Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Spending It Like We Got It

The economy grew 3.9% in the third quarter this year, the best figure since the first quarter of 2006. But what about the housing problems you say? And what about the weak manufacturing report you say? Never fear, we'll grow the American way -- by spending ourselves out of trouble.

Consumer spending expanded at more than twice its rate in the second quarter, rising 3 percent after a 1.4 percent gain in the second quarter with a surge in sales of big-ticket products like appliances and furniture. Businesses spent more, too, with producer expenditures growing at a 7.9 percent annual rate, down slightly from 11 percent in the second quarter.

Degrees of Richness

Being pretty rich is apparently not all it's cracked up to be. For any real benefits, you have to be very rich.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

80's Movie Line of the Week

From arguably the best 80's comedy of them all, Ghostbusters:

Dr Ray Stantz: Symmetrical book stacking. Just like the Philadelphia mass turbulence of 1947.
Dr. Peter Venkman: You're right, no human being would stack books like this.

2007 Movies

Back in the spring, I mentioned that 2007 should be a much better year for movies than was 2006. For much of the year, however, it seemed as though I might have spoken a bit prematurely. Sure Live Free or Die Hard was fun, Knocked Up was weirdly grown-up funny, and Superbad was a pitch-perfect sophomoric comedy, but I still hadn't seen much that just blew me away.

October is proving worthy to cure that trouble, however. Within the last week, I have seen Into the Wild, Michael Clayton and The Darjeeling Limited. All three were incredible. I particularly liked Clayton. It was a thriller that talked about important stuff without being sanctimonious about it. The Darjeeling Limited was classic Wes Anderson, and kind of an affirmation of what it means to be family. Into the Wild was a great story, and Emile Hirsch did a fantastic job of creating a character I admired and wanted to strangle at the same time.

I am excited about Before the Devil Knows You're Deadd, Gone Baby Gone, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I just hope I can fit all of them into my movie watching schedule. 2007 is indeed, restoring my hope after dismal 2006.

We Got Stuff

David Brooks has an amazing column. Somehow almost every week he bases the entire thing upon conjecture. He always tells us that he knows what John Q. Public is thinking, and somehow he has some special insight. Today he says:

Their homes are bigger. They own more cars. They feel more affluent. In a segmented nation, they have built lifestyle niches for themselves where they feel optimistic and fulfilled.

I believe he thinks A + B = C here, but how could he know that? Isn't it just as likely that people have bigger homes and more cars and are now incredibly stressed out about how they keep those things? Or couldn't they have them and be wondering why their bigger houses and extra cars aren't the ultimate answer to happiness?

Or maybe he does have his finger on the pulse of the nation, and that is how shallow we have become. I hope not.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Exhibit A...

...of why our political process is in trouble.

So Democrats have gone from 30% of all health industry donations in 2000 to 44% in 2004 to 57% this year. This is, obviously, good news and bad news. The good news is that lobbyist money follows winners, and the healthcare lobby seems pretty confident that a Democrat will become president next year. The bad news is that they might just get what they paid for.

Republicans? Democrats? Doesn't matter if you have the money to pay them all. And they need your money to keep getting elected. I can't see any flaws in that, can you?

The Finest Sport

Tomorrow officially marks the beginning of basketball season. The NBA has three games on tap tomorrow. College will be starting soon afterward. High school not long after that. Even Park Board is probably just around the corner. I'd watch any of it.

It's also the start of the fantasy NBA season. Like everyone else who has ever played fantasy sports, I started with football. It did not take me long to discover basketball, however, which is vastly superior. Never will I have to worry about some scrub catching a meaningless pass and running 50 yards for a TD, thereby turning my 10 point win into an unfathomable 1 point loss. The players earn their points is fantasy basketball.

The downside to fantasy basketball is that sometimes you have to go by the numbers instead of with your heart. This season for instance, I will be forced against my will to root for the unmitigated success of one Kobe Bryant. Yeeesh.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Make Believe

From the same story:

“This is not what Congressional leaders promised when they took control of Congress earlier this year,” the president said. “Congress needs to keep their promise, to stop wasting time and get essential work done on behalf of the American people.”


“It is clear that President Bush’s priorities are simply not those of the American people,” Mr. Reid said.

I know we aren't going to get everyone to get together in a room and work things out. But in trading barbs, could we not at least cut the charade that anyone's first priority is the American people.

It Depends

Would I ever consider voting for Rudy Giuliani? Let's say it depends on how he answers this.

Ms. Gustitus said: “He said he didn’t know if waterboarding is torture.”

Mr. Giuliani said: “Well, I’m not sure it is either. I’m not sure it is either. It depends on how it’s done. It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it..."

Looks like the answer is "no", I would not consider voting for Rudy. Though I am quite sure the rest of the world would be pleased to hear that we have decided to hold ourselves to a different standard than everyone else.

Found via Kevin Drum.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Basketball Lesson

For those of you who aren't basketball fans, let me impart some (probably unwanted) knowledge. I can tell you today that the Houston Rockets will not be NBA champions. How do I know this?

Starting PG Mike James and backup PG Steve Francis took 31 of the teams 99 shots in a preseason game yesterday. They also had 5 assists between them (James played a remarkable 27 minutes at PG without a single assist).

The fact that Steve Francis is a Rocket at all probably should have been enough, but when your primary "ball distributors" instead function as your primary "ball heavers" you can write off your season immediately.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I'm Not Sure What to Say About This

This is the "Terrorist Buster" logo used by the CIA. For what, I'm not sure. Via Matt Yglesias.

80's Movie Line of the Week

From one of my very favorite 80's comedies, Three Amigos:

Rosita: I was thinking later, you could kiss me on the veranda.
Dusty Bottoms: Lips would be fine.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Vomiting a Little in My Mouth

I just flipped on the Republican debate on Fox. I watched less than 3 minutes before I couldn't take anymore. I understand that everyone has to pander to their base in a primary, but it just seems so egregious and yet unnatural with these guys. Rudy G. was even dogging the town he was once mayor of. I suppose he figures none of them are going to vote for him anyway. Geez.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


The Royals have found the right man to carry them to the promised land. How do I know that?

"He won at every level, was manager of the year at three different levels," Moore said. "In Japan, the first two years, his team (Nippon Ham Fighters) showed improvement. The fourth year they won the Japanese Series and this year they're back in the Japanese Series with a team that's virtually last in every offensive category."

That team is exactly like the Royals!

On a side note, perhaps the Royals should change their name to the Kansas City Tenderloin Warriors. It has a ring to it.

Friday, October 19, 2007


This is the unfortunate question of politics.

"There is a great deal of angst about who will come forward and be electable, and also close to the social views and moral views we believe in," Page said.

This statement came from an evangelical, but it actually could have come from people with a variety of politics. Do you stand by your values, or do you be realistic about who is the electable lesser of two evils?

Why don't people vote again?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

80's Movie Line of the Week

A good recommendation from a friend.

From Weird Science:

Wyatt: Garry, don't you feel like a chicken?

Garry: Wyatt, if I could shoot an egg out my ass right now, I would! Look we can deal with shame, death is a much deeper issue.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Is That Extra Memory in Your Pocket or...

I challenge anyone to say they wrote a more bizarre thesis than this.

In his thesis, "Intimate Relationships with Artificial Partners," Levy conjectures that robots will become so human-like in appearance, function and personality that many people will fall in love with them, have sex with them and even marry them.

The chorus of Hallelujahs you hear is from geeks the world over... and possibly married men:

Keeping a robot for sex could reduce human prostitution and the problems that come with it. However, "in a marriage or other relationship, one partner could be jealous or consider it infidelity if the other used a robot," Levy said. "But who knows, maybe some other relationships could welcome a robot. Instead of a woman saying, 'Darling, not tonight, I have a headache,' you could get 'Darling, I have a headache, why not use your robot?'"

If you still call your partner "Darling" they should be automatically entitled to a robot.


Stephen Colbert stood in for Maureen Dowd yesterday. He was very insightful. For instance:

And Fred Thompson. In my opinion “Law & Order” never sufficiently explained why the Manhattan D.A. had an accent like an Appalachian catfish wrestler.

Why So Long in the Face?

Is the president wearing down? Don't know about the real one, but the WSJ illustrated version sure is. Maybe this version has a valid conception of reality.

From Slate.

Great Show

I feel supremely confident that I saw the best show in KC on Saturday night, and I was not at Elton John. Wilco and Andrew Bird put on the best concert I've seen in some time. It was the first time I had seen Bird, and he blew me away. He played several instruments and looped them together in nice arrangements, and he displayed whistling ability that bordered on supernatural.

After an opening like that, I was concerned that Wilco might actually seem a little flat. No worries. I've seen Wilco before, but this show was the best by a wide margin. They played a nice mix of songs from their now 6 albums, and they also put in two encores. Dan thought the encores (complete with fireworks) were a cheap gimmick. He may be right, but I could care less (and would add that I haven't been to a show without such a pre-planned encore in a long time). The band was on all night, and they seemed to step it up another notch in each encore.

Sure the band was probably pandering to the crowd when they said it was the best crowd they had on the tour, but as someone who has been a part of several crowds at music shows I would argue it was a pretty damn good crowd. When the crowd is totally into the show, it makes a difference. The energy was good.

The only gripe I have is that Stretch (proprietor of Grinders and Crossroads KC) took to the stage both before and after the show determined to make me believe I was at a Ted Nugent show. He screamed like he was MCing a monster truck rally and he killed a good vibe at the end of the show by yelling "F*#% You Elton John!" Everyone in the crowd was just looking around wondering what the hell was going on. Stretch has a couple of really cool businesses, and I even like his art. But man, stay off the stage.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Morals of Molars

From the NY Times, via Kevin Drum:

For American dentists, times have never been better.

The same cannot be said for Americans’ teeth.

With dentists’ fees rising far faster than inflation and more than 100 million people lacking dental insurance, the percentage of Americans with untreated cavities began rising this decade, reversing a half-century trend of improvement in dental health.

How many positive trends can be turned around in a matter of 8 years? Several, apparently.

Fighting Someone Their Own Size

I guess I'm feeling kind of anti-conservative today. Maybe it's because I read this:

The right is unapologetic. "The Democrats chose to outsource their airtime to a Seventh Grader," wrote National Review's Mark Steyn. "If a political party is desperate enough to send a boy to do a man's job, then the boy is fair game."

This is in relation to the 12 year old who gave the Democrats reply to a radio address by the president concerning SCHIP. His family has subsequently been ripped a new one by conservative bloggers and radio hosts.

I really want to believe that we all want basically the same things and we just have different ideas of how to get there, but then I read something like this and I just don't know.


Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize. What did the leading conservative magazine have to say about that in their blog?

Al Gore should hand it over to General Petraeus and the U.S. military.

Al Gore should share it with Osama bin Laden, because bin Laden is also anti-global warming.

The Nobel Prize might as well be a prize at the state fair.

It's important to remember that this isn't a fringe site, and these aren't the commenters. These are leading conservative "minds". Classy bunch.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I know interest in the NBA is low, but I like it. So if you want to read this blog, you'll occasionally have to deal with an NBA story.

Training camp is back in session, and pre-season games are underway. This does not excite my wife at all, incidentally. Anyway, I was checking box scores and came across the fact that getting significant sub minutes for the Denver Nuggets was Stacey Augmon. That is the same Stacey Augmon who was part of the the great UNLV teams of the early 90's. He's 39 years old. Somewhere Kevin Willis is smiling.

Lewis Black

Every time he is on the Daily Show he's good.

But last night was over the top good. If the link changes it will be the video titled Limbaugh.

Best Line (in reference to the flap over Obama not wearing a flag pin):

I'm not comfortable with any idea that can't be expressed in the form of men's jewelry. If it takes more than two cuff links to say it, you lost me.

Watch until the end to see the Fox Anchor bring Bill Clinton into it, and conflate two unrelated issues by pointing out they both contain the word "that".

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

They Eat Their Own

When asked to do so, right-wingers will take a break from hating lefties and focus on their own kind. So who do they find vile on their own side of the aisle (all the while spitting bile and ready to pile on those who's style is... ok enough)?

Ranking is on the left, er, the other side of right, and the number of top votes for each person is, naturally, on the far right:

18) Ted Stevens (4)
18) Olympia Snowe (4)
18) Mel Martinez (4)
18) Sean Hannity (4)
18) Lincoln Chafee (4)
17) Bill O'Reilly (5)
14) Lindsey Graham (6)
14) George W. Bush (6)
14) Mitt Romney (6)
12) Arnold Schwarzenegger (9)
12) Rudy Giuliani (9)
8) Andrew Sullivan (11)
8) Chuck Hagel (11)
8) James Dobson (11)
8) Ann Coulter (11)
6) Arlen Specter (12)
6) Pat Robertson (12)
4) Larry Craig (13)
4) Michael Savage (13)
3) John McCain (17)
2) Pat Buchanan (18)
1) Ron Paul (23)

That's a pretty weird list right? The funniest part to me is that four of the poll respondents still hate Lincoln Chaffee enough to vote him number one.

80's Movie Line of the Week

Apropos to the day I'm having.

Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet in the Mel Brooks sci-fi spoof Spaceballs:

Out of order? F***! Even in the future, nothing works!

Obama V. Hacks

Dan over at Gone Mild has a great post about political hacks and their attempt to degrade Barack Obama for the crime of being right. Dan runs a large section of Obama's 2002 speech denouncing the war. I had heard a couple of quotes from the speech, but had never seen all the context. No matter what you think of him, this is pretty impressive prognostication.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Setting the Bar Low

The Economist has a story about the positives and negatives of a Hillary Clinton presidency. The main negatives are the legitimate concerns about the dynastification and continued polarization of American politics. Among the positives is this line:

Mrs Clinton is the anti-Bush: a woman who speaks in clear sentences, who has a formidable command of the facts, and who, on health care, is willing to learn from her mistakes.

Quite a statement about where we stand today.

Run Off the Field

The Chiefs ran for 10 yards today. All day. That was the total for the whole game. Yet on several occasions the offensive coordinator killed offensive momentum by insisting on trying something that hasn't worked all year. Probably time to start looking for a new offensive coordinator. Or maybe the head coach made that call.


I attended a conference this week. Conferences are interesting because you usually learn something, but not always what you assume you will. Here are a few things I learned at mine.

Steak is the worst food to serve at a conference banquet.

Trade show floors would be easier to navigate if you were deaf or rude.

There is apparently a large group of people who spend more time and effort worrying about and improving their "virtual life" than their real life. And they are stoked about it.

I don't really like magicians.

People often ask you what you like or dislike, but they would learn more about you if they asked what you're indifferent about.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Same Ol' Story

President Bush will veto the SCHIP bill today, setting the stage for a battle in Congress to override the veto. In all likelihood, the president will prevail.

There have been several arguments as to why the president thinks SCHIP expansion is a bad idea. As usual, most are misleading.

But one is true. The president's people claim that if SCHIP is expanded, some families who already have private insurance will be tempted to switch to public insurance. According to CBO estimates, 35% of children eligible under SCHIP also have access to private insurance.

And this is where the philosophical difference between liberals vs. conservatives comes squarely into view. Liberals believe that a system where some who don't need a particular benefit (in this case health insurance) but receive it anyway is a worthy trade off to ensure that all who need the benefit receive it. Conservatives turn that philosophy on its head. They believe that a system where some who need a particular benefit but do not receive it is a worthy trade off to ensure that no one receives a benefit they do not need.

There are many other examples of this, from classic "entitlements" to imprisonment. It reallys is the core of the stereotypes about "bleeding heart" liberals and heartless conservatives. The interesting question, though one likely not soon answered, is what sorts of life experiences or brain hard-wiring does it require for us to come to such radically different value judgements?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


The band is releasing its new album on its own website. How much?

"It's up to you."

Pretty cool.

Movie Lines

At a nice dinner party this weekend, I was told that Andrew Sullivan had been running a poll about best movie lines ever. I haven't found it on the blog, but from the conversation in sounded like the top five were contained to generally well respected movies. That's fine, but don't the generally well respected movies get enough recognition already. How about great lines from ridiculous movies?

More specifically, how about great lines from 80's comedies? For members of my age group (particularly male members), these movies were the foundation for our media habits. Maybe that signals awful times ahead for the country, but I suspect it is harmless. It's also funny.

I thought this would be a post including many of the great lines from 80's comedies, but it just grew and grew. No matter how big it got, however, I still didn't think it was complete. So, I think 80's comedy quote for the week is in order. You could certainly do it everyday, but I don't want a blog that is half movie quotes.

To kick things off let's go to the Coen brothers' classic Raising Arizona:

H.I.: There's right and there's right and never the twain shall meet.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Qualified Pessimism

I haven't completely come around on the Royals, however. Now that the season ending stats are in, you can make a case that the Royals are the hardest working team in baseball. I say that because of two statistics: home runs, and strikeouts.

Home runs make run scoring much easier. When you can hit the ball out of the park, you don't have to string as many hits together to score runs. The Royals were 27th in the league in runs scored, and they were dead last in home runs. They hit 102, which was 16 behind the next closest team (Minnesota) and roughly 100 less than the top five teams (of which 4 were NL teams oddly enough).

Strikeouts make run stopping easier. The less the ball is put in play, the less chance something bad will happen. The correlation between K's and runs allowed isn't as strong as the one between home runs and runs scored, but it exists. The Royals finished 26th in strikeouts.

The other thing about these stats are that they seem to be two pretty good indicators of physical talent. Batters who hit home runs are physically gifted. Pitchers who strike batters out are usually physically gifted. The Royals would seem to have a paucity of physically gifted players. I think there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about the Royals future, but until we see more physical talent it will be hard to expect too much.

Cautious Optimism (And Increduility)

I'm generally not a big pessimist. Yet, when I posted on the KC sports scene all looked as bleak as could be. And now, only three days later things seem a bit better.

First of all, the Mike Sweeney era is most likely over. Mike took out an ad in the Star thanking KC fans, which was no doubt a class move. The problem with Sweeney was never his class, it was his general inability to play baseball for longer than 2 months at a time. You can argue that isn't his fault, but you also have to recognize that it was a killer for a franchise that decided to make him the franchise.

Second, I was wrong about the Chiefs (for a week anyway). I was totally unprepared to see the Chiefs open up the offense in San Diego. The personnel favors a passing attack right now, but I really thought Herm and Mike Solari would let their philosophy get in the way of a change of scheme. Let's hope they recognize that it isn't just a good idea when they're behind two scores at halftime. The defense is playing really well right now.Amazing what a difference a pass rush makes.

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