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  • April 30, 2005

    Voter ID Hysteria in Wisconsin

    [Posted by ]

    Wisconsin moonbat Joel McNally has a maddening little editorial in Madison's Capital Times today in which he compares Wisconsin's Voter ID bill to the civil rights struggles of the 50s and 60s. He writes:

    If requiring photo IDs doesn't turn away enough minority voters, we can always go back to the dogs and fire hoses

    Will someone please explain to me how requiring photo IDs at the polls is discriminatory against minorities? The facts say that it doesn't:

    Some 120,000 of Wisconsin's 5 million residents do not have photo IDs, state officials estimate. Two-thirds of them are elderly people who no longer drive.

    97.6% already have the IDs that would be required to vote. If anything, the Voter ID bill "discriminates" against the elderly, although they, along with the 40,000 or so non-elderly who lack identification can easily obtain a state ID for the whopping sum of $9.

    But this is still too draconian for looney lefties like Joel McNally:

    Republicans in Madison who are trying to throw up obstacles to disenfranchise minorities would not like to think of themselves as modern-day versions of the illiterate thugs who blew up black churches and murdered civil rights workers in the '50s and '60s.

    For the most part, they may not be motivated by explicit racism. They are merely seeking petty political advantage. The end justifies the means just as it did four years ago when Florida officials blocked every minority vote they could to put into office a president who came in second nationally.

    At the very least, Republicans who seek to add requirements to make voting more difficult for African Americans and Latinos display a callous lack of regard for the monumental struggle and the lives that were lost to win the vote for racial minorities.

    It's so hard to comment on rhetoric like this because it's so ridiculous, and frankly, it's insulting to these people that did actually struggle to obtain their god-given rights. It's one thing to be denied the right to vote because of your race, it's quite another to be denied the right to vote because you can't be bothered to get yourself some identification.

    Voter ID opponents complain that some people can't afford the $9 or that the homeless won't be able to obtain an ID. While I'm sure that's true in some circumstances, then work to, for example:

    • Write language in the bill that would allow a homeless person to get a state ID using the address of a shelter and the testimony of a social worker
    • Start charitable organizations whose sole purpose would be to pay for IDs for the poor
    • Organize carpools for seniors to the DMV so they too can get IDs.

    But instead, these moonbats insist on demonizing those who are trying to guarantee that Wisconsinites get one, and only one, vote. Why is that? On one hand, I'm sure it's just another part of the ongoing effort to paint the GOP as racist. But, given the rampant voter fraud in heavily Democratic areas of Wisconsin last November, maybe, just maybe, there's a more sinister reason.

    Posted by at 04:48 PM | Comments (10)


    April 29, 2005

    The Map of New Canada

    [Posted by ]

    Austin Bay speculates that Canada may be the world's next failed state:

    What happens to Canada if Quebec secedes? Canadians are once again pondering this question -- live on the CBC -- and given Canada's status as America's number one trading partner and continental neighbor, U.S. citizens should consider the ramifications.

    Canadians in the western and maritime provinces already dread the political power of populous Ontario. (Quebec serves as a political balance to Ontario.) If Quebec bids adieu, "remnant" Canada's political rules will be subject to revision. Subsequent regional bickering could lead to further fragmentation.

    Bay thinks that Canadian fragmentation could result in some newly orphaned provinces seeking American statehood. I think he's probably right. So, what would a new Canada (and really, a new North America) look like? Here's my guess:

    I see Canada splitting into four countries: British Columbia (green, above) and Quebec (purple) stand alone, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nunavut (yeah, I never heard of it either) form "New Canada" (in peach) and the rest of the provinces become American states 51 through 57.

    The new United States kind of looks like it's raising its arms in triumph. "Take THAT, Canada!". While I think this would be a great deal for the former Canadian provinces (they'll probably just be happy to be off the metric system more than anything else), what exactly would America get out of this deal? Well, here are a few things:

    1. Spectacular Banff National Park
    2. Prince Edward Island, the home of Anne of Green Gables
    3. One of the world's biggest malls in Edmonton
    4. Alberta's oil
    5. Yee Haw! The Calgary Stampede
    6. All 1,000 miles of the Yukon Quest dog sled race on American soil
    7. The ancestoral home of Yukon Cornelius
    8. The Halifax Citadel National Historical Site, which was ironically built to defend Halifax from Americans
    9. The Titanic Grave Site
    10. The Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia, which would serve as a nice bookend with California's US Hwy 1
    11. The highest tides in the world in the Bay of Fundy

    So, while I'd still rather we acquire some warm spots like Cancun and Acapulco, I guess Canada wouldn't be that bad. And, hey, even Wisconsinites are going to look sophisticated in comparison, eh?

    Posted by at 08:46 AM | Comments (16)


    April 28, 2005

    The Apprentice Recap - Week 14 - Who got fired

    [Posted by james]

    The show opens with clips of Bren and Alex talking about how awesome they thought their stupid little table was. *snicker*. I don't know how they could have possibly thought that their table was any good at all, let alone "awesome." It's almost as if the producers said "hey, say what you DON'T think about your table. You know, like the exact opposite of the truth." Anyway, it's good that bygones are bygones, and by-golly Bren is gone for good.

    moneymoneymoneymoney-MONEY...almight-eey-dollah....blah blah blah, moneeeeey.

    Trump lays out the task: you're gonna design a Hanes commemorative t-shirt. Team Alex gets to pick a teammate to join him on team loser, and he lets us know that he's thought long and hard about it and that he's decided that he wants TANA. That is the best choice - not only is Tana good at everything she does, but this leaves Craig and Kendra, who hate each other, alone to rip each other to shreds. Good thinking.

    I have to say, though, I think Craig is going to do well on this task - as I said last week, Craig isn't a good communicator, and he has really crappy management and people skills, but he is creative and has a knack for knowing what people want. It's also interesting that both Craig and Kendra are "loners," each quite capable of hammering out the task on their own. (You'll remember that Craig did the incredibl successful "box" all by himself, and that Kendra did the impressive brochure all by herself.) At this point, I don't know who to pick, but I'm leaning towards Craig.

    Each team is partnered with a pop artist, Magna with Romero someone-or-other and Net worth with one Burton Morris. The teams will be selling their product at a store called "Scoop."

    Tana is project manager of Team Tana-Saves-Alex's-Ass, and Kendra is the project manager of Team-Two-Year-Olds. Both teams seem to hit on identical ideas - Tana goes for wings and a star with the word "coutre," and the two-year-olds pick a heart with wings and the word "culture." Do wings have something to do with Hanes that I'm unaware of? Craig says that he would have preferred to use a star b/c it's "more universal" and I have to think that he's dead-on right - more people want stars than hearts. But Kendra makes an executive decision, and besides, their artist is wearing clothing that's plastered with hearts, so maybe that's all he can draw.

    Alex wants to bling up the shirt, and Tana immediately gets psyched about a product called "the beadazzler." Unfortunately for me, I'm no stranger to the beadazzler, because back in my P.T. (pre-tivo) days, infomercials for that thing were on constantly. Tana says "It costs about $10 and I think I've made about $10,000 off of it, putting beads on t-shirts." On the cab ride all the way over to freakin' Staten Island to pick up this beadazzler Alex bitches that Tana isn't paying enough attention to marketing, etc. He tells the camera in no uncertain terms that he thinks that Tana is a bad leader, makes bad decisions, etc. Earth to Alex - Tana always wins. You always lose. Mr. stupid little work-table or whatever that was. My lord, this guy is out there.

    The two years olds just keep fighting. And I keep skipping over it.

    OK - I think that team two-year-olds has a pricing problem. In their arguing, Craig thought that the price was too low - $35 for a hoodie, $25 for a t-shirt, "for an original, limited edition design by a famous artist." I've never shopped for this crap but I can tell you that yes, the price is too low. Well, it looks like Kendra won the battle, because that's the price they go with. First customer says "I want three - wait, how much are they? (hears the prices) OK, I need 4." Whoa, but now Craig is giving people discounts. team confuses me!

    Team Tana is pricing at $45-$55. George comes in to say that he thinks the task will be won on price point.

    Enter the boardroom.
    Team Tana sold 33 shirts for $1148.
    Team Terrible-Twos sold 101 shirts for $2705.

    Looks like George was wrong - this task was won on marketing, because team TT marketed to the artist's fan base. Oh, no, I really, really, hope that weasely Alex doesn't somehow manage to get Tana fired for this. See, Alex whined about everything for the whole task, the lack of marketing included, so of course he'll have something to blame her for.

    Whoa, Reward: Kendra and Craig get to dogfight each other in real fighter planes. Trump says "I hope you don't have a problem with airsickness and BOTH of them says "my daddy was in the air force/was a pilot." OK, kiddies, so we now know that your daddys don't have a problem with airsickness, but that wasn't the question, was it? These 2 really bother me.

    Kendra, before getting into the plane: "The whole task was a catfight, and now we're gonna have a dogfight."

    OK, this dogfight is an awesome reward. I think Kendra won.

    Pre-boardroom scenes: JackAlex tells us that he's smarter than Tana, and in not so words tells us that he thinks he's smarter than everyone else on the show too. Oh boy. I can hardly stand to watch this guy. If he isn't fired tonight, I'm not watching anymore.

    In the boardroom, Alex starts in on the lack of marketing. Trump asks them both to step out of the room so he can consult with his posse. George: thinks Alex has more fire. Karen: Tana is good salesperson and is nice and sweet, but I can't see her working for you.

    Hmm, it's looking like it's gonna be Tana. I think this is her first boardroom too - how unfair. Trump: Tana, you're terrible. Alex, you never win. Tana, you're usually pretty teriffic. Alex, it almost seemed like all you did was sit back and hope that she'd fail.

    Alex: You're Fired!

    Whew, that was close. As I've said previously, I'm no Tana fan, but I can't stand jackalex.

    In Alex's taxicab confession he tells us how great he is. Oh, Alex, like we didn't already know - you've been telling us for 14 weeks now!

    Check out our other Apprentice recaps here.

    Posted by jkhat at 11:03 PM | Comments (1)


    Young Voters be Damned

    [Posted by james]

    Question: What age demographic is the Republican party battling for most fiercely?
    Answer: 16-24.

    Question: What is the most popular TV show right now with the 16-24 demograhic?
    Answer: The OC.

    Question:: What show did the President just bump off the air with his non-emergency, completely unnecessary Thursday Night press conference?
    Answer: The OC.

    I personally know about a dozen kids in that age range that are currently pissed at the President.

    Not a smart move, Mr. President.

    UPDATE: Drudge:

    The White House learned a painful media lesson Thursday: Do not launch a press conference on the first night of May Sweeps!

    CBS, NBC and FOX cut off President Bush, mid-sentence, in several time zones, after sacrificing one hour of prime.

    The president was left standing on the stage as NBC rushed to Donald Trump, FOX to Paris Hilton and CBS to SURVIVOR: PALAU.

    ABC and PBS stayed with talkative Bush until he left reporters in the East Room of the White House.

    Sensing he was running into trouble, Bush joked, "We better finish this up, there are TV programs to show. And I want to help the economy."

    But it was too late.

    They had already pulled away.

    Again, I can't stress enough how completely stupid I think it was for him to interrupt the most popular TV night of the week.

    Posted by jkhat at 08:09 PM | Comments (9)


    Top Five Changes to the American Idol Contestant Contract

    [Posted by ]

    With ABC and former contestants such as Corey Clark planning American Idol exposes, our lawyer-to-be, James, thought it'd be a good time to dig into the fine print of the Idol contracts and see just how the show was working to try to prevent future scandals. Thanks to his hard work, we're able to bring this peek into the dark side of the entertainment industry to you. These are the top five tidbits we found.

    5. "I understand that by initialing here I am certifying that I have a clean record and that I've never been arrested for any crime whatsover. I further understand that any misrepresentations on my part are grounds for immediate disqualification from the show. (unless said misrepresentations improve ratings*)

    *added 2005

    4. Clay's contract: "I promise that I won't pull a fast one and try to get out of my idol contract."

    Mario's contract: "I really, really promise that I won't pull a fast one and try to get out of my idol contract."

    New standard contract: "I really, really, really, REALLY promise that I won't pull a fast one and try to get out of my idol contract. Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye."

    3. "I undertand that membership in The Dawg Pound ("Dawg Pound") is compulsory for male contestants and that Randy Jackson, at his sole discretion, can extend offers to female contestants as he sees fit. I hereby release Fox from any and all liability arising from Title IX claims in this regard."

    2. I agree that at the request of the producers I will perform at least three (3) songs by washed up singers that may or may not be present in the audience. Such acts may include but are not limited to Hall and Oates, Billy Ocean & Bonnie Tyler.

    And, the number one change to the American Idol contract is:

    1. "What happens in Paula's rec room, stays in Paula's rec room."

    Posted by at 03:45 PM | Comments (0)


    April 27, 2005

    American Idol Voting Results-Who Got Voted Off-Week 7

    [Posted by ]

    The show begins and my first impression is that Scott, Constantine and Carrie look sad. Could they really be the bottom three? Seacrest is in and he'll soon give us the scoop. Once again, Ryan is Mr. Conservative. That's ever so disappointing. Maybe Paula will be drunk. Ah well, a girl can dream.

    Group sing time. Oh crap, it's ACB (another crappy ballad). Bo makes "Emotions" momentarily sound okay, but then the moment passes and it's back to the schlockathon.

    Random thought: Carrie & Bo have some very comfortable body language. Should Bo's identical girlfriend and my cowriter James be worried? I think so.

    Once again, Ryan is putting the contestants into two groups. You don't want to be in Scott's group, do you? Here's how it goes:

    Vonzell: far side
    Carrie: near side
    Bo: near side (so, Vonzell must be in the bottom three, huh?)
    Federov: far side (Anthony is not pleased)

    And, we won't get to the rest until after the break. My prediction: Vonzell, Federov & Scott are the bottom three, as I predicted last night. I wonder if, during this break, Vonzell and Federov are practicing not making the "d'oh" face when Scott joins their group.

    Ryan makes Scott and Constantine pick the group they think they belong with. They both stand with Carrie & Bo. If I were Vonzell or Federov I'd be kicking their asses right about now. Ryan announces that Carrie & Bo are in the top group. Duh.

    WFT? Constantine is the bottom three and effing Scott is safe again. America, what the HELL are you thinking. You sicken me.

    Ryan sends Vonzell back to safety. I think this means that Federov, who did the best job last night, is probably going home, but of course they're dragging this out through another commercial break. While we wait, once again I'll ask, "America, WTF, mate?". Not only is Scott a gross, woman-beating, punkass thug, he was terrible last night.

    And we're back to the Anthony Federov Memorial version of American Idol. Except, Constantine is going home!!! It's Constantine! Wow, I'm shocked. But, I'm slightly less angry at America. USA! USA!

    Constantine makes a classy exit, while Scott looks a little too pleased by the result. Paula is practically balling. Or, alternatively, she's just drunk.

    Wow, oh what a night.

    Read our previous recaps

    Posted by at 08:28 PM | Comments (31)


    University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire Wages Campaign Against Student Viewpoints

    [Posted by james]

    I'll try to write something on this later, as I'm now something of a First Amendment scholar, but for now see the F.I.R.E. release here.

    Defying the First Amendment, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UWEC) has decided to prohibit student organizations with religious or political viewpoints from receiving student-fee funding. The UWEC Student Senate approved the unconstitutional changes to student organization funding policy in mid-March, banning student groups or events that endorse "a particular ideological, religious, or partisan viewpoint" from being eligible for student-fee funding. Though FIRE has twice written UWEC about the university's responsibility to be viewpoint neutral when distributing student-fee funds, UWEC has yet to retract the unlawful new rule that violates the rights of all students to freedom of expression and legal equality. For full details, please read below.

    Full article here.

    Posted by jkhat at 02:41 PM | Comments (3)


    Taxing Truths in Virginia

    [Posted by John Tant]

    The Republican nominee for governor of my fair Commonwealth, Jerry Kilgore, recently put forth a few proposals that would help out our funding of transportation issues. Among them are ideas to create regional authorities that would be able to put tax items on local ballots.

    At first blush, I don't think it's a bad idea at all. One of the big sources of tension in Virginia is the current system. Right now we have Northern Virginia gobbling up a great deal of tax dollars contributed by the rest of the Commonwealth. And while it's a valid argument that Northern Virginia contributes a decent share of the total take, it's still countered by pointing out that much of the rest of the state doesn't get the same bang for the buck that NoVA gets. Regional transportation authorities might address this better.

    And then there's this little tidbit. I offer it to not only highlight editorial bias, but the gloss-over-the-facts stance of the Tim "No One In Virginia Supports Me" Kaine campaign (the Democratic nominee):

    [Kilgore] said he would use extra revenue in the state's general fund from a growing economy to pay for transportation projects, an approach criticized by his likely Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.

    Kaine spokeswoman Delacey Skinner said that "paying for transportation out of the general fund is ultimately going to put transportation dollars in competition with education dollars. What you'll end up with is money that would have gone to education going to transportation."

    Well, there's a salient piece of information missing from this passage. Virginia, thanks to a one billion dollar tax increase pushed through by Mark Warner, has a nearly one billion dollar surplus. Yep. When Kilgore is saying he wants to use "extra revenue," he's talking about the surplus. For Kaine (or Skinner) to casually conflate that with education funding is, well, disingenuous. Education is already fully funded. So instead of giving surplus money to a fully funded program, Kilgore is talking about giving money to an entity in lieu of a tax increase that would otherwise be required to fund it. Such are the peculiarities of Commonwealth budgets. And bottom line, it makes sense to use surplus money instead of a tax increase...which is why Kaine is against it.

    As for further down the line...if there are regional transportation authorities instead of a giant Full Service VDOT, then general fund dollars won't be in competition with transportation dollars, because the regional authorities are just that...regional. Besides, if the general fund dollars shifted to transportation are, as Kilgore described, "extra," then we're talking about surplus tax dollars, and the idea of them being "in competition" with programs already funded is rendered moot.

    Also funny is Skinner's follow up statement:

    Skinner added that the proposal to hold referendums on tax increases shows a lack of leadership. "When you ask the difficult question of how are you going to pay for this, Jerry always wants to put that off on somebody else," she said.

    Hilarious. Left unsaid are the numerous referendums Mark Warner (current Virginia governor...and a Dem) put forth on just that thing. It was only when he was defeated each time did he decide to outright break his promises not to seek a tax increase and go to the Assembly.

    Also funny is in how these guys seem to be all over the idea of Democracy...unless it has to do with tax increases. Then the idea of a direct vote becomes a lack of leadership. And with all due respect, Skinner...the idea of "who will pay for this" isn't that difficult of a question. One way or another...Commonwealth taxpayers are going to pay for it. Why is it so difficult for Kaine to have a notion that the people footing the bill should have a more direct say in whether the projects go forward or not?

    Posted by John Tant at 10:15 AM | Comments (1)


    April 26, 2005

    Amazing Race Recap-Episode 9

    [Posted by ]

    If last week's episode was all about the frenzy of India, tonight's episode was all about the hubris of Rob. Rob's decision to try to mess with Gretchen's mind was the only thing that spurred the Dandy Dons and Uchenna & Joyce to search for a better flight from Jodhpur to Istanbul. And, that's what gave those two teams a two-hour lead on Rob & Amber and Ron & Kelly. But what the hell? Uchenna & Joyce have won the last two legs but they didn't get an extra prize on either of them. That's not fair!

    The editors sure had a lot of fun tonight with Rob. But, every time he crowed about how much smarter he was than Uchenna & Joyce or the Dandy Dons, he gave them so much to work with. Rob has a lot going for him, but he lacks humility. I think that when you don't see teams for an entire leg, it should cross your mind that they might be ahead of you. It takes a cocky, cocky man to assume he's in the lead.

    While the lead teams' earlier flight was a secret for most of the leg, the fact that tonight was a non-elimination episode wasn't. Well, not to long time viewers at least. You had to expect that tonight was non-elimination, next week we'll get rid of one team and then we're down to three for the final episode. But, even though I knew it was coming, I was still disappointed that the one time Ron & Kelly finished last, they'd get to stay in the game. Could Kelly have been more distasteful tonight? How dare she claim that Ron "got out" of his military commitment by being a POW. Ron needs to escape her.

    Other than the non-elimination element, I really enjoyed this leg. My personal highlights:

    • The beautiful airport facade in Jodhpur. The teams can bitch all they want about India, but there's got to be something good about a country where they care enough to make something as boring as an airport beautiful
    • Istanbul. Istanbul. Istanbul. The city has been number one on my list of dream foreign destinations for a long time now and tonight did nothing to change that. It's so full of history and so beautiful. I hope that at some point in next week's episode they have to visit a Turkish bazaar.
    • I appreciated Ron getting in the obligatory "Istanbul not Constantinople" joke.
    • Gretchen continued her tradition of dirty double speak by yelling that she needed a "big man!"
    • Mmmm...Phil. Phil was looking super hot in his funky brown suede jacket. That man can look wicked good when he wants to
    • Airport drama was back. Working the airports has been an ignored skill so far this season, but tonight it was the crucial factor that propelled Uchenna & Joyce into first place
    • Even though the Dandy Dons had a great leg, for them, they managed to keep me entertained with their continuing ineptitude. They can't find a clue, both literally and figurtively. It cracks me up how the show cues up the oompha music to punctuate their follies.

    Note that I'm pretending the whole embarassing Travelocity gnome thing didn't even happen. This show doesn't need to stoop to that kind of silly product placement. Next thing you know they'll have Pringles-sponsored roadblocks.

    Next week, I think we'll say a fond farewell to the Dandy Dons. Sooner or later, their luck has got to run out, right? RIGHT??

    Be sure to check out Viking Pundit's excellent recap.

    Posted by at 09:21 PM | Comments (3)


    American Idol Recap-Week 7

    [Posted by ]

    Seacrest in. Tonight our dear Ryan is nattily attired in a conservative outfit of jeans, a blue/green button down shirt and a greyish blazer. He looks so, so normal. Well that's no fun.

    Tonight's theme is (drumroll) songs from the year 2000 on. They call these "themes"? Remember back when contestants had to master big band one week and the musical stylings of Burt Bacharach the next? The kids these days have it so easy.

    Carrie is up first and before the Idol wannabes sing, we're going to be treated to a look at their hometown lives. Carrie's a farm girl through and true. She claims she even sang to the cows! I believe that. I sing to my animals too. Of course, when I do they run away in horror, but whatever. My cowriter, James, will be pleased to see that Carrie's mom still looks fantastic. So James, I bet Carrie will be beautiful even after you've been married for 20 years.

    Carrie is singing "God Fearing Women" by Martina McBride. She's got the good Jennifer-on Days straight hair tonight and is kicking a little ass on this country tune. She still struggles on the low notes, but her stage presence has improved tremendously. She's actually connecting to the audience for once.

    Randy: she sounds pitchy
    Paula: didn't like the song choice--in other words, she doesn't like country
    Simon: doesn't get country music, but the fans will love her
    Kris: the song was okay, but she looked like she was having fun, so I liked it.

    Clay Aiken is in the house. All over America, pre-teen girls squeal.

    Next up is Bo. Bo is from Alabama and his girlfriend (and yes, thousands of girls are crestfallen at those words) looks almost exactly like him. It's kind of freaky. His dad is one of those men who look like Kenny Rogers and finally, his bandmates remind me of the two guys in the Dodge Hemi commercials.

    Bo is singing "I Don't Wanna Be" and wearing sunglasses (at night!) and the ugliest poncho I've ever seen. He's concentrating more on looking cool and interacting with the crowd than he is on the singing. Hmmm, but, on the other hand, he is dirty and that's always a good thing. The crowd goes absolutely crazy when he finishes. I think we might see some panties on the stage soon.

    Randy: American Idol has a true rock star
    Paula: what Randy said
    Simon: Bo's got his groove back, but he hates the sunglasses
    Kris: Simon's right, the sunglasses are terrible, although the poncho's worse. Hmmm, maybe his girlfriend is helping him pick out his clothes with the ulterior motive of making him look less attractive to other women. I'm convinced that golfer Phil Mickelson's wife has successfully used this technique for years (the pants??).

    Vonzell, "the Vonz", is from Florida where she worked as a mail carrier. Awww, that's so sweet. If you watched Project Runway, then you're probably thinking about how cute Vonzell would have looked in Austin's darling postal outfit. I know I am.

    Uh oh. Vonzell is singing a ballad, "I Turn To You" by Christina Aguilera. This is a HUGE tactical error. We like upbeat, fun Vonzell, not torch singer Vonzell. And not just that, she's also having problems hitting the notes. It was a rough performance.

    Randy: gets points for degree of difficulty
    Paula: she turned on the magic, she was "bone chilling"
    Simon: has a horrible feeling it wasn't as good as Randy & Paula thought
    Kris: As usual, the British man speaketh the truth

    Federov lives outside of Philly but is originally from the Ukraine. I hadn't heard that. Why is he keeping that colorful bit of information secret? His dad lovingly says that Federov "isn't just a dreamer, he's a dreammaker".

    Anthony is ever-so-earnestly singing some Celine Dion song. I think this is "I Surrender", which I only know because Kelly Clarkson sang it in season one. Federov is doing a great job of singing this so powerfully, but I'm thinking of Kelly's version, which she sang as though the pain of the emotion was going to overwhelm her. In my book at least, you don't want to be compared to Kelly.

    Randy: loved the high notes, but very tepid praise
    Paula: oh dear, Paula and I are thinking alike as she mentions Kelly's performance too. she thinks this was one of his best performances
    Simon: hated it, but thinks Federov is brave and that his fans will like him. he nailed it.
    Kris: Simon's right again. I suspect there are more than a few old bettys in Federov's fan club and I also suspect they loved the Celine.

    Now it's time for Constantly-Dirty. Life back in New York is just Greeky for our dear Constantine. Aw, he was so cute in his high school graduation picture. What happened?

    Constantine is doing his best Jim Morrison imitation while singing "This is How You Remind Me" by Nickelback. He's doing the bleating thing again this week. He's working the charisma, because that's all he's got tonight. He sounds absolutely terrible, I actually wonder if he's sick or something. Ugh, I can't wait for this to be over.

    Randy: the girls love him, but Randy thought it was "high on performing and low on vocals"
    Paula: didn't like the song, but liked the performance. in other words, she thinks he's hot (ooh, but is he hotter than Corey?). she says it doesn't matter if he gets the notes wrong.
    Simon: now that Constantine is on Idol, this kind of rock song makes him nothing more than a poser.
    Kris: more sucky than sucky

    Now it's time for the punkass. Punkass Scott grew up in the "hood" of Shaker Heights. Scott's parents claim they thought he'd be a priest. Oh god, how creepy is that? Scott thinks that if we went to Cleveland we'd see thousands of "hims" walking around. Remind me again not to go to Cleveland, please.

    Scott is singing a song I have never heard before. It's some lame ass ballad. He's also missing all the high notes. And folks, that's all he has. He's so weak in his lower register. He's a one-trick pony and tonight that trick has deserted him.

    Randy: his weakest performance in weeks. heh, for a second I thought Randy said it was "bitchy" rather than "pitchy"
    Paula: didn't like it, but is too nice to say so
    Simon: bye
    Kris: WOO!!! I loved it. I'm so mean ;-)

    My bottom three: Constantine, Vonzell, Scott
    My predicted bottom three: Vonzell, Scott & Federov

    The boot: Scott. At last. Praise the lord!

    Posted by at 08:00 PM | Comments (5)


    Madison: Glossing Over the 60s

    [Posted by ]

    When you think of Saturdays in Madison, you think of fall and football and beer gardens and tailgating under the deep blue skies of September and October. However, there are two Madison Saturday events that are almost as well known: Crazylegs & the Mifflin Street Block Party. These Saturdays are like a football game in spring and this year, they're both happening on the same day, April 30th. While the adults will gather in the Camp Randall-area beer gardens for an afternoon of drinking uninterupted by a pesky football game, their college counterparts will pack the decks, lawns and sidewalks of Mifflin Street drinking, smoking, listening to music and looking to hook up. While I have a storied personal history at both events, I'm firmly in the beer garden age group now.

    The Mifflin Street Block Party started as a political event in 1969. The Wisconsin State Journal's Susan Lampert Smith has an article in today's paper that gently mocks how it's turned from that into a party thrown with the cooperation of the Madison Police Dept. She writes:

    Hippie: "500 block Mifflin, be there."
    Neo-hippie: "Love to, dude, let me check my BlackBerry.
    Hippie: "Dig it!"
    Neo-hippie: "Naw, sorry, the 7th's no good, got a calculus exam on the 8th. Can't be loaded for logarithms."
    Hippie: "The revolution will not be televised."
    Neo-hippie: "Oh, good point. Don't want to miss "The O.C." either. How's the 30th? Does that work for you?
    Hippie: "Off the pig."

    However, Lampert's article ignores the dark side of the 60s. She quotes a man named Karl Armstrong and portrays him as a "1969 partier". While Armstrong was at the '69 block party, he's better known as the mastermind of the 1970 bombing of Sterling Hall on the UW-Madison campus. This bombing killed a 33-year old physics researcher (and father of two) Robert Fassnacht and injured four others. Armstrong, after fleeing to Canada, was eventually brought to justice and served his time.

    The bombing of Sterling Hall was almost 35 years ago. Many Madisonians would read this article and have no idea who Karl Armstrong is, and, by not mentioning it, Lampert Smith paints him as nothing more than a partying hippie. While some may say that Armstrong has already paid the price for his actions and we shouldn't dwell on them, I'd point those people to last week's articles on Pope Benedict XVI. Nearly every one of them made a point to include the fact that the Pope was a member of the Hitler Youth: when he was 14, when it was mandatory and over 64 years ago. There are some facts you can't (and shouldn't) be able to escape.

    Madison has a way of glorifying its radical past while glossing over some of the more undesirable aspects of it. It's still a city that hasn't yet embraced reality.

    Posted by at 09:44 AM | Comments (3)


    April 25, 2005

    Our New Political Party: The Republicrats

    [Posted by ]

    Sharp as a Marble comes up with this perfect graphic to represent our new political party, the Republicrats:

    I know it's cynical of me, but I gotta agree with the sentiment that, right now, there's not a lot of difference between our two major parties.

    On a different note, why have I not noticed the Rolling Glenndex before? Heh. That's classic. Indeed.

    Posted by at 10:21 AM | Comments (4)


    Should women be assigned to combat units?

    [Posted by Laura]

    I’ve been curious about this since I read She Went to War, by Rhonda Cornum, the first (only?) female POW of the Gulf War. Officially, women are banned from combat. Or are they?

    Sgt. 1st Class Turrie Peoples was stationed in the Green Zone in Baghdad, under regular mortar fire. Peoples may be the first female, senior NCO to lead a platoon in a war zone. “People don’t always agree with women in combat,” she said. “But I got a lot of support. I give credit to my platoon. They’re who makes you as a leader.”

    In a war with no defined front, the reality is that women are under fire just like their male counterparts.

    Women remain barred from infantry, armor, special forces and certain artillery units. Defense Department policy also excludes them from units smaller than a brigade - 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers - with the primary mission of engaging in direct combat on the ground. That still leaves room for them to serve in police, supply, maintenance and other units that closely support combat troops. Those units are vulnerable in Iraq, where conventional front lines don't exist and insurgents target relatively lightly protected patrols and supply lines. "We've always operated under the assumption that there were such things as front-line troops," said Michael O'Hanlon, a military expert at the Brookings Institution. "It's obviously not true in an insurgency or stabilization mission."
    What has been happening unofficially up until may soon be officially sanctioned, according to the Center for Military Readiness in this article:
    The supposedly “unofficial” Women in the Army Point Paper includes a subtle but momentous change in the wording of current Defense Department regulations, which the Army does not have the power to make. Current rules prohibit the assignment of female soldiers from assignment to “battalion size or small units which are assigned a primary mission to engage in direct ground combat or which collocate routinely with units assigned a direct ground combat mission.” (AR 600-13, as affirmed by DoD, 1994, emphasis added).

    The new wording would only exempt female soldiers from such assignments when the land combat battalions are “conducting an assigned direct ground combat mission.” (emphasis added) Under this new “concept,” female soldiers in forward support companies won't be collocated, even though they will be in the FSCs, because they really won’t be there when the battle begins.

    The idea described in the article is that the women would be evacuated prior to engagement. The Center emphatically disagrees with the whole notion of women in combat, and especially of this backdoor way of getting women in combat. This phenomenon may be a strange convergence of liberal social engineering and army officials who apparently claim that there are not enough male soldiers for forward support companies. This last, referred to in the CMR article linked above, was news to me, as I spoke yesterday to the son of a friend, who was angry when he found out that his Airborne unit was being deployed to West Point instead of Afghanistan. He’s considering asking to be transferred to another unit who is going overseas; a difficult choice to leave the men he has trained with and learned to trust. CMR asserts that if there are shortages, they are due in large part to gender-based recruiting quotes which ought to be done away with.

    I’m not really sure whether a woman who can meet the exact same physical requirements as a man, and who wants to be assigned to a combat unit ought to be excluded. I haven’t seen studies on how this would affect unit cohesiveness or morale. I’m guessing the effect would be bad. But if they are going to be assigned to combat units, the only determining factor ought to be, Will it help us win? This Chicago Sun-Times column sums it up: “It's high time we had an open and honest debate about this issue, because it's too important to just let the bureaucrats have their way by default.”

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 01:02 AM | Comments (17)


    April 24, 2005

    Pope Benedict XVI's Classical Revival

    [Posted by ]

    To date, Pope Benedict XVI's most famous quote is this:

    "We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."

    Many commentators have seized on this as an example of this Pope's conservatism and have bemoaned the fact that he's unlikely to advocate a more permissive brand of Catholicism. While it's true that Benedict XVI isn't about to change Catholic doctrine on abortion, birth control, marriage of the clergy or homosexuality, I think they're missing the point of this quote. On Meet the Press today, the New Republic's E.J. Dionne says:

    I think there's a lot of fear on the part of moderate and progressive Catholics that--I keep wanting to say Joseph Ratzinger, because he made such a name for himself with that name--that Pope Benedict does have a vision of the church that is not so much in kind of conversation with modernity as really quite hostile to modernity.

    I wish someone could clearly define modernity. Isn't "modern" itself a relative term. But anyway, if modernity simply equals relativism, then I think that Dionne is probably right on. But it's amusing to me that some Americans want to brand the Pope as some kind of scary "absolutist" while ignoring the fact that our entire society is based on an absolutist argument. Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence wrote:

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    "Laws of Nature", "truths", "unalienable Rights": these are absolutist, black & white, right & wrong words. But read them again and tell me if you disagree with them. Or, if you thinking I'm focusing too much on America, read France's Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. I remember sitting in college classes where a Professor would solemnly tell us it was wrong to apply our Western morals to judge other societies. I've never felt comfortable with that. The fact that someone was born in Iran, for example, doesn't mean they have less of a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness than I do.

    This is classical Western thought, and I've no doubt that the Pope sees that these ideals are being attacked in the West from within. While Europe has, on one hand, become more and more secular, it's also seeing immigration by increasingly radical Muslims. Put another way, Europeans have decided not to believe in anything and they're now being joined by a new population who is being taught to believe in some things that are the antithesis of classical Western values.

    In the past, the Church was the ruler of Europe, sometimes with disastrous results. But now the pendulum has perhaps swung too far in the opposite direction. Is it so terrible to have a Pope interested in figuring out the place of religion in public life? Even TNR's Dionne, who claimed he was "petrified" with the new Pope says:

    his record is a little bit ambiguous in the sense that, for example, he has written in praise of the American approach to religion, the American government's approach to religion, that leaves open a wide space for religious diversity, but accepts religion's role in the public square.

    For some reason, the media is treating Pope Benedict XVI almost exactly like they treat President Bush. They're turning him into some kind of boogeyman, while ignoring the fact that his policies and beliefs are virtually identical to his much-praised predecessor. The poor man is being demonized because he's a Catholic Pope who is, well, Catholic.

    Posted by at 12:33 PM | Comments (2)


    April 23, 2005

    American Idol or Nashville Star?

    [Posted by james]

    Most everyone in America has seen American Idol, but how many have heard of, much less seen, Nashville Star, the "country" verson of the popular Pop show on the USA Network? Up until a few weeks ago my only exposure to Nashville Star was through seeing the roughly 50 bazillion advertisments for the show that run daily on USA. Indeed, it's nearly impossible to catch a rerun of "Law and Order" or "Walker, Texas Ranger" without Leann Rimes gracing your screen urging you to tune in. The ads are so pervasive that even I, with my commercial-skip enabled tivo, was unable to escape them.

    At the urging of Leann (and with a little nudging from my friend Kristin) I finally tuned in about 3 weeks ago and I immediately got a sense of why the network is promoting the show so heavily - because it's good. And I don't just mean "good" as in it's entertaining for an hour, I mean it's really good. It's better than 90% of the shows on network television, American Idol included. So why hasn't it been picked up by struggling ABC or NBC? Don't the TV execs know that country music is a bigger demographic than Pop or Rock? Apparently not. Or maybe USA just has an iron-clad contract that keeps them there. Who knows.

    While I can't pretend to know the reasons that the show stews in cable television obscurity, I can urge all of you to check it out. Here are just a few of the reasons that "Star" is better than "Idol":

    1. The Star contestants play instruments, the Idol contestants don't. It isn't required, but more performers than not are onstage holding a guitar. I don't know, but it seems to me that if you're going to go on TV and claim to be a musician, you should have a guitar in your hand.

    2. The contetants play original music. Not every week, mind you, but there are weeks when they must sing and perform original tunes. From what I saw, most of those tunes were really good. I will be shocked if half of them don't become hit singles.

    3. Each week, Nashville Star has a real performer perform. Some weeks it's a contemporary country star, other weeks it's a country legend like Charlie Daniels.

    4. When Nashville Star has a celebrity guest appearance, you get a current superstar like Tim McGraw. When American Idol has a celebrity guest appearance, you get a shot of a washed up Hall and Oates sitting in the audience.

    5. The judges and hosts are more knowledgeable/experienced than the Idol judges. How can Seacrest, Paula, Simon, and R-Dawg possibly compare with Leann Rimes, Cledus T. Judd, Phil Vassar, Anastasia Brown, and Bret Michaels? (yes, THAT Bret Michaels.) While the Idol judges do have impressive resumes, they are easily bested when compared to those of the Star cast.

    6. The Star judges give better advice. You commonly hear the Star judges talking about country, rock, gospel, outlaw, blues, etc, all with authority. What do you hear out of the Idol judges? "You rock dawg!" "That was pitchy!"

      And finally, perhaps most importantly of all,

    7. You don't have to be a country music fan to like Nashville Star. There is definitely something for everyone, especially if you're a music fan.

    Unfortunately, this season of Nashville Star is almost over, but you can catch a marathon repeat of the entire season this Tuesday on USA, followed by the season finale at 10pm EST.

    You know, it occurs to me that "Idol" and "Star" perhaps shouldn't be compared head-to-head like this - they are, after all, shows about different things. One is about trying to find the next music superstar. The other is about finding the next teen idol. As for me, if I had a choice, I'd much rather be on Nashville Star.

    How about you? Comments are open.

    Posted by jkhat at 05:07 PM | Comments (15)


    April 22, 2005

    NFL Draft: Who Will The Packers Pick?

    [Posted by ]

    I ran into one of Wisconsin's top sports columnists tonight. Since the NFL draft is tomorrow, I took the opportunity to pick his brain about what he thought the Packers would do.

    I guessed that the Packers would take Iowa defensive end Matt Roth, but no, I was informed, the Packers think Roth's arms are too short. Seriously, that's how nitpicky these teams get. I'm amazed. The guy managed to be a star in college with his shorty short arms, I doubt that that's what's going to hold him back at the next level. Maybe this is why the Packers have had such crummy drafts lately.

    Anyway, this reporter told me that the Packers really covet Georgia safety Thomas Davis, but he'll probably be long gone before they pick in the 24th spot. So, this guy predicts that they'll pick Florida State defensive tackle Travis Johnson. Here's what ESPN's Len Pasquarelli has to say about him:

    Upside: Compelling size-speed-quickness combination. Exceptional athlete with quick, active hands and nifty feet. When he's on his game, explodes off blocks, finds the ball and makes the play. Enough movement skill to get wide. Enough power to compact the pocket and chase down the quarterback. Like several of the top tackles in this draft, very nice pass-rush acumen. Can be a disruptive, dominant player when his motor is revved. Knows how to slip the double-team block and how to make himself narrow enough to get through small spaces. Aspires to be more than just another player.

    Downside: Good but not great size and could use a little more strength. Probably has to play the three-technique spot. Will have to use his hands a little better and learn to shed quicker. Has a tendency to mope. Only started one full year as he had to wait his turn behind some of the Seminoles' big-time tackles. Has had some injuries.

    The dish: A pure one-gap player who, based on athleticism and potential, should be the first tackle off the board.

    Maybe I'm just dwelling on the negative, but a description that includes "has a tendency to mope" doesn't exactly fill me with confidence.

    I also asked this reporter if he thought the Packers would be looking for a quarterback to be the heir apparent to Brett Favre. While the team sent someone to Auburn to talk to Jason Campbell this week, the word is that the team hasn't reached a consensus on whether they prefer Campbell to Akron's Charlie Frye. While I remember Frye from his awesome game against the Badgers two years ago, I don't know enough about either player to have a preference. What really disturbed me was the mention of Purdue's Kyle Orton as a pick. He's just about the last guy I'd want to see the Packers pick.

    Hopefully the Packers are just playing possum and they'll pick up a great player in the first round and some steals later. We need it, because otherwise we're in for some lean years ahead.

    Update: California QB Aaron Rodgers, considered a potential number one overall pick, dropped all the way to the Packers and they took him. I'm pretty happy with the pick. The Packers have too many problems to solve them all with one first round pick. Packer fans know they're going to suck for awhile. Hopefully Rodgers can lead the Packers in the post-Favre, post-Sherman (I hope) era.

    I think that Craig Nall is going to be a good NFL quarterback, but maybe not for the Packers. The ideal situation is that Nall looks great in this preseason and we're eventually able to deal him for some good draft picks, a la Mark Brunell & Matt Hasselbeck.

    Posted by at 09:11 PM | Comments (5)


    Brave New World...Brought To You By Trent Reznor

    [Posted by John Tant]

    A little background:

    At my house we recently acquired a Mac Powerbook G4 (the 12" model, for those interested). It works very well with our WiFi, and I've actually become quite fond of it. Frankly, if I had to do it all over again I would have probably gone Mac instead of Windows.

    I'll pause while all you Mac folks shout "VINDICATION!!!"

    Anyway, there is a neat application included with that Mac called GarageBand. It's basically a music composition/arrangement application, and since music is a hobby of mine (albeit a fairly neglected one until now), I've been playing with it quite a bit.

    Well, color me surprised when I noticed a tidbit on Apple's page which pointed to this post on The Unofficial Apple Weblog. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails released one of his singles in GarageBand format. Opening it up in GarageBand allows you to mess with the tracks, the instruments used...pretty much everything to do with the song. You can arrange it as a country-western single. A gregorian chant. Whatever.

    If you're interested, you can get to the download link from here. Keep in mind the file is pretty hefty...70 MB.

    I know this is an experiment by NiN, but I still think it's pretty cool even if some of the comments on TUAW kind of go overboard with it all. Still, I'm hoping other artists follow suit. I'll leave it to our Future Intellectual Property attorney to explore the legal issues created by it, but for now I'm going to make The Hand That Feeds into a blues song.

    Posted by John Tant at 01:17 PM | Comments (1)


    Top Ten Jane Fonda Movie Outtakes

    [Posted by John Tant]

    I have it on good authority that when Jane Fonda would appear in movies, during the shooting her co-stars would let loose with the snark and the scene would have to be reshot. These outtakes have been unknown...until now.

    The Top Ten Jane Fonda Movie Outtakes

    10: The China Syndrome

    Kimberly Wells:[defending her cameraman] He's good, I think he's good. He's won a lot of awards.

    Don Jacovich: Did he win any for manning a Viet Cong anti-aircraft battery?

    9: On Golden Pond

    Chelsea Thayer Wayne: It just seems like we've been mad at each other for so long...

    Norman : Well, having a Blame America Firster as a daughter does that to a guy.

    8: 9 to 5

    Judy: What are we going to do? If we let him go, he'll call the police.

    Doralee: You're right, we can't have that. They might start a treason investigation.

    7: The Electric Horseman

    Hallie Martin: I'm just trying to be pleasant. You get so worked up about everything.

    Sonny Steele: I don't get worked up over EVERYTHING. Just know-nothing asses who hang out with communists while they're killing Americans. And to top it all off, I gotta cart your ass across creation.

    6: Barefoot In The Park

    Corie Bratter: Thank you, Mr. Dooley. Next time you're in New York, just call me up.

    Paul Bratter: Well, I tried last time, but got your prerecorded message about US soldiers being war criminals.

    5: The Electric Horseman

    Hallie Martin: I've been to the rodeo. Twice.

    Sonny Steele: I didn't know the Viet Cong had rodeos.

    4: Cat Ballou

    Cat: Where are you staying?

    Jed: I'm not sure. Can you recommend a good hotel in Hanoi?

    3: Agnes of God

    Doctor Martha Livingston: Agnes, how do you feel about babies?

    Sister Agnes: Do you mean innocent Viet Cong babies or future war criminal American babies?

    2: Klute

    Bree Daniel: Tell me, Klute. Did we get you a little? Huh? Just a little bit? Us city folk? The sin, the glitter, the wickedness? Huh?

    John Klute : Yeah, whatever. Hey, your plane to Hanoi leaves in an hour.

    1: Barbarella

    The Great Tyrant: Do you want to come and play with me? For someone like you I charge nothing. You're very pretty, Pretty-Pretty.

    Barbarella: My name isn't pretty-pretty, it's Barbarella.

    The Great Tyrant: Well, I thought "Pretty-Pretty" sounded better than "Traitor-Traitor."

    Posted by John Tant at 12:56 PM | Comments (3)


    MSOE changes position, to allow Religious Freedom

    [Posted by james]

    FIRE News reports:

    In a victory for religious liberty and freedom of association, the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) has granted full recognition to the ReJOYce in Jesus Campus Fellowship (RJCF) student group.


    RJCF ran into trouble in Fall 2004 when ... MSOE’s Student Government Association (SGA) sent RJCF a letter stating that it would not recognize the group because it believed RJCF’s “Standards of Personal Conduct” discriminated on the basis of “sexual preference.” ... [I]ts “Standards of Personal Conduct”... require that voting members not commit acts “expressly forbidden in Scripture,” including “homosexual behavior” among others.

    I'm glad that the University reversed its position, recognizing that freedom of association should apply to everyone, not just to the left-out minority few.

    This politically correct hullabaloo and "culture of inclusion" has gotten so far out of control it's frightening. There always seem to be thousands of people ready to jump up and scream "discrimination!" whenever a group or individual exercises their right to associate with whomever they choose.

    Hey, if you're not a Catholic, you shouldn't have the right to join the Knights of Columbus or any other organization that exists to bring people of similar beliefs together. What's so hard about that for people to understand? It's like these liberals never got picked for the kickball team in grade school so now they're spending their time trying to legislate their way to popularity.

    Posted by jkhat at 12:10 PM | Comments (3)


    April 21, 2005

    The Apprentice Recap - Week 13 (See who got fired)

    [Posted by james]

    We've been doing American Idol recaps and people seem to like them, so why not try an Apprentice recap? I've been meaning to try doing one for a while now, and since I find myself sitting here tonight with a choice between 1) reading securities regulation and 2) trying an "experimental" recap, the choice isn't hard.

    moneymoneymoneymoney-MONEY...almight-eey-dollah....blah blah blah, blah blah. blah. moneeeeey.

    We open back in the suite with Tana and Craig guessing that Bren will be the one fired. "I've seen him on tasks and he's a big zero," opines Tana. Take that, Bren, no more Mark Kay for you! Of course we all know that Chris was fired last week. OOhs and Ahhs when Bren and Alex walk in.

    "I can tell ya after this last boardroom I'm lower than whale crap at the bottom of the Ocean, in Mr. Trump's eyes," says Bren. Oh, those charming southern boys. Bren and Alex tell us how much they love each other. I'm touched.

    Riiiing! Rona tells the contests to get to Trump's office right away so that he can introduce them to 2 important executives - 2 folks from Staples. Ok, they just showed a shot of Trump sitting in his office - I kid you not, he has a framed headshot of himself sitting behind his desk. Wow. (Why am I so surprised by that?) Staples does $13 Billion per year in sales.

    The Task: create a new office product for clearing up clutter. The team that makes the most innovative product wins. I can tell you right now that I'm picking Craig to shine on this task - he isn't a great communicator, but I think he's the most "practically-creative," meaning that he knows what people want.

    Alex is the PM on team Alex-Bren. A-B. Ummm, do you really need a PM on a 2 person team? Bren immediately starts giggling and doing what Alpha Alex tells him. Team A-B just became team Alpha-Beta. (I really do think that Bren has a crush on Alex, btw.)

    Craig is the PM on team Craig-Kendra-Tana. Kendra is being her usual huffy self, complaining about Craig. Same-old-same-old.

    OK, Alex makes an executive decision that team AB is going to skip the scheduled meeting with the judges, and he tries to raise them by tele instead. Foolish. Team CKT shows up their scheduled meeting to a voiceover of Tana saying that they wanted to find out all they wanted to find out about the company, and admits that she wants to schmooze a little. Why college-educated Alex thought that this could be blown off, I'll never know. Tana asks the exactly right question: "Is there a slogan that Staples has that we don't know about?" Yes there is, she's told - "That was easy." Huh, who knew?

    As usual, Tana is in a Staples doing market research. OK, I have to admit, I don't like Tana all that much - I find her really, really annoying - but she's bright, and she's good. She's been my pick to win the job in the end for a while now. CKT hits on their idea: Stackables. Good idea, I think. She's right, offices like organizer thingies.

    Team Alpha Beta is doing some silly little table thing. Alpha Beta has just become team Already Beaten.

    We get a shot of the finished table design - intricate, big, bulky. No one is going to want that. Then we see the other team's stackables. Simple yet functional. wow, I'm having flashbacks of that Home Depot week when Craig's Box kicked the Kitchen Island's butt.

    Craig and Kendra at each other's throat. I don't like either of those 2. Tana just ignores it and eats a Hamburger. Heh.

    CKT presents their stackable-thingy by way of a little skit. The executives really seem to like it.

    Team Already Beaten is up now, and they're calling their stupid little table thing the "pack rat." Alex tells us how much he things that everyone "really liked" their idea. Umm, I'll take "What are people not thinking for $200 please?" Execs speak: "I don't see how this is useful." You and me both, buddy.

    The Donald arrives. Team Already Beaten says that they think that they "killed" the other team. The executive has almost nothing good to say about the "pack rat." Needless to say, team CKT and the stackable thingy killed em.

    Reward: Breakfast at the Rainbow Room on top of Rockefeller Center with George and Carolyn. Hmm, I wonder how far the reward goes, i.e. will they be calling them in the morning or nudging them? I guess we'll find out after the commercial.

    Drat, no nudging. Chit chat amongst themselves. George says that he's known the Donald since Trump was in his 20's. blah blahn.

    Snap to team Awesome Buddies going on their final date - Alex says "I thought it would be nice if we went for a walk and nice cup of coffee, one last time." I'm not even kidding. Eerie.

    In the most shocking Rose Ceremony ever. Boardroom time. They tell us that Alex is a lawyer. They tell us that Bren is a lawyer. They tell us that George is a lawyer. Oh, this should be fun. George, Carolyn and the Donald have nothing nice to say about the pack-rat. They all just keep saying "I just don't get it." Awesome Buddies keep insisting that their product was better. Oy vey.

    Trumpism of the week: "Branson went after me, I killed him. Cuban went after me, I killed him."

    Bren inexplicably says that he'd rather be with his family that getting his butt chewed out by the Donald.

    Bren : You're fired.

    Not a big shocker. Should be smooth sailing from here on out - only 3 more weeks till Tana wins it all.

    Posted by jkhat at 09:15 PM | Comments (1)


    Putting Pirates in Prison

    [Posted by james]

    A new bill, expected to be signed into law by President Bush, will provide up to three yeas of jail time for movie pirates.

    `Sec. 2319B. Unauthorized recording of Motion pictures in a Motion picture exhibition facility

    `(a) Offense- Any person who, without the authorization of the copyright owner, knowingly uses or attempts to use an audiovisual recording device to transmit or make a copy of a motion picture or other audiovisual work protected under title 17, or any part thereof, from a performance of such work in a motion picture exhibition facility, shall--

    `(1) be imprisoned for not more than 3 years, fined under this title, or both; or

    `(2) if the offense is a second or subsequent offense, be imprisoned for no more than 6 years, fined under this title, or both.

    The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005 also contains provisions that will allow movie theater owners to detain suspected movie pirates, and it gives them immunity from civil or criminal actions that might arise from that detainment.

    `(d) Immunity for Theaters- With reasonable cause, the owner or lessee of a motion picture exhibition facility where a motion picture or other audiovisual work is being exhibited, the authorized agent or employee of such owner or lessee, the licensor of the motion picture or other audiovisual work being exhibited, or the agent or employee of such licensor--

    `(1) may detain, in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable time, any person suspected of a violation of this section with respect to that motion picture or audiovisual work for the purpose of questioning or summoning a law enforcement officer; and

    `(2) shall not be held liable in any civil or criminal action arising out of a detention under paragraph (1).

    But wait! There's more!

    In addition, the vitims of this heinous crime of video piracy will be able to submit a "Victim Impact Statement" to the court:

    `(e) Victim Impact Statement-

    `(1) IN GENERAL- During the preparation of the presentence report under rule 32(c) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, victims of an offense under this section shall be permitted to submit to the probation officer a victim impact statement that identifies the victim of the offense and the extent and scope of the injury and loss suffered by the victim, including the estimated economic impact of the offense on that victim.

    So, in deciding how long to lock someone up for infringing another's copyright, the judge will take into account a statment from MGM saying "he really, really, really, hurt us. our lives will never be the same again! i hate him! i hate him! oh, that evil pirate!"

    "now we can't afford to pay demi and ashton their promised $25 million! they're never going to settle for 24.9!"

    I'm all for copyright protection - in fact, I'm even a soon-to-be Intellectual Property Lawyer - but excuse me if I don't shed a tear for the Columbia-Tristar on this one.

    Illegally enter the country, get a Fake ID, then burglarize someone's house and you get in no trouble at all. But snap a few snapshots in a movie theater and you'll get sent to San Quentin for 3 years. Hmm, maybe the solution to the illegal immigration problem is to line the Rio Grande with camcorders and free tickets to Loews?

    Posted by jkhat at 01:33 PM | Comments (2)


    April 20, 2005

    Anwar (finally) gets the Boot on American Idol - kicked off in Week 6 results show

    [Posted by james]

    Anybody want to read 50 pages about the history of the law of universal jurisdiction and the legality of the International Criminal Court? Didn't think so. I don't blame you - I didn't really want to write it. But, now that it's done, I can get back to writing about things that really matter, like what Ryan Seacrest is wearing and how much Anwar suX0rZ!

    Hey, Kris is writing a recap too, be sure to check it out.

    Results night, and Seacrest is here wearing a t-shirt under his suit jacket. If showed up to work like that I'd get... well, OK, that would be dressed up for me. My office has what you'd call a "relaxed" dress code.

    Oh Lord, they're showing a clip in which Seacrest gets a star on Hollywood Blvd. I really hope this is a joke. Oh no, I don't think that it is. They're showing clips of the producers congratulating him... I wonder, is everyone in England named either Simon or Nigel? Sure seems that way.

    Now clips of Seacrest in DC. Seacrest in New Orleans. Seacrest on a farm. Seacrest manhandling a flamingo. Hey, America, can we all agree to vote Seacrest off this week and give Anwar another shot?

    Plug for the American Idol charity CD and a quick tribute to John Farrar. That guy is still around? How can you believe that's not magic? Oh, apparently he's something to do with this song that the Idol and 6 runner ups (read: losers) are singing "You can Shine." Never heard of it. Carrie Underwood apparently plays the guitar. OK, I forgive her crappy performances as of late. (I still don't forgive the vegetarian thing, though.) tivo-SKIP!

    This week's Ford commercial is some weird psuedo-animation-CGI thing to the Stray Cats' "Rock this town." Hmmm, this whole animation is set in the 50's at a drive-in restaurant. Makes perfect sense that they picked an 80's song for it. (??)

    Oh, Seacrest is separating the contestants into groups today, "far side" and "near side," but not telling us which group is which.

    • Vonzell: team far.
    • Federov: team near.
    • Anwar: team near. (ok, at this point we know that "team near" is the bottom three." Federov knows it too, because he looks less than thrilled.
    • Constantine: team far. (The mere mention of Constantine's name gets a huuuuuuge shout out from the audience. Like it or not people, he's in the final 2. Let's hear it for the teenie boppers!)
    • Carrie: team far.
    • Scott: team near. (Scott also looks less than thrilled)
    • Bo Bice: team far. SAFE. Can I call it or can I call it?

    Seacrest tells Bo to look at the 2 groups and to join the group that he thinks is the top group tonight. Bo gets up, casually struts over and stands between the 2 groups - awwww, everyone is a winner! they made a little cutsie!


    Commercial break, Bo is sent to team far. Gee, no one saw that one coming. (Except for maybe Nadia, watching at home.)

    Paula uses the phrase "tapping the heart strings." heh.

    Anwar is gone. Gee, who could have predicted that?

    Certainly not me.

    Anwar retrospective time, I'm sure it'll be seen again one day in a courtroom.

    But unless I'm picked for jury duty that day, I don't have to watch. So, that's enough for me.
    Hat, out!

    Posted by jkhat at 08:37 PM | Comments (1)


    American Idol Voting Results-Who Got Voted Off-Week 6

    [Posted by ]

    I see that Ryan, like a good boy, listened to me and put a nice, funky t-shirt on under his jacket tonight. Excellent. What is this power I have over reality television hosts? I don't know, but I like it.

    Ooooh, Hat is recapping too. Check it out.

    Paula is already giggling and is clearly intoxicated. This should be fun. I wonder if she drank her jealousy away because Seacrest has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and, as far as I know, she doesn't. In any case, the Idol folks are getting the filler out of the way early tonight with a gentle roasting of Ryan. Does anyone else ever wonder what happened to Season One co-host Brian Dunkleman?

    Time for the cheesy group number! Why do these always remind me of The Brady Bunch? I'm sure Federov could do the Peter part of "When It's Time To Change". Speaking of change, the Idols are not only singing, they're playing instruments, if they can. That's pretty cool. Carrie and Bo look like an especially attractive folk duo playing their acoustic guitars. How much cooler would this be if it were just the two of them doing a cover of "More Than Words"? This song? Oh, it sucks, but is that really any big surprise? It's something about shining. Apparently, the Idols will shine. Shine. Shine. Shine.

    The Ford commercial features the Idols animated, JibJab style. They're rocking this town. Inside out. It's just as creepy as it sounds.

    Now down to business. Ryan separates the contestants into two groups: the top four and the bottom three. I'm sure that whoever is with Constantine knows that they're safe. But let me tell ya, I wouldn't want to be in the group with Scott. The first six contestants are divided up and then Ryan makes Bo join what he thinks is the top group. Bo defiantly stands in the middle of the two groups. He's awesome. But we all know what the deal is. Vonzell, Carrie and Constantine are safe and Federov, Anwar & Scott are the bottom three. Those three were also the top three picks to get eliminated in our poll today. We have such smart readers. ;-)

    And just like that, Anwar is eliminated. Harsh! I'm glad Federov is sticking around, but I can't say I'm looking forward to seeing Scott again next week. Blech. Scott and Gretchen from the Amazing Race are like reality TV cockroaches.

    Posted by at 08:29 PM | Comments (9)


    Top Ten Things John Tant Is Afraid To Write About

    [Posted by John Tant]

    Well, based on an email I received which launched the previous post, I thought I'd clarify what I'm actually too scared to write about:

    10: The constitutionality of the income tax and how it relates to the 16th amendment, because I'm an accountant and former government employee and am therefore in on the conspiracy to fleece the American people with an illegal tax.

    9: The shortcomings I've experienced with Windows-based machines, because to do so would be to endorse the superiority of the Macintosh.

    8: The many people of the Islam faith who have not engaged in terrorist attacks, because it would damage the Republican talking point that Islam is evil.

    7: Anything to do with Catholicism since it would expose the rank hypocrisy of Holy Mother Church and my willingness to go along with it.

    6: Any suggestion that legalizing drugs will lead to more drug use, because that's just stupid dinosaur-type thinking.

    5: Penguins.

    4: A point by point rebuttal of the Brady Campaign's talking points, since they are so on target that doing so would expose me as an idiotic gun nut.

    3: Homosexuality, homosexuality, homosexuality!

    2: Treating every liberal-hyped scandal du jour with the seriousness it supposedly deserves, because doing so would be to acknowledge these very serious charges which are, of course, only grounded in principle and not partisan spite.

    And the topic which scares me like no other:

    1: Revising my list of five...because I like my house too much.

    Posted by John Tant at 01:59 PM | Comments (3)


    John Bolton...what's the deal?

    [Posted by John Tant]

    First, sorry for my prolonged absence. Real Life has a bad habit of intruding on my posting.

    Anyway, I received an interesting note in my mailbag yesterday.

    So why the silence about John Bolton? Too embarassed to mention it? To scared to bring it up? So much for your pseudointelectual rep. You're nothing but a hack and this confirms it.

    I say interesting because of the premise. Because we aren't writing about something, that's taken as prima facie evidence that we must feel guilty or embarassed about it. Well I don't know about James, Kris, or Laura...but I haven't done anything about John Bolton because frankly I haven't been following the story.

    I did spend some time last night doing some research on it, and frankly I'm hard pressed to even understand what the issue about Bolton is. As near as I can tell, he's being opposed because he's a conservative. Liberals tend to apply this standard as a test for fitness of office. Why, over the past few months (or years) we've seen this from the so-called Senate Minority leadership. Judge Pryor? Nope, he's conservative. Tom DeLay? Man, talk about conservative! Alberto Gonzales? Well, we'd like a hispanic guy there...but oops, he's conservative! And it's not just us. Pope Benedict XVI? Argh, he's too conservative to be a pope!

    So I wandered around for some background on the guy, and one of the first things I saw was this article (via NRO's Corner). What's the complaint of the Washington Post?

    John Bolton, President Bush's nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, desperately needs a haircut. It does not have to be a $600 Sally Hershberger cut. Bolton simply needs the basics. Tidy the curling, unruly locks at the nape of his neck, tame the volume at the crown, reel in the wings flapping above his ears, and broker a compromise between his sand-colored mop and his snow-colored mustache.

    He needs to do this, not because he should be minding the recommendations of men's fashion magazines or grooming experts but because when he settled in before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week to answer questions about his record, his philosophy and his intentions at the U.N., he looked as though he did not even have enough respect for the proceedings to bother combing his hair -- or, for that matter, straightening his tie, or wearing a shirt that did not put his neck in a chokehold. Bolton was one wrinkled suit away from being an insolent mess.

    So according to the WashPost Style section, he's to be opposed because he isn't stylish. And just step back and think about the story. To me it's the sort of thing you'd read in a high-school (or younger) underground newspaper, not a story in a presumed professional work. Even the "reporter's" rationalization insults our intelligence:

    During this testimony, his hand was constantly reaching up to adjust his no-frills glasses. His attire was not merely bland but careless. His hair was so poorly cut, it bordered on rude. Bolton might well argue that appearance has nothing to do with capabilities. But it certainly can be a measure of one's respect for the job.
    Give me a break. Because Bolton isn't some GQ-styled fashionista it all amounts to a lack of respect? From what I've seen of the guy, he's hardly what the article makes him out to be.

    So dismissing that bit of silliness, I started looking deeper. Apparently the big complaint against the guy is that he's....mean. Barbara Boxer has stated that he's the wrong guy for a diplomatic post and that he needs anger management classes. Great, in addition to being an expert on self defense strategies, she's also a psychologist. But how does he have an anger problem? To illustrate, the committee questioned Thomas Fingar, who is the assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Intelligence Research. Here's what he had to say about Bolton's anger management problem:

    Q: Could you characterize your meeting with Bolton? Was he calm?

    Fingar: No, he was angry. He was standing up.

    Q: Did he raise his voice to you? Did he point his finger in your face?

    Fingar: I don't remember if he pointed. John speaks in such a low voice normally. Was it louder than normal? Probably. I wouldn't characterize it as screaming at me or anything like that. It was more, hands on hips, the body language as I recall it, I knew he was mad.

    Interesting. So he wasn't screaming. He wasn't violently angry. He stood there with his hands on his hips. Obviously this is incredibly disturbing. I mean, what if he had rubbed his forehead? Rolled his eyes? Maybe even a tiny head shake? This guy is a loose cannon, just ready to go off!

    Or not.

    Let's talk a little about what precipitated this extremely anger-ridden performance. Bolton was going to give a speech and wanted to mention some things about Cuba. One of the analysts looking the speech over (a guy by the name of Christian Westerman) saw a couple of things and questioned them. Bolton then told Westerman to send the language to a couple intel-types to see if he was using fair statements. He did so...but he also qualified the request with an analysis of his own, an analysis that disputed the statements.

    Picture this. You're an intel guy. You get a request from Bolton's office to verify if a statement he wants to give is reasonable ("Castro has cooties!!!"). Attached to that request is a memo from the guy forwarding the request basically saying "Can you believe this guy is SO STUPID as to think Castro has cooties? Obviously he's way off base here! But the dumb guy with the bad haircut wants me to go through the motions of this, so could you just tell him he's being ridiculous?" What are you going to do? Well, likely you'll do what one of the guys did, which is call up Bolton on the phone and ask what the hell is going on. Bolton then asks Westerman what he's doing, and Westerman denies including anything with Bolton's request.

    So why was Bolton angry? Because Westerman tried to sabotage Bolton's work and then lied about it. From the transcript, I'm thinking under those circumstances Bolton was actually very reserved. If one of my staff accountants tried to sabotage a financial report I was putting together and then later lied about it, there is no adequate verbal description to the dimension of pissed-off I would be inhabiting.

    But let's take the anger issue from another angle. Why is there this insistence that a US diplomat be the human equivalent of a Care Bear? The way I see it, if a situation calls for a tough talking SOB, then we ought to put one into that situation. And in my opinion, there is no situation in more desperate need of a tough talking SOB than that at the United Nations. We're talking about an organization rife with corruption, the kind of corruption that impairs (if not completely destroys) the mission described in the UN charter. Would a nicey-nice person be effective in that position? I really doubt it.

    But of course Libs can't say that, because it would mean acknowledging that the UN has severe systemic problems, or at least opening up the debate on another level. So instead we're left with vacuous issues revolving around the guy's haircut and how he reacts when a career diplomat tries to sabotage his efforts.

    Posted by John Tant at 07:38 AM | Comments (74)


    April 19, 2005

    Fairness Doctrine? Bring. It. On.

    [Posted by Laura]

    Howard Kurtz still doesn’t get it. His article For Every Story, An Online Epilogue makes repeated points about "the growing tide" of irresponsible bloggers picking on poor, hardworking non-partisan journalists. I don't know a single blogger who claims to be unbiased. So there's nothing to argue about on that point. Some attacks, even many, are personal? I'm not going to apologize for someone else; the world is full of cranks. And I'll stipulate that there are some responsible journalists in the world. But being unbiased isn’t considered a realistic goal anymore, unfortunately. As Linda Ellerbee said, “We report news, not truth. There is no such thing as objectivity. Any reporter who tells you he's objective is lying to you.” It's a conspiracy of shared values.

    But I’m not being fair. As it turns out, many reporters are so gifted they know what will happen in advance. They can actually report the propaganda news before it happens!

    The real scandal is Mr. Kurtz, and other media figures' stubborn refusal to understand why the rest of us are so fed up. He wraps up his article with this quote:

    Barbara Stewart, the Boston Globe freelancer dropped over her story about a Canadian seal hunt that had not yet taken place, says she never meant to deceive anyone. She just never checked back to learn that the scheduled hunt had been delayed by bad weather.
    "The whole situation, while resulting from an egregious, massive, stupid [screwup] on my part, unbelievable carelessness, was nevertheless not malicious fabrication as in: pretending I was there and deliberately making up a whole scene and attempting to pass it off," Stewart says by e-mail.
    "It was stupider and more boring and more flat out dumb on my part. Quite dumb. Remarkably dumb. But not vicious and not really a scandal, for heaven's sake."

    How is what Ms. Stewart did different from making up a whole scene and attempting to pass it off? What happened to reporting the facts, as they happen? Why aren’t journalists who claim to be responsible publicly, loudly, repeatedly, condemning this behavior? I guess it's too stupid and boring to merit their attention.

    While it's true that some bloggers make personal attacks, it's a lot easier to gripe about that than to address the root problem. All that vitriol is coming from a public who has suspected for a long time, and now sees a growing body of evidence, that the media simply does not report the truth. Much of what is called news these days is simply propaganda. For example, if the media reported the truth, we wouldn't need Chrenkoff. As a few of us manage to break free from the liberal media Matrix, some Democrats want to bring back the Fairness Doctrine to slow or stop the exodus. Bring it on; this is a debate I'm going to enjoy. Conservatives will win either way. LexisNexis can easily prove that liberal views get more exposure than conservative views. And if it passes, which I doubt, we'll be all over you like white on rice. Conservative views will actually get more airtime than they do now. When all you have is a philosophy so bereft of logic and morals that you can be represented by the likes of Barbara Boxer, Michael Moore, and Ward Churchill, enforcing the Fairness Doctrine can only harm you.

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 10:43 PM | Comments (9)


    Amazing Race Recap-Episode 8

    [Posted by ]

    Frenetic. I could write that and have an accurate one-word description of tonight's episode. If nothing else, this leg of the race was the most hectic hour of television I've ever watched. In the past, when the Race went to India the focus was on the team's reactions to extreme poverty. It was nice to see the teams in India and watch them instead react to the overwhelming energy around them.

    Unfortunately, I had to listen to Gretchen react to that energy. And, even worse, since Lynn & Alex were Philiminated tonight, I'll have to listen to her again next week. Ugh. What a shrill woman. I'm afraid I'll hear her shrieking "We have a bad elephant!" in my sleep tonight. In my nightmares, to be more accurate. The worst thing about Gretchen is that she harps on poor Meredith constantly but does almost nothing to actually help him. Tonight she sat up in the elephant bitching and never attempted to get out and help. Then, after Dandy Don, with the help of a half dozen little kids, moved the 600 lb. elephant, she made him do the roadblock. Of course, she bitched at him the whole time and then, when he urged her on after he finished, she had the gall to bitch at him for yelling at her. She's a piece of work, that one. I can't imagine how Dandy Don's put up with her all these years. And no, I do not want to think about how she might "make it up" to him.

    I felt bad for Uchenna & Joyce tonight. They took the Fast Forward, Joyce had to have her beautiful hair shaved off, they barely (if you believe the editing) finished first and they didn't win cash, a car or a trip for doing so. The producers of the Race must have really wanted someone to shave their heads since they tried this same Fast Forward two seasons ago. Unfortunately, two models got there and refused to do it. Even more unfortunately, they weren't Philiminated for it.

    Things went well for Ron & Kelly this leg, so Kelly didn't turn on him. In fact, I bet Kelly didn't even have to think about Bible verses this week to make it through the leg. From the previews, things don't look so lovey dovey next week. I swear to God that these two just met. I also think that once they hit the finish line they may never meet again.

    I was glad to see Amber doing some of the work this leg, although Rob used his awesome powers of Schmooze to cajole another native to help them out. While Sanjay was a willing helper, I was a little put off by Rob pulling poor Indian children from the side of the street to help them push their elephant on the detour. That was more than a little creepy.

    Lynn & Alex were pretty charming this leg, so of course they were Philiminated. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was reminded of Monsoon Wedding as they danced at the Indian wedding. I was busy scanning the crowd for a glimpse of the Indian Kramer (and those who've seen the movie will know exactly who I mean) As the stress of the Race got to them, they started to care less and less about what Rob & Amber were doing. Unfortunately, they made one huge mistake tonight by going to the wrong spot for the Pit Stop and paid the price for it. Hell, we all paid the price for it. I was so disappointed that the Dandy Dons stayed alive. I don't think my ears can handle it!

    What's even worse is that there's about a 100% chance that next week will be a non-elimination leg. Will these two ever be off my television? That said, I also think there's nearly a 100% chance that the final three will be Rob & Amber, Ron & Kelly and Uchenna & Joyce.

    Finally, there's also a 100% chance that I will watch Locusts on Sunday night. Hell, I'm even thinking of doing a recap of it. It looks that so-bad-it's-good!

    For another take on the episode, check out Viking Pundit's recap.

    Posted by at 09:24 PM | Comments (8)


    American Idol Recap-Week 6

    [Posted by ]

    Hat is passed out in a gutter writing a paper, so I am guest recapping the performance show this week.

    Seacrest in. Ryan's clad in a plain Jane suit. I'm so disappointed. He looks so much cuter in his funky t-shirts. He promises an energetic show. Excellent. I'm sick to death of friggin' American Ballads.

    The theme: 70s dance music. Sweet! I wanna hear "Don't Leave Me This Way". Welcome to "Club Idol".

    First up is Constantine. He reminds us that he's a child of the 70s. I'm not sure we want to claim him, but hey, it's not just my decision. Constantine is performing "Nights on Broadway" by the Bee Gees while wearing very, very tight black pants, a white jacket and a shirt unbuttoned to there. Ouch. This isn't good. He's bleating like a goat. Dear readers, Constantine has no funk, although he's doing an excellent job of pouting to the beat.

    Randy: says it's a good song choice, but compares him to a Las Vegas performer. He's not original.
    Paula:: everything about you is oh my God. I don't think Paula is talking about singing.
    Simon: he's like a waiter in a "ghastly" Spanish nightclub. Huh? As always, everyone interupts Simon when he tells the truth.
    Kris: interesting that no one talked about his actual singing. He didn't sing a single note straight, which bugs the hell out of me.

    Carrie: will sing "MacArthur Park" by Donna Summer. I don't know this song, but I think it has something to do with a cake in the rain. Anyway, she's got the BIG hair tonight. Damn, I think she's got her 80s mixed up with her 70s. She's having major problems hitting the lower notes and is trying to turn a disco song into a country one. You can just imagine how successful that is. Sweetie, you just gotta let disco be disco.

    Randy: unbelievable vocal. huh.
    Paula: liked the glory note at the end
    Simon: hates her look. It's "Barbie meets Stepford Wives". That's about right.
    Kris: what a boring performance. Is Carrie the new Boringov? Should I start calling her Carrie Undertaker?

    Scott: "Everlasting Love". Ew, the only thing worse than listening to Savol talk is watching him "dance". Scott waddles around the stage in jeans and a jacket. OH MY GOD!!!! He just did the white man's overbite. I'm not even kidding. Not surprisingly, Savol is turning a disco song into a sappy ballad. I hate him, but this is easily the strongest vocal of the night so far.

    Randy: you picked the right song. No problems.
    Paula: you had fun, you "seemed" to be on pitch. Shouldn't she know? Actually, to Paula's credit, she seems almost sober tonight. Good for her.
    Simon: Scott's ordinary. The audience predictably boos.
    Kris: Okay vocals, but Simon's right. Scott is not exciting. Terrifying perhaps, if you're the mother of his child, but not exciting.

    Federov: "Don't Take Away the Music" by someone I don't know. Federov can actually move his hips. He better watch it, that might scare the young girls away. I don't care for this song one bit, but Federov is singing the hell out of it. Ooooh, he just did the white man's overbite too! Of course, when he did it it was cute, not gross like Scott.

    Randy: gives him well-deserved props.
    Paula: holy crap. Paula comments extensively on his vocals.
    Simon: "pleasant, safe and a little insipid".
    Kris: well yeah, that's 70s music for ya, Simon. Given the genre, I enjoyed Federov tonight. The best so far.

    Vonzell: "I'm Every Woman" by Chaka Khan. Oh honey, you better bring the funk. Darn, Vonzell is basically just singing the Whitney Houston version of the song note for note. Once again, not disco. But, she does sound great and look great (I love her halter top). Oooh, she's busting loose at the end of the song and it's much, much better than the beginning.

    Randy: loved her.
    Paula: "I love you Vonzell!" Hmm, maybe Paula is drunk.
    Simon: her personality carries her through songs.
    Kris: good, but it was just another 80s version of a 70s song.

    Anwar: "September" by Earth, Wind and Fire. You know, even when Anwar dances, he's still not at all sexy. He truly is the no-sex man. He sounds really, really flat and he's getting lost in the background vocals. Wow, even his dancing is all herky jerky. I'm almost embarassed to watch this. And yet, I can't look away. It's a train wreck, folks.

    Randy: da bomb at the end. It was "good".
    Paula: in the moment. Great performance.
    Simon: it wasn't as good as Paula thinks. The audience predictably boos. It wasn't a winning performance.
    Kris: worst performance of the night. I think he's gone.

    Bo: "Vehicle" by the Ides of March. Bo claims to be not much of a dancer, but who cares because this song rocks. Bo looks extra dirty tonight, which is usually a good sign. Clean Bo=bad Bo. Dirty Bo=hot, hot, hot Bo. Oh yeah baby, sing it to me, just like that.

    Randy: Bo Bice is back.
    Paula: lights a cigarette and says the competition is back on
    Simon: Bo had the only authentically good performance of the night.
    Kris: Oh yeah

    My bottom three: Scott, Anwar, Constantine
    My predicated bottom three: Scott, Anwar, Carrie

    Anwar gets the boot as Scott survives for yet another week.

    Posted by at 07:59 PM | Comments (8)


    If I Could Be...

    [Posted by ]

    No one tagged me, but I thought it'd be fun to do this memearama. The idea is that:

    you must select at least 5 of the ocupations listed below (feel free to select more). You may add more if you like to your list before you pass it on (after you select 5 of the items as it was passed to you). Each one begins with "If I could be..." Of the 5 you selected, you are to finish each phrase with what you would do as a member of that profession.

    Here's the list:

    If I could be a scientist...
    If I could be a farmer...
    If I could be a musician...
    If I could be a doctor...
    If I could be a painter...
    If I could be a gardener...
    If I could be a missionary...
    If I could be a chef...
    If I could be an architect...
    If I could be a linguist...
    If I could be a psychologist...
    If I could be a librarian...
    If I could be an athlete...
    If I could be a lawyer...
    If I could be an innkeeper...
    If I could be a professor...
    If I could be a writer...
    If I could be a llama-rider...
    If I could be a bonnie pirate...

    If I could be an innkeeper... I'd always keep one room open, just in case. No one would ever be able to say there's no room at my inn.

    If I could be a lawyer... I'd object. To what, I don't know, but I'd find something.

    If I could be a bonnie pirate... there would be a "Brandon" in a port somewhere writing songs about me.

    If I could be an athlete... I'd play tennis at Wimbledon and scandalize the world by refusing to curtsey to the British royal family.

    If I could be a missionary... I'd come up with a new position.

    Rather than tag other bloggers, I'm going to call on my fellow contributors, as well as our readers, to answer in the comments. Have fun!

    Posted by at 01:10 PM | Comments (3)


    POPE BENEDICT XVI, nee Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, is new Pope

    [Posted by John Tant]

    Just announced...

    Despite some mudslinging, Cardinal Ratzinger is now Pope Benedict.

    Via The Corner, here's a homily he gave yesterday, and Michael Novak writing about it.

    Update: Here's a pic of the new Pope, Benedict XVI:

    Posted by John Tant at 11:50 AM | Comments (15)


    April 18, 2005

    Filibuster to a Superstar

    [Posted by ]

    Orin Kerr over at Volokh has an interesting post where he theorizes that the more accomplished a judicial nominee is, the harder the fight to get him or her confirmed. Because these highly credentialed nominees will inevitabily influence both the law and future lawyers, the idea is to nip them in the bud now, while the opposing party still can.

    While the obvious result of this is that "dumber" nominees get on the Courts, it also made me think that the dogfights over judicial nominees could actually lead to a very desirable outcome: the nomination of a judicial superstar to the Supreme Court.

    Follow along with me here. Politicians are wary of creating influential judges that disagree with them on key issues. The fear is that the judge will garner so much respect as a legal mind that he or she cannot be demonized in a future Supreme Court nomination confirmation hearing. That's all well and good for the future, but what about now? What about today's judicial heavyweights? Are Senators tipping their hands and revealing that someone like a Posner or Kozinski could get easily confirmed?

    These judges aren't generally considered serious potential Supreme Court nominees, but, if the nation gets sick and tired of the partisan battles over lower court nominees, the Bush administration might very well choose to nominate a highly respected "sure thing" and expend their political capital elsewhere. Perhaps it's just wishful thinking on my part, but it'd sure be nice if the result of the Senate's M.A.D. nuclear showdown was a Judge Kozinski on the Supreme Court.

    Posted by at 09:19 PM | Comments (0)


    Happy Birthday To Us!

    [Posted by ]

    A year ago today, this silly little post kicked off our Dummocratsian adventure. One year, 700+ posts and over 200,000 visitors later, we're still going strong. Thank you to everyone who's come here and read what we've had to say over the past year. If it was possible, I'd bring delicious cupcakes to you all.

    I spent some time trying to think of a fun way to celebrate our birthday. Since we're still waiting for the mad blogging money to roll in and our stock certificates aren't yet worth millions, we couldn't afford a black tie gala (maybe next year). So, in lieu of that kind of interaction, I thought it might be fun to take a page from Right Wing News and open this up to reader questions. If you have something you want to ask us, or something you want us to talk about, let 'er rip in the comments and we'll post responses in the comments or in separate post, if necessary. James, John & Laura, you're all on the hook for this too!

    Posted by at 01:02 AM | Comments (22)


    April 17, 2005

    What Else Can They Ban?

    [Posted by ]

    After a very long winter, Madison has been blessed with beautiful spring weather the past two weekends. While I spent last weekend engaging in rite of spring #1 (drinking beer on the Union Terrace), today I accomplished rite #2, taking my kayak out on Lake Monona. The lake is placid and almost deserted this time of the year, even on a beautiful weekend afternoon. This is also the time of year when concerned citizens comment on how "nice" it is without any boat traffic and how Madison should consider banning speed boats and tool-of-the-devil Jet Skis.

    I won't be surprised if it happens someday. Madison, although it bills itself as a liberal city of tolerance and diversity, is fond of banning its citizens from doing lots of things. For example, The University of Wisconsin has 1,260 acre Arboretum in the middle of Madison. A road runs through the Arboretum and is frequented by walkers, joggers and bikers. The road has smooth pavement, little traffic, no stop signs and lots of little hills. It'd be perfect for in-line skaters, particularly beginning ones. However, in-line skating is banned in the Arboretum. Why? Too many concerned citizens were afraid of hitting, or being hit by, one of these roller blading hooligans.

    The latest target of the banning brigade are bikers on Picnic Point. Time out for a geography lesson: downtown Madison is set on an Isthmus between two lakes, Mendota to the north and Monona to the south. The University of Wisconsin campus is situated on the south shore of Lake Mendota. The mile(?)-long Lakeshore Path winds from the famed Union Terrace out to Picnic Point, which you can see pictured here.

    So why this ban? It seems that some pedestrians are fed up with having to watch their children:

    Many present said they agreed with Westerman [member of the member of the Restore Picnic Point for Pedestrians Committee] that bicycles pose safety concerns that pedestrians should not have to worry about while walking on Picnic Point, especially young children.

    Madison resident John Bishop shared his own experience of taking a nature walk with his son.

    "When you go out on a natural experience, you don't want to teach your son how to heel," he said.

    Wow, ignore for a moment how obnoxious the phrase "when you go out on a natural experience" is, and instead concentrate on the rest of the quote. From what Mr. Bishop said, you'd think the Picnic Point section of Lakeshore Path is some rustic hiking trail, not a part of this wide, smooth path used daily by thousands of people.

    I think what it comes down to is that many people are willing to give away the rights of others in order to abdicate their own personal responsibility:

    • "I don't want to watch my kid, so the government should ban bikers."
    • "I don't want to pay attention to where I'm paddling, so the city should ban speed boats."
    • "I don't want to have to look out for roller bladers, they shouldn't be allowed on this road."

    And so, nanny states like the city of Madison are born to insulate these people from the big bad world around them. Unfortunately, in the rush to protect the stupid and lazy from themselves, the rest of us get to have less and less freedom and less and less fun.

    Posted by at 04:21 PM | Comments (2)


    April 15, 2005

    American Idol-Analyzing The Results

    [Posted by ]

    I've noticed that other (mostly) political blogs like Althouse, A Small Victory and Daly Thoughts have succumbed to the pleasures of American Idol blogging. What is it about this show that attracts the body politic?

    I have a theory. American Idol is a series of weekly mini-elections. The same type of people that get caught up in analyzing the ins and outs of the Presidential election are intrigued with Idol for some of the same reasons. And, Idol has the added attraction of being able to enjoy some great performances (and cringe in horror at some bad ones). Plus, unlike the Presidential election, which has about three years of build up for one night of results, Idol has almost immediate payoffs. Every week there are winners, losers and brand new elections. It's a political geek's dream!

    Most bloggers still just recap the show and give their opinion, but increasingly, you can see their political minds at work. We question whether Scott will be "savoled" for his domestic abuse arrest in much the same way we wondered how much Kerry was hurt by the Swift Boat Veteran's allegations. Now that Nadia has been voted off, we wonder who her fanbase will vote for, much like we wondered who the Deaniacs would vote for after their candidate torpedoed himself with the infamous "Dean Scream". I personally am starting to wonder if Constantine can reach out to an adult audience without alienating his teenage girl base, or if Carrie can rock out without offending her country fans. It's really no different that wondering if Bush can continue to support spending initiatives without driving away the fiscally conservative wing of the GOP.

    You know, now that we're in the election "off season", perhaps some political consultants would be interested in advising the Idol contestants instead. Heh, I can just see James Carville drumming, "It's the smoldering, stupid!" into Constantine's head. So what's my advice to the Idol wannabes? Funny you should ask:

    Anwar: Along with Federov and Scott, Anwar is in the most danger of going home soon. However, if he played his cards right he could grab some of Nadia's voters and stay, just a little bit longer. But to do that he's going to need to sex it up a bit. Right now, he's so incredibly bland and boring. I think he really is bland and boring, but he's got to try to fake it. I recommend a heavy dose of Lenny Kravitz, stat! Then, he can follow that up with some hardcore Parliment funk and tear the roof off the sucker.

    Bo: Step away from the southern rock, my long-haired friend. Bo's in a very difficult position as Anwar & Federov have the non-threatening thing, and Constantine's got the sexy-for-tweens thing. I think Bo has two choices: go for the male voters and sing seriously hard rock and heavy metal songs or go for older women and try to be sexy, but less cheesy, than Constantine. He'd be like a Dave Matthews with an edge (although I suspect he'd still have the bong). Honestly though, I don't think there's a winning strategy out there for Bo.

    Carrie: She shouldn't worry about singing rock or country. There's plenty of rock-tinged country out there for her. My advice for her is avoid ballads and keep trying to infuse some emotion in her performances. I don't think Carrie has a rabid fanbase that loves her, rather, I think she gets the votes of people who think they are voting for the best singer. If she wins it'll be on the quality of her performances and not on her personal popularity.

    Constantine: Uh, keep doing what you're doing. Do not dial down the cheese. The worst thing that could happen to Constantine is if he went all serious on us now. That's not the guy people are voting for.

    Federov: If Anwar needs to go sexy, then Federov needs to go even more puppy doggish. He should position himself as the wholesome choice. But, the wholesome choice who can still sing well. Paul Young was a great choice for him. He needs to follow that up with some more blue-eyed soul. Some Spandau Ballet (True) or Simply Red (You Make Me Feel Brand New) would be great choices for him in the coming weeks.

    Scott: The punk needs to learn some humility. That's all the advice I want to give him. Blech.

    Vonzell: I think she needs to be the upbeat pop princess to Carrie's country queen. People like her more than they like her singing, so she needs songs that will help her show off her sparkling personality. I'd recommend a disco number like "Don't Leave Me This Way" or even something like "Walking on Sunshine".

    Posted by at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)


    April 14, 2005

    Sex Offenders in the News

    [Posted by Laura]

    There’s a lot of news lately about sex offenders. The media runs with stories that have the most impact, but is the problem getting worse or are we just talking about it more? What can be done about it? A database search revealed that there are about 2500 in the New Orleans metro area. That includes all sex offenders, not just child molesters. There are about 1.3 million people in the New Orleans metro area.

    Some statistics are available at the Counter Pedophilia Investigative Unit:
    • Sixty-seven percent of all victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were juveniles (under the age of 18) 34% of all victims were under age 12. One of every seven victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement were under age 6.
    • A 1994 National Institute of Health survey of 453 pedophiles, conducted by Dr. Gene Abel, showed these criminals were collectively responsible for the molestation of over 67,000 children. That's an average of 148 children per individual pedophile.

    If 10% of those 2500 sex offenders are child molesters, then about 37,000 children in the New Orleans area have been victimized. And having been victimized, stand a fair chance of molesting children themselves. Without treatment, “the recidivism rate of untreated offenders is about 60 percent, while recidivism among those who have been treated is about 15 to 20 percent.”

    So for those molesters who wish to stay in the U.S. instead of securing work as a U.N. Peacekeeper, it appears that treatment is a pretty good idea, unless we kill them or lock them up until they die. Where are we going to find the money to pay for treatment? Instead of financing international child rape, we could take some of the $22 billion we were going to give to the U.N. next year and use it to treat and track child molesters here at home.

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 11:34 PM | Comments (2)


    Russ Feingold's Top Ten Pick Up Lines

    [Posted by ]

    Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold is getting divorced, and even though he's a Democrat, now that he's "out there," the fine community here at Dummocrats thought they'd all pitch in and come up with a few pickup lines to help him out as he tries to find that special someone. So, without further ado, we proudly present:

    Senator Russ Feingold's Top Ten Pickup Lines
    (Bonus: it's Big Ten styled, baby!)

    11. "That Bolton confirmation vote isn't the only thing coming up..."

    10. "Damn girl, you have more curves than Ted Kennedy!"

    9. "You look like a golddigger to me, which is good, cuz I'm some fine gold."

    8. "I believe all Americans deserve affordable health care. Mind if I check you out?"

    7. "If I said a woman has a right to make her own choices about her body, would you hold it against me?"

    6. "Oh baby, it's hot in here. Is it global warming, or is it just you?"

    5. "¿Necesitas un greencard?"

    4. "You are second-hand smokin'!"

    3. "Now you've got a rack I'd like to invade!"

    2. "It's ok, bring your husband - as McCain will tell ya, I'm bipartisan."

    And, Russ Feingold's number one pickup line is:

    1. "Hi, I'm Russ Feingold, and I'm a Senator. From Wisconsin!"

    Posted by at 12:25 AM | Comments (2)


    April 13, 2005

    American Idol Voting Results-Who Got Voted Off-Week 5

    [Posted by ]

    James is off on super secret special assignment tonight (or maybe he's just "in class", you never know), so I'll be taking care of the results recap this week. Note: if you're a first time visitor, be sure to bookmark us as we do recaps of both the performance (see here for this weeks) and results shows every week.

    So, we're in. Ryan's looking all spiffy in a classy suit & tie. He promises America a "SHOCK". Hmm, I wonder if this is just another bit of hype alongside ABC's promises of the "most shocking Rose Ceremony EVER!" Unless Carrie bites the dust, I think it's all hype. Or, maybe the shock is that Paula looks surprisingly sober tonight. Now, does that mean she's on the wagon or off the wagon? I always get confused about that.

    Ryan wants to know about Constantine's tongue move. Hmmm, frankly, I'm kinda curious about it now too. And, yes, I do hate myself, thank you for asking. More pointless chit chat ensues. I guess we know how they're going to take up an entire hour tonight. It's FILLER, baby! It's fillerific.

    As part of the filler, we get to see the entire final 12 recording the Tsunami Tsingle. Hi, Jessica! I miss you! Hi Mikalah, you crazy little coconut! I think it's cute that the Idols think that "everyone" in America is going to buy their tsingle. Oh, sweeties.

    Great. Ryan promises that the bottom three will each be singing their favorite song of the season. Why does this show want to punish its viewers? Hey America, you didn't like these guys enough to vote for them. So, we're going to make you watch them again!. Gee, thanks.

    Watching the Idols perform the Tsunami Tsingle, it occurs to me that all the hatred I once had for Constantine has suddenly been transferred to Anwar. Maybe it's his hideous mustard-colored jacket. Maybe it's his no-sex-man persona. Maybe it's his boring performances. Whatever it is, I almost want him to go more than Scott tonight.

    As yet another part of Fillerama 2005, we get a glimpse of the contestants' hectic "work" week. I'd feel sorry for them, but, well, nah, there's no way I can feel sorry for them. They're living the dream. On the way out to commercial, Ryan says we "won't believe who's in the bottom 3". Could it be Carrie? Damn, it'd be a shame if she went out on a week when she was actually interesting.

    Ryan messes with Scott a little before letting him know he's in the bottom three. Sweet! God bless America. Scott tries to get me to like him again by singing "Against All Odds". It ain't gonna work, punkass. Go back to your Shaker Heights 'hood.

    Carrie: is safe. Wow, does that mean my lovely Bo is in the bottom three? That's the only other conceivable "shocker".

    Anwar: is safe. Yo, America, wtf?

    Bo: is in the bottom three. Are you kidding me? How in the world did more people vote for Anwar than Bo? The only thing I can think of is that Bo & Constantine are basically going after the same demographic, much like Kelly & Tamyra and the season three divas did. Paula is still convinced he'll be in the final. And, I'm now convinced that Paula is indeed drunk. Bo tears it up with "Remedy", showing America how misguided it is.

    Constantine: is safe. Hell, I'm so confident that I typed that before Ryan announced it.

    Vonzell, Anthony & Nadia: Nadia thinks it's her. She uncrossed her legs to make it easier for her to leave the couch. Yep, and it's her. Nadia looks pissed. She also looks great. Her dress is fantastic. Her whole look is killer. Her problem is she has no established identity. As much as I don't want contestants to feel stuffed in their boxes, Nadia truly would have been better off as the "rocker chick". People get sick of all the ballads, you know?

    And now the moment is at hand. Scott is safe. America, I hate you. It's down to Nadia and Bo. And it's Nadia. The crowd boos and acts all shocked, but it's been obvious for weeks that she was on her way out. I like Nadia, but she lost all of her passion. Hopefully, once she's away from the Idol glare, she'll be able to get it back.

    Posted by at 08:59 PM | Comments (10)


    Miss USA : Chelsea Cooley

    [Posted by John Tant]

    At, we're not always about arguing over welfare or illegal immigration. Sometimes you have to toss in something that can unite the factions into arguing about something trivial, with a girl in a bikini thrown in for good measure.

    So, Chelsea Cooley...Miss North Carolina, now Miss USA 2005.

    Cheesecake after the jump.

    Carrie who????

    Hat tip to the fine guys at Powerline.

    Posted by John Tant at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)


    Illegal Aliens: Your Hearing Is Apparently Optional

    [Posted by John Tant]

    Well, it's an Immigration Twofer.

    I think this deserves story of the day status:

    11 illegal aliens caught, then released in Fairfax.

    OK, so the police stop a van with 11 illegal aliens in it (11!!!!). They are breaking the law. What do they do? They are released by the Federal government which is responsible for enforcing immigration law:

    Federal authorities released 11 illegal aliens who were detained during a traffic stop in Annandale because immigration officials said they did not pose a threat to the public.

    "The 11 passengers were processed and released," said Ernestine Fobbs, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. "There were children involved, so it was better that we released them."

    Authorities ordered the 11 Mexican nationals, three of whom are children, to return to immigration offices tomorrow for further processing.

    OK, well that's interesting. I guess we're keeping tabs on them in the meantime, right?
    Ms. Fobbs said officials do not know where the illegals are in the meantime.

    Oh. Well, what if they don't show up?
    "It's up to them whether they come back," she said. "If they do not, they will be considered fugitives, and once we do encounter them again, they'll be removed from the United States. They stand to lose a lot if they do not appear."

    Huh. It's "up to them" to appear? I'll keep that in mind the next time some Federal agency wants me to do something.

    Incidentally Ms. Fobbs, considering where these 11 people came from I think they have even more to lose by showing up....

    Posted by John Tant at 08:07 AM | Comments (12)


    Just a Minute, Man

    [Posted by John Tant]

    Have you been following the Adventures of the Minutemen?

    No, me neither.

    But to catch everyone up, these are a bunch of people who have taken it upon themselves to patrol our southern border for a month so as to catch illegals sneaking through. Gotta love their initiative, if nothing else. And really, they have kind of a point. Immigration is one thing, but illegal immigration is something else. And if you live in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas you know firsthand what that something else often involves...crime.

    One of my friends in Arizona related an interesting story to me. She and her husband live in a somewhat out-of-the-way area, with plenty of land and not many neighbors. They are also fairly close to the border. After moving there they quickly learned to keep things locked up, as they had a tendency to disappear at night. But it was when she was home alone late one night and heard rustling in her kitchen that things started ratcheting up. When she went downstairs, lo and behold there were three men rummaging through her pantry. She screamed, told them to get the eff out, and punctuated that command by waving the business end of her Mossberg 12 gauge (what she jokingly referred to later as her "universal translator."). They skedaddled.

    When I asked her what the police did, she laughed at me. She said there was little point in calling the sheriff (note to self...when talking about a rural area, it's a sheriff), because at most the illegals would get a forty five minute ride to the border and dropped off...where they'd come across again once their ride disappeared behind the nearest hill. She then said something to me which is kind of disturbing, which I'll paraphrase:

    It's almost lawless out here. The law enforcement here is really sympathetic, but they figure there's nothing they can do. Even if they arrest every illegal they see, the legal system won't bother punishing them. The worst that could happen is they get deported immediately, but they'll just come back. Most of the time they're released and told to report to a deportation hearing. Big surprise they never show up. So we're on our own here. Everyone I know is just fed up with this, and it's only a matter of time before a private war starts down here.

    And I have to say, it's hard to fault her or her neighbors. She isn't talking about some border-crosser taking her job picking lettuce. She was actually quite clear about it. Instead she's fed up with the constant trespasses and theft and break-ins. When the subject of moving comes up, she grows stubborn. "We worked hard and sacrificed a lot for this place, and we aren't going to let anyone chase us off. This is our home. How can we leave? We aren't asking for anything unusual. Just for basic laws to be enforced."

    To me, that seems to be a reasonable attitude. And so were born the Minutemen. Taking their name from the militia of the Revolutionary War, they describe themselves as patriots who are going to do a job the Federal Government refuses to our borders. They point out that in the age of warring against terrorism, failing to secure that border is a serious problem. You hear all sorts of hyperbole following that...stories about suitcase nukes being carried into the country by terrorists and so on. While I think the basic point holds, I could do without the hysteria. Besides, I wouldn't want to be the guy lugging a nuclear device across a desert. But more to the point, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect our government to enforce laws...especially when those laws are so mundane as border protection. Hey, isn't that why we have government in the first place?!? Oddly, my friend is expected to turn the other cheek when her residence gets raided every night, but if she had shot one, two, or all three of those intruders she'd have to answer for it. Where do the illegals answer for their trespass? Do they?

    So there's a non-trivial amount of frustration brewing on our border over this...on both sides. And for the life of me, I can't figure out President Bush on this. Yeah, I understand some of the arguments floating out there. The illegals are coming here to do jobs Americans won't do. Hogwash. That kind of argument is condescending at best. Or there's the thought that with all that pressure on our border, not relieving it with "illegal-with-a-wink" immigration will force Mexico to do something more rash. It's an interesting point, but at the end of the day we're being coerced into something arguably against our best interests. In this day and age, having a border which is effectively unguarded is lunacy. Besides, what good is relieving that pressure when one of these days Americans in the area are going to get fed up and take matters into their own hands? From that perspective, it's hard to fault the Minutemen for standing up to it, even if some of the accompanying hyperbole is a bit over the top.

    OK, so I've fulfilled the Blogosphere Mandate for complaining. What to do about this problem?

    It isn't easy. We have to have the national will to actually enforce immigration laws, and I don't see that happening for a long time. Whenever proposals come along to double check citizenship status, you hear howls of outrage from the usual suspects. Cries of racism abound. Cries of it being too hard or too expensive follow. In fact, here in Virginia we just passed a law (effective Jan 1) which will prohibit illegal aliens in VA from receiving welfare benefits. The Fairfax County Board is opposed to this law. In other words, it's a county that is so destitute as to have to charge you for an ambulance ride, but they want to keep giving welfare benefits to people who are here illegally. Why? So we can have cheap lettuce? So our McDonald's hamburgers aren't too expensive? Isn't that a little shortsighted? And in the meantime we'll have the crime, the MS-13, the gangs hanging outside the 7-11, and the odd carjacking.

    Until our will changes, we can have all the laws we want and it won't matter a whit. Maybe, hopefully, the Minutemen are the first manifestation of this change of will.

    Posted by John Tant at 07:26 AM | Comments (73)


    April 12, 2005

    American Idol Recap - Week 5

    [Posted by james]

    Ahh, another Tuesday night. Once again, I should be doing homework not recaping American Idol for a bunch of strangers - but then again, I can't turn my back on our readers. I'm what you call a "giver."

    Welcome back, says Seacrest, who must have forgotten to charge his electric razor last night. du-nuh-na-uh-nah-na-nuh-na-nuh-nuh-nuh. Nikko Smith is "sadly back in his home town of St. Louis, says Seacrest." Well, I suppose that all depends on who is sad - if he's referring to the residents of St. Louis, who have to put up with Nikko's 20-year-too-late Stevie Wonder act, he may be on to something. Seacrest nags the viewers to vote. "Watching the show without voting is like starting a conversation with Randy -- pointless." Harsh, dog.

    Cut to Coke central where the contestants and all of America subjected to a baby photo of Constantly-pouting. Amazingly, he looks exactly like he did back then, only much, much dirtier. Baby V is up next, then there's a picture of 1 year old Carrie Underwood. Awww, our kids are going to be so cute. Theme: Nursury Rhymes? No. It's "songs from the year you were born."

    Nadia kicks it off with "When I dream" by Mac Davis, treating us to what must be a Guiness-record-setting hair altitude. Whether you like Nadia or hate her, she has the coolest hair this side of the Afro guy from Minneapolis. If you've ever been to party in the Twin Cities, you know who I'm talking about.

    Randy: "Wow, a year's worth of songs to pick from and you pick that. I don't even know what song that is..." (America hears ya dog...)
    Paula: "You look ... stunning. I come just to see what you're going to wear." (In other words, "Nadia, you should be seen, not heard." Now get back in the kitchen and make a pot pie, freaky girl.)
    Simon: That was musical wallpaper. Appalling choice.
    Hat: Terrible song for Nadia. I like rockin' Nadia. Why she'd pick that, I have no idea. I'm fairly confident in saying that she's my pick to get booted, and I haven't even seen the other performers yet.

    Bo Bice: Free Bird by Skynyrd, 1975. Great song. My god, I can hear the hootin' and hollerin' rollin over the Virgina hills now. If hill people had phones, Bo Bice would set a record for most. votes. ev-ar.

    Randy: Yo, Bo, Excellent.
    Paula: "See you at the finals Bo." This coming from a woman who chatized Simon for telling Carrie Underwood that she was the favorite, because it allegedly was "unfair" to the other constestants. Last week we had 4-drink-Paula, and it looks like we got sober-but-hypocritical-Paula tonight. In all fairness, she we probably drunk when she said that, though, so maybe she doesn't remember.
    Simon: The audience at home is going to say "what the hell was that?" Simon says that Free Bird is a "sacred" song. Paula and Randy erupt in guffaws, "whaaaaaaaaaaat??!?" Once again, the Brit is the only one that knows what he's talking about when it comes to American music.
    Hat: I thought it was a subdued performance. Not a real rocker.

    Anwar doing "I'll never love this way again" by Dione Warwick, 1979. What in the hell is wrong with you Anwar? You haven't even started singing yet and I can tell you that's an incredibly stupid song to pick. This guy is really starting to freak me out. Can you say "Micheal Jackson II?"

    Randy: Great song choice, I'm proud of you.
    Paula: You please me.
    Simon: One of your better performances.
    Hat: OK, that sounded like absolute garbage. I don't know what the judges were listening to, but it must not have been the same performance that I was subjected to, that's for sure. I've seen better performances out of lounge singers.

    Seacrest shows us that Hall and Oates are in the audience - all over America, the target demographic is turning to their parents and asking "Who?"

    Federov up with "Every time you go away" by Paul Young, written in 1985 by Hall. Or Oates. Whichever one is named "Darrell." Federov tells us that he used to swim in the Black Sea. YIKES, OK, the camera is way to close to this kid for my liking, i just looked up and was startled, thinking that Boringov was leaning in for a kiss. He's walking all over the stage and bopping about. I think this is probably one of his better performances.

    Randy: You know what man? You did your thing. I was surprised.
    Paula: Much better than last week.
    Simon: Very good.
    Hat: It took Hall/Oates to make Boringov non-boring. Who woulda thunk it? Hmm, I wonder, if Fran Drescher wrote music for Mikalah Gordon, would it have made her less annoying?

    Vonzell, born in 1984, doing "Let's hear it for the Boy." This was a good song to pick, I think. The most rockin' of the night. Take that, Bo. Speaking of Bo, it looks like Vonzell is now using the catBo-walk.

    Randy: This is craaaaaazy, dude, excellent!
    Paula: What's so great about you is your energy. You are adorable.
    Simon: Very good choice of song. You are the one that's going to stay, and Nadia is the one that's gonna go home. (in other words, Simon is saying that 2 black chicks can't both make it.)
    Hat: This was a good song to pick. The most rockin' of the night, by far. I think she did OK. nothing spectacular. Thought she sounded flat in the chorus.

    Slappin' Scott doing "She's gone," by Hall and Oates, 1976. Yeah, Scott, that's what happens when you hit 'em. Scott: "Everyone talks about rockers, well, I'm the real rocker in the competition." Yeah, Scott, your Hall and Oates song really shows that. The only time "rocker" should ever be used in the same sentence with Scott Savol is when prefixed with "off his." Oh my, they just showed Paula jumping around and screaming like a 15 year old girl. I half thought she was gonna throw her bra at him.

    Randy: Was a little off. But you brought it home, dawwwwg.
    Paula: I've gotta give it up to you. (Paula, who don't you give it up to?) Paula : giggle giggle giggle
    Simon: There were more bum notes than there were good notes, I'm just trying to keep it real. To which Scott-the-goon responds, "You know what's real, I'm up here doing this, when million of people at home didn't have the guts." This guy is more of a nutjob from that chewer from the Apprentice. Watch out Simon, you're about to get savoled.
    Hat: eeeeh. It was aiiiight.

    Carrie Underwood-Hat doing "Love is a Battlefield" by Pat Benetar, 1983. Good song choice, but she really doesn't sound that great. This is almost painful to watch.
    Randy: Well, you know, pitchy, and you messed up the words. I'm not lovin the rocked-out Carrie.
    Paula: I think you rocked.
    Simon: That was like watching a kitten that wants to be a tiger.
    Hat: I still love ya.

    Constantly-dirty is doing Bohemian Rhapsody from 1975. Oh my, this is going to be something - I have no idea how this is gonna work. Oooh, he has a clever little background video of him and 2 backup singers doing backing vocals. Nice touch.

    Randy: 10 for showmanship, 7 for singing. (thats mightly generous)
    Paula: You've now proven you're the one to beat in this competition. (didn't she just tell bo the same thing?)
    Simon: (points out that Paula isn't making sense. "That was astonishing." (I don't think that was intended as a complement, but everyone takes it as one. Seacrest even says "he has never used that word before on this program.")
    Hat: I liked it, but only because it wasn't Hall and Oates. I hate nights when it turns into American Ballads.

    My bottom 3: Nadia Turner, Anwar Jackson, and Scott.
    Prediction for who gets voted off my screen: Nadia.

    To be fair, I think that Scott was better than Carrie. Carrie definitely deserves to be in the bottom 3, but she has so many fans that isn't going to happen.

    Update: Results Show Recap

    Posted by jkhat at 08:09 PM | Comments (15)


    April 11, 2005

    What's Really on the President's iPod

    [Posted by ]

    Tonight at the gym, I watched the big three networks cover the same earthshatteringly important story on the nightly news. This nation needs to know what is on President Bush's iPod. The networks dutifully reported that the Presidential iPod was full of the usual suspects, like "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Centerfield".

    But our crack staff wasn't satisfied by this shoddy 'reporting'. Our investigative team has uncovered the President's entire playlist. We've been told by the Secret Service that we are not allowed to release the entire list for national security reasons. However, we do have a world exclusive list of the Top Ten Songs That Are Really On President Bush's iPod to share with you, our loyal readers. (And, if you read between the lines, you might get a few hints about the rest of the playlist)

    10. God Bless the USA. No shock here. Is it any wonder the President would want to listen to a patriotic song like this:

    I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today. ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land God bless the U.S.A.

    Now, the cynics among us would claim that the President is just taking pointers from Lee Greenwood in order to further the powerful and continuing nationalism necessary for his fascist regime, but we know better.

    9. Without Me, by Eminem. You wouldn't think a conservative President would dig Eminem, but we're told that the President thinks Slim Shady feels his pain when it comes to being a controversial figure routinely slammed by a hostile press:

    Guess who's back Back again Shady's back Tell a friend Guess who's back, guess who's back, guess who's back, guess who's back guess who's back, guess who's back, guess who's back.

    Now this looks like a job for me
    So everybody, just follow me
    Cause we need a little, controversy
    Cause it feels so empty, without me
    I said-this looks like a job for me
    So everybody, just follow me
    Cause we need a little, controversy
    Cause it feels so empty, without me

    8. He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother. Now, we're not here to judge anyone, but we couldn't help but notice that Jeb Bush has kind of let himself go. And, we're not the only ones. The President's noticed his brother's condition too. This song, however, truly demonstrates, just what a compassionate conservative our President is:

    So on we go, his welfare is my concern No burden is he to bare, we'll get there For I know he would not encumber me He ain't heavy - he's my brother

    That's right Jeb, your big bro is there to shoulder the load. Let's just make sure the load doesn't get too big, if you know what I mean.

    7. (That's Right) You're Not From Texas Unlike Lyle Lovett, President Bush is not from Texas, but, like many good men before him, he got there as fast as he could. Although this meant he had to give up a lifelong dream of driving the Zamboni when he moved, it also meant that Texans embraced him as one of their own, as demonstrated so neatly in this song:

    That’s right you’re not from Texas That’s right you’re not from Texas That’s right you’re not from Texas But Texas wants you anyway

    6. Papa Don't Preach. While the President undoubtably appreciates the advice of his father, there are apparently times when he's had enough. We've learned that Bush 41 was especially adamant that his son get rid of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfield. Not only did 43 refuse, he defied the world while singing these modified lyrics throughout the West Wing:

    Papa don't preach, I'm in trouble deep Papa don't preach, I've been losing sleep But I made up my mind, I'm keeping my (secretary... im gonna keep my rummy)

    5. Hot For Teacher. While President Bush wasn't born in Texas, his lovely wife Laura was. We strongly suspect that it's Laura, a former public school librarian, who inspired one of the President's men to add this little ditty to the playlist. Yep, even after all these years, the President still has:

    Got it bad, got it bad, got it bad, I’m hot for teacher. I got it bad, so bad, I’m hot for teacher.

    Aw, remember folks, there's only two things that money can't buy and that's true love and homegrown tomatoes.

    4. Bombs Over Baghdad. For being the squarest man this side of Prince Charles, the President has some eclectic taste in music. We were surprised to learn he liked Outkast, although, in retrospect, it's no surprise he was drawn to this song:

    Thunder pounds when I stomp the ground (Woo!) Like a million elephants and silverback orangutans You can't stop a train

    3. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, or, as the President likes to call it, "Don't Let Me Be Misunderestimastood". While the President was loathe to admit mistakes while on the campaign trail, this choice clearly shows that in his private moments, this President is a humble man:

    Oh, oh, oh, baby, don't you know I'm human Have thoughts like any other one Sometimes I find myself alone and regretting Some foolish thing, some little simple thing I've done

    2. Like many people, the President occasionally misunderstands lyrics. I feel his pain. After all, for years I thought they were saying "you are a maggot and I am steel. But enough about me. The President, God bless him, loves Barbara Ann, but unfortunately, he likes it because he thinks the Beach Boys are saying "Bomb bomb bomb. Bomb bomb Iran". Oh George. Similarily, he thought Ice, Ice, Baby was a tribute to Condoleezza Rice. White House insiders tell us he was shocked when he finally caught a glimpse of Vanilla Ice on a repeat of The Surreal Life 2.

    And finally, we're ready to reveal the number one shocker that's one the POTUS pod...

    1. When Doves Cry. Now, in this case, the President knows exactly what the real lyrics are:

    How can u just leave me standing? Alone in a world so cold? (World so cold) Maybe I'm just 2 demanding Maybe I'm just like my father 2 bold Maybe you're just like my mother She's never satisfied (She's never satisfied) Why do we scream at each other This is what it sounds like When doves cry

    But sometimes he just can't resist changing the words to get in some digs at his opponents on the left side of the aisle:

    How can u just leave us standing? Alone in a world so cold? (World so cold) Maybe we're just 2 demanding Maybe youre just like your father 2 bold Maybe you're just like your mother She's never satisfied (She's never satisfied) Why do we scream at each other This is what it sounds like When we liberal doves cry

    We hope you enjoyed this glimpse inside the Presidential pysche. Stay tuned for more insider reports for our undercover staff.

    Posted by at 11:32 PM | Comments (5)


    Whither 'Compassion?'

    [Posted by John Tant]

    If you haven't read Laura's debut post, check it out now. It's an interesting one.

    I have to say, it's an inspiring story. But in rereading her post, I looked at it through the lens of conservative history. While I have quite a few thoughts on it from that perspective, I'm a little limited with time right now, but I wanted to bring up one thing. At the end of her post she poses the question:

    Compassionate conservatism means reforming and investing in the system so that more people can help themselves. Isn’t that something Democrats and Republicans should agree on?

    I think that kind of captures the decade-long (or longer) internal debate we conservatives have been having. See, I don't think the debate is so much a Democrat v. Republican question as it is a conservative v. libertarian thing. We all know how the Democrats are going to jump on a general rhetorical like that: "What? Spend money? mmmmmmmOK!" The debate on that side isn't so much over the proposition of reforming and investing in the system, but rather the form it will take. That's a settled question as far as that quarter is concerned.

    I think the more interesting debate is on the other side of the spectrum...which is whether such reform and investing in the "system" (and by extension, involvement in general) is something that government should even be doing. And this is a debate that has been going on for a very long time, and one in which the GOP has been embroiled with at least since Reagan left office. And it goes to the heart of what is really meant by "conservative."

    The general description of conservatism tends to be along the lines of wanting small, limited government. But that doesn't mean functionally non-existent government (for that, you'll have to swing over to the moonbat wing of the big L Libertarian tent). The debate tends to center around how small is "small" and how limited is "limited," and this is where the debate gets most interesting.

    My own personal perspective (which coincides with a couple of factions in the GOP) is that government is useful when it comes to conserving or defending those things in our society which are good and useful. In other words, I'm not on board with deep-sixing government simply because it's government. That's why there is a conservative case to be made for things traditionally considered non-conservative, with the end result tending toward (the rhetorically clumsy) "compassionate conservatism." Others disagree with what's good and/or useful. That doesn't make one faction any less "conservative" than another. It's just a question of details.

    And where I start to leave the path is precisely on those details. I mean, it's indisputable that there's a rich, anecdotal archive of all the good things government assistance has done for individuals. And just as rich is the anecdotal archive of the welfare queens who exist to cash that benefit check. But I think it bears pointing out that the first welfare programs were started up with ideals that were just as noble, but they began to take a life of their own and ended up causing more problems than they solved. In the end, the trade-off just wasn't worth it. Preventing a repeat performance is something else I would hope everyone would agree on, and ought not be considered the antithesis of "compassion" in any event.

    Posted by John Tant at 02:20 PM | Comments (4)


    Compassionate Conservatism

    [Posted by Laura]
    "I call my philosophy and approach compassionate conservatism. It is compassionate to actively help our fellow citizens in need. It is conservative to insist on responsibility and results. And with this hopeful approach, we will make a real difference in people's lives."

    -President George W. Bush

    Compassionate conservatism has become a joke to some and an almost lost ideal for others. I was a liberal Democrat until I was 20 and had to apply for welfare. Living in poverty had a huge impact on my political thinking. The Census Bureau has classified 35 million people in America as “poor,” but some interesting government statistics have been noted in Understanding Poverty in America by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative organization.

    • 46% of poor households own their own homes.
    • 76% of poor households have air conditioning. Thirty years ago, only 36% of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
    • Nearly 75% of poor households own a car; 30% own two or more cars.
    • 97% of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.
    • 78% have a VCR or DVD player; 62% have cable or satellite TV.
    • 73% percent own microwaves, more than half have a stereo, and a third have a dishwasher.

    The report concluded:

    The living conditions of persons defined as poor by the government bear little resemblance to notions of "poverty" held by the general public. Real material hardship does occur, but it is limited in scope and severity.

    But the living conditions of the average poor person should not be taken to mean that all poor Americans live without hardship. Roughly a third of poor households do face material hardships such as overcrowding, intermittent food shortages, or difficulty obtaining medical care.

    People living in chronic poverty generally have stable living conditions but typically live in a bad neighborhoods and have low paying, part time jobs. Acute poverty is typically of shorter duration and much more severe. Acute poverty is often caused by an underlying condition like drug addition, mental illness, or abuse. We need fast, effective and flexible short term solutions for those problems, with the goal of moving people into the system that deals with chronic poverty.

    I was 20 when my husband died, and I went from the chronic poverty that pretty much defined everyone my age who didn’t live with their parents, to acute poverty. I was pregnant and jobless. I applied for welfare and found the system corrupt, wasteful, and self-perpetuating. During hours in line and waiting rooms, I got to know other women who were on or applying for welfare. Most, like me at the time, had few job skills. Many were raised on welfare. The majority could not speak well enough to get an entry-level job in an office – the kind of job likely to pay enough to live on, with benefits. Like me, most of them applied for welfare because they were pregnant or had children but no husband or boyfriend to support them or their babies. In general, these women had no expectations of a better future. They relied on their children for income.

    The problem is complex. A typical poor family with children is supported by approximately 16 hours of work per week. Increasing work to full time (difficult to do in the case of many minimum wage jobs that are geared towards middle class teenagers) would lift about 75% of children out of poverty. The other main reason for poverty is no father in the home. If families had two incomes, almost 75% of them would not be living in poverty.

    As in the public school system, it’s clear that providing more money does not necessarily affect the outcome. Giving fish to the poor in the form of a monthly AFDC check keeps people in bondage to the system. Teaching people to fish – educational programs like the one I attended – is better but still not enough. I could attend a vocational program because my baby had not been born yet. If I had needed daycare services, it would have been impossible. In addition to that, vocational training alone is insufficient. We need to equip people with all the skills, knowledge and habits they need to succeed. Teaching a woman clerical skills will not help her if she shows up at an interview wearing flip-flops. Life skills like how to dress for interviews and keep a job once you have it need to be taught. And assistance needs to include things like access to work-appropriate clothing.

    I was on welfare about 6 months. I went from being a barely employable high school graduate to a clerical worker because of the free training I received. From there, I moved on to call center, help desk, and computer training jobs. I now own a small web development company with 3 employees, but the welfare and training I received in 1989-90 got me started. The system has undergone some reforms since I was on it, but we need more. Family-friendly welfare policies that include benefits to married couples, subsidized job and life skills training for both parents, and access to daycare for preschoolers would solve a lot of the chronic poverty problem in America. The best thing about all those measures is that they are temporary. Compassionate conservatism means reforming and investing in the system so that more people can help themselves. Isn’t that something Democrats and Republicans should agree on?

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 09:09 AM | Comments (92)


    New Guest Contributor-Laura

    [Posted by ]

    James, John & I are pleased to announce a new guest contributor to Dummocrats. Laura, who regular readers might recognize from her thoughtful comments on the site, is a compassionate conservative who wears bunny slippers to work and spends entirely too much money at the pistol range but otherwise is fairly normal.

    Laura hails from New Orleans, so she also adds some much-needed Southern appeal to the site. Please welcome Laura to the site and we're sure you'll enjoy her contribution, which will be posted later this morning.

    Posted by at 08:08 AM | Comments (1)


    April 10, 2005

    Pope Selection Bracket

    [Posted by ]

    With just around a week before the Cardinals enter a conclave to choose a new Pope, speculation is flying fast and furious about who exactly will succeed Pope John Paul II. While there are certainly early favorites, it's important to understand that while the Cardinals do the voting, Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit is directly guiding their choice. Perhaps that's why the favorites rarely win, as God's plan doesn't necessarily correspond to the Cardinals' plans.

    So, who will the next Pope be? For me, the easiest way to speculate was to put the candidates in a form I'm used to dealing with: an NCAA Tournament-style bracket. To do this, I created four regions (the Northeast, Northwest, Southeast & Southwest) of 29 Cardinals each and seeded them from 1 to 29. The top three seeds in each region received a first round bye. Then, to balance out the regions, I had to shift some Cardinals around. For example, the Irish, English, Scottish, German & French Cardinals competed in the Northwest Regional. Cardinals from Spain & Portugal competed against their fellow Spanish & Portugese speakers in the Southwest Regional.

    From then on, it was just a question of looking at the individual matchups and picking winners...

    The Northeast Region was dominated by the Italians. Even so, there were still some surprises. I seeded all of the Polish Cardinals very low under the assumption that another Pole wouldn't be chosen so soon. But, I had a good feeling about Zenon Grocholewski. Perhaps it's because he hails from my ancestoral home of Poznan. Grocholewski shockingly advanced to the regional quarterfinals before losing to Giovanni Battista Re.

    The big favorite in this region, Dionigi Tettamanzi, Archbishop of Milan, advanced easily until the regional final. There, I saw him going down to the sweet-faced Giacomo Biffi, Archbishop emeritus of Bologna. Biffi advanced to the Final Four as the candidate of tradition. He's older and Italian and would provide a comforting face of the Church as it ponders its future.

    The Northwest Regional was dominated by Cardinals from America. Conventional wisdom said that the Americans had no chance. But, perhaps the Holy Spirit had other ideas. After all, the United States is the most powerful nation in the world. She's capable of more good (and more evil) than anyone else. Wouldn't an American Pope be an excellent choice to guide the nation toward the right path?

    So, while Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany was the overwhelming favorite in this region, American Cardinal Adam Joseph Maida, Archbishop of Detroit was the eventual winner. Maida was a shock even to the Americans. I would have expected that if an American won the region, it would be Edmund Casimir Szoka, simply because the electors might have just assumed he wasn't a Yank and voted for him on that basis. But nope, the choice was Maida, who, earlier in his career received a J.D. from Duquesne University School of Law and served as the ninth bishop of the diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Go Pack!

    Cardinal Francis Arinze was the overwhelming favorite to come out of the Southeast. But, as the saying goes, "He who goes into the conclave a pope comes out a cardinal". And so it went with Arinze. In a region that included the infamous Mystery Cardinal, it was another African, Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Archbishop of Cape Coast (Ghana) who emerged victorious.

    At just 56-years old, Turkson represented the future of the Church. Personally, I liked this choice as my mother's parish is very well-served by a priest from Ghana.

    If Cardinal Turkson represents the future of the Church, then the Cardinals in the Southwest Regional represent the present. Dominated by Cardinals from Central & South America, this region was considered the most volatile.

    Cardinal Hummes from Brazil and Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina were favorites, but they lost out to Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga, S.D.B., Archbishop of Tegucigalpa (Honduras). Maradiaga, a three seed, was well-regarded, if not an outright favorite.

    So, my final four consisted of an Italian, an American, a Cardinal from Ghana and one from Honduras. The world semi-finals offered some classic matchups of traditional v. modern and the haves versus the have nots. I believed the Church is just not quite ready for an African cardinal, and so Biffi defeated Turkson. However, the world is not ready for an American Cardinal either, hence Maradiaga's advancement into the final. After Pope John Paul, the Cardinals weren't willing to go back to a time when the Pope was always from Italy. Cardinal Maradiaga better represented the realities of the Church and its challenges in the 21st century. So, ladies and gentlemen, according to my analysis, our new Pope will be Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga. I further predict that he will be known to the world as Pope John Paul III.

    Update: This bracket just puts mine to shame.

    Posted by at 01:17 PM | Comments (5)


    Play While You Can...And Smile

    [Posted by ]

    Eleven years ago I was communing with nature, walking through the miles of untamed wilderness that stretch along side Route 38. The stench of exhaust was in my nose, the wind of a thousand passing cars in my hair, and several dozen pipe bombs in my backpack. Those were good years even for a real liberal like myself. Clinton was an unbearable Nazi but we were coming back from the frenzied Reagan/Bush I years, which I spent huddling beneath an egg crate I shared with a family of five outside a Seven Eleven.

    I was young and naive, but I saw the face of evil on that day. An image that would have stayed with me even if that face had not gone on to achieve such horrible notoriety in these grim first years of the new millennium.

    A limousine pulled up on the berm and I almost shouted with glee before I remembered myself and hid in the shrubbery, a ready pipe bomb in my trembling fist. As a prepared to throw I was hit with a wave of intense artificial cold, like opening a meat freezer on a hot summer day. I dropped the bomb and instinctively curled into the fetal position, yet I still had a clear view. The sky had suddenly become gray and overcast, and every natural sound had gone quiet around me. Only the steady growl of traffic remained.

    The door opened and a man stepped out, dressed in a dark suite with a red tie and carrying a briefcase. His eyes were like shark eyes, pitiless and black and lacking the barest gleam of kindness or compassion. His smile was like an endless row of baseball flavored razor blades. They shone with a pale light in that weak afternoon sun.

    Suddenly the air was filled with the stench of brimstone and a sound like a thousand tortured souls crying out in pain. This man, this creature of eternal misery, knew I was there and helpless before him. My mind filled with images, my own death, the deaths of every living thing I hold dear. Those eyes met mine and I lost control of every bodily function all at once.

    I blubbered for my mother like a lost child, and the color drained from the world. Every blade of grass began to wither and brown, insects writhed on their backs and birds fell from the trees. The beast opened its mouth and laughed, a sound so clinical and dark that it hurts just to think back on it. It turned, this creature in the shape of a man and walked back to its limo. It knew that killing me then would have been a kindness, and so it let me live and spool out the last lingering years of my life in horrified contemplation of my one brief glimpse into the heart of the abyss.

    I have never been a praying man, I certainly don't believe in any kind of god. Yet I believe in the Devil because that was the day I met Lee Scott, CEO of Walmart. I need rest now, the old memories weigh heavily and the effort of writing has exhausted me. Let your children play while they can, and smile. The world is a dark place.

    (for more from Alvin, visit More Liberal Than You)

    Posted by at 07:50 AM | Comments (0)


    Washington, DC Cherry Blossom Festival

    [Posted by james]

    I pulled on my super-duper tourist disguise and walked down to the National Mall where I went undercover to snap these shots of the famous Washington, DC cherry blossoms.

    Click on any picture for a full-sized version.

    Welcome to Washington, keep your hands off our trees. OK, the sign is fine, but I'll tell you right now that very few people obey it. Rest assured, though, our National Park Tour guides are doing their part to protect the trees, no matter what the cost - while visiting the Cherry Blossoms, I briefly joined a tour led by this guy. This guy told us,

    People tell me that I have the best job in the world. I get to walk around outside in this beautiful weather, I get to talk to people from all over the world and tell them about this great city's rich history. I say, yes, there are good parts - but it's not all fun and games. For instance, just a little while ago I had to tell an 8 year old girl that she couldn't keep the cherry blossom flower that she was wearing in her hair. I had to tell her that she can't even pick them up off the ground, because then I'd have no way of telling if she picked it or picked it up. My job isn't so great then, is it?

    OK, Officer Asshat. For those of you that haven't been here, let me tell you something - there are a bazillion cherry blossom flowers on the ground. Today I saw about 100,000 people picking them off the trees, picking them up from the ground, etc. Literally everyone is walking around with them. And this guy yelled at an 8 year old girl? And he's now relating the story? What a Twit. With a capital "T."

    Hundreds of thousands of people flock to DC to see the blossoms on the cherry trees that encircle the tidal basin pool.

    This is the Jefferson Memorial, cherry blossoms to the left.

    This is my attempt at an "artistic" shot of the Jefferson Memorial, through cherry blossoms.

    Washington Monument and blossoms- the Jefferson Memorial is at my back here.

    Closeup! This would make for a nice Windows background. (*free for personal use only ;-)

    Another shot of the cherry blossoms encircling the tidal basin pool.

    The cherry trees that make this festival possible were a gift from Japan to the US back in 1912. Accordingly, most of the restaurants at the cherry blossom festival are oriental in nature. I didn't stick around there long, as I'm not one for big crowds, but I did stay long enough to take this picture, just for our Wisconsin Hockey fan readers -

    say it with me now - GOALIE, SIEVE, _______(click here for the rest)___________

    Posted by jkhat at 12:11 AM | Comments (5)


    April 09, 2005

    Duck Cheney

    [Posted by james]

    Yesterday, we reported in the Daily Links section that the Secret Service was providing protection for one lucky (?) ducky in front of the Treasury building here in D.C. Today, I braved the mean streets of Foggy Bottom to get a few firsthand pics.

    Click on any picture for a full-sized version.

    Someone was nice enough to create the above full-color laminated sign for Mr. Ducky - it's sure a nice change from the previous sign, don't you think? Quite.

    As you can see from the above pic, the duck took up nesting in a mulch pile on the newly renovated Pennsylvania Ave., right in front of the Treasury Building, which is right next to the White House. Tens of thousands of tourists pass by this duck every day, making her what I'm sure is the most-seen non-cartoon duck in the world.

    The duck is less than thrilled with all of the attention. Or maybe she is turning her back on and scowling at....

    (special bonus pic)

    ...these White House protesters! Funny - when I stopped to take their picture they were more than happy to pose, and they even shouted words of solidarity to me as I walked away. I turned to my companion and asked (quite loudly) "What in the world makes them think that I'm not going to use this picture to make fun of them?"

    OK, so here they are at 1600 Transylvania Ave, dressed as the President, the Vice President, the First Lady, and a trashy looking skank. One sign says "Blood For Oil." Sure, makes sense, right? We're on Transylvania Ave, Dracula lived in Transylvania, Dracula really liked blood, Bush really likes blood, err, no, wait, he likes the oil, doesn't he? Hmmm.... they have Bush trading blood away to get oil. I doubt Dracula would approve of that. Maybe it doesn't make sense after all.....

    For the life of me, I'll never understand protesters. And it looks like Duck Cheney agrees.

    Posted by jkhat at 11:33 PM | Comments (3)


    April 08, 2005

    Eleanor Holmes Norton: Nothing But Class

    [Posted by John Tant]

    For those who don't live here, you should first know DC does not have any senators or a congressman. This is specifically provided in the US Constitution, for reasons I won't go into here (although I'm sure the comments will).

    However, DC residents do have a non-voting delegate in the House, by the name of Eleanor Holmes Norton. She is responsible for her share of looneyness, but most recently she's been vocal in bitching about the lack of representation in Congress. Her last initiative was in getting the DC DMV (along with local government) to put "Taxation Without Representation" on DC license plates as a way to increase visibility of this "problem."

    (You know...I think it's amazing that phrase is being used as it is. I mean think about it...the liberals in charge are assuming the taxes should be in place. If this is such a "problem," why not solve it by making DC exempt from federal taxes? It would do more to revitalize the District than any ten crackhead mayors.)

    Anyway, via WMAL news, I now hear a story about Norton wanting to use the recently-relocated Washington Nationals team to hock the idea of DC representation in Congress. Apparently she's talking about some kind of permanent signage at RFK Stadium, placed during opening day, which will bring the District's plight to the attention of the country.

    Sorry, but this is wholly inappropriate. The Nationals are a baseball team, not a vehicle for pet political causes. I mean, can you imagine the howls of protests if Senator Mel Martinez pressured John W. Henry (Owner of the Florida Marlins) to put up a pro-life sign during their opening day? And for Norton to first ask the guy privately and then issue a press release is just gauche.

    But that's Eleanor Holmes Norton for you....all class.

    Posted by John Tant at 09:52 AM | Comments (4)


    April 07, 2005

    Underrated Blogs

    [Posted by ]

    LaShawn Barber is asking for the top five overrated and underrated blogs. Here at Dummocrats, we have no desire to go negative, so we'll just name our top five underrated blogs.

    First, a caveat, to us, underrated doesn't necessarily mean undiscovered. There are some well known blogs that still don't get the attention we think they deserve.

    Hat's Picks

    • The Roth Report: simple layout, but the truly exhaustive listing of news sources makes this site work.
    • Law & Alcoholism: vulgar brilliance from a University of Wisconsin law student.
    • Sharp As A Marble: a pragmative conservative and a homebrewer
    • Volokh: this is a big dog blog, but even so, they still don't get the attention they deserve for their consistently thoughtful postings
    • Dummocrats: What? You thought I wouldn't self promote?

    Kris' Picks

    • Daly Thoughts: an essential resource during the Presidential election, this site isn't just about polls. Gerry also writes some excellent commentary and analysis of the events of the day.
    • Law & Alcoholism: I second Hat's nomination. This guy doesn't write about politics often, but he's seriously one of the web's funniest writers.
    • Viking Pundit: no, not just because he's an Amazing Race fan.
    • Chrenkoff: is another big blog. I appreciate all the good news from Iraq and Afghanistan, but what I really come back to his site for is his wonderful writing. His words on the Pope were just wonderful
    • Nykola: offers a fresh perspective on both politics and pop culture. If you're a regular reader, I'm sure you understand the appeal of that!

    John's Picks:

    • Ace of Spades HQ: I think I found Ace through INDC Journal, and while I don't check out INDC all that often anymore, I check Ace several times a day (it's the irreverant conservatism which I admire). He's also the guy responsible for putting "More Cowbell" into my vernacular. Besides, his schtick is ten times funnier than Wonkette's.
    • Blaster's Blog: Remember when we found those chemical shells in Iraq? As Blaster had a lot of direct experience with those types of shells he offered tons of useful information and became a regular read of mine.
    • The Commonwealth Conservative: Maybe it's because he talks a lot about local issues, which makes me biased (and a daily reader). John Behan is another guy who deserves a lot more attention than he receives.
    • Code Blue Blog: I came across this one recently, which was cited by National Review's Corner. It's a medical blog and I have an odd interest in things medical. The blogger (Doctor CBB) has a gift of writing on the topic in fair and pretty easy-to-understand language...a valuable gift whatever the subject (he's been focusing on Schiavo recently, and doing so pretty fairly I think).
    • The Man Without Qualities: I'm not sure when I first came across Robert Musil's blog...but I'm glad I did. He doesn't write every day, but when he does you know it's going to be smart, clear, and compelling.

    What are your most underrated blogs? We're always looking for interesting sites, so here's your chance to give some of them a plug.

    Posted by at 08:57 PM | Comments (5)


    The Phantom Eclipse

    [Posted by John Tant]

    So I work with some people who live in the wonderful burg of Herndon, VA (motto: thousands of illegals served!), and a few months ago we were having a discussion about Herndon's finest.

    Yes, even mundane things sound interesting when you crunch numbers for a living.

    Anyway, I recounted a story back when I owned my Cobra Mustang. I was driving along Herndon Parkway and stopped at a light. A Riceboy in a Mitsubishi Eclipse stopped next to me and the 12-year-old behind the wheel (notice how the older you get, the younger everyone else starts to look?) gave me what can only be described as a look of derision. He then gunned his powerful 2.0 liter engine and when the light changed he took off like Michael Moore going after a Chipotle Burrito.

    Alas, he did not notice the police car hiding in the intersection 150 yards down the street. Is anything more embarassing than challenging a guy to a street duel, not getting him to take the bait, and then getting pulled over anyway?

    (Did I see the cop, which is why I didn't take the bait? I'll never tell.....)

    So after I recounted this story, my friend said "I think Herndon kept that fireball Eclipse. I saw one converted to a cop car."

    I called BS. My friend called my call. So up until today whenever I would find myself in Herndon I'd look for the Phantom Police Eclipse. Never saw it.

    I say up until today, because not only was I turned onto a new site that focuses on Fairfax County, VA issues....but they indeed have a thread on the Phantom Eclipse. Complete with picture.

    Looks like I owe someone an apology. And from looking at the site, it would appear the Fairfax County PD also has a BMW in their squadron...

    Posted by John Tant at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)


    April 06, 2005

    American Idol Voting Results - Week 4

    [Posted by james]

    Since I did a recap of the show this week, it's only fair that I also cover this week's results show. (plus, it gives me an excuse to not work on my paper.)

    So, without further ado,


    Welcome, says Seacrest, who is smartly wearing a conservative suit, a welcome change from that hideous excuse for a sweater that he was wearing last night. Most popular non-finale vote show ever, blah, blah, 32.8 million votes, 3 of which are John's. We see a recap from last night, which manages to make the show look even more boring than it actually was, not an easy task. They show clips of the judges' reactions from last night, and every clip of Simon speaking authentically has Paula speaking over him over him.

    Fantasia performs. This is the first season that I've watched Idol, so I've never managed to see her perform before. Hey, why start now? Skip!

    The judges give her a standing-O, so it must have been good, right? Of course they do have a vested interest in her doing well, so I suppose I shouldn't expect anything less. Ok, now i had to go back and watch the performance to see if this O was warranted. I don't know, sounded like a lot of yelling to me. But what do I know?

    Fantasia's advice to the contestants: come out here and act ugly. Hey, say what you will about Fantasia, but at least she practices what she preaches.

    Commercial time! Lead-in to the show is a bizzare Ford commerical featuring the remaining contestants. Bo Bice rocking out the window of what looks like a Contour. Federov driving Anwar around in a Ford Explorer. Is he even old enough to drive? Maybe it was a private lot.

    Nikko is on the bottom three. Yes, I'm 1 for 1.
    Vonzell also in the bottom three. Wow, that's a bit surprising. I suppose picking a Babs song turned off more people that she thought.
    Scott, also in the bottom three. Guess Kris was right - America hates a wife beater.

    The first 3 people called out all got sent to the bottom 3. Does that ever happen?

    Seacrest is asking Bo Bice if he's surprised that he isn't in the bottom 3 - Bo says "yes, extremely." John, it looks like your mad drunken dialing paid off.

    Boringov admits that he sucked last night. Wow, next time he may finally come to terms with the fact that the Earth is round.

    Seacrest asks the judges which person they're most surprised to see up there. Paula says "you know, it really doesn't matter at this stage of the game, everyone left is going to get a recording contract." Umm, does Paula realize that she just destroyed the basic premise of the show? If everyone there is getting a contract, then why bother even holding the competition? This isn't Soviet Russian Idol, you dingbat. Simon says that Paula is wrong. Sad, the only judge making any sense on American Idol isn't even American. Rule Britannia!

    Vonzell is safe.

    Seacrest calls Nikko the "comeback kid" and he doesn't giggle like a school girl this time. (it's OK, Nikko fans, I'm sure he's still giggling on the inside.)

    Scott - safe. Maybe Seacrest was afraid that he'd get savoled if he gave Scott bad news.

    And that means that (tah-dah!) Nikko is finally voted off the island. Thank GOD.

    Nikko performs. I hit tivo-delete. I hope your face never graces my screen again.

    Posted by jkhat at 08:04 PM | Comments (13)


    Florida House Authorizes Deadly Force for Street Altercations

    [Posted by james]

    At common law, a person has the right to use deadly force to protect himself from intruders in his own home. Known as "The Castle Doctrine," this principle is an exception to the general rule that a person is not justified in using deadly force unless retreat isn't possible and the use of force is the absolute last resort - i.e. before popping a cap into a some punk on the street that points a gun at you, you have the duty to first try to plead with your attacker and then to run away. The Castle Doctrine is based on the idea that "a man's home is his castle" and that someone who illegally enters your home leaves you no place to retreat to.

    If my recollection serves me, the doctrine has been abandoned pretty much everywhere except in the United States. (e.g. I remember reading a while back that England has done away with it, preferring instead to value all human life, even that of the punk stealing your stereo at gunpoint, above all else. This has led to a great increase in the number of burglaries in England, but that's a topic for another article.)

    It's important to note that the Castle Doctrine doesn't give you the right to off anyone that happens to stumble into your humble abode - the intruder still has to attack you, and you still have to be in fear of losing your life or suffering great bodily harm. It just removes your duty to first retreat before resorting to deadly force to defend yourself.

    The Florida Legislature has overwhelmingly (94-20) passed a bill that removes the requirement that a person first attempt to retreat before using deadly force to protect themselves outside of their home, basically extending the Castle Doctrine to apply outiside of the proverbial castle. The 'Stand Your Ground Bill,' (HB 249 CS 2005) provides:

    (3) A person, not engaged in an unlawful activity, who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so, to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself, herself, or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. (emphasis added)

    Supporters of the bill herald it as an important victim's rights tool. The sponsor of the bill, Republican Dennis Baxley, told the House, "I’m sorry people, but if I’m attacked I shouldn’t have a duty to retreat. That’s a good way to get shot in the back. ... This is about meeting force with force."

    I have to agree with Rep. Baxley - I never could swallow the idea that I have a duty to run away from some punk that points a gun at me. It seem to me that when you decide to threaten the life of another, you've made a decision to put your own on the line. In other words, don't sit at the poker table if you can't pay the ante.

    Fortunately for Florida residents, soon everyone will be playing with their own chips.

    Despite its overwhelming support in the Legislature, the bill has its share of critics as well:

    Critics have objected saying it gives gun owners a licence to kill. They also warn that it could lead to racially motivated killings and promote deadly escalations of arguments.

    Both of these are terrible arguments - the only people that this bill authorizes the use of force against are those putting others in reasonable apprehension of death or great bodily harm. It isn't a license to kill, it's a license to protect yourself. And it's a warning to thugs and criminals throughout Florida: "The law isn't on your side. Not anymore."

    Posted by jkhat at 04:32 PM | Comments (8)


    Weyerhaeuser, Guns, and Rights

    [Posted by John Tant]

    This is a kind of old story, but I'll catch everyone up because there are some new and interesting developments.

    We start with John Lott pointing us to a Wall Street Journal story (The full story is here) about the actions of Weyerhaeuser in October 2002. The company has a policy of no firearms in the workplace, and had recently extended it to the parking lot (although employees say they weren't aware of the extension. In what the story describes as a "surprise search," management brought in gun-sniffing dogs to check out cars in the parking lot. They then fired the employees who had guns in their cars.

    Now this is in Oklahoma, where gun ownership is quite common. It's also in a rather rural area, where parking elsewhere isn't practical.

    Shortly thereafter, the Oklahoma legislature passed a law specifically stating employees could keep guns in their cars, providing they were locked up. However, a few companies (Conoco-Phillips and Williams Cos.) have sued to stop the law from taking effect, and the law went to the federal courts. Then in February, the legislature passed another law that exempted businesses from legal liability if a gun in someone's car at work was used to kill someone. As it sits now, the Court has stopped the law from taking effect until the legal issues are sorted out.

    This is interesting, especially when you think of the recent Weyco issue (you'll recall Weyco fired employees who smoked...). I have to say Weyerhaeuser has a point. They own the property, and they have rights stemming from that. Having a legislature in effect dictating what a property owner must allow onto his property is going down the wrong road, in my opinion.

    But I do think Weyerhaeuser is being a little unreasonable in this too. Considering the facts on the ground, banning guns from people's locked cars on safety grounds is a little specious.

    Well recently, the state Court ruled the law is criminal, rather than civil in nature. That pretty much means it stays in the Federal Court. It also likely means it will have some far-reaching implications when it comes to firearms rights in Oklahoma, and with a Federal Court ruling on the issue those implications could impact the country.

    Posted by John Tant at 07:24 AM | Comments (7)


    April 05, 2005

    Amazing Race Recap-Episode 6

    [Posted by ]

    In dark times like these, I turn to the immortal words of the J. Geils Band for guidance:

    (Love stinks)
    Love stinks yeah yeah
    (Love stinks)
    Love stinks yeah yeah
    (Love stinks)
    Love stinks yeah yeah
    (Love stinks)
    Love stinks yeah yeah

    Dear readers, my HEART is BROKEN!. My darling boys, Brian & Greg were Philiminated tonight. But, while they couldn't follow directions that well, they did go out in style. Hoping that it would be a non-elimination leg and that they'd be left with just the clothes on their backs, the brothers stripped down to their swimsuits before their trip to the mat. Nice way to taunt me, boys. Sadly, Phil did Philiminate them, although I think he felt really bad about it. Sniff. God knows I did. I love those two goofy guys. I hope they had lots of fun with the Barbie twins in sequesterville.

    Among the leading teams, this was a good week for Rob & Amber, who finished first, didn't piss anyone off, and once again charmed me with their appreciation for how lucky they are to be able to see the world together. On the other hand, Ron & Kelly were ugly. They're just not a good match. They're both a little bossy and a little passive aggressive. Sometimes they act like they barely know each other. Maybe they don't really know each other. That'd be a refreshing reality TV scandal.

    Uchenna & Joyce kicked ass with a flawless performance on the detour. While the other teams chose to milk goats, these two chose to balance various objects on their heads and walk 70 yards (?) with them and they did it easily and quickly. While Lynn & Alex rather shockingly said that Uchenna & Joyce were "born" to do the task (because they're black, natch-way to stereotype guys), I do feel the need to point out that this is the one Amazing Race detour that I'd excel in. Seriously. I have a great talent for walking with things on my head. I used to show off around the Capitol Square here by walking from the law firm I worked at to the law library with 2 or 3 books on my head.

    Most of the teams are suffering from Killer Fatigue right now. Ron & Kelly are bickering, while Uchenna & Joyce & Meredith & Gretchen made huge mistakes on the roadblock and had to retrace their steps after trying to check in with Phil at the Pit Stop. Of all the teams, Rob & Amber and Lynn & Alex are standing up to the pressures of the race the best.

    With the brothers gone, Uchenna & Joyce are my new favorite team, although Rob & Amber are a close number two. Uchenna & Joyce are just so exuberant and so wide-eyed at the world. Plus, they're good to each other. Even when things go wrong, they don't turn on each other, they just do what needs to be done.

    Ron & Kelly, on the other hand, are my least favorites. But, I strongly suspect that Meredith & Gretchen are not long for this competition, unless they get saved by another non-elimination leg next week.

    Speaking of Team Dandy, a week can't go by without some dirty words straight from the lips of our favorite seniors. This week, the oldsters were just a little too excited by the goat-milking task. They showed their enthusiasm by shouting (of course) things like "here's a goat that has nice big TEATS!!!" and "we'll milk, you know how to MILK!" at each other. But actually, this week the Dandy Dons were outdone by Rob & Amber. While porno music played in the background, Rob huskily urged Amber to keep milking the goat. After that performance, I feel like I know way too much about Rob's personal life.

    Compared with last week, this episode was kind of a letdown. The Botswana scenery and all of the wild animals (elephants! crocodiles! giraffes! zebras!) were beautiful, and well, amazing. But, I think the race suffers a bit when the teams are out in the wilderness for an entire leg. There's no interaction with locals and no navigating public transportation. I miss that, and really, I never thought I'd say this after last season, but I almost think that there needs to be more bunching. Of course, I might just be saying that because the brothers needed to be saved by the bunch.

    Oh Brian & Greg, why did you leave me? The Race just won't be the same without you. Love stinks.

    Previous Recaps:
    Episode 5: Buenos Aires, Argentina to Soweto, South Africa
    Episode 4: Mendoza, Argentina to Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Episode 3: Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina
    Episode 2: Cuzco, Peru to Santiago, Chile
    Episode 1: Long Beach, CA to Cuzco, Peru

    Don't miss Viking Pundit's latest recap!

    Posted by at 09:49 PM | Comments (3)


    American Idol Recap - Week 4

    [Posted by james]

    I've decided to tivo-blog the idol show today, mostly b/c my laptop is sitting in front of me and I've got nothing better to do. (scratch that - i've got plenty better to do, just nothing I want to be doing right now.)

    So it begins...

    Holy crap, what is up with Seacrest's sweater? Filled with scribbles and blotches, it looks like a pre-school class got hold of it for art class then again after a lunch they didn't much agree with... wow.

    Seacrest says that all 3 people that have been voted off have been females. This isn't that surprising- from day 1, it seemed that the men were much better than the women.

    Snap to the scene from last week when Seacrest reveals the show topic to the contestants. Coca Cola clearly paid for placement here - it's a coke room, says coke on the bottom of the screen, and most of the contestants are drinking coke. How American. Constantine is the first to pick up that the theme is "classical showtunes." Why am I not surprised?

    Scott "Bitchslapper" Savol is up first, doing "The Impossible Dream" from Man of La Mancha on the advice of his mom. Scott seems to really value the advice of his mom - apparently his mom didn't previously tell him not to slap his girl around.

    Randy: it was a-iiight.
    Paula: always listen to your mom.
    Simon: it was ordinary.
    Hat: Not bad, but like Simon said, ordinary.

    Paula can't seem to let Simon say 3 words without interrupting him, I hope this doesn't continue.

    Constanteeth Maroulis is up next, doing "My Funny Valentine." He lets us know that Frank Sinatra does a rendition and that Frank is one of his very favorite artists. Constantine, I have news for you: I know Frank Sinatra. I have CD's by Frank Sinatra. You, Constanteeth, are no Frank Sinatra.

    Randy: This is your best performance yet, this is your style.
    Paula: "I admit I'm falling in love with you." (WTF?)
    Simon: (looks horrified at what Paula just said) The best "pouting" performance? (did i hear that right?)
    Hat: I thought this performance was more ordinary that ordinary Scott's ordinary performance. These judges are smoking something.

    Carrie Underwood: Says that she had to really "stretch herself" to do "Hello Young Lovers" from "The King and I." Oh, Carrie, that's so unfair to put that image in my head.

    Randy: that was boring, i was starting to fall asleep. but you sang it brilliantly.
    Paula: you looked stunning, your performance was elegant.
    Simon: you sang very well, but it was boring.
    Hat: umm, what? i think i zoned out for a little bit there. i wasn't bored at all - i think i was still thinking of that "stretching" line.." carrie, call me. i'm a lawyer. i'll buy you a big house on a west texas hill....

    Vonzell Solomon: says that she's doing "People" from "Funny Girl." Ok, the mere fact that that's a Barbara Streisand production turns me off to it. F*ck Barbara Streisand. Vonzell sounds pretty good, she has a great voice and a great range. I think she missed the final note, though. F*ck Barbara Streisand.

    Randy: wow, you keep getting better.
    Paula: bold choice, picking babs. (i agree, paula, but i don't think it's a good thing.)
    Simon: It was good, not great. (paula interrupts, saying "no, it was great!!") it was clinical, controlled. (paula interrupts, "how was that controlled?!?")
    Hat: F*ck Barbara Streisand.

    Earth to Paula: SHUT THE HELL UP.

    Boringov: tells us that he picked "Climb Every Mountian" from "The Sound of Music" because it's about pursuing your dreams, and that is "exactly what he is doing on American Idol. Hmm, I didn't realize that Boringov dreamed of boring me to death. Nice choice.

    Randy: I didn't like that at all.
    Paula: I thought it was interesting. you did a good job.
    Simon: hideous. (paula, interrupting.)
    Hat: agree with Simon. why can't paula let other people talk? someone tell me, what does paula add to this show?

    Nikko Smith chose a song from "West Side Story," a duet called "One Hand One Heart." Leave it to Nikko to choose a duet in a solo competition. He has a backup singer singing the female portions of the duet, and I'm having a hard time telling the voices apart.

    Randy: you keep it contemporary. it was good. not your best.
    Paula: you are the comeback kid! (nikko giggles)
    Simon: it was out of tune. (paula on the interruption: get your ears checked, simon!.)
    Hat: It's no secret that I don't like Nikko, so I'd like to instead say: Paula, get your manners checked. Let someone else express an opinion.

    Anwar Robinson is going "If Ever I Would Leave You" from "Camelot." I don't even want to listen to this, Anwar is a completely boring singer, and I usually use the secret tivo 30 second skip button (S-P-S-30-S) to spare myself. It's not bad. It's predicatable. Anwar is a good singer. I just think he's boring.

    Randy: Welcome back! You are one of the best voices.
    Paula: blah blah, you're awesome.
    Simon: "You seem very comfortable." Paula: "Why shouldn't he?!"
    Hat: WTF, Simon says 4 words, positive words even, and Paula STILL feels the need to interrupt? I am so sick of Paula right now.. is she on something tonight?

    Bo Bice: I picked "Corner fo thte Sky" from "Pippin" by closing my eyes and blindly pointing at the page. OK, I can respect that. Bo says right up front that this isn't his strong point. He's just looking to get through it. I think he sings it well, as per usual. This contest is going to come down to Bo and Carrie.

    Randy: once again, consistently great. you're one of the dogs.
    Paula: why bother covering her anymore?
    Simon: "i personally think you've had 2 bad weeks." (paula, 4 interruptions)
    Hat: Bo sang well. the theme wasn't his thing. i get that. he admitted that.

    Nadia Turner is doing "As Long as He Needs Me" from "Oliver." It's a song about love, she says, and tells us that she "actually" felt that way once in her life. Great to know, Nadia. OK, I "actually" really like this performance. I don't think it's typical Nadia, but I'm a big jazz fan, and this reminds me of a billie holiday performance with a jane monheit type "big" voice. i like it. i'm sure the judges will hate it. (except paula, that is)

    Randy: great performance.
    Simon: strongest you've been in weeks.
    Hat: wow, the judges agreed with me. i'm a bit surprised.

    This was my least favorite week of Idol - not that I'm not a fan of the classic musicals, i just think that most of the contestants did a terrible job.

    My favorite performer of the night was Nadia.
    My picks for those most deserving of the "bottom 3" - wow, this is hard. most of the contestants were terrible. If I had to pick, though, (and I do), I'd pick Anwar, Boringov, and Niko.

    Law Professor & Idol fan extraordinaire Ann Althouse comments on the show

    Posted by jkhat at 09:08 PM | Comments (30)


    Absence de religion dans le Wisconsin

    [Posted by ]

    Local gadfly Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has joined French leftists in their outrage over the lowering of flags to honor Pope John Paul II. Gaylor says:

    "The pope was the world's leading sexist," Gaylor said in a statement issued today. "Why should Wisconsin women be expected to revere his anti-woman, antediluvian teachings?" The pope also had been critical of gay marriages, the statement noted.

    "Let's reserve the honor of half-staff for true American heroes," Gaylor said.

    On Monday, the Freedom From Religion Foundation issued a lengthy criticism entitled "the pope has no vestments." That statement assailed his position against abortion, contraception, sterilization, women's rights, divorce, stem cell research and gay rights.

    "Sure, he finally admitted Galileo should not have been condemned by the church, some 350 years too late," the foundation's statement said.

    "True, he opposed capital punishment, as most freethinkers do. But think of the capital punishment, slaughters, the witch-burning, purges, tortures and inquisitions committed by the Roman Catholic Church and its followers through history."

    Let's see, Gaylor is personally blaming the Pope for:

    • Galileo's persecution
    • the Salem witch trials
    • the Spanish Inquisition
    • the Crusades
    • assorted purges and slaughters (where? she doesn't say)
    • the entire human history of sexism
    • and, one can only assume, the high price of buttermilk in China

    Wow. The Pope was awful busy. With a hand that evil, I'm frankly afraid not to lower the flag in his honor. He's likely to claw his way up from the bowels of hell (which, of course, don't really exist) to smite us if we don't.

    In any case, the Pope is the religious leader of 26% of Americans [1], and 31% of Wisconsinites. Lowering the flag in his honor doesn't endorse Catholicism, but rather acknowledges that a large percentage of Wisconsinites lost a man we consider as our spiritual leader. It shows respect for the Pope, but it also shows the State's empathy to its Catholic residents. Empathy is not an endorsement. Rather, it's a natural human reaction that too many of my city's liberals lack.

    [1] Reader Bonnie points out that my original 60% number is totally wrong. She's right. I must have been blinded by my annoyance at typical Madisonians. Here's a look at some statistics on Catholics in America.

    Update: I titled this post in French to poke fun at Madison liberals aligning themselves with their fellow cheese-eaters in France. But, thinking about it more, using French illustrates an important point. The title translates to "Freedom From Religion in Wisconsin". In English, freedom FROM religion and freedom OF religion (which, ahem, is what we're guaranteed in the Constitution) sound a lot alike. In French, you more easily see that they are two completely different concepts. "Freedom of religion in Wisconsin" translates to this: "Liberté religieuse dans le Wisconsin". "Absence" vs. "Liberty", that sounds about right to me.

    Posted by at 01:17 PM | Comments (11)


    Canada, Jean Brault, and the Publication Ban That Isn't.

    [Posted by John Tant]

    As I've pointed out earlier, part of my Real Job(tm) involves quite a bit of interaction with Canada. In a phone conversation this morning, the following transpired:

    Canuck: So, hear anything about the Brault testimony?

    Me: Who?

    Canuck: Jean Brault...the guy who funneled a lot of illegal money to the Liberal Party? For like eight years?

    Me: I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about.

    And so we discussed it a little. Apparently Jean Brault is a Montreal-based adman who testified recently in court and detailed some pretty disturbing corruption in the Canadian Government. There was fraud. There were bogus transactions. There were illegal contributions. All that fun stuff, the kind of thing that makes Watergate look like a harmless hide and seek exercise. So I asked her what the newsies were reporting:

    Canuck: Um, well...the government declared a publication ban on the story.

    Me: A what?

    Canuck: A publication ban. It's illegal for anyone to write or air a story about this. That's why I asked you...I figured this would be all over the news there because you all hate Canada.

    Me: Cute. We only hate you when you boo the US Flag at hockey games. So no news outlet can cover this story at all?

    Canuck: That's right.

    Me: So how do you know about it?

    Canuck: The testimony isn't secret. The hearings are open to the public. Reporters just aren't allowed to cover it.

    Huh. So after hanging up the phone I did some Googling, and lo and behold Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters is right in the middle of this thing. He first wrote about the scandal on Saturday, was picked up by a couple of Canadian news outlets which were promptly threatened with suits for linking his blog, the suits are being resisted, and so on.

    This is nuts. Seriously...nuts. And it's not like I can cast a whole lot of stones, being that San Francisco is now angling to regulate blogs. But this does open up quite a few questions. I'm writing this from a desk in D.C. Is it subject to the laws of D.C.? But if it's read all over the place, is that not an interstate thing, and subject to Federal jurisdiction? Ah, but I know we have some readers in is it subject to those laws as well? Will a Mountie come down here and Dudley Doright my ass?

    Canada: I'm doing my best to like you, I really am. But you make it so difficult sometimes.

    UPDATE Howard Kurtz writes about this today, now that he isn't busy playing shufflefeet about the Schiavo "talking points"memo.

    Posted by John Tant at 11:00 AM | Comments (19)


    April 04, 2005

    NCAA Tourney Round Up

    [Posted by ]

    Congratulations go out to Daddy. With the North Carolina Tarheels' victory tonight, Daddy won our NCAA Tournament pool. Daddy wins the cash prize of a cool $25.

    I almost managed to pick 3 of the final 4 (darn Kentucky), but even then I still wouldn't have had the winner. I seriously underestimated North Carolina. Illinois was a special team all season, but North Carolina really showed just how good they were throughout this tournament. My hat's off to them, and to the Illini and actually, to all the teams in the tourney, for providing some fantastic entertainment over the past few weeks.

    Here are our final standings:

    1. Daddy: 136 points
    2. Morgfassa: 130
    3. Longhorn Mafia: 116
    4. March Hares: 115
    5. Foul Weather Fan: 113
    6. John Tant's Horrible Picks: 111
    7. Sir Chums-A-Lot: 109
    8. The Unabrewer: 107
    9. TBH: 105
    10. Bacon: 101
    11. Countertop: 98
    12. GusHers: 93
    13. Prusynski's Picks: 90
    14. Not Going to Win: 89
    15. Illini: 87
    16. Boomshakalakah: 85
    17. 81
    18. Ramonoski: 75
    19. Tyboner: 73
    20. Richie Rich: 71
    21. Dean's Picks: 65
    22. KCIntimidators: 53
    23. a6ptbull: 46
    24. Kilabe's Winners: 42
    25. Mike With A Glock: 38

    Thanks everyone for playing. I'd like to do another contest for the Kentucky Derby, so stayed tuned for that.

    Posted by at 11:38 PM | Comments (1)


    Madisonians Pay Their 'Respects' to the Pope

    [Posted by ] invited readers on their forums to share their thoughts on the Pope's passing. This being Madison, people can't criticize the spiritual leader of a sixth of the world enough. Where was this refreshingly politically incorrect attitude when Yasser Arafat died?

    Anyway, here's a sampling of what some of the asshats said. Poster Danagal says:

    What a guy, that old papa, consistently making the world so much worse in the intervening years with his conservative politics and "right-to-life" rhetoric. Well, that's just my opinion, but I hope the new pope is better, unlikely as that seems.

    Millions in Eastern & Central Europe would disagree with that statement. So would the millions and millions helped by Catholic charities. The nicely named Svetlana_Banana says:

    The Pope was 84 years old, in poor health, and he and his followers believe in an afterlife. Presumably, he's in heaven now. So why all the vigils and the wailing? Why are people so upset about his passing? Why did the State Journal devote half the paper to the story? Since we invaded Iraq, THOUSANDS of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians have died, and yet most people are silent about these deaths. If you ask me, our priorities are really screwed up.

    Oh Ms. Banana, people are upset because they will miss him. I'm sure, when you're gone, someone will miss you too. Maybe Welshman will, as he certainly shares your priorities:

    I have no personal feelings one way or the other about the pope, although I have serious issues with the Catholic church as an institution. What did bother me, though, was Dubya's hypocritical comments about the "values" he thought of so highly in the late pontiff. If he had such high regard for John Paul's beliefs, why did Bush flatly ignore the pope's antagonism towards the invasion of iraq? Just not politically expedient enough, I guess.

    The better question is why did the Pope ignore his lifelong commitment to the cause of freedom by opposing the invasion of Iraq? My theory is that he didn't and by that point in his life he was not in complete control of the Vatican anymore. I know the Vatican is just as anti-American as most European countries, but the Pope didn't have any reason to be. Speaking of anti-American, Freeman chimes in with:

    He was no Mother Teresa or Ghandi. He made the world better for a chosen few. Sure he stood up sometimes when it was right to do so, but for someone with his kind of power, could and should've did more. Where was he when Reagan was backing those death squads in Latin America? I believe some catholic priests were even caught in the crossfire. Did the Pope stand up? Maybe he did, but it certainly wasn't enough.

    In other words, "I have no idea about anything I'm saying, but why let that get in the way of ripping on the recently departed. After all, that's the cool thing to do." Only in Madison.

    Posted by at 09:11 PM | Comments (2)


    200,000 Visitors

    [Posted by ]

    On Feb. 15, we celebrated our 100,000th visitor. And now, just seven weeks later, we've hit 200,000! While that still makes us a very small fish in the blogging pond, we're thrilled that more and more people are interested in reading what we have to say.

    In related news, we'll be celebrating the one-year anniversary of Dummocrats on Monday, April 18th. Stay tuned for details on the gala event (don't worry, you're all invited).

    Posted by at 03:33 PM | Comments (5)


    Blog Regulation

    [Posted by ]

    With Ace reporting that San Francisco is considering regulating bloggers and making them accountable to the city's Ethics Commission, I can only assume it's a matter of time before the People's Republic of Madison follows suit.

    Madison's city government loves nothing more than adding stupid regulations and leveeing silly fees and taxes. Add in the fact that they can stick it to the more conservative blogosphere and it's a slam dunk.

    If this comes to pass, I fear I will have to ask you, good readers, for help. With your kind contributions, I can purchase a laptop with wireless internet access and do my blogging from the safe haven of Lake Monona, just out of the reach of my greedy, free-speech-crushing local government.

    I'd like to be the founder of a rebel organization called "Free Blogging Madison". But, I do need help coming up with some cool, establishment-busting slogans.

    Posted by at 02:16 PM | Comments (3)


    April 03, 2005

    The Taste of the Midwest

    [Posted by ]

    I've been attending movies in the Wisconsin Film Festival all weekend and it's hard to express how disappointed I am so far. I went into the movies with an open mind, I didn't expect the technical aspects of the films or the acting to be up to par with a typical Hollywood production. However, I did expect that these independent filmmakers would create films with interesting narratives. How wrong I was. We would have been so much better off attending mostly documentaries, where, if the subject sounds interesting, the film will be too.

    Now, I'm not here to slam all of the films. The Godfather of Green Bay was one of the funniest movies I've seen in years, and I'd encourage everyone to see it if it comes to a town near you. But, for the most part, the films I saw were a disappointment at best and a disaster at worst. For instance, last night we attended "Certain Women". The film is described like this:

    The working class townspeople of Claremore are gossiping. Has Hilda become the Mayor's mistress to get away from her abusive father? Is 18-year-old Louellen sleeping with that travelling salesman? Is Clementine (Festival cofounder Wendi Weger) trying to corrupt the town's new pastor? Does Nannette serve more than coffee at the seedy all-night diner? Certain Women pays tribute to, but also defies, the 50s period style of Caldwell, opting for contemporary small-town situations and a low-tech cinematic style.

    Sounds good, right? It might have been but for the poor cinematography, awful acting, cheesy dialogue and sex scenes that were even less arousing than those in "Eyes Wide Shut". This movie was so bad that at about the 45-minute point droves of people starting leaving the theater. We were among them. As we were leaving, a laughing volunteer for the film festival made damn sure that we were able to register our opinion of the film. I'd feel bad for the filmmaker, who was at the screening, but someone, at some point, should have told her that her film was a gigantic piece of crap.

    People more liberal than me like to bemoan the state of Hollywood movies as a reflection of the bland tastes of non-coastal Americans. The idea is that for every silly blockbuster there are scores of great undiscovered films that will never see the light of day because unsophisticated Americans don't want to have to think while watching a movie. But, I think the actual truth is that Hollywood usually delivers the absolute best products (it's capitalism, baby!). For the most part, struggling filmmakers aren't struggling because they refuse to dumb down their vision for the masses. They're struggling because they just aren't good enough yet. Of course, it's much easier to blame your failures on the poor taste of others than it is to accept them as your own. Heh, that sounds just like the Democrats, doesn't it?

    Call me an ignorant Midwesterner if you must, but let me just say that I'd so rather be seeing Beauty Shop with Queen Latifah today than yet another disappointing alternative feature.

    Posted by at 01:02 PM | Comments (3)


    I Am More Liberal Than You

    [Posted by ]

    I am more liberal than you. For most of the gas guzzling bourgeois who visit this fascist cesspit I'm sure that isn't saying much, but I know there are liberals reading this. It doesn't matter how much of a lefty you think you are, everyone is less liberal than me and that means you are more racist, more bigoted, more sexist, less caring, less compassionate, and less tolerant and I loath you personally with a burning hatred that can not be described.

    Until now I have been content to express my progressive brilliance in a way that no other living human could ever experience. I typed hundreds of thousands of pages of intricate political commentary on a manual typewriter, but in order to lessen the impact on the precious, irreplaceable and mind bogglingly delicate rainforests I only used one sheet of paper which ultimately disintegrated into a pulpy, ink soaked ooze. Although I am monolingual, I also refused to work in English because that could offend Spanish speakers or the illiterate.

    While tending the free range plants that choose to exist near my shack, a chore that involves hours of painstaking labor redistributing the dew from the wealthy elite plants to the less fortunate, I had an epiphany. I knew I could never change the cold, withered heart of even one right wing extremist internal combustion engine operating patriarchal hierarchy supporting Neo-ConservaNazi, but I realized there was a chance I could make some of you feel bad and that is almost as good.

    As a liberal, I am in touch with the suffering of every living creature. When some calloused, unthinking speciesist crushes an insect beneath his heel I feel her pain and the pain of the Rwandan preteen who worked twelve hours on a Saturday for two cents in the factory where that shoe was made. When a monkey is rendered homeless by the blade of a woodsman's chainsaw, a single tear is added to the constant rain that falls gently where ever I tread. When a victim of our capitalist dystopia rises against his oppressors by mercilessly beating a white middle class SUV driver in front of her grandchildren, I give her one extra kick in the ribs in spirit.

    Empathy is a tap on the constant, unending flow of misery that humans create merely by having the unmitigated ill will to continue to exist, and to be truly liberal is to drink deeply of that elixir, swallow every bitter drop and then vomit it out all over whatever despicable right wing wack job is standing nearby. Although the internet is a capitalistic construct and I hate it with every fiber of my being, I will use it to spread my bile as far as humanly possible and I'm starting right here at Dummocrats and here at my website

    Posted by at 08:26 AM | Comments (12)


    New Contributor-Alvin Cross

    [Posted by ]

    We were recently contacted by an attorney representing Alvin Cross, a liberal who was offended by our site. The specifics of the grueling, eight hour conversation can not be published in any print or electronic medium or discussed on the phone between the hours of 7:00am and 9:00pm GMT, but I have been told that I can post the following information. As part of our settlement we are going to be running a column written by Mr Cross "without editorial review regardless of coherency" and "allow the legal council of Mr Cross to contact our mothers, at which time they will explain what bad little children we have been." We are all very frightened.

    Posted by at 08:09 AM | Comments (2)


    April 02, 2005

    The Polish Pope

    [Posted by ]

    It's always been important to me to be Polish-American. Maybe it's just because my last name makes it very obvious where my ancestors came from. Whatever the reason, I'm proud to a Pole, even if I'm one that lives in Wisconsin rather than Warsaw.

    Poles and Polish-Americans took special pride in Pope John Paul II. Men like John Paul II and Lech Walesa were living proof that Poles were far, far more than the butt of a joke. These courageous Poles were on the leading edge of a movement that would liberate millions from communist oppression.

    With the Pope's death today, I was especially interested to read what Chrenkoff, a Pole in Australia, would have to say. He didn't disappoint. His posts on the Pope, "My Pope" he says, are just wonderful. He too "gets" that Pope John Paul II transcended Catholicism:

    If you distill it all into one word, it is this: hope. He gave us hope. By us, I mean initially the Poles, the troublemakers who in 1980 started rocking the communist boat, but his appeal of course transceded any national lines; there was nothing exclusive about him because he embodied and blessed the aspirations of the countless many from Warsaw to Sao Paolo to Cape Town.

    Last summer, Americans mourned our own Great Communicator. And I think it's indisputable that Ronald Reagan, along with the Pope, did more than any other individuals to help the brave people of Eastern Europe free themselves from their communist oppressers. I think both of these exceptional men would agree wholeheartedly with Chrenkoff when he says:

    When Stalin sneered "The Pope? How many divisions does he have?", he did not understand that we were the Pope's divisions, and that - contra Orwell's dystopic vision - there is no such thing as a boot stomping on human face forever.
    Posted by at 11:18 PM | Comments (1)


    The title of 'Pope' is an informal one

    [Posted by james]

    Most news agencies are reporting that Pope John Paul II is gravely ill and losing consciousness. To that end, all of the 24 hour news channels are on location at the Holy See covering the Vatican 24/7. I have to admit, as a Protestant, I don't understand the prominent role the Pope plays in many Catholics' lives; take my grandmother, for instance - since the Pope fell ill, she's been beside herself, spending most of her free time at church. (granted, she pretty much does that anyway, but now she's practically sleeping there.)

    While looking for some background information, I ran across this interesting tidbit at Wikipedia:

    The title "Pope" is an informal one; the formal title of the Pope is "Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God," although this is rarely seen or used in full...

    Gee, I wonder why....

    On a more serious note, wherever you happen to be in the world today now, be it Topeka or Tokyo, Brisbane or Baghdad, Nairobi or Nome, when Pope John Paul II passes, I'm sure you'll hear the bells toll. I doubt there has ever been a more widely acknowledged event in the history of the world. Fitting for a man is arguably the most widely celebrated of our time.

    Posted by jkhat at 11:48 AM | Comments (15)


    April 01, 2005

    Fairfax County : Why Are We Paying Taxes?

    [Posted by John Tant]

    I wrote about this once upon a time, but I'll write about it here as well.

    In Northern Virginia, we have a fun county...Fairfax County. This is where the overflow from liberal Arlington County lives, and is home to some pretty spectacular real estate. It's also home to some of the most tax-happy officials I've ever had the misfortune to live under. Combine that with Governor Mark Warner's, well, lies about his tax program, and a statewide unnecessary $1 billion tax increase, and the stage is set for the latest doofusism.

    Starting today, in Fairfax county, if you need an ambulance ride you're going to be charged up to $550, plus $7.50/mile.

    That's right. That is not a misprint. An indisputably public service...a freaking AMBULANCE ride, will now carry with it a price tag.

    The economist in me kind of understands this. Services should be paid for by the people using them, right? It's that kind of rationale that girds arguments against using property taxes to pay for schools...after all, people with no kids in the public schools shouldn't have to pay for them. Right?

    So how can the Fairfax County board argue AGAINST school vouchers yet institute a policy like this?

    Now, to be fair County executives are bending over backwards to make some disclaimers:

    1) The fee won't be collected up front. That's if anyone really thought we were going to have a C.O.D. ambulance service. That's really a non issue.

    2) No one will be denied service. OK, because I'm thinking if they did, lawsuit city. And again, I'm thinking no one actually thought they'd refuse to load up a heart attack victim because he's too shaky to write up a check.

    3) Medicaid and Medicare will cover the charge in most, cases. And here we get to the nub of it.

    This isn't about getting money from the residents to pay for a service. It's about shaking down the Feds! It's about a Fairfax board looking at all that mad phat Medicare money and trying to grease their way into it. But if the patient doesn't have Medicare, no problem! The patient's insurance will cover it! How premiums are going to go up because Fairfax County is too busy spending my INCREASED property taxes on whatever it is they're spending it on instead of basic services.

    That's right. The following quote from the story fills any Fairfax County homeowner with alternating waves of mirth and nausea:

    "Everything we're about doing these days is a focused effort to ease the impact on property taxes," [Fairfax County Supervisor T. Dana] Kauffman said. "Whether it's looking at hotel taxes or how fees are applied, it's basically a collective recognition that we can't continue to put it on the homeowners' back."

    Yeah, Mr. Kaufman. Everything you're about is in lowering the burden borne by homeowners. That's why my property taxes keep climbing each year. And now that the sales tax on food has recently been reduced, we're waiting for the next round of increases. And that's independent of a state tax increase of a BILLION dollars that resulted in a state surplus of....a BILLION dollars. And in the face of that, you just can't continue to pay for a basic service like EMTs? A staff which is largely volunteer, I might add. Yeah, pull the other one.

    This whole thing kind of highlights my disgust with not only the cynical medical system ("Hey, you don't have to pay for it! A third party will! Don't worry about that $550 charge"), but the government here in general. I mean, seriously. Why am I paying taxes? Police service?

    Well, Fairfax County police instituted a policy a couple of years ago that if you have a burglar alarm on your place and it issues a "false" alarm, you get the first one free and then you start getting charged by the police for coming out there. But the determinor of the false alarm is...the police. In other words, if an alarm goes off and the police show up, they'll get out and walk around the house. If they don't see something obvious (like a busted-in door) they'll get back in their car and drive away, chalk it up to a false alarm, and charge the homeowner $100. And if he refuses to pay, they won't come out for any subsequent alarms.

    Oh, but we have roads, right? Actually, VDOT is complaining about being chronically underfunded. Anyone who drives around Northern Virginia would probably agree...roads are wanting. And yet the Dulles Toll Road is getting a toll increase soon, to pay for an extension spur for the Metrorail system. In other words, we're going to be charged more for using a road we DO use so we can build a Metro line that WON'T be used. To me this is basic...if you need more roads, build more roads. You can start with adding a couple lanes to I-66 through Arlington and lifting HOV restrictions. So the homeowners there don't want a wider highway. Big Deal. I'm a homeowner and I don't care for paying extra tolls and going miles out of my way each morning just so some Arlingtonian can have a private interstate.

    And now we have to pay for our ambulances. Meanwhile our taxes are going up under the guise of paying for government. Well, what are we paying for?!?

    Posted by John Tant at 07:33 AM | Comments (17)


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