Monday, March 31, 2008


So the fish guy at the farmer's market yesterday sold us on a fish I had never heard of, escolar. A meaty white fish that he described as a mix of sea bass and lobster. Well, hell! That sounds good.

So we grill it up for dinner and it is remarkably meaty and moist and seemed like a hit all around. A few hours later, I was waylaid by a crushing headache and nausea and I eventually puked the dinner right back out. I just figured I was paying the price for living the dream, you know?

As a quick search revealed this morning, however, escolar is incredibly oily and some of the waxy oils can't be digested by humans. If you eat more than six ounces, you get treated to the sprays, or possibly headaches, nausea and vomiting.

This is not mentioned in the nutritional information on the packaging.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Here's What You Don't Want

After graciously giving you my NCAA tournament tips (NCAATT), you are no doubt faring very well in your office pool. As a follow up to that, allow to me to tell you what you don't want.

- One of your Final Four picks losing their first game.
- One of your championship teams losing, but not in the title game. Losing in, say, their Sweet Sixteen game.

These are things that you don't want.

(This latest NCAATT sponsored by My Ten Bucks)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Let's Say I Had Very Little Self Regard

Well, first off, that is the exact opposite of the case. I have vast, untapped reserves of self regard. But, for the sake of argument, let's say the opposite was true. Or maybe let's say I was battling depression.

Let's say I dropped all pretenses and stopped acting like I love lamb chops seasoned with coriander freshly ground through a food mill. That I didn't know what a potato ricer was. That I didn't know what rosewater chutney tasted like.

Let's say I was prepared to give in to my basest instincts and admit that my two favorite foods in the world were Fritos and Klondike bars. Could I survive exclusively on a diet of those two foods, along with beer to wash it down? Well, let's take a peek at what I'd be ingesting.

A 1-ounce serving of Fritos is about 32 chips, according to the bag. I could eat 32 Fritos in 32 seconds, and that would give me 160 calories of pure power, 90 of those calories coming from fat. I would also get 170 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of protein and 6% or less of any vitamin or mineral I need.

Washing the Fritos down with a bottle of Fat Tire would give me 164 calories. But hey, zero fat.

One Klondike bar has 250 delicious calories, with 150 of those coming from fat. I would also get 55 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of protein and neglible amount of vitamins.

According to a handy online tool, I need to take in about 2,500 calories per day just to keep the engine humming. So it looks like each day I would need to consume about three bags of Fritos, three Klondike bars and three beers. Perfectly, there are three meals in a day.

Now sure, there would be a few drawbacks, like a rotating array of mouth sores from the salt and sugar overload. Diabetes so bad that my blood flowed like jelly. Which wouldn't matter, because my arteries would be so clogged that my red blood cells would have to start travelling single file. Scurvy would fight rickets for control of my body since I'm not getting any vitamins. Shits with all the consistency of warm bath water and, I assume, eventually cancer so bad that it can be seen without a microscope.

Still, think of how delicious it would be!

A Real Straight Shooter

John McCain is renowned for being an honest guy. He named his campaign bus The Straight Talk Express. That is his thing. That is his deal. An honest guy who always tells it like it is!

So when he's discussing the current housing and mortgage crisis and says that he is "committed to the principle that it is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers."

McCain cited the $30-billion plan by New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to aid homeowners and communities threatened by foreclosures, saying that it sounded "very expensive" and that he would "like to know how it's paid for."

"I will not play election-year politics with the housing crisis."

So if that's what McCain says, that's what McCain means! He is not playing election year politics! He wants to know how Clinton plans to pay for a $30 billion bailout plan because John McCain's economic stance is more tax cuts. More tax cuts, because they've worked so well since 2000. He also believes that it is not the responsibility of the government to bail out irresponsible people and that includes big banks. Sure, these are basic GOP financial stances, but McCain has always held these beliefs close to his heart. Remember, he is not playing election year politics! He does not favor bailouts!'re a close personal friend and campaign donor. Like...say...Charles Keating.

In early 1987, at the beginning of his first Senate term, McCain attended two meetings with federal banking regulators to discuss an investigation into Lincoln Savings and Loan, an Irvine, Calif., thrift owned by Arizona developer Charles Keating. Federal auditors were investigating Keating's banking practices, and Keating, fearful that the government would seize his S&L, sought intervention from a number of U.S. senators.

Hmm. Okay. Well, that's not such a big deal. I'm sure McCain, the famous straight shooter, probably found a legitimate reason to help out this irresponsible banker.

Regulators did not seize Lincoln Savings and Loan until two years later. The Lincoln bailout cost taxpayers $2.6 billion, making it the biggest of the S&L scandals.

That sounds very expensive. I would like to know how it was paid for.

McCain defended his attendance at the meetings by saying Keating was a constituent and that Keating's development company, American Continental Corporation, was a major Arizona employer...But Keating was more than a constituent to McCain--he was a longtime friend and associate...Keating raised money for McCain's two congressional campaigns in 1982 and 1984, and for McCain's 1986 Senate bid. By 1987, McCain campaigns had received $112,000 from Keating, his relatives, and his employees--the most received by any of the Keating Five.

Well, I'm sure a man who was eventually investigated for irregular banking practices raised all of that money in a legitimate fashion. I'm sure none of it came from the 17,000 Lincoln investors who lost $190 million.

After McCain's election to the House in 1982, he and his family made at least nine trips at Keating's expense, three of which were to Keating's Bahamas retreat. McCain did not disclose the trips (as he was required to under House rules) until the scandal broke in 1989.

Is it a lie if you don't tell anybody? Guess not! His record of straight talk is still alive!

And in April 1986, one year before the meeting with the regulators, McCain's wife, Cindy, and her father invested $359,100 in a Keating strip mall.

Hey, listen. If you invested that much money with somebody, you wouldn't want to see them go bankrupt either.

In February 1991, the Senate Ethics Committee found McCain and Glenn to be the least blameworthy of the five senators...McCain considered the committee's judgment to be "full exoneration," and he contributed $112,000 (the amount raised for him by Keating) to the U.S. Treasury.

So there you have it. John McCain is a straight shooter who did the right thing...after he got caught. And because of this painful experience in his past, he no longer favors government bailouts for irresponsible lenders! (That he doesn't know personally.)

The media has absolutely no reason to ever question anything John McCain says. Whether he's contradicting himself on government intervention or incorrectly accusing Iran of training al-Qaeda, please, Beltway media, do not ever give his comments a second thought. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Enough! Enough I Say!

The phrase "thrown under the bus" has hereby been removed from the American English lexicon. Anybody who uses that phrase after this day, 25 March, 2008, will hereby be referred to as a dildo.

I also say enough to the pervasive virus that is sweeping the NHL. It seems that whenever somebody gets checked hard any more, his teammates mount up and ride to the rescue like they're the cavalry. Not even on cheap shots, just on regular checks. Not even checks on superstars, checks on regular players. Knock somebody to the ice and you have just started a full-on scrum, friend.

In the Penguins/Islanders game last night, somebody named Matthew Spiller collected the puck behind his own net and fired a pass out to teammate Blake Comeau. Spiller basically put the pass along the boards and right in Comeau's skates. This is not a very nice thing to do to a teammate. It forces him to put his head down to look for the puck and in most NHL games, when you put your head down, somebody on the other team puts your entire body down. As you can see starting at the :47 mark.

So Max Talbot buries Comeau with a shoulder to the chest. About the cleanest NHL hit you'll ever see. As little as three years ago, nothing else would've happened. Maybe back at the bench, Comeau would find Spiller and say, "Nice fuckin' pass". And Spiller would've hung his head in shame.

Instead, Spiller got his dander up and tried to start a fight. Because he made a bad pass and his teammate got checked. Checked in an NHL game. Maybe Spiller should've punched himself in the face, but this is starting to get ridiculous. If you throw a teammate under the bus like that, don't be a dildo and start a fight, acting like you're defending him from normal NHL play. That's a total dildo move!

Monday, March 24, 2008

My Friend Aaron* Is 29

And that's fine. No big deal. Just a number. Just a statistic. He is on and to hear him tell it, he is dating up a storm. That is also fine. He is a single man in a big city and there are lots of available women around who don't mind somebody buying them a decent meal.

But sometimes things can get ridiculous. Like when we were playing golf Saturday and Aaron told me he wanted to get a cart. He didn't want to walk because his junk was all chafed. It was all chafed because on Friday night his date went decently enough and he and this girl dry humped for so long that his boxers gave him friction burns. Dry humped! He is 29! Who dry humps at such an advanced age? What is the point even? "Unh! Unh! Feel my hard tip through my jeans! Isn't it awesome? We'd better not go any further than this, though. What if your parents come home? Yes, I know they live in another state."

I mean, when he went out to dinner, did he order chicken and then just hold the chicken breast in his hand instead of eating it? What two adults finish a date with dry humping and then go home?

The positive side is that my friend Aaron now holds the world record for Oldest Dry Hump. He beat the previous mark by 10 years and 87 days.

* - is his real name

Thursday, March 20, 2008

That Ball Is Round And It Bounces!

The NCAA mens basketball tournament is underway and life is good again. People who love sports and people who avoid sports alike have filled out their brackets and folks are already highlighting and crossing off good and bad picks, respectively.

In about 18 years of filling out brackets, I have won 3 pools. That's once every 6 years. If I was a comet, I would be legendary. Each time I've won, it's because I've followed my own simple rules and ended being being the only person to predict something that happened that year. The first time, it was Michigan's Fab Five making the finals. The second time, it was point guard Scoonie Penn, shooter Michael Redd and big man Ken Johnson leading Ohio State into the Final Four. The third time it was picking high-seeded Gonzaga and Stanford to lose in the second round.

I have rules and they are good. Ignore them at your own peril. Also ignore the fact that if I won 3 times, that means I lost 15 times.

1) Never pick West Coast teams to go far. These floppy-haired teams are soft. They play a full season in the Pac-10 or WCC or whatever, where everybody plays an excessively polite game. Three-pointers aren't defended and if somebody catches the ball in the post, the defense clears out so they can have a neat layup. These doughy, sun-streaked teams inevitably go up against a Midwestern or Eastern team that actually works on throwing elbows in practice and they're worn down to a nub.
(NOTE: Occasionally a Western team like UCLA or the '96 Arizona team is so dominant that they trascend this rule. However, I have Stanford losing to Marquette in the second round.)

2) Do NOT pick a team to make the Final Four unless they have all three of the following: a good point guard, a capable big man and a three-point shooter. You want to experience pure misery? Pick a defensively-minded team to make the finals, then watch their second round game. When they're down 48-41 with ten minutes to go and utterly unable to create some offense, your friends will put you on suicide watch. It's equally frustrating to watch a small team get crushed on the offensive glass. Oh my God, is that frustrating.

3) Bobby Knight and Bob Huggins will never, ever make it past the second round. Knight retired, unfortunately for our brackets, but Huggins is still flailing away in West Virgnia. If you pick the Moutaineers to make the Sweet Sixteen, thanks for your donation. If you pick them to lose to Arizona, you're cool like me. Then I have Arizona losing to Duke, so no, I didn't break my own rule, smart guy.

4) Certain coaches will always blow a high seed. Yes you, Roy Williams. You too, Lute Olsen. And most definitely you, John Calipari. I'd mention you here, Mike Montgomery, but Stanford finally got sick of you a few years back.
(NOTE: Like Rule #1, cccasionally a team is so dominant that they transcend this rule. Those type of years go in my 15 column, not my 3 column.)

5) You need to have at least 75% of your picks survive each round. Meaning you need at least 12 of the Sweet Sixteen, 6 of the Elite Eight and 3 of the Final Four. Keep that in mind when picking some sort of Cinderella run.

So there you have it! Simply follow these easy rules and you too can win your office pool once every sextennial!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I Saw These Things Today, Oh Boy

When you're crawling through traffic, you have time to look around. And when you look around, sometimes you see things. Like...say...a semi with a sticker on the side. A sticker of a man wearing a hat that read USA pounding Osama bin Laden from behind.

Now this wasn't Uncle Sam. Or if it was, he shaved his beard first. But there was this guy, anally invading bin Laden, who maybe looked like he was enjoying it but maybe not. Now, having read Charlie Wilson's War, I know that Afghanis use buggering - as the Brits might call it - as a torture and humiliation technique. If you forcibly pound a man in the ass, you assert domination over him. You take away his manhood. If you get forcibly pounded in the ass, you are considered a weak homosexual. Somebody who isn't fit to be a man. I'm sure this demarcation makes perfect based on some 700-year old tribal text.

So, it's possible that the driver of this truck wants any Afghanis stuck in traffic to know that Osama bin Laden is not a man. That the United States has asserted dominance over him by raping him. Metaphorically, of course. In real life, we haven't done a damn thing to him yet.

Then again, it's also possible that the sticker was a political statement. Perhaps this truck driver is intimating that the U.S. and bin Laden are in bed together since we funded the mujahadeen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Perhaps, in a roundabout way, he's indicating that we boned the wrong man and now we caught a disease. The disease of...TERRORISM!

Or maybe he's just saying bin Laden is a fag. To accept that, though, you would probably also have to believe that the U.S. is a fag. AND THAT'S TOTAL BULLSHIT! Hopefully this sticker will be brought up in the first Obama/McCain debate. Each candidate's stance on this controversial sticker will indicate a clear direction for our country in 2009 and beyond.

While I was parsing various meanings for the bin Laden art, I pulled ahead and spotted another interesting sticker. One that left absolutely nothing open to interpretation. On the side window of a construction company pickup truck was: SMILE IF YOUR NOT WEARING PANTIES.

The driver had a shaved head and mustache. I couldn't see if he was wearing a "Mustache Rides 5 Cents" t-shirt, but if he wasn't, we can at least assume that he owns one. Now here's a guy who knows what he wants! Women who are not currently wearing underwear.

So ladies, if you don't wear panties and you like to pick up men in traffic, have I got the guy for you! However, I must warn you, he's not much of a grammarian. The sticker should have read ...IF YOU'RE NOT...

But I suppose if you don't wear panties and pick up construction workers in traffic, good grammar isn't one of your chief concerns.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Somebody Is To Blame For 9/11, Dammit!

The pastor at Barack Obama's Chicago church, Jeremiah Wright, thinks our actions might have had something to do with it.

"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye," Rev. Wright said in a sermon on Sept. 16, 2001.

"We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost," he told his congregation.

What?! This is crazy! Crazy! I mean, bin Laden himself said he planned the attack because we have military bases in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East and because we support Israel. No! if Obama is going to attend a church run by such a maniac - a man who agrees with Osama bin Laden! - he is not fit to be President. President of the Nut Club, maybe!

Television evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, two of the most prominent voices of the religious right, said liberal civil liberties groups, feminists, homosexuals and abortion rights supporters bear partial responsibility for Tuesday's terrorist attacks because their actions have turned God's anger against America...Then Falwell broadened his blast to include the federal courts and others who he said were "throwing God out of the public square." He added: "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.' "

Okay, fine. But when Falwell and Robertson decided God was to blame, or we were to blame, it was only 9/14/01. Rescue workers were still sifting through the smoking rubble. It was an emotional time. Maybe their emotions got to them. But, you know, Wright is Obama's pastor! It's not like the GOP takes people like Falwell and Robertson seriously! It's not they ever meet for lunch or anything to discuss foreign policy.

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The founder of the U.S. Christian Coalition said Tuesday he told President George W. Bush before the invasion of Iraq that he should prepare Americans for the likelihood of casualties, but the president told him, "We're not going to have any casualties."

"Someone from the White House called me yesterday, asking for any input I might have," said the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the founder of the Moral Majority and chancellor of Liberty University in Virginia.Mr. Falwell said he declined to offer advice, telling the White House staff member that, because of Mr. Bush's track record appointing conservative judges, "I am willing to sit back and trust him and pray for him."

Ugh! Fine. Fine! So George Bush also has crazy spiritual advisers. So what? We know about him already. This is about 2008! And somebody who associates with a crazy preacher should not - can not! - be President!

During the event, Hagee proclaimed that the United States must consider a preemptive strike on Iran, and also said that Jews had been responsible for their persecution throughout history because of a failure to properly accept God.

Wait! What? Who is this guy now?

"The newspaper carried the story in our local area that was not carried nationally that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other Gay Pride parades. So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know that there are people who demur from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the day of judgment." [NPR Fresh Air, 9/18/06]

Whatever. There are crazies everywhere. The government spikes the water. So what?

"I'm very honored by Pastor John Hagee's endorsement today," McCain said at a news conference. "He has been the staunchest leader of our Christian evangelical movement in many areas, but especially, most especially, his close ties and advocacy for the freedom and independence of the state of Israel."

Hagee, standing beside the candidate, said he admired McCain's pro-Israel stance, commitment to nominate conservative judges and opposition to abortion.

"Victory is within our grasp because John McCain knows it's never wrong to do the right thing," Hagee said.

Oh. Ew. Ugh. Oh dear. I...I don't know what to think! Everybody says Obama is going to lose because of Jeremiah Wright, but...but...nobody talks about McCain and Hagee! Somebody please tell me what to think!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Imagine If It Was A Failure

Vice President Dick Cheney made an unannounced visit to Baghdad over the weekend. To kill time on the long flight over, he mastered irony.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on Monday declared the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq a "successful endeavor" in a visit to Iraq that was overshadowed by a suicide bombing that killed at least 25 people.

In fairness, Cheney did admit that if this latest bombing killed 30 or more people, he'd be ready to call the invasion a failure. But for now, he'll hold strong.

"I was last in Baghdad 10 months ago and I sense that, as a result of the progress that has been made since then, phenomenal changes in terms of the overall situation," Cheney said after meeting Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

I know that you're thinking, "How would Cheney know what the overall situation is when he made a secret trip and went straight to our giant and heavily-guarded fortress and never left?" Well, the last time he did that very same thing, a bomb went off near the Green Zone. This time, no bomb. See? It is much better.

Cheney said there had been a "remarkable turnaround" in security after 30,000 extra troops were sent to Iraq last year to help reduce sectarian violence that threatened civil war.

That is true. Of course, the entire point of the surge was to give the nascent Iraqi government "breathing room" so they could settle their tribal differences and begin forming a true democracy. They haven't moved an inch on that, however. Still, it is a success because if it was a failure, that would be bad!

Incidentally, when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad visted Iraq recently, he announced his plans well in advance and then walked through the streets with his entourage. Nothing happened to him. It's almost as if Iran better than us at this point. Weird. So weird.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Got That Rad Sauce Here, Y'all! Rad Sauce

If I'm pan-roasting or pan-searing a piece of meat, you'd better know I'm making a pan sauce afterwards. It's just what I do. It's how I get down. It's an impressive thing, but it's incredibly basic. With about zero effort, you can make people think you're much better than you are and that's how I try to live my life at all times.

So I've been working on a new one, and I got it down. It is down. Here's how you make rad Krog Sauce.

- Sear up some meat. Chicken, pork, beef, whatever. Set it aside.
- Keep the pan hot and add enough heavy cream to fill the bottom of the pan and then some.
- With a wooden spoon, scrape up all those tasty browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
- Over a medium heat, just keep stirring that cream. If it boils on you, the fat will separate and then you are basically firmly boned.
- Add about 2 spoonfuls of dijon mustard and stir it in.
- Add 5 sage leaves, finely chopped.
- Add 1 garlic clove, finely chopped.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir, stir, stir until the sauce thickens up. When you drag the spoon along the bottom of the pan and the sauce doesn't immediately fill in the gap, you're in good shape. Your shape will be good.

And there you go! You have just made rad Krog Sauce!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

GOP Logic, Or The Lack Thereof

After Barry Obama correctly and astutely pointed out that John McCain was against making Bush's tax cuts permanent before he was for them, the McCain campaign had to hit back and hit back hard.

The task was left to McCain spokesman Brian Rogers, who said, "The American people will have a clear choice: John McCain will cut taxes while Senator Obama will raise them, hurting our economy and costing jobs for hardworking Americans."

Um...could somebody get this guy a newspaper?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I Am Not Convincingly Straight

A couple of weeks ago, I was standing outside, waiting for some friends to join me for lunch. I was wearing basically normal clothes for me. That is to say, clothes that fit properly. Though by today's chubby standards, you could call them slim. I live in Los Angeles, I work in the entertainment industry and I know how to be dashing. No big deal, right? Just like Rock Hudson!

So as I'm standing there, looking dashing, Nick and Nick's Gay Friend (hereafter NGF) come walking toward the cafeteria. I smile at them and Nick waves and what a friendly and polite exchange it was. My friends then arrived and I proceeded to go about my lunch without a care in the world.

Until later that day, when Nick recounted the conversation between himself and NGF as they walked past my dapper ol' self.

NGF: "He's cute."

Nick: "He also has a cute wife and a cute kid."


It would seem that I am not convincingly straight. Allow me to take this moment to remind everybody that I love staring at a lady's globes.

Hey You!

Quit tucking in the front of your shirt to show off your belt buckle! It makes you look like a dildo!

Either tuck your shirt in all the way or leave it all out. None of this tweener stuff! It's this kind of wishy-washy thinking that leads to those Reese's Cups with the chocolate in the middle and the peanut butter on the outside!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Something Devastating Happens To Me Too Frequently

I have a debilitating physical issue that is starting to take a mental toll on me. It has been a problem for my entire life, though it started becoming more noticeable around the age of 16. Unfortunately, there's no treatment for this affliction. I just have to live with it and I will for the rest of my life. What makes the mental toll so great is that the issue is totally unpredictable. I can be coasting along, having a great day, having a great week, when the affliction will pop up out of nowhere and just change everything. This is my cross to bear.

People call me ma'am on the phone.

Listen, I can't lie to you. My voice is not bass heavy. But it's not like a dog whistle. However, there are times when I order food, or when I need to call about a bill, when people call me ma'am. The most recent outbreak was this past Friday.

"Hi, I'd like to place an order for delivery."
"Okay, ma'am, what would you like?"


The worst part is, strangers who think I'm a woman have to be thinking I'm an ugly, heavy woman with a terrible voice. I'm just caught in this lost, gray area. Usually, when it happens, I immediately try to drop my voice a bit, but it can only go so low. I never, ever correct the person in this situation because it's embarrassing enough as it is. But sometimes, we get caught up in a spiral.

"Hi, I'm just calling to close out my account."
"Okay, ma'am, that's no problem. What's your name?"
"Michael Krogmann."

There are no fundraisers for my affliction. There are no treatments. There is a stigma. And I will live with it until the day I die. Although they say adversity makes one stronger, this adversity is definitely making me much weaker.

Oh Man, You Blew It!

I was strolling down the sidewalk one day (yesterday) in the merry, merry month of May (actually March) when much to my surprise, I saw that somebody had etched some words in the concrete. This lucky person came across a fresh patch of sidewalk at just the right time. Nobody was around and the concrete was still wet enough to write something in it. A dream moment in every person life. A totally blank and practically permanent canvas for your name, your life philosophy, your phone number, whatever. Into the great wide open, man!

So what did this sidewalk artist etch? BALL SACK.

That's it? That's what you do with your moment in the sun? That's not even a good cuss! Oh man, you totally blew it, dude.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Slapping The Other Cheek

In anticipating the birth of the Messiah, many Israelites assumed they were getting a military king. A great warrior and leader that would help the Israelites take over land, smite various armies and extract revenge on their enemies. And, as we all know, that's exactly what happened. Jesus became the greatest swordsman since Achilles, personally beheaded four opposing generals, brutally murdered one king and his family while they slept, conquered lands and established a vast empire rivaled only by Rome. Jesus was tough, man. He would kill you at the drop of a fig.

Carrying on Jesus' warrior legacy 2000 years later is David Brog. David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel, has referred to the latest NIE as the "National Incompetence Estimate," and told me that CUFI is engaged in serious efforts to counter the reduced sense of urgency about Iran that it spawned. Although he hadn't yet had a chance to fully analyze the latest sanctions, he said his sense was that they were again relatively "soft," because that would've been "the only way to get consensus" at the U.N. Security Council. He said that his organization is pushing for all measures against Iran short of war -- but also repeatedly stressed, "No one should take the military option off the table. It would be ill-advised diplomacy to assure Iran or any foe that there will never be military consequences to their actions."

That last sentence, of course, is almost verbatim from the Gospel of Mark. I believe it's...4:18? But don't quote me on that. "And as Jesus spoke from the mount, he warned Caesar that woe be unto him if he thought there would never be military consequences to his actions. Actions peronsally brought down by Jesus' bloody sword." I might be paraphrasing that a bit.

Brog's group was founded by John Hagee, who serves as its national chairman. A fiery Evangelical Zionist who has openly called for a preemptive strike on Iran, Hagee endorsed John McCain's presidential run on Feb. 27.

Jesus loved - LOVED - the preemptive strike. He would be so proud of these men who speak in his name!

That Would've Worked Out Well

President Bush's acolytes like to describe him as a man of action. They usually stop talking there, neglecting to continue on and point out that more often than not his actions go horribly awry, leaving a trail of destruction behind.

In the 2000 campaign, Bush floated a plan to allow people to take the money they paid into Social Security and invest it in the stock market. Al Gore had this lame plan to keep Social Security in the government's hands. It was totally lame. He wanted the U.S. Government to ensure Social Security benefits for people so they wouldn't be destitute in old age. Totally lame. Bush had vision.

According to him, "(Gore) trusts the government to manage our retirement. I trust individual Americans. I trust Americans to make their own decisions and manage their own money." If the subprime lending and credit crises have taught us anything this year, it's that Americans are really good with money. Especially saving money. Wait. Hold on. Actually, it seems that in 2005, the personal savings rate fell to zero. At the same time, "consumer debt (was) growing twice as fast as income." Okay, so maybe individuals aren't so good with money. You think the government is any better? The Republican White House is running a $200 billion dollar yearly deficit after Clinton handed them a $200 billion yearly surplus in 2000. These government guys have no idea how to manage money!

But people wouldn't really be investing their own money. They'd be handing to over to brokerages to invest. The pros! People with ties and french cuffs who are level-headed and responsible with money. As Bush himself said, ""Our government will establish basic standards of safety and soundness. There will be no fly-by-night speculators." As an avowed fan of tightly-regulated markets, Bush definitely would've ensured we didn't have any wild speculation. Nothing like, say, a private equity group leveraging itself 32 times to invest in the mortgage market. I mean, what kind of crazy, fly by night group knows it's only worth $670 million and yet invests $21.7 billion in the mortgage market? Those maniacs! How would they ever pay that back if it went wrong? What were they thinking? Okay, perhaps they were thinking that they were safe because they were investing in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two government-backed mortgage companies.

So it's all sounding pretty good, right? This plan couldn't possibly have any detractors. "Young workers will get slammed by Bush's plans," said Hans Riemer, director of 2030 Action. "Social Security privatization on top of a huge tax cut risks a budget nightmare, a massive Social Security bailout that would make the deficits of the 80s and 90s look like petty change."

You know what, Hans? You're a dick. You just don't like George Bush! You don't like that he's a man of action instead of thought! Just because you correctly predicted massive deficits in 2000, before Bush was even President, before knowing there would be a war that costs us $3 trillion, doesn't mean you know anything! You're standing out on a ledge alone, man!

"You're talking about a plan that will likely mean deep cuts in the Social Security guaranteed benefits, and is based on the fact that he hopes that the stock market does well," (White House spokesman Joe) Lockhart said.

"And I think when you're talking about a guaranteed benefit program, you don't base it on hope," he said. "And in this case, if the stock market performs poorly, the result would either be cuts for America's seniors, or some sort of bail out of the program."

Oh sure! Let me listen to the Clinton administration's rep! A Democrat! Democrats don't know anything about money. The above-mentioned $200 billion budget surplus was just a fluke!

See, the GOP understands money. They are businessmen. They are wise. They know that the stock market never goes anywhere but up, up, UP. For instance, in January of 2000, the Dow Jones was just under 12,000. Today, eight years later, it's...just under 12,000. And going lower, actually. an extra trillion dollars to throw around, there probably would've been even more subprime mortgage investing. But it wouldn't have been speculation! With that extra money, firms could've invested your retirement dollars! Invested them in...mortgages that are turning out to be totally worthless. And your retirement money would be gone.

On the positive side, just imagine how fun it would be to read the business section of the paper today if Bush's plan went through. The pages would be positively radioactive. You would need lead tongs to flip through to the stock tables. Stories of foreclosures, people willingly defaulting on upside down mortgages and retirees who are completely in debt because their retirement benefits are gone. Think of how much fun that would've been! So remember, everybody, individuals are better with money than the government. At least a Republican government.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

I Taught My Daughter How To Guzzle Last Night

We were drinking wine last night with dinner. Abby was drinking pre-wine. That is to say, grape juice. So Nikki and I toasted and, on a lark, I toasted Abby, clinking her sippy cup and saying "Cheers!" She thought it was the greatest thing ever. And since she's not yet 2, maybe it is the greatest thing ever in her life.

She wanted to toast about 25 more times after that. "Mama, I cheers!" Clink. Drink. "Dada, I cheers!" Clink. "Cheers!" Drink. Smile. In about two more weeks, she will be asking us for actual wine to make the experience more real.

So that was pretty responsible of me.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Really Good Friend

In officially endorsing John McCain today, President Bush observed, "It's been my honor to welcome my friend John McCain as the nominee of the Republican Party. John showed incredible courage and strength of character and perseverance in order to get to this moment."

And for a change, Bush is right. For instance, there was the time before the 2000 South Carolina primary when Bush's campaign floated rumors that McCain had an illegitmate black daughter. And then when the Bush campaign hinted that being a POW had driven McCain into psychosis that he still hadn't really recovered from. And then when they hinted that McCain's wife was a pill-popping alcoholic.

Hearing those primary whispers, it took incredible strength for McCain to not punch Bush in the face when he next saw him. Losing the South Carolina primary because of the whispers and then the 2000 nomination, it took incredible perserverance for McCain to even continue living.

And being forced to appear at the 2004 GOP convention praising Bush so he could get his shot in 2008, well, that showed the incredible strength of character McCain is known for. Way to go, John!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Man Who Did Everything Wrong

The U.S supports democratic elections across the world! (Except when they don't go our way, then we support coups.) That's what George Bush says in his nice speeches. However, he never says the parenthetical part. It's up to us to figure that out on our own. Fortunately, it's not that hard!

In a highly encouraging (read: discouraging)
Vanity Fair article, we learn that Bush's foreign acumen is about as sharp as his domestic. Learn officially, rather.

In January 2006, not yet aware of his own futility, Bush demanded elections in the Palestinian-controlled territorities. In Bush's mind, Fatah controlling the West Bank was good, but Hamas controlling Gaza was bad. Since, also in his mind, everybody agrees with what Bush thinks, our large-eared leader publicly demanded democratic elections. Fatah warned the White House that they weren't ready to win an election. Bush didn't listen. Which is odd, because he usually does.

And Palestinians didn't listen to Bush. Their votes handed parliamentary control of Palestinian territories to Hamas. If you're wondering why this is bad, now would be a good time to tell you that Hamas' charter specifically states its goal to be the eradication of Israel. It's a terrorist organization. A terrorist organization winning a democratic election is a concept that Bush still hasn't processed two years later. To him, terrorism is bad and democracy is good. He just can't figure out how those two paired off!

Few inside the U.S. administration had predicted the result, and there was no contingency plan to deal with it. “I’ve asked why nobody saw it coming,” Condoleezza Rice told reporters. “I don’t know anyone who wasn’t caught off guard by Hamas’s strong showing.”

Yes, I was also caught totally off guard. I had no idea that people who hated Israel and the United States would elect parliamentary leaders who feel the same way! Of course, I don't work in the State Department.

“Everyone blamed everyone else,” says an official with the Department of Defense. “We sat there in the Pentagon and said, ‘Who the fuck recommended this?’"

Yeah, seriously! Who? Oh...The Decider. Well, knowing him, he put a good four seconds of thought into, so who can blame him?

Okay, so the U.S. promoted democracy and it didn't bounce our way. Hey, power to the people, right? A democracy lover like Bush will just wait until the next election cycle and back Fatah again, right? Right indeed. In fact, we secretly ordered the Palestine Authority to dissolve the parliament and immediately hold a new election. One that went our way, dammit! They said no. I mean...they just have no concept of Western-style democracy in the Middle East. They are totally unmanageable people!

So then it was time to go back to a tried and true Republican approach. Republicans just love a dictatorial strongman. They just love handing over power to individuals friendly to our concerns. And let's not forget Iran-Contra, when we sold arms to Iran to fund a rebel group.

This ploy has failed in places as diverse as Vietnam, the Philippines, Central America, and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, during its war against Iran. To rely on proxies such as Muhammad Dahlan, says former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, is “an institutional failure, a failure of strategy.”

Mind you, John Bolton is a fucking insane maniac who wants to dissolve the United Nations and thinks U.S. justification for any foreign action stops after, "Because we said so." So, you know, maybe we shouldn't trust his judgment. I mean, he's disagreeing with Bush here! No way he knows what he's talking about!

Avi Dichter, Israel’s internal-security minister and the former head of its Shin Bet security service, was taken aback when he heard senior American officials refer to Dahlan as “our guy.” “I thought to myself, The president of the United States is making a strange judgment here,” says Dichter.

Hmm. Okay. Well...that's a little more damning. But you know what? So what? We took a chance on Dahlan and it worked out perfectly! Now Fatah controls the Palestinian territories and they're much more amenable to diplomacy! What's that you say? Hamas actually handled Fatah's coup attempt and brutally shut it down? And that strengthened Hamas' influence and credibility in the region? And that they've been lobbing rockets into Israel at will for months now? I'm sorry, when you say things like that, you sound like everything happened exactly the opposite way of what we were hoping for.

Okay, fine. So we ordered democratic elections and when they didn't go our way, organized a coup attempt. It's not like we secretly smuggled a bunch of arms and ammunition into one of the most dangerous places on Earth.

In late December 2006, four Egyptian trucks passed through an Israeli-controlled crossing into Gaza, where their contents were handed over to Fatah. These included 2,000 Egyptian-made automatic rifles, 20,000 ammunition clips, and two million bullets.

Goddammit, will you stop that? I'm trying to be patriotic here! Are you some kind of goddamn Democrat or something? So what if we gave a realpolitik ally arms? So fucking what? What's the worst that could happen? Hamas routs our new best friend and captures their arms and turns them against Israel, the main reason we even care about the Middle East? Yeah, real likely! Quit being such a pessimist! We control and influence the Middle East precisely because we're willing to make bold moves.

Unwilling to preside over a Palestinian civil war, Abbas blinked. For weeks, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had been trying to persuade him to meet with Hamas in Mecca and formally establish a national unity government. On February 6, Abbas went, taking Dahlan with him. Two days later, with Hamas no closer to recognizing Israel, a deal was struck.

Under its terms, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas would remain prime minister while allowing Fatah members to occupy several important posts. When the news hit the streets that the Saudis had promised to pay the Palestinian Authority’s salary bills, Fatah and Hamas members in Gaza celebrated together by firing their Kalashnikovs into the air.

Once again, the Bush administration had been taken by surprise. According to a State Department official, “Condi was apoplectic.”

Well...shit. It's almost has absolutely no idea what he's doing and is making the world a much more dangerous place. And that Condoleeza Rice is in over her head. And that nobody listens to U.S. opinion on anything any more.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Jeffrey Goldberg Is Too Smart For The Wire - Week 9

Weeks 7 and 8 were fairly lacking in boneheaded thoughts and comments from Plotz and Goldberg. Mainly because all of the loose threads they had complained about all year were being resolved and, really, what could they say about that?

But let's examine a money quote from Week 6.

Marlo has to live, because capitalism can't be put down, but Chris can be shed. Snoop, however, is too smart to die.

Well, as we all know, Snoop was shot in the head last night. She was driving Michael to his impending assassination, but he saw it coming and armed himself. Michael feigned having to piss and asked Snoop to pull into an alley. So Snoop, who Goldberg thought was too smart to die, was unarmed while driving somebody to be killed and then pulled into a tight, blind alley, leaving herself no escape. Pretty heads up play. I know what you're thinking. But Snoop told Michael he didn't need a gun! She told him she'd provide one for him! Oh, then I guess she is smart. And dead.

So how does Goldberg react to another colossal predictory whiff? Snoop's murder didn't make perfect dramatic sense to me...I didn't see her death coming, either, to tell you the truth...

Perfect dramatic sense? One of the two people in that car were going to die. It's just a matter of which one. The smart one who knows what he's in for and protects himself or the one who was Snoop. And of course you didn't see her death coming. You don't see anything coming, ever. And you predicted that exact opposite outcome! Who predicts A and then sees B coming? Do you ever listen to yourself?

...and I should take this moment to revise and amend my previous comments concerning Marlo and the potential consequences of his putative punk-assedness. My belief that we would soon see Marlo's demise was predicated on an assumption (and you remember, of course, what Felix Unger said about assuming?) that Marlo knew that Omar was calling him out and that, even with said knowledge, he refused to meet Omar in the street. It turns out now that Marlo didn't know he was being called out.

Let's see, you originally predicted Chris would die, Snoop would live and Marlo would perservere. Since then, Chris was arrested (alive, mind you), Snoop was killed and Marlo was jailed as a drug kingpin. Yes, this would be a fine time to amend your previous comments.

Here's what's interesting about Goldberg's belief. Not one time did we see Chris tell Marlo what Omar was saying about him. In fact, we never saw anybody tell Marlo. What we did see earlier what Marlo having a security guard killed because the guard harrassed him for ten seconds about a stolen lollipop. It's almost like Chris knew Marlo had a hair trigger to his rage and didn't want to stoke the fire. Especially when they were already gunning for Omar. It's almost like Chris feared Marlo's rage and didn't want to be killed himself because he couldn't catch Omar. It's almost like everybody except Jeffrey Goldberg can grasp basic characterization!

Clearly—I'm going to regret that clearly, I'm sure, come the 10th and final episode—Marlo triumphs in the end, just as you Marxists would have it. Levy will discover the illegal wiretap and the Stanfield crew will be sprung from jail just as Lester is led inside. (McNulty, I assume, throws himself off a bridge.)

In a way, this paragraph should've had SPOILER ALERT heading it. Because now we know exactly what won't happen. Thanks for ruining it for us, Goldberg.

By the way, and I know you hate talking about this, but did you notice that the newspaper subplot has become even more ridiculous, as if that's possible? Gus hands off the investigation of Templeton to a presumably sophisticated, just-returned-home foreign correspondent who promises discretion and then immediately asks the library for everything Templeton has ever written!

Yes, if the foreign correspondent wanted to investigate Templeton's work, he should' done that. Because it's ridiculous to think the archivist would be better friends with the foreign correspondent than with Templeton. I mean, did you see the archivist's glasses? No way that guy can keep a secret! And think about this! The entire newsroom hates the executive editor and the managing editor. Those two guys love Templeton. Of course somebody will talk! It just makes so much sense!

Another thing Goldberg misses is that when the archivist looks askew at the correspondent's request, the correspondent says, "Hey, I'm a fan," and the archivist rolls his eyes. So maybe - just maybe - he believes the correspondent has been away from Baltimore too long and doesn't know the truth about the young star reporter. Just maybe.

Plotz, of course, isn't afraid to chip in with his own stupidity. And I must confess that I'm excited to see how Simon is going to destroy Gus since it's clear that Gus must fall and Templeton must rise.

Yes, it's very clear that Gus must fall. When he presents his bosses with a stack of Templeton's clippings and evidence that he made up quotes, Gus is going to be in so much trouble! Templeton will probably get his job!

For some bonus material, let's go back to Week 8 and look at yet another thing Plotz and Goldberg didn't get. Keeping in mind that unless everything is perfectly spelled out and closed captioned with flaming arrows pointing at the exact intended aim of a scene, these two don't get it.

From Plotz, But I've been wrong about everything and you've been right, so Chris will probably pop one in Marlo's skull five minutes into Episode 9.

Right on the first count, wrong on the next two. But for these guys, one of out three should be considered a runaway success.

Did you get the feeling, as I did, that Chris is going to kill Marlo? After all, Marlo did not, in fact, come down to the street to meet Omar's challenge. If Chris sees Marlo for the punk he apparently is, well, it's goodbye, Marlo.

Goldberg is on to something here. Except, as we discussed above, Chris intentionally kept this information from Marlo. So...uh...this would never come to pass. However, you have to admire a man who's confident enough to misinterpret a show and make rash predictions off of his own mistakes. That takes real gumption!

And in regards to Carcetti's wife, Goldberg observes, No wife I know, including my own wife, and yours as well, would sit even semidisagreeably by her just-come-home-from-a-long-day-at-the-office husband's side as he surfs cable for images of himself, of all things.

It's almost as if he speaks from personal experience here. After being found guilty for murder, Chris is going to be given a choice of sentences. 35 years in prison or one night with the Goldbergs. They'll go out for Indian food (with Mrs. Goldberg going vegan) and then take in a foreign film. After, they will discuss the emotional resonance of the film and the obvious influence of Bertold Brecht on the picture. Chris will choose the jail time, figuring it will be less excruciating.

So I think the only way Marlo can die is if someone is established as an equally brilliant, equally ruthless heir, and none of the gangsters we've met—not even Chris, who's too pensive and moody and facing airtight DNA murder evidence—has the brains and skill to replace Marlo.

Plotz is totally right about this. Unless, of course, you count Michael. Please don't count Michael. All he did is fend off an assassination, take down somebody after him and send his brother out to the suburbs so he could wage war alone.

After Plotz and Goldberg take turns batting around Gus for the unimaginable crime of chasing down a lying reporter, Goldberg confesses, To be fair, I've had editors, especially early in my career, who mesmerized me the way Gus mesmerizes David Simon. But then I realized that most of them were narcissistic shitbags. But maybe that's just my experience.

Only a narcissistic shitbag would dare edit Jeffrey Goldberg's copy! I mean, nobody has been editing this exchange for Slate and look at how electric it is! Jeffrey Goldberg cannot stomach narcissistic shitbag editors who try to make Jeffrey Goldberg's pieces about themselves instead of Jeffrey Goldberg. The shitbags!