Thursday, March 31

Punk Bonzai #1: Meadow Sage (Dharma for Cows)

This was the original punk bonzai, the inspiration for all that would follow, and that's probably why there's no tree in this one. The religious theme is new this year. Previously the piece has contained only cows and the occasional land shark or fireman, depending on my wife's whim. They have been known to engage in unbovine behavior. Once they held a cotillion. One night last summer tiny malicious small-town wiseacres tipped every last one of them. The very large cow appears to be their leader.

My wife has a lifelong thing for tiny toys, especially animals. That's why I paid no attention to her when the cows came home. They were an electric orange. She spent the winter sanding and painting them. Late spring, two years ago, I went to check the moss container gardens and they were grazing on this one.

Sharp-eyed perverts may note the beginnings of sexual differentiation among the protonemata.

Pass The Popcorn

The New York Times> Opinion> Jon Danforth: In the Name of Politics:

By a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians. The elements of this transformation have included advocacy of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, opposition to stem cell research involving both frozen embryos and human cells in petri dishes, and the extraordinary effort to keep Terri Schiavo hooked up to a feeding tube.

Senator Danforth, you have a reputation as a decent guy, but I'm not sure the man who was single-handedly responsible for the elevation of Clarence Thomas should be pointing fingers. But you know me, it's your fight. I'm just here for the catcalls.

High-profile Republican efforts to prolong the life of Ms. Schiavo, including departures from Republican principles like approving Congressional involvement in private decisions and empowering a federal court to overrule a state court, can rightfully be interpreted as yielding to the pressure of religious power blocs.

It's early days yet, but I'm gonna show my cards anyway. Spare me the claims that this is some recent development. It's the result of thirty years of cross-breeding experiments. The whole Right to Life business has been money in the bank for your party for a generation. Reed and Falwell and Robertson were supposed to keep their people in check, as when they swallowed hard and backed Dole or when they agreed to stay off the convention dais during prime time. They got to enrich their licensed beggar operations via the public airwaves, they got to funnel money in who knows how many directions with no oversight, and they got whatever personal perks were thrown into the bargain. They've had veto power over Republican nominees for AG and education, until they finally got the appointment power ceeded to them. And that's not to mention the real money behind it all. This was always a bargain with the devil and you knew it. Now it turns to bite you and you say, "I just blinked and there they were"?

The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.

Nah, it's with a party that thought it could buy religious radical votes with biennial Anti-abortion and School Prayer amendments it had no real interest in passing, a party which now finds its pet-food empire patricians encircled by the rabble. The Republican party could have prevented this continual traffic-jam of debate over 19th Century theology by putting the extremists in their minority place. Instead you stoked the fires. The Reagan FBI never investigated anti-abortion violence. "Just a series of local incidents." You could have done your job and upheld the rule of law. It would have cost votes and money, though.

Then came the time when your boy had to play the Jesus card to grab the office. Oh, Lord, who coulda foreseen it?

As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.

And it's been that way for a decade. C'mon, effective control of Congress, and the Executive, for most of the last quarter-century, and the only time we've cut the deficit was with a Democrat in the White House. Where is the Republican legacy? It's not in deficit reduction, jobs, or smaller government. We don't have term limits, voluntary or otherwise. Our military is fractured, our international standing is nil, our very words are suspect. The boats in that rising tide sailed for India with our jobs. And the national debate centers on the wording of the Plejuleejunce and whether pharmicists should fill prescriptions.

The historic principles of the Republican Party offer America its best hope for a prosperous and secure future.

Were you listening to what I just said? Massive deficits, cuts in Social Security threatening not just the future of the elderly, but the disabled and homeless as well. Increasing disparity between rich and poor. Deplorable health care and prescription costs. Monopolistic control of the airwaves. Foolish and ill-considered international adventurism. Of course, if by prosperous and secure future you mean one in which our elected officials will spend every non-fundraising moment searching for communists in Hollywood, or ordering Ten Commandment accessories for the courthouse lawn, or keeping science out of our public school rooms, then, yeah. I'd have to agree.

Pruning Day

Pruning day (for roses) is usually the Big Event of the early spring season, but it got buried under work and dogsitting and misjudged dosages this year and is only half completed. This formerly would have been unthinkable, as everything else would have moved down the schedule until pruning was finished, but maybe I'm becoming more casual about roses the more I know about 'em. That, or the indolence thing.

I don't have many roses. Seven hybrid teas or multifloras, three climbers, five miniatures. I like to act like it's a huge spread of prize winners, but the truth is I do work like a maniac on roses, but it's because on the best ground I could provide them they get maybe 6.5 hours of sun at peak and it takes every advantage I can give 'em just to have what would amount to a mediocre season for someone with full sun. Because of the low light my roses have had every disease and insect infestation in the books, excepting anything fatal. I feed them every week, two gallons per plant of one thing or another on an arcane schedule. They seem marginally healthier for it than when they just got once-a-month rose food. I, on the other hand, am being consumed with increasing rapidity.

Which brings me to the dog. He's stupid. People involved with large purebred dogs can probably explain to me whether intelligence has been bred out of them as a matter of choice or it's just the inevitability of genetic law. He's a retriever, probably a cruiserweight. I can still hold my own with him left handed with one of those tug-of-war toys, but I'm slipping. He's entered a not-sleek-but-solid middle age just as I'm exiting one, which got me started figuring in dog years to see if I needed to start training. And the thing about dog years is they're factored wrong. Dogs live about ten years. Humans, about seventy. Ergo, each year for a dog is ten human years. Only, dogs, like every other mammal lives only half as long a humans. Measured by total respirations or heartbeats or something I don't quite remember, a mouse and an elephant, wildebeest and wombat, all live exactly the same span. And Homo sapiens live twice that. So it's actually 3.5 years of human time, and that dog's got several years of fight left in him. Better find where the weights got to after the last yard sale.

Wednesday, March 30


Via Oliver Willis, Jonathan Chait senses a draft:

The Draft Cheney movement is burbling just below the surface. Fred Barnes suggested it earlier this month in the Weekly Standard. Tod Lindberg of the Washington Times and Lawrence Kudlow of National Review Online echoed Barnes in columns this week.

Cheneymania has reached critical mass.

Now, maybe it's Cheney '08 springing into action in the wake of the Social Security fiasco, or maybe it's the Gray Man Group hoping to count Dick in or out so they can set their financing priorities. Of course, it could just be three right-wing tools taking payola for column inches, a possibility which has to be considered anytime any of those guys opens his mouth. Chait believes that Cheney is at least not averse to taking the job, but then there's the little matter of his promising not to do so. Tis an insignificant hurdle if he decides he needs to jump it, but it could be costing him valuable time considering that the religious radicals are out there and prepared to swarm. Absent a nod from Bush a draft movement is his only way for a quick start. I've got no idea what Cheney's intentions are, but it sure is interesting what's popped up before the daffodils this year.

Feerless '08 Prediction of the Week: One of those crypto-Stepford Wife Republican CNN/MSNBC or network correspondents will, live, on-camera, and in the presence of the GOP nominee, go into full Devils of Loudon, speaking-in-tongues mode.

Tuesday, March 29

TV Guide™ Roundup

Sorry, sorry, sorry. Please refrain from actually reading the TV Guide™ yourself. I'm late because of the holidays, because of pressing business, because I'm dogsitting Neighbor Dog, and I'm a very conscientious dogsitter. Much more so than blogger.

But the big reason TV Guide™ Roundup is late is...TV Guide™, which last year changed its format from Saturday-Friday to Sunday-Saturday. This was done, per TV Guide™ to better serve YOU! its readership. Because YOU! had written in so many times demanding just that change. Funny thing, though, from MY! perspective is that neither YOU! nor TV Guide™ saw fit to explain that what was once available the previous Tuesday for a week starting Saturday will now be generally unavailable until Saturday afternoon sometime. So now I've got to make a special trip. Well, Mr. Know-it-All Public, Mr. Big Time Media Publishing Conglomerate, I'm rarely sober enough on Saturday or Sunday to make the trip. Nobody thinks about the little guy in all of this.

The other thing that delayed me is, it's a really good issue. Letters:

Pro vs Con returns, this week: Chris Rock. Some like him (Kate Jones, Oak Park, IL where I roamed as a lad). Others don't: Cherry and Mike Okragly actually changed channels long before the show was over.

Sean Kelly wants people to quick overanalyzing Alias and just enjoy the ride! Tom M. Wallace offers a final salute to NYPD Blue's Steven Bochco and Dennis Franz. Catherine Smith, of the Latham, New York, Smiths, sees no more reason to watch JAG without David James Elliot than Colombo without Peter Faulk.

This week brought us two notable letters, one which got an editor's reply. Katrina Gross, of the charmingly named Loveland, CO, chided The Magazine of TV Record for the heavily airbrushed pic of CSI's Marg Helgenberger. Ms Gross says when she first picked up the issue she thought it was Pamela Anderson. Ms Gross thereby wins the First BLTR Free Speech Award for Lack of Treacle in a Letter to TV Guide™. The Editors reply that they did no more than some minor retouching. Marge, they tell us, looks great! So, we all go home happy.

Barbara Gagnon though, gets a award I had to make up on the spot, the Shapiroesque Reviews Award for Achievement in Conceptual Art. Hailing from Bakersfield, CA, which reminds us not only of Buck Owens and Buck Owens' Personal Branson MO, but also Bakersfield PD, one of the funniest programs on teevee, ever. Ms Gagnon opens with a standard paean to Matt LeBlanc and Joey, then grabs the near-sonambulent reader by the jugular: "Producers should call in Tony Danza to play Joey's uncle, who's still trying to make it in Hollywood." Ms Gagnon, on that glorious Day when you are called before St. Peter, Jorge Luis Borges himself in gonna be heading the welcoming committee.

Cheers and Jeers: 3 Cheers, 4 Jeers. Is this possibly a stock market indicator? Could that be why they changed the distribution, hmmm? Anyway, it's all boring, except the Jeer to Tyra Banks for not picking plus-size women models is illustrated by a photo of the, I'm guessing here, petite Ms Banks in full cantilever. I'm assuming this is supposed to be ameliorated by the photo at top of Fat Actress's Kirstie Alley in some decolletage ensemble.

And, joy of joys in this season of rebirth, it's Another One of Those Top Twenty-Five of Somethings. Sadly only ten in this week's listing of "TV's Biggest Brats". Bart Simpson, #1. That'll have 'em talking over the watercooler tomorrow. Oops, sorry, yesterday.

Monday, March 28

Next Week We'll Be Covering the Crusades, So Remember To Bring Blindfolds and Earplugs

Money quote from John Leland's "Did Descartes Doom Terri Schiavo? in the Sunday New York Times:

...this idea that all life is sacred has exerted a powerful force in America, said Mark A. Noll, a professor of history at Wheaton College, a prestigious evangelical school in Illinois, and the author of "The Old Religion in a New World: The History of North American Christianity. " It fueled the abolitionist movement of the 18th and 19th centuries, which insisted on the humanity of slaves, against the prevailing views of social science. In the early 20th century, the same ideal stood up against eugenics, which advocated forced sterilization to prevent the weakest members of society from reproducing.

Okay, it's a cull-the-Rolodex article, get quotes from four people with some officially sanctioned standing to comment, and don't have anybody respond to anyone else's statements. Professor Noll does what he's called on to do, get his buzzwords into a single paragraph.

One is simply left to hope that the good Professor's students don't graduate with such a single-minded view of history. Let's hope they somehow are made aware that the pro-slavery forces in the US could and did quote their Bibles with equal fervor, that racial relations in this country worsened in the aftermath of the Civil War, and that many of the worst abuses of the eugenics movement occurred in Western, Protestant countries with little objection outside the Catholic Church. We'll leave aside, for the moment, religion-inspired opposition to birth-control information, let alone contraception, and what that meant for the "humanity" of women and the unwavering defense of the poor. But if you mean to tar your opponents with the brush of 19th Century science, you might want to gin up your defense of the Spanish Civil War, or the church's role in the genocide of the Americas, or a couple-thousand years of persecuting Jews, or...

Nuisance Suits In The News

Indianapolis Star: Charter school won't expel special-needs 10-year-old.

And all it took was five months of effort by a Legal Services attorney. Five months while the boy sat out of school after being suspended from class (as a first step to expelling him) for being "disruptive", despite the fact that Federal law prohibits suspending students for behaviors linked to their disabilities.

My favorite part of the article, though, was the contributions of the Official Charter School Apologist Society and Debating Club, one of whom works at taxpayers' expense. Indianapolis' charter school director, David E. Harris, explained the difficulties charters face: "A school with 100 children doesn't have the same resources of a 35,000-student district." Adds Gerry Wagner, director of the Special Education Co-operative for a statewide charter organization, "Charter organizers never dreamed there would be this many children who qualify for special education services enrolling."

Oh sure. There's no way city government could have foreseen that charter schools would run up against federal regulations in the matter of special-needs students. After all, it was only charters' opponents who were talking about it in the bull-rush to open as many as possible. And who woulda guessed that charter schools would attract almost half the percentage of such students that the public schools do? Or that not every one would go quietly when they tried to shunt 'em back from whence they came? Apprently not the guy who runs their Special Education Co-operative. Man, I hate to see public servants get blindsided like that.

Friday, March 25

Friday Kat Blogging

Bart Is A Very Very Good Mayor. It's Good What He's Done.

Bart Peterson is the first Democratic mayor of Indianapolis in forty years. He's in his second term.

In his first term, Peterson inherited the biggest of the city's build-us-a-new-stadium-or-we-just-might-move professional sports headaches, your Indianapolis Colts. Right on schedule, about a year before he'd have to start running for reelection, the Colts started making noises about needing a stadium with skybox revenues to stay competitive, and they trotted out the Great NFL Los Angeles canard. Paul Tagliabue blew into town to assure the taxpayers that the NFL really really really needed a franchise in the nation's #2 market. Which prompted one interested observer of my height and weight to ask how come the league had expanded three times since LA kicked its last two teams out without going there, but I'm used to not having my questions answered.

Negotiations proceeded in the headlines. A decent interval passed. Then one morning Naptowners awoke to find a front page story featuring Colts owner Jim Irsay, his inordinate fondness for OxyContin™ and an ongoing investigation thereof. Irsay entered rehab, kicked his habit, and found an undying love for the Circle City.

Peterson now wants to consolidate what's left of the county government functions (police/sheriff, township offices) from the great county annexation of the mid-60s known as Unigov. He has to fight a Republican controlled legislature for the plan, and they, and the township officers whose oxen are set for the pike, have been somewhat negative about the idea.

A decent interval passed. Yesterday morning's Star headlined the story that 8 of the 9 township accessors have kinfolk on the payroll to the tune of $473,000. Plus a sidebar on how the Speaker of the House does $120,000 in legal business with three of them.

Like I say, Bart Peterson is a very good mayor. And the guy in those pictures only looks like me.

Pass The Popcorn II

Jonah Goldberg swims up the torrent to spawn:

The negative political consequences in the long term for the Schiavo manuevers by the GOP will be near-zero, even though a majority of Americans will view them negatively. This episode is simply too unique, awful and conflicting for anybody except a very small number of people to hold a grudge about it.

Not quite sure I agree with your police work there, Lou.

You already had buyer's remorse setting in with bankruptcy and social security on top of the deficits, and like it or not there are still some folks keeping conservative values in their trunks, though I admit they've been pretty willing to sell them out in exchange for power up to now. Those folks don't care much for DeLay's latest slitherings, and this is not a man who needs to have any of your people give him a good hard look. George W. has come off once again as a pandering politician with no real leadership qualities, only this time a lot of your folks weren't cheering the results and ignoring how it got there. Brother Jethro Jeb has looked worse, rolling over and fetching and the first sharp tug on the leash, then finding out that that wasn't good enough. And maybe it's just me, but now he sounds like the stupider brother.

But above all else, Jonah, if you can imagine now that this is some sort of one-off, unique event for the religious radicals you've been paying less attention than I thought. I realize you thought they'd just hand over money and votes in perpetuity, and wouldn't be coming for your porn stash, but that's your problem. It's their time, Chuckles, and they really believe they were the reason you won last fall. Plenty of House incumbents just lost running room, and everyone with Presidential aspirations just got a letter in the mail. Try keepin' 'em off the podium in prime time next time.

Red Lake Is Where, Again?

I mentioned that my wife's students were more than a little puzzled about the relative lack of coverage of the Red Lake shootings. My long-suffering readers chimed in with the reasons. I'll add mine.

Yes, they were all geared up on Schiavo, with its exciting opportunity to pander to the religious right, but I think Red Lake fell uncomfortably outside the script, which has become increasingly out-of-date to begin with. Faced with the earlier rash of school shootings, which were happening in white suburban schools, not the failing inner-city hellholes big media would have preferred, and with the inescapable conclusion that the crux of the matter was easy access to guns, which big media wasn't gonna get anywhere near, the script evolved into the Internet-using-death-rock-and-violent-videogame-fan story we all know. And Red Lake isn't white, or suburban, and every student in America is on at least one of the internets now, and even CNN has heard that rap is popular. Plus, Weise turns out to have been more than a little familiar with some Nazi sites, which is a topic I don't recall every seeing on teevee news, not that I watch it much.

No, it's not a simple racial equation, but had this been another middle-class white district the Schiavo wall-to-wall would have been interrupted a bit more and the old script given a thorough dusting off. In the event it plays as a serious problem and not an easy morality tale. And big media does not demand Republicans actually solve problems, unless the Republicans were the ones who pointed them out in the first place.

Thursday, March 24

Coughing Hack

I don't read Mickey Kaus, or Slate for that matter, even though I usually try to avoid crowds. But Roger Ailes took a whack at him yesterday and I clicked the link. It was an October 2003 item about the dastardly unfairness of NPR in a piece about the Schiavo case failing to interview the requisite number of priests. The interesting thing there was Kaus, who droned on for five column inches about "the actual facts in the case" didn't know that Michael Schiavo is not acting as Terri's guardian. But he corrected himself when he caught it.

Yeah, so now, eighteen months later, he's quoting Charles Krauthamer: "The husband hasn't allowed much medical testing".

Maybe corrections have a shelf life I don't know about. If so, we can start the clock on today's column, where he repeats Captain Ed's powerful indictment of that ABC poll's misleading respondants by calling "life support" "life support". His "correction" states that feeding by tube is defined as "life support" by at least one medical authority. We'll just have to wait to see whether he has enough space to add another correction when he learns it's also defined as such by Florida law.

Too Much To Ask

Things we already knew:

It's too much to ask that fundamentalists, evangelicals, or right-wing Catholics be forced to justify their demands for political action in terms other than their faith. Likewise, they are not to be asked why their morality comes to the fore only in certain, well-publicized cases.

There are roughly 30-35,000 people on life support in this country. In lots of those cases there's no living will or explicit instructions. In nearly every one families are faced with terrible, soul-wrenching decisions, and they're often at odds about it.

We handle left-wing religious political concerns by treating the political issue. The war, the death penalty, social justice are left-wing issues, not moral dilemmas.

The two local news broadcasts I caught last night featured graphics of Terri Schiavo with the title The Fight For Life.

It's too much to ask that the chatters who so strongly support the "Culture of Life" show actual respect for the living, by, say, not simply throwing shit about Michael Schiavo against the wall to see what sticks.

Charles Krauthammer (e.g.) says, Terri "stands in the way" of Michael remarrying, ignoring the fact that this man could have divorced his wife at any time, washed his hands of the whole deal, and left what's left of her to the father who pulled the plug on his mother a decade ago.

It's too much to ask that we look for answers in the same place in similar situations. Jeff Weise's emotional history is the stuff of earnest speculation; Terry Ratzmann "had no known motive".

I've heard a good half-dozen reports on Weise's internet behavior, about how he was in a garage band, how he "dressed in black, like a Goth." Police seized three computers from Ratzmann's home. He never posted anything online? Just had Quicken on all three? What kind of music did he listen to? Did he hunt, fish, watch American Idol?

The public search for moral answers is similarly a one-way street. If teenagers have sex it's a matter of a permissive culture. If they go on a shooting spree somehow it's not a question of a violent culture, unless it's the cartoon violence of video games and not the real violence of levelling a city of 300,000 inhabitants.

There's a genuine poignancy in Weise's writings. "16 years of accumulated rage suppressed by nothing more than brief glimpses of hope, which have all but faded to black," he wrote in his bio, and gave his location as "endless scrutiny, Minnesota, United States." But nobody's gonna stick a microphone in some religious right spokesman's face to ask about this kid. They just get to talk about saving lives.

Wall To Wall

A few years ago, in a day when the Discovery Channel meant more than "discover how custom bikes are made" and the Learning part of the Learning Channel included more than wedding cake and window treatments, one of them ran an interesting hour on the making of a local news team. The station was just getting into the local news game, and they were going through a week's worth of live rehearsals. The show has stuck in my mind for two reasons. First, there was actual "breaking news" which occurred right before one of the practice newscasts, and the female anchor who the documentary crew was particularly following told them later that this would be news of interest to the local audience because the crash "happened just two markets over." That the concept of "market" would serve a newshairdo the same way "parsec" serves astronomers was a cosmic revelation to me.

The other was Walter Cronkite. Uncle Walter was interviewed for the exercise, and he said something to the effect that when he started out journalists were paid what beat cops and schoolteachers and butchers made. They understood the concerns of the common man because they were common men.

And they were reporters, too, one might add.

How did we get from there to an era where local teleprompter readers make six-figure salaries, live in exclusive neighborhoods, and send their children to private schools? Look, I'm no communist (okay, not anymore); I've got no problem with people making as much as they can, whether because they're on the idiot box or they've got a great court sense or singing voice or a nice set of tits. It's the concomitant commodification of the news itself that is troubling. We've gone from hiring people who read the stuff based on their "likeability" to actually reporting the news that way.

What my wife's class wanted to talk about this morning first period was Red Lake. How come Columbine was all over the news for weeks, but this gets the short shrift? Because it doesn't involve white people? Because the body count barely made double digits? Why are Terri Schiavo and Michael Jackson more important than schools?

It's a fair cop. And I can only add, "why are teenagers more aware of what our priorities should be than the people who bring us the news?"

Wednesday, March 23

Homeric Efforts

"Boy, everyone is stupid except me." --Homer, 9F01

Last week Roger Ailes caught a priest named Rob Johansen and his petard in mid-hoist over at the National Review Online. Johansen had argued that one of the experts testifying in Schiavo was biased, because he was "an advocate in the 'right to die' and euthanasia movements." As Roger pointed out, the same was true of the opposing experts, in spades, a fact Johansen had, well, glossed over just a smidgen.

What interested me was the way Johansen brought the matter up: expert witnesses "...are supposed to be unbiased: disinterested in the outcome of the case. Part of the procedure in qualifying expert witnesses is establishing that they are objective and unbiased." Because frankly, supposing we need it, a moment's reflection ought to be enough to realize this is not true and would be completely unworkable if it were. Experts are recognized for reaching a level of expertise; it is their testimony which must be thorough and unbiased.

They're tussling about Schiavo over at the Corner, so I went to do a bit of rubbernecking. Here's Andy McCarthy:

I do not doubt the propriety of the people of Florida governing themselves, or that they may deny sustenance to a person who (a) actually is in a PVS and (b) actually has asserted in a knowing and intelligent way a rejection of life saving measures in certain dire circumstances. What I object to here is the appallingly suspect evidentiary record on these two crucial questions -- especially on PVS, where it seems indisputable that fairly standard tests, which would be easy to do in relatively short order and which could give us confidence in the PVS finding, have not been done. If we can be confident that Terri is a PVS case -- and particularly that her brain damage has left her largely insensitive to pain -- I seal my lips and accept the outcome, however much I may question its wisdom insofar as society's general regard for life is concerned. Under such circumstances, the Supreme Court has said sustenance may be withheld, and the absence of pain would destroy my contention that she is being tortured.

...Much as I instinctively agree with you that a spouse should be given great deference in these matters (and as I would try to ensure that my own wife had a free hand in making them for me), the law is that it is not the spouse's decision. It is the individual's decision, and it cannot be removed from the individual because you decide that in your own life you would not want intrusion into what you regard as your affairs.

I'll not waste time here thanking Andy for recognizing Florida's continuing efforts at self-governance; I'm sure they'll be sending a nice card. And I know a few people in The Palmetto Bug State, and they assure me the legislature does its damnedest to figure out What Would Andy Do? before enacting meaningful legislation. But here's my question: is it somehow too friggin' much to expect that we might first consider that two separate court cases plus appellate challenges, during which the Schindlers have had practically unlimited access to legal and professional help at now charge, just might have dealt with the relevant issues? Or that the court, or the court after that, or the other court, or that other other court, would have some rough concept of guardianship? At this late date, when someone with a vested interest in the case tells me there's been no finding of a Presistant Vegitative State, or that appropriate tests Just Weren't Done, I'd consider that an open invitation to start reading, not to start mouthing off.

Just for the record: the courts all held that Terri Schiavo is in a PVS. The "tests that would give us confidence" presumably refers to the failure to do an MRI. The Schindler's experts could have requested one in 2002, but did not. The MRI business was only raised at the 11th hour, and even then none of the experts signing the affidavits says one "would give us confidence", only that it might. The court rejected the matter because the affidavits come from doctors who have not examined Terri, only viewed edited video clips, the "new findings" they were based on involve "minimally conscious" not PVS patients, and Terri would have to undergo brain surgery before she could be given an MRI.

As for the business about it "not being the spouse's decision" well, based on no evidence whatsoever, I'm going to credit Andy with mistaking one of the particulars of the case rather than Just Making Shit Up. A legal guardian certainly can make that decision in some circumstances. In this one, because the Schindlers, who are not Terri's legal guardians, were given exceptional consideration by the courts when they disagreed with Michael Schiavo's wishes it is, in fact, the court which is operating as her guardian. But thanks for playing, just the same.

Will The Gentleman Yield?

Indy Star: Indiana House OKs Gay Marriage Ban.

Okay, just another vote in 2007, then a win for the initiative in 2008, and it'll be safe to let the kids out in the yard again.

Pass The Popcorn

Via World O'Crap I see the ravening hounds are now pooping on Jeb's front lawn. I'm tellin' ya, the Scaife and Coors fundees have got to neutralize the corporate wing, and George W.'s complete inability to lead is already being exploited. "John McCain's Black Love Child" is gonna seem like a backyard splash party before this one's done.

No, Sir, Our Charts Show Clearly That Down Is Still Up

Cognative dissonance on the radical right isn't worth aggravating my vertigo anymore, and besides there's always TBogg and World O' Crap and The General and Ailes and all the others who will appear on the blogroll here once I get off my ass to handle it with talent. But I can manage the occasional Chinese fire drill still hold on to my chair. Here's Hugh Hewitt:

Several voices have been raised against the action of the president and the Congress, and bogus opinion polls circulated. Fine.  Anyone who wants to run for office on the basis of that position is welcome to do so.

Um kay. Hugh links the "bogus opinion polls" line to Captain's Quarters, where Captain Ed informs us:

...a look at the questionnaire shows that ABC News completely misrepresented Terri's medical condition, which undoubtedly impacted the responses given. Question 2, which asks the central question, claims that Terri is on life support:

"2. Schiavo suffered brain damage and has been on life support for 15 years...."

Terri has never been on life support. The only medical treatment Terri received for the past five years has been food and water through a feeding tube, which is nothing at all like artificial life support. Artificial life support consists of ventilation for people unable to breathe on their own. The question sets up a strawman argument that so completely contradicts reality that the entire poll must be considered invalid.

Goddamit, don't you kids make me come down there with my AMA Glossary:

Withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatment – life-sustaining treatment includes, but is not limited to, mechanical ventilation, renal dialysis, chemotherapy, and administration of artificial nutrition and hydration. The AMA Code of Medical Ethics, and the majority bioethics opinion accept that " a competent, adult patient, may, in advance, formulate and provide a valid consent to the withholding and withdrawing of life-support systems in the event that injury or illness renders that individual incompetent to make such a decision" (AMA Code of Medical Ethics, Opinion 2.20). A designated patient surrogate may also make the decision to withhold or withdraw such treatment. The Code recognizes no ethical difference between the withholding and the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment.

Not to mention that Florida law, which was the law in question before better men took over, has defined assisted feeding as "life support" since 1999.

And Hugh? "Bogus" means "sham, artificial" not "something some unlettered typist quibbled with somewhere". And "polls" is plural, which means "more than one". But, hey, that sure doesn't contradict your political wisdom in the slightest. Why don't your guys start running out in the open on their actual, out-of-touch Bronze Age ideals next time?

Whose Issue Is This?

Over at The Next Hurrah DemFromCt wonders whether Bush's failing Social Security mission is behind the Schiavo furor:

But the 'important' constituency here for Bush and the other Republicans is the Religious Right. Clearly the polls show this is an unpopular decision for Congress to intervene. Nonetheless, the politics appear to be pushing Republicans to take this as far as they can, heedless of the collateral damage done to them and their image as the party of 'small government'.

I can't help but wonder whether impending losses and/or compromises on such matters as Medicaid cuts, Social Security 'reform' or even failure to exercise the 'nuclear option' is part of the equation driving the desperation on the GOP's part to radically alter the relationship between the branches of government that all of this represents.

My feeling is it's more like the other way around: squandering the first half of his effective presidency before lame duckitude sets in on the ill-advised attack on Social Security has given the Congressional radicals free rein a good six months or more before they'd have ever tried to assert it, and Bush had to hop on the Tsunami Express for a quick ride to the head of the parade. I don't think they had a choice, and like the earlier DOMA business I think they'd have preferred to stay on the sidelines and mouth platitudes. Bush doesn't need to rally the religious right anymore; he just needs them on board. They see 2008 as their best chance ever, but don't think for a minute they don't realize that might entail running away from the Bush economy and the wreck of our foreign policy, even if their room to do so is limited.

And while I cringe whenever people on my end of the spectrum treat Unka Karl like he's Goldfinger, I'm not beyond asking the question: was the quick shift into corporate giveaway mode after the inauguration designed to give the radicals a bigger head start? The nomination is still probably Cheney's if he wants it, but he's got serious negatives that go beyond his health. Has he already made the decision? After him, the charisma and political sense is almost all in what passes for the center: McCain, Romney, Bob Ehrlich, Giuliani. Opposed to that there's what? Frist? Gingrich? The freeper wet-dream of Condi Rice? I've thought all along that the theocrats were going to have to start scorching the landscape before '06; I didn't realize it would start this early.

Tuesday, March 22

Incontinent Nostalgia

While other forms of incontinence are probably on the way, the one that's struck me first, maybe even pre-dotage, is nostalgia. It's no longer confined to the accidental eye contact with Fig Newtons, my mass-produced madeleines, in the cookie aisle, or the odd phrase from the basketball court next door echoing something Rhonda Campbell used to say on the playground at recess in fifth grade, where Richard Perry and I competed to prove Most Worthy of her precocious charms, no, now just about anything will bring it on and just about anything will serve as grist for that particular mill.

Even today's headlines. Why, just this morning I was in the kitchen, making a cup of tea and listening to my new source for world news, CNN. And out of the blue someone whispered to me, "Ha ha, now the grownups are in charge!"

Yeah. The Grownups are in charge. I'm feeling a little misty about the day when, no matter how disingenuous or moronic, someone could actually try to make that claim about this bunch. God help me. I'm gonna go find my 45 of ? and the Mysterians' "96 Tears" and think about Rhonda Campbell's rec room, and get this taste out of my mouth.

Tom Burka Is An Effing National Treasure

Exhibit A: Other 293 Million Americans Waiting For Congress To Pass Bills For Them

"Not A Precedent"

AP: The White House said Monday that an extraordinary law allowing a federal court to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case was narrowly tailored and not intended as a precedent for Congress to step into battles over the fate of seriously disabled or terminally ill patients.

Who says?

It's absurd to talk about precedent in a legislative act--presumably the bill was an expression of the sense of this Congress. But how can you argue that it does not set a legal precedent, no matter how "narrowly tailored" it was? I'm far from a legal scholar, so someone please explain to me what I've missed here: what now prevents a future where a lower court can stay the execution of a Supreme Court ruling on the grounds that a single legislator intends to offer just such a bill?

I've been saying for a quarter century now that it was time for the Right to shut up and govern. That was apparently nothing more than naïveté on my part. The Right is either a whole lot smarter or even more insane than I've credited them for. Maybe both. This is a bunch which now baldly admits it cannot govern, and simply intends to hold power and enforce its will. If this is not a tipping point then we will have none until everything is smoke and ashes. I'm a Red State boy; I can tell you those polls which say Americans want the government's nose out of their personal business are on the money. There's no such thing as principled conservativism left; if there still exists such a thing as principled conservatives it's time they sign on for the fight.

Monday, March 21

"Culture of Life"

Okay, I was taking a quick lunch break and just for the hell of it turned on CNN. Missed the top of the hour so I had to wait as they cycled through Jessica Lunsford and Michael Jackson to get back to Terri Schiavo. These three stories are our national news, folks.

The only bit of humanity that poked through in this grim and grubby spectacle was provided by, well, humanity, as the CNN online poll went 78% for The Husband to make the decision, and 92% for the proposition that the case had been "too politicized". The report closes, of course, with the standard disclaimer that the results "aren't scientific". It's just too bad their news reports don't close with a warning that what we've just witnessed is not professional journalism.

I was also treated to a sidebar story about how "Culture of Life" has become a buzzword for the campaign to raise funds from abortion opponents to fight everything from stem cell research to teaching evolution. CNN didn't actually mention evolution, but Peter Slevin's WaPo story on "Intelligent Design" sure did. In keeping with standard practice since at least 1979, the right doesn't have to face any difficult questions, either about tricky ethical issues or its own lapses and omissions. Pharmacists refusing to fill birth-control prescriptions? That's a matter for the states, apparently. "Opposition" here means "speculating about what Democrats are going to do."

My own advice is free, as usual. Democrats should find a plain-spoken champion for the idea of the rule of law, for the responsibility to govern as opposed to the authority to grandstand. You can't fight a war of soundbites, particularly when the field isn't level to begin with. With Republican majorities everywhere you turn, when do they begin to offer solutions instead of demagogy?

Monday Monday

Busy weekend. Back to the screen late Sunday, check in with the usual suspects, and everybody's got the Sun Hudson story, and the Spiro Nikolouzos story, beginning with Mark Kleiman. Everybody but me, and the teevee news, and the people who rely on it to keep them informed.

Saturday, March 19

...And An Old Man's Fancy Turns To Thoughts Of Patio Furniture Maintenance

Two days of sun, Thursday and Friday, and I had the time to get out into the garden. Always reminds me of the far-off days of USENET, when a friend of mine from one of the boards emailed me one mid-January. "I was cutting flowers this morning. What are *you* doing?" "I'm dreaming of next year's garden. Wanna trade? I don't."

I lived for awhile in one of those places where the weather is always "nice". I'm not too partial to "nice", and certainly not as a steady diet. Give me a hike in an all-day downpour, falling in the mud going upslope. Gimme a trek up Pearl Ravine at Shades State Park, up the long narrow rivulet of freezing water slipping over rounded stones, with ice hanging from every tree. There'll be fun enough to be had when the sun's beating down in June. When everybody's forgotten all about winter, and started complaining about the humidity.

I like cold weather. There's usually about three weeks too much of it around here for my tastes, but that's a blessing. It makes those first uncertain days of sun when it warms you like you're feeling it through a window just that much better. There are tiny spots of green throughout the herb bed, and the cats have found the suggestion of valerian under the mulch and gone nuts rolling on it. They don't care for it once it's big enough to spot across the bed. The old reliable catbird was off in the wilderness out back doing vocal gymnastics, and the maniac-on-the-loose calls of a yellow shafted flicker that's adopted the near-dead red maple in the front yard are really its love song. Got my fingers crossed that it'll nest there this year. It's been a banner year for crocuses; stayed cold enough that some are a month old by now. And the familiar garden dramas--the wrestling match between the early rising, peripatetic blue rye and the groggy but muscular fountain grass which sleep side by side, or the barrenwort vs. deadnettle battle of the groundcovers under the big elm--all come back to you after you'd forgotten them with the snow.

I don't pity you folks who can go to the beach everyday. I just wonder if you know what you're missing.

Friday, March 18

Friday Guitar Blogging

Ilsa takes advantage of the spring-like weather to sun herself on the potting bench. She's a 47-year-old Hoyer acoustic archtop, European maple, dovetailed violin neck construction, weird 50s Tune-O-Matic™ bridge. All original except for tuners. Little finish damage on the edge near the bottom strap button, but otherwise in fine form for her age and a great player. Original Selmer tweed case with burnt orange velvet lining. A one-owner baby I got from a guy in Australia. I think she'd spent a lot of time under the bed.
Also pictured: cat.

Doghouse Riley uses Thomastik-Infeld "George Benson" strings, for which he gets absolutely bupkes.

Caveat Emptor

The discussion at Rox Populi from which I appropriated ellroon's comment involved Michelle of A Small Victory. In fact somehow it focused on her for awhile, as she became what über commenter Chris Clarke called a synedoche for the thread.

Michelle has both a lively style and a lively blog, and by the time I'd seen the link to her reply there were far to many comments to attempt any meaningful discussion.

Roxanne was writing about Bush voters with "Buyers Remorse". My own comment, posted before Michelle entered the picture, was to the effect that there'd be no welcome mat on my door; that people who now found themselves with a different administration than the one they thought they were getting could have a decent interval to think about why they'd gone wrong and why. Here's Michelle, on her own blog:

I've also left similar sentiments in comments on various blogs and, for the most part, they were met with a flurry of clenched fists and righteous indignation, with calls for me to go out and start protesting (or something like that) to prove my regret. It's not like that. First of all, I am not sitting here admitting to the world (ok, just the minuscule part of the world who reads this) that I regret my vote so I can, oh, get a pat on the head or a clap on the back or a wide-armed welcome back to the fold. I'm not going back to any fold and I don't seek anyone's approval.

As I said later, I didn't see any fist clenching, not by blog discussion standards, anyway, and what there was was more aimed at Rox's general point than Michelle specifically. I'd never considered this a discussion about welcoming people into any "fold". The question is if we can find some place to have a decent, civilized discussion. Like the Paris Peace Conference, we're going to spend a long time arguing about the shape of the table, folks. It's a chasm, not a crack in the asphalt. Michelle again:

There are others out there like me. I talk to them at work. I talk to them in the parking lot of schools, waiting for our kids. I talk to them in email or instant message, people from across the country who feel that twinge of regret. What we all have in common is this: we feel used. We feel taken advantage of. We feel manipulated.

I mean to be concilliatory. I've lived in a "Red State" all my life. I know Republican voters beyond the silly stereotypes of our chattering class. It's impossible to accept that a Republican in 2005 had no understanding of the power of the religious right, no inkling that the party favored big corporations over average Americans, no awareness that Republicans were every bit the Big Spenders and Nanny Staters they claim Democrats are, merely with different alignment. The Republican party has never been anything else. The cognative dissonace and the political cacophony that covered this over has got to be addressed. Michelle:

There are people who have seen this “confession” from me already who assume this means I think George W. Bush is an evil person, that I’ve finally joined the BusHitler crowd. No. Hardly. I don’t hate George Bush, much as I don’t hate John Kerry. I just don’t think that either of them is what America needs.

With all due respect, I can't accept the sentiment. I don't think there's any sense on the right of what sort of President John Kerry would have been; there's simply an ongoing meme that dates to Carter. The "BusHitler" business is just the product of a party which has been talking to itself for twenty-five years, and a media which has facilitated, where it did not promote, the the right's defining every argument on every political issue we face. Those chickens are back home to roost. We do not have a disaster in Iraq, and zero international credibility, because you backed the wrong horse, or because you weren't offered a suitable alternative. We have a disaster because of the hubris displayed when you bash those cardboard cartoon Democrats. We have a disaster because we do not have a fair and honest hearing of the issue for a free an informed electorate. We have, instead, these bumper-sticker caricatures that cut off all debate on any issue, including the invasion of a country that posed no immediate threat to us or anybody else. Until and unless people recognize that failure, until they can acknowledge what is simple, hard truth, that there are legitimate points of view on the left side of the spectrum, and engage those views, there can't be any port for drifting Republicans in the Democratic party. If you don't want one, fine. But at least stop and think about which party has shut off all options and pulled up all the lifeboats.

Thursday, March 17

Back Home Again

As you may have heard, Planned Parenthood is suing the State of Indiana over Attorney General Steve Carter's attempt to seize records from forty clinics across the state via his Medicaid fraud division. Feministe has much detail and an attendant story on the usual anti-abortion monkeyshines in the World's Third Worst State Legislature™ (Motto: "Step On It. Mac, Kansas Is Gaining On Us").

Carter's request reportedly does not include abortion records; he's looking for evidence of sexual abuse and whether Planned Parenthood has reported cases of possible molestation. Or so his spokeswoman said; Planned Parenthood, which earlier turned over eight records his office requested, says it doesn't know what he wants the 73 additional records for, and says it reports possible abuse cases as required by law.

The shitstorm started Monday, when the suit was filed. Carter is junketing in D.C. When local teevee caught up with him he said he needed to get back to the state so he could "be brought up to speed." Staci Schneider, the spokeswoman, mumbled something I didn't quite catch about "specific allegations". If so, that's at least an elaboration of her earlier comments. To my knowledge, no one's asked her whether it's the AG's policy to sit on allegations of sexual abuse of 12 and 13 year old girls until they have a large enough batch to justify paying attention to.

But I can tell you a bit about Steve Carter. He was reelected last fall running as The Scourge of Consumer Fraud. He's responsible for Indiana's wildly popular anti-telemarketing Do Not Call List. I voted for the guy, in no small part because his Dem challenger ran hideously racist "street crime" ads.

There was already a storm cloud on the horizon. Carter had inserted himself in a It-Would-Be-Comical-If-It-Weren't-So-Chilling land grab scheme in Indianapolis' wealthy Republican bedroom county of Hamilton. The controversy involved Earlham College and a living history museum called Connor Prairie the college operated under a trust from the late Eli Lilly. In June 2003 Earlham fired 28 board members, local movers and shakers like Board Chairman Berkley W. Duck III. The Indianapolis Star beat the drum for an investigation of this outrage, and Carter stepped in and demanded Earlham open its records on the trust.

I can't comment on the legal questions, though some experts seem to think that Carter was on shaky ground. It revolved around the question of whether the $150M trust belonged to Earlham or was specifically designated for the museum. Instead, let's take a brief treetop-level flight over the ground. It's the fastest-growing and wealthiest county in the state. Carter got more agressive about it after the election, and Earlham eventually agreed to his proposed settlement. As a result, 300 acres of land that used to belong to the museum will be turned over to a condominium developer.

Well, we're all glad that's settled. But Carter's still got a dilemma, even if lining up potential campaign contributors is not going to be a problem. He's a second-termer in a Republican state with a first-term governor. The safe Republican House seats are taken. Dick Lugar is Senator-for-Life, and Evan Bayh probably is too, unless he manages to become President. Am I saying this ham-fisted mission is some sort of political ploy? Heavens, we don't engage in wild speculation in these parts. Mr. Carter's fishing plans are his own business.

Oh, That Crispus Attucks? Well, That's Different.

I wrote earlier this month about the 50th Anniversary of the Indiana state basketball championship won by Crispus Attucks High School, the first segregated black school to win a state championship anywhere in the country. Their win followed the storied victory of Milan High, as told to America in Hoosiers.

Last year the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame inducted the Milan team. It was the first time a team had been given the honor.

Wait a minute, you're getting ahead of me.

Yep. No such plans this year, until today, after local teevee news got wind of the story and aimed the kleig lights at another dark corner in the state's history. No reports on what they found scurrying around, but plans have changed rather abruptly and there'll be an induction dinner March 23. That's four days after the anniversary, but you know how hard it is to book a caterer on short notice.

Wednesday, March 16

What Did You Just Get Done Saying About Ignoring Nick Kristof?

Oh, good, a column about Hillary, Public Prayer, and the Jes' Folks of Yamhill. The man's a triple threat, the Orson Welles of sucking.

Of course, this approach works in her case only because her religious faith is longstanding. It didn't work for Howard Dean when he described the Book of Job as his favorite book in the New Testament. With a candidate like him, you'd worry that more talk about religion would lead to comments about how much he treasures the Twelfth Commandment.

First, why is it that folks who can't contain their hard-ons when God gets a shout out from public officials find it perfectly acceptable to impugn Dean's, or John Kerry's, religious sincerity? Second, Hillary's faith is longstanding? I don't doubt it, but it seems, I dunno, obvious might be the word, that her committment to talking about it in public is some freshly minted rebranding Nick thinks the Dems so desperately need. I don't recall her spending a whole lot of time addressing the nation's spiritual longings as First Lady. But I'm sure those folks on the West Coast of Heartlandia will see it just your way, Nick.

Democrats are usually more comfortable talking about sex than God. But that doesn't work in a country where 70 percent say that "presidents should have strong religious beliefs."

Sorry, I missed the poll. How many Americans think their president should abstain from sex?

I should have taken my own advice and just said "Fuck you" I suppose. But since when is rewriting John Birch Society slogans from the 60s ("You kin teach kids about Sex in schools but it's illegal to talk about God") a qualification for the Times' Op Ed page?

[snip obligatory disingenuous parsing of Times poll on abortion, followed immediately by liberal-cred backtracking]

Mrs. Clinton is also hard to dismiss as a screechy obstructionist because she's gone out of her way to be collegial in the Senate and to work with Republicans from Trent Lott to Sam Brownback.

Wow, there's a chasm few could span.

I use my hometown, the farming community of Yamhill, Ore., as my touchstone for the heartland, and I have a hard time imagining that she could do well there.

Okay, who cued the banjo player? Yamhill is wine grape country. I didn't see any mules when I was there, or a single bib and tucker, and I tried to find the Gen'r'l Store but I musta got lost.

Ambitious, high-achieving women are still a turnoff in many areas, particularly if they're liberal and feminist. And that's not just in America: Margaret Thatcher would never have been elected prime minister if she'd been in the Labor [sic] Party.

Now, this is the sort of thing that gives us liberal elitists such a bad name. Your run-of-the-mill Freeper could have packed that much stupidity into just one sentence, but with Nick it takes two, with colon. Could someone please tell Mr. Times Opinion Columnist that the Prime Minister of the UK is not an elected position? Unless he's suggesting that Mags could never have been elected leader of the Labour party, in which case I thank him for the keen insight.

Mrs. Clinton's negative ratings nationally were still around 40 percent at last count, and Hillary-hating thrives.

Yep, nobody with that sort of baggage could ever be President.

But it's just the right time for Democrats to be fretting about how to reconnect to the heartland, and they can't find a better model for how to do that than Mrs. Clinton.

We're doomed.


From the comments at Roxanne's

The frustration is that we have been yelling ourselves hoarse over the corruption of this administration. We have pointed out the undemocratic actions and attitudes only to be hushed and told to be nice spineless, nuanced liberals who cannot stand up to the righteous, manly republicans. Insults have poured down from pundits and politicians alike on those who pointed out the truth. Look at the mockery of the French. Look at how the Canadians are being vilified for saying no. People so abused become furious.

We have seen people needlessly dying: Iraqi and Afghan, American and Italian and Pole in a war begun in fraud and deception, based on hubris, run by greedy corporations, fought by unprepared soldiers. The Pandora's box of evils this one action alone has unleashed will have ripple effects for generations. We have not yet realized the depth of the trouble we have activated.

America has been declared a Christian nation when Jefferson and Franklin were deists and knew how dangerous a country was that could not keep God out of politics. Suddenly hatred is a new religious tenet. Jesus himself would not recognize some of those who claim to speak in his name. Gays are the new 'Jews', verbal pogroms have begun to vilify our neighbors and our family members.

We have seen our citizens vote in hysteria on issues unimportant to those seeking power. We have the poor voting against their own interests. We have people suggesting that education is liberal and dangerous. We have people suggesting that torture should be legal, that imprisoning and disappearing so-called evildoers is logical.
We have people suggesting that internment did no harm, that Joe McCarthy was a good guy, that the UN is useless.

It is like an abuser slowly cutting off all avenues of escape. Slowly we are being isolated and silenced. We are unable to get the mainstream media to print or show the truth. The internet can hardly contain our outrage.

So finally, when we are empowered by the anger we feel, and have ceased to try to reason and listen to those in power, we are asked to be understanding and grateful to those who have seen the light.


C'mon in and sit down. We have something to say.

Posted by: ellroon | March 16, 2005 01:37 AM

Blog, Blog, Blo...zzzzzzz

Salon's Scott ("Not Steve") Rosenberg catches the Gallup people hanging their poll on blogging in a rather interesting but mismatched frame. Turns out that to Gallup, one-quarter of the population amounts to "relatively few Americans." Takedown much appreciated, Scott, but these are the people who don't care to separate out the liars when they publish their religion polls, so whaddya expect?

This follows s.z.'s usual mirthmaking at the expense of Newsweek's Steven Levy's shocking exposé of the dearth of female bloggers he's ever heard of, and Jeff Jarvis' grabbing the wrong end of the stick and beating around the bush with it.

[As an aside here, s.z. is one of our finest Vagino-American bloggers, or rather one of our finest bloggers, period (sorry), who happens to be female. This blog could be vastly improved by simply linking to her every word, if I could manage to keep up with everywhere she turns up these days, but then all this glorious insomnia would go into flipping between The History Channel and Turner Classic Movies, assuming it's not another Claudette Colbert festival.]

Anyway, as I said over there, and because I haven't had another idea since, I really don't give a shite about capital-B blogging. I'm glad blogging exists now as a bee under the expense-account bonnet of what has to pass for journalism these days, and the ability to read and learn from so many great talents, and find new ones I don't have time to read, is right up there on my list of Reasons To Go On Despite Everything. But I care about as much for the Dead Tree Society explaining this whole phenomenon, and the artificial excitement over Convention bloggers and Rathergaters as I do for TV Guide's™ list of Eight Hot New Hunks To Watch. The Goddam Media sold its collective soul twenty-five years ago, and the existence of this new Internet business has nothing whatsoever to do with its well-earned slot between slime mold and Taco Bell™ on the reputation list, and they know it. Blathering about Blogging isn't going to get it back.


Via one of the Prairie Home Companion joke shows:

Two Jewish jazz musicians meet one morning in Central Park after a long night of gigging, and they both sink down on a bench:

"Oy," says the first.

"I'm hip," says the other.

I don't know if my favorite thing about this is how hysterical I find it, or the fact that almost no one else laughs.

Tuesday, March 15

Then There's Charter Schools...

Forwarded from an IPS teacher:

"We've been told the state is broke; there isn't any money; everyone must tighten their belts. Everyone but charter schools, apparently.

"Earlier this year the Governor proposed not to fund the deficiency appropriation caused by public school enrollment of more students than anticipated. The need for the...appropriation was caused by a cap on public school appropriations. But there's no cap proposed for charter school(s).

"Of 22 charters sampled, 16 had double digit funding increases...14 of those were increases of 20% or more. Charter school of the Dunes receives 27.7% and 10% increases over the next two years. Meanwhile, the Duneland public school corporation, which lost nearly half its local levy when Bethlehem Steel went bankrupt sees cuts of -1.6% and -0.5% over the biennium.

"Among other noteworthy charter increases:

Community Montessori, Inc. Indianapolis 40.5% and 32.7%
Flanner House Elementary Indianapolis 34.9% and 3.8%
Christel House Academy Indianapolis 12.9% and 10.7%
KIPP Indianapolis 42% and 29.4%
Indianapolis Metro Career Academy #1 100.7% and 45.5%

"Charters are not serving expensive-to-educate populations to the same degree as public schools:

Indianapolis Public Schools' special ed. population is 18% while only 6% of charter school students are. IPS reports charters are sending special ed. students they can't or won't serve back to IPS.

IPS's non-English speaking population is 6% of enrollment while charters enroll only 2%. IPS serves more than twice the proportion of Hispanic students and 30% more free and reduced lunch students than charters within IPS boundaries."

The State of Indiana went hog-wild for charter schools just as the Edison schools fiasco started making headlines. The assurances that tossing out selected state requirements would lead to academic excellence have been replaced, after two years of sub-par testing, to retorts that charters "aren't performing that much worse" than regular schools, despite their having cherry-picked their class lists. And the legislature wants more. But no, this has nothing to do with disenfranchising poor and minority students.

They're Not Left Behind If We Can Still Find 'Em With Binoculars, Right?

Let's start with a little history.

In the mid 1960s Indianapolis Republicans gained control of both the mayor's office (now-Senator Richard Lugar) and the City Council. One party control gave them the opportunity to ramrod a plan which had been kicked about for years: extending the city limits to the borders of surrounding Marion country.

The reasons most talked about for the move were the increased efficiency, reduction of costs, and elimination of redundant and sometimes competing authority. The reason most whispered about was white flight. White voters had been moving to the suburbs for more than a decade. Now those votes were available to keep Republicans in control for another thirty years.

A few of the old inefficiencies were left in place. The county sheriff's department was left intact because no one could solve the political wrangling. Two other areas left untouched had more ominous overtones: school districts and taxing bodies. Here Indianapolis left in place the old township system. Live in Indianapolis, work in Indianapolis, send your children to public schools--but not necessarily Indianapolis public schools. Pay your property taxes to support not all children of your fair city, but a portion.

In 1969 the federal government sued the city over racial segregation of its schools. The court eventually found that the state had contributed to segregation by creating a unified governing structure while keeping school districts separate and by locating all public housing inside the old city limits, and ordered students bused into white districts to achieve racial balance. As defendant in the case the Indianapolis public schools were forced to foot the costs of student education and transportation. A settlement of the case was finally approved in 1998 and busing is being phased out as students complete their education at schools where they began. The agreement was fought by the township schools, which had grown fond of diversity--and the monies those minority students brought in.

Time marches on. So has white flight--out beyond the county lines. There are still eleven different school districts inside the city of Indianapolis. Democrats now control city offices, but they would be powerless to end the township system even were they to show some desire to do so. The township schools have become more integrated as the old barriers to integrated neighborhoods have crumbled.

And Indianapolis Public Schools? They're becoming increasingly black and Hispanic and increasingly poor. IPS, surrounded by much better off districts, is one of two districts in the state where more than 80% of the students qualify for federal free or reduced lunch programs, and one of two where 80% qualify for free textbooks. It's one of three districts where more than 50% of the students live in single-parent homes. Eleven percent do not live with their families. Nearly one percent are estimated to be homeless. One out of ten non-English speaking students in the state attend IPS schools.

So, just the sort of students our new focus on educational excellence is going to help, right? Well, funny thing. The state's got this little budget crisis. Plenty of blame to go around for it, at least some of which should fall on Mitch Daniels, former Bush administration OMB director, which is why he was elected governor. He also got something his Democratic predecessors didn't--his party controls both houses of the legislature. And Mitch made immediately balancing the budget his top priority. So schools have been hard hit. The new budget will cost IPS $18M over the next two years.

But we're all in the same boat, right? Share the pain. Except the legislature adopted a formula which actually penalizes school districts more for the students they lose than it awards them for the students they have. Not by a small amount; the difference in 2006 will be 30%. And guess which district just happens to contain 40% of the total charter school students in the state and plans on opening more at fire sale rates? Gee, you have been paying attention all this time.

The budget did create an index to aid districts which serve the greatest number of children at risk of academic failure. Somehow, though, the monies allocated will not cover the costs of state-mandated services.

And that wealthy district to the northeast, the one ranked #6 in per capita income in the state? They're upset because they can't build a new football stadium.

Monday, March 14

One More Thing

If we're so all-fired-up that high school students learn about controversies real and imagined instead of being force-fed "facts", maybe we should start with our history books.

Don't Bother With Rewrite, I'm Just Phonin' It In

The Washington Post's Peter Slevin brings us up to date on the battle over teaching evolution:

WICHITA – Propelled by a polished strategy crafted by activists on America's political right, a battle is intensifying across the nation over how students are taught about the origins of life. Policymakers in 19 states are weighing proposals that question the science of evolution.

Right off the bat, the cynical reader of, say, my approximate height and shoe size will predict the piece will cover the first trope (the intensifying battle) and ignore the second (the question of science). Gee, right again. Maybe these people should spend some effort battling cynicism. While we're in full Kreskin mode let us risk a few specific predictions. And, once again, I have never met any of the participants prior to today's show:

1) We will inform the readership that public opinion polls say the majority believes in creationism or creationism with a water chaser.


2) Since our theme here is "the battle over the right's strategy" the first quote goes to them, and probably to a religious spokesman.

Check and check.

3) The second quote naturally goes to the opposition, however, it will merely restate or reinforce the prevaling theme while saying nothing about the actual issues.


4) This will be followed by at least two more quotes from the right on our way to maintaining at least a 2-1 advantage.


5) The scientific value of ID will be upheld by using weasel words like "studies", "research", and "scientists" with no attribution. Any academic quoted who does not have credentials in any related field will be identified as "Doctor", or "Professor", or by a note that he has "studied" the problem.

Check, check, check, check, and close. Mathematician and philosopher William A. Dembski is identified as a "scholar".

6) One or two actual scientists from relevant fields will get to debunk the "science" of ID, but rather late in the game.

Bzzzzzt! Never happens. Oh, well, only God's Own Design is perfect.

One comes away from the article knowing no more than what's in the first sentence. Meanwhile the IDers are propped up with the panoply of modern science. They fund scientists! They produced a DVD shown on PBS! They're gonna start a research lab!!! Or my personal favorite, they sell books in secular and Christian bookstores. Nevermind that the "scientists" are funded to work as mouthpieces and authors of those popularizations, or that none has published the first piece in a peer-reviewed journal. Hell, nevermind the concept of peer-review. Let's not even ask how you come to the conclusions first and fund the research lab second. It's all about politics, besides, there are only so many column inches to be had. Aren't there?

Did I forget to mention Rick Santorum?

Questions I Didn't Used To Ask Myself

1) Is there any reason to respond to yet another fatuous Nick Kristof column which not only has to go back to the 70s and misstate facts in order to show that environmentalists are extremists, but tosses in meteorologists when he thinks no one's looking?


2) Is there any reason to respond to an even more fatuous David Brooks column which turns a dinner at Antoine's and the existence of decaffeinated coffee into a Lesson for Our Times?

Yes. Dude, I know it was on someone else's nickel, but you were in Nawlins and you ate at Antoine's? See anybody in there who wasn't obviously from out of town?

TV Guide™ Roundup

One thing I really like about TV Guide is that they're unafraid to change their layout every three weeks. They change layouts more often than my grocery store changes endcaps.

And it's always accompanied by a thoughtful Letter from the Publisher, or at least a page one banner informing their readership of their newly enhanced convenience and readability. Loyal readers of their Letters column are keenly aware of the panic such changes might cause if they occurred without warning.

Letters: Having said that we immediately give a Jeer-Within-A-Cheer as the Letters column springs a new format on us without warning! Apparently having just gotten wind of the hot new national trend of polarization the Editors debut a Pro vs. Con sidebar. This week's topic is Eden Riegel, All My Children's Bianca. Norma Jenkins writes from Tupelo to say she was stunned when Eden didn't win the Daytime Emmy. Salt Lake City's A. Jackson isn't really down on Eden, so much as her character, suggesting that the producers must think "fans only want to watch young actors". A. finds this "insulting".

Not a strong inagural effort, but the format shows promise. In the future I'd like to see some space given each side for rebuttal.

Back to Letters: Peggy Roman has had it with Monk, which is just not the same without Sharona. Maxine Gotto is appalled at the way Iowa was portrayed on The West Wing. She's from Council Bluffs, so it's personal. On the West Coast, Colleen McDonald of Bend, OR, thought the musical episode of 7th Heaven was awful, Heeeeere's Vegas' David Kaliner to praise the late Johnny Carson's special brand of humor, class, and wit, and Diane Garratt down Mesa, AZ way, is one sexagenarian who hopes the WB "doesn't grow up too much", especially the pure escapist fun of Smallville.

Crossword Stumper (WARNING: SPOILER)

14 Across The ____Ranger.
ans: LONE.

Getting An Education

Last Wednesday at the weekly waste of one hour of daylight known as the Teachers' Meeting at my wife's school the principal, Dr. Doolittle, announced that there would be a roughly 15% Reduction in Force (RIF, in this jargon-happy world) with notices going out Friday. They had to go out Friday, as this was the last day it could be done contractually. I suppose that was preferable to letting the anxiety build for weeks.

Lots of tears and anger on Friday from both teachers and students. Most of the RIFees had never gone through such a thing before--it's been a decade since it's been done en mass. (The teachers are not, at this point, actually laid off, which would entitle them to unemployment benefits over the summer. They're on hold for reassignment which could come at any time and send them anywhere they're qualified, assuming one turns up. Last time it happened to my wife she got a job two days after the school year began.)

It's the same story as any business facing large layoffs--the survivors' morale goes into the crapper same as the victims'. My wife will go from being one of two teachers in her specialty to having all four classes, meaning less time to work with students outside of class time, more time doing grades, solo responsibility for the student shows and contests. There'll be fewer teachers to do police work in the halls and the cafeteria, fewer on hand during the big state tests. The good news, of course, is that none of the children will be Left Behind.

Friday, March 11

Paddlin' A Canoe? That's a Paddlin'

I see that Hugh Hewitt, (as avid readers know, the inspiration for this blog) is tossing off threats to the Party Faithful that they'd better remain faithful. Badmouth John Bolton? There go your presidential asperations. Oppose Bill Frist's nuclear option? There go your presidential asperations.

Sure, Hugh. One step outa line and McCain is toast.

But since you brought it up, I can't help but wonder what the Over/Under is on Lame Duckitude. August? The naked giveaway on bankruptcy even has the Freepers pissed off, fer chrissakes. Social Security's DOA. Gas prices zooming. You've milked all the triumphalism out of "Middle East democracy"; the warm glow may remain but there's only the hard nubbins of truth left to be chewed. Iraq? The news for the next six months is blown-up bodies, not purple fingers. A little Iran tick-tock? You can try, but they've got little reason to listen.

And for the Religious Right, '08 is their chance and they know it. They're gonna have to step out from behind the curtain real soon, and if you think that's a cheery prospect, why have you kept them off the Convention podium since '92?

Shapiroesque Reviews

It's almost Spring, and if you're an avid gardener like I am, you're just itching to go out and get a jump on the growing season. Clean up is always first on the ol' checklist, so even though there was a touch of snow in the air and the thermometer was registering right around the freezing mark we decided to test out the Poulan Pro™ leaf blower.

The Poulan operates as either a blower or a vacuum, and today we had it set up to do a little mulching, but switching over is a snap (screwdriver required). The 1.25 horse motor fired up after just one pull at the full choke setting, and began to purr with the next tug, just what you want in a power tool or that girl you're saving yourself for. It handles twigs up to 1/2" thick, and the 14:1 shredding ratio means a full bag can be dumped down a storm sewer with ease, or you get extra coverage for those wetlands you're trying to fill in. And Poulan's reliability is, of course, second to none.

We did notice a couple of negatives. First, the vacuum tube is a bit short. I'm a six-footer, and it forces me to crouch slightly, which can be a little tough on the back when the bag gets full. Then, after I finished and went inside to warm up and read the instruction manual, I noticed a lot of safety warnings about eye and ear protection and that sort of liberal, nanny-state nonsense. Plus there's notice of a requirement for use of a "spark arresting screen" on some public lands, and it just burns me up when a company which employs thousands of workers has to throw away hard-earned profits on ink like that.

Still, we rate the Poulan Pro a BEST BUY.

Thursday, March 10

Oh My God

Any Sullivan: What would Falwell do?

I remember the Sixties, though I wasn't old enough to drive. I remember the Brothers Berrigan and Bishop Pike and any number of hip young clerics with hair over their collars who spoke about love and peace and occasionally took a hit off the number that was going around. And I knew my history, knew that religious people in America were on the frontlines of all the fights over social justice. I knew parochial schools rose up in response to Protestant domination of public education.

I had no objection in principle to Amy's guest sermons on the election at Kevin's place. I thought she followed the script instead of the facts, and, especially after the whole "moral values" post-mortem, became rather shrill and tiresome. But then so did a lot of people who were proposing to toss women's rights onto the sacrificial altar on the grounds this would somehow turn that damned map blue.

Her Salon piece, ostensibly, squints down the other end of the telescope. And I'm happy to listen. At least once during the campaign I tossed a comment into Kevin's bottomless well to the effect that perhaps the centrist and liberal churches needed to answer for allowing the Falwells and Robertsons to seize the public debate. Because they've treated the rise of religious bigotry as if it were a slight social faux pas at tea. The horrendous rightward slant of television news from the late 70s on could have found an effective opposition in clerical garb. Religion occupies as protected space in this land. It's easy for teevee news to stack the deck against liberal politicians. They couldn't have gotten away with that when it came to religious voices. There's been no shortage of Catholic priests intoning on abortion over the past thirty years, and they sure found air space to denounce John Kerry. Where were the opposing voices? Is it teevee's fault, or religion's?

Oh, Sullivan can't miss her little digs at Kerry, who with the passage of time is now "too timid" and unwilling to bring up religion in front of non-ethnic audiences, instead of hiding altogether as she once told it. The Democratic party "ghettoized" religion. And, of course, the religious left has been hampered by its association with the secular left and it's baby-seal hugging and Third World poverty protesting that lacks all Biblical reference. But, again, where were those voices to begin with? I've got no objection to the religious imagery of Al Sharpton. I'm sure not going to change my position on the Kyoto Treaty just because someone else says Jesus would have voted for it. Welcome aboard. And at the end of the day, I don't care if you oppose abortion rights. What I object to is the idea that there's no distinction made between the abortion and the rights. Just come out and acknowledge that your beliefs include birth control as well, and we can have all the debate within the party that you'd like.

Unfortunately it just seems impossible for someone like Sullivan to grant the distinction between the sacred and the profane and to admit that while politics may be informed by the former it belongs to the latter. There's no mention in her article of the effects of John Paul II's war on liberation theology and his ordering priests out of politics (which cost us the voice of Father Drinan). Even the right gets the touch o' whitewash: "A series of Supreme Court decisions taking prayer and Bible reading out of schools, and culminating with Roe vs. Wade -- as well as, it must be noted, some civil rights victories in the South -- angered conservative evangelicals...." Civil rights is a parenthetical? We're going to regain momentum by granting the Relgious Right it's objection to religion-neutral public education, but abide by a gentleman's agreement not to touch its segregationist roots? Does the Right offer up that sort of politesse?

Wednesday, March 9

There's More Than One Form of Bankruptcy, Y'know

James Wolcott. Thank god he's got breath and a blog. The heroic stand of certain Democratic Senators puts him in a nostalgic mood:

"...Karp documents how the political establishment, military and Israeli lobbies, and media crippled Carter from the outset, cut him off at the ankles after his first few steps.

"In contrast, they knelt before Ronald Reagan with cupped hands, drinking in his every smile and aw-shucksy anecdote, abetting and rescuing him time and again from his own fatuous follies. Polls showed that the American people then were far less enamored of Reagan than the press, but the press listened only to itself and its masters. Whenever Reagan went too far, they and the Beltway crowd lay down to cushion his fall. "

The Carter years, folks, were the blueprint for everything that's happened since. The Republican attack machine was on him before the inauguration, as it would be on Bill Clinton sixteen years later. And the press would not be far behind. I particularly remember how CBS White House correspondant Leslie Stahl couldn't relay a single piece of news without explaining her take on the "political motives" behind it. And they did it all without email and fax machines.

Shapiroesque Reviews

It's occurred to us at BLTR that if 21st Century philistines can critique the arts as though the last 150 years were just a dream, it's only fair that previous generations ought to get a similar opportunity. We're hoping to contact Steve Allen, whose bit this really is, except with him it was amazingly successful.

Up first, Basho reviews Guernica.

Pale moonlight falls as
Disembodied creatures scream--
I give it five stars.

Minimum Wage

If your business can't afford to pay a full-time employee enough to rise above the poverty line, perhaps there's simply no need for your business.

Yeah, spoken like a true Moonbat.

Tuesday, March 8

The Manchurian Candy Date Says Hi!

"Jeff Gannon": Gannonblog 6 March 16:17 hours:

I watched a clip of Sen. Joe Biden on Bill Maher's HBO crapfest.  I wonder why he didn't mention meeting me some years ago.  C'mon Joe, think...

Isn't he just dreamy?

Rough Draft: Three

There's a corollary to our manpower problems: if you look at the numbers you see that we basically went into Iraq with roughly two thirds of the sustainable manpower we could have applied. So the "Rumsfeld Doctrine" of light, highly mobile force, while it might be honestly held, is at least convenient in that we didn't have any choice in the matter.

Or, rather, we did. We could have worked to assemble a genuine coalition (which meant taking a year at least to give sanctions time to "work", which of course they already had) or we could have increased manpower by instituting conscription (at about an equal cost in time). Whatever we actually believed about WMDs, we knew for certain that Iraq's delivery capabilities were next to nil.

The obvious point about option 2 is that a draft is a political faultline that's been building up pressure for thirty years. And option 1 is dismissed as turning our sovereignty over to the blue helmets. Those are political considerations, not military ones. And it is certainly fair to say that things went FUBAR, and Americans died because of it. In the end it's funny that our Steely-Eyed Rocket Man with the firm vision of Freedom dare not make decisions without an eye to the polls. But nobody's laughing.

Rough Draft: Two

I spent much the first nine months or so of the war arguing with people who seemed to think that military manpower is fungible, if they bothered to think about it at all. On to Damascus! By the time our little adventure had turned out so badly that even their FAUXNews watchin' worldview couldn't ignore it anymore a curious thing happened: they amped up the insanity. Flypaper! Fifth Columnists! Iraq is Safer than Detroit! Stay the Course!

And that was before US casualties exploded last spring, and while they were still insisting we'd find those WMDs.

My argument was a simple one. I keep it simple when talking to my friends on the Right; I don't care for arguments that go round the bend faster and farther than Kevin Drum's comments. "We have committed in haste to a generation-long presence in the Middle East and we do not have the troops to do so," I said. "That's bullshit, we've got two million men in uniform," would have been the response, except it usually stopped at the Bullshit part. Mostly there was a distinct indifference to the problem. One blogger suggested we could simply raise military pay until enough people signed up. Confronted with a rough estimate of the cost of such a move, even if it had a chance of success, he went back to ignoring the problem altogether.

The Washington Monthy piece linked below puts the argument to rest for good. We've broken the Army's manpower equation. We have a two-million man military, not two million foot soldiers, and we have global obligations which are in our interest to maintain. We could now field a big enough fighting force to face most serious challenges head-on, if it became necessary, but that's about all we can do. And these problems are cumulative. It'll take a decade to fix, unless we adopt extraordinary measures.

At the moment the insanity is quieter. I don't mean there's less of it, or that it's ever delivered at anything less than bullhorn levels anymore. The Right got a little happy pill with the elections--never mind what actually happened, it's the PR value that counts. Then Syria/Lebanon and Mubarak's speech, which were to the Right what rumors of a Phish reunion would be in certain other quarters. Democracy On the March! Only it's meaningless in terms of US involvement; if we don't maintain our troop levels into the unforeseeable future we'll be able to see the smoke from here. The manpower problem is real, it is critical, and it's the problem we can't solve by changing the slogan.

Rough Draft: One

I've been working for a week on a piece on the Phil Carter and Paul Glastris cover story in the Washington Monthly which argues "The Case for the Draft". At one point it split into three, then went back to the drawing board, or drafting table; it's done about everything now except become a one-liner or a caption contest.

In the interest of getting something done, part one is now as terse as you can ever hope I'll be: What is the argument for not having a draft? We're at war, aren't we? The greatest threat to our freedom in our history, taking the fight to the terrorists, it's freedom vs. fear? Any of this ring a bell?

Card Games

Roxanne links to the Pentagon's Iraqi Culture Smart Card with emphasis on some gender distinctions which might just point out that, uh, we're not too concerned that every Iraqi citizen share equally in the fruits of democracy.

The thing that came immediately to my mind was the scene in Buñuel's Viridiana where the Baron buys a wretched little dog which has been paddling along tied to the rear axle of a cart. As he turns and carries the dog off to its happy new life, another cart comes down the road from the opposite direction, equally wretched dog in tow.

What do you do? People tend to champion the "moralist" view unless and until it crowds them personally. Convince them something is Bad, and provided it's politically expedient they'll vote to send Good in after it armed to the teeth. It seems impossible to break through, to make people think about the full consequences of our actions before we take them. So moralism has this inbred advantage: that it can be used to urge an act, but need not be referenced to explain (or correct) any adverse results. If Iraqi women are less free now than they were three years ago, well, that's the culture.

Monday, March 7

Shapiroesque Review

Someone recommended to me the book If on a winter's night a traveler, by Italo Calvino, who, as might be expected from the name, is an Italian. Those of you who have read your history are probably aware that the Italians were Fascist during World War II, but if I understand correctly that had more to do with train schedules than anti-Semitism.

Chapter one was very confusing. It didn't sound like a novel at all. First chapters are supposed to introduce interesting characters and lay the groundwork for their plots, but this seemed more like a Forward or something, plus it was really patronizing even if you're not 1L Harvard Law. I thought there might have been a printing error, so I skipped ahead to chapter two. It was all right, I guess, and I was just starting to get interested in what was happening when it ended, and chapter three turned out to be something else entirely, like it wasn't even the same book. I kept jumping forward and the whole book was like that. This is the sort of rubbish the Left is always trying to tell us has "deeper meaning" when it doesn't even make sense. Cristo should wrap this book, then throw it away after he's conned the Arts Crowd into paying him for it. I don't think it's a coincidence that Europe just doesn't get it.

On my Pre-Raphaelite scale of 0-5 I give it 0 Millaises

Sunday, March 6

Return Of The Hottest Young Andy Rooney Impersonator On The Nets

Went to Lowe's anyway, as the red squirrel which chewed through the siding on my garage to get at the birdfeeder knocked it down this afternoon and smashed it beyond merchantability. The Beach Boys' "The Warmth of the Sun", which is Brian's second best ballad of all-time* comes on--this is surprising since it never actually charted--and is interrupted four times to tell Phil to pick up Line 3. There are five bars of the fade-out left by the time Phil catches on. It's followed immediately by the Hues Corporation's seminal "Don't Rock The Boat", brought to you in its glorious uninterrupted entirety. Although I did learn that if you sneak a peek at the nametag and address the clerk by name most are willing to do The Bump with you if they're not otherwise occupied.

* For the record: #1 God Only Knows; #3 Please Let Me Wonder; #4 In My Room; #5 Don't Worry, Baby