Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday's Quote: More Conservatism

Last Sunday featured a solid quotable from someone I chose to not identify.  Recently I came across another good one during a spare moment from a classic I bought some time ago (and regrettably have yet to finish):

"Here at the Spawn of Satan convention in Boston, [C]onservatives are deploying a series of covert signals to identify one another, much like gay men do.  My allies are the ones wearing crosses or American flags.  The people sporting shirts emblazoned with the 'F-word' are my opponents.  Also, as always, the pretty girls and cops are on my side, most of them barely able to conceal their eye-rolling."
-- Ann Coulter, from her "Put the Speakers in a Cage" column (July 26, 2004) that USA Today opted not to publish.  It is now available in the afterward of "How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)" paperback edition [p. 424-425].

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

On This Day in History: January 28

1985 -- Featuring a slew of world renowned singers and entertainers, USA for Africa (United Supporters of Artists for Africa) recorded "We Are the World" to raise funds for Ethiopian famine relief.  Debuting several weeks later on March 7, the song topped the charts in nine countries and sold more than four million copies, ultimately raising over $44 million for its humanitarian fund.

1986 -- Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated over the Atlantic Ocean at 11:39 AM (EST), just 73 seconds after liftoff from Launch Complex 39-B of the Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida.  It was the twenty-fifth shuttle mission for NASA, and the tenth for Challenger itself.  The catastrophe grounded the space program for nearly three years.

Although it is commonly thought the crew died the moment the disaster occurred, some believe the astronauts might have been alive within the detached cabin up to the point they hit the ocean surface at more than 200 mph, far beyond any impact that could have been survived.

"[Commander Dick Scobee] fought for any and every edge to survive.  He flew that ship without wings all the way down ... they were alive."
-- Robert Overmyer, NASA lead investigator

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Gore's prose about the coming apocalypse

President Obama is giving his State of the Union address as I write this.  It's a good speech, as expected, prevalent with centrist conviction and well-timed touches of humor.  And yet, amid our President's oratory charge to change our future -- Yes we can indeed! -- my mind hearkens to a fellow native Tennesseean, Al Gore.

By now you are well-aware of his global warming crusade, which at present seems to possess as much validity as the global cooling advocacy of the 1970s.  But Gore marches on, going so far as to compose a poem about his impassioned venture to change the world.  Here it is, and prepare to shed a few tears (from laughter, perhaps):

One thin September soon, A floating continent disappears, In midnight sun / Vapors rise as, Fever settles on an acid sea, Neptune's bones dissolve / Snow glides from the mountain, Ice fathers flood for a season, A hard rain comes quickly / The dirt is parched, Kindling is placed in the forest, For the lightening's celebration / Unknown creatures, Take their leave unmourned, Horsemen ready their stirrups / Passion seeks heroes and friends, The bell of the city, On the hill is rung / The shepherd cries, The hour of choosing has arrived, Here are your tools

There is no need to add anything humorous.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A "New South" indeed

This is what I get for listening to The Howard Stern Show -- 

It was brought to my attention, just today, that the LGBT publication The Advocate came out with its list of the 15 "gayest" cities in the U.S.  And coming in at #1 is Atlanta, Georgia.

Says the article, "...Atlanta is undoubtedly our gayest city -- with 29 gay bars here, there's a reason it's dubbed Hotlanta.  Atlanta's several queer events includes one of the nation's largest Prides in October (returning to Piedmont Park this year), and MondoHomo, a May event celebrating art, drag, burlesque, film, and BBQ."

I'm sure Franklin Garrett and Lewis Grizzard would be thrilled.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A lovable group of Jackass(es)

The third installment of the Jackass movie franchise, tenatively entitled Jackass 3D, was scheduled to begin filming today with a theater release targeted for October 15.

Perhaps this should fall under the "Guilty Pleasures" label, but the hell these lunatics endure just to make us laugh, and themselves wealthy -- the first two movies' combined domestic take exceeded $164 million on smallish production budgets -- is worthy of note for doing things that would never enter my mind.  Hopefully nobody dies.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday's quote: Conservatism

Perhaps the most valid question(s) one can be asked will center upon his or her chosen ideology.  Because we may know what we believe, but are unsure of why we believe it, and thus, end up unintentionally incapable of defending a perspective that is quite possibly accurate, we sometimes leave the responsibility of defining our mindset to the opposition.

So why Conservatism?

Instead of offering a lengthy essay about the only -ism I choose to follow, today's quote comes from an individual I've chosen to not identify in order to keep the focus on the statement, which could only come from a Conservative, and not the person who disclosed it:

"Americans have always understood that this nation is unique among nations in the long march of human history, and as we speed into the next century, we seem to be at a crossroads.  We are worried that with so many things out of whack; the traditions and institutions that made America great are under attack, standards continue to be lowered, so many minds seem clouded by the fog of liberalism.

So let's stay positive; the personal freedoms we still enjoy; the widespread prosperity and bounty unimaginable in any other time and place; the innovations and progress in medicine, technology, communication, science, business, and more; the standard of living never before attained by so many among a nation's citizens ... we wonder, will it last?

The questions remain.  What will ensure that America continues?  Can our culture be reclaimed?  How can we stay free in the next century?  While people of other countries have been restricted to pursue prosperity, only a Conservative would ask how we can STAY prosperous and free in the 21st century.

A liberal would whine that only a few are prosperous -- the evil rich who have somehow gotten rich off the backs of the poor.  Liberals don't notice, or understand freedom.  They see victims; the oppressed, the downtrodden, and the have-nots.  America has had the original ideas of self-government and self-reliance; for which we must thank our Founding Fathers."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

So how did Scott Brown pull off the upset?

On Monday, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann referred to the not-yet-elected Scott Brown as "an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, tea-bagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees."

No Right Winger could ever hope for a more ringing endorsement.  Thanks Keith.  You're the best.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Just Thinking Out Loud: Jennifer Anniston

So Brad Pitt up and left for another woman who's basically a farm animal compared to you.  Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Happy birthday, my General

Born 203 years ago today near the present-day town of Montross, Virginia (in the same county as George Washington), Robert Edward Lee was a distinguished West Point graduate, a respected U.S. Army Colonel, and one of history's most celebrated Generals -- no matter what his detractors say.

Consequent to the secession of States, Robert E. Lee was Abraham Lincoln's first choice to command the Federal Army.  Colonel Lee declined, preferring to side with his home State, which eventually abdicated despite his personal wish for Virginia to remain with the Union.

In the end Lee garnered universal respect, even among his most impassioned adversaries.  Not the least among them was Ulysses S. Grant, whose lieutenants personally saluted Lee upon his formal surrender at Appomattox.  General Lee returned the extolment, in part, by discouraging his fellow secessionists from pursuing a guerrilla campaign to continue the war, advocating instead the reconciliation of the North and South.

So much more can, and has been, said about this man.  Yet I will leave it as this:

"He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a soldier without cruelty; a victor without oppression, and a victim without murmuring.  He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without wrong; a neighbor without reproach; a Christian without hypocrisy; a man without guile.  He was a Caesar, without his ambition; Frederick, without his tyranny; Napoleon, without his selfishness; and Washington, without his reward."
-- Benjamin H. Hill [1823-1882], U.S. and Confederate Senator (D-Georgia), referring to General Robert E. Lee during an address before the Southern Historical Society in Atlanta, GA; February 18, 1874

Monday, January 18, 2010

Lame Kitten

I found this rather fitting (despite the misplaced apostrophe).  With all the charisma of a detached, smug little brat who never wanted the UT job to begin with, I knew there was something about this guy that didn't feel right.  I hoped to be wrong, but at least now we know.

Best of luck to his predecessor... what's his name?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday's Quote: Martin Luther King, Jr.

NAACP chairman Julian Bond -- a man cut from the same cloth as your typical race pimp, demagogue, and problem profiteer -- spoke earlier tonight at Washington and Lee University about his former teacher at Morehouse College, Martin Luther King, Jr.  Below is an e-mail I sent last Wednesday to one of W&L's administrators:

I am writing in respectful dissent to Sunday's speaker at Lee Chapel, a man who was once quoted in The New York Times as saying, "If Robert E. Lee had his way, [Black children] would still be in bondage."

I understand that Mr. Bond was once a student of Martin Luther King's during his time at Morehouse College (which is why he is speaking).  Yet I am also of the inclination that an individual who has spoken with such acute negativity about those who painstakingly laid the foundation that has long established our identity -- and in doing so, looks past the imperfections of those he personally places on a pedestal -- will perhaps endeavor to reference progress by making his case for issues pertaining to everything from reparations for "back slave wages," the "dark underside" of the GOP, the "Confederate swastika," and the Obama administration itself.

I'm not an alumnus; I am merely a thankful admirer of the men -- two of the greatest this country will ever produce -- for whom your esteemed institution is named.  I hope that W&L officials will admonish Mr. Bond to mind his manners in an effort to keep from using his forum as a means of expressing his antipathy in regard to our Defenders whom the majority will always hold as chief among all American heroes.

There are those who would rush to label my message as bigotry and/or racist, and maybe that ought to shake me more than it does.  Perhaps the mere threat of being called a name should rock my very foundation, but it does not.  In fact I could take such charges as a compliment upon considering the source.
Indeed I refuse the liability of past indiscretions for which I am not responsible irrespective of my ethnicity or the banners I choose to adorn.  And in the name of focusing on that which matters most...

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.; August 28, 1963

Friday, January 15, 2010

On This Day in History: January 15, 1870

In a satirical depiction of the Democrats' postmortem vilification of Edwin M. Stanton, a political cartoon by Thomas Nast published in Harper's Weekly ("A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion") used a donkey to portray the Democratic Party for the first time.

The symbolism stuck, and suffice it to say, the majority of those affiliated with these Leftists have acted as a bunch of asses for the past 140 years.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Iconic Shot: The Four Gospels

The cannons standing guard afront the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia (with a statue of VMI instructor Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson looking on) were originally used by the Confederate Army's Rockbridge Artillery.  First led by Captain William Pendleton, an Episcopalian minister, the four "six-pounders" were named Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John because "they spoke a strong Gospel."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Guilty Pleasures: Rush Limbaugh & Howard Stern

Though it wasn't my intention to feature any of the Guilty Pleasures so close together, the twelfth of January marks the shared birthday of the two men who are chiefly responsible for re-shaping the radio medium.

Known as firebrands of their own accord, Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern are provocative, charismatic, largely unconventional, and unapologetically opinionated, which is where their similarities end. And yes, I'm a modest listener of both.

Critics pass similar judgments on each conversationalist, and sometimes even the most cutting analysis is legitimate. The difference, however, arises from varying forms of fascination with each provocateur.

Stern is perceived as an entertainer, and thus allowed more leeway for mischief. But to hear Stern tell his side of the story, the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" was terrestrial radio's version of Nelson Mandela because station managers, Infinity Broadcasting, many listeners, and the FCC frowned upon his lowbrow witticisms, phony phone calls, and features such as Bestiality Dial-a-Date, the Homeless Game, Lesbian Dial-a-Date, the Mexican Delivery Guy Game, the Tickle Chair, and the Wheel of Sex. Oh the oppression!

"There were some really good-looking girls running with their hands over their heads. Did those kids try to have sex with any of those good-looking girls? They didn't even do that? At least if you're going to kill yourself and kill the kids, why wouldn't you have some sex? If I was going to kill some people, I'd take them out with sex."
-- Stern, commenting on the Columbine High School massacre; April 21, 1999

Limbaugh, on the other hand, carries the banner of Conservatism by taking it upon himself to challenge even the most hardcore Left Wing ideologues. However imperfect, Conservatives are held to a higher standard by their antagonists because the Right dares to endorse, and endeavor to maintain, their convictions without apology. Rush Limbaugh is among those at the forefront of this faction, and some people (who have never been the majority) hate that.

Stern has been with Sirius XM since January '06 after being all but forced to part ways with mainstream radio, while Limbaugh owns the AM side of the dial like never before. Both are rolling in similar amounts of cash thanks to audiences that still numbers in the seven- and eight-digit range, and just like those millions I'll be listening, however reluctantly, to both for years to come.

Note: To see a bit more about Stern, check out a post from last November.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The power of a needle

Earlier today, former MLB slugger Mark McGwire came clean (sort of) about his past steroid use after years of speculation and denials. Yet the surprise wasn't in the admission itself, but in the fact that the 12-time All-Star fessed up at all.

We are a forgiving society, especially of our athletic paragons, so the overall impact of this story will fade quickly. It seems that confession does cleanse the soul, as the Good Book says, although the extent of exactly how much performance-enhancing drugs amplified McGwire's statistics, and if he will ever be allowed a spot among the immortals in Cooperstown, is a debate for which a definitive forum could shed some light.

Additionally, if Barry Bonds -- whose career home run record has the biggest asterisk in all of sports
-- would man-up and follow McGwire's example, perhaps fans and the sports media would be more willing to accept, forgive, and move on to the next controversy. But until that day comes, Hank Aaron will remain the all-time home run king.

Hammerin' Hank might've had over 2,000 more at-bats than Babe Ruth, but he didn't cheat. For those who are being honest, it's not even a question.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday's Quote: The political duplicity of race & religion

C-SPAN recently broadcast Kasim Reed's (whose birthname is Mohammed) January 4 inaugural speech upon being sworn in as Atlanta's 59th mayor, defeating city councilwoman and Republican challenger Mary Norwood by less than 1% of the total vote.

In his address, Reed cited a story from the Old Testament book of Joshua
by which he drew a comparison between Hotlanta and "the Promised Land." And from this, I have to remind myself once more that only Democrats (Jackson, Sharpton, etc.) are allowed to make such remarks. Right Wingers who dare even a hint from the Holy Scriptures are held in violation of the "Separation of Church and State" clause often referenced by the Left, even though the idiom is found neither in the Constitution, nor State or Federal law.

Moments later, I watched a CNN interview with University of Syracuse professor (of finance) Boyce Watkins regarding Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's comments about then-Senator Barack Obama, referring to the young Illinois Senator as, "a 'light skinned' African-American with 'no Negro dialect' unless he wanted to have one,"* which comes on the heels of Reid likening the opponents of Obama's health care overhaul to those who resisted the emancipation of slaves.

Watkins never condemned Reid's statement; in fact he twice praised the Nevada Democrat. Undoubtedly such partisanship is to be expected if you've heard of Dr. Watkins before. As you may recall, Watkins made headlines about a year and a half ago when he called Bill O'Reilly a "borderline Klansman who graduated from the Rush Limbaugh School of Arrogant Self-Righteousness." Watkins concurrently labeled fellow Fox News and NPR contributor Juan Williams as "Bill O'Reilly's happy little Negro."

These statements speak for themselves, and although volumes could be written about the never-ending complexities upon which I have yet to even scratch the surface, I will defer instead to a distinguished voice from the past to sum it all up:

"Superstition, idolatry, and hypocrisy have ample wages, but truth goes a-begging."
-- Martin Luther (1483-1546), German priest and scholar who led the Protestant Reformation


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Guilty Pleasures: Charles Barkley

Sometimes right. Oftentimes wrong. Ever outspoken. He always fascinates with a perspective that can be as contorted as his legendary golf swing, but should I be preoccupied with the perspective of a guy who once put a leather ball through an iron hoop for a living?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bowl game blasphemy

Central Michigan and Troy are squaring off in the GMAC Bowl down in Mobile, Alabama as I write this. And it bugs me.

I have no issue with second and third tier bowl games, but for many decades the unwritten rule clearly stated that New Years was reserved for the upper echelon contests -- such as the Cotton, Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar bowls -- while the also-rans would get their shot during mid to late December in low dollar match-ups that change corporate sponsors practically every year.

Played from December 19-27, the St. Petersburg Bowl presented by Beef 'O' Brady's, the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, and the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl are but three examples of post-season games that know their place. Yet in an apparent reach to seem more significant than they really are, the, International, and GMAC bowls (played on January 2 and 6, respectively) have wedged themselves in with the big boys, and in doing so caused their bantam games to appear even more pedestrian than before.

Speaking of college football's "big boys," recently did a story about the 20 most valuable collegiate programs. Listed below is the ranking of each school, followed by the program's value (with profit margin in parenthesis).

1. Texas Longhorns -- $119 million ($59 million)
2. Notre Dame Fighting Irish -- $108 million ($38 million)
3. Pennsylvania State Nittany Lions -- $99 million ($50 million)
4. Nebraska Cornhuskers -- $93 million ($49 million)
5. Alabama Crimson Tide -- $92 million ($38 million)
6. Florida Gators -- $88 million ($41 million)
7. Louisiana State Tigers -- $86 million ($39 million)
8. Ohio State Buckeyes -- $85 million ($36 million)
9. Georgia Bulldogs -- $84 million ($45 million)
10. Oklahoma Sooners -- $83 million ($40 million)
11. Michigan Wolverines -- $81 million ($34 million)
12. South Carolina Gamecocks -- $80 million ($37 million)
13. Tennessee Volunteers -- $78 million ($29 million)
14. Auburn Tigers -- $70 million ($30 million)
15. Southern California Trojans -- $68 million ($33 million)
16. Michigan State Spartans -- $57 million ($28 million)
17. Arkansas Razorbacks -- $56 million ($20 million)
18. Texas A&M Aggies -- $52 million ($22 million)
19. Wisconsin Badgers -- $48 million ($17 million)
20. Oklahoma State Cowboys -- $47 million ($18 million)


Monday, January 4, 2010

MTV's "Jersey Shore"

I've always been curious about the Northeast.  Having never been further above the Mason-Dixon than Maryland, I know little except that the winters are long and brutal, the buildings are tall and stoic, the colleges are old and expensive, and the Democrat strongholds are beyond anything to which the GOP can compare (except for Texas and Utah).

I also know about the Northerners' notoriety for surliness.  Enter Jersey Shore, MTV's newest reality show; a series so crass that UNICO -- an Italian-American organization founded in 1922 -- called for MTV to pull the series before the first episode debuted.  And having recently wasted 10 minutes of my life watching this unabashed reinforcement of every imaginable stereotype, I now understand why.

It's unreasonable to base a general opinion of over 50 million people on television, movies, and even word-of-mouth (as I am equally aware of the South's reputation).  Yet I conclude without reservation that "DJ Pauly D," "JWoww," "Snooki," and "The Situation" have almost singlehandedly quelled any desire to explore their portion of the country.  God willing, I'll keep myself where I belong.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday's Quote: Happy New Year

"Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go."
-- Brooks Atkinson (1894-1984), longtime theater critic for the New York Times

Saturday, January 2, 2010

On the brink, pt. 2

Back in November, I wrote a brief post ("On the brink") about the 120 bank failures our financial system had weathered over the previous 11 months. And it did not stop there. The last seven closures reported by the FDIC on December 18 brought the final tally for the year to 140, the highest number in 17 years -- an appreciable contrast to the 30 banks shut down in 2008, but a far cry from the 2,484 closed between 1985-1992.

Although I'm no financial maven like Warren Buffett, Dave Ramsey, or former Wall Street Journal columnist Jonathan Clements, my five years in banking ('96-'01) has allowed some clique insight into the collective handling of loans, which is possibly foremost among the issues that engendered the present economic crunch.

Being pressed almost daily to make cross-selling for loan apps our main focus ultimately presented a system-wide conundrum, especially for one branch in particular that had suffered through a 93% decline rate for about 15 years. I know because I was assigned to that outpost (just down the street from Graceland) for 13 grueling months, and I'll never forget it. In short, the hindrances at hand were predominantly socioeconomic, creating a "chain of blame" that yielded more platitudes from management than answers.

My story is not unique. In fact workplace circumstances such as mine became the industry norm with tragic results despite lessons of the past that scream out to us still, and all because financial institutions nationwide overlooked sub-600 credit ratings and debt-to-income ratios that exceeded 36%. Indeed the circumvention of these two basic criteria (combined with out-of-control consumer debt-fueled spending) is asking for serious trouble, as any half-honest banker will tell you, and now we've got it.

Shenanigans from Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns notwithstanding, you can say what you want about compromised economic forecasts, sub-prime lending, deregulation, over-leveraging and collateralized debt. But it all starts with the conspicuous abuse of banking regulations (Regs D, G, T, & Z primarily) by instituting feebly justified alternatives -- adjustable-rate mortgages, for instance -- that merely amount to another form of predatory lending.

Until this culture of impropriety changes, we can expect the bad to get worse.