Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Party of Hollyweird

Great scorecard of actors turned politicians in today's Washington Post.

For the record Hollywood has produced:

7 Republicans
2 Democrats
1 Independent

I guess it's a love/hate relationship the right has with showbiz.

In a related story, NPR had a guy on the radio yesterday who was so excited about Fred Thompson that he jumped the usual Reagan comparison and declared that Thompson could be the next Washington or Lincoln. Really.

Watch the Claws Babe

I know this is actually a sad deal, but the headline still brought out the juvenile in me.

"World's only human-bred panda in wild dies"

That was a brave man they got to do that.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Work Hard and Get Ahead...Right?

Kevin Drum has a great post about the breakdown of the American Dream. It seems that over the last 25 years that productivity and income have become untethered.

This is bad news because it is one signal that America's famous mobility may no longer be all that we like to imagine. In fact, it seems that the American dream has been supplanted by the Danish dream, the Canadian dream, the French dream, and others.

These charts come from a report on economic mobility from a collaboration of the Brookings Institution,the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the Urban Institute. I suggest you read the whole thing. There is some valuable stuff about relative versus absolute mobility. There are also some more ominous charts that suggest both mobility types are shrinking.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Stop me if you've heard this one before.

A Bush Administration official was caught trying to employ career civil service employees as political operatives on the taxpayers' dime. This time it was at the General Services Administration.

I know you must be shocked.

Is a Bluehole like a Blackhole?

On May 23rd the Royals had just completed an 8-2 stretch, mostly on the road, that had them back within 10 games of .500. Their run differential stood at -39.

In the following five games, they went 0-5 with a run differential of -34. I'm not sure if it is the worst five game performance in team history, but it has to be close.

Tony believes the team might be cursed. I'm open to all possibilities at this point.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Words Don't Do It Justice

I really wanted to come up with a caption for this photo, but nothing I can conjure makes it funnier than it already is.

Friday, May 25, 2007

John Q. Public, Wisenheimer

Reading around the Internet today, I found out that "the public" is getting favorable reviews these days.

The left believes the public is wise because 63% say they support troop withdrawal timetables.

Meanwhile, the right believes the public is wise because 69% say that illegal immigrants should “be prosecuted and deported for being in the U.S. illegally.”

Though neither side says so explicitly, the clear implication is that we need to treat public opinion with the proper reverence. Strangely, and despite the fact that both opinions come from the same CBS/NYTimes poll, neither side mentions public's fulmination on the positions opposite their own.

Perhaps they just didn't read the whole thing. Here is a sampling of the public wisdom they missed.

1. George Bush is doing a terrible job at everything.
2. Congress is only doing a little bit better.
3. The economy is fairly good, but it's four times more likely that it is getting worse than getting better.
4. A Democrat will be our next president.
5. If it is Hillary Clinton, a lot of people won't be happy about it.
6. It will be Hillary Clinton.
7. Rudy Giuliani shares the values of the Republican party, but he definitely isn't a conservative.
8. Democrats are much more favorable than Republicans.
9. This is probably because they are more likely to make the right decision about every issue reviewed.
10. Abortion should remain legal , but we can talk about stricter guidelines.
11. Despite the opinion that illegal immigrants should be prosecuted and deported, they should also be given a chance to apply for legal status (more about this later).
12. Immigrants contribute to the country far more than they cause problems.
13. Nevertheless, immigrants will make society worse.
14. A federal database of all U.S. workers is a bad idea, but just barely.
15. Guest-worker programs are a good idea.
16. Illegal immigrants need to wait their turn, but should be allowed to apply for citizenship.
17. Illegal immigrants are much more likely to take jobs Americans don't want than they are to take jobs from American citizens.
18. Still, they also overwhelmingly weaken the economy.
19. Immigration might be increasing the threat of terrorism, but it probably isn't.
20. The government should be more worried about health care than immigration.
21. Iraq is going very badly.

All of this is from a group who is overall undecided about Dick Cheney.

Incidentally this wasn't really an equal opportunity error. The NRO post was especially egregious in its implication of public endorsement. Yes, 69% of participants did say that "illegal immigrants should be prosecuted and deported for being in the U.S. illegally." But when given a choice of immigrants being "given a chance to keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status," or being "deported back to their native country," they chose the chance for legal status 62% to 33%.

The TPM Cafe spot earns a much smaller demerit. There was nothing in the poll that directly refuted their selected stat. I would argue that they aren't completely off the hook, however. Just reading the list of public opinions in the list above tells you all you need to know about the capriciousness of the public (or about the importance of question content.) It just doesn't seem safe to use public opinion as a buttress for any argument.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Headlines are important. Not only do they draw attention to the story, but they also serve as the briefest of summaries for those who choose to skim.

So it is rather important that headlines at least somewhat represent the content of their associated articles. That is why I have a problem with this headline for an AP story on Yahoo:

"Home sales soar by record amount"

The first part of the article following this headline goes thusly:

WASHINGTON - The beleaguered housing industry is sending mixed signals, with sales of new homes surging in April by the biggest amount in 14 years while prices endured a record plunge.

Analysts said the price drop could provide evidence of builders' desperation. They are looking to reduce a glut of unsold homes in the face of the worst slump in sales in more than a decade.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that sales of new single-family homes jumped by 16.2 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 981,000 units.

That was the biggest one-month sales gain since a 16.4 percent surge in April 1993. Even with the increase, however, sales are 10.6 percent below the level of a year ago.

The median price of a new home — the midway point between the costliest and cheapest — fell to $229,100, a record 11.1 percent below the March level. The price was 10.9 percent below the level of a year ago, the biggest year-over-year price decline since 1970.

Analysts said the drop in prices probably reflected efforts by builders to cut prices more aggressively to sell homes.

They cautioned against reading too much 16.2 percent jump in sales, the first increase after three consecutive months of sales declines. Analysts noted that this series is subject to wide revisions and that much of the strength came from a big increase in the South, which they said could be partially weather-related.

If you were to only the read the headline, do you think you would come to the same conclusion as you would if you read even just the first paragraph of the story?

Didn't Take Long

I mentioned a while back that 2006 was a terrible year for music (and movies), and that I was looking forward to 2007 because it showed a lot of promise.

And now, less than 6 months into the year, I am already ready to declare 2007 better than 2006. Here are a few things you should check out,

1. Kings of Leon Because of the Times
2. The National Boxer
3. Peter Bjorn and John Writer's Block
4. Andrew Bird Armchair Apocrypha
5. Modest Mouse We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
6. The Fratellis Costello Music
7. Wilco Sky Blue Sky
8. Arcade Fire Neon Bible

Still coming are albums from The White Stripes, Spoon, and Interpol. And Smashing Pumpkins is back together and has a great song out that makes me remember the good ol' days. And there will probably be more PB&Js putting out stuff I never anticipated. The biggest problem so far is finding time to listen to all of it. Hail 2007.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Kevin Durant of the Kansas City Supersonics

An insteresting intersection between the national and local sports scenes yesterday. First, the Star reported that the Seattle Supersonics owner was in town and showing interest in the Sprint Center as a home for the Supes.

A few hours later the Supersonics beat the odds to receive the second pick in the NBA draft, virtually assuring them former Texas Longhorn Kevin Durant.

The idea that the Sonics might come to KC was far-fetched already. Owner Clay Bennett is from Oklahoma City, a city that has shown great support for the New Orleans Hornets as they played parts of two seasons there. If the team was going to leave Seattle, OKC has to be option #1.

Now you have to wonder if the team will leave Seattle at all. Getting a highly marketable player that creates a big buzz around the team is probably the only way Seattle could hope to reinvigorate interest to the point they can keep the team. And, miracle of miracles, it happened.

So now KC has to be considered the 3rd choice (at best) to land the team. Fortunately for us we have the recent playoff successes of the Chiefs and Royals to console us. Oh wait, nevermind.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Ashcroft Asks a Good Question

"Why are we creating problems?"

That is the question that came out of this context:

"He was personally offended about the way they went about it," said one former aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. "He said something to Rumsfeld like, 'You guys gave more process to [Oklahoma City bomber] Tim McVeigh than you are doing in this case, and you knew he did it.' He understood we had to hold these guys and that it could still be done with some sense of process and American fairness. He kept asking, 'Why are we creating problems?' "

My answer would be simple contempt for the laws of the United States, and a complete lack of respect for the principles the country was founded upon. Are there better answers?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tough Gig

Being an NBA coach is apparently one of the most thankless jobs for which you can be paid millions of dollars. Jeff Van Gundy was fired by the Rockets yesterday. The firing took place after a season in which the Rockets went 52-30 and played 7 playoff games against the Utah Jazz before losing to the now Western Conference finalists. Seems tough to me, but it's pretty much the status quo considering only 2 of the 30 NBA teams have a head coach who has been around for at least 5 years.

So how do you keep from getting fired? Well, unless you're Jerry Sloan you win a championship. Every coach from the last 15 NBA champions is either still on the job or left their gig on their terms.

The problem is that expecting your coach to win an NBA championship to keep his job is a pretty ridiculous standard. In fact, if your coach doesn't have Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O'Neal, or Tim Duncan then he has very slim odds indeed. Only Larry Brown (in 2004 with the Pistons) has won an NBA championship in the last 15 years without one of those guys.

On the plus side, Jordan and Olajuwon are long gone and Shaq looks almost finished. So the question is who will be there to take up the mantle of most dominant player as Duncan ages? If you're an NBA coach who wants to keep your job, you better find him.

(Added note: From '80 to '90 things weren't much different. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird played on 8 of the 11 champions. The Pistons won two and the 76er's with Moses Malone won the other.)

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Hammer's Finest Moments

Tom Delay went on Colbert last night for reasons I may never understand. Perhaps he believed he could win over kids by displaying his charm and wit.

"To the victory gets things done," was maybe the best example of his eloquence. (Incidentally, I believe he was trying to come up with "to the victor go the spoils." But his way is just as clear, no?)

His finest moment of the evening, however, was when he recollected his finest moments in Congress. He had a list of three or four things, and the final one was...wait for it...intervening in the Teri Schiavo case.

He also argued that the people who accused him of money laundering were liars on the order holocaust deniers.

An immediate reaction to this sort of thing can be relief that such a man is no longer a Congressional leader, but then you come to the sobering reality that he somehow became a Congressional leader in the first place. I think those are thoughts libertarians are made of.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I am surprised at the ease with which I am surprised. Some things are just par for the course, and yet I stand, mouth agape, unable to believe that which is in front of my face.

The latest example is with the Bush Nominee to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The nominee is Michael Baroody, a senior lobbyist for the National Association of Manufacturers otherwise known as the people the CPSC is supposed to monitor.

It seems that Baroody received a severance package worth $150,000 for leaving his job to work for the government. According to the NYT story,

Experts in executive compensation said it was unusual for someone to be paid under a severance agreement for voluntarily leaving to take a top position at another organization.

You don't say. Fortunately the Bush Administration has determined everything is above board.

A spokeswoman for the White House, Emily Lawrimore, said the administration was satisfied that Mr. Baroody “has taken the steps necessary to avoid any conflict of interest in the event he is confirmed.”

Well that's good enough for me. But some people aren't as trusting as I am. Among the doubting Thomi are "consumer groups but also by trial lawyers, firefighters and pediatricians."

Mr. Baroody “not only represented the interests of the nation’s manufacturing firms — often in direct opposition to the interest of consumers — but led efforts to weaken the C.P.S.C. and opposed numerous initiatives to protect children and the public from unsafe products,” said Dr. Jay E. Berkelhamer, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in a letter opposing the nomination.

What a surprise.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bad Guys

On a fool's errand, I have been trying really hard to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. Actions can still be awful and thought processes can be completely flawed. But I am trying to form my opinions at least from the baseline that the intention was good.

But these guys are really making it hard. Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey spoke publicly for the first time about being pressured to reauthorize the warrantless wiretapping program. The Deputy Attorney General had refused, so Alberto Gonzalez and Andy Card went to John Ashcroft's hospital room and tried to get him to reauthorize. Ashcroft didn't do it (in what must be one of the very few times I can say "Way to go Ashcroft"), and Gonzalez and Card left.

So how can I assume a benign intention here? The intent on going to Ashcroft was to circumvent the lawful authority (Comey held acting powers) and possibly to take advantage of a sick man.

I suppose some would argue there was a greater intention to protect the American public using domestic spying. But it has been made common knowledge that the FISA court would not hamper the wiretapping scheme. The administration was allowed to wiretap and request authorization after the fact. That leaves naked contempt for any regulation of the executive branch as the only possible motive, and I just can't seem to square that with anything resembling a good intention.

(Update: This Washington Post editorial adds a few more details - and makes the picture even more disturbing.)

Monday, May 14, 2007

You Don't Say

Apparently, Chiefs' coach Herm Edwards "likes what he sees of defensive linemen at rookie minicamp." You're kidding. In May?

Can anyone produce and example of "team X disappointed in draft picks leading into camp" story? I didn't think so.

Friday, May 11, 2007

What could this possibly mean?

It appears that consumer spending is finally taking a hit. But not for all retailers. I wonder why those guys at the bottom of the chart are doing so well?

From the LA Times via Kevin Drum.

Smoke People, Not Cigarettes

If you listen to conservative talk radio as I occasionally do, you will no doubt hear about the stuff that enrages the right. You know some guy wants to keep school teachers from praying with students, or some lady wants to ban kids from playing with dynamite. Needless to say, I often find myself unable to tap the mental reserves it would take for me to process the outrage.

But for reasons I haven't completely articulated to myself yet, I am on board with calling this new movie development stupid.

Apparently, there is a group out there trying to get movies with smoking an 'R' rating. Read the article, because I just oversimplified things (and that is what I hate about a lot of "rightwing outrage").

I like to make the argument that the ratings' focus on nudity over violence is sutpendously stupid. Well, add smoking to nudity as movie content that I don't find as potentially damaging as disembowelment, decapitation, or any of the other forms of casual violence abundant in films with less than an R rating.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


When I was 5 years old I got a Rickey Henderson baseball glove. From that moment forward, Rickey was my favorite baseball player.

In case, you aren't familiar with him, Rickey is probably the greatest lead off hitter of all time and is an undisputed first-ballot Hall of Famer. He has also produced some the most hilarious stories in baseball history.

He's virtually retired now but only from baseball, not from being hilarious.

My two main questions are:

If he works for the Mets, why is he sitting in the stands?

Rickey is a farmer?

(Note that Rickey is always referred to as Rickey as that is how Rickey would refer to Rickey.)

Monday, May 7, 2007

Big Weekend Part 3

Vietnamese style sweet and sour chicken is back at Hien Vuong!

The summer specials menu has returned, and after a one year hiatus so has one of the finest meals on earth.

Big Weekend Part 2

Last night we attended the Kings of Leon show at Harrah's. I've got to admit, the venue was better than I thought it would be. It still lacks some of the scuzzyness that marks most great music joints though.

The show was nice. Surprisingly, the band played few tracks from the album they just released. It would have been nice to hear a few more songs I haven't heard them play before. On the other hand, playing a bunch of songs everyone in the crowd knows and loves isn't the worst way to conduct a concert. The music was tight and the band had good energy.

The opening band was Snowden. They were fantastic. They made it through that awkward stage in every opening act when the band is putting a lot of energy into the show and the audience is responding with a deafening wall of skepticism. I believe it was the end of the third song when the audience gave in and cheered wildly. The band owned the crowd for the rest of their set.

My only criticism of Snowden is their band name. Snowden is ok, but they could really shine as General Dreedle and the Major Majors.

Big Weekend Part 1

It was a big weekend in the AA household.

Mrs. AA graduated with her MA in art history. She worked many hard hours to get there, and she deserves the kind of recognition that only a blog with a readership of 10 can offer.

Good job babe.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Now I Get It

I have recently been having trouble understanding why conservatives were so hot for Fred Thompson. The GOP debate last night cleared it all up. If I thought one of those guys would be my presidential candidate, I'd be all over Fred too. Actually any cast member of Law and Order would do, or maybe a cast member from Survivor, or a Deal or No Deal contestant or well anybody probably.

I know I'm biased, but last night seemed like a disaster. The thing that stood out the most was that apparently the candidates have told Jesus to hop in the back seat because they are going to let Reagan drive for awhile. I can think of several analogies to describe the way the candidates handled Reagan, but all of them are little bit disgusting and I don't know how they would get him out of his coffin in the first place.

Best moments of the night included:

Mitt Romney unable to come up with anything he doesn't like about America. Very believable.

Mitt's "and he will die," line about Osama bin Laden. Possibly a little over the top after declaring days earlier that it wasn't worth "moving heaven and earth" to get bin Laden.

Rudy Giuliani trying to dodge bullets on the abortion question, and ending up looking like Swiss cheese.

Ron Paul explaining why Republican primary voters should not vote him (At least that is what it sounded like to me).

Anything out of the mouth of Tommy Thompson. Hard to believe the obviously creative Mr. and Mrs. Thompson could have a son who appears to be a robot.

Seriously, if this is as good as they get Republicans have reason to be worried.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


On NPR this morning:

Earlier this week several Washington think-tanks got together to hold a kind of summit on bipartisanship. The Brookings Institution, American Enterprise Institute, and the University of Pennsylvania gathered scholars to dissect this thorny problem.

Thomas Mann of Brookings said the result depends on basic respect and civility.

"You have to be able to accept the legitimacy of the motives of those with whom you disagree, and you have to be willing to engage seriously in their arguments," Mann said, adding that there's little of that on Capitol Hill.

How did we get to the point where we fundamentally believe the other side of the debate is deceitful, corrupt, immoral, even evil? I've got a hypothesis, which is of course partisan.

Over at Gone Mild, Dan had a great post about how the cronyism of the Bush Administration is unlike the cronyism of past presidencies both left and right. I agree with him, and I think the attitudes that prompt that kind of behavior also create the environment for animosity. Dan points out that winning isn't simply means to an end (that end being running the government the way you believe is best) for these Republicans. Winning is the end. The whole point is to crush the other side. Of course to do that with no remorse, you must believe that your opponent is the very apotheosis of all that you abhor.

The other side is the enemy, and you do not engage the enemy in any way except for a fight. That is why we have such ridiculous situations as Republican Congressional staffers forming their own softball league rather than play with Democrats.

And I think it has spilled over to both sides now. I remember a time when I would have been as likely to vote for a Republican as a Democrat. I wanted to hear what each had to say, and I took them at their word. I was still more likely to agree with the Democrat's stance, but if the Republican made a good case I was listening. Today, that has changed. A Republican now starts out in a deep hole, and must work very hard to convince me he/she isn't just a party stooge. And I'm sure a die hard Republican feels the same way about Democrats.

So how do we get from here to somewhere productive?

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