Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Good Question

Is Jim Thome HOF material? Discuss.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Food Shortages Hit Gaithersburg!

The NBC local affiliate here covered the worldwide food shortage this morning with a story about a Sam's Club in Gaithersburg, Maryland (suburban DC) that has limited rice purchasers to just three bags of rice (these are rather large bags). Yes, it is worse that you feared--they are rationing rice in the DC suburbs. The end is nigh.

Industry spokespeople assured us that "we have nothing to worry about." Riiiight. That's what industry spokespeople are supposed to say--like how dentists say, "you shouldn't feel this." The story said that there aren't really shortages, but that the retailer was concerned that local restaurants might start hoarding rice--yes, Thai restaurants in DC might start hoarding rice!--because of rising commodity prices.

I'm no economist, but . . . isn't food hoarding likely to cause commodity prices to inflate quickly? And why would Sam's Club of all entities want to prevent restaurants from buying as much rice as they want to buy? I mean, usually Sam's Club is in favor of selling shit, no? Am I to believe that our government cannot act in the face of looming economic troubles, but that Wal-Mart is looking out for the little guy?

The mind boggles, people.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Labor and Human Rights Win One

It was in southern Africa, too. Seems that South African dockworkers refused to unload a shipment of Chinese arms bound for Zimbabwe, even though many of the dockworkers are members of the ANC--the leadership of which has been criticized for its closeness to Mugabe. Even the Bush administration got into the act and did something good, getting the Angolan government to turn the ship away, too.

Something in the paper that will put a smile on your face.

Oh, and here's another one. It seems that Georgetown (School of Foreign Service, not the College) isn't renewing Feith's contract: "Word is that keeping Feith on beyond the two-year term again would have infuriated a number of faculty members. Well, there are always those "dead-enders," as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld so eloquently noted back in June 2003." And they didn't even ask me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


La de da, I wonder if anyone managed to pick tonight's spread correctly? It would have been really impressive if someone had called this, say, two weeks ago. Who needs debates? or campaigning?

Now, if someone called both tonight's margin AND predicted a McCain nomination toward the end of a comment string more than a year ago, that, my friends, would ensure he never ever got invited to do political commentary on cable news.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Not "Real Americans"

I read this morning that now there's new audio of a Democratic presidential candidate at a fundraiser dissing an important voting constituency. This time it's HRC blaming the "activist base" of the Democratic party for her caucus losses:

"We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with. And you know they turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of our positions, and it's primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don't agree with them. They know I don't agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me."

Throughout this whole nomination race, I've thought that HRC's vote for the Iraq War and (equally important) her refusal to disavow it were major factors in her inability to cement the nomination early on. It's not easy to show this sort of thing via polling data, because polls capture too many low-participation voters. But, clearly, Clinton herself sees her foreign policy stands as being at the root of her failure to win among activists. I think she's probably right. Her key missteps on the war opened a niche for Obama, and his amazing gifts allowed him to capture it and then build from there. Without that, my guess is that Obama would never have been able to get an initial foothold that could allow him to defeat the Clinton machine and name brand.

Equally interesting to me, of course, is that HRC saying this is not even newsworthy. If Obama (potentially) pisses off a constituency that barely even votes Democratic anymore (white working-class small-town religious gun owners), it's a huge news story that goes on for weeks. Every op-ed writer in the country feels the need to weigh in on "bitter-gate," and cable news goes wall-to-wall with it. If HRC specifically and deliberately disses a huge and engaged part of the base of the Democratic party, that's not news. She doesn't feel the need to apologize or "clarify." It's not even interesting. After all, antiwar Democrats aren't "real Americans," are they?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Twister Fate

Hard to believe it, but it was ten years ago yesterday that a tornado ripped through downtown Nashville. I remember that day vividly, in particular Lips running across the lawn from her apartment to mine, banging on the door, and telling me to turn on the TV. The news screen had a big map of our neighborhood and the weather woman was drawing a giant X on the Vanderbilt campus, saying that a tornado was on the ground "here." Since I lived just a block from campus, this was a tad ominous, especially as weird winds swirled outside my window-lined living room. As I furiously cleared room in the closet (the only interior "room"), Lips swung her stick-self out the window to gaze upward in semi-crazed Arkansan storm-spotter fashion.

Luckily for us, the twister was actually on the opposite side of campus, raging through Centennial Park on its way to city center. On its way, it dropped a large tree on a Vandy kid out for an ROTC picnic. Miraculously, he survived, but only for a few weeks. After downtown, the tornado hopped across the river and leveled a good swath of perpetually renewing East Nashville. It was a traumatic event for a lot of people in this area. One local mom-blog describes the horror of looking out the window to see the tornado hovering above her children's day care. For those of you who were there, and for those who are just curious, here's some jarring footage of that day.

More Book Blogging

Friend of the blog and renowned expert on rare book crime has a legitimate beef with the old alma mater. It seems that neither the main nor the law library at CWRU has purchased a copy of The Book Thief. And he is none too pleased.

Needless to say, I haven't put my personalized copy up for sale on Amazon. So that $100 copy isn't mine. Anyone willing to fess up?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Best Thing to Sell

I mentioned in the previous post that I'm back to selling books on As those of you who've known me the longest will attest, I'm not that entrepreneurial a person. But on-line sales is made for the introvert. I never have to interact with a real person--except at the post office.

The best thing is when you sell a book that you neither want nor believe has any resale value. In other words, the best thing to sell is something that (you believe) has no value. It's like getting something (i.e., money) for free! Or, at least, for the effort of mailing a package. (And that can be trying, again. Watch those staples!)

I have acquired a very great number of books over the course of my life. Some, a relatively large percentage, I believe, for free. So much of the time I'm making money on the sales. But even when I'm not, strictly speaking, in the black, I'm providing the books with a good home (I'm mailing them to someone who actually bought them, thus expressing an interest), and I'm offsetting the purchase price. And I'm clearing room on the shelves for other books--ones that I would prefer to own, at this point in my life.

That raises another issue, which is, as someone who has changed careers (arguably twice) in a relatively short life, I have books that don't really do much for me any more. If you are a friend of the blog and have requests for particular titles, especially political theory titles, maybe we can talk. Because I have some books (many!) that need new homes.

Staples Are a Menace

So I sell some used (and a few new) books on This requires me, from time to time, to go to the post office to ship my sales ("media mail" is a great thing). This last week I didn't have the usual self-adhesive envelopes but instead ones with flaps that had to be sealed with something (e.g., tape). So I stapled the flaps shut and went on my merry way.

But at the post office, I was informed by the clerk, staples are against postal policy. Staples on a package must be covered in tape. "OK, no problem," I say. I had a few things without staples, so I decided to mail those, anyway.

The clerk, however, decided to lecture me on the dangers of staples to mail carriers. On and on and on about how you can cut your fingers on staples, how postal carriers can't wash their hands "out on the street," if and when they cut themselves, how cuts get infected, because of staples, how some postal carrier in Southwest almost lost her finger, how staples are sharp and made of metal . . . and just when you though there was nothing more to say about staples as one of the greatest threats to our way of life, she started it over . . . how this woman in Southwest cut her finger and if I didn't believe it (why wouldn't I, exactly?), I could go down to Southwest and view the finger (????), how staples are sharp and made of metal. On and on and on.

I said nothing during the whole time. I wasn't argumentative--indeed, other than the inconvenience of having to go back, I didn't really care. But boy, did she care.

So watch out for those staples, folks. They are sharp and made of metal. You can cut yourself on them. And cuts can get infected. And if you don't believe that, apparently they have a woman in Southwest who once cut her finger and is willing to share it with you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Duck Blind Annie

Ouch. Obama's follow up to the follow up was even more brutal toward Hillbilly Hill than the original. Meanwhile Dame Clinton trolls the bars of Indiana looking like the helicopter mom who showed up at spring break. ("Chug! Chug! Chug!") Somebody should have asked her what she thought about the guns in bars legalization movement moving through the red states.  

The great irony: at the Messiah College faith forum, HRC vainly sought to argue that Obama was just one more of those authenticity-challenged Dems, like Gore and Kerry, unable to connect with rural voters. But none of them ever went on a drunken phoniness binge like hers this week--an inverted "grand tour" for the slumming sophisticate--and Obama's sharp sarcasm about the whole "bittergate" affair is one of the most authentic displays of common sense I can ever remember from a candidate. 

Early numbers show no direct damage to Obama's campaign, either nationally or in PA.  Hope that holds up.  Were it not for a compliant press corps, reading from the Bride of Bubba Rural Voter Sensitivity Handbook, just to keep the race entertaining, he might actually get some boost from this.  

Saturday, April 12, 2008

All the News That's STOOPID

ABC News tonite actually ran a story (in the segment called "A Closer Look"!) about how the foreclosure crisis is affecting pets. I shit you not. Good to know that there aren't news stories affecting, I don't know . . . people anywhere in the world. Like food riots, wars, etc. Good to know that there's enough time in a 22 minute broadcast (minus the pharma commercials) for "a closer look" at this story.

Not to beat a dead horse, but the story didn't even have any data. It was just human interest and a visit to an animal shelter. So it was piss-poor coverage of a stupid issue.

Is There a Right-Wing Anti-Dem Talking Point

that Hillary won't mouth in attacking Obama? Hillary, tribune of the (unwashed and partially washed) masses and scourge of the muckity mucks, is now attacking friend-of-the-robber-barons Barack Obama as "elitist." I'm sure that the McCain campaign will be glad to adopt this ready-made media frame in the fall campaign, along with the "inexperienced" and "Rev. Wright" memes.

Remember triangulation? At that time, I was concerned about a political strategy that depended for its success on damaging one's own partisans. It's a great strategy if it's all about you, but not if it's about building institutions (or "solutions"!). But this is even worse than triangulation.

Because I'm bitter, I'm almost starting to think that this is some kind of conspiracy.

Damn Right, We're "Bitter"!

Didn't someone around here just predict that some big mo would fall in the Clintons laps? Judging by the flap on the cable news tonight about Obama's description of "small town" Pennsylvanians as "bitter" about politics, faux outrage is the new black.

Don't miss the Big O's response. I was waiting for him to hit that little floater out of the park. Nicely done. Will the babbling heads acknowledge the obvious? Unlikely at their pay grade. Bitter is a drink better left to the proletarians.

Friday, April 11, 2008

This One's for TMcD

Two of his favorite things in a hilarious mash-up. Also a pretty good sports blog.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dirty Rice

Will this finally put an end to all those loopy stories about a Condi bid for VP? Maybe if Saint Johnny goes all cardiac in the White House she can nutsack-shock him back to life.

Ma Ma Where's Your PA (Gone To Campaign with Obama)

So Barack is closing the gap in Pennsylvania, from 20-something points to 5-8. Where have I heard this story before? Oh yeah. Texas and Ohio. I'm betting he still loses by ten. It may end up as less, but it will look like ten on election night, and the early evening returns will have HRC with a wide lead of close to 20. If we've learned anything in this Democratic race, it is that demographics are destiny. PA is as Hillaricentric as they get: old folks; low information types; working class ethnic voters having, shall we say, "trust" issues with candidates of darker hue (i.e., "Reagan Democrats"). I'm not sure what the Clintons will do to retake the mo after their snipergate slide. But I know it is coming.

Negative Certainty

Is there a word for that condition where you don't know the right answer (or word, or phrase) but you know with absolute certainty that the answer (word or phrase) that comes to mind/is offered by another is wrong?

The best I came up with is "negative certainty," i.e., I am certain that that is not right, even if I don't know the right answer. But maybe there's already a word or term for this.

Winless No More

The Tigers finally win one, snapping the seven-game losing streak that start(ed) their storied World-Series season. Baseball historians will long marvel at the Tigers comeback from such an inauspicious start. Can a team with a $138M payroll really be this bad?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Water, Water, Everywhere

Note to self: phrase "swim diaper" should not be taken too literally. For obvious reasons, a "diaper" for the swimming pool is designed NOT to be absorbent. Ergo, if one is escorting a toddler to a pool party where she will first be eating cake and watching presents open, do not put her in the more-aptly-named "paper crotch slicker" until after said festivities. Also, if one forgets lesson #1, at least remember to allow someone else to hold the toddler while walking her around.

On the plus side, pool parties do allow for these inconveniences to be "washed away." However, one should avoid speculating upon how many other "swim diapers" may be floating around in the immediate vicinity. Carry on.

Cherry Blossoms!

Today was the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Race. I didn't quite make my resolution of breaking 70 minutes, but I did run 30 seconds faster than last year--in 73 minutes, 24 seconds (net time). That's a 7:20/mile pace, which I guess is OK.

I'm doing better on the weights, actually. I have already pressed more than 200 pounds on more than one occasion, with at least four reps on 205. I'm still not close to my goal (250 pounds), but I'm getting there.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Southern Music Review

Maybe it's just coincidence, but all the records I've been listening to lately are "southern." It started with Band of Horses' Cease to Begin, which I squeezed onto my year end list tied for #10, but which I'd put much higher were I writing that list now. Swirling guitars reminiscent of Built to Spill mixed with jammy Southern alt rock soul a la My Morning Jacket--maybe the best band in America these days--give BOH a really inviting sound. The college stations down here gobble those tunes like candy.

Somehow I also stumbled on an amazing album that I managed to miss when it came out in 2006, Cat Power's The Greatest. CP, aka Chan Marshall, left her native Georgia for NYC long ago, but this record is pure Memphis soul circa 1966, so we'll send her a jug of sweet tea and an honorary subscription to Oxford American to seal her as a Dixie debutante, albeit one who has "lived in bars and danced on tables." There's something timeless about songs like "Living Proof," "Could We," and "After It All." Even the oldsters who read this blog couldn't resist them.

No band has better "southern" cred, however, than Drive By Truckers. They started getting notice after 2001's Southern Rock Opera, a double-CD "concept album" about growing up in Alabama and worshiping Lynyrd Skynyrd. The opening song was a spoken word horror story about a crashed car, two dead lovers, and "Free Bird" still playing on the stereo when the cops arrive: "It's a very long song." They also mixed in tunes about Bear Bryant, and about the Devil throwing an honorary barbecue to celebrate the arrival of fellow southerner George Wallace. Both rockers and down home documentarians, DBT always give you a great sense of place and purpose. The new record, Brighter Than Creation's Dark, stands with their best work. Titles like "You And Your Crystal Meth," "Daddy Needs a Drink," and "That Man I Shot" (about the Iraq War) suggest the Truckers' thematic bent toward the blacker corners of rural working class life. My favorite's gotta be the opener, "Two Daughters And a Beautiful Wife." As Charlene Darling used to say on Andy Griffith, "Don't play it, Daddy, that'un makes me cry."

But the best news in southern rock? REM is back. And they are better than ever. Released on Tuesday, Accelerate has been getting monster reviews (actually, better than Monster reviews). If anything, they understate how good this record is. It is easily REM's best since Automatic For the People in 1992. Also, it rocks. Probably the purest rock and roll record they've ever made, with the possible exceptions of Document (1987) and Life's Rich Pageant (1986)--long my favorite. Accelerate harks back to that late 1980s heyday, for which I have special affection since it was the soundtrack to my early college years. I'll always remember "Swan Swan H" crackling on the stereo of my old Honda the first time I drove off for school on my own. The new disc kicks you in the ass from the first spin and only lets up for air once or twice in the middle. After REM's last three efforts--Up (1998), Reveal (2001) and Around the Sun (2004), all of which were slow and unsatisfying despite patches of the old brilliance--a lot of us had given up on REM ever getting their grove back from losing drummer Bill Berry to aneurysm and retirement. Well, something changed. Peter Buck hasn't played with this much energy and Michael Stipe hasn't sung with this much fire in ages. I know that over at Second Americano, U2 is da bomb, but REM have always been my Beatles. This is their Revolver.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Raising Hill

Am I the only one who thinks all the recent fretting about what exactly Hillary said to the superdels is just, er, fretting?  Seriously, who the hell cares that she said "Obama can't win"?  She's losing, she doesn't have a lot of arguments left, and although I think she's insanely wrong about this, I can't see why this crosses some imaginary line. Same for her use of Jeremiah Wright to scaremonger in the same calls.  If the shoe were on the other foot, and Clinton had a narrow but likely insurmountable lead over Obama, I expect the Obamans would be using the same basic arguments against her: she's unelectable, and her Bosnian hyperbole turned her into a less credible and less charismatic Al Gore ca. 2000.  And they'd be right to use that argument, even if it proved futile.  

I don't cotton to a lot of HRC's recent tactics: sucking up to Richard Mellon Scaife and FOX News, trashing Obama's Commander creds, dismissing the importance of elected delegates, etc.  In fact, I've started to hate her just a little bit.  But I don't get the outrage about this one.  Now, if it is strategic outrage driven by purely cynical opportunism and designed merely to put HRC on the defensive, that I'll sign on to.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Bathroom Humor

So I arrive at my night class location at the normal time (about 6.20 pm). It's not your typical classroom, but instead a converted rowhouse on Mass Ave. There are two bathrooms in the back. I lock the door that opens onto Mass Ave and use the restroom on the right. (The one that had the light on.) But when I'm finished, the door won't open. It's locked, and the lock is stuck. I can't get out!

I don't have my cell phone (it's in my backpack, in the classroom). The students will start arriving in, like, five minutes, and they won't be able to get in (I locked the door to the street before going in the restroom). The door will not unlock.

What to do?

I tried to pop the lock with a key, but the key is too short. I tried just yanking on the door, but no luck.

Ah, I can take the pins out of the door hinges and take the door off that way! That worked, but not without some serious yanking on the door. I escaped (self-rescue!) with about three minutes to spare. Just like MacGyver, no?

The sad thing is, this is the second time that one of the locks in this place broke. Last time, it was the deadbolt on the door. Really, really cheap doors in this place, needless to say . . .