Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Say What?

Here's my favorite headline of the day, from the AP (via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch):

Report: Abstinence not curbing teen sex

Ummmm...actually, it is. Wherever abstinence occurs, there is zero teen sex. By definition. You can look it up.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

They're Really Dropping Now

I haven't had any free time to post in ages, but I couldn't let one addition--er, subtraction--go unnoticed on my "I Can't Believe They're Still Alive" list. Everyone who is still alive on this list, please take one step forward.

Not so fast, Mr. Bishop..
  • Joey Bishop
  • Doris Day
  • Harry Morgan
  • James Arness
  • Conrad Bain
  • Jack LaLanne
  • John Forsythe
  • Rose Marie
  • Al Molinaro
  • Barbara Billingsley
  • Karl Malden
  • Larry Storch
I also heard that Deborah Kerr died the other day. She was not on my list. I honestly didn't know she was still alive. She would've been perfect!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Another One Bites The Dust

A new change to the "I Can't Believe They're Still Alive" list. Everyone who is still alive on this list, please take one step forward.

Not so fast, Ms. Wyman.
  • Joey Bishop
  • Doris Day
  • Harry Morgan
  • James Arness
  • Conrad Bain
  • Jack LaLanne
  • John Forsythe
  • Rose Marie
  • Al Molinaro
  • Barbara Billingsley
  • Karl Malden
  • Jane Wyman
  • Larry Storch

Monday, September 10, 2007

Houston, We Have A Problem

From a question & answer column in TIME Magazine with Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin:
Given what happened with Lisa Nowak, should astronauts be held to a higher standard? —Chad Miller, COLOGNE, GERMANY

Astronauts are not superhuman. They lead ordinary lives and have varied personalities. I think Nowak should be admired for traveling across the country at night and not getting out of her car to put in gas or go to the restroom. It is not excusable, but it is understandable for an achiever to fall into a trap.
Of course, I'm not going to disagree with him. Buzz doesn't like disagreement:

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Well Done, Good And Faithful Servant

D. James Kennedy died yesterday at the age of 76. I had the privilege of working for Dr. Kennedy for the past six years.

A lot has been written in the last two days (and particularly good are the remembrances by Al Mohler, Sam Lamerson, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel), and much more will be written. I just wanted to share two stories which give a glimpse from my own limited viewpoint of the impact of Dr. Kennedy's life and passion. The first story shows the sheer scale of his impact, and the second shows the individual side.

Two years ago I visited Tanzania, Africa for the first time. The village we were working in was called Kyela. To get there, one must fly into Dar Es Salaam on the East Coast of and then drive 10 hours on a two-lane road into the interior of the country, near the border of Malawi. It's quite rugged there, with many people living in bamboo homes with dirt floors.

A friend and I stayed in the tin-roofed home of a local Baptist pastor. His home was among the nicer I'd seen. It had no running water, but it had been wired with electricity about a year before which powered a dim, fluorescent light bulb hanging above us in his small, concrete floor living room. My friend had known this pastor for some years, but it was my first time meeting him. He was asking what I did for a living in the United States, and I was trying to explain it to him, but I don't think it was quite getting through.

My friend, trying to help, interjected, "John works for D. James Kennedy, who is on television in the United States and is a very highly regarded pastor there." He explained a little bit about Dr. Kennedy's work, and about how preachers sometimes get shown on television in the U.S. The African pastor suddenly got a glint in his eye.

"Oh, I know Dr. Kennedy," he said, matter-of-factly. My friend and I looked at each other in astonishment. How could he possibly know Dr. Kennedy out here in the middle of nowhere, a place it had taken us three full days to reach from Ft. Lauderdale? The pastor got up and went in to his room. When he came back, he showed us a small object in his hand. It was an Evangelism Explosion pin. Not only had he taken EE; he'd been a trainer.

And the second anecdote, showing the individual side. Though he headed a worldwide media ministry, Dr. Kennedy cared about individual people. Often when people heard I worked for him, they'd ask me what he was like "in real life." This is the story I usually tell them:

A couple of years ago, we were shooting on location up in Yorktown and Williamsburg, Virginia for a Christian history special. In television, it sometimes takes hours to set up all the equipment before anything can be shot. During the technical setup, which was at the historic Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, Dr. Kennedy remained at the hotel in preparation for what was sure to be a gruelling, all-day project.

When everything was finally ready, I was designated to go pick Dr. Kennedy up back at the hotel. I drove back and went up to his room and got him. Because of his bad back, it was often difficult for him to walk long distances, and it was already quite a hike from his hotel room down to the lobby—it was one of those hotels with long corridors. When we got down to the lobby, I told him I’d pull the car right up to the front door so he wouldn’t have to traipse across the parking lot. I ran out and pulled the car up to the door and waited. And waited. And waited some more. After a few minutes (we were in danger of running late for the shoot now), I went inside to check on him. He was standing at the concierge desk talking to the young woman sitting behind it. Mildly exasperated, I approached them, and as I was about to gently and respectfully suggest that we were late and needed to get going, I realized what he was doing. He was sharing the gospel with her.

I sneaked over to a lobby chair where I was out of the way and waited for them. I saw him then praying with her. She prayed to receive Christ. Obviously, you can’t know for sure what’s going on in somebody’s heart, but she was willing to bow her head and pray right there at her work station in the lobby, and she seemed exuberant when they were done and I finally went over to pull him away.

This was late in his life and ministry after his many accomplishments were already long-secured and mostly in the past. There wasn’t anybody else there watching him. I was the only staff member, and I had gone to get the car. He didn’t do it because he felt like it was expected of him or that he had to be seen doing it. It really was just who the man was. He had a crew of 25 people waiting for him on location, but he was willing to stop to talk to that one girl to tell her about the gift of eternal life.

That was D. James Kennedy.
After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. "Master," he said, "you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more."

His master replied, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:19-21, NIV)
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Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Value Of An Autograph

Yesterday morning on XM Satellite Radio's "Home Plate" baseball channel, host Mark Patrick read this column on the air, and I was moved by it.

A routine autograph request to a minor league ballplayer turned out to be something more.
"Hello," said the mother. We said nothing in return and continued to act as if we couldn't see or hear her. She stumbled at our coldness, and cast hear eyes around sadly. She looked at her son, who never took his eyes off us, smiled, and then mustered enough courage to try again.

I can't explain to you what its like to avoid someone on purpose. When I write about the concept it just seems too rude and heartless. Maybe it is, but I still do it all the time. In my line of work, sometimes you have to ignore people. You have to tune out the noise of the game.
The column comes from the "Non-Prospect Diaries," written by 26-year-old career minor league pitcher Dirk Hayhurst in Baseball America. The guy may not have a major league future, but has a gift for perceptive writing that most would only dream of.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Around The Horn

  • One of Newsweek's own columnists, Robert Samuelson, publicly de-pantses them over their tendentious and insipid global warming cover story:
    We in the news business often enlist in moral crusades. Global warming is among the latest. Unfortunately, self-righteous indignation can undermine good journalism. A recent Newsweek cover story on global warming is a sobering reminder. It's an object lesson of how viewing the world as "good guys vs. bad guys" can lead to a vast oversimplification of a messy story.

    ...Against these real-world pressures, Newsweek's "denial machine" is a peripheral and highly contrived story. Newsweek implied, for example, that Exxon Mobil used a think tank to pay academics to criticize global-warming science. Actually, this accusation was long ago discredited, and Newsweek shouldn't have lent it respectability.
  • Charles Krauthammer writes today of the amazing story of St. Louis Cardinals player Rick Ankiel. Ankiel, whose extremely promising pitching career went up in flames in the playoffs at the end of his first major league season in 2000, was just called up to the big league squad again last week--as an outfielder. He hit a 3-run homer in his first game back, and St. Louis (and all of Major League Baseball) is going nuts over him.
  • Sitcom writer Ken Levine(M*A*S*H, Cheers, The Simpsons) and former Mariner's announcer, who writes one of the most entertaining blogs in the 'sphere (though be warned--his language gets quite salty), shares some other memories of the late Phil Rizzuto. My favorite:
    The Yankees were playing at Tiger Stadium one night. It was easy to hit home runs down the left field line. It was just a 340 foot chip shot. On the left field wall was a digital clock. A Yankee hit a home run and Rizzuto almost came out of his seat, saying on the air, “Holy cow, what a poke! He [hit] that over the 808 sign!”
  • A couple of theological notes. Every pastor ought to:

    A). Read this article by Doug Wilson about church conflicts. It's several months old, but profoundly helpful.

    B). Listen to the audio, or at least read Justin Taylor's notes, of Tim Keller's talk on Gospel Centered Ministry presented at the Gospel Coalition conference. I'm not kidding--every pastor in America needs to hear and internalize this.
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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Stop Right There

I was saddened to hear yesterday of the death of Phil Rizzuto. I am among those who believe he was a shaky Hall of Fame selection; indeed, he was only elected by the veterans committee in his 33rd year of Hall eligibility, and even then only when a sufficient number of former teammates were put on that committee. But as a broadcasting aficionado, I grew to love him just like most other baseball fans, even though I generally detest the Yankees.

Two of my favorite things about Rizzuto:

1). I used to love seeing the Yankee games on cable late in his broadcasting career when they'd show a shot of the GW bridge around the 7th inning and wonder aloud where the just-departed-to-beat-the-traffic Scooter might now be on his commute home.

2). If you grew up in the 70's, you likely heard Rizzuto's play-by-play even if you didn't care a thing about baseball. He's the announcer in Meat Loaf's song "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." "Here's the play at the plate! Holy cow, I think he's gonna make it!"

It often seemed like Rizzuto was watching a different game than the one taking place on the field. He got the call wrong almost as often as he got it right, and frequently seemed confused even before it could be blamed on age. Usually I hate that kind of thing. (Listening to a Cubs broadcast with Ron Santo on satellite radio recently, for instance, made me want to vomit. He has no business being in a broadcast booth.) But with Rizzuto, it was fun and endearing.

Perhaps its a tribute to him that I didn't even realize he'd retired from broadcasting more than a decade ago. When I heard yesterday that he had died, I hoped he hadn't died in some hotel room on the road like Richie Ashburn did. The Scooter was a fixture; you just figured he'd always been there and always would be.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Untouchables

Last week, Newsweek magazine soiled the bed over the so-called global warming "denial machine," demonizing as money-tainted obscurantists any scientists who dare question the fashionable orthodoxy among climate change alarmists. As Warren Meyer notes in a delightful "letter to the editor":
There are so many interesting scientific issues involved in climate change that it was flabbergasting to me that Newsweek would waste time on an extended ad hominem attack against one side in a scientific debate. I was particularly amazed that Newsweek would accuse the side of the debate that is outspent 1000:1 with being tainted by money. This is roughly equivalent to arguing that Mike Gravel's spending is corrupting the 2008 presidential election.
Yet now comes the amazing news that the NASA temperature database from which most of the alarmism community has been drawing was corrupted by--get this--the Y2K bug, and NASA has quietly had to revise their temperature estimates downward.

As noted at Meyer's Coyote Blog:
Today, the GISS [NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies] admitted that [the person who had noticed a likely program glitch] was correct, and has started to republish its data with the bug fixed. And the numbers are changing a lot. Before today, GISS would have said 1998 was the hottest year on record (Mann, remember, said with up to 99% certainty it was the hottest year in 1000 years) and that 2006 was the second hottest. Well, no more. Here are the new rankings for the 10 hottest years in the US, starting with #1:
1934, 1998, 1921, 2006, 1931, 1999, 1953, 1990, 1938, 1939
Three of the top 10 are in the last decade. Four of the top ten are in the 1930's, before either the IPCC or the GISS really think man had any discernible impact on temperatures.
He also asks a pertinent question, which shows how pernicious and ultimately anti-scientific the strong-arm attempts to silence opposition like the one at Newsweek last week really are:
So how is this possible? How can the global warming numbers used in critical policy decisions and scientific models be so wrong with so basic of an error? And how can this error have gone undetected for the better part of a decade? The answer to the latter question is because the global warming and climate community resist scrutiny. This weeks Newsweek article and statements by Al Gore are basically aimed at suppressing any scientific criticism or challenge to global warming research. That is why NASA can keep its temperature algorithms secret, with no outside complaint, something that would cause howls of protest in any other area of scientific inquiry.
"Denial machine" indeed. Science is about testing conflicting theories against the available evidence. When anyone attempts to shut down such inquiry by fiat, we should ask ourselves what they have to hide.

Oh, and incidentally, the one person most responsible for this corrupted NASA database? James Hansen, the incorruptible and untainted hero of last week's story in Newsweek. As an Investor's Business Daily editorial notes:
Hansen was once profiled on CBS' "60 Minutes" as the "world's leading researcher on global warming." Not mentioned by Newsweek was that Hansen had acted as a consultant to Al Gore's slide-show presentations on global warming, that he had endorsed John Kerry for president, and had received a $250,000 grant from the foundation headed by Teresa Heinz Kerry.
(Hat tip: Coyote Blog, via Hot Air--whose post you also really should read, via Centuri0n)

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

If We Shout, Will You Believe Us?

A few months ago, it was TIME magazine that pooped its collective panties over the current global warming frenzy. This week, it's Newsweek that soils itself, evacuating its proverbial bowels of any remaining shreds of credibility.

In this week's piece (and I use that word advisedly) called "The Truth About Denial" (cute, huh?), Newsweek declares outright war on the global warming "denial machine," which evidently looks something like Hillary Clinton's dastardly "right wing conspiracy." You see, Newsweek can't seem to understand why most people persist in not taking their word for it when they insist a climate catastrophe is on the way.

Now, you might think that Newsweek would adopt a posture of humility on climate issues, seeing as though they wet themselves only 30 years ago over the coming global ice age. But you would be wrong. Humility is not really their forte, and so Newsweek finds itself in high dudgeon against those who dare to question the media's current catastrophic pronouncements.

Evidently, Newsweek is stoked because certain industries that would be hurt by draconian regulation under, say, the Kyoto treaties (namely: all of them), are giving funding to organizations doing research disproving the fashionable climate change theories. Newsweek finds this to be an ethical outrage, and professes to be shocked, shocked that selfish interest could play a role in such life-or-death matters. This as opposed to, say, Al Gore, who in no way personally benefits from being positioned as the savior of mankind, or, say, General Electric/NBC (which carried Gore's Live Earth concerts on all of it's networks, and which publishes Newsweek online), who in no way would financially benefit from global warming alarmism. They, and only they, have taken sides for purely objective and altruistic reasons, rather than for the reams of cash suddenly finding its way into their pockets.

Also today, interestingly, comes the news that forecasters are revising their hysterical hurricane estimates for 2007 downward, the main reason being that there haven't been any actual hurricanes yet. According to global warming theory, we should be seeing tons more of them, and so the forecasts were ratcheted up again this year (like last year). But the storms have thus far failed to materialize (like last year), resulting in the revision. Rest assured, however, that the climate alarmists will tell us that the dearth of storms is also because of global warming--just like a surplus of them would've been. And we'll resist the urge to point out that a theory that purports to explain everything explains nothing. Still, one must wonder: if scientists have no idea how many hurricanes there will be this year (or what the weather will be a week from now, for that matter), how accurately will they be able to predict the global temperature 50 years from now? And how accurately were they able to measure the global mean temperature 100 years ago?

To ask such questions is to become a "denier." But I'll bet any one of the alarmists this: 30 years from now we'll all be sitting around laughing at the overheated climate change rhetoric from the 00's, and they'll be on to the next catastrophe. Whaddya want to put on it? Anyone?

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

That's "Hedley"

For some strange reason, in the last 24 hours I've heard Barry Bonds referred to as "Barry Lamar Bonds" half a dozen times in the media. What gives with the middle name? Never in 20 years of watching him have I heard his middle name until now. Is it an attempt to add gravitas to his steroid-fueled home run record? Or is it a bit of editorializing, casting him with the likes of Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wayne Gacy?

I just hope this record doesn't give him the big head. Ooops. Too late.

Barry in 1988

Barry now

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

My Old School

Last weekend, I did something I didn't think I'd do: attend my 20 year high school class reunion. Now, I happen to have loved high school and had a lot of good friends there, which I know is not a universal experience. I knew there would be some people there with whom I'd spent every day of my life for years, and having lost touch I wanted to see them again. But it's also been a long time, and I've changed quite a bit. I used to be a big partier; now I don't even drink alcohol. I used to be an agnostic, left-wing radical; now I'm a Christian conservative who works in ministry and believes that Jesus is the most important thing in the universe. All of that is hard to explain to drunk people while shouting over loud music.

But finally, about ten days before the event, I realized that I couldn't not go. Too much of my life was spent with some of these folks to merely blow them off. This created a large problem, as I would now only have little over a week to lose 50 pounds, find a better-paying, more prestigious job, earn a graduate degree, and garner multiple community awards.

I let my grateful wife off the hook for this one. There are few things more excruciating in life than attending the other spouse's reunion. The whole event is really designed to completely exclude you from the git-go (unless, as was the case for a few, you met in high school). It's people coming together for the express purpose of sharing memories that do not include you in any way, shape, or form. You can always tell which ones are the spouses, because they're usually gathered together with glum looks around the open bar. Meanwhile, the other spouse isn't having much fun reminiscing with classmates either, because he knows he's in big trouble with the annoyed and excluded wife and has to keep checking back to try to unsuccessfully placate her in some way. And that's not even to mention the relentless and inevitable hunt for the former high school boyfriend or girlfriend. "Is that her?" they hiss as each classmate is greeted, ready to brain somebody with a purse. Having once made a living DJ'ing events like this, and attended a few as a guest, I've seen this scene played out hundreds of times. Not us, not this year, much to my wife's relief.

I was surprised by how well everyone had aged. I suppose those who've been ravaged by Father Time simply choose not to attend (present company excepted). But the ones who were there gave me no easy reasons to have illusions of superiority whatsoever, which was obviously disappointing. Sometimes the experience was surreal. Some of my classmates and I go back as far as grade school together. It's amazing to see the face of someone you knew in first grade suddenly plastered onto a 38-year-old body.

The vast majority of them seem to be doing very well, and undoubtedly all are making more money than I am. Ten years ago that would've been tough; now I can handle it by the grace of God. Still, when a sweet-souled female classmate who is now a cancer specialist M.D. and on the faculty at the Stanford School of Medicine said to me, "You were always so smart," I was tempted to respond, "Oh yeah? You wanna trade houses?"

I'm glad I went back. I'm a much different person then they knew--I've been profoundly changed--but they're unlikely to have noticed that over the thumping music and the raucous celebrating. But being there reminded me how much I care about these people from the Lindbergh High School class of '87 with whom I have a history, and hopefully someday I'll have a quieter opportunity to find out about their adult lives and tell them a little bit about my own journey.

And it also gave me another chance to fly the friendly skies and discover why the airlines are going out of business. This time around, I spent a total of an hour and fifteen minutes waiting for luggage to pop out onto the carousel. I would have been fed up with the wait, but now they make it more interesting by enlisting you into the ranks of their actual baggage handlers. See, now that airports have gone to the innovative slithering-snake shape for their baggage carousels rather than the old, standard oval, you now spend much of your wait dodging luggage that careens off the treadmill at impossibly tight turns, trying to shove somebody's golf clubs back onto the conveyor belt while also nursing your shattered tibia. Way to go, American Airlines! That's worth the price of that 13-inch wide seat right there.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The List Grows Smaller

There have been several notable deaths this week. First, legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman scratched himself off my "Can't Believe They're Still Alive" list. They've been dropping like flies over the last year or so.

More distressingly (to me, at least), former "Tomorrow Show" host Tom Snyder died of leukemia earlier in the week at the age of 71. His death was quite unexpected, at least to me. For my money, Snyder was about as good as television gets; a pure broadcaster. This is a guy who, with nothing more than a cigarette and a black backdrop, could create entertaining, often riveting television night after night just by talking. There are few true broadcasters left anymore, but Snyder was definitely one of them.

For a quick overview of the style that made Snyder great, here's a video compilation of some interview snippets. He was an odd, quirky, one-of-a-kind interviewer, and television has been worse off since he left it. There will never be guys like this on TV again. Watch and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

MoreOn La Russa

From Will Leitch at, which I won't link to because of some language violations:
Yes, Tony, we understand, the game could have gone into extra innings, and it's possible the National League would have run out of players. But . . . you've got Albert Pujols with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth of a one run game! What do you want, anyway? As tends to be the case with La Russa anymore, he's so busy thinking about how he's three steps ahead of everyone else that he walks smack dab into a pole.

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Another Attack Of Genius

I've had it with Tony La Russa. I just can't take it anymore.

Yes, I wrote some wild-eyed accolades in the heat of the World Series win last season. (Give me a break; my team had just won the World Series.) And no, perhaps I'm not being totally consistent. I think I made a vow sometime after the World Series somewhere that I was finally going to stop hammering him, and I suppose I'm breaking that vow now. But beginning with the DUI arrest in spring training, through the Josh Hancock tragedy (in which La Russa threatened reporters with a fungo bat), up to last night's All-Star game fiasco, this season has been a La Russa-made disaster.

I should've seen the handwriting on the wall with the Scott Rolen feud that simmered during the entire post-season last year (and carried into this season) after La Russa chose to communicate with Rolen through the media rather than in person when benching him. Or perhaps I should've seen it when LaRussa first arrived in St. Louis and got into a dispute with all-time great Ozzie Smith that still lasts to this day, after La Russa told him he'd have to compete with for the starting shortstop job with future non-Hall-of-Famer Royce Clayton--only to give the job to Clayton anyway even after Ozzie thoroughly outplayed him in spring training that year. Or when La Russa invited Andy Van Slyke to spring training for a comeback attempt in 1997, only to cut him after Van Slyke hit .525 that spring. The guy is a bad communicator, and he needlessly jerks people around.

In case you you missed the Major League Baseball All-Star game last night (and at this point, who doesn't miss it?), Tony La Russa, managing the NL team, left his own superstar Albert Pujols on the bench even when they had two outs, bases loaded, the game-tying run on third base, and the game-winning run in scoring position. My son and I, along with the other 200 people who still watch the All-Star game, kept asking each other, "How do you not use Albert Pujols here?" He must be injured, we figured.

Well, it turns out that he wasn't injured, and frankly, like the rest of the baseball fans in America, is a little steamed that La Russa never played him. Keep in mind, this is La Russa's own player--a guy with a lifetime .330 batting average who has never finished below fourth in the MVP voting or failed to be in the top 5 NL players in RBI in his entire career. Turns out that La Russa evidently failed to communicate with his best player that he'd only be playing if the game went into extra-innings. And he followed it up by blasting Pujols in the media for being disappointed at not playing.

So instead of letting future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols bat with the game on the line in the 9th inning, where a solid single would've won the game for the NL, La Russa left it to Aaron Rowand--he of the career high 69 RBI and lifetime average 50 points lower than Albert's. Rowand flew out. Game over. And typically, when questioned, La Russa became defensive and decided to speak to his player through the media after not speaking to him personally the entire game. The guy's communication skills are seriously bankrupt, and his strategy makes no sense whatsoever. What good is it to save Pujols for extra innings when you're down by a run with two outs in the bottom of the 9th? I think Rob Neyer of sums up this idiocy best (which comes via Jeff Gordon in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch):
Brilliant! Save your star until you really, really need him! Just think how many more games the Yankees might have won, if only Miller Huggins and Joe McCarthy had realized how foolish it was to actually put Babe Ruth in the starting lineup. And now we know why the Yankees are struggling this season: Joe Torre’s not saving Alex Rodriguez for the extra innings! I mean, the guy can play third base, shortstop, and (I’m quite sure) first base or left field in a pinch.
Enough already. It was a nice run. It's time to move on. Take the "genius" somewhere else already.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Calling Corey Hart

I've been out of town on business and then on vacation, all of which has kept me away from here for the last couple of weeks.

But while I was on vacation, I did get to catch a little bit of those "Live Earth" concerts on TV over the weekend. It was pretty amazing. They had Madonna, the Police, and Duran Duran. With a lineup like that, they're practically guaranteed to lick this global warming by 1987.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

All My Talent Seems So Far Away

I saw the new iTunes commercial the other day where 65-year-old Paul McCartney is prancing around with a mandolin playing a song called "Dance Tonight" from his new album.

Now, it's probably been over 20 years since the last time I heard a new McCartney song actually played on Top 40 radio, and I think there's a reason for that. I'm thinking the last one I heard played was either "No More Lonely Nights" from that horrible musical he wrote, or the theme from the Chevy Chase/Dan Aykroyd movie "Spies Like Us" (and the cast list alone ought to tell you how long ago that was). In either case, things were obviously slipping even then, so I recognize that we're no longer dealing with a guy at his creative peak, no matter how enormous his past contributions to popular music.

But as I'm watching this song on the commercial, McCartney's jumping around singing, "Everybody gonna dance tonight/Everybody gonna feel alright..."

"Dance tonight/feel alright"? I mean, are you kidding me? That's a lyric a sixth-grader writes when he comes home with his first guitar and tries to write a rock song in his bedroom. This, from one-half of the most sucessful songwriting duo in history?

Somebody's gotta stop this fight. The champ is bleeding badly, and he's embarassing himself out there.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Now You Know

Whether you are a confused fan, or merely caught up in the post-series controversy, thanks to this supressed clip which has since surfaced, you can now rest easy knowing the final resolution to "The Sopranos."

(And yes, it's family- and work-friendly.)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Supreme Conflict

If you're a Supreme Court geek like I am, I'd highly recommend picking up a copy of Jan Crawford Greenberg's recent book Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court.

I've read a good number of books about the Supreme Court, but two things made Greenberg's book stand out:

1). Greenberg, who is a legal correspondent for ABC News and formerly with the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour, is scrupulously fair in her reporting and characterizations. I expected to find conservatives and conservative positions treated with the typical disdain, and for the legal issues to be approached from the usual liberal standpoint. What I found instead was a balanced, fair presentation of both sides. As a conservative, I felt that my ideas were presented honestly and respectfully, and yet, after reading the book, I have no idea how Greenberg votes--which is a credit to the work she's done here.

2). She uncovers great inside information, along the lines of earlier works like Woodward's The Brethren and Lazarus' Closed Chambers. She conducted interviews with almost all of the justice and makes extensive use of other sources such as the recently released notes of former Justice Harry Blackmun. It makes for a fascinating picture of the inside of the Rehnquist Court, as well as the Roberts and Alito nominations.

One of the great nuggets revealed in her book (via Blackmun's notes) is the fact that Clarence Thomas, widely caracatured by the know-nothing liberal media as a dolt and a Scalia clone, is actually perhaps the most independent justice. As it turns out, it has been Thomas who has far more often swayed Scalia's opinion than vice-versa. Thomas has been willing to stand as a party of one since his very first week on the Court. But of course, as a result of the "soft bigotry of low expectations," the truth about Thomas doesn't fit well with the condescending storyline the media wants to pin on him.

The book also presents the most comprehensive account I've seen yet about the Harriet Miers fiasco--what the administration flunkies were thinking, and what finally changed their minds. I found the book so engrossing I finished it in about two days. If you're a court-watcher, do yourself a favor and take a copy with you on your summer vacation.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Don't Stop Believin'

Hold on to that feelaaaeeeaaaaiiin...

Monday, June 04, 2007

Feeling Our Pain

Even Hugh Hewitt, who tried to convince us that we were being served Dom Perignon when President Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, has finally woken up and tasted what's actually in the cup:
At this point I take out my Harriet Miers Fan Club charter membership card and put it on the table: This push for this [immigration] bill is a disaster, Mr. President. Much much worse than the Miers nomination on which you had many good arguments, or the ports deal, on which you had fewer. On this issue there is no place to stand, and you are asking your friends in the Senate to go down fighting for a bad bill. It is a bad bill because no one believes the government can conduct millions of background checks (many spokesmen for the bill don't even pretend to know where the paperwork will go!). No one believes the bill will halt the next 12 million. No one believes you are going to assure the fence gets built. No one believes that the employer verification system will get done or work when some half-assed version of it does get done. No one believes that the probationary visas don't automatically convert illegal aliens with few if any rights into Due Process Clause covered legal migrants, with a Ninth Circuit ready and waiting to keep them here for decades.

....This isn't a talk radio fueled shout from the far right. It isn't the Minutemen or the Tancredo people. It is the GOP faithful who don't want it, nor anything like it.

...[T]he deal has to be one worth taking, not the same deal we'd get under a second President Clinton. That's why the political rebellion is here: This looks like a bill that Hillary would have sold as tough on enforcement. We can wait two years for that.
Of course, the outrage at the Miers fiasco and the ports deal weren't "far right" kook attacks either. Now perhaps Hewitt, who helped press the White House's strategy of painting conservative critics as sexists and bigots, will understand what it's like to be on the conservative side of this clueless Republican White House. All this time the administration's been soaking his leg, he actually believed them when they told him it was raining.

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Friday, June 01, 2007


It is nothing short of amazing to me that the Bush Administration and its minions have begun demonizing even the conservative opponents of their incomprehensible and foolish immigration plan as racists and bigots. And yet it shouldn't be surprising, since Bush has been employing this suicidal "attack the base" strategy for years now. It is because of such political savvy that he'd now have to make tremendous upward strides to reach Jimmy Carter's approval numbers, or even those of Nixon during Watergate.

As you may recall, this was the same strategy the administration employed when Bush disastrously nominated his personal valet Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Miers was utterly unqualified to sit on the high court (as even many administration insiders now admit they knew, as revealed in Jan Crawford Greenberg's outstanding new book Supreme Conflict). After appointing an inferior candidate merely because she was a personal crony of the president's, the administration then went on the offensive against disappointed conservatives (who recognized Bush had broken his promise to appoint another Scalia or Thomas), intimating that opposition to the nomination was based on sexism and elitism.

They again rolled out the tactic when the administration came up with the bright idea of trying to sell American ports to Arabs. When more than a few people questioned the wisdom of selling American ports to those who support our enemies, the Bush administration waved away criticism by implying that such fears were based in "Islamophobia."

Most true conservatives have long since had enough of this nonsense, and Peggy Noonan today gives voice to several years of built-up frustration in a scathing attack:
The White House doesn't need its traditional supporters anymore, because its problems are way beyond being solved by the base. And the people in the administration don't even much like the base. Desperate straits have left them liberated, and they are acting out their disdain. Leading Democrats often think their base is slightly mad but at least their heart is in the right place. This White House thinks its base is stupid and that its heart is in the wrong place.

For almost three years, arguably longer, conservative Bush supporters have felt like sufferers of battered wife syndrome. You don't like endless gushing spending, the kind that assumes a high and unstoppable affluence will always exist, and the tax receipts will always flow in? Too bad! You don't like expanding governmental authority and power? Too bad. You think the war was wrong or is wrong? Too bad.

But on immigration it has changed from "Too bad" to "You're bad."
Noonan also talks about her own personal disillusionment with the president, for whom she actively campaigned and whom she vocally supported until his overreaching, messianic inaugural speech in January 2005:
What I came in time to believe is that the great shortcoming of this White House, the great thing it is missing, is simple wisdom. Just wisdom--a sense that they did not invent history, that this moment is not all there is, that man has lived a long time and there are things that are true of him, that maturity is not the same thing as cowardice, that personal loyalty is not a good enough reason to put anyone in charge of anything, that the way it works in politics is a friend becomes a loyalist becomes a hack, and actually at this point in history we don't need hacks.
That paragraph is as good a summation of the Bush presidency as one will ever find, a presidency that can now be declared from a conservative standpoint, without reservation, a failure.

It will take the conservative movement years to recover from what George W. Bush has done to it. Considering where we were sitting just three years ago in the wake of the 2004 elections, that's nothing short of tragic.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sanity Prevailing

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court handed down an unremarkable ruling in a discrimination case in which a woman claimed she had been systematically underpaid (well below the level of her male counterparts) for a period of years.

The law she filed the suit under, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically states that suits must be filed within 180 days of the alleged violation. The woman who filed the suit was claiming that the discrimination took place years earlier.

The Supreme Court, in a controversial turnabout from the last 40 years, read Title VII and ruled against the woman, insanely interpreting the section of the law that said the suit must be filed within "180 days" to mean that....the suit actually needed to be filed within 180 days. Which it wasn't. In the normal world, this wouldn't seem that complicated, and certainly would be uncontroversial. It's open and shut. The law has an explicit deadline contained in it, and the woman's suit missed that deadline by a matter of years.

But to the liberal justices of the Supreme Court, laws aren't actually laws, and words aren't actually words. Laws are merely suggestions that courts can ignore at will (like, for instance, when the Florida Supreme Court daily rewrote the duly passed election law deadlines in 2000 desperately hoping for some recount that would show Al Gore the winner). Thus, in what ought to be a no-brainer, liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a dissent from the majority ruling, which she read from the bench in an unusual show of disagreement. To Ginsburg, the fact that the law specifically and explicitly requires that suits must be filed within 180 days is meaningless and free to be ignored. (In her dissent, without apparent irony, Ginsburg calls the Court's plain reading of "180 days" a "cramped interpretation.")

According to the Washington Post:
Yesterday she said that "Title VII was meant to govern real-world employment practices, and that world is what the court today ignores." She called for Congress to correct what she sees as the court's mistake.
Translation: Ginsburg was unable to change the law by fiat directly from the bench as had previously been her practice, and thus had to resort to the far less savory option of handing the law back to the people (who passed it to begin with) to change it or not change it as they see fit. The outrage of it all!

Of course, Ginsburg's pique notwithstanding, this is the way the system was actually intended to operate. The legislatures write the laws, and the judges apply them as written--without substituting their personal policy preferences for those of the people. The only reason it is working correctly now after a 40-plus year hiatus is because conservative Samuel Alito now sits on the United States Supreme Court, shifting the balance away from the liberal majority Ginsburg, Stevens, Souter, and Breyer were accustomed to ruling over us with.

How revolutionary to have a majority of Supreme Court justices who now read a law and act as if it means what it says.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Assured Results Of Science

As you know by now, the great goddess Science has pronounced global warming a human-induced tragedy that will destroy the entire planet in perhaps hours. (For more on this, see the mid 70's scientific and journalistic pronouncements on the environment, and substitute the words "global warming" for "coming ice age.")

On Friday night, I accidentally tuned into the Anderson Cooper show on CNN. If you've never seen this program before, the idea is that Anderson is sent out into the field to exotic and newsworthy locales, and then reports on how being there makes him personally feel on an emotional level (e.g. "It's really eerie to be here. I have this feeling--it's hard to describe"). On Friday, he'd been sent to Greenland. (Perhaps he welshed on a bet with a CNN boss or something.) The topic, needless to say, was global warming. Anderson was there because Greenland is made mostly of ice, and some of it appears to be melting. ("It's literally changing the map of this country!")

With Anderson in Greenland was Jeff Corwin, a hyperactive environmentalist TV nature show host who I used to have trouble distinguishing from Steve Irwin, though that problem has abated somewhat in the last year. This, of course, was a program about science, part of CNN's ongoing "Doomed Planet of Death" series (or something along those lines). The purpose of the program is to convince us that science shows we're in real trouble.

So Anderson, in telling us about his feelings, mentions that it's eerie and disorienting to be in Greenland because you can't really see the horizon. Because of the color of the ice and the color of the sky, it all looks like one. At this point, "wildlife biologist" Jeff Corwin, whom CNN had flown all the way to Greenland in an effort to help Anderson Cooper make the scientific point that the earth is doomed, chimed in to add some science. I'm taking this directly from CNN's transcript, since I actually had to double-check it to make sure I heard him correctly:
This is what's really amazing. If you were back home, for example, in New York, and you could see where the skyline is, you could see where the horizon is.

But if you look, there's horizon all the way around you, which is really incredible. You're that close to the top of the world, that you don't get sort of a dividing point. You're completely surrounded by the top of the world.
That's right, kids. According to scientist Jeff Corwin, whom CNN has flown to Greenland to give us the Scientific Perspective on Global Warming, the reason you don't see a horizon in Greenland is because you're nearly at the top of the planet. See, when you stand at the top of this round planet, the horizon disappears...because you're so high up. I just hope he held onto something so that he didn't slide off. Presumably, that would be an awfully long fall from "the top of the planet."

So enough already, you doubting, obscurantist flat-earthers. Stop doubting science of global warming and get behind the geniuses before more of the horizon melts away and we're all hurtled into space.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


In an odd confluence, the themes of my previous two separate, unrelated posts suddenly come together in this Slate article today in which the aforementioned Christopher Hitchens savages the aforementioned Jimmy Carter.

It starts mercilessly and builds from there:
Almost always, when former President Jimmy Carter opens his big, smug mouth, he has already made the psychological mistake that is going to reduce his words to absurdity. When he told the press last week that the Bush administration had aroused antipathy around the world, he might have been uttering no more than a banality. But no, he had to try to invest it with a special signature flourish.

It's fun to read because Carter is such an inviting target. Unfortunately, however, Hitchens, because of his rabid antipathy toward Christianity, misplaces the locus of Carter's stupidity, rooting it in Carter's professed faith (which, by the way, bears little resemblance to the faith of traditional Christians) rather than where it belongs--in his reflexive leftism . But of course Hitchens himself has long been a man of the Left, albeit an unpredictable (and increasingly dissatisfied) one. Thus, while he recognizes and chafes Carter's characteristic inanity, he necessarily finds it easier to blame on Carter's supposed religiosity than on their many shared presuppositions.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hitched To The Wrong Horse

These have been widely linked in the blogosphere already, but be sure not to miss the fascinating exchange between the atheist Christopher Hitchens and the Christian Douglas Wilson in the online pages of Christianity Today.

Wilson does a magnificent job of exposing Hitchens' utter inability to justify--on his own principles--his manifest moral outrage. While Hitchens is big on bluster, he's dodged the central question for the entire debate. It's a failing shared by all atheists with whom I've ever had contact. I can't help thinking it's not accidental.

The discussion can be found here: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Opening The Peanut Hole

It takes a lot to bring an uninspired, reclusive blogger--who's been on hiatus for nearly a month--out of his self-imposed exile. But Jimmy Carter's just the guy to do it.

As I've pointed out before, despite the saintly image the media desperately tries to pin on him ("the greatest ex-president ever!"), Carter is a venal, bitter opportunist who desperately wants to obscure his true legacy--the disastrous, spirit-crushing presidency he foisted on America from 1977 to 1981. No living president is more relentlessly vain than Jimmy Carter, who coddled every evil Leftist dictator on the planet in an effort to garner his much-lobbied-for Nobel Peace Prize.

As you undoubtedly heard, Carter decided to air the latest in his long string of criticisms of the Bush administration this weekend, breaking a longstanding post-presidential tradition of relative neutrality as he continues his attempt to prop up his own tarnished legacy by attacking subsequent administrations. He told an Arkansas newspaper that, "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history." This, of course, coming from a president who fecklessly stumbled through the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet nuclear buildup, locked us into a disastrous deal with North Korea (as an ex-president, no less), fumbled the economy every which way, and made America a laughing stock in the post-Nixon years.

Today, in the face of stinging (and much-deserved) criticism, Carter tries to weasel out of his remarks, and does so with the craven gutlessness that characterized his entire presidency. He now says about his remarks, "They were maybe careless or misinterpreted."

Beautiful. I don't think a single statement could better sum up Jimmy Carter. "My remarks were possibly a mistake, and they were either a mistake that I made, or a mistake that somebody else made about me. I'm not sure yet. I was either utterly out of line as an incompetent former president, or else maybe all of you just misunderstood me. I don't remember for sure. Let me get back to you."

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Best And The Brightest

As you've probably seen by now, the great journalist and author David Halberstam died the other day, the victim of a car accident in California at the age of 73.

I've been a bit surprised to find that even the tributes by his friends and admirers (not to mention his non-admirers) make him sound like an insufferable schmuck.

My experience with Halberstam was different. In 1994, he was on a tour promoting his book October 1964 about the Yankees/Cardinals World Series. I was working at the all-sports radio station in St. Louis at the time, and wound up being his escort for his visit to the studio to appear on our airwaves. When it was over, as I was walking him out to catch his ride, I mentioned to him that I had really appreciated his book The Best and the Brightest, which we'd been required to read in a college course I'd had on the Vietnam War. I figured this was the kind of he probably heard everyday, but he seemed genuinely astonished.

"Really?" he asked. "What college?" I told him it was tiny Fontbonne College, just down the street from where we were standing.

"What was the teacher's name?" he asked, having now stopped walking and fully focused on me. I told him, and he enthusiastically replied, "That's great!" He pumped me for a few more tidbits. Halberstam is not usually described by anyone as a humble man. But his reaction that day struck me as one of humility. This legendary journalist was thrilled that our little college class of 15 people had read his best-known book.

For the few minutes I was with him, he seemed like a nice, even down-to-earth, man. I certainly didn't agree with most of his politics. But I enjoyed his writing and was saddened to hear of his violent death. I don't know why, but I would have been far less distressed had he simply keeled over of a heart attack. This somehow seems less dignified or fair.

Among others, Al Mohler offers a nice appreciation of David Halberstam today.

Friday, April 20, 2007

How Quickly They Turn

The relentlessly clueless Dahlia Lithwick, who covers the Supreme Court for Slate, has weighed in on the Carhart partial-birth abortion ruling the Court handed down the other day. And she's not happy.

She directs particular venom at Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority that upheld the federal ban on partial-birth abortion:
What hasn't changed is that Anthony Kennedy finds partial-birth abortion really disgusting. We saw that in his dissent in Stenberg. That's what animates and drives his decision. His opinion blossoms from the premise that if all women were as sensitive as he is about the fundamental awfulness of this procedure, they'd all refuse to undergo it. Since they aren't, he'll decide for them.

....It's hard to fathom why Kennedy has so much more sympathy for the women who changed their minds about abortions than for those who did not. His concern for Inconstant Females might be patronizing in any other jurist. Coming from him, it's brilliantly ironic. Kennedy is, after all, America's Hamlet. The man who famously worried that "sometimes you don't know if you're Caesar about to cross the Rubicon or Captain Queeg cutting your own tow line," will long be remembered as the living incarnation of agony and indecision, and today he seamlessly rewrites his Stenberg dissent as a majority opinion that blasts his earlier Casey vote to its core.

I'm no psychologist but in light of today's Gonzales opinion one has to wonder: Is all of Kennedy's tender concern over those flip-flopping women really just some kind of weird misplaced justification for his flip-flopping self?
What's wonderfully amusing about this, though, is that it was only eight months ago when we caught the dunderheaded Dahlia planting the literary equivalent of a full-mouthed kiss on Justice Kennedy right there in the very e-pages of Slate. Back then, she cooed:
He describes the American conception of law as a "liberating force, a covenant, a promise." And in spite of the lofty intellectualism and the big words, this speech captures my imagination and that of the assembled crowd for its two quintessential Kennedy traits. The first is the vast sprawl of his imaginative world. He travels the planet and reads widely and he attends lectures on water purification. Then he applies all that knowledge to his conception of the law. And whether you like that expansive scope, listening to him is still a tonic to the smallness and smug certainty that has characterized our political leadership in this country for the past six years. It offers a welcome break from the hermetically sealed constitutional worldview of some of his detractors. Kennedy is a legendary agonizer. But his comments here reveal the extent to which that agony is not an end in itself. His sense of justice and equality is a work in progress, informed by what he learns from people all over the planet who know more than he does. There's something reassuring in his sense that the world is a fluid place.
What a difference a few months make, huh? Only last year, Lithwick was writing paeans to Kennedy's muddle-headed indecisiveness, and now she blasts him for being a flip-flopper who is the incarnation of agony and indecision. It turns out she didn't like fluidity quite as much as she thought she did.

There's only way liberals can shift that quickly from love to hate: you have to threaten their abortions. Whatever else they like, they love baby-killin', and they identify their friends by the same trait. If you turn on them even a little bit at that point, they're done with you. They love mushy thinking until your mushy thinking accidentally threatens their consequence-free sexual escapades. Then it's war.

Sorry, Justice Kennedy. Maybe if you write an opinion soon praising transvestite adoption or child prostitution, you can win Dahlia Lithwick (herself quite the flip-flopper) back to your team.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Scratched Off The List

We had another one drop off our "Can't Believe They're Still Alive" list this week.

Kitty Carlisle-Hart was 97 years old, which makes sense, considering she seemed like an old lady even years ago when I used to see her on "To Tell the Truth." Yet she was evidently quite active. It was a couple of years ago when I put her on the list, but only last September when I was in St. Louis, they were actually preparing for her arrival in some one-woman stage show she was doing. This is a woman who co-starred in "A Night at the Opera" with the Marx Brothers in 1935.

It's been a busy time. In the last 14 months, we've seen Glenn Ford, Buck O'Neill, Jack Warden, and now Kitty Carlisle drop off the list. Carlisle was the oldest, I believe. That honor now belongs to Karl Malden. Here are the remaining "I Can't Believe They're Still Alive" contestants:

  • Joey Bishop
  • Doris Day
  • Harry Morgan
  • James Arness
  • Conrad Bain
  • Jack LaLanne
  • Ingmar Bergman
  • John Forsythe
  • Rose Marie
  • Al Molinaro
  • Barbara Billingsley
  • Karl Malden
  • Jane Wyman
  • Larry Storch

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Moral Order In The Court?

Because the Virginia Tech shooting is understandably overshadowing everything else right now, it would be easy to miss the fact that the United States Supreme Court today upheld the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, after years of various federal courts (no less than six of them) attempting to thwart the overwhelming (and repeatedly expressed) will of the American people.

It's a relatively small victory, but a very important one. Though the majority opinion (written by "moderate" Justice Anthony Kennedy) still seems to affirm the basic "right" to an abortion invented by Roe v. Wade and reasserted by Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court for the first time in the abortion era takes seriously Casey's fig leaf claim that "the State has legitimate interests from the outset of the pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the fetus that may become a child."

Yes, the decision gives too much deference to Casey and Roe, and no, it doesn't go far enough--probably because this was the only opinion the slim majority could've gotten Kennedy to sign off on (and indeed Kennedy was assigned to write the opinion, which has long been a strategy of Chief Justices in getting their weakest vote on board). But sometimes a strong wall has to come down brick by brick, and a pretty serious brick was removed today. For the first time in memory, the Court took back the right of the State to protect some unborn lives.

Even if we could merely get Anthony Kennedy's opinion to be read aloud in every public school with its cool, clinical and precise (and absolutely stomach-churning) discussion of abortion procedures, a major victory would've been won. For instance, as Kennedy (again, one of the swing votes on the court and by no means a conservative (and who voted for Planned Parenthood in Casey) describes it, the still perfectly legal "D&C" method goes something like this:
The woman is placed under general anesthesia or conscious sedation. The doctor, often guided by ultrasound, inserts grasping forceps through the woman's cervix and into the uterus to grab the fetus. The doctor grips a fetal part with the forceps and pulls it back through the cervix and vagina, continuing to pull even after meeting resistance from the cervix. The friction causes the fetus to tear apart. For example, a leg might be ripped off the fetus as it is pulled through the cervix and out of the woman. The process of evacuating the fetus piece by piece continues until it has been completely removed. A doctor may make 10 to 15 passes with the forceps to evacuate the fetus in its entirety, though sometimes removal is completed with fewer passes. Once the fetus has been evacuated, the placenta and any remaining fetal material are suctioned or scraped out of the uterus. The doctor examines the different parts to ensure the entire fetal body has been removed.
Let's hear the Democratic presidential nominess read that aloud and then say, "Yup, I'm for it."

All the right people are furious, which is a great sign that something good has happened here.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

The Quislings Awaken

A new, hilarious sidelight to the never-ending Imus story is the frantic backpedaling by the scores of journalists and politicians who regularly used to appear on his show.

It's possible that these people have been so beaten with the P.C. stick that they really do believe that they've unwittingly participated in some horrific atrocity from which they are only now awakening. A more likely explanation is that they considered the "edgy humor" (I use both terms advisedly) of the program to be no big deal until the sudden tsunami last week made it necessary to pretend that they've hated Imus's show all along and were somehow forced onto it at gunpoint.

From what I understand, Imus was in the habit of calling people weasels. He'd certainly know one when he saw it, because they were on his show regularly. Listen to these little worms being quoted in a Newsweek cover story this week:
Imus had a talent for coaxing his guests into saying what they really thought, often in salty language they'd never use on more "respectable" shows. "I wanted to be where the action was on my beat," says NEWSWEEK's Howard Fineman, an Imus regular. "The show, however unsavory it could be, was one of those places. I thought, or perhaps only imagined, that being on the show gave me more clout on the beat." NEWSWEEK's Evan Thomas, another regular guest on the show, sometimes wondered if Imus went too far. "But I rationalized my appearances by pointing to other prominent journalists and politicians who did it, too," he says. "I was eager to sell books, and I liked being in the in crowd."
Fortunately the deprogramming has begun, freeing these heroic journalists from the cult they'd been kidnapped by. Teevee journalists are also joining in the self-flagellation:
"He occasionally accused me of being drunk or being queer," says NBC chief White House correspondent David Gregory, a frequent guest on the show. "Imus was living in two worlds. There was the risqué, sexually offensive, sometimes racially offensive, satire, and then there was this political salon about politics and books. Some of us tuned in to one part and tuned out the other ... Whether I was numb to the humor that offended people or in denial, I don't know."
Last year, I remember reading one prominent social thinker (I wish I could remember who it was now) who pointed out that almost all public scandals are actually caused by a suddenly-shifting standard of behavior rather than the behavior itself. That's certainly the case here; Imus has been doing the same thing for years, but suddenly it became arbitrarily unacceptable. Nonetheless, it's funny to see the cockroaches that used to slavishly appear on his program now scurrying under the P.C. floorboards, as if he were a great guy a year ago but suddenly evil now.

Incidentally, Jason Whitlock (an African-American columnist with the Kansas City Star) pinpoints Imus's biggest mistake, making the point that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are political terrorists--and you don't negotiate with terrorists. This video of Whitlock on MSNBC is the sanest thing I've seen on this whole issue.

(HT: Cindy at Dominion Family)

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Why Ann Coulter Is Necessary

Imus, not surprisingly, has finally gotten the axe. It seems that all the bowing and scraping did him no good in the end, except to provoke his attackers like a wounded zebra provokes the lions.

I touched on a point yesterday that I want to amplify on today, because Imus' firing shows how important it is. First, let me reiterate something: I couldn't care less about Imus himself. As I alluded to yesterday, I think he's an unfunny, no-talent, egomaniacal hack whose main contribution to the history of radio broadcasting is a lousy western wardrobe, truly awful hair, and gum-chewing on the air. (And the last thing a marble-mouth like Imus needed was to jam something else into his mouth to make him unintelligible.) It means nothing to me whether he ever works again, because he's a crummy broadcaster.

But Imus didn't get fired because he's a bad broadcaster. Nor did he get fired because he said something far beyond the normal bounds of his show. He got fired because a lot of people in this country are frightened of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and are willing to pay them protection money. And Sharpton and company decided it was time to nail somebody. But Sharpton and Jackson are not the only ones in on the racket. Wherever the forces of political correctness are at work to punish heretics, the same same tactics are on display, allowing hucksters like Sharpton, Jackson, Abe Foxman, the ACLU, GLAAD, and a million other interest groups to cash in and build the fear factor.

Which is why we need Ann Coulter and a thousand more like her. As you may recall, Coulter ended up in the middle of a scrum last month by using the word "faggot" in relationship to John Edwards. Needless to say, she was pilloried by the Left as an intolerant bigot. But when conservatives also turned around and dogpiled on Coulter in an effort to show how golly-gee sincere and open-minded and tolerant they really are, they may have padded their benevolence cred with liberals (and a lot of good that will do them), but they did so at the expense of the far larger, more important battle. Unfortunately, by making the issue only the (admittedly offensive) content of what Coulter said and agreeing that nobody must ever utter (gasp) that word, they short-sightedly agreed to play the game on the liberal field using the liberal ball and liberal rulebook, while hoping to merely scratch together a few runs of their own. Sadly, that's a huge mistake, and they miss the bigger picture.

Listen, here's the deal. Hate crimes laws are coming in this country. They are coming. Another bill is already being seriously considered in Congress. Our country might be months away from making certain viewpoints illegal. And make no mistake, it will be mainstream conservative and Christian viewpoints that will be outlawed when it happens. Think I'm exaggerating? In Canada, which already has such laws, people are being prosecuted for merely criticizing homosexuality. Every time a conservative jumps on the political correctness bandwagon in setting fire to the effigy du jour (even if the effigy was dead wrong, like Imus), they bring this agenda one step closer to reality.

There's only one way I see out of this, and so far Coulter's about the only one who seems to get it. In order to preserve true freedom for normal people to have even civil conversations about controversial matters, the boundary lines are going to have to be moved back out to somewhere approaching sanity. Those who jump out front in pushing the markers back will take a lot of hits, and will say a lot of offensive things in the process. Some of them will say repugnant things. Even hateful things. Things we don't agree with. Things we don't like. Many will have to go well beyond what is proper in order for that which is proper (though controversial) and mainstream to have a comfortable place on the playing field again.

There was a time when people actually understood that things like the First Amendment protected the right to be offensive, and in order to get back to that ideal, a lot of people are going to have to be offended again and just learn to deal with it. People who care about freedom and have public platforms--lots of them--are going to have to start jamming some sharp sticks into these politically correct beehives and poking them around. The anger-mongers and thought police need to be stripped of their power. What is needed is for "politically incorrect" people to start, in large numbers, saying politically incorrect things and then asking, "So what are you gonna do about it?" One by one, the shock troops of tolerance (to borrow my friend Jerry Newcombe's phrase) can nibble away all dissension. But if they're made to face a gale of political incorrectness, they will prove utterly ineffective and lose their power.

When Coulter got hammered for making her statements, she hammered back. It's the only way to disarm these people. It's the only way to restore some semblance of free speech to this country. Did I like what she said about John Edwards? No. Would I have said it? No. I didn't think it was one of her greater moments. But so far only Ann seems to get what this battle is all about, why it's important--nay, imperative, and how to face it. She survived her controversy with her career completely intact--as opposed to Imus who pleaded and apologized and now is as done as a burnt steak. She knows what she's doing, and she knows what she's dealing with.

I know this idea is impractical, but it encapsulates the gist of what I'm getting at: I think every talk show host in the country ought to band together and each week agree on one horrific, politically incorrect thing they're all going to say on their shows. They can't all be fined, boycotted or fired. Every week, they need to trot out another fire-starter in unison and just let everybody be offended. After it's been going on long enough, we'll see that the republic has survived even after the horrible viewpoint was voiced. And we'll see that the republic has survived without the Perennially Indignant class being able to enforce their orthodoxy at sword point.

Don't kid yourselves. This is an organized effort to take control of what you think. We don't need less Ann Coulters. We need thousands more of them. For the sake of freedom, political correctness must be destroyed--from every side, liberal and conservative. And that's only going to come through a tsunami of political incorrectness that the grievance-peddlers are utterly unequipped to deal with.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Imus Confused As You Are

I've never gotten Don Imus.

I'm a radio guy, and I've spent a good portion of my life studying broadcasters. Even back when I was a bleeding-heart liberal, I admired Rush Limbaugh's ability to command a microphone. I developed an appreciation Art Bell's talent for creating a late-night atmosphere, even though I think he's a kook. Even the execrable Howard Stern, as un-entertaining as I find him, has real broadcasting talent (underused though it may be).

But I've tried for years to figure out Don Imus' success, to no avail. He's a mushmouth. He says almost nothing; his cast of characters do most of the speaking while "the I-Man" merely grunts and mutters. He un-ironcally uses a "quack-quack" duck sound effect that sounds like something out of 1950's radio. I've never understood how this guy has been able to put together a nearly 40-year radio career at the pinnacle of the business.

That said, this latest controversy is utterly mystifying to me, to say the least. In case you've somehow missed it (although even Ted Kaczynski, were he free, would know about it by now), Imus is teetering on the edge of career ruin for comments he made about the Rutgers women basketball team. Today, a member of CBS's board of directors even said, "His remarks are so significant that I believe that the right outcome is for him to be terminated."

Wow. When I first heard the furor (in which his comments were described as "explosive," "racially charged," and "hateful"), I wondered what Imus must've said that had everyone so revved up. Did he make some kind of joke about slavery? Did he advocate lynching? Whatever it was, it had to be awful, judging by the fact that it was endlessly and heatedly being talked about on every program from Sean Hannity to ESPN Radio. And then I found out: he referred to the team as "nappy headed hos" during an on-air conversation.

This is the entirety of the earth-shattering exchange:
IMUS: That's some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos ...

BERNARD MCGURK (Producer): Some hardcore hos.

IMUS: That's some nappy headed hos there, I'm going to tell you that.
Was it stupid or insensitive? I dunno. Kind of, I guess (though no more than anything else the guy's said in the last 40 years). If anything, it sounded lame to me, like making jokes about rich people named Biff and Buffy at the country club or something. I mean, forget hateful; how tired and uncreative is this exchange? (Incidentally, to be fair, we ought to ask where Imus got this phrase to begin with, since it's not as if he coined it himself. If we were to investigate that question, I think we would find that he actually picked up the phrase from the black community itself. This is not exactly lingo that was popularized by Bull Connor or the Klan. Who's to blame if there's confusion about what can and cannot be repeated?)

But what I (and probably Imus himself) find confusing is that what Imus said probably wasn't even the tenth most offensive thing said that hour on morning radio in this country. The outrage seems purely arbitrary and manufactured, and I suspect it is. Whenever the time clock hits a certain point, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have to generate some anger in order to maintain their position as co-emperors of black America.

Not surprisingly, after a week of gasoline being poured on the fire, the Rutgers basketball team finally became persuaded that, yes, they have been mortally wounded and scarred by the comments and may never fully recover. (Said Rutgers' coach: "We have all been physically, mentally and emotionally spent--so hurt by the remarks that were uttered by Mr. Imus." All of this anguish over an addled old DJ uttering the phrase "nappy-headed hos.") How predictable was that? How shocking would it have been if one of these ladies had instead spoken up at the press conference and said, "Well, as a woman I wasn't too thrilled about it because nobody likes to be made to sound unattractive. But other than that, it just sounded like a guy spouting off because he didn't have anything better to say on some stupid radio show, and I just don't see it as that big a deal." And how empowering would it have been for whoever said it?

But instead, of course, everyone immediately went into deeply aggrieved mode, handing grizzled old Don Imus the power to ruin their lives with an offhand comment. Imus foolishly decided to subject himself to the death-by-ten-thousand-cuts of endless apologies, sit-downs, confrontations, sensitivity orientations, and excuses. I'll bet that the guy has no idea what hit him. He's thinking, "I've been saying this same stupid stuff for years--what happened all of a sudden?"

What he doesn't understand (but Ann Coulter does, despite her pantywaist critics even on the conservative side) is that apologies and explanations don't satisfy the perennially aggrieved because political correctness is about power. It's an attempt to dominate through the use of force. When someone like Imus or Michael Richards submits to the process, it's like blood in the shark tank. Ironically, the more Imus apologizes, the more wildly out of perspective the denunciations get. Far from satisfying the rage, it actually stirs it further. Indeed, the remarks actually were made early last week on Imus' program; only since his first abject apology on Friday did the story go nuclear. On the other hand, when someone like Coulter doesn't submit to this process and instead brushes it off with a dismissive wave, the aggrieved eventually get tired and move on to try to exert their power on a weaker target.

Is Imus an unfunny fossil? There's no doubt about it. Will this end his career? Who cares? Is he a racist? Maybe he is, maybe he isn't (though it would be pure idiocy to believe one could make such a judgement based on an incidental use of the well-worn rap phrase "nappy-headed hos"). But anyone who thinks this is the most degrading thing to happen to the African-American community even this week has never watched ten minutes of rap videos on BET. Anyone who thinks this is the most shocking thing said on talk radio this week has never listened to ten minutes of talk radio. And anyone who thinks this is about anything more than Sharpton and Jackson consolodating more power is ten chips short of a nacho platter.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Cross Purposes

For whatever it's worth, you can kick off your Easter weekend with an hourlong documentary I co-wrote and co-produced examining the cross of Christ called Cross Purposes, which airs on Good Friday at 7pm Eastern (4pm Pacific) on the TBN network.

Among the guests are Dr. Paul Maier, Michael Youssef, Anthony Carter, Gwenfair Walters Adams, and Sam Lamerson.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

One Shining Moment

Wow, the Tennessee Lady Vols, led by legendary coach Pat Summitt, captured their seventh national championship in basketball last night.

Let me put this amazing accomplishment in some historical perspective. They've been playing the Women's Final Four since 1982. That makes this the 26th straight season that I couldn't care less.

If I wanted to watch slow, masculine women missing point after point, I'd turn on "The View."

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Bloody Sock Blog

The new Major League Baseball season is now underway. (Your defending champions? Why, the St. Louis Cardinals, of course, who will receive their World Series bling before the game this evening.)

This year brings a true gift for any baseball fan: Boston Red Sox starter (and possible future Hall of Famer) Curt Schilling now has his own blog. And it's a real blog, not one of these fake-o celebrity deals where the guy posts something once a week (through a ghostwriter) and there are no comments. Schilling posts almost compulsively, and interacts in the comments with the fans. Oh, and he's actually honest in the thing too. Check out yesterday's entry, after he got shelled in his first start:
Not sure where to even start. Two words sum it up best, no command. Can’t remember a game where I couldn’t make adjustments but today was certainly one of those. Not so much the secondary pitches but no fastball command is not something that happens much, if at all, over an entire game (even if the ‘game’ for me only lasts 4 innings).

...Not the start I was hoping for. Walking off the mound I knew my FB command was crap, and that I’d need to get it right fast.
It's already the best "insider" blog ever, and it could truly revolutionize the way that sports journalism is done (if it's even done for much longer) in this country. Once the players can go directly to the fans, there's little need for fat, drunken sportswriters to act as go-betweens anymore.