The skewed perspective of a conservative Catholic employee-side employment lawyer living in the most exciting city in the Milky Way, Las Vegas, Nevada USA, who listens to a lot of really strange music and who, for some reason, lives and dies St. Louis Cardinal baseball

3/31/2005

Baseball preview: NL Central

Prediction:
St. Louis Cardinals (89-73)
Cincinnati Reds (84-78)
Houston Astros (78-84)
Milwaukee Brewers (76-86)
Chicago Cubs (75-87)
Pittsburgh Pirates (70-92)


2004 Standings:
St. Louis (105-57), NL champions
Houston (92-70), NL wild card
Chicago (89-73)
Cincinnati (76-86)
Pittsburgh (72-89)
Milwaukee (67-94)


The Real America’s Team, the franchise that was once the home team for two-thirds of the USA, the St. Louis Cardinals, can deteriorate and win without a sweat in this pitifully weak division.

There are so many reasons why the Cardinals should suffer the biggest win decline from last season to this. The Cardinals’ roster is old. Almost 2001 D-Backs old. The youngest starting outfielder will probably be 34 year old CF Jim Edmonds. Old teams decline, sometimes precipitously. Three-quarters of the vaunted up-the-middle defense will be new, with, again, CF Edmonds the only holdover. SS David Eckstein will not perform at the same heights as Edgar Renteria. Scott Rolen is coming off a career year. They clearly were not as good as their 105 win total would indicate. And yet there are five good reasons why they will win this division again: the Astros, the Cubs, the Brewers, the Pirates, and the Reds. Those are some very good reasons. Oh yeah, and the addition of Mark Mulder (even if he is declining) and a healthy Chris Carpenter (even if he is Chris Carpenter).

The Reds are my pick for second by default. There’s not another team capable of finishing this high. Junior Griffey’s career is effectively over. He is a shell of his Mariners self, lurching from injury to injury. Yet the Reds do not need him to be respectable. Another MVP type season from Big Adam Dunn and some good health from Austin Kearns would be more important at this point. If the pitching is good enough, the Redlegs could stay close to the Redbirds. But not close enough to close a nearly 30-game gap.

Year 2004 was the last hurrah for the Killer B-Astros. Led by rental Carlos Beltran, the ‘Stros won their first playoff series in their 40-plus year history. But the Bags-n-Bigs show of 1B Jeff Bagwell and CF Craig Biggio is entering its final moments. Houston lost simply too many parts – and kept one too many in re-signing Scrap Iron Garner, the worst manager in the Big Leagues – to make another run in 2005.

The Brew Crew have enough talent to avoid the cellar. And that’s the best M’waukee fans can hope for. This is no longer a young team, though. This is a collection of veterans who should step up this year or step away. If the Brewers cannot play competitive baseball this year, with Geoff Jenkings and Junior Spivey at age 30, and Lyle Overbay and Wes Helms now 28, Brewer management should strip the team bare and start all over. This expansion-caliber club is only good enough for a mid-70s win tally.

It will be a long season on the North Side of Chicago and they won’t have Steve Bartman to blame. But at least they have a precious museum piece of a ballyard. Me-first Slammin’ Sammy is gone, but where are the RBI going to come from? Dusty Baker is back on his mission to ruin the critical pitching arms. He avoided this relatively well in San Francisco because he (1) had no ace and (2) had rubber armed men like Russ Ortiz and Kirk Reuter anchoring the staff. In Chicago, he has two aces (Mark Prior and Kerry Wood), both of whom have biological limits that Dusty is hellbent on breaking through. If LaTroy Hawkins is asked to close again, 90 losses is a distinct possibility.

Even if Jack Wilson continues to masquerade as the Second Coming of Honus Wagner, the Pirates still appear doomed for the basement. Not enough outs on the pitching; too many in the batting order. The Buccos need monster years from Ty Wigginton and Bobby Hill and even that won’t be enough. Lloyd McClendon seems like a good manager. And PNC Park is the crown jewel of baseball parks.

Hundred Percenter Hissy-Fit

A blogger named "Malachy Joyce" is throwing a delinking hissyfit over at his/her "Hundred Percenter" blog, which is causing kerfuffles aplenty. See, e.g., here and here. The impetus of DelinkFest 2005 is Terri Schiavo. Hundred Percenter site (which I previously had never heard of, but, in fairness, I'm, sure this Malachy Joyce character has never heard of Blog Retrofuturistic) is jettisoning from his / her / their / its blog roll conservative-leaning blogs deemed insufficiently supportive of Terri Schiavo. As one commenter on classicalvalues.com stated, "As I understand it, the 'crime' in question was not supporting Every Possible Effort Maybe Even Including Sending In The National Guard, to save Terri Schiavo."

In a comment to protein wisdom's Jeff Goldstein, Malachy Joyce
remarked, "true conservatives support life, 100%." 100%. That's pretty strong. But does Malachy Joyce really believe it? I must admit that am a bit concerned about the credibility of that blog, as he/she/they/it had previously made a thinly-veiled anti-Semitic remark about Jeff Goldsten's "beenie" [sic] being "twisted" [sick]. I presume that to be a yarmulke reference of some sort. True conservatives are not anti-Semites.

I am conservative. I would like to believe I'm a "true" conservative, out of the Catholic strain of conservatism. I support life. 100%, generally (allowing the whole "just war" part of the equation). Does Malachy Joyce support the death penalty? Or is this person/thing/entity leading candlelight vigils at the Texas State Pen, singing hosannas to Justice Kennedy for striking down one application of the death penalty in his recent Roper opinion?

If this blogger isn't, then this 100% life proposition needs to be amended, perhaps to 85 or 90% "supportive of life." If this blogger recognizes the problems with claims of absolutism, as applied to life, death, and the death penalty, and that support for life isn't such a simplistic formulation, then perhaps a little humility with regard to
Instapundit, Little Green Footballs and maybe even protein wisdom is in order.

3/30/2005

Baseball preview: AL Central

Prediction:
Minnesota Twins (92-70)
Cleveland Indians (90-72)
Detroit Tigers (83-79)
Chicago White Sox (80-82)

Kansas City Royals (56-106)

2004 Standings:
Minnesota (92-70)
Chicago (83-79)
Cleveland (80-82)
Detroit (72-90)
Kansas City (58-104)

The Twins are, far and away, the most complete team in this not-as-weak-as-you-think division, but the young and improving Indians are a year away from dominating this division.

The question for the Twinkies is whether success will spoil Johan Santana. Is he ready to step up and become the next great dominant pitcher in baseball? His postseason performance would indicate otherwise. The Twins will win playing the most intelligent baseball in the league. Unique in the modern era of the Twinks, they have kept together their critical components (good bye Cristian Guzman). If both of the AL East powerhouses stumble (and the Red Sox getting past the Tribe for a wild card isn't a sure thing), the Twins could make a legitimate World Series run.

The young Indians should take another leap forward. They've added some veterans (Kevin Millwood, Aaron Boone, Juan Gonzalez) to a talented young core, which is the way you're supposed to build a team. Alex Cora will provide excellent defense in the middle of the diamond until the time, if ever, that Brandon Phillips is ready to become a major leaguer. All ably managed by Eric Wedge, the best manager in this division.

The Tigers are intriguing: not enough talent to compete, but clearly good enough not to stink (even if Ivan Rodriguez gets hurt, as he is past due for). The addition of Magglio Ordonez is a triple play. The Tigers get an A-game rightfielder. A division rival (ChiSox) is weakened from his departure. And incumbent RF Bobby Higginson becomes expendable. It couldn't be better if he promised to clean the mildew out of the team shower. Big question is whether 1B Carlos Pena is ready to start hitting like a major league first baseman. A more important one, though, is whether Jeremy Bonderman is ready to live up to all the hype.

The White Sox are sure to decline. DH (and Las Vegas resident) Big Frank Thomas (who I once downgraded from "Big Hurt" to "Minor Ache") can't stay healthy and is well into his age-induced declined. New acquisition Scott Podsednik is showing all signs of having been, sadly, a one-year wonder (a Pat Listach for the 21st Century, as it were). This is an ugly roster chock full of injury magnets (e.g., Jermaine Dye) and cast-offs from uncompetitive organizations (e.g., Timo Perez). A serious injury to Mark Buehrle and 90 losses would be a cinch.

But there's only so far the Other Sox can fall, because there's a nice fat safety net sitting beneath them. In 2003, the Royals looked poised to breakthrough back to being a competitive franchise. That window hasn't just closed, it's been nailed shut, painted, then bricked over, never to be seen again. They lost 100 games in 2004 with a half a season of Carlos Beltran. How in the world can they be better without him? Mike Sweeney is the only major leaguer on a roster that otherwise would struggle in AA. If the Royals keep their losses in the double digits, Tony Pena is manager of the year.

The complete "Wonderfalls" on DVD

Buy.

I have now watched the complete 13-episode Wonderfalls DVD, listened to all the commentary tracks, and sampled all of the special features (including multiple viewings of the theme song music video). I am ready to render my verdict. Buy early and buy often.

The final episode ("Caged Bird") functioned well as an end of series wrap-up. It also would have worked as great jumping-off point for a Season Two but, alas, there was to be none. As with life, there was no resolution. Jaye (played by the lovely Caroline Dhavernas) never learned why she the inaminate animals were speaking to her (other than the cryptic "because you listen") in Episode 11, "Cocktail Bunny"). She's reached a truce (as opposed to peace) with the voices; the love life issue has been clarified.

The episodes became more dramatic as the series wore on. I think the producers started with a madcap farce to try to hook viewers in, with a bait-n-switch to more spiritual drama as you progressed deeper into the show. The dialog was still crisp. Fun aplenty. But it grew deeper. And still worked. Except for that awful over-stylized noir-esque "Crime Dog" episode. That one didn't work.

Watching these episodes each evening is one reason for ignoring this blog for one week plus. When I would get home from the office, I wanted to watch the next episode, to see the plot advance further. I can't wait for rerun season.

3/21/2005

Michael Barone and the trust fund Left

More great analysis from Michael Barone, this time over at the realclearpolitics site.

Mr. Barone says that the "trustfunder left" reached critical mass in 2004 and now hold great sway as a wealthy interest group within the Democrat party. What a shock, then, that two trust-funders were the most influential Democrats last election cycle: John Kerry (whose only talent appears to be marrying well, and by that, I mean wealthy) and Howard Dean (a son of Park Avenue).

The trustfund left is concentrated in a few places. Its main effect is making blue states an even deeper shade of indigo. And the trustfund crowd is disproportionately hard left, showing no respect for work (they got their $$$ without money), hostility toward faith and patriotism, scorn and ignorance of the military (as no one they know serves/d) and with no sense of how wealth genuinely is created. Given that they already have theirs, they are downright hostile towards anyone who wants to be upwardly mobile, as they support job-killing environmental mandates and confiscatory taxation of income (as they don't even have to work for a living).

The Democrat party is being destroyed from within by three incredibly selfish sub-groups: the public employee unions, the grad student elite, and the trustfunders. These selfish narcissists have made the Democrat party hostile the wants and needs of ordinary workers.

The conquest of the labor movement by the public employees destroyed the connection between labor unions and blue collar workforce. Labor is now unconcerned with workers and, instead, is just another advocate for big government liberalism. Why? Bigger government = more jobs for public employee union members = more dues money. A simple transitive equation. If Labor cared about workers, they would be advocating a pro-worker agenda in favor of development, manufacturing, ANWR drilling, and investment incentives: a job creation agenda. That's not what the labor adjunct to the Democrat currently is demanding.

The grad student elite supplies the intellectual firepower, such as that may be, to the current Democrat party.

But the trustfunders are the most dangerous of these subgroups.

First of all, they tend to be, if not anti-American, then America-skeptical. This is the "blame America first" crowd that Jeanne Kirkpatrick so eloquently warned us about. I understand the cause of the rote anti-Americanism of the eurotrash cafe elite of Paris or Berlin: it's equal parts petty jealously and mindless fashion-driven conformist trend-mongering. I guess the anti-Americanism of our trustfunders stems from an insecure desire for conformity and not wanting to be embarrassed by the Euro-sophisticates while sipping espresso in Barcelona, or mountain climbing in Nepal, skiing in Vail or snorkeling off Belize. Oh the demands of such a busy lifestyle

And, as I said, these people are anti-work. They have no respect for those of us who must work. That's why they support high taxation of income. They're not earning a living, so why worry about those of us who must. They can support job-killing environment policies, because someone who doesn't need to work doesn't need to worry about losing his or her job. So let that factory close down. Better that than having to explain why Kyoto can't work to that Dutch / Canadian gay "married" couple you met in Aspen (or was it Costa Rica?).

Worst of all, they hate technology that can improve the lives of real people all over the globe. It's easy to be callous about using genetically-modified seed to feed more people in Africa when the only time you ever miss a meal is when you're trying to take five pounds off your own fat ass. When your major food worry is whether that trendy little bistro you ate at last week isn't quite as trendy today, then it's easy to protest against hybrid grains being introduced into the food chain.

As long as these anti-American, know-nothing, do-nothing snotty elitists have any sway over the Democrat (via the man they funded, Howard "good versus evil" Dean), the Democrats cannot be taken seriously as having any interest in improving the lot of real people in this country and elsewhere on this globe.

3/20/2005

"Wonderfalls" episode 5 - the first clunker

I'm in the process of devouring my Wonderfalls DVD. Finally, I am getting to watch the un-broadcast episodes of this great TV show.

Taking the episodes sequentially, Episode 5 - titled "Crime Dog" - is the first that wasn't broadcast. It was previewed on the last episode, but some time during the intervening week, the wonderful Wonderfalls was cancelled. Thank God this episode never aired. It was the first clunker and if it had been the last episode shown,. I would not have such a warm heart-place for this quirky show.

To use a phrase from the past, one that it in popular usage when this show would've aired, this is the episode where Wonderfalls "jumps the shark." I've got another eight to watch, so I'm definitely hoping it jumps back.

This episode has two very serious problems that are always a symptom of shark-jumping. What makes a great TV show, movie, comic strip or any work of fiction is staying true to alternate universe the author created. Even when there are weird quirks that couldn't happen in real life, those quirks are invoked consistently. The laws of physics may be repealed or suspended, but there is an internal logic to how they are circumvented. This episode shot down two mandatory conventions in maintaining a logical parallel universe.

First, it revealed a new character. Ordinarily, a new character is no problem, if there is a reason for not having met the character before. This episode featured the Tyler family housekeeper, an "illegal immigrant" from Canada. Given that this character allegedly had been the housekeeper for the Tylers for 20+ years, there has to be some logical explanation for her not being introduced in the prior four episodes. There wasn't. Jaye had eaten dinner at the parents' house in previous episodes, where was the housekeeper? The internal logic of this alternative universe was violated by this act.

It was violated even further by a subsequent scene. The shtick of the show is that inanimate objects in the shape of animals occasionally talk to Jaye, played by Canadian actress Caroline Dhavernas. They tell her things, but they don't speak on request and they don't converse. This episode, a cardboard cut-out of a bulldog in a police uniform (hence, the "Crime Dog") spoke on request, conversed with her, and did not really an instruction that she was to follow. The dog told her to do something, she disregarded it, and the episode moved forward. Part of the internal logic is not only the rule against conversations, but that the plot moves forward when she ignores the dictates of the talking object. That did not apply to the cardboard bulldog. Again, the internal logic was violated.

Add to this the fact that the episode was preachy on a political issue (in this case, illegal immigration), without really playing fair with the alternative viewpoints. The fairness doctrine does not exist and, even if it did, would not apply to an entertainment program. If there had not been the other flaws, this problem would not have bothered me. But there were the other problems, thus this becomes another symptom of a great show losing its steam quickly.

As I watch the later episodes, maybe this error will be avoided and the show will un-jump the shark. Or, and this is my huge fear right now, Fox cancelled the show not only because of low ratings, but because there was a huge quality drop-off in later episodes. I hope it's not the latter. But, even if it is, I got the first four episodes on DVD and those episodes are fantastic. Well-written, well-acted, well-"put together". The show is worth owning on DVD even if the remaining episodes stink worse than Suzanne Somers sitcom.

Fair and balanced from John Leo

John Leo is consistently one f the most readable, even-handed and independent-thinking opinion columnists working in the mainstream media. He has excellent column in the March 28, 2005, US News & World Report, pointing out the double standards, a.k.a. hypocrisy, of both the right and left on a host of major issues.

The Left thinks we should look to evolving standards of international law to interpret our Constitution ... except when the international community is way to our right (e.g., abortion). (And, of course, to the multicultural left, "international community" generally means "western Europe").

The Right thinks that power should devolve to the states and we should return to the pre-Earl Warren concept of federalism ... except when the Right wants to impose its agenda on recalcitrant states that may be moving quickly to the Left, such as the gay marriage or euthanasia.

Of course, the Left fares a little worse in the balanced portrait, mainly because the Left engages in such blatant hypocrisy while being so militantly and hysterically anti-hypocrisy. Those of us on the Right don't have as severe a problem with hypocrisy. We recognize that man is imperfect and incapable of perfection, and thus will always fall short of stated ideals. And, we also recognize that "hypocrisy," a.k.a. "little white lies" are sometimes the lubricant that greases the tracks of civilization. So it's not as big of a deal when a conservative engages in hypocrisy as when a leftist spouts off in favor of a blatant double standard.

The two best examples, or "worst," depending on your perspective of left-wing hypocrisy are on the issue of the first amendment right to free speech and the current debate of the filibuster.

The filibuster debate is a mild, and historically uninteresting, bit of hypocrisy. Yeah, when it was Republicans using the filibuster to defeat the will of the Democrat (or progressive) majority, filibustering was evil and the Senate rules had to be changed. Duke Law Professor Edward Chemerinsky comes off as particularly craven in this debate, authoring a paper in the 1990s about how the filibuster must be abolished, when it was being wielded by the R's, but now declaring it to be "unconstitutional" for the R's to rewrite the Senate rules to take this weapon out of the hands of the D's. Giving Chemerinsky the benefit of the doubt and assuming that he is intellectually consistent rather than a craven fraud, his apparent position is: the constitution requires that the Democrats get their way. Either that or he is a weasel. Take your pick.

The free speech debate is more important. Lefty-liberals love to cry about how the Patriot Act in John AshKKKRoft's AmeriKKKa is destroying the first amendment, or how Michael Powell's FCC is squelching free expression, or how denying government money to an "arts" project is destroying the first amendment, yet the Dems not only have no problem with direct assaults on free speech rights, but they demand it.

Campaign finance reform is one issue. I personally think that Justice Clarence Thomas is correct (and right) when he writes that the first amendment does not recognize the distinction between "political speech" and "commercial speech." Both are worthy of constitutional protections. It's precisely that "common sense" interpretation of the plain meaning of the constitution is a big reason I'm such a Clarence Thomas fan. Reasonable people can disagree. And I understand how the commercial speech doctrine developed that it is entitled to a lesser level of protection (kind of "strict scrutiny" versus mere "heightened scrutiny"). But McCain-Feingold jurisprudence turns this on its head: political speech is entitled to significantly less protection. They're not saying it, but any court that refuses to strike down the evil McCain-Feingold bill basically is applying the old "rational basis" test to political speech. And just about nothing gets struck down under a rational basis inquiry. And, somehow, that is viewed as the "progressive" position: hostility to free political speech. Contrast that with the fact that in the worldview of the current Supreme Court majority, as proclaimed by the callow David Souter, the free speech activity of exotic dancing gets full first amendment protections. I guess Justice Souter thinks we're free to attack politicians and urge votes against them only if we're naked. And moving. Preferably to a rhythm track.

Of course, the "speech codes" on many college campuses are the worst affront to free speech currently tolerated. (I am outraged by free speech restrictions on public campuses only: you have no first amendment rights at private, religious, or other non-governmental educational institutions. The first amendment protects against state action only. Sorry.) Yet restricting disagreeable speech that makes leftists "uncomfortable" is the norm on college campuses. It is the "progressive" view. Fighting terrorism, a la the Patriot Act, is not.

That's when leftie hypocrisy can get deadly.

3/19/2005

Spring training Surprise

I watched the Texas Rangers play the Los Angeles/Anaheim/Orange County/California Angels on a rainy overcast Saturday in Surprise, Arizona. Angels won in 10 innings, 5-3. I have a few observations.

First of all, what an incredibly beaatiful little 10K-seat ballpark they got themselves in Surprise. I'm going to have to go back some day, in the early morning, and see if they folks wander the practice fields.

The Angels only played a few regulars (Garret Anderson, Bengie Molina, Vlad The Great), and a large number of non-roster invitees, so I don't have a good sense of their team. You really do feel the non-roster and minor league players in that game. You can't help but want to see Brian Specht (2B) or Mike Napoli (DH) succeed. Chone Figgins - and I have no clue as to what is supposed to be his natural position - made a spectacular play at second.

The Rangers, on the other hand, were not impressive this day. I go into this season pessimistic about their chances and they did nothing to dissuade. Alfonso Soriano had an atrocious half-day defensively. Chan Ho Park was golfed around. SS Mike Young supplied all the offense (and played sterling defense) and teh Ranger attack died once Young was pulled the game. I'm concerned about the Rangers' pitching. And I'm concerned that they are not going to get enough offense out of their outfield. (Their infield, however, will be the best offensive infield in baseball again - even better than my beloved Cardinals.) Buck Showalter will have them ready to play.

One problem with the game that reminded of why I don't like to watch live sports much anymore: the fans. There was a big fat frick two rows directly in front of me that played the "loud know-it-all" persona. He knew everything. He also rode Soriano who (admittedly) was playing terrible defensively. But this guy was a tub.

Now, I'm carrying a few pounds to me. It's no crime to be heavy (not even in California). But if you're going to rag on an athlete for not performing, don't you think that you should have some rudimentary athletic skills yourself? This guy was 75 percent of the way toward Michael Moore-dom in his girth. Put the fat frig out at second and he'd still be trying to reach the balls the Soriano muffed. So my point: don't loudly attack the ballplayers for failing to do something you could never even do in your dreams.

If Roberto Alomar wanted to rag on Soriano's defense, well, I guess we'd just have to step aside and let him. But if a big fat Michael Moore body-alike in a black SeanJohn T-shirt wants to attack Alfonso Soriano, I say: shut the frick up you fat frig. And, yes, we were able to figure out that Angels SS Maicer Izturis isn't (yet) as good as his brother, Dodger SS Cesar. We figured it out without you loudly proclaiming it to all the folks in your zip code.

Guilty pleasure Saturday: Donna Summer - "Hot Stuff"

Guity pleasures don't get any guiltier than a "bad girl" song from Donna Summer.

The only time I listen to my Donna Summer Anthology CD is, once a year, when I driving either to, or back from, Arizona. At 34 tracks, it's definitely more Donna Summer than any one CD collection needs. But the essential tracks from the original Disco Diva #1 are scattered over too many records not to get this one. The best track is "Hot Stuff," where Donna "rocks out." Of course that's relatively speaking, as we're talking about a hardcore dance track that sports rock trappings. Guilty pleasure song o' the day.

Special bonus: When driving home tonight from Surprise, Arizona, the spring training home of the Texas Rangers (and K.C. Royals, too), I ate dinner at a Del Taco in lovely downtown Kingman, Arizona. I don't know whether I heard soem brand new way-cool teen slang, or the counter girl was simply clueless, but either way I'm going to start using this hip new expression that I picked up in hip-happening K-town, A.Z. When the counter girl needed a co-employee to sign something (I thin it was for his meal), she asked him for his "Herbie Hancock." Not John. Herbie.

I'm thinking she's too young to know who Herbie Hancock really is. And the "urban dictionary" doesn't list "Herbie Hancock" as an acceptable synonym for "John Hancock." And the girl clearly wasn't asking the Del Taco boy to play jazz keyboards for his chicken cheddar quesadilla. So, I'm thinking the kids in Kingman are just way ahead of their time in coining hip teen slang.

3/17/2005

Spring training in Arizona

This weekend I will be checking out spring training in central Arizona with special emphasis on my favorite Arizona-training team, the Texas Rangers.

I am distinguishing here between franchises that I like (St Louis Cardinals, Minnesota Twins) and teams that I like (Florida Marlins, Texas Rangers). When I like a franchise, it's because I am a fan of the whole entity, regardless of the players on the roster or the way the team plays. When I like a team, it's because I like the players, or their style of play (usually that means excellent up-the-middle defense and a balanced offense not overly reliant on sluggery), at this precise instance of time.

The current Rangers are the most interesting team to watch of the Arizona trainers. Michael Young and Hank Blalock are great young players. Mark Teixeira is a Georgia Tech boy, always a plus (especially when the player is not a Red Sock). And Chan Ho Park is the only major leaguer who has ever called to interrupt a person who was eating dinner with me, so I gotta love him too. I'm not optimistic about the '05 Rangers, as I expect this to be a "consolidation" year before they become legit World Series contenders in 2006. But maybe catching a couple of spring training games will change my opinion.

And after I soak in the baseball atmosphere, it will be time for me to make my predictions for 2005.

"Wonderfalls" on DVD

Blogging is light for a very legitimate reason. My Wonderfalls DVD came from amazon yesterday.

Wonderfalls was the offbeat story of a young slacker, recently graduated from Brown, and working as a retail cerlk at a souvenir stand in Niagra Falls. Inanimate objects - always animals - talk to her and command her to do things. It's never clear exactly what they're commanding her to do, as the meaning of the commands change over the course of the episode. Quite simply, it was the best scripted TV show of the 21st Century.

It aired for only four episodes. I caught only three. And I loved each one. The show was funny. It was witty. It was spiritual in a way that broadcast TV never is. It's not wholly in accord with my brand of orthodox Catholicism, but it is amazing for an American TV program (and a hour-long comedy at that) to take religion and the realm of the spritual so seriously.[*] And that's "seriously" not in the sense of heavy and weighty, but "seriously" in the sense of being a legitimate part of this world and one's existence.

I've now made it through the first four of 13 episodes that were filmed. Those are the four that were broadcast. It's even better than I remember. The witticisms came so fast that, in the original broadcast, I couldn't have caught them all.

Amazon is now charging $29.99. Alldirect.com has it cheaper by - what a shock! - three bucks, at $26.49. My copy is making me so happy.

Footnote: Quite interesting, given the spiritual/religious subtext of the show, that the excellent, catchy theme song, "I Wonder Where the Wonder Falls," was written and sung by militant atheist Andy Partridge. It's the only thing decent Partridge's done since Skylarking. Might as well declare the title song the song o' the day.

3/15/2005

A two-fer from Professor Bainbridge

Great great great post by UCLA law school professor Steven Bainbrige at his ProfessorBainbridge.com site. It's a two-fer!

Why's it a two-fer? It's two, two great posts in one!

On the one hand, he makes a great point about how big-government, nanny-state liberalism has destroyed the community network, replacing neighborliness with bureaucracy. We are less likely to reach out and help those in need because it's the job of government. A friend of mine takes the same view about why Franklin Roosevelt was the worst president: social security. FDR ended the idea that caring for the elderly was a family responsibility and replaced it with the notion it was a state responsibility. That's known as "destroying families."

The UCLA Professor makes that great point that must be emphasized over and over. And, and this is the two-fer bonus. He does it in the context of dismissing yet another example of the shallowness and superficiality of that upper middle class Brit-twit, Andrew Sullivan. He points out a virtual plagiarism by the pompous little (insert synonym for rectum here); he then proceeds to eviscerate the arrogant little (insert male genital synonym here) by pointing the utter falsity of the dumb idea he just stole. Bainbridge thrusts his epee like a fencing gold medalist, right into the (insert a whole raft of vulgarities).

Why do have such a low opinion of Mr. Sullivan? Well, I met the man. That's reason enough.

Beware the Ides of March

Just because, that's why.

What is happening in the Philippines?

Multiple posts, all of them fascinating, over at Belmont Club, regarding the Philippine front in the War on Terror:

-- There's this essay on how Gloria Arroyo's strategy of abject surrender to terror demands is (shockingly!) not getting the terrorists to back down in their strategy of kidnaping Filipino nationals for ransom in Iraq. Latest terror demand: Arroyo and the Philippine government are being told by Iraqi terrorists that they must vocally repudiate the U.S. and its Iraq strategy as a condition of releasing its latest hostage (whose family cries: do it!).

-- There's a series of postings, starting with this and this, including this, and ending with this, about the prison takeover by Abu Sayyaf imprisoned guerillas. The gross incompetence of the Philippine correctional guards makes security at the Fulton County Courthouse look like Dick Cheney's secret, secure, undisclosed location.

Wretchard's theme is that corruption, incompetence, cowardice, and leftist influence are in harmonic convergence in Manila, setting the scene for an unmitigated disaster on the Philippine front in the War on Terror.

The Philippines is a special country. It has a special mission in this world, to be the outpost of Catholicism to the most populous continent on the planet, right in the center of its greatest population density. Now is the time to pray for the Philippines. Pray that the corrupt officials put the real interest of the people above personal gain. Pray that itsgovernment makes the right decisions. And pray that those same officials grow a spine.

Concrete Blonde - "Heal It Up"

I never would want to own a whole Concrete Blonde CD. I do own their "greatest hits," Recollection: The Best of Concrete Blonde, and even that (18 tracks!) is way too much Johnette Napolitano. They have some great, punked-out power-pop tunes, such as "Joey," "Walking in London," and "Ghost of a Texas Ladies Man" (in which Napolitano actually demonstrates a clever sense of humor). But too much of their material is just postured anger and tuneless, rapid-fire guitaristry. Not my scene.

My favorite is the achingly desperate "Heal It Up," where Napolitano wrings maximum impact from her very limited vocal skills. It's the best of the five or six reasons there is to own Recollection. It's, also, song o' the day for the Ides of March 2005.

3/14/2005

The Supremes - "Stoned Love"

With the exception of the anthemic "Someday We'll Be Together," the Supremes first few post-Diana Ross singles arew the best work of their career. And the best? Their funked-up #1 R&B hit, "Stoned Love." Song o' the day? Solid!

Diana's departure freed the remaining Supremes from the Hollard-Dozier-Holland formula, under inspired guidance from produced Frank WIlson. Apparently, Motown chief Barry Gordy hated this song. What the hell was Gordy thinking? The song has more rhythm and blues than the entire Diana Ross solo catalog put together (well, if you exclude the diana LP that she did under the care of Chic's Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards).

Atlanta hostage story

Inspiring story posted on the FoxNews site about the woman (Ashley Smith) taken hostage in her home by Brian Nichols, the accused rapist who went on a killing rampage at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta last week. This woman's religious faith,a nd the fact that she trusted in that faith and lived that faith, got her through what had to have been harrowing ordeal when she was kidnaped by Mr. Nichols.

I first read about this remarkable woman via a link to lucianne.com posted on the Power Line page. One of the commenters to the posting said something that I thought was bizarre, that the poster hoped she would visit the man in prison. Then, after reading her story, I thought the same thing: I hope she goes to his trial and visits him a few times in prison, sort of like the Pope visiting his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca. She doesn't have to, of course. She's a heroine anyway. She's already shown remarkable strength and courage.

Happy Pi Day!

Here's a nerdy way to start the week, courtesy of Brian Lundmark's on-line comic strip Rockwood: the first "Happy Pi Day" strip. Get it? Today's 3-14? Pi?

Well, I thought it was funny.

3/13/2005

Yellow Jackets get favorable draw

Despite 11 losses (and mediocre play in general in the 2005 part of their schedule), my favorite alma mater not only is going to the NCAA Tournament, not only was given a fairly high #5 seeding, but has been assigned to the far and away easiest regional, the Albuquerque Regional (f/k/a "the Western Regional"). The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are the five-seed in the west, opening against The George Washington University Colonials fairly close to home in Nashville on Friday.

The five-seed traditionally is the most upset-prone seed, as #12 seeds typically go to the strong at-large teams with something prove, while all seeds below that (starting with the #13 who plays the #4) are autmatic bid teams from the lesser conferences. Louisville (seeded #4) is the only team seeded above Ga-Tech that has a shot at winning this regional. Seeds one through three are flawed teams with flashy records that seem bound for upset-ville: #1 Washington (ranked 14th going into tournament play, obviously they were just pencilled into this slot when Arizona came up unexpectedly short), #2 Wake Forest (one player teams tend to lose a round or so earlier than their seeding would justify) and #3 Gonzaga (who already has beaten Tech) don't seem like Final Four timber. Likewise, none of the other teams in the top half of this bracket -- #6 Texas Tech, #7 West Virginia and #8 Pacific -- seem capable of putting together a sustained run of upsets. The winner of the second round game between the Cardinals and the Jackets should produce the winner of this regional (assuming neither GW nor Louisiana-Lafayette pull off an opening round upset).

Who will win it all? The Fightin' Illini of the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. I would not be picking them if they had been undefeated going into the tournament: they don't seem good enough to be an undefeated. Now that they have tasted the stale, bitter taste of defeat, they'll be hungry again, without all the pressure of a too-long winning streak. Second choice: the survivor of the very tough Austin bracket, with Duke as the #1, Kentucky as the #2, and Syracuse as the #4 (Oklahoma somehow slipped past them into the #3 seed slot).

Surest bet in the tournament? (After, of course, all the #16 seeds losing, even Montana who plays the unfathomably top-seeded U-Dub.) North Carolina losing in the regional finals. The Elite Eight is Roy WIlliams's graveyard. Why should this year be any different?

Black Box - "I Don't Know Anybody Else"

It's true that pop music often evokes memories of what was happening when one was listening to a song, even if it is wholly unrelated to the song's actual content. And, for that reason, the controversial[*] Italian disco group Black Box will always have sad memories for me. Four years ago today, I received some bad news while working away at the office. Bad news of the type that leaves you stunned, paralyzed and unable to focus. It was a Tuesday afternoon. I wasn't going to be able to travel to the other side of the country for a day or so. So I just got into my car and drove. Destination irrelevant. I just needed to be alone for a few minutes.

I started blaring the CD in the car CD player. It was Dreamland. Normally, this is upbeat, pumpin' music. Hit the dance floor and don't look back! Now, for me, it's tainted by sad memories. I think I played "I Don't Know Anybody Else" a couple of times to try to lighten my mood and bring me back to earth. It didn't work. It's not Black Box's fault; their CD just happened to be the one playing when I got into my car that afternoon. So, because of four years ago today, this memory-evoking second U.S. single off that CD is the song o' the day.

Footnote: [*] Controversial because of (a) the lip synching of an attractive model to Martha Wash's vocals in the Milli Vanilli era and (b) the uncredited sampling of Miss Loleatta Holloway on "Ride on Time."

3/12/2005

Las Vegas odds: the 2008 presidential election

Is it too early to start handicapping the 2008 presidential race? No!

Here in Las Vegas, the odds for the next championship are posting as the final seconds of the clock tick away for the current year's big game. The odds for the 2006 Super Bowl were up even before Donovan McNabb started running the least urgent two-minute drill in NFL history. So, by the standards of your typical Las Vegas Sports Book, I'm late posting the odds for the 2008 presidential nominations.

Here are the first Las Vegas Odds for the Democrat and Republican presidential nominations in 2008:

Democrats:
1001 Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY) 3-2
1002 John F. Kerry (MA) 4-1
1003 Evan Bayh (IN) 10-1
1004 Mark Warner (VA) 15-1
1005 John Edwards (NC) 16-1
1006 Phil Bredesen (TN) 18-1
1007 Howard Dean (VT) 25-1
1008 Joseph Biden (DE) 30-1
1009 Al Gore (TN) 35-1
1010 Bill Richardson (NM) 45-1
1011 Tom Vilsack (IA) 100-1
1012 Russ Feingold (WI) 150-1
1013 Barbara Boxer (CA) 400-1
1014 Janet Napolitano (AZ) 450-1

Republicans:
2001 Dick Cheney (WY) 3-1
2002 Rudy Giuliani (NY) 3-1
2003 Condoleezza Rice (CA) 7-2
2004 Bill Frist (TN) 6-1
2005 George Allen (VA) 17-1
2006 Jeb Bush (FL) 27-1
2007 John McCain (AZ) 35-1
2008 Mitt Romney (MA) 36-1
2009 Newt Gingrich (GA) 60-1
2010 Rick Santorum (PA) 70-1
2011 Bill Owens (CO) 250-1
2012 Mark Sanford (SC) 300-1
2013 George Pataki (NY) 350-1
2014 Chuck Hagel (NE) 500-1

These are the odds at the exact instance in time, 40-42 months prior to the nominating conventions.

For the Democrats, Hillary Rodham Clinton, obviously, is the early favorite. John Kerry, who is sending signals about running, is the only other "top tier" candidate. John Edwards does not warrant inclusion in the top tier because he was a drag on the ticket as Kerry's veep choice in '04. His only shot at getting the nomination is to have all the viable candidates self-destruct in front of him, which is possible.

The odds are relatively high on Evan Bayh, Mark Warner and Phil Bredesen, as they are current or former governors who are prospering politically in red states. That could be a Democrat goal in '08, depending on how the 2006 midterms go. Howard Dean is so low because of his promise not to seek the presidential nomination if he was elected DNC chair, which he was. Joe Biden is so low because, politically, he is way past his sell-by date. Bill Richardson (who would be my personal choice among the possible Dem candidates) is being assigned low odds because of the rumors of skeletons in his closet that twice now has derailed him from being slotted as the Dems'vice presidential candidate, despite charisma and foreign policy cred. The others have no realistic shot, but between now and the Fall of '07, will be "mentioned."

For the Republicans, the highest odds are for Dick Cheney, who has said he is not running. Two historical reasons for such high odds: (1) the fact that sitting vice presidents tend to get their party's presidential nomination and (2) the curse of Tecumseh could render him an incumbent. Given the anger in this world (and nation) toward the incumbent, this, unfortunately, must be factored in. If the War on Terror is the issue in the Republican nominating process, the two best positioned candidates are Rudy G. and Condi Rice. Given that Condi recently refused to rule out a run, the odds for her are getting higher.

Bill Frist will probably be the best positioned of the rest. George Allen does have the gubernatorial credentials that are fairly essential, but he's too much of an unknown nationally to be a likely nominee for the R's. John McCain doesn't have a realistic shot because of his age (he'll be 68 in 2008). Jeb Bush's chances would be higher if there was a likelihood of him actually running. Mitt Romney is from the state most demonized in Republican circles, and the whole Mormon thing, fair or not, will be a huge hurdle for him to overcome (e.g., Protestant evangelicals aren't entirel comfortable with their LDS brethren). Bill Owens is now out of the realm of serious candidates because of the spanking the R's took in Colorado in 2004 elections. And Chuck Hagel is a 500-1 shot because, typically, Republicans prefer to nominate an actual Republican/

Addendum: The Washington Post is quoting Condi in an ABC-TV interview as saying that she has "no ambition" to be president and "no intention" of running. Hardly Sherman-esque. And definitely the right tack for an ambitious underling to be saying this far from election time. The 7-2 odds still look about right.

Canada-bashing at the Weekly Standard

My blog is turning into a sort of repository for Canada-bashing. And why not?

Matt Labash, the resident moderate on the staff of the Weekly Standard, engages in a disappointingly balanced look at The Great Smug North. You have to get through a lot of balance before you get to the meat of Labash's bashing. Favorite passage:

So I spent three days on Nexis kicking up every comparison-survey and statistic I could find on American/Canadian values. I became so gripped with the subject I could have been mistaken for a Canadian. This unscientific research quickly confirmed that Canadians are bizarrely obsessed with us, binge-eating out of our cultural trough, then pretending it tastes bad. Plainly the two things Canada needs most are a mirror and a good psychiatrist.
Goodness gracious, doesn't that line completely encapsulate the Canadian cultural identity that is wholly predicated on its status as "not America." Once he finally, gets into the bashing spirit, the good stuff flows:

While Canadians pride themselves on knowing more about us than we do about them (undoubtedly true), the problem--captured in a survey done for Canada Day in 2000--is that even historically challenged Americans know more about ourselves than Canadians do about themselves. In parallel 10-question quizzes on everything from our first president/prime minister to the words of our respective national anthems, 63 percent of Americans scored five or more right answers. Only 39 percent of Canadians did. One Canadian television critic expressed disbelief, writing, "Average Americans appear to be in worse shape--judging by the evidence on TV, anyway." She would know, since at the time of her comment, 92 percent of the comedies and 85 percent of the dramas on Canadian television were made elsewhere, mainly in America.

It's long, but worth the read.

Guilty pleasure Saturday: Doobie Brothers - "Echoes of Love"

By the time they released Livin' on the Fault Line, Northern California's Doobie Brothers had ceased being a hard-rockin' biker band. You could call them "blue-eyed soul," I guess, but they were more like Steely Dan Lite, more jazz-rock than R&B, having metaphored into little more than back-up band for Michael McDonald.

Thankfully, there was still some valuable contributions from original member Patrick Simmons. Simmons may have not have been one of the more prolific members of the band, but he contributed a very disproportionate number of their most interesting and original numbers. He was the one responsible for their first number one, "Black Water." He also wrote the catchy, clever little ditty, "Echoes of Love," the highlight of this album.

Again, I don't know why this song was not a mega-hit. It should be covered over and over by harmony-based vocal groups. But it's a "guilty pleasure" due to the reputation of the McDonald-led Doobies, who would win Grammies with their next album, Minute by Minute, and its atrocious lead single "What a Fool Believes." That Grammy-winner was co-written by Kenny Loggins, sort of a Bad Housekeeping Seal of Disapproval for early 80s pop music.

The pretty good Livin' on the Fault Line, however, is available on the sale from alldirect for a mere $6.65. Such the bargain. At that price, it's definitely worth having as my only Doobie Brothers CD.

3/11/2005

Pet Shop Boys - "Being Boring"

Today's song o' the day is best described as "wistful." In fact, it is the single most wistful song in my CD collection. Even the allmusic site uses that word, meaning "melancholy recollection," to describe "Being Boring," the lead-off track on the Behavior CD from The Pet Shop Boys.

Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant wrote this song about a childhood friend who died of AIDS, but there's a more universal element to the song. This song plays in my head whenever I feel a permanent sort of good-bye being said. Because it's, yes, wistful. And good pop music, too.

Condi '08! It's never too early

Drudge is reporting that the Washington Times is reporting that . . . Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is not ruling out running for the president in 2008.

Unfortunately, she also comes out as mildly pro-choice on abortion. But that's OK. I can live with that, given the current state of the world. I am strongly pro-life. But the most important life-affirming issue right now - and for the foreseeable future - is winning the War on Terror.

Abortion has been taken out of the political realm by the Supreme Court and even Reagan appointees are loathe to overturn Roe v. Wade. So, this pro-life Republican will support either of two pro-choice Republicans likely to run in '08: Condi Rice or Rudy Giuliani. Don't care which end is up on that ticket. But absent a run by my current hero, The Donald Rumsfeld (who really will be too old to be president by 2008), there are no other candidates who would be better at fighting this war to victory.

So Condi/Rudy or Rudy/Condi, either way, America cannot lose (but the terrorists can).

Celebrity justice in Santa Barbara County

The Michael Jackson trial is an interesting peek into the criminal justice that does warrant some media attention. It's worth a little TV news coverage (albeit not cable news wall-to-wall) when there's an especially high level of Jacko weirdness.

Yesterday was one such day.

Jackson arriving in court, late, clad in pajama bottoms and slippers, and appearing more drugged out than an ex-New York Jets QB wanting a kiss from an evil she-bitch of a sideline reporter[*] (for example). Judge Rodney Melville appears finally to be losing patience with Jackson unilaterally dictating the trial schedule and starting times. A few more instances like this and perhaps Judge "Ito" Melville will crack down.

Unlike most criminal defendants, Jackson gets to show up when he wants. He gets doctor breaks on his whim. It will be interesting to see if Jackson truly exceeds the permissible bounds of celebrity justice and gets treated from this point forward as an ordinary criminal defendant, rather than a celebrity playing one on TV. This is a lesson in whether there is truly equal justice, or whether economic circumstances dictate the level of justice a defendant will receive.

For this reason, this trial is worth a little attention, perhaps one news story a day and a TV news feature ever few days. That, and the human freak show circus that is the once King of Pop.

Footnote: [*] Part of the mission of this blog is to spread the word that ABC-TV's MNF sideline reporter Suzy Kolber is bad people. Any opportunity to spread this word will be taken, even if it is an out-of-place non sequitut in a Jacko rant. By the way, any insinuation that she is "an evil she-bitch from hell" has nothing to do with the Namath incident (even though we love Joe-Willy for the simple reason that we share a hometown). Kolber's status as an " ESBfH" is pure opinion (thus not defamation) based on her rude dissing of the teenage daughter of an NFL executive we like here at this blog.

3/10/2005

More jobs for Nevada!

I just caught this posting from the Professor Bainbridge site about a plan by the California state legislature to export still more jobs to the greatest state in all of America: my home, Nevada. California is actually, seriously contemplating a plan to require employers offering dependent group health insurance coverage to cover adult children who still live at home!

Where to begin?

First of all, what part of "adult" doesn't California understand? Adult means adult: the parents aren't legally or morally responsible for these people, so why should the parents' employer?

Second, I'm guessing that the use of the phrase "cost/benefit analysis" constitutes a hate-crime under California law. What do they think the effect will be on California jobs? I got a one-word answer: Nevada. You want a second word? Utah. A third? Idaho.

The cost of insuring workers in California will skyrocket. What's a dependent adult? Is it an adult still living at home? How are you going to prove that the "primary residence" for the adult child isn't the parents' home? Midnight raids? Bedroom cams monitored through the night? I know, that for purposes of obtaining insurance, a lot of California parents are going to claim that their children primarily live at home and that the kid's apartment in downtown San Francisco ten minutes from the office is only a weekend vacation getaway.

California is the type of place that's filled with leftists who think that electricity comes from outlets. Their electricity crisis a few years was caused by NIMBY environmentalists (emphasis on the "mental") who wanted cheap power, but no power plants. Anywhere. Of any kind, except maybe solar panels on the roof (although how the solar panels were to be manufactured would probably cause problems for them, too). Same with jobs. Just as the left wing fringe that runs the Golden State doesn't draw the connection between power plants and power, there's no concept that employment is created by employers.

California is doing OK still. But you wanna know it's future? Upstate New York. Upstate New York is a beautiful place filled with intelligent, generally hard-working people. Economically, it's dead. It is no more. Killed by the anti-business leftist politics of multiple generations of Empire State goverment driven by the Manhattan Left. New York City, being New York City, survived all right (well, the lower two-thirds of Manhattan and the adjacent parts of Brooklyn). Buffalo, Elmira, Jamestown, Binghamton, Cortland, Utica. They didn't.

San Francisco will survive. The weather is too beautiful in San Diego for it too to fail. But Barstow? Or Stockton? Or San Jose?

The new bankruptcy bill

With strong bipartisan support, the U.S. Senate passed bankruptcy "reform" legislation today. Why, yes, those are "scare" quotes around the word "reform." Thanks for noticing.

This is the worst bill approved by a single house of Congress since perhaps the Republicans won control of Congress in 1994. The bill is anti-consumer, anti-lawyer, and probably won't do a damn thing to lower credit card interest rates despite the fact that it is a giveaway to the credit industry. The bill will make it significantly more difficult for consumers to get a "fresh start" by declaring bankruptcy.

More insidious is the provision making the attorney liable for his client's bankruptcy fraud. THe lawyer is potentially liable for a bankrupt client's failure to completely disclose assets. Speaking as an attorney, I find this part outrageous and unprecedented in American jurisprudence. Basically, the lawyer is asked to "guarantee" the honesty and integrity of one's client. If this rule were applied in the criminal law context, it would like passing a law that said if a client is found guilty, the lawyer has to go to jail with him.

Now some folks may think this has some basic appeal, and it's probably not a winning argument in the court of public opinion, but ... you as a member of the public would never be able to hire a lawyer under those ground rules.

If this bill passes, and it looks like nothing is going to stop it, then it would be professional malpractice for an attorney to accept a bankruptcy case. My law partner does some bankruptcy law. We have already decided that, as a firm, we will take no more bankruptcy cases if this bill passes. The consequences are too great. Where's Democratic party obstructionism when it could do some good?

Timbalada - "Margarida Perfumada"

My favorite Brazilian music is from the Carlinhos Brown side project Timbalada. The best music (and the best food) in the most musical country on earth is the highly percussive axê music of Bahia is northeast Brazil.

The mournful "Margarida Perfuma" is the closest Timbalada has ever come to a ballad. The beats per minute is a bit lower than most of their songs, but it's still percussion-driven. I have this song off multiple Timbalada discs, such as the Minha Historia CD that I bought at the suggestion of a local at a CD store in the Centro (downtown) neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro.

This song originally appeared on the third Timbalada CD, Andei Road, their most American-sounding CD that actually comes close to "rocking out." Ironically, it's the toughest Timbalada CD to find in the United States. I bought my copy of a few years on line from a Japanese record store. Isn't the internet wonderful? An American man sitting at his computer in Las Vegas can buy a Brazilian CD from a Japanese record store without having to translate his request into either portuguesa or kanji. That alone is enough to justify this choice for song o' the day.

3/09/2005

Nancy Soderberg's "joke"

Yes! Break out the "sarcasm" "quotes" on the "word" "joke."

Last week, as I commented below, ex-Clintonista Nancy Soderberg appeared on the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to promote her book with anti-American sounding title of The Superpower Myth: The Use and Misuse of American Might. She made some pretty bizarre statements. The "jokes" were ""Well, there's still Iran and North Korea, don't forget. There's hope for the rest of us." and even more weird, "There's always hope that this might not work," referencing the spread of democracy in the Southwestern Asia.

In today's Opinion Journal "Best of the Web," James Taranto is commenting on the fact that Nancy Soderberg is defending herself by saying it was a "joke." Missed in the "was she or wasn't she?" discussion is this obvious point: of course she was joking. But no joke is ever 100% joke. There's always at least an element of serious intent. So, the question is, was Soderberg's comment intended to 95% joke/5% serious, or, like a sexually-harassing boss who's called to account for his unfunny innuendo, 95% serious/5% joke.

Given the lack of yuks and guffaws elicited by Soderberg at the time of her comments, what percentage breakdown do you think I'm thinking?

Cuts like a knife

Typing is a thoroughly unpleasant experience with a big huge honkin' bandage on the middle finger of one's dominant hand. Yesterday, the super-sized extend-o-finger bandage was replaced by a more manageable, regular ol' off-the-shelf model Band-Aid brand bandage. Typing is still difficult, but this better.

The super-sized extend-o-finger bandage reminded of a skit from the old In Living Color TV show that was popular in my law school days, where Keenan Ivory Wayans would play Arsenio Hall. (History lesson: Arsenio had a talk show in syndication back then that not only was trez popular, but was downright trend-setting.) Wayans played Arsenio was an extra-long digit (can't remember if it was a middle finger or index finger).

Don't know why; don't care. It was funny. When it was Keenan Ivory Wayans playing Arsenio. Significantly less funny when it's one's own finger. Even more significantly less funny when it's the result of cutting a gash in one's finger cleaning a kitchen knife.

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - "New Stone Age"

Yeah, I know the politics of this song are hopelessly naïve leftist nuclear-freeze drivel of the sort that could have lost us the Cold War, but it's only rock and roll. My favorite song in the extensive Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark catalog is the lead-off track from their landmark Architecture & Morality record, "New Stone Age."

Maybe it's the staccato electronics, or the nervous energy of Andy McCluskey's singing, or the the urgency of the synth lead, this is an arresting song that compels the listener to pay attention. It is the most dissonant song in the OMD catalog. Not only that, it is probably the most dissonant song in my entire CD collection that nonethless remains pure hook-ridden pop. It is the most dissonant song o' the day so far.

3/07/2005

Bob Welch - "Ebony Eyes"

You ready for some 70s pop?

As cheesy as all good things from the 70s were, today's song o' the day is "Ebony Eyes," the second single pulled off the commercial breakhrough from ex-Fleetwood Mac guitarist Bob Welch, his LP French Kiss. Incidentally, French Kiss is on the sale at alldirect.com at a price so cheap, it's as if they are paying you take it off their hands. It's a positive steal at $3.97.

Welch made the Pete Best Career Move of the 70s when he voluntarily left Fleetwood Mac right after they brought Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks on board, but just before they started recording their self-titled monster breakthrough Fleetwood Mac. Welch basically has his entire solo career in 1977 with French Kiss. I will always have a soft spot for this LP because the first record review I ever wrote was of this record, printed in my high school newspaper.

While the big hit "Sentimental Lady" is just a standard-issue ballad, "Ebony Eyes" is quite an interesting song. The chorus starts up after the short first verse jarringly soon. The bridge is haunting, but in an upbeat way. Very creative song. Of course, the rest of the disc is embarrasingly lame nearly 30 years in retrospection. Try not cringing for Bob when you listen to "Danchiva" or "Outskirts." In all fairness, Bob very likely was ingesting massive amounts of narcotics, so I'm guessing he had no clue.

Happy 49

Happy 49th to my sister, living in Western PA.

3/06/2005

Nick Heyward - "Laura"

Ex-Haircut 100 leader Nick Heyward has gone on to have a pretty successful solo career, if you measure "success" in terms of putting out great pop music, as opposed to using the record sales metric. His first solo record North of a Miracle is a must-own, but only if you spring for the Australian version with seven bonus tracks (which is priced at the relative bargain price of $13.99 over at the usually pricier amazon.com)

The bonus tracks make the record. The instrumental version of the album's single "Whistle Down the Wind" is just as moving as the lyrical take. But the best song of all is Track 17, "Laura." Don't know why this wasn't included on the regular LP. It's a "should've been-a number one" in my book. It's yet another song in that patented Nick Heyward vein where the peppy upbeat pop tune conceals the downer lyrics about unfulfilled love. Song o' the day, nonetheless.

Special bonus Nick Heyward anecdote: A friend of mine saw Nick Heyward when he was touring in support of North of a Miracle back in the early 80s, right after he left his band to go solo. Apparently Nick was quite embittered over the Haircut 100 experience. He asked the crowd: "Anyone hear the new Haircut 100 record?" Dead silence. Nick deadpans, "Thought so." Ouch. And he looks like such a nice young man, too.

The constitutionality of Indian gaming

Living in Las Vegas, this is a question I've pondered. Why, in most states, is there a racial criteria for entering into the business of casino ownership?

Today's Las Vegas Review-Journal has an editorial from Cato Institute fellow Doug Bandow on the subject of Indian gaming. It's not available in the on-line edition of the Review-Journal, but here's a link to an article by Bandow on this subject, in townhall.com, from about six months ago.

I don't understand why the 14th amendment, guaranteeing equal protection under the laws, does not forbid race-based employment/ownership classifications, which is exactly what tribal gaming is. In 30 states, you have to be a member of a particular racial group (with possible low threshold of entry, see, e.g., Ward Churchill) in order to enter a particular line of business: casino ownership. The 14th amendment issue is exacerbated when an Indian tribe opens a casino on "non-tribal" land, but the constitutional problem exists regardless of where the casino is built -- unless it's built in Nevada or one of the other states where all citizens are free to enter the casino business.

In the case of casino ownership, all races are not equal under the eyes of the law. Why Indian tribes among the racial groups? Regardless of whatever good might be created in allowing the development of isolated tribal lands -- although the successful casinos are not being built on isolated tribal lands -- this should not be done at the expense of trashing the 14th amendment.

Las Vegas's ugliest building to open

Two new buildings will soon be opening in Las Vegas. One enhances are great architecture panorama. The other is one of the ugliest buildings I've ever seen anywhere. One is on the Strip; the other in downtown. It's no shock that the prize is on the Strip and the punisher is in mistake-ridden downtown Las Vegas.

I think my town, Las Vegas, Nevada USA, is one of the architectural wonders of the world. So many fascinating structures in our ever-changing cityscape. The great addition is the new curving Wynn Las Vegas, which finally ends the reign of the "Y" shape for Strip hotels:



On the other hand, downtown's World Market Center furniture mart is a monstrosity and a catastrophe:



It is your basic socialist realism mega-box, with this giant half circle draped over the east and west sides from top to bottom. It's a train wreck (the picture fails to do it the proper injustice): two bad architectural ideas that get worse when added together.

3/05/2005

Guilty pleasure Saturday: Daryl Hall & John Oates - "Private Eyes"

Henceforth, Saturday's song o' the day shall be declared from within my large vault of musical guilty pleasures. And one of the guiltiest of my guilty pleasures is: Daryl Hall and John Oates.

I'm a fan. I own 13 Daryl Hall and John Oates albums on CD, from 1973's Abandoned Luncheonette through 1988's Ooh Yeah! I own two Daryl Hall solo records. I love each and every one of them. I plan on going to see them in concert when they come to Green Valley Ranch Station casino in April, which is the casino closest to my house. And one of my alltime favorite pop songs is the title track from their 1981 LP Private Eyes.

The tune is great, simple and memorable. The lyrics, despite being built on a pun, are fun and sing-able. The rock and funk influences are in perfect balance. The American pubilc knew what it was doing when it let this one get to number one. I won't apologize for loving this great piece of pop music.

Easter Bunny blues

I saw the Easter Bunny today at the outlet mall. You (presumably only if you're under the age of six or so) could get your picture taken with the over-sized rabbit, for a fee of some sort. I waved to him as I walking by, but he didn't wave back. And he could have, because there was precious little action at the Easter Bunny booth, even though the mall had a fairly large kiddie population at the time.

Santa's usually mobbed as soon as he makes him annual appearance at the mall (which is usually, what, some time between Columbus Day and Halloween?). Why so little interest in the Easter Bunny? Easy. The Easter Bunny is, far and away, the lamest of the Big Three childhood fantasy figures, which includes Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

I'm guessing that of the imaginary troika, the Easter Bunny is the first to go for every child in America over the last 50+ years. I stopped believing in the Easter Bunny a good year or so before Santa. We didn't have giant, buck-toothed, bowtie-wearing hares handing out chocolate at the Mall when I was a kid. Hell, we didn't even have shopping malls until I was teenager! When we wanted to shop, we had to go to department stores. Full-priced department stores. We had no discounters back then.

But I digress. Even if we had giant, buck-toothed, bowtie-wearing bunny rabbits in our stores, I still wouldn't have believed. The bunny thing made no sense. Bunny + eggs? What's up with that? Since I didn't understand the whole fertility symbolism back when I was five, the whole thing was nonsense. The Santa myth made sense on its face. Old man likes to hand out presents. Of course! Makes sense. But bunny handed out dyed eggs? And chocolate? And those malted milk robin eggs thingies? And little sugar-coated chicken-shaped marshmallow stuff? What's that got to do with rabbits?

Bottom line: getting a photo with a giant, buck-toothed bowtie-wearing bunny rabbit just doesn't say Easter to me. At least not like this.

By the way, the Tooth Fairy was the last one I surrendered to their material world, largely because of an incident where, under my pillow in my bedroom, a tooth got exchanged for a coin one morning while both of my parents were with me in the kitchen. I still don't know how that happened. Because of this, I'm still not quite 100% convinced there's no Tooth Fairy.

3/04/2005

Boomtown Rats - "The Elephant's Graveyard"

I buy a lot of CD's. Before that, I bought a lot of LP's. Many times I've bought a record, listened to it a few times, and then would never listen to it again. Maybe I didn't like it; maybe it just left no impression either way. Occasionally I've pulled out records that have been languishing for 10 years or so, listen to them with open ears, and think: Wow! Why haven't I been listening to this record all these years?

Probably the single record that I've owned that made the biggest leap -- from completely and totally disliking to absolutely loving -- after lying dormant in my album collection for well over 10 years -- is the critically abused LP from the Boomtown Rats' album catalog, Mondo Bongo. Even before head Rat Bob Geldof became the hero of famine relief, music critics generally liked their literate, cynical DIY pop. Until their fourth record. Critics dismissed Mondo Bongo as a failed, over-reaching attempt at posturing within a number of disparate musical genres, such as ska and mambo. At the time of the release, I was put off by the faux Latin beat.

But after letting some time pass, and not wondering why there's no pogo-pop like "She's Like Modern," I grew to appreciate the quality of the songs of this record. My favorite is "The Elephant's Graveyard," which seems to be about the travails in an upscale, seniors resort in a third world country. Or maybe not. Regardless, song o' the day.

Leftists v. Wal-Mart

I side with: Wal-Mart!

They are probably the only full-line grocery store left in the Las Vegas market that doesn't require you to shop with one of those hellish "savings card," which really just means that you are assessed a surcharge by Smith's or Albertson's if you decline to surrender your privacy and allow them to build a database of your purchasing habits. But my hatred of the "savings card" system shall be left for another post.

The usual leftist suspects have forced Wal-Mart from opening a store inside the Five Boroughs, in Queens, forcing lower income bargain-hunters out to Long Island to find affordable prices. Here's a victory lap from an elitist lefty hatah acting contrary to the interests of the lumpenproletariat who likely has deluded himself into thinking he's looking out for the interests of the working class. Not only does he have contempt for Wal-Mart, but he must really despise the hordes pushed full shopping carts down suburban and rural Wal-Mart aisles (especially the Wal-Marts in Jesusland!).

Y'think he really does think that actual shoppers are the ones who demanded that New York say "no" to Wal-Mart, or is he savvy enough to realize that it was the typical lefty elites dictating their tastes to the general public, forcing the city government to decline to act in the true best interests of New York's working class? And he wonders why lower income continually refuse to see that their interests are aligned with the lefty elite. The lefty elitethinks they are acting in the best interests of the working class because they hate tax cuts, refuse to reform social security so that it exists come retirement time for folks under 40, and want tax dollars to fund NPR and other indecent art. The truth is, not only do they not share a shopping locale with the working class, but they don't even want to see the working class have their preferred store as an option.

I, on the other hand, love the idea that by shopping at Wal-Mart, I can now afford to buy box cereals again. I pay $2.89 for cereals that would be well over four bucks at the Albertson's. And look at the beef prices! And those little tubs of flavored Philadelphia brand cream cheese! And Breyer's ice cream, which I wish was a little more expensive so I could more easily avoid letting it into my shopping cart.

Say, maybe MoveOn is right. Maybe those Wal-Mart bargains aren't such a good thing after all.

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