Thursday, February 26, 2009

Two Wrongs Don't Make a Fight

Give me a break, please. I'm getting tired of this. I can't believe people are buying this. I'd rather buy a Snuggie than buy any of this. I know the patterns. When people go through economic downturns, they fill up the churches. We want to believe -- especially when the things we've believed in the past seem to crumble before our eyes. But whoever took this picture of Obama with the halo -- fittingly the outline of a federal governmental seal meant to symbolize a cherubic glow from God -- should have their poetic license revoked.

The information coming out is staggeringly complex. Honestly, I have no idea what is going on specifically, other than we are taking this one in the neck and worshipping the people doing it to us. I read that Obama's presidential address met with a 92% positive feedback rating. Whatever that means, I'm not sure, but it is warm and fuzzy. I certainly didn't watch it. I've realized within the past couple years that there is no benefit to listening to politicians speak, at least not the kind of politicians we insist on electing. I did come across about 5 minutes of Bobby Jindal's retort before turning it off. Bobby Jindal is the Great Red Hope of the GOP, which has been reduced to its dysfunctional skeleton. Mr. Jindal is a smart man from all reports, but he is clearly not a good speaker. His speech was almost impossible to watch.

That being said, he made some good points criticising, on principle, this huge governmental approach to our crisis. The backlash was immediate and incredibly childish. The media is so mentally challenged in our country and is so focused on the cult of personality, that it argues on what I would consider a playground level. Read the criticism posted of Jindal. It's absurd, comparing his demeanor (which, as was pointed out, wasn't great - but that's not a substantial criticism) to Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock. Funny, yes. Legitimate reporting from the "fourth branch" of government during the toughest economic times of our lives, no.

The article is so wacky, it makes a big "oh no he di-in't" playground point out of the fact some Republicans are criticising Jindal (who was right-on to criticize Republicans in the first place). They site David Brooks as a "conservative". David Brooks a conservative! That's like calling Hillary Clinton a conservative. Brooks is heavily invested in the status quo and the current neocon elite, Rockefeller Republicans, as is the Clinton family and a bunch of other politicians who flip coins to find out what they believe by what is popular. David Brooks a conservative! They then roll through some comments from FOX News, the most status-quo, GOP supporting mainstream group of all, with not a conservative among them. Being blindly pro-war in order to "spread Democracy" throughout the world at gunpoint because you are afraid of being called non-patriotic is the opposite of being a conservative.

Then they quote some lady named Penni Pier, a communications specialist who is not an economist saying, "It sounded like the same old rhetoric — we had tax cuts the last eight years, and look where it got us." Hmmm, really Penni? We're here because of tax cuts? But this isn't about Ms. Pier, this statement is about how our media is functioning at a playground, gossip level and our public is eating it up. Spoonfeed us more! As a wise man noted, "Our nation is in love with words." And President Obama and the "transparent" media are delivering lots of words.

Here are some examples. Peter Orszag, the head of the White House budget office, said we must spend all this money "quickly and wisely." I guess these days, when you contradict yourself in the same phrase, let alone the same article, people don't even notice.

Here are some other contradictions. Based on a speech by an ivy league clone of Alan Greenspan, the most powerful man in the unelected universe not named Geithner, Ben Bernanke assured us that he has no idea what is going on. What should we expect? Unlike many people's opinion that we are here becase of the Bush tax cuts, it is true we are here in a large part because of Greenspan's rate cuts. I do not blame Greenspan, afterall, there is a limit to one man's prescience. He would have avoided this mess if he could have possibly seen it coming. But he couldn't and didn't. And we still hand over all this power to the same people. Guess what, they can't see what's coming either, thus all the contradictions.

Here is how the press interpreted Bernanke's remarks. One article says that Bernanke says the recovery could begin this year. Another article, motivated by the exact same remarks had a quite different headline.

I don't blame the media for not having a clue about macroeconomics -- these guys obviously don't have a clue either, and it's their job. For those who are protecting their own money rather than playing around with the taxpayers', they are saying something different. "The underlying fundamentals just aren't there to support anything that's sustainable right now," Hughes said. "We haven't seen the capitulation that you'd want to see before you'd get thoroughly enthused." Hughes is Rick Hughes, a finance guy who was quoted at the bottom of the same article advertising Bernanke's remarks. More reports keep coming out that house sales are dropping at incredible rates now that this decline is hitting parts of the country that were slow to be hit. The DJIA is getting dangerously close to 7000.

Here's an example of how the Stimulus Package is not just an inefficient way to get us back on track, but that it is actually getting in the way of recovery. “Given so much stimulus package discussion in January, some would-be buyers simply sat out for clarity and certainty on the nature of housing stimulus,” Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, said in a statement. Hmmmmm.

Here's an example of why it's more important to shrink the government than to spend a bunch of money on "investments" that federal bureaucrats think are important. Talk about a bridge to nowhere. But if it involves combating climate change or terrorism, it is worth raising taxes and increasing deficits over.

The only clear thing is that the answer that President Obama and other Democrats (as well as the Repulican clique who got us here) have is to borrow money from our children to continue to give more to the people who recklessly got us here in the first place, giving us record (as in, not-even-close, Barry Bonds records) deficits in nominal terms, and not since WWII records in percentage of GDP terms. Fighting a world war would make sense as a reason to have large deficits. Today, we're chasing goat herders and ghosts around Afghanistan (which Obama sees as a good thing, and wants to increase), arguing over war with Iran and Pakistan, and still trying to prove that we made the right decision in Iraq by making them do what we say.

Maybe Bobby Jindal had a point. Maybe Republicans really don't have a leg to stand on, and the only way they can survive is to be less Republican and more conservative. I'll believe that when I see it, when guys like McCain aren't around anymore, and guys like David Brooks aren't confused as "conservatives". Maybe the government really is not what made our country great, maybe it truly is the people. And maybe that's why our greatness is slipping as the government grows to mammoth, empire proportions, both here and abroad.

[Disclaimer: The above cartoon is not in any way intended to be racist against any gray people, people who think they might be gray, people who believe in gray marriage or people who have at any point in history been compared to elephants. We apologize anyway.]

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

News Nits

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

Tired of having boring parties? Why not try the newest rage: flavor-tripping. This drug-free trip revolves around a fruit called "miracle fruit" which you eat upon arrival. Your tongue is then coated with a substance that causes foods to taste completely differently. Sour lemons taste like sweet lemonade. Cheese tastes like frosting, and vinegar tastes like apple juice. Sounds like a cheap thrill to me and in these budget-tight times, cheap thrills are at a premium. If you would like something a little less healthy and a little more comfort food oriented, try the new bacon explosion. From first hand experience, I can say the bacon explosion is worth the effort.

[Editor's Note: Based on reader feedback, I've been asked to share my experiences with the bacon explosion. Here is a "taste": One, two, three. It tasted even better than I had hoped.]

In other news, some wackier than others, a woman in Los Angeles has been revealed to have a "super-memory". She can remember in vivid detail almost every single day of her life. Blessing or curse? In two signs the Muslim world is making progress, the coaches and managers of a co-ed soccer game in Iran were severely punished for a brutal mixing of the sexes. That is perhaps the lighter side of some news happening in our own U.S. of A. A man in Buffallo, NY has been charged with second-degree murder for beheading his ex-wife. Ironically, this former husband/wife team started a TV station with the mission of softening the image of Muslims in the media. Oops. And just down the road in Stamford, Conn, an otherwise friendly chimpanzee went on a rampage, severely injuring a woman before local cops were able to kill him.

Also from around the world, two nuclear subs accidentally "bumped" each other in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. Brings scary new meaning to, "It's a small world afterall." In our small world, the United States of Africa have just elected Muammar Gaddafi as head King. Remember this guy? He issued a letter saying he is coming as "the king of the traditional kings of Africa." Maybe he will find better hope for the African AIDS crisis than garlic? This dude makes Rick James look collected.

A few more nits, the peace-loving Israelis seem to have a secret weapon that they are using against the Palistinians, who have grenades and numbers. And in a cool piece of science that might indicate solar panels and windmills are out-dated before they are even widespread, our home energy problems might just be a bucket of water away.

News nits doesn't like to leave our readers high and dry (or wet). So in an effort to round out the sometimes overwhelming news, we present video evidence of an innocent kid on drugs. Who said the dentist office was no fun?

I believe that professional wrestling is clean and everything else in the world is fixed.
- Frank Deford

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Sports Illustrated recently ran a story claiming Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003.

I don't know Alex Rodriguez, but from the interviews I read and stories I heard, I didn't think too much of him as a person. And yet, I always admired him as a player because I thought he was clean. Bonds passing Ruth's and Aaron's numbers bothered me, but I always figured it wouldn't matter too much because A-ROD would eventually pass Bonds.

My belief that A-ROD was clean was based on the fact that over his career, he never displayed the abnormal bulk/growth that you saw in Bonds, McGwire and Sosa. That simple layman's test is apparently not valid. According to the SI article, Primobolan, the drug for which Rodriguex is accused of testing positive, "improves strength and maintains lean muscle with minimal bulk development, according to steroid experts, and has relatively few side effects."

TLATL has covered steroids in baseball here, here and here. Aside from TARP and L&O, it's probably our most blogged topic. This is a pretty big story to me, but maybe you all had already priced in the notion that anyone who's anyone in baseball in the last 10 years is a user.

We'll probably never see indisputable proof, so my first question is, do you believe SI's story? If so, are you upset? Disappointed? Indifferent? Does it change your perspective on other players?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Around the Horn

"All the Hits the Nits Missed."

There is a conference each year whose tagline is "ideas worth spreading". I think about every blog claims this tagline, too, but not every blog gets the likes of Bill Gates, Bill Clinton and Bill Madlock as guest speakers. I suggest browsing the previously linked site, there's some cool stuff there.

Like ole Billy Gates releasing a bunch of mosquitos on the audience as part of his attempt to raise awareness about malaria, claiming, "Not only poor people should experience this."

Microsoft has been the cool thing to bash for years now, and Bill Gates hasn't ducked much of that, either. But truth be told, I think Bill Gates is a hero. He worked hard, got rich, and now he's using his wealth to make the world a better place.
Places like Africa...

Where Nigerian police have arrested a goat, and have charged it with armed robbery. The claim is that the goat was a human when he committed the crime, but then morphed into a goat using some kind of black magic after committing the crime to avoid capture. You're avoiding capture, so you turn into a goat. Not a bird. Not a T-Rex. Not a mosquito. A goat.

Just in case you're unaware, Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation, by far. At 135 million people, they have 50 million more people/goats than runner-up Ethiopia.

And in election news, Iraq recently completed nationwide elections. The early results suggested that current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's party or allied parties were victorious throughout most of the country. While there's a ways to go, Iraq has come quite a ways from its 2005 elections.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


We are moving from surface to substance in a short amount of time. President Obama, using eerily similar language to former president Bush, urged the Stimulus Package to go through congress as fast as possible. Let's see if this first major act of legislation unifies the country the way Obama-believers have advertised.

"We won the election. We wrote the bill." - Nancy Pelosi

"Never let a serious crisis go to waste. What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things you couldn't do before." - Rahm Emanuel (aka Karl Rove)

In a vote that nearly went right along party lines, it is clear that Obama's intention for a new era that transcends red and blue politics is nothing more than lip service. In fact, President Obama appears to be a classic mega-Democrat who can't wait to spend as much of your money as possible. All of this while we as a country are at record debt levels. In fact, the legislation is so out of whack with common sense fiscal concern, that it did not receive one Republican vote, while losing 11 Democrats as well. This might be a good time to point out that although about 70 million people voted for Obama, over 60 million voted against him.

Since the bill is still split in both houses, the exact numbers are not yet known. But what started out being advertised as a stimulus package to create essential jobs by reinvesting in infrastructure and transportation has been porked into a giant buffet of Democratic pet social spending projects. In fact, only about 12% of the approx $900 Billion of your money is going to infrastructure and transportation.

A huge chunk, $252 billion worth, is just flat out income-transfer from rich to poor. That might make people feel kinder about themselves, by taking from one group and giving to another, but it will do nothing for our economy. It would be more fun and probably more efficient to just drop that money randomly out of helicopters as little bags of cash. But this bill can be sliced and diced any which way you want, and still some people will believe the government has the power to "get us out" of this recession - a recession caused by lack of saving, mal-investment, hyper consumption and failed government regulations. There is a longer-term picture here, which the WSJ points out:
The larger fiscal issue here is whether this spending bonanza will become part of the annual "budget baseline" that Congress uses as the new floor when calculating how much to increase spending the following year, and into the future. Democrats insist that it will not... The likelihood is that this allegedly emergency spending will become a permanent addition to federal outlays -- increasing pressure for tax increases in the bargain.
Obama promised to go through the budget "line by line" and eliminate programs that don't work. I am waiting with baited breath for this to happen.

It is understandable that the frustration this country felt under the Bush administration has flip-flopped into support for the Obama administration. People want to feel better about their federal government. So, it is no surprise that Obama's initial approval ratings are almost exactly the inverse of the outgoing president's. We've gone from scapegoat to idol.

When friends of mine write stuff like, "Did anyone else see Obama's speech? Awesome. So exciting to have a President speaking idealistically in terms I can relate to and believe make sense. Makes patriotism seem cool again like when I was in kindergarten...," I understand and appreciate the sentiment. But after the speeches have been rendered, the hangovers endured and the Obama babies have been born, will our country be better off in reality?

And don't get me wrong, Obama's deceit on overcoming old barriers is nothing new, Republicans have done it too (perhaps less convincingly). Actually, any time I hear the phrase "bi-partisan legislation", I run for cover knowing something awful is about to happen. But the blind optimism of so many Obama worshippers is discomforting. It's one thing if you really like big government programs. That's fine, that's your opinion and your business. But I think it is more likely that a bunch of common sense moderates are about to soon discover they're at a party with a bunch of people they didn't know as well as they thought they did, and they'd rather just go home and tend to their families.

Up next, in another move of hope and reform, Obama is pushing through FOCA - the Freedom of Choice Act. This little piece of legislation, although a slight gray area as to how it will be interpereted, is without a doubt the most heavy-handed, anti-moderate, anti-middle ground piece of abortion legislation to ever descend from our centralized, ever-growing-in-power federal government. This bill has the potential to not just over-rule the natural and constitutionally-stated power of the states to make their own laws, but it could get down to the level of over-ruling individual physicians' discretion. It has the potential to close down every Catholic hospital in the country.

The federal government has a clear responsibility over the federal budget (deficit and debt), the national border and the use of our military. So far, nothing has changed in these areas, showing that the intelligence that attracted so many to Obama may not be enough. What may be needed is a clear understanding of our founding principles and the discipline to uphold them.
"Don't go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you're used to
I know that you're gonna have it your way or nothing at all
But I think you're moving too fast" - TLC, Waterfalls