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Political Rantings

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Closing the barn door after the tomatoes have run away…

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Those who follow Sarah Palin (either with amusement or disdain) may have heard that at a recent book signing in Minneapolis, a man threw two tomatoes at her from a second floor balcony.

So when she showed up at a Costco in Salt Lake City, the store manager took steps to prevent another drive-by fruiting:

While going through the check-out lane, again with no wait, [Helen Rappaport] told the clerk she forgot to get some grape tomatoes, which she loves, so she would be right back. That’s when the bells went off. The clerk told her they had no tomatoes that day. No tomatoes? At Costco?

As she was leaving, she noticed a man with a store manager’s name tag and asked him why they had no tomatoes. He informed her the store did have tomatoes, but they were taken off the shelves for a few hours. It turns out that Palin had been pelted with a tomato at an earlier stop on her book tour and the management at the Costco was determined it wouldn’t happen here. The manager told an employee to go into the storage area and get Rappaport some tomatoes, which he gave her for free.

The Costco store manager believes, apparently, that someone out there had decided to throw things at Sarah Palin when she visited the local Costco, went to Costco empty-handed, proceeded immediately to the tomato aisle, saw there were no tomatoes available, and then decided to give up and go home, rather than, you know, throwing something else at her.

Score one for the ingenuity and quick action of the Salt Lake Costco manager…

Categories: Political Rantings, Random Acts of Blogging | 2 Comments »

Random Acts of Blogging – 12/3/09

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

So many blog-worthy things going on in the world all at once! So, some quick thoughts on several things:

Adam Lambert emerged from his #2 finish on American Idol as one of the most promising singing talents in years. At the American Music Awards, he decided to make his performance a social statement, rather than make it about the music. He’s since been cancelled by ABC from Good Morning America, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. And the shows that are letting him on suddenly want to talk about nothing else but the AMA’s. I’m disappointed. Not because I have a particular opinion about his “cause,” but because he’s allowed his cause to overshadow his music, which I was looking forward to enjoying. On the upside, I think maybe he’s realizing his mistake. Here’s what he told Ellen Degeneres:

It was maybe a little too far. I think in hindsight I look back on it and I go, “OK, maybe that wasn’t the best first impression to make again, the first second impression.” I mean, I had fun up there, I had a good time, my dancers had fun and the band had fun. I respect people and feel like people walked away from that feeling disrespected. I would never intend to disrespect anybody. So that was not my intention.

What he needs now is a musical “reset” – another spotlight moment, like the AMA’s, in which he knocks everyone’s socks off musically, and convinces people that music is his thing, not social commentary.

Tiger Woods released the following statement yesterday:

[N]o matter how intense curiosity about public figures can be, there is an important and deep principle at stake which is the right to some simple, human measure of privacy. I realize there are some who don’t share my view on that. But for me, the virtue of privacy is one that must be protected in matters that are intimate and within one’s own family. Personal sins should not require press releases and problems within a family shouldn’t have to mean public confessions.

Whatever regrets I have about letting my family down have been shared with and felt by us alone. I have given this a lot of reflection and thought and I believe that there is a point at which I must stick to that principle even though it’s difficult.

I wish every celebrity in the world would memorize these two paragraphs and recite them whenever some nosy reporter presumes to suggest that his/her private life is somehow my business.

Tiger had a car accident and knocked over a fire hydrant. He needs to explain that to the police, and hence, to the public. If someone were knocking over fire hydrants in my neighborhood, I’d want to know who, where and why. That’s a public safety issue and a law enforcement issue. However, if the answer to “Why?” is “domestic dispute” or “private matter,” then I have no need or desire to know more.

Michaele and Tareq Salahi are the latest in a series of Reality TV inspired stupidity. Years ago, people would do dumb things to get noticed, to be sure, but the result was rarely more than the standard fifteen minutes of fame. Today, with the institutional backing (and financing) of a Reality TV Show’s production company, exhibitionists like these have the capability of distracting the entire nation for fifteen days, not fifteen minutes. The Salahi’s, like the Balloon Boy family before them, only benefit from their actions if they get caught. And even though the news media knows this, they play right into the perpetrators’ hands, because they also know that it sells soap. My only hope is that the largely negative reaction to both the Salahi’s and the Heene’s dissuade Reality TV producers from pulling stunts like this in the future. Because the media is certainly not going to show any restraint.

HBO recently aired the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s 25th Anniversary Concert. Culling through two nights of music, they presented a “mere” four hours of musical genius, ranging from Stevie Wonder to Simon & Garfunkel to Aretha Franklin to Crosby, Stills & Nash to U2 to Metallica to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. Add to that a truly amazing array of “guest stars,” such as James Taylor, Joe Cocker, Smokey Robinson, Sting, BB King, Bonnie Rait, and Billy Joel. As I watch these folks float on and off the Madison Square Garden stage, all I can think is, “These are the masters that today’s musical acts can only dream of approximating.” I’m not a fan of every musical style in the show, but the amount of raw musical talent on display is so far and away beyond the artists of today, that one wonders what the 50th Anniversary show could possibly have to offer. Maybe it’s just my age showing…

Categories: News and/or Media, Political Rantings, Random Acts of Blogging, Words about Music | 4 Comments »

The Wall on the Highway – A Parable

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

One afternoon, two men were walking alongside a highway. As they came over a small hill, they were surprised to see that someone had built a brick wall right in the middle of the road. The wall was perpendicular to the road, and went from shoulder to shoulder, making it impossible for anyone or anything to pass. As the two men discussed how impractical the wall was, a car came driving over the hill. Failing to see the wall in time, the car crashed into the wall head-on, killing everyone inside. The men were outraged. “What a senseless tragedy!” shouted the first man. “Something must be done!” agreed the second. The two men shook hands and made a solemn vow to do everything in their power to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

Read the rest of this entry »

Categories: Political Rantings | 10 Comments »

Truth or Consequences – But Not Both!

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

As we move toward the passage of a health care bill, the opinion polling isn’t necessarily getting more useful, but it is certainly getting more entertaining.

Our friends at the Associated Press do their best impression of Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” routine:

A ban on denial of coverage because of pre-existing medical problems: 82% in favor

A ban on denial of coverage because of pre-existing medical problems that would probably cause most people to pay more for health insurance: 43% in favor

Everyone should be required to have at least some health insurance: 67% in favor

Everyone should be required to have at least some health insurance, or face a federal penalty: 28% in favor

All companies should be required to give their employees at least some health insurance: 73% in favor

Companies that don’t give their employees at least some health insurance would face a fine: 52% in favor

So, to sum up: require coverage for more people, but don’t raise my premiums and don’t penalize in any way those who ignore this new requirement.

Ah, democracy…

Categories: Political Rantings | 11 Comments »

Arnold Flips the Legislature the Bird

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Fifty governors, but only Schwarzenegger can pull this off:

Seems like a pretty innocuous veto, until you read down the left-hand column of letters, that is. ;-)

(I had to scale the image down to make it fit on the blog. Click on the image itself (or click here to see a clearer version of the note).

Categories: Political Rantings, The World Wide Weird | 4 Comments »

Robo-Warrior Draft

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

My phone just rang. It was a gentleman from the Democratic National Committee. He said that President Obama needs me to fight for Jon Corzine because Jon Corzine is fighting for New Jersey.

Very strange – I would think President Obama would have people that could do that for him. You know – without having to call me and all. Maybe he should nominate a Fight for Jon Corzine Czar? Besides, I’m too busy to fight for Jon Corzine today. I mean, at a minimum, I need to stay home and field all these calls!

I hope there isn’t a Fight for Jon Corzine draft. But just in case there is, I think I better find out who, exactly, is fighting against Jon Corzine. I mean, maybe it’s someone we really don’t have to worry about. Like the Boston Red Sox…

Categories: Political Rantings, Random Acts of Blogging | 2 Comments »

Wall Street Journal – Charging for Free Content?

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Remember when the Wall Street Journal’s online content was free? And then they decided to start charging for it? And then it was free again? But sometimes it’s not?

As it turns out, the Wall Street Journal has implemented a rather unique, some may even say bizarre, online access policy. If you go to their website and click on an article, you have to login with a paid subscription. But if you Google a particular topic and the same article comes back as a search result, you can click through and read the entire article for free. So, in other words, you can’t read the entire Wall Street Journal on their website without paying for it, but if you were curious enough to enquire about everything in it, they will gladly share their content with you for free.

Perhaps an example would be useful. Follow along in a separate browser instance if you like:
Read the rest of this entry »

Categories: Money Talk, Political Rantings, Tech Talk | No Comments »

What Happened? Government Forces Ken Lewis to Work for Free

Saturday, October 17th, 2009

Throughout the past year, I’ve written a few posts about various aspects of the financial crisis, but I’ve purposely stayed away from writing specifically about my employer – Bank of America.

I don’t speak for Bank of America. My words on this blog are mine and mine alone. No one at work reads them, approves them or, for all I know, even agrees with them. Still, I’ve made it a self-imposed, personal policy to steer clear of stories that involve the company, just to be safe. This morning, though, when I read about Kenneth Feinberg, the “Special Master for Compensation” (a.k.a., “The Pay Czar”), I felt compelled to speak out.

Just to be clear, though: these are my opinions. They don’t necessarily reflect the views of anyone else on the planet, whether they’re affiliated with Bank of America or not. Are we clear? OK, good.

Read the rest of this entry »

Categories: Money Talk, Political Rantings | 9 Comments »

Top Ten Obama Peace Prize Jokes

Friday, October 9th, 2009

This is just from me and my friends. I can only imagine what will happen when the Late Night Comedians get their hands on it.

(Credit where credit is due) – All others are by yours truly…

10. Obama walks Bo, wins Westminster Dog Show (Joe Catania)

9. At least Al Gore had a kick-ass PowerPoint presentation

8. Obama plays backyard stick hockey game with his kids. NHL awards him Stanley Cup

7. Couldn’t they have given this out before the IOC decided who gets the Olympics? (Zach Noyce)

6. Barack Obama winning the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize is like Stephen Strasburg winning the 2009 Rookie of the Year Award. (Tom Gordon)

5. Bono’s reaction: It’s an honor just to be nominated

4. Electoral College impressed with Obama’s potential – declares him winner of the 2012 Presidential Election

3. Norwegian Nobel Selection Committee thanks President Obama for declaring October 7, 2009 to be National Leif Erikson Day in the United States.

2. Nobel Selection Committee to Arizona State University: What were you thinking?

1. What’s the record for shortest time between winning the Nobel Peace Prize and escalating your troop levels in an eight-year old war? Whatever it is, I think Obama’s going to break it…

Categories: Political Rantings | 1 Comment »

The Incredible Shrinking PIPP

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Great news! The Obama administration has found a way to cut $488 billion from a government program, and reduce the total projected commitment of that program by a whopping $960 billion! I guess we can pay for healthcare now! OK, maybe not…

The program is the Public Private Investment Plan, or PPIP for short. PPIP was designed to achieve what Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson originally said the TARP money would be used for – buying mortgage-related assets from Wall Street firms in order to expand the power of their balance sheets. Of course, when they actually gave him the money, he decided to use it to buy equity in the banks instead.

That was back in September of 2008, when the worst financial crisis of our time demanded immediate, decisive action. Like suspending the two presidential campaigns for a photo-op at the White House.

Having failed to actually buy any of these so-called “toxic assets,” our government tried again in March of 2009, launching the PPIP program, which intended to use “$75 to $100 billion in TARP capital and capital from private investors [to] generate $500 billion in purchasing power to buy legacy assets – with the potential to expand to $1 trillion over time. ”

Because, you see, in March of 2009, the worst financial crisis of our time demanded immediate, decisive action. Like investigating the $18 billion in Wall Street bonuses that were distributed the previous year, and bailing out the auto industry.

In late June of 2009, The U.S. Treasury announced that the PPIP program would roll out sometime this week. At the time, nine private firms had agreed to participate, bringing the total purchasing power of the program to roughly $50 billion (NOTE: That is not a typo).

Because, you see, in late June, the worst financial crisis of our time demanded immediate, decisive action. Like revamping the nation’s healthcare system.

Which brings us to today – early October of 2009. According to the Wall Street Journal, the program now has five participants with a total purchasing power of $12.27 billion, who can “start buying [assets] next week.”

Because, you see, the worst financial crisis of our time demands…ah, nevermind.

So, to recap: the original PPIP program set a goal of purchasing $500 billion in mortgage-related assets, possibly expanding to $1 trillion. If the program actually does kick off next week (we’ve heard that before), it will be almost seven months later, and will be able to purchase just $12.27 billion in securities (2.5% of the plan). Further expansion is, apparently, still expected (despite the consistent shrinkage we’ve seen so far), so Treasury tells us the plan may one day expand to $40 billion.

On the upside, we’re investing $488 billion less than we planned to invest now, and if we hit our (new) expansion goals, our “savings” will total $960 billion!

It seems we’ve managed to save quite a bit of money by our inaction. Kind of makes you wonder how much more we could save if we didn’t enact some other programs as well…

Categories: Money Talk, Political Rantings | No Comments »

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