Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays

Each year goes faster than before,
They’re past before you know it,
So now it’s time for me to rhyme
And prove that I’m no poet.

This year began, as winters do,
With cold and lots of snow,
I’ll not complain, but ‘twere snow rain,
We’d had to learn to row.

The holidays last year did bring
A guest to share our rooms,
‘Twas Kaitlyn, Corky’s grand-daughter,
We hope she’ll be back soon.

Then dormant lay us all till May
When action came exploding
With news and schmooze and trips to Stu’s
All fun, with no foreboding.

We started off in Wilmington,
(That’s in North Carolina)
For Kaitlyn’s mother’s birthday fete,
And few trips have been finah.

Then later in that very month
We flew to Colorado,
Niece Aspen graduated there,
Amid much broo-ha-ha-do.

And in between the two I had
A story writ in print,
An honest-to-Faulkner printed book
With my words dropped right in’t.

(In case you all are wondering,
The plot line dealt with crime,
As this note has made very clear,
I’ll ne’er be paid for rhyme.)

In June I went to Chicago
To celebrate with Stu
His birthday, yes, the Big Five-O
With sightseeing and blues.

The summer’s end saw Corky back
In Flint to see old friends
With Suzie Ovick Diebolt Kna-
pinski her time did spend.

With Eric and with Aaron, too
Some hours she did share,
‘Twas fun, but they were too quick passed,
She sees them both so rare.

With fall came yet another feat,
In Rachel’s sophomore term,
Distinguished scholarship award
Her hard work thus affirmed.

As you can see from in your mail,
Beloved Spouse has been
Creating individual cards,
This poem to put within.

Unique they are, yours and the rest,
None has a perfect twin,
Hand-made and summoned with much thought
The craft she placed herein.

For all these things—and many more—
Our anniversary
Was special, even one day late,
Because we’ve learned to see

How everything must fit its place,
All undue stress be barred,
With friends and family like you,
That’s really not too hard.

We all hope you’ve enjoyed yourselves
As much as we’ve this year,
Now Rachel, Corky, and your scribe
Extend our annual cheer.

To each and every one of you
To find some small delight
For every time you rise from bed
May all your days be bright.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Airing of Grievances

It's December 23, and Festivus is upon us again! Stop admiring your pole (hmm, that didn't come out right), digest the Feast, and build up a good head of resentment for the Feats of Strength. That's right, it's time for the Airing of Grievances.

My grievance list:

Politicians who allow others to do the heavy lifting, negotiate against themselves to accommodate the other side, then claim a momentous accomplishment. You know who you are, Fredo.

Not using the serial comma.

Selfishness without consideration of its consequences to others.

Allowing the top marginal rate to return to pre-2000 levels would not be income redistribution any more than what happened to the tax code from 1980 - 2000 was.

And, so what if it is. All taxes are income redistribution at some level, because some activities that pertain to the common good cannot, by their nature, be self-supporting.

The Designated Hitter.

The 24-hour news cycle, which has made the word "verification" as obsolete as latin.

The sun should be up before I am. Every day.

People who are belligerent about putting the "Christ" back into the pagan solstice festival they usurped back in the Middle Ages.

Glenn Beck.

Keith Olbermann.

Athletes and coaches who can't craft an intelligible English sentence who act like what they do is too complex to explain to an intelligent layman.

Using race as a way to keep the lower classes too busy distrusting each other to pay attention to the people who really are screwing them.

Ah, hell. Politicians in general.

Those of any political description who refuse to look more than one step down the road from any decision, thus allowing the entire nation to be governed by the law of Unintentional Consequences.

The Washington DC area's reaction to snow and cold weather.

Chainsaw Dan Snyder.

Now that you're convinced I'm an embittered, cynical, old bastard (note proper use of serial comma), stay tuned for tomorrow's post. You're not wrong about the Embittered, cynical, old bastard part, but we have our moments, too.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

It's Not the Destination, It's the Ride

I work at home most of the time now, thanks to a new assignment. It's a mixed blessing. The commute is great, and frees up over two hours a day for my personal life. The lack of other people around can make it hard to feel connected to the job, and it's easy to forget how long you've been staring at the screen before a headache and the knots in your shoulders remind you. Those little interruptions that can be so frustrating at work serve an under-appreciated purpose.

Among the better benefits of working at home is the ability to listen to whatever music I want. As a reformed musician, I have a large and varied collection of CDs and LPs, divided about evenly between classical and jazz, with some R&B and country thrown in. I don't have as much time as I used to for listening to the classical CDs. They tend to distract me when writing--when I need to apply my right brain elsewhere--but can be helpful in passing the time when working. I decided last week to re-acquaint myself with my classical collection by listening to two or three CDs a day, skipping through the racks so I wouldn't OD on some of my more popular composers.

Beethoven's Fifth Symphony hit early on. My Music Literature teacher in college told us Beethoven 5 was often considered to be the most perfect piece of music ever written. The Ninth might be greater, but any change made to the Fifth diminished it.

I was lucky enough to get to perform Beethoven 5 twice during my musical days. It might seem corny to a non-musician, but it truly is an elevating experience, the kind of thing I experienced occasionally when playing in orchestras, and nowhere else. I found myself remembering what that was like while I listened the other day, waiting for what came next, hearing inner parts most listeners experience only as part of the texture but are clear as a bell to someone who has sat close to the instrument playing it. It was the most serene work day I have ever spent.

I spent almost twenty years--college, the Army, graduate school, and free-lance--trying to make a living as a musician. I'm not sorry for a second of it. Even if I set aside all the things I learned about life and myself, the people I met, became (and remain) friends with, the places I've gone, and experiences I've enjoyed that would never have been possible but for my musical life, it would have been worth it for that feeling.

Beethoven has been dead almost 200 years, but his music lives, and is important in people's lives. This is made possible by living musicians who have spent uncountable hours in poorly ventilated practice rooms perfecting their craft as much as their talents will allow, for the privilege of bringing such music into the present day. Most do it for little or no money, not even the hope of it. The reward of the performance is enough.

I was fortunate to enjoy such privileges for much of my adult life, and I do consider it a privilege to have been allowed to do so. I counsel young musicians against trying to make a living at it, as it can be hell on personal relationships and so few can ever make a decent living at it. Only those who reject my advice have a chance. Anyone who accepts it would have come up short sooner or later; they didn't want it badly enough.

As for me, I came up short later, rather than sooner. So it goes. I ended up in a far different place than where I set out for. Every second of that early musical detour was worth it, if only for the feeling I got when I listen to Beethoven 5 on my computer's speakers, knowing that twice in my life, for about 25 minutes each, others were able to hear it live, without any electronic intervention, in part through my participation. That's quite a legacy to be a part of.

Friday, December 03, 2010

A Brief History Lesson

European history is a drag, right? All those small countries and shifting borders and allegiances and unpronounceable names. Impossible to keep anything straight. Fear not. The Home Office, in its never-ending quest to make this a better world for me to live in, can now show you how World War I was exactly like a bar fight, courtesy of The Economist and The Sole Heir.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Line of the Day

From Call Me Fishmeal, discussing current TSA policies:

If you hired a security guard to watch your house, and 10 years later your neighbors said, “Hey, several times now dudes have tried to steal your shit, but we came over and stopped them each time after your security guy let them through,” would you continue to employ him? Especially if every time you tried to enter your house, he grabbed your nuts and took naked pictures of your wife?

Parts of the post are a little unfair to TSA, but the general tone is apt, and that quote was dead on.

Thanks to the Search Engine Correspondent for pointing this out.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Who Pays?

Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles have made their initial recommendations on how to cut the deficit. The legislation that comes of this, if any, will look very much different, but what they presented may serve as a blueprint, especially for those areas where there is not a hard and fast constituency.

The way it looks now, I'll take a beating. They recommend eliminating the home mortgage interest deduction, and my employer-provided health benefits--which my employer has reduced each of the past few years--will become taxable. I don't like it, but I can live with it. This country rode the gravy train for too long, and even though i wasn't one of those who overextended himself and defaulted on a credit card or mortgage, I understand everyone will have to pitch in.

Just so long as everyone does.

I don't mind if my tax obligation increases twice as much as someone who makes half as much. Hell, I don't mind if it increases more than twice as much if that guy's still raising small children, with the million expenses kids accrue. I just want to make sure the guys who make twice what I make--or ten times, or a hundred times--get nicked, too.

Conservatives complain about the "redistribution of wealth" every time a new tax is proposed. What has been done since 1980 with every tax cut? Those, too, have been redistributions of wealth, though in the other direction, taking money away from those who didn't have as much and giving it to those who already had more.

I'll pay my extra share willingly, so long as those above me on the income ladder pay theirs. If not, then I'm going to get belligerent about this. Enough's enough.

Monday, November 08, 2010

How We Got Here

As usual, The Onion nailed it. The greatest strength of a democracy such as ours is the potential to have the government we want. The greatest weakness is that we get the government we deserve.

Let’s leave aside how many people do or don’t vote. Voter levels aren’t really the problem. I’ll all for making it a little harder to register to vote in the first place, as someone too lazy to do even that probably isn’t going to extend himself when it comes time to have his say. Too many sheeple (as the Beloved Spouse calls them) on both sides of the aisle do this.

Disagree? That’s your right, but I dis-disagree back atcha. Consider health care reform, probably the most controversial law passed by the current Congress. The people are about evenly divided. About 47-48% are for it, and 47-48% are against it. (The other 5-6% don’t understand the question.) Here’s where it gets complicated. Individual components of the law are overwhelmingly popular, ebven with those who want to get rid of it.

Should your insurance provider be allowed to drop you because you actually got sick? No one wants that. How about doing away with lifetime caps? People like that, too. Allowing children to remain covered under their parents’ policies up to age 26 if the kids’ employers don’t pick them up? Sounds good to most folks. How about lowering health care costs by standardizing forms and lowering administrative overhead? No one complaining about that.

No one thinks kids should be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition. People who are trying to eat healthier want to be able to see the nutritional information on what they’re considering at a restaurant. Despite overwhelming approval of these (and other) aspects of the law, the polling numbers show many of the people who like these things still want to repeal the law that provides them.

There are people today who are paying for, or reluctantly doing without, end-of-life planning, who know it’s a good thing, and yet screamed foul words at their congressman two summers ago because of the “death panels.” These folks didn’t realize the death panels they were so upset about were the same end-of-life care and advice they’re so worried about now. All they knew was that attention whore Sarah Palin told them these were bad. I don’t know what to say about those who became hysterical over the idea of the government running Medicare; Medicare is, and has always been, a government program, and, as the level of vitriol indicated, a highly popular one.

People argue there will be fraud. Of course there will; it can’t be helped. There has never been a large program, in either the public or the private sector, that didn’t have fraud. There’s Social Security fraud, and we know well how people feel about shutting down that government program. (Socialist government program, no less.) The trick is to weed it out as well as we can, while understanding you can’t eliminate it. No one is served if 99 people are hurt just so one guy can’t get over.

American voters aren’t bad people. They are short-sighted and gullible. Looking two steps down the road seems to be beyond most of them. They see Problem A and Glenn Beck proposes Solution B, and no one cares that it will not only not eradicate the problem it was intended to solve, but will also create Condition C, which is almost as bad as A, but just not to me personally.

Think, people. Others can advise you, but only you can do the actual thinking. And it’s way past time we got busy about it.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Truer Words Never Were Writ

I'll have more to say on this later, but it seems appropriate to point to The Onion for the 500th post here. Thanks to both of you for reading.

Election Post Mortem

The election is finally over. Wow, that sure was fun.

The Democrats, always suspect for their political acumen, passed three pieces of legislation more important than anything since the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, and still got their asses handed to them by the Republicans, whose entire platform was, “If they want it, we’re agin it.” Senate Minority Leader (And I use the word “leader” with trepidation, due to my respect for the English language) Mitch McConnell has publicly stated the Republicans’ sole policy goal is to get Barack Obama out of office. (More on McConnell later.) These were the cornerstones of an historic election reversal of fortune.

The Democrats’ errors were legion. Their presumed leader, the President, invested exactly none of the political capital he’d earned from the 2008 election. The stimulus? Enough (barely) to keep the ox from falling completely into the ditch, but not enough to turn things around. This was no secret, yet he acceded to the advice of political gurus like Rahm Emanuel, who told him a stimulus that was 2/3 of what had been recommended was all he could get votes for. It probably was. That’s not the point. Negotiating against yourself is always a bad idea. Obama should have come out asking for the $1.2 trillion, rolled it back as necessary to get passage (which might still have been more than he got), and showed the Republicans to be the obstructionists they were, wholly unconcerned with the fact that people were suffering. He then compounded the error by saying this was the package he’d always wanted—presumably so he wouldn’t appear to be weak for rolling over too easily—which made it impossible to go back for more when it proved to be inadequate.

He let Max Baucus and Harry Reid do all the heavy lifting on health care, then came in at the last minute to push it over the top, acting like this was the bill he’d wanted all along. Baucus got rolled by his alleged friend Chuck Grassley while Obama stood idly by, refusing to draw any lines. Again, the only interpretation that makes sense is that he didn’t want to appear weak by losing a battle. Instead, he proved he was weak, by exercising no leadership.

Political capital works much the same as financial capital: it has to be put to work to be worth anything. Obama’s unwillingness to invest any of his is akin to putting your life savings in a mattress. Sure, it looks like the same amount of money, but as inflation eats into it the real value grows smaller all the time. Obama became president in a time of spiraling political inflation; his mattress stash is about worthless. His efforts before the election to spin this into a failure of the voters, knowing he had so alienated his base they wouldn’t support him like they had two years ago, bankrupted him.

I said I’d get back to Mitch McConnell. He wins the Hypocrite of the Week award, no mean feat in an election week. On Wednesday, Mitch pointed to the election results and said his job now was to enforce the will of the American people, as expressed at the polls on Tuesday. His interpretation of this will matches exactly with what he has wanted to do since he got the job. (I’m sure this is entirely coincidental.) Funny, two years ago Mitch and his Republicans were on the other end of a not dissimilar butt whipping, and he had no such regard for the expressed wishes of his beloved American people.

More on those astute Americans later.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Another Milestone

The Sole Heir voted today for the first time. Texted me right after, and she was jazzed. I voted during my lunch break, more out of a sense of duty than enthusiasm. Until I got to the polling place, that is, when I got the same feeling as I have for the last 34 years. It’s just a cool thing, knowing the direction and future of a great nation—and, yes, I do think it’s great, no matter what I bitch about here—is determined wholly by tens of millions of individual decisions, all made in the privacy of a voting booth.

You don’t think so? You think money and big companies run the show? Sure they do, because we allow it. No matter how much money is available, or how distasteful the ads are, no one gets to be a senator, congressman, governor, president, alderman, councilman, delegate, whatever, unless more people vote for him—one at a time—than vote for the opponent.

It’s humbling to think about. I always feel great when I leave the polling place, no matter how I felt about the current situation or the voting choices I had. If you’re reading this on Election Day and haven’t voted yet, get your ass out there. You’ll be glad.

Yes, We're Pussies has posted a severe weather alert for my area. We’re in danger of frost until 9:00 AM. That’s right, frost. Pretty soon they’ll start naming dew.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Most people can tell you their first identifiable memory, distinct from the amorphous images that preceded it. They can tell what they did, or where they were, or what stood out. I’m lucky; I can place it distinctly in time.

Thursday, October 13, 1960. My father was driving my infant brother and me up Garver’s Ferry Hill toward the house my parents had bought just a week or so earlier. (They still live there.) At 3:35 PM Eastern time, Jim Woods announced as Bill Mazeroski hit a one ball, no strike pitch over the left field wall at Forbes Field to win the World Series. Fifty years ago today.

I had some help with the time. On the wall of The Home Office hangs a photograph taken from near the Pirates’ dugout. Mazeroski is in his follow-through, the ball is in the air, and Yogi Berra is turning to give chase to a ball he’ll never catch. The big Longines scoreboard clock is dead center.

It was announced last month that a full kinescope of the game was found in Bing Crosby’s basement, the only known video recording. MLB will broadcast it (announcers Bob Prince and Mel Allen) and make it available for sale to the public. All I’ve ever seen of one of the greatest games ever played (the final score of the back-and-forth game was 10-9) is the movie newsreels, part of which may well be stock crowd footage. Soon I’ll be able to watch it, and remember, whenever I want.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fair and Balanced

Lest you think I'm a lefty all the time, here's the most compelling evidence I've seen yet to Vote Republican!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Danger is Where You Find It

This is not from the Onion.

Thanks to J.D. Rhoades for bringing this to our attention.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Not Balls, Chutzpah

So the real problem here is that Democratic voters aren’t loyal enough? This from the guy who let the stimulus, health care, and financial regulation bills get watered down because he was too concerned about offending any Republicans to get out in front on anything until the last minute?

Where was this scolding tone when Harry Reid postponed the debate and vote on extending the Bush tax cuts until after the November election? Where has he been on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or any number of things that would have rallied his supporters and could probably have been done with a mere stroke of a pen?

He says he’s met about 70% of his campaign promises, as though all campaign promises are created equal. How many were watered down, just so he could check the box? Does the Executive Order to prohibit texting while driving count the same as not doing anything about climate change?

Democrats have been accused in the past of taking their core constituency for granted, taking the attitude, “Who else are you going to vote for?” Well, in my case, not this arrogant prick. He’s already talked me into voting for only local candidates in November, and I’ll sign on for any primary challenger in 2012.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Not Enough Balls Among Them To Shoot Pool

I should have known Harry Reid couldn't keep it up.

Republicans have handed Democrats what could be a key to maintaining control of the Senate and House in the upcoming election: their steadfast support for keeping all of the Bush tax cuts in effect, including those for people making over $250,000. Imagine the sound bites to be obtained by forcing these guys to give floor speeches to support this porition just a few weeks before the election, especially since many of those same Republicans are willing to let the cuts expire for the poorest American if they can't get their way.

All it would have taken was for Reid and the Senate leadership to stand up and call their bluff. As the title of this post implies, that was its downfall; Reid has postponed debate and the vote until after the election, which shows he's as stupid as he is cowardly.

The upcoming voting includes three elections to fill Senate seats that are currently interim positions. By law, whoever wins these elections on November 2 must be seated immediately, which could well cost Democrats three seats they may desperately need for the lame duck session.

Now watch these chickenshit bastards whine about voter turnout if they lose in November.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Two Gifts

I got a phone call out of the blue from The Sole Heir last week. These are not unusual occurrences; she’s good about making The Old Man™ feel like he’s still at the party with random calls and appearances.

This particular call was prompted by her having to walk through the practice room wing of the music building to get to a professor’s office. Every room filled, different music in different keys on different instruments all filtering into the hall as she walked by; Charles Ives’s idea of heaven.

Her response? Call The Old Man™ to tell him what she’d done, and that it occurred to her, “This is what it must have been like for Dad every day.”

That’s Gift One; to have the thought and take the time. Not too many nineteen-year-olds would do either. Made my day.

Gift two? She got me to thinking about it, how it felt for that to be an everyday occurrence. How it was the most energized time of my life, waking up knowing I was going to learn things I didn’t even suspect at the time, and that everything I learned would make me aware of fifteen other things I needed to know and had better find out. It was intimidating and exhilarating at the same time, the intimidation overcome by the exhilaration and the mindless confidence of youth.

Then I got to thinking of how much better my life has been because I made one decision: to change majors from Medical Technology to Music Education. I would have made a nice living in Med Tech, and enjoyed it. Music allowed a working class boy from more or less rural Pennsylvania to be exposed to a lot of things he had no business expecting, contrasting life experiences a lot of people don’t get.

I’ve played with the Pittsburgh Symphony Chamber Orchestra and German beer bands. Played in Heinz Hall and Meyerhoff Hall and a corrugated metal building that housed a private school built so white kids wouldn’t have to school with Nigras. I’ve played the Fourth of July at Stone Mountain in front of 250,000 people and dedicated a tree. Attended receptions in homes worth several million dollars and eaten homemade Brunswick Stew off a paper plate while sitting under a tree. Played football games in sub-freezing temperatures and parades where I wrung the sweat out of my jacket afterward. Performed next to players now working in major orchestras and high school students now working at Popeye’s.

A lot of extremes I would not have had a chance to experience otherwise. The downside is that I rarely feel fully at home in most places. My blue collar upbringing meant I was never truly comfortable in the chi-chi settings, but my education and experience made it hard to listen to some of the conversations taking place in the American Legion when I went home. It forced me to think about things I likely would not have thought about, and to examine positions in a more detailed manner. It taught me the power of self-discipline and perseverance, and how to pick my battles and to know when to quit. Made me a better father than I would have been, and a better son than I had been.

What it didn’t make me was enough money to live on, so I moved on. No shame in that, and no time wasted. Learning to live a more fully examined life is never a waste of time, and it was nice to be reminded of that.

Thanks, Bink.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Rules of Engagement

I just finished reading Lone Survivor, The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and The Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, by Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson. Luttrell earned the Navy Cross for his efforts in what was envisioned as a relatively risky—but not impossible—mission that turned into a cluster fuck of immense proportions, resulting in the deaths of not only Luttrell's three teammates, but their entire rescue team when the Taliban shot down their helicopter. ("Cluster fuck" is not meant as a pejorative; the best plans can fall apart due to an inopportune breeze.)

Despite Luttrell's repeated liberal bashing, this lefty finds it hard to believe anyone could fail to find the story of SEAL Team 10 unmoving. While Robinson is inclined toward purple prose in places (notably when describing Taliban, the "liberal media," or other "lefties"), the battle sequences are told in a straightforward way that makes them even more effective. The duty and honor displayed by everyone involved is humbling; all three NCOs won the Navy Cross, and their leader later was awarded the Medal of Honor. (It says something about the esprit de corps of SEALs that when displaying their awards, the Medal of Honor falls below their SEAL insignia.) Luttrell doesn't appear to have much regard for those who agree with me politically, but my respect for his courage, loyalty, and endurance is unbounded.

What he lacks is a sense of irony. The limiting effects of the Rules of Engagement is a constant thread throughout the book. His team had a chance encounter with three Afghan goatherds as they were settling into position on their mission. There was debate about whether to kill the supposed civilians to keep them from talking to the Taliban. They were allowed to live and sent on their way—according to Luttrell—so the SEALs wouldn't have worry about what the media would say if it ever rolled back on them. To him, there was no question the military situation called for their deaths.

Of course, the goatherds did tell the Taliban, and operation Redwing was a catastrophe from that point forward. Luttrell bitterly blames this on liberal politicians who set the ROEs. Let's think about that for a minute. The events in Lone Survivor took place in 2005. Rules of Engagement are presumably set by the Department of Defense, in coordination with the State Department, and, presumably, the White House. That would have made the three principal players Donald Rumsfeld, Condaleeza Rice, and George W. Bush. The Bush Administration was not well-known with suffering a lot of input from liberals. The Rules of Engagement were, for better or worse, Bush's responsibility.

But are the ROEs essentially wrong? Luttrell understandably sees them as responsible for the deaths of his team and their initial rescue force. He advocates turning the SEALS loose, and trusting them to make the right decisions. That would have sufficed in World War II, where the ROEs were, essentially, "engage and destroy the enemy." The Afghan War is more of a "hearts and minds" affair. Every civilian killed might spawn two more terrorists, who might—might—eventually kill more people than were lost in Redwing. It's impossible to say, but not unreasonable to assume that earning trust among the locals will be made considerably more difficult if they think you'll kill them if they become inconvenient.

The irony comes in because Luttrell actively undermines his own position. The Pashtun village that sheltered and cared for him for several days took him in under their custom of lokhay, which requires a village to defend to the death anyone given sanctuary. The elders placed their entire village under threat of death from the Taliban to protect Luttrell, not because he was an American, but because it was what they do. (Many in the village found themselves in this position in spite of the fact he was an American.)

The Taliban did not eliminate the town to take Luttrell, though he would have been quite a prize. As the author himself says, they couldn't afford to wipe out the whole village, as it would have denied them the support of other villages for miles around, support the Taliban could not do without. In essence, the Taliban's own Rules of Engagement were largely responsible for Luttrell's eventual rescue, as they could have taken him well before the Rangers got to him.

Make no mistake; I am not in any way equating the Taliban with our military. I am merely pointing out what Luttrell, and many conservatives, fails to grasp: winning a war is not just winning all the battles. It means creating a sustainable peace. In this case—to paraphrase Casey Stengle—it means keeping the 60% of the population who are on the fence from joining the 20% who will hate you no matter what. I mourn—as should we all—SEAL Team 10, and those who died trying to rescue them. We can ever repay that debt. The best we can do is to try to pay it forward, to ensure valor and sacrifice such as theirs is requested only when absolutely necessary.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

From the Archives

The idea of being an opinionated asshole didn't just jump into my head when I learned about blogs. I'd been doing pretty much the same thing via email to a select of people who used to be my friends for several years. A Facebook comment from a friend brought the following to mind, from July of 2003, titled "Location, Location, Location."

There has been a certain amount of culture shock since The Home Office relocated to the People's Republic of Maryland last March. On the plus side, traffic in Maryland, bad as it is, is better than in Virginia. The risk of being shot in a public library is also greatly diminished. (For those of you who are not local, the Virginia House of Delegates voted down a bill that would have made it illegal to carry a firearm into a public library. No point in being unprepared if you happen onto a terrorist reading the Koran.)

Living in Maryland has its down sides. Living in Prince George's County has even more. Here are a couple of indications, provided solely as a public service, should anyone consider moving to this area.

I recently took the Sole Heir Correspondent to a local Taco Bell for a cold drink in the midst of an errand-running expedition. Our order was taken by a young woman who I do not wish to unfairly disparage, so I will use her real name, since she is probably as incapable of reading this as she is unlikely to make the effort.

Nicole gave us the standard PG County fast food greeting, which consists of not quite making eye contact while silently waiting for me to decide she's ready to take my order. Taco Bell offers three drink sizes. I ordered a small and a medium. No flavor was required, all Nicole had to do was give us the cups; the soda dispensers are self-service.

The conversation went something like this:


Me: We'd like a small and a medium drink, please.

Nicole (still not looking at me): We ain't got small.

Me: You're out of small cups?

Nicole: Ain't no small.


A brief period of silence followed, broken by the Sole Heir telling me sotto voce, "Dad, I think they just have medium, large, and extra large."

Finally catching on, I told Nicole I want the smallest size, and the one in the middle. She handed me two identical cups, which Taco Bell describes as "large," and I would call "medium," seeing as how they were of the intermediate size of the three options. As she handed me the cups, she asked if the order was for here or to go.

Huh? Her entire contribution consisted of handing me two cups, one of them incorrect. I had to get the drinks, lids, and straws. What earthly difference could it have made to her, or to Mr. Bell, where I drank them? I was tempted to order one for here and one to go, but I was afraid we'd get into a discussion about which was to stay and which was to go, even though they were both the same size.

Prince George's County has the well-earned reputation of being the metropolitan Washington area's equivalent of a third world nation. Proof of that was found in a call to the cable company that same week.

The cable call was prompted by a promotion the company was running when I ordered my original service back in March. Comcast would provide free installation and three free months of every channel Showtime offers if I signed up for digital cable. If I didn't want to keep the Showtime, I could cancel after the third month. I had tried to cancel a couple of weeks earlier, but they wouldn't let me, saying it was too early to cancel, and that if I cancelled too soon they would have to charge me for the installation after all. When the valid cancellation window opened, hesitation would require paying for a month of Showtime I could live without, since I had watched it exactly zero times since moving in.

I called the number I saw on a televised ad the previous night and was immediately directed to a pleasant young man who looked high and low for my account information without finding it. It was finally determined that I had called the Montgomery County number, and he couldn't help me. He could, and did, transfer me to the Prince George's County number.

I didn't get a human right away on the PG County number. First I had to choose the language in which I wanted to transact my business. Fortunately, English was the first choice. Immediately after pressing "one" for English, I got to listen to a thirty-second spiel informing me of Comcast's Cable Amnesty Program. It was not thought to be necessary to inform Montgomery County residents of the illegality of cable theft. In PG County, it opens the conversation.

Welcome to Prince George's County, Maryland, where the showcase high school offers a course in Japanese to show its advanced and cosmopolitan makeup. All it really does is teach its illustrious graduates to ask "You want fries with that, motherfucker?" in a sushi restaurant.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Growing Problem

This just in, from the Music Education Correspondent, who found it on the Internet, which means it must be true.

The flood of American liberals sneaking across the border into Canada has intensified in the past week, sparking calls for increased patrols to stop the illegal immigration. The recent actions of the Tea Party are prompting an exodus among left-leaning citizens who fear they'll soon be required to hunt, pray, and to agree with Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck.

Canadian border farmers say it's not uncommon to see dozens of sociology professors, animal-rights activists and Unitarians crossing their fields at night.

"I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield , whose acreage borders North Dakota . The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn't have any, he left before I even got a chance to show him my screenplay, eh?"

In an effort to stop the illegal aliens, Greenfield erected higher fences, but the liberals scaled them. He then installed loudspeakers that blared Rush Limbaugh across the fields. "Not real effective," he said. "The liberals still got through and Rush annoyed the cows so much that they wouldn't give any milk."

Officials are particularly concerned about smugglers who meet liberals near the Canadian border, pack them into Volvo station wagons and drive them across the border where they are simply left to fend for themselves.

"A lot of these people are not prepared for our rugged conditions," an Ontario border patrolman said. "I found one carload without a single bottle of imported drinking water. They did have a nice little Napa Valley cabernet, though."

When liberals are caught, they're sent back across the border, often wailing loudly that they fear retribution from conservatives. Rumors have been circulating about plans being made to build re-education camps where liberals will be forced to drink domestic beer and watch NASCAR races.

In recent days, liberals have turned to ingenious ways of crossing the border. Some have been disguised as senior citizens taking a bus trip to buy cheap Canadian prescription drugs. After catching a half-dozen young vegans in powdered wig disguises, Canadian immigration authorities began stopping buses and quizzing the supposed senior-citizens about Perry Como and Rosemary Clooney to prove that they were alive in the '50s. "If they can't identify the accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show, we become very suspicious about their age," an official said.

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and are renting all the Michael Moore movies. "I really feel sorry for American liberals, but the Canadian economy just can't support them," an Ottawa resident said. "How many art-history majors does one country need?"

In an effort to ease tensions between the United States and Canada , Vice President Biden met with the Canadian ambassador and pledged that the administration would take steps to reassure liberals. A source close to President Obama said, "We're going to have some Paul McCartney and Peter, Paul &Mary concerts. And we might even put some endangered species on postage stamps. The President is determined to reach out," he said.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Problems in This Country Are Pretty Obvious

From Ezra Klein's blog in today's Washington Post:

New jobless claims rose to 500,000 this week. Meanwhile:

Karin Wilzig has a hard time choosing a favorite color from among the 64 that she and her husband can use to illuminate the 14 1/2- foot, 450-gallon aquarium in their TriBeCa town house. The default is fuchsia, which turns the dozen koi a deep pink.

“Not pink,” said Mrs. Wilzig, 40, an artist and a mother of two small children. “Alan, go to the turquoise.”

Her husband, Alan Wilzig, 45, a former banker who collects motorcycles and prides himself on the orange tanning bed in his basement, goes to the James Bond-like control panel in the kitchen, where a touch of a button turns the fish — which are specially bred to be colorless — a vivid blue.

To be fair, it's actually good for rich people to buy fancy aquariums. Economic activity is economic activity. But it's odd to read these sorts of articles in a world where one of the two major political parties wants to borrow $700 billion for a tax cut for the rich but says we don't have enough money to offer further relief for the jobless and the struggling.

What I like about Ezra is that he's a lefty, but he's fair. He's spent a lot of time turning over Paul Ryan's economic proposals, examining the pros and cons, and interviewing Ryan himself. He's come out as saying most of Ryan's plan isn't workable, and Ryan's a bit (okay, a lot) disingenuous in his descriptions, but he's also out out enough information for his reader to come to a different conclusion if he's paying attention and thinking about it.

I have but one complaint with this post: "But it's odd to read these sorts of articles in a world where one of the two major political parties wants to borrow $700 billion for a tax cut for the rich but says we don't have enough money to offer further relief for the jobless and the struggling."

It's not odd; it's disgusting.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Time to Stop Digging

President Obama commented yesterday on the Shirley Sherrod controversy. He didn't do himself any favors. He referred to the situation as an overreaction to a "bogus controversy," and said she "deserves better than what happened last week." She sure did, but his administration are the people she deserved better from.

Andrew Breitbart is a tool for editing her remarks the way he did, and Fox News--well, criticizing Fox News for broadcasting Breitbart's excerpt is like criticizing a stone for sinking on water. She worked for the Obama Administration--she was what would be referred in an anonymously sourced piece of journalism as "an administration official," or, "a USDA official." She deserved the benefit of doubt from you, above all.

Obama also said, "Rather than jump to conclusions, we should all look inward and try to examine what's in our own hearts." What he should have said was, "Rather than jump to conclusions, we should have looked inward and examined what was in our hearts before we took drastic action on a spurious report of the nature we've been decrying for three years now."

This deflecting the blame shit is too Republican for my taste. Honest to God, how dumb does he think we are?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Not as Smart as He Thinks; Hopefully Not as Dumb as He Acts

For someone universally accepted as an intelligent man who has surrounded himself with intelligent people, the Barack Obama sure does a lot of stupid stuff. Not just things that can be reasonably debated by reasonable people; I'm talking serious dumbass.

This week's example is the forced resignation of Shirley Sherrod from USDA, after conservative muckraker Andrew Brietbart made public a video of her stating that, in her pre-USDA days, she had denied white farmers assistance because they were white. Such shameful behavior, even years ago, would certainly disqualify Ms. Sherrod from government service.

If it were true.

Turns out Breitbart cherry-picked a couple of key sentences from a speech Sherrod gave to make it sound like that's all we needed to know. Fox News picked it up and ran with it like a hyena with an antelope leg. (It should also be noted the esteemed Washington Post was happy to report this early version of the story on its web site, as well.)

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack immediately demanded Sherrod's resignation, apparently prompted by the president himself.; Sherrod complied. Then, in the immortal words of the late Paul Harvey, came the rest of the story.

The true facts came out within twenty-four hours, leaving the Obama Administration looking like idiots. Upon viewing the entire speech, Sherrod was describing something that crossed her mind in this instance twenty years ago, and rejected it. The white family not only got their help, but they credit her with saving the farm. Breitbart and Fox left those parts out (as did the Post, originally, nice work MSM), and the Obamites swallowed it hook, lie, and stinker. Vilsack apologized and offered Sherrod a new gig; she has yet to decide whether to take it. (Leaving him to twist in the wind is appropriate, according to the Book of Passive Aggression, Chapter 6, Verses 11-14.)

I wonder what kind of stimulus, health care, and financial regulation laws we might have now if Obama had been as willing to get out in front of the curve on those as he was to put his foot in it here? On legislation he waits until Congress does the heavy lifting and saves himself for a few key comments to push it over the edge so he can claim this was what he wanted all along; on something like this, he can't wait to run into the brier patch. For such a smart guy, he sure does a lot of dumb shit.

The Post's Greg Sargent wonders if Breitbart has damaged his credibility by his handling of this affair, and whether the media should take his assertions with a little less credulity. He might want to start by looking into the fact checking policies of his own paper. It's Breitbart who comes out of this smelling like a rose. His credibility has always been primarily on the right; anyone to the left of Lindsay Graham has had good reason to be skeptical. He punked the Obama Administration and make their reaction to his childish prank the story for several days. Who's the smart one here?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hair in Iran

No longer content to subject only women to their curious ideas about, well, just about everything, the Iranian government has issued a catalog of approved, "Islamic" haircuts for men. Flattops and Elvis-esque pompadours are fine; ponytails, spikes, mullets and Mohawks are right out.

Dogs are also taking a hit. Considered unclean by people who wipe their asses with their bare left hand, the rise in dog ownership in Iran has been noted, and the government is about to crack down on this infidel decadency. "Friendship with dogs is a blind imitation of the West," said Grand Ayatollah Naser Makerem Shirazi, according to Reuters. "There are lots of people in the West who love their dogs more than their wives and children."

As opposed to those family-loving Muslims who love their wives and daughters so much they will allow them to be gang raped or stoned to death for "shaming" the family.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Yesterday's Line of the Day

ESPN's Bill Simmons, referring to LeBron James's self-adulating announcement he will sign with the Miami Heat:

"'I'm taking my talent to South Beach' is the new euphemism for masturbation."

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Only in Bal'Mer...

This falls into the "Shit You Can't Make Up" category.

From the Baltimore Sun:

Typically, prisoners who are on work release get to leave the inside of the jail to work outside the fence, and then must return.

David Newton, on home detention awaiting trial on drug and burglary charges, had an opposite course. He would leave his home to go to work inside the jail, and would then return to his house at the end of the day, as a condition of his pre-trial release.

So prison officials were perplexed Wednesday afternoon when they said the 19-year-old Newton, who was not cuffed or shackled, ran from correctional officers who were escorting him to the laundry room at the Baltimore City Detention Center.

Authorities said Newton scaled one fence and was climbing over a second along East Monument Street when a correctional officer shot him twice in the leg. He was only hours away from the end of his shift, at which point he would have climbed into a prison van and been driven home.

"He woke up in his own bed, and he could've gone back to his own bed tonight," said Rick Binetti, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

More can be found here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Our Leadership At Work

Two conjoined headlines from today's Washington Post:

Senate again blocks jobs aid

Move leaves more than 1.2 million people without support checks, millions more could lose benefits.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

McChrystal Clear

This should have been easy. General mouths off publicly about the Commander-in-Chief, he goes. Only in Washington could this become a soap opera over the course of a couple of days.

Without getting too far into the weeds, McChrystal was wrong. The Uniform Code of Military Justice specifically forbids comments such as his. One of the first lessons recruits are taught is that they have given up some of their Constitutional rights by enlisting, key among which is freedom of speech. The debate about whether this is a good idea can be held another time. (I happen to think it is, on several levels.) Given the facts as they exist, McChrystal was out of line; the only relevant question is what to do with him?

He can't stay where he is. No Commander-in-Chief can have a subordinate commander in the field treat him with such open disrespect; I'm sure McChrystal wouldn't stand for it from one of his men. You can't transfer him, for the same reason.

So, McChrystal has to go. How to do it? There should be no need for Obama to fire him; McChrystal's service to the country has earned him the right to resign, which he should have done the minute the story broke, thus allowing the offended party (Obama) the opportunity to either accept it (as he has done), or to make a magnanimous (but misguided) gesture and allow him to stay. Letting it linger for a few days did nothing to enhance McChrystal's reputation.

As for Republicans who argue he can't be replaced at this juncture: grow up. The military is based on the idea that anyone might have to be replaced on a moment's notice. If McChrystal had died in the middle of giving an order, his second-in-command would be expected to step up and finish it. It's true everywhere, but nowhere more so than in the military: no one is indispensable.

It's a shame, though. No one gets to be a four star just because he's a master schmoozer; McChrystal had to be good, especially to make that rank with some of the blemishes he has on his record. So we lost a good warrior today, but we can't say we lost a good soldier, or he wouldn't have been in that situation to begin with.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Another MBA Sighting

General Motors finally means business about turning the company around; employees have been requested no longer to refer to the Chevrolet Division as “Chevy.”

“We’d ask that whether you’re talking to a dealer, reviewing dealer advertising, or speaking with friends and family, that you communicate our brand as Chevrolet moving forward,” said the memo, which was signed by Alan Batey, vice president for Chevrolet sales and service, and Jim Campbell, the G.M. division’s vice president for marketing.

“When you look at the most recognized brands throughout the world, such as Coke or Apple for instance, one of the things they all focus on is the consistency of their branding,” the memo said. “Why is this consistency so important? The more consistent a brand becomes, the more prominent and recognizable it is with the consumer.”

Apparently neither Mr. Batey nor Mr. Campbell is aware that “Coke” is a nickname for Coca-Cola. Assuming it was the soft drink they were referring to, and not the substance that apparently fuels decision-making at GM.

Carly Fiorina Gets Serious

The California senate campaign is getting nasty fast. Yesterday, Carly Fiorina made this comment about her opponent, Barbara Boxer:

“Laura saw Barbara Boxer briefly on television this morning and said what everyone said, ‘God what is that hair?” Sooooooooooooo yesterday,”

Yes, it was an unguarded comment, and she probably wasn’t aware the microphone was open. Later, CNN’s Great van Susteren gave Fiorina a chance to step back graciously.

VAN SUSTEREN: You said.. you're giving [Boxer] a little problem for her hair. You know, it's -- what do you got -- what do you have to say about that one, having -- all of us have suffered from the old bad hair...

FIORINA: Oh, you know, I was -- I was quoting a friend of mine. My goodness, my hair's been talked about by a million people, you know? It sort of goes with the territory.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, OK...

FIORINA: Especially when you don't have any. As you remember, I started out with none.

California politics, aka Mean Girls 2010.

Carly for CA

It’s fashionable for contemporary Republicans candidates to tout their business acumen in tandem with the mantra of “government should be run like a business. The argument about whether government should be run like a business is for another time; it’s their credentials we’re concerned with here.

Carly Fiorina has one qualification as a candidate for public office: she was once the CEO of computer giant Hewlett-Packard. Since Republicans also believe the market is never wrong, here’s what it had to say about her tenure, from a CNN article in April, 2005:

Hewlett-Packard Co. Chairman and CEO Carly Fiorina, one of the most powerful women in corporate America, is leaving the troubled computer maker after being forced out by the company's board.

Shares of HP (Research) jumped 6.9 percent in heavy trading on the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday on the news. But at one point, the stock was up as much as 10.5 percent.

"The stock is up a bit on the fact that nobody liked Carly's leadership all that much," said Robert Cihra, an analyst with Fulcrum Global Partners. "The Street had lost all faith in her and the market's hope is that anyone will be better."

California Republicans elected her as their candidate in November’s senatorial election, to run against incumbent Barbara Boxer. Apparently the federal government isn’t going broke fast enough to suit them.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Lowering the Bar

It’s not worrisome enough that people can “earn” a four-year college degree in two years, or work on their Bachelors and Masters at the same time, as some otherwise respectable schools claim. Now you can get college credit while working at Wal-Mart. I don’t mean by taking classes after work; I mean just doing your job.

Here’s my favorite:

Daniel Soto of Hardeeville, S.C., works full time at Wal-Mart as a zone manager supervisor, lending a hand in several departments. He had to give up college to work, but said he could see some of his duties translating to academia, such as the algebraic equations he uses to figure out how much merchandise will fit on a shelf or how much of a product to order.

"I do math all day at Wal-Mart," he said.

(I got that from the Washington Post, not The Onion.)

I’m not suggesting he’s anything but bright. Figuring shelf space is not what many would consider college-level math; this is ninth grade shit. Once it’s on his transcript, though, it might count for any number of degrees that could put him into a key decision-making position where someone actually does have to know college-level math.

The education bar gets lower every year in this country; pretty soon we’ll have to dig a trench for it. The Sole Heir attend the University of Maryland, not APU of one of the other for-profit “universities,” so her degree shouldn’t be cheapened much. What’s troubling is that these degrees will eventually become more commonly accepted, as people not well aware of educational standards just see “Bachelors Degree, XXX University” and think a university is a university.

You’re okay with for-profit colleges? Think about this. There are for-profit nursing schools out there, where the hands-on component of the education consists of watching someone else do it; everything else was online. These are accredited schools, mind you; the credentials of the accrediting agencies is open to conjecture. States, or groups of them, are okay with this standard of nursing, which is another argument for the nationalization of standards in some areas. Do you want to be passing through one of these states, have an accident, and find out your nurse has never actually inserted a catherter?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Well, Duh

Online magazine Slate likes to position itself as a left-leaning, hiply intellectual voice. Like a lot of left-leaning thinkers they sometimes overthink things and articles get written that make "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" downright concrete. Witness this headline:

Why Are Indian Kids So Good At Spelling?

Have you seen their names? The defending National Spelling Bee champion is Kavya Shivashankar. You think she worries about spelling "hydrargyrum"? A twelve-year-old kid named Chidhambarathan can crank out "escritoire" with no more effort than some drk named Smith spells "kat."

I'm not saying this is bad. These kids are kick ass spellers; good on them. Wondering why they're such good spellers is like wondering why Shaquille O'Neal can dunk.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

That Sinking Feeling

The Show tunes correspondent showed me this article about the sinkhole that ate a three-story building in Guatemala, and might still be growing. He asked where something goes when it drops into a sinkhole.

My guess is Texas.

Conjuring the Fifth

Most people consider me a social liberal. (“You’re saying that just to piss me off. No one’s really as liberal as you pretend to me,” can safely be described as coming down on that side.) I don’t believe in torture, and I think our Constitutional protections, and this country’s willingness to get out in front of the rest of the world in this regard, is a form of “American exceptionalism” we can be proud of. Still, common sense is in order, and the Supreme Court got one right today when it ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that a suspect must actually invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination if he wishes to take advantage of it.

Here’s the gist of it: Van Chester Thompson was arrested for murder in 2001. Advised of his rights, he said he understood them. He then sat through about three hours of interrogation, occasionally answering “yes,” “no,” or “I don’t know.” When a cop asked if Thompson prayed for forgiveness for “shooting that boy down,” Thompson said, “yes.”


That got him convicted, and I can see why. Thompson appealed, arguing the statement should be thrown out because he tacitly invoked Miranda by being uncommunicative. Please. All he had to do was to say, “I want a lawyer,” “I don’t want to answer any questions,” or “I’m taking the Fifth.” Anything along those lines would have compelled the cops to stop the interrogation, or this would be an entirely different case.

Invoking the Fifth Amendment is not a clever tool for cherry-picking answers. Grand jury witnesses who appear under grants of immunity must invoke their protection against self-incrimination with the first question. You’re not allowed to answer the questions you like, then dodge the ones that could get you into trouble. We can argue about whether that’s fair—I have my doubts—but it’s been established law for years.

As Chris Rock says in his priceless video essay, “How Not to Get Your Ass Kicked by the Police,” the best thing for someone in Thompson’s situation to do is to “Shut the fuck up.” But not till after you ask for a lawyer. It’s your right, you know.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Los Suns

The Phoenix Suns wore home uniforms emblazoned with "Los Suns" for last night's playoff game against San Antonio. This is something they always do if they play on Cinco de Mayo; last night the team made it a point to let people know it was a subtle form of protest against Arizona's recently enacted immigration law. That's what got people talking about how inappropriate it is for a sports franchise to bring politics into sports.

Oh, please.

Whether the jerseys were a political statement or good business can be debated. I'm sure the Suns have research that shows what percentage of their fan base is Hispanic, or, at least, what percentage of Hispanics they'd like to have as members of their fan base. No one seems to mind when the San Diego Padres wear cammo unis to show their support for the large military contingent in the San Diego area. The only difference lies in the fact that no one is taking the other side; supporting military personnel is, properly, less controversial.

What's odd is how athletes are described as heroic when they take a stand on something. "They make a lot of money, they can't afford to piss anyone off." This is backward. These guys make so much money, no one in is better positioned to withstand some blowback. Guy making ten million a year should have several million in the bank; he'll muddle through. Also, the salary money is secure; so long as he can play, he'll get paid. Only endorsements will be placed in jeopardy. It's human nature to maximize earning potential for as long as possible, but taking a stand that might cost a few endorsements is hardly comparable to storming Omaha Beach.

Sports in America—especially professional sports—is inextricably entwined with politics. If you doubt this, look around at the next game you see. With very few exceptions—Fenway Park, Wrigley Field—the buildings in which the games are played were built because politicians sacked the taxpayers for anywhere from a couple of hundred million to a billion dollars, often while under threats from the owners to move the team.

It's never wrong to do the right thing; the key is in how it's done. The Suns expressed support for their Hispanic fans with the "Los Suns" shirts; it's not like they wore something that said the Arizona legislature are racist despots. (I'm not saying that, either, though I strongly disagree with the new law.) Showing support for one side in a dispute is not the same as disrespecting the other, though it may be interpreted that way. If someone were to receive an invitation to the White House from a president with whom one vehemently disagreed, declining the invitation is not inappropriate; making a public statement to the effect that the invitation was declined because the recipient thinks the current executive is a communist/idiot/fascist/child molester is because it disrespects the office, and, by association, the nation.

What shouldn't be forgotten is that the Suns found a way to show support for one side in a dispute without openly questioning the motives/patriotism/intelligence of the other side. It would be nice to hope this could start a trend, but that's asking a lot in the current climate.

Honor With an Expiration Date

Some Republicans—notably Senator John McCain (AZ)—are outraged that terrorists like Faisal Shahzad are entitled to the same Miranda rights as ordinary criminals. “"When we detain terrorism suspects, our top priority should be finding out what intelligence they have that could prevent future attacks and save American lives," McCain said. "Our priority should not be telling them they have a right to remain silent."

Apparently McCain another priority should be to mak sure these same terrorists have open access to firearms and explosives. Yesterday Senator Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) Homeland Security Committee interviewed witnesses—including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly—with an eye toward finally passing legislation forbidding those on terrorist watch lists (like the No Fly List) from purchasing such weapons; the NRA has beaten back such efforts in the past.

McCain sits on Lieberman’s committee; except for yesterday’s hearings, when defending his mutually exclusive positions might have proven inconvenient. He’s not alone in his willingness to deny terrorists all rights other than the right to bear arms, but he’s the most offensive. Here’s a man who built his career on honor and doing the right thing, staying behind in a Vietnamese prison camp because it wasn’t his turn to get out, and later traveling to Vietnam to show bygones were bygones. Now he’s such a pandering hypocrite the words “pandering” and “hypocrite” have petitioned the Oxford English Dictionary to have their definitions changed.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

The Line of The Day

South Dakota Senator John Thune—Number Four in the Senate Republican leadership—on Tennessee's Republican Senator Bob Corker, a proponent of stricter financial regulations:

"I think he's a guy who's willing to get down into the weeds. Because he immerses himself in that and understands it so well — the positions he adopts may not always be the ones that everyone else in our conference comes to."

I have nothing to add to that.

Monday, May 03, 2010

New Blog

I'm starting a new blog, Home Office Sports, because there are just times when I want to comment on sports, but I'm leery of making this blog too much of a hodge-podge. It will be mostly about Pittsburgh sports teams, but I'll cover other sports-related topics a the mood moves me. It should be fun, subject to the same low standards of research and editing I've been providing here for several years now.

Come on over.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


A better person wouldn't be so happy about the Washington Capitals becoming the first Number 1 seed to blow a 3 games to 1 lead to an 8 seed last night. Unfortunately, there's not one available right now.

Caps fans have been assuming the Stanley Cup was theirs by divine right since Christmas. Easily the best record in the league, team records in wins and points, and Alex Ovechkin, their designated "best player in the game." Two weeks ago, I passed droves of Caps fans walking into Metro on my way out, smiling, laughing, wondering if they'd win the best of seven series in three games; yesterday they passed me like men on their way to the doctor to get the verdict on that lump they found on their nuts.

Here's a bit of how they managed such an historic collapse:
- The league's best power play during the season--they scored on over 25% of their opportunities--converted only once in 33 tries. That's 3%. Yep. Three.
- Their league-leading offense--they scored 46 more goals than any other team during the season--scored three times--total--over the last three games. Yep. Three.
- The NHL likes to name its awards after people. The Art Ross Trophy. Conn Smythe. Vezina. Caps forward Alexander Semin qualified himself for anew one in this series: the Claude Rains Invisible Man Award. Forty goals during the season; none in seven playoff games. Yep. None.
- Mike Green bribed enough voters to qualify as a Norris Trophy finalist for best defenseman. Here's another new award suggestion: the Ronald Reagan Award, for most overrated.

Full props to the Canadiens. Goalie Jaroslav Halak stopped 131 of 134 shots over the last three games; his defense blocked almost that many, including an absurd 41 last night. Their Number 2 rated power play during the season didn't desert them like the Caps' did: they scored when they had to, even though consistently outplayed five-on-five. The Habs did what they had to do to win; the Caps did what they felt like doing, and never developed an answer for what Montreal threw at them.

All season, Caps fans have been acting like the Penguins were just renting the Cup, and it would take its rightful place in Washington this year. As I told someone a few weeks ago, after they beat the Pens to complete a regular season sweep: You're the champ until you're eliminated. Everything else is just talk.

Note to Caps' players: It's not all bad news. Most golf courses have reduced greens fees while the schools are still in session.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Drill, Baby, Drill!

It's good to see that offshore oil exploration has reached a standard of safety that we need no longer concern ourselves with the consequences of an accident, as this NASA photo clearly shows.

Thanks to the Show Tunes Correspondent for sending this.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

How Not to Increase Sales

We purchased the NHL Center Ice package last fall and have seen all but one Penguins' game this year. It's been fun, very educational from a hockey perspective, and helped me to get back in touch with some things I'd always enjoyed but had drifted away from due to the demands of everyday life.

The Pens' package went so well I thought strongly about enlisting in the Major League Baseball equivalent, Extra Innings. While an opportunity to watch all 162 Pirates games may seem like a deal made in masochist's heaven, I wanted to be in on the ground floor with young prospects like Andrew McCutcheon, Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, and, we hope, Brad Lincoln and Tony Sanchez so I wouldn't look like a bandwagon-jumping frontrunner when they got good. (For a definition of "bandwagon-jumping frontrunner," look in the dictionary under "Washington Capitals Fan.")

These premium services give you a few free weeks to see how you like the service. Early season baseball watching is limited by conflicts with the Stanley Cup playoffs, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to invest in something that wasn't really worth the effort if I didn't plan to watch well over 100 games a year. Still, the hockey plan was great for those evenings when mental vegetation is in order, as there's almost always a game on somewhere; with baseball, there really would be a game on all the time. The Pirates swept Cincinnati last weekend, coming from behind twice. They were 7-5, one game out of first, and I was thinking of how I might juggle my schedule to catch four or five games a week.

Then Milwaukee came to town.

Three days later the Pirates had been swept themselves, outscored over the three game series by a total of 36-1; they lost 20-0—which is an embarrassing football score—on Thursday afternoon. My first thought was, "There's no way I'm going to sit through 140 games of this shit." So the deal's off.

They'll have a promotion in September, a reduced price for the rest of the season. By that time Alvarez and Lincoln should be on the big team, and everyone will be positioning themselves for jobs next year. I'll look at a handful of games before hockey comes back. If they look good, I'll go through the same considerations next year.

But they'd better knock off this 20-0 shit.

Friday, April 23, 2010


From Ezra Klein's blog in The Washington Post (read the entire post for proper context):

As Miller says, this sort of politics lends itself nicely to thinly sliced marginal tax rates. Right now, the top tax bracket begins at $373,650 and extends into infinity. But there's no reason you couldn't have a slightly higher rate starting at $500,000. And then a bit higher at $1 million and on and on...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Practicing What They Preach

From Paul Krugman's blog:

I just had dinner in DC with a bunch of geographers, at a cute French bistro near Dupont Circle. And who should walk in but about eight tea partiers, still carrying their protest signs. They marched in, then upstairs, and sat down for dinner.

Presumably their steak frites came with freedom fries.

Oh, and based on casual observation, every member of the group was on Social Security and Medicare. I guess they’re determined not to let the government get its hands on either program.