A blog . . . in spite of how pathetic blogging actually is.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Admit It. When You Heard What Governor Blagojevich Did . . .

. . . you smiled!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My oh my.

What's that? You didn't smile? Sorry, but I don't believe you.

The Governor, as we all know, went and got himself into some majorly hot water earlier this month. He deserves all the public scorn he's getting (Before you jump my case, don't forget #5). Some of the tongue-lashing had even come from the appointee himself. But the Democratic caucus in the U.S. Senate and various members of Illinois' state government had to make sure their outrage was properly measured, so they started shooting off their mouths without looking at all the permutations on the chess board.

The Illinois Secretary of State won't certify any appointment made by the Governor.

The U.S. Senate won't seat (???) any appointment made by the Governor.

Yeah, OK . . . . way to paint an already mean dog into a corner everybody. Even Cesar Milan would throw his hands up if Rod Blagojevich inhabited a basset hound.

I fall back on a few cliches with my students. I've been teaching for 20 years. It's like trying to come up with new plotlines for another season of ER, sometimes you have to recycle some material. Anyway, one of my favorites is this: The scariest person coming toward you on the street is the person who's decided he has nothing left to lose.

In this case, that would be the current Governor of Illinois, wouldn't it?

What was it about those tapes that made everyone think he'd respond well to threats, that he wouldn't ultimately go ahead and fill the vacancy? Did I miss the part where he gave the appearance of being a rational human being?

Sure, we all wish, upon hearing those line-in-the-sand sermons on the mount from Illinois politicians and U.S. Senators, that we'd of said . . . . "Wait, what if the Governor appoints a scandal-free Black man (to a presently Black man-less U.S. Senate) who states outright that he's only interested in finishing off the last two years of the term? And what if this guy isn't mentioned on any of the criminal complaint tapes? And what if it's fairly apparent that, even though the Governor said he wasn't going to give the seat away for 'fucking nothing' he actually does give it away for fucking nothing? Wouldn't that mean that the Illinois Secretary of State and pretty much the entire U.S. Senate would be in what George Clooney's Everett once called, 'A tight spot'?"

But we didn't say this, and that's why, if we can get over ourselves for just a second, we should all stay in the present and enjoy the moment.

We should smile at his morbid brilliance. We DID NOT see that one coming. Touche' mon Blago!

The Governor will be impeached by Valentines Day. It may be a while before you get to see someone remotely like him again. Just go ahead and let yourself admire him for goodness sake.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The 2009 Predictions

NOTE: As of January 5, 2009, I'm 0 for 1.

The problem with making predictions for 2009 is that it’s apparently the first year to follow 2008. Back in my hometown of Cornell, Illinois (population: 505) we have a word for years like 2008. Let's keep things family friendly and not print it. [HINT: The first two syllables are "Cluster-" and the last syllable is a Tony Montana refrain.]

I used to sit down on or about this day and list off about 30-50 predictions for the coming year. It got to where I even had a little Web 1.0 following. I did badly, barely topping 50% accuracy from one year to the next. But, as one of my old college professors once told me: "If you make enough outlandish guesses about the future, you'll sound like a genius sooner or later." He was right. As it turned out, that was all I was doing (even if I didn't know it at the time). I just needed the one hit to look good, and I usually got it. For instance, number 54 was a particular source of pride a couple years ago (NOTE: I read a lot of media analysis as a function of my occasional part time job. The, uhhhh, 'topic' came up . . . and it made sense . . . so I made the prediction. Enough written).

2009 is about getting real, so I'll restart the tradition I've let slip for a couple years with one newly applied rule: No BS. Here's a list of forecasts that would make my former professor proud. Put another way, here's a list of guesses that are heartfelt as opposed to being a bunch of random attempts to (sooner or later) sound like a genius. I push it on a couple, especially the second Bernie Madoff one, but I stand by them all. If they were to happen at given points or over a phase of time during the coming year, I wouldn’t be able to look you in the eye and say I was surprised. On the contrary, I’d find each and every one of the items below to be the stuff of predictability (which is why I’m on going record in suggesting that they are actually going to happen).

With absolutely no organizational system applied to either order or importance, here are my predictions for 2009. (WARNING: Again, just to be clear, that's 2009. What you're about to read won't always be uplifting. Sorry.)

1—The record number of home foreclosures attained in 2008 will be broken in 2009. As it turns out, subprime is just the beginning. There are a host of other silly, irresponsible mortgage instruments out there that haven’t even come to the front of the line yet. We’ve just been too swamped by the really silly and irresponsible ones to notice that this isn’t a detached runaway traincar. It is, in fact, an entire train. My guess is that 2010 will be even worse, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I swear I’m really NOT trying to sound like a genius here. Do a little research. Talk to a few industry people who aren’t in denial (They tend to be the ones who’ve gotten out of the industry which makes them former industry people, I guess.) The whole thing actually is going to get worse before it gets better. Turns out this wasn’t just a cliché being dropped by all those experts you saw on CNBC.

2—The Dow will not go above 10,250. This is what it means to be in a recession. Granted, corporate America is sort of on sale right now. Really, there are some kick ass buys out there. You can recognize this without trying to give the appearance of being a genius. While we wallow in all the horrible-ness of the worst recession in (at least) two generations, the market tends to be an awesome predictor of what will be as opposed to what is. That’s why it won’t leave the mid-8000’s. Compared to where we were, the mid-8000’s is terrible, and terrible is where we deserve to be for an extended period of time. Later rather than sooner (let’s say around August or September) there’ll be enough boredom with the notion of spectating at the fire sale, and demand will start to outstrip the cautionary discipline that’s keeping things so low. Everyone will actually start to act on what they already know, namely that stocks are cheap and they should be bought while they’re cheap because one day they’ll be worth more. Even if capital gains start to be figured as regular income (a 2010 prediction if ever there was one, right?) money is still money so you might as well make it even if you’ll ultimately have to pay non-Bush taxes on it when you make it. I don’t think there’s a single thing here that makes me sound like a know-it-all. At the end of the day it's all about buying low and selling higher than low.

3---More bank failures will occur in 2009 as compared to the number of bank failures that occurred in 2008. Remember the general theme of what was discussed in #1 above? Take that and inject it with steroids. Again, we’ve been distracted by how bad things are now to pay any real attention to what’s coming (which is worse). If you thought Hank Paulson was suffering from a God complex with his “ye shall live and ye shall die” approach to concerns like AIG and Lehman Brothers, ye ain’t seen nothing yet. OK, that reads a little ‘know-it-all-ish’ but I swear it’s not. We’re really only a few months into this. It’s the same theme: We’ve been too awestruck by the badness of the now to properly pay attention to the badness that’s coming . . . and a lot of banks bet stupidly.

4—Unemployment will go over 8.8%. These things happen during major economic downturns. We shouldn't be surprised when they do. If I worry about anything, it’s that this number is way low. If I were trying to sound like a genius, I’d add a percentage point to it.

5—Rod Blagojevich will be removed from office via the impeachment process. He will not plead guilty to any criminal charges. He will not be convicted in a criminal trial. Look, from a criminal standpoint, it’s over. Fitzgerald did what he had to do in order to preserve the integrity of the Senate and give the incoming Administration and Congress a fighting chance at dealing with the worst economic crisis in 75 years, but he sacrificed his case in order to pave this road (I’m beginning to think he’s a Democrat which makes the whole thing just that much more ironic.) When an attorney of Fitzgerald’s ability level actually makes a public announcement during a press conference asking people “to come forward” if they know anything, that’s a pretty good bet he jumped the gun (which, again, was what he had to do). But Illinois' state government is paralyzed and will remain that way so long as Blago is in power. Impeachment isn’t a criminal mechanism; thus, it can be used to take someone out of office for being an asshole. There isn’t a person on the planet who thinks that Rod Blagojevich is innocent of being an asshole.

6—General Motors will declare bankruptcy. Ever take a real good look at what kind of shape this company is actually in? The situation is terminal. The Bush and Obama people know this. The union contracts have to be torn up. Mitch McConnell's motives may be south of pure in the grand old right-to-work state of Kentucky (the land of my birth and early upbringing) but that doesn't mean he was wrong. Finding sustainable solvency will be a lot more complicated than just undermining the UAW, but it starts there. Chapter 11 is the only way to take such a step. It’s like having a sore tooth that you know will require the dentist to fire up the drill. You can go about your days, hoping it’ll just go away. But, deep down, you know you’re going to have to make the appointment, fire up the nitrous oxide, take the needle in the mouth, and read (while legally stoned) the inspirational poster on the ceiling. GM’s share of the 17.4 billion dollars is like that gum numbing spray you can buy over the counter. We really are delaying the inevitable here. [Disclaimer: I get credit for this one if GM merges with a foreign owned company or if the Obama Administration bribes them with incentives to file for bankruptcy.]

7—Oil will stay under $50 a barrel in spite of OPEC production cuts designed to drive it to $75 a barrel. We’ll determine the accuracy of this one on December 31, 2009. I’m not saying it won’t peak up over 50 every now and then, but supply and demand is an incredibly simple concept that’s central to how this market works no matter what experts declare. For all the reasons given and a few of the ones yet to be given, demand will drop in a way that trumps production cuts. So I get credit for this one if it’s at $49.99 or less on 12/31/09. [Disclaimer: If India and Pakistan start a shooting war with one another then I get to adjust this to 80 dollars a barrel]

8— [WRONG] The Indianapolis Colts will win the Super Bowl. It’s Peyton’s turn, and they’re playing kick ass football at the right time. Watch out for the Ravens, though.

9—The Detroit Red Wings will win a second straight Stanley Cup. This will be the only good thing to happen in the entire city of Detroit for all of 2009. Also, I'm hoping to see my beloved Blackhawks finally end their years of wandering in the wilderness and have a nice little playoff run themselves.

10—The Chicago Cubs will not make the post season. We’ve lost nine straight playoff games, prospective new owner Mark Cuban is the subject of an SEC probe, the Tribune Company is bankrupt, and we’re even poised to become ancillary to the list of topics central to Blago-gate. The glass slipper has gone pumpkin. Check back in 2010 or 2011. What’s the half life of the most virulent chemical found in goat shit?

11—The New York Yankees will not make the World Series. Making the World Series is the only standard of success for a team that’s spent like a bunch of good old boys at an AIG (post bailout) corporate retreat. Small ball is here to stay. I don’t think you can buy mega-talent as a means of getting to the Fall Classic any longer. Like the real world, (baseball) things are changing. [NOTE: It's impossible to write about baseball without sounding like a know-it-all, but the prediction is based in sound analysis of America's passtime. NOTE II: I don't believe in hate, but if I did, the Yankees would be at the front of the recipient line].

12—Barack Obama’s approval rating will not go below 53%. He’s just too popular and the degree to which people comprehend how bad things are will extend his honeymoon late on into the year. Forget 100 days. Try 300, at least. So even if he begins to hemorrhage some popularity, he’s well buffered. This one hit me in the wake of the Blagojevich scandal. The stuff that used to stick doesn't stick to Barack Obama. That's a good thing because we're in need of rationality (which is rarely supported from an intellectual standpoint by a 24 hour news cycle's appetite for content). Hopefully, the whole thing won't go to their heads (but if it does, then you'll see some stuff start to stick).

13—A record number of car dealerships will go out of business in 2009. Talk to ANYONE in the business. This prediction is pretty much like me suggesting the N.Y. Giants will beat the 5th place finishers in the Chester, Pennsylvania Pop Warner football league. It’s going to happen, and that’s about all there is to it. If I wanted to go all 'know-it-all' on you I'd say (for even money) that it'll happen by September 15th, but I'm not. I'll play it safe and just take the whole year to see it come true. I should be ashamed of this one because of its amazing no brainer status.

14—An act (or coordinated series of acts) of “soft target terrorism” will occur on U.S. soil resulting in the loss of at least fifty lives. Don’t feel superior to Mumbai. Don’t comfort yourself by believing something like that couldn’t happen here. If nineteen people can take down 4 commercial airplanes on the same day then forty guys with explosives under their coats can walk into the stands of forty high school football games on a Friday night and detonate at an agreed upon time. Soft target terrorism is the new frontier. Airports are too much trouble and the nation can be crippled just as easily by going this route. When Joe Biden suggested there was a likelihood of a major terrorist attack on U.S. soil in the first year of an Obama presidency, everyone reacted to the comment in the context of how it affected the campaign, but no one actually took the time to discuss what he said. That's a shame. It's a conversation we should be having. Bill Clinton gave an interview shortly after 9/11 where he summed up Al Qaeda in a way we should all strive to keep near the surface of our thoughts. In his typically eloquent yet accessible style he pointed out that Bin Laden's soldiers were most skilled at recognizing the seams in our security and exploiting them for maximum damage. One doesn't have to spend any time in a Waziri training camp to find soft target seams. One only needs the will to exploit them. We've been living on borrowed time for nearly eight years. Our number is up.

15—More U.S. Soldiers will die in Iraq in 2009 as compared to 2008. As the draw down begins, so too will the resurgence of killing. It’s the way of war: 1943, the Vietnamization phase, etc. What’s left of the insurgency, be it in its dying days or in the midst of a Taliban-like reconstitution (NOTE: It's too soon to tell), the recipe will be the same: Make sure that they (the U.S.) exit in a way that makes them look like they’re weak (even if they’re not) no matter what the cost. I don't honestly know if the insurgency will be successful in its effort, but I do know its members are willing to die trying (and, by extension, kill more of our people than they did this year).

16—Talk radio ratings will increase in 2009 as compared to 2008 while, at the same time, independent polling will demonstrate an increased degree of disconnect between what’s advocated on talk radio and actual voter behavior. In other words, talk radio will become more profitable and more a traditional form of entertainment media (and less a traditional form of news media) . . . simultaneously. In a way this is already happening. Conservative talk radio is stylistically copied by liberal talk radio. The format is based on the Clinton-impeachment-grounded method of identity politics and formulaic partisan denunciation (and while the right is still predominant from a frequency-leasing standpoint, the left is growing its listenership by stealing the right's methodology). It’s entertaining stuff, principally because it creates an emotional connection to the product without requiring the consumer to do a great deal of thinking. Rush Limbaugh deserves every penny of his new $400,000,000 contract. The format is more profitable than ever, but it no longer matters in the way it once did. Might I recommend you Google “2008 economic crisis” as well as “2008 election results” if you think I’m wrong. Shows that tend to focus on studied analyses of complex events will be the emergent winners in the news media game. This is a good thing. Nothing quite like an economic crisis when it comes to people wanting to be smarter than they've allowed themselves to be.

17—Bernard Madoff will not spend a single night in a state of incarceration. It takes too long to prepare for a trial like the one he’s going to have and he’s already posted bail. Also . . .

18— . . . Bernard Madoff will commit suicide. Let’s just leave this one right at the edge of my effort to not try and get lucky and sound like a genius. I’ve got a feeling. That’s all I’ll say. I get one, don't I? Awww hell, I admit it, I have no willpower.

19—Independent polling will reveal that over 50% of Americans believe that George W. Bush was the worst President in their lifetimes. And don't be surprised if that number for those who identify themselves as Republicans is over 35%. We'll see. I'm planning a future post on the new divide in the GOP. I'm not talking so much about the growing rift between the social conservative wing and the fiscal conservative wing as much as the gaping chasm that's already formed between suburban Republicans and rural Republicans (SNEAK PEAK: The rural Republicans appear to be the ones who are staying true to the party's core principles . . . but that's for another post)

20—U.S. Supreme Court Justices Souter and Stevens will either retire or announce their retirements. They’ve both wanted out for a while, and now the coast is clear.

21—Barack Obama will not be successful in any effort he undertakes to quit smoking. Most people who’ve smoked for as long and as much as he has fail when they try to quit. Mr. Obama is no different. Recovering alcoholics and drug addicts are often encouraged to smoke. It helps to take the edge off of the reality that’s pummeling your soul into the ground. Anyone who would willingly allow himself to be sworn in as President of the United States in 2009 should be afforded all the edge-removing behaviors of a recovering alcoholic and/or drug addict. Just don't do it in front of the girls, the puppy, or the general public.

22—Chris McCormack will win the Ironman World Championship. Back to non-smokers. This guy’s the most formidable iron-distance athlete in the world. He had a mechanical failure on his bike this past year. The odds of that happening again are next to zero. I saw him break 8 hours in Frankfurt this past July. He's a freak of nature.

23—Lance Armstrong will win an 8th Tour de France. Does anyone doubt he can do it? Most hard core cycling geeks agree that he left the sport with two or three additional titles still in his legs. Surely he’s good for one more. The guy falls into that rarest of categories, the one where conventional wisdom, as it applies to limitations, should be thrown out the door. Also, even though I love the French (and, more importantly, France) if there's any truth to the stereotype about them not liking him . . . well . . . it would be freaking sweet to stick it to them (on this one).

24--Iranian President President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will not be re-elected in the summer. His popularity is dropping like George W. Bush in the final summer of a second term (aka, He's not popular and getting less so by the day). Why? He can't deliver the perks he once used to opium-ize the masses when oil was $100 a barrel. Also, he's an asshole like Rod Blagojevich [and his incredibly young nation is waking up to said fact]. Hopefully I'll get credit for this one as a result of the electoral process (which is set to take place in June) and not because of some 30th anniversary redux.

The last two are for me. Sorry if this comes off as self aggrandizing.

25—This one’s personal. If you ask, I may discuss it in a face to face setting, but I won’t discuss it here. It’s business. The prediction is this: I will successfully repackage the first product and make a concerted effort to sell it. I will produce a second product as well as a third product and undertake independent efforts to sell them both. I have all the external affirmation I need to move into this chapter and undertake the challenge. The success I've experienced in life has always derived from a combination of knowing I was talented enough to do what I felt I could do (along with knowing that far less talented people were already doing it), throwing caution to the wind by diving into the endeavor, and hard work. I'm ready to throw those ingredients into the blender and press the button.

26—I’m hemming and hawing about including this last one, but it would be nice to have something to reference with the click of a mouse. So, assuming reasonable conditions (temperature between 66 and 72 degrees, winds of no more than 12 miles per hour, no rain), on September 13, 2009, at the 8th annual Ironman Wisconsin, I think I can . . . .

. . . . come out of the water in under 70 minutes

. . . . get through transition 1 one in under 8 minutes

. . . . get through the bike course in under 5 hours and 50 minutes (just over 19.2 miles per hour)

. . . . get through transition 2 in under 4 minutes

. . . . get through the run course in under 3 hours and 48 minutes (just over 8:41 pace)

. . . . which will put me at just under 11 hours for the day. [NOTE: I get credit for an accurate prediction, regardless of the accuracy of the breakdown goals, if this last one holds up.]

OK, that about does it. Please drop me an email when you see one of these come up, irrespective of my accuracy. I need oversight. Other than #18, I think I've lived up to the no BS standard. Obviously, I'm hoping to be wrong on a number of them . . . but I genuinely fear that I won't be. On the other hand, I'm really hoping to be right on several of them (especially the last two along with, admittedly, #23).

I wish you all a most pleasant 2009.~JDJ

Monday, December 29, 2008

Day Three In the Same Clothes: Get Ready

I expect to finally fly out of Cincinnati in a few hours. My luggage has been in Milwaukee since Saturday, but the extra time here has been well worth my while. The Delta overnight kit is quite nice, the hotels have been awesome, and I'm sitting on $1,300 in free plane tickets.

My time at the Sheraton has taught me the following:

1--In the grand debate between Packers GM Ted Thompson and former Packers (current Jets) quarterback (and future hall of famer) Brett Favre, the winner is Chad Pennington.

2--I'm probably a couple weeks away from polishing off season one of Jericho (while riding my bike in preparation for Ironman Wisconsin), and I'm totally geeked to start season 4 of Lost. I should note here that I watch ALL of my non-news/non-sports/entertainment-based television while riding my bike from roughly November through mid April of every year. Anyway, the balance to Lost has been found. Have you guys heard of Californication? I just saw one episode here last night. Wow. That's some amazing writing.

3--Can I still consider myself a movie buff if I haven't seen a single film on someone's top ten list?

4--The next time you're in Covington, Kentucky, do yourself a favor and dine at Nu/Vo. You won't be disappointed.

5--I'm bringing back a tradition in a day or so. Get ready for The 2009 Predictions. It promises to be intellectually stimulating.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Say What You Will About Chip Saltsman

I know smart people who also happen to be Republicans, and I'm yet to meet a single one (willing to discuss the topic in an open and honest manner) who isn't just slightly south of terrified by the issues inherent to Chip Saltsman's less than tasteful decision.

If you're a Democrat, shut the hell up (You only stand to hurt yourself by chiming in on this one).

If you're a Republican, don't hate on Chip Saltsman. On the contrary, thank him. He put it out there (even if that wasn't his actual intent). You all need to come to terms with what he put out there. Villify Chip Saltsman all you want, but the issues will remain after his 15 minutes are up.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Delay My Trip Home, Please

Goodness, goodness, goodness. I'm still in Cincinnati. I was supposed to come home today, but I'm still here.

And that's OK.

Maybe I'll get out of here tomorrow, maybe not.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

We Are Unranked

And that's just fine.

Sooooooooooooooo looking forward to my first Big Ten Basketball season with the Big Ten Network being pumped into my home (for free . . . and legally).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Join Me, Won't You?

I woke up this morning and realized I was fried. I need a break from news. I used to do this every year, twice a year, without fail. But I slipped over the course of the past few years and, simply put, didn't do it.

Time for a news blackout.

I'm going to do my absolute best to ignore news until 2009. I can follow sports, weather, etc. But no news. I'm flying to Cincinnati in a couple hours (Mother Nature and the NTSB willing). I just threw my newspaper, Newsweek, and both issues of the Economist on the recycle pile. Just a book ('My Ishmael' by Daniel Quinn) and a hard drive with a few screenplays on it.

I may still post. If something huge happens would one of you email me? Thanks.

John Jacobson

Friday, December 19, 2008

When did this happen?

Paul Krugman Bogarted my last post, but there are a few questions that ought to be raised in the wake of all this.

Can you feel it? Do you sense, like I do, that there are more than a few people out there who will condemn Mr. Madoff publicly, but, without admitting it to anyone, admire him just a little bit in private?

When did this happen? When did the right co-opt the left's ability to criticize the desire to acquire wealth? Seriously, play the familiar tape to the end (Actually, that cliche' needs to change: So instead, play the familiar mp3 file to the end):

A-A guy makes a lot of money in the financial sector.

B-Everyone assumes the guy is smart.

C-Everyone assumes the guy worked hard and, as a result, EARNED his money . . . irrespective of the fact it might be, by conventional middle class standards, an obscene amount that wasn't really earned in the classical sense of adding value.

D-Someone, ostensibly a little left of center, criticizes the guy, the system that allowed the guy to earn such an enormous amount of money, or both.

E-The left-of-center-critic just mentioned in 'D' (hitherto referred to as LOCC) is, in turn, criticized by the right (and even a goodly number of souls on the left) as being out of touch, probably a socialist, etc.

F-Most people (on the left and the right) assume LOCC is just a tad naive . . . and, although we'd dare not say it publicly, a little jealous because he's clearly not as smart (and probably not as hard working) as the guy who made a lot of money in the financial sector.

My questions: [1] When did this happen? [2] Why did it happen? [3] Whose fault is it? I'm going to comment on my own post with a round of answers. I ask you to feel free to do the same.

We're All Out of Order

[Really Pathetic Blogger's Note: I was intending to write a longer version of what you see below, but then I got beat to the punch by some Nobel Prize winner. Upon reading his piece this morning, I stopped working on my post immediately as he (not surprisingly) says better what I had wanted to convey. The trigger point in his piece that iced the theme of my piece, comes in the last four paragraphs of what he wrote, but I recommend you read the whole thing. He's damn good. On a personal note, this is a really cool thing you can do in the pathetic world of blogging because you're your own boss, albeit for a company that makes no money, but you get to do whatever you want. It's a snow day at Shorewood High School. Like I want to write???]

Here's what I'd written before I stopped . . . .

On second thought, it would appear that Senator McCain was right, SEC Chairman Chris Cox should be fired. As the epic realities of the Madoff scheme come to light, there can be no other conclusion. If Chris Cox were a high school civics teacher, someone paid to perform a duty that involves, at its core, the conveyance of the principles of our democracy to a room full of teenagers, then the final exam would only be fair if it asked those young learners to construct haikus about their favorite flavors of ice cream. The correlation between job description and actual job product is, as far as I can tell, fairly judged in this hypothetical scenario---at least by the standards we now have to use for the SEC in the wake of a $50,000,000,000 fraud that has allowed me to do something I never thought I'd get to do: In the great net worth competition being played out in America's final weeks of being seen as a primarily capitalist society, I can now say that I just passed up a few a dozen people whose respective estates were at least eight figures a piece, and I can say that I did it in a day . . . and I can say that I did it by essentially standing still. My net worth is decent, but not high enough to qualify for the Madoff club. Lucky me.

It's happened . . . to a number of people. You're worth 15 million dollars one day, and then you're eligible for food stamps the next. Sure, it's easy to harden the shell and feel no sympathy. Caveat emptor. If it's too good to be true, it's not . . . dumbasses. What were you thinking when you saw year-in, year-out returns that, statistically speaking, were impossible? You remind me of the mathematically illiterate tour de force that argued, just over eight years ago, that a margin of 537 votes out of just under 6,000,000 was a plausibly acceptable definition for electoral victory. I mean, have you ever seen 537 people gathered together in a room? That's a lot! (NOTE: This argument was actually made to me by a friend who has a medical degree from a prestigious university in the United States of America.)

I get it.

Mathematical illiteracy (even when used as a crutch by otherwise intelligent people) is a convenient way of putting the whole thing to rest at a time when the majority of us who live down here in the seven figure, six figure, five figure, and four figure net worth categories . . . have plenty of other matters over which to expend our stress. It got to be like the Wild West out there (the U.S. financial sector) and, like most chapters in this Wild West drama of the U.S. economy, it has consequences for us all. Ol' Doc Jones' stall of horses is still missing even if we did catch that Madoff rustler, and now we'll have a harder time getting medicines for the sick folk in town.

It leaves me with the feeling that something is profoundly wrong here. [At the 4:16 point of the epic scene, Al Pacino says it all]

Madoff did this over the course of more than just the Bush Administration. Democrats and Republicans alike have this blood on their hands. We're all out of order. How does this happen? Where does trust go when it can't be a part of the U.S. economic infrastructure?

------[Communication terminated by Dr. Krugman's Nobelly mind and just overall level of awesomeness]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I win


Friday, December 12, 2008

Now we're getting pathetic!

Forget Illinois politics.

This is the most important weekend of the year.

Why? Look at this, then this, and finally this!

This is my year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blago-gate Hits Home

'Impeach Blagojevich' signs are common in my home town.

Here's why.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

My worst fear come true.

I had a feeling it was him.

Here's the tragedy: It doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter if he's telling the truth or not. He's not going to be the next Senator from the great state of Illinois (and he would have made a good one, I'm convinced).

I'm just so sad. Really, I am. This is all genuinely sad.

Day Two

Scott Turow, the attorney turned successful novelist, offers some raw information and genuine perspective in this piece.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

It's . . . true

Saddens me to write it, but this (which is hilarious) is a decent description of my home state's political culture.

The hair alone is worthy of a grand jury and a pot of coffee.

Who the hell is candidate 5?

Oh dear, dear, dear . . . . this is getting messy, messy, messy.

Glad I didn't drop this name

I could have, but that's another story.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

To Name Drop, Or Not To Name Drop

I have an degree in education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We're in the Big Ten. We're big. We're one of the eleven schools in the conference. It's all there for anyone who can read.

We're land grant. We do for the local economy what any military base does for its immediate environment . . . just without the weekend passes and subsequent strip clubs.

We're the center of the show otherwise known as the University of Illinois system, which, along with the rest of the state's public universities, boasts a surprisingly tight knit group of education colleges. Sooner or later, everyone knows everyone else, or, at worst, everyone knows someone who knows a particular someone else. For instance, I know one of Tony Romo's professors. Tony Romo, like a lot of quarterbacks at Eastern Illinois University, thought it best to prepare for something other than a career in the NFL. Apparently teaching crossed his mind for at least a class or two. I've tried to get notes to Jessica Simpson through these degrees of separation, but my cousin in Cincinnati knows a guy who knows Nick Lachey, and he's still clearly not ready to let me have any contact.

Healing takes time, and sometimes we say things we don't mean. I apologize, Nick. I never should have asked.

Amidst 38,000 U of I undergrads, anytime I needed anything, I'd just pop in on my adviser (who also happened to be the dean of the college). Worse, I'd do it unannounced. Charm? Maybe. Taking advantage of the tight knittedness? You bet. The relationship we formed was special. I could say things to her that perplexed me, confused me, tormented me. By the end, she was more of a counselor than anything.

I could even say things to her that I didn't mean, and she'd forgive me.

There were others in the College of Education: Powerful intellectuals, role models in the land of perpetual thought experiment. They taught me to fear the lecture, to make student engagement the 'thing' [as it were], to develop even a little bit of contempt for the traditional classroom. You can be a political moderate and also be a teacher, but if you want to be a good teacher in the 21st century, your angle on the job preparation better be progressive, or it's over before you've even started. It might be that so many teachers get branded as liberals because, in order to be any good at teaching, you have to be anything but traditional in terms of your professional world view.

After I graduated, one of the most influential professors I had took a new position within the system but away from the line-of-sight abundant cornfields of downstate Illinois. He went to UIC (The University of Illinois-Chicago, not to be confused with its faux Ivy semi-namesake, the University of Chicago where the President-elect taught constitutional law). It was at UIC that he met and got to know Bill Ayers. Through this connection I met Dr. Ayers several years ago. In fact, I knew who Bill Ayers was before I'd even heard of Barack Obama. Before the President elect was a 'skinny guy with a funny name', Dr. Ayers was the 'Weather Underground' guy. But that title didn't remain for long. Pretty soon, he came to be known as the educational genius guy.

Spend five minutes with Bill Ayers and tell me if you can find the word terrorist anywhere on your mental radar. I dare you, one rational person to another. But I don't need to be his apologist. He's now cleared his own air in a predictably eloquent manner consistent with the style and grace I've come to expect of him. I can write these words and stand before you as someone who also doesn't condone the manner in which he chose to protest the Vietnam War. I get to do this because it's what rational people get to do. They also get to expect that other rational people will take them at face value.

I'm saying (writing) something that I do mean, and I don't need anyone's forgiveness because there's nothing wrong with saying (writing) it.

A few of us 'in the know' (I'll let them come out on their own as it's only my place to do so for myself) used to laugh out loud when we'd hear Governor Palin talk about Bill Ayers. We sat, drop-jawed, when America watched as Saturday Night Live took an entirely different approach to its candidate-as-guest formula and vindictively mocked her from less than fifteen feet away (Go to 1:07 remaining for the most Really Pathetic Blog relevant moment). I remember calling a friend the next day and saying, "It's not taking." His only response was to tell me that there was already a deal in the works to do a second printing of Ayers' book. We'd shake our heads in flagrant condescension toward anyone who'd fix a meaningful and attentive eye on one of the Obama-Ayers ads (even though the McCain people had the good sense to stop short of broadcasting the worst one of all).

It's a long road to post-partisan America. Since being elected, Barack Obama has called in several Senate markers to spare Joe Lieberman from a Democratic Party tar and feather jamboree, put Eric Holder (a Reagan appointed federal judge) in charge at Justice, kept Secretary Gates (a Bush appointee), put a moderate Republican in the most vital cabinet position of the day, and 'team-of-rivaled' his biggest rival of all.

And he met with his opponent. Snubbing him would have been bad politics for a guy who wants to change Washington. After all, things are a mess. There's no time to worry about healing. And two guys who ran against each other for President surely said some things they didn't mean along the way. It might not be realistic for President elect Obama to go out to every senior citizen in the U.S. and apologize, but I wonder, in the case of Senator McCain, since he could actually pull it off . . . ???

Probably not, and maybe it's best left that way. You can be sure that Dr. Ayers, who took the only rational path available (aka, shut up and stay low) when he "saw no viable path to a rational discussion," doesn't expect it to happen either.

In the meantime, I'll just keep enjoying the ride as the guy who tried to get into contact with Jessica Simpson via a professor at EIU only to be thwarted by my cousin representing Nick Lachey. All of that took place after having gone through the trenches working for John McCain in 2000, around about the same time I got to know Bill Ayers, several years before working for Barack Obama in 2008.


There's no truth to the rumor that I have a dry erase board in my office with a picture of me in the center of a real world Kevin-Bacon-game, person-to-person connection matrix. No truth at all. But yes, I can get to Prime Minister Putin in three.

Now, about the time I met Kareem Abdul Jabar at O'Hare airport when I was nine years old, he was carrying this really exotic piece of luggage that . . . .

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Enter The Really Pathetic Blog Minnesota U.S. Senate Pool!

This bad boy's going to the U.S. Supreme Court. I can feel it.

So, here are the rules.

Enter the pool by commenting on this post (Please use your real name so we know who you are. You can enter your name under the 'Anonymous' option if you want.)

Guess at the following (Label each answer in your comment, please):

1--In whose favor will the U.S. Supreme Court rule? (Coleman or Franken): 10 points for a correct pick.

2--What will be the U.S. Supreme Court vote count? (i.e. 5 to 4, 7 to 2, etc.): 10 points for a correct pick (A 2 point penalty for every vote you miss it by up to 5 votes total which would put you at zero for this category).

3--What will be the legally recognized margin of victory in the Minnesota popular vote as a result of the Supreme Court's decision (A 0.1 point penalty for every vote you miss it by up to 100 votes total which would put you at zero for this category).

The winner gets a can of Campbell's Tomato Soup, paid for entirely out of The Really Pathetic Blog's operating budget.

Enter now! Once the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, no additional entries will be accepted!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Jeff Spicoli scoops actual journalists in the real world

When you first watched 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' . . . .

. . . . did you ever think he would get to this point? Damn!

Monday, December 1, 2008


I try to keep it light here. At least . . . that's my goal. But, every now and then, I have this need to share that which I find to be profound.

Please watch or read this (and make sure you do both parts).