Wednesday, December 27, 2006

At Least There Were No Wolves

It's just....wrong, but with the passing of former president Gerald Ford, I've only been able to think of this today, from Saturday Night Live. In the sketch, Tom Brokaw (Dana Carvey) wants to take the summer off, and so he pretapes possible news stories that could arise during his absence.

Considering the possibilities, it's good that President Ford went out the way he did.

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Check Me Out

Okay, this may seem a bit sad, but I spent nearly all of my Christmas weekend transfixed by this Homestar Runner fellow (and his friends) that my kids introduced me to. Somehow, he had escaped my notice up until recently. Now, I'm showing most of the warning signs of a serious addiction.

It appears to be the kind of thing one either loves or hates. If you're wondering where you might fall, I'd say watch this one and it will give you a pretty good idea what to expect. How was I missing this?

Next Christmas, I want somebody to get me a Strong Bad t-shirt. (Unless, of course, they come out with a shirt for The Poopsmith sometime in the next 12 months.)

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Mommy, What's A Snowman?

It's 82 degrees here in South Florida right now. This is such a weird place to live. Merry Christmas, everybody.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

KYMC-Ya Later

I just discovered, in browsing the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's website, the distressing news that the very first radio station I ever worked for is leaving the air on New Year's day.

I started broadcasting at 120-watt KYMC (89.7 FM) in the summer of 1984, when I was 15 years old. It played a massive role in my career development. If there's somebody out there who has a wad of money to donate to the West County YMCA to keep the station going, you'd be doing a good thing.

Unfortunately, I don't have a wad of money of my own to donate, since my experience at KYMC played a massive role in my career development and thus actually led me into working in the radio industry.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006


I've said before that the media silence on the Sandy Berger stolen documents story is utterly amazing. It continues to become even more amazing, as more incredible revelations have floated to the surface.

Berger, who was Bill Clinton's National Security Advisor, was sent by Clinton to analyze documents for the vaunted 9/11 Commission in the National Archives pertaining to the Clinton Administration's handling of Al-Qaeda. And Berger was discovered to be spiriting classified documents out of the archives. Stuffed down his pants, no less.

In the aftermath (though he pleaded guilty to stealing and destroying classified document), he said it was all an "honest mistake" (as in, "Whoops! These classified documents accidentally fell into my underwear.") Now, the results of a National Archives internal investigation into the matter have been released. See if it sounds to you like an "honest mistake."
[Inspector General Paul] Brachfeld's report included an investigator's notes, taken during an interview with Berger. The notes dramatically described Berger's removal of documents during an Oct. 2, 2003, visit to the Archives.

Berger took a break to go outside without an escort while it was dark. He had taken four documents in his pockets.

"He headed toward a construction area. ... Mr. Berger looked up and down the street, up into the windows of the Archives and the DOJ (Department of Justice), and did not see anyone," the interview notes said.

He then slid the documents under a construction trailer, according to the inspector general. Berger acknowledged that he later retrieved the documents from the construction area and returned with them to his office.

"He was aware of the risk he was taking," the inspector general's notes said. Berger then returned to the Archives building without fearing the documents would slip out of his pockets or that staff would notice that his pockets were bulging.

The notes said Berger had not been aware that Archives staff had been tracking the documents he was provided because of earlier suspicions from previous visits that he was removing materials. Also, the employees had made copies of some documents.

In October 2003, the report said, an Archives official called Berger to discuss missing documents from his visit two days earlier. The investigator's notes said, "Mr. Berger panicked because he realized he was caught."

The notes said that Berger had "destroyed, cut into small pieces, three of the four documents. These were put in the trash."

After the trash had been picked up, Berger "tried to find the trash collector but had no luck," the notes said.
This was the Clinton Administration official designated to ensure the 9-11 Commission received the documents they needed for their investigation. How is this not the headline story on every news network? How is Michael Moore not doing a documentary on this?

If you've ever doubted media bias, ask yourself one question: How would the media treat it if Condoleeza Rice were caught smuggling Abu Graib photos out of the building at the outset of an investigation? I'll tell you how: it would be the scandal of the century.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Around The Horn

  • In death he became a punchline on Leno. In life, he was a devoted husband taking care of his mentally deteriorating wife. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has the sad and touching story of the real flesh-and-blood human being who was shot by his wife after giving her a warm beer a few weeks ago.
  • You've probably already seen this, but a UK government report says today that within 50 years, robots and other "intelligent" machines may be given human rights:
    The Horizon Scan report argues that if ‘correctly managed’, this new world of robots’ rights could lead to increased labour output and greater prosperity.

    “If granted full rights, states will be obligated to provide full social benefits to them including income support, housing and possibly robo-healthcare to fix the machines over time,” it says.
    Incredibly, I don't think they're joking.

    While the idea may seem silly, Gene Edward Veith accurately surveys the worldview in which such a proposal could receive a serious hearing :
    On one level, this is just more scientific ignorance coupled with scientific mystification. "Artificial intelligence" is not the same as human intelligence. But the commission's recommendation is revealing of our current worldview confusions. The assumption is that "life worthy of life"--and thus worthy of rights--consists of intelligence or consciousness. This implies that those who are lacking one or the other have no rights, including the right to life. But we knew that already.
  • Where does the time go? I've just realized that this is the time when we offer our annual reminder that Kwanzaa is a made-up sham "holiday," invented in the 70's by convicted woman-torturer Ron Karenga. For more, check out last year's post or LaShawn Barber's annual favorite.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

School Daze

After having taken a little haitus, let's return to the homeschooling discussion that Tim Challies initiated the other day which sent quite a few reverberations through the Christian blogosphere.

What is never defined in the discussion is "education," which would seem to be fairly necessary to any discussion about what our responsibilities are in schooling our children. Pervading the discussion at Challies, both in Tim's commments and those of many of the responders, is the idea that modes and methods of schooling are merely based on personal preferences, meaning that no Christian should judge another on this matter--or even admonish him to choose differently. He said that he chooses not to homeschool because he doesn't like the insular demeanor of some homeschoolers, and cites a missionary justification for choosing to send his child to public school instead. (The issue of Christian schooling seems not to be dealt with at all in any significant way.)

As I know Challies would agree, though, we need to go to the Bible for our guidance on this issue. What is education? What are our responsibilities toward our children in educating them? Do we see biblical warrant for the view that children of six, seven, or eight years old should be sent out as missionaries into hotbeds of unbelief? Appeals to personal experience and subjective opinion don't help us get to the answers. Unfortunately, however, Challies' two articles don't offer much more than that.

Where the Bible talks about teaching children, it consistently has one (and only one) goal in mind: teaching them to fear God in everything. A starting biblical definition of education might be "teaching God's character, requirements, commandments, and mercy."
'Assemble the people to Me, that I may let them hear My words so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.'--Dueteronomy 4:10

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.--Deuteronomy 6:6-8

You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth.--Deuteronomy 11:18-21

Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD. --Psalm 34:11

Hear, my son, your father's instruction
And do not forsake your mother's teaching;
Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head
And ornaments about your neck. --Proverbs 1:8-9

Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. --Proverbs 22:6
Etc. etc. etc.

It's only by separating God/religion/theology out as one discipline among many that we can possibly come to the conclusion that it's okay for our children to learn the Bible from us and science from the atheists. It's the same compartmentalization that has rendered evangelical Christianity such an impotent force in a dying culture.

Public schools in America are, by law, agnostic (if not atheistic). At this point in the discussion, well-meaning souls get red in the face and begin jumping up and down. "How can you say that! You don't know the schools in my neighborhood! How dare you paint everyone with the same brush! Why, my husband/wife/brother/friend is a devout Christian, and he's been faithfully teaching in public school for years!" All of which, of course, is quite beside the point.

This is a foundational issue, and it's not disputable. The courts have been quite clear that no public school can teach children that Jesus is Lord. They cannot pray in Jesus' name. They cannot attribute the laws of physics, the rotation of the world, or the development and coherence of language to God. If you doubt my assertion, ask yourself this: could even the "good Christian teacher" at your "good local public school" tell his students in science class that Jesus is the sacrifice for the sins of the world, or that God created the universe ex nihilo by speaking? And if not, why not? Are those things not true? Are they irrelevant to "real" knowledge? Do they not necessarily influence our approach to every area of learning?

"But John, now you're just sounding like a fundamentalist. Certainly my children can get a good education even if the teachers aren't talking about Jesus all the time." Can they? Ask yourself: What is a school based on, anyway? What is it's starting point? What are it's goals? Whether or not a school puts God at the center of this endeavor will affect every single aspect of the way it educates. A school that believes mankind is inherently good will handle disciplinary issues in a vastly different way than Christians will. A school that believes all of life arose by chance will teach (either implicitly or explicitly) a vastly different system of ethics than Christians will. The fact that your local public school hasn't yet started to teach gradeschoolers to put condoms on cucumbers is nice, but it doesn't address the fact that the school is, by law and definition, agnostic about God. The fact that a teacher here or there might be able to put in a plug for good morality or invite a student to "Meet Me at the Flag" day doesn't address the school's foundational, functional agnosticism.

What has happened here is that Christian discipleship is at such a low ebb that even good, Bible-believing Christians think there is a huge swath of neutral territory in education, and that an atheist can pretty much show their child the lay of the land as well as any Christian can. But this, of course, ignores the basic biblical teaching on the subject. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:7).

The Bible explictly charges parents with the duty of teaching their children about God. Of course, all Christian parents would agree with this. Many would claim, "This is exactly what I intend to do. We'll teach our daughter about Christ at home, and let the school teach her history, science, math, and grammar." But this assumes that there is wisdom in some subjects that can be gained whether God is involved or not. Unfortunately, most modern Christians have signed on to the notion that "Bible" or "God" is simply one subject to be mixed in along with the rest. This has even occured in many Christian schools. Religion is seen as one subject alonside geometry, social studies, or history. But of course a little bit of thought will show the impossibility of this.

There is no neutral ground between the atheistic view of a subject and the Christian view. It's what Francis Schaeffer accurately described as "the antithesis." Where one begins in any subject will necessarily determine where he ends. Is "history" the record of God's acting in the world from creation to glorification? Or is it a randomly-chosen record of evolutionary events produced by time, matter, and chance? Is "science" the pursuit of "thinking God's thoughts after him" in an orderly, created universe, as the great astronomer Johannes Keppler said, or is it simply manipulating physical laws to achieve our ends? And how do we decide on those ends?

"But John, what about math? Surely math is neutral, objective ground, right?" Well, actually no. Vern Poythress (who holds a PhD. in mathematics from Harvard) has a fascinating article demonstrating that presuppositions (wether theistic or atheistic) play a major part even in math. Poythress writes:
It may surprise the reader to learn that not everyone agrees that '2 + 2 = 4' is true. But, on second thought, it must be apparent that no radical monist can remain satisfied with '2 + 2 = 4.' If with Parmenides one thinks that all is one, if with Vedantic Hinduism he thinks that all plurality is illusion, '2 + 2 = 4' is an illusory statement. On the most ultimate level of being, 1 + 1 = 1.

What does this imply? Even the simplest arithmetical truths can be sustained only in a worldview which acknowledges an ultimate metaphysical plurality in the world—whether Trinitarian, polytheistic, or chance-produced plurality. At the same time, the simplest arithmetical truths also presuppose ultimate metaphysical unity for the world&mdahs [sic];at least sufficient unity to guard the continued existence of "sames." Two apples remain apples while I am counting them; the symbol '2' is in some sense the same symbol at different times, standing for the same number.
Now granted, there are many atheists who do just fine at math. But the point is that they've borrowed Christian assumptions in order to do so. Math is not neutral--a Christian worldview has to be adopted to some degree even for math to work. Because we modern Christians have such a segmented view of truth, however, and because we compartmentalize Christ, putting "spiritual" things in a corner of one side of the room while leaving everything else in the physical world as neutral ground for everyone else, we're shocked by even the suggestion that a good public school couldn't teach our children just as accurately as any homeschooler or Christian school could.

As Abraham Kuyper, the great Dutch Christian statesman once said, "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'" As Christian parents, are we going to teach our children that all things, including math, science, history, art, music, and geography hold together in Christ? Or are we going to implicitly teach them that God is something that applies at home and in church, but that He's functionally irrelevant in the "outside world" to which we're sending them as missionaries?

Interestingly, Challies knows the answer to this question. In another post on another subject only a day or two before the homeschooling fracas, he wrote:
Statistics show that many Christians, and most likely the vast majority of Christians, have a worldview that is functionally secular. Many people who go to church every Sunday, who read Christian books and who read their Bibles and pray every day, still think like unbelievers. Their worldview--their way of seeing and understanding the world--is no different from before they claimed to be Christians. As interesting as statistics may be, common sense and good reason show the problem to be severe. Jonathan Edwards, looking to the refusal of the people of his day to own up to their guilt, realized that 'the liberal Christianity of the new republic would be built around such moral principles.' Modern day evangelicalism is likewise founded on such moral principles.
To which I say: Exactly. I couldn't agree more. But I must ask Tim: wouldn't we be more than a bit naive if we didn't make any connection between this state of affairs and our public school system? Where do you suppose most Christians got that "functionally secular worldview?" Has Challies not provided a strikingly apt description of "non-sectarian" public education through the decades, which has (until recently) taught "moral principles" while excluding theology? And is it possible --since this is a manifest problem, and one that we modern Christians have major blind spots on--that weighing between Christian education and some other kind of education as if both were equally valid options for Christian children could be one very potent manifestation of that "functionally secular worldview?"

Ultimately, we cannot hide our children from sin, as if sin were something "out there." That's legalism, and it fails to recognize that kids have no problems sinning in any environment. Challies rightly decries this tendency on the part of homeschoolers. But that's not why my family homeschools. The reason we homeschool is because we don't want our children to grow up with the functionally secular worldviews Challies rightly opposes, which are all too often the result of the implicit lesson when, say, God and math are separated, or when God is simply glossed onto whatever is already presumed to have been taught--incompletely but correctly--during the normal school day (i.e. "Okay, Billy, you spent six hours today learning biology, math, and history from an atheistic perspective as if they were each closed systems, without any need for recourse to God in the discussion. But just let me add something--God created all that!").

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wading In

Tim Challies over at is writing a series of posts on "Why I Do Not Homeschool" that, predictably, has ignited quite a response (although the responses have been far more thoughtful and far less condemnatory than Tim paints them in his somewhat defensive second post).

I'm a daily reader of Tim's site and find it one of my most satisfying stops on the web. I would agree with Tim on far, far more things than I would disagree with him. But I have to admit being a bit mystified about his purpose for writing this particular series of posts, since he seems to want to level criticisms of the homeschooling movement while insulating himself from Christian criticisms of his own choice to send his children to public school. Either he wants to persuade others of his view or justify his own view against those of home- and Christian-schoolers--or else there's no purpose in writing the posts. But Tim doesn't seem to want to claim either of those motivations. As one poster there commented:
Most blogs I have read have a purpose in mind...most are seeking truth, understanding, wisdom and sharpening by fellow believers. They may be confident in their convictions and wish to encourage others through charity. Others are not so sure of their convictions and wish to be exhorted by others.

Your post however, expresses your convictions while at the same time asking that we not discern or judge. And in some way we need to be respectful and claim relative truth for each and every child and family.
There's simply no way to avoid tension in the discussion on how children should be schooled since so much is involved. Most of us, whatever we're doing, are defensive about the way that we raise our children since there's so much riding on it, and the schooling discussion exacerbates this tension because it cuts straight to the heart of what we believe our responsibilities as parents under God really are. The stakes are high, and we should simply acknowledge that and live with it. The high temperature is a necessary condition of the discussion because of the absolutely fundamental issues involved. Wimpy cries of "can't we all just get along" and "nobody should judge anybody else's decision," which usually entail specious prooftexting of biblical passages regarding how Christians are supposed to treat each other on ancillary matters (like dietary issues), are really nothing more than figleaves to cover our own insecurities on our views.

It seems to me that all sides of that debate need to at least acknowledge this: these are not ancillary matters simply to be left to personal conscience. The Bible has a tremendous amount to say about education and parental obligations to children. While evangelicalism likes to make nearly all spiritual matters simply private and individualized, that doesn't work here. This debate cuts to the very heart the role of Christian parents in raising a child. There are massive principles involved, and most "to-MAY-to, to-MAH-to" responses are simply attempts lob a grenade into the opposite camp before woundedly weaseling out of the discussion and retreating behind the cover of "personal conscience." At least one side in this debate is seriously mistaken, and both sides need to own that and stop trying to paper it over. These are two incompatible philosophies of parenting and education. Pretending they are compatible, or that somebody is not seriously in error here, helps nobody.

Now, there is a great deal of truth in Tim's criticisms of the homeschooling movement. We homeschool our own children, and have done so for nearly 10 years now, and I think I've seen just about everything there is to be seen in the homeschooling community. There can be no doubt that Challies' concerns about the movement in general are well-founded. The movement tends to be highly insular and often borders on the pharisaical and judgmental.

Nonetheless, it seems to me that Tim is engaging in a basic fallacy in citing this as a reason for his own decision to not homeschool. All of the same criticisms have been accurately leveled at evangelical Christians in general. Does that mean one should not be an evangelical Christian? Surely not, and Tim (I would imagine) would never stop trying to persuade someone to become a Christian in response to such a lame objection. Why? Because he knows--and would want the non-Christian to understand--that the abuses of some of Christ's followers doesn't tell us anything necessarily true about Christianity. Whether Christianity is true or not does not ultimately rest upon the behavior of Christians.

And it's the same with homeschooling. The fact that there are plenty of whack-job homeschoolers doesn't mean that Tim would have to become a whack-job in order to homeschool, any more than the fact that there are whack-job Christians kept him from becoming a Christian. Tim's objection tells us nothing about whether homeschooling is correct or incorrect in principle. He simply (correctly) tells us about some of the flaws of some of its practitioners. If that's the criterion, one would never be able to choose any mode of education. Or much of anything else, for that matter. So from the outset, I think his way of framing the argument is unhelpful and ultimately inconclusive. So far, most of the commentary that has followed his posts has focused on experiences, like "I knew homeschoolers who were like this" and "I know some public schoolers who were like that." What's been notably absent, however, is Scriptural, philsophical discussion of principles. We'll see if it gets any better as he frames his positive argument for public schooling.

As to the substance of the debate itself between Christian schooling (whether institutionally or at home) and public schooling, I'll address some of that in my next post.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

When Luck Runs Out

Well, the world's oldest person has kicked the bucket yet again.

I keep telling you, this is the most dangerous gig in the world.

Breaking The Bonds

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has an amusing take on the Cardinals' brief dalliance with Barry Bonds at baseball's winter meetings last week:
Even with a little figurative smudge on his collar, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty was playing the role of the busted Lothario on Thursday, denying the allegation and casting aspersions on his accusers. "There's nothing going on with Bonds," Jocketty told "I'm sick and tired of people asking that. We don't have money for Bonds. We're trying to sign pitching."

The only thing missing was a firm bite on his lower lip, a scolding finger wag and a "I did not have contractual relations with that ballplayer, Mr. Bonds."
The idea of watching Albert Pujols bat with Barry Bonds protecting him in the lineup was intriguing, to say the least. I think Pujols might've hit 80 home runs. But it still wouldn't have been worth it. How, after all this time, could I suddenly have to try to not hate Barry Bonds?

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Around The Horn

  • Slate magazine has a charming piece by a guy who received an autograph back from a journeyman Major League ballplayer fifteen years after writing to him as a kid. I gather I'm a couple of years older than this guy, and I never received one so late, but his description of writing to ballplayers for autographs precisely and eerily describes my own experiences as a 13-year-old.
  • I guess Slate is where to go for baseball coverage these days. They also have an outstanding analysis from Seth Mnookin on the abject stupidity of this year's free agent deals.
  • Doug Wilson has written the most enjoyable and insightful series of posts I've read all year in response to atheist Sam Harris' best-seller Letter to a Christian Nation. I've got a lot of problems with Wilson on a lot of things, but this series is just an absolute treat. It's so good, I'm even assigning it to my kids to read. The posts are in chronological order, so you'll want to begin at the bottom and work your way up. I don't think I've read anything on the web in 2006 that I would recommend more highly.
  • An old St. Louis acquaintance (and former coworker of my wife's) has been elected to the writer's wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Rick Hummel has covered the Cardinals for almost 30 years. It doesn't get much cooler than that, and baseball people everywhere will agree that "the Commish" deserves the trip to Cooperstown.
  • The reliably funny Ann Coulter disagrees with Iraq study group's recommendation that we launch "Operation Surrender." She also comes out in favor of "waterboarding" terrorists for information:
    In point of fact, we strap people to wooden boards and make them feel like they're drowning all the time in this country. Mostly at theme parks like Six Flags.
  • Having been on vacation, I missed some of the furor surrounding Keith Ellison's choosing to be sworn into Congress by placing his hand on a Koran. If you haven't digested it yet (and I haven't), here again is Dennis Prager's controversial--but typically thoughtful--argument against allowing Ellison to do so.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Everybody Vs. Kramer

There's been nothing more dumbfounding to me this year than the fact that the "Kramer rant" is still in the news after all this time. I thought the story was dying before Thanksgiving, and yet here we are on December 5th and I still see it everywhere. It's hard to imagine something of less consequence receiving more attention, though there's always the career of Paris Hilton, I suppose.

I remember an old episode of "Seinfeld" (in fact, it was the famous "yada yada" episode) in which a goyishe dentist had apparently converted to Judaism in order to be able to make Jewish jokes. "And this offends you as a Jew?" asks a priest to whom Jerry had expressed his umbrage. "No," Jerry tells him, "it offends me as a comedian."

I feel a bit the same about Michael Richards' outburst. I don't think he's a racist. I think he's a bad comedian. What happened on that stage wasn't a personal meltdown, it was a comedic meltdown.

This is something I have a little, tiny modicum of knowledge and understanding about. As hard as it might be to believe or imagine, I did a little bit of standup comedy when I was in college (and even a few times afterward). I may not have done it particularly well, but I scraped together a few bucks doing comedy clubs, college parties, and the like. Doing standup is like doing a high wire act. It's just you and the microphone in front of that crowd. There's nowhere to hide. One wrong step can ruin the whole thing. One crack in the armor is deadly in front of an audience. Every comic, if he's going to get to even his second gig, has to learn to deal with hecklers. If some clown in the audience starts to get the best of you, even for a moment, you're toast. That's just the way it works. In the venal world of standup, comics see hecklers as the lowest form of life--they're trying to take food out of your mouth. It's as if you're the Ice Capades, and they're trying to throw banana peels out onto the rink. If the audience thinks you're afraid, or not fast enough, or not in full control of the situation, you lose them. The audience loses confidence in you, and a nervous, cowed comedian is not funny.

An effective heckler putdown (and by the way, I'm not advocating any of this--it was a former life, and I'm just telling you how it works) has to be quick and it has to be devastating. Your one and only goal is to shut the loser down so ruthlessly that the audience erupts in your favor and he's afraid to open his mouth again. Most comedians will have some stock lines ready for just such occasions. Sometimes they improvise. Keeping in mind that a heckler put-down has to be quick and devastating, an improvised retort will usually seize on whatever is most immediately obvious. If the guy is fat, you make fun of his fatness. If he's bald, that's what you go for. If he's not with a date, you hammer him on it. And if he's black (or Japanese, or Samoan, or whatever), you just might go for that. It's obvious, it's easy, and it's fast. This has been going on in comedy clubs since the first brick wall background was invented.

So Michael Richards did what has always been done. He didn't do it particularly well. His approach was obviously ill-advised. But if you listen to the tape, you'll see that--at first--the audience laughs. As offensive as his comments may be, the audience is with him. Is it because they're all vicious racists? No (though dopey liberals--like this typical twit in TIME magazine--will relentlessly try to interpret such things as symptoms of the virulent racial hatred that supposedly lies within all of us). It's because everyone hates hecklers and likes to see them get their comeuppance. They know how it works, and they know that just about everything--including race--is fair game on a comedy stage. Richards loses them when he refuses to let up--he just runs with it. He goes from controlling the situation (however ineptly) to savagely attacking. The audience's loyalty shifts if it feels someone--even a heckler--is being brutalized. It was the disproportionality of the response that turned them against Richards.

Was what Richards said from the stage right? No? Should he have said it? No. But this isn't much different from what's been going on in comedy clubs for generations. The difference is that now we have the Internet. Something I read in a book about baseball guru Bill James made me think about this (believe it or not). James said that most major scandals are not about a sudden departure from acceptable behavior, but about a sudden change in standards. I'm not sure he's entirely right, but I do think there's more than a grain of truth to what he says. Watergate, says James (who is a Democrat), was not about an administration misbehaving in some uncharted new way, but rather about a new set of standards suddenly being imposed on behavior that had previously been commonplace. The baseball steroid scandals are not so much about players suddenly starting to use performance-enhancing substances as it is about a new standard suddenly being applied to old behavior. Again, James may not be right in every instance, but I think that is, in many ways, what has happened to Michael Richards in the comedy world. The distribution of video from a comedy club setting has suddenly held his not-wildly-unusual stage behavior up to a societal standard that usually doesn't apply in a comedy club.

Eddie Murphy, who is both black (obviously) and a comic said, "Back in the old days in comedy clubs, you could do anything on stage. I'm not saying what the guy said was cool, but in the old days you would've never saw that on the news." I've seen worse than what Richards did in comedy clubs before. That doesn't excuse it, but it does mean that he's not some frightening, inhuman comic anomaly. Now, comedians in general may be frightening and inhuman (and I'm telling you--that's a world you wouldn't want to live in), but every comedian understands exactly what happened up on that stage, which is why so few of them have castigated Richards for his remarks.

If Richards were smart (which is a dubious proposition), he'd stop letting the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons drag this thing out. They'll do it forever, because it's how they make their living. He ought to say, "Hey, there was a loudmouth, boorish punk in the audience who mistakenly thought people paid to see him. He offended me, and I put him down as comedians always put down hecklers. I did get carried away, for which I'm sorry. If the guy had been fat, I'd have unleashed a torrent of fat jokes and none of us would be even sitting here talking about this today. As it happens, the guy was black. I'm a good guy who had an off night as a comedian. It happens. I'm sorry to everyone I offended. Next." That would be much better than letting the race hustlers inflict a thousand deaths on him.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Yo, Adrian, My Diaper's Full

Sorry for the long break. We were on a post-Thanksgiving beach vacation, and I try not to broadcast over the world-wide web that my home will be empty for a couple of weeks. Good heavens, what if someone broke in and stole my...wait, I just realized I don't have anything worth stealing...How about my recliner? That's it, I have to maintain full radio silence while on vacation in order to protect my recliner! How depressing and pitiful.

Speaking of depressing and pitiful, I saw an ad this week for the next installment in Sylvester Stallone's "Rocky" series. I think in this one he goes nuts and pummels to death a nursing home orderly for turning off the TV in the middle of "Murder She Wrote."

Here's something I found highly amusing about all this. As I recounted ad nauseum here, my son and I went back to St. Louis in October to watch the Cardinals win the World Series. While we were staying with my folks there, my mom pulled out some old copies of the now-defunct Globe-Democrat newspaper we had saved from the last time the Redbirds had won the World Series when I was in middle school back in 1982.

I always find it fun to read through old newspapers to see what was big at the time, how much things cost, etc. One of the October '82 papers had a little entertainment section in it. As I read through it, I found a blurb about the film "Rocky III," which had been the big hit that summer, and the future possibility of even more films. And then came the best part. The article asked the question: Isn't this premise getting a little bit worn, and isn't Sylvester Stallone too old to be carrying this boxing thing off much longer? Keep in mind, this was written 24 years ago. He's 60 now.

"Rocky VI: Permanent Brain Damage," coming to theaters this Christmas!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


I suppose I like James Bond movies as much as the next guy, but I have to admit: I thought Joe Montana was an odd choice.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hard Habit To Break

The guy in the office across the hall from me and I can't seem to stop singing the Chicago song "25 or 6 to 4" today. A favorite of marching bands and 30-year class reunions everywhere, it kind of gets stuck in your head like an errant spike from a recklessly-wielded nail gun. But I've realized that I have no idea what in the world "25 or 6 to 4" means. I know what "six of one, a half-dozen of the other" is, and I know that "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." But I've never heard "25 or 6 to 4" come up in conversation. Maybe it's a point spread. "I'll take Chicago over Houston, 25 or 6 to 4." Beats me. Anybody?

Okay, and it's kind of unrelated, but is anyone else finding themselves creeped out by the new Outback Steakhouse theme song/jingle? If you've been looking for Wang Chung lately (and really, who among us hasn't?), I think I know where they might be.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Rudy Awakening

The evangelical outpost today lists seven reasons Rudy Giuliani is unelectable as president of the United States.

I know Giuliani formed an "exploratory committee" the other day, and is thinking about running. And there are a few things I genuinely like about Rudy Giuliani. But he doesn't have a Glenlivet bottle's chance at the Kennedy compound of scoring the GOP nomination.

While one of the seven reasons given (that Giuliani was a mayor, and only one other president has ever been a mayor) is unpersuasive, the rest are spot on. The bottom line is, Giuliani's personal life is an absolute horror, and his political positions on the hottest social issues are anathema. He's got a better chance of growing a pompadour than of being a Republican president.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Then Emmanuel Lewis Did A Cartwheel

I haven't caught this show yet (and don't intend to), so I have little idea what any of this is about. But there's not a word of this lede from USA Today that I don't find side-splittingly hilarious:
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joey Lawrence wore just the right outfit to be cast off Dancing With the Stars— a sailor suit.

Lawrence, who donned a version of the Navy uniform to honor his grandfather's World War II service, lost out to Emmitt Smith and Mario Lopez for the chance to compete in next week's finale of the ABC celebrity dance contest.
Federico Fellini, call your office.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Elective Perspective

The always-entertaining Ann Coulter provides some much-needed perspective on Tuesday's elections for Democrats who will mistakenly think some massive, unprecedented change in public opinion has taken place:
In fact, if the Democrats' pathetic gains in a sixth-year election are a statement about the war in Iraq, Americans must love the war! As Roll Call put it back when Clinton was president: "Simply put, the party controlling the White House nearly always loses House seats in midterm elections" — especially in the sixth year.

In Franklin D. Roosevelt's sixth year in 1938, Democrats lost 71 seats in the House and six in the Senate.

In Dwight Eisenhower's sixth year in 1958, Republicans lost 47 House seats, 13 in the Senate.

In John F. Kennedy/Lyndon Johnson's sixth year, Democrats lost 47 seats in the House and three in the Senate.

In Richard Nixon/Gerald Ford's sixth year in office in 1974, Republicans lost 43 House seats and three Senate seats.

Even America's greatest president, Ronald Reagan, lost five House seats and eight Senate seats in his sixth year in office.

....During eight years of Clinton — the man Democrats tell us was the greatest campaigner ever, a political genius, a heartthrob, Elvis! — Republicans picked up a total of 49 House seats and nine Senate seats in two midterm elections. Also, when Clinton won the presidency in 1992, his party actually lost 10 seats in the House — only the second time in the 20th century that a party won the White House but lost seats in the House.

Meanwhile, the Democrats' epic victory this week, about which songs will be sung for generations, means that in two midterm elections Democrats were only able to pick up about 30 seats in the House and four seats in the Senate — and that's assuming they pick up every seat that is currently too close to call. (The Democrats' total gain is less than this week's gain because Bush won six House and two Senate seats in the first midterm election.)

So however you cut it, this midterm proves that the Iraq war is at least more popular than Bill Clinton was.
Make sure to read the whole thing for a few much needed (and on-target) chuckles.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sen. Tom Coburn Gets It Too

From a piece written by Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn. Coburn, for my money, along with Sam Brownback, is among the very best in the Senate (though he does part his hair in the middle, which makes him look a little like an early 80's Michael McDonald album cover):
Although this election represents a short-term setback for Republicans, it could be an important turning point for the Republican Party and, more importantly, the country. Every incumbent was reminded that the American people, not party establishments, hold the reins of government.

....This election does not show that voters have abandoned their belief in limited government; it shows that the Republican Party has abandoned them. In fact, these results represent the total failure of big government Republicanism.

The Republican Party now has an opportunity to rediscover its identity as a party for limited government, free enterprise and individual responsibility. Most Americans still believe in these ideals, which reflect not merely the spirit of 1994 or the Reagan Revolution, but the vision of our founders. If Republicans present real ideas and solutions based on these principles, we will do well in the future.

What Republicans cannot continue to do, however, is more of the same.
We'll see if the party takes the advice and uses this as an opportunity to recapture it's vision, rather than an opportunity to sulk and become even more pseudo-Democratic.

(Hat tip: Brother Jon)

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"We Lost Our Way"

This is from Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), a true conservative who, with any luck, will be the next House minority leader. Hopefully there will be others who "get it" too. It's going to take guys like this to put the GOP back on track:
It is the duty of the losing party in a free election to humbly accept defeat and to acknowledge that the people are sovereign in the People's House.

As we examine the results of this election, it is imperative that we listen to the American people and learn the right lessons.

Some will argue that we lost our majority because of scandals at home and challenges abroad. I say, we did not just lose our majority, we lost our way.

While the scandals of the 109th Congress harmed our cause, the greatest scandal in Washington, D.C. is runaway federal spending.

After 1994, we were a majority committed to balanced federal budgets, entitlement reform and advancing the principles of limited government. In recent years, our majority voted to expand the federal government's role in education, entitlements and pursued spending policies that created record deficits and national debt.

This was not in the Contract with America and Republican voters said, “enough is enough.”

Our opponents will say that the American people rejected our Republican vision. I say the American people didn't quit on the Contract with America, we did. And in so doing, we severed the bonds of trust between our party and millions of our most ardent supporters.

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Missed It By That Much

Well that was fun.

There's nothing else you can call it--the Republicans got beaten like the wife of a guy in a sleeveless undershirt on "Cops." Of course, I'm convinced that it's all part of evil-genius Karl Rove's master plan. He and President Bush masterminded the wildly successful alienate-the-base strategy as a way of giving up the House and the Senate, thus paving the road for a Hillary Clinton presidency which will be a miasma, ultimately setting the Republicans up for big wins in 2012. They've got it all under control, and are working from the master playbook.

The media is interpreting the election as being a referendum on the Iraq war. That's a simple explanation, but perhaps too simple. It may well be the explanation for why Democrats turned out so heavily, but there is a concurrent explanation for why Republicans did so badly. I did go to the polls and vote conservative yesterday (or at least as "conservative" as I could vote given who was actually on the ballot), but I never felt anything more than a sense of duty about it. There was no excitement, no anticipation, no sense of getting to be part of something great as in the last few elections. It was mainly apathy, barely overcome by duty. So I have to wonder how many conservatives' senses of apathy weren't overcome by a sense of duty. How many just couldn't bring themselves to be excited and moved on to other things? I suspect that it was millions.

Even with the Iraq war going badly (and all but the most impervious partisan hacks have to admit that it is), if Republicans were cutting spending and actively working to close the borders--you know, being conservative--they'd have won in a landslide. Think about that: Republicans were getting hammered by Democrats in the campaign on spending and immigration.

Two years ago, I wrote this now-amusing sentence:
[The 2004] election, following on the heels of the 2002 shocker, might very well be the death knell of the Democrat Party as a significant national force.
It looks amusing and quaint now. In 2004, the Democrats had gone further and further to the Left and gotten spanked, and I failed to foresee the Bush Administration's wildly erratic behavior over the following two years, from Harriet Miers (in which the administration accused its base of sexism) to the immigration debacle, to the disastrous near-deal to sell our ports to the United Arab Emirates (in which the administration accused its base of racism).

My suspicion is that Republicans are going to try to move to the Left as a result of this election (pointing to the defeats of swing-staters Jim Talent and Rick Santorum as justification), culminating in the nomination of John McCain for president in 2008. If they do, it will officially mark the end of the Republicans' 21st century dominance, as conservative and evangelical voters will have even more reason to sit it out.

If they're smart, however (and I frankly see no evidence of that), they'll see this as a well-timed wakeup call to begin becoming conservative again to reinvigorate their underwhelmed base. Fortunately for them, this was not a presidential election year. They still have time to right the ship (and it does need to be turned Right) in time to avert an era of disaster.

We'll see what they decide to do. I'm not optimistic.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's Like Playing A Really Dull Video Game

Make sure to do your duty and head to the polls today. Have conservatives given us a lot to be excited about over the last couple of years? No. Well, everyone got excited about the scuttled ports deal and potential amnesty for illegal immigrants, but, but I'm talking about positive excitement. It's been scarce, to be honest. But here's why conservatives still need to hit the polls today. To borrow from Justin Taylor, here's why the election still matters:
All eyes are on Alito in abortion case

First clues on how he will treat Roe vs. Wade may come tomorrow

Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Star-Ledger Staff

Six years ago, Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined two other federal appeals judges in striking down a New Jersey law banning partial-birth abortion. Alito made a point of stating he had no choice: A month earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had declared a nearly identical Nebraska law unconstitutional by a vote of 5-4.

Tomorrow Alito is scheduled to hear arguments on the constitutionality of a nationwide ban on partial-birth abortion signed by President Bush in 2003. This time, Alito has a choice. It is the first abortion case to come before the U.S. Supreme Court since Alito succeeded Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who cast the decisive vote against the Nebraska law.
Alito is only on the bench today because of a Republican Senate. And there's a hot rumor in Washington today that Justice John Paul Stevens is getting ready to retire. Now, there isn't one Republican in ten that I'd walk across the street to see, but ultimately this is why the election still matters.

So get on out there while you still have a few hours. The lines aren't too bad (since most people don't care about midterm elections), and you get one of those apple-polishing, brown-nosing "I voted" stickers to slap onto your chest to help you feel superior. There's no downside. Head on over to that library or school or malaria clinic or wherever you're registered to vote--especially you folks in Pennsylvania. Rick Santorum is one of the few I would walk across the street to see. We need him.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Around the Horn

  • It's been widely linked on the Internet already, but if you haven't yet read Dilbert creator Scott Adams' account of his sudden recovery from an incurable disease that had taken his voice for a year and a half, you really should. It's fascinating. (HT: Jollyblogger)
  • A couple of (world champion) St. Louis Cardinals are actively opposing the cloning/embryonic stem cell ballot initiative in Missouri. [This is the infamous initiative that prompted Michael J. Fox to make an ad for Senate candidate Clair McCaskill.] In my recent visit to Missouri, I was pleasantly surprised to see the pro-life passion on this issue and the degree with which even the average St. Louisan is now able to articulate the crucial difference between adult stem cells (which do not damage embryos and which have been used to develop truly amazing treatments already) and embryonic stem cells (which kill embryos and which have produced zero treatments).
  • I know the participants are all distancing themselves from it (mainly complaining that they had been assured it wouldn't run until after the elections), but this preview of a piece to run in Vanity Fair in which "neocons" Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, David Frum, Michael Ledeen, Frank Gaffney, and others who were among the strongest voices advocating war in Iraq, is absolutely brutal. The president is in deep trouble on this war.

Tomorrow Is Election Day

With the national elections tomorrow, it's only appropriate to point out that:

It's Peanutbutter-Jelly Time.

(HT: My kids)

Friday, November 03, 2006

From The Onion

This is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time (though be warned that The Onion can get obscene at times. I didn't find anything objectionable on the page I linked to, but if you were to click around there, it wouldn't take you long to find something not so good):

Cardinals Apologize for Winning World Series

ST. LOUIS—Calling Friday night's victory on baseball's grandest stage "a terrible mistake," members of the St. Louis Cardinals issued a formal apology for making the playoffs, winning the World Series, and depriving baseball fans everywhere of a season featuring the kind of heartwarming, storybook ending to which they have grown accustomed in recent years.

"I'm still struggling to understand how this could have happened," said a sober Tony La Russa during a press conference following Game 5. "It seemed all but certain coming into this series that we were going to be a part of something truly special, that we would easily put the finishing touches on a magical season that inspired millions of fans around the country, but instead we somehow ended up winning."

"It's disappointing, to say the least," La Russa added. "We were rooting for the Detroit Tigers just like everyone else."

....According to Albert Pujols, some teammates took the World Series victory harder than others.

"For a lot of young guys like [Anthony] Reyes and [Yadier] Molina, this was their first chance to see an exciting, inspirational, and truly deserving team win a championship," Pujols said. "Even though the outcome of this series has definitely left a bad taste in my mouth, I can handle it, because I was there in 2004 when we were able to see Red Sox beat us in the World Series. Man, what an incredible feeling that was… Just watching those guys celebrate, I really felt like I was seeing history unfold before my eyes. It was definitely my greatest baseball moment."

"I hope we have the chance to see something like that again next year," Pujols added.
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Thursday, November 02, 2006

It's Italian For "The Russa"

Okay, one more baseball post before I let this glorious season pass on into eternity. I know there's an election in a few days, but I'm a native St. Louisan, so baseball trumps it.

I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what makes Tony La Russa a great manager. As anyone who's ever read this blog can see, I'm often highly critical of him. So are the fans in St. Louis--they've never fully warmed up to TLR the way they did Whitey Herzog, who is considered the managerial gold standard in the Gateway City.

The criticism is not without merit. Whereas Whitey was a beer-driking, steak-eating Midwesterner who delighted in sharing his strategic thinking with the media, Tony is an animal-rights activist Californian who you suspect might eat soy and rarely tries publicly to justify a managerial move. When Whitey did something odd (as he often did, including stationing closer Todd Worrell in left field a couple of times), he would explain it afterwards in a way that, even if you didn't agree, you had to admit made some sense. Tony leaves baffling moves (having the cleanup hitter try to bunt for a base hit, batting Juan Encarnacion fourth, etc.) largely unexplained, causing those who watch the team daily to accuse him of overmanaging.

Nevertheless, La Russa's record is undeniable. He's won more games than any manager alive today. He's now one of only two managers to win World Series championships in both leagues. He's managed ten division-winning teams. He's won four manager of the year awards. If you Google the phrase "managerial wins" (which I just did), you'll find that six of the first seven entries that come up are specifically about him.

So what gives? Why is La Russa so good? First, I'll talk about what I think it's not, and then we'll look at what it is.

What it's not: Strategy. Tony La Russa is not a great strategist. There. I said it. Let the mountains fall down and the planets explode. I know this is contrary to everything you hear the sportscasters and sportswriters saying. But that's because most sportswriters are drunk, and most sportscasters are hired for having nice voices or pretty faces rather than for their understanding of sports.

The Common Baseball Wisdom is that La Russa is a master strategist, squeezing each percentage out of ever move he makes (and boy does he make a lot of moves). La Russa encourages and cultivates this portrait, which has been propagated by George Will in Men at Work and Buzz Bissinger in Three Nights in August (both of which are delightful, must-read books, by the way). Here are the facts:
  • La Russa's strategy is often downright baffling
  • La Russa rarely deigns to explain said baffling strategy.
  • La Russa wins a ton of games.
  • Ergo, the sports commentators assume it must be brilliant strategy even though they don't understand it, because he wins.
But if they were a little smarter, they'd trust their first instinct. La Russa's most befuddling moves are confusing because they're usually wrong. It's not "genius" to have cleanup hitter Larry Walker try to bunt for a base hit (like in the 2004 Series) when he's the only guy on the team hitting for average. It's not good strategy to place huge strikeout hitters in the four and five holes in the lineup (like he did frequently through the post-season). It's not wise to pull a pitcher who's throwing well just to do the lefty/righty thing.

Herzog used to say that the best manager could strategize his team into an extra three or four wins a season, at most. That seems like a modest estimate, but I think it's possible even that is overstated. Some (like the guys at Baseball Prospectus) have even crunched numbers that lead them to believe that the absolute best thing a manager can do during a game is stay out of the way, since not even batting order has a substantial impact on a team's overall output. According to some of these analysts, most managerial contributions to a game will actually be harmful. In any case, it's clear to me that it's not strategy (despite his reputation) that make La Russa great.

What it is: LaRussa, perhaps more than any manager in the Major Leagues, gets the absolute most out of nearly every one of his players. Whether superstar or third-stringer, players give LaRussa everything they have. All one has to do is see how players thrive under him as opposed to other managers they play for.

Some examples: Chris Carpenter (who never had an ERA under 4 before coming to the Cardinals and is now in line for a possible second Cy Young award), Woody Williams (who made an All-Star team with the Cardinals and was otherwise mediocre both before and after playing for La Russa), Mike Matheny (who was in the majors for six years before he was acquired by the Cards and immediately started winning Gold Gloves), Jim Edmonds (who began putting up the biggest numbers in his career offensively and defensively in mid-career after being traded to the Cardinals), Jose Canseco (who was never the same player again after being traded by Oakland in 1992), Fernando Vina (who, though he did make an All-Star team before coming to St. Louis, had the best three-year period of his career and won his two Gold Gloves under TLR), Dennis Eckersley (who's career was badly fading when La Russa and Dave Duncan turned him into a closer and bought him a ticket to the Hall of Fame--all while TLR played Deuling Mullets with him throughout the 80's), and many others. That's not even to mention guys from this championship team who played way over their heads like Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver, So Taguchi, etc. People forget that even future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, a 13th round draft choice, was not considered to be anything special even within the Cardinals' organization until after he was already playing for La Russa on the big league roster and started tearing the cover off the ball.

So why do players play so well for La Russa? I don't really know, to be honest. Whatever it is, it's rare and it's important. It's probably the kind of thing you'd have to be a fly on the wall to know--interpersonal stuff that the public never gets to see. Certainly pitching coach Dave Duncan deserves some of the credit for the pitching turnarounds. But tons of position players have also had their best years under La Russa. Tony shows faith in his players and goes to the wall for them. He defends them in the media. He orders retaliation when one of them gets beaned. He protects them with the umps. Somehow, some way, Tony La Russa has conducted himself in such a way where many of his players would walk through a wall for him.

The lesson is that managerial strategy is overrated. Joe Torre's terrible strategy looked awful in St. Louis in the early '90's when he had no players. Give him Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens, and suddenly he's got four rings, even with the same lousy strategy. A manager has to protect his players and handle the media, which is no small thing. If he has some talent on his team and does those things right, they can win. Tony La Russa has done that better than just about anybody. It's not strategy; it's knowing how to take care of a team. The St. Louis Cardinals are fortunate to have one of the best.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Meet Me In St. Louis

A couple of quick photos from World Series Game 5:

This is John while the initial celebration is taking place on the field:

Here he is amidst the hubub closer to the field a little later in the evening:

And the scoreboard tells the story:

Monday, October 30, 2006


On Wednesday, John Jr. and I flew up to St. Louis where it was rainy and cold. Our tickets were for Game 4, and so we headed down to the new Busch Stadium late that afternoon with the Cardinals up 2-1 in the Series. At game time, the tarp was still on the field and they told us that no time had been set to get the game underway. Finally, at about 9:15pm Central (about 1:45 after the game was supposed to have started) they announced that the game would be cancelled for the night.

We assumed that we'd be coming back to try again the next night, but oddly that turned out not to be the case. For reasons I still don't entirely understand, it was announced that Game 5 tickets would be honored the next night (in what would chronologically be Game 4), and that our Game 4 tickets would be honored on Friday night (in what would chronologically be Game 5).

After about thirty seconds of math, my son and I realized something. IF the Cardinals would win Game 4 the next night, they would go up 3-1 and we would be in a position to see the possible clincher. It seemed like a long shot, since in reality they were only halfway to a championship at that point and they'd have to win two more consecutive games. But the possibility was there.

And then it happened. We watched Game 4 on television with friends and family, and I don't know if I've ever been more invested in a game. We wanted that win so that it would be 3-1 heading into our game. When they won, we were ecstatic. One more win to go.

After raining all day Friday, things cleared up a couple of hours before game time on Friday night. Busch was absolutely crackling with electricity. Certainly we couldn't take anything for granted--after all, the Cardinals have blown two 3-1 World Series leads in the past--but something seemed different this time.

I've been a Cardinals baseball fan since I was old enough to talk. My parents have pictures of me wearing an StL hat as a toddler. I got to go to playoff and World Series games (even got pulled out of school!) in 1982 and 1985. My dad and I were sitting in the stands on the third base side when Ozzie Smith hit his first-ever left-handed home run against Tom Niedenfuer to beat the Dodgers in Game 5 of the NLCS. But at 10:22pm CDT on Friday night, with my son and I sitting in the upper deck in right field, Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge swung through an Adam Wainwright curveball and the Cardinals provided me with the sports highlight of my lifetime. After 24 years--after Don Denkinger stole the 1985 Series from us, after the crazy air conditioner in the Metrodome blew our '87 title away, after the disastrous Joe Torre/Mark Whiten/Ray Lankford/Todd Zeile years, after Darryl Kile died, after losing the great Jack Buck, after a 100-win team was humiliated by the Red Sox in the '04 Series, after a 105-win team was bounced from the playoffs by the Houston Astros last year, after they tore down the stadium that held so many memories--the St. Louis Cardinals were the World Series champions.

A lot of people are whining about how bad this World Series was, about how the Cardinals didn't belong there. All I can say to that is: We were owed. This is a great franchise that does it the right way in the best baseball city on earth. We were on the other side of this deal in 2004 and 2005, falling short after winning in the triple digits. I don't recall anyone complaining in 2004 about the unfairness of it all when the Cardinals were swept out of the Series by the Red Sox, who were a wild card team. Nobody said the Cardinals "handed over the series" to the Sox despite the fact that the heart of the lineup had one hit that year. You gotta play the games, and the Cardinals did--better than any other team this postseason. They beat teams that were heavily favored in three straight series, all while never having the home field advantage. The Cardinals have the winningest record in baseball since 2000 while teams like the Diamondbacks and the Marlins and the White Sox have come and gone. Don't tell me they don't deserve a world championship.

At the end of the game with Inge batting, I started shooting some home video from our right field perch. The camera shakes as the stadium explodes and Yadier Molina runs out and jumps on Wainwright. I then pan to my son sitting next to me, and he has a look of unbridled joy on his face like I've never seen before. "It's incredible!" he keeps saying. He's a 14-year-old kid who, like his dad, was wearing a Redbirds cap before he could walk. He went to his first game when he was four months old. He devours sports pages his grandma sends him from St. Louis with Cardinals articles. He watches every out of games they play against Pittsburgh in May. And his team has just won its first World Series in his lifetime.

You don't ever top that. Anything the Cardinals ever do from here out is just icing on the cake for me.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Wayne Grudem Interview Audio

Earlier this month, I interviewed Dr. Wayne Grudem about his new book Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism? on the radio. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has posted the audio from the hourlong interview here.

Al Mohler has also written a comprehensive review of Dr. Grudem's book.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

It All Makes Sense Now

I have a theory (spurred by some comments on ESPN Radio) that I think now makes sense of all this Kenny Rogers weirdness. Here goes (and remember, everything I'm stating here is simply theory):

Most big league pitchers probably use a little sticky something in cold or wet weather in order to help them grip the ball. The probably see it as not really cheating, because they're not using it to alter the flight of the ball--just to help them hold it properly.

Last night, the cameras caught Kenny Rogers not being careful enough about it. Tony LaRussa is now in an awkward spot. He knows his pitchers use the same stuff, and it's just an unspoken agreement that nobody will make a big deal out of it as long as it's not causing the ball to flutter. But the FOX cameras have just shown it to the world. So he goes out between innings and says to the umpires, "Look, I don't want to make a big deal out of this, but Kenny's making me look like an idiot here. The clown's not even hiding his sticky stuff--he's got it right on his hand. The whole world sees it. If I don't squawk about it now, I'll be crucified. Tell him to go clean up his hand, and we'll leave it alone." Which the umpires do.

That would explain why TLR didn't do more at the time. It would explain why he still doesn't want to talk about it. It would explain why even the Cardinals players have been quiet on it. And it would explain why the umpires didn't nail him to the wall. I have to admit, I find this theory persuasive (though there are some holes--the pictures below clearly show Rogers using the stuff on a sunny day in July). If my theory is right, we'll continue to see the Tigers, the Cardinals, and Major League Baseball just try to make this story go away. I'm really starting to lean more and more in the direction of, "If it doesn't bother the Cardinals, it doesn't bother me."

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Kenny's Persistent Mud Spot

July 5, 2006 vs. the Oakland A's:

July 20, 2006 vs. Chicago White Sox:

A comparison of Rogers' hand from Game 3 of the ALCS (left) and last night's Game 2 of the World Series (right):

[photo from PRESSWIRE

Another question that's been presenting itself as the photographic evidence begins to mount: does dirt usually shine?

Here's an interesting note for discussion from an article at Yahoo Sports:
La Russa's failure to officially ask for an inspection baffled even his own staff and players.

"They're not arbitrarily going to go out there and check him," Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "They have to be asked to check him."

Why didn't the Cardinals ask?

"You have to ask Tony that," Duncan said.


The next 48 hours are going to be very interesting indeed, especially as the New York media jumps all over the fact that tapes show Kenny Rogers with a foreign substance on his hand in the series against the Yankees, too. Somebody needed to tell him he didn't need to cheat to beat the Cardinals--being lefthanded is more than enough.

Well, we're tied 1-1. It's now a best of five series!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Baseball Heaven

Okay, I lied. I lied about not getting excited about the Cardinals until they won a game in the World Series. Fact is, I'm so thrilled today I can hardly see straight.

I always worry about talking about this kind of stuff, because I can only imagine how trivial it sounds to the many non-sports fans. It couldn't possibly make sense to you. But I'm sitting here realizing that you only get a relative handful of days in life when you feel like I feel right now. I can't work. I can't concentrate. Coworkers have been lining up at my office door all day to congratulate me. I just keep sitting here thinking "The Cardinals won the pennant!" When you've grown up a baseball fan, there's a lot of memories (and future memories) tied up in something like this. Watching these games (and this sometimes-frustrating, always-exciting Cardinal team) over the last few years with my rabid Redbird-fan son only heightens that meaningfulness.

I grew up watching Cardinals baseball. I earned my stripes as a fan. I was born about 6 weeks after their 1968 World Series loss, and they didn't reach another post-season until I was almost 14. I watched a few brilliant players during that span, like Lou Brock, Keith Hernandez, and Ted Simmons (Bob Gibson was nearly finished when I started watching). I also watched a lot of guys like Kenny Reitz, Mike Tyson (the chubby second baseman, not the cannibalistic boxer), Bake McBride, Jerry Mumphrey, and Tony Scott. I went to games where there were only 5000 people in the park. I watched Whitey Herzog yank Garry Templeton into the dugout and take a punch at him after Templeton flipped off the crowd--on Ladies' Day, no less. There was a lot of ignominy at Busch Stadium in those days. But I didn't care. I loved walking into that monstrous stadium with all the arches around the top. I loved the look of clean, white, new bases and freshly raked infield dirt. I loved the treat of eating a ballpark hotdog. And I loved those birds on the bat.

In the first decade of the 21st century, those Cardinals are now a perennial contender. They've won two pennants in three seasons. They have the best player in baseball (whom I like to call A-Poo, though ESPN's Bill Simmons steals it from me today). They have a beautiful new stadium. I've told my son, "Enjoy this. You may go through decades later in life when your team doesn't even sniff a post-season. You're getting to be a Cardinal fan at one of the great times ever to be a Cardinal fan."

Do I get too wrapped up in it? No doubt. Is it silly to put such stock in mere entertainment? Most likely. Often I find myself wondering, "Why do I put myself through this?" During the late innings of last night's game, as my stomach felt like I had eaten nails and chased them with a shot of acid, I wished for a moment that I could be one of those millions of people who couldn't care less. The vast majority of the nation was going about it's business last night as if baseball didn't even exist. Is this worth it? Is there any point to this?

Today I know the answer. You just don't get many days to feel like this. The sure agony of the World Series hasn't started yet, and everything's even. Today, for this day, it's only joy and optimism. Whatever happens in the World Series, my son's team--the St. Louis Cardinals--are winners of the National League pennant after one of the most thrilling and gut-wrenching games in postseason history. Yadier Molina has taken his place next to Ozzie Smith, Jack Clark, and Albert Pujols with a heroic, game-winning NLCS homer. Our voices are hoarse from screaming after it went over the wall. We're tired from staying up until 2am watching postgame interviews over and over again. It's not just entertainment. This is about my history. My grandparents and parents. My children. My city. My home.

Earlier this morning, I got the stunning word that two tickets to Game 4 of the World Series at the new downtown home of the Redbirds are available for my son and me. I booked the flight a couple of hours ago.

Does it get any better than this?

[P.S. I've just realized that today is the 24th anniversary of the the night Bruce Sutter blew one past Gorman Thomas to win last Cardinals World Championship. Which reminds me that it can get even a little better than this.]

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Game 7

Tonight's the big one, and we just may bounce it around a little bit in the comments section live during the game tonight if any of you baseball fans feel like stopping by.

The Cardinals played disappointingly last night. Tonight's pitching matchup favors the Cards. Home field and the fact that the pitching matchups have gone the opposite of what's expected favor the Mets. The middle of the Cardinals lineup favors the Mets. Indefinable post-season mojo favors the Cards. It's a coin-toss; we'll see what happens.

Tonight's lineup has already been posted (courtesy Bernie Miklasz of the Post-Dispatch):
It's not the one I'd go with. Rolen should be benched, and if he doesn't like it, trade him. He's killing this team, and he's a proven post-season liability. He hurt the team by lying to Tony LaRussa about how hurt he is, and last night even his defense stunk. Has there ever been a postseason Rolen showed up for? If I played him at all, I'd hit him eighth.

And Encarnacion cleanup again? Please. They guy on his best day is about a .230 hitter, and strikes out three times a game. Between Encarnacion, Edmonds, and Rolen in the middle of the lineup, plan to see a lot of 0-2 counts and runners left on.

Of course, any of them can shut me up by being the hero tonight.

See you in the comments!

UPDATE--Late Thursday night: The Cardinals win the pennant! The Cardinals win the pennant! It's gonna be a rematch of '68! New Busch Stadium will host a World Series!

St. Louis will be the underdogs again. Good. It's working well for them so far.

Chip Off The Ol' Block

I was watching the baseball game last night with my son when, during a news break, they mentioned the NFL bomb threat story.
JOHN JR.: What's that all about?

JOHN SR.: Apparently there's been some kind of terrorist threat on Dolphin Stadium.

JOHN JR.: Probably football purists.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

In The News, One Last Time

Sometimes something is so familiar that you don't even notice it. It just becomes part of the wallpaper.

Such was the case with a voice familiar to anyone who grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons in the 1970's--Christopher Glenn of "In the News." "In the News" was a little one or two minute news vignette CBS plugged in between the cartoons to teach children about current events. I don't actually remember a single thing they showed on there, but the voice of Christopher Glenn and the theme "song" (though you can't really call it a song--it was really more of an annoying sound) are indelible.

Glenn died yesterday of liver cancer at 68. CBS News' website has a nice look back at his career.

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Games People Play

As I said, I'm not going to get excited.

But last night's game was a big step towards the World Series for the Cardinals. Tony LaRussa, except for when he insanely ordered his cleanup hitter to bunt in the fifth inning, largely resisted his overmanaging urge, and the Cardinals pulled off a nice victory against the Mets' best starter. Tony even showed a bit of the "genius," pinch-hitting Chris Duncan in a situation in which Duncan normally hits about .100. He homered.

Even though game six (and game seven, if necessary) is at Shea, I honestly find myself liking the spot the Cards are in. Tonight it's Cy Young candidate Chris Carpenter Young candidate John Maine. Though Carpenter was not sharp in his last outing, you can't like this matchup if you're a Mets fan. And if it goes seven, you likely have Jeff Suppan, who was spectacular in game three, going up against either Oliver Perez or Darren Oliver. Or perhaps Oliver Stone. Or Oliver from "The Brady Bunch." One doubts the Mets would go to Trachsel again after the game three disaster. In any case, all the future pitching matchups heavily favor the Cardinals.

Okay, maybe I'm starting to get a little bit excited. Why do I do this to myself? This can only end badly. I should get out now while the gettin's good.

Oh, and at one point the Fox crew cut to a shot of a dude wearing a John Calvin t-shirt. You don't see that very often; even less so at major sporting events. Which reminds me: whatever happened to that guy with the rainbow hair and the "John 3:16" sign? I thought I remembered he went to prison or died or something horrible. I guess that's the tradeoff for great seats.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Have The Cards Run Out?

The Cardinals and Mets are now tied at two, and I can't help but feel that the Redbirds blew their best chance to win the pennant last night. In a position to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, they were facing Oliver Perez, at 3-13 perhaps the worst starting pitcher ever for a LCS game--and a guy they owned this season. Furthermore, the game was at Busch, and Perez hadn't won a single game on the road this year. And the Cardinals lost to him.

The shame of it is, I think the game was blown by Tony LaRussa, who up until this point had somehow resisted his overmanaging instincts and done a very nice job of guiding his team through the playoffs. But he just couldn't resist showing his "genius" any longer. Though I know few will agree with me, here's my reasoning for pinning it on TLR: he yanked a starting pitcher, Antonio Reyes, who was doing a serviceable job in a tie game after four innings.

This isn't mere 20/20 hindsight on my part. When LaRussa told Joe Buck after the fourth that Reyes was done, I said to my son, "That doesn't make sense to me. I'd much rather go with the devil I know--a guy throwing an OK game--than the devil I don't know. There's no guarantee you're going to get five good innings out of any bullpen, and if the first guy you bring in stinks, you're in a real mess." You don't change horses midstream when your horse is keeping pace with the others. About a minute later, that kid who looks like he's twelve (I forget his name) started giving up bombs and it was all over. There was nowhere left to run, and all the rest of the bullpen could try to do was mop up.

Willie Randolph understands what I'm talking about, which is why he left Oliver Perez in the game despite the fact that...well, he's Oliver Perez. You don't make the decision based on who he is, you make the decision based on how he's doing. On any given night in baseball, a scrub can turn into Sandy Koufax. Nobody last night was Sandy Koufax, but LaRussa gave the hook to a pitcher who was keeping his team in the game before it was even half over. Randolph stayed with his guy a little longer and got him a win by simply outwaiting LaRussa.

Now the Cards are in a jam. Yes, the series is tied. But tonight's is a must-win game (since you can't expect two win two straight in New York), and they're going against Tom Glavine. Last night was their best chance, and unfortunately Tony couldn't keep his genius in the box for one more night. Tonight I fully expect him to overreact to the loss and go back into full overmanaging mode--bunting Pujols, using every pitcher in his bullpen for those five-hour-game-inducing right/lefty switches, and having the pitcher hit third or something.

Like I said--I'm not getting my hopes up.

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