Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Clemens: back to the Astros

Details here.

I thought it was either the Astros or retirement.

The Rocket slides right into a rotation that needs him.

Just his signing may provide a shot of adrenaline to my second-favorite team.

Yanks 6, Tigers 1

Mike Mussina, at his best, is simply beautiful to watch.

And, oh, these "A-rod always chokes" memes have got to stop, or else be exposed. They are part and parcel of the "Ted always chokes" articles of fifty years ago, those analyses which boiled Teddy Ballgame's career down to ten games: seven World Series games in 1946, one one-game play-off in 1948, and two games in 1949 where victory would have meant the pennant. Ted, to put it charitably, did not cover himself in glory on said ten games. But here was the conclusion that followed:

Ted Williams was not a great playeer. Ted was a choke artist. No really, writers--Boston writers--actually wrote that.

Go figure.

Tonight, eighth inning, Yankees up 2-0, with--big subplot here--Rivera presumably unavailable, given his labors the previous night. Giambi slices a double down the left field line (on which, two observations: couldn't he do that more often against the Boudreau shift?; and, Dad, did you notice nobody mentioned that a Tigers' fan gloved the ball in play? No remark, no follow-up, no shot of the fan ushered from his seat, which, in any park I've ever been in, he surely would have been?). Next batter: A-rod picks a ball off his toes, hits it one-handed to the center field wall for an RBI triple. Two batters later, A-rod jumps on contact, scores standing on a dribbler. 4-0 Yankees, with Moose cruising.

Game over. This was the back-breaker at just the right moment. Yanks go up 3-0 in the series against the hottest team in baseball.

Yeah, but too bad A-rod always chokes and stuff.

DJ Gallo provides a week of said observations here.

Softball rules

The spring soon ending is the first in 12 years (1994, and I was studying six hours a day for my comps), I haven't played softball.

From 1995 through 2005, as player and (oftentime) manager, I played softball with an occasional bliss I rarely found in any other physical endeavor--not jogging, rarely golf, only one time in basketball: on a frigid December night, on a driveay court on High Island so close to the Gulf of Mexico I could hear the lap of the waves in the darkness out beyond the sand berms.

In softball, I felt this bliss every week. My enjoyments were, in every respect, different from my teammates. I preferred practice to playing, fielding to hitting, outfield to infield. By that standard, my bliss was in the outfield, during Friday afternoon practice, sprinting after a fly ball, drawing a bead, feeling the catch.

And afterward, sitting on the ground beneath the shade tree, drinking one's first beer as the sun went down, feeling the first murmurs in the legs that foretold the aches and cramps of Saturday morning, making plans for Sunday's game. Monday never felt so far away.

And this year, I gave it all up. And I never understood why so much as when I read
this article. In Jame Caple's article, "All I Really Need to Know About My Office I Learned on the Company Softball Team," the usual suspects are dragged forth. Examples:

Teamwork: Beware of outfielders who roam far beyond their position and never listen when they're called off and hog all the fly balls to themselves. These fielders assume no one ever can do the job as well as they can. Such micromanagers will butt their noses into everyone else's business, repeatedly lengthen office meetings by interrupting with their (misguided) opinions and (unworkable) suggestions and also constantly annoy you by asking if your TPS reports are done yet.

Versatility Pays: People who demand to play only one position and then sulk if you don't let them are nothing but trouble. Generally speaking, players who aren't adaptable to multiple positions usually aren't very good at the single position they want to play, either. Guaranteed, these people will sue you the minute you try promoting someone better qualified to a management job ahead of them.

And then there is always this ubiquitous one, or three, on every team:

Be Prompt: This is obvious. If you're always staring at your watch and telling the umpire to give you just a few more minutes for the 10th player to arrive, you'll wind up waiting for the same unreliable guy to show up for work in the morning or return from lunch. He'll also be the first guy out the door in the afternoon. And yet, somehow, he'll still be late for the game.

My league was intramural, not business, but this last description struck to the heart of what was so soul-destroying about joining a softball league. My greatest day as a softball manager was the day the women's team I managed stormed to a 13-1 championship victory to cap off an undefeated season, whereupon I (the third-string pitcher, our starter having broken her ankle and her replacement proven erratic) took the mound for a 6-2 co-ed championship victory. This day was the end of two years of concerted effort by about seven of my friends and I; the eight of us had gone from spring league to summer practice to fall city league to spring intramurals to summer tournament to fall city league, and finally to spring intramurals. By spring, 2002, we were breathing fire.

Along the way, I encountered that worst specimen of teammate: not only the tardy, but the tardy-with-attitude, the type who would show up after the forfeit and be upset that you were upset. The type who would hit a ground ball, jog down the first base line, be out by half a step when the first baseman dropped the ball and then say, "Ah, it's only a game."

To these people you'd say: We know it's a game. We know, Jim Rome aside, that we're not playing in Game 7 of the World Series. But there is something to dignity of effort, something to trying. The seven people I played with knew this, and it was only a matter of finding two other people who felt the same way.

Eventually the search for those last two people became too much, too degrading. Getting ten people together at one time became too much. So this spring, back to jogging. I miss softball--or rather, I miss those moments of total abandon in the outfield, the tracking of the ball, the give of my glove. Other stuff, I don't miss at all.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

McCarthy on Jefferson

I think I'm developing a serious man-crush on Andy McCarthy. Just as NRO's Byron York has been the last word on Fitzgerald-Libby, so to NRO's McCarthy has been the lead dog on the William Jefferson antics. His latest Corner entry in full:

The House's Trust in Jefferson [Andy McCarthy]

The only way the House could rationally assert that it is in possession of all the documents responsive to the subpoenas would be if the House itself, aware of what was in the subpoena, had conducted a thorough search of Jefferson’s office. Undoubtedly, that never happened. Short of such a search, any assertion by the House that it has all the documents has to depend on Jefferson himself: i.e., Jefferson says he has given the House all the appropriate documents and the House has decided to take Jefferson’s word for it.

There are reasons beyond just the obvious one Kate mentions (about the 90K in marked bills) to doubt Jefferson on that score. The Justice Department today filed a memorandum of law in opposing Jefferson’s demand that the property seized from his office be returned to him. Included with the memo was an affidavit from an FBI agent who was present in Jefferson’s home when it was searched on August 3, 2005 (i.e., the search in which the 90K was recovered). The agent explains that, even while the search was being conducted, Jefferson tried to conceal documents from the FBI.

Specifically, at the start of the search, Jefferson was seated at a table in the kitchen. The agent saw him looking at several pieces of paper laid on the table. Jefferson then asked the agents if he could take a look at a 19-page subpoena that had been served on him earlier in the day. The FBI agreed and brought him a copy of the subpoena. According to the agent, Jefferson (when he obviously thought no one was looking), put the subpoena on top of some of the documents he had been looking at earlier, and then placed the whole stack under his elbow.

Subsequently, once Jefferson saw that the agents were finished searching the living room area, including a blue bag that was in the living room, Jefferson asked if he could move to the living room from the kitchen. When the FBI said OK, Jefferson proceeded to take the stack with him and stash it in the blue bag.

The agent who was observing all this then confronted him. According to the agent, Jefferson insisted that the only thing he had placed in the bag was the subpoena. The agent then demanded that the bag be emptied. Jefferson finally complied, careful to place the subpoena on top. But sure enough, under the subpoena, the agent found the documents Jefferson had been looking at while he was sitting at the kitchen table. They had been fax’d to Jefferson that very day by a man named B.K. Son. The agent pointed out to Jefferson (as if he needed reminding!) that the search warrant being executed specifically called for all communications between Jefferson and Mr. B. K. Son. The fax’d documents were thus seized from Jefferson and preserved as evidence.

Given that Jefferson evidently tried to hide documents from the FBI right under the FBI’s nose even as the FBI was in the process of executing a search warrant that demanded those very documents, it’s hard to understand why the House or anyone else would take comfort in any representation from him that all documents responsive to subpoenas have been accounted for and produced.

Yanks 11, Tigers 6

Funny thing. I had two wildly different emotions during tonight's game.

The first: sixth inning, 6-1 Yankees, Aaron Small cruising, man on first, nobody out, Pudge on deck. Routine grounder to Jeter, easy double play--only a horrendous bounce shoots the ball off Jeter's wrist and into right-center field. Runners advance, still nobody out.

So: instead of bases empty, two outs--thus allowing Small the luxury of going after Pudge, and if Pudge takes him to Lake Michigan, oh well--the Tigers now had runners on second and third, nobody out, and Pudge still up.

Not a soul at the park or watching would fail to guess what, approximately, would happen next. Triple, single, and all of a sudden it was 6-4 with Mariano Rivera a long, long way off.

Of course the Kardiac Kid himself, Kyle Farnsworth, would eventually be summoned. Of course (now the score 6-5) he would surrender a single, two walks and a fielder's choice . . . but, to his credit, did get a strikeout with the go-ahead run on third. It was here that I thought: ah, the Yanks will win. And so they did, albeit two innings later.

What I wasn't prepared for was three innings of Rivera, the first such sighting in ten years, going back when he was John Wetteland's set-up man. Giambi hit the go-ahead run the eleventh, which opened the floodgates . . . but the player of the game was Rivera: nine outs on twenty-five pitches. I've had this feeling with Larry Bird, with Tom Brady, with Jeter, with Reggie Bush . . . the notion that I was watching just one more small piece of immortality unveiled before me.

Welcome . . .

. . . to another installment of "Sometimes I Think I'm Losing My Mind."

This via David Frum at NRO: $29 million per year in New York spent on college educations for students who never completed high school.

Some thoughts:

In my years in higher education (albeit at an open-admissions school) I can personally vouch for the notion that there are students (more than anyone will ever know) who simply do not belong in college.

Sometimes it's a matter--horrors--of aptitude. I give myself over wholeheartedly to the dynamic destruction of the marketplace, but it is a pity that the post-war 1950-1979ish world has vanished, in which a student could graduate high school or achieve a GED, get his union card, and then raise a family, buy a car and pay a mortgage on a job he knew would be there for the next 45 years. There was no way to preserve this world (short of massive, Euro-style subsidies of manufacturing), it's never coming back, and its loss is the single force driving kids into college who don't belong there--they feel (with some justification) that they have no choice in the matter.

Sometimes it's a matter of preparation. Houston public schools are a testament to this.

Most often, though, students who don't belong in college simply do not have the discipline. I'm in touch with this myself; I went to Tailback U, Southern California (which is, to say no more, not as rigorous as Yale), and spent four years hanging out at the City Room of the Daily Trojan and taking afternoon naps, a habit that did not change until two years into my doctoral program, where I realized how behind the rest of my classmates I was. The urge to stay in bed when one wants to stay in bed can sometimes overwhelm all other impulses. The worst student I ever had was in his early twenties. He lived at home with his parents, did not work, took two classes a semester, and every weekend his Paris Hilton-lookalike girlfriend would come over to clean his room and do his laundry. (If I sound jealous, I was--only of the last part, though.) His modus operandi was to enroll in my class, do nothing, then quit midway through the semester. (One memorable morning, he arrived late for my midterm, picked the test off my desk, glanced at the first page, shook his head, tossed the test back in the pile, and walked out the door, not to be seen until the following spring.) He finally passed when his father threatened to throw him out--a common practice among parents of students of mine. Where he ended up I don't know--but, as he conducted himself, he didn't belong in college.

Having stated all the above, I now wonder: what does it take not to graduate from high school? Doing nothing is usually good for a D-minus. Are New Yorkers paying $29 million to subsidize dropouts?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Yankees 4, Tigers 0

Quite possibly the most satisfying game of the season.

On my birthday, no less.

One caveat. Today in Detroit, 93 degrees.

The Unit always says: I'll pitch better in the warm weather. All well and good, but how will he pitch in October in the Bronx, in Boston, in Chicago, in Detroit, in the wind tunnel that is Shea Stadium--if it gets that far? Yankee heroes (in my lifetime, Chambliss, Munson, Reggie, Nettles, Bucky, Brian Doyle, Donnie (.526 in '95, vs. every Mariner not named Randy), Bernie, Jeter, Girardi, Wetteland, O'Neill, Tino, Scottie, Mo, El Duque, Wells, Coney, Knoblauch, Ramiro, Vizcaino, and Sojo) are made in October.

This always happens: Yanks, Bosox, and two other teams compete for three playoff spots. Year after year it has been Yanks, Bosox, A's, Mariners. Last year it was Yanks, Bosox, White Sox, Indians. This year it may be Yanks, Bosox, White Sox, Tigers, with the most likely to fall being Detroit. Detroit may take this series and may take this month, but, realistically, these Tigers couldn't play better in their dreams, and will probably play worse in reality as the summer wears on and the offense cools off.

So we'll see.

Gore, cont.

Over at NRO, Rich Lowry has probably the best analysis yet of the current Gore boomlet. A sample:

He is one of those people who wants to be president, but doesn't really want to run for it. So he wants the party to come to him. In keeping with this desire, the movie is a painless way to advance his political ambitions: if the buzz around it doesn't increase his standing in the polls, he can say, “Hey, what's the big deal, it was only a movie about an issue I care about, and never had a political purpose”; if, however, it does create some sustained political momentum, he can capitalize on it if he wants. Apparently he is telling the people closest to him what he is saying in public, that he isn't interested in running. People are all over the map, though, on whether he will ultimately run or not. The conventional wisdom seems to be correct: that he will only do it if he sees a clear path to victory.

If I had to bet now, I would say that he will run, not win, and spend the rest of the rest of his life wondering how he could have lost that one, too.

He'll run because the right people will beg him to, because sell him on netroot money and Hollywood money and the cache of being Dean without the screaming. How he'd do against Hillary in the primaries I have no idea--but it would be interesting to watch the Clinton shock troops (Fabiani, Begala, Lehane) come out of the woodwork to leak (on deep, deep background, mind you) all of Gore's shortcomings as Vice-President. On the other hand, Dem voters in 2008 might look to a potential Hillary-McCain race in the middle of the war, and wince at the thought of people having to choose between a war hero and a woman who couldn't keep a leash on her man. Dems might very well see Gore as Dean plus Kerry: passion plus electability.

What they'd be getting in the general election, however, will be Kerry's passion and Dean's electability.

Two things to consider. First, Gore is a terrible campaigner. I mean, a terrible campaigner. Go back to 1988, when--once Super Tuesday was over--three Democrats remained standing: the train wreck known as Michael Dukakis, a vanity campaign of Jesse Jackson's, and Gore. In that field, Gore managed to finish third. I happened to be a graduate student in New York at the time, and I was treated to the early stages of what would become Gore's recognizable patterns: his yelling to convey passion, his slow-talking to convey earnestness, his abysmal political insincts. One of the most pathetic sights of the 1988 New York Primaries was Ed Koch's endorsement of Gore, when it was clear to everyone in the state (including naifish upstate graduate students) that Koch was merely using Gore as a stalking horse to slam Jesse Jackson, whom Koch despises. One of the saddest sights of the 1988 campaign was the Koch/Gore press conference, with Koch at the podium, half-heartedly forcing the words out, with Gore off to the side, looking round nervously and wondering what was expected of him.

Gore--better-known, more accomplished and handsomer than Bill Clinton--was almost slavishly happy to serve as Spin to Bill Clinton's Marty in 1992 and 1996, but was unable to convert Clinton's peace and prosperity to what should have been, in 2000, a forty-state victory (along the lines of what a similarly limited politician, George Bush 41, was able to accomplish in 1988). Gore's quest for the Democratic nomination that year was imperiled by so much a dismal compaigner as Bill Bradley, who, as Tucker Carlson noted, thought it an inspired campaign idea to wave a gun at reporters at a press conference. Then, of course, there was the fall campaign, when--during the debates--Gore huffed and sighed his way out of the White House.

Ah, yes, those debates. There is no disputing taste, but I think I am with the majority when I write that W clobbered Gore three out of three. I don't care about overnights, I don't care about forensic league scoring, the plain truth was that tongue-tied, dumbass W. had Gore for breakfast. It wasn't W.'s people who strapped Gore to a chair and forced him to watch a tape of the first debate, then a tape of "SNL's" devestating skit of the first debate.

(This isn't partisan sniping: Reagan was miserable in the first debate in 1984; as was Bush 41, first debate in 88; and (ugh) Bush 43, first debate in 2004. I like to think I have a discerning eye in these things.)

So, with the lowest of bars, Gore blew it. Which brings me to point number two:

People don't like him.

I've read about a dozen articles about how Gore's negatives (earth-tones, half-truths, etc.) get overblown by the media. I might be sympathetic--no, I'm not. Look, there is no disputing taste, but really:

Whenever Gore speaks (about anything) he comes off as lecturing to a group of twelve year-old dimwits;

He tells half-truths about himself and then blames whoever calls him out. On this, more later.


As usual, Mike Lupica has the best take:

You cheer him there or anywhere else if you want to. Not me. You believe this claptrap that nobody wanted him to get to 715 because he is black and Babe Ruth was white, even though the great Henry Aaron, the most distinguished citizen of this game, beat Ruth 32 years ago when 714 was still the record. It was all about race in those days, when so many people in this country wanted 714 to stand forever. It is about steroids now. The media, white or black, didn't do this to Bonds. He did it to himself. To even attempt to make it about race now, to make it about anything more than all the drugs people believe Bonds took to start hitting home runs the way he did after the age of 35 is insulting to Aaron, and the American life he has led. And to the record he holds, the biggest in sports. It got big on its own, no drugs.

Me:Skip Bayless wrote a piece about a month ago about how Bonds would never walk away, would never give anyone the satisfaction. I now think Bonds will do anything, up to and including turning DH for a natural-grass AL team that needs an attraction (Baltimore?) in order to put his toes over the line.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Yankees 6, Royals 5

Nothing going out 6-0 in the first two innings and needing every inch of it.

United 93

Finally saw United 93 yesterday, and when it was over a half-filled house sat silently, not moving, not speaking, finally getting up at the end credits and heading for the exit.

Director Paul Greenglass made precisely the correct decision, I think, to cloak the passengers in a kind of semi-anonymity--to, in a sense, make us one of the passengers as long as we were in the cabin. The shock and frustration on the ground--as one plane after another disappears, as F-16s go up unarmed with plans to ram civilian aircraft as the pilots ejected, as fighter pilots take their planes over the Atlantic and have to be called back--mirror the uncertainty and frustration we all felt, as CNN showed images without explanation and the phone lines erupted.

(I slept in that morning. I had watched "Monday Night Football" the previous evening and then gone to bed, so when I awoke my television set to ABC. My first image was a split-screen of the towers and the Pentagon, both aflame. I thought, "We're being attacked." I went to the school where I worked, only to be told classes were cancelled. I went home in a daze, turned on the TV, and eventually came face-to-face with what I was realy doing, which was avoiding calling home. A cousin of mine worked at the Trade Center, as did his sister-and-law, and I couldn't bear to inquire. Finally, at noon, my mother called to tell me that both were safe, albeit by a matter of minutes. Anyway, back to the post.)

The sheer, Hitchcockian suspense of the film had me almost rising to my feet in sheer terror a few time. Greenglass's genius was to underplay, underplay, confident that the moment could speak for itself. There are no shots of panicked loved ones at the other end of those phone lines (this was left to the made-fot-TV movie Flight 93, which went for the relative angle and, while not as good, still stands as a suitable companion to this film). There was so little personal information about each character that I needed to refer to the Flight 93 Heroes' Page to put names to faces and actors. It is impossible to come to a full accounting as to just went on in that cabin, but four men have always stuck in my mind:

Thomas Burnett, by all accounts the first person to piece together what was happening, who from the information his wife provided realized the plane was not going to be landed for ransom or flown to Cuba (remember those days?) but crashed somewhere significant;

Todd Beamer, of "Let's roll" fame (the line is, of course, underplayed here, to marvelous effect);

Jeremy Glick, the former judo champion, who from the best evidence ran point to disarm and disable the "bomb"-carrier;

and Mark Bingham, the rugby star, second in the charge behind Glick.

A few other observations:

1. There is not a big deal made of it, but, in the film, the one passenger the terrorists go out of their way to kill (and thus imperil their mission) is the passenger in first-class most evidently Jewish.

2. Taking the long view, 9/11 proves that, in warfare, the one sure way to attain the element of surprise is to do something that makes absolutely no sense. Pearl Harbor, Tet, the taking of the Tehran embassy, Saddam's invasion of Kuwait--and now this, a (from a strategic standpoint) crazy waste of one's most dedicated and resourceful followers. Our instinctive response to 9/11--unleash the fires of hell on the Taliban and keep up a relentless search for those who would do us harm--has, from a distance of five years, proven to be precisely the recipe.

3. Everytime I hear someone say, "Too soon," my only response is, "Not soon enough."

Conservative Rock Song #1

National Review or NRO often writes about the most conservative this-or-that (movie, TV show), and this week counted down the most conservative rock songs of all time. The winner: The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." Mike Long explains:

Almost without exception, revolutionaries are greedy little prigs, planning utopia while measuring for the office drapes. Sometimes they swear to put the public itself in charge. That’s what Brother Karl proposed to do. But this never comes to pass, since every selfless idealist so far has decided that the populace wise enough to propel him to power is not quite wise enough to hold the reins themselves.

It’s not just the Left. Anyone who has watched our own government has met the new boss and come away with the scent of the old boss in his clothes. Forty years of Democratic rule in the House of Representatives turned to bloat and arrogance. A decade of Republican dominance is now yielding much the same thing. Revolution, where is thy sting?

Read the lyrics. First, Long has a point. Second, Oh my, what a song:

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

Ebert's Answer Man

Runs as a bi-weekly alternate with his Great Movie series. Featured this week , a letter from one interested reader who points out that Leonardo da Vinci (the subject of Guess Which Film) did not have Da Vinci as his last name, that, in those days, "Europeans had no last names." Fair enough, but what about a contemporary of Leonardo's, Christopher Columbus--or as he was originally known, Christophe Colombe?

Yankees 15, Royals 4

Featuring A-Rod's two homers. Story here. And the most predictable line I saw today was voiced by Bob Ryan: Of course A-Rod hit two home runs! It was a blow-out! Ho ho ho.

Time for Walk-Off to Get Lost?

Phil Mushnick and his never-cease-to-be entertaining hobby-horses. The term "Walk-Off," his nemesis Mike Francesca, and those stupid ESPN graphics are all dealt with here.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Ghost of Dan Rather

Or at least his career. Via Powerline and reader Greg Roth, this story in which William Jefferson is referred to as a "Louisiana Republican."

Is there any end to CBS's desperation?

Always good to remind ourselves

Huffpost ran the Gonzales-threatened-to-quit story as a banner on its homepage. I mention this only to give you the current tenor of its readership. This response could stand for many (I've inserted the hyphens):

Send the f------ lapdog Mexican Gonzo back to Mexico...he is a freaking wetback trying to use Mexican tactics in America...he should be relieved of his commission.

Ordinarily, you wouldn't hold a blogsite responsible for its correspondence. But consider:

1. Huffpost can afford a staff to review and eliminate inappropriate comments.

2. This comes first on its "Comments Policy" page:

We never censor comments based on political or ideological of view. We only delete those comments that are abusive, off-topic, use excessive foul language, or include ad hominem attacks. We pre-moderate comments on our blog posts and post-moderate comments on news stories.

Abusive, off-topic, foul language, ad hominem: I would submit that the above comment hit for the cycle.

3. The above comment was elevated to "Readers' Favorite" status, meaning that lucky Hufftoasters may read it in larger-print type above the rest of the other 497 weigh-ins.

Just one question: what sort of comments do they disallow? Besides mine, of course.

I sometimes wonder . . .

If I've lost my mind. Consider:

The whole William Jefferson debacle. The situation seems clear enough: there was a mountain of suspicion, and a warrant was obtained from a judge and duly executed. As The NRO's "Windows on the Week" points out, casting their prose from Jefferson's point of view:

Stymied, the feds spend nine months trying to get you to cooperate before finally going to a court to seek a carefully limited search warrant. And then they do the search. So then what do you do? You start screaming, naturally. This is outrageous! I am protected by the Constitution! Okay, it’s a little lame, given that the Constitution doesn’t protect felonious behavior. But hey, any port in a storm. And here’s the kicker: When you scream, the House leadership, from Speaker Denny Hastert on down, comes to your defense—staking Hastert’s and his party’s reputation on the claimed constitutional right to use a congressional office to hide evidence of felonies. It’s great for you, but it does leave some people asking: Was that in the Contract with America?

This is an incredible situation in which the law, the politics, and (almost certainly) the truth are all on the side of the GOP. When Howard Dean was asked two weeks ago on Meet the Press if Jefferson, if indicted, should resign, Dean simply said, "Yes," and left it at that. Nancy Pelosi has done everything but load up Jefferson's car for him. The Democrats know that Jefferson ruins everything they've built up as regards "the culture of corruption" since the special prosecutor in the Plame case was appointed. People understand marked bills in a freezer. They understand graft. And thanks to Dennis Hastert, the Dems are about to slip away.

Mark my words: the next time Dean is asked about Jefferson, you'll not hear an answer so straightforward. Of course Jefferson should resign, Dean will say, "but one should not overlook to strong-armed tactics of Alberto Gonzales's Justice Department so on and so on . . . the possibly illegal blah blah blah . . . the separation of powers yada yada . . . even Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, whom I have the greatest respect hummana hummana."

Incredibly--almost defying belief--Jefferson demanded that the contents of the search simply be returned to him. Gonzales and two others at Justice threatened to quit if the White House caved on this, and good for them. President Bush's 45-day cooling-off period seems the best that can be carved out, for the moment.

There is probably one way for the GOP to gain yardage on this, and that is for the old W luck to kick in. George W. Bush has been the most fortunate man in the history of the world when it comes to political enemies: Anne Richards, Al Gore, Terry McAuliffe, John Kerry, Dan Rather, Daily Kos,, Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Cindy Sheehan, Harry Reid. Watch, as spring turns to summer and the silly season approaches, for Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to parachute in for pro-Jefferson, anti-Bush rallies in front of the Capitol. These will be just what the GOP needs.

Friday, May 26, 2006


Apparently Kyle Farnsworth exists to break the heart of every Yankee fan. His assignment tonight was simple: keep the Royals from scoring in a 4-4 game until the Yankees could make mincemeat of the woeful Kansas City bullpen.

One tragic inning later, 7-4 Kansas City.


Rain delay as I speak, 7-5 KC, bottom of the ninth. This is the team that lost 13 in a row, boys and girls.

Update:Tying run on third, one out . . . Giambi hits into a double play. 7-6 your final, people.

Kyle Farnsworth will have ten million Yankee fans in Bellevue by August.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

GOP blunder

Democrat Congressman William Jefferson threw the GOP a life raft, and the GOP turned it into an anvil.

Here was a case singularly qualified to stop the Democratic challenge of "GOP Culture of Corruption" in its tracks: a good old-fashioned case of straight-up bribery circa 1983-93, with memories of ABSCAM and of Leon Rostenkowski's basement resembling the Home Furnishings department at Marshall Field's. Contrasted with Tom DeLay's trial (in which Ronnie Earle seeks to prove that two legal acts equal one illegal act) or Scooter Libby's troubles (a classic case of an investigation in search of a crime if there ever was one), here was something people could understand: marked bills in the freezer, unsavory foreign characters with odd headgear, boxes and boxes of incriminating evidence holed up in an office.

So as NRO makes clear, the GOP folded with four aces.

One must ask: for what? For the principle that a congressional office is a sanctuary? Might one hide kilos of cocaine in one's office? A nuclear suitcase? By all accounts, the FBI did backflips to comply with something about ten spots above the letter of the law. (I'll go way out on a limb and assume the FBI was not blind to the political implications of rifling a black Congressman's office.) But apparently some far-reaching notion of the separation of powers (nothing in the Constitution or the judicial history, by all accounts) would keep the GOP from exploiting this moment for even the smallest political advantage.

George Will was right: if the GOP does lose any chamber, it will have deserved to.


Via NRO's The Corner: The Enron Verdict. Lay guilty on all counts, Skilling on most.

Strange, how life in Houston has just rolled along these past five years, as more and more criminal activity was revealed.

Also: funny thing. A month ago I was jogging down River Oaks Boulevard, a half-mile stretch of enormous mansions running between Lamar High School and the River Oaks Country Club. Coming the other way was a man: short, gray-haired, apparently in his sixties, the only other individual in sight besides me. We got closer, closer--and as he passed me going the other way, we said hello, and I saw who it was: Ken Lay, in shorts, a t-shirt, and baseball cap. All by himself, out for a walk a few blocks away from the luxury apartment he now (well, for now) lives in.

Just seemed odd--no security detail or anything. Just Ken Lay out for a Sunday stroll.

Farnsworth v Papi, et al

A night after helping Scott Procter and Mike Myers nearly burn Fenway Park to the ground, Kyle Farnsworth comes through in the biggest at-bat of the season. John Harper of the Daily News has the details.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Yanks 8, Red Sox 6

Some victories are like some defeats, and leave you shaking your head.

Like this one. And yesterday.

This week, I've calculated that this is the weakest starting nine Joe Torre has ever run out for an extended length of time.

Matsui out, maybe for the season. Scheff just back from injury. Posada and Damon hurt. Bernie Williams looking old enough to have batted behind Joe Pepitone.

Beyond the starting nine, Shawn Chacon out. Jared Wright maybe missing a start. The Unit apparently trying to re-make himself as Jamie Moyer at the age of 42.

Tonight: the Unit gives up five runs in three innings. Manny, two homers. Big Papi at the plate, bases loaded, go-ahead run on first.

And a Yankee victory.

And: player of the game. Melky Cabrera.

Go figure.

Gore, Part 2

In the coming weeks, we're going to be hearing a lot about Al Gore as a suitable alternative to Hillary in '08. This is true, for three clear reasons.

First, the consensus is growing that Hillary cannot beat the likely GOP nominee in 2008, either Guiliani or McCain. The Dems, really, have no one but themselves to blame, as the single defining characteristic of the contemporary Democratic pol is a visceral, all-consuming hatred of George W. Bush. This may help the Dems this November (I'm dubious) but will do them next to no good in 2008. For the first time in 56 years, since 1952, neither a sitting President nor a sitting Vice-President will be a contender for the Oval Office. What's more, Cheney's not running, nor Jeb, nor Condi. Furthermore, McCain and Guiliani are especially insulated against ties to W., McCain because of his well-known personal animus toward Bush, Rudy for his distance from Washington, and because his heroism on 9/11 was used (mostly by Dems) to flog Bush's supposedly weak performance.

As I wrote yesterday, the challenge to a Hillary candidacy is clear: hold every state Kerry won, then win either Ohio or Florida. Two years out, does this seem like a plausible scenario? Hillary would be more likely to lose Pennsylvania or Wisconsin (or, against Rudy, New York) than make gains on Kerry's run.

(Two digressions here. First, a GOP collapse could always happen. Another terrorist attack throws everything into doubt, and nobody knows about Iraq. Second, the notion of the GOP salivating over a Hillary campaign has familiar echoes from the past, going all the way back to 1968, when the Dems dreamed of facing Nixon; of 1980, when Reagan was seen as a candidate with stronger negatives than Bush 41 or Howard Baker; to 1988, when the Dems openly rooted for Bush to beat Dole in the primaries; to 1992, when the GOP couldn't wait to take on Clinton; and to 2000, when the Dems feared McCain and continued to underestimate Bush 43. Be careful what you wish for. Okay, back to the post.)

These fears on the Dem side have opened the door for Gore. Will he run, and will he win?

Maybe, and no--not the general election, anyway.

Jim Taranto, at Best of the Web , offers three reasons why not. First, the greatest speech of Gore's life was his concession in 2000, indicating he is more relaxed out of politics. Second, the Dems will do whatever the Clintons want. (More to the point, the Clintons destroywhoever gets in their way. If Gore would run, you could expect some plants in the MSM regarding his shortcomings as Vice President and his alleged unelectability.) Third, the climate--the one factor that distinguishes Gore, aside from his position on Iraq--won't always be as cooperative as it was in 2005.

The third point strikes me as the weakest. Gore often begins his speeches by asking a rherotical question in that unctuous, grating tone of his: "Have we been having some crazy weather lately?" He has been known to describe the nine-month period between the Asian tsunami and Hurrican Katrina as "a nature walk through the Book of Revelations." But it doesn't matter. To Gore and his ilk, hot means global warming, cold means global warming; dry, wet, snow, sleet, all mean global warming. No proof, no piece of evidence, will convince them otherwise.

That said, barring a flood that permanently puts the Atlantic Ocean up to the Statue of Liberty's armpit (a common image around the web) people just aren't going to vote on glaciers. Most people know that people have very little to do with climate, and what we could do to affect said climate would require massive sacrifices for minimal results.

What is left then, is Gore himself. And Part 3, tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Gore Chic

There was a scene in Part I of the "Election Day" episodes on The West Wingin which one character (Bradley Whitford, in the role of Santos campaign manger Josh) screams about blogs posting exit polls that were almost certainly incorrect. (This is, of course, an echo of early exit polls in the 2004 election that were 60-some percent female, hence slanted Dem, hence non-reflective of the actual actual voting population and a result that launched a thousand HuffPostings.)

Anyway, one of Josh's colleagues tells him not to worry. "Anyone who reads 'Barney's Blog' was up at six forty-five to vote anyway."

The comment is, I think, reflective of a kind of Dungeons-and-Dragons aspect to the Blogosphere. What gets discussed here is not often discussed much anywhere else, even if what gets discussed here shows up in print journalism. It would come as a suprise to a lot of people that 260 million or so American citizens do not known who Scooter Libby is, or how Deibold supposedly stole the 2004 elections, or about a book called The Party of Death. I discovered this world in 2000, dove in for good during Rathergate in 2004, and have remained ever since. So sometimes I follow a story for a week or so before I realize that, by and large, very few people, by and large, have been following as well.

This brings me to this week's blogosphere phenomenon, Gore Chic.

Al Gore is back! Or so we're told.

The first hint of this was in, to be fair, the print version of New York magazine, the My Weekly Reader of the "Everyone I Know Voted For Kerry!" set. In a loving portrait, John Heilemann makes the following points:

1. The previous hurricane season has has vindicated his concern--some call it obsession--with climate change.

2. The current state in Iraq has vindicated his forebodings about the war.

To wit:

The burst of enthusiasm for Gore owes much to his emergence, since 9/11, as one of the Bush administration’s most full-throated critics. On state-sanctioned torture, wiretapping, and, crucially, Iraq, his indictments have been searing and prescient, often far ahead of his party. He has sounded nothing like the Gore we remember—calculating, chameleonic, soporific—from the 2000 campaign. He has sounded like a man, in the words of a top Republican strategist, who “found his voice in the wilderness.”

There is also the anti-Hillary sentiment, a sentiment fueled in equal parts disdain (the anti-war netroots, and all the attendant money) and fear. The plan for Hillary in 2008 is simple: hold every state Kerry won, then win either Ohio or Florida. But Hillary vs. McCain or Guiliani in either state? For once, the Dems seem gripped by the next-in-line protocol that has ruled the GOP since Goldwater--in a narrative that places Hillary in the role of Bob Dole, circa 1996. Heilemann again:

But the Gore boomlet is also being driven by another force: the creeping sense of foreboding about the prospect of Hillary Clinton’s march to her party’s nomination. “Every conversation in Democratic politics right now has the same three sentences,” observes a senior party player. “One: ‘She is the presumptive front-runner.’ Two: ‘I don’t much like her, but I don’t want to cross her, for God’s sake!’ And three: ‘If she’s our nominee, we’re going to get killed.’ It’s like some Japanese epic film where everyone sees the disaster coming in the third reel but no one can figure out what to do about it.”

Then, there is That Movie. An Inconvenient Truth, Gore's global warming movie, essentially a film of a slide show, if you need it, but apparently the hit of both Sundance and Cannes. Arianna swoons--is it possible that Al Gore is actually cool?

He's saying no -- but you can hear the "Run, Al, Run" chant growing louder.

"Democrats are looking everywhere to find their presidential candidate," Graydon Carter told me. "But the solution may be right under their noses."

And I think that the pressure on Gore to run will only increase as we move toward 2008.

Sure, that's a lifetime away in politics. And the shelf-life of movie buzz isn't very long -- I doubt people will be debating the relative merits of X-Men 3 and The Break-Up two months from now, let alone a year and a half.

But the debate over global warming is only going to heat up -- and Gore has a whole campaign planned to ensure that it does.

"We are planning to train a thousand people to be able to deliver the presentation all over the country," he told me, "so we can more quickly reach the tipping point."

And finally, the Kos Kidz bring their 0-21 record to bear. His anti-war bonifides in place, his environmental hectoring finally bearing fruit, Gore is the ideal candidate of disaffected alienation. In a fantasy straw poll, named so specifically because it includes Gore, Gore scores 68% over about a dozen Dem rivals for the nomination.

Money breeds money the way momentum breeds momentum. If the GOP loses one or both chambers in November, Hillary becomes a palatable candidate, as representative of the little-of-this, little-of-that strategy the Dems are attempting. If the GOP stays in control, the Dems will be ready for a psychic purging, and serious money behind him, Gore would emerge as the likely alternative.

Having built all this up, one must ask, will it happen?


More on this tomorrow.

Monday, May 22, 2006


Five months out:

Both houses remain GOP. Dustin Hawkins at makes the most persuasive case. Dems keep pointing toward 1994 as the model, but--lacking an agenda--this won't fly. Pretty soon, we will be hearing about 1986: a seven-seat pick-up in the Senate with a GOP president in his second term. Even here, though, the comparison is strained. To truly gauge Senate races, the trick is to go back six years, to the previous election of a particular Senate cluster, and calculate who was elected (usually for the first time) when variables were almost entirely in their favor. (A sports analogy would be Roger Maris, who hit 61 home runs in 1961, when 1) he had a 295-foot right field foul pole to aim at (this was old Yankee Stadium, whose dimensions had been configured to pad Babe Ruth's home run total), and 2) the year of American League expansion, when two new teams introduced 20 pitchers--fully twenty percent of the league--who otherwise would have remained in the minors.) In 1986, a group of first-term Senators were up for re-election, having been brought in via Ronald Reagan's landslide six years earlier, and whose fortunes were tied to Reagan's. With Reagan underdoing second-term blahs, and with rumors of Iran-Contra already circulating, the GOP took a beating.

And what have we this year? In 2000, the Florida imbroglio obscured what was a thrashing for the GOP in the Senate, a loss of five seats (later six, when Jim Jeffords went independent). In 2000, the GOP was at its lowest ebb since 1992; it is almost inconceivable that, six years later, the group that acted as a drag on the party might fall further. Rick Santorum may fall in Pennsylvania (though it will be funny to see the Dems celebrate a victory by a pro-lifer, Bob Casey). Jim Talent (whom I had higher hopes for) may fall in Missouri. But five seats? Don't see it.

In the House, Hawkins writes that no more than twenty-four GOP seats are even competitive, with the GOP leading in sixteen. The Dems need to grab every seat leaning their way, plus reverse half leaning against. Can't be done.


The Daily Howler, I've come to realize, is just about the best leftist website around. Mostly a review of--and a criticism--of what resident Howler, Bob Somerby, sees as the laziness and stupidity of the left-leaning media (Matthews, Klein, et al). He has repeatedly asserted that the MSM's habitual repeating of the "myths" surrounding Al Gore (inventing the Internet, discovering Love Canal, being lectured by Naomi Wolf) cost Gore the 2000 election. This is a debatable point. He has lately asserted that the weather calamities of the past year or so prove that Al Gore was right all along. This, too, is a debatable point--though one I find absurd. (I've become a bit of a nut on the subject of the 1900 Galveston Hurricane, a storm that made Katrina resemble a soft summer shower. I don't know that there were two hundred private automobiles in all of the United States in 1900--was the Galveston storm a product of greenhouse gases? Okay, anyway . . .)

Today, The Howler seizes upon a news item we might refer to as The Telling Detail:

A CARTOON PRESS CORPS: Only Elisabeth Bumiller could overlook the mordant humor in her presentation. At the start of this morning’s “White House Letter,” she describes the press corps’ conduct during a recent plane ride:

BUMILLER (5/22/06): Reporters en route to Arizona on Air Force One last week opted to watch the movie ''King Kong'' in the press cabin. Not so Tony Snow, the new White House press secretary and former Fox News commentator, who told reporters that he spent the flight in the staff cabin watching Gen. Michael V. Hayden's confirmation hearings to be the new C.I.A. director—on CNN.

Howler: Got milk—and cookies? While Snow watches Hayden’s confirmation hearings, the “press corps” chooses King Kong!

Readers, let’s review: It’s the middle of a work day. An important hearing is under way. The press corps is stuck on a long plane ride. And they choose to watch an inane, year-old movie! Only Bumiller could offer this fact and fail to see the dark humor involved—the portrait it paints of her hapless cohort, the people who steward our discourse.

Over on NRO's Media Blog, Stepehn Spreuill observes:

These are the same people who were complaining a few weeks ago that they couldn't get anyone to change the channel from Fox News — probably so they could watch Free Willy 3: The Rescue on HBO Family.

I think I'm supposed to write, "Heh."

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Yanks v Mets

One of the dark corners of broadcasting is how, on Friday nights, due to contractual loopholes that would bring a smile to the Sphinx, the Yankees aren't usually on on And on Saturdays, the Fox game blanks everything else out, so yesterday, instead of watching a thrilling Yanks-Mets cliffhanger, Houstonians were treated to Cubs v. White Sox.

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother . . .

I remember growing up in Phoenix, which was treated like a suburb of Los Angeles for all CBS Sports cared. With no NFL team (and not caring either way, as Frank Kush's Arizona State Sun Devils were fine with us) a city full of transplanted Easterners and Midwesterners was treated, Sunday after Sunday, to another 10-7 shoveathon courtesy of "Ground" Chuck Knox's 1940s-style offense, a game plan which somehow placed more emphasis on going the width of the field than the length of it.

And yesterday, in order that we might watch the Cubs, we were deprived of this (courtesy NRO's The Corner:

If You're a Mets Fan ... [Andy McCarthy]
that was the most brutal loss in years.

Pedro Martinez was brilliant for seven innings — but the game is NINE innings. I know times have changed, and managers are now ruled by pitch-count rather than the game-situation. But it wasn't so long ago that the very thought that a guy pitching a shutout would come out of the game — any game — after only seven innings was heresy. To come out when it's at home, against the Yanks, with 50,000 screaming fans packing the stadium, and a national television audience ... I can't even wrap my brain around that.

Great contrast: the Yankees' elegant, immortal Mariano Rivera -v- the Mets' new, $10 million-a-year-Mariano-Pretender, Billy Wagner. There was a big, inane to-do at the start of the season over which team now had the better closer. What a joke — like comparing Rembrandt to the guy who painted my living room.

Wagner, asked only to get three outs in the ninth without blowing a four-run lead, imploded — managing to give up two hits, walk three and hit a guy in his 31 pitches of work. He was pulled. The Yanks went on to tie the game, and finally took the lead in the 11th.

Rivera — who took a tough loss last night because Johnny Damon was playing too shallow to get to a catchable fly to center — closed like the thoroughbred he is: making a one-run lead stand up by striking out the side to end the game.

Verrrry bad for us Mets fans. This is the kind of loss that can send a team into a major tailspin ... and Wagner (who is good pitcher even though he's no Rivera — as if anyone is) is probably praying for a long road-trip. He has lost the home fans for the foreseeable future.

For the Yanks, by contrast, this is a big lift. They have a ton of injuries and they played terribly today: four errors, and their comeback happened only because Wagner was awful, not because they did much to deserve their good fortune (although Damon did redeem himself for last night by running hard on an injured foot to beat out what would otherwise have been a game-saving double-play for the Mets). But the Yanks hung in and toughed it out — which is just what they have to do for a while til they get healthier.


No, we in Houston were treated to a 7-0 snoozer notable only because the Cubs catcher punched the Sox catcher for no good reason.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Sports Guy Guy

Bill Simmons, as I've written, is a hero to bloggers everyone, the fellow who quit his job as a sportswriter for the Boston Herald, poured every spare penny into his own personal website, and by dint of effort rose to be The Sports Guy, probably (far and away) the most popular feature on, albeit on Page 2.

The reasons for his full popularity are in full flower with today's feature, his monthly mailbag, during which Simmons inveighs not only on sports, but on the portions of the American pageant a sports freak might be drawn toward, such as "24," Las Vegas, "Survivor," how to deal with a non-sports mate, and which NBA player a straight male might wish to, um, get cozy with.

One characteristic of a great writer is that he seems to be writing just for you; you read, and go yes, and yes, and yes again. When I was young, Richard Braughtigan and Kurt Vonnegut did the trick; later on, Frederick Exley and John Updike; later, Nabokov and Edmund Wilson. Now, this guy. My sentiments are reflected not only in him, but in his readers. One example:

Q: I feel like a teenage girl who was saving myself for Mr. Right but through no fault of my own ended up pregnant in the trailer park with Mr. Mario Williams. Almost three months of my life wasted listening to talk radio and checking the sites and waiting for Reggie with bated breath. My man crush was already in full effect and I was planning my Madden season. I am a grown man with a beautiful wife, good job, and soon a house in the 'burbs. And I just teared up a little bit. I hate sports.
-- Josh, Houston, Texas

SG: And that's why the Texans had to take Reggie Bush -- it's one thing to make a shaky personnel decision, it's another thing to kick your fans in the teeth. I'm becoming more and more convinced that every professional sports team needs to hire a Vice President of Common Sense, someone who cracks the inner circle of the decision-making process along with the GM, assistant GM, head scout, head coach, owner and whomever else. One catch: the VP of CS doesn't attend meetings, scout prospects, watch any film or listen to any inside information or opinions; he lives the life of a common fan. They just bring him in when they're ready to make a big decision, lay everything out and wait for his unbiased reaction.

I mention this only because the Texans would have called in their VP of CS on the night before the draft, explained their Mario Williams plan, and then the VP would have scratched his forehead and said, "Wait, why would we pass on Reggie Bush? Our fans will be devastated -- we can't do that to them. Plus, what if he's fantastic on another team? What if he takes the league by storm? Our fans will be catatonic. Can we even risk it? Why would we risk it? Can't we just take Bush? What's wrong with taking Reggie Bush?"

And then everyone in the room would have gone, "Hmmmmmmmm."

As a Houstonian, I endorse both the letter and the response. As I've said repeatedly, Charlies Casserly, as GM of the Texans, performed the impossible: he has turned Houston, Texas, into a baseball town.

And now he's off to the NFL comissioner's office in some capacity. I fear for football. Can a whole sport finish in last place?

Simmons's entire column is like the above, including a slap-down of some presumptive Vegas tourists who deserve a slap-down:

Q: A few buddies and I are heading to Vegas in about a month. We'll be there for three nights. Where should we stay? We're debating between The Flamingo, The Luxor, and The Tropicana, in that order. Any thoughts or suggestions?
-- Ryan, Arlington, Va.

SG: What are you guys, homeless? If you're looking for a cheap casino, stay at the Monte Carlo -- it's right on the Strip, the dealers are always friendly, there's a surprisingly good vibe there, and they hire their cocktail waitresses directly off the pages of Juggs Magazine. I think it's right around the same price as the three casinos you mentioned, with the added bonus that you might have water pressure in your bathroom and a bed cover that isn't carrying 15,000 different forms of DNA.

Another underrated place is the new Westin casino, right across from Bally's -- the rooms are nice and nobody ever gambles there, so you can play $5 blackjack and crap tables until you pass out. I had a phenomenal craps run there three months ago -- maybe my greatest since the magical Gallo-Simmons Foxwoods run in 1999 that received its own SportsCentury episode -- although it was a little tainted when everyone else at the table didn't applaud at the end. I mean, I carried that table for 40 minutes -- we were a good 10-15 minutes past the whole "Let's applaud this guy for a great effort" point and probably seeping into "I have to catch his eye, give him a nod and profusely thank him for what just happened" territory.

Actually, screw that, I'm not recommending the Westin. I still feel cheated over the whole thing. Stay at the Monte Carlo.

I rather enjoy the Westin, but my enjoyment raises a point. The Westin's rooms are new, clean, with a kind of art deco theme. I went there in March, paid for by McGraw-Hillm, for a professors' forum, and discovered again the sublime thrill John Updike has mentioned, of getting on an airplane with a ticket someone else has paid for. My only problem with the rooms is this: when is anyone in a hotel room in Las Vegas? Most people I know use Vegas hotel rooms to sleep and dress for dinner. This last time, I checked into my room at noon on a Thursday and thought, "Cool, great room," and then I checked out twenty-four hours later and thought, "Shouldn't I have gotten more use out of such a nice room?"

And this is every time I go to Vegas.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

How the World Works, Part IV

George Will's writings were a revelation to me--a kind of intellectual distillation of what drew me to politics in the first place, specifically Ronald Reagan's blending of Christian Conservatives, anti-communists, fiscal conservatives and big-business entrepreneurs.

Will was famous as a cheerleader for Reagan: his defense build-up, his re-moralization of the Cold War, his hog-strapping of inflation, his tax cuts and tight money policy that led to a the economic growth we are still feeling, a growth interrupted by only two minor recessions (1991-92, the derailment of Bush '41; and the post- 9/11 headache). At the same time, Will became legendary (among conservative circles) for his nagging observations regarding Reagan's deficit spending (more debt under Reagan that debt than Washington through Carter combined, etc.).

Thing is, Will has thought nothing of stepping off the Republican reservation if he thought the Republicans had turned heretic to the conservative movement. At the time of Reagan's retirement, he placed Reagan at the "front rank of the second rank" of presidents; something that history might well revise upward, on the grounds that Reagan's anti-communism ("Bring down this wall!" and all that rot) far outweighed, and indeed justified, his out-of-control spending. Will excoriated Bush 41 for his ineffectual domestic policies (Bush's foreign policy having proved slightly more successful). And Will has remained true to his small-government, federalist, anti-deficit spending, anti-imperialist roots. He has refused to blindly defend George W. Bush in Iraq, and--almost alone among conservatives--he has openly criticized Bush's NSA wiretapping, in execution if not in theory.

So along comes a Will editorial today: entirely predictable, and I mean that as a compliment. Will, who is at least as intellectually rigorous on his own side as with the opposition, objects to both the rhetoric and the legislative overreach of the so-called "values voters." A sample:

It is odd that some conservatives are eager to promote the semantic vanity of the phrase "values voters." And it is odder still that the media are cooperating with those conservatives.

Conservatives should be wary of the idea that when they talk about, say, tax cuts and limited government -- about things other than abortion, gay marriage, religion in the public square and similar issues -- they are engaging in values-free discourse. And by ratifying the social conservatives' monopoly of the label "values voters," the media are furthering the fiction that these voters are somehow more morally awake than others.

Today's liberal agenda includes preservation, even expansion, of the welfare state in its current configuration in order to strengthen an egalitarian ethic of common provision. Liberals favor taxes and other measures to produce a more equal distribution of income. They may value equality indiscriminately, but they vote their values.

Among the various flavors of conservatism, there is libertarianism that is wary of government attempts to nurture morality and there is social conservatism that says unless government nurtures morality, liberty will perish. Both kinds of conservatives use their votes to advance what they value.

In other words, expansion of the state by way of, say, proscriptions against gay marriage (in the Constitution, for Pete's sake) or the NSA wiretaps (to pick up one of his other points) are a betrayal of the conservative movement. This is an arguable point. More importantly, this is a thread of an argument Will has made again and again and again for going on thiry years, twice a week in the newspaper, once a week in Newsweek, once a week on Brinkley (as I still think of it). For anyone with so much as a cursory examination of American commentary, this would come as no surprise.

By the way, everytime something like this is written, it is interesting to watch the tinfoil-hat group respond.

At Huffpost, the responses take three forms. There is, first, the "Finally, some sense from this guy!" comment:

George Will stomping on the latest Rovian catch phrase? Maybe there is a God...

And second, we have the Bush-is-Satan chrorus, led by this:

i'm a values voter -- and i can't WAIT to do my part to evict the lying, cheating, corrupt, me-centered, regressive, christo-fascist, smug, deviant, murderous, law-evading, paranoid, anti-woman, 'culture of life' f***wads! i only wish i could vote in more than one district!

i have a feeling that, shortly, someone even more powerful than george will is going to call the conservatives out about the absolute hypocrisy of the phrase "values voters." and i'll be popping my organic popcorn and setting up my lawn chair to watch the fireworks.

it is such a pleasure to watch the steady decline and fall of the bush junta.

And extended by this take-a-shot-for-each-moonbat-talking-point response:

Well, gee golly, George has it right for a change. They should be using the phrase "back door Diebolds", or "NH phone jamming", or "FL Hanging Chads", or "weirded out OH exit polls, cut off voters' from rightful precincts," "gerry rigged TX precincts", etc. "Value voters" sounds too kinky, and not truthful at all, like the Bush speak we keep hearing on such words as "democracy", "freedom", or phrases like "Mission Accomplished", "A turning point", "Victory in Iraq", "War on terror" when it is actually a "War on ordinary Americans", etc.

And finally, the lengthy attack on Will featuring an absolute misunderstanding of his body of work:

You can always count on George to write something vapid and irrelavent.
Not everybody is a values voter George. I'm not. I know what a "values" voter really is. Do you EVER tire of pointing out the obvious? What you should be doing is ripping Bush/Cheney unmercifully for destroying your brand of conservatism but you just don't have the balls. And you aren't honest enough. And you write like no one else is smart enough to understand you because you think your smarter than everyone else. It's called condecension George.

You are wrong about what "values voter" means as well. It means you vote Republican because you are a racist gay hater. It means you vote Republican if you value your reputation among your fellow lilly white rich zenophobic neighbors. It's a code word George. It means if you go to church on Sunday you are bound to vote republican because they will stop gay marriage. This is what annoys you George. That "social conservatives"(code for bigot)are so obvious now in their desperate attempts to hold on to power. You know subtlety is important when using race and bigotry and discrimination to attract a base. George these phrases and names of groups are all the rage for your type. Family and Values are on so many fund raising pacs names that it's hard to tell them all apart. Your so full of shit you make me sick. You sit idly by parsing words while your party destroys our country. You don't care because you have yours. That's the only "value" you and your ilk have ever cared about.

You are a phony and a liar always a willing doormat and bootlicker for the Republican Lie Machine. You can't just write stuff and have everybody hail you as some kind of genius George. Theres no law that says we all have to believe your bullshit. We don't. Never did. Never will. Your on your way out and you realize now YOUR own legacy is tainted by your life long association to the Good OLE White Boy establishment. What you thought was going to be a badge of courage is turning into a scarlet letter as you enter your twilight. Too bad. I don't feel sorry for assholes like you George. I'd shut up and retire if I was you and quietly disappear. America has no use for you now other than to ridicule and deride you and we know you can't handle that.

Okay, too easy, I guess. I'm not blind to the fact that gay marriage was helpful to the GOP in 2004. In fact, I'm of two minds. I'm in favor of gay marriage, but, as badly as I wanted Kerry not to assume the position of Commander-in-Chief, I took a certain perverted comfort in the use of the gay marriage issue to thwart Kerry's bid. Shoot me.

However, I bring all this up because I think Will is on to something big: namely a coming rift in the reliable GOP voting bloc, something that nothing less than a presumptive Hillary presidency might fix. There is a decided segment in the GOP that might be determined federalist/realist or pro-defense/libertarian or somesuch. They became famous under Reagan's tent as the "leave us alone" crowd--and as a fifteen year-old in 1980, wanting nothing more than to be left alone by everyone and everything, I saw Ronald Reagan as my standard-bearer. These are the people who understand that the price of gas is a product of worldwide market value, that it will go up in the summer and down in the fall. They know that the current three-tiered immigration bill is a sham, that the GOP has been nonfeasant in its ability to control spending, that the free speech restrictions known as "campaign finance reform" are a restriction of our most basic rights. We see the evangelicals as what they are: as a means to getting our people in, as a necessary element (we would never say evil, because we sort of like them, and to a certain extent admire them) to electing our people.

Abortion? Probably,l reluctantly, pro-choice, but anti-partial birth.

Affirmative action? Against.

Eminent domain? As for recent Court decisions, don't start with us. Outside of tax cuts, our admiration for Bush's domestic policies stops with his judges, notably Roberts and Alito.

Gay marriage? some are (like me) in favor, some against, most really don't care. If a dude wants to get it on with another dude, who are we to mind? But, in keeping with our philosophy, we don't want things jammed down our throats by the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Should one partner be allowed to go on another's health plan? Yes.

We make up, let me wildly guess, thirty to forty percent of the GOP voting bloc, though every time I think of us I revise my numbers upward. And the one thing--the only thing that kept us on the reservation and out there, voting, in 2004 was who would lead us in the fight against Islamofascism.

My group's support for Bush's war has not wavered, though we might be upset here or there as regards its execution. But what Will has put his finger on is the disenchantment we have toward a free-spending, rights-ignoring, simple truth-denying administration that cannot see beyond its nose.

Yes, as soxblog pointed out today, Bush has gotten the big things right. That, plus a robust economy, may help them in November. But--as with Al Gore's stumbles in 200--given the facts on the ground, it will be far, far, closer than it should be.


A reader from Scottsdale (okay, my sister-in-law Karen) writes:

Although I have a Jeep Cherokee and my sister has a Rodeo, neither of us has a third row of seats, like in the big SUVs (and the guys both drive more gas conscious sedans). Unfortunately this means that anytime Lori & I want to go somewhere with Ella, Stephen & Alexis (which is multiple times a week) we have to take two cars. I can guarantee you that the next time either of us buys a car it will be a large SUV with a third row of seats (and keep in mind my sister Lori is purchaser of all natural, biodegradable cleaning products. . . a protect-the-environment kind of gal). We would like to do the right thing, as well as save money on gas, but unless we want to pull a Britney Spears and put Lori's infant on our lap, looks like we are stuck with taking two cars for now.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Great minds, etc.

What I wrote last week:

The war against SUVs is one of those endlessly fascinating sideshows of American life, waged by people who are either uninformed or myopic or both. It seems that half the people on HuffPost raging against the Vehicle of Satan travel by private jet. And Andrew Sullivan, who seemingly ranks SUVs two notches below torture, betrays an almost touching ignorance of the duties and obligations involved in raising a family. When one mother wrote Sullivan to state, Look, I've got three kids, they legally all must be in child seats, and an SUV is pretty much the only vehicle large enough, Sullivan's incredible response was, Well, why not put them in a station wagon? The answer to that, of course, is that current child restraints are about as big as bathtubs, and that a mother and father could squeeze one or two of the smaller ones (infant-3 years) in a station wagon--and only if no else rode in the car. My youngest brother's three kids--two of them extremely tall for their ages--would not fit in his car were it not for the third row of seats. Beyond that, the saving in gas between an SUV and a standard mid-sized--a Taurus, say--is marginal at best, so even if a bachelor drives his SUV to work alone he's scarcely doing any harm, at least not enough for it to be anyone's business.

What my newly adopted hero, Mark Steyn, in a review of Frank Gaffney's book War Footing, wrote this week:

The telegram has been replaced by the email and the Victrola has yielded to the CD player, but, aside from losing the rumble seat and adding a few cupholders, the automobile is essentially unchanged from a century ago. Yet as long as industry "reform" is intended to force Americans into smaller, less comfortable, less safe vehicles, it's hard to see anyone taking it seriously. (As a world-class demography bore, by the way, I don't think it's coincidence that the only Western country with healthy birth rates is also the one that drives around in the biggest vehicles: the nanny state can't mandate bulky child seats and then require a young family to drive around in a Fiat Uno.)

Tears bedim these eyes.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Been gone!

I've been gone for two days. Not that anyone cares, but you wouldn't believe the trouble I've seen.

That aside. Two outs, bottom of the ninth. Posada. Two-run ding-dong.


There are teams I've admired, teams I've rooted for. Four teams I've loved: Larry Bird's Celtics, Jake Plummer's Sun Devils, Pete Carroll's Trojans, and--head and shoulders above them all--the Yankees of Torre, Jeter, Rivera, and Bernie. What a ride.

Funny thing is, eight years ago this month, in a similar game, I sat in Arlington and saw the Yanks choke away a 9-2 lead to scratch out a 16-14 victory against the same Rangers. David Wells started, and he bitched about Yankee fielding so much that Torre and Jeter (who actually liked Wells, which wasn't easy) called him out to the extent that, two starts later, he pitched a perfect game.

These were the 1998 Yankees, maybe the greatest team ever, a team that could win a game 16-14, and come out the next day and win 2-1. With Yankee teams, post-2000, the Achilles heel has always been the seventh and eighth inning, the everlasting pursuit for Stanton, Nelson, Mendoza. Will Proctor, Farnsworth, Dotel fill the bill, set the stage for Rivera? Time will tell.

For now: Posada. To quote Vin Scully: Long fly ball, deep right field, SHE IS GONE!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Van Helsing and Mother's Day

Today, a special Mother's Day tribute. I wrote a week ago that Cinco Paul turned me on to movies--not entirely, though. When my brothers and I were young, my father was often away on business, my mom would--more than anything--take us to the movies. Sometimes it would be all of us to something PG (Rocky, The Bad News Bears). Sometimes she would leave my brothers with a babysitter and take me to something R: North Dallas Forty, . . . And Justice For All. Occasionally she would break down and take one or both of my younger brothers along with me to somethng R; most memorably, Saturday Night Fever, whose language she dismissed by saying, "Well, you know, they dolive in New York." (My mother, who grew up in New Jersey, was well acquainted with the notion that to say "F-- you" to someone before noon was to say, "Good morning," and to shout "Get the f--- out of here," was to express mild disagreement.)

So, as a special Mother's Day Tribute, I will take on the Van Helsing movie quiz from Jim Emerson's blog, with my best mom-guesses wherever I can.

1) What film made you angry, either while watching it or in thinking about it afterward? The Contender. I understand that Republicans will always get slammed in Hollywood, but their portrayal here was downright ghoulish. For my mom, The Silver Bears, a film she saw with my father and trashed to me the next morning, a film notable almost entirely as the film debut (and, leaving aside Leno-as-Leno portrayals, his more or less curtain call) of Jay Leno.

2) Favorite sidekick Me: Paul Reiser's Modell in Diner. Mom: Hmm. Have to think about that one.

3) One of your favorite movie lines Me: "What'd you do, place?" (Woody Allen in Love and Death, in reponse to a fellow soldier's saying "He was our village idiot.") Mom: "I'm majoring in Gavin." (Jessica Lange, Everyone's All-American).

4) William Holden or Burt Lancaster? Me: Burt, due to Atlantic City. Mom: William Holden, due to Picnic (see next).

5) Describe a perfect moment in a movie. Me: DeNiro and Pacino in the coffee shop in Heat. Mom: Holden and Novak's dance in Picnic.

6) Favorite John Ford movie Me: Liberty Valance. Mom: none.

7) The inverse of a question from the last quiz: What film artist (director, actor, screenwriter, whatever) has the least–deserved good reputation, artistically speaking. And who would you replace him/her with on that pedestal? Me: Oliver Stone should be replaced with . . . nobody. Mom: dunno.

8) Barbara Stanwyck or Ida Lupino? Double Indemnity, The Lady Eve--I'll say Stanwyck, and I'll bet Mom votes with me.

9) Showgirls-- yes or no? Harmless stuff, but I'll vote no. Don't even bother asking my mom.

10) Most exotic or otherwise unusual place in which you ever saw a movie I once saw Happy Together upstairs at Star Pizza. My mom went with her mom to see Butterfield 8 at Radio City Music Hall.

11) Favorite Robert Altman movie Me: Nashville, by a nose. My mom: I'm guessing The Player.

12) Best argument for allowing rock stars to participate in the making of movies Can't think of one for either of us.

13) Describe a transcendent moment in a film (a moment when you realized a film that just seemed routine or merely interesting before had become become something much more) The Rocky-Mickey reconciliation scene in Rocky. My mom always talks about Holden and Novak, so I'll leave that here, too.

14) Gina Gershon or Jennifer Tilly? Me: Gershon. My mom: I'm guessing Tilly, after Bullets Over Broadway.

15) Favorite Frank Capra movie For both of us, I'll say It's a Wonderful Life.

16) The scene you most wish you could have witnessed being filmed Me: Paul Newman's summation in The Verdict. My mom: I'm guessing here, but when the professor reads Redford's story in The Way We Were.

17) Robert Ryan or Richard Widmark? Me: Widmark, after he pushed the woman in the wheelchair down the stairs. Mom: she'll probably go Widmark, for his solid career.

18) Name a movie that inspired you to walk out before it was finished Me: Grand Prix. Went when I was fiove or six with my mother's mom (Nanny, we called her).I couldn't get into the drama and found the endless racing boring, and asked to leave, so we did. My mom: never heard tell.

19) Favorite political movie I, and probably my mom, would choose All The President's Men.

20) One-sheet you'd like to have Me: Swingers. Don't know about my mom.

21) Jeff Bridges or Jeff Goldblum? You're kidding, right? Bridges in a walk, from both of us.

22) Favorite Ken Russell movie Next question

23) Accepting the conventional wisdom that 1970-1975 marked a golden age of American filmmaking in which artistic ambition and popular acceptance were not mutually exclusive, what for you was this golden age’s high point? (Could be a movie, a trend, the emergence of a star, whatever) I'll say the two Godfather movies, and I think Mom agrees.

24) Grace Kelly or Ava Gardner? Me: Kelly. Mom: I'm thinking Kelly, not least for her work with Cary Grant.

25) With total disregard for whether it would ever actually be considered, even in this age of movie recycling, what film exists that you feel might actually warrant a sequel, or would produce a sequel you’d actually be interested in seeing? Me: Excellent question. First, LA Confidential deserves a sequel called White Jazz, another book by James Ellroy. Second, Coppola needs to make amends by directing Godfather Part IV, something along the lines of II, with Andy Garcia as Vincent and flashbacks to Michael Imperioli as young Sonny, with DeNiro as the middle-aged Don. I ran the second of these past my mom and she agrees.

Anyway: Happy Mother's Day, Mom, and go Sun Devils (save when they play the Trojans).

In defense of us

First this: something happened to both my desktop and my laptop: the band that shows the URL of whatever I'm reading somehow went on the blink. So links are out until I fix this.

So I'll simply write this.

Byron York (at present, my role model in all things, a reporter as well as commentator), writes this at NRO from John McCain's commencement address at Liberty University:

While McCain's speech at Liberty University was about reconciliation, he did take a jab or two at the occasional villain. Like…bloggers:

When I was a young man, I was quite infatuated with self-expression, and rightly so because, if memory conveniently serves, I was so much more eloquent, well-informed, and wiser than anyone else I knew. It seemed I understood the world and the purpose of life so much more profoundly than most people. I believed that to be especially true with many of my elders, people whose only accomplishment, as far as I could tell, was that they had been born before me, and, consequently, had suffered some number of years deprived of my insights. I had opinions on everything, and I was always right. I loved to argue, and I could become understandably belligerent with people who lacked the grace and intelligence to agree with me. With my superior qualities so obvious, it was an intolerable hardship to have to suffer fools gladly. So I rarely did. All their resistance to my brilliantly conceived and cogently argued views proved was that they possessed an inferior intellect and a weaker character than God had blessed me with, and I felt it was my clear duty to so inform them. It’s a pity that there wasn’t a blogosphere then. I would have felt very much at home in the medium.

Okay, me again. Couple of comments:

1. If McCain thinks the blogosphere is the bastion of the uninformed young, he's crazy. The notion of a nineteen year-old sophomore blogging on in some Founders' Hall someplace is the popular cliche of the genre, but it is woefully misinformed. Dean Barnett, the sainted Soxblog, goes over his hate email every day and has written more than once about the explosion of pissy, hateful bloggers in the over-40 category.

2. One of the wonderful things about the blogosphere is its utter meritocracy. Come to play, or don't come. Be good or be gone. Idiocies are exposed fairly rapidly (for this, see Cole, Juan, who nevertheless may end up tenured at my pal Cinco Paul's Yale University), and inaccuracies are pounced upon. The blogosphere has taken by storm the educated over-40 set, those who have peddled idiocies since their respective ages of reason, and now have to watch said idiocies pounded to bits. No, Super Bowl Sunday is not the number-one day for spousal abuse, if for no other reason than that during a football game a husband is either unaware of his wife's existence or shocked by her fanaticism for the home team (see McDade, Roseanne). No, Thomas Jefferson never wrote "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." No, George Bush 41 wasn't stunned into rapture by a supermarket scanner (for no other reason than trade shows do not exist to push seven year-old technology.) Again and again, it's more often people my own age who push the nonsense, and less so people my students' age.

3. Finally, a story along those lines. Two summers ago, June 2004, I was at a conference at Evergreen State, in Washington State, near Olympia. This is one of those woodsy, fanatical leftist colleges that post, outside the library, signs proscribing perfume. Perfume! Anyway, the people I dealt with at the conference were marvelous and filled with humor--until it came to the hated Bush. This happened to be the week that Farenheit 9/11 opened up in Seattle, and on the Thursday night of the week I was there, a group of professors drove an hour north to Seattle, then waited two hours in line to see it. The following day, all were predictably swooning over the event. One of them, knowing I was from Houston, told me, "You'd better see it here. You know they're going to try and close it down in Texas."

They're going to try and close it down in Texas.This from a doctorate, a professor, for God's sake, in her early 50s. When I went home to Houston, I emailed her that the movie was playing in a theatre not four miles from Bush 41's house. Her response was, Really, how can he live with the shame?

The Other Joe McDade

Was googling myself, seeing how far up the food chain this particular corner of heaven had moved, and came across this re my namesake in Fourth item. I had always known about Rep. McDade's legal troubles, but I was stunned to find who else was involved, and what became of him.

Our readership and "The West Wing"

So far: My parents, my sister-in-law, my high school friend Cinco, my work friend James Wright, stranger-just-a-friend-I-haven't-met Chumly Felix from Pennsylvania. These are the ones I know about.

"West Wing" fans among them: zero.

So, in that spirit, my latest review:

Not with a bang but a . . . not exactly a whimper, but what now?

I was a late convert to "The West Wing." I spent the first four seasons--the Sorkin seasons--catching the show every third or fourth episode and thinking, Well, that's nice. I saw the agenda (Clinton + Kennedy + Galbraith - any whiff of sexual scandal) and was put off; it seemed that the left wing had created a robot president for its own purposes. It was not until BRAVO, until way ast 9/11, that I began to realize the majesterial quality of the writing and acting, the way the show rewarded a viewer's attention.

It is with almost a sense of grief that I ponder over the last few episodes. The run-up to the election, the debate, the nuclear accident, Election Days I and II--all of these shows brought back the marvelous tension of November, 2004, and the sight of Michael Barone flipping through county-by-county polling data in Ohio. Since then? We've buried Leo, in an episode I suppose could go no other way. We've seen Josh melt down for the fiftieth time, and then go on vacation--for two episodes. Sam Seaborn has appeared, then disappeared, for the same two episodes--NBC or the production company didn't even think to shell out the bucks for a C.J.-Sam reunion this past Sunday. Could we just have had Sam in the bullpen, minding the store in Josh\'s absence? Would a thirty-second hello have killed anyone?

One must let a great TV show, like a Brett Favre, go out on its own terms. "St. Elsewhere" had its autism, "Newhart" its it's-all-been-a-dream sequence, "Cheers" its life-goes-on-tomorrow. Perhaps only "Hill Street Blues" hit precisely the right chord, with blameless Norm Buntz thrown off the force at the end of an otherwise (in the words of Joyce Davenport) "better than break-even day." "The West Wing" has decided to go the soft route, wrap a few details up, put C.J. with Danny, make Charlie C.J.'s assistant, put Josh with Donna, Sam with Josh, Vinick in Foggy Bottom, Santos's kids in public school and Bartlet back in New Hampshire. Fair enogh, but is there anything else? Who will be Vice President? Not Vinick, not C.J., so does anyone care?

One other note. NBC's decision not to film a "West Wing" retrospective (and instead simply replay the show's first episode) is shabbiness of high order. "The West Wing" is one of the best ten TV dramas in history--it deserves better.

The Left Wing

Via Mary Katherine Ham at Hugh Hewitt, the Media research Center's Top Ten Left Wing Moments From the Left Wing.

Look, I love "The West Wing." I took its liberal politics as read from the start, the emoptional craving its creators had for a Clinton who kept his thing in his pants. The only time I found the enterprise objectionable was when one character (usually Bartlet or C.J.) went off on a left-wing rant that kept everyone stunned into silence by its brilliance. (There are parallels, believe it or not, to Mike and the Mad Dog on WFAN--a thought for another time.) Ham provides the best example, CJ.'s anti gun screed:

"This is our fifth press briefing since midnight and obviously there is one story that's going to be dominating the news around the world for the next few days and it would be easy to think that President Bartlett, Joshua Lyman and Stephanie Abbott were the only people who were victims of a gun crime last night. They weren't. Mark Davis and Sheila Evans of Philadelphia were killed by a gun last night. He was a biology teacher and she was a nursing student. Tina Bishop and Belinda Larkin were killed with a gun last night. They were twelve. There were 36 homicides last night, 480 sexual assaults, 3,411 robberies, 3,685 aggravated assaults, all at gunpoint. If anyone thinks those crimes could have been prevented if the victims themselves had been carrying guns I'd only remind you that the President of the United States was shot last night while surrounded by the best-trained armed guards in the history of the world. Back to the briefing."

The lack of logic in this is breathtaking (is she advocating that armed guards do the president no help?). Instead of someone saying, "But wait a minute . . . ." The show has Danny turn to Leo and say "She's good" in reverent tones.

Also, with Mother's Day tomorrow, a thanks to my mom for turning me on to Hewitt.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I heart Lileks!

Wow. Wow. I pump Lileks today, now this.

A sample:

. . . and Jack Bauer will not be able to save you this time, my friend. If there is an attack on our country we will double our aid to the Iraqi patriots, double our funding to Hezbollah and its female auxiliary wing Sisboombah, and double again our attempts to secrete through your borders weapons both chemical and biological.

Ah – er, reduce everything I said in the previous paragraph by half. We will START doing those things. Yes, that is the thing that is the ticket: start. We will also use our fearsome weapons of unspeakable lethality to destroy your planes before they are even built, let alone launched. We can sink your mighty aircraft carriers by shouting in unison, so great is our national will.

Oh. My. Gawd.

The World Around Us, Part III

I came late to the internet, late to blogging, late even to the use of a computer as a research tool. As late as 1996--and it embarrasses ne to recall this--I forbade my Comp II students from counting internet research as one of their five mandatory sources. I used to hold mandatory scavenger hunts in my composition class (based on Prof. Kingsfield's use of same in the TV version of "The Paper Chase") that compelled students to hunt through the University of Houston or Rice Library, to Xerox and list each item in turn ("an article published in Time magazine the week you were born"). Do a scavenger hunt on the internet? Never. I'd spent 13 years of higher education in those smelly old stacks, so they could damn well spend one Saturday afternoon.

It was through National Review that I made two discoveries. The first was in the mid-nineties, when a NR article I read aadvanced the notion of newspapers delivered through telephone wires or even through the air, the notion of sitting in a jet plane at thirty thousand feet and I paraphrase, "reading Anthony Lewis on your laptop." (Deliberate ugh line, but I was fascinated.) My next discovery I remember distinctly. Spring, 2000: I was walking through the faculty room at one of our campuses and saw a scrap of paper on the desk. I picked it up, saw it was something typically trenchant and graceful by George Will--but at an unusual length, five or six paragraphs. The subject was a chuckle (if that's correct) about how many environmentalists were being driven crazy by SUV purchases.

(Pause here. The war against SUVs is one of those endlessly fascinating sideshows of American life, waged by people who are either uninformed or myopic or both. It seems that half the people on HuffPost raging against the Vehicle of Satan travel by private jet. And Andrew Sullivan, who seemingly ranks SUVs two notches below torture, betrays an almost touching ignorance of the duties and obligations involved in raising a family. When one mother wrote Sullivan to state, Look, I've got three kids, they legally all must be in child seats, and an SUV is pretty much the only vehicle large enough, Sullivan's incredible response was, Well, why not put them in a station wagon? The answer to that, of course, is that current child restraints are about as big as bathtubs, and that a mother and father could squeeze one or two of the smaller ones (infant-3 years) in a station wagon--and only if no else rode in the car. My youngest brother's three kids--two of them extremely tall for their ages--would not fit in his car were it not for the third row of seats. Beyond that, the saving in gas between an SUV and a standard mid-sized--a Taurus, say--is marginal at best, so even if a bachelor drives his SUV to work alone he's scarcely doing any harm, at least not enough for it to be anyone's business. Okay, back to the post.)

I saw the url of Will's missive: nationalreviewonline. This was funny: my favorite magazine had an online version? I knew so little of the internet that it took me a half-hour's serious typing to find the home page of National Review Online.

(Pause again. National Review distilled my thinking, as an insitution, the way George Will did as an individual. My only regret was that it took until 1987, when I was in graduate school and the course of my career was in motion, for me to discover The Most Consequential Small Magazine Ever. Even in the relatively conservative confines of USC, there was a decided liberal bent to the editorial pages of the Daily Trojan, the only real outlet for expression on campus. There was no Dartmouth Review, no Heterodoxy, no publication to cause this-or-that grievance group to steal, then destroy, an entire press run. I had come to USC expecting to transfer into the film school, but was bored to death by camera and lighting classes. This was my stab at journalism, but I only felt at home in the Entertainment Department, and I knew I didn't want to go to some paper in Iowa and do puff pieces about local theatre while waiting for the in-house film critic to die. So, it was off to the English Department.)

(Pause again, Part II. When, in 1987, as a graduated student at Binghamton University, I came across Natinal Review, I thought--as I've thought a few other times--that God had read my mind. To turn the page and say yes, yes, and yes again. My first year in Houston, I developed a every-other-Saturday afternoon ritual: drive of the laundromat on Alabama and Shepherd, load my clothes in the wash, cross Alabama, cross Shepherd, buy the newest NR at Bookstop, buy a big cookie at the old Whole Foods next door, come back, load the dryer, and read while the clothes spun behind the glass circle. Good times. Okay, back to the post.)

It amazed me how much my life changed in about two weeks: discovering links, web pages, Jonah Goldberg, etc. George Will was published sporadically in the Houston Chronicle; one would have to wait years for a new book to take in his view of events years past. Here I could read him, every Thursday and Sunday. The effect on my was as if Bartleby the Scrivener had been shown a Xeros machine and electricity on the same day. When I had been in Binghamton I needed to cross the campus every morning for the Daily News and Post, then--around four, before an early dinner--make my way to the news stand in the Student Union for the delivery of that morning's New York Newsday. Now? Fiteen hundred miles away, and Mike Lupica, Phil Mushnick, and Roger Ebert were a few key strokes away.

Then there was this: finding brilliance I never would have discovered otherwise. Mark Steyn. Michael Kelly. And James Lileks, a Twin Cities columnist whose daily "bleats" move so effortless from this . . . .

On the way to Target I was listening to the Medved show; he had a fellow who was parsing the particulars of the Iranian President’s missive. Since this was HATE RADIO, of course, you could expect all the callers to demand the expunging of Persia from the crust of the globe, right? Well, one after the other: callers defending the Iranian president. Progressives who regarded any talk of an Iranian threat as a fear-mongering distraction. Muslims who accused the host of a Zionist agenda. Right-wing isolationists. Christians who agreed with the Iranian prez: why, this was a sinful nation. Of course, the show always skews towards the disagreeing call, but it was still immensely depressing. Mind you: the guest was against attacking Iran. The show’s topic wasn’t even how to handle the nuclear threat. The topic was the Iranian president’s letter, and the phone banks were full of people who agreed with it.

When your world view is made up entirely of round holes, your mind is a lathe that can turn everything into a cylinder.

. . . . to this . . .

And then the grocery store. They had a sale on, God help me, DaVinci cheese. I couldn’t help wonder whether this was a movie tie-in. But no, it’s part of a series of “masterpiece” cheeses, all named after famous painters. The Vincent VanGogh is particularly good, as is the Rembrandt, but I’m waiting for the Dali (looks solid, but it’s actually quite runny) or the Duchamp, served up in giant pink wheels that look like urinal cakes. Or the Michelangelo, aged 80 years and very bitter. Or the multi-artist sampler, called the Vasari. Ba-dum bum! Art history major humor! Can’t get enough.

. . . to this . . .

Today I left a handwritten note weighed down by a rock for the contractors. Should they show, anyway. It’s my best guarantee of getting my point across. By noon today the water in the top tank was down another inch since the previous night; by three it was down another inch, which means the Oak Island Water Feature, after their repairs, leaks more. The note was simple: It has been one month since you restarted repairs. The project still leaks. The project still drains. Fix it. Now.

I left the note, not expecting anyone to come. After all, it was sunny and warm, a perfect day for working . . . on someone else’s project. Someone else who still has goodwill to be wasted. But when I came back two hours later, the note was gone – apparently they’d showed up to check the water level. This constitutes “work” – not showing up Monday, showing up Tuesday to fill it up, then showing up Wednesday to check the level. As opposed to calling me, say, FRIDAY, and asking if I’d fill it up Sunday and call them Monday morning with the results. But of course I’m thinking like a homeowner, not a contractor. If there’s anyone deaf to the sound of Time’s Winged Chariot, it’s a contractor. Time slows, expands, moves sideways, becomes a 2-dimensional Mobius loop, refracts into anti-time, wherein the project actually moves backwards.

Anyway, the note was gone, so I expect someone to come by tomorrow and take the thing apart some more and engage in more inefficacious jiggerypokery. They have until June the First.

After that: the nuclear option.

Again: Good times.