Bronx cheer, 10/08/14

It’s been a delightful news week, once you get past Ebola and the Islamic State and all the other little things that threaten our existence on this planet, not to mention the assorted threats to the planet itself. But I say we all should try real hard to stick around for a while, because there’s so much fun stuff out there, none the least of which is that Sarah Palin can’t find the White House (though I’m sure she can see it from her home in Wasilla). Continue reading

Worth reading II, 07/03/13

Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis shouldn’t be sainted for her filibuster (Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post)

I like Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis. I admire her intelligence, chutzpah and tenacity.

But her elevation to national heroine, essentially owing to her ability to speak for 11 hours straight without a break while wearing (how many times did we hear or read it?) “rouge-red sneakers,” is absurd….

… when the question of whether we should destroy human life at any stage is reduced to theater, leaving many journalists gushing like breathless red-carpet commentators, we have lost more than a sense of decorum.

One may agree with Davis’s principled stand on the Texas bill, which, she argued, tried to do too much. Even so, a little less glee from the bleachers would seem more appropriate to the moment.

This is one helluva read, regardless of where you stand on abortion. Now read it.

Worth reading II, 06/28/13


Paula Deen’s slurs are a bitter pill to swallow (Eugene Robinson, Washington Post)

Paula Deen needs to give the self-pity a rest. The damage to her carefully built image is self-inflicted — nobody threw a rock — and her desperate search for approval and vindication is just making things worse.

Sorry to be so harsh, but come on. Deen is tough and savvy enough to have built a culinary empire from scratch, in the process becoming the most famous Southern cook in creation. She incarnates the whole “steel magnolia” archetype, with razor-sharp toughness beneath the flutter and the filigree.

Excellent piece by Eugene Robinson. Paula Deen has to stop playing the victim. She was smart enough to make $17 million a year. How could she possibly be so ignorant?

This was a self-inflicted fatal wound.

Good riddance.

This isn’t atheism


Some nonbelievers still find solace in prayer (Washington Post)

My friend Mark sent me this piece because he knew I’d find it interesting. Boy did I ever.

The caption on the photo above reads:

(Linda Davidson/ The Washington Post) – Atheist Sigfried Gold, his wife Galia Siegel, and children Beatrice Gold, 2, and Solomon Gold, 8, say a serenity prayer at dinner at home Tuesday in Takoma Park, Md. Gold launched a regular prayer schedule to comply with a 12-step program for food addiction.

And the story goes on to say . . .

Each morning and night, Sigfried Gold drops to his knees on the beige carpeting of his bedroom, lowers his forehead to the floor and prays to God.

An atheist, Gold took up prayer out of desperation. Overweight by 110 pounds and depressed, the 45-year-old software designer saw himself drifting from his wife and young son. He joined a 12-step program for food addiction that required — as many 12-step programs do — a recognition of God and prayer.

Four years later, Gold is trim, far happier in his relationships and free of a lifelong ennui. He credits a rigorous prayer routine — morning, night and before each meal — to a very vivid goddess he created with a name, a detailed appearance and a key feature for an atheist: She doesn’t exist.

While Gold doesn’t believe there is some supernatural being out there attending to his prayers, he calls his creation “God” and describes himself as having had a “conversion” that can be characterized only as a “miracle.” His life has been mysteriously transformed, he says, by the power of asking.

And then the story goes on to talk about all these atheists who pray.

It’s a fascinating piece . . . and I’m really happy for this guy Gold, who apparently has found a successful way to lose weight.

But he should stop calling himself an atheist.

If you want to believe in a big invisible man in the sky or a “vivid goddess” whom you’ve actually created with a name — fine with me. Knock yourself out. Whatever floats your boat.

Just don’t go calling yourself an atheist.

Among other things, it’s insulting. And more than a little condescending. It’s like calling yourself a Christian and telling everyone that you don’t believe in God and you don’t believe Jesus ever existed, but they should nonetheless consider you a Christian because you say you are. It belittles what true Christians believe.

Same as saying you pray every day and you’re an atheist. That’s baloney, which this guy Gold must know is fattening.

I welcome your thoughts.

Sam needs a time out

Justice Samuel Alito’s middle-school antics (by Dana Milbank, Washington Post)

The most remarkable thing about the Supreme Court’s opinions announced Monday was not what the justices wrote or said. It was what Samuel Alito did.

The associate justice, a George W. Bush appointee, read two opinions, both 5-4 decisions that split the court along its usual right-left divide. But Alito didn’t stop there. When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench, Alito visibly mocked his colleague.

Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the high court, was making her argument about how the majority opinion made it easier for sexual harassment to occur in the workplace when Alito, seated immediately to Ginsburg’s left, shook his head from side to side in disagreement, rolled his eyes and looked at the ceiling.

His treatment of the 80-year-old Ginsburg, 17 years his elder and with 13 years more seniority, was a curious display of judicial temperament or, more accurately, judicial intemperance. Typically, justices state their differences in words — and Alito, as it happens, had just spoken several hundred of his own from the bench. But he frequently supplements words with middle-school gestures.

This guy needs to go to the principal’s office. Sam is a big boy now and really should know better.


Yoo-hoo, Yahoo! Anybody home?

I’ve seen a lot of bad editing over the years, but Yahoo! News raised the bar on awful to a new level yesterday. How on earth could a writer begin a piece with . . .

President Barack Obama makes the first extended trip to Africa of his presidency next week — but he won’t be stopping in the country of his birth. [Boldface is mine.]

. . . and have such a dumb mistake make its way onto a news website?

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post asks three questions, two of which are well worth repeating here:

1) How on earth?

3) Any editing over there?

Been there, but not THERE

Welcome, baseball fan. Go directly to jail. (Washington Post)

This poor guy from out of town had tickets to a game that got rained out. He couldn’t go to the scheduled replacement game, so he tried to sell the tickets — at face value or less — outside the ballpark.

For his efforts, he was given a free ride to the pokey. OK . . . it wasn’t free; it wound up costing him $50.

I understand laws against scalping, but . . .

Several years ago, I found myself about to head into Shea Stadium with an extra ticket. I don’t remember who punked out on the game, but I had pretty good seats and I figured someone would just as soon buy the ticket from me than get one at the ticket window. I would have loved to get the price I paid.

Then a cop came up behind me and told me I had to move something like 150 yards away from the stadium. Pretty much had to go to the other side of the Willets Points subway station, which I was not about to do. Ridiculous.

I guess I should be glad I didn’t get hauled off to jail.

Worth reading, 06/20/13

Tom Sietsema: Just say ‘No, grazie’ to La Tagliatella (Washington Post)

La Tagliatella in Arlington makes a strong case for hazard pay for restaurant critics. The Italian concept, an unfortunate import from Europe that plays up 400 combinations of pasta and sauce, is so distasteful on so many different levels, I was tempted to dismiss it after just one visit. I changed my mind when I considered its prime corner real estate in Clarendon and the Poland-based chain’s intention to expand elsewhere in the United States.

Someone needs to put a stop to this threat to our nation….

The slick menus with their commercial-grade food shots suggest the sort of reading you might find on the desk of a budget hotel or the seat pocket of an airplane….

The wines by the glass will remind you of the stuff you left behind in college, but the drinks here are generous and strong. Cocktails, it turns out, are one way to get through a meal at La Tagliatella, a brand unleashed on America last year with two branches in Atlanta, poor thing.

Yeah, he didn’t like the place. And the Washington Post asks on its homepage if this may be its harshest food critique ever. But Sietsma’s review pales in comparison to the standard set last November in the New York Times, Pete Wells’ unforgettable review of Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar Restaurant in Times Square.

Bon appétit!


Wait, Am That Baseball Dad? (Slate)

Excessive behavior is embarrassing to your child, it’s embarrassing to yourself, and it teaches your child all the wrong lessons about sportsmanship, character and grace. But even if you’re not risking those outcomes, there is a challenge to finding the line between unconditional love and intensity. Even if you stop short of acting like the horrible parent, there’s a finer line to walk. You don’t want to smother the experience for them with too much engagement. It’s their game—just as it’s their life. Know when to butt out.

I’ve seen the worst of parents at Little League games. Smoking was not allowed on school grounds where my kids played Little League. One day, a mom lit up a cigarette from her seat on the grass berm behind the team I managed. One of the kids complained to me that she was smoking. I asked her nicely to put out her cigarette. She stood up, and loudly — so that everyone at the game could hear — told me she’d do whatever she want. Then she flipped me the bird, for added effect.

I once was umpiring a game at first base. A dad sat down in a chaise longue (yes, I spelled that correctly) with a six pack of beer and booed every call I made throughout the game.

I was umpiring behind the plate once when my second-base umpire made a bad call. But it was HIS call and I couldn’t reverse it. The fans from the team that got screwed spent the next inning booing loudly at every ball or strike I called. It got ugly. I told them if the abuse continued, I would have to stop the game, which would mean a forfeit. I was told that if I did, I wouldn’t make it to my car in the parking lot. They were serious. A kid I knew was on the team and he literally told his teammates, the umpire is OK. It’s Mr. Bromberg. I felt bad for him, because he felt bad for me.

Little League parents are the worst.


‘Ex-gay’ group says it’s shutting down; leader apologizes for ‘pain and hurt’ (

A Christian ministry that led the so-called ex-gay movement, which professes to rid people of their homosexuality, has announced that it will shut down, and its leader apologized extensively to gays for causing “pain and hurt.” . . . .

The president of Exodus, Alan Chambers, said late Wednesday on the ministry’s website that he had “conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions” but now accepts them “as parts of my life that will like always be there.”

Addressing gays, Chambers, who is married to a woman, wrote: “You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours.”

“Sorry” doesn’t quite cut it here. The damage Exodus International has done for more than a third of a century is incalculable.


Strategist Out of Closet and Into Fray, This Time for Gay Marriage (New York Times)

As the Supreme Court considers overturning California’s ban onsame-sex marriage, gay people await a ruling that could change their lives. But the case has already transformed one gay man: Ken Mehlman, the once-closeted Republican operative who orchestrated President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election on a platform that included opposition to same-sex marriage.

Now Mr. Mehlman, a private equity executive in Manhattan, is waging what could be his final campaign: to convince fellow Republicans that gay marriage is consistent with conservative values and good for their party. His about-face, sparked in part by the lawyer who filed the California lawsuit, has sent him on a personal journey to erase what one new friend in the gay rights movement calls his “incredibly destructive” Bush legacy.

To his credit, Mehlman is trying to undo much of the harm he helped inflict before he came out.


Tea party scalds Marco Rubio (Dana Milbank in the Washington Post)

The tea party returned to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, but this time the don’t-tread-on-me crowd trod upon one of its own.

Much of the scene was familiar: the yellow flags, the banners protesting tyranny and socialism, the demands to impeach President Obama and to repeal Obamacare. But there was a new target of the conservatives’ ire: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and his “amnesty” plan for illegal immigrants. The loathing of this onetime darling of the movement — Rubio rode the tea party wave to office in 2010 — could be seen in the homemade signs on the East Lawn of the Capitol proclaiming, “Rubio RINO” (Republican In Name Only) and “Rubio Lies, Americans Die.” Rubio antagonism became a main theme of the event, held by Republican Reps. Steve King (Iowa), Louie Gohmert (Tex.), Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and other opponents of the bipartisan Senate immigration legislation that Rubio negotiated.

Et tu, Tea?

Must read 06/17/13

State photo-ID databases become troves for police. (Washington Post)

In many ways, this is much more disconcerting than the NSA data-mining “scandal.” Top of the website this morning:

The faces of more than 120 million people are in searchable photo databases that state officials assembled to prevent driver’s-license fraud but that increasingly are used by police to identify suspects, accomplices and even innocent bystanders in a wide range of criminal investigations….

The most widely used systems were honed on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq as soldiers sought to identify insurgents. The increasingly widespread deployment of the technology in the United States has helped police find murderers, bank robbers and drug dealers, many of whom leave behind images on surveillance videos or social-media sites that can be compared against official photo databases.

But law enforcement use of such facial searches is blurring the traditional boundaries between criminal and non-criminal databases, putting images of people never arrested in what amount to perpetual digital lineups. The most advanced systems allow police to run searches from laptop computers in their patrol cars and offer access to the FBI and other federal authorities.


Study finds supportive tilt to gay marriage coverage. (New York Times)

Tough call here. The piece points out:

The study lends credence to conservative charges that the nation’s news media have championed the issue of same-sex marriage at the expense of objectivity. Others have argued that news organizations are right not to overly emphasize opposition to what many see as a core civil rights issue.

And that’s what makes it a tough call. Would news coverage that tilted toward legalizing interracial marriage have been wrong? What about news coverage that tilted toward freeing slaves? We strive for fairness and balance, but does every issue require that each side get equal time?


Ohio police chief takes criminals to task online. (AP)

49,000 is about to multiply exponentially. What a fun story. Don’t be a mope:

KENT, Ohio (AP) — If you’re up to no good in this pocket of northeast Ohio, especially in a witless way, you’re risking not only jail time or a fine but a swifter repercussion with a much larger audience: You’re in for a social media scolding from police Chief David Oliver and some of his small department’s 49,000 Facebook fans.


Bloomberg plan aims to require food composting. (New York Times)

I’m sure the right will blast this as nanny-statism, and it’s seriously hard to imagine pulling this off in New York City, but . . . It really is a great idea. It will save money and it’s environmentally sound.

If composting can make it here, it can make it anywhere. It’s up to you, New York.

Take me out . . .

Just read a very good piece in the Washington Post, written by a man who refuses to stand when they play God Bless America at the ballpark. Did I mention he’s a Methodist minister?

And it brings to mind a day a long time ago, when my son, Josh, was around 3 years old. We were at some sort of function where they played the Star Spangled Banner. Josh looked up and said . . .

“DAD!!!! They’re playing the baseball song!!!”

And I knew the kid was gonna be all right.