Friday, January 29, 2010

the Barack Obama comedy hour

Idiots. I really am amazed sometimes that Republicans ever get elected to anything. I can't believe they thought it would be a good idea to let any dipshit in the caucus lob impromptu questions -- on national TV, no less -- at the President of the United States, and only a year and change after he took John McCain to school three times in a row, to boot.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of the Union

What will the southern Republicans do this year, I wonder? Let's take a poll and see what y'all think:

a) show up in white robes and hoods
b) wear neckties tied in nooses
c) drop trough in the middle of the speech and defecate on the Capitol floor
d) put on fake Hitler moustaches after Obama mentions HCR
e) spit in Obama's face as he walks down the aisle and shout "you stay away from our white women!"
f) give Obama a Nazi-style extended arm salute
g) refer to the president as "Comrade Barry Hussein" all night
h) intentionally find ways to use the term "niggardly" and chuckling each time
i) wear t-shirts that say "they call it the WHITE house for a reason!"

Friday, January 22, 2010

a fool's errand

That's what it would be to draft a new bill to woo Republicans. Krugman:
So, House Democrats have a choice: do they pass the Senate bill, or do they go back to the drawing board and spend several months cobbling together a plan that’s worse in almost every dimension, generating thousands of stories about hapless Democrats — and almost surely find that Senate Republicans block the new plan, too.

The GOP is not interested in working with Democrats, only with subverting them. They've already said their strategy is obstruction, they've being using that strategy for 3 years now, and they believe they're winning with it. Why would they suddenly vote to fix healthcare now?

Reid's recent comment about Olympia Snowe's duplicity should be the lesson of the decade for Democrats. They gave her everything she asked for from weakening the mandate penalties to stripping the co-ops, the Medicare buy-in, and the opt-outs, even the public option itself, only to watch her vote to filibuster anyway.

Remember, one the GOP's main arguments against the public option was that it would be better than private insurance, and that's a bad thing:
Nevertheless, Republican senators argued that the public option would bankrupt the country and lead to a single-payer system. "Government is not a competitor. Government is a predator," said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

To the GOP, the worst thing that could happen is that something gets fixed while the Democrats are in charge.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

giving up

Speaker Pelosi says she doesn't have the votes, and doesn't give any viable alternatives.

I think the Democrats have given up on healthcare reform.

It's being described in several places as "political suicide," which it is, sure. One wonders whom, exactly, Mary Landrieu is expecting will go to the polls for her (let alone donate and volunteer!) if she runs against a Republican and yet fought tooth and nail against having to make a decision on the defining Democratic project of the last 50 years. Who does she think is her base of support? Then again, of all the controversial parts of the various bills, the public option consistently polled better than anything else, and yet it the main thing conservative Democrats wanted out of the bill, so maybe that says something about the political instincts of the "waffling is conviction" crowd.

To call this "political suicide," though, misses the mark because it's still looking at politics as theater or sport, using the "horse race" rhetoric of election-year journalism that doesn't recognize the very real way that politics affects our lives. As Jon Stewart once put it, "This isn't a f**king game."

Giving up on healthcare reform isn't suicide; it's abandonment. It's abandonment of 50 million uninsured Americans, countless millions of others who are underinsured, overcharged, and one health problem away from bankruptcy. It's abandonment of everyone who's been or will be denied coverage because of "pre-existing conditions" or dropped when they get sick, and everyone victimized by the "death by spreadsheet" business model of American insurance companies. And it's abandonment of everyone who put their hopes in a new Congress, a new party, and a new president to finally make things right.

Yes, this means that Obama voters are going to stay home in November, and the blood of conservative and moderate Democrats will flow like a river down the steps of the Capitol, but the real "news" is that as many as 101,000 people will die needlessly in 2013 because Congress couldn't maneuver a health reform bill through a 59 seat majority. Which one of those massacres actually matters?

UPDATE: then again, this makes one wonder if the only bill Democrats ever stood a chance of passing was one that does more harm than good, anyway.



Thursday, January 14, 2010

lessons learned (hopefully)

2 interesting admissions from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the HCR negotiations:

1. Joe Lieberman really did backstab him on the Medicare buy-in, promising support and then balking at the moment of greatest leverage,

2. (and this is the big one) the months spent negotiating with Olympia Snowe were a waste of time. Reid estimates that she never had any intention of signing onto healthcare reform.

Notre Dame's 2010 Commencement Speaker: Brian Williams

Great. Maybe we'll get to hear about some of his penetrating insights, like how there's something uniquely American about not giving up, or perhaps a comment about the solid moral values of people in the Heartland. I wonder if he'll mention how courageous our men and women in uniform are or how magnificent the accomplishments of the Greatest Generation were.

I really hope he talks a little bit about taking the politics out of Washington by focusing less on Wall St. and more on Main St.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

don't mess with Conando

Conan O'Brien won't do a midnight Tonight Show. Good for him. Apparently there are contractual issues in trying to go somewhere else, though.

I'm getting really sick of Jay Leno and the way NBC pushes everyone else around to make room for him and his tepid comedy. This episode reminds me of the fact that, had Johnny Carson had his way, Conan would be taking over The Tonight Show with David Letterman. Dunno how long it will last, but right now on Jay Leno's Wikipedia page, if you look under "influences" you'll see the name "Judas."

Harold Ford, Jr. running for New York senate seat

What is it about this senate seat that attracts carpetbaggers?

When people of staunch liberal and conservative persuasions talk about the "squishy center," accusing them of spinelessness, double talk, and disloyalty, they're usually talking about guys like Harold Ford. Ford spent the last 5 years on television bashing Democrats for being "extremist," at least when he wasn't burnishing his pro-life credentials or supporting gay marriage bans (now that's "Big Government"!).

Now, however, with a practically open seat in a comfortably blue state, Ford has re-emerged, suddenly socially liberal.

And for the record, pegs Ford's support percentage from NARAL at 30%, not 80% as he claims. I know that must have been really hard for the lofty New York Post to verify, but there it is.

the ironic ending of Joe Rollino

Guy who lived to be 104 died yesterday in New York. Very sad.

He didn't pass away in bed, though. He was hit by a van.

ex-Gitmo prison guard reconnect with 2 former inmates using Facebook

Not your typical Guantanamo story.

Friday, January 08, 2010

you see what God did to us?

Some of the best commentary on the championship game. I've been a fan of Colt McCoy since his freshman year when he gave the Buckeyes a fight at the Horseshoe, and what happened to him last night, after having spent pretty much his entire life preparing for that game, is a devilishly cruel twist of fate even by sports standards. I know reporters are supposed to talk to the main players about what happened after the game, but neither Colt nor we should have been subjected to this:

Perhaps the issue of Colt's personal misery could be held off for another day, or at least you could maybe have a little tact when you pick at that fresh wound next time?

Poor kid. I choked up a little watching him struggle for words. I'm truly impressed that he could hold himself together long enough to get away from the vultures.

top tens of the decade: TV shows

What can I say? It's fun to do these things. Heather Havrilesky at Salon has a good one, though mine would not be identical.

What do I take "best" to mean here? I'm thinking a mix of entertainment value, intellectual heft, clever writing, and strong production, I suppose. I understand that Havrilesky gets a lot of entertainment out of "Survivor," and felt the need to include something from the reality TV genre, but I don't feel any such compunction about leaving out a genre if I think it's cheap, brainless filler pretty much by definition. I'm sure there are some well-crafted, entertaining game shows, too, but you won't see any on my list. You also won't see shows I haven't seen yet (sorry, Sopranos). You also won't see the two shows everyone's ga-ga over: Mad Men and 30 Rock. I like and watch them both, and 30 Rock is probably number 11 on my list. I hear the most recent season of Mad Men is the best, but I can't watch it until it comes out on video.

1. The Wire

Agreed with Heather on this one, and I'll go even further. The Wire isn't just the clear standout of the decade; I think it may be the greatest show ever. I'm not sure I've ever seen a show this smart or this coldly realistic, or have characters this detailed, or organized and executed so meticulously. The show carefully cultivates a sense of brutal realism, even pessimism, but without becoming merely cynical. The characters are not just memorable or "captivating" but alive, and we see them in their natural environment, most of them always teetering on the brink of destruction.

One of the things I thought was most interesting and alluring about the show was that the entire premise proceeded from a single, pedestrian theme, a mere cliche in pretty much any other context: "Drugs are bad for people and communities." The creators of the show, a former journalist and a former policeman, create an entire series about the city of Baltimore and how drugs are choking the life out of it, and exactly how that's happening, and exactly why that's happening, and why all the city's civic institutions are powerless to stop it.

2. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

I'm with Heather here as well. It is scary remembering what life was like when the only comedy acts attempting to deal with politics were Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show. God we must have been stupid back then. Critics may point out that Colbert Report is, on the whole, funnier and a deader aim. That may be true, but The Daily Show was just bigger this decade in its aim and in its impact on politics and TV comedy and even news media. Jon Stewart filled a void so dearly longed for by so many people, and did it so completely, that he's become one of the most trusted news men in America.

Who saw that coming after watching Death to Smoochy?

3. Firefly

F you, FOX.

Joss Whedon's magnum opus was just the cleverest durn thing you ever seen. Amusing, infinitely quotable, with endearing characters and surprisingly well-conceived special effects (the silent hand cam was so good at making the effects scenes feel like actual space), Firefly was perhaps the single saddest casualty of America's taste for shitty television.

4. Deadwood

The long defunct western genre was resurrected on TV in some surprising and brilliant ways. Deadwood took the western genre and recreated it for savvier, more intellectual audiences, and even inserted Shakespearean cadences into the banter. Ian McShane's Al Swearengen may be the best executed character of the decade. Also, it had the best opening credits sequence of any show I've ever seen.

5. The Office

Anybody else notice that "that's what she said" is everywhere now?

Seriously though, this show is so much more than meets the eye. The humor is hard to crack at first because it's so uncomfortable, but underneath there's a surprising amount of heart in this show, and of depth in the characters, especially Michael Scott. A pre-emptive response to the fans of the British version: by the end of the 2nd season, Steve Carell inhabits this character more fully than Ricky Gervais, and the writing is better, to boot. The show talks about life at work in a way that is smarter than it first sounds.

6. Dexter

A show that takes everything cliche about TV in the aughts (a Miami crime procedural about a serial killer? really?) and makes something brilliant. I hate that I like this show so much.

7. Arrested Development

I've only seen the first season so far, but you can just kinda tell.

8. Battlestar Galactica

Not always the smartest dialog and not always the best acting, but the story is majestic, a real spectacle. Probably the greatest straight sci-fi TV show in history.

9. In Treatment

Minimalist television, stripped down to 3 staple characters in 2 rooms, doing nothing but having therapy sessions. Like fragments of ancient poetry, there is something about the tiny, truncated nature of the episodes and stories that sticks with you long after they're over.

The whole weight of the show rests upon the acting chops of its cast, doing entire episodes without a cut in many cases, and Gabriel Byrne and Dianne Wiest are enthralling.

10. Big Love

It's impressive how well the writers take a group that is universally despised and makes them not just sympathetic but almost like representations of the average American. They can tug on different thematic strands to make the Henricksons appeal to different social and political subgroups at different times. See there, Bill is a church-going, true believing man of God who's unafraid to invoke the name of Jesus in public. Look there, there's Barb and Nicki being discriminated against for living an alternative lifestyle! Oh, those crazy in-laws, am I right?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

an ad hominem is not a legitimate defense

I keep seeing this over and over again: the answer to the charges that Mike Leach punished a concussed player is that the player, Adam James, was lazy and entitled. Can someone explain to me how the player's lack of work ethic justifies locking him in a room for the grave offense of having a concussion? Nevertheless, sneering mockeries of James appeared on signs and t-shirts all over the broadcast of the Alamo Bowl. I even heard this argument from Mike Leach himself, which I personally find despicable.

Of course, Leach's public treatment of his players has become increasingly unprofessional in recent years, and some of those surprising tweets from early this season now seem much more telling in light of recent events. As I said yesterday, it's significant that, rather than rushing to their highly successful coach's defense, the current players that have gone public are standing by James, but it's not just that they defended James. Look at the comments they made:
Starting Center Shawn Byrnes on Leach: “He didnt understand how to deal with people. … Everyone is excited about this to be honest. … Adam James took a stand. How could punish a kid for having a concussion? What could that possibly accomplish?”

Texas Tech defensive lineman Chris Perry on Leach’s firing today and the coach’s treatment of Adam James: “I have no complaints about this decision. (Leach) put Adam in a shed like an animal. Like an animal in a cage. … That was bull. … You call the players. We practiced hard this week. We have our pep back now. We had less stress this week. You know why? Because he’s (Leach) gone.”

Texas Tech defensive back Taylor Charbonnet on Leach’s treatment of teammate Adam James: “I didn’t like it at all. I didn’t agree with it. I don’t know why Leach did that.”

What I think we're starting to see is a long deteriorating relationship between Leach and his players that boiled over this season in several very embarrassing public episodes, but has been simmering out of sight of the cameras for some time. I have a feeling this is the real story of Mike Leach's firing from Texas Tech.

LA betting on drawing an NFL team by 2011

From AP:
LOS ANGELES (AP)—The company behind a plan to lure the NFL back to Los Angeles said Tuesday the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills are the first teams it will try to relocate.

Majestic Realty Co. managing partner John Semcken said the company is still considering at least seven franchises for a new stadium some 25 miles east of Los Angeles.

They also include the San Francisco 49ers, San Diego Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams and Oakland Raiders.

But he said the Jaguars and the Bills are at the top of the list because they play in small markets that tamp down their earning potential and because they have little hope of building larger venues in their home regions.

I'm not a fan of any of these teams, but having watched the Oilers go to Nashville in my youth, I'm still a bit sore on the whole idea of teams switching cities, especially older, more established teams. Three of these teams have already called Los Angeles home before (the Raiders, Rams, and Chargers), but the Vikings, 49ers, and Bills have eons of history with their hometowns. They're some of the NFL's most venerable institutions.

Still, it is kind of silly for a city the size of Los Angeles not to have a team, especially when the Bay Area has two. One could argue that Los Angeles lost the Rams and Raiders because, despite hailing from a metropolitan area with a population of 12 million people, they couldn't fill the 90,000 seats in the Coliseum. However, 90k is a pretty absurd seat count for an NFL stadium (only FedEx Field in DC matches it without resorting to standing areas). Plus, for all but the last year of the LA Rams, there were 2 NFL teams dividing up the Angelino fanbase.

With all this in mind, I looked up the Harris Poll of NFL team popularity for this year. The results are interesting, especially the top 10. Only one of the top 10 teams changed metro areas in the last 35 years (the Indianapolis Colts in 1984). The spring chickens of the bunch are the San Diego Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys, both 50 years young. None of the eleven newest teams in the NFL made the top 10, while 6 of the 11 oldest teams were included.

Monday, January 04, 2010

the sad truth about the "values" of college sports

The vast majority of fans will gladly call out and denigrate on national TV a 19 year old kid to protect the coach, even one accused of punishing said kid for having the temerity to be concussed.

Normally the players rally around endangered and fired coaches, as happened with Charlie Weis despite his incredibly gruff personality and disappointing performance. Our best players even tried to extort the AD into bringing Weis back by making their return for the senior year contingent on Weis' (and made good on that threat when he was fired). Yet no current players have come to Leach's defense even after producing so many winning seasons and bowl games and masterminding the most impressive run in Tech football history, even taking the Red Raiders to their first ever #2 national ranking briefly last season. They have instead rallied around the injured player, Adam James, which should be a red flag to all of us outside the bubble about who was probably in the wrong here.

Apparently not, though: as of this morning, the Team Leach contingent on Facebook has 41,000 members. The "I support all Tech players including Adam James" group has 118. The group explicitly calling James a douchenozzle and advocating buying him a pretty dress has 123.

hey! something substantive said about sports!

10 actual, for real good things about sports, without all the bullshit about values and character.