Archive for December, 2011

2011 Predictions Gone Awry

December 28, 2011 2 comments

I don’t know why people venture forth with predictions for the future. Maybe it’s that one in a thousand wild-ass guess that comes true that allows predictors to feel good about themselves. For some, like psychics, it’s a business.

Political Predictions

On the other hand, for some, like Karl Rove and William Kristol, who are paid to analyze politics, it’s dangerous territory. Rove, of course, predicted Sarah Palin would get into the Presidential race. He was apparently thrown off by that huge tour bus wrapped in the constitution with the big Sarah Palin signature on it, so he can be forgiven.

Kristol, who was once Vice President, Dan Quayle’s chief of staff- is just perpetually wrong about almost all things political. Wasn’t just his bold prediction (backed up by two sources!) that Rudy Giuliani would run for the White House this year. We all fondly remember his prediction three years ago that Barack Obama would not win a single primary against Hillary Clinton.

Sports Predictions

In the world of sports, we had two dream teams in 2011- the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia Eagles. Sports is one profession, where grandiose predictions about your own team tend to backfire because, see, word gets out among your competitors that you’re implying they’re all chumps which only feeds their desire to crush you. So when LeBron James predicted a half-dozen NBA titles, this was not well received by, among others, the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

It was Eagle’s back up quarterback, Vince Young, who remarking on the large number of expensive free agents Philadelphia signed up in the off-season, saw a dream team there in the city of brotherly love. The season ended ignominiously for the Eagles a couple of weeks ago with no playoffs but lots of talk about the potential firing of long time head coach, Andy Reid.

Psychic Predictions

My favorite erroneous or just plain hilarious predictions come from psychics. It’s a veritable treasure trove of goodies. We will leave out delusional pastors who twice called for the end of the world in 2011.

In the “Psychic to the Stars” category, a mantle claimed by some guy named Sydney Friedman and a woman named Nikki, we had the following from early 2011 looking at the year ahead.

From Sidney Friedman: “Lady GaGa becomes a teacher at a university. Maybe it’s just for a day or two, but she lectures at a school of higher learning.” I scoured the World Wide Web and this did not happen, though the University of South Carolina threatened to offer a course called Lady GaGa and the Sociology of Fame. Curiously enough, about a month before Friedman’s prediction,there were reports that she had applied to teach fashion and art appreciation at NYU.

Mr. Friedman also offered this gem: “This I truly hope does not occur: A major league baseball player inexplicably dies on the field.” Morbid and interesting- but wrong. Granted, entire teams died on the field in 2011, notably the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves who each blew historic divisional leads, but no one actually passed on to the hereafter on a baseball diamond.

From Nikki: 1) The Playboy Mansion will burn down; 2) Hillary Clinton will win the Nobel Peace Prize; 3) A gold rush will occur in Hawaii. No, no and no. Turns out there was an interview in which Rolling Stone band member, Keith Richards, said he once almost burned down the Playboy mansion. Hillary did not get the Nobel nod. And the only rush rumored to have hit Hawaii this year was the invasion of private investigators sent to the island by Donald Trump to look into Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Alas, that didn’t happen either.

Then there’s Craig and Jane Hamilton-Parker, who call themselves ‘Britain’s Best Psychic Couple’. They came out with the predictable prediction of the great California earthquake and that the Hollywood sign would be damaged. But my favorite: Tropical Island to be evacuated because of volcanic eruption. I’m no expert in plate tectonics, but cursory knowledge of these matters would tell you that, by nature, any island is a product of volcanic or seismic activity. That’s how they’re born. It would, therefore, not be unusual that some island, somewhere in the world might experience a volcanic eruption and that some people may have to be evacuated.

Finally, there are the Psychic Twins, Terry and Linda Jamison. They claim to have predicted the 9/11 calamity and have even appeared on The View. The twins boldly predicted that President Obama would not be re-elected in 2011. This, of course, actually did come to pass, because the election is not scheduled until November 6th, 2012. And even if you give them credit for having given us a bonus prediction for 2012, the odds on this, of course, are about 50/50.

Not Class Warfare- It’s Class Cluelessness

December 22, 2011 Leave a comment

(Cartoon by RJ Matson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Even the lawmakers who say they “get it” don’t really “get it.” For them it’s an abstraction. They think they know what those poor middle-class people care about.

They are advised by their aides and consultants that the failure to extend something like the payroll tax cut would hurt the finances of the regular people. But they don’t really know because, by any standard- our lawmakers are very wealthy people who live in a world far different than most of their constituents.

Here are the figures. There are 535 members of Congress; 100 Senators and 435 members of the House. Between them, there are 261 millionaires. Last year, the Center for Responsive Politics found that the median wealth of a House member was $765,000. The median wealth of a U.S. Senator was $2.38 million. And during the worst of the Great Recession, lawmaker’s median wealth increased 16% between 2008 and 2009.

For a $50,000 a year income, repealing the payroll tax cut costs that worker $160 monthly or $40 a week.

So what‘s $40 to somebody worth a million or ten million or a hundred million? Not even couch change. It’s nothing.

– Half a tank of gas for an SUV? They wouldn’t know. They don’t drive cars, they have drivers.

– A little extra money to buy prescription drugs? They wouldn’t know. Congress has the best health care coverage in America. They’ve never had to use an HMO and they certainly don’t have to worry about paying out of pocket for medications.

-Eight roasted chickens at Costco? They wouldn’t know. Forty bucks barely covers the tip for a couple of steak dinners and several cocktails at Morton’s.

-Nine gallons of milk/ Ten 20-ounce loaves of bread? Actually, they do know these figures because they get briefed on them by aides so they won’t get embarrassed if some wise-ass reporter asks them.

– Half the price of a one-way ticket on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional for the holiday visit to grandma’s in New Jersey? They wouldn’t know. They take the Acela. 1st Class.

– A really cheap pair of shoes? They wouldn’t know. A pair of Ferragamo men’s shoes goes for about $600. The low end of Manolo Blahnik’s for women go for about $700.

Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t mind being rich myself. But when they fight for us regular people, it’s usually because doing so helps ensure they remain on the pathway to power and wealth. After all, it’s the little people who elect them. I’m not saying they don’t care. It’s just that when they consider the tough times most people are going through, they have to imagine that world. They certainly don’t inhabit it.

Some would accuse me of waging class warfare. I would respond that it’s not war when one side has all the weapons. But it is class cluelessness.

Kim Jong-Il, World’s Greatest Golfer, Bowler, Fashion Leader & Fast Food Mogul, Dies

December 19, 2011 1 comment

(Photo courtesy of

He ruled North Korea with an iron fist, starved his own people and kept the world perpetually on edge with his nuclear threats. But whether it was on the golf course, the bowling alley or the finest fashion runways of New York and Paris, the diminutive North Korean leader was constantly proving his global superiority.

In 1994, North Korean state-run media reported that as he celebrated his 62nd birthday, he took his first golf outing ever to an 18-hole course near Pyongyang. He finished with an incredible score of 34—a full 38 strokes under par, scoring 5 holes-in-one, a fact verified by his 17 body guards who were all reportedly there to greet and hail him as the Supreme Leader wrapped up his remarkable round on the 18th hole.

He was also the world’s greatest bowler with witnesses reporting he completed a perfect score of 300 in his very first visit to the lanes.

None of which should come as a surprise coming from a man who, according to official North Korean state literature, was born in a small log cabin in 1942 near Mount Paekdu, the nation’s most sacred mountain. The birth, which had been predicted by a swallow, caused a bright star to appear that immediately changed the seasons from winter to spring followed by an amazing double rainbow.

North Korean newspapers also reported that he was one of the world’s leading fashion figures; that his khaki pant suits were being emulated around the globe. State media also pointed out that his birthday was celebrated around the planet and that many, many nations held festivals in his honor.

Supreme Leader did not allow foreign fast-food restaurants in North Korea and he didn’t need to as he invented a sandwich called “double-bread with meat” and had a special facility built to make it by the thousands for his starving people.

There will now be 11 days of mourning for Dear Leader in North Korea. Apparently out of respect for the fallen dictator, there has been universal silence from the international golfing, bowling, fashion and fast-food communities since the emotional announcement of his passing late last night.

Congress Temporarily Saves the Incandescent Light Bulb

December 16, 2011 2 comments

Tucked away in the 1,200-page bill that keeps the government funded through the rest of the fiscal year is a teeny, tiny, little provision that denies the Obama administration any of the money that would be necessary for it to enforce new energy efficiency standards that would pretty much eradicate the incandescent light bulb.

Yes, that’s right…for the time being anyway…the old light bulb continues to live on!

For some reason, this has been a huge priority for congressional Republicans- presumably because of the symbolism of it all; playing on the resentment of Americans being forced to use those weird, foreign-looking, squiggly light bulbs by squinty-eyed, bespectacled, nerdy, little, carbon foot-print-measuring, bureaucratic, government weasel-heads.

I’m going with the GOP on this one. You can only judge these things, I think, based on your own experiences. And my one experience with the new fangled light bulbs was not a pretty one. Saw it in the drug store one day and thought, “Oh what the hell, let’s see if these things do as advertised.” So I brought it home, took out my incandescent bulb in my bedroom lamp and screwed in the new one.

The packaging says, “lasts five years!” What a deal, I thought. Yeah, they’re a little expensive but totally worth it for five years, right? Ten minutes after I put that new bulb into the lamp, it popped and died. I was totally outraged. There is a huge difference in my book between five years and ten minutes. Huge. I fished the old incandescent bulb out of the trash can and happily screwed it back in again.

With visible disdain (visible at the time only by my cats), I tossed the failed new fangled bulb into the trash. I felt duped. Violated, even.

Look, I’m as environmentally conscious as the next guy—no—more so. I don’t even own a car. I have the tiniest little carbon footprint of anyone I know. I love the earth and the trees and the grasses and all of God’s creatures. I would even be in favor of the eradication of the incandescent light bulb if it would buy our lovely planet just one more day. But the thing you’re replacing it with- HAS TO WORK.

Otherwise- back off, Mr. Government Bureaucrat Guy. Don’t make me buy a 1960 diesel pick-up truck without a catalytic converter- ‘cause I will mess the earth up. Big time.

Political Scenarios: The Trouble Iowa Could Stir Up

December 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Polls are one thing; votes, even caucus votes, are another.  The time is rapidly approaching that the first set of winners and losers in the Republican presidential race will be officially decided in Iowa. 

The polls (Public Policy Polling) show Newt up by just a single point over Ron Paul with three weeks to go. For all the press about Newt Gingrich’s sudden inevitability, the up-to-the-minute trends as registered by notoriously unreliable polling in the state is that Newt is on the decline. A barrage of negative advertising against him primarily from the Ron Paul camp appears to be doing damage.  Gingrich’s negatives are going up while his Tea Party support has started eroding quickly.  Meantime, more and more evangelical leaders in the state are endorsing Michele Bachmann who is creeping up on Mitt Romney who is currently third. 

How about this scenario for Iowa?  Ron Paul edges out Newt Gingrich.  Michelle Bachmann finishes third, ahead of Romney who comes in a disappointing 4th.  

Now we come to the New Hampshire primary, where Mitt Romney with home field advantage, edges out Gingrich who is nearly caught by a surging Ron Paul.   Totally plausible scenario that leaves today’s front-runner- Newt Gingrich- winless in the first two important political contests of the season.  

Newt’s poll numbers in the next contests in South Carolina and Florida are strong.  Romney is well ahead in Nevada.  As the early contests conclude, we could very well have a three-way donnybrook verging on a 4-way traffic jam if Michelle Bachmann ends up the recipient of coalesced evangelical and Tea Party support.

This thing could go on awhile as the GOP has restructered its process to include fewer winner-take-all states.  Even 4th place finishers get a few delegates in state after state.  It even leaves open the possibility of the wet dream of all political junkies in America-the brokered convention. 

None of the Republican candidates arrive in Tampa with a majority.  All of them are bruised and battered after months of vicious attacks on each other.  None of them have a lead on Obama in head-to-head general election polls.  Movers and shakers in the G.O.P. establishment meet in a smoke-filled room in a non-smoking hotel to hammer out a solution.

To the shock of the nation and stunning the Obama campaign team- it all becomes a Florida nightmare for the Dems.  The Tampa convention, by acclamation, suddenly nominates former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush who crazily enough, chooses Florida Senator Marco Rubio as his VP.  Months of opposition research and ready-to-go TV ads go down the tubes as shocked Obama operatives read their internal polling.  The Florida path is gone. Bush/Rubio is nailing 40% of the Hispanic vote. The men are gone.  The Catholics are gone.

But come January of 2013, it’s Barack Obama taking his second oath of office, saved by the 3rd and 4th party campaigns of Ron Paul and Donald Trump who take just enough votes from Bush and Rubio to put Obama over the top. He reaches his electoral majority Wednesday morning, November 7th as Hawaii comes through at 6am, ET.

I know, I know.  Reads like a bad novel.  But in a campaign in which reality has already been stranger than fiction….



Explaining Tebow and the Broncos: The Physical and the Metaphysical

December 12, 2011 2 comments

Having watched the latest Tebow miracle against the Chicago Bears, I have come to the conclusion that resistance is futile.  There are physical and strategic ways to explain how the Broncos managed to win a game they trailed by ten points with 2 minutes to play, but the set of circumstances that had to all converge at once to make the latest miracle possible, are, depending on your point of view, either coincidental or metaphysical.  Cue up the Twilight Zone music please.

First, Tebow and the Broncos happened to get the Bears on the schedule at a time when Chicago was without both its starting quarterback and running back- out with injuries.  The Bear’s offense without these fellows is just ludicrously, absurdly wretched.  Still, the Bears measly ten points seemed to be enough because the Bronco’s offense was even worse. 

For roughly 58 minutes of the 60-minute game, and true to form during this miracle streak, Tebow and his offense were just horrible.  At one point he had 11 consecutive incomplete passes.  For the first three quarters, he completed only 3 of 16 passes for just 45 yards and an interception.  

And now we come to the other two factors that are just difficult to explain and those involve the bird-brained Chicago Bears.  Tebow finished the game completing 18 of 24 passes that wracked up 191 yards and a touchdown.  This has been happening game after game now in Denver’s improbable road to a 7 and 1 record in their last 8 games with Tebow at the helm.  Horrible stats for three quarters- amazing stats for the final one.

It’s actually not hard to explain.  The NFL has Tebow figured out.  He’s a young quarterback.  He does not have a quick release and he’s green enough that he doesn’t look at a lot of 2nd, 3rd and 4th receiver options.  He basically looks for one main receiver and if he’s not open- he runs.  And he runs well.  Built like a tight end, Tebow doesn’t do much sliding into the turf as most other quarterbacks do.  He runs into defenders and tries to bowl them over and often does.

What makes Tebow successful late in games is that NFL defenses abandon what’s worked against him for 3 quarters and begin to play soft.  With the Broncos perpetually behind, teams play a prevent defense against them, willing to allow yards as long as it’s time consuming and they don’t get into the end zone.  This is where Tebow excels.  For a great explanation of how this works, see this smart article by Steve von Horn, a contributor to SB Nation Chicago.

Why the Bears and other NFL teams continue to play a prevent defense against Tebow after seeing film of game after game in which he exploits it so well, is clueless but explainable.  It’s because they’ve been doing it for years and it usually works.  But von Horn speculates that the first team that plays Tebow in the 4th quarter the same way they’ve played him for the previous three will probably put an end to the Denver miracle.

Then there’s Marion Barber, the back-up Chicago running back who had played seven years in the NFL and apparently learned nothing.  With the Broncos out of time outs and Chicago trying to eat precious seconds, Barber inexplicably let himself get run out of bounds and it stopped the clock and gave Denver the time needed to launch their furious rally against the soft prevent defense.  This is elemental football strategy.  The very definition of running the clock out requires that you stay in bounds. 

And then as the Bears are in field goal range in overtime, Barber runs to Denver’s rescue yet again, failing to hold on to the ball and fumbling it away. 

Let’s not forget that Denver hit a 59-yard field goal to tie the game in regulation.  That’s like 4 yards shy of the all-time NFL record.  And then a 51-yarder to win it all in overtime.  In case you’re not familiar with the game, 50-yard+ field goals don’t come easily.

The fairy tale will come to an end one of these days.  Maybe next week against the New England Patriots.  But for right now, it’s a remarkable thing to watch.  Whatever your feelings about all the religion stuff and that an NFL player, who, say, thanked Allah instead of Jesus after every touchdown, would probably end up on a terrorist watch list – what this young man and his teammates have been accomplishing really is rather miraculous.   

When you break it down it’s sort of explainable.  But when you step back and look at the totality of these last 8 games and everything that’s had to go just right to pull off, among other things, not one, not two, but three overtime victories- you just have to sit back in wonder, shake your head and chuckle.  You may not see anything like this again for a long, long while.

Newt: Defying Gravity and the GOP Establishment

December 9, 2011 2 comments

He is looking more and more unstoppable and the fear and trepidation on the part of establishment Republicans is palpable. But the more they attack the better he does.

Here’s the list of conservative pundits who have weighed in on what they see as the dangers of Newt Gingrich citing everything from ideological inconsistency to a lack of moral compass to psychopathic narcissism:

George Will, Charles Krauthammer , Peggy Noonan, David BrooksMeghan McCainRoss DouthatAnn Coulter,  Michael Gerson 

Mitt Romney supporter, New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, warned Thursday without naming names, that Republicans don’t want to nominate a Presidential candidate who might embarrass them.

Other Romney surrogates also piled on. Former New Hampshire Governor, John Sununu and former Missouri Senator Jim Talent tried to level Newt in a telephone conference call with reporters saying he is unreliable and not trustworthy.

Meantime, the Romney camp, while letting others do the heavy lifting on the personal and political attacks on Newt, released a biographical campaign ad highlighting Mitt’s steadiness in marriage. Hint, hint: Newt’s had two affairs and three marriages.

None of this matters to the Republican electorate according to poll after poll after poll that find Gingrich not just surging, but eviscerating Romney in every key primary or caucus state except New Hampshire (Romney’s backyard) and even that race is tightening considerably.

The more the attacks pile on, the more desperate Romney looks. And there’s a good reason for that. He’s desperate. And there are only four weeks before the first votes are counted. It’s become cliché, but Newt is the only thing that can stop Newt now.

This is an election cycle in which it appears Republican voters don’t give two hoots for pundits, commentators, media (liberal or conservative), office-holders, or following the orderly line of succession that has been the party’s previous history.

Gingrich is acting with great self confidence and taking all the criticism with a hearty laugh these days; like a man who knows every scathing column and every attack from current and former members of Congress are all individual badges of honor that can only help the cause.

The Donald Trump Presidential Debate: Victory for Entertainment

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

It will have entertainment value. It will be a plus for the ION cable network few people have ever heard of. It’s a real plus for Newsmax, the conservative magazine and web site which is sponsoring the December 27th debate and is now getting lots and lots of media attention. It will, however, feature fewer candidates because at least so far, two of them are appalled at the prospect of Donald Trump moderating a presidential debate.

Here’s what’s odd about the whole thing. Donald Trump has indicated, somewhere down the road, he will be endorsing one of the candidates, making this debate a de facto audition before The Donald. And he’s also said that if he ends up not liking any of them he may run as an independent candidate himself, which would theoretically only hurt the Republican party in a general election. So what we have here in this Trump debate, basically, is a slightly longer version of the decision scenes at the end of Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice shows.

The head of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, says he doesn’t have a dog in this fight. “It’s up to the candidates, I mean, I don’t make those decisions.”

Former Bush political advisor and unofficial spokesperson for the “establishment” wing of the GOP, Karl Rove, does have an opinion- a strong opinion expressed on Fox News’ morning show today:

So should a guy who’s going to endorse be the ‘impartial’ moderator of a debate? I think the Republican National chairman ought to step in and say we strongly discourage every candidate from appearing in a debate moderated by somebody who’s going to run for president…

This is no unimportant debate, by the way. Coming on December 27th, it’s the last debate before Iowa voters do their caucus thing on Tuesday, January 3rd.

Ron Paul’s people call the whole thing a circus:

“The selection of a reality television personality to host a presidential debate that voters nationwide will be watching is beneath the office of the Presidency and flies in the face of that office’s history and dignity.

Former Utah Governor, Jon Huntsman will not participate either. Nor is he partaking in the ritual of candidates flying to Manhattan for an audience with Trump. He tells Fox News:

I’m not going to kiss his ring, and I’m not going to kiss any other part of his anatomy.

And what is the value of a Trump endorsement anyway? Here’s a National Review Online article about a September poll from Fox News that finds that getting the nod from The Donald is akin to getting a kiss from Mafia don just before you go swimming with the fishes:

While 10 percent of Republicans are more likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Trump, 18 percent are less likely to do so. (Seventy-one percent don’t care.) But if you poll all voters, 31 percent say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Trump while only 6 percent would be more likely.

You’d think GOP candidates would be staying far, far away from Trump. You’d think. But new Republican frontrunner, Newt Gingrich, heads to the Big Apple today for his Trump photo-op (previous visitors count Rick Perry, Michele Bachman, Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney). And Newt is the first candidate to confirm participation in the Newsmax/Trump debate. As he puts it:

I would want to go just for the entertainment value.

It’s not like there are any important issues to discuss or contemplate. Let’s get back to some of the tried and true Donald Trump oldies but goodies like the President’s phony birth certificates and college grades, and how we should bomb Iran and steal Libya’s oil. After all, that’s what’s been lacking in the campaign so far: seriousness.