Friday, November 14, 2008

Point Guard-in-Chief

I don't often watch the late night talk shows anymore. If I do happen to have them on, as I did the other night, I watch Letterman.

I happened to be watching this week when Don Rickles was on and he made a joke that bombed:

[Rickles] was absolutely killing the audience on David Letterman's show the other night with his trademark scorched-earth put-downs. Rickles seemed at the top of his game -- until he tried to tell a joke about the new president-elect. Not even a well-timed rimshot from the band could have saved him.

It was just a quick bit in which he imagined Obama, faced with his first international crisis, telling his advisers he couldn't be interrupted because he was busy playing basketball.
Yeah. And?

Apparently, people got uncomfortable when an old white guy mentions our first black president in the same sentence as "basketball."

I don't read entertainment news because, well, its vapid and soul-sucking, so I don't know what kind of attention this seeming faux pas has been getting. But it certainly was enough to get an op-ed in the Washington Post today.

If President-elect Obama had not campaigned as a basketball player, or put up videos of him playing basketball on his campaign's YouTube site, or talked about basketball being his "first love", I could see a certain amount of "Oh no he didn't just say that" directed at Rickles. But Obama repeatedly played up his b-ball skillz as a reason to vote for him--especially in places like Indiana. (The night before the election, ESPN played this interview where Obama talks about the wisdom of his coach whom he favorably compares to Bobby Knight. This is my best guess as to how he won the once unquestionably red Hoosier state.*)

I can understand the sensitivity of the Letterman audience that led them to think that the boundary-pushing comic may have gone too far, but he didn't. Funny? Perhaps not. But Rickles is not a racist and his joke wasn't either.

Lighten up, America. It is still ok to poke fun at people--even if they're black.

*And just in case you're wondering, that's a joke too.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Change You Can Believe In...

From the WSJ:

On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama criticized many of President George W. Bush's counterterrorism policies. He condemned Mr. Bush for promoting "excessive secrecy, indefinite detention, warrantless wiretapping and 'enhanced interrogation techniques' like simulated drowning that qualify as torture through any careful measure of the law or appeal to human decency."

Amen. Unfortunately, that was later in the column. The column begins like this:

President-elect Barack Obama is unlikely to radically overhaul controversial Bush administration intelligence policies, advisers say, an approach that is almost certain to create tension within the Democratic Party.

Civil-liberties groups were among those outraged that the White House sanctioned the use of harsh intelligence techniques -- which some consider torture -- by the Central Intelligence Agency, and expanded domestic spy powers. These groups are demanding quick action to reverse these policies.

Mr. Obama is being advised largely by a group of intelligence professionals, including some who have supported Republicans, and centrist former officials in the Clinton administration. They say he is likely to fill key intelligence posts with pragmatists.

"He's going to take a very centrist approach to these issues," said Roger Cressey, a former counterterrorism official in the Clinton and Bush administrations. "Whenever an administration swings too far on the spectrum left or right, we end up getting ourselves in big trouble."

So much for "condemnation" and "appeal[s] to human decency."

Maybe he'll still break a fiver for me?

My First* Critical Post of Obama: Econ 101

Now that that is out of the way...

Already, we hear the ascendant Obama talking about bailing out Detroit--by extending federal money to U.S. automakers. This does not benefit America--this only benefits some Americans whose livelihoods depend on the auto industry. This, of course, is already at the cost of the taxpayers to support apparently flawed business models which, in the long run, will cost American consumers of our automakers even more money.

Econ 101: Diffuse costs and concentrated benefits.

If the economy is really headed into the tank, if you'll pardon the expression, there will be no shortage of people with their hands out asking for government help. Those companies who get federal assistance will be better off than those who don't, thereby providing a perverse incentive to fail--or, at the very least, lessening the fear of failure--in order to receive an advantage over more successful competitors. This distorts the market and hurts consumers across the board as better products are priced-out by inferior subsidized goods, thus further damaging the economy by punishing good businesses.

I feel bad that Detroit is suffering. American manufacturing has been taking a hit for awhile now, and the trend doesn't seem to be lessening. Whether you blame unions, corporate taxes, globalization, or the explosion of the information age--or some combination of them-- the manufacturing sector is in deep trouble, perhaps fatally in some cases. This, however, is no reason to throw more money at bad industry.

We all suffer if we continue to reward bad businesses. The U.S. will fall further behind the world in production and innovation as we struggle to save old corporate dinosaurs instead of paving the way for new and better companies.

If anything, such a wrong-headed policy indicates "We fear change."

*post election

Now That I've Admitted to Crying to Thousands of Perfect Strangers...

Let me start off by saying it was an entirely new and somewhat bizarre experience having dozens of perfect strangers comment, criticize, and speculate as to why I cried at Obama's election--on several sites, no less. Some assumed I voted for him; others intimated that I would have had a different reaction if the person elected was a conservative; some expressed similar sentiments--and a lot of people said my reaction (and to a greater extent, the feeling of black people) is entirely overblown, if not shameful.

I'm going to leave for speculation my thoughts on all those topics. I can't very well address everyone's concerns or questions without dedicating the rest of this blog in perpetuity to making one moment make sense for everybody on the planet. However, I find it necessary to perhaps clear up one widely commented assumption that is simply not true: I am not moved by the Obama Administration and what it has in store for the nation.

I thought I had made it abundantly clear in my prefatory paragraph, but I can only guess that because I had a visceral reaction to an election, people assumed that emotion would then transfer to the resulting government put in place by that election. Not at all.

While I think Obama was marginally preferable to McCain overall, I fully expected the resulting presidency of either party to be largely a disappointment, if not an unmitigated disaster. What the vote on Tuesday said was something very positive about America, albeit with a complete and utter disregard for economics--though, neither nominee offered anything resembling economic sanity, admittedly. Basically, it was the election--not the presidency--that touched me.

So please, commenters on other blogs, stop assuming I'm an Obamaphile. Thanks.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mood Music Monday

What a difference a day makes...

Yeah. Making a life change that will in the long run make me healthier, while in the short term makes me feel something like this:

Wish me luck.