Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Wow, has it been a week since that George Kell postlet? Time really does fly.

I actually had quite a bit to say over the weekend. But no time with which to post it. And I swore that I would make a better effort. Shee-yit.

We will redouble our efforts.

That ALWAYS works.

Monday, March 30, 2009

TN Twist

Yesterday (Saturday) was fun. While we were across town at a baby shower a small tornado (EF-0; 90 mph winds) skipped through our neighborhood blowing out all the windows in a strip mall about a mile away, home of our dentist office, before tearing the roofs off the Boys & Girl's Club, a little church, and then the MAPCO just around the block. It also ripped up the car wash b/w here and the MAPCO and mangled the street signs all around it. I could throw a rock from here and hit that place. We discovered all this as we drove home two hours later only to find our entire neighorhood dark. Perfect timing, though. Our lights came on just as we pulled up to the house, which showed not the slightest hint of wind damage. Luther was in the back yard. As far as we know, he saw nothing. Did seem glad to see us.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Department of Frickin' Obvious

Just heard a great tease for tonight's post-presser Hardball: "Our economy is a mess, but for some reason President Obama is still popular! How can that be? Chris Matthews has a theory!" Oo oo, call on me, I know this one!! Erm, what is the American people aren't fucking morons, Alex?

I'm getting really tired of the rank stupidity of the DC press corps. They seem to have turned their idiocy dial, always on high, up to 11. How hard is to see that (a) the financial mess started long before Obama became president, (b) he has been president for all of 64 days, and (c) he is not, despite what the congressional GOP and their would-be spokesmen say, "Barack, the Magic Negro"? Yes, Geithner is getting off to a shaky start, and the AIG bonus thing could have and should have been nipped in the bud a bit earlier. Does anyone in their right mind think that Obama was behind those bonuses? Well, Lou Dobbs does. 11.

It has been a while since I had the pleasure of watching Senor Dobbs. Tonight I had that honor while eating tandoori and chana masala at our fave Indian buffet. It's OK, Lou, I think they're here legally. Oh, and dude, take your meds. Seriously, FOX News would have been embarrassed to run that shit you just put out, accusing Obama of seeking "unprecedented federal authority" (trigger thunderclap sound effect) to regulate shadow banks like AIG. Glenn Beck would have had to run that one past his shrink first. A whole panel full of crazy. Made Glennalina's little "Bunker of Doom" look like a weekend at the spa. Oh, and weren't you supposed to be a populist? You're against the bonuses AND against regulating AIG? Good luck with that, Pampers Man. Maybe you can work out that little conundrum while I go exchange my dollars for globaloes.

R.I.P. George Kell

You will always be the play-by-play voice for Tigers games on teevee for me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Dead List

Tonite's the series finale of BSG--OK, who dies? That is THE question. Here's my list: Adama (of course), Roslyn (she's dying of that cancer anyway), Baltar (heroically, because it was telegraphed last week), and all the bad Cylons. There have to be a few more--Tyrol seems like a good pick, as does Anders. Anders has to die, of course, to clear the way for Starbuck and Apollo to procreate the next race of human-Cylon hybrids. I think Saul Tigh has to live, although if he does die it will be to save Adama (in which case, Adama will not die). Ellen Tigh already died once, and the writers wouldn't give her another dramatic ending, would they?

Helo has to live. And save Hera.

If no one dies, I will be extremely disappointed. But I'm not worried about that. Not worried one bit.

My biggest fear is some kind of massive reset button. Part I of the finale last week pointed in that direction a bit, showing us the lives of several main characters on Caprica before the war. And some of those scenes were unfinished, no? The one with Adama, especially. So more flashbacks tonite. Let's keep them flashbacks, though.

I also am not crazy about the Cylon "colony" being positioned in a stationary orbit around a black hole with only one point to jump in and out of. A little convenient, no?

Little Lips

A belated shout out to friend-of-FFB, Lips, who gave birth last week to a beautiful bay girl, Anna Henri. Those months on bed rest have now paid their dividend. Cheers to all!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lifestyle Magazine for Me

Somehow I ended up with a subscription to this magazine called Best Life, which is a high-end men's lifestyle magazine. Or at least aspires to be. I think that the subscription came with my Runner's World, which may be published by the same company. Not sure.

Lifestyle magazines, huh? First of all, with a full-time job, a baby, a house, training, I don't have time for a lifestyle. Oh, you say, that is a lifestyle? (You could have fooled me.) Well, then, here's what a lifestyle magazine for me would contain:

(1) A section on politics. Not like the defunct George, not focusing on personalities. But with some profiles, lots of policy, election analyses, etc. Data driven.

(2) A section on professional sports, primarily baseball. Again, data driven. It would help me not suck at fantasy baseball. (And I need a lot of help.) For example, it would tell me who to draft to get holds.

(3) A section on running, training, and fitness. Training ideas, but also profiles of runners and other non-famous athletes. (I love my Runner's World.) Gear reviews.

(4) A section on popular culture, maybe put together by the folks at the AVClub at the Onion. But with more of a focus on books. Especially military history and detective/crime fiction. (Hey, it's my magazine!) Less on comic books.

Aside: I'm really getting tired of comic books. Even if we're supposed to call them "graphic novels," they're still comic books. And if I never see another "superhero" movie, that will be fine with me.

Now, back to it: every lifestyle magazine has to have a section on fashion. Well, part of my so-called lifestyle is an aversion to fashion. My work "uni" is khaki chinos and a mostly blue non-iron shirt from Brooks Brothers. But I guess I can imagine a section on "This Year's Chinos." "The Best Non-Iron Shirts for the Office Park Set."

No Jay-Z on the cover. No actors on the cover, period. I don't have any ideas for the cover. Maybe like the really old school National Geographic, just one color with a table of contents on the cover.

Now all we need is a name . . .

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

N-A-T-S-T-O-W-N ! ! !

So, this season we are expected to call D.C. "Natstown," at least with respect to baseball. Not crazy about it, but how would you market a mediocre-at-best line-up of young players with some (?) promise and retreads? Playing in one of the more competitive divisions in baseball--the Phillies are the reigning World Champions; the Mets look pretty decent; and don't rule out the Fish (?).

I actually think that the Nats should hark back to the team's storied history. What? The team doesn't have a storied history? It's playing in a new, somewhat soulless building?

Surely you jest. This team has a history! Olympic Stadium. Les Expos. Powder blue unis and that dreadful tricolor logo. ("Elb?") Aim for the Gen-Xers--a lot of irony ("a Canadian team representing America's capital"!), nostalgia factor high . . .

Or, maybe, corporate re-branding. "Natstown." Yeah.

BONUS: Rob Dibble is the new color man for Nats broadcasts. Don't ever say that it can't get worse. (Don't get me wrong. I actually like Dibs. It just makes me feel old that one of the "Nasty Boys" is the color man.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Is There a Draft in Here?

So I have two upcoming "drafts." Tonite we draft our games in the Nationals seasons tickets group; sometime in the next two weeks we draft our fantasy baseball rosters. (This year I am in a work fantasy league, which will be strange.)

I may be the worst draft-er of all time.

In terms of the season tickets, for example, I don't have a plan, and I don't really have a sense for what my "schedule" will look like for the season. IOW, I'll probably draft games that I won't be able to make it to. Plus, I don't have a clue which games I would "like to" see. Given that the Nats play in the NL East, I have little to choose from. Sure, I'd like to go see the Phillies a couple times. But then what? The Mets? The Braves? The Fish? I wanted to see the Expos, but, for some reason, they aren't on the schedule.

The unbalanced schedule means that the West teams I would like to see (yeah, I am an NL West guy, which is strange for someone who grew up in Michigan) come to town once, often at bad times for me.

And this year the interleague games are against the AL East. That means that everyone else in the pool will probably be drafting those games--especially the Yankees and Red Sox games. Right? But who wants to be in the stadium with the fans of those teams. Not me.

But fantasy drafting is even worse. At least this league is a traditional 5-5 league, not that insane 10-8 league that Wilson plays in! Holds?

80s Music Extravaganza

They've been reveling in 80s-band nostalgia over at Second Americano, what with U2's new CD and the question of whether the Killers are the new Duran. As for the latter, I can only ask, "Are we human, or are we dancer?" which makes about as much sense in my post as in that song.

U2? Fro says No Line qualifies as one of U2's top three albums. I'm not so sure. Joshua Tree and Achtung, Baby! set a pretty high bar. But then that's the peril of being U2. You've got a lot to live up to. I would be really surprised if this one goes down as in that league, or even surpassing War, which somehow never gets mentioned anymore in lists of U2's great records. That said, this is a pretty stellar effort, more musically interesting than either All The Things or How to Dismantle, if not as commercial or immediate. They start strong, with "No Line. . .", "Magnificent," and "Moment of Surrender," the last of which may be the album highlight for me, at least so far. After the inventive "Unknown Caller" (another winner), we get the radio interlude--"I'll Go Crazy. . . " and "Get On Your Boots"--before they end with a batch of more meditative songs. Structurally, it feels like a merger of The Unforgettable Fire and Achtung: an evocative scene scape that suddenly explodes into experimental pop rawk in its middle act. The problem I think, if there is one, is that the songwriting does not rise as it does on their best records. As much as I've come to like "Boots," it can't match the wordplay of Achtung's "The Fly." And as good radio candy as "Crazy" is, it will never be "One" or "I Still Haven't Found. . . ." Maybe I'm being too harsh. U2 always impress with the quality control. They never put out shit, or even mediocrity. Still, I'd put this in the second rank.

There is, however, an 80s throwback out there right now that is hard to beat. Although I left it off my year end list, were I to rewrite now, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds would make my top 5 for Dig! Lazarus, Dig!! Few records manage to rock this hard this smart. Cave wanders into the American wilderness of sex, drugs, and faith like few could. Somehow he pulls off literary pretensions without the pretense, Christian (?) romanticism without preaching or sentimentalism. Quite a trick. A few favorite tracks: "Today's Lesson," "We Call Upon the Author," "Lie Down Here (& Be My Girl)," and the title track/opener "Dig! . . . " First listen may be WTF, but repeat spins will not disappoint. Human? Dancer.

Monday, March 16, 2009

It's a Contract!

I was a little floored over the weekend to hear about the inviolability of the AIG executives' contracts, specifically with respect to their bonus clauses. The CEO of the company has apparently told the Government that "our hands are tied," and that they have no choice but to pay. On the advice of outside counsel.

Right. Let's play this out. AIG refuses to pay bonuses. If there's an arbitration clause in the contract, that may be a problem. But let's assume that there's not. That means that the executives would eventually have to sue AIG. AIG says, OK, outside counsel, earn some of that money and devise some affirmative defenses: fraud; unconscionability; contrary to public policy; impossibility of performance. These are just the "law school exam" answers that leap immediately to mind. The executives are now forced to litigate out of their own pockets. Everyone pays their own costs, their own lawyers, and it gets expensive. Let's say that the Government intervenes, in some manner. That complicates the litigation and jacks up the costs to the executives.

AIG doesn't need to "win." It just needs to get past summary judgment. (Which, given it's a contract case, may be difficult.) Because AIG's whole strategy should be to get this case before a jury and have the executives make their case for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to a jury of plain folks. Good luck with that. So if AIG can get past summary judgment, it's best play is probably to reach a low-ball settlement with the executives. Maybe the settlement will cover what the executives have already spent litigating the case. Maybe, maybe not.

I think that the "AIG damages its reputation" by refusing to pay and that "AIG will have trouble attracting talent" arguments really shouldn't carry much weight here. As for AIG's reputation, I'm not sure I would lose sleep over that. And are outside counsel advising AIG on legal matters . . . based on how difficult it will be for AIG to hire executives in the future? That isn't how I interpreted the CEO's letter.

My one hesitation is, again, whether there's an arbitration clause. Depending on how its drafted, and a bunch of other legal questions I don't have the energy to explore right now, that might actually bind AIG's hands. Of course, there's always the suspicion that arbitration favors the large corporation; maybe AIG does fine in arbitration, too? But the executives aren't consumers; they are wealthy people with clout. So I just don't know.

Of course, nothing would stop Congress from prohibiting such bonuses being handed out by firms receiving bailout money. Even abrogating the contract terms would be constitutional--the Contract Clause only prohibits states from abrogating contracts, when it applies at all. But I heard Larry Summers of all people say that the Government simply can't abrogate contracts. Sure it can, if it has the will to do so.

Btw, George Will on "This Week" compared this to the mortgage cram-down provisions. Will didn't seem to realize that mortgages are one of the few kinds of contracts that bankruptcy judges can't revise in bankruptcy. So this isn't comparable. Bankruptcy is already about revising the terms of contracts. It would be something for the Government to start abrogating executives' contracts. Because of the politics of the thing, it really is unthinkable. But abrogating contracts outside of bankruptcy--major deal. Abrogating contracts in a bankruptcy--fairly minor change to the law. Now, that's a minor change that mortgage lenders hate. Which is why it's so controversial.

Update: Too busy to follow in detail, but apparently these bonuses are REALLY written into the credit swap deals. So maybe not a simple matter of breach and see.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Cosmic Cramer

What to say about the smackdown Jon Stewart has been dishing out to CNBC over the last week? Truly, a thing of beauty. It's not just that CNBC has long been a cheerleader for the worst aspects of market bubble madness. It's that they've been so unrepentantly unreflective and unapologetic about the whole affair. Rather than stepping back and taking stock, as it were, they've decided to run with a truly toxic "blame Obama" strategy, as if all this red started with the man that's black. Santelli's now infamous faux-populist rant about how Chicago derivatives traders were a "cross-section of America" angry at having to bail out the "losers" who took on home loans they could not afford, and blaming Obama for his "socialism" is only one of many such incidents. Even more repulsive than Santelli himself were the CNBC anchors egging him on, without the slightest hint of self-awareness or shame. They looked like a bully's posse in a very wealthy playground.

Meanwhile, CNBC-sister MSNBC rode hard on Morning Joe for a week with a graph of how far the market has dropped since election day. Left off the graph? 1) the market drop of nearly 50% starting well before November, 2) any recognition that Obama wasn't even president for the first 2/3 of the graph (!). Truly spectacular flim-flammery. Barely worth mentioning is the rather routine distortion that comes with cutting off the entire bottom of a graph so that it, in charting the gap from 6500 to 8000 it makes a fractional drop look like a zeroing out. I'd cut the media a bit more of a break if they looked like they were even trying to learn their lessons.

And so we now have the spectacle of Jon Stewart taking Jim "Mad Money" Cramer to the woodshed in one of the sharpest interviews I've ever seen on TV. Stewart's moral outrage is one of his most compelling qualities. And while the NY Times may get churlish about its lack of overt humor, Stewart's point--that it's "not a fucking game!"--seems by far the more appropriate. That refusal to treat Cramer as just one more jocular guest is a reminder of just how clubby all other media today is. If you're in the circle of people who appear on TV, you're supposed to be protected, from criticism obviously, but mostly from any serious moral sanction of who you are and what you've done. Don't you know that's its all infotainment? That we're on the same team!? So what if Cramer knew the market was rigged by inside players playing with our poker chips (as he admitted in one inconvenient interview Stewart played back for him)? His ratings are huge!

Worse, as Stewart pointed out, Cramer is far from the worst offender. It's his whole frickin' network. Hell, it's all the damned TV news. If I had to pick the worst media villain in this sordid affair, Cramer would rank well below one very prominent stable-mate at CNBC: Larry Kudlow. Cramer at least seems to be a human being, albeit a very flawed one. He gives the impression of having been something of a clowninsh suck-up, the sidekick who just wanted the respect of his big-money CEO buddies, who then got caught up in his own narcissistic hype ("In Cramer We Trust" went the CNBC promos). He also seems to know just how bad he's really screwed this up. Kudlow, meanwhile, is the Dick Cheney of economic analysis, a man of almost comically Mephistophelean evil. Hocking that same combination of catastrophic judgment and faux gravitas that once led a drunken Cheney to shoot a friend in the face and then force him to apologize for getting shot, Kudlow dispenses daily doses of class war self-affirmation that would make Ayn Rand blush with shame. If Kudlow ever shows the slightest hint of contrition, we'll know that the apocalypse is truly upon us.

What lessons? Well, we now know, not that we didn't before, that your typical economic libertarian wakes up every morning with a bit in his mouth and a saddle on his back. (I actually like that phrase better with a word other than "bit", but this is a family blog.) They don't so much admire capital-ism as worship capital-ists. They are class warrior authoritarians who have tricked themselves into believing that they are paragons of freedom and democracy. Santelli, Cramer, and Kudlow fighting for the "little guy." With friends like these, who needs enemies? Once again, George W. Bush's America: this nation's well-being is too important to leave it in the hands of the cheerleaders.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Gen-X Movies

So I know nobody reads the blog any more, because I stopped posting and so what's the point? But I'm going to make one last go of this.

Last night, after the baby was asleep, I got in my 30 minutes of television. That's about what I get--on average. Some nights, zero. Some nights, maybe an hour--like Friday night, if I stay up to watch BSG.

Last night, I was flipping channels and stumbled on the beginning of the 1994 film, directed by Ben Stiller (!), Reality Bites. Wiki. You know the one--it's about four college friends, after graduation, trying to find their way in the adult world (in Houston of all places). The characters--played by Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Janeane Garofalo (!), and Steve Zahn--are all annoying in their own way, but aren't they supposed to be? They are 22-23 year old Gen-Xers. Lord, I know how unbelievably awful I was at that age.

So here's my query: Is this the best Gen-X movie?

The only competitor that comes immediately to mind is Singles, but that's quite a different film, and more about the music, yes? Plus, aren't at least some of the characters a little older?

Now, remember, I'm not talking about an actual "good" movie. But the best one about Generation-X.

Oh, and no one make the I never bought into this whole Gen-X concept move. That is the ultimate Gen-Xer move. It makes you the Ethan Hawke character.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Didn't the Dead Milkmen Have a Song About This?

Creationists at the Smithsonian. It's a course in "Advanced Creationism Studies." What does "Advanced" mean? There's a lot in there, but maybe my favorite:

Near the end of the "Evolution Trail," the class showed no signs of being swayed by the polished, enthusiastic presentation of Darwin's theory. They were surprised, though, by the bronze statue of man's earliest mammalian ancestor.

"A rat?" exclaimed Amanda Runions, a 21-year-old biochemistry major, when she saw the model of a morganucodon, a rodent-like ancient mammal that curators have dubbed Grandma Morgie. "All this hype for a rat? You're expecting, like, at least an ape."

Well, Amanda, honey, it would be quite a trick for the "earliest mammalian ancestor" to be an ape, or even a monkey. But for a student in the "advanced" class, I expect as much.

Abbey's Polemic

So I've been reading Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire off and on, in the evenings and in spare moments. It is, in many ways, a beautiful book. But I have to say that his polemic against "industrial tourism" is a bit much. It's not because he doesn't make some good points--Americans are too dependent on their cars; there are too many roads in some national parks; the NPS needs to do more to protect "wilderness." Now, in some ways the NPS has improved on these points since Abbey's time. For example, Zion Valley is car-free.

I think that my largely negative reaction is partly a reaction to Abbey's misanthropy (and he is a misanthrope), partly by his apolitical stance. In terms of the latter, it is important that "ordinary," i.e., car-bound, Americans visit the national parks so that the NPS has at least diffuse political support. There just aren't that many John Muirs out there. The national parks need the support of people who want to drive their kids to see the Grand Canyon, for Pete's sake.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Zeppelin in Wheaton

Here's an interesting article on a local DC 'mystery.' According to local legend, and a handful of people who claim to have been there, Led Zeppelin played a concert in January 1969 at the Wheaton (Md.) Youth Center. This was just after their first album was released. No one had ever heard of them. But the show, as legend has it, was amazing.

There is no record of the show, however, at the youth center. And many people who worked there do not recall it having happened.

It's interesting, how hard it is to know what really happened. This isn't the dark ages--this isn't 'was there really a King Arthur?' question. I mean, did Led Zeppelin play that show or not?

Interesting article.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Update: Winter Storm Not So Much

I am flying to Denver today for a conference. So starting this weekend I became increasingly nervous about the weather, namely about the "Mega Storm" as they billed it on the Weather Channel--predicted to bring as much as 10 inches of snow to metro DC.

Of course, 10 inches of snow would cripple DC for days. My guess is that it would basically have to melt, because I don't know what the district and federal government would do to cope.

But waking up this morning, looks like we got a couple of inches. That will cause problems, but it's hardly "mega." The government isn't even closed, although it's on 2-hour delayed start, and my flight is still listed as "On Time," although it will certainly take off late.

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Having a little one is a lot of work. Plus, most of my thinking lately has been work-related, and I don't blog about work, for the most part. Because few people find one's work as interesting as one would like to believe.

The reading has been very poor, of late--although I do hope to read a book on my flights this week, so maybe a book report is forthcoming. But the running has been going OK. I got pretty close to 30 miles last week, and I actually think I've been getting a little faster--on the training runs, at least. If the weather would cooperate, I might actually think about training for something this year.

What's up with all of you?