Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Live from Fairfaxbanks

Aside from undoubtedly causing Rene Descartes to roll over in his grave, Sarah Palin's resignation speech accomplished little, if anything that will help her in the long run.

She had three weeks to write the damn thing and it sounded no better than what was obviously a hastily arranged resignation announcement speech earlier this month. It rambled and was frequently incoherent. No major, lingering questions (like "What's next?") were resolved while trivial grievances were granted more attention than they warranted. Logic was eschewed in favor of emotionally charged buzz words. And so forth...

It was clearly her own and it wasn't good. If this is her stump speech for the next few years then she would do best to book as many engagements as possible and get the money upfront because this act will get old very quickly. Sooner rather than later her influence will begin to wane and shortly after that she'll be reduced to playing smaller venues with Joe the Plumber on Reunion tours.

Palin doesn't need to worry about being attacked from Democrats or Hollywood or "the Media" -- they will take their shots only in so far as it helps them raise money or earn ratings. There's nothing that any of these folks can say that should throw her off her game. What Palin really needs to worry about is the opposition to her within the GOP. Yesterday Sen. Jim Bunning threw in the towel after Republicans blackballed him with his donors. Plain should worry about suffering from that same fate after the party squeezes every last fund-raising dollar out of her.

On the other hand, and to her infinite credit, many of the cable outlets covering the speech did subtly seem to lend credence to her claim that they were out of touch by refering to Fairbanks, Alaska as Fairfax -- the tony northern Virgina county across the Patomoc from DC -- over and over again. But in the grand scheme of thing those are pretty small beans.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Passing the Buck*

Seriously, just make the goddamn decision yourselves.

There's absolutely no need for another committee to essentially resolve a single animal control issue and it's ridiculous that Esslinger has to waste political capital by meeting with the Governor over this issue. (I don't care who is in the office, but the Governor of Wisconsin has far more important things to worry about that a whether the City of Oshkosh can take control a few dozen deer.)

What could a new committee possibly tell the city that it doesn't already know? Anyone who thinks that any such committee will be made up of "experts" is delusional -- what authority does the city council have to ensure that someone from the DNR will be on the board? No more more authority than if they required the Sultan of Brunei to chair the damn thing.

Some of the people who live in the Vulcan quarry area nearly break down in tears when talking about the deer the property damage they've sustained. They've put up with enough inaction and a committee will onlhy succeed in creating further delays.

*Pun most certainly intended.
A great article from the Wall Street Journal on the West Point Class of 1976.

[via M]

Friday, July 24, 2009

Julaine Appling: Carpetbagger

Julaine Appling -- the odious, hate-filled, liar and head of Wisconsin Family Action -- has never really taken to Wisconsin. Here's her Twitter bio to the left.

"Yankee land"?

I've never heard anyone in Wisconsin refer to themselves as a Yankee.

There are a lot of bloggers and a few public figures in Wisconsin who are transplants and that's a wonderful thing. Take someone like Owen Robinson, for example. The dude's a Texan through and through. There's just no sense in trying to excise the Lone Star state from the guy, but he's embraced Wisconsin with so much enthusiasm that I'm perfectly willing to overlook the fact that he still supports an inferior professional football team.

Appling has made no such effort. She's a carpetbagger. End of story. The most aggrivating aspect of her presence in this state is that she so transparently sees it as an exile from which she will someday emerge for a better gig. I would have absolutely no problem with this if she were in the business of making money. However, she wishes to be an "thought leader," one who who is supposed to embody the values of the community.

Yet she's never even attempted to embrace the very community she claims to represent

"Yankee" is something of a derisive antebellum term used by contemporary Southerners of a certain bent who can't in good conscience call a white person, even one from the north, a n*gg*r -- so it came as no surprise when Appling's most recent tweet read:
The south will rise again ... for when you want to fly the stars and bars, but you only have words to work with!

By the way, one of the reasons that I like to think that Wisconsinites have never embraced the "Yankee" label is that we were better than Yankees, if I do say so myself. Soldiers from Wisconsin that fought in the Civil War were bad ass. They were rock stars.

Maybe Appling should read up on her history while she's back home.

"Michelangelo would poop his pants if he could get his hands on one these Avatar-making machines."

Alternative title: "Basically, today James Cameron walked into a room with 6,000 people and pulled out his dick and slapped it on the table."

I'm psyched.

New Toys

If you're one of those guys who likes to listen to police scanners (and even blog about it), then we now have the perfect time waster for you! The Chief is happy to announce that we're providing a link to the Winnebago County Sheriff and Oshkosh Police Department radio scanner in the sidebar to the right.

Now you'll know why there are a dozen squad cars parked down the street and police officers are stealthily scouring your backyard with flashlights!

So far as we can tell neither the OPD nor the sheriff's office provide this service online (not that we think they have to).

A very large tip of the hat to the JT Irregulars, from whom we are shamelessly stealing this idea.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

No Wonder Heath Care Reform is so Hard to Pass

With bloggers like GOPgal passing on demonstrably false nonsense and all ...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The One Way Trip to Mars Option

There's something incredibly compelling about this proposal by James McLane:
To put a human on Mars within the lifetime of America’s current generation, only one scheme is feasible, and this feasible concept challenges our traditional thinking about risk and the value of life. The mission must be a one-way trip. It’s possible that the crew might consist of only one person. For the first manned landing on Mars, there can be no provision for the space traveler to return to Earth.
It's a fascinating suggestion, largely because it seems simultaneously instinctively repugnant, yet methodically logical.

But here's another spin on the proposition: I have little doubt that there are human beings willing to undertake a one man, one-way mission to Mars -- but would a person who is completely conscious that he is going on a what is essentially a "suicide mission" be able to succeed in getting to Mars in the first place?

McLane is absolutely correct when he says that such a proposition cuts directly to the heart of how we value life, heroism, scientific progress and human exploration. Absolutely fascinating stuff...

Monday, July 20, 2009

By His Own Standard, Is Kevin Fischer an Antisemite?

Kevin Fischer has, at times, an odd standard for calling someone a "racist." Take, for example, his rationale for calling Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb a racist:
McNabb, like many professional athletes, has openly expressed his jubilation about Barack Obama’s victory. The Philly QB, it turns out, had never voted in any election until this month when he, being a registered voter for the first time in his life, voted for Obama. McNabb will turn 32 years old later this month, and he has never registered or voted in his life, that is, until a black man had a shot at the White House.

NJ.com, a New Jersey news site called McNabb’s announcement, “a stunning admission from a man of influence with a history of civic responsibility.”

This shouldn’t be taken lightly. Many blacks and whites fought long and hard for the black vote, and McNabb never considered this right and privilege important enough, until skin color was a factor.

I call that racist. I also call it far less than intelligent. But that should come as no surprise. McNabb isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer.
(emphasis in the original)
Do read the rest of the post. Fischer devotes the succeeding paragraphs to calling McNabb stupid for not scoring a high enough score on a test he took when he was 22 years old.

I don't really understand the logic that unites the elements of this formulation, but I think it is odd that Fischer apparently keeps the "racism threshold" extremely low for McNabb, so much so that it raises the question of what Fischer considers to be a "racist."

If, by his own estimation, McNabb is a "racist" because he engaged in the passive practice of not voting, then would Fischer consider himself a racist for actively making questionable comments about Jews?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

L'Affaire Matzo Reaches Another Level

When I first read Kevin Fischer's "matzo-skinned lefties" blog post my first reaction was more or less to scratch my head. It frankly took a moment to process the literal meaning of the phrase, but in the process of doing that I started to get an odd feeling.

I was still not really sure what to make of the comment, preferring to give the author the benefit of the doubt, but I really can not do that any longer. This afternoon we found this old post on Fischer's FranlinNow blog that raises all kinds of red flags in the context of the "matzo-skinned lefties" comment. The title of the post is -- and I'm not kidding about this* -- "Is he an anti-Semite, or is he right?"

In the post Fischer discusses an LA Times article that talks about the following incident:
Asked about his contract negotiations, Richardson said he didn't expect problems because "I've got big-time lawyers. Big-time Jew lawyers."

Alarmed, the reporters warned Richardson that his words could be considered insulting because they fit the stereotype of Jews as crafty and shrewd.

Richardson didn't even blink. "Are you kidding me?" he demanded. "They've got the best security system in the world. Have you ever been to an airport in Tel Aviv? They're real crafty. Listen, they are hated all over the world, so they've got to be crafty. They got a lot of power in this world, you know what I mean? Which I think is great. I don't think there's nothing wrong with it. If you look in most professional sports, they're run by Jewish people. If you look at a lot of most successful corporations and stuff, more businesses, they're run by Jewish [sic]. It's not a knock, but they are some crafty people."
To which Fischer adds the following:
So Micheal Ray Richardson said Jews are crafty and skilled at security. Was he insensitive? Was he offensive? Be honest. What went running through your mind the instant you read the above comments?
Well, we certainly know what Kevin Fischer was thinking when he read those comments...

There's more to the post that should be read, but the phrasing of the graph above is pretty onerous. Here's a link to the original LA Times piece. Read the whole thing, then read Fischer's take. There are many layers to the post above that should be looked at but in the end I found myself back with the same gut feeling of "This isn't good." The "matzo-skinned" post made me confused, but this one makes me instantly uncomfortable and casts the "matzo-skinned" comment in another light entirely.

*Yes, it's a play on the title of the LA Times piece, but it still doesn't sit well with us.

Why the Northwestern is Utterly Useless in a Nutshell

When news broke a few weeks ago that a pair of small time house flippers were suing the city inspections division we actually took to the NW comments sector and strenuously advocated that the paper look into broader problems with that section of city hall.

Instead they decided to print one of the stupidest editorials I've seen in ages.

The piece seems to conflate the "urban myth" that Oshkosh is a bad place to do business with a recent law suit brought against the city inspection division, but never actually comes out and says that one of the origins of the urban myth is the behavior of the inspections division. Instead of doing some, you know, investigating the editorial gives the inspectors a gold star on the basis of one single law suit:
The Oshkosh Inspection Services Division not only has a critical role in new development, it plays a role in the revitalization of older neighborhoods and protecting the rights of property owners who play by the rules.
Yes, that is their job -- we're all happy the editorial staff has figured that out, but the real question is: are they doing it properly?

In some cases the answer is yes, in far too many others the answer is far less clear. We here at the Chief likely have less personal interaction with the inspection division than the average Oshkoshian, but what gives us great consternation about the unit is that we perpetually hear stories about poor and unprofessional conduct from the inspectors from a wide variety of sources -- so much so that we've heard rumors of a possible class action lawsuit against the city for years now.

We've heard examples of, not merely "strict" enforcement, but arbitrary enforcement. We've heard stories rudeness and arrogance. They come from home-owners, construction workers, small business owners and developers alike. These are people who "play by the rules" and are mindful of safety and property rights issues and they still get screwed.

In other words, It's not just one urban myth that the inspection division sucks, it's many different stories denoting a trend. There have been problems with the inspectors before the Delaware Street law suit and problems will almost certainly persist unless something is done the remedy the situation.

So what should be done?

Frankly, I don't know since, as I said earlier, my experience with the department is limited, but a logical first step would seem to be to assess the extent of the grievances. Since the Northwestern clearly has no interest in doing this, it may take a law suit for some of this stuff to come out, but there is no reason why people should be dragged into court to settle this. This should be a job for the City Manager, but past Managers have been reluctant to "make sure the trains are running on time" in various departments in City Hall.

We think the most practical solution would be for at least one member (optimally more) of the city council to solicit stories of past difficulties with inspectors and conduct their own review of the department. And we offer this only as a start, because most folks are reluctant to discuss their dealing with the inspectors for a variety of reasons. Some do a lot of business with the department and fear reprisals -- and that's a ridiculous state of affairs that I'm not kidding about.

I would love nothing more than to provide a laundry list of horror stories complete with names, dates and details, but that would clearly betray things that were said in confidence. And it's not fair to the department or to the six people who read this blog to just pass on the stories. That would be nothing more than hearsay -- and, believe me, it's taking every ounce of restraint in my body to not take that route.

We could go on -- but instead let's just close by bringing this back to the Northwestern. It's a remarkable sign of just how useless this newspaper is that, instead of even attempting to provide even the pretense of doing a little legwork or investigating the Northwestern decided to punt and essentially dismiss any complaints against the inspectors in an editorial. I guess in order for them to get excited about a story someone literally has to walk through their front doors with his hair on fire and say something shocking like, "There's no security at the library!!!"

God forbid they should ever have to look for the news themselves.

Friday, July 17, 2009


This probably the coolest apartment building I've ever seen:

Waldspirale, Darmstadt in Germany

Pics here and here ... Wiki ... from what I gather is the Darmstadt Chamber of Commerce.

Food Fight

We're happy to see the use Kevin Fischer's newly minted phrase "matzo-skinned lefties" has been making the rounds (see here, here, here and here). And to keep the ball rolling, we're going to offer up this observation:

The problem we had with Fischer's post was that he appeared to be using a strange term with ethnic connotations as a slur to disparage people of a certain political ideology. Fischer's attempt at being clever was so poorly executed that it could be read that he was calling liberals "Jews."

All of that was at the end of the post, which left us scratching our heads wondering if Fischer were trying to blur the lines between liberals and Jews, so when we re-read the post we did so by replacing the word "liberal" with the word "jew" and this is what we got from the first two paragraphs:
Jews have a certain air about them. Call it arrogance, pomposity. Only they are wise. Their intelligence surpasses that of everyone else by a country mile.

There is no justification for Jews to pontificate from their lofty high horses since they have no ability to reason or rationalize using clear thought, facts, and documentation.

Anyone who has undertaken even a cursory study of antisemitism (or been subjected to it) has seen language like this before. In fact, it reminded us of a condensed version of Richard Wagner's essay "Judaism in Music" ... and that's not a good thing.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What Are "Matzo-skinned Lefties"?

Is that just Kevin Fischer's latest contribution to code-word nomenclature for "Jews"?

Honestly, I've never heard the adjective "matzo-skinned" used to describe anything. The alliterative cliche usually used is "thin skinned," but matzo is typically both harder than flesh and thicker than your average dermal layer, so it really doesn't make much sense to use as a synonym.

Matza, of course, is a Jewish traditional delicacy with Biblical origins, and Fischer used the strange phrase in the context of plugging some blogger's -- "Ten Commandments For Liberals Who Want to Argue About Politics.” -- another Jewish innovation (the 10 Commandments part, in any event). Additionally, the Jewish vote tends to leans leftward...

I hope there was a bizarre series of free associations that led Fischer to this strangely phrased neologism and not a Freudian slip indicative of something, you know, much worse.

MORE: Whoops! Fixed the link.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Note to Our Republican Friends

Social media will not save your party if you continue to use it like this.

That will be all.

The Diabolical Genius of Swoopo

I don't think all too many folks caught this article in the Sunday Washington Post on the auction website called Swoopo. Here's a taste:

At first glance, Swoopo.com -- which began in Germany as a phone and TV-based auction site called Telebid, migrated to the web as "Swoopo," and launched its U.S. site last year -- looks like an auction site patterned on eBay, with prices for most items starting at a penny and rising as members "bid" up the price. Like eBay, Swoopo has a full panoply of auction tools, such as comprehensive records of all completed auctions and an electronic bidding system ("Bid Butler") that will put in last-second bids to keep you in the auction. Unlike eBay, however, on Swoopo you pay 60 cents each time you make a bid.

Sixty cents? Sure doesn't sound like much when a $1,000-plus camera or computer is at stake. But consider the MacBook Pro that Swoopo sold recently for $35.86. Swoopo lists its suggested retail price at $1,799. But then look at what the bidding fee does. For each "bid," the price of the computer goes up by a penny, and Swoopo collects 60 cents. To get up to $35.86, it takes a stunning 3,585 bids -- and Swoopo gets its fee for each. That means that before selling this computer, Swoopo took in $2,151 in bidding fees. Yikes.

This site is something else -- I must have wasted three hours today just watching people bid on various items. It's absolutely fascinating watching just how irrational the buying gets on this site.

Here's an example:

Along with all of the great gadgets that get sold on the site Swoopo also makes bid packets available for auction that give buyers the opportunity. Below is a screen capture of two such auction that occurred right around the same time earlier today:

I'm blown away by this.

Sold individually, 300 bids on Swoopo would run $180, but as a package got sold well below that. In fact, the winner shaves 50 cents off the cost of each of his next 300 bids. The 50 bid package, however is a different story. Even though the auction is taking place, literally next door to 300 bid package, the package sells for not only $6 more than the winning price of the much better deal, and almost $9 over the real cost of 50 bids.

Really, I'm just in awe at this. Swoopo had a revenue stream of $28.3 million (!) last year. That's a lot of people playing this game. Here are some more links with some interesting things to say about Swoopo.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Via Heeb:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cover Girl

We mentioned earlier that the juxtaposition between Michael Jackson and Sarah Plain might be pretty striking:

[via Pollster]

Get Ready to Catch Gorbachev Fever!

With Obama's summit in Moscow this week there are a few people who have taken it upon themselves to start giving someone some well-deserved and long over due credit for ending communism: Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev.

Yes, it's something of an American heresy to say that anyone but Ronald Reagan single-handedly defeated communism, but the fact of the matter is that Reagan's role in ending the Cold War was almost exactly as it was during WWII, which is to say that he did a lot of chest thumping infront of a camera and left all the dirty work to the boys over seas. Only in the latter's case, the boys over seas were actually the guys we were trying to beat.

There's apparently a piece in the lastest World Affairs by Joshua Muravchik (one of the louder neocon cheerleaders -- see his piece in this month's Commentary, for evidence) praising Gorbachev and here's a piece in Slate getting ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall (via LiB). More will surely follow and it will be well deserved.

What an Amazingly Relevant Post from Marc Ambinder Given Fred Dooley's Recent Use of His Twitter Account

Right here. (Background here.)

Whose Chance to win the White House did Sarah Palin Help the Most?

You're looking at her:
Ross Douthat had a much discussed column in yesterday's times wherein he said:

Here are lessons of the Sarah Palin experience, for any aspiring politician who shares her background and her sex. Your children will go through the tabloid wringer. Your religion will be mocked and misrepresented. Your political record will be distorted, to better parody your family and your faith. (And no, gentle reader, Palin did not insist on abstinence-only sex education, slash funds for special-needs children or inject creationism into public schools.)

Male commentators will attack you for parading your children. Female commentators will attack you for not staying home with them. You’ll be sneered at for how you talk and how many colleges you attended. You’ll endure gibes about your “slutty” looks and your “white trash concupiscence,” while a prominent female academic declares that your “greatest hypocrisy” is the “pretense” that you’re a woman.
Imagine that: there's inequality for women in the workplace. Who knew?

For as bad as what Palin has endured -- on a purely personal level -- in the last 10 months (and it has been bad), it does not hold a candle to what Hillary Clinton has had to endure for the last 17+ years. Clinton's been called an Ozark bumpkin, a Wellesley elitist and a carpetbagger. She's been slandered as a lesbian, had horrible things said about her child and been called a murderer. She's had her wardrobe critiqued endlessly. She's been accused of essentially forming castration squads around her. She was investigated for years by rich enemies. She's been the subject of hysterical conspiracy theories ranging from getting Black Panthers accused of torture off the hook in the '60s to running an elaborate drug trafficking scheme with the help of the CIA and Colombian cartels to (surprise!) Marxism. She's even had her religion called into question. To this day, everything she does is scrutinized unlike anyone else.

She's gotten hit from the right, she's gotten hit from the left. She's been responsible for her own stumbles too ... and Hillary was there at the very beginning of what is generally been considered the most divisive period in recent American political memory.

But she never quit.

Even when she should have, Clinton didn't stop fighting. Last spring her run for President was essentially over after the Wisconsin primary. But she kept on going. Part of this was in the odd chance that she might catch a break (and she almost did -- the Rev. Wright highlight reel didn't start making it's round the clock debut until weeks later). But even that didn't justify running her campaign into debt to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. I didn't appreciate it at the time -- in fact, like many other people, I just wanted her to throw in the towel -- but the last week has demonstrated just how important it is to finish the race ... even when you know you're licked. Chances are a lot of people will re-evaluate Hillary in the future too.

If last weekend's events helped anyone's run for the Presidency, it was Hillary Clinton. In the future Sarah Palin will always be measured along side Hillary Clinton, if for no other reason than they were "the two women in the great race for the White House of 2008." But they were also the "First Women" of their respective parties, the first women to hold the kind of influence and power among their peers as any of the good old boys, and historians now have parallel lives through which to examine each other.

"If I die, I die."

Sarah Palin comes awfully close to quoting Ivan Drago:


MORE: OK, so perhaps Queen Esther is a bit more a propos to the circumstances...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Just ... Whatever


Of course, she had just exposed as fraudulent the pretended omniscience of the commentariat. None of them had predicted Palin's resignation, and yet their latest oracular pronouncements -- Ed Rollins told CNN she looked "terribly inept" -- were treated as authoritative.

The punditocracy can't predict Palin because she shares neither their perspective nor their assumptions. Her ascent to political stardom has been treated as a fluke by most of the GOP establishment for the simple reason that she doesn't slavishly follow the standard script of Republican politicians.

Of course, in recent years this script usually has ended with "…and then the Democrats won," suggesting the need for a re-write. The next version of the story may yet have a surprise ending -- at least, surprising to the pundits whom Sarah Palin has surprised so often before.

We're pretty sure that even if no one accurately predicts whatever happens to Palin, few people will be surprised.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

It's Time for the GOP to Have The Talk

Here's Owen on Palinpalooza:

If she’s gearing up for a presidential run, then she abandoned the people of Alaska who elected her to serve her full term in order to peruse her personal ambitions. I would have more respect for the move if she said, “I can’t put the work into the job of Governor because I’m planning on running for POTUS.” At least she’d be being honest with them, but to say that she didn’t want to be a lame duck and wants to do bigger things? What a slap in the face.

I like Palin’s politics, her persona, and her energy. I may even end up voting for her if she gets nominated (I doubt she will). But her resignation is a very odd political move that represents a sizable red flag.

We certainly don't expect conservatives to suddenly wake up Monday morning and say to themselves, "Man, that Sarah Palin -- what the hell was I thinking!" We understand that the ties people forge to their ideological fellow travelers are pretty strong and that holding out hope for a better future is a lot easier to do than admitting that a strongly held belief in some one or some thing was mistaken, but there has to be some recognition that, at the very least, Palin's resignation opens the doors for her enemies to paint as a quitter. That's already begun to happen.

Why a person would do that to oneself is exactly what Owen calls it: odd.

The thing about odd is that it happen to attract attention, and rarely the good kind (see Jackson, Michael -- and if you don't think there are people out there who are going to think to themselves this week, "Man, you have to pretty damn weird to push Michael fricking Jackson out of the headlines!" just wait until Palin starts sharing the covers of the tabloids with the Gloved One.) If Palin thought she could put her administration to bed in such a haphazard manner, it has only begun to backfire.

There are some bloggers -- none locally that I can tell (yet) -- that have taken it upon themselves to spin this weekend's events as if they were tactical masterstrokes of a calculated strategist. They are not. Just ask the pros -- they're just as perplexed as everyone else.

What strikes us about Owen's post is that it walks a fine line between holding out hope for better circumstances and admonishing a fellow Republican for what is clearly damaging behaviour (and doing so, we might add, without breaking Reagan's 11th Commandment). Palin's behaviour in the last few days hasn't been Presidential. It's not even professional -- and though we're not experts, it doesn't appear to even be "conservative."

Spinning any of the events of this weekend as being in someway favorable to Palin seems to us to be doing the Repubican Party (which wasn't enjoying a great month to begin with) and conservatism a great intellectual disservice. Now we have feeling this will almost certainly spark an internicine spat between "elites" and "populists," but that might just have to be a discussion the Right needs to have before it can get back down to it's fighting weight. In the meantime I think we can safely say that comparing Palin to Cincinnatus will only succeed in corrupting any hope conservatism has of being taken seriously, much less return it to power.

MORE: This kind of thing -- not helpful.

There's Only One Story This Week

Man, weren't those the days:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Sarah Palin for VP
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorJeff Goldblum

It's kind of hard to believe now, but for the first four days of her time in the national spotlight Sarah Palin's primary task was to appeal to disenchanted female Hillary Clinton supporters, the Debbie Bartosheviches of the world. And at first it appeared to work. Then when news of her daughter's pregnancy came out and she became a culture war lightning rod, her roll as GOP envoy to soccer moms everywhere promptly ended and she became the McCain campaign's main instrument to rally its base. In other words, she was put on the ticket to be a uniter, but in short order became a divider.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if Palin would have continued her outreach to women instead of being absorbed by the cultural conservative wing of the GOP. It might have mitigated the hit the McCain ticket took once the economy started to slump. Then again, maybe not. One thing is for sure: Palin made the transition from olive branch to pit bull seamlessly and almost overnight: here's her introduction in Dayton, Ohio and here's her famous speech in Minneapolis all of a week later, and her relationship to the women she was supposed to help attract has never been the same.

Until this weekend, we haven't mentioned since before the inauguration, but this week is probably going to be all Palin, all the time ... you know, just to make up for lost time.

What's Alaskan for "P.U.M.A."?

James T Harris links approvingly to a statement that can only be accepted with a heavy dose of suspension of disbelief:
If Sarah Palin had intended to make media heads collectively explode, she couldn't have planned it better. She called a press conference on short notice, then announced that not only would she not seek a second term as Alaska's governor, but she intended to resign later this month. All that would remain for her to do is pop some Orville's, sit back and enjoy the show as the punditocracy begins wildly speculating about that which it does not know.
Far from causing heads to explode, Palin's resignation has caused the media to collectively salivate. They now have a story that will last for the entire month of July (and likely beyond), and if anyone thought the media was tough on her before they have not seen anything yet.

If Palin's departure on Friday was some kind of elaborate "I'm Ron Burgundy: go fuck yourself, San Diego!" moment then it was a monumentally stupid tactical maneuver. In one fell swoop she supplied her enemies and critics with an infinite source of ammunition while giving her allies in the conservative press reason to feel betrayed. All she has left now is a scattered fringe of devotees who will be of no use to her, whatever the Sarah Palin equivilant to Hillary Clinton's PUMAs turn out to be.

Right now Palin seems to have no further ambition save only to pick a fight with the national press corps. Forget all the speculation about 2012 or 2016 -- it's pretty clear that she doesn't have the slightest idea what she's doing in August ... and I mean this August. Right now the only thing she seems interested in doing is hunting down every reporter and/or blogger that ever said anything critical about her.

Good luck with that. As this weekend has clearly shown, Sarah Palin does not have the skill, training or support network to conduct a total scorched Earth campaign against the national media. Between her awful statement Friday and the sorry attempts at damage control that followed, she's devolving into an object lesson in how not to conduct public relations and she's given every indication that this will get much worse before it gets better.

[via memeorandum]

O'Brians: Luck of the Irish

Do you know what the Gaelic word for "luckiest son of a bitch of the face of the planet" is?

Apparently it's Ostertag.

When we first heard that one of the bars at the strangely named "four corners" area of Irving and Main (or "Rocket Corners" to the older cats) might lose it's liquor license our first reaction was to just let the place be. That was before we knew anything about the situation. Then we heard Police Chief Scott Greuel's presentation to the city council, after which we were pretty much all about hanging the bastards.

Greul's presentation was exceptional. He methodically and dispassionately laid out a very convincing case that O'Brians was not simply a neighborhood nuisance, but a public safety hazard. If there is so much "over service" that kids are getting beaten to a bloody pulp just from drunken brawls in the parking lot, then how many other patrons are driving home plastered out of their gourds? How many sexual assault stories (that probably aren't getting reported) start out with "So we were at O'Brians..." Probably a few. It was a stellar performance that gave us a lot of confidence in Chief Greuel. He was like Joe Friday at the hearing: just the facts -- and the facts were fundamentally damning.

The only thing missing was the "Bad Cop" foil to Greuel's Good Cop. We're not suggesting that someone pull a Samuel L. Jackson, but the city's case would have been bolstered tremendously had someone appended the Chief's (the real Chief, not my my poseur ass) testimony with some good old fashioned visceral outrage.

Our impression was that the council members who voted to allow O'Brians retain its license did so because they never got over their predispositions to just let someone run their business. We actually think that's a good impulse, but in this case it was clear that Ostertag is running a poor man's Fight Club and defrauding his customers for a cover charge. The clincher for us was when Greuel described how contemptuous the staff was when the police were on the premises. OPD is extremely professional in these instances -- they tend to work with businesses to correct issues before they start cracking heads.

In this case, however, we wouldn't have blamed them for doing things backwards.

Ostertag's testimony was remarkable for it's candor. Here is a guy who very clearly had no idea or inclination how to incorporate best practices into his business, despite unconvincing protestations to the contrary. Were it not by the grace of his lawyer (who looked about half the age of your typical John Grisham protagonist), Ostertag would have probably never even found the Council chambers let alone offered a remotely cogent justification of his business. And we mean barely cogent -- it was painful to see the dude struggle.

And yet we somehow weren't able to muster up any pity for the guy.

The "empty business on Main Street" argument for letting O'Brians keep its license doesn't hold any water. By that same logic we should just throw some urine-soaked mattresses in the empty spaces downtown and turn them into crack houses and opium dens. That's essentially what we're doing by letting O'Brians continue to operate under the current ownership.

If the police make an average of two visits to the bar a week, then the only thing that will probably save this bar in the future is to close it down a completely remodel and rebrand the place for a clientele that doesn't get excited about "Drink til you Drop for $30 Night." That's not going to happen with an owner that's diluting his booze and essentially slinging black market smokes from behind the counter. (Notice how we haven't even brought up the fruit flies yet?)

Most cities would have Ostertag's head on pike by now, but Oshkosh has decided to put him on a short leash instead. The problem with this scenario is that the city must now baby sit someone who gets to monopolize a much coveted liquor license that another business would likely use more wisely. There's little reason to suggest that O'Brians will keep it's license through the next year when the bar is back up for renewal. Let's just hope the place closes before anyone gets seriously hurt.

MORE: Man, I just had a good laugh at the obscene number of spelling errors that were in this post. Let me just chalk that one up to a long weekend at Sawdust Days.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Heading off to see some fireworks.

Note to readers: If you're going to sing the national anthem tonight, be sure to sing it properly:

Happy 4th of July!

ADDED: Totally didn't catch this at the time, but the Illusory Tenant also rocked Marvin Gaye on the 4th.

Seriously, folks, Marvin Gaye is how babies are made.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Is Sarah Palin the Tony Mandarich of the GOP?

Pretty much.

Since the election last November Palin has done little more than shoot herself in the foot. Repeatedly. Here's a partial list of self-inflicted wounds and unforced errors she's accumulated:
  • Thanksgiving turkey slaughter video
  • Snubbing the NRCC fundraiser
  • Snubbing CPAC convention
  • Levi Johnson feud
  • David Lettermen feud
These are all PR fouls. Superficial? Perhaps, but each were signs of a poorly run operation. Most of these were collected in Todd Purdum's Vanity Fair article from earlier this week, of which David Frum wrote:
The McCain campaign is over. The duty of confidentiality has expired. The next campaign has begun. If conservatives are to avoid catastrophe, they need to hear from those inside what exactly happened. If true, the leaks constitute an urgent warning and public service. I believe they are true. For sure they confirm what I have heard during the campaign and after. Instead of complaining about these leaks, conservatives should heed them - and fast.
And if you think that either Frum or myself are anarchist nutters, then take Jonah Goldberg's word for it.

Much more important was how she was doing her job back in Alaska and there are indications that her ability to govern had been significantly diminished. First, her choice to be Alaska Attorney General last winter was abhorrent and led to prolonged, unnecessary fight that she lost. Then came a bizarre fight over an appointment to an open state senate seat that she seemed incapable of handling. Making matters worse, her habit of burning bridges described by Purdum was, in fact, much much more pervasive.

There were quite a few conservatives who had doubts about her as early as last October immediately -- and the David Brooks, Peggy Noonans, and Kathleen Parkers of the world were ridiculed by the base then and are just as hotly persued to this day. Turns out they were right. Her announcement/speech this afternoon was astonishing: it was rambling and erratic. It was Palin Unplugged from her staffers (and speech writers, clearly) who tend to become scarce when their bosses are about to hang themselves and the result was not pretty.

The reasons she gave for her resignation were laughable. "I didn't want to waste Alaskans money by going on junkets." So stay in Juneau. "Too much attention is being paid to me by the national media." So use that to Alaska's advantage. She actually said, "trust me" this is best for Alaska. When a politician says "trust me" it's usually a signal that you shouldn't. The whole speech was just strange.

Which is why I think the Mandarich comparison is apt. As every somewhat conscious Parker fan remembers, Tony Mandarch was universally considered to be a can't-miss draft choice who was supposed to be a revolutionary offensive line man. Not only did he fail to live up to those expectations, but he was so spectacularly bad that he's widely considered to be the biggest bust in NFL draft history. In a lot of ways Sarah Palin's not much different. She has folksy charm, is easy on the eyes, and can read a speech (at least one written by Matthew Scully, author of one of the best magazine articles ever), and while those are tremendous assets to have if one wishes to connect with voters, eventually she was going to have to demonstrate some substance and that has been sorely missing since the moment she appeared in the national spotlight.

Palin's been on the national scene for less than year now and she's already done as a national candidate. I never really bought into the talk that Palin was a first tier candidate for 2012, but this news is still a spectacular flame out of unprecedented proportions. A huge part of her continued appeal was based on the premise that she might be running for President in 2012 (or 2016) and that she might win that contest, but as this decision starts to sink in people are going to realize that she can't realistically do either now. That makes her an infinitely less compelling person and pretty soon once ardent supports -- and their money --will stop caring, and, as James Joyner says:
Palin’s not an ordinary presidential aspirant in that she’s got essentially no experience. True, that didn’t seem to stop Barack Obama. But he’s sui generis and came out of the gates giving the impression he had at least thought deeply about the major national and international issues presidents would deal with. Fairly or not, Palin lost that presumption almost immediately upon her debut on the national stage. Without a governorship as a platform for demonstrating competence, I’m not sure how she rebrands herself.
A ton of Republicans had high hopes for her in the years to come. Those are now gone and all that's left is one of the most epic busts in party history.

MORE: Jesus, Rich Lowry and I are kinda of the some mind here. He also name-checks Matthew Scully:
I think I have pretty well-established credentials when it comes to being charmed by Sarah Palin, but that statement, as a statement, was simply terrible. Rambling and not at all persuasive as an argument for her decision. More Gibson/Couric than GOP convention speech. She shouldn't have said a thing without getting Matt Scully—or some similarly talented speechwriter—on the case first. As to how this decision plays out ultimately, we'll see. There's plenty of time if (as I assume) she wants to run in 2012, and she obviously has plenty of capital with Republicans. But not an auspicious start.
Start? No, this is the end.

Thank You for Playing, Sarah Palin

We have some lovely parting gifts for you backstage...

Folks, she's done.

The Most Famous Guy in the World

Obviously, there's been quite a bit of ink spilled over Michael Jackson in the last week. If you want to see a great reflection on Jackson's career, go check out Rob Mentzer's look at how MJ stacks up with the Eagles. For a truly lazy and insipid pile of crap, see Jonathan Krause.

Since a lot has been said about Jackson's talent as a musician, entertainer, businessman, as well as the sketchier as aspects of his life (which were legion), it's probably time to take a step back and look at the big picture of Jackson's fame. Michael Jackson was probably the single most famous living person in the history of the world. I can't think of a single person who commanded the degree of fame that he did for as long as he did and I'd challenge anyone to do the same.

It's often said that the President of the United States is the most powerful man in the world, but he is hardly the most famous. In fact, there's evidence to suggest that public officials are actually becoming less famous with the proliferation of media alternatives. Also, a president's fame begins to decline precipitously the moment he leaves office. Sure, a President's influence can be felt well after their time in power has ended, but generally speaking, their fame declines as their actions move from the newspapers to the history books.

Here's an example:
To put things in perspective, when Ronald Reagan died, I don't think I had anyone contact me about it until the next day. But within minutes (yes, minutes) of Jackson's death, I had six or seven dialogs going. And while some might see this more as a testament to our increased interconnectivity in today's modern age, I see it as a display of just how much this man meant to the world, even though many of us (such as myself) didn't really realize it.

Everyone knows who Michael Jackson was, and not just here in America, but around the world. Maybe, maybe, Princess Diana approached that level of fame, but I still don't think she approached Jackson in terms of raw name recognition.

Part of that is due to technology. By the mid-1970s transistor radios were cheap enough to make and buy that they could be found all over the world, even the most remote and desolate places were human beings dared to live and if you could get a reception, chances are you were listening to Michael Jackson at some point.

But much more of it is due to the musics itself. Even if you knew nothing of his, um, eccentric personal life, you knew his music. You didn't need to speak English to know that the guy had a gift for placing a "hee-HEE" in exactly the right place. And people were just as fanatical about him regardless of where his music was being played: Japan, Russia, Africa, Europe, South America -- it's a helluva thing to be able to create something the transcends just about every language, culture and musical tradition in the world.

Yet to just talk about the music alone -- even though it was brilliant -- is to ignore just how much of a visual artist Jackson was. Prior to Michael Jackson, television was used more or less like radio to by musicians. The Beatles could be stuck on a small stage in the corner of the dingiest bar in Liverpool and the set won't look much different than if they were playing at the Budokon. They just stood there and played their instruments. Elvis danced, but he could have done his set standing on a bar stool. Michael Jackson needed the entire stage and performances were positively Wagnarian in scope during the hey day of his career. (We might seriously devote an entire post to just the Moonwalk in the future.) And that's not even touching on how he essentially invented the music video...

Jackson's fame is probably something only a musician can accomplish, but may never accomplish again. In many ways his career followed the same trajectory as the fortunes of the music industry in the last half century, which is slowly coming to grips with the reality that it is best served by catering to niche audiences than gambling on the ever elusive mega-act. It's almost impossible to fathom just how famous this guy was. Everyone dreams about being famous at some point in time, but Jackson achieved a level of fame that no one previously thought was possible. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but it's certainly an amazing thing.

MORE: via Katie Rosenberg.