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Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Strumming While New Orleans Floods

Okay, George. I'm not taking a shot here, but do you think on a day when one major American city is underwater, and a few more are on life support, you could put down the guitar and get to work?

This is your President. Yesterday.

Yeah, yeah, he did some stuff today, although he pointedly didn't suggest conservation of gasoline (given the, you know, whole loss of 11% of our country's gasoline production). That might eat into profits, you know.

This could explain why his support is at an all-time low. Heck, Pat Buchanan (NSWP-Dresden) is even calling for Bush's impeachment.

I'm not going to go after the President for decisions made before this disaster--hindsight's always 20/20, and while it is unfortunate that the Bush administration chose 2004 to cut funding to New Orleans' levee system, I suspect even GDub would have chosen to spend money on Louisiana if he had that one back.

But Bush deserves criticism for the way he's handled things thus far in the aftermath of Katrina. Maybe, as Ezra suggests, he just doesn't care anymore. Whatever the reason, Bush is doing as badly in the aftermath of Katrina as he did well in the aftermath of 9/11. If it was at all possible, George W. Bush has managed to reduce his standing.

One thousand, nine hundred and forty-one years ago, as the city of Rome was aflame, it is said that Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus played the lute as Rome burned. Perhaps that is unfair to Nero; others said he housed the sick and fed the hungry, only losing the public when he sought to rebuild the city as a testament to himself.

As for George W. Bush, given the chance to leave his vacation, to adopt a serious countenance, to do his job as the President of the United States--George decided to emulate the caricature of Nero. He strummed his guitar while New Orleans flooded and while Gulfport was leveled. He slept in Crawford while tens of thousands passed another sleepless night in the Superdome. Every time I think George W. Bush has sunk to another epic low, he finds a way to sink lower.

83,333 Dead?

That would be the number based on an LSU Projection. Even if off by an order of magnitude, that would make this the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. History.

It's hard to compare this to 9/11, though one can't dismiss this as casually as Sullivan can. This is not to minimize 9/11--that was a horriffic event that still haunts this country in ways that we are barely aware of. Katrina, for all her wrath, was an instrument of nature, or God, not an evil act of man. There is nobody to decry for her fury.

But in many ways, Katrina's effects will be more widely felt than those of 9/11. The attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and the aborted secondary attack on Washington claimed about 3,000 people--a terrible number, to be sure. But in the end, what was destroyed was a few buildings in New York City, part of the Pentagon, and four planes. And of course, a few thousand lives, each one precious.

Katrina has mortally wounded one city (New Orleans) and grievously maimed three others; the death toll may be greater than 9/11. Katrina may be worse than 9/11 because she may have done more damage than Mohammed Atta and his gang of evil.

I pray that the 83,333 is off by about 83,000 or so. But I fear it may be closer to the truth than the few hundred confirmed so far. Every death caused by Katrina is a death too many. We will find out the terrible truth soon enough.

He's Not Looting! He's White!

The difference between looting and finding is apparently related closely to one's level of melanin. Jesus Tapdancing Christ, haven't we gotten beyond this crap yet?


The water has stopped rising in New Orleans. Not because of anything that man did, but because the water in the city is now at the same level as the water in Lake Pontchartrain. Things have gotten as bad as they can get; now, slowly, things may start to turn around.

That is not to say that New Orleans (or Gulfport, or Biloxi, or Mobile) is out of the woods yet. There are hundreds of thousands--perhaps millions--who are homeless. There are most likely thousands killed, though there remains no firm count. There's been no time.

In New Orleans, the breakdown in civil order continues, as events support Hobbes' theory of life in the wilderness. It is unsurprising that some have chosen to steal with wild abandon--while others have chosen to steal for survival. Theivery by some is no reason to impugn an entire city. (Bill O'Reilly tonight tried to claim that some people deliberately remained in New Orleans to loot and pillage. Bill O'Reilly, as usual, should be ashamed of himself.) Indeed, those loudly trumpeting the breakdown in social order in New Orleans were unfazed in 2003 when a similar breakdown--then, in Baghdad--resulted in similar looting.

No, those liberating plasma TVs can do so; they have no homes to place them, no power to use them, no signal to receive. As what remains of authority in New Orleans prepares to completely abandon the city, the looters will find themselves with nowhere to take their loot. They will have wasted their time, along with everyone else's.

The threat of disease remains for those who stay in New Orleans, which is why it is imperative to get people out. Those refugees now taking shelter in the Superdome will soon move west to Houston, where they will live in the Astrodome. Other shelters, tent cities, mobile parks, even cruise ships will pop up for those displaced. It is hard tonight to see the way forward. Imagine the metropolitan area you live in with the central cities wiped out completely, dangerous even to approach. Imagine it with every business in the central cities gone--in Minneapolis, no Wells Fargo, no US Bank, no American Express; in St. Paul, no Lawson, no Wells Fargo, no Qwest. If you live in the suburbs, your job is gone, at least. If you live in the city, your job and your house is gone. Indefinitely.

Now multiply that by almost everyone in your entire metropolitan area.

What will become of New Orleans? It will be months before the city is dry again, years--perhaps decades--before it can be returned to its former glory. If, in fact, it is--as I note below, already people are questioning the wisdom of rearming the gun that went off on Tuesday.

Doubtless many of those who are homeless now will move away--to Texas, to Georgia, to Arkansas, or Minneapolis or Seattle or wherever they have relatives and a chance to start anew. And few can blame them.

Tonight, the future is cloudy. There is no time for long-term planning. All one can do is get the people out, get the repair crews in, and--like the water in Lake Pontchartrain and New Orleans--attempt to regain equilibrium.

Nouveau New Orleans

Xan makes a pretty good argument:

Time to admit that the end has come. By most accounts the damage is now in the $25 billion range, and I suspect that is a serious underestimate that doesn't take into account the degree of contamination from pollution, the level of damage already in place from the Formosa termite and other wood-eating pests, and the astronomical levels of mold and mildew that would follow even if they could actually pump out all the water already accumulated there. Which I suspect they cant. Damn gravity anyway.

The question that will have to be asked is whether it makes sense to rebuild New Orleans where it is, or whether it is better to relocate it somehow--and I emphasize "somehow," because like all cities, New Orleans is ringed by suburbs and defined by a historic district that do not easily translate somewhere else.

But nevertheless, the question has to be asked. Because if we blithely rebuild New Orleans without contemplating the lessons of the past three days, we simply set up another million people for disaster sometime between now and 2050.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005
The Worst-Case Scenario

Mitch Berg poked fun at me yesterday for being overly apocalyptic in my coverage of Hurricane Katrina. And really, who could blame him? Yesterday it looked like while Katrina might have done some damage, it certainly hadn't done the kind of destruction some had feared.

Unfortunately, the destruction was coming. Two levees in New Orleans were breached. The great fear--that Lake Pontchartrain would spill into the city--is coming true as we speak. Even now, the water is rising in New Orleans--and there is no firm plan for plugging the leak. The city is filling up more slowly than it might have had the levee system failed utterly--but it is filling up inexorably. Over 80% of the Big Easy is now under water. Those who took refuge in the Superdome are realizing that they are now in an island in the middle of a flooded city--and that they may not have anywhere to go for several days. Meanwhile, as always happens in these situations, a small minority of people have chosen to loot and rob. Indeed, in some cases, the robbery has been abetted by police who recognize, sadly, that some of the looters are looting food--not for fun or gain, but survival. Gov. Kathleen Blanco is considering simply pulling the few thousand left in the city out--emptying out the city entirely. It may be easier than trying to stabilize the situation.

Meanwhile, Katrina's eastward jog--initially thought to have spared New Orleans--simply spread the devastation through Mississippi and Alabama. Over eighty are feared dead in one county in Mississippi alone. Gulfport and Biloxi have not been wiped away like their neighbor to the west, but they have been dealt greivous blows that have killed hundreds and done billions of dollars of damage.

Kevin Drum is absolutely right--now is not the time for partisan sniping. Now is the time for hopeful prayer (or if you don't believe in prayer, hopeful thoughts. No good thought is wasted.) There are a number of organizations you can donate to. You probably should--and I should too.

The future of New Orleans is, sadly, unclear at this time. It will be weeks to clean up the water, months or years to fix the damage it has caused--and in the meantime, we will have to figure out how to prevent a disaster of this magnitude in the future. For now, though, fingerpointing is simply wasted energy--there are the dead to bury, and the living to save. Let's take care of business.

Monday, August 29, 2005
Katrina Update III

The Times-Picayune breaking news site has a tremendous amount of good information. Among updates:
  • The Superdome roof has been breached, but not badly; it's made the inside unpleasant, but not uninhabitable.
  • There is 6 to 8 feet of standing water in Orleans Parish.
  • Katrina turned at the last second, avoiding a direct strike on New Orleans, but there is still danger of flooding.
  • At least one levee has been topped, but thankfully none breached as of yet.
It's not too early to tell whether New Orleans has dodged a bullet or not. Truthfully, it's a question of whether the shot was to the heart or just a flesh wound. Keep your fingers crossed.

Good Night

Okay, rather than leave contemplating the destruction of one of America's great cities (time enough for that too soon), I'll leave with something funny: Maurice Clarett, who quit college after his Freshman year, sued the NFL, and somehow ended up drafted in the third round by the Denver Broncos, will be cut on Monday before ever playing a down. I suppose it's possible Clarett will end up on someone's practice squad, but it's always nice to see someone get what they deserved.

Katrina Update II

An interesting page of data on what's going on in New Orleans. Answer: nothing good.

UPDATE: And this page shows the water level in Lake Pontchartrain. Note that in the last twenty-four hours, it's increased by two feet.

UPDATE II: It's time for me to go to sleep; obviously more to come tomorrow. Last but not least, here's a look at Katrina from the GOES site:

Good night, and good luck.

Katrina Update

There will be but one story today, tomorrow, and possibly over the next year. Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground says that the damage will be catastrophic, stating bluntly, "New Orleans will likely flood, causing immense destruction and heavy loss of life." He puts the odds of levee failure at 70%

Paul at Wizbang notes that those who have evacuated to the Superdome will have problems of their own. Also, he notes that it's entirely possible that it could take ten months to drain out New Orleans--and that the best case scenario for draining it is ten weeks.

The Phog Blog notes bluntly, "In short, tomorrow could be one of the deadliest days in American History."

Thankfully, people appear to have heeded the warnings and, for the most part, have gotten out of town. Barring a miraculous last-second turn, though, there will be near-apocolyptic damage throughout the Big Easy. The question is not whether New Orleans can escape devastation. The question is what the extent will be. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama tonight. Stay safe.

UPDATE: Oh, just in case you wanted more to worry about, the Gulf Coast produces 25% of our country's domestic oil supply. So if you were wondering what $70 a barrel oil would look like, it doesn't look like you'll have to wonder for very long....

UPDATE II: CNN is reporting that three nursing home residents in New Orleans died during the evacuation--the first residents of New Orleans to perish, and God willing, the last.

UPDATE III: This is not the forecast you want for Monday:

Hurricane Terri


Happy Birthday, Dad

Wishing my father, Bob Fecke, a happy 56th birthday. Have a good one!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

"Human judges can show mercy. But against the laws of nature, there is no appeal."

--Arthur C. Clarke

Let's hope everybody gets out, because this looks to be pretty awful.

UPDATE: This Chris Mooney article from the May Prospect is eerily prescient:
In the event of a slow-moving Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane (with winds up to or exceeding 155 miles per hour), it's possible that only those crow's nests would remain above the water level. Such a storm, plowing over the lake, could generate a 20-foot surge that would easily overwhelm the levees of New Orleans, which only protect against a hybrid Category 2 or Category 3 storm (with winds up to about 110 miles per hour and a storm surge up to 12 feet). Soon the geographical "bowl" of the Crescent City would fill up with the waters of the lake, leaving those unable to evacuate with little option but to cluster on rooftops -- terrain they would have to share with hungry rats, fire ants, nutria, snakes, and perhaps alligators. The water itself would become a festering stew of sewage, gasoline, refinery chemicals, and debris.


A direct hit from a powerful hurricane on New Orleans could furnish perhaps the largest natural catastrophe ever experienced on U.S. soil. Some estimates suggest that well over 25,000 non-evacuees could die. Many more would be stranded, and successful evacuees would have nowhere to return to. Damages could run as high as $100 billion. In the wake of such a tragedy, some may even question the wisdom of trying to rebuild the city at all. And to hear hurricane experts like Louisiana State University's Ivor van Heerden tell it, it's only a matter of time before the "big one" hits.


Shockingly, even in the wake of the Asian tsunami catastrophe, there has been little widespread discussion of scenarios in which the United States could find part of its home territory devastated by the sea. Chatter in New Orleans itself has largely focused on improving evacuation plans and reducing gridlock as a storm approaches. These are necessary conversations to have, certainly, but bigger-picture perspectives have rarely surfaced in broader public discussions. That has to change -- and fast. Whatever other natural catastrophes we may be willing to tolerate, the possibility of losing an entire city, and especially the legendary (if also infamous) New Orleans, ought to be out of the question.

Unfortunately, it appears time has run out--Katrina is currently a Cat 5 Hurricane. Traveling twelve miles per hour. Let's hope Mooney's analysis was overly pessimistic.

Saturday, August 27, 2005
The $200 Million Pseudonym

Poor Gov. Timmy. He ran in 2002 pledging not to raise taxes, ever, no matter what. When reality reared its ugly head in 2005, he knew he'd have to do something, but he also didn't want to violate the letter of his promise to la Costa Taxpayers.

His plan was a bizarre sort of genius--raise cigarette taxes by 75 cents, but call the hike a "health impact fee," saying that it was a way to recoup the health damage wrought by cigarettes. That the $200 million a year raised was going to pay for those things damaged by cigarettes like roads and schools was beside the point.

Of course, everyone had fun with the "fee," but given a choice between cutting government even more or accepting an unusual choice of language, the DFL decided to go along. What harm could come of it?

Well, unfortunately, $401 million dollars worth of harm.

Those whose memories stretch back to the mid-nineties may remember the tobacco trial that launched Mike Ciresi's political career and briefly made Skip Humphrey appear invincible. (Of course, the rampant nanny statism of the trial turned off moderates like me from Humphrey, leading directly to his defeat at the hands of Jesse Ventura, but I digress.) At any rate, the trial was a success for the state, bringing in a windfall settlement. That settlement released manufacturers from any further liability for health care costs to the state.

Do you see where this is going?

That's right. By insisting that this is a fee, not a tax, and that it's designed to recoup costs for health care, Pawlenty may have breached the '98 settlement--and that's just what Phillip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Lorillard, and a number of distributors are arguing in a lawsuit designed to quash the 75 cent "fee."

A tax, of course, would have engendered no lawsuit; the state can tax whatever it wants to.

Now, there's a chance that the state will prevail; the Attorney General is prepared to argue that the fee really is a tax, which, in fact, it is. But even so, we're now faced with the cost of a lawsuit that could've been prevented simply by Tim Pawlenty standing up to David Strom and having the intestinal fortitude to call a tax a tax. The governor's craven cowardice led directly to this lawsuit; it's a massive failure of leadership, and should the case ultimately be decided in the favor of the tobacco industry, it will present a $401 million problem for Pawlenty in 2006.

Plan B

The Bush administration has pushed back the adoption of Plan B for sixty days.

Okay, that's somewhat unsurprising, all things considered. But the rationale given for the delay beggars belief:

[The FDA] said it still hadn't determined how to ensure that only adults, and not young teenagers, used it without a doctor's guidance.

The FDA did say scientific evidence backed the safe nonprescription use of the pill, sold under the brand Plan B, by women 17 or older. But it called for 60 days of public comment on whether and how drug stores could enforce an age limit.

Golly gee, how could a drug store possibly keep from selling Plan B to minors? I mean, it's not like they have to ID for cigarettes or pseudoephedrine or alcohol or lighters or....

Oh, wait, yeah, they do, don't they? There are all sorts of things that those under 18 can't buy. Miraculously, a system called "carding" manages to sort this stuff out.

Now, personally, I think it's probably okay to let a 16-year-old who's been date-raped get Plan B without a prescription, but allowing 18-year-olds to buy it is at least a good first step. Arguing that pharmacies would have some sort of difficulty restricting sales of Plan B to adults is just rampant ideology topped with disingenuousness with a side order of condescension. The Bush administration opposes Plan B because someone told them that it might lead to abortion, even though using the logic of that argument, the pill does too. I'd almost have a little respect if they just said that. Arguing that pharmacies are too dumb to card, though, is just a foolish delaying tactic. Block it or don't, politicize the FDA or don't, but don't insult my intelligence.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Jesse takes apart Nooners, and it's so deserved. After all, how can you not mock a screed that begins:

Among the things we may face over the next decade, as we all know, is another terrorist attack on American soil. But let's imagine the next one has many targets, is brilliantly planned and coordinated. Imagine that there are already 100 serious terror cells in the U.S., two per state. The members of each cell have been coming over, many but not all crossing our borders, for five years. They're working jobs, living lives, quietly planning.
Imagine they're planning that on the same day in the not-so-distant future, they will set off nuclear suitcase bombs in six American cities, including Washington, which will take the heaviest hit. Hundreds of thousands may die; millions will be endangered. Lines will go down, and to make it worse the terrorists will at the same time execute the cyberattack of all cyberattacks, causing massive communications failure and confusion. There will be no electricity; switching and generating stations will also have been targeted. There will be no word from Washington; the extent of the national damage will be as unknown as the extent of local damage is clear. Daily living will become very difficult, and for months--food shortages, fuel shortages.

Let's make it worse. On top of all that, on the day of the suitcase nukings, a half dozen designated cells will rise up and assassinate national, state and local leaders. There will be chaos, disorder, widespread want; law-enforcement personnel, or what remains of them, will be overwhelmed and outmatched.

But then it gets worse. Gamera and Godzilla begin to battle in Green Bay, while the aliens land and sieze the Pacific Northwest. Then, imagine what would happen if the reanimated corpse of Lenin began feasting on the brains of the survivors!

I mean, hey, it could happen!

Worst. Comic. Ever.

Evidently, the right can do humor after all. How else to explain a comic which seeks to ask the question, "Can Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North, save America from an Orwellian nightmare of ultra-leftist oppression?"

I mean, that's gotta be a joke. Right?


I'm a'scared....


Fox News broadcasts the name and address of a purported terrorist. Too bad he moved out three years ago. But at least La Habra, Calif. is safe now that everyone has their eyes on a family of five who likes to barbecue.

Oh, and Fox has not yet broadcast a retraction. All class.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Thanks, Deepak!

Deepak Chopra proves that it's not just righties who can be crushingly stupid.

Shorter Mitch Berg

Pat Robertson, you shouldn't have said that Hugo Chavez should be assassinated. Even though he should be.

Monday, August 22, 2005
Objectively Pro-Nazi

Allegations that conservatives devour the flesh of infants while praising Hitler. Disturbing if true.

A Bleg

Does anyone have any hard evidence of George W. Bush once raping, murdering, dismembering, eating, and then raping an eight-year-old boy in a coke-filled stupor in 1973? I've heard rumors, but nothing concrete. If you do have any evidence, send it in!

(This is yet another way that blogs trump the MSM--when does the Times ask readers for help?)

UPDATE: Instapundit and Powerline remain silent on the Bush-Murder-Cannibalism-Pedophilia story.

UPDATE II: Evidently the evidence for the Bush axe murder spree doesn't exist. But that doesn't mean Bush never murdered anybody. Possibly the bodies were shipped to Syria in the dark of night. Don't look for the MSM to follow up on this anytime soon, though.

The Anti-Child Agenda

Amanda Marcotte has more evidence of the conservatives' war on American families. It's this anti-family rhetoric that turns off so many moderates like me.

The Dread Justice Roberts

SCOTUS nominee John Roberts may be both a racist and misogynist. These are disturbing allegations if they prove to be true.

Objectively Pro-Saddam

Stories like this one are the reason that moderates like me can't feel at home in the Republican party. How can they expect us to join when they're objectively anti-American? I mean, if not for stories like this, lots of us would be rushing to the GOP.

Bush and Duke Cunningham

Did Duke Cunningham only become unbelievably corrupt at the behest of George W. Bush?

Disturbing if true.

The Vast Superiority of the Left-Wing Blogosphere

This post by Textaisle simply demonstrates the superiority of the left-wing blogs. Why can't the MSM tackle stuff like this?

UPDATE: Heh, what Zenbowl says.

UPDATE II: Jesse is right, as usual. This is why Howell Raines lost his job.

UPDATE III: Elise: "Glorious"

UPDATE IV: Thanks for the Pandalanche, Jesse!

UPDATE V: Read this if you're still unconvinced.

UPDATE VI: Indeed.

Friday, August 19, 2005
Friday Random Ten
Maybe We Are Both Good People Who Have Done Some Bad Things

1. "Driving the View," Son Volt
2. "1000 Julys," Third Eye Blind
3. "Tripping Billies," Dave Matthews Band
4. "Me in Honey," REM
5. "Deep Shag," Luscious Jackson
6. "Follow," Semisonic
7. "I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine," Beth Orton
8. "Hour Follows Hour," Ani DiFranco
9. "My Old School," Steely Dan
10. "Experimental Film," They Might Be Giants

Thursday, August 18, 2005
How To Be The Worst Father Ever

World O' Crap has a look at a new book that instructs soon-to-be divorced men how to screw over their exes and children--wait, no, pretty much how to screw over their exes and children.

Is it super-fun to pay child support every month? No. But it's not super-fun to pay any bill every month. At least child support goes, you know, to support my child. That definitely counts for--well, pretty much everything.

I feel for men who truly want custody of their children because they want to be good parents. That's noble, and if they are truly the "better" parent for their children, they should gain custody. But the men who are looking to avoid paying an ex child support because she "might spend it on something else" (like the house [that your child lives in] or the car [that your child rides around in] or food [that sustains one of your child's two parents--plus your child])--these men are pretty much scum. Are you a parent? Put the needs of your child first, goddamn it. Because if you're more concerned that your ex may pocket $50 a month of your money that isn't going to your child than you are that your child is in the best home for him or her--well, that pretty much makes you the worst parent imaginable.

Straight Cash, Homie

So Randy Moss smokes pot. Now, first off, I don't care that he does so; given that I'm pro-legalization of pot (on purely libertarian grounds; I myself have never used pot, not even once. I just don't see as it needs to be illegal) I don't really care that Moss is using. Indeed, given that pot can't be considered a performance-enhancing drug, I don't really think it's bad at all. Whatever.

Still, Moss admitting to using pot is insanely selfish and stupid--which pretty much sums up the reasons he's not wearing purple this season. Moss has incredible talent. He will be remembered as one of the great receivers in the history of the game. But he is also an incredible distraction, a guy who believes there's no "I" in "Team," but if you look hard you can find a "me." The Vikings are better off without him.

Friday, August 12, 2005
Pretty Beard. Pretty, Pretty Beard

From the SITUATION ROOM!!!!!!! (is anyone else already annoyed by CNN's latest crappy attempt at reinvention?) Wolf Blitzer launches an attack at Former President Bill Clinton. Why? Because Clinton won't take a shot at the current occupant of the White House--which is, of course, what protocol demands.

Thanks, Wolf. You're one classy guy. With one pretty beard. And one ADHD-inducing set.

(Seriously--if CNN simply vanished tomorrow, would anyone care?)

It Was a Nice Run

Well, Bears fans, it looks like it's gonna be a long season--Rex Grossman got injured in a preseason game and is out three to four months.

Meanwhile, the Vikings' first-and-second teamers look decent so far. I'm looking forward to the season.

The End is Near

Kevin Drum has been one of the leading figures in discussing peak oil--what happens when supply begins to fall short of demand. For those of you around the Twin Cities who have awoken to find gasoline at $2.50 a gallon, there's a reason. Welcome to the end of the oil era.

This is not to say that it's time to mothball the car and start building wind-powered bicycles--yet.

But do you remember the Disney nature films of our youth? (Maybe not, for some of you. Bear with me.) At any rate, there'd be that point where the deer with the broken leg was being stalked by the wildebeast, and the narrator would intone sorrowfully, "Sadly now there can be but one outcome?"

Sadly now, there can be but one outcome. Gas prices may well go down at some point. But not far down. And if when there's an oil shock--terrorists bombing Saudi oilfields, for example--prices will skyrocket.

In short, our economy, which has been developed and predicated on cheap, abundant oil, will have to adapt. It's not enough to shoot for oil independence by 4920. Like it or not, reality is about to force our hand.

Friday Random Ten
Broke Her Heart With a Slip of My Tongue/Take it All Back, But the Deed is Done

1. "Landed," Ben Folds
2. "Where It's At," Beck
3. "Annie Waits," Ben Folds
4. "Like a Fortress," Honeydogs
5. "Hey Nineteen," Steely Dan
6. "Total Eclipse of the Heart," Bonnie Tyler
7. "Annie," Elastica
8. "I'm Afraid of Americans," David Bowie with Trent Reznor
9. "Laugh On Fat Boy," Soul Coughing
10. "The Idiot Kings," Soul Coughing

Thursday, August 11, 2005
Yeah, But...But...Rotors!

Jerry Coyne takes a rhetorical stick of dynamite to [i]soi-disant[/i] Intelligent Design and blows the dang thing up. It's a bit long, but his review of On Pandas and People is a must-read for anyone with a brain. One of many great excerpts:

Yet evolution predicts not just successions of forms, but also genetic lineages from ancestors to descendants. The absence of such transitional series in the fossil record bothered Darwin, who called this "the most obvious and serious objection that can be urged against the theory." (He attributed the missing links, quite reasonably, to the imperfection of the fossil record and the dearth of paleontological collections.) But this objection is no longer valid. Since 1859, paleontologists have turned up Darwin's missing evidence: fossils in profusion, with many sequences showing evolutionary change. In large and small organisms, we can trace, through successive layers of the fossil record, evolutionary changes occurring in lineages. Diatoms get bigger, clamshells get ribbier, horses get larger and toothier, and the human lineage evolves bigger brains, smaller teeth, and increased efficiency at bipedal walking. Moreover, we now have transitional forms connecting major groups of organisms, including fish with tetrapods, dinosaurs with birds, reptiles with mammals, and land mammals with whales. Darwin predicted that such forms would be found, and their discovery vindicated him fully. It also destroys the creationist notion that species were created in their present form and thereafter remained unchanged.

Of course, there's no comeback from the ID charge that Coyne was not personally on hand to witness creation, and therefore God "Someone" had to create it.

It Was a Nice Run

Ah, Jack Abramoff. We laughed, we cried, we were close personal friends with Tom DeLay, and we've been indicted:

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a key figure in investigations involving House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, was indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on fraud charges arising from a 2000 deal to buy casino boats.

The indictment, returned by a grand jury in Fort Lauderdale, charges that Abramoff and an associate, 36-year-old New York businessman Adam Kidan, used a fake wire transfer to defraud two lenders out of some $60 million to finance the deal for SunCruz Casinos.

Abramoff and Kidan are charged with five counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. Each count carries a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

It's been real, it's been fun, it's been real fun....

Happy Birthday Katie!

Happy third birthday to my darling daughter Katherine. You bring more joy to the lives of your mom and I than you can possibly know. You're the best thing about my life, and I thank God every day that I have been lucky enough to be your dad.

And you've gotten good at putting the dog on the leash...and taking her off again. And again. And again....

Wednesday, August 10, 2005
So Funny I Forgot To Laugh

The Star Tribune has added "Mallard Fillmore" to its comics page, along with a number of other dull, forgettable strips. Well, fine; I've got no problem with someone making fun of liberals. Heck, as a centrist Democrat I've done so for years. But as Jesse Taylor notes, there's just one problem with "Mallard Fillmore": it isn't funny.

Now, I'm quite capable at laughing at my fellow Democrats. For example, this exchange from "The Daily Show" is priceless:

Jon Stewart: “What’s been the reaction in Washington?”

Ed Helms: “Jon, liberals have been outraged by Bush’s choice - they have been for weeks.”

Jon Stewart: “Ed, they just found out about Roberts last night…”

Ed Helms: “That’s not the point. The left wishes the President picked someone they wanted, not someone he wanted…”

That's funny no matter what side of the aisle you're on.

Ah, if only one could say the same about "Mallard Fillmore." But one can't. Bruce Tinsley never uses a scalpel when he can use a sledgehammer. Take this cartoon, please. In trying to attack the media, Tinsley evidently decided that the media's great sin these past few years has been to remind people that not all Muslims are terrorists--or indeed, that Muslims are human. Or something. Yeah, I agree--only a spineless liberal would say, "The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim clerics -- a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam."

And that's Tinsley in a nutshell. Yesterday's cartoon makes fun of awareness ribbons, a joke that was cutting-edge in 1998, but has lost its luster now that a) everyone's wearing awareness wristbands, except b) the conservatives with the "God Bless America" magnetic ribbons on their Expeditions.

Again, I'm all for a funny, intelligent, conservative comic strip. Unfortunately, Tinsley's creation is just one-for-three.

LOL Ur kidd is TEH GAY

It was a nice run for irony, but evidently, it's now dead. How else to explain these helpful hints from radical cleric James Dobson for keeping your boy from becoming gay.

(Incidentally, anyone ever notice how unconcerned these folks seem to be with lesbians? Is it just me, or does anyone else sense that there are more than a few fundies whose perception of lesbianism is based on 3 AM viewings of Cinemax--and who wants to put an end to that?)

Anyhow, first of all, you need to know if your son is gay. For instance, if he hangs around girls too much, he might be gay. Or a ladies' man. Kinda hard to tell.

While Dobson could go off on a Foxworthyesque tangent here (if your son likes Judy Garland, if he combs his hair, if he can define "exfoliate"....) Instead, he gives us such golden signs as:

  • A tendency to cry easily, be less athletic, and dislike the roughhousing that other boys enjoy.
  • A tendency to walk, talk, dress and even “think” effeminately.
  • And of course, my personal favorite: A susceptibility to be bullied by other boys, who may tease them unmercifully and call them “queer,” “fag” and “gay.”

Yes, that's right: if your son is being teased by bullies at school, he deserves it. It's 'cause he might be...GAY!

(Or it might be that "gay" is the sine qua non of sixth-grade male insults; indeed, I question whether any American male, gay or straight, wasn't derided as a "fag" somewhere between ages ten and fourteen.)

Anyhoo, how do we stop boys from

Meanwhile, the boy's father has to do his part. He needs to mirror and affirm his son's maleness. He can play rough-and-tumble games with his son, in ways that are decidedly different from the games he would play with a little girl. He can help his son learn to throw and catch a ball. He can teach him to pound a square wooden peg into a square hole in a pegboard. He can even take his son with him into the shower, where the boy cannot help but notice that Dad has a penis, just like his, only bigger.

No. I'm not making this up. I'm not linking to The Onion. This is honest-to-God his suggestion--hang around with your son naked.

Oh, also this lovely tidbit:

In my opinion (and in the opinion of an increasing number of researchers), the father plays an essential role in a boy's normal development as a man. The truth is, Dad is more important than Mom. Mothers make boys. Fathers make men. In infancy, both boys and girls are emotionally attached to the mother. In psychoanalytic language, Mother is the first love object. She meets all her child's primary needs.

Look, Jim: I can discuss the Oedipal Crisis too, and one of the interesting things about men with unresolved Oedipal Crises is that they don't grow up to be gay, they grow up to be sociopaths--which, I know, isn't as bad as being gay.

Oh, also important in the Oedipal Crisis is the male child's attachment to mom; that, one might suggest, means that mom is pretty important in the whole deal.

Oh, also that the Oedipal Crisis was named and identified by Freud, whose batting average is a healthy .275.

But whatever. Dads, don't let your sons grow up to be gay. 'Cause it's all your fault if they do. Girls? Hey, lesbians are hot.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005
I Love Dan Savage

Ah, if I were gay and Dan was single. C'est la vie. Why do I love the Savage Love writer and current Sully guest-blogger? Because of lines like this:

Of course it goes without saying that The National Review is basically the Out
Magazine of right-wing closet cases. But cell phones? I still don't get it...

Heh indeedy.

Monday, August 08, 2005
Peter Jennings, 1938-2005

The death of Peter Jennings should not go by unnoticed; with him passes the era of the anchor as the Voice of Authority; certainly none of the men taking over at the networks are of the stature of Rather, Brokaw, or Jennings.

As for Jennings himself, he always projected calm and reason. He was a pro. He will be missed.

I'll Take Strawman for 500, Alex

As long as we're discussing things that nobody actually is, Christopher Hitchens bravely asks the question, when liberals get their wish and we lose in Iraq, don't we know that would be bad?

Well, at the risk of shocking nobody, I don't know anyone who's rooting for us to fail in Iraq. There are certainly those of us--myself included--who fear we're going to lose in Iraq. And certainly, a number of us believe that would be disastrous, and that the cost of losing in Iraq far outweighs any possible benefit of having invaded.

Would a loss in Iraq be devastating? Yes, it would. It would complete the metaphor of Iraq-as-Vietnam--wars we launched into because they seemed like important conflicts, wars that were mismanaged by the civilian authorities almost from the start, wars that ended in defeat for America. Certainly, the impact of Iraq on our nation is not as dire as the impact of Vietnam was; still, a loss in Iraq would do lasting damage to our nation's prestige worldwide. Given that no small measure of our national worth is based on our military might, suffering a defeat to people armed with IEDs and smuggled AK-47s would be crippling.

Of course, there are all sorts of other bad things that a loss in Iraq would lead to; it would embolden al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations; it would increase the relative power of Europe and China; most of all, it would severely curtail our nation's ability to fight future enemies.

So a loss in Iraq is bad. The question, of course, is whether victory in Iraq is attainable (short answer: not without more troops--which ain't happening), and whether losing now is preferable to fighting on for five more years and then losing (short answer: probably).

That doesn't cheer me; indeed, it makes me angrier than ever that we're involved in this war. For all Hitchens' suggestions that Iraq might have devolved into another Congo, at least it would have devolved in a way that didn't harm the USA.

But discussions about winning this war are academic. Sure, it would be swell if the magic War Fairy went into Baghdad and helped us achieve all our goals. Reality is that the Bush Administration is planning a drawdown of troops just in time for the mid-term elections.

Which of course gets to the heart of the matter: the left can want to win in Iraq, or we can want to lose in Iraq. It doesn't matter what we think.

The people who matter are on the right--and they have never cared enough about Iraq to ask actual questions about intelligence, to commit enough troops to win, or to place victory in Iraq above political expediency. Don't ask me whether I want to win the war, Mr. Hitchens. Ask George W. Bush. And remember that actions speak louder than words.

Matt Drudge, Douchebag of Libery

With Novakula sidelined due to his explosive temper, who shall claim the Dark Lord's mantle as America's Douchebag of Liberty? Well, Matt Drudge steps up to the plate, going after a mom who lost her son in Iraq. Because nobody's less sympathetic than that:

THE REPORTER of Vacaville, CA published an account of Cindy Sheehan's visit with the president at Fort Lewis near Seattle on June 24, 2004:

"'I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis,' Cindy said after their meeting. 'I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith.'


Sheehan's current comments are a striking departure.

She vowed on Sunday to continue her protest until she can personally ask Bush: "Why did you kill my son?"

In an interview on CNN, she claimed Bush "acted like it was party" when she met him last year.

"It was -- you know, there was a lot of things said. We wanted to use the time for him to know that he killed an indispensable part of our family and humanity. And we wanted him to look at the pictures of Casey.

"He wouldn't look at the pictures of Casey. He didn't even know Casey's name. He came in the room and the very first thing he said is, 'So who are we honoring here?' He didn't even know Casey's name. He didn't want to hear it. He didn't want to hear anything about Casey. He wouldn't even call him 'him' or 'he.' He called him 'your loved one.'

The...the temerity of this woman! Daring to change her mind on how she felt about the President!

Except, of course, she hadn't even done that; while Sheehan was a little more diplomatic in June of 2004, she still said (through a press release), "[N]ot one more family should suffer what we have suffered, for a war that should never have happened, for a war based on lies. Military Families Speak Out asks the United States Senate: How can you ask a soldier to be the last to die for a lie?"

So...she hasn't changed her tune at all.

Of course, Drudge closes his hit piece by saying, "On her current media tour, Sheehan has not been asked to explain her twist on Bush; from praise to damnation!" Well, Matt, that could be because there's no twist to explain. Whatever. Enjoy your wacky hat.

Bob Newman, Cocksucking Asshole

If Druge is a Douchebag, really Newman can only be described with vulgarity. At least Drudge simply advanced a dubious theory laced with out-of-context quotes. Bob Newman (of everyone's fave wingnut haven Men's News Daily), not content to merely declare that Sheehan is on the side of the terrorists, also decries her as a racist:

Cindy Sheehan does not believe those filthy ragheads and camel jockeys in Iraq deserve freedom. Nor does she believe they should be allowed to live in peace or be able to sleep at night without wondering if their genocidal dictator’s bloodthirsty henchmen are going to kick their door in and drag the entire family off to a grisly torture chamber, where the parents will be made to watch their children be repeatedly raped and sodomized and finally blinded and dismembered while still alive.

Her son adamantly disagreed with her. U.S. Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, in fact, disagreed with his mother so vehemently that he was willing to give his life so that brown-skinned Muslims he didn’t even know could be free.

Now Mrs. Sheehan claims George Bush, not terrorists, killed her son. She didn’t protest when the maniacs of 9-11 killed nearly 3,000 people. She doesn’t fault the mass murderers who continue to butcher innocent Iraqi men, women and children and who continue to kill courageous American military personnel. She didn’t fly to London to protest outside of a mosque. She is in no way shocked by the hundreds of mass graves being excavated in Iraq, graves filled with tens of thousands of bodies of Saddam’s victims. She is not troubled at all by the numerous al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq who want to kill every American man, woman and child on earth. And she could not care less that proud Iraqis, facing death, voted for the first time in throngs for the politician of their choice, defiantly holding up ink-stained fingers to show they had faced down the terrorists. To Cindy Sheehan, it would appear, Arabs, especially Muslim Arabs, should have no right to vote or even live for that matter.

So much stupidity, so little time....
  1. First off, the "brown people can run democracy" thing. I have yet to actually meet anyone advancing this principle, even in private. There are people who have suggested that due to the limited experience of Iraqis with democracy, there may be problems transitioning to such a governmental system; the same can be said of those Arabs in Russia, or Haiti, or the Ukraine. Doesn't mean it can't be done, just means it might be harder. Besides, of course, this is a red herring, given that we didn't go to war in Iraq to establish democracy.
  2. Her son disagreed with her? Do we know that? Maybe we do. Fine, he disagreed with her. Does that invalidate everything she thinks and believes?
  3. Oh, dear Lord Almighty, evidently 60% of America believes in killing Arabs. (Of course, we don't use words like "ragheads" and "camel jockeys;" funny how those roll off the pen of Mr. Newman.)

Nobody--and I mean nobody--is opposed to war in Iraq because of race. I have problems with the fact that the raison d'etre of the war--the presence of WMD in Iraq--has turned out to be..what's the word?...oh yes, bullshit. I have problems with the fact that we don't seem to have enough troops to actually pacify Iraq, and never have. I have problems with the fact that security situations on the ground do not seem to be improving. I have problems with the fact that our troops are pinned down on a snipe hunt in Iraq during a period of time when our closest ally is being attacked by al Qaeda.

But I'd have this problem if we were engaged in a similar war in Bosnia, Zaire, or Sweden. It's not a racial thing, it's a screwed-up war thing.

Finally, no matter what Casey Sheehan believed, Cindy Sheehan does him no dishonor by speaking her mind. Casey Sheehan gave the full measure of devotion to his country, a country where we are free to voice opinions contrary to the President's. Allowing Cindy Sheehan to avail herself of the rights her son fought and died for seems like the least this country owes her.

Of course, we're not giving her that; if she continues her Crawford vigil through Thursday, she'll be arrested. C'est la guerre. But even then, she'll do her son nothing but honor; she is fighting for what she believes, God bless her, and whatever one thinks of her politics or methods, one must respect her devotion to her son, to his comrades still in Iraq, and to this nation.

Women Smart, Men Dumb

Every so often someone will get off on a rant about how men are portrayed in the media. Usually, the ranters despair at how Hollywood is trying to "disparage" men, to bring them down a peg and elevate women.

I'm not denying that dynamic may be at play, but of course there's also another dynamic at work, that being that the culture is celebrating the inept dad in a bid to allow men to be lazy, slovenly, and altogether unpleasant.

A bit of evidence for the latter comes via Pandagon, which tells us of a new story that says men can't listen to women because their voices are sooooo complex.

Of course, the study says nothing of the sort, given that it's about schizophrenia, and that it has far more to do with why schizophrenics identify imaginary voices as male than whether humans are able to comprehend the speech of women. But never mind that--we men just can't be expected to understand you women! You're so complex! Just leave us alone to watch the game. What? Make dinner? Didn't you see that commercial? I'll just destroy the house. Sigh. All right, I'll go to Pizza Hut.

Look, I'm agnostic on the nature/nuture debate; I generally believe that both are so inextricably intertwined that trying to tease out whether societal pressure accounts for 41% or 53% of gender behavior difference is a fool's errand. Some gender difference is likely innate, and some is likely social construct. And I'm far from unsympathetic to the idea that women may be somewhat more complex emotionally than men.

But damn it, it's sexist to say that women just aren't as smart as men, and therefore that they shouldn't be scientists. It's sexist because it's stupid; women have proven able to handle med school just fine--indeed, they're a majority of new doctors. I think it's likely that a woman who wanted to be a doctor also would be capable of being a physicist or a mathematician.

It is no less sexist to say that a man can't possibly understand what women are saying because their voices have a "melodic" quality. If you're capable of singing along with the radio, you're capable of understanding women.

And if women are 3% more difficult to understand? Then put in the goddamn effort, guys. I mean, seriously, what are we? Are we the big strong men who should be running society, or are we too stupid to understand 51% of all humans? If the latter, I propose we quickly get out of running anything at all, for the good of the species.

In the end, of course, it's all about lowering expectations; men can't be expected to nurture/clean/understand/parent, because we're too stupid. For some men, that's great--"Honey, I forgot to take the garbage out. I'm too stupid. Sorry, gotta go back to designing these solid rocket boosters." For others, though, it's tragic, because men who might otherwise grow up to be good fathers instead are taught that only women are capable of that--that the best a man can do is simply limp along, always second fiddle to mom.

All I know is that if men are capable of making cars, they're capable of making dinner, and if women are capable of managing households, they're capable of managing a district; telling anyone they're too dumb to do that by virtue of their twenty-third gene pair is failing them utterly--and failing ourselves as well.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Intellagament Design

If George W. Bush endorses intelligent design, does it automatically have to forfeit the "intelligent" moniker?

Not that ID deserves the term in the first place; creationism lite is far more accurate. Nevertheless, it's good to know the President is more interested in his base than, you know, facts:

"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Bush said. " You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."

You know, there are a lot of Holocaust deniers. Those are certainly "different" ideas. Why don't we teach those ideas in schools?

Well, aside from the crazy racism of it, the fact that what the Holocaust deniers say isn't true is a major factor.

Is evolution true? Yes, it is. I've yet to see an objection from the IDers that stood up to reasoned analysis; I've yet to see ID make a testable claim, period. If tomorrow, we stumbled upon a time-lapse video, placed on Earth by aliens four billion years ago, that showed evolution taking place year by year...well, aside from the fact that it would take several thousand years to watch it, it would not dent the IDers' belief that "God 'Someone' did it."

I'm sympathetic to that belief, mind you; I do believe that God played some role in our existence. I just believe it was at a very macro level--God (or Gods, or whatever you care to call Them) created a universe that would evolve based on mathematical principles. A universe of boundless beauty and infinite wonder that springs forth from some basic assumptions, a universe that likely contains a billion billion intelligent species, each more different from another than a squid is from a redwood.

That's an awesome God.

But even if I believed that the flying spaghetti monster created life on Earth, it wouldn't matter. We know evolution is the path that life on Earth has taken because we have the evidence. I can assert I'm a millionaire until the end of time, but unless I have a million dollars, it won't be so.

Perhaps God played a more active role in evolution than I think, but in the end, that's fundamentally untestable. If God chose to make conditions a little easier for H. Erectus than they might otherwise have been, well, that was sweet of Him--but ultimately, we can never know it.

What we do know is that God's hand or not, human beings descend from other primates, who descend from other mammals, who descend from other vertebrates, all the way back to unicellular organsims and beyond. And that's basically true of everything from snails to snapdragons.

Some people think that degrades humans. I disagree. I think that our connection to the tapestry of life is a miraculous thing.

When I take my daughter to the zoo, I always make a point to show her the primates there. I always point out how much monkeys look like people, how the gibbons look a lot like us. I tell her that we're a kind of monkey too, that we're just a really smart kind of monkey.

I tell her that because it's true. And no matter what George W. Bush believes, no matter what my daughter is taught in school, no matter what our species thinks, it will remain so.

Monday, August 01, 2005
Respect for the Game

Ryne Sandberg has it.

I've been a Cubs fan my whole life, and in my entire life, there's been no team I loved more than the 1984 Cubs--with Leon "Bull" Durham and Rick Sutcliffe, Bob "The Deer" Dernier and Larry Bowa, Ron "The Penguin" Cey and Jody Davis, and of course the heart and soul of that team, Ryne Sandberg. Sandberg was, in his prime, one of the best second basemen ever to play the game, a great fielder and terrific hitter, and above all else, a professional.

The 1984 team was my ultimate indoctrination into the life of a Cubs fan. The team was one game away from the World Series, and needed only to win one of three games in San Diego. Of course, the Cubs lost all three. I finally had a taste of 1969, an epic collapse for the ages. By the time 2003 rolled around, I was disappointed but unsurprised. It is the lot of a Cubs fan. As Sandberg said in his Hall of Fame acceptance speech:

It reminds me of the guy walking down the beach. He finds a bottle, pops the cork and a genie comes out to grant him one wish. The guy says my wish is for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Here's a map of the Middle East. The genie takes the map, studies it for hours and hours. Finally gives it back to the guy and says, "Is there anything else you want to wish for? This is impossible." The guy says, "Well, I always wanted to see the Cubs in a World Series." The genie looks at him, reaches out and says, "Let me have another look at that map."

Sandberg will always be the second-best Chicago athlete to wear number 23. But while that other #23 will be remembered for dazzling acrobatics, Sandberg will be remembered as a guy who went to work, day in and day out, who did his job and never, never, never cheated.

Today we found out that one of Sandberg's former teammates, Rafael Palmiero, cheated. We suspect, though of course don't know, that another face of the Cubs, Sammy Sosa, cheated. We all but know that Barry Bonds--the greatest player of the era--cheated. Heck, Mark McGwire all but admitted he cheated.

Sandberg never cheated. And in his acceptance speech, he made a clarion call to those who think that cheating's a way to get ahead:

When we went home every winter, they warned us not lift heavy weights because they didn't want us to lose flexibility. They wanted us to be baseball players, not only home run hitters. I played high school football at 185 pounds and played big league baseball at 182. I'd get up to maybe 188 in the offseason because every summer I'd lose eight to 10 pounds. In my day, if a guy came to spring training 20 pounds heavier than what he left, he was considered out of shape and was probably in trouble. He'd be under a microscope and the first time he couldn't beat out a base hit or missed a fly ball, he was probably shipped out. These guys sitting up here did not pave the way for the rest of us so that players could swing for the fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third. It's disrespectful to them, to you and to the game of baseball that we all played growing up. Respect.

Amen to that, Ryno. Congratulations, and thanks for playing the game with respect--for the game, for the ivy-covered temple you played in, and most of all, for the fans.

It Depends on What the Meaning of "Intentionally" is....

Evidently it wasn't just Viagra that Rafael Palmiero's been taking. The former-future-Hall-of-Famer has been suspended for using steroids.