Thursday, July 31, 2008


At a campaign event in Wisconsin where John McCain was defending his latest ridiculous ad (this one being the one where they compare Obama to Britney and Paris), this happened:

As soon as McCain finished answering the question, a teenager stood up and encouraged him to continue pursuing these sorts of attacks.

"I'm eighteen years-old and I just have to say, Obama terrifies me," she said, as the crowd cheered loudly. "I think you need to call him on every shot. Don't let him get away with anything."
Terrifies? Isn't that a little strong? What on earth could he have done thus far to inspire terror? Do 18 year-olds in Wisconsin need to get out more?

Peering Into the Abyss

A timely poem:

And art thou gone, sweet Youth? Say Nay!
 For thou dost know what power was thine,
That thou couldst give vain shadows flesh,
 And laughter without any wine,
From the heart fresh?

And art thou gone, sweet Youth? Say Nay!
 Not left me to Time's cruel spite;
He'll pull my teeth out one by one,
 He'll paint my hair first grey, then white,
He'll scrape my bone.

And art thou gone, sweet Youth? Alas!
 For ever gone! I know it well;
Earth has no atom, nor the sky,
 That has not thrown the kiss Farewell—
Sweet Youth, Good-Bye!

--W.H. Davies

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I Knew It

It always seemed like gas went up faster than it went down. I figured that might just be some paranoid fantasy of mine though. I'm happy (or sad) to say it wasn't.

Analyses of gasoline economics show that when the price of oil rises, it takes up to four weeks for gas station prices to catch up, with most of the increase taking place within the first two weeks. But when oil prices sink, it takes up to eight weeks for the savings to be passed along to consumers. The phenomenon is known as "asymmetric price adjustment" (PDF) or, more informally, "rockets and feathers."
You can read more about why here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Awesome Direct Quote, "Candidates Shouldn't Make Stuff Up."

The St. Louis Post Dispatch offered up its endorsements for Missouri's 9th Congressional District. The problem was that on the Republican side, they couldn't recommend anyone. Liberal bias at work? Not so much.

Here are the paper's descriptions of the candidates:

— State Rep. Bob Onder, 46, of Lake St. Louis, a physician, is running as the "family values" candidate. Dr. Onder, with the help of Missouri House Speaker Rod Jetton, played a prominent role in the last legislative session, sponsoring bills to crack down on undocumented immigrants and on abortion providers. Mr. Jetton also works as a political consultant for Dr. Onder. Whatever their party, voters concerned about ethics in government should find Mr. Jetton's double duty troubling, as well as Dr. Onder's role in it.

— Blaine Luetkemeyer, 56, a former state representative and former Missouri Director of Tourism from St. Elizabeth, is promising voters to stop a "massive job-killing $1.2 trillion a year income tax hike that the liberal Congress has planned." We have never heard of this plan, and Mr. Luetkemeyer could not provide details. He may be confusing it with the Lieberman-Warner "Climate Security Act," although he said that was not the case. Candidates shouldn't make stuff up.

— State Rep. Danie Moore, 62, of Fulton, is a retired school teacher who was a reliable GOP foot soldier in her eight years in the House but had no significant legislative accomplishments. Nor does she demonstrate much knowledge of current policy issues.

— Finally, there is Brock Olivo, 32, of Columbia, a business consultant and a former University of Missouri football star. His campaign got off to a rough start when he admitted that he had never voted in an election, but he is a very likeable young man. He doesn't know much about the issues, but at least he admits it.
That is one hell of a lineup. The Post-Dispatch summarizes the candidates thus:

The candidates differ little on the issues. None of them displays any command of policy. Their campaigns are based on platitudes and, in some cases, misinformation. We can't recommend any of them.
What is scary is that might not keep one of them from getting elected.

Via Kos.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Government by People Who Hate Government (Part 23,472)

No shock, of course, that the official report has now confirmed that Justice Department officials were using political criteria for hiring. What is great, however, is to read a better summary of exactly how they did it.

Ms. Goodling interviewed the woman herself for possible positions and wrote in her notes such phrases as “pro-God in public life,” and “pro-marriage, anti-civil union.” She was eventually hired as a career prosecutor.

Ms. Goodling also conducted extensive searches on the Internet to glean the political or ideological leanings of candidates for career positions, the report found. She and other Justice Department supervisors would look for key phrases like “abortion,” “homosexual,” “guns,” or “Florida re-count” to get information on a candidate’s political leanings.
A fun game would be to come up with other search phrases for the supervisors to use. The first one to come to mind for me is "loose morals."

Oklahoma City Adds Arena League Team?

That is what it sounds like from the names the NBA registered for its new OKC team. Here is the list:


That list is almost enough to make me glad that Kansas City doesn't have to embarass itself naming a new team (I would like to think we could do better). Why does Marshalls have two "l"s? Why would the Energy ever even be under consideration? Would the mascot for the Wind be an adult contemporary radio host?

Which of these do you find least offensive? That is apparently how it will have to be picked.

Friday, July 25, 2008

80's Movie Quote of the Week

Congress revisited the issue of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" this week. Stripes visited it in 1981.

Recruiter: Now, are either of you homosexuals?
John Winger: [John and Russell look at each other] You mean, like, flaming, or...
Recruiter: Well, it's a standard question we have to ask.
Russell Ziskey: No, we're not homosexual, but we are willing to learn.
John Winger: Yeah, would they send us someplace special?


I am impressed with conservatives for finding a way to quickly and efficiently move their all-consuming rage toward Hillary Clinton into an all-consuming irritation at Barack Obama.

I'm not sure that this irritation will be as effective as the rage directed at Clinton, but it many ways it is more impressive. With Clinton, the hatred was irrational, but at least it was true vitriol. With Obama, however, the requisite passion is absent. He hasn't done anything that qualifies him for everlasting crucifixion from the right.

Yet, they press on. They try things out. Obama said we should all learn a foreign language. Not lurid enough. Obama gave a speech in a foreign country before he was president. Not conspiratorial enough. Obama seems like he might be too good for all of us. Been done. It's a giant experiment.

Meanwhile their candidate has an aid telling Americans to stop imagining their financial woes, confusing fairly important facts in his area of expertise, claiming that the economy is not his strong suit, and running ads blaming Obama for high gas.

I suppose I'd be looking pretty hard for something too.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Advice Worth Millions

Why do I not believe that executives are worth the insanely large salaries they currently receive and people like Phil Gramm say they deserve? The New York Times has a story today about Ford's decision to move its production towards small cars. In the story, Ford's CEO, Alan Mulally, is described as a bold risk-taker and innovator. Large investor Kirk Kerkorian has bought of Ford shares because he believes in Mulally.

What kind of business wizardry makes this CEO so valuable?

“Everybody says cut and cut some more, but how are we going to sustain this company?” Mr. Mulally said in one meeting in his office on the 12th floor of Ford headquarters, according to people in attendance. “What does a sustainable Ford look like, gentlemen?”

...“Why are we in business?” he repeatedly asked the group. “We are in business to create value. And we can’t create value if we go out of business.”
If only every CEO had such insight! And this isn't all of his wisdom:

“Let’s see, the global share of large vehicles is 15 percent,” he said at one such meeting, according to people in attendance. “And you’re telling me you want to invest more in them?”

He often exhorts his employees to “take a point of view of the future,” and then devise a plan supporting it.

This is not meant to be a slam at Mr. Mulally. Those statements sound like perfectly good sense. What should frighten us is that these ideas were apparently novel to the rest of the management team.

If the common sense statements of Mulally constitute the pinnacle of business leadership, then we must conclude two things. One is that people who see this as some great talent maybe shouldn't be allowed to have shoelaces. The other is that if general commonsense is the bar for exorbitant pay, then the very idea of business itself is in serious trouble.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Lesson on Highbrow BS

The following is an excerpt from a funny piece in this month's Harper's Magazine. The essay is by George Saunders, and was originally published in the Guardian.

Whereas a boring realist writer might write, "Lillian sat at the black table," an experimental writer says, "Lillian sat at the flat plane of ebony, the night-shaded planar surface, the nonwhite spatial expanse on which one can put things, such as ashtrays, if one smokes." See how that is more innovative, because not just anyone could have written it, just the nerdy kids in school or your friends' smart-ass son who rolls his eyes when you say what bands you like?

And to be superexperimental, one could have Lillian, at the black table, turn into a chimp. To show that bourgeois life is a sham. But when she is a chimp, she is still Lillian. That is the deep part. Her husband, Brian, likes her better as a chimp and always makes her banana milkshakes. Until one day a milkshake develops vocal cords and begs Brian to spare him because he is terrified of chimps. In retaliation, Lillian has an affair with an orangutan, who is either from the zoo or from another experimental story. See how edgy that is? You will never look at your wife, a milkshake, or a chimp in the same way again. Whenever you see these things, you will be like: I am a capitalist oppressor.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mr. Brightside

Not a lot of positives you can take from a 19-4 loss. Actually, this probably serves as the defintion of a low point.

On the other hand, the Royals put Tony Pena Jr. in to pitch the 9th because things had gotten out of hand. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning throwing 8 of 12 pitches for strikes and striking out Ivan Rodriguez. This hardly qualifies Pena to be the next Cy Young, but if he could ever be converted to a pitching spot we would never have to watch him bat again (except in interleague games).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Exceeding Expectations

Over the weekend, I saw The Dark Knight. Not many things are as good as advertised, and fewer still are better than advertised. The Dark Knight was one of them.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Audacity of Continuing to Use the Word Audacity in Stories About Barack Obama

Charles Krauthammer does it today (or perhaps his headline writer did) in the Washington Post. Whatever the case, it headlines one of the more ridiculous stories written about a candidate so far this season. Here is the beginning:

Barack Obama wants to speak at the Brandenburg Gate. He figures it would be a nice backdrop. The supporting cast -- a cheering audience and a few fainting frauleins -- would be a picturesque way to bolster his foreign policy credentials.

What Obama does not seem to understand is that the Brandenburg Gate is something you earn. President Ronald Reagan earned the right to speak there because his relentless pressure had brought the Soviet empire to its knees and he was demanding its final "tear down this wall" liquidation. When President John F. Kennedy visited the Brandenburg Gate on the day of his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech, he was representing a country that was prepared to go to the brink of nuclear war to defend West Berlin.

Who is Obama representing? And what exactly has he done in his lifetime to merit appropriating the Brandenburg Gate as a campaign prop? What was his role in the fight against communism, the liberation of Eastern Europe, the creation of what George Bush the elder -- who presided over the fall of the Berlin Wall but modestly declined to go there for a victory lap -- called "a Europe whole and free"?
So, Krauthammer is telling us that the problem with Barack Obama is not that he doesn't have skills or experience for the job. No, Obama's problem is that he is so full of himself that he would pick a venerated location to give a speech. Does this yet qualify as grasping for straws?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

80's Movie Quote of the Week

It's not a comedy. But given the fact that I am extremely excited about the impending release of the new Batman movie, I thought it might be worth revisting the 1989 version. The Joker has some timeless advice.

The Joker: Never rub another man's rhubarb.

It's Not About What You Say

John McCain is speaking in KC today at a town hall meeting. These meetings should be democracy at its finest. Instead, they usually make you wonder about whether democracy is built on a solid foundation. A nice example was outlined today (in a pretty rough retelling):

Some Guy in Crowd: Obama wants to fix healthcare by getting the government more involved. I think the government needs to be less involved. How can you help get the government less involved so the free market can give us cheaper healthcare?

Crowd roars with approval.

McCain: I agree with you. Here is what we need to do...blah, blah, blah... and we need federal and state governments to work together to create pools for those who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford coverage.

Crowd roars with approval.

Three important question arise:
1. How many people were actually listening?
2. Of those that were listening, how many understood what was going on?
3. What does all of this mean for democracy?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Joe Buck Had a Bad Margarita in Cabo

Is that the explanation for his committed indifference to the Mexecutioner throughout last night's All-Star game broadcast? Buck had three opportunities earlier in the evening to mention Joakim Soria along with the other great closers on the AL roster. He skipped every chance.

When Soria improbably entered the game in the 11th inning, Buck could have redeemed himself a bit by talking about the surprising dominance of the Royals closer this season. In the 1 and 2/3 innings Soria pitched, however, Buck said nothing. He barely even mentioned that it was Soria on the mound.

So, I think he must have some aversion to Mexico. Perhaps it was a bad time at a resort. Maybe the Aztecs are his least favorite ancient civilization. Maybe Buck is a Minuteman afraid that Soria is here illegally to steal the job of some American closer.

Or maybe it is the fact that Buck is an old Cardinals guy. A Cardinals guy would classically be a jerk about a Royals player. But would he, as an announcer, stoop so low? He's a Cardinals guy, so probably.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


That is what I think the odds of Joakim "Buenos Noches" "Mexecutioner" Soria playing in tonight's All-Star game are. I hope he makes it in, but I won't be holding my breath. If he does play, I am saying he pitches the 6th or 7th.

The Nuge

Ted Nugent is a moron. The Star's Back to Rockville blog posts a recent interview with him in anticipation of his appearance in KC.

Rock stars suck. I have never been a rock star. I happen to be a very hard working bow-hunter American who puts his heart and soul into creating moving R&B music with the world’s greatest musicians that care only about the music. Without question my music is tighter, more powerful, sexier and intense today than it or any music has ever been.
He goes on to make some enlightened claims about U.S. foreign policy and comment on his general political philosophy. All of it is just fantastic.

One of the commenters points out that he was a draft dodger. I would be curious if this is true. Anybody know? It almost makes him too perfect a caricature if it's true. He might be too perfect a caricature anyway.

Monday, July 14, 2008

There is a God

And he loves us very much. Here is the proof:

Billy Packer's streak of Final Fours is over after 34 years, The Miami Herald reported Monday. Packer, a color commentator, will be replaced in CBS' coverage by studio analyst Clark Kellogg, network representative Leslie Anne Wade confirmed to the newspaper.
College basketball fans are hereby liberated from the tyranny of one of the most curmudgeonly, obnoxious, and provincial commentators of all time. And there was much rejoicing.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Capitalism Takes Its Lumps

E.J. Dionne has a nice column in the Washington Post talking about how many of our economic cliches are becoming increasingly outdated.

You know the talking points: Regulation is the problem and deregulation is the solution. The distribution of income and wealth doesn't matter. Providing incentives for the investors of capital to "grow the pie" is the only policy that counts. Free trade produces well-distributed economic growth, and any dissent from this orthodoxy is "protectionism."
Dionne goes on to talk about how many conservatives (and Barney Frank) are starting to openly question much of what was once considered orthodoxy. The problem is that the people he refers to are Ben Bernanke and a guy from a think tank. It's great that these guys are taking the problem seriously, but they aren't members of Congress or presidential candidates.

So how long before those who are members of Congress or presidential candidates follow suit and acknowledge that government may actually have a role to play assuring the widespread financial security of our nation? I wouldn't hold my breath waiting.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


George Will finally writes a column I agree with (though he does manage to put in at least a few lines that make me cringe). He says we should celebrate beer.

Suffice it to say that the good news is really good: Beer is a health food.

... So let there be no more loose talk -- especially not now, with summer arriving -- about beer not being essential. Benjamin Franklin was, as usual, on to something when he said, "Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." Or, less judgmentally, and for secular people who favor a wall of separation between church and tavern, beer is evidence that nature wants us to be.
Here's to you George.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

80's Movie Quote of the Week

Commentary on friendship from the Weird Al classic, UHF.

Bob: How could you do this to me? I knew this was gonna happen.
George: You're right, Bob. I'm sorry. What can I say? I-I'm a miserable worthless hunk of slime. Here, I want you to take this crowbar and... just bash my head right in! Go ahead. Really. Please! Just BASH it right in!
Bob: George, you know I can't do that. You still owe me 5 bucks.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Nice Start

Michael Beasley had his first opportunity to show the Bulls they made a mistake in not drafting the most talented player in the draft, and he didn't disappoint. Beasley had 28 points and 9 rebounds in the Heat's first summer league game against those same Bulls. While #1 pick Derrick Rose nervously played his way to 10 points, 4 assists, and 5 turnovers, Beasley took it to a second and a third year NBA player.

Apparently, the only complaint on the court was that Beasley was singing while he was playing. I like to think he was singing Charlie's America Song from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia:

I'm gonna rise up/ I'm gonna kick a little ass/ I'm gonna kick some ass in the U.S.A./ I'm gonna climb a mountain/ I'm gonna sew a flag/ I'm gonna fly on an eagle/ I'm gonna kick some butt/ I'm gonna drive big trucks/ I'm gonna rule this world/ I'm gonna kick some ass/ I'm gonna rise up/ Gonna kick a little ass/ Rock on flyin' eagle!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Feeling Sorry for McCain

I'd feel sorry for anybody who has to deal with this:

McCain has not yet signaled the changes he plans to make in the GOP platform, but many conservatives say they fear wholesale revisions could emerge as candidate McCain seeks to put his stamp on a document that currently reflects the policies and principles of President Bush.
Really? I mean, the Bush era has been an unqualified success and all, but there aren't a few things that could use a slight alteration? Do these people have any interest at all in having a Republican president?

Saying It Without Words

I saw Wall-E yesterday, and I would highly recommend it. It has a timely message, great animation, and a cute story. But what really makes it fantastic is the fact that the overwhelming majority of the movie takes place without words.

The ability of Wall-E's creators to make you empathize with and care about a robot who utters only a handful of words is an affirmation of the existence of art. We get so caught it up in the words we say to each other that we miss a pretty large part of what gives us humanity. Kudos to Pixar for putting it in plain sight.

(As a side note, I think the short before the film maybe Pixar's best yet. At the very least, it is right up there with the birds on a wire before Monster's Inc.)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I am a Real American

Hulk Hogan said it, and I lived it. I know it because I got all the questions right on this citizenship test. Immigrants apparently have to take the real test without multiple choices, so if you know any immigrants you can direct all U.S. questions to them. Happy 4th everybody!

Another Blow to Basketball in KC

The Sonics are moving to Oklahoma City. Actually, the team formerly known as the Sonics will be moving to Oklahoma City since the team is giving up rights to the name and colors. What a shocking result to a process that started with some guys who live in Oklahoma City buying a team in Seattle. Never could have seen that one coming.

Anyway, this is all bad news for Kansas City. A team that was adamant about moving is not coming here. And now, the city of Seattle is already working to replace its erstwhile team with a new one (that will be called the Sonics). So now, there aren't any teams with an imminent move, and there is at least one city (two if you believe the NBA would dare go to Vegas) ahead of KC on the pecking order.

On the plus side, if you want to see an NBA game you will soon be able to get to one in less than 6 hours. What a consolation.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

How Full of it is David Brooks?

Quite a bit, I think. He has a column for NYT suggesting that Democrats versus Republicans is really just one elite challenging another, so working-class programs will never get enacted.

Professionals, like lawyers and media types, tend to vote and give Democratic.

...Amazingly, Democrats have cultivated this donor base while trending populist on trade by forsaking much of the Clinton Third Way approach and by vowing to raise taxes on capital gains and the wealthy. If Obama’s tax plans go through, those affluent donors could wind up giving over 50 percent of their income to the federal government.

They’ve managed to clear these policy hurdles partly by looking out for tort lawyers and other special groups. But mostly they have taken advantage of the rivalry between the two American elites.

...If the Democrats are elected, this highly educated class will have much more say over policy than during the campaign. Undecided voters sway campaigns, but in government, elites generally run things. Once the Republicans are vanquished, I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for that capital gains tax hike or serious measures to expand unionization.
Completely impossible, I suppose, that the Democratic professionals Brooks talks about could actually believe in any of the programs he says won't be enacted. It's funny really , because Brooks is taking a page right of the ultra-leftist handbook - the whole society is controlled by a bunch of plutocrats, and thus it really doesn't matter who is in power. I guess right about now that might be his best argument for keeping Republicans.

80's Movie Quote of the Week

It's 4th of July, and that means one thing to Americans - movie openings. In honor of that tradition, we go back to the first July 4th opening of the 80's, Airplane!

Captain Oveur: You ever been in a cockpit before?
Joey: No sir, I've never been up in a plane before.
Captain Oveur: You ever seen a grown man naked?

... Captain Oveur: Joey, have you ever been to a Turkish prison?

...Captain Oveur: Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?

It's Different When We Do It

Kevin Drum has a post linking to a New York Times story that shows many of the interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo Bay were taken directly from a chart titled "Communist Coercive Methods for Eliciting Individual Compliance."

What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them false, from American prisoners.

The recycled chart is the latest and most vivid evidence of the way Communist interrogation methods that the United States long described as torture became the basis for interrogations both by the military at the base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Just when you think our image around the world couldn't get worse...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Bizzaro World Media

Dan Froomkin has a piece in the Washington Post about how Bush's bubble endures, even as his tenure winds down. Froomkin focuses on Bush's uncanny ability to look ever upward at the blue sky and call it orange.

But I care more about the part of the story that features the sycophants always in the room to cover the proceedings. Bush we are about to send packing. They unfortunately, will still be around. Here is Froomkin quoting what some had to say about the meeting with Bush:

Kudlow concludes: "I would say as someone who has been privileged to attend these gatherings in the past, not only did the president show the inner strength he always has, but when he does reflect on the tumultuous events of his tenure, he is completely at peace with himself and his decisions."

Jonah Goldberg writes in his Los Angeles Times opinion column: "The session, maddeningly and often foolishly punctuated by long, off-the-record musings and soliloquies, mostly dealt with foreign policy. . . .

"Dressed in a pale blue suit with a crisp blue tie, the president seemed to be in high spirits as he discussed developments in North Korea and other diplomatic initiatives, crushing my hopes for a poignant 'Bush in winter' column."
Would President Obama get similar favorable treatment? Of course not, which raises the equally disturbing question of how people so willingly blind to Bush's inadequacies will behave when someone they are predisposed to dislike enters office.

I fear an Obama victory will mean four years of unhinged, unfounded diatribes unlike any we have seen before. That will be welcome respite from this ridiculousness.

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