous cable guy has. But most of all, because the Gophers are so terrible there's little doubt that you'll need a pretty advanced cable package to see any of their games on television. I don't expect much from the Gophers in this first game. And I won't get much, either. Seriously, Kill Me a River or something. USC 35, DirecTV 7.

I actually think Jerry Kill will do a good job with the Gophers. The problem he has is that he's using Tim Brewster's players. That's not a recipe for success. Give Kill a year or two and things will turn around, but the locals are a mess right now. USC 31, Minnesota 14.

Oregon Ducks (-3) vs. LSU Bayou Bengals, at Jonestown. And Jerry Jones probably won't be serving Kool-Aid for this one. This is a big game for the first weekend of the year. It probably deserves a full dose of HYYYYYYYYPPPPPPE! We last saw the Ducks losing to Scam Newton in the BCScampionship game. The Ducks return a lot of talented players, including LaMichael James and, fortunately for them, not LaJoey Harrington. And LSU could probably use Joey Harrington or someone, because they will not have their starting quarterback available, because he apparently thought he was actually a student at Miami or something. Decrepit, I'm having a hard time keeping my scandals straight these days. Last I heard, the only NCAA school not currently under investigation is Macalester, although it's possible that some of their players have been getting illegal organic food benefits. We've sent our investigative team out to explore the matter, but they seem to be having trouble reporting back to the home office because they can't get across University Avenue because of the light rail project. But I digress. Like I've said before with Oregon, the Ducks have too much speed. They also like to no-huddle. LSU is big and tough, but they might get caught in matchup problems and Oregon will just abuse those all day. Quack Quack 42, Geaux Tigers 17.

I think it's going to be closer than that, Seabiscuit. LSU should have a crowd advantage and while the Ducks are fearsome when they get rolling, I wonder if they'll be up to full speed in the first game of the season. In fact, I'm going to pick it the other way for the heck of it. LSU 24, Oregon 21.

Spring Lake Park Panthers vs. Mighty Irondale Knights. I'm not gonna bother with NFL preseason games, old dude. I'd much rather discuss my alma mater, the Knights! It's the first game of the season and I really have no idea whether or not Irondale is going to be better than last year's disappointing 3-6 record. They've hedged their bets by scheduling footwipe St. Francis for the homecoming game. That's a good move, because last year we lost our homecoming game to Cooper. And we somehow found a way to lose to freaking North Branch at home. I expect better this year. I'm trying to enjoy my glorious high school days and all this losing is getting in the way. So come on, guys -- win one for the Benster! Irondale 28, SLP 25.

The Star Tribune says that Spring Lake Park is the favorite to win the conference this year. Of course, I don't believe a word the Star Tribune says, so I'm going to pick Irondale as well. I would like the grasshopper's high school days to be glorious, too. Especially since he won't get to use my car. Irondale 21, SLP 20.

Well, that's a good start to the season. I'm assuming that, since we'll have a few free hours over the weekend, you'll be ready to go car shopping for me. But if you buy me a Roadmaster, I'll just have to deal with it. Ben out!

Rick Perry, Honey Badger

The more that I've thought about what might happen in 2012, I keep coming back to the notion of worldview. Writing at Politico, Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman see the same thing, especially given the potential role of Texas Gov. Rick Perry:

Perry panic has spread from the conference rooms of Washington, D.C., to the coffee shops of Brooklyn, with the realization that the conservative Texan could conceivably become the 45th president of the United States, a wave of alarm centering around Perry’s drawling, small-town affect and stands on core cultural issues such as women’s rights, gun control, the death penalty, and the separation of church and state.

The epidemic of lefty angst isn’t just a matter of specific Perry policies though; it goes to the heart of the liberal worldview. His smashing debut on the presidential stage suggests that the victory of an urban liberal Democrat, Barack Obama, wasn’t a step toward a more progressive nation, but just a leftward swing of an increasingly wild pendulum, now poised to rocket to the right.
I get the impression that Rick Perry's style really grates on liberals. If my Facebook feed is any indication, the reaction to Perry is pretty visceral. I get a lot of "ugh, I thought we were past that" and "my God, he's even worse than Bush" from the comments I see.

The one key difference between George W. Bush and Rick Perry is this:  Bush sometimes pretended not to care about liberal opinion, but he actually did, which is hardly surprising given his background. Perry seems to take the "honey badger" approach to the matter (link NSFW). He just doesn't care. That's why he's getting a lot of love from the conservative base.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

August 30, 1990 (Re-Post)

I wrote this piece two years ago. It still says everything I want to say today, so if you'll indulge a repeat, here it is.

I'd set my alarm clock early, because I knew that it was going to be a long day. My father had had a heart attack two weeks before and had undergone quadruple bypass surgery a few days later. He'd been in the hospital for two weeks now and things weren't going well.

As I packed my bag for a visit, I was listening to the radio. A song that had been popular that summer, "Way Down Now," by World Party, was playing and I was absent-mindedly singing along:

Won't you show me something true today
C'mon and show me anything but this

I didn't know the half of it.


August of 1990 had already been a very eventful month. Jill and I had been edging ever closer to marriage and we were very excited about it. We'd been ring shopping earlier in the summer and I finally had managed to squirrel away enough money to get the ring. I'd placed the ring on Jill's finger 3 weeks before, on a flight from Chicago to Minneapolis. As soon as we got off the plane, Jill's mother noticed the ring and leaped into action. By the time the weekend had concluded, we'd already had a line on the church and the reception hall.

A week later the call had come from my brother that Dad had a heart attack. Jill and I were on our way to Appleton the next day. My brother had told me that although he'd had the heart attack, he was okay and that the prognosis was good. Still, we decided to find out for ourselves.

My brother's report had been accurate. Dad seemed fine when I talked to him on the phone. Jill was delighted to show her future father-in-law the ring. When we walked into Dad's hospital room, he seemed in good spirits. Jill smiled when she saw him.

"You know, when a couple gets married, it's the father of the bride who's supposed to have the heart attack, especially when he thinks about the bill," Jill said.

My dad laughed out loud. "Tell your father I had the heart attack in solidarity with him," he said. While Dad was still in the hospital and surgery awaited, it seemed like the worst was over, so we returned to Chicago and our lives after the weekend.

The surgery was going to be tricky -- a quadruple bypass. The prognosis was good, though -- we had been assured that as many as 90-95% of people who had the surgery were able to get out of the hospital within weeks and resume a normal life. The odds seemed good.

But things had not gotten much better. The surgery turned out to be complicated and complications from surgery began almost immediately. After another week, my brother had called again and told me I should come home.

I didn't own a car, so the trip home was complicated. I climbed aboard an Amtrak train at Union Station and rode it to Milwaukee. I met my sister at the station and we drove the two hours back to Theda Clark Regional Medical Center in Neenah, the hosptial where my dad was being treated.

As we drove, we talked about everything except the problems Dad was having. My sister had attended a concert at Alpine Valley over the weekend, a concert that ended in tragedy when Stevie Ray Vaughan and members of Eric Clapton's road crew were killed in a helicopter crash. Vaughan had performed there that night with Clapton and Robert Cray and my sister had felt that Stevie Ray had blown everyone else off the stage.

"It was an unbelievable concert, Mark," she said. "But I can't believe that he died. You just don't know what's going to happen, do you?"

I thought about that. I knew what she meant. But there was a long silence.

By the time we got to the hospital, things were seeming pretty dicey. Dad had been in intensive care for a few days and was drifting in and out of consciousness. We spent a lot of time sitting in an outside area overlooking the Fox River. At the time I was nearly a pack-a-day smoker and they weren't especially interested in having me pollute the waiting room. We weren't allowed to visit Dad; only my stepmother could go in. I could peek my head into his room, but I'm not sure he knew that I was there.

Dad's best friend was a pathologist named Charles Awen who lived in Oconto, Wisconsin, a small town about 70 miles north of Appleton. He wasn't involved in Dad's case but he'd been in to see Dad and I could tell that he was worried when I talked to him.

"I don't know, Mark. He doesn't look too good," Dr. Awen said. "The problem he's had is that he's been confined to bed for so long and he's had a lot of blood clots that have formed. He's at risk for a pulmonary embolism."

"Is there anything I can do, Dr. Awen?" I asked, even though I knew the answer.

"Not really. He's being treated for it now, but it's going to be tough."

Dr. Awen was right. It was going to be tough. By late afternoon all my siblings were at the hospital. We got a report from the doctor who was treating Dad. He told us he was cautiously optimistic. He also told us that we really didn't need to hang around the hospital, because there wasn't much we could do for him at this point. My brother Pat, who at the time lived in Milwaukee, asked if he thought Dad would make it through the night. The doctor seemed to think that wouldn't be a problem, so my brother returned to Milwaukee.

The rest of us went to George Webb, a classic U-shaped diner that is straight out of an Edward Hopper painting. We tucked into massive plates of greasy food and told bad jokes and laughed. It was an enormous release of tension. We had taken the medical staff's counsel to heart and were hopeful that maybe the storm would pass.

By 10 o'clock, we were all back at the big house on Railroad Street. The air was thick with cigarette smoke and laughter. So much so that I almost didn't hear the phone ring. But I did and I answered it. The voice on the other end was matter of fact and frankly a little chilling.

"This is Theda Clark. You need to get back down here. Things have taken a turn for the worse."

"We're on the way," I said. And we were.

We were there in 15 minutes. As Dr. Awen had feared, a large blood clot had broken free and had traveled to Dad's lungs. He was having difficulty breathing and needed emergency surgery. The doctor asked my stepmother if she would authorize it.

"Of course I do! What are the odds of success?"

"Not good," the doctor replied. "Less than 10%."

"Do it. We're going to the chapel to pray."

And we did. We prayed hard. I don't know that I'd ever prayed so hard in my life, before or since. We'd called my brother and he was tearing down U.S. 41 back to Neenah, hoping against hope that he could be there to help in some way, any way.

I know that God hears our prayers. And I know that God answers our prayers, too. But for whatever reason, the prayers weren't answered in the way we would have hoped. Dad passed away about a half hour after we'd arrived back at the hospital. When we went in to see him, we noticed that his fingers were clamped to the side rails of his hospital bed, as if he were fighting to the very end. He wasn't ready to leave, any more than we were ready to have him leave.

It had been 15 hours earlier, in my apartment in Chicago, that I'd heard the song that followed me like a nagging argument all day long.

Won't you show me something true today
C'mon and show me anything but this

All these years later, I still wish I'd been shown anything but this.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Perry, Ponzi and the Kinsleyan Gaffe

You may not agree with liberal pundit Michael Kinsley about much, but he did provide a useful service in defining the oft-used word "gaffe." A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth.

I'm not personally convinced that Rick Perry is the politician we need to replace Barack Obama, but Perry is providing a useful service right now, by offering a gaffe about the nature of Social Security:

"It is a Ponzi scheme for these young people. The idea that they're working and paying into Social Security today, that the current program is going to be there for them, is a lie," Perry said. "It is a monstrous lie on this generation, and we can't do that to them."
This is 100% true. There is no way that the Social Security system, as it stands currently, will provide anything approaching the benefits that current seniors receive to anyone younger than 50. There simply won't be enough people paying into the system to sustain it. This is a simple matter of demographics.

Personally, I expect that I'll get something out of my years of "contributions" to the system, but it will either be:

(a) much later than the age of 62, or 65. If I'm lucky, it will be 70; or
(b) I'll get full benefits paid in dollars that have the valuation of a Turkish lira.

It's quite likely the real answer will be both (a) and (b).

As the Politico article eagerly explains, telling the truth about Social Security could hurt Perry's campaign, especially in places like Florida. That's fine. We need to have the conversation anyway. And if it's truly a gaffe (second meaning -- a mistake) to have the conversation, we're well and truly screwed.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

This is what democracy looks like

In Milwaukee:

Protesters crowded the street outside Messmer Preparatory School in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood as Governor Walker visited the school Friday to read to children.

The protests came just hours after someone vandalized the school ahead of the Governor's visit.

"Some of these folks super glued our front doors at the prep school," said Br. Bob Smith, OFM, the president of Messmer Catholic Schools, about the school on the corner of North Fratney and East Burleigh Streets.
Messmer was once a Catholic high school. The archdiocese moved to close it nearly 20 years ago, but it eventually became one of the best examples of the success of the school choice program that has been in place in Milwaukee. Not surprisingly, a visit from Scott Walker was enough to prompt the vandalism, especially since Messmer has been a long-standing affront to the Milwaukee Public School system.

There's more:

According to Br. Smith, one protester said " 'Get ready for a riot,' because they were going to disrupt the visit."

Br. Smith said that, in his opinion, the Republican governor's visit to read to students there on Friday was not about political overtones connected to protests that have been happening all year in the state regarding the rollback of collective bargaining rights for many public workers.

"People ought to start acting like adults," said Br. Smith.
 Not a chance, Brother Smith. Not a chance.

For example, yesterday, Meade went down to the Capitol Square to see what the singalong was like this week (the day after the special prosecutor announced that no one would be charged in the Wisconsin Supreme Court "chokehold" incident). He came home with a lot of video in the Flip camera, but he was especially interested in one clip.

An angry man, recognizing Meade, rushed up and demanded "What are you doing here?" He called Meade a "son of a bitch." He told Meade he didn't belong there and he should leave. Meade asked "Isn't this a public space? Doesn't it belong to all of us?" and the man answered "Yes, it belongs to us." Another man, seeing Meade, yelled at him and called him "a f*****g tea bagger." He also called out: "Death to Republicans!"
This is what democracy looks like.

Home Truth

David Blaska, the house conservative at Isthmus, the Madison equivalent of City Pages*, holding forth on l'affaire Prosser:

Madison, WI, this year has resembled the Directorate of the French Revolution when allegation = fact, when accusation = condemnation. This is not what democracy looks like.

*Except that City Pages has never countenanced a house conservative.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Guilty Pleasures Part Eighty-One: People Wearing Hats in 1981

Fearless Maria is back in the house.

Back in the old, dusty, almost forgotten house of Guilty Pleasures. Oh, no! Dad, there's a spider! Could you kill it for me!

What did the spider do to merit the death penalty, Maria?

What am I, a lawyer? I don't know. Its presence is agonizing. Now be a good dad and squash that sucker! Or put it in a jar and let it loose outside!

I'll take it under advisement. You are right, though -- it's been a long time since we did one of these things. So what should we talk about today?

I don't know. This is Guilty Pleasures number 81. What could we do with 81? Are there songs about 81? 81 Bottles of Beer on the Wall? 81 Luftballoons or something? Or maybe 81 Tears? Or maybe 81-75309? Oh no, that's not Jenny's number.

Nope, nor are any of those numbers in any songs. So let me ask you a question -- what year did your dad graduate from high school?

45 B.C., right?

Wow, I'm not that old.

Good point. I'm thinking it must have been 1981, or you wouldn't have asked the question. I figure this stuff out, you know.

That's true. So do you want to look at some tunes from that fateful year?

Sounds good, Dad. Well, maybe it sounds good. I'd better not commit to that until I actually hear what you come up with. If it's you and a bunch of your buddies burping the Periodic Table, I don't want to hear it!

I don't know that we ever burped the periodic table, Maria. I might have burped the Dewey Decimal System or something.

Oh, that's right. English major. Of course that's what you did. Now, anyway, let's start up the songs here, Dad.

Okay. Start it up, you say?

So, did Mick Jagger get that shirt from the clearance rack at T.J. Maxx? It's kinda, well, sissy looking, Dad! And those dance moves were okay, but they looked kinda odd when he did them.

He's managed to offer those same dance moves for the better part of 40 years, sweetheart.

Oh. Well, I guess people weren't that picky in those days. Did anyone else have better dance moves?

Well, there was this dancing....

Okay, Blondie is looking just fine in her black dress, I guess, but maybe it would be more attractive looking with some pink hair. No, I'm just joking. The other people in the video are in random clothing but there's not too much to complain about, although the guy in the top hat is a little creepy. But I'll bet they had some spiders on the set!

It's possible, but since it's supposed to be New York City, you get your choice of pests and vermin.

I'd rather choose songs, Dad. Or maybe a nice dog? Hint hint!

You are subtle, Maria.

Not where dogs are concerned, Dad! I couldn't be more obvious about dogs! Don't you want to have one to pet, to take on walks, to frolic in the park? To be there as we're blogging? To be panting and wagging its tail and giving you slobbering wet kisses?

I'm not sure how the slobbering wet kisses would help our blogging, Maria.

It might help, Dad. C'mon, think about it. What about other songs from 1981?

Well, this is a little more perky:

 Can you say, "Ad for Hat World?" They were sportin' some fedoras there! I see kids wearing hats like that now. Were those popular in 1981?

Not especially, but then again the Police could afford better hats than I could back then. I had a cool Florida Gators baseball cap back then.

Good for you, buddy! A Florida Gators baseball cap? It sounds very nice, and I'm sure they're ready to go at Hat World in the mall, but it's not a fedora.

Good point. Maybe I could have had a hat like these guys:

Hey look everybody, it's the Hardy Boys! Geez, can you have any more trenchcoat, suits and hats? What were they trying to do anyway? Chat up Nancy Drew? I thought that she was with Ned?!

I guess I thought they were doing something else, Maria. Also, I didn't know the Hardy Boys ever made it to Amsterdam.

Hmm. Maybe not. Maybe they're a copycat group. After all, they had 3 guys and the Hardy Boys only had two. And none of the Hardy Boys were bald like the little guy in the middle. I do like the song, though -- lots of percussion and a bit odd in general, but oh well. I'd rather not keep it dark myself. I like bright colors these days.

Bright colors, you say?

Okay, Dad -- I think I get it now. In their band name ABC, "A" stands for abnormal, "B" stands for bugged out and "C" stands for creepy! Why on earth are they singing at a carnival? I thought the kids liked Ronald McDonald instead! Or was he even around then?

No, Ronald McDonald has been around for a long time.

Okay. But I'm beginning to think you were wrong about people wearing hats in 1981. These videos are full of people wearing hats! I see straw boaters, Tyrolean hats and goodness knows what else. I didn't see any Florida Gators baseball caps, though. Guess you didn't make the audition, huh Dad?

No, I guess I didn't.

So do you think it's time to wrap this up? Or maybe we should just top it off with a hat or something?

Sounds good, Maria. Vote for your favorite in the comments section. And one other thing, Maria --

What's that, Dad?

Be glad we didn't include this one.

Yeah, I'm glad you didn't, Dad. I don't think those are hats, anyway. Looks more like flower pots. But enough of that. Vote, people! Pretend you're from Wisconsin and vote several times if you'd like! It's just like throwing your hat into the ring!

Witness for the Prossercution

We learn today that no charges will be forthcoming against David Prosser:

Neither Supreme Court Justice David Prosser nor fellow Justice Anne Walsh Bradley will face criminal charges for an altercation this summer involving the two, a special prosecutor has determined.

"After a complete review . . . I have determined that no criminal charges will be filed against either Justice Bradley or Justice Prosser for the incident on June 13, 2011," Sauk County District Attorney Patricia Barrett wrote in a fax sent Thursday morning to a Dane County judge.

Bradley has said Prosser put her in a "chokehold" during a June argument over a case in her chambers. Others have said Bradley came at Prosser with fists raised and he put up his hands to block her or push her back.

Even in as politicized an environment as Dane County has become, this one was too much for the local partisans in the Dane County apparat to handle. As it happened, most of the members of the court were there when the incident took place. If you had two factions disputing what had happened, on the record, in a court of law, it would have been a huge problem for the entire court.

I won't pretend to know what really happened that day, although I have my suspicions. At this point Prosser can claim vindication and his detractors can continue to cast aspersions. It's the closest thing to a win-win that's possible in Wisconsin politics these days.

All I Need to Get By

Nick Ashford died the other day. Ashford and his wife Valerie Simpson were a Motown-based variant on the singer/songwriting teams that came out of the Brill Building in the 1960s. And their songbook compares favorably with King/Goffin, especially the wonderful songs they wrote that Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell performed in the 1960s. Hit the video above.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back from Vacation

I'm back in Minnesota tonight after a short trip to Wisconsin. It was pretty action packed, as I went to my 30 year high school reunion, then hit Bay Beach, the Milwaukee Zoo and the Milwaukee Art Museum, among other things. A few quick observations:
  • I was concerned that our reunion wasn't going to be much, because the only notice went out on Facebook and a large number of my classmates don't participate on Facebook. We ended up getting about 35-40 people back, which is pretty good for a class of about 150. Everyone looked really good, too. It was fun.
  • Bay Beach, the municipal amusement park in Green Bay, remains an amazingly good deal. They recently installed a roller coaster that had been in an amusement park in Memphis that closed. The ride is called the Zippin Pippin and you can ride it for $1. It's one of the old-style wood roller coasters and it's pretty good. Most of the other rides are either a quarter or 50 cents. I bought 20 bucks worth of tickets for the kids and they were able to ride all afternoon and we still had tickets left over after 4+ hours at the park. Valleyfair ought to hang its head in shame.
  • I hadn't been to Milwaukee in a long time and it was fun to get back. I've always been fond of the Milwaukee County Zoo and it remains a superior place to see animals. While we have a zoo in the Twin Cities, it's always a dicey proposition whether you'll be able to see the animals, because they give them such huge spaces. I realize that's the proper way to display animals, but it makes the experience hit or miss, which is tough to accept considering how much you pay to get into the place. In Milwaukee, the design provides room for the animals, but the sightlines are much better. If you are in Milwaukee, it's a must see.
  • I had not been to the Milwaukee Art Museum since it moved to its new digs. It's a spectacular space and the architecture is phenomenal. The collection in the space is pretty good, too, especially a large collection of Georgia O'Keefe works.
  • I didn't think a lot about politics while I was there, but there were little signs of the strife that's been ongoing -- a fist sign in a shop window, a random billboard here and there. We noticed on the Milwaukee news that a group of union members stormed a school board meeting in a suburban district, supposedly because the teachers claimed they weren't clear on their compensation package for the coming year. The interesting thing is that most of the teachers apparently didn't work in the district. Apparently the union hasn't lost its taste for mob tactics. It will be interesting to see if this works, because the few people I talked to are pretty tired of it all.
We will return to regularly scheduled blogging soon. I heard that something has been happening in Libya.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Top Ten Reasons to Attend Your School Reunion

You can eat dinner at a nice venue.

You will get to hear all the wonderful music from the years when you were in school.

You might get win the coveted prize for the alum who has traveled the farthest to attend the reunion.

You can laugh at everyone's yearbook picture.

You might see the person you secretly had a crush on.

You might be able to find out who really pulled that infamous prank.

You may discover that the years may have been kinder to you than they have been to the homecoming king and queen.

You might make a new friend.

You can reconnect with old friends.

You can spend an evening reminiscing about some of the best times of your life.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I'm back in my beloved hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin this weekend for a high school reunion, which is part of a longer vacation we're taking here. It's always fun to be home and we had a great time last night visiting with my brother and his family. I'm looking forward to seeing my old classmates tonight, some of whom I haven't seen in a long time.

As it happens, President Obama is also on a vacation and that has led to the most pointless exercise in American politics, which is sneering at politicians when they take vacations. The president and his family have apparently decided to decamp to Martha's Vineyard, an exclusive enclave that the average American can't afford to visit. I understand it's a lovely place.

Good for him. Whether you like Obama or not, I see no reason to begrudge the man a vacation with his family. And if he can provide a deluxe experience for his wife and children, it's not really any of my business.

Meanwhile, because some Republicans are sniping at the president over his vacation, we've been reminded that the president's predecessor took many more vacation days than Obama has. This assertion remains stupid. As everyone knows, or should know, the President of the United States is never really on vacation. He might be away from the White House, but the duties of office follow him everywhere he goes. George W. Bush would spend a lot of time at his ranch in Texas, but he certainly couldn't ignore his duties while he was there. And Bush dealt with issues every day during his vacations, just as Obama will have to deal with all manner of issues while he's in Martha's Vineyard. Maybe Cindy Sheehan can pay Obama a visit.

If you want to criticize the president for the way he's performing his duties, feel free. I think there's ample reason to offer criticism, as I suspect you've noticed. But I hope he enjoys his vacation time now. Once he gets back to Washington, he won't be enjoying much.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rick Perry, Antichrist

There's some hilarious stuff that's been posted about Rick Perry since he entered the presidential race. The most interesting thing I've learned is that George W. Bush isn't really Chimpy McHitlerburton after all, but that Rick Perry is actually Chimpy McHitlerburton on steroids and is going to kill people with his bare hands or something like that. I may not have all the details right, but that's hardly an impediment to reporting these days.

The good news in all this? At least the large sectors of the MSM have stopped pretending to be objective. That's useful.

No thanks

I've had a Yahoo! e-mail account since about 1998 or thereabouts. It's been generally reliable and over the years they've kept it reasonably comfortable.

Now they've decided that it's time to treat their customers like cattle. There is apparently a new wizbang version of Yahoo! e-mail, or so they say. They are now trying to force anyone who uses the old school version to switch, mostly by pestering you every time you sign in and making it more difficult to go to the version I've used over the years. You can get to it if you can find the tiny link on the gatekeeping page they hit you with.

Of course, there are alternatives. And my guess is that Yahoo! might find that their cattle prodding is going to cost them a lot of eyeballs. The more they keep getting between me and my e-mail account, the more likely it is that I'll switch to something else.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Just so you know

I'm really enjoying the Milwaukee Brewers this year.

On Luck

"Luck is the residue of design."   -- Branch Rickey

"We had reversed the recession, avoided a depression, gotten the economy moving again," Obama told a crowd in Decorah, Iowa.  "But over the last six months we've had a run of bad luck."

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as “bad luck.”  -- Robert Heinlein

Lets keep this party polite

Never get out of my sight
Stick with me baby, I'm the guy that you came in with
Luck be a lady tonight
                                         -- Frank Loesser

Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?  -- Harry Callahan

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bachmann's Overdrive

If you find it astonishing that Tim Pawlenty is out and Michele Bachmann is very much alive in the still-too-early presidential race, Ann Althouse has the explanation:

By the way, Bachmann was great on "Meet the Press" today. She is excellent at not letting the interviewer control her. She interrupts appropriately and stands her ground. She has planned, neat responses to the stuff that they will use to try to mess her up — like her statements about gay people — and she resists pressure to restate or elaborate those responses. She is ready for prime time.
I've noticied this, too. The experience that has served Bachmann well isn't in governance, but in dealing with the media gatekeepers. Whatever you think about her politics, there is no disputing that she has become very good at dealing with the MSM. Throughout her career she's never hesitated to show up in hostile media environments. She's been on television with Chris Matthews dozens of times and she's now at the point where she can't be put off message.

In this way, she's learned from the experiences of both ends of the 2008 Republican ticket. Throughout his career, John McCain was always available to chat up the news shows. Back in the ancient 1990s I would watch the old CNN "Crossfire" show when Michael Kinsley and Pat Buchanan were the hosts and you could count on McCain being on the show almost once a week. He usually fared well, because in the main he was sufficiently entertaining that he'd get invited back. What McCain never understood was that while the MSM was friendly to him, especially when he wore his "Maverick" mask, it wasn't his friend. And when the coverage turned nasty, he seemed unable to respond to it.

Then there was the last GOP veep candidate. As we all learned in 2008, Sarah Palin didn't do so well in her encounters with the MSM. She had bad encounters with both Charlie Gibson of ABC and Katie Couric of CBS, which became part of the narrative surrounding Palin and her capabilities. Whatever Palin's personal popularity might be on the Right, those moments have made it difficult for her to get traction elsewhere.

Bachmann seems to have learned two things from the last cycle, and through her own experiences on the cable circuit:
  • First, you can't avoid going to the MSM. Palin has tried this stance and it hasn't worked for her, because she's only reaching the audience that already believes in her. Until and unless Sarah Palin can figure out how to deal with hostile questioning, she'll never reach enough people to be a viable national candidate. Bachmann is willing to talk to anyone. But there's one thing that you have to know, which is. . . .
  • Just because you go to the MSM, you don't have to accept the narrative they offer or the premises of their questions. This is the point Althouse makes. Bachman has become very adept at turning aside the leading questions and the underlying assumptions of the gatekeepers. This is what the GOP primary base wants to see, as they reject the premises of the MSM as well. But it also is important for audiences that aren't used to seeing this sort of behavior. Staying on message is a bit of a cliche, but it's really crucial if you're going to be successful. Bachmann does not let her interlocutors get in her way. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

T-Paw's Gone

I have been trying to ignore the 2012 campaign, but it's all over the intertubes that Tim Pawlenty is dropping out of the race following a 3rd place finish in the Ames Straw Poll. Quick thoughts:
  • T-Paw did a very good job here in Minnesota, but the problem with pursuing the presidency is that he didn't have the skill set to mount a national campaign in this era. You can't explain T-Paw's two terms as governor of Minnesota, especially his success in battling the DFL, in a 10-second sound bite.
  • That's also the reason why Michele Bachmann is still in the race and T-Paw is not:  Bachmann is more effective at getting her message across. You need to be able to get ideas through in Twitter-sized bites.
  • It's worth remembering that Pawlenty is only 50 years old. He has plenty of time to do other things in politics. He may consider a run against Amy Klobuchar in this cycle, but that would be a mistake. It's a long time to wait, but T-Paw ought to consider either a run against Al Franken in 2014, or a run for a return engagement to the governor's mansion against Mark Dayton. He would be a strong contender in both races.
  • Best guess: if the GOP is successful in wresting the White House away from the Democrats in 2012, T-Paw will be in line for a cabinet position. If not, he'll wait until 2014. We haven't seen the last of Tim Pawlenty. And that's a good thing.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Worldview Blues

Professor Reynolds comes to the same conclusion I've had for a long time:

Boy, the lefties in Wisconsin have really gone crazy. Alas, I fear we’ll see similar crackups elsewhere. It’s not just the loss of power, it’s the squashing of a worldview.

Reynolds is commenting on this post with video from Ann Althouse, the University of Wisconsin law professor who has been invaluable in documenting the events that have been happening in Madison. In the video, Althouse is accosted by a man who tries to stop her from shooting video of the protestors and hits her in the hand. She also gets a good long harangue from a guy who's not enamored of Althouse's presence on the scene.

There's been a lot at stake in Wisconsin, but at bottom I think the worldview is crucial to understanding how things have played out. The public sector has been in the saddle, especially in Madison, for a long time. While the Madison area has plenty of private industries, including such recognizable names as American Family Insurance, American Girl, Rayovac and Oscar Mayer, it's very much a public sector town. The state government and the university both wield enormous influence in the community and, more importantly, wield a lot of power. It's worth remembering that public sector unionism began in Wisconsin in late 1950s. It's also worth remembering that the public sector unions have developed a lot of lucrative enterprises, especially the WEA Trust, a lucrative insurance concern tied to the teacher's unions.

If you were part of this nexus and had ordered your life around the assumption that the public sector and its unions were correct, and you had tied your livelihood to the unions and the promises it had made to you concerning your future, you'd certainly be furious that someone would come along and disturb any of it. Scott Walker has done something more bring about reform; he's challenged the assumptions and the internal logic that has guided the lives of many, many people. And the manner in which Walker has done these things has been especially tough for the unions to swallow. It would be one thing if he had come on like an avenging angel, shouting imprecations and waving his fist at the podium, but that's not what he has done. He's remained calm, has shown little anger and stayed on task. He's got the mannerisms of a middle manager and that's especially tough to swallow.

All of us build a life based on certain assumptions we pick up along the way. When it turns out these assumptions don't hold up, which happens to nearly everyone at some point, it's a very difficult thing to reconcile. We've been building the public sector without much interruption for 80 years, more than a lifetime for most people. It's coming to end now and there's really no easy way to wind things down. That's why what has been happening in Wisconsin matters -- it's a preview of a much larger change that is imminent.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Radio Dilettante

I would imagine that many readers of this feature are familiar with the fine work of the Northern Alliance Radio Network, which broadcasts each Saturday afternoon in the Twin Cities on AM 1280 The Patriot. My good friend Brad Carlson hosts a regular show, "The Closer," each Saturday on the station, from 3-4 p.m. For me, it's appointment radio.

Brad is an excellent host and has managed to build up a lot of goodwill and a good audience with his broadcasts. He's now decided to put that goodwill to the test, because he's asked me to be a guest on his show tomorrow afternoon.

We're going to spend most of the show discussing the upcoming NFL season, especially the prospects of the teams in the NFC North, although we'll certainly touch a little bit on politics as well. I do have a certain amount of radio experience from my days as a college d.j. on WBCR (Commercial Free 90.3, your Stateline Alternative) back in the 1980s, but the crucial difference is that people actually listen to The Patriot, so this will be a little different.

I'm going to do my level best to be coherent. I assume that Brad's producer will kill my microphone if I fall short of that modest goal. Either way, it should be a lot of fun.

Tune us in at 3 on Saturday. As Brad would say:

You can listen live in the Twin Cities at AM 1280 on your radio dial. In and out of the Minneapolis-St Paul area, you can listen to the program on the internet by clicking this link.

5 random minutes

Okay, as it turned out I did watch about 5 minutes of last night's debate. I channel surfed into it around 9:20 p.m. and most of the time period was a festival of Ron Paul, generally arguing with Rick Santorum but also a few of the others, mostly about Iran.

It's easy to see why certain conservatives, especially those of a libertarian bent, would like Ron Paul. He's about as true to libertarian doctrine and constitutional originalism as a modern politician can be.

There was a time, 1988 to be precise, where I supported Ron Paul. He was the Libertarian Party candidate for president that year and I voted for him. Like most younger people, I saw a lot less gray in the world than there actually is and what I saw was a guy who was willing to offer more than the squishiness that was on offer from George H. W. Bush.

All these years later, it looks different. Ron Paul is now 75 years old and he comes on like an Old Testament prophet. It's an effective style if you believe what he says, but I think Ann Althouse had it right when she wrote this:

Ron Paul got so angry — usually while spouting pacifism, ironically. Both Gingrich and Paul have a nasty demeanor of a sort that, I think, will never make it to the White House.
The notion of an angry pacifist isn't surprising. Most people who hold fast to their ideals tend to get pretty angry when the world fails to live up to their expectations, as it always does. That's what we've been seeing in Wisconsin, especially among the youthful supporters of the corrupt public employee unions, who don't understand the larger implications of what they're supporting. It's easy to construct a narrative about the evil Koch Brothers or somesuch if your primary exposure to the "real world" is being a barista and you spend most of your time at the feet of the academic Left. I sense a lot of Ron Paul supporters, especially the younger ones, think the same way, even though they come to different conclusions about what needs to be done.

At bottom, we do need to deal with the implications of what Ron Paul is talking about. Our nation has been an empire, rather than a republic, for over 100 years now. Empires never last in the long run and there's ample reason to believe we are entering the long run now. We do need to return to first principles. But we kid ourselves if we think it will be easy. We cannot just say "no more wars." We have to realize that if we draw down our empire, someone else will attempt to impose another in its place. And there is little reason to believe that the successor empire will be as benign as ours has been. I don't get the sense that Ron Paul, or some of his supporters, understand that.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Grasping at Straw Polls

Still too soon to pay attention to the Republican presidential field in 2012. Not watching the debate tonight and I don't care who wins the Ames Straw Poll on Saturday.

That is all.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I Don't Remember, I Don't Recall

So much for the recall election:

Democrats won two state Senate seats in Tuesday's historic recall elections, but failed to capture a third seat that would have given them control of the chamber.

By keeping a majority in the Senate, Republicans retained their monopoly on state government because they also hold the Assembly and governor's office. Tuesday's elections narrowed their majority - at least for now - from 19-14 to a razor-thin 17-16.

Republicans may be able to gain back some of the losses next week, when two Democrats face recall elections.

A few observations:
  • A little advice to the Left, which won't take it -- go home, at least for a while. While Wisconsin remains closely divided politically, the 6-month tantrum that the Left has offered since Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill was first introduced has been increasingly ineffective. I suspect a lot of people who might have been willing to listen to the Democrats in a normal election cycle pulled the lever for Republicans, mostly to get the Left to shut the hell up. Not that they will, of course. 
  • As soon as I heard that turnout was heavy in these recall elections, it was evident that the Republicans were going to hold the Senate. The two districts that fell to the Democrats were special cases, especially Randy Hopper's district, because Hopper was caught cheating on his wife and that hurt his cause. Dan Kapanke, the state senator from the LaCrosse area who also lost, faced a tough race because his district historically has been solid for the Democrats.
  • After watching the barrage of ads on television, I'm especially gratified that Sheila Harsdorf won her election easily. Shelly "WE! BREATHE! UNION!" Moore was one of the most obnoxious candidates I've seen in a long time. 

One last thing:  although I've praised the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel repeatedly for their excellent news coverage of the scene in Wisconsin this year, they deserve a hell of a lot of scorn for the incredibly gutless decision to run this editorial the day after the election:

So it turns out that the sky isn't going to fall on all local governments in Wisconsin. The numbers now starting to come in show that Gov. Scott Walker's "tools" for local governments apparently will help at least some of them deal with cuts in state aid imposed by the state budget.

That's contrary to the expectation and the rhetoric of critics in the spring, and it's to Walker's credit. It bears out the governor's assessment of his budget-repair bill, although we still maintain he could have reached his goals without dealing a body blow to public employee unions.

But the news is good for many. The latest example is Milwaukee, where the most recent estimates show the city with a net gain of at least $11 million for its 2012 budget. That will take a slice out of the city's structural deficit, which is created by costs rising faster than revenue, and will reduce cuts that Mayor Tom Barrett and the Common Council must impose.

The city projects it will save at least $25 million a year - the figure could be as high as $36 million in 2012 - from health care benefit and pension changes it didn't have to negotiate with unions because of the changes wrought by the new law that ended most collective bargaining for most public employees.

That certainly will help the city deal with the $14 million in cuts in state aid in the 2011-'13 state budget.

That's information the voters could have used, right? It kinda puts the lie to many of the claims we've heard from the Left, no? Well, no reason the electorate should know these things until after they've cast their ballots.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

This Is London

London calling, to the imitation soul
Forget it brother, you can go it alone

Not a happy scene:

00.20 Twitter reports: A Wetherspoons in Lee has been targetted in a “mass mugging.” Police were rung but did not pick up.

And this:

00.01 Police have called in air support from Sussex and Surrey. Shops are burning in Clapham and Notting Hill. Cars have been torched in Fulham Broadway. The Ledbury Michelin-star restaurant in Notting Hill was raided and the diners mugged. There are reports on Twitter of people carrying machetes in Notting Hill and Balham.
And this:

A baby clothes shop owner whose store was looted and then set on fire tearfully spoke of her anger and sadness at the “mindless” riots.

Liz Pilgrim, who runs Baby e, a boutique shop in Ealing, West London, near the famous studios, said she raced to the store when she was told it had been attacked by youths.

She found it on fire, with her stock strewn across the streets, railings and even hanging on nearby trees on the green opposite.

Ms Pilgrim, who opened the shop seven years ago, said it was just “mindless violence” and had left her heartbroken. “I am just absolutely devastated,” she said.
These events are taking place in areas like Ealing and Notting Hill. The looters are not necessarily poor. There's a picture at the second link of a guy wearing an expensive Adidas track suit with matching shoes. It's not what you expect to see in West London.



Monday, August 08, 2011

Wrong Answer, Alan

Hey, don't worry about that S&P downgrade:

David Gregory, moderator of "Meet The Press" on NBC: "Are U.S. treasury bonds still safe to invest in?"

Alan Greenspan, Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve: "Very much so. This is not an issue of credit rating, the United States can pay any debt it has because we can always print money to do that. So, there is zero probability of default."
Sure, let's turn the dollar into Charmin. I'll bet you feel safer now. And I'm equally certain that the Chinese and our other creditors will be totally cool with that.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

On Your Side

The craziness continues back my beloved home state. Here in the Twin Cities we've been treated to rather a lot of advertising concerning the recall election for the Wisconsin state senate district just across the St. Croix. The incumbent is a Republican, Sheila Harsdorf, while the challenger is a teacher/union activist named Shelley Moore.

I'm on record as saying that I want all the recalls to fail, on both sides, mostly because I think it would be better for the state if the politics calmed down a smidge.

I'm beginning to have second thoughts about it, though. There's been an amazing amount of thuggishness going on in Wisconsin and nearly all of it has come from the Democrats and their allies. And even though the thuggishness has largely failed, it continues:

A spokesman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party has threatened to sic union bullies on an independent news organization whose reporting he thinks is "biased."

Graeme Zeilinski was upset that a reporter noted in an interview with the Heritage Foundation think thank that Wisconsin had, according to U.S. Department of Labor data, created nearly half of all the new jobs created across the country in June.
I suppose that Zeilinski would be upset to read such a thing, since it tends to undercut the arguments he and his allies have been making ever since Scott Walker's inauguration. I would expect that, as a party spokesman, he would have countervailing evidence at the ready and that he would share that with

Instead, Zeilinski is sharing the love:

In an email titled "What Happens Next," Zeilinski warned that:

“What happens next is that I contact the publishers and editors of the papers that publish you as ‘unbiased,’ and let them know our deep concern about the obvious bias that permeates your entire operation,” Zielinski states in his email.

“Then, we let our activists know which papers publish you, and they write the publisher and editor. Then, we contact the Capitol press pool and let them know about our concerns about your credentialing. And we continue on until you actually admit to the truth of your operation.”
I'll give Zeilinski this -- he's quite open about being a thug.

One of the arguments we've heard on the ads supporting Shelley Moore is that Harsdorf, as a Republican, is no longer "on our side." Zeilinski supports Moore, of course. Riddle me this -- do you want to be on Zeilinski's side?

Saturday, August 06, 2011


So the inevitable happened:

S&P cut the long-term U.S. credit rating by one notch to AA-plus on concerns about the government's budget deficit and rising debt burden. The action is likely to eventually raise borrowing costs for the American government, companies and consumers.

"The downgrade reflects our opinion that the fiscal consolidation plan that Congress and the Administration recently agreed to falls short of what, in our view, would be necessary to stabilize the government's medium-term debt dynamics," S&P said in a statement.
Of course it did. There was no way that the Democrats would allow the sorts of cuts that it would take to really change things. And the Republicans aren't keen to raise taxes.

My congresscritter, Betty "Rubble" McCollum, has already blamed the current portion of a long-standing financial mess on the Tea Party. And I suppose she's right, since the Tea Party apparently hasn't been sufficiently persuasive enough to get its message across against the unremitting hostility of the Betty McCollums of the world and the loyal stenographers of the MSM that pass McCollum's comments along verbatim.

We've been through this before. Fundamentally, we have a lot of people in this country who believe in goverment first. That's a problem, but there's a much larger problem. We also have a great deal of people who have ordered their lives around the workings of government, both on the provider side (government workers, many unionized) and recipients of government largesse (nearly everyone else, including me). This has been the model for nearly 80 years now. A lot of what might have made sense 80 years ago doesn't make sense any more. Social Security payouts beginning at age 65 work fine when the average life expectancy is less than 65, as it was in the 1930s. Now people are living, on average, to be almost 80. And since there is, and never has been, a giant Social Security Lockbox where the money is stored, the money has always come from current receipts. The $14 trillion national debt that we hear about only represents a small fraction of the real debt we face, which is probably more like $100 trillion. Betty McCollum would rather you not think about that.

Do you suspect that we can pay that debt back? Or that we can continue to do the things we do now? I don't.

The Tea Party comes on like a bunch of Old Testament prophets and we don't like them for it. We don't like scolds. I'm guessing we won't like Standard & Poors very much, either. No one wants the party to end. But we're there. Betty wants us to go looking for an after-bar party. The Tea Party is talkin' Hazelden. We get to decide which approach to take in 2012.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Al Gore Explains What We Need, Right Now

Al Gore, wistful:

“[I] want to focus on one particular suggestion you had about using the wonderful digital tools that are newly available for the reinvigoration of democracy,” Gore said. “Now, they have been around for a while, but they are spreading far and wide and more people are getting involved. We need to have an American spring — you know, the Arab spring. The non-violent part of it isn’t finished yet, but we need to have an American spring, a kind of an American non-violent change where people on the grassroots get involved again. Not the, you know, not in the Tea Party-style.”
Makes sense -- after all, it's really important that Al Gore decide which grassroots are worth listening to. On the bright side, Al would be able to help the grassroots he favors with pre-printed signs, printed on biodegradable paper with sustainable ink. Of course, he's not done:

According to the former vice president, this movement was instituted behind the scenes to clear the government out of the way of special interests.

“What’s sacrosanct for them is to have absolutely no tax increases on the wealthiest Americans. They are at a low level now. And to try to shrink down government so they can get it out of the way of powerful corporations and special interests so they can have free rein,” Gore said. “And the Supreme Court, of course, has now declared that they are persons and to make these secret contributions.”
Uh, Al? Special interests are people, too. Every single one of them. AARP is full of people, as is the AFL-CIO, the Club for Growth and the Alliance for a Better Minnesota. Personally I prefer the Club for Growth over the other groups I've listed, but I wouldn't dispute that the others all have the same right as I do to petition the government for whatever largesse they can wheedle out of it. So long as I have the same right to suggest that the government tell them to pound sand, it's all good.

One last thing, Al -- if we were really going through an Arab spring, you'd be on trial and sitting in a steel cage. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A few other quick thoughts

Since we have a minute, let's talk sports.
  • I guess we don't even need to play the NFL schedule, since it's pretty clear that the Philadelphia Eagles will win the Super Bowl by acclimation. Guess everyone else can go home.
  • The locals cut loose Bryant McKinnie, who apparently didn't understand that the South Beach diet is supposed to help you lose weight. The reports indicate that McKinnie weighed nearly 400 pounds when he reported to training camp. I suspect that, sooner or later, someone is going to play in an NFL game at 400 pounds, but we're not there yet. Given that the Vikings were marking the 10 year anniversary of the death of Korey Stringer, it's not particularly surprising that they weren't too keen on having McKinnie running around in the heat of Mankato.
  • It's starting to look better for my beloved Brewers, who have now opened up a bit of a lead in the NL Central race. Losing Rickie Weeks doesn't help matters, but I think picking up Jerry Hairston Jr. was a pretty smart move as a stopgap measure. You can never have enough smart, versatile guys on your team. Meanwhile in the junior circuit, I suspect the Twins are going to fall short this year. I think the Tigers will probably hold the Twins off, but I have a hunch that Detroit is going to have at least one key pitcher go down during the stretch.
  • Fearless Maria reminds me that we should probably talk about the one Minnesota team that actually wins, the Minnesota Lynx. It's developing into a pretty nice story, especially since the team has been such a train wreck for most of its history. One thing is clear -- all those high draft picks have paid off. And there's something about Maya Moore; she's a winner. It will be interesting to see if the team actually starts to sell out the Target Center if the winning continues.
  • Meanwhile, Benster is busy stockpiling HYYYYYYPPPPE! His outlandish predictions will be returning here soon. Consider yourself warned.

Understanding Ace Commenter Rich's Comment

So my friend and ace commenter Rich made the following comment on the blog the other day:

Finally, I have to ask why you haven't written about Bebe Netanyahu's outrageous 'betrayal' of Israel yesterday. I remember how excercised you got when Obama did the unthinkable a few months ago and said what every U.S. President since Nixon had said about the 1967 borders being the starting point for negotiations with Palestine. Do you think Netanyahu and Obama are in on this together.
Just wondering.
Well, at first his question beat my pair of jacks, as P. J. O'Rourke used to say. But then I figured out the source material:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly agreed to resume peace talks with the Palestinians using pre-1967 borders as a baseline in exchange for Palestinians agreeing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

The Israeli prime minister's acquiescence to a demand he has long rejected – most recently at the White House in May – appears to be an effort to head off a Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations in September.

The concession is part of a formula being floated in meetings with Israelis, Palestinians, the United States, European Union, and Russia in an attempt to secure a deal that would preclude a Palestinian statehood bid at the UN, the Jerusalem Post reports. As part of the deal, Palestinians would accept that the final goal of talks is two states: one Palestinian and one Jewish. That could be problematic for people on both sides: Some 20 percent of citizens in Israel are Arab, and roughly 20 percent of the 2.5 million people living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are Jewish.
If you look at the report from the Christian Science Monitor, there's more than a little wiggle room there. Netanyahu has "reportedly agreed" to the plan. The decision "appears to be an effort to head off a Palestinian statehood bid."

So it's not 100% solid. And as the CSM report continues, there's doubt on the Palestinian side:

Palestinian Authority officials, who have expressed skepticism about the reported concession because Netanyahu has not announced it publicly nor contacted them directly, rejected the possibility of giving up their UN bid, however.

No surprise there -- given the infamous UN declaration that Zionism is racism, there's little reason to doubt that the UN would look favorably at whatever initiative the Palestinians bring forth.

Now, there have been other, more pressing issues that have had my attention in recent days. But since Rich wanted a response, and a keen attention to customer detail is something we espouse in this feature, I offer a few thoughts:

  • I would hope it's clear to everyone that there is a difference between the leader of a sovereign nation making a decision about his nation's security, which is what Netanyahu may or may not have done, and having the leader of another country attempting to impose an outcome, which is what President Obama's speech in May was about. I bet Rich gets the distinction, too.
  • When you talk about the 1967 borders, it's worth remembering that there were 3 fronts in the war. Israel was attacked by the Egyptians, the Palestinians (via Jordan) and by Syria. Israel gave the land it took from Egypt back to the Egyptians a long time ago, when it became evident that the Egyptian government was sincere in wanting peace. Do you sense that the Palestian leadership is sincere?
  • While the West Bank remains the primary bone of contention, the Israeli capture of the Golan Heights in the 1967 war is quite another matter. Given the nature of the Syrian regime, I would say that holding the Golan Heights is pretty crucial to Israeli security.
  • Not to put too fine a point on it, but on most matters I think the UN can pretty much go to hell as far as I'm concerned. They haven't had credibility for decades now.
I don't dispute that there should be a Palestinian state, at some point in the future. Nor would I dispute that it would be a desirable outcome, at some point in the future. At this moment, there's little reason to believe that the individuals who would ostensibly be the leaders of this state are capable of leading a peaceful nation. Which is why, no matter what is reported, Netanyahu will continue to be cagey in how he addresses the matter. My two cents. Hope that helps, my friend.

Bad computer

Computer is acting up so my morning posting time is gone. Will try to write something later. But for now, just one observation:

Ann Althouse reports that Tommy Thompson is going to run for the Senate seat currently in the hands of Herb Kohl. 1998 called and suggested that Tommy stay right there. I agree with 1998.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Send Seal Team 6, Then

The civility movement:

Vice President Joe Biden joined House Democrats in lashing tea party Republicans Monday, accusing them of having “acted like terrorists” in the fight over raising the nation’s debt limit, according to several sources in the room.

Biden was agreeing with a line of argument made by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) at a two-hour, closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting.

“We have negotiated with terrorists,” an angry Doyle said, according to sources in the room. “This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.”

Biden, driven by his Democratic allies’ misgivings about the debt-limit deal, responded: “They have acted like terrorists.”
Well, we can't negotiate with terrorists. Guess the Tea Party needs to be stopped by any means necessary. I'd suggest sending in Seal Team 6. Although I suspect the better choice would be this group.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Not taking it well

Maureen Dowd is exercised and she's unpacked her adjectives:

The maniacal Tea Party freshmen are trying to burn down the House they were elected to serve in. It turns out they wanted to come inside to get a blueprint of the historic building to sabotage it.

Like gargoyles on the Capitol, the adamantine nihilists are determined to blow up the country’s prestige, their party and even their own re-election chances if that’s what it takes.
Of course, Dowd has it exactly wrong. The Tea Partiers are hardly nihilists, although they might be a bit adamantine at times, if you choose the meaning of "adamantine" to be "resembling the diamond in hardness and luster." There's no nihilism in the Tea Party at all.

Dowd probably knows this, but another observation she makes gives the game away:

The Gingrich revolution pulled Republicans to the right of the Reagan revolution and the Tea Party revolution pulled Republicans to the right of the Gingrich revolution. The difference, though, is existentially striking: The Reagan and Gingrich forces wanted a leaner government, but they still believed in government.
Emphasis mine. For the Dowds of the world, this moment is a crisis of faith.