Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Musings on a stick

Go to the fair! Go to the fair right now! But first read this:

In the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne concludes a phoned-in op-ed on health care with the following paragraph:

The road to compromise is not paved by offering premature concessions and vagueness. Having held back, the administration now needs to lay out clear and understandable goals, so it can bargain from a position of strength. Dare one say it? That was Ted Kennedy's way.

Um, yes. Thousands have dared to say it. Democrats have been pimping the guy’s corpse since it breathed its last. Are Democrats aware that the average American moderate didn’t think too highly of the man (what with the manslaughter, serial philandering and not-at-all moderate views?) Nobody is going to drop everything and support health care because Ted Kennedy is dead. This is not your 9/11, guys.


Tony Jones has opinions about the Piper tornado thing. Specifically, he is calling on Piper’s Calvinist friends to call him to account. Fair enough.

Rather, it would be fair enough, if Tony Jones were willing to call out fellow emergent Brian McLaren for celebrating Ramadan. Or for anything at all. Or if any emergent ever took another emergent to task for anything. Ever.

Also, Jones’ mock outrage is (like most mock outrage) a bit opportunistic. He cares not one whit about the question of meteorological fallacy. He simply believes gay people should be permitted to be ministers. Piper doesn’t. As opposed to vigorously defending his theology, he allows Piper’s ridiculous argument to serve as a proxy for a biblical argument.


So yeah, they call them Twin Cities for a reason. Both cities have employed the services of dingbats to serve on their city councils.

Seems Melvin Carter, an up and coming young council member who sharpened his teeth during the 2000 presidential election fallout, had a problem with a candy store employee who was unsure as to whether said candy store’s popcorn contained peanuts. Hair in ass (and ambition on mind), he proposed a bill that would require every restaurant to provide customers with an exhaustive allergy handbook, detailing every conceivable allergen contained in every dish.

Lenny Russo, chef and operator for Heartland, the best restaurant in St. Paul, quickly recognized that this would be the death of his business model (menus prepared daily based on whichever ingredients are fresh). Truth be told, it would mean death to any non-chain restaurant in St. Paul. Could you imagine Bangkok Thai Deli or Hoa Bien trying to maintain such a list?

Fortunately, Russo has an outlet. He blogged to the Star Tribune about Carter’s political maneuvering. Duly chastened, Carter is withdrawing the bill for further consideration. But what if he hadn’t? Businesses shouldn’t have to live in fear of the possibility that some ambitious, ignorant, council member will sell them down the river. This is the quintessential argument for smaller government. Minneapolis and St. Paul are awash with twits like Melvin Carter. It’s best to keep their hands tied.


Yeah, so the wife and I go to the fair on Thursday, hoping to beat the crowds, only to run into the biggest opening day in the history of the fair. On a positive note, I have never seen the Republican party booth so crowded. The back atrium is usually a safe place to scarf cheese curds. Alas, healthcare has people so angry that all the seats were taken.


In non-stick food news, I had a surprisingly positive experience at the Azia restaurant complex on Eat Street. In the past, I have found Azia’s stuff to be overpriced, and their reputation for food isn’t generally great.

Me and a couple of friends met at Azia’s sushi bar (needlessly branded: Anemone). After a couple of cheap apps, we let the sushi chef construct our dinner, with strong (and reasonably priced) results. The tuna sashimi was a bit mealy, and the feature roll was a bit kitchen-sinky, but the yellowtail was a standout, the portions were ample, and the happy hour cocktails are excellent.


musings: over

Friday, August 28, 2009

State Fair Food Reviews

I went to the Minnesota State Fair. I ate things. Here's what I ate, and whether I liked it. Go.

Leprechaun Legs - O'Garas - This is really well executed. Great balance of bean and batter, not greasy or overcooked, and the sauce is nice and pungent. Portion is a bit small for $5.

Bacon - Big Fat Bacon: The orange chipotle marmalade is still a great compliment to a high quality slice of bacon, but the bacon was a tad underdone and the portion didn't seem as generous. The magic was missing.

Pig Cheeks - Famous Daves: I thought the meat was nicely done and flavorful. I wanted the peach glaze to infiltrate the meat a bit more, and I wanted salt, which was not available. Still, a good chance to try a generous portion of a cut you are unlikely to purchase again.

Porcupine Meatballs - Giggles: The belle of the ball this year. The elk (not porcupine) meatballs are cooked with gorgonzola and wild rice, which contrasts nicely with the (real) mashed potatoes and gravy. Sweet onions tie everything together. The portion is substantial for the price, and ranks as one of the most sophisticated dishes at the fair.

Risotto balls - French Meadow: A dud. Soupy, bland, risotto with mushroom cream sauce soggily breaded and served at about 65 degrees.

Olives on a stick - International Bazaar: An annual tradition we were about to shirk in favor of Holy Land's $1 deals... Until we realized HL's $1 deals are apocryphal. The olives are good, but we scored a Thrifty Thursday deal, and I can't imagine paying $2.50 for five of them.

Funnel Cake Fries - Apple Lil's: Wife had high hopes for the portable version of her favorite. Dish is largely a failure. The "fries" are cut too wide, and they are served with, literally, heated Hershey's syrup. Lame.

Cheese Curds - The Mouth Trap: After one glorious year, Ole and Lena's has stopped serving their exquisite curds with Lingonberry sauce. Back to the salty old standby.

Mini-donuts - Tom Thumb: They are mini donuts. Next.

Tornado Potato - Sonny's Spiral Spuds: The name is a bit of hyperbole, considering the product is simply spiral cut, fried potato slices on a stick. That said, they were nicely seasoned, and the sauce was so good, we considered lugging it around for the purpose of dipping other food items.

Chocolate/Raspberry Wine ice cream - Ag Building: A decent scoop of chocolate ice cream from Izzy's with nary a hint of the promised raspberry wine infusion. Which, usually when you order a flavor from Izzy's, by God you are going to get that flavor up to your eye-sockets. I'd pass.

Walking Taco - Epiphany Diner: Ironically, it's one of the least portable food items at the fair, but they do a nice job with this.

Alligator Sausage - Bob's Bayou Gator Shack: I was all excited to try the advertised gator ribs, but alas the offerings are the same as last year. I usually pivot between the marinated bites and the sausage, and went with the sausage. For $3.50, this remains one of the tastiest bargains at the fair.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Don't worry about the deficit, silly goose.

It has come to my attention that still other people are stupid on the internet. Noam Scheiber is one of them. I'm on a roll.

So what should we make of today’s other economic announcement--that the 10-year deficit projection has climbed to $9 trillion from just over $7 trillion earlier this year? Short answer: Not too much.

Yeah, what's a 28% inaccuracy rate in forecasting? Only a number larger than the profit margin for every single company in American. No big whoop.

As the OMB fact-sheet accompanying the release points out, the reason for the bulk of the $2 trillion increase is that the recession was deeper than expected,

Which, the people who did the "expecting" are still in office. Of course, that's why you're telling us to calm down, lest we hold anyone accountable.

which led to far greater spending on “automatic stabilizers” like unemployment insurance and lower tax bills.

Which, combined, not nearly $2 trillion.

And, of course, bigger short-term deficits require more debt, which creates higher interest payments that further drive up the long-term deficit.

That's not scary at all.

The biggest concern would be that foreign creditors--especially the Chinese--might clam up and slow their purchases of U.S. Treasury bonds, fearing that the deficit has become unsustainable.

Which would cause a de-stabilizing collapse, thusly giving China status as the world's only real superpower.

That could raise interest rates and sabotage the recovery.

Dude, there is no recovery to sabotage. Other nations: recovering. America: not.

I’m actually wrapping up a piece on the U.S.-China economic relationship this week, and several Treasury officials have told me that, during the recent Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the Chinese confided that they would have been more concerned about the deficit had we not responded aggressively to the recession,

So, administration officials are telling you that China said things would have been worse if the administration had not acted. Of course, the word of the Chinese is gold, especially when synthesized through self-serving political spin. I'm feeling so much better now.

The Chinese understood the importance of running a big short-term deficit to offset our economic shocks and restore growth, these officials say.

I love the fact that we are deferring to the economic wisdom of a communist, fascist country.

And the Chinese were apparently reassured when administration economic officials explained how much of the short-term deficit was a function of the recession and the financial crisis (about two-thirds).

What the hell else would have caused it? Oh, you weren't secretly spending $5 trillion on a time machine? Because that's what we thought.

Despite the ugly top-line numbers, that hasn't really changed--there isn't much reason to be more pessimistic about the long-term structural deficit than we were beforehand.

You just cited 2 trillion reasons.

Politically, there will obviously be some attempt to incorporate the new numbers into the case against Obama’s domestic agenda.

On account of it has cost about $2 trillion.

As OMB director Peter Orszag told the Times’ Edmund Andrews this morning, “A lot of people will look at this deficit and say we cannot afford health care reform.”

At this point, if you are still for Obama's health plan, facts are not going to be persuasive. That said, yeah, we cannot afford health care reform.

But I’d caution against over-emphasizing the implications of the new deficit numbers for health care reform.

That's because you support health care reform.

For one thing, from the perspective of creditors like the Chinese, health care reform at least gives you a chance at reining in long-term, structural deficits.

Not when it creates long-term, structural deficits, which it obviously will, which is why we can't afford it.

(The savings may be speculative and far off in the future, but the alternative is the certainty of zero savings, which isn’t appealing given that health care costs drive so much of the long-term deficit.)

This is stupid. There are no speculated savings, on account of there are speculated expenditures. Those savings exist in the imagination of one Barack H. Obama and his cult of devoted followers. In terms of real data, which, presumably, the Chinese use to make financial decisions, health care reform will drive the deficit upward.

Meanwhile, domestically, the administration’s biggest problem on health care isn’t that it costs too much, but too little.

This, folks, is how liberals approach economics, and also why I am not a liberal.

That is, the administration’s insistence that health care reform has to be deficit neutral over 10 years, along with its preference that much of the financing come from within the health care system, has allowed critics to scare seniors with talk of rationing and death panels--the argument being that the savings used to pay for health care reform are going to come from Medicare recipients, etc., etc.

In other words, the efforts to scare seniors are founded in the reality of the proposal. Thanks for ceding that ground.

Now obviously the administration wouldn’t have adopted that constraint if it hadn’t been worried about taking flak on the deficit.
Obviously, huh? Historically speaking, deficit concerns take a back seat to other, more urgent concerns. Like, for example, the economy. The administration adopted "constraint" because it wanted to pretend that this reform package will stimulate the economy.

But the effect of the deficit here is really second-order:

But you just said that it...

The deficit constrained the administration's thinking about health care in ways that subsequently made its plan vulnerable to other criticisms;
That it represents a step toward Socialism? Yeah, if only the plan were larger and more ambitious. That would have assuaged our worries.

the direct effect on the prospects for health care reform--i.e., people flatly insisting we can’t afford it--hasn’t been nearly as damaging. I'd guess that will more or less continue to be true despite the new numbers.

And so, in conclusion, we shouldn't worry about the deficit. Way to summarize your thesis, dude.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Let's all get angry about healthcare!

Eugene Robinson thinks he has the solution to the Dems political conundrum on health care. More heat and anger! Yeah, that's exactly what the left needs. Excerpts and commentary below.

Here's the least surprising news of the week: Americans are souring on the Democratic Party. The wonder is that it's taken so long for public opinion to curdle.

My sentiments exactly.

There's nothing agreeable about watching a determined attempt to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Oh, I find it quite agreeable, thank you.

A poll released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center reports that just 49 percent of respondents have a favorable view of the Democrats, compared to 62 percent in January and 59 percent in April.

This happens every time you have a new president.

This doesn't mean, though, that Americans look any more kindly upon the Republican Party -- favorability for the GOP has been steady at 40 percent throughout the year, according to Pew.

This also happens every time. You would have to be an idiot to be surprised by the information contained in this paragraph.

What it does mean, however, is that Republican efforts to obstruct, delay, confuse, stall, distort and otherwise impede the reform agenda that Americans voted for last November have had measurable success.

No. What it means is that the reform agenda, in action, had little measurable impact. Remember how the government spent a trillion dollars a while back, and it didn't do what Obama said it was going to?

And it means that Democrats, having been given a mandate -- one as comprehensive as either party is likely to enjoy in this era of red-vs.-blue polarization -- don't really know how to use it.

This era of polarization might also be referred to as the entire history of American politics. But I certainly agree that Democrats don't know what the hell they are doing.

That the Democratic Party is no paragon of organization and discipline is almost axiomatic.

And completely untrue of this administration, which ran the most organized, disciplined campaign in the history of U.S. Politics.

That's not the problem.

Right. It's not the problem. Because it isn't true.

The Pew poll suggests that the Democrats' weakness is neither strategic nor tactical, but emotional. To quote the poet William Butler Yeats: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

I'll simply give Robinson the benefit of the doubt and assume he pulled this quote out of some book of quotations, rather than having seriously studied its origins. Suffices to say, this is precisely the opposite image from that which Democrats want to be projecting at this juncture.

There's not enough passion on the Democratic side, not enough heat.

I beg to differ.

Republicans, by contrast, have little going for them except passion -- but they're using it to impressive effect.

Above, you said we have stalling, obstruction and confusion. I would add to that list the Congressional Budget Office, American's disinclination to embrace federal intrusion re: personal health, the fact that Obama's VP is a moon unit who is no longer allowed out of the house... Oh, and that "health care" press conference Obama used to call out a police officer for no politically tenable reason.

Step back from the health care debate for a moment and survey the landscape.

That's what you spent the last several paragraphs doing.

Democrats are within sight of a goal that has fired the party's dreams for half a century.

This is an awkward re-introduction of the "heat" theme, but okay.

They have the power to enact meaningful reform. Polls show that Americans are hungry for reform.

Which again, when was the last time a poll suggested Americans were hungry for the status quo?

Yet somehow we've gotten sidetracked onto an argument about "death panels,"

Somehow? Is Mr. Robinson unclear as to how this happened? Allow me to illuminate him. Sarah Palin wrote an incendiary opinion piece in the hope of drawing attention to herself. The Democratic party, anxious to keep alive the "Palin is an idiot meme", went on the attack, thus drawing attention to her comments.

How could this happen?

If you don't know, you have no business writing for the Washington Post.

The Pew survey suggests, basically, that Republicans are more passionate about the health care issue than Democrats.

Nope. It suggests that people aren't really excited about Obama's reform plan.

According to Pew, those who would be "pleased" if health care reforms proposed by Obama and Congress are enacted outnumber those who would be "disappointed."

In other words, people aren't really excited about Obama's reform plan.

But when you look at those who feel most passionately about the issue, just 15 percent say they would be "very happy" if the reforms go through, while 18 percent say they would be "angry."

In other words, people aren't really excited about Obama's reform plan.

Among Republicans, a full 38 percent would be angry if health care reform finally passes -- but among Democrats, just 13 percent would be angered if it doesn't.

" " ", " " " " " " " "

It's hard to argue that anger, per se, is something we need more of in American politics.

So why not take a flimsy stab at doing so?

But passion -- which sometimes, yes, finds expression in anger -- is a powerful and legitimate tool.

So, anger, per se, is a powerful and legitimate tool and, therefore, something we need more of in American politics.

Health care reform is something the Democratic Party has been trying to achieve since the Truman administration, and only 13 percent of Democrats would be angry if it fails?

Yep. Reason being, there are more ideological Republicans than Democrats. Most Democrats like their insurance just fine, and so this issue doesn't impact them. Absent ideology and personal interest, it's tough to muster anger.

Only 27 percent of Democrats would be "very happy" if reform passes, according to Pew, while 42 percent could only bestir themselves to feel "pleased" that the Grail long sought by the most beloved Democrat of all, ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy, has finally been attained?

Ted Kennedy is the most beloved Democrat of all? The dude who drowned his secretary and generally is considered to be something of a walking (well, not anymore) punchline? Why was he never able to secure his party's nomination for the presidency, so beloved as he was/is?

Here's a poll question to which the answer will never be 'yes':

Does Sen. Kennedy's illness impact your anger level regarding health care reform?

One reason for this imbalance of passion about health care reform, I believe, is that there still is no single piece of legislation

This has absolutely nothing to do with it.

But it's impossible to deny that the Republican strategy of generating anger and fear has also been a major factor.

Well, that, and the fact that Obama sold this as a sort of pseudo-stimulus until the Congressional Budget Office called him out on his BS, which, btw, happened well before any of the town hall protests, and which led him to hold that disastrous press conference where he absurdly accuse doctors of stealing our children's precious tonsils before pivoting to his cop-related cataclysm, which led to that bizarre beer summit that made this whole presidency seem kinda like a weird prank and assuredly played some role in people's lack of anger re: health care reform. So there's that.

Where are the millions who so passionately chanted "Yes, we can!" at Obama's campaign rallies?

Mr. Robinson, I give you your 13%.

Where are the legions who cried tears of joy on Election Night and tears of pride on Inauguration Day?

In Ohio, sobering up.

Is Sarah Palin now the only politician capable of inspiring "passionate intensity"?

Apparently. She certainly gets the left riled up.

Passion finds expression in anger, but also in hope.

A nice sentiment that has nothing to do with what you just wrote.

Democrats knew and felt that during the campaign.

Yeah, it was kind of part of the slogan.

If they forget it, they might as well also forget about achieving the kind of fundamental change that the country sorely needs.

Alternately, they could spend less time sputtering about hope, fear, and other emotions that have absolutely nothing to do with policy. Maybe it's time to stop pretending Obama is some sort of wizard and actually learn how to defend your positions to independents, who are, as yet, unpersuaded by the "Sarah Palin is a stupidhead argument.

And, dude, Eugene. Don't quote Yeats anymore. That makes ME angry.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday Musings

I am now a Radiohead fan on Facebook. Maybe now Thom Yorke will finally kiss me. You owe me, Thom!


This, on the Lockerbie dealio, from CNN:

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill last week ordered the release of Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi on "compassionate" grounds, saying that he was dying of prostate cancer and had just three months to live.

The compassionate thing to do would have been to let one of Lockerbie widows take him into the woods and shoot him in the back of the head. What MacAskill did was let a murderer receive a heroes welcome.

Of course, most of the victims were Americans, and we don't merit compassion or justice, right? Jackass.

Wanna boycott Scotland? Here's a website for you!


Here's a fun party trick. Whenever someone goes on about health insurance reform, ask them what they think the average health insurance profit margin is. I have yet to find any reform advocate who doesn't think it is at least 30%.

This is wrong, of course. The real margin sits at about 3%, depending on the markets. But isn't it depressing that the people who understand economics the least are the ones who are always agitating for radical change and governmental intervention?

I wonder what Obama thinks the margin is. I bet he has no idea. Too bad his lap-dog media won't ask him the question.


On Friday, uber-Calvinist John Piper decided to put his prophetic skills to the test viz. amateur meteorology. In a piece entitled "The Tornado, the Lutherans, and Homosexuality", Piper declared:

The tornado in Minneapolis was a gentle but firm warning to the ELCA and all of us: Turn from the approval of sin. Turn from the promotion of behaviors that lead to destruction. Reaffirm the great Lutheran heritage of allegiance to the truth and authority of Scripture.

For the record, the top three states for tornadic activity: Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. The bottom five? Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Washington*. According to Piper's "logic", then, God is cool with gambling, getting high, marrying your gay partner, and doing whatever it is they do in Rhode Island (which is probably pretty sinful).

Piper's hysterics obscure the fact that the ELCA has committed a great injustice to its tradition. But this is simply another step in the march to spiritual irrelevance for our country's mainline denominations. This decision IS God's judgment on the Lutheran church. No Falwell-isms needed.


The fair is coming! Nothing beats the smell of corn fritters and cow vaginas. I'm all in!


Cash For Clunkers, or, as I call it, "Stupid on Wheels", is coming to a halt after four incompetent weeks. The program, which (mark my words) will cost about $5 billion when all is said and done, rewarded those who drive inefficient vehicles with vouchers paid for by those who drive efficient vehicles.

In a telling gesture, many car dealership ceased to offer C4C trade-ins, fearing the government would not be able to process payment. Again, who here is excited for this same government to take over health care. Anyone?


If you like buffets, and Greek/Mediterranean food, and lot's of options, Big Marina Grill & Deli isn't a bad choice. Some of the more exotic options were under-spiced, but the basics (stuffed grape leaves, falafel, gyros) were well done. And the ambiance is about as nice as it gets in Columbia Heights.


A strong recommendation for Sea Salt, the outdoor pavilion cum seafood joint near Minnehaha falls. Po' Boys as big as your head, and some of the best clam strips I've had. They have a reputation for long lines, so try to go off-peak (we went at 11:30a and had little wait).


A middling rec for Liberty Custard. The place is fun, with old school pinball games and such, and my sundae was generously and deliciously adorned with turtle miscellany. The custard itself had no impact. It melted on contact, and couldn't hold up to the heavy-duty toppings.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Top Ten Fridays - Words That Suck

Finding the right word to reflect a precise meaning is one of the great joys of any communications professional. I like words. Big ones. Little ones. Words are great shakes. It's just that I'm tired of some of them.

It's not their fault. Poor bastards are usually victims of abuse by those who exploit them. Nonetheless, I am sick of the following words, and cannot countenance their further use in my presence:


Common usage: Johnny argued for simply upgrading the software, but Cindy proposed a more holistic approach.

When was the last time you saw this word used to refer to anything that remotely resembles holism (i.e., the idea that every concept within a given system is interrelated?). Usually, it simply replaces "broad" or even "good". In reality, it typically means "esoteric and untenable". Incidentally, the adverb "more" should never be applied to the term "holistic", by definition. It's like being "more" pregnant.


Common usage: As Johnny wrapped up the meeting, Suzie wanted to make sure the group embraced a more holistic approach on a go forward.

First of all, this little piece of corporate lingo is epically wrong (unless used in a physical therapy setting). Second, it is never necessary, as it is implied. So, essentially, you have a gobbledygook phrase used, solely for emphasis. Suzie might as well have asked the group to embrace a more holistic approach disco rhinoceros frenzy.


Common usage: Bushitler tried to kill the blacks with Katrina and rob the poor blind with Iraq and so he's and idiot and the voters let him obfuscate so Blackwell could steal the Ohio election.

It's like every unhinged blogger learned what this word meant on precisely the same day in November of 2002. It means to render obscure, or confuse, and it's a perfectly fine word, but it's tough on the eyes (like pusillanimous). It is often accompanied by prevaricate (to act in collusion), and almost always in the midst of some unhinged, monosyllabic rant. It's like finding a glob gorgonzola and hazelnuts in the middle of your grilled cheese sandwich.

SYLLOPLISTIC (or some variant)

Common usage: Johnny re-asserted his point, and Suzie accused him of having a sylloplistic attitude.

There's a lot not to like about this word. It's aggressive. It's long. It's meaning is nebulous. Oh, and it isn't a word. It's one of the many manglings of the word solipsistic (syllogistic is another, but is at least a word in its own right), and is usually meant to read as "arrogant", which is sort of, but not quite, what solipsistic means.


Common usage: Barack Obama biffed a press conference, and decided to turn it into a teachable moment.

The official slogan of assholes. Anyone who uses this term in my presence (unless ironically) is going to be the recipient of busted eye sockets.


Common usage: After the frat party, Doug announced he had to take a whiz. "GIT-R-DONE" said Eric.

This catch phrase was never not tiresome. That it has somehow managed to weave its way into so many of my social and professional interactions says a lot about my life choices, I think.

SILOS (or lack thereof)

Common usage: Johnny wondered aloud whether IT could keep up with the increase demand, but Suzie countered that it was important to break down silos. This was a TEAM project.

Silos are corporate-speak for "job functions". They are bad, for some reason. Therefore, employees must make an active effort to work outside of their area of expertise and share accountability. Except for admins and receptionists, 'cause no one else wants to do that crap. (note: it is still acceptable to refer to honest-to-farm silos as silos).


Common usage: Suzie later quit the company to get a Masters Degree in Peace Studies, citing her concern for Social Justice.

Social justice: The slogan of liberal double-majors since 1992. Good grief, just call yourself a Democrat.


Common usage Steve, a fierce Calvinist, impugned Larry for adhering to a flawed Hermeneutic.

Theologians utilize a wide variety of absurd-sounding and arcane language. Reason: Dorks. This is the silliest of them all. And, believe me, I've got some mad hate for "apologetics", which tends to be as ugly in practice as it is on paper.


Common usage: Johnny made fun of Steve's pink shirt. Suzie accused Johnny of Homophobia.

The colloquial meaning (bearing a disdain for homosexual behavior) makes no sense. The literal (viz. pop-psychology: The fear of homosexuality rooted in one's own latent homosexuality) makes less sense. Nobody would argue that one who is arachnophobic fears that he is, in fact, a spider. In reality, it's a putdown, and a cognitively dissonant one at that (what? You fear gays? That makes you, um, gay!)


Common usage: Johnny ordered the ahi tuna appetizer. Suzie opted for the duck confit.

First of all, the word is pronounced con-fee. That is awful. Second, confit refers to a manner of food preservation. It is not, as half the restaurant menus in Minneapolis would lead you to believe, simply an artsy conglomeration of meat and (maybe) sauce. The word tells you nothing about what is in a particular dish.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Holistic Approach to Health Care Reform

As everyone knows, our nation is in the midst of a health care debate. Essentially, the debate boils down to the degree to which federal government ought to be involved in providing health care coverage and making health care decisions.

But wait, we're missing one key ingredient, that nobody is talking about. What is that? According to Cesar Baldelomar, its the need for holistic healing. Wait, but that's not really what people care... Shut up! Read the article!

(excerpts, responses... We've been down this road before.)

As debates rage over the proposed health-care reform (which I strongly support), I believe many politicians, activists, religious leaders, and ideologues are missing an essential point. We need a complete overhaul in the way medical and pharmaceutical professionals perceive biology and the role of medicine.

Um, yeah. Exactly what I was thinking. My doctor can't perceive biology for shit.

In 1982, in his prophetic book The Turning Point - Science, Society, and The Rising Culture , physicist Fritjof Capra

Has anyone heard of the prophet Fritjof? He wrote The Tao of Physics, unread by me, and you, probably. He is the founding director of the center for Ecoliteracy (no points for guessing at which University that's located).

The human body is regarded as a machine that can be analyzed in terms of its parts; disease is seen as the malfunctioning of biological mechanisms which are studied from the point of view of cellular and molecular biology; the doctor’s role is to intervene, either physically or chemically, to correct the malfunctioning of a specific mechanism.

That sounds about right. Ol' Fritz is on the ball. He also co-wrote the screenplay for the film Mindwalk, with Sam Waterston.

Consequently, many medical professionals have lost sight of the whole person.


Diseases, conventional wisdom shows, have physical, mental, and cultural consequences.

All of which should be addressed by those who study, um, medicine?

For instance, an HIV/AIDS patient will perhaps face emotional burdens that may often outweigh the physical pain, but doctors only address the physiological symptoms and neglect the patient’s emotional status.

Which makes sense, because they are not psychologists.

The ability to heal the whole person has been forgotten, and perhaps even lost.

Psychology being an ancient profession of a bygone era.

This neglected ability to heal is the result of the training medical professionals receive in school.

I am interested to hear Cesar argue this using facts.

The movie Patch Adams,

Oh, God.

which is a perfect illustration of the battles “holistic” physicians have to face to be taken seriously in the medical profession that views them as less scientific.

Precisely because they are less scientific, or, typically, not scientific at all. It sure was funny when Robin Williams put legs on that building, so the door looked like private parts. He sure showed those lousy, stuck-up Deans!

By evoking laughter, Adams inspired self-confidence and hope in his patients that they could indeed overcome their illnesses, and many of them did.

In this case, laughter really WAS the best medicine. Well that and, you know, medicine.

The “holistic” doctor perceived his patients not as machines, but as living, organic systems that require more than chemicals to be healed.

Sometimes a woman just needs to be dropped into a big ol' pool of spaghetti noodles. Thanks Cesar. Now I know how to reform healthcare.

Similarly, Jesus healed the sick by being attentive to the sick person’s ailment, mental and emotional status, and cultural milieu.

But mostly their ailment.

Renowned Harvard theologian Harvey Cox argues “that the mobs of people who thronged Jesus did not seek him out to hear his message. They came because he had gained a reputation as a healer.”

Renowned Harvard theologian Harvey Cox has successfully argued against your thesis.

Jesus was ahead of his time in rejecting the ancient idea that sickness was a punishment for evil.

How unlike modern physicians, who are always telling us we need to lose weight so we don't have heart attacks. Those jerks.

Jesus was this person, and his attention to assuaging their emotional and psychological pain may have led to many of them curing their own illnesses.

Let me re-construct Cesar's syllogism here:

a) Jesus was kind to people
b) Jesus was so kind, some people might have healed themselves
c) If doctors are more kind, some people might heal themselves

In response, I argue:

a) The ancient Aztecs sacrificed people
b) These sacrifices may have led to advanced techniques in banana harvesting
c) Taxpayer dollars should fund sports arenas

The medical profession could also learn from the emerging occupational therapy field.

Alternately, they could simply refer patients to an occupational therapist.

Occupational therapists empower their patients by heavily involving them in their own treatment.

Neurosurgeons, take notice.

Many months ago, I accompanied my wife, an occupational therapist,

Who, if primary care physicians were to learn her craft, would be out of a job. By the way, wasn't this deal supposed to be about health care reform?

I have heard far too many accounts from family members, friends, and strangers of how doctors treat them as if they were nothing but potential financial gain.

Occupational therapists volunteer their time, and have no personal economic incentive.

The insurance and pharmaceutical industries encourage doctors to continue looking upon their patients as nothing but machines in need of a quick oil change.

An excerpt from chapter 44 of "Conversations that Have Never Happened"

Insurance Adjuster: I wanted to follow up on the status of the multiple hip surgeries for Mrs. Garrison.

Dr. Adams: Well, actually, I referred her for physical therapy. She has been doing a lot better.

Insurance Adjuster: I'm sorry. We are going to have to insist on numerous expensive back surgeries. Our models have not incorporated alternative medicine techniques.

Dr. Adams: But all she had was a muscle strain. This is treatable with therapy and medication.

Pharamceutical Representative: Medication? If she had surgery, all she would need is ibuprofen.

Dr. Adams: Were you on the line this whole time.

Insurance Adjuster: Listen, you will schedule those back surgeries, or we'll cut you out of our network.

Dr. Adams: No, you're right, you're right.

It is, to say the least, a vicious business in need of reform.

According to your Kool-aid drinking wife who stands to gain financially from a shift toward occupational therapy techniques.

Patients are subjects in need of holistic healing.

Just take it from Patch Adams. The movie version, not the real-life version that has raised millions for an institute that has yet to be completed, leaving many to wonder where their money is going. But yeah, Robin Williams? Golden.

Pardon me while I go soak in some spaghetti noodles.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monday Musings

Sorry I can't continue my Vegas musings, but what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Also, the most exciting thing that happened to me in Vegas was that my friends ran into Wayne Brady on the escalator. I guess you had to be there. Let's muse.


I will note that, when I arrived in Vegas, my friends decided on Lux, a restaurant in the Venetian. Lux is owned and operated by the Cheesecake Factory. Basically, I travelled half way across the country to eat overpriced Applebees. Oh, and $14 for a martini was a nice touch.


I think the golf championship was just an excuse for the Goodyear blimp to come to Minnesota and steal my dreams.


Dreamthief Tire wouldn't make a bad brand name.


Memo to conservatives: Can it with the Nazi symbols, and stick to attacking Obama's stupid health plan.


Memo to liberals: Quit bitching about the Nazi symbols, and defend Obama's stupid health plan. Seriously. Score, if we were to reference the Argumentum ad Hitlerum Scoresheet, your team would be up 151,678,253 to 27.


Memo to Barack Obama: Quit saying we need healthcare reform right now because Jimmy O'Toole in Peoria died while waiting for red tape to unravel. You are proposing to introduce a bureaucracy. Nobody believes that this will eliminate red tape. Nobody.


Memo to Six Flags: I know you spent millions of dollars on rebranding so you could incorporate that creepy old man into, like, everything, but that doesn't change the fact that he's creepy, does it? Re-brand him back out.


Memo to me: Your overplaying the theme here, me.


Marley and Me is an interminable film. It's a comedy without jokes, and a drama that uses montages in lieu of dialogue. Also, why does a two hour long film need montages? Also, does Owen Wilson have a stipulation in his contract that each of his films must have at least nine endings? He should star in a remake of Clue.


Rinata should not star in a remake of Clue. But only because it is an Italian restaurant, and a mighty fine one at that. It's on 25th and Hennepin, on the bearable side of Uptown and, along with sister restaurant Al Vento, is helping to bring real midpriced Italian options to the cities.


Made a pesto out of basil from the garden. Take that, Rita Rudner.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Vegaspleasures Day 1

I’m in Vegas, but only for the thrills, baby. Let’s muse.

Sun Country Airlines pimps snacks and drinks harder than any other airline. Seriously, this airline would sell meth if it could.

Which, why don’t more airlines make this kind of effort (I’m talking snacks and drinks, not meth?) Flights are boring. People will buy stuff, if you ask them enough. NWA makes you feel like a belligerent if you ask for a beer after the magic tray-o-beverages has passed.


Also, I’m lookin’ at a kid tamp down seconds on Sierra Mist. He just got up and asked for it. Game of life score: Kid with gusto – 2 complimentary beverages. Rest of Schmucks – 1.


Speaking of schmucks, the White House never got back to me after I exposed my Facebook friends for being lying hacks. This either means.

1) They’re on it. In which case, sorry about that, Facebook friends. Mind the rats.

2) They delegated the whole enterprise to some overburdened intern, which, if you are an overburdened intern working for Barack Obama, and you have been assigned the task of dealing with people crazy enough to report “misinformation” they find on the internet… Well, hope comes in weird packages, don’t it? Have fun dying inside. Tool.

3) Nobody checks the e-mail address, and this is just a way to get mediocre party faithful excited. Oh, and accidentally handing an exquisite talking point to the opposition party at the precise moment they are pivoting from a generally moralistic message to one the appeals to personal autonomy. Good idea.
Either way, I’m beginning to feel as though I participated in a political charade.


My delight is taking wifey to place I already know to be awesome. Be’Wiched (not in Vegas) is one of those places. Wifey agrees, re: awesome. She even ate a confit of sashimi grade tuna. And it was under $10 just because it’s on bread and called a sandwich. It’s like getting a Ferrari for $18,000 because it has a Chrysler label on it.
You have to eat here, people.


My stewardess is named Josette. This is literally the best thing that has ever happened.


What mountain is that? Also, what is the difference between a river and a tributary? I am away from the internet, I have had two beers, and the truth is not in me.


Strictly speaking, if the truth is not in me, Vegas is probably the right place to be… Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

My Civic Duty

In response to criticisms of Obamacare, the White House is ramping up efforts to stop the insidious misinformation campaign. Citizens have been asked to flag all instances of lies and distortion, and report them to the White House.

Well, THIS Obama donor wasn't going to miss the opportunity. I White House asked, and I heeded the call. Here is a copy of that letter.

Dear Mr. President,

First of all, as an Obama donor, I would like to thank you for your ongoing efforts to set the record straight about health care reform. It is imperative that we cut the misinformation campaign off at the head. With that in mind, I was wondering if you had any recommendations as to what to do about my Facebook friends (and family).

I respect my friends, and I respect the freedom of speech. However, when I leave a comment on their status updates (read: propaganda), I am either shouted down, or have my comments deleted.

Facebook is a public forum, and such dishonesty is tantamount to slander. I have flagged many of these posts as such, and have "defriended" as necessary, but I feel like we need to do more. I have filed civil and criminal complaints in this matter. Unfortunately, Minnesota is a bit too close to "Jesusland", and so I fear my calls will go unheeded.

What are the best next steps? Protests and complaints are not enough. Alas, the Rethugs (who pretty much own the Internets) have a vehicle at their disposal to allow their lies to go unfettered.

I would propose legislation, call it the "Reforming Facebook Standards Act", that will reclaim our social media sites for truth. If someone provides an update with certain keywords (e.g. rationing), they can be monitored. Same goes if they link to right-wing propaganda sites (National Review, Atlantic Monthly), that information can be sent to Facebook proprietors, who can make a decision on how to act.

The administration can formulate guidlines and make recommendations as to how Facebook should respond. You could make the standards public, shaming social networking sites into action.

We still preserve free speech, but also introduce accountability. Otherwise, our healthcare is in the hands of the lunatics who threaten to mob our congresspeople at town hall meetings. We lay our liberties and the hands of propagandists and Nixon-HMO shills.

Just my two cents. Please let me know how I can be of assistance. My mother has heart problems. Every day we preserve the big corporate status quo is a day we risk losing her. This is real for so many of us. We need to give a voice to the millions of people who don't have the benefit of a corporate infrastructure that bribes them into complacence. We need CHANGE, and that comes from within.

I'm willing to do what it takes.



(aka Blueriddla'08)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Baby's gonna gitcha

Yeah, It's like I was telling Jenkins, if there isn't going to be an accountability structure, the project isn't going to get done. Everyone's spread thin right now, and if you want these sales sheets to be a priority, you've got to...

Uh, oh.

Uh, ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Baby's gonna gitcha.

What's baby doin'? Baby's gotta secret. Baby doesn't tell secrets, though.

Baby understands. Baby has learned so much. Baby has power!

Baby sleeps with one eye open so he can steal souls.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Monday Musings

Spring is in the air. Even though it's summer. A global warming no-show. Let's muse.

Lo and behold, Cash for Clunkers turned out to be an idiotic idea. Who saw that coming?

Alas, Congress is celebrating its victory. After all, they gave away money and, by golly, people took it. That almost never happens. Gee-whiz.

Can we have a cash for tacky Christmas decorations program? That would probably stimulate the economy too, and save the environment. My (wife's) Frosty the Snowman Nativity sucks precious electricity. Therefore, I should get $500 toward a flat screen TV.


I will say this. The popularity and/or notoriety (dependent upon your worldview, and whether or not that worldview is informed by doltishness) of the C4C program seems to be scratching America's collective environmental itch.

Everybody went green. We're green now. The enviros have their cookie and milk so they can hibernate for another couple of decades.


When did female digestive health become a trillion dollar industry, and who made Jamie Lee Curtis of this new bowel revolution?

It's like the 1960s all over again. Jamie Lee Curtis is the Janis Joplin of a new ass-based counter-culture.


Don Quixote had his windmills. Our Quixotic mayor has bottled water. In this week's edition of "Dude, You're Mayor, Get Over It", R.T. is befuddled by the presence of a vending machine selling bottled water for $1.50. Money quote:
People are paying close to $10 a gallon for water! They’d scream if they saw unleaded gas selling for that much, yet they think nothing about paying that much for something as basic as water.

Since R.T. doesn't seem to be making a political point here, I'll assume he's providing some insight on his thought process, and/or disproving existence of same. As such, I find disconcerting his ignorance of a rather glaring point.

People buy water in vending machines because there are no taps nearby, and because they do not want pop. Pop and bottled water are inexpensive commodities in the home, so R.T.'s anecdotal bafflement is misplaced.

The question is why people buy bottled water at home. The reason, in Minneapolis, is that their tap water smells like crap and changes color sometimes.

And because bottled water marketers are empirically smarter than R.T. Rybak.


Went to Tao foods, the organic/holistic emporium on 22nd and Hennepin. Ordered a Tempeh Reuben (when in Rome...), and so here's my beef. It seems to be that organic/holistic emporiums universally compensate for the organic/holistic-ness of their offerings by slathering copious amounts of mayonnaise (and or oil) on their stuff.

There is nothing holistic about mayonnaise. It is unadulterated indulgence, a paean to our basest nutritional compulsions.


Also, there was a large display on women's urinary health, right in the dining area, complete with yellow artwork. It got me thinking. Bowel health has it's fancy new spokeswoman, but who is going to stand up for good old-fashioned urine? Ellen Degeneres could do some great work in this market.


Went to Pancho Villa this weekend for the first time in ages. It continues to be one of the very best Mexican places in town, and remains reliably affordable. The shrimp soup was to die for.


That is it. I won't muse anymore until next week.