Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Not Getting It

Tom Friedman has some concerns about where our politics are headed:

The American political system was, as the saying goes, “designed by geniuses so it could be run by idiots.” But a cocktail of political and technological trends have converged in the last decade that are making it possible for the idiots of all political stripes to overwhelm and paralyze the genius of our system.

Those factors are: the wild excess of money in politics; the gerrymandering of political districts, making them permanently Republican or Democratic and erasing the political middle; a 24/7 cable news cycle that makes all politics a daily battle of tactics that overwhelm strategic thinking; and a blogosphere that at its best enriches our debates, adding new checks on the establishment, and at its worst coarsens our debates to a whole new level, giving a new power to anonymous slanderers to send lies around the world. Finally, on top of it all, we now have a permanent presidential campaign that encourages all partisanship, all the time among our leading politicians.
This is a pretty good articulation of some of what has me feeling down in the dumps about our future these days.

The other part of my depression is fueled by another point in Friedman's article.

I have no problem with any of the substantive criticism of President Obama from the right or left. But something very dangerous is happening. Criticism from the far right has begun tipping over into delegitimation and creating the same kind of climate here that existed in Israel on the eve of the Rabin assassination.
Most depressing about this is GOP Chairman Michael Steele's response to it:

"Where do these nut jobs come from? Come on, stop this," Steele told CNN's John Roberts on American Morning... "To make those equations, examples and put that out there that way, to me is just crazy and yeah, I'm sorry, but if you're going to approach this discussion, approach it from a rational position," Steele continued. "[They're] saying, because you disagree with the president on policy, that all of the sudden we're going to make this leap into, you know, assassinations and all this other stuff. I mean, at the height of all this stuff on Bush and people complaining and protesting, and jumping up and down, you didn't have this kind of conversation."
Yes, he is pretty much refusing to take the issue seriously. And the fact that so many are behaving the same way makes Friedman's concerns at the top of the post seem much more insurmountable.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Give Him the Award

Zack Greinke deserves the Cy Young Award. I'm stealing the reasons why from Tim Kurkjian.

Greinke leads the AL in ERA, shutouts and WHIP, is second in complete games and ranks in the top five in innings pitched, strikeouts, quality starts and batting average against.

Greinke's ERA, 2.08, is most significant compared to those of Hernandez (2.45), Halladay (3.01), Sabathia (.3.31) and Verlander (3.44). The last AL pitcher to have an ERA as low as Greinke's and not win the Cy Young Award was Roger Clemens in 1990, when he had a 1.93. Bob Welch of the A's won the Cy Young that year because he won 27 games. The AL might not have a 20-game winner this year.

Greinke's team hasn't supported him offensively: His 3.7 runs per start is the lowest of any pitcher with at least 20 starts this season.

The Royals have been a terrible defensive team this year, and their bullpen has blown 21 save opportunities, third-most in the league. Greinke easily could have 21 wins at this point of the season.
One thing to take away from the material above is that if Greinke doesn't win the Cy Young, you can blame the Royals for screwing one more thing up. For the record, I think he is going to win it. But as anyone who reads this blog can attest, my record of predictions related to the Royals are far from prescient.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Maybe He Has an Inner Ear Problem

Via the Huffington Post, a great blog called My Brain is Made of Things Gold poses an interesting question about Matthew McConaughey's stability - physically that is.

The American Public Goes Counterculture

A CBS/NYT poll came out today that showed 65% of the country supports a public option and even more Republicans approve than disapprove.

Then you have Democratic Senator Kent Conrad who says,"I don’t think a government-run plan best fits this culture. A plan that’s not government-run has the best chance of succeeding in being passed into law."

I guess you could say that something that is supported by 2/3 of the country isn't representative of the culture, but I'm not sure why you would. Matt Yglesias knows why Conrad would:

Conrad’s right, of course, that it’s easier to pass a bill that goes easy on for-profit interests than one that includes a public option. But that’s not because of “culture” it’s because of interest-group pressure. And of course one major practical problem with the public option is that powerful senator Kent Conrad opposes it. But Conrad doesn’t—or at least shouldn’t—get to cite his own opposition as the reason he opposes it.
I really like the reference at the end to Conrad's circular reasoning. I think the important cultural question here, however, is whether or not the American public is less conservative than our supposedly wild liberal congress. I suspect it is... and not because the public is a bunch of super liberals.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Doing It When It Doesn't Count

For what it is worth, the Royals' victory on Tuesday night ensured that they will not lose 100 games this season. In fact, they have played great baseball this entire month.

Should we get excited about this development? I'm going to say no.

As of today, the Royals are 55-41 over the last two seasons during April and September. Through the rest of these two seasons they are a remarkable (in a bad way) 83-135.

Well, What Would You Call Them Then?

I an article at Slate, David Greenberg talks about historians dismissive of social scientists like Richard Hofstader.

They fashion the right's midcentury critics as hopelessly elite liberals, peering down their noses at the Southern and Western riffraff mindlessly rallying behind screwball ideas, demagogic leaders, or ethnic hatreds.
SO is the problem that they were peering down their noses at the riffraff? Because the description of the riffraff sounds awfully dead on.

And On the Subject of Nonsense

The page that carries the moronic Chuch Norris column also carries this fine advertisement:

Why don't some people like Americans again?


Even if Chuck Norris can't beat you with his fists, he will pummel you with his nonsense.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Respecting the Institution

I normally don't like the "what would happen if a Democrat did this" question because you could use it all the time and it really doesn't get to the heart of the problem with our political system. On the other hand, sometimes it is all you can think to say.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) has announced to National Review that he will be personally leading a "truth squad" to the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference, where he will make it clear to international leaders not to believe that the United States will pass legislation to deal with the issue.

"Now, I want to make sure that those attending the Copenhagen conference know what is really happening in the United States Senate," said Inhofe. "Some people, like Senator Barbara Boxer, will tell the conference, with Waxman-Markey having passed in the House, that they can anticipate that some kind of bill will pass EPW."
What would happen if a Democrat did this? The right wing would of course go absolutely ape shit about the importance of speaking with a unified voice abroad and about the proper role a Senator from the minority party. I suspect they won't mind this bit of rogue statesmanship though.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Socialism Spreading Everywhere!

A great piece from M.C. Blakeman:

Of all the current assaults on our noble republic, perhaps none is more dangerous than the public option - specifically, the public library option.

For far too long, this menace has undermined the very foundations of our economy. While companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble struggle valiantly each day to sell books, these communistic cabals known as libraries undercut the hard work of good corporate citizens by letting people read their books for free. How is the private sector supposed to compete with free? And just what does this public option give us? People can spend hours and hours in these dens of socialism without having to buy so much as a cappuccino. Furthermore, not only can anyone read books for free in the library, they can take them home, too. They get a simple card that can be used at any library in town. No checking on the previous condition of books they've read. No literacy test. Nothing. Yet, do these libertines of literature let you choose any book you want, anytime you want it? No. Have you ever tried to get the latest best-seller at a public library? They put you on a waiting list for that, my friend. And if you do ask these government apparatchiks a question about a book, they start talking your ear off, and pretty soon they're telling you what to read.
There's more, of course.

Do you think there is any chance at all that this isn't exactly how the issue would be framed if the idea of libraries was introduced today?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Why Not to Elect People Who Don't Believe in Government Part 56,384 (Irving Kirstol Memorial Edition)

From a man being properly eulogized as a pioneer of modern conservatism, Irving Kristol:

Among the core social scientists around The Public Interest there were no economists.... This explains my own rather cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit and other monetary or fiscal problems. The task, as I saw it, was to create a new majority, which evidently would mean a conservative majority, which came to mean, in turn, a Republican majority - so political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Just a Chart

Make of it what you will.

Joy, Joy, Joy

There is big news in the land of Ancillary Adams. Contributor Big Smith Dude and wife are having a baby today. Congrats to the couple, and congrats to the world as it welcomes the future!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

So I'm Reading Around the Internet

And things are pretty depressing these days no?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ask and Ye Shall Receive...

... fried tasty goodness.

New Jersey!

Maybe this isn't fair. Maybe New Jersey wouldn't fair any worse than any other state in this sort of thing. It could be a picture of the insanity of our entier country. But it is what it is, and in New Jersey it is bipartisan and it is scary.

57% of liberals either think George Bush knew about 9/11 beforehand or aren't sure if he did.

35% of conservatives either think Barack Obama is the anti-christ or aren't sure if he is.

My God.

George Bush - Reality Man

In a White House known for believing its own hype, the Cheerleader in Chief was the one who seemed to understand the disaster that was Sarah Palin:

It was clear, though, that the president, ever the skilled politician, had concerns about the choice of Palin, which he called “interesting.” That was the equivalent of calling a fireworks display “satisfactory.”

“I’m trying to remember if I’ve met her before. I’m sure I must have.” His eyes twinkled, then he asked, “What is she, the governor of Guam?”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

80's Movie Line Swayze Memorial

It could only come from one 80's movie... Roadhouse. I don't know what it was like for Patrick at the end (and I certainly don't want to make light of his death), but I sure do like to imagine that he uttered this line again sometime in his final hours.

Dalton: Pain don't hurt.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Getting Back

After an absolutely fantastic week in the mountains, I returned to the real world yesterday. I learned a few things upon my return.

1. These tea party people have lost their minds even more than I thought... but maybe they haven't lost too much.

Nearby, a group of well-dressed men and women, calling themselves Billionaires for Wealthcare, who waved signs—"Less Health, More Wealth," "Let Them Eat Advil," "Do No Harm … To Our Bottom Line"—and sang songs about how health care reform would destroy their posh lives. Not everyone realized it was a joke. One protester sang along with the song, sung to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," which had the chorus, "Let's save the status quo." Another protester was baffled. "They spin everything you say!" she said to me. "You think they're on your side, but then they're not!" One volunteer for Tea Party Patriots was convinced they were on his side. "They're for us," he told me. "They're wealthy, so they're thanking everybody for coming."

2. The Chiefs still have a long ways to go.

3. The new Pearl Jam album is probably going to be the best one since Vitalogy. Listen to some of the music here.

4. The public's view on healthcare is somewhat confusing.

5. I kind of miss the mountians already.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

beatles still topper most of the popper most

i think it is awesome that the beatles catalog has finally been remastered and re-released. what is even more satisfying is that there is still a market for such a venture, and a lucrative one at that. it is as if they are more popular today then they were 40 years ago, if such a thing is possible.

what i have learned over the years, however, is that when it comes to the fab four, anything is possible. though i have yet to purchases either the mono or stereo box sets, i plan to do so in the near future. in fact, if anyone already has taken the plunge, you are more than welcome to come over this weekend and share with me your investment.

they really are the greatest band ever. come on....

Friday, September 4, 2009

They Have Principals But Not Principles

I've taken a couple of days to think about this post because I didn't want to say anything that I might someday want to take back. After a good 48 hours, however, I pretty much feel the same way.

I am ashamed of my hometown.

I love the place where I grew up. I always have, and I probably always will. I can't imagine a better place to have been raised. But I am afraid it is becoming a different place. There have been signs of this change for the last several years. But an event took place this week that has me feeling completely despondent.

Next week President Obama will address American students in a speech on "the importance of taking responsibility for their success in school." This has, of course, been interpreted by the growing mass of people who have gone completely insane as an attempt to indoctrinate their children.

Across the nation, parents have been calling their school districts to voice their displeasure that the President of the United States of America is being allowed to speak to their children and encourage the values of personal responsibility and education. At the risk of understatement, I find this discouraging.

We have now reached a place in our country where parents are less concerned about the ability of their children to think critically than they are about ensuring those children are exposed only to a self-reinforcing set of ideas that they find comfortable. Perhaps they believe children who learn to assimilate and evaluate different points of view will choose to believe ideas they themselves fear. Or perhaps they simply fear their children having a skill they clearly lack.

But I've already given them too much credit because the above assumes the president was going to speak on a controversial topic. I can't imagine a large set of parents who are uncomfortable with the idea of their children being encouraged to work had and take responsibility for their education. It seems, however, that if that is the message presented by Barack Obama, then it must be a socialist message. Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer explains:

"The Democrats have clearly lost the battle to maintain control of the message this summer,'' the state GOP chairman maintains, "so now that school is back in session, President Obama has turned to American's children to spread his liberal lies, indoctrinating American's youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves."
If the right would like to completely cede the values of hard work and personable responsibility to liberals, I say we take it.

It isn't just about the speech either. Supposedly what is getting people all agitated is the lesson plan that was sent to schools to go along with the speech. It includes such suspicious questions as:

What is the President trying to tell me?
What is the President asking me to do?
What new ideas and actions is the President challenging me to think about?
If those sound like questions designed to inspire critical thinking then you maybe don't understand what liberal indoctrination looks like. Actually, one of the questions that seems to be raising some ire is this:

Why is it important that we listen to the President and other elected officials, like the mayor, senators, members of congress, or the governor? Why is what they say important?
How you interpret this question, I think, says a lot about your worldview. If you read the word "listen" as "obey" (as in "listen to your parents") then you could argue that this is dangerous speech. If you interpret the word "listen" as "hear and consider" then you realize that a lesson to be drawn is that those opposed to a particular leader have perhaps an even greater stake in "listening." But I think some people are predisposed to believing the first interpretation of the word. That is how they use the word, and so it is how they hear the word.

A quick aside, Fox News helped me understand that it isn't just parents who are concerned about these lesson plans. "Education experts" are also concerned. Reading the story you find out that the concerned education experts are exclusively from the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute. Color me surprised.

But, this post is supposed to be about my shame. My shame is not directed at the parents who complained. Those parents are disappointing to me, but as I've mentioned they are present nationwide. My shame stems from the response of the school system.

The school system that taught me and helped instill in me the value of critical thinking, education and awareness has decided to abandon all of those principles for the purpose of avoiding the ire of a group of lunatics. The school superintendent sent out an email to all of his staff indicating that he "refused to get caught up in all the political wrangling associated with this video presentation."

The school district will not show the broadcast live. Instead:
It will be reviewed within 48 hours and a decision will be made to allow or not allow the speech to be presented to students. Administration will also determine if it is appropriate for all grade levels or should only be viewed by older students. Once again our decision will in no way be based upon political motivations but based upon what is best for XXXXXXX students.

So that's it. My school is now an institution that:

  • Values public relations over principles.
  • Places no value on critical thinking.
  • Holds no interest in helping students become alert members of society.
  • Believes that school administrators need to evaluate a speech intended for school children by the President of the United States to see if it is suitable for children.
  • Believes that not hearing what the elected leader of our country has to say could be of benefit to students.
  • Is prepared to sacrifice a learning opportunity for students for a thoughtless political gambit by a few parents.
  • Has no spine.
This is beyond depressing for me. I don't understand how we've gotten to this point as a society. I don't know how professional educators can let the forces of know-nothingism win battles that they should never even be able to start. I don't have the ability to envision where this ends, or how it possibly ends well. And I definitely don't know what happened to my school.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Kansas City in the News

Not for anything good of course:

"Nothing makes me more angry," said Sen. Mitch McConnell at a health care town hall in Kansas City today, "… than the suggestion that America does not already have the finest health care in the world." Sen. John McCain, appearing alongside him, agreed: "The quality of health care in America is the best in the world." Contrast that with what health care journalist T.R. Reid writes in his new book comparing various global health care systems: "Today, any U.S. politician who dared to make that claim … would be hooted out of the room." Reid clearly has yet to visit Kansas City.
Hey man, don't shoot the messenger! Or the city that hosted the messenger? Or know what I mean.

Nancy Pelosi Was a Friend of Mine...

Two of my favorite blogs pointed me to a story in Vanity Fair about Hank Paulson. Hank had comments on several of those he worked with. Kevin Drum pulled out a few of his opinions.

On Barney Frank:
This is a guy that’s got the intellect, he’s got the energy, he cares, and he
wants to legislate, knows how to legislate. He’s interested in getting across
the finish line... I just wish he were a Republican.

On Nancy Pelosi:
“She was engaged, she was decisive, and she was really willing to just get
involved with all of her people on a hands-on basis."

On His Republican Brethren:
“It’s not enough to just sit there and say, ‘I’m right, the other guys are
wrong,’ ” he told me at one point, explaining why it was often so difficult
working with some of the more doctrinaire members of the White House staff.
“It’s not that there’s anything wrong with ideology. I’ve got my ideology and my
philosophy. But those that say, ‘I won’t compromise,’ to prove a point, and then
‘I’m going to point a finger afterwards and say, See, I was right ... ’ ”

And Matt Yglesias ties this opinion to fellow Republican Bruce Bartlett's opinion on what is wrong with his party.

I think the party got seriously on the wrong track during the George W. Bush years, as I explained in my Impostor book. In my opinion, it no longer bears any resemblance to the party of Ronald Reagan. I still consider myself to be a Reaganite. But I don’t see any others anywhere in the GOP these days, which is why I consider myself to be an independent. Mindless partisanship has replaced principled conservatism. What passes for principle in the party these days is “what can we do to screw the Democrats today.” How else can you explain things like that insane op-ed Michael Steele had in the Washington Post on Monday?

I'm not sure that I have much more to add to any of that other than to say for the 1,417th time that this is what happens when you elect people whose total philosophy of government is that government is bad.

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