Friday, December 19, 2008

Minnesota Recount Fun

Earlier I asked how people can screw up an optical scan ballot. Answer: write "Lizard People" on it.

This video is a bit long, but it's really worth it to hear the candidates argue over whether or not "Lizard People" is a real person. The Minnesota canvassing board says yes.

Matt, your state still rocks.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Bowl season is only three days away, as hard as that is to believe. There are some pretty sweet contests this year that I'll probably be missing, but oh well. There are also some clunkers that I'll also be missing, and that I won't mind as much (what the heck is the New Mexico Bowl?). And there is, as always, a colossal BCS snub... though it's not the one you're thinking of. Texas and Oklahoma are pretty much the same - the coin was flipped, OU came out on top. It's the best we could have done without a playoff (which, as a sort-of 'Horns fan, is little consolation).

Anyway. On to the games. As always, the picks are made by the seat of my pants, with minimal actual knowledge.

EagleBank: Wake Forest vs. Navy: Navy mugged Wake earlier this year. Don't expect it to happen again. Pick: Wake Forest

New Mexico: Colorado State vs. Fresno State: Boy, how far has Fresno State fallen? They used to be the darlings of the non-BCS crowd, and now they end up in New Mexico? College football's a wild world. Pick: Fresno State

St. Petersburg: Memphis vs. South Florida: A quick note - there are at least eight bowl games where a team doesn't have to leave their own metro area to play (I'm counting USF and Cal, who play across bays from their campuses, in this one). With the exception of USC, who as Pac-10 champion is automatically sent to the Rose Bowl, each of these teams could have gone to a different bowl game. Can something be done about this? It seems unfair for a bowl game to have a home team. Pick: South Florida

Las Vegas: BYU vs. Arizona: Hmmm, the #3 team from a solid conference against the #5 team from a bad conference? This looks like a blowout to me... as long as Max Hall remembers what color jerseys his guys wear. Pick: BYU

New Orleans: Southern Miss vs. Troy: I know nothing about either team, so I'll pick Troy because they almost beat LSU. Pick: Troy

Poinsettia: Boise State vs. TCU: I'm calling this the fifth BCS game, because really, shouldn't this be a BCS game instead of Virginia Tech-Cincinnati? The teams are a combined 22-2, with both losses coming to top-6 teams on the road, and they're both in the top 15. I'll rant more about BSU later, but I'm actually picking against them here. Why? Have you seen TCU's defense play? It's pretty awesome. Pick: TCU

Hawaii: Hawaii vs. Notre Dame: Probably the worst bowl game of the year. I'll go with Notre Dame because, hey, why not. Pick: Notre Dame

Motor City: Florida Atlantic vs. Central Michigan: Dan Lefevour being the only player in this game worth watching, I'll go with his team. Pick: Central Michigan

Meineke: West Virginia vs. North Carolina: Mediocre ACC team beats mediocre Big East team. Pick: UNC

Citrus: Wisconsin vs. Florida State: I've actually been impressed with Christian Ponder's development this year. He might be able to return the 'Noles to relevance in future years. Pick: Florida State

Emerald: Miami vs. California: I know nothing about either team, so I'll go with the home team. Pick: Cal

Independence: Northern Illinois vs. Louisiana Tech: See above. Pick: Louisiana Tech Russell Wilson turned it on in the second half of the season and made one hell of a push to bowl eligibility - making them the Bizarro Vanderbilt. Pick: NCSU

Alamo: Missouri vs. Northwestern: Dream season for Northwestern, but I don't see anyone in purple who can stop Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin. Pick: Missouri

Humanitarian: Maryland vs. Nevada: It really depends on what Maryland team shows up. I have a feeling they'll beat Nevada even if Mediocre Maryland shows up. As long as it's not the team that lost to MTSU. Pick: Maryland

Texas: Western Michigan vs. Rice: You know you have bowl inflation when more than one Directional Michigan school makes it to a bowl game. Pick: Rice

Holiday: Oklahoma State vs. Oregon: This looks interesting, but I think I'll have to go with the 'Pokes since they were the fourth wheel in an amazing division. Pick: Oklahoma State

Armed Forces: Houston vs. Air Force: Air Force flew under the radar (heh) this year because of the Mountain West's Big Three, but they're still pretty good. Houston has a nice offense, but they played in a conference that doesn't believe in defense. Pick: USAFA

Sun: Oregon State vs. Pittsburgh: Let's recap. Both of these teams were poised to win their conferences. Both choked in the final week. Now both are headed to the Sun Bowl. Anyway, as long as Jacquizz Rogers (easily the best first name in college football) is healthy, the Beavers win. Pick: Oregon State

Music City: Boston College vs. Vanderbilt: Reasons to pick Boston College:
1) BC is 9-4, Vandy is 6-6.
2) BC won four of its last five; Vandy lost six of its last seven.
3) BC scores 25 points a game; Vandy scores 19, and struggled a lot down the stretch.
4) BC got to its conference title game. Vandy was nowhere close.

Reasons to pick Vanderbilt:
1) I'm a massive homer.

I think you know how this will end. Pick: Vanderbilt

Insight: Kansas vs. Minnesota: Kinda disappointing for Kansas this year. It would be a disappointing season for Minnesota too, except no one actually expected them to win more than two games this year, so bully for them. I'll still go with Todd Reesing though. Pick: Kansas

Peach: LSU vs. Georgia Tech: LSU has been horrible down the stretch, and Paul Johnson's throwback option offense is really tough to defend, especially for teams used to a more conventional approach. Oh yeah, and it's a home game for the Jackets. Pick: Georgia Tech

Outback: South Carolina vs. Iowa: One team lost to Vanderbilt. The other beat Penn State. Any questions? Pick: Iowa

Capital One: Georgia vs. Michigan State: Don't pick against Knowshon Moreno. Just don't do it. Pick: Georgia

Gator: Nebraska vs. Clemson: The Perennially Hyperinflated Expectations Bowl should be won by the team that went 8-4 in a halfway decent conference, as opposed to the team that went 7-5 against a conference with no really good teams. Pick: Nebraska

Cotton: Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech: Sure, Ole Miss beat Florida, but... see the Outback Bowl for further explanation. Plus, Texas Tech is damn good. Pick: Texas Tech

Liberty: Kentucky vs. East Carolina: Again, see above. Pick: ECU

International: Buffalo vs. Connecticut: If either Turner Gill or Utah's Kyle Whittingham isn't coach of the year, something's horribly, horribly wrong. Pick: Buffalo

GMAC: Ball State vs. Tulsa: The Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda Bowl goes to the team that choked away a chance at an undefeated season. Barely, because Tulsa can play. Pick: Ball State

Orange: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech: This really, really should be switched with the Poinsettia. It's not too late, BCS... you can exile the ACC and Big East if you want... Pick: Cincinnati

Rose: Penn State vs. Southern Cal: Usually I think USC is overrated, but not this year. When not playing in Corvallis, they look pretty impressive. And they'll be at home. Penn State is good, but the Prophylactics are better. Pick: USC

Sugar: Utah vs. Alabama: This matchup between two solid defensive teams could end 3-0. Or it could end with both teams in the 40s. Since it'll probably be a close game, I'll go with who I trust more in the clutch. That would be the arm of Brian Johnson, the hands of Freddie Brown, and the leg of Louie Sakoda, all of which are better than whatever the Tide has to offer. Pick: Utah

Fiesta: Texas vs. Ohio State: OK, Fiesta Bowl, what the hell were you thinking? You had a choice between Boise State and Ohio State here. One team has already given your bowl the most exciting bowl game in recent memory, is undefeated, can keep pace with Texas stride-for-stride on offense, and might give the 'Horns a game. The other is perennially overrated, has an unremarkable offense and defense, and has gotten blown out by opponents similar in stature to the 'Horns in both of its past two BCS appearances. And you picked the latter? Congratulations, your reward is a boring blowout that no one but 'Horns fans will want to see. Pick: Texas

Championship: Florida vs. Oklahoma: Sure, the Gators lost to Ole Miss, but they've been stomping everyone in sight the past few weeks. Of course, so has Oklahoma. But Florida has actually had to face some defenses worthy of the name... unlike Oklahoma, who played in a conference that - ahem - is not exactly known for its defensive prowess. If the scoreboard doesn't explode, I'm thinking Florida has the edge on this one. Also: when in doubt, always pick the SEC. Pick: Florida

Monday, December 15, 2008

Who Throws a Shoe? Honestly.

The answer: Muntader al-Zaidi. Radley has some video of the would-be Random Task doing the deed.

OK. I know shoe-throwing is an insult in the Arab world. And I know it's kinda scary that someone could walk into a press conference and start throwing shit. (Just imagine if this guy had been doing the throwing.) But is there anyone between the ages of 25 and 35 who saw this news and didn't immediately think of Austin Powers?

Monday, December 08, 2008


America's Most Awesome State Legislator strikes again.

Let's recap. Chris Buttars has, in the past two years, made a blatantly racist comment on the state Senate floor, said Brown v. Board was wrong, introduced a bill allowing police to cover up their misdeeds, and now wants Utah's state legislature to officially disapprove of "happy holidays" (one wonders what Mr. Buttars has against New Year's and Hanukkah). And the voters of my grandmother's old district just put him back for four more years, so we can be assured of more awesomeness in the future. (Though he won by a small margin in this pretty heavily Republican district - his 2004 margin of victory was 29 points; this year he won by 4.)

And it's a good thing. Since Raleigh's Russell Capps was defeated in '06, I've been missing state legislature hijinks...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Oozing Genius

Jack Black, John C. Reilly, Allison Janney, and Neil Patrick Harris (and others) team up for this Prop 8-related three minutes and fifteen seconds of comic genius.

Just watch it. You'll thank me.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Your Random Monday Cocktail Suggestion

Since some other bloggers out there like to give drink recipes on Mondays, I'll entertain you with the random drink I came up with over the weekend that may or may not be good (Danielle and I both liked it though)...

1.5 oz apple brandy
1.5 oz Frangelico
~0.5 oz Sprite

Put it on the rocks and serve. I call it the Dirty Monk, but other name suggestions (and variations) are welcome.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Banditos Theorem = Dan Henninger Theorem?

Dumbest. Op-ed. Ever.

Shorter version: "The financial panic is bad. Therefore, it's all the fault of atheists, secularists, and people who don't celebrate Christmas."

(H/T: Jacob)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Adventures in Scantron Voting

Some time ago, I lauded North Carolina's optical scan voting system, comparing it favorably to the touch-screen crap used in other parts of the country. Well, Minnesota has op-scan voting, and as this link shows, they're quite adept at screwing it up. Seriously, I didn't know there were that many ways to mess up filling in a bubble. I guess the Banditos Theorem applies here, though I don't think it requires that much intelligence to fill in a bubble. Does it? Is it that hard, op-scan voters?

Friday, November 14, 2008

You're Doing It Wrong

Via Brayton, more proof that the U.N. has jumped the shark:
Saudi Arabia, which deploys a special police force to ensure that only one narrow sect of Islam predominates in the kingdom, is sponsoring a discussion at the United Nations on religious tolerance starting Wednesday.
Sweet. Are we going to put China and Cuba on a human rights council next? Oh, wait, already done. If these are the rules we're going by, Cato will be hiring Hugo Chavez any day now.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

How To Raise A Fuss Over Nothing

The Post's David Waters describes an issue that is quite possibly the worst case of belly-aching ever. Worse: it's my co-religionists that are guilty of it.

Here's the issue in a nutshell. The LDS Church believes in posthumous baptism by proxy - that is, a living Mormon can baptize him/herself in your name after you die, thus saving your soul for eternity. (This explains the resources that the LDS put into genealogy.) Mormons have been doing this for those who died in the Holocaust. Some Holocaust survivors and other Jews have their panties in a knot about it.

Now maybe it's just because I know a lot of Mormons, or because I had a long discussion about proselytizing with Ben in college that dealt with the subject of why people try to convert others, but the idea of posthumous baptism by proxy (I'll call it PBBP 'cause I'm lazy) seems kinda sweet to me. Someone cares about you enough to save your soul, and it doesn't really matter to you because, hey, you're dead. And if it's a family member getting posthumously baptized, you don't have to accept it as real (since Jews don't believe in baptism anyway), so who cares besides the people who are doing it because they want to be nice and give your dear departed grandpappy eternal life?

But this doesn't stop some people from getting way too bent out of shape about it. From the article:
"My mother and father were killed in the Holocaust for no other reason than they were Jews," Ernest "Ernie" Michel told the Salt Lake Tribune. "How can the Mormons victimize them a second time and falsely claim their souls for eternity?"
OK, as a Jew I understand the persecution complex, but... dude. Lighten up. Your parents are not being victimized. They are dead. It is tough to offend or otherwise victimize a dead person. Because they are dead.

There are two options here. One is that the Mormons are right. In this case, the baptism is successful, your parents just got sucked out of wherever they were to an eternal life in heaven, which they probably think is kinda cool. Two is that the Mormons are wrong, in which case... nothing happens since your parents never violated the covenant themselves. Heads, you win; tails, meh. Put another way: if you're not Mormon, you probably believe that PBBP is invalid and therefore meaningless, so why get all bent out of shape about it?

Look, logic and religion don't mix, and they're not supposed to, but we could at least try to think calmly and rationally about the actual implications of our beliefs, right?

Palin "Africa" Story - Shenanigans

You know that story about Sarah Palin not knowing that Africa was a continent that was supposedly leaked by a "senior McCain aide?" I posted on it a while ago, but I'm too lazy to link to it.

But anyway, it was bullshit. It was apparently part of an elaborate hoax wherein two extremely awesome people created a fake think-tank and a fake McCain policy adviser, and then got the entirety of the mainstream media to go along with them. Story chronicling the awesomeness that is Dan Mirvish and Eitan Gorlin here.

Anyway, mad, mad props to those guys. For those about to prank, we salute you.

Of course, The Washington Monthly is still not convinced it's a hoax, noting that the original reporter has not retracted yet. Awesome.

This Made Me Laugh Way Too Much

Best T-shirt ever.

Honeymoon Even Over-er

Via Big Orange, Obama may suck pretty bad on intelligence issues too.

Yes he can... do what, exactly?

...And The Honeymoon's Over

President-elect Obama is now pressuring President Bush to bail out the car companies.


So it's not enough, for Obama, to have government meddling in the financial sector. Now we have to prop up dying dinosaurs in the auto industry as well.

Here's what I don't get. We bail out airlines, despite the fact that Southwest's success demonstrates that we don't need to - airlines can survive on their own. We bail out car companies, despite the fact that Toyota demonstrates that well-run car companies can succeed on their own. Unlike the financial sector, whose failure can be attributed to a lot of different things, the failure of the American auto companies can be attributed to one thing - friggin' stupid leadership. The heads of the car companies hitched their wagon to the SUV/gas guzzler star, and when gas prices scared people out of large cars, they had no plan to switch to small cars.

So let GM fail. Let Ford and Chrysler suffer. Instead of rewarding companies whose leadership is idiotic with government cheese, let's spend our money on helping workers adjust to the disappearance of their employer. Seems to me some company, somewhere, will pick up the slack and start making more cars in GM's place. Which means that company will start hiring more. Creative destruction, people. If there's a role for the government in all this, it's to protect the employees who get caught in the middle. Otherwise, shouldn't we just let companies rise and fall as the market dictates?

In other news, this whole bailout thing could put us on the hook for (inserts pinky finger in mouth) five trillion dollars. That's really damn expensive.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Begun This War On Christmas Has

Usually, it's the right-wing nutjobs that fire the first shots in the annual Christmas holiday wars, generally by working themselves up into high dudgeon over the fact that some people have the temerity to believe that there are other winter holidays celebrated by people. (Why do they hate New Year's?)

This time, though, it's the atheists who are firing the first shot, launching an apparently Christmas-themed ad that says, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake."

Two thoughts. One, I need a picture. Two, I think the fact that even the atheists are making Christmas references proves that the right wing "war on Christmas" blowhards are full of it.

Friday, November 07, 2008

...And London One-Ups Arkansas

Cheer up, Arkansans - at least you're not as friggin' nuts as Redbridge borough in London.

(Thanks, Jacob.)

Arkansas' Initiative 1 As Memo

From: The 57% of Arkansas voters who voted for Initiative 1 banning adoption by unmarried couples

To: The children of Arkansas

Re: Screw you

Dear children of Arkansas,

We write this to inform you that we're keeping you in foster care instead of allowing the loving, caring family you wanted to go home with to adopt you. We know that a stable, nurturing home is desirable for all children. We also understand the emotional toll an extended stay in foster care can have on a child, especially if you spend 20 months in foster care like the average Arkansas orphan. However, we feel that acting like moral scolds and letting unmarried and gay couples know that we disapprove of their lifestyle is far more important than your emotional and physical well-being.

So you know that nice gay couple you wanted to have adopt you? Or the nice couple that just doesn't believe in marriage? Yeah, well, now they can't do it. It's back to the foster system or the group home with you. Ha ha, screw you guys. Stupid kids. We're going to go back to our nice, cozy houses to whine about how the gays are destroying our country now. Damn, it feels good to be a gangster.

Oh, and we'd like to extend a special screw you to the taxpayers of our state, who are now going to be footing the bill for even more foster care. I mean, it's either that or repair our crappy roads, and I know you'd much rather use your money to crap on the gays and unmarrieds, right?

57% of Arkansas Voters

Arkansas also passed a Constitutional amendment that would remove language prohibiting court-certified idiots from voting. Which is a good thing, because apparently it would have disenfranchised 57% of Arkansas voters.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Pack of Idiots

This happened at my university, roughly a mile and a half from where I work. Stupid bigots.

For What It's Worth...

McCain won exactly one county in New England (a small Maine county). Obama won at least one county in every state except Alaska, which doesn't divide itself into counties. Just a thought.

Update: Dave notes that all of Oklahoma's counties went for McCain. Almost all of Kansas' counties and almost all of Nebraska's counties went McCain too, so there's a pretty good regional base for McCain too. Just that nowhere near as many people live there as in New England. Dave also points out that blue counties often sit on population centers, which is a good point except that in the South, a lot of rural lowland counties went for Obama (and trend Democrat) because of the high African-American population there.

"She Didn't Know Africa Was A Continent"

Update: Shenanigans.

This video about the strife between the McCain camp and the Palin camp that Balko posted is really telling, especially the first minute or so. Give it a look.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Few Election Ruminations

For your reading pleasure, a few thoughts that ran through my head last night/this morning...

President Barack Obama. Sure, pretty much everyone not named Mike Mott knew it was going to happen, but it's still pretty sweet. I have no illusions that Obama will be the next Lincoln or Jefferson, but he could very well be the next Clinton, which I don't think anyone would mind at this point. And it's a pretty good butt-kicking, at least more so than either of Bush's narrow victories. So maybe we're coming together around something, even if it is just "Republicans suck."

And so a campaign that lasted some 20 months comes to a close with the country electing its first black President. Oh, and 40 years ago today, the avowed segregationist George Wallace won 46 electoral votes and 13.5% of the national popular vote. Chew on that for a second. Also, this is kinda cool.

If the polls hold, it looks like we'll have 56-57 Senate seats and 254 House seats to work with. That's a pretty solid majority, though not filibuster-proof. It makes me wonder how much the leaders in Congress will be willing to reach across the aisle to compromise, even if Obama wants to do so. Remember, domestic policy is more in the hands of Reid and Pelosi now than Obama. Anyway, with a President who won't veto bills out of a Democratic Congress and only a few Republican defectors necessary to pass legislation, let's see what comes out. Democrats, there's no one else to blame now. Don't screw this up.

Alaska voters are nuts. As I write this, there's no call in the Alaska senate race between Ted Stevens (R-Jail) and Mark Begich, but Stevens is narrowly leading. Seriously, what is wrong with you people? Stevens was found guilty of corruption, plus he's completely bonkers. Do you seriously want to have a Senator who can't make a roll call vote because he's stuck in a prison cell, ranting incoherently about a series of tubes?

Bigotry - not a winning strategy... Here in NC, Elizabeth Dole was in a close race with Kay Hagan for her Senate seat. She decided to try to tie Hagan to atheists and get people all good and scared about those "godless" heathens. Hagan won, and it wasn't even close. Pennsylvania challenger Lou Barletta made news as the anti-immigrant mayor of Hazleton - he lost to freshman Rep. Paul Kanjorski in a pretty Republican district. Same state - John Murtha called his constituents a bunch of racist rednecks, and had one of his closest races. Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) should have had no problems with his Democratic opponent - however, his anti-Muslim hateful screed unleashed two years ago against Minnesota's Keith Ellison put a big target on his back. No call in his race yet, but he's trailing Democrat Tom Perriello.

...unless your opponent is "the gay." Goode was also partially done in by the revelation that his chief of staff was in some sort of gay porno or something. I don't remember the details, I just remember hearing about it and thinking, "dumbest political issue ever." Anyway, gay marriage bans passed in Arizona and Florida. Oddly, Arizona rejected the same measure two years ago. And that brings me to...

Thomas Monson's Epic Fail. How can you succeed and fail at the same time? When you're LDS Church President Thomas Monson, and you have no head for strategy or priorities. Monson's baby, California's Proposition 8 banning gay marriage, is headed for victory. No call yet, but it's up 52-48. The cost? The LDS Church's reputation among liberals and left-leaning Californians, and probably more than a few others scattered throughout the country.

See, Prop 8's success is a disaster for the gay and lesbian community, but it's pretty bad for Mormons too. There's something to be said for standing on principle, and there's never an excuse to hate someone because of their religion. In fact, the ugliness from Prop 8 opponents regarding the LDS Church is probably a main reason why they lost a fight they should have won by at least a 60-40 margin. But the existence of that ugliness can be traced to Monson's decision to get the Church involved in the first place. Had Prop 8 failed, the anti-Mormon bitterness might have faded in time. Now? Good luck with that - the anti-Mormon bigots on the left just got fuel for their fires to last a long, long time. It's for this reason that Prop 8, and the amendment it will engender if the polls hold, will now be known as Thomas Monson's Epic Fail.

(As I write this, the uncounted votes that seem to be preventing anyone from calling this are from the pretty conservative Inland Empire. So yeah, I'm calling it, even if no one else is.)

Though you can't get away with being too homophobic. Goodbye, main federal marriage amendment supporter Marilyn Musgrave. We won't miss you.

Minnesota loves its wackos. Congratulations to Minnesota, whose Senate race between a conservative wacko, a liberal wacko, and a just plain wacko is still not decided. And they voted for extreme conservative wacko Michelle Bachmann over Elwyn Tinklenberg, despite Bachmann's insane McCarthy-esque ranting and Tinklenberg's awesome name. Novak, you got some 'splainin' to do.

At least we don't vote using punch-cards. I'm really happy that Obama won by a substantial margin, because if it were close, the pack of rabid lawyers that descended upon Florida in 2000 would be in North Carolina this year. It's pretty close, here - I think it currently favors Obama by 12,000. This oughta spare us the video of people looking at ballots and trying to figure out if they're bubbled in or not. Also, everyone should use optical-scan voting. It's easy, it's fast, and it uses paper, which doesn't break down or mis-record votes so recounting is really easy. I don't understand the touch-screen or punch-card crapola.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

More on 8

California's Prop 8, seeking to ban same-sex marriage (currently legal in CA), has - predictably - become pretty nasty. It's tough to avoid, given the volatile subject matter. I'll admit it - it's tough for me to remind myself that supporters of a constitutional marriage amendment aren't, for the most part, bigots. It gets even tougher when prominent supporters openly revel in the "gay is creepy" message.

Now, according to New America Foundation fellow Joe Mathews, the No on 8 crowd has turned to bigotry, too, this time against the LDS Church, which has gotten unusually involved.

These attacks are despicable, and need to be denounced as such. Mathews is exactly right that attacks on the Church are bigoted and counterproductive. I wholeheartedly agree.

Politics, however, is a sport where you have to expect the worst from the opponent. Which is why I don't understand the decision of LDS President Thomas Monson to get directly involved in this fight. By putting the LDS Church at the center of the Yes on 8 fight, he opened the door to a lot of latent anti-Mormon bigotry that still floats around out there. (Mathews reports that only Islam is viewed less favorably than Mormonism.) Essentially, he gave anti-Mormon bigots an excuse to attack the Church.

And not the traditional bigots either. The people now hating on the Church aren't the far-right Huckabee evangelicals - they're liberal institutions like Big Orange and the Huffington Post, places where you expect more tolerance, not less. Instead of provoking already-established bigots (which is something you can't be concerned about), Monson's decision awakened latent anti-Mormon sentiment among the left that has been fading (especially since one of the left's heroes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is a devout Mormon).

This isn't to excuse the bigots - far from it. Everyone should know better than to preach intolerance of a religion, but liberals really should know better. And this isn't to blame Monson - he's following his principles, and that's commendable even if I disagree with him. And as we established in the comments section of my last post on the subject, the Church can and should do what it wants politically. It just seems to me that a large part of Mormonism involves outreach to the "gentiles,"* and getting the church directly involved in a political hurricane is counterproductive. A Mormon non-church organization - think Focus on the Family, only LDS-run - would have been just as effective in supporting Prop 8 but would have been able to deflect criticism of the LDS Church and religion far more easily.

So lefties, quit with the hate. And Monson - if you're trying to have your church accepted societally without compromising your principles, a little strategy is not a bad thing.

*In LDS parlance, "gentile" refers to anyone who isn't LDS. Jews have the same terminology, which led to one of my favorite political stories. Jewish businessman Simon Bamberger was running for Utah Governor in 1916 when some right-wing Mormons said that they could never vote for a "damned Gentile." Bamberger replied, "As a Jew, I've been called many a bad name, but this is the first time in my life that I've been called a 'damned Gentile'!" After this, the Mormon community embraced Bamberger, and he went on to win the election and become only the second Jew ever elected to a state governorship (Moses Alexander of Idaho was the first - bet you didn't expect those two states to be the first).

Update, 11/3/08: For even more superhappyfun bigotry on the part of Prop 8 opponents, check this out. One wonders if Steve Young (who opposes 8, as Mike pointed out in the comments section) likes having his money going to this dreck.

Honestly, I wasn't sure whether I should laugh at the absurd idea of Mormon missionaries ransacking a house and stealing valuables or cry at the absolutely insane bigotry at work here. I mean, I haven't seen anything this bad since "white hands" (at least the anti-atheist hate here in NC was a little more veiled). Were I a Californian, this ad would actually make me sorta want to vote for 8. Of course, as a staunch supporter of gay marriage, I wouldn't do that. But I would stand outside the Courage Campaign headquarters flipping them off for a while.

(Not that I have any readers in L.A., but if you're out there, our research department tells us that they are located at 7119 West Sunset Blvd., #195. Give 'em a finger for me.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Jules Hearts Gay Marriage

Via Big Orange, Samuel L. Jackson has had it with that muthafuckin' proposition on his muthafuckin' ballot.

In other news, Jackson should become the liberal Chuck Norris.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Votes, My Explanation.

OK, so I bit off way more than I could chew with that "Election 2008" post series I was planning. It didn't help that I ended up having to do a lot of prepping for the AIChE Conference Of Doom next month. But I'll just briefly go over my votes for the big races here, along with some stupid platitudes about why I chose them.

One note. I suddenly find myself living in a battleground state (Really? North Carolina? Who knew?), and I feel for you Floridians and Ohioans who have to deal with this dreck on TV every four years. Of course, if I had the time or inclination I could have gone to see all three major presidential candidates and two of their running mates (Wayne Allyn Root, you're slacking, dude), so that's kinda cool.

President: Sen. Barack Obama, Democrat. I was tempted to vote for Bob Barr, even though I spent most of my adolescence throwing up in my mouth whenever I heard his name mentioned. Barr's the only candidate that might actually have the inclination to rein in the absurd reach of executive power we've gotten ourselves into the past few decades. But I chose Obama because in the most important area in which the President is supposed to act - foreign policy - he's clearly the best. McCain, for all his supposed experience, doesn't get diplomacy as well as I had hoped, and his failure to understand who pulls the levers in Iran (hint: not A-Train), among other things, hurts him there. Temperament is also, ahem, an issue. I don't want him suspending his presidency if there's a war somewhere or something. Barr's foreign policy is way too far the other direction - isolationism isn't an option for a superpower.

My wish was for a candidate who understood the limits of the presidency and campaigned accordingly. Wish not granted, however, I get the sense that Obama would at least respect the Constitution and some of the limits it places on Presidential authority. The same could not be said for McCain, who seems to believe that the President should be able to do whatever.

Senate: State Sen. Kay Hagan, Democrat. See the next post down.

House: B.J. Lawson, Republican. What the hell? I'm voting for a Republican? How did this happen - especially given my professed approval of his opponent, Rep. David Price? Well, two things. One, Price isn't losing this seat. It's a pretty Democratic seat in a Democratic year. But he has made some horrible votes over the past few years - the bankruptcy bill, the bailout, gutting FISA, the Patriot Act... I could go on. (And yes, I recognize Obama cast many of the same votes. I'll get to the difference in a second.) He's been cruising to re-election this whole time - a little shock from an opponent could do him good, as would two years back in Chapel Hill reading the Constitution. Two, Lawson's basically Ron Paul without the crazy. He's anti-war, pro-civil rights for gays, and a budget hawk. He opposes corporate welfare (of course, he probably opposes welfare in general) and earmarks. And most importantly, he's running as a defender of civil liberties. A Congressman with a spine in the face of Presidential power-grabs? I'll bite.

Governor: Michael Munger, Libertarian. The major-party candidates, Democratic Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and Republican Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory, aren't particularly objectionable. But they're both panderers... and Munger is decidedly not that. The rare LP nominee who has his head screwed on straight, Munger presents remarkably coherent views on education (public school choice, expanding charter schools) and immigration (once they get here, we kinda have to treat them like everyone else). Munger opposes tax breaks for companies that relocate here, which is good since those kinds of giveaways have plagued our budget for most of Crash Easley's administration. Overall, he's the best candidate. Here's hoping he can get over the 5% mark so NC's ridiculous ballot access laws don't decertify the Libertarians again.

There you have it. My prediction is that Obama will hold on to win by the skin of his teeth, and Price, Hagan, and McCrory will win the other races. Of course, the Presidential election will be decided on Monday night when the Steelers come to Washington for the 'Skins' last home game before the election. So considering that I voted for Obama, do I sacrifice my fanhood and root for the Steelers? Or do I root for the 'Skins, knowing that a victory guarantees a McCain win?

Fuck it. Go 'Skins.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Godless" Bullcrap

About the only moment I remember from the 2004 RNC is my oh-so-wonderful senior senator Elizabeth Dole repeating the bizarre, ridiculous canard that "freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom from religion," as if everyone in America should be forced to join a religion or something. Anyway, fast-forward to this weekend. Dole faces a hell of a race against Democratic state Sen. Kay Hagan, and she puts out what could be the worst advertisement in the history of politics. Here it is (first video).

There's so much wrong with this ad that I can't even type a coherent blog post on how awful it is. Is it the fact that it indulges heavily in America's last socially acceptable bigotry? Is it the fact that it tries to hang the atheist label on someone who is incredibly active in her church, which is kind of like an anti-black racist going after Tony Bennett? Is it the fact that she's implying that Hagan's part of some sort of bizarre atheist conspiracy? Or is it the fake Hagan voice saying "there is no God" at the end that just puts the whole thing waaaaay over the top?

Caveat: I haven't actually seen this ad air. I'm guessing Dole knows that that crapola won't play in the Triangle, which is more culturally progressive and probably more accepting of atheists. But Dole's ads this year have been singularly awful. Check out this clunker. Note to the Dole camp: any ad that ends with the phrase "that dog won't hunt" probably sucks.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Picture That Lived

The Slant might be a shadow of its former self nowadays, but it's good to know that one of the funnier things we ran is still cruising the Intertubes (even if I had to do some rumorbusting regarding the pic having been taken at Matthew Shepard's funeral). This picture is almost six years old, and it's still out there. That's pretty awesome. I wish I could say the same for my Missy Elliott song analysis.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's Not All About The Anti-Muslim Bigotry...

Let's hear some props for these guys - a handful of McCain-voting Muslim-Americans and one conservative Christian who confronted and chased off some people passing out anti-Obama literature with significant anti-Muslim bigotry. The world needs more people like you.

Note - this occurred at a rally in Woodbridge, VA, about 45 minutes from my hometown of Herndon.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Ah, Fox News

This headline is journalism at its finest:

"Hip-Hop-Dancing Colin Powell Fuels Speculation He'll Endorse Obama:
Colin Powell showed off his hip-hop moves at an 'Africa Rising' celebration in London Tuesday, fueling speculation that the former secretary of state is about to endorse Barack Obama for president."

The article doesn't explain the connection, either. But I suppose all my friends who are fans of '30s and '40s-style swing dancing will be voting for the old white dude, right?

A Couple of Debate-Related Thoughts

Apologies to Matt for stealing his format.

Right now, I'm waiting for the "True Joe the Plumber Facts" Internet meme to start.

- Joe the Plumber has more electoral votes than the entire Mountain time zone.

- Candidates don't campaign in Ohio. They beg Joe the Plumber for mercy.

- Joe the Plumber is the one man, and he has the one vote.

- Palm Beach County won't design its ballots without first talking to Joe the Plumber.

And so on. (Go look up the Chuck Norris Facts if you have no idea what I'm talking about.)

Update: A few more I dropped in the comments here...

- Joe the Plumber is, in fact, registered to vote… three hundred times. Legally.

- Joe the Plumber survives on a diet of pure PVC.

- Joe the Plumber writes your state’s voter lists.

- Joe the Plumber rebuilt New Orleans’ levee system with only a single pipe fitting.

And some from Matt in the comments:

- Joe the Plumber has had his taxes increased and decreased 837 times in this election.

- When Joe the Plumber visits his friend he calls it "Hanging w/ Chad".

- Joe the Plumber breaks up clogs with a real live snake.

And from Ben:

- Joe the Plumber's Law: Any presidential candidate who tries to look like he's blue collar when he's not, inevitably looks incredibly silly and deserves mockery....from Joe the Plumber.

- Joe the Plumber's Corollary: Godwin and Murphy are sissies. When they wanted to make laws, they first had to ask Joe the Plumber.

I think we might have enough for a website now. Anyone got a domain name? Basic HTML skills? This needs to be started, people.

Apparently you have to go south of the Rio Grande in order to be qualified to be president. Unless you're a hot chick.

No one will ever discuss the real reason why our education system is lagging - our ridiculous culture that brands anyone who is good at math or science as a social outcast, and that calls anyone who uses a four-syllable word an "elitist." The CNN talking heads were going on about how Obama sounded professorial - and apparently that's a bad thing. Don't we want a president who sounds smart and in command?

Either no one understands the idea of the oil market, or the candidates think we're too damn dumb to understand it. You can't choose the origin of your oil, idiots. Prices are set by global supply and global demand. Deal with it.

Sarah Palin has a kid with Down's syndrome; therefore, she is an expert on special-needs education. In other news, I just made spaghetti, therefore I am Mario Batali. Oh, and at one point McCain conflated Down's syndrome and autism. Real expertise there, hotshot.

I think the most intelligent portion of all the debates was during the beginning of this last one, when the candidates discussed their plans to bail out homeowners who took out bad loans. McCain, as Matt pointed out, wants to help everyone with negative equity reset their mortgages so they don't owe more than their house's value. Obama countered, saying essentially that this plan comes dangerously close to rewarding banks for making those bad loans in the first place, and would end up being just a big old bank giveaway that wouldn't help anyone with their payments. This proposal is the only substantive thing coming out of the McCain campaign these days, and both candidates make good points. I lean towards agreement with Obama here - negative equity is a temporary phenomenon, after all, and by the time the loan is paid off the house will probably have a good deal of positive equity. If you want to stave off foreclosures, direct aid to struggling homeowners is a better way to go - though part of me thinks that if you made an investment and the value of that investment declines, that's not the government's problem.

Either way, no one addresses the cult of homeownership that's at the center of this whole boondoggle. But that's not a votegetter, I guess.

I got Bingo this time around. My prize: A yard sign for this guy.

I'm working on the rest of those election issue posts. I'll probably dump them all at once in a week or so.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


The Senate passed the bailout bill today, and a quick look through the text (not sure how any of these links will work - if they don't, go to the Thomas website, type in H.R. 1424, and you'll find it there) reveals some things that, well, aren't related to the bailout. Things like...

- A renewable energy tax credit.

- Alternative Minimum Tax cuts.

- Hurricane Ike disaster relief.

- An extension of tax credits to mine safety trainers and for mine safety equipment.

- Some sort of tax credit for car racing facilities.

- Tax incentives for investment in Washington, D.C.

- Some sort of tax breaks for movie producers, I think.

- Tax breaks for kids' wooden arrows, as long as they meet certain criteria. Better not be crazy and design an arrow shaft 3/8" in diameter...

- Settling part of the Exxon Valdez oil spill litigation... from 1989.

- Relaxing the tax standards on farm equipment. Gotta have the farm subsidies in there somewhere.

- More money to reclaim abandoned mines. Robert Byrd, is that you?

(Hat tips to Dave and Andy for pointing out some of the goofy bits of this bill.)

I'm not saying this is all bad stuff. I happen to like alternative energy tax credits. But shouldn't all this stuff be in separate bills?

The bill was originally titled the "Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007." Wellstone died in 2002 - it's unlikely that he's sponsoring a bill in 2007. It then became "An Act - To amend section 712 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, section 2705 of the Public Health Service Act, section 9812 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to require equity in the provision of mental health and substance-related disorder benefits under group health plans, to prohibit discrimination on the basis of genetic information with respect to health insurance and employment, and for other purposes." That's a mouthful, and it's still the working title of the bill. The Senate, realizing that the House has to pass revenue measures first, basically hollowed out this House bill and put its bailout bill inside, so that technically the Senate wasn't introducing revenue measures, just amending them. That's an end run around the Constitution that would make Santana Moss proud.

Instant update: Bloomberg reports that the wooden arrow provision was specifically designed by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) to benefit Myrtle Point, OR-based Rose City Archery. Somehow, Bloomberg reports that this big load of targeted tax breaks is supposed to woo House Republicans, who apparently have abandoned fiscal responsibility once and for all.

College Football, Week 5: Better Late Than Never

#19 Vanderbilt, idle: Boy, we sure pissed Ole Miss off, didn't we? The week after losing to us in a madcap game in Oxford, the Rebels turn around and beat then-#4 Florida in Gainesville. The SEC: No easy games for anyone. Except maybe Arkansas, this year.

(Postscript: I asked a Razorbacks fan I know if she's missing Houston Nutt yet. She said that she's still glad that Nutt's gone. God only knows why - Nutt seems to be doing pretty well with the smoking crater left by Ed Orgeron at Ole Miss. And Arkansas has decent players that are suffering under Bobby Petrino.)

Virginia Tech 35, Nebraska 30: I don't care who you are or how crappy Nebraska has been the past few years. Lincoln is a damn tough place to get a victory. The sign that the Hokies we know and love might be back: they opened the scoring with a safety off a blocked punt. They forced two costly turnovers - one that set up a touchdown, and the other that killed the Huskers' final drive.

And yeah, I didn't realize that Tech could score 35 points either.

#17 Utah 37, Weber State 21: This score includes 14 Weber State points in garbage time against Utah's scrubs, so it's not as close as it looks. But this was still not a good week for Utah, since they had to watch their next opponent knock off the #1 team in the country. Oregon State's for real, folks, and if Utah continues to play 30 minutes out of every ball game they'll be in for a rough ride. The good news? The Utes can actually make some noise by beating the Beavers. Without that USC win, Oregon State would have been a classic no-help game. Now they can get a little boost out of it.

BCS buster watch: TCU got embarrassed by Oklahoma, so that leaves Utah, BYU, and Boise State. And until idle BYU gives up a point - they've gone almost a month without doing so, and they go to Logan to take on woeful Utah State, so they could continue that trend this week - they're still the prohibitive favorites. After this week gave us 2007 flashbacks, I heard some mumblings that should a major-conference meltdown occur, BYU could end up being the ultimate BCS party-crashers... and get to play for a national championship. Is it possible? The Cougars are #8 now. Four Big 12 teams and two SEC teams are in front of them, plus Penn State (which still has away games against Wisconsin and Ohio State left). The chances for self-immolation up there look pretty good, really. It's worth noting that an undefeated South Florida team (currently #10) would probably get the nod over an undefeated BYU team, even though the Big East is far weaker than the Mountain West. Life's not fair, folks.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Minority Report

OK, does anyone else think this is a really, really bad idea?

Or more interestingly - does anyone think that using a machine to try and read someone's secret terroristic thoughts is a good idea?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ruminations On A Revived Rivalry

This afternoon, at around 3:00, I walked into my neighborhood Harris Teeter for a quick pre-game grocery run. I was wearing my Art Monk practice jersey that I got after the 'Skins won the Super Bowl some seventeen years ago. Approaching the door of the store was a man, about my age, wearing a Troy Aikman jersey. He spotted me and immediately started booing loudly. A little amiable jawing ensued - we laughed, and he went for the beer while I veered into the produce section.

It's tough to capture the full meaning of a rivalry, especially one as intense as the 'Skins-Cowboys rivalry, and explain it to someone who isn't a sports fan, or is a fan of a team that doesn't really have a rival. It's "us vs. them" to the extreme. It's the Apocalypse, good vs. evil, and you're a part of it two weeks per year.

But a rivalry is a relationship, and it needs constant contribution from both fan bases and both teams to keep the passion alive. It needs fans to boo at each other, it needs teams to play spirited, interesting contests, it needs characters to keep us engaged. And for too long, neither the Redskins nor the Cowboys were doing their part. The 'Skins lost 14 of 15 contests to the Cowboys, which threatened to turn the rivalry into Tennessee-Vanderbilt. But more worrisome than that was the complete and utter unhateability of the late '90s-early '00s Cowboys. I mean, who can really say they hate Chan Gailey? Or Dave Campo? Or Clint Stoerner? You're in trouble when keeping up the rivalry means ginning up an honest hatred for Joey Galloway. So eventually the rivalry became, well, less interesting. The 'Skins, battered as they were, began to get a wandering eye - some fans even suggested cheating on the 'Boys with the Santa-haters up I-95 in Philly.

And just when things were at their worst, wonderful things began to happen. Bill Parcells - someone actually worth hating - showed up in Dallas. Terrell Owens soon followed. Terrence Newman joined the Cowboys, as did Roy Williams. The Cowboys had people to hate again.

And then the spark that reignited the flame - Redskins 14, Cowboys 13, the Santana Moss double-bomb game where the 'Skins scored two late touchdowns in Dallas to come back and steal the game. The rivalry was officially back. Several instant classics have followed since. Modern fans can recall the Sean Taylor blocked field goal game, the Jason Campbell pick game. And today's game - 'Skins 26, 'Boys 24, Campbell's coming-out party.

I remember how great this rivalry was growing up - how I cheered for Art Monk and Gary Clark and Earnest Byner and Joe Gibbs against characters like Aikman and Emmitt and Michael Irvin and Leon Lett and Jimmy Johnson. And now? We have iconic, likable guys like Clinton Portis, Campbell, Chris Cooley, Moss. They have iconic, dislikeable guys like Newman, Williams, future reality TV star Tony Romo, and Owens. The Apocalypse is back, and for fans of both teams, that's a wonderful thing.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Subprime Meltdown Explained

Here's a good summary of the financial crisis that I got from, of all places, Fark. It's definitely worth a read, even if he does get a little bit jargony at times.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ebert: Not A Creationist.

So apparently Ebert posted this somewhat ham-handed attempt at satire on his website poking fun at creationists. Of course, pretty much everyone mistook it for being serious, and so Ebert had to publish this explaining himself and then ranting about how gullible Americans are. (For added awesome, check the URL.)

The first thing I thought of is how this will probably remind my Vanderreaders of a certain incident.

The second is this - how accurate is Ebert? Are we really losing our capacity to think critically? Or are satirists and hyperbolists simply not sensing the amount of absurdity already present in our culture, and failing when they attempt to go over the top? And what can be done about it?

The Extreme Southeastern Corner of NC Devolves

Brunswick County, which is the part of Myrtle Beach that doesn't want to be in South Carolina, is thinking about teaching creationism in schools. School board member Jimmy Hobbs brings the crazy:
"It's really a disgrace for the state school board to impose evolution on our students without teaching creationism," county school board member Jimmy Hobbs said at Tuesday's meeting. "The law says we can't have Bibles in schools, but we can have evolution, of the atheists." (emphasis mine - J)

Mr. Hobbs, that could be the dumbest sentence ever uttered. What law, exactly, says that we can't have Bibles in schools? Look, I have no problem with creationists. I don't care whether you accept science or not. But I do have a problem with idiots who don't know what the separation of church and state means.

Oh, and the link includes the requisite "it's just a theory" argument. Standard rant #42 applies.

College Football, Week 4: Revenge of the Nerds

Q: How awesome is the SEC this year?

A: The SEC is so good that even Vanderbilt is ranked.

Of course, Vandy isn't the only top academic school exceeding expectations in football this year. There are 13 Div I-A (FBS, for those who like the new notation) schools in U.S. News' top 30 colleges. (Let's forget the fact that these rankings are mostly pointless.) Of these, five are already known for their football (Notre Dame, Cal, UCLA, Michigan, and USC). But all of the schools that are known for being highly ranked academically and awful football-wise - Stanford, Vandy, Wake Forest, Rice, Northwestern - are doing pretty well. Wake and Vandy are ranked. Northwestern is receiving votes in both polls. Rice is 2-2 with both losses coming to ranked teams on the road. Stanford is 2-2, both losses coming to very good teams on the road.

Your Mountain West watch: three ranked teams (BYU, Utah, TCU). That's more than the ACC, the Big East, or the Pac-10. (The WAC has two, BSU and Fresno State.) Yeah, the MWC is totally a minor conference undeserving of an auto BCS bid.

Anyway, on to the review...

Vanderbilt 23, Mississippi 17: Good win despite the weak road performance. Ole Miss isn't the punching bag they had been under Orgeron - say what you will about Houston Nutt, but Arkansas is sure missing him right now. I didn't get to see the game, but it looks downright bizarre. One offensive touchdown? Eight turnovers, six by the Rebels? Apparently this game was decided on a play when an Ole Miss running back fumbled at the one-yard line and a Vandy player jumped on the loose ball in the end zone. That kind of crap just doesn't happen to Vandy. Someone from our team NEVER falls on a loose ball in those situation. What the heck is going on?

Anyway, we'll see what Vandy's made of in two weeks when Auburn comes to Nashville...

Virginia Tech 20, North Carolina 17: The Hokies find some bizarre ways to win lately, don't they? Their offense couldn't move a knife through butter, yet they somehow put 20 points on the board and played some solid second-half D to win. I still don't trust this team to put up any points, but there are a couple of things that make the Hokies' outlook look good. First, their defense is great as always. Second, they don't play another ranked team the entire way. The only ranked team they would have to face on a BCS run would be Wake Forest in the ACC championship. The Hokies aren't a great team, but they are fortunately in a crap conference.

#20 Utah 30, Air Force 23: The Utes were absolutely, positively god-awful in the first half here. The only thing that even kept them in the game was a great defense - they only gave up 53 rushing yards to Air Force, which was roughly 300 yards under their season average. And fortunately, they woke up in the second half, outscoring USAFA 21-7 after the break. And it seemed like Utah sucked up Air Force's power Peter Petrelli-style: the Utes got almost 200 yards on the ground, including three second-half Darrell Mack touchdowns.

Only three road games the rest of the way, against Wyoming (bad), New Mexico (pretty good), and San Diego State (awful). This is good because the Utes look awful on the road, squeaking by a horrible Michigan team and almost losing to an admittely pretty good Air Force team. The game in Albuquerque will be tough - it's probably the game the Utes are most likely to lose before TCU comes to town.

BCS buster watch: Well, so much for ECU. I know it's harsh to disqualify someone from the elite post-season after laying one egg, but if you can't beat NC State, you don't deserve it. (I say this as a current NCSU grad student.) That leaves the three undefeated MWC teams and Boise State. Of these, BYU established itself as the class of the non-BCS conferences with a 44-0 pounding of Wyoming. Bad news for the Cougs - only three home games left, and road trips to Fort Worth, Colorado Springs, and Salt Lake loom. Good news for the Cougs - the defense looks pretty darn good. They haven't allowed any points since leaving Seattle.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bail Yourself Out, Creeps

I'll use my 600th post to say this:

Worst. Idea. Ever.

I guess I have one question. If a rich person loses a million dollars at Vegas on a blackjack table, am I expected to pick up the cost?

Why is the government intentionally making bad investments with my tax money? Do we really need to? Why not just let the investments sour? (Okay, I had more questions.) We can bail out some smaller investors who stand to lose from investment house bankruptcies via the FDIC - that's what it's there for, after all - but bailing out the houses who knowingly took a risk and lost is just a horrible idea. It's their fault for making stupid investments.

And so what if AIG fails? Market vacuums don't last long - someone will take their place. Like I said earlier - insure some of the individual investors via the FDIC, and let competitors who didn't make dumb choices fill the gap.

Here's what this bailout makes me think of... a bunch of suits walking around on the street with a "The World Is Coming To An End" sandwich-board on and their hands out. Although beggars have more dignity than this.

Update: Hey look, the market's already responding. Morgan Stanley (where I usually invest) and Goldman Sachs are planning on getting into retail so they can have a larger capital pool to draw from in case investments go pear-shaped. The Fed will force them to lower their debt-to-equity ratio, but will give them access to cash if they need it. Oh, and all the investments in other places were all bought up by other banks.

So if the market and the Fed can deal with this okay, and it looks like they can... what's the point of the bailout again?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

AAA Ball

For a while there I was keeping my panic down over the fiscal crisis (all the while being pissed at government decisions to bail out private companies that do stupid crap). Then I read this Reuters article: (h/t: Agitator)
Pressure is building on the pristine "AAA" rating of the United States after a federal bailout of American International Group Inc, the chairman of Standard & Poor's sovereign ratings committee said on Wednesday.

But wait, there's more:
Potential upfront costs to the government of maintaining financial stability could reach 24 percent of gross domestic product in the case of a "deep and prolonged recession," the S&P report said.
Which means that taxes will have to go up and spending will have to go down if that's going to fit into our budget. And if we lose our AAA credit rating, borrowing will get even more expensive.

As many people have pointed out, there are a ton of reasons why we're in this mess right now, but I figure I'll rant a little about one of the hidden reasons for this fiscal crisis. For a while the left has been in high dudgeon over executive pay, and I'm not sure I agree. I don't really care if a CEO gets $30 million a year as long as they're doing their job well. But what bugs me is the fact that if the CEO screws up and costs his/her company billions, the executive will get fired - with an absurd severance package. For example, Merrill Lynch CEO Stanley O'Neal left a smoking crater that required Bank of America's largesse to clean up, and he left with $161 million in exit pay. Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld literally destroyed the company, and gets $65 mil for his services. AIG chief Robert Willumstad leaves a pauper by those standards - he gets a mere $12.8 million.

That's absurd. At least Fannie and Freddie's CEOs don't get squat, but that's because they're government-run enterprises whose very existence probably contributed to this whole thing.

What these severance packages do - and don't for a minute think that the CEOs forget their existence when they're in office - is depersonalize the risk that comes from executive choices. Now imagine that you were an executive, and that you were guaranteed a lifetime of luxury even if you completely screw up. Would you take some reckless chances? Of course you would. After all, there's no personal risk to you - you're set either way. If you succeed, you're a visionary, the very definition of success. If you fail, no biggie - you go home to your family with a few extra million in your pocket while your shareholders and the government pick up the pieces.

And so risks are encouraged, which can be a good thing up to a point. But the severance packages are so bloated that they encourage stupid risks, and this entire crisis was based on a lot of companies taking a lot of stupid risks on these subprime mortgages. If the executives knew that a failed risk would cost them something significant personally, they might have thought twice about these securitized mortgages and our crisis would be a lot smaller.

My point is this: Adam Smith's system was based on "enlightened self-interest." The problem with these severance packages is that they distort self-interest to the point where reckless risks and prudent risks appear the same.

Now I'm not 100% confident that government can regulate severance pay well. Hopefully other companies will leave the financial sector saga with the understanding that their massive severance packages are hurting them in the long run, and will scale back on severance pay in the case of disgraceful termination. The problem is that companies' boards of directors set their own pay, and they're not likely to give themselves severance pay cuts. So barring that, I'm all for a shareholder rebellion. To the barricades, stockholders!

Moron A and Moron B

So let me get this straight. These people are choosing to deny legal recognition for their marriage because the wording on the form isn't what they want it to be? I don't think they thought this cunning plan through. As a protest against gay marriage, this is singularly ineffective.

Quote of awesomeness: "'We just feel that our rights have been violated,' [Ms. Bird/Mrs. Codding] said." Um, what right would that be? The right to a gender-specific form?

Monday, September 15, 2008

College Football, Week 3

Each week this season, it seems like one conference has a day where it just gets embarrassed. Week 1 saw a bunch of ACC teams lose games they shouldn't have lost. In Week 2, the Big East looked flat awful. This week, it was the Pac-10's turn. Sure, USC laid the wood to Ohio State at home, but that was about the only bright spot. Oregon struggled with middling Big Ten team Purdue. Cal got beat by Maryland, a bottom-tier ACC team. Washington got embarrassed at home by Oklahoma. Arizona State got beat by UNLV (who got killed last week by Utah)... in Tempe. Arizona got beat by New Mexico. Stanford lost - badly - to TCU. And UCLA was supposed to lose its road game against BYU, but this is just ridiculous.

Speaking of the Pounding in Provo, here's a few stats that are even more fun than 59-0...

- BYU quarterback Max Hall threw seven touchdowns... and didn't play the fourth quarter.

- UCLA had six rushing yards.

- The Great Depression was just starting the last time UCLA lost this badly.

Which brings me to my annual anti-BCS rant. This week, four Mountain West teams played Pac-10 opponents. The MWC was 4-0 in those matchups. Out of nine teams in the conference, six (the Utah teams, Air Force, TCU, New Mexico, and UNLV) are either legitimate threats to beat good BCS conference teams, or have already done so. The Big East and ACC can't claim that kind of quality. The Pac-10 and Big Ten can barely claim that. Now, it has long been my contention that the MWC is the best of the non-BCS conferences, even though the WAC gets all the press. (The WAC is pretty much a three-team league - four if Nevada decides to play.) And the smart money is still on one of the Utah teams to win the MWC and end up in a big bowl. But answer me this - why should an undefeated MWC winner be passed over for a shot at the championship over a one- or two-loss major conference team, especially if the major conference is weaker than, or just as weak as, the MWC? And why should a one- or two-loss MWC champion be banished to the Las Vegas Bowl even though they played a difficult conference schedule?

We need a 16-team playoff featuring each of the 11 conference champions and five at-large bids. It's only fair to give conference champs a shot.

Anyway, on to my games.

Vanderbilt 38, Rice 21: Before you say "whoopdecrap, we beat Rice," recognize this: Rice was 2-0 before this game, and they're serious competition for Tulsa for the C-USA West crown. Even better news: the traditionally anemic Vandy offense has scored 96 points in three games. I don't think we scored that many all last season. Even better: Vandy has outscored opponents 45-10 in the second half this year. I'm still not buying a bowl game - there are four games against top-20 opposition coming up, plus Tennessee and Kentucky, so to get to six wins we'd pretty much have to win both road games in Mississippi and the home game against newly halfway-decent Duke. And the offense is still suspect - that 38 points disguises the fact that we only had 71 passing yards and were outgained overall by a pretty good margin. We'll re-evaluate after this week's game at Mississippi...

Virginia Tech 20, Georgia Tech 17: I watched part of this game, and I didn't see the ball go into the air once. Then I checked the stat sheet... the teams combined for 22 pass attempts the whole game. Pretty amazing. I'm impressed by Paul Johnson's ability to apply the crazy option offense that worked at Navy in a major conference, even if the ACC barely deserves the label "major conference." They ran all over the Hokies all day, but VT still made the plays when it mattered.

#22 Utah 58, Utah State 10: Sure, this was a good old-fashioned butt-whoopin', but it kind of worries me that USU led early on. Also, three turnovers are bad. Against a bad team like USU, that gets disguised - USU gained 116 yards the whole game. But Utah gets its first real test against a good team (no, I don't count Michigan as "good") in Colorado Springs this week. We'll see what this team is really made of there.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Italy, You're Doing It Wrong

So apparently in Italy it's a crime - punishable by five years in jail - to insult the Pope. Granted, the insult was pretty harsh (provided anyone knows what a "poofter" devil is), but still. Didn't know Benny-boy was so brittle.

Anyway, when I read this article I thought of my kid. She's starting to learn to crawl, but right now she launches herself along the floor with both legs, and she flops down on her belly a lot and the whole thing is just really cute. Italy's actions with regards to free speech kind of make me feel that way about them. Here you have a cute little toddler democracy trying so hard to have freedom of speech, but just falling down on its face a lot. This story would make me angry if it were in America. As it is, this just makes me want to pick Italy up, hug it, say "it's okay, you can get this free speech thing," and put it back on its feet again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Repeat A Lie Often Enough...

Here's a great article on fact-checking that ought to be required reading for everyone planning to vote in November.

Election 2008, #3: Terror/Security Policy

For the founding post in this series, click here. We've done energy and civil liberties, and after those two, the standings are as follows:

Barr - 31
Obama - 30
McCain - 17

So now that terror policy is a big national issue again thanks to Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin's "constitution SUX LOL" bit at the convention, I thought this would be a good time to take a look at what the candidates themselves; you know, the ones actually running for president, as opposed to the ones who look like Tina Fey. To the issues, which each candidate covers rather extensively...

Bob Barr (platform here, more here) is predictably restrictive when it comes to terror surveillance policies. Barr wants to limit the government's surveillance power to only what is absolutely necessary to maintain security. He criticizes FISA and certain elements of the Patriot Act (which, ironically, he helped write). Most notably, he says that any surveillance powers must be consistent with the Constitution, and he has a pretty expansive view of what the Constitution prohibits. If he wants to limit private companies' data-banking, you can be sure he'll limit a lot of the federal government's efforts to do the same.

John McCain (platform here - you'd think a major-party campaign would have copy editors good enough to catch the massive typo on line 4... sorry, that kind of thing really distracts me) talks about a lot of things, but I'll highlight a couple of important issues. First, he supported the Military Commissions Act, which placed responsibility for prosecuting suspected terrorists in the hands of military tribunals. I don't think the act is a horrible compromise, but his platform contains the following line:
John McCain is more concerned with protecting the American people from future terrorist attacks, by killing or bringing to justice those who commit them, than he is with giving terrorists rights that would allow a judge to set them free before they are tried.
Such misunderstanding and misstating of the rights of the accused borders on an automatic DQ, in my book. Second, he wants to beef up the border patrol, which is probably a good thing. Third, he stresses cooperation between federal intelligence and law-enforcement and local and international agencies. He wants terror-fighting funds to be allocated based on risk - which would be a welcome change from the current way of doing things.

Barack Obama (platform here), like McCain, wants money doled out based on risk. Also like McCain, he wants to strengthen security around chemical plants and nuclear power generators. I couldn't find talk about intelligence gathering and detainees on his website, but I'll try to tackle some of this stuff: One, he opposes Bush's ridiculous use of classification, and wants to institute a declassification agency to handle such things. Obama was a critic of the MCA and at least talks like he respects habeas corpus for all. Obama's stance on intelligence, however, is somewhat amorphous - he has spoken out against FISA abuses, but voted not to punish the abusers.

On to the analysis.

The quote everyone loves to use here comes from Ben Franklin: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." But it's often misused in a way that sets liberty and security in opposition. They are not - there are many ways to protect ourselves against attack without sacrificing liberty. Securing chemical plants and spent nuclear fuel are among those ways. The point Franklin was trying to make is that when the two do intersect, we should always choose liberty. It's clear from his support for warrantless wiretaps and opposition to the rights of the accused that McCain chooses security, and for that he gets an automatic third place finish.

Obama's support for telecom immunity in FISA is troubling, even if it was a stance taken out of political expediency. I'm not sure I want a president willing to sacrifice the law for politics, and that's something I know Barr wouldn't do. However, Obama would be excellent on detainees' rights. As would Barr, of course. The questions I have, then: would Barr be too afraid of taking enough of the non-liberty-violating security steps, like securing chemical plants and nuclear plants? And would Barr's admirable zeal for liberty interfere with legitimate, non-liberty-threatening surveillance and intelligence gathering? And when Obama is faced with a choice between expanding his listening powers and preserving liberty, which will he choose? The answer to all of these is, sadly, "I don't know." Obama doesn't seem like a threat to liberty, but the FISA vote makes me queasy. Barr doesn't seem incompetent, but his lack of a security plan bugs me.

Since I have to make a choice, I'll go with Obama, since he appears to have a plan to take care of some of the obvious security risks we face and he's still pretty darn good when it comes to not crapping on the Constitution. We'll keep our fingers crossed that he listens to the Russ Feingolds of the world when it comes to wiretapping under his administration. (Incidentally, if any of you Barr supporters have info that would suggest that Obama would be really bad on privacy issues, let me know please - this ranking is open to change!)

So for this issue, that gives us:

Obama - 24
Barr - 16
McCain - 8

And a cumulative score of:

Obama - 54
Barr - 47
McCain - 25

Sound off.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Good News on the Palin Front

Civil libertarians, take a breath: according to Reason's Jesse Walker, Gov. Palin didn't try to ban books as mayor of Wasilla. Nor is she an abstinence-only fanatic. Good to hear. I'm a little less scared of Palin now, though her disparaging of civil liberties demonstrates that she hasn't read the Constitution past the Second Amendment. Also, her disparaging remarks about community organizers betray a little bit of cultural intolerance. But at least she won't be burning our books and condoms.

Hat tip to The Agitator.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

College Football, Week 2

Here's your Week 2 insights. NFL Week 1 insights coming Tuesday, though the 'Skins have already played.

First off, how weak did the Big Ten look? Ohio State damn near got beat by Ohio at home, Wisconsin struggled early against Marshall before waking up, and Michigan looked awful against Miami (Ohio). At least Northwestern beat poor Duke.

Second, your BCS-crasher watch: East Carolina destroyed #8 West Virginia, and since their schedule is really weak the rest of the way, they should be able to be undefeated with no problem. BYU survived Washington, but only because they paid off the refs or something. Seriously, I wonder if the same people who officiated the Vanderbilt-Florida travesty from three years ago worked that game - it was the exact same B.S. call that led to the 35-yard PAT, which got blocked and thus did the Huskies in. And Utah? See below.

Third, Arkansas looks really bad this year. Maybe they shouldn't have fired Houston Nutt.

On to the games I care about:

Vanderbilt 24, #24 South Carolina 17: Wow. I can honestly say I didn't expect this, especially not after we essentially nuked USC's season last year in Columbia. Vandy actually looked good in this game - the defense was excellent, and we capitalized well on some big USC mistakes. What I especially like: instead of giving the game away at the end as is Vandy's custom, we pounded out a rushing first down and ran out the clock. You know, like a good team would do.

One note on the Spurrier era at USC - the Ol' Ball Coach isn't putting up the kind of offensive numbers he was famous for at Florida - and it's not as if he's facing harder teams. Is he just not as motivated? Is he only able to recruit defensive players? Or has the game passed him by?

Virginia Tech 24, Furman 7: Well, I guess when you're Virginia Tech you're supposed to beat Furman, so I don't have much to say here. I guess the only thing I really have to say is that the loss to ECU doesn't look so bad now.

#22 Utah 42, UNLV 21: After what UNLV did to Utah last year, this feels good. It was dicey for a while, but a good end-of-half score tied it up and the Utes' offense woke up in the second half. However, I don't think Utah can afford the kind of first half they had this week against Wyoming or New Mexico, and definitely can't afford it against the Brig.

And granted, Washington's probably a better team than Michigan, but the fact that BYU had trouble with their mediocre major-conference opponent kinda makes me smile a little.

Friday, September 05, 2008

America's Most Astute Pundit: Dave Barry

Humorist Dave Barry has one of the best observations I've heard from any political analyst in quite some time:
The Republicans are also feeling good about their message, which is that Washington is bad and whoever is in charge there needs to be run out of town on a rail. Interestingly, this is also the Democrats' message. We are now in our fourth consecutive decade in which both of our major political parties are just totally FED UP with Washington. I frankly don't see how Washington can survive this onslaught much longer.

The entire convention series is comedy gold. I had thought Barry had retired... guess not, though. I didn't see how a still-talented comedian could possibly ignore this election, anyhow.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

About Tonight...

Tonight, the world will watch a spectacle of untold importance. The effects will be far-reaching, the emotions will run high. The fate of the world may hang in the balance. Tonight may be the most important night we, as a country, have had for a long time. A night of national glory, or perhaps national shame. Of course, you know what I'm referring to...

Football's back, baby! Hail to the Redskins... Bring it, G-men.

Jake, Elwood, and Sarah

The latest dose of awesome from Sarah Palin - apparently, she told a church that the Iraq war is "a task that is from God."

No word on whether our troops in Iraq are being pursued by Nazis and the Illinois State Police.

Some people try to channel Winston Churchill when speaking in public. Others try to imitate Martin Luther King. I guess now we know where Palin gets her inspiration.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Veep Roulette

Now that both major party candidates have made their vice-presidential picks, I figured I'd take a brief off-the-cuff look at them. I know nothing about Wayne Allyn Root, Bob Barr's Libertarian running mate, other than the fact that he can't spell "Allen." So I won't go into him much.

Let's start with Biden. On a personal level, I like Biden. Nine of the ten best moments from the early Democratic debates were Biden. He's got a ton of foreign policy experience and is an experienced lawmaker who can help the relatively green Obama navigate Washington's black holes and get things done. Policy-wise, though, there's a lot to be worried about. He supported the godawful bankruptcy bill and he supported the war in Iraq. And Balko points out the many reasons that Fourth Amendment fans should loathe Biden. The main thing I take from that isn't that Obama necessarily agrees with Biden on his anti-Fourth Amendment drug-war radicalism, but that he really doesn't care enough about excessive police powers for that sort of thing to be disqualifying. Fourth Amendment violations are bad whether they're a result of fighting drugs or terrorism. The fact that Obama doesn't worry about the former raises the question of whether he cares enough about the latter.

McCain, as we all know by now, picked Tina Fey. I have a lot of reasons to not like Palin, and they have little to do with all the crap the mainstream media likes to throw around. She's a book banner and a fan of ineffective abstinence-only education. She supported federal earmarks totaling about $1,000 per person for her small Alaska town when she was mayor. She places low taxes ahead of fiscal responsibility. True, she's an anti-corruption reformer, which is nice, but there's too much other objectionable stuff there for me to really get excited about that. One of the reasons I didn't mind McCain is that he seemed like a departure from the tired religious conservatism of the Bush era - but that's the mold out of which Palin appears to have been cut.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is that there's a lot not to like about both of them. Biden's probably in the right on a lot more issues than Palin is, though. I think Obama didn't have a whole lot of better options available, and Biden's not a bad chief advisor to have. McCain, however, had plenty. Joe Lieberman would have been perfect for the image McCain is trying to project, even if they disagree on a lot. Mitt Romney oozes competence, which is comforting in someone who would be backing up a guy who will be 76 on Election Day 2012. Picking a hard-right cookie-cutter social conservative with one and a half years' gubernatorial experience completely undermines both of McCain's main narratives - one, that he's the maverick willing to take on his own party as well as the opposing party, and two, that he's the safe, experienced choice.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


Best moment of either convention so far - the Republicans using AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" to introduce... former AZ school superintendent Lisa Keegan, who looks like a stereotypical soccer mom.

Oh, and comparing first impressions of the two conventions:

Democrats - a bunch of visibly tipsy, happy people dancing to an Earth, Wind, and Fire cover band (or possibly Earth, Wind, and Fire themselves).

Republicans - a bunch of dour-looking old people listening to some old woman blathering on about... something.

I'm just sayin'.

...And Minnesota Cops Go Berserk

Matt, tell the cops in your home state to calm the hell down:
Last night, members of the St. Paul police department and the Ramsey County sheriff's department handcuffed, photographed and detained dozens of people meeting at a public venue to plan a demonstration, charging them with no crime other than "fire code violations," and early this morning, the Sheriff's department sent teams of officers into at least four Minneapolis area homes where suspected protesters were staying.

If you don't trust Glenn Greenwald's impartiality (why would you?), here's the Minneapolis Star-Tribune story, which elaborates a little more on the reasons for the raid. The cops say that they suspected more than just protesting - that they actually suspected that the groups would act to disrupt the convention, and that they raided pre-emptively to stop that.

One still wonders if the St. Paul police department hired the precogs from Minority Report.

Look, I understand the desire to keep order. But you don't raid someone's meetings and arrest them because they might do something illegal. That's just too awful for words. Police - and here I include the overzealous Denver cops as well - need to calm down. Not every protest is going to devolve into violence. Few do, in fact. No one wants another 1968 Chicago, but the chances of that actually happening are remote at best. We need to make the cops remember that their job in a protest is to stand by and jump in only if things get out of hand.

One last thing. Here's my reaction to the news that Sarah Palin's daughter is pregnant. Ready? Here goes...


Next issue.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

College Football Week 1 Roundup

So here's a short analysis of how my three teams did in Week 1 of the college football season. Two of the results were surprises to me, one wasn't. And the one that wasn't is, naturally, being treated as a surprise by everyone in the sports media right now.

Vanderbilt 34, Miami (OH) 13: To be honest, I didn't expect Vandy to win this game. I thought Miami was one of those dangerous mid-major teams that has the chance to knock off major-conference doormats. Guess I forgot Ben Roethlisberger is long gone. And I also thought that losing Earl Bennett and Chris Williams would pretty much kill our offense. Two things about this game give me hope that we could beat teams not named Duke and Rice the rest of the way. One, it was an away game. Granted, for Vandy they're practically all away games, but putting a smackdown on a decent opponent on the road oughta be a good sign. Second, Vandy was 8-15 on third down. Not bad for a road game, or for a team that didn't break the 100-yard mark passing.

East Carolina 27, #17 Virginia Tech 22: What the hell happened here? If you had told me that a team won on a fourth-quarter blocked punt for a touchdown, I would have told you it was Tech, since they always seem to come up with that stuff. Guess Beamer got Beamered. Anyway, looks like a) Tech'll really miss Brandon Ore, b) the defense, which is supposed to be Tech's specialty, can't be all that good if they're making Patrick Pinkney look like Joe Montana, and c) ECU's sneaky good. Watch out for them. I thought this would be a good year for Tech, but when they lost Ore they lost most of their offensive effectiveness. Glennon can't carry this team.

Utah 25, Michigan 23: The only thing that surprised me about this game was that it was that close. Utah is a far better team than Michigan, who is rebuilding with a young team and a new coach. There's good news and bad news for the Utes from this game. The good news is that the defense, which is supposed to be the weakness of this team, held up well, giving up only two short-field touchdowns after the first quarter. The bad news? Good teams don't yack away 15-point leads in the fourth quarter against inferior opponents. They made the plays when it mattered, though, stopping a two-point conversion that would have tied it, then holding Michigan without a first down on their final drive.

Even better news for the Utes, though? This game was probably their toughest test until the Holy War... which is in Salt Lake this year. There's a distinct chance they'll be 11-0 going into that game. The Brig took care of business against Northern Iowa, and I don't see a team that can beat them on their schedule until then, either. But if the Utes want to get past the Yners, they'll have to avoid those fourth-quarter brain farts that happened in this game...

Quick note on mid-majors in the BCS - if ECU can get past West Virginia next week (no small task, to be sure), I don't see another team that could beat them on their schedule. So what happens if ECU and the Utah/BYU winner both finish the season undefeated? Is there room for both in the BCS?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Quick Thoughts on Obama's Speech

OK, so I gave in and watched Obama's speech, and before I drown in a sea of punditry I'll throw my thoughts out there. First, I thought he did pretty good. It wasn't an amazing speech, but it was stirring at times and dealt with policy a lot more specifically than he had in the past. Since I knew most of the policy stuff going in, nothing was really new to me there, but he stated it well and made a convincing argument. Obviously I'll get more in-depth on what I think of his policy ideas in future "Election 2008: The Series" posts, so I won't analyze line-by-line here.

The best parts were his bit about individual responsibility and the limits of government's responsibility - since he phrased it as and it seemed to be a direct challenge to Democratic orthodoxy - and his attack on those who would use patriotism as a tool to win elections. Both resonated well with me, especially the former bit since I think he made points that aren't made often enough by pols of either party. The worst was the "off foreign oil in ten years" crapola, but I'll forgive him that. The speech seemed to wander a little as long speeches are wont to do, but he tied it all together pretty well at the end. I guess I wasn't as ready to jump out of my seat shouting as I was back in '04, but the last 10 minutes or so was pretty darn inspiring.

A few other notes - I really hope Obama does actually go line-by-line through the budget cutting and trimming. That would be awesome. Second, are Brooks and Dunn - both pretty hard-core Republicans, as I understand it - happy about having "Only in America" used after Obama's speech? And was "Born in the USA" really necessary? Does anyone listen to the lyrics of that song?

Instant update: Brooks and Dunn headlined the Republican convention in 2004. It takes some cojones grandes to choose a song by someone who headlined the opposing party's last convention as your send-off song.