Monday, July 30, 2007

Democrats: Genocide? Fine by Me.

While Bob Kerrey made the same point earlier, Jonah Goldberg is almost Steynian in his clever summing up of the situation:
Liberals used to be the ones who argued that sending U.S. troops abroad was a small priceto pay to stop genocide; now they argue thatgenocide is a small price to pay to bring U.S. troops home.
In his column, Goldberg makes the point that, while the US can't stop genocides, it should probably stop the ones it would be partially responsible for.

James Taranto: Simpsons God

From today's Best of the Web:
Life Imitates 'The Simpsons'

"Uh, the trail has become indistinct. I suggest we split up to cover more ground." Bart: "Good idea. Milhouse, you and me will be Omega Team. Todd, you and Data are Team Strike Force. Nelson, that leaves you and Martin." Martin: "Team Discovery Channel!"--dialogue from "Lemon of Troy," originally aired May 14, 1995

*"Spaniard Alberto Contador won the drug-tainted Tour de France. . . . Contador, who rides for the Discovery Channel team . . ."--Associated Press, July 29, 2007

How the heck to you catch something like that? One marvels.

Here's the video for those miscreants who don't remember one the great all-time Simpsons episodes:

Good Point

El Kabong has an informative post over at his Notes from the Geetar:
The measure of admissions standards seems to be set by the average GPA and standardized test scores of the athletes ND admits. When those scores go up, the theory goes, ND has tightened the noose on its coach in an effort to reclaim some kind of accountability for classroom performance. When those scores go down, ND has realized they need to admit the quality athletes to succeed.

That all sounds great in theory. The problem is, it only measures the student athletes who accept a scholarship offer to Notre Dame, not the full range of student athletes who were offered a scholarship, and it's the offer range that truly determines what Notre Dame's "admissions standards" are.
Savvy? Of course ND's football team has averaged over a 3.0 each semester, so it's not like we're admitting idiots. Still, I thought that was a good way of looking at admissions and recruiting. Ian Williams and Robert Hughes (not exactly top scholars in high school) wanted to play for Charlie Weis. No way they join Willingham.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Magic Cellphones

So. I called friend a couple of nights ago (around 9:00 PM) to talk about the awesomeness that was fast approaching. I was surprised to hear him answering and in a sleepy and disgruntled manner. He had apparently gone to London, where it was 2:00 in the morning. Now that he had had popped off to London (where he's now reading the 7th Harry Potter, curse him) without telling me isn't anything out of the usual. That our cellphones were somehow still able to work is. My next move is to see if I can call dead historical personages. Updates will follow.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Thought I'd take the opportunity to publicly answer some questions I've been asked recently.

Q: Is your son sleeping through the night yet?
A: No, although last night he had his longest stretch of continuous sleep yet, over 5.5 hours. It was the first night during which he only woke up once. Needless to say, it was enjoyable.

Q: Have you read Harry Potter yet?
A: No. We have the book, but my wife is currently working her way through it as I reread the penultimate book.

Q: Are you still supporting John McCain?
A: Yes, although I fear his chances are quite slim. I disagree with him on some pretty important issues, but I still think he gets the big picture better than anyone else out there. On a slight tangent, I'll probably throw up in my mouth a bit if Romney is the nominee.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The true purpose of the internet

The Shakespearean Insulter!

"Thou infectious malmsey-nosed flap-dragon!"

Also, 200 posts!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Depressing Note on Human Nature

"Diseased nature oftentimes breaks forth in strange eruptions . . ."
--William Shakespeare
The announcement of the $660-million settlement between the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and 500 victims of sexual abuse got me thinking again about a topic that has confused me for a long time. Why do people of a certain profession feel a need to protect the absolute worst of their coworkers? In this case, why would the religious establishment ignore the blatant, violent sins and crimes of these pedophile priests? Their actions have created a potentially irreparable breach of trust between the clergy and the congregation.

To be sure, it is a phenomenon seen in many professions. And it confuses me just as much in those cases as it does here. For example, if you are an honest police officer, why would you go out of your way to potentially protect a dirty coworker? Not only does the clean cop not get anything tangible from his obstructions, he threatens his own credibility and that of the entire force.

Similarly, in professional sports, players' associations fought for years against policies of random drug testing. If I were a clean athlete, I would demand an aggressive steroid testing policy.

This list could go on nearly forever. What is it about human nature that leads us to protect slackers, sinners, cheaters, and criminals-just because we happen to be in the same line of work?

Monday, July 16, 2007


The Wisconsin State Journal retracted their "Protestants in Hell" headline. I guess I'm going to have to share heaven with those WASP-y jerks after all.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

John Derbyshire Is a Great Man

An absolutely fabulous post on the Corner:
Posh and Beck can smile and glitter all they like, they won't get Americans to like soccer.

Yesterday morning my son's football training season started. Yep, the Huntington Bulldogs.

We began with a mass meeting, parents & kids, on the field, addressed by Bud Willie, chairman of the Bulldogs board. Bud laid out the football basics for newcomers.

One of the points he stressed was that football, much more than other team sports, is for specialists. Playing THIS position, you need to be really good at A, B, and C. Playing THAT position, A, B, and C aren't so important, but you need to be really good at X, Y, and Z. So it's extra important not to miss a practice, or you may never get a start on skill X, etc., etc.

He compared this with other sports, where skills are more fungible. He spoke respectfully of baseball, basketball, even lacrosse. Then: "...And not forgetting soccer. How does it work in soccer? I'm not
sure. They run round kicking the ball. Then they run round some more and kick the ball some more. Who knows? Who cares? Anyway, back to football..."

There speaks the soul of America. U—S—A! U—S—A!
I can only pray that his analysis is correct.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

There Are No Protestants in Heaven

But then there are no Protestants in hell either. Only Catholics in both. This is not to say that we each go to our respective afterlives, but that where the Catholicism differs from the rest of Christianity in matters of belief, it is the rest of Christianity that is wrong. How ridiculous! Why that would mean that the Catholic Church actually means what it says it means. This now peculiar stance was one the mark of a serious religion. Martin Luther his 95 Theses onto the door frame because he kinda-sorta-maybe thought he was onto something. Anyway there you go. Here's the press release from the Vatican, within which is the document in question. As it notes, it's not like there's anything new here. The Catholic Church has always claimed to be THE church founded by Christ and the most perfect (not completely perfect) means of salvation.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pope: Protestants Going to Hell

That was the title of an article in yesterday's Wisconsin State Journal on the release of the Vatican's document reasserting the primacy of the Roman Catholic church.

How woefully ignorant of the editing staff of the WSJ. The story was an AP piece, but they chose to use that title. (The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran the same story under a different title.)

If they actually bothered to read the document, it would be fairly clear that the pope isn't asserting that all protestants are going to hell. But I suppose that's too much to ask of a major newspaper with a staff numbering in the hundreds.

Big Jim, any thoughts on this?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Baby Jake

Although he already looks different, here's a picture of my little guy at just one day old.

The suburbs rule

The complaints Penalver raises against suburban living apply just as much, if not more so, to rural living. Living on a farm makes one even more dependent on the car and "isolates" people even more from one another. Surely we don't all need to live in squalid cities to observe Catholic Social Teaching?

While I agree with his environmental criticism, the communitarian and justice aspects are just silly. The poor are unquestionably more burdened in the city, where the cost of living is usually significantly higher. As for separating people from one another, I'd rather wave to my neighbor living 500 feet away than be afraid to make eye contact with the guy in the apartment next door.

At this point in my life, I can't even imagine trying to raise a family in urban Milwaukee.

Living in Sin

I find myself reflexively disagreeing with the Eduardo Penalver (at the very least in spirit if not in fact); however, there's little to disagree with in his condemnation of suburban living:
But, aside from perceptions of authenticity, I also think there's a moral case to be made against suburban living on grounds of justice, community, and the environment. I think all three objections revolve around the car-dependence that suburban patterns of development literally mandate. Car-dependence separates people from one another, isolates the very young and very old, burdens the poor and harms the environment. The justice and communitarian objections to the suburban lifestyle resonate strongly with traditional themes of CST. The environment, on the other hand, has been something of an ugly stepchild within CST. The Church has had things to say about the environment from time to time, though, and I think (or at least hope) it will have much more to say about it in the future.
CST = Catholic Social Teaching.

Yes, I live in the suburbs both at home and at school.

All the President's Mental Faculties

It annoys me when I hear that average peopel think they are smarter than the president. Clearly, he's not genius, but he's certainly not an idiot either. The man did earn a degree from Yale, after all.

Anyway, with that in mind, I think John Derbyshire has it about right here:
For future reference, here's that I think about the man's mind. He's well above average in intelligence. You don't get a degree from Yale—not even with a C average—unless you're fairly smart. Psychologist Linda Gottfredson, working from W's published test scores, estimated his IQ at 125, which would put him around the 95th percentile (meaning that W is smarter than 19 out of 20 Americans). Charles Murray pegged him a tad lower, but still up in the 90-somethingth percentile.

On the other hand, my rather strong impression is that while the president CAN think, he DOESN'T, much. The Iraq blunderings, the poverty of his off-the-cuff oratory, the endless repetition of tired, empty cliches long discredited, the Harriet Miers fiasco, the stupid squandering of his small remaining political capital on that major-stupid immigration bill... not much thinking there that I can see.

Monday, July 9, 2007

If It Wasn't for That Noble Porpoise . . .

Herodotus is not the most conventional of historians. Being the "Father of History," that's not really too surprising. The current consensus seems to be that he rather uncritically recorded the stories he was given as he traversed the Mediterranean. Fact and fiction are inextricably bound together. Stories like Arion and the dolphin, for example do little to help his claim to authenticity:
This Periander, who apprised Thrasybulus of the oracle, was son of Cypselus, and tyrant of Corinth. In his time a very wonderful thing is said to have happened. The Corinthians and the Lesbians agree in their account of the matter. They relate that Arion of Methymna, who as a player on the harp, was second to no man living at that time, and who was, so far as we know, the first to invent the dithyrambic measure, to give it its name, and to recite in it at Corinth, was carried to Taenarum on the back of a dolphin.

He had lived for many years at the court of Periander, when a longing came upon him to sail across to Italy and Sicily. Having made rich profits in those parts, he wanted to recross the seas to Corinth. He therefore hired a vessel, the crew of which were Corinthians, thinking that there was no people in whom he could more safely confide; and, going on board, he set sail from Tarentum. The sailors, however, when they reached the open sea, formed a plot to throw him overboard and seize upon his riches. Discovering their design, he fell on his knees, beseeching them to spare his life, and making them welcome to his money. But they refused; and required him either to kill himself outright, if he wished for a grave on the dry land, or without loss of time to leap overboard into the sea. In this strait Arion begged them, since such was their pleasure, to allow him to mount upon the quarter-deck, dressed in his full costume, and there to play and sing, and promising that, as soon as his song was ended, he would destroy himself. Delighted at the prospect of hearing the very best harper in the world, they consented, and withdrew from the stern to the middle of the vessel: while Arion dressed himself in the full costume of his calling, took his harp, and standing on the quarter-deck, chanted the Orthian. His strain ended, he flung himself, fully attired as he was, headlong into the sea. The Corinthians then sailed on to Corinth. As for Arion, a dolphin, they say, took him upon his back and carried him to Taenarum, where he went ashore, and thence proceeded to Corinth in his musician's dress, and told all that had happened to him. Periander, however, disbelieved the story, and put Arion in ward, to prevent his leaving Corinth, while he watched anxiously for the return of the mariners. On their arrival he summoned them before him and asked them if they could give him any tiding of Arion. They returned for answer that he was alive and in good health in Italy, and that they had left him at Tarentum, where he was doing well. Thereupon Arion appeared before them, just as he was when he jumped from the vessel: the men, astonished and detected in falsehood, could no longer deny their guilt. Such is the account which the Corinthians and Lesbians give; and there is to this day at Taenarum, an offering of Arion's at the shrine, which is a small figure in bronze, representing a man seated upon a dolphin.
While I certainly don't suggest that we take this account as the gospel truth. We should probably give Herodotus a little more credit. After all strange things do happen. Really strange things. Almost unbelievable . . .

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Just Because I Can

More Parkour!

Speaking of Lieberman

I wonder what kind of turnover he's had on his staff, if any.

As a former Senate intern (and yes, I mean that to be as snooty and condescending as it sounds), I've seen up close and personal the kind of people who work for Senators and Congressmen. As a general rule, they're pretty hard core partisans.

I worked for Harry Reid (current Majority Leader, then Minority Whip) in the fall of 2003. Naturally, everyone assumed I was a Democrat. One day I was discussing the 2004 Dem presidential field with one of the full-time staffers. He asked me who I supported, to which I responded "Lieberman." In my mind, he was the least of about 10 evils.

The staffer was obviously unhappy with that response and barely made an effort to hide her contempt for Joe. She described him as Bush-Lite, which is about the worst insult you can hurl in a Democratic office.

That was almost four years ago. Since then, Lieberman has completely abandoned his party on the defining issue of the day, gained reelection as an Independent, and been one of the staunchest allies of one of the most unpopular presidents in modern times. I just wonder how much his staff has changed in the last five years as a result of all that.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Mighty Joe Lieberman

From the WSJ:

Our objective here is deterrence. The fanatical regime in Tehran has concluded that it can use proxies to strike at us and our friends in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine without fear of retaliation. It is time to restore that fear, and to inject greater doubt into the decision-making of Iranian leaders about the risks they are now running.

I hope the new revelations about Iran's behavior will also temper the enthusiasm of some of those in Congress who are advocating the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Iran's purpose in sponsoring attacks on American soldiers, after all, is clear: It hopes to push the U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan, so that its proxies can then dominatethese states. Tehran knows that an American retreat under fire would send an unmistakable message throughout the region that Iran is on the rise and America is on the run. That would be a disaster for the region and the U.S.

The threat posed by Iran to our soldiers' lives, our security as a nation and our allies in the Middle East is a truth that cannot be wished or waved away. It must be confronted head-on. The regime in Iran is betting that our political disunity in Washington will constrain us in responding to its attacks. For the sake of our nation's security, we must unite and prove them wrong.

Something needs to be done about Iran's meddling, i.e. killing US soldiers, in Iraq. I don't know if direct conflict is the answer. Ideally we would use proxies of our own. Still, destroying one military base/target per American soldier killed has a certain cachet. Wouldn't you say?

Some Light Entertainment

In the July 9 issue of National Review, Ross Douthat had a great article on the Hostel movie genre. The conclusion:
. . . What's wrong with Hostel II isn't that Roth depicts torture; it's that depicting torture, and being "creative" about it, is this smug, sickening, pleased-with-itself movie's principal reason for existing. The audience isn't paying to watch a movie that contains a torture scene, any more than a guy renting an "adult" movie at the local video store is renting a film that happens to contain a sex scene; it's paying to watch torture, with the movie--including all these Important Themes--as window dressing to the money shots.

And whereas "normal" pornography is a debasement of the sexual act, a degradation of an essentially positive human experience, torture-porn of this sort is something else entirely. It's a radical experiment in evil-as-entertainment, one that places an artist's gifts in the service of the impulses that animated Torquemada, or Saddam's inquisitors. No, it's worse than that, because the tortures Roth has invented for Hostel II don't pretend to be designed to extract information, or even to terrorize a population and preserve a regime. They exist only to exist, in the same way that what began as coercive interrogations at Abu Ghraib ended as self-conscious spectacle: Torture as a way to while away the boredom of guard duty, torture for the sake of torture.

Abu Ghraib was real, of course, and Roth's Slovakian meat-grinder is fictional; no actors were harmed, physically, at least, in the making of the his project. And every censorship regime fails to make necessary distinctions: You start by going after the Roths of the world, and end up banning Lolita. Yet even so, if you offered me the chance to play censor for a day and send Roth to a jail cell alongside Lynndie England, I'm not sure I'd refuse.

Failing that, I'd like the opportunity to punch him in the face. It would make for an interesting commentary on the violence that's implicit in the relationship between the critic and the entertainer in our globalized age; also, the sick bastard had it coming.
That's about right. I think Douthat touches on something important when he draws the distinction between pornography and torture-porn. Pornography is the corruption of a positive good. At it's very best torture-porn is a corruption of our need for adventure. At it's very best. Douthat is off a bit in his especial condemnation of Roth since the torture is not even for a purpose. In the real world, yes, that of course matters; however, if the plot is just window dressing, then a sadistic torture movie starring Nazi prison guards wouldn't be any better. Never seen the movies, never want to. If that last paragraph is a shade opaque, it's a mockery of Roth's alleged motive in making the movies addressed earlier in the column.

Sexual Harassament

I also saw the article Rico linked to. I think a line from the Item No. 10 deserves special illumination:
Sexual harassment cases of the hostile-environment variety result from sex differences in what men and women perceive as "overly sexual" or "hostile" behavior. Many women legitimately complain that they have been subjected to abusive, intimidating, and degrading treatment by their male coworkers. Browne points out that long before women entered the labor force, men subjected each other to such abusive, intimidating, and degrading treatment.

Welcome to the club, I guess.

A fun and interesting read

Originally from Psychology Today, I picked this up from The Corner.

Ten Politically Incorrect Truths:

1. Men like blond bombshells (and women want to look like them)
2. Humans are naturally polygamous
3. Most women benefit from polygyny, while most men benefit from monogamy
4. Most suicide bombers are Muslim
5. Having sons reduces the likelihood of divorce
6. Beautiful people have more daughters
7. What Bill Gates and Paul McCartney have in common with criminals
8. The midlife crisis is a myth—sort of
9. It's natural for politicians to risk everything for an affair (but only if they're male)
10. Men sexually harass women because they are not sexist

Thursday, July 5, 2007

I'll sleep when I'm dead

Which, at this rate, might be in about two or three weeks.

What they say about not getting much sleep after you have a child is true. At 18 days old, Jake would still rather sleep during the day than the night. I sat him down and tried to have a talk with him, but I think he was more concerned with his bowel movements.

Still, as tired as I am, I have to salute my wife, who must be even more exhausted. When Jake cries, I can wake up and fall back to sleep. Mrs. Rico, on the other hand, dutifully goes to work breastfeeding.

Once we work out these sleeping kinks, I have one more important lesson to teach him: a poop is not a traumatic experience.

Lazy Jim Dwyer

All that travel and not one trip to sunny Waukesha, Wisconsin? For shame.

I'd do a Google map of my travels as well, but trips to the grocery store aren't as interesting.

Tired Jim Dwyer

While entertaining, this summer has been far from restful. Item of evidence No. 1: this map. Make sure to note the glorious blueness of that Cleveland to Ithaca line.

Friday, June 15: Cleveland to Chicago - 345 mi - about 5 hours 31 mins
Saturday, June 16: Chicago to Cuba City to Dickeyville to Chicago - 356.5 mi -about 7 hours 11 mins
Sunday, June 17: Chicago to Cleveland - 345 mi - about 5 hours 31 mins

Tuesday, June 19: Cleveland to Ithaca - 330 mi - about 5 hours 24 mins
Wednesday, June 20: Ithaca to Cleveland - 330 mi - about 5 hours 24 mins

Friday, June 22:
Cleveland to Ithaca - 330 mi - about 5 hours 24 mins
Sunday, June 24: Ithaca to Cleveland - 330 mi - about 5 hours 24 mins

Friday, June 29: Cleveland to Nashville - 520 mi - about 8 hours 20 mins
Sunday, July 1: Nashville to Atlanta - 247 mi - about 3 hours 54 mins
Tuesday, July 3: Atlanta to Knoxville - 214 mi - about 3 hours 23 mins
Wednesday, July 4: Knoxville to Cleveland - 500 mi - about 7 hours 57 mins

All told, roughly 3855 miles, or 192 miles a day for 20 days. Not too shabby.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Rectifying Iniquities

During my blog sabbatical, Jim had the audacity to call me out on my musical choices. (Look three posts down for more details.) By way of response, let me just say that there's a reason the songs I chose are less obscure than his.

Now I'm no populist, and the Good Lord knows that there is plenty of bad yet popular music. However, when it comes to music with a long shelf life, the cream generally rises to the top. Indeed, that's the case with the songs I chose: after 12+ years, these are songs that people want to hear over and over again.

Another point to make: I wasn't trying to choose the objectively "best" songs, but rather the songs I would most like to listen to listen to on a road trip. I enjoy "Dead Flowers" well enough, but it can't possibly compare to the opening minute of "Gimme Shelter," which lures me in with its seductive "ooh-ing" and gets my heart racing without any words. That's what I was looking for, and that's why my list is infinitely preferable.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Back in the game

To paraphrase Jimmy Chitwood: I figured it's time for me to start blogging again.

Over the past two weeks, I've become intimately acquainted with the details of fatherhood. Let me give you the inside scoop: Babies are hard work.

With that knowledge, I've set the parenting bar pretty low. My ultimate goal is to not irreparably harm my child (physically, emotionally, and the like) before he leaves for college.

By my calculations, he should leave for college on or around August 17, 2025. From his birth (June 17) to that date is 948 weeks.

Two down, 946 to go.