Sunday, January 31, 2010

State of the Union 2010: More Lost Footage

"People are tired of the Washington games. People are tired of the pettiness in our politics. They deserve change, and they voted for change, and I will never stop fighting to change the tone here in Washington. You hear me, you God-and-gun-clinging, no-idea-having, Fox-News-watching, obstructionist teabagging liars?... Whoa, did I just say that again? How about those bankers?"

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pop Quiz: Hitler in the Bunker Edition

The "Hitler in the Bunker" scene from the movie Der Untergang (The Downfall) has produced many YouTube parodies. Maybe some are in bad taste, but some are also gut-bustingly funny. Which of the following makes you laugh the most?

(WARNING: Strong language ahead.)

A) "Hitler Finds Out Scott Brown Won the Massachusetts Senate Race":

B) "Hitler Vs. Kahn":

C) "Hitler Responds to the iPad":

D) "Hitler Finds Out the Ending of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince":

(Hint: Comedy is subjective.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Overheard at Pinkberry

"Stop having babies, woman who can't choose a good man."

State of the Union 2010: The Lost Footage

"Let me be perfectly clear. I have no desire to re-litigate the past. Re-writing it, however, is a completely different matter..."

"Fear the Boom and Bust"

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bill Clinton, Judge Judy, and the State of the Union

In spite of everything else screaming for my attention right now, I watched President Obama's first State of the Union address -- all 70-odd minutes of it -- last night. And what surprised me most was how much I kept thinking about Bill Clinton (and Judge Judy) as I watched.

Like President Clinton, President Obama also "feels" everyone's pain. I know this because President Obama tried to mention nearly every single person, in every single situation, currently living in the United States. He probably could have trimmed 25 minutes or so off the speech simply by not mentioning this representative man from this important group in this great state, or that representative woman in that also-important group in this other heartbreaking situation. This may be the first State of the Union address during which viewers actually began to experience "compassion fatigue." By the time President Obama got around to mentioning Haiti, my sympathy tank had run dry. And Bill always gave the impression that he really did feel your pain, deep in his own gut, and that he'd be happy to sit down and have a beer with you to talk about it, and oh, it's such a shame that your attractive wife couldn't join us. With President Obama, he understands it in his head -- and he'll make sure you get a copy of the paper he wrote about it.

More than anything, though, when the voters gave Bill Clinton an electoral spanking back in 1994 for his policies and how he governed, he actually understood the message -- that they were rejecting his policies and how he governed, and that it was time to be the political centrist he had campaigned as. This message has clearly escaped President Obama, who even after seeing Massachusetts (Massachusetts!) elect a Republican (a Republican!) to the "Kennedy seat" (the "Kennedy seat"!) in the Senate apparently thinks the problem has nothing to do with his policies and how he's been governing. From what I saw last night, President Obama really, truly, and honestly thinks the problem is simply that people just don't understand his policies and how awesome they are, so all he really needs to do is explain their awesomeness again (and again) until the truth of his words finally sinks in and we all come to our senses and thank him for his steadfastness.

And say bad things about bankers. Because people really hate bankers.

Sorry, Mr. President, but the health care reform bills aren't running at closing in on 70% disapproval with the public because we don't know what's in the legislation. We do know. That's why closing in on 70% of us are opposing it -- and why Massachusetts (Massachusetts!) just elected a Republican (a Republican!) to the "Kennedy seat" (the "Kennedy seat"!) in the Senate.

It takes real chutzpah for President Obama, after everything that's happened in the last year, to get up before both houses of Congress and the nation and yet again say how the health reform bill in the Senate will expand coverage, reduce costs, and, oh yes, somehow chop $1 trillion from the deficit over the next 20 years. Or maybe that's just clinical denial. I'm not a psychiatrist, so I'll have to leave that question open. I'm just thankful he didn't bring back those doctors who perform predatory tonsillectomies on small children or refuse to give diabetics information on how to control their disease so they can rake in the big bucks by cutting off their patients' feet.

Or maybe one President Obama has the chutzpah and the other President Obama is in denial. Because like a lot of his speeches, the President seemed to be two people last night, trying to have it both ways. That's why he's going to add even more spending in the budget, then next year freeze some of it at those higher levels, so that he can help bring down the deficit. Sure, this is like running up your balances on five different credit cards and then sticking one of them in the freezer after you've maxed it out, but doesn't it sound really, really good? And how about those bankers? How awful are they?

What bothered me most, though, wasn't the idea the Stimulus was so successful that President Obama now wants another one, even though we still haven't spent most of the money from the first, and we'll call this one a "jobs bill" instead. Or his explanation of how banks made too many risky loans, which is why we're in this mess, even though the problem now is that banks aren't making risky loans, so let's throw out another $30 billion in taxpayer money so that banks, which are bad, can make risky loans, which are good, except when they're sending us to the edge of another Great Depression.

No, what bothered me most is that even after a year in office, President Obama still can't decide whether he's the postpartisan uniter of hope or the hyperpartisan, Chicago machine-style politican. So he's still trying to be both. And at the same time. And in the same speech. But at some point, claiming how you really, really, really want to be bipartisan and work with the other side just falls flat when you keep poking a big stick in everyone else's eye. I mean, don't say you have no interest in "re-litigating" the past after you've just spent almost half the speech blaming George W. Bush and his policies for nearly every problem we have,including all those trillions in new deficits called for in your own 10-year budget plan. And don't tell me how you will never stop trying to change the tone in Washington, but then not only rip into the Supreme Court, who just happen to be sitting politely in front of you, but also mischaracterize the decision you disagree with and egg on the members of your own party to do their best imitation of a angry crowd with torches and pitchforks. It's not like they're bankers, after all.

And that's where Judge Judy comes in. Because when I wasn't thinking of Bill Clinton during this speech, I was thinking of her. And why was I thinking of Judge Judy?

Because for 70-odd minutes last night, President Obama peed on my leg and told me it was raining.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Best. Fake. Political Ad. Ever.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Where Has All The Blogging Gone?

So far, 2010 has been a hard year for blogging -- and for getting much of anything else done, too.

My wife and I both got sick after returning home from Christmas in Canada. Usually, she picks up something from her students, and I pick up a milder case from her. She fights it for days and days, and I throw it off in a day or so. But this time, the intensity was reversed. She threw it off after a few days, while I not only felt like walking death for more than a week, I'm only now getting over the lingering cough that no amount of lozenges and syrup could suppress.

This was hardest on the dog, of course. Until now, one of us always felt well enough to pick up the slack as far as walks and play sessions. Now she's experienced both of us being under the weather at the same time, and she is not a fan. In fact, she spent most of the first week in 2010 looking like this:

So, take being sick, throw in dealing with someone, somehow, getting hold of my debit card number and going on a spending spree, and then throw in jury duty as well, and you can understand why blogging has been getting bumped to the bottom of my priority list lately.

Besides, I'm a sucker for that furry face. And she's needed the ball to be thrown far more than I've needed to vent and snark about, well, whatever...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"Here's Hoping the Voters Remember..."

I'll be honest. Jack Cafferty is one of the reasons I stopped watching CNN on a regular basis. A crotchety old man who clearly wishes he were Gore Vidal, and who just as clearly believes he knows more about every subject than anyone else, including Gore Vidal, he's like that relative you dread seeing at Thanksgiving. You know the one. The old uncle or in-law who just can't understand how anyone could believe we have anything to be thankful for so long as Dick Cheney still has a pulse, and God help anyone who asks him to just pass the gravy and please give the politics a rest until after we've all had pie.

Even I have to admit, though, that he nails it here:

You said it, Jack. And here's hoping the voters also remember this:

And this:

But especially this:

I know I'll remember...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Headline Says It All

"Shock: Obama Forced to 'Order' Follow-Ups of Terrorist Tips"

No Che!

Of all the Christmas gifts that I received, this t-shirt may well be my favorite:

I can't wait to wear it down to the local Starbucks.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"How to Pass Health Care Reform 101"

(H/T: The Lonely Conservative)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Pop Quiz: "Worth a Thousand Words" Edition

The following photograph is:

A) A scene from BET's remake of The Godfather.

B) A cologne ad.

C) An official photo on the White House flickr page.

(Hint: Like any one of us wouldn't give Joe Biden that very same look...)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010: Pessimists at the Door

[I wrote the post below at the start of 2009. And I still have great optimism for the future, even if that's now mixed with great pessimism for the year we've just begun. So as I sat here this morning, sniffling and trying to find another excuse to put off walking the dog with my still-flu-shaky legs, I read this post again, and it saved me from writing a thoroughly ranty screed about the problems we face in the coming year after all the self-inflicted wounds of President Obama's first year in office. Better to just post it again, I thought, and then pop some more flu pills, stagger downstairs, and start enjoying a rather beautiful day with the most optimistic creature I know. -- Wesley M.]

As usual, James Lileks not only manages to post more regularly these last few weeks than I have but also to hit on something I've been thinking myself:

At a party tonight I had an odd, fleeting thought: India is moving troops to the Pakistan border to match their counterpart’s actions; there are earthquakes under Yellowstone which probably won’t trigger the caldera and blot the sun with a mantle of Satan's dandruff but you never know; Israel is engaged in a major operation against Cynthia McKinney, and most of the domestic news is horrible economic stats—people are buying less jewelry!—or tales of shameless corruption about a governor with a large amount of black hay on his head. Yet here we are, crowded in the kitchen, laughing and talking and watching the kids run around, clinking our glasses and urging the new year to Bring It On. We’re a resilient people.

Or, we’re just not paying attention.
True, my wife and I have spent a relatively quiet holiday season at home this year rather than clinking glasses with relatives and friends, but I know what he means. And I know that earlier in my life, I would have fallen into the we're just not paying attention camp.

It's a dark place, that camp, where nothing breaks through the clouds covering the future of the country (and the world), but it does have a certain appeal. Like being able to consider yourself smarter and more perceptive than all those annoying optimists, with their even-more-annoying comments about how we've gotten through worse before and it's really not as bad as all that today. Not to mention being able to feel more emotionally resilient, because you have the cojones to look the acne-scarred face of our bleak future straight in its bloodshot eyes.

It's all spinning out of control and going to hell, after all! Why can't those optimists just open their happy-ending eyes and see?!

They need us, damn it, we would think with pride. Because we're going to save the optimists from themselves.

Of course, over the last decade in particular, I've gone from being an utter pessimist to an unrepentant optimist. Maybe it's just getting older, or having seen the Cold War end and the Soviet Union fall, or finally picking up on all the small signs of hope I never gave enough credit to before, whether it's people half my age who already understand the lessons I took another 20 years of life to learn or editing peer-reviewed environmental study after peer-reviewed environmental study that have convinced me we are not facing imminent global catastrophe but are, in fact, making real progress. Not that I want to move to China and eat fish out of the Yangtze River, mind you, but I've lost my patience with Ten Years Left To Save The Planet! That kind of doomsday pessimism once gave me an emotional thrill like some weird sort of scientific bungee-jumping, but these days, heights just make me nervous.

My wife has had a parallel experience, which we discovered not long ago while watching the "Charlton Heston Apocalyptic Trilogy": Planet of the Apes, The Omega Man, and Soylent Green. I think it was during Soylent Green that we realized we had both grown up on doomsayers, whether the Club of Rome and Paul Ehrlich or films that predicted the end of the world at somewhere around 10 years ago. And that not only had this totally colored our view of the world when we were growing up, it had created a filter that we'd carried through into our adult lives.

Of course, James Lileks hit on this once as well, and summed it up better than I could:
I am not susceptible to disaster scenarios. I do not believe we have ten years to prevent the inevitable collapse of civilization. As long as I can remember I have been fed end-times scenarios—death by ice, death by fire, death by famine, death by smothering from heaps of clambering humans scrabbling for purchase on an overpopulated world, death by full-scale nuclear exchange, death by unstoppable global AIDS, death by a two-degree rise in temperatures, death by radon, death by alar, death by inadvertent Audi acceleration, death by juju. Doesn’t mean we won’t die of juju. But somehow we survive. The only thing I take away is a vague wistful wonder what it would be like to live in an era when things were generally so bad that the futurists spent their time assuring us it would be better. Say what you will about the past, but at least they had a future. All I've ever had, according to the experts, is a grim narrow window of heedless ignorant bliss followed by a dystopian irradiated world characterized by scarcity, mutation, and quite possibly intelligent chimps. You have no future. Oh, and don’t smoke!


I’m a stupid optimist. Either the vehicle that takes me to the boneyard will get six miles per gallon of processed dinosaur, or it will run for ninety days on a milliliter of Sea-Monkey urine. Either way, all in all, we’ll make it.
Count me in with the stupid optimists. I expect great things in 2009, even with all the bad things I'm sure will also happen. And if 2009 disappoints me, I'll expect still greater things out of 2010, or 2011, or 2012.

Because even with all the problems we have today—and I'm not saying that we don't have problems—things are better than they were 20 years ago. And 20 years ago, I wouldn't have been able to bring myself to say that, though I can today. That alone tells me something.

It tells me that the pessimists need us, damn it, as I now think with pride. And that we're going to save the pessimists from themselves.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Back from Canada... Again...

No sooner did my wife and I return from spending a downright blissful Christmas holiday with her family and friends in Canada than we both came down with some kind of flu bug. Though I suppose it was lucky we didn't start coughing, sneezing, shaking, and wobbling on our feet until we were back in the States. We used up enough luck as it was getting through Customs and all the added airport security in Toronto; the two of us showing up at Pearson International looking like Patient Zero would not, as President Obama likes to say, have been helpful.

Regular blogging starts again once I can sit up long ehough to write an actual post...