Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Quote of the Day 12/31: New Year's Eve

It's New Years Eve, and I'm a little tired of people trashing the holiday as disappointing. Here's a quote from Deadspin.com's Will Leitch that sums up my feelings on the subject:

"I hear people complain about New Year’s Eve, that it’s always made into a big event that ultimately disappoints, that they feel pressured to have some kind of momentously fun time. These people are sad, really, incredible dullards and whiners. Pressured to have fun? Hey, I’ll take that kind of pressure every time, no problem. I wish I was pressured to have fun every day, rather than pressured to pay the bills, pressured to hold onto my job, pressured to keep my head above water. If you can’t relax and have fun on New Year’s Eve, well, you’ve got more problems than this column can solve, so there is no hope for you here."
So enjoy tonight (safely, of course)... and happy 2009.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Still Gettin' Kicked Around

Just walked out of Frost/ Nixon, another political movie with strong award buzz. I had high hopes for it, but like Milk before, it ultimately disappointed. These movies just seem like Oscar- bait and fail to prove an ultimate point.

The film is a study of its protagonist, British TV personality David Frost, how he funded his interview project with Nixon, how he cajoled admission from the disgraced president, and the role television, as a medium, played in it all.

But Frost, as a character, is uninteresting. The drama of Nixon's remorse is fabricated. And the surface of the most compelling storyline, Nixon's psyche and personal tragedy, is barely scratched.

Frost/ Nixon does make a deft point on the oversimplification and superficiality of the television age. Just not in the way that it hoped.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Great Way to Say "Thanks"

Will Ferrell is getting set to debut his new Broadway show, You're Welcome, America: A Final Evening with George W. Bush. I'm booking my tickets right now. Here's a preview:

Friday, December 19, 2008

The President & The Pastor

President- Elect Obama is catching some flack from liberal groups for picking Saddleback Ranch pastor Rick Warren to lead the invocation at his inauguration. Warren is pro-life and anti-gay (he uses the same faulty arguments against gay marriage as Mike Huckabee).

Liberals waited to get one of their own in the White House for a long time, and giving such a high- profile honor to a social conservative has many groups uneasy.

Their disappointment is unfounded. Obama is committed to the power of what unites us. When you try to change the status quo in a profound way, you have to be. While there are fundamental differences between the incoming Obama administration and Warren and his flock, there are also important ties.

There are those who will say that it's easy for a straight person to think this way, and that a poor record on gay rights (human rights) should be a deal breaker. There are those who would accept a dialogue between Warren and Obama, but who will say that such a prominent role goes too far, that it's a slap in the face to those who fought to put Obama where he'll be on January 20.

To them, I submit that Barack Obama needs Rick Warren more than vice versa. Rick Warren is one of the most popular people in America, his readers and followers number in the millions.

He isn't going anywhere.

So, Obama can either bring him into the fold, enlist his help in the areas on which they can agree, or, he can marginalize Warren, brush off his congregation. Tell 'em to stick it, and wish 'em better luck in 2012. Then, Warren can spend his Sundays railing against the "liberals" in government and inflame his followers with exaggerations about their social agenda.

Having Warren lead the Inauguration's prayer is an attempt at unity. It's a new day for all Americans, not just the ones who voted Obama/ Biden. Just because there are fundamental disagreements doesn't mean that conservatives don't get a seat at the table. If they're shut out then real change either won't come or won't last.

And Warren, while socially conservative, is not over- the- top in his rhetoric or beliefs. This isn't Pat Robertson or Jerry Fallwell. So while the disagreements are vehement, Warren holds an ethos that's very much in the mainstream.

I'm old enough to remember the schisms that surrounded the last two presidents. One invoked conspiracy theories against his enemies, the other described the slimmest of victories as significant political capital, and governed from the extreme.

Change was temporary, achievements fleeting. President Bush in particular taught us the emptiness of the politics of division.

On Election Day, Americans chose a different path, and Obama is now leading the way. Liberals and conservatives alike should neither expect nor wish for anything different.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Drew Carey FAIL

No one had guessed the exact price of a Price Is Right showcase in almost 30 years, until this week. If a contestant guesses the price within $100 without going over, he gets both showcases. So my man Terry walked away with over $56k in prizes.

Too bad for the other contestant who was within $500.

Also too bad for Drew Carey who gets about as excited as I do when someone hands me a 30% off coupon outside a New York City subway station.



Bring back Bob Barker!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Best Christmas Song

In the spirit of the holidays, here's my favorite holiday song... It's not Christmas without "Christmas (Please Come Home)" by Darlene Love. The studio version is here, but this Letterman performance from '05 is pretty amazing.

On the Interweb

Here's a list of the top websites in December '08 with their respective market shares, and where they ranked 2 years ago (courtesy of the Drudge Report):

Unfortunately, it only gives the top 10, but I'm pretty sure SAM Online is #11.
1. Yahoo! News news.yahoo.com 6.82% 1
2. The Weather Channel - US www.weather.com 3.70% 3
3. CNN.com www.cnn.com 3.42% 2
4. MSNBC www.msnbc.msn.com 3.23% 4
5. Google News news.google.com 2.43% 5
6. Drudge Report www.drudgereport.com 2.10% 6
7. Yahoo! Weather weather.yahoo.com 1.77% 10
8. Fox News www.foxnews.com 1.77% 8
9. The New York Times www.nytimes.com 1.75% 7
10. People Magazine www.people.com 1.69% 9

Here's Rankings for Most Popular Search Term Clicks
1. cnn 0.69%
2. weather 0.68%
3. fox news 0.31%
4. drudge 0.28%
5. drudge report 0.27%
6. weather.com 0.20%
7. msnbc 0.18%
8. weather channel 0.18%
9. cnn.com 0.17%
10. news 0.17%
11. caylee anthony 0.15%
12. huffington post 0.14%
13. tv guide 0.13%
14. noaa 0.12%
15. people 0.11%
16. accuweather 0.11%
17. national weather service 0.10%
18. yahoo 0.10%
19. jennifer aniston 0.10%
20. new york times 0.10%

Time's '08 POY- Pic of the Day 12/17

In an announcement sure to shock absolutely no one, Time revealed its "Person of the Year" for 2008.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Cheney Out"- Quotes of the Day 12/16

"Once they get here and they're faced with the same problems we deal with every day, then they will appreciate some of the things we've put in place... We did not exceed our constitutional authority, as some have suggested. The President believes, I believe very deeply, in a strong executive, and I think that's essential in this day and age. And I think the Obama administration is not likely to cede that authority back to the Congress. I think they'll find that given a challenge they face, they'll need all the authority they can muster.

"Guantanamo has been very, very valuable. And I think they'll discover that trying to close it is a very hard proposition. They're unlawful combatants. And you if you're not going to have a place to locate them like Guantanamo, then you either have to bring them here to the continental United States and I don't know any member of Congress who's volunteering to have al Qaeda terrorists deposited in his district."

"We're on the downside of a recession that may be the worst since World War II. And if the automobile industry goes belly up now, there's a deep concern that that would be a major shock to the system."
- Vice President Dick Cheney on the Rush Limbaugh Radio Show. Cheney's support for an auto bailout has some produced some unlikely liberal allies.

His comments on Guantanamo and expansive view of executive power are decidedly less surprising.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Obama's Race

The Associated Press is reporting a dispute over whether President- Elect Barack Obama is, in fact, our first Black president. Because the Senator is mixed race, many insist that classifying him as Black is incorrect.

For his part, President- elect Obama has said, "I identify as African-American- that's how I'm treated and that's how I'm viewed. I'm proud of it."

My take on this issue is straight forward, but nuanced, and it comes from a lesson I learned freshman year of college.

One of my best female friends that year was a Black girl named Chiazor. One afternoon, Chiaz and I were hanging out in the room of mutual friends. I brought up race, and asked what I look back on now as a very ignorant question. "Why is it that Black people refer to themselves as African- American, rather than referring to a specific country?"

Chiaz looked at me strangley, unsure if I was serious, "Um... Chris... because African Americans don't know where their ancestors came from," she said slowly before laughing.

I felt like an idiot.

The story illustrates an important point on this issue: Being Black is not the same thing as being African- American.

In my opinion, the term "Black" is superficial when applied to race. Racism is based on how a person looks, so much of it is about how the world treats an individual based on his appearance. Obama seems to acknowledge this reality in his above quote. The President- elect may be biracial, but he looks far more like a Black man than he does like a caucasian.

But there is a cultural element as well, and Obama embraced Black culture by joining a prominent Black church, moving to a Black community, and marrying an African- American woman, amid other conscious decisions to embrace the culture into which society placed him.

Barack Obama is black.

However, to say he's African- American waters down the term. African- American means descended from slaves, it's a nod to the ugliest chapter of our national history. We cannot afford to lose the meaning. The President- elect knows where his Black ancestors came from. His father was a visiting student from Kenya.

Barack Obama is Kenyan- American. He is not African- American.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Quote of the Day 12/14

"Barack Obama says we only have one president at a time. The problem with that is it overstates the number of presidents we have at this time."

- Rep. Barney Frank calling for more leadership from the president- elect on 60 Minutes tonight.

Saturday Night Clips

Check out this hilarious impression Fred Armisan unveiled of NY Gov. David Paterson on Saturday Night Live.


Seth Myers and Amy Poehler ask Rod Blagojevich REALLY?!?



And this is an old clip, but it's of SNL alum Tracy Morgan on Letterman. It has probably the best line in the history of American television or f interviews in general. The entire thing is great, but go to the 3:18 mark for the best part...



Morgan currently stars on the best show on TV, 30 Rock.

The best line from this week's episode was:

Liz Lemon: Do you know the post master general?

Jack Donaghy: I do but we had a falling out over the Jerry Garcia stamp. If I want to lick a hippie, I'll return one of Joan Baez's phone calls.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nice Try, Mike Huckabee

Last night on the Daily Show, former Republican presidential candidate and current Fox News talk show host, Mike Huckabee, was on to promote his new book Do the Right Thing. He and host Jon Stewart engaged in a wide ranging debate for almost half the show touching on issues like the mortgage crisis, lobbyists and gay marriage. It was their debate on gay marriage that gave me fits, for two primary reasons.

First, Huckabee defended his "traditional" view of marriage by saying, "Even anatomically, let's face it, the only way we can create the next generation is through a male/ female relationship..." and, later, "The basic purpose of a marriage is not just to create the next generation but to train our replacements."

For how assbackwards this argument is, it's very popular. The modern understanding of marriage is not a relationship in which to have children. We don't force a 60 year old woman who wants to get married to settle for a civil union. Nor do we a sterile man. Marriage is about a level of love and commitment. To couch it in strict terms of child rearing does more to redefine it than anything else.

While a straight older or sterile couple can adopt a child and raise her in a traditional setting, single people, unmarried heterosexual couples and gays can also adopt.

Later, when Stewart talked about society's evolving definition of marriage, polygamy came up, and Huckabee stated, "If we change the definition then we have to change it to accommodate all lifestyles."

This argument makes even less sense.

A ban on gay marriage is a law that restricts gay people. A ban on polygamous marriage is a law that restricts everyone. In defining marriage, the government withholds a civil liberty from a segment of the people. This isn't to say that's illegal (not to go all Con Law but almost all laws that classify based on sexual orientation will be upheld by the Supreme Court). It is to say that banning gay marriage is state sanctioned discrimination in a way banning polygamy is not.

Once one accepts that homosexuality is innate the distinction is plain. A straight man or woman who wants to have multiple partners can still get married. If not, the government would never allow this. A gay person cannot.

Huckabee is one of the more eloquent social conservatives in the country. But not even his charm can make up for his argument's shortcomings.

(The gay marriage stuff starts w/ part II)






Monday, December 8, 2008

Milquetoast

Oscar season is here, and a political film leads the way. Gus Van Sant's Milk is the story of Harvey Milk, the San Francisco activist who was the first openly gay person elected to American political office.

Milk is a critical darling, with a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a four- star write- up in Rolling Stone. Much of the love is directed at star Sean Penn, who delivers a layered and commanding performance in the title role. Penn is excellent, but Josh Brolin earns the highest praise for his turn as Milk's tightly wound and conflicted foil.

Despite these actors, however, the movie falls flat. Although it boasts a powerful and enlightening story, and a script that can be sharply funny, Milk devolves into standard biopic territory-- its arc is interchangeable with a movie like Ray-- even if you've never heard of Harvey Milk, you'll feel like you've seen the movie before. You have.

What the film offers in the freshness of its plot, it utterly lacks in originality and complexity. Ultimately, Milk is forgettable, and reaches the not-so lofty perch of "good" but certainly not "great."

Milk will probably clean up at award shows this year, its progressive message, star and subject have standing O potential, but it won't go down as the classic some are trying to make it. The movie is good, though, certainly better than the gratuitous, flat out boring movie that people fell for last year.

(Milk may be too conventional to be truly effective, but hopes are still high for another political entrant this season: Ron Howard's Frost/ Nixon debuts on Christmas)

He Keeps It Cool, She Likes It Hot



Friday, December 5, 2008

Big Game, Big Gays

The ACC Championship game is tomorrow at 1pm; it features Boston College up against Viriginia Tech for the second straight season.

Here's a video to get BC fans pumped up:



And here's a star- studded musical on California's Proposition 8, which passed on election night and bans gay marriage.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Thursday, December 4, 2008

PR Firms have been Busy- Pic of the Day 12/4



CEOs of the Big 3 automakers are back in DC to ask for $34bn in emergency aid. This time they have specifics on how they'd spend the money, and, apparently, a new PR firm.

Last time, they all took private jets. Now, they're driving these beautiful and economical hybrids-- available at your local dealer, come in now for 0% MSRP.

Here's the full article.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mafia Wisdom

On Thanksgiving, I finally checked off a big empty slot on my Man Card by watching the Godfather II. (I know... I know...)

One of the most famous lines from that film is particularly appropriate to today's political news, as Democrats debate the merits of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and wonder why she was tapped for the spot.

If you've seen the movie, you probably already know where I'm headed: Michael talks with Frankie Pentangeli about staying friendly with Hyman Roth, the man who tried to have him killed.

My father taught me many things here -- he taught me in this room... He taught me -- keep your friends close but your enemies closer.
Now, this isn't to suggest that there's malice between the President- elect and his future Secretary of State, I don't mean to apply the thought in that context.

I think there's a different kind of wisdom here, and there are many reasons why picking Hillary Clinton is ultimately an excellent decision.

There is the typical reasoning for the choice: President Obama will have to devote most of his time and energy to the economy, but he doesn't want to snub foreign leaders as he rebuilds our alliances and reputation. A visit from Secretary Clinton will be a great substitute for Air Force One, and she'll garner respect and media attention wherever she goes. Her celebrity will go a long way on the international scene.

However, I suspect that Hillary would have been picked even if the economy was in better shape.

The reason combines the Godfather's wisdom with the lessons of Dorris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, a book Obama cited as one of his favorites during the campaign. I read it a while back (it only took me an entire summer to get through). It details the way Abraham Lincoln filled his cabinet with the men who ran against him in a bitter battle for the Republican nomination.

These men (William Seward, Salmon Chase, et. al) viewed Lincoln as too green and backwoods to lead at such a calamitous time. But, as he'd done all his life, Lincoln eventually won them over and brought them into his fold.

This is shrewd for (at least) two reasons:

First, your opponent is often the most able person for the job. The president gets the heat and the credit, so he has the ultimate incentive to put the absolute best people around him. Putting personal greivances or even mistrust ahead of what would yield the best outcome is unwise, and would seem totally out of character for Obama.

The second is more politically practical. Obama's former rival now has a major stake in his administration. The more people tied to its outcome, the better the administration's chance for success. Think of a snowball rolling down a hill, the more people it picks up the more powerful it becomes.

Hillary and her husband are still a major force, so putting them on the team gets everyone in the party on the same page (they're a huge chunk of snow). And now, when there's a setback, the press can't run to Hillary's office for a dig on the president.

Christopher Hitchens and other out-spoken Hillary bashers complain that the choice undercuts Obama's message of change. In reality, it's just the opposite. It is difficult to remember a more precarious situation for a president- elect than to come to Washington as president after barely securing his own party's nomination, and look through the rolls of the town's top talent and see names clearly alligned with his opponent.

The old politics approach would purge DC of everything Clinton. Instead, the president- elect chooses to embrace his party's best (Rahm Emanuel, Ron Klain and Sen. Clinton, herself) because they are just that. It's a decision full of self- confidence and understanding of what it will take to reshape the country.

As Michael Corleone indicated, keeping your enemies close will allow you to eliminate them. But that doesn't necessitate a bullet, as Lincoln showed they may simply be eliminated as enemies through common interest and a shared destiny.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Welcome Back, Mitt

Once a popular moderate voice, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney began to shed many of his more liberal stances in 2004 as he geared up for a presidential run. Back then, George Bush had illuminated the path to victory for a national Republican-- run hard to the right on divisive issues and pursue 51% of the electorate.

Campaigns start so early that it is easy for candidates to misjudge electoral winds, and those who craft their message based exclusively on what the people want to hear seem to invariably fall into this pitfall. As it happened, the failure of Bush's second term meant Romney badly overplayed his conservative hand in a year Republicans ultimately nominated a moderate voice.

In today's political climate, where Republicans debate their party's direction, Romney-insiders have said he is "troubled" by the politics of VP- nominee Sarah Palin. It seems that Romney realizes that if he's to be successful he must play to his own strengths, which, as a former wildly successful CEO and venture capitalist, are on the economic front.

To that end, he authored an editorial in today's New York Times (that elitist rag so reviled by Governor Palin & co). In it, Romney suggests that what Detroit's big- three automakers need isn't a bailout, but a complete re-structuring that bankruptcy would afford.

His prescription is threefold:

  1. Eliminate their disadvantage relative to foreign competitors through new labor agreements. Romney claims that excessive labor and retirement benefits cost US automakers $2000/car.
  2. Overhaul current management. Romney seeks to end the enmity between labor and management through less salary and more stock for executives, and fewer luxuries and direct communication with workers as well. It's a strategy used by Romney's father (former Michigan governor, George), who turned around American Motors in the '60s.
  3. Invest in the industry's future, with government assistance. The government should increase investment on fuel technology five-fold (to $20bn), and partner with private enterprises to increase R&D for innovation.

It is nice to see Romney advocating solutions, and it makes one think of what would have happened if the economic crisis had come at a different point in the presidential campaign. Regardless, Republicans should look to men and women of his stature and expertise as the party attempts to regain credibility with the American people. That assumes, however, Romney will save his breath for issues that really matter to him and the lives of other Americans.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Will Gets Pwn'd

From ABC's This Week via the Huffington Post:

On ABC's This Week, conservative pundit George Will took up the case against Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, arguing that it sent confusing signals to capitalists (who apparently might otherwise have pursued lucrative deals in the 1930s market place) and turned a depression into the Great Depression.

Thankfully, Nobel laureate Paul Krugman was around to remind Will of some history -- that the economy improved after the New Deal, and that it was FDR's attempt to balance the budget in 1937 (a move favored now by many conservatives) that then cut into that progress.

You Betcha! Horrifying T-Shirt

If you want four-plus more years of faux- folksy divisive and empty rhetoric (and honestly-- who doesn't?) then Busted tees has your shirt.




We can only imagine the charm, sophistication and prowess that Governor Palin will exude when she's not held back by the elists of the McCain camp, and is paired instead with the ultimate "Real American" (TM).

Quote of the Day 11/17

Bob Hope delivers this classic one- liner in 1940's The Ghost Breakers.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Can They? Pic of the Day 11/14

Following last night's 34-31 overtime win over their rival Patriots, Jets fans are feeling pretty optimistic about their future. Check out the pic a friend of mine emailed out under the subject line:

YES WE CAN!

Alternate Universe Electoral Maps

This is pretty cool. Based on exit polls, the Washington Independent offers a look at how the electoral college would have shaken out if only certain voters counted.

Age 65 & Older:



White voters:



Men:



Women:



Self- described political moderates:



Registered independents:



College Graduates:



Voters earning under $50k a year:



Voters earning over $50k a year:



Voters who are "worried about economic conditions":



Voters whose "most important issue" was the economy:



Voters whose most important issue was the war in Iraq:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

BC 17 ND 0

I'd be remiss if I let the week slip by without mentioning the annual "Holy War" (or the Chris Meehan Bowl, if you prefer)-- the football game between the only two Catholic schools playing big time college football: Boston College and Notre Dame.

For the 6th straight time, Boston College triumphed, thanks to defensive efforts like this:



The all time series is now even at 9-9.



No word on whether there's any truth to the rumor that the Fighting Irish will change their name to the Fighting Doberman Pincher Genitalia...

Gore on "Clean" Coal, Drilling, Nuclear

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

50 Things You May Not Know About Your President- Elect

Courtesy of the London Telegraph:

• He collects Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics

• He was known as "O'Bomber" at high school for his skill at basketball

• His name means "one who is blessed" in Swahili

• His favourite meal is wife Michelle's shrimp linguini

• He won a Grammy in 2006 for the audio version of his memoir, Dreams From My Father

• He is left-handed – the sixth post-war president to be left-handed

• He has read every Harry Potter book

• He owns a set of red boxing gloves autographed by Muhammad Ali

• He worked in a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop as a teenager and now can't stand ice cream

• His favourite snacks are chocolate-peanut protein bars

• He ate dog meat, snake meat, and roasted grasshopper while living in Indonesia

• He can speak Spanish

• While on the campaign trail he refused to watch CNN and had sports channels on instead

• His favourite drink is black forest berry iced tea

• He promised Michelle he would quit smoking before running for president – he didn't

• He kept a pet ape called Tata while in Indonesia

• He can bench press an impressive 200lbs

• He was known as Barry until university when he asked to be addressed by his full name

• His favourite book is Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

• He visited Wokingham, Berks, in 1996 for the stag party of his half-sister's fiancé, but left when a stripper arrived

• His desk in his Senate office once belonged to Robert Kennedy

• He and Michelle made $4.2 million (£2.7 million) last year, with much coming from sales of his books

• His favourite films are Casablanca and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

• He carries a tiny Madonna and child statue and a bracelet belonging to a soldier in Iraq for good luck

• He applied to appear in a black pin-up calendar while at Harvard but was rejected by the all-female committee.

• His favourite music includes Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Bach and The Fugees

• He took Michelle to see the Spike Lee film Do The Right Thing on their first date

• He enjoys playing Scrabble and poker

• He doesn't drink coffee and rarely drinks alcohol

• He would have liked to have been an architect if he were not a politician

• As a teenager he took drugs including marijuana and cocaine

• His daughters' ambitions are to go to Yale before becoming an actress (Malia, 10) and to sing and dance (Sasha, 7)

• He hates the youth trend for trousers which sag beneath the backside

• He repaid his student loan only four years ago after signing his book deal

• His house in Chicago has four fire places

• Daughter Malia's godmother is Jesse Jackson's daughter Santita

• He says his worst habit is constantly checking his BlackBerry

• He uses an Apple Mac laptop

• He drives a Ford Escape Hybrid, having ditched his gas-guzzling Chrysler 300

• He wears $1,500 (£952) Hart Schaffner Marx suits

• He owns four identical pairs of black size 11 shoes

• He has his hair cut once a week by his Chicago barber, Zariff, who charges $21 (£13)

• His favourite fictional television programmes are Mash and The Wire

• He was given the code name "Renegade" by his Secret Service handlers

• He was nicknamed "Bar" by his late grandmother

• He plans to install a basketball court in the White House grounds

• His favourite artist is Pablo Picasso

• His speciality as a cook is chilli

• He has said many of his friends in Indonesia were "street urchins"

• He keeps on his desk a carving of a wooden hand holding an egg, a Kenyan symbol of the fragility of life

• His late father was a senior economist for the Kenyan government

Friday, November 7, 2008

Someone I Recognize

There are certain things that I've come to know in life. Dominicans, on average, can cut the best hair, due to the diversity in hair texture that comes from having such a rich, diverse ethnic background. I know that bus drivers have the capability to multitask at the highest level: they have to drive a two to three ton vehicle that is difficult to navigate, answer an array of questions from riders, keep a tab on who owes what, and be responsive to the stop bell that may ring at any given moment - all at the same time. I know that the best way to keep a parking spot in the midst of a blizzard is to place a lawn chair there - duh. I know that Jamaicans make the best roti wraps and that an Irish girl's freckles will illuminate in the July sun quite radiantly. I know all this and more because I'm a big city boy, and I love it.

Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska made a point this past election season of expounding upon the values of small towns. She would know, as she's from a small town and governed in one. But hers was a cynical Us-Versus-Them point; small town values are true and sincere, as opposed to...

Well, with the election of Barack Obama, I can say that I am truly proud to be an American. Not because we elected a Black man. But because we elected a guy I can identify with. From a big city, with big city values and traditions, highly educated and genuinely intellectual, intensely cosmopolitan and having a perspective that comes from living and working and eating and breathing among an array of people who come from all over the world. In my lifetime, I never thought that America would ever elect a liberal Robert F. Kennedy would recognize. I always thought it was an Alan Sorkin dream, and nothing more, that America would elect a man of the machine. It is my honor to say I was dead wrong.

Big city values are not about being "tolerant" of homosexual people, but it's about recognizing them and saying vaya con dios. Big city values are the ironic relationships between entire groups and individuals: we'll have our prejudices about Puerto Ricans, Asians, Jews, et cetera, but I'll defend Lopez, Tran and Toss to the death if need be. Big city folks value eliticism, because we recognize it as a step up for our kids from where we are now. We don't look at an Ivy League school's acceptance letter and say "No way, son. This is too elitist for you". Our parents cry at the news, look for every opportunity to let the world know their kid's an Ivy Leaguer and, of course, get the decals. Big cities value hard work, social activism and religious observances.

Whether I got the day off of school because it was either MLK Day or "some Jewish holiday" (Rosh Hashanah), my life's enriched by the contributions of people who etched a niche in a place that was accepting but not forgiving; livable but hard. Maybe it is that I am the son of immigrants that I am willing to take solace in a Haitian taxi driver's dream and vision, along with a Nigerian math teacher's upbringing and travels. It's a splendid thing to grow up amidst a mass transit that sucks, a beautiful looking harbor so polluted that it's seriously not a joke to tell someone you gave them water from there, or Black cops who perfectly practice racial profiling. No one ever said life was perfect.

President-Elect Obama traveled to many places before making Chicago his home. He had to play the game to rise, hence the association with Reverend Jeremiah Wright. He registered thousands of residents to vote with liberal people that were even more passionate than him, hence the association with Bill Ayers. He attended top tier schools in some of the worlds finest cities. His liberalism is sharpened because he knows to analyze, then synthesize information in order to come to a conclusion both opponents and the other side can respect. Mr. Obama doesn't apologize for his parts nor their sum. He's strong and deliberate, even in his nuances. He's a city guy, wutchu thought?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What a Difference 4 Years Can Make, Let Alone 40


On August 28, 1968, inside of Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, what took place came to be known as the “Police Riot.” The day began with 10,000 protestors rallying in a youth festival set to coincide with the Democratic National Convention that summer. Different interest groups were there supporting causes like the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. Details from the actual day are sketchy at best, but what ensued was a brawl between the mob and the police, tear gas administered into the crowd, and an assault in front of the Hilton Hotel for 17 minutes captured by network television. Hubert H. Humphrey, George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy were still battling to see who would win the nomination for the presidency, in large part because Robert Kennedy had been assassinated in June. The Democratic Party was divided, it was embarrassed, and it was about to be routed three months later in the general election by a former vice president, Richard Nixon.

That year, 1968, was a turbulent year in our nation’s history. There was a lot more bad than good that occurred in the United States. For one, Americans were still thoroughly engaged in the war in Southeast Asia and the Tet Offensive had failed that winter, probably the main reason that LBJ decided not to run as the incumbent in November. Then Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot dead in a Memphis hotel in April, followed by Robert Kennedy two months later in Los Angeles. Rioting, protests and arrests transpired repeatedly throughout the year. It was a revolutionary time.


Four years ago today, I spent the entire night drinking tea and coffee trying to ward off sleep in order to find out who was going to run the country for the next four years. I was in my dorm in the Netherlands doing a semester abroad and because of the time zone difference I passed out at close to 8AM and they were still counting votes in Ohio. When I woke up and turned on my computer I realized that I was going to have to endure another four years of an imperious, yet bungling Bush administration. I had spent the weeks leading up to the election reassuring my newly-made international friends that Americans couldn’t possibly be naïve enough to reelect an imbecile. But it turned out that I was the naïve one; I was the imbecile.

Two weeks earlier, I was in Brugge visiting the quaint town in the Flemish section of Belgium. I decided to check out one of the local bars and try some of Belgium’s renowned beers. On a line to get some food, a couple of locals heard me speaking English so they decided to initiate a verbal tirade against me including every disparaging word they could think of about George W. Bush, but that was per usual. Then later at the bar, I met an American girl who was visiting Belgium, but was coming from Paris where she had permanently relocated. Curious as to why someone would come to study in France and decide to just stay in the country for good, I inquired as to the reason. She told me that the conservative trend in the US terrified her. I asked her if she would ever consider moving back and she told me that it was looking really bleak, but the only hope for that was the black man running for senator in the state Illinois. She said that if Barack Obama ever wins the presidency, she would come back to this country. I had heard of Obama because of the convention speech. But in my mind, my thought of randomly meeting this girl again in the US went from improbable to non-existent.


Last night, I fell asleep at approximately 10PM when Obama hadn’t clinched the election; however, he had a commanding lead and it was all but a certainty that he would win. I woke up two hours later at midnight to the booming, rhythmic voice of the new president-elect. CNN was broadcasting his victory speech from Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois. His speech was fabulous as always, but I couldn’t stop thinking of the irony that the same exact spot that had seen the riot that ripped apart the Democratic Party 40 years earlier was hosting the victory speech of the most unifying presidential election for Democrats in 32 years. Not since 1976 had a Democrat won more than 50% of the popular vote in the country. This was an outright slaughter. Only 46 years ago, they had to ratify the 24th amendment to the Constitution to prevent states from disenfranchising black Americans and keep them from voting in elections. Now a black American had won the presidency.


I’m not one of the “Yes We Can”, Ra-Ra Obama disciples. I don’t pretend to know that he will just kick his feet back in his chair in the oval office with a White Sox jersey on and his I-pod on shuffle and fix the country’s many distinct crises of today. What I do know is that yesterday’s result was a significant step for racial relations and a quantum leap in the right direction for the future of government in this country. And even if you’re a skeptic like I am, you have to ask yourself this question, what a difference 4 years can make, let alone 40? Four years ago, I barely knew who Obama was. All I thought I knew was that a black man couldn’t win the presidency. Forty years ago, pioneers for peace like Dr. King were being shot in the street. In January, Barack Obama will become the 44th President of the United States. So how far can we go in the next four years, let alone 40?

EL

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thoughts and Predictions for Tonight

Here are some thoughts and predictions on the eve of the election:



  • Barack Obama will win big, 364- 174. The swing states he'll carry will be Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. McCain will carry Indiana, Montana and North Dakota.


  • Southern Florida reminds me a lot of South Bend, Indiana with better weather.


  • The Democrats will fall a seat shy of a 60- seat filibuster proof majority.


  • The people of Florida have showed uncommon patience, waiting up to four hours to vote early, with lines wrapped around the block.


  • After Tuesday night, Sarah Palin will mercifully recede from public view for a few months. Soon, though, we'll start to read the inevitable stories of her listening tour or some major speech that she's giving in Iowa or New Hampshire.


  • The words of congratulations and thanks that Barack Obama gives President Bush during his Inauguration on January 20, 2009 will be one for the Awkward Moments Record book.


  • I wish there was a way to see the look on Sean Hannity's face when Chief Justice Roberts gives Obama the Oath of Office ("I Barack Hussein Obama do solemnly swear...")

  • Obama will need to hit the ground running with his legislative agenda, because he'll almost certainly lose seats in 2010. But let's not think about that right now, and just enjoy tonight...


Monday, November 3, 2008

Olbermann gets his (kind of)

Ben Affleck hosted SNL this past weekend and did a pretty funny impression of Keith Olbermann. It's about time they did a send-up of him, check it out below. This time the target of Keith's uncontrollable ire isn't Hillary Clinton or George Bush, but the president of his Condo board:



As a bonus here's the opening featuring John and Cindy McCain and Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin. Mercifully that impression should be retired this week.

Monday, October 27, 2008

SAM's Presidential Endorsement: Barack Obama

In December 2007, SAM Online endorsed Barack Obama, who was running a distant second in the polls, and John McCain, whose campaign seemed all but finished, for their party's presidential nominations. Ultimately, each man was able to overcome long odds and claim victory. Since those endorsements, one candidate has proven to be more formidable than we imagined, while the other wilted under the adverse conditions his party faces.

The clarity of Barack Obama's vision for the country, as well as his intellectually honest approach to our economic crisis and energy policy earned him our endorsement in next week's election. Meanwhile, John McCain has failed to present a coherent consistent plan for dealing with the very real problems that face the nation.

In many respects, McCain was a victim of his party's past success. The Bush/ Rove playbook successfully split the country 51/49 and built a narrow coalition on extreme social conservatism, fear and distortion. The McCain of 2000, who we still optimistically consider the "real" McCain, would have done very well in this election. However, over the past two+ years running for president, McCain took the Rove- road, culminating in his pick of Sarah Palin for vice president.

The grossly under-qualified and over-matched Palin was far from the final link in a chain of startling and unfortunate choices made by McCain during the general election campaign: The William Ayers/ terrorist talk, the use of Obama's middle name by surrogates, McCain's conflicting statements on the economy, his fluid positions on major issues, his generic assurances ("I know how to catch Osama bin Laden...") and his current tactics, reminiscent of the Cold War, to scare voters with Socialism. These developments have all shown Senator McCain lacks the steady hand and political clarity the presidency requires.

Senator Obama has acted in just the opposite way. He has taken principled positions and defended them with the verve and conviction Democrats customarily lack. He's shown inner toughness in combating attacks, while maintaining dignity throughout this grueling process.

For example, in early debates during the Democratic primaries, Obama said he would be open to meeting with hostile foreign leaders. The Clinton campaign (and later the McCain camp) jumped on the statement-- believing it a serious gaffe. But Obama told his staffers then that no retraction would be given: he'd meant what he said. He's stuck to and defended that position up to now. It's one small example of the confidence, intelligence and level- headedness that Obama possesses, and it's part of what gives him the potential to be a great president.

Meanwhile, McCain, in an effort to rouse his base, ceded his campaign to a wing of the Republican party that is, as NY Times conservative columnist David Brooks put it, decidedly "anti-ideas." Mr. Brooks described Gov. Palin as the standard bearer for that section of the party and as a cancer on the Republican brand. Palin has continued the tactics of the Bush administration with attempts to divide the country between "real" and elitist America. With a strong memory of the last eight years, the American people have rejected the message, and it's an indictment of McCain that he allowed it to proceed.

In the serious times ahead of the country, we are far more comfortable with the thought of Senator Obama at the helm. He and his party are in the better position to deal with energy, health care, Iraq, the economy, and America's place in the changing world.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Powell on Board

One of the most impressive people I've ever been in the presence of, Colin Powell, made this endorsement on Meet the Press yesterday.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Letterman: Top Ten Things Overheard at Sarah Palin's Debate Camp

Top Ten Things Overheard at Sarah Palin's Debate Camp

10. "Let's practice your bewildered silence"

9. "Can you try saying 'Yes' instead of 'You betcha'?"

8. "Hey, I can see Mexico from here!"

7. "Maybe we'll get lucky and there won't be any questions about Iraq, taxes, or health care"

6. "We're screwed!"

5. "Can I just use that lipstick-pit bull thing again?"

4. "We have to wrap it up for the day -- McCain eats dinner at 4:30"

3. "Can we get Congress to bail us out of this debate?"

2. "John Edwards wants to know if you'd like some private tutoring in his van"

1. "Any way we can just get Tina Fey to do it?"

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Agony of Defeat... Again- Pic of the Day 9/29



For the second straight year, the Mets were eliminated from the playoff race on the last day of the season-- blowing a big lead in the season's final weeks.

Above is a pic from the front page of the Journal News (Westchester NY's largest paper) of me, a lifelong Mets fan, in obvious pain.

It was a bad weekend.

Friday, September 26, 2008

If It Walks Like a Duck...

My, how the mighty have fallen. The New York Times reported this morning on the status of the proposed $700 billion bailout plan, and the picture emerging from the discussions is as topsy-turvy as one can imagine. On the one hand, we have the President, proposing that Congress grant him even more extraordinary powers so that he can handle this particular issue with the economy. On that same hand, it appears we have the Democrats, eager to get this piece of legislation under their belts, but maintaining that certain provisions are included so that it's not strictly a deal for Wall Street, by Wall Street and of Wall Street. In the end, though, it might be just that. The Times quotes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as saying "It (the bailout) will happen because it has to happen." Such an impending tone makes one realize just how badly the financial sector has infiltrated the body politic. We're going to bailout banks that got in way over their heads irresponsibly because we have to. Nice.

On the opposite side of this battle are the Republicans, and this is what makes this current political climate so perplexing. The Republicans, long known for being Wall Street back scratchers, tax cutting everything from capital gains to C.E.O. bonuses, are now staunchly against the proposal. They find it absurd that tax-payer dollars ought to be spent in an endeavor to stabilize the financial sector, while little is done to curb spending in other areas. Of course, this kind of fiscal restraint was not evident during the first six years of the Bush administration, when they cut taxes, increased earmarks substantially and endorsed a war whose strategy was so flawed, that a major consequence is the vast sums being spent on it: some $10 billion per month.

Of course, this is no indictment of the corporate-Democratic paradox, nor of Republican hypocracy. They exist because it's the nature of the beast. This is the ultimate low of a presidency. Mr. Bush believes that history will come to his side, like it has for President Harry Truman. The Korean War killed Mr. Truman's presidency; Bush's lack of leadership has killed his. Truman did stubborn things like integrate the army, then the federal government, and endorsed the new state of Israel, all with significant opposition from his own staff, no less. Bush demanded loyalty at all cost, and held over his opponents a mandate that was as paper thin as his courage: because he could always find a way to garner fifty one percent, he could always win.

Democrats would come into the fold because some will lack the courage to stand their ground. Republicans would come for the obvious reasons, because it's their gravy train. Well, it's a good thing the American public can smell ineptitude, because in 2006 they fired the GOP, and essentially nutored Mr. Bush. His leadership style is so ineffective, he cannot even get his party in line in a moment of economic peril. Where Clinton signaled to Democrats that centrism is the quality needed for long term survival, Mr. Bush demonstrated that all you need is a simple majority. Where President Reagan obtained Democratic support in order to cut taxes in 1981, Mr. Bush used fear and the fresh memory of a tragedy to get the nation into as serious a circumstance one could find itself: war. And now we have a financial crisis even the most cautious observers call traumatic. "An end of an era on Wall Street", they say. And Mr. Bush, with his limp clout, trying to pull together a coalition to pass a vital law, cannot even get Wall Street's employees, his fellow Republicans, in line. January 20th cannot come soon enough.

Monday, September 22, 2008

SNL: McCain Ad Wars

Still in the midst of an imposed drought comes a quick gulp of water:

SNL's take on McCain's ads, which have taken more than a few liberties (such as portraying Obama's vote in favor of a bill that- in part- provided funding for a program educating kindergarteners on sexual abuse as, "Obama spent money on sex- ed for 5 year olds").



An interesting note: former SNL writer and cast member, and current US Senate candidate Al Franken reportedly came up with the premise of this sketch, which was then written out by SNL's head writer, Seth Meyers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Sad Saga

I've been asked to stop posting for a while by my employer, but happily, that doesn't mean I have to stop altogether. Because, every year around this time, I'll work in some non-political posts about my favorite team's collapse in the baseball standings. This year is no different, except I'm going to use to words of blogger David Lozo.

His post is decent, but it's the picture at the top that gets me.

The Sad, Sad Saga of Your Average N.Y. Mets Fan



There is nothing funnier yet, at the same time, sadder than a New York Mets fan. It’s like watching a six-car pileup where everyone dies, but everyone is dressed as Star Wars characters, so part of you laughs. But mostly, you feel bad for these desperate fools who have a harder time staying on an even keel than a meth addict.

Ever since the Mets had a seven-game lead with 17 games to play in 2007, I have been conducting a study of the New York Mets fan. I have charted emotions for close to a full year now, and I think it’s time to reveal my findings. What follows is a recounting of the emotional highs and lows of Mets fans for the last 350 days or so.

Sept. 12, 2007: “Dude, we’re seven games up. I can’t wait for the playoffs. We’re going to avenge that loss to the Cardinals and win the World Series. Willie Randolph has been superb and Tom Glavine really should get his option picked up.”

Sept. 30, 2007: “I hope Tom Glavine dies. Clearly he was a double agent for the Braves. Seven runs in an inning? I hate the Mets. We should fire Willie and start fresh.’

Jan. 30, 2008: “We traded for Johan Santana? Noooooo. Get out! That’s awesome! That guarantees us the NL East, and at worst a World Series trip. What a deal! Omar is a genius! Willie’s going to get us there!”

April 29, 2008: “I know Billy Wagner blew the save because of the error, but I don’t trust that guy.”

May 6, 2008: “Why does Carlos Delgado see the field? Can’t that guy retire already?”

May 26, 2008: “Please fire Willie already. This Mike Pelfrey character is a complete bust.”

May 29, 2008: “It’s not like it’s Willie’s fault.”

June 10, 2008: “OK, Willie needs to go.”

June 13, 2008: “Seriously, I hope we get someone for Delgado next season.”

June 16, 2008, 2:30 a.m.: “You know, I think Willie’s got this thing figured out
now.”

June 16, 2008, 3:45 a.m.: “Good riddance. Willie was killing us.”

June 24, 2008: “Jerry Manuel isn’t making things better.”

July 4, 2008: “Johan Santana just is not a big-game pitcher. He can’t finish what he
starts. Such a bum.”

July 6, 2008: “I know we’re 3.5 out with 74 games to go, but this team is done. No chance.”

July 17, 2008: “What a great move by the Mets to put Manuel in charge. I think a World Series is a real possibility now.”

July 19, 2008: “We can’t even beat the Reds. How can we possibly win the division?”

July 20, 2008: “If Wagner is done, we are screwed. That guy is lights out.”

July 25, 2008: “Mike Pelfrey should be getting some consideration for the Cy Young.”

August 3, 2008: “We are so done.”

August 10, 2008: “Mike Pelfrey better not be on the postseason roster.”

August 17, 2008: “If my neighbors think I’m loud now, just wait till they hear me when the Mets are playing in October.”

August 24, 2008: “We’re not going anywhere with this bullpen.”

Sept. 1, 2008: “Carlos Delgado is the NL MVP.”

Sept. 2, 2008: “This Luis Ayala guy is pretty awesome. He can close for us in the playoffs.”

Sept. 5, 2008: “We’re going to choke away the division again.”

Sept. 6, 2008: “I never said they were going to the World Series.”

Sept. 7, 2008, 4:45 p.m.: “We’re so done. Fire everyone.”

Sept. 7, 2008, 11:30 p.m.: “Johan Santana is a big-game pitcher. We’re going all the way.”

Sept. 10, 2008: “Hey, can I take off a few days in October? No one has off the day of Game 7 of the World Series, and I want to make sure I can watch it.”

This morning: “Our bullpen is a nightmare. I hope they miss the playoffs. Just give the division to the Phillies.”

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Clinton/ Palin



Probably the best political sketch in nearly ten years.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Flip-Flops, All for the Price of an Oval Office

Mom: So since when do the Republicans care about women?

Me: What?  What do you mean?

Mom: Well, they seem to care a lot about women and I thought they never wanted women outside of the home.

And thus is the new political order of the day.  A universe where a casual observer, like my mom - citizen since '72 (ah, '72), can be confounded by a seismic shift in GOP talking points: feminism.  Yes, faux-feminism is the new Black, and the designer is Senator John McCain.  He tailors his chic centrism in a flowering couture of social conservatism being fiercely worn by none other than Alaska's great governor, Sarah Palin.  Holy wow!

It's the Democrats who are keeping that glass ceiling in place.  It's the Democrats who don't want women to progress.  Yes, it's the Democrats who want to return to 1918.  The party of Eleanor Roosevelt has turned into the party of Rush Limbaugh, only Rush doesn't want any part of it because he's a feminist now.  

That's right, folks: To want Sarah Palin to win the Vice Presidancy is to be for Women's Rights.  It's to be for a woman to have the right to have government deny her the right to choose an abortion.  It's to be for women having the right to not have the explicit right to fight side-by-side with men in combat.  It's to be for women having the right to be punished for working and having a child - at the same time, no less.  It's to be for our future.

Sarah Palin wanted to ban books from her local library, wants to be the special announcer at next year's Summer Slam when Creationism and Evolution meet, and once vied for round three at Bull Run while she was part of a small secessionist movement ("small" is relative, because nothing but the landscape's big in Alaska - it just ain't Texas).  These are all things that are as American as moose murder, and women should be ashamed if they're not proud of this.  Every women needs to learn to cross check, because Sarah Palin took her shots from the goons of all shapes and sizes for The Cause.  Every lady needs to learn to not plan their pregnancies, because Sarah Palin has five kids, will have five more, and will pass legislation making it legal to give birth well past menopause - God's willing notwithstanding.

James - that narrow-minded, right-wing chauvinist - Carville wrote an incendiary piece in the Financial Times, that bastion of Female Oppression, about how Mr. McCain has affected his party with the Sarah Palin nomination.  Read it not to see how the GOP has given up national security as their centerpiece.  Read it not to learn how flip-flopping is only flip-flopping if you're a former liberal like John F Kerredy - I mean Kerry.  Read it to see what America's up against:  Barack Obama's Islamist change, one that we just can't afford (because utility prices are insane!)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Faux

Jon Stewart outdid himself in this segment... there are no words for the kind of hypocrisy you're about to see, but at least someone called it out:

Uh-Oh: Pic of the Day 9/4


During last night's well- received speech, GOP VP nominee Gov. Sarah Palin cited her opposition to the "Bridge to Nowhere" pork barrel project as evidence of her independent streak. Problem is, Palin was actually for the bridge before she was against it, as is evident in this photo. The $400m bridge connected a small Alaska town to a hardly used airport, saving users from having to ride a $5 ferry.
“Palin said Alaska’s congressional delegation worked hard to obtain funding for the bridge as part of a package deal and that she ‘would not stand in the way of the progress toward that bridge.” - Ketchikan Daily News 9/2006
Just a guess, but this probably won't be the last time we see this photo...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

100 Years or 1 Year - No Real Difference

The Financial Times has a compelling piece about the Iraq War and the "time horizons" being discussed between the Bush Administration and that of Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq. The report by Demetri Sevastopulo quotes General David Patraeus, top commander of coalition forces in Iraq, as suggesting the possibility that U.S. forces can begin redeployment from Baghdad.  He cautioned his suggestion by alluding to conditions staying as they are now, with violence down and peaceful political dialogues persisting.  Still, American soldiers leaving Baghdad, as the article puts it, "would be highly symbolic given the scale of violence that gripped the city in 2006 and 2007."


Now Senator McCain will surely credit his backing of "The Surge" as playing the pivotal role in the new status quo, while Senator Obama will suggest that the Iraqis want us out as much as Americans do, lulls in violence notwithstanding.  What's striking is the frankness with which Gen. Patraeus discusses the mid to long-term future of our involvement in Iraq, and how the administration is not hovering over him insisting on the use of vague, ambiguous terms that carry no consequence.  Obama's at least given details as to how he'd leave Iraq.  Can't wait to hear Mac's response to this.  Fifty years or one hundred, we hav- what?  We're leaving already?  Well, is it with honor?