Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Biggest Lohser

The ESPN piece about the snag in the Johan Santana deal that St. Paul links to below is the talk of the town here in Minneapolis. The part that should be the talk of the town in New York is the very last paragraph which begins:
In the meantime, there are signs that the Mets continue to express interest in free-agent pitcher Kyle Lohse. Lohse was viewed, essentially, as the Mets' backup plan in case they weren't able to trade for Santana.
Yeah, that sounds about right. If you can't steal the best pitcher in baseball from the Twins the next best thing has to be signing a consistently underperforming right handed piece of trash Twins castoff.

If the Santana deal doesn't go through, all I can say is good luck to all of you Mets fans out there. Good luck.

Losing and Laughing

ESPN reports the Johan Santana trade may not be a done deal. Santana has the right to nix the whole thing and his agreement is conditional on them signing him to a new contract. Apparently negotiations are continuing and there is a remote chance Santana's $150,000,000 salary demand (yes, larger than the GDP of the nations of Kiribati and Sao Tome and Principe) may be too much for even the New York Mets to afford.

With the kinds of revenue streams the Mets are able to extort from the fans and taxpayers of New York, I can't believe they're going to quibble over a few paltry tens of millions of dollars. So I still expect to see our man Johan at a press conference donning the blue and orange within days. [bobcostas]Ironically enough, those team colors, a tribute to the two teams that left New York City decades ago when they couldn't extort massive tax subsidies of their own.[/bobcostas]

Yesterday, Bill Simmons discussed the Santana trade on an installment of his highly entertaining podcast, The BS Report (archives here). Silver lining to all of this, with the current state of all Minnesota sports, he's declared that we have edged past Buffalo on the Sports Fan Mass Suicide Index. We're number one! We're number one!

The podcast from January 15 is also good as it dealt with the speculation over the not yet consummated Santana trade. Also, more local interest with gratuitous ripping of the movie Juno and the the byline of Star Tribune sportswriter Lavelle E. Neale III.

As long as we're going back into the BS Report archives, I should point out the September 4 edition. It's one of the funniest half hours of anything I've heard in a long time. Simmons and Adam Corolla talking about Los Angeles, fantasy football, and Corolla's ideas for a couple of sports based movies.


One nice thing about traveling abroad is getting a break from the relentless political campaign coverage in the US media. It's a relief to be able to pick up a newspaper or turn on a TV and not be bombarded with the latest earth shattering political development (only to be eclipsed by the next day's earth shattering political development).

Unless I happen to tune that TV to CNN International. Or even worse the BBC. Their commentary on American politics is staggeringly insipid and uninformed. By comparison, CNN's coverage seems insightful and well-reasoned. Yes, it's that bad.

Speaking of insipid and uninformed, listening to the news on the state of the US economy as given by the BBC or the Australia Network would give one the impression that we were going through the Great Depression Redux. "Plunging stock markets," "housing crash," and "soaring unemployment" being but a few examples of the overwrought reporting.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

That Explains It

Big news out of China is the havoc being wrought by winter storms and unseasonably low temperatures. Some parts of the country are experiencing the coldest temperatures recorded in fifty years.

Enough to give one pause when thinking about global warming, right?

Of course not. From an article in yesterday's The Straits Times (not available online):

Another newspaper, the 21st Century Business Herald, interviewed a chief meteorologist who said "the extreme weather was caused by global climate change."

"In my 26 years at the meteorological services, I have never come across such weather," the paper quoted Mr Yang Guiming as saying.

And if China had been experiencing one of the driest warmest winters in years, what would the explanation be? Global climate change of course.

Ill Communication

Being sick blows.

Being sick away from home really blows.

Battling fever, chills, and nausea while laying in bed watching King's Ransom on HBO in a hotel room in Singapore blows beyond belief. Take my word for it.

You Can't Win If You Don't Play

MinnPost takes title in media Quiz Bowl

In a closely contested competition, MinnPost prevailed over WCCO-TV in overtime Tuesday to win the fourth annual media Quiz Bowl. Six teams competed in the event, sponsored by the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism and Mass Communication and hosted by its alumni board. Since MinnPost is only 12 weeks old, this was the first time we participated in the event. We promise to report on it next year, even if we lose.

Among the other illustrious competitors:

Teams from the Twin Cities' leading media organizations (WCCO TV, Star Tribune, Pioneer Press and more) will go to battle--answering questions about Minnesota politics, sports, arts and entertainment and more!

Needless to say, the Northern Alliance Radio Network was not asked to field a team or I suspect you'd be seeing a different result.

Checking the calendar, I believe we are available in January 2009 (and, coincidentally, just about every day February through December 2008). If they want to make this a real test of trivial excellence, and aren't afraid of facing the New England Patriots of Irish bar trivia, they know where to find us.

Don't You Forget About Me

Highlights from John Edwards' speech ending his campaign for President:

And I want to say to everyone here on the way here today, we passed under a bridge that carried the interstate where 100 to 200 homeless Americans sleep every night. And we stopped, we got out, we went in and spoke to them.

And I spoke to some of the people who were there. And as I was leaving, one woman said to me, "You won't forget us, will you? Promise me you won't forget us."

Well, I say to her, and I say to all those who are struggling in this country, we will never forget you. We will fight for you. We will stand up for you.


No word on whether this speech was made in front of his idling private jet waiting to whisk him back to his 28,000 sq. ft. mansion in North Carolina.

Career advice for Edwards, now that his decade long run for the Presidency is over. With this knack for stumbling upon too good to be true characters and note perfect scenarios to illustrate the political points he was going to make anyway, he has the right stuff to be a metro columnist for a big city newspaper.

Today, I am suspending my campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency. But I want to say this to everyone: with Elizabeth, with my family, with my friends, with all of you and all of your support, this son of a mill worker is going to be just fine.

And everybody drink!

It's hard to speak out for change when you feel like your voice is not being heard. But I do hear it. We hear it. This Democratic Party hears you. We hear you once again.

And we will lift you up with our dream of what's possible: one America -- one America that works for everybody; one America where struggling towns and factories come back to life, because we finally transformed our economy by ending our dependence on oil

Because nothing says prosperity like renewable energy powered utilities.

one America where the men who work the late shift and the women who get up at dawn to drive a two-hour commute and the young person who closes the store to save for college, they will be honored for that work

And the Presidential Medal of Honor for Bad Decision Making in Where to Live Based Upon Where You Work goes to ....

one America with one public school system that works for all of our children.

Because pro-choice doesn't apply to anything controlled by the national teacher's union

Do not turn away from these great struggles before us. Do not give up on the causes that we have fought for. Do not walk away from what's possible. Because it's time for all of us -- all of us -- together, to make the two Americas one.

Please do not walk away. The next presidential election is only four years away. In the remote chance that our wretched, divided country is not unified under John Edwards' utopian vision in that time, he may need you again.

The Pope of Beacon Hill

From the lofty perch of the New York Times, columnist David Brooks peers down and explains the importance of the Ted Kennedy endorsement of Barack Obama:

The Kennedy endorsements will help among working-class Democrats, Catholics and the millions of Americans who have followed Caroline's path to maturity.

Some sharp analysis there. It's true, that Ted Kennedy is a real Catholic leader. Other than the serial drunkenness, philandering, the "reckless driving," his divorce, his tireless activism for abortion, gay marriage , and embryonic stem cell research, the guy is practically the Pope. If Obama could only get the endorsement of Catholic leader Rick Majerus I think the papist vote would be locked down for good.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Meet The Mets

Twins and Mets agree to Santana trade

Multiple major league sources familiar with negotiations are confirming that the Twins and New York Mets have agreed to trade two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana for four prospects.

The deal is pending physicals and a contract extension for Santana that’s expected to be for at least six years and more than $20 million a season.

In return for Santana, the Twins will receive four of the Mets best prospects -- outfielder Carlos Gomez and righthanders Phillip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra.

Time to "get to know 'em" all over again.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Rank Journalism

Chris Riemenschneider of the Star Tribune, reaching for a metaphor where the son don't shine:

Those genius scientists figured out how to cram 10,000 songs onto an iPod small enough to hold in your butt crack, but could never invent a plastic wrap on CDs that didn't take minutes to get off, dangerously heighten your blood pressure and occasionally require stitches when you resorted to scissors.

Remind me to never borrow Chris Riemenschneider's iPod.

Maybe he's been hanging out with Bob Sansevere too much.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Turn Out The Solar-Powered Lights...

...the party's over:

St. Louis Park is abandoning $1 million worth of radios, poles and solar panels erected to create the nation's first citywide wireless Internet service powered by the sun.

It's another step in the city's falling out with the project's Maryland contractor Arinc -- a breakup that council and staff members said has "sickened" them.

"We're going to tell Arinc, 'Come get your poles, take them out of the ground, stick them someplace where the solar panels won't work at all,'" Mayor Jeff Jacobs said.

At a meeting Tuesday night, the City Council directed staff to negotiate with Arinc for the removal of the infrastructure it has installed.

Clint Pires, the city's chief information officer, said much of what Arinc built is in "the wrong locations" with "the wrong materials," and salvaging the solar project could cost another $3 million, on top of more than $800,000 the city already has spent.

The council is "sickened" by this news? What about us taxpayers of St. Louis Park who just watched our government officials piss away close to a million dollars on a project that was clearly going to be a TOTAL FREAKIN' BOONDOGGLE from the get go? And now to "salvage" this disaster, we're going to pony up another THREE MILL? We're the ones who are truly sickened by this crap.

Personally, I think the city should keep the poles and panels that dot our city landscape as a reminder of the futility of government getting involved in areas far outside their legitimate scope and trying to provide service that isn't needed. Let them stand as a reminder for the next time some "enlightened" civic leader proposes the next half-baked scheme to improve our quality of life. Especially if it sounds "cool":

Jacobs said he hopes to ask residents what they think: Should the city continue pursuing Wi-Fi after a yearlong setback?

"First, we have to find out if this technology is doable," Jacobs said. "It sounded cool for a while. We'd be using cutting-edge technology in a cutting-edge suburb. But is it really possible? This is Minnesota, for heaven's sake."

Thanks Mayor. God forbid you should have asked any of those questions before pushing this clusterfarg down our throats.

Organ Grinder

Those of you out there among the doofus hipster crowd (like JB and Atomizer) might appreciate giving the Reverand Organ Drum's "Hi-Fi Stereo" a listen. It's basically Jim Heath of Reverand Horton Heat renown along with a drummer and a guy grooving on a Hammond B-3. They lay down some solid beats that harken back to a bygone era. We played selections off the album as bumper music on yesterday's NARN First Team show.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Shoe, Other Foot

Regarding the pathetic Rick Majerus excuses from earlier this week, Sisyphus writes in with this question about the importance of obedience and loyalty to an organization:

I wonder what Majerus' response would be to a player who publicly said something like this:

"I'm very respectful to Coach Majerus," A hypothetical St. Louis University basketball player said. "But I rely on my basketball judgments, thanks to my coaching at various elite high school and AAU basketball programs. And that elite basketball education led me to believe that I ought to shoot anytime a touch the ball. And my basketball judgment happens to differ from the coach's."

"I do not speak for the team or Coach Majerus. These are my personal views. And I'm not letting him change my mind. I think a basketball team should be inclusive of many styles of play. I would hope that all people with differing basketball judgments would feel welcome on a basketball team, and that the team would serve to bring people with all styles together, even if the styles of play are incompatible."

"These beliefs are ingrained in me," the hypothetical player told the paper. " And my First Amendment right to free speech supersedes anything that Coach Majerus would order me to do. My dad fought on Okinawa in World War II. My uncle died in World War II. I had classmates die in Vietnam. And it was to preserve our way of life, so people like me could chuck up a three whenever they touched the ball."

Talk About The Weather

Free The Groundhog Day Rally!

Miinnesotans For Global Warming Is having a rally at the Minnesota Capital on the South Side Capital Steps on Saturday February 2, Groundhog Day from 12 -2PM.

The Rally is called "Minnesotans For Global Warming--Free The Groundhog Day - Don't Tax Our Breath Rally!".

The purpose of the rally is to gather and inform Minnesotans of upcoming legislation being proposed by the "Minnesota Environmental Partnership", and all the other Federal and international CO2 taxes that are being proposed and signed into law. It is our contention that these taxes will serve only to put a further burden on the Minnesota taxpayer and have no effect on the climate.

We also will ask participants to go to their caucuses and propose legislation fighting these draconian laws. We will also provide a list of how the presidential candidates stand on this issue. We will hand out this act to be read at the caucuses and to be added to the parties’ platform.

Feelin' Minnesota

In today's Wall Street Journal, Jon Weinbach notes that in the sports world Minnesota's loss has become Boston's gain (sub req):

It's a bleak winter for Minnesota sports fans. Their pro teams are pathetic. [Ahem--the Northwest Division leading Wild hardly fit that bill.] But worst of all, some of the city's most famous athletes are playing better than ever -- they're just doing it in Boston.

Thanks to help from Minnesota exports, the Boston Red Sox won their second World Series in four years, the Boston Celtics are enjoying a renaissance and the New England Patriots are playing in the Super Bowl next weekend.

Interesting angle. One that I explored back in October in a post called You Don't Know What You've Got 'Til It's Gone. Great minds and whatnot.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Technical Foul

Following up on Chad's post yesterday about the absence of Catholic leadership at Catholic universities, I see basketball coach Rick Majerus opened his enormous yap this week while campaigning for Hillary Clinton:

The Catholic basketball coach for the Catholic St. Louis University looked into the TV camera at the Clinton rally last weekend and said, "I'm pro-choice, personally."

"I'm very much an advocate for stem cell research," Majerus told KMOV-TV at the Saturday rally at McCluer North High School.

The problem, screaming mimis of censorship, is that Majerus isn't just some multi-million dollar mercenary coach for Big State U spouting off on behalf of the fashionable political positions of the day. Nobody would have a legitimate objection to his words if that were the case. (At least beyond the natural loss of respect you'd feel for anyone campaigning for Hillary Clinton).

The problem is that Majerus, for some reason, finds himself in a leadership position at a Catholic school. Someone his players and the wider student body would naturally admire and respect. So when he's advocating behavior the school believes it has a divine mandate to oppose, there will be consequences and ramifications. Or at least there should be.

I'm pleasantly surprised the Catholic Church still has a few national leaders willing to speak the truth on these controversial issues. Archbishop Burke to the breech:

"I'm confident (SLU) will deal with the question of a public representative making declarations that are inconsistent with the Catholic faith," Burke said. "When you take a position in a Catholic university, you don't have to embrace everything the Catholic church teaches. But you can't make statements which call into question that identity and mission of the Catholic church."

Common sense. Something you wouldn't think you'd have to explain to a responsible adult. Burke goes on to say:

"I'm concerned that a leader at a Catholic university made these comments. It can lead Catholics astray," Burke said Tuesday. "

Bingo. What Majerus said in his position has the power to influence people, not only to misunderstand the teachings of the Church, but also to imperil their immortal souls. Kind of high stakes there. You don't have to believe that, but the institution educating these students and employing Majerus does. Since it's a relationship all parties entered into freely, the case for righteous dissent and victim status is laughable.

That doesn't stop Majerus from trying. His reaction to Archbishop Burke's comments:

"I'm very respectful to the archbishop," Majerus said. "But I rely on my value judgments, thanks to my education at Marquette, which is a Jesuit institution, just like St. Louis. And that Jesuit education led me to believe that I can make a value judgment. And my value judgment happens to differ from the archbishop's."

"I do not speak for the university or the Catholic Church. These are my personal views. And I'm not letting him change my mind. I think religion should be inclusive. I would hope that all people would feel welcome inside a church, and that the church would serve to bring people together, even if they happen to disagree on certain things."

You get the sense Majerus doesn't think beyond himself very much. Childish stubbornness and appeals to the secular church of tolerance above all. That is enough to get applause from liberal, blowhard sportswriters around the country, who are always looking for ways to exhibit their vast intelligence and judgment beyond the mere realm of sports. But it's not relevant.

The argument is simple. You have Catholic teaching on morality according to the Archbishop, the Pope, and about 2,000 years of tradition. You have a different teaching according to Rick Majerus's value judgments. Which should a Catholic school feel compelled to impart to its students?

Majerus goes on:

"These beliefs are ingrained in me," Majerus told the paper. " And my First Amendment right to free speech supersedes anything that the archbishop would order me to do. My dad fought on Okinawa in World War II. My uncle died in World War II. I had classmates die in Vietnam. And it was to preserve our way of life, so people like me could have an opinion."

I see his Jesuit education did about as good in teaching him Constitutional law as it did in teaching him Catholic doctrine. Regarding his appeal to the First Amendment in the matter of a private institution's ability to discipline its employees for inappropriate behavior, I quote a damning critique. The First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Really, those first five words are essential in understanding these rights. Until the White House signing ceremony of the bill to silence Rick Majerus, he needs to stop wrapping himself in the Constitution.

Majerus's defense of himself is more damaging to his credibility than his original comments. You have to wonder how a man like this got hired by a Catholic university in the first place. Or by any university which values knowledge, wisdom, civility, composure, loyalty, sacrifice, etc.

I suspect there was something valued more by St. Louis University than those characteristics. Something more important in the grand scheme of things.

Majerus is an excellent basketball coach, a proven winner. He's paid one like too. This Catholic university is reportedly paying him an astonishing $1 million per year on a six year contract.

How does a school with this mission statement:

The Mission of Saint Louis University is the pursuit of truth for the greater glory of God and for the service of humanity.

justify spending that much for a guy in charge coaching a sport, which should be nothing more than a distraction, a sideshow?

This may have something to do with it:

Athletic director Cheryl Levick wanted to give [the former coach] one more season but was overruled by [university president Father Lawrence Biondi], who envisioned the hiring of Majerus as a complement to the school’s new $85 million on-campus arena due to open in November 2008.

You can't argue with the economics. You've got to spend money to make money. The bills for that $85 million arena need to be paid and it will be easier with a winning basketball team, the kind Rick Majerus can give you. So what's a little heresy between business partners, as long as you're in the black?

The problem goes beyond Rick Majerus's values. It's the school's values that brought a guy like Majerus into a leadership role at a Catholic university in the first place.

All Wet

Arthr Laffer writes on the folly on trying to "soak the rich" in today's Wall Street Journal (free for all):

But now we get to the secret sauce, and the essence of what really happens in the realm of tax rates, incomes and tax payments by the rich.

We have accurate data on both the total taxes paid by the top 1% of income earners, and on their comprehensive household income as measured by the Congressional Budget Office. From these two data series we can calculate the effective average tax rate for the top 1% of all income earners.

Surprise, surprise: The effective average tax rate for the top 1% of income earners barely wiggles as Congress changes tax codes after tax codes, and as the economy goes from boom to bust and back again (see chart).

The question is, how can that effective average tax rate be so stable? The answer is simply that the very highest income earners are and have always been able to vary their reported income and thus control the amount of taxes they pay. Whether through tax shelters, deferrals, gifts, write-offs, cross income mobility or any of a number of other measures, the effective average tax rate barely budges. But this group's total tax payments are incredibly volatile.

For the low- and middle-income earners, the effective average tax rate has tumbled over the past 25 years, and so have tax revenues no matter how they're measured.

Using recent data, in other words, it would appear on its face that the Democratic proposal to raise taxes on the upper-income earners, and lower taxes on the middle- and lower- income earners, will result in huge revenue losses on both accounts. But some academic advisers to Democratic candidates have a hard time understanding the obvious, devising outlandish theories as to why things are different now. Well they aren't!

When will they ever learn?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dont Know Much Spirituality

In January's First Things, Robert Louis Wilken comments on what Catholic students don't learn in college:

The absence of intellectual leadership on the part of Catholic faculty deprives students of models of well-educated Catholic laymen and laywomen who by their life and conversation display a mature and seasoned faith. Seldom will students find guides among the faculty who can deepen their understanding of Catholicism—suggesting a book here, an article there--as their studies present challenges to what they learned at home. Sadly, many Catholic students will go through four years of college to become reasonably well informed in some area of study--European history, American literature, international politics, biology--yet leave the university children spiritually.

That rings all too true. And it usually doesn't matter if they attend a Catholic school like Notre Dame or not. Speaking of Golden Domers, ESPN co-host suspended for vulgar remarks:

Dana Jacobson has been missing from ESPN2's 'First Take' but the co-host isn't on vacation.

In a story first reported by the Chicago Tribune, Jacobson has been suspended for the week because of remarks she made at a Jan. 11 roast for ESPN Radio morning show hosts Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic in Atlantic City, N.J.

Jacobson, a Michigan graduate, made vulgar comments about Notre Dame. Golic played football at the latter school. A newspaper account of the roast said Jacobson was booed by the crowd.

An ESPN spokesperson would not confirm the suspension to the Star Tribune but the company did put out a statement that said, 'Her actions and comments were inappropriate and we have dealt with it and she has been disciplined.'

Jacobson also issued her own statement. 'I am very sorry. My remarks about Notre Dame were foolish and insensitive,' she said. 'I respect all religions and did not mean anything derogatory by my poorly chosen words. I also deeply regret the embarrassment I have caused ESPN and Mike and Mike.

'My actions at the roast were inappropriate and in no way represent who I really am. I have personally apologized to many of the people involved. I won't make excuses for my behavior but do hope that I can be forgiven for such a poor lack of judgment.'

Paul e-mails to add:

I have been following the DJ situation closely. According to the blog, but unsubstantiated by major media or audio/video, Jacobson (who is Jewish) said quote:

"F*** Notre Dame, F*** Touchdown Jesus, F*** Jesus."

I don't know exactly what she said. Unless we see tape or hear interviews with multiple attendees, we may never know.

The event was a roast and roasts sometimes get lewd. I don't think I'd feel comfortable attending a roast that was sponsored by my employer. It seems likely that the event would either be totally lame or potentially get out of hand and get people in serious trouble.

As for what Jacobson allegedly said, I have no problems with her first two effs. Her eff of ND is just slamming a football rival. Her eff of Touchdown Jesus doesn't even bother me, since it is a specific piece of artwork/architecture that depicts a religious figure. Since TDJ appears to taunt the fans and players of opposing teams, it is a fair target for a roaster from a rival school. However, her eff of Jesus is deeply offensive to all Christians and the Catholic League should be commended for pressuring ESPN into punishing her.

I am certain that ESPN executives know what she said. To suggest it was because she insulted Notre Dame seems to me to be an attempt to sweep her anti-Christian statements under the rug. Few care (or should) if she insulted Notre Dame, insulting Jesus is an affront to all Christians. So my position is no punishment for statements 1 or 2, and severe punishment for statement 3. Imagine if she said that about Muhammed!

ESPN is pretty hypocritical. They didn't punish her for a week until the Catholic League started calling press conferences. Yet when Golf Channel commentator Kelly Tillman commented that the only way other golfers would win is if they lynched Tiger Woods, ESPN blasted that all over SportsCenter.

Fare Thee Well

High-Profile Officer Nagl to Leave Army, Join Think Tank:

One of the Army's most prominent younger officers, whose writings have influenced the conduct of the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq, said he has decided to leave the service to study strategic issues full time at a new Washington think tank.

Lt. Col. John Nagl, 41, is a co-author of the Army's new manual on counterinsurgency operations, which has been used heavily by U.S. forces carrying out the strategy of moving off big bases, living among the population and making the protection of civilians their top priority.

This is bad news for the Army. We interviewed Lt. Col. Nagl a couple of times on the NARN and he was a very thoughtful, well-spoken representative of the military. His work on counter-insurgency doctrine has proved invaluable and he has performed great service for his country. He will be sorely missed, but will still be able to contribute to the national security discussion in his new role at a think tank. We wish him the best of luck in his new endeavour.

Kumbaya Al Gore, Kumbaya

Pawlenty joins global-warming radio ad:

Deepening his involvement in the global warming debate and in national affairs, Gov. Tim Pawlenty is lending his voice to a nationwide radio ad sponsored by the activist Environmental Defense Action Fund. In the ad, Pawlenty teams up with Arizona's Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano to scold Congress for not doing more to combat climate change.

Against a background of inspirational, New Age-style music, the two tout state-level achievements and urge Congress to pass national curbs on greenhouse gas emissions. Quick action could spur thousands of 'enviro-friendly' jobs, Pawlenty and Napolitano say in the ad. Foot-dragging, they warn, could push job-yielding innovations overseas.

Remember the days when T-Paw's name was seriously being floated as a potential VP choice? Even if McCain is the nominee, I can't imagine that he could afford to have someone with less than solid conservative cred like Pawlenty as his running mate.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Say Say Say What You Want

But don't play games with the economy. Writing in today's Journal, George Melloan explains that despite what Hillary Clinton may believe, there is no such thing as a free stimulus (or a free lunch) (free for all):

Keynesianism crashed in the 1970s, when the U.S. suffered slow economic growth and high inflation: "stagflation." There was nothing in Keynesianism to explain this phenomenon. But there was an easy explanation available in classical economics, the simple principles that Ronald Reagan -- who learned at an early age that he had to work to eat -- understood very well. The so-called "supply-side" movement was nothing less or more than a return to these simple principles.

The explanation was this: If a government hampers production through heavy taxes and economic regulation -- or by inflating the currency -- production will slow down and there will be less to consume. To revive production, government must reduce the tax and regulatory burden and kill inflation -- which Reagan did to such good effect. Tossing dollars from planes doesn't do it; neither did Hoover's attempts to help farmers through protectionism, which proved disastrous, nor FDR's unconstitutional scheme to help producers with price-fixing cartels.

Clearly stock markets around the world aren't cheered by all the current talk of stimulus and a further cheapening of the dollar: They know all too well how politicians can convert adversity into catastrophe. Instead, the right policy is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent and pull up regulatory weeds, like Sarbanes-Oxley. Sound money and relief for producers is the best anti-recession prescription. It worked in 1981 because it was good policy. Say's Law is just as valid today as it was 200 years ago.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Micro Versus Macro

It's not easy to hold fast to your free market economic principles these days. The Democrats are trying to out demagogue each other on the horrible state of the economy and how the only answer to our woes is government, government, and yes MORE government. Most of the Republican candidates aren't much better. From the populism of Hucakabee to the corporatism of Romney, there's not a lot for a free marketeer to get excited about.

Then there's the various stimulus plans. On a policy level, they are all variations on the theme of "feeling good while accomplishing little." As Alan Reynolds explains in today's Journal (free for all):

All proposals for fiscal stimulus claim to "jump-start" the economy by having the government borrow money from Smith and give it to Jones.

Unfortunately, Smith is paid interest on that IOU, which implies a higher tax burden on somebody. That future taxpayer is, as usual, the forgotten man. All the attention is instead focused on Jones -- trying to get the Jones family to spend more on what Mr. Bush alluded to as "basic necessities."

Investors know such consumer staples are the least cyclical component of the economy. The most recession-prone household purchases are those that can most easily be postponed, such as new homes, cars, appliances and furniture. Increasing the generosity of unemployment benefits, home heating subsidies, and food stamps is no help to such cyclical industries.

An indiscriminate spurt in "aggregate demand" is essentially irrelevant to longer-term economic problems concentrated in particular industries and particular areas. Food stamps don't buy condos in Las Vegas or new cars from Detroit. Subsidies to lower-income households are also very difficult for Congress to take back and therefore unlikely to prove temporary.

Extending unemployment benefits "increases the average duration of unemployment by about two weeks," according to the Congressional Budget Office. That is certainly no stimulus. The resulting higher unemployment rate then provides an ironic rationale for more spending, which hurts rather than helps. Transfer payments discourage work. Federal purchases absorb real resources such as skilled labor, real estate and equipment that would otherwise be available at a lower cost to private business.

But on a personal level, I feel a bit like Krusty debating whether he should vote for Sideshow Bob:

Krusty: Well, he framed me for armed robbery, but man, I'm aching for that upper-class tax cut. [votes for Bob]

Well, I know the stimulus plans are a joke, but man, I'm aching for that $1600 tax rebate.

Same with today's interest rate cut by the Fed:

The Federal Reserve, confronted with a global stock sell-off fanned by increased fears of a recession, cut its target for the federal funds rate by three-quarters of a percentage point to 3.5%, the biggest single cut in interest rates since August 1982.

Given the weakness of the dollar and some other frightening signs that we're already slumping towards a Seventies style era of stagflation, a rate cut by the Fed is not what I would prefer from a policy perspective. But as someone who's been trying to sell a house in a soft market and hopefully purchase another one soon, lower interest rates sound pretty damn appealing right now.

It's a tough time to separate the politics from the personal.

Getting Down To Business

There are many valid reasons for conservatives to have serious reservations about John McCain. Because of his tendency to engage in populist rhetoric against "big business," I've had some concerns about what his attitude toward business would be if he occupied the Oval Office. Although the title of the piece didn't do much to ease my fears, a couple of paragraphs from an article in today's Wall Street Journal--McCain Keeps Populist Pitch (sub req)--did provide some cause for hope:

Mr. McCain bristles at the notion that his voting record means he's antibusiness. "I've never had a record of being, quote, anti-business. In fact, I'm pro business." He points to support from Wall Street titans John Thain, chief executive of Merrill Lynch & Co., and Henry Kravis, founder of private equity firm Kolberg Kravis Roberts & Co. Orange County, Calif. real-estate mogul Donald Bren is a top fund-raiser.

He refers to rankings from groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Look at my record and at what I've done and not at rhetoric that some people might have," he says.

Yet a look at the Chamber of Commerce's records shows that Mr. McCain is a fickle friend to the group's priorities in Congress. He often ranks near the bottom among Republicans, although higher than most Democrats, in voting for legislation the group supports. In 2001, he voted 50% of the time with the group's preferences.

His opposition is often rooted in disdain for legislation that benefits specific industries or companies and discretionary spending, especially the kind passed through legislative "earmarks" that don't require a formal committee review. He sees overspending as both a cause for the current economic condition and the downfall of the Republican party in the 2006 election. "When Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, he said we've got to cut taxes, but we have to cut spending," he said last week in South Carolina. "Unfortunately, in the year 2001, we went the opposite direction."

As a strong supporter of free markets, I want a president who will seek to create a healthy economic and regulatory climate for business in general, not to support specific businesses. Frankly, using the power of the government to support individual companies is exactly what group like the Chamber of Commerce are often after and it's why I'm skeptical of their endorsements of either candidates or specific issues.

This doesn't mean that McCain is entirely solid (and more importantly supportable) on his approach to business issues. What it does mean is that it isn't an area that should necessarily lead free market conservatives to disqualify him as a candidate. One down, many more to go.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Skate Or Die (of exposure)

A few pics from last weekend's frigid US Pond Hockey National Championships.

A sunny day at the beach:

No need for a lifeguard:

The sun was bright if not necessarily warm:

Lucky Number Thirteen?

You can't play if you don't shovel:

The goal that everyone seeks:

While it looks pretty straight-forward, finding the twelve-inch wide openings on either side of the goal is trickier than it appears. Pond hockey is definitely a different animal.

Speaking of animals, here's a shot of one very motley crew:

There's no doubt that we were the best one and three team in the tourney. Well, almost no doubt.


Loud-mouth Packer Al Harris...

And loud-mouth alien Jar Jar Binks?

The Frozen Chundra Of Lambeau Field

Ouch. That one has to hurt. Packer fans, I feel your pain. I still laugh at it, but I definitey know what you're going through right now. This was your year. You were a team of destiny. All you had to do was win one more game at home and you were going to the Super Bowl. You couldn't lose.

Until something happened. The game didn't unfold as expected. You were nervous when you went to overtime, but you still kept reassuring yourself that your team would find a way. They had to. It couldn't end any other way.

And then, the field goal attempt. You hope for a bad snap, but it's solid. You see the ball rise through the air and head toward the goalposts and your heart sinks. You know that it's going to be good. The ball sails through the uprights. You last desperate hope for a flag is dashed and it's over. You are crushed.

Been there, agonized that. I almost feel a twinge of sympathy for you. Almost. And then I remember the day after the '99 NFC Championship Game. I was on vacation in the Florida Keys and feeling absolutely miserabe after the Vikings had fallen to the Falcons.

My wife and I were out for a walk in the neighborhood where our inlaws had a vactaion home. A truck with Wisconsin plates pulled up and an older couple struck up a conversation with us. After learning that we were from Minnesota, the gent broke into a wide grin. "How 'bout them Vikings?," he needled. It took all of my available control to refrain from pulling him from the cab and delivering a thorough thrashing.

So Packer fans--while I understand your pain and suffering--it will not prevent me from savoring this moment for all it's worth. And by the way, trying to console yourself by saying "there's always next year" doesn't really hold water in today's NFL (unless you're the Patriots). For most teams, the window isn't open that very often or for very long. When your time comes, you better find a way to get through 'cause you don't know when you'll get another chance.

How 'bout them Packers?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

What's A Couple Million Between Friends

According to today's Star and Sickle, cost overruns on Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) construction projects are costing taxpayers $20 million a year.

MnDOT officials provided this astonishing explanation via email to the newspaper:
"The findings indicate that MnDOT supplemental agreements amount to approximately $20 million per year ... a relatively small amount, given the agency's $550 million annual construction budget," the e-mail said. "We're constantly striving to make MnDOT work better."
Here's an idea. Let's cut MnDOT's budget by $20 million a year and see if they, and all you bozos out there who think they're underfunded, think that's a "relatively small amount".

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Wind Chill Is For Wimps

The air temp when the puck dropped for our first game this morning at the US National Pond Hockey Championships? A chilly minus fourteen. That ain't windchill, that's straight up temperature.

It was cold enough to freeze up the generator in the main warming house tent, which meant no heat until later in the morning. I was able to find space in another building to get dressed, but not everyone was so lucky.

As players straggled out onto the frigid ice, in some ways we resembled the German troops who arrived at the gates of Moscow in 1941 completely unprepared for the Russian winter. Under our helmets, there was a variety of mismatched clothing employed to stave off the cold. Hats, hoods, headbands, masks, skull caps, scarves, kerchiefs, etc, I swear one guy was wearing a part of his kitchen curtains.

Many faces bore the oily sheen of petroleum jelly. Some used hand and feet warming packets. It was a battle to stay warm, but one well worth fighting.

And you know what? It wasn't that bad. Part of it is probably the expectation of extreme cold that you build up. When you experience the real thing it can't possibly live up to the hype (yes, I have been watching the local news). The other thing is that once you start playing, get your legs moving, and are in the heat of the action, you don't think about the cold. It's really a non-factor.

By the time each of our games ended today, I was drenched with sweat and not in the least way cold. The coldest parts of the day for me were walking from the car in the morning and back in the afternoon. In between, out on the lake I was completely comfortable.

The best part of the pond hockey championships is playing hockey (of course), making new acquaintances, and renewing old ones. The fact that there's a beer garden in the warming tent doesn't hurt either, The fact that said beer is Summit Extra Pale Ale and nothing but Summit EPA is icing on a very frozen, but delicious cake.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Get To Omaha!

Robert heps us to the YouTube clip of one of the most memorable ads ever. At least it was for JB and me during our well-spent days of youth. You gotta love the internet.

Game On

Game one down. We didn't win, but the weather really wasn't that bad. I was actually quite cozy out on the lake. The ice was already pretty bad though. Game two this afternoon. Maybe I'll lose one of the layers by then.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

On Frozen Pond

It's January. It's Minnesota. And it's cold. That must mean it's time for the third annual U.S. Pond Hockey Championships. For the second straight year the battle for the Golden Shovel will be played out on the frozen ice of Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis. And for the third straight year, I will be lacing 'em up, although not with the same squad as the previous two years. Apparently there was a registration snafu, the snafu in question being our captain who missed the registration deadline. Lucky for me, another team was looking for a skilled player with experience to fill in. One out of two ain't bad.

This year's tourney may be more about survival than skill anyway. The forecast high for our two games tomorrow is 6 degrees above zero. Which will seem downright balmy compared to Saturday when the HIGH temp for the day is expected to be 3 below zero. We have another two games that day, both before noon which means we'll probably be lucky to see -6. And don't even get me started on the wind chills which are predicted to hit between -28 and -38. There's not a lot of shelter out on the open ice of a lake either.

These are the kind of conditions that separate the men from the boys. And may turn some of the men into boys if they don't protect certain sensitive areas. Lots of layers baby.

If you take a look at the rosters you'll notice a score of familiar names with D1 and even some NHL experience. In the past couple of tourneys, teams loaded with such talent haven't been the ones that came away with the coveted Golden Shovel. However, if you're looking for a squad with a roster that you'll recognize, consider Johnny Upton & Associates:

Nick Checco
Larry Olimb
Brian LaFleur
Dave Paradise
Dusty Anderson
Corey Peterson

Not as many team names stand out this year. You've got the return of "Snakes on the Pond" and the timely "Subprime." But my favorite entry has to be "Big Test Icicles" (think it about--Packer fans may need some assistance), a name which may well be very descriptive of what it takes to survive and thrive on the frozen pond this year.

It's too bad that Hugh is so busy carrying water for Mitt that he can't fulfill his duties as Minnesota Hockey Commissioner on the ice. He could be doing his show live tomorrow from Lake Nokomis. That would truly be Hugh Hewitt On Ice. Oh well, there's always next year. It's not like he'll be doing anything during the Inauguration.

Worse Than Wearing An Orange Jumpsuit

Man cited after forcing son to wear Packers sweat shirt, says he was only joking:

A Pardeeville father accused of forcing his 7-year-old son to wear a Packers sweat shirt and then tying him up during the divisional playoff game last weekend said the incident was a joke that "got blown way out of proportion."

Mathew Kowald, 36, was cited for disorderly conduct Wednesday after authorities arrested him Monday on tentative felony charges of causing mental harm to a child and false imprisonment. He was issued only a disorderly conduct citation for the incident.

Kowald reportedly forced a Packers sweat shirt on the boy, who said to his father that he refused to root for the Packers and was told by Kowald that anyone who said that would be grounded. Kowald allegedly also wrapped his son in insulation tape, forcing him to watch the football game.

When his son still refused to cheer for the Packers, Kowald tried waterboarding and sleep deprivation. Kidding of course. But maybe we should think about transferring some of the real hard cases from Gitmo to Green Bay. If I was a jihadist I know I'd crack if someone told me that I'd be forced to wear Green and Gold, cheer for the infidel Packers, and eat haram brats. What would the ACLU say about that?

"He wanted the juvenile to be a Packers fan, and I would suggest he went about it the wrong way," Columbia County Lt. Wayne Smith said.

You think? Stay classy Packer fans. Stay classy.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Laugh Out Loud Radio

After spending the last month relentlessly attacking whichever Republican candidate seemed to pose the biggest threat to his man Mitt (Huckabee at first--now more McCain), Hugh Hewitt uncorked this knee slapper on his show tonight (paraphrased):

"I wish they would stop their negative attacks on Romney and instead focus on the policies their candidates support."

I damn near drove off the road I was laughing so hard. Who knew that Hugh had such a wicked sense of humor?

Does Brett Like Peanut Butter?

Romney finally won a primary by pandering and promising to use the power of the Federal government to rescue companies who have been proved unable to compete in free markets? Meh.

Let's talk football with a double shot of Vox Day. First, he explains why Vikings losses that don't kill you only make you stronger:

People occasionally ask me how I can persevere so stoically in the face of constant scorn, derision, mockery and ridicule. They marvel at my ability to shrug off the most scathing attacks with little more than a sardonic smile, and they wonder how I remain so blithely unmoved by criticism, dislike and hate.

I find it hard to understand the question. I am a Vikings fan. There is nothing you can throw at me that could make me feel any worse than I have felt before. I sobbed in 1974. I raged with burning fury in 1975. I cried in 1976. I felt sick in 1987. By 1998, there was nothing left inside but a frozen hollow. In 2000 and 2003, I barely blinked. That which did not break me has made me stronger and harder than you can possibly imagine.

I can relate. The fire burning within me in '75 was stoked by the fact that I was watching the game with relatives in Wisconsin and all of my uncles (Packers fans) were cheering for the cheating Cowboys. The ironclad hatred of the Green and Gold was forged early on.

Vox also addresses the strange obsession that male Packer fans have with Favre:

So squealed Peter King:

"I just want to tell you one thing," Ruprecht, a 39-year-old optometrist from LaCrosse told me, his eyes crystal clear. "When Brett Favre retires, I will cry. In fact, the day he retires I will call in sick. I won't be able to work."

Now we had built up a little bit of trust and had been talking for a while. Here came the big guns. "This is going to sound weird," he said. "I dream about this guy. I dream that I'm going shopping with him."
I like football as much as anyone. I love football. On days when I can't watch football, I play Maddens. (Okay, I often play Maddens on days when I watch football too.) I probably throw the pigskin around outside every other day; Spacebunny may look like an SI model but she doesn't throw like a girl. There are even Packers owners in the family.

But mamas, this is why you don't let your babies grow up to be Packer Backers.

There's something a little creepy about the way that male Packer fans adore and apparently dream about Favre. Something a little bit too much like the way that Smithers dreams about Mr. Burns.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Nothings brings in the e-mail like a little football talk.

Dan from Glen Lake kicks off:

Judging your post about resisting the Pack. I'm starting to think you may be getting nervous about having anyone to watch the Vikings with next year. The masses can not resist the great field, supportive fans, winning (not bitching and whining) attitude, and last but not least, possibly the best player to ever pick up the pig skin. Even when they lose they are more fun to watch than the pathetic purple.

God man, how many times are you going to be let down in your life? I know you lead a fairly healthy lifestyle but best case you only have fifty years left of watching this team. What are the odds of them straightening and winning a super bowl in the next five decades?

Cheering for a team is not about calculating the odds and going with the winners. It's about loyalty and eternal hope in the face of constant disappointment.

Wright piles on:

It must be fun to be a Vikings fan and have so much to look forward to.

"If my sorry bunch of losers isn't going anywhere, why, I'll, I'll - I'll hold my breath and hope the team that kicked their butts loses! That'll make us better!"


I said it was a different type of joy. And yes, it does make me feel better.

Mitch makes a pitch:

First of all, great site and great radio show. I listen as much as I'm able.

But regarding the Vikings.

What is the point of being a "real fan?" I was from 1978 to 1998. I gave them 20 years and they couldn't do it. I emotionally disconnected after the "Take a Knee" game against Atlanta and now I'm just a spectator. For every team.

But about the Vikings, none of them are from here anymore. None of them care about you. Not owners, not front-office, not coaches, not players. All the shouting in your living room or praying helps them not a single bit. Loyalty means nothing to these guys, although they try to talk a good game. Add to that the fact that the simplest of your blog entries is likely beyond their reading comprehension, and what is there to cheer for? What, if a bunch of coddled, steroid-pumped, half-literate monsters wins more games, that makes Minnesota somehow a better place than Wisconsin, or Chicago, or Detroit? Maybe it makes you feel better. I think the only thing worse than a Vikings loss is a Vikings win. "Nobody gave us a chance, nobody believed in us, nobody showed us any respect, etc." God, these dinks need our allegiance and constant adulation for haphazard, uninspired play? Screw that!

Unfortunately, he chooses one of the least effective comparisons in history:

I've become a citizen of the world, a la Al Gore when it comes to football. Totally bandwagon. I love the frontrunner. Damn me if you will, but I love what Brett Favre does on a football field. I love Bill Belichick's "up yours" attitude. Cheating? We live in a society that demands winning at all costs, doing what you have to do. He filmed plays. Stealing signs in baseball is lauded. This is cheating?

You can have Al Gore, I'll take Al Davis and his "just win baby" philosophy which is reflected in Belichick's approach. I too love Bellichick's attitude toward the game. There is no such thing as "running up the score" in professional sports. Mitch continues:

I want a Packers/Patriots Super Bowl and I want the Packers to win, because I embrace Chaos in politics and football. I want the Packers to stand in the way of Destiny.

"Real fans." Let's remind the world how provincial we are in the Flyover Zone.

See you on the Dark Side.

No, my anarchistic friend, you most certainly will not.

Adam turns the Packers over and changes the momentum:

After skipping through channels and finding the Super Bowl XXXII replay on NFL Network tonight it was funny to read your post on the limited joy we Viking fans have. You might have forgotten that those Broncos were 13 point underdogs and only the second Wild Card team to win it all. Even if the Pack would have come back in that game my several hundreds of dollars in bets were already secured by the end of the third quarter thanks to that generous line run up by over confident Pack fans. Anyway, I am happy to report that the Denver Broncos are still Super Bowl XXXII Champions! Keep up the good work online and on the Internet.

PS - Brett Favre and Trent Dilfer are tied at 1 in Super Bowl titles and it ain't going to change this year.

I, and all real Viking fans, most certainly hope not.

Finally, Tim heps to a reminder than no matter how much you may disagree with some of Rudy Giuliani's social positions, you can't question his judgment:

Punta Gorda, FL--Rudy Giuliani refused to sign a potential voter's Green Bay Packers hat after a campaign stop Monday afternoon, saying it would be "bad luck."

The loyal New York Giants fan denied the request as he was signing autographs and posing for photos after a meet and greet at the Village Fish Market and Restaurant on day two of his bus tour through the Sunshine State. While Florida has become the campaign's must-win state, Giuliani is apparently drawing a line as to how far he will go to woo voters.

"I won't sign that," he said after campaign chairman Pat Oxford handed him the hat. "No, no, no. That would be bad luck right now."

The Giants are set to play the Packers in the NFC Championship game on Sunday and Giuliani is a life-long fan of his hometown team.

"I'll sign it after (the game)," Giuliani told the man as he instead signed another supporters' Giants visor. But the Packers fan was relentless, again demanding Giuliani "sign it now!" Giuliani refused the request after which the man could be heard grunting.

For a Packer fan, that's actually a pretty witty and restrained rebuttal.

Monday, January 14, 2008

A Manichean Worldview

Since we're in the midst of the NFL playoffs and our local Pro Bowl stacked squad is once again relegated to watching the games on TV like the rest of us, it's a good time to remind Vikings fans of the lurking dangers of apostasy. When your team is not in the playoffs, there is a temptation to find another team to cheer on. There is nothing wrong with that in principle. Unless of course that other team is your hated divisional rival.

Since there seems to be some confusion on the matter, allow me be perfectly clear: as a Vikings fan you in good conscience can not in any circumstances ever pull for the Packers. EVER. When it comes to the Purple and the Green and Gold, the choice really is as simple as black and white. There are no shades of gray. You are a Vikings fan OR a Packers fan. But it is a metaphysical impossibility to attempt to be both. EVER.

It's easy to be seduced by the lure of Lambeau, Favre, and knee-walking inebriation. But you must not succumb to it in any way lest you never get back on the path of righteousness again. There are those who have gone over to the Dark Side, but they never return. You cannot serve two masters.

Although Vikings fans are wandering in the playoff wilderness, it's not only a time of suffering and tribulation. There still is room for joy, albeit of a different nature. My favorite Super Bowl was XXXII when the Broncos downed the favored Packers. Seeing the Packers lose and knowing that the hopes and dreams of their fans had been crushed was about as good as a Super Bowl gets for a Vikings fan, especially considering our own shortcomings in the big game.

So hold fast Vikings fans. Hope that the Giants continue their improbable run and end the Packers season next week. Know that even if the Packers win the NFC Championship they will more than likely have to face the Patriot juggernaut in the Super Bowl. Watching Randy Moss help win a title for New England will be a little tough for Vikings fans to take. But watching him do it against the Packers will be far more sweet than bitter.

Anybody But ______

The polls have closed and our readers have weighed in on who they would least wish to see in the Oval Office come January 2009. Despite the fact that the poll had am angle that was intended to come up with a certain result, only 12% of you thought that the Prohibition Party's Gene Amondson was the worst President we could end up with. Personally, I voted for Amondson early and often. No matter how bad any of the other candidates might be as President (even John Edwards' level of bad), at least you could drink away the pain with them. What's that saying again? Better a wet Turk than a dry Christian.

The candidate that most of you fear ending up as CIC is Hillary who claimed 29% of the vote. Edwards captured 24%, while only 11% of you thought Obama was the worst case scenario.

On the GOP side, Mike Huckabee was the least favored with 8% followed closely by Ron Paul at 7%. Rudy garnered 4%, Romney and McCain 2%, and only 1% selected Fred Thompson as the candidate they would least like to see as POTUS. I guess that could be read as an endorsement of sorts and these days Fred needs all the help he can get.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Yuppie Spawn

Those of you with young children have probably wondered who the sinister force behind the televised abomination known as the "The Naked Brother's Band" was. In Friday's Wall Street Journal, the Hollywood Report provides the answer (sub req):

When it premiered in 1987, the prime-time soap opera "thirtysomething" was unlike anything else on television. An homage to yuppie angst, the show developed into a lower-rated but critically adored antidote to the "Dallas" and "Dynasty" genre that otherwise ruled that decade.

Now, 20 years later, "thirtysomething" isn't even available on DVD, and none of its cast members have gone on to acting stardom. But nearly all of them have become highly influential in the entertainment world in other ways, stepping behind the cameras to write, direct and produce hit television shows this season.

Peter Horton, the heartthrob of "thirtysomething" as English-literature professor Gary Shepard, went on to executive-produce ABC's mega-hit "Grey's Anatomy." He is now the executive producer of this year's modest hit "Dirty Sexy Money" on ABC.

The new prime-time soap "Lipstick Jungle," making its debut Feb. 7 on NBC, is executive-produced by Timothy Busfield, who played adulterous ad man Elliot Weston on "thirtysomething." Ken Olin, best known as the show's conflicted yuppie protagonist, Michael Steadman, produces, directs, writes and acts on ABC's drama "Brothers and Sisters." And Nickelodeon's hit show "The Naked Brothers Band" is the creation of Polly Draper, who played driven City Hall worker Ellyn Warren.

Somehow it all makes sense now.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Organ Rejection

Last night before the GOP debate, JB and I were chatting about politics and we realized that we both have come to some similar conclusions about the Democratic field:

- No matter how leftist his policies may be, there's no denying that having a President Obama would make for interesting times. Not necessarily bad or good, but interesting.

- Having another President Clinton would be infinitely preferable to the nightmarish prospect of a President Edwards.

Thankfully, the chances of John Edwards getting anywhere near the White House now appear quite remote. For more on why John Edwards is the most dishonest, despicable Democrat to seek the White House in our lifetimes, consider a piece in today's Wall Street Journal by Scott Gottlieb on Edwards and Organ Transplants (free for all--as now is ALL the WSJ's editorial content):

Campaigning in the primaries, former Sen. John Edwards is leveraging the tragic story of Nataline Sarkisyan -- the 17-year-old California woman who recently died awaiting a liver transplant -- to press his political attack on insurance companies and argue for European-style, single-payer health care. But the former trial lawyer, accustomed to using anecdotes of human suffering to frame his rhetoric, is twisting the facts. Organ transplantation, like many areas of medicine, provides a poor basis for his political thesis that single-payer health care offers a more equitable allocation of scarce resources, or better clinical outcomes.

But Edwards never lets pesky little things like facts and data never get in the way of his demagogic rhetoric:

Mr. Edwards seized on the case. "We're gonna take their power away and we're not gonna have this kind of problem again," he said on Dec. 21. "These are living and breathing examples of what I'm talking about and there are millions more just like them," Mr. Edwards told reporters on Jan. 6. An edited video of his attacks on CIGNA has posted on YouTube.

This is classic Edwards. In the same breath make threats that you have dubious ability to make good on, grossly exaggerate the nature of the problem, and finally make promises that you full well know are IMPOSSIBLE to keep.

Research provides little support to Mr. Edward's underlying premise that single-payer health-care systems would do better. On balance, data suggests that in the U.S. transplant patients do quite well compared to their European counterparts, with significantly more opportunities to undergo transplant procedures, survive the surgery, and benefit from new organs.

Interesting. Somehow the "millions" more that Edwards refers to just aren't showing up in the data.

The bottom line in these cases is that at the end of the day, no matter what sort of health care system you have, someone is going to have to make a decision:

Ideally, everyone who can benefit from an organ transplant would receive one, especially a young patient like Ms. Sarkisyan. But with more patients than available organs, some form of allocation procedure involving administrative judgments is inevitable. In Ms. Sarkisyan's case, that judgment was made by CIGNA, in an advisory capacity to her father's employer, interpreting the terms of the employer's health-insurance contract. In the U.K. and other European systems -- and in the U.S. single-payer system favored by Mr. Edwards -- those judgments are made solely by a government agency. The available data suggests that the government allocation procedures do a somewhat worse job, as far as health outcomes are concerned, than private allocation procedures in the U.S.

The real choice facing American voters is who they want making that decision. The worst case scenario would be one in which John Edwards has any part in it.

I've got my spine, I've got my orange crush

You know I wasn't sure if I was going to wear orange today to "symbolize my sadness and disgust with the national shame that is Guantánamo Bay." In fact, I'm wearing a very un-orangish green and blue sweater (which, my wife informed as I headed out the door this morning, is at least eight years old. Yeah, and your point is...what?).

But, I just received an e-mail from the ACLU informing me that some of my favorite celebrities are planning to join in the wearing of the orange:

Here is what ACLU's celebrity supporters are saying about the Close Guantánamo campaign:

Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon said, "I'll be wearing orange because I believe in human rights."

Alex Gibney, director of the new Guantánamo documentary "Taxi to the Dark Side" said, "I wear orange to remind myself of the reckless, ignorant and arrogant individuals who violated fundamental American values by setting up Guantánamo: a cynical monument to what a world without law would be like."

Actress Gloria Reuben from "ER" will "definitely wear" orange because "respecting human rights is the only way to preserve humanity."

Musician and television personality Henry Rollins said, "I'll be wearing orange because this prolonged torture is obscene, nakedly sadistic and patently un-American."

Is he talking about Gitmo or being forced to listen to his music?

Singer-songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello, who will wear orange onstage at her performance tonight at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY, said "I am wearing orange to help bring back the dignity our country has lost as a result of Guantánamo. We must join together in solidarity to demand the immediate closure of this shameful prison. It has tarnished America's image in the world and continues to be a symbol of torture and injustice."

That last one really tipped the scales. If Meshell Ndegeocello is going to wear orange, how can I not? Honey, where's that old Miami sweatshirt of mine? Don't tell me you gave it to Good Will...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

But It's My Birsday

The entire staff here at Fraters Libertas would like to wish our own JB Doubtless a very happy birthday. With his youthful appearance and cheerful demeanor, you almost forget that he's the same age as Hugh Hewitt.

Now get to Omaha JB.

Protectionism Begins At Home

Leipold buys Minnesota Wild:

Minnesota Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the National Hockey League's Minnesota Wild, has agreed to sell the Wild and all related entities to Craig Leipold, former owner of the Nashville Predators.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed; the final sale still requires NHL approval and is expected to close within the next few months.

Wild majority shareholder Bob Naegele and his fellow investors paid $80 million for the Wild's NHL expansion rights in 1997. Forbes magazine now estimates the team's value at $180 million.

Naegele said at a press conference that he and other existing investors will retain some interest in the team.

Wisconsin native Leipold, a businessman and hockey enthusiast, sold the Predators to a group of Tennessee investors for $193 million last month and rumors of his interest in buying the Wild have swirled for months.

When is someone going to step up and do something about these foreign interests coming in and buying up our most critical assets?

The Romney Paradox

To hear Mitt Romney backers (chief among them Hugh Hewitt) tell it, Romney is the GOP candidate with the best chance to defeat either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in the general election. From the time I first heard that Romney was considering throwing his hat in the ring up to and including today, I've never bought this notion of Romney's electability. None of the arguments that Romney supporters (including Hugh and National Review) have made on this matter have given me any reason to doubt my position.

If you point out pesky polls like these from Rasmussen in Pennsylvania:

In the most recent Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Pennsylvania voters, John McCain leads Hillary Clinton 48% to 42% and Barack Obama 46% to 38%. No other Republican fares so well against the Democratic frontrunners.

Clinton leads Romney 49% to 39% in the Keystone State while Obama leads the former Massachusetts Governor 43% to 38%.

They say that such projected head to head matchups don't matter at this point, that Romney's not well known enough yet.

When you point to other polls that show that 1 Out of 6 Americans Won't Vote for A Mormon President:

Seventeen percent of Americans, including similar proportions of Republicans and Democrats, responded they were unwilling to vote for a Mormon presidential candidate even if the person was "generally well-qualified" for the position, according to The Gallup Poll released Tuesday.

The Dec. 6-9 survey showed that Americans’ opinion on voting for a Mormon candidate for president has changed little since this question was asked by Gallup in 1967.

They decry religious bigotry and say there shouldn't be any religious tests in politics. Well, whether there should be or not, there clearly is for at least 17% of the American electorate.

When you ask them why Romney is the most electable, they usually don't make positive arguments for their man, but point out that John McCain is too old or that Mike Huckabee has too many ethical skeletons in his closet that would damage him in the general election. Points well taken.

However, if that is true, then how do they explain that Romney--the one that we're to believe is the most electable--lost to Huckabee in Iowa and McCain in New Hampshire despite spending millions of dollars and thousands of hours in those states? At some point, doesn't your allegedly electability mean that, you know, you actually have to WIN AN ELECTION!

Hugh has been trying to dismiss this by saying that the only reason McCain won in New Hampshire was because of independents, but that just further weakens the argument that Romney is the most electable in the general election. A Republican who can not get votes from independents (and even a few Democrats) has no chance of winning the Presidency.

Hence the critical question for Romney supporters: if Romney isn't electable in the caucuses and primaries against opponents whose weaknesses you love to point out, why should we believe that he will be any more electable come November against a Democrat who will be riding a wave of change, voter discontent, and overwhelming media support? I'm still waiting for that answer.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Stillwater Crime Watch

From the Pioneer Press round up of 2007 police blotter items:

Police received an anonymous call about 1:15 p.m. June 25 that a male wearing a thong and a top hat was running in a ditch along the southbound lanes of Interstate 694 near Stillwater Boulevard. A Minnesota State Patrol camera caught the male jumping over a fence on the west side of the interstate. He was not found.

Let the record show my marriage was not for another two months and there was no plausible other reason for me to be wearing a top hat in 2007. The defense rests.

You Spin Me Right Round

When contemplating Hugh Hewitt's ability to turn any news on any subject into good news for Mitt Romney, I realized that his approach is similar to the one employed by some global warming activists who will attribute any change in weather to global warming. If it rains too much, it's global warming. If it's too dry, global warming. Too hot? Global warming. Too cold? Yes, that's global warming too.

In Hugh's world, Romney's rising is like anthropogenic global warming: everything and anything that can possibly occur is evidence to support it.

No Super Man

While it's still too early to tell what the impact of the results from New Hampshire will have on all the candidates, it does seem likely that John Edwards third place finish has for all practical purposes knocked him out of the race. Which is a very good thing.

Monday's Wall Street Journal had a front page article on Edwards' shameful efforts to use a family's personal tragedy for political gain (sub req):

John Edwards has been bashing big health insurers in recent days with the story of a girl who died waiting for a liver transplant. But the details of the case suggest the Democratic presidential candidate may be oversimplifying the tale.

Nataline Sarkisyan had been battling leukemia for three years. Insurer Cigna Corp. rejected coverage for a liver transplant, then reversed its decision and said it would pay. The 17-year-old died before the operation could take place.

By pushing the case so hard on the campaign trail, Mr. Edwards is raising the emotional tone of the debate on health care, which has already emerged as perhaps the leading domestic issue in the campaign. Mr. Edwards and Sen. Hillary Clinton are among the Democratic candidates attacking health insurers.

"We need a president who will take these people on," Mr. Edwards said at the Democratic presidential debate Saturday night. He said Nataline "lost her life a couple of weeks ago because her insurance company would not pay for a liver-transplant operation."

He mentioned this particular case again in his concession speech last night. She lost her life because she had leukemia, not because of her insurance company.

Nataline's case could provide fuel to both sides of the argument about whether insurance companies generally do a good job covering Americans. The day before Thanksgiving, she received a bone-marrow transplant from her brother. Soon after, her liver failed, and she went into a coma. Her doctors at the medical center of the University of California, Los Angeles, recommended a liver transplant, saying that patients in such situations would have a 65% chance of living another six months.

Cigna said both its own medical experts as well as an outside transplant surgeon and a cancer doctor with transplant expertise concluded there wasn't enough evidence that the procedure would be safe or effective. But after the denial got press coverage, the company reversed the decision on Dec. 20 "out of empathy for the family." Nataline died later the same day.

To hear Edwards tell it, this is just another case of greedy heartless insurance companies willing to let a girl die just to save a few bucks. Oh wait...

Cigna said it wouldn't have benefited financially from denying the transplant because it only administered the health plan of Nataline's father's employer. In reversing the decision, it said it would pay for the transplant itself.

You can debate the way that Cigna handled the matter and whether they made the right decision in the first place or whether they should have reversed their original decision. But the bottom line is that in the best case situation the transplant may have extended her life for a few months.

Nonetheless, the case has found a natural fit with Mr. Edwards's pitch. The candidate is an experienced practitioner in the modern political art of putting an ordinary person's face on policy prescriptions. At yesterday's rally in New Hampshire, Mr. Edwards turned the microphone over to the family of Nataline. Her father, mother and brother emotionally spoke of her death and their anger at Cigna.

Her father, Grigor Sarkisyan, spoke in raw terms about his loss before a packed crowd of more than 500 people at the Franco-American Center in Manchester, N.H. He said he had promised to buy his daughter a white car when she got her driver's license. "After she passed away, I bought a coffin for her because Cigna -- they killed my daughter. I don't have a daughter any more."

In no way do I blame the parents for their reaction. Losing a child is one of the worst experiences anyone can go through. They're grieving their daughter and are emotionally devastated.

But it is truly cynical and despicable for John Edwards to take advantage of their grief and anger for his own political ends. Especially since he knows that no matter what outlandish promises he makes on the campaign trail, there is nothing in his universal health care plans that would have changed the outcome in this case. Unless he wants to cover everything for everyone in every circumstance (I guess that would be truly universal coverage)--which would drive health care costs to levels impossible to support for even a short period of time--there will always be cases like this. Every country that has government provided health care has rationing of some sort to control costs. And Edwards full well knows this.

That's why he's the most dishonest, demagogic candidate to come down the pike for some time. Remember when he promised that Christopher Reeves would walk again if John Kerry was elected? I'm surprised that he hasn't tried to combine the two tall tales:

"And if President Bush had only supported government financed fetal stem cell research Superman could have gotten out of his wheelchair and saved Nataline from the evil clutches of Cigna..."

Unfortunately, I think this tendency to blame someone for everything bad that happens and promise pie in the sky solutions to every single problem in life goes far beyond the rhetoric of John Edwards and as has afflicted much of our society.

Bret Stephens nailed this in a piece in Tuesday's OpinionJournal (free for all):

There is great virtue in the American way, which expects CEOs to perform on a quarterly basis, presidents and Congresses to reinvent politics in 100 days, generals to wipe out opponents in 100 hours without taking significant casualties, doctors to save life and limb every time, search engines to yield a million results in less than a second, and so on. There is also great virtue in the belief that what is bad can be made good, and that what is good can be made great, and that what is fractionally less than great is downright awful.

But these virtues can spawn vices. One is impatience. Another is a culture of chronic complaint. A third is the belief that every problem has a solution, that trial is possible without error, that risks must always be zero, that every inconvenience is an outrage, every setback a disaster and every mishap a plausible basis for a lawsuit.

Bingo. This may be a stretch, but I wonder how much of this stems from the secularization of American culture. I don't mean secular as in not having at least a nominal belief in God (however watered down that belief may be), but secular in not recognizing that we live in a fallen world. A world of suffering. A world of pain. A world where people are not inherently good. A world where trying to build a utopian society is not only doomed to fail, but often more likely to spawn evil and far worse suffering.

If you really don't believe that there is something better waiting on the other side--something that transcends this world and is beyond our human understanding--and that this vale of tears is all there is, it would seem to follow that you would then not only seek to maximize safety, comfort, and security in this life, but that you would also believe that you were somehow entitled to such things and that if you are denied them in any way, then someone or something must be to blame.

Again, that may be a stretch. All I know is that hoping for a Superman to make everything better a prescription for disappointment. Super Man does not exist.

Primary Night Drinking Game

While we don't know how much longer we'll have John Edwards to kick around, while he's still in the race you can make his or his wife's speeches a whole lot more fun by taking a swig every time they mention the mill (pronounced "meel") where his father worked. I don't think either of them can go more than two or three sentences without referencing it.

I would have suggested that you drink when you hear Clinton, Obama, or now Romney mention the word "change," but that would be encouraging abuse.

For what it's worth, here's my rankings of the candidates' post-result speeches last night:


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Orange Alert

The folks at Impeach for Peace are organizing a Close Guantanamo Orange Day:

Meet Friday, January 11, 2008@11:30am.

Hennepin & Lagoon Ave in Uptown, in front of the Library.

The ACLU of Minnesota and Impeach for Peace are coordinating a protest on the 6 year anniversary of the first prisoners from Afghanistan arriving at Guantanamo.

Bring Signs, tell your friends, bring your friends, wear orange! Impeach for Peace will have members wearing Guantanamo Bay Orange Jumpsuits and Black Hoods.

UPDATE: Tim from Colorado e-mails to ask:

Wow! The ACLU and Impeach For Peace are really pulling out all the stops to bring attention to Gitmo prisoners marking their 6th year of residency. Castro is coming up on his 50th anniversary in a couple years. I can't wait to see the plans the ACLU and IFP have for that "celebration".

Maybe if we stressed the literacy rates and universal medical care available at Gitmo, they'd lighten up.

You're All Saints In Our Eyes

On behalf of all of the staff here at Fraters Libertas (especially Atomizer), we officially issue a belated and long overdue Thank You to the good people of Utah. We wouldn't be where we are (or aren't) now without you.

Looking For The SILVER Lining

You know sometimes the suffering of others reaches a point where it doesn't even really seam fair to engage in some good ol' fashioned Schadenball. But since in this particular case that other has never missed an opportunity to mercilessly needle when circumstances present themselves, today is not the time for compassion.

It's been a tough three-hundred-sixty-five days for one Hugh Hewitt and the teams and causes that he's cheered for.

It all started on January 8th, 2007 when his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes (ranked #1 in the nation at the time) were utterly and completely destroyed by Florida in the BCS Championship game.

Then on April 2nd in Atlanta, the OSU basketball team lost the National Championship game against Florida.

For a while, Hugh enjoyed a respite from the sports agony. Then, after his beloved Indians won the American League Central division, defeated the hated Yankees in the ALDS, and were within a game of reaching the World Series with a seemingly insurmountable three games to one lead over the Red Sox in the ALCS...

...they choked like Bill Lobdell trying to do radio and allowed the Red Sox to come back to win the ALCS and cruise to an easy World Series title. That one really hurt.

But hope springs eternal in Hugh's heart and he quickly turned his attention to his beloved Browns. Cleveland made an impressive turn around this year and finished with a solid 10-6 record. In today' s NFL, a 10-6 mark just about guarantees you a playoff berth (which would be the Browns first since 2002). But because the Browns had choked in Week 15 at home against the hated Bengals, they had to wait until the evening of Sunday, December 30th, when the result of the last game of the NFL regular season between the Titans and Colts would determine their fate. The game was tied at ten headed to the fourth quarter when...

...two Titan field goals gave them a 16-10 win and left the Browns out in the cold. Again.

I'm not sure if you've noticed the same thing, but I've picked up a vibe that Hugh is supporting Mitt Romney as the GOP presidential nominee. It's subtle, but there's definitely something there.

Which means that Romney's second place finish in Iowa last Thursday and his almost certain second place finish in New Hampshire today are just the latest examples of Hugh's favorites falling short.

Whoops! I almost forgot. Last night, the Buckeyes (again ranked #1) were once again outclassed by an SEC opponent (this time LSU) in the BCS Championship game. Talk about coming full circle. Oh well, there's always next year, right Hugh?

Just In Case You Were Wondering...

...who the heck Gene Amondson is.

Atomizer Sez:
Gaaaak!!! The man is a monster.

The Elder Replies:

Didn't I warn you about trying on swimsuits in January, Atomizer?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Yo, Adrian!

Last Wednesday, John Edwards had an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal titled My Plan to Stop Corporate Abuses (sub req) in which he decried CEO pay, called for universal health care for all, and announced his plan for a new universal (he likes that word a lot)retirement account for employees.

Today, there was a flurry of Letters to the Editor responding to Edwards. This was my favorite:

I agree with John Edwards ("My Plan to Stop Corporate Abuses," op-ed, Jan. 2) that there are problems with health care and with inequality of pay. I have a recommendation that may not solve all problems, but that will address some major ones: Place a cap on lawyer compensation.

The most irrational form of inequality of pay is a lawyer sucking up a 25%-33% contingency fee from a claim. It seems that in many cases, lawyers benefit more than the affected people. This is a terrible example of inequality of pay. After all, the compensation of most CEOs is much less than 25%-33% of the profits of the companies they run. I propose that John Edwards write another piece in the WSJ with his proposal on how to curb this "legal abuse." He should consider starting with a "fair reward for work." Based on this principle, I think that he should propose limiting the compensation of trial lawyers -- I would consider setting that limit to a maximum of $300 per hour, not to exceed $750,000 a year (this is calculated as $300 times 50 hours a week times 50 weeks a year). That's between 15 and 20 times what an average worker makes -- and it seems to be fair in the context of closing the inequality of pay.

An additional benefit of this proposal is that health care and court costs may decline as the more frivolous lawsuits are settled earlier and at a lower cost (and hopefully out of court) once lawyer compensation is not linked to the result of the lawsuit. I look forward to hearing Mr. Edwards's views -- and those of his major financial backers -- on this proposal.

Adrian Gulich
Teaneck, N.J.

I guess it all depends on whose wallet is being gored.