Tuesday, September 30, 2008

It's Still STILL The Economy, Stupid.

A quick follow up to my original post from this morning.

First - I just discovered that MY member of Congress, newly-elected Rep. Donna Edwards, voted against the bailout package, citing a large number of constituent emails opposing the proposal. Donna (may I call you Donna? Good.) - you have been elected to represent your consitituents, not to simply do their bidding. You know this bailout is needed, and when it comes up again, I hope you will do the right thing and vote for it. You may be elected to your first full term in November, but you should take a look at the bigger picture. If the economy goes in the tank because of the inaction of Congress this year, you're going to be out of a job two years from now.

Second - It's always cool to write an opinion in my blog, and then find someone in the Washington Post write essentially the same thing. Check out Steven Pearlstein's column.

It's Still The Economy, Stupid.

As the battle goes back and forth over our ailing financial system and what Congress should do about it, I have formulated just a few brief thoughts.

1/ Congress is certainly living up to it's approval rating now, isn't it?.

2/ Nancy Pelosi is a bitch.

Yes, I realize that is potentially a sexist remark, but the fact is that no one on the Democratic side - man or woman - has been as partisan and unreasonable as the Speaker of the House. She says on the one hand that she is working in a bipartisan manner to try and find a solution for the crisis, and then with the other, she proceeds to blame the entire crisis on the Bush Administration and her Republican counterparts.

Ms. Speaker - you have plenty of Democratic colleagues who have dirtied their hands in dealings with Wall Street, so your side is certainly culpable in this mess. And by blasting the administration one last time before the vote, you needlessly stoked the flames. If passing this bailout package is the best thing for America, then why did you potentially poison it? Were you more interested in protecting America, or protecting your party? You caused a problem instead of helping to solve one. Oh - and while "supporting" the bailout, you also managed to NOT get the votes of 95 Democrats. That shows a certain lack of leadership within your own party, doesn't it?

3/ The Republicans have to grow a pair - and then they have to grow up.

The biggest reason the vote on the bailout package failed had nothing to do with the "criminals on Wall Street" and everything to do to the November election. Every single member of the House is up for re-election, and they - especially the Republicans - are afraid that a vote in favor of the bailout package will cost them their jobs. Our representatives should be representing us, instead of worrying about keeping their seats. The Republicans are quick to shake their fists and say "we're not going to reward those criminals who ruined Wall Street by handing them more money!" That's all well and good, but it's akin to being angry when you find out you have cancer, and then refusing to undergo chemo just to show the cancer who's boss! Finally - to those Republicans who claim they voted no because of Nancy Pelosi's remarks - it's time to graduate to big boy pants.

4/ President Bush gives a new meaning to the term "lame duck".

Can anyone tell me the last President who had this little amount of power in his final months in office? Even his worst enemies are embarrassed for Bush, I think. He couldn't scrape together a boy scout troop to support him at this point, and I hear his dog hates him, too!

5/ We are all to blame for this.

Look, there's plenty of reason to be pissed at Congress, and pissed at Bush, and pissed at Wall Street... But where was the outrage when the economy was booming, and everyone was able to buy a house, and go on fancy vacations, and spend money like crazy? Before our broken financial system put us in this current mess, it also allowed America to go on an extended binge, and now we're struggling to find the aspirin bottle to soothe our mounting headache. It is human nature to celebrate the good times when times are good. But we need to recognize that, going forward, Americans need to do a better job of paying attention to what's going on in the world. And that means more regulation.

I think it's only a matter of time before the economic bailout package is passed in Congress. If the party leaders can't convince their GOP and Democratic colleagues in the House to change their minds, another day or two of falling stock prices oughta do the trick. Of course, by then, our 401k plans will really be in the toilet, but what the hell! At least we'll have shown Wall Street how ANGRY we are! That'll teach 'em!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Hail To The Redskins - And TiVo!

The first thing I did when I got out of bed this morning was read every single word of coverage in the Washington Post about the Redskins' impressive 26 - 24 win over those no-account Dallas Cowboys. If you are neither a Washingtonian nor a football fan, there is just no decent way of describing what it feels like to see your team go on the road as an 11-point underdog and beat not only their most hated rival, but the COWBOYS!

Under normal circumstances, I would have been glued to the television to watch such an important event, with the rest of the family banished to far corners of the house. But in my current state of underemployment, I felt obligated when ABC News beckoned me to work on Sunday. Having no fear, I set the trusty TiVo, and went off to DeSales Street. The only thing I needed to worry about was getting through the day without seeing or hearing how the Redskins were doing - that was easier said than done!

Thankfully, no one at ABC had any apparent interest in football, so I was not subjected to having to avoid any TV screens... However, because I was editing audio feeds from Capitol Hill, I did face one interesting challenge to keep my Redskins "cloak of silence" intact. One of my jobs yesterday was waiting for Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) to appear before the microphones at a stakeout on Capitol Hill. I had to make sure I did not miss the feed, so I was forced to listen to the "room noise" as the reporters awaited Rangel. Unfortunately for me, one of the cameramen at the feed site had the Redskins game on - so I found myself dipping in and out of the room noise in order to maintain my ignorance. Fortunately, ignorance prevailed!

Finally, 6:30 pm arrived, and I was able to leave, after ducking the security guard at the front desk, who was, of course, watching the game, which by that point was in the 4th quarter. I hopped into the car, and played my Hendricks Chapel Choir tape all the way home, lest I listen to a music station and hear a DJ announce the game's final score!

As I was driving up Connecticut Avenue, I was trying to figure out how things were going based on the road traffic. Whenever the roads were clear, I imagined it was because everyone was home watching the game. When I ran into heavier traffic, I suspected that fans were out and about because the Skins were being blown out. There was a time when you really COULD have gauged how the Skins were doing based on game-time traffic, but pragmatically, it's too early in the season for that.

To make a long story short, I made it home in a state of blissful ignorance. After a nice dinner with the family, I finally sat down in front of the TiVo, and was just settling in, when 10-year-old Spencer walked in and said, "The Skins did great, didn't they, Dad?"

The funeral is tomorrow.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Time To Act Like Grownups!

One of the big underlying reasons that our economy has gone south is that, when the housing market was still growing, too many people were allowed to qualify for mortgage loans and purchase homes that they were really in no position to buy in the first place. When the market and the economy started going soft and people were unable to afford their loans, the foreclosures mounted, and the snowball effect took over.

Now, the government is dismantling a program that has homebuilders pitching fits... This program, in essence, allows builders to pay the minimum three-percent downpayment that the homeowners need in order to secure their loans. So, in essence, the homeowners didn't need to have any money invested in their homes. Builders are now pitching a fit because some of them were selling up to a third of their homes this way, and they are afraid they will be left sitting on empty houses. I say GOOD!

America is choking right now because too many people have been given a free ride. Whatever happened to sacrificing and working hard to save up money for a downpayment? When Robin and I bought our first home (back in the day), you needed a minimum of 10 percent down to buy a house, and even then, you had to purchase mortgage insurance to cover you until you had at least 20 percent equity in your home. We scrimped and saved for a couple of years to come up with the cash, but we did it... and so did all of our friends. It was just something that was expected of young couples back then.

The government says people who have these builder-assisted down payment loans have their homes foreclosed at nearly three times the rate of people who put their own money up to buy their homes. There is definitely something to be said for saving your own money and being responsible. If I have 50,000 dollars of my own money invested in a home, it's going to be a hell of a lot harder to walk away from it than if I have no cash tied up in the house.

Taxpayers are about to spend 700 billion dollars to fix the messes that things like builder-assisted loans have created. One of the lessons we should take away from this bailout is that the American dream of owning a home is not an easy dream to achieve - nor should it be.

We'd all be better off if people were willing to drive their cars for a little longer before trading them in, or if they skipped the big vacation every once in a while, or didn't rack up thousands of dollars in credit card debt every Christmas.

The money you'd save would keep the American Dream from becoming America's nightmare.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Don't Let The Bush White House See This!

They might get some ideas about new ways to solve the U.S. economic crisis! I was tooling around the cable news stations this afternoon, looking for the latest on the negotiations at the White House, when I happened upon a Gary Coleman ad very similar to this one... Have you seen it before?

If you read the small print and do the math, it would cost you a total of $9170.10 to borrow 2,600 dollars! An annual percentage rate of 99.25 percent!

Imagine that! Loan sharks advertising on Cable TV! What a country!

Houseguests - The Power Is Up For Grabs!

How's this for political analysis? As we move closer to election day, I'm finding myself more and more frequently comparing the Presidential campaign to the TV show, "Big Brother", at least in this sense...

In the game of Big Brother, losing contestants frequently try to make the claim that they have played the game honestly, with morally superior intent, and they invariably are shown the door because they are not willing (or are not smart enough) to make the cutthroat plays necessary to win the game. So the quandry becomes whether to be popular and lose, or to be lambasted and win.

In the game of Presidential "Big Brother" that is playing out in my head, Obama is coming out as the nice guy, and John McCain is coming out as the tough guy who just might win in the end.

The McCain campaign has been excoriated by the Obama camp (and by Democrats in general) for picking Sarah Palin as his running mate, a move that many on the left see as a cynical effort to pickup some Hillary Clinton supporters, and described by many as a "Hail Mary" pass to save a failing campaign. Well, for a while, anyway, the move worked, and it worked far better than even the McCain campaign could have imagined. Like her or hate her, Palin is still getting plenty of attention, despite the fact that a near-blackout has been imposed by the McCain campaign in terms of media access. Joe Biden is readily available to the media, but the way things have been going for him lately, don't be surprised if the Democrats put Biden in a media blackout as well!

Now, John McCain has announced he's suspending his campaign and returning to Washington until a deal is reached on a rescue package for America's financial system. The Democrats are crying foul once again, saying McCain's move is nothing but a political ploy to turn the attention away from his trailing poll numbers. They also are claiming "dirty pool", because they say Obama reached out to McCain first, only to have McCain go before the media first in order to get the "leadership" edge on the issue. In the game of "Big Brother", we call this "the player getting played".

There's no doubt McCain is making a big gamble here. His latest play could come across as a political ploy... OR it could come across as McCain being a renegade... actually doing something "presidential" and leading by example, leaving Obama in the dust to engage in the political game alone.

No matter how you look at it though, there is no doubt that in the Presidential campaign, John McCain has been more imaginative, and demonstrated that he's more willing to take chances than Barack Obama is. This could very well kill McCain's chances of being President. But if America elects John McCain on November 4th, it will be because he was doing what he needed to do to win the game.
Obama may be able to claim the moral high road.

But McCain will claim the White House.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Loyal... Or Stupid?

I can't tell you how many times over the years I remained at my post in the newsroom when the building's fire alarm went off... I stayed mostly because we had a LOT of false alarms, and it was a bigger pain in the ass to leave than to stay. On a few occasions, I actually stayed because the top of the hour arrived and SOMEONE had to do the news. But I never had the decision to make that the guy in this video did. He kept on reading the news, even as his studio was bursting in flames!

Loyal... or stupid?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Two Degrees From Mariska Hargitay!

That's right, I happen to be best buds with the gorgeous star of "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit"! Actually, I've never met Mariska Hargitay, but my former college roommate works with her, and that makes me and Jayne Mansfield's little girl pretty much tied together at the hip!

My pal, Jon Greene, was my roommate at Syracuse. He introduced me to my wife, was an usher at our wedding, and is Godfather of my oldest son, Brad. He's also an Executive Producer of SVU, and he happened to be photographed with Mariska (okay... BEHIND Marisha) at last night's Emmy Awards. He's the bald guy with the sunglasses and the tie...

Here's a picture of Jon and I in college -

Thanks Jon, for providing this brush with greatness - and better luck next year, Mariska... It's no shame losing out to Glenn Close!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Congratulations, WMAL!

I kinda feel like the ball player who gets ejected from game 7 of the World Series in the eighth inning with my team holding a one-run lead, and then going on to win the crown. I may not have been "on the field", last night, but I'm proud to see that WMAL has won the Marconi award from the National Association of Broadcasters as the Major Market Radio Station Of The Year!

Here's Operations Director Paul Duckworth accepting the award:

I completely agree with what Paul said in his speech. There is still a very talented bunch of people at WMAL working hard to make the very best radio they can in a very volatile and sometimes scary business environment. I stand beside them as they celebrate their prize, and want to thank General Manager Chris Berry, who took the time to drop me a personal note to acknowledge my contributions.

I sure wish our political parties and candidates could get along this well!

Feeling Pretty Smug On The Beach!

A glance at the newspaper (you remember newspapers, don't you?) this morning conjured up not one, but TWO familiar themes for discussion...

After devoting his entire career to raising taxes, it seems Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett has finally raised the white flag and chosen an alternative to reaching directly into your pocket... In the long-standing American political tradition of opposing an idea before supporting it, Leggett has reluctantly come out in favor of legalizing slot machines in Maryland! All I can say is - Jump in, Ike... the water is warm! Leggett is not breaking open a roll of quarters to play the machines just yet - he says slots are the lesser of two evils, with the other evil being tax increases... But in a county where lawmakers have never seen a new tax they didn't like, this is real progress!

Also in the paper - the return of an oldie but goodie to this blog... More proof that the new ballpark for the Washington Nationals is proving to be a loser for the DC government. Not only is the team holding up its rent payment by arguing that the stadium is not "essentially complete", but tax revenues for the park are well behind projections, because the city foolishly figured on more than 3 million people visiting the stadium in its first year. It looks like attendance is going to come up about 700, 000 bodies short. Look - the Nationals stink - but more importantly, there is no culture for baseball in this town, and it is going to take YEARS for the team to reach that mark... and it will only do THAT if the Nats are flirting with a playoff spot... something that will not be happening any time soon!

Finally, a follow up to my previous entry concerning my visit with a financial planner during this week of global economic confusion. All went well during my visit with Dan from Merrill Lynch, but he was clearly scrambling to keep up with his nervous customers. I am admittedly lousy with money management, but in this case, it turns out one of my blunders almost certainly saved me some money. The money from my most recent 401k has been sitting as cash in a Merrill Lynch account for the past couple of months because I had never gotten around to investing it. Dan tells me that is normally a bad idea (duh.) because the money should be invested so it can grow... However, as lousy as things have been lately, Dan says I definitely saved money by sitting on the sidelines! So let's hear it for me!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

God, I'm Glad I Don't Have Daughters!

This news item from the Associated Press says it all:

DELTONA, Fla. -- An angry Deltona father whacked his teenage daughter's boyfriend with a metal pipe after finding the boy naked in his daughter's room. Authorities say the father, 45, didn't even know his daughter had a boyfriend or that the youngster had been sneaking into the home for more than a year.

When he heard noises coming from his daughter's bedroom Thursday morning and saw a stranger standing naked on the girl's bed, he swung a metal pipe. He then chased the teen out the front door and called police.

The boy was taken to the hospital where doctors closed a head wound with staples.

The father was charged with aggravated battery on a child and bonded out on $10,000.

15-year-old Brad Matthews informed me yesterday that his high school's Homecoming dance is October 9th, and that he plans to spend it sitting in front of the computer in the basement, playing video games. I say AMEN!

Some Friendly Financial Advice

More than six months after my involuntary dispatch from WMAL, I am still cleaning up the pieces... Specifically speaking, I am currently reinvesting the small pittance of cash that I had accumulated in the Citadel 401k plan during the eight months that I had worked for that company.

While I am doing this chore, I am also having a financial planner make some suggestions concerning my Disney 401k, which I had been contributing to for years until Disney sold our station and made me an ex-cast member.

The financial planner I'll be working with is Dan, the nice young guy from Merrill Lynch who took me, along with some other radio buddies, on a very unsuccessful fishing trip in the Chesapeake Bay a couple of months back. Here's hoping Dan is a lot more successful with my money than he was with a rod and reel! I'm sure Dan is already working on his speech explaining how my money will be safe, even though Merrill Lynch sold itself to Bank of America in a financial fire sale earlier this week!

I'm not particularly worried about who will be handling my money going forward, because they could hardly do a worse job of handling it than I have!

Here is some very important advice to anyone who has a 401k plan but hasn't looked at how it's doing lately. NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO LOOK! The Dow has dropped about a thousand points this week, closing yesterday at a three-year low. I guarantee you will be shocked if you take a peek. I had to print out a statement so I can review it with Dan, and I swear I got the vapors... OUCH!

Me? I'm no longer looking for one job... I better be looking for two!

And Now - A Public Service Announcement.

Election Day is coming... Do you know where your teenager is?
See more Judd Apatow videos at Funny or Die

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mad Men Is Still Maddeningly Good!

***SPOILER ALERT*** If you watch "Mad Men" on AMC and haven't seen this week's episode, come back after you've watched it!

I have shared in the past about "Mad Men", and the fact that it is one of the best shows on television. I am already lamenting the fact that Season 2, which started back in July, is about two-thirds over. The fascinating thing about this show, set in 1962, is that it uses the past to show us a picture of ourselves today.

One of the themes of this week's episode, for example, dealt with Joan, the sexy office secretary who showed intelligence and insight while reviewing TV scripts for a junior executive, only to find her new and exciting work shuffled off to a new, less worthy, MALE employee. Back to the steno pool, dear - and don't let the door hit your bodaciously blessed derriere on the way out, sweetie! Interestingly enough, this portrait of unrestrained sexism comes just as the Republicans and Democrats point fingers at each other over which party is being more sexist in a more veiled way vis a vis Clinton and Palin. We may find the way women are treated on "Mad Men" to be appalling, but we are reminded that the issue has never gone away.

My favorite part of this week's episode, however, dealt with the marital woes of our attractive suburban couple, Don and Betty. Betty has rightly accused Don of having an affair, and even though his hand is still in the proverbial cookie jar, Don can't bring himself to fess up to this unthinkable sin. In fact, by the end of the episode, Don has gone from sleeping on the sofa to being banned from the house altogether - an unthinkable scandal in 1962!

I remember when my parents spilt over similar "cookie jar" issues in the 60's, and how traumatic it was to be around my school mates. Divorce was almost unthinkable back then, and in fact, my sisters and I were the ONLY kids in the neighborhood whose parents had ever broken up. It was like having a scarlet "A" spray-painted on our house! To see all of this being played out now on television in the same general time frame is fascinating, and I can't wait to find out how this will be played on the show. My bet is that Don and Betty will not break up - there's simply too much at stake both at work and in the neighborhood for them to stay apart!

The next time you find yourself mocking your parents for what you might see as their backwards, or perhaps, outdated values system, just remember that their generation had to figure out how to deal with issues like infidelity and sexism and out-of-wedlock pregnancy and homosexuality (two other big "Mad Men" themes) without Dr. Phil or Oprah to talk them through it. We were a much more closeted nation in 1962. And it's quite educational to be shown how people dealt (or did not deal) with their sins, as Fred Grandy would say, "back in the day".

Monday, September 15, 2008

I'm Probably Lucky To Be Alive

For more than 13 years of my life, I lived literally around the corner from Leisure World, a retirement community for "active" seniors - some of them no doubt a bit TOO active for their own good. With none of my usual sarcasm or wit, I present you with this news item from today's Washington Post:

A man and a woman, both 92, were fatally injured Saturday night in Montgomery County when the car in which they were riding crashed near the Leisure World retirement development, authorities said.

The woman was identified as Eunice Wolman, the wife of David Wolman, 96, who was driving the car that crashed about 7 p.m. on Norbeck Road near Georgia Avenue in the Silver Spring area. David Wolman suffered injuries that were not life-threatening, police said.

The man who died was identified as Max Rubin. His wife, Libby, also 92, suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

All four occupants of the car lived at Leisure World, and one neighbor said she thought that they were returning home after dining out.

Police said David Wolman's Buick was going east on Norbeck when it drifted onto a shoulder. The driver overcorrected, and the car crossed into the opposite lane and then left the road. It struck a stop sign and a tree, fatally injuring both backseat passengers, police said.

A neighbor of the Wolmans described them last night as "a very, very loving couple." "They went everywhere together, did everything together," Rena Shochet said.

Although well into his 90s, she said, David Wolman appeared to be a careful, capable driver. "He was sharp," Shochet said.

Call me ageist if you want, but would ANY OF YOU be comfortable knowing you could be sharing a two-lane road with a 96-year-old driver? God bless him for living that long, but this poor man just killed his wife, and he could have killed someone else, too!

I don't care if our seniors vote... The people they elect need to pass a law putting an age limit on driving!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

An Instant SNL Classic!

If you missed the season premiere of Saturday Night Live, you missed an opening skit that will no doubt go down as a classic among more than 30 years of political SNL sketches... Tina Fey as Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton. After watching this, I almost felt bad for Hillary. Almost.

Since NBC usually makes youtube take down its SNL clips, I have used the version from hulu.com (which NBC co-owns). It may include a 15-second ad, but it's worth the wait! Enjoy!

Friday, September 12, 2008

A Brad Matthews Update!

This Just In... As reported earlier this week, my boy, Brad has been named to Sherwood High School's "A" team "It's Academic" squad. It was initially thought that Brad would be serving as an alternate - the fourth member of a 3-person TV team. However, we just learned that Brad will indeed be on the team that will appear on television later this fall. It's quite an honor, as Brad will be the only sophomore, playing with two seniors!

By the way - by actually making the TV squad, Brad surpasses NY Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton, who only managed alternate status on her high school's It's Academic team... And Brad joins the ranks alongside our good friend, Bill Vanko, who was captain of the It's Academic team at Loch Raven High School back in 1976! (He's the beardless wonder in the middle below!)

Congratulations, son!

Back To Earth

Nobody ever said it was going to be easy. Well, actually, a LOT of Republicans said the election was over after Sarah Palin was picked to be John McCain's running mate. But at some point or other, Palin had to get off the campaign trail and say something in public that strayed from her well-crafted acceptance speech, which she had been repeating for over a week. And that point came on September 11th in Fairbanks.

Palin's performance in her first interview with Charlie Gibson should not be compared with the 9-11 disaster, although I'm sure some NY Times or Slate.com columnist will not be able to resist that allusion. This was not, however, Palin's finest moment. Gibson, rightly so, launched right into questions about foreign policy - the area that most people in America suspect would be Palin's weakest link. And she did prove to be pretty weak. Her answers concerning Israel and the Russian invasion of Georgia were clearly crafted by someone else and grafted onto Palin's brain. And she clearly had no idea what the Bush Doctrine was when Charlie asked her about it.

Red meat Republicans will be tempted to attack Charlie Gibson for his questions, or for the borderline-condescending manner in which he asked them. But they should stop right there. Charlie Gibson was hand-picked by the McCain camp, and can you really name anyone else of stature who would have treated Palin any more fairly? I will say I was not very comfortable with Gibson's grilling about God. Religion is a very personal thing, and what makes sense to one person vis a vis God may make no sense at all to someone else.

Palin supporters will give her a pass on much of the interview. Let's face it... the vast majority of Americans don't know anything about foreign policy - that's what we elect other people to worry about. And I, for one, had no idea what the Bush Doctrine was, either! I have never had any delusion that Sarah Palin knows squat about foreign policy, and I could frankly care less about her bona fides in that area. Most Governors who have ever run for President have the same weakness entering the White House, and they simply learn on the job.

However, Palin's struggles with Gibson DO mark an important point in the election. It will give Democrats (and the media - especially MSNBC) some traction for the first time since Palin was introduced to the public before the GOP Convention. And it should erase a good portion of the bump that McCain enjoyed after St. Paul.

In other words, it's game on!

P.S. - Watch this clip - and remember - we only tease because we love.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Don't Ya Love It When The SHAT Hits The Fan?

I have been a big fan of William Shatner's ever since he re-invented himself with the original Priceline.com radio ads back in the late 90's. There's nothing I admire more than a man with a massive ego and a nice toupee who can poke fun at himself. I came across a website today that had the best tongue-in-cheek Shatner moments of all time, and I heartily recommend that you check it out. My personal favorite is Shatner's tribute to George Lucas when he was given the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award. Enjoy:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Tribute To My Son, Brad!

As many of you know, 15-year-old Brad Matthews joined the It's Academic team as a freshman at Sherwood High School last year. He didn't make the "A" team, otherwise known as the team that actually competes on television, but he did have a stellar year as one of the regular players on Sherwood's "B" team. The "B" team competed across Montgomery County in off-air tournaments, and even, on occasion, beat Sherwood's very own "A" team.

Well, lo and behold, we found out this afternoon that Brad's hard work and penchant for obscure trivia has paid off - He is now the only sophomore on Sherwood's "A" team! He may or may not get to compete on the "It's Academic" TV show this fall - there are four players competing for three on-air positions... but Brad WILL appear on the Montgomery County Schools' Public Access TV quiz show, "Quizmaster Challenge"!

It's quite an accomplishment for our oldest son, who continues to amaze his teachers and parents on a regular basis... and it's definitive proof that video games do NOT rot one's brain!

In tribute to Brad, I present this amusing new video, which shows us what happens when Super Mario's heroic efforts are taken for granted. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

In Memory Of Spiro Agnew!

When I was 5 years old and Spiro Agnew was running for Governor of Maryland, my parents, who were active members of the Young Republicans, hosted a meet-and-greet for Agnew in the rec room of our home in Silver Spring. It was like a scene out of "Mad Men". I still have vague memories of it to this day, and I have better memories of faded Polaroid shots taken of the future Vice President sitting at my Mom's piano. It's neat to know that a national figure was in my basement, even if it was a national figure who would turn out to be a national embarrassment... and it's a story I will tell for the rest of my life.

So where am I going with this? There's a lot of hubbub being made over a campaign rally being held at Fairfax High School tomorrow for John McCain and Sarah Palin. The rally apparently breaks a county rule that prohibits political events from being held during the school day, and the Democrats are making a lot of noise about it, along with some unnamed teachers who say the rally will be "disruptive". I wonder if the rally would still be "disruptive" if it was being held for Barack Obama, but I digress...

I can see why rules like this would be in place... Under certain circumstances, I'm sure an event like this COULD be disruptive, and it certainly could portray the school system as taking sides. But we're not talking about a debate between two Congressional candidates. We're talking about an appearance by the potential future President and Vice President of the United States! What are the chances these students or even this school will ever have of having this opportunity again? I don't care if it's McCain or Obama or Ross Perot or Ralph freaking Nader. If they want to hold a rally at my kid's school, I'm going to say hell, YES!

I do think, in the name of fairness, just so no one's feathers are ruffled, that the county ought to afford the same opportunity to the Obama camp under the same circumstances, but at another Fairfax County high school... That way, the county might be able to allow another school body to share the same experience, and allow hundreds of other kids to say they remembered when (potentially) President Obama visited their school.

Come on... Is this REALLY that difficult?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Greater Of Two Goods?

I just had a thought. I have become so used to the idea of voting for the lesser of two evils during Presidential elections, that it never really occured to me that I could, for once in my life, be voting for the greater of two goods this November.

I am still firmly on the fence, but it's refreshing to think it could be because I really don't have anything (YET) of substance against either candidate. Barack is a bit too much "rock star" for my taste - especially given his very REAL lack of experience. John McCain is, frankly, about 10 years too old. But overall, I find both men to be attractive candidates - likable, believable and intelligent. Compare these two with the candidates from the past few elections...

2004 - George W. Bush vs. John Kerry - The epitome of lesser of two evils. Bush was not proving to be a particularly effective President, but America just plain didn't like John Kerry.

2000 - George W. Bush vs. Al Gore - People love Al Gore today, but he was a pretty weak candidate back in 2000, and so was Bush. Heck, if Gore had carried his own home state, we never would have had to learn about pregnant chads.

1996 - Bill Clinton vs. Bob Dole - Okay, I'll grant you... this was NOT a lesser of two evils election. Clinton did have an effective first term, and Dole was a well-respected elder statesman. But given Clinton's incumbency, this was never a very close election to begin with.

1992 - Bill Clinton vs. George H.W. Bush vs Ross Perot - The fact that Perot drew nearly 19 percent of the vote shows this was the ultimate in the lesser of THREE evils elections....

1988 - George Bush vs. Mike Dukakis - America was not really thrilled at the idea of giving a third straight term to the GOP, but Bush was running against Dukakis, who was a Democratic prototype for John Kerry.

Call me idealistic, but I think there's a real chance Americans will go to the polls on November 4th feeling good about the choices they have to make. It's far too easy in our sharply divided nation to take sides, and we spend far too much time trashing our opponents. There is plenty that is subject to change in the next 57 days, but as of right now... If my choice (whoever it turns out to be) doesn't win, I think I'll be fairly comfortable with the other guy in the White House.

Obama may be a rock star, but at least he's not a wooden board like Kerry or Gore or Dukakis. McCain may be old, but he's not (no matter what the Democrat talking points say) a carbon copy of George W. Bush, and he will be a strong leader if elected.

Your thoughts?

Why Do I Still Live Here?

Well, the short answer of why I continue to call Montgomery County home is that the housing market is in the tank, but beyond that, I really DO wonder sometimes why I stay in the county that I've called home virtually my entire life.

Regular readers of this blog have heard me bitch in the past about the broken county government that has never seen a tax it didn't like. It simply costs way too much to live here, and it's largely because the labor unions representing county workers are pulling the puppet strings that control our elected leaders. I say this, by the way, as the husband of a county school teacher.

The latest abuse and waste? A new audit from the county shows that more than 60 percent of the county cops who have retired over the past four years were placed on disability as they walked out the door - ensuring them of 2/3rds of their full-time pay for the rest of their lives tax-free. One of the "disabled" officers who retired won a fitness competition just a year after retiring! If the officers had simply taken retirement benefits, they would have been entitled to 60 percent of their salaries, and would have been taxed on that money. Their benefits would also have dropped considerably once they started receiving social security.

I don't know enough about labor contracts or the law to know whether anything can be done about any of this, but I DO know that there's plenty of fraud being committed, and as a taxpayer, I'm being left holding the bill again.

What's really at the bottom of all this is the imbalance of power in Montgomery County politics, where there is not a SINGLE elected Republican officeholder. The Democrat lawmakers are all beholden to the labor unions that helped them get elected - the same unions that can damned sure get them UN-elected if they don't toe the line. The Democrats would never admit to this, but they (and county residents) were better off when there were still a few liberal Republicans around to offer some pushback. Instead, the County Executive and Council are in many ways just pawns to the real power base.

Where have you gone, Howie Denis? A county turns its lonely eyes to you!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Equal Time

Here's the deal with Sarah Palin. Win or lose with McCain, she's going to be one of the leading faces of the GOP for the next 20 years. Having said that, I've been tough on the Democrats lately... Time for some payback in their favor...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tread Carefully, Feminists...

The smell of hypocrisy hangs in the air over the Presidential campaign... Democrats are howling over the fact that the other side, the Grand Old (White Man) Party, has beaten the Dems to the punch and put up a woman as a Vice Presidential candidate. There have been chuckles over the relative inexperience of Sarah Palin, along with the fact that she comes from a small state, is pro-gun and pro-life, and now has both a baby with Down Syndrome and a daughter who is pregnant, proving without a doubt that she is an irresponsible parent to boot.

In essence, the Democrats are doing everything they can to marginalize Sarah Palin, just as all men tried to marginalize all women candidates a generation ago. If Sarah Palin breaks through the glass ceiling, are we to believe it won't count because her politics are not NOW politics? Do GOP women have to submit to chromosome tests to prove their gender?

Here's what is really at play here. Last Thursday night, the Democrats thought they had the election all but locked up after Barack Obama's electrifying acceptance speech in Denver. Obama/Biden vs. McCain/Romney? Surely an electoral landslide!

What the Democrats had not counted on is that the Republicans were slick enough to steal the spotlight and turn conventional wisdom on its ear. And now the Democrats are pissed.

They are pissed that what they thought would be a rout is now a horserace. They are pissed that, after finally getting Hillary Clinton to go away, her legacy remains alive in Sarah Palin. And they are extremely pissed that of the two parties, the one that had the imagination to nominate a woman was the party of Darth Vader and Dick Cheney.

This is a hypocritical temper tantrum in the making. Would feminist groups rather have a strong woman in the White House, even if she does not share the traditional NOW platform, or would they rather have Joe Biden in a dress?
I don't expect feminist groups to support the McCain/Palin ticket... But I would hope they don't spend the next two months trying to claim that Sarah Palin is not a legitimate candidate for Vice President. Like her or not, Palin is going to make the GOP ticket more attractive to voters. And that speaks to her power... as a candidate AND as a woman.

-- Written by a pro-choice, anti-gun Obama-leaning moderate who thinks candidates deserve the courtesy of being fully-vetted by the public instead of being instantly dismissed in order to justify a political stance.