Friday, August 31, 2007

Wizards Magically Produce Angry Fans

So it seems that David Beckham will not be "bending it" in Kansas City. One has to wonder if the Wizards now regret charging over 100% more than regular price for a ticket to the match. You have to imagine that at least 1 or 2 of the 25,000 people who have already purchased tickets might be just a bit upset.

So far the Wizards' response has been to go into denial.

Wizards president Robb Heineman remained steadfast in all possibilities until he’s heard officially that Beckham won’t be able to play, but said, “Regardless, it’s going to be a great game with the Wizards and Galaxy and going to be a great night at Arrowhead Stadium.”

The Wizard website is still up touting the game as the "Midwest Sporting Event of the Year." An hour ago they still had Beckham's picture up. They just now finally replaced him with Landon Donovan.

I do feel sorry for this the Wizards PR guy. His quote from the Star article:

“Obviously, it’s a disappointment for David Beckham, the Galaxy and the Wizards,” said Wizards director of communications Rob Thomson. “We still have a lot of live music and contests … we’re still going to blow up this game into a big event.”

I'm sure that the thousands of people who have never even payed regular price for a Wizards game will feel just fine about paying more than twice as much if there is music and contests.

It's depressing how the Wizards handled this because it should have just been an opportunity to get more fans out than ever before and show them what a good time MLS games are. Instead, they decided to turn it into their profit generator for the year, and now they may set soccer back even further in this town.

Here's to hoping they figure out a way to resolve the issue. I'd like to see soccer succeed in spite of the Wizards' previous efforts.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hey We Could Be Lesotho

I mentioned yesterday new census numbers that showed median household income rising slightly in 2006 despite wages for each earner decreasing slightly for the 3rd consecutive year.

Kevind Drum points out that not all wages decreased actually. Wages near the bottom fell and wages near the top increased. What does that mean? It means our income inequality number (Gini) continues to rise. It is up 3.3% in the past 10 years as a matter of fact.

If the CIA's Gini numbers are correct, and assuming all other countries were stationary, that would move us from 83rd out of 118 measured countries to 86th out 118 measured countries. We're sandwiched right between the Dominican Republic and the Philippines.

Now I understand the argument that we are still the richest nation in the world, and that income equality sucks if it means everyone is poor. On the other hand, while we are actually 9th (out of 229) in per capita GDP, the top 5 in Gini coefficient average a not too shappy 37th place (and Norway who is 6th in both stats just misses the cut), while the block of 5 countries of which we would be the center would average out to 108th.

That is some pretty rudimentary statistical figuring to be sure. But is it possible to look at the numbers and not, at the very least, think about where we are headed.

People Really Do Listen To It

I was headed home last night around 10, and because the Royals were comfortably ahead in the top of the 9th, I decided to see what was going on in the bizarro-world of conservative talk radio. It seems 710 AM features one Rusty Humphries at 10 pm. Rusty is most famous for writing radio jingles apparently, though his star is ascendant in right-wing radio.

In his online bio, it says that Rusty has "been a contestant on The Wheel of Fortune, a tour guide at Universal Studios in Hollywood and was even a candidate for U.S. Senate." With credentials like radio-jingle writer, and Wheel of Fortune Contestant, you have to wonder how he didn't get elected to the Senate.

Anyway, the couple of minutes I listened to the show were the usual right-wing blather. They were talking about Sen. Craig's bathroom rendezvous and how all it really proved was that Republicans stood for good because they wanted to step down and that Democrats were morally deficient because William Jefferson was still employed.

No mention that Republicans also defended the raid on Jefferson. No mention of the long fight to keep DeLay or Scooter around. No mention that conservatives weren't nearly as loud when David Vitter was accused of sexual misconduct. No mention that Democrats yanked Jefferson's committee appointment, and have pressured him to step down. Only Democrats are reprehensible and Republicans are messianic.

But that isn't the point of this post. The point is that you must, absolutely must hear the theme song to Rusty's show. I personally think it is a joke. Probably not a joke that many of the listeners are in on, but a joke nonetheless. If it isn't a joke, then Rusty is truly one of the biggest songwriting hacks of all-time. But it has to be a joke, right? I desperately wanted to link to it, but I have been unable to find it. For those of you in KC, try to listen at 10pm to 710 AM. If you do you'll be treated to a chorus of "Heck yeah's" and a line about Rusty making you a millionaire. Honestly. If I can find the audio, I'll get it put up here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Family Values

I know many people read a headline about gays getting married or schools teaching children about contraception and get all worked up that families are under attack. I think that is ludicrous, but that doesn't mean I don't see evidence of an assault on the institution of the family. Today's Washington Post features such evidence:

The statistics offered a mixed picture of the economy's ongoing recovery from the recession of 2000-2001. While median household income rose for the second consecutive year in 2006, the increase appeared to be driven by a jump in the number of people in each household taking on full-time jobs, rather than a rise in wages.

The addition of 2.2 million people to the roster of the uninsured was attributed largely to continuing declines in employer-sponsored insurance coverage.

So, last year, the average American family became more likely to need to send another family member to work to keep up, and yet they also became less likely to be insured. I'm no scientist, but I am going to guess that decreasing time with family and losing insurance create more strain on families than sex ed.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Not Satire

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the two sides of the political blogosphere would probably be more accurately described as two wholly different spheres. The subject matter on the left and right is almost never in sync. There are certain stories that bring the worlds into alignment, such as today's news that AG Gonzalez is resigning. In an effort to see how both sides would react, I began a trek across the vast blog landscape.

I didn't make it far. The reason is that I went to NRO's The Corner early in the search. Right at this very moment, they have two stories that I almost cannot believe are for real.

First is a blog entry with one simple line: "Kris Kobach for AG."

The statement links to a Michelle Malkin post with these words: "Another nomination from the comments section that I’d second: Kris Kobach. Yes, we can dream."

I can only assume that the commenter referenced was, in fact, Kris Kobach. If he can write his own bio on the UMKC website, surely he could nominate himself for AG.

The second puzzlement-inducing post is one about the fall of G.I. Joe.

Premise of post:

But of course, in the liberal land of Hollyweird, a Real American Hero is just unacceptable. Nope, it's gotta be a global hero. G.I. Joe will be a global operation, not an American one, and G.I. Joe now stands for Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity.

Story quoted in post:

So why the changes? Hasbro and Paramount execs recently spoke about the challenges of marketing a film about the U.S. military at a time when the current U.S. administration and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are at a low-point in global polls. When a studio makes a film as expensive as G.I. Joe will likely be, they want to know that as many people as possible around the world will want to see it. In other words, G.I. Joe -- "A Real American Hero" -- is a tough sell.

Conclusion of post:

Nothing is sacred to liberals. Nothing patriotic or American is worth preserving. And I'm sure it never crossed their little liberal minds that perhaps if Hollywood made movies in the vein of those released during WWII, in which America, the military, and our soldiers were portrayed as strong, patriotic heroes, rather than today's military movies in which the United States is always the bad guy, war is always "wrong", and our soldiers are morally corrupt, people wouldn't have such a negative outlook on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (the mainstream media should get that memo, as well).

If you had trouble understanding how a corporation deciding it couldn't make enough profit on an "American" G.I. Joe movie proves that liberals hate America, then you apparently haven't listened to enough talk radio.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


I tuned in to watch Keith Olbermann on regular NBC for the first time tonight. Among the stories was this gem, reported earlier this week by the Washington Post:

But that does not mean the White House is against dissent -- just so long as the president does not see it. In fact, the manual outlines a specific system for those who disagree with the president to voice their views. It directs the White House advance staff to ask local police "to designate a protest area where demonstrators can be placed, preferably not in the view of the event site or motorcade route."

The reference is to a White House produced manual that explains what to do in the event that someone who disagrees with the president has the audacity to want to tell him about it. Look, I understand there is a need to be able to hold an event without protesters drowning out what the president has to say. But stopping disruptions doesn't even seem to be the point:

"If the demonstrators are yelling, rally squads can begin and lead supportive chants to drown out the protesters (USA!, USA!, USA!). As a last resort, security should remove the demonstrators from the event site."

Yet to be explained is how a USA!, USA! chant qualifies as extremely supportive of the president.

Friday, August 24, 2007


The weather was nice.

That is the only thing positive I can say about going to Arrowhead Stadium last night. Actually, last night was a reminder that when you buy tickets and pay ridiculous money for parking at a sporting event, you are really gambling. You are betting however much you pay for all that on your team's ability to entertain you. Everyone who went to the game last night lost big.

The callers to talk radio and some of the talking heads around town have spent the preseason trying to fight the reality that Chiefs are not a playoff team. I was harboring no such illusion, assuming that 5-11 or 6-10 were probably likely outcomes. But after last night, 6-10 seems like a pipe dream.

The Chiefs were not only outscored 30-7, but they were out-gained 479-153. They out-punted New Orleans 7-1. The defense did not force a punt in the first half. The offense mustered 3 first downs in the first half. The Saints averaged 5.3 yards per carry (the starters averaged 5.4). The Chiefs averaged 3 yards per carry. The Saints quarterbacks completed 85% of their passes. The Chiefs quarterbacks completed 45% of their passes (3rd stringer Jeff Terrell went 5-5, so the other two were actually at 33%).

This list could go on, but out of mercy I'll quit. It is unrealistic to think the Chiefs are going to be very good this year. But if they don't show, at the very least, a spark of promise and effort then I can't imagine fans continuing to want to dole out hard earned cash to see this crap. It's a bad bet.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Peas in a Pod

Some times things just make sense. On the way home this evening, sports talk radio featured an interview with Chiefs GM Carl Peterson. It seems Carl had breakfast this morning with a visiting President Bush. I may not have this quote precisely right, but Carl said something to the effect of "The President is a great man and I think he's doing a heckuva job." Not only do Carl and the Prez share vocabularies for affirmations, but they apparently evaluate success similarly as well. Probably the greatest similarity between the men, however, is that they both continue to hold their positions because the people who have the power to hold them accountable are willing to look the other way.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Science: Exciting and Unnerving

Scientists believe they will be able to create new, artificial life within 10 years. This is just one of the countless pieces of evidence that we are probably on the verge of an entire new era in our understanding of our world. Kind of like the golden age of physics, only involving our very substance. I think that is terribly exciting.

On the other hand it is hard not be at least a little unsettled by statements like this:

“We’re talking about a technology that could change our world in pretty fundamental ways — in fact, in ways that are impossible to predict.”

The author of that statement meant to capture the wonder, and he did. He also captured that feeling that disaster could lurk around the corner. This is what happens when you watch too many sci-fi movies.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Who's Cynical?

Not Karl Rove. At least that is what Michael Gerson argues in his Washington Post column. His proof is a statement by Rove that goes, "We were founded as a reformist party not to be against something, but to help the little guy get ahead."

You'll forgive me if that doesn't itself seem at least a little bit cynical. Karl Rove, champion of the little guy. For a guy who supposedly has a supernatural command of history, Rove seems awfully unaware of what kinds actions it would require to create the kind of history he wants for himself.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Petraeus, er, Bush Report

So it seems that the Petraeus Report will not be written by Petraeus but by by the Bush Administration:

Despite Bush's repeated statements that the report will reflect evaluations by Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, administration officials said it would actually be written by the White House, with inputs from officials throughout the government.

And though Petraeus and Crocker will present their recommendations on Capitol Hill, legislation passed by Congress leaves it to the president to decide how to interpret the report's data.

The senior administration official said the process had created "uncomfortable positions" for the White House because of debates over what constitutes "satisfactory progress."

During internal White House discussion of a July interim report, some officials urged the administration to claim progress in policy areas such as legislation to divvy up Iraq's oil revenue, even though no final agreement had been reached. Others argued that such assertions would be disingenuous.

"There were some in the drafting of the report that said, 'Well, we can claim progress,' " the administration official said. "There were others who said: 'Wait a second. Sure we can claim progress, but it's not credible to . . . just neglect the fact that it's had no effect on the ground.' "

Dan over at Gone Mild thinks this is a crystallization of all that is wrong with how we are informed. His commentors seem to agree that he is an idiot, though they also seem to be disagreeing with nothing he actually said.

Kevin Drum thinks it is all expectation management.

The conservative blog world seems not to think much about it at all. This is actually a good topic for another post. It is really amazing to scan the leading liberal and conservative blogs each day to see what topics they cover. Invariably, whatever one is coverning most heavily, the other is unapologetically ignoring. Liberal blogs like to talk about the powerful keeping you down, while conservative sights like to talk about the powerless bringing us all down.

But I digress. With this administration, you never know what is going on. It could be an attempt to lie outright, it could be expectation management, or I suppose it could be a rope-a-dope intended force Democrats to make a big deal out of it only to then have Petraeus testify that things are going well before heightened media awareness. The last one seems pretty far-fetched to me, but it wouldn't be the weirdest thing that has happened.

I'm curious about how this one plays out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wanna Feel Small?

If the picture doesn't do it, the story probably will. Is there anything more awe-inspiring than space stories?

Old School Awesome

Apparently some things do never change.

Although Rove wrote Huffines that he and the candidates "met in the White House Fellows Program," neither Gonzales nor Rove are alumni.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Government by Those Who Hate Government, Part 3,212

It's a topic I return to over and over, but reminders that electing those who don't believe in government come around pretty regularly.

A man who I almost never agree with, David Frum, has a column in the New York Times about Karl Rove that I mostly do agree with. The title is "Building a Coalition, Forgetting to Rule." I would likely change that headline to "... Not Caring to Rule." But then I am not surprised by the Administration's disdain for government and Frum apparently is.

In fact, he still seems to miss the point at least a bit saying:

Paradoxically, the antigovernment conservatives of the 1980s took the problems of government far more seriously than the pro-government conservatives of the 2000s.

He still calls them "pro-government" conservatives despite all evidence to the contrary. Being willing to spend the nation's money in a manner heretofore unknown by either party does not make one "pro-government." It only means that you have reasoned that as a meaningless entity, government is available to you as a vehicle for personal agendas. You can't be much more "anti-government" than that.

Don't Blame Me, I'm Incompetent

Why is stupidity now such a rampant excuse for criminal wrongdoing? It's near epidemic at the national level, and now KC elected officials are getting in on the act.

McFadden-Weaver has said she sought the loan as a favor for an acquaintance who had promised to use excess proceeds to renovate a house owned by her church. Her lawyer also has suggested she didn’t understand the closing documents she signed in the fall of 2005.

I'm not suggesting that loan companies are above trotting out some nefarious language from time to time, but if you're a city councilwoman you should probably be able to read a legally binding document. I will always prefer a government of criminals over a government of the criminally stupid. The real danger is when you get both.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Turd Blossom

Two different perspectives on the departure of Karl Rove:

From Andrew Sullivan:

In the re-election, the president with a relatively strong economy, and a war in progress, managed to eke out 51 percent. Why? Because Rove preferred to divide the country and get his 51 percent, than unite it and get America's 60. In a time of grave danger and war, Rove picked party over country.

And a decidedly different take from Pete Wehner:

Some day books will be written about what a phenomenon of nature this man is. But some day books should be written about what a really fine man he is. He was the most relentlessly upbeat person in the White House, giving counsel and encouragement to all, and showing great kindness to many of us and our families.

What is amazing about this second account is that it slobbers all over Rove without ever refuting any of the charges that Sullivan (and nearly everyone else) make about his legacy. I'm all for people being nice, but is that really enough to keep you out of history's trash bin? Then again maybe he wasn't even that nice. So says this and this.

Math Question

This is the question that kept me awake last night.

Some people claim the universe has an infinite number of stars.

If we take it as a given that the universe has infinite space,

but that stars do not consitute the entirety of space,

then that allows a possibility but not an assurity of infinite stars.

If we ever determined that space was, in fact, not infinite, which some suggest, then we would be able to automatically assume that stars are not infinite either (or they would fill up and spill out of the universe).

But, if we were to somehow find out that stars were finite (I'm not sure how we would find this out), would that give us reasonable doubt about the infinity of the universe as well?

I'm not sure that it is actually a math question, but there might be a mathematical answer.

Friday, August 10, 2007


A great time. Highlights:

Royals vs. Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The Royals lost, but it was worth it to further amplify my hatred of the Yankees. The Yankees TV broadcast was playing in the hall, and the first bullet they flashed on the screen was that the Royals were "bottom of the barrel." That hasn't even been close to true for over two months. It sucks when the big guy doesn't even respect you enough to do research. Unfortunately, the Royals played like they believed it.

Chinatown. We ate there three times and we never dropped more than a $20 bill. I had a plate of barbecued pork and rice for $3.50 at Eastside Wonton House. After a great recommendation from Gone Mild Jr., we had soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai. Unbelievable.

Entertainment variety. In five nights we saw a Broadway show (the very good Drowsy Chaperone), an 80's cover band, the Dave Brubeck Quartet (who can still play despite being somewhere around 300 combined years of age), a great Radiohead cover band, and a show of Chinese performers of all kinds. The grand total cost for all of that entertainment was less than $100 for two people.

Ellis Island. The boat ride out to the island is not for the feint of stomach on a windy day, but the exhibits on the island are great. If you aren't awed by the degree to which this country was built on immigration, you are either in self-denial or you must still be sea sick.

Architecture. Maybe it's some sort of psychological issue, but I find really tall buildings to be awe-inspiring. I'm also an art deco fan, and New York has examples almost as fine as those right here in KC.

Central Park. We spent an entire afternoon in the park and never left it's lower third.

Times Square. If you want to see why people hate tourists, go to Times Square. Anytime.

Neighborhood streets. Greenwich Village, the Upper West Side, and Prospect Park in Brooklyn were three places where you just got the feeling that you can live a more leisurely pace in the middle of millions of people.

Lots of other stuff that I'll probably remember and possibly append later.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Washed Out

I'm going to get to a post about how great New York City was, but first I have to comment on the disaster that was the trip home.

New York had a powerful storm that produced a tornado in Brooklyn, washed out the subway system, and predictably slowed air travel out of La Guardia. That delayed our flight by just over an hour. I thought this seemed like a pretty fortunate outcome all things considered.

The problem was that put us just far enough behind to arrive in KC just as storms were rolling in. The pilot came on and said the airport was temporarily closed. We circled. And we circled. And we circled. And then the pilot came on and said we could circle no more. We flew to Springfield and refueled. Then we flew back to KC and landed in some still turbulent weather.

We deplaned at 1:35 am, 3.5 hours later than we were supposed to land. It sucked, but I couldn't fault the airline (Midwest) for any of the decisions they made. I cannot say the same for KCI.

Air travel is rare after midnight in our fare city, so it makes sense that there are less airline employees around at that time on a normal night. Problem was, this was not a normal night. The airport doesn't temporarily close on normal nights. And 1.5 hours after we deplaned, we left the airport gates. This was because after the normal 15 minutes or so it took to get our luggage, there were 2 rather important snags.

First, we waited 30 minutes for a shuttle to the parking lot. It seems there are only three buses operating after midnight. I'm not sure how many people got off of all the planes that were landing much later than scheduled, but I am sure that it was more than three buses can hold.

Second, we waited another 30 minutes to go through the parking toll gate. There were two gates open, and about a half-mile of cars that wanted to go through them.

The question is why no one at the airport thought it might be a good idea to call in some reinforcements during the hour or so that the airport was closed. If they had we might have left the airport before 3 am.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Out of Office

For the three or four of you who are regular readers, I will be out until Thursday. I should return from the Big Apple with a few things to talk about. But how much talk probably depends on how much work piles up during the hiatus.

I will, if nothing else, definitely return with an account of watching my beloved Royals in Hades itself, Yankees Stadium.

Talk at you all soom.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Yeah Yeah Yeah

The Yeah Yeah Yeah's played at the Granada in Lawrence last night. They were everything you might hope they would be. The music was tight and energetic. Karen O was predictably nuts, but it is hard to imagine anyone being more endearingly nuts. She sings, screams, dances, poses, and puts on hats with giant tinsel strings. But it never seems forced. She doesn't seem to be doing a shtick. You imagine that is just how she reacts to the music. Guitarist Nic Zinner (young Gary Oldman) and drummer Brian Chase (young Richard Belzer) seem more than happy to just play and watch the show as well.

The set opened with three songs from their new Is Is ep. They never played the other two. The rest of the set consisted of a mix of songs from their two lp's that leaned more heavily toward Fever to Tell and a couple of songs that you'd have to get away from the major releases to find. It was a good mix, and it all sounded really good.

Two local bands opened the show. The first was The Beautiful Bodies, whose lead singer said the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were the inspiration for the band. I think a more appropriate statement would have been that Karen O was the inspiration for the lead singer. The band's music would be hard to pin down in any style. At points there were guitars that sounded like Nirvana in the Bleach days, hardcore hillbilly moments that sounded like Jimmie's Chicken Shack, and some pretty straight up bar band rock. The band played all the songs well.

Singer Alicia Solombrino was a dedicated Karen O disciple. She worked the dress code, the banshee vocals, and all the moves. The problem, of course, was that she isn't Karen O. That means that no matter hard she tries to match the performance, it will never be the same because it is an imitation. Here is to hoping she finds her own style because she can really sing (in fact, she's got a stronger voice than O by a long shot). She obscures that voice too often now with all the screaming, but she has the tools to be a really powerful rock singer.

The second band is hard to describe as a band. The more appropriate word would be spectacle. The SSION is a pop performance art group from KC. They have costumed dancers, props, video shows, and a synth and drums music setup. It's almost impossible to explain what it was I saw. Suffice to say it was an experience. The energy was ramped up to maximum through the entire set, which the audience clearly appreciated. All I can say is, if you have adventurous tastes and open-minded friends you should see this at least once.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Almost Missed This One

It's hard to keep up with all the Bush Administration shenanigans, but here is another.

The night before the government secured a guilty plea from the manufacturer of the addictive painkiller OxyContin, a senior Justice Department official called the U.S. attorney handling the case and, at the behest of an executive for the drugmaker, urged him to slow down, the prosecutor told the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.

John L. Brownlee, the U.S. attorney in Roanoke, testified that he was at home the evening of Oct. 24 when he received the call on his cellphone from Michael J. Elston, then chief of staff to the deputy attorney general and one of the Justice aides involved in the removal of nine U.S. attorneys last year.

Brownlee settled the case anyway. Eight days later, his name appeared on a list compiled by Elston of prosecutors that officials had suggested be fired.

I know. I know. But the fact that you yawn at it doesn't mean you should.

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