Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Friday, April 22, 2011

Karl Marx's Favorite American President

I suspect that the von Mises Institute is happier about this than is FOX News. Maybe that's why Obama used his Bible for the Inaugural.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Manny Being Manny

Manny Ramirez has retired. In true Manny-style, he retires rather than serve a 100-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

Manny was a great hitter. In 19 major league seasons, he had over 2,500 hits and hit 555 HR. He averaged 181 hits and 39 HR a season over that span. His career OPS is .996, which is pretty amazing; his career OBP is .411. He also played in 111 postseason games, with 29 postseason HR.

Stats here.

Of course, we think we know that Manny was using "banned substances." He was rumored to be one of the 2003 players--back when baseball tested but didn't act on the tests, he was one of about 100 players who allegedly tested positive. Then there was the 50-game suspension. Now this.

But if you followed the Cleveland Indians in the 1990s, there's a limit to how much you are going to care about that. The last remaining members of that team are reaching the ends of their careers--Thome, Vizquel.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Pencil Pushing Hump Talking Class Actions

From the symposium last week in Cincinnati. I think at this point I was discussing something, um, kind of boring.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Survivor: Tea Party Island

"We're survivalists, you know." "Survivalists?" I repeated the word so that I could absorb it, process it, figure out what the hell to say next. "Well, of course," she said, "we need all of those gas tanks. When Obama finishes sabotaging the world economy, people are going to be wandering through the streets scavenging, begging for food, looking for a place to go. We won't be like them. We'll be ready!" Now I knew. This was no ordinary ranch house, and that was no typical apartment we were renting. It was ground zero at the Obamapocalypse.

I'll back up. You guys already know the beginning of the story. Spiders. We had been making progress fighting them, but there were additional steps we could take more easily if we vacated the house for a while. A few weeks, maybe a month. It also seemed like a good opportunity to do some needed renovations: a new roof, new H/AC, some bathroom updating. (The downstairs bathroom was "Mamie Eisenhower pink," circa 1957, from floor to ceiling, and the upstairs had its light switches in the shower.) Apparently, work of this sort can scare the residual creepies down from the attic or out from the walls into human territory, and not surprisingly, we didn't want to be around for that. But renting for a short time is usually difficult and expensive.

Luckily, our realtor gave us the name of a woman who had a perfect set up. Jackie and Jay were wealthy retirees who lived on a quiet road just east of campus. They had a large, immaculate orange-brick rancher with a pool and an enormous lot. They had turned one wing of the house into a two-bedroom rental apartment, but, even better, they had several fully furnished one-bedroom guest cottages behind the house and beautiful grounds and gardens where kids could run around and play. The cost was reasonable, and she would rent on a week to week basis. The apartments typically went to foreign businessmen on short assignments or relocating families waiting for a new house to be finished. So we bit.

Before we went to see the place, Mrs. TMcD warned me that she thought they were pretty conservative. "Don't talk politics," she said, "let's keep this simple." No problem. Of the two of us, I'm the "diplomatic" one, I reminded her--even the local Jehovah's Witnesses like to parley with me. She rolled her eyes, and I promised to be good. When we got to the ranch house, Jackie showed us around her house and the two available apartments: the one in the main house, which was clean but a bit dank, and a spacious one-bedroom with a deck, vaulted ceiling, and skylights that sat on top of the barn/second garage. No question, we wanted the loft. As we discussed details, Jackie pivoted to politics. "I hear you teach at the university. What department?" Politics, I said. "Ohhhhh," she said, "then I'm sure you know my friend, G." Which, of course I did, since he had been teaching in my department for forty-some years. "We're old friends," she went on, describing years of social interaction, "but of course we don't agree on politics, because, you see, I'm a constitutionalist." This, I could tell, was going to be an adventure.

Still, I kept my mouth shut, even as she showed us pictures of herself cavorting with Michelle Bachmann at some right-wing confab. She had them posted on her fridge. Jackie, it turns out, was no ordinary landlady. She was one of the key organizers of the local Tea Party, mobilizing right-thinking Americans against socialism, death panels, and creeping Sharia. Her husband, a retired military officer and pilot, stood by, silent but approving, as his wife discoursed on the threat to America. But we had just met them, and she kept it relatively short, so I had no trouble keeping mum. Besides, they seemed like nice enough folks, just under the not atypical sway of Obama derangement syndrome. My grandmother would have loved them.

We started renting the apartment several weeks before we actually moved in. Work crew delays meant we didn't need to be out of the house quite yet. Plus, Mrs. TMcD had found some, er. . . you-know-what's living in our new apartment. It's been that kind of year. So she wanted time to spray and bug-proof before we actually moved anything in, especially before we brought the girls there.

When we finally moved in, in November, it was the night before the midterm elections. Timing! I was relieved, however, that no Tea Party festivities appeared to have been planned for the estate itself. And luckily, most of our stay proved uneventful, aside from an occasional failed appliance or eight-legged friend in a window-well. Making the stay even smoother, Jackie and Jay spent most of their time at their multiple lake houses, which, judging by the pictures she had showed us, were even more swanky than their regular digs. The loft apartment was a truly lovely place to hunker down during renovations. Good thing too, because the work that we had expected to last a few weeks ended up taking a few months. There were glitches, however.

Case in point, the gas cans. For a couple of weeks we noticed that the apartment reeked of fumes. When Mrs. TMcD went poking around in the barn below, she discovered a surprisingly large number of gas cans, typically without tops. "Why don't you go ask her to move them," she said to me when I got home, "I don't think I can deal with her today. Just ask her to move them to their main (attached) garage. And don't talk politics!" Sure, I said.

That, of course, is when I got the survivalist speech. Now how exactly am I supposed to not talk politics when I'm told by my landlady that she doesn't want to move her gas tanks (and spare my young children the fumes) because the four horseman of the FOX-apocalypse are on the ride? To be honest, there's also a big part of my brain that wanted to hear what she had to say. Exactly how far out there is she? How does the fevered right-wing mind work? She was going to show me, and I invited that carnival right up on stage.

"He's sabotaging the world economy?" I asked. Jackie tossed out a few slams on "Marxism," so I couldn't help myself. "The markets are all substantially up since Obama came in, corporate profits are soaring, and economic growth has returned after cratering under Bush. What are you worried about? Besides, it was Bush who created all those deficits, through his tax cuts and the Iraq War." Jackie didn't believe me. She started railing about bailouts, so I asked if she knew that the bailouts were a Bush program initiated with strong bipartisan support, including people like Boehner and Palin. Her response was pretty typical, although delivered with great passion: "the Tea Party isn't about a Party! We stand against the big spending socialism of BOTH parties!!" She grabbed her picture of Bachmann off the fridge and started waving it around furiously. "I never paid attention to politics before, but with Obama, I can see he hates America and he's trying to bring us down, so now I'm standing up for my country!" This last bit was a lie, of course. I knew from her friend G. that she had always been a right-wing nut, notorious for sending around unhinged e-mails long before the Kenyan stole the White House.

"OK, Jackie," I said, "did you support the Iraq War? the Bush tax cuts? If so, you created this budget mess. Why should anyone listen to you now?" That set her off on a rant about how we needed to invade Iraq because of 9/11 and how tax cuts always pay for themselves, etc. Boilerplate. Then she started going off on how it's all part of George Soros's scheme to bring down world governments. "He's done it before!" she screamed. "Still," I responded, "Obama inherited a $1.3 T annual deficit along with an epic economic collapse, you can't act like the bad economy is some left wing plot to destroy the world. Soros is a wealthy capitalist--and last I looked conservatives generally like those guys. The countries that Soros helped undermine were communist autocracies, and he brought them down a lot more cheaply than George Bush took 'democracy' to Iraq. Shouldn't you be cheering him on?" Her head looked like it was about to explode. Grasping for a response, she decided to save her bacon by arguing that American military intervention is the ONLY legitimate path of regime change.

But she quickly returned to her main obsession: Obama's war on the Constitution. Apparently, health care reform is a totalitarian plot that has the founders planning a zombie attack from the grave. "None of this stuff is in the Constitution!" she wailed. "Show me where it is!" OK, I said, easy. Commerce and general welfare--the founders were all nationalists: Washington, Hamilton, Madison. They hated this states' rights stuff. "Doesn't matter! They didn't say anything about health care."

She was getting pretty agitated, so I redirected to Jay. "Jay, what branch of the service were you in?" "Air Force," he said. "So where, exactly, does the Constitution mention the Air Force?," I asked. The dervish that is Jackie looked momentarily stunned, before blurting out "It's a militia!!!" "Jay," I laughed, "Is the Air Force a 'militia'!?" He shook his head gently. "Look," I added, "I know you don't like these policies, but they're all pretty moderate--based on GOP plans going back decades--and they're clearly constitutional. You can't just assume everything you dislike is an affront to the founders." Flummoxed, Jackie had one final card to play. "Yes they are!" She grabbed for the remote. "I can prove it! I've got it all right here on my TiVo." And I'm sure she did. But how to find it among the 129 episodes (!! I shit ye not) of Glenn Beck that she had so carefully saved as a testimony to the future generations born in servitude?

Anyway, that was a distilled version of an hour plus conversation. In the end they agreed to move the gas tanks, but the smell never fully went away. When time came for us to finally move out, Mrs. TMcD scrubbed that place down like she was prepping for the Queen. No surprise, Jackie came through with the white glove treatment, looking for dust behind the pictures hanging on the wall, all the while complaining about everything under the sun. She seemed pissed off that she couldn't find anything wrong. "I've got a full month before I have to return your deposit!" she barked. Almost two months later, we still haven't gotten back a dime. I bet it all went to Michelle Bachmann.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Opening Day 2011

Last week I was in Cincinnati, for work, but I was able to catch the Reds' home opener against the Brewers. The Brewers led off the game with back-to-back home runs--making my fantasy draft selection of Edinson Volquez look a little questionable. The Brew Crew led until the final at-bat of the game, when the Reds catcher hit a three-run homer into the visitors' bullpen to win, 7-6. Six home runs in the game, including one by reigning NL MVP Joey Votto.

Not exactly an Opening Day, but definitely baseball (playoff) related, see here for a much younger version of me.

Laundry mishap

Ever wash (and dry) say, a dozen (large-size no less) crayons in the pocket of your favorite hoodie sweatshirt? No, then you haven't had any fun doing laundry lately, folks.