Chicago Chutzpah

I stayed up a little past my bedtime yesterday afternoon so that I could watch the 3 p.m. press conference from Chicago, featuring Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (henceforth, "Blago"), who is being pursued by the Feds for allegedly planning to sell the appointment to replace President-Elect Barack Obama in the Senate to the highest bidder. And what was the press conference for? Why, to announce the man that Blago has chosen for that appointment: An African-American politician named Roland Burris. This was despite the fact that other members of the Illinois state government have said that they will not certify anyone appointed by Blago, and despite the fact that the Senate's Democrat caucus has said that they will not recognize a Blago appointee, because of the cloud that the Governor is currently under. Blago, however, is shameless, and proves that one need not be Jewish to have chutzpah.

And then, it got even weirder, when Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Illinois) who is a former Black Panther, played a race card the size of a tombstone, saying that since there were no African-Americans in the Senate with Obama moving up, that the other Senators wouldn't want to be the ones trying to keep another African-American man from joining the Senate. Don't be trying to "lynch" the appointee, you racist crackers!

I watched this and thought, "How sexist! If this is the designated 'reserved-for-African-Americans' Senate seat, then it is only appropriate that African-American women from Illinois should receive equal consideration!"

And I knew exactly which African-American woman from Illinois should be named to fill out the rest of Obama's term. Yes, they should replace one O (that's a LETTER O, not a ZERO!) with another: They should appoint the third-most popular woman in America (behind Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin), Oprah Winfrey.

Yes, Senator Oprah! It makes sense: She meets all three criteria: She's at least 30 years of age, a citizen for at least the past nine years, and a resident of the state that she would represent. And she's richer than Croesus, so when the time came for her to run for election to defend the seat, she would have plenty of financial resources to draw on.

Some might say, well, she has no political experience! But then again, neither does Caroline Kennedy, who is being seriously touted by some for the appointment to replace Senator Hillary Clinton in New York if she is confirmed by the Senate as Secretary of State. And indeed, Senator Clinton herself had no political experience when she became New York's Senator, other than being married to a President. Caroline Kennedy's experience consists solely of being the daughter of a President. Oprah? She's a friend of the incoming President. And in Chicago, it's all about who you know and whose palms you grease.


Monday Quick Hits

While watching the New York Yankees spend over $420 million on long-term contracts for three top free agents last week, all I could think was that it was a damn shame that the Steinbrenners didn't invest with Bernie Madoff.

Who had a worse weekend, the 0-16 Detroit Lions or Hamas in Gaza? I'm thinkin' Hamas...

I don't have much sympathy for the Palestinians in Gaza. If someone was firing a bunch of missiles at us, we'd kick their butts from here to next week. Frankly, the Israelis put up with it a hell of a lot longer than Americans would have. I think our response to the Israelis of "try not to kill civilians while you deal with the terrorists" is appropriate. As for the Hamas guys getting killed, sure hate it for 'em. Next time, don't start something you can't finish, nimrods.

I saw in the news that some bleeding hearts are whining about music being used to "torture" the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Some of the music included the themes from "Barney" and "Sesame Street"! Oh, the humanity! If it was up to me, they'd get a steady diet of patriotic American music, 24/7: "The Star-Spangled Banner," "God Bless America," "America the Beautiful," "Stars and Stripes Forever," "My Country, 'Tis of Thee," etc. All in the public domain, so no whiny little artists would be bitching about their music being used for "torture." And if Lee Greenwood wanted to let them use "God Bless the U.S.A." and Toby Keith wanted to let them use "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue," well, that would be just fine, too.


Merry Christmas To All

I hope that all of you have a joyous holiday with family and friends. For those of you who don't have to work tomorrow, enjoy your long weekend. Merry Christmas!


Christmas Eve in Florida

I'm getting ready to celebrate my twentieth Christmas in Florida. I've lived here longer than anywhere else. For about 364 days a year, I'm happy to live where there is no snow or ice. I see people struggling through it on television, and I remember how unpleasant winter can be. But on Christmas Eve, well, like the song says, I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, even though if we actually got one, it would be catastrophic to our local subtropical vegetation.

It actually has snowed here before, five times in the last 150 years. The last time there were reports of snow flurries was my first winter here, during the Great Christmas Freeze of '89. That was a cold, cold day. I had to work Christmas Day at the Division of Forestry, and the building was unheated. It got down to around 28 degrees, which killed off a lot of the palm trees. It also froze the water in the garden hose outside the building. I was bundled up like an Eskimo, wondering if it was typical for a Florida winter (it wasn't). This week will be more representative, with high temperatures in the low 80s.

While people in Florida do manage to decorate festively for the season, it just isn't what I grew up with. I don't know how many times we actually had a white Christmas growing up, but it seems like winters were always cold when I was a kid growing up in Missouri. If we didn't have snow around Christmas, there was always plenty in January and February. As someone who walked to school (uphill, both ways!) the cold temperatures and the snowy conditions were an indelible memory.

So for those of you with snow on the ground as Christmas approaches, enjoy the beauty of the season. I don't envy you, well, not very much. Maybe just a teeny little bit around midnight tonight.


Nazis For Christmas?

Several months ago, I wrote about the upcoming Tom Cruise movie Valkyrie, which opens on Christmas Day. There's now a veritable blitzkrieg of advertising for the movie, both on television and on the Web. If the movie bombs, it won't be for lack of trying to get people to see it.

I'm still skeptical about the movie's prospects. Sure, people like to see a good action-suspense movie, but do they want to see one where both the heroes and villains are wearing Nazi uniforms? And even more importantly, do they want to see a movie where they already know going in that the hero fails? It would be like going to see a Lord of the Rings movie where Frodo fails to destroy the Ring, Sauron wins and Middle Earth is destroyed.

It's not that Americans don't respect a good try in a lost cause, even if it is some other nation's hero making the doomed attempt; Scotland's William Wallace in Braveheart would be a perfect example of such a movie hero, and that was a box office hit. But will they show up to see a movie in which the protagonists and the antagonists were both enemies of the United States? I'm guessing that they won't.


Unintended Consequences

A while back, after the government bailed out financial firms like Goldman Sachs, it was announced that their CEO and six of their other top executives would forego receiving bonuses this year. Well, after running their company into the ground, most of us would say that they really didn't deserve bonuses, right? After all, a bonus should be earned by doing things that improve your company's profitability.

But now, we learn that there are some negative unintended consequences from those fat cats not getting even fatter: New York state is anticipating a tax shortfall of $178 million dollars that they would have received from the taxes on those bonuses that those executives didn't get. Which means, of course, that they'll have to raise taxes and fees on the rest of the people in New York to make up for the shortfall, at least if they want to keep their funding for various programs at the same level.

$178 million is a lot of coin, especially as the taxes from just seven guys' projected bonuses. How big would the bonuses have to be to have generated that much in taxes? We're talking about some serious ill-gotten gains. If they've been giving these guys this kind of money in bonuses every year, no wonder their companies have gone into the crapper.


Toothless Lions One Loss Away From Perfectly Imperfect

There are a number of bad teams in the NFL this year, teams that have only won two or three games. But they all look pretty good compared to the hapless Detroit Lions, who got clobbered by the New Orleans Saints today by a score of 42-7 to fall to a league-worst 0-15. If the Lions lose next week at Green Bay, a place where they have not won a game since 1991, they would become the first team in league history to finish a season at 0-16.

There have been winless teams in the NFL before, of course. The expansion 1960 Dallas Cowboys finished at 0-11-1, but they did at least manage a tie. The expansion 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been the yardstick for failure for the last three decades, finishing their first season at 0-14, and then losing the first 12 games of the 1977 season before winning the last two games that year to finish at 2-12. Note that both of those teams were expansion teams, however, so there is at least some excuse for their futility. The Lions have no such excuse. They're just a very, very bad football team. And since even most really bad teams manage to win at least one game in a season, they're a very unlucky team as well. Bad and unlucky is an unfortunate combination, and that's the 2008 Detroit Lions in a nutshell.

So can they manage to avoid the infamy of winlessness next week in Green Bay? Or will they become the new yardstick for failure? Stay tuned.


Busy Day

As Christmas gets closer, it gets busier and busier at the post office. Last night was the busiest night yet. We ran a ton of mail and barely finished everything up in time. It felt like I was running down a mountain, trying to stay ahead of an avalanche. Or perhaps it felt like the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. I didn't get buried in snow or gored by a bull, but I sure felt wiped out by the end of the day. I'm ready to get past December 25th and see the volume drop a little bit once all of those Christmas cards are out of the system.

Thoughts on "Shoe Guy"

You probably saw the story about the Iraqi journalist who threw both of his shoes at President Bush during a press conference in Baghdad over the weekend. The president showed admirable reflexes, ducking both of the missiles. And you could tell the Iraqis are a nation of soccer players; they're used to kicking things, not throwing them. Sorry, Muntazer, but you throw like a girl. That's an insult in our culture, by the way. Shoes don't mean diddly-squat to us. Enjoy your stay in whichever Iraqi jail you end up, idiot!


Another Remake? Why?

Recycled from an e-mail to a friend, since I haven't posted anything lately:

You may have seen that they've remade The Day The Earth Stood Still, with Keanu Reeves as the alien Klaatu, and it opens Friday. This time, though, Klaatu's message is supposedly different: Instead of the anti-Cold War message of the original movie, this time he's going to tell us to stop destroying the planet. For some reason, I expect that he's going to get all Goracle-y on us: TDTESS meets An Inconvenient Truth. Feh! I usually dislike remakes on general principle. To me, it shows a lack of creativity and originality to just re-do something that someone has already done decades earlier. If it was good before, watch the original. If it wasn't good before, why remake something that sucked?

And no, I didn't think that the Will Smith version of I Am Legend was better than Charlton Heston's The Omega Man.


Were They Wearing Prada?

Greetings, my fellow Great Satans and Great Satanettes,

While I was surfing over at Drudge Report this morning, I found this odd story:
Iranian Police Detain 49 For `Satanic` Clothes

Police have arrested 49 people this week in a northern Iranian city during a crackdown on "satanic" clothes, IRNA news agency reported on Thursday.


"Police confronted rascals and thugs who appeared in public wearing satanic fashions and unsuitable clothing," Qaemshahr city police commander Mahmoud Rahmani told IRNA.

Rahmani also said that five barber shops were shut and 20 more warned for "promoting Western hairstyles".

So, do you dress like Satan? What are the signs? Is it that pentagram pendant with matching 666 earrings? Or lots of black leather? Maybe a studded dog collar?

Nope, all you have to do is dress like an American. The story continues:

It includes measures against men sporting spiky "Western" hairstyles or women wearing tight trousers and high boots.

Spiky hair? Tight trousers and high boots? I'll bet that blue jeans are on that 'satanic' list, too. It appears that you don't have to dress like a Goth or some kind of death metal fan to qualify as 'satanic.'

Well, mad mullahs, the Billy Joel song lyrics are still relevant: "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, the sinners are much more fun..." You guys, not so much.

Aren't you glad that you don't live in a country where the authorities can decide what you can wear, and punish you if you fail to obey their edicts? Yeah, me too.


Only The Upper Lip Is Stiff

From Jolly Olde England, a story that made me laugh:

Lap dancing 'not sexual act' claims head of club organisation

In their evidence to committee, Warr and colleagues from the Lap Dancing Association claimed that their clubs should not be classified as sex encounter establishments because they were providing hospitality, not sexual services.

But Warr astonished the committed when he argued that sexual stimulation was not part of the clubs' attraction.

"One of the biggest problems we face is that not enough people understand the business blueprint of our clubs," he said.

"Actually, our premises are not sexually stimulating. It would be contrary to our business plan if they were."

At this point, Philip Davies, the Tory MP for Shipley who was questioning Warr, said he found that hard to believe.

"You are saying that the purpose of a lap dancing club is not to be sexually stimulating? Most people would find that a rather incredible claim," Davies said.

Warr replied: "Then you need to go to a club, because the purpose of a club is to provide entertainment. It's to provide alcohol, it's a place of leisure.

"All right, the entertainment may be in the form of nude or semi-nude performers, but it's not sexually stimulating."

Davies responded with even more astonishment.

"So if I did a straw poll of all the customers who came out a lap dancing club and said 'Did you find that in any way sexually stimulating?' I would find a big resounding fat zero? On that basis you would have a lot of dissatisfied customers."

Warr replied by asking: "How do you measure sexual stimulation. What is the definition of sexual stimulation?"

The article is even better when read with Monty Python voices. And that last sentence! How Clintonian! And wouldn't you think that the person in charge of the Lap Dancing Association should be a woman? Come on, ladies, empower yourselves!


Messed-Up World

The weekend's news confirms it. The poor man at the Long Island Wal-Mart who got trampled to death on Black Friday by a horde of greedy shoppers. The two men at the L.A. area Toys 'R Us whose wives got in an argument, so the husbands both pulled out guns and shot each other to death. And the story out of India that confirmed that the Israeli hostages had been tortured before being murdered by the Muslim terrorists. The Indian police were none too gentle with the terrorists, though. One was reportedly shot through both eyes, according to the story above. And the only reason that there was a live terrorist for them to grill (again, hopefully none too gently) was because he played dead, then came miraculously back to life when his body was being transported in an ambulance.

For me, the key difference between India and the United States is illustrated in the final paragraph of that story:
A senior National Security Guard officer, who had earlier explained the operation in detail to rediff.com, said the commandos went all out after they ascertained that there were no more hostages left. When asked if the commandos attempted to capture them alive at that stage, he replied: "Unko bachana kaun chahega (Who will want to save them)?"
In America, of course, there would be plenty of bleeding hearts who would want to save them, because they were just poor misinformed victims of oppression by Western civilization. Look at how they cry over the terrorists detained at Guantanamo Bay. The Indians are a little wiser: Dead terrorists have no legal rights, get no trials, don't need to be incarcerated. Dead terrorists no longer cause any problems, other than proper disposal of their bodies. When dealing with terrorists and other irregular military groups, it's best to just kill them all and not take any prisoners. They've already forfeited any claims to humanity anyway by their heinous deeds. The Indian commandos did the country a favor by saving the cost of nine trials. Nine out of ten ain't bad.

And with that, we kick off the festive Christmas season.