Wednesday, November 05, 2008

President-elect Obama


Supporters of Barack Obama gather near Grant Park in Chicago to celebrate his victory in Tuesday's presidential election.

It always sounds weird to hear that phrase, regardless of whose name it includes. We get used to four or eight years of hearing "President So-and-so," and then the new name inserted there hits us with all the oddity of looking at a weather map from another state.

But there it is; President-elect Barack Obama.

And so ends the long national nightmare that is ... no, not the Bush presidency - still nearly three months of that - but this seemingly eternal campaign for the presidency. I, for one, am simply glad it's over. It's like a visit from the in-laws; you don't actually hope anyone dies, but you're REALLY glad when they're gone.

Anyway, my guy didn't win. ... I don't mean McCain, he was never my first choice. Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney were well ahead of him in my eyes.

Regardless, this offers an interesting opportunity. I suspect many of my Republican buddies will rally around Uncle Rushie as a lonely beacon of hope over the next four years.

As for me, I'm going to try to take a little different approach this time. Rather than the endless cycle of spin and parsing semantics, I'm going to do my best to give Obama a clean slate. He wasn't my first choice among Dems, and was well down my list in general, but he's there now. So I'm going to try to understand the policies he puts forth. Sometimes I may agree with him. Sometimes I may wholeheartedly disagree. I will be vocal about both.

But if 52% of voters felt it was time for this mercurial concept of "change," then I think even a traditional conservative such as I could make an attempt to be the change we seek in others.

I watched on CNN the massive gathering of Obama supporters in Chicago's Grant Park and was simply stunned at the spectacle of it all. I don't know how this guy will govern, but between this and his August DNC speech at a packed Mile High Stadium in Denver ... there's no question this guy knows how to put on a show. It made me wonder what the hell it would look like if Obama would've gone on to lose, but despite that ... even I have to admit it was a pretty awesome sight.

So now the Dems have a firm grip on the Senate, the House and now the White House, and even on the state level, they now hold the Senate and - for the first time in 14 years - the Assembly. This in addition to the governor's mansion.

The Dems have no real roadblocks to implement the promises they've made.

No excuses.

And that's got to scare more than a few Dems.



P.S. I found an interesting interactive map at JSonline, which shows how each of Wisconsin's 72 counties has voted for president since 1964.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Countdown to history

Within 24 hours of this posting America will have indicated its preference for its first African-American president.
RealClearPolitics shows Obama with a 278-132 lead in electoral votes among states whose polls are outside the margin of error one way or another. When throwing every state to one candidate or another, regardless of margin of error, puts Obama way over the top at 338-200.
Obama's election would be a pretty remarkable feat considering it was barely 45 years ago that blacks couldn't even be assured the opportunity to vote in every part of this country.
No less than Ward Connerly - he of crusades against racial preferences - even proffers hope at Obama's election, in that it could mean a fundamental change in the definition of Affirmative Action. Connerly seems to think Obama would shift this definition from racial to socio-economic.
This is something I've said for years; that one's ethnicity doesn't enable him to inject "diversity" into any setting, but one's socio-economic status does.
Consider: Two kids - one black and one white - could grow up next door to each other, go to the same schools and graduate from the same college with the same degree, and some companies would be more likely to hire the black kid just because he represents "diversity."
Continuing to focus on race-based diversity ignores the significant gains minorities have made, socially and economically.
Shifting that focus to classes of Americans who are struggling with the emasculating effects of joblessness and poverty, however, could be just the change our country needs.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Savage election?

As McCain continues to slip in the polls, with just one debate and three weeks to go until Election Day, yack-radio host Michael Savage put forth an interesting theory. ("Interesting" in the "watch a marshmallow explode in the microwave" sense.) He seems to think that Mitt Romney was all lined up to be McCain's VP choice but that the tea leaves were not boding well for the economy, which prompted the RNC to push McCain to leave Romney on the sideline for 2012 and pick up Sarah Palin as electoral cannon fodder.
I don't buy that for a number of reasons, just one of which being that putting Romney on the ticket would've given him a great opportunity to flex his economic muscle, albeit at the expense of overshadowing McCain.
That and McCain hates him.
Savage has become an empty can. He echoes the same rhetoric he always has and I'm just tired of him. His show is still pretty strong in the ratings, but I get pretty war-weary of the conservative talkers and the constant barrage of things Dems want to do to destroy our country. Don't get me wrong, I'd get sick of lib-talkers too if there were actually any on the air anywhere.

But with The One opening a larger lead nationally - 5 or 6 percentage points in most polls, with more than 360 electoral votes at least leaning his way - he would appear to have this thing all but wrapped up. That'll give the Dems the White House, probably a firmer majority in the House and possibly a veto-proof majority in the Senate. Come late January, they'll have no excuses.

Meanwhile, the Republicans can cycle out some dead wood.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

McCain-Palin rock Green Bay

OK, maybe "rock" is a bit strong. But with the long lines and overpriced memorabilia, John McCain's and Sarah Palin's visit to the Resch Center on Thursday had all the makings of a rock concert. ... I'm convinced this is what it would look like if Lawrence Welk were to tour with Hannah Montana.

It was a good time, and given what I went through to obtain my "VIP" ticket, it dawned on me the true value of these visits.
One could simply walk into a McCain campaign office and pick up a free ticket that would get you into the seats. But if you wanted a VIP ducat, which would allow you on the floor and possibly within reach of a handshake or autograph, you had to make 100 calls at that office's phone bank.
So while these visits are an opportunity to generate some free publicity in the local news, it's also a way to spark some local volunteers to get out and make calls or knock on doors (to get the tickets). It's all about energizing the base.
So about one hour and countless hang-ups and messages later, I had my VIP pass, and it was off to GB ...


Naturally, there were some Obama backers there. They kept a respectable distance, and at least they were clever. One was wearing a McCain mask (not sure who the other mask-wearer is supposed to be), and the big wooden thing in front of them is a "rubber stamp" that I think actually worked, as they appeared to stamp something on their sign. Let's see the Pro Lifers match that when they crash Obama's next visit.

Barb, a woman I spoke with briefly down on the floor wearing a "Republican" print dress, prepares her sign by scrawling "1st S.B.C.T. mom" across the top of it. It turns out her son is in the same unit - Striker Brigade Combat Team - as Palin's son Track and will be deployed with him shortly. While she was made to give up her homemade sign at the door, she was hoping to catch Palin's attention with this one. As it happens, Palin mentioned her by name in her speech.
Palin and McCain enter the arena.

Palin kicks off, following introductions by state attorney general J.B. Van Hollen, Republican Party of Wisconsin chairman Reince Priebus and 8th Congressional District candidate John Gard, who is shown at the far right.
McCain speaks, and a Secret Service agent obscures a direct sightline of Palin's ass.
McCain works the ropeline after his stirring speech about ... did I mention Palin was standing right behind him? I'm looking over the right shoulder of the lady whose left hand you see here, so if I'd really pushed forward, I might've gotten a handshake with the man ... and then gotten shot.
More ropeline, this with some "ultra VIPs" who got their own little bullpen area. Someone told me they were like wives of state assemblymen or something. ... THAT warrants a personal meet-and-greet!?
Palin and McCain work their way down the runway and out of the arena, but not before shaking some more hands and inking some autographs. It wasn't until I'd taken my spot on the floor that I'd realized I hadn't brought a Sharpie with me. I didn't imagine I'd get close enough. But I'll know next time. And they will be back. After all, Wisconsin IS a swing state!







Saturday, September 06, 2008

Let the political games begin


Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin cheerfully advising a well-wisher Sept. 5 in Cedarburg, Wis., "If you touch me, this guy here will blow your head off."

In the wake of the Democrats' and Republicans' national conventions, we have officially entered the final phase of Silly Season; the home stretch of the general election.


And silly it is!


John McCain deftly announced his VP pick the day after the Dem convention ended, sparing us from the media slobberfest that surely would've ensued. He even recorded an ad graciously congratulating Obama for his acceptance speech, which happened to fall on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech. McCain's maneuver also thrust the nation's hottest ... ERRRR, most qualified governor, Alaska's Sarah Palin, into the national spotlight.


The Dems responded by congratulating McCain on choosing a woman to get one step closer to the White House than the Dems' own semifinalist, Hillary Clinton. ... Oh wait, no they didn't. Actually, they lambasted and lampooned and have been every bit as dismissive and condescending as one would expect liberal elitists to be. Obama has intentionally mispronounced her small hometown of which she was mayor. Women have decried the choice for assuming that Hillary-backers would vote for her just because Hillary was out. Not to be left out of the liberal hatefest of Palin, Dr. Laura even chimed in about how Palin has no business running for office until her children are adults. So where are the feminists? They're calling leftist talk radio and echoing the National Organization for Women, which not only doesn't defend Palin for being a woman balancing a career and a family, but chastises her for being Pro Life.

McCain wasn't my first choice for Republican president, and as far as my list of VP possibles, I didn't have Palin on top. *snicker* But she was on my list, right there with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. I felt both could be great candidates in '12 or '16 and could have benefited from more time in their respective states.
If McCain was going to choose a Religious Right conservative, then why not Mike Huckabee? He was a governor and is a pastor, garnered a fair amount of votes as the last Republican standing in the primaries, is a fine speaker and smooth debater, and he's funny. This is important because it makes him a frequent talk-show guest and makes him likable; important for a Republican these days.

Anyway, they're not the cards I wanted, but it's what I've been dealt, so the whole game comes down to one futures bet; federal and Supreme Court judges. There are other issues, such as the war on terror, which I believe McCain would prosecute more adeptly than would Obama, but I'm hearing the next president could appoint three SC Justices, and those are appointments that could affect the next 30 years.

Bring on the debates!
Presidential:
Sept. 26 in Oxford, Miss.; foreign policy, nat'l security; Jim Lehrer moderating
Oct. 7 in Nashville, Tenn.; town-hall meeting; Tom Brokaw moderating
Oct. 15 in Hempstead, N.Y.; domestic, economic policy; Bob Schieffer moderating

VP debate:
Oct. 2 in St. Louis; Gwen Ifill moderating

Thursday, August 21, 2008

RIP Gene Upshaw (1945-2008)





No player in National Football League history had as much impact on both offense and defense as Gene Upshaw; on offense, as the Hall of Fame left guard for the powerful Oakland Raiders of the 1970s ... then in defense, since 1983, of the best interests of the members of the NFL Players Association.


Upshaw died early Thursday morning at the age of 63. He succumbed to pancreatic cancer, which he reportedly didn't even know he had until Sunday. As someone who lost a grandfather to pancreatic cancer in 1993 and visited with him during the bed-ridden last two weeks of his life, I find it unfathomable that anyone could get to within days of death from this disease without knowing something was seriously amiss.


Anyway, Upshaw's legacy is mixed. Few will find any fault with his playing career - 11 Pro Bowls in 16 years - though former Broncos linebacker Tom Jackson came the closest to besmirching Upshaw when he eulogized that Upshaw "never got called for holding."



But Upshaw's second career, as the players' union head, drew more criticism. In recent years, retired "old timers" had become distinctly more vocal about what they perceived as a lack of empathy from Upshaw in the struggle that many former players have had with medical bills and health care. Former Buffalo Bills guard Joe DeLamielleure may have been the loudest, alleging that Upshaw said he "doesn't represent former players."



Upshaw's tenure endured other rough patches, particularly when the owners broke the union - decertified it - in 1987. The players had struck, canceling one week of the season, and ultimately worked without a collective bargaining agreement until 1989. (Makes one wonder what would've happened if the USFL had been able to hold out until this time and capitalize on its rival league's best players suddenly without teams.)



But in the end, NFL players are making infinitely more money than they were in Upshaw's day. To Upshaw's credit, though, according to numerous testimonials given by a litany of former teammates - particularly on Sirius NFL Radio all day Thursday - always stressed benefits over salary.



Upshaw tributes
CBS Sportsline
NFL.com

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Obama-lympics

Listening to Barack Obama twist and contort around the straightforward questions put to him (parts one, two, three, four, five) at the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., last Saturday night by Pastor Rick Warren, I'm starting to think debate should be an Olympic sport.

It certainly can't be any dumber than some of them that have been included.

This is probably as good a time as any to define what is and isn't a sport. While this may sound like a deep intellectual exercise, I think I've developed a pretty good handle on it over the years, as someone who's covered a number of different sports and athletic endeavors.

First, there is the differentiation between "athlete" and "sport." Cheerleading; absolutely they're athletes, but don't call it a sport ... Bowling; absolutely a sport, not exactly athletes.
The two camps are not mutually inclusive; not all cheerleaders are athletes, not all bowlers aren't.
Simply put, anything that REQUIRES a judge, every time the event is held, to let us know who won is NOT a sport. A sport is an event in which two or more contestants (or teams) vie for a common prize which only one can win. Further, a sport is something for which training (or simply practicing) can enhance one's performance. And I suppose the real difference between a "sport" and a "pastime" like stone-skipping or rock-paper-scissors is the widespread base of fans or competitors. Unfortunately that can include silly sports that adults should be embarrassed to compete in, but they're sports nonetheless.

So, below is the list of this year's Olympic events being held in Beijing.

Aquatics - swimming events that require a judge are not sports, though these folks are outstanding athletes.
-Diving (8)
-Swimming (34)
-Synchronized swimming (2) - the Spanish ladies got in trouble for wanting to wear battery-powered flashing suits ... still want to argue that this is a sport?
-Water polo (2)

Archery (4)

Athletics (47) - track and field

Badminton (5)

Baseball (1) - sickens me to think this is going away in, I think, 2012

Basketball (2)

Boxing (11) - actually the trickiets one for me because it does involve judges, which has resulted in substantial screwing over the years (see Roy Jones Jr. in Seoul 1988), but the judging involves primarily the number of punches landed, which is virtually indisputable ... and the possibility of a knockout, as a normal course of the event, is always a very real possibility (if not a likelihood in amateur boxing)

Canoeing (16) - if this is anything like the kayaking, based on navigating gates; no style points involved here

Cycling (18)

Equestrian (6)

Fencing (10)

Field hockey (2) - just as an aside, this sport strikes me as the hockey equivalent to ice fishing; can't wait for the lakes to thaw to fish, can't wait for them to freeze to play hockey ... a silly sport that men shouldn't play, but a sport nonetheless

Football (2) - SOCCER!!!

Gymnastics (18) - perhaps the most sensitive bunch related to this topic, it's important to draw this distinction; easily the best all-around athletes in the world, but don't tell me that an event predicated on how the participants wear their hair and uniform is a sport

Handball (2)

Judo (14) - similar to boxing, but without the likelihood of knockouts ... to me, they should take the pads off and go MMA-style

Modern pentathlon (2) - running, equestrian, swimming, fencing, shooting

Rowing (14)

Sailing (11)

Shooting (15)

Softball (1)

Table tennis (4) - certainly a sport, but a makeover may not be a bad idea

Taekwondo (8) - see Judo and Boxing

Tennis (4)

Triathlon (2)

Volleyball (4)

Weightlifting (15) - similar to boxing, judges exist solely to determine WHETHER a lift has been made, not HOW WELL it's been done

Wrestling (18) - in pure athleticism, second only to gymnasts

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hats off to Aaron Rodgers in debut


Green Bay's James Jones loses his helmet on a 30-yard touchdown reception against Cincinnati safety Marvin White in the first half Monday in Green Bay.

It's a good thing I didn't play the Brett Favre Drinking Game, or I wouldn't have made it out of the first quarter.

If I'd taken a shot every time Mike Tirico, Tony Kornheiser and Ron Jaworski uttered Favre's name, it wouldn't have been long before I would've been tanked like George Jones on an international flight.

The Packers opened their preseason with a Monday Night Football date at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. It was the first time since 1993 that someone other than Favre took the opening snap, as Aaron Rodgers shed the red jersey for some live action.

All in all, he looked pretty good. He went 9-of-15 for 117 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT; at least one of those incompletions was a bobble by Donald Driver that should've been caught (and, failing that, probably should've been picked), and the INT was not Rodgers' fault, as it was bobbled into the air by Chris Francies. So while it counts in the stat book, it's irrelevant in terms of Rodgers' development.

Most importantly, Rodgers displayed much of the elusiveness and discipline - such as throwing the ball away rather than forcing something - that he showed flashes of at Dallas last November.

I'm not worried about Rodgers - my primary concern for him is regarding his health - I was more curious to see Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn.

If Brohm's stomach was churning with his first NFL action ... well, then he played like he felt (8-17, INT). He looked lost the whole time he was out there. His INT came on a play where he locked onto his receiver, though the receiver did get hit from behind. It's Brohm's first NFL action, and Papa John's Cardinal Stadium only held about 42,000 fans, so I'll cut him some slack.

But Flynn, on the other hand, was impressive. The former LSU QB appeared decisive, finishing 12-of-21 and guiding the Packers to a late touchdown to pull the team to within 20-17. (Kregg Lumpkin may have played his way off the roster, as the backup RB fumbled in Packer territory while Flynn was driving the team toward a potential game-tying FG.)

The best moment of the game came during Rodgers' stint, when he hit James Jones at the 15 on a 30-yard TD; Jones took a wicked hit and lost his helmet. I believe it was the first Lambeau Leap by a hatless player.


Regarding the Favre saga, Tirico had the observation of the night; that the Packers' front office made a move toward getting its team back.

How true that is, and I would argue that it's taken until now for the team to recover from the Ray Rhodes era (OK, year).

1999 was the team's first season after the departure of Mike Holmgren. Rhodes was renowned as a "players coach," which in his case meant hands-off and letting them run the asylum. This was the beginning of Favre's presumed "ownership" of the team, I believe.

After Rhodes was fired and Mike Sherman hired in his place, then subsequently made GM by the departing Ron Wolf, it makes perfect sense to me that Sherman would've had too much on his plate to interfere with Favre's leadership role.

So when Ted Thompson took over as GM in 2005, his personality wouldn't allow for a player to hold as much sway over a team as Favre's did. It was evident through episodes such as Favre's tantrum regarding Thompson's refusal/failure to bring in Randy Moss in 2007, and his no-nonsense approach to handling Favre's retirement this year, that Thompson felt it would be HIS team, or at least NOT a player's team.

So far, Thompson has made some fine draft picks and the team - the youngest in the league - appears loaded for ... err, "bear" for some time to come.


Bring on the season!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Scorpions rock Ft. McCoy


Scorpions line up for my picture during 'Countdown'. From left are ... Polish guy whose name I'll never be able to remember or pronounce, Rudolf Schenker, Matthias Jabs and Klaus Meine.

Another half-decade, another Scorpions concert down.
After traveling to Green Bay to see these German 'ambassadors of rock' in 2004 - I first saw them April 7, 1991 at the Brown County Arena - a couple of buddies and I journeyed to Fort McCoy, just outside of Sparta, for the Scorps' 2008 visit, which was in support of their Humanity: Hour 1 album released last year.
I even came away with a guitar pick from the Wisconsin-native guitarist (didn't catch his name) for Alice Cooper, who preceded the Scorpions (and followed opening act Hip Kitty). So I'll probably find some small cheapy frame for my ticket stub and guitar pick (which has Alice's picture on it).

We were front and center, about five rows back from the barrier, drained a few pitchers, saw a few fights break out around us ... all in all, a pretty good time.
Alice Cooper came out on stage in his trademark bloodstained tailed tuxedo with a cane he promptly tossed into the crowd a few feet from us. One my buddies was one of about five guys to get at least one hand on it. He got a good solid grip on it and gave it a good rip ... and got only the small plastic cap off the end of it while the rest of it disappeared into the humanity. Oh well, it's a piece of Alice Cooper memorabilia of which few of us can boast.
The guitar pick came flying toward me and bounced around a few sets of hands before dropping toward the ground. I looked down and glimpsed it in the bottom of a folded chair we'd brought, shot for it and gripped the heck out of it. I'd seen what those animals did to people who left drumsticks and other bulky items unguarded; no one was getting my pick.

The Scorpions always have been a bit of an escapist, guilty pleasure for me. While I consider myself a big fan, I'll be the first to admit they're about as paint-by-numbers as a major act can be; their performances playing out like some sort of Rock & Roll High School project and their lyrics conveying all the originality of a sophomore lyric-writing assignment in the English-as-a-second-language department.
So one needs to be willing to suspend some disbelief to be a Scorpions fan. But a fan I am, and rock they did. Even got to snap some pictures with my new camera phone (which I would post here if I could figure out how to send them to myself).

Saturday, August 09, 2008

RIP, Bernie Mac (1957-2008)

Bernie Mac is dead at the age of 50.
The former standup comedian and more recent star of 'The Bernie Mac Show' and 'Mr. 3000' apparently died of complications from pneumonia.
I liked Bernie a lot. His standup was sufficiently filthy, and he seemed to have rounded himself into a more complete actor with some of his work, which included the 'Ocean's Eleven' franchise. My affection for 'Mr. 3000' comes from the fact that he played a Milwaukee Brewer, and that much of the movie was filmed in Milwaukee.


Actor and comedian Bernie Mac dies at age 50
By F.N. D'ALESSIO Associated Press Writer
CHICAGO (AP) -- Bernie Mac, the actor and comedian who teamed up in the casino heist caper "Ocean's Eleven" and gained a prestigious Peabody Award for his sitcom "The Bernie Mac Show," died Saturday at age 50.
"Actor/comedian Bernie Mac passed away this morning from complications due to pneumonia in a Chicago area hospital," his publicist, Danica Smith, said in a statement from Los Angeles.
She said no other details were available and asked that his family's privacy be respected.
The comedian suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in the body's organs, but had said the condition went into remission in 2005. He recently was hospitalized and treated for pneumonia, which his publicist said was not related to the disease.
Recently, Mac's brand of comedy caught him flack when he was heckled during a surprise appearance at a July fundraiser for Democratic presidential candidate and fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama.
Toward the end of a 10-minute standup routine, Mac joked about menopause, sexual infidelity and promiscuity, and used occasional crude language. The performance earned him a rebuke from Obama's campaign.
But despite controversy or difficulties, in his words, Mac was always a performer.
"Wherever I am, I have to play," he said in 2002. "I have to put on a good show."
Mac worked his way to Hollywood success from an impoverished upbringing on Chicago's South Side. He began doing standup as a child, and his film career started with a small role as a club doorman in the Damon Wayans comedy "Mo' Money" in 1992. In 1996, he appeared in the Spike Lee drama "Get on the Bus."
He was one of "The Original Kings of Comedy" in the 2000 documentary of that title that brought a new generation of black standup comedy stars to a wider audience.
Mac went on to star in the hugely popular "Ocean's Eleven" franchise with Brad Pitt and George Clooney.
His turn with Ashton Kutcher in 2005's "Guess Who" topped the box office. It was a comedy remake of the classic Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn drama "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" - with Mac as the black dad who's shocked that his daughter is marrying a white man.
Mac also had starring roles in "Bad Santa," "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" and "Transformers."
In the late 1990s, he had a recurring role in "Moesha," the UPN network comedy starring pop star Brandy.
The comedian drew critical and popular acclaim with his Fox television series "The Bernie Mac Show," which aired more than 100 episodes from 2001 to 2006.
The series about a man's adventures raising his sister's three children, won a Peabody Award in 2002. At the time, judges wrote they chose the sitcom for transcending "race and class while lifting viewers with laughter, compassion - and cool."
The show garnered Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for Mac.
"But television handcuffs you, man," he said in a 2001 Associated Press interview. "Now everyone telling me what I CAN'T do, what I CAN say, what I SHOULD do, and asking, `Are blacks gonna be mad at you? Are whites gonna accept you?'"
He also was nominated for a Grammy award for best comedy album in 2001 along with his "The Original Kings of Comedy" co-stars, Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley and Cedric The Entertainer.
In 2007, Mac told David Letterman on CBS' "Late Show" that he planned to retire soon.
"I'm going to still do my producing, my films, but I want to enjoy my life a little bit," Mac told Letterman. "I missed a lot of things, you know. I was a street performer for two years. I went into clubs in 1977."
Mac was born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough on Oct. 5, 1957, in Chicago. He grew up on the city's South Side, living with his mother and grandparents. His grandfather was the deacon of a Baptist church.
In his 2004 memoir, "Maybe You Never Cry Again," Mac wrote about having a poor childhood - eating bologna for dinner - and a strict, no-nonsense upbringing.
"I came from a place where there wasn't a lot of joy," Mac told the AP in 2001. "I decided to try to make other people laugh when there wasn't a lot of things to laugh about."
Mac's mother died of cancer when he was 16. In his book, Mac said she was a support for him and told him he would surprise everyone when he grew up.
"Woman believed in me," he wrote. "She believed in me long before I believed."

All eyes to the AFC East

All of a sudden, this is shaping up to be an oustanding season for AFC East fans.
Chad Pennington, the QB displaced by Brett Favre's arrival with the New York Jets, has signed a two-year contract with the Miami Dolphins. So, to recap ...
g Jets coach Eric Mangini and New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick don't like each other, Belichick feeling like Mangini betrayed him by leaving the Patriots organization, a feeling undoubtedly compounded by Mangini's turning in Belichik for "Spygate" early last season.
g Now, Favre is the new sheriff in town and will face off against the Pats' Tom Brady - the only player to edge Favre for league MVP honors last season - and Brady's new favorite target, Randy Moss - who Favre desperately wanted Green Bay to pick up early in 2007.
g Pennington, who was unceremoniously - and unapologetically - dumped by the Jets once they had Favre in camp, will now QB the Dolphins, who happen to have as their new Vice President of Football Operations one Bill Parcells, who had a messy "divorce" of his own from Belichick.
g Finally, the Buffalo Bills ... well, they don't really have a stake in the Jets vs. Pats vs. Dolphins triumvirate. But they are undergoing some changes this year as they'll be playing at least one home game in Toronto (likely in preparation for the team's permanent departure from Buffalo upon the death of founder/owner Ralph Wilson). Yeah, once ol' man Ralph shuffles off this mortal coil, I'm guessing the NFL will finally actualize its wet dream of NFL football in Los Angeles ... a market that couldn't support the Rams and Raiders and that couldn't care less about getting a team of its own.

Anyway, the East Coast media - ESPN chief among them - will have a football field day this year.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

New Jersey for Favre

And on the seventh day (of August), everyone rested.
The Green Bay Packers officially ended the Brett Favre era by completing a trade to the New York Jets late last night. Favre went to New York in exchange for a conditional draft pick, which we're hearing could range from a first-rounder (if the Jets make the Super Bowl) to a third (if he takes 50 percent of the snaps). It likely will be a second-rounder, which will come if Favre takes 70 percent of the snaps and the Jets make the playoffs.
And with that, the screwing of Aaron Rodgers is complete. Favre has succeeded in turning a significant portion of Packerland against A-Rodg, or at least stubbornly in Favre's favor. It reminds me of what Jim Rome talks about all the time regarding L.A. post-Shaq/Kobe. While Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal won three NBA championships together, the second-largest TV market in the country was not big enough to accommodate their egos, and the Lakers traded O'Neal to the Miami Heat two years ago. Since, L.A. has been split between factions that blame Bryant for their inability to get along, and those who blame O'Neal. According to online polls, it seems a stunning number of Packer fans are still on Favre's side through this whole mess.
Here's why they're wrong:
Favre has put us through this song and dance for at least the past three offseasons; "will he retire or won't he?" He put his own indecisiveness ahead of the team's well-being, as his indecision carried through free agency and the draft each time. If he'd decided to retire in May or so, the team would've been F'd if it had passed on any significant QBs through free agency or the draft.
So this year, it seems Packer management got down to brass tacks with Favre and demanded that he make a decision. He retired. The team proceeded accordingly through free agency and the draft, and he - almost predictably - began to rethink his decision in June. Even then, he only floated feelers about the possibility of returning; he didn't definitively come out and say he wanted to come back. Then all through July he hinted around a return, even appearing on an interview with Appleton native Greta Van Susteren to talk about how unfairly the Packers had treated him.
Really Brett? You were one of the highest-paid QBs in the league, let alone in Packer history. Why don't you ask Javon Walker how unfair the team was to YOU? You started games when you were too injured, or going through too ineffective a period, to be worthy of such an honor. Why don't you ask Don Majkowski how unfair the franchise was to YOU? And when the team drafted Rodgers and you subsequently publicly refused to mentor him, how again was that unfair to YOU?
Favre has always kept Packerland at arm's reach; outside of football-related activities, he only appeared once in the offseason, that for his charity softball game.
And given his performance in two of his last three bad-weather games - at the Bears and at home against the Giants - he played like he'd just gotten off the bus from Kiln, Miss.

Goodbye, Brett. And thanks to the unceremonious way to smeared your legacy on your way out the door ... good riddance.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

For Packers, it's all about family

Just one day until Packers Family Night, which means one thing for sure; given the way things have played out with Brett Favre, they may want to change the name to Dysfunctional Family Night. Divorcees get in free!

Yeah, it's been tough watching this worm turn. To summarize:

Favre tearfully retired on March 6. The Packers moved ahead accordingly through free agency and the draft (picking up QBs Brian Brohm and Matt Flynn on draft day). Then Favre decided sometime in June he might want to play again. By July, that inclination turned stronger and Favre decided that yes he indeed wanted to play.
Problem is, the Packers have moved on, citing the need to see what they have in Aaron Rodgers in order to determine what to do with him as this is his contract year. Rodgers has looked good in spot duty but obviously has never started a game, and actually has had a tough time staying healthy when he has played. (He broke his foot relieving Favre in their 35-0 trouncing at home against the Patriots in 2006, and then even after a much-touted showing against Dallas last November, summarily pulled a hamstring in practice a few days later.)
Many fans, and sports-talking heads, however, are Favre loyalists who insist the veteran is the team's best chance at reaching the Super Bowl.

There are two games to which I point that tell me the Packers and GM Ted Thompson have made the right decision; the Packers' last game at the Bears and the NFC Championship game against the Giants. In both games, the weather was very cold and conditions were generally pretty crappy. In both games, Favre looked like he didn't want to be there, and his play reflected that. In the Bear game, he went 17-of-32 for 153 and two picks, one of which Brian Urlacher returned 85 yards for a score in the 35-7 loss. In the NFC title game, he went 19-of-35 for 236 yards and 2 TDs but also had 2 INTs, one of which famously ended the Packers' threat in overtime and led directly to Lawrence Tynes' game-winning field goal in the 23-20 loss.

Aside from the raw numbers, particularly against the Giants, Favre was practically sprinting back to the Hot Seat between series, stuffing handwarmers into his face mask like he'd discovered some new kind of snack. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Eli Manning, who also hails from the balmier climes of Gulf region, BTW, didn't fair much better statistically. But he DID stand pretty resolutely next to his bare-faced coach on the opposite sideline. So what kind of message does this send to one's team, when its leader goes 3-and-out and then instead of poring over snapshots of defenses, huddles under a parka until it's time to underperform again.

These two games tell me this; that Favre may truly want to play. Right now. But what happens if the Packers tear up their plans in order to accommodate his whims, and then when the weather starts to turn in December, Favre suddenly remembers why he retired in the first place? What happens if they go 8-4 into December and then lose 3 of their last 4 and miss the playoffs? Or if they do make the playoffs and either lose their first game or go 1-1? Basically, anything short of what Favre and his acolytes are promising, a full-steam run at the Super Bowl?

I'll tell you what happens; we'll find ourselves in the exact same spot as this year. And God forbid Favre would have a Pro Bowl-caliber year, which would only "prove" he can still play. Meanwhile, we'd lose Rodgers to free agency. Granted, that might not mean anything ... we simply don't know.

But the team is young enough, and solvent enough - about $30 million under the salary cap, second best in the NFL - that it can afford to take the chance that one of its three young QBs can be the guy to front this franchise for the next 10 years.

Now if we can just get Rodgers out of that No. 12 and back into the 8 he wore at Cal.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tony Snow dead at 53

One can only run so far, so fast, from cancer. At 2 a.m. Saturday, conservative commentator and former Press Secretary Tony Snow had simply run out. The longtime Fox News anchor died from the disease; he was 53.

Former Bush press secretary dies

By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Tony Snow, a conservative writer and commentator who cheerfully sparred with reporters in the White House briefing room during a stint as President Bush's press secretary, died Saturday of colon cancer. He was 53.
"America has lost a devoted public servant and a man of character," President Bush said in a statement from Camp David, where he was spending the weekend. "It was a joy to watch Tony at the podium each day. He brought wit, grace, and a great love of country to his work."
Snow died at 2 a.m. at Georgetown University Hospital, according to former employer Fox News.
Snow, who served as the first host of the television news program "Fox News Sunday" from 1996 to 2003, would later say that in the Bush administration he was enjoying "the most exciting, intellectually aerobic job I'm ever going to have."
Snow was working for Fox News Channel and Fox News Radio when he replaced Scott McClellan as press secretary in May 2006 during a White House shake-up. Unlike McClellan, who came to define caution and bland delivery from the White House podium, Snow was never shy about playing to the cameras.
With a quick-from-the-lip repartee, broadcaster's good looks and a relentlessly bright outlook — if not always a command of the facts — he became a popular figure around the country to the delight of his White House bosses.
He served just 17 months as press secretary, a tenure interrupted by his second bout with cancer. In 2005 doctors had removed his colon and he began six months of chemotherapy. In March 2007 a cancerous growth was removed from his abdominal area and he spent five weeks recuperating before returning to the White House.
"All of us here at the White House will miss Tony, as will the millions of Americans he inspired with his brave struggle against cancer," Bush said.
Snow resigned as Bush's chief spokesman last September, citing not his health but a need to earn more than the $168,000 a year he was paid in the government post. In April, he joined CNN as a commentator.
As press secretary, Snow brought partisan zeal and the skills of a seasoned performer to the task of explaining and defending the president's policies. During daily briefings, he challenged reporters, scolded them and questioned their motives as if he were starring in a TV show broadcast live from the West Wing.
Critics suggested that Snow was turning the traditionally informational daily briefing into a personality-driven media event short on facts and long on confrontation. He was the first press secretary, by his own accounting, to travel the country raising money for Republican candidates.
Although a star in conservative politics, as a commentator he had not always been on the president's side. He once called Bush "something of an embarrassment" in conservative circles and criticized what he called Bush's "lackluster" domestic policy.
Most of Snow's career in journalism involved expressing his conservative views. After earning a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Davidson College in North Carolina in 1977 and studying economics and philosophy at the University of Chicago, he wrote editorials for The Greensboro (N.C.) Record, and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.
He was the editorial page editor of The Newport News (Va.) Daily Press and deputy editorial page editor of The Detroit News before moving to Washington in 1987 to become editorial page editor of The Washington Times.
Snow left journalism in 1991 to join the administration of the first President Bush as director of speechwriting and deputy assistant to the president for media affairs. He then rejoined the news media to write nationally syndicated columns for The Detroit News and USA Today during much of the Clinton administration.
Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News, called Snow a "renaissance man."
Robert Anthony Snow was born June 1, 1955, in Berea, Ky., and spent his childhood in the Cincinnati area. Survivors include his wife, Jill Ellen Walker, whom he married in 1987, and three children.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Jesse Helms dead at 86

An interesting POV from Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe regarding the July 4 death of former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC).
Interesting that liberals don't seem to want to forgive Helms' segregationist past (while he was a Democrat), yet have no problem glossing over that of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV).

Dancing on the grave of Jesse Helms
By Jeff Jacoby
Globe Columnist / July 9, 2008
LIBERALS DIDN'T think much of Jesse Helms when he was alive, and their feelings didn't soften with his death.

"Jesse Helms, you rat bastard, burn in hell," announced a headline at Daily Kos, the hugely popular left-wing blog; "Please excuse me while I dance upon his grave," gloated another.

In The Nation, the former North Carolina senator was memorialized as "Jesse Helms, American Bigot." For its online audience, The Washington Post resurrected a column David Broder produced when Helms announced his retirement: "Jesse Helms, White Racist."

The invective streamed in from across the pond as well. "There seemingly wasn't a right-wing, retrograde social issue Helms met that he didn't like," wrote Melissa McEwan in a savage essay on the Guardian's website. "It was . . . his unmitigated intolerance toward people of color that will define his legacy.

Well, hating Helms is nothing new. More than 16 years ago, the scholar Charles Horner observed in Commentary that for many people Helms had become a "symbol of the evil against which all enlightened people are automatically ranged." As with the poisonous rhetoric of today's pathological George W. Bush-haters, the point of the virulence expressed toward Helms was typically character-assassination, not contention - it was aimed at demonizing the man rather than debating or disproving his ideas.

For some liberals, Helms's death had long been a fantasy. "I think he ought to be worried about what's going on in the Good Lord's mind," NPR's Nina Totenberg said in 1995, "because if there is retributive justice, he'll get AIDS from a transfusion. Or one of his grandchildren will get it."

What the left despised most about Helms varied with the seasons. There was his unyielding anticommunism. His visceral opposition to homosexuality. His war on government funding of obscene art. His blackball of William Weld's nomination as ambassador to Mexico. His staunch support of the tobacco industry. And, of course, his segregationist past.

In the one-dimensional demonology of the left, Helms comes across as an unreconstructed racist who dreamed of Jim Crow every night and whose first words each morning were "Segregation forever!" The truth was considerably different - and more admirable.

Helms came to prominence as a foe of desegregation. "He battled as hard as any of them," editorialized the conservative National Review in 2001, "a shameful legacy, of which he was never ashamed." In those days Helms was a Democrat, as were most Southern segregationists. But by the time he entered Congress in 1973, he had changed both his party and his mind. Far from using his office to roll back civil rights, argued Walter Russell Mead, a noted scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, Helms "deserves to be remembered as one of a handful of men who brought white Southern conservatives into a new era of race relations."

Mead, who grew up in the South, recalled listening as a boy to Helms's "anti-integration, anti-Martin Luther King commentaries on WRAL-TV." But once the battle was over and the civil rights laws were passed, Mead wrote years later, Helms did something "very revolutionary for Southern white populists: He accepted the laws and obeyed them." He shunned violence, hired black aides, and provided constituent services without regard to race. Instead of leading his followers into resistance, Helms "disciplined and tamed the segregationist South," prodding it "into grudging acceptance of the new racial order."

Yet rather than hail his statesmanship and acknowledge his contribution to the civil rights revolution, liberals marked his death by reaching for pejoratives. Helms's sin was not racism; it was his tenacious political incorrectness. Had he been willing to tack left on other issues, his racial wrongs would have been forgiven.

Consider, for example, the treatment meted out to Helms's senior colleague, Sam Ervin. He was beloved by the left notwithstanding his defense of segregation and his vote against elevating Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court. When Ervin died, The Washington Post's front-page obituary began by saluting him as a "hero to many" for his role in the Watergate hearings. His opposition to nearly every civil-rights bill of his career wasn't mentioned until the 24th paragraph - of a 25-paragraph obituary.

The real Jesse Helms was never the cartoon villain his enemies so loved to hate. But then, he didn't much care what they thought while he was alive. He certainly doesn't care now.

Jeff Jacoby can be reached at jacoby@globe.com.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Patriotism and Obama

If other countries around the world do hate America, I figured out today why; competitive-eating contests. The fact that there even IS an International Federation of Competitive Eating tells me the outcry over rising food prices should be ignored just awhile longer. Granted, other countries are obviously involved in this international body, but scarf-and-barf contests have been part of county fairs across America for decades.
Oh well, at least an American won the Nathan's hot dog eating contest this year.

The way our presidential race is going, I'm surprised Barack Obama and John McCain didn't show up at the event. Hell, maybe that would be a better way to settle the event than the way they're going.

While no one is seriously questioning McCain's patriotism, that seems to be one of the tacts being taken by some conservative voices. Obama has opened himself to a laundry list of allegations:

* I used to think his alleged refusal to hold his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance was largely derived from this photo taken during a campaign stop in Iowa last year. But then I found this video, where he stands for the duration of (a truly awful rendition of) the National Anthem, and I realize he made a conscious decision to not place his hand over his heart. I usually just fold my hands, but Obama is the only one on the stage who didn't get the memo.


* Michelle Obama said repeatedly that for the first time in her adult life, she was proud of her country for voting for her husband. ... I'm willing to cut her some slack if only because she's not the public speaker, Barack is. She's just a hospital administrator. A six-figure income earner who ... has actually complained about America's private sector for much of her adult life, all the while enjoying the advantages it's afforded her. Hmm.


* Jeremiah Wright, Obama's pastor of 20 years and his self-described "spiritual mentor", and Michael Pfleger, still serve on the Obama campaign's spirital advisory committee. If one's character can be judged by the company he keeps, then the hateful speech spewed forth by these two clowns should be enough to keep Obama out of the White House.

* Obama's refusal to wear a flag lapel pin has been a biggie with the conservative talkers. To me, it was easily dismissable had he simply said he'd forgotten to wear it that day and "to me, the real issue is how can we put forth patriotic legislation rather than worry about whether someone is just wearing the right uniform."
But no. He went into this pseudo-intellectual justification for how he felt the lapel pin had become a substitute for true patriotism, an explanation that did little to assuage the elitist persona he's been cultivating. It's an image that's been fertilized by his San Francisco speech in which he asserted that only bitter small-town Midwesterners would "cling" to guns and religion and antipathy toward people who aren't like them.
I'm even willing to cut him slack about that, in assuming he meant that when people have lost hope, they "cling" to their core beliefs. (Even though he happened to pick red-state red meat that often is cocktail party fodder among the liberal intelligentsia.)
I have two problems with what Obama's talking about here; one political and one personal.

One, I think Obama might be too smart for his own good here. Much like in 2004, when John Kerry gave some head-scratching answers involving "blind double-regressive studies" of something-or-other, I don't think most people have the time or patience to sit through some long-winded explanation of the finer points of Obama's thought processes.

Secondly, symbolism means a lot, which is something every campaigner knows. Obama apparently has figured that out too since Lapel Gate broke, as he not only wears a lapel pin from time to time, but he always appears in front of a row of American flags standing sentry at his campaign events. And isn't it even why he drew up his own pseudo-presidential seal?
So much for his principled stand.
Sometimes all Americans need is reassurance that you have their best interests at heart. Smile and a wave at the cameras? Check. Pressed suit and a power tie? Check. Carefully orchestrated campaign stops and speeches with the right mix of people in the background to assure as many demographics as possible that you're looking out for them too? Check. Wear a tiny symbol proudly on your chest to assure us that you too remember 9/11, even if it's to criticize the policies that may have led to that terrible September day? ... We'll get back to you on that one.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Breadline Tour - Week 1

Well, it's been a week since I lost my job ... and it's been a week of full-time job searching since.
As I've told some of my friends, I need to get myself a job so I can relax.
A lot of really great people have stepped up for me, offering to pass along copies of my resume to people they know. Between their generosity and my own networks I've established over the past couple of years around here, my cover letter, resume and writing samples may have passed before the eyes of more than a hundred people. That's not counting targeted submissions for specific job postings.
As a formerly out-of-work friend of mine told me, when you're doing it right and actually putting in the work to find a job, it IS a full-time job.

I realize, too, that this presents a unique opportunity for me to allot time to some pursuits I'd always only kicked around previously. Whether it's putting myself out there as a freelancer, putting together a Web-based business, or even writing a book, I'm going to try to maximize the time I now have available.

I'm very grateful for my friends who've called and checked in with me all week. I wish I had more to tell them. Those calls will taper off, as will my flurry of resume-sending, and it will be then that I'll find out what kind of person I really am.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

McCain's women

Interesting Yahoo story about potential women John McCain could add to the GOP ticket as VP. Could be an interesting chess match between McCain and Obama on this one, as to who will name a veep first. I'm still rooting for Mitt Romney, but these ladies are interesting.
As for the Dems, I'm still predicting Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who as a white woman would bring all of Hillary Clinton's favorables without the Clinton baggage.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

Palin, 44, would add youth to the GOP ticket. As governor she has shown a willingness to veto some of the state’s large capital projects, no small plus for fiscal conservatives. But it’s her personal biography, which excites social conservatives, and reformist background that might most appeal to McCain.
She’s stridently anti-abortion, and recently brought to term her fifth child — who she knew would have Down syndrome. A hunter, fisher and family woman with a rapid professional rise, Palin is a natural for Republican framing.
In 1982, Palin led her underdog high school basketball team to the state championship, earning the nickname “Sarah Barracuda.” Two years later she won the beauty pageant in her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska — and was also named “Miss Congeniality.” By her early thirties, she was the mayor of Wasilla.
In 2003, as ethics commissioner on the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, she risked her rising political star by resigning her position in protest of ethical misconduct within the state’s Republican leadership as well as then-Gov. Frank Murkowski’s acceptance of that impropriety. Though this briefly made her an outcast within the party, within a year several state Republican heavyweights were reprimanded for the conduct she’d decried.
Her reputation with the party thus redeemed, Palin defeated Murkowski in the 2006 Republican primary on the way to being elected governor.
As governor, she’s continued challenging the state’s powers that be, even winning tax increases on oil companies’ profits. Her approval rating has soared as high as 90 percent, making her one of America’s most popular governors.
“Palin is becoming a star in the conservative movement, a fiscal conservative in a state that is looking like a boondoggle for pork barrel spending,” said Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster who specializes in women’s politics.
“She’s young, vibrant, fresh and now, and a new mother of five. She should be in the top tier,” Conway continued. “If the Republican Party wants to wrestle itself free from the perception that it is royalist and not open to putting new talent on the bench, this would be the real opportunity.” But several top Republican Party leaders, who asked that their names be withheld so they could speak frankly about vice presidential options, said that Palin remains out of the top tier for now. “Too unknown and inexperienced,” said one GOP insider. Others pointed out that she is not only based far from the continental 48 — and in a state with just three electoral votes that should already be in the bag for the GOP — but also has no foreign policy credentials or experience.

Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO

Carly Fiorina has an up-by-her-own-bootstraps success story, having worked her way from a start as a young secretary straight through the glass ceiling to become Hewlett-Packard’s chief executive from 1999 to 2005. She presently serves as the chair of the organization tasked by the Republican National Committee with preparing the party’s crucial get-out-the-vote operation. It’s no symbolic post, but a crucial position for a party facing an uphill presidential contest.
Along with eBay.com CEO Meg Whitman — who has also been brought up occasionally as a long-shot GOP vice presidential prospect — Fiorina is one of the most prominent female executives of the last decade.
Fiorina is also already close to McCain. The two of them recently sat down at his Arlington headquarters with frustrated Clinton supporters and urged them to shift their political allegiance to him. On the campaign trail and on shows like CBS News “Face the Nation,” she’s served as a ubiquitous advocate of the candidate. Privately, she has also become one of McCain’s most trusted economic advisers.
Grover Norquist, a fiscal conservative leader and longtime party organizer, touts Fiorina’s economic and executive bonafides but labeled her a “dark horse” vice presidential prospect. One Republican state party chairman said, “everybody would be very pleasantly surprised with her” before adding that “the danger is that she hasn’t been vetted” — a concern echoed by several GOP insiders.
These insiders also expressed concern that adding her to the ticket would do little to galvanize social conservatives, some of whom still view McCain with suspicion and antipathy. They also brought up her lack of foreign policy experience, and expressed concern that her reputation as “the most powerful woman in business” — as she was once called by Forbes magazine — could prove a dubious distinction at a time when economic anxiety is reaching levels unseen since the late 1970s.
While McCain has criticized excessive executive salaries, Obama spokesman Bill Burton has already issued a statement pointing out that she “presided over thousands of layoffs at Hewlett-Packard while receiving a $21 million severance package” when she was fired by the company’s board of directors in 2005.

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

Last week Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, the longest-tenured female Republican senator, joined McCain for a fundraising sprint in the Lone Star state. Hutchison, who until recently headed the Senate Republican Conference, now serves as chairwoman of the Republican Policy Committee, two top Beltway party posts.
Hutchison had already engaged on McCain’s behalf, defending his embrace of the controversial conservative Pastor John Hagee earlier this year and making the rounds as a surrogate on the Sunday political shows (including an appearance Sunday on ABC’s “This Week”), though, like McCain, it’s a medium that does not suit her. And also like McCain, she is not a gifted campaigner.
In Texas, where she has been comfortably reelected, one Republican strategist notes that she’s “proven she can get scores of Hispanics in a huge state surrogate.”
“She’s underused as a surrogate to the party,” the strategist added.
But despite her popularity in the state and in the party and her years of experience, insiders are skeptical she’ll be selected. Like Alaska, Texas is already a solidly Republican state in presidential races. And adding Hutchison — who supports embryonic stem cell research and is relatively moderate on abortion (she is against outlawing the procedure, though she also opposes federal funding for it) — to the ticket would also alienate some social conservatives.
And then there’s the energy problem. Hutchison has long been a defender of Big Oil, which may make political sense locally but could prove a liability in a national race at a time when oil companies are enjoying record profits even as Americans pay record amounts at the pump.
Insofar as Hutchison, Palin or Fiorina are seriously considered, the question McCain's team may first have to answer is how much of a premium to place on gender.
Then there is the media factor. McCain himself aches for the favorable attention of a press corps he feels prefers his rival. The vice presidential pick is one of the few remaining set pieces that will ensure him the spotlight, and could build excitement about his candidacy. And as even Republicans are noting, they could use a bit of excitement.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

New beginnings

I got fired today.
They can dress it up however they want; "downsizing," "economic downturns," "sacrificing," etc. But it all adds up to the same number ... 86'ed.
I feel like I should be angrier than I am; like I should feel betrayed and backstabbed. But the fact is, I almost feel a sense of relief.
The job didn't provide the challenge I wanted. In fact, I knew from the day I started I wouldn't advance any higher, so I relinquished my right to bitch about that aspect of it.
But after years making contacts with the media, and training through Toastmasters, I tried in vain to convince my boss to let me take on a greater share of responsibility in publicly representing the company.
Meanwhile, I'd kicked around ideas for a variety of capitalistic ventures, which I'll now spend some time sorting out in order to determine how I should proceed. If ever I were going to research and write a book, now would be as good a time as any. If I'd ever thought about going live with that innovative new Web site, I gots the time to tinker.
These are advantages, windows that would've remained painted shut had I remained with my now-former employer.
And I realize I've been truly blessed, both with a wonderful, supportive spouse and with some really great friends (and even acquaintances) who've lent that all-important sympathetic ear through these first 24 hours. More hours will be asked of them, to be sure. But I do think the numbness will fade, hopefully to give way to an anger that will drive me to a level I may not have attained if not for this one vital fact ...
I got fired today.

RIP Tim Russert (1950-2008)

Journalism lost a legend last Friday. On June 13, just two days before Father's Day, Tim Russert of NBC News collapsed and died of a heart attack.
Fittingly, he was working on the set of "Meet the Press," a show he'd anchored since 1991. Russert loved the show and suffered no fools lightly in that realm. Big-league politicians always went on and had to know each time what they were going to get. To a person, each has described Russert as "tough but fair."
It was just a couple of months ago that even the left-wingers were complaining about how hard Russert was on the Democratic candidates in one of their debates. Considering that Russert was born and raised a Democrat, and that he'd worked for Democrats Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Mario Cuomo, this bulldogging was to his credit.
The big Buffalo native also was an avid Bills fan. I have him on an NFL video lending some comments about his beloved Bills. "We just wanted one; just one," he seemed to implore.
I wish I'd been more deeply invested in Russert. I've always respected him but wish I'd watched 'Meet the Press' more and maybe even read his book, 'Big Russ and Me,' which is a tribute to his hardworking father.
Come to think of it, maybe reading that book - written by a man known for lifting up others, and in praise of a father who dutifully worked two full-time jobs to put his kids through college - would be the finest tribute a person could pay him ...

Video tributes
Meet the Press, Father's Day, 6-15-08 (Part I, II, III, IV, V, VI)
Jay Leno clip: Tim talks about his book, 'Big Russ and Me.'
Conan O'Brien clips: On meeting Pope John Paul II, and Tim's son.

Print tributes
Obit, Harper's magazine.
The New Yorker
Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal
Robert Novak
'1,500 gather at Russert's memorial,' Washington Post

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Olbermann fumbles again

I'm not sure what possessed me to sit through the latest edition of Keith Olbermann's "Spastic Commentary" on Thursday, but there I was, morbidly curious as to what evils Republicans hath wrought upon the world this hallowed eve.

Tonight's target was presumptive GOP nominee John McCain, particularly the Arizona Senator's statement to Matt Lauer on "Today" that a timetable for bringing troops home from Iraq is "not too important." Missing from this seemingly ghastly statement is the context, which McCain followed with emphasis that what's important in our presence there is that our level of casualties decreases to the point where American soldiers stationed in Iraq will be in no more immediate danger than those stationed in South Korea, Japan and Germany.
Olbermann started his segment by feigning to establish a "context" for McCain's comment by stringing together McCain's statements from January 2002, March 2003, May 2008 and others where he variously stated that troops would win an easy victory, that they would be greeted as liberators, that they could stay for "a hundred" years, that they would come home victorious (by the end of his first term), and finally that their presence doesn't matter so much as their safety.
But of course, Olbermann confuses the issue by contradicting himself, and McCain's statement, by emphasizing the very thing that McCain said IS important; the casualties.
McCain has stated repeatedly that America has had troops stationed in South Korea, Japan and Germany for more than 50 years, virtually without incident, and that he hopes to see a similar scenario in Iraq; namely that we would reach a point where, if troops must be stationed in Iraq, that they can be stationed there SAFELY.
Yet Olbermann dredges up the names of soldiers who've recently died in Iraq, and others who have committed suicide. Tragedies all, but each example is one you DON'T hear emanating from South Korea, Japan and Germany. Presumably this is because those soldiers have not been involved in the hellish firefights that too often engulf our troops in Iraq. So ensuring a safer situation on the ground there would seem to be in everyone's best interest.

Yet Olbermann attempts to back his point - not in his Comment but earlier in his show - by bringing in John Kerry and doing everything possible to make McCain look and sound like a doddering old fool.
Calling into question McCain's age - calling the man "confused" - is a veiled slam at his senility.
If McCain's mind fails him in any capacity, it's that he's forgotten more about warfare than Keith Olbermann will ever know.

So once again, Olbermann misses the mark and an opportunity to drive home a salient point. His blind hatred for all things Bush - and inability to think of an original sign-off - ranks him no higher than Michael Moore and Bill Clinton on the list of liberals who have mastered the art of Opportunity Lost.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Wage Gap: a lack of common cents?

The Wisconsin Women's Council released a study on April 22 (Earth Day) called "Mind the Gap! Women, Wages and the Pay Gap in Wisconsin." It alleges that women make about 77 cents for every dollar made by a man. The report's evidence lies in the median wages earned by men and women.

At first glance, it's easy to get into a lather about it ... to the point of, say, standing on street corners with placards touting "equal pay" legislation.

But there's a glaring omission from the WWC's "report," an accounting for the types of jobs surveyed. I checked with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and found men to grossly outnumber women in higher-paying fields, and conversely women to grossly outnumber men in lower-paying, support- or service-oriented fields (p. 8). I'm no mathematician, but it wouldn't seem hard to come up with this 77-cent disparity if one were to simply gloss over the job titles.

In fact, the WWC is missing an important point on this. Despite the report's willful ignorance, this alleged "wage gap" has shrunk a great deal over the past 30-plus years; from about 62 percent to near 80 today. While women do predominantly populate lower-paying jobs, this closing gap would mean there are far more women in higher-paying fields. The Feministas should be CELEBRATING THAT instead of crying about this manufactured outrage.
Secondly, even the BLS' own report on women and earnings shows that men are punished far more severely, in terms of relationship to median wage, than are women (p. 5).

Monday, April 14, 2008

The NBA's ghetto culture

Either Amy Lawrence is an idiot, or ESPN is really as liberal as I've long feared.

There is a case to be made for the latter, as many of the TV and radio "personalities" seem to espouse such views. But there certainly could be a case made for the former as well.

Last weekend, I caught some of Lawrence's act on our local ESPN affiliate, 1230 AM WXCO. She was prattling on about the NBA, so I was only half-listening anyway. But then I heard her opine on why she felt the NBA spiraled into such decline since the retirement of Michael Jordan. She described the thuggish perception that many folks have of the NBA as being embodied by an "aggressive" style that's "in your face." She was close, but she missed the bigger mark.

The NBA's ghetto culture.

As a white guy from northern Wisconsin, I probably know as much about the ghetto as I do, say, uranium enrichment. But what I do know is what's espoused and glorified on TV. The "hip hop culture," as Bill O'Reilly calls it, deifies materialism and misogyny. My guess is it's an effort to show how The Man ain't keeping you down. This entails a lack of respect for anything other than oneself, embodied in the "look at me" SportsCenter highlights from most basketball games. There's more glory in a dunk, it seems, than an assist.

And it's the tattoos and baggy drawers that, IMO, is turning White America away from the game.

It's possible - and likely - that Lawrence never would've gotten away with saying it was the NBA's ghetto culture that has turned away a largely white fan base. And I found myself thinking the NBA simply needs a white superstar to bridge that gap. But I realized that perennial MVP candidate Steve Nash, and '07 MVP Dirk Nowitzki, are the closest things to the next Larry Bird that we're likely to see for a long time. So the NBA has its stars; all it needs now is an audience.

Thoughts on how the NBA can generate fan interest

The NBA has seen its postseason ratings decline precipitously over the years, and it's not hard to see why. They stretch a seven-game series out to nearly two weeks, and that's after allowing half the league into the postseason.

Commissioner David Stern needs to take a page from two events in recent years that should've taught him something already: One, the lockout of 1998, which delayed the start of the NBA season to January and shortened the season to I think 54 games. Every game mattered a lot more, and it's a lot easier to relate to a sport when its season fall within one calendar year. (The NFL is an exception, as the vast majority of its seasons fall within one calendar year, and I think it makes a big difference when a season is referred to as 2007 vs. 2007-08.)
Two, the NBA needs to recognize how popularity March Madness is at the collegiate level and whittle its seven-game series (at least in the playoffs) to best-of-three. I understand why they wouldn't want to go with a single-elimination tournament after an 82-game season, but a best-of-three would put heightened emphasis on that first game. Suddenly, Game 2 is an elimination game. And the better team should still be able to shine through.

And I have to believe that the revenue the NBA would be sacrificing from its gates would be more than made up in TV ad revenue for these newly important - and relevant - games.

Gas today: $3.39/.49/.59/D $4.09

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thundersnow

I officially live in a snowglobe, amid the winter that wouldn't end.
After a couple of weeks of temperatures well into the 40s, enough to melt most of our snow except for the piles on the north faces of buildings, I'm sitting here listening to pellets of ... something being pelted off my windows by a wind that must gusting at 40 to 50 THOUSAND miles per hour.
But that's not the best part; I'm also sitting amid flashes of lightning and gentle peals of thunder. That's twice this winter (once a few weeks ago earlier in March) that we've had thundersnow.

It's enough to make me think bears, bats, squirrels and the European Hedgehog have the right idea.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

'Just words'

The other night, I gathered with some of the guys for some drinks, billiards and general bullshit in a buddy's basement. At one point, a lifelong friend of mine referred to his wayward pool game as "retarded."
At that point, another longtime friend of mine spoke up, a man who's a live-in caregiver for two older, cognitively disabled men. Meanwhile, I have a family member who is severely autistic and unable to care for herself. Both of which Friend A knew full well. So to put it diplomatically, an effort was made to "make him see the error if his word choice."

We asked if he'd go into Harlem and call somebody a "nigger." Or if he'd call a gay friend of ours a "faggot." Or someone else a ... (insert slur here). To my mounting disappointment, he defiantly insisted that the word "retard" should not mean to us what it did, ultimately insinuating that we were simply "oversensitive."

He tried to turn it into an offensive on how we can't make him find, or not find, something funny. The problem was, he hadn't been making a joke. And no one was saying a person should or shouldn't find anything funny. In fact, I reasoned, we often find things funny precisely because their absurdity and outrageousness say we shouldn't. I pointed out to this vocal backer of Barack Obama that Obama himself gave a renowned speech called "Just Words" (just prior to the Wisconsin Primary); a speech in which Obama referred to "I have a dream," "We hold these truths to be self-evident" ... all to illustrate the absurdity of insinuating that words have no resonance.

Meanwhile, Friend A insisted upon his freedom of speech. But it was pointed out to him that with every right comes a responsibility. Freedom of speech is not absolute, and anyone requiring proof is free to joke about a bomb in an airport sometime.

Instead, I was oversensitive.

This from someone who's never walked into a restaurant only to have nearly every set of eyes staring as you walk toward your seat; not at you but at the person you're with. ... This from someone who never went on a road trip with his parents to South Dakota when he was about 10, and was seated at a short lecture in some small nature preserve only to have another kid actually physically stand in the front of the room, point and laugh at your disabled companion. ... This from a person who's never had his eighth-grade principle clear him out of the classroom while he openly scolded the rest of the class for making light of your sister being "retarded." ... This from a person who was never the 13-year-old who - wanting nothing more as an adolescent than to fit in - had to walk back into that classroom.

This from a person who's never had to wonder what it was to like to fully appreciate the construct of a full "family of four," including everything from sibling rivalries to riding on a roller coaster at a county fair.

Nope. I was oversensitive.

It was all I could do to keep from shoving his pool cue so far up his ass he'd have to say "Aaaah" to chalk it. If for no other reason, than this is a person who openly prides himself on his "enlightened" and "liberal" view of American society.

How in God's name, it was put to him, could he then so loosely use a pejorative that would denigrate and belittle the ONE segment of the population that could never speak up for itself. A black guy walks into a room, an obviously gay person, a woman ... etc., and I know damn well he wouldn't use any of the aforementioned terms in their presence.

Instead, he chose the one demographic who could be sitting right next to him, hear him call him a "retard," and never think to - or be able to - speak up on his own behalf.

I spoke to Friend A the next day for quite some time, and the "retard" subject never even came up. Nor did an apology. I didn't ask for one because an apology sought is worthless. And I didn't bring up the "retard" issue because I was still pretty hot about it and didn't want to lash out at him. Yet I'm sitting here, two nights later, still stewing about it to the point of writing some anonymous blog about it that I half wish he'd read, and half wish would be nothing more than idle venting that will alleviate this hurt and mild sense of betrayal.

I guess I'm oversensitive.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A playwright gets it right

David Mamet - who apparently is a playwright of some renown - recently penned a piece for the Village Voice outlining his recent conversion from "brain dead" liberalism to that of more classical conservatism. It's a long piece, and he meanders, but it's worth a read for the points he does raise.
His overriding assertion is that the "sides" shouldn't hate each other the way they do. This is a view akin to my own.
I've told friends for years that there are a whole lot of people making a whole lot of money on the fact that our country is divided into red/blue, liberal/conservative, black/white, etc. I find myself falling into the same trap - even if it's just to temper some of the vapid rhetoric I hear constantly thrown at President Bush, Republicans and conservatives - but I try like hell to rise above this. That's not to say I have no concept of "right" and "wrong," but I do recognize shades of gray in most issues.
One of these days maybe I'll lay out my beliefs in this space. (Might not be a bad idea to help sort out the nuances of the issues. Maybe everyone should do that.)

Voice of Reagan dies at 75

Hal Riney, the man who voiced Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" commercials in 1984, died Monday (March 24) at his home in San Francisco. He was 75. Links to the commercials are below along the right. Some brilliant ads.
Apparently he was a man of some renown in the advertising community, and he had an interesting back story. This from the San Fransisco Chronicle:

S.F. ad man Riney dies

(03-25) 15:24 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- Hal Riney, the San Francisco advertising man whose iconic and memorable work helped establish the city as a leading creative center for the industry, died of cancer in his San Francisco home Monday. He was 75.
Whether his client was an automobile manufacturer, a wine cooler or the committee to re-elect President Ronald Reagan, no one could put as graceful a spin on Americana as could Hal Riney. He made likable, engaging advertising in a career of nearly 50 years.
Some would say he is best remembered for creating the brand and image of General Motors' Saturn automobile division, establishing a memorable alternative to Detroit car culture in the process. Others would argue he is equally famous for the codgers Frank Bartles and Ed Jaymes, who sing the praises of the Gallo wine cooler that bore their names. Another case could be that his best work came in 1984, when he wrote soft-textured, 60-second montages of Americana, telling stories of swelling national pride, making people comfortable about re-electing Reagan. The ads - titled "It's Morning Again in America" - assured the public it would be folly to return to the days before Reagan's tenure.
Western style
These advertising campaigns and many more had a unique and relaxed Western feeling to them and stood in contrast to so much in a New York-dominated industry. Importantly, Riney's ads prompted marketers to pay attention to the San Francisco ad scene. He narrated many of them, and his gravelly voice is as memorable as the products he promoted.
Before Riney, Howard Gossage had established San Francisco's ad industry roots. Riney's proteges, Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein, who started with Hal Riney & Partners doing "Billy Ball" ads for the Oakland A's, left in the spring of 1983 to establish what is today one of the country's top agencies, and they in turn encourage the next generation of San Francisco creative advertising people.
In fact, Riney's disciples went on to found no fewer than 28 advertising agencies, said Goodby.
"He created an atmosphere and body of work that attracted the highest level of creative people outside New York," said Goodby, co-founder of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco. "Some would say higher."
Throughout his work, Goodby wrote of Riney, "there was an optimistic, perhaps even romantic, vision of America. It was a land populated with people of similar values, small-town Fourth of July parades, and rocking chairs on shady porches. There was little tolerance of fakery and cant. It was this vision he mined in his 1984 campaign for Reagan, and even in his advertising for beer and automobiles."
Hal Patrick Riney was born July 17, 1932, in Seattle and was reared in Longview, Wash., a lumber mill town on the Columbia River. His father was a cartoonist, writer, newspaper publisher, actor, salesman and gambler who was jailed after writing "a check that wasn't the best check he could have written," Riney recalled.
His father abandoned the family, including his mother and older sister, when Riney was 5, but he was an idyllic figure for the young Riney, who kept a photo of him in his office above his Underwood typewriter.
His mother was a teacher who became a volunteer at a fire lookout during the summers of World War II in Washington's Cascade Range - where Riney fell in love with the outdoors.
He graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in art in 1954. After a stint in the U.S. Army, he took a job in the mail room at the San Francisco office of BBDO, then the city's largest advertising agency. He was soon promoted to art director.
Nine years later, he became the agency's creative director. It was at BBDO, in the mid-1960s, that he hired composer Paul Williams to create a theme for Crocker Bank of San Francisco. The song, "We've Only Just Begun," went on to become a No. 1 hit by the Carpenters.
During that time, Riney met Jerry Andelin, the art director with whom he would collaborate until his retirement.
In 1976, Riney opened the San Francisco office of New York agency Ogilvy & Mather. David Ogilvy later said it broke his heart when Riney ultimately left to start his own agency, said Steve Hayden, vice chairman at the New York agency.
"Hal Riney went on to prove just what a massive talent he truly was," Hayden said. "Like David before him, Hal trained an entire generation of stars that continue to dominate the industry to this day, and proved irrefutably that his beloved San Francisco could provide all the talent needed by the world's biggest accounts."
Lee Clow, another famed adman, now global director of media art for TBWA Worldwide in Los Angeles, said, "Hal Riney was one of our fiercest competitors and, personally, one of my greatest inspirations. The man was truly a genius. His voice for storytelling and his art changed the way we think about advertising. His work will continue to inspire us."
Writing at the bar
He may have been considered a genius, but for many he was unassuming. Riney told the story - dating to when he was a member of the 1984 Reagan re-election group called the Tuesday Team - of writing three of the Reagan ads, and a few others that the campaign did not use, in about 2 1/2 hours in a San Francisco bar, Reno Barsocchini's. At the time, the bar was just below his office on Battery Street.
"It was lunchtime, and I remember a guy sitting next to me, one of those guys who hangs around the bar, and he says, 'What are you doing, Hal?' I said, 'Well, I'm writing the president's advertising.' And he thought that was bull- and just snickered," Riney told The Chronicle in 2004.
Riney was a demanding manager. "You had to be on your guard because he always had his wheels churning, a project going on in his head," Goodby said. "There was the feeling he was operating on a higher plane than your presentation seemed to be on. I would also say our sense of humor was wetter than his. He would consider the humor we do a little crass," Goodby said of himself and partner Silverstein.
In 1982, on a trip to Honduras, Riney's Sahsa Air Lines flight was hijacked on the tarmac in Tegucigalpa. Honduran rebels with semiautomatic pistols and bombs rigged with dynamite held the plane. He made a daring escape.
"I just opened the goddamn emergency hatch, jumped out and ran like hell," Riney told The Chronicle that year. "I zigzagged while I ran, expecting shots that never came." Coming home, he circulated a memo to his staff that read, "A belated thank you for your concerns while I was on that airplane. Actually, my research shows that there were 37 in favor of rescue, 29 in favor of blowing up (the airplane) and the remainder undecided."
Goodby recalled that in early 1983, Silverstein had been persistently prodding him to quit the Riney agency and start their own. When the two finally went in Riney's office to give him notice, Riney asked, "What brings you fellows in?" Silverstein said, "Tell him, Jeff," leaving to Goodby the unpleasant task of giving him the news.
"He said, 'If you fellas get tired of making your own coffee over there, you should call me up,' " Goodby said. "I thought that was a sweet reaction."
Goodby omitted mention of the video he made that shows Goodby, Silverstein & Partners on a gleeful pleasure cruise, torpedoed by a vengeful Riney.
In 1985, Riney purchased the Ogilvy & Mather office and renamed it Hal Riney & Partners. It later created the Saturn campaign, centered on the pretty-as-a-picture town of Spring Hill, Tenn., where the car was manufactured, free of the auto industry baggage of Detroit. The tagline was "A different kind of company. A different kind of car," and it was the most successful new model introduction in GM history.
In 2003, the agency was sold to the Publicis Group of Paris and renamed Publicis & Hal Riney.
Hall of Famer
Among his awards, Riney was inducted into the American Advertising Federation's Advertising Hall of Fame in 2002, and the American Association of Advertising Agencies presented him with its lifetime achievement award in the same year.
In his private life, Riney was a doting father who wrote and illustrated hundreds of unabashedly sentimental letters to his children. One of these included a poem explaining that the Easter Bunny was actually a lawyer for a special-interest group who, once a year, assuaged his guilt by distributing candy.
Riney died surrounded by his family, and his death was announced by his wife, Elizabeth Sutherland Riney.
He is survived by his widow and his children, Ben, 21, and Samantha, 19, from a previous marriage.
Memorial gifts can be sent to Save the Children at www.savethechildren.org or to Earthjustice, for its work to protect Pacific fisheries, at www.earthjustice.org. A date for a memorial service will be announced by the family.
E-mail George Raine at graine@sfchronicle.com.
This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle