Thursday, February 26, 2009

On the Jindal Speech

For the record, I may be alone in the liberal wilderness here, but I have no problem with the style and tone of Louisiana's Gov. Bobby Jindal's folksy, populist rebuttal to the president's speech on the economy from earlier this week. It's the substance of it--and the shout out to a race-profiling sheriff--that I object to. The speech itself, with disingenuous statements and blatant hypocrisy as the key components of its framework, is what we need to be concentrating on, not unfunny similarities to fictional characters. Weak, people. Weak.

And quite frankly, the widespread comparisons to the "Kenneth the Page" from 30 Rock seemed a lot more lame and mean-spirited than funny or accurate. Reminded me of the kind of half-assed humor we're always chiding conservatives about. We need to check ourselves, as the kids like to say.

If we're gonna go the fictional character route, then let me quote US president Andrew Shepherd:

"This is a time for serious people, Bob, and your fifteen minutes are up."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Lightning 'Rod (part 3)

I'll go out on a limb here and state my belief that there are no greater conspiracy theorists than the people of the Dominican Republic. As a by-product of the routine discourse of a very politically-opinionated populace, they've raised the level of conspiracy theorizing to an art form. Talk to the Dominican everyman on the streets of any city or town in the country, and you'll likely get an earful on what they see as the real reasons for the spread of AIDS, drugs; the truth about the moon landing; who's actually behind the September 11th attacks; how Fidel Castro managed to stay in power for half a century, etc. etc. etc.

And now, baseball.

You see, I've already heard from various sources that many down there find it oddly coincidental that Alex Rodriguez's steroid use has come to light after he chose to play for the Dominican team in this year's upcoming World Baseball Classic. It's no secret, of course, that the owners of Major League Baseball teams are on record as being not one bit supportive of the WBC. And the street corner philosophers in the Dominican see this as a catalyst for the owners to do whatever they see fit to crush this endeavor, including bringing down A-Rod, Miguel Tejada; dredging up trainer Angel Presinal; and smearing the Dominican Republic itself.

Whether or not I agree with any of this--or if it makes much sense--is not the point. But it's definitely something fun to think about. Although, I must say, no one in the Dominican is smiling right now.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ahnold Gets His Priorities Straight

With GOP governors like Mississippi's Hayley Barbour and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal playing politics with the President Obama's stimulus package and consequently with the welfare of their constituents by rejecting money from it--to gain points, with whom, exactly?--it was refreshing to hear California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tell his obstructionist party brethren what time it is:

"You just tell them that anyone that doesn't want to take the money: I'm ready to take their money and rebuild California."

That, is--ahem--a money quote.

Meanwhile, Louisiana Lt Gov. Mitch Landrieu criticized his state's no.1 for refusing $98m in federal unemployment assistance and remarked Jindal "needs to choose whether to represent the state of Louisiana or be the spokesman for the national Republican party."
Ouch.

But Arnold isn't the only Republican governor who is putting people before politics in this situation. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Florida's Charlie Crist are also taking care of their responsibilities and priorities. The latter told the Washington Post:

"We plan to utilize [the stimulus] for the people of our state as much as possible. I'm thinking about people, not politics."

Not to mention his appearance on NBC's Meet The Press where he advocated for political unity in times of crisis, stating:

"There is a national leader; his name is President Obama."

Yes, he's gonna catch hell from many on the right, but he's obviously looking at the big picture: it paints him as a
bipartisan man of the people and shores up political points with the increasingly Democratic-leaning voters of his state, a by-product which I have no problem with. I see that sorta thing as equivalent to making money off environmentally-friendly products and services; if you make loot while doing a greater good, God bless.

As for Barbour, Jindal, and co. I am hoping when election time comes, the constituents of the Grandstanding Obstructionist Politicians will, as my dear mother says, hand them an invoice paybable by departure.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Lightning 'Rod (part 2)

The late Frank Zappa once called the sphere of rock music journalism a milieu of "people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read." Despite there being a kernel of truth attached to that statement I've never completely agreed with it. But then again, I'm obviously biased.

Mr. Z's obvious distaste for the press got me thinking what his opinion of the media handling the A-Rod controversy would've been.

Once you acknowledge the fact that what Alex Rodriguez did was wrong and that his reputation will unequivocally pay the price for his mistake, this saga is a sad travesty on so many levels. (I’m looking at you MLB and MLBPA.) But the sports media's barely contained glee at tearing him apart has convinced me that they are to true journalism what fast-food preparers are to five-star chefs. They way they've handled A-Rod's press conference this week, where he admitted to the media present his steroid use, is just reporting of the lowest kind.

How about this for a double standard:

[A-Rod] couldn't even admit that doing steroids was cheating. "That's not for me to determine." Couldn't he have said ANYTHING that came off as sincere?

- Mark Feinsand, NY Daily News


When A-Rod's teammate, pitcher Andy Pettitte, confessed his performance enhancing drug (PED) usage a year ago and faced the press in a similar fashion, he was asked if he considered himself a cheater. Pettitte answered, "That's for other people to decide."

What was Feinsand's take on this?


"Good for him...I found Pettitte to be his usual, gracious self, doing his best to answer just about every question that was posed to him."


Scumbag.

For all their harping about what Rodriguez should've said or admitted to in addressing the media at this press conference, I've yet to hear/read any of them come clean about their patent dislike of him. The relentless and hypocritical way in which they've handled themselves and this story clearly shows it to be so. That he confessed, apologized and gave more details about his usage than Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa combined, was not enough in their eyes. In fact, I believe the only way the media would’ve reacted favorably to the A-Rod press conference was if he’d announced his retirement and returned the money he made during his stint in Texas. Short of that...

Reasonable people would agree that whenever matters of this caliber are brought to light and made public, it should be handled in a manner unlike what the vast majority of the media covering this story have shown. Simply put, the likes of Selena Roberts, the commentators on MLB Networks (especially the former players), Fiensand, etc. have proven themselves to be a disgrace, and make the hacks that populate political journalism look like upstanding statesman in comparison.

Patriotism (the Republican way)

At this point I have no idea what those who represent the GOP on the national stage are smoking. Not only have they proposed a Taliban-like opposition to the current administration; used fear mongering, while purposely lying about corruption and district gerrymandering, which in fact they recently perpetrated while in power (see Tom DeLay); and both blatantly and selfishly opposed the president's economic stimulus package for political gain, in direct contradiction to the best interests of their constituents (see California), now some of them are actually taking credit for the immediate benefits of the bill they were so steadfastly against. WTF?!

And then, it gets surreal:

So you don't subscribe to Rush Limbaugh's "I hope he fails" school of thought?

That was a terrible thing to say. I mean, he's the president of all the country. If he succeeds, the country succeeds. And if he doesn't, it hurts us all. Anybody who would pull against our president is not exactly thinking rationally.


And who, exactly, said that? Pat Robertson. Yes, Pat Robertson.

Folks, you know it has gotten completely out of hand when that well-known, lily-livered, pinko-commie, liberal apologist, progressive, the Rev. Pat Robertson, calls out notorious blow hard and current GOP messiah Rush Limbaugh. These are some evil people. And the true embodiment of why the word "politician" is seen as the most biting of epithets in the eyes of many.

It's almost worth buying a four year supply of popcorn just to watch in amazement the massive train wreck these people have become. Lord help us.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Deja Vu Al Over Again

[I]n 1993 when the new Democratic president Bill Clinton struggled to get his centerpiece economic legislation passed...the GOP was sure the bill was a recipe for disaster. At the time Newt Gingrich announced "The tax increase will kill jobs and lead to a recession, and the recession will force people off of work and onto unemployment and will actually increase the deficit." He was positive a recession would ruin America's economy within the "next year," or even "over the next 60 days."

- Media Matters
Of course, those of us that remember the '90s will recall what actually happened was the US reaching the highest level of economic prosperity in the country's history. Which was readily squandered over the Bush 43 administration's eight years in office.

So forgive me if I pay no heed to the GOP's current doomsday scenario regarding President Obama's stimulus package.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Lightning 'Rod

For those of you not even remotely aware of baseball or sports in general, the New York Yankees’ third baseman and the game’s highest-paid player, Alex Rodriguez, has confessed to using performance-enhanced drugs (PED) while a member of the Texas Rangers team, from 2001-2003. Rodriguez, whose name came up as one of 104 players to have tested positive for PEDs in 2003, was outed by Sports Illustrated's Selena Roberts and David Epstein, this past weekend.


First off, I’m quite disappointed in A-Rod. I feel sadness but not outrage—same as I felt for Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, respectively—because for one thing, I’ve seen much too human fallibility to ascribe god-like status to mere mortals, but more importantly because it may be a damn shame that someone with such natural talent and abilities has to resort to artificial enhancement, but it's not all that far-fetched as we have all seen. Whether Rodriguez felt the pressure of the enormous expectations placed on him was a valid reason for him to indulge, or the culture of steroid use—and its subsequent, but inherently dubious sense of validity—was indeed so rampant around him, may explain why he chose to go down this road, but it certainly does not justify it. This is a stain that will haunt him and his legacy in the game for years to come and dealing with its aftermath will require a level of mental stamina he has yet to summon as a professional athlete.

Before this PED matter ever came to public light the level of hate directed at A-Rod was staggering. This incident is just going to fuel an inferno that has been raging in and out of Yankee Stadium for years now. If the blogosphere is any indication, the Yankee faithful are pretty upset at A-Rod right now, regardless of apology. Many advocate for the team ridding themselves of him over this. I’m not part of that latter group. I may be disappointed and disheartened by his actions, but I’m not an extremist. Or stupid. I try my best to live in the real world. And that means I’m not surprised that Rodriguez or anyone else in baseball has done steroids. I sincerely wish no one would, but as I said before, I don’t hold mortals to standards of deity. And certainly not professional athletes of any era. (It’s interesting how in recent years I’ve heard a few legends of the past like Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson admit to have been willing to try PEDs if they’d been around in their time. So there ya go.)

A-Rod’s acknowledgement of wrongdoing is a step in the right direction, but I would’ve been more partial to his case had it come voluntarily and not as the by-product of widespread allegations against him. Then again, those with that kind of courage are very few and come so far between from each other. Especially these days. Bottom line: A-Rod screwed up and will face the unpleasant consequences of his actions. That’s his burden to bear.

That said, what I want to know is: who are the other 103 players; why are the sources that provided this info to Roberts and Epstein protected by anonymity, when this involves the tarnishing of a player’s reputation and stats, presumably forever; did these sources act legally in offering up this info; did they have an axe to grind with Rodriguez and/or the Yankees; and why did the SI writers—who claim not to know the identity of the remaining 103—think it was fair to leak a six year-old report and single out A-Rod, for an infraction that wasn’t even deemed punishable by MLB at the time, but not look into the rest of the players listed? (Don’t worry: the cynic in me knows the answer to that last question lies in the ever-lasting quest to sell magazines.) I think reasonable people, no matter how much they may hate A-Rod and/or the Yankees, would agree that whenever accusations of this caliber are made, everything has to be brought to light and made public.

Now it’s time for me to make this personal.

As a Yankee fan, I want to know every last name of the remaining 103 on the damn list, even if it includes some more Yankees. I don’t care. Make their names public immediately. Both A-Rod and the team will be getting even more of their share of the usual grief this season, and I can’t bear the thought of rival fans and ownership pointing fingers while the very possibility of one of their own hometown heroes being as tainted as A-Rod is hidden under cover of darkness. I’m not going to speculate irresponsibly by guessing as to what other prominent players may or may not be on this list as well, but it’s not a stretch to suppose many fans who are enjoying this latest dose of Yankees schadenfreude are dreading the outing of one of their own. Let’s be fair: get those names out there and then let’s see how it feels. More importantly, let’s do right by the clean players and end speculation in this particular instance.

As for the man who was so vilified for his books proclaiming the rampant use of steroids in baseball, José Canseco has shown more class than most lately, by not gloating or wanting the spotlight in the midst of all of this. When approached by the press for the A-Rod story he is said to have replied something along the lines of "Old news. Later."

Who would’ve thought Canseco would turn out to be more upstanding than the baseball press? (Or the former players now at the MLB Network who had ample opportunity but failed to ask Roberts the hard questions. I’m looking at you Harold Reynolds, Al Leiter, and Sean Casey. I guess their loyalties are to the media now. Ah, how soon they forget...)

Pitchers and catchers on Saturday. See ya in the Bronx. It’s gonna be a loooong season.

[Alex Rodriguez photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated.]

Friday, February 6, 2009

How 'Bout a Nazi Metaphor?

The level of cluelessness and desperation that has taken hold of some prominent GOP figureheads out there, sinking them into almost unheard of depths of stupidity, is nothing short of breathtaking. I was going to comment on Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, asserting that House Republicans should mount a Taliban-like insurgency to confront the current administration, but fellow blogger Xmastime pretty much nailed it:

For years the Republican party claimed itself to be the party of "We LOVE America" - no country song about America was too corny to sing, an inch of space not covered in the flag was a wasted inch, any insinuation that America was anything less than AWESOME!!!!! as granted by God himself was absolute treason, to be greeted with a boot-heel kick to Canada stamped with "Love it or leave it, bro!!!!!"

And now these exact same people, now that they've screwed themselves out of power, have become the party gleefully hoping that their own President fails in times of crisis. And I'll be the first to say it out loud: nothing will make these people happier than a terrorist attack, so they can say it was on Obama's watch.

But more troubling (and more practical in their ability to make it happen) is their hope to scuttle Obama's stimulus plan, of which the main gist is jobs jobs jobs for about 5 million of the very shit-kicking, "normal" Joe 6-Packs the Republicans have co-opted over the years, wrapping themselves in bald-eagles claiming to be fighting for these people.

If there was ever a moment for Joe 6-Pack to be sitting on his couch right now scratching his balls to
The View and think "Now here's something interesting...I've voted for these people for a decade, was told they're working for ME cause I've an average small-town guy who loves America and drinks beer...and they're fighting against passing this thing which hopefully will create jobs cause they're more worried about more tax cuts for the rich. Hmm." I mean, if that doesn't wake Joe the fucking 6-Pack up, it might be officially time to give up.

I sincerely hope it does lull them from their perceived slumber, X. I'm sure Thomas Frank would be quite pleased. But I wouldn't hold my breath. It's gonna be a long four years...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Why PETA Doesn't Get It

(Before we go any further, let's have some full disclosure: a juicy cheeseburger is one of life's simple yet wondrous pleasures, in our book.)

We men are simple creatures. It doesn't take much for us to be content. (According to Chris Rock, it only takes three things to do the trick.) Because of this, Madison Ave. constantly bombard us with ads featuring attractive women, in the hopes that we'll equate owning their product with the possibility of lovely ladies flocking to us. No dice. No Swedish Bikini Team in the world is making us drink any of that swill. (That I am a lifelong drinker of a cola once endorsed by Cindy Crawford and a fan of the '80s supermodel herself, IS A COINCIDENCE. Yes, really.) So the folks at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who are not known for subtlety, decided to go for the Super Bowl crowd with a racy ad [see below], featuring gorgeous ladies in seductive lingerie, cavorting with pumpkins, broccoli, celery, etc. and exhorting us to "Go veg" while bad hair metal plays in the background. The ad was rejected by CBS, the network airing the game, and PETA were said to be surprised. I'm more baffled by the organization's cluelessness in this whole matter.

Where to start?

First of all, after the whole Janet Jackson fiasco of a few years back, they had to know CBS would be skittish about this kind of ad. Second, you can try to convince men to consume your version of whatever product they already have a predisposition for. But veggies to a Super Bowl crowd? Put as many hot, scantily clad women as you want in that ad, carnivores are not giving up tangible steaks and burgers for a fantasy chick, no matter how hot. Third--and this is a very personal one that has nothing to do with why the ad didn't air--while I respect the noble intent which fuels PETA, it has been my experience that militant animal lovers hold people in a much lower regard than those they advocate for. It is underscored by this ad, which both objectifies women in the most heavy-handed of ways and shows off their contempt for the intended audience most blatantly. (At least the beer companies are good at it.) This is the equivalent of the equally dumb Carl's Jr ad featuring Paris Hilton, of a few years back. Is that what you were aiming for PETA?

Here's a free tip: we red-blooded, hetero males don't find offense in being considered horn dogs, but no one likes to be thought of as stupid.



UPDATE: It has been suggested to me that perhaps PETA was never interested in getting their over-the-top ad shown during the Super Bowl, but just wanted to reap the benefits of the publicity the situation would bring. Fine. Still, not a great idea.

Do 'The Squat'

Nope, it's not a new dance craze. It's what congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) is recommending to constituents facing foreclosure.

The Raw Story:
"So I say to the American people, you be squatters in your own homes," said Congresswoman Kaptur before the House of Representatives. "Don't you leave."

She's called on all of her foreclosed-upon constituents to stay in their homes and refuse to leave without "an attorney and a fight," said CNN.

"If they've had no legal representation of a high quality, I tell them stay in their homes," Kaptur told Griffin.

Kaptur is a high-profile advocate of an increasingly popular mode of fighting foreclosures best known for it's key phrase: "Produce the note."

By telling a bank to "produce the note," a homeowner can delay foreclosure by forcing the lender to prove the suing institution is actually the same which owns the debt.

"During the lending boom, most mortgages were flipped and sold to another lender or servicer or sliced up and sold to investors as securitized packages on Wall Street," explains the Consumer Warning Network. "In the rush to turn these over as fast as possible to make the most money, many of the new lenders did not get the proper paperwork to show they own the note and mortgage. This is the key to the produce the note strategy."
Rep. Kaptur is not urging homeowners to break the law, but to avail themselves of the proper legal assistance, figure out what's going on with their debt, and in the meantime, to remain in their homes. I'm down with that.

[h/t Ned Sublette]