Sunday, June 29, 2008

I'm not sure I buy this.

I'm sure I could take at least 35 of the little bastards.

26Created by OnePlusYou

Regardless, I'm reminded of one of my all-time favorite stories.

Lion Mutilates 42 Midgets in Cambodian Ring-Fight

The first time I saw this story it actually registered as a BBC story. I was so pissed off when I found out the story was a fake. It had absolutely confirmed my belief that human stupidity knows no bounds. But I guess that the existence of stupid internet "tests" like the one above, and the fact that idiots like me keep taking them, is ample evidence that human stupidity has no lower bound.

H/T Bill, who can only take 22.

Pretentious liner notes

Pretentious liner notes seem to be traditional for music recording. Here are two recent examples I've stumbled across.

First we have Richard Osborne, writing the liner notes for Karl Böhm's Beethoven: Symphony No. 6, Schubert: Symphony No. 5 / Böhm, Vienna Philharmonic Orch.:

But I find [Ingmar] Bergman's judgement of Böhm close to the mark in describing the kind of trenchancy and articulacy we invariably had from Böhm when he conducted Beethoven with the great orchestras of Vienna, Berlin or Dresden.
Okay, that's perhaps a bit over the top. But for truly outstanding displays of pretentiousness rock 'n' roll cannot be topped. Here's Donna Gaines in the liner notes to the remastered version of Ramones:
In the early 1970s, the dark ages that preceded the Ramones, music fans were shut out, reduced to the role of passive spectator. Rock 'n' roll had become an alienated labor - rock without the roll - detached from its roots. Gone were the sounds of youthful angst, exuberance, sexuality, and misrule. With the spirit of rock 'n' roll beaten down, the glorious legacy handed to us in doo wop, Chuck Berry, the British Invasion, and surf music was lost. If you were an average American kid hanging out in your room playing guitar, hoping to start a band, how could you possibly compare? With wanker guitar solos, expensive equipment, and million-dollar stage shows, it all seemed out of reach. The airwaves were ruled by crotchety old dinosaurs, rock 'n' roll radio was dead, and boredom had inherited the Earth.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Caerdydd!

Paham ydy beunydd Caerdydd?

UFO 'n effro : Cymraeg heddlu brycha ' 'n anarferol aircraft'

Dydy fel ai 'na was rhywbeth yn arlunio 'u 'na , rhyw bath chan choelcerth. Rhywbeth cara an interstellar alw baffio.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Coded Messages

Heather (an friend from way back) writes the following semi-coded message in the comments to this post:

Mr. Fleischer:

It's time to whip out the Tom Kite hat.

Cups in Dishwasher
The bizarre thing is that I actually understand. You might understand it a little better if you knew that the Tom Kite hat was later re-christened "The Surly Hat" in graduate school. Of course you've got no chance in hell of understanding the "Cups in Dishwasher". But then it IS a coded message, isn't it?

And rest assured Heather, the Tom Kite hat is definitely in use these days.

The nightcap.

I checked out a copy of Roxy Music's self-titled album from the library today. In the liner notes I discovered a curiosity. Apparently Elrond's look in the LoTR movies was based off Brian Eno's look from about 1974.

Great. Just what I needed to see.

Turns out the Democrats in Congress want to nationalize the oil refineries "so [Congress] could better control the flow of the oil supply." First, it isn't like there have been shortages of refined oil. It's just expensive, but that's because the raw material that goes INTO the refineries is more expensive these days. Controlling the refineries won't have any impact on cost. Second, it's as if these idiots didn't learn anything from the fall of communism. Plus, given that they don't want us to either (a) import oil from abroad or (b) drill for any of our known oil reserves, one wonders what the hell these morons think they will be refining?

Good God, the people running the government in this country appear to be getting dumber by the minute. I'd consider moving to Canada but I enjoy my freedom of bitching speech too much. And do you know how hard it is to make it when you're living in a freakin' snow bank?

Sure, NOW they put this out there!

Web use at work can be constructive, study says

Great, this comes out two months after I was fired for doing just that! I wish I hadn't seen this report as it just pisses me off right before going to bed. GRRRR.

Buying Championships

Several of my friends are huge basketball fans. Last night the Boston Celtics defeated the LA Lakers, and this generated several group emails today. One of the emails addressed the ever popular topic of teams "buying" championships by simply spending the most money on the best established players. The writer (Let's call him "Dave" because, uh, that's his name.) put it thus:

I've always scratched my head when people make comments about "buying" the best players, like the Yankees consistently do, as well as teams like the Celtics. Ummm...is that a bad thing? Isn't that, as an owner, what you're supposed to do?

I applaud all the "best team money can buy" franchises, because they're doing everything they can to win, and that's what all teams should do.

That's so much better than the stingy teams that still ask their fans to buy tickets without giving a shit what they put out on the floor.

Dave
I responded with:
I don’t mind that some teams are trying everything they can to win. I DO mind when some sports are financially structured to turn most of the pro teams into a feeder system for a few really large franchises. So my problem with the Yankees’ isn’t that they’re buying up the best players, it’s that most of the teams in MLB can’t afford to compete.

Now with Boston and the Lakers it IS different. The Association has a better financial structure. Some teams will be wealthier than others, but the rules are such that pretty much any team can compete financially with any other team. (Endorsements are another matter, but the NBA can’t do anything in that area and most players really aren’t that big into the endorsement game.)
Of course this doesn't mean that all of the franchises in the NBA try hard to win. Clearly the Charlotte Bobcats of the world just don't want to spend the money to be good. But I don't see how the NBA can really do anything about that. (The fans in Charlotte can do something by simply not going to the games. That's how they ran the Hornets out of town when that franchise quit trying to win.)

Something else to keep in mind is that simply spending money is no guarantee of success. The most notable examples I know of are the Washington Redskins under the ownership of Dan Snyder and the New York Knicks. (I believe the NY Mets in MLB are in the same boat, but I don't follow baseball.) Just spending money isn't enough.

But there are two things that (potentially) annoy me about teams that "buy" championships.

The first is the fans of teams that win in this manner. Invariably the fans will talk about the greatness of their city and their team of choice. But really, do the people of Boston have any reason to crow today? Sure, Paul Pierce has been a fixture of the franchise in recent years, but several of the players (Garnett, Allen, Cassell, Brown) are so new to the city that they probably have trouble finding their way home after games. (Actually, Brown and Cassell are so new to the team that they're probably living in hotels. Given their ages the few games they played for Boston in the last couple of months may be the last the play in NBA.) So I don't want to hear anything about how great a basketball town Boston is. They're just good at raiding other cities for talent.

The second is that sometimes the "buy 'em up" mentality destroys an already existing culture that was worth preserving. The Oriole Way was an organizational method used by the Baltimore Orioles back in the day to get young players into their farm system and develop them in a particular fashion. That Way may have become outdated in the current era of baseball (and it did produce some stinkers back in the day, along with some championships) but Peter Angelos' method of trying to buy championships didn't work either. By trying to ape the Yankees Angelos has not only wasted a lot of money but he has also destroyed something that made the Orioles distinctive. I would hate to see this same kind of process destroy the long-term make-up of other organizations that have built a distinctive character over the years, like the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Greatest Hits?

I've been a part of two other large blogs in the past under another pen name. I'm going to recycle some of my favorite posts from my most recent blog. (The other one was a group blog and I don't have access to the archives.)

Here was one of the last posts from my old blog, and one of my most heartfelt. I only wish I could move the comments as well, but I don't think that's possible. And I apologize for the one dead link below.

Originally published Thursday March 27, 2008 at 10:35 PM

Another Sleepless Night in Chopper City
Wherein a very long post describing the latest, freshest Hell that 2008 had in store for me....

Late Tuesday night I got a call from my brother. He's been living with my mother for the last several years. I'm not particularly happy with this arrangement for a variety of reasons I won't go into here. But it does (allegedly) have two benefits: first, he can keep an eye on her health-wise; and second, I hope that his presence will help deter the neighborhood thugs from trying anything too egregious. Tuesday night it got put to the test.

Sometime between 10:00 and 11:00 PM two men kicked in a side door to the house. (There may have been a third man involved. That point isn't clear.) That door leads into the room that we made by enclosing the garage. It's just a storage room now, so that door is rarely if ever used. Because of that it has had a heavy bolt lock instead of a regular door knob. It's a heavy duty lock, and so it held. So did the frame of the door. But the door itself splintered horizontally at the level of the lock. The door caved in, the lock fell to the ground, and in came the wolves.

Here I'd better give a brief description of the layout of the house. The garage room leads into the back of the house. That's where Mom spends most of her time, regardless of whether she's awake or asleep. (She's been in the habit of sleeping on the couch since I was a little boy.) This back room (which is another addition to the original house) opens into the rest of the house, which is laid out kind of like an 'L'. At the top of the 'L' are the two main bedrooms and the back room is at the lower left end. My brother sleeps in one bedroom, Mom occasionally sleeps in the other.

Another thing to know is that my mother is completely deaf in one ear and probably about 90% deaf in the other ear, and she refuses to get a hearing aid. This means that when she watches TV it's turned up LOUD. You can clearly make out what's being said at the front door of the house. Between that noise, the lights in the house, and the two cars in front of the house, it had to be obvious to the thieves that the house was occupied. They didn't care.

So they kicked in the side door, ransacked the garage room and then moved into the rest of the house. (Amongst the items they stole from the garage: a new shop vac, and a large supply of paper towels and toilet paper. No, I'm not making that up.) Here's the first incredible thing: My mother slept through the whole episode! (She once famously slept through at least one devastating hurricane, as well, so I shouldn't be surprised. I come from a family that sleeps soundly, when we finally get to sleep.) Sleeping through this may or may not have prevented something really terrible from happening to her.

But as it was the thieves passed her by and ransacked other parts of the house, especially her bedroom. The got away with some jewelry and such, but nothing truly important. The thieves made at least three trips to their car to load up their ill-gotten (and ultimately rather petty) gains. They also raided the back porch and stole Mom's lawn mower. They had moved a bunch of tools around to the front corner of the house but they got scared off before they could get it loaded up.

Eventually my brother, who is another famously sound sleeper, woke up to go to the bathroom. As he was returning to bed he saw a couple of shadows pass in the hall. Realizing that there should have at most been only one shadow he followed them into the front room. At that point they realized that HE was there and fled the scene. They must have known that he was in the house, but they must not have thought that he would wake up.

I can only assume that they thought Mom must have had a lot of jewelry or that my brother was a drug dealer. Wrong on both counts. I imagine that's why they ran off when my brother startled them. Someone breaking into an occupied house HAS to be prepared for violence. They probably decided that it just wasn't worth the trouble at that point. I should note that there has been a wave of home invasions and burglaries in recent weeks (No shit!), and the homeowners have frequently been shot. So I guess that Mom and my brother sleeping through most of the event was actually a blessing in disguise - it gave the crooks enough time to realize there was no point in committing additional felonies.

After the thieves fled my brother called the police and then woke Mom up. (!!!) When the police arrived they started putting the story together. This was greatly helped by the eyewitness who had seen everything. A neighbor had been sitting out in front of her house and watched the whole thing, which is how we know for example how long they were in the house. Now this leads me to the second incredible part of the story: The neighbor never called the police! For all the neighbor knew my mother was being raped and killed next door and the neighbor didn't do squat to help. Not one god damned thing. You see, the neighbor is black, the thieves were black, and Mom is white. She'd never turn in a brother to help a white person. (My mother and brother account for two of the three white people still living in that neighborhood. I guess they're the blockbusters now.)

So around 1 AM my brother called me and told me what was going on. He wanted me to bring Mom back to my place. Fortunately I hadn't gone to bed yet, so I put on some clothes, woke up Kim and explained the situation, and drove over to Mom's house.

I live about 30 minutes away. (That's the middle-of-the-night-no-one-else-on-the-road-going-15-mph-above-the-speed-limit time.) On the way over I reflected on the fact that I was driving down Murder Alley to Murder Central. These are just the names I use for the route I take. The local paper had mapped all the murders in Orlando and Orange County for 2007 a couple of months back and I noticed that the biggest cluster was in my old neighborhood and that a great many others were centered on John Young Parkway starting at Sand Lake Road and heading north into Pine Hills. That's also my route to Mom's house. (There's also another cluster of murders in the east part of town where another big section of illegals live. Mexico's chief exports are dirt cheap labor and crime.) It really put me in the mood for the night, and I was good and paranoid when I got near Pine Hills. I decided to take Colonial over to Pine Hills Road so as to try and bypass any shit that might be going on near Mercy Drive. (You've still got to cross Mercy Drive but I know and trust the intersection at Colonial more than I trust the intersection on Princeton.) Turns out I had made a good call as there were about 8 police cars in the middle of Colonial near Mercy with their lights going, with more backup arriving as I sped by. I have no idea what was going on, nor do I really care - just another night of fun in northwest Orlando. Some asshole was probably being tazed and beaten into a bloody pulp by the police, but I didn't have time to stop and cheer.

When I got to the house the police had already left. I took a look around the house and noticed a few other things that had been stolen and some items that they had meant to steal but left behind in their haste. I checked out the door and inspected everything I could think might be important. After talking it over with Mom and my brother I decided that it would be better for me to stay their with them instead of leaving my brother alone. I didn't really think they would come back (I mean, there just isn't that much to steal), but I didn't think leaving someone behind was a good idea. I talked them into getting some sleep. We had already barricaded the broken door, so if anyone came through that direction they would at least have to make enough noise to alert me. So I sat up through most of the rest of the night with a machete in one hand and a cell phone in the other.

Really the cell phone was the better of the two weapons. The machete would be useless against a gun and if the attackers were Haitian (highly probable in Pine Hills) then they would know a hell of a lot more about hacking people up with a machete than I do. Curse my lousy education! But with the cell phone I could at least give the police a description of my killer before dying. All of which is to say that for the second time this year I really REALLY wished that I owned firearms. I may have to correct that situation in the near future.

But night gave way to dawn without incident, and so clean up and repair work began.

The most immediately frustrating part is that none of this should have happened. My mother HAS the financial wherewithal to move. We've been trying to get her to leave for years, but she just won't budge. This isn't going to change her mind either. She's the original owner of the house, and when she moved into the house in late in October of 1960 she swore she'd never move again. She appears set on living up to that vow even if it kills her. (Or me. I'm lucky that the drug dealers across the street don't realize that it was me they were trying to catch in a car chase one afternoon. Fortunately I know those streets way better than they do.)

I'd say that I really hate my old neighborhood now, but that's not fair. Pine Hills now is not the same as Pine Hills then. The same is true of Orlando in a larger sense, too. The city has grown so rapidly that it bares no resemblance to the city I grew up in, or even to the city that I moved away from in December of 1994. (I returned in September 2003.) Hell, most of the people here don't even know that they should hate Shaquille O'Neal for screwing over the city all those years ago. (And no, it's not that he left, it's how he left.)

All the growth (which has been cancerous in its appetite) has wiped away almost all the vestiges of where I grew up. I can't even imagine what it's like for natives that are 20 or more years older than me. When I was just a child they said the town was unrecognizable from when they grew up. Everything has changed. The orange groves are mostly gone because of the combination of the northward creep of the frost line and the ravenous development. All of the wild spaces are gone, too.

In 1980 Disney World to the southwest was way past everything, as was Orlando International Airport to the south and UCF to the east. All three of those landmarks are essentially in the middle of town now. And the people just keep coming! In the next 40 years the state of Florida is supposed to add as many people to its population as now live in New York state. I almost hope the worst of the Global Warming scenarios is true. I'd love to see all of these people who have ruined the quality of life down here get chased away by a mighty flood. Besides, I always wanted to be buried at sea.

(It's hysterical to hear someone who moved here in 1998 or 2000 talk about how the place isn't as wonderful as it used to be. No shit, asshole, it's because you're here now!)

No, the City Beautiful, which used to deserve that moniker long ago, gave way to the City Plastic, and hence to the City Suburban Blight. With that blight has come crime, displacement, more crime, yet more suburban sprawl and blight, and the destruction of anything that resembles community.

When I grew up in Pines Hills we knew everyone that lived around us. We knew their habits and foibles and who could be counted on in a pinch. I've lived in my current neighborhood just shy of 5 years now and I don't know the name of even one neighbor. I still know the people around Mom's house, though. Rather I know what they do for a living. The house across the streets where the W**** Family used to live, whose children I grew up with, is now owned by a not-terribly-successful drug dealer. Two houses down from that house where the crazy Greek Orthodox family lived, towards the lake at the end of the street, lives the guy who breeds pit bulls for dog fighting. (He advertises when he has a new batch of pups ready for the ring with hand painted signs in his front yard.) Across the street from them is the house where the people who broke into Mom's house the other night live. (Yeah, we even know who committed the crime, but they'll never get caught or even serve a day for it. However, if I'm lucky, they may get pulled over by the cops at random some night and get the living shit beat out of them. Use the Tazer! The Tazer! God Bless Local Law Enforcement!) I haven't checked in a while, but last time I did there were several rapists and pederasts living within a block of Mom's house. Pine Hills is where all of the sex offenders go to live (or at least where they say they live) when they can't get housing anywhere else.

Yep, Chopper City, nee Pine Hills, is the shittiest place in town, and possibly the worst place between Liberty City in Miami and whatever passes for a bad neighborhood in Atlanta. I actually heard someone bragging recently that it is purportedly the "ghettoist" place in Florida now, but that seems like wishful thinking. Surely New Orleans is worse. But I guess we take pride where we can. (It seems I forgot to write the post I had intended about Pine Hills Second Most Famous Former Resident. If you want to know how bad Chopper City is, consider this: at least one African dictator hired his chief torturer from Chopper City. Yes, this guy grew up in my old neighborhood. Out-stand-ing!)

As I've been typing this I've been listening to the street racers tearing ass up and down John Young Parkway and Orange Blossom Trail. The roads are each about a mile away from the house, but the racers like to set up their rides to make the maximum amount of noise. Too bad they don't actually learn how to drive. Several of them seem to get killed racing every month. When we're lucky they only kill themselves, but sometimes they kill other drivers or even pedestrians. I remember a few months ago they seemed to have all decided at once that it would be better to race in the morning, and in the space of a week about three elementary school students got run over by these idiots.

You know, if it wasn't for the weather and the skies I wouldn't even know this was my home town. Everything else is completely alien at this point, including the people and the spoken language. There are too damned many people for the local environment to sustain. The aquifers can't handle the increased water demand, the local infrastructure has NOT grown enough to support all of these people, and the strain is showing. If there's an afterlife then I can only hope the developers and the politicians who have created this mess all find suitable punishments in Hell.

The worst is that there's no place else to go. Anyplace else where I would want to live has already experienced this burst of growth, or is about to. (For example, sleepy little Gainesville is supposed to be as big as present-day Orlando in another 50 years. There won't be an oak left standing in that town by then.) And I would HATE to be the person that ruins someone else's paradise by showing up and fucking up the place. No reason to add that to my personal list of sins.

God, I hate this city.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Speaking of bad staff work....

My previous post highlighted some bad advance work by Charlie Crist's staff. Now for some bad staff work from the Obama camp. In an interview with ABC News Obama made the following comment:

[I]t is my firm belief that we can track terrorists, we can crack down on threats against the United States, but we can do so within the constraints of our Constitution. And there has been no evidence on their part that we can't.

And, you know, let's take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks -- for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.

And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world, and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, "Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims."

So that, I think, is an example of something that was unnecessary. We could have done the exact same thing, but done it in a way that was consistent with our laws. [Highlighting added.]
Ann Althouse examines part of this statement and parses out the wiggle room for Obama. She also states, "Someone needs to push Obama with follow up questions."

Certainly someone should! He should also be grilled about his misstatement of facts. In the highlighted portion above, Obama states that "we were able to arrest those responsible [for the 1993 WTC bombing], put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated."

However, not all of those responsible for the 1993 attack were put on trial. Our legal processes let the FBI catch and then release one of the suspects, who then fled the country. ABDUL RAHMAN YASIN remains on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list. So Yasin is NOT incapacitated in a US prison.

Another problem with Obama's example is that all of the principles in the 1993 bombing were already in the USA. How exactly was the legal process supposed to deal with bin Laden or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed? The Afghan government wasn't going to extradite them. The legal process could not handle that problem at all.

At the very least Obama's statement is factually incorrect and represents an incomplete policy for handling terrorists who attack the USA.

[Added: There are other problems with dealing with terrorists in a strictly legal manner. One problem is that some terrorists will, by legal procedure, end up imprisoned in other countries. This means we will have no responsibility or authority for keeping them imprisoned. The al Qaeda suspects that escaped from a Yemeni prison a couple of years ago are an example of what can go wrong.]

[Hat tip to Professor Althouse.]

Charlie Crist for Vice President!

Please please PLEASE, John McCain, make Charlie Crist your VP nominee! We need to get this man out of the governor's office before he can do any irreparable harm!

I got up this morning and started making the usual round of websites to check on the status of the world. On the Drudge Report I found this set of headlines:

McCain touts energy conservation and oil exploration...

Gov. Crist likes plan, wouldn't rule it out for Florida...
The story for the first headline states that McCain wants to lift the moratorium that keeps the oil companies from drilling for oil off the Florida coast. In the second story Crist agrees with this plan. Here's the kicker: Crist has been steadfastly opposed to even CONSIDERING drilling off the Florida coast for his entire career. In fact about two weeks ago he let it be known that he wouldn't consider drilling off the Florida coast for any reason whatsoever. That was TWO WEEKS AGO!

But now he is suddenly for this measure. Apparently he changed his mind because of his desire to be McCain's running mate. Here's hoping he gets picked and leaves the Governor's mansion.

Look, people can change their minds, and they can do so for good reason. But in this case no reason for the about face has been given, nor is one likely to be given until his pollsters can find a response that polls well.

On top of this bit of shameless political expediency we also have Crist's recent gaffe-fest at a Republican shindig in Orange County California. From the OC Register report on the event:

Crist. Oy. Brought in as the keynote speaker because he's on the short list of potential McCain running mates, his performance Friday night truly did help his party. By showing unequivocally he would be a complete disaster for the GOP – the worst running mate since Dan Quayle.

Mr. Crist looks great: – silver hair, ragged shirt, baggy pa— … wait, that's Mr. Bojangles; let's try again: silver hair, warm smile, great tan, perfectly tailored suit of clothes, decent teeth. It's when he uses his facial musculature to try and form cogent sound that he falls apart.

His speech began at 7:38 p.m. and was over at 7:47 p.m. – at nine minutes the shortest Flag Day Dinner speech on record. A couple of years ago, there was a post-dessert standup comic who took longer to spit out one joke. So that was the good part about Crist's speech. Brevity is not always the soul of wit. Sometimes it's just merciful.

But into that nine minutes, he packed two major gaffes and one cliché-ridden anecdote, a nice trifecta. First, he displayed his knowledge of history by informing us that Ronald Reagan "came from right here in Orange County, California." (Sorry, Charlie, that was that other Republican president. Orange County was simply where Reagan's ATM was located.)

Then, again seeking to, uh, connect, with the O.C. Republican establishment, he managed to invoke one of the most reviled names in Orange County: "Your governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is doing a great job! … I love him!"

Thud. The groans in the room were audible … audible!!! Obviously, Crist's advance team had failed to tell him that conservatives see Arnold as a vapid, poll-driven sellout who faked 'em out good.

Crist closed with an anecdote about the American Dream, about "a boy named Adam" who came to the U.S. without knowing English, who worked hard shining shoes, had seven kids … At which point, I wrote in my notebook: "It was his dad." Close. A minute of porridgy drama later, we find out Adam was his grandfather.

OK, here's an easy one, Charlie: How do you spell potato?

Somebody please take this turkey off our hands! (The sad thing is that Crist was by FAR the better choice for Governor in the last election. Can't these parties find any competent people to run for office?)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fun with Parsing!

Time to have some fun at the expense of some of the gas bags running the country into the ground. Today's edition features a couple of Senators who have been caught getting financial favors from Countrywide Financial, which is, as we know, the most evil organization to plague humanity since the Nazis.

First up we have Senator Kent Conrad from North Dakota. First, his statement:

Press Releases
June 14, 2008
Statement from Senator Kent Conrad on Countrywide Mortgages
Washington – Senator Kent Conrad issued the following statement today:

“After reviewing the email traffic at Countrywide provided to me by reporters, it appears Countrywide waived one point on my mortgage. Although I did not ask for or know that I was receiving a discount, and even though I was offered a competitive loan from another lender, I do not want to have received preferential treatment. Therefore I am writing a check today to Habitat for Humanity for $10,500.

“Our initial research indicates I did pay a prevailing rate for that loan. But we are continuing to seek objective information on that point, and I will take further action if it is warranted by the facts.

“Further, because it is clear from other email traffic at Countrywide just provided to me that they made an exception in providing a loan on my eight-unit apartment building in Bismarck, N.D., because they typically only made loans on properties with four units or less, I have decided to seek refinancing on that property from another lender.

“I believe the evidence showed that I paid more than full market rates on that loan. But I don’t want to leave any impression that I have received preferential treatment in my personal business dealings.”
Where to begin? Let's start with this phrase: "But I don’t want to leave any impression that I have received preferential treatment in my personal business dealings.” Okay, so by his own statement Countrywide waived one point off of his mortgage (saving him $10,500 to date) and Countrywide gave him a loan on a type of structure that they normally don't finance. So, how the hell is it that he DIDN'T get preferential treatment? This moron doesn't even have the intelligence to say "I don’t want to leave any impression that I have knowingly received preferential treatment." The insertion of "knowingly" would have at least kept him from issuing a statement that falsifies itself.

Second up we have Senator Chris Dodd, who is much better at covering his ass.
Statement from Dodd on mortgage
By ConnPolitics.tv Editor, on Jun 13, 2008

Here’s a statement from Sen. Chris Dodd regarding the report he got a special mortgage rate from Countrywide.

“As a United States Senator, I would never ask or expect to be treated differently than anyone else refinancing their home. This suggestion is outrageous and contrary to my entire career in public service.

“When my wife and I refinanced our loans in 2003, we did not seek or expect any favorable treatment. Just like millions of other Americans, we shopped around and received competitive rates.”
Well this is much better, since at least the statement doesn't contradict itself. However it is apparent that Dodd did receive preferential treatment from Countrywide Financial. So the question isn't whether or not Dodd received special treatment, since he did. The question is whether or not he knew about it.

But his statement is brilliant. It doesn't actually state that he didn't receive preferential treatment, just that he would "never ask or expect" such preferential treatment. And consider the second sentence:
"This suggestion is outrageous and contrary to my entire career in public service"
If one isn't careful, one will conclude that he is denying that he received preferential treatment, that such a suggestion is an outrage. However, the "this" in question could also refer to the suggestion that he knew about or asked for such treatment. In other words, he isn't denying that he got special treatment, just that it is outrageous to think that he asked for or expected special treatment. This is a beautiful example of denying one thing while leaving the impression of having denied something else entirely. Beautiful stuff! Plus his statement is concise, which diminishes the possibility of making a factual error. Senator Dodd, we salute you!

Strange talk from the front-runner's camp

Clicking around the web this morning I saw a strange story on CNN. Their Political Ticker features a story in which Obama's campaign manager makes a rather strange pitch.

In a private pitch late last week to donors and former supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe outlined several alternatives to reaching the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House that runs counter to the conventional wisdom of recent elections.
Plouffe "envisions a path to the presidency that could include Virginia, Georgia and several Rocky Mountain states, but not necessarily the pair of battlegrounds that decided the last two elections — Florida and Ohio." This is even more strange than it sounds since Plouffe also acknowledges that Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Hampshire are in play for McCain this fall even though Kerry carried those states comfortably in 2004. (The electoral votes from Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Hampshire represented almost 17% of Kerry's total, to put that into some perspective.)

I find it strange that the Obama camp is already down-playing expectations in the critical swing states and in solidly Democratic states while making noise about being able to win solidly Republican states. If I were one of the super delegates I would be wondering if I could switch my vote back to Clinton, and if I were a Clinton supporter I would be thinking "See, we TOLD you this guy couldn't win the general election!"

I had thought up until a few weeks ago that Obama was a shoo-in this fall, but after the controversy concerning Rev. Michael Pfleger's remarks I started to think Obama might lose. Now I'm wondering if he (or at least his campaign) is expecting to lose. What a strange year.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

"Memories Can't Wait"

Everything is very quiet
Everyone has gone to sleep
I'm wide awake on memories
These memories can't wait.

- Talking Heads

Thursday, June 12, 2008

"The penis is the dipstick of the body's health."

He said "dipstick."

My problems explained.

Tonight I was watching a couple of WKRP in Cincinnati episodes that I had recorded from WGN's re-airings. (Yes, these episodes have had the original music removed, but the writing and acting still makes these worth watching.) During the second episode I had a revelation. New station manager Andy Travis is trying to think of a publicity stunt to get free advertising for the station's format switch. He makes the mistake of asking Johnny for some help:

Andy: Got any ideas?
Johnny: No, I try not to have any ideas. They only lead to complications.

Johnny: Suppose I give you a great idea. Let's suppose that this great idea works and the station actually starts making a lot money. Do you know what that can lead to, Andy? Memos. Before you know it, assigned parking spaces. Then chrome furniture, and lots of paintings of wistful children with big eyes. Believe me, I've seen it happen before!
Andy: All right, don't get all shook up, you don't have to help.
Johnny: But don't you see, no one should!!
And then it hit me: a big part of my problems in life have come from having Johnny Caravella's skewed perspective coupled with having had Arthur Carlson's mother (and attendant issues). Not a pretty combination, and certainly not useful!

Unfortunately it's late and I can't think of any of my odd-ball ideas. (Perhaps I should mine my old blog for some examples) However I do remember an incident that happened a couple of years back that scared me at the time, but clearly not enough. After I had expounded on some bit of strangeness or another in a meeting at work, my boss at the time looked at me and said "You know I think you are one of the five most interesting people I've ever met."

I remember getting rather frightened at that comment although I don't think I showed it at the time. Fear was the natural reaction given that I worked in a buttoned-down corporate atmosphere. It doesn't take much for "interesting" to be interpreted as "trouble-making" - to be followed shortly by unemployment. Sure enough, two months ago the man that had called me interesting fired me, despite a fine work record.

So the Johnny Caravella-esque side of me brought me unwanted attention. ("The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.") But the Arthur Carlson side of my personality prevented me from changing jobs at that time. I was a little too meek and far too comfortable in my position. I know two years sounds like a long lead time for a problem to boil over, but an ounce of prevention at that time would have saved me two months (and counting) of unemployment now.

Lessons learned:
  1. There's no use in trying to hide my personality on the job - it will get noticed eventually.
  2. When it feels like it's the right time to switch jobs, switch jobs!
  3. I need to quit being so damned meek. I'd do better in life being a full-bore bastard, although I probably don't need to go to that extreme. At the very least I need to recover some of the arrogance I had in my youth.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pakistan?

I've been trying to get the new blog up and rolling but I am having trouble writing what should be the first big post. I have had several other items I wanted to mention but feel that my planned first post should really be the first substantive post. But for those one or two of you who may be looking at this site I do have something.

This morning I read a story on CNN concerning a Pakistani protest over a US airstrike on their territory which purportedly killed 11 Pakistani military personnel.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan has expressed outrage at a U.S. airstrike in a disputed region along the Afghan border which it says killed 11 of its forces who were cooperating with the U.S.-led war on terror.
Reading this story I realized that I hadn't heard anything about Pakistan in months. Checking the New York Times and Yahoo! archives it appears that things stand about where they did several months ago - Musharraf is still the President and the country still has problems with terrorists/militants. Back at the start of the year this was big news and it seemed that Musharraf couldn't hold onto power. Several months later nothing appears to have changed in that situation.