Monday, October 31, 2005

Pie-Eyed Pickle of the Week

Didn't catch the riveting St. Paul mayoral debates on KSTP? That's ok. You saved your retinas from the seering impression of Randy Kelly's fish-outta-water routine. Kelly probed Coleman no fewer than six times about how he would pay for his proposed changes to city government. Never mind the fact that Kelly has no feet, shins, knees, or thighs to stand on with the tax issue. They've gone up more than 20 percent under his watch.

The saddest thing about the debate, however, is that Kelly doesn't stand a chance. Latest poll figures have him trailing Coleman by 33 percent. Coleman's still running ads just to make this whole thing look like an election. (And in case you didn't know, St. Paul and Minneapolis elections are Tuesday, Nov. 8. As the saying goes: vote early, vote often.)

So that's why Randy Kelly is our pre-emptive Pickle of the Week. Let the speculation begin as to what he'll do with his post-mayoral life.

(I'm still sticking with my completely unfounded theory that he'll start batting right-handed with the Republicans and end up challenging Betty McCollum for the House of Reps in 2008. Anybody want to run odds on that?)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

It's Halloween in Chucktown

Occassionally, I like to see what's happening in Charles City, Iowa. It is America's Hometown, after all, so it behooves me to keep a finger or two on the pulse of our nation's lifeblood...

...and they are apparently holding mock executions in celebration of All Hallow's Eve. Ok, kids, now take the lollipop from the fried criminal's teeth!

What a town; what a country!

How many in your party?

When one reserves a table at a restaurant, one thereby enters into a sort of contract, and a contract must have "parties" to it, people who take part in making and keeping it. There are legal and political definitions of "party," and others, which could be mistaken with predictably amusing results: A Soviet diplomat newly arrived in Washington, DC, made a reservation at a fashionable Washington restaurant, and was asked how many people were in his party. The surprised diplomat replied, "Seventeen million."

(This is adapted from an article on the conceptual history of "party")

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Crime and Punishment

"Crime constantly monopolizes the headlines, but the criminal appears there only fugitively, to be replaced at once."
—Camus, The Fall

As we continue to (irrationally) consider the reaction to the exceptional events of 9/11 as normal and necessary over 4 years later, it is no surprise that "crime"-- and its victims, safety and security--has been made a salient political issue in the impending Minneapolis Mayoral election between Rybak and McLaughlin. "Crime," like that which it threatens, "security," is only mentioned when it is intense, which seems to be the case every election.

Rybak proposes (surprise, surprise) more police, while his challenger, McLaughlin, is running an equally hackneyed "get tough on crime" campaign. Not to be out-manned, McLaughlin wants to add 250 police officers to the force over the next five years. If it is true that men tend to overcompensate when their masculinity is threatened by supporting the war in Iraq, purchasing a SUV or expressing homophobia, surely the debate over crime in Minneapolis is another manifestation of such overcompensation.

I doubt that any of their propositions are essential to the security of Minneapolis. This debate only makes sense as a way to facilitate political outrage against the status quo, which I should think can only hurt Rybak. In short, safety is not a safe issue for him.

The Federal Reserve System may not be your friend

My endorsement of deflation was reckless and irresponsible from the standpoint of the Federal Reserve's interests. But not from the standpoint of working people.

Businessmen are concerned with a certain stability, or well-anchored expectations, of wages, prices and interest rates, for example. Whereas working people are concerned about job security and unemployment. The Federal Reserve System is charged with the responsibility of attending to the concerns of businessmen. As the new new chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben S. Bernanke, said in a speech before the National Economists Club, titled "Deflation: Making Sure 'It' Doesn't Happen Here": "The Congress has given the Fed the responsibility of preserving price stability (among other objectives) which most definetly implies avoiding deflation as well as inflation." Greenspan has kept inflation low, and Bernanke promises to do the same.

Bernanke's first task, according to the NYT, is to tame inflation, that is, to make prices fall--"Airfares, haircuts, nursery school tuition, new cars, appliances and cigarettes have all become more expensive in recent months," notes David Leonhardt of the NYT. Core inflation has hit 2%. Consumer prices have risen. $50 gas-tank charges are "crimping" consumer spendin -- but deflation is not in the offing now. To tame inflation, Bernanke will have to raise interest rates, with the expectation that it will hit 4.5% by April, up from 3.75% today.

But here's the revealing truth about how most economists and the Federal Reserve think about working people in relation to the economy: the reasons inflation has not been much greater have to do with, and I quote from the same NYT article, "the weak negotiating position of American workers...Union membership has shriveled, computers have replaced many jobs and, rationally or not, many workers fear that their jobs will be sent overseas." We have avoided an "inflationary spiral" at the cost of a more "complicated life for many families." And, if Bernanke does his "task" well, more such "complications" are expected.

Whose interests are being served by the Federal Reserve? Probably not yours.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Week in Review: Either the Best or Worst Week Ever

Scootstock Edition: CNN's "The Situation Room" Slogs Into its Fourth Hour

Eli! Eli! Lama sabachtani? It's not 1pm and CNN has inflicted four hours of Wolf Blitzer's "The Situation Room" on the quivering public. Normally he isn't let out of the dungeon until mid-afternoon (2-5pm), but Hurricane Scootstock (just upgraded to a Cat. 7) warrants a whole different approach. To medicate, we're taking a shot of Jameson every time Von Wolfenblitzer refers to his Blitzer’s Beauties "internet reporters" Abbi Tatton and Jackie Shechner for online information regarding the indictment. God, what a world.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

If You Thought Lad Mags Were Yesterday's Paper, You Haven't Been to Canada, eh

Lad Mags ain't on life support just yet, children. Canada's apparently unironic Toro, that we feel is suspiciously named after America's premier lawncare company based in Bloomington, MN, reconfirms the PeP's long-held belief--Canada is the death of the party.

  • This issue's cover man (?!)...Steve Nash, and of course the requisite report on "fight school for hockey pros". Okay, don't say we didn't warn you. [toro]
  • If you get drunk and watch afternoon poker on ESPN, try reading JAQK, "the first men's luxury lifestyle magazine that identifies and speaks to the "No Risk, No Reward mindset of today's young, affluent man." Err...have you seen the lonely wraiths who occupy the $5 buy-in tables at Prairie Meadows? To partially quote Wolf Blitzer, "So poor, so white". [JAQK].
  • Details (for the closeted gay-set) which we're fully guilty of copping before a red-eye out of Dulles some months back. [Details]
  • Or Nuts and Zoo from the British. You figure it out. [Nuts]; [Zoo]

2,000 Too Many

I would feel bad, with me being the peace loving person I am, if I allowed this horrific milestone to pass without some form of comment on the blog. As I am sure most of you know it has been announced that the 2,000th American soldier has been killed in Iraq after 31 months of fighting. To mark this occasion there were thousands of candlelight vigils across the country to mourn the fallen soldiers.

My question to everyone is how many dead soldiers is it going to take before we finally decide that the insurgency and violence in Iraq will never end while there are still U.S. troops occupying the country?

I am well aware of the Bush administration’s argument that we must “stay the course”, but for how long? If I were driving to Madison, for say some Halloween festivities this weekend, how long would I stay on I-94 heading towards Fargo before I finally admitted that I made a mistake in going this way and turned around? This is basically what the Bush administration is asking us to accept with their “stay the course” policy. A majority of the country, 53% according to the most recent poll, think that going into Iraq was a mistake so when will the administration and our government finally admit this mistake and takes steps to fix it as best they can.

From my point of view I see no significant progress in Iraq. I realize that there have been recent elections in Iraq and I love voting as much as the next person, but if given the choice of voting or being able to walk the streets without fear of being blown up or shot, I would take the latter. And there will never be significant progress in Iraq until occupation forces are pulled out. There are a number of options to reach the goal of getting out of Iraq; two worth looking at are those of Bryan Lentz and retired Lt. Gen. William Odom.

Luckily for us Sen. John Kerry has finally come out and stated that we need to start withdrawing troops from Iraq. Thank you Sen. Kerry for doing this a year too late, maybe if he had stated this during the campaign last year we could have actually had a real debate about what to do about Iraq instead of having to choose between Bush’s policy of “stay the course” and Kerry’s policy of “stay the course with a few minor changes”.

I am just so sick and disgusted with all the bloodshed, death and destruction in Iraq that something has to be done. We have spent the past 31 months staying the course and not a whole lot of anything has been accomplished (except of course the unveiling of the beautiful “Mission Accomplished” banner). We need to make drastic changes now in regards to our policy towards Iraq, otherwise the next 2,000 deaths may happen a lot sooner then anyone thinks.

Hatch drops the hatchet

With his official campaign barely a week old, Minnesota Attorney General and governor-wannabe Mike Hatch released an e-mail to some listserv, which my address was apparently appended to.

In it, Patti Hatch - the wife - details a number of endorsements Hatch has received thus far. (For those waiting with bated breath: yes, Roger Moe is on the list.) The endorsements include a few DNCers, more than 50 members of the state legislature, and some notable notables from days of yore. They also mark an aggressive, and surprisingly rapid, entrance into a race that has nowhere near taken off yet.

I can only surmise that this is an attempt by the Hatch campaign to portray him as a galvanizing force within the DFL, which may or may not be true. It also hints of the "electability" debacle that gave us Kerry-Edwards 2004.

Also, I can only imagine the Hatch campaign included me, the PiedPiper himself, on the e-mail list as a not-so-subtle attempt to woo the endorsement of the Pie-Eyed Picayune. Well, Hatch, you're going to have to do better than that. We at the PeP only release endorsements after conducting greasy, back-alley 20-dollar handshakes. Besides, giving an endorsement more than a year before the election would really harsh our mellow cynicism.

Brownie For SCOTUS

That's right ladies and germs, the Supreme Court sweepstakes have been ushered back with Miers' withdrawal. My humble suggestion for the next nomination: Michael Brown, the deposed former head of FEMA and the International Arabian Horse Association. Here are the obvious reasons that Brownie should be nominated.

  1. Bush knows him.
  2. He is absolutely bulletproof on the objection raised by Richard Cohen of WaPo with regards to Roberts: Brownie definitely knows failure; he has been forced out of his last two jobs.
  3. Definitely can't be elitism, his law school wasn't even accredited.
  4. He's known to do a heck of a job.

Just if he were a female... Anyhow, PeP readers, write your Senators now, BROWNIE for SCOTUS!!

Who knew world peace could be found in a pool of warm, frothy water?

Not to take anything away from the Harriet Miers brouhaha - it really seems to be her day - but I can't allow these pages to overlook an important bit of local news. Apparently, a group calling itself the Global Country for Peace, which flows from the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the transcental meditiation movement, and has a "university" in (where else) Iowa, is planning to build the first of 10 planned Minnesota Maharishi Peace Palaces behind a gas station on St. Paul's East Side. Their agenda? World peace...what else?

Such palaces have recently been built in Maryland, Texas, and Kentucky. They include herbal medicine, advanced yoga classes, and spas. Because, really, there's nothing that screams world peace like St. John's Wort, downward-facing dog, and flabby, middle-aged skin soaking in a spa.

At right is a picture of the plans for the peace palace. I probably wouldn't go with the same architectural style as that exhibited in the once-popular computer game SimCity 2000, but hey, I'm no yogi.

And, Mandingo, try to contain your excitement.

Harriet Miers...we hardly knew ye

This one just came across the wire. Miers withdraws her nomination and Bush "grudgingly" accepts. Nothing like a knife in the back of a dear, dear friend. But who's the knife, and who's the friend?
Update: Check the post below and don't tell us we didn't warn you. Expect some bloviating blognostication in the coming hours.

Scoundrel Time

we can smell the axe grinding on the mossy stone.
  • "Many men behave very decently, and through the whole of their lives avoid any considerable degree of blame, who yet, perhaps, never felt the sentiment upon the propriety of which we found our approbation of their conduct, but acted merely from a regard to what they saw were the established rules of behaviour." --Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments
  • "If the measuring line is true, then the wood will be straight, not because one makes a special effort, but because that which it is 'ruled' by makes it so. In the same way if the rule is sincere and upright, then honest officials will serve in his government and scoundrels will go into hiding, but if the ruler is not upright, then evil men will have their way and loyal men will retire to seclusion" --from Hui-nan Tzu
Nothing will be left in the White House but roaches and Dick Cheney

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Release the Hounds: Minneapolis Politics Edition

The sun's out, Ken Barlow said it could get above 50 today, and I'm here in the board room with a piece of one-ply stuck to my chin. Huh? You don't understand? Neither do I, but for God's sake we've got three weeks until November 8th (Election Day, for those of you in the know) and by all accounts this bitch could be a Category 7 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. All 13 City Council seats are up for election, McLaughlin's in a neck-and-neck with the Teal Machine, and I have a flaming in-grown hair on my elbow that I can't seem to remove. For the next three weeks Minneapolitans will be so saturated with arcane city politics it'll be hard to ignore, but press on dear readers, we'll provide you with primers and updates so you can enter the deserted, fly-blown polling places with a measure of dignity.

  • A group called, BoB (we think that stands for "Getting to the Bottom of the Ballot") hosts a "Candidate Fair" down at DeLaSalle High School this evening from 7-9 pm[gBoB]
  • The newly botoxed Star Tribune handicaps City Council elections. Wards 1-5 [strib]; and Wards 10-13 [strib]
  • Our least articulate Humphrey Institute pseudo-graduate, and Ward 2 DFL candidate, Cara Letofsky has a homepage. [votecara]
  • But so does Star Tribune endorsed Ward 2 Green Party candidate, Cam Gordon. Burn! [camgordon]

Rising Consumer Prices

Whatever the topic is, you know that when everybody is saying the same thing, nobody is thinking very much. It is refreshing to read in the New York Times a dissent by James Grant on both the overwhelming celebration of the Greenspan legacy and the new chairman of the FRB, Ben S. Bernanke:

"Now Mr. Bernanke stands to inherit what Mr. Greenspan and he, among others at the Fed, wrought. Certainly they have whipped deflation. But by pressing down interest rates to the floor, they have pushed housing prices to the sky. And they are the uneasy witnesses to an unscripted climb in the Consumer Price Index, which, in September, registered a 4.7 percent increase over last year.

Don't worry, many counsel. The seemingly alarming inflation data are the statistical tracks of a boom in energy prices caused by the Iraq war and the Gulf Coast hurricanes. It will pass.

But what if it doesn't? What if a new cycle of rising prices has already begun - as I happen to believe it has?"
James Grant is on to something that was brought home to me at the coffee shop today. The price of a small increased to $1.74, up twenty cents. Gas and heating prices have also been increasing. Deflation sounds good for consumers about now...perhaps it would drive down home prices, too...Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

And then there were four...wait, three

So we had Wetterling's no-brainer leap into the fracas over Dayton's Senate seat, and now we have Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch injecting himself into the governor's race. In a mere formality of an announcement, Hatch joins State Senator Steve Kelley (DFL-Hopkins), and idiot-turned-political-wannabe Kelly Doran (DFL-Huh?) in the race to beat Teflon Tim. Bud Philbrook, a former leglislator who had been campaigning until Hatch's announcement, dropped out of the race. And then there's the dark horse: State Senator Becky Lourey (DFL-Kerrick, who received attention recently for her cameo in Cindy Sheehan's Sister Act III: Showdown at the Western White House. Knowing our DFL, however, these surely won't be the only candidates when all is said and done.

As of right now, there really is no clear front-runner in the governor's race. Six months ago, I would've said the DFL didn't stand a chance to beat Teflon Tim, but after Minnesota Meltdown (and nearly Minnesota Meltdown Part Deux), Pawlenty is looking beatable. No longer do we hear the drumbeat of national ambitions, and really, no longer do we hear much from the Governor's Office beside some moans over a proposed special legislative session to deal solely with the stadium issues. (Wouldn't that be a great idea for a special session, by the way? Forget education, transporation, health, and so on and so forth. Let's focus on the important things, like making sure our beloved professional football players/philanderers have champagne-filled massage tubs.)

Hatch, of course, has already ran-and-lost-and-ran-and-lost the governor's race in the 1990s. Yet, he presents the most aggressive and most intelligent challenge to Teflon Tim. He is the only DFLer who currently holds a statewide constitutional office. He has far more name recognition than any of the other candidates. And, deep down, he is a populist with the best interests of Minnesota at heart. But he's never won fans in the business community, and as a DFLer, I need to ask myself, can I trust a guy to run against one of the most formidable Minnesota politicians since Rudy Perpich, whose already lost the gambit twice?

Paging Roger Moe, anyone?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Imitation is the Most Sincere Form of Flattery

We've paid some heed to the Vikings butt romp out on Lake Minnetonka, but for the most part we've stayed on message. Sex scandals are far beneath us--unless it involves the sexual indenturing of a woman in Arkansas not affiliated with William Jefferson Clinton. But as ombudsman for the un-electable masses in the Twin Cities (sorry City Pages) we had to report on the inevitable headlines that surfaced after Paul Edinger let loose with a 56 yard money shot in front of 64, 278 hysterical fans. As they say, the rest is history and Edinger's kick elevated the hapless Vikings over the hapless Packers. Our down-on-their-luck newspapers, the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune, coincidently titled their stories, "The Love Boot". Feel the love...feel the bukkake.
"The Love Boot" [pipress]
"The Love Boot" [startribune]

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Bush's politics of revelation must be stopped

It is clear that President Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court to be what political scientists call a gyroscope -- a deeply predictable person, animated by her own internal convictions -- to represent and satisfy Bush's pro-life base, and to rig the system in his favor. Unfortunately, a politics of religious revelation has taken over actual public discussion of Miers. "I've known Harriet for more than a decade," Bush explained while introducing Miers to the world, on Oct. 3. "I know her heart, I know her character," he added. So, Miers has been in immediate communication with Bush, as God to man. No one will deny such communication, but it seems that it has been revealed to Bush only. When he and other members of Congress tell us to trust in Bush's revelation, it is not a revelation to us who were not part of the communication, but hearsay. If we are all required to believe that Miers has a good character, then the proof and evidence of it should be equal to all, and public. Instead of this, a small number of persons are presented on TV as proxies for the whole United States to say that they know her heart and character, and all the rest of us and the Senate are called on to believe it.

This must be criticised and resisted. Persons on both the right and the left have good reasons to be worried about the revelations increasingly at the heart of Bush's appointment decisions.

Sed Pandōra spem in arcā cōnservat. Etiam sī vīta plēna malōrum, spem semper habēmus.

Today's Daily Telegraph from Britain reports that 45 percent of all Iraqis feel that attacks against coalition forces are justified. In the British-controlled Maysan province it is 65 percent.

Now, most of my posts have been fairly flippant, but this is a serious matter. While the grounds for the war in Iraq have been as mutable as Play-doh, the administration and its supporters have consistently pointed out that there is progress being made, and that it's just a small segment of the population that doesn't want us there. This poll states just the opposite. According to the Telegraph, which is a Tory paper, 82 percent of Iraqis polled are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops, and less than 1 percent believe that the coalition forces increase their security. Of course, it must be noted that we have not seen the actual poll questions, the actual answers, or the sample from which it was drawn. The data are striking, nonetheless.

Even more striking than the polls, though, is the profile given of the average insurgent:

"The report profiles those likely to carry out attacks against British and American troops as being "less than 26 years of age, more likely to want a job, more likely to have been looking for work in the last four weeks and less likely to have enough money even for their basic needs"."

I wasn't really expecting this. From what I'd read and heard from the administration and the media, the insurgents are supposed to be Syrians who cross the border, radical fundamentalists who want to highjack the political process, or al Qaeda operatives. I didn't expect them to be unemployed, hungry, impoverished young adults who are trying to get a job but can't.

Maybe I'm taking this too far, but it's almost as though the insurgents aren't people who want to fight, but rather people who want to eat. For a right-wing paper, the Telegraph is sure making some liberal claims about poverty and its effects on the average human being. The argument seems to go something like this: Iraqi insurgents are hungry, poor, and angry. They believe that the coalition forces are responsible for this hunger and poverty. Because of this, they attack coalition forces. I figure this would play much better in the Guardian than the Telegraph. Maybe my conflation of "people likely to carry out attacks" and "insurgents" is wrong; if it is, someone please correct me, and soon.

Now, none of this is meant to justify attacks on coalition forces. The vast majority of soldiers in Iraq either want to make a difference and to help create a democracy or are just there because it's their job and they go where they're told.

The problem is that Iraq is a country with vast oil wealth and it's not able to provide for the basic needs of its citizens by way of water, electricity, sewage or jobs. If the oil fields were producing at capacity, there wouldn't be this problem. Yet, because there is this problem, the coalition forces and those working on the pipeline will be attacked by those who couldn't get jobs working on it and the oil fields won't produce. It's a vicious cycle that is exacerbated by assholes like Sadr, a man who is trying to use the poverty and suffering of his brothers and sisters as leverage for adding more insurgents to his cadre of killers. And it's exacerbated by pundits and presidents pointing to progress when 71 percent of people don't have fresh drinking water in a country that hovers around 100 degrees most days and has women wearing black burqas from head-to-toe.

Insurgents are desperate, we've heard. Desperate people are without hope. These people who lack hope also lack water, lack jobs, lack food. Lacking hope does not justify killing. But without an infrastructure, there is no hope. Yes, the vote on the Iraqi constitution (I'll reserve judgment regarding its content) was a fantastic thing. People who'd never voted before had the chance to have their voices heard. But you can't eat elections. You can't drink them either. Democracy is an important thing, but it's not the only important thing. Instead of attempting to show them how great we are at creating democracies in the Middle East, we should be re-creating a habitable country first and foremost. I know this is part of our 3-pronged "political, economic, and social" war, but the "political" seems to have superseded the other two parts because it is the easiest to tout. It's simple enough to show video clips of Iraqis going to to polls, but it is much harder to show a new sewage system working. Peace is much easier to achieve when people have full stomachs and their toilets aren't stopped up and there aren't flies buzzing around the refuse in the streets. If we can give the population of Iraq--and if I check my Venn diagram, the insurgents are included within said population--water, jobs, and food, maybe we can also give them the hope they need to make life bearable enough that they won't risk it in order to kill a coalition soldier.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


The Twins are looking for a new PA announcer after the untimely demise of Bob Casey at the tender age of 172. Given that the Twins have made an open call for audition tapes, expect these candidates to be on the shortlist for a job at the House that Ce-ment Built:

1. Guy who, having already gotten quite sauced, sits in the Home Run Porch and waves the American flag while "Proud to be an American" plays over the PA system during the seventh inning stretch.

2. Juan Berenger, set-up man for the 1987 Twins. Nicknamed "Pancho Villa" by his teammates, Juan would bring some Latin flavor to our blessed baseball mortuary. Also: He once played in my uncle's over-40 slow-pitch softball league. Yes, he did play pitcher.

3. John Candy. He hasn't really done much since Canadian Bacon. I figure he'd be a great choice, what with the jovial personality and his close personal friendship with Montgomery Brewster. Perhaps he can use his old Cool Runnings contacts and get Doug E. Fresh to come sit in on some games and really class up the house of a thousand troughs.

4. Mike Tice. Pluses: Name recognition, always equipped with a pencil. Minuses: Probably hoarse from yelling at Vikings for missed blocking assignments/sexual intercourse with Atlanta hookers. Seriously, he's probably going to be looking for work pretty soon anyway.

5. Louie Anderson. His credentials speak for themselves: He's a Minnesotan who once starred in all 6 episodes of a show about being a psychotherapist in Duluth; he did a bangup job hosting The Feud a few years back; he needs a good-paying gig to keep him in Jennie-O turkey and Jell-O pudding snacks. He's on the list in case John Candy doesn't work out.

6. Ty Pennington. Really, what can't he do?

7. Ryan Seacrest. Ditto. (But only if he brings along Brian Dunkleman.)

Friday, October 21, 2005

It's like we've already seen the movie: North Country

It's oppressively dreary outside and my cup of tea is whistling on the stove top. I've buttoned up my long-sleeve chamois and thrown on the slippers. Anyone want to catch a matinee up at Mann Theatre this afternoon at 1:10? By all accounts North Country offers a decent depiction of life on the Range. For your edification, we've included a bunch of reviews so you can watch the movie on the computer screen without paying $8 in a theatre.
  • Roger Ebert, really the only credible critic these days, loves Charlize and argues Frances McDormand (Fargo) is the movie's foundation. [chi-sun]
  • But TV Guide thinks it's just a bunch of wasted performances [TV Guide]
  • Except the Dallas Observer, says Theron and the supporting cast lend dramatic reach and human scale. [dal-obs]
  • Touche! This mid-budget waste of time is nothing more than a TV movie fantasy glazed with soap-opera theatrics. [rollingstone]
  • Manohla Dargis, the rich man's Dara Moskowitz, feels the movie disintegrates into "wet newspaper". Funny, Dargis, that you bring up wet newspaper. [NYT]
  • David Rooney, tells us everyone else to stop drinking the haterade. Or he'll cut you, bitches. [Variety]
  • And of course, our local dispatches are all agog over the attention, sexual or otherwise, Minnesota is receiving with this film. Even the misanthropes at the increasingly irrelevant City Pages find something to cheer about. Yay! [strib]; [pi-press]; [citypages]

Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average. Er...

The National Assessment of Educational Progress was released the other day, and Minnesota once again proved to be ahead of the pack as far as achievement goes, ranking in the top 5 in both reading and math. I'm sure Armstrong Williams, sipping Chardonnay in his bathtub full of taxpayer money, is delighted that "No Child Left Behind is working". Not so fast, propoganda man. As the Daily Howler notes, the real gains nationwide are minimal, if any. In fact, though Minnesota ranked highly in both reading and math, the percentage of 8th graders passing the math test actually dropped 3 percentage points, from 82 to 79. This drop knocked us off our 1st place perch and down to a lowly 5th. Still, Minnesota did achieve at a very high level.

Well, most of Minnesota. As the Strib and the PiPress report, the achievement gap between white and minority students has widened since the last test, in 2003.

Now, here at the PeP we like to keep things rational. We could go all Bell Curve, a la Andrew Sullivan. It's the kiddies fault--well, not their fault, but their genetics. But that's probably not the reason. is the reason? Is there a reason for this large achievement gap in the Land of 10,000 Lakes? It's my duty, I suppose to provide a couple of semi-lucid explanations, though I plan to get throughly thrashed once the critical thinkers come out of hiding.

Explanation 1: The large influx of non-English speaking immigrants has created a language gap that is hard to surmount, especially on a standardized test. Instruction is focused more upon bringing English speaking skills up to par than getting students ready to take standardized tests with long reading passages (check the copyright on the passage...spooky and conspiracy-tastic).

Explanation 2: The minority population of Minnesota, for the most part, is concentrated in the Twin Cities Metro Area. This area is also home to some of the poorest schools in the state. As is often the case, lower-income students are also lower-achieving, and this test is no exception.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Why the right is wrong...

Ok, so I can't help myself. CNN splashed former House Majority Leader Tom Delay's mug shot across the screen, and I got a little giddy. I don't know whether Delay is guilty or not, though I find the "politically-motivated" defense thin at best. Is Ronnie Earle out to get to Delay? Maybe. The bottom line, however, is that Delay represents a craven, power-hungry side of the Republican Party, which is devouring itself in its own corruption. Delay may or may not be guilty of the specific charges against him; Delay is guilty, without a doubt, of crooked politics with aims to only benefit himself and his friends.

There have always been corruption allegations against Delay and Congressional members of the national Republican Party. From ethical violations to pork-barrel spending to a president who has not seen a spending bill he didn't like, the crop of Republicans that rode into Congress during the Republican Revolution and the "Contract with America," who were no Johnny-come-nicelys themselves, have transmogrified into a bloated, bellering machine that has come to expect people to simply take them at their word and not ask questions. The difference this time around is that very few conservatives, and extremely few of any of import, are backing up Delay 100 percent. Even conservative icon George Will, writing in the October 17 Newsweek, said, "Delay, who neither knows nor cares about calculus, probably will never return to the House leadership, and might even be voted out of the House in 13 months."

Will's article, which focuses primarily on the excesses of Republicans, is an example of why the right - or more particularly this right - is so wrong for America, and so wrong for the supposedly conservative base, as discussed in Thomas Frank's What's The Matter With Kansas? In a previous post, I wrote about Roy Moore and what I see as the coming insurrection within the Republican Party. (Bear in mind, the Democrats have more than their share of problems as well, but I am focusing on Republicans here.) Up to this point, it appears that social conservatives, of the kind Frank looks at in his book, have been able to look the other way at Congressional (and presidential) Republicans who are elected on social conservative platforms, and when in office proceed to kow-tow that agenda in favor of showering the wealthiest of this nation, including businesses, with tax cuts, subsidies, and so on. When election time rolls around again, as in 2004, many Republican politicians whip their social conservative base into a frenzy over abortion, gay marriage, and yada-yada. Yet, once put back in office, the pols shelve those social conservative issues in favor of Social Security "reform," unfavorable (to lower- and middle-class citizens) bankruptcy measures, and massive wastes of money in the form of a transportation bill. Then, our so-called fiscally conservative Republican president flip-flops by instituting the largest domestic reconstruction effort since, well, the Reconstruction, while at the same time insisting that revenue cuts such as the repeal of the estate tax be made permanent.

Anyone who believes that Republicans who are currently administering and legislating our federal government are true conservatives is either blind or a fool. As George Will states, "Conservatives are not supposed to be cuddly, or even particularly nice. They are, however, supposed to be competent. And to know that scarcity - of money, virtue, wisdom, competence, everthing - forces choices. Furthermore, they are supposed to have an unsentimental commitment to meritocracy and excellence." If this definition fit the description of our country's current leadership, I wouldn't necessarily be happy, but I would be far more tolerant. The leadership comes nowhere near this definition, however.

And even if it did, I'd still take some guilty delight in seeing Delay's mugshot.

State of the Blog

In the past week, we, the authors or contributors of the blog have brought our eggheads together to divine a path towards greatness for the PeP. Mandingo has thrown the gauntlet down against the Powerlineblog. Frankly, outside of their national reputation, their claim to fame of having done in Dan Rather, and featuring widely published conservative pundits who on top of that have successful and lucrative day jobs, they don't have a damn thing on us. Their musings on discourse political and social barely approach the proverbial wet bags of shit Mandingo churns out. And Mandingo has volume going for him.

But no, dear readers, the purpose of this post was not to blog about our superiority over the Powerlineblog, or DailyKos, or any other inferior spot on cyberspace. Rather, after a week of deliberations we have tentatively achieved a consensus on the future of the blog, and that future is strong. We will move beyond our current format of enlightened yet amateurish attempts at explaining news items big and small to creating a Cyber Cabal for Dorks hither and yon. We have a new contributor, Archduke F.F., I don't know him but he has an MFA, which is great to have on your resume if you want to work in the restaurant industry.

Also, in keeping with the interactive nature of the medium, as subjects arise that intrigue you--you being our vast readership--please inform us of as much through email or comment and we will do our best to incorporate your area of interest into the PeP's front page content. Though, please understand, we receive such a high volume of inquiries that the turnaround is not yet where we'd like it to be.
Godspeed and God Bless!

Jennings walks away from Bar/None, steps into bucketful of insanity

Pitchfork reports that Minneapolis heartthrob/musician Mason Jennings has signed on with the nascent Glacial Palace label, Isaac Brock’s very own subsidiary of Epic records.

Now, I’m not so indie that I go ballistic and scream traitor if an independent artist decides to switch to a major label and become a member of the music world’s ruling elite. My problem is that Isaac Brock, frontman for Modest Mouse, is actually in charge of something. The man carries sugar packets full of crazy in the pockets of his unwashed Levi’s. Though Modest Mouse is a kickass band, Isaac Brock shouldn’t have any job where he isn’t directing his demento-rays into creating something like “Ocean Breathes Salty” or “Cowboy Dan” or “Trailer Trash.” Or the whole Moon and Antarctica album. Or Long Drive….

Mason Jennings is a big boy, but I worry about our little friend from Minneapolis (via Pittsburgh). Perhaps he’ll catch a little bit of Isaac’s insane and forget to sing his songs as though he is impersonating someone impersonating Bob Dylan.

Having just fact-checked myself about the Pittsburgh thing, I noticed that the entirety of MJ's homepage is now hosted by Sony/Epic records. So, if you were trying to learn about Mason and also wanted some sweet ringtones for your Sony/Ericsson cell, it’s one-stop shopping.

*Thanks to Hensley for the tip

Koizumi Drops Coins in Box, Pisses Off Asia in General

In case you missed it, which you probably did, Japan's impeccably coiffed Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited the Yasukuni war shrine in Tokyo on Monday morning. The Shinto shrine is a tribute to soldiers, WWII heroes, and a host of war criminals of the Tojo regime.

The rest of East Asia is, predictably, perturbed. Japan transformed most of the Korean peninsula into a brothel during its 35 year occupation, something that South Koreans are still pretty angry about. China didn't get off much easier, what with the massacres and all. Even that bastion of democracy and restraint, North Korea, has weighed in on Koizumi's visit.

What is really striking about this whole debacle, though, is that the High Court in Osaka has ruled that Koizumi's visit crosses the barrier between religion and state dictated by Japan's constitution. Koizumi, in visiting the shrine, is not only pissing off China and the Koreas, but also pissing on Japan's Constitution, at least according to the Osaka High Court.

Hmm...seems like our old pal Junichiro is taking a few cues from our even older pal Roy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Educating or pissing off readers at a stroke

I used the word "unstintingly" in my last post. Someone commented (in so many words) that this usage was unnecessary and pretentious. You want pretention? - try this word: nullipara. A noun referring to a woman who has never given birth to a child. It should be printed on T-shirts.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

On Women Being Strategically Single

In social life, people are unstintingly Machiavellian, molding themselves in ways to maintain their social standing and influence others. For example, single women are known to wear a ring indicating that they are married when in fact they are not. This is usually or always done to ward off men for whatever reasons. But this practice is less interesting than its converse: married, engaged or otherwise committed women pretending to be single. This occurs as much or more often than single women pretending to be married. By “pretending” to be single I mean strategically withholding information about their relationship status in communication with a single or married man, but mostly in communication with single men. This withholding can take the form of either not informing the guy at all or not reminding him that you are not single, but already committed to another man. For example, I’ve asked a woman in a relationship a question that clearly implicated her boyfriend and expected to hear about him as the central reason for her plans – but he was not mentioned. And I think this was no accident. Why do women do this? What compels committed women to remind men that they are not single at some times and places but not at other times? (Do we have any female readers out there who can speak up here??)

I have a hypothesis: Unavailable women are strategically single so as to not drive away (single) men they find interesting. But donning this cloak is tricky. You want to see open, friendly and available, but not too available. You want the guy to be closer to you but not too close. You want to keep him at a distance, but not shut him out completely.

But this assumes that the woman’s commitment to her boyfriend is non-negotiable. In reality, this is not always the case. Many women seem to be on the verge of ditching their boyfriends. That is to say, committed women are sometimes strategically single because their loyalty to their boyfriend is at bottom contingent -- he is temporary and provisional until it becomes too costly to find someone better. So strategic singleness, in short, sometimes signals openness to a possible affair, or if not an out-and-out affair, it indicates uncertainty or doubt on the part of the woman about the future of her current relationship. Feel free to agree or disagree about my stronger or more moderate interpretation of this social practice…

Friday, October 14, 2005

Week in Review: Fall of an Icon

  • Shameless plug: I've added a link to my friend Der Staubsager's nascent blog - The StuSie - which you can find in the right colulmn. If you're tired of reading about out bloviations on Minnesota and US politics, take a break by reading his musings on the European systems.

Students of Ames Senior High

Students of Ames Senior High
Proud of Our school are We.
Cheering the Orange and the Black
On to the Victory.
Rah! Rah! Rah!

Honest in Work and in Play
Loyal and true are We
Doing the best for Our high school
Ames High, Aims High!

Nothing quite brings tears to my eyes like the "Ames High Rouser" charging through the cold brush of Autumn. Where were you when the 1997 Ames High School sophomore football team went 9-0 to claim a 10th consecutive CIML championship? Do you believe in Miracles? Of course not, because our championship wasn't a was Destiny. The indomitable Dale Tramp and Jim Duea, after 28 years of inspired coaching, still roam the sidelines and bark in the ears of their trembling soldiers on the field of immortal glory. Coach Tramp, I challenge Devon Wetzel for strong side Defensive End in The Slaughterbox. McConnor! Wetzels!...get in the Slaughterbox! Footfires....Ready....Hit!

Flash forward to the present. Varsity football this time. #1 Valley rolls into town high on a 6-0 record to clash with the #5 Little Cyclones led by Nathan Greving and Austen Arnaud. The Ames Tribune calls it a "Battle of the Titans" and I wish you all could see the largest marching band in the state wend it's way down the promenade into Ames High stadium. The drum corps alone could dislocate your neck. Schmaltz and legendary former coach Kirk Daddow have the call on KASI 1430. This is Cyclone Country: You. Beware.
"Battle of the Titans" [amestrib]
Turning the Tables [amestrib]

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Give me liberty or give me...

...Patty Wetterling? In the biggest non-news event since Randy Kelly's press-filled commercial shoot, child safety advocate and official Mother of Minnesota, Patty Wetterling, announced her bid to replace Mark Dayton in the U.S. Senate.

She'll have to seriously bone up on issues other than child safety, though, if she expects to beat Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar for the Democratic candidacy. Klobuchar has the crime-and-punishment credentials and a larger war chest. Not to mention the coveted EMILY's List endorsement that caused Wetterling so much trouble in her ill-fated run to unseat 6th District Congressional representative Mark Kennedy (who, BTW, will be representing the GOP in the Senate race).

But, then again, Wetterling does have the sympathy vote, and that oh-so-coveted name recognition. And, really, if Minnesota can elect ultra-liberal-Wellstone-supporter-turned-archconservative-Republican-purse-pooch Norm Coleman (who had previously lost to [gasp] Jesse Ventura in a race for governor) just about anything's possible.

So, really, how do we choose between Wetterling and Klobuchar? I say an MPR-sponsored ultimate-fighting cage match. Garrison Keillor can moderate.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Our Readers

Our Readers. Do we have any? Can they speak? We have 6000 some odd hits, but where are they coming from? I figure that the 5 PeP bloggers each add an average of 3 hits per day (a conservative estimate, it's probably more like 5). I don't know if the comments bots add hits to the counter. "Anonymous" speaks from time to time, whose referent at any given time is probably any one of I suspect 3 or 4 people. So that adds up to about, say, 600 hits a month from 8-10 people closely associated with the blog.

This leads to my query: if you read this blog on a somewhat regular basis, and you don't see yourself in the tally above, or if you have no clue who the people are behind their screen names, give us a holla' in the comments section. This is like an experiment or something, to see if we're basically talking amongst ourselves or not.


Mom poops, shits out 16th kid

Little Rock, AR is the proud owner of it's sixteenth Lil' Duggard and our 53rd president of the United States, William Jefferson Clinton had nothing to do with this. That notwithstanding, Jim Bob Duggard is ready to impale his wife once again. Yes, the end times are near...the end times. are. near. [strib]

Vikings' Cirque du Soleil roundup:

  • Tice remains smoot, er...mute about the whole thing. [strib]
  • Nick Coleman calls the Vikings, "Purple People Pee-ers". It's a functional moniker. [strib]
  • Fellow drunkards, Deadspin, insist on making premature ejaculation jokes. cough. [deadspin]
  • Souhan makes the obvious references to Gilligan's Island. [strib]
  • Used condoms, handy wipes (!?), and women lying around the boat. [pipress]

The Star Tribune Promises to Go Faster and Deeper

The Final Battle is upon us and the Star Trib intends to leave this world with a squeak. Anders Gyllenhaal (no relation, silly) figures the only way to bring in a new audience is with some sexual overtures. And we thought Smoot and Muwelde Moore cornered that one last weekend on the H.M.S. Bounty. [strib]

Consider Mike Tice Gone

This one just came over the wire and it's not a surprise: The Minnesota Vikings went all Pirates of the Caribbean on a bunch of hapless women over on Lake Minnetonka. But have faith, loyal readers, the urination incident is no longer under investigation. Commence The Mike Tice Deathwatch...[strib]

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Black, white, and [not quite] read all over

Holy Steely Dan, Batman! How the PeP nearly missed a link to the Strib redesign is beyond me. Not since we blew the Pawlenty F-enheimer and Jayson Blair was our guest blogger have we come this close to blogger incompetence. Did you know that the new Strib is made of velvet and has embedded microchips that play Chopin as you read it? Yeah, me neither. Pick up a copy tomorrow, and tell us what you think!

PS-Per usual, they've set up a cheesy Strib blog to track the incoherent madness.

Roy's Rock, Abortion, and Harriet Miers

In October's Atlantic Monthly, Joshua Green followed Roy Moore - or, more specifically Roy's Rock - on tour. Who's Roy Moore, and what's Roy's Rock? Well, Moore is the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, who became something of a cult hero to the extreme religious conservative crowd when he commissioned a 2.6-ton (!) statute of the Ten Commandments (aka Roy's Rock), had it placed in the Alabama Supreme Court building under cover of darkness, and was later forced out of his position when federal judges determined its unconstitutionality. When crews removed The Rock, there were protests that, I'm assuming, consisted largely of gnashing of teeth and beating of breasts.

Since that time, Roy and his Rock have been in exile, but have held a large part of the Deep South limelight. His battle with the courts, and his deep-rooted belief that Christianity should not only be represented in government, but that it should be at the core of government, has won him legions of fans among the religious right crowd. Moore argues, essentially, for nothing short of a Christian theocracy. His campaign started with the Rock and the courthouse, and will soon move to a race for Alabama governor, and - perhaps? probably? - end with a run for the presidency, or another national office a la that other famous Alabaman reactionary, George Wallace.

So what does Roy's Rock have to do with abortion and Harriet Miers? Moore and his cohort of Christian crusaders represent a force in modern American politics that, when directed toward a common, specific goal (say, for example, the reelection of George W. Bush?) has the capability to swing elections in their favor. This cohort is intimidating and insatiable in its hunger for the organization of government around Christianity, particularly evangelical Christianity. (Remember, there are still large parts of this country that consider Catholics papists and the pope Satan...for real.) This cohort is also largely comprised of the vast anti-abortionista lobby, who drool over Roy's Rock so much that the thing has to be chemical washed wherever it goes.

What I've had a hard time understanding these past few years, is how and why this segment of the population, after electing and reelecting Bush, and holding majorities in both houses of Congress, still manages to maintain such a simmering anger. And then along came Harriet Miers...

Perhaps the time has come when the so-called social conservatives of this country have realized that abortion will never be made illegal. Not only would it be a disastrous failure of social policy, its politically untenable for Republicans holding political office. Despite holding the levers of power, the radical right has still witnessed a series of failures. Federal ban on gay marriage, anyone? Split establishment clause positions in the Supreme Court? The filibuster fight? And, though I loathe to mention her, Terri Schiavo? It behooves Republicans - mainstream and otherwise - to keep the blood temperature of radical social conservatives simmering just below boil. That way, when election time comes around, they can stoke the flames with auto-pilot speeches, declare that next time 'round they really will do something about that social conservative agenda, and ride the wave of radical indignation all the way back to their D.C. offices.

In nominating Harriet Miers, a decision that has left everyone but members of the Bush administration flabbergasted, the president - just like his father before him - disappointed his radical right base. Roy and his crowd were left in the lurch with an untested, unqualified nobody when they were spoiling for a fight. And so the rightist reaction hums along.

I have to wonder, though, how long the charade will be played. How long will the radical right sit in the corner, like a red-faced, bleary-eyed six-year-old during a temper tantrum, before finally turning on those who keep telling them to wait their turn. How long before they hijack the Republican Party and boot the moderates, or cause a schism and move to the magical land of third-party obscurity tempered only by political purity. How long must we wait for that blessed relief, Lord, how long?

The Pie-Eyed Picayune at 200

Well, we've come a long way, baby. With Mandingo's throw-down at the scions of the nefarious Powerline, the Pie-Eyed Picayune has published its 200th post. Let's all take this opportunity to give ourselves a thick-handed pat on the back with one hand, while picking the nearest pocket with our other. Congrats, chaps. We've successfully secured our place in blogosphere mediocrity.

Into the Divine Wind

I suggested the PeP embark on a 21st century Reconquista of sorts. Knowing Powerline (for some reason, unbeknownst even to me) stood in our way, I thought a challenge was in order. So I emailed them a challenge. You'll find it below. Children, don't start drinking at 1:30 in the afternoon on a Tuesday.

From: [redacted]
Subject: Iron Duel
Prepare yourselves for an introduction. We are the Pie-Eyed Picayune, a blog of about six months, composed of the five finest future products of Minnesota higher education that one could hope for. Jesse, and Tim P. would be damn proud to know us. Unfortunately, they don't. In fact, no one really does. But we know you, and we're all fans of your blog (if not your issue positions).
Each of us is currently pursuing a higher degree (two are candidates for a master's in public policy, one a law student, one a PhD candidate in political science, and one a graduate student in business admnistration) and through this blog we've set up straw arguments and hacked them down like samurai swords whipping through a flock of seagulls.
With this in mind we offer you a duel. A historic meeting in the steel cage of bloggerdom. Sgt. Slaughter versus the Iron Sheik. A Casket Match, if you will. Agree first, and we'll settle on an issue. Perhaps a one-round, winner takes all, debate on the cronyism of Harriet Miers (gasp! after the resignation of the phony Michael Brown.) Come on, Powerline. Shall we?

consider the gauntlet thrown,

The Average Joe II is Upon Us, Hastings, World Domination

            • The Pioneer Press brings back their wildly popular (?) contest that pits aspiring columnist versus aspiring columnist. The prize? We're a little unsure, but it might be a part-time sports column for the struggling paper. The round of 16 starts this week. We're picking Nicole over Kyle and Danny over the SNL stealing Kevin. [PiPress]
            • We are still absolutely clueless regarding the murders down in Hastings. From all accounts the shootings were deliberative and "without passion" (a legal turn of phrase). [PiPress]
            • If we had the motivation, the PeP would start with Powerlineblog in its quest for world domination. Awhile back, last year to be exact, the authors came to the Humphrey Institute to speak and were rightly spanked in debates on a myriad of issues by students and faculty alike.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Cite your Source...

I've been called out far too many times during an ill-conceived argument. So, if you're like me and you have a disturbing tendency to spout arcana with some authority, refer yourself to the Pocket Ref. 544 pages on charts, data, how-to's, computers, air gasses, math, and general history, this baby fits in your shirt pocket. As one reviewer put it: "you could live without this, but why would you want to?" [amazon]

Meeting of the Minds

Run...don't the nearest TV and turn on CNN. The eminent Wolf Blitzer is discussing the end times with Rev. Jerry Falwell, live from Liberty University in Lynchburg.

Terrorism, tsumanis, Katrina, Rita, earthquakes in Pakistan, etc., etc. And now the four horsemen of the apocalypse are breathing down my neck!

Uh oh...Wolf just segued from the end of the world to Harriet Miers. Brilliant.

UPDATE: Check out the transcript here.

The gist? Blitzer: "I'm asking you if you believe that this is wrath of god, if you will?"

Something makes me think this situation is a bit too big for The Situation Room.

How did we miss this one?

The PeP prides itself on pertinent and timely information but how in the hell did we miss Pawlenty's gaff last Wednesday night for the Wild's opener at the Excel Center? Was I stuck reading about costs and benefits of immigration? or was I already dreaming about Notre Dame's upcoming tilt with the poodles from USC? I don't know. Regardless, let's just say that Teflon Tim dropped an f-bomb in front of 18,000 hockey fans. Zoinks! [strib]

Kerry Campaigns for Coleman, Minnesota Confused.

Thwack! U.S. Sen. John Kerry serves up a Boston bitchslap to "St. Paul mayoral candidate" Randy Kelly for betraying the party in last year's presidential election. Kerry's here to stump for the other St. Paul mayoral candidate and non Bush-android, Chris Coleman. In addition to the endorsement and fundraising, Kerry sent a message loud and clear: you don't mess with Theresa Heinz-Kerry and her husband, damnit! I like Chris Coleman, but my God, give us something other than that dongle Kerry for president. [startrib]

More Harriet Miers Goodness

In the wake of the Harriet Miers nomination (I know, so last week!) I tried to figure out her doppelganger. Wonkette, among others, beat me to it, but I finally found my pick. All along I thought of The Leprechaun from the movie, Leprechaun but I couldn't find decent enough pictures as evidence. images. Minor sleuthing pulled up some real dandies from Mier's term on the Texas State Bar. With her mid-90's Fried Femullet she looks more like Rocky from Peter Bogdanovich's Mask starring Cher, and Sam Elliot. You've got to watch this movie.


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Let's be honest...

I think it's time to say it: There is nothing one can say about Harriet Miers (who names their daughter Harriet?) that hasn't already been said about Iraq.

Our Strange Mediated World

20,000 people or more are feared dead in Pakistan because of a tremendous earthquake, and the No. 1 most emailed article on the NYT website as of 11:25 a.m. Sunday is "A Fast Track to Toilet Training for Those at the Crawling Stage."

What is our world coming to?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Rybak's re-election folly

RE: Mobilization and Participation in Electoral Politics

To: R.T. Rybak's Campaign

It has been brought to my attention that ever since political scientists have inhabited the Earth, they have shown that free-wheeling, footloose and fancy-free college students do not vote in great numbers. Whereas homeowners, churchgoers and long-time residents not only vote in greater numbers but know more people as well and can thus spread the word. This evidence suggests that that Rybak campaign should spend very little time at the U of MN and other institutions of higher education in Minneapolis. Storm the city, not the dorms.

I am, sincerely,

a concerned "Re-elect Rybak!" staff member.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Where does all my meth come from?

Melrose, Minnesota...that's where! Situated on the shores of beautiful Lake Wobegon. Seems all my high speed chicken feed is just up the pipeline between St. Cloud and Alexandria. Thanks, Mexicans for the supply and thank you to all the trailerhome trash for an inelastic demand. [startrib]

Thursday, October 06, 2005 the Batcave! I mean, Coffman Union!

Fellow blog ninja, Ilya, left an obscene message on my cellular telephone the evening last. Something about free dinner, the New Minneapolis, and a lap dance from R.T. Rybak. Please consider me hot and bothered by this chance to see the Teal Machine feign concern for college students. Give us a damn outdoor stadium, Rybak! and burn down Blegan Hall while you're at it...

R.T. Rybak discusses the New Minneapolis: Oct. 6th, 8:00pm; 307 Coffman Union

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Rumsfeld's illocutionary forces

Illocution: An act such as ordering, warning, undertaking, performed in saying something.

Forget about the armed forces, we got Rummy! Whether he's asking rhetorical questions to himself and then answering them, or just reporting to the public, his illocutionary forces are strong. You will succumb.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

O'Reilly doesn't hate...he loathes

Asscrabs, listen up! O'Reilly is a blessed, blessed man. I had the opportunity (between a dose of Huntington's Who are We?) to watch almost ten minutes of his The Factor--(Pied, what does the MLA say about referencing television shows. Do we italicize or keep it real?) From now on you will refer to O'Reilly only as The Fat Penetrator (or just The Penetrator for brevity's sake.)

O.K. sorry about that. Back to his The Factor show. Tonight, The Penetrator blew my last remaining tuft of hair off my head and smack against the picture frame behind me. In the "Unresolved Problems" section The FP and cohort gave a straight off the hook shoutout to the hatemongers and character assissins who reside in bloggerdom. Nowhere in the entire piece did he even mention the Pie-Eyed Picayune. That's straight disrespectin', O'Reilly. I bite my thumb at thee. Anyway, here are but a few lowlights:

FP: (Soros' outfit) and are the most vicious of all; Bloggers are assassins, and he needs bodyguards, and security to protect him.
The Smoking Gun, you'll remember, broke the floodgates on O'Reilly's harrassment of The Factor production manager, Andrea Mackris. Although Mackris oddly resembles a tunafish, The Penetrator showered her (verbally) with visions of Thailand sex shows, vibrators, and loofahs. Really, the whole segment turned into a cry-session between O'Reilly and Jed Babbin from "The American Spectator". I don't want to think about it anymore. I'm done.

But Primetime FoxNews just gets better. Currently, Shawn Hannity wrapped in denim (er...celophane) and topped with a cowboy hat is attempting to fellate lizzard face Ann Coulter near the Texican border in Laredo. FoxNews is the best! Finally, to recount my physical injuries as a result of consuming piecemeal amounts of spurious media:
  1. My nuts were blown off during the initial of phase of Hurricane Bearded Matriarch-Gate.
  2. I am completely bald as a result of O'Reilly's death-rant against blogging.
Don't Cry, FoxNews...just dry your eyes.

Federalist Paper #76

Harriet Miers may be a lovely lady, she may ultimately satisfy partisans down the road if she is confirmed, except, she shouldn't be. Some have complained that she is Souter in a dress. Bush cooly responds that she is a "Pit Bull in six inch heels." She might be the best damned lawyer in whatever her niche in private sector law was. Though, from the brief histories of her career distilled in the newsmedia, it appears that she has largely functioned as a very capable administrator. I suspect that she would be a great CEO of a Fortune 500 firm(My friends on the left tell me Halliburton is a great firm), or even possibly a good jurist provided she had the opportunity to foment a judicial philosophy on the district or appellate level. Bush has opted for loyalty, and loyalty so extremely exercised converges on cronyism. Her primary qualifications are: 1. She's a She; 2. She's Bush's friend. Harriet Miers is one of the most thinly qualified nominees and should be voted down pursuant to Federalist Paper #76:

"To what purpose then require the co-operation of the Senate? I answer, that the necessity of their concurrence would have a powerful, though, in general, a silent operation. It would be an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to prevent the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity. In addition to this, it would be an efficacious source of stability in the administration.

It will readily be comprehended, that a man who had himself the sole disposition of offices, would be governed much more by his private inclinations and interests, than when he was bound to submit the propriety of his choice to the discussion and determination of a different and independent body, and that body an entier branch of the legislature. The possibility of rejection would be a strong motive to care in proposing. The danger to his own reputation, and, in the case of an elective magistrate, to his political existence, from betraying a spirit of favoritism, or an unbecoming pursuit of popularity, to the observation of a body whose opinion would have great weight in forming that of the public, could not fail to operate as a barrier to the one and to the other. He would be both ashamed and afraid to bring forward, for the most distinguished or lucrative stations, candidates who had no other merit than that of coming from the same State to which he particularly belonged, or of being in some way or other personally allied to him, or of possessing the necessary insignificance and pliancy to render them the obsequious instruments of his pleasure."

Monday, October 03, 2005

Bennett, Race, Freakanomics

In keeping with his moniker, Anti made a reactionary comment with regards to Bill Bennett's impolitic comments. On a side note, I would like to applaud Anti for labeling such a mass abortion genocide, maybe in your next post you could take on Roe v. Wade and a general right to privacy. Below I have posted a post from the Blog of the Author of Freakanomics, Stephen D. Levitt, regarding the Bennett fiasco. On a very basic level this appears quite obvious, if you prevent somebody from existing (notice my deference to you pro-choice people), you also prevent them from committing crimes, or any other actions such as breathing. Now, obviously, the crux of the issue is that Bennett went one step further and injected race into the discussion, so without further adieu, here is the Author's take on Bennett's statement:

"Bill Bennett and I have a fair amount in common. We've both written about crime (his "superpredator" theory gets a quick discussion in Freakonomics), we have both thought a lot about illegal drugs and education (he was the original "drug czar" and is a former Secretary of Education), and we both love to gamble (although it seems I do it for much lower stakes and perhaps with greater success).Now we also share the fact that we have made controversial statements about the link between abortion and crime.Here's what Bennett said during the Sept. 28 broadcast of Salem Radio Network's Bill Bennett's Morning in America:CALLER: I noticed the national media, you know, they talk a lot about the loss of revenue, or the inability of the government to fund Social Security, and I was curious, and I've read articles in recent months here, that the abortions that have happened since Roe v. Wade, the lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30-something years, could fund Social Security as we know it today. And the media just doesn't -- never touches this at all.

'BENNETT: Assuming they're all productive citizens?
CALLER: Assuming that they are. Even if only a portion of them were, it would be an enormous amount of revenue.
BENNETT: Maybe, maybe, but we don't know what the costs would be, too. I think as -- abortion disproportionately occur among single women? No.
CALLER: I don't know the exact statistics, but quite a bit are, yeah.
BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don't know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don't know. I mean, it cuts both -- you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well --
CALLER: Well, I don't think that statistic is accurate.
BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.'

Bennett's comments have, not surprisingly, ignited a furor. For some of the media reactions, see here and here. Less than an hour ago, the White House weighed in.Here are my thoughts on this exchange:

1) People should bear in mind that this took place on an unscripted radio show in response to a caller's question. It was clearly off-the-cuff. This is a very different situation than, say, Bennett's writing an op-ed piece.
2) Race is not an important part of the abortion-crime argument that John Donohue and I have made in academic papers and that Dubner and I discuss in Freakonomics. It is true that, on average, crime involvement in the U.S. is higher among blacks than whites. Importantly, however, once you control for income, the likelihood of growing up in a female-headed household, having a teenage mother, and how urban the environment is, the importance of race disappears for all crimes except homicide. (The homicide gap is partly explained by crack markets). In other words, for most crimes a white person and a black person who grow up next door to each other with similar incomes and the same family structure would be predicted to have the same crime involvement. Empirically, what matters is the fact that abortions are disproportionately used on unwanted pregnancies, and disproportionately by teenage women and single women.
3) Some people might think that my comments in (2) above are just ducking the race issue because it is politically correct to do so. Anyone who has read Freakonomics knows that I am not afraid to take issues of race head on. Much of the book deals with challenging issues of race (e.g. black-white test score gaps, black naming patterns, etc.). I mean it when I say that, from a purely fact-based and statistical perspective, race is not in any way central to our arguments about abortion and crime.
4) When a woman gets an abortion, for the most part it is not changing the total number of children she has; rather, it is shifting the timing so those births come later in life. This is an important fact to remember. One in four pregnancies ends in abortion and this has been true for 30 years in the U.S. But the impact of abortion on the overall birth rate has been quite small.
5) In light of point (4) above, it is hard to even know what Bennett means when he says "you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Implicit in his comment is the idea that some external force, like a government, is forcing blacks to have abortions. This is obviously a completely different situation than abortion as we know it today, in which a woman chooses whether or not to have an abortion now, and then starts her family later in life, when her situation is more stable and conducive. The distinction between a woman choosing to control her fertility and the government choosing to limit her fertility is fundamental and people often seem to lose sight of that.
6) If we lived in a world in which the government chose who gets to reproduce, then Bennett would be correct in saying that "you could abort every black baby in this country, andyour crime rate would go down." Of course, it would also be true that if we aborted every white, Asian, male, Republican, and Democratic baby in that world, crime would also fall. Immediately after he made the statement about blacks, he followed it up by saying, "That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down." He made a factual statement (if you prohibit any group from reproducing, then the crime rate will go down), and then he noted that just because a statement is true, it doesn't mean that it is desirable or moral. That is, of course, an incredibly important distinction and one that we make over and over in Freakonomics.
7) There is one thing I would take Bennett to task for: first saying that he doesn't believe our abortion-crime hypothesis but then revealing that he does believe it with his comments about black babies. You can't have it both ways.
8) As an aside, the initial caller's statement is completely wrong. If abortion were illegal, our Social Security problems would not be solved. As noted above, most abortions just shift a child from being born today to a child being born to the same mother a few years later."

When It Rains It Pours

Needless to say it has been pretty tough lately to be a Republican. Let’s recap:

  • Rep. Tom Delay was indicted on a charge of criminally conspiring with two political associates to inject illegal corporate contributions into 2002 Texas state elections.
  • Sen. Bill Frist is being formally investigated by the SEC for insider trading.
  • The Republican governor of Ohio, Gov. Bob Taft, was recently convicted of ethics violations. Yet he won’t resign and his approval rating is down to 15%.
  • Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who Tom Delay referred to as “my good friend” and who also paid for Tom Delay to go play golf in Scotland, was indicted on five counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy.
  • According to the Government Accountability Office the Bush administration broke anti-propaganda rules.
  • There is new speculation that President Bush and Vice President Cheney were actually involved in some of the discussions about leaking the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame.
  • Former Secretary of Education in the Bush administration, William Bennett, stated on a radio show: “But I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” I wonder how genocide plays into being a compassionate conservative?

But then again maybe all this bad news will just go away so long as Bush nominates the lawyer who allegedly got his drunk driving charges off of his record to the Supreme Court. The funny part about this is that Harriet Miers pulled a Cheney, she was the head of the selection committee to find a new Supreme Court Nominee and instead chose herself. I thought the complete and utter failure of Mike Brown as the head of FEMA would have taught Bush that the use of cronyism when appointing people to important offices isn’t’ the best policy.