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The Obama Stimulus

On March 8, 1933, the fifth day of his presidency, FDR paid a visit to 92-year-old Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who had known a battle or two in his life, including Ball's Bluff, the first serious engagement of the Civil War -- which left him with a bullet wound and sent Union bodies floating down the Potomac to Washington.

FDR asked the old man, "What is your advice?

Holmes answered, "Form your ranks and fight!"

The parallels between March 1933 and January 2009 are striking in so many ways. We've just seen another: The rapid legislative victory. Our new president needed just 8 days to win his first legislative battle to stimulate the economy. FDR worked even faster, as it took him only five days to get the Congress to rubber-stamp a major new banking act.

Historians will someday know what we can't possible discern today, which is whether the stimulus package of Obama -- should it pass Senate muster and survive the House-Senate conference -- will have its intended effect. And maybe cause-and-effect will always be a bit murky (witness the historical debate over whether the New Deal actually worked). It seems likely that, as with all such sprawling legislative endeavors, the stimulus will turn out to be a mixed bag, will have plenty of unintended consequences, and will offer plenty of opportunity for second guessing. Perhaps the Senate will slow things down, in keeping with that old saucer-that-cools-the-tea metaphor.

But beyond the legislation there's the important matter of leadership. Obama has to lead; so far he's done that. That was FDR's secret, too. The public craved a powerful, confident, optimistic leader. As Will Rogers put it (related by Schlesinger in "The Coming of the New Deal": "The whole country is with him, just so he does something. If he burned down the capitol we would cheer and say 'well, we at least got a fire started anyhow'."

Then and now, there are deals being struck, legislation drafted, lobbyists knocking on doors, phone calls late at night, most of it unknown to us. Here's Schlesinger: "Small groups of men, their mandates vague, their lines of authority obscure, their composition often accidental, even their office space insecure and fluctuating, drafted, tore up, redrafted, wrangled over proposed bills, and worked until dawn in silent government buildings or in cramped Georgetown houses."

Heady times. And scary. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote of FDR's inauguration, "One has a feeling of going it blindly, because we're in a tremendous stream, and none of us knows where we're going to land."

By Joel Achenbach  |  January 29, 2009; 9:12 AM ET
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dbG, twice in 24 hours we have both posted at the same time -jinx!

Posted by: dmd2 | January 29, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

I am first, not sure that has happened before, so excited.

Posted by: dmd2 | January 29, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Also from Eleanor Roosevelt, and apropos, "“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Posted by: -dbG- | January 29, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

dmd, in the past few days, you with Yoki, also and I today . . . it's the dawning of a new age. :-)

Posted by: -dbG- | January 29, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I don't think there is any question that there will be debate over this bill for decades to come.

Yesterday I had a friendly though intense discussion with a coworker over The New Deal. Evidently, the new conventional wisdom on the right is that all FDR did was extend the Depression while creating a noxious expansion of government.

As it is difficult to go back in time and do things over again differently, these kinds of debates are never-ending.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 29, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

Cassandra, I appreciate your clarifications re. how you came to read Baldwin, and how his words resonated with you.

Don, congrats on the shovel. Did they give you a teleprompter to work from or did you have to memorize your lines?

BPH Monday - I'm in. On that note, I think I'm going to gurantee a Cardnials Uber Bowl win by picking the Steelers. Gimme Pitt. [Hey, I'm an Italian Catholic - how could I not invoke my unseen powers (in my case, lousy luck picking games after the regular season) to help the Cardinals?]

As far as the President's Stimulus Package goes, I'm surprised no one's invoked that picture of him in a bathing suit yet.


Posted by: -bc- | January 29, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

May I join in with the early "chick gang" too?

Particularly during "little boy"'s tenure as the "decider" I've always maintained that if you have to tell people you're a leader, by definition, you are *not* one. Bush called himself a leader, but wasn't one; Obama doesn't even visit the terminology -- instead, the guy actually *leads*. That's what confidence, secure adults do.

I've always admired Eleanor Roosevelt - and she's absolutely right. Just as the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result, the definition of courage is facing what scares you and going forward into it anyway. It takes more than a modicum of intellect, certainly, but I think it also takes more than a modicum of maturity.

While sometimes it's good to know that the monster in your closet is really a bathrobe, just in case it's not a bathrobe is a good place to start planning your strategy for dealing with it. That is not to say that we need to be frightened all the time -- just aware. For example, and more so now because on occasion I need to use my cane (which ostensibly makes me even more vulnerable to potential criminals out there), and because I am a woman, which makes me generically vulnerable, I never go shopping in the late afternoons or evenings, unless I'm with a group of people. That's awareness and self-protection. Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Well, I didn't mean to get all preachy here. What I'm really doing is mulling over an article I agreed to write in an area in which I have barely the mere fundamentals of knowledge, and I'm not in the mood. COURAGE, WOMAN, COURAGE!!!

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | January 29, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

What I am doing is indulging in trust.

This President has, thus far, convinced me he is an extremely intelligent mature individual who has surrounded himself with more of the same. He doesn't live in an ideological bubble. So, until proven wrong, I am going to trust that he knows what he is doing. At least to the extent that any one does.

See, this is where Bush eventually failed as a leader. People stopped trusting him.

For when you know that an individual values the way he, or she, expects the world to be over the way the world actually is, well, pretty soon you just stop listening.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 29, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

ftb, great comments about leadership, I think that idea can be extended to people who feel the need to constantly promote themselves (i.e. intelligent, leader, etc). I feel that if they need to do that they must be lacking in the confidence that people view them that way. I have self promotion issues though so I might be biased on this topic.

Posted by: dmd2 | January 29, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Zackly, FTB. If you have to tell people your a leader, you ain't.

The very best definition of leadership I ever heard came out of the Civil War. I'll have to do some research to see if I can find out who said it, but it was one of the generals. He said leadership requires only two things: show courage, and take care of your troops. It's amazing how many faux leaders and "managers," most especially business managers and"business experts" (an oxymoron, in my view), don't understand the second part of that. But it is true: if you're a manager of some sort, if you take care of your people, look out for them, make sure they have what they need, show some interest in them, understand who they are, and in a way be a "parent" to them, then your team will follow you to the gates of Hell. If you tell your team to "Charge!" [meaning, "You guys charge, and I'm right here solidly behind you"] they might or might not. But if you ask them, "Follow me!" they surely will.

And one of the best pieces of management advice I ever read was from Tom Peters, who said that on your first day or two in a new job, just do something different. Change something, fix something. Throw something out or bring something in. It almost doesn't matter what it is you do on Day One, just do something different from whatever the status quo was. Obviously, Obama has already taken care of this one.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 29, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

reposted from tail of last kit...

My advice to my stepson (which he ignores):

1. Pull up your darn pants. Nobody wants to see your boxers.

2. Lay off the "Axe".

3. Instead of playing "Warcraft" all day, try browsing Monster.

4. Flipping burgers is better than sitting on your rear end all day making no money.

5. Your girlfriend will eventually tire of supporting your lazy rear end.

6. The military is a very good option, especially now that Bush and Cheney are out of office.

7. Lifting a finger will not kill you.

8. I just might.

9. Finding a job requires *looking* for a job.

10. If no jobs come knocking on your bedroom door, I've got a long list of things you can do around the house that I'm sure you'll mess up but if you at least make a half-hearted attempt at them, I won't have to strangle you.


Regarding *this* kit...

I think Obama needs to take "I won" to the next level -- just tell those obstructionist Republicans where they can stuff their outdated and proven failed philosophies. We don't have time for sore losers. If any buildings are to be set on fire, I vote for the Capitol -- preferably with Boner securely tied to his chair.

Posted by: martooni | January 29, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

But, dmd, I think self-promotion is different. I mean, we all need to promote ourselves to compete for work, for example. Nevertheless, there is a long-standing presumption out there that women who self-promote and compete are b!tches or otherwise "unworthy" of their (our) gender -- i.e., not "feminine" enough -- which to me means that we don't agree to be paid less than men for the same work. I mean, unless we agree to be doormats, we've lost our so-called femininity. Uh-huh.

I do agree, however, that self-promotion for its own sake is a narcissist's security blanket. I can't tell you how many Harvard-trained lawyers tell me, over and over again, that they went to Harvard. Indeed, I will concede their intelligence, but they're really not very smart. It makes it much more fun to beat them up.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | January 29, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, your post is entirely too true. It seems that the most so-called "effective" managers and CEOs are narcissistic psychopaths. These are people who confuse obedience with respect. With bullies in charge, you will get some level of obedience, but it comes with an underlying wish to sabotage, since all respect is lacking -- and the bullying continues because the bully knows that he/she has no respect from others (and, alas, no self-respect). I grew up in a family of control freaks and I know it when I smell it.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | January 29, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I agree about self-promotion taken too far, firsttimeblogger. Although I've mentioned it here, I don't actually tell people that I went to Harvard, in a professional setting, unless someone asks me directly. Occasionally someone else who thinks this is important information will mention it. As I said once in a job interview (in response to a question), at some point where you went to school shouldn't be the most important thing about you.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 29, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Didn't Bush graduate from Harvard?

I guess they'll give a degree to any idiot whose family has the bucks to cover tuition.

Posted by: martooni | January 29, 2009 11:18 AM | Report abuse

That was a great reply to the question Ivansmom.

Posted by: dmd2 | January 29, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

I didn't mean to lump *all* Harvard grads into that comment, btw. I'm sure they get some truly gifted minds to attend and might even make those minds a little brighter.

Personally, I could give a flying guano where anyone got their degree. I'm more interested in how they've figured out how to apply all that book-learnin' to real life.

Posted by: martooni | January 29, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Bush was Andover prep school, Yale undergrad, Harvard MBA.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

I could never for the life of me figure out how he got through Yale and Harvard. Jeez. I used to have some respect for those outfits.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 29, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

As part of my continuing Matriculation for Life, I am enrolled in a Masters program at The School of Self-Inflicted Wounds.


Posted by: -bc- | January 29, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

No offense taken, Martooni. Harvard is a huge school, graduate and undergrad. Some people are bright and hard workers, some are amazing, some are rich legacies.

I heartily agree with your last observation - that the important thing is how any education is applied. I respect and appreciate the educational backgrounds of so many of the new Administration advisers because these schools do offer the opportunity to really sharpen your thinking. However, so do a lot of other schools. The main thing is whether the student takes those opportunities, acquires some good thinking skills, and later on continues to use them. Of course, I'd like the skills to be used for the public good, but that's just me. Darn liberal.

I am, by the way, unsurprised but deeply disappointed in my own Representatives for their anti-stimulus vote. Of course, I live pretty much in a state of permanent disappointment when it comes to their votes, so my expectations were low. To answer Cassandra's question from the last Boodle, the funny thing is my Representatives' constituents are not at all rich. Far from it. While a handful are truly wealthy even by national standards, and some are pretty well off, we are a poor state and this is reflected in the circumstances of the vast majority of our citizens. No, as far as I can tell this was pure ideology. It probably won't hurt them at home, though, since voters here have a habit of voting against their interests.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 29, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

To explain my comments further, one of the things I read was a comparison of Obama as a Senator vs other Senators, he was considered a listener - a person when someone came to meet him, would listen to what that person had to say, as opposed to others who did most of the talking.

Perhaps the difference in whether someone is intelligent or smart is in the ability to keep an open mind, explore possibilities and render an informed decision. Then add in assertiveness vs arrogance.

Posted by: dmd2 | January 29, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Not that I intend to offend a certain Princeton alum, but the attention paid to the Ivy undergraduate programs seems out of proportion to their quality. The enormous University of California at Berkeley figures its undergrad student body is as good as Stanford's, except Berkeley has a larger "tail" of unsuccessful students. Perhaps more remarkable, the Berkeley student body is an economic mirror of the state.

This leads me to suspect that the student body at the University of Florida compares favorably to Princeton's. Florida's a big state and UF and FSU are very often students' first choices. Admission has become competitive.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 29, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Why is the NYT so good at its attempts to analyze the Obama administration's proposed stimulus package? Today's latest:

But estimating how effective the huge program of tax cuts and spending will be in getting America’s economic engines humming again is a far more complex calculation requiring almost line-by-line scrutiny of the 647-page bill, lawmakers, economists and policy analysts say.

While it may be difficult to predict how well the overall plan will work, it is easier to draw conclusions about its individual components [segregated further in the article by tax cuts; aid to states; infrastructure; education, health care and alternative energy; and automatic stabilizers such as unemployment benefits and food stamps] gauging them against the basic goal of any stimulus: to promote economic activity and create jobs as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Worth a read.

Posted by: laloomis | January 29, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

This might get pretty interesting: an Army judge (a colonel) just turned down Obama's request to suspend Gitmo hearings for 120 days.

I'm not much liking this guy's future career prospects.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 29, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Yes it should. Good day all.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 29, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

6. The military is a very good option, especially now that Bush and Cheney are out of office.

Yeah, right. You might want to check with Bob Herbert at the NYT, his Jan. 4 column:

And yet, while we haven’t even figured out how to extricate ourselves from the disaster in Iraq, Mr. Obama is planning to commit thousands of additional American troops to the war in Afghanistan, which is already more than seven years old and which long ago turned into a quagmire.

Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel who is now a professor of history and international relations at Boston University [and who will be coming to speak at our Trinity University this spring, the second speaker in the Maury Maverick lecture series, following last year's appearnace by Sy Hersh], wrote an important piece for Newsweek warning against the proposed buildup. “Afghanistan will be a sinkhole,” he said, “consuming resources neither the U.S. military nor the U.S. government can afford to waste.”

Posted by: laloomis | January 29, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Jan. 6 column. Time to go clean up more leaves in the front yard...

Posted by: laloomis | January 29, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Mudge... that Army judge didn't happen to have an old guy in a wheelchair behind him pointing a shotgun at his head, did he?

I gotta wonder what part of the reverberating "you suck" the voters proclaimed this past election that these idiots don't understand.

I'm reminded of the Black Knight in Monty Python's "Holy Grail"... "It's only a flesh wound."

Posted by: martooni | January 29, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Median 50% SAT scores:

Reading 700-800 (meaning at least 25% of the freshmen had a perfect 800)
Math 700-790

Reading 690-790
Math 700-790

Reading 560-690
Math 580-690

75% of Harvard's freshman class had higher SAT scores than 75% of Florida's.

Are there students at Florida that could have been accepted at Harvard? Undoubtedly.

Is the average Florida student as smart as the average Harvard student? That is not a statistically defensible statement.

All the standard disclaimers, codicils, and fine print about mileage varying, individual performance not typical, etc. apply.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

The gap between Stanford and Berkeley is much tighter.

Reading 660-760
Math 680-790

Reading 590-710
Math 630-760

All stats from the College Board website

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I'll be the first to admit that Afghanistan is pretty much a quagmire, Loomis, but my point was that the military is no longer in the hands of a reckless administration whose motto was "stuff happens" and who collectively didn't serve a day yet expected our troops to fight and die for their ideology.

For me to say the military is a viable career path for young people is a major shift from my pacifist hippie mindset. I don't believe that war is ever the solution, but I'm a realist and know that sometimes it's inevitable. I've got a 22 year old who can't -- or won't -- find a job. I know the job market stinks so I can't blame him completely. But he has options and the military is one of them -- and not a bad one, either. From what I understand, today's military isn't just about how to point and fire a gun. The kid could learn a trade and make a few bucks while he's at it.

And who knows? Maybe they'll learn him a little discipline.

Posted by: martooni | January 29, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

OMG martooni is The Man!!!


Posted by: engelmann | January 29, 2009 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Another pleasant idea undone by actual statistics. Interesting that the College Board has the stats. Still, UF has always had excellent students simply because it's been the "flagship" state university.

The Harvard student body must be amazing. Don't they have a huge number of athletes, musicians, and whatnot?

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 29, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

martooni has always been "The Man." This is merely a further demonstration.

I also find it hilarious that Loomis is now a faux peacenik, after having raved for months about voting for McCain.

Now, here's just one more reason for me to love Obama:

"Mr. Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat [in the Oval Office, and was seen WITHOUT his suit jacket on!! O the horror!].

"He's from Hawaii, O.K.?" said Mr. Obama's senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. "He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there."

I also like it that Axelrod has a sense of humor, and they are comfortable joshing about this kind of stuff.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 29, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

You know how Yoki was confronted some time ago with a work issues involving a lawyer who Did a Very Bad Thing that she couldn't discuss? Well, I am now sort of in the same position. I have been assign to edit a a very large project, and have discovered that lots of money was spent by lots of very intelligent people to do something really, really stoopid. That money is gone, unrecoverable. But I am now embarked on a fight to editorially kill a major part of that project, thus saving the gummint further money by publishing stooopid and useless stuff, at your exopense.

I expect to get my butt kicked and to lose, gloriously.

But know that I am dead right.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 29, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

I've always had what I call my top 100 theory for high schools. The top 100 students at any given typical public high school will perform as well or better than the top 100 students at a private school in the same area.

For colleges, I would say the Top 1000 theory would hold for Ivys versus flagship state schools. The only difference being that Ivy League schools accept 1600 students at a time and Florida's freshman class is 6400.

And just for comparative purposes, my alma mater:

Reading 600-690
Math 650-730

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2009 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Fight the good fight, mudge. Next time let's try to save those taxpayer dollars before the waste gets to the printer.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Please, oh please... I don't wanna be "The Man". I just wanted to clarify my point.

I've spent the better part of my life trying to poke "The Man" in the eyeball while peeing on his shoes.

Heck, my theme song is "Anarchy in the UK" by the Sex Pistols. ("Spill the Wine" by Eric Burdon and War is a close second -- me being an overfed long-haired leaping gnome and all that)

Posted by: martooni | January 29, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse


I think they meant "You DA Man!"

Entirely different connotation.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

According to the College Board, current scores for the middle 50% of my alma mater are: 680-760 Reading; 700-780 Math. Interestingly, my scores would put me near the top in reading, but in the bottom quartile for math, despite the fact that I took a math-intensive major and minored in math (doing rather well, thank you). This might say something about the predictive value of the SAT. Of course, I don't know the statistics for my alma mater in 1980, when I was accepted, nor do I know how I would have fared with current math pedagogy.

Posted by: ScienceTim | January 29, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

'toon, every time I see you refer to yourself as the overfed long-haired leaping gnome I wanna you ever dream you're in a Hollwood movie? And are you the staah of the movie?

Posted by: LostInThought | January 29, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I was and am unable to prevent taxpayer's money being wasted, yello, since this and all other projects occur long before I get to see them. I'm only the clean-up guy. But yes, I am trying not to waste even more money by printing something that should be cut. It hasn't been printed yet; that's what I'm hoping to stop.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 29, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

You remember your scores? I can't remember if I had breakfast.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 29, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

1980 was well before the big renorming of the SAT scores. Any test results from before 1995 can comfortably add 50 points to their scores for comparative purposes. Here is a more rigorous conversion between 'old' and 'new':

An excellent article vis-a-vis Ivy league admission standards:

Say what you want about Yale's and HBS's admission standards, they did accept a future president of the U.S. so they must have seen some potential there.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

LiT... yes and yes. I particularly like the part about the women of all shapes and sizes...

"But there I was, I was taken to a place, the hall of the mountain kings
I stood high upon a mountain top, naked to the world
In front of every kind of girl, there was
black ones, round ones, big ones, crazy ones..."

Why is it that the crazy ones never leave?

Posted by: martooni | January 29, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Middle 50% scores for my Huge State University are
reading 530-630
math 560-670

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 29, 2009 2:09 PM | Report abuse pre-1980 SATs would have made me above-average on math and well above average on "verbal" or whatever it was called back then. Of course today's student body would be quite a bit different from back then.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 29, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Bush the Second was an automatic at Yale. No question asked as his father was an alumni and a big donor.

On the stimulus I'm getting on Krugman's bandwagon. Why cave in to the Rebublican with a full third of the stimulus in tax cut while getting nothing in return? We have a conservative government and they also gave 1/3 of their stimulus in taxcut. Maybe Barrack should call the democratic senators and right that wrong.

So much money spent so fast will not give the best bang for the buck but at least there should be some standards. Looks like they'll be an awful lot of asphalt spread in the next couple of years on both side of the border. I wish there were more public transit and information infrastructure spending but nobody can put those projects in place and start work within 2 years. The Gateway to the West, a Canadian port/rail project, took 5 years to develop and will take 10 to implement. Great stuff but it takes time.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | January 29, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I fortunately never faced your sort of problem. I've seen large, expensive, stupid reports but no Titanic-type disasters.

A couple of weeks ago, I looked over an enormous US Geological Survey report on sea level rise in the mid-Atlantic states. It had been a huge project and, to judge from my amateur browsing, it was readable, well-informed, and worth reading even by people on other parts of the Atlantic coast who need to know about sea level. I had enough trouble managing my own small report-writing projects; how was it possible to manage a herd of writers so effectively? I was impressed.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 29, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Martooni, I've never been sure...does she share that glass of wine with you, or does she just bogart it?

Posted by: LostInThought | January 29, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Did that Gateway to the West project have anything to do with promoting shipping through Prince Rupert, B.C.? That port claims to have the best connections from the Midwest/Ontario to China.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 29, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget Prince George!

Posted by: Yoki | January 29, 2009 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Good for you, 'Mudge! What does Mr. Handel say?

The voice of him
Who crieth in the wilderness...

Posted by: Yoki | January 29, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Ah, the SAT. It was a total waste of time and money when I took it almost 40 years ago, and it was still a total waste of time and money when my kids took it ten years ago.

I took it twice, got 1162 spring of my junior year and 1270 the fall of my senior year. The increase was in math (me! math!), due to my introduction to trig that fall and I don't know what else. That kind of increase wasn't supposed to be possible.

Thank heavens for places like Wake Forest which are eliminating it as an application requirement.

Posted by: slyness | January 29, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Can I beg indulgence and digress back to Updike for just a moment? Pretty please?

See, today I had to pick my daughter up from school. Because of the vagaries of meeting lengths, I ended up leaving for this task far sooner than could be justified by even the most sadistic traffic. So I stopped at the overwrought Fairfax Library and in a short time, a display having been arranged by the librarians to ease my search, obtained a copy of Updike's "The Early Years." While I waited for my daughter to emerge, I read a few stories selected mostly for their brevity. This was a mixture of Olinger and Maple and a few other groupings.

Okay. I get it now.

Not all of these stories were pretty. Nor could I say I could much identify with many of the characters. But there was a raw power and salience to the words that is undeniable. Indeed, the stories were almost too intense. I felt like a person gazing at a colorful pattern of bright lights entranced by the illumination but fearful that the afterimage might never fully fade. The stories were also like charcoal rubbings of an ornate sculpture. The black markings implied so much more than what the words they formed directly revealed. These were stories that Demanded Discussion and Deep Contemplation.

Which is why, perhaps, these stories are often found in schools. They seem destined to stimulate creative thought. Indeed, after reading them I had to suppress a moment of anxiety. I feared that some omnipotent teacher would swoop down and mandate that I produce a three paged essay from my thoughts. Double spaced. Pica.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 29, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Kornheiser says he cried "four different times" during "Benjamin Button" -- and also cried during "The English Patient."

I cried during the scene with Kristin Scott-Thomas in the bathtub. Large, very bitter tears.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 29, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

That's the one DotC, Prince Rupert.
"The Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor is a system of transportation infrastructure, including British Columbia Lower Mainland and Prince Rupert ports, road and rail connections that reach across Western Canada and into the economic heartlands of North America, as well as major airports and border crossings."

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | January 29, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't remember my SAT scores. And I hope my son doesn't remember his when he is my age. To me they are just permission slips to get into college and start learning stuff. And since both he and I hot into the colleges we wanted, I have nothing bad to say of them.

And even the college one went to isn't nearly as important as what is learned and used.

Which is good, because my college is too obscure and sounds too silly for many people to take seriously anyway.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 29, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I know my SAT scores because a)they were symmetric. My verbal matched my math which surprised many people I knew since I was pegged as a math/science type. And b) one girl I knew took great umbrage at my verbal score since it was 50 point higher than hers even though our math scores were identical.

She accused the College Boards of mixing up our results since she (in her mind) was clearly the better language arts student. Her 'poor' performance did not seem to impact her acceptance to Cornell. The last I heard of her, she had gotten a vet degree from GatorWorld, and as any reader of the Weingarten chat can attest, these are more competitive than medical schools.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse


In a supermarket, Kurtis the stock boy, was busily working when a new
voice came over the loud speaker asking for a carry out at register 4. Kurtis was almost finished, and wanted to get some fresh air, and decided to answer the call. As he approached the check-out stand a distant smile caught his eye. The new check-out girl was beautiful. She was an "older" woman (maybe 26, and he was only 22) and he fell in love.

Later that day, after his shift was over, he waited by the punch clock to find out her name. She came into the break room, smiled softly at him, took her card and punched out, then left. He looked at her card, BRENDA. He walked out, only to see her start walking up the road.

Next day, he waited outside as she left the supermarket, and offered her a ride home. He looked harmless enough, and she accepted. When he dropped her off, he asked if maybe he could see her again,
outside of work. She simply said it wasn't possible.

He pressed and she explained she had two children and she couldn't afford a
baby-sitter, so he offered to pay for the baby-sitter. Reluctantly she accepted his offer for a date for the following Saturday.

That Saturday night he arrived at her door only to have her tell him that she was unable to go with him. The baby-sitter had called and canceled. To which Kurtis simply said, "Well, let's take the kids with us."

She tried to explain that taking the children was not an option, but again not
taking no for an answer, he pressed. Finally Brenda, brought him inside to meet
her children. She had an older daughter who was just as cute as a bug, Kurtis
thought, then Brenda brought out her son, in a wheelchair. He was born
a paraplegic with Down Syndrome.

Kurtis asked Brenda, "I still don't understand why the kids can't come with us?" Brenda was amazed. Most men would run away from a woman with two kids, especially if one had disabilities - just like her first husband and father of her children had done. Kurtis was not ordinary -- he had a different mindset.

That evening Kurtis and Brenda loaded up the kids, went to dinner and the movies. When her son needed anything Kurtis would take care of him. When he needed to use the restroom, he picked him up out of his wheelchair, took him and brought him back. The kids loved Kurtis. At the end of the evening, Brenda knew this was the man she was going to marry and spend the rest of her life with.

A year later, they were married and Kurtis adopted both of her children. Since then they have added two more kids.

So what happened to Kurtis the stock boy and Brenda the check-out girl?

end of part 1

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 29, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

part 2:

"Well, Mr. & Mrs. Kurt Warner now live in Arizona, where he is currently
employed as the quarterback of the Arizona Cardinals who are about to play in the Super Bowl. It should be noted that he also quarterbacked the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. e has also been the NFL's Most Valuable Player twice and the Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player.

Is this a surprise ending or could you have guessed that he was not an ordinary person?

Today, when Kurt, his wife and 7 children go out to eat he has one of his
children pick out a family eating at the restaurant. Kurt then tells the wait staff he is picking up the tab for that family's dinner annonymously. He remembers
the days he was working nights in the grocery store and feeding his family on food stamps.

Makes it hard not to root for the Cardinals in the Super Bowl, doesn't it?"


Nice story...but I'm still rooting for the Steelers. Turns out Troy Polomalu is a grape nut and has a big wine cellar. Guess who my wife is now rooting for. Ain't Polomalu. (She hates his dredlocks, anyway.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 29, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

All I remember about my SAT scores is my dad saying that it was proof that I was too smart to be doing so many dumb things. Like being a teenager.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 29, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Ooops. My two Kurtis posts need this preface:

Meanwhile, for Super Bowl fans (esp. LiT), my wife sent me this. It's going around the cyberworld, I guess.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 29, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

SCC: He and I *got*. One of the vanishingly few times a pronoun referring to me and the term "hot" will be found together.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 29, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 29, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

690/560 on my SAT. No points for guessing which discipline I scored better on.

'Mudge, did they become two 'Merican kids doin' the best they can?

Oh, sorry, different ditty...


Posted by: Scottynuke | January 29, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

You are far too modest. My son had three schools on his long list from the left coast. His verbal SAT scores were too low to compete for money at your alma mater. The number of essays required for the junior university scared him off and the state school didn't accept him. Which is why he is now going to his safety school, my alma mater, where is enjoying it more than I did, if that is possible.

100 point SAT jumps are not unheard of and frequently promised by test-prep programs, which I revile.

And yes, the whole point is that admission scores are no absolute predictor of academic success or lifetime happiness. Especially not lifetime happiness.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

That's more often than for me, RD. Just enjoy it while it lasts.

And Mudge, you just gave me a reason to actually almost want to watch the Super Bowl.

At least there's a party so I can eat chips and ignore the game.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 29, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Hey yello!!! No-Duh Alert!!!

*rolling my eyes* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 29, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

martooni writes: I'll be the first to admit that Afghanistan is pretty much a quagmire, Loomis, but my point was that the military is no longer in the hands of a reckless administration whose motto was "stuff happens" and who collectively didn't serve a day yet expected our troops to fight and die for their ideology.

Since none of us is in Afghanistan and knows the situation, we must rely upon the words of others more knowledgeable than we:

Tom Friedman, NYT, Feb. 5, 2004:

In Afghanistan, post-Taliban, the Bush team has started to build a moderate alternative in Hamid Karzai.

Tom Friedman, NYT, Dec. 13 2008

After Detroit, Mr. Obama will be asked to bail out Afghanistan. Watch out. The tide has turned against us there because too many Afghans don’t want to buy our politics, or, more precisely, the politics of our ally, the corrupt government of President Hamid Karzai. That is “the thing itself.” [This refers to Friedman's lede graf for this particular op-ed]: If there is anything I’ve learned as a reporter, it’s that when you get away from “the thing itself” — the core truth about a situation — you get into trouble.]

I worry, too, martooni. My best friend's son, after serving two tours in Iraq, is now lwarning to fly helicopters in Alabama. Will he just be more firearm fodder, this next time airborne?

Nothing like being misrepresented. I believe in listening to the other side, learning their positions--so, too, with McCain last fall. The question during the election cycle was for a responsible withdrawal from Iraq. Some pundits said it's likely McCain would have implemented a troop drawdown, only McCain would have framed it as a victory. We'll see how long armed forces, whatever their number, remain in Iraq, under Obama's administration. Will he have all, or the majority, of troops out in 16-months, as he promised during the campaign? I don't see any other Boodlers having gotten off their butts and gone to Crawford, Texas, when Cindy Sheehan was there camped outside Bush's ranch...if only I hadn't run into her handlers at the Crawford Coffee Station, moments after I had arrived for breakfast, and later at the compound.

Posted by: laloomis | January 29, 2009 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I wouldn't be too sure.

Posted by: Yoki | January 29, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

How many of you think they should have changed the name from "Cardinals" when they moved to Arizona from St. Loueeey?

I do. There are no frickin' cardinals in Arizona. If you need to stay with birds, what'd be wrong with "Roadrunners" or "Pinon Jays?"

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 29, 2009 3:12 PM | Report abuse

I think Arizona has the Cardenal pardo or Pyrrhuloxia, which is in the same genus as the Northern Cardinal.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 29, 2009 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Is that Don's brother, DotC?

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 29, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Great football story. I need to go out this weekend and buy my Private Super Bowl Party bag of rippled chips and french-onion dip. It's nice to not have to share.

Also, mudge, have I ever shown you my picture of Kristen Scott-Thomas?
(Scroll down to the bottom for KST)

And did I mention how friendly and polite she was? No? Perhaps some other time.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

In my case, SAT stood for Stone Age Tutelage. My scores: I got a 7 in abacus, and 9 in Saxon. That was just barely good enough to get me into the Wessex Institute for Jesters, Tinkers and Alchemists (go, mighty fighting Pultroons!) (All the nerdy kids scored in the upper 20s, the swine, and got into the Wharton School for Masters of the Universe, and Middlesex College of Wizards.)

But it was all a long time ago, and I don't dwell on it any more.


Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 29, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse


You and the Updike comment. I laughed at your description of a teacher swooping down demanding a three page paper in Pica, and of all things, double spaced.

Posted by: cmyth4u | January 29, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Afghanistan/Pakistan is a nasty problem with no easy solutions. Nor does it especially lend itself to easy criticisms.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 29, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

No, Loomis, I'm not in Afghanistan and don't pretend to even think I have the answers to put a lid back on that can-o-worms.

All I know is that the previous administration behaved like the "little bully" in "A Christmas Story"... "you better do what I say or I'm gonna let my big friend here beat the guano out of you". I think Obama looks at our troops as real people and not just ranks and columns to be moved around a game board. Since I don't have Obama in my pocket, I can't ask him whether that's the case or not, but based on his public statements I think I'm pretty close to the mark.

Personally, I'd like to see us out of Afghanistan, out of Iraq, and instead use our troops to help in areas like Darfur (or the still-unrecovered areas of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast).

My point about today's military (under the leadership of Obama) vs. yesterday's (under Bush/Cheney) is that new recruits will not find themselves unnecessarily in harm's way on not much more than a whim. As much a pain in the arse my stepson is, I don't want him going off to be cannon fodder. But I think his options (and chances) with today's military are much better than simply sitting around waiting for a decent job to land on his head.

Posted by: martooni | January 29, 2009 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, thanks for the story. I'll be sure to pass it along to Steelers fans. (BTW, Troy's hair is just really long; I don't think it qualifies as dreds.)

Posted by: LostInThought | January 29, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Afghanistan will, and should, be subjected to a lot of examination, but I know that the President is getting the best info available.

Shockingly, even better then the NYT.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 29, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Headline on CNN:

"Blagojevich: How can you throw me out?"

A Wile E. Coyote ACME catapult comes to mind, for starters...


Posted by: Scottynuke | January 29, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Rod, let me count the ways.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 29, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

laloomis, not fair about the Crawford TX thing. You driving 3 hours and a Washington-area boodler flying to TX aren't exactly the same thing now, are they? We get off our butts plenty, and clearly many of us participate in the democratic process in ways other than just voting.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 29, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Is it just me or did Blago jump the shark about three weeks ago?

I so wish his hair blob would just gobble him up so we can move on to things that might actually matter.

Posted by: martooni | January 29, 2009 4:02 PM | Report abuse

martooni - well said. Let me add this. Rumor has it that Obama asks complex questions and brings to the table a vastly greater tolerance for sophisticated analysis.
And he is keenly aware about the troubled history of the region.

Or so I've heard.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 29, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

RD_P, what have I told you about holding a glass up to the wall like that???

Muy not polite, dude.

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 29, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Oh, LiT, I'm sure Laloomis would have flown to TX if she'd had to.

Posted by: -dbG- | January 29, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

If she could have gotten time off from work, that is.

Posted by: -dbG- | January 29, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Yoki | January 29, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Just watching Obama speaking on the first Bill of his admin - The Equal Pay bill - very nice speech about equality of women.

Posted by: dmd2 | January 29, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, thank you for your 3:27. I'm deep in law enforcement officer traffic deaths again, and I needed that laugh - badly.

Yello, in MY day, yes, 40 years ago, there were not such things as SAT prep courses. Which is not to say that we weren't acquainted with standardized tests, but we did the SAT cold. And lived or died by our raw brainpower and/or knowledge. But I agree with you in reviling them.

Posted by: slyness | January 29, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

The b@astard! Who is he to talk about equality of women!

Posted by: Yoki | January 29, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

LA Times has reported that author James Brady died Monday. has an obit also.


Posted by: DLDx | January 29, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

New kit.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 29, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I don't even want to post my SAT scores amongst this crowd. Let's just say I wasn't much of a test taker. Still, I think I managed to get through college and life okay in spite of my less-than-stellar numbers.

I love the story Mudge! Unfortunately, says it's not the actual story, The do say, however, that the real story is even more inspiring than this one that's circulating the internet.

Posted by: MiddleofthePacific | January 29, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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