Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Year's Wish

Happy New Year! (?)

Yeah, I know, that question mark. It's troubling. Well look, I certainly hope the year is good for you, and I hope you thrive. I want you to be happy because a rising tide raises all boats. The more happy people, the better off I'll be.

But let's face it, somewhere between the worst-case scenario and the best, there is a likely middle-ground, and that's the one where we're both living on the sidewalk and eating beans out of a dented aluminum can. 

During the coming year, one of us is probably going to kill a hobo for the superior newspaper lining in his jacket. Some of us will sell our bodies for time at an iPod charger; some will rationalize that it's not "losing your leg to frostbite" if you eat the leg.

I see a handful of people coming out ahead in the next year, and I see a renaissance in the appearance of black top hats and monocles.

Oh christ - we'll probably have musicals back again.

Look, don't worry about it. My predictions are usually wrong. I'm really, really ambivalent about the top hats.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Keep Up the Good Work, (R)!

Look, free speech is important. Run with it, boys!

Four days after news broke that the former Tennessee GOP chairman had sent a CD including a song titled “Barack the Magic Negro” to the RNC members he is courting, some of those officials are rallying around the embattled Saltsman, with a few questioning whether the national media and his opponents are piling on.

“When I heard about the story, I had to figure out what was going on for myself,” said Mark Ellis, the chairman of the Maine Republican Party. “When I found out what this was about I had to ask, ‘Boy, what’s the big deal here?’ because there wasn’t any.”

Alabama Republican Committeeman Paul Reynolds said the fact the Saltsman sent him a CD with the song on it “didn’t bother me one bit.”

“Chip probably could have thought it through a bit more, but he was doing everyone a favor by giving us a gift,” he said. “This is just people looking for something to make an issue of.”
I gotta tell you, I have felt pretty restricted by not being able to tell my Jew and Chinaman jokes. I may be a liberal, but I'm secretly rooting for you guys. Maybe we could even effect change... I'd like to see those dizzy woman drivers taken off the road! Don't stop believin'!

The Truth Isn't That Far Out There

I've often wondered why the American car industry has kept churning out enormous gas-guzzlers year after year. I've even entertained the notion that the oil companies influence auto design in some under-the-table, backroom, behind-the-green-door sort of way. I'm backing off from that theory.

Probably the truth is this: auto makers accurately read the market and supplied it. Look, gas is cheap in this country. Even during the summer it was cheap, compared t0 the rest of the world. In London gas was $4 a gallon when I was a kid. Given their narrow roads and easy access to the tube ("mind the gap!") there's less demand for your own car there, thus they sold less volume at higher prices and maintained profit margins.

Here, gas flows like water. We'd rather have our own transportation, and we'd rather have it big so we can see around the big cars in front of us.

Of course, we'd also rather have efficiency in our enormous vehicles. Foreign auto makers, who had to think that way to sell to the natives, were more easily able to supply it. American companies could do the R&D but making wholesale changes in design is expensive. You have to shut down factories and re-tool them. And sure they can do it, but they will tend to wait as long as possible because there's still enough demand for the old-style cars to make waiting a good option. Or at least, there was enough demand.

In the last six months, the market has radically changed. True story - in the early eighties IBM wanted to get into the personal computer business. They were the biggest company around and they wanted in on that action. They did a study and determined that, using proper channels, it would take them nine months from planning to execution... to produce the carton the computer ships in. Big companies tend to take a very long time to change course, the same way that big ships do. Speedboats turn on a dime.

Foreign auto makers are comparative speed boats, to boil it down for ya.

I bet when the smoke clears, GenaFord will be making cars the same size with slightly better milage, and they will continue to cede market share to the wiley Japanese. If we're really interested in efficiency we'll buy cars that are half the size. I don't think that's going to happen. We're Americans and consuming more than we need isn't just a tendency - it's a trademark. If we stop that, the global economy is toast. If that happens, who will we outsource to?

Monday, December 29, 2008


Washington is shut down this week so our leaders are unlikely to produce anything particularly outrageous. During the long holiday weekend I passed the time dodging presents and watching movies.

Two movies, mainly - FROST/NIXON and STUCK.

FROST/NIXON is a mighty rich stew. A backstage account of the big TV interview of the late seventies, it's as much about entertainment as it is about politics, and the interview is as much gladiator match as it is interview. The thing I took away from it is the notion that both of these men, Frost and Nixon, were depending on that 4 night series to save their reputations and ensure their future incomes. Nixon needed a forum to tell his side of the story, thus increasing his speaking fees and bookings, and Frost needed Nixon to admit wrongdoing or his tremendous personal investment would buy an unsalable white elephant of TV programming.

And both men almost fatally underestimated their opponents, though I have to admit I can't blame Nixon for underestimating Frost. For the most part he was right. Had Frost not been so backed into a corner he'd have never summoned the cajones to to deliver that fourth night coup de grace. Forgive the mixed languages. In any event, recommended viewing.

The other movie was an oddball DVD rental, STUCK. The latest project from REANIMATOR maestro Stuart Gordon, this is based on a much smaller true story, about a young rest home nurse who accidentally hits a homeless man as she drives home from a club. He goes head first through her windshield. In shock and a little high on Ecstasy, assuming he's dead, she takes the car home and parks in the garage, only to discover the next morning that he's alive, demanding help. Only she won't help because she fears jail time and the loss of her job.

So again, it's a contest. The man (Stephen Rea) struggles to separate himself from the car, the girl (Mena Suvari in mulatto-face) tries to figure out a way to kill him so he won't talk, then dispose of the body and put the whole incident behind her.

There possibly is a larger message here about how society feels about the homeless, but Gordon thankfully has other fish to fry. Metaphorical content is left to fend for itself as the situation plays itself out. This is a story that Hitchcock would have loved to make - a limited area to work with, opportunities for absurd comedy ("Why are you doing this to me?" the girl whines to her windshield prisoner at one point) and minute, suspenseful attempts to survive. The only thing missing was bizarre camera angles.

If you remember the news story this is based on, know that the movie ends differently. Good choices Stuart! Also casting a white woman as a light-skinned black woman. It seemed a little weird at first, but it took some of the curse off the situation. The last thing you'd want is black villains in this peice and no matter how she looks on screen, ain't nobody whiter than Mena Suvari.

Friday, December 26, 2008

30 Years Between Airings: Even The Kessel Run Took Less Than 12 Parsecs

With so many cable channels nowadays, there is almost no such thing as rare televsion. It seems that anything that ever aired has a channel devoted to its reruns, from game shows to reality shows to, well, shows. If it isn't on TV it's on Hulu, or A&E has a series of DVDs. If you are dying to see a commercial for Winson cigarettes that used Fred Flintstone as a spokesman, google it. It's there.

The New World is only so Brave though, and some things shall not see the light of day. I've been keeping my eye peeled for years now for THE STAR WARS HOLIDAY SPECIAL. It aired on CBS in 1978, featured the real cast of A NEW HOPE, and arguably drove the last nail in the coffin of variety shows. There is some demand for it but George Lucas, who is no stranger to revisionist history, has bought up the rights and locked the master in a vault in the Lucasfilm archives. Reportedly he told a convention of Australian fans "If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it."

The two-hour video tells the story of Chewbacca's family and their tense wait for the big lug to make it home in time for Life Day, which is a familiar-seeming wookie holiday. The empire's evil forces conduct a thorough search of their tree-house for signs of rebel involvement. Variety segments (songs, sketches and the animated segment that introduced Boba Fett) are incorporated though the device of having wookies watch them on screens and other home entertainment devices. Guest stars include Harvey Korman, Bea Arthur, Dianne Carroll, Art Carney and a number by Jefferson Starship.

Yes, I'm serious.

This is the year when finally I was able to get my waldoes on a copy of this fabled special. I had it completely downloaded by Tuesday but I saved it until Christmas Day to watch, a little gift for myself and a kind of slow torture for my holiday companions. It's incredible. The first 15 minutes for example, introduce Chewie's family: his wife Malla, his son Lumpy and his irascable father Itchy. 15 minutes with no dialog, only Wookie noises. It's like watching a Chaplin movie in an insane asylum.

Meanwhile on the Millenium Falcon, Chewbacca and a surprisingly comitted Harrison Ford struggle to evade the forces of the empire, abandoning whatever presumably important mission they had been charged with so they can endanger the clan back home with Chewie's presence for Life Day.

The action, such as it is, is interrupted by the lame variety segments. On one hand you get an appearance by Diane Carroll singing a little song, on the other hand, in narrative terms you're watching a wookie watch television instead of doing something. And don't get me started on Harvey Korman. Three different characters and not one of them is even remotely amusing. It's as if he was struck comedy blind that week.

There is a real low-budget feel to the whole enterprise, though to be fair it's probably partially due to this being a VHS dub, and partially due to seeing characters who belong on film shot through the harsher gaze of video. Interestingly, Mark Hamill is so androgynous that he comes off closer to Dorothy Hamill. I think this was shot before the Camero accident that prompted Hamill's reconstructive surgery, which gave him a less boyish appearance.

The Boba Fett cartoon (Lumpy watches it to keep his mind off the Storm Troopers wrecking the house) is visual gold and narrative crap. It kind of reminded me of a few segments from eighties cult classic HEAVY METAL.

Anyway, other high points - Carrie Fisher sings an ode to Life Day which is kind of a mashup with the Star Wars theme; Bea Arthur sings a song which is a mashup with the Cantina Band song. Han Solo kills a storm trooper (no face mask either!) by causing him to plunge hundreds of feet to his death. Anything I haven't mentioned as a high point you can assume is a low point, the kind of thing which should have ruined the careers of everyone involved. Indeed, had Lucas not stepped in and sealed this thing up, that's exactly what might have happened. Shepard Smith puts it best when he describes the show as "a 70s train wreck, combining the worst of Star Wars with the utter worst of variety television."

It is, therefore, absolutely essential Christmas viewing. Next quest - a rough cut of THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED!

The Kind of People You Ally Yourself With

Church Members Dress Like Jesus to Protest Secularization of Christmas

"Members of a church in Kansas City, Ks., are protesting the secularization of Christmas by dressing like Jesus at their jobs, malls and restaurants.

"Pastor Kelly Lohrke advised parishioners of the Praise Chapel Christian Fellowship to wear at minimum a crown of thorns and a sash or robe during the week leading up to Christmas."

Waitress, I'll have the chicken soup and kosher... never mind.

The Kind of People I Ally Myself With


"Authorities say Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, dressed in a Santa suit, opened fire at a Christmas Eve party and then set the house ablaze. He is later found dead of a gunshot wound."

See, THAT'S a war on Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Beef With the War On Christmas

This war on Christmas thing bugs the hell outta me because NOT EVERYBODY CELEBRATES CHRISTMAS. Why not use "Happy Holidays" as your greeting? It includes Christmas. It says "whoever you are, whatever you celebrate, I hope you enjoy it." "Merry Christmas" says "I wish you well if you're a Christian like me. Otherwise, you're on your own."

(h/t to Publius, whose thoughts about the orgins of Kwanzaa inspired me to quote my own comment here.)

A Brighter Tomorrow

Apologies for not writing my own version of this, but I'm struck breathless with Tom Tomorrow's snark. I'll try to come up with my own material around lunchtime.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Five Worst Christmases Ever

I got nothing to complain about, because I'm not being killed as a direct result of the holidays.

So far.

3. Xmas Pageant Inferno.It was the climax of the 1924 Christmas Eve pageant at the Babb's Switch, Oklahoma one-room schoolhouse. The last recitation had ended, the last carol faded. Now Santa himself was handing out bags of candy to all the children. But oh no! Santa brushed against the candle-lit tree. Within minutes, the room was a seething inferno, with 200 men, women, and children trying to force their way out the only exit: a door that opened inward. Thirty-four people died. But thanks to the heroic efforts of Santa and the schoolteacher (both of whom were themselves incinerated), only five children were among the dead.
(h/t Andrew Sullivan)

Re: Pastor Rick Warren

Having him speak at the inaguration is a nice guesture, but I doubt it's going to change any minds. Personally I'm hoping he says something extreme ("the gays control the banks and the media") but I don't think Rick rolls that way.

Look for few surprises in the next four years. I think, as a nation, we need less surprises for a while anyway.

Counting Down The Days 'Til 2012

Now available: The Sarah Palin Calendar!

It's a little late for a Christmas gift, but order now anyway, because you probably can't afford it by mid-January.

Clearing the Big Tent A Little

Republicans, bless their hearts. They're doing just fine. They don't need African Americans.

This has nothing to do with racism of course. It's simply an attempt to defend "Christmas" against other, non-european holiday traditions. It's just a way to keep the pagans in line by making sure they at least pay lip service to the one true God. Is that so wrong? Who'd object to that?

Ask your Jewish friends.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Selling Even Better Than Bruno Maglis

'Bush Shoe' Gets Firm Footing In the Market

ISTANBUL — When a pair of black leather oxfords hurled at President Bush in Baghdad produced a gasp heard around the world, a Turkish cobbler had a different reaction: They were his shoes.

“We have been producing that specific style, which I personally designed, for 10 years, so I couldn’t have missed it, no way,” said Ramazan Baydan, a shoemaker in Istanbul. “As a shoemaker, you understand.”

Although his assertion has been impossible to verify — cobblers from Lebanon, China and Iraq have also staked claims to what is quickly becoming some of the most famous footwear in the world — orders for Mr. Baydan’s shoes, formerly known as Ducati Model 271 and since renamed “The Bush Shoe,” have poured in from around the world.

A new run of 15,000 pairs, destined for Iraq, went into production on Thursday, he said. A British distributor has asked to become the Baydan Shoe Company’s European sales representative, with a first order of 95,000 pairs, and an American company has placed an order for 18,000 pairs. Four distributors are competing to represent the company in Iraq, where Baydan sold 19,000 pairs of this model for about $40 each last year.

Five thousand posters advertising the shoes, on their way to the Middle East and Turkey, proclaim “Goodbye Bush, Welcome Democracy” in Turkish, English and Arabic.
There's your free market for ya!

Farewell, Beloved Dick

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Vice President Dick Cheney said Sunday that Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, deserved it when Cheney launched the f-word at him in 2004.

In an interview with "Fox News Sunday," Cheney was asked if he had any second thoughts or embarrassment. "No. I thought he merited it at the time," Cheney said, laughing.

...The encounter during the 2004 presidential campaign, sources said then, was brought on by Leahy's criticism of the vice president over Halliburton Co. Cheney is the former chief executive officer of the oil field services company, and Democrats had suggested he helped win lucrative contracts for his former firm while serving in the Bush administration.

"It was partly that, it was partly also … it had to do with — he is the kind of individual who will make those kinds of charges and then come act as though he's your best friend, and I expressed in no uncertain terms my views of his conduct and walked away," Cheney said at the time.

..."And we've since, I think, patched over that wound and we're civil to one another now," Cheney said this Sunday.
Re: the italics -- well, mission accomplished! And kudos to Cheney for alluding to wounds, considering the other thing he's famous for. Meanwhile:

WALLACE: According to the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll — and I know how much you like polls — you now have the lowest approval rating of the last eight years. Twenty-nine percent have a favorable opinion, 61 percent unfavorable... does that bother you?

CHENEY: No. We didn't — if — we didn't set out to achieve the highest level of polls that we could during the course of this administration...— is 29 percent good enough for me? Well, we fought a tough reelection battle. We won by an adequate margin in 2004. We've been here for eight years now. Eventually, you wear out your welcome in this business.

But I've — I'm very comfortable with where we are and what we achieved substantively. And frankly, I would not want to be one of those guys who spends all his time reading the polls. I think people like that shouldn't serve in these jobs.
Again, italics-wise, SOME administrations wear out their welcome. Nixon, Carter and Bush 1 for example. Reagan, Clinton and Eisenhower, not so much. And more introspective vice-presidents might pause to wonder if historical low approval ratings may mean you did something wrong. When they're out of office, perhaps Cheney and Bush will blame the antipathy on each other before insisting that we'll all praise them in fifty years time.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My War On Christmas Continues

So today I rode my bike to the mall (ha ha, beat the traffic and parking, you piston jockies!) and bought a gift to myself, and you know what I was wearing? This sweatshirt!

To GWK, who frequently complains about my suit, perhaps this picture will prove an adequate substitute.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Brett Favre Vs. Lizard People

One is real, one isn't. Ha ha Minnesota! You shoulda held on to Jesse Ventura; you'd look a lot less stupid now.

An Economic Paranoia Trap

Here's an interesting problem for social scientists over the coming month: the economy is driven, at least partly, by consumer confidence. Most news shows lately have run stories about the surprising downside of falling prices. Deflation is a sign of an ailing economy!

True enough, because it cuts into profit margins and encourages people to wait on their purchases until the price drops farther.

What I'm worried about though is the normal drop of price from after-christmas sales. Some people are going to factor it in, but won't it freak out a lot of consumers to see those deep discounts? Won't it look like a sign of the economic apocalypse, which therefore causes itself? Keep an eye out for that one.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's Too Cold For Politics

For God's sake, it snowed in LAS VEGAS last night!

Here on the left coast, it's a balmy 40 degrees today. We're not prepared for it. I have a friend who hasn't had to use her furnace in three years and didn't know it wasn't even lit. Nobody has the clothes for this kind of weather in this town. We'll all be dead by the end of the week.

To my right-leaning friends, I'll admit that this proves there's no such thing as global warming when you guys admit that gay marriage doesn't destroy marriage itself. Fair exchange! And send sterno.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's Impolite To Forget the Thank-You Note

Iraqis - you just can't win with those people.

Ha ha, seriously. After we've sacrificed 4,000 American lives to the cause of liberating their country from a brutal dictator, they side with the guy who threw shoes at the president? What the hell, muzzies! You wouldn't even have the freedom to demonstrate against the President if Saddam was still in charge! Well, maybe our president, but not yours!

If the shoe was on the other foot (sorry, was that too much?) things would be different. You can bet that if we were unhappy with our president, we'd be grateful for an outside country to come in, bomb the hell out of us, and hunt him like a dog, then install a new governement that they trusted. We'd greet them as liberators! I for one would be willing to forgo twenty hours of electricity a day in exchange for, say the Taliban, coming in and replacing the Bush administration with previously unknown taliban sympathizers. I wouldn't mind swapping out my fear of illegal wiretaps with fear of kidnapping or IEDs. I'd welcome the sight of Taliban troops keeping me safe.

Who wouldn't?

It's kind of an absurd scenario, obviously. For the Taliban, let's substitute an army hired by Columbian Drug Lords. Makes sense now, doesn't it?

No wonder Americans can't figure out why Iraqis hate us, after all we've done for them. Those people are nuts.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Kicking A Man When He's Down, By Proxy

The Bush Legacy project took another hit today when a democratized, liberated Iraqi reporter hurled shoes at the president during a press conference. If you like your hostile gestures half-full, at least it proves Bush was right about something: he never should have started giving all those press conferences!

"This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss, you dog," the journalist shouted (in Arabic), Steven Lee Myers of The New York Times reported in a pool report to the White House press corps. Myers reported that the man threw the second shoe and added: "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq."
Hopefully this will the be the coda to the whole misbegotten enterprise - Bush blamed for it all and America's role in it ignored. After all, we're already spending good tax money to protect Bush for the rest of his life. Protecting the whole country from things that Iraq might want to fling (terrorists, 'cause they ain't got no weapons) is a much pricier job.

The trip to Iraq has been described as a "victory lap" by the White House. Running shoes are therefore an appropriate parting gift.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Competitive Disadvantage

MEET THE PRESS is a kind of wellspring of talking points, god bless 'em. I started watching towards the end of the election cycle and now I rarely sleep past 8:30am on Sundays. This morning I managed to catch David Gregory's first show as host, and he was good enough to keep out of the way, except when he was asking tough questions about Blagojevich. 

But I'm indebted to Democratic Congresswoman Jennifer Granholm for a perspective I lacked. No direct quoting, but she was arguing with some fellah with the unlikely name of Mitt Romney about the amount of money that union-negotiated benefits tack on to the cost of a car. The talking point is, I believe that cars would be $1900 cheaper if it wasn't for those darn health and pension benefits. Greedy workers! Bankruptcy would allow the auto companies to back out of commitments to THOSE leeches! (I'm both paraphrasing and extrapolating here... Romney stopped at the money and left the accusations alone.) 

So how, HOW, do the foreign automakers manage to avoid those costs? Well, Granholm points out that those other countries have universal health care, so that burden is removed from the shoulders of business. I'll add if we were willing to knuckle down and fund Social Security rather than gut it, people wouldn't rely on business for their pensions. 

Finally, at least in Japan, the car industry is subsidized by the government. Therefore, if we're concerned about the gap between what American automakers spend per unit versus what our overseas competitors spend, one solution is to stop fighting the Democrats and be willing to socialize things a little. I suspect the more attractive option to right-wing thinkers is a decade-long crippling depression. Just like it was in the thirties.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Market Correction

Capitalism, unregulated, provides remedies to its own excesses. You charge too much for your goods, demand plummets and you're forced to lower prices to get customers back. A company gets too big and competitors can move in with nimble action, meeting demand for new products before the big company can.

Unfortunately, like the weather, the economy isn't concerned with our comfort. The greatest market correction in memory went by the nickname "The Great Depression." It was a reaction to the sales of exotic financial instruments such as margin selling, and it started by taking down the stock market. Then the world followed, and stayed that way for ten years. People starved for want of a job. People froze because they couldn't pay their bills. Your great grandparents are still freaked out by the depression; it changed the way they think about consuming.

And Republican senators, known for their love of free-market policies, are hell-bent on another Great Market Correction.

Here's what will happen when we fail to bail out the auto makers: It will punish greedy auto executives and union bosses. Great! They'll lose their jobs. So will assembly line workers, parts suppliers, car dealers across the country and their sales staffs. These people, without jobs, will fail to buy stuff the other stuff that Americans make, and the people who work for THOSE suppliers will get laid off. It will be good for the economy in the long run, because the market won't be artificially inflated. It will cut the fat, just as the unemployed individuals will lose weight because they can't afford to support American agriculture like before. So after ten years, perhaps another World War as a stimulus, we'll all be on our feet again. And hopefully we'll win this one too because I don't want to be forced to face Mecca twice a day.

The way it looks right now is we're going to get another great depression but at least we managed to save the bankers before the ship went down this time. Women and children last! If only the collapse had waited another 5 months when a Democrat was in charge.

(Since the big three are as good as screwed at this point, Robert X. Cringely has some excellent advice on ways to remake the American Auto Business, asking how would Steve Jobs fix the problem? I love the way Cringely thinks, and he's retiring next week. Just when we need you most, Cringe!)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blagojevich Already Stripped of Appoitnment Power!

The Senate position is up on E-Bay!

(h/t Swampland)

Happy Golden Unicorn Status: A Clarification

When I describe Barack Obama as a happy golden unicorn, understand I don't believe he is magical or above corruption. Rather he is closer to those things than MOST POLITICIANS. I'm grading on the curve. He is, for example, less corrupt and more magical than Bill Clinton. And he appears as uncorrupt as is possible to function in American politics nowadays. I hope I'm perceiving correctly.

I cannot cite specific examples of his magicalness.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

That's Not Change You Can Believe In!

I held off on Rod Blagojevich yesterday for two very sound reasons. The first, I figured that as a Democrat, right-wing bloggers would be doing the heavy lifting on it anyway; and two, I didn't want to keep looking up that damn last name. I have some Polish blood (Blagojevich isn't Polish, but close enough) and even I can't wrap my mind around those crazy consonants.

It's gratifying to see so much left-wing attention paid to the story though. Olberman devoted 15 minutes to it last night; Rachel Maddow put in what sounded like 40 to me. Stephanie Miller's show was all over it this morning. We want the guy out as much as the Republicans do, probably even more so. I admit that one reason that we're not hesitating is this, a recorded statement found among the many others:

Blagojevich was overheard complaining ...that Obama's people are "not going to give me anything except appreciation." He added: "(Expletive) them."
You couldn't ask for a better incriminating statement. It leaves Obama's happy golden unicorn status untouched. Interestingly, a tip to Fox News viewers: the Fox News website doesn't think that one is newsworthy enough to include. Well, probably no one is that interested in Obama's role in all this. Who would be, right?

Another fun aspect of Blagejovich's fall is it's spearheaded by that far-left zealot Patrick Fitzgerald. Ha ha, Scooter Libby supporters! How you like Fitz now?

Well, it's all over except for Mr. B's resignation, which I hope happens soon so the criminal trial can proceed in relative peace. It's hard work throwing people under the bus, and we're hoping the weasel will jump under there on his own. Cross your fingers, and Merry Fitzmas.

Monday, December 08, 2008

I Eschew The Holiday Tree

It's kind of a charming joke: every year at this time, Bill O'Reilly trots out his "war on Christmas" rhetoric. And while it's increasingly obvious that it means little more than an extra revenue stream to him, it means a lot to me.

I have my own personal war with Christmas.

And I'm not just imposing my cultural correctness on people, requiring them to substitute the word "Holiday" so as not to offend your Jewish friends. Or Muslim friends. Or Atheists. Or Zoroastrians or Wiccans or people who have trouble pronouncing "s". That kind of thing endorses the holiday itself. As far as I'm concerned, the holiday itself is the problem.

Let this serve as your notice, friends of Daniel K: I'm not playin'. I don't want gifts or cards, but if you send them I'm not sending back. Consider me a giving Dead Zone. I will attend most holiday parties I'm invited to, if there are hot depressed chicks who are so frazzled by the season that they don't know WHAT they're doing. They're more vulnerable to my secular charms.

Christmas is a way of artificially jacking up goodwill and fellowship to a fever pitch. It doesn't increase either of those things. It just sucks them away from the surrounding months.

It's a thorny closet space problem too. In addition to finding a place to hide the gifts (as if they didn't know!) all through December, you have to set aside space the other 11 months for your useless decorations. What the hell do you need a box of colored lights on a string for anyway? And why do you need to jack up the power requirements for a city just at the dead of winter. Oh and whether you kill a tree or buy one made out of synthesized petroleum, you're still hurting the environment for nothing. If you pay any attention to your carbon footprint, it's anxiety you don't need.

Anxiety you don't need, actually, is the next 25 days in a nutshell. If you don't believe me, see how long it takes you to drive NEAR the mall this weekend.

If I were still Catholic, I could feel the way I do now and quietly respect the season for commemorating the birth of Our Lord, though apparently he wasn't born anywhere near December 25th. Still, I could simply turn out the lights and meditate all day.

Is it all good for the economy? Probably. Then again, maybe people who buy presents choose not to buy something else. Maybe it's like the goodwill and brotherhood thing.

So when A CHRISTMAS CAROL rears its ugly head again this year, I'm walking out just before dawn comes and Scrooge learns to love Xmas. As far as I'm concerned, Dickens dropped the ball on the perfect happy ending by going on so long.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Blues For the Big Three

Thinking further about those auto exces, I remembered a song from my youth. Lyrics courtesy Martin Mull, on an unrelated subject. Sing to the tune of any BB King song.

I woke up this afternoon - I saw both cars were gone
I woke up this afternoon (lord mommy!) saw both cars were gone
I felt so lowdown deep inside
I threw my drink across the lawn.

The Fall Of Detroit

I'm coming around to the idea that our bailout money could be put to better use than propping up the American Auto Industry. It's time to admit it: foreigners are better at designing and building cars than we are. I have no doubt that some Americans will be able to turn that around, but not the Americans who run GM and Ford. Letting those juggernauts grind to a halt is a free-market solution whose time has come.

The money they're asking for would be best applied to extending unemployment benefits to the auto workers. Obviously they're going to take a huge hit too (the union wages were artificially high for largely unskilled work) but if the industry goes down, it will be a while before those people can find other jobs, and that's a long dead zone in an economy that is driven by consumer spending.

Another benefit to allowing this collapse is it will hurt the oil industry. The Automakers have been very, very sympathetic to the idea that cars should use as much gasoline as possible. This really hurt them this last summer. Even American hybrids get about 20 MPG less than their European counterparts. It's a simple software fix involving when the gas engine kicks in; but if you alter the software you void the warranty. Foreign auto makers don't seem quite so accommodating.

Charles E. Wilson, former GM President and Secretary of Defense under Eisenhower, famously suggested "...(What's) good for the country is good for General Motors and vice versa." It may have been true then, but it ain't now. GM is trying to suck the life out of us. And we recognize it. Enjoy the drive home, auto executives!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Another Cultural Landmark Threatened

I woke up, bleary-eyed, and turned on the local news; shocked I saw that THE BODY SHOP was on fire. Not the mall outlet for lotion and essential oils! This Body Shop is the strip club on Sunset near the House Of Blues.

This place has a history for me. When I was about to married, my improv colleage Debra and her boyfriend Steve asked me about my bachelor party plans. I had to admit I simply didn't have any. They would not let that stand. Debra had a few irons in the fire; in addition to doing improv, she was also a "scream queen" appearing in several low-budget horror movies, and a stripper. While I'm at it, she was also a snake-handler (literally, pervert) and a fire-eater. Anyway, they insisted I come out with them to the Body Shop that night, the first strip club I had ever thought to visit.

It was delightful. This is Hollywood, and you meet a better class of strippers here. Courtney Love, for example, rose from the ranks of Jumbo's Clown Room to win a clutch bag full of Grammys; Diablo Cody is proud of her stripper past and alluded to it when she accepted the Best Screenplay Oscar for JUNO. While I don't recall meeting any such luminaries that night, I did get to chat with all the strippers and they were all intelligent career women. Some had just been offered $500 for sex with a visiting Arab oil magnate, but they just laughed that one off. The line between showbiz and the world's oldest profession seems a little sharper at the Body Shop than most strip clubs.

It struck me then and still does today that these places are kind of theme parks for adults. Just as a roller coaster simulates the experience of plunging to your death with no real danger involved, a lap dance simulates the experience of adultery. I don't know if most wives would agree with me on this one, but ladies, you must know that it's the lesser of two evils. An expensive alternative to be sure, but less so than a hotel room across town.

Debra got out of the business a few years later, breaking up with Steve and marrying a more stable guy in the construction business, but I think of her often. She's the hottest naked chick I've ever called friend. As for the Body Shop, I assume it will rise from this obvious arson accidental fire stronger, better and with a real brass pole instead of chrome. Then again, brass tarnishes with too much skin contact. Screw that. I think I'll stop off at Xposed on the ride home for a drink. I'm single now. It's cool.

GWK Addendum

Can you spot the misused words in the following?

I'll start your Prop 8 post for you. What is your fantasy response to this factual article?
Legislating Immorality
By the Editors
The words are "factual" and "article". The NRO piece you cut and pasted is what the MSM calls an "editorial". It's an OPINION. So my previous post? That's a response in kind. People who confuse editorials and articles are the same ones who believe that The O'Reilly Factor and Countdown with Keith Olberman are newscasts. Or, I'll wager in GWK's case, they believe one is a newscast and the other isn't.

Still thanks for the comments - I got two days worth of postings out of 'em so far! If I'm lucky I can spin a few more out comments to this.

Let's Outlaw Ann Coulter!

Okay, here's why "the will of the people" is not a terrific reason to let Prop 8 stand. I'll start with often overlooked fact - gay people are, in fact, people. People who would like the option of getting married. The fact that there are more people who were fooled into thinking that this would somehow lead to bestiality or the end of civilization is beside the point. They were granted the right to marry because California's constitution, as written, already gave them that right.

(By the way, in the several countries where Gay Marriage is allowed: no rise in bestiality, civilization still thrives. In fact, there isn't even more homosexuality! There is, however, a decrease in gay promiscuity. What's the opposite of a slippery slope? Gay Marriage is a sticky plain.)

I don't like the idea that a larger segment of the population can bully a smaller segment; and as a white guy I can say that by 2050 I'll probably be in the minority in this country. Certainly in California. What if someone convinces the majority of voters that white people can't be trusted to hold public office? It's illegal to ban us from being mayor, but if we amend the constitution to say it ISN'T illegal, well, no more Mayor Chad Smith.

I have decided that doggy style is a bad sexual position - let's outlaw that. Unenforceable? Not if we allow bedroom surveillance. Illegal? Doesn't have to be.

Hey, I like Obama as president. Let's amend the constitution so that he can serve 8 consecutive terms! He's pretty popular; I bet I can find enough people to get it on the ballot.

People are the worst people to put constitutional amendments into the hands of. The constitution is like the motherboard of a democracy - you want a trained geek (let's call them "judges") to upgrade it, not your brother-in-law who doesn't even own a computer but who thinks it would be cool if one could light up when you press the escape key.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Him, Al Franken

GWK is resorting to my old trick of whip-turning the comments section to different topics. In the Lieberman post, he somehow drags poor Al Franken into the mix.

When extremely suspicious bags of ballots are 'found' days & weeks after the election - in an election official's car-trunk, no less (forgot they were there!) - and ALL of them are for Franken, after he already lost the race, so that he can scream for a re-count, that doesn't serve the will of the people.

When Franken's OWN attorney's publically admit that he LOST the race and should concede, but Franken has Dimocrat Reid state that the House will look into the matter, that doesn't serve the will of the people.

In the matter of Franken/Coleman, GWK may not be aware that it's a LEGAL REQUIREMENT that a recount be performed when the election is that close; and that the challenged ballots are reviewed by both sides and disinterested bipartisan observers. See Nate Silver for details. I know I know, it's so frustrating when the Democrats don't simply concede; after all, anyone who votes for a Democrat obviously meant to vote for a Republican. Still, that's how the game is played in Mary Tyler Moore country. Suck it up. By the way, "Dimocrat?" What are you, in grade school?

If I get the chance tonight I'll tackle Prop 8, which I mistakenly referred to as Prop 9. Sue me! Or better yet, sue the Mormons.

Timing is Everything When You're Making A Deal

Saxby Chambliss! Go Saxby! I wonder if that is short for something, like Sebastian. Hmmm.

Well, Chambliss has won the re-vote and taken with him the possibility of a Democratic supermajority in the Senate. You know what that means... we held on to Leiberman for nothin'. Oh sure, there is always the possibility that we'll talk a couple of Republicans over to our side for some specific vote, (Leiberman, for example - *rimshot*) but Alf's Dad has somehow managed to stay in our living room, raiding the fridge and hogging the remote, basically on the promise that he'll do a little yard work once in a while. And he won't do it if his conscience forbids.

The interesting thing about this situation is it's a real power struggle. Leiberman's motivation is the desire to chair a few committees, which he would never be able to do as an Independent. However, that position is dependent on remaining in the good graces of a skeptical but kindly Democratic leadership, so he has to bow to them and vote the way they want him to. Joe Leiberman IS Tantalus.

Well, he was smart to negotiate his position before the recounts and re-votes, obviously. Maybe he's actually Donald Trump.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Move On

As the magic date of January 20th approaches, the question on the minds of a lot of my more extreme left friends is this - when do we finally start impeachin' and jailin'? You know what I mean. And in the past I've said that if we learned anything from the Clinton years, its that impeachment is no big deal. That is snarky. Impeachment is a big deal.

As a nation, we just can't afford to investigate the alleged crimes of the Bush administration. First of all, who wants to relive that crap? We got plenty of fresh problems to deal with; one of them the epic fail of our economy. If we pour government resources into lawyers' offices for six years, we lose. Ironically, one of the reasons the Clinton impeachment flew is because we could AFFORD to be that frivolous then.

And ultimately, the reason to prosecute any crime is to prevent other people from committing it. If Clinton was impeached for lying to Congress and a grand jury, it didn't stop Bush from the former. Anyway Bush, hopefully, was a unique animal; he did things that Presidents haven't tried since the mid 19th century. I doubt that we're going to have these abuses of power again, unless Karl Rove goes back into that business. And the money is probably better at Fox News.

Bush's punishment, I suspect, is that he's not going to be doing a lot of international travelling from here on in. We're willing to forgive and forget, but Europe may not be so amnesiac. Any foreign soil he sets foot on is likely to have a warrant out for him. And don't get them started on Cheney. Thus, Bush is in a prison which comprises 50 states. It's roomy, sure, but it's still limiting. Plus also, by his own estimation he's unlikely to see the vindication of history unless he lives to be 105. Until then, he's surrounded by a country who think he was wrong.

One more thing, which I hate to bring up, is the blowback factor. Remember when all these stories started coming out about the Clinton impeachment team? Bob Barr had paid for an abortion once, Henry Hyde had committed the "youthful indiscretion" of an affair while in his mid-forties, and so on. The point is, there's always plenty of dirty politics to bring to light. When you out someones misdeeds, you better have your own misdeeds thoroughly vetted when the dude's defense team goes after you.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Good News, Alix and Richard

Hillary Clinton is gettin' work!

Positive Economic Indicators

NEW YORK, Nov 28 (Reuters) - A man working for Wal-Mart was killed on Friday when a throng of shoppers surged into a Long Island, New York, store and physically broke down the doors, a police spokesman said.

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) - Wall Street analysts seemed to breath a sigh of relief Monday on evidence that unusual price cuts by Apple Inc. helped boost sales of iPods and Macintosh computers over the Black Friday weekend.
Oh hell, we're all screwed.

LOS ANGELES (LA TIMES) - Bargain-hungry consumers gave the nation's retailers a much-needed early holiday boost with surprisingly healthy sales on Black Friday that tapered off Saturday and Sunday."It was a retail manager's dream," said Marissa Marks, store manager at the Beverly Center's L'Occitane boutique, which saw Black Friday sales double to $4,000 from last year. But, she added Sunday, "yesterday and today are not so good."