Archive for January, 2010

Obama at State of the Union 2010

Watching speeches make me nervous, so I don’t watch them.  Never have.  Not campaign speeches, not award acceptance speeches, not State of the Union speeches by President Obama.  I prefer to read speeches the next day when the drama and excitement has worn off and the content of the words is all that matters.  So that is what I did with last nights speech.  And it made me realize another reason I don’t like watching speeches… inaccuracies, or more precisely misstatements.  Here’s one from last night:

And to encourage these and other businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America.

I am curious what tax breaks we give to companies that ship jobs overseas?  Or is Obama simply referring to the savings that these companies have because they do work overseas, and wants to convert those savings into tax breaks for keeping workers here?  Either way it is a wrong statement, one that implicitly vilifies companies trying to lower their bottom line in a rational and financially sound way, and at the same time makes it seem like higher taxes (the sounding call of the democratic party) were someone else’s idea.

Or what about this nugget:

Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan.  It would reduce costs and premiums for millions of families and businesses.  And according to the Congressional Budget Office -– the independent organization that both parties have cited as the official scorekeeper for Congress –- our approach would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades.

Now is he referring to the initial report the CBO put out on November 30th saying::

According to a report released by the Congressional Budget Office this morning, the average price of insurance premiums bought on the individual market—that is, premiums not purchased through employers—would go up by 10 to 13 percent in 2016 if Congress passed health care reform legislation now in the Senate.

Or is he referring to the plans that have been changed and squeezed and redefined as the public and opposition in congress have forced initial bills to be thwarted?  But it sounds better to say that the plan you are pushing for is the one that is near the end of it’s life because no one wants it and so finally bears some resemblance to lowering costs, rather than the one you really wanted with the public option that would have begun the last step in creating a single payer socialized system.

I could go on, but to be honest the speech was really long and I don’t have the time or interest to find every disagreement.  And I also want to remain true to my desire to not immediately bomb everything Obama does, because I hated how democrats did that to Bush.  But this was my first reaction to what I read.  But maybe this State of the Union and its hopeful refrain will be borne out, but I’m afraid there may be much too much rhetoric and not enough true substance.


Cato is on it.

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I’ve always been somewhat fascinated by the concept of the spin-off, primarily in the realm of the TV series.  I remember as a kid trying to name off all the derivations from the show ‘Happy Days’ (which, I later learned, was originally a part of an anthology show called ‘Love, American Style’, which I remember seeing in syndication as a kid).


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CAI on the Wheel

I was taped for an episode of Wheel of Fortune today. The episode will air on April 7. I wont say much about it now because a) we were strictly forbidden from giving away any specific details via blogging until after the episode airs and b) I want everyone to watch it with suspense when it airs. For now I will simply make the following general observations:

1) Pat Sajak is awesome.

It’s true. Granted, he wins some extra points with me for being one of the few conservatives employed in the entertainment industry, but he really is an incredible host. One reason I say that is because he never shows contempt for his guests- he seems to appreciate that it’s because of people like us that he is so successful. With that said, he clearly cares for the game he hosts and wants it played well, and has a way of gently letting contestants know when their strategy is poor. Beyond that, he’s funny. You might think he’s cheesy, and he kind of is at times, but if you watch and study him enough (as I have) you begin to appreciate just how quick on his feet he really is. Finally, he’s awesome because he still does the Wheel after all these years. It seems to me that he is content with his work, and that is rare. Also, we really hit it off- I’m pretty sure he really liked me, and would hang out with me under the right circumstances.

2) Vanna White is classy.

Much of the same applies to Vanna- a gal who is content and satisfied with her work. Plus, she came out before the show with no make-up on, wearing sweats and a T-shirt, just to say hi and wish us luck. I thought that was rather kind, and I’m convinced, now that I’ve seen her without makeup, that she has not given in to botox, plastic surgery, et. al temptation.

3) Wheel is a classy production.

From top to bottom, every single producer, camera man, sound man, and stage hand was down to earth, approachable, and friendly. The whole experience really shook my “everyone in entertainment is a soulless, callous vampire” paradigm.

So watch on Wednesday, April 7. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you.


Awesome, Pete. I’m sure you won because of all your praise. Sorry to jump on your post here, but it just made me think of some classic Wheel moments:

Family Guy

And also, South Park’s NSFW take.

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You might remember from a while ago that I was debating whether or not to join Facebook.  Not only did I join, but now have started a fan page for our blog as well.  So we now have a social networking outlet for our social networking blog.  Basically we can try and create a vicious cycle of circular posting & re-posting… until we finally just join twitter and forward news from everyone else.

So… become a fan today.  If you like.  Make a comment here, or there… or on our MySpace account.  Just kidding – I think.

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I saw this link on Drudge the other day about secret “Jesus” codes inscribed on weapons.  I figured it was probably silly and ignored… but today I saw it again, still thought it must be silly, but checked it out.  Guess what, I think it is silly.  The article is all about this Michigan-based company Trijicon, that has contracts with a couple different branches of the military to provide rifle sights and optics.  The problem apparently is that the company identifies itself as a Christian faith-based organization and admits to stamping bible references next to model numbers on their product, such as here:

Translation: Jesus says, "convert or die!!!"

I have two thoughts on this.

  1. As a military contractor this company would probably have been wise to not put any scripture references or what not on their products.  The upside is minimal if anything (encouragement to a Christian soldier who discovers it???).  And the downside is what is currently taking place… a media denouncement of a Christian crusade.  A private company providing services to people that ask for them and listing bible verses on their product (such as In-N-Out and their verses) is different than being a parts supplier for the government and Trijicon should know that.  I’m not saying Christian-run companies shouldn’t supply the military… but it’s not too much to ask them not to embed stuff on their supplies.
  2. I challenge the media to explain how this could even remotely proselytize an Afghan or Iraqi person?  The process would need to follow this path: kill an American soldier in order to have access to their weapon – randomly happen upon a small inscription on the weapon – decipher the fact that out of 14 characters (in English mind you) on this inscription, that 6 refer to a verse found in the bible – have a bible handy to look up this verse (likely) – know how to read English and be willing to read a text that is most likely forbidden by your religion – say a prayer and convert to Christianity.

I’m not saying this is a huge story that is being blown out of proportion, since I’ve only seen it mentioned on Drudge… but it is just the type of story that makes you realize why people go to journalism school – to learn how to make something out of nothing.

Let me know if I am wrong and you see bigger implications in Trijicon’s verses.  I’m sure Christian’s would get all fired up if some Wiccan literature ended up in some military supplies, but I would think that is ridiculous too.  With all the things that we could be concerned about in this nation, this ranks pretty far down the ladder for me.

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Hope you all have a great weekend.  Here’s a fun little news story for you to start it off right.

“Sal” Esposito has been called for jury duty in Boston.  Too bad he’s a cat and the jury commissioner won’t dismiss him from duty.

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The big hubbub this weekend in So Cal for sports fans was news of USC’s head coach, Pete Carroll, retiring from the Trojans and returning to the NFL to coach for the Seattle Seahawks.  From 2000-2009 Carroll has overseen an (until this season) utterly dominant SC football team that has won two national championships and seven Pac-10 titles.  But the oft-mentioned, and sweepingly arbitrary side note, that intrigues me most has to do with what is known as the Rooney Rule in the NFL.  The Rule requires that NFL teams must (with very few exceptions) interview a minority candidate for any head coaching vacancy before it can hire anyone.  Articles discussing Carroll’s hire often include the tidbit:

Carroll was expected to be introduced by the Seahawks as early as Monday, after the team interviewed Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier on Saturday morning.  According to the sources, Frazier met with the Seahawks in Minneapolis, satisfying the Rooney Rule…

Even though Frazier was being interviewed, I’m sure that he knew he was not seriously being considered and was only participating in a public sideshow.  Which brings me to my point in this post.  What is the point of the Rooney Rule?  It seems to me that if a team wants to hire a coach, who happens to be a minority, then they will.  And if they don’t want to, then they will find some candidate that is willing to sit down for a moment solely so the team can satisfy a rule.  What’s the benefit to the minority coach?  Head Coach interviewing experience?  A free flight and dinner in whatever city the team is located in?

Hi, I'm here for the head coaching position.

Hi, I'm here to satisfy the Rooney Rule.

Or is the idea that some team that is planning on hiring a white coach, after being forced to meet with a minority, will be blown away by their resume and accomplishments that they had heretofore ignored and suddenly hire them instead of the white coach?  Isn’t that what is being assumed by creating a rule such as this?  This is simply another version of affirmative action, and just like other forms is designed to pander rather then promote.  A strict, though some may say naive, understanding of business states that the best candidates will be hired – gender, race, orientation, etc. be damned.  An NFL team is in the business of winning games in order to make money.  If teams refuse to hire more capable minority coaches then they will lose games to teams that do, and will lose money, sponsors, and players until they change philosophy or are forced to sell the team.

As I admitted, this is not a popular view of business, and one that many may believe in more in theory than practice.  And I am one of those people.  I have seen inferior employees hired over better ones many times, with the results not always being disaster for the company.  But also usually with the better qualified candidate ending up with a good job somewhere else.  Rarely, if ever, is there only one option for work… and this applies to minority coaches as well.  But the theory of business functions the same as the theory of affirmative action… neither are perfect solutions.  However, one dispenses with silly sideshows that are meant for populist puppetry, while the other allows for the marketplace to decide the results.  Just ask the Indianapolis Colts.

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The end of the decade has resulted in a number of best of the decade lists.  We’ve kind of OD’d on best of lists here already, but Elijah and I wanted to throw in our votes for those works of culture from the 2000’s WE think will/should stand the test of time.

I feel somewhat presumptuous putting this out there, as if my vote actually mattered, but what I have found is that my friends, acquaintances, and YOU dear reader, often find your interest piqued by something that has been declared “the best.”  I know that some of Elijah’s musical selections caused me to listen to albums I had not heeded before…so perhaps you may find something here that causes you to want to experience, reconsider or even maybe avoid (?) the following creative endeavors.  Hope you enjoy…see you next decade!

Albums (Sgt Grumbles | Elijah)

  1. Illinois/The Avalanche (2005/2006) Sufjan Stevens | Kid A/Amnesiac (2000/2001) Radiohead
  2. The Texas Jerusalem Crossroads (2001) Lift to Experience | Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State (2003) Sufjan Stevens
  3. In Rainbows/Bonus Disc (2007) Radiohead | Figure 8 (2000) Elliott Smith
  4. The Midnight Organ Fight (2008) Frightened Rabbit | The Sophtware Slump (2000) Grandaddy
  5. Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lakes State (2003) Sufjan Stevens | Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant (2000) Belle & Sebastian
  6. Figure 8 (2000) Elliott Smith | Songs in A & E (2008) Spiritualized
  7. Kid A/Amnesiac (2000/2001) Radiohead | Jane Doe (2001) Converge
  8. Lifted, Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground (2002) Bright Eyes | Turn On the Bright Lights (2002) Interpol
  9. Feels (2005) Animal Collective | Illinois/The Avalanche (2005/2006) Sufjan Stevens
  10. Funeral (2004) The Arcade Fire | Blood Money (2002) Tom Waits
  11. Takk (2005) Sigur Rós | Control (2002) Pedro the Lion
  12. Boxer (2007) The National | Veckatimest (2009) Grizzly Bear
  13. Asleep in the Back (2001) Elbow | We Are the Only Friends We Have (2002) Piebald
  14. A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002) Coldplay | The Midnight Organ Fight (2008) Frightened Rabbit
  15. Merriweather Post Pavilion (2009) Animal Collective | Hot Shots II (2001) The Beta Band
  16. Gang of Losers (2006) The Dears | The Life Pursuit (2006) Belle & Sebastian
  17. Control (2002) Pedro the Lion | Tyrannosaurus Hives (2004) The Hives
  18. The Last Broadcast (2002) Doves | The Argument (2000) Fugazi
  19. The Invisible Band (2001) Travis | Hail to the Thief (2003) Radiohead
  20. Oh, Inverted World (2001) The Shins | Sea Change (2002) Beck
  21. Retreiver (2004) Ron Sexsmith | How It Ends (2004) DeVotchKa

Books (there were so many that we didn’t read [Elijah read only a handful of novels from the 2000s], so this list is incredibly subjective and limited in scope)


  • Cloud Atlas (2004) David Mitchell
  • House of Leaves (2000) Mark Z. Danielewski
  • 2666 (2004) Roberto Bolaño
  • Atonement (2001) Ian McEwan
  • The Book of Illusions (2002) Paul Auster
  • Black Swan Green (2007) David Mitchell
  • American Gods (2001) Neil Gaiman
  • Thinks (2001) David Lodge
  • The City & The City (2009) China Mieville


  • Blankets (2003) Craig Thompson, graphic novel
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000) Dave Eggers, memoir
  • The Book of Other People (2007) ed. Zadie Smith, story collection
  • The Perry Bible Fellowship: The Trial of Colonel Sweeto and Other Stories (2007) Nicholas Gurewitch, comic collection
  • Box Office Poison (2001) Alex Robinson, graphic novel
  • The Rough Guide to Cult Fiction (2005) literary survey
  • Wall and Piece (2005) Banksy, art collection


  • Free of Charge (2006) Miroslav Volf
  • Jesus of Nazareth (2008) Pope Benedict XVI
  • The Sacredness of Questioning Everything (2009) David Dark
  • Renewing the Center (2000) Stanley Grenz
  • Across the Spectrum (2002) Gregory Boyd & Paul Eddy
  • The Mosaic of Christian Belief (2002) Roger Olson
  • The Shaping of Things to Come (2003) Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch
  • These last three Tom Wright books are included for their effective introductory appeal rather than any necessary anticipation of ‘classic’ status.
  • Paul: In Fresh Perspective (2005) N. T. (Tom) Wright
  • Simply Christian (2006) N. T. (Tom) Wright
  • Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision (2009) N. T. (Tom) Wright

Film (Sgt Grumbles | Elijah)

  1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Michel Gondry | ditto
  2. Amelie (2001) Jean-Pierre Jeunet | Lord of the Rings (2001-03)  Peter Jackson
  3. Children of Men (2006) Alfonso Cuarón | There Will Be Blood (2007) P. T. Anderson
  4. Lord of the Rings (2001-03)  Peter Jackson | The Pianist (2002) Roman Polanski
  5. The New World (2005) Terrance Malick | Dancer in the Dark (2000) Lars von Trier
  6. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) Wes Anderson | The Royal Tennenbaums (2001) Wes Anderson
  7. All the Real Girls (2002) David Gordon Green | Memento (2000) Christopher Nolan
  8. Waltz with Bashir (2008) Ari Folman | Adaptation (2002) Spike Jonze
  9. In the Mood For Love (2000) Kar Wai Wong | Big Fish (2003) Tim Burton
  10. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2001) Ang Lee | ditto
  11. The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford (2007) Andrew Dominik | Zodiac (2007) David Fincher
  12. WALL-E (2008) Andrew Stanton | The Proposition (2005) John Hillcoat
  13. There Will Be Blood (2007) P. T. Anderson | Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) Wes Anderson
  14. Memento (2000) Christopher Nolan | The Prestige (2006) Christopher Nolan
  15. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) Guillermo del Toro | Elephant (2003) Gus Van Sant
  16. The Royal Tennenbaums (2001) Wes Anderson | A Beautiful Mind (2001) Ron Howard
  17. The Proposition (2005) John Hillcoat | Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) Guillermo del Toro
  18. The Prestige (2006) Christopher Nolan | About Schmidt (2002) Alexander Payne
  19. The Lives of Others (2007) Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck | Capote (2005) Bennett Miller
  20. Moulin Rouge (2001) Baz Luhrmann | Lost in Translation (2003) Sofia Coppola
  21. Donnie Darko (2001) Richard Kelly | American Splendor (2003) Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini

[ELIJAH ADDS] This is pathetic, but I have actually yet to see Children of Men, WALL-E, The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford, In the Mood for Love, Waltz with Bashir, The Lives of Others and  All the Real Girls. I’m guessing that my list would look much more similar to Sgt Grumbles’ if I had seen them.

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