Friday, September 28, 2007

Local Sports Pessimism

Perhaps it is because I lost my "Royals will win at least 72 games" bet last night as the team wheezed to a 10-0 loss to the worst other team in the division, but I'm not feeling good about our KC sports these days.

The Royals seemed as though they might have turned a corner earlier this year playing over .500 baseball for a couple of months. Things have fallen apart at the end, however, and much of the (at least my) enthusiasm has waned. The rookies have been decent, which is nice, but after all that has happened the Royals are only going to be 6 to 9 games better than last season. That isn't huge improvement when you're coming from 100 losses.

The Wizards meanwhile perfected the disaster that was the Beckham "event" by losing a game they really needed to win 1-0 to one of the worst teams in professional soccer. Not the kind of showing you want to have in front of your largest crowd ever. The great Wizards blog Downthebyline hasn't even posted about the game yet. Hopefully, he (or she) isn't comatose after the disaster. The Wizards are still officially in the playoff picture, but by no means are they a "sure thing".

The Chiefs are adding to my depression by being one of the 2 or 3 worst teams in football. I'll suck it up and say I was wrong if they go beat San Diego this weekend (and with Norv Turner on the opposing sideline perhaps I am being too negative), but I give the Chiefs roughly zero chance of beating a desperate Chargers team in San Diego. Beating the Vikings 13-10 at home is not the kind of win that portends great things for your season.

There is also no word, and little hope, of the city adding a franchise to play in the Sprint Center. Until a new pack of teams needs to sucker us into to leveraging their demands, that front should stay silent.

Finally, since there are a few more of you reading this than there were the first time I posted on the subject, I want to show the (updated) list of what other multi-sports franchised cities have done since 1985 when we last had a team playing for a title (I didn't count soccer as one of the 4 major sports, the Wizards have won an MLS title).

Atlanta 6 app. (1 title)
Baltimore 1 app. (1 title)
Boston 11 app. (5 titles)
Buffalo 5 app.
Charlotte 3 app. (1 title)
Chicago 10 app. (8 titles)
Cleveland 3 app.
Cincinnati 2 app. (1 title)
Dallas 6 app. (4 titles)
Denver 7 app. (4 titles)
Detroit 10 app. (6 titles)
Houston 4 app. (2 titles)
Indianapolis 2 app. (1 title)
Los Angeles 13 app. (8 titles)
Miami 4 app. (3 titles)
Milwaukee/Green Bay 2 app. (1 title)
Minneapolis 3 app. (2 titles)
Nashville 1 app.
New York 20 app. (11 titles)
Oakland 4 app. (1 title)
Philadelphia 4 app.
Phoenix 2 app. (1 title)
Pittsburgh 4 app. (3 titles)
San Diego 2 app.
San Francisco 5 app. (3 titles)
Seattle 2 app.
St. Louis 5 app. (2 titles)
Tampa 2 app. (1 title)
Toronto 2 app. (2 titles)
Washington D.C. 3 app. (2 titles)

New Orleans is still the only other city with multiple franchises not to make a championship game, and they have only had two teams for 5 years. That will make you pessimistic.


The New York Times has is currently featuring a story with the headline:

Blackwater Shooting Scene was Chaotic

If the point of the headline is to make me want to read the story, then this one gets an F. You can't take the one thing I probably already knew about incident and use that as bait to read the story.

Blackwater Shooting Scene was Serene would be headline worthy. Otherwise, the mood of the scene probably shouldn't be the feature.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Italian Food?

The Star has a story about a new tenant for the Power and Light District.

Bice Bistro will be a sophisticated, urban, upscale Italian bistro featuring authentic Italian cuisine with an international touch. The 6,000-square-foot space will feature mahogany floors, outdoor dining and a private dining mezzanine overlooking the main dining area. The moderately-priced menu will include pastas, pizzas and entrees such as Sesame Ahi Tuna – tuna loin in a sesame crust, light miso sauce with grilled asparagus, and Risotto con Gamberi – Arborio Italian rice with fresh prawns and asparagus.

Boy, one thing I know is that miso is the quintessential Italian ingredient. Those attending an event at the Sprint Center might want to find the Cupini's location downtown, head down Grand to Anthony's, or be really adventurous and go over to Columbus Park.

Are Republican Voters Racist (Part 2)?

Bob Herbert agrees with the Republican presidential nominees.

With statements like this it had can be hard to disagree:

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,’ ” said Atwater. “By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

Kevin Drum puts it best saying, "Lovely man, Lee Atwater."

I actually find this quote fascinating. One way to read it is that Atwater is making the case that Republicans are for cutting taxes because it is the best way to screw with black people. I don't think you would find too many people to buy that line of thinking, but it might be fair to ask if it was at least Lee Atwater's line of thinking.

The Proof is in the Peanut Butter

Via Andrew Sullivan:

I never know what's real anymore.

Arrrgh, Sweeney!!!

Given my predilection to blame the woes of the Royals on el capitan Mike Sweeney, its hard to believe I hadn't considered the correlation earlier. But as the evil St. Louisan stood on the edge of victory in our wager, he pointed out that it seemed to him that the Royals' swan dive at the end of the season seemed to coincide with the return of the perpetually injured one.

Good looking out ESL, you were right on. Sweeney played with the team from opening day until June 17 before going down to injury. He made his triumphant return to break up a Twins no-hitter on August 31. Records for each portion of the Royals season follow:

April 2 - June 17: 28-42
June 18 - August 31*: 32-31
August 31* - September 25: 8-16

Total Winning Percentage With Sweeney: .383
Total Sans Sweeney: .508

*The best part is that on August 31, the Royals played a double-header. Sweeney did not play in the first game, which the Royals won. He returned for the second game, and the Royals were shut out.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


One of the more nefarious tools available on the web is the political comparison survey. In these contraptions, you answer a set of questions and are subsequently told which politician/candidate you are most like. People have put these up for some time, but USA Today has a particularly questionable one now.

The results themselves didn't end up that bizarre. My top 3 were Obama, Biden, and Clinton. I'm not sure they are in that order currently in my mind, but that is a pretty accurate triumvirate. Likewise, my polar opposites are apparently Tom Tancredo and Mitt Romney's current persona. Fair enough.

The problem is that I can't really know if any of this is accurate because of the 11 questions, I probably would have answered "none of the above" to at least 4 (and probably more). Also at issue is which questions are asked. Much to my horror, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel were in the lead for a while based entirely on the fact that they are the only two guys who have said that gays should be allowed to marry.

I'm pretty sure that 11 questions are not enough to determine which candidate should earn your vote. On the other hand, it's probably 11 more questions than many people bother with at all.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Laughing Matters

Slate has an interesting piece up about sitcoms and the laugh track. Contained within is this line:

For the past few seasons, the most talked-about television comedies—The Office, 30 Rock, My Name Is Earl, Curb Your Enthusiasm—have looked and sounded more like films than sitcoms.

It just so happens that the shows listed in the quote constitute an almost complete list of my television watching schedule. It also happens that Three and a Half Men has a pronounced laugh track, and despite its status as one of TV's top rated comedies, couldn't entice me to watch another episode if it featured the second-coming.

What does this mean? Does it mean that I have a knee-jerk reaction against laugh tracks? Does it mean that the shows without laugh tracks have writers who work harder because they don't have built in laughs? Is the problem that I am too easily distracted by 100 strangers laughing in my living room? Is it an age thing? Are there laugh track and non-laugh track people in the world?

Your Local Ads, Er News

I have completely broken myself of the habit if watching local news on weeknights. This gives me at least 2.5 hours of life that I can better spend doing almost anything. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get rid of Sunday night local news. I just want to see a live weather forecast from time to time, and I like to hear a weekly wrap on local sports.

My inability to break this happen means that I end my weekend with one of the most infuriating experiences of my life. I guess it's a nice way to let myself know that fun time is over. I know I will see stories about house fires three states away, something awful that happened to an animal somewhere, and probably a live shot of a field reporter standing in some unidentifiable, pitch black location. I have, to an extent, made my peace with that fact.

Last night on KSHB, however, these asinine stories were in short supply. "Did they have real news on," you might be asking yourself. Of course not. What they filled a considerable portion of the newscast with was advertising. There is a series KSHB runs every Sunday night called "Business in Action" that is simply an advertising vehicle. It hit a new low Sunday night when I was "introduced" to one of these action-oriented businesses for the second time. Gallup Map Company may be a fine maker of Kansas City street maps, but are they so great the should be featured twice on this already ludicrous segment. If Channel 41 is going to pimp local businesses on their newscast, shouldn't they at least spread the wealth?

Had it only been this BIA report, the newscast might have faded into memory as most newscasts do by the next morning. But after explaining the virtues of a local business to me for the second time, KSHB went on to do a long "news" segment about two new shows this fall on NBC.

If this is how they are going to conduct a news program why waste money on a set and anchors. Who will be the first news organization brave enough to just have a weather forecast surrounded by 25 minutes of advertising? At least it would be a little less disingenuous.

Friday, September 21, 2007

So, Now You're Complaining About It?

Regarding the president's intimation that he would veto the SCHIP bill being bipartisanly put together in Congress:

"I'm disappointed by the president's comments," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who urged Bush, in an early-morning telephone conversation yesterday, to support the emerging bipartisan compromise. "Drawing lines in the sand at this stage isn't constructive. . . . I wish he would engage Congress in a bill that he could sign instead of threatening a veto."

Yeah, how could the president do that after such a distinguished record of compromise?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Are Republican Voters Racist?

I don't know the answer, but apparently the GOP front-runners for president think they do. Their verdict seems to be an emphatic "yes." It's got some party leaders nervous.

"We sound like we don't want immigration; we sound like we don't want black people to vote for us," said former congressman Jack Kemp (N.Y.), who was the GOP vice presidential nominee in 1996. "What are we going to do -- meet in a country club in the suburbs one day? If we're going to be competitive with people of color, we've got to ask them for their vote."

This was all in response to the Republican candidates skipping several debates hosted by either African-American or Lation groups. So if you are a Republican voter who isn't racist, just remember that your candidates think you are. That might lead others to believe the same thing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Government By People Who Hate Government Part 3,222

Hackery strikes again.

“One consistent element in these allegations is that you believe your foremost mission is to support the Bush administration, especially with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than act as an independent and objective check on waste, fraud and abuse on behalf of U.S. taxpayers,” Mr. Waxman wrote.

Maybe he believed that because someone in the Bush Administration told him it was true.

The best part of this particular story is that one of the allegations is that this particular hack helped hinder the investigation of another more celebrated hack.


Americans may once again feel free to spend with impunity.

The Federal Reserve cut a key interest rate today, aiming to prevent turbulence in the housing and credit markets from slowing the U.S. economy...That, Fed policymakers hope, will encourage households to spend money and businesses to invest in the future, despite turmoil in the financial markets, a sour housing market and moribund job growth.

So in a country with a savings rate of 0, we are going to solve our economic woes by spending more. We are to do this despite most other economic indicators suggesting that it might not be such a great idea.

If you will excuse me, I need to take out a couple of car loans.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I Hate These Kinds of Problems

Slate's Dear Prudence column features a particularly disturbing scenario this week.

There is one person, whom I will call Pierre (for one who pees through the air), who stands an uncomfortable (for the rest of us) distance from the urinal. I estimate that he's about 20 to 24 inches away from the porcelain when he goes. Since there are two urinals, if one of us is second into the bathroom we can go to one of the stalls to do our business. But there are times when a person can be trapped at the first urinal, as Pierre mans up to the second one, which makes it more uncomfortable trying to slide between him and the wall to get out.

I shudder just imagining what the floor of this bathroom must look like. Comfortable restrooms outside the home are the Holy Grail of the largely unimportant but necessary portion of our lives. If you have one convenient to you, remember that you are among the fortunate.

Tough Call

I have a bet with a friend and evil St. Louisan about the Royals final record. Before the season started we set an over/under at 72 games. I took the over and he took the under. The first two months of the season things looked really bad for me, but the next three were awesome. As August ended, I looked to have the wager in the bag. Unfortunately, the Royals apparently only play good baseball when children are out of school. They have gone 4-10 in September, and I need them to go 8-6 over the last 14 to get at least a push.

It just so happens that after yesterday's debacle, the Chiefs need to go 8-6 over their last 14 games just to finish .500 (the same St. Louisan pointed this out to me).

So the question is which team has a better shot. I don't like the odds of either, but I would probably put the Royals at somewhere around 10 times more likely to achieve the the feat than the Chiefs.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


The Star has an article which states that Kansas City ranks 84th on a list of 500 cities with the best savers. It also includes this tidbit:

The state rankings showed many Midwestern states in the top tier, and many southern states near the bottom... Four of the bottom five states were in the South. Alabama ranked 46th followed by Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, with an index score of 86.50.

This prompts a question. Are there any lists that you would generally like to be at the top of that don't find the Southern states bringing up the rear?

You Think You Know More Because You're There?

I hate it when a right-winger lectures me on how little I understand about the Iraq war, and about why it is such a great moment in American history.

But it is hard to imagine how much more it would irritate me if I was Hassan Khalidy, an Iraqi citizen, getting lectured by Ken Grant, my cyber-pal from Texas.

NPR has been running Khalidy's audio diary entries this week. The whole thing is really interesting, but the entry about Khalidy and Grant is almost inconceivable.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Well if You Compare Him to Those Guys...

Robert Draper, author Dead Certain, is fielding questions on the Washington Post website right now. Draper was the first author to have really good access to the Bush and many others in the administration. This question and answer from today's session is unintentionally hilarious.

Palo Alto, Calif.: Your book is wonderful work that leaves me shanking my head and full of questions. I have to believe your expressed fondness for your subject is sincere, but I can't for the life of me figure out how that can be. This president has created nothing but disaster for our nation, a disaster that has bled the military, the nations treasury, and erased our good standing in the world of nations and cost countless lives and limbs. Given these unmistakable facts, how can you maintain this fondness?

Robert Draper: I don't want to paint myself as some kind of saint--that would be laughable--but I do think I've been able over the years to write humanely about subjects who are controversial and even contemptible. For Texas Monthly and GQ, I've profiled pedophiles, stalkers, serial rapists, prison gang members and corrupt politicians. I didn't find it difficult to suspend judgment about President Bush and take him on his own terms. And I have to say, he's a likable fellow, whatever else one thinks of his deeds.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Heady Times

Daniel Gross has a column on Slate that considers whether the spending of the wealthy could keep the economy afloat.

So, should we fear an impending collapse in consumer spending? Recent sales figures from retailers like Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney, Dollar General, and Sears have been less than encouraging. But the huge mass retailers may not be the best indicators of overall spending...

At Saks, same-store sales in August were up a stunning 18.2 percent; at Tiffany, same-store U.S. sales rose 17 percent in the second quarter. Indeed, luxury retailers are in an expansive mood. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week (subscription required) that "this year, some 30 high-end retailers have opened boutiques in Austin [Texas], including Tiffany & Co., Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, David Yurman, Louis Vuitton and Burberry." These stores are located in a new mall anchored by Neiman Marcus, where same-store sales rose a healthy 4.6 percent in August. Among the strongest performers: "designer handbags, shoes, designer jewelry, women's fine apparel, and men's."

Of course, the wealthy spend less of their income than the poor do but the point of the article wasn't really to lay out the case for upward distribution of income. The point was simply to look at the paragraphs excepted above and think for a second about what they mean.

Brain Science Isn't Rocket Surgery

The point of this story in the LA Times is that conservatives and liberals actually have brains that function differently. The story is really interesting and you should read it. But I'll choose to simply make a snarky observation about this passage.

Participants were college students whose politics ranged from "very liberal" to "very conservative." They were instructed to tap a keyboard when an M appeared on a computer monitor and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W.

M appeared four times more frequently than W, conditioning participants to press a key in knee-jerk fashion whenever they saw a letter.

Each participant was wired to an electroencephalograph that recorded activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that detects conflicts between a habitual tendency (pressing a key) and a more appropriate response (not pressing the key). Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives when they saw a W, researchers said. Liberals and conservatives were equally accurate in recognizing M.

So liberals see the letter "W" and their brain tells them something is amiss while conservatives see "W" and everything seems equally right with the world. Is this simply a coincidental hilarity? Maybe the scientists should pick a less loaded letter.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Oh boy.

It is going to be a long season.

The offense put up 219 yards, 4.5 yards per pass, and they were 3-11 on 3rd down.

But they'll be fine I'm sure. The guys on sports radio said so.

Sunday Morning Talk Shows 2

A while back I posted this about the guest scheduling tendencies of the Sunday morning talk shows:

Why is the debate on the Sunday talk shows between reporters whose job it is to at least attempt impartiality and right-wing pundits whose job it is to pundit right-wingedly?

Well it may surprise you to find out that me posting about a problem doesn't necessariy mean the end of said problem. From Steve Benen on Talking Points Memo:

On its face, it's rather mystifying that "Meet the Press" has made David Brody a regular contributor. While progressive voices have been effectively absent from the Sunday morning shows in recent years, Tim Russert has invited the Capitol Hill correspondent for TV preacher Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network on for political analysis three times in as many months.

Friday, September 7, 2007


Apparently, putting an appropriately patriotic bumper sticker on your car does not mean you actually care about the Iraq war. From the Fox and Friends show, via the Corner:

FRED BARNES: Something happened in August that Democrats didn't expect. They expected Congress would adjourn, recess, and Republicans would go out and particularly hear from voters that they better get right on Iraq and oppose the war, and start withdrawing troops. . . .

Republicans didn't hear that at all. They heard practically nothing about Iraq. And I've talked to a number today. What they heard about was immigration. People are mad about the Bush administration and others on immigration and the border being leaky, and so on. That's what they were mad about.

So if you vote Republican, you apparently are much more concerned about the sandy south than the sandy east. So, is this an appropriate time to question the support of troops by our country's Republicans. I mean, if they really supported the troops wouldn't they be talking about that instead of talking about illegal immigration?

Of course, what I just said was completely ridiculous. More ridiculous, however, is that it is exactly the kind of argument they might use to beat down those with varying philosophies.


Also great in this exchange is Mort Kondracke's assertion that the report by General James Jones - which said the Iraqi army would be unable to take over for at least a year and that the Iraqi police force should be disbanded - was "basically supportive of Bush." Huh.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Lots of Money

That is what is involved in a proposal to build a stadium for the Wizards and a mixed-use development on the former grounds of the Bannister Mall.

I would love for the Wizards to have a new stadium. I would love for that stadium to be in Missouri. I would love to see the mall building and the couple of hundred acres of pavement around it redeveloped. I would love for the area my grandparents lived when I was a kid to get new life.

But I would also love for Kansas City not to cost itself a large chunk of change on a project with questionable prospects. There are still serious questions about the viability of the downtown project, so shouldn't we see which way that one goes before committing to a similar proposition? In the Star article there are comparisons to the Kansas Speedway project. There are two problems with that analogy.

The first is that the Kansas Speedway draws as many people to one event as the soccer stadium is likely to draw to anywhere between 4 and 6 matches. Of course, the Wizards stadium likely wouldn't be the biggest draw in the complex. The 12 field "tournament-style" soccer complex would potentially bring in families with little soccer players from spring through fall. But is that traffic the same kind of traffic as the people coming to watch a sporting event? Do parents with 5 games in two days have time to hit Cabela's or Nebraska Furniture Mart?

That leads us to the second problem; the Speedway development already exists. What businesses can go into a new development site that aren't already at either the Speedway or going in downtown? How many destination shopping districts can a city use?

I don't know the answers to these questions. I just want to know that someone who can find the answers will really give them some consideration before we proceed.

(Tony thinks it might work given the quite funny "Country Music" theory.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The Real Problem

Kevin Drum has a post up about a new book by John Chait, The Big Con. This is what he excerpts from the book:

After six years of following the Bush administration with probably unhealthy intensity, I've come to a couple of conclusions. First, as much as the Christian right sets my teeth on edge — and oh man, do they set my teeth on edge — I've become less and less convinced that they have as much influence over the Republican Party as we secular humanist types often fear. Sure, they get plenty of symbolic bones tossed their way (abortion funding overseas, Plan B mischief, and so on), but in terms of big, substantive policy changes, they haven't exactly been winning political battles left and right, have they? Basically, they get bought off with Supreme Court appointments, and since John Paul Stevens has remained improbably hale and hearty and the next president seems likely to be a Democrat, they're probably never going to reach their Holy Grail: a court willing to overturn Roe v. Wade. Howling about this, along with continuing to fight their losing war against gay people, will probably keep them occupied in impotent (but lucrative) rage for the next decade or so.

Second, George Bush has not turned our country into Amerika. This case is a little harder to make, since there's no question that he and Dick Cheney have pursued a relentless policy of using 9/11 as an excuse to engineer ever more monarchal powers for the White House. Just to name a few: Bush routinely uses signing statements to gut laws he doesn't like but doesn't have the nerve to veto outright; the NSA is apparently data mining millions of phone calls without even a pretense at probable cause; and habeas corpus has been suspended for American citizens on Bush's mere say-so. Still, compared to the Palmer raids of the 1920s, the internment camps of the '40s, McCarthyism in the '50s, and COINTELPRO in the '60s, it's frankly remarkable that our national response to 9/11 has been as muted as it has. America may be a bit the worse for wear in the democracy department compared to six years ago, but it's still America.

If you think I'm crazy, I guess you can stop right here. But as odious as these things are, the truth is that fears of Bush the Fascist and Bush the Theocrat are little more than minstrel shows that distract us from truly taking notice of Bush the Plutocrat — and that's the Bush that really matters.

Isn't this what has been so frustrating about this administration? The sheer volume of chicanery makes it impossible to maintain the proper level of outrage at everything. That means policy and action that might normally be met with scrutiny are simply overlooked while outrage rages about other outraging outrageousness. If you like the idea of elaborate conspiracies this sounds like an ingenious plan. I suspect they just got lucky.


If you were in charge of a war that at best was progressing so slowly that even its supporters believe that it may take an unrealistic amount of time, and at worst is continuing to regress, what do you think you might have your mind on?

If you're Bush or Cheney, you apparently have your mind on starting another war:

After a brief interruption of his New Hampshire vacation to meet President Bush in the family compound at Kenebunkport, Maine, French President Nicolas Sarkozy came away convinced his U.S. counterpart is serious about bombing Iran's secret nuclear facilities. That's the reading as it filtered back to Europe's foreign ministries.

The story was written by conservative Arnaud de Borchgrave in the also conservative Washington Times. So anyone suggesting this is a liberal media conspiracy has even less credibility than usual. The best part of the story is two paragraphs later:

A ranking Swiss official privately said, "Anyone with a modicum of experience in the Middle East knows that any bombing of Iran would touch off at the very least regional instability and what could be an unmitigated disaster for Western interests."

Saturday, September 1, 2007

No No-hitter

Mike Sweeney ruined Scott Baker's bid for a no-hitter with a single in the 9th inning of yesterday's Royals vs. Twins game.

It was nice to see the captain ruin something other than a Royals season.

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