Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hang up and watch the game!

Great moment at Yankee Stadium the other night, when a guy blabbing on his cell phone - instead of paying attention to the game - takes one in the melon.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Cool lightning pic #2

As mentioned below, I love storms. In this shot from earlier this week, the Parthenon in Athens gets a bolt from above. Brave photographer!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The death of Robert Byrd

Busy blogging day...Word now comes of the passing of Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia at the age of 92. The longest-serving senator in history, Byrd was famous for bringing back federal dollars to his impoverished home state.

I had a chance to watch him up close, as he was President Pro Tempore of the Senate when I served as a staffer there. I was very much of two minds about him: I greatly respected his obvious love of the Senate as an institution, and I would try to listen closely when he made one of his frequent floor speeches about the history of the Senate. (He later turned those speeches into a four-volume history of the U.S. Senate.) And it was an education to be able to listen to him expound on Senate rules and procedure.

However, away from the cameras, he had a reputation as a small, petty, nasty, vengeful man. For those who claim to admire "bipartisanship," Byrd was not your guy; He was as vicious a partisan as the Senate has ever seen.

A former member of the Ku Klux Klan, Byrd also filibustered against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. When integration of the Armed Forces was an issue in the 1940s, Byrd wrote:

"I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side...Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt, never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds."

He claimed to be sorry for his racist past, but as recently as 2001, he used the term "white niggers" in an interview. He later apologized for that.

As I said, I greatly admired his love of the Senate, but there were large parts of his personality that were hard to reconcile with his public image

My former boss, Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, used to point out that while Byrd was chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and was shoveling federal dollars back to West Virginia, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee was Jamie Whitten of Mississippi, who did the same for his state from 1979-1993. But despite the billions of dollars thrown their way, Mississippi and West Virginia remained two of the poorest states in the union. There's a lesson in there about the efficacy - or lack thereof - of federal spending to improve the economy.

Another observation: Someone asked me today if Byrd was the last remaining senator from my time in the Senate. I took a moment to look at the list, and, amazingly, there are still 23 senators there from when I left 20 years ago! That's almost one-quarter of the Senate still in place from 1990. It used to be said that there was more turnover in the Soviet Politburo than there was in Congress, and the pace of change does not seem to be accelerating.

Nicole Allan, religious bigot

Nicole Allan is an editor at, the web site of The Atlantic magazine. Here's what she recently wrote about former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee:

"People are sometimes caught off guard by Huckabee's intellectual competence because of his rural Arkansas habits (he and his wife lived in a trailer while the governor's mansion was being renovated) and his outspoken evangelical views."

Her implication, of course, is that if you are either from a rural southern state, or an evangelical, it's quite unusual for you to display "intellectual competence."

Imagine if she had written of a black athlete: "People are sometimes caught off guard by his ability to speak in complete sentences, despite his skin color and lifelong emphasis on sports."

There would have been a huge outcry, and she would have quickly been fired by her employers for displaying such shocking political incorrectness.

But if you turn your prejudice and bigotry against southerners, or evangelicals, then everything's okay, because those people are clearly less intelligent than the intellectual giants at The Atlantic.

Starting them off young

I'm doing a little volunteer work for the Mayor of Red Wing, John Howe, who is running for the state senate. It's an open seat because of a retirement, and it's a fun race to work on.

Finding volunteers to walk in parades is always tricky, and my daughter Corrie has been kind enough to walk in a couple of them, pushing the stroller with the Greatest Grandkids in the World.

Also picked up a great quote from the late, great William F. Buckley this weekend while reading an anthology of his "Notes and Asides" column from National Review. Someone wrote to ask, "Is conservatism really fun?"

I loved his answer: "Yes, but it's very hard work."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Live blogging the NHL draft

Welcome to our second annual NHL draft. First pick coming up, and the question is: Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin? The Edmonton Oilers, who stunk up the league at historic levels last season, get the first pick.

Commissioner Bettman at the podium now...first time the draft has been held in LA, and I think half the crowd has just been hanging around the building since the Lakers won the NBA title last week.

Lots of speculation that the Oilers are trying to make a trade to get the #2 pick as well, so they can take them both. Boston, which has the pick, doesn't seem to be biting.

6:17 - Oilers brass walking to the stage...and the #1 pick is.....Taylor Hall of Windsor. A big, fast left wing, he's was rookie of the year in two junior leagues, and led Windsor to the Memorial Cup this year. Edmonton has a big rebuilding project in front of it, and he'll be a huge building block. Bruins are on the clock.

6:25 - Bruins should take Seguin....And they do....Another good-sized forward.

Pierre McGuire just made the first Alexander Daigle reference of the night. Daigle is the most famous #1 pick draft-bust of all time. He spent a year at the end of his career as a member of the Wild. TSN (the Canadian ESPN, who is providing the coverage tonight) has a panel of experts and they're not sure Seguin is NHL-ready just yet.

Panthers on the clock.

Florida GM Dale Tallon put most of the pieces together in Chicago before leaving last summer, so now he needs to do the same thing in Florida. He has two first-round picks (barring a trade) and he takes...Eric Gudbranson...huge defenseman, 6-4, 195 pounds...already being compared to Pronger. Hopefully he's less of a flaming jerk than Pronger. Panthers have missed the playoff nine years in a row, so there's nowhere to go but up.

Just saw my friend Gary Harker sitting at the Maple Leafs' draft table. Toronto doesn't have a pick until tomorrow, so the 10 or so guys at the table are just taking up space, unless the Leafs can trade Tomas Kaberle for a first-round pick.

6:45 - Columbus, which entered the league the same year as the Wild, but has made the playoffs only once, is on the clock...Ryan Johansen, a 6-2 center. Late blooming kid who grew late, he was ranked 10th on Central Scouting's list...might be a bit of a reach.

Islanders on the clock.

It's always interesting how poised these Canadian kids are when they get interviewed. Junior hockey get so much attention in Canada that these kids develop media skills by age 16. They always sound better than the American or European draftees.

Alyssa Milano being interviewed now...part of the stable of Hollywood hockey fans.

Islanders take....Nino Neidderreiter. Swiss kid who came over to Canada to play juniors. Also 6-1...size seems to be the key thing this year.

Wild are now four picks away, and six of Central Scouting's top nine are still on the board, including the Russian I like, Alexander Burmistrov.

Tampa on the clock, with new GM Steve Yzerman in charge. Yzerman, of course, spent his career in Detroit, and was considered a local icon, but he ditched for warm weather as soon as he got a change. Bright guy.

Everyone thinks Tampa needs a defenseman, but instead they take forward Brett Connolly. Was considered a can't-miss prospect a year ago, but injuries limited him to just 16 games last year. If he's healthy (has hip problem) he could be dynamite...or he could be Alexander Daigle.

The Wild need a center, and a goal-scorer, but now there are three big defensemen still available...Cam Fowler, Brandon Gormley and Derek Forbort. Forbort is a Duluth kid who is committed to UMD, but he's already 6-foot-4 and has great hands.

WEATHER ALERT: Big storms moving in, so if the power goes out, the blog will end..sorry.

Carolina Hurricanes are next...and they take Jeff Skinner, the former figure skater who scored 50 goals in juniors last year, plus another 20 in the playoffs...Lots of mock drafts had him going to the Wild, but now it seems they are almost locked into taking a defenseman.

Thrashers next...then the Wild

Thrashers take Burmistrov, disappointing me....the Wild are up next.

The organization thinks it's deep in D-men, and needs scorers, but now the top four or five guys left on the board are d-men...Cam Fowler, Gormley, Forbort....Also out there is Emerson Etem, the former Shattuck kid.

And the Wild take...Another Finn! Mikael Granlund...will probably play another year in Finland...Allegedly a lot of offensive talent, but will probably take time to develop, like Mikko Koivu.

No Americans taken yet, in a year that was supposed to be big for Yanks.

Rangers at #10 take Dylan McIlarth.....tough guy, not a big skill guy...

The surprise so far: all these defensemen still out there.

Dallas at #11 takes the first American...and it's the goalie, Jack Campbell. Has won at every level he's played at, but still a curious pick.

7:47 - Cam Fowler's nightmare ends as the Ducks take him at #12. Could be the steal of the draft. Second American taken.

Anaheim's GM and staff is booed loudly in the Staples Center...I didn't think enough people in SoCal cared enough to actually have a rivalry.

Phoenix on the clock...needing defensemen...take Brandon Gormley...they have to be amazed that he was still available. He's 6-2, 185 and Central Scouting had him as the sixth-best North American player available.

At 13, the Blues take Jaden Schwartz, a center who was ranked 28th on the Central Scouting list....Another Canadian.

Also, the storm just knocked out my DirectTV signal....may be a while before I catch up.

UPDATE: Well, obviously this one didn't go so well. The storm took out the TV, the NHL's draft tracker on the internet was spotty, etc., etc....Sorry about that. The Wild appeared to have a pretty good draft, picking four of the first 59 players chosen. The first-round pick, Mikael Granlund, is described as a "Saku Koivu clone." Let's hope that's right on.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Just a cool picture

My kids know that I love a good thunderstorm, although Erin is really the only one that ever embraced the idea of sitting on the porch and watching a storm roll through. I love watching lightning bolts as well, which is why this picture just jumped out at me. It's taken from the Hancock Building in Chicago, showing twin bolts hit the Trump Tower (left) and the Willis (used to be Sears) Tower on the right.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Media hypocrisy, volume 481....

I have no strong feelings about whether General McChrystal should have resigned over his comments, although I tend to think that anyone stupid enough to think Rolling Stone would write a fair profile is probably not bright enough to be leading troops.

But the one thing that's fun to notice is the media's reaction. During the Bush administration, practically anyone above the rank of corporal who disagreed with war policy was singled out by the media as a hero, profiled in Newsweek and interviewed on 60 Minutes.

But now, when a general is found criticizing the Chosen One, the media is suddenly offended by the idea that anyone is uniform should do anything but blindly follow orders. The New York Times, which provided classified information to Al-Qaeda during the Bush years, now apparently believes in strict military discipline and keeping one's mouth shut.

Also of note today, a federal judge pretty much called Obama a liar in the judge's ruling that blocked the offshore drilling moratorium. Not a good day to be a lefty.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Does he understand he's not an emperor?

The President indicated tonight that he was going to "meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of his company's recklessness."

This is laughable on its face, and it's amazing that anyone in the White House speechwriting opearation would write - or allow through the editing process - such a ridiculous line. Of course, he has no such authority to do this. He can ask BP to contribute to a fund - and they might agree for PR reasons - but he can't tell BP's chairman what he has to do any more than he could come to your house and tell you to paint it a different color.

U.S. law limits the liability of BP - or any petroloeum company - to $75 million for a drilling accident. If the president thinks that's too low, he can ask Congress to change the number for future accidents. The fact that he thinks he can simply commandeer the assets of a private company is testimony to both his ignorance and arrogance.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Are you smarter than a liberal?

When it comes to economics, the answer to that question is probably "yes." Click here to read an interesting article about a study done by Zogby and analyzed by a professor at George Mason University.

The survey asked nearly 5,000 American adults a series of economcs questions, then asked for the respondent's political affiliation. You can read the story for the details, but the gist of it is this: Those who identify themselves as liberals were far more likely to get the answer wrong than were conservatives and liberterians.

Of course, that's no surprise to anyone with much common sense. When you have a core belief (as the Obama administration does) that you can take money away from people in taxes, then give them a percentage of it back as "stimulus" and magically fix the economy, it's clear you were sleeping through that Macro Economics 101 class.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Where's Mark David Chapman when you need him?

I once read a piece by a music professor who felt the Beatles were among the most overrated groups in music history. His contention was that they were a cultural phenomena, not a musical one; They simply became trendy at the same time the self-involved baby boomers were looking for something to latch on to.

I don't know enough about music to know if the professor was right. Personally, I think Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow each recorded 30 or more songs that I would rather listen to than anything the Beatles ever made.

But regardless of the music, we learned this week that one of the Beatles, Paul McCartney, is a classless piece of crap. During a White House reception in his honor, he said, "After the last eight years, it’s good to have a president that knows what a library is.”

Set aside the irony of a guy who didn't go to college casting aspersions about the intellectual capacity of the holder of a Harvard MBA. What sort of graceless, neanderthal boob do you have to be to travel to a foreign country and hurl a baseless insult - during a non-political event - at someone who's no longer in office?

It's worth noting that in his recent divorce proceedings, McCartney's ex-wife, Heather Mills, complained that McCartney was "often drunk, smoked cannabis, stabbed her with a broken wine glass, pushed her over a table, and pushed her into a bathtub when she was pregnant with their daughter."

Classy guy. I can see why the Obamas wanted him to stop by.