Friday, December 26, 2008

Do You FaceSpace?

While Rye gave me the nudge to do a baseball post in his most recent comment on the previous post, I'm going to steer clear of that for a while (at least until the next post). There's only so many times you can complain about how much the game you love is so out of whack it makes you want to scream and shake your fist. (Awesome - my last sentence fulfilled my clause with Coovo that I'll maintain a 1-to-1 ratio between "normal" use of the word whack and "stupid" use of the word whack (description of the clause does not count, so I'm only up one, not three). Coovo doesn't like me going urban on you guys all the time for some reason.)

The purpose of this post is to explain my general attitude towards the vast number of social networking sites, the most popular being MySpace and FaceBook. Most of you know that my career revolves around web development, so one might think that I would be all over these sites. Not so much.

Probably the biggest reason I have not jumped into this pool is related to privacy. I have no desire to lay out the details of my life for the internet's consumption. I did create a FaceBook account some time ago out of curiosity. As I recall, the site wasn't of much use until you started using FaceBook applications. And to use the applications, I was immediately presented with some "let's get to know you a little better" forms that wanted to know things I didn't tell my wife until we were on our honeymoon. Like my stint in San Quentin. That was the end of my interaction with FaceBook. I understand how hippocritical this sounds, as I am expressing this complaint in a blog. But, I actually take great care not to give too many personal details in this blog. I view the blog as a fun way to try to generate discussion amongst my cool friends.

Somewhat related to privacy concerns is a lack of desire to meet new people. I suppose that if I were single, these sites would be plenty useful to me. Even as a married guy, I'm sure I could meet some interesting folks or reconnect with a longlost grade school buddy. Somehow this benefit doesn't outweigh the cost of posting all my info out there, or even reconnecting with someone with whom I don't really want to reconnect.

The last thing I'll whine about is the user interface. MySpace in particular, has to be the most poorly designed site on the internet in proportion to the size of its user base. Besides the fact that I find it visually cluttered, it's functionality is incredibly Web 1.0. If I'm listening to a song or watching a video on a user's/band's page, and see that there is a blog entry about that song/video, I should be able to read that entry without interrupting the song at all. Instead, music stops, and I'm navigated to a different page. That is incredibly, incredibly, stupid. Or perhaps better said - that shit is WHACK!

So now that I've made myself out to be an old curmudgeon who doesn't like to try anything new, I would like to hear the experiences of you all. Do you guys use MySpace, FaceBook or any other social networking site? Do you agree or disagree with anything I've said? What good or bad things have I left out? It's entirely possible that my impressions of these sites are unfair, and I could enjoy some of the benefits they offer while disabling the capabilities I griped about.

Hopefully this post will generate some discussion about this topic, and I already have a follow-on post about the aspects of social networking that I do enjoy, as well as the gaps in the current offerings that could easily be filled.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

News Nits

"All the news that's fit to reprint."

For those of us who got tattoos of Al Gore's face on our backs like Mt. Rushmore, when, after inventing the internet, he convinced us all that our polar bears would be sleeping with the fishes -- or something like that -- breathe easy! Or easier. Looks like at least our cars aren't really to blame after all. But it would be nice if Coovo would stop cooking his grilled cheese sandwiches over his coal oven.

Although there is pretty consensus evidence that the earth has warmed by just over a degree in the past 100 years (although even that has been debated by some due to changes in measuring techniques), it's still a bit of a debate as to exactly what is causing that warming and what the effects will be. But let's not actually have a discussion on this -- Guilt is the new American complex, and Fear our newest motivator.

From one computer modeler to another, take the predictions with a grain of salt.

And here's a nice little twist on an old idea. Tired of all that ink your printer uses? I know Roller is. Why not use a new font that has tiny holes in it? Apparently, you'll use about 20% less ink, and you can't even see the holes! How I love the Dutch.

The world is falling apart, right? O'Bama is Time's Man of the Year, already (should they just give it to him for the next 4?). Layoffs are adding up and most major religions are having our main celebrations coming up soon. Maybe the drop in spending will remind us what this season really is about?

When I think of China, I think of poisoned milk, cheap products and a positive, slim version of the internet. Censorship has always struck me as a weird way to go. But what do I know? "Hey China, your breath stinks! What are you gonna do about it?" (Don't worry, this will be censored.)

That's it from News Nits. Talk amongst yourselves, and be respectful... Word to your Moms.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A New Slogan

It occurred to us recently that the slogan of our site is still "Two guys on opposite ends of I-55 trying to see what happens when people stop being polite and start Bloggin'!"

Coovo's homage to The Real World was fitting for the two man team of Coovo and me. After all, MTV did put us up in this sweet blog with the only condition that we participate in contrived scenes about Coovo's addiction to Fruit Loops and my obsession with replacing 27% of his Fruit Loops with Apple Jacks. Man, the confessionals that came out of that.

Fortunately, Ryan joined us this past Spring, threw the MTV producers out on their nose rings and shaped things up around here. "First things first!" he then told Coovo and me. "No Apple Jacks in me Lucky Charms!!".

Since then it's been a honeymoon around here. But the 50% staff increase and Ryan's lack of proximity to I-55 have left the original slogan outdated. That's where you guys come in! We'd like your suggestions, and we'll throw a few of our own in, too. We'll then put a poll up, and everyone can vote on the new slogan. We'll still be keeping "The Loop And The Lou", of course, we just want a more descriptive/intelligent/ironic/satirical/dumb slogan.

The author of the winning slogan gets a secret prize, the value of which will be well worth the effort, and may or may not involve Coovo's mustache!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Newest Khardinal

Pending a physical, Khalil Greene will be the starting SS for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2009, traded from the San Diego Padres for 2 minor league relievers who've yet to be named.

For more a great breakdown of Khalil Greene's stats, check out Bernie Miklasz's Extra Points. For a look at how Greene fits into the revolving door of Cardinal Middle Infielders in the last five years, check out Derrick Goold's latest entry in his Birdland Blog.

Greene in 1000 words or less: Above-average D, good pop, strikes out a ton, can't take a walk, good 2007, awful 2008. 1-year and 6.5 mill left in his contract.

Now here's the real scoop on Greene, completely unbiased. There's just something about this guy I've never liked. Maybe it's the mullet. Maybe it's the perma-sneer he always sports. He reminds me of the kid who started smoking when he was 11. After a soccer or basketball game, you always came out with an extra Charlie Horse or two. Even if he was on your team. I can't stand that guy.

Then again, the last two mullet-headed Cardinals that I can remember have actually worked out. There was late 90's fan favorite Gary Gaetti, and of course 2006 World Series hero Jeff Weaver. Greene and Weaver are definitely competing in some kind of contest. I bet in the locker room they both complain about Mr. Hand constantly. LaRussa is going to go ballistic when Greene has a pizza delivered to the dugout.

In all seriousness, there are plenty of reasons to like or dislike this trade. He's coming off an awful year, but if he turns in 2007 numbers for 6.5 mill, that's probably a good deal. He can't take a walk, but he has good power for a SS. He has a pretty bad career Batting Average and strikes out a ton, but he's played his whole career in an extreme pitcher's park and is entering a contract year. It's very hard to evaluate the deal without knowing the 2 players the Cards traded, but ultimately I think the fact that Greene has only one year on his contract makes this a deal that has more upside than downside, and fills a hole in the lineup. It's better than giving Felipe Lopez the multi-year deal he wants.

So taken by itself, I'm fine with the deal. There's a bigger picture here, though, that frustrates me and many other Cardinal fans. This deal just reiterates the theory that ownership's plan is to keep the Cardinals just good enough to fill the seats. The Padres have made it very clear that they intend to trade Jake Peavy this off-season. The Braves and the Cubs have been rumored as potential suitors, and the rumored return packages (all prospects or cheap major-league talent) don't seem like something the Cards couldn't match. Jake Peavy is one of the best pitchers in the majors, and is under contract and under paid for the next 4 years.

Khalil Greene probably doesn't make the Cards much better or worse. Jake Peavy gets the Cards in the playoffs.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Why it matters

I just was forwarded an interesting (and tough) quiz on American civics. I think it's crucial for us as a nation to have a better understanding about our form of government (the way it was intended and the way it is now), our history and what makes us different than other nations. Without this knowledge, how can we elect responsible representatives?

Here's the quiz. It's 33 questions long, and they range from easy to hard. Take a few minutes (don't just breeze through it) to take this test. Without giving away any answers, I thought some of the following analysis of the results were interesting:

1) 2,508 people took this test and gave detailed information about themselves. 71% failed.

2) The multiple-regression analysis indicated that a person’s test score drops in proportion to the time he or she spends using certain types of passive electronic media. Talking on the phone, watching owned or rented movies, and even monitoring TV news broadcasts and documentaries diminishes a respondent’s civic literacy.

3) Actively seeking knowledge through print media and high-quality conversations has the opposite effect. Reading about history and current events in books, magazines, and newspapers—and talking about these subjects with family and friends—increases a respondent’s civic literacy.

4) The least correctly answered question was the one asking about the difference between Free Markets and Central Planning. Respondants did worse on this question than a random coin flip would have done.

5) 164 surveyed said they had held an elected office at least once in their life. Their average score was 44%. The average score for those who had never held an elected office was 49%.

Make sure to leave your score or your surprises in the comments section. I'm clearly lacking in my knowledge of political history. The more we educate each other, the more likely it will be for us to elect a group of people more like the ones who framed our country than the ones who now just take legal bribes. In spite of the modern poo-poo about our founding fathers being a bunch of white men, the were also incredibly hard working, intelligent and noble, diverse in background, education, opinion, wealth and religion. Let's keep pushing to get our Congress back towards its roots.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Mo-Money, Movember

Mo Money, Mo Problems, unless you're talking about raising money for men's health issues.

We men are pretty awesome, according to those of us at the Loop and the Lou. We do seem to lag behind the fairer sex when it comes to talking about our health, though. We'd rather tough it out until we drop... but it doesn't have to be that way.

A Loop and The Lou Founding Member, Coovo, is raising awareness and money for men's health through a great program called Movember. This group enlists Mo-Bros to shave their face clean on November 1, and grow out their mustaches the rest of the month to raise awareness and show a little solidarity. In Australia, they call their stache's "Mo"s, hence the name "Movember". Clever Ausssies.

Help Coovo out by donating your next cup of coffee. If you didn't know that prostate cancer was the most common non-skin cancer in the U.S., then maybe you should take a second and throw down. Seriously, 5 bucks can really help. Click here to do it. And if we're lucky, Coovo might post a pic of his 30-day stache when Movember ends.

Monday, November 17, 2008

¡El Hombre!

Not to interrupt the great discussions we've had on the blog in the past couple weeks, but there is some important news coming out of The Lou.

Albert Pujols (aka Prince Albert aka Phat Albert aka The Machine aka El Hombre) has been named the National League's Most Valuable Player in 2008. Albert received 18 of the 32 first place votes, his 369 total points in the ballot edging out Ryan Howard's 308. That Pujols did not receive the other 14 first place votes is incomprehensible, and can only be explained by a federal redistribution of first place votes.

Pujols finished the season with a .357 Batting Average, a .462 On Base Percentage and a .653 Slugging Percentage. Amazingly, only the OBP was a career high. Despite missing 14 games, Pujols still managed to clobber 37 HR, drive in 116 and touch the plate 100 times. His 1.92 ratio of BB/K (104/54) was nearly the inverse of the MLB average (0.48). Albert Pujols' career can perhaps be characterized by two words: dominance and consistency. His 99 Runs in 2007 marked the only time in his career he failed to reach the 30/100/100 HR, R, RBI mark. And oh yeah, he's known for his work ethic in the field, too.

The question that invariably comes up is, can he really be only 28? Whatever his age is, his consistency throughout his career leads one to believe that we could expect many more years like those which he has already put up. A statement like this should of course be followed up by a list of disclaimers about health and his "age" and dead-ball eras and performance enhancing jock-straps, but let's just have some fun with this. After 8 years of watching this guy mash year in and year out (the nickname The Machine is so fitting), it's OK to speculate about Albert finishing among the game's greats (with absolute reverence, of course).

I'm one to argue that the rate stats such as OBP and SLG are better ways to evaluate a player than the typical HR and RBI, but when trying to place someone amongst the billions of players to have played this game, one inevitably turns to the counting stats. (And just so it's noted, Albert's career BA is .334 (23rd All-Time), OBP is .425 (13th All-Time), and SLG is .624 (4th(!) All-Time).

Albert's current HR, R and RBI totals are 319, 947 and 977, respectively. Let's say he doubles those totals. He finishes with 638 HR (good for 5th All-Time), 1894 R (good for 10th All-Time (just behind Stan)) and 1954 RBI (good for 6th All-Time (just ahead of Stan)). Of course these are against the current totals, which will be slightly more crowded with some of today's stars...

Nevertheless, doubling Pujols' stats is not inconceivable. It's not even outlandish to think he could do better. (I've knocked on wood about 18 times while writing this post.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Coercive Brutality

In the previous post, I used "coercive brutality" to describe the trend in our federal tax system. I thought this would generate more 'yuks', but in either case, there was more in this light that I wanted to share. This post will be a little more organized. Three parts only, 1) philosophy, 2) history, 3) current day story.

Philosophy. Coercion is a tricky thing. On one hand, we all need a "kick in the pants" from time to time. On the other hand, it's easy to point a gun on someone and get them to change -- know that as soon as you lower your gun, that person will go right back to doing the same old thing. This is not a literal statement, but a figurative one and is the cornerstone of libertarian philosophy. No coercion. It is easy to bring most libertarians to their knees, though, with such simple philosophies alone. What is there then to rein in the appetites of men?

The Declaration of Independence seeks to rein in the otherwise hedonistic-like qualities of Libertarianism. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (which is often used interchangeably with private property) are ordered in that way on purpose. In other words, your right to pursue happiness is called into question when it impinges my right to liberty, etc. Certainly, our culture has lost these original values. We do not value life as we should, and we have the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world (consisting about half of non-violent drug offenders).

But what happens when we consolidate these passions into the political whims of the day? We get a coercive system of taxation to fund stuff that we don't all believe in; yet we all pay for. That is the basic argument for limiting the size of the federal government. It will become coercive over time, even in the name of good.

History. Remember the Stamp Act of 1765? I did by name only. I certainly remembered the slogan "no taxation without representation." Well, even if we get representation in the form of a politician, does the collage of federal programs represent, even generally, something I believe in? Personally, no it doesn't. The revolt against the Stamp Act was not really even a statement about the level of taxation on the citizens (our current politicians make the same mistaken assumptions, which is why I laughed when people sited Obama's tax plan as a reform or as being different than McCain's). It was about the complexity of taxation and the necessary brutality it took to enforce such complexity.

English soldiers were given the green light to break down doors at will and ransack houses in a sort of visceral audit. This is why people got pissed off. Most people willingly and happily pay taxes and even risk their lives to defend their country. But when the tax code becomes coercive and brutal then we start to say enough is enough. Am I stuck in the past? Are we so arrogant and proud now to say that we would never dare repeat history?

A current day story. My girlfriend hosted some of her friends last weekend, and one of them told me a story that happened to her friend in CA. Now, this girl, based both on her personality and the fact that she manages 80 people who research and assemble heart-rhythm implant devices does not mince words or exaggerate reality. Her friend, a CA native, comes from a family who has made their share of money over time. Hard work by three successive generations, savings, and plenty of blessings have made them a wealthy family. One day, her grandfather, a widower, died.

The very next day, the state of California swarmed his house with agents from the department of revenue. Their legally-backed mission? To itemize every single thing in the house, not just the house itself, to ascertain value and record it all so as to ensure all taxes would be paid upon the honest man's death. The girl, who in her sadness, thought of her grandfather and sought out a single physical remnant of his existence -- a leather pig he kept in his den -- had to approach the state of California to inquire about the price tag. Yes, she had to write out a check to the state of California for $150 for the leather pig.

California is held up by many elites in our country to be some progressive bastion of thought, philosophy and action. It is rather, an upside down place, which currently faces a $15 billion state government shortfall. To what extent will the government acquire what it considers theirs? You've just heard, for sure, one extent. If California is our future, and the Stamp Act is our past, what exactly are we doing to ourselves?

Often, well-meaning liberals scoff at the quaintness of many midwesterners who see the horizon rushing at them. They patronize us with their thin knowledge of trivial facts, global and national visions of U.S. domination in the name of outcome equality, and their cosmopolitan understandings of culture. Well not everyone wants to live in such a world or such a country.

Is it a wonder that gun sales are skyrocketing?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

National Free Market Socialism

Free markets. Socialism. VooDoo Economics. Demand Side Economics. Bailouts. Bankruptcy. Capitalism. Invisible Hands. Austrian School of Economics. John Maynard Keynes. It's a confusing mess. And I definitely don't claim to understand it all.

But I have learned a lot about some of these things over time, studying them in college, reading about them afterwards, and paying attention to the way people use these words. I think it's important to come to a better understanding of what these things mean so we can then form our opinions and debate our positions.

What kind of economic system do we have now? I think that's debatable. It's some form of free market capitalism with twists of subisidized capitalism and socialism. Already, I'm confused.

First, capitalism, as I understand it is a system that benefits from people putting their capital at risk by investing it, lending it, starting businesses, etc, and then recouping a reward for that risk. Essential to that notion is the concept of private property. This means just that you own stuff and the law is set up to help you protect it. This would contrast to Socialism, where private property does not exist. In other words, no one owns anything individually, everything is owned by the group or State.

Free markets might seem like a complex or magical thing, but really they are extremely simple and organic. Adam Smith thought, wrote and talked about free markets a lot. Obviously, free markets go hand and hand with private property, although I'm sure some could make obscure arguments that free markets could exist in a Socialist concept. A major dynamic (or result) in free markets was described by Mr. Smith as "the invisible hand." By letting prices rise and fall because of lots of unfettered transactions, they would come to reflect the actual economic value of something. Socialism, by contrast, fixes prices from the point of view of central planning. Yes, this means a lot more committee meetings, and we know how well committees work after they finish dealing with the thing that scared them into being.

The closest thing to a free market that we have in the USA might be the technologies associated with the internet or personal computing. I'm sure Noam Chomsky could tell me how naive I am to believe this, but I don't care (Noam, if you're reading, leave a comment). Wall Street should be a free market, purely driven by supply and demand, but it is not -- it is heavily regulated and implicitly insured. Wink wink.

Recently, though, with all the economic hardships in our country, a lot of nasty words are flying around. Obama's a Socialist. Free Trade caused all this. Don't bailout the rich guys, bailout the poor guys, etc. A coworker of mine who hails from Switzerland recently started chuckling about an article he was reading about McCain. I turned around and asked him what was funny? He said, Doesn't everyone know that they are picking between a small Socialist and a big one?

Wait a minute, McCain's a Socialist now?

Here are some of the elements, as I see it, that need to be in place for a free market to exist. First, consumers need to make decisions on their own behalf with their own money. A great example of where this isn't taking place is in the health insurance industry. The health insurance industry is in a pretty bad state right now, as is the healthcare industry in many ways. Rarely do consumers make the decision of which health insurance to buy. Such insurance is often "provided" by employers, although that is the wrong word. We are still providing it, it's just that our employers get to decide which is right for us. This causes a tremendous amount of inefficiency. I have at times used the auto-insurance industry as a contrast, not because buying auto insurance is anything like buying health insurance, but because almost all of us do make the decision with our own money to buy our own auto insurance.

Many states have laws that require you to buy auto insurance. This is a great example of how a free market could still exist underneath a regulation -- a good regulation. The main problem when consumers do not make their own decisions is that firms are shielded from competing for these consumers. Competition is the name of the game if we are concerned about lowering cost and increasing quality. Imagine what might happen to this industry if health insurance companies were forced to compete for customers (other than large, corporate customers) the same way restaurants are forced to compete for diners. We would all know where to go to buy the cheapest insurance, and we would all know where to go to get the best food. Mmmmmm, delicious insurance.

I saw a presentation by an economist who said "We are with Adam Smith for the trend, but then we jump to Keynes for the correction." This is probably the best one sentence description of our economy. The Austrian School of Economics is a school that is built upon the principles of free market economics. Of course, I paid a lot of money to learn about Keynesian economics as an undergrad -- this is what all the guys who run our economy (literally) now use to get elected and manage their legacies. Keynes economics is the use of mathematics to model and therefore predict and manage economies. This model is how I learned, in all seriousness, that because of the multiplier effect, a dollar taken out of the economy by taxation was worth 4 dollars, but a dollar spent by the government was worth 5 dollars. I asked my professor how it could be that a model would suggest we can tax and spend our way into wealth, and he said I needed to go to grad school to find out.

So there are two main problems with our current system that are causing the mess we're in today. One problem is the idea that the government is an agent for economic outcome justice (this attacks our personal responsibility for charity and local definitions of community). The other is that no politician wants to be in office when a free market goes through a downturn. The result is that generation after generation of elected official increases the complexity and the coercive brutality of the tax code to enact some noble cause of the day. And when the eventual collapse of these antiquated regulations happen (which we falsely scapegoat the free market with), no politician wants to be in office for the downturn, so they bail out the bad decision makers. What do you think is going to happen when the Baby Boomers start to retire and collect the $40-50 TRILLION in Social Security that our government does not have?

I'm really glad I'm clearing this up. But Social Security is often touted by Keynesian and Political Do-Gooders as a "success". Like any governmental agency that is a success, just give it time.

I will try to end this rather philosophical post with a specific example. In a capitalist system, when a business person lends out some money or risks their capital, they are the ones taking the risk. Clearly. They might lose their money if they guy they give it to flees the country or if there's an earthquake. The person accepting the loan does not accept the risk, although they do bear the brunt of the law if they default for some reason and they hurt their ability to borrow in the future.

This should make it clear that although as people, we often fault individuals for taking on too much debt (which they may have been told they could manage just to close the government-backed deal), it is the lender who is assuming the risk. Therefore, all of this bailout is going directly to the lenders. Even if we gave the money to the people, whom do they owe? Exactly, they would simply pay their mortgages rather than default (at least until the bailout dries up), the money would go to the banks, and the person would still eventually lose their house.

This is also why so many really rich people push towards Socialism. Socialism in practice needs really rich people to tax just enough in order to throw bones to the poor slaves who devour just enough to keep producing for the rich guys. Free markets devour rich guys.

And the bigger problem with economic outcome redistribution (socialism) "solutions" is that you then, over time, take the real risk out of the equation for the capitalists. You send them the clear signal -- as we have sent to Wall Street now for about 30 years -- that no matter what you do, we will pay you back with taxpayer money. That is how we wind up with the national free market socialism that we have today, where we privatize the gains and socialize the losses.

For the free market to work, greed drives profits and enables competition and risk taking; fear of losing one's hard earned money alone tempers that greed. If we continue to vote for people (like Mr. Obama or Mr. McCain) who remove fear from the markets, we continue to put our tax dollars back into the pockets of those capitlists who should be eating their own medicine and going out of business.

It's a complicated world America, try to keep it simple. Uhhhhhhhh, yeah.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The New Prez

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a new President of the United States. In what was not a very surprising result, Barack Hussein Obama was elected to be the 44th President. Some states remain too close to call still. But the electoral college result was clear enough to all the folks in Grant Park, Chicago last night.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

First the Good. I haven't read any numbers yet, but many states were predicting 80-90% voter turnout. That is an incredible accomplishment, and I give a lot of that credit to the Obama campaign. Again, this alone is a great thing for our country and sends a message to the rest of the world, which is still largely undemocratic.

Also good is the symbolism involved with electing the first black American to become President. The race card still looms large in the minds of many, many people in this country. Many older whites are probably shocked by this day, as are many older blacks. Did you see the tears in Jesse Jackson's face? And for many in our parents' generation and ours, the majority of race consciousness is not about bigotry but more about white-guilt. I truly hope our nation is purged of both types of this foolishness.

Having watched some video feeds from Harlem, I can say I have never seen so many truly joyous black faces in our country ever. The tremendous impact of even a fraction of formerly disenfranchised blacks stepping up, plugging in and making a difference could be enough alone to carry this country for another 100 years. This too sends a message to the rest of the world, which is largely still made up of racially homogenous countries (and therefore don't have to deal with things like racial issues) or regions that are still embattled by racial or religious divides. Hopefully, the angry remnants of the once proud civil rights movement in our country has been left for dead.

The Bad part of this election is that the Democrats have gained sweeping control over the entire federal government. Although they were not able to acquire a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, the gains made by the Dems in back-to-back elections are near historic. Not since the Great Depression have they picked up more than 25 seats in the house in consecutive elections.

What does this mean? Is this a mandate for Obama and the Democrats to do whatever they want? Or is this just a fearful, angry reaction via rejection of the many gross failures of the GOP? (NB: By the way, many conservatives are secretly over-joyed at this result. The stranglehold the neocons have had over the GOP has been plied loose and a chance for a more commons sense form of conservatism to reassert itself has now emerged. Also, many in the media got it wrong. Sarah Pallin did not cost the GOP the election, it was the failed policies of the Neocons and John McCain himself that cost the GOP the election, if it was ever even his to lose.)

Is the country trending more liberal anyway? The election results might make people think so, but if one takes a slightly closer look at some of the more specific issues on various state-wide ballots, the trend is not as clear. Or maybe it is that things are not as clearly red or blue as the two main parties would have us believe. Voters in California (of all places), Florida, Arkansas and Arizona all amended their state constitutions to ban gay marriage. Similar amendments already were on the books due to recent efforts in 27 other states. In what may have been an anticipation of an Obama presidency, gun purchases are up 10% this year nation-wide.

In other flashpoint issues, Colorado and South Dakota rejected measures that would have severly if not entirely eliminated abortion on demand. Michigan and Massachusetts also passed laws decriminalizing certain aspects of pot. Getting caught with an ounce or less of weed in MA is now a $100 fine/misdemeanor with no court involvement. MI will allow severely sick people to grow or buy weed for personal use. It's hard to say if these measures indidicate a strangle-hold, new wave of "liberalism" or just are prudent rejections of otherwise radically forceful laws/proposals.

So we will see how liberal the results are of this new Democratic leadership. Although the big dogs in the party are on the far left, the majority of Dems are still either Southern Blue Dogs or leftover Neocons like Hillary, who generally favor shreds of common sense.

The Ugly.
Who is Barack Obama? I mean, really. This giant baby wants to know. The mainstream press, with the exception of Fox News and Conservative talk radio, did their absolute best to help the Obama campaign. But nothing was as shocking to me as the hyperfocus on the "lack of experience" of Sarah Pallin to become Vice-President. The main duties of the Vice-President include breaking rare ties in the Senate and attending funerals of foreign leaders. I'm pretty sure she could handle that. Believe me, she deserved her share of scrutiny, but people need to be honest and just come out and say it: You don't agree with her, and you think she's stupid.

If it were really about experience, then the press should have also turned on Barack Obama, whose only real experience was one year in the Senate. The importance of this is not to demonize the press -- which just cannot help itself -- nor to defend the overall quality of Sarah Pallin, which would be tough to do. But, it is to acknowledge the fact that Barack Obama is a fresh face and a clean slate. He got elected based on his charisma and on the fact you could see anything in him you wanted to. After out-flanking to the left his comparatively conservative opponent in Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama's campaign became extremely simple: Vote for Change, and I'll give a couple hundred bucks back to you in the middle class in exchange. There wasn't much else to it, except some rousing speeches. Is that liberal? Is that mainstream? Who knows what he really wants to do? His past (e.g., his brief voting record, early speeches, stances on abortion and guns, his 2 books, his long-term associations) indicates he's a raging liberal. His recent present indicates not that he is mainstream so much as he is able and willing to change any aspect of himself to suit his circumstances. Will he continue down his very liberal, partisan path, or will he be forced to reach out to those around the country still "bitterly clinging to guns and religion"?

His first test may come soon, as even he, Joe Biden and Colin Powell have warned. I think his hands are largely tied over the economy and the middle east. We have already signed an agreement with the Iraqi government to remove troops by 2011, and I don't see any advantage to speeding that up. The economy is in for a long slow chill.

But Russia announced today, probably not by coincidence a day after the election, that she plans to put missiles near her border with Poland. This is direct retalliation to the neocon Bush's plan to put missiles in Poland by their border with Russia. Barack Obama talked a very big game early on about how he was against the Iraq war in principle and favored a more relaxed foreign policy. However, to move to the middle so as not to appear "weak", he came out against Russia in the recent situation in Georgia. We shall see what he really thinks, as this situation is not going away. Let us find out what the new guy sees when he looks deep into Putin's eyes.
May God bless America and our new President-elect.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Good Night, And Have A Pleasant Tomorrow

You've probably already seen this, but it's just too good too not use as a cheap excuse for a post:

The question is, what in the heck is SNL going to do without Amy Poehler? As you can see she's about to give birth, and once she and Will Arnett have their baby she will have done her last show. NBC announced that she will be getting her own show next year, though.

Saturday Night Live hasn't been great for a while, but I still found it worth Tivoing and skimming through for good content (which you can also now find on hulu). Poehler has incredible comedic range, and has typically been the star of a lot of skits. She is also one half of Weekend Update. Without her, I think I'll be doing a lot of skimming to find Andy Samberg's Digital Shorts.

Oh well, giving Poehler her own show might end up being a net gain for the viewers. If it's anywhere near as funny as 30 Rock, I'll be a fan.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Long Live Marty (and Leonardo DiCaprio (and Russell Crowe))

Thanks for the motivation, Marty.

We have a high standard for content here at TLATL (or at least we think it's high), which sometimes leads us (or at least me) to post less frequently. I try to bring something to the table, and avoid writing posts about what I ate for breakfast.

But our audience (Marty, sometimes Austin) demands content, and who am I to withhold it. I had no idea that's how you spelled withhold. Totally thought it was one 'h'.

I saw the movie "Body Of Lies" this week. A Middle East terrorist-thriller, starring Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio. It was an entertaining movie. If you liked The Kingdom, you would like Body of Lies. I've seen better movies, but I thought it was certainly better than the 3 stars out of 5 I saw in the reviews.

Anyway, my point is that this is the 3rd movie in the last couple years that I've seen with DiCaprio (the other two being The Departed and Blood Diamond (via HBO)). When Titanic came out, for some reason I decided I didn't like Leonardo DiCaprio. Even though I thought he was great in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Basketball Diaries and Growing Pains. I just decided I didn't like him anymore. That was kind of stupid, because truth be known I've never even seen all of Titanic.

So I am here to say that Leonardo DiCaprio can act. He really can. I will look for his movies now, and like Russell Crowe, his name in the credits will make me think a movie is worth a look.

DiCaprio and Crowe, man those guys are dreamy. This one's for you Marty.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

On the lighter side, looking to 2012

Anyone remember the election going on? Bill Clinton does. And more importantly for his wife, there will be another one in 2012.

Many said that Bill gave a great speech at that DNC, putting aside the reported grudges over whether or not he used race as a campaign weapon in the primaries and the conflict over the topic of his speech. But he hasn't shown much support for Obama recently. In the past week I heard him on separate occasions go out of his way to make note of his deep respect for John McCain. I was able to find one of the instances, in this audio interview with the Economist regarding the success of the Clinton Global Initiative. The most glaring example is about halfway through the interview, where he says something along the lines of "Everyone knows the enormous amount of respect I have for Sen. McCain. And everyone also knows I respect Obama based on the talk I gave in Denver." Well, certainly not by that interview.

Darrell Hammond did a good job poking fun:

Monday, September 29, 2008

Don't Bail Me Out, Bro! (part 5)

Holy shenanigans, Batman. As Jack Buck once said, "I don't believe, what I just saw." The events today in the House of Representatives and on Wall Street are combining to be a much less visceral but no less dramatic series of events.

We here at the Loop and the Lou are not running a political blog. And in polite company, it is proper to avoid conversations regarding politics and religion. But the politics of the day are truly interesting and possibly historically pivotal. We will continue to cover them until it gets petty, at which point, we will return full coverage of all of life's events.

But for now, the House voted down the $700 billion bailout bill. It's not even clear how this happened. Depending on who you are, this is either Nancy Pelosi's fault or 12 GOP Congressmen's fault. Was this about details or about principle?

Probably both. Afterall, about 40% of Democrats voted against this bill too. I watched a clip of Nancy Pelosi's speech, and she really did pick the wrong time to blame this crisis on a Republican. She basically said it was Clinton who lifted us up, and the wreckless policies of this administration that got us here. Dumb. First off, no one in politics is clean from the causes of this. But if you are looking to go back in time, the Democrats would probably shoulder a slight majority of blame. But I'm not going to get into the petty stuff, remember?

The compromise sought in this bill was to protect taxpayers. It is unclear what that means exactly, since passing this bill would have guaranteed an increase in taxpayer liability and an increase in future inflation. However, the many Democrats who voted against this bill were citing CEO bonus control and individual mortgage relief as reasons. Two very good liberal reasons.

There were however many Republicans who voted against this bill and against the President. (The President and the Secretary of the Treasury were both "very disappointed" in separate statements.) There appears to be more principle flowing from the GOP's side. Here is at least one guy's take on it from MI:

"In the Bolshevik Revolution, the slogan was 'Peace, land, and bread.' Today, you are being to asked to choose between bread and freedom. I suggest the people on Main Street have said they prefer their freedom, and I am with them."
--Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI)

That may be a little dramatic, but is it off the mark? Wall Street responded with the largest ever fall off in history, dropping 777 points. We can see that the closer one is to Wall Street, the worse this is going to hurt. However, do not fear, today's drop off was not even in the top 10 in percentage drops in history.

And that brings us to some of the Bull Street we've been hearing about this. I have been hearing talking heads trying to explain how credit will no longer exist in our country. Really? Apparently, most of these people assume that the average business is run like an investment firm, where we over-leverage everything in sight and borrow huge short-term sums to balance the sheets out at the end of the day, only to return those funds the next morning. Here is what Wall Street has been up to, according to an email I received:

"These "investment pros" are constantly borrowing money to fund their business as I have just come to understand in my new job. They take the investments and borrow against these existing securities to be able to further their great ideas. Each night, they run up huge negative balances based on their investment ideas. However, they must balance out so they borrow billion of dollars from other investors (repo trades) overnight to cover their great ideas of the day. To get this cash, they have to put up their existing securities as collateral. However, as their existing collateral became more and more toxic, they began to have a harder time borrowing the money on a nightly basis because no one wanted to lend them money with their collateral."

So now, we are being made to believe that every business out there is borrowing money just to keep their lights on (I heard this on TV from a CNN financial expert). Is this really the case? I know credit is essential, but are normal businesses going to immediately go down because of all of this? I highly doubt it. This will probably affect mainly the obviously bad credit instruments for quite some time, but as we've said before, that's a good thing. A Representative from Delaware on Fox named Dutch Ruppersberger, who in spite of having a really cool name, was telling the audience how bad the situation was. His example: McDonald's was unable to get a loan to expand its coffee business.

Well I'm glad it's time to panic, when McDonald's doesn't have access to cheap capital, we should bail them out. If I have to get out of my car for coffee on my way to work, then the terrorists have already won. This was after he had claimed that this really isn't even a "bailout". This should show you how if you keep chanting the same mantra long enough, a lot of people will believe it. Not a bailout? McDonald's expanding for coffee = my kids going to college?

I do doubt this will be a permanent defeat though. In other words, although many of the Congressmen are against this thing in principle, many are against it in detail only. I have not seen or heard anything that has lead me to believe that passing this bill would do anything but obscure true economics. As many have been saying, this bill is another huge example that our government is working with Wall Street to "privatize the gains and socialize the losses." Many Democrats and some Republicans could be convinced to vote for this bill, sacrificing principle or showing all lack of it, if we, our federal government, had the ability to make some money off of this deal. I suspect that case will be made.

Do not give in though and do not be panicked by this mess. Everyone trying to sell property, heavily invested in Wall Street, dependent upon give-away credit, or even employed by a financial firm is going to have a rough ride coming up. The question is, do we want to guarantee our losses as taxpayers by bailing out this industry, or do we want to keep our money and take our chances on a natural recovery? This bailout is no guarantee for lower gas, lower food and a return to 20% returns in the market, you can believe that.

But for me, today, I got some hope that at least some people in D.C. have a heartbeat. I got some hope that some citizens care enough, one way or the other, to email their Senators and Representatives. I found some belief that although Congress has been fooled several times by this President into "hurry up and vote" scare tactics, that there has been debate on this bill. I found some hope that some people in Congress still believe it is their sworn duty to represent their constituents. It is not the President's job to craft legistlation -- and certainly not the Treasury Secretary's -- and I was happy today to see some members of Congress take their jobs personally and seriously. That's bipartisanship I can live with.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Don't Bail Me Out, Bro! (part 4)

It's running thick. I have gotten to the point where I really don't believe the people in Washington D.C. understand what is going on, what their constituents demand or what got us here in the first place. It is becoming clear to me there is not much we can even do about it. The President went on TV last night to convince the American People that this bailout package is the right thing to do. I'm not really sure why he even did that. Would Congress or the Senate stand up to these guys if we said, "NO!"?

So I will keep this one short. If you are confused as to what has been going on in our country's economy -- mostly on wall street -- then read our previous posts on the subjects below to get up to speed.

Then, if you feel like you can spare 10 minutes of your life to reinvest in our country, email your 2 senators and your 1 representative. You can find out who they are here, click on the electronic correspondence links, and send them a quick email voicing your opposition to this measure. I did this today and it took 10 minutes. You don't need to say anything fancy, just tell them that you are against this bailout and that the only meaningful taxpayer protection offered is a vote "no."

As for the politics driving this thing, I really hope we are all learning the importance of working and investing in our own country and in our own leadership. All the little slips and slides of consolidating power over the years are now painfully obvious.

Government regulation can never stay current enough to react to changes in the free market. The answer is not more legislation to regulate the economy, it's less. Free markets (when unregulated) are self-governing.

The problem was not with homeowners, as even our President falsely hinted at. In the basic risk-reward relationship, those taking risks are those who seek a reward to be compensated for that risk. When a bank loans you money, THEY are taking the risk because they are getting the reward in the form of a rate of return. It is they and those backing them who messed this baby up, not prospective homeowners operating under regulated false signals (artificially low interest rates caused by the Fed and morally hazardous lending practices mostly caused by government regulated Fannie May and Freddie Mac).

It is becoming apparent to me now that those entrenched in power really do believe that their Constitutional duty is to manage our economy. Most people must believe this too, since so many continue to credit Clinton for a great economy and blame Bush for a bad one, when those reputations are merely products of coincidental timing. Therefore, few politicians want to lose power, so they will do something, anything to become "decisive" and wash their hands.

And we as a people have become increasingly gullible. I have received so many emails about "alternative" bailouts or "responsible" solutions to these problems that do not in any way propose anything more than new regulations that will become out-dated for sure within a generation. But people are believing these opinions because they come from the Wall Street Journal, or fellow "conservatives" or people who are finance experts. Of course people working in finance are "pro" these measures, their asses are mostly on the line here, even those not in the mortgage industry.

I watched the Bush speech today when I found time. Scoring my previously posted drinking game, if I were loose with it, I would have gotten hammered. The actual language was more closely guarded, though the message was more vicious and specific than I could have anticipated. It was appalling to hear the President threaten our ability to send our kids to college if we didn't back this bill, simply appalling.

These vague threats have kept back the otherwise angry throngs of people, just as the vague economics of the mortgage-backed financial communities have caused this problem. Keep it simple, America, and stick to your guns -- both figuratively and literally.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Don't Bail Me Out, Bro! (part 3)

Whoa is me. There is a lot of anger growing about this bailout, especially about how it is getting rushed through Congress right now. Let's look at some of the quotes coming out.

Tony Fratto, the White House spokesman said that delaying this bill would be "unthinkable." He later described their intentions on getting a "clean bill" out and that he wanted to "remind everyone that just recently we passed a very large housing bill to help homeowners" and that if we don't pass this bill quickly, our economy would be in "a very very serious situation." That's two very's for the easily intimidated. C'mon, Tony, relaaax, have a drink!

I thought our economy was already in a serious situation. I thought gas prices and food prices were going up. I thought jobs were going overseas as they have been for decades (where's my bail out there?). And wait just a minute, back up, when did it become the federal government's job to manage the economy?

The facts seem to suggest that the policies that got us here -- the policies that are only sustainable by borrowing money from taxpayers and giving it to the financial community in ever-larger amounts -- are the only way we can continue to stay drunk on wall street. If you have any investments, you know that financial firms have been raking in money hand over fist. Are 20% annual returns a normal thing when you're not actually producing anything? I doubt it. Can anyone distinguish between the stock market and a form of regulated gambling these days? Most of these companies don't even pay dividends and their price per share/earnings per share ratios are so far off, you need the Hubble telescope to graph them.

And now that these guys are taking it in the neck, we are supposed to lend them money? Although $700 billion is on the table, the final cost of this hangover should easily reach $1 trillion of brand new money borrowed from us in the form of printing it, lending it, taking on the risk of default and then having the inflation trickle down like a bad game of Plinko.

Here is the sad truth. There is no good way out of this for any of us. The question is do we keep our $1 trillion in our pockets and gut this thing out, or do we lend it to rich, bad judgement guys, buy the debt no one else will pay that much money for, and hope they will spur the economy in a magic way that will promote growth (which is better known in Communism as Price Fixing)? That's been our model, by the way, to incur huge amounts of federal and personal debt and then justify it by "growing" our economy through consumption. But there is no intrinsic value in that, as anyone knows. No one has ever grown their wealth by buying stuff, especially on credit.

Our country needs to go through some tough times, whether we admit it or not; whether we do it now in an abrupt, honest way by saying "thanks but no thanks," or set ourselves and our kids up for something worse by shrinking our pain today into just a government regulated headache. Housing prices and wall street prices need to correct themselves. The massive public and private debt need to be paid down, not expanded.

Here is some language in the bill that is actually getting some Congressmen a little nervous:

** This bill authorizes the Treasury Secretary to purchase up to $700 billion in mortgage-related assets at any one time. That means $700 billion is only the very beginning of what wil hit us.

** Financial institutions are "designated as financial agents of the Government." Hooray for socialism! I thought we had fought Communism in the 80's, not embraced it.

** "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency." This would make the Treasury Secretary, a non-elected bureaucrat, the most powerful man in our economy.

Jim Rogers, a really rich guy, said a month or so ago that the "US is more Communist than China right now." But Warren Buffet can't be wrong can he? He's certainly on the up and up, after all he just put $5 billion into Goldman Sachs. Looks like we need more and more regulation, eh?

I guess that means we're already on the hook for this thing. Warren Buffet never takes the losing side of bets.

Don't lose all faith. Only 7% of the American Public is for this thing. If you believe in democracy and local government, shoot off an email to your Congressmen and Senators and let them know how you feel about this deal.

Also, if you like drinking games, crack open a beer and tune in to President Bush's apologetics, which he is preparing now. Take a drink every time he says the following words or phrases:

"tough choices"
"toxic assets"
"can't afford"
"Great Depression"
"Secretary Paulson"
"Chairman Bernanke"
"make no mistake"

and if he mentions the war on terror or national security, finish your six pack.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Don't Bail Me Out, Bro! (part 2)

This is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. And I don't claim to undertand the whole thing. But whenever I turn the TV on to see if it's any bit more interesting than it was yesterday, I realize how little information is on it. The politicians of both parties are blaming each other for the mess, falsely claiming to have solutions and yet contributing to future problems, if not current ones.

So here's a fun game. Below is a big picture of what I understand to be the basic setup of our current situation. I'm not an economist, so if you are and know better, fill in the gaps or correct the mistakes. However, I think this is pretty decent. I've added in a bunch of lightening bolts that represent the "moral hazards" of our current system. Guess what, no silver bullets. But at the same time, they should not be the same size, some of them are much more important than others. Care to guess which ones match up with which bullets on the list?

Lightning Bolts:
*The formation of highly complicated mortgage-based debt products called tranches.
*The lack of diversity, integrity and leadership between the GOP and Democrats.
*The Treasury Secretary and Chairman of the Federal Reserve are appointed by the president and are smarter than him.
*The risk-free rate of return is determined by a centralized banking authority, not a free market.
*The Federal Reserve has a history of enabling the Financial Industry with bail outs.
*Congress does not have any authority or auditing power over the Fed.
*Our money supply is not based on gold or hard assets and is not audited by the people.
*Global insurance companies offered insurance contracts on bad debt they didn't take the time to understand.
*Congress has regulated and insured Fannie May and Freddie Mac in an effort to push home ownership policy, espcially for minorities and low-income families, regardless of the economics of it.

These did not all happen in a specific order. Clearly, the Fed has been around so long, most people think you're crazy if you seriously call into question the effectiveness of its existence. The Gold Standard is for quacks (right?), although it had been good enough for our country for the vast majority of our existence until 1971. We must have gotten a lot smarter in 1971 by magic.

Furthermore, causes and effects are getting reversed. Massive mortgage foreclosures by "homeowners" were not the cause of this mess but the effect of it. If you watched the previously posted video series by Peter Schiff, he illustrates how for some time it was easier for consumers to buy a house than to rent an apartment. A cautious landlord usually demands first and last month's rent, a damage deposit, proof of employment, references, etc, whereas greedy mortage initiators just demanded signatures. Afterall, the landlord has to "live with" his tennants, but the mortgage initiators were selling these debts for fees.

I don't claim to have all the causes down cold. I don't know. You can see how complicated a simple version is getting. Yet this is the economy our centralized bank is claiming they can more effectively manage than a more spread out free market could.

This bailout comes along and I'm still shocked how many people just go along with it. Maybe it makes sense, after all, the only alternative we're given is that there is no way we could contain this disaster, either in the U.S. or globally (it is now our stated duty to manage the global economy, aparrently).

And with all this mess... with all these questions and uncertainties and huge bills sitting there... no one is standing up to question the Federal Reserve's very existence. Unelected and unregulated. And don't be fooled into thinking we need more regulation. Regulation is one of the main reasons we're here and one of the main reasons the problem got big instead of corrected itself in a distributed way.

For those who like computing, imagine if the internet were run on one central computer, and that computer were run by a small handful of guys who went to yale and harvard whom we could never replace. Would we trust any aspect of that setup?

Finally, an interview that you should watch.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Don't Bail Me Out, Bro!


What the heck is going on here?

First AIG gets a big fat bailout for $85 billion of taxpayer dollars, then a bailout slush fund is proposed by our "financially conservative" president for $700 billion. That's no small chunk of change. That is approximately $200 billion more than the Iraq war has cost us so far. It is 2,200 "bridges to nowhere." So where do these financial bridges go?

They go to all the guys in nice suits like the board of AIG pictured above. These poor guys, they've had some tough times. Knuckleheads. Rascals! Wall Street just got drunk, according to President Bush. So instead of making them cleanup their own mess and endure their self-induced hangover, we are going to mop their floors with our money.

Which of these two men do we elect? Which of these two men is in charge? I only know the answer to one of these questions.

The main justification for this massive entitlement program for our hard-luck, ivy league banking community is that if we didn't do it, we would not be able to contain the disaster. The disaster would be so big, we can't even describe it to you. Most of us tend to accept whatever men in dark blue suits say, after all they are richer and more educated than us. And, it really is confusing. Collateralized Debt Obligation, what the...? I doubt they even know what is going on themselves. But, to ask a simple question, if Wal-Mart made a series of really bad decisions and was unable to pay its bills on time, would the American people shout to bail them out? Would that situation be too complicated to understand? Would the disaster be impossible to contain?

Here is my understanding of the situation. Our centralized bank, the Federal Reserve, held mortgage rates artificially low for too long. Our centralized government backed Fannie and Freddie, basically saying, no matter how greedy you get, we'll back you up. Fannie and Freddie then decided since they were gambling risk-free with other people's money to buy up as much debt as possible. Normal people were trying to realize their American Dream by buying houses and were making decisions on false economic signals. Builders were over-building. House prices were inflating. You don't need to be an economist to know this, you just need to have been paying attention to where you live. Peter Schiff explains it way better than I could.

This post could go on forever. But out of respect to our many, many readers, I will cut it short. The final analysis is this: A small cadre of men runs our banking system, and they are not elected by us, nor are they audited by our elected Congress. They operate under the delusion that they can manage our economy better than the free-market could. When they mess up, they immediately snap into stiff stances and say, "Not on my watch." So rather than paying the piper for their mistakes, we get to.

And our Congress, which has been reduced to "an inkblot" (thanks, Bruce Fein), just rubber stamps and passes the buck. Pay attention America! Your bank accounts just got smaller. Since last I checked, our country was massively in debt, which means the capital for these buy outs is being printed out of smoke, thus inflating our dollar even more.

I still don't understand what it means to say that part of this bill is to raise the debt ceiling. "Debt ceiling"? Sounds more like a debt target to me.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Content Not Aside... Who Are They Trying To Kid?

As readers may remember, TLATL provided indepth political coverage of the Republican National Convention live from John Stamos' hot tub. Regarding the speech delivered by Governor Palin, our correspondent made the assertion that "Content aside, I thought she was a good speaker." In hindsight, that might have been better stated, "Content aside, I thought she did a fine job of delivering a speech."

In the first two weeks after the RNC, the Palin pick for VP looked not only like the best option that the Republicans had, but a shrewd political move. She was sharp at the RNC. She was a woman. A pretty woman. Her religious beliefs and lifetime membership of the NRA soothed the doubts far right-wingers had of a McCain known to battle his own party. White women everywhere were remarking how much they just plain liked her. The media's coverage of the 2 tandems practically portrayed the election as a race between Obama and Palin.

All this before we'd ever heard Palin interviewed as a potential Vice President. And then, on Sept 11, ABC's Charles Gibson interviewed Palin.
Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Yikes. I don't blame Palin. It's not her fault that she lacks the experience expected of a Vice President. But that the Republicans go through this charade... trying to flip her inexperience into claims that since she's not a Washington insider. Look out! She's coming to shake things up! Putting forth this notion that she has Foreign Policy experience because you can see Russia from Alaska...

Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican, said it so well - "That kind of thing is insulting to the American people." Thank you, Chuck. It's good to hear that not all Republicans are crazy.

On the lighter side, Saturday Night Live opened its season this week with a Palin / Clinton press conference. I had been waiting for this for so long. So many times over the last few months I've wished SNL wasn't in reruns, just to see them mock the campaigns (the Jesse Jackson goof up, especially). When Tina Fey was nominated for VP, I knew SNL would have some good material. SNL may not be nearly as funny as it used to be, but they do political humor well. Anyway... here's that opening...