Sunday, May 31, 2009

Magic 103, Cavs 90

Okay, maybe the NBA playoffs aren't fixed.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California Court Splits the Baby

No, not an abortion case — post title notwithstanding — but the other issue that brings judge-haters into a froth: same-sex marriage.

Earlier today the California Supreme Court upheld the validity of a constitutional amendment that specifically overruled the Court's earlier decision that the state constitution required the government to allow same-sex marriage. Same-sex couples get civil unions in California, but they can't marry. The amendment, like many lousy ideas in California, made its way into law by ballot initiative. This is significant because same-sex marriage is classically a matter of minority rights. If a majority of people had favored extending the right to marry to same-sex couples, the Court likely (I say likely, because even in California there is representative government, such that not all these matters are resolved by popular plebiscite) would not have had to intervene in the first place. And that's the whole point of having a court decide matters of minority rights.


Now of course, as I observed in an earlier post, it takes some modest amount of effort to pass a constitution-amending ballot initiative in California. It's not a simple matter of submitting the question to a majority vote: the measure has to pass with a 2/3 majority in both houses of the state legislature.

This additional requirement — and the California Court's endorsement of an admittedly discriminatory (in their own view) provision of law on the ground that the provision's ratification fully complied with it — means that the equal protection constitutionally due to political minorities in California can't be blithely pushed aside by political majorities. Rather, the political majority has to really want to reject and destroy that equal protection. And in that case, so long as the majority crosses its procedural t's, dots its electoral i's, and runs its bigoted television ads in the appropriate media markets, constitutional process can trump substance, and the minority's rights disappear.

But hey: easy come, easy go, right?

Really though: what gives? Justices who rejected preexisting legal impediments as discriminatory find no constitutional problem when the same oppositional forces organize to raise further impediments. What changed their minds? Were they well and truly convinced that Proposition 8 worked a constitutional amendment, rather than a revision?

I've often said (usually 100 comments deep into some blog post on that courts have to stay ahead of the people on questions of minority rights, or else they, and the constitutions they vindicate, lose their relevance. On the other hand, they cannot press too far ahead, either, or they trigger a backlash — replete with the usual charges of "activist" judging and of "making law" — that threatens their legitimacy. Courts do not, after all, wear the pants in the government family. Their funding is at the mercy of the other branches, one of which employs the Fellows with the Guns. They rely on affable compliance from the agencies charged with enforcing their interpretations of law. In this respect our separation of powers, among other constitutional values, is a castle built on air. Judges know that if they push too hard, if could provoke defiance from the executive branches. The whole edifice collapses, and we're suddenly living in Zimbabwe.

(We all must rely, too, on the good sportsmanship of the Fellows with the Guns. This, to me, is why, whatever you think of George W. Bush, it was Brother Jeb in Florida who mounted more of a threat to our constitutional system. President Bush swallowed the constitutional medicine given him by Supreme Court justices who rejected certain of his anti-terror policies. Governor Bush sent troopers to stop the court-ordered removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.)

This is one of those cases where the Court, having taken one giant step forward for Constitutional Relevance, takes a step backward to defend the Constitutional Castle. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court beat a similar defensive retreat when, after ruling in favor of same-sex marriage and then emphatically rejecting the legislature's compromise proposal of civil unions, it rejected the bids of nonresident couples to solemnize their unions within the Commonwealth. Both rulings were, at their core, tactical decisions, made without regard to consistency or correctness. It simply defies logic to suggest that a constitution should protect a minority against the political whim of a legislature or plebiscite, but the same oppressive law is tolerable if the popular will is so concerted against that minority that both the legislature and the people, by popular vote, approve it.

But hey, a Court has to cover its ass, too.

In short, this is just the sort of decision that prudent jurists (and you don't get within sniffing distance of any high court bench unless you carry prudence in spades) will make to disperse the horde of right-wing psychopaths gathering outside the courthouse with their torches and pitchforks. Forty years ago, this Court might have held differently, but by now the political culture is so up in arms over "judicial activism" that judges see a real threat to their legitimacy in doing what's right. At worst, then, this decision attests to the power of judge-hating mobs to cow judges into voting their way. At best, the decision reflects a determination to protect the long-term legitimacy of the judiciary, even if common sense, basic principles of constitutional law, and the rights of thousands of loving couples are sacrificed.

In the end, I guess I'm writing to explain what the California Court did today, even though I can't excuse it. The Court split the baby — each side gets a decision in its favor — and the result was that a newborn right to marry died at its hand.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Which Quote is Real?

Charles I: Our reign will stand up well in history. On our watch, they never cut off our head again.

Herbert Hoover: Our administration will stand up well in history. On our watch, the stock market never crashed again.

Quintus Sulpicius: Our military command will stand up well in history. On our watch, they never sacked Rome again.

Dick Cheney: Our administration will stand up well in history. On our watch, they never hit our country again.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"5 teens accused in beatdown outside Staten Island high school"

This story made me wonder, is it just my perception, or have you also noticed that about once a week a gang of meathead Staten Island kids viciously beats up some poor sap? People get assaulted one-on-one in every one of New York's boroughs so I'm not suggesting that a fight is anything out of the ordinary, but these five-on-one beatdowns always seem to take place on Staten Island. I have no idea why - do kids in Queens not realize that bringing all your friends to an assault improves your chances?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Domino’s Launches Line of Bread Bowl Pastas"

So Domino's is rolling out a new line of pasta bread bowls. This will certainly help them win back all those customers who stopped ordering from them because they couldn't get enough carbs, I suppose. Seriously, how fat a motherfucker do you have to be to not only want to eat a whole meal of pasta, but to also eat the container in which it came? My outrage is only partly feigned here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Idiot Watch: Mary Ann Glendon

With his commencement speech at Notre Dame yesterday, President Obama will — we hope — have put an end to these many weeks of absurd posturing by Catholic conservatives over Obama's record on "life issues." The "pro-life" lobby has poured it on with such relish and gusto, you'd have thought the President was Justice Blackmun himself (or Jane Roe) — when in point of fact, he's endeavored to stake out the middle ground on life issues, to the extent there is any to be found.

One aspect of the tomfoolery around South Bend way that struck a chord with me is Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon's refusal to accept Notre Dame's prestigious Laetare Medal this year — because she couldn't bring herself to share the stage with Barack Obama, Baby-Killer.

Mary Ann Glendon is an Idiot, and I'm taking the liberty of capitalizing the I.
For full disclosure's sake I should note, before I continue, that I had Professor Glendon for Property in my first year of law school, and she gave me a B. I wasn't thrilled with the grade, but it never detracted from my abiding affinity and respect for her, which I would consider to be the same measure of affinity and respect I would have for any of my law-school professor, before they went and did something backward, absurd, and unqualifiedly stupid. So please don't believe this post marks an attempt to avenge, eight years later, that uninspiring grade — any of you who have talked foreign policy knows that I believe in a proportional response to aggression, such that I would never respond to that B with the F I'm giving Glendon today.

On to the Idiocy now. The open letter Professor Glendon wrote to Notre Dame refusing her Medal last month described President Obama as "a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church's position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice." The letter doesn't supply any of the details to support this indictment of the President. As I can think of no other respect in which anyone can remotely characterize him as the war-criminal dictator described in the letter, I can only assume Glendon is talking about "life issues." President Obama is a well-known advocate of a woman's right to choose, and he supports capital punishment as well. These positions contradict teachings of the Catholic Church, and it's these issues that tend to incite activists — although, one would hope, not a law professor — to the sort of inflammatory rhetoric we see here.

Let's study that rhetoric. Prominent? Barack Obama has never tried to highlight or exploit either of these issues politically. For the most part, he's entirely ducked acting on or discussing them. Nothing in Obama's candidacy or Presidency to date describes a man committed to promoting abortion or fast-tracking executions. Uncompromising? This is an outright laugher. Obama's expressed position on abortion is that he thinks the ideological logjam can and should be broken by taking policy steps to reduce the number of abortions. And yes, Obama opened up federal funding to stem-cell research, but it's likely quite a large number of lives will be saved, as a result of that decision. For that matter, Obama recognizes the importance of interposing "strict guidelines" to govern this field of study.

One wonders what the word "compromise" means, to someone like Mary Ann Glendon. As I remember the word, a compromise calls for concessions from both sides, and that's exactly what Obama has sought to accomplish on these most divisive issues. He's hardly a hard-headed ideologue on these points, and while I understand the urgent absolutism that might make anti-abortion advocates inclined not to give an inch on the question of the lives of the unborn, it's a bit of a logical stretch to describe Obama's position as uncompromising, simply because he doesn't endorse their view.

It's worth revisiting, too, the point Mithridates made in an earlier roundup: that Barack Obama stood alone among the handful of serious aspirants for the Presidency in his opposition to the Iraq War. Lives were lost as a result of that decision — a decision that the Church opposed — but apparently no credit is due to Obama for this, as he is not completely in lock-step with Glendon and the bishops on the other "life" issues. The Church is at least consistent in its life doctrine, even if so many of its conservative adherents would gladly hang, shock, waterboard, and bomb their fellow man, if it could translate to a marginal increase in their own "security."

But more important — to my mind, anyway — than Professor Glendon's obvious posturing, willful inconsistency, and unsupported (and unsupportable) rhetoric is the fact that Mary Ann Glendon should know that the first and most important mission of a university, Catholic or not, is to foster and promote a free exchange of ideas. Putting aside the sheer absurdity of her attempt to cast the President as a willful and determined challenger to Church orthodoxy on issues that have to this point all but escaped his Administration's notice — particularly as he is as close to a moderate on these issues as there can be — it's supremely irksome that a law professor (a law professor!) should turn on Notre Dame for inviting Obama to speak. If differences of opinion cannot be tolerated at a university, then where?

Glendon finesses this issue just a little by writing that the University's intention to confer an honorary degree on President Obama contravened the request of U.S. bishops that Catholic institutions "should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles." Glendon writes that this request "in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution's freedom to invite or engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes," and she is sorely troubled that a "Catholic university should disrespect it." It logically follows from this passage that Glendon would have accepted her Medal, had the University only invited the President to speak and stopped short of awarding him the honorary degree. But really, though: would Glendon have abandoned her very public, self-serving gesture of sacrifice, if only Notre Dame had withheld a degree from the President?

I doubt it. Mary Ann Glendon is a bright woman, so bright that she knows to seek nuance when it might serve her, and to abandon it in favor of blithely cast generalizations when it doesn't. The ostensible addressee of her open letter, Father Jenkins, the President of Notre Dame, surely saw through the manipulative and self-serving representations she made in her letter, just as I did. But of course we know that the letter wasn't really meant for Father Jenkins: it was directed to the frothing horde of Obama-haters — the kind, just like her, who will happily exaggerate his differences with the Church, overlook the many areas in which his views are consonant with official Church doctrine, and judge him so harshly, four months into his Presidency, that they can't even stomach the notion of appearing on a stage with him. This was never about religion; it was about politics. And in either case, a distinguished scholar like Mary Ann Glendon should be able to tolerate the presence of — and indeed the grant of honors to — a man who disagrees with some of her deeply-held opinions. That goes double when that man is your President.

You ought to be better than this, Professor Glendon.

But Does School Choice Work?

As Vercingetorix recently pointed out, there exists a video that makes Obama look really bad on the issue of school choice. I, for one, support the DC voucher program, mostly because I'm in the "try something different, see what works" camp. The video, however, has its problems, to say the least.
First, it portrays Obama as the leading force behind ending the program. As in "working with congressional Democrats, Obama has effectively killed the program." Let's be clear that it's the congressional Democrats who have been leading the charge to end it. Obama actually pushed through a compromise that allows students currently in the program to graduate. Maybe he's not forceful enough in his support, but let's not pretend he's the evil bogeyman actively trying to destroy little kids' lives.

Second, in fine Michael Moore fashion, Reason.TV — in lieu of honest statistical analysis — throws around nice sounding numbers as if they somehow prove their point. The video claims that students gained "19 months advancement in reading" from joining the program. Actually, it was 3.7 months. The "19 months" was for one particular subgroup. The folks at Reason looked at all the data, picked the subgroup that did best and said, "Look — it works!" As Michael Moore has proved, one can "prove" anything by looking at a giant chart of numbers and picking out the biggest.

If you actually read the Department of Education's analysis of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, you'll find there was a slight, but (apparently) statistically significant improvement in reading scores for participants, but no corresponding improvement for math, safety (except as "perceived" by parents), or satisfaction. Weighed against loss of funds for public schools and using tax dollars for religious institutions (liberals' complaints), it's hardly a slam-dunk winner. But, sure, if I were king I'd let it run longer so we can gather more evidence before shutting it down.

The "argument for school choice is pretty basic," claims the narrator. Choice forces competition and therefore better services. It sounds nice. And it might be true. But so far the empirical evidence for this proposition is pretty thin.

This issue of school choice was dealt with pretty well in Freakonomics, and there's a recent follow-up. The authors compare students who wanted to change with those who did change schools and found that the "wanting" makes all the difference, not the school they end up in. To be fair, the Chicago lottery system they examined is not quite the same as the DC voucher program. But it's hardly a done deal that "school choice" works as the video would have you believe.

A recent article in The Economist catalogs the failures of school choice in Britain. Again, this doesn't mean it doesn't work in any fashion and shouldn't be tried, but let's not pretend for a second that it's proven to work. Reason.TV faults Obama for promising to support programs that "work" and then "failing to live up to his rhetoric." Sorry, fellas, but first you have to convince us that it actually does "work."

The good thing about videos like this is that it reminds the Michael Moore fans out there how easy it is to make a tear-jerking video that cherry-picks statistics to make a convincing emotional argument against a particular policy.

The Democrats' crime on education is that they're beholden to teachers' unions whose knee-jerk reaction is to smother any attempt at reform (to be clear: love the teachers; hate the union). In this respect, best wishes to new Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as he takes on the "blob."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bare-Chested, Flowing-Hair Hypocrisy

A flip-flopping, hypocritical politician is not a new thing and is in general not worthy of note in a fine journal such as this, but every once in a while someone takes insincerity and duplicity to a whole new level and we feel the need to acknowledge the effort. Mitt Romney is not nearly an idiot, so we can can't file this under Idiot Watch, but the man's speech yesterday to the National Rifle Association belongs somewhere in the Weasel Hall of Fame. It's not the substance – we won't debate his (current) stances – or the style – he has the usual demonization of Massachusetts, liberals, government, professors, newspapers, etc. that conservatives love. It's just the unabashed disingenuousness that makes his speech noteworthy. We won't go through all the details, but here are some Hypocrisy Highlights (his words indented):
I’ve noticed that the farther west I go, the bigger these NRA meetings get. I have to say the Boston chapter is a little on the small side these days, but its vigilance and impact exceed its size.
Gee Mitt, maybe that's because supporters of gun control like you didn't join until 2007. Did you really just have an epiphany the moment you decided to run for the Republican nomination and were no longer involved in Massachusetts politics? Some coincidence . . .
. . . we are committed to fight for freedom, defend the Constitution, and pass on to our children a legacy of liberty.
You've joined the ACLU? Or are you just quoting their charter?
No Constitutional protection is more often ignored, distorted, or disdained than the individual right to keep and bear arms.
Huh? Every single Republican candidate has to kow-tow to the NRA to get their approval and ever Democrat since Al Gore is afraid to even mention gun control.
Listening to our liberal friends sometimes, I’m reminded a little bit of the monarchists. Not because they want a king instead of a president, but because they place their faith in government. As they see it, government knows best. Government needs to protect us from ourselves. The supreme voice in the land is not the people, but the government.
Well, Mitt, you're half right. That's the reason some us aren't liberals. But you're conveniently missing the other half about conservatives wanting government to decide who can marry, what options you have when you're pregnant, what type of scientific research can be done . . . If you want limited government then blame the Liberals and Conservatives and call yourself a libertarian or (classical) liberal.
Will the economy come back? Of course it will, but not as quickly and as strongly as it could have. Why? Because the heavy hand of government is never as effective as the dreams and vision and hard work of 300 million Americans.
Except, of course, for the massive government intervention you supported back in September.
But the best path to health care reform is to let the American people make their own decisions, not have those decisions forced on them by government.
This one's a gem. One of Romney's proudest (at the time) achievements as governor of Massachusetts - the state he was educated in, made his fortune in, has lived in for almost forty years, and loves to trash on his tours around the country - was signing a bill that mandated insurance for a large segment of the population that chose not to have it for one reason or another and penalized small businesses that didn't provide it for their employees.
Did you see that California Republicans and Democrats finally reached a budget compromise? Salaries will be reduced for some state workers, and programs will be cut. But President Obama does not feel constrained by the Constitutional guarantee of federalism and states’ rights: he has dictated that California won’t get federal money because he doesn’t like the plan that they themselves have agreed to.
So small government Mitt thinks that federal money is guaranteed by the Constitution? Science help us!
In fact, whenever he adopts the policies of John McCain and George W. Bush like this, I’m glad.
Well, except for W's management of the Iraq war, right?
His administration has won the favor of liberal commentators by pledging what it calls reform in the treatment of terrorist detainees.
Well, this one's just kind of funny. The ACLU and lefty blogs have been hammering Obama for his positions on detainees and photos of abuse.
But here’s the problem. That is the very kind of thinking that left America vulnerable to the attacks of September 11th. And the approval of left-wing law professors and editorial boards won’t be worth much if this country lets down its guard and suffers another attack.
Except that a Republican President and Congress were in power when we were attacked. If you want to argue that Bush immediately changed some obviously wrong Clinton policies upon taking office, but there wasn't enough time for them to protect us by Sept. 11, let's hear it. Otherwise, it's pretty tough to blame left-wing law professors for this one - not even the Harvard ones Romney moved to Massachusetts to learn from.
The jihadists are still at war with America, and we shouldn’t be worried about whether someone reads them their rights.
You're right, we shouldn't. And we (that's the royal we. I make no claim to speak for anyone else) don't. But we do care about the unlimited power of one person to imprison people forever without any due process. You know, those monarchical powers that those armed militias in Massachusetts fought against?
When we stay true to our principles, and state them forthrightly and fearlessly . . .
But here's the rub Mitt. Which “principles” are you talking about. The pro-choice principles you espoused as a Senatorial candidate? Mandated health care? Gun control?

Look, Mitt's got some qualities. He's very smart, was a successful businessman, and OMG the hair! But he's way out in front of the (very strong) pack when it comes to shameless pandering and hypocrisy. Find me another single speech so rife with contradictions!

Upon writing this post, I came across this gem from the Economist about the European Parliament's shameless hypocrisy over Canadians and the seals they club, when animal cruelty on a much broader and deeper scale goes on in Europe. Here's your competition for shamelessness, Mitt. Congratulations. You blow them away!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Masthead Archive: May 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Dennis. Be Free!

A Further Thought on "America's Spiritual Heritage Week"

This business still sticks in my craw. Part of it, of course, is that it's a further manifestation of the religious right's pathological obsession with declaring America to be a "Christian nation" — which to me is objectionable not just because it's so clearly wrong, but also because I see so little to be gained from such a pronouncement. Will a proclamation about America's religious identity save the banking system, create jobs, or lift Midwestern cities out of ruin? No, it won't. It's nothing more than a symbolic gesture — which might be harmless enough, if the gesture were noncontroversial and generally appealing (like, say, a Congressional resolution honoring an Olympic gold medalist). In that case, it would surely and simply be a waste of time and government resources, but at least not divisive and obnoxious and therefore counterproductive to the national interest.
But Congressman Forbes et al. have "divisive and obnoxious" squarely in their crosshairs with America's Spiritual Heritage Week. That's the whole point of the exercise, after all: the resolution's proponents mean to score points with a particular constituency. In short, they're playing religious politics. And that brings me (belatedly) to the first new and interesting (I hope) comment in this post: does or should the Constitution allow Congressmen to fritter away taxpayer-funded resources proposing blatantly unconstitutional actions for the very purpose of promoting a religious point of view in the political arena?

Of course the resolution itself — if it ever passes — is unconstitutional. (And yes, I've taken into account that Christmas is a "national holiday" observed by federal employers. But allowing postal workers a day off on December 25 is rather a far cry from the "entanglement" with religion that would follow from Congress setting aside a week each year for the specific purpose of acknowledging and promoting the role of religion in American culture and public life.) So those of us who take Thomas Jefferson's side in this matter can at least count on the fact that this proposed Congressional kick in the teeth to nonbelievers would not stand for much more than forty-five minutes.

But if the use of public funds for the promotion of religion really does, as Supreme Court jurisprudence routinely holds, run counter to the command of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause — then why don't those of us whose tax dollars power the legislative sausage grinder in DC have a legit constitutional beef when Congressmen spend those dollars and turn that grinder's gears (successfully or not) in self-conscious efforts to promote religion? We shouldn't have to wait for this resolution to pass into law before finding an Establishment Clause violation, when the first federal penny spent on this nonsense breaches the wall between church and state.

To be sure, our cowed Supreme Court justices, wary of any further charges of judicial activism and already chastened for (gasp!) driving mandatory prayer out of the public schools, would never presume to intrude upon the legislative process while the wheels are still turning. And despite the tone I took in that last sentence, I'm not entirely sure I could blame them for refusing. That said, if we accept that all branches of government have a responsibility to interpret the Constitution and act lawfully (even if the courts have the final say on these matters), someone in the House of Representatives might consider making the following principle clear to the several self-important sectarians in its midst:

The House should not and will not expend any federal resources advancing any member of Congress's effort to promote religion through his public office. Amen.

Faux My God!

Why play Guitar Hero when you could spend all that time getting good at guitar? Stan's dad was right to ponder. But Nintendo's Conductor for Wii takes the question to another level.
I mean, it's one thing to video yourself in your living room and post it on myspace:

It's quite another to actually get people to pay money to see you conduct Beethoven in a concert hall. Whether this has any legs or not, who knows, but damn impressive first step. Don't get me wrong — no one wants to live in a world where real symphonies are replaced with this synthetic version. From a musical point of view, the more analog the better — but hat's off anyway . . .

Friday, May 15, 2009

FO News Roundup: May 15, 2009

On life and death, peace and war, fathers and sons, angels and demons, god and politics:
  • The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has rated Angels and Demons "L" for "limited adult audience[:] problematic content many adults would find troubling." Oh, and they really want you to know that it's fiction. (P)
  • Meanwhile, "Just the Start," blares the Fox News headline, referring to Notre Dame protests about Obama's speech. You see, Obama's pro-choice, and that runs counter to the Church's teachings about abortion. It's every Catholic's duty to oppose a President whose policies run counter to the Church's position on life. (M)
  • Most Americans (51%) are "Pro-life" according to the latest Gallup Poll. Me, too. I strongly prefer birth to abortion. Wait, that's not what "pro-life" means? So you say. According to the wording of the question, I can define it however I want. So are attitudes towards abortion changing or are people's definitions of the terms changing? Can't tell from the poll (notwithstanding that the authors of every article written on this can) — and the answer's not obvious . . . (M)
  • Reason #599 not to shoot people you love: in the end, when you die, there's no one to claim your body. (P)
  • One generation too late, for Cleveland Browns fans. (P)
  • A judge just ruled that religious wacko parents can't withhold chemotherapy from their son. "I feel it's a blow to families," the parents' attorney says. (P, banging his head on his desk)
  • What lefties don't understand is that it's vital to our national security to try Gitmo residents in military tribunals and that releasing photos of detainee abuse in Iraq will harm our troops. That's why we can't afford to elect someone like Obama President. (M)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Badasses of Songdom: Triangle Man v. Yoshimi

Badasses of Songdom resumes today after a hiatus of nearly three weeks. Reigning champ Triangle Man has felt a little disrespected since his controversial victory over The Wizard back in April. There's been argument in the blogosphere about whether to credit him for the win. Should a challenger's forfeit go in the books as a successful title defense? Should it not count at all?

All this is eating at T-Man's reputation — and his nerves. He wants a straightforward fight. He wants back in the ring with a solid challenger, so he can take the guy down and bring the focus back on what matters: his raw, crushing aggression. I know Triangle Man wants these things because I've got his agent calling me all day long to tell me. Really: it's the sort of thing I'd be content to hear once, maybe twice. But he won't leave me alone:

Get on the stick, Phutatorius, and get me someone who can FIGHT.

Like I haven't been trying. Like it's just the easiest thing in the world to work the phones and line up anyone, much less a true contender, to fight Triangle Man, when he's well-rested and really pissed off.

Which brings me, at Mithridates's recommendation, to Yoshimi.
WHO? This is T-Man's agent again, howling at me over his cell phone.

Her name is Yoshimi.

Never heard of her. You couldn't line up Mack, Ziggy, somebody with a name?

We've been over this. Mackie's still Upstate. He's not even parole-eligible until June. And Ziggy's all sucked up into his mind right now. But Mithridates says this one's a fighter.

MITHRIDATES SAYS she's a fighter? Phutsie, look: T and I are getting tired of all these tomato-can challengers. My guy wants a taste of blood on his lip. Just a taste, and none of your people can even touch him. You keep this up, this chick comes off like Rigby did, and it's over. We'll go do the tournament circuit in Europe.

Suffice to say, then, that I've personally got a lot riding on this fight. I need Yoshimi to make this interesting. And it wouldn't break my heart, either, if by some miraculous turn of events she actually wins. Might get a couple of miserable prima donnas out of my life.

So let's get this party started. We're going steel cage here tonight at the Stambaugh Auditorium. No holds barred: anything goes until somebody says "uncle."

Redneck rings the bell, and we're started. Gotta say here, Yoshimi doesn't look like much. Japanese schoolgirl-type. Skirted, demure. Serious eyes, but not very physically imposing, that's for sure. T-Man isn't impressed, either:

"Are you lost, little girl? The Hello Kitty convention is three towns over."

Up here in the booth next to me, Mithridates groans. "Can't he do better than a Hello Kitty joke?"

Yoshimi glares at Triangle Man.

"Hey, look over there!" T-Man points. "Isn't that Pikachu, with Princess Toadstool?" Yoshimi purses her lips, keeps her eyes fixed on her opponent.

Mithridates: "This is just frickin' offensive. Did I say she's a black belt in karate?"

Triangle Man makes his move. A sudden swoop, plunging one vertex at Yoshimi's throat. But she's gone. Behind him, in fact. She taps him on the shoulder. He turns around and spits.

"She can move," I say to M'dates.

"Damn right, she can. She has to discipline her body to fight those evil machines."

"Evil machines? Where?"

"Never mind," Mithridates says. "Just watch."

Triangle Man makes another move. Yoshimi glides out of the way. T-Man runs smack into the side of the cage. He's starting to get his back up just a little bit right now.

"That's all well and good," I say, "but at some point she needs to fight him. And I don't think she's strong enough."

"She's been taking lots of vitamins," Mithridates assures me.

"I suppose every little bit helps."

Triangle Man smacks a fist into an open palm. "You can run, but you can't hide, little girl." Yoshimi doesn't answer. "Do you ever have singalongs at school? 'Cause I've got a song you might know. Jump in anytime you like. It goes a little bit like this: 'TRIANGLE MAN, TRIANGLE MAN, TRIANGLE MAN HATES YOSHIMI! THEY HAVE A FIGHT —"


I didn't even see it happen, but Yoshimi just landed three blows — one on each of T-Man's three corners, and she snapped all three clean off. Three, tiny, bloody triangles are lying hacked off on the bottom of the cage, and The Champ is just standing there: dazed, confused, six-sided now.

"Yeah! YEAH YEAH! You see that, Phutsie?" Mithridates is beside himself.

Triangle — er, Hexagon Man is trying to recover himself. He rubs a couple of his blunted corners. Still sharp enough, he thinks, to buzzsaw over this little Japanese beeyatch


Yoshimi again! As best I can figure it — and I'll have to check the slo-mo replay to verify this — she just dealt him three hand chops, two foot-sweeps, and a roundhouse kick. Again, all on the corners, and again, all clean hits. Snapped all six right off. Triangle Man drops to the ground. She's completely disarmed him. Turned him into a frickin' irregular dodecagon.

"OH, POW! HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT, BITCH?" Mithridates crows.

Yoshimi stands over her near-vanquished foe, arms poised for further action. She cocks her head, as if waiting to hear the Magic Concession Word from Triangle Man. It doesn't come.


If I knew the Greek word for 24, I'd know what to call Triangle Man right now. But I don't, so I'm gonna have to go with 24-o-gon. I dunno. Maybe just gon-er's the right word.

For the first time tonight, Yoshimi speaks. Softly. She's barely audible, but we've got Vercingetorix down at cage-side with a parabolic mike:

"Any last words, Champ, before I turn you into a circle?"

"Un —" Triangle Man starts, then stops himself.

"Yes?" She dangles an open fist over him.



Now somebody get a broom and dustpan to scrape up the several shards of our beaten champ.

America's Spiritual Heritage Week

WHEREAS, notwithstanding any of the foregoing, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution strictly provides: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,"

let's not have a Congressional resolution announcing a yearly "America's Spiritual Heritage Week."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Masthead Archive: May 10, 2009


Name That Famous Mother (no fair clicking through)!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Ann Althouse posts this wonderful photo of the crowd of journalists that came to Jose Canseco's press conference - the one he called to discuss Manny Ramirez's drug suspension.

I think "Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha" sums it up pretty well, although I may be short a few has.

Which Explanation Is Less Credible?

One can't possibly know for sure if someone is lying. I leave it to the reader to decide for themselves which explanation is least plausible.
  • Nancy Pelosi was briefed about waterboarding in 2002 according to documents released by the CIA in response to Republicans' request. Her response: The CIA told her these techniques "could be used, but not they they would" be used. The documents suggest she was actually briefed on methods that had been used. There was apparently no objection made at the time, but now she wants a "truth commission" to investigate. Why a truth commission now and no objection then? Maybe there's a good reason, but we're still waiting to hear it . . .
  • Manny Ramirez tested positive for banned substances and will serve a 50 day suspension. The drug is apparently a female fertility drug often taken by steroid users. His response:
    Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy . . . I've taken and passed about 15 drug tests over the past five seasons . . . I know everybody is disappointed. So am I. I'm sorry about this whole situation.
    Maybe there's a good explanation for why a man would take a female fertility drug banned by MLB, but we're still waiting to hear it . . .

Wow, the NBA Playoffs are Lengthy

During the first round of the NBA playoffs, I committed a vicious assault, was brought to justice, and served a custodial sentence with no time off for good behavior (if you try to be nice when you're inside, the other inmates treat you something rough).

During this second round of the NBA playoffs, I grew a beard like Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, then I shaved it off and have grown another beard like Dusty Hill of ZZ Top.

This morning I planted an acorn in my backyard. When it grows into a tree, I'm going to build a treehouse in its upper branches. In that treehouse I'm going to install a 3D projector television - the kind that will have been invented by then - and that's where I'm going to watch the NBA finals. I'm hoping that the kids I don't have yet will be home from college at the time because I will probably have arthritis and need some help climbing up the rope ladder.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Masthead Archive: May 7, 2009

And that's where you can stick it, Manny.

FO News Roundup: May 8, 2009

Thank God It's Friday — now pass the snake heads:
  • Pakistan cancels deal with Taliban, signaling a start to a larger military offensive in Swat and a greater role in the War on Islam. (M)
  • A Gallup study shows that Muslims in Britain and Germany identify with their countries at a greater rate than Brits and Deutsche in general; not so for France, where Muslims have much less confidence in the police and national institutions than the average citoyen. European Muslims feel "far more isolated" than their North American counterparts. (M)
  • "WHERE'S THE BIOWEAPON?" "Dude, I just wanna order a 7 and 7." "WE'RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME! WHERE IS IT?" (P)
  • "Some of the largest banks need billions more if recession worsens," reads the headline on the Fox News home page; "Federal Reserve's findings show the financial system, like the overall economy, is on the mend," says the home page of MSNBC. Both headlines link to the exact same AP story. (M)
  • The Pope has declared his deep "respect" for Islam and its adherents. Of course, none of them will be saved, but we can still throw 'em a bone here on Earth. (P)
  • According to the latest NY Times/CBS poll, 3% of Americans think "The American Dream" is an illusion or doesn't exist. These morons are completely and thoroughly disproven by the 44% of Americans who have already reached it. (M)
  • Begging the questions: (1) who orders broccoli at TGI Fridays? and (2) is this one of their new Jack Daniels® recipes? (P)
  • Ladies take note: Don't marry a guy whose last wife drowned mysteriously in her own bathtub just before their joint assets were about to be split, making him the sole beneficiary. (M)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Masthead Archive: May 5, 2009


Everyone celebrate Corona Marketing Day!

FO News Roundup: May 5, 2009

Do they have Cinco de Mayo in El Salvador? Sure they do. It comes right after Cuatro de Mayo.
  • Non-Mexican Latin groups are "irked" by Cinco de Mayo. So Mexicans are enough of a minority to be maligned by right-wing whites, but also just enough of a majority to incur the jealousy of Salvadorans. Is it any coincidence they invented the piñata? (P)
  • Herbert Weber has built 707,355 coffins. Guinness will celebrate his world record at this year's International Funeral Home and Cemetery Trade Fair in Salzburg. Sounds like a party. (P)
  • But did he make any this big? And while we'll miss him, I'm pretty sure Dom DeLuise set the record for longest life for an overweight comic actor.(M)
  • A Big 10 Championship game? Nice try, Paterno, but you don't screw with Ohio State/Michigan. (P)
  • I expressed optimism earlier about the GOP's NCNA initiative. Now that Sarah Palin has signed on, I'm, well, less encouraged. (P)
  • Hundreds of thousands of refugees are being displaced amid a government's efforts to stamp out a fundamentalist Islamic movement the government claims is using civilians as human shields. And there are no European street protests, student sit-ins and UN resolutions against said government!?! Oh right, that government isn't Israel . . . (M)
  • One step forward, one step back. The EPA says that the way we make biofuels harms the environment more than gasoline does (not to mention making food more expensive). After hearing such evidence, President Obama announced an initiative to increase the use of biofuels. That's the sound of Mithridates pulling his hair out. (M)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Barack Obama & the DC Voucher Program

I don't have much to add:

Great Moments in Music Video: Billy Idol

"White Wedding," "Rebel Yell," "Dancing with Myself." Which one carries Billy Idol's signature music video Moment? If you've got half a brain, you'll pick "Dancing with Myself," because I put it last — a strategy that enables me to consider and dismiss the other two quality vids, then bring this post to an electric climax. And, of course, I've gone and embedded "Myself," too. Talk about your telltale signs.

Your half a brain wins. But let's go through the motions.
"White Wedding" has got it going on. There's the three goth chicks shimmying gratuitously in the shiny black outfits, the candle-and-altar set, a motorcycle crashing through a stained glass window, and "Hey, little sister, SHOTGUN." Billy slips a spiked ring on his betrothed, causing her finger to bleed (would you believe they've gone and censored that bit out of all the YouTube clips?). The bride does ballet in her new kitchen while her toaster shorts out. Thump, thump, thump-thump. That's the floor tom, but the video will have you believe someone's hammering a coffin closed. Sorry, Greg Kihn, but this is the ultimate marriage-phobic video.

Contrast "Rebel Yell" with its concept-free living. A straight-ahead, classic stage performance video with Idol and his band. There's the stick-twirling drummer, a Cyndi Lauper lookalike on the keyboards, a theatrical lead guitarist there to play Mick Ronson to Billy's Bowie. (Right now some lonely glam kid in Jersey is loading a gun. Bring it on, bitch.) Just you try watching this without pumping your fist and yelling "MORE MORE MORE!" I'm this close [indicating, with two fingers poised a smidgen of an inch apart] to cutting the fingers off my loofah bath gloves. I'll pass on the coordinated jumping-jack at the end, though. Couldn't let a good thing go, could you, Billy?

But let's talk "Dancing with Myself." This was a carry-over track from Idol's Generation X days. It's a post-apocalyptic setting, naturally, this being early MTV. The concept is pretty simple: amid several of the usual MTV non sequiturs — a husband brandishing a hammer behind his unsuspecting wife, the silhouette of a buxom girl in chains (pretty sure that's the Pistols' Steve Jones in the room with her, sharpening a razor: Jones did the guitars for this recording), a skeleton and his papier-maché animatronic friend whooping it up in a living room — a bunch of sooty extras try to climb a skyscraper, in the hope of hanging with Billy on the roofdeck. After considerable exertion these ragamuffins clamber up over the ledge, but just in time for the guitar solo, which frees up Billy to grab hold of a pair of electrical transformers and telekinetically zap them all back down a hundred stories to the ground.

This bit right here — the zapping — is unquestionably a Great Moment in Music Video. Oh, sure, Billy has just finished singing about how "if [he] had the chance, [he]'d ask the world to dance," and it seems counterintuitive that he'd turn and reject his company so emphatically. But no matter, our ragtag Sisypheans will just climb the building a second time, and Billy gives a nod to their tenacity and allows them to bust some moves right alongside him, while the song winds out. Beautiful.

The Unstoppable Me

I've said before that if you could graft my head onto fitness celebrity John Basedow's body, I'd be unstoppable. Well, I'd like to modify that - I'd also like to be able to shoot like this guy. That would be totally unstoppable.

FO News Roundup: May 4, 2009

Don't judge the hot, 100kg socialist Mexican panda for drinking Dr. Pepper! Sorry, but it was hard to find a theme for today's news:
  • Sens. Specter and Leahy favor non-lawyer/non-judge candidates for the Supreme Court: you know, because the Court could benefit from someone with a "broader life experience." And along those lines, why do we only let "architects" build buildings for us? All they do is sit around and think about buildings all day. Dipshits. (Specter and Leahy, that is — not the architects) (P)
  • Could there be any better sign of the deterioration of sports media than CBS Sportsline's "Who Was the Hotter Catwoman?" article? The answer, by the way, is Michelle Pfeiffer. (P)
  • The National Zoo reports that a panda could be pregnant, because she's not immediately eating the pears they give her. There's got to be a better way to test for this. (P)
  • Sorry, Europe, but we invented the Internet and therefore get to run it forever. You guys stick to what you do best, like maintaining the metric system. (M)
  • Some things are better left unknown. I don't want to see how sausage is made and I certainly don't want to know what goes in to Dr. Pepper. (M)
  • Socialism is officially upon us! The Wall Street Journal's editorial page offers a critique of capitalism and notes the fundamental importance of proper government regulation. (M)
  • Dealing with outbreaks is so much easier if you're totalitarian: just lock up the Mexicans in hotels and strand your own people in Mexico. There. Done. Take that, democracy. We're more efficient than you! (M)

Sunday, May 03, 2009

FO News Roundup: May 3, 2009

  • Public health officials have closed Harvard's School of Dental Medicine for ten days, due to an outbreak of swine flu among the students — probably a good call, since their gig is to put their fingers into other people's mouths. (P)
  • Now we're hearing that A-Rod may have cut deals with opposing teams to tip pitches. A-Rod's problem isn't that he actually did all these sneaky, selfish things; it's that he seems just the type to have done them. And that's why the rumors catch on. And if you're a rat, whom do you rat on: the guy you like or A-Rod? (P)
  • Warren Buffett has jumped on the Wells-Fargo wagon. Let's hope he brings our raisins from Fresno. (P)
  • Earlier this week Iranian officials executed a woman for a murder she committed as a juvenile. Texans looked on, longingly. (P)
  • There's a KKK chapter, apparently, on the Isle of Man.  Now if they can join forces with the Isle of Wight, they can make a bid to establish — wait for it — the "Isles of Wight Man." (P)
  • First the housing bubble bursts, now today it's the Cowboys' practice bubble.  Dow Scrubbing Bubbles, keep your eyes open. (P)
  • The Insider is bringing the Bobbitts back together.  John tells CBS that having half his penis chopped off was "one of the most terrifying things I ever went through." Top Five, Top Three, surely.  (P)

My Dad Would Be So Proud

Although I did dabble in high school athletics, I never won a state championship or scored the winning touchdown at homecoming, or anything like that. 

Well, this morning in discussing floral-scented items with my wife, she quite rightly pointed out that I was using the word potpourri when I should have said sachet, revealing that I didn't know the difference between the two. 

I think this would make my dad prouder than if I had a whole roomful of athletic trophies.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Fake Threat, Real Threat

It seems like Pakistan is finally getting it ("it" being my — America's, the Western World's — way of thinking). From the low point of moving troops towards the India border after the Mumbai attacks and a peace deal with the Taliban earlier in the year, Pakistan has come a long way and is now apparently taking the fight to the Taliban. Apparently they're even making some gains.
The US criticized the peace deal from the beginning, but diplomacy consists of getting other countries to do what you want — it's not, as Vercingetorix rightly points out, just asking for it. But it's not just criticizing them, either. Finally, the Pakistani government seems to be doing something we want — cooperating in the fight against the Taliban. There's still the sensitivity of having American soldiers on their soil, but the Obama folks and the Islamic Republic folks seem to be finessing that by training counterinsurgency troops in an undisclosed third country.

There's still a long way to go, and the Pakistani government defines dysfunctional, so who knows how long they'll keep this up? Maybe it's the immediacy of the Taliban threat. Maybe it's the diplomatic genius of the new administration. Maybe it's the realization that although posturing against India wins you some domestic political support, India poses no real threat. Who knows? But it's good to have — at least for the time being — Pakistan fighting a second front against the Taliban instead of just hindering our fight on the first front.