Thursday, December 31, 2009

Presenting the Best of 2009


What a year this was, huh? Barack Obama's first year as president has been a wild ride. Well, not so much "wild" as in exciting so much as "wild" in how even more ridiculously divided we all got. Still, for all the crap once again slung upon the American people (often by the American people themselves), it was a year...

Yeah. It was a year.

Here now are my top picks for blogs of the year from Not Right About Anything. Enjoy, again.

EVERYDAY HIJINKS

1/27: Ice Ice Baby

Some sage advice an old man gave me at the doctor’s office.

Several months after writing this blog, I saw this same car with a “for sale” sign. It looked the same, except that the “Not the FIVE-O” had been conspicuously painted over. Apparently, this street theater reached its emissions limit. But I’m happy to say the speed limit at Conco Quarries remains 17 mph.

Seeing this church sign near my apartment nearly caused me to lose control of my car. As soon as the dark hit, I immediately grabbed my camera and ran back over to catch the hilarious irony of it. Within days, the sign was fixed. I wonder who noticed it and when, but I like to think my little civic journalism helped.

A conversation I had with a friend.

A recurring dream that I still have, and which apparently other people involved the dream have had as well.

Today’s lesson: How not to buy cigarettes for your underage daughter!

Added Kansas and Illinois this year!
I've visited only 17 states so far (34%)

PARALLEL LINES

Talking about the Middle East like it was my Middle American neighborhood.

A response to the popular conservative meme about how liberals and conservatives evolved and how beer played a part in that. And of course, conservatives are Manly Men and liberals are effete Frenchies. I rewrote it and made it better and more accurate. Pretty much anyone could have.

OBAMARAMA!

It’s not THAT far-fetched.

Amid the hoopla and hysteria about President Obama’s birth certificate, I review my own to ascertain my future political fortunes. By the standards set by birthers, it doesn’t look good.

A Not Right exclusive, this transcript from 1961 proves that Obama is the end product of a longstanding conspiracy to overtake the United States. And boy, did all the pieces fall into place!

Obama’s going to talk to schoolchildren! NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Of course it did.

I argue that much of Obama criticism is racist. Somehow, this irritated Obama critics.

THE DEEP END: YEAR ONE

3/18: So true for so many

No, this isn’t the review for Going Rogue; look for that in 2010. This is the review for Sarah Palin: A New Kind of Leader, a shameless fanbook that makes shameless fanbooks look bad.

A take on the controversial political cartoon in which Obama was portrayed as a monkey, which of course was vociferously defended (and not by me).

Included mostly for the easy jokes.

I like talking about marriage and politics, especially when the two wed.

The key difference between liberals and conservatives these days.

Tea parties? Why not burn bras while you’re at it?

Protests are all well and good, but the tea partiers should have learned a thing or two from seasoned demonstrators in looking slightly less ridiculous.

My response to a glut of allegations that the political system and government of the U.S. is too far gone to save. Wonder what happened this year that led to all that talk?

What defines success in this country? Well, here’s what shouldn’t.

Some definitions for those who think profit should rule all in this country, including the pesky democracy aspect of it.

Any blog titled “Deep breath” is worth proceeding into with caution. This rumination on the death of George Tiller is no different.

They took it.

Running on fuming: A series on conservative rhetorical tactics

BONUS RUNNING ON FUMING DRAFT: Maybe?
Be they local newspapers, Facebook, Democratic Underground or any variety of blogs or advocacy group sites, I read a lot of online forums. Just within the past few days, I've noticed a glut of comments on all of them that read like this:

"As a lifelong Democrat who voted for Obama, [far-right talking point]."

They go out of their way to express just how Democratic they are, sometimes more than once per sentence, in that tellingly defensive way ... They then follow it up with a statement that, were it not for this disclaimer, would be more at home at a John Birch Society meeting. Or maybe David Duke's house.

"Oh, Ian, you hate everyone who doesn't toe the Democrat line exactly!"

There's a difference between ideological purity (which doesn't exist among Democrats anyway) and being so far off the radar that it doesn't even make sense. Disagreement with an Obama policy is not going to send someone to the right of Ann Coulter, OK? But even it it did, good riddance to such an unprincipled person!

Has anyone else noticed this?

Government spending is a worthwhile topic until it overrides all sense of rationality and compassion.

A suggested antidote to the suspiciously proletariat Labor Day.

No one rose up to my challenge for a serious debate, so I had to do it myself. At least I won!

During a late-night drive home in the rain, I consider how my rear wiper is a lot like health care reform.

In this entry in my yearlong Generic Title series, I take on Fox News, right-wing voices and the majesty of the free market.

My most recent screed against the death penalty, updated in the wake of the execution of Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad.

I was accused of making this one up, as if I needed a backstory. I will say this — if I really had made it up, it would have been more interesting.

7/18: R.I.P., Uncle Walter

A LIBERAL AMOUNT OF CRITICISM

This year has seen a quick, and sustained, wave of contrarian dissent. Some of it necessary, some of it reactionary, some of it just plain annoying. What surprises me is how early it started.

The only thing more frustrating than health care reform is those who are frustrated over health care reform. Myself included.

SAINTS AND OTHER SPORTS STUFF

3/30: Any given Sunday
(Photo by Nathan Papes)

The NFL really showed where its priorities lie when Chad Ochocinco received a much larger fine for a good-natured joke than Tommie Harris for punching an opponent in the face. What is the league afraid of, losing its family-friendly image?

A satirical piece on how sports pundits seem to never give the New Orleans Saints their due, even when picking them to win the Super Bowl. Easily mistaken for real articles.

Written immediately in the aftermath of the Saints’ first loss of the season to the Dallas Cowboys. Well, maybe not immediately, because that blog would have read, “DIE COWBOYS DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE AGGGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!” So I gave it a few hours. It helped somewhat.

ECLECTIC RECOLLECTIONS

People really like to make you eat. Especially if you don’t want to.

My thoughts on the death of Michael Jackson.

4/29: In retrospect, a bad idea

BONUS DRAFT FROM 2/10: One of those parallels I'm fond of

I recently inherited a vehicle from a relative who can no longer drive. He bought it new eight years ago, and at the time everyone was awestruck. We all loved to hunker down in the passenger seats as he'd red-line it and give us a speed thrill we could feel in our toes. As the years went by he got even bolder, jumping it off ramps and drifting with the best of them. And he never, ever wore his seat belt. Some of our family members objected to this disregard for safety, but we laughed off their concerns and dismissed their party-pooping ways.

(I don’t even know what that was supposed to mean...)

Oh, and don’t forget the Rules! Wrote 93 new ones in the best rule year yet.

Peace, aughties.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Louisiana voted happiest state (not even counting the 2009 Saints)


I can understand that. It's got a wonderful cultural mecca in New Orleans and has historically been a point of convergence for multiple cultures from all over the world.

But "happiness" is an arbitrary notion. Some people are happy never doing a meaningful thing in their lives. Others are not happy but live productive lives. Some people are happy because they don't have any other frame of reference. Others have seen too much and are never satisfied. Is one better than the other? It's hard to say.

And who says it's a function of where you live anyway? After all, my apartment in Missouri looks the same as my previous place in Louisiana, with most of the same things and access to the same phone lines and Internet that allow me to keep in contact with the same people. The main difference is less Mardi Gras and fewer mutual Saints fans. Otherwise, it's not that different.

One of my more conservative acquaintances made the observation that the most miserable states were liberal states with higher tax rates. I personally think that's projection, because it's generally conservatives who moan the most about taxes and they always think they pay too much, even if they live in one of the "happy" states.

Still, there are certain tangibles, such as sunshine and quality of life. And, shockingly enough, people who live in states with cheery weather and who are safe, happy and know how to have a good time are happier than those who live in gray, frigid climes and are miserable. And I never met people more willing to drop all personal and political differences in the name of good times than in Louisiana.

Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Time for some football cues

Cue every sportscaster in America: "The Saints were never for real anyway. When we said they'd run the table, we didn't really mean it. The Vikings now look like the team to beat in the NFC."

Cue every friend and family member I have in or from Dallas (which is many): "WOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOO!! That's why they're America's Team! What great news that they won."

Cue every friendly stranger who saw me sporting my Saints cap in public last night: "Aw, tough break, huh? Your boys went down. Ouch."

Cue every sportscaster again: "Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts Colts mmmmmmfffffffffffffffffffffffff..."

Cue, hopefully, a reality check in the Saints' locker room.

I now despise the Dallas Cowboys with all the fervor that I hate the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings. Forget the NFC Championship game; I still hold a grudge against the Bears for booting the Saints out of the playoffs in the 1990-91 season. And I was 10 years old then. I will always hate the Cowboys from here on out. They are bad guys. Fuck them.

It's not all their fault, though. I hate that the Saints played with no heart for three quarters. At home. Against a team from a city that represents neocon, overcompensatory America at its most excessive. One that hadn't beaten the Saints in 15 years and was known for its recent collapses in December. One with a quarterback about as likable as Tom Brady but without the redeeming qualities. A team I had nevertheless consistently pulled for all season, but who had shown staggering incompetence seemingly every time I did so.

When I felt bad for DeMarcus Ware last week, I had no idea his astonishingly fast recovery would contribute so much to the Saints' downfall. Between that and the rash of injuries to the Saints last night, I'm rethinking my longstanding scoffing at the notion that the Cowboys are God's team. They must be. Thanks, God. Jerry Jones owes you one.

Sorry if I seem a little dramatic. But this loss has led to exactly what I feared most: a barrage of fluke talk, smug superiority from Dallas fans and questions about whether a 13-1 team is any good based on one loss because they happen to be the Saints.

The Saints mean more to their city than most teams do to theirs. They certainly mean a lot to me, and were pretty much the last thing giving me unconditional joy in these past few weeks. So it's going to hurt this week to not only not be able to see a lot of encouraging political commentary, but also not be able to revel in the Saints' apparently fleeting run at the top (at least in the analysts' minds).

With a victory over the Cowboys, I would have considered this a perfect season, even if they lost their remaining two games. But as it stands, Dallas is the only team the Saints have played this season that they didn't beat (this counts the preseason, where the Saints dropped to Miami but beat them in the regular season). It's possible the two could square off in the playoffs, so that's still on the table. Would be an interesting matchup, to say the least.

One thing's for certain: Dallas killed any chance of making the Super Bowl this year with this win. Even with all their injuries, the Saints might very well have just gotten the catalyst they need to return to their original (and rightful) routing ways, and the road to Miami stops in New Orleans. In that respect, last night's game was the wrong outcome for the Cowboys as well.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A rant

There's been a lot of reasons for my lack of blogging lately. Work, personal projects, chores, outside activities and, in the words of a co-worker, "Your Saints are doing so well that I had to check to see if your feet were even on the ground." Knock on wood.

But another reason is that I'm just burned the fuck out on politics. There are two main reasons for this:

1) I'm disappointed in health care reform. Everything about the issue, from Obama to the self-defeating Democrats to the obstructionist Republicans, has me reaching for the nearest vomit bag. Granted, I knew that this country was too big to accept the best (and, in the long run, only curative) option for our ailing, corrupt health system: socialized, single-payer health care. You know, like every other developed country on this planet. But even if we aren't going to do that, then a true public option offered by the government, alongside the private insurance options, would work some free-market magic in the citizens' favor. Hell, maybe there's still good nuggets to mine from the current trainwreck. But as I see it now, the Senate bill is one big blunder. It's the worst kind of compromise, one that might actually be worse than the status quo. We'll see.

This isn't self-righteous indignation, or the kind of hand-rubbing, poll-tracking, I-told-you-so cynicism expressed by many eager to see Obama go down in flames, no matter what the cost to the country. It's not the kind of concern that has me thinking about the Democrats' political chances in 2010 or what this will mean to Suzy Q. Demographic in Peoria. It isn't what the Republicans are apparently pinning all of their hopes on to have a prayer in 2010 or 2012. It's a genuine sadness that has me questioning whether or not reconciliation is even possible anymore.

And that brings me to the second major cause for burnout:

2) I'm just as sick of 90 percent of liberals and progressives at the moment. One thing I've always criticized about the right - and is true now more than ever - is how politics and purity are everything to them. How they really believe that there is a real America and an un-American America, and only one is worthy of the name.

In recent months, the GOP has been undergoing a purity test, with a statement of values that aims to sharpen the old canard that Republicans fall in line, as opposed to love. And we, as liberals and Democrats, mock them for this, wondering why they pimp so hard for a Sarah Palin instead of a Charlie Crist or even a Bobby Jindal. Obviously, an extremely partisan, divisive figure is not going to get you votes. I've always admired the Democrats for understanding that better than the GOP.

But now, whenever I hear a friend refute their support for Obama or read endless threads calling for Howard Dean or Dennis Kucinich to challenge the president in the next cycle, I realize how that's exactly the same thing.

Hey, I understand. I've taken political ideology quizzes that ranked me as 100 percent aligned with Kucinich. In the 2004 primaries, I thought Dean was the best candidate. But if there's one thing that I've always known about myself, it's that I'm not, and never have been, the norm. That's both the beauty and the curse of living in such a large, democratic society as ours: in order to have an effective leader, you can't swing too far one way or the other. Kucinich might have been the best president ever, but a country as diverse as ours would never give him the chance to prove it. And without that chance, he can't be effective and the other side has seized the reins.

Obama won not because he appealed to liberals; it was because he appealed to far more people as well. You have to do that to get elected president, especially as a Democrat. He had an otherworldly aura about him that was largely made-up in a lot of people's minds, which is the major source of disappointment these days. After all, he did promise to escalate in Afghanistan. I didn't care for that, and that's one campaign promise I wouldn't have minded him not keeping. But I still supported him overall, because that's one issue, and anyway I feel anything he does is the result of at least some thought on his part. For that alone, he is miles above the previous White House occupant.

Does that make me a shameless Obamabot? No. There's nothing wrong and everything right with holding his feet to the fire. But because of everything he has shown himself to be, I'm able to at least understand where he's coming from when he makes a decision. And there's always the chance that he is, in fact, doing the best with what he's been given and with the political labyrinth in which he operates. And that he is thinking 10 moves ahead. In that respect, Obama actually gives me more hope than anyone else that could have been in his spot.

If that's too nuanced for those of you who think Obama is already an irrevocable failure because of his perceived sellouts, then I'm sorry. I've been called naive before for saying these things, but the real naivete comes from those who think that political change happens on a dime, with no resistance, and that instant gratification is possible or even preferable to lasting change.

When discussing the Saints-Colts path to perfection, football analysts often shortchange the Saints, saying they've lost for so long, they don't know how to win. This is, of course, a ridiculous notion. But many Obama's supporters seem so eager to desert him, that I wonder if that would apply in this case. And if so, who would they ever stand by? It's all too easy for me to imagine President Dean or Kucinich falling hard the first time they made a centrist move. Imagine the massive sense of betrayal! And that's what it would be, because too many liberals are contrarian hipster cynics who know little more than how to oppose. And that's no different than those on the right who insist on their way or the highway.

Let's hold Obama and Congress accountable, not out to dry. There's far more at stake than some petty political squabble. Like the world.

Monday, December 14, 2009

For the record...

I really hate going eight days without a post. It's not that I haven't had a ton of things to write about, but this week was incredibly hectic. It involved a head injury, though not my own this time, as well as long work hours, getting beaten in flag football by 100 points and various equipment malfunctions. Oh, and sleep being about as scarce as platinum in my lair.

I'm also in the throes of redesigning this blog for 2010. Nothing huge, but...well, you'll see it.

And now back to catching up on all the laundry, bills, dishes and exercise that didn't get done last week.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Colbert 'a jerk,' or at least plays one on TV

Perhaps the best sign of Stephen Colbert's greatness is that so many people don't get his act.

He's said to be a favorite of liberals and conservatives alike. I find that interesting, because his on-camera persona is a complete excoriation of self-assured, conservative TV pundits such as Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck. But he's so good at it, that many people think he's serious. Quite possibly because those guys sound so funny to begin with.

The latest unwittingly witless victim of the Colbert act is U.S. speedskater Shani Davis, who has reportedly called Colbert a "jerk."

When I first saw this headline on ESPN.com, I assumed that Colbert, whose show sponsors the U.S. Speedskating team, had handed out some nasty behavior behind the scenes, or perhaps tried to enforce some sort of political litmus case on the athletes. Could it be true?

Davis isn't really saying. But it's believed that his Canadian ties have left him at odds with Colbert's remarks about "syrup-suckers" not granting the team sufficient access to Canadian training facilities. Others on the team have lauded Colbert's support.

If this is the case, then it's an almost comic misunderstanding. Colbert engages in Canada-bashing the way Chris Rock engages in racism. They speak the language, but only to rip their respective notions to shreds. It might be a bit dry at times, but they figure you're smart enough to get it.

When Rock says, "I wish they'd let me join the Ku Klux Klan. There'd be a trail of dead n*****s from here to Brooklyn," it has an entirely different meaning than if Larry the Cable Guy said it.

When Colbert calls Canadians "syrup-suckers" for denying wide access to Olympic facilities to the U.S. (which, for all I know, isn't even a real issue), it has an entirely different meaning than if O'Reilly or Beck said it.

Why? Because Colbert is a satirist. On purpose. And the last laugh is on those who take his show at face value.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Flag football recaps for those in the know

11/22: The Nov. 22 SOFA match was not known for its particularly high turnout, but it was known for its one-handed catches.

Ian netted a one-handed touchdown deflection in the sun and Tyree caught a one-handed TD pass to close the first half as Tyree’s Trio (him, Jack and Stephanie, I think) topped Triple Jeopardy (Ian, Sam and Chad?) on their way to a 53-48 win.

Sam notched an impressive long touchdown for TJ, while Tyree Tyreed his way to a long fluke of a TD for TT. Ian also scored a long TD.

The score was 24-20 at the half. The record doesn’t show which team was winning.

To be honest, my notes are a little screwy for this one. You’d think a 3-on-3 game would be a little easier to remember in terms of lineups, scores and plays. I used to think Chris didn’t write recaps for 3-on-3 games because he was a punk. But now I realize that it’s a lot like guessing a four-letter word in Hangman — you think it’d be easy, but it’s actually way harder because there are just so many four-letter words in the English language. Damn!

Well, I certainly overcompensated for that the following week, as you’ll see.

Game Balls:

Sickest Hit in SOFA History: Stephanie collided with Tyree early in the game. It sounded like a melon getting brained. She’s OK, though. She’s beginning to look like the Stephanie we all knew and loved before she got all bruised up and freakish.

11/29: The Nov. 29 SOFA matchup was one for the ages. At least as far as SOFA ages go. We’re not that old.

A 5-on-4 matchup that only grew as time went by led to a game far more fun and unpredictable than its 100-60 final score would suggest.

Monster Squad (Tyree, Jack, Ian, Jerome, Emily and later Toi) ran away with the game after a bruising early shootout against the Princess Brides (Sam, Joe, Kenny, Chad and later Mike).

Sam struck first for the Brides very quickly to jump to a 6-0 lead. Emily answered for the Monsters, and Jerome pulled in the extra points to snuff out that fire. Somebody forgot to tell Sam about said snuffing, however, as he scored another TD with a Joe PAT to make it 14-8 Brides. Jack didn’t stand for that and magically changed the score to 14-all.

Tyree then nabbed his obligatory pick-six to make it 20-14. I think it’s in his contract.

Sam, who never learns, notched yet another TD pass from Chad to make it 20-all. Jerome then took it upon himself to score a response score and PAT to make it 28-20. That came off a Tyree interception, but that probably goes without saying.

Kenny narrowed the lead to 28-26 Monsters, which got Emily and Jerome to thinking. That thinking led to scoring, as Emily notched her second touchdown of the day from one yard out, and Jerome converted the two. 36-26 Monsters.

The Brides, feeling jilted, rallied around Joe, who ran in a long score to make it 36-32. This was on a fake reverse, where Ian’s ignorant cry of “REVERSE!” totally sold the play. Nice going. At least they didn’t get the extra point, which they never seemed to do.

The Brides had a chance to retake the lead when Kenny intercepted the ball. But they turned over on downs, enabling a Jack-and-Em point package to widen the Monsters’ lead to 44-32. A final first-half push by PB stalled after Jack nipped Sam in his bud at the gun.

The Monster Squad led 44-32 at the half. And as you’ll see, they led a lot longer than that too.

Tyree drew the first blood of the second half, with Jerome capping the PAT. 52-32. Joe responded with a PAT-free TD. 52-38. Tyree and Jerome weren’t quite sure if the Brides heard them before, so they repeated their one-two punch. 60-38.

At this point in the game, if someone had told you the score was 60-38 and the final score would be 100-60, you’d probably hope for an inspiring comeback. One that would make a great book and movie, perhaps starring Sandra Bullock and Cuba Gooding Jr.?

Naah.

Ian temporarily got over his fear of completing passes and lobbed one to Tyree to extend the lead (Jerome PAT), 68-38. Joe helped his team get over their fear of scoring by answering in kind (Sam PAT), 68-46.

With 15 minutes left in the game, two guys passed by and became the latest SOFA acquisitions. Ten minutes were added to the game to accommodate our new friends. Toi (Monsters) rocked a Reggie Bush-style triple-stripe haircut (and shares a first name with a former Saints cornerback who used to give my grandfather conniption fits). Mike came in for the Brides and played less than a minute before embarrassing Ian with a field-length pick-six. 68-52.

“Are you 14?” Ian could be heard gasping after the play. “That’s usually who does this to me.” Mike said, “No. I’m 18.” Oh, OK. That’s not so bad then.

Tyree took command once again, as he and Jerome added eight more to the board. 76-52. A nice interception by Jack set up a Jerome/Toi eight-pointer. 84-52. Sam and Sam again for the Brides, 84-60. Jerome and Emily. 92-60. I have more game info than ways to express it at this point. Finally, Tyree with a walk-off TD, 100-60.

Game Balls:

Least mentioned in this recap: Chad. He enabled most of the Brides’ scoring at quarterback, a position that doesn’t often get a lot of glory.

Best impression of a helicopter: Jerome, with his spectacular spinning play for a long gain late in the game. With a few more flags flying, he could have resembled a carwash.

Party like it’s 1987: Both teams in this recap are named after movies released in 1987. Mike and Toi were not yet born in 1987. But they are still not the youngest to play in SOFA; that would be a several-way tie between a handful of 14-year-olds who have played with us (and always won).