Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Predictions Reviewed for Accuracy

Prediction: R.T. Rybak will run for governor as the mayor who reduced crime in Minneapolis. This will become his downfall, as opponents are able to tie the inevitable increase in crime to Rybak's decision to take cops of the streets in favor of pretty fountains and buyout for lecherous lesbian firefighters.

Reality: Not only did crime increase, but the year began with a spate of homocides, rendering Rybak's bit something of a non-starter. Somehow, the Democrats managed to field an even more poorly qualified candidate. Thanks, Dems.

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Prediction: After some awkward posturing, Conan O'Brien is hired by Comedy Central (and not FOX), officially shifting the television game from network to cable TV.

Reality: Not sure what awkward posturing I was anticipating, but O'Brien did make the switch to cable TV, adding loads of credibility to TBS and doing quite a bit to move the game to cable.

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Prediction: The Lions will draft well, to which sportswriters will respond by declaring the team a sleeper to grab a wild card spot. The Lions will not win a wild card spot.

Reality: The Lions drafted well, were declared a sleeper to grab a wild card spot, and did not win a wild card spot.

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Prediction: The Vikings will not win the Superbowl, and their fans will not win their battle to build a new stadium.

Reality: The Vikings did not win the Superbowl, though a conveniently timed roof collapse would seem to render the new stadium something of a fait accompli.
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Prediction: Republicans will come within 4 seats of taking both the House and Senate.

Reality: Half right. The Republicans need for more seats for the Senate, but won the House by a historic margin.

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Prediction: Clint Eastwood will direct his final film, which will be hailed as the best of his career, and will become the presumptive favorite in a strong class of Oscar nominees. Richard Jenkins will get an Oscar nomination for his role in a surprisingly watchable remake of Let The Right One In.

Reality: Eastwood isn't done yet, and this year's offering, Hereafter, snapped a huge winning streak. Odd, since Matt Damon does an outstanding job of selecting scripts, and Eastwood knows how to handle end of life issues with subtlety and tact.

Let the Right One In was surprisingly very good, and Chloe Moretz would be a shoo-in for a nomination if the film did better at the box office.

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Prediction: Several restaurants will open, or restructure their menus, in a bid to appeal to a recession-induced appetite for giant portions of bland comfort food. At least one-quarter of these establishments will shutter their doors in 2010.

Reality: Forum, Ringo, a new Crave location, BLVD and the absurdly named Wondrous Azian Kitchen opened, and Ringo is already out. That said, Piccolo and Travail opened, Haute Dish is earning raves for allegedly not-at-all-bland comfort food, and most restaurants revamped their menus in order to reflect new talent in the kitchen.

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Prediction: Health care will come off the table, as the Democratic congress scatters to pass a flurry of largely symbolic legislation aimed at placating a new-found populism among the electorate.

Reality: Alas, no. Not sure why Obama waited until after the elections to unfurl his relatively moderate new tax plan. Did the Dems really think November was going to be smooth sailing?

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Prediction: Mac will suffer a backlash, as budget-conscious consumers refuse to pay a premium for products that only work with proprietary software and hardware. The two-year contract becomes a mere formality, as companies eager to upgrades allow consumers more flexibility.

Reality: The iPad, literally a super-sized version of an existing product that was originally popular by virtue of being small, sold millions of units. Also, I am typing this on a Mac, and I have an iPhone.

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Prediction: Norm Coleman will make noise by re-considering his decision not to run for governor. Brett Favre comparisons will abound. He will run, and he will win.

Reality: Nope. He would absolutely have won, and I have to think he would have run had he known how the electoral landscape was shaping up.

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Up next: Predictions for 2011!

Monday, December 27, 2010

The centrists last gasp

Preface: Prior to the 2008 presidential election, Republican strategist David Frum joined a small handful of Republicans in (to varying degrees) endorsing Obama's candidacy. They cited his election as a moment for Republicans to shed their anti-government persuasions and head to the political center, where the pork is. It was the only way to save the party, we were told.

Of course, Frum's brand of liberal Republicanism failed mightily at the polls, as a strong libertarian revolt drove very conservative Republicans to victory in moderate districts. And so Frum's followers are left Frumdering. Consider this nonsense, from Kenneth Silber, entitled Libertarian Revolution? Not Exactly. He begins with a quote from another piece, written by Christopher Beam:

Libertarians, of both left and right, haven’t been this close to power since 1776. But do we want to live in their world?

Upon seeing that subhead, I tweeted:

Libertarians, of both left and right, haven’t been this close to power since 1776.” http://bit.ly/fPraNw So much wrong with this sentence.

So much wrong? Wow, that's a stirring indictment. What, pray tell, is wrong with this sentence?
Nobody used the political label “libertarian” in 1776.
Yep. He leads with that one. In related news, participants in the Boston Tea Party did not refer to themselves as the Tea Party Movement. Thanks for the aggressive banality, Kenneth.
The American founders were not exactly “close to power” in 1776, as they were waging a decidedly uphill struggle at that time against the British Empire.
Oh dear. Before I get started on this, I should note that I looked up "1776" on Wikipedia. It gives this definition:
Year 1776 (MDCCLXXVI) was a leap year starting on Monday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a leap year starting on Friday of the 11-day slower Julian calendar).
That is blithely point missing, not unlike Kenneth's commentary. Seriously, America (yes, THAT America) signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Throughout all of history, I cannot think of a better example of being "close to power" than that document.
There’s little consensus as to what constitutes libertarianism today... And some who call themselves libertarian are actually left-leaning like comedian Bill Maher.
Yes, idiots like the idea of calling themselves libertarian. They think it means "super-duper-liberal". Simply because Bill Maher decided to co-opt the term doesn't mean there is not consensus as to what the ideology stands for. It refers to an ideology that prefers as little government as possible, and for that government to be as de-centralized as possible.

That idea is certainly en vogue at the moment, much to the dismay of the idiots who doubled-down on the idea Americans were looking for a nanny state. Kenneth what's-his-face might be irrelevant, but good ideas are not.
Ron Paul gets considerable play in the New York article as an exemplar of libertarianism (and Reason has largely embraced him as such too, despite some past qualms). It is highly debatable whether Paul’s political prominence signifies a “libertarian moment” or rather just a tragedy whereby libertarianism becomes conflated with a particular strain of illiberal, conspiracy-minded twaddle.
This isn't an argument. Mostly, it's just adjectives. A more relevant argument might be that Paul supported the war in Afghanistan, and so rendered his alleged ideological purity w/r/t Iraq unfounded. That is an argument an intelligent person would make, but since he didn't make it...
I find most of what is written on the Frum Forum to be twaddle, but that has no bearing on whether it is influential. Kenneth's argument seems to be "I disagree, therefore everyone agrees with me."

Begs the question, suffices to say.
In sum, it is quite easy — and often lazy — for people to call themselves libertarian and to suggest the founding fathers were too.
In sum? He hasn't defended this thesis at all.

I'm no fan of liberals, but I have to say I hate moderates even more.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Monday Musings - Boxer Day Edition

When is Boxer day? It's sometime between Christmas and New Years, I know, but is it today? Anyway, you can Google it, let's muse...

Anyone catch that Little Caesar's Bowl last night? It's is actually underway as I type, but short of a terrorist attack at the stadium, I can't imagine Toledo vs. Florida International generating any memorable news. Congrats FIU, probably.

Okay, I looked it up, FIU is 6-6. They're just in a bowl game because the word Florida is in the name of their school, aren't they? The Gophers should change their name to the Minnesota Fighting Florida, but only for football.

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Thesis: The Minnesota Vikings are single-handedly destroying professional football.

Supporting argument: The Metrodome. Billed as a multi-purpose monument to sports, the thing is actually a monumental turd, constructed as such SOLELY for the purpose of being able to also accommodate football games. Gotta love a stadium whose inspiration comes from civil visionaries Detroit and New Orleans.

Supporting argument: The Herschel Walker trade, which consequently gave us years of Cowboys dominance, thereby allowing owners to unaccountably piss away draft picks to acquire marginal talent. Seriously, EVERY trade looks smart after that trade.

Supporting argument: Randy Moss's first stint with the team. We can thank him for the NFL's gestapo anti-celebration policies, which apparently include delineating how many players (one) can celebrate with the fans at a give time.

Supporting argument: The playoff non-sellout. The bandwagon mentality in this town is so profound that even teams with a marginal shot to win the championship are ignored.

Supporting argument: The Lake Minnetonka boat incident. Seriously, there's a time and a place for that sort of behavior. Namely happy hour at Lord Fletcher's. We can pretty much thank the boat people for the preponderance of sports gossip sites we now presently enjoy.

Supporting argument: Brett Favre. Now, every time a QB so much a spits into the breeze, we'll get 30,000 articles about their "mindset". Did you know Brett loves the game? He does, I found out, from sports broadcasters.

The Williams brothers: They've given every other juiced player a roadmap for evading consequences until their career is shored up to the point where consequences don't really matter.

Randy Moss II: I have no words.

The Metrodome collapse: Now, every team that wants a new stadium will simply allow theirs to deteriorate to the point it is no longer usable. That riser collapse killed twelve people! We must have a new stadium, for the children. Think of the children! They cry out for justice (that can only come with a new stadium).

Supporting argument: Postponement: In fairness, this was pretty much inevitable after the game, but it set the precedent for...

Supporting argument: Postponement II: I was told that the Vikings-Eagles game has been rescheduled due to the difficulty of finding parking. Hogwash. This is a transparent attempt to float the idea of Tuesday night football, which would solve a lot of problems for NBC. They get away with it because the story is about the Vikings wacky season. Think they'd do this if the Giants were in town?

Let's count it up, shall we? Bad trades, rules against fun, billions needlessly poured into new stadiums, and Tuesday night football.

Ship 'em to LA, already.

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Have you seen the weather forecast for Thursday and Friday? Storm Prophet Keith Marler has seen that the truth is not in us, and he is wrathful. His only solution is to destroy us, but he is just, forever and ever, Fox 9.

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Went to Victor's 1959 cafe last weekend. Greasy spoon with a twist, no big whoop, be sure to spring for the Cuban fry bread.

What I won't understand, however, is the Minnesotan willingness to wait forever for breakfast. Has we not parked two blocks away, there was no way I was waiting 20 minutes for a seat. And yet, some are willing to wait for over an hour at places like Al's Breakfast (greasy spoon, no twist), a place I have studiously avoided for years.

What gives? Why do we wait the longest for what, invariably, is the least remarkable meal of the day?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The case for consumerism

There exists a large swath of the population that makes good money decrying consumerism. Never are they more vocal (or more profitable) than during the Christmas season. We have forgotten the reason for the season, we are told, and have sold ourselves into the bondage of consumerist avarice.

What is consumerism? It’s, um, well, it’s hard to define…


See, everyone consumes. Else we would die, cold and illiterate. When you eat an apple, drive your car, or write a blog post, you consume. Economies are formed on this principle. You can look it up.


Ostensibly, consumerism is the act of consuming excessively. What is excessive? That’s in the eye of the beholder. Usually, the anti-consumerism crowd defines the consumerist as one who consumes more than they, but you will occasionally find the self-loathing consumerist, who assuages his guilt via acts of linguistic flagellation and the admonition to sponsor a child or two.


Contrary to the insistence of well-meaning but economically ignorant people, consumerism during the Christmas season works out great for the poor and rich alike. It creates seasonal employment, and the influx of cash is often singularly sufficient to keep entire industries afloat.


Consider this. One million babies are destroyed every year. Planned Parenthood is offering gift cards (I kid you not) redeemable for abortions. The anti-consumerists don't seem to care about that, but it’s a crime that I bought a sweater for my wife? I’m rejecting the spirit of Christmas somehow by unwrapping a Blu Ray player (fingers crossed) this Saturday?


Am I to believe that Christ is cool with the sanctioned slaughter of 100,000 innocent people in December, but outraged by my request for a festive tie?


Some find the Christmas season stressful. That stands to reason. Most people hate parting with their money for the benefit of other people. Who wants to drive across town to find the right gift for someone they care about? Who wants to deal with the obsessively smiley clerks in women’s clothing sections (my name is not sweetie, dammit!) of mall stores and pay for the privilege?


For some, it’s all pain and no gain. Granted, it’s also winter, and that means snowstorms and gridlock and traffic deaths. In America, we consumerists are the victim of hemisphere. Not Christ’s fault, but neither ours.


Of course, churches are notorious for going balls to the wall in December. Add to that couples, many of whom having engaged to wed one year prior, who think a holiday wedding is just so romantic. Churchgoers are left with a pretty full plate, and are thusly ornery.


The conventional Christian take on the whole Christ vs. Consumer mode is highly influenced by crude semantics. In short, the word ‘reason’ rhymes with ‘season’, a fact not lost on pastors who understandably look hard for themes to tie together messages.


So is this the right time to guilt congregations into contriving a deeper meaning into what really is a very human holiday? Efforts to infuse extra meaning into the Christmas season usually entail extra meetings, extra services, and extra stuff to do. Even non-Christians feel compelled to make a couple extra treks across the tundra to the local house of worship.


And why Christmas and not Easter? We kill ourselves celebrating Christ’s birth, and the part where he sacrifices his life for us gets boiled eggs?


Let’s address the theological underpinnings of the anti-consumerism crusade. It usually boils down to the passage where Jesus calls upon the rich man to sell his possessions and follow him. I mean, what could be more anti-consumerist than that?


Fair enough, and if you are nodding your head in agreement, sell your computer to the poor. Oh, and enjoy the walk home. You sold your car right? Come to think of it, you’ll need to lose the home, too.


Still here? Then shut up and learn something. The whole meaning of that verse was not to compel us to immediately abandon any and all possessions for the sake of doing so. Christ nowhere asks his disciples to do so. His point was to highlight the fact that the man’s heart was owned by his possessions.


I can’t think of a season during which Americans are less consumed with possessions than during Christmas. Most Christians are overworked hosting relatives, cooking geese, and locating gifts (gifts being, of course, the opposite of possessions). The obsession with making this holiday more than it is, for locating some profound reason within an arbitrarily determined commemorating the birth of our savior, is what’s owning us.


To the sanctimonious anti-consumerism hustlers, I say “ba humbug”. Go sell your soap box and sponsor a cleft palate. The rest of you know where to find me. I’ll be the one sipping wine, shopping for sweaters, with visions of Blu Ray dancing in my head.


Consume on that.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Monday Musings - Snowmageddon edition

Ugh. The worst thing about minor frostbite is that it renders the act of typing painful. But I do it for you, dear readers.

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I don't have the clip, but the Fox 9 evening news lady said something to the effect of "this really reminds me of years ago, when we were covering the tsunami".

Yep, it's just like that, minus the famine.

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Governor Pawlenty nails it on unions, and reminds me of something my (very liberal) mother said to me the other day. She noted that union benefits were earned on the backs of blue collar workers who fought for them, and are gobbled up by government employees.

Quite right, and he is also right when he notes that public sector pay is double that of the private sector. The reason typically cited for this is that government employees are better educated and better trained. There are no McDonalds-caliber employees working for government.

To which, I'll firstly agree. Based on my experiences with Minneapolis city government, I genuinely doubt a good percentage of them could hold a job at McDonalds (much less a steel plant).

Second, this proves my mom's point. Unions now primarily exist to make the upper classes more powerful, and do so under the guise of helping the working man.

Third, if the reason for the discrepancy between public and private sector wages is the level of training and (I'll infer) desirability of the successful candidate for employment, then there is no need for unions to ensure that this remains so.

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R.T. Rybak has offered his proposal to curb spiraling property tax rates (slated to go up about 7% for each of the next two years, not including the inevitable off-year election levies). Part of his proposal is to cut $300,000 from employee pensions.

$300,000. Let's put that number in perspective. In May of this year, a judge ordered retirees to pay back $76 million in overpayments. We overpaid, by accident (of the highly educated and desirable city employees of course) more than 250 times what Rybak is proposing to cut from pensioner pay.

Rybak does not care about property taxes, even though they will inevitably drive residents to the suburbs (where their kids go to school anyway). By the time this happens, we are left with ruins of what once were gentrifying communities, Rybak will have already embarked on a failed bid for governor.

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Yeah, I know Dayton won, officially, but there is no way in hell Rybak pulls it off.

Incidentally, there is some question as to whether Mark Dayton will take a salary as governor of the state. I think he should do so, not because he needs the money, but because of precedent.

Salaries for government leaders ostensibly inoculate them against the temptation to intermingle public and private interests. It might seem quaint, but it actually works, to a degree, which is why campaign finance reform is on anyone's radar screen.

If Dayton turns down a salary, future governors will be compelled to do so. Not only might this inhibit those without the pecuniary means to take an unpaid vacation (so to speak) from running for office, it will open them to temptation once they arrive.

After all, isn't it easier to assuage one's conscience while taking a bribe after having performed an act of altruism (especially one to which you did not entirely assent)? It's like Matt Damon in the Informer.

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The Metrodome imploded, and some have declared that the question of whether the Vikings need a new stadium is settled. A couple of observations.

First, if the Vikings feel they need a new stadium, they should buy one. That's not the way the world works, you say? Okay, well the way the world works is what got us here. We have kids getting felt up by TSA and a basketball stadium people aren't sure still even exists (it does, I checked... It's right by Target Field, actually). The world needs to work differently, and if Minnesota has to lose a team in order to bring that about, then so be it.

Second, one rescheduled game per quarter century does not necessitate a one billion. If the team wants a few million bucks to fortify the damn thing, let's work something out.

Third, if they move the team to Coon Rapids, I think they should call the team the Coon Rapids Vikings.

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Birthday dinner at Saffron. Was welcomed with a happy birthday and my name printed on my menu. Had the lamb brains (don't knock 'em 'til you try 'em), and then let them pick the wine and entree. The cooking at Saffron is really on the highest level you can find in the cities. This was the best meal I've had this year, and I've had some doozies.

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I hate snow. If I met snow, I would tell it to die, and then make a comment about snow's wife that everyone would pretty much agree is over the line.

I'm out.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Monday Musings - Leaked to you by Julian the Baptist

The BCS bowl matchups have been announced. Here is the lineup.


Rose Bowl: TCU vs. Wisconsin

Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Connecticut

Orange Bowl: Stanford vs. Virginia Tech

Sugar Bowl: Ohio St. vs. Arkansas

Tostitos game of magic: Auburn vs. Oregon


Oof. That Fiesta Bowl game is just brutal. Had UConn not narrowly outmaneuvered mighty South Florida this weekend, they would have been slated to play my college alumni quiz bowl team in the Deluxe Printing Corp. Bowl next week.


For fun, I did a little experiment. Taking the computers top ten teams (instead of these ten), I came up with a little playoff scenario, where the top six teams get a bye. That yields the following matchups.


Boise State vs. LSU

Wisconsin vs. Ohio St.


Which, if rankings hold, would set up


Wisconsin vs. Auburn

LSU vs. Oregon

TCU vs. Oklahoma

Stanford vs. Arkansas


And that’s just the first round. That’s at least two games that are more interesting that any of the ones currently scheduled. Oh, and the teams have something to play for. Would Tostitos really rather sponsor Oklahoma’s 56-10 win over UConn than a Wisconsin-Ohio St. rematch just because the games is called the Fiesta Bowl?


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Oh dear.


Julie Clawson, writing for Sojourners, apparently finds it to be sinful for the government to have secrets. Apparently, we are not entitled to, for example, meet with a country to discuss policies regarding another country without telling that other country. Or something. As such, WikiLeaks is merely revealing our sins of, I dunno, gossip?


The money quote:


“But no one likes being called out on his or her sins. When John the Baptist called out Herod on his sinful ways, he was beheaded to shut him up.”


First of all, unlike Julian Assange, John the Baptist didn’t rape anyone. Second, the passive voice is a bit disingenuous here; Herod was disinclined to kill John the Baptist (because he knew he was righteous), but did so at the behest of his step daughter, so the comparison is nonsensical. Third, John the Baptist called out Herod for his infidelity. Were he around today, the emergent movement would label him judgmental.


Also, this:


“Perhaps WikiLeaks is the martyr that will wake us up to the need to hold our government to those basic standards of morality.”


You can’t martyr a website, sweetie.


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On the WikiLeaks thing, shouldn’t our government be, like, doing something? Does Barack Obama only get involved when the bill for his actions top one trillion dollars? JFK and FDR would have had this guy dead by now, having been water-boarded 15,687,533 times.


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Hit up Bar La Grassa just after Thanksgiving. Did it live up to the hype? No, but that would simply be impossible. The biggest disappointment was the much ballyhooed lobster and soft eggs. I love me some soft eggs, but these were a bit dry and overdone, though the flavors (and, of course, the lobster) were good. The pastas were excellent, generally on par with those of the 112 Eatery. In particular, the gnocchi and 'nduja raviolo were hits.


The room felt a bit cold to me, and larger groups definitely get premium seating (like the 112, BLG encourages sharing, so this is a very group friendly spot). We were sat beside a pole.


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Screw it guys, let's have a sleepover.


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

You can have it all at George Fox

Want to learn how to talk like a Christian, but still look like a total douche? George Fox Evangelical Seminary has you covered.


photo


What's with the tattoos on the left arm. Did this fellow belong to the society of gay ninjas?

Tattoos are only hip when they don't look like breakfast cereal.

The world needs fewer seminaries.