Friday, November 30, 2007


From Toothpaste for Dinner, a daily web comic worth checking out.

Cranky Dial Crankers

Via a Kevin Drum post, I made it to Joe Klein's blog on the Time magazine site. The post was about Klein attending a dial-based focus group of undecided Republican voters during the Republican debate earlier this week. In the exercise, the people turn the dials to register their approval or disapproval as the candidates speak. Now, I would like to go on record as saying I would like to see how this group was selected before assigning this nastiness to Republicans writ large. But regardless of they were picked this is one long excerpt of depressing.

In the next segment--the debate between Romney and Mike Huckabee over Huckabee's college scholarships for the deserving children of illegal immigrants--I noticed something really distressing: When Huckabee said, "After all, these are children of God," the dials plummeted. And that happened time and again through the evening: Any time any candidate proposed doing anything nice for anyone poor, the dials plummeted (30s). These Republicans were hard.

But there was worse to come: When John McCain started talking about torture--specifically, about waterboarding--the dials plummeted again. Lower even than for the illegal Children of God. Down to the low 20s, which, given the natural averaging of a focus group, is about as low as you can go. Afterwards, Luntz asked the group why they seemed to be in favor of torture. "I don't have any problem pouring water on the face of a man who killed 3000 Americans on 9/11," said John Shevlin, a retired federal law enforcement officer. The group applauded, appallingly.


*Related to the Ron Paul post a couple of days ago there was this tidbit:

They also hated anything that Ron Paul said (high 30s to low 20s), especially on the war in Iraq.

It seems not all the Republican base is ready for Paulapalooza.

President Proved Correct Because Time Continued

Today, the Washington Post features a column by Charles Krauthammer that is absolutely infuriating. The basic premise of the column is that because scientists developed a new way to create stem cells, President Bush was vindicated for his opposition to embryonic stem cell research. The problems with this argument are many.

1. The most important conclusion to draw from this argument is that the president caused the development of this new line by putting restrictions on the old method. Krauthammer disputes this himself by saying that the scientist who developed embryonic stem cell research had been working on a new way since the time he devised the first method.

2. Krauthammer also argues that vindication came in the form of no setbacks to research. He (A) offers no evidence that this is true and (B) is wrong anyway because if the president's intent was not to hamper research then he made clearly the wrong choice because he would have had no way to know whether he would hamper research or not, and must have decided that hampering research was an acceptable outcome. Essentailly, vindication can't come from this argument because it wasn't the argument the president based his decision on in the first place.

3. The worst argument in the whole thing, however, regards this passage:

The president's policy recognized that this might cause problems. The existing lines might dry up, prove inadequate or become corrupted. Bush therefore appointed a President's Council on Bioethics to oversee ongoing stem cell research and evaluate how his restrictions were affecting research and what means might be found to circumvent ethical obstacles.

More vilification. The mainstream media and the scientific establishment saw this as a smoke screen to cover his fundamentalist, obscurantist, anti-scientific -- the list of adjectives was endless -- tracks. "Some observers," wrote The Post's Rick Weiss, "say the president's council is politically stacked."

His argument as to why the committee was not imbalanced -- it consisted of such notable non-partisans as James Q. Wilson (conservative), Francis Fukuyama (conservative), and Charles Krauthammer (what do you think?).

(Update: 12/1 -- The New York Times agrees. What a bunch of liberals.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wake Up With the Scrooge?

Here is a fine Dickens moment to lead us into the holiday season. It seems migrant tomato pickers are about to lose their first raise since 70's because Burger King is unwilling to pay the penny per pund surcharge that Taco Bell and McDonald's had previously approved. That has given the Florida Tomato Growers an out.

Now the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange has threatened a fine of $100,000 for any grower who accepts an extra penny per pound for migrant wages. The organization claims that such a surcharge would violate “federal and state laws related to antitrust, labor and racketeering.” It has not explained how that extra penny would break those laws; nor has it explained why other surcharges routinely imposed by the growers (for things like higher fuel costs) are perfectly legal.

Auditioning for the role of ol' Ebenezer himself, however is the FTGE's president Reggie Brown. Sayeth he, "(The surcharge for poor migrants is) pretty much near un-American.”

The total cost of the penny per pound to Burger King annually -- $250,000. Bah humbug.

80's Movie Quote of the Week

I almost forgot this week. Fortunately, I saw part of Mel Brooks' History fo the World: Part 1 last night.

Narrator: And of course, with the birth of the artist came the inevitable afterbirth - the critic.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Republicans Taking Their Ball and Going Home

It apparently isn't as much fun when you don't have complete control of the government.

Party officials insist that the retirements -- 17 members of the House and six senators -- are simply the result of individual decisions and not indicative of a broader negative sentiment within the party. "I don't hear a drumbeat that 'We're not effective and I don't like it here anymore,' " said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (Okla.).

But with so many lawmakers -- including a large number from competitive states and districts -- heading for the exits, it's hard not to point to the GOP's new found minority status in Washington, the turnover in party leadership and the perilous political environment heading into 2008 to explain the exodus.

Or maybe it has something to do with that impending rule change that keeps Congressmen from lobbying for two years instead of the current one year period.

Nah, that couldn't be it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ron Paul?

I spent the Thanksgiving holiday in southwest Missouri, and discovered that if an election were held today there would be a bunch of people trying to get me to vote for Ron Paul. I don't know if the people who would actually vote for the man extend beyond his fervent supporters that stand on busy street corners with signs or hand out bumper stickers (both things going on in Springfield this weekend). But one might suspect there have to be at least a few.

What's with all the hubbub? Based on a combination of expressed opinions of the Ron Paulites I know personally and my own suspicions about what those opinions really mean, I think this may be a sort of GOP rebellion vote. These are people who are (understandably) dismayed at the way the Republican government has conducted itself and pandered to its extreme religious elements, but would still never consider voting for a Democrat.

So Paul it is. My question for such people is whether they seriously think abolishing the CIA, IRS, NEA, Federal Reserve, and whatever else (as well as pulling us out of trade deals and the UN) in his first term is A) really a good idea, and B) at all feasible without mass chaos for a decade. Because in the still very remote chance the man gets elected, they are either going to have to answer for that, or be disappointed in their leader once again.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Don't Tease Me Star

The Star web site featured an article about the Chiefs today titled, "What would happen if KC ever had a TV blackout?" Quote:

It could happen next week when the Chiefs play San Diego, especially if Kansas City doesn’t snap its three-game losing streak today against Oakland.

About an hour after reading this, I watched the Chiefs whimper to defeat at the hands of the 2-8 Raiders.

If God is merciful, a blackout is what fans of the offensively non-offensive Chiefs have earned.

The Day the Music Died

50 Cent, Kelly Rowland, and, uh Perry Ferrell(?) collaborating on the ABC college football broadcast before the MU v. KU game. Jane says "What in the hell is that all about?"

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Testing Your Thanksgiving Spirit

To prepare you for the mass quantities of food you will likely be presented with tomorrow, here is a heaping helping of crazy from some folks who prepare it best.

Excerpt from "Letter from a future prisoner."

We knew "Thought Crimes" was in danger of becoming law back when it passed Congress in 2007, but thankfully, President Bush kept his promise to veto it. But, tragically, Hillary signed that most dangerous bill in America – ushering in the criminalization of Christianity. And now, even my book, "The Criminalization of Christianity," has been banned as "hate speech" just as I predicted when I wrote it back in 2005.

Via Andrew Sullivan.

Best Video Ever

KCcoug pointed me to a contest going on Andrew Sullivan's site voting for the best and worst music videos of the 80's. Amazingly, Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer video is only in second. It is hands down the greatest video of all time. The proof is below.


Harper's always has some great stuff in the Readings section at the front of the magazine. This month, they have some work by W.H. Auden that had been translated back to English from its French translation because the original English text was nowhere to be found. I guess that means that this may or may not be what Auden really meant. It's a great quote either way.

Propaganda is the use of magic by those who no longer believe in it against those who still do.

Sprint Center

My first time at the Sprint Center was an overall nice experience with a few hitches.

- The view from inside looking out is really cool.
- Like most modern arenas, there really aren't any bad seats.
- The ushers (at least the two I had contact with) were well-trained and friendly.
- The shot clock on the side of the basket support is a nice touch.
- It is easy to get around inside.

- I arrived 15 minutes before game time and stood in the Will Call line until 5 minutes into the first game. I would say 1/4 of the crowd was in a long line at tip-off. I know people probably arrived en masse for a 6:45 weeknight game, but there has to be something they can do to move things along quicker.
- The place looks kind of sterile in the arena bowl itself. That could be the lighting, but more likely it is the lack of team affiliation for the Center. Most arenas have playoff banners and other various team-oriented things hanging all over the place. The Sprint Center has a flag hanging on one end, and a pathetic "Garth Brooks, 9 Sold Out Shows banner hanging at the other end. Perhaps, this will improve with time.

A couple of comments about the games themselves.
- Missouri looked much better. Darrel Butterfield took at least 4 charges during the game, hit a couple of threes, and generally looked like one of those guys who will never be the team's best player but will never know that either. The point guard decision-making remains suspect, but Hannah and Horton deserve credit for pushing the ball hard enough to scare the other team into playing Missouri's game.
- UCLA must be pretty good. I saw them play one of the worst halves of offensive basketball I have seen outside the Roeland Park Sportsdome in a while, and yet they still managed to come back and beat Michigan State. This should be a good lesson for the Spartans because they played the whole second half like they were hoping for the clock to move faster.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

School of Rock

You can find something worthwhile in a David Brooks column every now and again.

Van Zandt has a way to counter all this, at least where music is concerned. He’s drawn up a high school music curriculum that tells American history through music. It would introduce students to Muddy Waters, the Mississippi Sheiks, Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers. He’s trying to use music to motivate and engage students, but most of all, he is trying to establish a canon, a common tradition that reminds students that they are inheritors of a long conversation.

I'd probably volunteer to go back to high school for a class like that.

80's Movie Quote of the Week (Thanksgiving Edition)

John Candy and Steve Martin wake up in a shared hotel bed:

Neal: Del... Why did you kiss my ear?
Del: Why are you holding my hand?
Neal: [frowns] Where's your other hand?
Del: Between two pillows...
Neal: Those aren't pillows!

40 Minutes of Chaos

In preparation for my first visit to the Sprint Center tonight, I watched Missouri play Michigan State last night. Mizzou is simultaneously very exciting and excruciatingly maddening. Coach Mike Anderson's "40 minutes of hell" style of play produces that kind of game to a certain extent, but the Tigers take the unpredictability to a new level. Last night most of that was caused by the fact that the team has no point guard, at least not in the traditional sense.

Stefhon Hannah is very gifted player, but he makes some absolutely atrocious decisions. Wild shots on the break, adventurous forays into the lane, and occasional carelessness with the ball are not the hallmarks of great point guards. Back-up point guard Jason Horton's inability to shoot the ball seems to have hurt his confidence to the point where it has affected other facets of his game.

The Tigers have a lot of physical talent. Whether or not that talent translates into victories (and not just be fun to watch) will have a lot to do with whether or not the "coaches on the floor" throttle it down just enough to make the right decision every now and again.

Monday, November 19, 2007

When Voting is Dangerous

An article in Slate suggests that if Internet message boards can be a proxy for ballot casting, then democracy may be a scary form of government.

In her piece covering the legal debate about contemporary execution practices, Dahlia Lithwick decries the "carelessness, raw politics, and inertia" of the American death penalty. While there are some sharp responses to be found in the ensuing Fray discussion, the cumulative debate presents a theater of sadism. One can at least recognize the faculty of reason at work in the grim utilitarianism of folks like Atarxian, who support greater cruelty throughout the penal system on the basis of its deterrent value. In one of the debate's most bizarre arguments, jimthecarguy finds inspiration for speedy public stoning in the durability of Jewish culture. Teslarawks speaks with envy of Chinese criminal procedure's efficiency, in which "they march you out of the court room and shoot you in the head with a rifle."

And that isn't nearly as absurd as the lady talking about Iraqi refugees.

I would argue that the Internet may not, in fact, be a good representation of the American public writ large. At least, I hope not.

Ignorance is Bliss

The Post story has lots more good stuff that just ol' Turd Blossom.

Bush's strategy contrasts with those of Clinton and Ronald Reagan, the last two-term presidents, who recovered from political troubles late in their tenures. Both found ways to work with an opposition Congress to pass important legislation. Reagan left office with a 64 percent approval rating and Clinton with a 65 percent rating.

He is truly the great divider.

In all seriousness though, this story is about how Bush's poll numbers haven't improved, but his political fortunes have. I think that is read "his political fortunes have improved among beltway insiders."

Isn't most of the turnaround due to the fact that everyone just ignores him now. The media is much more concerned about who the next president will be than what this one is currently doing to the country. It seems that for Bush, no news is good news.

Takes One to Know One

In a Post story:

"There's a reason they've become unpopular," said Karl Rove, who recently stepped down as deputy White House chief of staff. "They've taken stands that make them look churlish, small, petty and more interested in scoring political points than in doing good things for the country."

He's the expert.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Couldn't Happen to a Better Guy

I don't like Alex Rodriguez.

I really don't like the New York Yankees.

I really, really don't like Alex Rodriguez playing for the New York Yankees.

But if they work out a deal that screws over noted SOB Scott Boras, then I'm willing to offer both parties my hearty congratulations.

A person close to the Yankees said this morning that Rodriguez, through an intermediary, told the Yankees that he wants to talk with the team about a new contract agreement without the involvement of his agent, Scott Boras. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no deal has been reached.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

80's Movie Quote of the Week

Had a meeting this week where someone might have well have said this line from Pee Wee's Big Adventure:

Tina: Yes, there are thousands and thousands of uses for corn, all of which I'm going to tell you about right now!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Ugly Side

Friday I had the unfortunate experience of facing the ugly side of liberalism. When you see the ugly side you will notice some familiar traits. Beliefs will be very strongly held. Opinions will be very poorly informed. And you will swear you have seen it before. You have. You have seen it in the ugly side of conservatism. It is the feature of conservatism that makes people like me all too eager to discount the entire philosophy.

I probably might find conservatives who would disagree with me, but I think one of the defining features of our current political landscape is the recent dominance of ugly siders in conservative discourse (in such venues as talk radio). Hopefully, we are beginning to see some backlash from that. My hope is that as liberals see more success at the polls they don't also see an opportunity show their ugly side.

I blew it on Friday. I let my desire not to talk to a ridiculous person overcome my desire to keep the average person from deciding liberals might actually be as bad as Rush Limbaugh says. If presented with the opportunity again, I hope I remember that the right thing to do is inform the ugly side liberal that the only thing they are doing is creating more conservatives.

Sunday, November 11, 2007


If, for reasons unknown outside of the Hunt family, Carl Peterson should ever find himself interviewing for the position of head coach ever again, he should remember to ask candidates two simple questions.

1. Do you care about the defense?
2. Do you care about offense?

Had he asked these two questions, he might have found that every coach hired during his tenure would have answered 'no' to either #1 (Dick Vermeil) or #2 (everyone else). Teams will always be better on one side of the ball than the other. The Chiefs have proved, however, that someone - anyone - in the organization must pay at least fleeting attention to both sides of the ball to be a team that ever hopes to win a playoff a game in professional football.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

He'll Tell You Himself

Tom Tancredo on his immigration position:

What happens is, you provide people with some space to get into where they can say, "That guy is a racist xenophobe. That guy is just so crazy that we can take a more moderate stance.

....I have to set the bar as high as I can. I'm being completely candid with you. If I had actually set out to become president, then of course it would be ludicrous for me to do it in the way I'm doing it. I don't have that as my goal; I never have. The only way I can get on that plane and go to Iowa or New Hampshire and spend night after night in hotels in places you've never even heard of is by saying, "Think about why you're doing this, Tom." It is because the issue is important. You are the person that is advancing it. I have the luxury of saying, "I will set the goalposts as far as I can down the field because then I will have a better chance of getting the game played on my side."

I'm not sure that anyone could sum up conservative politics any better than that. Via Kevin Drum.

Rush Limbaugh Makes The Last Post Even Scarier

I went to lunch and wanted to hear today's bloviation. Rush was having a meltdown about the fact that little boys have become interested in cooking. Apparently, they have seen their fathers doing it more, and it is now common to see men doing it on television. To Rush, this is further proof of the meltdown of American society. If men are going to do something so feminine as cook, then my God where are things headed.

To prove that he could push male chauvinism to new extremes he added to this bizarre segment that men were, in fact, better cooks than women so there was some bright side.

The future may be closer than I want to believe.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Last night I watched Idiocracy. Not the most well put together movie of all time, but the premise was fantastic. The idea was that we became technologically advanced enough that natural selection no longer applied, so the human race became dominated by those who simply breed the most. In a botched Army hibernation project, an average Joe from our time gets frozen and awakens 500 years from now. He is then the smartest man on the planet.

After the movie, I called my mom. She told me that parents at the junior high in my hometown are complaining about an after school yoga class because they are afraid it will diminish their daughters' religious values.

Science fiction is most scary when it seems plausible.

"I'm Secretary of State, brought to you by Carl's Jr." -- Secretary of State in 2550.


Josh Marshall writes about Total Quality Bamboozlement:

It seems we've finally come full circle. The pro-choice, gay-rights-backing 'hero' of 9/11 (Rudy) endorsed by the TV preacher (Robertson) who said 9/11 was God's punishment for America's culture of sin.

My Vote Really Does Matter

In fact, my vote yesterday represented the vote of 8 average Kansas Citians. Apparently, 78% of everyone in the city cared so little about their sidewalks or taxes that they chose to sit this one out. When I went to the polling place there were 4 poll workers and 3 people voting - including me.

Maybe instead of "yes and no" the ballot should have "ketchup and mustard" and tell people to vote for which one they want to win the hot dog race. You can get at least 90% of people to do that at a Royals game.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

80's Movie Quote of the Week

An understatement from The Sure Thing:

Gib: You told her I was a virgin?
Lance: Women love a challenge.
Gib: You told her I was gay!
Lance: It's a bigger challenge.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Playoff Madness

You may not know this, but a Kansas City team has won a playoff series. It's the Wizards who knocked off the top-seeded Chivas team to advance to the MLS Western Conference Championship Game.

The win was a product of great defense and the worst first round playoff format in all of professional sports. But hey, it worked in our favor this time.

Down the Byline has the best commentary on the match.

For those of you with Fox Soccer Channel, the next match will be at 7:30 Saturday night. I know not many people around here are soccer fans, but when is the next time you'll see a KC team a game from their respective finals?


We have our problems. But a little perspective reminds us that our problems aren't even close to the problems many face around the world. Sometimes a picture reminds me of that better than anything else.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

That Explains It

The graph a couple of posts ago showed that the moderately rich aren't fairing nearly as well as the super rich when it comes to tax breaks. Today, Crooked Timber provides some possible explanation as to why:

“It is getting nasty: below the belt stuff; delving into people’s personal lives; crossing lines,” added the lobbyist, who was critical of colleagues but reluctant to repeat publicly allegations being made privately about lawmakers and congressional staff. People close to industry lobby groups such as the Private Equity Council and the Managed Funds Association are adamant they are not to blame for any sharp elbows thrown on Capitol Hill. Privately they tend to blame each other for black eyes to the industry’s reputation.

I may be wrong here, but it seems to me that Callan (who is an excellent and careful journalist, as best as I can tell from his previous articles) is suggesting that hedge fund lobbyists are blackmailing politicians and their aides over their personal lives, or doing the next best thing to it. Is there another plausible explanation that I’m missing here?

Oh right, blackmail. But blackmail is such a strong word. A quote comes to mind:

From Futurama --
Bender: Blackmail is such an ugly word. I prefer "extortion." The "X" makes it sound cool.

Meanwhile Kevin Drum emphasizes the other point of the article very nicely:
If a party of the working class isn't willing to close a ridiculous loophole that provides a certain class of high-roller billionaires with a tax rate that's half of what ordinary people have to pay, what are they here for?

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