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  • May 31, 2005

    Watergate's Deep Throat Exposed? Former FBI agent claiming to be Deep Throat comes forward

    [Posted by james]

    A man claiming to be "Deep Throat," Woodward and Bernstein's alleged source in the Watergate coverup, has come forward.

    According to Vanity Fair and the AP, former FBI official W. Mark Felt, now 91, confided to his lawyer that he was indeed the secretive Watergate figure. When asked why he didn't come forward sooner, felt told he son that he didn't think that being Deep Throat was anything to be proud of.

    The Washington Post, the newspaper that initially broke the Watergate story and that currently employs at least two people that know Deep Throat's identity, has not yet commented on the report.

    Update: It's kind of disappointing if Deep Throat isn't someone "sexy" like Henry Kissinger, John Dean or William Rehnquist. Of course, who knows if this is even true? Some University of Illinois students who investigate the mystery named Fred Fielding, the deputy counsel to Nixon as their most likely Deep Throat. Until we hear from Woodward & Bernstein, I'm not going to believe any of this.

    Update #2: Here is another article with a little more information. Interestingly, this article quotes Felt as denying that he was Throat in a 1999 interview:

    "I would have done better," Felt told The Hartford Courant. "I would have been more effective. Deep Throat didn't exactly bring the White House crashing down, did he?"

    I'm going to be very careful about believing this report until it's confirmed. Oh, wouldn't that be a perfect legacy - to have multiple people claiming the "honor," so history will never know for sure. This is going to end up like the Hoffa disappearance or the Kennedy assassination, isn't it?

    UPDATE: Woodward confirms that Felt is Deep Throat


    (bypass registration)

    Washington Post says former FBI official W. Mark Felt was source for leaked secrets about Nixon's Watergate coverup. Confirmation also comes from Carl Bernstein and Ben Bradlee after published admission. – William Branigin, David Von Drehle

    aw man. how anti-climatic. I feel so cheap and used.

    Posted by jkhat at 01:19 PM | Comments (7)

     

    Yanks, Brits - Racists for Lack of Understanding

    [Posted by james]

    The Guardian reports that call centers in India are experiencing a high turnover rate because of "abuse from British and American customers." That customers are frustrated by and insulting to call center workers is something that I don't have a hard time believing - no one likes surfing through a phone tree, waiting on hold for an hour, only to talk to an incompetent and unqualifed no-education-or-experience-required
    off-the-street worker. Believe me, I've spent more than my fair share of time on the phone with customer service representatives (CSR's) and tech support people that have no earthly clue what they're doing.

    I've also spent a fair amount of time "on the other side of the line" in the call center - I used to develop software for use in call centers and part of my job was to spend time "in the field" assessing the call center's needs. I've spent dozens of hours in call centers all around the country and I can tell you that every single call center is driven by one thing and one thing only - numbers. It's all about decreasing the cost per call, increasing your resolutions per hour, opening fewer tickets, coming off with a higer customer satisfaction rating, etc.

    The standard operating procedure in call centers is to have the CSR's and support people follow an established "decision tree," so when I say that no experience is necessary I literally mean that a 10 year old has enough technical knowledge to work "tech support."

    Given this environment, it's no surprise that customers hate talking to a tiny know-nothing cog in the big machine. That the frustration is a direct result of the company trying to keep costs as low as possible is understandable, isn't it? Well, the Guardian article has a different explanation for the abuse dished out to Indian CSR's. According to the Guardian, it's all driven by racism. They quote one worker, "Eugene," as saying:

    'There was a lot of racist abuse once people detected from our accents that we weren't English. I saw girls reduced to tears by it.'

    OK, "Eugene," I don't think it's your accent that people are reacting to, rather it's the fact that many call center workers in Pakistan don't understand or speak English well enough to have a call center job. I can't tell you how many times I've personally been directed to a call center in India, talking with a "Michele," or a "Steven," or a "Humphrey," that I've had to repeatedly say "What?," or "Say again?," "I didn't understand you," "I can't understand what you're saying."

    Pooja Chopra, 29, from Delhi, who spent two years fielding calls for BT Cellnet and America Online, faced similar abuse. 'People would say, "You're a Paki, I don't want to talk to you, pass me to someone who can speak my language".

    OK, now I happen to know that Pakistanis consider the term "Paki" to be a derrogatory term, akin to calling someone a "mutt" or a "mixed breed." From what I understand, "Paki" was derived from the first letters of four groups of people living on the land, (p-a-k-i) and "stan" just means "land." Hence "Pakistan," or P-A-K-I land. Given that it _is_ the name they chose for their country I'm not sure how reasonable their objections are, but I can tell you one thing - 95% of Americans and Brits using the term "Paki" have no earthly clue that it might be a derogatory term. People who live in Australia are called Aussies or Australians, and similarly, people assume that Pakistanis are also "Pakis."

    What people are really saying is "You're a Paki, You live in Pakistan and don't speak my language, I don't want to talk to you I pay real money to this company and expect to talk to someone who can understand me and whom I can undertand, pass me to someone who can speak my language."

    Certainly there is nothing "racist" about objecting to being forced to speak to someone with whom you cannot communicate, is there? Isn't that a reasonable request?

    Not if you ask the Guardian.

    Posted by jkhat at 12:03 AM | Comments (29)

     

    May 30, 2005

    Hell's Kitchen - Week 1

    [Posted by John Tant]

    I like to cook.

    These days I’m all about the barbecue (a subject on which I could write tomes), but I enjoy making just about anything…haute, provincial, I don’t care. I get just as much juice out of making a good jambalaya as I do working up a six-course wine flight menu.

    In fact, earlier in my life I toyed with the idea of going into the business. I spent a week at the Culinary Institute of America to explore the option. I read The Making of a Chef several times. And I came to several conclusions:

    - Professional chefs work amazingly hard for little money
    - To survive the grueling work, egos swell to compensate
    - Did I mention the hard work, and the lack of cash?

    So I’m content to keep my culinary skills in the hobby stage and exercise them at home. But that doesn’t mean that, deep down, I don’t wonder what would have happened if I had pursued this career.

    But I don’t wonder enough to go through what twelve aspiring restauranteurs did, which is compete before Chef Gordon Ramsay. Considered somewhat of an enfant terrible in the culinary world, Ramsay has a reputation of being harsh, particular, nitpicky, and incredibly difficult to work with. Frankly, if you have several Michelin stars under your belt, you can afford to be like that. And the reality is that such attitudes are the norm in the business, not the exception. Yeah, Emeril Lagasse may look like Mellow Yellow on television, but mess up in his kitchen and I guarantee you he’ll use you as a sharpening steel for his chef’s knife.

    Hence the premise of Hell’s Kitchen. Twelve people competing. One will emerge victorious. Who will it be?


    We start with an aerial of London (did I mention that’s where Ramsay made his bones?) and a mini bio. He explains his management “style” (what someone describes as “The Simon Cowell of the Kitchen”) as a way of getting the best from his staff. Yeah, I heard that before. But the prize is worth it…the winner gets his own restaurant.

    The intro begins with an Apprentice rip-off and photos of the staff. I’m not going to describe them all yet. We’ll get to know them later. They have varying degrees of expertise in the business (the pastry chef seems out of his depth, and if you ever met a baker-type you’ll know dealing with pressure is not their strong point...), but it's their earnestness that grates on me. But it's been a long day and I'm sick of earnest.

    Anyway, their first task is to make their signature dish and have it ready in 45 minutes…to be presented to Ramsay when he arrives. They scramble like silverfish and run to the kitchen. We get minor snapshots of each of the contestants, and our first cut finger…3 minutes into the show. And one minute after that, someone mentions an endive salad as being her signature dish. Can I ask for a forgery instead? Endive? Puh-leeze.

    Presentation time. Ramsay enters and introduces himself. He opens Andrew’s offering, a penne dish called “Andrew’s Absolute Penne.” Ramsay spits it out and calls it dogshit. I laugh. Andrew is a guy who has “10 years experience” in restaurants, and Ramsay calls it a waste of ten years. Earlier, Andrew interviewed that if he couldn’t make it as a chef, he’d go into state politics. Before I offer a recommendation for his fate, I’d really like to know what state he calls home.

    The endive salad girl comes up and Ramsay calls it boring. He refrains from spitting it out.

    Wendy is next. Her dish features Chinese sausage, with Wendy kissing Ramsay’s ass and saying if she knew he would be there, it would have had lobster instead. Ramsay sees through this and is unimpressed.

    Jimmy’s dish comes up with his stuffed chicken breast, and Ramsay calls it a dehydrated camel’s turd. Ramsay throws the food at him. Hoo-rah!

    Ralph steps up with his seared rare tuna and noodles. Ramsay seems amazed that Ralph does this for a living.

    Here’s comes Hyperventilatin’ Elsie. Ramsay reveals the dish and immediately calls it shit. Tacos with turkey meat. She says she makes it for her children, and Ramsay asks if they’re still alive. But he tastes it and mainly has an issue with presentation.

    Dewberry The Pastry Chef makes a baked spaghetti. Ramsay calls it overcooked and terms it children’s food.

    Chris the “Executive Chef” makes plank-roasted salmon. Ramsay calls Chris a plank and condemns the salmon as raw. From now on, Chris is The Plank.

    Jeff quit his job for this. Ramsay likes his sauce and is easy on him about the rest. I'll tell you, making a decent sauce is challenging and this is no small thang.

    Jessica steps up with cajun-style soft shelled crabs and aioli. Ramsay calls it shit and says it’s too bloody spicy.

    Michael left the roe on his scallops and stammers about why, sounding like “Um, I did because I thought others would like it but I don’t like it like that, I guess, maybe, but I dunno.” Dude, pick an answer and stick with it. Predictably, Ramsay jumps on him and says he has a palate like a cow’s “backside.”

    Carolann’s confesses to no experience, but Ramsay likes her presentation of a chicken parmesan-type dish. He likes simple and appetizing. Something to keep in mind, and actually something I learned at CIA. If you’re going to do a fancy presentation, the food had better be worth it…and it rarely is (as I learned when I tried to make a fancy mussel appetizer). Anyway, Ramsay likes the chicken and berates the “professionals” for being shown up by this woman.

    Ramsay interviews that there is very little promise in the group. But he seems confident that he can whip them into shape and says he can make anyone into a master chef. So they’re divided into teams. Ramsay tells them to be prepared for anything and off we go with the sergeant…Ramsay’s sous chef. And now we find out they’ll be living in dorms. How original. Never saw THAT before.

    The next task is announced: the kitchen is open for business, that evening. Scary. Cooking for an instructor type is one thing. Cooking for customers is something totally different. You have to produce, consistently, under time pressure, and keep things very organized. Will it happen with this group? As the Owl said, let's find out.

    We get a description of the restaurant. It’s like Iron Chef meets The Apprentice. Where’s Erin?!? Anyway, the teams have to learn 5 starters, 5 entrees, 5 desserts. If you aren’t in the business, it’s difficult (imagine someone telling you 15 recipes and you have to do them from memory after a half hour….). And that’s only the food. Ramsay says the restaurant is not just about the food, but the service. He’s right. You can have outstanding food, but if the service sucks you ain’t going to make money. Ramsay picks two people to be waiters and sends them to the dining room…Ralph and Jeff. Jeff says he’s glad, Ralph can’t believe it.

    And 7:00 hits, and here we go. Doors are open. Many people in flashy cars show up. Someone asks where Rocco is (or my Tivo got mixed up…). When the orders start coming in, Ramsay starts barking tickets and the kitchen staff seems less than animated. After a less-than-gentle criticism, they jump into action. When the orders start piling up, Ramsay goes into overdrive, riding the ass of everyone in that kitchen. He points out that his reputation is on the line with every plate, and he wants to be sure each one is perfect. There are various missteps by the staff, particularly by The Plank. He gives Ramsay a dish which is overcooked…apparently smarting from Ramsay’s earlier criticism about serving raw salmon. Ramsay goes off on the guy, literally pushing the plate into The Plank’s chest and telling him to do it again. And of course, you can’t just redo one part of the entrée…you have to do the whole thing over again. Ramsay thinks The Plank has a chip on his shoulder (Hey...a funny!). I think The Plank is just trying to prove himself. But he's coming off like he's trying to be a colleague of Ramsay, and Daddy don't play that game.

    One of Ralph’s tables is complaining about the service, and Ralph promises to look at it. 50 minutes at the table with no appetizer yet, so they go to talk to Ramsay. Even though they’re hot blondes, Ramsay ignores them and tells others to do the same, saying standards are more important than bimbos. Oh, if only Trump would talk like that. But are the standards outpacing the skill of the staff? After an hour, the kitchens have yet to produce one entrée. Ramsay goes off on Andrew for calling him to his station to answer a question. Ooops…you always go TO the chef, not call the chef TO you. Doh! And just as Jimmy goes to redeem himself, he grabs a sizzle plate BAREHANDED and spills hot grease all over himself. Double Doh! Ramsay says he’s never seen a chef screw up as much as Jimmy has tonight.

    An hour later The bimbos go up to Ramsay and complain about hurt feelings. Ramsay says yes, he meant it and tells them to go back to plastic surgery. The bimbos leave the restaurant. Bummer! And they aren’t the only ones. The Maitre d’ says it’s sinking faster than the Titanic. Look, I have no doubt their meals were comped, so stop whining! Geez, someone tells you you're going to get a free meal as part of a reality show, for crying out loud stop at In 'n' Out on the way, you know what I'm saying. So Ramsay tells both kitchens to stop everything. He tells them he’s shutting down the whole shebang. The Maitre d’ has the unenviable task of delivering the news to everyone, at 10:15. Faux outrage results (again, I bet the meal was free, and a little forethought with a Double Double would have spared you people.).

    Ramsay chooses a losing team. He calls the evening a disaster. He reads off the customer comment cards and declares the red team as the losing team based on the strength of the customer comments. However, Ramsay saysthe blue team didn’t win either. He then tells Elsie to nominate two of her team for elimination, and Ramsay will pick one of them to leave tonight. Ooooh, pressure!

    After some subtle (and not so subtle) butt kissing, (during which she told Dewberry The Pastry Chef that he wouldn’t be going anywhere) Elsie chooses Carolann because she’s a bitch (um, actually because Carolann is the “least knowledgable” and if they’re going to lose anyone stammer stammer it should be someone with no experience stammer stammer.). Weak. Second is….Dewberry. Wow, do we have a cutthroat in our midst? Elsie says it’s because Dewberry had a lack of energy and interest. Um, OK. Ramsay sends Jimmy and Jeff away saying they’re lucky and tells the two nomiees to step forward and tell him why they should stay. Carolann says not to underestimate someone with no experience, and Dewberry says he has base knowledge…which Ramsay ridicules. But ultimately, Carolann goes home.

    She turns in her jacket and we get the tag line: Hell’s Kitchen no longer needs you. Awww. I wonder if she’ll get into a taxi. No, just a long hallway and an interview in front of a trash dumpster, along with Ramsay theatrically putting Carolann's chef's jacket onto a meathook. Well, there goes your best chicken chef.

    Next week: a faceoff, a US Marine wake up call, no AC in the kitchen, and a desertion. Who will it be? Come back next week and find out!

    Posted by John Tant at 09:11 PM | Comments (3)

     

    Memorial Day Weekend in Madison

    [Posted by ]

    Knowning Madison, as our regulars now do, you're probably expecting a story about how local looney lefties are planning to protest outside the VFW today. And, while there may be a looney or two who is now thinking "Hey, that's a great idea!", in reality Madisonians show their patriotism this weekend, just like anyone else.

    Well let me restate that, it's still Madison, so the displays are sometimes a little different. Like this one:

    These folks put on a little skit Saturday on the Capitol lawn during the Farmer's Market. And, while they are protesting a perceived intrusion on their 4th Amendment rights, they're doing a fine job of expressing their 1st Amendment rights. Hopefully they'll grow up someday and realize that.

    The gentleman below celebrated Memorial Day by running the entire Mad City Marathon with an American flag in his hand:

    According to his bib number, he's Peter Stauffacher and he finished 2nd out of 4 men in his age division. This was him at mile 23. We did give him some love with a "USA! USA!" cheer as he jogged by.

    Finally, the Wisconsin State Journal published a fantastic story yesterday about a father and son who visited a local graveyard, found a couple of neglected Veteran graves and did some research together to find out more about the lives of the men:

    There were no flowers beside John Verner's marker. It appeared that no family members were taking care of his grave. We guessed that this soldier might be lonely. Perhaps his family had moved away. Perhaps there was no one left to say "thank you."

    We soon found another veteran whose grave was unadorned: "Douglas D. Crowe. New York. Captain. Vietnam. 1939-1968." Killed in action in Vietnam. A man from New York, buried in Wisconsin. And also alone on this day.

    "That's sort of sad," said Daniel.

    "Yes, it is," I said.

    The warm sunlight slanted through the trees. Quiet groups of people moved through the cemetery, stooping down to decorate a grave, or standing in silent remembrance.

    "You know, it doesn't have to be that way," I said.

    "What do you mean?" asked Daniel.

    "Let's get to know Capt. Crowe and Sgt. Verner. Let's learn about their lives. Maybe we can find their families. Then we'll come back next year and put flowers on their graves."

    "Yeah," said Daniel. "We'll come back as their friends."

    We left the cemetery enthusiastic about our mission - to learn more about these men, their conflicts, and the American history they made.

    I think this is a great idea and I really want to do it myself. But also think about what a great school project this would be. Students would not only learn about history, they'd also gain some really valuable research skills. It's a far better project than some of the America-hating activities some schools currently engage in.

    Posted by at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

     

    Chalk One Up for the Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys

    [Posted by Laura]

    Amazingly, given the choice for the continued free and sovereign existence of their nation, the French actually chose NOT to surrender their sovereignty to the EU by ratifying the EU Constitution. Shocking, but true. And I have to hand it to Chirac for once. The treaty could - and would - have been ratified in a parliamentary vote but he actually let the people speak, and they spoke loudly. With 83% of the votes counted so far, 57% of the people voted no. Unfortunately, this probably does not end the attack - from the Scotsman

    But the French "godfather" of the treaty said that such a result would not be allowed to stand.

    "Those who did not vote for the constitution, we will ask them to re-vote," said Valery Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president who led the Constitutional Convention that wrote the treaty.

    Nine of the EU member nations have ratified the treaty, but eight of those nations did so by parliamentary procedure instead of a popular vote.

    Just a few of the problems with the European Constitution are:
    - All EU law prevails over national laws and national constitutions
    - Only the EU Court, no national high court, has jurisdiction on questions of EU member state's competence.
    - In the area of Justice and Home Affairs Member States lose their competence to legislate when the Union exercises its own. This basically means that the Union only needs to adopt a piece of legislation in the area of JHA, to make the Member States lose their competence.

    The reader friendly version of the 60,000 page Constitution - as opposed to our own constitution of less than 5,000 words - can be read here.

    Updated: Via Daily Pundit, the blog EU Referendum is a great roundup of EU news, and has plenty on reaction to France's rejection of the EU Constitution.

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 11:03 AM | Comments (6)

     

    Great Americans - Part 8 - Political Figures

    [Posted by ]

    Elvis Presley was the winner of the musicians category. He'll join John Wayne, Mark Twain, Jim Thorpe, George S. Patton, Henry Ford and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the finals.

    The next category is political figures. At first I thought that maybe there would be some non-Presidents in here, people like Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, George Marshall and Sam Adams. But, with only nine choices, they're all Presidents. Have at it:

    The polls are closed. George Washington was our winner.

    Here's the schedule for the rest of the categories:

    1. Actors & Directors: May 9-11
    2. Artists & Writers: May 12-14
    3. Athletes: May 15-17
    4. Business Leaders: May 18-20
    5. Champions of Causes: May 21-23
    6. Heroes & Icons: May 24-26
    7. Musicians: May 27-29
    8. Politicians: May 30-June 1
    9. Scientists, Inventors & Explorers: June 2-4

    Posted by at 09:32 AM | Comments (2)

     

    May 26, 2005

    Greatest Americans - Part 7 - Musicians & Singers

    [Posted by ]

    You all voted General George S. Patton as the greatest American Hero or Icon. The General will join John Wayne, Mark Twain, Jim Thorpe, Henry Ford and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the finals.

    Our next category is musicians and singers. Now, before you all protest at my choices, I have to point out that these are not necessarily my favorites. I tried to limit the list to those artists that are widely respected for their singing and/or musicianship. If this was a list of my favorites, believe me, it'd look far, far different and James would complain that no one had heard of any of them ;-).

    So, without further ado, go ahead and pick the next Greatest American:

    The polls are closed and Elvis Presley was our winner.

    Here's the schedule for the rest of the categories:

    1. Actors & Directors: May 9-11
    2. Artists & Writers: May 12-14 (This will replace "Political Figures")
    3. Athletes: May 15-17
    4. Business Leaders: May 18-20
    5. Champions of Causes: May 21-23
    6. Heroes & Icons: May 24-26
    7. Musicians: May 27-29
    8. Politicians: May 30-June 1
    9. Scientists, Inventors & Explorers: June 2-4

    Posted by at 09:15 PM | Comments (28)

     

    The Oh-So-Holy Quran

    [Posted by Laura]

    Ken Woodward has an article on Saturday’s WSJ opinion page that posits the idea that the Quran is “infinitely” more sacred to Muslims than the Bible or the Torah is to Christians and Jews.

    The Quran is not "the Bible" of Muslims. It is infinitely more sacred than that. To use a Jewish analogy, it is more like the oral Torah first revealed on Mount Sinai, which was later passed on orally through the prophets and eventually written down on scrolls for all to read. Whereas Christians regard the Bible as written by human beings inspired by God, Muslims regard the Quran--the word means "The Recitation"--as the very words of God, revealed aurally to the Prophet Muhammad in Arabic. To hear those words recited is, for Muslims, to hear Allah. If, for Christians, Jesus is the logos or eternal Word of God made flesh, the Quran is the Word of God made book, and every Arabic syllable in it lives as the breath of the divine.

    Ken Woodward has taken the time to inform himself on what some, or even many, Muslims believe, but is not as well informed about the faith this country was founded on. Typical MSM. Most Christians do, in fact, regard the bible as the literal word of God, yes, written down by people the same as the Quran was written down by people.

    All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfected, thoroughly furnished to every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 MKJV)

    We believe that to read the bible is to read the actual, literal words of God. The fact that Mr. Woodward did not bother to learn this about Christianity speaks volumes about his bias.

    So the Muslims who hold the Quran in such high esteem have counterparts, at least in the Christian faith, I’m not sure about Judaism, although I think it likely. Various Christian denominations hold this in differing levels of importance, akin to the doctrinal differences of Shia, Sunni, and Wahhabi Muslims.

    Now for a real paradigm shift. Taking it at face value that people of various religions do hold these sincere and devout beliefs, SO WHAT?!

    Just because you may hold a sincere belief on some topic does not entitle you to anything beyond what other people have. Are Muslims entitled to more respect for their faith than Christians, Jews or atheists? No, they are not. And it’s about time we stopped according that undeserved, hypocritical hyper-deference, unless we’re prepared to start giving that to every person who holds sincere and devout beliefs, regardless of what those beliefs are. Jim Jones and David Koresh sincerely believed, should their beliefs have been catered to and accorded respect based on the level of sincerity they and their followers had? We are free to believe in the Great Almighty Potatohead if we choose, as long as our beliefs do not cause harm to others. We should not expect others to agree or like it, or act like they do. And that’s how it should be.

    The next time a government official apologizes for any alleged or actual “desecration” of the “Holy Quran” pause for a moment and think about how many politicians favor NEA funding of sacrilegious art – so long as it is blasphemy to Christianity or Judaism, that is - in the name of freedom of expression. If desecration of two of the worlds three major religious denominations is permissible in the name of art and freedom of expression, then it is also permissible for the third, especially as a non-violent interrogation technique. If we have not used it as such before, we should certainly start.

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 05:47 PM | Comments (33)

     

    My Ward is Left of Churchill

    [Posted by ]

    As longtime readers know, I live in looney liberaland. And now, I have concrete proof. In fact, I dare anyone to out-liberal me.

    This week, Madison rejected two out of three school funding referendums. The most contraversial question asked whether the Madison School District could exceed the state's revenue cap by $7.4 million for an indefinite period of time. 56% of Madison voters said "no" to this proposal. However, in my looney ward, 73% voted YES.

    A quick look at the Dane County Clerk's website showed that this was hardly the first time that my Ward has been out of touch with even the rest of Madison liberals. The numbers paint a rather extremist picture of the area:

    The most interesting result I found occured in the 2004 September Primary for the House of Representatives. Two Republicans faced off: Dave Magnum, a radio station owner who ended up winning the Primary and Ron Greer, a perpetual candidate whose claim to fame is being fired from the Madison Fire Department for handing out anti-Gay literature on the job. Guess who took my ultra-liberal Ward in a landslide? That's right, the homophobe took 64% of the vote! Now how could that be? Is it possible that these sensitive, tolerant liberals purposely voted in the Republican primary for the most distasteful candidate to try to make sure that Congresswoman Baldwin wouldn't face a serious challenge? Nah, they wouldn't play politics like that ;-)

    Posted by at 02:03 PM | Comments (2)

     

    May 25, 2005

    American Idol Recap - Who Won Season Four

    [Posted by ]

    Seacrest is in under a dramatic spotlight as our finale begins. And, just like that, the bad medleys start. It's the Beach Boy. Our rejected Idol contestants come on out wearing crisp white pants. I hope no one spills anything!

    A quick review: Lindsay sounds awful, Jessica sounds amazing, as do Vonzell & Nadia. Federov, who is spared from the curse of the white pants, gets a nice solo on "Surfer Girl". Nikko gets a solo too, but let's just say that it's not so nice. Yikes! Constantine? Oh baby, he gets around, dontcha know?

    Seacrest hypes the rest of the show and the "stars" in the house and introduces the red carpet host: Mikalah Gordon. Hmmm, okay, this could be fun.

    Mikalah has lightened her hair and looks completely different. She actually does a great job. She's like a young Joan Rivers, only cuter and more coherent. She'll never make it as a singer, but she could certainly be an MTV personality. I guess that's something.

    A season review commences: bad singers across the USA, Hollywood, semis, final 12. You know the drill.

    Random question: McDonalds spends millions and millions of dollars on advertising. Why is it that they never have decent commercials?

    Seacrest visits Bo's dressing room (get your mind out of the gutter!) and shows a clip of Bo's fans live in Alabama. LaToya London (who was robbed, by the way), is in Birmingham with Bo fans. Oooh, yesterday was apparently "Bo Bice Day" in Alabama. Take that, Underwood! After that, Bo performs "Vehicle" again. I've liked this song ever since I "discovered" it on my sister's Have A Nice Decade 7 CD set, but enough is enough. Great God in heaven Bo, I know you love me. Now sing me something new.

    After the break, it's Carrie Time in Oklahoma. The first lady of OK, who looks like she just stepped off the stage of the 1986 Miss Oklahoma pageant, declares that Carrie will win. Nasty Matt Rodgers from last season tries to hit on her. Blech. Speaking of blech, Carrie sings "Angels Brought Me Here" again. Oh dear, once again I just have to say what a horrid song this is. Idol should ban songs about dreams for a year or so. Don't worry, they could still sing about miracles. And heaven. And believing.

    Now Ryan's skulking around outside the judges' dressing rooms. Oh look, there's Corey Clark. Just kidding ;-) Randy thinks Carrie won the night. While I tend to agree with him, I think Bo will win this easily and the judges are just trying to make it more dramatic for ratings purposes. Speaking of drama, we are "treated" to a clip of the dramatic Season One kiss between Paula & Simon. My eyes!

    Back in Birmingham, LaToya interviews some of Bo's friends (the two that look like the hicks from the Dodge Hemi commercials). Hilariously, we can hear Simon and Ryan commenting on how "they're all drunk". I don't think they realize we can hear them. What a disaster. Not to whine, but couldn't this just be an hour long show? Why must they torture me?

    WTF? As the second hour kicks off, they have some terrible singer making a mockery of the National Anthem. That really ticks me off. You don't purposely make fun of the National Anthem. Fox should know better.

    It's a duet! Carrie & Bo join together to sing "Up Where We Belong". Oh no. They don't sound good together. Their voices just don't seem to mesh. People make fun of Season One's Justin Guarini now, but he and Kelly really did sound fantastic together. But, Bo is wearing leather pants!, so does any of it really matter?

    This episode is mostly filler and a review of all the bad auditions. We see Dirk from St. Louis again. I think Dirk is mildly retarded. He's obsessed with David Hasselhoff and as a reward for being a good sport, the show has not only brought Dirk to the finale, they have also seated Mr. Hasselhoff right next to him. On one hand, that's cool. But on another hand, why are they continuing to make fun of Dirk? Are they trying to break all kinds of taboos tonight? First the National Anthem, then the mentally challenged. What's next?

    And the answer is, nothing is taboo, as the show rather shockingly mocks ABC's Idol Expose with a canned piece that claims Simon's affair with himself has damaged the integrity of the show. Heh, okay that was kind of cute, even the inevitable William Hung cameo.

    Medley #2 features the contestants with their idols. Carrie sings with some paunchy country guy. Roscoe something (not P. Coltrane). Whoever he is, he sounds so much better with Carrie than Bo does. This is the kind of music Carrie should sing. It's quite lovely.

    Anthony and Anwar sing with Kenny G. Seriously. I'm not even making that up. Heh, it gets worse, they're singing "I Believe I Can Fly". With Kenny G. The wussiness is so overwhelming, it's actually created a vacuum in which all masculinity has left the stage.

    Until, that is, Constantine, Jessica and Nadia sing "Walk This Way" with Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Damn. Constantine should have performed this on the show. He's fantastic. Jessica is hot and raunchy while Nadia rocks (finally!) If any of the three of them had busted out a performance like this during the season, they might very well be in the final two themselves. But, after hearing the singles, maybe they're the smart ones.

    Punkass & Nikko sing "Nights on Broadway" with George Benson. Eff Punkass. I'm sick of writing about him. Vonzell sings a duet with Billy Preston. It's kind of a mess. Vonzell is just all over the place when she sings. I think that makes it hard for anyone to sing with her as they have no idea what she's going to do.

    Lindsay & Mikalah sing something with Babyface. In the words of Kelly Clarkson, this is going to be a beautiful disaster. Hmmm, actually, I take it all back. Individually, they suck, but together they work. They're like the Wonder Triplets.

    Finally(!), Bo sings "Sweet Home Alabama" with Lynnard Skynnard. Bo looks like he's in heaven. He's soooo happy to be fronting the band. And seriously, the band's looking kind of grim. Bo would get all the groupies.

    And now, at last, it's go time. The results are in. Carrie and Bo both look like they're going to throw up. And here we go, after over 500,000,000 votes throughout the course of the season, America has decided that Carrie is the American Idol! Wow. I'm shocked that Carrie was the winner. And so is the crowd, some of whom are actually booing.

    Congratulations Carrie! So, where does Carrie stack up against the ghosts of Idols past? You make the call:

    Dummo-Poll
    Who is the best American Idol?
    Kelly
    Reuben
    Fantasia
    Carrie

    Read all of our American Idol articles

    Posted by at 08:56 PM | Comments (19)

     

    May 24, 2005

    American Idol Recap - The Season Finale - The Final Two Perform

    [Posted by ]
    Overture, curtain, lights
    This is it, the night o' nights
    No more rehearsing and nursing our parts
    We know every part by heart
    Overture, curtain, lights
    This is it, to hit the heights
    And, O what heights we'll hit
    On with the show, this is it
    Tonight what heights we'll hit
    On with the show, this is it.

    Seacrest in from the Kodak Theatre. Two people. One Idol. It's the finale. Boy vs. Girl (in the world series of love?).

    Tonight's theme is "songs from Bugs Bunny". Just kidding! But wouldn't that be awesome? I'd totally vote for whoever sang "Hillbilly Hare" ("Kill the Wabbit" is played out, wouldn't you agree?). Nope, instead the contestants will sing two new songs (their potential singles?) and reprise one of their favorites from the season.

    If they're going to do a coin toss, shouldn't they bring in Fantasia or something to sing the National Anthem? I mean, come on, we all know that all the Star Spangled Banner is missing is 10 "yeah yeah yeahs" at the end of every verse. In any case, after Ryan initially flips the coin down a drain, Carrie wins and chooses to receive, err...go second.

    Bo kicks off with "The Long, Long Road". This must be one of the doomed Idol's singles and I don't want to hear it again. It's a long, long, long, loooong road. And a boring one too. I can't tell if it's winding. Bo is having a hard time being heard above the din of the (on stage!) backup singers. I think this performance is really highlighting the fact that Bo is not an amazing vocalist. Don't get me wrong, I like him, but pure singing isn't his strength, his passion is.

    Randy: Bad news is he hates the song. Good news is he already has his fanbase.
    Paula: It's hard to sing a song nobody knows. But everyone "vibes" with him, so it's okay.
    Simon: "You look like my chemistry teacher and it was a very dreary song. You have to do better."
    Kris: Huh? Did Bo sing? I think I just fell asleep.

    Bo graciously accepts the criticism, but gives the song faint praise. Bo's a right-thinking man.

    Carrie sings "Inside Your Heaven". This song is slightly better than what Bo had to sing, but it's still schlocky as all hell. And ouch, Carrie is just not hitting the notes at all and she looks like she's trying to swallow the microphone. Carrie, to her credit, recovers towards the end and at least finishes the song well.

    Randy: Wow (as in, "wow, that's bad"?). Bad news: the song sucks. Good news: the ending was good.
    Paula: You sang the beautifully, but had bad notes. But, who cares about silly things like notes.
    Simon: Much better than the first song. Round one Carrie.
    Kris: The ending saved her.

    Round One: Carrie, but just by a smidgen.

    Bo is back and singing his favorite song of the season: "Vehicle". This is the Bo we know and love. Damn, Bo is pulling out all the stops and even swiveling his hips a little bit. That might be too much for Miss Paula to handle.

    Randy: Great song. Just what Randy wanted, he almost pulled a "dawg" out of him.
    Paula: The Bo we know and love. What? Paula is copying me now? Bitch.
    Simon: Welcome back to the competition.
    Kris: They hyped Bo as the rocker and that's what I want to see. I don't want to ever have to see schlocky ballad Bo. If that's what is going to happen to him, all I can say is "Go Carrie Go!"

    The Idol rejects are in the House! Even Punkass. Blech. Anyway, Carrie is up again singing Martina McBride's "Independence Day". Just as with Bo, this is the Carrie we know, love and want to see more of. It's funny that the contestants have a far better idea of what their fans want than whatever idiot is writing and choosing tonight's original tunes.

    Randy: Welcome back Carrie. This is the Carrie I love.
    Paula: Ditto. Yeah, that's literally what she said.
    Simon: Not a great vocal. He wanted her to sing "Crying" from last week again.
    Kris: Simon's a moron. She did that song last week twice. We don't need to hear it again. She was smart to sing country, that's her base.

    Round Two: Bo, but again it's very close. It's all going to come down (at least in my mind) to the final song from each contestant.

    Oh crap, now Bo is singing "Inside Your Heaven". Bo's take on it is a little more stripped down and soulful. Poor Bo, this isn't the type of song he should have to sing. This would have been perfect for Federov. But, idiot producers, we voted Federov off. Bo is doing his manly best to wail at the end of the song, but actually, Carrie outwailed him on it. I'm not sure if that's good or bad.

    Randy: You made me love the song. Amazing! Yeah, loving that song is amazing.
    Paula: I fell in love with the song.
    Simon: I saw your nerves, but you outsang Carrie. It's been a pleasuring having him on Idol.
    Kris: I still hate the song.

    Carrie sings a different song, "Angels Brought Me Here". Sometimes you can tell a song will be awful just by its name. This is one of those times. Like Bo, Carrie is trying her heart out trying to give this song a flavor besides vanilla. She's got a bit of a country twang in her voice, but, unfortunately, the backup singers are not playing along. However, she leaves them in the dust with some beautiful glory notes near the end, but then her voices breaks at the very end of the song. I don't know if that's a mistake or just her emotions coming through. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.

    Randy: She gets the Dawg standing O
    Paula: I think Paula just gave her a lifetime achievement award. WTF?
    Simon: You've done enough to win.
    Kris: Carrie's always on the cusp of doing something great, but she never quite gets there.

    Round Three: I'm going to go with Carrie because she did a better job of tailoring the song to her own style.

    So, I guess that means I'd give the win to Carrie. I'm not sure I really mean that, but I think Carrie would make a better Idol and Bo should get together with a band and have a hell of time touring and making the records he wants to make.

    Last week, you guys were right about Vonzell going, so who's your pick this week?

    Dummo-Poll
    Who is your American Idol?
    Bo
    Carrie

    Read our other American Idol articles

    Posted by at 06:56 PM | Comments (5)

     

    So Does This Make Me a Traitor or a Candy-Ass?

    [Posted by ]

    I’m glad the Senate found a compromise, and I’m glad the Democrats can save face.

    There was nothing to be gained long-term by using the nuclear option. We could’ve had our way for two years—and it would’ve been nice to watch Reid-Boxer-Byrd limited to sound bites while we actually DID things—but we reap what we sow in this life.

    How stable is our current majority? Think about it. One mistake. One badly-timed, media-hyped mistake…and we faced the very real possibility of being nuked ourselves, as the precedent would have already been established.

    The party line here is anger. Outrage that our Senate has been emasculated. And y’know what? Get over yourselves.

    Last week the Democrats were claiming Janice Rogers Brown said that senior citizens cannibalize their grandchildren. Today they voted to give her cloture. Why’s that?

    Janice Rogers Brown is African-American. And she’s female. What’s the Democratic voting base again?

    They simply could not STAND to see a Black woman nominated for an Appellate Court by a Republican president, Republican House and Republican Senate.

    They had to get their fingerprints on it. So they played some politics.

    And now they look like heroes.

    Big deal.

    All they did was bring more pressure on themselves to get cloture on ALL the nominees.

    Can’t wait to see ‘em struggle to justify “extraordinary circumstances”. And when they do try to justify it….it’ll look like they went back on their word.

    Perfect!

    Let ‘em take a little credit. And be prepared to nuke ‘em when they shoot themselves in the foot.

    Because that’s what happens when you renege on a goodwill gesture.

    We reap what we sow.

    Posted by at 07:08 AM | Comments (2)

     

    May 23, 2005

    Greatest Americans - Part 6 - Heroes & Icons

    [Posted by ]

    Martin Luther King, Jr. was the runaway winner of the "Champions of Causes" category. He'll join John Wayne, Jim Thorpe, Mark Twain and Henry Ford in the finals. Wow, our finals are shaping up to be a fantastic battle.

    A couple of notes. After reading "The Genius of the People", I've decided to change the "Presidents" category to simply "Politicians". It occurs to me that there are some very deserving people who never became President. And, the final category is going to be "Scientists, Inventors & Explorers".

    Our new category is "Heroes & Icons". After my first run through, I realized I had 5 pilots on the list. That wasn't going to do, so I narrowed it down to just two. Maybe Neil Armstrong wasn't the greatest pilot, but he certainly fits the "Icon" criteria. Otherwise, this was a really fun category to put together. I hope you all have fun voting on it.

    Voted has ended. In a fairly tight contest, General George S. Patton defeated the field.

    Here's the schedule for the rest of the categories:

    1. Actors & Directors: May 9-11
    2. Artists & Writers: May 12-14 (This will replace "Political Figures")
    3. Athletes: May 15-17
    4. Business Leaders: May 18-20
    5. Champions of Causes: May 21-23
    6. Heroes & Icons: May 24-26
    7. Musicians: May 27-29
    8. Politicians: May 30-June 1
    9. Scientists, Inventors & Explorers: June 2-4

    And the finals will be held from June 5-7.

    Posted by at 09:17 PM | Comments (4)

     

    Filibuster Compromise

    [Posted by Laura]

    John "Amnesty for Illegals" McCain is announcing the latest Republican failure to acknowledge that they won the last election. Surrounded by Dummocrats and RINOs, including my state's excuse for a Senator, faux Catholic Mary Landreiu, he said that the agreement averted a "crisis" that would have lasting, damaging impact on the Senate. Myers and Saad will be sacrificed to the tyranny of the minority. They may not have passed a vote, but they should at least have had the chance. The Democrats agree not to filibuster except in extraordinary circumstances - like in the case of Supreme Court nominations, for example? No, I'm sure they'll be models of restraint when the time comes. You betcha.

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 06:56 PM | Comments (5)

     

    May 22, 2005

    The Genius of the People

    [Posted by ]

    With the judicial filibuster debate raging, I thought it'd be a good time to learn more about the Constitution and try to get an idea of what the Framers were really thinking back in that sweltering summer of 1787. So today I started reading Charles Mee's "The Genuis of the People". The book tells the story of the Constitutional Convention.

    I'm about three quarters of the way through and it's funny how sometimes I side with the Madisonians and their concept of a strong central government. Other times, I shake my head at Madison and wonder how he couldn't understand the fears of the smaller states.

    As I read, there are men I'm less than impressed with (Alexander Hamilton is one, I don't like his rather elitist dismissal of the people) and while there are obvious heroes like Washington, Madison and Franklin, one of the men I most admire so far is George Mason. Prior to today, my knowledge of George Mason consisted of the fact that he has a University named after him (a friend of mine went to it). But now I know that Mason, in spite of his patrician background, was yet another true champion of the people.

    In addition to conflicts between North & South, big states and small states, and proponents of local vs. centralized government, the Constitution Convention tackled the question of how to deal with imminent inclusion of Western states into the Union. Many delegates tried to frame the Constitution to permanently vest power in the more "enlightened" East. As Gouverneur Morris said:

    Westerners would certainly "not be able to furnish men equally enlightened to share in the administration of our common interests. The Busy haunts of men-not the remote wilderness-was the proper School of political Talents. If the Western people get the power into their hands they will ruin the Atlantic interests."

    To this Mason, from the traditional seat of power in Virginia, said:

    if Western states were to be brought into the Union at all, "they must be treated as equals, and subjected to no degrading discriminatins. They will have the same pride and passions whic we have, and will not unite with or will speedily revolt from the Union, if they are not in all respects placed on an equal footing with their brethren."

    Later in the Convention, Mason, himself a large land owner, again stood up for the common people, when it was proposed that suffrage be restricted to freeholders. Mason said:

    "every man having evidence of attachment to and permanent common interest with the Society ought to share in all its rights and privileges. Was this qualification restrained to freeholders? Does no other kind of property but land evidence a common interest in the proprietor? Does nothing besides property mark a permanent attachment? Ought the merchant, the monied man, the parent of a number of children whose fortunes are to be pursued in their own Country, to be viewed as suspicious characters, and unworthy to be trusted with the common rights of their fellow Citizens?"

    One of the things that's so great about Mason (and really, this applies to so many of the Framers) is that he didn't go to the Convention strictly to advance the cause of "his kind". I know some Democrats won't understand this, but Mason went against his own self interest and instead tried to do what he believed was right for his country.

    I'm not sure what the Framers would think of we should do about the judicial filibusters. They saw the Senate as a check on the passions of the House, not on the powers of the President. But, they were just as worried about a tyranny of a majority (hence the Senate check on the House) as of a tyranny of a minority (the House check on the Senate). Of course, at the end of the day, those men were capable of crafting compromises that preserved our more perfect Union. Hopefully the "wise" men and women in the Senate today can do the same.

    Posted by at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)

     

    May 21, 2005

    Greatest Americans - Part 5 - Champions of Causes

    [Posted by ]

    Henry Ford narrowly defeated Sam Walton in the "Business Leaders" category. He'll join Mark Twain, John Wayne, and Jim Thorpe in the finals.

    Our latest category is "Champions of Causes", this one is kind of mismash and has some people that just don't fit anywhere else. Have at it:

    Martin Luther King, Jr. was our runaway winner. See the results here.

    Note: Here's the schedule for the rest of the categories:

    1. Actors & Directors: May 9-11
    2. Artists & Writers: May 12-14 (This will replace "Political Figures")
    3. Athletes: May 15-17
    4. Business Leaders: May 18-20
    5. Champions of Causes: May 21-23
    6. Heroes & Icons: May 24-26
    7. Musicians: May 27-29
    8. Presidents: May 30-June 1
    9. Scientists (I'll include inventors): June 2-4

    Posted by at 09:03 AM | Comments (8)

     

    May 20, 2005

    Calling All Movie Pirates

    [Posted by ]

    I want to take time out to encourage everyone, everywhere, to steal music.

    Download it. Rip it, send it, burn it. And don’t pay.

    Because musicians obviously feel uncomfortable with money.

    Make no mistake. I AM TELLING YOU TO STEAL!! Download all the music you can, and do NOT pay a cent! In fact, don’t spend any of your time doing it. Time is money, right? Just make all your selections at once, click download and walk away.

    Why am I doing this?

    Because I’m a nice guy.

    Look—I’m a white male over 35. People look at me as the Big Daddy Oppressive White Boss, and it hurts. This is one of those stereotypes you just can’t behave your way out of….and I would hate like hell for anybody else to feel that way.

    So…for the good of all men (and womyn)….for the spirits of the musicians who provide us with something to crank so we don’t have to listen to that noise our cars are making….

    STEAL. STEAL. STEAL.

    Now, I know some of you may have been taught by “moralists” that stealing is wrong. But this is a victimless crime. Bands want to make music, but they don’t want to take money…or else they’ll get rich. Kids want to listen to music, but don’t always have the money to get all the music they want

    See how oppressive money is? It’s keeping you from having everything you want!

    We’re all consenting adults here: the band gets to do what they want….without having to feel bad….and you get what you want….just because you want it….without having to earn it!!

    Everybody wins!

    So go on. Go steal! Start here!

    And furthermore….

    …if you’ve got the resources, STEAL MOVIES!!

    Hollywood, you’ve jacked up our ticket prices, jacked up rental prices, and for some reason STILL try to sell us the same Milk Duds that have been sitting there since the FIRST “Star Wars”…..while you continue to give us a more and more half-assed product…..and in return you insult the country that provides you with the freedom necessary to indulge your imaginations and transform your dreams into a life of luxury, hedonism, and privilege.

    You piss in our faces, Hollywood. And we owe you.

    All aboard, movie pirates!

    YEEEEEAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGG!

    Posted by at 11:01 AM | Comments (5)

     

    Star Wars : A Rant

    [Posted by John Tant]

    It was easier when I was seven.

    That's how old I was when Star Wars came out. Back then, of course, it was just "Star Wars." None of that "Episode IV" crap. Just Star Wars. And it was kewl.

    Seriously kewl. My grandfather had a big Stanley tape measure that I fastened to the sawed-off end of a broom handle and voila! I had a homemade lightsaber (with adjustable blade, both in standard AND metric!). Later my mom took pity on me and bought the lightsaber toy made by Kenner...which was a flashlight attached to a frosted plastic tube (You know, these kids have it easy these days with toy lightsabers which actually retract, but when *I* was a kid we didn't have that luxury!). Oh, the memories. And at one point I even had all the action figures. All twelve of them. You would then send in the proofs of purchase and seventy five cents and Kenner would send you a free display stand. Shortly thereafter, Kenner came out with another twelve and screwed me up for life.

    So what was it about for me? It was about fantasy. It was about watching robots and spaceships and lasers going all over the place. It was about wondering what a Jawa looked like without the robe. It was wondering what was up with that Darth Vader guy. It was about making my mom watch that Christmas Special with me. It was about wishing I had a lightsaber. Star Wars showed a black/white world. It showed baddies who were indisputably bad. Their motives didn't matter at all. They were just bad. And it showed good guys who were good. Again, because they were just good. To a seven-year old (and to those much older) that's really all you needed.

    Three years later I remember being totally bummed by Empire because it was such a downer (who would want to marry Darth Vader?!?). And three years after that I thought seeing Jabba was kind of kewl, and the new Death Star was OK, but...Ewoks?!? What, stormtroopers could slaughter Jawas but Ewoks were beyond their capabilities? If only the Jawas had hang gliders, everything would have been OK?

    And that's when it left me. I was 13 when Return of the Jedi came out, and was in the process of graduating to more adult things. See, I never looked at the movies as anything other than a couple of hours of escapism. Frankly I was more impressed with Carrie Fisher as a slave girl than I was with the spaceships. But I still watched. And I still caught the "making of" specials on television. And that's when I finally realized that George Lucas may be a gifted man, but there's one thing that remains forever out of his reach...the art of bullshitting.


    When Star Wars first came out, Lucas wasn't out there saying he had eight more films. He wasn't talking about a grand saga he had written. No, this was a standalone story. It was "Episode IV" because that was a device to make the Star Wars universe look like it had a lot of history behind it. It had throwaway events like the Clone Wars mentioned as if they happened a loooong time ago to create a sense of mystery and intrigue. It was only after the runaway success of the film that suddenly there was a larger story to be told. We had 20th Century Fox go to Lucas asking about a possible sequel, and like any good writer Lucas said yeah, I have lots of stuff, and the myth of eight more films came to life.

    But it was lukewarm bullshit at best. If you have a big story to tell, why not start at the beginning? Well, because there WAS no "beginning." Star Wars (Episode IV) was it. Everything else was made up by Lucas on the fly and as he went along. Scads of continuity errors make this pretty evident. Lucas tried to "fix" those with numerous re-releases under various rationalizations (yeah, like Lucas didn't have the technology at the time to make Greedo shoot first. Whatever.), but the reality is the "clear vision of Lucas" for the flicks have always been mercurial, bending to the whims of the franchise owner.

    And now we have "Episode III." Now we have Lucas out there changing his story AGAIN...that Star Wars wasn't about Luke Skywalker after all, but rather the redemption of Darth Vader. Funny that, because in his novelization George Lucas quite clearly described it as "From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker" and Darth Vader's portrayal was decidedly different than Lucas is now selling it. And if you want to channel your uber-geek, read the first drafts of the film, back when Darth Vader was "a tall, grim-looking general" hanging around the "evil Governor Hoedaack." None of the broad themes Lucas is now saying were always there were actually evident. So frankly, if Lucas had Vietnam on his mind when he wrote even that first draft, he isn't even bullshitting...he's delusional.

    Look. I like the first movie, and I'm OK with the second one (The rest of them? Well.....). But let's not lose sight of the appeal of the franchise. It's popular because it's simple. It's a clear presentation of universal themes. It's good vs. evil. This whole business of Darth Vader suddenly being Luke's father was nothing more than a soap opera moment, with a brother/sister followup in the third movie. But even with that, I still like the flick. So why is there this sudden insistence by the Left to claim it as some kind of morality play? I can (mostly) ignore Lucas' inconsistent ramblings because I think he's just trying to sell the flick. If saying it has an anti-American bent will get more butts in French seats, then he'll say it. If saying there's a larger story surrounding the first movies will create intrigue and buzz, Lucas will say it. Lucas has long been proving that his god is the dollar (Exhibit A: Darth Vader Cheezits). But I do kind of resent the Left trying to claim this franchise as their own. It's like they're trying to rob the memories from that seven-year-old kid playing with a tape measure and a broom handle.

    Posted by John Tant at 07:08 AM | Comments (8)

     

    The Nature of Dissent

    [Posted by ]

    Recents posts like my post on a Seattle school's opposition to having military recruiters on campus and John's story about how liberals have latched on to the latest Star Wars movie as some kind of anti-American diatribe have got me thinking about the nature of modern dissent in America.

    Men and women have fought and died to make sure that we have the right to disagree with our government. I thank God for them because, as Ronald Reagan said:

    "The best minds are not in government. If any were, business would hire them away."

    Let's face it, often times the government is inefficient at best and simply wrong at worst. However, the looney left isn't saying the American government is wrong. They're saying the American government is evil.

    To illustrate the difference, consider the following two arguments:

    1. "I don't support the war in Iraq. I, like most Americans, originally supported the war because I believed Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and under a leader like Saddam Hussein, thought it was an imminent threat to the United States. However, we didn't find any big stockpiles of WMDs there, and that made me question our motives for going to war. Bush says he wants to bring democracy to the Middle East, and while that's a noble goal, I don't think it's the best way to fight the War on Terror. I think we're going to radicalize a bunch of Muslims and make the region far worse before it gets better. Wouldn't we be better off getting out of Iraq as soon as possible and concentrating our fight against terrorism on securing our borders with the occasional covert action about specific targets? Bringing democracy to the Middle East would be great, but, in my mind, the risks associated with that goal far outweigh the rewards."

    2. "Everybody knows that Bushitler lied about WMDs in Iraq because he wanted to attack Saddam to avenge his father and get oil for Halliburton. America is well on the way to becoming an evil empire to rival the Soviet Union. Just look at what happened at Abu Ghraib and what's going on down in Gitmo. I'm ashamed of this country and I can't blame the insurgents for hating us."

    The first argument is one that, while I disagree with it, I can respect. I know many people who oppose the war in Iraq. Some of them even post here. It's worth examining why they feel they way they do.

    The second argument has all the gravitas of a drunken baseball fan shouting "Yankees suck!". Uh, no, the Yankees don't suck, you just hate them. They are mistakening passion for facts. It reminds me of these lines from the movie "Dogma":

    BETHANY: Having beliefs isn't good?

    RUFUS: I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. Life should malleable and progressive; working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth; new ideas can't generate. Life becomes stagnant.

    I don't see any ideas coming out of the looney left these days. All I see is the continued belief that Bush=Hitler, conservatives are fascists and American power is bad. If debate in this country has been stifled, it's not because of any chilling effect on dissent, it's because too many people have nothing to offer but rhymes and rhetoric.

    Posted by at 12:42 AM | Comments (1)

     

    May 19, 2005

    What Ann Compton Thinks Is News...

    [Posted by John Tant]

    I just heard one of the goofiest news segments since, well, Dan Rather saying his memos were fake but accurate.

    Ann Compton did a brief piece on ABC radio saying (paraphrased):

    "Many people watching the new Star Wars movie are equating Darth Vader's line 'if you aren't with me, you're my enemy' with President Bush's war on terrorism. But President Bush isn't the only president with lines from these movies. President Reagan also used lines from the movies when he dubbed his Strategic Defense Initiative 'Star Wars' and when he called the Soviet Union the 'Evil Empire.'"

    Where to begin?

    First, I really don't think President Bush can claim ownership of the concept of "If you are not with me, you are against me." And if Lucas had Bush in mind when he wrote it...so what? I mean, it's not like Lucas is the master of subtlety. It's like reporting that "in a story, the super evil Badooley from the planet Quatmire said 'if you're not with me, you're my enemy' which many people equate to President Bush's comments about the war on terrorism." Again...so what?!? This is news?!?

    Second, let's examine the etymology of the phrase "Star Wars" when it was used to describe SDI. Reagan didn't dub SDI "Star Wars." It was what critics called it, in an attempt to trivialize and ridicule it.

    Third, is the term "Empire" now to be copyrighted by George Lucas from 1977 on? I know this is hard to imagine, but empire is hardly a new term. I can talk about an empire without once drifting into allusion over Star Wars. I can hear it without thinking about Star Wars. But as reporters at the time dubbed that speech the "Darth Vader" speech, I have to again characterize it as a way for the media to trivialize and ridicule what Reagan was trying to say.

    Fourth, "many people?"

    Fifth, well, I don't want to get too far into Star Wars geekery, but in the movie Obi-Wan castigates Anakin for thinking in absolutes. But isn't the Star Wars universe ALL ABOUT absolutes? At its core, it's good v. evil. And to get more specific, it's the Jedi who are dealing in absolutes. It's the people Lucas holds up as "good." I don't want to spoil anything, but if anything the process that leads Anakin astray is characterized by the very rejection of absolutism. So on one hand he's an absolutist, and on the other hand he isn't? And this is considered by "many people" as brilliant political commentary?

    This piece of "reporting" by Compton is ridiculous. It's nothing more than an attempt to use something...anything...as a way to attack Republicans. But then, the media using Star Wars lines to attack Republican administrations isn't exactly news either....

    Posted by John Tant at 12:06 PM | Comments (5)

     

    My Prejudice, and My Problem with Driver's Licences for Illegal Immigrants

    [Posted by ]

    I’m preparing an article about race, but first I’d like to lighten the mood with some good ol’ prejudice! I don’t mean ethnic or religious prejudice; I mean those quirky little beliefs that are you uniquely yours.

    You know the ones I’m talking about—the ones where other people look at you like you’re outta your mind…then a minute later those same people are thanking you up and down for saving some damn time with your weird way of thinking!

    My first—and most accurate—prejudice was gleaned in PA, immediately after I got my driver’s license. As a 16-year-old, I was deathly afraid of being in a car crash. So any time somebody drove like a maniac or otherwise did something stupid, I flew into a panic-stricken rage.

    I soon found a common thread to all my anger—NEW JERSEY DRIVERS!!

    Hey, Jersey? Your driver’s ed SUCKS! And lower the driving age to 16, that’s how it is everywhere else, and they ain’t drivin’ like Mr. Freakin’ Magoo on a drunken rampage!

    New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland—you all feel me, right? Every time somebody does something stupid in the street, you wait for ‘em to pass—and there’s that ugly powder-blue plate starin’ at you. (Or maybe the yellow one, now).

    It was a good, healthy, ACCURATE prejudice. I see Jersey plates ahead of me; I don’t speed up. I may even take the next right just to get away from ‘em.

    Sadly, when I moved to L.A., I had to start all over. California’s a much bigger state; consequently, everybody has CA plates.

    Now, when I’m driving, I really can’t see who’s operating the vehicle. I don’t pay that much ATTENTION to the drivers themselves; I’m too busy watchin’, you know, the ROAD. All I can make out on most cars is what’s on the back, which are three things: the plate….the make and model of the car….

    ….and any freakin’ BUMPER STICKERS!!

    Anybody that has a looney left OR FAR RIGHT bumper sticker will age you 10 years. I kid you not. I understand what makes liberal drivers so crazy: “Rules are oppression! Don’t oppress me with your Euro-patriarch rules of the road! Traffic lights are unfair to the color-blind; ergo, I shall ignore them!”

    The Righties? I don’t know what the hell their SLOW-POKIN’ ASSES are thinking…or IF they’re thinkin’…but this is one area where you cannot claim superiority over the secularist liberals.

    Which brings me to my conclusion: Driver’s licenses give one legal permission to operate a motor vehicle. WE SHOULD NOT BE GIVING THEM TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS SIMPLY FOR IDENTIFICATION PURPOSES. Especially in New Jersey….especially if they have a sticker on their car of the fish with feet (Darwin)…. especially if they have a sticker of a fish EATING the fish with feet (Truth).

    We give out licenses like they’re Cracker Jack toys. Are we forgetting their stated purpose? Driving tests are a joke because the DMV clerks know that failing a test means no ID for you! I know you’re gonna ding every parked car on your way outta here because you steer like a drunken epileptic…but if I fail you, you can’t write a check, use a credit card, board a plane, get into a bar, yadda yadda yadda.

    How much money do highway accidents cost us each year?

    A NATIONAL ID ACT. Please.

    Thanks for putting up with me.

    Posted by at 11:43 AM | Comments (8)

     

    Los Angeles Elects New Mayor

    [Posted by ]

    Antonio Villaraigosa defeated James Hahn in the mayoral race on Tuesday. Now, with illegal immigration such a hot topic nationally, I’m sure there are some people who are gonna hear this news and see the beginning of the end. A colleague of mine keeps lamenting that L.A. will soon be part of Mexico.

    Um…..dude, do you HEAR yourself?

    The man was elected mayor. MAY-OR.Not president. Not governor. He has jurisdiction over one city in one county of one state. Do you realize how far down that is?

    He can’t regulate immigration policy; that’s a federal issue. He can’t give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants; licenses are state issued.

    The biggest knock on Villaraigosa is that he once belonged to MeChA, a racist separatist group or a peaceful, spiritual movement, depending upon whom you believe.

    Racial tensions have already flared at a high school where Villaraigosa was scheduled to appear (although the link reports it was about a schedule change. In May. This close to the end of the school year. They’re gonna change the schedule. On the day the mayor-elect is scheduled to appear).

    Should a MeChA member have won an election to public office? I’m just not outraged over that—today. I don’t know much about MeChA, so I can’t work up the froth I did when a former Klansman wanted to be governor. I don’t follow ethnic-based groups. I think they’re all stupid organizations for stupid people.

    In my mind, they’re all offshoots of the Klan. We’re all Americans, dammit! Let’s quit Balkanizing ourselves.

    I liked Jim Hahn. I don’t mind Antonio Villaraigosa. I don’t think he’s gonna make L.A. a separate Mexican city-state (more so than it already is).

    Relax.

    Update: Villaraigosa was once PRESIDENT OF THE FREAKIN’ SOCAL ACLU!

    Forget that I said to relax!

    THIS is what scares me.

    And y’know what’s gonna happen? When people rail him about the ACLU and its agenda, they’ll be accused of being racist and picking on him because of his MeChA past.

    What a freakin’ cesspool.

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

     

    May 18, 2005

    American Idol Results-Who Got Voted Off-The Final Three Edition

    [Posted by ]

    According to our own online poll, Vonzell is gettin' the boot tonight. Let's see if we're right.

    And it begins. Bo is looking more and more like he just stepped off of an Allman Brothers album cover lately. And yes, I realize that about 90% of you just went "who"? Follow the link kids (and while you're at it, listen to "Sweet Melissa" and "Blue Skies").

    In an impressive bit of synergy, last night's Idol audience was treated to a trip to the new Star Wars movie. That's a nice bit of marketing. What's not so nice is Carrie's horrible Yoda imitation. Oh, sweetie, that's just wrong on so many levels.

    In addition to getting down to the Final Two tonight, we're also going to get to see our contestants' trips home. Vonzell is up first. Everybody loves her at the Post Office. No shootings there (yeah, I know, that's an old, old joke, but it always works, just like the French and surrendering), instead her former co-workers are decked out in goofy "I [heart] Vonzell" t-shirts. After that, the Solomon family takes a trip on a $4 million yacht to a yoooge celebration. You know, I'm fairly cynical, but that's actually pretty cool. Vonzell was just another nice girl a few months ago and now she has thousands of folks in Fort Myers excited about her. It's the American Dream!

    After the feature, Vonzell repeats her performance of "Chain of Fools". This time though, she decides to just have fun and sing it directly to Simon. All the girls sing to Simon. I bet Randy feels so left out. Poor dawg.

    After the break, it's the latest Ford commercial. Bo's behind the wheel and so the whole "One Way or Another" looks like Bo and his ever-so-diverse little harem. Speaking of Bo, let's take a look at his trip home to Alabama. FREE BIRD!!! Bo is greeted by members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, cheering fans and the key to the city. I wonder where his pregnant girlfriend was?

    Predictably, Bo once against performs "In A Dream". This performance is nice, but it's nowhere near as intense as what he did last night. That was special. Still, the crowd eats it up and it's hard to believe that Bo is in any danger of going home tonight.

    It's off to Oklahoma with Miss Carrie Underwood. 10,000 people come to see Carrie in her hometown. Oddly enough, only 4,000 people live there. Carrie sings the National Anthem for something. Heh, something tells me she's done this before. Carrie gets the keys to the city, but she trumps Bo because the Governor of Oklahoma declared it "Carrie Underwood Day". If she wins she should demand an entire week!

    Can I just tell you how afraid I am that Carrie's going to sing "Making Love out of Nothing at all" again? Whew. She wisely opts to sing "Crying" instead. Damn, this is much, much better than what she did last night. The results show is hardly the time to pull out a great performance. Is it a case of too little, too late? We'll find out...after the break.

    And now it's time 37 million votes last night, but not enough of them were for Vonzell. The Vonz is voted off and Bo and Carrie will, as many predicted long ago, be the Final Two. So long, Baby V.

    Read our other American Idol articles

    Posted by at 08:30 PM | Comments (10)

     

    Factless in Seattle

    [Posted by ]

    I came across an interesting article today about how the Garfield High School (Seattle) Parent Teacher Student Association has voted to "adopt a resolution that says "public schools are not a place for military recruiters." Now mind you, under the No Child Left Behind Act, public schools are required to release the names of students to recruiters, but schools are not yet required to allow military recruiters on campus (the Supreme Court is deciding a similar issue about colleges barring military recruiters.)

    So why are these parents so peeved about having military recruiters on high school campuses? Well, first, they feel the government is spending money fighting the War on Terror in Iraq that could be better spent in our public schools:

    Like so many schools today, Garfield grapples with painful budget cuts, loss of teachers, and dwindling resources. The school's opposition to military recruitment seems, in part, a result of parents' growing realization that tax money spent for the Iraq war is money not spent on children's educations or other domestic needs.

    "They're spending $4 billion a month in Iraq, but we have to cut our race relations class, which costs $12,500," Ms. Hagopian pointed out. "That's an important class for our kids."

    Even though the author of this article, one Dean Paton, uses scary words like "painful" and "dwindling", the facts say something completely different. According to the Seattle School District's website, the General Fund budget for 2004-2005 was $443,667,649. This is an increase of 2% from 2003-2004. Similarily, the instructional budgeted increased 3% from 2003-2004 to this school year. So actually, their budget has increased as have their resources. Huh.

    I'm terribly sorry that Seattle students can't take such a valuable class as "race relations", but don't blame stingy taxpayers for it. Another interesting point is that the Bush administration has consistently increased educational spending. You, like me, may not appreciate what a tax and spend Republican he is, but the facts hardly support Paton's "woe is me" rhetoric. But, why bother presenting facts when you've got an agenda to push, right? Of course, not all parents and teachers at Garfield High are looney lefties. Here's one voice of reason:

    During discussion at the PTSA's meeting last week, Ted Inkley argued against the resolution because he thought it dangerous to deny free speech to organizations simply because their philosophies or intentions disagreed with the PTSA.

    Mr. Inkley, an attorney whose daughter is a senior, told the crowded library he could "easily" see a resolution by some other PTA that banned Planned Parenthood representatives from campus because of their views on contraception and abortion.

    Unfortunately, this voice in the wilderness was quickly drowned out by the lunatic fringe:

    Steve Ludwig, whose son is a senior and whose daughter will enter as a freshman next fall, made a point shared by many in attendance: Garfield does not allow organizations that promote illegal activities to recruit students to perform those activities, nor does it allow organizations that discriminate on the basis of race, gender, national origin, or sexual orientation to recruit on campus.

    "Planned Parenthood, as far as I know, does not advocate or perform illegal acts. The US military does," Mr. Ludwig continued. The soft-spoken carpenter said he would not object if Army representatives came to Garfield to debate their ideas on torture or aggressive war. "What I object to is their coming here to recruit students to perform those acts," he said. "It's not about free speech."

    This is a "point"? No, this is rhetoric scraped from the bottom of the barrel at places like the Democratic Underground. Remember this when looney lefties try to save face by saying things like "I support the troops". That's just a bunch of B.S. Just as folks like Ward Churchill see the victims of the 9/11 attacks as little Eichmanns, these guys really do think our troops are nothing better than Earth-bound Storm Troopers raping, plundering & pillaging for our Emperor George. To them, it doesn't matter that the people of Afghanistan and Iraq have held free elections. It doesn't matter that we've spent billions and billions rebuilding their countries, not just from the War, but from the shoddy conditions that their totalitarian regimes left them in. It doesn't matter that American men and women died soley because we're fighting the most careful wars in history. It doesn't matter that our military has killed or captured thousands of terrorist assholes, who will no longer be able to harm the innocent. It doesn't matter that millions of Afghani women were freed from a repressive regime that every liberal in the world would find abhorent. Nope, the only thing that matters is that Bush is a Republican, and they are not. Let me tell you something, if I was the military I wouldn't want their kids. God only knows what they've been brought up to believe.

    Posted by at 12:55 PM | Comments (16)

     

    May 17, 2005

    Greatest Americans - Part 4 - Business Leaders

    [Posted by ]

    In the closest vote yet, Jim Thorpe was voted as the greatest American athlete. He'll join Mark Twain and John Wayne in the finals.

    Now it's time to pick America's greatest business leader. You'll notice that one very prominent name is missing. Criticize us if you must, but the Dummocrats editorial board felt strongly that Bill Gates did not merit a spot on this list.

    Henry Ford was our winner. See the results here

    Note: Here's the schedule for the rest of the categories:

    1. Actors & Directors: May 9-11
    2. Artists & Writers: May 12-14 (This will replace "Political Figures")
    3. Athletes: May 15-17
    4. Business Leaders: May 18-20
    5. Champions of Causes: May 21-23
    6. Heroes & Icons: May 24-26
    7. Musicians: May 27-29
    8. Presidents: May 30-June 1
    9. Scientists (I'll include inventors): June 2-4

    Posted by at 10:59 PM | Comments (11)

     

    American Idol Recap-The Final Three

    [Posted by ]

    Seacrest in and he's looking nice and scruffy. Excellent. If Ryan is back to being cute and rumpled, that can only mean that Paula is back to being drunk and incoherent, right?

    Ryan: We've been through so much together and next week we crown the next American Idol. Aw, Ryan, don't worry, I'll miss you too when this is over. Seacrest says just one percent separates our top three. Not only that, Clive Davis is in the house. Clive will be producing the winner's CD.

    Tonight we'll hear from each of the Idols three times (oh thank GOD that Savol is gone!) and Davis has chosen the first song they'll perform.

    Vonzell is up first and Clive is having her singing "I Know I'll Never Love This Way Again". Vonzell is singing quite haltingly tonight through the verses, and then, when she gets to the chorus she has way too much vibrato. I think she's going for a controlled performance, but the Vonz has no control and she's at her best when she just belts.

    Clive: You hit the notes great, but don't smile during a sad song.
    Randy: A little pitchy, it's a tough song to sing.
    Paula: Not the best key. You look beautiful. Uh oh.
    Simon: Bad notes and her nervousness showed.
    Kris: Painful. Absolutely dreadful, her worst performance yet.

    Bo takes the stage singing "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me". WTF? Why make Bo sing a ballad? He sings two notes, however, and the girls already start screaming. Hey, I think Bo must have broken his sunglasses because he looks like he's sporting a new, slightly less ugly pair. Good for him. Listening to the crowd react to Bo, it's hard to believe he's not way ahead of Carrie and Vonzell each week in the voting, isn't it?

    Clive: Heartfelt & powerful
    Randy: Forever in the Dawg Pound
    Paula: Pure brilliance (on a side note, hello Paula's breasts)
    Simon: Great, but likes Balladeer Bo better than rocking Bo
    Kris: I'm the opposite of Simon, Bo's ballads bore me. I'd rather be rocked than bored.

    Clive is going to make Carrie song "Crying". Hmm, this could be a great choice for her. Carrie's working the straight hair tonight and looks great. You know, I think Carrie excels with minimalist songs like this. With a bigger arrangement I think she gets worried about shouting over the din. On a song like this, it's just about her voice, which is, as always, excellent tonight.

    Clive: A real strong job, you captured the sincerity of it, but wanted an extra spark.
    Randy: Perfect, one of your best vocals.
    Paula: Haunting, poignant, but subdued performance.
    Simon: Wanted the song stripped down even more. Bo wins round 1.
    Kris: I agree with Simon, it would have been even better stripped down more, but still, I think this was one of Carrie's best performances to date.

    Song one instant ranking:

    1. Carrie
    2. Bo
    3. Vonzell

    Vonzell is up again, this time with her own song choice. She's singing "Chain of Fools", which was what she performed in her original audition. This is a much better style of song for Vonzell, but I think her voice is off tonight, particularly in her lower register. Still, she's doing a decent job and this performance is only about 5 times better than her first one of the evening.

    Clive: A winning and poppy rendition, but wanted more soulfulness from her.
    Randy: One of the best vocals ever performed on the show. Gee, we know who Randy's pimping.
    Paula: Nailed it with gusto and passion. Heh, why does that make me think of Corey Clark?
    Simon: She's fun and likeable and that's what she's about, not the vocals.
    Kris: I agree with Simon. I think tomorrow either Carrie or Vonzell is gone. Carrie was better on the first song, but Vonzell laid down more of a challenge here.

    Bo has decided to sing "Dream" (?) by Badlands a capella. He's taken the sunglasses off and I'm mesmorized by his piercing eyes. Damn. Chills just ran up and down my spine. Wow. I think I might have to vote when this is done. Damn. I take back everything thing I said before about Bo and ballads.

    Clive: Predicts that he and Bo will have a great time making "a very special album together". Heh, he said "very special".
    Randy: Courageous and unbelievable.
    Paula: Bo, you truly are a gift. Heh. I love quoting Paula.
    Simon: You may have just put 34 musicians out of work.
    Kris: The only better performance on this show was Kelly Clarkson's "Stuff Like That There".

    Oh Carrie, she's singing Air Supply's "Making Love Out of Nothing at All". Oh dear, dear Carrie. This is just a bombastically awful song. She sounds great, but it's just such a terrible song. BWAH! Okay, if the song wasn't bad enough, Carrie's bounce dancing made the whole performance just tremendous, and I don't mean that in a good way. She's the anti-Bo tonight. She's all about the bombast and he was all about the passion.

    Clive: Loved that she threw herself into it.
    Randy: You can blow. (James will be happy to hear that)
    Paula: Powerful--actually let's face it, about 90% of the time Paula just apes what Randy said.
    Simon: Good, but Bo was a tough act to follow and she pushed the song too much in middle.
    Kris: At this point in the evening, I think Carrie is the favorite to go home tomorrow.

    Song two instant ranking:

    1. Bo
    2. Vonzell
    3. Carrie

    Judge's choice is up next and Simon has chosen "On The Radio" by Donna Summer for Vonzell. Simon's being nice here as this certainly places to the Vonz's strengths. Okay, I try to ignore the fashion choices (except for Ryan's), but I gotta say that I love Vonzell's hot pink, fringy, sequined tube top. But you know, that's all I love. I think I just don't like her voice. She's a sweet girl, but she's just not my cup of tea.

    Clive: You delivered. Heh, nice way to work in her formal Postal career, Clive.
    Randy: Fun
    Paula: Ditto.
    Simon: Ditto, but this time to Clive.
    Kris: Meh, I didn't care for it.

    They are running very short on time and so we move right to Paula's choice for Bo: "Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones. Hmm, interestingly, Bo is putting a country twist on the oh so familiar tune. I like it. Now he changes it up and suddenly the song is almost kind of campy. This is just a masterful performance. Bo is a step beyond his competition.

    Clive: You have the right spirit and attitude. Showed versatility. This is your night.
    Randy: It's like being at the Bo concert.
    Paula: One more week, then we have to pay for Bo.
    Simon: A bit of light fluff. Simon is a wise man, folks.
    Kris: I'd go see Bo at Summerfest. Who's with me?

    Carrie is the last singer of the evening. By process of elimination, I know that Randy chose her song for her. I wonder if he's going to sabotage her to help Vonzell? Wouldn't that be a juicy scandal? Hmm, I don't know. It's "Man, I Feel Like A Woman" by Shania Twain. It's country, but it's not the kind of country that Carrie is good at. To her credit, she does a good job until she shouts, rather than sings, the chorus. I think she hated singing it too.

    Clive: Country pop is her element.
    Randy: Happy to see you have fun. Oddly enough, he likes the song choice.
    Paula: I love when you have fun (see--she just says whatever Randy does)
    Simon: Enough to get her into the finals.
    Kris: It was okay, but just okay.

    Song three instant rankings:

    1. Bo
    2. Carrie
    3. Vonzell

    Overall, I think Bo was far and away the best. I preferred Carrie to Vonzell, but I just have a feeling that Vonzell will be helped by singing songs the audience is more familiar with and that our darling Carrie will be going home tomorrow night.

    Dummo-Poll
    Who is your American Idol?
    Bo
    Carrie
    Vonzell

    Read more of our American Idol articles

    Posted by at 07:59 PM | Comments (14)

     

    Acute Sensitivity in Religion of Peace Adherents

    [Posted by Laura]

    I guess they use a lot of fabric softener in Muslim countries. They must, because the acute sensitivity of Muslims in the news is really something to behold. I’m sure some Muslims out there are made of tougher stuff, but these folks that have been spotlighted by the media are amazingly frail emotionally. The slightest criticism, whether it actually happened or not, of their religion results in the most extreme reactions.

    Sheikh Sayed Tantawi, the head of Al-Azhar in Cairo, the major center of Sunni learning, called the purported desecration “a great crime,” while Egypt’s mufti, Sheikh Ali Gomaa, called it “an unforgivable crime” and “aggression” on Islam’s “sacred values.” The Gulf Cooperation Council, a set of American allies, called for the “harshest punishment” so that “the dignity of Muslims” could be preserved.

    “We can understand torturing prisoners, no matter how repulsive” Newsweek quotes one Pakistani saying, “But insulting the Qur’an is like torturing all Muslims.”
    Link to article.

    "Demonstrations serve no purpose, we should do something practical. I am ready to blow myself up for the sake of my religion to embrace martyrdom," said Mohammad Ghafoor, 18, a student protesting in Peshawar, Pakistan.

    Other examples of Muslim sensitivity:

    Death sentence for blasphemy.
    Death sentence for assimilating into the society of the country where you live.
    Honor killings.
    Death sentence for short film criticizing Islam.

    It’s a good thing Islam is the religion of peace – just think what would happen if they really got mad!

    On the other hand, Christian and Jews are made of sterner stuff. We were distressed, but controlled ourselves and did not resort to violence when presented with the following provocations.
    The “Piss Christ” photo (not to mention Mapplethorpe)
    Portrait of Mary covered with animal dung.
    Invasion of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, holding nuns and priests hostage, using the bible as toilet paper, and stealing sacred objects.
    Desecration of Joseph’s tomb.
    Jews not allowed to pray at Judaism’s holiest site.

    Luckily, the media is unbiased, and reports on the desecration of all religious objects and site in a fair and impartial manner. Otherwise we’d get the impression that the only religion we need to show respect to is Islam.

    Posted by Laura Curtis at 12:48 PM | Comments (10)

     

    May 16, 2005

    How are we supposed to take the media seriously?

    [Posted by John Tant]

    A couple of unrelated items:

    -Sorry for just getting to this, but CNN recently announced a new PR person to lead the News Group's PR and publicity efforts. OK, so what?

    Well, this statement in the release struck me:

    Goldberg joins CNN from Turner Broadcasting’s Cartoon Network, where as senior vice president of public relations she conceived and guided the implementation of a successful public relations and promotion plan advancing signature original programming, new network and online business ventures and the executive leadership team. Most recently she led positioning and promotion for Adult Swim, a block of animated programming for young adult audiences that has grown from a late-night cult following to lead its time period in ratings and delivery.

    I fear I'm in danger of being overwhelmed by such gravitas.

    This isn't to denigrate Ms. Goldberg but, well...imagine if the Bush team had hired someone of similar background as an assistant press secretary. Wouldn't the jokes come forth? Jokes like "Hey, is Space Ghost going to fill in for Larry King?"

    -Slightly more seriously, the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization (IRE) is having their conference this year in Denver. Guess who is being honored as the keynote speaker?

    Dan Rather.

    Yep. The guy who was responsible for forged memos being reported as legitimate. The guy who put partisanship ahead of objectivity. The guy who thought the New York Times was "middle of the road." He is now being held up by IRE as Da Man.

    And it's not like IRE is some backwater organization. There are some seriously big news names there. Names like the Chicago Tribune Foundation. US News and World Report. Scripps Howard. Bloomberg. Organizations that frankly should know better. Embarassed silence from them on the subject of Rather would be bad enough, but for them to sponsor Rather as a keynote is nothing short of ridiculous.

    And again I ask...how can we take this media at all seriously?

    Posted by John Tant at 08:49 PM | Comments (15)

     

    Tomorrow, on an Emotional Episode of Dr. Phil...

    [Posted by ]

    Tomorrow on Dr. Phil, we’re supposed to get all teary-eyed at the emotional reunion of “supermodel” Bridget Marks and her twin daughters, who were taken away from her by their biological father.

    I wanted to projectile vomit!

    The girls’ biological father is multi-millionaire casino tycoon John Aylsworth. Mr. Aylsworth is in his 60’s. When I tried to find more background on Ms. Marks, I was directed to such sites as BabeInvasion.com and Celebrity Breasts. Although, I did find from Bonus Books Inc. that she earned her Masters Degree from NYU at 21, and that she’s “a sometimes actress, poet and community activist since her teen years”, and a single mother.

    A single mother who’s naked in a soft-core lesbian scene at celebritymoviearchive.com.

    Also—at the time, Mr. Aylsworth was married.

    Now….I find REALLY HARD—no, IMPOSSIBLE! I find it bloody IMPOSSIBLE to feel sorry for some borderline professional whore who skanks around with some rich guy old enough to be HER daddy!

    The New York media jumped all over this story when it first happened. Not necessarily because it was a travesty of justice, but because Ms. Marks belongs to the same gene pool that spawned Julia Roberts. Apparently the media feels that her full fellatio lips would make slack-jawed Red-Staters overlook her stupidity, loose morals, and bad judgement.


    I love that promo they ran, too—YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!

    Yeah, I can’t believe Dr. Phil kissed her butt when he should’ve came at her with some of his favorite sayings:

    “What gives you the right to lay with another woman’s husband?”

    “If you take those children away from their father, they will resent you for the rest of their life.”

    “Relationships that begin in infidelity have less than a 10% chance of succeeding.”

    What does he say instead? “Give those girls a hug for me.”

    And what was that….that SCENE where she’s screaming like a banshee, clutching the girls (who themselves are crying—because they’re afraid of HER?), with all that PRESS, flashbulbs going off, and the girls’ grandmother calling their father “an evil man”….

    Why didn’t Dr. Phil LAY INTO HER for exposing her children to that? I thought he was the king of “tough love”. Just before the segment, they ran a promo in which Dr. Phil berates a couple for exposing their children to traumatizing violence. I didn’t see any overt, physical violence, but I dare anybody to tell me that was a positive experience for those two girls.

    Everybody else might’ve seen a loving mother who was victimized by a man abusing his power, but I saw an unfit mother and two kids who should’ve been put up for adoption.

    Lemme ask—how did the press know to show up? The date. The time. The location. And once you saw they were there, why did she go through with it?

    They knew because you’re a drama queen, Ms. Marks. You wanted them there. Once the press began conglomerating around the exchange point, you could’ve contacted John Aylsworth and made other plans. Call his cell phone. He’s a multi-millionaire, I’m sure he can afford T-Mobile.

    Lastly, that part about the children being denied their faith—disgusting. Tell me what branch of Christianity teaches the Eight Commandments. (You’re Christian, right? Or was that little “t” around your neck the only design they had available in that karat?).

    Phil, you make me puke. You claim to have 2 rules with regards to children: never ask kids to deal with adult issues, and don’t burden them with things over which they have no control. In not reprimanding Ms. Marks for violating these rules, you’ve proven yourself a hypocrite, and in the process sold these two little girls down the river.

    You’re a good businessman, I guess, but this is gonna lose you credibility, which is gonna lose you business. Which makes you a BAD businessman.

    Never miiiiind!

    Posted by at 07:12 PM | Comments (8)

     

    Another New Guest Contributor

    [Posted by ]

    Please welcome Thierrion Kagan to Dummocrats.

    Readers know Thierrion as the warm, fuzzy, violently profane "Daddy" from his comments. He lives in West Hollywood,CA (but he's STRAIGHT, dammit). He's originally from the rural suburbs of Philly, and learned his debating skills in the 700 level of Veterans Stadium. He's single and available and hopes the blogsphere does for his love life what it did for Frank J at IMAO.

    Look for Thierrion's article soon.

    Posted by at 06:05 PM | Comments (3)

     

    May 15, 2005

    Greatest Americans - Part 3 -Athletes

    [Posted by ]

    Mark Twain was the runaway winner of the Artists & Writers category, so he'll join John Wayne in the finals. Now we're on to choosing America's greatest athlete.

    A few notes on my methodology for this one, so there's one baseball player, one basketball player, etc. There's no pure football player on the list as I feel like there's no single standout player like there is for some other sports. Some athletes are on the list because of versatility, while others are there for sheer dominance of their sport.

    Also, expect Jesse Owens, for example, to pop up in the "Heroes" category, while Jackie Robinson might make an appearance with other "Champions of Causes".

    Voting in this category is closed. The winner was Jim Thorpe.

    Note: Here's the schedule for the rest of the categories:

    1. Actors & Directors: May 9-11
    2. Artists & Writers: May 12-14 (This will replace "Political Figures")
    3. Athletes: May 15-17
    4. Business Leaders: May 18-20
    5. Champions of Causes: May 21-23
    6. Heroes & Icons: May 24-26
    7. Musicians: May 27-29
    8. Presidents: May 30-June 1
    9. Scientists (I'll include inventors): June 2-4

    Posted by at 08:26 AM | Comments (29)

     

    May 14, 2005

    Sex Sells, But So Does Good Clean Fun

    [Posted by ]

    James and I were having a conversation the other day about the success of "G" rated movies. Pixar's success has gotten a lot of investors excited about the market for family entertainment. But too often it seems like family entertainment=animated pictures. James correctly, I think, noted that the market isn't for just for animated flicks, it's broader. It's for good entertainment. Just as every marketer knows that "sex sells", it's also true that people enjoy "good Seclean fun".

    I think the idea that people actually want quality entertainment is something that goes over the heads of most Hollywood executives. They see the success of a show like "Desperate Housewives" and they'll greenlight a bunch of inferior sexy nighttime soaps, much like "Survivor" spawned reality shows and "Friends" inspired a slew of urban comedies. Of course, the key to these shows wasn't that they tapped into a genre that Americans were desperate (pardon the pun) for, but rather because they were all good at what they did.

    (On a side note, the success of Desperate Housewives does, I think, help prove that my Melrose Place Equivalency Test is valid. My theory is that the former stars of Melrose Place (Desperate Housewives features Marcia Cross and Doug Savant) are almost uniformly appealing, attractive and good actors (Andrew Shue excluded). They should prove an asset to almost any project, even though they're not big names. In TV and movies, so many projects are star-driven, but is the idea really any good? The MPET can help you determine that. If, when you're pitching a show or movie, it sounds just as good and marketable with a Melrose Place star, you've got a winner. For example, when you're pitching a Rob Lowe pilot, ask yourself, "would it work with Thomas Calabros (Michael)?". If the answer is yes, it's a hit. These are some other Melrose Place equivalents to keep in mind: Laura Leighton (Sidney)=Jennifer Aniston, Marcia Cross (Kimberly)=Nicole Kidman, Jack Wagner (Peter)=George Clooney, Grant Show (Jake-sigh!)=Brad Pitt.)

    Entertainment industry executives, like so many of us, are looking for easy answers (so hey, they should love the MPET!). If "Desperate Housewives" is a huge hit, it means "Americans want sex!". If a hyped show like "Joey" flops, it means that "sitcoms are dead!". It reminds me a little bit of the aftermath of the Presidential election. The immediate reaction was that Bush won because of "moral values" and so the Democrats had to either appeal to, or neuter, the Religious Right.

    I think they're both learning the wrong lessons. The elusive key to success isn't "be a copycat". A person with a good idea can still persuade the rest of us to buy it, watch it or vote for it. And people with bad ideas will simply complain, criticize and offer no alternatives. Hmm, does that sound like anyone we know?

    Posted by at 07:19 PM | Comments (1)

     

    A Social Security Reform Debate

    [Posted by ]

    Earlier this week, I mocked a rather sensational editorial on Social Security reform that appeared in Glamour magazine. In particular, I was unimpressed with an Accurate Benefits Calculator that the story cited.

    Although they didn't comment on the site, someone from the Center for Economic & Policy Research, which runs the calculator, took offense to my post. Well, actually, took offense is the wrong phrase. They questioned some of my criticisms. I welcome that kind of debate, but I prefer that it takes place on the site. One of the great things about a blog is that you can create a little community that discusses the issues, not just a single person on a digital pulpit. So, I thought I'd publish our email exchanges in the extended entry below and get everyone more involved in the debate.

    "John Doe" from the CEPR:

    Thank you so much for the plug. We appreciate that here.

    It might have been nice to take a little more time noticing things with our calculator. Specifically,

    1. The 4.35% return is explicitly documented as to how and why we use such a low rate of return. The growth in stocks is tied directly to growth in GDP. The fact is CBO projects a slowdown in GDP growth, and as a result there will either be a slowdown in the return to stocks or an ever-increasing price-to-earnings ratio. Neither CBO nor the Social Security Administration has been able to justify their 6.5-6.8% return to stocks.

    2. Your benefit with the account may in fact be lower than without the account. You are expected to pay back the government every dollar diverted from Social Security, with interest. Plus, the account generates fees. Thus, your account must generate interest well in excess of the Treasury rate in order to produce a net benefit. This is particularly important for "older" workers, meaning those already in the labor force, as they will benefit less from the compounding of interest.

    3. The calculator does take into account increases in pay over a working life. Rather than asking every user to input wages for every year, we use a stylized growth in wages. At the minimum, a worker's wages grow in step with the average wage index, and faster than that earlier in working life. The calculator also adjusts for the age of the worker, so a worker entering "36,470" (the estimated average for 2005) but not born until 2035 will still make about an average wage in 2070. This too, is spelled out in the technical notes.

    Finally, a more political note. Suppose we all decide we want to retire with income some fraction of the income we receive during our working lives. (Yes, the fractions may vary from person to person, but let us assume that fraction should have no reason to fall over time. Expect people to retire in a style somehow connected to their working life.) Suppose also we live longer and longer. Then we have no choice but to save more and more of our wages in order to fund our retirements. There is nothing special about Social Security in this regard. What you describe is not a problem with the Social Security system than it is with your 401(k) or IRA or your home or any other savings mechanism. If you want more for your retirement, you need to consume less when you work.

    You may agree or disagree on the last point, but it would be helpful to become remotely familiar with the calculator before comparing it to animal waste.

    Me

    I didn't notice any technical notes that explained how wages over time were calculated. My apologies if I missed it.

    I have two major problems with your calculator. First, you use the 4.35% rate of return as a default when the PLAN itself uses something different. Don't you think that's a bit misleading? I do. I read several articles about rates of return over time and while there is debate about what rate to estimate, many economists felt that the SSA's rate was certainly reasonable, perhaps not in perpetuity, but that it was a sustainable rate for many, many years. If you want people to evaluate the Bush plan, I think it's only fair to use the Bush estimates.

    But finally, I object to the whole idea of comparing what you would get under the current plan to what you'd get under proposed reforms. I think that implies that we can merrily go along under current conditions indefinitely, which isn't true.

    I think the calculator and the whole Glamour article are just a tad overly sensational and are built to lead people to a certain point of view, NOT to simply provide information. I have no problem with that (and frankly, I'm not sure what we should do about social security), but I think it's dishonest to pretend you're just disseminating information rather than a supporting a specific view.

    CEPR Person

    No problem. I just thought you should know that there are detailed notes on the calculations.

    The PLAN doesn't contain a specific rate of return on stocks. That's not within the purview of the Social Security Administration. Our point is the predicted return is mathematically inconsistent with the other economic assumptions they make, barring some new and wholly implausible assumptions about either dividends or stock prices. It is not a partisan issue-- it's simply unfair to use those estimates because they appear to be nonsense. If anyone at all can explain how to get to 6.5-6.8% a year through the planning period by projecting capital gains and dividends, we would most certainly love to hear it. We have an outstanding challenge to exactly that (The No Economist/Policy Analyst Left Behind Test)

    As to comparison to current benefits, that is the only comparison that may be made. To use payable benefits (without additional taxes or borrowing) as the baseline means that Social Security faces no shortfall whatsoever at any time. It is in balance by definition. Furthermore, the President's plan mandates trillions of dollars in extra spending and trillions more in borrowing not reflected in the calculator. If payable benefits is the baseline, we are being hugely generous the other way, for additional cuts beyond the Pozen indexing would be necessary to bring the system into balance.

    As to Glamour, I'm afraid I haven't seen the article, so I cannot comment specifically. I can only say that we have made a concerted effort to make the calculator as accurate as possible given the information brought to the table.

    [An additional note... the S&P is up 6% in the last year, true. That's 6% before inflation. CBO projects 6.8% after inflation. If we throw in dividends, the yield on stocks could be as high as 5.8% after inflation. It's also true that 5.8% is almost 1.5% over our long-term projection of 4.35%. But CBO projects GDP growth to be some 2.5-3 times as fast this year relative to the long-term average. It's silly to compare our long-term projection (when growth is slow) to today's relatively fast growth. We don't dispute that stocks could grow faster in the short run, and we certainly take that into account in the calculator.]

    At this point, I have to admit that I'm absolutely no expert in stock returns. Although, I did do some research on expected rates when I made my original post. Luckily, we do have someone here who is. And really, that's why I wish things like this took place entirely in the comments. I pulled in our own John Tant and got his take on the debate:

    My first blush beef is over his statement "The growth in stocks is tied directly to growth in GDP. The fact is CBO projects a slowdown in GDP growth, and as a result there will either be a slowdown in the return to stocks or an ever-increasing price-to-earnings ratio."

    Well, on the first point I disagree, mainly because I don't think there is a solid cause/effect relationship between the two. Correlation...maybe. But that's different than asserting flat out that one is tied to the other. In fact, savvy investors will tell you that when stock prices drop is when you need to start buying them up. Buy low, sell high...one of the most immutable laws of the universe, and one most often ignored by so-called professionals. So people
    start buying up these stocks (supply, demand, price goes down demand goes up, etc)...and suddenly stocks are growing. Yes, even though GDP growth is still theoretically slowing down.

    Second, why should we care WHAT the CBO is projecting? What's important is what the group is projecting. If they're using the CBO projection then they need to justify why they think that projection is more valid than others. Besides, after 24 straight months of positive job growth, the forecast of a GDP growth slowdown doesn't seem too realistic. I bet if we look at the CBO's forecast history, we'll see it more wrong than right over the years.

    I think he also contradicts himself in the follow-up email, by the way. First he says CBO is projecting a GDP growth slowdown. He then turns around and says "But CBO projects GDP growth to be some 2.5-3 times as fast this year relative to the long-term average." Well, is it a slowdown or isn't it? Is the support for a slowdown based on fudging the base year of that "2.5-3 times" rate growth and then comparing it to the long term average? If so, I think that's a little
    disingenuous.

    And his cite of a PE ratio is intellectual filler. He says a slowdown in GDP growth would possibly result in an increasing PE ratio. But in the 90s, GDP growth was increasing and PE ratios also increased. So either the 90s were an outlier or he is misunderstanding the relationship if any. I don't think it's an outlier, because PE ratios on a whole have been increasing for quite some time. It's one argument that is used to support the idea that the stock market is overvalued. I do have some sympathy for that argument, but on the other hand I have even MORE sympathy for the argument that "value" is only found in "what someone else will pay for something."

    Next, let him complain about the S&P 6% growth being before inflation. If he's really thinking inflation is a big worry at this point in time, then he's damaged his own credibility.

    For the wage growths (item 3), bottom line he seems to be assuming that if I make an "average" wage in 2005, I'll be making an "average" wage in 2035. I understand the limits of some models, but that single assumption is wrong enough to taint any results that come out of the other end, in my opinion. How does he know what an "average" wage will be in 2070? How does he know what the average wage growth will be between 2035 and 2070? On what basis does he assume that a younger worker will outstrip the average wage rate increase, and how much is he assuming that worker will outstrip it by? All things that he'll
    say are explained in the technical notes (which I read, all six pages, and darned if I could see it in the detail he claims it's there...), but at the end of the day we're talking about assumptions plugged in by some research associate at a left-wing think tank.

    I could go on and on, so I will.

    I plugged in my income in the calculator and chose married. It came back with "This calculator assumes that the spouse makes 1/3 the wages of the primary earner." Huh?!? "If you expect to have more equal incomes, calculate separately as unmarried individuals." But if I do that, doesn't that mess with the other assumptions he cites?

    I like the material misdirection at the bottom of the calculator too: "If you received and spent the benefits under the Bush Plan listed above, you could bequest nothing to heirs." Um, as opposed to the current system? Puh-leeze. And what's the point of saying that anyway? It's like saying "If you spend all the money in your bank account, you won't have anything to leave to your heirs. No shit, Sherlock. And if I'm married, projected expenses are going to be lower (don't have to pay two heating bills, you know). But oh no...to get a "realistic" money number I have to calculate myself as single and add in my wife...also calculated in as single.

    Sorry this ran longer than the brief snark I was planning on. :)

    And if that wasn't enough, John followed up with more info on the relationship between GDP growth & stock returns:

    Food for thought on one of the points I brought up (relationship between GDP growth and stock returns):

    http://www.socialsecurity.org/daily/07-24-00.html

    The "Baker" in the quote is Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research...the same think tank who came up with that calculator.

    Quote:

    As baby boomer retirements and low birth rates reduce labor-force growth to just 0.2 percent annually, total economic growth will decline as well. The critics' argument is simple: Slower economic growth means lower corporate profits, and profits drive stock prices; hence, stocks can't possibly return more than 3.5 percent, placing their long-term returns below today's government bond rate. While even this performance would substantially exceed Social Security's paltry 2 percent return, higher stock returns would speed the transition to personal retirement accounts.

    But it's easier to say "slower economic growth equals lower stock market returns" than it is to prove it. Research by Philippe Jorion, professor of finance at the University of California-Irvine, reveals both theoretical and empirical flaws in Baker's argument. Jorion acknowledges the bookkeeping idea that "asset prices should grow at the same rate as cash flows," but in the real world "this relationship. . . may be blurred by a number of factors." A more sophisticated theoretical model shows that returns on capital investments "should be related to real GDP growth per capita, instead of total GDP growth."

    Jorion's empirical analysis confirms the theory. Drawing on research on global equity markets he conducted with Professor Will Goetzmann of Yale, Jorion examined the relationship between economic growth and stock returns for 31 countries, ranging from established markets to new economic powers to developing countries. The results directly contradict what Baker's theory would predict. While Jorion found "no observable relationship between stock market returns and GDP growth," statistical analysis revealed that "stock market returns are positively correlated to GDP per capita growth."

    For instance, developing economies grew 1.4 percentage points faster than economies of developed countries, but their stock returns averaged 2.6 percentage points below those in the developed world. How could this be? Developing economies expanded through rapid labor-force growth, not productivity improvements. As a result, their GDP growth per capita—and their stock returns—lagged behind those of developed countries. Hence, Jorion concluded, "Lower capital gains are really associated with lower per capita economic growth," not lower total economic growth.

    This link between per capita GDP growth and stock returns affects the debate over personal accounts, since the economic slowdown projected by Social Security's trustees stems almost entirely from reduced labor-force growth. Productivity increases – the other main component of economic growth – will remain at the 1969-98 average of 1.5 percent annually and GDP per capita growth will be respectable. Jorion found that a 1 percent change in per capita GDP growth correlates with a 0.7 percent change in equity returns. If true, we can expect future stock returns to be less than one percentage point below their 1926-97 average of 7.2 percent.

    People mock blogs, but where else do you get this kind of information? John and the gentlemen from the CEPR both explain their position and back it up with other sources. You'll never see this depth of information and opinion in a newspaper. And maybe that's why their circulation continues to plummet.

    Posted by at 01:37 PM | Comments (68)

     

    May 13, 2005

    Ten Things I've Never Done.

    [Posted by ]

    While it's not as revealing as a rousing game of "I never", I thought I'd steal this idea from Ann Althouse and post my own list of ten things I've never done. I think you all are going to be so disappointed by me.

    1. Quit a job and had a new job already lined up.

    2. Watched any of the Godfather movies.

    3. Had stitches.

    4. Been outside of the United States.

    5. Hit an exacta.

    6. Ridden a rollercoaster.

    7. Been to a Green Bay Packers game in Lambeau Field.

    8. Eaten caviar.

    9. Used a slot machine.

    10. Caught the bouquet.

    Anyone else want to play?

    Posted by at 09:24 AM | Comments (11)

     

    May 12, 2005

    The Apprentice Recap - Week 15 - one more left until the finale

    [Posted by james]

    I thought that this wasn't going to be a full-sized recap, but I was wrong. Hey, who knew?

    OK, here we go, Trump voiceover tells us that Tana and Kendra are left. One book smarts candidate v. one street smarts candidate. Kendra is running the Best Buy videogame championship, and Tana is running the NYC 2012 athlete challenge. We join them in action...

    Who will win? Who will be fired? Who will be the next Apprentice?

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

    We see that Tana is an early riser, up and ready to go at 6:45, while her team is still lying in bed. "Come on, I've given you 45 minutes!" I'm not sure whose side I'm on here - on the one hand, I hate being late. 45 minutes is a ridiculous amount of time to get readysnooze. On the other hand, I haven't been up before 10 am for about 3 years now. hmmmmm.

    Remember last week when Kendra pissed off the Sony people by sticking the Playstation area in a dirty basement? The Sony rep had said that there was a good chance that Sony would "pull" its sponsorship. No chance of that anymore - Kendra did an awesome job on the basement. Since Sony is providing a boxing game, she had a regulation size boxing ring put in, she's planning on having a boxing announcer and actual boxers in the ring. To get people down to the basement she will be running gaming sessions in "rounds," etc. Amy from Sony is very, very impressed. George weighs in and sounds pretty impressed as well. You know what? I'm also impressed. I don't think that I've given Kendra enough credit all year long. Hey, who knew?

    Tana is meeting with Governor Pataki's rep. The Governor will be arriving at 10:30 and will be introduced by Bruce Jenner. Awesome. In the meantime, Kristin, on Tana's team, took secret "behind the scenes" information such as which athletes are difficult, etc, and printed it in the program! hehe. Only on The Apprentice. Tana meets with her star athletes. In addition to Bruce Jenner, she has Micheal Phelps, Bart Connor, Justin ... Gatlin? Wow. Easily worth All the Gold in California. Gov Pataki arrives and points out that there is no American flag on the stage. Trump says "that is a yooooge mistake." Shot of Tana acting like a huge bitch. Carolyn weighs on on camera and slams Tana for her attitude. I don't think I've ever seen Carolyn do that before. Not lookin' good for ol' Tana.

    Haha: shot of Tana on camera, saying to some stranger: "You're looking at the next Apprentice! I've got this job!" I'm doing so GREAT! Famous last words, I'm sure.

    Back to Kendra, who I can't for the life of me imagine losing this thing to Tana. Trump arrives - Kendra has him followed by a spotlight, and he enters the boxing ring and announces the emcee, some rap guy that I've never heard of. Oh, he's probably very popular, it's just that my knowledge of rappers ended with MC Ricky D. Trump congratulates Kendra on a job well done. Here, here. And all this time I've been slamming her. Hey, who knew?

    Shot of Tana talking down about her employees to the camera. "It's best when the boss just lets her employees go on ahead of 'em, so they can feel like an employee, and I'll hang back here like an executive." Wow, what. a. bitch. Could she BE any more condecending?

    I was wondering whether I should use the word "bitch" in my recap at all, but that decision was made for me when Tana herself used it, in reference to snack food no less: "Oh, I got me a bucket a pretzels. I paid for these bitches, they're coming home." That is a verbatim quote.

    More shots of Tana telling the camera how she won, how there's no way she can possibly lose. Oh man.

    (Check out our other Apprentice recaps here.)

    Now shots of Kendra crying about how great her team is. Ick. She had to go an ruin my newly formed high opinion of her, didn't she?

    Tana and Kendra meet in the suite, and Tana makes the censors earn their salaries by using the F-word. Who'd have thought that she was so arrogant, vengeful, and, well..... trashy? I'm really thinking that the T-man should have kept Craig and sent Tana back to her cornfield trailer. Hey, who knew?

    Boardroom time. Trump starts in on Tana. Tana sounds arrogant as hell. They keep showing Kendra who must know by now that she's won this thing. Trump tells Kendra that her team "really loved her." He tells her multiple times. Tana looks less than thrilled.

    Trump asks Tana about her education. Tana says "My education came from the street." Yeeeeeeah, you sing it sista! Keep it real, homey! Must have been tough for Tana growing up on the streets around all those cornstalks. Do they even have streets in Iowa?

    Trump tells the candidates that they both did "amazingly well." The candidates are kicked out and George and Carolyn both say "they're both well qualified."

    Show ends with Trump calling their employees into the boardroom.

    I have to say, I really underestimated Kendra. And I really overestimated Tana.

    Hey, who knew?

    Posted by jkhat at 10:38 PM | Comments (2)

     

    Greatest Americans - Part 2-Artists & Writers

    [Posted by ]

    Our readers voted John Wayne their greatest American actor or director, so now it's time to move on to artists and writers. This category, which Discovery's show doesn't even include (fools!) was so hard to narrow down to nine. I decided to pick 4 writers, 4 artists and then stick in Frank Lloyd Wright, because I didn't know where else he'd fit in.

    I could have put about 30 names on this list, but these are the nine I have. Vote away!

    Note: Polling is over. Mark Twain was our winner.

    Posted by at 02:25 AM | Comments (20)

     

    May 11, 2005

    American Idol Results-Who Got Voted Off-Week 9

    [Posted by ]

    I raced home from a bar to watch this, so excuse me if I go astray. Seacrest in. Blah blah blah...Final Four...so close, yet so far.

    To mark the formality of the occasion, Sir Ryan (I have dubbed him thusly) is in a suit anda tie. He introduces the soon to be Final Three and the judging trio. Recap of last night...the judges thought Carrie sucked, Bo rocked, Vonzell was excellent and Federov was Federovastic. But, will America agree?

    The final four stay in a country way with a lovely rendition of "Islands in the Stream". But, unless Dolly Parton's in the house, I don't wanna hear this.

    Stupid Ford commercial where car=roller coaster. It's as lame as it sounds.

    Now we get to see the original auditions from each of the Final Four:

    • Vonzell looks and sounds fantastic while singing 'Chain of Fools".
    • Federov sings "Angel" by Jon Secada and sounds exactly like the Federov we've come to know and love. Those who think he's grown so much in the competition, please take note.
    • Carrie sings Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" and actually, I didn't like it at all. She's much better now.
    • Finally, we get to see Bo's original audition for the first time. Simon immediately loved him, but me, not so much. He had some soul, and you could definitely see some potential, but he too is much better now

    Ryan unveil's the episode's big "surprise". The final three will jet away to their hometowns tomorrow for some special VIP treatment. Tonight's bootee, however, will be given a coach ticket home. Poor baby. I think they should make him or her take the bus ;-).

    At last, we're down to business. Bo is safe. Carrie is safe (whew, I say). Now it's down to Federov and Vonzell. And, it's Anthony Federov. My poor, little Ukranian. He's a sweet boy, but it was time for him to go. I'm just glad he lasted longer than that damn Savol.

    Read our previous American Idol recaps

    Posted by at 08:28 PM | Comments (2)

     

    Marquette backtracks, drops 'Gold' nickname

    [Posted by james]

    Marquette made a dumb move in 1994 when they changed their name from the popular "Warriors" to the lame "Golden Eagles." Instead of fixing that problem asap, they chose to suffer with a name that no one liked and everybody loved to hate for 11 years, until they finally responded to the outcry 2 weeks ago and announced that the University would again be changing its mascot. Better late than never, right? You'd think so, but not if the plan was to change the nickname to something even dumber than the "Golden Eagles."

    And in this case it was dumber - way dumber. The University decided to ignore the facts that 92% of alumni identified with the name "Warriors" and that 76% of the alumni found the name "Warriors" to be consistent with the University's mission, and instead chose the name "Marquette Gold."

    After widespread public outrage, University officials decided that "Gold" was one name they weren't ready to suffer with for another 11 years, and they announced that they had changed their minds and that they would not be changing their nickname to the "Gold."

    Instead, the University has decided to compound their error with yet another STUPID idea - they're holding a "vote" for the new name, over the internet. In a press release to the Marquette community, University officials have declared:

    There will also be a write-in option, presented with the parameters that votes for Warriors will not be counted, and that all write-in's must be consistent with both our Jesuit, Catholic mission and the Board resolution on Native American imagery.

    That's right - the name that over 90% of the alumni approve of won't be an option. Never mind the fact that this whole mess is afoot only because they changed that name 11 years ago. Never mind the fact that there isn't a damned thing offensive about the name.

    University officials made a bad decision 11 years ago, causing them to make yet another bad decision two weeks ago in an attempt to solve that problem. Rather than stick with that bad decision, they backtrack, looking about as decisive as a kitty in a room full of catnip. And for what? To not solve the problem again? It's one thing to come out and say "we made a mistake, we're going to pick the name everyone wants, "Warriors." It's quite another to look spineless and wishy-washy while offering a spineless and wishy-washy solution.

    It has to make you wonder, just who is holding the reigns over there?

    Marquette alumni need to send a message to the school and its "leadership" by politely responding with "I'm sorry - I only give to the Marquette Warriors" the next time they come calling for a donation.

    Posted by jkhat at 06:22 PM | Comments (2)

     

    Milwaukee Voter Fraud Update

    [Posted by james]

    Though few in the establishsed media have been covering it, we have been actively following the Milwaukee voter fraud story. Here is the latest:

    A task force looking into potential voter fraud on Election Day [2004] said Tuesday that it found more than 200 felons voted illegally and more than 100 instances of people voting twice or using fake names and addresses.

    The investigators found hundreds of fraudulent votes in all and counted 4,600 more ballots than registered voters in Milwaukee - but did not uncover any proof of a plot to alter the outcome of the hotly contested presidential race in Wisconsin's largest city. They also found ballots cast using the names of dead people.
    (emphasis added)

    That's right, Milwaukee had more votes cast than it had registered voters, and no one seems to care enough to make this a front page story.

    There may be no evidence of a conspiracy, but the Dems certainly planned for this. Back in October 2004, we reported that Milwaukee County Dems were pushing to print over twice as many ballots as they did for the 2000 election. One commenter pointed out:

    Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a local co-chairman of Sen. John Kerry (news - web sites)'s campaign, wants the county to print 938,000 ballots, far more than the usual number, to accommodate a flood of new voters. But County Executive Scott Walker, a local co-chairman of President Bush (news - web sites)'s re-election campaign, is giving the city 679,000 ballots - 10,000 more than were printed for the last presidential election. He says having a large number of excess ballots would be an opportunity for fraud

    To which we added:

    In the 2000 census, Milwaukee County had 940,164 residents. Now I don't know how many of those are under 18, but it seems pretty unlikely that the county will need 938,000 ballots. ... they are printing 10,000 more than were printed last time, not 10,000 more than were USED last time. According to one source 432,694 [votes were cast in the last election]. (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-gop/936812/posts) Do you really think that Milwaukee County will legitimately need over TWICE as many ballots as it did last time?

    So here we are months after the election. Kerry won Wisconsin by roughly 11,000 votes. In Milwaukee County there were more votes cast than there were registered voters. And Democratic Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has vetoed legislation that would stamp out voter fraud by ending same-day registration in Wisconsin, playing the race card in the process and trumpeting the state's artifically high voter turnout:

    But one of the most overlooked stories of the last election is that in Wisconsin almost 3 million people voted - ranking our state third in the nation in voter turnout, with more than 75%.

    As a state, we should be very proud of our high turnout, and as we look to reform our election laws, we should be working to build on that leadership because we still have 25% of our eligible population not participating.

    That's such a dishonest way to characterize the facts that I'm left almost speechless. What's next, will Doyle be spinning this report by saying "We should be very proud that in Wisconsin, our dead people continue to have a voice. However, there are some dead people still not voting, so as we reform our laws we need to to keep their interests in mind and work toward 100% dead-voter turnout."

    Anybody who is legitimately concerned about fairness and committed to the idea of "democracy" should be outraged by these events. That the Dems are working to keep this voter fraud institutionalized and even working to accommodate it should tell you something - they love democracy as long as the people pick them; if they don't, then to hell with it.

    Posted by jkhat at 12:14 PM | Comments (5)

     

    May 10, 2005

    Amazing Race Finale-Who Wins & How

    [Posted by ]

    The end of another season of the Amazing Race is always bitter sweet. On one hand, I get to enjoy an amazing (pardon the pun) final episode, but, on the other hand, I'll miss this show over the summer.

    My sister and I used to take turns cooking meals that corresponded to that week's TAR destination. It's too bad we didn't revive the custom for the finale, as I certainly would have enjoyed some Jamaican jerk chicken. At the very least, I would have liked to sip some tropical drinks while I watched Uchenna & Joyce (or as Phil calls them "Uchenner & Joyce) win the million dollar cash prize.

    I still think that Rob & Amber ran the best race overall, but Uchenna & Joyce went through a couple of hellish legs in Jamaica and Puerto Rico. After coming in last in the penultimate leg in Jamaica, Uchenna & Joyce were left without any money. Unlike other teams in that situation who a) were in places they could quickly beg to make up the difference and b) could rely on cheaper public transportation, UJ were stuck in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, on a cab-heavy leg of the race. It took forever for them to beg enough money to continue, and, luckily for them, one of the few bunching opportunities enabled them to get back in the game. Their performance through all of this showed me they deserved the win just as much as Rob & Amber.

    Ron & Kelly, not surprisingly, came in third because they can't communicate. I don't know why Kelly is so gung-ho about marrying Ron. She doesn't even seem to like him, much less be in love with him. Does she want to marry him just so she can make his life miserable (and vice versa)? These two need to just break up and move on.

    A few final notes on this last show of the season:

    • I thought the limbo roadblock in Jamaica was one of the best roadblocks in the history of the Race. It was creative, fit with the culture and was fun to watch. And, it was a task that a short person like me would have dominated!
    • Speaking of Jamaica, I want to camp out on the beach they did the limbo at. God, that was beautiful.
    • Uchenna was mighty, uh, "impressive", when he stripped down to his briefs to jump off the pier in San Juan, wasn't he?
    • Even though I read spoilers a long time ago that claimed that UJ won, I was still dying for them when they were literally at the finish and having to beg for money to pay their final cabbie before they could run to the mat. I certainly hope that they borrowed some money from the Philimated teams after they finished and ran back and gave the guy a big, fat tip
    • One thing I noticed was that the other teams just assumed that Rob freaks out whenever anything goes wrong for him. First, why do they care how Rob feels? Second, Rob's pretty stoic when things don't go his way. He's not a Jonathan from last season or a Colin "My Ox is BROKEN!".
    • You would have to be made of stone to not get choked up when Uchenna talked about how they were going to try in vitro again and if that didn't work they'd adopt. Those two will really make great parents. I know it's probably too much to ask, but I hope that tomorrow we find out that Joyce is pregnant.
    • Finally, I know it's a controversial opinion, but I'm really glad Rob & Amber were on the Race this year. They were a fantastic team and were fun to watch in each and every episode. I don't want to admit this, but I'm sure I'll watch their wedding on CBS. I'm such a loser ;-)

    So that's it. Come back next Fall for recaps of the Amazing Race-family style. In the meantime, you can also enjoy the finale recap at Viking Pundit.

    Posted by at 10:33 PM | Comments (9)

     

    American Idol Recap - Week 9

    [Posted by james]

    American Idol Recap - Week 9. Who's gonna get voted off?

    Seacrest in, wearing an ugly printed shirt under his blazer. Man, who dresses this guy? "In 2 weeks we'll be at the Kodak Theater for the finale."

    du-nuh-na-uh-nah-na-nuh-na-nuh-nuh-nuh.

    Lots of shock and outrage surrounding the show, says Seacrest. That's what happens when you lose a guy like Scott Savol. Laughs from the judges as Randy and Simon both point at Paula for some reason.

    Switch to the flashback shot of Seacrest telling the contestants what the theme will be. He has a really big cutout of the United States which he holds up as he trumpets, "THIS............. is the United States!" Apparently they don't expect the constants on this show to have finished first grade geography. Or maybe they just figured that Bo killed the particular brain cells that contained that little tidbit. Or hey, maybe Scotty was the brains of the group. "yea, dog, ya kno' wha' im say'un, that BEEEE the U.S. of A, ahey, where's my pot pie, beeeatch!" Who knows.

    We're told that half of the songs this week are "the Philly sound," written by Gamble and Huff, and that the other half are from Nashville and are country tunes. So it's a little bit country, and a little bit rock and roll. Ok, if Donnie and Marie are in the audience I'm gonna quit watching forever. In any event, you surely don't need a map of the whole entire US of A to show those 2 cities, seeing as how you can drive from one to the other by passing through only 2 other states, but what the heck, I guess "Middle Atlantic Idol" just doesn't have a good ring to it.

    This week it looks like each song will be introduced by members of the contestants' families.

    Carrie's 2 sisters Shanna and Stephanie come out to introduce Carrie doing "Sin Wagon" by the Dixie Chicks (who are from Texas, not Nashville.) Suffice it to say, Carrie got the looks in that family. Hey, maybe they got the book smarts or something. "Oklahoma's pulling for you!" ha. I don't know if I just don't like this song or if I just dont like Carrie's performance. I don't think I like either. This is a terrible song for Idol - it's like a bluegrass beat with about 20 instruments in it. It sounds like a bunch of racket.
    Randy: That was the perfect song.
    Paula: Randy said it all.
    Simon: Wise words, Paula. "very very very good indeed."
    Hat: Of all of the good country songs to choose from, you pick that crap? That was awful, Carrie. Simply awful. You might be going home this week, hon.

    Bo Bice's parents introduce him doing Travis Tritt's "It's a Great Day to Be Alive." I'll tell you right now before even hearing it, that's an awesome song choice perfect for Bo. Hmmm, I'm a little disappointed in his subdued performance, but his voice sounds great.

    Randy: Great job, I didn't like the song.
    Paula: Babble Babble. (she's so nervous, I'll bet she's sleeping with him.)
    Simon: Starts out, "What Paula was trying to say, is that was boring."
    Hat: I liked the choice, but agree, it was boring. It could have been done much more upbeat. Next time take in a few lines before the performance to bring out some energy.


    Vonzell's brothers Gabriel and Kendall introducing her as she does some Trisha Yearwood, "How do I live Without you?" Huh, I was about to complement one of them on his hair, but he just punked out by threatening Simon, cautioning him to "watch it." Just what we need, more entourage punks in the music biz. The song sounds fine, until Vonzell messes up the words noticeably. Nothing really bad about this performance except that, but nothing really great either.

    Randy: This song is too slow for me. (OK there, Mr. Journey.)
    Paula: "You are a beautiful performer." She says this 3 or 4 times. (You know what's too slow for me? Sober Paula. I can't take it anymore.)
    Simon: You looked and sounded incredibly nervous.
    Hat: It's not secret that I don't like Vonzell. I think she's boring and cookie cutter. There is just no star-quality. I don't know why Vonzell is crying now, apparently something happened to her in the off-week, but we're not told what it is.

    Natalia and Vladimir, Federov's parents, introducing the "Ukranian cowboy" himself doing a song by Lonestar. They're not introducing any of these songs by name, btw - I'm including the titles b/c I happen to know them. This song is called "I'm already there." It's certainly a Federov-styled song, a sort of rockin' ballad that he can kick out. I have to say, I'm not a big fan of this style of song, but I am impressed with his performance.

    Randy: I've gotta give you props, it was good dog.
    Paula: Good performance.
    Simon: You sang well, but that felt a bit "cynical" and "gooey."
    Hat: Goo or no goo, I thought this was the Ukranian Cowboy's best week, by far.

    Gamble and Huff are in the audience introducing their little segement. Thank god, no Osmonds are shown.

    Carrie comes out to introduce her song, "If you don't know me" while crying about how much she likes her sisters. Oh give me a break. I don't think I could spend more than a few days in the same house with Carrie. Anyway, the performance is OK, but I have to say - I'm not that impressed. She sounds punchy or "up and down." I'm actually cringing at some of the notes. But the audience is cheering? I don't know what they're hearing there, but this isn't in tune.

    Randy: Didn't work for me tonight. (big boos from the audience.) Pitch-wise, he says, that wasn't on. (Good, I'm glad I'm not the only one.)
    Paula: Didn't work for you.
    Simon: That was an appalling arrangement, it was boring, it was a complete and utter mess.
    Hat: I agree with the judges. At the outset of this competition, I was really impressed with Carrie. Not anymore - the last 4 weeks she's been decidedly ordinary. And like I said, that was waaaaay out of tune.

    Bo up with "For the love of money," made famous by the OJ's, and made even more famous by Donald Trump and The Apprentice. I think this is a good choice for Bo, and he doesn't disappoint. Much more energy this time out.

    Randy: "I hope when your record comes out, that's on your record."
    Paula: "Your best performance so far, loved it."
    Simon: "Terrible image, fantastic performance."
    Hat: I wouldn't call it his best, but it was pretty good.

    Vonzell is singing "Don't leave me this way," and she dedicates the song to her parents for "all of their hard work, often working 2 or 3 songs to support them." OK, that dedication makes no sense to me, but whatever. V likes her parents, I'll just figure she meant that. OK, she is hitting some notes here that have a very Diana Ross sound about them. I actually have goosebumps - this is easily her best performance EVER.

    Randy: "The one thing America knows now, you can definitely sing."
    Paula: Says it was her personal best.
    Simon: You pulled all the stops out on that one, it was a very manic performance. Better than your first.
    Hat: I don't know where this has been all season. If she had belted it out like this, I would have never hated her.

    Federov with a message for his parents, "Thanks for giving me the American Dream." Awwww. Whoa, crappy crappy crappy song choice of "If you don't know me by now." Pretty crappy version of it, too.

    Randy: Dude, that was good, you worked it out.
    Paula: You nailed it.
    Simon: The problem I have with that is that you need soul to sing that song, it came over like trying to get the Woody Allen to play the leading (something).
    Hat: I thought that was terrible. His first song was great, the last was terrible.

    (Visit our American Idol category page for previous recaps and other stories.)


    Ok, based on JUST tonight's perfomances, here is my rating:

    1. Bo Bice
    2. Vonzell
    3. Federov
    4. Carrie

    As we all know, though, Idol voting isn't entirely based on the best perfomance. For that reason, I predict that Federov will be voted off.

    Posted by jkhat at 08:02 PM | Comments (10)

     

    New Buffalo Nickel Leaves Little to the Imagination

    [Posted by ]

    You'd think with all the traffic and comments we get about the misprinted Wisconsin state quarter, someone would have clued me in about the new Buffalo nickel. The popular new nickel:

    still features Thomas Jefferson's portrait, but it's updated and bigger, with "Liberty" to the right in his handwriting. The other side shows the bison in place of Jefferson's Monticello.

    And what a bison! Someone I work with noticed she had one of the new nickels today and while the head of the coin is a handsome portrait of Thomas Jefferson, the bison on the tail, is showing a little more than just tail. Check it out.

    Heh, clearly this bison has more in common with Dick Cheney than an emasculated Ken doll. I'm pleased, and a little surprised, that in this era of political correctness, the US Mint chose to exercise a little anatomical correctness.

    Posted by at 06:09 PM | Comments (9)

     

    Howard Dean endorses Vermont Socialist for Senate

    [Posted by james]

    Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean has gone on record as supporting Vermont "Independent" Bernie Sanders' run for the U.S. Senate:

    Breaking party lines, former Gov. Howard Dean said Monday he supports Rep. Bernard Sanders' bid for the U.S. Senate, saying the Independent makes a "strong candidate."

    "A victory for Bernie Sanders is a win for Democrats," Dean said in a telephone interview Monday.

    The linked-to article makes no mention of Sanders' political affiliation, other than citing to him as an "Independent." Similarly, Sanders' current House member's webpage calls him only an "Independent," though his bio does provide the following information:

    Other books that describe his political career as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont and candidate for Congress are:

    People's Republic: Vermont and the Sanders Revolution by Greg Guma, 1989;

    Challenging the Boundaries of Reform: Socialism in Burlington by W.J. Conroy, 1990;

    Socialist Mayor: Bernard Sanders in Burlington, Vermont by Steven Soifer, 1991;

    Making History in Vermont: The Election of a Socialist to Congress by Steven Rosenfeld, 1992.

    Telling, indeed. As are other references and articles about the man.

    He is the only independent member of the House, and is one of very few self-declared socialists elected to federal office in the United States in recent times.

    A victory for Bernie Sanders is a win for Socialsts everywhere. And, as Howard Dean himself said, "A victory for Bernie Sanders is a win for Democrats."

    Posted by jkhat at 01:05 PM | Comments (4)

     

    May 09, 2005

    The 100 Greatest Americans (really?)

    [Posted by ]

    This June, the Discovery Channel will broadcast "Greatest American", a show where Americans will vote from among 100 nominees and eventually pick our Greatest American.

    The 100 nominees were chosen from nominations made via AOL and are divided into categories like "Presidents", "Champions of Causes", "Scientists" and "Celebrities". Some of the usual suspects are there: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin & Thomas Edison. But some of these nominees are just hilariously lightweight. They're the Jim Verraros of the competition. Here's just a few of them:

    • Tom Cruise
    • Ellen DeGeneres
    • John Edwards
    • Brett Favre
    • Mel Gibson
    • Hugh Hefner
    • Michael Jackson
    • Rush Limbaugh
    • Madonna
    • Dr. Phil McGraw
    • Michael Moore
    • Barack Obama
    • Martha Stewart
    • Pat Tillman

    Now, I understand that the producers of the series undoubtably wanted to include people the audience is more familiar with. But come on. Brett Favre? I love Brett, but don't you think he's a little embarassed to be on this list, sandwiched between Dwight Eisenhower & Henry Ford. Let's see...led the Allied Forces to victory over the Nazis, introduced the assembly line to automobiles and made cars affordable for nearly everyone, and, uh, led the Packers to a Super Bowl. I mean, if they had to have a Packer on the list, why not Vince Lombardi?

    Better yet, why not just let us vote for the Greatest Living American? That show would be far more intriguing and could legitimately include some modern household names. Instead we have a list with Maya Angelou, but not Walt Whitman or Ernest Hemingway or William Faulkner. We have Michael Moore, but not Alfred Hitchcock or John Ford. There's no Meriweather Lewis or William Clark. No Douglas MacArthur or Black Jack Pershing. No Johnny Cash or Tennessee Williams or Winslow Homer. You get the idea.

    In fact, this list is so ridiculous that I've come up with my own list, using the same categories, and over the next few weeks we can narrow it down. We may come up with the same winners, but I think the Dummocrats competition will be far tougher.

    I'll put up a new poll every three days, with nine choices in each. Our first category is "Actors and Directors". Have at it!

    This poll is now closed. Our winner was John Wayne.

    Update: since I can only have 9 choices per poll, I'll have to get rid of a category, and celebrities is going to be it. I want to stay as close to what the Discovery Channel has as I can, so I think this is how the categories will break down:

    1. Actors & Directors: May 9-11
    2. Artists & Writers: May 12-14
    3. Athletes: May 15-17
    4. Business Leaders: May 18-20
    5. Champions of Causes: May 21-23
    6. Heroes & Icons: May 24-26
    7. Musicians: May 27-29
    8. Politicians: May 30-June 1
    9. Scientists, Inventors & Explorers: June 2-4

    Then, we'll run the finals from June 5-7, right after Discovery's program begins.

    So, if you want any input on the nominees for a particular category, be sure to get them in before the dates above. Just suggest them in the comments to the post where the latest poll is.

    Posted by at 10:14 PM | Comments (6)

     

    Glamour Weighs in on Social Security Reform

    [Posted by ]

    While I'm not a total girly girl, I do read a couple of women's magazines. Now normally you can't count on these magazines for much more than the latest variation on the "12 things men really want you to do in bed" (hint-it's always the same thing) or "150 great looks that won't make your butt look big - all under $50!!", but I noticed that my latest issue of Glamour has an article on Social Security reform.

    Glamour, under the totally non-scary headline of "Will you die broke?", helpfully tries to explain "what women could lose" under the Bush Social Security plan. The article points readers to the Center for Economic and Policy Research's Accurate Benefits Calculator so each and every Glamour girl can see how she'll be screwed by the proposed reforms.

    Being the skeptic that I am, I checked out the site. The first thing I noticed was that the site simply calculated the difference between what you'd receive per month if Social Security carried on as normal in perpetuity vs. what you'd receive with a 25% benefit cut with no private account and then what you'd receive under the Bush plan with a private account. And, according to the calculator, I must really suck as an investor, because my benefits would be less if I had a private account than if I went with the Bush plan but had no private account at all.

    The Glamour editors seem to think this is a great public service, rather than the complete b.s. that it is. Two quick things I noticed:

    1. The calculator assumes that the rate of return on your private account would be 4.35%. The S&P rate of return was 6.8% last year and the forecasts from the Social Security Adminstration that the Bush plan are based on is a rate of return of 6.5%. Now, this nonpartisan group isn't stacking the deck against private accounts or anything, are they?
    2. The calculator is far too simple. You simply put in a single amount that you expect to earn in a typical year. As far as I can see, there's no way to account for earning more and more throughout your career.

    But finally, this calculator misses the whole idea of why Social Security either needs to be reformed or simply go away. It's irresponsible to pretend that younger people today can retire under the same benefits structure that currently exists. That's not an option, unless we're willing to accept higher and higher taxes. The fact is, if we want the same benefits when we retire, we need to be prepared to keep far less of our paychecks over course of our lifetime in the workforce. I won't die broke, but I won't live lavishly in the meantime.

    Or, alternatively, our economy will continue to grow at a healthy pace, we'll all earn more and the government will cut spending on things other than Social Security and will therefore be able to afford to pay the same benefits to the Baby Boomers and beyond. Heh. I crack myself up sometimes.

    In any case, Glamour needs to stick to telling women what the "12 things men want to say to you but don't" are and stay out of the political arena.

    Posted by at 06:40 PM | Comments (1)

     

    May 08, 2005

    Kentucky Derby Recap

    [Posted by ]

    Once again, I'm wrong about the Kentucky Derby. But, at least I was wrong with a longshot (Andromeda's Hero) rather than wrong with a big favorite. I wasn't surprised to see Bellamy Road back up down the Derby stretch. I just couldn't get behind the idea that a son of a horse like Concerto was actually a superhorse, and he isn't one. Congrats to the winner, Giacomo.

    To get this Derby right, you basically had to have the contrarian opinion that the horses coming out of the Santa Anita Derby were better than everyone thought. And, they clearly were as they finished 1-4-5-6, all at high odds. When the year began, my top three choices were the California colts Fusaichi Samurai, Roman Ruler and Declan's Moon. They all went down with minor injuries and I abandoned the rest of the California contingent. My mistake.

    I knew this race was going to set up for a closer to come from the clouds, which Giacomo did. The next leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes, will probably be a different story. I expect Afleet Alex to be in the favorite and I wouldn't be surprised to see him win. He's a gallant colt and the Derby is just a tad too far for him. The shorter Preakness should suit him to a tee.

    For me, it's wait until next year again. Here's ten two-year old colts I'm tracking, hopefully one or two of them will be in the Derby starting gate a year from now:

    1. Where's That Tiger: Storm Cat colt out of a full sister to Fusaichi Pegasus
    2. Flight West: half brother to one of my all-time faves, Casanova Star
    3. Save Big Money: Storm Cat colt out of Tomisue's Delight
    4. Westward Wind: half brother to Indygo Shiner, from a great Juddmonte Farm family
    5. New Point: colt from the first crop of Point Given, out of the good turf mare Colstar
    6. Honor My Flag: by A.P. Indy out of My Flag (a daughter of my beloved Easy Goer)
    7. Barbican: a full brother to the ill-fated 2001 filly champion Tempera
    8. Reward Money: by A.P. Indy from a Sunday Silence mare
    9. Flanders Fields: by A.P. Indy out of 1994 filly champion Flanders
    10. And, my favorite two-year old, Idaho: by A.P. Indy out of the gorgeous mare Sahara Gold
    Posted by at 12:03 AM | Comments (2)

     

    May 06, 2005

    Inside the Blogger's Studio

    [Posted by ]

    Drew over at the Longhorn Mafia has a fun post that's a take off on the ultra-pompous Inside the Actor's Studio on Bravo. The same ten questions close every show, and, the originator of those questions, Bernard Pivot, turns 70 today. In his honor, bloggers are taking a stab at answering the questions. Soods like a good Friday post to me!

    1. What is your favorite word?
    Hullabaloo

    2. What is your least favorite word?
    Moist

    3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
    Unselfconsciousness

    4. What turns you off?
    Humorlessness

    5. What is your favorite curse word?
    Mother Trucker

    6. What sound or noise do you love?
    (to borrow an idea from Drew) The opening strains of The Bud Song

    7. What sound or noise do you hate?
    My cat Claude's incessant whining when he's vaguely dissatisfied

    8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
    Nature Resource Management

    9. What profession would you not like to do?
    Grade School Teacher

    10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
    Good morning, sunshine

    Anyone else want to play?

    Posted by at 01:45 PM | Comments (1)

     

    Kentucky Derby Prediction

    [Posted by ]

    I've been a horse racing fan all of my life. The icon to the left, which we used to illustrate "horse race" coverage of the Presidential election, is actually the wonderous Landaluce, a daughter of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew. Landaluce won her first five starts back in 1982 by a total of over 50 lengths. Everyone thought she'd be the next superhorse. Unfortunately, she fell ill that November and died before she could fulfill her promise. I've always thought this captured what she was (at least to the 10-year old girl I was then):

    She was a lady, a fairy queen, delicate in style, blessed with envious beauty, adorned in fine-spun charms. But hidden beneath that handsome facade was a raging fire, a competitive zeal that left her rivals in awestruck admiration. People came from miles around just to catch a glimpse of this marvelous creature. It is not often that perfection strolls by, so when it does, even the most brutish among us is compelled to yield a begrudging smile.

    But, even though I'm enough of a fan to remember an almost-legend like Landaluce, I've never been that successful at picking a Kentucky Derby winner. Why is this race so hard to get right? There are three main reasons:

    1. The Derby is run at a mile and a quarter. None of the horses in the race have ever gone that far before. A lot of horses look like world beaters at a mile and an eighth, but they turn into also-rans at 1 1/4 miles.
    2. Horses come into the Derby from all over the country and they haven't raced against each other yet. A horse may be dominant in California, for example, but it's hard to predict how they'll match up against the competition from New York
    3. The Derby usually has a huge field. That means that horses may run into traffic problems and racing luck is more of a factor in the Derby than it is in any other race

    The three big favorites in tomorrow's race are George Steinbrenner's Bellamy Road who destroyed the competition in New York's Wood Memorial, Afleet Alex, who did the same in Arkansas and Dummocrats' official horse Bandini (pictured on the left) who won the Blue Grass Stakes in Kentucky. Other top contenders are Sun King, Noble Causeway and High Fly.

    The last couple of years, I've had a very strong opinion on who would win the race. I haven't been right, but my choices have run extremely well. This year, I was all set to pick Bandini. I feel like Afleet Alex doesn't have the breeding to go 1 1/4 miles and that Bellamy Road will face early competition for the lead and that will soften him up for some stretch runners. Bandini certainly fits that profile and he's so tough that he tried to bite a competitor a couple of races back, but I just don't have a good feeling about him and I think the colt he defeated in the Blue Grass Stakes, Sun King, might be able to turn the tables tomorrow.

    But there's one horse that I really can't shake a certain feeling about: Andromeda's Hero. He's 50-1 in the morning line, so that's quite a feeling I have. Andromeda, like Bandini, is a son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus and his mother's line traces directly back to the legendary Man O'War's big sister Masda. He's a big, beautiful colt who's bred to run all day. He finished third to Afleet Alex in his last start, losing by about 7 lengths. That day, Andromeda's Hero was blocked several times while trying to make his stretch run. He had no chance to win, but he closed ground like a wild horse and actually passed the winner after the finish line. He's a little quirky, but he's incredibly talented and wouldn't the Kentucky Derby be a great time to put it all together?

    My offical Derby picks:

    1. Andromeda's Hero
    2. Sun King
    3. Bandini

    Any of our readers want to take a stab at this?

    Posted by at 06:32 AM | Comments (5)

     

    May 05, 2005

    Marquette's New Nickname: The Gold

    [Posted by ]

    The Badger Blog Alliance is covering the latest Wisconsin sports scandal: Marquette University's new nickname. For those of you who don't know, Marquette was originally known as the "Warriors", but that name was abandoned in the 1990s for the more PC "Golden Eagles". Well, yesterday the University announced that they were changing the name again. I, like most people, assumed they had come to their senses and would go back to being the Warriors again. Nope. Instead the University has decided they would like to be known as the "Marquette Gold". Seriously. "The Gold". They've chosen what is arguably the worst nickname in the history of sports.

    People are speculating that, given the reaction to the nickname, the University may change its mind. However, I think there's still a way to salvage things. Marquette just needs to do the following:

    1. Make the logo a simple "AU". I guarantee they'll sell hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandise. Hell, I'll buy a t-shirt.
    2. Change the team jerseys to a solid gold with gold sparkly sneakers and gold lamé warmup suits - that should help with recruiting, dontcha think?
    3. Model the cheerleaders after the Solid Gold Dancers
    4. Change the mascot to "Midas". Greek mascots are all the rage these days.
    5. At home games, introduce the team to the strains of Shirley Bassey singing "Goldfinger"

    Poor Marquette, they got rid of the "Warriors" because they were worried that some people would be offended by it. And now, they've managed to find a name that offends virtually everyone merely because it's so dumb. Political correctness is one hell of a slippery slope.

    Posted by at 11:24 PM | Comments (6)

     

    May 04, 2005

    ABC's American Idol Expose Exposes Sad Truth - ABC is Desperate. Very Desperate.

    [Posted by james]

    Tonight's American Idol Expose on ABC didn't reveal anything new or shocking about the show. What it did reveal, however, was a very sad and sorry truth - ABC is desperate for viewers, and they have no idea how to attract them.

    The Mickey Mouse network has been hyping this Idol scoop for over a week now, teasing in promos that a "shocking secrets" will be revealed, including one involving a sexual affair between former contestant Corey Clark and Paula Abdul. Well guess what? That was the only "secret" involving American Idol that they had to reveal, and it wasn't even a secret!

    For the millions of viewers who tuned in hoping to learn other juicy behind-the-scenes tidbits, there was a silver lining - these viewers were treated to a firsthand, up-close and personal look at how godawful terrible ABC is at covering a news story. ABC took a story that should have gotten 5 minutes of press and stretched it out to an hour. The message is simple: Corey Clark says he slept with Paula. He probably did. Oh, and by the way, he has a new album coming out, and there is a song on it about Paula.

    I can only scratch my head and wonder, is the ABC network really this bad, or does the Mouse own a share of the record label putting out Clark's big debut? Because honestly, based on the performance I saw tonight, I think my high school AV club could put together a better news program. One clip that went something like, "Q: You had sex with Paula? A: Yes I did," was played over and over, for what had to be at least a dozen times. They interviewed contestants that didn't even make the final cut to get their reactions. "Q: Would it have made a difference if you had help picking out your clothes? A: Yes! Oh, definitely! If I had that, I would have probably won!"

    The ABC "expose" really was that bad. It was dull, it was repetitive, and was at times non-sensical. They spent maybe 10 minutes getting Corey Clark's buddies' reactions - all of which were "Sweeeeeet!" (and justifiably so.) Newsflash, ABC: It doesn't take 10 minutes to convey that his buddies were jealous. You could have easily spent a mere 20 seconds on that, then used the 9 minutes and 40 seconds that you saved to promote his upcoming CD - after all, you were only able to work in a measley 15 minutes worth of that.

    Posted by jkhat at 10:27 PM | Comments (3)

     

    American Idol Voting Results-Who Got Voted Off-Week 8

    [Posted by ]

    Seacrest is in and looking dapper in a cream suit and lavendar tie. I miss my scruffy Ryan. I miss my drunk Paula, too. Speaking of Paula, she gets some supportive cheering from the audience when Ryan introduces her. I'm not surprised. If ABC thinks they're taking Idol down tonight, I think they've got another thing coming. Their motives are so transparent.

    It's medley time! Tonight they'll butcher "Bridge Over Troubled Water". Actually, the singing is pretty good, except that Federov and Carrie sound awful together. Oh, and Bo is wearing those damn sunglasses again. Can't we vote them out instead? It seems like the other four finalists are playing backup singer to Bo tonight. Hints of future things to come?

    At the end of the song, the finalists deliver flowers to Paula. Aww...that's sweet. Poor Paula. You know, the most embarassing part of this whole thing isn't that she messed around with a contestant, it's that she messed around with Corey. Blech. She could have done so much better.

    Hey! The Ford commercial is a cover of one of my favorite songs of all time: "Rudy, A Message To You" by the Specials. Sweet! I can even stand Punkass Scott a little bit if he sings this.

    On to the results.

    Federov: Happy Birthday (oh this is going to suck). Sit on the couch.
    Vonzell: Keep standing.
    Savol: Sit on the couch.
    Bo: Keep standing.
    Carrie: Stand.

    Vonzell, Bo & Carrie are the top three. Scott sprawls on the couch looking all pissy and bitter. Federov, meanwhile, is a class act and applauds the top three. Poor Federov. Imagine getting voted out on your birthday.

    Because Idol likes to torture both their contestants and their audience, the bottom two will sing before one of them is given the boot. Scott sings the Brian McKnight song he did last night. I don't need to hear this again. I'll take a quick break and cover my ears. Ryan asks: "Is this the end for Scott?".

    Randy: the right people are sitting on the couch
    Paula: Scott's not an ass, he knows who he is (he's an ass)
    Simon: refuses to answer the question

    Now time for Federov who will repeat his performance of "Incomplete" from last night. I will repeat my performance of desperately wishing for this song to be over.

    And, after the vote, at last it's Scott who's gone. USA! USA!. So long, Punkass! You've been Savoled at last.

    Read our previous American Idol recaps

    Posted by at 08:30 PM | Comments (11)

     

    Meditations on a Theme

    [Posted by John Tant]


    The Washington Post the other day ran an AP story by Liz Sidoti titled Bush Working to Avoid Setback Over Bolton:

    Since the Senate Foreign Relations Committee unexpectedly delayed a vote on Bolton's nomination last month, the White House has reiterated its support daily, worked to reassure wavering Republicans he's the right choice and ensured that Senate GOP leaders are on board.

    ...

    The confirmation battle has enormous stakes for the president, potentially providing him with either a boost or a blow at a critical time.


    OK, I have some issue with the way that's being presented, but more on that in a minute. Let's read a little further.


    Bush's poll numbers are sagging. His proposed Social Security overhaul - like much of his agenda - has been met with skepticism in Congress, his nominees for judicial posts are tied up in the Senate and ethics questions surround a prominent member of his party and fellow Texan, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

    Well, let's talk about the poll numbers. The approval poll at the time showed President Bush with a 48% approval rating, which is right around where it's been historically.

    That said, Sidoti doesn't explain the relevance of an approval poll. I don't know that this particular poll means much in the context of the story. If we were talking about someone running for reelection, then maybe. But I don't think President Bush is basing his decisions on an approval poll. Now, a case could be made that it's relevant for those in Congress who are looking at an election in a year and a half, but in that case wouldn't a more relevant piece of information be in looking how the public views Congress? In the same poll, Congressional Republicans have a 42% approval rating. OK. And then a little further down...Congressional Democrats have a 40% approval rating. The question becomes...why doesn't the AP mention "sagging" approval ratings for Congress, particularly Congressional Democrats? Sidoti mentioning only Bush's approval ratings paints a somewhat different picture than when Congressional numbers get included.

    In fact, looking at the Social Security polling data, I see a very contradictory picture being painted, so contradictory that I don't think one can look at Bush's approval rating and decisively say it's because of *his* Social Security "agenda." And as long as we're talking about Bush's "agenda," what did he want to accomplish in the first few months of his second term? Eric Pfieffer of National Review's Beltway Buzz points out Bush wanted to get reforms in bankruptcy laws and class action lawsuits....things that were, in fact, accomplished. This, along with other accomplishments, does not support the picture of a Congress "skeptical" of President Bush's agenda. It actually shows a President getting things done...the things he wanted to do.

    On another throwaway line from Sidoti, she talks about "ethics questions" with Tom DeLay. But did Democrats not do the same thing DeLay is being excoriated for? Why is DeLay being treated as a pariah for doing what Democrats haven't had a problem with? Is it truly an ethics issue? I mean, look at the way the story presents the issue:

    At least two aides to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and two Democratic congressmen received travel expenses initially paid by lobbyist Jack Abramoff on his credit card or by his firm, internal records of the lobbying firm show.

    So we have TWO AIDES TO TOM DELAY and oh yeah, two Democratic congressmen mumble mumble mumble.....and TOM DELAY is breaking rules and so are Democrats mumble mumble mumble.....

    But it's not like that's important to mention when there's a chance to attack Tom DeLay, right Liz Sidoti? And not when you can go on to attack John Bolton:

    Democrats working to derail Bolton's confirmation paint the nominee as unfit for the job because of his tough-talking demeanor, hard-line foreign policy stances and past criticism of the United Nations.

    You know, I read that and wonder "What's debilitating about any of that?!?" Tough talking demeanor? So what? Hard-line foreign policy stances? Again, so what? Criticisms of the UN? Hooray for THAT! But then when introducing examples, Sidoti starts with:

    Allegations of professional misbehavior have trickled out, including claims - some unsubstantiated - that he:
    Um...unsubstantiated?!? Why are unsubstantiated allegations being tossed in here? Which of the claims she cites are unsubstantiated?!? Melody Townsel's accusations (which have plenty of their own problems..and notice she's a "Dallas Businesswoman" and not "organizer of a Mothers Against Bush chapter...)? The Westermann incident (which she misstates, incidentally)? The the Armstrong incident (which she again misstates)? "Asked" a "spy agency" for details of recorded communications (What..."asking" is a crime?)?

    Now, let's go back to the way Sidoti is playing this:

    The confirmation battle has enormous stakes for the president, potentially providing him with either a boost or a blow at a critical time.

    Does that theme sound familiar? Does it sound an awful lot like what the media was saying during the Presidential election? That it would serve as a referendum of Bush's policies, that if he were defeated it would be a resounding indictment of him? We even had Evan Thomas of Newsweek saying that media support was worth 15 points at the polls. And what happened? Bush was reelected, even with that 15 point handicap. Republicans gained seats. Then suddenly it wasn't much of a referendum, was it? No, it was something else...a vote stealing power grab or an exercise in the "religious right" all turning out to vote against Gay Marriage and oh by the way voting for President Bush. Any number of excuses were given to rationalize away the claims made before the election, and suddenly Bush's victory didn't mean much at all.

    So I'm viewing this story as the opening salvo for a repeat performance by the media for the midterm elections. They're coming up, you know. We're already hearing stories starting to sell the story that this is a country mired in deep dissatisfaction. And so this confirmation, which is being portrayed as a make or break event, will be heavily played as "break" if Bolton loses. But if he gets confirmed, and I have very little doubt that he will, will Liz Sidoti write a story about Bush's great win? I really doubt it. Instead I think we'll start getting stories about how Bush had to spend a ton of political capital getting his nominee through, that everything was so gosh-darned controversial and how Bush screwed up such a routine nomination.

    With all of this, is it really any surprise that the mainstream media is losing their credibility? For that matter, I think they're starting to lose their minds. There's no other explanation for it. Media outlets are facing "sagging" ratings (to borrow a term), and I think they're starting to go crackers over it. So in a fit, we're starting to hear more and more explosively-toned stuff from them which is likely an effort to get their audience back. The problem is, there are now alternatives. You don't have to trust the AP anymore. You can go to any number of other outlets. But instead of learning from that, they keep sending out more and more hatchet jobs. For example, there's a recent story about the Secret Service asking for the race of guests who will be attending a media reception with President Bush, and of course there's the reported outrage:

    Some senior correspondents who cover Bush regularly and have attended the reception in past years said Friday they had not been asked for race information previously and were shocked at the request.

    "[White House] reporters already have hard [permanent] passes, have gone through all the checks, and are often in reach of the president," said Ed Chen of the Los Angeles Times, who is secretary of the association. "I think it's unnecessary and offensive."

    But then in the story, we get this:

    The Secret Service, which is responsible for protecting Bush and his family, "routinely" asks for five "identifiers" of people who will be near the president to run through a criminal data base, Mazur said.

    The five factors -- name, date-of-birth, Social Security number, gender and race -- are used to search the database "in a most timely and effective manner," he said.

    "When the president travels or has events, this is information that is routinely requested," Mazur said.

    Well, that neatly refutes Chen's outrage, doesn't it?. So why even report on it? What's the story? If asking for race...something done routinely and for quite some time before this...is offensive (ie "racist"), then asking for gender is sexist? Date of birth...is that offensive as well to older people? Or is Chen's vitriol being aired as just another way to launch an attack against President Bush with an inflammatory lede? And I have to say...between now and November 06 I think we're going to see things get much worse, and much more obvious.

    Posted by John Tant at 02:07 PM | Comments (8)

     

    May 03, 2005

    Amazing Race Recap-Episode 10

    [Posted by ]

    In this penultimate episode, I have but one question to ask. Why in the hell didn't Uchenna & Joyce and Meredith & Gretchen look for a connecting flight from Istanbul to London? After they got a two-hour lead last week by looking for that better flight, this week these two teams stood pat and let Rob & Amber and Kelly & Ron get the better flights and the lead. I like Uchenna & Joyce, but clearly airport strategy isn't their metier and it was, among all the other things they can't do, the downfall of our Dandy Dons, who were finally Philiminated this week. I realize that there's always a risk that you might not make a connection, but there's a point in the race where you can't be satisfied to finish in the middle of the pack anymore.

    To be honest, Rob & Amber deserve to win this thing. They excel in all aspects of the Race unless you consider making friends with other teams an essential part of the game. Rob can be a jerk, and while that bit him in the butt last week, he backs up his bravado about 90% of the time.

    Highlights from this week's episode:

    • Turks really are the nicest people in the world. Even after Ron & Kelly told people they were Americans, the locals were stilling falling all over themselves to give them money. I've met about a half dozen Turks and they've all been just sweethearts.
    • I've heard the phrase "whirling dervish", but I didn't actually know what they were. Watching them slowly twirling like ghosts was so cool and something I wouldn't have expected to see on a reality TV show. It's moments like that that make The Amazing Race one of the best shows on TV
    • I liked that teams had to solve an actual clue in London, even though it was the easiest clue imaginable (what street is associated with The Beatles - that's a tough one). Too often the "clues" are really nothing more than directions
    • I also loved the task in London where teams had to spot the flag from high up in the air. It not only requires teams to stop and pay attention to details, but it also treats the viewers to some great shots of the city's skyline
    • It was nice to see Amber's personality tonight. She's usually bland, so it was refreshing to see her decked out in the Sherlock Holmes gear and acting like a dork
    • Was I the only one cracking up when the Dandy Dons were confronted with a detour where they had to choose between "brains" and "brawn". Heh, that's a hard choice when you don't have either!
    • It's always a good episode when Phil utters my favorite phrase: "Teams must decide when it's most advantageous to go for it."
    • Driving double decker buses was just a wicked Roadblock. I'm a good driver, but I would have sucked at that. I was bad at those bike safety courses in grade school, and this would have been a thousand times worse. Frankly, I'm impressed that all the teams did it in less than 10 tries.
    • Normally, taxis are the more expensive, but faster, mode of transportation. In London though, the train was clearly faster. Taking the train helped Uchenna & Joyce make up a ton of time on Ron & Kelly and taking cabs finally, mercifully doomed the Dandy Dons.
    • If Ron really would have gone back to the Roadblock and completed it just to prove to Kelly he could have done it better than she did, it would have been simultaneously the greatest and dumbest moment of the entire Race. I so wish he would have. Free Ron, people! Free Ron!

    Even though I still miss my darling brothers, Brian & Greg, this has still been a great season. With the finale next week, we're in for a long TARless summer. And then, when it starts up again next fall, we'll see the family edition. So, Tuesday's episode had better live up to the hype. And, knowing the Race, I'm sure it will.

    Don't miss Viking Pundit's extensive recap. Even though I'm not in Western Massachusetts, the fact that I'm in Wisconsin gives me access to an almost unimaginable range of beers. For the finale, I'm thinking a nice raspberry wheat sounds good.

    Posted by at 09:26 PM | Comments (7)

     

    American Idol Recap-Week 8

    [Posted by ]

    First a few words on the big Idol expose on ABC tomorrow. Unless they reveal that the voting is bogus, I think it's much ado about nothing. We all already know that the producers and judges play favorites. This season, we saw tons of Carrie and Constantine right from the beginning. In Season One, the early episodes were all about Justin & Tamyra, but that didn't stop Kelly from winning. In the end, we have the final say.

    On to tonight. Ryan berates us for not voting for Constantine and introduces the themes (contestants will sing twice) of the evening - songs by Leiber & Stoller and songs on the charts this week. I never heard of Leiber & Stoller before, but the show helpfully highlights some of their songs - lots of Elvis and rockabilly.

    Federov kicks off with "Poison Ivy". He starts off just terrible, but then he gets into it, remembers that he's performing for an audience and suddenly it's like watching a nice lounge act. Federov could be the next Tom Jones. Heh, maybe he should try to sing "Piano Man" if he's around next week ;-)

    Randy: Out of tune, but then got better. Federov talks back a little, not a good move my sweet, little Ukranian boy.
    Paula: "You had fun". In other words, she didn't like him but she's afraid to criticize him because then people will think she's sleeping with him. Or not sleeping with him. I dunno.
    Simon: An insipid, amateur performance
    Kris: It was amateurish, but in a good way. I liked it.

    Heh. Ryan just refered to him as "Federov" too. He's just not an "Anthony".

    Punkass sings "On Broadway" as a "f*ck you" to Simon. Punkass. Uh oh. Scott can't hit the low notes in the song. He also makes some absolutely terrifying faces while he sings. That's some kind of scary, but the crowd loves him anyway, I guess.

    Randy: Had some bad notes, which causes Punkass to argue and pout.
    Paula: Says he has moxie. While she says this, Simon is giving her the "loser" symbol with his fingers.
    Simon: Compares him to Houdini, but says it was his best performance.
    Kris: I think Simon was just being nice to him this week so there won't be an anti-Simon backlash of voters for him.

    Vonzell sings some Elvis ("Treat Me Right"?), but it doesn't sound a damn thing like Elvis to me. She's bopping around and having fun, doing her Vonzell thing. Looks like she learned her lesson last week and isn't going back to boring ballads.

    Randy: Loved it, even though he didn't know the song.
    Paula: She should be snapped up by Broadway
    Simon: A mess - childish and cutesy
    Kris: It was childish, but in a fun way. Simon's wrong on this one.

    It's time for Bo who will sing "Stand By Me". Ugh. Boring. Well, Bo's dirty tonight, so maybe I should take that back as you all know how much I love "Dirty Bo". Hmm, but you know what, this is ugh and boring until the very end, when Bo suddenly turns into a "rocker" again and wails out a good finish.

    Randy: Thinks it was the right song
    Paula: Parrots Randy on the song choice. He "colored it with Bo". Whatever that means.
    Simon: Loved the song choice
    Kris: I thought it was a terrible song choice, until he remembered to show some passion at the end.

    James' girl Carrie is next. She's singing "Trouble" by Elvis. It's a sassy song and Carrie is doing it justice tonight. She handles the tempo change in the middle of the song like an expert. She's overdoing the growling a little bit, but this is still far and away the performance of the night so far.

    Randy: Knows who she is and picked the right song.
    Paula: So much fun. Paula's favorite.
    Simon: Loved her too.
    Kris: She still has her good voice, but she's really learned how to perform in the last few weeks.

    Now onto songs from this week's Billboard charts. I wonder if anyone has the balls to do one of Kelly Clarkson's hits? I kind of hope so.

    Act II begins with Federov who sings something I don't know. My guess is that it's called "Incomplete". Whatever it is, it sucks. It actually sounds exactly like a single Federov would put out if he won. Hmmm, maybe I don't want him to win. I like him, but I don't want to have to listen to this crap on the radio.

    Randy: Heh, Randy called him "Federov" too. 5/10 compared to the Backstreet Boys version. Wait, the Backstreet Boys are still on the charts? Really?
    Paula: You did a good job.
    Simon: You did well. Maybe they're being nice to Federov because it could come down to Anthony and Scott tomorrow?
    Kris: I like Federov, but I hated this song.

    Punkass thinks his fashion consultant is making him more appealing to people. Well, when you start from zero you can only go up. I don't know what Savol is singing, but it had the word "homie" in it, so that cracks me up a little. It's a typical Scott performance: crappy verses, decent chorus.

    Randy: He pulled it off. Scott classlessly applauds himself.
    Paula: She has joy watching his joy. Really. That's what she said
    Simon: Punkass tells Simon he's not going home. Simon tells him he was flat. I think Scott just got a contract at "Hubris Records", to steal a phrase from Shack at Television Without Pity.
    Kris: Oh please America, get this Punkass off my screen. Please. I beg you.

    The Vonz takes the stage again and unfortunately she really didn't learn anything from last week. She's singing some damn ballad. And, what's worse is that she's not even hitting the notes. She's singing that "When You Tell Me That You Love Me" song. Haven't we heard enough of the Tsunami Tsingles? Why torture us again, Vonzell?

    Randy: A perfect vocal
    Paula: I love the song
    Simon: It wasn't the perfect vocal and she's vulnerable.
    Kris: Why a ballad, Vonzell? Why? It's your fault if Scott's here again next week.

    Bo sings "How Far Is Heaven" by Los Lonely Boys, which is a song I actually know for a change. I like this song, but it's more the song for pot smoking Bo, not passionate Bo. I much prefer passionate Bo. He must have sensed me writing that last line, because he kicks it up a notch and rocks out a bit at the end. Way to go, Bo.

    Randy: He's the captain of the dawg pound.
    Paula: You rule.
    Simon: He's performing like the real thing and making other contestants look like amateurs.
    Kris: If he's captain of the dawg pound, wouldn't that just make him the alpha dog? The "captain of the dawg pound" makes me think of that bulldog on Bugs Bunny that wore the tiny little sailor hat.

    It's up to our dear Carrie to finish the night off with a bang, not a whimper. Carrie's singing some country song. It's probably about a woman done wrong. Or Mama. Or prison. Or trains. Or trucks. Or gettin' drunk. Whatever it is, Carrie's showing her range (and she's really the only contestant left that has any range) and doing a fine job of singing it.

    Randy: Another great, perfect performance. It's hot (who needs Paris?)
    Paula: Eloquent and perfect.
    Simon: Beautiful, if a little robotic.
    Kris: I'd like Carrie so much better if she'd stop smiling while she sings these sad songs. Is that too much to ask?

    I doubt they'll have a bottom three this week, so I'll pick the bottom two. My bottom two: Punkass and Federov.
    My predicted final two: Federov & Vonzell.

    Sadly, Federov will be eliminated.

    Read our previous recaps

    Posted by at 08:00 PM | Comments (11)

     

    Is Trader Joe's Liberal Enough for Madison?

    [Posted by ]

    Bryan at Sanity in Mad City reports that Trader Joes may be coming to a long-vacant spot in one of Madison's more liberal neighborhoods.

    Bryan links to an unintentionally hilarious article on Dane 101 on the topic. While some folks are happy because Trader Joe's isn't "yet another Walgreen's", they're also wringing their hands because it's not as liberal as the local Madison co-ops it would compete with:

    The 200-store strong Trader Joe's is less likely to carry the locally produced products currently lining the shelves of the Regent St. Co-op. Madison would be the company's first Wisconsin store, so it would be interesting to see if their website which boasts "more than 80 cheeses includes Cheddars from New York and Vermont" is expanded to include Cheddar from our state.

    Trader Joe's is also proud of their selection of coffee beans, although the words "Fair Trade" don't seem to exist in any of the descriptions. How likely is Trader Joe's to carry coffee beans roasted in Madison, such as Ancora? Or to go out of their way to put beans on their shelves from Just Coffee that help support the numerous non-profit organizations in town such as the Madison Area Peace Coalition?

    Note to self: don't buy any "Just Coffee". But honestly, I'm just baffled by this. Why do Madison looney lefties feel the need to make political statements with their grocery shopping and why should businesses have to conform to those politics? I remember when Whole Foods first opened in Madison. Despite their crunchy reputation, protestors stood outside the store day after day. Why? Because it's not a union shop. Looney lefties may have the same problem with Trader Joe's:

    Much like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's isn't a union shop. While that has been a thorn in the side of Whole Foods, who has been accused of using union busting tactics, Trader Joe's is described by Business Week as paying better than the average grocery union wages, has a generous benefits package and contributes an extra 15.4 percent of a worker’s gross pay towards a company funded retirement plan. First-year supervisors earn more than $40,000 on average to start.

    There is also less of a chance of finding the products of major corporations on the shelves of Trader Joe's.

    That last comment about the products of major corporations is interesting. Note that the author isn't talking about greater selection here, nope, it's that Trader Joe's just won't sell the products of major corporations. Damn those successful major corporations! The government should ban them and instead we should grow all the food we need on collective farms.

    I question why any business would open in Madison now. I think there's a big market for a Trader's Joe here and I know more than a few people who are very excited about the possibility of one opening here. But, is it worth going through all the hoops that the locals are setting up for them?

    You'd think that there are plenty of cities that would love to have a Trader Joe's and would respect their right to run their business they way they want to. If I were Trader Joe's I'd be afraid that these Madison looneys would start picketing the store if the ratio of Wisconsin to New York cheese wasn't quite "right".

    Posted by at 01:16 PM | Comments (8)

     

    May 02, 2005

    Who Should Replace Paula Abdul on American Idol?

    [Posted by ]

    With rumors flying fast and furious that Paula Abdul might be the next one booted from American Idol, the staff at Dummocrats thought we'd help Fox pick her replacement. Here's a list of who we think could take Paula's place and what they'd add to show.

    Judge Why she should replace Paula
    Kirstie Alley So Randy's not "the fat one" anymore
    Laura Bush Has better writers than Paula
    Belinda Carlisle Washed up 80s stars need jobs too
    Carolyn Kepcher Because we just can't get enough of Carolyn
    Charo Will maintain the current level of incoherance
    Ann Coulter So Simon's not the biggest bitch anymore
    Courtney Love No need to let all that backstage drugs and alcohol go to waste
    Elisabeth Hasselbeck When Carrie's gone, James will still need somebody to love
    Fran Drescher Still has street cred from her appearance in Spinal Tap
    Ruth Bader Ginsburg Can help all the contestants with their choreography
    Joyce Already goes by just her first name
    Judge Judy She'll take no guff from sass-backing contestants
    Michelle Phillips Still wicked cool after all these years
    Mikalah Gordon She's a younger, cuter version of the original
    Court TV's Nancy Grace Can also provide insight into contestant's legal troubles
    Paris Hilton "That's hot" is annoying, but at least they are real words, which is more than you can say for Randy's catchphrases
    Sheena Easton See Belinda Carlisle
    Tiffany She's a younger, sleazier version of the original, with the same questionable fashion sense
    Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Has more talent in his left paw that Paula has in her left tit entire body
    Wonkette Why not? She's everywhere else

    Posted by at 01:35 PM | Comments (3)

     

    'Los Angeles, Mexico' Is No More

    [Posted by ]

    Billboards in Los Angeles advertising a Spanish-language newscast have created a controversy:

    New billboards advertising a Spanish-language newscast on KRCA-TV Channel 62 were intended as an attention-grabber for its core audience, but instead have struck a nerve with activists seeking to curb illegal immigration.

    The billboards show two cable newscasters sitting in front of the downtown skyline, with "Los Angeles, CA" printed above. The "CA" is crossed out, and "Mexico" is stamped alongside in bright red letters. Underneath are the Spanish words, "Tu ciudad. Tu equipo." — Your city. Your team.

    Not surprisingly, this ticked a lot of people off. Michelle Malkin has a great quote that sums up the argument:

    "This is almost a poster-board for illegal immigration," said Peter Amundson, a volunteer with the California Republican Assembly. "This is America. We're a land of immigrants — legal immigrants. This is not Mexico. This is the United States."

    Now, according to Americans for Legal Immigration, people have taken matters into their own hands:

    Some patriotic Americans have climbed this sign and draped Old Glory over the word Mexico providing America with another picture worth a thousand words. Thus Los Angeles’s correct address as part of the sovereign territory of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is now displayed for all to see. It appears that patriotic Americans are liberating Los Angeles today.

    What's ironic is that if Los Angeles were in Mexico not a damn person would be risking life and limb to get there. The people who thought it was so cute & clever to put up this billboard are the same people that wouldn't set foot in the city if it were just another Mexican hellhole.

    Posted by at 10:43 AM | Comments (8)

     

    May 01, 2005

    Surprise! You're Rich!

    [Posted by james]

    U.S. News has an article this week called "Class Consciousness" that is about the alleged "invisible minority" at our nation's colleges - low-income students. Sounds interesting, doesn't it? I thought so too, until I read this passage:

    "At the Nation's 146 most selective colleges and universities, according to another study last year, there are 25 high income students (from families making $77,000 and above) for every first-generation student from the lowest bracket."

    Are you kidding me? They're calling a family that makes $77,000 per year "high-income?" Hey, I suppose I should at least give them credit for revealing their completely idiotic classification scheme, as most papers would have probably left out the parenthetical, but again... I have to ask, are you f**king kidding me?

    Anyone can come up with a scary sounding 25-1 ratio if they make ridiculous classifications. This isn't reporting, this is just plain propaganda. I can't believe I paid for a subscription to this garbage.

    Posted by jkhat at 02:20 PM | Comments (6)

     

    Worse Than 'Riding the Bus with my Sister'?

    [Posted by ]

    Tonight CBS will broadcast "Riding the Bus with my Sister", a TV movie featuring Rosie O'Donnell as a mentally challenged woman and Andie MacDowell as the sister she inspires. While some bloggers can't wait to see this train wreck, the only way I'm less likely to watch this movie is if Rosie & Andie have two other sisters, played by Kellie Martin and Tyne Daly. But it did get me thinking. I wonder if the networks could come up with some TV movies that are even worse? Because I'm a giver too, I'm going to give them a hand. Here are my

    Top Ten Movies I'm Less Likely to Watch Than "Riding the Bus with my Sister"

    10. Riding in a Car at a Reasonable Speed with my Italian Secret Agent: the true-life tragic tale of freed Italian hostage Giuliana Sgrena (played by Susan Sarandon). She's freed from Iraqi insurgents by sexy Italian Secret Agent man Nicola Calipari (played by Tim Robbins) only to lose him to American "cowboys" on their way to freedom.

    9. The Lady of the Leash: In this explosive film, Cameron Diaz portrays the infamous Lyndie England. Is Lyndie a sadistic tramp, or is she merely a scapegoat for the real sadists, the US Military, as led by Donald Rumsfeld (Ed Asner, in his triumphant return to network TV)?

    8. Stop in the Name of Love!: A daring musical version of the life of murdered peace activist Rachel Corrie. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays Rachel while Linda Rondstadt plays her mother, who wants to make sure that her daughter didn't die in vain.

    7. Papa Don't Preach: What happens when a conservative President (played by the West Wing's Brad Whitford) finds himself faced with twin daughters (Hillary Duff & Lindsey Lohan) who are both facing unwanted pregnancies. Will this President practice what he preaches or will this help him see the light?

    6. Pacing The Cage: Sean Penn plays Ali, an Iraqi man who finds himself in Abu Gharib prison. Can he maintain his dignity in the face of torture?

    5. Foster vs. Foster: Jane Fonda plays Marcia Foster, wife of Georgia's Republican Senator. After she volunteers at a woman's shelter, Mrs. Foster begins to question her husband's policies. When he won't change his ways, she decides to take matters into her own hands and run against him in the next election. Will she win? Will their marriage survive?

    4. Living on the Air in America: This light-hearted comedy evokes the classic TV sitcom "WKRP in Cincinnati" as it chronicles the struggles of a fledgling liberal radio network. They battle each other, as well as the right-wingers who'd love to shut them down. Starring Al Franken, Randi Rhodes and Janeane Garofalo.

    3. Mother, May I Flirt With Power?: Shannen Doherty stars as a ruthless young woman with her own political agenda. When she lands in the White House as an intern, she'll do anything in her power to bring down a President she despises. Parental discretion advised.

    2. What I Do In My Pajamas: She's a free-spirited writer who's just started a liberal "blog". He's a computer programmer with a secret identity as a member of the "Republican Attack Squad". Online they're anonymous, and bitter, enemies, but when they meet in real life, sparks fly. Will politics get in the way of true love? Stars real-life blogger Ana Marie Cox (Wonkette) and Toby Maguire.

    1. One State, Two States, Red State, Blue State: Barbra Streisand stars as Annie Hudson, a recently divorced teacher. She leaves her job in New York City and starts a new life in the heart of Red State country: Alabama. Although she faces constant roadblocks from parents and the local government, Annie perseveres and gives her students lifelong lessons in tolerance and diversity.

    Posted by at 12:05 PM | Comments (0)

     


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