Monday, September 29, 2008

Holy Crapballs, Bailoutman

I'm in disbelief that the bailout didn't pass. And the vote had essentially nothing to do with party lines. The vote was 228 to 205, with 133 Republicans and 95 Democrats in opposition. Then 140 Democrats and 65 Republicans were in favor. It's fucking chaos. At least 90% of these gies are trying to politicize the issue and it seems likely that there won't be any real resolution until after the election.

I guess everyone can blame this on everyone else, but from my biased perspective it seems like this might be something that would push undecideds or independents away from Republicans in all the races, not just the presidential race. Maybe the Republican gies are voting against this in an effort to save their jobs in their districts.

Really at this point I have no idea what's happening. In fairness, I don't think anyone in Washington or on Wall Street seems to know what's going on either. I just don't know what to think at this point. I'm not sure this is an issue that's going to hold its breath until November.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Extra Credit Assignment

So the Mets won, and I allowed myself an extra hour or so of bacchanalia as a result. That was a good decision. But then I made a bad decision. I decided to watch cable news for 30 minutes or so as I nursed my final beverage of the evening. Now typically, Mrs. Side Bar watches cable news with me, and talks me off of the ledge while I scream at some a-hole who just announced that "there is some dispute" over something that is obviously either true or false, and over which there cannot possibly be any rational dispute. But tonight, Mrs. Side Bar was already in bed, and I was left to grow more and more furious with each click through CNN, MSNBC and Fox News (side note: whatever, man; know thine enemy).

Tonight's topic: the credit crisis. And more specifically, the House Republican caucus, whose members have decided to block (or at least try to frustrate) the bi-partisan deal that was struck earlier in the day to resolve said crisis. They claim that they won't stand for a government bailout of those "fat cats on Wall Street who were stupid enough to get in to this mess in the first place." (my words, despite the quotation marks). They claim that their constituents are up in arms about the whole thing, and they won't stand for it. Eat me.

Here's the thing: the very people who are "up in arms" about the proposed federal bailout of so-called "toxic" mortgage securities, are the very people who stand to benefit the most.

See, the entire problem with the American economy right now begins and ends with one word: credit. I think LJT was correct the other day when he posted that we have become a nation of credit card debt, but that doesn't mean (and I don't think he was suggesting) that our nation would be better off if no one could get credit. Small and modest-sized loans from financial institutions are a net good for our economy. People with extra cash invest it with their local bank in a savings or money market account, and in exchange get a nice little interest payment at the end of each month. People who need extra cash borrow money from the same bank at a slightly higher interest rate, and the bank profits by pocketing the difference between the two rates. Now that is way too simplistic, but seriously, that's basically how it works: even with super-complex credit derivatives and structured investment vehicles, if you lend money at a rate that exceeds the cost of borrowing money, you can (and many people did) make a profit.

The problem here is that with mortgage-backed securities taking a nose dive, and with financial institutions invested too heavily in those MBS, no one is willing to extend credit, because they are afraid that they are already over extended, and they don't want to exacerbate the problem by lending money to someone who might not pay it back. In other words, it's all well and good that Mrs. Jones has invested $100 with my bank at a rate of 2%, but before I loan her money out to Mr. Smith at 6%, I better make sure I am not completely underwater on some of the other loans I made to Mr. Wilson, Mr. White, and Mr. Johnson a few months ago. Oh shit. Turns out I am.

The result of all this? No credit. No one - not individuals, not small businesses, not huge corporations - can get a loan right now.

Why is this a big deal? Credit makes our economy hum. You buy a car, some guy in Detroit doesn't get laid off (but you can't buy the car without a decent loan from the bank). You buy a house, two carpenters a plumber and the cable guy are in business (but no way you can afford the house without a reasonably priced mortgage from the bank). You want to start a high-tech company that produces alternative sources of energy on the cheap, to millions of Americans benefit (but you can't get a loan from Deutsche Bank because they won't extend credit to anyone). Some huge company is ready to come out of bankruptcy and start turning a profit again? They can't. Citibank won't fund that $350 million loan they promised. Etc.

I haven't worked in this industry for too long (and I don't really even work in this industry), but I have done it long enough to know that there has never been a time like this in anyone's memory. No one can get a loan right now. It permeates every transaction in the country. Everyone with any cash to lend is hording it like the fucking rapture is coming before Open Bar's 30th. It is a very scary time to need to borrow money. And it is only going to get worse when the MBS that these firms are carrying at $0.60 on the dollar (i.e., they already lost 40% on the securities, giving rise to the current crisis) turn out to be worth $0.25 on the dollar. Or less.

But here's the kicker: the very people who are opposing the federal bailout that might reverse, or at least stem, the credit crisis (because removal of toxic securities from the balance sheets of financial institutions would allow them to: (a) know what they have in terms of assets and liabilities, and (b) free up some capital for extension of loans, thus making credit available again) are the representatives of the very people who would benefit the most from the package.

When right-wing senators and congressmen from impoverished states (I'm looking at you, Dick Shelby (R-AL)) stand on ceremony and insist that "my constituents won't stand for this" they aren't hurting me. I live in a densely populated part of the country where the service economy and not the manufacturing economy is king, home ownership is optional, owning a car is downright stupid, and we earn a salary that permits us to get by without hitting up the local WaMu for a home equity loan. Instead, they are fucking over their own constituents. I'll be fine if I can't get a car loan, mortgage, or decent rate on my AmEx for 18 months. What about the guy working two jobs, making $7.15 an hour, and unable to get out from under one or two bad decisions he made when he was 22. Where is that guy going to be when Alabama First National tells him they won't loan him a dime. What about the lady who works at some huge factory in North Carolina? She is going to lose her job because the CFO can't get Wachovia to finance their new expansion that otherwise would have generated millions in new revenue.

I don't like the federal bailout either. If there are 280 million of us, then everyone's share of $700 billion is $2500. That sucks. But do me a favor, before you piss and moan and bitch about it, ask yourself if you can live with the alternative. For god's sake, when George Bush and Nancy Pelosi agree on something, it's time to shut the fuck up and listen to them.

Thursday Classic Video

This is my new favorite thing. I do not disparriage anyone for believing in their religion, as it's way more than I'm capable of, but, I mean, really, it's like...there are no words, just watch. I'm gonna be singing this all day.

My favorite thing about this is easily the guitar player. You'd think they were playing some Zeppelin or something. My next favorite thing is the back up singers, including Jim Henson and a dude with a bad combover who looks like he was even out of touch with that wussified form of rock and roll. My third favorite thing is at the very end when the guy starts riffing by going "J-J-J-J-Jesus" with a high pitched falsetto in the last syllable.

In a similar vein, I also wanted to embed something called The Renewed Mind is the Key, but you can't get it on YouTube. But you have to follow this link and watch that and the dancing that goes along with it. Make sure you watch through the solo dance break. UPDATE: I guess The Way got tired of people linking to that silly performance because the link redirects to the home page now.

Who's Next, Liberace?

No Fucking Way.

Carlos Voltron

According to the Onion, he's our only hope (credit to Open Bar for the heads's up on this classic image).

I wonder if Ryan Howard is related to King Zarkon.

DannyG in Print!

Our good friend Danny G is published in today's edition of that esteemed publication, AM NY.

Check it out:


The last week has been unkind to Grandpa Simpson - I mean, um, John McCain.

The economy is failing and with Republicans having been in power for most of the past decade people are blaming Republicans for some reason.

To make matters worse, a serious problem is lack of regulation played a big part in leading us down this road.

That's an especially big problem when you like to call yourself "fundamentally, a deregulator" and have admitted that economics is not your strong suit (even if that quote may have been taken out of context just a bit).

Adding to Mr. McCain's woes is that the Palin Train seems to be losing steam as the people dig into her past.

Let's recap, shall we?
  • Her daughter just got knocked up.
  • Her son, being deployed to Iraq is said to have some drug problems.
  • She announced that we are on a mission from God in Iraq.
  • She then changed her story, trying to channel a quote from Abraham Lincoln that really was not at all similar to what she said.
  • She actually was for that bridge to nowhere before she was against it.
  • She was for banning books from local libraries.
  • She had rape victims pay for their own rape kits.
  • She apparently was banging her next door neighbor and husband's business partner.
  • She has had three interviews: Charlie Gibson, in which she came across as a lightweight - to put it nicely; Katie Couric, in which she came across as a lightweight - to put it nicely; and Sean Hannity - which, let's face it, doesn't really count.
  • She's accused of firing the former boss of her ex-brother in law because he wouldn't fire said ex-brother in law.
  • The anti-corruption crusader, actually ran Ted Steven's political action committee.
  • She billed taxpayers for travel and expenses for staying at her own home, as opposed to the Governor's Mansion, for 312 nights in the short time she spent as governor of Alaska.
  • Put her high school buddies in government jobs that they were not even remotely qualified for.
  • Her preacher, Thomas Muthee really hates witches.
There's more but, I think you get the point: she's a disaster.

They're just hoping her vagina and Christianity is enough for the American people (and, truth be told, the jury is still out on that one).

Now, with his polls dropping and time running out and on the cusp of the first presidential debate - what does John McCain do?

He calls a timeout??

What the fuck? Can you do that?

He's heading back to Washington DC to.....go to meetings. Oh, and he wants to cancel the scheduled debate because.....he has to go to meetings. I know he isn't really too good with computers but are telephones and airplanes too much for him too?

He really just wants to change the subject and position himself to claim credit for this bailout that is going to come one way or the other - regardless of whether or not he actually goes to DC.

Apparently, Obama called him at 8:30 in the morning on Wednesday to issue a joint statement. Grandpa Simpson returned the call at 2:30 pm and they agreed to issue some sort of joint statement and then, shortly thereafter, GP Simpson came out and announced the timeout.

Bitch-move, Macca. I'm guessing you're not taking the Straight Talk Express back to DC?

I thought Barry handled it nicely, saying that the president needs to be able to multitask.

I think people will see through this and it will ultimately backfire: there's no crying in baseball and there's no siestas in presidential elections - even if you are 100 years old.

I suppose it was a nice try to switch up the game with a gimmick, Johnny Mac - but the thing with Hail Mary passes is that they usually end up incomplete.

"I'm John McCain and, I..........I want a timeout..."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

When The Shit Hit The Fan

Back in March, Bear Sterns sold themselves to JP Morgan while on the brink of almost certain bankruptcy as we so brilliantly chronicled here at Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere's Luke. It was a financial failure that shocked many and the first failure of a major financial institution since Long Term Capital failed back in the 1990s.

Ah, the good old days.

Over the course of the last few months, and especially the last week the shit has truly hit the fan.

The US Government had to make explicit what was once implicit: they backed up Fanni Mae and Freddie Mac, two private but yet public corporations that had a piece of 70% of all American mortgages and in whom most of the world's nations held significant amounts of bonds.

Their downfall would have brought the world economy to a screeching halt.

And, so, to avoid this we bailed them out at $200 billion apiece.

Then, last week Lehman brothers, bailout-less, went into bankruptcy and Merril Lynch sold themselves to Bank of America to avoid a similary fate.

But the real kicker seemed to be my former employer, American International Group. As they teetered on the brink of failure The Fed initially threatened to let them fall while trying to push Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan to bail them out for what was $40 billion, then $50 billion and then $75 billion dollars.

No dice, said the I-bankers.

The government didn't want to have to guarantee their investments and Goldman and JP Morgan weren't going to take that risk.

AIG is an enormous company that does many things: insurance, aircraft leasing, money management, port owners just name a few and I think no one felt they could have possible done an even remotely reasonable amount of due diligence in a day or two.

And, so, The Fed blinked and bailed out AIG.

Why Bear and AIG and not Lehman?

Well, I think it's because while Bear Sterns and Lehman were both the same thing, Investment Banks, essentially what the difference was no one saw Bear about to fall whereas everyone was sitting around sort of watching Lehman fall apart for six months - lessening the investor panic when the eventually fell whereas a Bear fall would have been much more jarring to the markets.

Now, with AIG, I think the problem was, of course, the 'no-one seriously saw this coming' factor but they were also really just too big to let fail.

At the heart of this whole things are CDOs, or credit default swaps, and if you don't know how they work you can check it out here.

AIG was so big and had so much money in these CDOs, basically, insuring banks against potential defaults that if they were to go under it would have meant that those banks that they insured would then have to account for that increased liability on their balance sheets - showing a lot more debt.

To offset all that debt, they would have had to raise more cash but AIG had something in the neighborhood of $500 billion in of these CDOs - that's a lot of pesos.

To put that much debt back into the market overnight would have been catastrophic because none of these banks are liquid enough to come up with cash that quickly which could have resulted in many more banks going under.

And so, The Fed bailed out AIG.

Basically, the financial sector has turned into a giant Jenga game and everyone was too afraid that to pull out the AIG pegs would make the whole fucking thing fall.

It was not, however, a game saver and while the market continued to dive the undertakers sized and sold short on WaMu, Goldman and the like forcing them to consider selling themselves or face dire consequences.

No one knew where it would stop and that is why The Fed has proposed throwing $700 billion dollars at this problem.

Now, I don't profess to really know how to solve this problem, but first we have to identify the problem and what I think is that there are two problems.

First, with these CDOs, basically what happened was that people writing mortgages were able to sell them off and not 'live' with them so they made their money not on getting paid back but on the up front fees and costs which made it beneficial for them to relax their criteria for giving out mortgages. The companies buying these CDOs were making pretty good coin on them for a long time as well. And of course, Americans wanted bigger and bigger houses.

The thing is, everyone lost touch with reality which is that they housing boom had to end eventually. And it did, in a big way.

So, there's that.

But here's the thing that we don't really want to admit.

The problem really is bigger than AIG and Fannie and Freddie and whoever else may have invested unwisely.

The problem.....(drumroll, please) Americans.

(I said it, I said it!)

It's me and most of you.

We live our lives buying shit we can't afford. Wanna go to Vegas? Charge it! That house? Charge it! That car? Those shoes? That expensive dinner? That war in Iraq? Those tax cuts? Charge it! Charge it! Charge it! Charge it! Charge it!

We are a Veruca Salt Nation.

"I want it noooowwww!"

At some point that is going to have to change: we can start following a budget or we're going to go broke.

Now, I'm all for getting out of this serious emergency but along with plugging a hole, we have to go on a fiscal diet.

That maybe means no tax cuts and maybe some raises.

That means losing benefits.

That means driving that toyota for another five years instead of getting that Benz you've beeing dying for.

That means figuring out what the fuck we are, in fact, going to do with Medicare once and for all.

So yes, let's step back from the brink and bail ourselves out but let's not kid ourselves: we are bailing ourselves out on a giant credit card courtesy of the U.S. of A. and we're going to have to pay it back, along with our kids and grandkids and, so, we need to wakeup and realize we don't just need to get our I-Banks in order.

We need to put an end to The Credit Card Culture.

No, I Do Not Like Maureen Dowd

After posting a lengthy quote from Maureen Dowd's most recent column yesterday, Open Bar asked if it meant that I like Maureen Dowd now. The answer is no, I do not like Maureen Dowd. I think Maureen Dowd is a snarky asshole who is so pre-occupied with belittling political figures that she obscures her underlying message (on the days when she even has one). She loads her column up with insutls, sarcasm, and inside jokes based on offbeat news reports from the campaign trail. As a result, they tend to read more like a rambling summary of trivial news stories about the candidates, and less like journalistic prose that has a beginning, middle, end, and a coherent theme.

In order to prove my point, I have hacked in to her personal computer and located her column for tomorrow. A classic example of Dowd-esque writing:

This week in Tampa, Florida, U.S. gold-medal hopeful Barry Obama is rehearsing for the first event in the O-lympics. It's a house-off with the McCampaign and their 8 McMansions. Barry's crowd has been crowing all week about cars and mansions and elitism (oh my!). Meanwhile, Johnny and the GOP have spun the wicked witch of the northwest into a sweet little girl from Kansas. And now she is ready to charm the lollipop guild at the U.N. Enchante, Dorothy.

But while Johnny and his might-be mistress flirt with the French on First Avenue, something's rotten in the State of New York. And it's just down the road on Wall Street. Johnny doesn't know too much about the economy, he told us a few months ago, and then he announced last week that the fundamentals are strong. Barry chided Johnny for taking the fun out of fundamentals, and little Dorothy shacked up with Sean Hannity for a cozy recovery interview after that mean old Charlie Gibson asked her about the Bush Doctrine. The newly-minted feminists on the right thought Charlie was a little too hard on Bristol's babygrandmamma. It's not like she said we might go to war with China.

To clean up the mortgage mess, Henry Paulson and the Bushies over at Treasury want to know if they can bum $700 billion off of Congress. They'll totally pay it back. In O'Henry's view, the moral of this story is that the way out of a financial crisis borne of insufficient oversight on Wall Street is to give him a blank check and the authority to spend three-quarters of a trillion with no oversight at all. Cheney and Rummy fumed that they hadn't thought of it first. Oh and by the way, he needs the money like now.

I wonder if Barry likes jelly beans.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Martin Sheen is my President

Maureen Dowd's column this morning takes the form of an imaginary meeting between Barack Obama, and Jed Bartlett (Martin Sheen's character on The West Wing). At one point, the fake fake President gets a little frustrated with Obama, and goes on a rant about what Obama needs to do to win the election and take back the momentum:

GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sarah Palin's Vlog

This is funny. I'm trying to feed Side Bar's infatuation with Sarah Palin, future GILF. Someone named Sara Benincasa has made a bunch of video blogs of Sarah Palin. There are like 15 or 20 of them, but this is the first one.

The part where she says, "I won mayor of a small town and I won governor or Alaska" is very funny to me. The ones that come after this are also pretty funny so watch 'em. Vlog #5 is particularly good.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dear Football Fans, Fuck You

Let's say you own 4 season tickets on the 50 yard line for the Jets. To get the season tickets you have to buy tickets to 10 games, 2 of which are preseason games. In 2008, each of those seats costs $90, so for your season tickets you will pay $900 times 4 seats, which is $3600.

In 2010, when the new stadium opens, you will have to pay a Personal Seat License (PSL) fee of $25,000 per seat for the right to purchase your seat. Then the individual game tickets, instead of $90 each, will cost $700 each. So $700 times 10 games times 4 seats is $28,000. In 2010, therefore, your 4 season tickets will cost you $128,000. In 2011, and every year thereafter, they will cost you a mere $28,000.

Tickets for Giants games will be more expensive, but I don't know the exact numbers and my looking it up is really not necessary for my point to be made.

Who, pray tell, is going to pay over $100,000 for the right to watch the Jets? What I would do with that $128,000 is use it to open a sports bar and invite all the former season ticket holders to come and watch that game, along with every other game in the NFL on Sundays.

I know that a lot of research went into these pricing plans, but I'm seriously wondering who is going to buy these tickets. Even ticket scalpers wouldn't make a profit on those things.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Not Again, But Whatever

I have struggled over the past few days to verbalize how I feel about the current state of the New York Mets. When I woke up on Thursday morning, they held a 3.5-game lead over the second place Phillies, and there were 17 games left in the season. But this wasn't no ordinary number (Boys, Geto). As you might recall, the Mets held a 7.5 game lead over the Phillies in September of last year. With 17 games left to play. And we all remember how that ended.

So you can forgive Mets fans if they had some minor trepidation going in to this past weekend's series against the Braves. Yes, the heart of the order was hitting its stride (depending on how they finish, I think there might actually be a compelling case that David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado are all viable MVP candidates, but that is for another post). Yes, the Phillies were set to play four with a very good (if struggling) Brewers team. Yes, the Braves are awful this year. Yes, the bullpen has pulled it together. Sort of. But these were the Mets, the team that has blown more saves than a racist lifeguard at a swimming pool in Harlem. Yes, you could forgive Mets fans a certain sense of discomfort going in to the weekend.

And now, just five days later, here we go again.

The Mets lost two of three to the Braves on Saturday and Sunday, despite leading all three games in the 8th inning or later. The Phillies swept a four-game series against the suddenly awful Brewers. And then on Monday, the Mets - looking terrifyingly similar to the lethargic, unmotivated team that let it all get away in 2007 - mailed it in against the AAA Nationals. The Mets now lead the NL East by the thinnest of margins (0.5 games, one in the loss column, even in the win column), and the comparisons to September of 2007 seem on the verge of boiling over into full-blown hysteria.

Yet with the stars re-aligned for another September to forget, I think I have expended all of the mental energy that I can on this team. I still watch as many games as I can, listen on the radio if I can't watch, and check regularly on my blackberry if I can't listen. I like this team (more than I thought I would after last year), I think Jerry Manuel is a good fit; I want them to do well, and I will celebrate with my friends if they can pull out a playoff berth and make a run in October.

But the truth is this: I have never cared less about a first-place Mets team than I do about this one. When they lose it doesn't get to me as much, and when they win I am not as encouraged as I used to be. In my life, the Mets have been in first place maybe seven or eight times this late in the season (I am too lazy to look it up). They won the division in 1986, 1988 and 2006, there were a few close calls in the late 1980s and the late 1990s, and then of course there was 2007, and now 2008. In each of those seasons - including last year - I was elated with a September win, and devestated by a Setpember loss (that was a little bit of hyperbole, but not much). Some people would say that, as a 30 year-old professional with a wife and a job, it is high time that I stopped getting so fired up about something as meaningless as professional baseball. Maybe. But
I don't think that this is just about "growing up" or getting older. Either way, my experience as a Mets fan is noticeably different this year.

A few of us have theorized that the Giants' Superbowl win (and now their 2-0 start) was so exciting that it cushioned any blow the Mets could deliver. That could be a part of it. But I think it has more to do with last year. That was supposed to be the one where we got to see the real October Beltran. The one where he avenged that curveball from Game 7 of the NLCS. It was supposed to be the one where the 2006 Mets blossomed into the 2007 Champions. And it was just all wrong all year, almost from the very start. After a strong April, the Mets were a boring, mediocre team for months. They played ugly baseball, lost games they could easily win, and had no heart when they needed it most. Watching that team implode in September was devestating, but in a way it made perfect sense - that was where 2007 had been heading all along.

I think the 2007 season managed to compress ten or fifteen years of sports disappointment into a six-month period. It put our collective sports maturation in a time warp, and accelerated what may be a natural tendency to grow less and less intense about "your team."

For years, I could not understand why my dad, a huge Boston Red Sox fan for his entire life, could not get himself more fired up about the 2004 team. They were a miracle, and he got to see it. I offered to buy him tickets to the ALCS games in the Bronx, and he declined. I invited him to come into the city and watch the games with us, but he wanted to stay home. I would ask him what he thought of a particularly close play in the eighth inning, and he would say he went to bed in the seventh (in fairness, he watched all of game 7). But he was 62 years old in 2004, and he had seen the Red Sox let him down so many times, that I guess it just wasn't worth letting himself get too excited again. And I think I might be getting there with the Mets. And it sucks.

But I'll still watch the game tonight.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Classic Video Part II: Poking Sarah Palin (heh)

What's that? Two videos in one day? I think I just clinched the mailing-it-in award for the week. That, and I'm single, in case you were wondering.

Over the past few weeks, we at Where's Luke? have laid out our thoughts on Sarah Palin and, yeah, we basically think she sucks. I don't care if her daughter got knocked up and blah blah blah, but I think I speak for all of us ("us" being the human population as a whole, not simply the four writers of this blog) when I say we're a bit concerned with the prospect of this woman possibly becoming President in the not-too-distant future. She seems kinda smart, and hey, even in Alaska, I'm sure it's moderately-to-way-friggin'-easier-than-in-other-states difficult to become the governor. But John McCain -- according to my statistics -- is probably gonna die or something close to it -- pretty soon, and as much as I think starting up a couple new wars with Iran and Russia is a bad idea, I'm even more nervous at the thought of Sarah Palin having to suddenly handle situations like that. Here's why:

Have a nice weekend!

Friday Classic Video: Cat Versus Printer

In the interests of lightening things up a bit around here (see post below), I'd like to discuss racism.

Wait, no, not that. I mean, let's watch a cat giving this printer the business. It takes a few seconds to get going, but definitely watch to the end. Or not. Whatever, it's your life, man.

(i think this one works.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September Eleventh, Two-Thousand and One

The morning of September 11th, 2001 was a perfect late summer/early fall day.

Not a cloud in the sky.

The sky was blue and Michael Jordan was set to announce his third comeback. The night before, I had hung out in my new first post-college apartment with Angry White Dave and seen Ed McCaffrey get his leg FUCKED up on Monday night foootball while eating wings.

I was feeling pretty good.

I had an early meeting at my job at 111 John Street in my boss' office on the second floor that looked out onto John Street and straight up Broadway. A typical meeting, we were droaning on and insurance and such things.

I recall a loud noise, but nothing really out of the ordinary for downtown New York.

Then, we hear another HUGE explosion. We all immediately stopped and went to the window.

Now, you could see up Broadway to the north tower of the World Trade Center's twin towers but not the south tower because another building blocked the view.

My (super-hot) boss Diana shouted, "What was that?!"

I said, "look at those two trucks that are stopped in the middle of the street - they had an accident."

"No", said my evil co-worker defacto boss, Stephanie, "it's the world trade center!"

We looked up to see the north tower of the WTC with a big fire in the middle of it.

Now, Stephanie and Diana both had friends in the towers and were very concerned. I remember thinking that, like, a huge air conditioner unit or something had blown up. I went back to my cubicle to check it out online and my Aunt Susan called me.

"A plane flew into the World Trade Center!"

"What fucking idiot flies into the World Trade Center?" I asked myself as I hung up and went back into the office.

Diana and Stephanie were frantically calling people and I stood and watched for a while and eventually decided to make my way to the street.

I got out onto John Street to a crowd standing there looking up.

"Someone flew a plane into the World Trade Center!" Someone announced. I figured it was a prop plane.

I stood there for a while and then started up John to Broadway.

I got up to Broadway and realized shit was serious: both towers were on fire.

At that moment, I realized it was a terrorist attack. I stood there looking up at the burning buildings with hundreds of other people - just staring.

I could feel the heat emanating from the building and there was glass shattered on the street.

Kind of shocked but pretty much with my shit together, I started wandering back to my office.

Now, I had just seen that. It was about three or four blocks back to my office and it was a surreal scene but everyone was pretty calm, as was I. People had pulled cars over and radios were blasting and everyone was talking.

"Terrorist attack."

"They bombed the mall in Washington."

"There's one headed toward The Empire State Building."

"They blew up the Whitehouse."

Anything could have been possible and I didn't really doubt it. This was crazy.

I was - we all were - pretty rational about it given the circumstances.

I returned to the building to find Diana and Stephanie. They hadn't known where I had gone and were all worked up.

We stood there, not really knowing what to do and not allowed back in the building. Cell phone lines were down. So, we stood in awe.

Then we heard a sound. Unless you were there that day I'm not sure you can fully appreciate the sound. It was so loud, the earth was vibrating. I mean really really overwhelming - couldn't hear anything loud. Imagine that. Now multiply it by 100.

We all turned west toward the sound and saw an enormous cloud of smoke - like maybe 20 or 30 stories high - shoot up Broadway and seem to make a right turn toward us (and we were like 3 blocks away).

"Let's get the fuck out of here!" I shouted as we took off in the opposite direction.

At that moment, I was certain I knew what was going on: someone had just blown up another building and guys were going to pop out and mow us all down. No question. And it sucked. I didn't really feel true fear, as much as just knowing this was my fate and it sucked.

I'm not trying to be macho in saying I didn't panic. It was scary, but it's always struck me how I, and just about every single other person I was around that day didn't panic. I'm not sure if we were all just in shock or clicked into survival mode or it was just the New Yorker (or North Jerseyan!) or what but it was kind of strange or something how everyone remained really calm.

Well, we ran for a while and soon it became evident no one was going to shoot us at that time so we started to walk uptown.

Up Water Street to a Projects and made some phone calls - my boss' fiance' was downtown looking for her. He had snuck in on an emergency vehicle - pretty badass.

Another thing that struck me was how, out of nowhere, appeared cops. Everywhere.

On every block was a cop or CIA or FBI. Mad regular people with all kinds of badges, tags and guns.

We were standing there in the Projects and this kid on a bike with another kid on the pegs in the back with a camera rolled up.

"The World Trade Center fell."

"Get out of here", I said in disbelief.

"No, both of them - look they'd be right there".

I looked at empty air and smoke where the World Trade Center had stood just an hour earlier, in total disbelief.

We walked back downtown against the traffic and found her fiance' and headed back up town.

We walked to the Brooklyn Bridge with the sound of fighter jets criss-crossing Manhattan and got half way across when a UPS truck picked us up.

I rode, on the bumper of the truck, looking back at the smoke-filled skyline of lower Manhattan.

People were walking, joking and, generally, in much better spirits then you would expect.

In retrospect, I think it was, in fact, a combination of New York grit combined with shock and the survival instinct.

We got to the end of the bridge and men with machine guns were everywhere. It felt like a war-zone. I guess it was.

Anyway, we got off the truck and, as everyone jumped off I noticed some people were robbing it blind. I mean, that was the least of anyone's worries but some people just had as many packages as the could fit under their arms.

There was much heroism that day but this was truly the other side of human nature as well.

We walked back to my boss' apartment and I called my parents and girlfriend and friends - all of whom had been very worried, naturally. My parents were in Sweden so they, in particular, had no idea what was going on and were panicking and, of course, were relieved I was OK.

Diana, though, spent the night worrying about her friend that worked on the top of one of the towers for Cantor Fitzgerald.

She went home to Long Island and waited for her friend, the one who was going to be her maid of honor in her November wedding, to call.

Addelle was a loud Long Island type girl. Very energetic and sassy.

Di's best friend.

Addelle never called.


I was a little surprised this morning that there was so little television and radio coverage regarding the seventh anniversary of the September 11 tragedy. I may have just missed it, and I certainly did not expect all major networks to suspend programming for the whole day, but like I said, I was just a little surprised.

I have never considered myself overly jingoistic, and I am certainly comfortable criticizing the U.S. when I think it is appropriate, but I have always felt a surge of emotion any time I have seen this picture.

Sometimes it is difficult not to be overcome with frustration and anger at the direction this country has taken in the last seven years. I think about how scary it was to be an American on September 11, but how comforting it was to be an American on September 12. And I still struggle to come to terms with the outpouring of national pride and international goodwill that were squandered in such a short time.

But that's not really something I want to think about today. The U.S. is far from perfect, but I still like to think (even despite occasional doubt) that we are the one of the best imperfect societies around.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

An ode to Calvin and Hobbes

With proper respect to the Far Side, I think Calvin and Hobbes is probably definitely the best comic strip of all time. 

Any further introduction I could write has already been done better by the guys at Progressive Boink (a Web site whose name was, in fact, inspired by a classic Calvin and Hobbes strip). Check out their list of the top 25 C&H strips of all time. Needless to say, it's friggin' hilarious. You can thank me by buying me a double-Jim Beam when we next meet. (Which, obviously, will be at a bar. You think I want to come to your house?)

Here's a personal favorite at which I LOL'd upon reading for the first time in, like, a long time an' shit. When a parent asks a dumb question, what do they really expect? How about honesty?

Progressive Boink also produces The Dugout, a personal favorite.

Is That So Wrong?

Tomorrow, the smart dudes who invented the Large Hadron Collider will turn the thing on for the first time. It's the biggest particle collider ever built and they're hoping it will give further insight into the creation of the universe and in particular they're hoping to find something called the Higgs boson, which is a particle that theoretically exists but has been beyond the scope of detection to this point. As a (very) amateur physics fan, I've been pretty interested in the building of this thing and the stories that come along with it.

One of the theories is that when they collide these particles at these energies, they might just end up creating something akin to the Big Bang or even a black hole which, in turn, may destroy the Earth. Most people involved think the likelihood of that happening is essentially zero, but still it's interesting.

So, is it wrong that there's a small part of me that kindof wants this thing to destroy the Earth? Granted it's a small part of me. Also if it does destroy the Earth there won't be anyone around to say, "I told you so", which is most of the fun of it. Wouldn't that be something, though?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Me and Baseball

This is a post I've been meaning to write for a while. I guess it's kindof long, but I think it's worth reading.

I often find myself explaining my particular allegiance to baseball teams at particular times and, once and for all, I'd like to lay out my entire history as a baseball fan. I think this is a safe time for this history, because I'm confident I've reached a homeostasis relative to my baseball fandom and I don't think I'll be altering much from here on out.

My mom grew up in New York in the 1950s. She was a Dodger fan. If you don't understand what it meant to be a Dodger fan in New York in the 1950s, then all I'll say is that the Dodgers were the second best team in baseball for a lot of years and they lost repeatedly to the Yankees in the World Series. Back then, people in New York took their baseball very seriously and being a Dodger fan was a symbol of pride, and also probably irrationality. The Dodgers finally won the World Series in 1955, only to pack up and move to Los Angeles in 1957 (despite popular opinion, the guy who deserves the most blame for the Dodgers move is not Walter O'Malley, but Robert Moses, who was basically in charge of everything that happened in New York for about 40 years). Brooklyn Dodger fans are not right in the head, but in an uderstandable way. Anyway, that was my mom. She was a huge Brooklyn Dodger fan, and subsequently a huge Los Angeles Dodger fan. She didn't do the replacement Mets thing, and she obviously didn't become a Yankee fan.

The first baseball game I ever went to was actually two games. I don't remember the year, but it was in September circa 1984. The Dodgers were in the pennant race and were playing a double header at Shea against the Mets. This was back before the Mets were on TV every day and I think the games were only avaiable on that old school SportsChannel, which was a pay channel at the time. Needless to say, my mom needed to see these two games and so we packed up some sandwiches and a cooler and hit the road out to Queens. I remember it was kindof overcast and we had sodas with a penguin logo. I have no idea who won the games. That's not true, I'm pretty sure it was a split.

My dad was a Dodger fan because, to hear him explain it, every black guy from the South became a Dodger fan when they picked up Jackie Robinson. I guess that's not surprising, although he wasn't as hard core as my mom was. He was really more of a football fan, and I think he was just interested in wathcing black guys do well in baseball, hence he was a big fan of Dwight Gooden and Reggie Jackson and you get the idea.

Anyhow, when I was a kid all I ever wanted to be was a Yankee fan. I loved Don Mattingly and I loved the idea that Dave Winfield lived within walking distance of my house and I liked to watch Rickey Henderson, and I didn't even really realize that the Yankees were kindof terrible at the time. I just liked their guys. I think the only thing my mom ever told me unequivocally that I wasn't allowed to do was to be a Yankee fan. I wanted to buy a Yankee jacket when I was in 3rd grade and was told that I would definitely not be allowed to buy it, but I could get a Mets jacket if I wanted, so I did. I wasn't in love with the Mets, even in '86. I was interested, and of course Dwight was the fucking man. I could name all of the guys and would watch sometimes, but I kindof struggled with not being allowed to like the Yankees at the time and so I kindof saw the Mets as just settling for something.

I remember the Cardinals winning and '82 and the Royals winning the Series in '85. Everyone around here remembers '86 and from then on I know I really payed attention to baseball in general once the playoffs rolled around. So here I was, not being allowed to be a Yankee fan, not really wanting to be a Mets fan, and wanting to have a team to follow.

In 1988 the Dodgers had a great season and were led by Orel Hershiser who threw 59 consecutive scoreless innings during that season to break a record that he still holds today. I liked Hershiser a lot, and my mom was obviously over the moon about the Dodgers' success and so she and I watched the Dodgers together in 1988 with guys like Orel, Steve Sax, Mike Scioscia, Mickey Hatcher, and of course Kirk Gibson. It made me happy that the Dodgers were doing well and that my mom was obviously so happy about it, so I routed along with her. And to this day Hershiser is still one of my favorite players.

At the same time I really liked to watch one of the popular teams of the time, the Oakland A's. They had guys like Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Dave Stewart, and my favorite guy was Dennis Eckersley. And with Tony LaRussa managing, who was a star in his own right, there was a sense that they were playing baseball in a way that was entirely different than anyone had ever played it. They might not have been, but that was my feeling at the time. I was naive enough (as was everyone else, apparently) in 1988 not to even question that these guys were on steroids, but in the end it didn't really even matter.

Ironically, the Dodgers met the A's in the World Series that year. I can't say I was really torn, I was on the Dodgers' side. My mom woke me up to watch Kirk Gibson hit that home run in game 1 and I can't say I was routing even a little bit for the A's. Routing for the Dodgers in 1988 was the favorite activity that I participated in with my mom that year.

But still, I liked the A's. And I wasn't really bandwagoning in the sense that I said I liked them but didn't really know anything about them. I really liked those guys. I followed their games and had posters of Dave Stewart and Dennis Eckersley and Mark McGwire up in my room. I can't say my fandom lasted long past 1989, and by the time they lost to the Reds in the World Series in 1990, I didn't really care that much. I was a real fan there for a while, even though it was short lived.

Around then I developed a routine that changed my baseball fandom again. On Sundays when there were no cartoons on, only news shows, and everything basically sucked, I used to watch channel 9 all day. I don't remember all the shows, but some of them were definitely Steampipe Alley with Mario Cantone (didn't realize he was gay, but maybe should have in retrospect), My Secret Identity with Jerry O'Connell, and that show where the girl had a human mom and an alien dad and her name was Evie and the dad communicated with them from space out of a crystal and she could stop time by touching her fingertips together and the theme song was, "Would you like to swing on a star, carry moonbeams home in a jar,..." Why can't I remember the name of that show? I think it was called Out of This World. Anyway, after all those shows were done, the Mets game would come on. Again, this was back before the games were on every day, so the weekend games were a special treat to watch. Also they were on in the afternoon, so I wouldn't have to go to sleep before the games were over.

So the Mets and I reached an agreement. I didn't really have a team at the time. I was over the A's, still watched the Yankees from time to time, but it was still not really allowed, and I just liked baseball. I wouldn't say I was a fan, but I watched the Mets as mutch, if not more, than the Yankees at the time. Both of those teams sucked, by the way, circa 1990 so there wasn't really any excitement around either of them that pulled me to one side.

The thing that changed that happened in 1993. His name was Paul O'Neill. The Yankees picked up O'Neill in 1993 from the Reds and he became their everyday right fielder. I was in high school at the time and I was on the THS baseball team and I tended to think about how I should go about hitting at the plate. When Paul O'neill joined the Yankees, those ideas all consolidated into simply making my swing as much like Paul O'Neill's swing as possible. The only was to say it is just that his swing was beautiful. I mean, it was just perfect. I watched as many Yankee games as possible starting then in order to watch Paul O'Neill. Paul is definitely, easily, without a doubt my favorite baseball player ever. Say what you want about his temper tantrums or whatever, but this guy was a great player and a great teammate and only ever got mad at himself. So that was it, I was a Yankee fan.

I didn't have anything against the Mets, and circa 1994 when I started to spend a lot more time with Side Bar, Open Bar, and Diesal I also started to spend a lot more time watching the Mets. Over any given summer night from 1994 through 2000, I would usually find myself in Side Bar's basement eating McDonald's and watching the Mets game on primary and the Yankee game during the commercials, a concession that I thank Side Bar for. So I was interested in the Mets and I wanted them to win. I guess I was a fan.

At the same time, something that kindof defined me was being a Yankee fan amongst these characters who all liked the Mets. So it was played up by both me and my friends. I don't think I ever really got shit about being a bandwagon Yankee fan, because I definitely wasn't, but more for the flip flopping and the two hats thing. I guess that's valid if you have the "one team is your team" mentality, but I just didn't really turn out that way.

So the Yankees went on to dominate in the late 1990s, and at the same time the Mets were developing a bit of character with Bobby Valentine at the helm and Mike Piazza, Edgardo Alfonso, Robin Ventura, John Olerud and later Todd Ziele, along with the worst outfield to ever play in the World Series. I was happy for them and I routed for the Mets. I was at the game in 2000 with Side Bar when the Mets cliched the pennant and it was easily the best atmosphere I've ever been in as a sports fan.

I got married and moved to Queens. I live literally 5 minutes from Shea Stadium. I've been to a ton of Mets games and not many Yankees games in that time. I have had multiple ticket packages for the Mets in 4 or 5 seasons at this point (including a 25 game package last year) and my Mets fandom has come to fruition.

So that's it. I've come to like both the Mets and the Yankees in separate ways. I don't prefer one over the other. I want both of them to win. It's not impossible that they'll meet in the world series (and obviously they have somewhat recently), but barring that unlikely occurrence, being a Mets fan and a Yankee fan rarely interfere with each other. Those 6 games during the season are more spectacle than anything else and are early enough that they don't particularly mean anything. Recently I've found myself routing for the Mets in those games, mainly because I'm not going to go to Shea and route for them the rest of the year and then sell them out just because they're playing the Yankees.

I look at it this way. I love baseball. I'm lucky enough to live in a city where I can have full access to not one, but two teams. That's twice as much baseball. No one can question that I am in fact a fan of both teams, and I can undoubtedly hold my own in a conversation regarding the plusses and minuses as well as the recent history of both. In fact I definitely know more about the recent Mets and Yankees history combined than the recently split up Mike and the Mad Dog, whose job description is to know these sorts of things. Their lack of knowledgea bout the Mets is one of the worst things about that show, and it will only get worse with just Francessa in the booth. I guess I understand the "one team" thing, but for me, it's really just limiting your opportunities if you're really a baseball fan.

I know that's a minority opinion, but it makes a whole lot of sense to me. It's not as if you can escape hearing about both teams if you are listening to sports radio, which I do a lot, so why not just take up an interest?

Anyhow, I think this post goes most or all of the way in explaining my history with baseball. I've reached a point where I'm happy with myself as a baseball fan and within the past few years I've really solidified my feelings, to the extent that I don't think I'll really be changing my view anymore. There's just no reason to.

Sarah Palin (actually) Graduates: Stepping Back From the Ledge

Earlier this week, within minutes of watching Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention, I wrote a short post (for which I was immediately subject to Palin-esque scorn and ridicule; sometimes words hurt too) indicating that I thought she had done very, very well, and that I was concerned that she had rallied the right wing segment of the party behind McCain for the first time in this election. I stand by that assessment, but I am retreating somewhat from the conclusion I drew from it, which is that the Obama campaign was fried as a result of an energized conservative base.

There are a couple of reasons for my new thinking, all intertwined to some degree:

First, I have to admit, Open Bar is exactly right that with the Palin selection, the Republican party has completely abandoned the principles of fiscal conservatism and national security that attract broad segments of the population in favor of the evangelical conservative orthodoxy that mark Pailn's candidacy: guns, god, gays, and fetuses.

Second, I had lunch yesterday with a few friends, two of whom are true independents (by that I mean they honestly did not know who they were going to vote for; not people like me who claim to be independent but have voted for a Democrat every single time I have had the opportunity). These guys were both leaning heavily in favor of McCain. I think they are both too cynical to have been moved all that much (as I was) by an Obama candidacy that seemed, until recently, to be long on eloquence and short on substance. Within days of the Palin pick, these two were both unequivocally clear that they would vote for Obama. It was amazing to see two people (anecdotal, I admit, but still compelling) who were so up in the air come down so definitively in favor of one candidate. These are guys who would have voted republican because they care about fiscal conservatism and national security, but who are unmoved by the far right's infatuation with the singular issue of abortion. To them, having a far right extremist a heartbeat away from the presidency is unacceptable.

Finally, I think it is also fair to say that with the polls remaining close, and the presidency hanging in the balance, most Republicans -- even the ones on the far right -- would have sucked it up and voted for McCain (just like we all would have, and I can admit this now, if HRC had been the Democratic candidate). By contrast, the voters in the middle truly are up for grabs. I don't have hard numbers, but it is fair to point out that the Palin pick probably shored up a base that was ultimately going McCain anyway, while alienating a group that he desperately needs, and might now cut in favor of Obama.

I am still concerned that Americans are not quite as thoughtful as the two friends I had lunch with yesterday, and that there are many people who might be swayed to come out and vote for a McCain/Palin ticket that might have protested a McCain/Romney or McCain/Ridge ticket, but I am hopeful that for each one of them, there are two independent voters who read up on Gov. Palin and conclude that (a) John McCain demonstrated poor judgment in picking her, and (b) she is not qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. I am still concerned that this woman has awoken a sleeping elephant that we would have rather let lie, but I also see and appreciate the point of view that this selection will end up hurting McCain and helping Obama.

So Against Her Before They Were So For Her

I guess it should not be surprising any more that Karl Rove, Bill O'Reilly, et al., will say anything in favor of a conservative candidate and anything to belittle a liberal one. But I still think this short clip is worth watching. It perfectly captures the holier-than-thou, indignant, arrogant, intellectual dishonesty that has marked the GOP punditry for years.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Random thoughts

So I'm stealing Side Bar's usual mail-it-in post thing here, but hey, go fuck yourself. Sorry, don't know where that came from. Moving right along...

The New York Giants, who won the Super Bowl last year (still amazing) over the 18-0 17-1 Patriots, kicked the season off by annihilating the absurdly racist-ly named Redskins, 16-7. Okay, maybe it wasn't an annihilation, but isn't "Redskins" by far the most glaringly racist name for a team or company or fucking anything these days? I know there's a movie called "Towelhead" coming out, but that's nowhere near as offensive as White Men Can't Jump. I can. *fights back tears* I can jump. Just not as high as, you know, black people. Man, I'm so oppressed.

The New York Mets face off against the Philadelphia Phillies in a three-game series this weekend. I won't be going to Shea to see any of the games, but I'm already half-drunk and the first game starts in an hour, so that's gotta count for something. By the way, pitching tonight for the Phillies is the wife-beating uberdouche Brett Myers. God, I hate the fucking fillies. The Mets have been playing really well lately which has, of course, made me even more wary about things. Don't get my fucking hopes up again, you assholes. A much better preview is over at Y2K. (And in case any of those guys happen to follow their trackbacks to this post, can y'all get Cheddar Ben to do a friggin' guest post at least?)

Google Chrome is fucking awesome. I've been meaning for a long time to write about how awesome Firefox is, but I haven't gotten around to it. Sorry to all you cavemen (Side Bar) still using Internet Explorer, I could've improved your Internet experience even more than by honoring your browser by blogging my brilliance (alliteration, bitches!). I don't have the time (between drinks) to get too far into why Chrome rules, but here's a good place to start. Chrome is still not as cool as Firefox, but once it adds extensions, I don't see how even Firefox (much less IE or Safari) will be able to compete. My favorite Firefox extensions: Adblock Plus, Better Gmail 2, PicLens, TinyURL creator, Download Statusbar. If you're a tech nerd, or even a wannabe like me, you'll get it. If not, go here and get these extensions now.

Sarah Palin is awesome. I love this woman. As an Obama supporter, I think she is the absolute best possible pick. By choosing someone without any national-security credentials, foreign-policy experience, or fiscal-conservatism achievements (running an oil-rich state and literally paying your constituents $5,000 a year doesn't mean you know shit about how to run government finances), the GOP has forfeited its (already-suspect) claim to be the party of strong national defense and fiscal responsibility. What they do have in Sarah Palin is a hardcore right-winger on just about everything. First and foremost, she's a super-duper theocrat, which ultimately means that the Republican Party has announced that it is now officially the party of evangelical Christians and that's it. Everyone else, especially you swing voters? Welcome to our side! 

Lastly, where the fuck is LJT? Lumpy and DannyG posted more this week than his lame ass. Chuck had about the worst week any of us has ever had in terms of posting, but hey, at least he posted. (Sorry, Chuck. I know you'll pick it up soon. Just no more dumbassery. Okay, some dumbassery is okay -- even encouraged -- but how 'bout some more shit like this appropos beaut?

Okay, have a good weekend. Go get drunk. Get laid. Stick it to the man. ANARCHY! 

(And leave a friggin' comment, for chrissakes. Thanks to Faith, Lumpy, DannyG for their awesomeness this week.)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Becoming A Republican

I've said for years that I can't even wrap my head around the idea that one might choose to be a Republican. I don't dislike Republicans or deny them of their choice, but it's honestly something that makes absolutely no sense to me. The only reason I can think of that one might want to be a Republican is if he or she is worth more than $5 million and wants that money to stay in his or her pocket. Outside of that, and even that is a somewhat selfish motivation, I can't see why one would choose to be a Republican. Is there anyone in this country who is not in the top 1% of the wealth pool who can honestly say that he's better off today than he was 8 years ago? Is there anyone outside of that 1% who can honestly say that George Bush has best served their interests and not those of his cronies? It's genuinely mind boggling for me. I would love for someone to give me a reasonable explanation for being a Republican. I'm not being facetious.

Anyhow, what I mean to say is this. In the last two Republican conventions, the good ol' boys have trotted out two former Democrats to make speeches for their folks. Those two guys are the stodgiest old guys in the history of the world, Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman. Is trotting these two guys out there really a good idea? Doesn't it kindof lend credence to the idea that the Republican party is the party of old dudes who are no longer idealists and no longer care about the little guys. There's got to be a better strategy than pimping out a couple of old margnialized politicians.

The Palin speech thingy and another, entirely separate topic only tangentially related

Settle down there, Scaredy McSkyisfalling.

Yes, Sarah Palin gave a decent speech and she is clearly comfortable with public speaking (she did go to sportscasting school, after all). And yes, I would still hit it.

But the thing is: As was made clear in this speech, she will only appeal to the hard cultural right. As people learn more about her, moderates and independents (i.e., the 6-8% of voters who're gonna decide the election) will be aghast at her views on creationism in schools (for it!), sex education (against it!), banning books (for it!), Jews (against them!), the bridge to nowhere (for it! against it!), animals (against them!), global warming (for it!) and on and on. Hers is not a resume built to appeal to swing voters.

The main thing I took away from last night’s culture-wars-igniting speech is that I really can’t see how she’s gonna persuade any undecided voters. Her best (and only) hope is to increase turnout among the religious right -- people who wouldn’t have voted for Obama anyway.

Those were some really nice images of the Palin family, though. I’ll give her that.

And speaking of her family (Ed. note: That segue was money. Watch how the rest of this post has little-to-nothing to do with what you just read!), there’s something I’ve been meaning to write about, but I wanted to hear her speech first.

In case you haven’t heard, Sarah Palin recently had a child, Trig. And surely if you heard about that, you heard that Trig has Down’s Syndrome. And surely if heard about that too, then you must also have heard about how the Palins knew about this condition, but decided to have the child anyway.

If the boldface didn’t give it away, it’s this last part I’d like to draw attention to. I know we’re not supposed to talk about candidates’ families blah blah blah, but I’ve been hearing about this Down’s baby all over the place. And Palin herself even made a point of bringing it up last night:
“And in April, my husband Todd and I welcomed our littlest one into the world, a perfectly beautiful baby boy named Trig. From the inside, no family ever seems typical. That's how it is with us. Our family has the same ups and downs as any other ... the same challenges and the same joys. Sometimes even the greatest joys bring challenge. And children with special needs inspire a special love. To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.”
This is a woman so extremely pro-life that she opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest. (She would allow it only if the mother was sure to die if the pregnancy continued. What a saint.)

That’s why all the praise being heaped onto Sarah Palin by groups on the right for having the “courage” to birth her child grates. This extra dose of adulation for a woman whose decision, in her eyes, came down to this:
Have the baby, or murder an innocent, helpless human being deserving of full human rights (IHHBDFHR).
Hmmm. If that’s how she viewed it, it sounds like a pretty fucking easy choice. Why should she get further credit because the baby had Down’s? She gets no such credit for not killing the other four. But because Trig was handicapped, are you telling me that might’ve made her more willing to slaughter her IHHBDFHR?

And shouldn’t it be the opposite, anyway? If someone decides to kill an IHHBDFHR directly because they found out it was handicapped, doesn’t that make that person even more morally culpable? What, your baby isn’t “normal,” so for that reason alone you decide to kill it?

Pro-lifers who “decide” to have their child even after finding out it has some disability do not deserve additional honor or glory. Rather, it seems to me, those pro-lifers who decide to end their pregnancy upon receiving this news should be set aside for particularly harsh scorn and shame. That’s some big-time, literally life-or-death hypocrisy.

If, as the the statistics say in the above links, 80% of unborn babies diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome are aborted, and America is way less than 80% pro-life, that means that a shitload of pro-lifers are snuffing their IHHBDFHRs. That, I would think, should be where people’s attention is focused. Why don’t we hear more about this on FOX News?

Sarah Palin is pro-life. That’s fine. She thinks life begins at conception. Okay. She thinks all abortions are innocent-baby executions. Ergo she does not deserve any extra-special credit for giving birth to disabled Trig, a.k.a. not killing her child.

(For the record, this isn’t aimed at Sarah Palin. I think it’s great that she brought Trig up and drew attention to special-needs children. It’s aimed at those on the right telling me how noble she is and using this as an example.)

Sarah Palin (actually) Graduates

I didn't stay up to watch Sarah Palin's speech last night, but I did watch it on the web this morning (albeit in expedited fashion; the Times had a cool feature that lets you read the text as you watch, so it was easy to jump ahead without losing any of the actual speech).

My one thought after watching: shit.

She was very, very good. Anyone who watched that speech and didn't think she did a spectacular job of (a) beginning to demonstrate her qualifications, (b) solidifying the base, and (c) ripping on Obama, wasn't watching the same speech I watched. I guarantee you McCain will not be as good.

Fuck fuck fuck. She was good.

A Lame and Nerdy Joke

There are 10 kinds of people in this world.

Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sarah Palin Graduates! Sarah Palin Graduates!

With a nod to Chuck's post from a few days ago, I wanted to link my current (and certain to be short-lived) fascination with Sarah Palin to the famed 90210 program (by the way, am I the only one who completely missed the significance of the "902.0" title to Chuck's post? I get it now, and it is actually pretty clever, but it went soaring over my head the first few times I looked at it). Also, a confession: despite my comment that I would not do so, I did watch 90210 for about 90 seconds on the CW 11 last night. When I tuned in, one of the black kids from The Wire (best. show. ever.) was getting yelled at by a white principal (who I think was on Silk Stalkings in the early 1990s) because the principal wanted the kid to disclose who was behind a practical joke involving pigs. At stake if the pork prankster didn't fess up: the lacrosse team's very season. At one point, the black kid says to the principal, with what I assume was the appropriate level of melodrama, "are you asking me this as my principal or are you asking me this as my father." Gripping. And mildly confusing.

But I digress. The point of this post is to make fun of Sarah Palin some more and also make a few cracks about Bev Niner. So, I have decided that my new favorite thing about Sarah Palin is not that she may have flirted with the idea of supporting Alaska's secession from the union (as her husband did), not that she ruled the town of Wasilla, AK (population: 7,000) with an iron fist and fired anyone who disagreed with her, not that she is a pro-lifer who seems to think she is an even better pro-lifer than you are because she did not abort a child that was likely to be born with disabilities (plagiarism alert: this is Open Bar's issue, and he is likely to write something about it. When he does, I will link to it here, here, . . . . and here). No, it is none of those things. Instead, it is the fact that she played Andrea Zuckerman on the original 90210. Yes, it is true: Sarah Palin is Gabrielle Anne Carteris.

Prior to being elected mayor of Wasilla, AK, Sarah Palin's greatest accomplishment was scooping Newsweek, the LA Times, and CNN, and landing an expose with Dylan McKay about the murder of his father to be published in the West Beverly Blaze.

Now, as die hards will recall, despite playing teenagers on television, the actors and actresses of the original Beverly Hills, 90210, were slightly older than the characters they portrayed on TV. In fact, Ms. Carteris (as she was then known) was born in 1961, and was in her 30s when the show aired in the early 1990s. Coincidentally (or not, as they are the same person), Ms. Carteris left the show in 1995. Sarah Palin (as she later called herself) was elected mayor of Wasilla in 1996.

Need more proof? Ok, both of them graduated from college, but neither pursued any higher education. What else? Oh, I know - they are both completely and utterly unqualified to the Vice President of the United States.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


This is hardly going to be the well-considered, carefully researched, humorous post that you've come to expect from me (what?). But I just cannot keep up. Open Bar and I have been chatting on and off today about the Sarah Palin fiasco, and we are both equal parts stunned and giddy, simply unable to stop and catch our collective breath to process the overload of information that has surfaced about John McCain's VP nominee in the last 36 hours.

As Notorious LJT put it, the media seems to smell blood in the water. They have uncovered the following in the past two days:
  • Palin's 17 year-old daughter Bristol is pregnant, and will marry the baby's 18 year-old father.
  • Palin may have been a member or supporter of the Alaska Independence Party (though that allegation is challenged by the McCain campaign). Her husband was twice an AIP member, in 1995 and 2000.
  • Palin had this to say about Iraq in 2007: "I've been so focused on state government, I haven't really focused much on the war in Iraq."
  • She does not believe global warming is man made.
Read more at Huffington Post (I stole some of this from them anyway). And even they don't have them all.

So what does McCain do with this pick? Clearly she is more extreme than he realized (the New York Times had a great cover story this morning, exposing the shoddy vetting job that was hastily thrown together last week). But can he take her off of the ticket? It's a lose-lose proposition for McCain, as a reporter at US News explains quite well:

My guess is McCain stands the chance of completely alienating his evangelical base if he dumps Governor Palin. The evangelicals seem to love her even more following the announcement that her minor daughter will marry the boy who got her pregnant and the fact she has offered unconditional love and support to the child. Then again, he's alienated moderate Republicans and independents, polls show, by placing Palin on the ticket. It's a lose-lose situation for him to consider dropping Palin, if indeed the campaign is considering it at all. He loses his now energized right-wing base if he drops her. He loses mainstream Republicans and moderate independents (the so-called Hillary voters) if he keeps her. In any event, Palin is far from the smart choice she appeared to be last Friday when McCain announced his selection of a running mate.
This was a classic McCain move - a shoot-from-the-hip, take-no-prisoners, look-into-Putin's-eyes kind of move. And now that it is proving costly (it divides, rather than unites, the extreme and moderate wings of the party despite his need to draw votes from both), he will dig in his heels a la Bush, and swear it isn't raining while huddling under an umbrella. Is this the style of macho decision-making we can expect for the next 8 years? Lord help us.