Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Years Meme

Via Toast, it's time to take stock of the year that was 2008...

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before? I'm at a loss here. I think my life has really settled into a routine. A comfortable one.

2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I'm back at the exact same weight—181. So I failed on that one. The goal was 170, and I'm setting sights on that again. Since I fell out of the highest preferred category for life insurance and got bad cholesterol numbers back, I have renewed motivation.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? My youngest sister had her first child—Mazey.

4. Did anyone close to you die? Nope.

5. What places did you visit? Greenville, SC; Charleston, SC; Asheville, NC; Martha's Vineyard.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008? First: No worries about the health of Kid Furious. Last month marked two years seizure-free, and discontinuing her medication. And in February she had the second and hopefully last procedure on her eyes. Second: Financial security.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? Tuesday, November 4 would be the biggest specific "date." But other events include a new job and moving and the medical milestones noted above.

8. What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year? Finally getting that long sought-after new job. I am finally back in my specific area of expertise (magazine art direction) and am totally reinvigorated about my career.

9. What was your biggest failure? Probably letting my weight stagnate and health decline.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nothing beyond #9.

11. What was the best thing you bought? Our house.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My kids. Barack Obama. The publisher who hired me.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? John McCain, Sarah Palin and just about everyone with an (R) after their name. The media. Bill and Hillary Clinton.

14. Where did most of your money go? Mortgages and realtors.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? New job. I really like our new house as well.

16. What song will always remind you of 2008? Anything off "Consolers of the Lonely" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" (Obama's theme music).

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) Happier or sadder?
b) thinner or fatter? +/- a pound.
c) richer or poorer? A wash. New job has a much higher salary, but less benefits and I lost all my freelance work. The income is more secure and steady however. And that means a LOT.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Exercise. Sleep. Relax.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Eating. Worrying. Procrastinating. And, alas...blogging.

20. How did you spend Christmas this year? In our new home, in my pajamas the whole day with absolutely nowhere to go. It was great.

21. Did you fall in love in 2008? Already fallen...

22. How was work? I think I've covered this by now...I love my new job.

23. What was your favorite TV program? "The Daily Show." I don't really watch any tv regularly.

24. What did you do for your birthday in 2008? Become old.

25. What was the best book you read? "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" by Kate DeCamillo

26. What was your greatest musical discovery? I won't count the Raconteurs as a "discovery," but I guess these three qualify.

27. What did you want and get? Aren't you sick of hearing about my job yet? Some new camera gear.

28. What did you want and not get? Year-end bonus.

29. What was your favorite film of this year? In the theater: "Iron Man." At home: "No Country For Old Men," perhaps?

30. Did you make some new friends this year? Yes. A new office-full.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Getting more money for our house in Michigan.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008? Spendthrift. Thirty-fucking-six-inch waist.

33. What kept you sane? Focalin™. Blogging. Photography.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Barack Hussein Obama.

35. What political issue stirred you the most? Presidential primary and election.

35a. What political issue stirred you the least? The rats fleeing the sinking Bush Administration? I don't really know.

36. Who did you miss? Friends and family in general. I never went home to CT this year, and missed my opportunity to go Up North, or to New York, etc...

37. Who was the best new person you met? I've met too many people...I'm withholding judgment.

38. Burn any bridges? Yeah...things got kinda rocky with my parents, but it's on the mend.

39. Best new restaurant you went to? 12 Bones (BBQ place here in Asheville).

40. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008. It'll sound cheesy, but "keep plugging away." It took a couple years, untold dozens of resumes, and several interviews around the country, but I nailed down a good job back on a magazine.

(here's last year's list for reference. Like you care.)


It's been a while since this whole Blagojevich Bust went down, and I realize I never really posted on it. Early on, I snagged a few good pics and political cartoons to maybe use in a post, but it never materialized...mostly because I had other shit I wanted to discuss. But now that he's made his appointment to replace Obama in the Senate and thrust himself back into the spotlight, I suppose I'll wade in...

When this all broke, I'd heard the guy's name before, and I knew he was bad news, but I'd never heard the guy speak, nor could I pick him out of a lineup or pronounce his name. My immediate reaction to all of this was, "That guy's got a pair." and "Here's hoping Obama and his team gave this jackass a wide berth." I enjoyed the initial round of mockery and ridicule of his foul Chicago mouth and Fisher-Price hair, and wondered who the fuck would ever vote this guy into office. But as the story began to fill out I found myself departing—somewhat—from the company of just about every blogger I like.

This guy looks to be a douchebag of the highest order and probably should do the honorable thing and step aside because he's certainly too big a dick to be Governor. And it makes sense that he should probably refrain from making an appointment under these circumstances. But here's where I depart from the mob: I haven't heard ANYTHING CLOSE to a smoking gun regarding this allegation of his selling Obama's Senate seat

People are acting like this guy was busted like Jimmy Serrano with a cash-filled suitcase exchange. I'm not seeing it. I've heard and read nothing beyond what I imagine to be the sort of horsetrading that probably happens all the time in these situations—ie: "I appoint you, you campaign for me, scratch each other's back, fundraise, etc." Hell, even Obama's appointments are in some cases surely rewards for support.

I think he's probably guilty of this, and whatever drew him into U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald's sights in the first place—but that's my impression, and not based on any actual evidence that I'm aware of.

Fine, if you're Obama, or the party: distance yourself from the guy, throw him under the bus, even ask for him to "step aside if he's guilty." I'm all for zero tolerance and purging corrupt people from office regardless of party. By all appearances, Blago deserves to be alone on his self-constructed island, but at a certain point it boils down to this: he's innocent until proven guilty and deserves a chance to defend himself. And frankly, if he thinks he did nothing wrong, he should tell Obama and everyone else to "Fuck off. I'm Governor, and I'm not going anywhere."

And if that's his position, I have no problem with him fulfilling his Constitutionally-required duty and appointing someone to Obama's seat. Viewed in a vacuum, Roland Burris appears to be a perfectly good selection. Taking into account Blago's situation, Burris appears to be the perfect appointment, and the Governor probably deserves credit for selecting him.

What's unfortunate is Burris is now inextricably tied to Blagojevich, and if the Senate holds to it's stated position that any appointment by Blagojevich will NOT be seated, a good man was probably sacrificed as part of this ridiculous standoff.

Of course the Democratic caucus holding to a position other than bent-over is a goddamn joke. If Burris doesn't get seated it's more likely to be because Harry Reid has given Joe Lieberman a second Senate seat.

UPDATE: I could have saved myself the trouble and just posted a link to John Cole

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Being Frank About Warren

Frank Rich has a good column on the Warren affair. He annoyingly cites the canard about Obama dissing Clinton as "likable enough", but other than that I think he pretty much nails it. He includes a good quote from the always quotable Barney Frank as well:
Much more to the point is the astute criticism leveled by the gay Democratic congressman Barney Frank, who, in dissenting from the Warren choice, said of Obama, “I think he overestimates his ability to get people to put aside fundamental differences.” That’s a polite way of describing the Obama cockiness. It will take more than the force of the new president’s personality and eloquence to turn our nation into the United States of America he and we all want it to be.

Obama may not only overestimate his ability to bridge some of our fundamental differences but also underestimate how persistent some of those differences are. The exhilaration of his decisive election victory and the deserved applause that has greeted his mostly glitch-free transition can’t entirely mask the tensions underneath. Before there is profound social change, there is always high anxiety.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Coal In Your Stockings. And your living room…front yard…neighborhood…the whole damn valley…

There's no fucking way this can be anything close to the end of the story:
Environmentalists worry the ash-laden sludge that coated a Tennessee neighborhood when a power plant dike burst could pose a health risk, although initial tests by a public utility company have shown no threat to drinking water.

Crews were expected to work through the holiday weekend to contain the aftermath of Monday's breach at the coal-fired Kingston power plant, run by the nation's largest public utility about 50 miles west of Knoxville.

Officials at the Tennessee Valley Authority have said preliminary tests suggest there is no danger to millions of people who get their drinking water from the 652-mile Tennessee River.

And TVA spokesman Gil Francis said crews were cleaning up the sludge.

"The cleanup is making progress," Francis said Thursday, adding the group was moving from the road to other areas. TVA brought in 30 pieces of equipment and more than 100 workers for the work that will take four to six weeks to complete, he said.

And the air at Ground Zero was safe to breathe.

Sorry, but there's simply no way a spill of 2 million cubic yards of industrial waste isn't doing serious damage to the environment.

Since moving to Western North Carolina, I've become keenly aware of the evil that is the Tennessee Valley Authority—we breathe the shit pouring from its smokestacks all year, and in the summer, visibility mileage here is often measured in single digits.

The TVA is a federally owned corporation, and as such, I expect Obama to kick its fucking ass into shape. Scrubbers on every goddamn stack, and no more mountaintop-removal mining or sludge pits. There's no such thing as "clean coal", but it can be a hell of a lot cleaner than this.

Video at Crooks and Liars.

UPDATE: The spill is much bigger than initially reported—5.4 million cubic yards (over 1 billion gallons; the Exxon Valdez oil spill was about 11 million gallons). Somehow that much sludge spilled from a retention pond the TVA claimed held only 2.6 million.

UPDATE 2: Officials are warning area residents with wells to "boil their drinking water." Are you fucking kidding me? Boiling water is a nice precaution after a water main break or to kill germs from sewage contamination, but I'm pretty sure it does jack to remove heavy metals. The river looks like the goddamn adamantium vat from X-Men.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Achille's Heal

I can understand Obama's desire to embrace constituencies that have rejected him. Evangelicals are in that category and Warren is an important evangelical leader with whom, Obama said, "we're not going to agree on every single issue." He went on to say, "We can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans." Sounds nice.

But what we do not "hold in common" is the dehumanization of homosexuals. What we do not hold in common is the belief that gays are perverts who have chosen their sexual orientation on some sort of whim. What we do not hold in common is the exaltation of ignorance that has led and will lead to discrimination and violence.

Finally, what we do not hold in common is the categorization of a civil rights issue -- the rights of gays to be treated equally -- as some sort of cranky cultural difference. For that we need moral leadership, which, on this occasion, Obama has failed to provide. For some people, that's nothing to celebrate.

Richard Cohen, The Washington Post

I've now read plenty about the whole "Rick Warren getting a prime slot at the inauguration" from all sides—hard-left liberals who are incensed and/or devastated, and others who make valiant, and at times even convincing, rationalizations for the move. But none summed it up a well as that Cohen column—go read the whole thing.

Ultimately, I still come down where I did a couple weeks ago: This sucks, and Obama fucked up.

Big time.

No, not because this bigoted asshat getting a mic for two minutes during an event that will outshine anything he might possibly say, and this will hardly derail Obama's Presidency before it even gets started. Hell, most people—even Obama supporters—will be unaware of this whole behind-the-scenes drama, and blissfully unaware of the coded bullshit Warren will lace into his remarks.

It's the decision itself that reveals something to me: Obama has shown either a horrible and shocking tone-deafness, a calculated political callousness, or an immense ego that has him believing his own hype that he can heal any wound or close any rift.

Or some disturbing combination of all three.

His decision to offend a very real segment of his most avid supporters to appeal to a mythical segment of his detractors—or at the very least, skeptics—is a poor attempt at playing both ends against the middle. It's Clintonian triangulation and I hate that shit.

I know I've been proven wrong EVERY time I've doubted him, but I think Obama miscalculated here. Obama's detractors and skeptics will need much more than the token affirmation that Warren's presence provides to become his supporters—but even among Obama's strongest supporters, he has revealed a flaw that has justifiably made many of them skeptics.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Movie Résumé Meme

Toast has a new meme's a seemingly random list of movies and you check off which ones you've seen and count 'em up. I'm not about to bog down my front page with that freaking list, so if you want to check it out, I posted it in the archives here.

I've seen 90 out of a possible 213—same number as Toast, actually. A lot of overlap, and like Toast, most of the movies on this list that interest me, I've seen. And considering I've consumed far fewer movies since the kids were born that means there's a lot of shit on this list...

The few on the list I'm curious about:
Shaun of the Dead, Pirates of the Caribbean (both), Spider-Man (they only list 1 and 2, I want to see all three), Night Watch (maybe?). Bourne Supremacy

Movies you might not have seen that I'd highly recommend: Run Lola Run, A Bronx Tale, Lone Star (excellent).

Avoid at all costs: Four Rooms

No interest in the past, present or future:
Baseketball, Team America, Orgazmo (I hate those fucking South Park guys), Hannibal (shit novel, after two awesome ones)

The more I think about it, the more annoyingly arbitrary that list was. I need to come up with a better one somehow...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cabinet Refacing

President-Elect Obama has filled out his Cabinet, and there are surely a couple of posts there worth second-guessing, if not outright complaint-worthy. But only as a matter of policy, idealogy, or the fact that I don't like them—but, at this point I'm trusting they'll be following Obama's lead.

What I DON'T want to hear anyone bitching about is who didn't get picked for some stupid-ass demographic reason...

The Congressional Black Caucus is bent out of shape because apparently Obama's Cabinet doesn't closely resemble the S1Ws enough...
Black lawmakers irked by Obama’s diverse Cabinet

Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are disappointed President-elect Obama did not appoint more African-Americans to his Cabinet.

Obama tapped four blacks for Cabinet posts, including Eric Holder. If confirmed, Holder will be the first African-American attorney general.

But Obama passed over black candidates in selecting Cabinet nominees for positions central to setting policy for urban America, such as the departments of Education, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development.

[...]“On balance, I’d say a great deal of thought went into the shaping of this Cabinet,” Davis told The Hill. “And he ended up with a real rainbow. But some people, sure, thought there should be a bit more color in it.”

Another senior member of the CBC who requested anonymity said more pointedly that Obama “isn’t doing enough for the black folks.”

As dumb as that is, THIS one is even worse...

Yeah. Twenty straight years of Southern Presidents surrounded by other Southerners and these fucking rednecks are bitching about what?
Southerners are the missing group in Obama's Cabinet
By Jim Morrill | Charlotte Observer

There are Democrats and Republicans, liberals and moderates, Hispanics and Asians, whites and blacks, Northerners and Westerners.

But one group arguably was missing when President-elect Barack Obama rounded out his 15-member Cabinet Friday — Southerners.

[...] "Obama scored a tremendous advance for Democrats in winning the three large Southern states and ignored them," says Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "I'm just stunned. It was the one grouping completely ignored."

[...] "There really ought to be one (cabinet post) from each state," says Sabato. "These are three really big prizes, and they're tenuous. None of these states is guaranteed for a Democrat in the future."

There's more:
The disparity isn't an accident -- critics already are calling it a snub -- and that perception could slow the pace of recent electoral gains Democrats have made below the Mason-Dixon line.

"Southerners need not apply," said Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga. "It's hard to believe that there wasn't anybody qualified for something from the South." [...]

Dan Carter, a political historian at the University of South Carolina, said the shortage of Southerners among top White House aides is highly unusual and could invite criticism.

Um...Fuck You? Seriously. Perhaps the fact that Obama is picking qualified, knowledgable people to man the posts eliminated all the yokels at the door? But that's not really even true. Obama's got people from Texas, North Carolina, D.C., Florida plus Arizona and New Mexico. I guess not all of them are the "right kind" of Southerner...

Go read the whole AP piece, it's filled to the rim with stupid.

The best thing I saw on this? From the comments at Benen's:
Fine, fine, three new cabinet posts for the south then. Here are my suggestions;

Secretary of Tobacco
Secretary of NASCAR
Secretary of Obnoxious Whiners

Will that make them happy?

For the record, Obama’s Cabinet has 11 whites, four blacks, three Hispanics and two Asian Americans. Several are women, and one is the first openly gay cabinet-level appointee. It's a diverse—yet extremely qualified—group by almost any measure, so haters can sit back and drink up...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Camera Eye: Winter Solstice

Time to mix it up a bit around here...I'm going to be tossing in some photography with your irregularly-scheduled programming. I'm not foolish enough to try for a "daily photo," but I will try to put up things at a reasonable frequency that I think are interesting in one way or another—even if just to me.

So without further ado, here is a shot of our house, modestly dolled up for the holidays. It was taken shortly after the earliest dusk of the year, while bitterly cold (for N.C.) and extremely windy (for anywhere). Fitting, I think, for the first day of winter. This marks the debut of the new Sigma 17-35mm f/2.8 lens. So far, so good.

Not Feelin' It...

Sorry folks, just not in a blogging mood today. I had such a busy week at work—and not 9-5, I was going back to the office after the kids went to bed—I fell way behind in my surfing and reading and I feel ill-informed, combined with some general lethargy.

I'll be back. It shouldn't be too long before someone/thing pisses me off.

I did put up some new photos...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Quick Hits

Its been a hellish week at work so I've hardly even had time to read anything online, never mind write anything...but here are some wuick thoughts about some things I've seen flash past my eyes of late:

• Caroline Kennedy has no business getting appointed to Hillary's Senate seat, and the thought of it happening fucking pisses me off.

• Barack Obama's selection / allowing / or even tolerating Rick Warren's participation at his Inauguration is terrible. I don't EVER support elevating the platform of asshats like Warren, but especially not in the wake of Proposition 8 and Warren's role in passing it. I understand Obama's call for unity and a desire to represent diveristy of viewpoint, but fairness dictates a like desire from the opponent. Warren is an intolerant asshole and has no intention of advancing a discussion on gay rights, controception, abortion or anything else. He cares only to advance his agenda. Obama's ceremony should not serve it.

• As bad as Warren is, at least he won't be delivering policy. Tom Vilsack will. I was against this guy a month ago, and nothing I've seen changes my opinion that this guy is a bad pick. Period. The best one can hope for is an aggressive Ag policy by Obama and that Vilsack is merely the best player to advance the ball. If that's the case, Vilsack needs to shut his cornhole in the huddle.

• I've completely lost track of the auto industry stuff.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stocking the Cabinet

I'm not generally in favor of poaching the current Democratic team for Administration players, but I can get behind this move:
A transition official for President-elect Barack Obama says Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar will be named Interior Secretary later this week.

[...] Salazar is a first-term Colorado Senator who has established a name for himself on public lands and energy resources issues. He headed the Colorado Natural Resources Department from 1990 through 1994. The Interior Department has broad oversight over the nation's energy resources and environment. It oversees oil and gas drilling on public lands and manages the nation's parks and wildlife refuges.

I don't know anything about Salazar's record as an environmentalist, but I trust the Obama team's judgement there...I DO KNOW he fucking sucks as a Democratic Senator—so this is win-win as far as I'm concerned.

Monday, December 15, 2008


It would never happen, but Glenn Greenwald might be the best man for the job as Obama's Attorney General. Watch Bill Moyers' interview with Greenwald here—fascinating, invigorating, yet ultimately disappointing, because no politician—Obama included—is bold or brave enough to do what it takes.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dick of the Week: Harry Reid

Big surprise, right? This feckless asshole has GOT TO go...
Senate GOP Kills Auto Bailout Compromise
A proposed $14 billion automaker bailout bill, agreed to by Congressional Dems and the White House, collapsed late Thursday evening in the face of the opposition by Senate Republicans. "It's over with," declared Harry Reid.

Is is Harry Reid's fault that a group of Southern Senators want to jumpstart a new Confederacy and push the whole country towards a Depression just to score a few union scalps? No. But it's Reid's fucking fault that the Republicans get to scuttle badly needed action by quasi-filibustering without actually having to get off their asses.


Reid is yet again letting the whole Senate appear to blow it, when it's really a handful of "right to work" assholes actually colluding with foreign companies against American workers just to bust unions.

There's much more on this topic, but I'm on deadline, so it might be days til I can spend time on it...Have at it.

UPDATE: Another reason Harry sucks. His kiss-ass reaction to this bullshit.

And the winner is...

What? Yes, you have to watch the video...If you won, wouldn't you want the excitement of the "live" drawing?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Same As The Old Boss?

President Bush's Energy Secretary—Spencer Abraham:
As a Republican senator from Michigan, Abraham once called for dismantling the Energy Department.

President Obama's Energy Secretary—Steven Chu:
Chu is director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and shared the 1997 Nobel Prize in physics. He was an early advocate for scientific solutions to climate change.

Can people stop complaining about Obama's appointments already? Bush didn't merely appoint foxes to henhouses, he appointed the Big Bad Wolf to Construction Foreman—think Abraham, John Bolton—these guys didn't just want to line their pockets, their missions in life were to destroy the agencies they were appointed to.

Obama is tapping cutting-edge experts and progressives where he can, and powerful, effective people who can advance his agenda where he has to.

Don't make me break out the picture again.

[h/t Cesca]

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Why Jon Stewart Should Host "Meet the Press"

Because no other talking head on television has anything close to his game.

This is about as mature and well-informed a discussion on the topic of gay marriage I've seen, but by the end—and I know I am biased—Stewart just takes Huckabee apart. Huckabee tries the slippery slope argument, the "gay as a choice" argument, procreation, childrearing, and everything he has up his the end of the discussion he's reduced to defending an entry in the dictionary over human rights.

Game. Set. Match.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

No Purchase Necessary (which is kind of the point)

If you ever spend any time at the site of my better half, then you know all about Mrs F's new holiday strategy—Christmas Compacting. She has graciously offered to extend her "Gift Box Giveaway" and will create one package of Furious Holiday Cheer (Holiday Fury?) that I can give away to MY readers.

Leave a comment to put your name in the hat.

All regular readers are eligible, even crossover readers who already entered (and didn't win) Mrs. F's drawing. Odds of winning here are one in a much smaller number. UPDATE: Mrs F sent out the packages for her winners today. She'll do the next round this weekend, so this is open 'til Friday.

Nobody cAyers

William Ayers has an Op-Ed in the New York Times in which he addresses his connection (or lack thereof) to Obama. Thankfully he waited until after the election to come out of the woodwork, and he makes a good point about the attempts to smear Obama using their loose association, but nobody's really asking for his opinion. The Times should not have given him a platform regardless of his point about the campaign, and once they read the rest of his piece it should have been shredded, not printed.

The piece may be bookended with legitimate points regarding Obama and the campaign, but in between Ayers spends most of the column narcissistically trying to salvage his own reputation—unavoidably at the expense of Obama's.

The "real Bill Ayers" rationalizes and excuses his past behavior, and lamely attempts to refute the "unrepentant terrorist" label fixed on him by—being totally unrepentant, and dishonestly minimizing his actions.

Hilzoy pretty much nails it:
"Ayers may think that there's still a debate about the Weather Underground's effectiveness. And he might also think that he "acted appropriately in the context of those times." To me, though, he's just a shallow rich kid who took himself and his revolutionary rhetoric much too seriously, helped inspire people to do things that got them killed, and helped to discredit the anti-war movement and the left as a whole."

In case any defense of Obama for knowing Bill Ayers ever came across as a defense of Ayers himself, let me be clear—I think the guy was fucking scum back in the day. Even if he has rehabilitated himself (debatable) and become a productive member of society (he has) then the most it earns him in my book is "shut the fuck up, lay low, and go about your business" status. I'm not interested in anything the guy has to say if it's not contrition.

Survey Says...

Meaningless, but slightly revealing/informative meme from Toast...

1. Five names you go by:
Matt, Daddy, Furious, Sir, "Hey, You!"

2. Three things you are wearing right now:
slippers, eyeglasses, two rings (don't worry, those aren't the ONLY things...)

3. Two things you want very badly at the moment:
a lucrative freelance project, Nikon 35-70mm f/2.8 Macro Lens.

4. Three people who will probably fill this out:
Smitty, Rickey, Angelos

5. Two things you did last night:
Drank Sangria, watched an old "Newsradio" online after everyone went to bed.

6. Two things you ate today:
Delicious dipped Oreo thing Mrs. F made, marinated grilled chicken sandwich.

7. Two people you last talked to on the phone:
gave NRDC the brush-off, ordered an over-the-range microwave

8. Two things you are going to do tomorrow:
something tbd with he kids, waste time online

9. Two longest car rides:

Purchase, NY to Daytona Beach (1070 mi.), Ann Arbor, MI to Charleston, SC (872 mi.)

10. Two of your favorite beverages:
Cherry Coke, really good coffee

Friday, December 05, 2008

Not Even Close

According to this analysis by Jim Manzi, it appears I spent more time and effort on my post Wed. night than GM did on their "restructuring" proposal to Congress.

As I read through Manzi's post I found myself growing angrier, further resenting these asshat execs running GM, and wishing them and the company nothing but ill will.

GM does not appear serious about doing anything that will help the industry—or even their own goddamn corporation—over the long haul. Their proposal appears to be nothing more than a PowerPoint presentation for getting in on the bailout bonanza and a way to extort concessions from the unions. Assholes.

Oh, and fuck Chrysler and Cerberus.


UPDATE: Ford says it's okay for now, but wants a line of credit in case things get worse—I think that's posturing and merely trying to avoid the "about to go under stigma" of GM and Chrysler. That USAT link has a side bar that includes a list of each automakers plans. Here's part of GM's:
Sell Saab, trim Pontiac, sell or close Saturn, sell fewer models. Reduce powertrain and stamping facilities to 38 by end of 2012, from 64 now.

A good start, but nowhere near what I suggested, and as Manzi pointed out doesn't get them anywhere close to financially viable.

UPDATE 2: An additional "Fuck you" to Cerberus, and can somebody explain to me how combining two "too big to fail corporations" into one even bigger failing corporation is a smart move? Republican Senators are pushing for a GM/Chrysler merger.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

My Big Three Bailout Plan

Yeah, that's right. I'm laying out my plan to save the industry, but first, I've got some shit to get off my chest...

I've been mulling over a massive critique of the American auto companies for a while now...Ever since I went to the (Detroit) North American International Auto Show a couple years ago and watched as GM countered the onslaught of the Prius, hybrid Hondas and other kick-ass imports with the big unveiling of their updated GMT900 line of full-size trucks and SUVs (Silverados, Tahoe, Yukons, Suburban, etc.)

One year later, Dodge brought in a herd of cattle for their new full-size Ram pickup to "drive" through downtown Detroit. Putting aside the sheer stupidity of that stunt and lack of relevance of using the truck for actual labor, they were even further behind than GM.

Now I'm not saying all of those vehicles weren't a little long in the tooth, and didn't need a facelift—they did, and they are the best looking versions of those trucks yet—but GM (and last year, Chrysler) was betting EVERYTHING on these vehicles at a time when it was clear the Era of the Big SUV was winding down. They've made some admirable gains in fuel economy, introduced a hybrid Tahoe, but the fact remains they were behind the curve in a big way, and instead of investing in warm blood and fur, they poured hundreds of millions of dollars redesigning the dinosaur right before the Ice Age.

It appears they have learned that lesson now, when it is too late. GM has indefinitely suspended plans to redesign the line again, instead of the standard six-year lifespan. What brought them to that conclusion? Full-size SUV sales have plummeted 51% since they unveiled the 2007 models. The Trailblazer (mid-size SUV) sales fell 73%. And those numbers are from before gas prices spent the summer over $4.

One thing Detroit can clearly still do is rear-view mirrors.

Here's the thing: Two years ago, I knew those SUVs were going to be launched, and how fucking stupid a bet GM was making, but that's not what's most frustrating... It was going to the NAIAS this past January and seeing these cars:

What's wrong with those cars, Mr Furious?

Nothing. Nothing except the fact that in January of 2008 they were still fucking concept vehicles for GM! I'm pretty sure Toyota's been making money hand over fist in that niche with Scion since 2004.

All I could do is stare from offstage, snap my pics and wonder aloud, "Why the hell aren't cars like that in showrooms NOW?!?"

If I were on the Senate Banking Committee today, I'd ask Rick Wagoner why it wasn't some team's 24/7 job to get those two cars on the road by the end of the year. Seriously. And don't waste time blanding-down the design—those two cars are hot and would sell like crazy just as they are.

Which leads me to my first bailout requirement:

Fire everyone who looks at a concept car and says, "our focus group tells us that they won't like..." I bet there's a whole level of management jackasses in each division responsible for taking cool cars and turning them into Cobalts and G5s. History backs me up on this. The cars released in the last decade that made the smallest style jump from show floor to showroom were successful: The New Beetle, Mini Cooper, PT Cruiser, the current Prius. Next up? The Volt. They've already made the concept car look too much like a Stratus. Why is Detroit afraid to take a fucking chance? The Volt NEEDS TO look different. It's the first electric car. People who buy one don't want to be mistaken for Malibu drivers (and for the record, I think the Malibu is the best-looking Chevy sedan in forty years). Do you hear what I'm saying, GM? "Green" sells. Prius drivers aren't just saving gas, they're making a fucking statement driving around in that lozenge. All the hype around the Volt is going to deflate somewhat when that cool-ass concept everyone saw looks "normal."

Let me get to the real nuts and bolts stuff that needs to happen to save these companies. Trim the fat. And there is plenty of it. All of the Big Three have too much duplication across brands. Cut brands, and cut models:


Buick—Gone. The loyal Buick customer base has to be pushing 70. Elderly people buying their last car ain't a plan for the future.

Cadillac—An upscale line is good. And I like the new "sharp edge" direction. Skews younger. Pick one full size sedan, I like the STS, so ditch the DTS. You can only keep the Escalade if every single one is Hybrid or DoD (Displacement on Demand—shuts off half the cylinders when not needed)

Chevy—Family cars, SUVs, pickups and the Corvette. That's it. Start making Hybrid Equinoxes. And goddammit, build a fucking station wagon again. No more Avalanche—stupidest idea ever. All full-size trucks and SUVs need Hybrid or DoD powertrains.

GMC—Gone. There is no need to duplicate with Chevy: Yukon=Tahoe. Stop building both. All commercial trucks are Chevys now. Why? Because the separate division has a whole layer of management that is redundant.

HUMMER—Gone. Just for symbolism's sake if nothing else, but that market is dead.

Pontiac—Because I like the Vibe, Solstice and G6 so much it's hard to let go. Pontiac can be the "sporty division" and those three and the G8 is their lineup. That's it. No SUVs or vans, and ditch the G5, it's ugly.

Saab—Sell it. Please. Let somebody in Sweden make cool, quirky cars again. GM trashed this once great brand the second they bought it, and I will go back to Detroit and kill someone if their mismanagement means Saab's demise.

—Duplication is a problem here, but they have the best lineup in the company, run differently from factory to sales floor and as far as I know do well.


Your website won't load, so you get nothing. Actually, here's what I want: The European Focus. Wagons and hatchbacks. Trust me.

Again, and upscale brand is fine. Sedans only. No SUVs.

Mercury—A fetish for vertical grillwork is no reason to duplicate an entire line of automobiles. Good bye.


Family sedans and minivans. No more Aspen. All trucks and SUVs are now Dodges or Jeeps. Limit duplication.

Dodge—Sporty cars and trucks only. All lame sedans (Avenger=Sebring) and vans are now Chryslers.

Jeep—Compass, Liberty or PAtriot: Pick one, lose the other two. Everything else is fine.

Note: In no way do I support a financial benefit for Cerberus, the holding company that owns Chrysler, until the company is back in the black and they earn a reward for their investment.


All companies need to start cracking on electric, hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles like fucking yesterday. Engine technology improvements have gone too far over towards power instead of efficiency. There is really no need for any average family car to be packing over 200 horses. Get that shit turned around.

No companies can pay dividends, and stockholders are holding the bag—I don't care if they take a bath. Top level executives forgo salaries until the loans are paid back. Their stock options should be compensation and incentive enough. Mid-level management should have been thinned with consolidation of brands and models, all salaries and bonuses are frozen.

Union wages freeze. Contracts are not opened up, but concessions can and should be made. Negotiations to alter terms for legacy costs should ensue.

ALL THREE COMPANIES NEED TO ACTIVELY PUSH FOR UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE. When enacted, all employees top to bottom, plus retirees need to abandon company healthcare in favor of national plan. This single factor will relieve their biggest current and legacy financial burdens.

That's all I can think of now, and I'm tired. Get it done, you bastards.


It's well established that Jack White and Brendan Benson could flush a mic down the toilet and I'd excitedly post the video—but this is excellent! A bluegrass version of "Old Enough." Dig:

Monday, December 01, 2008

Dee-troit Breakdown

Jim at Sweet Juniper! has the best takedown of the Big Three Haters I've read's a chunk of the mirror he holds up:
I have been surprised by the anger and disgust expressed by so many at the workers (and their unions) for their role in the current state of the American auto industry [...] how all kinds of people---conservatives and liberals---have such a visceral, angry response to the idea of the [...] lazy, do-nothing UAW member sitting in a room doing cross word puzzles instead of working on the line, collecting $70 an hour salaries with better health and retirement benefits than the CEOs of the company.

[...] I think this ugly response to a mythology perpetuated about blue-collar workers is particularly shameful because so many American white-collar workers in both the public and private sectors are incredibly lazy themselves. God forbid a factory worker should step away from her job twisting the tops on the toothpaste tubes for a minute, but just because someone has a Bachelor's degree that apparently entitles them to dick around on the internet all day with impunity.

I once wrote (somewhat in jest), "Thank goodness almost every office worker in America has virtually unfettered access to the internet. Imagine what would happen to our economy if employers started taking away internet privileges and people were forced to actually work. The sound of crickets would reign at fark, digg, and reddit. Entire fantasy football teams would stand around on their virtual sidelines with nothing to do. Projects would get done way earlier than they needed to be. Soon there wouldn't be enough work to go around. Bureaucracies would actually become efficient. Massive layoffs would follow. The entire American economy is balanced precariously on the fact that the average American office worker spends only about 20 percent of his or her time actually working." This is corporate America's dirty little secret. Anyone who's ever worked in an office environment knows that it is at least somewhat true. Add to all that internet time the Sisyphusian piles of meaningless paperwork, unproductive conversations with coworkers, endless meetings, pointless conferences and worthless training seminars, and I think there's enough fodder for a stereotype of the lazy, do-nothing middle-class white-collar office worker who may not have a union to protect him, but who hardly deserves his salary. Where is the animus towards this mythical being?

The thing is, he's not a myth. He is real, and right now he is spitting on the men and women who still make things in America because they dared to believe they could be just like him.

Read the whole thing.

Also, here is Jim's previous post on the auto companies, complete with some of his amazing, eerie and haunting photos of Detroit. More of those can be found here.

Hell, I just spent an hour gazing at photos and reading fascinating tales of the Detroit Book Depository—they're going in the blogroll.

Photo © Sweet Juniper Media, Inc.

Truth, or consequences?

Mark Kleiman asks a good question, and has—perhaps—an even better suggestion?

This might be the most realistic, best-case scenario for dealing with the Bush Administration's wrongdoing, much as it pains me.

Water Is Wet

The country is in a recession.

And Wall Street is filled with pussies.


Nobody wants Al Franken to boot Norm Coleman's ass out of Paul Wellstone's Senate seat more than me, but if Reid and the Senate pick the winner, I won't be pleased. At all.

I'd rather Coleman win, than Franken get the seat under shady circumstances.

If the Senate can bring pressure to make sure all the necessary votes are counted, that's fine, but it needs to be totally and completely above board, and the results respected.

In related news, Joe Biden's seat is going to his former Chief of Staff, who will hold it until a special election in which he vows not to run. This is good because I can think of no one who could better continue the decisions of the man the people of Delaware elected to the Senate than his long-time CoS. And democracy-wise, this is far preferable to the much-rumored appointment of Biden's son, Beau. I've little patience for nepotism—and even less among good guys.