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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG SILENCE FOR AN UNIMPORTANT MESSAGE 

No we're not sick, dead or worse. We've just been memorializing this last weekend with memorable out of town guests.

(Not that we've had any concerned inquiries you unfeeling brutes.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A FRACTURED FAIRY TALE 

Well well well local columnist Nick Coleman has delivered, just one day after my lament, but few bloggers have yet waded in to enjoy the fisking. The water looks fine so I'll dive right in.

Nick C. is outraged by the fact that our Republican Governor had the audicity to host "the right-wing blog fraternity" at a reception last week. How shockingly ... political ... of him. Let's all jump up and down and scream together. There. Now we all feel ever so much better.

The stated purpose for the shindig was to meet the "new media." But the very term gives our hero stomach cramps. After all, bloggers are just dumb journalist wannabes who became "awestruck" by their brush with greatness. Some advice for them (us?) from the old hack seasoned columnist:
If bloggers were smart, they'd stay away [from the corridors of power] too [as Nick C. has ... at least since his last invite by Gov. Perpich]"
Sounds a wee bit like a threat to me ...

The columnist seems especially put off by the alarming musing of one unamed blogger:
If our governor decides to give national politics a whirl in 2008, his respect for the new media might mean access to the White House and the corridors of power for the new media as well.
Psst! The blogger in question, Captain Ed of Captain's Quarters, was a credentialled blogger at the Republican National Convention. But perhaps this fact is not well known... After all, Nick C. derisively calls this possibility a "dream:"
A few slices of leftover luncheon cheese, a glass of cheap wine, a picture of you standing next to greatness, and you begin to dream of going to the White House Christmas Party in 2009.
If the bash was the metaphorical christening party for Governor Pawlenty's presidential aspirations, with each blogger giving gifts of beauty, wit, grace, and musical talents (well maybe not musical talents), what does that make Nick, who writes ominously:
That creepy mansion puts a hex on people.
Spitbull's advice to the Governor: avoid all spinning wheels on your twenty-first birthday.

UPDATE: The Warrior Monk says it's the sixteenth birthday that is dangerous in the traditional fairy tale, not the twenty-first. How could I not know that? What kind of mother am I anyway? One that worries more about my kids becoming eligible to drink than eligible to spin wheels and prick their fingers, I guess.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

THEY'RE NOT JUST ANY OLD SQUIRRELS 

Technorati tag:As Nick Coleman has unaccountably failed to provide the local bloggers with any fisking fun of late, everyone's been amusing themselves by taking the latest blog quiz: Is Governor Pawlenty Presidential Material Or Just A Big Meanie? The results are neatly dictated by whether or a not a particular blogger was invited to the Governor's meet and greet last Tuesday:
  • "[Governor Pawlenty] proved to be an engaging, affable host who genuinely seemed to enjoy the opportunity to converse with members of the emerging 'alternative' media." Chad The Elder - Invitee.
  • "If you like to handicap Presidential primary candidates, I'd suggest including Tim Pawlenty in your calculations." Cap'n Ed - Invitee.
  • "It would be universally acknowledged by those who had the privilege of attending that we were in the presence of a rare talent." Kennedy v. The Machine - Invitee.
Compare and contrast:
  • "Governor Pawlenty must be brought down." KAR - NON Invitee.
  • "Why not just invite the M.A.W.B. Squad in for a friendly chat? You know how it is with men when they're lost. They can never just ask for directions." M.A.W.B. Squad - NON Invitee.
  • "The real reason for the snubbing is that Pawlenty knows he can’t buy us off with a few free drinks. And unlike certain bloggers who (surprise) were invited to the mansion, we’re not going shamelessly cheerlead for the Governor. We relish our outsider image." Nihilist in Golf Pants - NON Invitee.
Spitbull, as ever, succeeded in having it both ways: The Warrior Monk suited up and went and I (the invitation was addressed to "Spitbull blogger," which I assume meant either or both of us) struck a blow for our blog's outsider image by abstaining.

Not to say the Warrior Monk isn't an outsider--sometimes he's barely a member of the human race--but he had urgent reasons for biting the bullet. As described by Insider Chad the Elder:
... Governor Pawlenty and the Warrior Monk from SPITBULL shake hands after the Governor agrees to consider WM's request to call out the National Guard and wage brutal and uncompromising war against the insurgent squirrels who keep the WM awake at night.
You chuckle.

However squirrels, even more than the MAWB Squad, are clearly plotting world domination. Just two days after the Warrior Monk's prescient warning, The Washington Post described the stealth takeover of our nation's capital by black squirrels. Decendants of just eighteen insurgents who crossed the border from Canada in 1902 and 1906:

They appeared in Bethesda, Silver Spring and Chevy Chase in the 1960s, perhaps using the Rock Creek Stream Valley as a highway north from the District. One survey of Bethesda in 1990 found that about 25 percent of the squirrels there were black.

To the east, the squirrels crossed the city a few decades ago to colonize the National Arboretum and Capitol Hill. To the south, they made it across the Potomac River into Arlington, where naturalists say they've seen black squirrels since at least the 1980s.

At this rate, they'll reach the Twin Cities in about -- hell you do the math.

I'm impressed by the tactics of Vagn Flyger, a retired University of Maryland professor:
Flyger devoted himself to studying squirrels because, as he explains it, they weigh less than a deer and don't bite like a polar bear. He used to smear a tree behind his Silver Spring home with a mixture of peanut butter and Valium and then tattoo the squirrels that he found passed out below.
Take note, O Warrior Monk: Drugs and tattoos (let's ignore the peanut butter issue). They go together like Oreos and milk!

We may not need the National Guard after all.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

OBSOLETE POWER CORRUPTS OBSOLETELY 

Technorati tag:Journalist Tim Porter reports from the Knight Fellowships 2005 Symposium at Stanford. The topic was "Credibility in an Age of 24-7 News." Surprise surprise keynote speaker Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker was a noshow.

(For blogospheric rock-dwellers, Newsweek recently published a story alleging that US interrogator flushed the Koran down the john, insulted Muslims rioted, a bunch of people were killed in the riots, then Newsweek admitted the flushing may never have happened, oh and sorry)

Mr. Porter thinks Newsweek's reliance on anonymous sources is less of a problem than the journalistic imperative to get the big scoop. I think lots of non-journalists think that all "scoops" aren't the same. When a scoop has the potential to inflame tensions during a war, we hold journalists to a higher standard of care. And Newsweek acted as though they were printing a report about Paris Hilton's latest sex video (yes yes I know those are usually true).

Monday, May 16, 2005

IT MUST HAVE WORKED LIKE A CHARM ON THOSE SQUIRRELS TOO 

Technorati tag:Jonny B's neighbor has a mole problem and is trying to solve it with diplomacy:
A professional-looking sign has been erected in Short Tony's garden, staked into the lawn by the bushes.

...

I take a photo of it, for my interested readers, but I'm a bit rubbish at photography. It reads:

"SORRY. NO MOLES ALLOWED. TRY NEXT DOOR."

I shake my head in pity at his poor attempt at mole control. Then I catch a glance of a similar sign that has been erected in my own front garden.
Here's the sign.

(Via Bane Rants)

Sunday, May 15, 2005

PLAY BALL! 

Technorati tag:The Warrior Monk's dreams have come true. I have begun willingly speaking about baseball with him.

It's all because I've started reading Moneyball by Michael Lewis. It's a book about how a bunch of baseball outsiders, egghead number crunchers, upended the traditional view of how you play great ball by drafting a bunch of tiny fatsos and other misfits that other teams had stupidly misassessed. So in some ways, it's an ideal entree for me, a consummate baseball outsider.

The book is larded with delightful tidbits that, while not strictly necessary from a baseball perspective, keep non-ballheads such as myself amused. The initial attitude of baseball professionals toward hiring computer geeks to give them data to help them create strategy is explained:
But they [hired a geek] less with honest curiosity than in the spirit of a beleaguered visitor to Morocco hiring a tour guide; pay off one so that the seventy-five others will stop trying to trade you their camels for your wife. Which one you pay off is largely irrelevant.
The central idea of the book, that misvaluation of baseball plays by traditional baseball professionals could be exploited by teams that did a better job of valuation, is illustrated via a sort of case-study of a real-life team that did exactly that: the Oakland A's.

Their general manager is a colorful figure. A baseball insider (the Great White Hope of the baseball professionals in his youth) with an anger management problem:
One time he destroyed the dugout toilet; another time ... he went after a fan in the stands, and proved, to everyone's satisfaction, that fans, no matter what challenges they hollered from the safety of their seats, were better off not getting into fistfights with ballplayers.
A few piddly criticisms:
  • Would it have hurt to include a glossary of baseball terms (for example, what's a "hit & run"?) The Warrior Monk supposes that Michael Lewis expected the book to be read only by those who had a least a little knowledge of the game but even so, I repeat, would it have hurt to include a glossary? I have no idea what a "box score" is and I kept timidly thinking stuff was jargon even when it wasn't (what's a "dead player?" I asked. It turns out to be someone who once played baseball who has since ... well, died).
  • A book that goes on and on about the foolishness of baseball professionals who think they can judge ballplayers by their looks ("we're not selling jeans here" says the book's wily contrarian hero) and exalts the cleverness of discerning the value of tubby draft rejects ought to have some pictures for us baseball novices. Although there are plenty of examples of both ends of the spectrum named, I haven't the faintest idea what any of them look like.
UPDATE: LearnedFoot of KAR has helpfully posted a baseball "glosary" for me.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I HATE ANIMALS. AND SENATORS. 

Technorati tag:I've been up since about 3:30 am, awakened by one of the strangest animal noises I've ever heard--roughly a cross between a whining dog and John Cale's squeaky-wheel viola on "Black Angel's Death Song" from the first Velvet Underground album. Investigation revealed two raccoons in our front-yard elm, first a fatso who gingerly backed down the trunk and waddled away, then a smaller, svelter one who made a forward descent and scampered off in the same direction. Whether it was love or war or just existential angst going on up in that tree I can't say, but whatever it was it WOKE ME UP and I wish to God I had some sort of firearm at the ready because if I did the kids would be getting coonskin caps for Christmas.

Speaking of shrieking vermin, how about that U.S. Senate? I have a radical proposal on this judicial filibuster nonsense which I don't remember seeing discussed elsewhere (not that I've made much of a search): Prohibit filibusters for all lower court nominees, including the Court of Appeals, but allow them for Supreme Court nominees.

At first glance this might seem from a Republican perspective to be giving away too much to the Democrats, who after all are only gearing up for one of the doddering old Justices to (as it were) back down the trunk and waddle away. But the dynamics of filibusters for infrequent, high-profile events like Supreme Court nominations would be much different than what's going on now.

The most irksome thing about the Democrats' "filibustering" of the current nominees is that they don't actually have to do any blowhard-reading-telephone-book-type filibustering; merely threatening to do it is enough. This is because (as Larry Solum pointed out over two years ago) the proponents of a filibuster have, somewhat counter-intuitively, a huge tactical advantage, in that the opponents can force debate only if they can maintain a quorum, whereas the proponents need only play tag-team with the telephone book. Since this situation is much more burdensome on the opponents, it doesn't happen, and what is ostensibly a device for ensuring debate is reduced to the naked obstructionism that's going on now.

But--and this is the key point--with a Supreme Court nomination, the stakes are so high that the majority Republicans would undoubtedly have the incentive to maintain a quorum even if it meant all-night sessions, which in turn would force the minority Democrats to "debate." In an age of 24-hour news channels, wouldn't this make the Democrats look awful? (Remember that Joe Blow doesn't give a damn about regular judicial nominations or filibusters or obstructionism or supermajorities or blah blah blah, but he and everyone else pays attention to a Supreme Court nomination.)

My proposal has two other points in its favor. First, it would reflect what had been the historical practice in the Senate until four years ago, wherein the only successful judicial filibuster was the Abe Fortas nomination for Chief Justice. Second, it would create an incentive for the President to make filibuster-proof Supreme Court nominations--jurists of high intellectual distinction and/or non-"extreme" ideology. From a long-run perspective--from behind the Rawlsian veil of ignorance, as they say--this would I think be a good thing, assuming the rule was a fixed one that didn't change every time the minority party in the Senate became the majority.

Okay, enough of that. I have to go buy a gun.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

SPITBULL'S SECRET: WE'RE NEITHER FAMOUS NOR SERIOUS 

Technorati tag: Tom of Functional Ambivalent bucks the blogswarm laughing and sometimes savaging Arianna Huffington's "gangblog," dubbing it merely "pretty bad."

The problem, as he sees it, is that the blog consists of the "thoughts" of Famous Hollywood People and Serious Journalists. Famous Hollywood People strike out because they "imagine that they're interesting because no matter what they're talking about people listen and no one ever tells them that what they're saying is stupid." You may have a point there, but who is this Haim Saban you use as an example of someone famous?

Serious Journalists, while also currently bad, may just need to be reeducated: "Successful blogs shred journalistic convention first by assuming that readers aren't stupid. And then, because an awfully lot of readers really are stupid, successful blogs use the power of the medium [that is, a hyperlink] to provide the kind of background."

Just noticed that handy hyperlink, Tom! [Click]

I'm back and no longer so stupid (at least in terms of H. Saban's bio) Though I have to say he sounds less famous than competitively rich:
Saban's generosity did not go unrewarded. During the Clinton administration, the entertainment executive served on the President's Export Council, advising the White House on trade issues. He also took an unusual pride in being a top contributor. When Saban learned that another donor had topped his contributions to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee by a quarter-million dollars, he immediately sent the DCCC a check for $250,000, with a $1 bill attached to it
Maybe the problem is less with the fame and journalistic cohones of its contributors and more that Ms. Huffington has pulled together a group of blognaifs to man her blog. But then again, the blogosphere loves blognaifs.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

TOMORROW I SUPPOSE WE'LL DISCOVER THAT KEITH JACKSON IS A CHOMSKYITE 

I always thought Jim Lampley was just pompous. Now that Arianna has inexplicably given him a soapbox, I learn that he has much deeper problems.
At 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on Election Day, I checked the sportsbook odds in Las Vegas and via the offshore bookmakers to see the odds as of that moment on the Presidential election. John Kerry was a two-to-one favorite. You can look it up.
No, man, I trust you. Shoot, you're Jim Lampley!
People who have lived in the sports world as I have, bettors in particular, have a feel for what I am about to say about this: these people are extremely scientific in their assessments. These people understand which information to trust and which indicators to consult in determining where to place a dividing line to influence bets, and they are not in the business of being completely wrong.
Yeah, I know what you mean, Jim. For instance, a 50-1 longshot couldn't possibly win a race like the Kentucky Derby.
Oddsmakers consulted exit polling and knew what it meant and acknowledged in their oddsmaking at that moment that John Kerry was winning the election.

And he most certainly was, at least if the votes had been fairly and legally counted. What happened instead was the biggest crime in the history of the nation, and the collective media silence which has followed is the greatest fourth-estate failure ever on our soil.
Uh, Jim, you're kinda weirding me out here . . . .
Many of the participants in this blog have graduate school educations. It is damned near impossible to go to graduate school in any but the most artistic disciplines without having to learn about the basics of social research and its uncanny accuracy and validity.
The "uncanny accuracy and validity" of "social research"? OK, Jim, now you are seriously weirding me out. Are you, like, drunk or something?
We know that professionally conceived samples simply do not yield results which vary six, eight, ten points from eventual data returns, thaty's why there are identifiable margins for error. We know that margins for error are valid, and that results have fallen within the error range for every Presidential election for the past fifty years prior to last fall. NEVER have exit polls varied by beyond-error margins in a single state, not since 1948 when this kind of polling began. In this past election it happened in ten states, all of them swing states, all of them in Bush's favor. Coincidence? Of course not.
Jeepers, Jim, get a grip! This is almost as cockamamie as blaming the whole thing on Karl Rove.
Karl Rove isn't capable of conceiving and executing such a grandiose crime? Wake up. They did it.
"They"? Psst, Jim. Karl Rove is a he. As in "a." Meaning "one." Karl has remarkable powers over matter, space, and time, but he can't clone himself (yet). Plus, the Tired Lefty Trope Style Guide clearly states that the proper antecedent for the plural third-person pronoun in this situation is "vast right-wing conspiracy."
The silence of traditional media on this subject is enough to establish their newfound bankruptcy. The revolution will have to start here. I challenge every other thinker at the Huffington Post: is there any greater imperative than to reverse this crime and reestablish democracy in America? Why the mass silence? Let's go to work with the circumstantial evidence, begin to narrow from the outside in, and find some witnesses who will turn. That's how they cracked Watergate. This is bigger, and I never dreamed I would say that in my baby boomer lifetime.
Jim, you're slurring now. According to your time stamp it's 2:32 a.m.--just put down that drink and get some sleep. In the morning after you've finished throwing up and you've had some coffee and some aspirin and maybe a bloody mary (just one, Jim, just one), you're really going to laugh about this whole thing. "Damn," you'll say, "is that what I did last night? I don't remember any of it. Man, I haven't been that drunk since that night back in '85 with Chris Schenkel and the goat!" And we'll go talk to Arianna, and you'll explain what happened, and you'll promise never to do it again, and she'll give you a tongue-lashing with that weird accent of hers so you won't understand half of what she's saying anyway, but in the end she'll agree to take down the post, and nobody but you and me and her will ever know.

And Jim . . . Jim? Sweet dreams, Jim. Sweet dreams.

UPDATE: Geez, I guess he was even drunker than I thought: King Banaian at SCSU Scholars notes that all the evidence indicates that the late money was on Bush, not Kerry.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

I'M BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT 

Technorati tag:On this, my eighth mother's day (as a mother), I finally feel like I've joined the sorority of moms.

I am the proud possessor of a bouquet of dead violets. Gift of the four year old.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

PREDICTION: MOMENT NO. 12 WILL INVOLVE MATTHEW LECROY 

The 11 most bitter moments of Fraters lad Atomizer's sad history of sports spectating are now available at Nihilist in Golf Pants. It is claimed that I participated in the creation of this list. I can neither confirm nor deny this claim, though I must admit that some of the moments sound awfully familiar.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

NOT SO CRAZY ABOUT THE CRAZIES 

Michael Blowhard suspects that lots of folks who make a living in the arts are crazier than thou:

It took me ages to understand that many of the people I was encountering in the cultureworld weren't charming eccentrics or engaging oddballs. What I finally woke up to was the simple fact that many people in the cultureword are real weirdos -- people who are so deeply off as to be close to mentally ill, if not actually mentally ill. They aren't crazy with a small c -- crazy as in eccentric. No, they're Crazy with a great big C -- crazy as in loony-bin-worthy, or something close to it.

I also woke up to the fact that many inhabitants of the cultureworld aren't sweetly nuts. They're destructively nuts. In my clueless smalltown way, I'd had trouble imagining that anyone -- anyone short of a Hitler, a Stalin, or a Jeffrey Dahmer -- might wish the general run of humanity ill. Yet what I found was that a fair number of people in the American cultureworld seethe with bile and contempt towards the mainstream.

Michael hopes the blogosphere gives "semi-normals" a chance to speak out on cultural topics and "bring the weirdos a little to account." He classes himself as one of the semi-normals and for proof points out a quiz at which he scored 70% normal.

Is it very Asperger's of me to want to know what the cut-off is to be deemed semi-normal? Do you have to score above 50%? I just ... was curious.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

GAWKER'S TWIN 

The Twin Cities has sprung a Gawker-wannabe: MNspeak. Its creators are Chuck Olsen of Blogumentary and Rex Sorgatz of fimoculous.

MNspeak sports an aggregator of Minnesotan blogs. Despite the blueness of Minnesota, the aggregator gives the impression of a sea of red.

Pretty neat. Plus, we get to lord it over the Nihilist, who didn't make the aggregation cut, despite its recent Gawker-like in-depth discussion of skankiness (and number 5 is even a skank with local connections).

UPDATE: No more lording. Nihilist made the grade.

A WEEK OF REJOICING 

The seven year old recently became the eight year old. Plus made her first communion. She keeps getting gifts and we're spending the entire week eating pizza and cake at various festivities.

Fortunately, it's become healthy to be a little fat.