The Littlest Soapbox

June 10, 2010

The Daily Bulletin 6/10/10

Filed under: General Interest,News & Politics,Sports — mikecgannon @ 4:37 PM

Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks for winning their first Stanley Cup since 1961, and props to both teams for a well-played game of hockey last night. Once the NBA finishes up its finals, we will be facing a couple of bleak months between now and the start of college football, with only baseball on TV (shudder).

Speaking of baseball, rookie Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg had a historic debut a few nights ago. Conor over at Reasonably Certain has great breakdown of his performance, and why he thinks Strasburg isn’t going to flame out early.

First, he had more movement on his 101 mph fastball, his low 80s curve, and his 89 mph changeup than I have seen from most pitchers that I have ever watched. He would throw a curveball that would magically drop two feet on a dime. He wasn’t throwing parabolas: he was throwing step graphs. The thing I liked the most though is how he attacked the strike zone. In an era of highly over-conservative managers, pitching coaches, catchers, and pitchers who look scared to be playing baseball, Strasburg threw every 3-ball-count pitch square in the strike zone. And he didn’t get to three balls often because after his first two batters he was mostly just hitting the strike zone all the time. He was attacking batters.

Victor Davis Hanson ruthlessly dissects the troubling swing in Turkish policy, as is his wont.

Turkey’s new ambitions and ethnic and religious chauvinism are antithetical to its NATO membership. The United States should not be treaty-bound to defend a de facto ally of Iran or Syria, which are both eager to obtain nuclear weapons. European countries foresaw the problem when they denied Turkey membership in the now fragile European Union, fearful that Anatolian Islamists would have unfettered transit across European borders.

Finally, writer Tunku Varadarajan at the Daily Beast (kind of) understands why race is not a factor for conservative politicians like Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley, both of whom are of Indian descent, and are extremely popular among their Deep South constituencies. I don’t agree with everything he writes in this piece (which is pretty par for the course when it comes to him), but he ends his article with an obvious insight into why identity politics is poisonous, but one that doesn’t get said aloud enough in our country.

I will close with another question: Why has no Indian-American liberal risen as high in the Democratic ranks as Jindal and Haley have done in the GOP? Could it be that because Democrats put more of an emphasis on identity politics, an Indian-American Democrat would have to contend with other ethnic constituencies that might think that it’s “their turn” first? And once you go down the “identity” route, your success as a politician tends to rest more on the weight of numbers—the size of your ethnic constituency, or your racial voting bloc—than on the weight of your ideas. The most striking thing about Jindal and Haley’s success is not that they are Indian-American politicians who have triumphed in conservative Southern states, but that they are conservative Southern politicians who just happen to be Indian American.

Have a great day!

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June 8, 2010

New Releases Of Note 6/8/10 Edition

Filed under: Books,New Releases of Note — mikecgannon @ 11:07 AM

It’s Tuesday again! Here’s a look at five new book releases for this week that I thought you would enjoy!

The Passage by Justin Cronin. This apocalyptic vampire novel has been getting a ridiculous amount of buzz, and the author a ridiculous amount of money ($5.5 million between book and movie rights, and royalties haven’t even started rolling in yet). At 600 pages, it’s hefty, but by all accounts still an awesome read. Pair this with Blood Oath for this summer’s horror fix.

Speaking of vampire fiction, Stephanie Meyer released a novella which ties in with Eclipse this past Saturday, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. It tells the story of one of the newborn vampires who attack the Cullens at the end of the third book of the Twilight series. As the title suggests, it ends with the eponymous vampire’s death at the hands of the Volturi, which was quite frankly my favorite part of Eclipse. Read your little sister’s copy; she’ll have one.

The Lion, by Nelson DeMille, for you mystery fans.

Medium Raw, the latest book by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.

The Only Game In Town, a collection of sportswriting from The New Yorker, edited by David Remnick. This is the latest in a series of similar collections of New Yorker articles; previous books have covered humor writing and cooking. This one actually looks like it could be interesting.

Enjoy!

Primary Day!

Filed under: News & Politics — mikecgannon @ 10:35 AM

California, Nevada, South Carolina, and Virginia, among others, are having their primaries today for a variety of elections. RedState has lots of background on the races and the candidates, and will be covering the results as they come in tonight. If you live in one of these states, be sure to make your way to your polling place and support your local conservatives.

Throw the bums out!

June 4, 2010

The Daily Bulletin 6/4/10

Filed under: Books,News & Politics — mikecgannon @ 3:48 PM

I’m combining my news and book features today into one gloriously condensed, readable post!

Talking about both books and politics, Amity Shales has a wonderfully insightful piece on why academia not only hates Glenn Beck, but is on the warpath against him.

Every author is glad to sell books. But the victory is far more Mr. Beck’s than any individual writer’s or publisher’s. His genius has been in his recognition that viewers do not want merely the odd, one-off book, duly pegged to news. They want a coherent vision, a competing canon that the regulated airwaves and academy have denied them. So he, Glenn Beck, is building that canon, book by book from the forgotten shelf. Since the man is a riveting entertainer, the professors are correct to be concerned. He’s not just reacting or shaping individual thoughts. He is bringing competition into the Ed Biz.

Charles Krauthammer opines on the evolution of Israel’s defense strategy over the past few decades, and how, short of committing national suicide, the Jewish state has done everything it can to appease its detractors. Sadly, Israel’s enemies won’t be satisfied with anything but its complete destruction, hence the not-backing-down on the Gaza blockade.

Elaine Ecklund’s new book, Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think, looks fascinating and even-handed, on the basis of this review from the Washington Post.

The Times of London reviews a new biography of John Henry Cardinal Newman, the famous Anglican turned Catholic theologian and cleric, written by John Cornwell. I’m not a fan of Cornwell’s other works, particularly his pseudo-history Hitler’s Pope (see this book by Rabbi David Dalin for a devastating rebuttal), but with Cardinal Newman about to be beautified, this book warrants further examination.

Finally, it is always a pleasure to see when writers go from writing good literary fiction to writing good popular fiction, and are amply rewarded. Oh, and there are vampires. Scary, scary vampires. Not to jump on the bandwagon, but The Passage by Justin Cronin has been added to my summer reading list. Out on June 8.

Have a great Friday!

June 3, 2010

The Afternoon Bulletin 6/3/10

Filed under: News & Politics — mikecgannon @ 4:00 PM

If this past week’s faux “humanitarian mission” to Gaza, which ended with nine dead smugglers, wasn’t enough to raise some eyebrows over the direction Turkey is heading, this serves as a tragic exclamation point.

A Catholic bishop who was a leading figure in Christian communities in the Middle East was stabbed to death at his home in southern Turkey Thursday, and police arrested his driver in connection with the attack.

The motive for the killing of Luigi Padovese, apostolic vicar for Anatolia, in the town of Iskenderun was not known. Previous attacks on Christians have raised concerns about the safety of religious minorities in Muslim Turkey.

Hatay Provincial Governor Mehmet Celalettin Lekesiz told the state-run news agency Anatolian there was no immediate evidence of a political motive and the bishop’s driver had been arrested.

I’m curious to see how long takes before someone tries to argue that this is all Israel’s fault.

George Will talks about the two competing visions of American constitutionalism, as personified by James Madison and Woodrow Wilson, and how it affects the political divide today.

Victor Davis Hanson reflects on a Europe that now has to contemplate paying the piper for the fifty-year vacation from reality it took in the form of its social democratic consensus.

National Review Online editorializes against President Obama’s nominee for the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Dr. Donald Berwick, in the hopes of preventing the same thing from happening here in the United States. Berwick is a statist to his core, a top advisor for the British National Health Service, and a recipient of an honorary knighthood. The confirmation hearings should be fun to watch.

Lori Ziganto crows over the death of old-school feminism, and warns against the temptation to revive feminist identity politics in a conservative incarnation.

Ann Coulter roundly mocks Barack Obama, as only she can do.

Have a great evening!

June 2, 2010

Stanley Cup Finals Game 3 Tonight @ 8 PM

Filed under: Sports — mikecgannon @ 4:14 PM

The Chicago Blackhawks will facing the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight. Coverage starts at 8 PM. The Blackhawks lead the (best of 7) series 2-0. Earlier in the playoffs, the Flyers came back from a 3-0 series deficit to knock out the Boston Bruins and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals (where they kicked the living snot out of the Montreal Canadiens). Coming back again like that is not impossible, but it is darn unlikely, so the Flyers have to treat this game as an elimination round.

I’ll be rooting for the Flyers for three reasons. One, the Buffalo Sabers got knocked out early, so my dog is not in this fight. Two, the Blackhawks were the number two seed in the Western Conference, while the Flyers were number seven in the East, and I tend to favor the underdog. Three, a win tonight by Chicago would put them one game away from winning Lord Stanley’s Cup, and a short championship series never has been my idea of fun.

Go Flyers!

June 1, 2010

New Releases of Note May Edition

Filed under: Books,Film,General Interest,Music,New Releases of Note,News & Politics — mikecgannon @ 5:34 PM

Seeing as it would be counterproductive to go back over ALL the significant releases that happened last month, but that there were still some excellent titles put out that deserve to be highlighted, I’ll be giving you my top ten list for May releases. Here they are, in no particular order.

Star Wars: Fate of the Jedi: Allies, by Christie Golden

Blood Oath: The President’s Vampire, by Christopher Farnsworth

Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One, by Zev Chafets

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, by Stieg Larsson

A Wizard of Mars, by Diane Duane

What Washington Can Learn From The World of Sports, by George Allen

The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America, by Andrew McCarthy

The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern, by Victor Davis Hanson

Hamlet, with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart

Hang Cool Teddy Bear, by Meat Loaf

The Daily Fix 6/1/10 eReader Edition

Filed under: Books,General Interest — mikecgannon @ 1:02 PM

Later today I’ll be posting a May edition of “New Releases of Note”, so I won’t go over the same material twice. Today, let’s talk about the new eReaders Borders is launching in conjunction with the Borders eBook Store, also coming out this month.

Borders is going to be releasing two new eReader devices to compete with Amazon’s Kindle. The Kobo eReader is due to hit stores June 17, and the Libre eReader is coming out on July 2. Both are available to pre-order, however, the Kobo sold out of its first shipment, so those ordering now would have to wait until July 2 (same day as the Libre).

As I see it, these devices have two big advantages of the Kindle. The first is the price. The Kobo eReader is priced at $149.99, and the Libre is going for only $119.99. Compare that to the Kindle, which will cost you a cool $259.99. That’s a big difference. Second big advantage is purchasing freedom. With the Kindle, you can only buy eBooks from Amazon.com. With both of the Borders devices, you can upload eBooks from a variety of sources and file formats, i.e. you’re not tied to the Borders store.

I’m not the only one excited. PC World, Wired, and Gizmodo have all taken notice, with the low price as the big attention grabber. Only time will tell if either of these are, as Charlie Sorrel of Wired put it, the “Kindle-killer”, but they should be well-worth checking out.

The Morning Bulletin 6/1/10

Filed under: News & Politics — mikecgannon @ 11:48 AM

So there’s oil in the Gulf, Greece is still a ticking fiscal time bomb, and, oh yeah, the Israeli military shot some morons thought it would be a good idea to attack some Israeli commandos while trying to sail into Gaza. They’re lucky they didn’t try that stunt in North Korea; we’d be fishing their torpedoed bodies out of the drink (or against the Egyptians, who are also maintaining the Gaza blockade).

In other news, the New Republic (of all sources) has a pretty good rebuttal to Paul Krugman‘s increasingly knee-jerk calls for more “stimulus” money from Congress. Krugman used to be readable, but honestly, he’s become an economic barfly, the only words out of his mouth being, “Gimme another round!” Anyway, the column by William Galston isn’t half bad, though he does kind of wimp out at the end. Eh, what do you expect?

Oh, and Jonah Goldberg has a column about the sustainability (or lack thereof) of the current welfare state model. My one beef is that he repeats what is becoming “conventional wisdom” on the right that federal workers make too much money.

Moreover, the average federal worker earns over 70% more than the average private sector worker,

Well, yeah. Most jobs with the federal government require you to have a Bachelor’s Degree, at the minimum, so of course they’re going to pay better on average than whole of the private sector. Unlike the private sector, the federal government doesn’t need (for the most part) to employ bus boys, cashiers, electricians’ apprentices, housekeepers, part-time help, etc, so “average income” is a really poor metric to use. Also, a large percentage of federal workers work and live in Washington, DC, where the cost of living is a lot higher than, say, Butte, MT. You HAVE to pay those people more.

The argument that public sector workers should make, on average, the same as private sector workers, is just that same old leftist canard about “income inequality” warmed over for a Tea Party era, and a good number of conservatives are falling for it. Our fiscal woes do not come from fat paychecks for bureaucrats; they come from entitlement spending, such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and now Obamacare, for which we have no way to pay. That’s where the problem lies, and it’s from there that a solution must come.

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