Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Powder Blue Uniforms Return to MLB

Link, with historical retrospective. I had actually forgotten about a few of those blue uniforms. In my opinion, they are all awesome. Check it out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Poor Misunderstood George, Destined For All-Time Greatness

This could have been the subtitle for the job talk I went to yesterday for a presidency position. It wasn't directly about GWB--the official topic was southern identity and presidential reputation--but it became clear about ten minutes in that the entire project was an elaborate apologia for Jesus S. Lincotrumanhill (R-TX).

Ya see, he's really one of the greatest presidents of all time, since those rankings usually reward (a) longevity, (b) activism, and (c) divisive partisanship, and usually ignore (a) badly run wars, (b) torture/civil liberties violations, (c) racism, and (d) low public approval. Plus, historians give you credit down the road "for trying." The reason poor Georgie is so unpopular now is that the northeasterners and the national media have an irrational bias against southerners. We know this because various southern presidents whined about it in their journals. I shit yee not. The idea that a president is considered great, NOT because of superficialities, but rather because he significantly advanced the highest and most long-term interests of the American people never seems to have crossed the speaker's mind.

I was also intrigued by the idea that the GOP conquest of the South had nothing at all to do with the exploitation of southern racism. Funny story. As it turns out, all the racists are STILL Democrats. You know, like Jimmy Carter. The GOP surge happened because Northerners moved down here, created an economic utopia, and started voting Pubbie. Where to begin? As you know, I've long argued that the New South IS to a great extent the Old North. He's right about that effect working as a driver. But that fact can't negate the other fact that racists DID turn GOP, largely because the old Northers eagerly exploited southern racism to deflect attention from emerging class conflicts. And it's not like that ol' time social Darwinism was a racism-free ideology. The mind boggles. Otherwise, I liked the guy.

Monday, November 26, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Go see this movie. The Coen brothers need the money. And you will really, really enjoy it, in that way one enjoys a creepy thriller about a psychopath looking for a suitcase full of cash. Even if you don't like the Coen brothers, generally--and if you don't, then I have no idea how you came to read this blog--this one is a classic. Not a quirky classic, like Fargo, but like Badlands (not a Coen brothers movie, of course). I'm definitely going to see this one again.

Pats Fail to Cover

A close game, on FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA? I hope that everyone took Philly and the points.

Isn't FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA the worst corporate marketing slogan EVER? It's also the most obvious ripoff of the CBC since . . . [thinking] . . .

Not Welcome at This Party

Novakula's column this morning is a classic--revealing the deepest working of the GOP Establishment "mind." In going after "False Conservative" Mike Huckabee--yes, you read that right--he lets this slip:

Now that he has pulled even with Mitt Romney for the Iowa caucuses and might make more progress, the beleaguered Republican Party has a frightening problem.

The rise of evangelical Christians as the force that blasted the GOP out of minority status during the past generation always contained an inherent danger: What if these new Republican acolytes supported not merely a conventional conservative but one of their own? That has happened with Huckabee, a former Baptist minister educated at Ouachita Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The danger is a serious contender for the nomination who passes the litmus test of social conservatives on abortion, gay marriage and gun control but is far removed from the conservative-libertarian model of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

OMG. There it is, Christian evangelicals. The GOP Establishment will gladly accept your votes, and they might tolerate your "litmus tests," but don't dare think that the GOP is your party. It's not. It belongs to "the conservatve-libertarian model" of Goldwater and Reagan. But, one should quickly add, Ron Paul--the actual libertarian--you're not welcome at this party, either.

For the longest time, I didn't believe that the GOP Establishment would actually try to foist Rudy on the Christian evangelicals. But it looks like they're actually going to. And then what happens? Things could get interesting.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

You're Old, Dude

So Broder's column today is about how Barack Obama is . . . Sidney Poitier, or something. It's been forty years since Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, but in Old Guys' America, it's always 1968.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


A few pictures from Innsbruck and its surroundings:

The Stubaital Valley:

Kaiserliche Hofburg:

Altstadt with Goldenes Dachl in background:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

For Entertainment Purposes Only

Biggest spread ever in a non-expansion season this weekend in the Patriots-Eagles game. Seems that Vegas (where "Vegas" = all sports gambling) is trying to adjust to Belichick's running up of the scores this season.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Blame the Asians

Congrats, #3, you finally beat me at something (excluding runnin', lawyerin', old lady talkin', and pulp fiction readin'). Number 22 with a bullet, while I'm stuck down at #323 (egads, down 21 places!). Well, at least I'm the third most popular Mc. I also beat the Prez-nit, but how much of an achievement is that? (Trivia, neither Clinton nor Reagan is especially popular, but they land within a few places of each other.) Tekne over at SA beats us all.

OK, so here's my question. If there are six million surnames in the U.S., and four million of those are held only by a single person each, then doesn't that suggest a great coming contraction of name diversity? An appelling extinction of near epic proportions? Or are many of those names from new immigrants (Muslim, etc.) who represent the beginning of new lines rather than the end?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fall Leaves, C & O Canal

Friday, November 16, 2007

Who Killed the Humanities?

You know you're living in a time when everything has been politicized to such a degree as to make a mockery of even the most basic of notions, in this case what it means to be an outstanding Humanist, which once included being humane or promoting humane ideals. To wit, president Bush has just awarded one of the nation's highest honors in the Humanities to none other than Victor Davis Hanson. Undoubtedly he did so, because VDH is a neocon chicken-hawk who has written several pathetic books that glorify the ruthless Soul of Battle, or the all-glorious Western Way of War, or praise members of the western Family Farm who beat their ploughshares into swords, or answer the question Who Killed Homer? by blaming the decline of interest in reading classical literature on those sissy, elitist literary theorists, especially feminists, rather than on the real culprit -- television. What a Carnage of Culture.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Moment of Truth

So, in the Dupont Circle Metro station this evening, I exited the Metro car and was walking to the escalator, when, looking back to the Metro car, I saw this very attractive young women--with an angelic face--intently reading a paperback book. Looking closer, I saw that the book was . . . Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People.

GAO Help Wanted?

As some of you may know, I have previously expressed interest in working for the Government Accountability Office (formerly, General Accounting Office, a better government agency name, if you ask me)--or the equivalent, in another branch. Mainly because the GAO does interesting work that has value--mainly uncovering and reporting on corruption, fraud, and incompetence, as well as plain policy failure, in other agencies. Well, there's a new GAO study where the GAO folks smuggled bomb-making components on planes, and then took the same components out in the parking lot, to prove a point, and blew up a Ford Taurus.

Now, for "citizens" like you and me, we can't "test" the security screening prowess of the TSA. We'd get arrested. But apparently, a GAO i.d. card is like James Bond's "license to kill." Cool.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Who's going down?

Well, er, at first I thought this was another tasteless Monica Lewinski reference, but I see that only my mind is in the gutter. At any rate, I would have to say that at the moment I'm really enjoying watching David Brooks going down in flames -- bigtime flames. He wrote this turd last week about how Reagan didn't use the southern strategy, which was undoubtedly aimed at the argument found in Conscience of a Liberal -- a new book by his fellow NYT columnist Paul Krugman. Krugman responded with this gem. Now another NYT columnist, Bob Herbert, has weighed in here. Talk about a riot involving a Brooks. This is priceless entertainment.

PS: Reagan's famous southern-strategy speech in Mississippi was referenced on our own little blog here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What's Been Going Down?

Work, grading papers . . . a little running, recovering from the marathon.

But a little fun. One thing going down, the (then-)#8 ranked Boston College Eagles--falling to that ol' Chevy Chase Bank Field at Byrd Stadium magic. (Yeah, that's the stadium's corporate name. Egad.) I won't say that I stayed until the bone-chilling end of the game, when BC muffed the onside kick. But way to go Terps. My man, QB "Lil' Joe Montana" Chris Turner threw for more than 300 yards, and the Terps put up 42 on BC. (They gave up 35, of course. Egad.)

Also, saw Blade Runner, "the Final Cut," at the Uptown. Big screen, futuristic effects . . . teh awesome. I don't remember the last time I sat down and just watched the movie all the way through. And this one, a little different in a few ways I recognized; I'm sure there were more that I missed. It ended, for example, in the elevator lobby, with the origami unicorn--no driving in the sunshine. And, of course, no voice-overs (which I actually never minded, really).

Read Into Thin Air, Krakauer's memoir of the Everest disaster in 1996. After reading that, no interest in climbing Mount Everest. Zero.

What's been up with y'all?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Brooks Brothers Riot

Am I the only one completely humiliated by the lawyers' demonstrations in Pakistan? I mean, here in the present-day United States, lawyers draft memos justifying torture. In Pakistan . . . lawyers in dark suits are fighting riot police.

Can one make a donation to the Pakistani Bar Association? Can one, um, join? (Pakistan must be a common-law country, right?)


Holy smoking towers, Batman! Can this be right? Yup. I guess this means that all that pious Clinton bashing over private indiscretions was just a joke. Har har. Will anybody ask Rudy if he's embarrassed to be endorsed by a man who said that 9/11 was God's deserved wrath on NYC? Really, it just goes to show that all that religious right posturing was just a sham from the start, a cover for authoritarianism, the only thing these two men actually have in common. Aside from hypocrisy, torture porn, and a red elephant tattoo that is.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Val dei Molini, South of Vicenza

Since #3 posted some fall pictures, I may as well add some from Italy. This is the area of Val dei Molini (Valley of the Mills) south of Vicenza in the Colli Berici.

On Saturday we went there to eat some food, to drink some wine, and to plant a tree for Francesca (now 8 weeks old) in memory of her "nonno" and namesake, Francesco, who helped found an association to protect this area.

You gotta like Italian priorities: Family, Friends, Food, Wine, The Land (Terra), the Arts, God, and Country (in that order).

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Hiking Photo, Hazel Mtn Trail, Shenandoah National Park

Fun with the macro function on the digital camera. Peak or post-peak?

Hiking Photo, Cave Falls, Shenandoah National Park

I'm so sick of politics etc., just a quick note to say that hiking today in the mountains was glorious. The fall colors were almost, if not, "peak," and the temperature was about right. I think that this photo is about perfect in composition.

Enjoy yourselves. The world is a shithole. But life can still be fun.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Politics of Immigration

Wherever one lives, one can count on certain types of immigrants always being a sore spot. When I lived in Greece in 1994/95 it was the Albanians who were blamed for all the crime, the stealing of jobs, and bleeding public services. It was not unusual to see blue buses with barred windows running through Athens jammed full of illegals to be taken to the Albanian border and dumped, undoubtedly after a few kicks and slaps. Once I was eating at a street-side cafe in Patras and I saw that a Greek taxi driver was refusing to give an Albanian woman and her baby a ride. I asked the waiter about it and he just shrugged his shoulders and said, "We don't like the Albanians here. I wish we were more like the Italians. They know how to take care of immigrants," the clear inference being that the Italians know how to rough up the unwanted.

In Italy they would be surprised to know this, for since time immemorial the lion's share of crime has been blamed on the gypsies ("Zingari"), especially petty theft. They don't blame them for taking jobs, because "they're too lazy to work." I must say, the little ones do learn at an early age how to go begging and they can be annoying. Now that Romania has come under the umbrella of the EU, many gypsies are even legal.

Well, evidently a legal Romanian immigrant in Rome just beat up an Italian woman, who has now died. The entire country has been in an uproar for almost a week and the Parliament made the unprecedented move of passing a law that was signed by Prodi and went active within 24 hours declaring that any immigrants, legal or otherwise, who commit crimes can be expelled from the country.

Since the Italians pass all sorts of laws and rarely enforce any, I wonder whether it will have much of a real impact. At any rate, the immigration problem here in Italy, unlike the exaggerated one in the US, is actually real in the following ways: Imagine a country the size of California with double the population. Now imagine it being surrounded on three sides by long stretches of sea. Now imagine one of the poorest zones in the world sitting just a small boat ride to the south. Now imagine open borders with new "states" that are poverty-ridden, like Romania. Now imagine a country that really does have public services, such as public health. You get the picture. 8 years ago when I first came to Vicenza, one of the things that struck me was how there were so few immigrants. There was, and still is, a trailer park full of Zingari along a major thoroughfare and they receive free electricity and water from the city, but that was it (not counting the American soldiers). What was particularly striking was that there were no black or dark-skinned people here. Now they are everywhere (I went to a large supermarket Wednesday night and it seemed to me that half the store's clients were Muslims).

One thing is for sure. Given that the gulf between the haves and the have-nots keeps getting bigger, we can expect immigration to grow as a political topic worldwide into the foreseeable future. Of course the human species has always been on the move and attempts to stop such migrations are bound to fail. In particular I’m reminded of the words of Mark Twain (I think it was Mark Twain) who said something like: “America has always had an immigration problem. Just ask the Indians.”

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mukasey Musings

The Mukasey AG nomination that once looked like a slam dunk has started to look more like a Shaq free throw. If he survives the Senate Judiciary Committee, it will be thanks only to the personal loyalty of Chuck Schumer, and I can't imagine that gives either man much comfort.

I've got very mixed feelings on this. Although I badly desire the Dems in Congress to start showing some backbone, I wouldn't have picked this issue for the respinification. There are no better candidates waiting in the wings. None even close. Odds are that Bush next goes with his instincts and nominates a true blight on the human species, some shameless partisan hack who would, given his druthers, annoint Bush "emperor for life" while leading a demo seminar on nutsack shocking. Ted Olson is probably waiting by his phone. The acting AG is supposedly just as bad. So the consequence of nixing Mike McGoo will be that Justice remains a lawless and obstinant wreck until at least 2009. After which, things will only get better if HRC has pulled off an electoral miracle.

Mukasey made his own bed. By refusing to condemn waterboarding, and by claiming that the Pres could ignore inconvenient laws, he showed that he was more loyal to Bush than to the Constitution. That's really the Republican dilemma for you. Are there GOPers left alive who would have made the opposite choice? Does the Dem standard for approval effectively mean that any nominee would have to offer legal positions that, while accurate, would also mandate prosecutions of Gonzo, Cheney, and their assorted sycophants? I think so. And I'd approve of that--if it didn't allow Bush to play a four-corners defense and run out the clock.